Classic on the BS2: The Secret of NIMH

Today, my oldest daughter and I watched The Secret of NIMH since it’s free on Amazon Prime video. It’s a classic movie from my childhood, and one of the last of the great classically animated movies. Even prior to its release in 1982, director Don Bluth felt that computerization was taking over the animation industry and set out to make the film with no automated help.

In an era that gave us Filmation’s He-man & the Masters of the Universe, She-ra: Princess of Power, Blackstar, Bravestarr, and others, this movie was a refreshing change. These animated series stressed quantity over quality. As I’ve been fond of saying regarding the Filmation Masters of the Universe and Princess of Power series, “For every ‘Rainbow Warrior,’ there’s at least a dozen ‘Flowers for Hordak.'” (Seriously. Watch those episodes if you don’t believe me.)

Animation needs approximately 24 frames per second to simulate motion. Filmation typically did 12-15 frames per second. They also tried to use a dozen or more tricks to speed up the process and reduce the amount of drawings they needed, such as drawing characters as part of the background and only animating mouths and eyes, reusing animated sequences on different backgrounds, using the same character colored differently for different people (Celice the Singer, the Queen of Aquatica, and Mira daughter of Kor the Sorcerer were all the same character in the same outfit).

My childhood was equally Filmation as it was Secret of NIMH. It’s unfair, likely, to compare a series with a movie. Budget, scope, and personnel are totally different. I still watch He-man and She-ra. Don’t think I’m slamming Filmation. That isn’t my intent.

But each frame in The Secret of NIMH is hand-drawn and hand-painted. No automation. No computers. And the detail is incredible. IMdB reports that they filmed the main character, Mrs. Brisby, in 46 different lighting situations, each requiring its own color palette for painting. Animators and painters were working 100 hour weeks, unpaid, to finish the film on time.

The result is amazing. Continue reading “Classic on the BS2: The Secret of NIMH”

Hero Quest Quest Pack #1: Skraggmar

For the start of my new blog focus on RPGs, let’s ask a question: What is the next logical step after the one-page dungeon?

An interlinked campaign of adventures.

The one-page dungeons that I’ve already put up, both the HeroQuest adventures and the ones from last year that showcased the Shrines map pack, formed a loose story. Each adventure was its own story, but it had running subplots that made it part of a larger narrative. In this case, however, each Quest is a “level” of a larger dungeon. Each Quest is not its own story. The full story’s main plot requires each Quest to tell it.

A reader emailed me about the Quest Pack series that I had posted at Agin’s Inn over 20 years ago. He and his group had completed the original three and he had wondered if I had ever made the promised sequel.

At the time, no. But I wrote it for his group and I hope that they enjoyed it. Over the next few weeks, I will re-release the Quest Packs that led up to Adventure in Arcania, my most ambitious Hero Quest idea ever.

Let’s start at the beginning, with Skraggmarr the giant skeleton.

Download the PDF here!

Focus Change: RPG & Reviews

I’ve written about writing, I’ve written about comic books, I’ve done one product review, I’ve written about RPGs.

I seem to gain the most followers on Twitter from the RPG community.

I get the most page views on the sole product review I did.

Reviews and RPGs are not the direction I want to go, but this is the direction that my readers are telling me to go in. Savvy business guy that I am, I know that if want to grow my readership I need to go where the numbers are urging me to go.

From this point forward, the focus of the blog will be on tabletop RPGs and reviews of new products. For RPG content, look for original adventures (particularly one-page dungeons). I will likely review new RPG content as well, combining the two new focal points.

For product reviews, I’m up to suggestions. Please leave any in the comments section below. I’m looking mainly for products that writers would find interesting or useful. I’m a slow reader so book reviews probably aren’t the best idea.

50 Books in a Year: Can I Do It?

I’ve seen a challenge floating around for a couple of years now: Read 50 Books in a Year. Normally I balk at social media challenges, but I decided to take this one on.

Why? Well, I love reading. Last year, I tracked many of the books I read. I don’t think it was all of the books I read, but I came up with 15. It seems that the average American, not just the ones who “love to read,” read about 5-12 books per year.

If I “love to read” so much, why I am I barely reading more than average? Continue reading “50 Books in a Year: Can I Do It?”

D&D ENCOUNTER: The Water Princess

For Christmas, my niece received a mermaid costume and a butterfly wand. She wore the costume, carried the wand, and still had both of her stuffed dragons in tow. I knew there was at least a Dungeons & Dragons encounter in this mish-mash of mythology.

The Water Princess (EL 7)

No one knows the origin of the strange creature calling herself the Water Princess. She appeared in the marshes some years back, apparently the only example of her kind. She’s a strange hybrid of nymph and water mephit, so some loremasters have posited that she is a magical experiment escaped from her creator.

The Water Princess is driven by curiosity, latching onto adventurers (especially wizards) and asking endless questions about nature, science, and arcane magic. She thirsts for knowledge and loves learning new things. Even if she isn’t tagging along with a group of adventurers, she can often be spotted doing experiments or studying animals. She may be responsible for building some of the odd contraptions seen in the marshes. Continue reading “D&D ENCOUNTER: The Water Princess”

NEW AUDIO: The Unliklies, Episode 6

The final episode of The Unliklies is here at last.

Now that Skeletor has joined the intrepid band of adventurers, can they retake Grayskull before all of Eternia is swallowed whole?

Trivia [SPOILERS!]

  • First complete episode to be recorded by switching between voices in one take instead of my normal method of recording each voice in its own take.
  • “O Fortuna” is the Trans-Siberian Orchestra version, purposely selected because my oldest daughter loves TSO and goes with my parents, wife, and I annually to see their concerts.
  • The “post credits scene” with Barricade and Mo-Lec-U-Lar was entirely ad-libbed after I realized that I hadn’t included Mo-Lec-U-Lar in the final battle sequence.
  • This audio drama was written in 2016, a year before Skeletor and Mumm-Ra teamed up in the MOTU/Thundercats crossover comic book series. I had that idea first!!

The Final Quest… for now

I’ve been having too much fun with these daily Quests for the Hero Quest board game.

All good things, however, must come to an end. You’ve now recovered all of the Artifacts from the Game System. Did you notice that, in most of their backstories, that they were stolen?

It is, therefore, fitting that your final Quest seeks the one who coordinated their theft in the first place. Good luck.

Download the PDF here.