Villains & Vigilantes


Jack Herman and Jeff Dee co-created the classic 1979 superhero tabletop role-playing game Villains and Vigilantes back in 1979. They started Monkey House Games in 2010 when they learned that V&V’s original publisher, Fantasy Games Unlimited Inc., had ceased to exist in 1991 and that the publishing rights had reverted to them at that time.

Unfortunately, the old publisher’s former president was not willing to let go and so they have become embroiled in a lawsuit. The claim that the publishing rights reverted to them has been upheld in court, but their opponent is still fighting over the trademark to the game’s name. They’ve been fighting for their rights for several years, and frankly they need more money in order to carry this battle to a final victory. If you’ve enjoyed their game, or simply support creators’ rights, then they need your help.

Please visit the following URL, and share it with your fellow gamers via social media:


August Comic Book Awards

~Nandor Shaffer
If you are an obsessive Doctor Who fan (or a “whovian”, as they say), you may have heard of the little new comic book event being published by Titan Comics, Doctor Who: Four Doctors. This weekly event made its debut on August 12th, and will be running for five weeks (although I just read #5 was delayed, sadly). My point is, since I’m a positively diehard fan of the TV series, Doctor Who: Four Doctors, a timey-wimey adventure involving the 10th, 11th, and 12th Doctors as well as the War Doctor portrayed by John Hurt from the epic Day of the Doctor episode, is more than fanatically exciting for me. The good news is that the first three issues have not disappointed so far, and the great, surprising news is that it dominated August’s pile of comics in terms of superb quality. Speaking of Doctor Who, Year One of the 11th Doctor’s own title concluded with #15 to an appreciable end this month. I was also ecstatic to get my hands on the latest Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier issue with #10, as Mr. Rudy’s beautiful work ever keeps me in awe. Barry Allen faces his father in The Flash #43 under shady circumstances and a wanted Aquaman is still on the run from his Atlantis and Mera for his moral convictions in #43 of his title. Alas, the fifth issue of Secret Wars was regrettably stale compared against my high expectations for it. The one-shot Secret Wars Ant-Man tie-in faired better when all is said and done.
Out of these nominees, which comics received the Comic Book Awards for the month of August
Cover of the Month Award: Secret Wars #5
Cover By: Alex Ross
Ah, yes, Alex Ross does it…again (it’s not my fault he’s this good). In no way am I insinuating that the other covers for the month of August or past months haven’t been excellent or even exceptional in some cases; it’s just that Mr. Ross knows where to perfectly hit that sweet spot I have for comic book/superhero artwork. The cover for Secret Wars #5 exhibits the grim face of Doctor Doom split in two, with the other half in a flaming rage as images of the Beyonder disperse in fragments. It’s somewhat of a hint as to what you will find in this issue, but more in a metaphorical sense. What remains to be true is that this is a striking image and the fiery gaze and gloom of Doom leaves a mark.

Art of the Month Award: Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #10

Artist: Marco Rudy



If the cover by Michael Del Mundo is any indication, what lies inside Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #10 is an art and color extravaganza. Time and time again, Marco Rudy lets his creative, artistic vision fly to the outer reaches of conventional comic book art into a place all-too reminiscent of a cosmic space opera that comes close to defy the most heavenly body of actual outer space. Intense uses of colors add a punching mood to many pages and his repeating use of circular panels ask the reader to look at usual comic book storytelling in an unfamiliar, but freeing light. I think the writer, Ales Kot, notices Rudy’s powerful, expansive style and that might be the reason for the sparse dialogue throughout the issue (why handcuff Rudy’s talent?). My favorite pages would likely be pages 2 &3 (shown above), 8 & 9, 15, 16 & 17. There’s just so much dramatic life in these pages that is really stunning. With that said, I do hope others are seeing what I’m seeing: breathtaking quality.

Story of the Month Award: Doctor Who: Four Doctors #3

Writer: Paul Cornell 


Positionally, the first two issues of Doctor Who: Four Doctors are mainly introductory issues taking you through the whims of the 10th, 11th, and 12th Doctors and their companions first meeting each other. Why are they here? What’s going on? How could running into each other lead to the “end of all things”? While these introductory issues have some truly brilliant plot and character moments, Doctor Who: Four Doctors #3 is where it’s time to get out your sonic screwdriver, adjust your bow-tie, and yell, “Geronimo!”. This issue gets to the heart of the series thus far, exploring important themes in the Doctor Who lore and further providing a mystery of mysteries. The Doctors and their companions arrive on a planet that the Doctors should remember…but don’t. As they scatter from an oncoming attack from nowhere, the eventual detonation of a Dalek continuum bomb thrusts all of our adventures through alternate timelines of key decisions throughout the Doctor’s life. It has all the makings of a classic, outstanding Doctor Who story and watching it unfold is as delightful as fish fingers and custard (for those of you who don’t know, that’s a Doctor Who pun…sorry, couldn’t resist).

