The Eye of Skullport Knows All, Sees All: A Review of “Xanathar’s Guide to Everything”

Posted in RPG Review with tags , , , on November 12, 2017 by Casey Hutton

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Once again Wizards of the Coast has knocked their latest supplement out of the park! Like their “Volo’s Guide to Monsters,” there is a regular printed hardcover and a limited-edition hardcover which only received one print run. Both are AMAZING, with the regular cover sporting the current incarnation of Xanathar lovingly watching his pet koi. The limited edition alternative cover, however, sports an awesome work of art by Hydro74 with gold on a matte black. This cover pops visually and, in my honest opinion, is done better than the alternative cover of “Volo’s Guide…”.

 

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“Volo’s Guide to Monsters” Core Hobby Store Exclusive Alternative Cover from Wizards of the Coast and Hydro74.

 

With this review I plan on giving a brief glimpse at each chapter, as there is plenty of new information to be had for both players and Dungeon Master’s alike within its 192 pages. Made up of three chapters and an assortment of appendices, the supplement adds both new and revised content from “Unearthed Arcana” as well as pulls some information from “Volo’s Guide…” in order to have everything in one place.

Chapter One: Character Options Galore!!

Do you like a wide selection of subclasses? Well, “Xanathar’s…” has subclasses for your subclasses. I mean, not really…but you get the gist! There’s a whopping 31 subclasses available to add alternatives to your gaming table! Each class gets some love with a wide range of subclasses between first and third level. Along with additional subclasses, each class has some flavor to spice up your roleplay with everything from Barbarian tattoos to Wizard ambitions! Who doesn’t want their Warlock’s binding mark to be a glow-in-the-dark nose or have a get to know your Monk’s master?

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“Xanathar’s Guide to Everything” from Wizards of the Coast.

 

Are you one of those players that want to have an in-depth background for your character, but you just don’t know where to start? Then chapter one has table after table to get you started. Everything from parents to siblings are covered, as well as major life events and personal decisions your character has had to make. The best part? If you really want to get wild, roll your dice and see what you get! I still remember my Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition Advanced days and this was all a part of character generation straight out of the “Player’s Handbook.” The fact that Wizards has included it here makes this chapter a phenomenal resource. Throw in the fact there are a handful of new racial-specific Feats available adds even more flavor during character advancement to help you play a character destined for greatness…or a total party kill…whichever occurs first!

Chapter Two: Masterfully Mastered Information for the Dungeon Master

 

This chapter address plenty of optional and expanded rules to let the Dungeon Master to make their next gaming session a little spicy! Optional falling rules, expanded rules for sleeping/resting, adamantine weapons…all of this and more can be found here. There is also a closure look at tools character can take, what they consist of and how they can be used. Playing a Bard and want to know a little more of what exactly your Lute can do and how your character’s musical knowledge can be put to effective use? “Xanathar’s…” has you covered. I feel this re-look can bring more to the table as not only a DM, but also the player. Knowing more of what those Tinker’s Tools can do has the ability to add another facet to your characters and NPCs.

Spellcasting is also addressed, specifically area of effects. Examples are given to help clear up any confusion and offers visuals of just what you can do when casting, for example, a spell that utilizes the cone area of effect. These area variations can be brought to the actual table if needed to give players a visual of what all their spellcasters will be able to do and what all will be affected on the map.

Xanathar'sThieves'GuildOne of the best articles of this chapter is the advice the authors give DMs for encounter building, including traps and encounter tables meant for all types of environments. Even if whatever campaign you’re running is a bit more specific and less generic, with some minor tweaking you’re able to create your own encounter tables easily using the examples provided. This is something much needed for new and budding DMs and this section is great for building up DMs, giving them opportunity to feel comfortable with running games and tackling the struggle of filling in the gaps.

