Wednesday, November 21, 2012
As most of you know, I’m a native and current resident of the great state of New Jersey. As such, I was among those affected by Hurricane Sandy, to the point where our residence was rendered unlivable. We’re all fine and now have a new place to live (thanks to my wife annoying the heck out of the real estate agent who was assigned to work with us), so there’s no reason to go into that.
What I would like to talk about, however, is the 3 weeks that we were without a home of our own. My wife, 4 year-old daughter and I (the dog was being boarded) descended upon the Philadelphia apartment of my good friend and Fraternity Brother, Kurt. For three weeks he not only put up with us invading his single life, but cooked us dinner and helped with the clean-up/recovery at our old place. There aren’t many people in this world that are anywhere near as generous or patient as Kurt, who treated us like family.
Many people accuse those that join fraternities as trying to buy friends, or the like. But when you have someone that offers you a place of stability in an extremely chaotic situation, you see just what kind of people you have joined up with. Kurt and I took an oath (at different times, mind you) to treat all members of Triangle as brothers. As a Heathen, I take oaths very seriously and I have to say, Kurt has upheld his in spades.
So I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank him and salute him for being a pillar of brotherhood and a man of unimpeachable character. Wassail, Kurt!
Thursday, September 27, 2012
I wanted to let all those out there in cyberspace that I will be selling off some, if not all, of my comic book collection over on e-bay in the coming weeks. The reasons for this are numerous, the most obvious being the money wouldn't hurt. ;) Actually, since I'm primarily reading comics on my tablet, having the physical copies taking up space doesn't do me much good. Also, many of the older comics I read are in trade paperback form, so individual issues just don't have a place for me right now. I'm more into the stories than the intrinsic value of the comics themselves, which means those of you that want some comics at bargain basement prices could be lucking out soon. More on the auctions when they happen.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
After five months at my new job, I think I’m settling in to the new routine, so I’m going to reactivate both The Hammer Strikes and Hold Your Hammer High. However, I will not be trying to keep to any kind of schedule like I was last time around. I’ll be posting things as they come to me, but I’ll still try to update THS on Thor’s Day and HYHH on Tyr’s Day (Thursday and Tuesday in modern parlance) when there’s is an article in the cue. Posts like this one, affecting both, will be posted on Wednesday (Woden’s Day in the old way of thinking). I’m working on something for each blog at the moment, so watch this space.
I would also like to thank those of you that kept checking in, even if it was just to use the links to other blogs for your reading list. Your loyalty is much appreciated.
Monday, April 23, 2012
Now that things are settling down (in a relative sense, of course) I can let you, dear readers, in on what has been going on in my life. As on this past Friday (April 20th) I no longer work at my old company. Don't get too upset, the reason for this is I got another job that fits me better. However, due to the new schedule and the distance of this job from home, my on-line time will be severely curtailed. We are planning on moving closer to the new job, but not for several months yet. Therefore, until I determine how everything will be affected, I'll be leaving both blogs on hiatus until further notice.
Posted by Gene Hendricks at 7:12 PM
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Yeah, I know I haven't posted anything in awhile, which is highly disappointing to me as I had a self imposed schedule I was keeping to. In any case, as the title of this post states, things are changing around in my life right now, so I am putting both my blogs on a hiatus for the time being. I'll post more when things settle down, but let me just reassure you that these are good changes, so no worries.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Recently I purchased "The Book of Battle" and "The Book of Armies" for my Pendragon library. I like them, as a read, and plan to implement them soon. These are no where near a necessity for the average GM, but I like the flavor they add to the game. I'm not sure how in depth I'll be going with the current game, but I'm definately going to use them the next time around for the Uther, Anarchy and Boy King battles.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
I recently saw Captain America: The First Avenger, so I’m now ready for The Avengers. I have to say, I thought it was another great movie and what they changed from the origin in the comics just made the story stronger. Beware, there be spoilers ahead (although, since the movie’s a year old, I’m probably the only one they would have been spoilers for).
One of the best changes that they made, IMHO, was to have Steve Rogers be friends with James “Bucky” Barnes before anything happens with Project Rebirth. It allows for the audience to feel that there is a real connection there rather than have them thrown together later. It also made more sense to me, being a product of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, that Cap’s best friend would be another soldier that he grew up with rather than a teenage “mascot” that happened to be hanging around an army base. The role reversal is a nice touch as well, with Bucky going from protector to protected.
