Let’s Talk About Scarred Lands: Termana

Many years back I was in a campaign that took place in Termana. I’ve never heard of that campaign setting before and, since one of the classes the DM allowed was the Shaman from The Shaman’s Handbook (Green Ronin Press) I jumped at playing the shaman in that world. Man, was I in for a world that’s hell on earth.

Termana is the southern continent in a world called Scarn (the northern continent is called Ghelspad.) It has the typical humans, dwarves, elves, orc and the like, BUT the idea of good in this is practically nonexistent. Yes, there are good-aligned people of Termana but they’re exception. I mean, the dwarves in the this are friggin Nazis.

Yes, Nazi dwarves. They worship a lawful evil god called Chardun, The Slaver. They have an empire where they enslave, well, everyone, they think they’re a superior race and will kill anyone who dares enter their empire. When I played, they had siege towers like in the Lord of the Rings movies. Good thing we were on a beach that had caves where we could hide and sneak around because no way my rogue/monk could handle that.

My rogue/monk also worshipped Belsameth, the Slayer along with half the party members. What happened to my shaman from the Iron Sands Desert (a southern area that’s, well, a desert that is full of iron that the titan Golthagga threw out because his forge is believed to be once located here.) Well, he was turned into a zombie sea creature (don’t remember what it was) and the party turned him into fish paste.

For those wondering about the titans, there was once a huge war between the titans and gods of Termana that got so bloody it created the blood ocean which also leads to the BEST and most messed up thing about Termana:

THE BLOOD BAYOU! Welcome to the stuff of nightmares. As it says, it’s a bayou that was transformed after the titan war. It’s here that lurks the scariest place you’ll ever see in any Termana campaign: The Carnival of Shadows. Yup, a carnival full of evil carnies, evil clowns, a lich, a Kraken that can cast spells (!) and, the king of them all, the Jack of Tears.

Let’s talk about this fellow. His followers worship him as a god, he tells his followers to make people come to the carnival and he’s got some scary stats. All I can say is this guy can cast both divine and arcane spells as a standard action as an 18th level caster and has a ton of immunities. My campaign had to deal with his minions all the time. We even met him but didn’t fight him. Good thing because a bunch of 7th level characters would’ve gotten creamed by him.

I highly recommend using him as the BEG. If you know how to use evil clowns, this guy can be amazing.

There’s a ton of other stuff, but I just wanted to highlight the messed-up bits of the world. Want to destroy your players’ morale? Termana and the Jack of Tears are your best bet.

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Kamen Rider Kiva Review

What, I like tokusatsu too? Yup. For those wondering “what the hell’s tokusatsu?” Basically, think the original Japanese version of Power Rangers but apply that idea to any hero who transforms in order to defeat an enemy. Kamen Rider is one of them (unlike Super Sentai/Power Rangers, it’s just one hero who meets other heroes who don’t really like each other and even evil riders.

That’s enough of that, on with the review.

Kamen Rider Kiva takes place between two different years: 1986 and 2008. In 1986 Otoya Kurenai is a hopeless romantic who falls for Yuri Aso, a Fangire (that’s what the monsters in this show are called. Basically, super fancy vampires) hunter. In 2008, Kurenai’s son, Wataru, is Kamen Rider Kiva who not only continues the fight against Fangires, but is also trying to find out how to duplicate his dad’s violin which he inherited.

So, how does this show deal with the multiple years’ story? By constantly going back and forth between the two in what seems like every two minutes. This gets old fast. Also, they spend way too much time in 1986 which makes the 1986 side is a LOT more entertaining and better written. It’s fun to watch Otoya blunder his way into getting into Aso’s pants and failing. There’s also a love triangle between them and Jiro, a Wolfen (werewolf.) It may be caliche thing, but somehow everything from Otoya’s hopeless romantic ways, Aso being a badass and Jiro trying to get Otoya away from Aso just works, with some fighting in between of course.

The 2008 side is pretty boring. Wataru just comes off as a vampire version of Kamen Rider Den-O but not as endearing. The other characters I can’t be bothered to remember because they have almost no impact on me due to them not being well written.

Of course, for those wondering how’s the action and SFX in this show. I enjoyed them for the most part. The Kiva suit looks awesome and the Fangire designs are nice and colorful. Kiva’s version of the Rider Kick when the scene changes to nighttime with full moon scene looks amazing, especially with the jingle that plays when he does it. The fight scenes are entertaining but it just seems like the 1986 crowd weakens the Fangire and then Kiva kills them in 2008. I get why they did it like that, but it would’ve been better for Kiva to not fight his dad’s sloppy seconds.

While Kamen Rider Kiva has an entertaining 1986 story and some visually stunning imagery, the overemphasis on the 1986 side makes the 2008 side weak and the main rider coming off as just Den-O deciding to become a vampire one day.

