I ran across this site today and it’s fantastic. Artist Dave Devries takes pictures that were drawn by children and then paints them in a more realistic light. From his site:
It began at the Jersey Shore in 1998, where my niece Jessica often filled my sketchbook with doodles. While I stared at them, I wondered if color, texture and shading could be applied for a 3D effect. As a painter, I made cartoons look three dimensional every day for the likes of Marvel and DC comics, so why couldn’t I apply those same techniques to a kid’s drawing? That was it… no research, no years of toil, just the curiosity of seeing Jessica’s drawings come to life.
This stuff is awesome. I can’t help but think of how cool it would be to have these illustrations in a game book.
Publisher: Mystical Throne Entertainment
Like Mercenary Breed (which I reviewed here), Judgment Day is a mini setting for Savage Worlds. The book presents a variety of additional rules inspired by the Catholic Inquisition. It uses the basic structure of the Inquisition in much the same way that core Savage Worlds handles spells. Specifically, the underlying organizational structure is fairly universal and it becomes a matter of using the appropriate trappings to produce the desired game. The idea here is that there is a central governing body which has appointed a Grand Inquisitor, who in turns oversees the foot soldiers of the movement (the pc’s) in rooting out whatever evil the governing body finds most repulsive and or dangerous.
This basic setup covers a wide range of possible game types. For example, the GM may run a traditional Inquisition type game where the pc’s are representatives of the church who are tasked with finding and destroying witches, vampires, ghosts, etc. Alternately, one might run a game in the far future where the pc’s are tasked with finding and destroying hostile aliens in a setting that resembles a Warhammer 40k type game. There is a lot of common DNA here with games like Solomon Kane and Rippers as well. While I was reading through the book it occurred to me that it would even be fairly easy to use the rules to create a BPRD like organization from Mike Mignola’s Hellboy universe and superimpose that worlds trappings over the framework presented in Judgment Day. The only real restriction imposed in the book is that the pc’s cannot be what they are hunting (so no witch pc’s hunting witches). This is an easy to circumvent restriction though and one that I find interesting given that the Dhampir race presented in the Savage Insider Premium Issue 1 specifically discusses half vampires that hunt Vampires. The implications of that inspire me and I can see running a fairly interesting game where the church is unknowingly using monsters to hunt monsters or several other variations.
In addition to the rules for integrating an Inquisitorial organization into most any game or genre, there is a setting provided by the writer Aaron T. Huss. The setting is pretty light and is placed in a modern time line covering events in and around the Great Lakes in the U.S. While reading through the campaign provided I was immediately picturing Jim Butcher’s Dresden books- especially given that the characters are based in Chicago much like Butcher’s electronically challenged wizard protagonist.
Overall Judgment Day is a well put together book. The bestiary section was a little disappointing given that the book specifically mentions monsters like werewolves and were-tigers early on and then doesn’t include stats for them in the book. They can be found in other Savage Worlds products but including them would have made it feel complete. Also, as I have mentioned in previous reviews of MTE products, I wish there were maps. Having said that, these mini settings are very favorably priced and satisfy their intended goal. Furthermore, MTE has plans for additional support through future releases of Savage Insider, and has already made good on that promise with the wealth of material offered for Mercenary Breed in Savage Insider Premium Issue 1. This is a fun product and even if you aren’t going to use it exactly as presented, there is plenty to read for inspiration.
Despite my interest in the horror genre as it pertains to games and books, I am not as big a fan of horror films now as I was in my youth. I still enjoy them from time to time, and as you may surmise from my review of the Savage Worlds Horror Companion, I am a fan of the zombie sub genre. With that in mind I approached Insidious with only mild interest as it was ostensibly a “Haunted House” picture. I was happily surprised to be wrong.
While the characters in the film are hardly pioneering new ground, I found them likable and well acted. The central plot is a bit familiar and I was often thinking of the similarities between it and Poltergeist, though they are mostly superficial. While I have no intention of spoiling the films story here, I did want to talk about one aspect of it that really interests me, astral projection.
I started having lucid dreams in the late nineties and over the course of the past decade I have spent a fair amount of time exploring the dreamlands. In the world of dreaming there are a few terms that essentially describe the same phenomenon. While I am fond of referring to them as lucid dreams, others call them OBE’s (out of body experiences) or astral projection. The difference is really more a matter of perspective as the term lucid dreaming carries a scientific sensibility while astral projection suggests a spiritual connection. Any of the terms are acceptable to me and I really just have a fondness for the term lucid dream because of how I associate it with the works of Stephen LaBerge and the dramatic impact his books have had on my own experiences.
With that divergent bit of explanation out of the way, let’s get back to the movie. In the movie the character Josh Lambert (played by Patrick Wilson) and his son Dalton (played by Ty Simpkins) are both accomplished astral projectors. The fact that the child’s astral self has lost it’s way back to his body is central to the introduction of malign forces in the story. The child’s father has forgotten his ability and it becomes necessary for him to remember in order to save his son. What follows is a bizarre adventure of exploration through an astral realm that bears very little resemblance to the place I go when I dream. It is, in fact, a sort of hell where dark forces envy the living and wait for an opportunity to occupy ones body as soon as you step out for a leisurely stroll through your hell infested dreams. I found the whole adventure entertaining but also stimulating to the imagination. So much of how we experience the world around us is about perspective and I found myself thankful that my mind doesn’t turn to such dark vistas when I set off to explore my subconscious. The movie does explore those dark places and it’s a spooky ride worth the price of admission.
In future posts I plan on discussing dreaming and dream worlds in greater detail. I love Lovecraft’s work in the dreamlands and the Chaosium Book about said setting will have a post coming up as well. In the mean time, check out Insidious if you find yourself wanting an interesting perspective on an old genre. I almost forgot to mention, The movie is scary!