Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Warlord Wednesday: Through the Glass

Let's re-enter the lost world with another installment of my issue by issue examination of DC Comic's Warlord, the earlier installments of which can be found here...

"Through the Glass"
Warlord (vol. 1) #65 (January 1983)
Written by Mike Grell (Sharon Grell); Penciled by Dan Jurgens; Inked by Mike deCarlo

Synopsis: Morgan approaches Castle Deimos in the realm of twilight known as the Terminator. Painful memories come up unbidden as he sees it once again.

Faithful Faaldren leads him to his daughter, Jennifer, the sorceress supreme:

Morgan tells her about Rostov and Shakira, lost in the Age of Wizard Kings. Jennifer unveils a magic mirror to help them scry his friends’ whereabouts. Soon, he sees an image of the two with a centaur....

In the Age of Wizard Kings, Shadowstorm (the centaur) thinks he has a solution to Rostov’s and Shakira’s predicament: They need to find a good wizard. Unfortunately, those are hard to come by as the Evil One keeps killing them. They’ll have to settle for the 10th or 11th (whichever) in line for the title of sorcerer supreme—Mungo Ironhand.

A bit later, in Mungo’s tower, the wizard has just returned to tell Mariah and Machiste that he’s now 9th in line for sorcerer supreme! If the Evil One keeps killing at this rate, he just might make it to the top. Mariah and Machiste suggest the wizards band together to defeat the Evil One before he masters the full power of the Necronomicon.

Before Mungo can make more excuses an alert sounds: They have visitors. Peering into a crystal ball, they don’t recognize Shakira, Rostov, os Shadowstorm. They prepare an ambush. In the melee that follows, Mariah finally recognizes Rostov, but before she can tell Machiste, he appears likely to bash Rostov’s head in with his mace hand.

Morgan (watching all this in the glass) tells Jennifer to bring them back to the present—now! Jennifer replies enigmatically that she can’t--suggesting his friends may play a role in the defeat of the Evil One. Morgan and Jennifer will have to go to them:

Things to Notice:
  • This issue's cover more resembles events from last issue (and last issue's more closely matches this one!).
  • While her hair has been white since issue #50, we were never really given an explanation of how Jennifer's hair got that way from its original blonde.  Perhaps the shock of her encounter with Deimos?
  • Mungo Ironhand seems a rather poorly regarded wizard.
Where It Comes From:
The title references the use of the magic mirror to watch most of the action of the story.  It may have been suggested by the title of Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871) by Lewis Carroll.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Pulp Planet Maps

Tired of NASA harshing your pulp buzz with "real" images of the solar system?  Well, Edmond "World-Wrecker" Hamilton has got what you need.  Here are some maps of some familiar worlds from his Captain Future series as presented in An Atlas of Fantasy

Leave your so-called "reality-based" planetary science at home, and make sure your rocket has the approriate sheen:

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Diamond Planet Heist!

Astronomers have discovered a planet 4000 light-years away orbiting a neutron star every two hours that appears to be composed of diamond.  Read the details here.

Could you ask for a better science ficiton/space opera adventure locale?  It could be a ritzy casino world full of sauve spies like something out of a Bond film or novel.  Or you could do a swinging sci-fi heist film, like a space opera Ocean's 11.  Maybe it's a glitzy disco world like something you might have seen on the 80s Buck Rogers if it had had a bigger budget?

Of course, one could go against all those diamond associations.  Doctor Who has a "crystalline world" in the episode "Midnight" and that's a horror story.

Friday, August 26, 2011

'Twas Beauty that Killed the Efreet

Well, that and magical lightning bolts.  And airplanes.

Anyway, here's an excerpt from a Weird Adventures take on the cover illo of the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide--which includes adding liberal amounts of King Kong.  This was realized by the very talented Adam Moore, and you can see a color version on his deviantart site.  Check it out.

On the subject of Weird Adventures, I'm trying to get over this last writing hill (the neighborhoods of middle and upper Empire Island)--which means I may not be around as much posting or commenting the next week or so; we'll see.

In the mean time, stroll over to Gorgonmilk and add your own creative items to the inventory of "Stuff You Might Find in a Goblin Market." 

While I'm plugging, let me suggest you take a drink from the seemingly bottomless and most definitely spiked punch bowl of weird science fantasy that is the Swords & Stitchery blog.  Needles' preoccupations with fungus, parasites, genre b-movies, and general weirdness may strain his sanity, but it's all for your benefit.  Check it out.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Stalker

If you should find yourself in the City on a lonely railway platform in the wee hours or taking a night train across the dark countryside, you may happen to get the sensation you’re being watched. That may mean you have reason to be afraid.

