Friday, December 30, 2011

The Best D&D-able Comic Books According To Me

Simon Bisley is to Warhammer what Frank Frazetta is to D&D. Or Warhammer is to D&D as Simon Bisley is to Frank Frazetta. Anyway, when he wasn't drawing insane Doom Patrol covers that bend all minds, Bisley did this totally metal barbarian comic and you should buy it.

I was surprised to hear Keith Baker hadn't seen this steampunk-before-steampunk tale of sabres, swashbuckling, wooden starships, vampires, werewolves, aristocrats, honor, snottiness, cynicism and intrigue before inventing Eberron. When I showed him his eyes just about rolled back in his head.

Howard Chaykin's self-pencilled 70s original is mainly remarkable for the make-Barbarella-weep astrofabulousness of the female character designs and the later, Mike Mignola pencilled Ironwolf: Fires of the Revolution is remarkable because fuck yeah Mike Mignola.

Speaking of Mike Mignola. If you are interested in Hellboy but have never checked out the comics and don't know where to start, I'd start off with The Chained Coffin and Others then, if you're hooked, buy all the others with Mignola art and read them in order. If you're still hooked, the Ryan Sook and Duncan Fegredo ones are an acceptable methadone, though the fact that both artists are both so good when they aren't being hired to draw just like Mike Mignola makes their work there somehow coverbandish in a slightly depressing way.

Some notes here: Mignola's Fafhrd & Grey Mouser adaptation sounds like it can't lose, but the lack of true Leiber prose plus Mignola's inability to overcome the perennial challenge of doing medieval scenes using the traditional comic book coloring process makes this about 25% less sweet than it should be. For things in the same fantastic vein that work out a little better, see the Lovecrafty "Sanctum" story in Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight and Doctor Strange/Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment.

Blood: A Tale
Kent Williams paints some excellent stream-of-consciousness gobbledegook vampire stuff with swords and snakes and trees and dreams and more unerotic nudty than I have ever seen outside a wrestling ring. 4-issues, easily acquired in one bit.

Elektra Lives Again
Why is this Frank Miller drawn/ Lynn Varley painted modern ninja book listed here?

1-It is criminally under-appreciated and with Frank Miller's reputation sinking every time he opens his mouth, its star will probably only dip lower in years to come, and

2-It has the best medieval-weapon slugfest scene ever in a comic book.

Oh, Cerebus... For those who don't know, Cerebus is 300 black-and-white issues of an Aardvark acting like Conan and a comic book creator going from making fun of Conan to being sublimely inspired to succumbing to a particularly uncharming, pleonastic, and misogynistic brand of insanity. Dave Sim gets very good at drawing shadows and aardvarks, though his people are a little rubbery (though these days a lot of people like that kind of thing, so whatever).

The rundown for the unitiated:
The cheapest preview is a single issue called Cerebus #0. If you like it, buy more:
First book: Cerebus: the "funny-animal" original stories--they read like unusually ambitious Dragonmirth strips but are maybe essential to understanding the more serious stuff that follows.
High society--the first intimations of awesomeness.
Church and State and Jakas Story--What the legend is built on. This is the goods right here. Wintry weird politics, slapstick, isolation, and eccentric worldbuilding.
Melmoth--expendable divagation into an Oscar Wilde obsession.
Flight, Women, Reads, Minds--Good, interesting, maybe great, but the rot is clearly approaching and the misogyny first appears I think in Reads. (
Cerebus is rather like the Star Wars question: everyone agrees Empire is the best and that at some point the franchise became terrible--nobody agrees about what point that is.)
Guys--Not as terrible as it is about to get, but clearly now just an old hippie telling jokes about bars.
From then on: total mind rot in progress. Very sad.

