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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Dice - The Odessey

As I've stated before, I've been role playing since I was 10 years old. Through all those years, I have accumulated a large collection of dice. I think all of us who have spent a number of years as a gamer have. Some of you may have even used a Crown Royal bag to carry your dice... I know I have at least once.



The other day, during the Pathfinder game that I'm currently playing, one of the players started sorting through her dice. She was sorting through them to make sure she wasn't missing any as her cat had knocked them over at home earlier. I watched as this process made its way through 2 additional players, and I got the itch to organize my collection at home. 







This is how my dice collection was originally organized: 2 dice bags, a Blue Man Group coin bucket from Las Vegas, a brandy snifter and a Halloween candy skull. I currently have them in 5 separate 32oz World of Warcraft AM/PM plastic cups (previously unused) that I received when I attended Wizard World Portland in 2013.





Here are the components of the collection:




d4's




d6's






d8's






d10's






d12's






d20's








The Oddball's

When I was working as a buyer for a used book store, one of my specialties was RPG's (go figure). Occasionally, a collection would come in where the seller wanted to get rid of everything, including the dice. I was more than happy to assimilate them into my own collection.



Several years ago, when I actively held games at my home, I had a friend who would go through my entire collection and organize them by the few actual sets I had. After that was done, he would occasionally suggest that a few dice were his or that perhaps some of his dice were actually mine. I never minded this ritual as the few actual sets of dice that I have I try to keep out of the main collection.



When I was in middle school, I had a friend who wanted to develop an Asian themed game with the system being totally devoted to the d100. I don't mean d%, I mean the actual d100 die (as pictured in "The Oddball's", there are 2 still in my collection) and nothing else. I didn't know what he was actually intending when he asked me to develop stats for weapons. I used my common sense and gave damage rating consistent with the weapons. (i.e. d6 for a dagger, d10 or 12 for a katana.) When I showed them to him, he informed me that he wanted EVERYTHING based on the d100. That's when I stopped working with him.



Also in middle school, I started learning to play Champions. That is when I cannibalized every board game I could find for 6-sided dice. Yahtzee, Monopoly, Clue, Risk. I don't think I ever gave those games back their dice. Years later, I would find my first "DM Slayer" in a National Geographic board game. As you can tell in the d12 photo, I still have that die.



I also remember when I purchased my first d100. It was $5 and I bought it at the only game store we had in town. I don't know that I ever really used it all that much and it's no longer in my collection. I think I was the only one in my gaming group that ever owned a d100 for many years.



I know that Gygax Magazine has been posting images of dice collections people have sent to them via Facebook or Twitter. I hope that they'll post my pics and I look forward to seeing yours as well.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Avengers vs. X-Men




Title:
Avengers vs. X-Men





ISBN:
9780785165859


Price:
$75.00


Publisher/Year:
Marvel, 2012


Artist: Ed McGuinness, Frank Cho, John Romita, Jr.,
Oliver Coipel, Adam Kubert, Stuart Immonen, Steve McNiven, Salvador Larroca,
Terry Dodson, Brandon Peterson, Kaare Andrews, Leinil Francis Yu, Tom Raney,
Jim Cheung, Jim Mahfood, Mike Deodato, Jacob Chabot, Art Adams, Ram
ón Pérez, Katie Cook, Carlo Barberi, Reilly Brown


Writer:
Jeph Loeb, Brian Michael Bendis, Jason Aaron, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman,
Matt Fraction, Kathryn Immonen, Steve McNiven, Kieron Gillen, Christopher Yost,
Rick Remender, Mike Deodato, Dan Slott


Collects:
Avengers Vs. X-Men #0-12, AvX Versus #1-6, Avengers Vs. X-Men Infinite #1, 6, 10





Rating:
4/5





The
way I figure it, there are two core groups of people that are entertaining the
notion of buying this expensive $75 hardcover collection of Marvel’s latest
event comic: those waiting to read it in collected format and those that liked
the series enough in single issues to double dip and buy the collected version.
While the hardcover Marvel has put together is certainly attractive-looking on
a bookshelf, I’m not sure the price can be justified for either party.





Worse,
many of the interesting character beats that resulted from the events in AvX
wound up being handled in tie-in issues of Uncanny X-Men, Wolverine and the
X-Men or other various ongoing titles, which aren’t included in this
collection. This means that if you’re reading this collection on its own for
the first time, there are a lot of threads introduced that have little-to-no
payoff within the book that you’re reading.





It’s
not a matter of “getting more” of the story in the tie-ins either; there are
some plot points introduced that simply have no bearing on any other events
within the series, taking time and space away from elements that could’ve been
more fully developed. And with the AvX: VS issues being very much what Marvel
promised – a “fight book” – looking for further insight there would be a
mistake. That said, there are moments to enjoy here – Spider-Man’s brief moment
in the sun in issue #9 or the conclusion of Act One spring to mind.