I also was impressed with the way they got Cap into a costume. If you think of the other movies that were a prelude to The Avengers, not one really wears a costume. Iron Man has his armor, but that’s how he gets his powers. Thor is in an Asgardian outfit, but that’s just how they dress. The Hulk … do I really need to go into this? But Cap needed a costume, which has nothing to do with his powers. Well, most people in the 1940’s who just had the one and only super soldier created wouldn’t have said “let’s put him in a bright blue costume and send him out to get shot at.” Nope, they would have done just what they did in the movie, tried to send him to a protected lab for study and, failing that, used him to sell war bonds. And what sells war bonds better than a hero in a flag-inspired costume with a patriotic name?
Something else that impressed me no end was the casting. Tommy Lee Jones chews just as much scenery as Anthony Hopkins did in Thor, and he gets all the best one liners in the film.
And what is a hero without a good villain? Hugo Weaving as The Red Skull was wonderful. Not over the top, but you could tell he had more than a few screws loose. The use of "O, Fortuna" during the one scene was a brilliant use of music for those that know the translation. (Hint: It's not a song about sunshine and rainbows.)
I guess the best way to sum it up was that it took me until about two thirds of the way through the movie to realize that there was no title sequence. That's how engrossing the film was.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
I know most of my traffic comes from Greyhawk Grognard, but I wanted to post this for those of you that don't already know about this. Having playtested these rules I cam assure you that the project is well worth supporting.
Thursday, March 8, 2012
Yes, dear readers, I am sorry to say that Real Life has sapped all the geekiness from my thoughts of late. Such is the way of things. I'll go read some comics, play some video games and, hopefully, finish editing a short video for a friend very soon. See ya next week.
Thursday, March 1, 2012
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Yeah, you read that right. The History Channel, oops, sorry, I mean History (I will never get why shortening the name makes it better) recently started running the show Full Metal Jousting, which I think is just awesome. In fact, one of the off-hand comments from a competitor was that they would like to turn this into a sport, much like Bull Riding (of which I am also a fan). If they do, I am so there. But that’s no why you wanted to read this post. No, this is about how I will be incorporating the scoring system they use into my Pendragon game for tournaments. The score is as follow:
Strike to the Grand Guard (the shield bolted to the armor) = 1 point
Broken Lance = 5 points
Knocking your opponent off his horse = 10 points
Hitting the helmet of your opponent = -5 points
This is scored per pass, with the maximum points possible being 10 (they don’t add), and each joust has a set number of passes. The first episode ended with a joust of 8 passes, but I think that’s a little too much. So, I will be going with the following rules for Pendragon Tournaments. Please feel free to use these in your own games.
All jousts will consist of 4 passes and will be scored as follows:
Strike to opponents shield (meaning that both sides succeed in their Lance rolls) = 1 point
Broken Lance (standard Pendragon Rules apply) = 5 points
Knocking your opponent off his horse (Knockdown) = 10 points
Hitting the helmet of your opponent (Fumble) = -5 points
The highest total points after the four passes will be the winner. Should there be no winner after four passes (a tie), additional passes shall occur until a winner is decided. Should a competitor need to retire, for whatever reason, they forfeit the match.
Obviously, this is intended for tournaments only, where you have score keepers & spectators, but it can be used in any non-combat situations, such as at crossroads or bridges. I think that this makes for a much fairer adjudication, rather than the “one and done” way jousting is presented in the rules. I’ll post an update on just how this works out when we get into that situation. If anyone decides to use these rules, please let me know how it works for you.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
I know that most of the comics I talk about here are DC based, Aquaman, Batman, etc, but when I was growing up I was all about Marvel. (Heck, just check out the basis for this blog’s name.) As such, I have to say that I have loved all the Marvel movies I’ve seen since they started Marvel Studios, which would be Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk and, of course, Thor*. Unfortunately I haven’t seen Captain America yet, but I am told that it is also quite good. Needless to say, this makes me quite excited for The Avengers, due out on May 4th of this year. I’m not sure about the storyline, since all the trailers have shown so far is shots of all the heroes together and interacting, which really is enough. I do know that Loki is somehow involved, and that makes sense due to the fact that it was his meddling that led to the formation of the team WAY back in Avengers #1.
One disappointing thing about the movie is a new Bruce Banner. I thought that Edward Norton was superb in the role, but I understand how the studio needs to feel they can work with an actor, especially in an ensemble piece. It looks like the design of the Hulk is the same, though, so it’s not like it’s a complete reimaging. Still, it would have been nice to have 100% continuity between the films. They’ve worked hard to make all of these movies fit together, which has been lacking in all other superhero movies, both Marvel and DC, up to this point, but what are you gonna do?
