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Archive for the ‘Monsters’ Category

Here is the equipment list for searching for the Ogopogo my daughter brainstormed the other night.

  • -Arrows
    -Guns (BB guns), (these 2 for protection, not to injure but to scare away bad guys)
    -Vitamins (the tasty, chewy kind)
    -Drinking cup + water bottle
    -Notebook (for writing, journaling what we find)
    -Night light – ‘cause can’t sleep without it
    -Flashlights (several, for some reason or other)
    -Brushes and shovels for digging up bones
    -Daddy
    -Mommy
    -Cooper (her older brother, but agreed to take him only after some prompting)
    -Binoculars
    -Life Jackets
    -First Aid Kit
    -leopard skin backpack because, well, yeah
  • Intrepid Explorer's Pack

    Intrepid Explorer’s Pack – hopefully Ogopogo won’t be jealous that Nessie is the favored travel companion

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    My 6 year old daughter is on a monster kick (not sure where she *gets* this stuff from). She’s collected dragons for years but has now stepped up to werewolves and trolls and sasquatches and such. More than anything right now she wants to travel to Scotland so we can search for Nessie, who happens to be her current favorite mythological creature.

    Local Monsters support Local Produce

    Local Monsters support Local Produce


    Anyhoo, Scotland is not really in the family budget. Nor is it really a top travel priority for us. Its actually at the very bottom of our current travel priority list, well under such exotic locations as Portland, and Vancouver and that small strawberry festival a few blocks Down the Street from our house. Despite all of her “research” on Nessie (more on that later – did you know they teach research methods in kindergarten these days?) we aren’t funding her current exploration overseas.

    However, there are local myths here in the NorthWest. While perusing her summer reading list (a fairly tall stack of well-illustrated children’s books on monsters collected from our local library) we discovered the stories of Ogopogo in Lake Okanagan, a lake which happens to be fairly close to her Grandfather’s current place of residence.

    Actual apparent photo of the Ogopogo

    Actual apparent photo of the Ogopogo


    Long story short, we aren’t travelling to Scotland this year. But we are planning an expedition, an adventure really, to Lake Okanagan, on a quest to find Ogopogo himself. My 6 year old daughter, her dubious older brother, myself, and my somewhat reluctant wife.

    Anyone ever been?

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    My four your old is deep into dragons right now, with a large collection of dragon toys and several imaginary dragon friends. From my perspective (being a proud parent) she seems to come up with wonderfully interesting an imaginative stories around her dragons. Generally I think children are a wellspring of great ideas (at least, until institutions undermines their sense of creativity).

    This is her Pine Dragon. A creature that lives in the giant, swaying northwest pines prominent in our neighborhood.

    Pine Dragon

    Pine Dragon

    Habitat

    Prefers evergreen forests by the sea (likes to comb beaches consuming driftwood) and a mild climate. Loves fog and rainy days and smaller islands.

    Food

    Will occasionally dive for seafood that’s deeper in the waters, catching shark and octopi, but brings them back to the beach to consume. Also eats other seafood (fish, hermit crabs, jellyfish) and pinecones and tree bark.

    Physique

    Their necks and tails are extremely long to reach seafood. They like to wrap their extremely long necks and tails around the giant, swaying pines for sleeping (the rocking of the tree soothes them and puts them to sleep). They are mostly green but can have purple and black hues. Their talons are golden, their bellies yellow. Females are more colorful.

    They have no wings but are fast runners and great jumpers and can stay underwater for long stretches of time.

    Wood fires their breath. They can swallow a bunch of deadfall to fire up something fierce, but even a pinecone would help. They like the hang out on beaches and nibble on freshly caught seafood. They will sometimes build fire pits like humans do and then curl up near them.

    Habits

    They have a weakness for popcorn and apples, and love the smell of these.

    They sleep in the trees – building eagle like ness for their small young, and then wrap their long tails in the high branches, the trees swaying in the wind, soothing them and rocking them to sleep.

    They will collect lost treasures or jewels, but focus on small, shiny trinkets like seaglass, colorful beads and marbles. They put these in their nests with their eggs, in the highest of treetops. Their green eggs are small (smaller than bird sized) and they start off as really tiny dragons.

    They will be awake for weeks at a time, and then sleep for weeks at a time. Really old ones may sleep for ages in their trees, the bark slowly overtaking and growing over and around them. They stay warm and still in their tress during the winter / snowfall, and rest in their shade during the hottest summers.

