As we have written about before, the game crafting (or dungeon crafting) scene has exploded over the past few years. There are dozens of websites and YouTube channels devoted to every aspect of making and crafting for the tabletop and RPG gaming hobbies, from building custom gaming tables, to crafting terrain and miniature dungeons, to making DM screens, dice towers, modeling, converting, and painting miniatures, and much more.
One of my maker pals, James Floyd Kelly (a tech book author and long-time Make: contributor), jumped onto the game crafting bandwagon last year when he launched his Game Terrain Engineering YouTube channel. Jim's channel grew very quickly and he has now become one of the rising stars in that community. And with good reason. Jim is ambitious and clever. And relentless. By the end of the year, he had decided to go into producing game crafting media as a full-time job. He relaunched his YT channel as The Tabletop Engineer and announced that he was launching a new monthly magazine devoted to the gaming hobby, especially focusing on game crafting.
Called Bexim's Bazaar, the magazine will be monthly. It will mainly exist as a PDF publication, but on-demand print copies will also be available. The PDF version is yours after you become a Patreon sponsor of The Tabletop Engineer for US$2/month. Print copies of the issues (around 90 pages) are available on Blurb for $18.
In this recent video from Jeremy of Black Magic Craft, he discusses the import of this new hobby zine and does a page-by-page flick-through of a print copy of Issue #1. Read the rest
Yesterday, we paid tribute to the 42nd anniversary of David Bowie's iconic album Low by featuring The Brothers McLeod animation of comedian Adam Buxton's hysterical radio tribute to Bowie from 2013. We follow it up with another animation done from Buxton's radio show, this time with Chris Salt of Oblong Pictures using LEGO stop-motion to lovingly lampoon our favorite alien rock god.
In the video, David pitches his wife, Angie Bowie, on new character ideas after deciding to "kill off Ziggy." After running through a series of candidates: Cobbler Bob ("I could have giant shoes, with massive platforms big enough for the band to fit inside of"), A Mad Deus ("A composer of classical music who comes to believe that he's God"), The Groovy Gardener, Viscount Jizzmark, finally, he shows Angie Aladdin Sane. "Who is Aladdin Sane?," she coos. "Well, he's like Ziggy, but with a different name, and some sort of strange fluid leaking out of his collarbone," David replies.
This cute little bit does make you wonder what other characters David may have contemplated but ultimately rejected. Read the rest
Today marks the 42nd anniversary of the release of David Bowie's mid-70s masterpiece, Low, the first album of his so-called Berlin Trilogy (later joined by "Heroes" and Lodger). Working with the increasingly experimental Brian Eno, this album was a dramatic departure for Bowie and much has been made over the music, the strange (and strangely inspiring) milieu of the West Berlin recording studio up against the Berlin wall, Bowie's continuing battles with the coke monster, the highly experimental nature of the sessions, and the studio use of Eno's Oblique Strategies cards.
To celebrate this happy day, and some of the strangeness around this record, here is a hilarious animated piece done in 2014 by The Brothers McLeod. The McLeod piece is actually an animation for a radio bit done by UK comedian Adam Buxton. It is a loving lampoon of Bowie, Eno, and long-time Bowie collaborator and co-producer, Tony Visconti, in the studio recording "Warszawa," one of the more haunting and inscrutable tracks on the album. You can hear Buxton's original here (though most of it ended up in the McLeod Bros animation).
This video mini-doc, done several years ago by the Polish culture portal, Cultural.pl, retraces the train trip that Bowie took through Poland, with a stop-over in Warsaw, that inspired the song. On their website, you can read more about the trip, the song, and the Polish folk tune (Helokanie) that inspired some of the vocalization on the track.
Below is Bowie performing Warszawa in Tokyo, Japan on Dec 12, 1978. Read the rest
I really enjoyed these two interviews on the D&D Beyond channel with actors Deborah Ann Woll (True Blood, Daredevil) and Joe Manganiello (True Blood, Justice League, Magic Mike), both D&D fanatics. In Deborah's interview, she talks about how she got started in the hobby, what kind of characters she likes to play (fighters, surprisingly enough), and her thoughts on the current D&D renaissance.
One interesting observation she makes about RPGs as a unique form of acting/theater: When a party saves a character or survives an ordeal, or otherwise experiences a dramatic moment, there's often an intense, visceral response from the players that she says she doesn't experience in any other type of acting. As an actor, she longs to evoke this kind of response in people, so that's one of the things that draws her to D&D.
In the Joe Manganiello video, we get a tour of his E. Gary Gygax Memorial Dungeon (think: MTV Cribs for nerds) and hear about how he got back into the hobby after a long hiatus and how he went about converting his basement wine cellar into this enviable game space. The large dragon, beholder, and mind flayer sculptures are very cool. Joe also talks about the impact that D&D had on him as a kid and how he learned foundational skills in storytelling, world-building, and acting that he later employed as a professional actor. D&D was his gateway drug.