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Home Sweet Home (PS4) Review

Have you noticed how a lot of horror games coming out today are first-person stealth games? Well, here’s another one for you by Thai developer Yggdrasil Group called Home Sweet Home.

Tim awakens in a weird, dilapidated apartment building and needs to find a way out and find his wife Jane. What awaits him is a ghost girl armed with a box cutter and other monsters straight from Thai mythology.

So it’s like Silent Hill 2 that takes place in Thailand and without the town and the wife is still alive.

The setup is great seeing as how East Asian horror does tend to bend on the paranormal side that often turns deadly and will find fuck you. Hell, the locations are creepy in and of themselves which is heightened by the fact that you have no weapon.

Of course, since this is stealth, the scares do start to wane thin come the end of the end since you’re expecting the ghost girl to pop up at any time. The areas that the game does shine in terms of horror are when you’re completely in the dark and you need the flashlight to see anything.

That doesn’t mean the story isn’t scary. If you bother to collect all the notes, pictures and newspapers the story will slowly open up to reveal a rather depressing story of young love and what caused  Jane to go missing.

Gameplay-wise, it’s the typical move the character and press this button to interact with items. Not to mention lots of running away, hiding in lockers and behind anything and some simple puzzles. The puzzles themselves aren’t complicated and the answer is usually obvious or there are clues strewn around the levels.

Graphically, the game does look nice coming from aa small studio. The girl looks scary enough and the one big monster in the game is creepy as all hell. The locations do have a lot of hidden details that if you don’t pay attention you’ll miss it. The one major thing wrong with the graphics is the design of Jane. In the picture she looks Thai but her gameplay sprite looks Western.

The sound is a mixed bag. The music that plays whenever an enemy is nearby does sound scary with a nice hint of Thai music thrown into it. The voice acting is OK though not horrible enough to complain. The thing that will grate your ears is the constant sound of the box cutter going up and down whenever the ghost girl is nearby. You will hate hearing that sound not because it’s creepy but because it will get annoying.

Home Sweet Home is a decent enough horror game with plenty to like but it does wane in quality once you get closer to the end. With a sequel planned and a trailer already out it is worth playing this game if you like Thai horror and because the sequel looks to be even creepier than this one.

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Let’s Talk About It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown

Welcome to October, where all things scary come out including stores selling Christmas decorations way too early. One Halloween themed thing that’s not scary is the classic It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. yet it’s been airing every year in October since 1966. Why is that?

For the few who haven’t heard of this movie, the Peanuts gang are planning a Halloween party. Meanwhile, Linus is preparing to greet the Great Pumpkin who supposedly appears on Halloween night from a pumpkin patch and gives toys to all the good boys and girls. Yes, that’s a Halloween version of Santa.

Again, there’s nothing scary about this movie at all except it’s about Halloween so why do we love it so much. Well, let’s look at what it’s about. It’s a bunch of kids being kids on Halloween. That right there connects perfectly to every single kid. They’re going through that in October and us adults have done that too. Hell, us adults plan Halloween parties that feature costumes, booze and Cards Against Humanity. Yes, it’s a simple story but for something like this, there’s nothing that has to be complicated.

There’s also the Great Pumpkin. Where did this character come from? Simple: little kids come up with characters all the time. All the Great Pumpkin is is Linus combining Christmas with Halloween and coming up with a new mascot so to speak. That right there is brilliant because it adds a new layer to Linus’s character and it shows that he’s a kid. Ask a kid to come up with a new Halloween mascot and you’ll be surprised as to how creative they can be.

While it does take place in the 1960s, this kind of situation can happen in any decade because while kids’ tastes change, Haloween and what to do on Halloween is that one constant that hasn’t changed except for the costumes and candy.

So, while Halloween is about everything scary, there’s one Halloween thing that echos closer t reality and how kids really are during this time. That’s why it’s lasted so long and why even adults love it. It’s basically what Halloween is all about and that, my friends, is why It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is such an endearing classic.

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Get ready for nonstop Halloween posts

What better way to make up for lost posts on this blog? Why with 31 posts about horror in the month of October. Halloween is by far my favorite holiday and, since I love horror, what better way than to write a whole bunch of reviews and other random thoughts about them. Expect the first post on October first at midnight and every night at midnight until Halloween.

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Manuelito Review

Before I start, I just want to say that I will try my best to keep the politics to a minimum and focus more on the graphic novel as a whole. Immigration in the United States is a super complicated topic that I will not get into on this blog. This is a review blog and, while I do review things that have political leanings in them, I do my best to avoid putting my political views into them and just review the story and, in this case, the artwork.

With that, if you haven’t been living under a rock these past three years, immigration and the Mexico/America border is a hot topic. While the only viewpoints we see are from politicians, Americans and the news media, we never hear from the actual immigrants. Comic book writer Elisa Amado decided to change that with Manuelito with illustrator Abraham Urias.

