Marvel 616 Review – Strange Tales #108 (A Story)

Strange Tales #108 Photo Credit: Marvel, Writers Robert Bernstein & Stan Lee, Artists Steve Ditko & Jack Kirby

While a lot of the rest of Marvel 616 has been chugging along, Johnny Storm in Strange Tales has had a bit of trouble finding an arch nemesis equal to his powers. He usually seems like he can just blow past these guys and if he really gets stuck, he can always call on the rest of the Fantastic Four to help out. So far, not many of the bad guys have really stood out, and neither does, The Painter. This is a bad guy who can paint anything in record speed and it will come to life.

The issue starts us off with The Painter drawing Johnny’s demise in an asbestos lined room fighting the other members of his team.

We next jump back in time to see a bunch of crooks having a rough time committing their crimes because Johnny is in town. Torch then stops a getaway car by melting the asphalt right under it. Not sure if Johnny is on the hook for the repairs but the bad guys are stopped. We see Johnny stop a bank robbery using smoke rings, and flame scissors to cut away the bags of loot. The police seem more than happy for the assists from Torch and everything is going his way. But Johnny knows this isn’t the end. He tells the cops, “Mark my words, right now some master criminal or evil genius is figuring out some so-called brilliant scheme to get rid of me! It’s happened before..”

Then, as you might expect we see a clip show worth of flashbacks of enemies Johnny has faced. He mentions The Wizard, The Destroyer, Paste-Pot Pete and Zemu, Despot of the 5th dimension. They’re all out of commission at this point but Johnny is still around. Johnny knows it’s just a matter of time before he’ll face a new villain.

Of course he is right and that’s where we see the criminal element come together. There is an organized crime leader named “Scar” Tobin and he is interrupted by, “Wilhelm Van Vile, the counter-feiter the Torch caught… but busted out of jail last week!”

This dude wants revenge and he has… a set of paints. He demonstrates his powers by drawing a three headed gorilla to intimidate the gangsters. He does this at lightning speed so they don’t even seem to have time to pull their guns. The painting comes to life and Wilhelm Van Vile is able to control it telepathically. The other bad guys try to stop him but The Painter just keeps painting stuff that stops them, including making one of their guns super heavy, and it crashes through the floor. Van Vile paints a magic carpet and he takes the gangsters along with him on it. This gives Van Vile the opportunity to narrate his origin story.

He was locked up first for making poor imitations of famous art and trying to sell them as originals and then he gets locked up again because he was making counterfeit bills but Johnny caught a mistake on the bills. He does have to turn into the Human Torch to get the job done and The Painter swears his revenge. The Painter then tells the tale of breaking out of prison and digging into a strange underground cavern. He finds a set of paints that look brand new but Van Vile is also aware of “ancient Egyptian picture-writing” and believes the pictures are saying the paints are magical. He also thinks these paints come from a group of aliens who traveled through space by using the paints. (What can I say, it’s a comic book. They have to have aliens or communists at this point right?) The Painter takes a chance and paints his way out of the cave.

We go back to the present where The Painter says he wants to be, “The King of Crime!” I do feel like parts of this issue are a precursor to the character who will become the The Kingpin. “Scare” Tobin kind of looks like him and this is the first real mention that there could be a “King of Crime” at all in 616.

We see The Painter toy with Torch for a bit. He draws a Fantasti-car and giant fire hydrants and he does manage to douse Torch. Johnny is safe but he definitely knows something is up. The Painter then makes some creatures at a carnival come to life. We get to see a couple of weird monster drawings from Jack Kirby which is always fun. Torch drives them into the sea and saves the day. Then The Painter draws a volcano of sand to stop Johnny but that doesn’t work either.

We finally come back to the point of the beginning of the story where The Painter draws Johnny losing a fight to his teammates. And we see him lose this fight. The crooks all hear on the radio this was the end of Johnny Storm and they are overjoyed and plan to take on the rest of the FF as soon as they can.

But The Human Torch suddenly shows up. Johnny burns up the the paintings and magic paints. Turns out Johnny had figured out who was doing this, waited until the bad guys were all asleep and painted a living picture of himself with the magic paints so he was never in any actual danger.

The Painter is baffled as to how Johnny figured this out but it turns out it was Van Vile’s own fault. He was careless in his paintings. He didn’t put nozzles on the fire hydrants, didn’t put any litter baskets in the beach scene, and didn’t even put a 4 on the uniforms of The Fantastic Four. So Johnny combed the area until he found The Painter.

The story ends kind of abruptly right there.

The story was pretty standard for the time but it is clear the creators are trying to find the right person to be the consistent bad guy for Johnny. He’s gone up against a few who will be completely forgotten but he’s also had a run in or two with some who will eventually become major players in 616 continuity. For now, it’s still kind of a bad guy of the week situation for this character.

Next up on the reading list, we’re actually staying on this issue for the D story. I thought it would be better to separate out the reviews, however because they are totally different stories. So next is Strange Tales #108 (D story)!

What in the World is Going on with TTRPG’s Right Now?

Hey all, Slick Dungeon here.

As most of you who read this blog probably know, I really enjoy playing Tabletop Role Playing Games. AKA TTRPG’s. Even if you have never heard the term TTRPG in your life, you know what one is. If you’ve ever heard of Dungeons & Dragons, that is the most famous one. That game is owned by a company called Wizards of the Coast or WotC for short. Even if you’ve never heard of WotC you’ve definitely heard of the company that owns WotC. Hasbro owns WotC. So when people talk about Dungeons & Dragons being a major TTRPG, owned by a big company, owned by an even bigger company, that’s what they are talking about. Hasbro is a very famous brand but they have a bit of a problem. Not everything they make is making as much money as they would like.

One brand of theirs doing well though, is Wizards of the Coast. Not only do they release D&D stuff, they’re also the company that owns Magic: The Gathering. And they are on the verge of launching a bunch of what could be really cool stuff. There is a D&D movie coming out soon starring Chris Pine. There is a Virtual Tabletop (or VTT) coming. There are several video games, books, toys, accessories and other various merchandise about to come out. And, they are about to move to the next iteration of Dungeons & Dragons. Currently they are on the fifth edition of the game. They’re moving to the next version but they are calling it One D&D. As in, we don’t need editions any more we’re just going to say it is D&D. Whether that name and attitude sticks remains to be seen.

With all of this cool stuff on its way it would seem like WotC is in a prime spot to make more money than it ever has. And honestly, as a lover of D&D and TTRPG’s I don’t mind them being successful. We’re talking the chance for them to go Marvel or Star Wars big if they do this right.

But, there has been a major snag, of WotC’s own making in the last month or so.

Usually on this blog, I don’t really delve into current events or news or whatever about TTRPG’s, I just like to talk about the stuff I like. But I honestly can’t keep silent anymore. Everything in this blog post is nothing more than my opinion, none of it is in any way legal insight or advice, and a lot of this ground has been covered by people much more knowledgeable than myself. However, since there are people who read my blog who like TTRPG’s, I kind of feel like I owe it to them to say something even if I have what anyone would consider a small audience. Because, here is the thing, at this moment in time I think Hasbro and WotC are forgetting absolutely everything that makes their own game great in the first place. Yet, I don’t think it is too late for this all to be corrected. If you’re not a TTRPG nerd, this article may not be for you. I promise to get back to movie and book reviews and all the other stuff I do on this blog soon. But if you do play TTRPG’s I hope you’ll read this because I think it’s important that we all as enthusiasts of this hobby realize we are what make TTRPG’s work, whether you make content, play the games at your own home, or just read the books and do nothing else with them.

If you follow the world of TTRPG’s even a little bit you’ve probably heard about the huge dust up between WotC and independent creators over something called the Open Gaming License, or OGL for short. This license, along with the set of rules you can use to play D&D called the System Reference Document or SRD for short is what allows people to make things related to D&D for others to use and then buy those products. For example, if there was a creator like Matt Colville who decided to make a subclass for Rogues, and wanted to sell it for $0.99 he is allowed to do that as long as he acknowledges the OGL.

WotC and Hasbro, or more accurately, their lawyers want to change that. They want to revoke the OGL and put in a new version of the OGL. Whether or not they have the right to do that, and whether or not someone would get sued for making D&D third party content under the new license is really up in the air at this point in time. You see, WotC, sent a bunch of contracts with a new OGL, that would frankly, take away a ton of revenue from almost anyone who makes third party content for D&D. These contracts leaked to the press and there was strong outrage over the terms in there from the TTRPG creator community. I won’t get too specific here but basically it boiled down to this. WotC would almost certainly be able to tell anyone they want that they can no longer use the old OGL, and might have lawyers come after those creators. In addition, if you used the new OGL, you’d have to pay fairly high royalties to WotC. This meant that publishers such as Paizo or Kobold press, who make products that use the OGL, might very well be sued by Hasbro. Worse than that, WotC was saying they could have the rights to any new characters or ideas made using the new OGL, so, say Grogg from Critical Role, might now be a D&D property even though the folks at Critical Role clearly came up with him.

To make a long story short, community creators didn’t like this and there has been a lot of pressure put on WotC to do something about it, or at least acknowledge the problems people were complaining about. In fact, WotC waited so long, Paizo may end up looking like the biggest heroes in the TTRPG space for decades to come. (More about that later in the post.) The pressure seemed like it might have started working as people began to unsubscribe from D&D Beyond, where you can buy lots of virtual stuff for D&D fifth edition. Hasbro has assuredly at this point realized they are losing money. Whether or not they care about that is still unclear in my opinion. WotC released a statement over the whole debacle and there was something in there that just angered and saddened me so much that I had to write this post.

On the one hand, they have delayed the release of the new OGL, probably because they now need to scramble with the wording to make it more palatable for creators, but still basically suck as much money from people as WotC can. It makes sense for them to delay given the context of what is going on. But in their statement, giving what amounted to a non-apology apology, they had a paragraph in there that just blew my mind as to how adversarial and negative the Executives at WotC and Hasbro must think towards their audience.

The quote is below and I’ll talk about why it made me so upset after.

A couple of last thoughts. First, we won’t be able to release the new OGL today, because we need to make sure we get it right, but it is coming. Second, you’re going to hear people say that they won, and we lost because making your voices heard forced us to change our plans. Those people will only be half right. They won—and so did we.

WotC STatement on 1/13/2023. Full statement available on D&D Beyond

Like I said, delaying the release of the new OGL makes perfect sense. I don’t have any issue with that. But the statement in full did not completely address some of the biggest problems with the proposed new OGL. If Wizards of the Coast was smart and could see the writing on the wall, they would have given up and said they would just stick with the old OGL.

There is another alternative WotC could have chosen but we’ll get to that later as well. What they instead chose to do, was to talk about winners and losers. I want you to keep something very basic about D&D in mind as you read the rest of this post because this just shows how little WotC and Hasbro seem to get it right now. There are no winners or losers in D&D. Never have been and never will be. We’re not playing Monopoly here. This is a cooperative game where people are supposed to work together to slay the dragon. WotC and Hasbro don’t seem to realize that at this point, they are the dragon. In my opinion, this whole “people say that they won and we lost because making your voices heard forced us to change our plans.” section absolutely is trying to devalue any opinion long time lovers of this game have. It’s not so much how they phrased that but that they think there should be any us against them at all in the TTRPG community. When D&D does well, other TTRPG’s also do well and vice versa.

In essence Hasbro expects that they can lose a bunch of old timers who have been playing this game since forever and replace them with all the new fans they will get once a shiny new movie and edition come out. They may even be right about that. It’s possible D&D will see more devoted and dedicated players than ever before and they won’t need any of us who have always played this game. But I have my doubts that will work. For one thing, I’ve never heard of a show or movie convincing anyone to actually sit down at a table and play a D&D campaign for hours on end. As successful as Stranger Things is, I don’t think there are very many people who started playing solely because they watched that show.

You know who does get people to start playing D&D? People who already play D&D. Older sisters, younger brothers, friends, cousins, teachers, mothers, fathers, sons, aunts, uncles and anyone else who just really loves the game and wants to share it with others. As much as I love this game, it’s going to be hard to tell someone I want them to play this game, but be warned, the company that makes this game does not care at all about the people who play it. And right now, that’s what I would have to say in order to be honest.

Now, maybe Hasbro actually doesn’t care about the TTRPG known as D&D. Maybe they only care about the movie, video games and VTT that are coming because those are potentially bigger money makers. But a big chunk of their audience is upset and disappointed in the direction this stuff is going. I don’t, nor should anyone, blame people who just so happen to work at WotC or Hasbro and have no influence over this decision. The people I do blame are the ones who don’t seem to understand this game at all, don’t care about the creators, players, older sisters, younger brothers, friends, cousins, teachers, mothers, fathers, sons, aunts, uncles and anyone else who just really loves the game and wants to share it with others. Instead they see us as roadblocks to money. It’s as boldfaced an incident of corporate greed as I have ever seen. And I was willing to hand my $50 over for almost any book WotC printed before. I’m not so willing now.

I had some content coming up this year that was going to feature some 5th edition D&D. I was strongly considering doing a solo D&D 5E play through and writing about it on this blog. I was also considering writing an adventure for D&D this year and releasing it on The Dungeon Master’s Guild website. I still may do so, but it is going to 100% depend on what WotC does next. I would be considered the tiniest of tiny creators but even someone as small as me is having second thoughts. I would encourage anyone reading this to think twice about making anything using the OGL at this point in time because we just don’t know what will happen and it would be a major shame for all that energy and effort to simply put you in a courtroom.

I know I sound negative and like doom and gloom is coming. But there are spots of hope. For one, WotC did delay the release of what would have been an utterly horrendous OGL and that is for one reason and one reason alone. The TTRPG community is a tight-knit, friendly community, who knows how to read and understand rules, and is more than willing to organize. For goodness sakes, most of us devour 500 page books regularly and organize 5-7 people weekly guiding our players through rules that can be very difficult to understand. That’s just to say, we can tell when a company thinks we are too dumb to understand something. That’s exactly what WotC is saying with their statement. It’s been inspiring to see the TTRPG come together and activate so quickly. Now, there are some who seem to blame people who are just doing their jobs at companies like WotC and Hasbro and that should not be the norm here. We’re better than that. Fat cat executives who only care about the price of stock and the lawyers who are more than happy to squeeze every penny out of every person playing D&D are the ones to blame, no question.

The second inspiring thing here comes from one of D&D’s largest competitors (although I don’t actually see them as competition because as I said, TTRPGs all do well when any one of them does well), Paizo. Paizo knew it would be inevitable that at some point, if the new OGL was released, they would end up in court over it. They rolled with advantage on their initiative and announced they would get behind something called the Open Resource Creative License nicknamed the ORC license. Essentially the statement from Paizo did absolutely everything right that WotC did wrong. They got ahead of an issue, even one that wasn’t of their own making, they respected the TTRPG community while doing it, and they offered to bring their lawyers to slay the dragon of Hasbro if needed. Contrast the statement below with the one above and see if you can tell which company is being friendly to their audience.

We believe, as we always have, that open gaming makes games better, improves profitability for all involved, and enriches the community of gamers who participate in this amazing hobby. And so we invite gamers from around the world to join us as we begin the next great chapter of open gaming with the release of a new open, perpetual, and irrevocable Open RPG Creative License (ORC).

Full statement available at Paizo.com

Now, we need a little bit of caution here. We haven’t seen the final draft of the ORC license but man, I already want to go around saying I have an ORC license. Something else very encouraging here is that Paizo doesn’t actually intend to be the caretaker of this license. They want to give it to a non-profit organization who has expertise in dealing with open source material. If you know anything about software think about Linnux as opposed to say Microsoft. The point is for everyone to use it and everyone to have the same basic building blocks to make stuff with. It will be important that there be some set of rules to go with the ORC license. I’m talking game rules, not law rules, although those are also important. It’s one thing for a company like Paizo to say something like this but it’s something entirely different to hear that a ton of other companies have also said they would adopt the ORC, including Chaosium Inc, Kobold Press and a bunch of other publishers well known in the TTRPG industry. This move is so bold, TTRPG gaming may have just been changed forever. And when people look back at what happened in January 2023, they are going to say Paizo innovated, thought well of their fans, and landed boat loads of good will. It’s possible Paizo’s idea won’t work but they are seriously trying to make it work and it helps that several of the people from Paizo who are working on the ORC also worked on the original OGL. In other words, Paizo had major, major credentials here.

I will admit this to everyone reading. I have never played Pathfinder which Paizo produces. I have played a few sessions of Starfinder and enjoyed it but I’m by no means as well versed with Paizo products as I am with WotC products. But I’m seriously considering the switch. (Also I love Chaosium and they were never in danger from the OGL issues but they’ve also had a good response to the whole debacle so I’ll still be playing their games.)

If you think the OGL issues has no effect on you and you play 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons at all, you’re wrong. There is some rule or mechanic, or situation you have used that came about because of the OGL. And even if you’ve never played any D&D this OGL could still affect you. The video game Knights of the Old Republic uses the same d20 system that D&D does. I don’t think Disney is going to line up to hand over money to WotC any time soon though and there’s no way, any Jedi get to become part of D&D because of this proposed move.

If WotC wanted to maintain good will and bring people back from the brink of walking away with money in their pockets, their smartest move would be to sign on to the ORC. There’s almost zero chance of that happening but if they did, I think a lot of people would come right back to sing the praises of WotC.

At this point, unless we’re major creators, all we can do is wait and see what happens. I will say this though. If you feel strongly about the OGL needing to stay as is, or if you think WotC should sign on to the ORC, the best way to demonstrate that is with money. Or, rather, the withholding of it. If you were considering purchasing a book printed by WotC, wait a little while and see how this resolves. If you have a D&D Beyond subscription, consider cancelling it. Don’t shout at WotC employees online or in real life. Even if they are executives, they won’t hear you, but they will miss your money. And if you just can’t bring yourself to cancel that D&D subscription, I totally get it. D&D is fun! It’s supposed to be fun and giving it up is hard. But, maybe, take that money you were about to spend at WotC and go buy something new from an independent creator. Buy things on Drivethrurpg. Get something from Paizo, or Kobold Press, or Chaosium or Modiphius or any other TTRPG publisher you’ve heard of and always wanted to try. Or heck, try one you’ve never heard of and find out if it’s fun. There’s a good chance it is.

If you decide to cancel your subscription to D&D Beyond or buy a book from another publisher, use the hashtag #OpenDnD to let WotC know you can’t simply be lied to. Let them know you’re not okay with that. As always, be polite about it and thoughtful in your reactions to any news you hear. Spread the word about games you love playing that are not D&D. Or, in the case of some of these publishers who are publishing 5th edition content, such as Kobold Press, buy directly from them and use their books in your games. While D&D is the biggest name out there, they are by far not the only name out there.

Some games and supplements I strongly recommend you check out, not just because of gameplay at this point, but because of the ethical response from these companies, are as follows. Call of Cthulhu by Chaosium Inc. Pathfinder and Starfinder by Paizo, Midgard by Kobold Press, Sword Chronicle by Green Ronin, Aegis of Empires by Legendary Games, Jewel of the Indigo Isles by Roll for Combat, Super Powered Legends Sourcebook for Mutants & Masterminds 3rd edition by Rogue Genius Games and anything printed by MCDM.

To be 1000% clear here, none of the links above are affiliate links, meaning I get absolutely no percentage of anything bought through those. I just think we should all take the time to take a stand against a company who will discard its own best audience. Purchasing something at the links above may help to do that.

I really hope in the end WotC saves face here, stops thinking of people like me and those of you reading this as the enemy, realizes we all can love this game together and if a smaller publisher is profiting because they are producing content for the game you have ownership of under an open license allowing them to do so, everyone benefits. The person selling the content benefits, the person buying benefits, and WotC benefits by spreading the word of this amazing game that has enamored so many of us.

I know this is a long post but I want you to just hang in there with me for a little longer. Before I go, I have to mention some of the people on YouTube who have done much more insightful, thoughtful and compelling pieces on this subject than I ever could. If you haven’t seen anything from these channels, take a look at their videos. I’ve curated what I think are the best of them so far.

Dungeon Dudes
Roll for Combat
The Rules Lawyer
LegalEagle
Sherlock Hulmes

With all of that said, I’m going to sign off here. I don’t know if I’ll ever do another post like this. It was kind of heartbreaking and frustrating to write. I never thought I would ever be in any position where I might want to step away from D&D at all but here I am. I hope I never have to completely walk away but the next move is WotC’s to make. Do they want to lose people like me, move on with their megacorporation plans, and only let in new players who are just here because of what they saw on television or in a movie theater? I am all for new players but I can’t recommend anyone become one at this moment. Hasbro may not care about that. I’m going to keep playing TTRPG’s no matter what.

If things all work out, maybe my next post will be about how awesome it to use horror elements in D&D. If not, well, Call of Cthulhu is pretty damn scary if you want it to be also.

I hope you’ve gotten something out of this post. If you get nothing else out of it, just take this with you. People who play this game, even the smallest of us, deserve to be heard. We deserve to be respected and we can tell when a corporation thinks of us as walking wallets. It’s not okay to treat people that way and not okay to have an us vs. them mentality when it comes to your own customers. It’s just not. WotC needs to hear this. And while there’s pretty much zero chance they will read this, maybe some of you will. If you do, feel free to share this post, reply back to me, tell me what you think in the comments (politely) and keep playing TTRPG’s. I think no matter what happens this community of people is smart enough and kind enough to keep this hobby thriving with or without big companies trying to stop us. I hope to be talking about something more positive the next time I write but until then, do what you can to help others in this community.

Long windedly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Freddy Vs. Jason – Movie Review

Freddy Vs. Jason

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Happy Friday the 13th everybody! It’s me, Slick Dungeon, back to review the meetup of two titans of horror, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees in a film quite obviously titled Freddy vs. Jason. If spoilers are what gives you nightmares, be warned I’ll be slashing my way through my thoughts on the movie. So, if you haven’t seen it, run through a cornfield and hope not to meet a flaming Jason on the way and watch the movie. Then come on back here to read the review.

For years horror fans had clamored to see a couple of the biggest names in horror meet up. We’d even seen a tease of it years before this famous crossover came out. But due to lots of behind the scenes copyright issues and negotiations it was delayed so much that both Freddy and Jason ended up having movies set far in the future before this one actually takes place. Who would win, and deliver more fear, between the machete wielding, hockey mask wearing, un-killable lunatic, and the man who has a burned face, knives for fingers, and can invade your nightmares? Surely this would be an epic battle and one of the scariest movies of all time right? Meh. Not so much.

Both Freddy and Jason have gone to hell at this point. Freddy is having a bit of trouble because Springwood doesn’t seem to remember him. And if no one remembers him, no one is scared of him. If no one is scared of him, Freddy has no power. Good thing for Freddy, Jason is an unstoppable killing machine. So Freddy decides to let Jason loose in Springwood, assuming correctly that people there would think it was Freddy doing the killing. Freddy’s legend would grow again and he can terrorize teenagers once more. At least, that’s how he wanted it to work.

What the movie results in here is more of a… clip show? Yeah. One of the biggest problems with this movie which was made for fans who already love both franchises is that the film makers seemed to feel the need to rehash a whole bunch of what we’ve already seen to explain who Freddy and Jason are. They recreate some of the famous scenes from both franchises and those are somehow the most interesting part here.

That’s not to say there is no good stuff in this movie. It is definitely fun to watch Freddy and Jason fight. Freddy wins in the humorous quip department because, well, Jason doesn’t ever talk. But Jason is also quite the workhorse and he’s pretty hard to stop. They also bring back Jason’s mother for a few scenes and that’s always a good touch.

Once Freddy gets Jason out in the real world, Jason starts killing teens as all of us might expect. Said teens don’t know about Freddy or Jason but the police who are trying to do everything they can to cover up the existence of Freddy Krueger say the name Freddy Krueger right in front of the teenagers.

The teens fall asleep and Freddy visits them but he’s still not strong enough to get them so he lets Jason run wild for a bit. More teens die but now they have a person in a hockey mask to blame. Some people seem to know this is Jason because… well there was a cop from Crystal Lake but for no other reason.

When you are threatened with death and you are a teenager what do you do? Throw a huge party in a cornfield of course! At the party, Jason picks off a few more victims but one of them happens to be sleeping. Freddy ain’t too happy about that.

Eventually there is a bit of exposition about both Freddy and Jason and the teens come up with a plan. They want to put Jason to sleep so Freddy will fight him and then drop Jason off at Crystal Lake and high tail it outta there figuring Jason will be home and won’t leave the camp. Either way their odds are better if one of them dies.

We get to see Freddy toss Jason around in the dream world and then we get to see Jason shred up Freddy in the real world. Epic battle ensues. And of course you kill Freddy with fire and you drown Jason to stop them. We get a stinger at the end which implies Jason won the fight but Freddy is never going to be gone for good.

Is this the most enjoyable film of either franchise? No. Is it the worst movie in either franchise? Again, no. I do feel like if they had spent less time telling us and showing us stuff we already knew, this could have come off a little better. Freddy seems funny but menacing for most of this and Jason is certainly the juggernaut he’s become. But at times the film dips into a bit of the ridiculous and it seems like our final teens figure out how to stop Jason and Freddy way, way, way too easily. Not that they don’t have a lot of friends die first.

One issue I have with this is pretty simple. Jason is an undead, unstoppable killing machine. Does he even dream? I mean why would he? That’s never addressed, it’s just assumed he does. Still, that’s kind of a small issue. Also, the teens assume Jason wouldn’t come after them if they leave him in Crystal Lake but did they not notice Jason when he was in the middle of Times Square? Seems like the dude can leave when he wants to.

While the movie does retread a lot of old material, I still only recommend this if you have seen at least some of both franchises. It’s more fun that way. Just don’t expect it to have the intensity of some of the better movies in both franchises. There are still some fun and inventive kills here and they do the best they can with the story here, it just could never quite live up to the hype and build up of what was expected. If you’ve seen all the rest of these movies, give this one a watch.

And I also hope this movie acts as a lesson for horror franchises looking to do a crossover in the future. Make it early, while the buzz is going, but take the time to develop a good story that makes sense. And yes, I am staring directly at your murderous child doll eyes, M3GAN and Chucky!

