Comic Review – DCeased: A Good Day to Die #1 (DC Comics)

Our pal Kit reviews comics for us! This is one of those reviews.

Warning: minor spoilers.

“God is dead” – Mr Miracle

DCeased has been DC’s take on the superhero zombie angle Marvel capitalised on during the mid-2000s. I’ve been reading it and have to describe it as better than it deserves to be. A Good Day to Die looks to bring in other characters in the DC Universe to show some of the other attempts at salvaging this universe in some shape or form. With the main series focused on the Justice League, this issue picks up with Mr Miracle, Big Barda, Mr Terrific, John Constantine, Blue Beetle and Booster Gold in their desperate attempt to fix things by any means necessary.

This comic was bought to us by:

  • Writer – Tom Taylor
  • Artist – Laura Braga, Darick Robertson
  • Ink Artist – Richard Friend, Trevor Scott, Darick Robertson
  • Colour Artist – Rain Beredo
  • Trading Card Artist – Madeline McGrane
  • Letterer – Saida Temofonte

The issue begins with Mr Miracle and Big Barda watching Apokalips explode as Darkseid’s mistake that started everything comes to it’s inevitable conclusion where it all began. As the reality of what has occurred dawns on them, they’re reached out to by Mr Terrific. The team then begin to address what may be some of the inevitable fan questions – the ‘why don’t they just use magic etc?’. This isn’t a happy story however, as you’ll have guessed by the title of the issue we see each of the team’s efforts come to tragic ends as they desperately try to avert the apocalypse with one desperate strategy after another, with some real jerk moves by the powers that be at times.

The story in this issue ties in neatly with the main series with Taylor’s writing hinting at the disasters taking place elsewhere in the world. As with the main series punches are not pulled when it comes to character deaths.

Braga and Robertson work well together throughout the issue. The imagery is as powerful as the main series, although some of the character deaths don’t quite have the full punch they do in the main series when you see them take place. Constantine is fun throughout the issue – desperately trying to scrape by while shamelessly showing his contempt for regular superheroes he ultimately begrudgingly admits he is one of.

Final Verdict

This issue is a fun tie in to supplement the DCeased main run. As with the main series I would label this as ‘better than it deserves to be’ with the concept being one which shouldn’t really hold up in modern comics, though still manages to with a fun self-awareness of its own ridiculousness. The art could maybe be a little stronger, though it is still solid enough to deliver a strong horror and shock factor as and when it’s needed.

If you read the main series, this is definitely worth your time. If not however, I would suggest starting with the main series and picking this up if you enjoy it.

Score: 8 Bottles from the Top Shelf out of 10

Indie Comics Review – The Showdown Vol. 2 (Broken Icon Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he reviews of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

Its Halloween soon, so this week I’m reviewing The Showdown Volume 2, the follow up to the indie comic from Broken Icon Comics that I reviewed back in 2015. The Showdown was created by Russ Lippitt, with illustrations by Ezequiel Pineda and colours by Nae Esteban.

In the depths of hell, once a millennium, The Showdown takes place, a brutal death race which draws the attention of every monster in the underworld. Vampires, werewolves, zombies, skinheads and demons all fix up their cars and roll up to the start line, eager for a chance to make it to the finish line first and claim the grand prize – the chance to raise hell on earth once more.

In Volume 2 the race is in full swing, and Lippitt wastes little time in whittling down his cast of characters. Across the layers of hell, teams who get a little too close for comfort start brutally eliminating each other, either through wrecking vehicles or direct slaughter. The Dead Belles face off against killer clowns, the Hell Howlers try to fend off the Rompers, and the skeleton Bone Crusaders creep ahead of the Marauders. But who will make real progress in the race, and who won’t make it to the end at all?

After a first volume that was largely set up, this is high octane action from the get go, with plenty of surprises along the way, including match ups not playing out quite how you would expect and the arrival of a late contender that is pretty audacious and shocking. The story continues the atmosphere of a crossover between Wacky Races and Mad Max, with a dose of campy horror thrown in that is very enjoyable.

Pineda’s heavy and oppressive style fits right in with the world created in Volume 1, with the various hot rods and vehicles speeding through the various layers of hell, and haunting looking creatures and monsters. There is a level of camp horror that is brought out in the art too, which helps underline a book that definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously.  The colours from Esteban fill the dark and depressing world of hell out, with the sharp contrast of bright hellfire and colourful monsters making the dreariness appear more real.

The Showdown. Volume 2 currently has a Kickstarter, with just over 2 weeks remaining, so go check it out here!

Score: 7.5 Layers of Hell out of 10

 

Total Reroll: Episode 52 – Red Bones (S2)

Welcome back to Season 2 of Total Reroll, our Dungeons and Dragons podcast! Adam has been playing some some good old fashioned D&D with some friends in London, except it isn’t old fashioned because it’s 5th edition. After finishing ‘Hoard of the Dragon Queen’, we’ve moved on with the same characters to ‘Rise of Tiamat’, the second part of the Tyranny of Dragons storyline. You can find a mega-post of all of the Season 1 content here.

The gang set off to help Eldo’s clan, only to find the town elders kidnapped by a malevolent force… which Eldo just pushed off a cliff. Now the bone dragon he’s working with has just risen up to face us. Cue the battle music.