Issue of the Month Award: Doctor Who: Four Doctors #1

Writer: Paul Cornell 

Artist: Neil Edwards

Colorist: Ivan Nunes

Cover Art: Neil Edwards 


In all sincerity, I would have never guessed that BBC would give Titan Comics the go-ahead for a story featuring just two Doctors. It was only two years ago that the 10th and 11th Doctors first met one another as well as the curious War Doctor in the highly acclaimed Day of the Doctor special on BBC. Surely, this wouldn’t happen again on the air, or, at least, this soon. Sure enough, expect the unexpected when it comes to Doctor Who. Not only only do we have Doctors #10 and #11 and the War Doctor, we have the new (but old) kid on the block, Doctor #12 as well featured in Doctor Who: Four Doctors. Talk about a time paradox collapse waiting to happen.

This weekly event begins to take root as Clara, tagging along with her Doctor on an unnamed, jungle world, stumbles across The Museum of Terrible Fates, a silvery, physically changing alien bubble. She enters and it reveals to her an image of the three Doctors meeting, which will supposedly lead to the “end of all things”. She must not let this happen. Of course, though, it does. The plot moves straightforward from there and the amusing banter between the Doctors and their companions is fun, clever, and very well scripted. You might be familiar with Paul Cornell (he wrote a few episodes for the series and regularly writes for Marvel and DC) and Neil Edwards (artist on many books like Fantastic Four, Justice League United, etc.). Doctor Who: Four Doctors actually feels like a book being published by one of the big two comic book companies compared to previous Doctor Who books put out by Titan Comics. Cornell knows his way around a comic book and the Doctor Who universe while Neil Edwards’ sensational pen and inks make him the model man for the job. If you love Doctor Who and have never picked up a comic book, now is the time starting with this precise issue and series.

Thank you all again for checking out my awards for August and be sure check back sometime next month for September’s Comic Book Awards! Until then, hopefully you and I will continue to be reading comics! (Also, I thought it would be important to note that this post actually makes it a year since I started writing these awards here on Troy Christensen’s blog, The Emerald Tablet, and I just want to take a moment to say how cool it’s been and how grateful I am to be able to post my Comic Book of the Month Awards every month on here. Thank you very much for reading everyone. It means a lot.)



I am so glad Nandor writes these fantastic Comic Book Awards.  It is hard to believe it has already been a year.  Brave, Nandor!

~Troy Christensen September 9th 2015

July’s Comic Book Award

X-Men #35

July’s purchases of comics put things into perspective for me on how drastically different my pull-list has become in the last few months. When counted, there are all-together about 6-7 comic book series’ that I discontinued following or that are simply no longer published. And in foresight, even with Marvel’s upcoming All-New All-Different lineup in November or DC Comics’ recent DC YOU push, I have my doubts that my pull-list will ever look the same again in the near future. I’m actually looking forward to the change-up, however, as the possibility of branching out to unfamiliar books and characters creates a fresh drive for this comic book reader. As for the present, July was generally quite a healthy month for my series’ I do have remaining.

Secret Wars is all the buzz right now, and with #4 of the title there’s timely proof for why that is. It well might be the strongest issue of the series thus far. Ant-Man Annual #1 was easily one of the best and one of my favorite issues of the month. Fans of the now concluded Ant-Man title (which is to return to #1 by the same creative team in November) should not miss this extra-sized issue whatsoever. Lively, delightfully humorous, and overall so much fun, this annual is an explosion of light-hearted entertainment. The 9th Doctor’s developing, hostile engagements of towering implications is turning the series around to my liking, while #14 of Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor was a more than excellent issue. I’m ever impressed with what the writers are doing in that book and the startling revelation on the last page of this issue might raise a controversy of why this moment wasn’t in the actual TV show instead of a comic book. Closing out the month were Uncanny X-Men #35, Aquaman #42, The Flash #42 as well as The Flash Annual #4, and, finally, Star Wars #7, a single-story issue with guest artist Simone Bianchi (whose work is just fantastic in this issue) focused on the exploits of Obi-Wan Kenobi during his time on Tatooine between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope.

