Monday, October 31, 2011

Model Castle Building

Here's a nifty little website with some baqsic information on the differences in castles over time.  The owner also sells plans for how to build models of some of them.  It's called Build Model Castles.  Take a look!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Infamous Tableau

I was recently feeling a little nostalgic as I was wondering about what happened to the old nine-vignette castle/dungeon display that once graced the hallowed halls of the old Dungeon Hobby Shop in Lake Geneva, WI, back in the Seventies.  An article a couple of years ago on the WotC website showed a picture of the display and expressed not knowing what ever became it.  I started a thread on the Gary Con boards to see if anyone had any inkling of its whereabouts, or some more detailed pictures of it, so we will see if anything comes of that.  Here's the pic they showed on WotC -

(That's Mary Hendryx, of the Mary and Kevin Hendryx family,
former employees of TSR back in the day.)

My initial thought was, wouldn't this be great to have as a registration area display for Gary Con?  I think it really evokes the feeling of nostalgia and much of what Gary Con embodies, aside from being just damned cool.  The set up is nine vignettes or tableaus wherein an adventuring party is working their way from one room to the next, losing some party members along the way, and eventually fighting a demon (I recalled it as a dragon) in the final chamber.  It really got a kid like me imagining all sorts of gaming situations to see such a display.

Anyway, late Saturday afternoon I was walking over to the grocery store to get a bag of apples and some other supplies when some yoots (That's Pecci-eze for "youths") rode their bikes past on the cross street dragging a moving box, one of those roughly four foot high, three by three cardboard cartons.  As they did so, a couple of large pieces of styrofoam dropped out.  One of the three noticed and yelled to the others, but they shrugged it off and continued on their way.  I moved the pieces off to the side of the street so some unfortunate driver wouldn't run them over and also went on my way to the store.  Of course, I kept thinking to myself that I might be able to use them for some project, being a tabletop gamer, but carrying them to the store and back wasn't a practical plan.  While returning on my route I found they were still there and collected them.  One was just a flat piece but the other was obviously made to anchor some objects within the box, measuring about 34" by 28", with two two-inch lips on opposite sides and nine holes, the center three with an eight-inch diameter while the remainder having a six-inch diameter.

Perhaps some of you can see where this is going?  My thoughts are to create a somewhat scaled-down display inspired by that old TSR store diorama with windows into each location.  It might be more ambitious than I have time to handle in the short term but this could certainly be a longer-range project worth my efforts.  We will see.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dice Trays & Towers Galore

Over at AWizardInDallas's Random Generation website, early this year, he highlighted the many rolling options he has in his dice tray and tower collection.  He's got some amazing contraptions there that you should check out!

Dice Tray Maddness: Part I

Dice Tray Madness: Part II

Dice Tower Madness: Part III

His wife also crafts some amazing dice bags that you can check out here-

Project Complete: Shield of Dice Bag Holding!

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Three Musketeers (2011) - Now That I've Seen It and Given it Some Thought

I had the opportunity to slip away from the usual grind to catch a movie last Friday, so I took in the new version of The Three Musketeers (2011).  I had very much looked forward to seeing this movie for a number of reasons.  First, I was wondering how it would stack up to other movies made based on the source material.  Second, I was hoping that a movie shot in 3D, as opposed to one touched up with post-production 3D effects, would leverage the technology in ways that would acquit it well.  Lastly, with the assembled cast mostly solid actors with action movies (many with swordplay) on their resumes, I expected that the fighting sequences would make up a large part of the film and be done well.  In brief, I was mostly pleased with the results and will go into spoiler-ridden detail below, so if you haven't seen the movie yet and want to avoid spoilers, come read the rest of this blog post later.

As to its relationship to the original text by Alexandre Dumas, the screenplay holds true to many of the original plot points and scene work.  D'Artagnan meets Rochefort early on when he insults D'Artagnan's horse, though the scene plays out somewhat differently.  Once in Paris, D'Artagnan does wind up with three duels scheduled with the titular Musketeers and they do join forces to fight and defeat Cardinal Richelieu's guards (though 40, not just 5), becoming comrades in the process.  D'Artagnan does becoming romantically tied to Constance, though she is not a landlord's daughter in the film but is in the Queen's court, as in the text.  Some of the Queen's jewelry is stolen and planted with Lord Buckingham in the movie to implicate the Queen in an affair with the English nobleman.  In the original text, the affair is true but either way the jewelry needs to be recovered to save the Queen's reputation and prevent England and France from going to war.  In both, this is a plot fostered by Cardinal Richelieu.  Milady DeWinter is much more prominently featured in the film and also more embroiled in all of the events than in the original text, so too is Constance, but one cannot expect a modern movie to relegate female characters to such limited involvement, nor to be no more than plot devices.  To be fair to Dumas, Milady is prominent in his work though in somewhat different ways than in the film.  I like the updates to all three of the female characters, Milady, Constance, and the Queen, on paper, but more on that later.  Some other major differences include neither Buckingham nor Constance being killed, and neither is Milady convicted of murder and beheaded in this movie, though a sequel is obviously in the offing so some of that might be forthcoming.  I was actually surprised by how much of the original source material was used for the movie, given how often it has been adapted for film and television over the years, here and around the world.