20160514_214904.jpg

Map of the hilltop. Path in the top right is where we came in. Black shape to the right is a shrine. Red circles are standing stones, red square is the stone slab. Green Xs are trees. Blue pond and waterfall heads over the edge of a 100ft cliff, which is also on all sides.


Download this episode (right click and save)

If you have any feedback email us at thelostlighthouse@live.co.uk, tweet us @lost_lighthouse or get in touch via our Facebook! Subscribe to the podcast feed or on itunes, and feel free to share or retweet too! Fancy supporting Total Reroll and The Lost Lighthouse? Check out our completely optional, pay-what-you-want Paypal donation page!

Our intro and outro music is ‘Acid Splash’ by Rich Thomson, and our “adverts” are provided by Anthony Walsh.

Enjoy!

Reader’s Review: Zombie Dice

Today, one of our dedicated fans, Sam Phillips, lets us know his thoughts on a classic game he’s recently picked up.

Zombie Dice 

Everyone loves zombies and I’m no exception. So when I spied a game combining them with a gambling-dice-mechanic I was hooked! 

Zombie dice puts you in the shoes of the recently undead. You hunger for soft, delicious brains and the aim of the game is to eat 13 victims before your shuffling brethren. 

I found the game is best played in a small group, each player takes turn to roll three of the specially marked zombie dice. The player then chooses to score the brains consumed (rolled) or hunt more fresh meat and roll another trio of dice. 

Annoyingly (for you) your intended meals aren’t helpless and come equipped with shotguns, a roll that leaves you with three blast symbols ends your turn without you being able to score any brains previously eaten. 

image

Bang Bang He Shot Me Down.

Zombie dice is the perfect pub game. The rules are simple to understand and teach, the game itself is compact enough for a pocket and the zombie theme won’t mark you out as a total loser if you’re one of those closet nerd types. 

In fact I would say zombie dice is the ideal gateway game to drag 
that friend who you wish to drag further into the rabbit hole we call geekdom. 

Sam

Indie Comics Review – The Showdown Vol. 1 (Broken Icon Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he reviews of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

This week I’m reviewing The Showdown, an indie comic coming up this month from Broken Icon Comics. Volume 1 was very kindly sent to me by its creator, novelist Russ Lippitt. Joining him on The Showdown is illustrator Tony Guaraldi-Brown, with colour assist from Jeremy Rodriguez and Jessica Lippitt editing the book.

In the depths of hell, once a millennium, The Showdown takes place, a brutal death race which draws the attention of every monster in the underworld. Vampires, werewolves, zombies, skinheads and demons all fix up their cars and roll up to the start line, eager for a chance to make it to the finish line first and claim the grand prize – the chance to raise hell on earth once more.

In this first volume we are introduced to several of the teams as they gather for The Showdown. The diverse range of monsters and their rides are really interesting, from the greaser ‘500’s’ and the ‘Dead Belles’ to Samhain’s ‘Mischiefs’ and the terrifying looking brother-sister team ‘The Freak’. Fights and threats are thrown around both on the night before the race and as the chequered is waved to start things off, but between two lovers, Stitch from the 500’s and Betty from the Dead Belles, there is also a promise to each other, despite the disapproval of their team mates.

the showdown2I think the most impressive aspect of The Showdown is the groundwork that has gone in to this first volume, a set up for when the actual race begins in the next part. Lippitt quickly introduces an array of different characters, teases their motivations and ultimately makes it easy for the racers to seem a little less two dimensional when it comes to the actual Showdown. The general approach of the story and atmosphere feels something like a mash up of the Wacky Races, Mad Max and Hammer Horror, resulting in a unique plot that was very enjoyable.

Guaraldi-Brown’s art is heavy and rough, giving an oppressive style to the book that makes the air of hell feel thick and hot. The designs of the different characters and vehicles are fantastic and really helps to sell the rich variety in the teams that Lippitt has come up with. The colour work complements all of this with a subdued and dark palette, providing a dirty, grungey looking book that really captures Dante’s vision of hell with a added punk aesthetic.

As a set up for what is to come, volume one of The Showdown is a success, and left me eager to find out what will happen when this death race kicks off. The book currently has a Kickstarter to fund Volumes 2 and 3 that ends in 4 days, so go and have a look at that now, where you can find out more about the plot and check out some more of the art.

Score: 8 Hot Rods out of 10

 

Indie Comics Review – The Infected #1 (Hound Comics)

Our pal Kit sometimes write for the site! This is one of those times.

*This is the second review from a spotlight we’re going to be doing on Hound Comics, a private publishing company with their own ongoing comic series and web series. We’re going to be reviewing first issues of some of their comic series over the next few weeks. You can buy issue #1 of ‘The Infected’ here.*

 

“On May 21, 2020 A virus began infecting the Super Human population of Tower City.” – First Line of The Infected

Zombie style viruses: the sort that turn a person into a mindless flesh eating monster.

Superheroes: People who have transcended humanity in some way and fight for a better and brighter future with their new found powers.

Mixing these together can prove a hell of a lot of fun! Many of you may have read the Marvel Zombies, if you haven’t and you like zombies then you should get to that immediately! But it’s not just the big names in comics that get to have all the fun. Today I’ll check out The Infected by Chris Hartmann and Dave Mimms.

