Thursday, December 19, 2013

Transformers Legacy up for pre-order and The Art of Prime on sale now!

Hey, y'all! I know, I know, it's been far too long since I've blogged at you. With the birth of my son, James Magnus Sorenson, I've been incredibly busy playing superdad. Still, there's no shortage of Transformers related happenings in my life, so I figured I'd hop on here and whip out the old plug-o-matic.

First up, The Art of Prime is on sale now. This is a 208 page hardcover that explores the designs and design process of Prime. It's the emphasis on process that really helps the book stand out. Not only is the book incredibly pretty, thanks to the surfeit of stunning material that was created in the production of the show, but it's informative. In the character portion of the book, well over half of the volume, virtually every character has the thoughts of the designer. They walk through their thought process, what they were going for, what their influences were, what their challenges were.

The volume is also punctuated with extensive interviews with each of the art department heads. I had a blast talking to them and I think you'll find reading about how a CG cartoon is put together both interesting and informative.

You can find a nice review of the book on,and an interview with me about the book over on

Next up is a project that I'm particularly passionate about, Legacy: A Celebration of Transformers Package Art. Though Bill Forster and I announced it over a year ago, at BotCon 2012, we finally have a release target: spring of 2014. Amazon is taking pre-orders, and I'd jump on that bandwagon now. This is a 300 page oversized hardcover that will look amazing on anyone's coffee table.

The scope of the book is G1 and G2, US and Japan. Within those constraints, we've managed to track down originals or first generation photo-negatives of about 95% of the artwork. If that sounds impressive, it's because it is. Hasbro and Takara (via Part One) opened their archives, but even that only got us to about the 60% mark. Thanks to the generosity of fans, we've managed to gather up nearly everything. There are a few gaps here and there, but overall it's a staggering amount of artwork.

But that's not all! We realize that this artwork is already available online, albeit at a lower level of quality, and wanted to pack the book with extras. We managed to speak to a good eight of the original artists and get their insight into what it was like to make these pieces. We found quite a bit of unreleased artwork, art for toys that never came out. We found a bit of art in the same style used for other purposes, like catalogs and puzzles, and feature that as well. Finally, we include some art in the same style that was used for pre-Transformers toys (Microman, Diaclone and more) and some of the modern art in the same style as used by Fun Publications and eHobby.

Many fans have been eager to help make this project a success. While the end is in sight, Bill and I have a few more weeks to finalize things. Here's a list of everything we're missing. If you have the original art for this, or a transparency or first generation photo negative, drop us a line:

US G1:

US Astrotrain (Train Mode)
US Trypticon
US Piranacon

Action Masters:
    Bumblebee, Jackpot, Skyfall, Sprocket (bot), Prowl (both)
    Banzai-Tron, Starscream (both), Axer (Bike only)

US G2:
Autobot Cyber Jets,  Auto-Roller Roadblock, Gobots (2nd wave). I'd also like the watch artwork.  Unused G2 artwork from the tail-end of the line would also be very cool. (Greasepit, Laser Soundwave and Jazz, unused Go-Bots)
Japanese G1:
Dino cassettes: Graphy, Noise, Dial, Saur
Road King (*Can use a box scan of this, just need his chest)

Rocket Base

Virtually all, but especially at least one of the battle murals from the back.  Pyro and Clench are personal favorites. I find the Rescue Force and the new Scrapper art pretty cool too.

Catalog and Puzzle:
There was a bit of catalog and puzzle artwork created in the same style around this time frame, I'd like to feature some in the book.

Diaclone / Microman:
Diaclone and Microman artwork is also of interest.  Omnibots, Bumper (that is to say, MC-04 Mini CAR Robo 02 Familia 1500XG), Kronoformers, Powerdashers would be high on the list of priorities. I'm also partial to Powered Convoy, and the blue Blaster Microman artwork. 

I'd like to get my hands on the micromaster combiner back-of-the-box artwork that's in a kind of cartoony style, especially from the Combiner boxes.  Oddities, like the Tyco sets, are also of interest.  Any unused package art, guys that never actually came out or alternate variants for guys who did, are of keen interst.

There are also some that I have decent quality pics of but I'd like to upgrade, mostly from 87:

Throttlebots except Searchlight
Terrorcons except for Hun-Grrrr and Cutthroat
Strafe, Lightspeed, Afterburner, Japanese Computron,
AM Rollout, Krok, Treadshot, Optimus Prime (robot mode)
Laser Optimus Prime
G2 Sideswipe 
G2 Gobots (wave 1)

Hardspark, Hotspark, Wildspark, Six-Knight
Battle Patrol (Micromasters), Super Car Patrol (Micromasters)

If you have any of this material and want to help, please drop me a line.

12/20 UPDATE: 

The level of enthusiasm has been fantastic. I've had a number of people come forward with offers to help, including a friend who has some (sadly low resolution) Action Master transparencies and a fan who has pledged some UK G2 material that will be very cool. Keep it coming and spread the word. If you have a good lead on anyone with originals or transparencies, let me know. Ebay sellers you've dealt with, local comic shops or galleries, whatever. This is the time to make it happen.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Pathfinder Card Game

Dungeons and Dragons has always been a staple of the nerd community.  Card games have also followed suit as a mainstay.  The mad scientist geniuses at Paizo have brought the two together in their new Pathfinder Adventure Card Game.