For English readers, the best starting place is the Epic/Graphitti collected edition #2--Arzach and Other Fantasy Stories. If you like that trip into his frenchy, pterodactyl-laden greenskinned dreamland then you''ll probably like the sci-fi stories in volume 3 Airtight Garage and volume 4 Long Tomorrow. His style has wandered quite a bit over the course of his career: dreamy greens, lumpy cowboys, unhatched New Age-isms, spirally psychedelic erotica, bog-standard balloon-nose French slapstick, so preview anything before spending too much money on it. This might help.

Little Nemo
The earlier full-color strips are a jaw-dropping mix of Ringling-Bros fire-engine-colored Americana, opiated surrealism and art nouveau elegance. There is so much to admire that ignoring the black character in Sambo-makeup and pointlessly meandering plotlines is pretty easy. Last I knew, a complete edition hidden behind an incredibly ugly and unrepresentative maroon-colored hardcover was still available.

Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 4 #5
Oh, it's a long story. But basically a crazy wizard manages to fuck up history so that magic defeats technology up until even the 30th century. So this single issue is the Medievalized versions of the superheroes trying to get their timeline back. Keith Giffen manages to do what Mike Mignola couldn't and creates the most convincingly Lankhmarish visuals in comics history.

Some people thought Keith Giffen's run on Legion was too dark, too dense, too complex, and too hard to understand. These people are all child molesters. There is nothing like it in the history of comic book storytelling and if we had to lose a few illiterate waterheads off the fanbase in order to see it, then those are the risks of the culture business.

Many more people have never even heard of Giffen's run on Legion of Super-Heroes because nobody fucking reads Legion of Super-Heroes. I envy these people because they can go buy back-issues of the first few years of Legion Volume 4 and be extremely surprised and confused and engrossed and happy for a few days in a way that's otherwise fairly difficult to do without taking off your clothes, leaving the house, getting fat, or paying some creep with weird facial hair for a carefully-titrated helping of something illegal.

Thor #337-#367
Walt Simonson's run on Thor is exactly what level 15+ D&D should look like: Fire demons and usurpers and lone heroes mauling legions and hordes and bad elves and sound effects that take up half a panel and galaxies on fire and visuals like Viking tracery in a pinball machine. It was worth Stan and Jack making a beardless nordic Superman ripoff with a wingy helmet and six dots on his red-caped costume just so Walt could turn it into this. Check it.

Years later, Simonson did Elric, it didn't work.

Sandman #50
Neil Gaiman's stories always work best when the artist inspires the dizzy wonder he wants you to feel and P. Craig Russel's take on Arabian-Knights-era Baghdad is as dazzling as it needs to be. Planescape fans also must read Gaiman's "Season of Mists" storyline. It is pretty much exactly where Planescape came from. Plus Kelley Jones drew it, so even if you disagree, hey, Kelley Jones.

Speaking of Kelley Jones: Batman: Red Rain is Batman + Dracula so kinda maybe you have to read that and Jones' Deadman is full of horrific-pretty-much-even-the-end-table-looks-like-a-zombie KJ visuals.

There are, of course, many other comics that deal with the fantastic. Did I hear about (your favorite one here)? Bone? Red Nails? Prrrrobably. Did I like it? Probably not, otherwise it would be here in this list. But if I haven't, I'd love to check it out. Good comics are hard to come by. Wait, Red Nails is good, it's here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Vornheim got an award for Christmas.

Books, being inanimate and leading basically sedentary lifestyles, are pretty hard to shop for. But that'll do.

Thank you to everyone over at Diehard GameFAN.

For no reason, here's a picture of a lich:

Monday, December 26, 2011

And A 103 Pages Of Stuff In A Pear Treeeeeeee

The Secret Santicore pdf is finished.

42 things, over 100 pages.

On the design and organization front, Jez Gordon knocked it out of the park on this one. (Or, for Eastern Hemisphere readers: 'He scrummed it off the barbie in the ocker' or whatever you say.) Point is he went vastly above and magnificently beyond what any sane person would have done with a bunch of house rules and random things whipped up by various bloghappy DMs in response to the whims of various other bloghappy DMs.

