Google+ The Geeks Menagerie: July 2012

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Orcs ond Gnolls - Wizards D&D Next article!

Features Archive | 7/31/2012New!

Orcs and Gnolls
Wandering Monsters

By James Wyatt

In a recent Rule-of-Three article, Rodney Thompson talked a little bit about our approach to monster design. That column was well-timed, because we’re starting a big push on monsters right now. The D&D Story Team is leading the charge on this effort for the moment, and this column is a place for us to share what we’re thinking so that we can solicit your input.
Our job right now has very little to do with monster statistics. We are tasked with making sure that everyone is in agreement about the core story idea of D&D’s most important monsters. We’re going to be producing one-page documents for each of those monsters, and each page will describe what they are, what they’re good and not-so-good at, how they live, how they fight, what their special abilities are, and what they look like. The idea is that we can hand these documents over to the design team, and the designers can provide statistics that express all that information in the context of the D&D Next rules.
At the same time, we can also give these documents to a team or a licensing partner working on a D&D board game, digital game, or T-shirt design, so they can take that information and find the right expression of those monsters for their own particular media. In the case of T-shirt design, we just need to make sure the dragon on the shirt is recognizable as a D&D dragon. But for digital games and the like, when you’re fighting an orc in any D&D game, you should recognize it as a D&D orc—not just because it looks like an orc, but because it acts like an orc.
So this column is a way for us to make sure we’re not going wildly astray. I have a lot of issues and questions I want to explore and get your opinion on as this column continues—we’ll talk about goblinoids, wereboars, metallic dragons, locathah, yuan-ti, devils, wolverines, and more before we’re done. It seemed to me that a good place to start was with theRule-of-Three article from July 3, 2012.
That's not always going to be the case, though; many monsters, especially among the humanoids, are likely to be very similar in their numerical statistics. As such, they may need something more exceptions-based to differentiate them from one another, so that you feel the difference when you're fighting an orc as opposed to a gnoll.
—from Rule-of-Three: 07/03/2012
The various humanoid races were a starting point for our discussions, and orcs and gnolls make a good example of the sorts of things we’ve been talking about. Let’s start with orcs.


Orcs are savage, both in the sense of being fiercely violent and untamed, and in the historically loaded sense of being uncivilized and primitive in their technology. They’re good at offense—when an orc hits you, you’re going to feel it. They use big weapons such as greataxes or greatclubs. And they’re known for their fury in combat, launching a ferocious and violent assault against their foes. They’re strong and hardy—you’d expect orcs to have high Strength and Constitution scores—but they’re not very smart (low Intelligence).
They’re not so good at defense. They rely on their sheer ferocity to keep them going despite their wounds, rather than wearing heavy armor to protect them from wounds. Their choice of armor ties to their primitive technology as well: you expect to see orcs in piecemeal armor, such as hides ornamented with plates and belts stripped from fallen foes. The armor serves as a souvenir of past successful battles as well as protection.
Similarly, orcs aren’t very good at organization. They’re chaotic evil, gathering in loose bands or tribes where the strongest rule and the weak are bullied or killed. They do have a modicum of social order, with a rough hierarchy based on relative strength, and they use ritualized combat to resolve challenges. In combat, it’s every orc for itself, with each orc more interested in earning personal glory than in securing victory for the group. They hate sunlight, and they fight less effectively in daylight.
Orcs raid neighboring settlements for treasure, supplies, and slaves. Their bands leave trails of destruction, slaughtering and burning everything in their path. Those unlucky enough to be captured by orcs are put to work, and these slaves work until they die from exhaustion or starvation.
The bulk of an orc band is made up of common orcs with little in the way of special abilities. Powerful individual orcs with special abilities might include an Eye of Gruumsh (an orc champion devoted to the one-eyed orc god), or a cleric or shaman who serves any one of the orc deities. Other uncommon individuals in a band include orogs (larger, elite orcs) and berserkers, who turn their race’s natural ferocity into a thing of terror on the battlefield.
To borrow a turn of phrase from the original AD&D Player’s Handbook, “Orcs are fecund and create many cross-breeds, most of the offspring of such being typically orcish.” In other words, you can also expect to see a number of very orclike half-orcs fighting among a tribe of orcs. Ogrillons (half-ogre orcs) are a particularly fierce breed, and half-orcs with human parentage can put their superior intelligence to good use in leading groups of orcs, though they must constantly prove their strength and ferocity to defend their positions against challengers who see them as weak. As well as half-orcs, it’s common to see ogres, boars, and wolves as allies to an orc band.