If you haven't played it, i highly recommend you check it out at some point.  This game is pretty simple.  Each player has a player deck.  The players work together as a team to overcome a scenario.  The scenarios are provided and the players must explore locations during each scenario to find the villain and defeat him, thus winning the scenario.  This sounds simple, but the act of the game is what makes it engaging.  Interestingly, it is playable both by one's self or in a group of up to 6 people.  But what nerd only plays a game without some tinkering of their own?

The idea struck me as I was driving home listening to the Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack.  Oogie Boogie would make a great villain to fight in Pathfinder ACG.  The idea grew from there.  Using images I found on the internet as well as GIMP, I was able to fix my own cards that will be used for my own Nightmare Before Christmas themed Pathfinder ACG Adventure!

Below are just a few of the card's I've created thus far.  The rest will be added next Thursday (Nov. 14th) after the game as well as an adventure summary.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

G.I. Joe Field Manual Addendum - Cobra's Creatures

Howdy, y'all! I know it's been way too long since I've been back here. I've got a new son on the way--any day now!--and that's been taking up much of my time. Throw in a trip to the United Kingdom to visit my sister and participate in the incomparable Auto Assembly convention (wacky photos of which are up on Facebook, and if you're not my Facebook friend, what's holding you back?), and a dash of the three Transformers books that I've been working on and that adds up to a tremendously busy schedule.

(For the record, and it's shameless plug time, those books are:
   The Transformers 30th Anniversary Collection, out now, collecting representative stories from across the years and publishers and supplementing them with extra artwork and interviews.
   The Art of Prime, a gorgeous art book featuring the production artwork of Transformers Prime, without contest the best looking Transformers series ever, on sale in November.
   Legacy: The Box Art of The Transformers, due out in spring of 2014 after some delays to make sure we could get the format perfect.)

So, that's what I've been up to. I figured it's way past time for some more Joe models, so why not start with episode production number 600-01. Now, this isn't the first episode, even discounting the mini-series, but it seemed a decent place to start. Cobra's Creatures was a fun sci-fi romp that featured some cool animal models, pictured above.

Joe fans, please do let me know if you have requests. I've got so many incidentals, that if you've got a favorite episode, there's a good chance I'll have some cool material from it. Let me know in the comments and I'll do my best to make you happy.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

G. I. Joe Field Manual Addendum - Lasers in the Night

By request, the next G.I. Joe Field Manual addendum features the incidental models I have for Lasers in the Night. Specifically, the poster was interested in Alice, a mechanic who appears briefly working on some Sky Strikers. Sadly, the model sheet sheds little light on the character. She isn't even labeled by name, merely dubbed 'female mechanic.' Still, I hope you enjoy another G.I. Joe greenshirt.

Of course, Amber is the true guest star of Lasers in the Night, and she gets a whole page to herself in the first G.I. Joe Field Manual. There was no shortage of models for her, including her in her standard outfit, her in a catsuit, her in a dress, her in a bathing suit, and her dressed for S.C.U.B.A. That last model featured her front AND her rather shapely rear.

(I'm not just being a pervert, I'm going somewhere with this.)

Amber's wetsuit model would pop up again later in the season. In Memories of Mara, Lady Jaye would show up wearing the exact same wetsuit. As in, the artist erased Amber's head and drew in Lady Jaye's. I remembered looking at it and saying to myself, "hey, that's not Lady Jaye's ass!" Since I already had three pages of Lady Jaye models in the first book (and two more in the second book), including one with her in a brand new wetsuit, I left it out. I didn't think it was necessary to have the same model in the book twice, just with two different heads. Not when there was a surfeit of Lady Jaye material. Still, in the interest of completionism, I present all four wetsuit models for Amber and Lady Jaye, side-by-side for ease of comparison.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

G.I. Joe Field Manual Addendum - Aliens! Plus BotCon and the IDW VIP tour

Listen up, true believers! I'm super-stoked to be heading down to San Diego in a couple of days for BotCon and the IDW VIP Tour. It promises to be a Transformers-full weekend for me. I hope I get the chance to meet and catch up with a bunch of you. Bring your Field Manuals, Arks, Almanacs and whatever else you'd like me to sign.

Meanwhile, I figured I'd finish off G.I. Joe and the Golden Fleece with the alien artifacts from the episode. One bit that is probably new to most of you is that the smaller alien ship, the expeditionary ship that drops the golden coil, underwent a complete redesign. The original concept looked more like a flying screw. The redesign looks a little more conventional and matches up stylistically with the large mothership seen at the end of the episode.

Speaking of the golden coil, there was also a storyboard excerpt that was included in the design pack as a way to show the scale of the coil. I had to choose between including this image or including the unused expeditionary ship. I chose the expeditionary ship, it seemed more interesting, but in the interest of completeness I include this image as well. 