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, this move moves along at a very good pace. There is plenty of action, mostly of the swordfighting variety, and some of it is definitely over the top, but that's certainly expected not only in an adventure film of this type but particularly in a modern adaptation of such a work. Audiences of today expect it and the trailers show just what the movie delivers, so I would be surprised if folks could reasonably claim that what they saw in previews was anything less or even different than what was promised.  Anderson is well known for directing the Reident Evil series of movies, with yet another in production, starring his wife Milla Jovovich, who plays Milady in this latest film.  I've seen some chatter around the Net that this casting choice rests on that personal relationship but I felt she did a very good job in this role and honestly would be hardpressed to name many others who could handle both the acting and action needed for this rendition of the character.  I've enjoyed her work in The Fifth Element, The Messenger, and the aforementioned Resident Evil movies, and find her quite attractive, so perhaps I didn't enter this film with many of the prejudices some critics might harbor.  She's fine by me and I saw no downside to the casting choice before or after viewing the movie.

The production values of this movie are top notch.  The costumes, shooting locations, and cinematography for the live-action shots are spectacular and make great use of the 3D technology to enhance the experience.  The palace halls and gardens, as well as the rougher sets used for the streets of Paris, really pop in every aspect.  A few times during the movie I slid the 3D glasses down just to sneak a peek at how extensively it played out, and they definitely made full use of what they had.  Like with Avatar, where I found myself absently batting away a phantom insect in the periphery of my vision, the scenes in The Three Musketeers are 3D right to the edge of the screen, which makes you feel as if it extends beyond and garners a deep level of immersion for the audience.  I also loved the wargame-esque opening and transitional sequences, though I realize that some of the location names on the maps are incorrect.  That didn't bother me since they obviously wanted to lower the bar for audiences who might not have a very deep knowledge of history.  If there is a complaint to be made with the direction in this realm it is in Anderson perhaps not trusting enough the effect the 3D would render.  Anderson sometimes, maybe often depending on how much this bothers a viewer, uses that filming technique where the action speeds up and slows down during combat and other stunts, sometimes referred to as the Matrix effect from the movie where it was most popularized.  I found this mostly unnecessary but only occasionally distracting, not so much that it ruined the experience for me but enough so that I noticed it, at times annoyingly so.

In the same vein, it is worth noting that the steampunk and clockwork elements introduced in this updated adaptation are not for everyone.  They didn't bother me any more so than the similar adjustments made to the time-honored Sherlock Holmes texts so enjoyably displayed in Sherlock Holmes (2009).  There is little precedent in either works of fiction to promote such technological breakthroughs as are used in the films but given that the source material for both has been used time and time again, it really doesn't bother me that writers felt such additions might be welcomed by modern audiences.  Personally, I enjoy seeing what they come up with and though much of it is similar to what might have been seen in other films, I find it fun especially when it is handled in the film in the spectacular manner Anderson manages to bring to the creations.

If there is an undeniable downside to this movie it is in some of the performances and casting.  As noted above, I enjoyed Milla's Milady.  So, too, do I enjoy what Ray Stevenson has done with the Porthos written for this script.  He doesn't have a lot to work with, nor should he given it is a large cast and Porthos is often portrayed as tertiary to the other characters.  The Cardinal, as portrayed by Christoph Waltz, is just the right combination of snake and badger.  Mads Mikkelsen as Rochefort is an excellent blend of toady and ambitious underling.  Both Waltz and Mikkelson handle their blades with great zeal and expertise.  I like the king, played with range by Freddie Fox, despite not liking how the character is handled in the script in some sections.  Juno Temple makes ths most of her portrayal of the Queen, as well.  I even enjoyed many of the minor characters including D'Artagnan's parents, Porthos's tailor, and the various guards who are prominently bested.  They perform well without overshadowing the main characters.

Then, we have the others.  The servant of the musketeers, James Corden as Planchet, shows up fairly far along in the film and his humorous bits are so poorly scripted and directed that I am not sure I can blame what seems an otherwise likeable actor and performance.  Each joke is telegraphed, executed, and then ridden into the dirt.  There's probably about fifteen minutes of screen time wasted on Anderson's fumbling attempts to include comedy in this adaptation, which by all rights should have some if it is sticking to the original material.  Oddly, the comedic turns introduced through the awkward relationship between the King and Queen, and between the King and anyone, really, went over well with me.  I suppose I am torn on just what might have gone wrong with that aspect of the movie.  Even the Porthos comedic bits, while predictable, sat well with me.

