17 January 2020

No second season for the Watchmen

As I noted a couple of weeks ago, HBO's series The Watchmen is superb, almost a perfect sequel to the original comic series.

Alas, it looks like there will be no second season. While the first season presents a complete story and ends very well, I must confess that I'm a little disappointed. Among other things, I wanted to learn the fate of Nite Owl. But if Damon Lindelof isn't interested in returning to the world then there's no point in HBO putting out some inferior product.

Nothing ever ends? Looks like Watchmen did... But it least it ended well.

(Thanks to C. Robichaud for the tip.)

16 January 2020

Christopher Tolkien RIP

J.R.R. Tolkien’s son and literary executor Christopher Tolkien has died at the age of 95.

Namárië! Nai hiruvalyë Valimar.
Nai elyë hiruva. Namárië!

(More information available at The Tolkien Society and TOR.)

13 January 2020

A brief reflection on the Witcher and the Mandalorian

So I've been watching "The Mandalorian" and "The Witcher" over the past couple of weeks, and enjoying both quite a bit. (I'm not done either yet, but probably will be by the end of this week.)

I suspect that one reason for my enjoyment is that both series strike me as (heavily edited) post-play role-playing game campaign reports. (In the case of "The Witcher," the campaign is the story-line involving the main character and his bard sidekick, at least through the first 6 episodes or so).

Speaking of "The Witcher," this interactive timeline is pretty amazing. (But this alternative opening credits is ... less so.)

24 December 2019

The Watchmen HBO series is excellent

I wanted to mention this before being completely overwhelmed by the holidays and then forgetting to do so in the new year: HBO’s recent series The Watchmen is excellent and well worth your time.

As I’ve mentioned before here, the original Watchmen is my favourite ‘superhero’ comic series of all time. But I was quite sceptical when HBO announced that it would be producing a series set in the same universe (to take place 34 years after the original story). Unsurprisingly, Alan Moore refused to be associated with it (although Watchmen co-creator Dave Gibbons was heavily involved). And the promotions for it that I watched over the summer were not terribly inspiring.

I am pleased to report that my misgivings were entirely misplaced. Not only is The Watchmen the best superhero television series that I’ve ever watched, it’s one of the best television series I’ve ever watched simpliciter. Every episode is superb—with episodes 3 (“She Was Killed by Space Junk”), 5 (“Little Fear of Lightning”), 6 (“The Extraordinary Being”) and 8 (“A God Walks into Abar”)—worthy of special mention in terms of innovation and vision.

The whole series ties together extremely well. The ending is refreshingly satisfying: it resolves the main storylines while leaving enough open to permit a second series. Thankfully, the ‘twists’—of which there are many—all make sense. The overall story and Watchmen universe is highly coherent and compelling. And the soundtrack (by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross) is magnificent.

Apparently, there may not be a second season. As a successful self-contained story, though, The Watchmen doesn’t need one. But I hope that the story continues nonetheless: I want to know the fate of poor Nite Owl!

18 December 2019

Dark Rumblings for the Rise of Skywalker

Based on this review, The Rise of Skywalker sounds like a real mess.

I’ve liked—but not loved—the recent movies well enough. They’ve certainly been an improvement over the prequels! However, the intense feelings they’ve generated amongst some of the fans, especially The Last Jedi, mystify me. (And I simply don’t care enough about Star Wars to learn about the various criticisms and grievances to become ‘de-mystified’…)

I suspect that I’m somewhat unusual in this respect, but of the recent Star Wars films I’ve much preferred the ‘standalone’ films—Rogue One and Solo—to the trilogy. Rogue One in particular is excellent. I suspect that one reason for their superior quality is that they are not embedded in a trilogy that must somehow be ‘epic’ in nature. Their themes are quite different. Moreover, they take place around the time of the original series, which strikes me as a more coherent setting than that of the current trilogy.

Anyhow, perhaps Rise will turn out to be decent after all. I’ll see it eventually in any case. But I’m certainly not ‘invested’ in it. Once the Ewoks first stumbled into the Star Wars universe in The Return of the Jedi, I realized that I was really not a Star Wars fan after all. I like it but I don’t love it. I’ll take Nazgûl over Sith any day.

30 November 2019

Eye of Vecna coming to the big screen?