Travelers in similar situations have looked to see the vague shape of what might be a fellow traveler clinging to the shadows of the platform, or have seen a gaunt figure receding in the distance as the train passes, its eyes glowing like signal lights.

The rail stalker appears to select his prey at random, but once he has done so he always lets the hapless traveler glimpse him at least once. The next time the victim sees the creature’s pale, naked, and emaciated form may be when he strikes.

The creature (it is unclear if there is more than one) attacks by opening his mouth absurdly wide in a caricature of a scream and emitting a sound or vibration. Things directly in its path may be damage as if thousands of years of erosion took place in a single moment, concentrated in a narrow area. Those nearby but not directly in the path describe a sudden wave of fear and a mind numbing hum. The stalker prefers to kill by embracing his victim and deilvering a kiss—a kiss that sends his deadly vibration through the victim’s body, turning bone to powder and liquifying organs.

Some thaumaturgists believe the sound made by the rail stalker is a sound from the end of the material universe, the wail of of inevitable armageddon that the rail stalker somehow carries in his withered frame. And aches to share with others.

[The rail stalker is, of course, a modern/near-modern horror riff on Fiend Folio’s Dune Stalker and resembles that creature in game particulars.  'Cause a naked, clawed dude trying to kiss you in a subway station is scarier than one in a desert, maybe.]

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Warlord Wednesday: DC Invades Skartaris

I've mentioned before how Crisis on Infinite Earths brought the Warlord (originally conceived as existing in his on universe) into the DC Multiverse.  Not only has Morgan made some trips to the outer earth of the DC heroes, those guys have visited Skartaris.  And sometimes, it ain't pretty.  Case in point:

Justice League Task Force #35-36 (1996) couldn't be more nineties if Martian Manhunter was listening to "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and Shakira moved into Melrose Place.  The visit of this proactive (i.e. extreme) version of the Justice League to Skataris is just so...extreme.

Maybe this extreme-ness was why it ended the very next issue.

A couple of years earlier, Warlord had an appearance in a better book, albeit only a cameo.  1991's Books of Magic #4 saw him rubbing shoulders with Vertigo charcters to be, and beautifully illustrated by Charles Vess:

The Teen Titans visit I've chronicled before.  The next superhero to vacation beneath the eternal orb of Skartaris' sun was Wonder Woman.  Writer/artist Phil Jimenez sent her there after a cabal of super-villainesses for a five part arc in 2002 beginning in #179.  Jimenez's rendering of Skartaris and its people is different, but interesting, and several of the Warlord cast make appearances.  The hitch is those appearances are pretty limited.  Morgan and Jennifer are off the stage early so Wonder Woman and her supporting cast can be the stars:

The DCU isn't done with the Warlord.  The internet tells me the new Flashpoint: Deathstroke and the Curse of the Ravager limited features an alternate history version of Travis Morgan, a pirate (clever given that Grell named him after a pirate). 

Who know's where he'll turn up next or who will be making a visit to the inner world?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Spaceman's Bar Encounter Table

It was a motley crowd, Earthmen and Martians, and Venusian swampmen and strange, nameless denizens of unnamed planets...”
- CL Moore, “Shambleau”
This could be used with my pulp Spelljammer idea or any other pulpy space game:

01 A shifty human trader with a large, glowing jar containing squirming forms he says are solar salamanders--for sale.

02 Two spacers in aged flight suits.  They're of human stock but congenitally scarred from in utero exposure to poorly shielded eldritch drives and strange radiations.

03 Four pygmy-like “mushroom men"--fungoid sophonts from the Venusian caverns. They are deep in their reproductive cycle and close proximity gives a 10% chance per minute of exposure inhaling their spores.

04 A reptoid outlaw with bloodshot eyes from chronic hssoska abuse and an itchy trigger-claw.

05 A balding man with thick glasses and a nervous look sitting at a table in the shadows. If observed for at least a minute he will be seen to flicker like a bad transmission on a viewscreen.

07 A human child with pigtails and sad eyes surrounded by faint, swirling colorful lights.

08 A cyborg gladiator (his parts occasionally leaking oil) on the run from one of the L4 arenas regales two groupies with his exploits.

