How Game Book Art has inspired us…

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Time to talk about RPG’s!

     Happy February everyone! We are very excited because this month at the Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival there is a D&D art documentary called Eye of the Beholder. It is not only a great title, but a great topic as well. Its question is: How has the art of Dungeons and Dragons inspired you? It is something we are going to discuss here, but we are going to broaden it a little. We are going to talk about the art of all game books and how it influences us as players and game masters. Once you enter through the door of D&D there are so many other games and systems to explore. We encourage you to do so and we are always happy to give you some recommendations. So we will be using Game Master and not Dungeon Master when we discuss this topic in this post.

Lady Diceacorn

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This books is so gorgeous that even after all these years it is one of Lady Diceacorn’s favorites.

     The cover art of an unknown RPG is what draws me to it immediately.  I remember one of the first times it happened and to this day it is a book I still use. I was browsing the aisle at a game store when a book from Pinnacle Entertainment Group caught my eye. It had pirates on it and in big pirate font Pirates of the Spanish Main. I picked it up and looked inside. It took me 30 seconds to realize that I not only needed this book in my life, I needed to run this game with a strong lady pirate captain at the helm. It used the Savage Worlds ruleset, which I was familiar with. I still love this book so much. It is one of the few books that I had to stop reading and grab a notebook to jot down ideas. I still haven’t run all of them, but maybe with the new edition, I will have another adventure in the works.

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It is hard not to be inspired with items as awesome as this.

        As a GM, anything can inspire a great game, but it is usually the art and design of the book that gets my brain racing with ideas. The newest addition to my RPG library and the game books I am currently loving to look at are my Star Trek Adventures books. They are laid out like a Starfleet Manual and the artwork is original and amazing. I have at least three games planned out for this system and I haven’t even finished reading the books. Plus, it comes with a pretty map. The cover is just the Enterprise and it evokes some of my favorite feelings. The other art shows away missions in dangerous caves and a large number of Red Shirts. The thing I love the most is that you can purchase pre-generated characters of your favorite crew, or mix and match for your game if you wanted. We have two “Try an RPG Day” dates this year, and I am pulling this game out for one of them. Although I am still determining which of the seven game ideas I will run. It is not a bad problem to have.

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Goblins in Spaaaaaaaccccceeee!!!!

     This inspiration is not just reserved for the games I run. It is also reserved for the games I am a player for. The best example I have of that is when we were starting a home Starfinder campaign. My GM had the book out and I was looking down and smiling back at me was the most awesome space goblin I had ever seen. I knew in that moment that was what I needed my character to be. My good-natured GM rolled with it and thus Dr. Spork T. Space Goblin was born. She is the smartest of the space goblins and that is why she is a doctor. Just seeing that artwork of a space goblin with a makeshift machete and a homemade laser gun, I had not only the character concept, but also her personality.

Meepline

     The thing I like most about art in RPG books is how it sets the tone for the game.  There are games that are intense, some silly, some fantastic, some gritty. The art, not only on the cover, but throughout the book, really sets the tone for the game as a whole.

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I mean…. Who wouldn’t want to fight this thing?

      My first ever RPG, Rifts, is a complicated mess of convoluted rules, but it’s still dear to my heart.  The art in the pages of the many (many, many, many) books sets you up for adventure of the crazy, gritty, post-Apocalyptic variety.  The art on the cover of the Ultimate Edition corebook (colloquially known as the RUE) shows a vaguely steampunkish mystical being kneeling in front of a portal (or rift) with a giant eyeball and nasty mouth tendrils emerging from it (this is a particularly big nasty being known as the Splugorth; if you’ve played Rifts you KNOW the Splugorth).  When you crack open the pages of it, each image really invokes that crazy adventure feel, from the illustration of the Rogue Scientist scaling a cliff, to the pictures of the Coalition Dogboys.

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The artwork from The Devil’s Spine that sparks Meepline’s GM creativity!

     My favorite RPG in the entire universe, Numenera, also has the most gorgeous artwork.  The way the artists portray the Ninth World gets you in the spirit of exploration. The colors are bold, pastels and bright colors combined, unlike the dark colors of Rifts, giving it a more inquisitive feel.  And that’s true of the game; it’s all about uncovering the mysteries left behind by the previous worlds. The most used and iconic picture is on the Corebook and Starter Set. It’s a bright orange background, with the Amber Monolith in the center, surrounded by creatures and people.  It gives the sense of the vastness of the world and the possibilities. All of the art in every book is full-color and just as gorgeously detailed and vast. My favorite picture in all of the Numenera books is from the pre-written adventure, The Devil’s Spine. The adventure itself is a ton of fun, and I’ll try not to give too many spoilers, but at one point, adventurers may encounter a swamp filled with giant statues of vaguely humanoid shape.  The art is in muted tones of gray and yellow, highlighted with purple flowers. It certainly sets the tone of uneasiness meant to be felt in that area, and gives a slight vision of what is to come to those who venture into the swamp.

