Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Reviewing Art & Arcana

You have probably seen or heard about this massive tome on The Internets or maybe seen a review on The YouTubes. Art & Arcana is a ginormous, too-big-for-a-coffee-table Coffee Table book that's really a giant victory lap of sorts for the World's Most Popular Role-Playing Game. Not in a bad way.

This product was released in two versions; the one pictured on the left, a whatever Amazon is charging for it these days $50 investment that is equal parts revisionist history and art and marketing survey. For old-timers, there is a lot of "Oh, I remember that!" and "That's my favorite Module Art!" moments, along with company history that manages to be earnest in not quite dishing the dirt, but happily pointing out the quirks. It's big, it's heavy, it's hard to read. But for those of you who want something a little more upscale, read on, McDuff...

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Dice Delve: Skulls!

In honor of the Spooky Season, I thought I'd dispense with the formal review and instead showcase one of the subsets in my ridiculously odd collection, and that's my affection for Skull Dice. That's right, those D6 polyhedrals with a skull in place of the 1 (or sometimes the 6). This may be the oldest novelty dice, first produced in the 1980s, as an inked drawing on a blank face, and later carved into the dice as part of the molding process.

Lots of manufacturers have made and continue to make Skull Dice; Koplow, Chessex, Q-Workshop, and many others have them in their line-up even today. What are they good for, anyway? I eventually worked a couple of systems out to make use of them, because what's cooler than throwing bones and coming up with skulls? Doom for you! Check out some of my favorite Doombringers below.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Dice Delve: Chessex Marbelized Ivory Polyhedral Set

I used to work for Chessex, and I am an unapologetic fan of their EuroDice, both the opaque and the Speckled varieties. I think that they are among the best dice available for RPG and tabletop gaming--maximum quality with minimum cash outlay. Even when I don't like something about a color combination, it's a tough love kind of thing, since I used to work for the company and presumably am in some kind of position to know better.

Chessex, like other dice sellers, also buys dice to resale from other dice makers--presumably not the same people who make their Speckled dice for them, but you never know, because it's kind of a trade secret. Speaking only for myself, as soon as you move away from Urea as a manufacturing component, it becomes a lot easier to see the flaws in a dice color or a plastic combination. This is not always a good thing, especially if you're the kind of person who has opinions about stuff. What am I talking about? Read on and see for yourself.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Movies of Dungeons and Dragons, Part 5: The End of an Era


Sword and Sorcery became an exploitation genre, rife with quickie production schedules, recycled sets, props and costumes, and written-on-the-fly scripts that checked boxes for mandatory story elements. The only bronze-thewed barbarian that managed to escape such a fate was, inexplicably, Beastmaster, which made not one, but two sequels and then morphed into a syndicated television series that lasted more than one season. Unbelievable. 

Meanwhile, over at the first-run theaters, where the floors were slightly less sticky, an attempt was being made to both cash in on the epic fantasy genre and also elevate it somewhat. The results were decidedly mixed, to say the least. That’s not to say that these movies weren’t good, or that they weren’t an integral part of growing up in the 1980s, but these movie swing far and away from the Robert E. Howardian gothic horror sensibility that informed Conan (and E. Gary Gygax), and the Vancian magic of the Dying Earth stories, and even the darker corners of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. We’re now in some version of the real world, more fairy tale—but not fey—than Epic Fantasy or High Fantasy.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

In Defense of Bad Movies Part 2: FLAAAASSSHH!

Check out the muscles
on Blonde Conan!
In Part 1 of  In Defense of Bad Movies, I outlined the disconnect between film critics and the general public. If you want to read it, you can certainly do that. Now that I have made this particular bed, I’m going to lie in it by taking a pipe wrench to the skull of a film most beloved and personal to the Geek Nation. Let’s all watch some people’s heads explode. Fun!

Since I mentioned Flash Gordon (1980) in Part 1 as an example of a bad movie, I thought it would be worthwhile to explain why I think this is so. Before you start typing your hate mail, there's some objective criteria below that you ought to look at. I put pictures in the post, so you wouldn't have to just take my word for it. If you make it all the way to the end and still feel triggered, just follow this link over to my Facebook page and let fly with your invective. I'm bracing myself for impact. Okay, enough of that; let's go tip some sacred cows!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Dice Delve: Chessex Pound-O-Dice

I am going to break the format slightly for the purposes of this bulk dice review. A lot of people are buying mass quantities of dice, either for new players or to bolster existing collections. As a game master, I like to have a lot of options available for me to match my admittedly capricious moods, and I also like to hand out new dice to beginning players, since it's easier to simply give them what they need than expect them to know what they need. 

These days, thanks to lax international shipping and a variety of online shopping sites, starter dice sets are very cheap. Cool dice that you really want to play with cost a little more and are a really personal choice for each person, but for new players, all you really need are the correct sizes and shapes and you're good to go.

Still, these bulk buys are not without their charm, especially when you have a company like Chessex, who are known for their awesome speckled dice, offering a big-ass bag of them for a relatively low price. Sounds great, right? 

Friday, October 12, 2018

In Defense of Bad Movies Part 1: Somewhere Between High Art and Cult Classic

I’m writing a lot about old movies at the moment on both of my current blogs. Finn’s Top 5 is happening over at the Finn’s Wake blog, and my biased look back at the fantasy films of the 1980s that informed our Dungeons and Dragons games is happening over at Confessions of a Reformed RPGer. I like writing about film; I have been a professional reviewer and critic for many years now, and I’ve been named one of the top movie reviewers in Texas by the Associated Press Managing Editors several times. You may also know that I am co-owner of a movie theater in North Texas that plays first-run movies on two screens, which is kind of like a unicorn in today’s market.


Reviewing Art & Arcana

You have probably seen or heard about this massive tome on The Internets or maybe seen a review on The YouTubes. Art & Arcana is a gi...