09 A scruffy prophet and his 1d4 wide-eyed and oddly-dressed teen acolytes, dealing in spiritual enhancers.

10 Blonde and statuesque Venusian women, neuro-goads on their belts, looking for a suitable male.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Lovecraft Birthday Gift Ideas

I'm a day late for HPL's birthday, but for next year, here are some Lovecraftiana for yourself or your favorite cultist:

In The Annotated Lovecraft and More Annotated Lovecraft, preeminent Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi provides corrected text and interesting footnotes on selected Lovecraft stories.  The first volume includes "At the Mountains of Madness," and "The Dunwich Horror," among others.  The second takes a look at some lesser (but no less interesting) tales like "Herbert West: Re-Animator."

Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown is a documentary about HPL's life and work.  It's of a cable TV quality, but it features the likes of Joshi, Guillermo del Toro, Neil Gaiman, and John Carpenter.  It turns out its available to watch online through Amazon Video.

Cthulhu Fthagn!

Friday, August 19, 2011

500 Posts Ain't a Day at the Beach

But this illustration is.  Heironymus Gaunt and his moll taking the Hotel Elephantine on a beach excursion, rendered for Weird Adventures by the very talented Adam Moore.  Check out his gallery here.

In other news, Jim over at the Flashback Universe Blog has posted part 2 of my indepth article on the Fantastic Four from within the Marvel Universe.

Thanks to every one for reading, following, and commenting over these 500 posts.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Henchman Life

Don't feel like you're successful enough to marry your sweetheart?” or “Tired of being a wimp?” These are the questions asked in a hundred ads in tabloid newspapers and pulp magazines in the City. Then they provide the solution: Train to be a professional adventurer! Which is to say: a henchman, a hireling.

Fleischschild’s Institute provides minimal training in outfitting and provisioning of an expedition into the subterranean depths, a couple of lectures from burnout delvers with nervous conditions on typical hazards, and an exploitative short film masquerading as a cautionary docudrama; and the gullible and desperate are turned loose find work. They mill about the entrances of outfitting shops and loiter in adventurers’ saloons waiting for their big chance.

A few get it and rise up the ranks to lead their own delves and make headlines. Most die without anybody knowing more than their first name.

Here are some of the common types encountered:
  1. Cornfed farmboy: He’s got enthusiasm and muscles, but not a lot of smarts, and a misplaced chivalry that will get him killed by any monster with a feminine form.
  2. Specks: Not necessarily smart in the way you need underground, but guaranteed to have a head full of pulp magazine and comic book nonsense...Which can be useful at times, true.
  3. Rosie: It doesn’t matter what her name is, if she could beat you at arm-wrestling she’s Rosie. Good to have around, but always out to prove she can do as well as man does--which can cause problems.
  4. Choirboy: He keeps his rosary in hand and prays a lot--mostly to no noticeable effect. Divine intervention is great to have, but hard to come by.
  5. Crazy Jane: She might be plain or a real looker, but either way she’s got a crazy look in her eye and a matching berserker streak. Comes in two varieties: gun crazy and blade crazy. Good to have around until she inevitably decides to make for the gates of warrior heaven and take you with her in her blaze of glory.
  6. The Twitch: Twitches are always trouble. They’ve got some experience, but it only gave them bad case of shellshock. In the moment you need ‘em most they either start crying for mama or get the thousand yard stare.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Warlord Wednesday: Elsewhen

Let's re-enter the lost world with another installment of my issue by issue examination of DC Comic's Warlord, the earlier installments of which can be found here...

Warlord (vol. 1) #64 (December 1982)
Written by Mike Grell (Sharon Grell); Penciled by Dan Jurgens; Inked by Wayne Howard

Synopsis: When last we looked in on Skartaris, Rostov had vanished through a portal opened by the Kaash’Ban while Morgan and Shakira looked on. Morgan recognizes the architecture of the structures he sees in the still-open portal. Before Shakira can protest, he’s got them swinging through it like Tarzan and reluctant Jane.

Once in the weird energy realm inside, Shakira and Morgan lose hold of each other—and Morgan is spit out.

Shakira lands (appropriately) on her feet and finds Rostov. He reveals he did go with the Kaash’Ban willingly. They told him he might be important to their kind, so he agreed to a test. He didn’t expect this to happen! Shakira tells him they're in the past: The Age of the Wizard Kings.

Suddenly, a dragon (of the firebreathing variety) attacks them. After a bit of a chase, the dragon snatches them up in its talons and flies away. Just before he drops them , Rostov is able to get his sword free and stabs the dragon in its underbelly.

