Thursday, October 30, 2014

Universal Monsters

I didn't really do any Halloween posts this year, so in grand tv tradition I'm going to rerun some Halloween specials of the past. Enjoy these monster meditations:

Frankenstein the gift of life keeps on giving.
The Mummy wrapped like candy, but not sweet.
Gill Man vs. Wolf Man head to head monster battle

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wednesday Comics: The Bearer of Bad Tidings

"Strangers in the Night"
Artesia #4 (April 1999) Story & Art by Mark Smylie

Synopsis: The troops give thanks to gods for the new day and the passing of the black sun. Stjepan, Atresia's brother, and his companions bring startling news from the south: The Thessid Empire has invaded the Middle Kingdoms.

We get a lot of background on the conflict:

The Middle Kingdoms have few allies. The League is holding back and Palatia, though a sworn enemy of the Empire, is mistrusted in the Middle Kingdom.

Artesia wonders if the Black Sun marked a defeat for the Thessids as it had before. Stjepan believes quite the opposite. Newly added to the Empire are the Isklids who worship Irre as the father of Islik from whom they claim descent.

It's a lot to take in. Their backwater homeland may be soon drawn into a war of great powers. Of course, Artesia and her lieutenants recognize Stjepan is a spy--they just don't know who he might be working for, as yet. It doesn't matter that he is Artesia's brother. The only blood that matters to her, she says, is blood that has been spilled. Her comrades are her kin, as far as she is concerned.

 The news has made their current conflict seem small. Some urge Artesia to take Dara Dess and depose Bran, others say she should march South. Artesia makes her decision:

She will parley with Bran. "The storm breaks and the wider world calls."

Things to Notice:
  • Smylie gives us quite a geopolitical tour of the Known World (and a lot of hints at its history) in the guise of current events.
Though events (and reputtation) have linked Artesia to war, this issue shows she's pragmatic. Despite Bran's betrayal, she intends to make peace to support the other Middle Kingdoms against Thessid-Gola.

Artesia's brother gets the spotlight in Smylie's novel The Barrow.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Halloween Treat

Weird Adventures pdfs and bundles with the pdf are now on sale at 33% off as part of Drivethrurpg/Rpgnow's Halloween Sale.

If you've never picked up a copy, now is a good time.!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Welcome to the (Castle) Machine

Art by Jeremy Duncan
Castle Machina is the palace and workshop of Viola, the Clockwork Princess of the Country of Yanth. It sits at the center of a walled compound of laboratories, workshops, and barracks accommodating the Princess's gnomic associates.

The castle was built from the legendary Walking Castle of Mirabilis Lum. The old artificer reportedly chose the location because of the caves beneath. Using automaton workers, Lum turned the upper cave levels in laboratories--then disappeared into them, never to be seen again. His castle sat empty for a time, them artificers, tinkerers, and would-be treasure hunters descended upon it to scavenge Lum's secrets. Some fell to cunning traps Lum had left behind, but most lost their lives to simple heedlessness regarding the castle's dangers.

Over time, a tribe of gnomes was able to make a home in the castle and even began remodeling it to their needs. Their triumph only lasted a handful of years before they accidentally released a creature part-machine, part-ogre, Clanking Borgo, that made himself the castle's ruler. He enslaved the gnomes and exacted tribute from passing river traffic. This state of affairs lasted until the Princess arrived from places unknown to vanquish the ogre and very shortly thereafter be declared ruler of the whole country by the Wizard.

Despite being the center of the Princess's government, the castle has not being completely tamed. Oozes and slimes--the results of failed experiments and alchemical wastes--seep through the depths beneath. Dangerous automata and magical curiosities from all of Lum's travels lurk in forgotten rooms, waiting to be re-activated. There are even rumored to be unguarded portals to other worlds.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Art of Inspiration

The number of art books related to movies, computer games, and tv shows seem to have been increasing within the past few years. I just go the Adventure Time: The Art of Ooo this week, and Amazon helpfully tells me that art book for the charming animated film The Book of Life is now available. Though they can sometimes be a little pricey, I a good art book is great gaming inspiration.

The various Art of Star Wars books are pretty good--particularly for the prequel trilogy, where you get more concept art and discarded designs. For instance, early designs of for the character that became Darth Maul was a female Sith. This design later became the basis for Asaj Ventress. Unfortunately, these are out of print, though you can still find them.

The Avatar: The Last Airbender art book is a great one in terms of inspring production art and world detail. For The Legend of Korra, we've an art book for each season, so far. They are similar to the one for the original series, though individually not quite as good, probably because they aren't as concetrated. Still, they're well worth checking out.

The aboslute best ones are when the art book casts itself in a fictional context. The World of King Kong purports to be a history of Skull Island, but it's actually a fantastic guide to all the creatures created for the 2005 film.

Not all art books are created equal, alas. I found the Adventure Time book a bit disappointing as inspiration (better is The Adventure Time Encyclopaedia). Some of the movie related ones have beautiful art, but are low on concept art or hints of world detail where the real inspirational gold is to be found.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Rabbit Folk in 5e

Art by Jerome Jacinto
The Hara or Rabbit Folk have their own subkingdom within the Country of Yanth, though wandering swords-rabbits and minstrels of their kind may be encountered all over Azurth.

The Rabbit Folk live in underground warrens they call commots, where the peace is kept by knights led by a reeve. All the warrens are ruled by a king, currently one Lapin XXII who spends his days at leisure in the opulent burrow he shares with his harem.

Rabbit Folk balladeers tell of the tragic fall of a sister Hara kingdom whose warrens were invaded by a giant rattlesnake. In the tales, the undying king, maimed by the snake's vemon, roams the land in disguise, searching for a noble Hara (or any other hero, really) to restore his kingdom.

Hara are shorter than humans and thinner of limb, but sometimes plump in body. Their fur may be any color from white to black, with some shade of brown being the most common.

Art by Tony DiTerlizzi

Hara Traits
Ability Score Increase. Dexterity increased by 2 and Charisma by 1.
Age. Rabbit Folk live shorter lifespans than humans on average with only a few living beyond their 70. They are mature by their early teens.
Alignment. Hara tend toward good but can lean toward Law or Chaos.
Size. Hara are between 3 and 4 feet tall. Small.
Speed. Rabbit Folk are fleet of foot and have a base walking speed of 30 feet, despite their size.
Leaper. Rabbit Folk can make a running high jump or long jump after moving only 5 feet on foot.
Lucky. A Hara can reroll a 1 on an attack roll, ability check, or saving throw.
Nimbleness. A Hara can move through the space of any creature of larger size.
Languages. Rabbit Folk can speak and read Common. They also speak their on tongue, which they write in the standard Azurthite script.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Strange Stars: Welcome to the Outer Rim

There aren't too many more updates before we'll be done with the Strange Stars Setting Book. Here's the rough layout for the Outer Rim:

There are a couple of typos there, but it looks great overall. I worry a bit about the type size. It's always a struggle between cramming as much info in and the aesthetics.