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Category Archives: Cool Stuff

A List for Mugs and Molls

Here’s a classic web tool if ever there was one.

Twists, Slugs, and Roscoes: a Glossary of Hardboiled Slang has been on the Internet since 1993. As the name suggests, it’s a glorious collection of terms straight out of the noir pulps and movies, and comes complete with its own bibliography. It’s perfect to spice up any gangster-era game.

So glom that list you ginks, before I make you chew a gat.

MF-spy

 

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Stop the Presses!

One of the perks of living in Southwest Ohio is that I’m not terribly far from the National Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH. It’s a wonderful facility, filled with aircraft and artifacts from every era of flight. Including of course the dawn of flight, appropriate for a museum located not far from the Wright Brothers’ home.

Not long ago we took a family trip to the museum. In the section where they have a Wright Flyer they also have an issue of the Washington Post dated Saturday, July 31st, 1909 that includes the announcement of the Wright Brother’s first flight.

This is a cool thing in itself, but what caught my gamer’s eye were two more articles that also ran on the front page; one is about a new secret weapon rumored to have been developed by the U.S. military and the second regarding a medical breakthrough that would be quite at home in the annals of mad science.

Please excuse the image quality. I had planned to find better shots online, but the Post’s archives are behind a paywall.

WashPost1

The first story is about a death ray that can hurl lighting to, “Make Enemy’s Guns Useless, Slay Men, and Cripple Ships.” The story comes from an anonymous source within a European government, and is used as an explanation for why the U.S. military seemed to have very little interest in the success of the Wright Flyer. The suggestion is that aircraft would be insignificant against an army capable of swatting them out of the sky with lightning bolts.

The second story is unrelated to flight, but no less intriguing:

WashPost2

The topic is a medical procedure being explored in Paris, by which a surgeon could sever a nerve in the brain. Doctor Bonnier believed that removal of this nerve, “relieved greatly persons suffering from melancholia and timidity.” Speculation was that the procedure had, “the possibility of turning a coward into a hero by a surgical operation,” a concept that was of interest in 1909, when everyone knew that another major European war would happen sooner or later.

I couldn’t locate more information on Dr. Bonnier, though I did find reference to the article in a professional journal of Phrenology. However it’s worth noting that the article uses the past tense regarding the doctor’s procedure.

He’d already performed the operation. More than once.

To sum up; we have the front page of a world-renowned newspaper running articles about aircraft, death rays, and medically created supermen.

Happy gaming!

 
 

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The Doctor and Krynn

A post on the excellent “Old School FRP” Tumblr gave me a cool bit of information; Keith Parkinson snuck the TARDIS into several of his Dragonlance pictures.

For fandom, this is better than “Where is Waldo”! Of course, now I’ll never be able to look at one of Parkinson’s images without scanning it for signs of the Doctor.

Hmmm… if Raistalin and The Master teamed up…

You can find the post right here.

 

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2016 in Cool Stuff, Fantasy

 

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Fat Dragon Games – Sale

Fat Dragon Games has kicked off their GM’s Day Sale early!

I do not use a lot of terrain in my games. We usually play without miniatures or I use my trusty old Battlemat. However, when I have used terrain it’s been from Fat Dragon. These people use the full potential of .PDF files for papercrafting.

The artwork is great, the designs are excellent, the instructions are clear, and they use layers to let you increase the visual variety. I’ve built a few of their sets and when I wanted to create a city for my Car Wars game, picking Fat Dragon’s products was a no-brainer.

Until March 1st their entire catalog is 50% off, so if you’re looking to get some quality papercraft terrain for your games, this is a good time to make the jump and give Fat Dragon a try.

CarWars1

 
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Posted by on February 29, 2016 in Cool Stuff, Gaming

 

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The Fleet is In

My new space armada has arrived!

I picked up a set of plastic space ship miniatures on a recent Amazon order. I’ve been looking for a decent and cheap source for ships to use in various games and this pack looked like just the ticket. You can find them here.

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These plastic ships come in a pack of 144 for under $7.00 and use a variety of molds. Their quality is fine, they won’t blow you away but they are not bad at all, and the quantity you get for the price is impressive.

Some of the molds look familiar to me, while others I’ve never seen. And then there is this one, that hit my nostalgia buttons very hard:

SShips2

Way back in the early 80’s I was a brand new gamer. I had just gotten my first copy of TSR’s Star Frontiers and falling in love with sci-fi gaming. I was getting into miniatures and had a few boxes of fantasy figures, but was having trouble finding sci-fi sets.