They fall on to a cliff. The dragon seems ready to attack, but unexpectedly falls over dead. Then, they hear a voice behind them:

Shakira ask what he means by “loyalties.” The centaur’s surprised, but that response convinces him they’re probably harmless enough. He’s got the very D&D name of Eran Shadowstorm, and he’s been tracking creatures of the Evil One like this dragon. He offers them a ride off the mountain in exchange for their story.

Back in the present, Morgan’s found by the Kaash’Ban. They tell him they didn’t know what would happen with Rostov, only what had to be done. They show him a medallion:

Morgan intends to find his friends. He rides for Castle Deimos..

Things to Notice:
  • We get another hint at Shakira's past.
  • The pink dragon's membranous wings are so riddled with holes, he most definitely flies by magic.
Where It Comes From:
The title of this issue may have been inspired by a 1941 Robert Heinlein novella of the same name about travel to parallel universes, or perhaps it's just coincidence.

Monday, August 15, 2011

An Alternate Spelljammer Setting

In 1898, the people of Earth discovered they weren’t alone when a brutal invasion was launched from Mars. Luckily, the mauve, squid-headed Invaders were unprepared for the perils of Earth’s biosphere.  No one believed the human race would be so luck should they try again. Scientist went to work studying the Martian technology left behind. Their conclusions were that some sort of psychic power was needed to operate many of the devices. Men from the Society for Psychical Research were co-opted by the British government and were put to the task. Soon, seeking to broaden their knowledge base, they would actively recruit members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, as well.

The conclusion the research group had come to was that Martian technology had at its base a science previously known to humanity as magic. Soon, the researchers were beginning their first cautious experimentation with operating the devices themselves.

As a new century dawned, the discoveries of Carter from Egypt suggested this science wasn't new, but had only been lost. The occult secrets supposedly uncovered by Blavatsky and others were looked at in a different light. By the second decade of the twentieth century, a space age was underway, brought into being by alien technology and the wisdom of the ancients.

Soon humankind discovered there were other species in the solar system besides the beings they thought of as Martians--a race they realized was actually from a trans-Neptunian world. Nearly every world in the solar system held intelligent life of some sort, a disparate group of species with varying degrees of mastery of the psychic sciences. What’s more, most worlds contained ruins of an even more advanced ancient race. The ruins often contained material riches as well as ancient knowledge.

The nations of earth now had a solar system to fight over. World Wars would become Multi-World Wars with powerful new sciences changing the way they would be fought.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

VHS Swords & Sorcery

These days, kids getting into fantasy rpgs have a number of film and TV influences to draw from should our increasingly post-literate world make Appendix N unpalatable. There have even been D&D movies! If we want to stick with quality examples we’ve had the Lord of the Rings films and the D&D-without-the-name Record of Lodoss War, not to mention things like Harry Potter that (while not Medieval) have plenty of magic.

Such was not the case back the eighties. We had to savor what sword and spell films we had, however dubious their merits. Sure, we had several great films from Harryhausen, various Arthurian adaptations, and Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings and Fire and Ice. The quality tended drop off pretty precipitously after the top tier, though, but even those films were invested with extra magic due to their spotty availability on home video.

Some of those fantasy not quite classics that inspired my friends and I back in the day are still rare. I only got one chance to watch Archer: Fugitive from the Empire when it aired in 1981. I’ve been forced to rely only on my dim childhood memories of this sub-Hawk the Slayer “gem” about a young hero with a magic bow who teams up with thief and the daughter of a goddess to seek revenge on an evil wizard. It used to be on youtube (though now its been removed), but I suspect it still lurks out their on the internet in all its made for TV glory.

The Warrior and the Sorceress has David Carradine and plentiful bare breasts going for it--though admittedly only one of those things was uncommon in the post-Conan barbarian invasion. This film makes the provocative proposal that Yojimbo and Fist Full of Dollars would be improved with a four-breasted stripper assassin. I’ll let you judge for yourself whether it makes its case.

Staying in the realm of Boris Vallejo posters and bare breasts (which seems to Argentina, based on where these movies were made) we come to Barbarian Queen. I don’t think it actually provided much gaming inspiration for us, really--and its lack of magic and ancient Rome setting make it technically not a fantasy--but it had other charms that made these deficits easy to overlook in that early gaming era.

