Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hell's Hoods: Sin's Queen

The Phlegethon is a river of blood, formed from the runoff from infernal slaughterhouses and soul-rendering plants. Where it snakes through the city of Dis, one finds dens of depravity and vice run by the crime family that bears its name.  Belial is the boss here, and despite what you may have heard, Belial is a woman.

Or least, Belial is now.  Like all hell lords (ladies), Belial can take many forms. These days, Belial appears as a beautiful, dark-eyed woman, usually dressed in black. Her shadow is a deep red and tangible, like velvet.

The Phlegethon family runs brothels catering to unusual, often violent tastes, torture clubs, and brutal fight club gambling houses. Phlegethon’s entertainments draw hell denizens--both devil and damned--as well as visiting debauchees from all over the multiverse.

Combat: Belial uses a cat o’ nine tails when when she wishes to draw out the encounter.  She bleeds her foe tauntingly before the final kill. She carries a silver-plated infernal pocket pistol for those occasions when she can’t be bothered. It fires bullets specially crafted from truly depraved souls that cause lingering pain and disturbing nightmares even after they’re removed unless a their curse is removed.

Diabolical Abilities: Belial can know a mortal’s secret sins or secret desires of a carnal or violent nature at a glance. Her breath can cause an intoxicated delirium. Her slightest touch can cause intense pain or pleasure.

Pacts: Belial may be summoned with a drop of blood shed by a willing victim in either fear or ecstasy, caught in a silver chalice, and then boiled away over a small flame. Belial can reveal secret sins or desires of anyone (for a price) or provide instruction in techniques to prolong pain or pleasure.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Winner is

The time has come to announce the winners of the Gimme Your Weird Adventures adventure seed contest. First, off let me start with the usual "it was a really hard decision."  Cliched maybe, but in this case it was, as there were a lot of good entries and comparing such a disparate group was hard.  Many of the entries are likely to make it into the Companion.

Next, I want to give recognize some notable disqualifications.  Two guys did awesome work, but did follow the contest rules, exactly.  B. Portly, Esq. gave a delightfully weird criminal gang in his "The Doors of Deception, or A Drug Quest of Unknown Zamora," but it was really a description of the gang and not an adventure seed.  Gustie LaRu's "The Hell Haunted Roads of Peril County" was likewise great stuff, but was more a locale and random encounters. Don't feel too bad, guys: Both of these will absolutely be used in the book in some form.

One of the best entries was done by my friend and sometimes collaborator, Jim Shelley.  His "The Monster Men of Bludd Manor" was pitch perfect in about every way, but given that Jim did layouts and whatnot on the original Weird Adventures and will most likely have a hand in the Companion, I thought handing him a prize might be a bit of a conflict of interests.  Still, he deserves recognition, and Bludd Manor will appear in the book.

Now to the winners, selected in haphazard conclave between myself and three of the players in my face-to-face Weird Adventures game:

Matthew Schmeer's "Flesh-eating Golems of the Pigeon King" is so off-kilter it took me a while to decide whether it works in the setting or not, but it drew comment and praise from our panel.  It's original--and that's a good thing.

Jack Shear's "Big Trouble in Yiantown" hit all the right pulp notes and pulled in some knowledge of the Weird Adventures setting--plus it struck the panel as being a lot of fun to play.

Congratulations, Jack and Matthew! Email me with your prize preference: gift card or Weird Adventures hard cover.

While I'm not going to name everybody that turned in a great adventure, I want to recognize a couple of standouts that made the final round of selections. Jeremy Duncan's "Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!" teased with a tale of a radio evangelist gone reality-shakingly wrong. John Arendt's "Two Dames and A Diamond" was a a noirish yarn like Black Mask meets Weird Tales.  Steve Sigety's "Murder by Radio" was a compact murder mystery served up with a twist of fantasy.

To all I've mentioned, and those I haven't, thanks for your entries.  Many more than those mentioned here will be hearing from me about including your submission in the Weird Adventures Companion.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wheels Turn in the Night

[Our Weird Adventures G+ game continued last night.  See this post for the first session.]

In last night's game, Diabolico (gentleman thief), Loone (mentalist and drug enthusiast), and Doyle (he brings 'em back alive) did a little old fashion detective work.  When Leonard (Diabolico's police contact) was unable to turn up anything on Olimpia Kapec, the missing fiancée, they decided to go down to the neighborhood of Carmody's lab and ask around.  A waitress's description of Olimpia's odd and reclusive behavior led Diabolico to jump to the conclusion that she was actually an automaton! 

A leap perhaps, but Doyle and Loone remembered the slim and disguised figure of the leader at the Eisenmenschen rally.  It could have be anyone. Even an artificial  girl.

Heading back to Greasy Lake to do a little more snooping, the gang avoided treasure-hunting rubes and got a sample of some strange black material--like graphite dust composed of tiny cogs and bits of machinery.  Was this the Machinery of Night people kept talking about?

Silas Atwill, automata engineer for Hew Hazzard and conspirator with the Eisenmenschen, knew about it.  He had a mimeographed document of weird symbols and drawings (that looked like the sample they found) and mentioned the Machinery of Night. They found this out by breaking into Atwill's house.  When the gang asked Carmody about them, he got about as agitated as a brain in a jar can get--but then pled amnesia (again).