The possibility of new Dungeons and Dragons film has popped up from time to time for years now (I last mentioned it here in February 2016). But it now looks like a new D&D film will be released in the summer of 2021. Interestingly, according to this report at ComicBook-dot-com, it will feature the infamous artifact 'The Eye of Vecna':
"ComicBook.com can exclusively report that the upcoming Dungeons & Dragons movie currently in development by Paramount will focus on a group of adventurers looking for the Eye of Vecna, a powerful artifact that dates back to the earliest days of the game. Vecna is a powerful lich turned god whose hand and eye (remnants from when Vecna was a mortal) grant unspeakable power. Both the Hand and Eye of Vecna come with a terrible cost - in order to use either artifact, the user must remove their existing eye or hand and then replace it with the artifact.
Vecna was a major entity in the Greyhawk campaign setting [...]"
The movie, alas, will be set in the Forgotten Realms setting rather than the world of Greyhawk, although I suppose that's to be expected given the centrality of the Realms for contemporary D&D.

I don't have high hopes for this film but perhaps I'll be pleasantly surprised. At the very least it can't be any worse than the 2000 one.

Here's the description of the Eye of Vecna from the 1st edition Dungeon Master's Guide:

The Hand and Eye of Vecna were among the artifacts that most excited (and corrupted?) my young imagination decades ago!

(Thanks to C. Robichaud for the link to the ComicBook-dot-com article.)

19 November 2019

Elric coming to the small screen?

According to Deadline we might see an Elric TV series someday:
“New Republic Pictures’ Brian Oliver and producer Bradley J. Fischer acquired the exclusive rights to all works in Michael Moorcock’s seminal fantasy-horror series The Elric Saga. They are beginning to shop the property for series, with Glen Mazzara (The Walking Dead and The Shield) and Prison Break and Star Trek: Discovery‘s Vaun Wilmott attached to adapt the sci-fi fantasy tale.” 
“Fischer and New Republic see the Elric saga — which begins with the 1972 novel Elric of Melniboné, as having cross-platform franchise potential. They are first leaning into the TV series with Mazzara & Wilmott. The novels are sensual and atmospheric sword-and-sorcery tales that center on the title character, a brooding albino warrior who presides over an unruly, decadent island nation. The novels follow Elric on a series of adventures, in which he is betrayed by his cousin, sent into exile and attempts to come to terms with his own humanity. The series comprises 11 novels and a number of short stories and has been adapted into several comics and graphic novels.”
While this wheel looks to be turning, the TV series (if it materializes) will not be happening in the near future.

In contrast, BBC Studios’ adaptation of the Runestaff tetralogy appears to be further along...

(Hat tip to C. Robichaud for the Elric news.)

17 November 2019

Interview with the Mythic Lawrence Whitaker

Gentle readers, as many of you already know, Lawrence Whitaker (‘Loz’) runs the Design Mechanism with Pete Nash. Whitaker and Nash created the Mythras role-playing game together (the immediate successor to RuneQuest 6, also authored by them). In addition to Mythras, and many fine supplements for it (e.g., Mythic Britain), Loz has written numerous excellent RPG books over the past few decades. He’s also a superb gamemaster.

Anyhow, ENworld’s Charles Dunwoody recently interviewed him about his RPG work. Among many interesting things, Loz mentions the forthcoming Lyonesse role-playing game:
“The Lyonesse RPG will be released next year for the system, licensed and approved by Splatterlight Press. It will be self-contained and powered by Mythras. Lawrence described the setting as consisting of an archipelago between England and France that is said to have sunk in the modern age. The RPG spins out of a setting created by Jack Vance. The books are evocative and filled with interesting characters and the RPG will follow suit. It combines traditional European folklore with violent action. The setting has a complex set of magical rules. Some humans can use faerie magic which is a less powerful form. Higher level magic works through demon summoning. The demons work magic on behalf of the sorcerer.”

(The DM’s PDF overview of the Lyonesse RPG can be found here.)

Curious about Mythras? Check out Mythras Imperative for free!

14 November 2019

Another article on the popularity of D&D

There is an article on the current popularity of Dungeons and Dragons in today's New York Times: "In a Chaotic World, Dungeons & Dragons Is Resurgent."  It's a nice piece, and I'm glad that the game is doing so well these days (including with a wider range of kinds of players than ever before).

I certainly like 5th edition far more than the previous two. In fact, I'm running a 5e D&D game right now. But I just wish that other role-playing games would be mentioned sometimes in these articles! It's a bit frustrating that 'RPGs = D&D' for most journalists.

*sigh* 😞

11 November 2019

Cthulhu, utilitarian

Only Existential Comics could portray the great old one Cthulhu as a rational utilitarian:

EC’s series on ‘Philosophers and Dungeons & Dragons’ is simply wonderful. If you haven’t read them yet, I highly recommend doing so! (I previously posted on parts I, II, IV, V, VI, and VIII—hmmm, not sure why I didn’t mention parts III or VII here.)

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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who divides his time between Milwaukee and Toronto.