The first post-pandemic Idle Time comic book trivia night turned out to be our most successful yet, with an impressive seven teams and 25 participants. Congratulations to Charles, Henry, and Dan of Team G.O.A.T. for taking home first place. That marked Dan’s third first-place finish, tying him with Ben (whose Mystique & Destiny’s Child finished in second by a mere point) for most gold medals.
Now for a chance to test your knowledge. Here’s the quiz in its entirety. Do it without Google, true believer!
Question #1 – Easy Opener The subject of this Best Picture-nominated biopic modeled his stage cape on that of one of his comic book heroes, Captain Marvel, Jr.
Question #2 – How Hard Can It Be? These four followed up successful music careers with forays into comic book writing. Match the writer to his former band.
A. Taboo B. Gerard Way C. Max Bemis D. Claudio Sanchez
1. Coheed and Cambria 2. Black Eyed Peas 3. Say Anything 4. My Chemical Romance
Question #3 – Secret Identities What is the not-so-secret superheroic alter ego of attorney Jennifer Walters?
Question #4 – Geography Xhosa, the language spoken by Wakandans in the Black Panther films, is one of the official languages of which African nation?
Question #5 – First Appearances In which comic book series does Wonder Woman make her first appearance? (First appearance or first cover appearance accepted.)
Question #6 – Fashion Buster Brown, created by comic strip pioneer Richard Outcault in 1902, gave his name to this type of apparel, still manufactured up until the 1970’s.
‘You have little hope of being found innocent if you plead not guilty, as you were involved in the riot. Rather, we will make a “no contest” plea, admitting neither guilt, nor claiming total innocence, though we will hotly deny killing Fosten.’ Osannagrins at this. ‘Generally heavy fees and hard labour in the Grey Mountains would be the minimum sentence with such a plea, but I have some sway with the court, and I know they have beenrequested to support the Watch in these trying times, as it is severely depleted…’ – WFRP Starter Set, The Adventure Book, p. 15
Continuing recaps of our long drawn-out Enemy Within campaign. Game summaries and narrative interludes in black text; behind-the-GM-screen commentary and context in the green boxes.
Our adventurers’ third full day in the fortress city of Ubersreik is highlighted by a trial, an unusual sentence, and drunken shenanigans on Wizard’s Way.
Last out of their jail cell in the morning, the quartet is hauled before a judge and indicted for starting a riot, general violence, and two counts of murder (the knife-wielding thug threatening the young girl and Fosten the Fiery).
Surprisingly, prominent lawyer Osanna Winandus has been hired to represent the party. Apparently, the young girl who was saved by the party’s timely, albeit bloody, involvement at the Marktplatz is the daughter of an important merchant family in town, the Karstadt-Stampfs. Osanna advises them to plead no contest and, after being questioned individually by the judge, they do just that.
A great GM trick for new campaigns, especially with new players (or players with limited experience with rpg’s) is to force a bit of monologue. “Introduce yourselves to one another” or “tell me again how you all know each other” is the simple default way of getting your players talking, but it’s a bit more fun, and more natural in a way, if the game’s narrative prompts a different opportunity.
Here, each of the characters was put on the spot to explain to the court who he was, where he was from, and what business — other than starting a violent riot — he had in Ubersreik.
“Karl Hungus. Care to explain how an erstwhile merchant such as yourself came to develop such an adroit use of the dagger..?
“Kristoff Krowe. You’re a long way from Altdorf. And an even longer distance from the sea. Explain to the court, if you could, how your career path led you to violence in the streets of Ubersreik?
“Beaufort Phett. I don’t suppose you’d care to explain how your business in Ubersreik was served by destroying our Marktplatz?
“And… Godabert Tougan, is it? Bit of an odd name, yeah? Of course, you seem to be a bit of an odd fellow… where are you from again?”
Godabert was the one I really wanted to put on the spot. This player had come up with the most intricate and interesting background, which included a fake name that he had given himself to avoid trouble in his hometown, a little village just outside Stimmigen.
The party is sentenced to a maximum of three years working for the watch. Given the current political turmoil in Ubersreik, and the rising animosity against the “occupying” Altdorfers, the town watch needs all the help it can get.
From the courthouse, the party is led back to The Precinct to meet first with Watch Captain Andrea Pfeiffer and then with their commanding officer, Sergeant Rudi Klumpenklug. They are given light leather armor (stinky) and told to meet Rudi later that evening at The Raspy Raven to discuss their duties, which begin on the morrow.
