Archive | August, 2010

Monica Valentinelli

First Look at Munchkin Zombies

Posted on August 31, 2010 by

Last week, I was able to sit down with Steve Jackson from Steve Jackson Games and a group of playtesters at ACD Games Day to play a round of the upcoming Munchkin Zombies game.

Having played several flavors of Munchkin, I thought I knew what to expect when we started to play. I couldn’t have been more wrong. You see, I thought this game would be like Munchkin: Cthulhu, where you play humans that have the potential to turn into zombies. Boy, was I off-the-mark! In Munchkin: Zombies you play…a zombie! Immediately, I was struck by how disgusting and wrong the cards were. Class cards cover all the different zombie types from your favorite movies, books and world myths. There are Strong Zombies, Fast Zombies, Plague Zombies — even Atomic Zombies! There’s also also the chance you can pick up different types of zombie Mojo, too, which functions as a special ability.

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Megan

Sunken Empires RPG Review

Posted on August 31, 2010 by

The work opens with a foreword by David ‘Zeb’ Cook in which he muses on the durability of his invention, the aboleth – a monster with an almost-thirty year history and which features large in this book. A fascinating muse on how the aboleth came to be later, Chapter 1: Lost Cities of Myth and Legend explores the inspirations for this setting. Legends of fantastic civilizations lost to the deeps provide plenty of ideas, after all, as well as a compelling lure for characters looking for somewhere to explore. For that’s the intent of this setting: exploration, rather than somewhere to actually live as a denizen of the deeps.

The legendary civilizations of Atlantis, Lemuria and Mu are detailed, along with thought-provoking ideas on how to use them as inspiration for your own sunken empire, before the text launches into the design of a new lost city called Ankeshel for your characters to research and explore. Ankeshel draws on both real-world myths and the Pathfinder setting, with some Theosophist theories mixed in for good measure, including the concept of vril. The original human inhabitants were taught magic and mathematics by a strange tentacled, 3-eyed amphibious race. Needless to say, it all ended in tears and the city was lost… until recent discoveries began to bring tantalizing glimpses of what once was back into general knowledge.

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Dracula: The Company of Monsters 1 Comic Review

Posted on August 30, 2010 by

“He’s back from the dead and starring in a new ongoing horror series from the mind of Kurt Busiek. A powerful, predatory corporation acquires a valuable asset – Dracula! They think they own him, but no one can own the Son of the Dragon. There’s a monster in their midst that puts Hannibal Lecter to shame – and he plans to gain his freedom in blood. It’s bloodsuckers vs. bloodsucker, as Busiek brings an incredibly modern spin to the Dracula mythos.“

I can’t really say that this is a bad-looking issue, because it isn’t. However nothing really stood out to me to move it up higher on my scale. The pages early on stood out a bit more as they were focused on Vlad Dracul, with some back story, but then it just seemed to dull down as we moved into present day. The cast is good from panel to panel, nice and consistent, but it all just seems to mimic the slow story. So it didn’t really grab me.

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Interview With Author Kim Paffenroth

Posted on August 27, 2010 by

What is there that hasn’t been said about author Kim Paffenroth? I mean come on, the guy practically invented the thinking man’s zombie story with his “Dying to Live” series, used the original Romero movies as the main focus for a book entitled “Gospel of The Living Dead,” is a Professor of Religious Studies and his latest work has taken him into the depths of the 14th century poet and author of “The Divine Comedy,” Dante Alighieri’s soul.

How is that for a resume?

But really all you need to know about Kim Paffenroth, is that he is a prolific writer and larger than life figure in the Zombie/Survival Horror genre. A man that, in today’s scene of lumbering unholy living dead, needs absolutely no introduction from the likes of a opinion pusher like me, so let’s get into the bone and sinew of this interview, with author Kim Paffenroth.

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alanajoli

Tracker 4 Comic Review

Posted on August 27, 2010 by

You may recall that I reviewed Tracker: First Look back in April. And I thought it was great, that the series would be awesome, and that I was looking forward to reading it, right? Here’s where I give my little sob story: I missed issues 1 through 3. Top Cow very kindly sent issue 4 for review… and gosh darn it, I missed a lot of awesome build up between that preview issue and now!

By the time we’ve hit issue 4, Alex O’Roarke has figured out some of his werewolf abilities. His relationship with Tory is on the outs — she’s making a last ditch attempt to bring back their romance, but he’s too dedicated to the case. Of course, now that he and serial killer Herod are viewing each other as rivals (Alex needs Herod’s blood for a cure to being a werewolf; Herod enjoys defeating — and eating, presumably — other werewolves), any time Alex isn’t with Tory, he’s putting her at risk. But the case is the most important thing for him — and it looks like that decision, that part of who he is, will cost him.

