Monday, July 30, 2018

Two Towns

These settlements go in this world, but certainly could be placed elsewhere.

Tuskinth: A village whose primary industry is nonnig husbandry. it specializes in the so-called healing breed of furry nonnig, whose purring and warmth is said to have a calming influence on the nerves which aids in healing, and of course, nonnig of any breed are highly nutritious and flavorful. The nonnig yards are composed of hill-mounds surrounded by small moats (the nonnigs avoid water). The nonnig breeders can be recognized by the mail gauntlets they wear on their left hands, to protect themselves from the sting of the mound wyrms that form a symbiotic relationship with the nonnigs and protect them from predation with the warrens. Some nonnig breeders may keep small mounds of scintilla-sniffers on the side, but the practical folk of Tuskinth look down upon treasure-seekers.

Harfo and Sons is the most prosperous of the breeders, though many in Tuskinth would opine that only the old man, Grenz Harfo has any particular head for nonnig-breeding. His eldest son, Halx, is a handsome dullard, and his youngest. Festeu, is a idler and wastrel. Of note, he does own a rare (outside of the Daor Obdurate) telesthetic hound. The poor beast is quite mad, made so by an over-sensitivity to human anxieties resulting from over-breeding. Its shrew-like snout is has a-quiver and dripping, and it's whip-like tail sways nervously.


Horbizond: Was the name of an ancient city, and also the current modest village that squats in a meager portion of it. The people of Horbizond dress in the decaying finery of the ancients and appoint their over-sized but crumbling homes in an equally ostentatious fashion. They live in holy dread of the Prismatic Man, an angular, crystalline visitant, who materializes at random intervals to isolated folk of the town. The actions of the Prismatic Man are various and strange. He has at times pointed with a glassy finger to hidden treasures. Other times, he has emitted a chiming that the hear perceived as some spiritual wisdom. Then there are the occasions when he has seemed to produce rays of color from his palms that struck an individual dead. If there is any rationale to whom the Prismatic Man favors and whom he destroys, the folk of Horbizond have yet to discern it. In fact, they believe it would be blasphemous to do so. The Hwaopt Library is willing to pay for detailed observations of the Prismatic Man, whose nature and purpose they are eager to discover.

Friday, July 27, 2018

More Supers Art


This is Agus Calcagno's rendition of the Abhumans, which I haven't got around to coloring yet. I have colored their headshots, though:



Thursday, July 26, 2018

Weird Revisited: In Arcadia

Here's another of my refinements/spins on the D&D Outer Planes. This one from 2012 was expressly for the world of Weird Adventures but might be usable elsewhere.


Astral travelers sometimes finding themselves passing through a veil of mists and arriving in the apotheosis of sylvan settings, the realm of Arcadia. In this plane dwell forgotten woodland spirits and pastoral gods and creatures out of myth.

Arcadia is hyper-real; it seems more vibrant and alive than the material plane. Smells and tastes seem directly drawn from the most vivid examples in memory; everything is in technicolor and imbued with a faint glow. The world itself is alive--with potentially communicative spirits in everything. Night and day and shifts of weather are sentimental things, sensitive to the meaning of events or the mood of powerful beings.


Arcadia borders other related realms. The Land of Faerie emerges from it (though this realm also has tunnels linking it to the Lower Planes). There is also the Land of Beasts, where the iconic animal lords dwell, ruled over by King Lion.

Despite it’s ties to age-old fables, the Land of Beasts keeps up with the expectations of modern visitors. Adventures from the City have found there home mirrored there in a city of anthropomorphic animals who frequent nightclubs and drive cars. The Cat Lord can often be found here, in the swankest of night-spots.


Magical practitioners view Arcadia and its neighboring realms as places to salvage materials and items out of myth and legend, and to parley with powers that--though perhaps consciously forgotten--still retain great mythic resonance in Man's unconscious.  As with all extraplanar dealings, caution is warranted: These primal beings have agendas of their own.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Quake Alley Mayhem!


David Lewis Johnson has released the first adventure for his Gathox The Vertical Slum setting (read about it here): Quake Alley Mayhem. It's design for use with Swords & Wizardry, which means it will fit most retroclones well enough, and interestingly its a tournament module, so it's good for running at your local con, so people can see the sort of wild creative the OSR is about.

