Sunday, September 25, 2016

Kickstarter Gem: Monte Cook's INVISIBLE SUN

This is the first time I have ever shared a Kickstarter at the Mazes and not something I plan on doing regularly, but I was so impressed by the game design here (as well as the impressive video demonstrations on the Kickstarter site) I think it well worth sharing with anyone who might have missed this.

Monte Cook is very well known to the games community, having been one of the original crew on the olde ship TSR creating classic Dungeons and Dragons publications. He also worked on games for Iron Crown Enterprises, Wizards of the Coast and other companies, and has authored his own games and settings as well. In addition, Mr. Cook is an author of fantastic fiction. If you want to know about all of his exploits and design contributions, Wikipedia has a comprehensive article.

I am very amazed and intrigued by his latest creation Invisible Sun. The box that the game will be stored in is the only thing "in the box" about Invisible Sun, and even the box is "out of the box" , as you can see if you check out the Kickstarter presentation.

It appears to be a setting that is mutable (you could make it horror, detective, fantastic as desired) but mainly has a kind of eldritch modern fantasy vibe, characters being members of different schools of magic who walk in the modern world but enter extra dimensional and out-of-time spaces and contending with the denizens from these realms, drawing their power to work magic from..Invisible Suns.

The physical components of the game will be some of the best ever made if the Kickstarter succeeds--the aesthetic, the professional art, the custom miniatures included, the board and hardcover thin rules volumes...all are gorgeous. There is even a mobile app to update in game character situations outside the game. You can play the game when you are away from the table!

I have included a link to the Kickstarter, so rather than give you an in depth study here, I recommend you to visit and see it for yourself. The game will ring in at an impressive two hundred dollars or so--and given the level of quality of production, if it is made to last I don't think that unreasonable. That is near the equivalent of four video games or a set of core books and support materials for several modern edition rpg's. I know games so priced are above and beyond for many gamers (yours truly usually in this category), and I didn't say it isn't steep--I just said it's reasonable for the product involved , and I really believe that.

The main thing I love about this Kickstarter, though, is Mr. Cook's demonstration of how we as game designers should always be innovating, thinking artfully about what we are doing, making games that are player and GM friendly, and pushing new frontiers in design, art, mechanics of play, and genre development...getting "out of the box" so, to speak. If it were the film world instead of the game world under discussion, Mr. Cook would be something of a Stanley Kubrick of game design, taking his craft seriously and pushing it in new directions that no one ever expects. 

Update: The Kickstarter was funded already.I'm a bit slow on the draw, but I wil leave this post up because the info is all just as relevant. Cheers!


More Information on Invisible Sun

Monday, September 19, 2016

Lori Nix: The City-New York as Post Apocalyptic Art

Image Property of Lori Nix

Now here is a woman after my own heart! As I have been preparing to run a post apocalyptic game using the Savage World's rpg system, I have been trying to learn rules and prepare model terrain. So, I used the big beautiful Internet and went searching for ideas on model building. 

My specific idea was to use Manhattan as a model, and while looking for some good urban ruin ideas I came across the work of artist Lori Nix and her partner Kathleen, and I was totally thrilled!

Ms. Nix constructs miniatures of New York in ruins, devoid of human life. She then photographs her models and her prints are carried in reputable galleries.

She has been obsessed for many years with the idea of apocalypse, envisioning the reclamation of man's cities by plants and animals, which led her, at a certain point, to create such bleak visions as she has catalogued on her awesome website.  She cites such influences as Logan's Run, Soylent Green and Planet of the Apes.

Image propery of Lori Nix,

Ms. Nix wanders New York and photographs the most mundane  daily urban scenes, then goes home, picks the photos she wants to use, and decides what sort of materials and methods she will use to reconstruct and deconstruct these city-scapes.

The result is a post apoc fan's sweet dream, and a great inspiration to anyone who wants to build some great terrain for an After the Bomb type game.

It is also an art paradise, a great site to lose one's self in as you sit and envision the world of..The End. That world is more beautiful than you might think.

Check it out!

The City

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Model Building is Addictive!

I realize I have been posting a lot of model terrain pics lately but it has been a fun hobby for me and I hope to realize my goal of having a model built for every important encounter and scenario locale on my adventure map.

This one will likely be an old Third Age ruin on the Isle of Kazamir on the Mistwater, being the entrance to an older Jennerak complex inside the island.

Or else it will be the remains of the inner keep of the fortress overlooking the ruined city of Barrow on the shore across from Isle Kazamir.

This one was made in three 1-2 hour sit-downs, it's ready to go for gaming but I will be adding more foliage and trees coming up through the flagstones, as well as fallen rubble.  