Superstitiously yours,

Slick Dungeon

Having Trouble With the OGL? Try This Instead

Basic Role Playing: The Chaosium Roleplaying System

Hey TTRPG fans, Slick Dungeon here. If you are at all involved in the TTRPG community, you’ve probably heard about the whole Wizards of the Coast Open Gaming License debacle. I’m no lawyer and really can’t give anyone advice on what to do about that situation but I will try to sum it up real quickly here before I give you an alternative.

Basically, there is currently an Open Gaming License known as the OGL 1.0a which allows content creators to make stuff for Dungeons & Dragons. It’s worked really well for a long time but Wizards of the Coast is making changes to it and not to get too into the weeds here but creators are going to potentially see much less profit and maybe not be able to produce content without handing over a ton of rights and royalties and whatnot to Hasbro. As I said, I can’t give anyone advice on that. But, I do have a suggestion for everyone and it comes from one of the biggest competitors to D&D, Chaosium Inc.

Chaosium makes some outstanding products with lots of fun games to choose from. As a horror fan, my favorite is their Call of Cthulhu 7th edition game but they have several others including RuneQuest, StormBringer, Superworld, Pendragon, and Rivers of London.

Well guess what? Those games use a rule system as well. And Chaosium actually wants people to make cool stuff with their system! Again, I am 100% not a lawyer so before you make anything with Chaosium’s BRP system, do your due diligence and make sure what you are making complies and all that good stuff.

Still, I get the distinct impression Chaosium, Inc. would really kinda like it if we all made some cool stuff because they are practically giving away their rule system right now. This system allows you to make derivative work using the BRP rules. That’s a fancy way of saying you can make stuff, including full on TTRPG’s using this system. Again consult a lawyer because if your idea is to, make Call of Cthulhu again, that’s not gonna work but there are tons of things you can do here and it’s a great rules system.

Anyway, why do I think Chaosium Inc. really would like us to make some cool stuff? You can get the BRP on drivethrurpg.com for $0.99 instead of the normal $21.95 it usually sells for. I got my own copy already but I definitely want to see other people make more games, supplements, scenarios, and generally fun stuff we can all get into so get your own copy!

And, if you want to help out this blog just a bit, buy it through my affiliate links in the image or right here. I’ll get a small commission for it but honestly I don’t care how you get it because I just want to see more people make more cool stuff for TTRPG’s.

Non-lawyeringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

Top 5 Tabletop RPG’s to Play in 2023

A TTRPG lover can never have enough dice!
Huge Discounts on your Favorite RPGs @ DriveThruRPG.com

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon, here and I wanted to talk about the top 5 roleplaying games I think you should play this year. Just a note, this list is designed for people who have some experience with role playing games so if you are a new player or game master there’s a chance these games may not be for you. For those players I recommend checking out my post from last year linked here. But you never know, maybe you’ll find something here you want to try!

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

Without any further ado let’s get on with the list!

5. Cyberpunk Red

Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit

The video game Cyberpunk 2077 had an absolute disaster of a launch, although I hear it’s overall playable now. Cyberpunk Red, however, had no such trouble and delivers an excellent immersive experience if you want to get your hands dirty in a world where huge megacorporations have been shattered and everyone is scrambling to live their lives, make a living, seize opportunities, or plot some revenge. It’s a fun and fast paced game and if you like movies like Blade Runner or The Matrix series this one should be right up your neon lit alley.

With this one I recommend starting with the Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit. This comes with a book of lore and adventures that take place in the setting and a book of rules to use for gameplay. You also get six pregenerated characters making getting started much faster. There are also some maps and standees here to use. Fair warning you may need to read the rules a couple of times to get the full feel for it as not everything is 100% clear on the first read.

The Jumpstart Kit retails for $29.99 on drivethrurpg but right at this moment you can get it for $4.99 which is a steal. To get the Jumpstart Kit click here or on the image above.

If you’re convinced and want to just go all in on Cyberpunk Red you can get the core book for $30.00 but it is on sale for $22.50 right now. Not quite as good of a deal as the Jumpsart Kit but it’s a savings and this will have the full rules, a lot more lore, and ten unique Roles for you to play. To get the core book just click here.

4. Kids on Brooms

Kids on Brooms

I’ve talked before about Kids on Bikes which is an extremely fun role playing game. It lets you take on the kinds of stories you think of when you think about all the stories about kids who ride bikes in movies and TV shows. Think E.T. and Stranger Things. There will be a second edition of this game coming out in 2023 but we don’t have it yet. While we are waiting, did you know there is a magical school version of this game called Kids on Brooms that uses the same rule system?

This is rules light and narrative focused so you are not bogged down by tons of math and figuring out stat blocks and stuff like that. If you ever wanted to play in a Harry Potter style setting but not be restrained by what is actually in that setting, this one is absolutely perfect for you. And the way dice rolls can explode into bigger and bigger results is really fun here.

Kids on Brooms sells for $12.99 on drithrurpg normally but is on sale for $9.74 right now. To get it, click on the image above or click here.

If you’re interested in less magic but still want a fun game with the same set of rules, you can’t go wrong with the original Kids on Bikes. You can get this one for $9.99 on drivethrurpg normally but it is on sale right now for $7.49. To get it, just click here.

Either game is a great deal for hours of narrative storytelling fun.

3. ThirstY Sword Lesbians

Thirsty Sword Lesbians

If you’re looking for an RPG that acknowledges and celebrates the existence of queer people and you like playing in games where a deadly duel can suddenly result in passionate love, this is the game for you. It may not be a perfect game but there are simply not enough TTRPG’s that have queer folks as a central focus and most of those tend not to acknowledge queer relationships outside of a quick mention of a partner. This game flips that over and makes the dueling and the romance the central point. And, it’s fun to play!

There’s lots of advice here on running a safe game for everyone at the table and respecting everyone’s boundaries. It’s a great romp of a swashbuckler and as a CIS, hetero male, let me just reassure everyone reading here that, no, you do not have to be a lesbian, or even queer to enjoy this game. It’s not for everyone and if you are looking to just bash monsters and not have any romance or passion in your game, maybe don’t buy this one. But, this is a really refreshing change from a lot of TTRPG’s out there and it was developed by a diverse group of people with a variety of identities and they ended up with a pretty fun game. If you like shows like The L Word or Our Flag Means Death, you’ll have a good time with this one.

Thirsty Sword Lesbians sells for $15.00 on drivethrurpg but right now you can get it for $11.25. To get it, click the image above or click here.

2. Mutants & Masterminds

Mutants & Masterminds Third Edition

While I love fantasy role playing games, there’s just something super fun about playing in a superhero universe. Later this year Marvel will be coming out with its own version of a TTRPG, the first they have done in a while. But in order for that game to do well, it is going to have to be better than Mutants & Masterminds and that is no small feat. I will say the character creation can take a bit of time here but the rules allow you to be just about any superhero you’ve heard of and to invent ones you’ve never heard of but always wanted to see. Characters don’t tend to end up dead quite as easily as in some other TTRPG’s because, like in the comics, heroes are meant to endure. You pretty much just need a D20 and the core rulebook to get started on this one.

If you love Marvel, Image, DC, Valiant or basically any superhero comics and want to play in a world like those, this is the game for you. It’s tons of fun and full of action. It’s narrative heavy but it does take some work in the character development phase. After all, you want a good origin story if you’re a hero don’t you?

You can get the core rulebook known as The Mutants & Masterminds Deluxe Hero’s Handbook PDF for $20.00 on drivethrurpg. Unfortunately, unlike most of the titles on this list, this one is not on sale right now. And while there is a Mutants & Masterminds Basic Hero’s Handbook for a little cheaper at $16.95 normally but on sale for $12.71 right now, I really don’t recommend it. For this one, the Deluxe book really is the way to go as it gives you everything you need, including a quickstart character generator and two premade adventures. To get the core rulebook click the image above or click here.

1. Zweihander Fantasy Horror RPG

Zweihander Fantasy Horror RPG Starter Kit

I love fantasy, I love horror, I love TTRPG’s so I can’t go wrong with the Zweihander Fantasy Horror RPG Starter Kit. This kit gives a great intro into Zweihander and their Grim & Perilous games. It’s kind of like Dungeons & Dragons but it leans toward more horror and a lot more death. It’s sort of like Call of Cthulhu rules meeting up with the D&D setting but there’s enough here to make it completely original. It has a grim and gritty feel to it where actions have consequences and there is danger lurking around every corner.

For this one I highly recommend using the Starter Kit. You can get it on drivethrurpg as a PDF for $6.66 normally but it’s on sale for $5.00 right now. I will warn you that on driethrurpg it is only the PDF so you don’t get the cool box but you do get a rule book for making characters, a rulebook for running the game, and printable versions of stuff like the GM screen, the maps and the cards. If you’re okay with printing this stuff drivethrurpg is a good deal and you can get it by clicking the image above or by clicking here.

If you just gotta have that cool box and the stuff already printed (and I can’t blame you if you do!) then you’ll want to either visit your local friendly gaming store, or buy through Amazon. On Amazon it’s going to cost you $29.99 plus shipping and all that good stuff. If you want to buy that version, just click here.

In Conclusion

Well, that’s the list. What games are you looking forward to playing in the coming year? If you have any good recommendations drop them in the comments below!

I think you’ll have fun playing any of these games but that’s just my opinion and games certainly up to people’s tastes and preferences. I hope you got some good recommendations here but either way make 2023 a year for gaming!

Thanks for reading!

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Marvel 616 Review – Journey Into Mystery #91

Journey Into Mystery Issue 91, Photo Credit: Marvel, Writer Stan Lee and Larry Lieber, Artist Joe Sinnott

Journey Into Mystery has thrown us quite a few stories involving Thor and his alter ego Don Blake. He’s fought communists, aliens, petty thieves and an assortment of other bad guys. But Thor always shines most when he fights Loki. Even when he doesn’t know he is fighting Loki.

This issue starts with Odin in Asgard holding what he calls a belt of strength. It belongs to Thor but so far during his time on Earth (aka midgard). This belt gives Thor even more strength and power than he usually has.

We shift over to Thor who is flying through the sky and sees a commotion below him. A bank building is floating in the air as the people below it watch. Thor forces the building towards the ground but it suddenly disappears. Strangely, all the people who where in the bank suddenly reappear unharmed. Thor turns back into his mortal form of Dr. Don Blake. He sees the crowd panicking but none of them seem to have any memory of where they went or what happened there.

Dr. Blake realizes this is not due to any physical issue and assumes Loki must be up to something. Interestingly, it seems Blake remembers what happens when he is Thor. Their personalities seem to merge a bit more frequently in this issue than in some others. This is not a Hulk/Banner dichotomy, Blake and Thor seem to have similar goals most of the time.

Blake changes back to Thor and calls to Odin to check that Loki is still in Asgard. Odin confirms Loki hasn’t left but Odin is not aware that Loki can get up to mischief even from Asgard. Thor figures he has to go back and find out who seems to be doing these odd things. He sees a bunch of cash floating in the air at the race track.

We flash over to Loki who is having the time of his life watching all this happen. Turns out a few days earlier Loki discovered a person with a mild amount of telepathic abilities who was making a living at a carnival. This person is named Sandu and he guesses accurately in seconds that Don Blake is in love with Jane Foster but he denies it. Jane gets a bit frustrated because she thinks Blake is too stuffy to fall for any girl. Blake, for his part knows Odin has forbidden him to reveal his identity to any mortal. At least he has a somewhat valid excuse. It’s tough to defy the command of a god and all.

Loki decides to boost Sandu’s powers and figures the guy would turn to pure evil pretty quickly. Loki was absolutely right about that. Needless to say, the guy goes on a crime spree stealing as much money as he can. He teleports money and banks and art and even a whole palace. Any people in the buildings he teleports he wipes away their memories. Most of it he teleports to the moon. Not sure how that will work for him but I guess we should just let Sandu be Sandu in this one.

Thor tries to stop the guy and Loki watches with sheer joy as Thor tries to fight Sandu. Sandu crosses the line when he teleports the United Nations building and demands that all the delegates make him the ruler of the world. As Thor tries to stop him, Sandu drops a bunch of steel on him and traps Thor. Thor asks for help from Odin. And as you can probably guess, Odin sends the belt of strength from the beginning of the issue.

A pair of Valkyries bring it to Thor. These are not the strong warrior women you might imagine from the MCU. These are ethereal beings who kind of float around in flowing gowns. This will change in future comics but it’s how we are first introduced to them.

Thor busts out of the trap he is in but Sandu tricks Thor into throwing his hammer and then teleports Thor into a dimension where he can’t reach his hammer. Sandu isn’t all that smart though because he realizes how powerful a weapon it is and tries to lift Mjolnir with his mind. In Asgard, Loki basically yells at Sandu because he knows there is no way this dude can lift that hammer.

In the end, Thor prevails and Sandu is defeated. But, no one seems to be wise to the fact that Loki caused all the mischief here.

Some things to note in this issue are the integrated personalities of Thor and Blake, they seem to be one person, but how that’s possible isn’t yet explained, Loki for the first time here not only causes trouble but gets away with it without being caught at all, and the connection between Thor and Odin is made more direct than before. It seems Thor can call dear ol’ dad whenever he needs to and there is a pretty instant reply.

The end of the issue shows us Loki saying he will find a way to defeat Thor because he’s got all eternity to scheme. We’ve definitely not seen the last of him and he’ll prove to be more of a threat than just to Thor once the Avengers finally assemble. For now though, we leave him seething as always and just itching to get back at Thor.

Next up on the reading list, we’ll be checking in on Johnny Storm in Strange Tales #108!

M3GAN – Movie Review

M3GAN (2022)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Hello all you people living out in the internet! It’s me, Slick Dungeon, and I’m here to review the film that goes along with the viral dance video, M3GAN. Please be warned there will be some spoilers here so if you have not seen the movie shut down, take a break, watch the movie and come back here to read the review after.

If you are reading past this sentence, you will be spoiled. What if you took Hal 2000 from 2001, allowed it to learn about death and murder and all the bad stuff humans do, paired it with a human child, and gave it the durability of a terminator robot? Bad things? Do we think bad things would happen if we did that? Yes, the answer is yes. If anyone is working on this as a project right now and happens to read this review, stop it now. Please.

Anyway, this movie is definitely an argument for why we should make sure people working in robotics adopt Asimov’s three laws of robotics post haste.

As far as the plot of the film, here’s how it goes. The movie starts off with an ad for what I can only describe as the worst version of Furby you’ve ever seen. A little girl named Cady is heading towards a snow vacation with her parents. She’s a little distracted by the furby-style toy pet she has in the car and it’s a pretty bad snow storm. The parents die in a car crash.

Cady is orphaned and her aunt Gemma is now responsible for her. Turns out Gemma helped to create that little toy pet and she’s working on a much more ambitious project. Basically a sentient, child sized doll that can learn and adapt. She’s behind on some work projects because of this and has to deliver something amazing. She rushes it a bit and develops M3GAN as the newest hit toy without adding in stuff like parent controls or an emergency off switch of any kind. And also, M3GAN seems to be able to pair with any bluetooth enabled device near her.

Things start off calmly enough. M3GAN is almost like a replacement friend/parent to Cady. While doing some testing in the toy lab M3GAN asks about death after she overhears a conversation. Before anyone can stop her, M3GAN has downloaded everything about the subject on the internet. Her prime directive is to keep Cady safe and this is where, shall we say, stuff hits the fan. A dog bites Cady and soon the dog is no more.

Things escalate when Cady is brought to an outdoor school setting and an older boy bullies her. Let’s just say M3GAN is not a fan. Bad things happen to people who cross Cady and/or M3GAN from this point forward. Even Gemma seems to have lost control.

The most entertaining part of the movie comes in the end when they try to have a global launch for M3GAN as the hot new toy and instead she basically goes on a rampage.

If you’ve seen evil doll or robot movies before, you’ve pretty much seen what happens in this movie. Bodies drop, some people do things they shouldn’t, more bodies drop, and eventually someone has to get a grip on this thing and stop it and we’re given a stinger at the end to imply M3GAN is not entirely gone.

I will say, M3GAN does have a bit more flair than some of the killer doll movies I’ve seen and most of it is entertaining. However, it seems a hundred percent obvious to anyone watching that maybe instead of focusing on the potential sentient death doll for profit, most of this horror could have been prevented if Gemma just did what most normal humans would do and gave her niece a hug instead.

If you like sci-fi or horror movies involving evil little dolls or robots, you’ll probably get a kick out of this one. Ronny Chieng has a pretty hilarious performance here as well and there’s enough humor to keep it interesting. While overall this movie is fairly predictable, it’s still fun. If creepy dolls do freak you out too much though, stay far, far away from this film.

If you’ve seen this what did you think? Let me know in the comments. Should Gemma have just, I dunno, taken Cady to the park instead of going back to work?

Robotically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Flash Fiction Friday – Resolutions

Happy Friday those of you out in cyberland! For my first Flash Fiction Friday of the year, I thought I would give you a story about New Year resolutions. Hope you enjoy!

Resolutions by Adam wright

Resolutions

  1. Reduce the number of alien strongholds on the planet
  2. Depower the CPU controlling all of the death robots
  3. Clear the zombie fields
  4. Finally patch up that garden and grow my own tomatoes
  5. Utilize the high powered syringe rifles to cure the vampire hoard
  6. Steal the codes from the megacorporation and transfer currency to the populace
  7. Stop that knife wielding lunatic who keeps offing teenagers at that lake
  8. Refresh the uploads on my cybernetic implants
  9. Ensure the slumbering creature at the bottom of the ocean does not wake this year
  10. Develop a more utilitarian saddle for riding the land worms

Affirmations

  1. I can and will achieve my goals this year
  2. I am the best me I can be
  3. When the mind is set to win, the world is mine to win
  4. If you imagine the impossible, you make the impossible, possible
  5. If I fail at my goals I need to forgive myself
  6. The world is laughing with me, not at me
  7. Don’t carry the burdens of the world on your own shoulders
  8. Taking time to clear my head is not selfish
  9. I am strong, I am attractive, I am wise
  10. There is not a death trap, tractor beam, minefield, laser grid or negative attitude I cannot survive

Annual goal setting mission statement

This year I will bring my best self to all that I do. I will be present in the moment and appreciate the life I have. I will not be envious of others who have more than me but will be grateful for what I do have. If I follow my plans I will be able to achieve my goals. I simply need to focus and I can perform better than I ever have. The cursed doll running amuck in the attic is not my fault but I will do my best to deal with it this year.

Obstacles

  1. A negative mindset
  2. An unwillingness to try new things
  3. Language barriers between myself and the wolf creatures who keep growing to unusual size before devouring innocent bystanders
  4. A year may seem like a long time but time is not on my side
  5. Rat swarms
  6. The possibility that the refrigeration units may have become sentient
  7. I can be too hard on myself sometimes
  8. Trusting innocent looking children who are capable of shapeshifting is not a good idea
  9. I need to be more organized
  10. Whatever that portal seems to be doing

Reality check on above resolutions

Who am I kidding? I do this to myself every single year. I should take that one off the list. I don’t know why I keep putting it there. I’m never going to garden. I don’t even like tomatoes!

Prey – Movie Review

Prey (2022)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon, back to review another film. This time I watched the Predator series prequel simply called Prey. I will be giving a few mild spoilers below but nothing major. Still, if you are bothered by that sort of thing, watch the movie then read the review.

Prey is set in 1719 long before the first Predator movie happens. The good news is you definitely don’t need to have seen any of the other Predator films for this one to make sense. And, for my money, this is easily the best movie in that series. It stars Amber Midthunder in an excellent performance and all I can say is I hope we get to see more of her in action films in the future.

If you have seen Predator movies before, you’ll see a lot of what you would expect. There is a hunter with advanced technology hunting humans. The humans are far outmatched for a variety of reasons and the goal here is survival at best. This also has something most Predator films don’t. Character development is a central focus and they take the time to develop the story. While there is plenty of action, especially in the third act, this film feels way more threatening and a lot more thought out than the others by how understated it is. It takes time to build up some fear for the audience and allows us to care about characters before they are killed.

It’s also refreshing to see this happen in a time period where our modern weaponry is not yet developed. The central plot revolves around a woman named Naru who is a healer but wants to be a hunter. She’s underestimated as far as her hunting skills go but is generally accepted by her family and friends. When a lion attacks and one of the tribe’s hunters goes missing Naru joins to find the missing hunter and to kill the lion. Naru is pretty quick to pick up on the fact that there are more dangerous things than lions hunting the party.

I won’t go into too much more detail here but this absolutely ratchets up the tension in interesting ways. Like all of the Predator movies it gets bloody at times but there’s nothing more extreme than usual here.

With the unique time setting and welcome change in protagonists and the time given to develop a story, this shines as the best of the series. If you don’t really like action movies or hate all of the Predator movies this is probably not for you.

I didn’t think we needed a Predator prequel at all so I was really pleasantly surprised here. If you’ve watched the other Predator films and were kind of done with them like I was, this will breathe a bit of life back into the franchise for you. If you’re curious and you’ve never seen a Predator movie, my recommendation would be to watch this one and maybe the first Predator but stop there. This will be the best one on the list for sure.

Stealthily yours,

Slick Dungeon

Slick Dungeon’s 2022 Challenge Wrap-Up!

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. At the start of 2022 I created some challenges for reading, movies and TTRPG fun. 2022 is over so now it’s time to see how I did on all of these challenges. Also, heads up I will be posting new challenges for 2023 sometime in January so keep an eye out if you want to follow along!

If you did any of these challenges I would also love to hear how you did. Feel free to let me know in the comments.

Reading Challenge

Slick Dungeon’s 2022 Book Challenge! Click the image to download your own copy!

I re-read the first book I remember reading, Cat in the Hat. Still a good book. I actually read a few books longer than 500 pages long. I read some books with magic in it but I’m not sure it was a complicated magic system so I think I have to give myself a partial checkmark on that one. I did not read a book where the main character dies. I also missed the read a book you were assigned in school but didn’t read. I also missed on a book written by a famous author that I have never read. I did read several books less than 500 pages long and I absolutely read independently published books. I really didn’t read any non-fiction this year so I didn’t complete the non-fiction book about a subject I don’t know much about challenge. I read books on best seller lists so that one is covered. I also read more than one series with a large cast of characters and most of those books didn’t take place on earth so I got that one as well.

FINAL SCORE: 7 1/2 out of 12.

Movie Challenge

Slick Dungeon’s 2022 Movie Challenge! Click the image to download your own copy!

I watched The Princess Bride which is definitely about love and an amazing movie. It’s always been one of my favorites. I saw Don’t Look Up which is more of an allegory about climate change than a movie about climate change but I am still counting it for the second challenge. I watched Drive My Car which I had never heard of. I’m really glad I did but boy it sure is a long movie! I ended up watching Violent Night which I would consider a horror/comedy. There’s definitely enough gore to count as horror and they were obviously trying to be funny. I’m not sure I would recommend it to just anyone but if you ever wondered what a cross between Die Hard and Home Alone would look like if the Bruce Willis character was the real Santa Claus, that is hands down the movie for you. Power of the Dog was all character driven and really doesn’t have any action to speak of and I watched that. The best picture for the year I was born happens to be one of the best films ever made, Godfather II, and it also counts for a sequel that is better than the original. (In my opinion anyway) I definitely watched that one. The first movie I watched in a movie theater was The Great Muppet Caper and I watched that on Disney+ this year. I actually watched several movies with great musical scores but I think the one I thought was most impressive this year was Dune. I’m looking forward to the next entry in the series. We Need to Do Something is a pretty interesting horror flick and it takes place in pretty close to a single location. I wouldn’t say I completely loved it but it was an interesting watch for sure. I watched It’s a Wonderful Life around Christmas and that was made in 1946 so I got that one in as well. As far as a Razzie award winner I don’t think I watched one this year but I did watch several movies that might end up winning a Razzie. I’m not going to give myself the point but if one of the ones I watched wins, I’ll update that score.

FINAL SCORE: 11 out of 12

Read, Watch, Play Challenge

Slick Dungeon’s 2022 Read, Watch, Play challenge! Click the image above to download your own copy!

I started reading a book set in Ravenloft from Dungeons & Dragons but I did not finish it so I can’t quite count that one. I watched Stranger Things season 4 so I will count that as a movie where the characters play D&D. I definitely played the first role playing game I ever played, which would, of course, be Dungeons & Dragons. I didn’t actually come across a book where the characters play a role playing game which is a little surprising because for the last few years there’s always ended up being at least one book I read where that happened. As mentioned above I watched The Princess Bride and that has rodents of unusual size so that counts as a fantasy creature so I get that one. Recently I played Star Wars: Force and Destiny and had a blast doing it. It counts for two of these challenges. It was a tabletop roleplaying game I had never played. It was also a sci-fi tabletop role playing game. I read the rulebook for the Marvel Multiverse Role Playing game which is fully launching later this year. At some point I will do a review for that on this blog but I need to take a few more notes first. Would we consider Westley to be on a quest to rescue Princess Buttercup in The Princess Bride? I think the answer is yes so I am counting that. I definitely read books with magic in them. I also watched several Star Wars movies because I do that without fail every year and we wouldn’t have Star Wars: Force and Destiny without it so I am covered there. I did not, however, play a one page TTRPG this year. It can be hard to get a group together sometimes.

FINAL SCORE: 9 out of 12

In Conclusion

2022 was a busy year for me both on the blog and personally. I had a lot of fun trying to do these challenges and I’m honestly kinda surprised I ended up with as good of a score as I did. I’m looking forward to throwing the gauntlet down for next year and seeing how everyone does. If you took my challenges and want to tell me about it, don’t forget to comment below.

Challengingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Adult Swim Yule Log (AKA The Fireplace) – Movie Review

Adult Swim Yule Log

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Hello internet, Slick Dungeon here! I know it’s a little late for a yule log but I heard about this movie and was told I just have to watch it. It’s definitely not what I expected. This one is really hard to review without spoilers but I am going to do my best to remain spoiler free here. I am going to give a few odd warnings for a yule log though.