I, for one, am more than pleased by the table of mechanical traps Andy Wise devised for me, and am eager to finish this entry such that I might peruse the rest of this vast feast.

Creatures, adventures, equipment, traps, tables, encounters, locations, even some Shadowrun, Modern, and Mutant Future stuff.


Courtesy of everybody who participated in Secret Santicore.

Be jolly about it.

Now, who wants to do some infinitely repeatable adventures for Groundhog, Giant Day?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Type IV Hypersensitivity + Ask Questions First

No worries, this story has a moral...

Here is quite possibly a new low in mountain-out-of-molehill (mole-valley, really) facepalmingly dumb mom's-basement nerdrage nitpick embarrassment-to-the-gaming-populationdom:

People are calling each other names on account of other people saying 'Type IV D&D' instead of '4th edition D&D'.

Allow me to explain...

So long ago, in the days of yore, I noticed an annoying thing:

Whenever Old School D&D people made any reference to the 4th edition D&D, no matter how oblique or unrelated to the gameplay (''I think my uncle's third cousin on my mothers side worked on the graphic design for a 4e adventure''), some other (often otherwise sane) Old School person would inevitably begin to uncontrollably gush unrelated invective at 4e for 12 paragraphs. Like clockwork.

Like good people everywhere, I found this dull and redundant. Every characteristic of 4E had been exhaustively catalogued by the internet hivemind seconds after it was released and nobody needed now or then to hear about all the alleged problems with it again in the middle of some conversation about Clark Ashton Smith's will or whatever. Saying '4e' on an Old School blog was getting to be like saying 'Israel' on NPR. (Or 'OSR' on the touchier message boards.)

I realized early on that the reason it set people off was that some old schoolers saw 4e as being--consciously or otherwise--an updated replacement for the game they loved--rather than what it de-facto-is-no-matter-what-any-company-says given that games do not ever die--a version of D&D. Just as OD&D is a version, AD&D is a version and Moldvay is a version and Mentzer is a version and Stormbringer is a version and Pathfinder and Rolemaster and whatever else is a version. It just happens to be a version in print.

So I started calling the official TSR and WOTC versions of the game (all of them) Type I, Type II, Type III, and Type IV. This emphasized that they were options--different types of D&D whose bits a DM could call upon in whole or in part to hack together a workable game to fit his or her group's individual needs. It had the added bonus of making the iterations of the game sound like demons from the original Monster Manual, which, if you haven't noticed, is funny.

(For those familiar with the early hobby: pre-2nd ed D&D actually went through way more permutations than just one, so the scheme isn't perfect, but I am not one of those bloggers who cares about or refers to the Moldvay, Mentzer or OD&D versions very much so it didn't much bug me at the time.)

So anyway, this name scheme caught on with some other people. Rather than the to-the-uninitiated-equally-opaque '4e', some DIY D&Ders started calling the official version of the game 'Type IV' (including people who play it almost exclusively). No-one in their right mind really gave a shit because seriously why would you? either the sentence is readable or its not--call it Suzi Quatro for all I care.

Then one day some people saw the words 'Type IV' and decided it was worth calling people names about. Since the term 'Type IV' usually only appeared in stuff written by people who read this blog, it was assumed by some folk eager to be displeased that the phrase was some kind of cryptic Old School slur on 4th edition and it raised hackles.

Assumed out of nowhere, I might add, since I like Type IV and play it sometimes and have said that nearly every time it comes up here. But the internet is like that: people began losing their shit over something and slinging insults into the void when they could've just saved themselves the effort by being like -type type- ''Hey you, why do you call it Type IV?'' and waiting a day or two hours. Which is actually less work than writing a 900-word post on how anyone who says 'Type IV' is a motherless jackal.

And its all the more embarrassing because the phrase 'Type____' was adopted as an anti-edition-warring measure.