Gnolls have certain characteristics in common with orcs. Both races are predominantly chaotic evil, and thus lacking in structured social organizations or regimented military forces. Gnolls gather in family groups (packs) that are led by the strongest individual, which is sometimes a female. Both orcs and gnolls tend to be strong and pretty dumb. They both might have champions who fly into berserker rage during combat, and they wear hides and scavenged pieces of armor.
On the other hand, gnolls have a lot to differentiate them from the savage orcs, and these differences are largely tied to their close association with hyenas. Hyenas are actually pretty disturbing animals. The strange laughing sound they’re known for can be really eerie. They’re also a strange example of convergent evolution: an animal related to cats and mongooses that looks more like a dog. Strange anatomy, the way they mark their territory—hyenas are just strange. I suspect that’s why folklore tends to associate them with witchcraft and grave robbing.
Gnolls are strange and loathsome, too, largely because of their close association with the demon prince Yeenoghu. They’re demon worshipers, so they’re not just savage like orcs, they’re downright depraved. Gnolls kill and dismember their foes because they enjoy it. According to the 2nd Edition AD&D Monstrous Manual, they “favor intelligent creatures over animals [as prey] because they scream better.” They offer blood sacrifices to their demon prince, and they’re sometimes rewarded with the aid of a demon for their next raid or assault.
In addition to their interactions with demons, gnolls often have hyenas (or the giant dire hyenas) as guard animals or companions, treating them as members of the same pack. Occasionally multiple packs join together for large raids, though fighting between members of different packs is common during these raids, particularly when they squabble over food. A town or village that suffers such a raid is an eerie and terrifying place: blood is splattered and smeared over floors and walls, and only scraps of bodies remain uneaten. Any residents who survive the attack are dragged back to the gnolls’ home and tortured, sacrificed to Yeenoghu, or simply eaten when the gnolls have regained their appetite.
A few other things that differentiate gnolls from orcs: Gnolls are more agile (high Dexterity) and poor leaders (low Charisma). They have accomplished archers, partly because of that high Dexterity. Gnolls are cowardly, so they’re apt to flee from a fight that turns against them. They prefer hunting in outdoor environments (having no difficulties in sunlight), though they make their lairs in caves.
Unusual gnolls in a pack might include the beastmasters who work most closely with the hyenas, specialized archers or rangers, demon summoners, and sacred warriors believed to be imbued with the killing spirit of Yeenoghu.

What Do You Think?

Head over to the Wizards of the coast site and take a survey about this article, they need the feed back people so help them create a great next version of D&D! HERE

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

X-O Manowar #5!

X-O #5, I am really looking forward to this book, just look at the covers! Ninjak was always one of my favorite books back in the day and I cant wait to see what happens in this book.

X-O Manowar #5 – the FIRST ISSUE of an all-new arc pitting X-O Manowar against Ninjak and a perfect jumping-on point for new readers! Join New York Times best-selling author Robert Venditti (The Surrogates) and acclaimed artist Lee Garbett (Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne) as the sudden arrival of the X-O Manowar armor on Earth ignites an extraterrestrial arms race – one that Ninjak will aim to win by any means necessary.
After a failed brute force attempt on the life of Aric of Dacia, Vine agents deep within MI6 have only one option left in their gambit to retrieve the X-O Manowar armor – call in the deadly mercenary known as Ninjak! But what happens when the world’s foremost weapons specialist engages the Earth’s most powerful weapon head on? And even if Ninjak can defeat the armor’s defenses, does he stand a chance against the savage warrior that controls it?

Shadowman from valiant!