Adult Swim Yule Log starts like any other yule log video you could watch. Like, when you’re at a Christmas part on Christmas eve and you decide to just throw an image on in the background with some soft music playing that feels warm and homey and spreads that good ol’ holiday cheer. If you were take the first three or so minutes of this movie and put it on a loop, you would not be able to tell a difference from those popular YouTube clips and this film.

But if you want to see some interesting and downright weird stuff just keep watching. Around three minutes in, the frame of the fire gets interrupted by someone vacuuming and from there it turns into one of the most insane movies I have ever seen in my life. If you are a horror fan and you are tired of all the usual stuff and need to see something different, oh this one is it. I guarantee there is something here you are not at all expecting.

But, some trigger warnings for viewers of this particular yule log, there is a fair amount of gore and violence here so be warned. It’s also odd to say this but the acting in the yule log video is pretty good and they sell a fairly outrageous story. There’s a few loose ends that don’t seem like they tie together completely for me but if you have a decently strong stomach for gore and violence watch this one.

I can honestly say, I was not expecting what I saw. This is a film that really works best to go in blindly on so I’m not going to say a lot more about it. Except for this; it’s really nice to see an innovation in horror where someone is not just rehashing old plots but actually trying something new here.

If you want a calming experience don’t watch past the third minute. After that, well my friends, you are on your own and it’s pretty wild.

If you’ve seen this, I’d love to hear what you thought, especially if you went into it blind. Let me know in the comments.

Flammably yours,

Slick Dungeon

Marvel 616 Review corrections

Hey all, this post is a little different than most of my Marvel review posts. I knew this would happen at some point in my reviews but there are a few issues I missed in the reading order. What can I say, the list changes all the time and there are so many of these comics it’s easy to overlook sometimes. For the next few reviews I’m going to be doing the ones I missed. In each post, I will tell you where they should be in the reading order but otherwise the reviews will be as you have seen before.

To make a long story short, I did an audit of my Marvel 616 reviews to make sure I hadn’t missed any and it turns out I did. So, here are the ones I have missed which you will soon see reviews for.

  1. Journey Into Mystery #91 goes after Amazing Spiderman #1
  2. Strange Tales #108 goes after Journey Into Mystery #91
  3. The Amazing Spider-Man #2 goes after Strange Tales #108

After that my reviews are back on track with Fantastic Four #13 and the rest should be good after that. Apologies for missing these but I hope you’ll keep reading my reviews anyway!

Happy New Year!

Hello internet and Happy New Year! Slick Dungeon here back to welcome you into the year 2023. Today I thought I would do a more casual post wrapping up a bit of last year and letting you all know what to expect in the dungeon for this year.

Above you can see some of my posts from last year so if you haven’t checked those out please do.

2022 was a great year for this blog. I had an increase of views of 116% from 2021, an increase of visitors of 140%, an increase of likes of 77% and an increase of comments of 127%. If any of you reading this contributed to that increase, thank you! It’s genuinely appreciated and I hope you’ll stick around.

Here are links to the top 5 most popular posts on this blog for 2022. These go from least viewed to most viewed.

  1. An Interview with Zamil Akhtar, Author of Gun Metal Gods and Conqueror’s Blood
  2. Top 5 Tabletop RPG’s to play in 2022
  3. How to Play Call of Cthulhu Part 2 – Creating an Investigator
  4. Top 5 Campaigns for Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition
  5. Top 5 Horror One Shots for Dungeons & Dragons

Going down this list above, Zamil Akhtar will be publishing new books this year and I fully plan to review them, so look forward to that. I will be posting a top 5 list of tabletop RPG’s to play in 2023 so keep an eye out for that. I will also continue my How to play Call of Cthulhu series. And I am sure I will have more top 5 lists related to Call of Cthulhu and Dungeons & Dragons this year.

I’m hoping to have an even better year in 2023 but of course that depends on you and it depends on what kind of content I deliver.

Here are a few of the things you can expect this year.

  1. More movie reviews
  2. More book reviews
  3. More Marvel reviews
  4. More TTRPG content
  5. More short fiction written by me
  6. A new challenge list for books, movies, and TTRPG’s
  7. Reviews of Star Wars content
  8. Announcements of upcoming projects
  9. Surveys about what direction to take this blog
  10. Random stuff that comes up I just want to talk about

There will be more coming which you have not seen yet but I’m not quite ready to talk about but I will keep you updated throughout the year.

I’m really excited about all of these things coming up and I hope you’ll follow along with me. Also, I am always looking for fellow blog writers to follow so if you have a blog that might line up with some of what you see here, let me know in the comments. I only follow those who have similar interests to mine but I would love to see what everyone is up to in 2023.

Have a great year everyone!

Positively yours,

Slick Dungeon

New Year, New You – Movie Review

New Year, New You (2019) film

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Hello internet, it’s Slick Dungeon here! Well, today is the last day of 2022 and I’m sure there are plenty of people out there thinking about making New Year’s resolutions. One of mine will be to watch more movies and post about them on this here blog. But, not all resolutions are good and you shouldn’t necessarily listen to anyone on the internet telling you how to live your life. For these reasons I decided to watch the horror film on Hulu titled New Year, New You. Be warned there will be some spoilers ahead. I’ll try to keep them mild but if that sort of thing bothers you, give the movie a watch and then come on back here after.

Still with me? Good. You know how at the end of the year, mixed in with all the best of lists, the reflections on celebrities we lost, and headlines of what’s going to be the next big thing, we get tons of self help style videos from influencers telling you how to live your best life? Have you ever wondered if those videos are pretty much full of garbage like you think they are? New Year, New You answers that question with a resounding yes.

It’s a small cast of characters set in a single setting but it delivers one of the most epic takedowns of “influencer culture” I’ve ever seen. As far as the plot goes, there are four women who get together a few years after a traumatic event has happened. Three of them are living fairly normal lives, working, dating, and struggling to just get through the day for the most part. The fourth woman is a media influencer who is wealthy due to a line of health and wellness products she sells through her videos.

As you might guess there is more to the story and the past events than it seems. You might put this movie under dinner party horror. You could also call it a revenge gone wrong film. But, in my opinion, this is what I Know What You Did Last Summer had the potential for but failed to live up to.

The acting performances here are basically perfect although there is one character who seems to be led around a little too much for me to fully believe it. I was definitely guessing at most turns in the plot and there are several jaw dropping moments that make this worth a watch.

There’s nothing here overly gory. In fact, most of it is not scary at all. If you have any empathy in your soul you will feel uncomfortable for most of the movie though. The first act is a little bit of a slow burn but by the start of the third act, things really get going. There are not tons of scares, although there are a few twists. But, each moment that is meant to be shocking delivers fully on the shock.

I don’t think this is one I would rewatch over and over again or anything but I’m glad I watched it once at least. If you like a sort of slow burn horror without tons of blood but that still manages to be really shocking, this is for you. Also, if you’re sick and tired of advice about how you need to change your life just because the calendar date is getting one year bigger, watch this and you won’t feel that way anymore.

Stay safe out there, have a happy new year, and I’ll see all the rest of you in 2023!

Annually yours,

Slick Dungeon

Marvel 616 Review – Tales of Suspense #40

Tales of Suspense Issue 40, Photo Credit: Marvel, Writers: Stan Lee & Robert Bernstein, Artist: Jack Kirby

The second appearance of Tony Stark as Iron Man further expands on what he is capable of while also giving him a new challenge.

At the start of the issue we are shown Tony leading a triple life. His first life is as a man of science who is not only honored for his accomplishments in Micro-transistor research but also is vital to stopping communists from taking over America. How is he going to stop them? With the invention of super fast roller skates. Yep, that’s his big innovation in this issue for the army. These skates can allow each soldier to travel at up to 60 miles per hour. The General presented with this invention is pretty excited though. He realizes these skates mean they can move troops without trucks this way and calls Stark a genius. While the Iron Man we know from the MCU would quickly agree with that statement, the Anthony Stark presented here is a lot more humble. He says, “No General… just a scientist who realizes that the boundaries of science are infinite…”

Stark’s second life is more in line with the MCU as he is shown to be a millionaire playboy whom women adore. We see him on a date but he makes excuses to leave as soon as his date suggests a swim. Tony can’t take his shirt off in public because he has to constantly wear an iron chest plate which sustains his heart. Basically, Iron Man is the first character who needs an electronic pacemaker. A bit of an exaggerated one, but that’s basically what this is. This really does make Anthony Stark stand out because he is one of the first heroes who might be described as having a disability of some sort. It’s not kryptonite that can kill Anthony, it’s basic biology, just like the rest of us. We do get this amazing line of narration here, “Tony Stark has left the party for a most unusual date with… an electric cord!

After charging himself up, we see Stark has been busy since we last saw him. He takes on his identity as Iron Man and we see that in the past he has stopped gangsters and madmen of science who seek to rule mankind. We only get a few panels to show all of this action but it’s surprising how quickly Stark is established as a hero.

While on a date at a circus, the animals in the circus break loose and cause havoc. Thinking quickly, Tony tells his date Marion to head out of the area while he goes to phone the police riot squad. He has a suitcase with an x-ray proof secret compartment that holds his collapsed Iron Man suit. He throws it on so he can save the day. As he goes through the crowd, people comment on how terrifying his appearance is. After using a few gadgets in his suit to subdue but not injure the animals, Tony realizes he needs to redesign his suit. He doesn’t want women and children to be frightened of him.

Tony returns to his date who mentions the ugliness of the Iron Man suit and suggests a modern day knight in shining armor would wear gold metal instead of dull grey armor. Sure enough, Anthony Stark paints his suit with untarnishable gold paint.

The next week Tony is set to pick up his date from the airport only to find out the Granville airport she should have travelled from was shut down three days ago. Apparently Tony is too busy being a hero to listen to the news and he hasn’t gotten around to inventing the cell phone just yet. Regardless, the town seems to be cut off from the world. Literally cut off. As in, a whole wall was built around the city and no one can get in or out. So, of course, Iron Man heads over there.

While the wall is formidable, Iron Man just digs under it. As soon as he digs up into the city he is told the town can’t answer why the wall is there by order of someone named Gargantus. If they disobey him, they die. The crowd is so worried about Gargantus they even start attacking Iron Man. The crowd is so frenzied they erect a statue of Gargantus and start bowing before it. Tony notes how the statue looks like a Neanderthal yet people are worshipping whoever this is. To solve the problem, Tony tosses a ten ton truck into the statue but the crowd still seems to be bowing to it even after it is smashed. It seems the whole town has been hypnotized. This is definitely not the first Marvel 616 story where a whole town is hypnotized and it’s far from the last. In comics at the time, hypnotizing the public gave the writers the freedom to have crowds do whatever they wanted to slow a hero down.

Iron Man basically challenges Gargantus to a street brawl in front of the crowd. Gargantus shows up and Tony tosses a few high powered magnets around Gargantus. Turns out Gargantus was a robot the whole time.

Not only that but Gargantus was being controlled by a spaceship hiding in a dark cloud. Iron Man again hurls magnets in the direction of the ship and the aliens scurry off, realizing they are no match for the Iron Men of Earth.

It’s only Iron Man’s second appearance and he’s already driven off aliens. Basically, all Marvel heroes in the 616 universe have done that at this point, with the exception of Spider-Man. Spidey will, of course, have his chance but not just yet.

Next up on the reading list we will be checking in with the Norse God of Thunder himself, Thor in Journey Into Mystery #92!

The Ravenstones: Prophecy Fulfilled

Prophecy Fulfilled by C.S. Watts

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

SUMMARY

Eirwen, a lonely polar bear, and Fridis, a feisty Eider duck, have teamed up on the adventure of their lives, transported from the far North to a parallel world. There’s no way back; to survive and prosper, they must reinvent themselves and accept every challenge. The epic saga of The Ravenstones, an exploration of friendship, courage, sacrifice and faith not only deals with deeper themes of prejudice, vanity and lust for power but also provides readers with an exciting adventure story, full of mystery, magic and high stakes. Through the first six volumes, Eirwen and Fridis have encountered danger, intrigue and a lifetime of surprises, as well as a host of intriguing characters, animals all, from wolves, lions and bears to noble birds of prey with codes of honor that must be followed. Meanwhile, the mysteries of the magic stones and the future that is foretold hang over their lives.

In Volume 7 the adventure comes to an end. One final confrontation. Either good or evil will prevail. The stakes could not be higher – no coming second, no avenues of escape, no reserves waiting in the wings to provide rescue. It’s win or die. The prophecy must be fulfilled.

REVIEW

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Eirwen and Fridis, a polar bear and Eider duck set out on an adventure seven volumes ago. They’ve encountered magic, friends, enemies, scheming diplomats. warmongering forces, hopeful peace negotiators and a cast of characters as massive as any you would find in a George R.R. Martin book. All of the players have been set, all of the stakes have been raised, and one way or another the expansive story is wrapping up here. Eirwen and Fridis are about to find out if all of the danger they have gotten into, all of the intrigue that has gone on around them, and all of the political maneuvering will pay off. Will a prophecy be fulfilled? Or will it all come to naught?

C.S. Watts had his work cut out for him in this final volume. There are a ton of story lines to wrap up, questions to be answered and, action to be delivered. At the start of the series it was questionable to the reader whether or not Watts could deliver but in the end he’s answered that question in remarkable fashion. Like the rest of the volumes, there is intrigue, rumors, legends, magic, and fierce battles. This final book is just as engrossing as the rest and pays off in droves for the reader.

There are story lines from previous volumes that pay off in amazing fashion here. It may seem like a seven volume series staring talking animals would be too much but the end here makes all of the reading of the previous volumes an even richer experience.

If you have read the books up to this volume, you’ll know how charismatic and interesting the characters of Eirwen and Fridis are but it’s still a wonder how Watts balances such a large cast of characters in such a meaningful way and delivers on story at the same time.

This is a series I would recommend any fantasy fan give a read. If you love sweeping epics full of magic, interesting politics, memorable characters, and a plot that will keep you guessing, read this series. You definitely don’t want to start with book 7 so make sure to start at the beginning so you can accompany Eirwen and Fridis on all of the twists and turns that take them to this most impressive ending.

The Nun – Movie Review

The Nun 2018

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Hey there horror fans, it’s Slick Dungeon here! A while back I took a poll on this blog to see what horror series I should review next and The Conjuring universe won. It took me a while to figure out the proper order of watching these films since there is more than one way to do it and I have never seen any of these. I found that the timeline recommended to be scariest starts with The Nun from 2018. I took a watch and I’m here to give you my thoughts. Do be warned there will be some mild spoilers for this movie so if you haven’t seen it, give it a look, come back here and then read the review.

I will admit supernatural horror where there is something like demon possessions has never really been my favorite type of horror. I don’t have anything against it at all and I can see why it really scares some people but it has to be of amazing quality to scare me. The only example I have so far where that worked for me was The Exorcistt and that might be because I was probably too young to watch it. But, I’m willing to give any good horror franchise a shot. Disclaimers out of the way, let’s get into the review.

The Nun takes place in 1952 in Romania. The feel of the film and the setting and atmosphere give the impression of a time even before that with its rural and remote setting in a peaceful (appearing) countryside. At the start, a pair of nuns are trying to keep something horrible locked away through the power of prayer. One of them is basically sucked away and presumably killed off screen. The remaining nun continues to pray but hangs herself.

Some time later a man with the curiously lazy nickname of Frenchie (you know because he speaks French) finds the dead nun hanging and the Vatican is contacted. From here the story really gets going. We meet a Father Burke and a Sister Irene who have been tasked with finding out exactly what is going on at the abbey. Sister Irene has not yet taken her vows although she is as committed as any other nun and truly believes in her faith.

A lot of standard horror tropes happen from this point. There is some lurking evil that people in the village seem to be afraid of. The abbey is seen as an isolated place where bad things have happened in the past and there are more than a few false scares and jump scares which turn out to be nothing but wind. And, of course, there are the real scares and the real evil residing in the abbey.

Things are suspiciously off when Father Burke arrives and it seems the abbey has its own way of doing things. It might be a little unusual but nothing too outright scary. That is, until night falls.

I don’t want to spoil too much of this movie but there are a few parts that really work well. My favorite was when Father Burke comments about graves which had bells on them. The idea was the people buried there were worried about being buried alive. The bells could be rung if that was the case and then someone would dig up the coffin and free the person. You can probably guess this but Father Burke ends up in one of those graves. It’s extremely claustrophobic and really is one of the scariest parts of the film.

The other standout scare in my mind was related to Sister Irene who is praying with a bunch of nuns to fight off evil. They disappear and we realize Irene has been alone this whole time. It wasn’t a jump out of your seat kind of scare but it was effective in giving me the creeps.

The rest of the movie is mostly standard horror stuff where the characters need to find out the background of what is haunting the place and figure out how to stop it. It turns out bombing in World War II interrupted the protections that were locking in the evil inside the abbey. There’s a bit of item and clue gathering and a final confrontation.

I will say, for my taste, this movie relies a little too heavily on jump scares and the third act feels almost more like an action film than a horror film to me.

But, here’s where going into something blind can be fun. And I beg your pardon here because I have to drop a pretty big spoiler to explain it. At the end of the events of The Nun we flash forward in time and see a university seminar in Wakefield, Massachusetts. This seminar is given by Ed and Lorraine Warren. We see them showing footage of a man being exorcised. This man is Maurice who we knew as Frenchie for most of the movie. As soon as I saw the names Ed and Lorraine Warren, something clicked in my brain. I was sure I had heard the names before. I knew the characters were from The Conjuring because I knew Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga were in that series. What finally came to me was the people they are playing are the ones who investigated The Amittyvill Horror. I actually did not know there was any connection to those movies and The Conjuring.

While I didn’t find this to be the most frightening or original of films, there are enough good scares and story hooks here to make me curious about the series. I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes from here.

If you like a movie with supernatural horror, a few good scares, and a whole lot of jump scares, this is definitely one to check out.

Faithfully yours,

Slick Dungeon

Marvel 616 Review – Tales to Astonish #42

Tales to Astonish Issue 42 Photo Credit: Marvel Writer: Stan Lee, Art: Don Heck

There are a number of heroes in Marvel 616 who are not well liked by the public. The Hulk is almost universally hated, Spider-Man has a decidedly split opinion even in his own neighborhood, and even the Fantastic Four have on occasion been the subject of public ire. Not so for Henry Pym, aka The Ant-Man. Later in his career there will definitely be things he is hated for doing but in this story, it’s important to remember the public either likes Ant-Man or is indifferent to him. To have a crowd turn on this hero would be unusual.

Yet that is exactly what a man named Jason Cragg does. Jason Cragg has a special power. He is introduced to us as he steps on a soap box and begins to speak, proclaiming, “I, Jason Cragg speak truth! Truth!” The crowd instantly trusts him. As Cragg does this, Pym just happens to be passing by as Ant-Man and seems completely unaffected. He’s wearing his cybernetic helmet and figures that must be somehow blocking whatever this voice is doing to the crowd. Cragg stirs up the crowd and tells them they should drive Ant-Man from the city.

We then get a flashback to a few weeks prior. You see, Jason Cragg was a radio announcer who was not good at his job. After delivering an ad one of the executives at the station says, “He sounds as convincing as a wet sponge.”

All super villains have to have origin stories. Some are amazing and super interesting and mind blowing. This… this is not one of those. At a nearby atomic experimental laboratory there was an accident where radiation levels were getting too high. Some of the particles seeped out before the scientist regained control and those radioactive particles apparently… went into the microphone Jason Cragg was speaking into at the time. Yep, supervillain via radioactive microphone. Why the particles went to that particular spot on the planet is in no way explained so, yeah radioactive mic is about all the backstory we get here.

Cragg finishes giving his ad over the air and suddenly everyone is buying the dog food he is advertising. My favorite line from this issue is a result of this ad, “We don’t even have a dog, but we can eat it ourselves!” That’s how persuasive Jason Cragg has suddenly become.

Cragg realizes his voice is what is causing this to happen and quits his job and just uses his voice to get free stuff like train tickets and steak dinners. That is until he happens upon Ant-Man in the middle of defeating some thugs. The police and public all praise Ant-Man and Cragg decides he has to test his mettle against Ant-Man. He figures if he can defeat Ant-Man he can defeat anyone. And with Ant-Man gone Cragg can basically rule the city.

Cragg goes on to tell such bold faced lies about Ant-Man as, “He pretends to be your friend, but he secretly despises you, as he does all who are normal-sized!” The crowd falls prey to these falsities and start to turn against Hank Pym.

Meanwhile, Ant-Man is getting an award from the police at their headquarters. Cragg interrupts and tells the police to arrest Ant-Man. They can’t resist and do try to capture our hero. Ant-Man uses a rubber band to launch himself away and avoids capture.

Cragg convinces the whole town to start looking for Ant-Man. Somebody gets the idea to use magnets so they can latch onto Ant-Man’s metal helmet. He has to remove the helmet, thus becoming susceptible to Cragg’s voice, in order to remain free.

Using his radioactive voice, Cragg demands Ant-Man reveals himself. Pym resists but ultimately is compelled to obey. Cragg wants to rid the world of Ant-Man but he’s no master villain. He literally has Ant-Man in the palm of his hand but instead of trying to smush him or anything like that, Cragg tells Pym to walk off the pier and make no attempt to swim or save himself from drowning.

Don’t worry too much though, this is an Ant-Man story and Cragg forgot one thing. Ants. Yeah, ants save Hank, even without a cybernetic command. They’ve gotten to know him and tend to show up whenever he is around so they get him out of the water pretty quick. Ant-Man escapes but Cragg vows to have one last battle with him.

Pym heads home where we get another diagram of his little elevator setup which allows him to get back into his lab even when he is small. Pym waits and watches until he hears Cragg is going to be a guest speaker on a television show. Pym decides that’s the place to confront Cragg.

We see Hank shrink down to ant size again and mention yet again his clothes are made of unstable molecules. He then uses his ants to infiltrate a building and grab a bottle of what Pym refers to as germs.

After that he heads over to the TV studio as Henry Pym. At some point he changes back to Ant-Man, although we don’t see it this time, so he can get his hands on a prop gun. As Cragg goes on the stage, Ant-Man climbs up his leg. Henry gets into Cragg’s ear and tells him to do exactly what he says. Pym reveals a gun pointed at Cragg, held by the ants. Pym basically tells Cragg to come clean and let the city know Ant-Man is on the level. Cragg doesn’t seem to care because he figures he can just contradict himself later. He clears Ant-Man’s name and Hank tells Cragg the gun was never loaded.

Cragg gets right back on the mic and tries to turn the crowd against Ant-Man but his voice isn’t working right anymore. See, Hank Pym arrived early and put microbes that cause laryngitis on the microphone. The crowd immediately turns on Cragg and drums him right out of town.

We end the issue with Henry Pym reflecting on the fact Cragg had a great power that could have been used for good.

So, to sum up the story here, a guy who was near a microphone got a super powered voice and tried to turn a city against its hero only to be defeated by a different microphone with laryngitis on it. Man, I love comics.

There’s not a lot significant in terms of the 616 universe that happens here. It’s mostly a silly story but it’s fun in its own way. It mostly just reaffirms Ant-Man as one of the good guys. It seems like Cragg was set up to be a repeat villain but I’m not sure if we do ever see him again. If so, I wonder if there will be any changes as to how he gets his power back.

Up next on the reading list we will be checking in on a brilliant inventor who has a suit of iron in the pages of Tales of Suspense #40!

Top 5 Sourcebooks for New Dungeon Masters

D&D Campaign Adventures for Mythic Odysseys of Theros - Available now @ Dungeon Masters Guild

Hello all, Slick Dungeon here. I can’t stand long intros to top 5 lists so I am going to get right into it. Just a couple of qualifiers first. These books are all intended to be used with the 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Most Dungeon Masters who already have experience will likely have these books already so if that is you, this is probably not the post for you. But, if you are kind of new to Dungeons & Dragons and don’t exactly know where to start or which books are for what, these are the books I consider absolutely essential. You don’t necessarily need all of them to play but each one brings something of value for the new Dungeon Master. There is no particular order to these rankings because I do find them all equally valuable. Which ones are right for you is for you to decide.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

5. Basic Rules

Before you spend a single cent on any Dungeons & Dragons books, you should make sure the game is truly for you. There are a lot of ways you can do this. You can play with an already established group either online or in person. You can watch live play sessions on YouTube or Twitch. You can play any number of video games based on Dungeons & Dragons. Those are all great but they don’t give you the most inside look at what the rules actually are. My recommendation is to start at the beginning and read the basic rules. You can find those by clicking the image above or clicking right here. There is no cost and if you only use these rules, you can still have a stellar game session.

4. Dungeon Master’s Guide

Cover Art by Tyler Jacobson

This one may seem obvious but if you want an expansion of the basic rules, you’ll need to get the Dungeon Master’s Guide. This book goes over the basics of how to run the game but it also has great advice on everything from what magic items there are, how to create memorable non-player characters, and how to create worlds and multiverses right at home. While no single source book can be all encompassing, this does a fair job of covering most situations you’ll find in game. I’ve read and re-read and re-re-read this book more times than I can count and I usually still come away with something new each time.

You can get your copy by clicking the image above or clicking here. This retails for $49.95 but there are often times you can find it on sale for less so watch for bargains.

3. The Player’s Handbook

Cover Art by Tyler Jacobson

As Dungeon Master you have a big job. Not only do you need to know the rules of the game, you need to know what the players know about the rules. For this reason, you’ll want to have a copy of the Player’s Handbook at your side. This book covers the types of characters players can make, gives a run down of the rules, and contains rules for things like magic spells which will be used in the game. While I have certainly read this book more than once, I refer to it less than my players do. I have a good understanding of the rules and where to look when I am in doubt. But, I don’t memorize every word in every spell or anything like that. Still, this is a vital reference and if you’re serious about playing, it’s one of the core rulebooks you cannot do without.

You can get your copy by clicking the image above or clicking here. This one also retails for $49.95 but again there are often times you can find it on sale for less so watch for bargains.

2. Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything

Cover Art by Wylie Beckert, Magali Villeneuve

Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything is the newest sourcebook on this list. I have it here because as good as the Player’s Handbook is, there were some issues with how rules for character creation happened. Tasha’s corrects some of those problems and gives more freedom to players on how to build their characters. I won’t get into the finer details in this post but it did make it so players were not quite as locked into things like every Half-Orc character having to have only certain bonuses just because they were a Half-Orc. In other words, you could have a Half-Orc who is really intelligent or charismatic etc. rather than one who just has tons of brute strength. In addition to that, however, there are also great tips in here for making puzzles and traps. Also, this has the Artificer class which is an extremely fun class to play.

You can get your copy by clicking the image above or clicking here. This one also retails for $49.95 but again there are often times you can find it on sale for less so watch for bargains.

1. The Monster Manual

Cover Art by Raymond Swanland

In a way, I’ve saved the best for last. This is my favorite of the core books. Whenever I am stuck for ideas about what to throw in front of my players, a flip through here always gives me inspiration. The Monster Manual is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a bestiary explaining the different types of monsters you can use in the game. If you’ve been playing with the basic rules, this manual helps to expand your options. And each creature gets not only a stat block to show you how to run it, but it also has good descriptions and details of where the creatures live, how they behave and what some of their goals or motivations might be. Using this book is very helpful to flesh out a session and the rules are generally clear about how to run the monsters in your own game. There are other books that expand on this one so if you ever do get tired of playing with what is here, you always have that option. But for beginners this is where to start for making great enemies (and sometimes friends) for your players.

You can get your copy by clicking the image above or clicking here. This one also retails for $49.95 but again there are often times you can find it on sale for less so watch for bargains.

Conclusion

There are my top five recommendations for sourcebooks for new Dungeon Masters. These will cover the basics for you and you can have months of fun with these alone. If I had to give you my top 3, it would be basic rules, Player’s Handbook, and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. The basic rules do cover a lot and the DMG is great to have but ultimately, you as the Dungeon Master, can come up with your own worlds with or without having every single rulebook.

In a future post I will go over my top 5 adventure books for fifth edition but it’s tough to play those without any sourcebooks whatsoever.

So, have you used any of these sourcebooks? If so, which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!

And, if you like these types of posts and want more of this type of content, consider purchasing one of the awesome books listed above through this post. It really helps out this blog when you do.

Adventurously yours,

Slick Dungeon

Halloween Ends – Movie Review

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Happy Halloween everyone! Slick Dungeon here and I thought maybe the best way to close out the month of Halloween would be to do a review of the (supposedly) final chapter in the Halloween franchise, Halloween Ends. Do be warned there will be some big spoilers here so if you haven’t seen the movie yet, grab a big ol’ butcher knife, carve yourself a Jack O’lantern, put on the movie and give it a watch and then come on back here to read the review.

If you don’t know, the true birth of the slasher craze can be directly pointed to the very first of the Halloween movies. That one was made in 1978 with a shoestring budget and has sparked a ton of sequels, reboots, remakes and other media involving Michael Myers, the killer from the original film. It’s also got some content that has nothing at all to do with Michael Myers. And that’s not including all of the copycat movies and franchises that followed in the spirit and footsteps of the original.

This last movie, Halloween Ends is intended to finish the Halloween story (the one involving Michael Myers). I’m a big fan of this franchise, although some films in it are far better than others. And really, if you simply watched the original and stopped there, that would be good enough for me. I do like several of the sequels but you get everything you could want with the first one and from then on the best films in the series have hit on very similar themes. At some point I will do a deep dive review of all the movies in this franchise but for now, if you haven’t seen the original and you’re looking for a movie to watch on Halloween night, go watch it, you won’t regret it.

I’m going to give one more warning here before I go into the film review for Halloween Ends because to give this film its full due for a review, I have to spoil a couple of major points.

The last three films in the Halloween franchise are not reboots but rather intended to be direct sequels to the first film. Halloween (2018) saw Michael Myers return as the silent stalker from the original film, only years had passed. He was still pursuing Laurie Strode who had survived the events of the first movie. But in a fairly interesting twist, Laurie had not idly been waiting, she’d been preparing for this day, determined never to let anyone get the best of her again. Halloween Kills continued the events of the night from the 2018 film but also flashes back to other characters from the 1978 incident. The whole film is a rather interesting take on mob mentality and is one of the most brutal and bloody films I’ve ever seen, thus earning the title Kills.

While all three of the films, Halloween (1978), Halloween (2018), and Halloween Kills (2021) have seriously interesting things in them, Halloween Ends (2022) should be the most engaging and dramatic and also wrap up the story.

Well… it does wrap up the story. This was one of the oddest film going experiences I have ever had in that what I was feeling about the movie kept constantly changing.

The start was brilliant. There were lots of terrible things that happened on October 31 in Haddonfield Illinois and not all of them directly involved Michael Myers. We start by visiting the events of what happened to a character named Corey that night. As Myers was out on a rampage, Corey had picked up a babysitting job. The kid Corey is babysitting is a little terror and taunts Corey enough to freak him out. This causes the accidental death of the boy Corey is babysitting. Corey is put on trial and found innocent.

I thought this was a really interesting take because it’s a tragedy that had nothing to do with the main events we paid our money to see. And, the death of the kid Corey is babysitting is one of the most brutal I’ve seen and it was completely accidental. If the movie right after this really picked up the story of what had gone down with Michael and Laurie (who are on the poster as the main attraction) I think I would have thought this film was amazing.

Instead, most of the movie is about… Corey. Yeah. Michael Myers is in the film but it’s mostly not about him. It felt like a slog getting through the rest of the film because we were watching a movie about a guy we just met rather than a movie about the character who has been the big star since 1978.

I’m not going to spoil too much of the middle of the movie, except to say that a lot of it doesn’t make much sense, Michael’s ability as a killer come into question here, and Corey gets to be the killer. I almost think this would make a good movie if you watched the first scene and then forwarded to the final confrontation and left the rest out.

So, the question this movie tries to answer is, whether or not Michael Myers is gone for good. If you watched the movie, I don’t see how anyone could have any doubt Michael is done for. And his demise and eventual end is really, really satisfying. We see Laurie Strode do away with him and, seriously, she is the only character who should get to do that. And it’s done with such finality that those scenes had me cheering out loud. It’s just a major shame this film strays so far off from the story for so long. I really want to like this one and there are some absolutely fantastic moments any Halloween fan is going to love. But it just doesn’t add up to what we should have to make a great movie. The end of Michael is great and the wrapping up of Laurie’s story is really good but all the rest just does not work.

While I definitely don’t want them to reboot or remake or revitalize this series, I do wish we had just a stronger story here. I’ll say this. If you’ve seen the other Halloween movies you have to watch this one. If you haven’t started watching the series at all, watch the first one and know it remains the best of the bunch. Then it’s your choice if you want to continue but know there will be some rough moments ahead if you enjoy the franchise. And while Halloween Ends is far from being the worst movie in the franchise, it’s just not the best either.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Slick Dungeon

The Ravenstones: The Winter of Discontent

The Winter of Discontent by C.S. Watts

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

SUMMARY

Winter has descended upon Heimborn. The armies are at a standstill, waiting for the spring fighting season to begin. But waiting does not preclude plotting and scheming, or new adventures and miscues. It does not discourage the ongoing search for the final Ravenstone or for the answers to outstanding mysteries. It does not hold back efforts to find new allies in the battle for supremacy between the forces of good and evil.

A rival to Queen Olwen has emerged. Vulpé wrestles with his conscience. Fridis, undeterred by hazard or impediment, returns to an old haunt. Temorwig and Rithild put aside their differences. The mythic black wolves reappear. Don Grimezel shows signs of life but faces a new threat. Meanwhile, Eirwen and Parthanyx, like two great chess-masters, execute moves and countermoves.

REVIEW

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Winter has fallen. Eirwen and Parthnyx, both strategic military leaders have tried to best position their forces to gain advantage. But even as the snows fall, plotting, scheming, diplomacy, and coincidences favoring one side or another continue to play out. Eirwen and Fridis, the polar bear and eider duck who started off the series have come a long way. Fridis continues to learn more about the magical gems which have come into and out of possession throughout the series. She also learns some new and vital information regarding a missing stone.

While backstabbing, cover ups and military positioning continues, the weather is threat to both sides. Will the outcome of a long waged war be decided by calculated moves or through the waiting game of seeing who can survive a harsh winter?

The Ravenstones series continues to impress and fans of the previous books will find plenty here to continue to love. The most interesting aspect of The Winter of Discontent is not simply epic battles and grand bravado, but how diplomats and spies make the world of this series go around.

While most of this book is as good as the rest, the constant capture and then release of Fridis does seem a bit overdone in this volume. However, that’s not to say those scenes were not worthwhile. It just starts to feel to the reader that this will happen in nearly every book in the series. The interactions do lead somewhere but it starts to feel a bit repetitive at times.

The setting and expansive world created by C. S. Watts feels immersive and expansive and vibrant even when the snows come and the environment becomes desolate and events turn desperate.

With so many volumes in this series being so full of twists, turns and intrigues, if you are an epic fantasy fan and are not reading The Ravenstones books, you are doing yourself a disservice. Catch up while you can because the next volume is sure not to disappoint.

Call of Cthulhu Review – An Amaranthine Desire

Cthulhu Mythos - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

Hello Keepers and Investigators, it’s Slick Dungeon. I’m here to review the first of the scenarios in Chaosium’s 7th edition anthology Nameless Horrors. As the name implies, these scenarios are not based on any monsters, creatures, or cosmic entities you might find in the Keeper’s Rulebook. The idea here is that every scenario should have a threat unfamiliar to even the most seasoned Investigators. There are six scenarios in the anthology and I will be reviewing each of them one at a time. They are set in different time periods and locations and can all be run independently of one another. And while some may be good to drop into existing long running campaigns, others are less suited to that purpose.

Please be warned, especially if you are in Investigator, there will be some spoilers in this review. If you are planning to play in this scenario as an Investigator stop reading now. If you are a Keeper who is considering running this scenario or thinking about purchasing Nameless Horrors feel free to continue. The review begins below the image.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

Nameless Horrors, created by Paul Fricker, Scott Dorward, Matthew Sanderson with Cover Art by Victor Leza published by Chaosium Inc.

An Amaranthine Desire is initially set in the Cthulhu by Gaslight era with the Investigators all taking part in a covert smuggling operation in the city of Dunwich. Nope, not the one you are thinking. This is not the Dunwich of The Dunwich Horror but rather the Dunwich in England which is known as the capital of of the Kingdom of the East Angles but has since eroded into the sea due to multiple instances of intense storms.

The era in which the Investigators begin doesn’t have a ton of bearing on the scenario itself, so if you are running a campaign set in a different era and still want to run this one, it should work with only a few minor adjustments.

As the Investigators are about their secretive and illegal work, a major storm hits. This storm, along with the sound of church bells ringing, transport the group back in time to 1287, the year of the first massive storm to hit Dunwich. The scenario gives the reason for the storm and puts the Investigators into a situation where they need to find a way back to their own time, possibly find a powerful item wrapped up in the history of Dunwich, deal with the burning of an accused witch, and contend with one another’s various motivations.

The idea of the scenario is quite fun as there is a constant time loop that happens, sort of a Lovecraftian Groundhog Day if you will. And with the completion of each loop the Investigators age each time so the situation does become deadly. The time loop alone is not the only danger here and I would honestly be surprised if any party makes it out with no deaths at all.

I’m not going to give away any more of the plot here but I would like to call out what I find good and bad about the scenario.

In the good category, this is a really inventive situation and because there is no real warning about the time shift, your players will have to be creative and come up with solutions quickly to save themselves. Also, there are several NPC’s here who can be played in a multitude of ways from pure evil to morally ambiguous, making it a much more interesting scenario to run, with some replay potential for the Keeper with a different party. The pre-generated characters all have decent story hooks and good reasons to be smuggling at the beginning. Several of them also have connections to the events of the past which helps to move the story along. This is a one shot scenario made for around 4-6 characters and running it in 1-2 sessions is definitely doable here.

In the bad category, there were multiple instances of frustrating spelling and grammar errors in the scenario. Overall, this is a minor but distracting issue. The scenario itself is fairly complex and has a good amount of NPC’s so as a Keeper you’ll want to take notes as you read through. This is not so much of a “bad” thing, it’s just worth mentioning. The last thing which might be considered a negative is for the scenario to work best, it really does make the most sense to use the pre-generated characters. For that reason, I don’t actually recommend dropping this into an existing campaign without making some major changes to fit your current party of Investigators.

Overall, the inventive nature of the scenario, the unexpected twists, and the potential for surprising your players puts An Amaranthine Desire into the extremely fun to play category. Like with all scenarios, I do recommend reading the whole thing through once, then reading again to take notes, and skimming once more immediately prior to a session as there are a lot of moving parts here.

If you are looking to purchase Nameless Horrors you have a couple of options.

You can purchase it on drivethrurpg as a PDF here. Right now it’s on sale for $12 but it usually runs for $15. With this version you do only get the PDF so if you want a physical book this is not the best way to purchase. However, if you have the PDF you can probably just print out the relevant pages and handouts.

You can also purchase the softcover, which includes the PDF, from Chaosium’s website here. The cost here is $35. This version does have the advantage of being physical so the layout is easier to flip through and since you get the PDF, if you are willing to pay a little more, it is the better version.

So, have your played An Amaranthine Desire? If so, how did it go for your group? Let me know in the comments.

Namelessly yours,

Slick Dungeon

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) – Movie Review

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Happy Halloween month horror fans! It’s me, Slick Dungeon and I’m here to review yet another A Nightmare on Elm Street film. Sharp eyed readers of this blog may notice I have reviewed every Freddy film up to this point in order. But, I’m making an exception here because I am skipping Freddy vs. Jason. The reason I am skipping over that one is I consider it to be part of my Friday the 13th review series and since that movie will be the last of those (come on we need a 13th Friday the 13th movie!) I will be releasing that review on the next Friday… the 13th. There isn’t one of those this October so you’re gonna have to wait. Also, you can probably guess who I am in favor of in this match up by that release schedule.

Okay, that out of the way, I am here to review the remake of the original film in the Nightmare series. This is the one from 2010 simply titled A Nightmare on Elm Street. Do be aware this review will contain spoilers so if you haven’t watched the movie, give it a look, reflect on whether remakes and reboots for horror should be a thing at all, try to sleep, have a nightmare or two, then come back here and read this review.

Wes Craven, Robert Englund, and pretty much anyone else having anything to do with the original series are not to be found in this film. Freddy is instead played by Jackie Earle Haley. It seems the intention behind this remake was to go back to Freddy’s roots and make him the dark, less quip-filled, character Wes Craven originally had in mind.

A lot of the elements of the original are here. The plot is not dissimilar from the first, although it is set in modern day. There is a man invading people’s dreams and if you die in your dreams, you die in reality. His name is Freddy Krueger and he’s a scary looking burned mess of a man who wears a glove with knives on the fingers.

This man has a history of committing unspeakable acts against children and the parents in the town are covering up the fact they murdered him. We even see a lot of the same scenes which were most memorable in the first movie. There’s the ceiling scene, yes that one, and also that other one too. We see the bath scene as well.

This is still a remake though, so there is a bit of a spin on the way the scenes are shot and not everything in the movie is identical. The plot is essentially the same though.

I think that may be the problem with this movie. The original A Nightmare on Elm Street film was groundbreaking. Wes Craven came up with not just a relentless killer, similar to Michael Meyers or Jason Voorhees, but who could appear anywhere. If he can invade your dreams you can’t escape him. It was a brand new way to terrify audiences. In 2010 if you had even seen a horror movie, you knew the story of Freddy Krueger. That makes it nearly impossible to bring new terror to this story.

The makeup they use for Freddy here is more realistic to actual burn victims but somehow it seems less terrifying. With Robert Englund, part of the appeal here is impossible things from your dreams could kill you, so if Freddy wasn’t exactly photo realistic, it didn’t matter, because he was still a dream.

And the CGI effects use here don’t seem as menacing as some of the simple film tricks from the first movie. The ceiling scene, where a victim is thrashed in the air has a nearly cartoonish quality in this film but seems utterly believable in the first one.

There is more of a clear explanation of Krueger’s history in this movie, it doesn’t elevate the story enough to make it truly terrifying. The directing of the film is good and overall the acting is not bad but it’s just not new in any way.

For my money, I would rather see a new innovation in horror than rehash an old classic. If you are a Freddy movie fan, this one is one of the few I would say is totally skippable.

Maybe I’m just biased here because I remember the original movie from when it came out. Are you a fan of horror remakes? If so, let me know in the comments. Maybe there is one that delivers better than this one, and I would be interested in seeing how it holds up.

Nightmarishly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare – Movie Review

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Hello horror fans, it’s me, Slick Dungeon! I’m back to review one of the most meta horror movies ever made, and the seventh movie starring Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. Be warned ahead of time there will be some spoilers so if you haven’t seen this movie about Freddy movies, watch the Freddy movies, watch this movie, then come read this review about the movie about Freddy movies. Got that? Good.

This film is a really unusual entry in the annals of horror. It’s made by Wes Craven, who, of course, made the first Freddy movie, and went on to create the Scream franchise. But this movie, in my opinion, is one that yet again proves Wes Craven is a true master of horror.

Freddy Krueger had been terrifying and delighting audiences for six straight films. That’s not counting television shows, novels, comic book, video games and other media Freddy appeared in. In other words, everyone knew wha to expect from Freddy. But fans were still clamoring for more. After all, Freddy is great at haunting our dreams.

When New Line Cinema wanted to do yet another Freddy movie, they could have gone in a lazy direction and just tacked on another movie or done a pure remake or reboot. Instead, they made a genius decision to bring back Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, and John Saxon who all starred in the first film. Only this time, Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon don’t play Nancy and Donald Thompson, they play Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon. Robert Englund does play Freddy, but he also plays… well, Robert Englund.

The movie starts out with us believing we are in a production set for an upcoming Freddy movie. This being a Nightmare film, it’s of course a dream and carnage quickly ensues. Heather wakes up in the middle of an earthquake and we realize this whole scene is just a nightmare. Heather has a son named Dylan who is played by Miko Hughes to an eerily creepy effect.

The movie starts to blur reality and fiction when Heather’s husband who is a special effects designer wakes up with a similar cut to one Heather dreamed. And, it turns out, in secret he is working on a new Freddy movie without Heather knowing about it.

The movie is basically about and entity who looks and acts a lot like Freddy but is much darker than the actual Robert Englund, trying to cross into our own reality. Just as in the first movie, Heather starts to sound less and less rational when she is explaining the situation, even though all she is trying to do is save her son.

There are moments of genuine terror here, some which rival even the first film. And if you are trying to detect a trend into which Nightmare films are the best ones, the first, third and New Nightmare all are standouts, and coincidentally, those are the ones which star Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, and of course, Robert Englund. They terrify the most and those actors are highly believable.

The movie does operate a lot like other Freddy movies in that he shows up in dreams and kills people, and the main characters have to stop him. The fact this one is based in our own reality makes it just a bit more terrifying and realistic. While the third act is probably the weakest of the film, it does come to a satisfying conclusion and there’s plenty to get you jumping along the way.

So, if this one is so good, why didn’t it do better at the box office? After all, it’s one of the lower grossing movies in the Nightmare series. There’s a pretty simple answer, and it has nothing to do with the makers of this film. On the same weekend this was released, an independent film no one had heard of called Pulp Fiction came out. For that reason, a good portion of people missed seeing Wes Craven’s New Nightmare and this little gem would be less knows than Craven’s next foray into horror with the Scream series.

If you’ve seen the rest of the Freddy movies but never checked this one out, I highly recommend it. It’s very meta which is an interesting twist and it delivers on the terror.

Nightmarishly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare – Movie Review

Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Hey horror fans, it’s me, Slick Dungeon! Well, we’ve made it to the end, the final nightmare! Freddy’s dead right in the title so this has to be the last one. (Checks notes) Uh.. except for the three other films made after Freddy was dead? Anyway, if you haven’t caught on yet, I’m here to review the last of the main series of A Nightmare on Elm Street movies, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. Be warned there will be spoilers ahead so if you haven’t seen the movie yet go watch it, try to get out of town in your beat up van, get lost at least three times, go to sleep, realize you are having nightmares, and come on back here and read the review just to stay awake.

One would think after the events of the fifth movie in this series we might check up on Alice and her son from the last movie but that’s not where we go at all. This film is set ten years in the future. Springwood where the events of the first five movies took place has no more children living there and all of the adults have gone insane. In other words, Freddy has won. But there is one teenager left. This is John Doe who at the beginning of the movie has a nightmare and is thrown outside of the town limits by Freddy. John wakes up not remembering anything about himself but knowing with absolute certainty he needs to stay awake and Springwood is a bad, bad place to be.

John is taken to a shelter where there are a few other teenagers down on their luck for various reasons. One of the workers there, Maggie, sees a newspaper article John had with him and knows the best way to find answers is to go to Springwood. She packs John up and three other teenagers stow away in the van.

You probably know what happens next once everyone is in Springwood. This is Freddy’s domain so he can invade dreams and because he seems to have the run of the town he can even prevent people from leaving, which he does.

The movie actually does a decent job of giving the teenagers some character and personality here. And the film gives more backstory about Freddy, including that he had a daughter who was taken away from him. It seems Freddy was into some pretty bad stuff even before they took his daughter but because the town did is at least in part why he keeps killing kids in Springwood.

Turns out Freddy needed John to bring back his adult daughter so he could go on to the next town and continue to spread his nightmares. There’s also a bit of a backstory about some dream entities that gave Freddy his powers.

While the story goes along fine and there are some scares, there’s also a fair amount of silliness in this one. That’s mostly been a part of these movies but it was usually scares over jokes but this one feels like the comedy is a bit more pronounced.

And this movie was originally created to be shown in 3-D so the last act with the final confrontation against Freddy just feels really awkward now. There’s a lot of staring at hands and waving pointy things right at the camera which may have worked with the original release but now just seems gimmicky and pointless. It’s an unfortunate end for what was almost a fine send off.

As always, the best part of the movie is Robert Englund doing his whole Freddy thing. In this one it’s nice because he does get a good amount of screen time without all of the makeup so you can see that he is a good actor even without all the makeup and effects.

If you’ve watched all the rest of the Freddy films this is definitely worth watching, just be prepared for an awkward third act.

I had seen all of these movies before but I actually haven’t watched most of the reboots, remakes, and whatnots so I’m really interested to see where those are going.

Nightmarishly yours,

Slick Dungeon

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child – Movie Review

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Hello horror lovers, it’s Slick Dungeon here. I’m back again to review another of the Freddy films with A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. This review may contain spoilers so if you haven’t seen it, put your kids to bed, watch the movie and come on back here for the review.

For a series of films with five installments, the Nightmare movies have done a pretty good line of keep a consistent story. The only real miss with that was the second film but so far each movie has done something to build on the legend of Freddy Krueger.

Robert Englund is back again as the man in the worst of your dreams. We also pick up the story with Alice who survived the fourth film. She is able to tell Freddy is back but this time something is different. This time, he’s been killing her friends while she is awake.

Once again, no one believes the main character when they say Freddy is real and he’s coming to kill everyone, even after teenagers start dying rapidly in town. Alice still has her boyfriend Dan and even though he survived the events of the last movie, he still isn’t sure if Freddy is back.

Of course, we all know Freddy is back and we see him wade through nightmares and kill people who are unlucky enough to fall asleep when he can get to them.

The story of this movie gets a bit weird and wonky, which is why I can’t really give it more than three stars. On the plus side, it really goes into the origins of Freddy and his mother. On the minus side it still uses the whole, “lunatics in the asylum” trope and not very well either. Also, some of the effects probably looked great when it came out but now just seem like overkill. It sort of becomes too grotesque to be truly scary and you find yourself thinking, how long did they spend making it look like that, rather than just being frightened of what is on the screen.

The first film is so scary because while Freddy does kill you in your dreams, it sort of feels like all the dreams begin plausibly in reality and become horrors unexpectedly. This one feels more like when you walk through a Haunted House at a carnival or something. You know there will be things in there that are scary, you know they will be frightening to look at or might make you jump, but you also know it’s fake and just think about the production more than the story.

Even the tone of the background is darker, which oddly, makes it feel less real. While they definitely pull off some impressive makeup, the acting is fine, and they further the story, it just doesn’t quite work. I don’t think it is the worst of the Nightmare series but it’s far from the best one.

In addition, the characters other than Alice, Dan, and Alice’s father all just feel like tacked on friends you have to have in the movie just so someone can die.

The dream child itself is kind of an interesting idea but it just doesn’t quite work. Basically, the reason Freddy can kill while Alice is awake is because Alice is pregnant with Dan’s child. While the baby dreams, Freddy has an entry point into nightmares.

In the first movie, Freddy didn’t exactly need permission to invade anyone’s dreams so I’m really not sure why he has to have Alice as a connection but that’s still consistent from the last movie so I can’t fault it too much.

While a lot of this is sort of peak Freddy it’s just not the scariest Freddy so it’s not the best one. Still, if you want to know what happens in the series and why Freddy is able to come back, and theoretically how to stop him (but we know that’s only temporary) then this movie does deliver all of that.

We’re getting toward the end of the main line of these movies but I will be reviewing most of the reboots and spinoff movies as well so stay tuned for that.

Do you have a favorite Freddy movie? So far, I think the best one remains the first one. Let me know in the comments if you do.

Nightmarishly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Deadheading – Book Review

Deadheading by Paul Cristo

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

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SUMMARY

Lewis’s life changes forever after waking up one morning to find the world’s population just gone. Stranded without food or water, he’s forced to use ingenuity to survive, foraging resources from the desolate city around him.

Until he discovers he’s not alone.

Lewis is threatened by a violent gang of gun-wielding scavengers led by a deranged madman. He learns these men are harvesting survivors, inflicting slavery and torture for a horrifying purpose. Outmanned and outgunned, Lewis and some newfound friends must band together, employing their collective wit and cunning against a deadly foe to avoid being killed. Or worse… captured.