It looks like later this month we'll all get the change to revisit these Argentine/American epics in the company of the first two Deathstalker films when Roger Corman's Cult Classics brings them to DVD.

Friday, August 12, 2011

In the Shelving Queue

I’m occasionally accused of having too many books. It is true the number sometimes means shelving requires some planning--sometimes they stack on top of a bookcase until their proper home can be discerned. Here are three awaiting shelving that might have some value as game inspiration:
Yesterday’s Faces Volume 6: Violent Lives is the last of Robert Sampson’s volumes examining the early pulp heroes. Like it usually goes with drugs, the first one was free. My friend Chris gave me Volume 1 as a Christmas gift, after querying Jess Nevins to find a pulp-related tome obscure enough that I probably wouldn’t already have it. After reading the first, I had to order the others--but at least I have someone else to blame. Sampson’s literate prose elevates the material he reviews without ever losing perspective on. This last volume covers the likes of Zorro, Bulldog Drummond, and Khlit the Cossack.

The first of two Comi-Con purchases appearing here is the complete comic adaptation of Robert Lynn Asprin's Another Fine Myth.  Myth Adventures is illustrated by Phil Foglio (whose art is perfect for Asprin’s material). I remember reading some of these original issues back in the day, but it was nice to be able to get it all--and in color--in one place. And for one third price!  Which is probably because you can read it as a webcomic here.

Finally, from Eric Shanower’s table at Comi-Con, I picked up Who’s Who in Oz on an impulse. It’s nicely illustrated by classic Oz illustrators Neill, Kramer, and “Dirk” Gringhuis. It’s slopping over with all the whimsy one expects from Ozian stuff, and really, who doesn’t like whimsy?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Meet at the Morgue

The City Police Department faces a number of magical threats, but it has also managed to turn the arcane to its advantage. It has pioneered the use of forensic thaumaturgy in solving crimes. Perhaps the most essential of these applied magical arts is forensic necromancy.

The unsavory reputation of necromancers led the police to only use them as occasional consultants in the early days. As the obvious utility of the arts became more apparent the department decided to recruit and develop necromantic practitioners.

Forensic necromancers prefer to begin their work at the crime scene. Fresh bodies are easier to work with than ones that have been autopsied or moved to a more sterile location. Speak with the Dead is the most common spell utilized--its often the only spell many practitioners use day to day. Gentle Repose is also useful in preserving bodies for various sorts of evaluation back at the morgue.

It is true that the reputation of necromancers is at least partially earned. Long term exposure to negative energies can lead to a sort of cancer of the soul. First, the afflict develop a morbid fascination and seek out every opportunity to be around the dead or dying. Experimentation with illicit necromantic rituals and spells soon follows.  From that point, escalation to various perversions and depraved criminality is regrettably common.

Police necromancers undergo psychological evaluation to watch for any signs of developing deviancy, but this doesn’t stop them from experiencing some prejudice from their fellow officers based on the popular view of their art.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Warlord Wednesday: The Kaash'Ban

Let's re-enter the lost world with another installment of my issue by issue examination of DC Comic's Warlord, the earlier installments of which can be found here...

"The Kaash'Ban"
Warlord (vol. 1) #63 (November 1982)
Written by Mike Grell (Sharon Grell); Penciled by Dan Jurgens; Inked by Mike DeCarlo

Synopsis: Morgan and Rostov ride to Castle Deimos to see if Jennifer’s sorcerous abilities are capable of freeing Rostov from the curse of lycanthropy. Rostov also suggests that she might be able to send him back to the Age of Wizard Kings so that he can be reunited with Mariah. Morgan is noncommittal on that point--he doesn’t want to let Rostov know just yet that Mariah is with Machiste now.

A little distance up trail, Morgan climbs a tree to get his bearings. He can see the spires of Kaambuka where they can sleep in beds, relying on the hospitality of Morgan’s old friend, thief turned king, Ashir. It’s also where he left Shakira.

Just within the palace gates of Kaambuka, people in tents with a veritable menagerie of animals catch Morgan’s eye. And here they find Ashir--drinking.

After Morgan fills Ashir in on their mission, he asks about the people camped out in his courtyard. Ashir tells him they are the Kaash’Ban:

Periodically, they go on a search for youngsters who share the same gift at animal communication. It’s considered a great honor to a parent for the Kaash’Ban to request their child be allowed to join them. They’re going to be demonstrating their abilities soon. Morgan and Rostov are curious.