A late night visit to Hazzard's Zephyrus Aerocraft turned up nothing except the fact that security on the geodesic dome housing the laboratories is very tight.  Whatever was there was hidden behind an aura-sensing lock even Diabolico couldn't crack.

But the team does know there's something beneath the surface of Greasy Lake.  Loone could sense it, pushing on his mind.  The quesiton is what was doing the pushing?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Warlord Wednesday: Moon Beast

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...

"Moon Beast"
Warlord #103 (March 1986)
Written by Michael Fleisher; Penciled by Jerry Bingham, Inked by Pablo Marcos

Synopsis: Morgan rides through a town’s empty streets under unusual darkness—one of the rare eclipses of the Skartarian sun caused by its erratic moon.  Suddenly, a white tiger jumps at him, knocking him from his horse.  As he grapples with the beast, he notices something unusual about his eyes, but he doesn't really have much time to think about that with its jaws near his face. Morgan is saved from certain death when the moon moves away and daylight returns.  Somehow, the light drives the beast away, but Morgan has loses consciousness and can’t consider it further.

Elsewhere, Machiste and Mariah come upon a ferry at a river crossing. The ferryman seems curious about who they are and where they’re going.  Machiste (a little suspicious) says they’re horse traders.  He was right to be suspicious, because as our heroes sit unaware, men emerge from hiding:

In the brawl that follows, Mariah and Machiste are pitched overboard—after killing most of their attackers. The ferryman gleefully contemplates having the whole reward for himself.  Despite his prediction that they’ll drown in the current, Mariah and Machiste manage to cling to a dead tree, only to be swept over a waterfall.  They jump to safety, grabbing an overhanging branch.

Far away, a young woman named Tamara wakes up in her room in a manse.  She’s had that nightmare again—and she has dried blood under her fingernails.  She recalls there was a man…

Morgan awakens surrounded by townsfolk. As he staggers to his horse, one guy fills him in on what’s been going on:

Morgan’s got no time for a detour. He rides toward the citadel.

“Half a day” (whatever that means in Skartaris) later, N’Dosma the would-be usurper in Kiro, gets word that Machiste, the rightful king, is apparently dead. He sends word back that he needs proof before he pays. 
He and his conspirators can’t openly seize power until they are sure.

Meanwhile, Morgan has scaled the outside of the manse/citadel, and onto the balcony of what happens to be Tamara’s boudoir.  He notices she’s wearing the same sort of collar as the tiger than attack him.  She recognizes him, too.  When he tells her about the cat and the collar, she realizes what’s happened to her.  It turns out her uncle has some crazy and misogynistic ideas:

He used to kidnap women and subject them to his elixirs and philtres, turning them into various kinds of cats. The townsfolk didn’t take to well to this and stormed his mansion.  All the transformed victims got free, and Tamara and her uncle had to flee to this new residence.

Supposedly, his experiments ceased.  He did start putting Tamara in a trance and having her stare into a strange prism so he could study “fractionalizing moonlight.”  He even gave her a collar like he used to identify his previous subjects and she thought it was merely “an eccentric gift.”

Her uncle bursts in with some cronies and they capture Morgan.  He awakens chained to a wall. Her uncle’s going to try his prism experiment on a man. 

He begins the ritual to call out the beast in Morgan. Morgan pulls with all his strength and wrenches his shackles from the way. 

He beats the henchmen with the chains, but Tamara’s uncle has snatched up a crossbow.

Before he can fire, Tamar bursts in a tiger form (she exposed herself to moonlight to try to save Morgan) and leaps on her uncle.  They both topple through an open window.

The next day, Morgan meets Shakira on the trail. He notices how much her collar resembles the one Tamara wore.  He impulsively takes it off her and tosses it to the ground.

Things to Notice:   
  • This issue is branded as a continuation of "Morgan's Quest."
  • Poor Tamara seems far to trusting of her crazy uncle.
Where it Comes From:
The evil scientist (or sorcerer) trope goes back to The Island of Doctor Moreau. The title of this issue may have been inspired by the (horrible) 1976 film Track of the Moon Beast, but nothing else about the issue seems to have been.  The "hypnosis turns a woman into a monster" but may come from the 1956 film The She-Creature.

For the evil uncle's plan to work, Skartaris's wandering moon needs to be somewhat predictable.  This runs counter to its original presentation back in issue #47.

The possible origin presented for Shakira in this issue seems hard to square with hints we've got before. Particularly, her tears upon viewing ancient Atlantean civilization back in issue #44

Monday, September 24, 2012

What I Did Instead of Writing This Blog Post

Disclaimer: This Blogpost does not actually feature laudanum.
Yesterday, when I'd normally be writing today's post, I was instead gaming.

First off, I ran my face-to-face Weird Adventures game in WaRP. The gang met the mysterious Miss Snow then got into a gunfight with some Hell Syndicate heavies.  They're still trying to get ahold of the snowglobe belonging to deceased thaumaturgist Charles Urst that's supposedly the key to his mansion and its treasure stores.