Downtime is also touched upon, expanding a bit on just what players can do. Even if the DM’s players don’t utilize the actual the concept of hourly downtime as the Dungeons and Dragons Adventurers League does, there are ways for it to be integrated into their campaigns for in between adventures to give players a little more scope to their characters.

Lastly, magic items. Lists with item after item from common to legendary to bring to the table as rewards to the players. You can never have too many magical items to choose from, and with a selection like this, there’s plenty of ideas to be had. Whether that’s what to include in your next adventure to using the examples provided as a template to create your own to match the flavor of your campaign.

Chapter Three: Spells, Spells and More Spells!

Just how many spells does “Xanathar’s…” add? I have no idea…I didn’t count, but it’s several. By several, I mean 21 pages worth. Every spellcasting class gets some attention here, with a break down list of what each class would have access to by level. Some are flavorful while others powerful, but either way plenty of them are useful.

Appendices: Because Chapters Just Weren’t Enough

818478a83095ece176b11086a9d9864e--conceptsHere we find two bits of additional content some, if not many, will find useful. Shared campaigns have always intrigued me, and they offer some suggestions on what you should do to make them cohesive and successful. A lot hints at the DDAL-style of play, limited books and magical items, etc. Whether you plan on running your own official DDAL sessions or sit around a table full of rotating DMs there’s information that would make doing so a bit easier all around.

Lastly, the book is finished out with name generating tables. Table after table…literally, and all a great resource for players struggling to come up with a character name that tickles their fancy or the DM that get puts on the spot. We have the standard fare, with racial names, etc., but we also have ethnic name tables from all over the world. Our world. Do you want your character or NPC to have a little French flair? Wee wee! German? Ja! Several pages have been dedicated to ethnic names, male and female, as well as family names. It’s a one stop shop, so to speak, for the naming impaired. Not everyone’s character can be as cool as “Toad, Trollbold Fire Priest of Kossuth,” after all.

Overall, this book is worth the $49.95 price point. It’s a resource that benefits gamers, no matter which side of the DM Screen you sit. There’s more substance to chew on here than in “Volo’s Guide…” and doesn’t disappoint.

Two hearty Gnomish thumbs up with a big toe thrown in for good measure!

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Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition “Adventure Grid” Review

Posted in RPG Review with tags , , , , on October 26, 2017 by Casey Hutton

 

Today I want to look at one of the latest accessory products Wizards of the Coast has released in support of its Dungeons and Dragons line, the “Adventure Grid.”

 

The product itself is something as a gamer I would find rather convenient to have. It’s foldable and dual sided. One side is printed with an outdoor-style art design while the other is printed a stone design for those loved dungeon crawls.

Although I haven’t tried both wet-erase and dry-erase pens, as I prefer Vis-à-vis/Staedtler Lumocolor markers (wet-erase) the fact it lends itself to both makes it universal to whichever you happen to have laying around. When unfolded the grid is relatively small which is perfect for drawing out single encounters.

The fact that it lays flat versus the traditional laminated paper-style that’s been popular the last few years means you don’t have to worry about the seams getting in the way of your adventuring troupe’s tactile planning.

Its overall size is also a factor when purchasing. Again, it’s foldable, meaning you can easily tuck it away in your bag with your other gaming books. This makes it a rather nice addition to a Dungeon Master’s collection, especially if that DM is having to lug their own supplies to and from the gaming table.

As a Dungeon Master on the move myself, I’ve found myself toting around Chessex’s double-sided “Battlemat.” I’ve always preferred the smaller sized grids, as I’m not one to draw out a complete mapping of whatever scenario I’m running, but instead utilize the mats in a per encounter basis.

Chessex’s “Battlemat” comes to 26” by 23.5” when unrolled with 1” squares on one side and hexagons on the other. The “Battlemat” is only really friendly with wet-erase markers as using dry-erase pretty much leaves you with a permanent stain that is near impossible to get out.

Portability is always an interesting factor when it comes to Chessex’s mats. I invested in an engineer’s schematic tube to get mine from one game to the next as well as to protect it during storage. Personally, that’s not an issue for me, but it may be for others.