To try and be balanced here I’ll break my review down into four parts before giving an overall total. I’ll check out:

  • The Concept
  • The Plot
  • The Characters
  • The Artwork

Anyway, on with the review!

The Concept: 

As I mentioned before, this isn’t unfamiliar territory for me. I’ve read my fair share of zombies, superheroes and zombie-superheroes so this isn’t a revolutionary concept. That isn’t a bad thing though, after all apparently there are only really six stories out there, taking a look at an established idea at a new angle can lead to an excellent series. Also, not having any pre-established superheroes to work which means the novelty of seeing Spidey eat his Aunt May won’t distract from what’s going on here. The idea is taken a bit further with a little exposition on the first page:

  • The virus seems to only affect super humans (or ‘Supers’ as they’re known after)
  • This has been going on for a little while
  • The city is on lockdown and the national guard are moving in

So looks like a Walking Dead, drop you in the action approach and seems your average Joe can’t be infected so it has the humans vs. super humans spin on it.

So, concept score – as this is covering familiar ground for me this will need to take things in a fresh direction, if it can do that then this could be great. 7/10.

The Plot: 

So interesting idea, but need to add something new. Time to see if it can deliver. Our hero is Jacob. The first issue focuses on him waking up in the middle of the city in chaos and trying to work out what’s going on. The first half of the comic has him trying to work out what’s happened, whilst other character’s provide exposition to him. Going with the amnesia approach I can see why they did this. The thing is as a reader I just had all of this explained to me on the first page, so it just feels like unnecessary repetition here. Either loose the summary or skip in character exposition, have it explained off screen and give us a bit more plot.

Jacob joins up with John ‘Freedom’ Winters, some kind of lone vigilante, who saves Jacob from being gunned down by the National Guard and they find a spot to hide crash for the night. Some of the exposition Freedom gives seems to contradict itself so I can’t say the world is making a huge amount of sense here.

So, plot score – I can see what you’re trying to do, but half the comic could have been put to better use and some of the exposition makes no sense. 3/10.

The Characters: 

Jacob – Doesn’t seems to have much going on for him to be honest. He’s a bit of a blank slate. He’s suffering from amnesia but not much personality really shines through otherwise. I think what sums it up is I can’t really add much more to his personality than this. He’s boring. 2/10.

Freedom – I can’t tell if this guy’s name is supposed to be a parody or played straight. Either way he has a bit more going for him than Jacob does. I wouldn’t call him the smartest guy in the world though. He apparently hates Supers, but kills the National Guard who were about to take down a potential virus crazed, flesh eating super, then let’s said suspect tag along with him, knowing nothing about him. Still, say there’s a sub plot about this guy having been driven insane by the state of things and battling monsters for so long and this could be interesting. 4/10

Character score – Only these two really had much going on in this issue so I’ll average their scores: 3/10.

The Artwork: 

The art is interesting. A lot of detail has been squeezed in, some of the proportions of facial features and the characters themselves seem a little skewed. However that seems deliberate. It adds to the feeling that by now there won’t be many ‘normal’ people left. The front cover looks cool as well and certainly grabbed my attention. There is one bit where a monster appears out of the blue, which seems a little ridiculous when you look at the size of the thing. But to be fair that may be a plot issue more than an art issue.

Still, the art is one of the strong points of this comic book. Art Score – 7/10.

 

Final Verdict

Overall, The Infected is OK. The idea behind it works and it looks good, but the first issue lacks substance. The characters weren’t engaging and the plot lacking. There is potential to turn this into something great I think, but maybe calling this one a first draft and having another go may be the best approach. If you want to support a more indie publisher and writers and enjoy this sort of thing then check it out.

Final Score – 5 Freedoms out of 10.

 

Kit

Kick Ass Stories You Should Really Check Out: Part 6! Everything Sucks

Our pal Kit hits us up with some more Kick Ass Stories You Should Really Check Out!

“But that was life: Nobody got a guided tour to their own theme park. You had to hop on the rides as they presented themselves, never knowing whether you would like the one you were in line for…or if the bastard was going to make you throw up your corn dog and your cotton candy all over the place.” – J.R Ward, Crave

So it’s Friday night, I’ve just passed my probation at work (yay!) and guess how I’m going to spend it… being super cool and awesome by writing another Kick Ass Stories! Clearly I’ve been distracted lately in writing these, but hey, these are fun, right? So let’s bring them back on that wonderful high notes: Everything sucks!

I’ve picked two really good, but unfortunately really depressing stories this week. Each of them puts you in a situation you think you’ll be fine in when actually, you really won’t. Our first story will take on the idea that we all watch or listen to shows or films and think ‘pffft, if that was me I’d have pulled the trigger/not stood there like a moron/RUN SIDEWAYS (looking at you Prometheus)’ when in many of those situations yes, we’d freeze up and probably die. The other one looks at what happens when our faith is put to the test and how the truth of the matter may even be worse than you thought possible.

Right. Procrastinating done. Onto the article!

 

Becca at the End of the World

“So hi. My name is Becca Martin. I have been bitten by a damn zombie. My mom is going to be taping this because we don’t know if anyone has any data on what happens exactly and, like, mental changes… and also I just wanted to talk. I’m sixteen. I’m going to die in probably about an hour.”