The
best part of this hardcover across the board is in the artwork. From John
Romita Jr. to Olivier Coipel to Adam Kubert in the main series to Steve
McNiven, Terry Dodson, Stuart Immonen, Jim Mahfood, and so many more in the
AvX: VS installments, there is a boatload of stellar art to enjoy here. There
are some missteps along the way with JRJR’s missing backgrounds or trouble with
group shots and Coipel’s construction of action scenes, but as a whole, this is
a pretty collection and basically a who’s who of current Marvel artists. You
will run into some problems with artwork being lost in the binding, however, as
shown below. That said, this problem occurs far less with word balloons and
captions.





The
book itself collects AvX #0-12, AvX: VS #1-6, AvX Infinite Comics #1, #6, and
#10, as well as the brief Nova portion of Point One #1. None of these are
collected in order of occurrence (save for the Nova bit being at the front of
the book), so if you want to read, say, AvX #2 and then dive further into those
battles in AvX: VS #1, you’ll be flipping between different parts of the
hardcover. The covers for each issue are placed in front of their respective
content, however.





One
extremely notable quirk is the reprinting of the Infinite Comics. If you don’t
know, Marvel’s Infinite Comics are built specifically for the digital canvas,
using techniques and storytelling methods that are unique to the infinite
nature of digital comics. As such, the effect is significantly diminished on
the page. Instead of fluid, impactful stories, they become wordy, bland
affairs. The punchiness of Mark Waid’s words are still there, but the flow of
the story is lost and the imagery loses the kinetic nature it enjoys digitally,
instead just becoming obligatory pictures to accompany the words.





The
good news is that since the hardcover includes one of Marvel’s free digital
copy codes for the Marvel Comics App, you can still read the Infinite Comics
the way they were meant to be enjoyed. To their credit, Marvel does make a note
of this before the Infinite portion of the hardcover, urging readers to read
the digital versions “for the full effect.” And yes, all of the AR stuff is
present here as well.





The
supplemental content of the hardcover is mostly basic fare with a few
standouts. One is the introduction from WWE Superstar CM Punk, who is a noted
comic book fan and offers an interesting perspective on the heroes vs. heroes
nature of the story. And, as a wrestling fan, I couldn’t help but chuckle that
he’s credited by his real named (Phil Brooks) over his ring name. Marvel,
breaking kayfabe!





The
real prizewinner of bonus content is the artist’s section in the back, in which
Romita, Coipel, and Kubert offer detailed accounts of their approach to this
project with plenty of sketches and unused panels to go with their insightful
commentary. This is above and beyond the usual type of “sketchbook” stuff that
typically accompanies collections like this, so I was pleasantly surprised.
Other than that, there’s a hasty variant cover gallery and a goofy “score card”
of who won what battle throughout the series.





In
the end, it’s hard to justify buying this for $75. Sure, you can get it cheaper
on Amazon or at a convention, but it’s still a hard pill to swallow considering
the overall quality of the series and its lack of self-contained storytelling.
Give me an omnibus that includes things like AvX: Consequences and the Uncanny
X-Men tie-in issues, and then we can talk.





In
the interest of full disclosure, I did purchase 2 copies for the price of one
at my LCS during their Christmas sale. I now have both covers and I was
interested in the Marvel AR aspect of this trade. Unfortunately, when I tried
to download the Marvel AR app, I found that my “smartphone” was not compatible
to use it. A huge letdown, but as I’m an avid completest for my collection and
appreciate helping my LCS in any way I can, it was worth it to me.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Games We Play: Pantheons



I think it's safe to say that there are not many games that are run where the prime focus is on religion or religions. In a way, this idea saddens me because I personally feel that if more people had a better understanding of other religions that they would be more tolerant of other people's beliefs. Please don't think that I'm going to go on a rant about religious freedom or how a single religion is the way to go. On the contrary, my mind is open to most religions and I openly welcome their use inside my games.



When I play a fantasy RPG like D&D or Pathfinder, 9 times out of 10 I am relegated to the role of Cleric so the party is covered for healing and "buffs". I don't ever mind this, until my character is hassled about his religious choice for no reason. I try to play by character's faith to the best of my ability, but I never go so far as pushing my religion onto any other characters. Instead, when my character is able to perform feats that may seem miraculous, I make sure the character gives open thanks to their chosen deity. For instance, in the Pathfinder game I'm currently playing...



Our characters were put through several tests to see if we were worthy of a minor artifact. One of the tests seem to be a test of penitence and humility. My character took it upon himself to weather the test, only to find out that it was actually a test to see if any of us would succumb to an evil deity. Long story short... 2 fire elementals unleashed 3 rounds worth of lava on my poor Cleric character. He survived and gave praise to his deity. Not bad for only being 4th level.



In the a Hunter: The Reckoning game I ran, I decided that each of the characters were going to be tied to a specific Greek god. Unfortunately, this aspect was never explored because a) the game didn't last very long -and- b) the players never really caught on to the few hints I was able to drop about this. The biggest hint was a painting of the characters, created by one of them, which had each character with a glowing symbol of a different Greek god. I was going to run it as each character was guided by a specific deity that they were linked to. I'm not sure how that would have played out, but I think it would have been interesting.