When comparing Wizards of the Coast’s “Adventure Grid” with Chessex’s “Battlemat” it all comes to personal preference. The Grid retails for $24.95 while the “Battlemat” retails for $22.98. The “Battlemat” is slightly larger with the option of both square and hexagonal measurements while the Grid is strictly 1” squares. The dual-sided art is handy with the Grid, as you’re not having to rely just on verbal descriptions of each encounter.

The only drawback as far as I can discern is simple wear and tear. The “Battlemat” is flexible and I’ve used my own for over seven years, while the Grid may not withstand nearly as much abuse over the years. Is the fact that the “Adventure Grid” is able to fit in perfectly with the rest of your books worth the price difference? Only you can be the judge.

Overall, I’m willing to give the “Adventure Grid” two hearty thumbs up. The price point is a bit high, but for newer DMs looking to add something to their adventures it could be worth it and is leaps and bounds a better option over the printed mats currently available from companies such as Paizo.

[Film Review/Haus of Horror] Prince of Darkness (1987)

Posted in Film Review, Haus of Horror with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2014 by Casey Hutton
Photo Courtesy of John Carpenter.

Photo Courtesy of John Carpenter.

I’ve always been a fan of John Carpenter. I grew up watching his films during the 1980’s and 1990’s, in particular, films such as The ThingBig Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York. All were favorites of my father and were frequently played in our household. Some titles, however, were ones I adored through the years but seemed to have slipped through the cracks, going relatively unnoticed amongst my circle and when I get a chance to throw them into my player, I tend to geek out. One such film, his 1987 release, Prince of Darkness, is a film that fits into this particular category and one, after having a hankering to watch, have done so and now want to share.

Prince of Darkness is the second title in what Carpenter likes to call his ‘Apocalypse Trilogy,’ which begins with The Thing and ends with In the Mouth of Madness. Obviously, growing up and being only six years of age at the time of this release, this wasn’t something I even pondered. However, now, it makes sense. Although not related in topic or content, all three deal with the end-of-times scenarios, whether by aliens or ultimate evil. According to the director himself, this screenplay was one that came to him while looking into atomic theory and theoretical physics. That tidbit is something to keep in mind while watching the film, as it might help explain why the approach taken wasn’t, and isn’t, one normally done.

The movie revolves around a priest who invites college professor Howard Birack, along with his chosen few of both academics and students, to investigate a curiosity in the basement of an old church located in Los Angeles. The thing in questioned stemmed from the death of another in the priesthood, and as chance would have it, possessions of the deceased are found by the mentioned priest (named Father Carlton). What he acquired was both the deceased journal and key. His own early investigations resulted in discovering not only the object, but also the fact the the deceased belonged to a long, near forgotten Christian sect called the Brotherhood of Sleep.

As the research team sets up, they begin to get mysterious readings. Combined with a text found within the old church, it is soon discovered by some within the group, Birack included, that the thing downstairs is actually corporeal embodiment of the Anti-Christ. Throw in some spewing liquid of possession, team member shenanigans and some mild bloodshed…well…you get the idea. Needless to say, as the more information is revealed to both the team and the viewers of the film, more and more fall prey to what lies inside the object. Homeless begin to gather and do creepy things outside. Team members go after one another to bring them into the fold, while those still untouched try to last through the weekend. What Carpenter does here that is different during this era of hack-and-slash horrors is offer plenty of tension. There isn’t much blood or gore. It’s all build up and release, as once the team reaches the church there is very little change of scenery.

One thing of note I found interest was the shared, reoccurring dream several of the team has. It is some form of tachyon transmission from the future. What is unique is, what you can gather as the dream happens again and again is that it is sent from the year one-nine-nine-nine…or 1999. A rather interesting choice given all the hubbub that actually occurred globally during this time.

