Monday, September 29, 2014

Tales of Two Cities

The Witchocracy of Ix is perhaps the most vexing of the lands across the Wastes to the north to Azurth, but it is not the only one. It is one of three descendants of the dreaded Empire of the Barbarous Name, which was so feared that its very name was stricken from any record so that no one might speak it aloud and inadvertently evoke a ritual of resurrection. The only parts of that feared land and its hexadecagrammaton known to have survived are Ix, Yai, and Zed.

Many rumors and legends circulate regarding Yai, but all truth is hidden beneath a massive dome, ensconced in a remote mountain valley. It is widely known as the "Pleasure Dome of Yai", as tales tell of travelers being received by a youthful, beautiful, and most solicitous folk, eager to fulfill the travelers' every need and desire--save one. The folk of Yai are said never to age and never to tire of serving others; they are so devoted, that they demure from allowing their guests to leave, no matter how strenuously they state their desire to do so. One of the most peculiar stories told about Yai is that one of its pleasures is a game that somehow involves manipulation of the people beyond Yai. This "god-game" is rumored to be one of the most addictive of Yai's many pleasures.

Art by Alayna Lemmer
One of the peculiarities of the Mysteriarchy of Zed, the City of Wizards, is that no non-initiate may recall both the location of its gates and their passwords at the same time. The location of the city itself is well known; geographers with their particular thaumaturgy have fixed it in place to the north of Azurth and the Waste and the east of Ix and Yai. (Though, one must recall, the geographer has a luxury of imprecision not afforded the traveler.) Even still, an eidolon or mirage of the city is given to wandering. It has been glimpsed in many places but always to the north near the horizon, shimmering like heat-haze, staying forever out of reach--until it disappears entirely. The city gates are much less elusive but just as unpredictable; one might find them on a sheer cliff face in Sang, standing on a small isle in the midst of bubbling mudpots in the vicinity of Demonland, or in the back of a poorly lit Rivertown larder. The Wizard of Azurth, for all his presumed might, has never been invited to join the citizenry of Zed and so puts a great deal of effort into trying to find a way through these gates.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Strange Stars' Most Wanted

Here's a selection of  "most wanted" criminals culled from various crime databases across known space:

The Dragon’s Teeth: An infosophont which generates for its clients a specially synthesized, infectious nanoweapon for the purposes of creating assassins from random bystanders.

Haxun Malokk: Penitent crime lord operating out of an independent principality on Circus. Though associated with numerous crimes, he may be more notable for his eccentricity: he has patterned his criminal persona on an Old Earth historic work named Chicago Mobs of the Twenties and forces the members of his gang to dress and act accordingly.

Ligeia-988: Eratoan bioroid who masterminded a large-scale kidnapping ring in a supposedly unused pleasure dome. Most of her victims believed they were on vacation during the duration of their confinement.

Mako Orm: An infamous Zao Pirate who escaped capture by the privateer vessel Thermidorian by use of a bootleg genderswap nanoswarm. She is believed to be living under an assumed name in the Strip.

Polychrome: Allegedly the target of contract killers hired by Neshekk Banking Clans, this con-artist was responsible for a major “correction” in Alliance financial markets after a spectacularly successful execution of the “new node scam.”

Friday, September 26, 2014

Some Folk of Yanth

Just brainstorming a bit. Here are some characters the players in my 5e game may well meet in the near future:

Art by Renee Calvert
Viola, the Clockwork Princess of Yanth. A marvelous invention and marvelous inventor in her own right.

Art by Yuriy
Rarebit Finn, Hara pirate from the Motley Isles and Black Iris's first-mate.

Yrrol B. Gladhand, Mayor of Rivertown, but with ambitions that reach higher--perhaps much higher.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

First 5e Session

Last Sunday my gaming group met for a character creation session in 5e in preparation for our upcoming Land of Azurth game (now with a logo!). I gave this this doc ahead of time to get them prepped. We were joined by two new players that weren't in the Weird Adventures crew so we're at 7 now.

No one was over-burdened by too much prior study of the Player's Handbook, but everybody found it easy enough to use--particularly in comparison to some older editions. A outline of character creation with page references would have been a help, though.

We wound up with a frox thief, a human bard, an infernal-blood (don't call 'em tieflings!) sorcerer, a human fighter, a wood elf ranger, and an Azurthite dwarf cleric of Iolanthe. A fairly non-muscle heavy bunch, but the ranger and fighter ought to be able to handle it.

