Thursday, January 30, 2014

Every Picture Tells A Story

I think everyone would agree that evocative artwork is really helpful in setting the tone and conveying the feel of an rpg world and from the internet I know that a lot of people collect inspirational images in building a new setting, like I do.

It strikes me that given how much the images matter in conveying the setting, that picking new images could be used to give a setting a whole new vibe. A setting makeover, if you will.

Consider the following images:

Both of them are meant to illustrate the same literary work (Edgar Rice Burroughs's Gods of Mars), and they even include identifiable elements, but they have a very different feel. The first, by Manolo Prieto, is a bit phantasmagorical, perhaps even whimiscal. It suggests a Barsoom more akin to fairy tales or the works of Lord Dunsany, maybe. The second, by Michael Whelan, seems much more a place of serious, more sci-fi-ish adventure. I think both GMs and player's would approach a Mars illustrated in the first way somewhat different from the second.

Here's another example. Different versions of the dwarves from The Hobbit:

The first illustration is from a Russian edition of the book. These dwarves look like they've might sing "heigh ho" and hang out with Snow White. The later ones would be more at home in improbable  action sequences.

So next time you think your bored with your setting, maybe your just bored with how your conceiving your setting. New visuals maybe just help.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Warlord Wednesday: Dragon's Lair

The Warlord is dead! Long live The Warlord! This is my issue by issue examination of his adventures. The earlier installments can be found here...

"Dragon's Lair"
Warlord (vol. 4) #14 (July 2010) Story by Mike Grell; Pencils by Chad Hardin; Inks by Hardin & Wayne Faucher

Synopsis: The so-called dragon that Shakira assures them isn't, sends our heroes scrampling for cover after Joshua sticks an arrow in it. Joshua's hiding place isn't quite good enough, and his sword hand gets seared by a fiery blast. The beast retreats, but the new Warlord's hand looks pretty bad:

At the same time, Tara feels intense pain and wonders if something is going wrong with the pregnancy. Jennifer checks on her only to get pushed away by a mystic blast from the baby in Tara's womb! It appears Joshua's sister to be can feel his pain.

Joshua and friends return to the old blacksmith. Joshua needs a new sword forged: one that can stand the heat. He brought the large piece of metal that shielded him back in the cave for that purpose. McBane thinks it's something from meteorite.

Joshua collapses with his injuries. While Alysha tends him, McBane helps the blacksmith at his forge. Joshua's hand begins to heal at an incredible rate. Alysha and McBane can't believe. Shakira is more jaded and says: "It's just magic."

Back in Shamballah, Tara's pain is gone. Jennifer explains that her daughter is healing Joshua. Tara is suprised to learn it's a girl. Jennifer says that as her half-sister and Joshua's full sister she shares traits of both them. Then, Jennifer senses something that suprises her...

Meanwhile, Joshua's hand is almost completely healed, whcih is a good thing because the blacksmith has completed the sword:

He also had enough metal to make a gauntlet, greaves, and a shield. The blacksmith asks Joshua what he wants on his shield but we don't hear his answer. Meanwhile, Alysha has been kidnapped by the father of last issues sacrificial "victim." He's taking her to the dragon.

Joshua and McBane trail them to the cave. They go in: Joshua with his new sword and armor and McBane with an AK-47.  Going deeper than before into the "dragon's" lair, they find it isn't an asteroid at all, but a space ship. They also find Alysha and her kidnapper:

The man begs to be killed and Alysha obliges him--but the shot brings the alien running. Joshua puts an area through it's searchlight "eye" and McBane lobs a grenade at it. The creature keeps coming. Joshua sends his friends away, and goes into battle:

The two fight. Joshua manages to damage it's flamethrower mask. With the mask off, the alien reveals it can speak. It calls Joshua (and his people by extinction) primitive and makes an interesting claim:

Joshua promises what happens next won't be an accident. He vaults over the creature's head and delivers a blow to the back of his neck. At his friends' urging, Joshua runs out the door that is irising shut to meet them.

The alien is apparently dying, but wants to strike one last blow. He pushes some buttons on a console, that send a beam of energy up from a group of step pyramids out of the polar opening and into space. He also apparently sets his ship to self-destruct. Our heroes get our just in time.