Sadly, Aramis is cast with Luke Evans, who I like well enough, but bears so close a resemblance to Orlando Bloom that it jarred me out of the film for a minute while I assured myself it wasn't him.  And I knew it wouldn't be going in.  Evans's acting is fine and the character isn't very extensively explored in this version, so maybe they focused mostly on casting for a demographic and sword-handling ability, but they should have seen the problem the first time they had pics of both in costume and makeup.  Orlando Bloom, when we finally get to see what he can do as a villain, does fine though I had hoped for more.  He seems to have been directed to play it a bit over the top and also seems to have pulled back from that direction, a testiment to how seasoned he has become in his fairly short though prominent career.  Having seen him in one episode of Extras with Ricky Gervais, mostly with Ricky's co-star, the comdeically-gifted Ashley Jensen, I know that Bloom is fully capable with humorous material.  Between the Pirates' movies, Kingdom of Heaven, and Troy, no one doubts he can handle a sword.

Athos, played by Matthew Macfadyen, is just too glum and made all the more so because Macfadyen has a naturally occurring dour expression which is present throughout the film.  He's a good actor who I have enjoyed in many other offerings but here the combination of the script and his looks works against finding any variety in what is arguably one of the two main characters.  Speaking of which, while I am glad they cast an appropriately aged D'Artagnan, and one who does very well with the fencing, I just don't think Anderson managed to get the best performance that Logan Lerman was capable of giving.  So, too, with Constance as portrayed by Gabriella Wilde.  They both look the part and have a natural charisma that makes me believe that in the hands of an actor's director, we would have seen a much better film on the dramatic side.  I couldn't help but wondering what the scenes between Lerman and Wilde would have looked like with a few more takes and a bit more directorial guidance.  What Macfayden and Lerman have that Wilde does not, so she will likely come away from reviews far worse off than her counterparts, is the chance to offset their dramatic turns with action sequences.  I'm not willing to write her off just yet.  Some actors who are less experienced and even some with long careers, simply need the right director(s) to get the performances from them.  Other actors like Waltz, not only make the director look good but draw good performances from anyone on screen with them, which might be why Fox's talents shine even more in such scenes and might also be why Milla somes off rather well, too.

Bottomline, I went to this movie to enjoy an action film and got what I expected on that front.  I loved seeing what Anderson could do with the 3D, though I wish he would rely less on the film tricks he uses so much in the Reident Evil films.  I found his handling of the less experienced actors and a somewhat rough script, particularly the comedic portions, clumsy, though I wasn't expecting much on that score anyway.  But all in all, and all for one, I enjoyed this movie though I might not rush out to see the obviously planned sequel.  We'll see.  I'll see the next Sherlock, so why not this followup too?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Blood on the Dice Game

A new gaming video has surfaced on YouTube, this one from Snowgum Films, the production company responsible for the forthcoming Troll Bridge (here are some production photos from the New Zealand shoot) and also the Pratchett-approved, Discworld short Run Rincewind Run! from 2007.  This latest film is called Blood On The Game Dice.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Much Ado About Something?

It appears that a new version of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing is in the making.  At the helm is Joss Whedon (Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, etc.)and although it has not yet appeared on, apparently many of his usual suspects are going to be involved, including Amy Acker and Nathan Fillion.  You can read more about it here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Zombie Games (and More) @ Games Plus

Played a couple of zombie games at Games Plus last night, the first was a variation of Maul of America (1998) with a three game masters and fifteen players, each with their own character trying to raid a mall circa 2000.  The idea was to get in, grab four items (some useful, some just junk) and get out and back on our armored buses before the zombies ate us alive.  The mall was constructed to 25mm scale out of foamcore board and was properly accoutred with blood stains from previous unsuccessful or semi-successful raiding parties.  I lasted quite some time before a Glutton Zombie chewed me up.  About half of us got back out alive and only some survivors had anything to show for it.  Thanks to Sam, Vic, and Greg for running things so well.  Great fun!