Hey, Joe-fans, what sort of extras would you like to see next? Any specific episode you'd like me to focus on? I don't have every episode, nor do I have every model from the episodes I do have, but I have a good amount. I'd love to hear from you to prioritize the Field Manual Addendums.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

G.I. Joe Field Manual Addendum - Ancient Greece (pt 2)

Hola, amigos! It's nice to have a regular feature for the blog again. Last Tuesday I kicked off the inaugural G.I. Joe Field Manual Appendix, featuring some ancient Greeks from G.I. Joe and the Golden Fleece. This week I'll finish out these bygone Grecians. They're no sick kids, but they're fun. I still have a few more models from this episode, mostly focusing around the mysterious aliens whose tech sent our heroes (and villains) back in time.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

G.I. Joe Field Manual Addendum - Ancient Greece

First off, mea culpa. It's been a dog's age since I updated this blog. Fortunately, Monzo's been stepping in with some cool Transformers gems from his vault, and I much appreciate that.

The truth is I've been very busy, both professionally and personally. I've got a son on the way this fall, and that's been chewing up time and mental energy, and I've got several books I'm working on.

Still,I feel remiss. I know that animation models are a big focus of this blog, and here I am sitting on a metric ass-ton of them for G.I. Joe and not sharing them. Well, that's all going to change. While I've more-or-less exhausted my horde of G1 TF models (took a few years but I did) for Joe I'm just getting started.

Which brings me to my point. The G.I. Joe Field Manual V2 is hitting stores now. It covers animation models for the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero cartoon season 2, the Sunbow commercials from 1987-1989, and the DiC cartoon. 208 pages chocked full of goodness, including the S2 bigwigs like Serpentor (four pages!), Hawk, Sgt. Slaughter, Lifeline, Leatherneck and Wetsuit, Dial-Tone, Doctor Mindbender, Zarana and more. Plus I sneak in some earlier characters with new outfits, including virtually the whole Cobra command staff in formal wear (Cobra Commander, Zartan, and Destro in tuxedos. The Baroness in a stunning evening gown!) and the DiC take on Duke and Snake-Eyes. Throw in tons of minor characters and you've got a pretty neat offering, I think. With all that just coming out, what better time could there be to start spelunking into my archives of Joe models?

The question becomes, what to start with? Last night I did another episode of the What's On Joe Mind podcast and Mike Irizzarry reminded me about how much fun some of the guys had at JoeCon looking at material cut from the Field Manual V2. In particular, on a two-page spread of ancient Greece, the guys thought it was HILARIOUS that I had a set of models labeled 'Sick Kids.' So, I share them with you now in the inaugural G.I. Joe Field Manual Addendum.

For those wondering, there are models for these ancient warriors, sheperds, and, yes, sick kids because an alien artifact sent some of the Joes and Cobras back in time in the episode G.I. Joe and the Golden Fleece. I've got another couple of pages of models to share from this episode too, plus tons more covering the entirety of the Joe Sunbow tv show. So, what say you, Joe fans. Should I next week continue with G.I. Joe and the Golden Fleece, or visit another episode? Any particular requests for what I should do next? Let me know, I aim to please. And pick yourself up a copy of the second G.I. Joe Field Manual if you haven't already.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Comics Feature on Marvel Productions

The January 1985 issue of Comics Feature ran a story on Marvel Productions, the company that produced the original Transformers cartoon. As part of this story, Comics Feature briefly interviewed Transformers story editors Bryce Malek and Dick Robbins, and included a piece of rare pre-production Transformers artwork. After learning of this story, I bought a copy of the magazine and made a high-resolution scan of the art, which is included in this post. This is not the first appearance of this particular piece of artwork, as it came into the hands of collector Alex Bickmore some years ago; you can see it here, where the corner isn't covered up by part of a Pandamonium promotional painting.

Transcribed below is the Transformers-relevant part of the interview.

Dick Robbins and Bryce Malek are two story editors at Marvel. Robbins is a veteran writer from the days of dramatic radio and live TV, who since 1972 has worked almost exclusively in the animation field, and Malek is a young man who used to work in Hanna Barbera's accounting department. It was Margaret Loesch who gave him his first writing assignment in 1980. Both Malek and Robbins came to Marvel in April of 1984, where they've been putting together the syndicated Transformers series ever since.

"It's based on a toy line," Malek says, "which a lot of Saturday morning shows are these days. They're similar to Go-Bots and about three or four other different lines. They are robots you can manipulate into jet planes and automobiles and all kinds of things."

The large number of characters in the Transformers series necessitated the hiring on of numerous freelance writers to get the scripts for the required number of episodes done on time.

"We normally would prefer to work with fewer writers," Robbins explains. "If we get a good writer to do a good script for us, we know his or her subsequent scripts will be even better. But we've been under the gun on this one. It's nice to have four or five writers for a series, but on this one we've had to have many more."