In mid-December of 2018, Geek & Sundry announced a new D&D-themed show, coming in February, starring Deborah Woll. Read the rest
I have followed the work of the brilliant indie hardware engineer, Sarah Petkus, for years. Her first projects to capture my attention were her delta robot army and NoodleFeet (see her YouTube feed for project videos). Sarah is an extremely talented engineer and artist whose design and fabrication skills are undeniably impressive. With her high-tech engineering skills, her unique and sincere presence, and her overall deep-geek badassery, Sarah wouldn't be out of place in a Gibson cyberpunk novel. Read the rest
Adam Savage keeps mining deeper and deeper strata of nerdly obsessions, with recent Tested projects including collaborating with other prop makers to create a spot-on ACES NASA astronaut suit for cosplay, building a 3D-printed hand cannon from Mortal Engines, and another pilgrimage to Middle Earth, aka Weta Workshop in New Zealand. Read the rest
Political rabble-rouser and anti-Trump activist Claude Taylor wants to make sure that we don't forget the fact that the Saudi government, likely ordered by the crown prince, brutally tortured, murdered, and dismembered a U.S. resident and Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. To that end, he has made street sign-styled bumper stickers that you can place over existing street signs to turn any road in America into Khashoggi Way. You can get one of your own, for free, by following the instructions below.
Thanks to Claude, in his Mad Doc Pac "Rat Truck," Jared and Ivanka's street in DC is now Khashoggi Way. Claude tweets:
I’m back from today’s delivery of #KhashoggiWay. I went to Jared. Or close. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that Jared Kushner assisted in the coverup of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. #complicit @KarenAttiah
If you want to support Taylor's resistance projects, he has a Mad Dog Pac account on ShareBlue.
[Images via Claude Taylor's Twitter feed] Read the rest
When I was a teen in the 1970s, I lived for foosball. In the tiny town of Chester, VA where I grew up, the Family Circus Foosball Parlor, which had taken over the old turn-of-the-century pharmacy building in the center of town, was where all of the freaks, geeks, pool hustlers, and drug dealers hung out.
I smoked my first weed behind the hedgerow beside Family Circus, squatting among discarded Family Circus napkins and french fry cups, and spent condoms. Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Jethro Tull enjoyed constant rotation on the Family Circus jukebox. The degree of your coolness was determined by the width (and amount of hem fray) of your bell bottom jeans. And the viciousness of your shot-wrist.
I got pretty good at foosball. But other players were scary-good. I still remember playing a two-on-two game with a friend where our opponents, the two real stars of the Circus, turned away and covered their eyes each time they took their goal shots. Blindfolded, they still beat us. For the rest of my life, I will always count the sound of definitively sinking a foosball, with a dramatic snap of the wrist, to be one of the most satisfying sounds (and feelings) there is -- that bell-like ring of the cork ball as it pings off of the metal backstop of the goal.
Comedian Kelsey Cook knows and loves that sound and feeling, too. Besides being a stand-up comic, Cook is a professional foosball player (as are her mom and dad). Read the rest
"From Morlocks to warlocks, nerds are passionate about a lot of things, but there's one thing they love above all else and that is correcting people*." So begins each intro to the CollegeHumor game show, "Um, Actually." Nimbly hosted by Mike Trapp, the rules for Um, Actually are simple. Mike reads a statement related to various fantasy and sci-fi universes and beloved nerd media (Lord of the Rings, Blade Runner, D&D, Dune, Warhammer, Harry Potter, anime, gaming, etc). The statement conceals a mistake. One of the three contestants buzzes in with their correction. And they must preface their correction with "Um, actually..." Many of the contestants on the show are familiar faces from Geek & Sundry, The Nerdist, CollegeHumor, and shows like Silicon Valley.
When "Um, Actually" first showed up on YouTube a few years ago, as 6-12-minute shorts, I really enjoyed the 8 episodes they produced and thought it would make a fun full-length show. CollegeHumor obviously thought the same. They have launched a second season of full-length (24 minutes) episodes as part of their new Dropout.tv subscription comedy network. Here is one of the full-length episodes and several of the teasers from CollgeHumor's YouTube channel.
The show also encourages its viewers to correct any of its mistakes, and as you might imagine, there are a lot of them @UmActuallyShow (some of which are read at the end of each episode).
You can see all of the short YouTube segments for Season 2 here. Read the rest
If you have an avid gamer on your holiday gift list, here are some great game gift recommendations for 2018. You can also find plenty of other candidates in the "What's new in tabletop gaming" pieces I posted this year. Also, check out the Boing Boing Toys and Games gift guide for a few additional suggestions.
