Monday, January 28, 2013

Free: Isaac Asimov’s Epic Foundation Trilogy Dramatized in Classic Audio

I first read, and loved, this series when I was younger.

Here is the article from OpenCulture;

 _____________________________ start article repost_____________________________

Between 1951 and 1953, Isaac Asimov published three books that formed the now legendary Foundation Trilogy. Many considered it a masterwork in science fiction, and that view became official doctrine in 1966 when the trilogy received a special Hugo Award for Best All-Time Series, notably beating out Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. (Don’t miss the vintage Tolkien documentary we featured yesterday.)
Eventually, the BBC decided to adapt Asimov’s trilogy to the radio, dramatizing the series in eight one-hour episodes that aired between May and June 1973. Years later, you can buy the radio drama on iTunes for $9.99. But we’re going to suggest that you pocket that hard-earned money and download the radio drama for free from the Internet Archive.
Click the links below to stream the individual episodes. Or download the full program as a zip file (which otherwise appears in our collection of Free Audio Books). The Internet Archive gives you more download options here.
Part 1 |MP3| Part 2 |MP3| Part 3 |MP3| Part 4 |MP3| Part 5 |MP3| Part 6 |MP3| Part 7 |MP3| Part 8 |MP3|

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex to Stream Free on Youtube

In order to celebrate the production of Ghost in the Shell: ARISE. There will be a free streaming of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex between the 1st February to 20th February. On the 12th of February the official YouTube channel will have live streaming of the project launch event of the new Ghost in the Shell series. The live streaming will start at 10pm, Japan time.
You could check out their YouTube channel here

Thursday, January 24, 2013

B1 In Search of the Unknown Retrospective

B1 certainly brings on the nostalgia, for me anyway. This was the module that came with my D&D Basic Boxed set. Unfortunately that was lost about three moving trucks ago. That's too bad because this was my first attempt at DMing, and I remember being totally unprepared and pretty nervous. The group at the time contained several players more experienced with the game than I was [read they had read at least half of the rule book before playing] that just didn't want to DM. Thus began my first foray into the ranks of a DM. I don't recall the game all that well, except for the fact that we all had a pretty good time. The rest as they say is history.

For the folks that are just now reading B1 for the first time thanks to the free pdf from Wizards, take a look at the B1 page on the Zenopus Archives website for trivia and links to resources for use with it, such as the simplified map of the upper level made by Dragonsfoot members (for use if mapping drives you and your players crazy) and the excellent, not-to-be-missed B1 sourcebook assembled by paleologos.

Simplified map of the upper level of B1,
cartography by Mike (original drawing)
and Arzon (blue map) of Dragonsfoot.
The full-sized map can be found linked in this post.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

1ed AD&D Products now Available

1st edition and 2nd edition D&D products have started to reappear for sale on DrivethruRPG. Check it out through the links below. - Wizards of the Coast  » as well as

~~~ Edit - update on ~~~

There's going to be an ongoing rollout of classic products.

Here's the email I got from OneBookShelf earlier this morning:

"Customers who purchased D&D titles from us in the past will be able to download the newly updated D&D PDFs for free in the My Library section of the My Account page as they are re-released by WotC.
There are over 80 titles available today and more on the way each month."

It's good that WotC plans to do it the right way and is going to take care of the customers that got burned the first time around.

B1 In Search of the Unknown
is one of the freebies

Monday, January 21, 2013

Ten Anime Films You Should See Before You Die

Since I already re-posted the Top 10 Series I thought I might as well go ahead and repost the Top 10 Films  from  Tim Maughan over at TOR. Now, as already stated I am not as much of an animé aficionado as some, I once again mostly agreed with the list. Although this time I can at least say I saw almost all of these.

Once again just thought I might share this since they sound like they'd be worth watching if you hadn't gotten around to it yet like me.

___________________________start article by Tim Maughan____________________

One of the most surprising, and gratifying, things that has happened since I started my blog, Tim Maughan Books, a year or so ago is the positive feedback I’ve had for the anime reviews—especially from people I know are far from being massive fanboys like myself. It’s gratifying because its part of the reason I started writing them; to try and introduce the medium to people who had never really indulged in it all, at least not past perhaps watching Spirited Away with their kids. The problem is, once you’ve had your first taste, where do you go next? Type ‘anime’ into Google and the results are bewildering, and without a little bit of guidance and a quality filter finding something to watch can be a daunting task. There’s a lot of shit out there, plus a lot of stuff that isn’t really meant for you…unless you’re a ADHD stricken 12 year old emo-ninja-obsessed boy that refuses to eat anything except Pocky and instant Ramen. So, as requested, I present my list of 10 ‘mature’ anime films you really should see. They are in no particular order, the term ‘mature’ is kind of loose, seeing as at least two are really kids’ films, and this is purely personal opinion. If you disagree, see you in the comments section.
