My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic was originally meant to advertise a new line of My Little Pony toys. Instead, it became a massive hit, not just with the intended audience of pre-tween girls but with people of all ages. Toys and other merchandise sold well, enough that Hasbro showed gains while other toy companies were struggling, but audiences tuned in because of the characters. Within the Mane Six alone – Applejack, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, and Twilight Sparkle – there is a pony to appeal to everyone. Their core natures meant that any episode featuring two of them would have a conflict that the ponies would have to work out. No one pony is given preference, so resolving the conflict means finding a compromise that works for both. For the target audience, it’s a lesson in how to get along with friends who act differently.
The Mane Six aren’t the only characters in Equestria. Applejack and Rarity have younger siblings, Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle, who, along with Scootaloo, form the Cutie Mark Crusaders, a trio of young fillies who want to grow up. Parallels to younger siblings and to puberty may be intended with them. Other ponies have made appearances, as regulars, such as DJ Pon-3 and Big Mackintosh, or as visitors to Ponyville, such as Trixie and Cheese Sandwich, the latter based on and voiced by “Weird Al” Yankovic.
With a series that mixes fantasy adventure with slice of life, there is plenty of room for ponies other than the Mane Six to get together and save Equestria. Online roleplaying fora exist for just that. With people wanting to play in Equestria, an official licensed role-playing game should have been expected. In early 2017, River Horse released* Tails of Equestria, the official My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic RPG.
Tails of Equestria comes as a single hardback book. The cover features art by Amy Mebberson with three ponies on an adventure, none of whom are part of the Mane Six. The unicorn on the cover is the sample PC (Pony Character) in character creation. Inside, stills from the show are used to illustrate the rules being explained on the page. There’s even a full spread map of Equestria and surrounding lands. PCs aren’t stuck in Ponyville; they can travel to such places as Manehattan and Vanhoover.
The game’s mechanics are easy enough to learn. There are three attributes – Body, Mind, and Charm – rated at a die type, from the four-sided die to the best die, the twenty-sided die. Most rolls will involve one of the attributes, though talents may modify the die type rolled. The Gamesmaster (GM) sets the difficulty anywhere from 2, very easy, to 20, “has anybody ever done this?” A roll of 1 results in bad luck; something goes wrong and hinders the pony. If the pony’s player wishes, he or she can use one or more Tokens of Friendship, the game’s drama point mechanic, to reroll the die, roll the next larger die and take the better result, or even succeed without rolling, depending on how many Tokens are spent. Other ponies can help, reducing the number of Tokens of Friendship needed to get a result. Teamwork makes tasks easier.
Character creation is quick. There’s ten steps, but each step only requires a simple choice. Players just have to decided on type of pony, whether to be brainy or brawny, what their Cutie Mark talent is, a quirk, and a name. Pony portraits are encouraged, either drawn by hand or through an online pony creator, the latter with parents’ permission and supervision. The unicorn on the cover, Firebrand, has a hand-drawn pencil portrait as an example. River Horse also has character sheets with pony outlines to fill in available for sale. If players prefer, they can use MLP toys as miniatures.
The game is aimed at the younger audience of the TV series. The writing is simple and direct, well illustrated when needed. The game reinforces the main theme from the cartoon, friendship is magic. Even if a player doesn’t give another a Token of Friendship to help in a task, ponies are encouraged to work together and give a helping hoof. The quirks, minor drawbacks that limited what a pony can do, help show how two ponies are different but can still work together. The game gets a little heavy-hoofed with the message, but the target audience won’t notice. There are helpful hints for the GM through out the game, with more in the GM’s section on how to run the game. There’s even an option to run a Cutie Mark Crusader-style game, with players being young colts and fillies trying to discover what their cutie mark talent is.
Tails of Equestria also has an adventure for beginning players. The Mane Six need to find out what’s turning ponies into statuettes but they promised to give their pets a party. The players are recruited to watch over the pets while the Mane Six are gone. Given that Fluttershy’s rabbit, Angel, is the complete opposite of his name, things don’t go smooth for the PCs. And while it seems like the Mane Six are off having an epic adventure while the PCs are rounding up wayward pets, the end of the adventure leads into the first expansion set, The Curse of the Statuettes.
Mechanics alone do not determine the tone of a game, though matching them to the setting helps greatly. MLP:FIM has its own themes, the big one being the power of friendship. Violence doesn’t solve problems; friendship does. Tails of Equestria follows this theme. The combat section takes just two pages and is called “scuffling”. Ponies who lose all their stamina need to rest; they get to see stars around their head when stamina reaches zero. Ponies that help each other see the difficulty of their tasks get reduced. One pony might not be able to lift a heavy table; four ponies can easily move it to where they want it. The focus of the game is on friendship. Even the number of Tokens of Friendship depends on the number of friends, including the GM, who are playing. A new player means a new friend, so everyone else gets an extra Token while the new pony gets a number equal to everyone playing, even the people who couldn’t make it. After all, a friend is still a friend, even if they’re not at the table.
The only real problem with Tails of Equestria is how it handles the Elements of Harmony. Every Pony Character must choose one, but there isn’t much on how the Elements are used. The idea is that if a task fits one of the Elements well, a pony with that Element can succeed without having to roll. Fortunately, the adventure included in the book shows how it works, but there isn’t much else.