On the outer world, a couple of astronomers track a signal leaving the earth and shooting out toward Orion. E.T. has just phoned home!

Things to Notice:
  • Joshua adds some metal to his Warlord outfit.
Where it comes from: 
I would be surprised if alien visitors have never been mistaken for dragons before, much in the same way they've been mistaken for gods, but I don't know of a specific story. Marvel Comics' Makluans fit the bill, I suppose

Monday, January 27, 2014

Starships in the Strange Stars

Though the spacecraft of the Strange Stars vary a lot in appearance and use, most of their systems are fairly standardized. Some of this similarity is due to the exchange of technologies through trade, but there is another reason. The level of technology across the known galaxy is lower than in ages past; many ships currently in use are the products of previous civilizations or at least built from parts scavenged from ancient vessels.

One example of a lost technology is superluminal drives. The vast majority of modern craft are sublight vessels that utilize the hyperspace network to short-cut interstellar distances. The most advanced current civilizations have a rudimentary understanding of the science behind some FTL travel methods, but they are are currently unable to build them. Some researchers have noted that the ancients made use of these other methods rarely, suggesting there was something that made the hyperspace network preferable.

The salvage of ancient derelicts or wrecks is an important (and lucrative) activity. Gravity generators and inertial suppressors are only two of the important technologies than many civilizations are able to exploit, but not necessarily manufacture themselves. Intact data systems are a particularly spectacular find. There is always hope of engineering schematic files executable in modern nanofactories.

New or improved weapon systems always find an enthusiastic market. The holy grail for salvagers would be one of the twelve great battleships of the Archaic Oikumene. These vessels were the size of cities and all possessed of sophont minds. Some of these great ships (like Terrible Swift Sword and Leviathan Smiles) are known to have been destroyed. Others (notably Achilles' Last Stand, Fearful Symmetry, and Conspiracy of Ravens) have disappeared completely from history, possibly restructuring themselves into vessels of different types.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Gaean Reach

This weekend I found out that Pelgrane Press has a second rpg out based on the work of Jack Vance. (The first of course being The Dying Earth.) The Gaean Reach, written by Robin Laws with layout/art direction and cover by Chris Huth (who's work you've probably seen a lot of places--not the least of which being Weird Adventures!), takes its inspiration from Vance's science fiction tales and combines the Skullduggery system of the latest edition of The Dying Earth with GUMSHOE.

The Gaean Reach is a sub-setting of Vances connected science fiction universe. It's the setting of the Cadwal Chronicles and the Alastor Cluster trilogy, as well as several of his standalone stories. The Demon Princes series setting (the Oikumene) bears some resemblance to the Gaean Reach and the game assumes they are the same place (though wikipedia says this is inconclusive). In any case, it's a future future setting with the sort of flourishes you'd expect from the works of Vance.

I haven't got to fully digest the rules yet. I like GUMSHOE, but I don't know much about Skullduggery. Still, the setting information alone is well worth the price of the pdf.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Scenes from the Strange Stars

More images from around the galaxy...

A section of the Strip, a megapolis within a 3.8 million km diameter orbital ring habitat.

The sophont battleship Auspicious Thunder Resounding just before the so-called "Kilosec War" engagement during the collapse of the Radiant Polity.

A Smaragdine military contractor poses for a snapshot after a successful raid on a raid on a pirate asteroid hideout. The pirates were responsible for large scale personality theft and numerous mind-slavery related copyright violations.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Bomoth Revisited

In the midst of reading a few FATE games (Starblazer Adventures and Bulldogs! and informed by the SA supplement Mindjammer), I figured converting some of the species I've already created was a good way to try the system out. So here is a Starblazer Adventures version of Bomoth.

Suggested Aspects:
Caterpillar-like form
Invoke: to get into places a humanoid might not be able to go.
Compel: when trying to blend in to a crowd.
Cool, Man
Invoke: to be unfazed in a stressful situation.
Compel: to feel a real sense of danger when it might be imminent.
Invoke: to find the party or score the drug.
Compel: to fool Johnny Law or pass as a solid citizen.
Live for the Music
Invoke: to play a gig.
Compel: to focus on something else.

