Monday, June 18, 2018

Weird Revisited: The Robots of Rome

The original version of this post appeared in December of 2013.


The Lokapannatti (an 11th-12th Century Pali cosmological text) tells the story of Ashoka obtaining Buddhist relics from the underground vault of King Ajatasatru. Like all good dungeon treasures, this one is guarded--by robots; bhuta vahana yanta, literally "spirit movement machines."  What's more, these robots are based on stolen Roman technology!

The thoroughness of this ancient text is such that it just doesn't drop a bomb like "Roman robots" and leave it at that. No, we get an origin story. See, Roma-visaya ("The Kingdom of Rome") has a class of skilled bahulayantakara ("machine-makers") who build these wonders for "commerce, agriculture, capturing, and executions."  These engineers are kept under close watch so that Roman technological secrets don't fall into the wrong hands. If they leave the city, they're chased down by a flying beheading machine!

An Indian entrepreneur from Pataliputra wants to get ahold of these marvels so bad he vows on his deathbed to get reincarnated as a Roman. Amazingly, that is exactly what happens! He then marries the daughter of a Roman inventor and when the time is right, snags some blueprints from his father-in-law. This is where his plan gets really complicated: he writes the secrets down and has the paper sewn into his thigh. Then, he tells his son to have him buried back in India when he dies. He leaves Rome and the robot executioner gets him.

His son takes his body (and the stolen secrets) back to Pataliputra and goes into the robot-making business for the king. The robots are still active a hundred years later when Ashoka shows up to reclaim the lost treasure. Lucky for Ashoka, the Roman that built them is somehow still alive and tells him how they can be disabled.

I got this story from Relics of the Buddha by John S. Strong, and with further details from here. Not that something so rife with gaming potential needs solid academic sourcing! It's just one step from this legend to a robot arms race between India and Rome and mecha battles across Afghanistan! 

Bhuta vahana yanta, go!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Professor Fright [FASERIP]


PROFESSOR FRIGHT

STATISTICS
F                 TY   (6)
A                 GD  (10)
S                 TY  (6)
E                 GD   (10)
R                 EX (20)
I                   EX   (20)
P                  EX   (20)
Health: 32
Karma: 60

BACKGROUND
Real Name: Zachary Graves
Occupation: Former psychology professor, former television personality, criminal
Identity: Known to authorities
Legal Status: Citizen of the United States with a criminal record
Place of Birth: Erie, Pennsylvania
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: None
Base of Operations: Mobile
Group Affiliation: Masters of Menace

KNOWN POWERS
None.

Equipment:
Mind Control: Professor Fright has the ability to manipulate and control individuals made susceptible by his broadcast with Remarkable ability. Since a victim's suggestibility arises from their fear, His mind control is limited to the sort of actions a fearful person might make.
Fear Broadcast: Monstrous rank, requires a person to see or hear a powerful broadcast. Victims must make an Intuition FEAT or suffer neuro-muscular spasms, cardiac arrhythmia and panic attacks. The effects last 1-10 turns per exposure.
Hallucinations: Monstrous ability to fill a victim’s mind with fearful illusions with lower exposure to the fear broadcast. The hallucinations will be particular to a victim, unless Professor Fright has suggested otherwise (see below).Victims may dispel the illusion by making an Intuition FEAT.

History: Zachary Graves was fascinated with fear from a young age. He pursued a career in psychology  was a specialty in research into fright. Though concern about the direction his studies were taking drove him from academia, he found work as a horror movie host on a local television station, creating the character "Professor Fright." There he perfected his broadcast device for causing frightening hallucinations in the viewer, but was he fired when an intern was injured tampering with the device. Graves attempted to sell this invention to a defense contractor, but reputation as a television personality led them to dismiss him as an eccentric. Angered at the world he perceived as failing to reward his genius, Graves used his device to get revenge on those who wronged him as Professor Fright/

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Rocket [FASERIP]

Art by Dean Kotz
ROCKET

STATISTICS
F                 EX   (10)
A                 RM  (30)
S                 GD  (10)
E                 RM   (30)
R                 GD (10)
I                  GD   (10)
P                 EX (20) 
Health: 90
Karma: 40

BACKGROUND
Real Name: Kelli Cross
Occupation: College student, roller derby player
Identity: Secret
Legal Status: Citizen of the U.S. with no criminal record
Place of Birth: Los Angeles, California
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: Walter Rush (grandfather)
Base of Operations: Sparkle City, California
Group Affiliation: Super-Sentinels