The second zombie game used rules from All Things Zombie: Better Dead Than Zed! (2009) utilized the excellent WorldWerks 3D terrain.  Three of us attempted to cross a section of a city to get into the abadoned police station and escape via a helicopter on the roof.  When did so in stealth mode since firing weapons would attract more zombies to our section of the city.  We managed to evade most walking dead and got out with our whole group.  Thanks to Ken for running this scenario!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pumpkin Carving

Many tabletop gamers love Halloween.  It might be the costumes or the carving of pumpkins, or maybe just the candy, that gets us so excited.  With just a week to go, I thought I might devote a blog post to the holiday and include some videos with pumpkin carving tps and pics of some fine examples of pumpkin carving artwork. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bar2D2 - Servicebot

Here's a neat little application of robotics for home parties or maybe for the game room.  It's a robot mobile bartender that is somewhat fashioned after the infamous Star Wars droid, R2D2.  Read more here on

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Geek/Gamer Mindset posted a new article the other day on 9 Essential Geek Books You Must Read Right Now. It's definitely got some good reads that would help any GM get into a good frame of mind for running their games.  First on the list (though it appears from how they numbers the images that it might have started at number two then been upgraded) . . .

Friday, October 21, 2011

Menagerie Run Amock!

The New York Daily News reports that a Zanesville, OH, man, "Terry Thompson, 61, released the wild animals in his preserve before taking his own life."  Apparently, he had an extensive menagerie of exotic beasts, many of them deadly predators, and decided to free them all before he did himself in.  Local authorities enacted a shoot-to-kill protacol and believe that they have accounted for all of the loose animals.  (There are some reports that one monkey might have been eaten by one of the predators or might still be on the loose, with Hepatitis C.)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Enrique Bertran, NewbieDM, Interviewed for CNN's Geek Out! Blog

If you don't follow Geek Out! Blog from CNN, you should.  There's all sorts of gek-related news and interviews.  This time, Enrique Bertran (NewbieDM) is interviewed about rpgKids.  Check it out!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Osprey Cover Illustration Video

There's a beautiful cover illustration for Osprey's Dux Bellorum that is highlighted in the following set by step guide.  Enjoy!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dungeon Bastard at it Again!

A new video is available from the Dungeon Bastard.  Warning: Mature themes dealt with in an immature manner, as always . . .

Sunday, October 16, 2011

EN World Chicago Gameday 30 - The Aftermath

Great fun was had at the 30th EN World Chicago Gameday!  I ran two slots.  I ran a basic version of Surcoat the Medieval Fantasy Combat Miniatures Game in slot one and Griffins & Grottos the Medieval Fantasy Wargame and Roleplaying Systems in slot two.
I also was able to wrangle some prize support including print copies of LURCH! The Zombie Chess Game which I had produced especially for the occasion.  I have some additional print copies that I should make available on eBay for those who might like them.

Here are some photos of the turnout . . .

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Gaming Conventions

With today being EN World Chicago Gameday 30 (we do three a year for the last decade), I thought I might provide some links to sites where there are gaming events elsewhere in the world.  If you have more, add them as comments and I'll add them above in the main post to keep a running roster that can be checked out from time to time.

First, a quick nod to the wiki on the matter.  It discusses game conventions in general and links to more specific topics.  It also links to the granddaddy of sites on conventions,  The UK RPG Convention Calendar at is quite useful to those in that area or wishing to travel there.  The Open Directory Project has a fair selection as well.

I'll add some more over time but this is a good start.  Thanks for any assistance!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Zombie Actors Injured

MSNBC is reporting that 16 actors dressed as zombies for the filming of the next Resident Evil installment were injured on set when a platform collapsed.  All are expected to recover.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Grand OGL Wiki

It's been a little while since I last plugged The Grand OGL Wiki.  Mark Gedak is doing some excellent work keeping the regular additions coming to the site.  If you run a d20 type game, you'll find tons of new monsters and spells among many other inclusions available there, all free for the taking.  And if you publish, or just want to be part of the OGL community in ways that enhance it for everyone else, definitely check things out there and be sure to follow the OGL when producing your own content.  If it is all up to snuff with the license, he could even use some of it there for the archive and make it available for everyone else, too.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The 55th Games Plus Auction - Fall 2011

They might just have to expand the Games Plus auction to a fifth day to accomodate all of the buyers, sellers and games that wind up on the block.  Wednesday, the collectibles day, was rocking and bigger than any other Wednesday they have had in the past.  Friday (they skip Thursday, which is likely what they would expand into) was also huge.  I took some pics of the Friday box games crowd and all that was on offer.  I was outbid for a couple of games in very nice chape, including a Peloponnesian War, ancient naval battles wargame, and a classic Kingmaker game in the long box from Ariel Games before selling the right to Avalon Hill.  Saturday is traditionally the RPG day and if you are a minis fan and in the area today, Sunday, then non-collectible minis are in the offing, as well as miniatures games rules.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Lurch! The Zombie Chess Game - In Print for Chicago EN World Gameday 30

I just got the printed copies of Lurch! The Zombie Chess Game back from the printers in plenty of time for the Chicago EN World Gameday 30 and they look quite nice.