Category: Things To Read

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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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!

Suggestions from the Manga Maven

The weather is turning cold again and for a lot of us, that can mean fewer spontaneous trips and a bit more time at home drinking warm liquids, watching Netflix, and reading.

In preparation for this, I reached out to our friend and Manga Maven over at Comicopia, Morgana, for some titles that might be of interest not just to me but also for the LOC community.

Most of the titles here are on the newer side, so they should be easy to find. Remember, your local shops can help track these down for you as well. For the titles I’ve already read, I added a mini review for some extra info.

Morgana’s list:

Books that focus heavily on the lives of women:

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Source: Seven Seas Entertainment

Satoko and Nada, by Yupechika; published by Seven Seas Entertainment 

Princess Jellyfish, by Akiko Higashimura; published by Kodansha Comics

Tokyo Tarareba Girls, by Akiko Higashimura; published by Kodansha Comics

My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness (if you haven’t read it already) and its sequel My Solo Exchange Diary, by Nagata Kabi; published by Seven Seas Entertainment
-This book can be quite brutal in its honesty and might not be an easy read for some, but I’m happy to say that it really left an impression and I’m happy this book exists.

The Bride Was A Boy, by chii; published by Seven Seas Entertainment
-This is a rather sweet and fluffy story that reads like an introduction to transgender and LGBTQIA issues in Japan. An enjoyable and quick read.

Intriguing shonen stories that aren’t super-popular like My Hero Academia but deserve some love:

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Image: Jump Comics/Viz Media

The Promised Neverland, by Kaiu Shirai; published by Viz Media
    -I flew through the first volume of this story in a night. It’s dark, filled with suspense, and had some truly scary monsters. If you like books that are on the darker side, you should look this one up.

Dr. Stone, by Riichiro Inagaki and Boichi, published by Viz Media

Sweet gay stories that aren’t already covered by the first category:

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Image: Viz Media

That Blue Sky Feeling, by Okura; published by Viz Media

Go For It, Nakamura!, by Syundei; published by Seven Seas Entertainment

I Hear the Sunspot, by Yuki Fumino; published by One Peace Books

Like these recommendations? Visit Morgana’s blog at MangaMaven.com for more recommendations and a peek into the life of a comic shop manager.

Red Menace Reading Recommendations – Spooky Fall Fairytales

Before I dive into this topic, I just need to ask – who’s excited for LadiesCon 2018? It’s just a week and a half away and we are so excited for the show we’ve put together for you this year. Besides the incredible guests and talented vendors, I’m particularly excited for the panel line up that we have this year. We’ve got some fascinating people talking about a wide variety of topics at the intersections of feminism, body positivity, and fandom, and I just hope I get a chance to hear some of them! We also still have a few tickets for our early access breakfast left! While the con itself is free, we sell these tickets as an opportunity for those who can afford it to help KEEP it free for those who can’t, and the benefits are great – a chance to meet our guests with only a few other folks in the room, first crack at all of the vendors, a bag full of awesome gifts, and breakfast!
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End of Summer Reading

While many of us are currently finding ourselves staring Fall in the face as we start school, enjoy our last beach day, or prepare for Ladies Con, it’s hard to remember that summer is technically not over yet.  Well, at least it isn’t over officially until September 23rd, the first day of Fall. So until that time, there might be those of you out there holding onto summer with everything they have – and I’m here to help you with that. I have three get reading suggestions that will not only help you remember how the warm summer sun feels, but also how it can make you feel like no other season can.

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The Vision and a Series of Unfortunate Events

Hope you are all enjoying the summer and staying cool. In previous posts, we have discussed some podcasts and books that we have been into lately. My current summertime media consumption has included reading The Vision and watching Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.

So why am I talking about these two things together? Besides being the things I have most recently read/watched, they both employ a style of narrative storytelling that warns you what’s coming. Rather than dampening the story, these breadcrumbs lead you through the drama and guide you into darker elements without even coming close to diminishing the gut punch or (especially in the case of The Vision) some truly difficult emotional moments. The story remains compelling despite what could be termed as spoilers built right in.