KNOWN POWERS
Hyper Speed. The magic roller skates increase her reaction time to an Unearthly degree, allowing the following abilities:
  • Delivering one hundred Good blows per turn.
  • Perceiving an catching high velocity objects with Unearthly ease
  • Airskating: Remarkable speed by rapidly fanning her feet and arms.
  • Waterskating: Unearthly speed by skimming along on surface tension
  • Extra attacks with Unearthly ability or multiple attacks that inflict up to Unearthly damage, ignoring body armor (only one to hit roll is made).
  • Create cyclones for Excellent damage and Unearthly stunning or slamming
  • Wallskating (500 feet with a 1000-foot approach)
  • Invisibility by moving extremely fast, Red intuition FEAT to notice
  • One must make a Red FEAT to hit Rocket with anything other than an area effect or Psychic attack. If he is making multiple attacks against the same target the FEAT is reduced to Yellow.
  • Considered Amazing rank for Fighting for multiple attacks and evading.
  • Considered Amazing rank for Agility for dodging and catching projectiles.
  • Considered Monstrous rank for Intuition for initiative.
  • She may perceive any object's momentum as though it were 14CS slower than it's actual movement speed. E.g: Arrows and bullet sized objects appear moving at 5 m/ph
  • Rocket is considered to have Unearthly Endurance for movement and tiring purposes, while wearing her skates.
  • Unearthly resistance to friction
History: Kelli Cross was a college student, but what she was really into was roller derby. When she discovered her grandfather Walt had been a costumed crime-fighter during World War II with a set of magical roller-skates that supposedly came from an extradimensional imp—well, it all sounded pretty hard to believe, but skating and fighting crime just seemed like the thing to do!

Kelli began fighting crime in Southern California as the new Rocket and later became a member of the Super-Sentinels.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Wednesday Comics: Comic Book Kickstarters

Kickstarter doesn't make it easy to find stuff just browsing, so as a public service, here are a few Kickstarters that I have backed in the past week or so that might be of interest to comics fans:


Aztec Ace: The Complete Collection: Eclipse originally published these adventures of a Native American time traveler doing the sort of Doctor Who save the timeline thing back in the 80s. This is the first time this Doug Moench/Dan Day work has been collected, as far as I know.


Cosmic Master Jim Starlin's Art Book and Illustrated Novella: Readers of this blog likely know I am a big fan of Jim Starlin and his Bronze Age of Comics cosmicism. It's great to see he's getting a nice artbook. The illustrated Hardcore Station novel interests me less, but it's a nice extra.


Scout:Marauder: Scout was another Native American hero published original by Eclipse. It was set in a dystopian future where the United States had been crippled after its ecological excesses led other nations to turn against it. Scout was the creation of Timothy Truman. He promises this adventure is standalone, so familiarity with the previous series isn't necessary.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Send in the (Exploding) Clowns


Our 5e Land of Azurth game continued last night with a free adaptation of Misty Isles of the Eld, with Shade the Ranger, Kully the Bard, and Kairon the Sorcerer heading onto the Misty Isle to find there friends. They found the same blasted landscape, the same weird ridgelines, and the trail made of crushed toys.

Luckily froglings leav pretty distinct footprints, so the ranger has and easy time tracking them to the Pagoda City. At the main pagoda, they meet a goose-stepping patrol of Meanies. They try to convince them they are on their said and and searching for the other intruders, but Kully's guitar gives them away. It seems the Meanies are not music lovers.

A fight ensues that the Blue Meanies lose, but the party still isn't able to gain entrance. While they are trying, they're approached by a group of clowns--and not the friendly variety.


The clowns attack, so the party must defend themselves. The Clowns don't go down as easy as the standard Blue Meanies, and when they finally do they explode! The remaining clowns advance on the party threatening to trap them against the pagoda's door. Kairon and Kully dive off the steps for safety. Shade, noting that the exploding clown had pushed its nose just prior, punches one of the clowns on its red nose and jumps for safety.

The clown explodes, and the chain reaction takes out the other two--and blows open the pagoda's doors.


Sunday, June 10, 2018

Who's Who in the Armchair Planet Universe


I'm been posting a number of new superheroes of late with new artwork, and it's all related to a new rpg project, which is ultimately related to a comics project I'm doing with Jim Shelley and the artist Chris Malgrain. I'm sure I'll post more on that as things develop, but for now I want to talk about the rpg project.

Tentatively titled Who's Who in the Armchair Planet Universe, it is planned to be two "issues" featuring characters and things from the universe of the comic, members of the heroic Super-Sentinels and the villainous Masters of Menace. It will have DC Who's Who style "fluff" entries on each character and stats for the Icons rpg for each. Why Icons, well besides being a good system, it's OGL and it's stats are simple enough they seem relatively easy to translate to other systems (particularly TSR's Marvel Superheroes and its clones), so it will be fairly universal while still providing some stats.

Here's the draft of the statless front page of the Champion's entry:


More to be revealed!

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Super-Sentinels!


Earth's greatest heroes! Banded together for the cause of justice! 