Akira (1988)
For many of us in the west, this is the one that started it all. Up until we first saw Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, our only exposure to Japanese animation had been kiddies’ Saturday morning shows like Speed Racer and Battle of the Planets, but I can still remember vividly sitting in a run-down arthouse cinema at the age of 17 with my jaw resting on the sticky floor as the opening scenes flashed in front of me. Two hours later I was a complete convert. Otomo heavily edited and re-wrote his own epic manga about rival motorbike gangs and genetically enhanced children to create this futuristic thriller, and it blew away critics and audiences in the west while breaking box office records back home in Japan. It also opened the floodgates for anime into the US and Europe, but unfortunately with a lot of what was opportunistically exported (distributors looking for visually similar/violent material instead of quality) simply not being up to the same standard many potential new fans were turned off as quickly as they’d been turned on. Essential viewing.
Ghost in the Shell (1995)
One of the most influential anime films of all time, Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell changed not only the look and feel of animated sci-fi but also had an impact on Hollywood; most notably in the distinct visual style of the Matrix movies. While some hardcore fans of Masamune Shirow’s original action-packed and often light hearted manga still complain about the adaption; Oshii’s decision to turn it into a dark, brooding, beautifully paced drama ensured it’s place as a science fiction classic. It is without doubt the definitive visual depiction of the cyberpunk movement, and the closest there is to date of a filmic version of William Gibson’s classic Sprawl Trilogy novels. Not just a huge worldwide hit, it also spawned a huge franchise including a sequel, a planned Hollywood remake, two 26 part TV series, various novels, toys and video games, as well as the recent controversial Ghost in the Shell 2.0 special edition.
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
I’ve talked at length elsewhere about how personally important My Neighbour Totoro is to me, so here I’ll try not to gush too much. There’s so many reasons as to why Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece is such an enduring and perfect film; the way he captures the energy and personalities of it’s two child protagonists, and his never ending attention to detail combined with a beautifully simple score and Kazuo Oga’s immaculate and breath-taking background paintings make it a joy to watch over and over again. A fact I’ve been re-assured of by friends with young children that insist on watching it on a near daily basis. And that’s probably Totoro’s strongest point—the fact that it is family film that appeals to both children and adults alike without pandering to either with slapstick or ‘knowing’ humor. If you haven’t seen it yet then you must—it is quite possibly the greatest animated film ever made.
Porco Rosso (1992)
I’ve already got one Miyazaki movie in this list, and it’s hard to limit it to just two. Picking a second one is even harder. My opinion changes on a near daily basis, or depending on the last one I happened to watch. But I’ll always have a soft spot for Porco Rosso; the tale of a WWI fighter ace turned bounty-hunter, cursed with the head of a pig and on the run for going AWOL from the Italian air force. In many ways it must have been one of Miyazaki’s most enjoyable projects to create, another fantastic family film that somehow manages to combine his obsession with aeronautic design and his personal politics. The elaborate, lived in aircraft designs remain one of my favourite cinematic images of all time, while we learn that the reason Rosso is fleeing the Italian authorities is his disdain for the fascism that’s steadily taking grip of Europe. Oh, and he also manages to take a gentle swipe at US bravado along the way. A perfect film.
Voices of a Distant Star (2002)
Perhaps Voices of a Distant Star doesn’t really belong here. For a start its only 25 minutes long, and was first released on DVD, technically making it an OVA—which I said at the top of this post wouldn’t be included here. Well, rules are made to be broken, plus it earns its place on this list for truly being a film you must see before you die. Astonishing enough that it was single-handedly written, directed and animated by the now legendary Makoto Shinkai on his Mac at home, it is also one of the most touching, beautiful and exhilarating examples of animation produced in recent history. The story of a long distant, text message relationship between a teenage mecha-pilot and her boyfriend back on earth, it combines gentle, slow-paced scenes with snatches of frantic sci-fi action, and has become the thematic and stylistic basis for Shinkai’s subsequent large-budget productions. It’s probably available for stupidly cheap on DVD now, so you really have no excuse for not picking this mini-masterpiece up.