Then, I got to play in Robert Parker's G+ Call of Cthulhu game.  We were a group of six rather colorful private detectives investigating the disappearance of an up-and-coming starlet in 1926 Hollywood.  It promises to be fun stuff.

In other news, look for the announcement of the Gimme Your Weird Adventures Contest winners later this week.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Wild Frontier

Previously, we went back in time to take a look at the City roughly a hundred years prior to the default date of Weird Adventures.  Now, let's look back a bit further in time...

Over a century and a half ago, the City is barely worthy of the name. It's home to less than 20,000 people and occupies only the southern part of marshy Empire Island; The more northern parts of the island are a mix of small villages and a few lingering Native settlements. Beyond the band of colonies clustered along the Meropic coast, the Strange New World is wilderness.

The Smaragdines are a wild barrier to westward travel, populated mostly by Natives and monsters like the "rustic giants." Just plowing a field can turn up mysterious artifacts from the time of the Ancients. Wandering monsters can be encountered by travelers riding the lonely dirt trail through the countryside that will one day be Broad Boulevard passing through the bright lights of the Circus District.

Foes: tyrannical and corrupt colonial officals, monsters and wild animals, hostile Natives, Black folk conjure-men.

Media Inspirations: Film/TV: Brotherhood of the Wolf, Drums Across the Mohawk, Last of the Mohicans, Davy Crockett; Books: Those Who Went Remain There Still, "Wolves Beyond the Border" and "Beyond the Black River" by Robert E. Howard; the Leatherstocking Tales, the Alvin Maker novels; Comic Books: Tomahawk (either series).

Miscellaneous Inspirations: the Hellfire Club, Mystery Hill (America's Stonehenge), anything on forgotten civilizations or secret history of North America.

See also my post on "The Weird Frontier" back in 2010 and check out Wampus Country for a more whimsical take on the era.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Beowulf Will Blow Your Mind

“In a distant past shrouded in the mists of time;
When man lived savagely in the the shadow of all-mighty Wyrd, the God of Fate, and in terror of Satan, Dragon-Lord of the Underworld.”

Thus begins DC Comics’ Beowulf: Dragon-Slayer.  Not content with merely adapting the story of the Anglo-Saxon hero to a comic context, scribe Michael Uslan and artist Ricardo Villamonte drive the seventies comic book Sword & Sorcery muscle car straight over a cliff into Gonzo Gulch.

Everybody remembers the basic story from English class, right?  Prince of the Geats, Beowulf, does a solid for Hrothgar, King of the Danes, whose got a problem with a monster named Grendel.  In this version, Grendel is being explicitly egged on by his dead-beat dad, Satan.  Beowulf, for symmetry, is a tool in the hands of the Wyrd (who sometimes seems to be a stand-in for Yahweh, but other times more ambiguous in goodness).

Anyway, Beowulf also has a companion/love interest in the form of Swedish amazon Nan-Zee. He’s on his way to Daneland; She’s a siren-esque “slave-maid of Satan.” Once they do their “meet cute” it’s off to battle Grendel...only first they’ve got to contend with swamp-dwelling reptile men, dwarfish trolls, and a door to the underworld.  There Beowulf kills Satan’s three-headed sabertooth tiger watchdog and then busts right to Satan’s throne room.

That’s just the second issue.

What follows is a quest to gain magical “zumak fruit” to best Grendel.  Along the way, they’ll encounter pygmies, druids working for Sumerian space gods in flying saucers, Dracula menacing a lost tribe of Israel, and finally the Minotaur.

A pivotal point of the drama arrives with this scene:

That’s right: Grendel stabs Satan with a stalactite and seizes the throne of Hell because he’s mad his infernal majesty chose Dracula (literally Satan’s son) as heir instead of Grendel.

Tragically, the whole high-concept saga that would have made history and literature professors loose sanity points like a character in Call of Cthulhu (if they'd read it) only lasted six issues. Why, oh why, hasn’t DC collected this?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Junkyard Rats

With Diabolico still absent and Lenny wandering off at the urging of his inner (rabbit) demon, Boris and Loone were left to investigate Greasy Lake Scrapyard on there own. At the junkyard they unexpectedly met lion-tamer and adventure serial star, Cornelius Doyle.

Doyle was there after what he suspected was a werewolf. Everybody was surprised when they were attack by a family of yokel wererats. The teenagers Tater and Jughaid took a bite (literally) out of Boris, while Papa Snuffy and Mama Luweezy went after Doyle and Erskine. Doyle’s foresight in bringing silver bullets paid off. Luweezy and Snuffy were quickly snuffed.

Their offspring only lasted a little longer. Boris was badly injured, so the gang had to hide from a couple of Eisenmensch investigating the gunshots. Stealthily following them, they discovered a rally being led by a masked figure promising a group of Eisenmensch that their weak flesh would soon be replaced utterly by machine--and then the same would be true for the rest of imperfect humanity. Interestingly, on the stage with this figure was Silas Atwill, Hew Hazzard’s newly named head of automata development.

Informed of the dead wererats, the Eisenmenschen began to spread out looking for infiltrators. The gang beat a haste retreat and made it back to the City. Boris got treated for wereratism at the charity hospital.

