Monday, September 1, 2014

The Lady or the Tiger

Our WaRP Weird Adventures game resumed yesterday and found our heroes re-united, but no closer to finding Urst's treasure. As an eldritch darkness seemed to be growing in the shadowy corners of the upstairs, they decide to make a hasty retreat to the downstairs and recover Rue's body--and maybe reintegrate her spirit.

It's not going to be so easy. When they get back to the rectory, the cat-headed man is leaning against the dying table near Rue's body, smoking a cigarette. He's with his apartment cronies: Camilla, the card-sharp and the Ogre in women's clothes. The man gives his name as Bagh. He says he's an associated of Urst's. He's been trapped in the mansion since Urst's death and he needs to snowglobe to get out.

The gang is disinclined to give it to them. He tells them to think it over, and says he meet them later in the gameroom. Rue is impatient to get her body back. She makes a run for it, using her ghost abilities to take a big flying leap toward it. Bagh suddenly transforms from a cat-headed man in a fez and a natty suit into a giant anthropomorphic tiger. He grabs Rue's spirit and pulls her off her body.

The others come rushing to help her. Gossamer (the Ogre) rushes to meet them. Rob dodges Gossamer's charge. Jacques runs past them to grab Camilla. Pao shoots Bagh, but the bullet goes right through him.

Jacques threatens to kill Camilla if the tiger man doesn't release Rue. Bagh calls Camilla "the help" and doesn't bite. Pao threatens to destroy the snowglobe. That get's Bagh's attention--but he still throws Rue's ghostly body through the ceiling. (She lands on the second floor, feeling bruised until she recalls she doesn't have a physical body to be bruised at the moment.)

Gossamer is pummeling Rob, and Camilla has twisted free and paralyzed Jacques with a magic playing card. Going for broke, Pao throws down the snowglobe then shoots it.

Bagh arms covering his head Bagh shrinks down to human-size. He might be sobbing, but no--he's laughing. "Free!" he shouts as he turns into a shadow in the shape of a tiger and bounds up through the ceiling. On the second floor, Rue sees he past and also sees the house and his furnishings appear to be attacking him.

Rue slips through the floor back to the level where her friends are. She's just in time to see the fireplace transmogrify into a caricature of a human face--Urst's face. He thanks them for returning the snowglobe. He also says he's captured Bagh and sent him somewhere where he won't get out for another millennia or so. He returns Gossamer and Camilla to their own worlds, too. Soon he says, the house will have rotated back to the Earth of the City and our heroes can go home.

Urst explains his death was only part of a ritual to gain immortality--not bodily immortality, but immortality nonetheless. His made had actually disrupted it by stealing the snowglobe that held the central element of his soul. Now, Urst is his estate. Bagh was a demon he had enslaved back in his days as a human sorcerer.

Urst allows them to leave the house with a letter to take to his dishonest lawyers that started this whole thing. When they do so, the lawyer's write them each a check for $2000 from Urst's account. Then, as they pour over the fine print, they disintegrate for the eyes of our protagonists.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Dark Days in Noxia

"Noxia, the northern country of Azurth, was once a region as bright and as hopeful as any other. Its Princess might be said to have been a bit moody, true, and given to overly romantic notions, perhaps, but she was young. Such things are not unexpected. It was her misfortune to fall in love with a witch. A witch with a vengeful former lover and partner in crime. Tragedy was the result, as one might well imagine: curses of eternal sleep, pacts made with dark powers, and a land cast into perpetual shadow."

-  A History of the Land of Azurth

High Concept: A fairytale kingdom gone post-apocalyptic under the rule of a Dark Queen.
Conspectus: the Sun and the Moon permanently eclipsed by a shadow moon; the blighted land and depopulated settlements stalked by humanoids, monsters, and undead; isolated human settlements under the thumb of dark elf overlords; treacherous mountain peaks; a valley of giant thorns; a vampire queen and her gargoyle minions.
Media Inspirations: The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe and The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis; Maleficent (2014); the "evil queen" portions of Snow White and the Huntsman (2012); the stuff having to do with the Necromancer in Peter Jackson's Hobbit films, Hammer's "Karnstein Trilogy", Winkie Country in The Wizard of Oz (1939); Eva Green as Morgan Pendragon in the Camelot TV series. Just about anything with a country under the rule of a Dark Lord might have something.

Art by Alberto Bontempi

Friday, August 29, 2014

Empire Island Revisited

Coming just in time for the resumption (at least for one more session) of my long hiatused Weird Adventures game this Sunday, Lester B. Portly unveiled on G+ this map of Empire Island with the neighborhood key arranged in alphabetical order. Handy!

Hospitals are marked with red crosses, but I would warn user that this information is for planning purposes only and may not reflect the current location of medical facilities. For instance, Aldwood (consumed as it is by a fictional reality) doesn't have an accessible hospital.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Witches of Ix

Art by Ian Miller
It is likely you will never have cause to visit the land of Ix, and in this, you should consider yourself lucky. The only exception might be those who have the misfortune to live in blighted, ghoul-haunted Noxia. To you Noxians an oft cold and mostly gloomy land of forests, bogs, and mountains, infested with goblins and ruled by witches, may not seem so dire. Remember though that you must cross the toxic badlands of the Waste to get there.