Royal Space Force: The Wings Of Honneamise (1987)
The feature film debut of the then still young—but now legendary—studio Gainax, Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise is an unusual, compelling and skillfully crafted film. Both a coming of age story and detailed analysis of the role of the space race in the Cold War, RSF tells the story of an alternate reality Earth, where two rival superpowers are locked in a constant propaganda and military stalemate, while a small team of underfunded scientists, engineers and pilots attempt to launch the first man into space. While the film is beautifully animated with some fantastically detailed background art, it is also has substantial depth in terms of it’s philosophical themes and characterisation. As such it’s not one for the whole family, but an unmissable and enthralling watch for anyone with an interest in what animation can truly achieve.
Patlabor: The Movie 2 (1993)
The history of the Patlabor franchise is a long and complex one, but put simply under the guidance of Mamoru Oshii it developed (in a way similar to how he remolded Ghost in The Shell) from a light hearted but realistic police-mecha drama to a bleak, deeply political and philosophical thriller by the time he directed Patlabor: The Movie 2. While the first movie is just as enthralling, thoughtful and arguably more accessible, the sequel just steals the crown due to its uncompromising approach to its political themes and it’s breathless, stark cinematic beauty. It deals with Oshii’s recurring theme of the hypocrisy of peace in the developed world, and in particular is a devastating attack on the foreign policy of a pacifist Japan that profits from the fates of distant waring nations. Although over 15 years old now, it’s portrayal of terrorism consists of some disturbingly prophetic imagery. Possibly the closest anime has come to producing something to rival the large canvas, cinematic styles of the likes of Stanley Kubrick or Ridley Scott, it is an unmissable, if challenging, work.
Perfect Blue (1997)
The directorial debut of anime auteur Satoshi Kon, Perfect Blue’s story about a J-Pop idol turned actress being stalked by a obsessive fan was originally meant to be a live action drama, only scrapped due to the 1995 Kobe earthquake. At first it’s contemporary setting and often mundane situations are certainly reminiscent of a well-shot J-Horror movie, but in Kon’s skilled hands the script slowly changes into something that could only be depicted by animation. As a starting point for his re-occurring themes of disconnected realities and psychological fantasy it is subtler than his later works such as Paranoia Agent and Paprika, and as a result somehow creepier. Certainly it’s most famous scene—where we apparently see the central character being raped, only discovering she is just acting when the off camera director shouts ‘cut’—is one that permanently sticks in the mind, as does the film’s shocking, final revelation.
Memories (1995)
Produced by Katsuhiro Otomo, and based on some of his short manga stories, Memories is an anthology of three films. Although all science fiction they cover a wide range of styles, from the romantic, twisted reality of the Satoshi Kon scripted Magnetic Rose and the ludicrous bio-warfare black comedy Stink Bomb to the Orwellian, Brazil like dystopia of Cannon Fodder—the only one of the three directed by Otomo himself. It is arguably the most compelling of the three, with it’s Oshii-esque story of a war obsessed and controlled society and it’s unique, steampunkesque visuals. Despite the diverging themes and differing visual styles of the three chapters, there is an undeniably high standard of production throughout. It’s another film that can be easily and cheaply picked up on DVD at the moment, I can’t hesitate in recommending that you buy it on sight.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006)
Loosely based on a popular Japanese novel, Mamoru Hosoda’s The Girl Who Leapt Through Time tells the story of schoolgirl Makoto Konno, who discovers she has the ability to—literally—time leap; that is to jump back in time to change situations and remake important decisions. What starts as an enjoyable, funny and charming teenage drama slowly reveals itself to have a classic, well crafted science fiction story at it’s heart, offering another, stylish but gentle, take on the conundrums and paradoxes thrown up by the idea of time-travel. It’s partly in this list to represent the talent of more recent directors and studios, but mainly because it’s a warm, accessible, exciting and lovingly made film that will be held in high esteem for many, many years to come.
So what have I missed out? Where have I gone wrong? Well for a start I notice straight away that although there’s two Studio Ghibli films, there’s nothing by Isao TakahataNo Grave of the Fireflies or Only Yesterday—which can’t be right, surely? I guess it’s a good sign for anime’s heritage that compiling such a list and limiting it to just ten means so many great works are missing, but I’m sure some of you will be upset that I’ve left out your favourite personal masterpiece. If so, hit the comments below and let it all out.

________________________end article by Tim Maughan______________________

Sunday, January 20, 2013

10 Anime Series You Should See Before You Die

The following is a repost from  Tim Maughan over at TOR. Now, while I am not as much of an animé aficionado as some, I mostly agreed with the list. I say mostly because some of these I haven't seen yet so how could I disagree. Just thought I might share this since they sound like they'd be worth watching.