Our heroes still have more questions than answers. The leader of the Eisenmenschen would-be revolutionaries has the dodecahedron--but who is the leader? Does Hazzard know what his subordinate is up to? Where is the heartspring the dodecahedron needs, and what happens if it’s activated?

In other news, the gang finally got their secretary: Miss Lola DeWytt:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Warlord Wednesday: Deathwatch

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 #102 (February 1986)
Written by Michael Fleisher; Penciled by Paris Cullins and Martin King, Inked Pablo Marcos

Synopsis: Morgan veers slightly from his destination of the Greenfire Sea (where he hopes to find a wizard who can cure Jennifer from her aging illness) so he can go by his crashed jet and get more ammo from his stash.  He finds it (again) being used as a place a sacrifice by some cultists.  Morgan routs them and frees there intended victim, who turns out to be a bit on the haughty side:

She’s Zupara, Queen of the Q’enara Amazons, and rather than walk all the way back to her valley, she decides she’ll ride with Morgan until she can steal a horse.  Along the way, she tells the story of her tribe, who came to Skartaris from the surface eons ago to escape “the patriarchal domination of males.”

Zupara became queen on the death of her mother, but the attack of a river monster on the funeral barge caused her to be swept over a waterfall.  She wound up in the cultists’ hands.

It just isn't her day: No sooner has she finished her story, than they’re ambushed and netted by slavers!

Elsewhere, Machiste and Mariah encounter a beggar on the road from Shamballah to Kiro who knows who Machiste is and prophecizes that his reign will be marked by prosperity and he and Mariah will have many descendants.  As soon as the couple passes, the mendicant ties a message to the leg of a pigeon and sends it off.  Sometime later, it’s received in an opulent mansion in Kiro, where to conspirators learn of Machiste’s impending return and hint menacingly that he will never arrive.

Meanwhile, Morgan and Zupara are tied up in the slaver’s camp.  A dice game keeps their captors distracted long enough that they can cut their bonds and attack.  Beating up the slavers, they steal too horses and make for a nearby town for a good meal.

In a tavern, Zupara is disgusted by the behavior of men in regard to a dancing girl.  Worse yet, when a patron gets too friendly with Zupara herself:

Morgan finds himself in a tavern brawl. He fights his way to the door, pulling the reluctant Zupara along. She'd would rather stay and continue the fight.

Finally, they reach the borders of Zupara’s homeland, and they prepare to part ways.  Before they can, a contingent of amazons show up and seize Morgan!  It seems a big bald amazon has usurped Zupara’s throne in her absence and doesn’t want to relinquish rulership.  She challenges Zupara to trial by combat—with Morgan’s life in the balance, too!

After a pitch battle, Zupara wins and sees her foe topple into the flames. Zupara regains her throne and frees Morgan. She thanks him for his help—but tells him to be gone and never set foot in the land of the amazons again!

Morgan rides on.

Things to Notice:   
  • Morgan's crashed SR-71 was used by lizardmen as a place of sacrifice back in issue #3.
  • The amazon's have a sort of Kirby-esque aesthetic to their material culture.
Where it Comes From:
Amazons are sort of a comic book and pulp fiction stable who have there origins, of course, in Greek mythology. It seems odd it took them a 102 issues to show up in Warlord.

This issue may be inspired by to Warlord issues from the Grell run.  The "plane as altar" from the aforementioned issue #3. Issue #48 bears some similarities with its sacrifice that's more than she seems and Morgan himself having to be rescued (by a woman in both cases).

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Contest Submissions Closed

The deadline for submitting entries for the Gimme Your Weird Adventures contest has passed. The response was bigger than I anticipated.  Thanks to everyone for their entries!

I've been reading them as they've come in, but the tough job of trying to choose between them looms.  If enlisted some help from a panel culled from my face to face gaming group.  I'll announce the results as soon as we finish our deliberations.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Hell's Hoods: The Bull

A river of blood arises from slaughterhouse and rendering plant runoff flowing through a maze of ditches and channels.  This is the Malebolge: the territory of an infernal crime family of the same name. Besides running the processing facilities for damaged souls, the Malebolge family promotes violent crimes and extortion on the Material Plane.

The family’s boss is the arch-devil Moloch. Whether dressed in a butcher’s apron or a suit, he’s imposing: a hulking figure with the head of a bull.  His upper body and head are skinless, and his horns and eyes are black as onyx.  Smoke periodically snorts from his nostrils. His shadow is thick and the color of congealing blood.

Combat: Moloch fights like a minotaur--and one of great strength.  He prefers to kill foes with his hands, horns, or hooves as opposed to weapons; He particularly disdains firearms.

Diabolical Abilities: Moloch’s presence can cause fear within a 20 ft. radius. He can cause pain in anyone he touches, but he only uses this to aid coercion or intimidation. Moloch has a special interest in drawing the young into the criminal life, and despite his horrific form, has an unusual affinity with adolescents.

Pacts: Moloch may be summoned by burning money (taken from another) within a circle drawn in blood on the floor of a meat locker. Moloch can cause an “accident” to happen to a place of business. He knows the location of any secreted stashes of money, and where the remains of any individual murdered and hidden on the prime material plane may be found.   