The setup is simple: The leader of the Purple Rockets has had a magical artifact (the Holy Driver--a big drill-thing like something a Dreadnok might use) by these cyclopean alien ne'er-do wells and he wants it back. They've hidden it in their trap-laden and dangerous "inverted tower" safehouse. Get it back, and you'll reap a reward, but you have to make it out alive.

Dave tells us the fatality rate in the playtests was well over 80%, so "mayhem" is well put. Further reason it would be perfect for a con or oneshot, though it obviously can be dropped into an ongoing campaign. The gonzo setting and weird gangs gives the whole enterprise a Heavy Metal magazine feel, or at least a Heavy Metal gloss on a grindhouse film. It's a very fitting approach and a strong answer to the question "what do you do with Gathox?"

Dave's artwork is rough, but never sloppy. It at once invokes an old school feel, but also a bit of a punk aesthetic that complete fits the material. The aesthetic continues to the pregen record sheets, but not to the map which is sensibly business-like and readily. The single column layout reads well in pdf.

If any of this sounds interesting to you, you should check out Quake Alley Mayhem. It's available at fine digital rpg sites everywhere (well, two of them).

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Thrilling Locations


My ebay buying out of print game spree continued last week with me picking up most of the modules for the Indiana Jones rpg and getting a lot of James Bond stuff. The James Bond rpg has been justifiably praised, but one thing I don't seem people mention too much (at least not as much as the Q Manual) is the book Thrilling Locations.

Thrilling Locations is the equivalent of a very detailed "setting book" for the world of James Bond, or perhaps it's more the equivalent of the Flying Buffalo City Guides. It is very detailed, but it is also completely full of practical information of interest to players and GMs alike. Need to know the minimum bet on the roulette wheels in the American Room at the Casino de Monte Carlo? It's got you covered. How about the nightly rate for a suite at the Hotel de Paris when the Grand Prix is going on? It's got that too.

There are descriptions of how various gambling diversion work in the real world, a floorplan of the MGM Grand Hotel, a section on the features of luxury yachts, and the whole skinny on the Orient Express. While I can't vouch for the accuracy of all of this information, copyright notices in various places make me modern if this is a fairly accurate representation of the places and things covered circa 1985. If so, it makes it an interesting time capsule.

Thrilling Locations is an interesting read, and would be an indispensable research for a game set in the era dealing with the lifestyles of the wealthy and jett-setting.

Friday, July 20, 2018

More Armchair Planet Who's Who Art

I just got these pieces this week, and I have been too busy to color them, so here they are in their line art glory:


These representatives of that race extradimensional dealmaker and powerbrokers known to superstitious folk as the Devils as rendered by Jason Sholtis.


And here are members of the hidden race of variant humanity that inspired the legends of elves, dwarves, goblins, and the like: the entourage and exiled royals of the astonishing Abhumans! Art by Agustin Calcagno.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Wednesday Comics: Batman by Grant Morrison


I'm laid low by sinusitis, but I wanted to at least nominally honor my (self-imposed) Wednesday comic book duties. Batman by Grant Morrison Omnibus Volume One is out now. It promises to be the first of three collecting Morrison's work with the character, though I assume that means his run including Batman & Robin and Batman Incorporated, but not older stories he wrote with the character (like "Gothic"), since the first omnibus dives right in with the "Batman & Son" storyline.

While I've always liked the character, I've never been a big reader of Batman comics, but Morrison's run was really enjoyable. It's often a bit like Silver Age or goof Bronze Age with a modern sensibility, similar in goal if not in presentation to All-Star Superman. It is dark in spots, true, but it brings back a lot of elements from earlier eras that have largely been tossed from continuity, and once the "event tie-in" stuff is out of the way, it gets much tighter and, I think better. In fact, the ending of his entire saga, made me feel that the "R.I.P" portion of the storyline had faltered less than when I first read it.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Total Party Jam Kills the Blue Meanie


Our 5e Land od Azurth game continued last night with the party re-united (after the explosive ending of last session) in the strange Blue Pagoda on the Misty Isle of the Meanies. They were faced with a door which they had been told would lead to the chamber of the Supreme Blueness. Inside, they found yet more of the guards, who they slaughtered pretty quickly after the obligatory attempt at deception, spoiled once more by the Meanies noting the musical instruments carried. The Meanies hate music.

Beyond that when was another door, and a larger Blue Meanie sitting in a floating egg chair. Again, the party tries to get information from his  and deceive him, and again the fact that the bard is still carrying his guitar visibly spoils the deal. The Meanies (again) hate music!