    Dragon toy collection

    A few of my daughter’s dragons

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    Continuation of part 1 here, our best and worst of 2012 in RPG stuff. Enjoy and a have a happy New Year!

    Computer Games

    Best RPG Computer Game: The Walking Dead

    Here we have IP done right. Using Telltale as a studio was a risk for the franchise in and of itself, and then they took several risks with the game (episodic releases, point and click, storytelling over-all-else) but managed to pull off a wonderful, poignant and emotional experience that shines brightly over all the other first person shooting crud that seems to dominate the market.

    telltales-the-walking-dead-on-disc-december-4

    Worst RPG Computer Game: The Game of Thrones RPG

    Fantasy is finally cool again, but Martin’s books, and the terrific HBO series, deserve better than this mediocre effort. Shoddy gameplay, unpolished presentation, and meh graphics at best.

    Biggest RPG Game Disappointment: Diablo III

    On the one hand, Diablo III was a decent, fun to play action-RPG, but DRM and over-design drained the joy out of it, and even with a decade of polish it’s half the game Torchlight 2 is.

    Honorable Mention: Knights of Pen&Paper

    An indie turn-based retro style pixel-art RPG where you control the playing characters and the dungeon master in a simulation of a traditional pen and paper RPG.

    Knights_of_pen_&_paper

    Science Fiction and Fantasy

    Best Fantasy Book: Throne of the Crescent Moon (Saladin Ahmed)

    Detail, humor, and one thousand and one nights inspired – the book is simply great storytelling in that classic swashbuckling sense as you follow a charismatic thief that leads a revolt in a magical and political city.

    Best Sci-fi Book: Pirate Cinema (Cory Doctorow)

    Still not tired of brilliant, passionate kids taking on the oppressive system in a dystopian near future. Keep these coming, Doctorow.

    cory_doctorow_pirate_cinema

    Best debut: vN (Madeline Ashby)

    Some love and hate from critics but this is a great first novel and a wonderfully dark story about a rogue artificial woman becoming dangerous.

    Biggest Sci-Fi Loss: Ray Bradbury

    We lost some great storytellers (Harry Harrison) and story makers (Neil Armstrong) but the passing of Ray Bradbury (Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked this Way Comes, Fahrenheit 451) is one of the year’s biggest blows. A muse for Steven Spielberg, Neil Gaiman, and Steven King, Ray’s storytelling gift has expanded minds for nearly a century now, and although he resisted the label of science fiction writer he is credited as the one most responsible for bringing sci-fi into the literary mainstream.

    Stupidest Comic Book Death: Spider man #700.

    In an obviously not-permanent brain mind meld switch the body of Spider Man is now housing Dr. Octopus, Peter Parker has died in Dr. Octopi’s body and fans everywhere sigh their collective sighs.

    Amazing-e1356793834433

    Best Sci-Fiction Becomes Reality: NASA’s Faster-Than-Light Warp Drive

    What can be cooler than FTL made possible by donuts?

    300px-Star_Trek_Warp_Field

    Most Amazing Robot Monster: DARPA’s Running Cheetah

    DARPA’s Maximum Mobility Program revved up their Cheetah Robot this year. The previous iteration ran at a speed of 18 mph, but the new version clocked upwards of 28.8 mph. Finally, what we’ve always needed – robots that can outrun humans.

    Movies

    Biggest Movie Winner: Decent Geek Movies

    Great geek movies are everywhere nowadays. Go Avengers! Go Hobbit! Go Batman!

    Biggest Movie Loser: Nostalgic Franchise Reboots

    Promethius (Ugh), Dark Shadows (Huh?), Men in Black III (Really?) and Total Recall (Yawn)

    Best CGI Character: The Hulk

    Puny God. ‘Nuff said.

    Most disappointing CGI Character: The Hobbit’s Goblin King

    The very definition of CGI overacting.

    THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

    Best CGI actor in a CGI Scene: The Hobbit’s Golum

    The Riddle Me This interchange was perhaps the best CGI scene ever produced in film (don’t see it in 48p though)

    Golum

    Golum is basically amazing

    Movie Weapon of the Year: Bows

    Let’s get Hawkeye, Katniss and Merida together in a hunting super hero party. Really. With these guys.