______________________________start article by Tim Maughan____________________

  Cowboy Bebop (1998) - 26 episodes
When it first hit Japan at the end of the 90s, Shinichiro Watanabe’s seminal Cowboy Bebop broke new ground for anime on TV. An overly stylistic take on the established space opera genre, it’s the story of a disparate bunch of planet-hopping bounty hunters struggling to make a living. It gave Watanabe a chance to shamelessly take influences from all of his favourite pop-culture sources—from Star Wars and cyberpunk literature to Hollywood westerns and Quentin Tarantino movies, all set to Yoko Kano’s eclectic, vibrant jazz infused soundtrack. The result was an international hit; one of the few shows of the period that found itself transmitted not only on U.S. TV but also across most of Europe, spawning a theatrical movie, various different DVD releases, merchandise, and giving shameless inspiration to Buffy creator Joss Whedon to pen his cult favorite Firefly.
It’s easy to criticize Watanabe’s direction as style over substance at first glance, but in reality it’s Keiko Nobumoto’s skillfully crafted scripts that are the reason for the show’s success. Throughout the 26 episodes Watanabe manages to do the impossible—combine outlandish plots and settings with believable, empathetic characters that the viewer feels a genuine, true attachment towards. For all the choreographed fight scenes, orbital dogfights and John Woo style shootouts, Bebop’s true heart lies in its dry humour, sexual energy and the gentle, masterful unfurling of its characters’ back stories. If I had to pick one episode of one anime to show a non-believer, it would be episode 17 of Cowboy Bebop “Speak Like a Child”; a perfect 25 minutes of script writing that starts with gentle comedy and ends in emotional heartbreak. Watanabe tried to recreate the vibe with his Chanbara-meets-hip-hop follow up Samurai Champloo, but the characters and plots were limited by the setting, and although Champloo is ingenious and riveting throughout, Cowboy Bebop still remains his masterpiece and one of the most exhilarating, watchable works of anime ever made.

Paranoia Agent (2004) - 13 episodes
The term “auteur” is often overused by critics—especially in anime circles—but if there’s one director that truly lived up to the title then it was arguably the late Satoshi Kon. After completing his masterpiece trio of experimental, reality-bending films—Perfect Blue, Tokyo Godfathers and Millennium Actress—Kon found himself with an abundance of new ideas and desiring a break from the long production cycle of high budget anime features. Turning to television the result was the Madhouse produced Paranoia Agent; a dark, deeply twisted story of two cops tracking a mysterious teenage hoodlum dubbed Li’l Slugger by the media. As the two detectives investigate the case, the lives of Slugger’s seemingly random assault victims become the series’ initial focus and soon there appear to be no truly innocent bystanders. But just as Kon leads the viewer down one apparent path he, of course, pulls his usual reality-shifting, mind-bending, plot-twisting trick with the show’s surprising climax. Paranoia Agent is an unusual, brave and at times challenging example of what anime can achieve, and perhaps what no other art form can. Even just a few years after its first broadcast it seems hard to believe that it was made for television—especially in today’s recession hit, conservative climate.

Gunslinger Girl (2003) - 13 episodes
It’s impossible to deny that the vast majority of anime and manga rely heavily on established genres, well-trodden clichés, recycled storylines and archetypal characters. Which is why it’s refreshing when a show like Gunslinger Girl comes along to challenge the accepted standards of the medium. Set in modern day Italy, it follows the activities of the Social Welfare Agency, a shadowy government group that uses abused, brain-washed young girls as trained assassins to eliminate political rivals, and focuses on the relationship between the girls and their older, male handlers. A story about over-cute, teenage girls turned cybernetic killers is nothing new, but writer Yu Aida (who also penned the original manga) turns it into a chilling, scathing deconstruction of anime’s moral values. Everything is questioned—the over sexualisation of young girls and their idolizing relationships with older men, the continued, accepted association of children with violence. The celebration and stylisation of that violence is challenged in the most brutal, disturbing, and heart-wrenching of manners. Gunslinger Girl holds a mirror up to anime and it’s moe obsessed otaku followers, asking them to look at what they find so titillating and exhilarating, as if the blood and consequences were real and in their hands. Its challenging plot and message is backed by strong production values and its gentle European ambiance, making it one of the most controversial anime productions of the last decades. It splits anime fans even now, with many refusing to see it as anything more than fan-pandering—interestingly (in my experience) a reaction seldom seen from viewers from outside anime fandom.