     Honorable Mentions for books whose cover art sets the tone for the game (and either has minimal inside art, or not as thematic art):  Ten Candles, a horror game by Calvary Games (I have yet to play this game, but the cover was what drew me to it, as well as the mechanic of using actual candles in the gameplay); Apocalypse World by D. Vincent Baker and Meguey Baker (this is one of my favorite games, and the first game I ever ran!  The cover art really sets the tone for how post-apocalyptic and open-ended this game really is); and finally, The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen by James Wallis (the version I own is stark white with black text and filigree; it really sets the tone for how lush and over the top the game is.  This game is all about telling the most extravagant lie)!

     We are grateful for all the work that it takes to put together games. It is so exciting that Eye of the Beholder is shedding light on one of them. We hope you will consider joining the directors at the Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival on Friday, February 15, 2019 at 7:00 PM for a screening at the Somerville Theater. We both have plans to be there!  (Note: Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival has not paid us to promote this event and we are paying for our tickets. This is just a topic that excites us and we have offered to promote it as something awesome to do with a Friday night.)

    We also hope you join us for another fabulous ELS Day on March 10, 2019 from 12-6 at Comicazi. We are working on which woman created game we will be featuring, so we are going to make our game announcement via social media soon.   

 

Until next time…. May all your hits be crits.

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The Ladies Podcast: Women at the Gaming Table

In this episode, Valerie (Smalerie) sits down with fellow Ladies and current co-Organizers of ELS Game Day, Savannah (Meepline) and Tracey (Lady Diceacorn) to discuss the experience of women at the gaming table. Together they discuss what it can feel like to be the only woman at the gaming table and share some tips on ways all players can create a more positive gaming space. 

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The NoSleep Diaries: Entry 1- “The Thing in the Yard”

Please welcome guest contributor Lindsay Moore. Lindsay has written for us before, sharing her experience putting together an all women horror anthology. In this series, she’ll share her experience writing horror stories that were adapted for the NoSleep Podcast. 

 

I discovered the NoSleep Podcast in 2015, midway through its fifth season. At the time, my day job was less than fulfilling; it was downright boring. But, on the plus side, I was able to listen to podcasts and music all day.

I sat in my cubicle, alone, listening to horror fiction podcasts while I worked. I discovered the NoSleep Podcast through the subreddit, which is infamous for its creepypasta-style horror fiction. I couldn’t sit and read the stories, but I could listen to the best of the best, those carefully selected for audio adaptation. Continue reading

Starless Wonders: Tony McMillen’s Lumen

A couple of summers ago, I reviewed some books, as I am wont to do. One of them was An Augmented Fourth by friend of the Ladies and local celebrity Tony McMillen. Since then, Tony’s written and drawn a comic, Lumen. Since the first four issue arc has just drawn to a close, it felt like a good time to tell you all about it – you can get in on the ground floor of what I hope will be an ongoing series, while still getting a complete story.

The story of Lumen begins with a young man, Esteban Vela, who stumbles upon a suit of armor and a lantern one day after following a falling star. It sounds romantic, except for two things – one, the armor still holds its previous occupant. Two, Esteban lives in the Nocterra, a world enshrouded entirely in darkness. There are no stars, not even falling ones, and being too romantic in a world like this is will get a boy killed. Still, inspired by tales of “the legendary Vaquero Rubus Bramble…the hero who was supposed to lasso the sun,” Esteban decides not only to take the armor, but promptly finds himself embarking on an epic quest.

You see, while the sun is gone, devoured by “the Beast that fell to earth,” there is one source of life and light in the Nocterra – lumen, a glowing substance that allows plants to grow. It also provides energy; it’s the power source for Esteban’s armor as well as the various weapons and mechs designed by his nearest neighbor, Detta the science witch. It’s Detta who sends him on his quest, to obtain the lumen horde in the southern castle. All that stands in his way are giant fungus monsters, the Fun Guys, who thrive in the darkness of the Nocterra. No problem for a hero, right?