As the film draws to a close, the evil is thwarted…or is it? In typical what-if fashion, Carpenter leaves the ending open to interpretation by letting the imagination run wild with what could possibly happen next as the credits roll.

This film has plenty of geek-tastics moments to those that are fans of Carpenters work, especially during this era. We see two fan favorites from Big Trouble in Little China return (Victor Wong and Dennis Dun), as well as other actors tied to his filmography, including Donald Pleasance. It’s also something of note that Alice Cooper makes an appearance in the film. Apparently, his manager was one of the executive producers and wanted the artist to write a song for the film. Carpenter cast him as one of the homeless that had fallen under the Darkness’ spell. During one scene, those familiar with the rockers performances during the era will notice the implement he uses to impale one of the researchers is actually the same from his stage act.

All in all, this is one of those under appreciated films that could possibly have slipped under your radar. If you want a suspense thriller that has that Carpenter feel, give this one a chance. Although nowhere near as after-theater popular as some of his films, it does have a small cult following. Plus, who would have thought a little theoretical science and atomic theory could bring about the end of the world?

[Music Review] Infestissumam by Ghost/Ghost B.C.

Posted in Music Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2014 by Casey Hutton

I will be the first to admit, sometimes I’m a little late to catch on to things in terms of popularity or trends. Occasionally it’s because things simply slip under my radar or, most often, it’s out of sheer stubbornness. I like what I like and that’s that. With music, however, it’s more due to lack of information. I’ve stopped listening to radio, getting my kicks from skulking through websites like Spotify or flipping through the digital pages of Paste Magazine.

The group known as Ghost, or if you’re like me and located in the United States, Ghost B.C. has been a name that has popped up several times as recommendations on various websites I frequent. I listened to an early release and brushed it off. But, lately, the Swedish group’s albums have been popping up rather often and finally, I gave them a chance…resulting in my socks being blown off my feet.

Courtesy of Ghost B.C. and Republic Records.

Courtesy of Ghost B.C. and Republic Records.

Instead of looking at the group as a whole for now, I wanted to focus on their most recent LP (they have an E.P. cover album out recently as well, but one thing at a time). So, let’s take a look at Infestissumam, their L.P. released on April 16th, 2013.

Track Listing:

  1. Infestissumam
  2. Per Aspera Ad Inferi
  3. Secular Haze
  4. Jigolo Har Megiddo
  5. Ghuleh/Zombie Queen
  6. Year Zero
  7. Body and Blood
  8. Idolatrine
  9. Depth of Satan’s Eyes
  10. Monstrance Clock

This album is, for lack of better words, outstanding. Gimmick aside, it’s melodic metal. The guitarists offer catchy hooks. The lead singer, once you look past the actual lyrics, delivers vocals I would not have expected, but go well with the music as a whole. To my ear, they are a mix between KISS and the Doors. Even their crunchier bits are bright and resonating and reminiscent of years past, specifically the 1960’s and early 1970’s.

My personal picks from the album is a little hard to narrow down, as there isn’t one track that doesn’t tickle my fancy in some fashion or another. That being said, however, I find myself listening to Secular Haze, Ghuleh/Zombie Queen, Year Zero, Body and Blood and Monstrance Clock heavily.

I invested in both the digital format, as well as the vinyl release. The digital release is as expected with no loss of quality. I have listened both through headphones and my mp3 player, as well as through my speaker set up. I can crank the volume to a more than adequate level before the levels begins to crackle out. The vinyl on the other had, sounds simply amazing. Warm and solid. It also comes in a translucent red which was a surprise. The artwork of the album is also simple, again reminiscent an earlier era, but does a well enough job of conveying the image of the band. In comparison to their first release, Opus Eponymous, I find Infestissumam easier to get into as a new listener to the band. However, their other releases will also be added to my shelf soon, but if you’re looking to check the them out, this title is the way to go.

