Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Wednesday Comics: Kamandi

According to the DC Comics 1976 Calendar, November 21st was the birthday of Kamandi. In the unlikely event anyone reading this blog doesn't know who Kamandi is the last human born in a underground bunker called Command D (from whence he takes his name) after a nebulous cataclysm known as the Great Disaster has cast human civilization in ruin and anthropomorphic animals have risen in their place. Kamandi was created by Jack Kirby in 1972 and his original series went on for 59 post-apocalyptic issues.

In honor of Kamandi's birthday, here are the places to catch up on the highlights of his story if you are unfamiliar:


Kamandi by Jack Kirby Omnibus: Kirby's original run on the title has been collected in DC Archives (out of print) and previous two volume omnibuses (also out of print). The new omnibus is schedules to be released in March of 2018. He carries a hefty price tage, but also a hefty 896 page page-count. This is the most essential reading on the list.


Wednesday Comics: was a 2009 anthology published in a broadsheet format resembling a Sunday newspaper comics section. There was a serialized Kamandi story written by Dave Gibbons with art by Ryan Sook with a real comic strip feel, sort of like Prince Valiant. Sook's artwork is gorgeous. There are several other good stories in this hardcover, so you don't have to get it for Kamandi alone. A warning though: It is awkardly sized at nearly 18 inches tall, so it's tough to find a shelf for it.


Kamandi Challenge: Back in the '80s DC did a sort of round robin limited series called DC Challenge. A number of DC characters appeared, but notable Kamandi did not. This year, they're doing similar sort of series, but focused on Kamandi, aptly named Kamandi Challenge. Like the original DC Challenge, Kamandi Challenge is uneven and a bit loose in its narrative as every creator tries to do something with the threads they are given. Still, it's all Kamandi and very inventive. The individual issues can be purchased digitally at Comixology or physical at your local comic book store. The collected hardcover will be out in April of 2018.

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Contents of the Cube


Roll Call: Dagmar (Dwarf Cleric), Erekose (Fighter), Waylon (Frox Thief), Kully (Bard), Kairon (Demonlander Sorcerer), and Shade (Elf Ranger)!

Our Land of Azurth 5e campaign continued last night with the party about to barge into a room full of death dwarfs that also contained the 7 foot metal cube that fell from the sky. The party is prepared for the dwarfs this time, but they soon find their are also magic-users among them which changes things up a bit. After a short melee, our heroes prevail.

Inspecting the metal cube in the aftermath, they find a hatch hiding a recessed box in one wall with lever in it. Pulling it downward causes one of the walls to drop, revealing a lot of packing material--an a familiar looking automaton. Familiar, because it seems identical to Viola, the Clockwork Princess of Yanth Country!

The automaton comes out, twitching. In a stuttering voice, it announces itself as "Violet." It extends a hand, but when Dagmar shakes it, the automaton explodes. Only a few of the party members take damage, but they are caught off-guard when a second automaton emerges (this one seemingly undamaged) and gives her name as "Violetta."

Violetta is unable to answer most of their questions. She says she was made in a laboratory, but doesn't know by whom.

Around that time, the cave shakes again with another, milder, impact. The party heads out to take a look. They hear voices from outside the cave. Wanting to potentially hide the automaton from searchers, they send Kully out to greet the newcomers.

The three arrivals almost look like automata themselves, but most resemble Astra of the Shooting Star Folk, whom they met in House Perilous. The metal bearded leader calls himself a King as says he and his fellows were to transport the cube to a man named "Loom" who lives in the junk city in the desert. Loom likes making automata, apparently. The King also mentions during the conversation that he has a daughter named Astra.

Relatively convinced of the good intentions of the Shooting Star Folk King and not really knowing what is going on, they turn Violetta over to him. The Shooting Star Folk retrieve the cube and repackage Violetta with care, then take off. Kully wants to go with them, but the ballistic nature of their travel scares the others off, and they manage to convince him that should continue home.