"In this case we were required to get out two scripts a week," Malek adds. "Twice as many as usual. We've had to work on several scripts simultaneously and some of our episodes are serialized. When we have a three-parter, it's not easy farming the information out to the person who's writing script #3 when you don't know what's happening with script #1. It can be pretty hectic and it gets very pressured."

Regardless of the pressure, Robbins and Malek are enjoying working on Transformers. Because the show is syndicated, they have much less stringent restrictions on depicting violence and action then they would have if it was a network show. "We can do a lot more," Malek confirms. "The violence is between the robots, so there's nothing that kids can really emulate. You can destroy a robot and then fix him up tomorrow. This show's got laser beams, crashes, explosions... it's real violent and I think boys will love it!"

The entirety of the interview is available here. Enjoy this bit of history!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Napkin of Revelation

Aaron Archer's original outline for the series that would become Transformers: Cybertron, drawn on a napkin (origin uncertain), shown to fans at Hasbro's booth during the final hours of BotCon 2005. With Aaron's recent departure from Hasbro, I have decided to reveal these personal photos to the general public for the first time, though one side of the napkin previously showed up in the Transformers Vault guidebook.

You did a lot of good during your time on the brand, Aaron, and you will be missed. I am sorry that our first run-in, at BotCon 2002, consisted of me inadvertently keeping you from the restroom before the start of a panel to ask what the deal with Movor's name was. Um, my bad.

Godspeed, sir.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Galactica personal spacecraft

I've been enjoying the heck outta my Battlestar Galactica Roleplaying game. Those of you who know me know that I tend to get very obsessive about my interests, and this is no exception. We've recently hit the events of the Miniseries (and 33, for those keeping track.) We're in our own universe so not everything happens exactly the same way. Our fleet is a bit bigger than what we had in the show, including two military vessels besides Galactica and about an extra 10,000 civvies.

One thought that occurred was that there should be some personal spacecraft out there. After all, Blood and Chrome show us that Raptors have been around for at least fifty years. The technology exists, it just must be absurdly expensive. And yet, there are markets for expensive ships. Two that came to mind were express package delivery and the personal jet / luxury yacht level craft.  I statted out one of each and figured I'd go ahead and share them with you.

These are done up in Cortex regular, so you could easily use them for a Firefly campaign with a few minor tweaks. I had fun with the logo for Hermes Express (a company from one of my PC's background fluff.) The font is Futurama Bold, a nod to the best interstellar package delivery spaceship to ever ply the spaceways.

What say you, faithful readers? Any other niches out there for a small, ftl-capable ship besides courier and luxury?

(Read all about my BSG game from my GM's perspective over at The Black Campbell.)

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Sorry, gang, it's been way way too long since I've updated here. There have been a few things going on with me. Partially I've been really busy finishing up the G.I. Joe Field Manual volume II, and the Transformers 30th Anniversary Collection.  Partially I've more-or-less run out of TF animation models that I am able to share.  With the second Field Manual completed, I can now start to share some of the many extra Joe models I've tracked down, though, so Sunbow fans can look forward to that.

But my big news is that I'm working on a new Robotech RPG supplement. I can't talk about it too much yet, but it's exciting for me to get the chance to work with a new publisher, a new property, a new genre. I'm a big rpg fan, so the chance to play in that arena is wonderful. It's especially nice for me, because I grew up playing the Palladium Robotech game. In fact, their use of character designs from the original Japanese anime was part of what inspired me to create the Transformers and G.I. Joe animation model books.

My editor has asked that I help spread the word about one of their new line of products, Robotech Tactics. It looks awesome, and they've currently hit their Kickstarter goal of $70,000 and are well on their way to reach their stretch goal of $125,000.

Robotech® RPG Tactics™ Kickstarter – April 18, 2013

Palladium Books®
and Ninja Division (the creative minds behind Soda Pop Miniatures and Cipher Studios) are proud to announce the launch of the Robotech® RPG Tactics™Kickstarter.

Robotech® RPG Tactics
™ empowers you to take command of the fighting forces of the United Earth Defense Force (UEDF) or lead the massive clone armies of the Zentraedi Armada in pitched combat. Relive the massive battles on your tabletop, engage in stand-alone tactical games or use the dynamic game pieces to enhance your Robotech® RPG experience. Collect your favorite mecha from an expanding range of world-class game pieces.

Why should you care? The Robotech® RPG Tactics™ Kickstarterhelps Palladium to fund the launch of a compelling and expanding game line designed specifically for Robotech® fans and gamers. Six months of product development has produced nearly two dozen gorgeous sculptures (with many more to come), a mountain of artwork, and game rules that have been play-tested by more than 100 Robotech fans and gamers to ensure Robotech® RPG Tactics™ is everything you could want. And because so much is DONE, this project should go into manufacturing within 45 days after the Kickstarter!

More Robotech® adventure to enjoy. Ever consider playing a role-playing game? Check out Palladium’s Robotech® role-playing game line. Each book contains a wealth of information, artwork and sometimes never-before-revealed stats and information about the mecha, vehicles, weapons, characters and settings you love. The four core books – Robotech® The Shadow Chronicles® Role-Playing Game, the Macross Saga™ Sourcebook, the Masters Saga™ and New Generation™ – are worth owning just to have the reference they provide, even if you never play the game. Inexpensive and available now.