I would invite storytellers and players alike to bring an aspect of religion to your games to see how your fellow players respond. With the right group dynamic, I belief that it will create an interesting aspect to your games.



Help to eliminate this common issue with Clerics in your games. :-)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: The Director's Cut




Title: Johnny the Homicidal Maniac:
The Director's Cut





ISBN: 0943151163


Price: $19.95


Publisher/Year: Slave Labor Graphics, 1997


Artist: Jhonen Vasquez


Writer: Jhonen Vasquez


Collects: Johnny the Homicidal Maniac
#1-7,
Carpe Noctem
(various)





Rating: 3/5





Let's talk about preconceived notions.





I have them. You have them. We all have them to varying
degrees, and one of mine has always been that I don't like "goth
comics." I'm not a big fan of the dark, overly angular art style, with the
brooding, all black costumes filled with anhks, piercings, cloaks and knee high
boots, or the overly cynical, nihilistic themes. Or, at least, that was my
impression without ever having read an actual goth comic.





Now, for years my brother has been trying to turn me on
to Jhonen Vasquez. An aspiring standup comedian, he swears that JTHM is one of
the funniest books ever written. I know it has that cult status (a quick Google
search confirmed this), so a couple of years ago I actually gave this book a
pretty serious look at the comic shop, but I couldn't get over my preconceived
notions enough to bring myself to actually buy it.





Finally, not satisfied with my uninformed dismissal, my
brother forced my hand. He bought me the book (JTHM: The Director's Cut) for my
birthday. This was back in January where it sat, unread, slowly descending to
the very bottom of my reading pile. That is, until this weekend. Since Rachel
and I will be visiting our families in the Midwest next week, and since my
brother will actually be there to question me on whether I read it or not, I
decided to finally give it a read. Admittedly this was a courtesy read, more to
simply seem grateful for the gift than because I was actually interested, but
nevertheless, I decided to read the entire book cover to cover with as open a
mind as possible.





What I found surprised me, not only because I liked the
book quite a bit more than I expected, but because it's nothing like what I
imagined.








JTHM: The Director's Cut collects the entire seven issue
run of the series, and pads it out with lots of extras like sketches, early
strips, pinups, character profiles, etc. The first couple of issues are pretty
much what I expected, lots of killing, maiming, decapitating, goring,
torturing, disemboweling, and generally over-the-top violence mixed with a
healthy serving of South Park-style toilet humor. I admit to laughing a few
times, but overall I really wasn't too impressed. The art style also repelled me
at first, with its skinny, stick-figure characters with huge beaming eyes and
the endless chaotic backgrounds filled with knives, weapons, tentacles and, of
course, lots of blood spatters.





But then, around the beginning of the fourth issue,
something clicked for me. Were my preconceived notions melting away or was the
book really getting better? For one thing, an actual storyline seemed to be
emerging. Johnny, or Nny as he liked to be called, was actually becoming a
sympathetic character, hard as that is to believe. Not satisfied to simply
continue killing, Nny began to question himself, exploring his compulsion
toward violence, and while this is far from a realistic, therapeutic, human
exploration (Nny goes to heaven and meets God, for example), it nonetheless
added a considerable degree of intelligence and insight into the book which,
frankly, surprised me.





But that wasn't all. The art also started to win me over.
The harsh angles, which defy all laws of perspective, became more polished,
with more varying panel compositions and imaginative backgrounds, and I started
to really appreciate what a mad, artistic genius Vasquez actually is. His skill
at creating depth in panels, and exaggerating physical body movements is
impressive, as is his use of other cartooning tools such as page layouts,
lighting, sound effects and pacing. He even works in some pretty clever
experimentation, most notably in his page borders which contain hidden
messages, but also in the text passages squeezed into margins, his varying art
style to denote Johnny's mental state when creating his comic strip, Happy
Noodle Boy (see panel below), and his incredibly well-designed logos, which
kickoff each 4-5 page strip vignette.





I should also point out that the book IS funny, though
not as laugh-out-loud funny as my brother led me to believe. Maybe I'm just
getting old, but I did find some chuckles, especially at Vasquez's
ever-present, self-deprecating wit, which often takes the form of little notes
and sidebars to the reader ("Attention Morons: Plot Development!").





What's fascinating is that despite all the violence, JTHM
is actually a rich social commentary, and, though perhaps this is stretching it
a bit, it's also a love story. In that sense it shares more in common with
Edward Scissorhands (who Nny resembles), than South Park. It's the kind of book
that is worth another look, particularly if, like I did, you dismissed it
without giving it a fair shot. There's a lot here to satisfy even the die-hard
alternative comics fan, and while it may not be the greatest thing ever
written, it's unique and unforgettable.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Comic Book Shop vs. Game Store

Due to some events that have happened in my local area recently, I was inspired to write this and the corresponding post on my RPG4EVR blog.