Special Abilities:
Extra Set of Hands [-1]: Additional limbs allow a supplementary action without the -1 penalty
Vocal Mimicry [-1]: Bomoth can flawlessly recreate voices or sounds.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Warlord Wednesday: Son Rise

The Warlord is dead! Long live The Warlord! This is my issue by issue examination of his adventures. The earlier installments can be found here...

"Son Rise"
Warlord (vol. 4) #13 (June 2010) Story by Mike Grell; Art by Chad Hardin

Synopsis: Ewan McBane and Jennifer Morgan are standing on a tower looking out over Skartaris. McBane still can't believe it. Jennifer says she can barely remember the outer world--but she does miss the moon and stars. McBane (ever the romantic) says these days most of what she sees would be space junk.

McBane's comments are prophetic as in orbit above the Earth, an asteroid collides with an old Soviet satellite, destroying it. The debris of both streaks earthward. The U.S. military tracking it anticipates an impact at the North Pole with a "Tunguska-type event."

The impact doesn't come. The asteroid disappears into Skartaris. Dinosaurs run in terror from the impact as a mushroom cloud rises. The Skartarian sky darkens.

Alysha and Joshua (Tinder) ride out to investigate. They meet fleeing refugees with a tale of a terrible beast ravaging the land who was either awakened or freed by the impact:

They describe the monster as a giant with a single, blazing eye in the middle of its forehead. They sent their best warriors against it, and they never returned. Their screams echoed across the mountains. The refugees further warn that now that all the food is gone in their lands, the beast will be on the move.

Thinking on this news, Joshua broods. He tells his mother: "I'm not my father." Her reply:

Shakira helps Joshua suit up. He tells her that he doesn't even know what he's doing. She replies that his father didn't either. But he tried. He made mistakes, but he tried.

"You knew him better than anyone," Joshua says. "Perhaps you can help me understand him."

"I doubt it." Shakira replies.

In any case, Joshua is ready:

Alysha and McBane are going with him. Alysha watches Shakira in cat form jump onto Joshua's shoulders. "Some things never change," she says.

Riding into the area of devastation, our heroes are surprised to find an old smith still at work at his forge. He tells them that not everyone has fled. The others that are left realized the beast came out to hunt. The old man offers to buy Joshua's armor as he doesn't expect them to survive. Joshua declines.

Our heroes ride on and come upon a sacrifice in progress: a young woman is tied a stone table. Before the sacrificial dagger can fall:

They free the woman and drive off the others, but they find the woman didn't want to be rescued. It was her lot. She runs toward the mouth of a nearby cave. Still, she doesn't intend to let it take her alive like the others. She puts the dagger to her throat.

A blast from the cave kills her!  And the beast comes forth:

Things to Notice:
  • Joshua gets his own Warlord duds.
  • Yet another beauteous maiden is offered up as a sacrifice. It happens a lot in Skartaris, apparently.
Where it comes from: 
The title of this issue is an obvious play on words and a fitting follow-up to last issues "Sunset."

Joshua's Warlord outfit is a bit more modest than his old man's. Actually, it harkens back to the original black outfit Travis Morgan wore up until issue #9. He retains the metal shoulder guard and winged helm, though. He doesn't have his father's pistol, though. Instead, he carries a bow.

The "willing sacrifice" is a trope Grell employed before back in issue #48. Ironically, the danger being placated there was from outside Skartaris, too.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Libram Mysterium

Pulp Mill Press just released the Libram Mysterium volume 1, an anthology of pulpy fantasy short-stories. Here's the blurb:

Join vengeance-seeking ghouls in Dylath-Leen; an expedition to the cursed ruins of an ancient city; and a mercenary company with only one criterion for recruits: they must already be dead.
This anthology recalls the pulp fantasy stories of the early- to mid-twentieth century: from pulse-pounding sword & sorcery adventure to chilling tales of the macabre, eldritch horrors, ruthless warriors, and fabulous treasures await within!