Look really close to this teaser image from Valiant entertainment! Shadowman is looking very cool, kind of reminds me of the Phantom mixed with a voodoo doctor! This book is coming in November

Monday, July 23, 2012

Legends & Lore Archive 7/23/2012 New!

Straight from the Wizards of the coast website -

Monster Creation in D&D Next
Legends and Lore
Mike Mearls

ust last week, I spent an afternoon creating monster stat blocks for the next phase of the D&D Next playtest. I thought it would be interesting to show the current state of the monster creation process.
When it comes to combat, the math that our system uses assumes an adventuring day that lasts a number of rounds and involves a total experience point value for monsters based on the party’s level. Higher-level parties fight more and face tougher creatures.
The adventure design guidelines give an XP budget for an entire day, a range of XP values for easy, average, and tough fights, and a suggested maximum XP value for a single monster. In other words, you have a daily budget you can spend, guidelines for how much of that budget to spend on a given fight, and a limit of how much XP you can spend on a single monster. As with everything that focuses on the DM, this is all advice to use as you see fit.
In this system, a monster’s experience point value is the basic measure of its power. Tougher monsters are worth more XP. That’s the only number you have to worry about when building encounters and adventures.
The monster design process boils down to creating a monster’s stats and abilities, and then using the system math to determine its XP value. I’ll use a monster I created for the playtest, the minotaur, as an example to walk you through the steps of monster design.

Determining Level and Power

To start with, you first need to decide the monster’s equivalent character level and its relative power. Here’s a way to frame it as a question: In a generic dungeon, on what level does the monster most commonly show up?
For the minotaur, I settled on 5th level. The next step is to consider the minotaur’s relative power. We have three categories, tentatively labeled mook, elite, and solo. A mook is the equivalent of one character, an elite the equivalent of two, and a solo the equivalent of four. You can also think of the categories by size, with mook being the equivalent of the typical Medium or smaller creature, an elite a Large creature, and a solo a Huge or larger creature. I’ve pegged the minotaur as an elite, since it is size Large. Creatures weaker than a mook are simply lower-level monsters thrown at a higher-level party.
You can also skip this step, assign stats, and generate an XP value for the creature. By picking out a level and power rating, though, you can more easily compare your final creature to a set of generic stats that we have for each level. In fact, you can combine the generic guidelines for AC, attack bonus, hit points, and damage by level, with a few simple abilities to create monsters on the fly.

Assigning Statistics

At this stage, things are more freeform. To start with, you assign scores to the six abilities. One thing to keep in mind is that the range of abilities is a little narrower in D&D Next. Scores above 18 are for truly remarkable characters and monsters. Here’s what I have for the minotaur:
Strength 18, Dexterity 11, Constitution 15, Intelligence 6, Wisdom 16, Charisma 9
Minotaurs are strong and tough, plus they compensate for a dim intellect with their ferocious cunning. A minotaur might not plan an elaborate ambush, but its excellent senses and intuition make it a deadly hunter when it is patrolling a labyrinth.

Crafting Attacks

The ability scores form the basis of the minotaur’s attacks. Its 18 Strength gives it a +4 attack bonus, which is on target for its level. I settled on the greataxe as the default minotaur weapon. Since minotaurs are size Large, their weapons deal one more die of damage than normal size weapons. Thus, the minotaur attacks at +4 with its greataxe, inflicting 2d12 + 4 damage on a hit. Those are in line with its level and power rating.
If the minotaur’s stats didn’t line up with the expected numbers, I could give it a proficiency or skill bonus to its attacks. We generally assume that any creature that lacks a class also lacks an attack bonus. That said, creatures that typically train with their weapons or have a natural skill with the weapons can receive an attack bonus similar to a character’s. As an example, we depict hobgoblins as the products of a highly militarized society. They have a bonus to attack rolls to indicate that. This allows us to reflect skill without using class levels.
Another alternative in this case would be to increase the minotaur’s damage. It swings wildly, but hits hard. In some cases, a creature’s lack of training might translate into an attack roll penalty. A dim hill giant with a 20 Strength might swing only with a +3 to hit, since it is too clumsy and dense to make the most of its strength when it comes to accuracy.