So, the party goes about killing the few guards here. A giant flying glove emerges from behind the throne to smack down Erekose a couple of times. Shade's rain of arrows softens up all their foes for the rest of the party to finish off. In the end, their is only the Supreme Blueness and his right hand Meanie, Max.


The leader laughs at calls for his surrender. He assures the party reinforcements are on the way. He also proclaims that he is utterly immune to their attacks and magic. The party claims to discount this, yet no one attacks him to prove otherwise. For a few rounds, their is a stalemate while the party tries to figure out what to do.

Then, Waylon the Thief, acting on a hunch, whips out his banjo and starts planning. His Supreme Blueness cries out and writhes in pain. Kully the Bard starts playing his guitar and Shade the Ranger her flute. Dagmar and Erekose begin singing (probably badly), and Kairon casts Thaumaturgy to create music at an amplified volume. Under this assault, the Supreme Blueness withers to nothing.

With his passing, the mists recede from the isle, and the people who were turned to stone are restored. The party finds a fancy, handle-bar mustache in a velvet box, and hope to locate someone who can point them in the way of the Land of Under Sea.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

G.I. Joe Role-Playing Games


I've mentioned before on this blog that I made a G.I. Joe role-playing game (based on the 80s incarnation) back in the day. Revisiting the era of the action tables with Indiana Jones brought that to mind and got me interested in just what was out their in terms of unauthorized Joe role-playing. Here's what I found:

Technohol 13 has statted ip the Joes, COBRA, and even the Oktober Guard in FASERIP. He's broken them down by year (presumably of release of the toys).

Jay Libby has done this one based on the FUIZON system (remember that from the late 90s?). It's pretty comprehensive, as well.

Finally, here's one Ben Lathrop did using Mutants & Masterminds.


There are a couple of games that are G.I. Joe-ish but nor G.I. Joe, so they could be officially published. Crafty Games did Real America H.E.R.O.es for its Spycraft. They have a bundle of other cartoon-themed Spycraft conversions, misnamed "Saturday Morning Spycraft" because most of the cartoons they are homaging were syndicated afternoon fare.

Strike Force 7 by Super Genius Games is for Savage Worlds. It appears to be not as direct a pastiche as Real American H.E.R.O.es, but the G.I. Joe inspirations is still clearly there.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Kung-Fu Post-Apocalyptic Ravenloft

I have enjoyed Into the Badlands on AMC much more than I thought first saw advertisements for it. The fight scenes are well choreographed (much better than Marvel's Iron Fist) and it's vaguely Western post-Apocalyptic setting is more intriguing than expected.

Anyway, watching Into the Badlands the other night, I thought it not be cool in a mashup with Ravenloft. Perhaps it was the hint of 19th-Century that made me think of it, but you could replace Into the Badlands' barons with Ravenloft's Dark Lords and stir in some Vampire Hunter D seasoning.

This seems like it might work particularly well in 5e where the greater number of character powers/abilities would be easy to translate to a wuxia sort of thing.

This is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but it has martial arts, 19th Century stylings, and supernatural stuff too

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Weird Revisited: Toward A Hard-Boiled Fantasy Sandbox


"Walk down the right back alley...and you can find anything."
- Sin City (2005)

Folks of a poetical inclination have called the City "unnamed."  Truth is, the City has too many monikers for anybody to know them all. But you say "the City," and everybody from yokels up in the Smaragdine Mountains, to the newsie on the corner knows where you mean. There was a city here before it became the City, you know?  Then some swell got himself itch to be an emperor and brought the five baronies together. So here we are, and that swell got his empire, but maybe it didn't turn out the way he thought. The City doesn't need soldiers or armies when it's got commerce and style.

Alright, maybe they've got all the movie stars--and most of the sunshine--out there in Hesperia, but all the other culture's right here. Ships come into this harbor from all over the world--bringing stuff to sell, bringing people. And a lot of the decide to stay.  You go to the right neighborhood and you'll swear you got dropped into some foreign country. And the nightlife? This town jumps, friend. From low-class gin-dives to tony swing-clubs, it roars.  I'd steer clear of the hinky alchemical liquors, though.  Word to the wise.