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Monica Valentinelli

Wizard World 2010: an Artist’s Alley Perspective

Posted on August 26, 2010 by

Like comic conventions? This year for Wizard World, otherwise known as Chicago Comic-Con, I spent the weekend in Artist’s Alley with Leanne Buckley. First off, I should point out that I couldn’t help but compare this convention to C2E2, which was held at the McCormick Place just this past April in Chicago. The difference between the two is pretty distinct, because the venues had a different emphasis from one another. As many fans pointed out to me, there was a noticeable lack of comic book publishers at Wizard World. Most, if not all, of the publishers that were missing had booths at C2E2 this past Spring, so I wasn’t surprised that there was a lack of publishers at this show. I was happy to see that Avatar Press was at Wizard World, and I had a great chat with them. Admittedly, I was a little curious why some of the local Chicago comic book publishers didn’t have a booth at the show.

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Do Fanboys Dream of Spandex Sheep? Wizard World Chicago 2010

Posted on August 26, 2010 by

Whether you’re in this industry of alternative media, or whether you cover this industry of alternative media, there are certain milestones, certain times of the year, places, etc that just stick out and you have to plan on the fact that you’ll be there, you’re going to be there, you’ll have to be there or something close to that line of thought. Because, if you aren’t there or don’t go, then you’re going to miss out on some really great opportunities. Of course I’m talking about conventions. Yes, that (now) time honored tradition of packing up your favorite tee shirts and comfortable shoes, and getting yourself to an expo/convention center huffing your way through town, and breaking your way through the ebb and flow of fan boys, both costumed and under clothed. Some of them unwashed, many smelling like some third world open air market. But the world of comics/alternative media/books and everything else is changing.

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Our Ladies of Sorrow RPG Review

Posted on August 26, 2010 by

There are many ways to put together a Call of Cthulhu adventure, although so many of them have the same trappings. Our Ladies of Sorrow truly comes from a different place that is part Greco-Roman myth, part psychology (some of the game involves a common psychological condition), and, of course, part Lovecraftian Mythos. It feels so much more like older Cthulhu adventures mainly because it is so ingrained with investigation work. As the author suggests, a small party (3-5) is ideal for this adventure. The story centers around three sisters, be they the Fates, avatars of Nyarlathotep (for keeping with traditional Mythos flavor), or several other well conceived possibilities. This large adventure (154 pages/7 pages are ads) consists of a brief foreward and introduction before jumping into the first of four chapters.

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teampreston

Deathwatch (Warhammer RPG) Review

Posted on August 25, 2010 by

This is it, what many of us have been waiting for since the 1980’s: an RPG where we get to play Space Marines! A few years ago when we received word of the development of Dark Heresy, the geek world exploded with excitement. Having a Warhammer 40,000 RPG was something I think we all wanted. An official one, not just something we cobbled together in Mutants and Masterminds, but something officially sanctioned by the hallowed halls of Games Workshop. Dark Heresy was a dream come true.

One thing I appreciated with Dark Heresy, is that it kept the core mechanics of the existing Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (basically a percentage-based system with talents and careers, and an advancement scheme for leveling). This has remained true all the way through the Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay series.

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Megan

Dark Sun Campaign Setting (D&D 4E) Review

Posted on August 23, 2010 by

The Introduction jumps right in, explaining what is unique about the Dark Sun setting. Athas is a dying world, where mere survival is a constant battle… and where any sensible person would concentrate on creating a stable sustainable environment, ‘heroes’ of course prefer to seek glory. The differences between Athas and more conventional fantasy settings is encapsulated in the Eight Characteristics of Athas – it’s a desert planet, most people living there are pretty unpleasant selfish types, metal is scarce, arcane magic caused a lot of the current problems and still does damage if you try to use it, long-lived sorcerer-kings rule city-states as the main centres of power, deities seem to have lost interest in the place, the monsters are deadly, and even ‘familiar’ races are not quite what one would expect. Handy thumb-nail sketch, which makes me wonder if I actually want to visit… well, I do like deserts!

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Flames

Cthulhu Week: Deconstructing Realms of Cthulhu

Posted on August 22, 2010 by

Throughout Cthulhu Week we’ve discussed Mythos tomes in comic books, fiction, movies and more. We’ve even offered up a Campaign Frame for the Trail of Cthulhu RPG and vivisected elements of the Call of Cthulhu RPG as well.

