Monday, February 29, 2016

Things Are Not Too Sweet on Candy Isle


Our 5e Land of Azurth campaign continues: The party set sail for the Candy Isle, hoping to find Gwendolin Goode and her campanion, the pirate Black Iris. They are accompanied (somewhat reluctantly) by Black Iris's former first-mate, Rarebit Finn. He tells  then he sent Iris and Gwendolin to the Candy Isle by telling them it was the landing site of the Confection Perfection, the candy of the gods said to have fallen from the table of Queen Urania herself.

They find the Candy Isle easy enough, and Black Iris's ship Vixen is anchored in the lagoon. Cog brings his ship through the opening in the rock candy reef and comes along side. The Vixen is abandoned, but for the corpse of a crewman killed by a spear tipped with peanut brittle. Our heroes take the remains launch and go ashore.

The beach is made of luster dust and powdered chocolate. The trees have fronds like fruit leather. Our heroes follow the tracks of humans that seem to be followed by some nonhuman prints. They soon find the jungle holds dangers other than too much sugar: they encounter a giant gummy constrictor, ribbon candy centipedes, and sugar-sucking stirges.


The also find curiously abandon villages and at least one more dead pirate. At the crater, which they presume to be the place where the Confection Perfection fell, they find the body of a red gummy tribesman. When crossing a chocolate stream, they run into a patrol of more such tribesmen armed with peanut brittle-tipped spears, but Kully uses a sleep spell to nullify most of the them.

At the base of the large volcano on the side of the island opposite the lagoon they see an ancient temple made of cyclopean fudge. At its base is a large village--perhaps over a hundred tribesfolk! The group pulls back to consider the best plan of attack as they're convinced Gwendolin is in the temple.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Historicity of The Witch


I got a chance to check out The Witch this weekend and it was well-worth it. It's a well-executed historical horror film that eschews the jump scares and other tropes of most modern horror in favor of building a sense of dread. (It perhaps resembles in some ways It Follows though in style not content.) Though its a very different film, it would probably make a good double feature with A Field in England.

Anyway, my friend Jack wrote a good review here.

Robert Eggers, the writer-director, emphasized historical accuracy in the film, even down to sampling dialogue from period references (though unfortunately, we do know which specific ones for which piece. Maybe an annotated screenplay will be released?). Here's a post on an early American history blog reviewing the Witch's portrayal of witches compared to period beliefs in the early colonial area.

The New York Public library put together a resource and reading list for the film, including the works Eggers specifically mentions in interviews.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Thedabara the Vampire


Here's an excerpt from the upcoming Mortzengersturm, the Mad Manticore of the Prismatic Peak:

Thedabara, former chanteuse, actress, and member of the undead, is most often found in her chamber beneathed Mortzengersturm's manor reclined on her chaise, reading a book of decadent poetry, with a glass of brandy mixed with blood (her preferred way of taking nourishment, these days) in her pale hand. She has grown old in the way of vampires who do not fight back against the dwindling of unlife with ever-increasing wickedness, and so she spends most of her time in repose and reminiscence. Her wickedness is more the kind of self-absorption seen in fading celebrities, made only a little less tolerable by her tendency to violence and blood-drinking if she is not indulged or accorded the deference she feels is her due.

She drinks blood only once every few weeks and finds hunting a bother. She entertains visitors beyond Mortzengersturm (and he is a less than ideal conversational partner, as he is as much an egotist as she), much less often. She will greet any party cordially, perhaps offering them a drink (not carrying that she has no more than 4 glasses). Then with exaggerated gestures and dramatic diction, she will regale them with stories of her past exploits on the stage—so long as they will sit and listen.
It is certainly possible for a party to take their leave of her, without provoking her to petulant violence, but it will take a great deal of care.

Here's Jason Sholtis's old school stats for Thedabara:
HD 9, hp: 48, AC 2 [17] Attk: bite (1d10+ level drain) Special: change form, summon wolves/bats, charm

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wednesday Comics: Storm

The next installment of Storm will start next week. Today, check out some art from the series:


A peak into "The Green Hell," the volume after next.


