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before the D&D starter set comes out #1

News from The Escapist Magazine – it looks likely that the new edition of Dungeons and Dragons will begin its roll out in mid-July with the release of the “Starter Set” on July 15th selling for about $20.


My past experiences with roleplaying games have been disastrous so, although I’m enthusiastic about the start of a new edition, I’m also wary of having another go at trying to get into the hobby. But there’s reason to think that this time the Starter Set may better cater for people with little or no roleplaying experience, like me.

runequest box

My 14 year old friends and I spent two fruitless weekends trying to work this game out – then we put it away and never spoke of it again.

Here’s Mike Mearls listing his aims for what he’s calling the “basic, core rules”:

In an ideal world, a group of new players can pick up the game in about the same time it takes to learn a board game such as Settlers of Catan. The basic rules are at the forefront of recruiting new players, whether they’re 10-year-olds trying their first RPGs or DMs coming back to the game after 10 years away. Adult D&D fans should feel that this is the best way to bring their kids into the games.”

Is he talking about the Starter Set? Not sure. I do like the part about being able to learn the core game in a short time – within a night if the Settlers of Catan comparison is true. Specifically he talks about a group of new players picking up the game. I wonder if he’s including a new DM in that group? If so, picking up enough of the game to be able to DM a game in the same time it takes to learn a board-game would be a pretty amazing thing.

This all really interests me because I think in the past the makers of D&D have relied upon new players learning the game by joining an already experienced group and for people to take up DMing only after getting a reasonable amount of experience as players.

I’d be really happy if instead I could buy a Starter Set and DM a game for a group of people – all of us with no previous roleplaying experience – all within one evening.

I think between now and July 15th I’ll try and jot down what I’d like to see in this Starter Set. Then once it arrives I’ll be able to see if it’s in any way what I’d imagined it to be. I’ll start .. next post.







shelf space

I like Conan the Barbarian, both the original Howard stories and the comic book adaptions and we own a dozen or so of the Lancer Books’ novels in various states of repair and almost two shortboxes of Marvel’s “Conan the Barbarian” comics and “Savage Sword of Conan” magazines.

But we also have about a shelf’s worth of trade paperback collections of the comics and collected editions of the stories so we don’t have to risk damaging the originals. They’re great and they look great on the shelf but I’ve just found out how many comics Marvel produced back in the day .. and I think we’re gonna need a bigger boat!

bookshelf conan 01

OUR CONAN REPRINTS SHELF (l to r) Dark Horse’s collections of Marvel’s “Savage Sword of Conan” magazines and “Conan the Barbarian” comics; Del Rays 3 vol collection of Howard’s original stories; and Dark Horse’s collections of their own Conan comics.

Marvel published 235 issues of their “Savage Sword of Conan” magazine between 1974 and 1995 and 275 issues of their “Conan the Barbarian” comic between 1970 and 1993. That’s a lot of comics. Here’s where we are right now with these two runs.

bookshelf conan 02

THE TWO MARVEL REPRINT SERIES (l to r) “Savage Sword of Conan” 1-2 collects 24 issues of the magazine; and “Chronicles of Conan” 1-5 collects 34 issues of the comics.

If we want to keep collecting just these two series, well .. I’ve done the maths:


We’ll end up with 22 volumes taking up 22″ of shelf space (1 1/2 of our shelves) and it’ll have cost us about $360.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN (collected as Chronicles of Conan)

We’ll end up with 34 volumes taking up 14″ of shelf space (1 shelf) and it’ll have cost us about $550.

And that doesn’t factor us wanting to keep collecting Dark Horse’s past and ongoing original comics.


I am full of daunt.


the trouble with…

The trouble with the floor is .. it’s not a table.

whole house flag wrap

A neighbouring house wrapped and ready for fumigation.








I am forced to conclude that America is quite a patriotic country.

anzac spirit chocolate chip cookies

Yesterday was ANZAC day in New Zealand and Australia (as well as The Cook Islands, Niue, Pitcairn and Tonga).

Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, originally commemorated by both countries on 25 April every year to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. It now more broadly commemorates all those who served and died in military operations for their countries.


Of course if you’re from NZ or Australia (or Martha Stewart) you know about ANZAC biscuits.  They’re main ingredients (apart from flour) are oats, coconut and golden syrup.