© Copyright 2013 Palladium Books Inc. All rights reserved.
Palladium Books®, Megaverse®, RPG Tactics and other titles, names and slogans are trademarks of Palladium Books Inc., and Kevin Siembieda.

Robotech® and Robotech® The Shadow Chronicles® are Registered Trademarks of Harmony Gold USA, Inc. © 1985, 2013 Harmony Gold USA, Inc., all rights reserved.

This press release may be reprinted, reposted, linked and shared for the sole purpose of advertising, promotion and sales solicitation.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Cobra Commander... In Space? (For reals, people!)

OK, this one is just too cool for school. The G.I. Joe Field Manual V2 is coming out in a couple of months, (I just got the files to IDW last week!), so to celebrate Bill Forster, my co-author, actually shot Cobra Commander into space. Like, literally. Almost 20 miles up, 40,000 feet above the Armstrong's line, getting into the upper reaches of the troposphere.  Check out our video here, complete with the curvature of the earth and everything. 

Here's what he has to say about it:

After the G.I. Joe Field Manual Volume One was released, I was hard at work with Volume Two when I came across several videos taken of the curvature of the Earth. What was cool about them was it wasn’t done by NASA or the Air Force but rather by regular ol’ Earthlings. After showing one of these videos to my girlfriend Jillian she informed me that her brother had experience with these launches.

Jill’s brother, Jeff Wilschke is an engineer who for fun and research sends video cameras into the atmosphere. Jeff and I spoke about the details and then when the family got together for Thanksgiving he brought along the craft that would carry Cobra Commander over 100,000 feet into the air. It was a hollow Styrofoam cube which contained a GPS for locating the craft after it landed. It also had a video camera facing out a hole in the craft where a fiberglass plank extended from. There Cobra Commander would be glued in place. The craft also contained two tiny computers, one of Jeff’s own design, which would measure temperature, altitude and other sciencey stuff.

Jeff had fitted the craft with two wing-like panels that he had hoped would stabilize the craft and channel wind in an effort to reduce spinning.  The panels served another purpose. The foil lining would be picked up by nearby aircraft sensors and would allow pilots to avoid crashing into our little experiment. Although FAA regulations state that our 4 pound craft was well below the weight required to use such tactics, Jeff felt it was worth the extra work. 

Then one morning we drove four hours north of Los Angeles to a dirt crossroads of some orchard fields. There we set up the weather balloon. Using a huge helium tank we filled the balloon until it was a specific size which was determined by a large Styrofoam caliper Jeff had constructed. At which point the craft was connected to a small parachute which was then connected to the weather balloon. I had the honor of releasing the Commander’s craft and the payload ascended at such a rate that within seconds it was difficult to see and then soon after it disappeared into the blue California sky. 

For the next few hours we followed the craft over miles using the GPS and constant updates from Jeff and Jill’s father Jack who monitored Cobra Commander from his computer at home. Once the balloon exploded from the increasing expansion of the helium it fell back to Earth. The GPS eventually showed no movement and we concluded the craft had landed. Traveling completely through a town and into an industrial park we followed the signal down a dirt road until we saw the craft’s yellow parachute lying in a dirt field. We could immediately see that Cobra Commander was no longer attached to the craft. Could he have fallen off before getting to the apex of the journey? As we walked toward the payload we could see Cobra Commander laying just a foot away. He had been thrown clear as the craft crash landed.  Now he sits on my desk, I am fairly sure, having been the only Cobra figure to travel 102,000 feet into the air. 


Pretty awesome stuff, no?

Cobra Commander, in space. Tell your friends.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cortex Bundles: War of the Worlds (the series)

My Cortex rantings have apparently inspired my good friend Rob to run a Starship Troopers campaign, using the system. Kudos, Rob! Maybe he'll post some campaign reports here and let you know how it turns out.

In keeping with my low-tech sci-fi interests, here is a bundle for the aliens from War of the Worlds (the series). 

Mor-Tax Bundle: D2 Cost


Absorbtion: D12 Mor-Taxians can absorb a human host, merging their cells together. They gain access to all of the human's memories and, as long as the body is inhabited, the host's skill set. The host's ego and will are subsumed and, when the alien departs or is killed, whatever's left of the host dissolves into goo. Mor-Tax can only absorb human hosts after a host has been subdued.

Enhanced Manipulation (third arm): D4

Uncommon Knowledge (alien tech): D6 Mor-Taxians can typically do more with electronics than their skill set may otherwise indicate. Add to tech engineering and science rolls if concocting an alien device.


Vulnerability (common cold): D12 Exposure to the common cold renders Mor-Taxians comatose within days of exposure. Radiation can keep the virus at bay, but that results in the destruction of any human hosts very quickly, or the overheating of an alien body not contained in a cooling suit.