Neon Genesis Evangelion (1994) - 26 episodes plus various OVA releases and alternative versions
Few anime franchises have had the lasting impact on anime and wider Japanese pop culture that Gainax’s Neon Genesis Evangelion has had. The story of giant mecha battling strange, powerful creatures, it is yet another show that takes standard anime clichés—angst-ridden teenage pilots, over-the-top battle sequences, end-of-the-world scenarios—and uses them to try and tell a different, deeper story. Focusing largely on the lives of the children that are forced—at times against their will—to defend earth from this unknown, mysterious enemy, it moves from being a simple coming of age story to dealing with psychoanalysis, mental illness, and the essence of human nature.
Similarly, in amongst the teen drama and city-leveling action sequences, Hideaki Anno’s script plays with Christian and biblical symbolism to explore philosophical and spiritual concepts, as well as questioning the nature of reality itself. As such, it has become one of the most widely discussed and analyzed anime ever produced. As if the series wasn’t complex enough, an OVA—The End of Evangelion—was released that gave an alternate telling of the series’ climax. While its philosophical explorations have helped it to stick in Japan’s collective consciousness, its visual style also played a massive role in revitalising the medium, on mecha and character design in particular, spawning not only many imitators but also a current movie series retelling. It is still the original TV run that remains compelling and essential viewing.

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2002) - 26 episodes

Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell manga had already been a huge hit in Japan before Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 film version turned it into a global cult hit, so the idea of it also spawning a TV show must have been circulating at Production IG for years. It wasn’t until 2002 that it finally happened, and along with allowing the powerhouse studio another chance to mine the property, they also took it as an opportunity to appease disgruntled fans that felt Oshii had strayed too far from the source material. The series recaptures the more lighthearted, action-driven feel of Shirow’s manga, but still remains a dark, serious story of high-tech special forces tackling hackers, terrorists, corrupt government regimes, and rogue AIs. Each episode is densely packed with complex plots that can, at times, be tough to follow, but are backed up by another eclectic, brooding Yoko Kano-directed soundtrack and probably the best depiction of Shirow’s distinctive weapon and technology designs, including the now iconic Tachikoma mechs. Those that can’t commit to the entire 26 episode run can try the Laughing Man compilation film, that edits together key scenes to tell the series’ over-arching main plotline, but you risk missing out on some of the more interesting standalone episodes. And for those who get understandably sucked in, there’s always the second season—Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. 2nd Gig—which is as equally well crafted, complex, and even more politically challenging.

Future Boy Conan (1978) - 26 episodes
A good decade before they turned Studio Ghibli into the internationally renowned animation powerhouse it is now, Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata were making shows for TV, most notably amongst them Future Boy Conan. After global catastrophes have threatened mankind with extinction, a man and his 11-year-old grandson Conan, the only survivors of a group attempting to flee Earth, become stranded on a remote island after their spaceship crash lands. Believing themselves to possibly be the only remaining humans, their world is turned upside down when a young girl is washed up on the shore, pursued by mysterious military forces.
What’s fascinating about watching the show now is how distinctly the 30-year-old production feels like a more contemporary Ghibli classic. All the elements are there. Despite the obvious low budget and simple animation, the visuals exude the Ghibli magic, with the character and aircraft designs so clearly Miyazaki’s and pacing and background vista shots so blatantly the product of Takahata’s storyboarding. Even more importantly, it foretells the pair’s stunning gift for storytelling, with many of the themes of Ghibli’s output—environmental destruction, industrialisation, conflict and children facing up to their roles in the world—prototyped here. It’s a magical series that somehow manages to feel as much fresh as it does nostalgic, and one that should be shared with the whole family.

Planetes (2003) - 26 episodes
Sunrise’s Planetes manages to accomplish something that few sci-fi TV shows, animated or otherwise, have done: Convincingly combine slice-of-life soap opera, humour, a realistic scientific basis, and an analysis of global politics into accessible, polished entertainment. Set at a time when mankind is first venturing into living permanently in space, it shows you the high frontier from the bottom of the social ladder as it follows the lives of the crew of the Toy Box, an aging debris collection ship—basically the orbital equivalent of a road sweeper. Their mundane work gains more danger and significance as their orbital world is threatened by downtrodden third world terrorists. It’s here—and in it’s grim portrayal of the very real threat of cancer to those who spend too long in space—that the show questions the real importance of and celebrates human space exploration, accusing it of not only being politically and economically divisive and a waste of money and resources, but perhaps also biologically unnatural. It’s beautifully drawn throughout, with obvious visual nods to NASA, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 and classic sci-fi literature, but it’s Ichirō Ōkouchi’s always tight script and believably fleshed out characters that are the show’s winning assets. While frequently mature and serious, it is paced with well-handled comedy and subtle romance that makes it a joy to watch. It’s this skillful balance and its compelling plot that make Planetes not only perhaps my favourite anime series of all time, but one of the best examples of science fiction that television of any form has produced.

