Magic the Gathering eBook: Dragon’s Maze: The Secretist, Part Three

Dragon’s Maze: The Secretist, Part Three

A Planeswalker Novella

Ravnica’s 10 guilds are poised to run the Implicit Maze and unlock the power at its heart.

Stitched into the fabric of Ravnica’s vast metropolis, the maze is the legacy of an ancient guildmaster, and the dragon Niv-Mizzet craves the advantages it could mean for his guild. The goal is obvious: Discover the secret route and complete the maze. But the bickering guilds will never cooperate, and each sends its own champion to claim the prize.

But Jace Beleren believes that the guilds are being tested. The maze hides some deeper truth, and Jace knows that the power balance of Ravnica – and the lives of its denizens – are at stake. Jace’s potential allies have been captured, disgraced, or turned against him. Can he discover the truth behind the maze, while navigating the labyrinth of powerbrokers and conspiracies surrounding it, before the dragon can? Or will dark forces claim its deadly power for themselves?

– Description of Dragon’s Maze: The Secretist, Part Three

Jace Belerin’s quest to discover what is behind all of the strange happenings in the most revered plane in the Multiverse is coming to a close, with Ravnica’s 10 guilds poised to run the Implicit Maze and unlock the power at its heart.

Today, Wizards of the Coast released Dragon’s Maze: The Secretist, Part Three, the third and final e-book in a three part series in the form of a novella, written by Doug Beyer, writer and creative designer on the Magic: The Gathering R&D team.

Dragon’s Maze: The Secretist, Part Three is available beginning today in the U.S. and Canada for $1.99 at Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo.

The Hangover Part 3 = Funny!

My review for the quick; Go See This Movie.

Now for my verbose version..

Let’s go back to 2009 for just a moment.  That’s the year the 1st Hangover movie came out.  It was THE comedy to see.  It had elements of funny, mystery, adventure, all of the things that make up a great comedy.  Yes, yes, the cast was great, but that has little to the success if the story itself is not up to par.  Hangover 1, however, did have a great story.  It reaped much rewards for it’s formula and cash came rolling it on it’s success. It made roughly $44 million on it’s opening weekend in the United States alone.

Then on to 2011 we go.  Hangover Part II.  They really tried to make a second hit based off of the same formula as before.  The problem is, we had already seen that story; the only difference is this time it took place in a different country.  Don’t get me wrong, Hangover 2 still made some mad cash at the box office, it actually made millions more than the 1st movie did on it’s opening weekend at around $80 million.  However, from movie goers it did not receive much of a lasting reception.

Hangover 1 was in theaters for 5 month, part 2 was in for 3.  Overall part 2 grossed about $20 million less than the 1st.  Critics attribute this to the movie using the same formula as the previous movie.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a funny movie, it’s just that.. well.. we’ve already seen it.

Let’s jump forward to today. ..

The Hangover Part III

I have a feeling that many may pass on this one simply because they will feel that since the 2nd movie used the same formula as the 1st; that this will be yet another “formula” movie.  My words to those thinking that:  DON’T THINK THAT WAY.

Hangover 3 breaks away from the previous two film’s formula and takes us all on a trip we’ve not yet been on.  The comedy was spot on; the funny was all there; the mystery was all there; the adventure was most defiantly all there.  This go around, however, the story was new, it was fresh, it was crisp.

We are reunited with some old friends, we travel to Mexico for a bit and of course we head back to Vegas where it all started.   We have some flashback fun (it fills us in on what links the movies together), some wild rides, and yeah at the end of the day you can walk away with a good feeling that you didn’t just watch what came out a few years prior.

It’s Rated R.  For a reason.  Lots LOTS of F-bombs, some brief graphic nudity, and lots of reference to drug use.  That does not bother me at all; but it’s certainly not one for the kids.

Part 3 does take on a little more serious tone; don’t get me wrong, it’s not a serious movie, it is a comedy.  While the comedy is peppered throughout the movie it also takes steps to let you know it’s not just a situational comedy.  Nor is it a physical comedy (like The 3 Stooges).  It’s actually a very refreshing thinking comedy.

I almost wish I had seen the previous 2 just before going in to watch this one as there are several references made that I probably missed.