When they get back in Rivertown, there's a surprise waiting. A calico cat man, doubly impossible for being a cat man (unknown in Azurth) and a calico male, and a frox in a fancy tophat are waiting for Kully in his room. They wish to enlist the party's aid in a journey to the Land of Under-Sea--and they also promise to take Kully to his father!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

5e in Exalted's Creation

Art by UDON
In a rare visit to rpgnet the other day, I saw a thread about utilizing the setting for Exalted for a 5e D&D game. The easiest way to do this would be to excise the Exalted themselves to one degree or another. Their fantasy superheroics would necessitate too drastic an overall to the D&D system (or the use of something like Kevin Crawford's Godbound). Removing the Exalted drastically changes the setting, true, but I think that's part of the fun of the mashup.

In brief for the unfamiliar, Exalted's Creation is a flat, roughly square, world with the Blessed Isle and a Holy Mountain at its center. The Mountain is the Elemental Pole of Earth, and in all other compass directions, Creation bleeds into the other Elemental Poles (Air, Water, Fire, and Wood).  Heaven is the home of the Celestial Bureaucracy and the gods that oversee the multitude of spirits in the world. Hell is something like the Greek Tartarus; it's the place of imprisonment of the overthrown and now demonic Primordals, the Titans that created the world. The Underworld, the realm of the dead, was created by the death of some Primordals during the titanomachy. Outside of Creation proper, orbits the body of a surviving Primordial, Autochthon, with people living in its Steampunkish interior.

All of Creation was born from the chaos of the Wyld, and it still lies beyond the borders. Fey have come from it in the past and attempted to destroy the irritant of stable form and matter.

Art by Christopher Stevens

With that out of the way, here are a few not-fully-formed thoughts on how to adapt some things:

There's a lot of change to basic D&D cosmological assumptions, but also some congruities to be exploited. Demons and devils get combined to the Yozis and both the Abyss and the Nine Hells can be encompassed in the hell prison of Malfeas. Tieflings would be the demon-blooded of Exalted. Warlocks fit well as their servitors.

Conflating the elves with the Fair Folk would emphasis the Chaotic portion of their traditional Chaotic Good alignment. The Wyld would make a more alien Feywild. Many aberrations might aslo fit within the Wyld.

The champions of the Moon, the Lunar Exalted, could be represented by Shifters and lycanthropes. Warforged could by Autochthonians. Dwarves are, of course, the Mountain Folk, and the Dragonborn take the place of the more dinosaurian Dragon Kings. The Elemental-powered Dragon-blooded could probably be placed with Genasi.

That's just to start. I think it's an interesting thought experiment.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Justice League is Finally Here

Justice League is, by and large, the Justice League movie fan complaints about Man of Steel and Batman v Superman suggest they have been waiting for. It is more uneven and rough-edged than Wonder Woman, but it does put the DC cinematic universe on firm footing.

I would say the negativity in most of the critical reviews is a bit of a puzzlement to me, except that it isn't entirely. The polish and ready humor (bordering on outright comedy at times) of the Marvel films have set the yardstick by which these things are judged. Warner hasn't understood the memo (particularly Snyder) and the only thing to be done is to keep reading it to them until they do.

There was a time when superhero product wasn't so slick and by-the-numbers. Iron Man was original at one time, and it's follow-up reverted a bit to tried and true superhero film formula. Dark Knight is often considered the best superhero film ever, but it is completely bereft of comedy relief CGI characters that now seem a standard element at least of the Guardians of the Galaxy style Marvel films. The earlier Snyder films certainly have their faults, but as others have argued the dislike directed against them seems to have less to do with their cinematic failings than their approach to the characters.