Triune Nature: D4 Mor-Taxians almost always act in threes, and are uncomfortable in smaller groups. Take all attributes down a step when forced to act individually.

Prejudice (humans): D4 Mor-Taxians LOATHE humanity and have a hard time not showing it.

I'm aware that occasionally other powers were demonstrated, but since that was rare I'd assume those aliens took specific assets.  The above traits were pretty much universal except for Quinn, who clearly didn't take the Mor-Tax bundle.

For those interested, the Morthren bundle would have a D2 cost and would consist of Uncommon Knowledge (alien tech): D6 and Prejudice (humans): D4.  They've abandoned their triune nature, extra arm, ability to absorb human hosts, and have inoculated themselves against the common cold.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cortex for ExoSquad and Gargoyles

I've been a fan of tabletop role-playing games since I was nine or ten. I started with D&D but branching off into Robotech (with the RIFTS system), Shadowrun, Paranoia, Call of Cthulhu. My new group is playing with two systems that are new to me, Battlestar Galactica (using the Cortex system) and Hollow Earth.
Cortex is a great system, and available for free download. I immediately fell in love with it, and think it works very well for lowish-tech science fiction universes. It was designed for Firefly and adapted for BSG and other universes. A buddy of mine asked me what system would be good to run a Starship Troopers and Cortex immediately popped into my head.  This turned to a conversation of how well the system would work for such diverse universes as Alien, ExoSquad, and Gargoyles.Of course, Gargoyles and ExoSquad both include pretty neat races that should be open to PCs, the Gargoyles and the NeoSapiens. We came up with some bundles, so I thought I'd share them.

Gargoyle Bundle: null cost


Enhanced Movement (Gliding): D8 (With enough height and knowledge of local air currents, Gargoyles can glide for miles.)

Enhanced Movement (Climbing): D6 (Gargoyles climb extraordinarily quickly.)

Inherent Weapons (Claws): D4 (Their claws can shatter stone)

Inherent Armor: D4 (Their skin is tough and tends to deflect weapons.)


Stone Sleep: D10 (At sunrise, Gargoyles turn to stone regardless of where they are and what they are doing.)

Memorable: D8 (Gargoyles stand out in a crowd.)

Duty: D4 (Almost all Gargoyles have at least a moderate compulsion to protect their home.)

I thought about doing one for the Children of Oberon race, but they seem to be too varied to stat out in a meaningful way. If a PC really wants to play one, the GM will have to just get creative.  I would suggest giving them Immune - non-iron weapons (D12 + D2) as a pretty standard attribute.  Mutates might be a fun bundle to make up, though.

Neo Sapien Bundle: D12 cost


Enhanced Manipulation: D2 (Neo Sapiens have two thumbs (and two fingers) on each hand, as well as prehensile toes. Add to tests where fine dexterity is paramount.)

Natural Athlete: D4 (Neo Sapiens are at the apex of human capabilities.)

Tough: D4 (Neo Sapiens are tougher than their stats might indicate.)

Head for Numbers: D4 (Neo Sapiens are brilliant, especially in technical matters.)

Simple needs: D2 (Neo Sapiens can survive on comparably few calories, and can digest almost anything organic to achieve those calories.)

Always Awake: D6 (Neo Sapiens don't need sleep.)

Fast on Your Feet: D2 (Neo Sapiens have long legs and move swiftly.)

Enhanced Senses: D4 (Neo Sapiens see very well in low-light conditions, and have exceptional hearing.)

Lightning Reflexes: D2 (Neo Sapiens have unnaturally fast reflexes.)

Hardy Constitution: D4 (Neo Sapiens can shrug off the ill effects of drugs or disease with ease.)

Formidable Presence: D2 (Neo Sapiens are 8 feet tall and built like linebackers. They tend to intimidate.)

Longevity: D2 (Neo Sapiens can live, and be vital, approximately twice as long as Homo Sapiens.)


Vulnerability - Trauma: D6 (Neo Sapiens who suffer sever physical trauma, such as the loss of more than half of their life points, are at risk for contracting Auto Mutation Syndrome, a degenerative and inevitably fatal disease. They must make a hard endurance check or contract the illness.

Sterile: D4 (Neo Spaiens cannot reproduce normally, divorcing them from the cycle of life and denying them any form of familial relationship.)

Analysis Paralysis: D4 (Most Neo Sapiens are unable to think on their feet. The unexpected can confuse them. When encountering unfamiliar or unexpected situations, step down all attributes by one for D4 rounds.)

Conventional Thinking: D4 (When attempting be truly original or creative in tactics or technical matters, Neo Sapiens are often at a loss. Subtract D4 from rolls under such circumstances.)

Memorable: D4 (In addition to being eight feet tall and blue, all Neo Sapiens have a unique geometric tattoo prominently on their forehead.)

Animal Enmity: D4 (Animals can sense something unnatural about Neo Sapiens. Dogs bark at them and domestic animals resent their handling.)

Note: Many Neo Sapien villains have Prejudice (Humans) to help offset the cost of this bundle, though of course any Neo Sapien in the Exo Fleet would be unlikely to have such a complication. 