Ahh.. I find myself now rambling.  Ya know, I’m just going to end here with this last brief paragraph:

Go see this movie.  It’s a great ending to what has come before.  Be sure to stick around after the credits; just because you think the movie is over does not mean that the funny ends there…

Xbox One: Uhm.. Er.. Huh?

The word around the internet can have a big impact on business.  From Twitter to Facebook, that word is the voice of the consumer.  If someone makes a product and said consumer is not happy with it; then you can bet that company is going to receive much negative flak.

I really don’t think that’s what Microsoft had in mind when they released a few of the details about their newest Xbox console: Xbox One.

However.. We also see a silver lining too.  Stick with me, and I’ll explain.

What we know so far..

It’s called Xbox One. No release date, no price listed.  8 GB of RAM.  Octi-Core Processor.  500GB Hard Drive. Blu-Ray player WILL be there. Wi-Fi Direct built in. USB 3.0. Kinect is mandatory for this system.  It will have a 1 year long launch window and it is confirmed that there will be at least 15 game titles released during this time.

What we don’t know for sure..

While we suspect the graphics card will be a Radeon HD 7790, we have no official word to corroborate that.

What we know and don’t like..

Microsoft flat out stated several things (and these are the things that have caused that much negative flak mentioned earlier) that we simply don’t want to hear.

Xbox One will NOT be able to play Xbox 360 games.  None at all.

Kinect is now mandatory.

ALL games will be downloaded to the hard drive in order to play them.

Ya know.. Let me break off my brief sentences and get down and dirty here.  Let’s face it, The Xbox 360 has been out for a while.  The console is great, the games are fantastic, and the gaming community that surrounds it is dedicated and happy with the system.  What’s more exciting than rumors of a new Xbox console?  Rumors broken and facts presented of course!

On Monday, May 20th, Microsoft did just that.  They quelled the rumors and gave us flat out information about their new Xbox console.  We now know it’s called the Xbox One.  Going into the press announcement was a slew of negative rumors; everything from the system being in constant contact with the internet, Kinect being a mandatory element of the system, no more using used games (or rented games or borrowed games).  The rumors listed there are pretty scary, yet this past Monday Microsoft had a chance to put those rumors to rest and tell us all that they were false and untrue.

The fact is, all of the rumors above turned out to be true.  Sortav.

Does it really not scare anyone to know that the console will always be connected to the internet and that the Kinect eye will always be watching?  Yes, yes, my Personal Computer is also always connected; but my webcam is not always turned on (nor is it used to do any kind of interaction with my PC other than have people watch me when I want them to).  The Kinect eye IS a key element of the system, it’s what allows you to navigate the console and is always on.  It’s what allows you to say “Xbox On”; “Change Channel”, “Call Paul”.  The Kinect camera is always “listening” for you; it’s never actually off unless you unplug it from the wall.

Microsoft did state that it has strong privacy protections in place (but didn’t they also have strong privacy protections in place when the Xbox Live Accounts were hacked back in 2012?).

Okay, here is a little more on the “always connected to the internet”.  It’s only going to “sortav” be always connected.  There will be some games that you can play totally offline; but game developers will have the ability to utilize Microsoft’s Azure cloud to handle some of the computing processes of the Xbox One.  Think Diablo or SimCity 4 here.   While not being specifically multiplayer games; they do require you to be connected to a server in order to play the game at all.

With that said; Xbox executive Whitten did state that he “hopes” that developers create games that utilize the online feature.  To me, that simply states that constant online connection may very well be the future of the Xbox One.

Now for our Xbox 360 games..

We can’t play our stockpile of Xbox 360 games on it.  This one really hurts.  A friend of mine has, literally, over 400 games for the Xbox 360.  Microsoft told us that 15 titles will be released for the Xbox One in it’s first year.  Only fifteen?  What’s more, you won’t be able to play rented games, used game that you buy at a yard sale, or even that borrowed game from your friend.  Now all games will be installed directly to the Xbox One’s Hard Drive and will be attached to your account.  Yes, you can back those game up to the Microsoft cloud (they boast to having just over 300,000 servers) in case your console gives you the Ring of Death and you have to get a new console.  But gone will be the days that let you trade games amongst your friends.