Now, those joints I was talking about are full of would-be toughs and hard-cases come here to make a name for themselves. They go ransack the ruins the Old Ones, left all over the countryside, then they come to the City to sell their haul and hit the town. City-folk are happy to separate a rube from his money. Gin, jazz, janes--you know, whatever. Guys can make money too, if they know were to look. The gang bosses that run the streets always got a need for muscle, or a little cheap wizardry. Sometimes the ghouls from Undertown get kind of rowdy, and the coppers start looking for guys to deputize, too. Or maybe the rail-yards are looking for bulls to crack a few goblin skulls. Then of course there are bounties on monsters that need killing.  What, you think there's only gold down in those ruins? Anyway, you get the idea. There's dough to be had, and plenty.

So welcome to the City.  Have a good visit--but watch yourself, pal, things can get rough.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Wednesday Comics: Steve Ditko

With the passing of comics legend Steve Ditko, I thought it was worth looking at some of his work. I'm going to take a broad view of his career and not just focus on his work at Marvel, which many would consider his high point.

Likely his greatest work, the early issues of Spider-Man also have the virtue of being almost constantly in print in one collection or another.

Ditko's characters got more off-beat in his DC years, presaging the sort of stuff he would do in his later career in indies (though without as much of a political bend). This collection includes both the Shade the Changing-Man and Stalker stories, as well as some anthology pieces. You should check out his Creeper stuff too, but that collection is out of print and pricey.

While we wait for an omnibus of his work with the Silver Age Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, and Question at Charlton, you can check out the early issues of that work in this DC Archive.

Finally, for a nice overview of his career, check out Stranger than Strange: The World of Steve Ditko.

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Aberration!


I had hoped to show an example of the layout for the front (fluff) and back (game stats) of the pages in the Armchair Planet Who's Who today, but unfortunately, I was only able to get the front page finished to my satisfaction. Hopefully, I'm have the back page with ICONS stats up in a post later this week.

If you'd like to see the Marvel Super-Heroes rpg stats for this guy, you can find them here.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Adventures of Indiana Jones Role-Playing Game


TSR's Indiana Jones rpg from 1984 carries a reputation for badness. While tastes, of course, differ, the only factual information used to support this claim is the decision to not include character generation rules in the basic game, the designers intending you to play Indiana and his cohorts. This decision was corrected in the 1985 Judge's Survival Pack in rules that take up one page. The one time I played this game back in the day, we were undeterred and made up our on characters anyway by modelling them on the existing ones.

I've seen other deficits or poor decisions asserted on line that aren't true. Even wikipedia claims "No formal system of hit points or determining actual character death is put forth, and instead is left to the referee as a role-play element." The lack of hit points is technically correct, but the rest of that sentence is completely false. There are other similarly "true, but that gives a false impression" statements in the article.

So what is the game actually like? Well, in brief in resembles in broad strokes our TSR games of 1984-85, including Conan and Marvel Super-Heroes. It uses a percentile system and a color-coded chart in part of the process. It has skills, but it isn't really a skills based game. It is cinematic and fairly "rules lite" in a pre-1990s way, which is to say not really rules lite by modern standards. More on the light side of rules medium.

It has attributes clearly derived from the D&D standard, but doing slightly different things. Strength is what you would expect, and Appeal is Charisma. Prowess is like Fighting in MSH. Movement is both speed and some of Dexterity, and Instinct is mostly Perception or Wisdom, but carries a bit of Intelligence's water, too.


Most actions are based on roll under attribute rolls. Like those other games, it has something of a unified mechanic, though it has not fully committed to this and has a number of special subsystems, which use the same sort of die rolls but in different ways. Attributes rolls can be modified to twice rating as a situational bonus or half or fourth rating for situational penalties. These are the only dice modifiers. Rolls of 96-00 are always "bad breaks" (critical failures), and 01-05 is a "lucky break" (critical success). Beyond that, there are levels of success based on the roll which have color codes and different meaning depending on which attribute is being checked.

It has the sort of rules quirks common in games of this era. It uses hit locations (different for various types of attacks) which are determined by reversing the numerals in the Prowess "to-hit" roll. The initiative system seems like it would either be fun or really irritating in play. It requires a sort of competition (using Movement rolls) among all those declaring they want to act at a given point. While interesting, I'm not sure what it adds over a simple initiative roll for everybody and seems like it would take up time.

It has "mook rules" of a sort with goons not accorded the same advantages that PCs and villains enjoy. Certain types of threats like drowning or falling are given "Danger ratings" that function like Prowess does in combat-style roles. Chases get almost a minigame all their own.