Then one day I was in the toy section of a department store and there on the shelf was a set of Traveller 15mm lead figures. The set had various space adventurers and this air car, complete with a removable figure. I snatched it up. (Lead gaming figures in a department store toy aisle, rare in the 80’s but impossible to imagine today).

I never found any more figures for Traveller, nor for that matter did I find the game itself. The only store in town with gaming stuff didn’t carry it and I did not yet really get ordering by mail, but I played with those figures for years.

I’m pleased with my purchase and finding this blast from the past is icing on the cake. I don’t have any specific plans for them, but sooner or later I’ll unleash them on my tabletop.

SShips1

 
 

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Divas, Dames, & Daredevils

A fun book hit my reading table recently, courtesy of my local public library, Divas, Dames, & Daredevils: Lost Heroines of Golden Age Comics. Written by Mike Madrid, the book is a collection of stories about heroines from the dawn of comics and includes a good deal of history about the characters and the industry.

Divas focuses in on books from the 30’s and 40’s, in a time when comics were still raw and their pulp foundations were still strong. It was a time before the Comics Code Authority sapped the life out of the books, blunting their edge and taming their characters. The heroines of these stories are hard fighting, tough characters, of a kind we don’t expect to see before the 70’s and 80’s.

“In these very early days of comic books, there weren’t as many established rules about how women characters should or shouldn’t act. As a result, many of these Golden Age heroines feel bold and modern as we read them today.”

Divas, Dames, & Daredevils – pg. 15

And bold they are.

I’ve been a comic book fan for most of my life. The pulp and super hero genres are favorites of my gaming group and one of the things we love to do is find obscure characters and introduce them into our games. This book presents us with a collection of adventurers and super heroes that covers quite a spectrum of styles.

“Modern day comic book readers might be surprised at the broad spectrum of heroines in Golden Age comics – daring masked vigilantes, queens of lost civilizations and intergalactic warriors, crafty reporters and master spies, witches and jungle princesses, goddesses and regular gals.”

Divas, Dames, & Daredevils – pg. 15

Madrid breaks the book up into sections based on different heroic styles, such as Women at War about heroines fighting in WWII, Mystery Women in the same style as The Shadow and The Spider, and Warriors & Queens whose adventures rival the likes of Flash Gordon. Each section includes a bit of history, and introduction to the featured characters, and a reprint of several adventures.

Because these characters come from anthology comics, their stories are short and tight. This does come at the cost of depth and the stories are simplistic compared to comics today, but this will be nothing new to readers familiar with golden age comics.

There are several characters who stood out in particular for me. One is Madame Strange, a vengeful woman of mystery who exterminates Axis spies without mercy. Among the Mystery Women, Mother Hubbard caught my attention for being a classic old witch complete with broomstick and potions, but who wields her black magic against crime. My favorite of the Daring Dames is Calamity Jane, a hard boiled noir detective who has more in common with Phillip Marlowe than the femme fatales he deals with.

Then there is Wildfire, a heroine with a magical power over flames. Wildfire stands out in this collection, as she is a character who would be at home in the Justice Society. Wildfire enjoys being a heroine and wields her abilities with wit and humor, showing the same “daring do” as Jay Garrick’s Flash or Johnny Storm’s Human Torch.

Another intriguing character is The Sorceress of Zoom, who possesses vast magical powers and travels the world via a city on a cloud. The Sorceress is interesting because she is not a hero, not intentionally. She is motivated by a selfish desire to expand her power and she is willing to kidnap and threaten innocent people to achieve her goals, but she does follow a personal code of honor. The Sorceress collects power for its own sake, but she comes into conflict with those who would use it for base villainy. In the end she defeats these petty mortals, rewards those who have served her well, and moves on to seek her next adventure.

It’s a delight to see these characters, heroines who have an edge and allowed to take the lead, and there is a sense of discovery as you read about these characters who have been lost to time. Madrid has a passion for these characters and it comes through in his writing. If you’re interested in the history of comic books, the role of women in early comics, or just want to read some fun adventures, I recommend getting your hands on Divas, Dames, & Daredevils.

DD&D

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2016 in Books and Comics, History, Pulps, Reviews

 

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Strange, unearthly island, jutting out like a stone blade from the South Pacific?

Check.

Giant insects thought to be long extinct?

Check.

Courageous scientists risking life and limb to discover their secrets and reintroduce them to the populated world?

Check.

I think we all know how this is going to turn out.