What you will be able to do is trade in your games and allow others to buy them (this will take place entirely upon the Xbox One network) – however, once sold you will no longer have access to that game on your account.  What you can do is link your game to a second account; for a less than retail fee.  THAT way you and your friends could technically still “trade” your games.

With that said; Microsoft did state that your Gamerscore will carry over from the Xbox 360 (provided you want to use the same info when setting up your Xbox One account).

Now that the negative is behind us (and it sure does seem like a lot), I want to focus on the cool elements of the Xbox One.

What we know and do like..

Bly-ray player is wicked cool.  The specs we’ve seen so far tells us this is going to be a power-house of a machine.  It’s going to be Skype compatible seeing as how Microsoft now owns Skype, and teamed up with the Kinect this will allow you to play games and have your Skype call up at the same time.

Smart Glass will allow you to use your iOS or Android device as a controller (similar as to how Nintendo’s Wii U controller works).  I’ll be VERY interested to see how much control this element will provide, can I still connect to my system when I’m miles away?

Kinect:  despite my initial rant above about it; it is very Star Trek(ish) in how we are able to communicate with the system.  I love technology and this is really a very cool feature.

Speaking of Star Trek.. Microsoft also is talking about Illumiroom.  Think about the Holo-Deck from Star Trek the Next Generation.  No, Illumiroom won’t create a total fantasy environment, but it will use a projector to provide special effects to the room you are gaming in.  This is going to be a technology unavailable for launch (as we understand it), but should be out within the Xbox One’s first year.

The controller has not changed too much, and we like that.  I’ll be the first to admit, my hands now have muscle memory for the controller.  It’s almost seamless now, and I really don’t want to learn an all new controller for the new system.  Yes, there are changes, but they are not drastic.

You will be able to control your television with the Xbox One.  I’m unclear to the full extent, but I would venture to guess If it’s something you can do with your current remote control, you ‘ll be able to do the same thing with the Xbox One.  Only now, it will be with your voice!  “Xbox, tune into Walking Dead”, yes that’s certainly something for me to get excited about!

And now the launch games:

Here is what is confirmed from Microsoft and publishers:

Halo 5

Forza Motorsports 5

Quantam Break


Rainbow 6: Patriots

Call of Duty: Ghosts

Human Element

Watch Dogs

Dragon Age 3: Inquisition

Battlefield 4

Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag

Pro Evolution Soccer 2014

Lords of the Fallen

Sniper Elite 3


Those are certainly some impressive titles!  What we are unsure of, however, is exactly when these titles will be out; will they be out right along side the Xbox One console itself; or will they trickle out over it’s 1 year long launch window?  I’m sure there will be a lot more than just 15 games released; not to mention the slew of digital only games that will also be available to immediate download.

This is all the info we have, but keep in mind it’s also just one day after Microsoft provided their official press release of the new console.  I for one am very excited to see what the Xbox One is going to provide to us.

Star Trek Into Darkness: A Review

Star Trek Into Darkness: A Review by D. Brian Hardin II

Sometimes an escape is needed.  For me, sitting in a dark cool movie theatre will almost always provide the perfect escape.  The movie does not have to be great to provide that escape but if it is, man.. that’s just magic.

Today’s escape finds me at my local movie theatre.  Bottle of water on one side, fist full of popcorn on the other…

Without giving away any spoilers, please allow me to state this right off the bat:  GO BOLDLY and see this movie!  Fans of the original (non-J.J. Abrams) will certainly see some throwbacks (and easter eggs) in this one, while newcomers to the franchise will have one fast paced thrill ride.

Star Trek Into Darkness is fast paced.  Very few lull points exist.  The entire gang is back together, Kirk, Spock, Bones, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu, and Chekov.  Captain Pike is back as well as a couple of other… old friends.  OOOH.. and the lens flares.. yeah they are not as obvious in this one.

As you know, I am hesitant to provide spoilers that could potentially ruin the movie for you…

That being said…  Stop reading now because spoilers – they are here:

Star Trek has always had it’s famous quote; “These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise.  Her 5 year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

It’s seen a variation or two over the years, but that’s it from it’s earliest days.  J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness make that journey… sortav.  I say sortav because.. well.. we have been here before.. sortav.