Yet there is another Mythos RPG and game designer Sean Preston is here to tell us about his dark work on the game called Realms of Cthulhu

Deconstructing Realms of Cthulhu

Hello there. I’m Sean Preston, and I’m a game designer, writer, editor, publisher, and an avid gamer as well. I like to talk and write about games (when not playing them) as much as most of us in this industry, but before we get going let’s have a compact. Since we’ll be talking about Lovecraft, it’s only natural that blood enters the scene, so let’s make it a blood compact. Shall we? My digital blood is being spilled before you, pixel by pixel. I trust you’ll smear some about at some point or other, so the compact is made. What I’ll be talking about is the philosophy of writing Lovecraftian horror for games. I shall not deviate. If I do, I pray the Hounds of Tindalos find a lovely angle from which to spring upon me in the dead of night. As for you, if you enjoy the article, share it about. Fair enough? Good. Now, let’s get started in earnest. The clock is ticking.

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Billzilla

Cthulhu Week: Madness One Die Roll At A Time

Posted on August 21, 2010 by

Continuing the adventures of Cthulhu Week we have a series of reflections on some of the Call of Cthulhu RPG supplements by reviewer Bill Bodden.

Pay close attention, however, as Bill does sneak in a note about his favorite Trail of Cthulhu adventure as well…

I’ve been a devotee of the Call of Cthulhu RPG for more than 25 years. Along the way there have been some excellent adventures created, and in celebration of Cthulhu Week, I’d like to share a few of my favorites. Hopefully, they’ll intrigue you as they did me, and you’ll consider adding them to your own campaign, or running them as one-off adventures for your gaming group. Be warned that a few small spoilers may be found in what follows…

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Jason Thorson

Cthulhu Week: The Lovecraft Movie Dilemma

Posted on August 21, 2010 by

Next up for Cthulhu Week we asked reviewer Jason Thorson to tell us about his favorite Lovecraft-inspired movies. Not an easy task to say the least, but we were certainly willing to risk his sanity for this investigation.

Read on to learn of the challenges he faced…

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to give you some background on what you’re currently reading – what’s now become a ranting blog on H.P. Lovecraft film adaptations. My initial intention was to write a feature about the nature of Lovecraftian flicks and then list the five best examples. However, I immediately anticipated some difficulty. My original thesis was that most of these films don’t work, but surely there have been so many attempts to adapt Lovecraft’s work that I’d certainly be able to find five movies worthy of recommendation. Right?

Wrong.

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Cthulhu Week: The Man Who Shot Joseph Curwen

Posted on August 20, 2010 by

Kenneth Hite, author of Cthulhu 101 and other Mythos tomes of dark intent brings us a tale of the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game from Chaosium.

Enjoy this contribution to Cthulhu Week, but don’t read too deep…we can’t be held responsible for what horrors are left behind…

In Call of Cthulhu, your character explicitly starts no better than any other. There is no leveling up, no percentile strength, no special class skills or feats separating your character from any other citizen of Arkham. Yes, your character may well gain magical powers and travel to exotic destinations, as in other roleplaying games. But such “improvements” come at a cost, at the cost of lowering your irreplaceable Sanity. In Call of Cthulhu, the player knows at the outset that his character, if played long enough, will go insane and die. That’s a very different proposition from hoping that your character will become the vampiric Prince of Pittsburgh or get a Helm of Command at 18th level. Of course if that was all it was, Call of Cthulhu would simply be nihilistic, an exercise in masochistic masturbation. At best, its characters would resemble the decadent aesthetes of Lovecraft’s short story “The Hound,” seeking ever more outré pleasures, or perhaps the shortsighted Tillinghast in “From Beyond,” accepting insanity as the necessary visa for interdimensional tourism. And in many of Lovecraft’s stories, this is the case — Lovecraft was, after all, a nihilist (albeit a gentlemanly nihilist) himself, who considered morality “mere Victorian fiction.” The object of terror, for Lovecraft, is terror.

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Billzilla

Cthulhu Week: Cthulhu Tales Comic Review

Posted on August 20, 2010 by

The works of H.P. Lovecraft have inspired hundreds of other writers; in the 1970s, his stories became popular material for the growing underground comics movement, and that popularity, though it waxes and wanes, has yet to vanish completely. Currently enjoying an upsurge in interest, one of the latest offerings, Boom Studios’ Cthulhu Tales, brings brand new Lovecraft-inspired material to the graphic novel format. I was excited to see these when I attended C2E2 in Chicago, and purchased volume one of the series with great anticipation.