A transformed Ember amid weirdness in the volume "The Seven of Aromater."

Monday, February 22, 2016

Taxman


Working on my taxes this weekend made me think of this class Weird Adventures post: "Death & Taxes."

Nobody in my game ever ran afowl of the Taxmen. Maybe next campaign.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Alpha Blue

A common problem with rpg products that set out to capture a certain type of other media is they often don't succeed. It's easy enough to make a science fiction game or setting; harder to make one that really feels like say Forbidden Planet or maybe the sort of stuff you'd see in Heavy Metal. When I got a review copy of Alpha Blue, I was already aware of its general conceit, so I was not necessarily expecting but prepared to find that to be the case once again. I was wrong: Alpha Blue pretty much does what it sets out to do.

For those of you who haven't heard of it, Alpha Blue is a game (though OSR conversion notes are given) mostly about sci-fi adventures aboard the titular space station brothel Alpha Blue. Satanis clearly knows his 70s and 80s sci-fi, horror, and exploitation films. There are nice Easter eggs and call backs to these things throughout the text. Anybody who's read my stuff knows I fond of that, as well, so it was a touch I appreciated. The art is good, too, some of it technically better than other pieces, but all if it supports the mood and continues the call backs--sometimes to the point of distraction, but mostly spot on. One of the artists style reminded me of Niso Ramponi's concept art for Starcrash, which kind of enhances the overall vibe.

Now to be clear many parts of Alpha Blue are definitely sophomoric, occasionally prurient, and will be considered by many sexist in places. This is completely in keeping with much of the source material--but it won't appeal to everyone. There are a lot of random tables (many of them pretty humorous), though, so you don't have to dive in completely to get use of it. The writing is conversational and clearly lets you know that everything is to be taken tongue-in-cheek.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Blackmoor College for the Adventuring Arts


I've been enjoying The Magicians on SyFy, but between it and Harry Potter, I wonder why magic gets all the good schools? There are three other core classes after all.

I'm envisions a fantasy wainscot in the modern world where kids with aptitudes in any of the adventuring arts get trained to save the world that hates and fears them from the monsters from below. And have a lucrative adult career doing it.

I've mused on modern monster fighting before and the existence of dungeons in the modern world (and so have others), but a school for training adventurers is an angle I had never considered. I think it adds an interesting additional element.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Outlaw Velocipede Gangs of Azurth

art by humei YE

In the eastern plains of the Country of Yanth in the Land of Azurth, there are nomads with an unusual mode of travel. These rovers have tamed giant, fast moving arthopods of an unusual sort: the velocipede (as they are called) possesses not a single leg for locomotion, but instead have wheels in place of the usual limbs. It would be quite appropriate to assume some thaumaturgy is responsible for this state of affairs, though the origins of the velocipede are obscure. The nomads keep the breeding and handling of these beasts likewise cloaked in secrecy, presumably to hold the advantage of velocipede-assisted high speed travel for themselves.

The nomads tend to be dispersed in bands or gangs, typically with some totemic banner to unite them. They accessorize their gang livery with things like horned helmets, long hair, and exuberant mustaches. A boy is not counted a man among them until he has tamed his first velocipede, and a woman who wishes to be respected and viewed as equal is well to do likewise. While it would be unfair to say the rovers are universally bandits or raiders, few are at all adverse to these vocations, and they all look down upon the farming or commerce engaged in by more settled folk. The velocipede riders will sometimes hire themselves out as escorts or mercenaries, at least for a time. They will not kill a bard or minstrel, though they will certainly frighten or tease one whose music doesn’t meet their raucous tastes.

Velocipedes: are large creatures, with ability scores like carrion crawlers, though not the attacks other than bite. Their speed on their 6-10 (depending on size and age) wheels is 50 ft. They have a trampling attack similar to a warhorse. They make sputtering noises like Speed Buggy, which their riders claim to understand.