Now, for the band as a whole. The group pushes the Satanic image to the max, and even a little beyond. For me, I’m all about the show and I get it. They have even claimed it is what it is, and unlike many of their Swedish ilk, don’t demand a seriousness from their fans. It’s a gimmick and whether or not anyone in the band actually follows this path is unknown. As a matter of fact, other than their music…not much is known about them period. The lead singer currently goes by the name Papa Emeritus II and the rest of the band goes by titles of Nameless Ghoul. Again, this is similar KISS, where back in their heyday not much was known outside of their stage presence.

Again, if the lyrics are a hiccup you can get past, these individuals are a must or anyone into the metal genre. It’s fresh, campy and all around fun. And honestly, I feel if the lyrics were a bit more…accessible, this band would have no trouble being near the top of the head in the industry. Instead, they stick to their image, creating the music they want and as a result, are winning over audiences all over the world even in spite of this.

[Comic Review] The Incredible Adventures of Dog Mendonca and Pizza Boy

Posted in Comic Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 24, 2013 by Casey Hutton
Photo Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.

Photo Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.

An obscure title to say the least, but well worth the search. I struggled to find it in store locally, and although my efforts weren’t in vain, this title is easily picked up online, as is the follow up coming soon (slated for March of 2014).

The Adventures of Dog Mendonca and Pizza Boy was originally a comic released in Portugal and from what I understand gathered quite the following. This particular version is obviously the english translation and released via Dark Horse Comics.

The story begins with a little foreshadowing. One of the core characters, Eurico (who will be addressed as Pizza Boy from here on out) is late for work…delivering pizza. Out on a run, his scooter is stolen by what appear to be monsters. In a not-so-clever way, his path leads him to one Dog Mendonca, occult investigator, and is companion, a demon named Pazuul. Keep in mind Pazuul is possessing the body of a young girl.

Mendonca’s investigation and efforts in tracking down Pizza Boy’s missing scooter leads them on quite an adventure (as the title suggests). Gargoyles, vampire and Nazi zombies complete the cast of characters found throughout this title. Although pretty far-fetched and a little on the loosey-goosey side, the read is fun. If you don’t look too deep, the noir and pulp come across plenty. It’s cheesy and rather tongue in cheek, as it gives recognition and plenty of name drops from the creator’s influences and favorites.

The art is also amazing. A little dark in some places, but beautiful nonetheless. It lends to the overall feel of the book, and although at times the detail is such it is hard to discern every nook and cranny of the panel in the dark pages, what the eye can pick up is astonishing. Juan Cavia’s artwork was new to me prior to this title. And, it might be due to the combination of Santiago Villa’s colors, but I love it. Cavia expresses plenty in his panels, specifically in the facial expressions of his characters.

[Book Review] The Gutter and the Grave by Ed McBain

Posted in Book Review with tags , , , , , , , , on December 24, 2013 by Casey Hutton
Picture Courtesy of Hard Case Crime.

Picture Courtesy of Hard Case Crime.

I stumbled upon the publishing company known as Hard Case Crime roughly a year ago. Ever since, I’ve ordered/found several titles that I enjoy. The company has an artist collection both new and established, some alive and other deceased. Titles range from re-prints to new and exclusive. Whatever the case may be, I haven’t found a title yet that I’ve read and didn’t enjoy!

The Gutter and the Grave by Ed McBain is one I recently finished. A quick and pleasant read ringing in at only 217 pages. The story revolves around the main character named Matt Cordell, who just happens to be a washed up private investigator with an alcohol problem. He has seen better days…but none of them recently. He gets wrapped up in an old-fashioned who-done-it via an acquaintance from the old neighborhood in New York to look into a small problem of register theft. However, it doesn’t take long for the character and the story to spiral out of control and into the realm of homicide and classic would-be celebrity greed.

