Do You Take a Holiday Break?

Posted by Labyrinthian in

A concept that I have just become aware of is Gamers having a kind of "Off Season" between Thanksgiving and New Years.  This Holiday break seems to be pretty popular this year and I guess I'm a little surprised that I've never heard of it before.  

Personally I don't like the idea one bit.  I get enough of off season with sports, and one of the things that is great about gaming is that it can be done regardless of season or weather.  However, I realize that as the majority of the gaming population gets older real life gets in the way. 

So my question to all of you is, do you take a holiday break?   If so then what has necessitates the break?  How long of a break do you take, and what do you do to satisfy your Gaming itch during the layoff? 

Third D&D Movie: Book of Vile Darkness

Posted by Labyrinthian in , ,

Stop me if you've heard this before... There is a D&D movie in the works.  This movie, the third attempt, is called The Book of Vile Darkness. Though I haven't seen it confirmed anywhere I can only assume this movie, like the second one, will be a made for TV SciFi channel movie. 

I'll be honest, I don't have a whole lot of hope for this movie.  The first one was a train wreck, the second one was a low budget film that did its best but mostly fell short.  They seem to have a new director and a bunch of inexperienced B film actors.  Like I said, don't get your hopes up.  That having been said, it should still be light years better than the first one.

 For their part, Wizards of the Coast is supporting the film by having a contest where people can submit their characters for a part in the movie.  Head over and read the contest rules and enter if you dare.   

For those who are too lazy for that, here is the deal...

Do you think your Dungeons & Dragons character has the "it" factor? Are you
ready for your close up? Now's your chance to turn those daydreams into a

Dungeons & Dragons and Silver Pictures are joining together for the ultimate
casting call in search of the most menacing, flavorful NPC as created by you.
The winning character will be brought to life on the big screen – played by YOU.

That's right, you'll be packing your bags for Louisiana where the upcoming
original movie, Book of Vile Darkness, will finish shooting after weeks of
production in Eastern Europe. There, with a little help from the talented hair
and make-up department, you'll be transformed into the winning character your
created and then whisked off to the set to portray that character in an epic
battle scene in the movie.

To enter, create a heroic tier (1st – 10th level) character using the D&D
Character Builder tool, currently available through Dungeons & Dragons Insider.

Your character should lend itself to:

* Evil or mercenary behavior
* Magic and spell casting

And be one of the following races:

* Bladeling
* Changeling
* Deva
* Drow
* Duergar
* Dwarf
* Eladrin
* Elf
* Genasi
* Githyanki
* Githzerai
* Goblin
* Half-Elf
* Half-Orc
* Hobgoblin
* Kalashtar
* Kenku
* Longtooth Shifter
* Mul
* Orc
* Razorclaw Shifter
* Revenant
* Tiefling
* Wilden

Add no more than 100 words of flavor to the submissions box along with your
complete name, address, e-mail address, date of birth, and daytime and evening
phone numbers.

Save your character as a PDF (instructions below) and attach it to your
submission form.

Contest ends January 1st.

See you on the big screen!

How to Save Your Character as a PDF

On a PC:
To save your character, first you'll need a PDF printer driver.

Common PDF printer drivers are

* CutePDF
* PDF Creator
* Adobe Acrobat (the full version, not the free Reader).

Once one of these drivers is installed, just go to the character sheet page in
the D&D Character Builder and click Print. The print window will come up, select
the PDF printer from the list of available printers and click print. The Save As
window will come up, enter your last name for the output file and click save.
Make sure to attach the PDF to the entry form.

On a Mac:
To save your character, go to Print, click PDF, then save as PDF. Enter your
last name for the output file and click save. Make sure to attach the PDF to the
entry form.


Best of luck to all those who decide to enter.  Remember that the deadline is January 1st to don't waste time getting your submissions in. 

As for the movie, we'll just have to wait and see.  Maybe this is the one that will beat the odds and be a really cool film despite budget constraints.  I have a feeling that Dead Gentlmen's The Gamers and The Gamers: Dorkness Rising are going to continue to be the real D&D movies. 

Though the budget for the new D&D movie is no doubt meager it makes the budget for Dorkness Rising look like pocket change.  Just imagine what Dead Gentlemen could put out with resources like that.  I think someone should find out. 

Merry Christmas!

Posted by Labyrinthian

Merry Christmas, everyone!  I hope Santa brings you all the Geeky stuff your heart desires! 