Children's toy based on stories of Velocipedes, bearing little resemblance to the real creature

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Last Fighter (part 3)

My exploration of the long-running euro-comic Storm, continues. Earlier installments can be found here.


Storm: The Last Fighter (1979) (part 3)
Art by Don Lawrence & Script by Martin Lodewijk

Now in the control room of the Palace of Death (really an alien spacecraft) Storm sits down to see if he can figure out the controls--over the objections of the superstitious Guardian who decrees his actions as blasphemy. Soon, he discovers how to restore power. With safety and all the synthesized food they can eat, the other champions feel like they're in heaven. Storm has conquered the Guardian's god.

He finds them a way out, too. A shuttlecraft:


They survivors fly back to Soamandrakisal. The city folk come to greet them and celebrate Storm's victory for Soamandrakisal, but he brushes them aside. His only concern is freeing Ember.

The vengeful Guardian has other ideas:


Storm hears Ember's cries within the god-thing's maw and realizes she's still alive. While Asverze goes after the treacherous Guardian, Storm impetuously dives in after Ember. He slides down the god's esophagus until:


At first, they think they can wait for those above to throw down a rope, but they've irritated the monster's stomach lining, and its acid production increases. They've got to get out; if they can't go up, they'll have to go downward. Things get sort of weird:


When finally they come to rest, they're in a cave with me trace of He-Who-Must-Be-Fed. They exit the cave and find themselves in the valley surrounding the Palace of Death. Ember wonders what happened, Storm has a kind of farfetched sounding theory:


Before they can hash that out further, the shuttlecraft comes flying over head. The Guardian is at the controls, but Asverze has got him by the throat, trying to kill him for betraying Storm. They crash right into the Palace of Death and it all goes up in a huge explosion. The surrounding mountains are shaken. Storm and Ember get out of the valley just in time before a rockslide closes off the entrance.

Ember sees a heard of dagger-horned deer creatures ahead, and our heroes are pretty much back where they started.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Presidents Days Past (and Future)


It's Presidents Day once again! Check out these classic holiday  related posts:

Delve into the ahistory of the teen president Prez.

Take a look at a trio of sinister presidents who will never be honored.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Otus Pantheon

Blame Chris Kutalik. He did a post Sunday about imagining a pantheon based on Erol Otus strange evocative illustrations in Deities & Demigods. This is what I came up with:

Click to check it out in its enlarged "glory." The domains provided are for 5th edition.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Last Fighter (part 2)

My exploration of the long-running euro-comic Storm, continues. Earlier installments can be found here.


Storm: The Last Fighter (1979) (part 2)
Art by Don Lawrence & Script by Martin Lodewijk

With Ember in a cage hanging over the mouth of a mostly- buried, giant god-thing, the implicit threat is clear: Storm is to be the city's champion and fight for the throne of the Palace of Death. Or else.

A guide leads Storm from the city and on a several day's trek across the desert. They come to a mountain range and take a very narrow pass through it that looks like it was cut by intense hit. As they emerge on the other side, some sort of giant turtle monster approaches--only to get sliced in half by an energy beam. The guide says the gods punish large animals that try to approach. He leaves Storm at the Valley of Bones. Only champions are allowed to go further.

Storm follows the path across the bones and soon sees the "Palace of Death" before him:


Storm moves closer and finds the other champions waiting for him.

The old man says he's the Guardian of the Palace. Now that Storm has arrived they can begin. The Guardian will guide them through the traps and perils to the place where the last champion died the previous year. From there, he will observe their progress and be able to report the knowledge gained in their respective demises to the champions the following year. Storm asks how long has this gone on, and the Guardian tells him it has been thousands of years. The current guardian is the 615th.