A few month's ago, I was doing some random Google search's, when I cam across the Google reviews for my LCS; Tony's Kingdom of Comics. Here is the review that caught my attention:




I decided to stop in by recommendation of a
friend as I am new to the area however when I entered this establishment
I wasn't greeted. I figured maybe the help was busy assisting other
customers but after about 10 minutes I finally approached the counter to
inquire about trades on magic cards. I was very quickly shot down with
the response of "It's a waste of our time" in a very short and matter of
fact sense. I can see this place being good for regular comic book
readers and collectible customers however it was made very clear I
wouldn't want to waste their time with collectable card games and to
take my business to Borderlands in downtown Salem.

I would like to reference that I have almost 20 years of customer service experience, and am familiar with how things normally run at Tony's. Though I can't speak to the many possibilities of why this person wasn't initially greeted when they entered the store, I feel that I can speak to the facts around them not wanting to deal with trading CCG cards.



Tony's has a large selection of just about everything a pop culture enthusiast would want. They are also billed as a "comic" store. Yes, they do sell games like Magic: The Gathering... but I don't feel it is right to expect them to also deal in the secondary market. Yes, this may or may not bring in additional revenue, but (speaking from experience) these transactions take a lot of time and space that Tony does not have to offer. Expecting a comic book store to cater in trading CCG cards is similar to expecting to be able to pet the tigers at the zoo. Sure, it may be offered in some areas, but it is not typically the norm.




Game Store vs. Comic Book Shop

Due to some events that have happened in my local area recently, I was
inspired to write this and the corresponding post on my Zanziber's Point of View blog.



My local game store, Borderlands Games, knows its stuff when it comes to RPG's, CCG's, miniatures and board games. Just because they carry the latest comic books does not make them a comic book shop, though... at least by my definition. IMHO, in order to be considered a "comic book shop", you should not only offer current issues, but also have a healthy supply of back issues including issues that could possibly draw in collectors (i.e. key issues, graded comics, variants, etc.). This is by no means my entire definition, but I think you get the idea.



You would no more expect every games store to carry comic books than you should expect a comic book shop to deal in the secondary market or CCG cards (buying/trading).



Now, stemmed from recent local events, I feel the need to speak on customer service.



To any managers of game stores, I would hope that you read this and take it into consideration within your own domain. Your employee's are a reflection of your store to the public. If they bad-mouth the competition to customers who may be dropping-in for the first time, you will not receive repeat customers and this will create negative word-of-mouth. If your employee engages in a one-sided debate towards said customer about all the seemingly negative aspects of the competition, this will leave a lasting impression and a bad taste in the mouths of those that experienced the event in question.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Death #1: At Death’s Door




Title: Death #1: At Death’s Door





ISBN: 1563899388


Price: $9.95


Publisher/Year: Vertigo,
2003


Artist: Jill Thompson


Writer: Jill Thompson





Rating: 3.5/5





For those who have not already heard
of it, it's a story of Gaiman's Death, telling events at the same time as Sandman:
Season of Mists
from Death's perspective (and Despair and Delirium). It's entirely
in black and white and is drawn in a very manga style (complete with SD —
severely distorted — versions of the Endless). 





Overall... well, a substantial
portion of the book is a retelling of Sandman: Season of Mists. Some of
it is from a different perspective, but actually quite a lot of it, substantial
chunks of it, are just taken straight from the original but redrawn in manga
style. This is one of my favorite Sandman stories, so I certainly didn't mind
reading it again, but I was expecting a bit more original content. 





In the new content, though, there
are definitely some great moments, and Death is really about as well-written as
she is in Gaiman's own work. Delirium has lots of typical Delirium moments
(although she doesn't seem to reach her trademark level of giddy profundity
nearly as often here), and the other Endless are all well-handled. Well, with
the possible exception of Despair... I can't really point at anything exactly
wrong, but she doesn't feel quite right. Mostly, I think she's just not quite
dark enough. 





The art style, which is really the
main attraction here, is going to be a definite matter of taste. People who
like the manga style and SD characters (severely distorted, usually meaning
characters drawn child-like with utterly exaggerated expressions) will love
this. Personally, I really prefer the standard US comic style, and absolutely
loved the artwork in Sandman: Season of Mists, but this was amusing and
different as a change. In small quantities at least. I think I've now had my
fill of it for a while. I doubt I'm ever going to be a huge fan of manga in
this style; my artistic preferences have always run towards realistic or at
least more traditionally artistic, like the standard Sandman art. 





Don't expect exceptional brilliance
at the level of Sandman or the other two Death miniseries, but recommended for
fans of the series. Particularly recommended if the idea of cute little Endless
screaming at each other with giant sweat drops and hitting each other with
things sounds hilarious.