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By all means, check out this story from NPR about how the “tree lobster”, long thought extinct, was found to be thriving in the most unlikely of places. The science nerd in me loves the story, and the gamer geek in me sees many possibilities.

Currently I’m leaning towards the rats of Lord Howe Island catching wind of the plan to reintroduce their vanquished foes, leading to their attempts to sabotage the human scientists’ plans. Even if they have to risk revealing their uplifted intelligence to do it.

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Posted by on January 18, 2016 in Cool Stuff, Weirdness

 

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My New Favorite GIF

I spent so many quarters on this game.

I regret nothing!

Man, the best was when you’d find a full sit-down cabinet. That was the stuff.

StarWarsArcade.gif

 
 

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Save us, Space Bear!

This is another one of those wonderful, “What the heck is going on,” sci-fi images. It’s made even better because the look on Space Bear’s face is just as amazed and confused.

We’ve got aborigines, we’ve got what may be a post-apocalyptic ruin in the background, and we’ve got aliens. Why are the flying saucers shooting at the one on the ground? Did Space Bear escape some fiendish alien base by stealing it? Is Space Bear a mutant? An uplift?

This looks like a job for Mutant Futures! Or perhaps Justifiers? It could be a Beta.

Space Bear

Image found on the Infinite Machine Tumblr

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2016 in Cool Stuff, Weirdness

 

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He-Man! The Complete Mini-Comic Collection

Greetings Programs!

Lately, thanks to my glorious local library system, I’ve read a couple comic collections that are off the beaten path.

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: Mini-comic Collection

As a true child of the 80’s, I remember well the He-Man toys and cartoon show. I wasn’t a big fan of the toy line. I liked them well enough, but I was just a little too old for them when they hit big. However, being a cartoon junkie, I did watch the cartoon. One of the unique things about the He-Man line is that they packaged mini-comics in with many of their toys, and with many years and MANY toys produced, that added up to a lot of comics. Dark Horse has managed to collect them into one mighty hardbound tome, and let me tell you I think this thing can stop a bullet.

This was a fun trip down memory lane, and it was interesting to read interviews with several of the creators who went on to be giants in the industry, including Bruce Timm who brought us the monumental Batman: The Animated Series. It’s also fun to see the evolution of the He-Man mythos. The toys and comics pre-date the Filmation cartoon series, and the early comics present a different, more primal saga that has more in common with Conan and John Carter than what we are familiar with, and it is these tales that I found to be the most fun. They have a certain raw quality to them that appeals to me, and they make a good attempt to keep a solid continuity, even when some aspects of the stories end up feeling awkward as things progress.

Eternia is a changed world, where there was once a series of great wars. The details are not given, but the implication is given that the present world of swords and sorcery is built on the graves of an ancient civilization of great technology, and this is just the beginning of the differences between this world and that we came to know in the cartoon series. There is no lazy Prince Adam and cowardly Cringer acting as secret identities for He-Man and Battlecat. Instead, He-Man is a warrior from a primitive tribe who goes out into the world to seek adventure. He-Man’s powers come not from a magical infusion from Castle Greyskull, but from the armor harnesses he wears; one gives him tremendous strength and the other an impenetrable force field, but he can only wear one at a time. The secrets of Castle Greyskull are no more defined here than in the cartoons, but there is an implication that the castle holds technology saved from the destruction of the ancient civilizations of Eternia. The castle itself is home to a spirit who speaks to the heroes occasionally, but only rarely allows anyone within its walls and only in times of great need. Even the Sorceress, who is Greyskull’s guardian but does not reside within the castle. This setup for Greyskull works better for me than the one in the cartoon, where the heroes have ready access to the castle, and the hints of what powers are within is more evocative than the completely undefined secrets in the cartoon.

As an aside, the whole Clark Kent/Don Diego disguise of Prince Adam never worked for me. The excuse of wanting to protect your family is foolish when your parents are the king and queen, already the sworn enemies of Skeletor. It is not possible to put their lives in greater danger than they already are. If anything, the requirements of maintaining such a ruse puts them in greater danger than revealing your identity.

But I digress.

As the book progresses the stories do get rather tedious, and I did skim quite a few. The sheer volume of work combined with the increasing focus on the appropriate toy over characters or world building causes many stories to lose their luster. There are still fun tales to be found in the later comics, but they get lost in the mass of increasingly childish stories.

Still, the book retails for $30, a bargain if you’re an old fan. For me it was fun to read, but not something I’ll be adding to my bookshelf. However if you do have it in your local library, I recommend checking it out.

skeletor

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2015 in Cool Stuff, Pulps, Reviews

 

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