    Finally, Monster of the Year goes to: Giant Spiders

    Not only have spiders been effective hunters for over 100 million years but new, undiscovered species keep propping up (like this one that builds web dopplegangers). This year giant spiders were sighted both in Germany and in Seattle under the Space Needle – hats off and a happy new year to our giant, hairy, eight legged brethren.

    giant_space_needle_spide-2000-px-949x768

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    Here’s our best and worst of 2012 in RPGs. Enjoy and a have a happy New Year!

    Tabletop RPGs

    Best Adventure: Streets of Zobeck

    Burglary, mad science, demons – really, it’s all covered in these 7 awesome adventures for the anti-hero.

    midgard_zobeck_map

    Best Setting: Midgard

    Wolfgang Baur’s home campaign brought to life over the years but most substantially with this year’s RPG campaign guide of the same name. Seemingly inspired by old school campaign guides and real world mythology (Norse, fey) there’s great depth and world variety here especially with the pantheon (love how Midgard handles clerical domains), status rules, dragon kings, Leylines, unique takes on races – really, what isn’t there to love?

    midgard_cover

    Best Supplement: Gamemastery Chase Cards

    Another great example of Paizo innovation, these cards help expand on something that’s normally poorly documented in RPG rules (surprising considering chases are common happenstance in play). These cards help make the chase scenes more dramatic, more  interesting for players, and easier for game masters to run. Well done.

    Best Tabletop RPG Innovation: Google Hangouts

    Networking and play seem to be growing online due to this not so recent tech – it will be interesting to see if this continues to grow or fatigue out.

    Best RPG Kickstarter: Monte Cook’s Numenera

    Funding new IP that traditional publishers would skirt past is exactly what Kickstarter is for, and Numenera is a perfect example of the fans and a creator coming together like peanut butter and chocolate. It blew past it’s initial 20k goal hitting half a mil and many stretch goals, and without Kickstarter fans may not have the chance to see this upcoming campaign setting in all its glory.

    Best RPG Hobby Mashup: Crochet and RPGs

    This:

    crochet-Goblin

    And this:

    crochet_dwarf_beard

    Quite possibly the best mashup of all time.

    Best Beta: DnDNext

    Love it or hate (and there’s many on both sides) Mike Mearls is certainly getting buzz aplenty and players invested in the latest iteration of the classic game.

    Best RPG Craiglist Ad: The Infamous DnD Bachelor Party Ad

    Requirements from the actual ad:

    • Dungeon Master experience in Dungeons and Dragons (preferably in 3rd or 3.5 Editions)
    • Must be able to provide a picture including the face and body…
    • It is preferable that cup size be at least C or greater.
    • If books are needed it must be stated ahead of time however it would be preferable if the DM had her own.

    “I ensure you that nothing else is expect of you other than an exciting adventure.”- Uh huh. Catch the original here:

    Board Games

    Best Board game of the Year: Lords of Waterdeep

    Finally an approachable Waterdeep, a Waterdeep even the geekiest among us can share with glee with friends who didn’t spend their adolescent nose deep in a Forgotten Realms module.  A simple, strategic and competitive game with high quality components and  great art that even your non-geek friends will like playing. Thank you WotC.

    Lords_of_waterdeep_board_game

    Biggest Board Game disappointment: The Lord of the Rings: Nazgul

    All the  potential (a co-op game where you can play as Nazguls, I mean come on) and all the power and popularity of the biggest RPG franchise behind it. Sadly it seems more money was put into licensing than the game art, components, rule writing or into playtesting this awkward  co-op cube pulling experience – and it’s by no means the worse LOTR game ever printed.

    pic1208956_md

    part 2 coming shortly…

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    Having discovered Tolkien while at the same time discovering my love for reading and books, and growing up in an era where the story is synonymous with gaming I’m likely the target demographic. I’m not sure where the hate is coming from since it’s pretty much what I expected from the LOTR movie franchise and I really enjoyed it (although I too have my bones to pick). Desperately needing to focus on something other than current events I put together a few thoughts on the movie from a gaming perspective.

    The important scenes

    I’ve read that the first scene shot for the film was the Golum and Bilbo sequence. This shows in a good way. Martin Freeman is excellent throughout (which surprised me since it was his first scene) and Golum especially is extremely well rendered (note I didn’t see the film in the new 48p format, purposely skipping that since I heard it destroys the immersion) – It seems Golum had a lot of post processing time. His facial expressions and acting are amazing and you totally forget that he’s CGI (not so with other overly CGI characters).