DEADHEADING is a post-apocalyptic journey of survival, ingenuity, and a dollop of vengeance.

REVIEW

Lewis is an average loner. He’s living a fairly solitary life, hanging out at home, watching television, eating convenience meals and peanut butter cups. But around him, the world begins to change. A sickness permeates the globe and most of humanity dies off as a result.

Somehow, Lewis has survived on his own, unscathed watching it all unfold on television. Until there is no television. Or supermarkets. Or anything else you’d find in a modern civilized city. Including food and water. Lewis finally has to go out to scavenge food and water for himself in order to survive. It’s a difficult situation and potentially lethal.

It gets worse once Lewis finds other survivors. There are gun wielding lunatics who are oppressing other survivors through slavery and torture so they can live a comfortable existence. Lewis has found a way to grow his own food and take care of himself so these other people are a threat to everything Lewis has.

After an encounter with one of these groups, Lewis comes to find there are still some rational people left in the world. Now it’s on Lewis and this group of survivors to defend themselves from the gun toting madmen.

Overall, Deadheading does a good job of portraying what life would likely be like in a city devastated by illness almost to the point of zero population left. The beginning takes a little bit of time to get the story going but once it does there is plenty of action happening. A nice touch is that Lewis does not instantly go from being a couch potato to an action hero. The author, Paul Cristo, shows us how Lewis does his research and learns his way out of situations.

There are a few moments in the book that stretch the imagination a bit, but those are few and far between so they are ultimately forgivable.

If you like post apocalyptic fiction like The Walking DeadDivergent, or The Hunger Games but without any supernatural elements and a story more grounded in reality, Deadheading is the book for you.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master – Movie Review

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Warrior

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Hello horror lovers, it’s me, Slick Dungeon. It’s still Halloween month so we’re diving into more spooky films. This time I am reviewing the fourth film in the Freddy franchise, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. There will be some spoilers for the movie below so if you haven’t seen it yet, give it a watch, realize you don’t want to go to sleep, and come back here to read the review.

This film picks up some time after the events of the third film in the series. Three of the teenagers who survived the last film are back. However, the role of Kristin Parker is now played by Tuesday Knight instead of Patricia Arquette.

Things have been relatively normal in the little town where Elm street is. It seems Freddy was defeated, but Kristin still sometimes has bad dreams, and still can pull in the other dream warriors Joey and Kincaid. We’re also introduced to Kristin’s best friend, Alice who will become central to the film.

Kristin is convinced Freddy is not gone. Her dreams get worse and whether she wants to or not, she keeps bringing her friends into her dreams. This allows Freddy access to the teenagers. One by one he visits their dreams. And one by one they start dying in reality.

Joey dies in an interesting call back to the way Glen died in the first movie and Kincaid does not survive his confrontation with Freddy. Kristin does realize their deaths are at least partly her fault since she brought them into her dream. And she knows Freddy is coming for her.

Kristin is also dating Alice’s brother Rick. While Alice and Rick have a hard time believing Kristin, they can’t deny the sudden deaths of their friends. One night, Kristin brings Alice into her dream and this is the link Freddy needs.

He is able to kill Kristin but Kristin transfers her dream powers to Alice before she dies. Alice, who is known to daydream a lot has a pretty deep understanding of dreams and catches on to the fact she is in danger pretty quickly. Rick still has a hard time believing her but he knows there is something going on.

Alice’s friends start dying, both at night and whenever they fall asleep in class. I will say, Freddy is responsible for all of the deaths, but I’ve noticed that in all of these movies, at least one horrible nightmare happens in class while a teacher is delivering a boring lecture. Maybe the poor school curriculum is partially to blame?

The rest of the movie is pretty much Freddy trying to get Alice to bring her friends into her dreams so he can kill them and Alice trying to stop Freddy. We don’t get a ton more background on Freddy other than him saying they shouldn’t have buried him.

While the acting is pretty good in this one, it is hard to get over the fact Kristin is not played by the same person. Knight does a fine job but it just doesn’t feel quite right.

The soundtrack is solidly stuck in the 1980’s and makes no apologies for it. It feels very much like a music video of the time, albeit a little smarter than most of those were.

There is also a heavy dose of body horror, even more so than in the last three films. Robert Englund still delivers as a terrifying, yet humorous presence.

In the end, as always, it seems Freddy has been defeated. There are no more children connected to what happened to Freddy, although the parents are still alive in many cases. I’m not sure why Freddy wouldn’t also go after them but he did always have a preference for killing children so it makes sense in that regard.

This is not a bad follow up and it is worth watching. But so far, none of the sequels can quite top the terror of the first film.

Nightmarishly yours,

Slick Dungeon

A Nightmare on Elm 3: Dream Warriors

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Welcome back horror fans, it’s me, Slick Dungeon! I’m back for the third go around with the man with razor fingers, Freddy Krueger. That’s right, I watched A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. There will be some spoilers below so if you haven’t seen the movie yet, give it a watch, try to take a nap, wake up in utter terror, realize it was just a dream, and come on back here to read the review.

This movie feels like it should have been the direct sequel to the first film. This starts some years after the first Nightmare movie. We open with a dream, as we have with all the movies so far. In this nightmare, a girl named Kristin Parker dreams about Freddy and she gets trapped in the bathroom where she ends up with marks on her wrists before waking up. Once she is back in the real world, it looks to any outside observer like she tried to commit suicide.

Turns out there has been a bit of an uptick in teen suicides in this little town with one thing in common for all of them. These kids have all been having sleep trouble. Kristin is sent to a mental health clinic where they can monitor her and help her overcome her nightmares. In the clinic is a group of kids who also have sleep issues and have been plagued by nightmares.

The audience, and the kids in the clinic know who is behind the deaths in town. They’ve all been dreaming about a man with a dirty brown hat who has knives on his fingers.

The clinic in question is trying their best to help the teens suffering from these problems but the adults don’t believe a word of what they are being told. But, things get interesting when a new intern comes in, named Nancy Thompson. The same Nancy Thompson from the first film. At last, someone who knows what is really going on is there to help.

One night at the clinic, Kristin has one of her nightmares but she is able to pull Nancy into her dream. The pair escape Krueger and Nancy realizes this might be the key to defeating Freddy once and for all.

While Nancy is there to help, things do take bad turns as two of the kids there are killed by Freddy but it looks to all outside observers like suicides. Meanwhile, one of the doctors at the clinic tries to find out more about the background of Freddy and keeps seeing a mysterious nun.

The remainder of the movie is basically Nancy and her group of friends taking on Freddy in the dream world while the doctor from the clinic tries to eradicate the world of the last physical remains of Freddy.

If you’ve seen the movie you know how this goes but in case you haven’t I’ll keep any other major spoilers to myself.

This movie has a surprising amount of star power in it. Robert Englund is back as the man from your nightmares and as always is menacing as can be. But, this also has Patricia Arquette and Laurence Fishburn. It was one of their earlier roles so they were not huge stars yet but they certainly went on to larger fame. And of course, Heather Langenkamp is back as Nancy.

While not all of the film holds up, especially some of the older effects work, that doesn’t stop this movie from being utterly frightening. It expands the background of Freddy Krueger and tells us more about his horribly violent origins. But it also just feels more like the first one did, where it seems nearly impossible to defeat a killer who can invade and possibly control your dreams.

The most unfortunate part of the film is the reliance on the “haunted medical facility” trope. It’s a very worn out and used up situation at this point but there is enough here to still terrify. While this may not be the scariest horror movie, or even the scariest sequel, it’s got to be in the top five for sure.

If you loved the first Nightmare movie, whether or not you like the second, this is a great follow up to the first film and you should watch it.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge – Movie Review

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Hello horror fans! It’s me, Slick Dungeon. I’m back to review part two of the movie series about the man from your nightmares, Freddy Krueger. The follow up to the first Nightmare on Elm Street film has the epically awesome title of A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge. I know it’s a mouthful but they get to the point eventually in that title. Do be warned before you read any further, there will be some spoilers for this film. If you haven’t seen it, grab yourself some popcorn, watch the movie, stay up late, and come back here to read the review.

It was probably inevitable the second film in this franchise would not be as terrifying as the first. Robert Englund is back as Freddy, and as always he puts in an incredible performance. While this may not be the best Freddy movie, it certainly has its fans and some people see it as a cult classic, especially due to some of the subtext that might be read into the story.

This film takes place five years after the events of A Nightmare on Elm Street. We open on a school bus where a teenager named Jesse is riding home. There are two teenage girls in front of him and when the bus gets to their stop, it just keeps going. Everyone on the bus starts to panic and yell at the driver. Turns out this is one of the nightmares Freddy pops up in.

When Jesse wakes up we learn he lives in the same house Nancy Thompson lived in when she was menaced by Freddy in the first film. Since they moved in, Jesse has been plagued by nightmares, or more accurately, night terrors. He has a friend at school named Lisa. Lisa is romantically interested in Jesse but Jesse sort of thinks he is losing his mind because of all these nightmares.

Jesse also starts having some trouble at school. He gets in a fight with a fellow student named Grady, and they both have to suffer the harsh punishment of their coach. The coach is at least rumored to be into men and is known to frequent one of the seedier clubs in town.

In Jesse’s nightmares there is an interesting twist. Freddy is not going after Jesse. Instead, he’s trying to get Jesse to kill people for him. Jesse tells Lisa about the dreams and one day while they are in Jesse’s room they find Nancy’s diary. At first it reads like a typical diary with comments about her attraction to Glen who died in the first film. But as the diary goes on it gets darker and starts to mention a description of Freddy which Jesse instantly recognizes.

Lisa does some research and discovers Freddy killed at least twenty kids in the boiler room of what is now an abandoned factory. In other words, the guy in Jesse’s dreams is no joke, and Jesse might want to be concerned.

One night after a bit of a fight with his family, Jesse starts to wander around town. He happens to end up in the same bar his coach is in. The coach makes Jesse go back to school and run laps as punishment. Not sure that would fly now but for this movie it seems like a plausible thing that could happen. The coach tells Jesse to hit the showers and soon Jesse is hearing Freddy’s voice. One thing leads to another and the coach ends up sliced to death. Jesse looks down at his hand and sees Freddy’s iconic glove on it. It seems Freddy is able to take over Jesse’s body and cause some mayhem.

The rest of the film is really about Jesse trying to stop himself from becoming Freddy. As you would expect there are more deaths and the more Jesse tries to explain the situation the more insane he seems. Things come to a crescendo when Jesse goes to a party hosted by Lisa. He and Lisa start kissing but Jesse hears Freddy in his mind again. In order to protect Lisa, Jesse goes over to Grady’s house and warns Grady not to fall asleep. Yeah, so Grady ends up dead because, well, he goes to sleep.

Freddy does get to cause some epic mayhem at the pool party Lisa is hosting and that is probably the best scene in the whole film. Of course, in the end Freddy is defeated, for now.

Not all of the effects in this one hold up today. Some of them are still great, and as always, Freddy’s face is just out and out scary. But the effects that don’t work today bring the film down overall now.

Now, as I said there are some people who see this as a cult classic, mostly because you could derive from the subtext that Jesse is a closeted gay man and Freddy trying to take over is a metaphor for Jesse’s struggle. Also, Jesse is essentially playing the part of a “final girl” in the same way Nancy did in the first film which people argue is further proof of Jesse’s sexuality. Whether you want to interpret the film that way or not is entirely up to you but I am judging this movie more on the basis of if it holds up in the fear factor than anything else.

I do think there are some great scares in here and there is a bit of interesting body horror at times. However, I don’t think this movie would just automatically scare anyone who watches it for the first time, unlike the first film which is still absolutely scary.

The acting is decent and the story holds up enough. It gives us some more background about Freddy and kind of builds his legend up a bit. I will say, the hair and costumes in this one are a bit more distracting because they are so definitely 1980’s looks but I can’t really hold that against the movie.

If you are a Freddy fan you definitely should watch this one, just don’t expect it to be the most frightening of experiences.

Dreamily yours,

Slick Dungeon

Top 5 Campaigns for Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition

Cthulhu Mythos - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

Hey all, Slick Dungeon here. I hate long intros to top 5 lists so we’ll get into it pretty quickly.

Before we do that I just need to clarify a couple of things. A campaign is a long form of story for Call of Cthulhu, meaning it is multiple scenarios played over multiple sessions.

Also, for most of these you will need at least the quick start rules for Call of Cthulhu 7th edition. More likely, you will want the Keeper’s Rulebook for 7th edition so be sure to get your hands on those before diving into these campaigns.

These are my five favorite campaigns for Call of Cthulhu 7th edition.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

5. The Alone Against Series

Alone Against the Flames: Written by Gavin Inglis, cover artwork by Petr Stovik, published by Chaosium Inc.

One of the great things about Call of Cthulhu is that it’s fun to play not only with a group of people, but also by yourself. I would be remiss if I did not include at least one solo play campaign here. Now, technically the Alone Against series is not a linear campaign where you’d play one investigator going through a series of events from start to finish. Instead, all of the Alone Against books stand on their own but are thematically tied in that… you play alone. I’ve also played this where I was the Keeper and I had one person playing on the other end and it worked really well so you could play this with two people. The one to begin with would be Alone Against the Flames, which not only is a great adventure but also, helps introduce new players to how to play Call of Cthulhu. For new Keepers, it’s a must. But once you finish Alone Against the Flames, there are several other adventure books you can play including, Alone Against the Tide, Alone Against the Frost, and Alone Against the Dark. Different people prefer different ones in the series but they’re all fun to play in my opinion and if you want a way to make your solo play last longer, playing through the series is a great way to do it.

There are several ways to get the Alone Against series of books. You can get them from drivehtrurpg.com. You can also purchase them directly from the Chaosium website at Chaosium.com. And, if you get the Call of Cthulhu 7th edition starter set, Alone Against the Flames comes in it so you can get it that way. The prices can vary between Chaosium, drivethrurpg, and based on if you want the softcover or just the PDF so I recommend doing a little comparison shopping but you can get each one for less than $20 typically which is a great price for hours of entertainment. Do note that on drivethrurpg you can only get the PDF so if you know you want the softcover, Chaosium is the way to go.

4. The Children of Fear

The Children of Fear by Lynne Hardy and Friends, Published by Chaosium Inc.

This is a sprawling, epic, multi-part campaign with several scenarios in it. It’s very player-led so the story can go a ton of different ways. This takes the Investigators through parts of Central Asian and Northern India in the 1920s. It’s also scalable on the mythos spectrum, meaning you can have small time cultists facing your group or you can throw the Outer Gods right at them if that’s what’s right for your party. This one is definitely on the mature side and there’s a content warning here for that reason. While I would say a lot of Call of Cthulhu campaigns are around a PG-13 rating, this one is solidly in the R rated camp.

This being flexible and modular is great, however, it does require a fair amount of preparing on the part of the Keeper for that reason. You’ll need to know the story enough to improvise in case your Investigators go somewhere you weren’t quite expecting.

The handouts here are incredible and the artwork is spot on. Although this takes some improv skills and a bit of fine-tuning from the Keeper, it’s well worth the ride.

You can get the PDF from drivethrurpg for $27 at the moment. Or, you can get the hardcover and the PDF from Chaosium.com for $53. If you know you’re going to run the campaign I’d recommend going the Chaosium route but if you are only considering, or if you don’t have room for another hardcover book on your shelf, buying the PDF alone might be the way to go.

3. Beyond the Mountains of Madness

Beyond the Mountains of Madness by Charles and Janyce Engan, published by Chaosium Inc.

Who doesn’t like the idea of a horrific adventure in the frozen tundra? This campaign is actually a campaign from 1999 for the 5th edition of the game. It’s written as a playable sequel to the H.P. Lovecraft story At the Mountains of Madness. If you are the Keeper running this campaign, you’ll want to be familiar with that story before you start play. Also, since it is written for 5th edition you’ll need to do some work to convert the rules if you’re playing 7th edition. That part shouldn’t be too dificult.

You do get a lot in this book. It’s over 400 pages long so that alone should tell you, this will take some time to prepare and run. You’ll need to do your homework and there are some things in the campaign that may not be necessary for your group so you may be reading through some things you won’t use. There are a lot of handouts here but keep in mind it was made in 1999 so some of the handouts feel a little dated. But if you love that classic RPG feel, you’ll be right at home here.

If run well, this is a great and potentially lethal campaign, with lots of opportunities to drive your Investigators to the brink of madness and beyond. If you don’t prepare beforehand, it can be a complicated mess of checking through pages, tables, etc. so be warned. It’s very much worth it if you can pull it off, however.

You can get the PDF version on drivethrurpg for $20 or you can get the hardcover on Chaosium for $50. In this case, because there is a bit of shuffling, cutting things out and rearranging likely to happen, I actually recommend getting the PDF rather than the hardcover. You will get the PDF with the hardcover if you buy from Chaosium but I find this one just suits my needs a little better loose leaf where I can take out what I don’t need and reshuffle.

2. Horror on the Orient Express

Horror on the Orient Express, Published by Chaosium Inc.

At the heart of the game of Call of Cthulhu is mystery. There’s a reason the players are called Investigators, not heroes or travelers or something like that. One of the best known mysteries is Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie so it’s only natural to decide to turn this mystery into a Lovecraftian nightmare.

Three identical men are all found dead on the same night, in the same room, all dead of stab wounds to the heart. This intriguing incident is what sets the Investigators off on this huge adventure. It will take Investigators across Europe. I don’t want to get into spoilers here but this campaign is a joy to run. It’s got deep mystery, weird happenings, a ton of handouts and a great hook to start the campaign. The Investigators get immersed quickly in this one which is great for any scenario but especially good when you are talking about a long campaign.

Like most of the campaigns on this list, there is prep work needed on the part of the Keeper but it’s well worth the effort.

You can get the PDF for this on drivethrurpg for $40 at the time of this post.

But, if you are willing to splurge, you can get an absolutely gorgeous edition of this campaign split into two volumes on Chaosium.com for $90. I know that’s a hefty price tag but if you want to run an epic and amazing campaign this is one of the best ones there is for Call of Cthulhu.

1. Masks of Nyarlathotep

Masks of Nyarlathotep by Larry Ditillio and Lynn Willis

Masks of Nyarlathotep is my absolute favorite Call of Cthulhu campaign hands down. It’s epic and sprawling and can keep your Investigators busy for at least a year easily. This is a globe trotting adventure with tons of adventure, surprises and horror abounding. Nyarlathotep is ready to usher in a new world but the Investigators must stop him. They’ll need to use all their wits and cunning to figure out how and somehow remain sane long enough to do it.

This one absolutely takes a lot of preparation to run as a Keeper and it’s one I recommend reading a couple of times through before even proposing to run it for your players. But if you do, it is so worth it. It’s an incredible experience with tons of twists and turns. You’ll definitely need to make adjustments for your group as some hints, clues, handouts and locations will be better suited to some people than others. Just be aware of that before running it and you should be okay.

Considering the epic scope of this campaign it doesn’t run cheap.

You can get this on drivethrurpg as a PDF for $18 which is your cheapest option. If you’re just curious about the campaign and not sure you want to commit to it, this is a good option for a first read through.

On Chaosium’s website you can get a few different versions.

You can get the omnibus PDF edition for $60 which has rules for both Call of Cthulhu and Pulp Cthulhu.

Or you can get the slipcase set for $129 which has two volumes for the campaign, a Keeper screen, all the handouts and maps, and the pre-generated character sheets already printed for you.

And if you really want to spend some money and have some impressive looking books too you could go for the leather slipcase set for $250. This includes all the same stuff you get in the slipcase set but the books are leather bound. At the time of this post, this version is on sale for $199 but I have no idea how long that will last. It’s a lot of money still but you’re saving a bit. And if you do buy this set, you’ll have a gorgeous looking set of books totally appropriate to wow your Investigators with.

Do you have any favorite campaigns you’ve run? Let me know it the comments and Happy Halloween month!

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

A Nightmare on Elm Street – Movie Recview

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Hello horror fans, it’s me, Slick Dungeon! It’s been a long year but we’ve finally made it to the month made for everything terrifying. I thought I would ring in the new October with a review of a little film called A Nightmare on Elm Street. The film was directed by Wes Craven, starred Robert Englund as the stalker on screen, Heather Langenkamp as the girl with the plan to escape and introduced us to Johnny Depp for the first time. Do be warned before you read this review there will be spoilers. So if you have not seen the film, take a watch, try to get some shuteye and come on back here to read the review.

It’s no secret Freddy Krueger is an absolute icon of horror. His disfigured face, dirty hat and sweater and glove with knives can be seen as a costume every halloween. He’s instantly recognizable. But to be fair to the image, all of that would not have worked if his first film had not been so completely, utterly, terrifying.

This film worked so well, if you were of a certain age when it first came out, and years later someone in a group starts to softly sing, “One, two, Freddy’s comin’ for you…” at least one person in the group is going to tell that person to stop it because it still creeps them out.

The plot revolves around a group of four teenagers who all live in a fairly well off community and all have a terrifying nightmare on the same night. That’s not that strange except for the fact the nightmares all had the same guy in it. A man in a dirty red and green sweater who has, “knives for fingers.”

The movie starts in an almost surreal way where the neighborhood looks too perfect to be reality. Tina, one of the group of four friends has an awful dream and she sees a glimpse of Freddy. When she wakes, her shirt is slashed right where Freddy tried to strike her.

The next day, Tina asks her friend Nancy, her boyfriend Rod, and Nancy’s boyfriend, Glen to all stay over at her house. Tina’s mother is not at home and Tina is afraid to sleep alone. Turns out Tina was right.

Tina falls asleep with Rod right next to her and once again encounters Freddy but this time she doesn’t survive the encounter. Rod is actually in the room with Tina when it happens and he sees cuts tear into Tina as he watches. Rod doesn’t do anything because he thinks he’s just having another nightmare himself. And since it looks like Tina is being attacked by no one physical, it makes sense that Rod thinks that. With Tina dead and no one other than Rod in the room at the time, it looks to almost everyone like Rod killed his girlfriend.

Nancy knows better. She knows it’s the man from her dreams who has been terrifying her.

I don’t want to give everything away in this review but from this point in the movie on, it’s pretty much Nancy vs. Freddy. No matter how hard Nancy tries to convince everyone of what is really happening, it’s awfully difficult for anyone to believe a dream is causing murders to happen.

Nancy goes from looking like a fairly put together person to someone who is frazzled, sleep deprived, and fighting for her life, all of which are true.

A Nightmare on Elm Street is so good at tricking the audience, even we can’t always tell where a dream begins and reality ends.

This is an older movie so not every effect holds up but most of them do. There’s a scene with a face in a ceiling that is still scary as can be, the ways the characters die are unimaginable, and if you are old enough to have experienced speaking on a phone with a cord, seeing a phone with its cord cut ring is really frightening.

The movie is not perfect but it’s a total landmark in horror. I’ve always been just a little bit more of a Friday the 13th fan than a Freddy fan but total respect for anyone who thinks of this film as their favorite horror film.

The most brilliant thing about the movie is the impossibility of fighting Freddy. After all, at some point you are going to fall asleep. And how can you fight someone who literally invades your dreams? There’s also a bit of backstory as to why Freddy is doing all this and while it doesn’t give all the answers, it’s enough to makes sense as to why these kids in particular are targets.

This movie also takes a lot the usual tropes and assumptions audiences have and makes sense out of them. In nearly every slasher film ever made, you have to wonder why the police are not more involved early on. In Friday the 13th it’s because it’s in a remote location. In Halloween they do try to get involved but they quickly die at the killer’s hands. In A Nightmare on Elm Street there are multiple issues happening. First, they think the real killer is Rod and they have him so it seems like their work is done. Second, everything Nancy says, sounds impossible, even when she confronts the sheriff, who happens to be her own father, with evidence of the impossible. The only one who even sort of believes her is Glen but he has to fall asleep at some point too. And on top of all of that, the adults in the town are covering something up so it’s not in their interest to believe Nancy. For a movie based on the impossible, a ton of what happens in the real world is completely plausible and that really makes it work.

Almost all slasher movies end with a jump scare at the end to leave you just a bit worried that the whole story is not quite finished. That can be fun. But with Freddy, you see that jump scare and you realize, no matter how hard you try not to, you’re going to have a dream with Freddy in it. It’s genuinely brilliant horror. And Freddy’s comin’ for you…

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Marvel 616 Review – The Fantastic Four #13

The Fantastic Four Issue 13. Photo Credit: Marvel Writer Stan Lee, Art: Jack Kirby

While we have seen The Fantastic Four a few times in other books, it’s been a bit since one of their own issues has shown up on the 616 reading list. This issue is notable as it introduces one of the most powerful and mysterious entities in all of Marvel 616.

The issue begins with a lab accident at the Baxter building. Reed Richards is working on a new kind of jet propulsion fuel and has so much success he more or less blows up the lab. Thing and Johnny Storm both try to jump into action and rescue Reed but Reed has on a safety suit and actually has to save Johnny. The Human torch was about to fly into some chemical fumes that likely would have killed him and/or exploded even worse.

This is going to be far from the last time Reed Richards nearly destroys his home and family in the name of scientific achievement. He’s pretty nonchalant about the whole thing.

Reed has apparently used some material components he found in a meteor crater and if he can harness this energy he’ll have, “discovered a booster fuel powerful enough to enable us to catch up with the reds in the race to the moon!”

At the time, this would have been seen as a major achievement by anyone in America so it’s understandable Reed is excited. He also suspects the “reds” had this thought before him and might be why they were ahead of America at the time. He seems to think they got this material somewhere in Siberia.

With this fuel, Reed decides he is going to go to the “mysterious blue area of the moon!”

The team is not about to let Reed go alone so reluctantly, Reed agrees to allow them all to join.

We next shift the scene behind the iron curtain where a scientist is training a gorilla to operate a space ship. He’s also training a baboon to shoot guns and an orangutan to use tools to repair the ship. This scientist is Ivan Kragoff and he’s training his “apes” to go to the moon so he can claim it for the communist empire.