Game design doyen Martin Wallace is probably best known for railroad and civilization-building games (Age of Steam, Railways of the World, Brass, London, Struggle of Empires). His latest, Wildlands, is a grand and glorious departure. The game, published by Osprey, is gorgeous, easy-to-learn, fun to play, and very replayable, with lots of play choices and tactical depth (and already emerging expansions). Designed for up to 4 players, Wildlands is a card-driven fantasy skirmish board game with 20 beautifully-detailed, primed, and pre-washed miniatures. Four different factions, with different strengths and abilities, attempt to collect “arcane crystals” scattered over one of a two-sided game board. A hand of action cards, with multiple choices on each card, determine what each faction can do on each turn in their quest to vanquish foes and acquire crystals. The mechanics are elegant, the action, relentless and tense. Like last year’s Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate, Wildlands is a great way to introduce timid newbies to the world of fantasy miniature gaming and light dungeon delving.
Axis & Allies & Zombies ($33)
If you like Axis & Allies and want to try throwing a wrench (or in this case, hordes of brain-eating undead) into the typical mechanics of the game, then you'll likely find Axis & Allies & Zombies a fun new twist. Read the rest
Here are some recent game releases of note and some of what I've been up to in hobby gaming over the past month or so.
Warlord Games, $63, 2-4 players, Ages: 12+
In this skirmish game from Warlord, you play the mutant search and destroy agents, the Strontium Dogs, from the pages of the venerable UK comic magazine, 2000 AD. Designed by the masterful Andy Chambers (Warhammer 40K, Battlefleet Gothic, Blood Red Skies), the game pits the Dogs and their mutant, pirate, and renegade bounty against each other as the two forces duke it out across the galaxy. The very well put-together two-player starter set includes a 122-page rule book, a scenario book, 8 metal miniatures, dice, cards, and other components. The set even includes some cool laser-cut MDF terrain. I love when games include terrain, but you don't often see it and rarely in a game that's not well over $100. Here's a video of Andy Chambers himself describing Strontium Dog.
Mantic Games, Prices Vary
After a very successful Kickstarter campaign (which I backed), Mantic has now released a broad range of affordable fantasy and sci-fi terrain pieces under the Terrain Crate name. Each crate is themed (Dungeon, Battle Field, Dark Lord's Tower, Starship Scenery, Industrial Zone) and includes a generous amount of highly-detailed plastic scenery. The pieces are designed to be used as-is and they also paint up like a charm. I love playing RPGs and tabletop games with lots of evocative scenery and terrain, so I have always wanted a terrain collection this extensive, this affordable, and this well done. Read the rest
It's been driving me crazy. I knew acting Attorney General slash Cult45 tool, Matthew Whitaker, reminded me of someone. Someone awful. My first thought was Lex Luthor. But yesterday, I figured it out. It's Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin, from Daredevil. Played by Vincent D'Onofrio in the Netflix series, Kingpin is a scary, hot-headed, New York City crime lord. I did a search on Whitaker and Kingpin and found this pic on Imgur. Whitaker could be Kingpin's double. Read the rest
I posted some pre-release interviews with Peter Bebergal about his latest book, Strange Frequencies: The Extraordinary Story of the Technological Quest for the Supernatural. The book examines the frequent use of science and technology in pursuit of the otherworldly.
In Strange Frequencies, Peter gets up close and hands on with such tinfoil fun stuff as ghost boxes, spirit radios, EVP recordings, spirit photography, brain toys, and more. In the following excerpt, reprinted from Strange Frequencies and used with permission from TarcherPerigree/Penguin, Random House, Peter delves into the history of the "ghost box" and sets out to try and build one of his own.
Fear and Soldering
Read the rest
In 1995, the October issue of Popular Electronics offered the article “Ghost Voices: Exploring the Mysteries of Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP),” and laid out a few methods for modifying radios to be able to answer whether “the dead are trying to break through the veil between the worlds.” Various techniques are presented: a simple tape recorder with a microphone in a quiet room might record answers to questions that can be heard on playback (tried it, no luck); a circuit to build a small radio much like the Tesla radio I built; tuning a radio between stations and recording the static; and a white noise generator schematic to use instead of a radio to be sure stray transmissions are not being picked up. The tone of the piece is playful but not skeptical. The author takes no position, but Popular Electronics was written for the amateur hobbyist, and if any audience would be interested in such an article, it would certainly be this magazine’s readers.