The story has many of the best elements of a fairy tale – a magical destiny, a witch, a quest, even an animal companion and a pretty girl – while still managing to feel entirely new and unique. McMillen has clearly spent a lot of time on world-building, thinking through the rules of his night universe and how it operates, and he deploys it brilliantly, through the illustrations and actions of the plot rather than through tiresome exposition. Likewise, the characters all have distinct voices and personalities – I could hear Esteban’s cocky bravado (and its undercurrent of doubt and fear) in my head perfectly.

McMillen’s art is likewise wholly unique, loose and smudgy, yet sharp and distinct when it needs to be. The use of color is amazing in a book about a world cast in darkness, and book three has a multi-page sequence that manages to be clever without being gimmicky. And the Fun Guys – well, no one draws a monster like Tony. Each are named after actual mushrooms – there’s a great single page shot of different types in issue that looks cool AND had me reaching for google to see what a “Gristly Domecap” looks like here on our Earth.

All told, Lumen is an impressive debut comic from a writer I know is only getting better, and I can’t wait for the next arc.

If you want to read Lumen, the first copies are sold out in print but available online at McMillen’s Etsy shop, and the later issues are available either online or here in Boston at Comicazi and Hub Comics. Even more exciting, the first issue is up for FREE over at Tony’s website. So get on over there and check it out!

Disneybounding: A Beginner’s Guide

This week we have our first post from our new contributor – Mother Of Figments. This talented lady is not only a runner, an accomplished knitter, and incredible singer/performer, but she is also our very own Disneybounding Expert! Here you will find the first post in her new series where she’ll not only introduce newbies to “Bounding” but will also be sharing her tips and resources for those who also want to get in on the fun.

 

My very first ‘Disneybound’ was completely by accident.  As a fan of Once Upon A Time, I heard that there was a storefront at Disney’s Hollywood Studios park that was meant to be the storefront of Mr. Gold’s/Rumplestiltskin’s shop from the tv show.  To show my love for the character, I bought gold eyeshadow and gold shimmer lipstick and wore my Loki t-shirt (because Gold/Rumple and Loki share much in common, in my mind). I had no idea that what I was doing was a ‘thing’ and that it was becoming more popular by the moment!

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First Disneybound!

Around that time I started seeing people walking around the park in green, mermaid-scale leggings and purple tank-tops, obvious homages to Ariel in ‘The Little Mermaid’.  It was later in that trip that I realized that what they were doing, and indeed, what I was doing with my Mr. Gold/Rumple homage and my ‘Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party’ costume had a name: Disneybounding.

Buzzfeed defines Disneybounding as: When Disney fans dress up as contemporary versions of their favorite characters. It’s basically closet cosplay at its finest.’

A question that often gets asked is ‘What is the difference between Disneybounding and Cosplay?’  The members of the ‘Disneybounders Unite’ Facebook page generally say that when a costume is built to be an exact copy and wigs/prosthetics are involved, then it’s ‘Cosplay’.  Otherwise, it’s considered “Bounding” (there can be other types of Bounding…I’ve seen Pokemon, Star Trek, Harry Potter, DC Comics, Dr. Seuss, Elfquest etc. represented!).

Bounding came about because of the Walt Disney World and Disneyland rule that “Costumes may not be worn by Guests 14 years of age or older; however, some costumes may be permitted during select special events.”  Adult guests, however, wanted to show their love for certain characters so the idea of representing them in more contemporary ways came about.  Google ‘Disneybound ideas’ and there are pages upon pages of images and Pinterest Boards devoted to outfits for almost any Disney character that anyone could think of.  

As someone who loves dressing up and loves the idea of costumes as a whole, this idea fascinated me.  The next time I attempted Disneybounding’was during Dapper Days, an unofficial celebration of all things Vintage at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris.  Everything that I wore that weekend came from my closet as I used the ideas of color and pattern to convey the characters I chose.

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Dapper Mickey

The Disneybounding Bug had bitten me!  I started going through my closet, putting together outfits that, maybe with an accessory or two, would create a Disneybound for another character…or seven.  I started collecting clothing items that could work as a ‘Bound’. Amazingly, there are quite a few retailers that have embraced and encouraged this trend, such as Hot Topic, Torrid, BoxLunch, Etsy,  Unique Vintage, and even The Disney Store itself.