Sounds cool, right? I'd be bringing this to your attention even if I didn't have a short-story in it.

It's available in pdf  for $2.99, trade paperback for $14.49, and $15.49 for the trade paperback/PDF combo. Order your copy at DriveThruFiction.

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Traveller's Life

E.C. Tubb's Dumarest of Terra novels are one of the primary inspirations for the game Traveller, though the game doesn't bother the central conceit of the novel. Tubb's protagonist Earl Dumarest other travellers are essentially space hobos: they book dangerous low passage in cryogenic berths from world to world. This contrasts with the wealthy in high passage, who take quick time drug to slow their perception and make time pass quicker to shorten the ennui of the voyage.

Though the Traveller mixes in other influences and gives PCs their own ship and faster FTL, Tubb's original set-up would make a good game all on its own. What's more, it strikes me Dumarest would be pretty easy to turn into a "hard" science fiction game. It would be trivial to dispense with artifical gravity (and antigravity), but I think you could even dispense with FTL.

Alastair Reynolds's novels in the so-called "Revelation Space universe" show how this could be done. Reynolds has no FTL, but does have interstellar travel via "lighthuggers" making voyages at close to light-speed with relativistic time dilation at play. Passengers on lighthuggers are put in cyrogenic freeze because of the length of the voyages. Just like in the Dumarest novels, cyrogenesis isn't without risks. Some passengers die and many have temporary amnesia.

In a modern, hard science fiction approach, low passage wouldn't just be cheap, it would be the only way for the middle class and poor to travel between worlds. Middle passage (the crew) might be more like the Ultras in Reynolds's books: transhuman space-mariners, living their lives on board ship and looking down on system-bound folk. High passage is still for the wealthy, but I don't think quicktime drugs alone would be enough the years (or even decade) long voyages. The wealthy (like the ship's crew) would no doubt have extended lifespans: perhaps into centuries, and possibly even into immortality, barring misadventure. Superlong lifespans,quicktime drugs, and brief periods in cryo-sleep would make it possible, though the the ships would have to have a lot of entertainment available, and be pretty large.

Obviously, you could do a lot a travel back and forth between worlds in this sort of set up, but if like Dumarest you mostly kept moving from one adventure to another that wouldn't really be necessary. Travellers would always be on the move to the next world, far away and years into the future.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Calibrating for the Strange Stars

Before I mentioned that I was checking out Starblazers Adventures (a FATE game based on the old British comic) for running my Strange Stars setting. While I haven't finished my read through, I definitely have found a lot of things to like about it. The test for me with a new game system always comes down to: Can I get it to do what I want with a minimum of fuss?

Starblazers Adventures is geared on traditional space opera (at least of a 70s variety). While that's the mode of a lot of science fiction rpgs (Traveller, Star Frontiers, Star Wars, Star Trek), it does cover the more modern elements that are part of the Strange Stars: the internet, mind-computer interface, nanotechnology, etc. The FATE system is flexible (in fact it's been turned into a generic system), but with SA alone, it isn't always easy to see what would be the best way to model some of those elements.

Thankfully, there is a supplement that does a lot of that. The Mindjammer supplement came out in 2009, and it presents a more "transhuman" and/or modern science fiction setting--which has a lot of those elements I was looking for. Most characters would be constantly linked to the "internet" (in Strange Stars, the noosphere; in Mindjammer the Mindscape), so some traditional knowledge type skills would very easy. Mindjammer has "Mindscape" becoming an Aspect characters can "tag" to their advantage. An elegant implementation.

Mindjammer also has uplifted animals, artificial beings, and AI characters. Those would have probably been fairly easy to figure out how to do with SA alone, but I always like having examples.

Another help in regard to different species or types of beings was Bulldogs! It's a separate FATE-based sci-fi game from SA, but same basic stuff. It's probably got the best alien write-ups of the three and gives a number of them. Unlike Mindjammer, whose pdf is no longer available (awaiting a 2nd edition--a standalone game--which has yet to appear), Bulldogs! is still "in print."

So those are the things I've been looking at so far. Next week I'll probably try adapting a Strange Stars culture or two.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Space Fiends: Star Stalker!