Tails also has a small bestiary, just containing the creatures needed for the introductory adventure. The same section also has the Mane Six fully statted out plus generic ponies of all three types. The expansions should have more details; The Bestiary of Equestria has far more if players are interested, including new character types like Griffons and Buffalo. River Horse is supporting the Tails of Equestria line with a wide range, including a sourcebook for the MLP:FIM theatrical movie.
Game designers have a difficult task when adapting a work to a game of any sort. With tabletop RPGs, the goal is to take what has been shown and expand it so that players can have fun in the setting. Tails of Equestria took My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and presented the setting as a place for players to play in and have fun, much like the cartoon invites audiences to do. With only small problems, Tails of Equestria gets to the heart of MLP:FIM and makes it possible for players to do the same thing the Mane Six do, have adventures with friends helping each other out.
* In North American, the game and its supplements is distributed by Ninja Division.
Thunderbirds are go! Again!
A new Thunderbirds TV series is set to launch. The show will forego Supermarionation for a mix of CGI and live-action models. The debut is on the 50th anniversary of the original airdate of Thunderbirds.
Next Terminator movie a reboot.
According to Jay Courtney, who will play Kyle Reese, Terminator: Genisys is more of a reset than a reboot. Other than Arnold Schwarzengger, an all-new cast will play the familiar roles. Two sequels have already been scheduled.
Warner announces DC Comics movie line up.
Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice leads off the ten, but has been moved to avoid competing with Captain America 3 in 2016. The other movies announced are Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, Justice League: Part One, The Flash, Aquaman, Shazam, Justice League: Part Two, Cyborg, and Green Lantern. All should be released over the next six years. Warner also announced a trilogy of films based on JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a text originally found at Hogwart’s.
Knights of the Dinner Table in post-production.
Knights of the Dinner Table, a comic about tabletop gamers, will have a live-action movie based on the strip. The adaptation is in post-production and is looking for backers to help get the movie done.
Transporter: The Series started October 18.
Slipped past the radar here, but the new TV series based on the Jason Statham movies has aired on TNT. François Berléand returns as Inspector Tarconi, while Statham’s character Frank Martin is now played by Chris Vance. The series hopes to dig into why Frank got into his profession.
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic movie confirmed.
Hasbro’s Allspark Pictures has the green light for an animated Friendship Is Magic movie. Release date is expected to be in 2017. Allspark is also producing the live-action Jem and the Holograms film, due out in 2015.
Dredd webseries has animated trailer.
Adi Shankar, producer of Dredd, has released a trailer for his “bootleg” animated series continuing where the movie left off. The series will look at the Dark Judges arc of the comic.
John Carter of Mars rights return to Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.
The rights, formerly held by Disney, have returned to Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. The Disney film, John Carter, foundered in theatres with most problems traceable back to the studio, from a bland name to poor timing. The rights are now available to anyone willing to pay.
Fox developing Archie series.
Riverdale will be a drama featuring the Archie Comics characters. Greg Berlanti, of Arrow and The Flash, is on as producer while Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the creative mind behind such series as AfterLife with Archie, is writing for the series. The series will look at the weirdnesses surrounding small towns and may not resemble the Riverdale you grew up with. However, current readers may be familiar with the setting. Archie Comics have taken risks in the past decade, including the horror series AfterLife with Archie, having Archie and Valerie becoming a couple, and not only introducing an openly gay character, Kevin Keller, but giving him his own title.
Riverdale may get weirder.
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, creative director of Archie Comics and writer of the new series, has compared Riverdale to a teen version of Twin Peaks. He has hinted at an Afterlife with Archie episode as well. Current continuity will be part of the series, too. If the series survives the, “But this isn’t *my* Archie!” fallout, it’ll pull an audience just through sheer audacity.
Clerks 3 confirmed.
Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes will be back as Jay and Silent Bob in the sequel. Shooting for the film will start June 2015.
The Six Million Dollar Man being remade.
To account for inflation, the name is being changed to The Six Billion Dollar Man. Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg, the pair behind Lone Survivor, are taking on the project for Dimension Films. The original Six Million Dollar Man was itself an adaptation of the book, Cyborg, by Martin Caidan, and ran from 1973, with several made-for-TV movies before becoming a regular series in 1974, until 1978.
Latest rumour in the Spider-verse has Aunt May getting a movie.
Sony is apparently mining out the Spider-Man license if this rumour is true. Other rumours include a Venom movie, a Sinister Six movie, and Glass Ceiling, which involves the female characters from the Spider-verse coming together. Of these, Venom seems more likely to gather an audience. Then again, I’m not at Sony.
In more solid news, Evil Dead greenlit as a TV series.
Starz will air the Evil Dead TV series starting in 2015. Sam Raimi will be the executive producer and will also write and direct the first give episodes. Rob Tapert is on board as well as an executive producer. Bruce Campbell will return as Ash, older but not necessarily wiser. Groovy.
Jonathan Nolan adapting Foundation for HBO.
Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series is being adapted as a TV series on HBO. The epic series covers centuries over the course of the books, with the cast of characters changing over time.
Fifth Tremors movie in production.
The movie, expected out direct-to-video in 2016, will star Michael Gross, recreating his Burt Gummer character. The original Tremors, starring Kevin Bacon, became a cult hit and has spawned three direct-to-video movies and a short-lived TV series. The movie in production will see Graboids appearing in South Africa.
Movies cannot contain the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Thanks to the popularity of the film, Marvel will be adding an animated series and a new comic aimed at kids to the announced sequel. How the animated series fits in with the cinematic Marvel universe is in dispute with the production staff of the sequel, but the series may just go with the team already together.