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D&D Minis: War Drums at retailers

At Retailers (March 1, 2006) In the distance, the sound of the War Drums echo over the rolling hills as the armies prepare to face off in mortal combat.

Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures: War Drums was released this week at retailers in the United States. This new set features a higher amount of fighter classes and various warrior factions than previous D&D Minis sets.

Fans of Eberron’s warforged will be happy to find four new warforged in this army’s ranks: Warforged Captain, Warforged Scout, Warforged Bodyguard, and the Warforged Barbarian. With the uncanny success of Eberron, it’s no surprise this race would be so featured in this set.

Dragon fans will be pleased to see the Large Bronze Dragon, which has an excellent paint job and sculpt as do a great many of the miniatures in this set. Several longtime minis fans at Changing Hands Book Shoppe in Joplin, Mo., reported they thought this was the best-painted set of D&D Minis they’ve seen yet.

This set also includes six Epic characters, as first introduced in the last release: D&D Minis: Underdark.

War Drums is the third set of D&D Minis to come in a starter box in addition to the standard booster boxes. Starter boxes retail for $19.95 and include several extra miniatures, including two specific ones (commons) for a specific combat scenario included in the box. The starter box also includes two new maps for the minis game. Booster boxes include the standard eight minis and retail at $12.95.

For the complete checklist, check our D&D Minis resources: http://t-rob.com/ddmini.htm

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SW Minis: Attack on Endor beginsStar Wars Lightsaber

At Retailers (March 1, 2006) If the yapping noises of Ewoks and the zapping noises of blaster rifles weren’t enough to let you know the Attack on Endor had begun, the shaking of the trees as the Imperial AT-ST stomps its way on through might be your final answer.

Star Wars Miniatures: Attack on Endor was released this week at retailers in the United States. This new set features a repaint of the AT-ST huge miniature released in the SW Minis: Universe set in August 2005 and re-releases of three Imperial troops: Scout Trooper, Stormtrooper and Stormtrooper Officer. The only differences are a different symbol on the bottom of the minis as well as a different symbol on their cards. All you need to complete this scene is a small, rag-tag army of Ewoks to slaughter at will. Ewoks were part of the SW Minis: Rebel Storm set released in August 2004 and later re-released in 2005.

This new set retails for $19.95 and also includes two double-sided maps and a scenario booklet that also includes statistics for several characters (and also the BARC Speeder and Boga the varactyl, aka Obi-Wan’s mount from Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith) for the Star Wars Roleplaying Game Revised Edition d20 by Wizards of the Coast. Fans of the Expanded Universe will be pleased to get RPG stats for Kyle Katarn (Dark Forces/Jedi Knight series of computer games), Dark Trooper Phase III (from the same games), Grand Admiral Thrawn (from Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy of novels), Baron Fel (Imperial pilot from the Rogue Squadron novels), plus Prince Xizor and his follower Guri (both from the Shadows of the Empire novel and games).

For the complete checklist, check our SW Minis resources: http://t-rob.com/swmini.htm

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Spider-MIB sighted

By Editor T. Rob Brown
Online (Feb. 24, 2006) It’s official -- movie Spider-Man is now an MIB.

According to the official Spider-Man 3 movie website at SonyPictures.com, the webhead will be wearing black in the third installment of Sam Raimi’s movie series based on Marvel Comics’ famed wall-crawler.

In leiu of singing the Will Smith Men in Black theme song, he might decide to choose Back in Black by AC/DC.

Previously, Sony released a photo (see below) on Oct. 5, 2005, of one of the villains who has a striking resemblance to Sandman from the comics (Thomas Haden Church as Flint Marko -- aka Sandman).

"In addition to the on-going relationship between Peter Parker and M.J., these films are driven by the great actors who have brought our villains to life," Raimi told Sony Pictures’ website. "Thomas Haden Church will be a fantastic and challenging new nemesis and we all look forward to working with him."

Keeping in mind the addition of the black costume, this leads us to the questions: Will Venom be the other villain? Is the addition of the black costume only a precursor to Venom becoming the key villain for Spider-Man 4? Every avid Spider-Man fan out there knows Venom is a strong enough supervillain to be a one-villain movie, just as were the Green Goblin and Dr. Octopus.

Photo Credit: Merie Wallace for Sony Pictures

Another key cast member, Topher Grace (most famous for That ’70s Show), was announced back on May 19, 2005, for Spider-Man 3, by director Sam Raimi and producers Laura Ziskin and Marvel Studio’s Avi Arad. Grace joins Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, and Thomas Haden Church in the blockbuster franchise.

"Spider-Man will face double the trouble in our next film and I couldn’t be more excited about the direction we are taking Peter Parker and the franchise," Raimi said. "Topher Grace is an extraordinarily-talented actor and will be perfect for the complexities of the role we are developing."

If the rumor mill is correct, Grace will be playing Eddie Brock, who becomes Venom. Even if you don’t believe the rumors, Kirsten Dunst, who plays Mary Jane, accidentally let it slip in a media interview that Church and Grace were playing Sandman and Venom. Reportedly, Dunst had not seen the movie’s script at that time.