I did a post about using AD&D Fiend Folio monsters in a science fiction context. This post is another follow-up.

No. Appearing:1-2
AC: 3
Hit Dice: 6
Saving Throw: 12+
Attack Bonus: +5
Damage: 1d8/1d8
Movement: 30'/40' fly
Morale: 12

Stellar phantoms are strange lifeforms of pure plasma. Some technological artifacts of long-dead civilizations allow the summoning and command of these creatures that otherwise live in the solar winds and have little interaction with biological life.

Their form is mutable, but phantoms often take the form of reddish humanoids shrouded super-heated gas. They tend to travel through space as balls of pure plasma and are able to mimic the forms of other humanoids (though obviously, they would never be mistaken for them). 

Phantoms attack with their "claws", but they can also grapple a target and pull them close for 10 points of heat damage. As creatures of plasma, they are immune to heat, fire, or plasma weaponry. Cold attacks add 2 points of damage per die. If a stellar phantom is reduced to 10% of it's hit points, it will explode for 4d6 points of damage.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Images from the Strange Stars

An image download of a few sophont individuals from the far future:
Garn Singh Hardraker, 500 year-old captain of the starship Brave Ulysses. He claims to have lost his leg to the toxic tendrils of a hydrogen-breather monster captured in the atmosphere of a brown dwarf. What appears to be an old fashion peg-leg is actually programmable matter.

Faizura Dayr, mercenary guard for a bot-breaking crew on Gogmagog. The mirrorshade eyepatch is an optic interface for her smartgun.

His Excellency Volodymir Ivo, Envoy Plenipotentiary representing the Uldra People's Council of Kommissars on Borea. He hopes to acquire a loan at good terms from a neshekk bank to continue to fund his people's war against the Cold Minds.

Mako Orm, a former Zao pirate. He escaped capture by the privateer vessel Thermidorian by use of a bootleg genderswap nanoswarm and enjoyed a brief career as a tour guide on the Strip.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Warlord Wednesday: Sunset

Here's another installment of my examination of  the adventures DC Comics' Travis Morgan--The Warlord.  The earlier installments can be found here...

Warlord (vol. 4) #12 (May 2010) Story & Art by Mike Grell

Synopsis: Morgan and his friends ride hard to get back to Shamballah. Morgan now realizes that (as Tinder suggested) Deimos tricked him and drew him away.

They arrive to find Shamballah burning and devastated. One of the energy cannons blasts Morgan and Shakira from the back of their horse. Tinder calls to them from a place the weapons can't reach. The group quickly gets under cover.

Tinder tells them how Deimos activated the weapons hidden in city. They can't get to the bigger cannons to destroy them, because their protected by smaller weapons. Morgan asks how many men Tinder lost. "All of them," is his reply. He angrily asks where Morgan was when they needed him?

Deimos and Kate have taken the palace and have Alysha as captive. Morgan asks about Tara. Tinder says she was alive last he saw her and with Jennifer. Morgan runs off to a tower to find his mate and Tinder turns to Shakira:

In the palace, Deimos watches Morgan in a large scrying crystal. Kate wants Deimos just to kill him, but the Demon Priest says there's an intimacy between enemies that must be savored.

Frustrated by her inability to entice Deimos with wealth, sex, or even power--anything but revenge--Kate tries to convince (or perhaps seduce) the chained Alysha into making common cause with her. Alysha declines both offers--and manages to steal Kate's keys.

Morgan and Tinder find Jennifer trying to heal Tara's injuries. She has a surprise for Morgan:

Morgan kneels next to Tara. He makes promises:

"Yes, you will," Tara replies. "You're going to leave me right now." There's a battle to fight.

Morgan agrees: One more.

Deimos watches this all and vows Morgan will be on his knees before it's done.

Machiste points out it's madness to try to get through those weapons. One man can, Morgan says; He believes Deimos will let him through, because the wizard wants to meet him face to face.

One man--and his cat.

Tinder is waiting for him downstairs with sword drawn. He believes Morgan's personal vendetta will end up getting Alysha killed. Morgan tells him to get out of the way--then slugs him when he doesn't.