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The City by Gaslight

Weird Adventures presents the City and it’s world in the year 5888, an era of automobiles, machine guns, and jazz.  Of course, that’s not the only age when there’s adventure to be had:

Roughly a hundred years ago, alchemical gaslamps began to appear in the streets of the City. For about forty years, their flickering lights held sway--but banishing the night didn’t always banish the darkness.

The little wars in the South and West created battle-hardened veterans and  returned them to the streets of the City ,where times were hard and opportunities few. Political corruption was the order of the day.  Immigrants streamed from all over the world to be crammed into the most crowded slums in existence where disease and crime were rampant.

And then, of course, there were the monsters.

Foes: Serial killer thaumaturgists, street gangs, corrupt politicians and their cronies, mad inventors.

Media Inspirations: Film/TV: Copper, Gangs of New York, Sherlock Holmes, Vidocq, The Wild Wild West; Books: The Alienist, The Dante Club, The Devil in the White City, the John Silence stories, the Carnacki Ghost-Finder stories; Comic Books: Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, From Hell (the movie, too), League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Weird Western Tales (2001).

Miscellaneous Inspirations: Jack the Ripper, Spring-Heeled Jack, Spiritualism,Steampunk.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The End is Near

The deadline for the Gimme Your Weird Adventures adventure seed contest draws nigh: Monday the 17th. So if you've been procrastinating, get those in!

For some further inspiration, here's Shane "Swords Against the Outer Dark" Mangus's great entry.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Lenny Goes Undercover

In last nights Weird Adventures WaRP game on Google+, the gang followed up on some leads but were still left with no clear idea of who killed the body of the now disembodied brain William Carmody or kidnapped his fiancee.  Without Diabolico in attendance, they had no car, so that meant a lot of cab rides.

First, they crashed the Cobalt Club to check try to dig up something on industrialist Hew Hazzard, who Carmody had been working with. This involved overall wearing Lenny having to wear a coat and tie. Loone pretended to be a reporter out for an interview, but no headlines were made from his chat with Hazzard.

Next, Lenny went undercover to infiltrate Waxy Moldoon's gang.  He had impressed Two Teeth (a suboordinate) with his moxie last time and got offered a job. Lenny got a chance to prove himself in front of the boss by applying "harsh interrogation" to an Eisenmensch they had captured.  What did thaumatosurgically altered cyborgs from the Great War have to do with this?  Well, Waxy seemed to think they had the dodecahedron (or "dingus" as he called it).

Either the guy didn't know anything or wasn't talking, and Lenny contrived to bust him out and escape, which he did with the help of a fire started by Boris, telepathically coordinated by Loone.  Before that, though, Lenny almost lost control to his "imaginary" rabbit-like companion who wanted him to kill them all:

After they made their escape under the goons' guns, they used a bit of gentler interrogation on Karl the Eisenmensch.  he still claimed to no nothing, but Loone's peaks into his mind revealed he did know of a group of Eisenmensch that were good candidates for having the device, and a place called "Greasy Lake" seemed important.  Boris recalled there was a big junkyard at a place called Greasy Lake.

The gang decided to find Diabolico and check it out.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Warlord Wednesday: Temple of the Demigods

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...

"Temple of the Demigods"
Warlord #101 (January 1986)
Written by Michael Fleisher; Penciled by Adam Kubert, Inked Pablo Marcos

Synopsis: Mariah, Machiste, and Tara stand at the now mysteriously aged Jennifer’s bedside.  They helpfully fill us in on events since last issue. Morgan has decided that Jennifer’s malady was the result of mystical spillover from Cykroth, and has headed off to find a warlock he’s been told might be able to help.

On his journey, Morgan has already run into trouble. He’s ambushed by a group of Vashek assassins—now cut loose with the defeat of their master. Morgan dispatches them all not before taking an arrow in the shoulder, himself.  After tending the wound, he rides on.

Arriving at the warlock’s abode, Morgan finds him to be a bit unusual even by Skartarian magical practitioner standards:

The warlock (Muldahara) thinks he can help, but he wants Morgan to steal a “pair of lovely baubles” called the Eyes of Arachnar (or “Ankanar” as it appears the rest of the issue) for him.  Morgan (oddly given his former behavior) is iffy about stealing from a temple, but Muldahara assures him this is a bad cult that strong-arms the people.  Morgan agrees.

Arriving at the temple, he climbs it and enters through an open window.  In case he needed proof of their badness, he overhears a group of priests gloating about robbing the peasantry.  He makes his way to the treasure room:

Then, Morgan notices two saddlebags brimming with gold.  The implication of that only begins to dawn as the garrote slips around his throat.  The Warlord doesn’t go down that easy!  He throws the assailant:

They briefly tussle until she realizes Morgan must be a thief like her.  She suggests they split the take and get out quick. 

They aren’t quick enough as a priest arrives.  The thief puts a bola around his neck, but he’s still able to mumble an incantation as they’re gathering treasure.  The idol undergoes a startling transformation:

Morgan whips out his pistol, but it turns out Ankanar is immune to normal weapons.  The thief has heard the creature will only go dormant again after it’s devoured a human soul.  Luckily, it’s not picky as to where that soul comes from.  The thief drop kicks a priest into its jaws.  Ankanar turns back into a statue again.