However unlikely it may be, both Reeds ship and Kragoff’s ship launch at the same time. Kragoff, has another motive as well. He knows cosmic rays gave the FF their powers so he built his own ship in a way he will absorb some of those rays. He’s looking for some super powers.

On the way up, the FF see Kragoff’s ship. Johnny is itching to try out a special costume Reed made for him that will allow him to flame on and be in space because it, “releases an artificial atmosphere” around Johnny.

Johnny flies to the ship to see Kragoff and his apes. Kragoff is trying to figure out what cool new powers they all have. It looks like nothing until the gorilla demonstrates some super strength. The baboon seems to be able to shape change, the orangutan has magnetic powers and is able to push Johnny off course because of that.

Johnny makes it back to his ship and tells the team the situation. Reed is aware of Kragoff and they know a fight is coming once they land.

The FF’s rocket touches down on the mysterious blue area where they find what looks like an abandoned city. One thing to note here is at this point since man had not actually landed on the moon, this kind of story was somewhat more believable. For all we knew there really could have been an old abandoned city on the moon.

After they land the team realizes there is enough of an atmosphere here they can breathe and operate like normal. Reed starts to look for Kragoff’s ship but they notice a modern house with what looks like someone living in it. In the excitement to see that, the group leaves Thing behind. Thing goes to kick a rock but it turns out to be the baboon. Thing is soon surrounded by all the apes and Kragoff who calls himself, The Red Ghost. Basically Kragoff can turn himself, “unsolid” like a ghost so no one can hit him. His powers are reminiscent of what the Vision’s phasing powers will be.

As the five of them scuffle around, a mysterious being shows up and tells them all to just knock it off. He calls himself the Watcher and proves he is immensely powerful but just putting the apes in some kind of bubble.

Watcher calls out to all the earthlings and tells them he comes from a planet that is one vast, giant computer. He goes through a rundown of some of the things he has seen including entire civilizations destroying themselves. And he speaks about how he and his people have only ever observed and never before made their presence known.

The Watcher wants to save humans from their own savagery. He doesn’t care if we blow up Earth but now Reed and Kragoff have brought the fight to Watcher’s turf. He wants Thing and Kragoff to duke it out one on one and Watcher just sort of disappears.

Reed and the rest of the gang do find Thing and take him back to the house they were checking out. Seems like it’s probably the Watcher’s place according to Ben. Watcher then whisks everyone away to a battlefield inside a “dead city.”

As you would expect there is a fight between the FF and the Red Ghost and his apes. The fight goes poorly for our heroes at first. Red Ghost manages to capture Sue Storm and speed away in a car that goes underground. The rest of the FF regroup and Reed figures out they need to outsmart the opposition rather than use brute force. Reed sends Johnny and Ben to go after Sue and tries to make a weapon out of the technology he finds in the dead city.

Meanwhile, Sue is trapped with the Red Ghost who explains his apes obey him when they are at their hungriest so he keeps them locked behind a force field. Red Ghost then leaves and Sue says, “If I could only find a way to eliminate this force field– to free the super-apes! I would take my chances with them, rather than the Red Ghost, for they are like the communist masses, innocently enslaved by their evil leaders!” This quote stood out to me because so far, in almost all of the issues of Marvel 616 where communists show up, there’s not any mention of ordinary citizens. Instead, they all tend to be lumped together as evil but here Stan Lee really is making a distinction, although kind of a clumsy one with the moon as a proxy fight for democracy versus communism. It’s not a huge stretch to think this could have, in some ways, been intended to be a statement on the conflict in Vietnam. You know, just with super-apes on the moon.

Sue is able to free the apes and rather than attack her they go for the food. Then they break the door down, conveniently allowing Sue Storm to escape.

Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm chase down the Red Ghost but he has a disintegrator ray he found waiting for them. Luckily, Sue catches up to them before they can be harmed and she warns them it’s a trap. Johnny melts the ray and heats up the air around Red Ghost causing him to flee. Red Ghost gets to the surface and sees the house of the Watcher and figures there’s probably some pretty good stuff in there.

Unfortunately for the Red Ghost everything the Watcher has is just beyond human understanding (much like the character Uatu himself). Needless to say, the Watcher is not cool with someone breaking into his house. He tells Red Ghost he could send him to limbo, to the dawn of time, or to the end of time but he’s not worth the effort and just tosses the guy out of his house without even touching him.

As he gets tossed Reed hits the Red Ghost with a paralyzing ray he built. At this point the FF are pretty sure they’ve won but realize they don’t know for sure until the Watcher says so. The Watcher does show up and declares the contest over and the FF to have won. He also says his own mission is at an end. He says, “Now that mankind has reached the moon, I must go to a more distant part of the galaxy, to observe you mortals from afar! For we Watchers must be ever aloof– ever apart from other races!” We all know we’re going to see this character again and that he’s immensely important to the 616 continuity but it’s still a pretty impressive entrance and exit.

After the Watcher leaves the apes turn on their master. Reed and company head back to Earth ready for a rest and to give the new rocket fuel to the National Space Agency. At the very end of the issue we’re teased with a promise of an appearance by both Sub-Mariner and the Puppet Master for the next issue.

Overall this is a really fun issue, even if the idea of super apes is a bit ridiculous. The cosmic weirdness the Fantastic Four can achieve is beyond any other comic book heroes this side of Green Lantern and it’s always great to see a cosmic being introduced. Although he isn’t named in the issue this Watcher is Uatu who is a key component of tons of Marvel 616 stories. He’s also the narrator for some of the most fun stories Marvel puts out which are the What If comics. It’ll be a while until he’s a real regular but the Fantastic Four comics would not be nearly as fantastic without the influence of the Watcher, who is incidentally, the one guy who shouldn’t be influencing anyone.

Next up on the reading list we’ll be getting small once again as we catch up with Ant-Man in the pages of Tales to Astonish #42!

I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer – Movie Review

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Hey horror fanatics, it’s Slick Dungeon here. I’m back to review the third and final movie about a group of teenagers who commit a crime and get a spooky note about it a year later and are stalked by someone with a fish hook. Fair warning there will be spoilers for I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer below. So, if you want to watch it first put on your rain slicker, grab your hook, get some popcorn and see the rehash of an attempt at a movie this is and come on back here.

Let’s start with the title on this one. I usually don’t have a lot to say about a film title but this one is uniquely annoying. I Know What You Did Last Summer made sense because the killer in the film witnessed an event the summer before. I Still Know What You Did Last Summer made less sense because it was about something that happened two summers ago so it really should have been called I Still Know What You Did Two Summers Ago. But I let that one slide because it sort of made sense considering it’s at least about the same characters. I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer is completely off base for a ton of reasons, not the least of which is this is a sort of attempt at a reboot and stars a total of none of the original cast. Who exactly is knowing what here and why should we care? If they do ever make a follow up to this, I suggest the title, I Will Always and Forever Know Exactly What You Did Last Summer Because I Wrote it Down on a Post-it Note and Stuck it on My Freezer Door Where I Look at it Every Time I Want to Eat a Popsicle.

I didn’t think the premise in the original movie was the greatest but I was willing to go along with it because it made some sense. A group of kids does a bad thing, although on accident, and now there is a killer coming after them.

This movie just makes no sense from the start. First off, this one takes place in Colorado for some bizarre reason. The last two were located in a small fishing town where a slicker and a hook would be widely available and made sense. I have no idea why they moved the location but it just doesn’t work.

The movie starts out with five friends trying to pull off an elaborate prank. They are at a town carnival where they tell the story of the fisherman who kills teenagers but only if they have some deep, dark secret. Then one of their buddies runs around dressed in a fisherman’s slicker with a hook. As a result PJ, one of the people in on the joke ends up dead.

In the original film the group is in trouble due to potential manslaughter involving a traffic accident. But in this case, it’s clearly a prank gone wrong and I don’t think the group was all that culpable for the incident. The worst they would have gotten is manslaughter charges but basically the situation here is a skateboarder fell off a roof and didn’t land on some mattresses he expected to be there and died. Unless someone in the group literally moved the mattresses on purpose and knew their friend would not check before jumping off the roof, I think they would have had to pay some fines, done a few months in jail and probably a whole lot of community service. But, instead of confessing, they cover up the incident.

A couple other things to mention is the hook they used was bought for $19 on e-bay and was reported to be the original hook. So, as the audience we know this is not going to end well. The group swears themselves to secrecy and covers up all the evidence they can so at least they are careful that way.

Fast forward to a year later when one of the group gets the inevitable note saying I know what you did last summer. The group then has to spend the next few days trying not to get murdered. Some are more successful than others. It progresses as you would expect any of these movies to until the end.

There is going to be a spoiler for the ending here but I can’t recommend you watch the movie so I don’t think it’s a huge deal. The first two movies had some appeal because the audience was trying to figure out who the killer was along with the characters. But in this one, it’s the original killer who is long since dead and seems to be somehow reanimated. That supernatural change just took it from a meh premise to an actively bad one.

I know, I know, why can’t this be the same as Jason or Freddy or Michael Meyers who all keep coming back? Well, here’s the thing with those; in the early films of those characters there was at least some hint of the supernatural going on. In this one, they are just trying to copy that without putting in the groundwork to make it make sense. It doesn’t work at all and it’s basically a big ad warning you against buying hooks on e-bay for $19 dollars because it might be haunted.

The acting is not terrible here but no one is doing Shakespear here either. There are a few moments of definite overacting but it’s no worse than most horror films.

This is not the worst horror movie I have ever seen but it’s also far, far from the best. If you have just nothing else to do at all and you have a bunch of friends around and you’ve exhausted everything else fun to watch, you might get some mild enjoyment out of this. Otherwise this one is a total skipper.

Knowingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Marvel 616 Review – The Amazing Spider-Man #1

The Amazing Spider-Man Issue 1 Photo Credit: Marvel

Without question, Spider-man is one of the most influential comic book characters of all time. He is able to give the reader a sense of real world problems while still displaying incredible powers and heroics. When Peter Parker is down on his luck, we all can relate to it, and at the same time, that’s when his best stories come about. This is not some alien from a distant planet. This isn’t someone bestowed with a power ring. This hero is not anything other than a regular person trying to make ends meet and live his life. And did I mention, he’s just a teenager?

He got his debut in the pages of Amazing Fantasy #15. This was a short story in an anthology that turned massively popular. And while it’s likely Stan Lee has exaggerated the initial reaction to the character somewhat, it’s clear Spider-man has had an enduring legacy and continues to be wildly popular.

Apparently having the word amazing attached to Spider-man was inevitable because his own title becomes The Amazing Spider-man. This is not the debut of Peter Parker or Spider-man but it does lay some groundwork for the series for years to come.

The issue is divided into two stories which while connected, can be read as stand alone stories. Each one has some major events and significance to stories for years to come. I’ll be reviewing both stories here but they could have been listed as their own for the purposes of reading through Marvel 616 continuity.

The first story is titled, Spider-man. While one might assume the bulk of the story would be taken up with revisiting how Spider-man came to be or with Peter pulling off tons of heroics, there’s actually not that much of it going on.

At the start we do get a bit of a reminder of the previous story. Peter was bit and got his powers at a lab experiment. He went into show business to try to make some money. There was a robber Peter could have stopped but didn’t. Because of Peter’s inaction, his beloved uncle Ben was killed.

When we get caught up to the present, it’s the money woes that is the real enemy for Peter. His Aunt May can’t pay the rent. Peter briefly thinks about turning to crime for some quick cash but realizes that’s not something he is willing to do and something that would break Aunt May’s heart.

Peter again tries to cash in on his powers by putting on a public performance. As amazing as he is, when it’s time to get paid, Peter can’t cash in because he won’t give his real name. He tries to cash a check made out to Spider-man at the bank but has no luck.

Meanwhile, a certain newspaper editor has caught wind of this so called Spider-man. It’s in this issue we get the first of many headlines written by J. Jonah Jameson. This one just says, “Spiderman Menace.” As if that’s not bad enough for Peter, Jameson goes out on the lecture circuit to badmouth the hero. Jameson wants America’s youth to be like his own son, a test pilot, and a real hero, who is about to orbit the Earth.

Peter tries to get a part time job but is turned down because he is too young. And what’s worse is he sees Aunt May pawn her jewelry so she can pay rent. Peter starts to blame J. Jonah Jameson for his troubles because it’s now nearly impossible to cash in on being Spider-man.

Meanwhile John Jameson goes up in his rocket but there’s a problem. A navigation system of some sort falls off and the ship starts to fall back to Earth. NASA tries a few different things but they’re not successful. Spider-man shows up and tells them he can help. He gets a replacement part and commandeers a plane and a pilot to take him close to the rocket. Peter attaches it and saves the day.

Figuring he’ll be embarrassed by the compliments he’ll get for what he did, Peter leaves quickly. He also figures he’s repaired his reputation with J. Jonah because Peter just saved his son. But, J.J. seems to think the whole thing was a setup and conspiracy to make his son look bad. The press is even worse for Peter than it was before.

There are a few interesting things in this story. First, is the emphasis on money woes. This is a huge theme in Spider-man books and it’s smart to have it as a central point because almost all of us can relate to it in some way. Second, it’s not clear why a rocket would launch out of New York but we can let that slide for the moment. Finally, the public reaction to Spider-man is intriguing. It’s clear there are some people who like Spider-man. The pilot who takes him up to save Jameson thinks he is alright and there are a few other people in the background of panels who say positive things about him. But, it’s also clear Jameson is able to have a huge influence on how the public perceives him. The majority of people who read the newspaper do seem to think Spider-man is a menace, including Aunt May. I think it’s a really unique position at the time to have a hero who does heroic things but is generally not liked by about two thirds of the public. This is not like The Fantastic Four who are generally liked. They’ve had the occasional misunderstanding with the public but they are not outright hated. Thor and Ant-man really don’t have anything negative said about them. At this time, Iron-man has only barely come on the scene so the public is still mostly unaware of him. The only other hero who might be able to relate to Peter would be Bruce Banner but the Hulk is almost universally hated so he probably wouldn’t take the time to consider what Peter thinks at all.

The story ends with a warning by the F.B.I. saying there is a reward for the capture of Spider-man. Peter wonders if crime is his only option left. We all know that will not be the route he would take but I imagine for the first group of people reading this they may have had the idea Peter could have turned corrupt here.

The second story is title Spider-Man vs. The Chameleon.

This story is really interesting because there are a ton of things going on here. We’ll get to the heart of the story in a minute but can you notice something unusual in this panel early in the story?

We won’t know him as Peter Palmer for long. Photo Credit Marvel, story by Stan Lee, Art by Steve Ditko

Yeah, we almost had a hero names Peter Palmer. This misspelling of Peter’s last name happens at least three more times in this issue. It’s not particularly significant but it’s interesting to see how easy it was for a continuity error to happen in these early comics.

Also, as you can see above, the story starts with Peter having the idea of joining up with the Fantastic Four. It kind of makes sense. They live in a big skyscraper building in the middle of the city and they’re always flying around in the newest fantasticar so it sure looks like they pay well.

The most fun part of this story is seeing how Peter gets around the security measures in the Baxter building so he can talk to Reed and company. Of course, the Fantastic Four assume he’s there to cause some kind of trouble. There’s a bit of a scuffle and we see everyone use their powers. It’s a fairly even match all things considered. Finally Reed asks what Spidey is doing there and the fight ends.

Peter gives his pitch to the super team only to find out they are a non-profit organization and don’t pay salaries. With no other reason to stay, Peter promptly leaves. But as he goes Reed Richards says, “Somehow, I have a feeling we’ll be hearing more from that young man in the future!” Spoiler alert, Reed is one hundred percent correct about that. Just not in this issue.

After Peter leaves the scene shifts and we get our first ever glimpse at a real Spider-man villain. This is The Chameleon. He’s a spy who is able to change his appearance through extremely realistic disguises. We never see his real face in the story as it is always covered by a mask. The Chameleon easily breaks into a defense center and steals some secret plans. He walks right out with no one being the wiser.

On his way out, The Chameleon sees a report about Spider-man going to see The Fantastic Four on the news. With the F.B.I. warning out there, Chameleon sees a perfect fall guy for his crimes in Spider-man.

The Chameleon seems to know things about Spider-mans powers which are never explained here. He somehow knows Spidey has a type of spider-sense and sends a message to Peter only those powers could pick up. The message is just a setup to trap Spider-man into being at the wrong place at the wrong time, thus giving Chameleon someone else for the police to catch for his crimes.

Despite knowing about Peter’s spider-sense, Chameleon didn’t totally think it through because Peter is able to tell who the Chameleon is even when disguised. There’s a chase and a tussle. Spider-man actually makes himself look worse by webbing up a bunch of police officers. After a lot of acrobatics and inventive use of webbing, including the first appearance of a web parachute Spider-man catches up to the Chameleon.

Turns out Chameleon was going to sell the plans to communists on a sub-marine. For those of you keeping count, this incident adds up to every single 616 hero we have seen so far fighting communists at least once. Spider-man is able to capture Chameleon and takes him back to the police.

But Chameleon is able to change his appearance into a police officer. He almost gets away but Peter figures it out thanks to his spider-sense. There’s another chase but the cops do catch the right guy eventually.

We end the issue with Peter wishing he had never gotten his powers and the FF wondering what would happen if Spider-man turned to crime.

In this story there are tons of things going on that I find really interesting. First, there is the crossover appeal. I don’t know if Stan Lee thought Spider-man wouldn’t sell well enough on his own but the interaction with The Fantastic Four is great here. And it feels like the universe is really building with this story.

Also, everyone seems to know Peter is a teenager even while he is wearing his costume. I think this leaves us all to assume Peter just sounds like a teenager. He’s about the size of any other hero and he hasn’t shown his face so that’s the only way people must know about his age.

Another interesting thing here is Peter’s money issues are not resolved at all and if anything, he’s made his own reputation worse. It makes the audience wonder why Peter would try to be a hero at all. Except, if you remember Peter’s inaction leads to the death of his uncle. He’ll be a hero not because it is profitable but because as bad as things might be, if he does nothing, they will be worse.

While this isn’t the debut of Spider-man it is a great debut of his title which will go on to a whopping 441 issue streak in the first volume. The stories get better but the foundations really do start here. And while not all 441 issues are great, there will be some amazing stories (pun intended) to come with this character.

Next up on the reading list we’ll be checking back in on the god of thunder once again with Journey Into Mystery #91!

I Still Know What You Did Last Summer – Movie Review

I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998)

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Hello horror fans, it’s me, Slick Dungeon! I’m back to review another slasher film for ya. This time, it’s the sequel to I Know What You Did Last Summer, the cleverly titled, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. We’re back with just half the cast of the first film because… well murder-y reasons from the first film. This time we have Jennifer Love Hewitt and Freddy Prinze Jr. reprising their roles but we also get a host of new characters. Before we get too far into this review just a note of warning, there will be spoilers for both the first and second films in this franchise. And oddly enough a spoiler from Scream 5. So if you haven’t seen the movies, grab your rain slicker, bring your hook, and brave the bad weather to see the films and come on back here to read the review.

I Know What You Did Last Summer left us on a jump scare with Julie, played by Jennifer Love Hewitt, seeing the words I Still Know written on a fogged up shower window and then the sound of breaking glass as someone or something jumps through the window. It’s actually a rather effective end and leaves the viewer a bit disturbed and wondering what will happen next. Naturally, the makes of the sequel decide to… completely ignore that scene and just start with Julie in college having a nightmare. And the nightmare isn’t even that scene which would have made sense. After that bad choice, the movie gets kind of worse.

Julie is probably the least culpable of the group from the first film so the audience is more or less on her side and it makes sense that she’s the focus of the follow up movie. But Ray, who is the one who was behind the wheel when he hit someone in the first film, is also in this. He’s still dating Julie but the relationship is on the rocks. Julie doesn’t want to go back home for the fourth of July but Ray really wants her to.

Julie invites Ray to stay at her college for the weekend but Ray insists he has to work. And then, in what is almost completely unexplainable behavior, Ray gets really mad that Julie doesn’t want to come back to the town where she and Ray were almost murdered, on the anniversary of the day several of her friends and acquaintances were murdered, during a time she’s clearly having flashbacks and bad dreams about nearly being murdered in the spot Ray wants her to go to. But Ray thinks his anger can be justified because he, “has to work,” and because there is a guy on campus who is being relatively nice and understanding to Julie. I’m not here to give anyone relationship advice but if this is your situation, maybe think twice about who you are spending time with.

Ray goes back to his hometown and Julie and her friend win tickets to go on a vacation to paradise in the Bahamas. Julie promptly invites Ray to go but he won’t because he, “has to work.” And get this… Ray is still mad at her! She just invited him to go on vacation with her but somehow she’s wrong in this situation? What the heck?

Anyway, this is a horror movie, so let’s get into the horror, other than Ray’s weird attitude towards Julie. Long story short, the trip is a setup by someone who wants to kill Julie and maybe a number of her friends and acquaintances. Turns out the island is pretty secluded and no one can get on or off on the fourth of July because it’s the start of typhoon season and the seas will be too rough.

We meet a cast of oddball island characters from a hotel manager who seems to hate guests (this makes no sense considering they would be his only source of income) to a bar tender who can’t stand tourists (I get this a bit more but again shouldn’t she be trying to be nice to them to, you know, earn tips?), and uh.. Jack Black trying to deal weed to everyone. On the plus side, this movie has Jack Black in it so all good.

If you have ever seen a slasher film even once in your life, you know where this is going. Characters start getting picked off one by one, including characters the audience might have suspected were the killer.

Meanwhile, back at home, Ray gets attacked in the same spot as the accident from the first film. He pretty quickly realizes Julie is likely in trouble so he pawns the engagement ring he was going to propose to Julie with so he can get a gun and force someone to take him to this island. I guess we’re supposed to be on Ray’s side because, “he has to work,” so he could buy Julie a wedding ring. But like in the first movie, he does something so awful in the beginning (really getting on Julie’s case for feeling victimized) that it’s nearly impossible to like this dude.

The remainder of the movie is Julie and her friends trying to survive, Ray trying to save Julie, and the audience trying to figure out who the killer is.

**Spoiler warning here for both I Still Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream 5.**

If you’ve seen very many horror movies, and slasher horror in particular, you’re going to guess who the killer is immediately. We know it’s not Ray, although he could be a suspect if he was on the same island at the same time most of the murders happen. But he’s not. When I watched this movie this quote from Dewey Riley in Scream 5 immediately popped into my head, “Rule number one. Never trust the love interest. They seem sweet, caring, supportive. Then welcome to act three, where they’re trying to rip your head off.” This quote basically summarizes this whole movie perfectly. Respect for Scream 5.

Some of the deaths are interesting and there is a higher body count and definitely a bit more gore than in the first film. But the plot is not very strong and if a single one of these characters had asked if anyone heard them on the radio when they won this contest, the whole plot never would have happened.

There’s a twist at the end, like all good slashers should have, but it’s not a very inspired twist and it feels kinda lazy. Also, like any good slasher, we end on a scare. But if my guess is right, they will waste this one as well.

I wasn’t overly impressed with the first movie but not because the plot wasn’t believable. For that one, I just found the characters unlikeable. In this one, I find Ray super unlikeable and the plot unbelievable. The newer characters are for the most part fine, although some of them just seem like silly stereotypes of horror characters you might see in any horror movie, the stoner guy, the odd and creepy older man, the sort of angry bar tender etc.

It’s far from the worst horror film I have ever seen but it’s also nowhere near the best. If the franchise went downhill this fast, I can’t imagine what the third one will be like. I will be reviewing it so if you want my take on it, stay tuned.

Knowingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Slick Dungeon’s 2022 Challenge Check-in!

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. It’s been far too long since I have checked in on these challenges but there is still time to complete them. I wanted to do a check-in on how I am doing on the challenges I created for books, movies, and role playing games for this year. If you want to see how I did, this is the post for you! And if you have been doing any of these challenges, I would love to know how it’s going for you. Let me know in the comments!

Reading Challenge

Slick Dungeon’s 2022 Book Challenge! Click the image to download your own copy!

The first challenge was to re-read the first book I remember reading. I completed that by re-reading The Cat in the Hat but I’m not putting a review here for that. It’s still a great kids book though!

For the second challenge, read a book more than 500 pages long, I read most recently The Ravenstones: Death and Life by C.S. Watts. I highly recommend the whole series if you like epic fantasy.

For the next challenge, a book with a complicated magic system in it, I am currently reading The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson which is the first of the Stormlight Archives books. The magic system is quite complicated but I’m not sure if I will meet this challenge by the end of the year because it’s a long book.

So far this year I haven’t read a book where the main character dies but if I don’t come across one towards the end of the year I’ll grab something where I know that happens.

I’m still deciding on the book to read I was assigned in school but didn’t read. I’m considering The Scarlet Letter or Animal Farm.

I’ve actually read several books this year which are under 500 pages long and are independently published. Check my prior book reviews on this blog to see those.

As far as a non-fiction book, I haven’t decided what to read so if you know of any really interesting books, let me know about them in the comments.

The last three challenges I’ll leave for October, November and December.

Movie Challenge

Slick Dungeon’s 2022 Movie Challenge! Click the image to download your own copy!

I went back and forth on figuring out a movie about love to watch. Then I finally realized, The Princess Bride would be the perfect one to watch. I’ve watched it but I still haven’t posted a review here. I will at some point though.

For the second challenge, a movie about an issue you care about, I did watch Don’t Look Up. It’s more of a metaphor than a movie directly about an issue but it applies uncannily to so many issues I think this one counts.

It’s kind of tough for me to find a movie I have never heard of because I watch a lot of movies. Feel free to recommend some to me in the comments!

I love a good horror comedy but I just haven’t gotten around to watching one yet this year. Next month feels like the right time to do so. Watch for a review when the time comes.

The next challenge was a movie that is all character driven and no action. I watched the great Japanese film Drive My Car. It’s a real commitment at a three hour run time but it touches the depths of human emotion like almost no other movie can.