It was a huge surprise to see these in a small local US supermarket:

They are chocolate chip cookies called ANZAC Spirit Cookies sold in association with the “Veterans of Foreign Wars Foundation”. Here’s the blurb on the back:

The VFW Foundation and UNIBIC proudly being you The ANZAC Spirit Cookies. Originating in Australia and New Zealand during WW1, the delicious ANZAC cookie has long served allied soldiers, raising morale on the front line, an generating much needed charitable funds for military and veteran causes. By purchasing this pack of ANZAC SPIRIT CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES, you can “Return the Favor” and directly help the VFW Foundation assist those who deserve it most.

UNIBIC donates 4% of its sales of this cookie to the VFW Foundation

It seems UNIBIC are an Australian company with a subsidiary in India. The above cookies are a product of Australia. UNIBIC seem to have a range of “ANZAC Spirit” branded biscuits available in Australia. They seem to get into donating a small amount of their sales to veteran causes.

Notice that they are not called ANZAC Biscuits (or Cookies) but instead are branded ANZAC Spirit. They are indeed chocolate chip biscuits – and they’re really pretty good. Here’s some interesting legal stuff about ANZAC biscuits from wikipedia.

The term Anzac is protected under Australian law and therefore the word should not be used without permission from the Minister for Veteran’ Affairs; misuse can be legally enforced particularly for commercial purposes. Likewise similar restrictions on naming are enshrined in New Zealand law where the Governor General can elect to enforce naming legislation. There is a general exemption granted for Anzac biscuits, as long as these biscuits remain basically true to the original recipe and are both referred to and sold as Anzac biscuits and never as cookies.

This restriction resulted in the Subway chain of restaurants dropping the biscuit from their menu in September, 2008. After being ordered by the Department of Veteran’ Affairs to bake the biscuits according to the original recipe, Subway decided not to continue to offer the biscuit, as they found that their supplier was unable to develop a cost-effective means of duplicating the recipe.

(I’m assuming that Subway was selling ANZAC biscuits in their Australian shops).

shonen jump in the USA, goes digital .. and weekly

The monthly US version of the Japanese manga anthology Weekly Shonen Jump has become digital and, of more interest to me, a weekly under the new name Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha. The change to a weekly is great and certainly “the way the industry is going” – or at least how I’d like to see it go.

Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha features a six story lineup with each story about 18-20 pages; around 110-120 story pages each week. An annual subscription costs us$25.99. That’s us$0.50 an issue or half a cent a page! You can also buy individual issues for $0.99 but I believe these are only readable for four week periods.

It’s a shame I’m not interested in any of the stories because pretty much everything else here, I like:

  • Low subscription cost
  • Weekly release
  • Six ongoing stories
  • Stories will eventually be released in print form for any stories I really like.
  • It’s digital (so sourcing back copies wont be a problem).
  • It’s digital (no having to store lots of old magazines)
  • It’s digital (instant delivery)

The comic is black and white but I have no problem with that – I’m used to 2000AD – black and white can be fantastic.

For a colour comic anthology I’d be OK with 5-10 pages each story – I’d even be OK with 20 pages of black and white which would later be collected in a coloured print edition.

2000ad the dc52 part 03

I’m reading the first issues of the four Green Lantern themed comics from  DC Comic’s latest relaunch. But I’m reading them in roughly 6 page chunks each week. I want to see how they read as a 2000AD-style weekly anthology comic.

Week 2: Personal drama in the first 2 titles with continued carnage in the other 2.

20 pages in total. The first two titles have slowed right down to focus on their main characters – Green Lantern taking 7 pages to do so. The last two titles still manage to balance action with story development.


Green Lantern (7 pages): On Earth, Hal Jordan has a hard time paying his rent and not acting like a superhero – now that he’s no longer a green lantern.

Green Lantern Corp (4 pages): On Earth, Guy Gardner tries to get a job as a sports coach but doesn’t convince the interviewer he can juggle that job with being a Green Lantern.

Green Lantern – New Guardians (3 pages): On Earth, Ganthet takes Kyle Rayner on his first flight (1 page). In space, a Yellow Lantern attacking members of the Khund Empire, looses it’s ring mysteriously and is killed (2 pages).

Red Lanterns (6 pages): On a spaceship, Atrocitus the Red Lantern, rescues his Cat from the blue lizard-creatures (1 page). On Earth an old man is attacked by a thug with a brick (1 page). On Ysmault, Atrocitus meets the rest of the Red Lantern’s, wonders why he seems to have lost his rage and if this will affect his leadership (2 pages).


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