Of the two, A Series of Unfortunate Events (SoUE) is clearly the lighter fare, geared for ages…well I would say 8 and up, but you know your kid. These stories were first a book series and then a Netflix series. The story follows the Baudelaire children as they are orphaned and then repeatedly terrorized by Count Olaf, a villain obsessed with getting his hands on the fortune the oldest daughter will inherit when she is of age. While I stopped reading the books after about 3 (there are 13 in the series), the Netflix series manages to stave off some of the repetition with a very strong cast and interesting stylized visuals. The most fun part of the series is Patrick Warburton who plays author and narrator Lemony Snicket. Snicket, with a dry gravitas that Warburton is just perfect for, tells you right off the bat what you are in for. And what you’re in for is horrible people treating some innocent kids horribly. Anyone around them is also pulled into the horribleness -horribleness that is largely orchestrated by Count Olaf. The narration acts as a teaser, breaking the fourth wall to remind viewers of the drama they are watching play out, reminding them that they are watching a show that is literally telling you it’s a series of unfortunate events. And yet, you still think and hope things might go the Baudelaires’ way.  But don’t hope, because they don’t. But still, I found myself moaning and groaning and hoping maybe, just this time, things would be okay, even as Patrick Warburton’s dulcet tones continuously told me they wouldn’t.

The Vision is a 12-issue comic series by Tom King. It’s available in two trades, so do yourself a favor and just buy them both because if you start this series, you are going to want to finish it.  

This story uses a similar narrative device to the one used in A Series of Unfortunate Events, SoUE is largely comical in its misery, The Vision is too real. An unseen narrator tells us that Vision decided to create a family. They move to a suburban neighborhood in the Washington DC area and try to fit in. This never happens. Instead, the Visions exist in a limbo, not quite human, not quite synthezoid. Sometimes they go through the motions, acting as they think humans should. Other times they are perhaps too human, unwittingly falling into the perils of violence, mania, and love. The villain in this story is largely unseen and debatable. Is it life? Ultron? Vision himself? Despite this story not having a mustache-twirling antagonist like SoUE, you know in the first few pages that this experiment in family won’t end well. Over 12 issues, we watch the pieces fall and shatter on the floor. Knowing this is coming doesn’t make this story any less compelling. Instead, it’s a study of an unraveling of a dream – its own series of unfortunate events, and we are never lead to believe it will be anything but that.

So, a similar narrative device, but 2 different stories in tone and weight. I would recommend them both but maybe have some tissues available when you read The Vision.

Summer Reading 2018 – Mixing It Up

For several years I’ve written a summer reading post around the Fourth of July. It’s the perfect time – Memorial Day may be the unofficial start to the summer season, but the Fourth is the heart of it. This summer in New England has been particularly aggressive – a brutal heat wave that’s started earlier and lasted longer than we usually see around here. And so I should probably offer you some light, breezy reads that you can bring to beach and promptly forget about. But I’m nothing if not a contrarian, so instead I’m going to offer two pieces of fiction to make you think, and one cookbook to lighten the mood and because I’m personally going to use it a lot this summer with my new ice cream maker.
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Mystery and Magic: Two More Great All-Ages Reads

It can be hard for parents to navigate the shelves at a comic shop, particularly if they haven’t read a lot of comics themselves. The misconception that all comics are for kids is waning, but hasn’t totally been extinguished yet. Luckily, most shops have a section devoted to all-ages books, and staff trained to make recommendations. Here are a couple that I’ve enjoyed, if you need to spark some ideas.
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Comics Characters You Should Get To Know: Thanos

This post will feature spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War largely in the form of a character study, but also in the form of point of the Infinity Saga story in the comics.

Maybe you have seen Avengers: Infinity War by now, or maybe you haven’t. But surely you have at least heard of Thanos, the Mad Titan by now. When The Goog and I first started dating now 16 years ago, he asked me if I was familiar with the Infinity Saga the way one of those kids with the suits and backpacks (you know the ones) might ask if you have heard about the Good Word. We have been an Infinity Saga household ever since. A big part of what makes this massive event/cross-over story so compelling is not just the coming together of so many of the Marvel Universe’s heroes (and anti-heroes), but that Thanos, as the catalyst, is such a compelling and complicated villain. Continue reading

Movies and Books to Look Forward to in 2018

The new year has arrived, bringing with it the usual vows of self-improvement, opportunity for fresh starts, and hope that the coming twelve months will be better than the previous. It’s a traditional time for optimism.

Unfortunately, New Year’s Day 2018 doesn’t find me full of anticipation for the new year. Aside from the bigger problems of the world that haven’t disappeared with the 2017 calendars, my husband and I are both sick. We’re also still recovering from the emotional drain of the holidays. And temperatures aren’t venturing above 30 degrees. Don’t get me wrong; my life is good and I’m still grateful for what I do have.

Still, it can be tough to find enthusiasm for the new year when I’m more inclined to curl up in a blanket with my dogs to stay warm. However, I’d like to feel that sense of a fresh start and anticipating the new. So I am focusing on something I am definitely looking forward to in 2018. I’ve asked the other Ladies what they are looking forward to as well so click through to find out what we can’t wait for. Continue reading