We follow along with the character as he delves into his unofficial investigation, through lies, betrayal and physical punishment. This title screams noir. A little bit of mystery with a little bit of cheese, and the end result is a pulp fiction read I found quite enjoyable. Although nothing comes from the left field, the story had more than enough to keep me interested and turning the pages. McBain managed to do wonders in allowing the jazz scene of the era to ooze from within. Many of the scenes in the book have that same flavor and lend to making this a strong, if short, title.

[Comic Review] Atomic Robo: Atomic Robo and the Fightin’ Scientists of Tesladyne, Volume One

Posted in Comic Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2013 by Casey Hutton

I’ve written this a hundred times…but I have to write it once more: I absolutely adore anything noir or pulp.

It’s a genre that, although has seen a rather large resurgence lately, is still a little hard to master. The good finds involve multiple dynamics in writing styles and/or artwork, depending on the case. Much of what I encounter is hit and miss, and although at times the creators have something right, it isn’t all there.

Photo Courtesy of Red 5 Comics and Atomic-Robo.

Photo Courtesy of Red 5 Comics and Atomic-Robo.

The name Atomic Robo has been one I’ve heard floating around several times in the course of the last year or two. I first heard of the title through Ideology of Madness and the gang’s Funnybooks with Aron and Paulie podcast. Several of the guys there are fans, and every few episodes, the name comes back to blip on my radar. After almost getting my hands one the first trade, Atomic Robo and the Fightin’ Scientists of Tesladyne, several times I finally decided to pick it up and give the series’ first six issues a try.

I would just like to say now, for the record, that I was not disappointed and regret not looking into it sooner.

The interior artwork (a mix of Scott Wegener’s pencils/inks and Ronda Pattison’s colors) is very distinct. Wegener’s influence of Mike Mignola can certainly be felt. But, instead of merely being a Mignola clone, the work stands on its own. The colors pop and each panel has something for your eyes to feast on. The covers themselves are great.

I can see why when Atomic Robo first hit the scene in 2007 (ish?) it started to work together a fan base.

Once Brian Clevinger’s witty and clever writing is thrown into the mix…it still feels refreshing and new. The six-issue trade is full of one-liners and cheeky humor and sometimes a little cheese thrown in. But it’s a combination of artistic styles that jive and come together for an overall read that left me light-hearted. I thought it was just a P.R. ploy in comparing this title’s main character to a robotic Indiana Jones…but really…that is one of the only ways to describe it. Although it has its darker moment, the feel is that of an action-adventure movie. Each issues, although sharing an overall storyline, is its own serial. Each one an adventure. Each one leading to something new. I found several memorable panels in the small collection…each one still has me chuckling as I look back to reflect. That sensation isn’t something that regularly occurs these days and is enough to warrant myself into picking up the next volume soon.

“Stephen Hawking is a bastard.”

And, if that isn’t enough, it will soon have its own RPG to go along with it. From what I understand, it’s based on the FATE system. Although I have had little to no experience with the system itself, I’m actually a little excited to delve deeper into this topic and, when the release rolls around, pick up the main book for investigation.

[RPG Review] Savage Worlds & Deadlands: Noir

Posted in RPG Review with tags , , , , , , , on December 14, 2013 by Casey Hutton

Before I delve too deep into Deadlands: Noir, I wanted to bring up the topic of Pinnacle Entertainment’s Savage Worlds generic setting/ruleset.

Photo Courtesy of Pinnacle Entertainment.

Photo Courtesy of Pinnacle Entertainment.

I have had the Savage Worlds core rules in my possession for quite some time, as it was given to me as a gift along with their Realm of Cthulhu release. I had flipped through it, and found myself slightly confused. Not because the rules themselves are that confusing, but because they were rather simple. Savage Worlds is a ruleset that can literally be used in just about any setting you can imagine, from horror to science fiction to fantasy. Each setting they themselves have released adds a few tweaks to the rules to add some flavor, but in general, with one book you can run any form of RPG setting you have in mind.