Serial Experiments Lain (1998) - 13 episodes
Set in “present day, present time” according to the show’s opening scrawl, psychological thriller Serial Experiments Lain focuses on Lain Iwakura, a teenage girl living in suburban Japan, and her introduction to the Wired, a global communications network similar to the internet. At a time when internet use was blossoming amongst young people and online subcultures were first cohering, Lain was the first anime series to truly try and capture the emotional and social attachments that are so easily formed to virtual worlds, and how reality can seemed blurred when you divide your time between them and the actual world.
But it didn’t end there—Lain went beyond looking at the psychology of internet culture to touch upon themes of philosophy, theology, mental illness, depression, and existentialism. Director Ryutaro Nakamura and writer Chiaki J. Konaka set out to create a show that would deliberately be open to different interpretations, and they certainly succeeded, with Lain being the most vigorously analysed and discussed anime since Neon Genesis Evangelion in both academic and fan circles. With so much going on thematically it’s easy to forget the series’ visual impact; the angst-ridden character design would influence not just anime but also Japanese and gothic fashion for years afterwards, and the slightly trippy, surrealistic background art questioned the constant quest for realism in animation at the time. A challenging work at times, but ultimately a rewarding one.

Denno Coil (2007) - 26 episodes
In many ways Mitsuo Iso’s Denno Coil covers similar thematic ground to Serial Experiments Lain, but from a refreshingly different perspective. Centered around a group of Japanese elementary school children, the show is at first glance apparently aimed at that age group, but with closer inspection that’s about as useful an assessment as dismissing My Neighbor Totoro or Spirited Away as just kids films—and the comparison between Denno Coil and some of Ghibli’s better crafted output is a wholly deserved and justifiable one. Set in 2026, it tells the story of young Yūko Okonogi, who moves with her family to the city of Daikoku, the technological centre of an emerging half-virtual world, created after the introduction of internet-connected augmented reality eyeglasses.
It isn’t merely the age of its protagonists that gives Denno Coil its fresh perspective compared to Lain, however, it’s also the decade between when the two were written—DC’s understanding of how networked technology has become so interwoven with our daily lives means that it often succeeds where Lain tried but failed. One of my strongest beliefs is that good science fiction always makes social commentary on the time in which it was written, and it is here that Denno Coil excels, presenting a world where children are more in touch with technology than their parents, are obsessed with video games and Pokemon style fads, and where peer pressure and owning the latest gadgets can become almost disturbingly important. Truly a classic series that exudes subtlety and elegance, and not to be missed.

Mononoke (2007) - 12 episodes
In 2006 Toei released their eleven episode series Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales, an anthology of three separate stories based on traditional Japanese myths, written and produced by three separate teams. The show was only a moderate success until the third and final story about a mysterious traveling medicine seller caught the fans’ imagination, largely due to its unique visual style, which mimics traditional Ukiyo-e art. A year later Toei expanded the character into his series, and the breathtaking Mononoke was born.
Given a larger budget and 13 episodes to work within, director Kenji Nakamura was able to push his vision to the limit. The result was one of the most stylish, visually compelling series to emerge from Japan in decades. His use of traditional colours animated over an exaggerated textured paper effect, sprinkled with frenetic action and psychedelic sequences, all held together by a masterful eye for framing and direction makes every single second of Mononoke a mesmerising joy to behold. But again, it’s not just a case of style over substance; Mononoke combines sinister plot lines and minimal, subtle sound effects to create a truly chilling, creepy horror story experience, and an anime series that genuinely feels like no other.
______________________________end article by Tim Maughan____________________

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Middle-Earth Inspired Fashion

I must say that I have mixed feelings upon viewing these. My first reaction was to chuckle, then I took a closer look, and I changed my mind. At least about the map inspired leggings and dress. I've always been a fan of maps.

See the full article here. In the meantime here are some of the visuals that caused the initial reaction.