We all know the scene. A couple are in a zombie film, running from the hordes, and suddenly one of them does something plain stupid. They go back for that one character nobody likes, try to get that photo they dropped or just get unlucky and trip. Crunch. That’s right, they’re bitten. So what’s the right thing to do? Clearly put a bullet in their eyes ASAP. Often, this does eventually happen, but not until there’s been a long drawn out death scene with lots of last regrets and ‘NO! THEY’RE GOING TO BE FINE!’

We’d all just finish it, right?

Well, would you? Would you really? And if you did, can you imagine how hard it would be? This story is great, Becca has been bitten. We don’t know how, we just know she has been and both she and her mum know they can’t do anything. They set up in an old school room and film Becca’s final hour in an attempt understand what happens when somebody changes. The plan is for Becca’s mum to finish things when the time comes. And that’s the plot. You don’t get to see what happens after or the rest of the world. It’s irrelevant. What is relevant is what matters, the fact that in a zombie apocalypse we’ll lose people we love.

It ends with her mum’s choice: do I kill my zombified daughter?

Of course you’ll have to read or listen to it to find out!

BATEOTW

Author: Shira Lipkin

Audio: http://www.drabblecast.org/2014/02/08/drabblecast-b-sides-39-becca-end-world/ (members only)

Written: http://www.apex-magazine.com/becca-at-the-end-of-the-world/

 

The Star

“It is three thousand light years to the Vatican. Once, I believed that space could have no power over faith, just as I believed that the heavens declared the glory of God’s handiwork. Now I have seen that handiwork, and my faith is sorely troubled. I stare at the crucifix that hangs on the cabin wall above the Mark VI Computer, and for the first time in my life I wonder if it is no more than an empty symbol.”

Faith: something we all have in one way or another. Not necessarily in religion, it could be in a political party, sports team or that George RR Martin won’t kill off your favourite character.

This is a story about somebody’s faith being tested to the brink. Set 800 years in the future our protagonist is part of a research team exploring the universe. As they travel the universe their faith in God is put to the test.

The story focuses on their discovery of a small planet is the Phoenix Nebula. An ancient, advance and peaceful race lived in this solar system who have died out. Before they died they managed to create a beacon, containing a record of their entire history before their sun exploded into a white dwarf. Dealing with this is the ultimate test of faith.

There’s of course a little more to it than this, but I won’t give away the ending. The story asks what is better – a God who allows death and destruction or to be in an uncaring universe where catastrophes happen for no reason other than being the result of a reaction or equation?

Of course I have no answer for that, and the chances are you have your own opinion on it already anyway.

This story was first written by Arthur C Clarke and is heralded as a bit of a classic. I’d recommend listening to the Drabblecast version. Norm delivers it brilliantly as usual and really brings it to life more than just text on a screen can.

the star

Author: Arthur C Clarke

Link: http://www.drabblecast.org/2011/12/24/drabblecast-227-the-star/

 

Hope you enjoy both of those! I’ll try to come back with something a little more cheery next time! There’s been a fair bit of death and things not being so great on these lately… How about cats next? Yeah… cats… the internet definitely doesn’t have enough of them!

Kit

Kick Ass Stories You Should Really Check Out: Part 5! Death, or Lack Thereof

Our pal Kit hits us up with some more Kick Ass Stories You Should Really Check Out!

Over the last few weeks I’ve been a little tied up by real life (and not in the fun way!) so these stories have taken a bit of a backseat. I’ll be bringing a couple back today though, with two of my absolute favourites. There’s no theme on these other than personal preference. The first is a Superhero tale, focused more on the Super and less on the Hero really. It’s effectively a Superman story but of course goes by a different name. So you’ll be learning about the Last Son of Tomorrow as opposed to the Last Son of Krypton. It focuses on what it would be like on a more individual level to be Superman (or Not-Superman as the case may be), his connection to humanity and in this version of events immortality.

Then there’s The Wreck of the Charles Dexter Ward. This is the (unfortunately) final part in the Mongoose series which I absolutely love. It again takes things in a different direct. My only issue with it is that right now it is the final part and looks like it’ll stay that way as things are. Still, what can this story offer than the other two haven’t? Minor spoiler warning, but its mad scientists and zombies. Because yeah, the series clearly isn’t awesome enough already.

As I said before, I’ve been a bit busy offline (mainly with coursework) but so this will be a shorter review. I’ll be back with more next time when I pick up some nonstandard zombie stories. Less about the slow-mo action shots and exploding heads and more well.. let’s just say at least two of them are VERY unique.

 

The Last Son of Tomorrow

“He coughed nervously. The questions stopped. Everyone was quiet. Everyone was waiting. “I’m John,” he said. “I’m here to help.” And for the next sixty years, that was just what he did. It was the least significant period of his life.”

As a Superman fan (apparently there aren’t that many of us these days) I really enjoyed this. The main character John is as close to Superman as copyright will allow so that’s how I choose to see him myself. It isn’t about the heroics as most superhero tales are but much more about the man. As you can tell by the quote above the heroics barely get a look in really. Hell, he considers them insignificant in the grand scheme of things, which you really get to see as he learns he’s immortal.

The story starts with our hero John living an apparently normal life, he drinks beer with his mates and is just getting by when he sees an accident in front of him. He then refuses to help on the off chance someone may see him, and lets his dad die while he rushes in to save their dog. Wait, no… that sounds like a terrible Superman story. Of course he saves the day.