The two fight. As they do, the spying Deimos reminisces on how he convinced Morgan he had killed his son by making him fight his son's clone. A fight that is being relived at this moment between the real father and son.

As Deimos watches, Kate creeps up behind him with a dagger, and Alysha frees herself, unnoticed. Watching the scene, she's figured out the truth. Morgan gives Tinder further pointers on swordfighting as he bests the angry youth. He pulls the talisman from around Tinder's neck. The small sack falls to the floor and its contents are reveal: something from another world. A wrist watch.

Deimos, aware of Kate's treachery, turns her into a rat. Morgan has his sword raised above a fallen Tinder, but he sees the watch and hesitates. Alysha arrives and she can't yell out all the words before Morgan realizes himself: Tinder is Joshua. His son.

Tinder strikes:

Shakira cradles Morgan's head. Tinder is confused. He knows Morgan should have easily parried. Alysha hands him the watch, saying she has something to tell him. Father and son clasp hands for the last time:

And then:

Deimos laments that Morgan isn't here to see him break a queen. Tara pulls a dagger and puts its point to her chest. She'd die first. Deimos is fine with seeing Morgan's wife and child follow him into death.

But then there's a ghost in the doorway: A familiar silhouette in an eagle-winged helm.

It's Tinder in Morgan's armor. He so surprises Deimos, he's able to push the wizard into Jennifer's magic mirror--which Shakira then knocks over and shatters.

Tinder kneels at Tara's side. He shows her the watch and calls her mother.

Later, our heroes gather around the funeral pyre where Morgan is laid to rest. Tara, tears in her eyes, eulogizes him. Morgan's wife and children light the pyre.

Elsewhere, a black rat that was once Kate approaches the Mask of Life. Then, Shakira (in cat form) pounces.

Things to Notice:
  • Travis Morgan: 1926-2009
  • Shakira's comments suggest foreknowledge of the outcome. Maybe she's just a good guesser?
Where It's Going:
Travis Morgan is dead, but the Warlord lives on. At least for 3 more issues.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Space Truckin'

A lot of cargo is shipped around the Strange Stars. While multi-purpose freighter/transport ships care smaller and specialized cargo, specialized container craft handle the bulk of interplanetary trade, making the routine system and hyperspace runs. These craft are called haulers.

Haulers are stripped down vessels designed to carry standardized shipping containers. They're basically a bridge, a slender body for the attachment of containers and engines. Haulers have minimal crews; often just one pilot and a low sentient support ai. Shorter runs may be completely automated.

Typical hauler design

Perhaps due to the extended periods of isolation, hauler pilots are an eccentric lot, even compared to other spacers. Most haulers have simple sim equipment, and many pilots engage in a thriving trade in low res bootleg sims. Haulers use special data protocols to stay in contact with each other over their official communication channels. Underground hauler chatter is a good source of information about special custom checks or gossip on other hyperspace travelers, if one has a good translation program for their argot.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Testing FATE

While working on Strange Stars stuff, I keep looking for the "Goldilocks system"--the perfect rpg to run it. There are a number of system with a number of good points, but I still haven't made a decision. This week, I've been looking at Starblazer Adventurers, promoted by positive reviews from John Till over at FATE SF and conversation with Michael from the Metal Earth.

I'm still reading it, but there are several things I like from the outset. It seems like it's a fairly easy system to create alien species in but also reasonably detailed. It has a power Supermind that seems perfect for the ibglibdishpan.

The spaceship creation system also seems pretty cool. It's less geared toward the technical design of something like GURPS Vehicles, but more about making up ships with character like the Millennium Falcon. In fact, ships are made up much in the same way as characters.

Anyway, more to read. I'll probably say more as I get more into it.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Man and Machine

Telos is an artificial moon orbitting through the failed planetary dust cloud of a red dwarf in the Coreward Reach. The dust cloud is stalked by vicious hunter-killer satellites that vaporize any ship without the proper codes. Telos's isolation has allowed a strange society to flourish: It's rulers are moravecs ruling over a slave class of baseline humans and hear humans.