Morgan asks Ashir how he and Shakira have been getting along. Ashir says she left shortly after Morgan did--he doesn’t realize the black cat in his lap is Shakira. She scratches Morgan but he still doesn’t reveal her.

Later, in the quarters Rostov and Morgan share, Shakira sits in their window in cat form. Morgan tells her to explain herself. Shakira turns into her human form--to Rostov’s surprise. Shakira explains herself by saying she got tired of Ashir’s constant advances--but she stayed...

Morgan introduces Rostov and explains his changeling like herself. Then, I know on the door tells them the Kaash’Ban are about to begin.

A large crowd is gathered, and they’ve brought their various animals. The Kaash’Ban act as translators between the two. Then, they demonstrate their rapport with their own animals.

While all this is going on, they take a special, surreptitious interest in Rostov. After the show, three of the Kaash’Ban converse, wondering if Rostov’s “the one.” They send young Calef to sneak into the palace while most are asleep and investigate. The boy chants softly, waking Rostov alone by talking to the beast within the man. They share what seems to be telepathic communication.

The Kaash’Ban are convinced he is the one they seek. They must go to a place nearby.

Shakira awakens Morgan. She tells him the Kaash’Ban took Rostov—or actually, he seemed to go willing. She saw them moving through the woods outside the city. The two mount up and give chase.

In the forest, Shakira’s cat senses detect the Kaash’Ban before they can see them. They climb into a tree to take a look. They see Rostov standing amidst a ruin; four Kaash’Ban form a circle around him with their hands linked. He’s surrounded by a strange energy.

Suddenly, Rostov is gone, and a strange vista of mountains and monuments can be glimpsed through the simmering portal.

Things to Notice:
  • This is Dan Jurgens debut as Warlord's penciller.
  • Given that Ashir's a pretty egalitarian king: he hosts the Kaash'Ban in his palace walls, and allows the commoners to come see them there.
Where It Comes From:
The title of this issue (and the name of the people to which it refers) may come from the name of a geographic feature in Saudi Arabia, Jabal Kashbān (jabal means "hill" or "mountain").  Some of the Kaash'Ban seem to have Arabic inspired names.

Besides their Doctor Doolittle-ish ability to talk with animals.  The Kaash'Ban seemed to be sort of a loose, fantasy Romani or similar group of nomadic people.  Rostov explicitly draws this comparison in the story.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Crackpot Demonology

The Pandemonicon is a treatise on demonology widely known in the City. All extant copies of the work are amateur printings; the original copies were reproduced from a typed and hand-notated manuscript via jellygraph (hectograph)--in fact, the original gel, imbued with a malign (and murderous) life of its own, has been encountered in the City. The work’s author is given as “Secundus Rune,” but that appears to be a pen name of Alpert Sturne, an unemployed bug powder junkie.

Sturne’s work would be easy to dismiss, if it weren’t for the lengths certain powers go to obtain a copy. Wealthy infernalists have been known to pay handsomely for copies; Hell Syndicate bosses have killed for them. The Unknown have urged their destruction.

The Pandemonicon contains demons not mentioned in older works. Scholars are divided as to whether these new forms are merely different interpretations of older beings or if they represent evolution in the abyssal chaos. A couple of the demons described by Sturne are given as example, exactly in the way he describes them in the text:

Lepidopterist: These are of the Collectors. Defined things are a novelty to them. Pin souls to cards and arrange them by taxonomies of suffering. The pretty colors! You shall know them by their glowing red eyes in featureless faces and their wings like rainbows in oil slicks that beat and stutter like pictures in a flip book. Careful of their pins.

Misericordians: Sometimes they make you think they are succubuses and sometimes angels but they are neither. They look like that pin-up nurse I saw in that gas station calendar, but they don’t have her smile. No faces. Only scars. Only scar tissue. There are small scars too if you get close but you don’t want to get that close. They assisant a certain surgeon who it is not good to look upon. They know secrets of the flesh, how it can be twist and remade, but you have to be careful and avoid their mersy [sic] to learn them.

All the entries are number, though they are presented seemingly at random. The lowest is “1” and the highest “616.” The text has some illustrations which seem to have been cut or traced from older texts, sometimes with crude revisions by the author.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Apes on the Rise

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is, of course, a prequel (or a prequel to a reboot) of Planet of the Apes. It ignores (or perhaps replaces is a better word--there are a lot of sly references) the history of the end of the world of man and the rise of the--well, you know--given in Conquest and Battle for the Planet of the Apes. Anyone who knows me (and maybe anybody who reads this blog) knows I’m a fan of the original film series, so prequels or reboots of it attract my interest. The Burton remake had good ape effects, a similar sly humor to the original, and a soundtrack by Elfman that had some nice elements of homage to Goldsmith’s brilliant, experimental score for the first film. Unfortunately, beyond that, there wasn’t much to like. It wasn’t horrible; it was just flat.