Justice League responds to many of those complaints. We have heroes being heroic--and heroes finding their way to heroism after being lost in some way. There is humor, particularly from the Flash, who is different from his tv and comic incarnations to a degree, but has enough to charm to win you over. Momoa's Aquaman seemed like he might be tedious and one-note from the trailers, but I didn't find that to be the case. Though their on-screen development is necessarily limited, every one of the characters gets a bit of an arc that takes off and lands nicely (unlike say Valkyrie's disappearing alcoholism in Thor: Ragnarok). Much of the humor is kind of at Batman's expense, which serves to undercut any grimness or  the "hypercompetent Batman" that sometimes plagues the comics.

The setup of the film is very comic book like in structure. It establishes and moves on. This might feel choppy to some viewers and those not familiar with the characters and the universe might feel some things are under-explained. Atlanteans just are, as are Mother Boxes. The movie doesn't spend any time trying to make you accept either or give you more than the story-essential backstory.

The last two thirds of the film have more conventional pacing and cutting and fall into problem solving and fisticuffs. Superhero fights in film have gotten a bit tired by now, I think, and this film doesn't do anything to make me rethink that assessment, though it is far from the worst example. Flash's speed effect winds up being similar to Quicksilver's but it's utilized in a different enough way that it doesn't seem derivative. Wonder Woman is a badass, Aquaman is sort of reckless, Batman is out of his depth, but smart. Cyborg is lacking in confidence, but the key to defeating the villain.

The film has it's problems of course. Its villain continues the superhero film trend of being not terribly interesting. He's better realized than Wonder Woman's antagonist, at least. The CGI is strangely dodgy in spots, particularly in a sort of prologue (don't let that brief scene sour you on it). The color palette is still darker than ideal.

But you know what [and this is a SPOILER so you are warned]...


The mid-credits sequence is Flash challenging Superman to a race. It made me smile for comic book nostalgia reasons, which it as been a while since a Marvel film did that.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

In the Vicinity of Gyrfalcon, Everybody Has Their Hand Out

This week we had the second session of our GURPS Dungeon Fantasy campaign, "the Dungeons of Zyrd." It found the PCs bribing the snooty butler of the vintner and crime boss, Pnathfrem Lloigor, to gain access. They offered Lloigor their services for--well, something.


He admitted to doing a bit of trade in counterfeit world stones. These he acquires from the dwarf excisemen encamped near the Tower of Might in Castle Zyrd. Another group of adventures had gone to secure more forged jewels from the dwarves, but that party (led by the Brothers Salasius) were late in returning. They agreed to complete the task. They were to make contact with a dwarf named Rogov.

Setting out, they paid a flatboatman to take them across the Broad River and to wait for their return. A mile up the road, they found the way blocked by a group of hobgoblins who demanded tribute. The price was rather steep (every coin they had), so the party entered combat rather than negotiate with such an unreasonable group of humanoids.

Art by Iain McCaig
The hobgoblins had been neglectful in securing distance weapons, and this cost them. A rain of javelins, sling shot, arrows, and magical fire dropped two of them quickly and sent the other three running for the woods. Fearing reprisals from a larger hobgoblin band, the party pursued them, and cut them down in the forest.

That unpleasant business out of the way, they continued on toward Castle Zyrd.

Treasure: None; Deaths: 5 Hobgoblins.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Wednesday Comics: Popeye & Ghost Island


Bud Sagendorf began his career as E.C. Seegar's assistant on Thimble Theater (the strip that brought the world Popeye) as a teenager. In 1948, a decade after Seegar's death, Sagendorf produced Popeye stories for Dell Comics. IDW has been collecting those Dell stories in Popeye Classics.

Amid some forgettable Swee'pea one pagers, and mildly amusing comic strip-style shorts, there are two fun stories: "Death Valley" and "Ghost Island." In particular, "Ghost Island" is a certain charm with it's ghosts that look very much like people in sheets (well because--SPOILERS--they are). However, for much of the story Popeye is helpless against their mischief because he reasons fisticuffs are no good against incorporeal spirits.