Moral of the story:

Before getting upset about something someone said or did, always ask a question first. Otherwise, no matter how many dicks are in the room, you are one of them.

If you're wrong, you saved yourself a pointless argument. And if you're right, your question's likely to make the the offender say something even more clearly crazy and over the line and more entertaining than the original thing that pissed you off, and then you've got a headshot. Furries Undermine Legitimate Cosplay!!!!!!!

Always make sure. And why not? Things are often not what they seem.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Reddited Again

Hi again, visitors from Reddit.

There you go. That's a welcome post from the last time this happened.

All is explained there. Happy holidays or whatever they have over where they think only boys play D&D.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Power Of Disloyalty+Top 10 Posts of 2011

So, first:



DIY D&D (AndAllOtherIndependentRPGPublishers) ShouldDo this.


Like,SayIfYouHaveProofOfPurchaseFrom BuyingAFrogGodGames




ButStickingTogetherIsAnnoyingBullshit. There'sPolitics
That. ThatIs,AfterAll,WhyTheyWentIndependent


Small. Like:20PublishersParticipateButYouOnlyNeed



one--D100 table from Scrap Princess

Token Jeff post to stand in for 60% of all Jeff posts

This worked wonders for my game and you can do it too, only $0.00!

Rolang's Bring It Series

Huge Ruined Scott knows how to keep the old reliables interesting

Small But Vicious Chris has an even rarer skill: making an on-the-face-of-it-niche-translation between 2 extremely similar systems into the first fun-to-read-rulebook-plus-commentary-on-that-rulebook in history.

Am I cheating, putting another download here? fuck it. Challenge of the Frog Idol is impressive, ladies and fellows

It's easy to lose track of how things actually get figured out and understood and new useful pieces of verbal technology get created after long discussion and lines being drawn, but it does happen once in a while. -C getting all pissed about the Quantum Ogre and sparking off other posts on it all over got some shit explained this year.

The Emiras Necklace is an impressive distillation of the wondrous persian-miniature beauty of Teleleli

Jeremy the Underdandy is a dab hand with tables.
(yes that's more than one table and thus more cheating. Fuck off with your rules.)

Proof of Concept:

If your comment below provides evidence that you read at least 3 of the links above, I will write a short holiday-themed couplet in your honor, absolutely free.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

How I Like Magic To Work

Dr Strange then explains how the spell shows the target an image of everyone they've ever slain. Maybe no big deal for 90% of foes. But if you're Galactus and eat planets all day, it's exactly the right spell. That's how magic would be, in my perfect worldgame. Devastating when the planets align and the situation is precisely right, otherwise kinda meh.

But we don't live in that perfect world/game and this is a game not a novel so I can live with utility spells if they've got enough flavor. We all have to make compromises in this cruel vale of tears.

Even Dr Strange uses a Bolt of Bedevillment half the time. Lazy ass.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Party Barbarian Shot This

So this has nothing to do with D&D but goddamn, Kimberly Kane is a good photographer.

Did I Mention That Fun Was Good?

I had a whole post about how this was pretty much indeed as epic as Jeff made it out to be with some added blather about how you pretty much cannot escape 10 years in art school without hating Frida Kahlo unless you are the hippiest of all possible hippies (and don't know about Dorothea Tanning or Suzanne Van Damme) but blogger ate it. Such is life. I just hope there's a Sol LeWitt vampire down there somewhere.