Rise is not that. While on the surface it's a different sort of story than the original Planet of the Apes, it’s events parallel the first film's in interesting ways. Heston’s Taylor was a man trapped in a world not his own; so is the genetically enhanced Caesar of this film. His response--sometimes horrified, sometimes pissed off--is pretty much the same.

Caesar shares the spotlight with scientist Will Rodman played by James Franco. Franco is a more convincing stoner than researcher, but he’s competent enough. The apes are the real stars, after all.

And those CGI primates are great. There are some scenes where you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between them and the real thing. When they rampage though, they’re not as violent as real chimps--likely both a plot concession to ensure sympathy and a practical calculation to secure a PG-13 rating. Still, it’s cool to see the apes engage in a little guerilla (heh) warfare against the law, culminating in a battle on the Gold Gate Bridge.

Rise replaces the nuclear spectre of the Cold War with the modern bêtes noires of genetic engineering and global pandemics. Just like in the original film series, the protagonists are pretty much responsible for the destruction of the world, yet they remain sympathetic. That’s no mean feat.

So if you like the ape films, or like movies sympathetic to animals over cruel humans, or just like a good near-future sci-fi yarn, check Rise of the Planet of the Apes out.

If only they'd found a way to work in apes with coonskin hats. Maybe in the sequel?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Catching Up on a Friday

If (unlike Bingo here) you want some rpg related readings for your Friday, I've got a few suggestions:

Over at Fame & Fortune, Satyre offers a free pdf of his always interesting taverns--these having the added twist of being cave-based.

R.W. Chandler reaches into the Black Hole Diaries and produces a cool, steampunkian pocket rpg--Gaslite.

In the realm of four-color adventure, I did a guest post for Jim at the Flashback Universe--part 1 of the untold history of the Fantastic Four from a perspective within the Marvel Universe.  It might be inspirational for some supers games.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Weird Adventures: Drawing Closer

I figure it's time for another Weird Adventures progress report--and a couple of cool pieces of art by Johnathan Bingham and Felt.  We have here the mugshot of a Hit-Fiend, one of the notorious assassins of the Hell Syndicate, and below, traveler in the astral plane.

I'm diligently at work on "City Confidential," the section overviewing the City itself, hitting the highlights of its neighborhoods and districts.  This includes a lot of things hopefully of pratical use to adventurers: the Cuthbert Bannerman weaponry museum and gun emporium, the exotic Appothecary of Dr. Lao in Yiantown, and the charity hospital of St. Valiant in Grimalkin.  Then there are the tantalizing hints at adventure itself: the strange fogs (and frogs) in the Corund Tunnel, the underground Fate Exchange, and the mysterious Monolith of Monolith Square, among others.

All the other sections have been finished.  Most of them I've discussed in previous updates other than "Weird Menaces" (the monster section)--including the Hit-Fiend and 29 others from "Blackdust Monsters" to "Zombie, Cujiatepecan."

My writing I plan on completing by before the end of the summer.  Relying on the charity of good folks to proofread my back-of-cocktail napkin scrawl so it can be turned into quality layouts means depending on their availability, so I can't predict things with absolute certainty, but the end is in sight now, my friends.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Warlord Wednesday: Cry Wolf

Let's re-enter the lost world with another installment of my issue by issue examination of DC Comic's Warlord, the earlier installments of which can be found here...

"Cry Wolf"
Warlord (vol. 1) #62 (October 1982)

Written by Mike Grell (Sharon Grell); Penciled by Jan Duursema; Inked by Tom Mandrake

Synopsis:  In the vicinity of Shamballah, a young cowherd goes looking for a few stragglers of his flock and finds a pack of wolves devouring them. Surprisingly, they’re accompanied by a shirt-less man wearing jodhpurs and a fencing sword! It’s a man we know: Rostov.

Meanwhile, in the Shamballan palace, Morgan breaks up a fight between three soldiers. They claim the fight started over a gambling debt unpaid. Morgan tells the alleged loser to pay up and lets them go. Broody Graemore, watching from atop the palace walls, seems troubled by this exchange.