He leads the champions single file along an invisible but torturous path to the "palace." One champion decides to walk directly there; he's disintegrated for his impatience. The rest make it to the ship. Once inside, they pass through a series of traps: portals that grow hot if you don't pass through quickly enough, hypnotic-patterned walls, checkerboard floors that have to be tread on in a certain pattern, and more. They lose two more champions reaching the point that marks the extent of the Guardian's knowledge.

The first champion sent into the next room falls through a trapdoor into lava. Storm is next up; the Guardian counted the steps and tells Storm when to jump. Asverze [Skarla in the Titan Books version], the only female champion, is sent first into the next room. She finds herself facing a duplicate.


Storm realizes the ship's computer is generating a hologram to match her moves, He rushes into the room over the Guardian's protests to add another element to the equation. Forced to fight shifting opponents, the duplicates' movements get slower and they eventually disappear.

From that point on, Storm leads the way using his new understanding of the palace to guide them. The Guardian decries this all as blasphemy, but nobody listens. Passing through the traps, they find an escalator with skeletons of ancient crew scattered about. They take the escalator to the control room--and the "throne" of the Palace.



TO BE CONTINUED

Monday, February 8, 2016

Three Worlds: A Strange Stars OSR Excerpt

From the pages of the upcoming Strange Stars OSR, here are three worlds detailed in Stars Without Number style:

BOREAS
Tags  Seagoing Cities, Zombies
Enemies  Animated bioroid beast, Vrzemko Koprdazak xenophobic local kommissar, Zyta Hrenj paranoid ranger
Friends  Scientist Jarka Lissik seeking communication with the Cold Minds, Local trader Balok Zek
Complications Transport breakdown out on the ice, Dead from a sunken warship animated by the Cold Minds
Things Container of weaponized microorganisms; Exclusive trade contract with the uldra
Places Ranger station beneath the ice, The subsurface levels of a trading settlement

Tags  Desert World, Local Specialty
Enemies Crazy bot-breaker Haxo Ysgar; Robber gang
Friends Merc Faizura Deyr working for the bot-breakers, Free trader supplying bot-breakers
Complications.Von Neumann machine swarm, A malfunctioning giant robot 
Things Hidden entrance to the mysterious planetary substructure, A forgotten, ancient giant bot
Places A shanty town; A junkyard


PHOBETOR
Tags  Local Tech, Flying City, Badlands World
Enemies Industrial spy disguised as a technician, Dark dream-dealer Arden-Decima
Friends Customer interface specialist Soren-Tertia, Short-duration reverie designer Alex-Quintus
Complications A loosed frumious bandersnatch, Wealthy BASE-jumpers wingsuit-flying to the planet’s surface
Things An experimental dream drug product, A captured art-monster, weaponized dream-tech
Places The sky city of Eidolon, An ancient underground vault

Friday, February 5, 2016

In Space No One Can Hear You Scream

I'd initially planned to not to get any new art for the Strange Stars OSR book, instead reusing the great stuff that had been done for the Fate book, but when Jason Sholtis expressed interest in doing a piece, I had to take him up on it.

This illustration will likely head (appropriately) the monster/NPCs chapter. Currently, that chapters contents include stats for Algosian torture cultists, Caliban cannibals, Hyehoon Eden Seeker terrorists, Eratoan assassins, and of course, three colors of ssraad--among others.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Strange Stars W,X, and Y


Over at the Fate SF blog, John Till (author of Strange Stars Fate) is in the final lap of his "Strange Stars A-Z." This week, he's covered:

W for "Woon Academies"
X for the nongendered pronouns "Xe-Xem-Xir"
and Y for a "Yantran Holiday"

Check these out--and the older entries!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Last Fighter

My exploration of the long-running euro-comic Storm, continues. Earlier installments can be found here.


Storm: The Last Fighter (1979)
Art by Don Lawrence & Script by Martin Lodewijk

In the desert foothills of the Bahamas (the ocean waters had again seeped underground, or either last volume’s flood was very localized), Stom wrestles a deer-like creature to the ground, then he and Ember (Carrots in the last story) cook it over a fire. Storm again tells her about Jupiter’s Red Spot and his journey to the future. His story is met with incredulity by a man who has somehow managed to sneak up on them, riding what looks like a giant, crawling shrimp.