I’m lucky because the best picture winner from the year I was born happens to be one of the greatest movies of all time. I’ll be watching The Godfather II. I’ll post a review after I do that but I know it’s a film I love so it’s a win for me.

The first movie I remember watching in theaters is a bit of an oddball but it gave me the foundation to be a lifelong cinephile. I watched The Great Muppet Caper and I remember loving everything about the experience. As a kid I hadn’t understood just how big things could be until I saw a huge poster of Kermit and Miss Piggy etc. and then saw them on a giant screen. (I’m sure it was all normal sized but for a young kid that’s still huge). I’ll post a review once I’ve rewatched it but I’m not sure how well it will hold up.

The Godfather II also qualifies as a movie that’s better than the original but for my money, Empire Strikes Back is always going to be the best in that category. I’ll post a review of it here before the year is out.

There are tons of movies with incredible musical scores so I’m not sure which movie I’ll watch but you can bet your bottom dollar it will have been composed by John Wiliams.

The last three challenges I’ll leave for October, November and December.

Read, Watch, Play CHallenge

Slick Dungeon’s 2022 Read, Watch, Play challenge! Click the image about to download your own copy!

The read, watch, play challenge is the one I am probably the farthest behind on. What can I say? It can be hard to find time to play all the games, watch all the movies, and read all the books I want to.

For reading a book that is set in the same setting as a tabletop game I am reading Vampire of the Mists which is set in Barovia, a gothic horror setting for Dungeons & Dragons. Once I’ve completed it, I will post a review here.

The next challenge on the list is to watch a movie where the characters play Dungeons & Dragons. I thought about watching E.T. but decided to go with Lloyd the Conqueror. The characters technically LARP but they roll D20’s and there’s enough D&D references in there I think it counts.

Play the first role playing game you remember playing was pretty easy. I played Dungeons & Dragons several times this year.

I haven’t yet come across a book where the characters play a role playing game so if you have an recommendations, let me know!

The Princess Bride has fantasy creatures in it so that one will count toward this challenge for me. I’ll post a review at some point this year.

I’m not sure what role playing game that I’ve never played I want to do. I’m leaning towards Flames of Freedom which is kind of a Cthulhu style game set in the American revolution and sounds pretty cool. But it will depend on if I can find others to play with me, so we’ll see.

I’m currently reading the core rulebook for Vampire the Masquerade 5th Edition. Once I complete it, I’ll definitely post a review but it’s going to take a while because that’s a fairly long rulebook.

For a movie with a quest in it, I’m not sure what I will watch but it’s likely enough I’ll just end up rewatching Lord of the Rings movies because, well, I love those books and movies so I might as well enjoy them again.

There are a ton of sci-fi role playing games I’d love to get into but I haven’t decided which one I’m going with. Again, this will depend on who I can get to play what with me. I’ll report back once I have done it though.

The last three challenges I’ll leave for October, November and December.

In Conclusion

Well, that’s where I’m at for these challenges so far this year. Have you tried any of them? If so, how’s it going? Also, a reminder, if you complete one of these challenges and post about it on your blog and let me know, I will review anything you would like me to. (Within reason of course). If you want me to review your book or movie or role playing game or one you just really want to know my opinion about, simply put your link to your blog post in the comments, and let me know and I will contact you about reviewing something for you.

If you would like a copy of any of my challenges, feel free to download from the image, or click here for books, movies, and read, watch, play challenges.

If you enjoy my content and want more, sign up for my mailing list below.

Until next time, stay slick out there!

Challengingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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I Know What You Did Last Summer – Movie Review

I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Hello horror fans, Slick Dungeon, here. I’m back to review another horror film for you. This time I watched the slasher from the 1990’s with the dream cast of the 1990’s, I Know What You Did Last Summer. This is an old movie but on the off chance you have not seen it, be warned there will be some spoilers below. So, if you haven’t seen it, hop on a boat, grab a chunk of ice with a hook to cool yourself off, and watch the movie. Then come back here to read the review.

Still with me? Great. I Know What You Did Last Summer is a slasher film which has a lot of call backs to an urban legend about a man with a hook for a hand. Think of the original Candyman but not quite as good as that.

The movie stars some actors with major name recognition for the time including, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anne Heche, Ryan Phillipe, Freddie Prinze Jr., and Johnny Galecki.

It’s the 4th of July and a group of friends is about to finish high school and head off in various directions to start their lives as young adults. But before that, Julie James, Helen Shivers, Barry Cox, and Ray Bronson are going to party it up. These four friends go out to the beach and party down. They hang out with a crowd, then split off to tell campfire stories on the beach. One of the stories has to do with the hook handed killer and none of them can quite agree on the correct version of the story.

Barry, in particular starts drinking fairly heavily. At night, when it’s time to go home, the rest of the group do the responsible thing and don’t allow Barry to drive.

They pile in the car, with Ray at the wheel. But apparently Barry can’t help but be a bit of an idiot as he shouts out of the sunroof of the car and spills alcohol all over everyone else. Ray takes his eyes off the road for a moment due to the distraction and ends up hitting a pedestrian.

Rather than call the police or an ambulance, the group decides to hide the accident and toss the body into the ocean. Before they can do that, their classmate Max drives through but the group is able to send him on his way without too much trouble.

A year later, the group is not at all where they imagined they would be. Julie is failing her classes, Ray has become a fisherman, Helen is working at a retail store and Barry is just kind of existing at home. It’s clear at least some of this group feels guilty over what happened.

Things take a dark turn when Julie receives a simple note which just says, “I know what you did last summer.” It’s a simple but extremely threatening message.

The film plays out with people who were part of the group of four, or people who know them well, being killed or threatened in some way. In all of these instances there is a glimpse of someone wearing a fisherman’s slicker and holding a hook.

There are a few potential killers but no matter who it is, it’s clear this person has the whole story of what happened the summer before. The characters who are able do some research to figure out what is going on.

I don’t want to give away the end here in case anyone hasn’t watched it but there are some twists and turns and the reveal is potentially surprising.

This never quite elevates itself to a great horror movie but it is well acted and believable. One problem with it is it can be hard for the viewer to sympathize with a group who decided to hide an accident rather than own up to their own part in it. These aren’t completely innocent babysitters just trying to make it through Halloween, these are people with a pretty major secret.

That aside, there are some good scares and although there is a bit of gore it’s fairly tame compared to a lot of other horror franchises. The very end certainly leaves it open to sequel potential and I will be reviewing the others in this series.

If you want to watch a good popcorn slasher without having to overthink anything this is a solid watch. But, it’s not quite capable of reaching the greatness some horror franchises achieve.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Marvel 616 Review – Tales to Astonish #41

Tales to Astonish Issue 41 Photo Credit: Marvel

By issue 41 Tales to Astonish has truly become Ant-Man’s book. He stars as the lead story in every issue although he still shares pages with one-off stories which have nothing to do with him. However, there are only so many stories one can come up with involving a guy who shrinks and controls insects.

This issue is by no means an inspired story. In fact, it’s kind of a lazy story, even by Ant-Man standards. Henry Pym is always fighting communists, street thugs, or aliens. This issue aliens are the enemy.

We start out with Henry Pym looking to visit a fellow scientist. Pym knows his friend Paul must be in because Pym was invited to see a new formula. When Pym knocks, there is no answer, so Henry figures Paul is in his lab and the most sensible thing to do is to change to Ant-Man to make sure his buddy is okay. After all, he could be ill.

We get yet another reminder that Henry Pym wears clothes made of unstable molecules so his clothes shrink with him. We also are reminded about the cybernetic helmet Pym has which allows him to control ants. Pym calls an ant and rides in through the keyhole. After a thorough search it becomes apparent Paul is not there. Henry figures something must have happened to him. He also sees on the news scientists are disappearing all over the place. Pym figures it’s likely to happen to him. But he also figures he can handle it as Ant-Man.

For a smart scientist who surely must work in a secure lab, Henry next makes about the dumbest mistake he possibly could, casually allowing a random window washer into his lab.

Henry Pym makes a mistake. Photo Credit Marvel, story by Stan Lee, Art by Don Heck

Well, to no one’s surprise this window washer is up to no good. He pours a chemical on Henry, thus paralyzing the scientist.

We next get to see a scene happening in another dimension of space and time. This is where all the missing scientists have gone because an alien warlord, named Kulla wants them to develop a weapon called an electro-death ray. Any scientist who speaks out or challenges Kulla ends up in the dungeons.

Back in our dimension the window washer puts a strange metal gadget on his and Pym’s head. This device transports them to Kulla’s dimension. The window washer is in on this scheme for the money and doesn’t care about the ethics of it all. The other scientists are concerned to see Pym also kidnapped and they have even more concern once Pym starts shouting, “Down with all tyrants! Down with Kulla!” He is immediately dragged to the dungeons.

This, of course, gives Pym the chance to change to Ant-Man and help everyone out. Henry does discover some alien insects on this world but his helmet doesn’t work right away because they seem to communicate on a different frequency than ants on Earth do. Lucky for our hero, he retains his full human strength so the bugs are no real problem.

It takes a moment but he gets the helmet adjusted so he can communicate with the insects. He then sneaks out of the dungeon. The other scientists have just completed the death ray and Ant-Man accidentally crosses an electronic beam signaling to Kulla there is an intruder.

Everyone in the room sees Ant-Man and the scientists are left to wonder how the hero arrived in this dimension. But, they’re quite happy to see him since he can likely save the day.

There’s a bit of hiding and a chase around the room until Kulla’s guards spot Ant-Man and douse him with the same chemical the window washer used. Ant-Man is not defeated because he has his helmet and he aims the electro-death ray right at Kulla with the help of the alien insects. The insects also open the door to the fortress Kulla was staying in and the regular people of the planet are overjoyed to see the warlord dead and his minions captured.

While all this is happening, Ant-Man dashes back to the dungeon so he can change back to Henry Pym and the scientists will be none the wiser about who is Ant-Man.

The window washer isn’t concerned with his own predicament because he figures the scientists aren’t police and he’s got no reason to worry. But, the people of this world decide to keep the window washer there until he truly reforms. With the use of the helmets the scientists get back to Earth and lament the fact Kulla could have put his scientific knowledge to use for good but did not. And then the scientists wonder once again where Ant-Man came from to help them.

Henry Pym answers, “Perhaps it doesn’t matter how the Ant-Man gets where he does! Just so we know that whenever he is needed… he’s always there!”

In all, it’s a fairly forgettable issue and about the only thing making this one memorable is that a brilliant scientist was easily tricked by a fake window washer.

Next up on the reading list, we’re finally going to catch up with the wall crawler himself once again in, Amazing Spider-Man #1!

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The Hammersmith Haunting: A Call of Cthulhu Adventure Review

The Hammersmith Haunting by Kat Clay
The Hammersmith Haunting by Kat Clay

Hello horror RPG fans, it’s Slick Dungeon and I’ve got a neat little Call of Cthulhu adventure to review for you today! It’s set in London in the 1890’s and was created by Kat Clay. The adventure was created for three to five players and is meant to take one to two sessions to complete. It’s a ghost story with a whole lot more going on and is called The Hammersmith Haunting.

I’m definitely not going to give everything away here but if you are a player who might play in this scenario, stay away, as there may be some spoilers. If you are a Keeper looking for an adventure to run, I’ll give you a short rundown of the scenario and let you know my thoughts on whether this would be a good one to run.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

Keeper’s Eyes Only – What you Get

If you are a player and not a Keeper, don’t read past this sentence.

In this adventure you get five pre-generated characters for your players to choose from, five NPC’s with detailed descriptions and stat blocks, four player handouts, and three maps. There’s also a bit of historical commentary on a real world incident related to the events in the scenario, several photos and bits of artwork you could either show to players or keep to yourself for inspiration, and some tips and advice for running the adventure.

The author makes no secret that the scenario is a fairly linear storyline. I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing and, in fact, may be helpful to newer Keepers who want to run something which won’t take months to complete and gives a bit of guidance on how the story should play out. But, it is something to keep in mind if you and your players really love more open ended scenarios.

The story is divided into three chapters and a conclusion, allowing for good stopping points if you can’t complete the scenario in a single session.

The scenario is set in 1890 so this is more suitable for those interested in playing in that time period.

The first chapter does a nice job of setting the mood and increasing the fear of both the investigators and those affected by the haunting in Hammersmith. There are a couple of rather memorable NPC’s in this section. Again, this is a linear storyline, so there may be instances where you’ll need to nudge your players in one direction or another a bit to keep the story moving. But, there are enough locations that virtually anywhere the Investigators end up, they’ll be able to get back on track to the main story.

In the second chapter the Investigators learn a little bit more about what is going on in Hammersmith and why. The creepiness factor increases and there’s a fairly intense scene which comes into play in the last chapter. This chapter also does a nice job of making the haunting personal but also connecting it with a larger cosmic mythos, so the stakes feel high.

The third chapter is the confrontation of the entity causing the problems in Hammersmith. This part is no joke and it will be a difficult confrontation for the Investigators. What’s more, depending on what actions the Investigators took in the first two chapters, they may be at more of a disadvantage against their enemy.

There are three given possible conclusions and an additional outcome depending on what the Investigators did. At least two of the conclusions could lead to longer campaigns and would be a good beginning to explore a lot more of the cosmic horror to be found in Call of Cthulhu.

While I don’t want to get much more specific for fear of spoilers, there is a lot of good horror to work with here so the scenario can definitely get that fun and creepy vibe that makes some of the best Call of Cthulhu scenarios.

Who is the Adventure for?

This scenario is suited well for those who like to play in the Gaslight era. It’s good for a group of 3-5 people who want to have a one shot scenario which takes one or two sessions at most. It’s also good for a Keeper who wants to have a bit of direction on how a story might play out, rather than having a sprawling sandbox for their players.

The adventure is quite well written, which is no surprise, as Kat Clay is also an author. This does lead to moments where perhaps more player agency could have been allowed but a good Keeper would be able to still improvise enough to get players to make choices where it feels like they are the ones driving the story rather than the Keeper.

The villain in the story is also nicely set up where, depending on how things go, they could make an appearance, or even be a major part of, future scenarios. I don’t know if Kat Clay has any plans to expand this but I could see this becoming a whole campaign if she wanted to make it into one.

If you are looking for a solid one shot scenario set in the gaslight era for Call of Cthulhu this is going to be a fun one to run. All you need is the adventure itself and the Keeper rulebook to run it.

How to get the scenario

The cost is quite reasonable. You can get the PDF version for $4.95, the softcover for $9.95, or the softcover and PDF for $14.90 all on drivethrurpg. If you are going to use the softcover at all, I highly recommend getting the $14.90 version so you get the PDF along with it, that way you can print again to play with another group if you ever want to.

Also, if you want a bit more background on how this scenario came to be and what inspired the author to create it, check out her video below.

The Hammersmith Haunting – A Call of Cthulhu scenario

Have you run this scenario? If so, what did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Marvel 616 Review – Tales of Suspense #39

Tales of Suspense Issue 39 Photo Credit: Marvel

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe there was a time when Iron Man was without question the most popular character Marvel had ever put on screen. This is largely due to the excellent portrayal of the character by Robert Downey Jr. and the deft handling of the adaptation by Jon Favreau. But none of that would have happened without Issue 39 of Tales of Suspense where the character was first introduced.

Tales of Suspense is yet another anthology comic book put out by Marvel comics. This seems to be one of the best methods the creators had to experiment and introduce new characters. It was easy to know what heroes were popular by the fan reaction. If there was not much reaction, they could just stop making stories with that character.

Oddly enough, this issue has two stories which are cannon to the Marvel 616 universe but of course Iron Man is Born! is the one most remembered. I’ll talk about both stories in this post but I’ll be digging much deeper into Iron Man than in the other story.

The story in Iron Man is Born! is written by Stan Lee but this time the art duties fall to Don Heck. While he might not be quite as dynamic as Jack Kirby was in his art style, Heck is a fine artist and helped bring several characters to life including the Wasp, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Wonder Man. In other words, he has an impressive portfolio and handles the introduction of this new character deftly for the most part.

The story begins at the laboratory of Anthony Stark where soldiers are on guard 24 hours a day to keep an eye out because, “the commies would give their eyeteeth to know what he’s working on now!”

For those who are keeping track, Reed Richards, Henry Pym, Bruce Banner, and even Don Blake have all had run ins with communists and the government has had to protect them in one way or another. I think we can presume from the very first panel in this story it’s likely these scientists know of each other and quite possibly have met one another. This will become important later when teams like The Avengers become established. We’ve still got a while until that happens but the introduction of Stark gets us a huge step closer.

Inside the lab, Stark is demonstrating small but powerful transistors that can intensify magnets he has developed, strong enough to open locked vaults from a far distance. In the modern era of the movies the power source of Iron Man’s suit is his arc reactor but in these early comics it’s a series of transistors, magnets and other small but clever devices.

Stark tells a general at the demonstration his transistors are capable of solving his, “problem in Vietnam.” It’s worth noting, this is the first mention of the real world conflict of Vietnam in Marvel 616. This grounds the story more in reality than some other comics might and it’s an interesting choice. While Vietnam at the time was seen as a proxy war between democracy and communism, all of the issues before have just mentioned, reds, commies, or some similar name to refer to communist enemies. It seems Marvel could no longer ignore real world events in their pages.

Reading the start of the story is interesting because in so many ways it does mirror the opening of the movie. We’re given a bit of background about Stark and find out he is handsome, glamorous, constantly in the company of beautiful women, a sophisticate, and a scientist, and a millionaire bachelor as much at home in a laboratory as in high society. Change the word millionaire to billionaire and this could be the Netflix description of the first movie.

But the narrator tells us he is soon destined to become the most tragic figure on Earth! I assume they forgot about Bruce Banner when they wrote that but this is Stark’s story so we’ll let it go.

Now, I would be remiss if I did not talk about the negative aspects of this first Iron Man story. We get some absolutely awful stereotyping against Asian people, and Vietnamese people specifically to set up the story. We read about a cruel military leader named Wong-Chu, the Red Guerilla Tyrant who is going village to village in South Vietnam to take over. The artwork here is as offensive as you might imagine and the story is fairly insulting at this part but we have to get through it to get Iron Man. Wong-Chu challenges anyone in a village he is about to take over to a wrestling match. If the challenger can beat Wong-Chu he promises to let the village go free. Wong-Chu defeats all challengers and talks in broken English, again in some of the worst of stereotypical ways. Anyway, we have our villain set up now.

We flash over to Iron Man who has landed in South Vietnam with some American soldiers. They tell him they could beat the Red Guerilla’s army but they can’t get their tanks through the dense jungle. In a typically arrogant and uniquely American way, Stark has miniaturized mortars so the army can bomb the hell out of a bunch of people. The weapons are, of course, effective.

Unfortunately for Stark, he stumbles over a tripwire and is injured in a blast as a result. In the movie, you’ll remember this as the armored vehicle scene where Stark is captured. This is definitely something the movie does better as the comic makes it seem as if Stark is just kinda clumsy.

Stark is captured and we find out he has shrapnel near his heart. This shrapnel can’t be operated on and he’s only got a week to live. Wong-Chu decides to try to trick Stark into working for him. Stark sees right through the ruse but agrees to do the work. Wong-Chu just seems to think Stark is being self serving, and considering what we know about him so far, it wouldn’t be that hard to believe.

Just as he does in the movie, Stark gets to work designing, and building a weapon. As he is doing this, another prisoner, Professor Yinsen, is thrown in the cell with Stark. Lucky for Stark, Yinsen is a physicist and Stark has read his books. The world thought Yinsen had died but instead he was forced into slave labor. It’s Yinsen who names the weapon Stark is building calling it, “An Iron Man!”

It’s a suit of armor which not only is capable of extending Stark’s life but also has a ton of firepower to it. Stark is pretty much knocking on death’s door when he puts on the suit for the first time. But as the suit is powering up, Wong-Chu arrives and Professor Yinsen has to buy Stark time. This proves fatal to Yinsen and Stark swears Yinsen’s death will not be in vain.

It takes Stark a few minutes to get used to moving and walking around in the suit but once he does, he’s got a bunch of tricks up his sleeves. He has suction cups which allow him to stick to the ceiling where he hides from his attackers. After they leave, Stark finds Wong-Chu and… challenges him to a wrestling match? Checks notes. Yep. He challenges his captor to a wrestling match. The newly made Iron Man has no trouble dispatching his enemy.

The army attacks Iron Man but small arms fire just seem to bounce right off of him. Stark uses his transistors to repel a bunch of the army and they flee from him. The next bit is a little chase and some more neat tricks Stark has built into his suit, including a buzz saw inside his finger container and transistors which increase his strength. All the use of the suit does drain it, however. A quick thinking Iron Man shoots out a stream of oil right near an ammo dump and lights the whole thing on fire, causing a major explosion.

Stark wins, even if he has doomed himself to a life living inside an iron suit. He goes to where Yinsen was slain and tells him, “Now, Professor Yinsen, rest easy! You, who sacrificed your life to save mine, have been avenged!”

Avenged, huh? Might make a good name for a superhero team somewhere down the line. I hope, Stan Lee remembers that one. Stark kind of walks off wondering what’s in store for him in the future. The reader knows more is to come because we’re told not to miss more of Iron Man in the next great issue of… Tales of Suspense!

While it is great we are getting closer to a full roster of Avengers, the terrible stereotyping in this issue makes it tough to read. I can’t emphasize how bad it is. Not only is the dialogue in broken English, every Asian character here is drawn not in a realistic flesh tone but in a sickly yellow color and with the most stereotypical features you can imagine. There will be great stories with Anthony Stark in them to come, but this one is only significant in that it establishes him as a character and a hero.

There will be more stories to come where the stereotyping is a major problem. And while we might say times were different back then and writers and artists weren’t as concerned with staying away from stereotypes as they are now, that still doesn’t excuse it.

The story does set up major elements which will be prevalent in almost all Iron Man stories to come. Stark needs the suit to live because without it he’ll essentially die of a cardiac condition. Stark is a brilliant, wealthy scientist, and a womanizing playboy. Also, the government wants and needs this man to be protected at nearly any cost. We’ll have lots of great stories with Iron Man soon enough but for now, he’s sort of waiting in the wings to really come into his own as a hero.

As I mentioned above, there is a second story in this issue which is Marvel 616 cannon. This one is the D story, titled Gundar! This is written by Stan Lee and drawn by Steve Ditko who first drew Spider-Man.

The story centers around a shipwreck survivor out on the ocean in a lonely lifeboat. He comes upon an island and thinks he is saved. It should be noted this is clearly a modern (for 1962) lifeboat with a modern sailor. He’s immediately found by a clan of Vikings. The man is understandably confused, thinking maybe he’s on a movie set. But the Vikings tell him they await the coming of Gundar.

It seems these Vikings sailed on a ship under a cruel master known as Gundar. This Gundar goes a little mad and attacks his own crew. They are able to subdue him eventually but not before he puts a curse upon them all. He condemns them to be cast away on an unknown isle, to spend eternity alone. He also says only he can lift the curse.

As we see a panel of the ship struggling through a storm, we see Odin in the background hurling lightning at the sea. This is the reason, and the only reason, this story is Marvel 616 cannon. After all, Odin is Thor’s father so his appearance counts.

Odin attacks the sea in Gundar! Photo Credit: Marvel, artwork by Steve Ditko

The twist of the story at the end is that the shipwrecked man is a descendent of Gundar and the Vikings all disappear and go back into the past. That’s the whole story. Not an incredibly memorable one but it was fine for a short story in an anthology comic.

Next up we’ll be checking in on a pint-sized hero with Ant-Man in the pages of Tales to Astonish #41!

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The Sandman Episode 1 Deep Dive Review

Dream is captured in episode 1 of the Netflix series The Sandman

Hello dreamers, day dreamers, and nightmare watchers! It’s Slick Dungeon here and I am back to review the first of The Sandman episodes. This one is titled Sleep of the Just. Before we get too far into this review, it’s my duty to warn you there will be heavy spoilers for the episode and some spoilers for the early issues of The Sandman comics. If you can’t stand spoilers then go watch and read and come back here for the review. I do plan on going pretty deep into the material so tread cautiously if you are not into that sort of thing.

In order for me to go as in-depth into this series as I want to, we need to take a little trip back in time to 1988 when the first issue of The Sandman comic book began. Back then, Neil Gaiman, the author and co-creator of the series was trying to revive a series about a character called The Sandman which was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Neil pitched the idea to his editor Karen Berger but she had one change to it. She wanted the series to be about a brand new character. This decision proved pivotal, allowing Gaiman to take a ton of creative license with how he handled his series.

It’s important to remember that this series, at the beginning especially, was tied to DC comics. While it was printed under a line meant for mature readers called Vertigo, DC characters do walk in these pages. I mention this because in the show, there are some things that absolutely had to be changed from the comics due to licensing issues and copyright problems.

While I may point out adaptive changes in the series, I don’t necessarily think one version is superior to the other. They were made in different times and much like the character Morpheus himself, the world has changed since the comics came out. Each telling of the story is what it needs to be. There are definitely things that would be changed in the comic if it were made now (there truly was not enough diverse representation in the comics) and if the show was made at the time of the comics it would be much different than what we have (and probably not a very good adaptation as Neil Gaiman himself would likely tell you). I’m absolutely not going to dwell on casting choices that certain portions of the internet have raged about. Gender swapping or casting actors who are a different race than what they were in the comics makes absolutely no difference in how well the story is told. And both the comics and the show tell a great story.

Okay, stepping off my soapbox now. After all that setup, let’s talk about the episode itself.

Much like the comic, this first episode is what you might consider the closest to conventional horror. It deals with old men in creepy old houses doing magic to gain power for themselves. If that was all this series was, I could recommend any number of shows exactly like it. It will take some time but both the show and the comic transcend the horror theme eventually.

The episode starts off with a bit of exposition from Morpheus, who declares himself, “the king of dreams” and we see a raven fly over a car and into the world of the dreaming. This is where Morpheus lives and it’s as fantastic as the real world is mundane. This immediately sets up Morpheus as other than ourselves and he seems to know something we don’t as he dismisses our notion as mortals that dreams make no difference in the choices we make.

