All posts by Scott Woodard

GAMING: 3 CLASSIC AND DEATHLESS HORROR RPGS

avatar-scottwoodard81zgv2hxg-lHorror and tabletop roleplaying games have had a strong relationship for decades. From the very beginning, the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS bestiary included ghasts, ghosts, ghouls, mummies, skeletons, vampires, werewolves, and zombies, along with specific rules for how to dispatch them all. While there are plenty of horrific adventures to be had using DUNGEONS & DRAGONS at their core (heck, the classic Ravenloft setting for D&D was completely inspired by gothic horror), games with the supernatural as their focus have also been around for many years, some of which are still creeping along to this day!

CALL OF CTHULHU

71nscrsn70lOriginally released by Chaosium Inc. as a boxed set back in 1981, CALL OF CTHULHU, inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, was the first true horror roleplaying game. So successful was this particular RPG that just this year (2016), the 7th Edition was unleashed at GenCon. If you’re interested in challenging ancient horrors and elder gods with little more than a Tommy gun and a protective elder sign clutched in your hands, then this is the game for you. Note that most CALL OF CTHULHU player characters conclude their runs either dead or insane, often within the first game session following their creation, so if the thought of spending time rolling up a new character only to have them in an institution – or in the ground – by the end of that same night doesn’t appeal, you may want to take a look at some other games.

CHILL

148433Back in 1984, a group of former TSR employees (TSR was the company responsible for the original publication of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS) launched a new gaming company of their own called Pacesetter Ltd. While they would eventually publish a variety of roleplaying games of different genres, including science fiction and time travel, their flagship title was a horror game known as CHILL: ADVENTURES INTO THE UNKNOWN. CHILL casts players in the roles of envoys working for a secret organization known as S.A.V.E. These agents work behind the scenes, battling against forces of the Unknown, including everything from Alpine Vampires to Zombie Masters. Originally released as a boxed set, the first edition of CHILL was supported with several fantastic sourcebooks and supplements (including a compilation of short adventures “hosted” by Elvira, Mistress of the Dark!) After Pacesetter met its untimely end, CHILL eventually found its way into the hands of Mayfair Games, who then released a revamped 2nd edition in 1990 that was also supported for a few years with excellent sourcebooks and adventures, until Mayfair shifted its focus to things like a little-known boardgame known as SETTLERS OF CATAN. Thanks to a successful Kickstarter, a third edition of CHILL with a couple rule additions including a clever new Token mechanic was released in 2015 through Growling Door Games, and as of this writing, this edition is still very much alive.

DEADLANDS

dlr_pg_exedAs someone who actually wrote a weird western roleplaying game – THE SIXTH GUN from Pinnacle Entertainment Group – it would be remiss of me not to mention Pinnacle’s DEADLANDS! First released in 1996, DEADLANDS embraces the concept of the “weird west” by mashing up classic westerns, albeit more in the vein of Italian spaghetti westerns, with straight-ahead horror and sorcery. Supported by a ton of source material, including books, novels, miniatures, custom playing card decks, and more, DEADLANDS presents a unique way to explore horror in a new setting devoid of things like cell phones and the internet. Like CALL OF CTHULHU, DEADLANDS has remained in print, in one form or another, in the hands of the same publisher since 1996. In its most popular current form, it uses a slightly modified version of the Savage Worlds rules and is often referred to as DEADLANDS RELOADED. Other adapted versions of the game have been released, including d20 and GURPS editions.

If you’re ready to unleash nightmares upon your tabletop, check out the links throughout the article and don’t forget your silver bullets, your holy water, and of course, your dice! And as always, visit DriveThruRPG for additional tabletop roleplaying games, and be sure to use our affiliate link below!

Huge Discounts on your Favorite RPGs @ DriveThruRPG.com

GAMING: The Art (And Artists) of DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS

avatar-scottwoodardGrowing up as a DUNGEONS & DRAGONS player and occasional Dungeon Master, I spent a lot of my childhood with my nose buried in the many rulebooks published by TSR Games (later TSR Hobbies, Inc.). While the goal was to digest the many arcane rules and scenario details in order to ensure smooth sailing at the game table, the most memorable elements from those rulebooks were, and still are, the many illustrations and full-color paintings that adorned the pages and covers of the various tomes and adventure modules.

Even before the age of 12, I was highlighting my favorite pieces and learning the names of the artists behind them; names like Jeff Dee, Erol Otus, Jim Roslof, Donald C. Sutherland III, and D.A. Trampier appearing on a new product’s title page ensured the reader that the illustrations held within would be of a certain quality and compatible style to previously published works.

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As the years drew on, new names joined their ranks, including Jeff Easley, Larry Elmore, Todd Lockwood, and Keith Parkinson, and soon after that, still more artists like Brom, Jeff Butler, and Tony DiTerlizzi. Now, a new documentary focusing on so many of these incredible artists is in production from X-Ray Films and Cavegirl Productions. Directed by Brian Stillman, Kelley Slagle, and Seth Polansky, EYE OF THE BEHOLDER: THE ART OF DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is described as “an exciting new documentary that explores the history, influence, and stories behind the artwork that helps create the worlds in which we all play. The movie profiles D&D artists – both past and present – and also features former TSR insiders, game designers, authors, and fans. EYE OF THE BEHOLDER: THE ART OF DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS is a celebration of the art we all love so much.”