Out of these nominees, which comics received the Comic Book Awards for the month of July?

Cover of the Month Award: Secret Wars #4

Cover By: Alex Ross


For the third month in a row, Alex Ross’ undeniable talent ushers Secret Wars to receive another Cover of the Month award once again. This time, doing my best to try and not reiterate my praise for Ross’ previous covers, you see a cunning attention to detail, lighting, and structure. Doom looms upon his throne of the World-Tree, Yggdrasil, with obvious authority as his chief supporters – Susan Storm, Valeria, Franklin and Doctor Strange – surround him. This image portrays a realism that is almost haunting, if you will, since the characters stare at you with modest contempt. It might not be what you would call an incredible cover, but, nonetheless, it’s much more than just an overall good one.

Art of the Month Award: Secret Wars #4

Artist: Esad Ribic

Color Artist: Ive Svorcina


A consistent “look” of a comic book series is always important, and, as of yet, Secret Wars has truthfully had a distinct, specialized tone, feel, and look to it unlike the mass quantities of comic book series’ I have personally read. It “feels” like its own highly individual, seriously weighty comic when you’re reading it and that has to do with, yes, the writer and artist’s desired creative vision, but mostly with the artists’ finished work. Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina’s faithful handling of Jonathan Hickman’s script in Secret Wars #4 carries each page along with efficiency that rivals the cinematic finesse of Hollywood. There’s a delicate, powerful care you’ll find in these pages and I’m fascinated with the hefty emotions a lot of the pages brought out of me while reading (the perspectives for some panels are especially brilliant). Esad’s signature style accompanied with his sense of storytelling really pulls you in with this issue, marvelously portraying crucial moments that will affect this entire series.

Story of the Month Award:  Secret Wars #4

(“All The Angels Sing, All The Devils Dance”) 

Writer: Jonathan Hickman


The tides are starting to turn with the events that take place in Secret Wars #4. In this issue the battle between Battleworld’s enforcers of Thors and The Cabal rages, taking center focus for the story. Also, from the words of Doctor Strange it is explained to the survivors of Earth-616 (and the reader) just what Battleworld is and how it came to be. The last half of Secret Wars #4 is where you’ll find the most enjoyment. The ensuing battle is interrupted and by the last page, two vital characters stand no more. Secret Wars #4 is rife with gravitas and thrills which make it a pleasure to read.

Issue of the Month Award: Secret Wars #4 (“All The Angels Sing, All The Devils Dance”) 

Writer & Designer: Jonathan Hickman 

Artist: Esad Ribic

Color Artist: Ive Svorcina

Cover Art: Alex Ross


Secret Wars #4 is a busy issue and this Marvel event moving forward will be all the more unpredictable in light of what transpires in this comic (I’m dying to read #5 right now). This series is technically at its halfway mark, so it’s reasonable to assume what Hickman and Ribic have in store will render these first four issues to pale in comparison. All together, the entirety of Secret Wars #4 – its superb cover by Alex Ross, Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina’s outstanding interiors, and Hickman’s awesome script – make it a fine, stellar comic book that no one should have an excuse to pass up. This is July’s star book of the month for good reason.

Thank you for checking out my awards for July (I sorely apologize for being late) and be sure check back sometime in a couple weeks or so for August’s Comic Book Awards! Until then, hopefully you and I will continue to be reading comics!

Professional Portfolio


I put together a small video showcasing my professional portfolio of skills.  Ease back and just watch.  The magic of this animated slideshow gives you a first impression of my skills and base of knowledge. Animoto costs like 30 dollars a year and can make some very professional looking little videos.  Some very big limitations, but still very fun to play with.

Professional Portfolio

Compilation of My Work

Phantasm Adventures

It has been a while since I posted my compilation video showing my creative work over the years. I offer this 1 minute and 46 second video showing most of my past and current creative endeavors.  I am proud of each book, game, and program.  Each holds a sincere devotion to creativity and imagination, and I offer you to watch it and leave a comment if you desire.

Troy Christensen Creative Portfolio

Heroes & Rogues: Rolemaster Companion


Its been more than 21 years since I wrote this companion to the RPG Rolemaster.  The company in the early years rose to glorious heights, then fell into ruin and was forgotten for years.  Recently ICE was purchased by an English company and is releasing new products.  They were also selling my book without regard to my copyright, but after a lengthy series of emails they agreed to pay me a small pittance of a royalty in return that the book becomes their property — after some internal debate I took them up on their offer.  In the next few months I will surrender my rights to the game and the characters described in it.  Sad, but it has been almost a quarter of a century.