On the way back to The Red Moon Inn, Godabert takes advantage of his new constabulary status and buys some arrows at Reiniger’s Outfitters. They stop at the Bridge House to post a letter to Jekel care of the Sprinthof coaching inn: “Following leads on Heske Glazer and the Karstadts. Send money.”
The striking fortress-town of Ubersreik is situated between the gloomy Grey Mountains and the depths of the Reikwald Forest. The town guards the Grey Lady Pass through to Bretonnia, and is one of the busiest trading centres of the Empire. A mighty, Dwarf-built bridge that spans the red waters of the River Teufel stands at its centre. This impressive crossing connects important trade roads from across the Empire and beyond. – WFRP 4th ed. Starter Set, The Adventure Book
Continuing recaps of our long drawn-out Enemy Within campaign. Game summaries and narrative interludes in black text; behind-the-GM-screen commentary and context in the green boxes.
Our budding adventurers, each responding to a similar invitation by the mysterious stranger, gather at the Sprinthof Coaching Inn, just outside Auerswald. The stranger, who now identifies himself as Jekel Schroeder, is in the company of a massive Kislevite missing his left ear and a stout, armored dwarf.
Godabert is the last of the four adventurers to arrive, a wisp of a young man dressed in meager attire but somehow in possession of a bulging money purse. God emphasizes his fashionably late arrival with a stool flourish that takes a tragic turn. He tumbles to the ground and spills a bag full of rocks all over the table and onto the tavern floor.
Prior to this first in-person setting, Godabert informed me that he was going to lurk about until all parties had arrived, and he was going to fill up his money purse with stones, so as to always have a supply of improvised ballistic projectiles.
I can’t remember exactly what this initial skill test was… or why I called for it… I just know that this represented our group’s first exposure to the fumble mechanic. Godabert’s first impression was hilarious on many levels, and opened our gaming in what I kept emphasizing as a “grim and perilous world” in perfect fashion.
Jekel explains that he chose each of the adventurers for a specific reason, assembling a party of mercenary investigators uniquely suited to the mission at hand.
The group is being hired to travel to Ubersreik, and locate Lena Bauer, an apprentice Bright Order wizard and member of minor noble family in Altdorf.
Inns and taverns are a distraction from the misery of existence for many citizens of the Empire, and an entertaining diversion for many more. They can often be places where political agitators do their work to whip up sentiment against the authorities, or where witch hunters prowl for rumours of the unnatural. Con artists and robbers also ply their trade amongst the inebriated unwary, although there is also some honest respite to be had, and the scribe is right about the pickled trotter. – WFRP, 4th edition Core Rulebook
Today marks the two-year anniversary of what very well could be, if Sigmar allows, the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay campaign that I play for the rest of my life.
As mentioned in previous posts, I got back into the ttrpg hobby after decades on ice, and, after an ill-fated trio of 3rd-edition WFRP sessions, news broke of Cubicle 7’s fourth edition. Plans were hatched, long-lost first-edition tomes were reacquired on eBay, and I promised my fledgling gang of adventurers that, even if this new publisher didn’t release an adaptation, I was going to run them through the greatest rpg campaign ever written.
The Enemy Within.
We’re still going, with our 22nd session scheduled for tomorrow night, and the gang has almost arrived in Bögenhafen. The lengthy delay will make more sense as I recap two years’ worth of introductory scenarios, side-quests, and an unnecessarily complicated master timeline (that I have since become wise enough to rein in). Game summaries and narrative interludes in black text; behind-the-GM-screen commentary and context in the green boxes.
Let’s start with those session zero character-creation meetings, and the narrative hooks that were crafted alongside my players.
As of December 2016, I hadn’t maintained or updated my Amazon wishlist in… I don’t know… years? But my folks, who have ever endeavored to surprise me with Christmas gifts that they knew (or assumed) I wanted, and had newly discovered the ease of shopping online, found Fantasy Flight’s box set for the third edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay deep within a list of graphic novels I had already since purchased (or forgotten about) and now out-of-print vinyl.
So my Christmas present that year was indeed a surprise.
Don’t get me wrong — I was excited to receive it. It was just that, the last time I had played WFRP was probably the summer of 1991 and, except for a brief attempt at Trinity in the early 00’s, that was the last time I had played a tabletop rpg of any kind.