    Golum

    Golum is basically amazing

    The scene is pretty true to the story and is an iconic one for gamers – it’s perhaps the quintessential rogue mini-sidequest. Separated from the rest of the party, your rogue uses guile to belay the attack of a very unusual creature, engages him in a battle of wits solving puzzles, finds a magic item, and somehow figure it how to use it to escape.

    In design it’s these smaller, side-moments from the larger quest, and the combination of puzzle and action (thinking and doing), that give players a moment to immerse themselves and shine. These deserve your full attention and prep time, and often the larger action scenes we think we need to focus on can play out themselves (more on that later).

    Too many Players

    “Thirteen dwarves is one of the reasons I dreaded The Hobbit. It’s why I really didn’t think I would make it for such a long time.” -Peter Jackson

    It’s tough to flesh out and get people to care about that many characters (which would be a good reason to draw out the movie length, but this doesn’t really seem to be what’s making it so long). As a movie goer, let’s see, you had the leader, the archer, the fat one, and the older wise dwarf that sucks you into the backstory. That’s  four dwarves that I distinctly remember from scenes. Now I think there were twins… or brothers? Not sure and uhm…

    How many Dwarves are there again?

    How many Dwarves are there again?

    Have you ever tried to run a fourteen person game? (I think had a 12 person weekly game or so once, it was a cluster). Jackson had the same problem. Having lots of dwarves helps make Gandalf and Bilbo more interesting, but there are too few moments for each player to have their own in the sun. I think most gamers keep their parties small. And each player needs to have their regular moments to shine, otherwise the player isn’t going to have fun. NPCs too, need more than just a brief line and a fancy costume to be memorable. There’s a reason why boardgames tend to top out at about 6 players, and why four player Co-op has been such a popular format.

    Too much Backstory spoils the plot.

    People are complaining that the film is drawn out and bloated. I think people forget that the books are also somewhat dense and rambling but OK, I get the perspective, and it was over an hour before we left hobbitsville. This is due to extremely long flashbacks, interesting from a fan perspective and good foreshadowing (although mainly of a badguy that doesn’t belong in the story at all, but I digress…) but wholly unnecessary.

    Middle Earth is more than a setting, it’s the key character. Exploring it is the main reason for participating. Setting up the film with a long historical exposition into the nuances of why and what happened before actually hurts the exploration. This history should be teased out as little treasures throughout. The backstory needs to be there (and some thought put into it) but the long scenes belong in the extended disk release for fans. Meanwhile Bilbo’s perspective is and should be the perfect for adventure. It’s his first run away from home and he doesn’t know what he’s in store for and he should be piecing it all together along the way.

    More later.

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    TSR was all about work for hire and held on to all the art they commissioned. Eventually TSR was taken over by Wizards, who had a policy of returning the art to their artists – However, Jeff Dee’s art was destroyed before wizards ever got their hands on it. The story is that a “clueless functionary” dumped all of the files to make room at TSR for other, more important things (although rumors persist of some of these originals existing in private collections).

    Jeff Dee's Brain Devourer - once lost, is now being recreated

    Jeff Dee’s Brain Devourer – once lost, is now being recreated

    In case you are unfamiliar with Jeff and his work, he’s one of the iconic artists associated with early TSR products and other RPGs like Villains and Vigilantes (which he co-designed). He’s also worked on computer games like Wing Commander and the Ultima series.  Jeff started working for TSR when he was 18 (apparently by drawing Snits  for Dragon Magazine) while still in art school. He was inspired to some degree by comic book artists like John Byrne and Terry Austin, which shows in his early art.

    So far Jeff has successfully funded seven Kickstarter projects to faithfully reproduce the lost art, which then will become available on his Deviant Art page. He’s also partnered with another lost art artist Diesel LaForce (who he occasionally still games with).

    Reproduction in progress from Jeff Dee's Deviant Art site

    Reproduction in progress from Jeff Dee’s Deviant Art site

    Much like Erol Otis, Dee’s art really defined the genre for me – even more so than some of the more “famous” artists (like Todd Lockwood or Larry Elmore). I especially loved his work in Deities and Demigods, his renderings of unique DnD monsters, and most of all when he drew adventurers in various crazy scenes (I would love a compilation of those, they were littered throughout multiple early DnD publications).

    Jeff's Vampire Ambush

    Jeff’s Vampire Ambush

    Little known fact – Jeff’s signature (D with two dots) is a twist on Thror’s map from Tolkien’s The Hobbit and mirrors Durin’s signature.

    Jeff still stays busy these day with a new project called Cavemaster – an interesting RPG take with very simple mechanics – among other things:

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