Sagendorf's Popeye world is perhaps more fantasy than Segar's. Popeye seems to live on some island in an archipelago that includes other fantastical islands that appeared in the Segar strips. Here's a map Sagendorf supplies for Popeye's travels in "Ghost Island":


If your only going to read one set of Popeye reprints, I'd suggest The Segar strip reprints (particular the one with Plunder Island), but if you are interested in delving deeper, the Sagendorf stories are worth a look.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Weird Revisited: Beneath Rock Candy Mountain

This post originally appeared in November of 2010. It's genesis was a comment by Garrisonjim over at Hereticwerks. Jim is back blogging again, so it seemed appropriate:


It’s imparted by the sagacious urban druids that contemplate on street corners and rumored by stoned hobogoblins that pass canned heat ‘round campfires that there is an earthly paradise hidden in the great mountains of the West. The wondrous land’s fame has even spread to the world we know, where balladeers longingly recount the virtues of the Rock Candy Mountain or the Hobo’s Paradise.

The hidden mountain valley (so the tales claim) sits in the benevolent shadow of a mountain of candy (or at least with the appearance of such) and boasts trees which grow cigarettes, whiskey running in streams, and ponds of hearty stew. The inhabitants of the valley comport themselves like those in small towns elsewhere, but they are unfailingly friendly, even deferential, to the lowliest of visitors—perhaps especially the lowliest. No crimes against property are prosecuted; in fact, everything is given freely.

Adventurers, notorious hard cases (or thinking of themselves as such), scoff at those yarns. Calloused to eldritch horrors and exotic treasures alike, they’re disinclined to get misty over vagrants’ fairy tales of a hobotopia. Still, a few have caught the fever and gone looking over the years. As far as is known, none have returned.

Even in the tales, the way to the Hobo’s Paradise isn’t easy. Though the trail’s exact location is unknown, it’s believed to run treacherously through the cold heights of the Stoney Mountains. Mine slavers and road agents haunt the lower parts of the trail, while apemen guard the more remote passes.

These may not be the only dangers. Certain heterodox urban druids believe that this Paradise may not be what it appears from a distance. The air that should be fresh and sweet is instead choked with the stench of an abattoir. The whiskey streams are spiked with methanol and cause blindness, delirium, and death. And the smiling, wooden-legged constables and comic railyard bulls, aren’t benevolent—and aren’t even human behind their skin masks.

Could be that more than teeth rot in the shadow of the Rock Candy Mountain.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Underground Comics is Slowly Being Unearthed

Though we don't expect to release it until first quarter of 2018, the various creators involved in Underground Comics #1 are fired up and hard at work. Here's a bit of a "Sunday Comics Section" teaser of the work in progress:

A panel from Jason Sholtis's Operation Unfathomable story:


Part of an almost completed first page from James V. West's "Zarp: Croak of the Frost Toad":


And Jeff Call's Dungeon Dog gets some ink:


More to come!

Friday, November 10, 2017

In case you forgot: BUNDLE OF HOLDING OSR+5

The Bundle of Holding Old School Revival +5 (including all the fine products you see above like the Mortzengersturm digital edition) is still for 10 more days as of this writing. So you haven't missed out yet, but don't wait!

Also, the boys at DIY Games have extended an extra offer: Just send Mike Evans a receipt showing the purchase and he'll give you a discount on the print on demand version of Gathox. How cool is that?

Thursday, November 9, 2017

2000+ Posts

Today is actually blog post number 2003. It may not be what it was back in 2010, but I still think it's got life in it yet.

Here's a selection of posts to walk you down memory lane, one from every year:
Hateful Glare: The Beholder Examined (2010)
The Night Mail (2011)
In the Belly of the Beast (2012)
Cyclopes (2013)
Ruritanian Rogues (2014)
The Fae Moon (2015)
Mall Security 2020 (2016)
Again the Giants!: Sanctum of the Stone Giant Space God (2017)

This is not a best of but rather a "posts I thought were interesting that were not the most popular in their year."

Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Slayer of Eriban (part 4)

My exploration of the long-running euro-comic Storm, continues with his adventures in the world of Pandarve. Earlier installments can be found here.