I do like how they are working in the costume changes for some of the characters. Cap is going from his 1940’s pseudo-military uniform to the more super version in this movie. Thor is also going back to the sleeveless look that he had before the modern chainman costume. Both of these make sense internally to the film (Cap for being moved ahead 75 years in the time-stream and Thor because he’s only fighting “mortal” foes, so why does he need the armor?) and it’s a nice nod to the fans for acknowledging how the characters have changed over the years.
* Funny story about seeing Thor. This was my daughter’s first movie theater movie, and she was only 2 and a half at the time. She managed to sleep through most of it, but she was awake at the beginning (she definitely saw the Winnie the Pooh trailer) and sort of knew what was going on. Anyway, when Odin comes to Jottenheim, to save his sons and the Warriors Three, he lands and Slepnir rears up, neighing. At this moment my darling little girl stands up on the seat and starts clapping and cheering for the All Father. It’s one of my proudest moments as a father.
Thursday, February 9, 2012
Is this phase of 3D movies almost over? In case no one has noticed, this fad comes around once every 30 years. It first started back in the 1950’s (which is why one of the gang in Back to the Future is prominently wearing 3D glasses) and then died off. It had a resurgence in the 1980’s (Anyone remember the garbage that was Jaws 3D? I do, but only as Jaws 3 since I saw it on TV) before dying off again. And it has recently come back, so much so that now George “I haven’t squeezed enough money out of you people” Lucas is releasing The Phantom Menace in 3D.
What is the fascination with this medium? I can understand wanting to feeling like you are in the film, but 3D just isn’t the way to do it. I have yet to see a movie that has been made better by being in 3D, and I have seen a lot that have been made worse because they were made for 3D. You must understand, though, that I from the school where the pinnacle of the movie experience is being drawn in by the writing and visuals, not by some schmuck hitting a paddle ball out of the screen at me.* Would Star Wars (the one where Han shot first) be more visually moving if it was a 3D movie, I don’t think so. It would be neat, sure, but I don’t see movies for the “neat factor”.
I guess I’m just a tough nut to crack. I would rather watch 12 Angry Men or The Lion in Winter than Avatar (nope, still haven’t seen it) and that’s for the writing. Yes, I know that those two movies were originally stage plays, but that’s what makes them so good. 12 Angry Men, the movie, basically does nothing to add to the visuals, and that is as it should be. It’s about a jury locked in a room deliberating the fate of the young man accused of murdering his father. It shouldn’t have sweeping vistas or tons of sets. The Lion in Winter, on the other hand, makes the most of the castle setting. You get the arrival and departure scenes of the characters with beautiful backdrops, but the majority of the film takes place within the castle walls. These scenes have an amazing depth with the minutia of castle life in the winter being on display, but not the focus of the scene.
Could either of these movies been made better by 3D? Not a chance. Let’s get the quality of writing back up in Hollywood (and stop the remakes, but that’s probably another post) and then worry about having someone reaching out of the screen to “dazzle” me.
As a side note, I should say that this probably could apply to 3D TV, but I have never seen a show on one of those TV’s so I really can’t comment on them. In that case, though, they are making the TV’s sharper for 2D, so it’s at least constructive.
* Yeah, this actually happened in the Vincent Price House of Wax. It was actually the reason I know it was originally in 3D, since it’s so obvious that they did it only for the “oooo, the ball’s coming at me” effect. This added absolutely nothing to the film and the scene dragged because of it.
Thursday, February 2, 2012
Being what I consider a casual gamer, which is something I reference during my posts here, I thought it would be a good idea to let you know how it applies to me. First of all, I have time constraints. Being a husband and a father, with ~2 hours of commuting each work day, I don’t have any time during the week to spend on playing games. That means that I only have the opportunity to play games on Friday Night, Saturday and Sunday. Secondly, even when I have the opportunity to play, I normally play only for a limited amount of time in one sitting. There are exceptions, as you would expect. Our month Pendragon campaign is an all day affair, but that is more because I have players driving in from afar and I want to make sure we have as much bang for the buck as we can get.
With all of this in mind, you can see why I don’t get involved in big, planned Raids or the like in video games. Even in MMO’s, I tend to only play in PUG’s or with people I know outside of the game. That makes it kind of hard to join a large Guild that would even be doing these kinds of things. If there’s content that I can do regardless of when I’m on or how often, I like it, which is why I tend to solo the games that I play, even if multiplayer is available. That is one of the aspects that I like about SW:TOR. They actually designed the game so that you can have a full experience playing it solo rather than in a 25 character raid. (That’s still not enough to make me pay for it, though.)