So what about the lack of hit points? Well, damage causes wounds light, medium, and serious, and wounds are applied to various body locations. Wounds are additive with 2 mediums equalling 1 serious, and impairing after a certain level. Three serious wounds carry a change of death or unconsciousness, and four serious wounds mean death.

All and all, it looks like it would work pretty well in play. Some systems are a little wonky or over-complicated but none look really unfun. Other parts of it seems like good choices, for a pulpy, lighter ruled game.

Friday, July 6, 2018

More Superhero Art and A Table of Contents


This first piece is still a bit of a work in progress (coloring-wise). It's the Cosmic Knights by Dean Kotz, of which Earth's hero, the Cosmic Knight is but one.

We're playing on two "issues" of characters and stats. Here's the projected contents of the first issue done up in the appropriate style. It may be subject to minor changes.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Weird Revisited: Stone Walls; Iron Bars

This post is loosely a follow-up to one my one on the lower planes last week, in that it continues to riff on ideas for Taterus/Carceri. It first appeared in 2011. This would pretty much become the Weird Adventures view of the plane.

The Black Iron Prison is the Plane of Confinement. Despite it’s name, the prison is not always as apparent as iron bars and stone walls (though it has plenty of that, carved as it was from ancient bones of some demonic titan)--its evil is more subtle than that. Restriction and imprisonment of various forms permeate it.

Portals to the plane are sometimes found on the Material Plane in the form palm-sized, rusted, black iron boxes, heavier than they appear.  Visitors to the plane describe an "outer" desert of squalid intern camps, stretched arond and inner, three (or more) dimensional Escher maze of cell-blocks, isolation chambers, and interrogation rooms.

The plane is the home (and the prison) of the deodands, a vile race sentenced to serve as the guards and administrators of the apotheosis prison as punishment for ancient crime. Demonologists have cataloged three primary castes or species of these creatures (though there are undoubtably more):

The lowest caste of deodands are tall, emaciated, scabrous creatures with frog-like mouths. Their bare skins weep a tarry ichor from numerous injection sites. They're junkies and dealers; they mix the astral excreta of despair, callousness, and resignation that oozes from the souls that fall into their hands with the bile of arthropodals that make their homes in the prison’s substructure and inject it beneath their skin. The tarry substance--and a brief respite from their paranoia in a cold, sneering high--are the result. The tar is packaged and sold (to the prisoners to be smoked or injected) in exchange for pleasant memories or dreams or hopes--anything that defines the former self-hood of the soul. When not engaged in commerce, these tar demodands are the menials of the prison.  On the Material Plane, their shadows have the same viscous consistence as their tar, but no psychoactive properties.

The middle caste are the color of a fresh bruise.  Their limbs are swollen like blood sausages, and their tick-like bellies appear filled to near bursting, sloshing loathesomely as they waddle or fly drunkenly on ridiculously small wings. Their bloated faces are unpleasantly human-like and wear expressions of volutuous satiety, complete with drool running from the corners of their mouths and down their double (or triple) chins. Always their skins appear to glisten as if oiled; this is due to a slime they secrete.  They sweat even more when they eat, and they eat almost constantly. They fancy themselves gourmets, and there is nothing they consider so refined as dining on astral substance of souls. They prefer fatted souls, though, and always expose victims to their slime before dining on them.  Under the slime's influence, the poor souls become grossly corpulent. At that point, they're ready for the slime deodands to drain them to emaciation but never destruction. The they restart the slime feeding and the process begins again. Slime deodands are torturers and interrogators in the deodand hierarchy.

The highest caste are strutting, sadistic martinets--the wardens and senior guards of the prison. They’re vaguely human-like in form, but with pale, wrinkled skin that seems ill-fitted to their bodies. They’re androgynous with bald heads and unfeminine faces, but pendulous breasts and high-pitched voices. They have a penchant for dressing in uniforms, the more elaborate the better. Sagging deodands (as they’re called) are found of searches, interrogations, and tortures. They foster paranoia not as a hobby, or even a vocation, but simply due to their natures. Infractions are always found, and prisoners are encouraged to inform on others--but only after they themselves are questioned to the breaking point.

It’s a good thing for Prime Material Plane that deodands seldom arrive on it unbidden. Sadistic sorcerers have been known to arrange “renditions” for enemies, though the price for such a service is rumored to be steep.