Yes, I know that this isn’t actually
a trade or graphic novel, but since I have written reviews of the rest of the
Sandman and Death series, I thought I would add this into the mix. Well worth
adding to your collection.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Future of Lady Death

Today, I read the following post on the "Lady Death- Boundless Comics" Facebook page:


Concerning
LADY DEATH being missing from store shelves for the last 4 months and
how that looks like cancellation, Shawn Wick posts: "Why does it have to
be automatically obvious it's been cancelled? Why on Earth would they
not print all the issues? Why would the series not just start up again
in January? Were there any other issues beyond #30 that were being done?
Could there end up being a final issue to wrap everything up at least?
If all this is true then you have got to be kidding me. One of my
ultimate favorite characters and they solicit issues and then just never
print them? This is a disgrace! It's unacceptable, plain and simple.
Man, this really makes my blood boil with rage, I gotta say. I cannot
even begin to comprehend or accept this in any way."


Considering your obvious passion for the series, your outrage is
understandable, Shawn. I'm not happy either, having heavily invested
myself in the writing and promotion of the series for
the last 3 years. I completed the scripts for the first 6-issue arc
(#25-30) featuring LD's new look and powers, and the full color art was
also completed for those issues by Marc Borstel. The "Death's Reaper" LD
arc would have run a total of 18 issues, spanning #25-42. With no
explanation from Boundless, all we can do is speculate, but at this
point it looks like those books might never be printed or shipped for a
number of reasons. My hands are tied in the matter, and although I'm
aware of why this has happened, I'm still not in a position to speak
about it publicly, and I'm waiting for an official company statement
from the publisher just as you are.

I put everything I had
into the series, expanding on established characters and creating a
large number of new allies and enemies for LD, and fell in love with
each and every one of them, so it's frustrating to not see them bloom
from the seeds I planted.

My major concern is that without a
responsible statement from Boundless to all of their loyal fanbase, they
will be creating resentment for the company and taint fan acceptance of
future releases, whether those books are LADY DEATH or other
properties. Please be aware: There are issues specific only to LADY
DEATH which is preventing its publication, and I would hate to see a
stigma attached to other 2014 Boundless releases, because I'm probably
going to have my name attached to at least one of those.


Maybe things will turn around, problems will be solved and a resolution
will come that will see the relaunch of the series. As I've said, as
soon as I know something concrete and a public statement has been
released, I'll let you guys know.


My thoughts...


  • I've been a fan of Lady Death and Brian Pulido since the beginning. I hope that when the official public statement sheds some light on what's going on.

  • As a long-time fan of Lady Death, I'm use to having the series being stopped. I'm not saying that I'm happy about it, just that I'm familiar with the feeling.

  • Lady Death is the only series that I collect from Avatar Press/Boundless Comics. If Lady Death is cancelled, I don't think I'll actively try to find additional titles from Avatar to add to my collection.

  • My hope is that the public statement is more a "We're on a break" rather than a cancellation.

  • When the new Lady Death series was originally released, it encouraged me to re-collect the old Chaos! books. (Those who have been with me from the start of Zanziber's PoV know that I've collected and sold my prior collection.)


We'll see what happens. If the series is cancelled, I guess I'll be able to devote extra resources to re-collecting the Chaos! books.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Games We Play: Chess Magic



Way back in Duelist #4, Chess Magic made its debut. The idea behind
Chess Magic was simple - try

to create a format specifically designed to
recreate the feel of Chess. The goal of the format is not to exactly
duplicate the Chess game, but simply to give a Magic game the feel of a
good Chess game.



Unfortunately, the format from Duelist #4 is quite out of date, and
in serious need of upgrading. That's why I have decided to open up my
compendium and place another entry herein. It's high time that we had
an updated version of this really nifty variant, so I am updating the
older rules and streamlining the process a bit.



This variant comes with a lot of strict deckbuilding rules, so let's
go over the easy ones briefly. The deck's creatures are divided into a
King's side and a Queen's side. The deck can be one or two colors. All
creatures on the King's side are one color, and all creatures on the
Queen's side are another color. Each side has four pawns, a bishop,
knight, and rook. The two sides can be the same color.



In addition, the King has a Wizard and the Queen has an Artifact. The rules for these cards are listed in detail below.



Every creature in the deck must conform to a chess piece. Each deck
has the exact same chess pieces represented. The rules for what may, or
may not count as a chess piece are listed below. I added a few examples
in parentheses to start the ball rolling for ideas.



King:

The King must have a casting cost of four or more and be legendary.
The King must be male. After all, this is the King of a whole kingdom
we are talking about - he's legendary. (Kamahl, Fist of Krosa, Arcanis the Omnipotent, or Tahngarth, Talruum Hero.)



King's Bishop:

The King's Bishop must be the same color as the King. It must have
power equal to or greater than its toughness. Additionally, it must
have a power higher than that of the King's Knight. The King's Bishop
cannot have a power more than three greater than the King. (Quicksilver Dragon, Serra Angel, or Cateran Slaver.)