I don’t play many Pen and Paper RPG’s. There is no such thing as a weekly gaming group in my life any more. The closest I get is our monthly Pendragon game, or the odd occasion I’m able to get to the Adventure’s Dark & Deep playtest. That’s why I try and make the most of any of the experiences that I have, even if it’s just having a good time with the players. Yeah, it’s a little disappointing, but Real Life always trumps enjoyment. Now, if some big company out there wants to pay me to playtest their games so that I can devote my time to that during the work week, I would be happy to talk to you. (I have about as much chance of that happening as hitting the lottery.)
I have to say, though, that I am able to game, so it’s not completely gone from my life. I am also lucky enough to be married to a woman who not only understands my enjoyment, but shares it. One of my players in my Pendragon game is my wife, and she has been playing RPG’s longer than I’ve known her. The fact that my 3 year old recently sat at our table during the game and demanded dice to play with leads me to believe that our family has a long gaming history ahead of us, and I’m perfectly fine if it’s only casually.
Now if you excuse me, I need to go buy my Powerball ticket.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
I found out this afternoon that actor Nicol Williamson, who played Merlin in 1981's Excalibur, died this past December at the age of 75. I consider his performance in that movie as one of the most entertaining takes on the Grand Druid of Arthurian Legend, but also one of the reasons that I became interested in learning more about King Arthur. He will be missed.
I mentioned before that I thought digital delivery of comic books was the wave of the future. Well, since that time I have purchased a tablet computer and have begun to read my comics this way. I have to say, it’s everything that I thought it would be. The art is crisp, the delivery is quick and they are easy to read. You have the ability to zoom in as far as you want and some comics even have a built in option to only display one panel at a time. The amount of content out there is also quite staggering, and it’s not just new comics. There are comics available that go all the way back to the 30’s & 40’s. Not all of them are available, mind you, but I can see that as a possibility.
As far as pricing is concerned, from what I’ve seen it is definitely a bargain, especially if you don’t mind waiting a month for your new comics. DC Comics, for example, releases their digital copies the same day as the print version, and at the same price of $2.99. However, once the new issue is released, they drop the price on the preceding issue by $1, so if you wait a month you can get your new comics at $1.99. That savings can really add up over time, and you might find yourself browsing more titles since you have a little more money to spend.
I haven’t purchased any comics, though. In right around 3 months of using the tablet I have not come close to exhausting the free content that is out there. I have the apps for DC, Marvel and Comixology, more for my own sanity in deciding what I want to read that anything else, and there is just a huge amount of free issues out there. On the plus side is that I’m reading comics that I wouldn’t have given a second look at in my FLCS, but since they’re free I figure “What the hey, let me check it out.” Typically these will be first issues, or the start of a big story arc, to try and suck in new readers, which makes plenty of sense from a marketing stand point.
What’s the downside, you ask? Basically, it’s the Wal-Mart problem. Delivery, price and quality of digital copies of comics is such a great thing that they typical FLCS will be really feeling the pinch, if they aren’t already due to the economy. Obviously the purists out there will want the print copy, but I never really collected comics for their value. I was more interested in the stories and art, which digital gives me without the need to store the dang things. Plus, digital issues make it easy to switch between comics than digging through the 7 boxes that I currently have in storage. Once I start actually paying for these comics, I’m probably going to include replacing a few issues that I currently own with each purchase, and eventually go all digital.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Thursday, January 12, 2012
I recently received an e-mail that my Star Trek Online account had been reactivated because the game is going Free to Play (here after referred to as FtP). As I mentioned before, this is a growing trend in MMORPG’s, to the point that I won’t play a game that I have to pay a monthly subscription for. (OK, you caught me. I can’t afford a monthly subscription.) A quick search on the interwebs gives us a plethora of free games. The following list is just some of the more recognizable FtP titles available:
It is true that some, if not all, of these games were subscription based to begin with, and many still have a subscription option to get the “really cool stuff”, but that isn’t necessary any more. Between the cost for Downloadable Content (DLC for short) and other micro transactions, the companies seem to be able to maintain their service as well as provide a good gaming experience for their customers. My experience with DC Universe is the only first hand experience that I have with it, and I have to say that I don’t have a problem with the structure. With more and more games going this way, I truly believe that this is the future of the industry, at least for some kind of introductory period if not for the full game.