Have you ever needed a detailed Non-Player or Player character at the spur of the moment, complete with skills, spell lists, and background, but did not know where to turn? Wonder no longer, your search is over! Rolemaster Heroes and Rogues is the answer–complete game information for 24 Rolemaster characters at seven different levels. Get your players ready, because your Rolemaster campaigns may never be the same.

Published in 1991 by Iron Crown Enterprises, this book is a culmination of my efforts working with Villains & Vigilantes, my own games (such as Bloodbath and Bloodchant), and the efforts overseas (Phantasm and Advanced Phantasm Adventures).

Phantasm Adventures


Phantasm Adventures was published in 1985 under my own publication house, later in 1987 and 1988 it was picked up by a Japanese publication company specializing in models, dioramas, and gaming.  The union of myself and Artbox  lasted ten years, with dozens of books and articles published on Phantasm Adventures, Multiverse, and other game related subjects.

The game is available once again on Amazon for just 99 cents a book.  If you wish to support the game, please buy a digital version of the book.

Player’s Handbook:*Version*=1&*entries*=0


GameMaster Handbook:*Version*=1&*entries*=0


Monster Manual

Coming Soon  . . .

Spell Books Compendium

Coming Soon . . .

There is no Going Home


I played Everquest from the early years of Velious, through six more expansions.  My exact departure is clouded, certainly around the release of Everquest II would be a good starting point for my evacuation. I returned a number of times as the game underwent its torturous and, as I see it, gradual decline from a challenging computer moderated role-playing game experience to something more of an open social platform.

In the early days most of the players were young kids thoroughly entrenched in role-playing and single player adventure games on the computer.  Today the gamut of players is wide, both in age, experience, and expectations.  With such a huge variety of players, it is no doubt that games have become impossible to appease the gamers — some want a hardcore rigorous game while others want to sit around placing daisies in their imaginary apartments.  Some want to solo, while others gear up for 24 player raids.  I often chuckle that some players have no qualms riding around on a flying multi-hued rabbits, with butterfly wings while others sneer at any sort of mount at all.  Many players have no concept of what Dungeons & Dragons is, or even for that matter, what a role-playing game truly infers.  Often so many new players were born into Xbox mentalities that statistics, armor class, mitigation, and spell points are just unknown baffling terms.

In the grand days of gaming there was a single business model:  the $14.95 a month plus yearly expansions.  That is the way it was.  Over time the free model came into existence, with real money perks.  For the good or bad of other such models, it opened up a gamut of other possible business models.  I can only infer from DayBreak Games that the supposed free model must be very lucrative.  Many players can just play the games for free, and supplement their hobby with occasional purchases of gear, potions, or vanity items.

One of the original arguments to using real money or purchasing an ingame currency with real money, such as Krono, was that it was meant to balance the time spent in the game versus the reality of players not having the resources to play the game.  That is, if it takes 200 hours to camp a rare spawn, a couple of Krono could be used to mitigate the time and just give the player the item.  At first, this ingame equalizer seemed to work!  What has happened however is a bastardization of the time and Krono.  Players who have time to spend in the game have augmented their existence with Krono — thus simply amplifying economies with harsh spiraling costs in both time and money.

Camps for rare loot is no longer camped by players needing the item, but by players looking to sell it for Krono.  This ingame currency then can be converted into real cash through many sources or used to pay for long term subscriptions to the game. The player that does not have time to spend in the game now must not simply pay 1 krono for a piece of gear that required hundreds of hours of game play, but three, four….even five Krono to get.

Progression / Time lock servers are even worse since they are a premium game requiring players to pay the $15 a month and then force them into buying Kronos, to get basic magic items and equipment in the game.   I for one have not bought a Krono in years but I can see the unhealthy allure of this item.  Older (and even younger) players without the time to spend camping certain mobs can now spend a Krono and get the items they want.  But even if they wished to spend the time in game to camp these items, they find it impossible with the way the system is set up.

Gamers with the idea of making real profit with Krono set up six-box legions of mages that simply steal any mob they want.  Taking the item, they sell it for Krono and rinse and repeat the process.  It wasn’t good enough to dual box, but now players are bringing in whole groups of botted characters to thwart the need to socialize — other than to sell their loot, buying Krono, and continue the process.