My love affair with gaming during those intervening decades was as tumultuous as my human romantic relationships, and no less complicated. That’s a blog post for another time. Suffice to say while I satisfied a passion for games with a host of different collectible card games and an ever-increasing library of boardgames, I had neither the time nor the support to dive back in to ttrpg’s.
That all changed when I moved back home to San Francisco in 2012. I had reunited with a group of friends and family that loved late nights at a dining room table covered with dice, tokens, and map tiles almost as much as me. Around this same time, my brother, who had never himself played a ttrpg, but had been listening to a number of newly popular gaming podcasts, expressed a desire to start a D&D campaign. My Dungeons & Dragons experience was buried even further back in the past (last time had been… ’87?), but I do know something about this Warhammer universe and it just so happens that we’ve got this massive box of third edition WFRP goodies to explore.
I will not start at the beginning. I can’t possibly, or I’d never start writing these blogs. And I promised my pal, SolomonLox, that we’d channel some pent-up musings, reflections, or, in his case, recipes, that have been on our mind since the first incendiary sparks of a fiery 2020 rose up in mid-March, into new posts.
If I did try to start at the beginning, tracing my rejuvenated obsession with gaming and tabletop RPG’s in particular, I might never get around to reflecting on my current state of mind, my pandemic reading list, or recent Roll20 exploits. Plus, that would require too much organization on my part (so as to not upset the chronology). Another pal, HolyBeeOfEphesus, employs a workhorse mentality to his note-taking, sequencing, and thoughtful composition of blogs, evidenced most notably in his Used To Be My Playground series.I’ve seen the preparatory legal pads, ladies and gentlemen, and that guy works. Me, I’m just going to start rambling.
Let me instead start with a recent fantasy read and its connection to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. WFRP (“whuff-rupp”) for short. To borrow terminology from my favorite podcast, The Grognard Files, WFRP wasn’t my first RPG, nor was it my last, but it certainly is my everything. Future installments of this blog series will delve deeper into my adolescent explorations of TSR’s classic games and then draw a line from the Talisman boardgame through Games Workshop and into that first edition WFRP tome that I so cherished as a teenager. It may even feature game recaps from my currently underway 4th edition Enemy Within campaign.*
*It will most certainly feature those game recaps because I’m already in the habit of writing them for my players and, something else I’ve learned from The Holy Bee is that no amount of writing should go to waste. Why publish those solely for the benefit of my four friends when I could perhaps double that number by posting publicly?
You know what? Absolute Carnage #1 by Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman is, actually, really pretty good. Why the qualifiers? Because I’ve never been a big fan of the character, and what little interest I did have in Spider-Man’s stable of symbiotic super-villains dropped off considerably as the ultra-violent aesthetic swallowed up the 80’s anti-hero boom and suddenly, painfully, took precedence over any kind of decent comic book storytelling or artistry. Subconsciously I think I’ve somehow equated the Punisher/Deadpool/Venom-Carnage fanbase with the same people who can’t stand seeing a Black Captain America or a Jane Foster swinging Mjolnir. I don’t have time to waste on that nonsense. So, coupled with my disinterest in the characters, I also assume any new books featuring those guys would therefore target that audience. Pass.
Despite developing an appreciation for the work of Donny Cates, if it hadn’t been for our “Fresh Start” focus group project, I probably wouldn’t have bothered reading the first issue of the new Venom series (see above). And then I would have missed out on arguably the hottest team in comics right now. Ryan Stegman’s work is a revelation, and the storyline involving new, unexpected layers to the symbiote lore has been everything you want from comic book fantasy. Primordial cosmic chaos, terrifying cultish machinations, and millennia-spanning mystery. And, again, totally unexpected (particularly given how terrible the most recent attempt at de-mystifying the symbiotes had been during Bendis’s Guardians of the Galaxy run).
To cut to the chase: Absolute Carnage #1 is a fantastic horror comic. Coupled with Ewing and Bennett’s Immortal Hulk, these are the kind of books that, I’d argue, we’ve never seen dressed up in cape n’ tights veneer and haven’t been worth a damn since the EC heyday.
I’m not lazy by any means. I’m swamped. “Idle time” isn’t what it once was and finding shit to write about every week has its challenges. That said, my experimental effort at a blog entry title that, much like a spontaneous tweet accompanied by an image or two, can communicate everything I need should, also, force me to blather on introspectively in the most blog-like of fashions. Which is what I just did.