I'm planning on running this more sandboxy than my "mission style" approach to Weird Adventures. After the first adventure, the player's will get a list of rumors/adventure seeds to choose from for the next session--a technique I've seen put to good use in Chris Kutalik's Hill Cantons game.

The players seem eager to get started and so am I.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wednesday Comics: Conquerors of the Counter-World

"Conquerors of the Counter-World"
The Multiversity: Society of Super-Heroes: Conquerors of the Counter-World #1 (November 2014), Written by Grant Morrison; Art by Chris Sprouse & Karl Story & Walden Wong

Last week saw the release of the second part of Morrison's Multiversity storyline. Society of Super-Heroes takes us to the world of Earth-20 where a pulp- and serial-flavored group of heroes is battling for the fate (heh) of their world against an invasion from Earth-40 lead by Vandal Savage and (presumably) a Society of Super-Villains.

Earth-20 first appeared in Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1 and its prominent heroes are named in Final Crisis Secret Files #1. Earth-40 is a bit of a puzzle. Comments Dan DiDio made about the Countdown: Arena limited series suggested Earth-40 was the home of the government operative pulp versions of the Golden Age heroes in JSA: The Liberty Files. It's possible the concept of this Earth has changed, but it's also possible that Vandal Savage and his crew took over that world sometime after World War II.

Anyway, here's a scorecard with the prominent players and what you need to know:

Immortal Man (Earth-20) 
First Appearance: Final Crisis Secret Files #1
The Pre-Crisis Immortal Man first appeared in Strange Adventures #165 (1965) and appeared sporadically for two years, then didn't show up again until 1984 when his backstory and link to Vandal Savage were revealed. Then he died in Crisis. This Earth-20 version adds the interesting wrinkle of apparently also being Anthro. Anthro is a Cro-Magnon born to Neanderthal parents and has fairly light-hearted adventures until he settles down and becomes the father of modern humans. He first appeared in Showcase #74 (1968). Pre-Crisis Immortal Man was a different prehistoric guy (Klarn Arg) but he is said to have been from the Bear Tribe, which is the name of Anthro's tribe, too.

Doc Fate (Earth-20)
First Appearance: Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1
Doc Fate is more of a man of action that his Golden Age (and other Earthly) counterparts. He's also a person of color, who tells us he was adopted (both differences from other Kent Nelsons). His helmet is also explicitly tied in to Novu, the Proto-Monitor, not Nabu the Lord of Order. (Unless those are one and the same?)

Mighty Atom
First Appearance: Final Crisis Secret Files #1
The original Al Pratt Atom first appeared in 1940. Like this version, he was a short guy with no super-powers who toughened himself up to fight crime. This version trained using the Arn Munro method. This is a reference to the old Charles Atlas ads and exercise regimen, but also to the pre-Crisis character Arn "Iron" Munro from Young All-Stars. In the series, Munro was the son of Philip Wylie's Hugo Danner from his 1930 novel Gladiator, one of the inspirations for Superman. Interestingly, "Mighty Atom" was the stage name of the strongman Joe Greenstein.

Lady Blackhawk (Earth-20)
First Appearance: Final Crisis Secret Files #1
There have been more than one Lady Blackhawk over the years, but all of them were so named because they were the only female member of the Blackhawks at the time. This Lady Blackhawk appears to be who her all-female team is named for.

Green Lantern (Abin Sur)
First Appearance: Final Crisis Secret Files #1
On Earth-0 ("New Earth"), and on Earth-1 Pre-Crisis, Abin Sur was dying alien Green Lantern that bequeathed his power ring to Hal Jordan. This Abin Sur looks sort of like a demon (or the Demon), which is his reason for keeping his existence secret from humankind, much like the rationale of the Overlords in Clarke's Childhood's End. He wears a costume more reminiscent of the Golden Age Green Lantern than the Silver Age one his origin is taken from.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Strange Stars Update

Here's the mostly-done first page of the Instrumentality of Aom spread in the Strange Stars setting book. Lester B. Portly continues to do awesome work! The setting book is still on schedule for a fall release.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Demihuman Height Reference

The 5e Player's Handbook gives us the following height ranges for demihumans: Dwarf, 4-5 ft.; Elf, under 5-over 6 ft.; Halfling: 3 ft.; Gnome: 3-4 ft. Here's a few images illustrating what those heights actual mean.

In the halfling and gnome range is homo florensis. The skeleton discovered was a bit over 3.5 ft.

In the dwarf and short elf height range are the Pygmy peoples of Central Africa. Height for males is under 4'11". I imagine dwarves are built less like pygmies and more like Neanderthals, though.