King's Knight:

The King's Knight must be the same color as the King. It must have a
power greater than the King's Pawns. Its combined power and toughness
cannot be more than six. The King's Knight must have a combat-related
ability that does not allow it to evade combat, such as first strike,
vigilance, banding, double strike, flanking, haste, provoke, rampage,
bushido, or trample. As other combat oriented keywords are added, they
count as a Knight as well.



Note that there are no evasive-oriented combat abilities listed
(ninjitsu, flying, shadow, landwalk, protection, etc.). The King's
Knight enjoys combat and relishes in it. Note that it can still have an
evasive ability, as long as it has one of the combat-oriented
abilities.

(Examples include Nekrataal, Narwhal, Jolrael's Centaur, and Suq'Ata Lancer.)



King's Pawns:

The four Pawns must be the same color as the King. All four pawns must
be the same creature. A pawn must have a casting cost of three or less.
It also cannot have a combined power and toughness greater than three.
It cannot have any abilities that make it bigger or require the use of
tapping or mana. These are the little guys that make the army go. (Defender of Chaos, Cloud of Faeries, or Soul Warden.)



King's Rook:

The only restriction on the King's Rook, other than being the color
of the King, is that it must either be a wall or a creature with
defender. (Kaijin of the Vanishing Touch, Wall of Blossoms, or Wall of Diffusion.)



King's Wizard:

The King's Wizard is the only creature in the deck that may be of
two colors, if you wish. It may be the King's color, the Queen's color,
or both. The King's Wizard is also the only creature other than the
King and Queen who can be legendary. The King's Wizard must have an
ability that requires tapping. It cannot have a higher power and
toughness than 4/4. (Goblin Wizard, Royal Assassin, Prodigal Sorcerer, or Ertai, Wizard Adept.)



Queen:

The Queen may be of a separate color than the King. The Queen must
be a female legendary creature with a casting cost four or greater. (Radiant, Archangel, Autumn Willow, or Grandmother Sengir.)



Queen's Bishop:

The Queen's Bishop must be the same color as the Queen. It must
have power equal to or greater than its toughness. Additionally, it
must have a power higher than that of the Queen's Knight. The Queen's
Bishop cannot have a power more than one greater than the Queen. (Ball Lightning, Exalted Angel, or Sengir Vampire.)



Queen's Knight:

The Queen's Knight must be the same color as the Queen. It must
have a power greater than the Queen's Pawns but a combined power and
toughness no higher than six. Like the King's Knight, the Queen's
Knight must have a combat related ability - but it may count any combat ability, including evasive ones. The Queen's Knight can be a bit sneakier than its companion Knight. (Thalakos Scout, Phantom Monster, or Yavimaya Ants.)



Queen's Pawns:

The four Pawns must be the same color as the Queen. All four pawns must
be the same creature. A pawn must have a casting cost of three or
less. It also cannot have a combined power and toughness greater than
three. It cannot have any abilities that make it bigger, destroy other
permanents, or require the use of tapping or mana. These are more
little guys that make the army go. (Disciple of the Vault, Atog, or Merchant of Secrets.)



Queen's Rook:

The Queen's Rook must be the same color as the Queen. The Rook has to be either a wall or have defender. (Wall of Hope, Wall of Putrid Flesh, Wall of Wonder.)



Queen's Artifact:

The Queen's Artifact represents a little toy of hers that she uses
to great effect. This cannot be a creature. It cannot produce mana of a
color other than the Queen or King's color(s). There are no additional
restrictions. (Cursed Scroll, Wand of Ith, Jayemdae Tome, or Ivory Tower.)



18 Non-Creature Cards: 


There must be an additional eight cards in the deck. There cannot
be any creatures with these cards. They must be in your two colors,
though they can include gold spells. See the banned list for special
rules.



24 Lands: 


All lands must be basic except for four non-basics. A legendary
land can count for one basic, but only one may be played. All lands
must tap for mana from either the King or Queen's color.




The Banned List

The following effects are banned from the environment. Even creatures cannot have these abilities:




  • The ability to make token creatures (The Hive, Grizzly Fate, Dual Nature, Stangg.)

  • The ability to destroy or damage most or all creatures in play (Wrath of God, Massacre, Decree of Pain, Earthquake.)

  • The ability to take control of any card an opponent owns (Control Magic, Animate Dead.)

  • Wishes, Ring of Ma'Ruf

  • Any card which destroys or goes after a creature type (Extinction, Engineered Plague.)




  • Humility

  • Any effect that removes a creature for the game (Swords to Plowshares, Final Judgment.)

  • Any card or ability that has or makes permanents indestructible (That Which Was Taken, Darksteel Gargoyle.)



  • That covers the basic deck construction rules. You will find
    advanced deck construction rules later in the article. On to the play
    rules!





    Creature Abilities:

    In order to roughly simulate the Chess experience, there are a few special abilities for creatures, as follows:



    Pawns

    All Pawns have haste. Additionally, all Pawns have the following
    text: "At the beginning of your upkeep, you may remove this card from
    the game to put a creature card of the same color from the graveyard
    into play tapped. You may not put the King into play this way." This
    ability can only be used by one Pawn per turn.