Despite this contretemps, since last sunday I also killed two spirit bears, sicced 3 evil cherubs on the girls who made the PCs blind deaf mute and unconscious not necessarily in that order, got to use 3 thief functions successfully in one fight (climb the wall, hid in the smoke on the ceiling, then backstabbed the Spelleton of Bone Hill)(really probably the first time ever any of that worked. 5th level is nice. Yes, thieves are kind of crap.), saw my dog mutated into a half-troll in the Vats of Mazarin and fended off an attack by the Tedious Weasels despite the cowardice of some of our Crocodile Clan allies. Plus I got to sit around painting Andy San Dimas and her dog Pantera during most of this, discovered that "Carcosa" backwards is "A Soc Rac" and am now eating a spicy genoese sausage with cheese on a chocolate croissant. Who questions this awesomeness?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Notes On The Maxim Article

(right click and go Open In New Window to see it big and avoid blogger's dumb windowbox effect)

So the very polite and pleasant Davy Rothbart came over and played D&D with us and was a druid and wrote about it for Maxim (temporarily adopting the Maxim house style to do it).

(The pictures were taken on a whole other day.)

The article is very sweet and pro-D&D. If you're curious, it's the January 2012 one and is out now. It has something called a JWOWW on the cover.

Some notes:

-In the big picture of Satine using a Tiamat-paintjob Reaper hydra to attack another Reaper hydra held aloft by Connie, (full-frontality cunningly concealed by Maximvision) careful attention to the foreground will reveal a gummi worm attacking a pair of minis.

-Photo includes my hair looking even more disastrous than usual. I have no idea how photographers manage to find these angles.

-The girls' ship, the HMS Tastycakes, is a schooner, who knew? Not I.

-Day of- actual play.

-Our apartment is "quaint".

-For the record, only Satine would read Game of Thrones. Well, read it and be glad she read it. I would maybe carve a sword into my desk.

-There are a lot of references to-, and quotes from people in-, TV shows which I never watch but (judging from the blogs) you do, in the article

-Fact checks: 1.It was not "a friend" who put in my first movie, it was a total stranger 2. Mandy contacted me, not the other way around. 3.And she is like a GG not a DD. But honestly Maxim did a way better job on the accuracy and fact-checking front then 90% of highbrow mainstream media outlets so I'm not bitching. Basic rule: bigger the budget, the worse the fact-checking.

-This is a good bit: the girls are talking and "...comparing their male costars like golf caddies sorting though a bag of donated clubs"

-Semi-related: Joke and ye shall receive. There is now a snark-spawned Tumblr called Female Fighters In Unreasonable Armor courtesy of the lovely Ms. Fishlemons. Submit your sword-wielding cheesecake today.

There is a lesson in the fact that Women Fighters In Reasonable Armor is run by a guy and Female Fighters In Unreasonable Armor is run by a girl. And that lesson is? All the fun girls like good grammar.

-And for no other reason than that looking at Maxim leaves everyone feeling distractingly nipple-denied for the rest of the day, here's Mandy wearing no clothes:

Monday, December 12, 2011


Viking menace.
Ubu Roi. Now there's a king.
Self explanatory. Or maybe it isn't: THIS IS AWESOME MAKE MINIATURES LIKE THIS.
Blue medusa. One of mine. Acrylic paint on paper.
"We got two forces of toy soldiers, set out a lumpish Encyclopaedic land upon the carpet, and began to play. " -HG Wells
There is absolutely no doubt that this woman from a White Dwarf cover is based on a real-life woman and that that real-life woman is British.

This is like a roadsign I think.
A place.Level: Wolf.
Level: Pig.
Good crunch from Metamorphosis Alpha. The further you are from your native gravity the more it affects combat.
Racist much, Jim Ward?
Level: Stag.Now that Go Make Me Repetitive And Intolerant is over, there's no go-to aggregator for sexy female D&D pix. Anyone want to start a tumblr called Female Fighters In Unreasonable Armor?

Three pictures of Mandy and Stoya fighting snakemen.

Man prepared to gladiate.
Asymmetric gladiation in progress.
Spooky old chess.One of mine.
Displacer Beasts Undermine Legitimate Panthersnakes.
Undefeatable gun.Birds shoot lasers at snake held aloft by way metal green man while arrowed snail observes.
Spaceship from White Dwarf.
The scissor. An old gladiator weapon.
I been there, man.
The Zhua--a sort of Chinese claw-mace.