Black Milk brings sexy back to Middle-Earth with new Hobbit and LotR dresses and leggingsBlack Milk brings sexy back to Middle-Earth with new Hobbit and LotR dresses and leggings

Black Milk brings sexy back to Middle-Earth with new Hobbit and LotR dresses and leggings

Black Milk brings sexy back to Middle-Earth with new Hobbit and LotR dresses and leggings
Black Milk brings sexy back to Middle-Earth with new Hobbit and LotR dresses and leggings
Black Milk brings sexy back to Middle-Earth with new Hobbit and LotR dresses and leggings
Black Milk brings sexy back to Middle-Earth with new Hobbit and LotR dresses and leggings
For the jokers out there, yes I did notice who was wearing these fashions and how they looked.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Official D&D PDFs (again)?

If you've been paying attention to G+, you might have noticed a series of incautious or well-placed (depending on how you look at it) leaks. It has come to light that WotC is very close to releasing PDFs of their back catalogue, starting with modules B1-B4. While a post earlier today (where it was demonstrated that WotC had a publisher's page on RPGNow/DriveThru but no products) seemed to confirm this, +Jeremy Deram confirmed this (after a fashion) by exposing the existence of (which was quickly taken down after Jeremy pointed it out).

Screenshot. The URL is no longer showing anything.  At the moment this just brings up a blank page.

For some people this might be good news since they probably don't have the full library of modules nor the inclination to chase them down on e-bay or Amazon.

[This post mostly came from here.]

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

S - Series Reprints

As with the A-series I assume most of you already know about this, but if not here's the full  WotC article.
Dungeons of Dread
Wizards RPG Team
Dungeons of Dread is a hardcover collection of four classic, stand-alone Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure modules -- S1: Tomb of Horrors, S2: White Plume Mountain, S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, and S4: The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth -- complete with original black-and-white interior art.
S1: Tomb of Horrors: In the far reaches of the world, under a lost and lonely hill, lies the sinister Tomb of Horrors. This labyrinthine crypt is filled with terrible traps, strange and ferocious monsters, rich and magical treasures, and somewhere within rest the evil Demi-Lich.
S2: White Plume Mountain: It has always been a subject of superstitious awe to the neighboring villagers. People still travel many miles to gaze upon this natural wonder, though few will approach it closely, as it is reputed to be the haunt of various demons and devils. The occasional disappearance of those who stray too close to the Plume reinforces this belief. Now, the former owners of Wave, Whelm and Blackrazor are outfitting a group of intrepid heroes to take up the challenge of recovering these magical weapons from White Plume Mountain.
S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks: From the preface by Gary Gygax: "This module was begun early in 1976 when TSR was contemplating publication of a science fantasy role playing game. Jim Ward had already shown us some rough notes on Metamorphosis Alpha I thought it would be a splendid idea to introduce Jim’s game at Origins II, and introduce the concept to D&DO players by means of the tournament scenario. I laid out the tournament from old “Greyhawk Castle” campaign material involving a spaceship, and Rob Kuntz helped me to populate the ruined vessel."
S4: The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth: In the Yatil Mountains south of Perrenland there is rumored to be a magical hoard of unsurpassed value, a treasure of such fame that scores of adventurers have perished in search of it. Find the perilous Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth and you may gain the hidden wealth of the long-dead arch-mage—if you live!
Item Details
Release Date: March 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Price: $39.95
ISBN: 978-0-7869-6461-1

A-Series Reprint

I assume most people know about this already, but if not here's the full  WotC article.
Against the Slave Lords  - A-Series
Against the Slave Lords is a hardcover collection of four classic Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure modules that form a series -- A1: Slave Pits of the Undercity, A2: Secret of the Slavers Stockade, A3: Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords, and A4: In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords -- complete with original black-and-white interior art.
Added to the collection is an all-new fifth adventure -- A0: Danger at Darkshelf Quarry -- that you can use to kick off an AD&D campaign that pits a group of adventurers against the evil Slave Lords! Module A0, designed for levels 1-3, sets the stage for events that unfold throughout the remainder of the "A" series.
A1: Slave Pits of the Undercity: It is time to put a stop to the marauders! For years the coastal towns have been burned and looted by the forces of evil. You and your fellow adventurers have been recruited to root out and destroy the source of these raids—as hundreds of good men and women have been taken by the slavers and have never been seen or heard from again!
A2: Secret of the Slavers Stockade: The battle against the slavers continues! You and your fellow adventurers have defeated the slavers of Highport, but you have learned of the existence of another slaver stronghold, and you have decided to continue the attack. But beware! Only the most fearless of adventurers could challenge the slavers on their own ground, and live to tell of it!
A3: Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords: Into the Drachengrab Mountains! Hot on the trail of the marauding slavers, you and your fellow adventurers plunge deep into hostile Hills. Spurred on by your past success, you now seek the heart of the slaver conspiracy. But hurry! You must move quickly before the slavers recover from your previous forays and attack!