As the story progresses we get to see John’s interactions with people change, until they seem to be not really people from his perspective any more.

The main focus of the second half is how he tries to deal with his immortality, that it seems he’ll live forever and what on earth he should do with himself.

This is one of those questions that rarely gets a look in with immortal heroes (with some notable exceptions – Dr Manhattan for example). And I like the idea that his heroics, where he fights his arch rival and saves the day aren’t what matters when he exists forever. It’s well worth a read.

And on a personal I’m going to use this article as a chance to say Batman vs Superman? Not too excited about that one, you’re currently looking at a C- DC, try harder next time.

Finally, this story is behind a pay wall on the Drabblecast. It’s worth paying, $10 a month and you get a load more stories. But I’ll put a link to a text version if you’d prefer too.

tomorrow

Author: Greg van Eekhout

Link: http://www.drabblecast.org/2014/07/16/drabblecast-b-sides-48-last-son-tomorrow/

Text: http://www.tor.com/stories/2009/05/last-son-of-tomorrow

 

The Wreck of the Charles Dexter Ward

“Looking away from the light that showed the Charles Dexter Ward was no longer entirely dead was as hard as opening a rusted zipper. But Cynthia did it, and didn’t let herself look back. She pulled Hester a little further down the corridor and said, “Now we really need to know how she killed him. And whether it’ll work a second time…””

Now we reach the last part of probably the best series I’ve picked up on these podcasts. The Wreck of the Charles Dexter Ward. The story follows Cynthia, a Doctor and scientist who has committed some horrific experiments in her time. She’s haunted by them as they follow her everywhere and leave her kicked out of each job she picks up. Until she gets an offer to join a vessel of other scientists, seemingly indifferent about her past.

We get to see more of this fantastic universe, we get to know the Archamers (crazy space scientists) and some of the even shadier sides to this fantasy setting. It’s a two part story as always, the first is far more suspense and build up which it executes brilliantly, you’ll be gripped and hold on to each sentence. The second half is a mad rush where after you’ll wonder how the last hour and a half flew by so quickly.

I’m going to have to hold back before I say much more or I’ll spoil well, everything. If you’ve listened to the other two then I’m sure I don’t need to say much more to get you interested than: space scientists and space zombies.

I really hope there is a fourth story to the series one day. Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette again leave hints to weird and wonderful sounding space monsters I would love to know more about.

2

Author: Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette

Link: http://www.drabblecast.org/2012/08/31/drabblecast-254-the-wreck-of-the-charles-dexter-ward-pt-1/

And http://www.drabblecast.org/2012/09/06/drabblecast-255-the-wreck-of-the-charles-dexter-ward-pt-2/

 

Kit

So it’s All Come Down to This… Cave-ins and Betrayals

Adam has started playing Dungeons and Dragons with some friends in London. Here is his account of their first epic journey.

So it’s all come down to this. With everyone fed and drinks poured, we got an early start on the last night of The Lost Mines of Fandango campaign. The group had no idea what to expect, with conversations with the DM hinting at various nefarious plans of his to ensure that not everyone would make it out alive. Perhaps even none of us. As always, it started back up at the inn.

Bubbles threw the customary herpes roll for the start of each game, to see if they had a flare up or not. A natural 20. With no sign for two sessions now, was the viral disease gone? Was it linked to Glass-staff, and now we had snuffed him out Bubbles was clear? Was this dice roll indicative of a successful night? Doubtful. That isn’t really how probability works.

With Gundrin safe, we learned more about Wave Echo Cave.  The Forge of Spells located there was created by wizards and dwarves, but they were later all killed by orcs. Those orcs in turn all died in a cave-in, so now all that resides in the caverns are the Black Spider and his minions, stirges and various members of the undead, such as ghouls, zombies and skeletons. Not to be deterred, we restocked (and got some new bling) and headed off.

As we approached the cave, King Roberto the Pirate King used the power of his eyepatch to summon a storm, raising his his sword as a mast to attract the lightning into the blade while yelling a vague attempt at the Unrelenting Force dragon shout from Skyrim. Barely hurting himself, he managed to trap the bolt into the longsword Talon, giving it +1 lightning damage for the rest of the day.

Thunder

Excitedly, the homeopathic cleric Samuel tried to replicate this. Every step was slightly off, starting with the fact that Samuel doesn’t have the same ability to summon lightning. He then raised his hatchet, rubbing it on his head to generate static electricity. Rather than imbuing his weapon with lightning, he slightly scalped himself and suffered minor damage before we even went into the cave. Finally, Tiny forgot to tie up his poorly named horse again (now with 3 names: Asymmetry/Raider/Rascal). He lost his horse in our 1st edition game for forgetting to tie it up, which he failed to learn a lesson from, but luckily since getting it in this game has not had it stolen or wander off. Yet.

We went in to the cave, finding one of Gundrin’s brothers dead. As is tradition, we looted the body but he didn’t have anything of use. So we stole his shoes. Dead men walk no trails. Or something. The only other thing in the cave was a hole and a rope down into the darkness. Tiny went down to look around quietly, but Samuel shouted down after him and two skeletons appeared. He managed to stay hidden, but Samuel dropped down after him and hurt himself. Deano followed, and he and Tiny quickly saw off the skeletons. King Roberto and Lordi dropped down too and hurt themselves a little, while Bubbles landed perfectly, “slut-dropping” to celebrate and/or taunt the others.