Boing Boing pal, Peter Bebergal, has a new book coming out later this month called Strange Frequencies: The Extraordinary Story of the Technological Quest for the Supernatural. In 2015's Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock n' Roll, Peter explored what he identified as the "occult imagination" and how it had provided critical inspiration to many ground-breaking rock artists of the 60s and 70s (and beyond). In Strange Frequencies, Peter takes a hands-on look at how technology has always gone hand-in-hand with explorations of the otherworldy. He experiments with building a spirit radio, EVP (electronic voice phenomena) recordings, a brain machine, and an automaton, and examines the legend of the Golem (arguably the "programmable robot" of Jewish mysticism), spirit photography, and the relationship between stage magic and magic of the supernatural.
To give you a taste of some of what's in Strange Frequencies, Peter recently appeared on Ryan Peverly's Occulture podcast. Peverly says that Strange Frequencies is the coolest book you will read all year.
And Haute Macabre has just published an interview with Peter conducted by the poet, Janaka Stucky.
Read the rest
JS: I’m glad you brought up divination because that relates to something else that was revelatory to me throughout the book, namely: that the ‘technology’ in the “technological quest for the supernatural” of the title isn’t just cameras, or televisions, or other mechanical devices, but also that crystals or sigils and other more fundamental tools external to our bodies are a kind of technology we use.
I woke up this morning to the sad news that maker-pal and pioneering hobby roboticist, Gordon McComb, had passed away. I wrote a brief eulogy on Make:
Read the rest
It is with a heavy heart that we here at Make: announce the passing of hobby robotics pioneer, Gordon McComb. He died on Monday, Sept 10th, apparently of a heart attack. Gordon was a great friend to Make: and to makers and robotics hobbyists from around the world.
Gordon’s Robot Builder’s Bonanza book, first published in 1987, arguably marks the beginning of hobby robotics as a significant maker category. It was the book that I bought in the late 80s that got me into robot building, and by extension, all forms of hardware hacking...
Gordon was an encyclopedist, a collector of useful information and ideas. His Robot Builder’s Sourcebook, an outsized, sort of Whole Earth Catalog for robot builders, was an absolute treasure trove of access to most every tool and component available at the time (2002). Most recently, Gordon created the book and kit, How to Make a Robot, for Make:.
Fellow hobby robotics pioneer, Mark Tilden, once said: “A human is a way that a robot builds a better robot.” Few humans have done more to build better robots and advance robotkind than Gordon McComb.
Godspeed, Gordon. Your numerous friends and fans, both organic and mechanic, will miss you very much.
I was so thrilled to discover this last night. Ahead of the forthcoming release of the remastered, expanded edition of the Ramones' iconic 1978 album, Road to Ruin, KEXP premiered a "fully-realized" version of S.L.U.G., a rare Ramones track that previous only appeared in demo and bootleg form.
Rhino Records is preparing to release a new deluxe edition of the Queens, New York outfit’s landmark fourth album Road To Ruin on Sept. 21, featuring a remastered version of the original album, a new stereo mix, and a disc of newly unearthed recordings – primarily outtakes and alternate versions of the classic tracklist. Fans will be particularly excited about two two previously unreleased tracks “S.L.U.G.” and “I Walk Out.” Fans can now stream the former below ahead of the deluxe edition release.
Savvy Ramones die-hards will be quick to point out that a demo of “S.L.U.G.” previously appeared on a 2001 expanded edition of Rocket to Russia as well as the Weird Tales of the Ramones compilation (and some bootlegs), but the version we’re hearing today is the first time we’re hearing a fully-realized version of the long lost track.
[H/t Ryan Zellman] Read the rest
On Game Terrain Engineering, Jim Kelly posted this great tutorial on building a wall-mounted display for your lovingly-painted fantasy miniatures collection. The display, while looking quite elaborate and substantial, is little more than a cheap wooden picture frame, some foam board, and lots of time and hot glue. The Archdevil Moloch statue in the middle was 3D printed. That is, of course, optional.
Months ago, well-known dungeon crafter, DM Scotty, posted some similar wall displays on Facebook that used a printed image on their back walls (relevant to the theme of the minis on display) and simpler shelving. Scotty's might be an overall better solution for displaying your minis in a less busy but still thematic way. Jim admits that the lighting/viewability of some of the miniatures on his dungeon-themed display is not the best. He’s considering adding LED lighting.
I am definitely going to build some of these displays. With all of the time I’m putting into painting minis these days, I don’t want to hide my hard work away in cases when it could be enjoyed by others. I think this is a really fun way to do it. I can’t wait to plan out and create thematic frame-displays for my Frostgrave, Gaslands, Blood Bowl, and All Quiet on the Martian Front minis. For displaying years of collected Warhammer 40,000 armies? We’re going to need a bigger boat.
BTW: The latest D&D game book, Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, includes the exiled Archdevil Moloch in its bestiary, with great artwork, background, and stat block. Read the rest