Generating Hit Points

For hit points, a level 5 elite monster should sit somewhere in the 50s. Note that this is lower than what you’ve seen in the playtest so far. As mentioned in our latest podcast, we’ve deflated hit points and damage across the system. Character and monster hit points are lower, while damage has also come down a notch. It’s worth noting that we did not change magical or Hit Die healing for now. We’re interested in seeing if dropping overall hit points makes healing feel more useful.
The minotaur uses the default d10 Hit Die for size Large creatures. Having 10d10 Hit Dice plus its Constitution bonus puts it at 57 hit points (hit points per d10 Hit Die averages to 5.5). As you can see, the Constitution score has a much smaller effect on a monster’s overall hit points. Instead, a tough monster has more Hit Dice and therefore more hit points.

Setting the Armor Class

The minotaur’s AC is a good example of where we can introduce factors such as skill and natural armor on top of the ability scores. For the minotaur, its AC is 10 without armor due to its average Dexterity. We don’t expect the typical minotaur to wear armor, but it should have a tougher than normal hide and fur to protect it. I peg its AC at 16, average for a level 5 creature and the equivalent of chainmail in our revised armor tables. Thus, it has a base AC of 16 due to its hide and fur.
It’s worth noting that in this system, armor does not stack with other types of armor. Armor gives you a base AC. If you have multiple armors, you take the one that gives you the highest base AC.

Filling in the Details

Things such as speed, initiative, and alignment are either based on past representations of the monster or derived from its abilities. At this stage, the basic numbers are done. We need to add a few special abilities to round out the minotaur. Here they are in an unplaytested version.
Rage +5/5: This creature can choose to take disadvantage on a melee attack to gain +5 damage. If that attack misses but either die roll was 10 or higher, the attack is instead a glancing blow that deals 5 damage. The attack still counts as a miss for determining other special effects or abilities.
Goring Charge: On its turn, this creature can use its movement to move at least half its speed in a straight line and then use its action to make a special melee attack. This melee attack is a gore attack (+4 attack, 3d10 + 4 damage). If it hits, the target must also make a Strength save (DC 12) or be knocked prone and, on its next turn, the target cannot use its movement to do anything other than stand up or crawl.
Keen Senses: This creature has a +5 bonus to all checks to detect hidden creatures, and the minimum of its d20 die roll on such checks is a 10.
The key with many of the monster abilities is that they are easy to use at the table and they are things that we can use with multiple creatures. If you understand how rage works with one creature, you can apply that knowledge again when other creatures use it. The specific values might change, but the basic process remains the same. Of course, we still use unique abilities. For instance, rage and keen senses are likely to show up on other creatures, but goring charge is likely to be unique to minotaurs.
Ideally, this storehouse of iconic abilities makes monster creation even faster for DMs, since you can pull in versions with bonuses or other variables set to their appropriate numbers for different level bands. For instance, rage offers a smaller bonus at low levels and a bigger one at higher levels.

Calculating Experience Points

At this stage, you then determine the power of the monster’s combat special abilities and use that, along with its stats, to compute its experience point value. Right now, that math is a work in progress. We have a rough estimation, but it will require a fair amount of playtesting to make sure that we’ve established the correct values for different special abilities.

Bonus: Evolving Chaos

As those of you participating in the D&D Next playtest know, the playtest materials come with an adaptation of the Caves of Chaos from the classic adventure B2 Keep on the Borderlands. Just to help you spice things up a little (and keep your players from feeling too confident that they know exactly what’s going on), here’s a little advice from Robert J. Schwalb on how to tweak the material and create fresh, interesting situations to challenge your playtest characters.