SD

We had two choices here, one corridor appeared to have acid damage down it but with no visible traps, so we concluded that there was likely some kind of acid spewing nasty awaiting us. The other direction did not have acid damage. We chose the path of least acidification, arriving in a large constructed cavern, littered with bones. Tiny and Bubbles investigated (with Tiny hearing a voice in his head say “You’re a cunt”), spying a group of ten stirges in ceiling. Lordi tried to sneak round the room, but made too much noise and got swarmed by half of them, the other half went onto Roberto. A swarm of the little buggers could be nasty, as they hit for much more damage than you’d expect for a weird mosquito/vampire bat/bird cross, but they also take little more than a backhand to kill, so the group made short work of them.

Lordi and Roberto did take a fair bit of damage, leaving the former fairly close to being knocked out, so we went up to a guard room for a quick rest. However, there was no such luck as nine skeletons rose up to meet us. Deano attacks with burning hands (which I always hear as if a stoner is chanting “burning maaaannn!”) charring several. Samuel then ran in, smashing one of the smoldering skeletons to pieces, which may have been his first ever kill. Throwing his extra attacks around like a big-shot, sure to not put himself in great danger later, King Roberto walked into the room confidently,  killing two and damaging another, while getting hit himself for a savage critical.

Skeletons

Much to everyone’s surprise (possibly because he is a cleric, and not a very good one) Samuel killed another two by dual wielding even though he has no proficiency for doing that, caving in their skulls. Roberto gave him a fist bump as congratulations and the DM gave him a disadvantage on the next roll. Worth it. Deano kills another. From the door, a heavily damaged Lordi attempted a cone of ice spell from the door on the last skeleton, already only crawling slowly along the ground towards the party. They missed, and the skeleton continued to inch towards the caster, before King Roberto just walked up to it and crushed its head under his foot.

After a rest, we walked through a cavern full of mushrooms and spores. Some erupted near King Roberto and the DM tried to make him roll for poisoning, forgetting that he, Deano, Tiny and Rick all found rings of resist poison in the wizards tower. The DM was unhappy about not getting to poison someone. This would not be the first time the DM would be irritated that his plans didn’t work out entirely. Before stashing some of these mushrooms, Deano used his resistance to openly eat one in front of Samuel, mocking him and his susceptibility to poison and hunger.

We arrived a hall with a starry ceiling. Feeling magic coming from two attached rooms, Samuel went straight into the first, as he couldn’t bothered to be helpful anymore. It was burnt out, and contains a wraith named Mormesk. He was once a wizard, and one of the founders of the Forge of Spells. We tried to get information and convince him to give us his treasure, but Samuel got bored and attacked. Predictably, Tiny sneaked in mid-combat,  stealing the treasure. After a quick fight, Samuel finished off the wraith. He was having a killer night.

The opposite room contained a brazier (we all laughed) of green flame – the Forge of Spells. A multi-eyed floating monster calling himself The Spectator (a relation of a Beholder) used a psychic voice, telling us that he watches the forge. Lordi, after being ignored a few times while yelling “ray of ice”, hit him with a ray of ice. Once again mid-combat, Tiny stole some shiny weapons from the sides of the room. The fight was looking to get pretty hairy, but Samuel in a stroke of genius used a Control Water spell to desiccate the monster’s multiple eyes, removing all of the fluid and blinding him. No longer able to fulfil his roll as a spectator, he disappeared. Suspecting that we were coming up to the end, we all used the forge, which temporarily granted +1 stats to all of our weapons.

Spectator

Finally, we headed up through the arch at the end of the hall, finding a large room lined with stone pillars and a giant dwarf statue at the end with huge emerald eyes. At the foot of the steps up to the statue was a campsite, where two bugbears and a dark elf got to their feet. The Black Spider and his cronies. Boss fight time.

Immediately four of us were webbed up by four giant spiders crawling down from the ceiling. We all struggled free, as the Black Spider disappeared. Once again Roberto’s resist poison ring came in useful, avoiding succumbing to a spider bite. He eventually took out the spider facing him and another, while Tiny and Bubbles brought down one each. We were all taking heavy damage, first from the spiders and then the bugbears. Samuel was hit badly, and tried to escape to the exit but was knocked out. Our first actual KO. And while nobody was looking, preoccupied with the battle at hand, clawed hands dragged his unconscious body away…

It looked like the battle may be turning in our favour. All throughout, the invisible Black Spider was using his telepathic powers to plant suggestions into the heads of various party members, to get them to turn on their companions, but we were lucky with out rolling so they were all shrugged off. With a well placed magic missile, Lordi managed to simultaneously knock out the Black Spider and kill the more wounded bugbear.

With only one enemy left, it looked like we had this in the bag. Suddenly an imp came down from the ceiling, appearing to be Scratch’s true form (Deano’s pet psychic rat), who started pulling at one of the eyes on the statue. All through the boss fight, and in fact the whole dungeon, Deano had been constantly messaging the DM. Secret plans had been afoot. He then used thunderwave on the whole room, damaging everyone and throwing Tiny to the side of the room. I flat out ask him if we need to get out, and he said it would probably be a good idea.