Given all the cameos or tie-ins to the comics, it can be difficult to guess just which supervillains will pop up and when in Sam Raimey’s rendition. One thing money can probably safely bet on is that Bruce Campbell will return for a third Spider-Man cameo.

In the past two movies, brief cameos or references were made to Eddie Brock (the Daily Bugle reporter who becomes Venom and who hates photojournalist Peter Parker/Spider-Man for getting him fired from the newspaper), Dr. Conners (who becomes the Lizard), J. Jonah Jameson’s son (who becomes the Man-Wolf due to a moon rock that grafts itself to his skin -- and in some versions of the story, brings the alien symbiote -- aka the black costume and aka later as Venom -- down from outerspace), and countless others.

In the comics, Spider-Man was forced to rip the moon rock from Man-Wolf’s throat, accidentally killing J. Jonah Jameson’s son in the process. For this deed, Jameson was never able to forgive the web-slinger and went on to hire thugs to kill Spider-Man, and even went so far as to create the Scorpion to help fulfill his want for revenge. Will the movies follow the plot of the comics? Perhaps or perhaps only loosely. Marvel has been known to re-write its own storylines, as do many other comic companies, to conform to changes in society and technology.

At this point, only Sam Raimey knows. One thing’s for sure: Tobey Maguire returns as Peter Parker / Spider-Man in Spider-Man 3, in movie theaters May 4, 2007.

The Spider-Man film franchise has grossed more than $1.5 billion in worldwide ticket sales to date. Production on Spider-Man 3, which was written by Alvin Sargent, was scheduled to begin early 2006.

For the official photo: http://spiderman.sonypictures.com/

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D&D Online: Stormreach prepares for launch
Eberron campaign setting becomes the location for an MMORPG

By Editor T. Rob Brown
Online (Feb. 18, 2006) They’re most likely the first name to come to mind when one thinks of role-playing yet it has taken Dungeons & Dragons a long time to leap onto the MMORPG caravan.

For those who believed Everquest, Asheron’s Call, Dark Age of Camelot, World of Warcraft, and countless other fantasy MMORPGs (Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) that have come before and paled in comparison to the epic pen-and-paper games they played in yesteryear -- this is their chance to see if the D&D name can live up to those expectations.

Developed by Turbine, the company that currently controls the Asheron’s Call franchise started by Microsoft, this game is perhaps what some die-hard D&D fans have been waiting for since the mid-’90s when MMORPGs first came to life in the form of Meridian 59, Ultima Online, and the early MUDs. Previously, the closest ways to play D&D games online was via the original SSI Neverwinter Nights on AOL in the ’90s, multiplayer networked games of Baldur’s Gate series by BioWare, and the most popular online D&D game to date: Neverwinter Nights, also by BioWare -- yet none of these were true MMORPGs.

Fans will, of course, have to fork over about $15 a month or less (depending on the payment play they select) to play D&D Online when it is released in late February 2006.

As with any modern PC/Mac game, it has undergone rigorous alpha and beta testing by true fans and newcomers alike. Thus far, one of the major drawbacks reported is that in order to gain enough experience points to get to the next level, some quests might have to be repeated by your character up to three times (on easy, medium and hard difficulty settings). Some beta testers have reported this repeating of quests can break the feel of the game while others didn’t seem to mind the repetition.

Other fans have reported their dislike of the experience point (XP) reward system used in the game. In most modern MMORPGs, experience points are awarded to the character per kill -- in otherwords, everytime you kill something you get XP. This system can lead to several issues including repetitive "milking," "camping," or basically a hack-n-slash mentality to get every single bit of XP off monster kills. For some, this type of activity becomes so redundant, they get bored and quit playing the game while others enjoy the constant onslaught of death. For true role-play (RP) fans, gaining XP for every monster kill can become distracting and unbalancing to the game. Imagine a rogue, who does not possess the vast number of hit points (HP) as a fighter or barbarian, who must wade through 20 orcs to get to the destination to retrieve an artifact and bring it back to the non-player character (NPC) who issued the quest. First, it is highly unlikely a rogue would run through the quest, killing every orc just to get XP -- that’s not good RP. Second, if the rogue avoided the orcs (as a rogue would do RP-wise), he/she would get less XP than the fighter who ran through slaughtering orcs at will.

In many home pen-and-paper games of D&D, dungeon masters (DMs) issue XP per completed quest (the quest XP total includes the average XP one would have earned for the monster kills). If the rogue is able to sneak past the orcs, it is the same as if they were defeated -- think of the orcs as an obstacle, they don’t have to be killed to be defeated. Some custom Neverwinter Nights worlds such as the Broodslayers Official PW have used similar methods -- reducing monster kill XP down to 2 percent of the D&D standard, while making quest XP (or bonus XP from DMs -- also known as adhoc XP) the focused way to level.

Ever since its release in 2004, the Eberron campaign setting created by Keith Baker has become a big hit with D&D fans. It was the first campaign setting completely built using the 3.5 edition rules, it was Wizards of the Coast’s (WOTC) elite choice from thousands of campaign settings submitted in a major campaign search, and is being fully supported by WOTC with frequent book releases, novels, and now two computer games (the other was the real-time strategy (RTS) game Dragonshard).