Okay, let’s jump down to it; who is the main bad guy here?  He goes by the name of John Harrison.  Ahh, but he’s not actually a genetically spliced duo of the Beatles.  Oh who am I kidding here, the cat’s already been taken out of the bag hasn’t it?  Benedict Cumberbatch plays Kahn.  There, I said it.  Kahn.

I admit, at first I was a bit disappointed to hear that Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof (the ones who wrote the script) were playing it safe and using someone that the long-term fans already knew.  Not only that, but we also knew that those shoes were going to be some BIG shoes to fill!  I mean, Kahn?  Ricardo Montalban’s portrayal of Star Trek’s most epic bad guy was being remade?

Was I really going to sit down and watch Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn (the remake)?

Then I started to get excited.  I knew full well that J.J. Abrams had established an alternate time-line.  That events I was familiar with had not happened yet (or at the very least those events would not happen exactly as they did before).  Not to mention the fact that this movie would actually take place during the Original TV Series time-frame, which means this would be a retelling of the Space Seed episode.  That idea along started to spark my imagination.  I loved Wrath of Kahn, but hey, my mind is open to the new vision of Star Trek.

Armed with that thought, I had a feeling I was going to be in for one hell of a ride.

A retelling of Space Seed..  Hmm.. For those that are not aware, the character of Kahn Noonian Singh was first introduced in the original television show (back in 1967).  A retelling of Space Seed?  Almost, but not exactly.  We do get a retelling, but we also get a little mish-mash remake of Wrath of Kahn as well.

Sadly there was no epic space battle (I maintain that the space battle and the hunt through the Mutara Nebula were simply the best thing the big screen has ever seen), there was no mention of the Botany Bay, and while Kahn did speak of his 72 crew members, we never got to see them.

Into Darkness was a bit predictable, however, there were several twists and surprises along the way.   My inner Trekkie has a few nit-picks with the movie, but that’s all they are, pointless nit-picks.  Tho, the one I’m still wrestling with is the title itself.  Into Darkness..  I’m not sure that that was really ever explained, and if it was, I missed it.

I’ll keep a much closer eye on everything the second time I see it.

Oh yes, there will be multiple viewings!

I give it 3.5 stars out of 5.

You can read the Blu-Ray review of this movie here: Star Trek Into Darkness Blu-Ray Review

Dungeons & Dragons Spell Compendium 3.5 Edition Premium Reprint

You’ve seen this book before. Sure you have, sure. Only when it first came out (around the end of 2005) it didn’t have a nifty shiny foil like cover like this:


Over the years I collected many a spells; cut outs from Dragon Magazine, various online resources, even some that were hand-written on loose paper. All of those were stuffed into my Dungeon Master’s Guide from.. Gosh this one I got back in the late 90’s. The binding is worn, the pages are well read, you could say it has.. “character“.

In December of 2005, Wizards of the Coast gathered together some of the more popular spells from the ether and stuffed them into the Spell Compendium. It held over 1,000 different spells that covered all of the spell casting classes. No, it didn’t have ALL the spells out there, but dang, with over 1,000 to choose from..

If you have the original from 2005, then this version really does not offer much. However, if your copy is worn and tattered (like mine) and you are looking to upgrade to a shiny new book, then this book is what you want. It’s simply a reproduction of the original with just a few small changes.

Some of the spell names have been changed, a few examples:
Air Bubble is now Deep Breath
Guided Arrow is now Guided Shot
Undeniable Gravity is now Earthbind

In addition to a few of the spell name changes there is also corrects (errata) to some of the spells themselves. WoTC made a few changes with how the spells worked since it’s original release in 2005 so those corrections have been.. well.. corrected in this reprint (so you don’t need to keep that print out from their website anymore).

All in all, I really like this reprint. The cover is slick; foil embossment (gives it a really nice feel), the artwork within is the same as it was several years back (I’ve always loved the artowrk in my D&D books).

Book Info:
Title: Spell Compendium 3.5 Edition Premium Reprint
Item Code: 35770000
Release Date: April 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 288
Price: $49.95; C$58.00
ISBN: 978-0-7869-6448-2

You can pick up the book here:

Premium 3.5 Edition Dungeons & Dragons Spell Compendium (D&D Accessory) Hardcover

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