    Rooks, King/Queen

    Rooks have the following text: "At the beginning of your upkeep,
    you may return this card to your hand and put a King or Queen of the
    same color into play." The King and Queen have the following text: "At
    the beginning of your upkeep, you may return this card to your hand and
    put a Rook of the same color into play." You may only use this ability
    once per game.



    Note that you cannot use the King's Rook for the Queen (or vice versa) unless they are of the same color.



    King's Death

    When the King goes to the graveyard from play, the controlling player loses half of his or her life rounded up.



    King's Ploy

    Every servant of the King (Bishop, Rook, Knight, Pawns and Wizard)
    has the following ability: "Tap, Sacrifice the Queen: The King is
    indestructible until the end of turn"



    Strategy:

    After looking over the deck construction and playing rules, you'll
    notice that the deck is divided virtually evenly into creatures and
    non-creatures. That means you can rely on your opponent playing with
    enough creatures to make cards like Exclude
    perfectly acceptable. With only one artifact in the required cards,
    and no enchantments required, you'll have to decide yourself if Disenchant-type removal is relevant.



    Spells cannot utilize colors that are not part of the Queen/King color spectrum. You can't play Illuminate,
    for example, unless your lieges are red and blue. You also cannot add
    additional creatures through any means, including token creature
    generation.



    With around 50% of the deck being creatures, you obviously cannot
    stock up on creature removal. A few creature removal cards are good
    ideas, but if you spend too much time worrying about creatures, you'll
    have difficulty winning.



    In deck construction, make sure you make full use of your creatures.
    Note that your Bishops are usually your heavy hitters and beaters.
    You've probably noticed that the King's Bishop can be much more powerful
    than the King, where the Queen's Bishop can be, at most, just a little
    more powerful. This reflects the power of the Queen in chess.



    The only other major difference between the King and Queen pieces
    lies in what abilities a creature must have in order to count as a
    Knight. The King's Knight looks for "hard" combat abilities, whereas
    the Queen's Knight can use those, as well as using evasive and sneaky
    combat abilities.





    Advanced Rules:

    If you are looking for an additional bit of flavor, take a look at
    our advanced rules. You might want to try these out after you've played
    around with the first version, or you may just want to dig on in and
    try these rules as well. You can pick and choose from these rules or
    use them all.



    Deck Construction:





    King's Beast

    The King's Beast must be of the same color as the King. The King's
    Beast represents a typical court pet. It must be a monstrous or cute
    creature and not an intelligent race (no Merfolk, Goblins, Humans, or
    whatnot). (Ertai's Familiar, Kavu Chameleon or Jamuraan Lion.)



    Queen's Jester

    The Queen's Jester must be the same color as the Queen. The Queen's
    Jester cannot have a combined power and toughness greater than five,
    and it must have a very powerful ability. (For example, Ali from Cairo has a powerful ability; Ali Baba does not. Archivist has a powerful ability; Chaos Harlequin does not.)



    Court Enchantment

    The court has an enchantment over it, represented by this card. It
    must be in one or both of the legal colors. The Court Enchantment must
    be a global enchantment, not a local one. (Future Sight, Grand Melee, or Bad Moon.)



    Coat of Arms

    The court must have some banner, coat, or whatnot to count as the
    court's Coat of Arms. This can be either an artifact or an enchantment
    if the enchantment fits. Obviously, it must be of a color that benefits
    the King or Queen's color. (Konda's Banner, Jabari's Banner, Coat of Arms, Coalition Flag, or Leonin Sun Standard.)



    Demesne

    The land ruled by the King or Queen must be represented as well. If
    this has a color, it must be in the King or Queen's color(s). This can
    be an enchantment (Castle, Great Wall, or Teferi's Realm), a legendary land (Urborg, Tolaria, or Eiganjo
    - remember that lands can only be included if they tap for a legal
    color) or the rare artifact, if you can find one that fits. If you use a
    legendary land, then you can count it as one of your required lands, if
    you wish to do so (thereby giving you an extra business card).




    Play Rules:

    For an attack, you may give one of your creatures Provoke. However,
    if you do, your opponent will get a free Provoke on the following turn
    for any creature of his or her choice. (This represents sacrificing a
    piece to take a critical piece from your opponent.)



    Feel free to try out the advanced rules and see how they do. They'll
    be taken out of the eighteen extra cards - so if you play with all five
    extra cards, a deck will only have thirteen extra cards (fourteen if
    you use a land to fulfill the Demesne obligation.).