Upcoming Star wars Comics from Darkhorse

You can find all of these over at the Darkhorse store HERE

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Saturday, July 21, 2012



This past Friday, the number-one independent publisher in the industry took home an impressive number of awards at this year’s Eisner ceremony. With five awards, Dark Horse was only matched by Marvel, who had an equal number of wins! 
Below is a list of the company’s wins.
Best Anthology: Dark Horse Presents, edited by Mike Richardson
Best Humor Publication: Milk & Cheese: Dairy Products Gone Bad, by Evan Dorkin
Best Reality-Based Work: Green River Killer: A True Detective Story, by Jeff Jensen and Jonathan Case
Best U.S. Edition of International Material: The Manara Library, vol. 1: Indian Summer and Other Stories, by Milo Manara with Hugo Pratt
Best Lettering : Stan Sakai, Usagi Yojimbo 
In addition, members of the Dark Horse extended family picked up the following:
Best Digital Comic : Battlepug, by Mike Norton,
Best Cover Artist : Francesco Francavilla, Black Panther (Marvel); Lone Ranger, Lone Ranger/Zorro, Dark Shadows,Warlord of Mars (Dynamite); Archie Meets Kiss (Archie); Abe SapienBaltimoreB.P.R.D. Hell on Earth,Hellboy (Dark Horse)
Hall of Fame: Judges’ Choices: Rudolf Dirks, Harry Lucey, ?Bill Blackbeard, Richard Corben, Katsuhiro Otomo, Gilbert Shelton
Congratulations to all winners and nominees!

Wally Wood’s EC Stories Artist's Edition

Wally Wood’s EC Stories Artist's Edition PRE-ORDER
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Wally Wood’s EC Stories Artist's Edition PRE-ORDER


Because of overwhelming demand IDW is going back to press on the most acclaimed book of the year, Wally Wood’s EC Stories: Artist’s Edition.

This item is available for PRE-ORDER ONLY. It will not ship until it becomes available in late May to early June 2012.

IDW proudly presents WALLY WOOD’S EC STORIES: ARTIST'S EDITION, collecting more than a dozen complete stories by the great Wally Wood, plus an exceptional cover gallery. Each page is scanned from the original art, same size as drawn, and in full color (in insure the best possible reproduction). Since Wood’s originals were larger than modern size comic art, measuring 12 x 18 inches, plus the paper, this Artist’s Edition will be a GIGANTIC 15 x 22 inches!

Brought to you by the same team responsible for the Eisner Award-winning The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures Deluxe Edition and Walter Simonson’s The Mighty Thor: Artist’s Edition.



While appearing to be in black and white, each page was scanned in color to mimic as closely as possible the experience of viewing the actual original art—for instance, corrections and blue pencils. Each page is printed the same size as drawn, and the paper selected is as close as possible to the original art board.

Sergio Aragonés' Groo the Wanderer: Artist's Edition

Sergio Aragonés' Groo the Wanderer: Artist's Edition PRE-ORDER
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Sergio Aragonés' Groo the Wanderer: Artist's Edition 


This item is available for PRE-ORDER ONLY. It will not ship until it becomes available in July 2012.

IDW proudly presents SERGIO ARAGONÉS’ GROO THE WANDERER: ARTIST'S EDITION, collecting a classic four-part story in its entirety by the Mad, Manic, and Marvellous SERGIO ARAGONÉS! Sergio began his career at Mad Magazine in the early 1960s and has been drawing comics ever since.

In 1982 Sergio, with his frequent collaborator Mark Evanier, launched Groo the Wanderer. Groo has since become one of the most memorable and loveable characters of the last 30 years. This Artist's Edition measures 12 x 17 inches and features four oversized issues, including extras. Added bonus: the very first Groo story by Sergio (in redrawn form) will also be in this book. This Artist’s Edition is shipped in a custom cardboard box for maximum protection. Available in July.

Brought to you by the same team responsible for the Eisner Award-winning Dave Stevens' The Rocketeer: The Artist's Edition, as well as Wally Wood’s EC Stories: Artist’s Edition.



While appearing to be in black and white, each page was scanned in color to mimic as closely as possible the experience of viewing the actual original art—for instance, corrections, blue pencils, paste-overs, all the little nuances that make original art unique. Each page is printed the same size as drawn, and the paper selected is as close as possible to the original art board.


Mark Schultz’s Xenozoic Tales to be collected in Artist’s Edition Format!