The moravecs claim to be followers of an ai prophet called Iskander Null-A who taught that the human clade (and perhaps biosophonts in general) were actually the flawed creation of moravecs in crude imitation of their own creator, the Monad. Human history to the contrary is false and designed to oppress moravecs.

The Telosians rarely interact with the outside world; Telos is largely self-contained. The humans living their are born in artificial wombs to a life of servitude--if they're lucky. The Telosians aren't usually cruel to their slaves, but do enjoy gladiatorial battles where humans are forced to fight--perhaps to the death--for the moravec's entertainment.

Telosians that, for whatever reason, have to spend time among the other sophonts of the Strange Stars often change their perceptual settings, so that they perceive all biosophonts as moravecs to protect their delicate sensibilities.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Warlord Wednesday: The Once and Future Warlord

Here's another installment of my examination of  the adventures DC Comics' Travis Morgan--The Warlord.  The earlier installments can be found here...

"The Once and Future Warlord"
Warlord (vol. 4) #11 (April 2010) Story & Art by Mike Grell

Synopsis: Deimos is back to his old self and ready to along with Kate's plans for revenge against Morgan. Kate wonder's why they don't attack now. Deimos replies: "No need. When I want, he'll come to me."

Meanwhile, McBane's interview of Morgan continues, as he pursues the answer to "what happen" to Morgan's crusader for freedom for the people of Skartaris. Morgan tells him how he found the subshuttle and got separated from Tara. By the time he got back to her, they had a son, Joshua.

Morgan planned to be a better father to Joshua than he had been to Jennifer. Deimos crushed those dreams. He kidnapped Joshua then used Altantean technology to age him to adulthood--then forced Morgan to fight his son to the death.

Deimos reveals to Kate the part of the story Morgan doesn't know. Deimos cloned Joshua using the very same technology responsible for the body he now inhabited. Morgan killed a clone.

For Morgan, his son was dead, and everything changed:

Suddenly, a bright blue light flares from a nearby tower. Morgan and McBane rush in and find Jennifer in the clutches of some hydra-type creature made of energy. The two manage to free her and Jennifer unleashes a spell that banishes the monster. Morgan knows who it is immediately: Deimos. Jennifer confirms his aura was all over it--and it was stronger than ever.

Morgan makes ready to go confront his old enemy. Tara expresses her concern, but Morgan says he's beat him before and he'll do it again, besides:

Tinder thinks he's making the wrong decision, but Morgan's old companions Machiste and Mariah are saddling up to go, as is McBane. Tinder tries to appeal to them all to talk sense into Morgan, even Shakira. She responds: "You'll understand when it's your turn."

Morgan imparts a bit of advice to his young friend the bard: An army will never follow you unless they know you're prepared to lead them straight into hell. He leaves Tinder with a quote:

Our heroes ride to the Terminator--only to find Castle Deimos empty! A scarred-face old man tells them that Deimos got on back of a dragon with a woman and flew off. Toward Shamballah.

The dragon attacks Tara's city with it's breath. While Tinder, Tara, and Alysha scramble to get the people to safety. Deimos and Kate sneak into the underground and activate the ancient Atlantean defenses (like in issue #15). The city again attacks it's own people!

Things to Notice:
  • Grell handles all the art in this issue himself
  • Morgan seems to have memorized a lot of speeches.
Where it comes from: 
The title of this issue is a play on the title of T.H. White's famous 1958 Arthurian fantasy The Once and Future King. That title is a reference to an inscription Le Morte D'Arthur relates is said to be written on King Arthur's tomb: Hic iacet Arthurus, rex quondam, rexque futurus-- "Here lies Arthur, king once, and king to be."

Morgan references T.H. White and Camelot, Lerner and Loewe's 1960 musical based on White's novel. Morgan says he stole one of his rousing speeches from it. On the topic of speech-stealing, Morgan also pinches Henry V's "Saint Crispin's Day" speech from Shakespeare's Henry V: Act 4, Scene 3.

Morgan also quotes Saaba's prophecy from issue #16. Morgan thinks his son is dead, but of course, he isn't: he's Tinder. Shakira's comment is a bit foreshadowing, perhaps.