I used to dual box back in the day and the extra character meant I could solo a bit easier or even camp small sets of mobs.  I am not saying that back in 2002ish years that there were not players who six-boxed but the percentage of players today that multi-box  is probably closer to 50% of the total players, versus back in the day it was more like 10% — these are just raw figures without any basis of fact other than my observations.  In the days gone by, you would see bots and multi-boxers now and then but today they are rampant.  Back then it was far less profitable, other than a way for an egotistic player to do what they want in an imaginary world.  Today it is business.  It is big business! And the real players suffer.

I cannot blame DBG from making money, that is what a company is there to do.  I do take offense that they try to play both sides though, telling gamers they care about the game and their customers.  Make your money and tell your customers that Krono is there to make money.  Don’t try to pretend that the games are free — they are not free.

As players we need to stop fighting with fanboys who use the constant argument that the games are free and that you don’t have to spend a dime — the game is multiplayer, thus becoming a competitive sport.  Allowing unfair advantage of real world money combined with unlimited time makes many of the players with huge advantages in the competition of the game. Treating EQ like golf, you can play for free (assuming you are not doing Timelock / Progression) and still be competitive.   EQ for me is not golf but more like baseball or football, in that guilds are other team members and other guilds are other teams — How would baseball fend for itself if a team player could spend money and redo throws, hits, or fouls?

My time in Lockjaw, the progression server for EQ, has been fun but not without regret.  I am not buying Krono, so most of the real gear is out of my reach.  Nor do I have unlimited time to camp mobs.  The small amount of time I do have is spent racing around trying to find silk, pelts, and other reagents to sell to the guys who are making so much platinum and US dollars that they don’t have time.  I am already paying $15 a month to play, and I know DBG wants me to fork over another $18 for a Krono, or hell why not buy three!  Their arms get tired raking in the money, I think.

I am enjoying my time in the game, but more from a nostalgic point of view.  You cannot go home because the world is a different place.  Gone are the endless time spent at a camp, gone is the ingame platinum only — the new era is everything is for sale and no regards to the future.



Even after seven years, my original article of 300 is still as poignant and valid as it was then.

Today’s MMOs are mired in a swamp of systematic problems from overconfident game designers, hyper game producers, companies with unlimited bankrolls, and fans that are inundated with such a variety of games that they fall out of favor as fast as apples fall from a tree. What is needed is not more, but less! We need a community within the game that is organized, demographic, and small. Yes, thats what I said. Small is better — Large is out! I purpose an MMO that hosts no more than 300 people at a time, with an average player population of roughly 6000 players per server.

We have seen with the recent selection of games, that over indulgence of graphics, promises, and PR campaigns can leave gamers feeling dizzy. There has been much discussion on how to keep a game in the spotlight and at the top of the playing list for both the average as well as the hardcore gamer. There is nothing more confusing than to wander a world populated by people you have no idea who they are or what they are doing.

When I graduated High School, I had a class of 89 students. I knew all their names, and more, I knew each one as a person and what they liked or disliked. On most, I even knew their brothers and sisters, and where they lived and to many what their parents did for a career. I could walk down the hallway, waving and complimenting every student in my class, and with similar size classes in the other grades, I had a decent chance of knowing almost everyone I ever met.

Today, schools are huge with daunting classes of well over a thousand students per class. Four thousand students in a school, you would be lucky to even remember your own classmates’ names let alone anyone around you.

what does that cause? Its causes isolationism, tight social groups, and clan/gang mentality. This is what is happening in today’s MMOs. Instead of having a vibrant community from which you would more than likely know everyone on the server, or perhaps at least one of their many alternate characters, we are reduced to living in tight social groups, such as a guild, or worse, a small selection of real life friends. Suddenly, the MMO world gets very scary and unfriendly.

In the first MMOs, there was a sense of community because there was a community. Today, its more like trying to set up house in a shopping mall. Everyday someone new walks through your space, and even if you make friends, because the world is so populated, they are often reduced to a tab on your friend’s list, never to be seen again or worse.

I welcome a server population of 6000 players, spread out demographically across the world and through various time zones. With average player base at around 300. As one plays the game, you will suddenly start smiling with the realization that the players around you start looking familiar.

The bustling crowd of characters will be transformed into a group of friends, or at the least, recognizable faces. Instead of blurred names flying about the place, you will have ‘Hey!, Ratook, what’s up?” And not just from friends or guildmates, but from the server at large.

With smaller servers, the chance to become part of the development of the game increases. No more hearing about special events, but now often taking lead rolls or witnessing special GM events.

What does this mean for the game company? More servers, to say the least. Perhaps a hike in the monthly cost from an average of 15 dollars a month, to perhaps 18 dollars a month. I would be willing to pay more knowing that I will know more of the other players.