Personally, I have played in or ran sessions using these rules that involve superheroes (which, with their Super Powers Companion, makes things rather dynamic and open) and adventures in the Weird West (in the form of their Deadlands: Reloaded campaign setting). All of which, once a basic understanding of the rules had been had, were great sessions. Adults as well as younger players can have fun while not getting bogged down with overly complicated rules. Each session is, essentially, what the Game Master makes of it. Honestly, you can be as simple, rules light as you want or you can tweak things to make them as dice-heavy as the gaming group likes.

Some rules can be flaky, as is the case with the card-based initiative…but even that can be bypassed if you truly do not care for it (they have a dice-based alternative). I was even in that boat, before I delved into Deadlands. What’s more wild west than drawing an ace of spades of a joker? After that, I was in love with it. After being exposed to this method of random initiative in other formats, I had no problems using it in my own Superheroes sessions and it didn’t detract from the feeling at all. In fact, the gaming group seems to love it. That, combined with their Action Deck, the group had a blast and a little something else up their sleeve for when they needed it.

Photo Courtesy of Pinnacle Entertainment.

Photo Courtesy of Pinnacle Entertainment.

This brings me to one of the company’s more recent releases, their Deadlands: Noir setting. Originally, I caught wind of this release as a Kickstarter sometime last year. I’ve always been a sucker for that noir, or pulp, feel in just about anything, whether movies and television, or books and comics. So, after watching their action comics based around the setting I was hooked and waited rather impatiently for when the title was actually released. However, like everything, it was lost in the shuffle due to life and work. But, this holiday season I was doing some digging for gifts and ran across it once more, this time in hardcopy. I ordered it for myself, and read through it from cover to cover the same day. It brings Deadlands and the setting’s lore into the 1930s. New Orleans in the 1930s, to be exact (although locales are expanded on in the Companion release). Same dark, Weird History flavor but instead of horses and dusty western adventure it adds seedy alleyways and private detectives into the mix.

From a fluff standpoint, I feel Pinnacle did a great job in updating their lore and keeping things congruent with other Deadlands releases. They added some edges and hinderances more fitting to the era, and even adapted finances to reflect the impact of the great depression. The core book itself adds little in the way of rules themselves. Instead, it’s all about setting up the table for a bumped up timeline.

Thrilled that I had finally gotten into my hands the long awaited title release, I hopped on over to Pinnacle’s website and dug around on their store. Although there are several PDF releases (which is the norm it seems these days), I still feel that the title is heavily supported. A handful of adventures have already been released, as well as a couple noir-based dime novels. As an added bonus, if the Game Master plans on running anything within the confines of Deadlands: Noir‘s concept of 1935’s New Orleans, you have the added support of several map packs based in and around it.

All-in-all, a worthwhile purchase. If you’re already a fan of Deadlands, which has been around for quite some time, or pulp…or really, just into anything new with a solid grasp on their vision and feel, pick up this title.

[Book Review] The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

Posted in Book Review with tags , , , , , , , on December 1, 2013 by Casey Hutton

I tend to stick to what I know I’ll enjoy. I’m a fickle reader and it’s a rare occasion when I do branch out and actually read something outside of my genre of choice (which, by the way, is science fiction/fantasy). I walk the new release aisles and table at my local literature conglomerate, and most often when I do pick up something outside of that normal scope…it sits, and eventually gets packed away with the spine hardly being cracked. However, when a title comes highly recommended by someone I respect…well…I make a little extra effort.

Photo Courtesy of Dutton Books.

Photo Courtesy of Dutton Books.

In this case, The Fault In Our Stars by John Green was thrust in my hands one afternoon. It’s sat on my nightstand ever since. I’ve started it multiple times, and time and time again, it was put back down. It has nothing to do with the author or his style of writing. In fact, it’s more or less as simple as the subject matter hits a little close to home. But, all it takes is time and with its bright blue cover staring me in the face day after day, I finally sat down and read it from cover to cover. And then…I read it again.