The two thieves grab up some treasure and make a break for it, the understandably irate priests at their heels. Morgan shoots a chandelier, dropping it on their pursuers. The thieves climb out the window and make it to their horses.  They go their separate ways, but not before:

Morgan takes the eyes of Ankanar to the warlock—who promptly makes them into earrings. When Morgan tries to claim his payment, it turns out the Muldahara misled him.  He can’t actually help Jennifer—but he quickly adds he knows who can: V’Zarr Hagar-Zinn, wizard and surviving member of an ancient race. He dwells in the House of the Celestials on the shores of the Greenfire Sea.

Morgan heads out, promising to come back and see Muldahara if he has lied.  The warlock watches him go:

Morgan returns to Shamballah only long enough to say good bye to his wife and daughter before he’s off on his quest.

Things to Notice:   
  • This issue sports a Grell cover just like the last.
  • Mariah seems really broken up about Jennifer's condition. She's the only one crying.
  • Shakira is no where to be seen in this issue.
Where it Comes From:
Looking for a magical practitioner with knowledge, only to be sent on a quest to steal something from a temple is the same plot as Warlord #16.  There, the practitioner was Saaba, and the child Morgan was trying to save was Joshua. Morgan has qualms about robbing a temple in this issue and justifies it to himself with the knowledge the priests are thieves, themselves.  He expressed no such reservations when he stole the eye (and again the eye!) from the Tree People's idol in the aforementioned issue.

The blonde thief in this issue fills a role (at least for one issue) not dissimilar to Bashir (in terms of thieving, not flirting with Morgan), who disappeared completely when Fleisher took over.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Great Face for Radio

Through the magic of G+ Hangouts, I had a chat yesterday with Christopher Helton of the Dorkland! blog on Weird Adventures, Gen Con, and comic books.

Monday, September 10, 2012

At Midnight, All the Agents

Today I'm proud to feature a guest post: Jack of Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque explores an unchronicled aspect of the City... 

“Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.”

– William S. Burroughs

The vampiric blood-addicts are a known menace on the streets of the City; however, out of the all-too-common tragedy of need has come an ever darker threat to the City's denizens. Agents from Ealderde, the Old World, appear to be tracking the movements and aptitudes of blood-junkies; those that show “promise” are introduced to a mysterious injectable referred to as Malthus serum.

Malthus serum doesn't cure a vampire, but it makes blood addiction manageable; it allows the vampire to function in society and even alleviates the physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal—at least temporarily.

More importantly, from the point of view of the Ealderdish agents who lurk in the shadows, Malthus serum treats the tell-tale signs that indicate a vampire's foul addiction; vampires who have been administered a steady dosage of the serum develop neither the usual bodily sores, nor do they lose hair or muscle mass, nor are they jaundiced of tooth, claw, and eye. In fact, on a Malthus regimen a vampire will face none of the physical drawbacks common to their condition, but retain all of the powers and abilities granted by their addiction.

Of course, the agents don't provide Malthus serum out of the goodness of their hearts. Rather, they administer the supplemental drug in order to hook the vampire on the “high” of exercising their powers without the gnawing pull of crippling addiction.

Nothing comes for free in the City. Once a vampire has proven themselves useful to an agent, the agent will begin requiring them to perform acts of spying, sabotage, and even assassination in return for the next serum injection. The agent becomes the vampire's handler, dispensing both drugs and secret missions that fulfill strange agendas to the of benefit distant financiers in the Old World. The vampire, for his or her part, becomes a nosferagent in thrall to unknown invisible hands that order machinations from afar.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Hell's Hoods: Two-Faced Politician

Dispater rules the infernal metropolis of Dis, but he likes to stay behind the scenes. The day to day operation of the city is overseen by an elected mayor.  For centuries that post has been held by Bifrons.

Bifrons serves as the Dis family underboss. Though publically he keeps a bit of distance from the activities of the Hell Syndicate, the damned are not fooled. They also know that whatever candidates may rise and however fierce the campaign, Bifrons is always re-elected when the ballots are counted.

When greeting his constituents and pressing the flesh, Bifrons appears as man with a moon-shaped head and a wide, benevolent grin.  He dresses in a gold business suit.  He speaks largely in political platitudes delivered in a convivial voice.  If there were genuine babies in Hell, he would probably kiss them.

In private, he reveals more of his true nature: he’s two-faced--literally.  The two faces are sagging and ill-fitting on whatever lies beneath.  They face to each side and are stitched together in the middle with rawhide. The face on Bifrons’s right is something like his public face, but ill-fitting skinned makes his appear sunken and shadowed, his sagging grin is grotesque and idiotic. The face on his left is that of snarling monster: pale green with a mouth full of crooked teeth, and irisless eyes lolling in their sockets under bushy brows.

In either form, he smells of a bit too-thick cologne. His shadow flickers and jitters like a silent movie image.

Combat: Bifrons prefers to avoid combat and talk his way out of things.  When he’s unable to do so, he prefers the personal touch: He’s an adept wrestler, as strong as a [stone] giant. For quick resolution to problems, he can backstab like a 10th level thief with his gleaming gold letter-opener, should the opportunity present itself.

Diabolic Abilities: Bifrons can charm at will. Through his oratory, he can perform various bard-like abilities, including suggestion and inspire.

