Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Getting My Dino On (Terra Nova)

Back in early February or late January I saw a television commercial (probably during last year’s NFL playoffs), previewing some crazy-ass new show featuring 21st century people (humans) being menaced by dinosaurs. I had no idea what the hell this show was about, but I was damn excited to check it out.

No such TV show ever appeared.

This last week, while again watching football, I saw another ad for this same TV show. Apparently scheduled to start up at the end of the month (appears the thing might have experienced some shooting problems through most of 2011).

The show will be on Fox, a station that has managed to put out some quality fiction shows over the years (The Simpsons, Firefly, Arrested Development, the first season or two of 24), many of which they completely mishandle and wreck/cancel (Firefly, Arrested Development). The prospect of a decent (if quickly cancelled) series is a real possibility, but who knows...TV execs often make decisions that are a complete mystery to me; chucking good, creative art in exchange for the most insipid and ridiculous of “reality TV.”

That’s probably one of the reasons I’m not a wealthy business tycoon. Anyway…

Called Terra Nova it has an interesting premise that blah-blah-blah HUMANS VERSUS DINOSAURS!

That’s really all you need to know. Well, all I need to know anyway.

I love most anything that mixes “modern man” with dinosaurs…it’s just one of my favorite pulp fantasies. Peter Jackson’s King Kong, the first Jurassic Park book/movie (before the Goldblum character got resurrected…wtf?), S.M. Stirling’s Sky People novel, all those lost/hollow world kind of movies, not to mention the Hollow Earth Expedition (HEX) Role-Playing Game (though why does it have to have Nazis, dammit).

I don’t know why I dig it so much. As a kid, Land of the Lost was definitely one of the weirdest/coolest TV shows on Saturday Mornings (at least with the original cast). I still love the premise of the show and would love to do something with it (what exactly? Who knows…).

Also as a kid, I remember reading old Turok Son of Stone comics. Back in Montana, my uncles weren’t too much older than me (maybe 10 to 15 years) and there were always old comic books of a “non-superhero” variety laying around: The Two-Gun Kid, Sergeant Rock, the Unknown Soldier, Turok, House of Mystery, Dracula, etc.

Turok was about an American Indian and his younger brother (?) who had somehow been transported to prehistoric times where, duh, they were often hunting or running from dinosaurs. I don’t remember any of the specific stories/plots from my childhood, I just remember being very taken with the illustrations, even (or especially) non-action ones: a half page image of Turok and his brother over-looking a bluff, watching a herd of honkers grazing in a pastoral valley, for example. Things like that.

The last couple years I spent a lot of time looking for old issues of the awesomely illustrated Xenozoic Tales (author: Mark Schultz). I had finally given up when I happened across the recently published trade paperback collecting every issue into a single volume. It took me a few days to read it cover to cover, but the thing is a real work of art, with beautiful story, pacing, characterization, and illustration.

[I’ll talk more about Xenozoic…and its associated RPG…in a later post]

No, I really don’t know what it is about the mix of people and dinosaurs that get me juiced; it’s just one of those things like Vikings/axes and sand-and-sandal fantasy that tends to fire my imagination. Dinos are just so HUGE and monstrous (always depicted with big, sharp teeth) and the idea of hunting them so ridiculously foolhardy…I mean it can’t result in anything but crazy heroics (or digested heroes).

Strangely, I almost never use dinosaurs or lost world tropes (Neanderthals, ape-men, etc.) in my D&D games, B/X or otherwise. The Isle of Dread is the only “dino-sanctuary” I’ve ever depicted in the game, and then but rarely. For whatever reason, the thought of fighters in plate mail attacking a T-Rex with his trusty magic sword just seems wrong.

But modern day heroes (18th century and later)? That seems the perfect protagonist for a dinosaur-infested campaign. Silly perhaps, but that’s just me.

I would love a good pulpy game that pitted dinos against heroic player characters. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find such a game (more on that in a latter post, too).

All right, all right. I've got some stuff to take care of right now. Perhaps more dino-stuff later.


  1. Sounds good but there's also -

    TV show (Modern heroes + dinosaurs) + rpg:


  2. too bad you hate Savage Worlds with such all-consuming bitterness. ;)

    That seems like your best bet

  3. I never got the players to run it, but I had a campaign for d20 Past, the WotC d20 Modern supplement, that was all Tommy Guns and T-Rexes. Pick your favorite Roaring 20's/Great Depression type hero (gangsters, Indy-type explorers, Joad family drifters, whatever), and throw them into The Land of the Lost. I thought it would have been a blast, but no one was interested in playing it at the time.

  4. @ Sean: Oh, wow! Yeah, I think I watched an episode of Primeval when it was on. The blurb for the game looks like it would a bit weird for an RPG.

    @ IG/Heron: Hey, man, did I say I HATE Savage Worlds? Um...did I?

    (really, I can't remember)

    I plan on talking about the various dino-RPGs I've seen (yes, folks, it's Dino-Week at Ye Old Blackrazor), so we'll get to SW.

    @ Lord Gwyd: I'm not so sure that a level-based system is the way to go with this particular genre. I mean, T-Rexes shouldn't be held off simply because PCs are 1st level...and velociraptors should always be dangerous, even to veteran characters.


  5. @ Lord Gwyd (one more time):

    Sorry, should have said the IDEA of your campaign sounds like fun (and *I* would have liked to play), potential system complaints notwithstanding.
    : )

  6. Big dangerous animals are a solved problem. They do make for cool fiction though

  7. I love me some Xenozoic Tales, man! I would totally rock a table-top game if someone was running said game in that world!

  8. About HEX...because what's a pulp game without Nazis?!?! :D

  9. @ Antonio: I'm just sooooo tired of Nazis, everyone's favorite whipping boy.

    Give me 1920s-30s pulp PRIOR to the Nazi party. Where are the gangsters and gin runners? Where are the cultists and occultists? Where are the...well you get the idea.
    : )

  10. The old Warlord comic from D.C. seemed to have a bit of that modern man v.s. dinosaurs thing going for it too, along with some swords and sorcery action.

  11. "The show will be on Fox, a station that has managed to put out some quality fiction shows over the years (The Simpsons, Firefly, Arrested Development, the first season or two of 24)"

    Fox News...

  12. I ran a one-shot Land of the Lost (using Wushu) for some young punks that had never seen the original show. It was pretty fun. The benefit to LotL is that it has all that weird ness going on alongside the dinos.

    I always rarely use dinos in D&D. I think the problem is that I have trouble seeing even a high-level fighter not just get stepped on by a giant lizard. Like, before he gets to use his magic sword of whatever. Dinos seems like they really ought to be an environmental obstacle rather than an opponent.

    (And, yes, I see that the same could apply to dragons. I dunno, I don't use dragons as opponents much either)

  13. I agree, knights with magic swords fighting dinos just doesn't seem right. Now a fur clad barbarian, on the other hand, is money!

  14. So... let me see if I get this straight. Humans from a dying future civilization try to save themselves by colonizing the Cretaceous period. The writers DO realize the potential that this could radically alter the biological history on Earth thus creating a temporal paradox?


    Of course they don't.

  15. @ School Master: My guess is: it's probably a one-way trip. The "time colonists" are doomed to failure (i.e. death) at the jaws of the dinosaurs, or the same mass event that made said dinosaurs extinct. The world goes on and history remains unchanged.
    : )