He them to join his troupe; he thinks Storm could be a star attraction. Storm and Ember decline. To persuade the, he opens a wicker basket and releases two bat-insect creatures--flix. Storm jumps the man and puts him in a headlock, but it’s too late:


Storm, too, is fitted with a flix, and the man (Tchell) leads them to meet Master Cush1 and his Travelling Show of “monsters, marvels, minstrels, and magic.” Cush is immediately impressed with Ember, thinking she’d bring a high price in the East, but when she tells him what she thinks of that idea, he realizes he’ll have to reconsider: Maybe she could be a gladiator?

Cush sees Storm's potential as a fighter. He gives him a tryout against Barledoon2, an imposing mohawked gladiator.  Storm surprises Barledoon with his agility and martial arts and knocks the big man down. Cush doesn't know what to make of all this; it looks like acrobatics more than fighting. He calls for swords. Barledoon gets the better of Storm here. Cush tasks Barledoon with turning the acrobat into a fighter.

Over the next few weeks, Barledoon trains Storm in swordsmanship. Whenever he’s not training, he still has the flix on him, and he’s told the telepathic creatures can even sense thoughts of escape! Soon, they seen the walled city of Soamandrakisal3 where they are to perform. The crowds turn out to watch as the troupe parades into town.


That night, Barledoon is chosen to fight the champion of the city in the arena. He seems fatalistic about it, which Storm doesn’t understand, given that Soamandrakisal’s champion looks like a complete amateur. Barledoon takes a drink offered him with Master Cush’s compliments, then enters the arena. Barledoon’s movements are sluggish, and he’s quickly killed.

Storm can’t believe it. Tchell reveals that Barledoon was drugged so he would lose to the city’s champion, so Cush could stay in the good graces of the city’s leaders. Barledoon knew he was going to his death. Storm is so incensed, he knocks the champion down even as Cush is praising the man to the crowd. Storm misses Cush saying the champion will “travel to the Valley of Bones and bring back the power of the Palace of Death.”

Cush tries to stop Storm, but to no avail. The champion gets a drop kick out of the Captain Kirk handbook and is knocked out. The crowd starts to turn ugly. Cush, thinking quickly, tells them that his traveling show acquired Storm and trained him for this moment—to be a worthy champion for Soamandrakisal. The town leaders buy it, and Storm (under threat of Ember’s life) is the new champion. Though he’s given a place of honor the rest of the show, all he thinks about escape.

That night, Cush exhorts his troupe to pack up quickly so they can get out of town before things go bad. They aren't fast enough:


The town father and his retinue of soldiers want to know what will motivate their reluctant champion to complete his task and return to Soamandrakisal with the powers of the Palace of Death. Cush assures him he has a way.

The next morning, the man lays out Storm’s mission—and its potential deadliness to him: He must be Soamandrakisal’s champion and fight against the champions of all the other cities to achieve the throne of the Palace of Death, and Soamandrakisal can rule the world. The man takes Storm on a little walk to a temple:


TO BE CONTINUED

Notes:
1. "Keng" in the 1987 Titan Books English translation.
2. "Karn" in Titan Books.
3. "Kalthike" in Titan Books.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Trigadasleng

So The 100 is back for its third season, again to put CW teens through the ringer in a brutal post-apocalypse (which is really fun to watch, if you haven't seen it). Trigadasleng, the sort of pidgin-sounding language of "the Grounders" (the primitive survivors on Earth that our space station bred protagonists must contend with) is pretty well developed, it turns out.  It was developed by David J. Petersen, the same guy who did Dothraki and Valyrian for Game of Thrones.

Check out this overview of Trigadasleng and this fan made full dictionary. Could be useful for your own post-apocalyptic setting. Gamma World-ese (at least as portrayed in the monster naming) isn't too conceptually different.