My favorite way to find items, however, is to first dive into my closet and pull up basics such as solid-color shorts or skirts and solid-color tops.  I then see what color combinations might inspire a character for me. All it takes is a black shirt and a pair of red bottoms and voila! It’s Mickey Mouse!  Then I think about what accessories might enhance the outfit. I’m a fan of enamel pins (that could be a whole other post!) and other jewelry bits that give a little hint.  Sometimes those are a special purchase or can be easily made if you’re crafty (or know crafty friends).

If I’m missing something of a specific color or style, I then tend to look through consignment/thrift shops to see if anything might work if it’s not something I would normally add to my closet.  There’s no need to buy something crazy if you’re only going to wear it once! That $8 purple t-shirt from a craft store or thrift shop is just as good as one from The Disney Store if you’re only going to Ariel-Bound once!  It’s also a lot of fun to make pins or hair accessories from Fimo (molding clay) from a craft store.

For my trip in February 2019 for the Princess Half-Marathon weekend, I’m planning to Disneybound every day.  Thus far I have Casual Snow White (t-shirt purchased from Etsy), The Genie (belt purchased from Pin Up Girl and t-shirt to be determined), The Mermaid Lagoon from Peter Pan, and Joy from Inside Out (dress purchased from Poshmark).  All other items not specifically mentioned, have been pulled from my own clothing collection.

Budget is super-important to me, especially as the trips to the parks themselves are so expensive, but there is also no rule that says you can’t collect pieces as you come across them!  I will also be the first to admit that I have put together an Evangeline (The Princess and the Frog) Disneybound that I’m quite proud of…even though every piece was purchased specifically for it.  Disneybounding also isn’t just for the parks! I’ve worn some outfits to work that I have either accidentally or purposefully curated for Bounding purposes.

There are some great resources on Disneybounding on the internet including videos, Pinterest boards, and Facebook pages.  In my next post, I’ll go into a little more detail about Closet Shopping and figuring out character color-blocking.

Anyone can Disneybound;  all it takes is a little faith, trust, and Pixie Dust.

The Kpop Lip Sync Battle

2018 Kpop Lip Sync Battle performer R. Zin

My life as a Kpop fan started out as a lonely one. Korean fans have fan cafes and chat rooms where, on their luckiest days, they can talk to their idols. The fans know their idols’ schedules to follow them. They have the ability to understand the music better than international fans because it’s their own culture that’s on that stage. When I got started with Kpop, I didn’t have support. I didn’t have other friends I could talk to about my fandom who understood. There were a few girls at my school who did like Kpop, but not in the way I did. Nothing out, loud, and proud. It was lonely for a good while before I came to have the friends I have now, who share the same passion as me. Continue reading

Something Positive: The Positive Reality Competition Show Trend

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Finding more joy and positivity is one of my goals this year!

Happy 2019!! We are stepping back from our usual game content, so that I can write about my newest obsession. A couple of weeks ago, Red Menace wrote about her hopes for the year. One of my hopes this year is that I want to find more positive things in the world, which is really hard these days.  Believe it or not, I have found positive things in the most unusual place – reality competition shows. I will begin this by saying that I am actually not a fan of reality television in general, as most of it is too drama filled for me. There are three shows in particular, The Great British Bake Off, Nailed It and Making It, that I believe are the three best examples of this type of program.

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2019 – The Year of the Audio Drama

I walk over 3.5 miles for my commute daily and this puts me in the perfect position to consume lots of podcasts. It’s also a great way to ramp up or decompress from the work day by letting your mind focus on something else.  But lately I have noticed my podcast consumption habits have changed and I can pinpoint the exact point. It was the Bret Kavanaugh hearings.

See, I also consume a lot of news media. Local news is on when I am getting dressed in the morning and making dinner at night. My Twitter feed is filled with lots of news and current event outlets and I used to listen to many current event podcasts. I say used to because all of a sudden I noticed I was doing something I never did before with my usual podcasts…..I was deleting or skipping episodes without listening, because I realized, I needed a break, badly.  Podcasts weren’t a way to relax on my way to work anymore. Hearing #metoo stories or yet another attempt to explain consent was stirring up things and I was getting to work stressed, unfocused, and angry. That’s not a good look in any job, but in my role, I have to deal with these types of issues in a professional capacity, so things had to change.

Enter the audio drama. What I need now is escapism in form of heavily produced episodic storytelling and well-developed characters and I found some that have inspired major binge listening. 

I have already mentioned some other audio dramas I enjoy – Darkest Night, Deadly Manners, The Black Tapes, and Tanis. The Red Menace has also given you a heads up on another Sci-Fi based fave, Hadron Gospel Hour (more please friends!)