For some fans, the Eberron campaign setting is new and fresh -- for others, it is too disimilar to Ed Greenwood’s Forgotten Realms campaign setting, which older fans have come to love and cherish through the years. For those new to Eberron, it is a world that follows all the rules and traditions of D&D staples like Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms but offers many new twists -- the chief, of which, are the warforged. Yes, you can play a warforged race character in D&D Online. Warforged are living constructs forged during a great war that spread across Eberron. Although they share some of the same traits with the monsters known as constructs, they are sentient and constructed differently so they do have critical locations and do not possess all the amazing abilities of a true construct. As a player race, a warforged can be great at most anything -- but they are excellent fighters and barbarians.

At this time, the shifter (lycanthrope descendant), changeling (doppleganger descendant), and kalashtar (human-alien hybrid race) have not been introduced as player races for the online version of Eberron. In addition, the artificer class is not available at this time.

The world of Eberron combines the feel of traditional D&D with a sprinkling of steampunk, some action-adventure of the Indiana Jones variety, and a dab of the old gumshoe-style private investigator stories. You put all that together, stir in some gnomish contraptions, high magic, introduce technology -- but not as technology -- as magical enchantments, and an in-depth history of a war that completely reshaped the world, and you have a very unique place indeed.

If you would like to learn more about D&D Online and pre-ordering, check out Turbine’s website HERE.

Turbine is also developing the forthcoming Lord of the Rings MMORPG.

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GenCon Committed to Indianapolis
Indy’s Largest Annual Convention to remain

SEATTLE, Wash. (Feb. 10, 2006) ­ Gamers around the world can continue to anticipate the fun and excitement of the annual Gen Con convention right in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. Gen Con LLC is pleased to announce the Gen Con Indy convention will indeed remain in Indianapolis for the next several years.

Gen Con has confirmed that they will be returning to Indianapolis in 2006 to celebrate the company’s 39th year and to continue the fine tradition that has been established in Indianapolis. Gen Con has signed an agreement for an additional four more years in Indianapolis, keeping the convention in the city at least through 2010.

"We are thrilled to keep Gen Con in Indianapolis," said Peter Adkison, CEO of Gen Con LLC. "The city has worked with us to address the question of size and capacity and we are satisfied that the needs for space for attendees and exhibitors will be met.
"Ultimately we need to provide our attendees and exhibitors with the best possible show we can produce and Indianapolis is the place where that can happen."

For the past three years, the Indiana Convention Center has been home to the largest consumer game convention in North America. Staying in Indianapolis has been Gen Con’s goal considering the success of the past three years at the convention center. When last years attendance reached more than 25,000, a 13-percent increase over the previous year, discussions were raised concerning the increasing numbers and whether the facility would be large enough to accommodate the growing event.

"Gen Con has quickly earned a special place in the heart of our city," said Bob Schultz, spokesperson for the Indiana Convention & Visitors Association. "We are thrilled at Gen Con’s decision to become an annual event on our convention calendar and promise to meet and exceed gamers’ expectations for outstanding visitor service and value in Indianapolis for years to come."

In 2005, Gen Con’s "Best Four Days In Gaming" generated more than $35 million in direct visitor spending for the Indianapolis community ­ the financial equivalent of hosting an NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Final Four.

At Gen Con gaming enthusiasts don’t simply attend-they participate in more than 5,000 gaming events including interactive game play, hobby-related events, and computer gaming. Attendees can join in card games, board games, role-playing games, live-action role-playing games, seminars and workshops ranging in topics from how to develop games to how to paint miniatures.

Gen Con has more than 250 booths from which enthusiasts can learn more about their favorite games and products with companies ranging from the biggest in the business to hot, smaller shops. Often game manufacturers use Gen Con as
a stepping stone to display their new games or to run premier tournaments. Gamers can now mark their calendars for the next great gaming event. Gen Con Indy 2006 will take place Aug. 10-13 at the Indianapolis Convention Center. With more new-product introductions than any other game convention in the U.S., Gen Con is the place where consumers, game manufactures, and vendors get together to experience the latest and greatest in the gaming industry, along with time-honored classics. For more information and to register, call (800) 529-EXPO or visit www.gencon.com.

Gen Con, LLC produces the largest consumer fantasy, sci-fi and adventure game convention in North America. Its operations include Gen Con Indy, Gen Con So Cal and Star Wars Celebration III, and licensee for European Gen Con shows. It was founded in May of 2002 by former CEO and founder of Wizards of the Coast Peter Adkison, who solely owns the company headquartered in Seattle, Washington. The company’s mission is to create The Best Four Days of Gaming! every year for its customers. For more information visit the website at www.gencon.com.

The Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association’s mission is to advance Indianapolis tourism and economic growth. The total annual economic impact of tourism on the Indianapolis economy is $3.2 billion, which leads the way to 76,000 full-time equivalent positions in the hospitality industry. For more information about Indianapolis and the ICVA, go to www.indy.org.


[Edits for grammar, punctuation, artifacts, and syntax made by GamingNews Editor T. Rob Brown, http://t-rob.com]

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