Copied from IDW's Site, I had to get this posted for you! Read on =)

IDW presents classic covers and stories printed from original art

Xenozoic Artist EditionSan Diego, CA (July 13, 2012) – XENOZOIC TALES by Mark Schultz is a modern masterpiece. Set in a post-apocalyptic future, one now populated by dinosaurs and other incredible beasts, mankind is desperately trying to reclaim what was once theirs. Starring ace mechanic Jack Tenrec and the lovely and brilliant scientist Hannah Dundee,XENOZOIC TALES is a rollicking story filled with high adventure and nail-biting suspense.

Schultz creates a story that is beautifully told and exquisitely illustrated. A student of classic comic strip and comic book artists,Schultz’s influences include Al Williamson,Wally Wood and others, but, like all great artist’s, evolved into his own, unique self.

 XENOZOIC TALES: ARTIST'S EDITION is planned for a June 2013 release and will feature the last six issues. The book will measure 14” x 20,” will be approximately 144 pages, and boast a stunning cover gallery.

“If Mark Schultz was drawing in the 1950s he would have been very much at home working for EC Comics,” said editor Scott Dunbier.

“I look forward to seeing my pages reproduced at full size with a mixture of both fear and excitement,” Schultz said. “Given their excellent track record, I have no doubt that the folks at IDW will do this book up right.”

What is an Artist’s Edition? Artist’s Editions are printed the same size as the original art. While appearing to be in black & white, each page has been scanned in COLOR to mimic as closely as possible the experience of viewing the actual original art—for example, you are able to clearly see paste-overs, blue pencils in the art, editorial notes, art corrections. Each page is printed the same size as drawn, and the paper selected is as close as possible to the original art board.


The ROCKETEER ARTIST’S EDITION won two Eisner Awards last year, for Best Archival Project and Best Design.

Visit to learn more about the company and its top-selling books. IDW can also be found at!/idwpublishing and and on Twitter at @idwpublishing.

About IDW Publishing
IDW is an award-winning publisher of comic books, graphic novels and trade paperbacks, based in San Diego, California. Renowned for its diverse catalog of licensed and independent titles, IDW publishes some of the most successful and popular titles in the industry, including: Hasbro’s The TRANSFORMERS and G.I. JOE, Paramount’s Star Trek; HBO’s True Blood; the BBC’s DOCTOR WHO; Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; Toho’s Godzilla; Wizards of the Coasts Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons; and the Eisner-Award winning Locke & Key series, created by best-selling author Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez. IDW is also home to the Library of American Comics imprint, which publishes classic comic reprints, and Yoe! Books, a partnership with Yoe! Studio.

IDW’s critically- and fan-acclaimed series are continually moving into new mediums. Currently, Jerry Bruckheimer Films and Disney are creating a feature film based on World War Robot, while Michael Bay‘s Platinum Dunes and Sony are bringing Zombies vs. Robots to film.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Awesome ROBOTECH update from Palladium Books!

Straight from Palladiums news letter here is the exert:

UPDATE: Robotech®

You haven’t heard us talk about Robotech® much lately, because we have been secretly working on some big plans for that game line. As you know, I try to keep you informed about everything going on at Palladium Books®. However, sometimes we just can’t reveal our plans or projects for strategic business reasons. For example, we didn’t want a competitor trying to swoop in on Robotech® if we talked too much about our plans. Moreover, we get some fan complaints when we talk about an upcoming project and it gets delayed, or worse, it falls through. We didn’t want that to happen with Robotech®, so we quietly stopped talking about the line but kept working on things behind the scenes. Well, I can finally give you an exciting update.
This week, Palladium Books signed a deal to expand its current Robotech® license with Harmony Gold USA, Inc., including the right to produce and sell pewter game pieces of Robotech® mecha and spaceships. This has been one of the secret projects we’ve been working on for months. Our thanks to Tom Roache, Jon Paulson, Jeff Burke and Carmen Bellaire, along with many others, for their help with our investigation and research on the subject. How soon can you expect to see 1/285 scale mecha available? Probably not until next year sometime. We’ll keep you posted. Sculptors wanted.