The story is about a young woman named Hazel, her coping with cancer, it’s treatment and then a little something in her life changes, altering her perspective.

John Green is a strong writer. Hazel has a life of her own, and he has a way to incorporate hope and humor into a situation that really…well…has none. Once I was able to set aside my qualms about the subject matter, I found myself turning page after page. Once I reached the end…I was more than just hopped up as I usually am about a title. I don’t get emotional often, but this book had me on the cusp the entire time…wanting to read more as my senses tingled with anticipation. Green drew me in, made me attached to the main character and had me reeling with each and every page.

This title is one that will be a part of my collection. Not just one I’ll put into a box when my annual bookshelf cleanup occurs, but, one that I’ll keep out and push into guests hands when they want a recommendation. If you haven’t read the title…do it, even if you’re like me and it’s not something that would normally be found on your plate. In a reader’s world full of knights, dragons and adventure…well…The Fault In Our Stars still managed to find a place close to my heart.

So to that friend who bought another copy just to lend out to me…thank you ever so much. It’s been some time since a title hit me where it counts, and for that, you are the greatest.

[Book Review] Ten Little Aliens by Stephen Cole

Posted in Book Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2013 by Casey Hutton
Ten Little Aliens

Photo Courtesy of BBC Books.

I have been a fan of the Doctor Who television series for as long as I can remember. I grew up watching re-runs on the local PBS station on the weekends and once it was announced the series was making a comeback some years ago, I’ve been living in a world of not-so-old Doctors.

It might be worth pointing out that the Fourth Doctor, portrayed by Tom Baker, is the one and only Doctor for me. Although I find the newer actors and their portrayals interesting, no one before or after has been able to compare. So, going into picking up Ten Little Aliens by Stephen Cole from my local bookstore, I already had a bias (as it depicts the First Doctor, played by William Hurtnell) against the character as well as a bit skeptical in reading Doctor Who, rather than watching it. It caught my eye originally because it was the first in a series of 11 titles meant to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the good Doctor, and I’m rather anal retentive about reading a series in succession (i.e. I have to read the first three books to get to my favorite of all).

Now, Ten Little Aliens is not an original story in the sense of it being a re-release for the new series. It was originally released in 2002 and is now repacked with a new cover and introduction. However, having not read any previous Doctor Who title, it was all new to me.

The story itself was enough to captivate my attention. It follows along a group of soldiers on an elite training mission. The Doctor and his companions (Ben and Polly in this incarnation) land on an “asteroid” in which these solders end up. Not wanting to give anything away to those interested, the usual Doctor’s interference, slight comic relief and saves-the-day antics ensue. It reads similar to an episode, which is the point…or at least, I believe is the point.

Stephen Cole’s writing style is genuine and engaging. As per the introduction, he originally planned it to be based around another Doctor entirely, however, in the end it was the First Doctor that ended up being his focus. I honestly feel he captivated the First Doctor’s character rather well (and if it was once written as another, I could not tell). The character’s mannerisms, pattern of speech and general attitude match what I remember of the original Doctor. Although Doctor Who enthusiasts might disagree, I haven’t had much exposure to Hurtnell’s character.

One technique that threw me for a loop is the almost choose-your-own-adventure scene. Cole brought me back to younger days with this addition. Although it was merely flipping from character to character, it drew me into the action and what was happening in the pages. Keep in mind this uses up plenty in terms of page count and could be a waste if you skip through fast enough. But, if you have the patience and don’t mind some page flipping, it’s worth milking it for all it’s worth.

In conclusion, Ten Little Aliens is worth picking up and giving it a read. Even if you’re like me and only want to read to get to the Doctor that you love the most, it’s worth starting from the beginning and although I’m anxious to get to the fourth title, Festival of Death by Jonathan Morris, I have hopes for the two titles that stand in between (Dreams of Empire by Justin Richards and Last of the Gaderene by Mark Gatiss, respectively).