Storm: The Slayer of Eriban (1985) 
(Dutch: De Doder van Eriban) (part 4)
Art by Don Lawrence; script by Martin Lodewijk

In the unwilling service of  the assassin Renter Ka Rauw, Storm and friends set sail for the capital of the strangely shaped planetoid of Marrow. Not long after they are underway, Storm discovers a stowaway, a young boy who really wants to learn to play chess.

Renter immediately wants him thrown overboard. Storm tries to argue, but Renter reminds him who's boss:


Renter suggests a fishing vessel will like pick him up, but then two eel-like sheels come swimming toward him! Storm swims out to try and save him, and surprisingly Renter tries to help out as well. 


Ultimately, It falls to Ember to rescue Renter with a well-placed arrow, though he insists he never needed her help at all. Still, her efforts convince him to let the boy stay aboard until the next port.

Along the way, Storm teaches the boy chess, Renter even gets in on the game after picking up the rules by watching, but he throws a bit of a tantrum when Storm wins.

Soon, they arrive in the capital city of Rommily:


After docking, they say goodbye to the boy, Tillio, who plans to make a living teaching people chess. Renter plans to go into the city and find where the Barsaman games are going to be held. He takes Ember with him and commands Storm and Nomad to stay with the ship.

As soon as Renter is out of sight, Storm goes ashore too. He plans to find the authorities and warn them of Renter's planned assassination of their ruler. It reassures Nomad he'll be back before Renter and Ember return.

Storm locates some guards, but when he warns them of the assassination, he does get the response he hoped for.



TO BE CONTINUED

Monday, November 6, 2017

Weird Revisted: The Tintype of Dark Wonder

The original version of this post appeared on November 2, 2010. This version has been lightly modified for 5e usage:


The Tintype of Dark Wonder is a magical artifact, often discovered at a carnival photography booth or in the possession of a street photographer. The photographer will not have taken the picture himself, nor will he know how it has come to be among his wares. It’s usually sold cheaply.

The small cult who follows the picture's movements, and chronicles them in iterations of the mimeographed or photostatted tract known as The Menagerie Grotesque, holds that it has its origins in drowned Meropis. No serious scholars view the cult as anything more than a collection of crackpots, so this, like all their other claims, are doubted. What is not in doubt, however, is that the item gives the possessor control over three magical entities, but at a price.

The possessor may summon the three, frankly ludicrous, animal caricatures pictured by simply holding the tintype, looking at the desired creature, and willing said creature to act in accordance with his will. When a creature is summoned it disappears from the picture, returning only when its task is complete. The creatures will act in the following manner:

The gluttonous frog: When called the frog will follow any individual the possessor wills. It will be invisible to all with magically aided vision but the possessor. The victim will find themselves with a growing appetite for food, sex, and other pleasures. Over time, these appetites will grow increasingly bizarre. The victim will gain weight, whether eating excessively or not. Over a period of 2-12 months they will become immensely fat and virtually immobile, and entirely depraved. A saving throw will allow the victim to intuit that they are under a curse. Remove curse will chase the frog away.

The lanky hound: When called, the hound begins harrying a victim. It will only be visible to the victim, the photo’s possessor, and those with magical sight. The hound will always stay far enough away from the victim so that it is a vague shape in the distance, or perhaps a distorted figure in the fog, glimpsed by peripheral vision. The hound's presence will cause the victim increasing feelings of dread and paranoia. Within a week, they will be suffering the effects of poor sleep. Within two, they will be unable to perform in any critical situations and be essentially homebound by fear--only being able to leave with a successful Wisdom save at disadvantage. The victim seeking out the hound and chasing it, will drive it away for a time, but it will return in 1d4 days. Only remove curse or the like will drive it away permanently.