Soon to be Dancing With Dragons?

Posted by Labyrinthian in

George R. R. Martin recently announced that that he was going to be at a fan organized event on January 9th in LA.  He also stated that he might have one or two really exciting announcements that day.  Now I don't want to get anyone's hopes up, but assuming that the rumor we talked about earlier is true, this could be the announcement that A Dance With Dragons is finally complete!

Obviously this is just guess work and should be filed firmly under 'rumor' for the time being, but I for one have a really good feeling about this. 

Keep your fingers crossed!

Game of Thrones

Posted by Labyrinthian in , ,

It's a wrap!  HBO has recently finished principal filming on their upcoming series for George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones.  They still have plenty of work to do in post production, but this is a big step.  The show won't premiere until April, but I'm sure we can look forward to seeing some of the new footage in a trailer or two in between now and then. 

Winter is coming folks, but it can't get here fast enough! 

Sell Me on Your Favorite Mass Combat System - Part 2

Posted by Labyrinthian in ,

Thanks to all those responded via email and in our comments section to my call for help in finding a mass combat system.  I guess I never realized how many mass combat systems were out there.  The sheer number available is slightly jaw dropping. 

Wanting to compile a comprehensive list of the systems that seemed most promising, I took the suggestions from those kind enough to offer them and added some of the other systems I had heard of by word of mouth and online.  I couldn't seem to get the preliminary list down below 20 so I just gave up and left it at that.  As I look through each system I'm sure I'll eliminate some fairly quickly.

Here is the list... 

  1. Conan d20
  2. Tunnels & Trolls
  3. D&D Rules Cyclopedia
  4. Legend of the Five Rings
  5. GURPS Mass Combat
  6. Savage Worlds
  7. Decipher's Lord of the Rings RPG
  8. Rolemaster’s War Law
  9. The Flower of Battle for the Riddle of Steel
  10. A Song of Ice and Fire RPG
  11. Burning Empire (By Burning Wheel)
  12. Army of Darkness RPG
  13. Pendragon
  14. Black Company Campaign Setting
  15. HeroQuest
  16. Cry Havoc
  17. Way of the Daimyo
  18. Empire (Alderac)
  19. Fields of Blood (Eden Studio)
  20. Birthright Campaign Setting

Some of these I already have but haven't looked at, while others will require me to head over to DriveThruRPG for the PDF to save money.  This seems to be a more epic undertaking than I had anticipated, but it seems like it might be a lot of fun! 

If anyone has any experience with one or more of these and doesn't think they are worth my time and money please let me know via email or in the comments section.

    Sell Me on Your Favorite Mass Combat System

    Posted by Labyrinthian in

    I need a mass combat system for a fantasy game and I can't seem to find the right one.  For as long as I've been playing RPGs a great mass combat system seems to be that one thing that is just out of reach.  So I thought I'd turn to you, noble readers.

    Please feel free to help out by recommending your favorite mass combat system and let me know why it is head and shoulders above the rest.

    Weekend Roundup

    Posted by Labyrinthian in , ,

    Well I saw Voyage of the Dawn Treader and thought I'd warn you all to do the wiser thing and wait for video.  I wanted to like the movie, and thought that I would.  The trailer looked solid and I had no problem with the major change (adding an overall plot to diminish the episodic nature of the story), but I gotta tell ya... this one is a disappointment. 

    It's hard to put my finger on exactly what made the movie so inferior to the ones the preceded it.  One theory is that they spend a great deal of time in the series building up this magical land, developing it's visual style and getting you to love it, but in Voyage of the Dawn Treader you never see it.  Now this wasn't a problem in the book, so I'm inclined to think this isn't really the problem in the movie. 

    My second theory, and the one I'm more inclined to believe, is that this movie is just spastic.  It jumps all over the place, never focusing on any one character or event for more than a minute or two.  The movie seems to want to have five main characters: Lucy, Edmund, Caspian, Eustace, and Reepicheep.  Lucy is probably the closest the story has to a protagonist, but she get's only slightly more focus than the other four.  Having so many characters to focus on really split each character's time for focus and development down so low that they all end up being pretty two dimensional.  Each character has a vice, Lucy's vanity and Edmund's pride for example, that they must battle during the course of the voyage.  This would be great except that there are so many would-be protagonists that each character's screen time to work against their weakness is next to nothing. 

    Now I'm not saying that this movie is Last Airbender kind of bad, but like I said wait for video.