We really only get the briefest of glimpses into this world of the dreaming but we are introduced to some key characters and the villain of the season is immediately established. The librarian of the dreaming, Lucienne, has a conversation with Dream, while Dream is looking at a stained glass representation of a nightmare of his own creation. This is a character called The Corinthian. In the comics we don’t even get a hint of him for quite a long time. I do think this change was smart because it shows Morpheus will have an adversary. Lucienne also tells Morpheus she has a feeling Morpheus won’t be coming back because in the real world, dreams don’t survive long, but nightmares seem to thrive.

I’d say that’s a rather pessimistic worldview but of course, it might not be wrong either. The story gets going with a group of people who seem to run a cult of some sort and their goal is to trap the angel of death. The time period is 1916 and the location is Wychcross England. In other words, war is breaking out and the world does indeed look bleak at this time. At this point in the show the timeline matches what we see in the comics but it won’t stay that way for long.

In the comic series we don’t find out much about this cult. But in the show we get a little window into what is going on. There’s a man who calls himself the Magus (meaning sorcerer) who will go to any length to bring his eldest son back from the dead. We also see his second born son, Alex, who seems to have a kinder heart than his father.

As Dream is about to confront the Corinthian and bring him back to the dreaming, a spell is performed by the cult. Instead of trapping Death like the Magus hoped, he has Morpheus, also known as Dream. But the Magus really has no idea what it is he’s captured.

There is another interesting change here. In the comics we essentially see the Magus flail about trying to figure out who he has. But in the show, the Corinthian shows up almost immediately to tell the Magus what he has and how to keep Dream from escaping. This gives the Corinthian a whole lot more power and reason to be there than the comic does.

One consequence of Morpheus being locked up is a “sleepy sickness” breaks out. There are a bunch of people who can’t sleep, always sleepwalk, or simply will no longer wake up. One of the most interesting things about this is this incident actually reflects a real illness that did break out at the time. If you ever wonder if Neil Gaiman did his homework for this story, that’s all you need to know.

We are also very briefly introduced to a character suffering from this sleepy sickness named, Unity. She’s an incredibly important character but we won’t know more about her until future episodes.

While the Magus may not have captured who he wanted, he does take what are called Morpheus’ vestments. A ruby, a bag of sand, and what amounts to a gas mask but is referred to as a “helm.” These items are exceedingly powerful so you know there will be trouble with them down the line.

One bit of kudos to the show runners here is the way they make Tom Sturridge look as Morpheus while he is trapped. He’s thin and weakened but also looks otherworldly. I’m guessing there was a good amount of CGI and a lot of messing around with lighting to get the look just right but they nailed it.

Dream is more than a god. He’s one of “The Endless” so Morpheus is able to play the long game against his captors. This allows us to move the story past the Magus and a simple revenge plot. While there are hints of Alex being kind and even potentially letting Morpheus out, he never does, either from fear of his father, or fear of what Dream might do.

Before the Magus dies, a woman named Ethel Cripps who is pregnant with his child absconds with Dream’s vestments and a small fortune in cash. This event is probably the most significant event in this first season. It leaves Morpheus with no knowledge of where his tools are. Ethel does escape the Magus and has the baby. This baby will also be a huge part of the series in episodes to come.

There’s also a moment where it almost seems Dream will escape with the help of his raven but the bird is shot by Alex. This gives Morpheus a strong reason to distrust Alex once the Magus is dead. And Morpheus still has all the time in the world to wait. All he needs is for someone to fall asleep near him.

Things were probably not easy for Alex as an out gay man in the 1920’s but that’s no excuse for keeping someone locked up in your basement. Ultimately, once Alex is old and no longer mobile, it’s his partner Paul who allows for Morpheus to escape. He pushes Alex’s wheelchair across the magic circle which traps Dream. This is all the opportunity one of the Endless needs to escape.

Morpheus is soon able to walk through the guards dreams and right out of his magic cage. Dream confronts Alex and as punishment grants him the gift of, “eternal sleep.” Presumably he’s given Alex the Sleepy Sickness.

If there was a single thing I could change from this episode it would be this adaptive change. In the comics Morpheus also gives Ales a gift. But this gift is the gift of eternal waking. Have you ever had a nightmare and when the worst thing you can imagine is about to strike you wake up and then you feel relief but then another nightmare comes and you realize you haven’t actually woken up? Take that feeling and imagine having it forever. Always a brief moment of relief before being once more terrified in an endless loop. That’s severe punishment.

While I understand why they made the change, I still think the original idea from the comic would have been better. They changed it because as the viewer we do get to know Alex a little bit and understand he has some kindness to him. He really does sympathize with Morpheus, even though he doesn’t allow Morpheus to escape.

My problem with the change is it humanizes Morpheus too much. Morpheus is Endless and in the comic series he certainly does have a character arc but his change is slow. Centuries spanning slow. To have Morpheus show any bit of kindness to his captors shows him identifying with humans too much at this point in the series.

Here is also where the timeline diverges between the comics and the show. In the show we advance all the way to our time. The comic advanced to its present time of 1989. I think there are a lot of reasons for this change, not the least of which would be having to film a period piece with only stuff from the 1980’s and 1990’s would bring the cost up on the whole production and it’s already an expensive show.

The episode ends with a very murder-y Corinthian realizing Morpheus is out of his cage. Morpheus goes back to the Dreaming where Lucienne finds him. But the realm of the king of dreams has changed. It’s a mere shadow of what it had been at the beginning of the episode and it’s clear Morpheus is going to need his stuff back in order to fix anything. Apparently, this disarray and decay is what happens when Morpheus is away for too long. There’s also a very small hint of something having happened to another one of the Endless in the past. If we find out what all that is about, it won’t be until later seasons.

Oddly, the end of the episode is a preview for what’s going to happen this season on The Sandman. It really feels out of place and I’m not exactly sure why they put it there but you can skip it if you’re watching the show because, well, you’re already watching the show.

All in all, this episode is probably the weakest of the series but it’s essential to have it so we can really get into the story. I think it was well told, superbly acted, and brought us into a world full of a lot of complex things going on rather seemlessly.

My biggest regret for the episode is this is the only episode we get to see Charles Dance who plays Roger Buress, aka, the Magus. You’ll likely recognize him as Tywin Lannister from Game of Thrones. And just like in that show, every minute he is on screen, he is fascinating to watch. But we’ll have lots of other star power and phenomenal performances in future episodes so I can’t complain too much.

Well, that’s my take on the first episode. I’ll have plenty more to say about future episodes (and hopefully future seasons). Until then, did you watch this show or read the comics? If so, let me know what you thought about it in the comments below. If you could change anything about the adaptation what would it be? Or do you think it is perfect as is?

Dreamily yours,

Slick Dungeon

Arcadia Issue #5 From MCDM – Review

Arcadia Issue #5 From MCDM Artwork by Sean Andrew Murray

Hello dungeon crawlers, it’s me, Slick Dungeon! I’m back to review another issue in the awesome magazine put out by MCDM Productions, Arcadia issue #5. The magazine has delivered some great value in past issues so we’ll see how this one holds up.

The magazine is a good deal at $12 a piece right now but if you buy the bundle of the first three issues it’s $18 so I would recommend going with that. You can buy your copies here. Just a note that I am not associated with MCDM so I’m just recommending buying this because I think it’s good, not for any other reason.

I took a look at all the articles and want to give you my hot takes so far. If you don’t know what Arcadia is and you want to learn more about it before reading about issue #5 you can start at the beginning and check out my post for issue #1 here.

Also, if you want to go even further in depth about issue #5 you can see the Q&A with the creators below.

Arcadia 5e Magazine: Issue 5 Q&A with the creators

This issue features just 3 articles but it still comes in at a solid 34 pages. There are no adventures here. Instead, we get an article about long term curses, an article about a new subclass, and an article with some new spells. I’m going to go through each of these articles and give my take on them so you can see if this might be something you want to purchase for your own home game.

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THE ARTWORK

In all five of the issues I have read so far, there has never been one where I was not impressed with at least some of the artwork. Even the articles that I find only so so tend to still have fantastic artwork. And there’s always at least one piece of art which makes me think you could plan an entire campaign around that single image. Issue 5 is no different in that regard and it’s great to see it continue. I really like the art in the first and second articles in this one but the cover to me is flat out amazing. I have no idea what’s going on there but it looks downright deadly.

Artwork by Sean Andrew Murray

Long-Term Curses

In Dungeons & Dragons there are a lot of instances where curses may come up. One issue some Dungeon Masters have is the curses can become meaningless if a simple 3rd level spell, Remove Curse, can simply wipe it out. This article attempts to correct that by giving some curses which are a bit more permanent.

The article gives us six brand new curses we could use in our games. Most of them also have helpful GM tips on using these curses. Let’s take a brief look at each one.

The first curse is The Curse of the Betrayed. Basically this curse makes the player character think at all times they are going to be or already have been betrayed in some ways. This curse can also affect the whole party. While I think there are some settings where a curse like this might work (particularly some in Ravenloft) overall, I have some issue with this curse. I feel like unless you have players who are really good at not letting personal feelings come into role play, this is a powder keg for bad player behavior. Specifically, I would be afraid one problem player might feel like this curse is a license to act however they want at all times, consequences be damned. I’m sure most people wouldn’t try to do that but I could see it escalating.

The second curse is The Curse of Cassandra. It’s pretty much a curse where players see a little bit into the future about and event that is going to happen to them. It’s not a maybe kind of prophecy, if they have this curse, the negative thing is going to happen. Of course, they can try to stop it and if they do, that’s one way to reverse the curse. But for this one I think this makes things difficult for the Dungeon Master. It’s hard enough to keep a table of players focused on what is happening right now sometimes, let alone on something you may have to shoehorn into your campaign.

The third curse is The Curse of the Living Dead. This is hands down my favorite curse in here, and the only one I really might consider using in my own campaigns. Rather than a player or party being cursed, this applies to a whole town or village. And, just like you might expect, this has to do with zombies and other undead. There’s a pretty creative take here though where any dead anything rises at midnight. I could see a pretty good Pet Cemetery style campaign happening here, or just straight up Night of the Living Dead.

Next we have the Curse of the Sordino. This one has a pretty good hook for bards where sound really comes into play. But if you don’t have bards in your party, it’s probably not the curse for you. However, it does seem like a fun adventure hook. I would say more but I don’t want to spoil it for those who might buy the magazine.

Curse of the Watchers is one where I think it would work really well if you are running Curse of Strahd, specifically because it involves ravens. Don’t use this if any of your players have a bird phobia though, it could be traumatic! We do get a pretty neat stat block for a Swarm of Cursed Ravens which could be used in almost any campaign.

Finally, we get Slow Polymorph. In essence, this curse changes a player character to be a little more monster-like but usually with some benefit as well. It’s probably not a condition any player would really want to keep for long though. I think this one could be used at any table but only if you really talk to your players about it first because it’s going to change them, potentially permanently.

Out of the six curses here there are only two I see where you probably don’t need to have long discussions with your players before implementing and only if characters are playing in certain types of settings. While all the curses are unique and might make a nice change from the usual curses players end up with, I can only give this article a C+. There’s simply too much prep work and potential for players to end up in fights with one another over some of these. If you do use one of these curses in your game, let me know how it goes because I’m really curious how well it turned out for you.

GoldMonger Subclass

One of the odd quirks of Dungeons & Dragons 5e is you tend to accumulate a lot of wealth if you live long enough. After all, you are plundering dragons hoards, raiding castles for magic items, and plunging the depths of cavernous dungeons, snatching up whatever coin comes your way. This article creates subclasses for those who have greed as one of their main motivations for what they do in the game.

The article gives us a deity of deals, three subclasses, and an NPC to play with. Let’s dig into those.

The deity they give us is a god of deals. I could see this one being played any number of ways and it would fit into any campaign where any transaction might be important. It’s also a unique deity your players aren’t going to have seen before so it’s definitely something fresh. And since this god had to do with deals, not just gold, it doesn’t have to be a transaction involving gold to use this in a campaign. I haven’t played a campaign using this but it seems like it could be fun.

The first subclass is a new domain for Clerics called the Avarice domain. This introduces a lot of neat features for Clerics. There are tons of subclasses for Clerics already so I can’t say this one is better or worse than the others but I could easily see a player hamming it up as a Cleric who is all about material goods.

The second subclass is a Druid Circle: Circle of the Gilded. This subclass is all about gems. Druids use the elemental powers granted to them by certain gems in order to protect the precious natural resources where the gems come from. The gems become part of the Druid and deal some types damage (lighting, acid, etc). A lot of the features in here seem really fun to play and since Druids are all about nature and precious gems come from nature, this one really makes a lot of sense.

The final subclass is an Oath for Paladins: The Oath of Acquisitions. I think this one is really cool. It basically allows Paladins to become mercenaries. They’re not necessarily out there for good or bad but for payment. They’re going to help, certainly, if you need, as long as you will fairly compensate the Paladin. I can’t even number the amount of stories where a mercenary is the main character in all kinds of fantasy. It gives you some cool magic stuff but again I can’t say it’s better or worse than other Paladin classes mechanically. Thematically though, I love this.

There are three retainer stat blocks listed next but if you don’t have Strongholds & Followers this won’t mean much to you. Just think of them as potential NPC stat blocks with some really simple attack mechanics.

Finally this article has an NPC with a full stat block who I could see coming in handy both as a quest giver for a party and a sometimes battle companion. It’s got a bit of good flavor here but as always you’ll want to make your NPC’s your own.

I really found a lot to like in this article. I especially like the deity and NPC provided but the subclasses are good as well. However, with a plethora of good subclasses already available for Clerics, Druids, and Paladins, I’m not sure there is a ton of reason to go with these over any of those. All in all this is a good article and I like how the theme of avarice ties everything together here. I give this a solid B.

Alabaster’s Almanac

In this article we get new spells for Bards, Druids, Sorcerers, Warlocks and Wizards. These are presented in the form of an Almanac with some notes from someone named Alabaster.

I’m not going to go through each and every spell here but there are a few I want to mention so you can have an idea of what is offered here.

There’s a pretty potent 6th level spell for Druids and Wizards which essentially allows a creature to traverse “The World Below” without taking too much damage. It seems pretty fun and would be suitable for a setting like the Underdark so if you have a campaign set there this might be good to use.

Another spell is a sort of modified Mage Hand spell but instead of there being a spectral hand, you can teleport small objects to you. There are a lot of restrictions to it however, and it is a first level spell so it’s not always going to be the most effective of your spells.

The last spell I want to mention is really good counter to any scrying spells called Scryspike. With this spell not only can you stop the scrying spell from happening, you can also do some damage to the person who cast it in the first place.

There are several other spells listed in this article and most of them are really fun. Whether they are right for your table or not is going to depend on you and your party so definitely read through carefully before allowing any player to use them.

I think this was the best article in this issue, even if it was just more spells. But then again, who doesn’t want more spells? Spells are fun!

I’m giving this article an A.

If you’ve enjoyed this review and want to help out this blog, consider subscribing to my newsletter. If you want to find cool D&D resources and support this blog click on one of the DM’s Guild banners.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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The Ravenstones: Death and Life

The Ravenstones: Death and Life by C.S. Watts

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

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SUMMARY

Volume 4 of The Ravenstones saga (Gains and Losses) ended in setback: the enemy triumphant, our heroes on their heels, needing to regroup. Eirwen the polar bear and his Heimborn cousins had made great strides in their fight for freedom, gaining control of Aeronbed’s capital, Manaris, and the Kingdom’s heartland, winning support of formidable allies: old friends, the gray wolves and new ones, the lions. But these gains came with reversals: two of the Ravenstones lost and a bloody encounter with the panther general, Parthanyx, leaves the allies demoralized.

In Death and Life, Empress Dona Morana wields new weapons. Her agent, the fox Vulpé, insinuates himself into the allied camp, and the long-forgotten wolves of Blakvul rise from their slumber. Parthanyx goes on the offensive, with new allies to command.

Eirwen aims to keep his friend Fridis out of harm’s way. His misguided strategy brings both menace and reward. Uncovering the truth about the gemstones takes Fridis to distant and hidden locations, where she meets a creature who never was, threats she couldn’t have imagined and unexpected answers.

While Eirwen leads the defense of Manaris and of Heimborn, questions emerge in the lions’ camp over the alliance with the bears.

REVIEW

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Ravenstones: Death and Life is the fifth entry in the Ravenstones saga. Eirwen, a noble polar bear who has fashioned himself into a legend, and Fridis an eider duck who is intent on discovering the secret of the magic gems she once possessed continue their adventures in this volume. Eirwen must fend off an attack from an enemy army with much greater power than his own while keeping his friend Fridis safe. Olwen, a lion queen who is still learning how to wield her own power has allied with the bear and must show strength to her people while still following direction from Eirwen. Meanwhile a crafty and persuasive fox named Vulpe has his own agenda and is willing to apply as much diplomacy, conniving and subterfuge as possible to come through for his empress.

Up to this volume, all of the books in the Ravenstone series have been intriguing, complex, and full of twists, turns, wins, losses and surprises. It’s an epic quest filled with battles, palace intrigue, shifting alliances, and magic. This volume is no exception. The story overall continues to hook the reader as much as any fantasy fiction can. C. S. Watts has delivered, once again, a book which leaves the reader wanting more while still neatly resolving many of the open questions of the series.

If you are not a fan of books that have complex plots, plenty of action, a decent dose of magic, surprises at every turn, and fine writing as well, then this is not the series for you. While it is definitely not recommended to start this series at the fifth volume in the series, Watts does do a fine job of reminding the reader of events and characters we have seen in past books and why they are important. Even more impressive, he does this while never taking away from the narrative of the current story. And he manages to introduce a large amount of new characters who I am sure will prove essential to the series.

While a book with talking animals may be off-putting to some, this book delivers for any fantasy lover open minded enough to read it. It’s got the feel of Watership Down while still delivering an original story. If you really are not into books where a lot of political intrigue is essential to the plot, this may also not be the series for you, but even with those scenes included, there is still plenty of action and magic here to come back to.

As a reviewer of many fantasy books, I must admit this series is one I think about a lot and I wait for the next volume in eager anticipation to see what will happen in the Ravenstones saga. If you have not picked up this series, you’re in for a treat, especially if you love epic fantasy. This series and this volume in the series is a must read.

The Sandman (Netflix) Flash Review

The Sandman. (L to R) Tom Sturridge as Dream, Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Death in episode 106 of The Sandman. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Hello internet, it’s Slick Dungeon here. I’m going to give my initial impressions of the screen adaptation of the comic book series The Sandman. This review will be for what I think of the series overall but in future posts I will do an in-depth review of each individual episode and talk about how the show relates to the comic book series.

I have to be honest to start here. This was a review I dreaded doing. A lot of people who are into comic books had the experience I did with Sandman. When I was a kid I absolutely loved comic books, especially super heroes. But when I went to high school these books dropped off my radar for the most part. Until I started to hear about a series called The Sandman by Neil Gaiman. It had a horror feel to it with some amazing art, a bit of a connection to the DC heroes, but still stood all on its own as a story. And, upon reading the series, it felt like this was one of the series that would help the medium of comics to grow up and be taken seriously. In a phrase, I loved The Sandman and I probably wouldn’t still be reading comic books now without it.

In my mind, the only thing worse than having no adaptation of the series would be to have a bad adaptation of it. It’s the one series I’ve always wanted to see but been much too afraid it would get screwed up. If that happened, I knew people would come to dislike the comic series and we’d never get another good Neil Gaiman story adapted. So, with all that in mind, I was very hesitant to watch this series. I would not be able to take it if it was done poorly.

I’m beyond happy to report this series turned out to be utterly phenomenal. That’s not to say there are no things I would change if I could, but there are so few that this is a nearly perfect series. And there is one episode which I think is maybe the best episode of television I have ever seen.

What’s more, this series is not only grand for those of us who love the comics, but also works exceedingly well for those not at all versed in the lore of The Sandman comics. I think the show will makes comics readers out of a good portion of the audience.

For this review, I really don’t want to get into spoilers in case anyone is wanting to watch but has not. The basic premise is that Dream, played by Tom Sturridge, is captured by mortal man and, let’s just say he is not happy about it. To say much more in this review would either be confusing or lead to spoilers.

The series is by turns dramatic, horrifying, fantastical, and brilliant. The acting performances here are knocked completely out of the park by everyone involved and I just felt like I was living in the world of Dream and his siblings the whole time I was watching it. Some episodes are more terrifying than others and some are slower paced than others but never did I feel bored while watching. There’s too much story here for there to be down time and I guarantee this is a series which will live in your mind long after you have finished watching.

What I want you to take away here is that the series is extremely watchable and a much better adaptation of a brilliant work than I could have hoped for. If you have not yet watched this show, put it at the top of your queue because it’s going to be better than anything else out there.

Next time I will get into the first episode with a deeper review, full of spoilers, but for now, if you watch the show, enjoy the ride because you are in for a fantastic time.

Dreamily yours,

Slick Dungeon

Daemon Rises – Book Review

Daemon Rises by Christopher M. Knight

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

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SUMMARY

BOOK TWO OF THE REMNANT TRILOGY

THE CONSORTIUM IS ADVANCING

Encroaching upon the once-hidden world at the edge of Sol, scouring through thousands of kilometres of the void in search of some long-forgotten threat. It’s a threat that very few know of, that even fewer dare speak of, but it’s an essential piece in the puzzle of probability that the artificial god was designed to solve. What the Thread cannot comprehend, is whether or not that piece will fit.

BASTION IS CHANGING

Evolving, and not just in the fearful preparation that had overcome the isolated civilisation upon the arrival of two strange foreigners. While the Lu’um frantically prepare for a threat that doesn’t seem real, the planet they call home is preparing itself for something even bigger. Something that even the Consortium are not ready for.

THE DAEMON WAITS IN STASIS

A long and silent slumber that hasn’t been broken in centuries. It’s a daemon that slaughtered hundreds, maimed thousands, and carved an entire starship into submission. With its primary function fulfilled, the daemon now sits in dormancy, destined to stay there until the end of time. Unless someone is foolish enough to wake it.

REVIEW

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Following straight on from the events of Bastion Awakens, the second book in the series, Daemon Rises takes us into the heart of battles both physical and philosophical. While many of the characters from the first book have been separated or changed significantly from where they started in the first book, we still are able to check in on them and how they fare in this volume.

In the last book a God carved from ones and zeroes woke. But the deeper truth of what it is might just be even more shocking.

Much like the first book, this one takes a while to get your bearings to understand the larger picture of what is going on but once you do, the payoff is well worth the read.

This is a giant space epic with a huge cast of characters so at times it can be hard to keep everyone straight. It would have been nice if near the beginning of the book there might have been a bit of a summary or recap of events just to refresh readers memories but this is only a minor complaint. As you read through the book the story becomes more and more clear and once again the ending is worth the effort.

At times it did seem there were a few too many space battles and the action is fairly relentless. However, all of the action in the book is fun and entertaining. Just make sure you have time to read because this one is a page turner.

All in all this is a fascinating sequel of an already excellent first volume. Christopher M. Knight is remarkably adept at surprising the reader and making a story with tons of pieces fit together properly.

If you are a fan of space operas, action filled novels, or just flat out good stories, this one is for you.

It remains to be seen if the third volume can live up to the standard of the first two but my guess is that Knight will knock it right out of the park on the whole series.

Bastion Awakens – BookReview (re-post)

HI all, re-posting this as I will be publishing the review for the second volume in the series tomorrow and thought people might like to grab a copy of the brilliant Bastion Awakens before I do so.

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SYNOPSIS

A sovereign empire, the Consortium, defies both science and religion in its race to colonise the Solar System. They carved a God from ones and zeros.
It searches for the Devil.

A hidden planet, Bastion, lies home to a descendant colony of humanity. Its original inhabitants are thought long gone.
But something stirs beneath the surface.

TAREV is a harvester. A moonblood. His life, indebted to the Consortium, entails trudging along the harsh, icy surface of Saturn’s moon, Titan. A life of struggle, harvesting methane for the rest of the Solar System to use, until he and his brother, Sevastian, discover something buried deep within the ice.

Something that will change their lives forever.

ELIA is a Weightless, a gravity wielder, after being injected with the biometal that litters the alien planet on which she lives. She’s also the genetic reprint of an ancient hero, a Catalyst, who paid the ultimate sacrifice over two hundred years ago. Elia struggles to live up to the expectations that come with being a Weightless. She struggles to live normally, while wearing the face of a Catalyst.

She struggles to live, when her planet refuses to die.

REVIEW

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Bastion Awakens is almost two books for the price of one. In one story we follow Tarev, a methane harvester from Titan. His life is not easy and he and his brother Sev do the best they can to make a living. Things seem to be set to improve when they find a huge pocket of methane to mine but they discover something completely unexpected while they are at it. The other story deals with Elia, a so called Weightless from Bastion, a hidden colony that has no contact with the other colonized planets. Elia not only is able to wield and bend gravity to her will, she is also a genetic imprint from an ancient hero, a Catalyst, who died over two hundred years ago. Needless to say, she has huge shoes to fill and is doing the best she can to live up to enormous expectations.

It takes a little while to get your bearings in the book (at least it did for me) but once you see how the stories reflect one another and start to understand the nature of the current state of civilization, the book is utterly gripping. It’s a huge space opera that touches on thematic elements from expectations brought about by ones surroundings, to grief, love, loss and self sacrifice. All this while still having a ton of action and life threatening situations to keep the reader engaged the whole while. And while a reader might wonder what the two stories have to do with one another, by the end, all is made clear, while still leaving questions out there that make one instantly want to read another volume in the saga.

To anyone who loves a good space adventure with intricate complexities and deep human emotions, you have got to read this book. While I am tempted to compare this to something like Dune, in that it takes place in space and there are complex politics happening,this stands in its own right as a unique story. By the end of the book the reader cares deeply about Tarev and Elia and can sympathize with all they have been through, gained and lost. To me this can stand with the best of space fiction and is an absolute must read.

Space Operatically yours,

Slick Dungeon

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