Pacts: Bifrons is willing to help those dealing with issues of politics or involved in elections. He can also reveal the damaging secrets of any politician or political leader, if they exist.  A evocator must put on formal clothes and stand in front if a mirror, practicing a speech in which calls to Bifrons have been inserted. The devil will appear in the mirror in place of the person's reflection.

Bifrons may gift his suit to a mortal.  Though it’s appearance changes depends on who wears it, it always brings success and public acclaim--for a time.  Eventually, ruin and scandal are its rewards..

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Weird Adventures Companion

As suggested by the current contest, I'm in the early stages of work on the Weird Adventures Companion, a follow to the main book (priced to own at RPGNow).  Other than adventure seeds, it will include more information for players in the world of the City, some new monsters, and some other stuff.  Some of it will be collated from the blog, but there will also be new material.  More to come as the project moves along.

Speaking of the contest, just over a week to go until the deadline.  Get those those adventure seeds in!

In other news, I'll be doing the Dorkland! Roundtable on G+ Hangouts on September 10th.  I'll be talking with host Chris Helton about Weird Adventures.  Check it out if you want to hear me talk about it rather than just reading about it.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Hell's Hoods: Casino Infernale

Among the sinful (and dubious) pleasures of Hell are the gambling houses in its sprawling city of Dis. From every back alley dice game to high-class casino, these are owned by the Pluton family and run by the powerful capo, Asmodai. He also oversees the Hell Syndicate’s gambling interests on the Material Plane, bringing more souls to Hell's gates with the promise of riches.

Asmodai appears as a red-skinned, horned man whose good looks are spoiled by a almost perpetual leer. He dresses in the hippest of silk suits (also red). His voice is as smooth as any crooners--when he wants it to be.  He casts no shadow, but when he passes by, mortals hear fevered, whispering voices urging them to take chances, promising the big score.

Asmodai turns a pair of dice in his left hand, that he can tie to the fate of any mortal (with their consent--though not necessarily with full awareness of what they’re consenting to) for a single toss of perhaps life and death importance. He is said to be able manipulate fate on a small scale to make him difficult to kill in combat. His primary weakness is his own predilection for gambling: He finds it hard to pass on a bet.

Often seen in Hell’s ritziest casinos is a beautiful woman who appears to be made of gold. She moves gracefully amid the tables where chips redeemable for damned soul fragments are wagered, smiling (and even occasionally winking) at hard-eyed and sneering pit (fiend) bosses. This is Beleth, Asmodai’s moll. The old grimoires say her diabolic beauty has tempted men to blasphemy and murder, and not much seems to have changed. She can turn anything she touches to gold, and also return things to their original form at her whim. She’s chattier than most devils and is a good source of infernal gossip, if she takes a liking to you.

Beleth's velvet shadow is flecked with gold dancing like dust motes in a sunbeam.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Warlord Wednesday: Skartaris Unchained (part 2)

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...

"Skartaris Unchained"
Warlord #100 (December 1985)
Written by Michael Fleisher; Art by Adam Kubert.

Synopsis: Despite Morgan’s sudden appearance in his sanctum, Cykroth isn’t surprised for long.  He unleashes a succession of mystic blasts that send Morgan to the ground. They would have been deadly, if Jennifer wasn’t using her powers to shield her father. Cykroth figures this out and summons a giant snake to constrict Morgan and see just how powerful Jennifer is.

Meanwhile, Krystovar still holds the doorway, but he’s wound and tiring. He notices the lower legs of the centaur statues are cracked. He takes a metallic rope from the drapery and lassoes one of the statue’s legs.  As a mass of soldier’s rush at him, he pulls with all his might:

The passage is blocked but at the cost of Krystovar’s life.

Morgan’s still battling the serpent. His bullets and blade can’t harm it.  Morgan realizes it’s an illusion—the primal fear of serpents conjured from his mind.  He wills it out of existence and fires on his real enemy.  Cykroth laughs, seemingly impervious to the Warlord’s weapons.  Inwardly, he worries his energies may soon be depleted under the fierce warrior’s onslaught.

In Shamballah, Mariah raises the signal banner above the city, while Machiste and Shakira open the gates. Tara leads her army in, Braveheart-style: “For Shamballah! For Freedom!”

Lord Sabertooh orders the energy cannons to open fire, only to find they’ve all been sabotaged, courtesy of our heroes.

His shields weakening against Morgan’s attack, Cykroth begins to draw life-energy from his minions to save himself. In Shamballah, New Atlantean troops begin to visibly age and weaken before their foes.

If triumph seems close in Shamballah, Morgan has been put on the defensive in New Atlantis. The reinvigorated Cykroth manages to wound both Morgan and Jennifer with his blasts.  Morgan dodges blast after blast, but finally:

And Jennifer’s landing is hard:

Morgan has lost his magical protection! Still, he’s notices that Cykroth’s own protective aura drops briefly following every blast. If he can strike at the precise instant…Only now he manages to let Cykroth trap him in a corner of the room.  The next blast will kill him.

When, a wounded Graemore staggers into the room.  He calls out the cyclops—with predictably tragic results:

But he gives Morgan the opening he needs. Cykroth spins back toward his foe to get a blade in his only eye. The Wizard-King of New Atlantis dies.