This is obviously an extremely potent bundle, reflecting how they were portrayed in the series. For most campaigns, I would advise no more than one Neo Sapien per party. GnomeStew has an excellent article on the reasoning behind such a limitation

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Red Shirts!

So, have you ever wondered what life on Kirk's Enterprise must have looked like to the poor grunts on the bottom of the totem pole? Those sad bastards who beam down and then get eaten by a dikironium cloud monster or struck by lightning or shot by a pod plant. Well, a good buddy of mine, Ben Warren, is one of the writer/producers of Red Shirts, a parody focusing on them. He's a talented and funny guy, and the videos they've released so far look hilarious.

Check them out on Facebook. If you like what you see, maybe kick in a few bucks. It's a small operation and every single dollar helps. I'd love to seem this series get made. is the place to visit if you're interested.  Of course, there are incentives, up to and including an Executive Producer credit.  Check them out, and be ready to laugh your butt off.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Ark Addendum: Washington D.C.

Hola, amigos! It's time for another Ark Addendum. Originally I intended to title this one Atlantis, Arise! Part II, but I realized that everything was a monument in Washington D.C. and changed the title accordingly.  I suppose I could have called last week's entry Sub-Atlantica, but it's harder to separate the Sub-Atlanticans from Atlantis, Arise! than it is to separate out our nation's capitol.  (Well, my nation's capitol. You might be in another country. SHOUT OUT, UK READERS!)

Funny story. Since I was starting with last week's entry as my starting point, I very nearly launched this page with Washington, D.C. next to a Decepticon symbol. (I'm sure my buddy Scott Rhymer would have appreciated that.) On my proofreading pass I realized my error and dropped in the Earth symbol.  More appropriate, but less funny.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Ark Addendum - Atlantis, Arise!

Today feels like a good day for me. I finished the last of my G.I. Joe Field Manual--Appendix articles for the G.I. Joe fanclub magazine. They're kind of like the Ark Addendum articles I post here, only official and for G.I. Joe. It should see print some time around April or May. I also watched the fourth episode of season 2 of The Shield and chortled to myself when Wagenbach said that today is a good day for Gamblers Anonymous, what with it being two days after the Superbowl.  Funny timing, that.

So, to get to the meat of the post, here's part one of Atlantis, Arise!. It's one of the sillier episodes, with the Sub-Atlantican race teaming up with the Decepticons. I feel like it'd be really hard for a modern TF series to indulge in this level of silliness.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

AllSpark Almanac reviews, Ender's Game

I like to keep track of my Amazon reviews. It's helpful to know what people think. I'd been very proud of the unbroken streak of five-star reviews for both volumes of The AllSpark Almanac. I ticked up to a combined 49 five star reviews, with no dissent, then stalled out. I figured I'd wait till 50 to start tooting my own horn. So, the other day, I check, and sure enough, I'd gotten review #50. Eagerly I clicked through only to find that it's... FOUR STARS!!! Noooooooooo!  As far as I can tell, the reviewer wasn't pleased that their copy arrived damaged, though Amazon did replace it.

Only a few days later I got one more review, five stars this time, but the damage is done. I couldn't quite get up to 50 perfect reviews.  I'll have to settle for 50 five-star reviews, and one four-star review.  That's 33 fivers on The AllSpark Almanac, 17 fivers and a four on Volume 2. Sigh.

In other news, reread Ender's Game for my book club and was inspired to attempt to create an Ender's Game board game.  I figured I'd use chess as my starting point.  Thoughts?

(The book remains engaging, though the Locke / Demosthenes material strained my credulity and the denouement goes on and on and on. It's pretty apparent that Ender's Game is in many ways more a prequel to the later works in the series than a book in its own right.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Ark Addendum - The Immobilizer (part 2)

Howdy, faithful readers and newcomers alike! This week's Ark Addendum finishes off The Immobilizer with some backgrounds. Now, it's true, they're nothing really spectacular, but on the other hand, the idea that Spike and Bumblebee meet Carly at a place called Robots Video Arcade is so delightfully Transformers that it brings a smile to my face. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Farscape Geekwatch: The Peacekeeper Wars

Here we are! 88 episodes of Farscape behind us and only the movie to go. The Peacekeeper Wars ties up most of the loose ends left in the series and give things a dramatic send-off.  John finally builds a wormhole weapon, one that puts the piddling bridge to a star built in Infinite Possibilities to shame. The FX department really sells just why it is that it was so imperative to keep this tech away from Peacekeepers and Skarrans alike.

We get some closure on the Eidelons, introduced in the early S4 two-parter What Was Lost. We witness the birth of John and Aeryn's son and the dramatic death of D'Argo, There's plenty for the Rygel and Stark to do, which is good because they're sometimes hard to write for. It almost goes without saying that there's plenty of delicious John / Scorpius interaction. Jothee makes a welcome appearance, which helps bring extra poignancy to D'Argo's death. Little time is wasted on the reconstruction of John and Aeryn, which is good. I have no doubt it'd have made a fine episode, but it wasn't germane to what the PKW was trying to accomplish.