The story is about a young boy named Manuelito who lives in a small village in Guatemala. Things have gotten extremely dangerous in the village due to the influx of gangs and soldiers making life hard for everyone that his parents decided to hire a coyote (a man who helps people cross the border illegally) to take him to live with his aunt in the US.

How accurate the journey in this book is is unknown, but the only peril shown in this comic are the soldiers, gangs and the coyote who everyone says is dangerous. While that sounds interesting, the tension is about as thin as the paper this comic is drawn on. Manuelito even has a cell phone THAT HE KEEPS WITH HIM THROUGHOUT THE STORY! There are some tense moments that stop being tense on the next page or so.

There is only one major negative that happens on the journey, but it’s to his friend Coco Loco.

The only great thing with the story is the writing. Amado does a fine job of letting the leader see into the mind of Manuelito and how he’s feeling in a certain situation. There isn’t much of it though.

The artwork is all pencil illustrations. They’re nice drawings that do manage to tell a sequential story. Many may not like this style, but for a story like this, you really don’t need anything spectacular.

While Manuelito does have good writing, the story is OK and the ending is but predictable. This is obviously just a way to tell a point, which it does a fine job of, but as a comic it’s mediocre. The pencil illustrations are great, though so kudos to Urias.

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Lovely Demon: Demonic -Reaper Chronicles #1 Review

You’ll have to forgive me, dear reader, for I have not updated this site in two months. Life gets in the way of us creative types. In fact, I wasn’t going to do a review today since I hade neither the drive nor the topic to write one.

That changed when I finally read that comic I bought at Xaverian High School Comic-Con back in May. That comic is called  Lovely Demon: Demonic -Reaper Chronicles #1 by Zanny Lane. Apparently, it’s the physical version of the webcomic.  That title and the fact that it looked like an American manga is what made me drop $5 (it came with a bookmark and is autographed) to buy it. After reading it, I liked it, but with a few grievances.

The first issue is about Takumi (Tak,) a software engineer for a robot toy company who is unhappy with his line of work. He wants his own company where he can design his own toys. After a chance meeting with a mysterious girl named  Yaffa, his career starts to skyrocket and he keeps meeting Yaffa after every success.

It’s an interesting story that at first will leave you confused as to what a demonic-reaper has anything to do with a story that reads like a slice of life. Then the ending comes along and there’s the demonic-reaper. It does come across as mean that someone who just wants to get recognized for their talents ends up in a horrible situation, but it can also be that maybe Yaffa is evil. The writing is strong enough to make readers want to see more people interact with Yaffa. Maybe even a continuous storyline with Yaffa and an antagonist trying to get in her way.

The art needs a bit of work. It has that manga feel to it and the character designs look nice, but the facial expressions and linework have a ways to go. The action scenes also need a bit of work due to it not being 100% clear what’s going on. The biggest complaint is when Tak runs to the rooftop and we see Yaffa behind a bit away from him and then the next he’s much closer. It would’ve worked better if she only appeared in the smaller panel when Tak realizes she’s behind him.

Lovely Demon: Demonic -Reaper Chronicles has a lot going for it. With some tweaking of the story and better facial expressions/ line art, this comic could go places. This is one of the better American manga I have read in a long while.

 

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Notre Dame de Paris: A Post Mortem

Oh, Notre Dame de Paris, symbol of Parisian pride, ever since your birth in 1345 you have stood as a mighty symbol of Parisian pride and religious faith. Your children have bathed in your glory through the ages and loved you.

Oh, Notre Dame de Paris, you beautiful landmark, one of your sons has used you as the backdrop to weave one of the finest works of fiction featuring a tragic love story where a lustful archdeacon, an egotistical knight and an angry, deaf hunchback bell ringer seek the hand of a beautiful gypsy girl whose beauty and dances have fascinated all three.

Oh, Notre Dame de Paris, you beautiful triumph of Gothic architecture, have survived looters, neglect, riots, Napolean, a revolution and Nazi bombings. All it took was a fire to destroy your majesty.

Oh, Notre Dame de Paris, you wonderful cathedral of Paris, do you not hear and see your children crying in the streets as you burn and your mighty spires topple over, denying future generations of their splendor.

Oh, Notre Dame de Paris, the lifeblood of al Parisians and pride of France, do you hear the loud cries of foreigners who come for miles to bear witness to your majesty now must bear in mind that most of you have now perished in a fire.

Oh, Notre Dame de Paris, proud cathedral of Paris, do you hear the laments of this writer whose heart was moved by the novel you son has written and written in great detail only today to hear the news of your timely death. Your original splendor he will never see in his lifetime.

Oh, Notre Dame de Paris, mighty cathedral, one of your sons has promised to rebuild you, but you will not be the same cathedral that millions around the world have come for miles to visit and admire your beauty. You will be given new additions but your original splendor is now lost to time.