In Shamballah, Lord Sabertooth sees his army falter as his best troops wither before his eyes. Perhaps only the beast-man transformation saved him that fate. Sabertooth doesn’t have much time to consider it, as Machiste drops from above.  The two do battle.

Shamballah has been retaken.  Tara surveys the battlefield. The Atlantean troops are decaying away, and Sabertooth:

A celebration is in preparation. They only wait for Morgan to return.  His battle won, he rides to check on his daughter.  He’s startled by what he finds:

Things to Notice:   
  • After the passing of Scarhart and the death of Krystovar this issue, the cast is down to only Grell created characters.  It's almost as if things were being "reset" in some way.  Hmmmm...
  • Of course, Graemore (a Grell era character) also dies this issue, ending forever the hinted but never quite materialized love triangle.
The portrayal of Graemore in this issue (and indeed in the Burkett run that proceeded it) makes him a sensitive minstrel type.  In his early appearances, he was more of a man of action.

Burkett seems to have been setting up a confrontation between Krystovar and his beast-men converted brother.  The only likely suspect for his brother was Lord Saber-Tooth.  Unfortunately, Fleisher dispenses with that subplot and so we never find out.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Hell's Hoods: The Fat Man

The arch-devil Mammon is the lord of greed. He’s boss of the Pluton Family, which keeps the books for the entire Hell Syndicate and sees to the corrupting of mortal souls with avarice. Mammon has his meaty talons in loansharking, real estate schemes, gambling, and counterfeiting.

In this age, Mammon appears as a rotund, horned, oxblood-skinned humanoid in a banker’s suit. His scrawny legs might not be able to support his bulk, if it weren’t for the efforts of his small (yet obviously strong) wings. With them, he's as light on his feet as a ballerina, if the need arises. His flabby jowls are pockmarked. His golden eyes glint like dancing coins in the big score never obtained. He smells like old leather. His shadow is gray, swirling, and pungent as cigar smoke.

Combat: Mammon assiduously avoids combat whenever possible. If necessary, he uses his diabolic abilities below.

Diabolic Abilities: The infernal boss possesses a gilded pocket watch that can stop time in a room or small area for up to 3 minutes or cause a person to age 2-20 years. Turning any unit of currency in his hand, Mammon can fascinate a victim who fails a saving throw with dreams of avarice. He can only use this power once on any given individual. Mammon can tell the complete history of any piece of money he holds, including (in broadstrokes) the desires and goals (particularly sinful ones) of anyone who held it.

Pacts: Summoning Mammon involves heating a coin taken off a person recently dead in a sulfur flame until it burns the summoner’s hand. Mammon can unerring locate any item of monetary value anywhere on the material plane. He can magical alter any financial records to hide fraud or any financial related crime from the agents of Management. The most common reason Mammon is petitioned, however, is the acquire wealth--though this requires a faustian contract.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Magic and Science

In the chat Q&A and a couple email exchanges, I’ve gotten questions about the relationship of magic and science in the world of Weird Adventures.  It seemed like a good time to do a post to clarify, as the setting doesn’t follow the strong separation of the two seen in a number of other rpgs or fictional worlds.

In the City and its world, what people call “science” and “magic” are areas of knowledge which together describe a spectrum of phenomena (or perhaps, phenomena and noumena). Science deals with the material world (the Prime Material Plane, specifically) and repeatable observations about things within that world.  Magic, on the other hand, deals with the interaction of other planes with the Material Plane.  While thaumaturgical studies have certainly led to repeated observations, the performer of a magical experiment is linked to the results, and the forces involved are not always measurable or observable.  

In the dim past or the modern age, the two areas of knowledge have never been completely separate.  Briefly, here let’s look at the spectrum of disciplines leading to technology in the modern City, from strictly physical to most metaphysical:

Science: Humanity’s accumulated knowledge and understanding of the physical world, without account for noumenal forces or extraplanar interactions. The results of this knowledge have produced technology usable by all.

Alchemy: A field focused on the magical or metaphysical properties and interactions of physical substances.  The dividing line between chemistry and alchemy is blurry; various individual experiments or techniques make greater or lesser use of magical interactions.  Alchemy can lead to mass produced products, though these are perhaps not as stable or predictable as the chemistry of our world. 

Artifice: When alchemists moved into the production of homunculi, and thaumaturgists into fashioning automata, the artificer's art was born. Constructs or automata can be made in factories, but their power supplies and mechanical brains (if they have them) are fashioned by alchemical or thaumaturgic means. These techniques can produce devices that might be termed “super-science”--like death-rays or anti-gravity.  Because of the heavy thaumaturgic influence needed, these sorts of devices aren’t mass-producible at the current level of technology,and instead are the work of lone genius (or mad) inventors.

Magic: The ancient art of effecting change in the physical world by will, i.e. the application of forces and powers often extraplanar in origin and not really measurable or detectable (except in their effects) by current scientific means. Thaumaturgy has laws, but these can be idiosyncratic, and often make more intuitive sense than strictly reasonable.

Take a look at the Weird Adventures Index for posts dealing with examples of these technologies.