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Cthulhu Week: The Tentacles That Bind

Posted on August 19, 2010 by

Next up for Cthulhu Week is a little something from Flames Rising reviewer Eric Pollarine. Eric takes a look at some of his favorite fiction, music and movies and talks about how these folks have been influenced by H. P. Lovecraft and just what that means to him as a horror fan.

H. P. Lovecraft.

The name alone sets the stage in your mind, if you are a fan of horror, or even if you are not -to a place in time that is alive with the nightmares of the industrial revolution and arcane secrets hiding in dusty old texts. A place of extraordinary psychological terror, a time in which we were a young nation, exploring the limits of our capacity to both destroy and create -the modern, and the profane; the forbidden knowledge of the Garden of Eden, the limits and expectations of Fate and above all else the limited resources of man faced with the fact that he is in and of himself the primary cause for both guilt and civilization’s current state.

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Flames

Cthulhu Week: Curse of the Yellow Sign, Act II RPG Review

Posted on August 19, 2010 by

This book is the second in the series that began with Act I: Digging for a Dead God. The front cover artwork is exactly the same, title aside, being of a large Yellow Sign on a dark, blood spattered background. Instead there is a longer piece of introductory copy on the back cover that delivers the mood to you straight off the bat. “At the turn of the century,” it begins, “In an abandoned hotel / In the dead darkness of winter / Six sit to read a cursed play.” Any Call of Cthulhu pro will, at this stage, be nodding sagely at this point, correctly indentifying the play The King in Yellow, the horrific drama around which many (recent) Call of Cthulhu adventures that focus on Hastur cultists have tapped into. However, in much the same way as the previous Act, the lines between player and character are deliberately blurred.

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Flames

Cthulhu Week: Inmates by Robin D. Laws

Posted on August 18, 2010 by

Cthulhu Week continues with a new Campaign Frame for the Trail of Cthulhu RPG from Pelgrane Press written by game designer and author Robin D. Laws.

This series concept uses the Trail Of Cthulhu Campaign Frame format. The idea can easily be ported to your Cthulhu RPG of choice.

Inmates

Setting: Play begins within the confines of Butler Hospital, a Providence, Rhode Island mental institution. This real-world facility was founded in 1844 and is still operational today. H. P. Lovecraft’s father, Winfield Scott Lovecraft, died there in 1898 after succumbing to psychosis in a Chicago hotel room.

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Monica Valentinelli

Cthulhu Week: Cthulhu’s Reign Anthology Review

Posted on August 18, 2010 by

Sometimes, when I’m itching for a story, I’ll pick up an anthology and check out some of the short stories that lurk within. To me, a good anthology has a broad range of stories; some will appeal to me, and some won’t. Released in April 2010, CTHULHU’S REIGN is a collection of tales edited by Darrell Schweitzer that gives authors like Jay Lake, Ken Asamatsu and Gregory Frost the opportunity to describe what happens after the Old Ones appear.

My interest in this anthology is more curiosity than anything, because so much attention is often placed on summoning Cthulhu or the Old Ones. So what happens after they appear? Well, if these stories are any indication, humankind wouldn’t last long. Such Bright And Risen Madness In Our Names by Jay Lake is a great story that meshes the first person voice so common in Lovecraft’s stories with a post-apocalyptic feel.

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Flames

Cthulhu Week: A Note from the Editor at Innsmouth Free Press

Posted on August 17, 2010 by

Innsmouth Free Press Issue Number 4Flames Rising is pleased to present you with a guest post from Silvia Moreno-Garcia, the publisher at Innsmouth Free Press. According to the “About Innsmouth Free Press” page, this webzine is “a fictional newspaper publishing faux news pieces – lovingly called Monster Bytes – in a Lovecraftian/Cthulhu Mythos universe, as well as original short fiction stories.” Uncover the sordid details behind these Monster Bytes, how Silvia fell in love with Lovecraft’s work, and how you can be a part of this Mythos-inspired ‘zine:

Every few months Innsmouth Free Press will get an earnest e-mail from someone who thinks Innsmouth is a real place. Oddly enough, it actually exists, at least in our collective minds.

Innsmouth Free Press is a zine that publishes daily articles, interviews and reviews about all things horror and speculative. Three times a year, we produce a free issue of Lovecraftian fiction.

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