    I had a far more pleasant surprise waiting for me when I got him from the movie and started watching the Starz miniseries Pillars of the Earth.  Based on the historical fiction novel by Ken Follett, Pillars of the Earth is about a community that works together over decades to build a cathedral against great opposition.  It has some great actors (including Ian McShane of Deadwood fame), excellent characters, and a complex plot filled with political intrigue. 

    Being a historical fiction one shouldn't take a history lesson from PotE, but it does use an interesting time of political upheaval in England (a period known as the Anarchy) and uses it as the backdrop for its story.  The Cathedral and indeed the town, along with all of the main characters from the story, are all fictional.  It takes some liberties with history to advance the story, but none of it is done in a way that made me cringe.

    Unfortunately PotE was a miniseries so it only lasted eight episodes, but better a short run of quality than a longer one of mediocrity.  I highly recommend you check it out as there is some great inspiration for GMs and players alike to be found within.  Bishop Waleran in particular would make an excellent adversary.  A man who ranks high in the church and is a clever and experienced political player would make a truly formidable opponent indeed. 

    New 10 Minute Look Behind the Scenes of HBO's A Game of Thrones

    Posted by Labyrinthian in ,

    A lot of great new shots and plenty of behind the scenes wisdom from the show's creators, including George R. R. Martin himself. 

    Harry Potter and the Last Airbender's Sorcerer Apprentice

    Posted by Labyrinthian in , , , ,

    It's only recently hit me how popular the fantasy genre has become in the last ten years.  Setting aside the Vampire sub-genre, which itself has ballooned largely due to the success of the much loved and much reviled Twilight series, Fantasy has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the last decade largely thanks to the success of the Lord of the Rings films and Harry Potter series. 

    Thinking back I realized how great we had it in the early 2000s.  In 2001 for example, we saw the release of both the Fellowship of the Ring and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone within a few months of each other.  Also released that year was Shrek, a somewhat unconventional Fantasy film, yet a fantasy all the same.  The following year had another the second installment of both the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter franchise, the last hurrah for how truly great the latter might have been.  In 2003 we saw the conclusion of the Lord of the Rings films and a new franchise burst onto the scene, Pirates of the Caribbean. Curse of the Black Pearl was an amazing film that little hinted at a couple of bad sequels that were waiting in the wings.

    Then in 2004 we begin to see a drop in quality.  No, I'm not speaking of Shrek 2, a faithful and well made sequel, or even the awful fairytale film Ella Enchanted, but rather of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  HP3 wasn't nearly as bad as some of the films that would come after it, but it heralded in a new era for the series.  Columbus left the director's chair and in his place came men who cared less for the story and more for the glamor.  Important and fun scenes were cut from the film, a necessity when dealing with very long books I know, but if you have no time for them why waste valuable time with worthless special effects that add nothing to the story?  The reason of course is a shift in priorities, substance was no longer the order of the day, style was.  That is what HP3 represents, the pursuit of style over substance.  It's really too bad Columbus didn't stick around for one more film because PoA is page for page the best book in the Harry Potter series. 

    Moving onto 2005 we have a disaster of a Harry Potter movie (Goblet of Fire), but are given a brief reprieve with the release of a new movie franchise, The Chronicles of Narnia.  The first installment of this movie, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, was faithfully adapted to screen and though it didn't perform nearly as well it the newer and more popular Harry Potter, it was much better than the tripe the makers of the HP films were spewing out for the general public.  The following year we saw the first of the bad Pirates of the Caribbean squeals, Dead Man's Chest, as well as a number of other fantasy films including 300, Pan's Labyrinth and The Prestige.  300 was good, though slightly over-hyped in my opinion.  Not that I can blame anyone, give the amount of other crap being released people had the right to enjoy a good film when they finally got one.  Pan's Labyrinth and The Prestige were not traditional fantasy films.  I enjoyed the latter and found the former to have been way over-hyped.  The true horror of 2006 though was the film Eragon.  Truthfully, this movie is so bad that I don't trust myself to discuss it here without going into an angry tirade, so it's best to just move on. 

    In 2007 bad fantasy films hit a crescendo and we were forced to suffer through what seemed to be bad film after bad film.  Specifically, and in nor particular order they were: Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End, and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Shrek the Third, Enchanted, Beowulf, and The Golden Compass. These movies range from bad to God Awful, and suffice to say I wouldn't recommend them to a friend.  However, 2007 did have a single ray of sunshine in it for Fantasy fans, the somewhat under the radar film, Stardust.  It was a quality film that really hearkened back to the immortal classic, The Princess Bride.  Stardust, unlike the other 2007 films all of which had a higher budget, is a movie I would have no trouble recommending to a friend.  