The twisted eel: The twisted eel causes the degeneration of the body of the victim, by progressive nerve death, and crippling arthritis. The victim will feel the eel's cold-blooded presence but only the possessor and the magically sighted see it. After a 1-6 days of the eel’s influence, pain will cause a -1 [disadvantage] to all roles involving physical aptitude. After 2d4 weeks, dexterity and strength will begin to be reduced at a rate of 1 point a week. Healing magic will stave off loss for that week, but not halt the degeneration. When strength and dexterity are reduced to zero, constitution begins to decline at a rate of one point a day. Once again, remove curse or the like will drive away the eel.  If the eel is driven off before a score reaches zero, it will fully heal with time.

Death of the one who summoned the creature will also end its attack. If a remove curse drives the creature from its intended target, it will attempt to attack the possessor instead, unless a successful saving throw is made. Each possessor may only summon each creature once, after that the picture seems to be just a picture....except for the untoward attention it brings to the possessor from extraplanar entities, and sorcerous collectors eager to add the tintype to their collections.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Weekend Movies

A saw a couple of movies this weekend, and I both of them made me think of gaming in one way or another:


Everyone will tell you Thor: Ragnarok is the most fun of the Thor installments, and I can say it is the best of that lackluster franchise, but its pleasant in the moment farce doesn't entirely makeup for it's threadbare story, and lack of any dramatic core. What Thor: Ragnarok sort of reminded me of, though, is the conception of an rpg session versus its reality. Thor is the PC trying to cool and dramatic but fumbling. Surtur is the GM trying to present a heroic drama tone, but can't do it due to player interruptions. Goldblum's Grandmaster is the GM darling NPC who the GM finds more amusing than any of the players. In the end, the adventure doesn't come together in the way any of the participants were individually guiding it, but it's still a fun romp.


Free Fire by Ben Wheatley is kind of a more humorous Reservoir Dogs, if the shootout between the criminals near the end of Reservoir Dogs had been two-thirds of the movie. Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy, and other character actors are party to a gun deal gone bad for random reasons who wear each other down bullet by bullet, blow by blow. You wouldn't necessarily think a film that spends most of its length following wounded gangsters crawling around the dirt floor of an abandoned factory would be interesting, but it will surprise you. What this one reminded me of was a Boot Hill session. It's all down to the gunfight, injury and the maneuvering for cover and placement. In fact, a little reskinning and you could run a cool modern Boot Hill session with this premise.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Bundle of Holding Old School Revival + 5

A new Old School Revival Bundle of Holding has dropped and it is a doozy. Check out the two levels:


I personally own everything in the first block (and I wrote one of them!) and most of the stuff in the second, and I can say they are well worth full price, but to get them all together at such a discounted rate is not to be passed up.

As always ten percent of the payment goes to charity--in this case Human Rights Watch, so you can pruchase guilt free. You've got 19 days to pick it up, but why wait?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Wednesday Comics: Nocturnals: Sinister Path


Ignore the calendar. Halloween doesn't have to be over yet, not when there's a new Nocturnals graphic novel out. I backed the Kickstarter for Dan Brereton's Sinster Path, so I first mentioned it back in July, but now the nonbacker public can get it. The Kindle/Comixology versions are available, as is the soft cover, through sellers on Amazon.

If you're not familiar with horror/pulp/superhero mashup The Nocturnals, you might want to read this post first.  If you are, then you know Brereton presents his tough guy underworld where super-science and magic exist in a matter of fact way, without a lot of explanation. Sinister Path continues this tradition, so no one evidences any surprise when Doc Horror and his crew head into the mansion of a deceased judge to get the files of dirt he kept on various underworld and government figures and encounter supernatural menaces. All in a days work for a werewolf/mob enforcer/scientist from a parallel dimension!

If that makes the Nocturnals sound like camp, it is not. The tone is serious for the most part, and Brereton makes his unusual concept work. His moody and lurid art probably helps.


Sinster Path could be read as a standalone, but it's probably, but best to start a little earlier so you know the relationships. It's fairly open-ended, promising more to come.