Of course, part of the issue that some may have with this is that you need to create an original game, and one that looks original right off the bat, or people will go somewhere else. That might be the problem that some people have with my review of Star Wars: The OldRepublic. In my view, it is a WoW clone with video cut scenes, but the only reason I know that is I was in the Beta. Those that have to pay to find out what the game is like are more likely to stick with it, because they have already invested the money and don’t want it to go to waste. If they could try the game first, with no cost, the game makers would be more hard pressed to come up with something new and exciting in the game to keep people around. IMHO, that is a VERY good thing for the industry, because it results in innovative and interesting game play and lower initial costs to the consumer.
Saturday, January 7, 2012
No, actually I'm a (reserve) member of the Empire, but The Hammer Strikes is now a proud member of the SPiRiTLiNG BLOG ALLiANCE (as I'm sure you gathered from the nifty new image in the upper right). Check out the other members' blogs and enjoy.
Thursday, January 5, 2012
I have recently reaffirmed why Walt Simonson is my favorite comic book writer. I was lucky enough to have been given Volumes 1 & 2 of his collected run on Thor in the 80’s. (I already had volumes 3, 4 & 5.) In Volume 2 is an issue where Thor is battling Surtur (or Surtr if you wish) on the shatter Rainbow Bridge and he saves Heimdall, guardian or said bridge, from falling into space. Laying his wounded fellow god down, Thor says “You will be as safe here as in the arms of your mothers.” Some people would think that is a typo, but not those versed in Norse Lore, where it is stated that Heimdall has 9 mothers, all of them sisters. (Don’t try and wrap your head around that, its religion and thus does not necessarily conform to logic at all time.) This is a throw-away line in the issue where the focus is stopping the fire giant from getting into Asgard, but it is there and there isn’t a 50 page explanation of it. It’s a subtle tip of the hat to those that know the lore or, for people like me, an impetus to pick up a book and learn more about the subject.
In another issue, contained in the same volume, a god in mortal guise visits the office of one Doctor Donald Blake. For those of you not in the know, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created Dr. Blake as Thor’s mortal alter-ego in the 60’s and one of the first things that Simonson did was to get rid of him. Obviously there would be repercussions from a doctor suddenly disappearing, so it gets wrapped up by a scene where members of the office staff are lamenting not seeing their boss in months and how all the patients have been referred to other physicians. Enter Fandral, one of the Warriors Three, who informs the staff that Dr. Blake has been called upon by the government and will not be returning. He gives them a bag of gold as severance pay and each also gets a token to remember the good doctor by. It is with this token that Simonson again shows his knowledge of the lore and his subtle way on injecting very relevant items. The staff each gets a golden necklace with a hammer amulet on it. The same hammer amulet, I might add, that the worshipers, both ancient and modern, of the Norse Gods wear, much like a Christian cross or a Star of David. Again, it is not explained or gone into at all; it’s shown and left for the reader to figure out.
It is this kind of writing that seems to be lacking in entertainment today. Most things, be they movies, books, TV shows, what have you, seem to want to beat you over the head with an idea rather than trust that audience has more than two brain cells. I was involved in an argument along these lines when we made our first Star Trek Fan Episode. (Don’t give me that look. You knew I was a geek when you started reading this blog.) We were talking about the Engineer’s Log Entry voiceover that ran at the end of the episode. This VO referred to something that wasn’t explicitly shown on screen and there were some individuals that didn’t think we should have that. My argument was, and still it, that the audience doesn’t need to be shown every little thing in a show. Implied scenes are fine, as long as there isn’t something that needs exposition. You don’t need to see Jack, Janet and Chrissie* get changed and drive to the beach to make the connection between a scene where they are talking about going to the beach and them actually being there. George Clooney made the same point when asked why he left ER. He said that in the 1st season you could see a guy wheeled by with a knife sticking out of his skull and that would be the end of it. By the time he left, that would have been an entire story arc.
I, for one, would like to see a return to treating the audience like they have intelligence. Of course, we live in the era of Survivor, Wipe Out & whatever pap TLC is running currently, so I doubt that this will happen. Heck, even the “historic” drama, like The Tudors, are so rife with chronological errors in the name of making it more attractive that they are practically unwatchable. Now there are shows out there are “get it”, such as NCIS, Big Bang Theory and Doctor Who, but they are the diamonds in the rough, IMHO. Then again, I also watch World’s Dumbest every week, so I know that there is a need to turn your brain off every now and again, but it shouldn’t be the majority of entertainment. Now that I’m done being very un-subtle about being subtle, I’m off to read some more of Mr. Simonson’s inspired works.
* Believe it or not (in my best Jack Palance voice) that was actually the first show reference to come to mind when I was writing this. Scary, isn’t it?