    Well we're onto 2008 so you know what that means... Twilight.  Look I'm not going to waste space here bashing Twilight into the ground, it is a series that is very popular with its target audience, the "tweens," but for the rest of us it just isn't worth the time.  The other major fantasy film of 08 was the second installment of the Chronicles of Narnia, Prince Caspian.  While some changes were made were made for the worse (Prince Caspian himself is older and FAR more annoying than in the book), this was still a quality film that I enjoyed.  The following year (09) we saw the release of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (another stinker), the new Twilight film New Moon (another waste of time for non-Tweens), and Avatar (a waste of time for everyone).

    That brings us to 2010 and the slew of bad fantasy film on display at present.  I was going to include Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief in my clever tittle, but to be honest it wasn't worth the effort.  I fell asleep during that movie, but stayed awake just long enough to lament that it might have actually been good in more competent hands.  More recently the wife and I have watched 3 fantasy films in the last couple of weeks: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1), The Last Airbender, and The Sorcerer's apprentice.  I'm going to start with the Sorcerer's apprentice because that is the movie that I watched last.

    The Sorcerer's apprentice is bad.  The script sucks, the acting is terrible, the characters are unlikeable, and I spent the whole movie rooting for Morgana to just end the world and put me out of my misery.  Truth be told this isn't even a Fantasy Film.  That's right, folks!  The makers of the Sorcerer's apprentice decided to go all "Midichlorians" on us and explain that a Sorcerers powers are actually just science.  Nick Cage explains to his apprentice in one seen (that made me want to gouge my eyeballs out with a spork) that though most people can only use 10% of their brains, Sorcerers can use 100% and manipulate the natural world around them. Yep, it's that old myth, used as a crutch once again for bad storytelling.  I guess they never read our article on keeping magic magical.  Sadly as bad as this film is, it isn't even the worst of the three.

    The worst movie of the three (dare I say by far?) is by far The Last Airbender (I do!).  I almost can't put into words just how bad this movie is.  The acting is absolutely atrocious, seriously it is one of the worst acted films I have ever seen.  I don't know who cast this movie, but they should be put out to pasture.  The villain is the pizza guy from Spiderman 2!  I shit you not.   The fact is, that everything about this movie is bad save for the special effects.  Once again, we see style trump substance and this time it leads to an unmitigated disaster.  I think the wife and I would have shut the movie off but we were both like a deer in headlights the entire time. Fortunately, it was all downhill from there.
    "Fear my flame bending powers, for I shall burn your crust!"
    The Deathly Hallows (Part 1) was the best of the three.  It actually wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, though given that I thought it would be terrible this isn't saying much.  This one is still pretty new so I'll leave it at that for now.

    So now that we've gone though the recent past and present of Fantasy Films what do I see in the future?  Well given that I've been pretty doom and gloom for this entire article you probably think all I see is darkness and despair, but actually that isn't the case.  Fantasy will see an inevitable dip in popularity next year when the Harry Potter films end, but there is actually a lot coming up to brighten the horizon and it isn't all coming on the big screen.

    For starters you have the new Chronicles of Narnia movie (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader) which looks promising.  The biggest and best hope is Peter Jackson's return to middle earth for a two part version of The Hobbit.  With Jackson on board, and with the quality cast he has assembled, I am so sure of this films quality that I would bet my house that it will be great. 

    Despite some great movies on tap at the movie theater I actually think the future of great fantasy could come on the small screen.  HBO's A Game of Thrones is bound to be some of the best fantasy we have seen in a while, if not ever.  It has that type of potential, given the impeccable source material combined with a commitment and integrity that just isn't seen much on blockbuster films anymore.  Also busting onto the small screen in 2011 is a new Starz series, Camelot.  Camelot tells the story of King Arthur and his Knight of the Round table right from the beginning.  Like HBO, Starz seems to be aiming for a grittier and more realistic fantasy, cut with a healthy dose of political intrigue.  

    Though the future of quality fantasy looks like it may be on the rise watch out for landmines such as the World of Warcraft movie, The new Conan film, The Elfstones of Shannara, and other highly questionable projects on the horizon.