    Sunday, May 5, 2013

    The Guild Volume 2: Knights of Good



    Title: The Guild Volume 2: Knights of Good

    ISBN: 9781595829009
    Price: $14.99
    Publisher/Year: Dark Horse, 2012
    Artist: Darick Robertson, Richard P. Clark, Kristian Donaldson, Evan Bryce, Andrew Currie, Ron Chan, Becky Cloonan, Dave Stewart, Michelle Madsen, Jeremy Bastian, Wellinton Alves, Jason Gorder, Tim Seeley, Adam Warren, Emily Warren
    Writer: Felicia Day, Jeff Lewis, Sean Becker, Kim Evey, Sandeep Parikh
    Collects: The Guild: Vork, The Guild: Tink, The Guild: Bladezz, The Guild: Clara, The Guild: Zaboo

    Rating: 4/5

    Fans of The Guild! You can’t miss this volume of backstories of our heroes that before now, was only alluded to in episodes of the series or not revealed at all. While it doesn’t further the current season storylines as we know them, it does give us important (and fun!) information on Tink, Bladezz, Vork, Clara, and Zaboo – all leading up to the pilot episode in season 1.

    Any sci-fi/fantasy fan can tell you one thing when you’re building your characters within your world/story: backstory is important. While this volume didn’t blow me away as much as the first, it’s still a wonderful look into the lives of the other members of the Guild, and how they got to where they are. Day does a wonderful job with this collection of one-shots that are totally within I think my favorite out of these one-shots has to be a tie between Tink, Clara, and Vork – we see how Tink always lies (but the truth of how she lives at the end), how Vork became such a control freak, and Clara…oh Clara. No words for how hilarious (and oh-so-fitting) her story was. It was a genuine pleasure to see how these characters came to be, and how they continue to evolve through the seasons of the show. It also has a lot of little things that, when watching them, didn’t always entirely make sense at the time make a ton more sense now.

    I think a rewatch of all five seasons so far is in order.

    The only thing that I wish had been in this TPB? Fawkes’ backstory. Then it REALLY would have been a party. Hence the not quite five stars. But still, this is a really awesome installment in the “Guild” saga, and a definite must-read for fans. If anything, for those just getting into the series, I’d recommend reading this book first, as it kind of lays everything out really neatly and nicely, making it smooth sailing for the viewer from there.

    Needless to say, I’m really happy with what I got here, and I can’t wait for the next TPB. “The Guild: Knights of Good” is out now from Dark Horse in North America, so be sure to check it out when you can! Seriously, you can’t miss these origin stories of these awesome characters. Highly recommended!

    Wednesday, May 1, 2013

    System's We Play: d20

    d20-



    I think that the "birth" of the d20 system stemmed from the original Dungeons & Dragons. Wizards of the Coast took the idea, added some fun extras like Feats and a large selection of Skills and made the basic system available for other publishers to utilize while keeping certain creative rights.



    The d20 System is a derivative of the third edition D&D game system. The three primary designers behind the d20 System were Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook and Skip Williams; many others contributed, most notably Richard Baker and Wizards of the Coast then-president Peter Adkison. Many give Tweet the bulk of the credit for the basic resolution mechanic, citing similarities to the system behind his game Ars Magica. Tweet, however, stated "The other designers already had a core mechanic similar to the current one when I joined the design team".



    To resolve an action in the d20 System, a player rolls a 20-sided die and adds modifiers based on the natural aptitude of the character (defined by six abilities: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma) and how skilled the character is in various fields (such as in combat), as well as other, situational modifiers. If the result is greater than or equal to a target number (called a Difficulty Class or DC) then the action succeeds. This is called the Core Mechanic. This system is consistently used for all action resolution in the d20 System: in prior games in the D&D family, the rules for different actions, such as the first-edition hit tables or the second-edition AD&D "THAC0" and saving throw mechanics, varied considerably in which dice were used and even whether high numbers or low numbers were preferable.



    The d20 System is not presented as a universal system in any of its publications or free distributions, unlike games like GURPS. Rather, the core system has been presented in a variety of formats that have been adapted by various publishers (both Wizards of the Coast and third-party) to specific settings and genres, much like the Basic Role-Playing system common to early games by veteran RPG publisher Chaosium.



    The rules for the d20 System are defined in the System Reference Document or SRD (two separate SRDs were released, one for D&D edition 3.0 and one for edition 3.5), which may be copied freely or even sold. Designed for fantasy-genre games in (usually) a pseudo-medieval setting, the SRD is drawn from the Dungeons & Dragons books Player's Handbook v3.5, Expanded Psionics Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide v3.5, Monster Manual v3.5, Deities and Demigods v3.0, Unearthed Arcana, and Epic Level Handbook. Information from these books not in the SRD include detailed descriptions, flavor-text, and material Wizards of the Coast considers Product Identity (such as references to the Greyhawk campaign setting and information on mind flayers).





    d20 Modern has its own SRD, called the Modern System Reference Document (MSRD). The MSRD includes material from the d20 Modern roleplaying game, Urban Arcana Campaign Setting, the d20 Menace Manual, and d20 Future; this can cover a wide variety of genres, but is intended for a modern-day, or in the case of the last of these, a futuristic setting.



    The wonderful thing about the d20 system is that it allowed so many smaller publishers to write material for it and it would fall under the Open Game License (OGL). This was a great idea and allowed small publishers to get some notice and recognition for their work.

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