But now I have more!

Limetown follows American Public Radio (a fictional NPR type entity) reporter Lia Haddock as she tries to solve the mystery of what happened to Limetown and its 300+ inhabitants, who have all disappeared without a trace. Structured like a take-off on a Serial type podcast, Limetown is spooky, mysterious, and a very compelling story. You will find yourself wanting to do you own research just to be sure this is in fact, fiction.
Note: It was recently announced that Limetown will be turned into a TV show on Facebook Watch starring Jessica Biel.

 

 

 

 

King Falls AM  660 on the AM dial wherever the mountain town of King Falls is located. It’s like the X-Files meets Northern Exposure. Shock Jock Sammy Stevens moves to King Falls and begins to host a local AM call in radio show. The whole podcast is done as the radio show, you learn about the characters and happenings of King Falls via call-ins and on-site radio broadcasts. It’s funny, scary, and at times quite emotional (yes there have been tears). King Falls has been around for a few years now, but you definitely want to start at the beginning. Listening to the character development over the episodes has been an absolute joy.
Note: This one has explicit content so not for kiddos or public listening in the office. You are gonna want your headphones, and people can just ask you what you are giggle-snorting about.

 

 

 

Angel of Vine is a crime noir story in which a present day journalist discovers the cassette tapes of a hardboiled 1950’s PI who solved a major Hollywood murder mystery.  This one packs some pretty serious voice talent – Joe Manganiello, Alfred Molina, Constance Zimmer, Alan Tudyk, and Misha Collins (which I didn’t know till a few episodes in, so that was a fun surprise) and if this a genre you like, I’m guessing you will like this.
Note: This is another one with some explicit content, so not for the kiddos.

 

 

 

 

 

The Walk is quite unique in that the main character is you! Written by Naomi Alderman,  who also does my beloved Zombies, Run! and The Power, in The Walk you are accidentally given a mysterious package that you must get from one end of Scotland to the other. The kicker, a terrorist group sets off an EMP in episode one, so the only way to cross the country is to walk.
Note: Perfect for days out strolling if you want to be the star of your own adventure.

End of Year Reflections

I hope all of you who celebrate Christmas had a good one yesterday. For those who don’t, I hope you at least had a day of rest and relaxation. If you had to work, thank you for keeping the light on for those who needed you.

The end of the year is always a good time to reflect on what we’ve done, as well as to plan for the future and decide what we hope to accomplish in the New Year. So here are some things I am proud of in 2018, planning for 2019, and looking forward to experiencing.
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Fun Holiday Videos: Japan-style

While I often choose to keep it festive during my December posts by either creating bad parody poetry or reading holiday comics, this year I’ve found myself taking a bit of a different spin.

I recently had a conversation with a friend where we discussed if we could just claim that Christmas is now “officially” a secular holiday. While I feel that this idea is still premature, it didn’t stop us from talking about how Christmas has evolved over the years and has been adopted and celebrated by other cultures in new and rather interesting ways. Most notably Japan and their tradition of eating Kentucky Fried Chicken on Christmas.

After this conversation ended, I pretty much went home and jumped down the YouTube rabbit-hole to see what exactly a KFC Christmas meal would look like and where the tradition came from. To save you the time, I’ve posted a couple of my favorite videos below.

Simon and Martina: Eat Your Kimchi
Simon and Martina have been living overseas and posting about their lives for 10 years now. Previous to living in Japan, they lived and posted videos from South Korea. I’ve been watching them for some time now and appreciate how they can be both upbeat and honest about their lives, even when things aren’t going well. If you like this video, I highly recommend you spend some quality time with their channel. If not just to watch videos of their dog, Spudgy (who sadly passed away not too long ago).

 

 

Abroad in Japan
A British gent now living in Japan, Chris Broad does a pretty good job at highlighting both his own culture shock and his desire to learn. He puts in enough research to add context, but if you’re looking for heavy cultural analysis, this might not be the channel for you. Instead, if you enjoy a rather snarky sense of humor and a healthy amount of self-deprecation, Chris is your guy.  Think informative without the strange yelling at the camera or bouncing “walking while talking” you can get from other YouTubers. He’s got over a million subscribers for a reason.

Colonel Santa not your thing? Perhaps you’re in the mood for a different rabbit hole that’s also filled with holiday cheer? Might I suggest starting with this list of articles from our archives?

But regardless of how you celebrate (or don’t celebrate) the season, warmest wishes to you and yours. See you in the new year!