Not quick enough though. Scratch yelled ‘I did it!’ and yanked the eye free. The room started to shake, the pillars fell and the ceiling collapsed. Deano was already at the door, with Bubbles and Tiny nimbly making it through too. King Roberto stumbled but just got there in time (I fucked up the first roll, but used an inspiration point to re-roll and scraped by). Lordi though, failed the dexterity roll and was crushed to death instantly.

nothic

Once the dust was cleared, with the last bugbear, the Black Spider and our companion Lordi all dead from the cascade of rock, we found Samuel’s corpse horribly mutilated nearby with his heart removed. It turned out that Deano had been continuing his friendship with the Nothic, the beast he had been feeding dead and live bodies to back in Trent Reznor Manor, and had promised him plenty more bodies to feast on in Wave Echo Cave if he came along as insurance. When it turned out that most of the creatures in the cave were light on meat and heavy on bone, he offered a new deal – us.

He planned the cave-in using Scratch, but unfortunately for him far more of us survived than he had thought. So he played the innocent. And he played it well. The most infuriating thing about his betrayal and the nature of the RPG is that we knew full well that he had tried to stab us in the back. We knew he had been doing similar things all along, and that ultimately he could and would betray us. But our characters didn’t know. He never did anything so blatant, until this, that we could accuse him of. We never had a chance to catch him in the act. And even if we had, he was one of our strongest fighters. A confrontation may have left us more than just one man down. Well played you cunning bastard. If fewer of us had escaped the cave in, he almost certainly would have finished us off too.

So we had two characters die, Samuel and Lordi. But then out of nowhere, and possibly in his first selfless act of the game, Tiny announced that he had a scroll of revivify. Presumably taken from one of the many treasure chests he looted without telling us, he could revive one dead character. Despite having had an excellent night, Samuel was done. His player wanted to move on to a new character after this, and didn’t mind being the sacrifice. So Lordi was revived, and Samuel remained dead and horribly torn apart. What a guy.

Epitaph

Samuel the Cleric 2014-2015

And that was it for our first campaign in D&D. We had a deal with Gundrin for 10% each of the profits from the Forge of Spells, the kind of potential fake in-game money that a person can retire on. We all had a blast trying this out, as for almost all of us it was a first foray into pen and paper RPGs. Even those that were initially skeptical ended up loving it, and nearly all of us picked up the Player’s Handbook. In the end we all decided to start up some new characters for the next session, as these had all been presets with modified backgrounds. Now everyone has had a feel for the game, everything is going to get a bit more in depth and the stakes are likely to be higher, but everyone is in.

I may go back to my first character at some point, but for now this is King Roberto the Pirate King signing off.

Roberto

These D&D adventure write ups may continue in some form on the site as we make the games a little more regular with our new characters. I hope you’ve enjoyed these articles, please let us know any feedback you may have from them in the comments below!

Adam

 

Shouting At An Abyss That Just Stares Back – A Shower of Bastards

Adam yells about people on the internet, knowing full well the futility of it.

It’s been a while since my last meandering, unfocussed rant hasn’t it? I had the idea for one vaguely themed on what I’ll release the vitriol tap onto a couple of months ago, but when I found the the opportunity to write it didn’t seem timely enough, and more elegant and intelligent things had already been said on the subject. That absolutely is not to say that what I’m about to embark upon will be elegant or intelligent, far from it in fact. It does not mean it isn’t something worth discussing. I’m going to be talking about The Walking Dead TV show, and will make reference to the comic series too, but nothing will be serious spoiler territory.

Two weeks ago The Walking Dead ended with the introduction of Aaron, a representative from a community known as Alexandria, who approached Maggie and Sasha and asked to talk to their leader Rick. In the following episode, Aaron leads Rick and his crazy gang of survivors to the Alexandria stronghold. There are trust issues. as per usual in TWD, and somehow the group gets split up. Team Daryl hook up with Eric, Aaron’s partner in the field and also actual partner, who has been injured. When Team Rick meet back up with them, Aaron is overjoyed to see Eric alive, rushing over to embrace and kiss him. As people who are fond of each other tend to do.

Cue pointless controversy.

The reactions I’ve seen from people across the internet, in particular knee jerk reactions on Twitter, have been egregious to say the least. I would hope that all those that had a problem with Aaron and Eric sharing a kiss are in the minority, but over 13 million viewers of the episode in the US alone, those that took to their keyboards and phones to voice their disgust must represent a minority of a size that I’m not particularly comfortable with. That size being more than zero. Fucking hell people, it is 2015. If we feel the need to complain about two adults showing that they love each other in a basic way, in a story set in a US state where same-sex marriage is actually legal, then there is a serious problem here. Not to mention the fact that this story is set during the fucking zombie apocalypse, civilisation has crumbled around everyone as they struggle to survive, avoid the shuffling dead and rebuild the world. But dudes kissing dudes? Nah bro. Not cool. Why the hell should anyone be allowed to glimpse a single moment of happiness in such a terrible world, regardless of their sexual orientation?