Roll Call (so far):
Cosmic Knight!
Damselfly!
Big Man!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Big Man [FASERIP]

BIG MAN

STATISTICS
F                 GD   (10)
A                 EX  (20)
S                 TY  (6)
E                 EX   (20)
R                 RM (30)
I                  GD  (10)
P                 GD (10) 
Health: 56
Karma: 50

Real Name: Kelvin Carter
Occupation: High school student
Identity: Secret
Legal Status: Citizen of the U.S. with no criminal record
Place of Birth: Empire City
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: Ted Carter (father), Ava Carter (mother, presumed deceased), Louise Carter (grandmother)
Base of Operations: Dawson
Group Affiliation: Super-Sentinels

KNOWN POWERS
Grownth. Incredible ability to grow up to 60 ft. Ranks and effects are as follows:
RankHeightBonus to be hitMass IncreaseStrengthEnduranceBody Resistance
Feeble9 feet+1CSGoodRemarkableRemarkableTypical
Poor12 feet+1CSExcellentIncredibleRemarkableGood
Typical18 feet+1CSRemarkableIncredibleAmazingExcellent
Good24 feet+1CSRemarkableAmazingAmazingRemarkable
Excellent36 feet+1CSIncredibleMonstrousAmazingRemarkable
Remarkable48 feet+2CSIncredibleMonstrousMonstrousIncredible
Incredible60 feet+2CSAmazingUnearthlyMonstrousIncredible
History: After the a laboratory accident led to the death (or perhaps disappearance) of Kelvin's mother, his father lost his job in the ensuing cover-up. He moved Kelvin and himself back to Dawson, the economically depressed Southern city where he had grown up, where rents were cheap, and he could acquire research space. Kelvin wasn’t so sure that was a good idea. When his father was seriously beaten by gang members, he was very sure it wasn’t. Modifying one of his parents' inventions to allow him to grow to gigantic height, Kel sets out to show the gangs just who the big man is around here!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Living Planet (part 2)

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 Living Planet (1986) (part 2)
(Dutch: De Levende Planeet)
Art by Don Lawrence; script by Martin Lodewijk

Storm asks the diminutive foreman to at least take them to the ground after having "salvaged" their aircraft. After consulting his rule book, the man says he can help them, if they do him a favor in return:


The man also gives them seeds to swallow which will infuse enough oxygen in their blood for them to reach the ground. When they find the egg, the little men will locate them.

They take the gliders down to ride the thermals rising off the molten sea. Unfortunately, Ember gets too close and catches her wing on fire! Storm swoops in close, then Ember jumps:


They're too heavy to fly, so they're forced to land on an isolated rock outcropping. They surmise they'll soon die due to the heat, but then--amazingly--they see ship approaching. To get the crew's attention, Storm summons the power he has as the Anomaly to create a burst of light...


The ship sends out a scout on a winged beast who identifies them as shipwreck survivors. The Salamander pulls in close to pick them up. Once aboard, they are greeted by the Captain. One of his administrative functionaries enquires as to how they plan to pay for their passage. When Storm says they have no money, the Captain offers another solution:


And they happen to have two vacancies!

TO BE CONTINUED

Monday, June 4, 2018

Damselfly!


No stats today, but here's a new piece of art by Dean Kotz with colors and logo by me for my supers thing in the works.

The microverse of Zurrz-Zann is home to a technologically advanced, regimented society. Zurrz-Zann was at peace for many years, until an emerging insectoid intelligence on Earth breached the dimensions and fomented insurrection. Xazandra Zaantarz was a junior law enforcer, sent with her partner to Earth to stop the psychic attack. The two eventually became lovers and a crimefighting partners as Dragonfly and Damselfly. 

When the society of their homeworld took an even greater turn toward authoritarianism, Damselfly chose to stay on Earth and was branded a traitor by her people.

Friday, June 1, 2018

The Cougar [FASERIP]

COUGAR

STATISTICS
F                 IN   (40)
A                 RM  (30)
S                 RM  (30)
E                 IN   (40)
R                 EX (20)
I                  RM  (30)
P                 EX (20) 
Health: 140
Karma: 50

BACKGROUND
Real Name: Diana Rand
Occupation: Hired assassin; heiress
Identity: Known to authorities
Legal Status: Citizen of the U.S. with a criminal record
Place of Birth: Houston, Texas
Marital Status: Widowed
Known Relatives: David Rand (deceased)
Base of Operations: Mobile
Group Affiliation: Masters of Menace

KNOWN POWERS
Hyper Running. Typical
Hyper-Leaping. Typical.
Heightened senses. Incredible sense of sight, hearing, and smell.

Talents: Hunting, Marksman, Martial Arts B, Edged Weapons, Wrestling, Acrobatics, Tumbling, Survival

History:  Diana Rand disappointed her father in not being a son, then disappointed him further with teenage rebellion and the embrace of the counterculture and a hedonistic lifestyle. At least, when she married a European playboy, she married into money. Though the union didn’t last long when her husband and one succession of paramours died in a mysterious auto accident.

Widowed in her early twenties and left with her husband’s sizable debt, she accepted her father’s invitation to return home to their Texas ranch for possible reconciliation. She discovered that he had decided to buck tradition and sponsor her for membership in his exclusive hunting club, the Orion Lodge, which had historically only admitted men. The Lodge was made up of wealthy individuals of European descent who had used the power granted them by colonialism to pillage cultures for medicinals, talismans, and fetishes which would enhance physical prowess, which they used to hunt humans in secret hunts.

David Rand was the current grandmaster of the Lodge. He sought to marry his daughter off for a political alliance. Diana had other ideas. Stealing some of the Lodge's secrets cache, she killed her father, and spent the next few years hunting or being hunted by Lodge members across the globe. In the end, The Lodge was all but destroyed and Diana Rand had a fearsome reputation as the huntress for hire known as the Cougar.