Back in his quarters, Morgan enlists Tara’s aide to help him get undress before he falls into a bath. Tara tells him he should be recuperating from his confinement rather than drilling with the troops--but he’s not called “the Warlord” for nothing. Tara leaves him to his bath wondering when his wanderlust will strike and he’ll leave her again.

Tara heads out into the garden and has barely had time to smell a flower when Graemore (still on the palace walls) shows up.  Tara and Graemore engage in some small talk and longing glances, before Graemore asks if she’s told Moran what happened between them.

No. She wouldn’t burden him with knowledge of something that only occurred in very unusual circumstances. Graemore tells her about the two soldiers quarrelling today--and he knows what it was really about.  One soldier made a comment about her and Graemore and the other soldier was defending her honor. The palace is full gossip.

Tara is confident Morgan is unaware--but he has been restless of late. He wants action. Graemore knows just the thing. He’s heard about a wolfpack terrorizing outlying farms...

And so, a royal hunt is organized. Asking around at farmhouses, Morgan finds what he thinks may be the site of the latest attack. They do pick up the wolves trail. The pack has split and they find human tracks with the smaller group. Morgan thinks he’s running with them.

Tara doesn’t understand. Morgan says its just a hunch, but he’ll follow the smaller group and Tara can lead the soldiers after the larger pack. Morgan plans to take “the entertainer” Graemore with him.

Morgan and Graemore track them, but find themselves in an ambush. While the wolves trouble Graemore, Rostov the werewolf knocks Morgan from his horse.

The crazed Russian gets the better of Morgan. Fighting for his life, Morgan yells the name of the woman Rostov followed to Skartaris: “Mariah!”

Morgan never gets to find out if that works, because Graemore knocks Rostov out with the butt of his spear. Morgan asks him why he did that? It was his opportunity to get rid of his rival for Tara! Graemore doesn’t reply.

Later, Morgan and an apparently recovered Rostov sit in the palace. Rostov says its gotten harder and harder for him to free his mind from the influence of the beast after each change to wolf form. Morgan suggests that his daughter has become quite a “magicker”--maybe she can remove the curse? Rostov has gone to magicians before with no success, but he’s willing to give anything a try. Morgan says they’ll leave immediately.

Tara follows him, and asks if he’s leaving. Morgan explains the plan. Tara wonders why he doesn’t consult magicians in Shamballah first, but Morgan thinks its better to get out of the city so as not to create a werewolf panic. He asks Tara if she wants to come along. Tara asks him who he thinks he’s fooling.

Tara says she didn’t want to be a queen, but she is one. She has responsibilities. She tells him to go and almost says “don’t come back,” but Morgan preempts her with an embrace. Morgan leaves, promising to be back.

Things to Notice:
  • Rostov's jodhpurs remain mysteriously undamaged despite the time he's spent running with the pack through the Skartarian jungle.
  • Graemore's pretty handy with a spear for a minstrel.
Where It Comes From:
The title of this issue, of course, references the expression meaning "to raise a false alarm," derived from the fable "The Boy Who Cried Wolf."  In this case, though, the wolf is real. 

Rostov was last seen in issue #47.

Monday, August 1, 2011

In Place of a Dark Lord...A Queen

In the tradition of the Moon Men and the Brain Parasite, here’s a another mechanically-unaltered monsters with a new look. This one gets a sexy makeover...

A strange excitement seemed to pass through the loathsome little folk. They paused in tormenting the surviving townspeople and looting the dead and turned to gaze with adoration in the direction of their approaching mistress. Bowing and genuflecting, they crept from her path as she moved, languid and insolent, into the midst of the captive folk. Her lips curled in a cruel smile as she regard one frightened stable boy, lifting his chin with a finger to look into his eyes.

The strange dark creepers need master to serve, but perhaps the dark stalker can be replaced by a dread queen--a Goblin Queene? The Queen is more likely to lead from the rear, preferring to use her darkness abilities to escape should the need arise, but she still have poison to fall back on if necessary.

Where do the goblin queens come from? There existence may suggest that dark creeper society (and biology) resembles eusocial insects--or more likely mammals like the naked mole rat.  Another possibility is the the queens are humans kidnapped as children and raised for their role among the creepers.  Or maybe they're not human at all, despite appearances, and have some supernatural origin?

Of course, one could use the dark creepers with my humanoid swarm as a manifestation of the onset of puberty idea, too.