I’ll quote a few of the responses I’ve seen, and address them with the fury with which they deserve. I was slightly heartened to see that some of these people have received a summary dressing down by ‘non-arseholes’, and some have either deleted the original message or their accounts all together. Defences used by those that haven’t revolve around it only being an opinion, or a right to free speech. “Get this faggot ass shit off the walking dead” doesn’t sound like much of an opinion to me, it sounds like hate speech. Blatant and painful discrimination in my book doesn’t really factor in as an opinion, and with how indelible and permanent the internet is it baffles me that people don’t keep this shit to themselves. As for freedom of speech, everyone absolutely should have the freedom to express themselves and opinions, as long as they are happy to have whatever shit they’ve said heavily scrutinised by others exercising their right to free speech by calling them out for being a cunt. I don’t believe that the internet should be censored or heavily policed, and I think people should only be prosecuted for what they say on the internet if they are genuine threats of whatever form they may be, like rape or death threats, doxxing or terrorism. Saying awful shit merely identifies you as part of the dregs of society that hopefully one day will just fuck off, but will probably stick around inexplicably like cancer or the concept of inequality.

Lets start with an oldie but a goodie. “I’m not a homophobic but that gay couple just ruined The Walking Dead“. If you have to start any sentence with ‘I’m not a (blank) but…’, news flash – you are that thing. In the same way that someone will always preface something vaguely insulting or offensive with “no offense, but…”. So putting aside that the start of the statement is basically the same as admitting that the person is a “homophobic”, the rest of the message isn’t exactly brimming with reason or perspective. No single thing can ruin The Walking Dead. Season 2 nearly ruined The Walking Dead. The weird peaks and troughs of quality sometimes threaten The Walking Dead, until they pull some ridiculously good episode out of the bag like the recent ‘What Happened and What’s Going On’. Two men kissing each other can not and will not ruin a whole TV show. The show was staying true to the source material, but even if it wasn’t and had just introduced two brand new gay characters, who the fuck cares? They weren’t forced on the viewer, it wasn’t forwarding some imagined pro-gay liberal agenda, there were just two characters who cared for each other, were happy to see each other and expressed that as any loving couple would. It wasn’t over the top or graphic. It just was. If that is all it takes to ruin a show for you, I feel very sorry for you. But I still want you to fuck off.

With the insane popularity of The Walking Dead, the viewership it pulls in is huge and way more than I would have ever expected. I’m always glad when something inherently nerdy, part of the culture I love, does well and more people are exposed to whatever it is. I like our nerd culture to be inclusive, accepting of everyone’s interest whether they just watch a show about a comic book, or use that show as a diving board into a larger world of comics, games, sci-fi and fantasy. But I have no interest in anyone that discriminates or spouts hateful shit like this.

Next up is “I don’t like that the walking dead got faggot shit on here now. Is Nothing Sacred !???” I get that someone was upset by seeing something they don’t like. If it bothers you so much, stop watching. But don’t throw stuff like “faggot shit” on the internet. It is so fucking unnecessary. Also, what is supposed to be “Sacred” in a TV show that is set during a zombie apocalypse? Everyone is completely godless, barely surviving day to day and certainly not giving a single shit about anyone else’s sexual orientation. Even the preacher struggles with his faith.  But even the shambling corpses, the bad guys who try to kill our heroes, or even when the good guys flat out murder people that may or may not be a threat, they still all manage to display more basic fucking humanity and tolerance than the dicks that watch the show.

Possibly my favourite two messages cover basically the same line of idiocy, so I’ll finish up with them. “I have been watching the walking dead for years with my kids, then with no warning u throw gays in there, I’m disappointed” and “I don’t discriminate against gay people. Plenty of my co-workers are gay. I just rather not have young children exposed to that BS on TV“. The Walking Dead is an 18-rated show in the UK. In America it is rated TV-MA, meaning not suitable for anyone under 17 years old. Watching the show with your kids seems insane to me, but I’d probably end up doing the same. So if you decide to allow your kids to watch an intensely violent and graphic TV show, disregarding age-rating advice (which I feel is your choice) and exposing them to more adult themes at an earlier age, you have no fucking right to complain about whatever kids are “exposed to”. And what is that? The 21st century? Is it such a bad thing that kids see this as a totally normal thing, so they don’t perpetuate your backward-ass thinking into the next generation? Take some responsibility and keep your prejudices away from your kids, maybe they’ll be lucky and turn out nothing like you. And what sort of warning were you expecting? WARNING! SOMETHING THAT ACTUALLY OCCURS IN THE REAL WORLD IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN.

Needless to say, The Walking Dead didn’t end. This week’s episode continued without the show being ruined, the world didn’t end (any more than it already has) and the viewers didn’t drop off like they said they would. I don’t really know why I continue to be shocked by how some people react to anything even slightly outside of their world view. All I know is that there are so many better reasons to hate people than their sexual orientation, their race, their gender or religious leanings. Like the fact that they have a terrible personality. Or they are a homophobe. But I’ll bring this incredibly unfocused rant to a close. A rant that can basically be summed up by ‘thing happens, people over react, man can’t understand over reaction and swears about people’.

Rick beard

And anyway, the biggest controversy in The Walking Dead this season should be the fact that Rick shaved off his beard this week. A travesty. AMC, you just ruined The Walking Dead. You have just lost millions of viewers.

 

What I’m playing – Rogue Legacy (PS4), Transistor (PS4)

What I’m reading (Books) – The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

What I’m reading (Comics) – Gotham Central: Book One by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka & Michael Lark

What I’m listening to – Transgender Dysmorphia Blues by Against Me!, Time and Trauma by 36 Crazyfists

What I’m watching – Tokyo Ghoul & Better Call Saul