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Archive for May, 2010

Good Comics: Hark! A Vagrant

I spend a lot of time on the internet. Far far more than I should, as I find it often sidetracks me when I’m trying to write. Often times I will think of something to write for and think “Well, I should look up something on wikipedia as ‘research’ for that.” Then, about an hour later, I find myself watching a Let’s Play of Zelda Master Quest or something and I turn around trying to figure out what just happened. Recently I’ve been trying to work on that.

However, sometimes you find something really good when you’re piddling around on the internet doing “research.” I recently came across a really intelligent and funny webcomic.

The comic is called “Hark! A Vagrant,” written and drawn by artist/history major/Time Lord Kate Beaton.  Now, I read a lot of webcomics before, but this one is one of the smartest ones I’ve come across. It does not have a continous storyline, all the comics basically being one-offs. What makes it really smart is that almost every comic is either about a historical and/or literary figure or event. It manages to be funny and historically accurate. You can really tell Beaton’s love of history by looking at any one of her comics. I don’t get all the historical references by any means (I’ve had to google the subject of her comics quite a few times), but most of the time, even if you’re not quite aware of the historical reference she’s making, it still manages to be funny and witty.

Not all the comics are about history, as there are quite a few funny and endearing ones about Beaton interacting with her younger self, as well as a few comics that are just funny without referencing history or literature (one of my personal favorite comics that I’ve read so far is about Aquaman).

If you like history even a little bit, this comic will have you in stitches. Like I said, you may not get every single comic fully without using google, but the same can be said of many other good comics (I’m specifically thinking of xkcd). It’s definitely worth a look.

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Pokethulhu

I’m sure it should come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog, all three of you, that I’m familiar with tabletop RPGs. I don’t get a chance to play them very often, but I do enjoy them. I’ve played D&D before (though not as much as I would have liked) and have read up on many RPGs. Even if the rule systems seem really complex, I still like looking through a lot of the RPG books, if for no other reason than many have cool settings and monsters to read about.

Having said that, when I do get the rare opportunity to try out a new game system, nothing turns me off more than overcomplicated sets of rules. And, while it isn’t always a bad thing, I tend to have an aversion to settings which take themselves too seriously, like World of Darkness and Call of Cthulhu and the like. Not that I have a problem with their settings or systems, but simply because the group of friends I play with have more fun when we don’t take everything so seriously, which is really the main objective of games.

Recently, I came across a game (a free game, no less) that most of my group of friends was instantly excited about. The game is called Pokethulhu, which is exactly what it sounds like: a role-playing game mixing Pokemon and Call of Cthulhu.

This is a real game. I am not kidding.

One look at this game told me it didn’t take itself as seriously as many other games do. Not only that, it combined Pokemon, which are cheerful, addictive games I loved as a kid and still love today, with H.P. Lovecraft, whose stories all involved horrible gods from beyond our plane of existance who can easily drive a person completely insane just by being within their line of vision, plunging them into an unending madness from which there is no wake. Needless to say, hilarity ensues.

I have to say, for a crossover parody, this works surprisingly well. Injecting cosmic evil into Pokemon is not as difficult as you would think. In fact, it’s a relatively simple progression. Pokemon are now Pokethulhu, mini-abominations from the depths of space who feast on human souls, Pokemon trainers are now “Pokethulhu Cultists,” and so on. The setting even teases versions of Team Rocket and Nurse Joys in this universe. It doesn’t give a lot of setting details and the system is very simple, but I like that. It give more room to create and gives you plenty of ideas for directions to go with the world, without setting the world in stone. The system makes character creation very easy, which is fantastic because it takes a long time to create characters in most tabletop systems (D&D 3.5 players at the very least should know what I’m talking about here). The setting gives combat rules for people as well as Pokethulhu and characters have their own stats, which I like since I sort of expected a Pokemon-base RPG to focus exclusively on animals for combat. It gives plenty of sample monsters and makes it easy to create your own. Those samples include cute little beings of eldritch horror like this:

Pikathulhu, the Electric Mouse/Dreaming God pokethulhu

Or this:

Cthonyx, the Crawling, Oozing Chaos

And even this:

Yog-Sothoth, the Beyond One, one with all of time and space, all that was and that will ever be, whose very form is so vast and beyond human comprehension that entire civilizations can be easily driven to unfathomable madness, chaos, and self-destruction simply for attempting to comprehend one-one trillionth of its non-Euclidean form.

He’s kinda like a Legendary.

Joking aside, this system gives a lot of freedom and has a sense of humor that is just plain fun to play around with. It’s very easy to pick up and play without having to deal with too many rules or bounderies. And best of all, it’s now provided for free on the company’s website. You can find the link here.

My friend and I did a test run of the game just a few days ago and had a really good time. Frankly I can’t wait to give it another go. It’s in its third edition now, but it is woefully underappreciated. If you want to play a tabletop game that doesn’t take terribly long to setup and get into or you just want to try out a game with a lot of humor thrown in, check it out.