A4: In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords: Trapped in the dungeons of the Slave Lords! The hardy adventurers must find a way out, with only their wits and courage to help them. But can they do it before everything is destroyed by the dreaded Earth Dragon?
Item Details
Release Date: June 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Price: $39.95
ISBN: 978-0-7869-6462-8

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

WotC A-Series Art Contest

This is something that caught my eye over at Wizards;

As you know, we'll be releasing a premium collection of the AD&D A-series adventures (Against the Slave Lords) but don’t want to go at it alone. We know D&D adventures are unique to the individuals playing them and can become that much more of a visceral play experience when they’re accompanied by compelling illustrations. That’s where you come in.
Using the AD&D A-series adventures (A1 – Slave Pits of the Undercity, A2 – Secret of the Slavers Stockade, A3 - Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords, A4 - In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords,) as your inspiration, we are asking you to:
  • Create an homage to an existing piece of art from the cover or interior of the original A-series adventures. Take the same content and give your own take on the image;

  • OR pick any character, villain, monster or place described in any of the A-series adventures and give your take on them.
Submissions will be judged by:
  • Adherence to these guidelines (50%)
  • Originality (25%)
  • Creativity (25%)

  • Sure, style is important, but creative, evocative expressions are also important to us, whether that means photorealistic artwork, old school line-art, or even clever cartoons.

  • Most importantly, have fun.
Contest begins on January 14, 2013 and closes at midnight on February 10, 2013.
All artwork must be created as a B&W image. You can use any medium or software, but the submitted image must be a jpg saved at the highest quality possible, at least 4” on its shortest side, and no larger than 17” on its longest side.
Judging will be done by our illusive panel of judges:
  • Jon Schindehette, Senior Creative Director
  • Chris Perkins, D&D Senior Producer
  • Mike Mearls, Senior Manager, D&D R&D
  • Chris Lindsay, Associate Brand Manager
  • And you!
Yep, you get a voice in this too. We’ll post the submissions, and the public votes will be combined with the votes of the other judges to choose the winners.
Winning entries will be published in Against the Slave Lords, releasing in June 2013.
We’re not just looking for art from professional artists. We’re looking for anything that meets the guidelines. No skills at drawing? That’s okay. Just make it original, creative and fun.

How to Enter

To enter the A-Series Art Contest, simply head over to our official Facebook page!
See official rules for more details.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Bags of Holding - visual reference

  As the saying goes a picture is worth ...

This image is from Ross' Roleplaying Resources blog where he created the above graphic to better illustrate the more common magical solutions to a party's encumbrance problems. Definitely puts it into a better perspective, for me anyway.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Star Wars Trilogy as Maps

Caught this from  Justin Page.

Aside from being a big Star Wars fan - original trilogy, these are just way cool maps of the films.
I thought I'd share them, also since I lose a lot of bookmarks every so often, this should hopefully remedy that.

Star Wars A New Hope Map by Andrew DeGraff
Philadelphia artist and teacher Andrew DeGraff illustrated a great series of maps that each represent a film from the original Star Wars trilogy: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. They were created for his upcoming gallery show with artist Bennett Slater opening on Saturday, January 5th at Gallery 1988 in Los Angeles.
Each character is represented as a colored line, and follows their progress through the entire film. The alternating colored lines represent characters traveling together who have a special bond, sometimes for only a short time. I’m also doing all three of the first Indiana Jones movies.
Star Wars Empire Strikes Back Map by Andrew DeGraff
Star Wars Return of the Jedi Map by Andrew DeGraff
images via  /Film, GeekTyrant, Nerd Approved

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Hex Mapping and Scale

 The Hydra's Grotto In Praise of the 6 Mile Hex caught my attention today.

Aside from this pretty graphic he made a very reasonable argument for its use. He's not the only one expounding on the merits of wilderness hexes. A while back Chgowiz was talking about wilderness hexes(sorry that link is now dead). As well as Bat in the Attic who's been playing with hexes too here and here(and Chgowiz got Stirgessuck thinking a bit).

I used to be a big fan of the 5 mile hex as published by Judges Guild. Since I'm using Darlene's Greyhawk map and  that scale is 10 leagues (or 30 miles) per hex. Up 'till now the 5 mile hex has worked out very well, but then again so does 6 mile hexes. Sooo, after reviewing all of that info I might just be revisiting the smaller blow up hexes that I've been using and see about rescaling them from 5 miles to 6 miles.