But maybe I should expand a bit while we’re here? Last week’s House of X was everything the Marvel hype machine made it out to be: big, beautiful, and portentous of exciting things for our long-maligned mutant friends. Ever since news broke that he was returning to Marvel, I have felt strongly that the company really needed Jonathan Hickman. Reading the first two issues of these interconnected titles, and I’m reminded how much the X-Men in particular needed him.
X-Men continuity is some nonsense.
There are no rules here. There is no order. Just random unconnected gibberish.
I just wrote 5000 words on when someone can, and cannot, utter the phrase “Omega Level”
This is a job I have in the United States of America.
The first issue of Powers of X (read as Powers of Ten) works in tandem with House of X by painting a broader picture of mutant history and legacy. The “tens” in question are a “zero” year, ten years ahead (the present continuity), one hundred years into the future and, of course, one thousand years into the future.
For some time now I’d been trying to transition from straightforward weekly new release bulletins to something a little more bloggy (read: pathetically self-indulgent), but related to comics all the same. That War of the Realms rundown really burned me out. Not just with writing brief four-color reviews either — I was worried that I needed a real break from superhero books. I’ve been reading and collecting comics pretty much nonstop for over thirty years and, for whatever reason, these last few months had seen my unread stacks pile up to unprecedented heights (save for the stupid WotR tie-ins, given my stubborn insistence that I read every damn page in order and on time) and my enthusiasm for reading the latest installments of some of my favorite capes n’ tights books had stalled considerably.
Then Comic Con happened.
It was another joyful blitz of pop culture enthusiasm, this time accompanied by more friends and family than any prior year. It was particularly fun to finally be able to share this experience with my kids, knowing full well that they’d find something to gravitate towards and get excited about. JDG spent a lot of time nerding out in gamer panels and demo-ing upcoming releases, and LDG drank a lot of margaritas and joined SS for a marathon of high-profile animation spectaculars.
We had our share of celebrity run-ins too. Aisha Tyler served us beer; RF and Chip Zdarsky are basically dating now; MMJ spent the weekend thinking she posed with Mark Hamill (before the Fluke Skywalker news broke). Speaking of my dear MMJ, without whom I don’t know that I would have ever been talked into this craziness in the first place, all she talked about for days leading up to Con was all that Peanuts swag. And we nailed it. She got it ALL. And, thanks to Preview Night, we got into that Star Trek transporter experience without spending half a day in line.
And I did all the fantastic things that I love about Con. I sat through all four hours of the Eisners (dominating the pool; it’s like the other four people I was with weren’t even trying) and several more hours of scholarly Comics Art Conference discussions. I met Tom King & Mitch Gerads. Bill Sienkiewicz and I reminisced on a mid-80’s convention in San Francisco (he held up the signature line that I accidentally cut by regaling me with stories of a drunken James Doohan and foul-mouthed Mel Blanc). I got books signed by Seth and Gilbert Hernandez. Two new commissions for our coffee gallery came home courtesy of Andrew MacLean and Nooligan. And I roamed the exhibit floor for days buying so. much. stuff.
Once again, I’m foregoing the weekly new release column to focus on a different kind of release: the 2019 San Diego Comic Con variant. With the convention officially kicking off tomorrow, here’s a list of five special releases that are on my radar. These aren’t necessarily the most rare exclusives or even overly valuable variants. These just happen to be five that have piqued my interest.
Avengers #21 – Mondo Variant (Marvel)
I’m running out of wall space, which is why I’m probably going to pass on Rich Kelly’s “Golden Age of Marvel Comics” print from Mondo. Luckily, however, Marvel has taken that fantastic design and used it as a variant cover for the latest issue of Avengers. This particular issue of Aaron and McGuinness’s series has some War of the Realms fallout and features the latest iteration of Phil Coulson’s Squadron Supreme.
Blade Runner 2019 #1 – Artgerm Exclusive Virgin Variant (Titan Entertainment)
Stanley “Artgerm” Lau pretty much does one thing, and he does it really well. His half-body digital paintings are regularly featured as variants for the big two publishers, but I’m excited to see this cover exclusive being offered for Titan’s new Blade Runner series. The book is co-scripted by Mike Johnson, who has done a nice job on another licensed sci-fi property, IDW’s Star Trek, and, along with Michael Green, he’ll be telling new stories in neo-noir Los Angeles.