I scored the bricks with a pencil but the flaws are owing to having done this after gluing it together--my hand then couldn't fit into some spaces to get straight lines. 

I am planning on using heavy gauge wire mesh

If I make this Barrow's old keep I will need to create several other modules for the town terrain and a nice paper mache hill for the keep. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Forgotten Films: Richard Corben, "NeverWhere" 1969

Yesterday while scouring a local discount book store I lucked onto a collection of near mint bagged copies of early Heavy Metal at four George per copy. I sadly couldn't buy the lot, which numbered well into the thirties, but the copies I did get thrilled me when I got them home and discovered they contained not only Moebius stories but the original Richard Corben Den strips!

Corben was an artist/writer/film maker who really pushed new frontiers in adult comic illustration with his science-fantasy tales that are largely inspired by the old pulp fantasy and sci fi magazine serial stories such as the John Carter of Mars stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Now a cultural icon, Heavy Metal, which was actually the American offshoot of a French comic magazine called Metal Hurlant, was in its day, some of the most visionary and influential illustrated science fiction and fantasy stories to grace the magazine stands.

It corrupted...I mean inspired...many a young mind, mine being one of them, since on occasion in the early 80's, depending on the clerk at the convenience store and how new they were to the job, I could act nonchalant enough to walk up with a stack of comics, HM being one of them, and pay for them quickly enough and get out to avoid being told, "You're not old enough to buy this, kid." 

It was one of the magazines my mother would throw out unceremoniously into the garbage if she chanced across it while snooping or cleaning in my room. Though she expressly forbade it, perhaps no other comic had such a hold on my young imagination, but sadly, when I started reading it, Richard Corben was no longer a contributor. I knew his work, however, from some horror comics and aspired to be as good an artist and cartoonist as him.

If you enjoyed the animated 80's movie "Heavy Metal" and in particular the segment based on Richard Corben's Den of Earth serial from the 1977 and onward editions of the Heavy Metal comic magazine, you will either already know about this little gem or, if not, be quite thrilled as I was to learn that it exists and give it a watch.

Just under fifteen minutes, Neverwhere is a novel live action/animation mix with rotoscoping and collage. It is obviously very influential conceptually in the later Heavy Metal film. Thematically and plot-wise, it is also the basis of the entire Lok Nar relic that forms the thread which weaves all of the tales in Heavy Metal the Movie together. And I could swear that the voice of the female actor in the 1969 short film is heard again in the theatre film version.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, and if you do, you might want to check out Corben's very strange and surreal live action follow up in 1989 called The Dark Planet.

I actually ran a few AD&D 1st Edition games based upon Neverwhere and the Lok Nar. I wanted to get around to mapping out the subterranean halls by which Den gained access to the Queen's palace but never did...perhaps another day.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Blue Book Dungeons and Dragons With Kids!

Have you ever played Dungeons and Dragons with kids?

It's definitely different. 

We had a good time! A lady Knight PC(!) and a canine PC named Sammy who has a bite attack every round, a special pee attack twice per day, and all thief abilities except those which require hands...Sammy being based upon a real character who lives in our house and pretty much lives up the pee attack and the thieving.

Explorations of a ruined Castle in search of an ancient treasure, a magical sword, encounters with elves and wolves in the forest, and interrogations of captured goblins. There have also been skeletons, living statues and an encounter with a Wraith who must not be battled until the party obtains the magic sword(since wraiths cannot be harmed by non-enchanted weapons)...the two PC's have been accompanied by a Dwarf warrior named Snorri and a lady Elf who has good spellcasting named Andrea.

I like to run a serious game with a gothic vibe so it's good for me to get out of my comfort zone and run this game--the Sammy character was not my idea but I rolled with it and it turned out to be fun for all three of us!

In my humble opinion the Holmes set remains the best rules for introducing roleplaying games to beginners.

So the goblin prisoners were let go with a warning (after their cohorts were vanquished) and for one of them, it was his second and final chance, because he was encountered in combat a second time after being let loose with a similar warning in a previous encounter.

One of the interesting parts of this encounter was when the kids demanded an explanation of the alignments and it caused  reflection upon ethics and values. They did decide it would be wrong to murder the goblin prisoners in cold blood while tied up...but let them know next time there would be no quarter. Fascinating to be a DM and watch those moments!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Finished Art Project At Last--Down in the Dungeon

Well, it's done at last. I began this piece in October of 2015 and have worked hard at it in intermittent bursts since then. Once or twice I ruined it and then started over on the paints and I wondered if it would ever be done. I will be doing a number of works like this in the future, some smaller in scale, some larger. Hope some Mazedwellers like it!