EYE OF THE BEHOLDER is due to be released in 2017. Keep up with its production via their Facebook page!

STUFF: THE BEGINNING of the NeverEnding Story [UPDATED]

avatar-scottwoodard32 years ago today, American audiences were first introduced to the screen versions of Atreyu, Bastian, and Falkor the Luck Dragon, a few of the main characters from THE NEVERENDING STORY, directed by Wolfgang Petersen.

Based on the 1979 novel by German author Michael Andreas Helmuth Ende, this epic, big budget (at the time, the most expensive movie in German history) 1984 fantasy film took audiences to the incredible world of Fantasia, where the mysterious Nothing was threatening to consume the limitless realm of imagination itself!

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For many viewers (especially kids), the dramatic loss of Atreyu’s horse Artax in the Swamps of Sadness (spoiler alert!) left deep scars, but despite persistent rumors, no horses (or actors) perished during the filming of that sequence.

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THE NEVERENDING STORY starred a young Noah Hathaway (Boxey from the original BATTLESTAR GALACTICA) and Barret Oliver (D.A.R.Y.L.) as well as a number of other talented performers buried inside suits and under layers of elaborate makeup.

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To learn a lot more about this film, check out CINEMA AND SORCERY: THE COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO FANTASY FILM – written by G2V’s very own Scott Woodard (that’s me!) and Arnold T. Blumberg – in either print or e-book!

…And at this point, we’re just assuming the theme song performed by Limahl (lead singer of ’80s band Kajagoogoo) has now found its way back into your brain. “Turn around, look at what you seeeeeeee…”

UPDATE: You can see the film in a special Fathom Events screening on September 4 and 7, 2016, accompanied by an introduction from critic Ben Lyons and a “Reimagine the NeverEnding Story” featurette!

HELP US BY ORDERING THE MOVIE VIA THIS LINK!

KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS: OF SAMURAIS AND SKELETONS

avatar-scottwoodardKUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS is a sweeping, cinematic adventure that skillfully blends a few bits of biographical inspiration from creator Shannon Tindle (FOSTER’S HOME FOR IMAGINARY FRIENDS, THE CROODS) with a few lesser-known tales from Japanese mythology, gifting it to audiences through the almost mystical art of stop-motion animation.

An absolute feast for the eyes, KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS presents us with sweeping colorful vistas, beautifully designed characters, and one of the largest, if not the largest, stop-motion animated creatures ever devised – a colossal and truly terrifying 16-foot tall skeleton! It also clearly and unapologetically draws upon the work of legendary animator and director Ray Harryhausen. For those unaware, Harryhausen was the artist who populated such films as THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, and CLASH OF THE TITANS with a variety of fantastic beasts never before seen on the silver screen…and never better-presented since, at least in this author’s opinion.

Not only does KUBO lovingly and respectfully present us with homages to that late animator’s work, it also draws inspiration from the structure of some of those classic sword-and-sorcery adventures, framing a series of high-energy set pieces with a lofty quest that also finds plenty of time to remind us that behind the sword fights, the eerie opponents, and the rising threat, it is the bond between our leads that keeps us going and desperately hoping for a triumphant conclusion. As others have already pointed out elsewhere, KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS also tugs at the heart strings, so prepare to shed a tear or two during the course of the film.

Returning to the film’s admirable structure, like those classic fantasy films of old, KUBO takes its time with character development, giving us enough back-story to understand motivations yet deliberately leaving a few gaps here and there that we know from the outset will be filled in as the story goes on. Before Kubo even sets off on his quest, the movie pauses to inform us that this is no normal, one-eyed kid. Kubo is a traditional bard in the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS mold, manipulating reality through a combination of tale-telling and music. He is also not just another whiny, cookie-cutter, entitled kid seen in so many other contemporary films. Kubo is brave, bright, and compassionate – three truly admirable traits for a hero.

Once the journey begins, the Harryhausen influence rears its head as the quest takes us from one encounter to another. Kubo and his anthropomorphic allies – a well-meaning samurai bug (Matthew McConaughey) and a wise, but stubborn monkey (Charlize Theron) – face sorcerous sisters, sea monsters, ghosts, and the aforementioned skeletal guardian. Each set piece is exquisitely presented and edge-of-your-seat exciting in much the same way as the battle with the giant Talos on the Isle of Bronze or the skeletal hordes spawned from Hydra’s teeth, both from JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS.

Kubo-and-the-Two-Strings-New-Poster-movie-2016-1While I will stop short of offering an over-all review of the film due to the fact that my wife, TaMara Carlson-Woodard, was on the puppet fabrication crew for two years (mainly on the crew responsible for Monkey), I will say that despite my personal connection to the movie – which provided me with the chance to enjoy a crew screening a few weeks ago – I was blown away by the spectacle of KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS, and I hope that you will be as well!

KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS is now playing in theaters. To learn more about the fantastic films of Ray Harryhausen, check out CINEMA AND SORCERY: THE COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO FANTASY FILM written by Arnold T. Blumberg and yours truly! Also check out the movie’s companion volume below:

GAMING: Making Saving Throws with Producer Dom Zook

avatar-scottwoodardsav·ing throw (sā′vĭng thrō)
n.
1. In DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, a saving throw is an attempt to resist a spell, a trap, a poison, a disease, or a similar threat through the roll of a d20.

2. A group of players and GMs who, through a shared passion of RPGs and filmmaking, have banded together to create RPG content that we as fans would want to see.

The last few years have proven to be quite the renaissance for tabletop roleplaying games! While Wizards of the Coast stumbled a bit with the fourth edition of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS (although I still think it’s a solid design, but YMMV), the latest iteration of the game has proven to be a stupendous success, currently ranked as the best-selling RPG on the market and outselling former juggernaut PATHFINDER (Paizo Publishing) by a wide margin!

As an off-shoot of this terrific hobby, a number of sites, blogs, webseries, and live-streaming game channels have popped up, and truly one of the best is the SAVING THROW SHOW created by filmmaker and gamer Dom Zook. We recently caught up with Dom to find out more about SAVING THROW and what they have in store for the upcoming GenCon 2016 event in Indianapolis, Indiana!

G2V: Dom, I know you’re busy as all get -ut prepping for GenCon, but thanks for taking some time out to chat with us. Can you give us a little history of SAVING THROW? When and how did it all come together?
Dom Zook: SAVING THROW began in 2013 when Tyler Rhoades, Ben Dunn, and I began playing D&D again. As Ben had never played before, and Tyler and I were a few years from our heyday, we went searching for some cohesive tutorials online. Nothing really fit the bill, so we decided to produce our own! First, we made eight episodes of a PATHFINDER tutorial covering the basics. From there we began playing in livestreamed games, playing everything from PATHFINDER to D&D, CALL OF CTHULHU, and STAR WARS. Now we stream five days a week on Twitch and YouTube, with more shows being added all the time!

Can you share any plans for the future of SAVING THROW?
We’re very excited to announce a new series starting Saturday, August 6th at 5pm PDT, exploring the brand new PHOENIX DAWN COMMAND game by veteran designer Keith (GLOOM, EBERRON) Baker. We’ll also be producing an exclusive tutorial series of this system. We’re looking to expand our slate of shows to add more tutorial content and really get back to our roots. Additionally, we’re releasing an album of songs that Amy Vorpahl has written and produced with the help of amazing musician Maxi Morales out of Brazil. Lots of the classic songs from BARKY’S BRIGADE will be on the album. That’s hitting this Fall!

If you had unlimited resources, what would you love to do with SAVING THROW? And if that means a BARKY’S BRIGADE feature film, what would be your dream cast (and I guess we’ll just assume that Amy would be playing the part of Arqe Barky)?
Oh man! When Tyler, Ben, and I initially concepted SAVING THROW, our intention was to edit together the final gameplay into a live-action event with interspersed scripted dialogue to tie things together. I’d still love to go back and tell the BARKY’S story that way. As for casting a movie, I can’t imagine anyone other than our players playing their own characters, but a part of me would love to see Christophe Waltz as Udo Meinhardt!

That’s one casting choice I think we could all get behind! So what is the current schedule for SAVING THROW and where can people watch?
The whole schedule can be found online, or just log in to our Twitch channel to see this week’s line-up and to watch! We also stream to YouTube, so there are a number of ways to catch us!

You guys have some big plans for this year’s GenCon; can you tell us more about them?
This is the largest contingent of Saving Throwers that we’ve sent to GenCon. Not only will I be there, but Tom Lommel (GM of Monday Night DUNGEON FIGHT, and Udo Meinhardt from BARKY’S BRIGADE), Amy Vorpahl (Arqe Barky herself), Tyler Rhoades (Jopper Grow from BARKY’S and producer), Gaurav Gulati (Ruckus P. Fizzlebottom from BARKY’S, Grango from NEVER TELL ME THE ODDS and editor extraordinaire), GM Mason McDaniel (GM of BARKY’S BRIGADE), Shawn Graham (GM of our DARK SUN series, and Donovan Belter from BARKY’S), and Ben Dunn (Thad from BLACK BAG, and host of our PATHFINDER tutorial) will all be there as well!

13653191_1156411381090023_1601904507932852572_oWe’ll also be playing in a live recorded BARKY’S BRIGADE show on Saturday at 6pm in the Westin Grand Ballroom V. It will be similar to our livestreamed shows; in this version, the audience will be able to influence our game! We’ll be giving out tokens and sheets of paper that will play a very important part in the game, and you can get official Barky Bucks (designed by @d20monkey), which you can exchange for tokens! Basically we’re bringing the normal stream show to an IRL audience. It’s going to be a blast, and you can buy tickets for only $2! Steal. 

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Thank you so much, Dom, and best of luck with SAVING THROW! We look forward to meeting up with the whole gang at GenCon!
See you there!

Find SAVING THROW on Twitter and Facebook!