Oh, Notre Dame de Paris, fallen saint of Paris, the world mourns your destruction and will forever remember your original splendor and will be celebrated in the book one of your sons has written that has captivated your beauty. May you rest in peace, oh darling of Paris.

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Kindred (Comic) Review

What some of you may not know, I and an associate have been doing a panel called Comics: An Underappreciated Form of Literature for the past two years at Boroughcon (new, super small con in New York City.) We’ll be doing it again this year at Xavier High School Comic Con on May 11 (time TBA) so come on by.

The reason I brought up the panel is that last year my associate decided to add a new comic: Kindred, the comic adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s novel. Problem is, I never read Kindred in any of its forms so she had to all the talking. This year I decided to just read the damn thing to give my two cents.

For those who’ve never read it, Kindred is about Dana, a young black woman living in 1970’s California who mysteriously gets sent back to 1815 Maryland. Here she meets (and saves the life of) Rufus, the son of a plantation owner who apparently has the power to bring Dana back in time whenever he needs her. Without having a clue as to how to go back and forth through time, Dana must now live like a slave in 1819 Maryland.

Yes, this is one of those books where people are sent back in time where they just might die if they do something wrong. The only thing here is that it’s practically guaranteed that Dana will get beaten (which she does) and even die. On top of that, she has ZERO rights and people WILL be her if she looks at them wrong. Butler does a nice job of making Dana, not a complete idiot and actually competent enough to live “normally” in that era.

The thing that ground my gears about this book is Rufus. He’s a whiny spoiled little shit who Dana has to suffer under because he’s the only one with the power to send her back. Butler does a great at making the reader want to whip that brat.

Also, besides the two beatings, she does have it a little easier than the other slaves on the plantation, mainly due to her “not sounding like a nigger” and can read well.

How does the comic adaptation do in terms of telling the story? It does it pretty well. Unlike in novel form, we do get to see Rufus’s face and reactions when he’s acting like a spoiled little shit, the pain on the characters’ faces whenever something bad happens to them and actually seeing Dana getting whipped is a lot more powerful. In our panel, we show a panel that has the right half of Dana’s face and the left half of Rufus’s face together. This is in the climax of the story that basically shows the conflict between these two very different people and it is pretty impactful.

So now that I have read it, all it did was give me more ammunition for me and my associate’s argument that comics can be literature and should be held at that standard. Call me a snob if you want, but I feel that comics have a place and they can be and are so much than what the masses view it as.

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Walking Simulators: Should You bother Playing Them?

One of the newest video gaming genres is the walking simulator. It is exactly as it sounds: You just walk all over the game’s world clicking on things or going to a certain place and a cutscene starts. It’s basically a movie that you have to work to get the story. Yes, the gameplay is basically non-existent, which means the majority of gamers will just avoid them like plagues.

So, what caused me to talk about walking sims? I finally played one: The Town of Light.

You see, what made me buy this game (it was only $10, don’t worry) was the plot: a woman with a mental disorder returns to the closed down mental hospital she was committed to in order to remember what really happened to her and her friend. It’s also based on an actual Italian mental hospital and events that happened there.

Right off the bat, you can tell the storytelling is going to be her narrating everything. This could work if done right and it was done OK in this game. Yes, the things that happened to her were messed up, but how much of it really happened. Not to mention that despite the game having multiple story routes, the ending is the same and it is pretty messed up.

The only way I can think of that walking sims can actually be remembered is with strong storytelling. That’s basically all that these games can offer. If the story sucks, why bother? There are plenty of games that have great stories that have even spawned comics, novels, animated series and tons of merchandise.

Of course, gamers avoid these games because, well, are they really games? Technically speaking, yes. You need a human to control a character in a computer-generated world in order for something to happen. However, the lack of anything that can be considered gameplay is nonexistent.

Of course, the odd person will defend them saying how come people bash walking sims and not visual novels? Simple: visual novels usually have some type of gameplay element. Hell, Phoenix Wright has collecting evidence and then the trial part, Danganronpa has, well, the same thing but a lot more complicated and the first Corpse Party has you collecting items and running away from ghosts, a maniac and in one part a child molester. Same thing with point and click games: you collected items that you need in order to solve puzzles and then question the developer’s sanity when you find a puzzle that requires you put an octopus in a toilet, use prunes on this one guy which causes him to run to said toilet where he gets raped by the octopus and you getting his belt buckle. If you think I’m making this up, go play Discworld for the PC and PS1.

So, should you play a walking sim? If you just want a story where you control a character and you have to work in it by walking around a computer-generated world, then yes. If you want to play a game, look somewhere else. Do walking sims have a place in gaming? Absolutely! You’d be surprised what has fans nowadays and these developers have found that (small) audience.

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