There are a few flaws, mostly in the things that were designed to be revealed over a season and instead are crammed into an episode.  I'm thinking specifically of Chiana's new bionic eyes (the producers have said that they were going to let her be blind for 4-5 episodes), Jool's odd return (she's out of character with little explanation), and the reveal that Sikozu is a Skarran agent (too abrupt, not enough set-up.)  On the other hand, O'Bannon has stated that Chiana's brother was slated to make an appearance but got cut for time. Probably wise. While the Nebari plotline is one of the biggest dangling threads, it was never all that engaging. Besides, our heroes need SOMETHING to do even after we stop watching them.  Most of these would have been addressed in Season 5, I have no doubt, along with some other returns. (Furlow is another obvious candidate for a return.) I'm also glad they didn't shoe-horn Crais or Zhan in. 

And, of course, the geek comes flying fast and furiously. John makes an almost out-of-universe reference to Farscape itself when, under interrogation from the Eidelon descendants, he tells his story "for the eighty-ninth time," borrowing from parts of the the opening credit narration. The Peacekeeper Wars is, of course, the eighty-ninth episode of the series.

"Next Ferengi we see, we run," he commands, nodding yet again to Star Trek.  When the Eidelons later achieve some early success in negotiating with Staleek, John happily notes that they're "walking into federation-ville here." 

When Scorpius reveals that he's being hunted by Peacekeepers and Skarrans alike, John ask "what the hell did you do when you left the fatherland, kill the goose that laid the golden egg," nodding to Jack and the Beanstalk while calling the Peacekeepers Nazis.

There is, of course, an extended Wizard of Oz sequence while John tries to convince the Eidelon's to help teach the gift of peace to their descendants. "I'm just the guy without a brain." (Points at Stark) "The lion here would like some courage. (Points at Scorpius) "Tin man... he needs a heart." (Points at Rygel) "Toto here just wants an easy birth." (Takes the arm of the Eidelon's descendant) "And Dorothy here, she is just looking for a way home. Now, we're not going to be here tomorrow, so I suggest you take a long, hard look at our broomstick." He later lists all the threats facing them and includes "lions & tigers & bears." 

He also tells the Eidelons that the Skarrans are not "chirpy, saturday morning sleestacks," a Land of the Lost reference.  He then calls Emperor Staleek 'Godzilla' to his face.

There's some repeated Geek too.  In referencing the events of What Was Lost, he again calls the aquatic monster 'The Creature from the Black Lagoon.'  While meeting Einstein in the snow, John calls himself 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.' He then repeats the Time... sequence ('sup, flies, Bandits, wounds all heals, rosemary and...') only to conclude it differently with "time ends."

When Braca asks if Crichton and crew are reinforcements, he replies "No we're the band. Looks like KISS was the opening act."  Whew! Almost went all of Farscape without a KISS reference.  (Aside: I love that Braca gets wounded and Scorpius puts himself in harm's way to save him. Braca didn't have much to do this extended episode, but nice to see he wasn't forgotten. Trulys, his character peaked in We're So Screwed pt 3.)

As we pull into the home stretch, we get a Star Wars nod, when John asks Staleek how the wormhole weapon looks "from the Death Star." 

And, finally, we get the death of Harvey in an extended visual homage to the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Harvey notes that he toyed with Slim Pickens & the bomb, the iconic ending of Doctor Strangelove. I can't help but wonder if he was speaking directly for the writers, as that too would have been an amazing and appropriate fantasy ending for Harvey. 

And, for the not-really-geeky stuff, we have a bit.  John tells Staleek that he is "asking for a kilo of pure wormhole tech," a drug reference. He later references the infamous 'this is your brain on drugs' PSA when he crumbles up a snowball in his fist saying "this is your universe, this is your universe on wormholes."

"Things are looking grim in mudville," John narrates, alluding to the poem Casey at the Bat.

While talking with Aeryn about war and peace, John notes that "Woody Allen's version is better than Tolstoys. You know why? His version is funnier." He's probably referencing Love and Death, though of course there is the famous Woody Allen quote "I took a speed reading course and read 'War and Peace' in twenty minutes. It involves Russia," that comes to mind.

John calls Stark (containing the death-energy of the last full-blooded Eidelon) "the Johnny Appleseed of d├ętente," recalling that little bit of American folklore.

Lastly, during his wormhole weapon demonstration, John addresses his announcement to "Ladies and gentlemen and all the ships at sea," the last bit taken from radio commentator Walter Winchell's opening address.

 There you have it, folks! A fun project for me, cataloging every bit of pop culture and especially geek culture that finds its way into the 88 episodes and one mini-series of Farscape. Note that there is absolutely zero Doctor Who references here. No 'Doctor,' no 'Dalek' or 'Cybermen,' no nothing. Maybe John doesn't like the BBC. Or, heck, maybe it's the same universe. Tonally, I could totally see Matt Smith or David Tennant showing up on Moya. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed it.