Ix has only one town worthy of note, and it cowers in the shadow of Hexenghast, an impossibly large and sprawling castle built beyond the memory of Ixians. Hexenghast is large enough to accommodate the four Great Houses of Ixian Witches and their various servants, mercenaries, guests, and prisoners. In fact, it is so large it houses these individuals and still has a great many halls and rooms that are unoccupied and perhaps unexplored for centuries.

Art by Yoshitaka Amano
A grand coven of the leaders of the Great Houses rules Hexenghast (no mean feat, given all the infighting and intrigue). The management of the rest land is done by lower level witches with mundane human and goblin subordinates. Mostly they are concerned with the collection of Hexenghast's due in taxes and farm goods, but they also suppress any unauthorized practice of magic and promulgate state propaganda.

There is an order of witches known as the Witchfinders. These cloaked figures appear within a day of the birth of any child in Ix. Every newborn is examined, and if the child bear some witches' mark, it's whisked off to Hexenghast and given over to one house or another to raise. When the children come of age, they cross the flickering Ghostlight Bridge that spans the chasm between Hexenghast proper and the sub-castle of the Scholomance. There, they are tutored in the dark arts until they are ready to assume their adult role in Witch society.

It has been the custom for new graduates of the Scholomance to spend some time abroad before settling into Hexenghast, engaging in the sort of infamies that youths who are schooled in the Dark Arts and confident in their own superiority are wont to engage in. This was the context in which Angvaine and Nocturose crossed into Noxia all those years ago.

Art by Yoshitaka Amano

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wednesday Comics: The Price (part 6)

We continue our examination of Jim Starlin's Dreadstar Saga with The Price. The earlier posts in the series can be found here.

The Price (part 6)
Eclipse Graphic Album Series #5 (October 1981) Story & Art by Jim Starlin

Synopsis: When next we see Darklock, he's discussing his resignation from the priesthood with the Lord Papal. Papal says he's sorry to see him go, but Darklock knows he's happy to see a rival eliminated. Apparently, the story is that Sister Marian died in a gas main explosion.

When Darklock is gone, the Cardinal congratulates Papal on getting rid of him. Papal berates his suboordinate: Can't the Cardinal sense Darklock's power? It's as much as a god's.

Darklock buys a ship and crews it with robots. Once it's ready, he takes the journey to the frontier and a world called Caldor. There, he makes camp and waits.

Vanth asks the stranger who he is. Darklock tells him as he removes his hood, and we see his deformed, almost skeletal visage for the first time post-burning. Darklock says he has sacrificed much to get to this point. He is here to be Vanth's comrade and mentor.

Vanth doesn't understand much of this. Darklock suggests they can talk tomorrow; For now, Vanth should return to cat people and tell them he means no harm. He also hints he knows of Vanth's sword.

When Vanth is gone, Darklock muses about the future:

Then, he thinks of Marian:

"...And I'm pray you'll have forgiven me by then."

Things to Notice:
  • Darklock's encampment on Caldor looks a lot like the Lars home on Tattooine on in Stars Wars.
  • In fact, there's a bit of a Star Wars vibe to the whole Vanth-Syzygy interaction.
In the end, The Price has similar themes to Metamorphosis Odyssey: A man makes a decision with horrible consequences convinced that this is the best thing for the future.

It's funny that the titular hero of the graphic novel and series to follow has been a secondary character in stories focused on his succession of advisors. It's like Arthur had two Merlins and both of their stories got told before his got started. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Strange Stars Evolution

I've shown this page from the Strange Stars setting introduction before, but this is the latest iteration. Lester is has been honing the layout over time, and I think it looks great. The is is a bit over half done in layout.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Gloom Elves

Gloom or shadow elves are a subrace found in Noxia, the somber northern country of Azurth. They are Noxia's primary inhabitants, having risen from underground habitations to colonize the surface with the Witch Queen Morthalia's ritual working that caused Umbra, the Shadow Moon, to stand still above the land and made it visible to mundane eyes. The gloom elves were at first allies of Angvaine and Nocturose when the pair of would-be conquerors arrived from the Witchocracy of Ix. Ultimately, they sided with the rightful queen Morthalia after the usurpers fell out, and it's likely their wizards taught her the Umbral ritual.

Gloom elves have skin colors ranging from ashen to dark gray. Their eyes range from pale to the color of bloodstone. They are often thin by elven reckoning and have larger ears. Gloom elves are longer lived than other elves; they can live over a millennia. However, they decline more rapidly with age. This is often cited as the reason for their morbid pre-occupations and yearnings for undeath.

Ability Score Increase. Intelligent score increased by 1.
Superior Darkvision. Radius of 120 feet.
Sunlight Sensitivity. Gloom elves have a disadvantage on attack rolls and on vision-based Wisdom (Perception) checks in direct sunlight.
Cantrip. Gloom elves know one cantrip of their choice from the wizard spell list.
Weapon Training. They have a proficiency with rapiers, shortswords, and hand crossbows.