Monday, November 11, 2019

The Vault Job


Our Land of Azurth 5e campaign continued last night with the party meeting with the former mayor, Gladhand in an underground hideout. Gladhand wants their help ousting the new mayor who has apparently becoming something of a despot. Gladhand claims to have a stash of gold he can use to hire mercenaries, but he needs the party to get it for him.

He had entrusted the money to the Sly Took, a member of the Raccoon Folk Thieves Guild and operator of a vault where people can keep valuables they want to stay hidden. The vault is protected by a cadre of elite rat folk mercenaries and apparently some vicious weasels--and has very high security.

The party is unsure whether they should help Gladhand or not. While the current mayor was supported by another adventuring party who the group feels has stolen their thunder, they know Gladhand to be something of a crook, and the vault sounds pretty difficult to get into. Ultimately, the greedier members of the party carry the day, and they at least agree to look into the job.

Waylon uses some underworld contacts to inquire about stashing some money and potentially some magic items in the vault. He uses this visit to case the joint as well as he can. Security is indeed high, with traps, arcane locks, and requirements for 3 magic key charms for each one.

Unsure of how best to approach things, the party contemplates a frontal assault, while acknowledging this seems like a bad idea...

TO BE CONTINUED

Friday, November 8, 2019

Weird Revisited: Five Kooky Cults

I came upon this post when searching for another one. I had forgotten some of these (this post was original presented in 2011), so it seemed worth a revisit... 

Here are a few minority religious groups seen at least as bit odd (if not outright dangerous) by the majority of the City's citizens:


The Abattoir Cult: Secret followers of the sinister and bloody-handed Lord of the Cleaver. A liturgical text (anthropodermically bound) honoring this obscure eikone is known to exist in a private collection in New Lludd. His cult tends to crop up in districts devoted to meatpacking or slaughter pens and is associated with the emergence of serial killers.

The Temple of Father Eliah Exalted: This Old Time Religion sect preaches racial and gender equality, chastity--and the godhood of its prophet, Father Eliah Exalted. The Temple owns a number of groceries, gas stations, hotels, and other business. These are ostensibly held by acolytes but seem mainly to enrich the Father. The Temple is politically active and the Father’s support can sway elections. Many are suspicious that Exalted’s powers of oratory and occasional miracles suggest that he is one of the Gifted or perhaps a secret thaumaturgist, but proof has been hard to come by.

Serpent-spotters: An informal collection of people forgotten by society--mostly poor and elderly spinsters and widowers--who are convinced that the monster that appeared in the Eldritch River 30 years ago, and supposedly delivered secret prophecies to City fathers, will return, heralding the apocalypse. On days individually chosen they hold vigil in Eldside Park. They hope to be present at the time of the serpent’s return so it will reward their faith with a ride on his back to a watery Paradise.

The Electrovangelic Church of the Machine Messiah: A worldwide movement dedicated to building the perfect construct to manifest the Messiah and usher in a new age of mechanical spiritual perfection.

The Followers of the Rabbit: Not an organized religion, but instead a collection of superstitions and cautionary urban legends forming a secret liturgy for some folk working along the boardwalk of Lapin Isle. They hope to placate the godling of the island, the dark personification of the rabbit in the moon--the man in the rabbit suit that is not a man.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Wednesday Comics: Two Collections from Roger Langridge

Roger Langridge is Harvey and Eisner award winning comics writer and artist from New Zealand who tends to work in a quirky cartoon sort of vein (though he has written Thor and did a sort of surreal strip in Judge Dredd Magazine called Straightjacket Fits). Here are a couple of his works I've read that I would recommend:

Criminy
Written by Ryan Ferrier with art by Langridge tells the story of the Criminy family who looks sort of like Bosko (and sort of like the Animaniacs) who get into a series of fantastic adventures after their are forced to flee their island home by invading pirates. Criminy is aimed at younger readers (though might be more intense in places that strictly kiddie comics), but enjoyable by older ones, too.

Popeye vol. 1
IDW's 2012 Popeye series was written by Langridge with art by several different artists who do pitch perfect renditions of the Thimble Theatre characters to match the stories recalling the classic Dell Comics of Sagendorf. There were 3 volumes, all now available in hardcopy or on Kindle/Comixoloyu.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Well Blow Me Down! Popeye Maps

I'm not sure what iteration of Popeye this is from, but it suggests Popeye lives in a pretty small town:



Here's one definitely from the Sagendorf comics. At least Wimpy owns his on home in this version:


Friday, November 1, 2019

Black Iron Prisoners' Dilemma


Not even the solipsist monsters of the Abyss can continue forever under conditions of ever-changing insanity; some ideas produce too great a gravity for even the the most fluid minds to escape. And so, like a body faced with cells that might mutate beyond restraint, the Abyss walled off the offending ideas in a cyst. The cyst endures in the astral nothingness, holding its dark enlightenment within. This is the Black Iron Prison.

The pull of the Black Iron Prison attracts others. Monsters of the Abyss convinced that something besides Self was real and that something was Punishment. But by whom? The Godhead who had appeared to have forsaken them or some new Godhead yet to come?

Fearful and paranoid, the monsters elaborated prisons around the original one like nested labyrinths. There they hid, and interrogated and punished themselves and any other souls that fell into their grasp.

Some might consider the multiverse's largest prison a place of Law, but there is little Law here. Rules are arbitrary and changeable. As are punishments. All the jailers operating under vague authority are just more prisoners. Those jailers, the prisoners with the longest sentences, are the fiends called deodands, this name being an an ancient term for an object which has caused a death and so is forfeit to God. If anyone knows why the fiends have this name it is the Baatezu, and like most secrets, they have classified the information.

The most common 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 fear that oozes from the souls that fall into their hands with the bile of arthropods 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 deodands are the menials of the prison.

The the second most common variety 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 loathsomely as they waddle or fly drunkenly on ridiculously small wings. Their bloated faces are unpleasantly human-like and wear expressions of voluptuous 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. They sweat even more when they eat, and they eat almost constantly. The eat when they are worried, and they are always worried. About informers or conspiracies. About a time when the tortures they apply to others might be applied to them.

The rarest of deodands have assumed the most authority. They often pass themselves off as wardens and are just as often found in solitary confinement. They sometimes watch and titter at the interrogations as they undergo torture themselves. They’re androgynous humanoids with bald heads and unfeminine faces, but pendulous breasts and high-pitched voices. Their pale, wrinkled skin seems ill-fitted to their bodies. They have a penchant for dressing in uniforms, the more elaborate the better. Sagging deodands, they are called.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Halloween Special


And of course, it's a repeat! Sorry, still no Fall Guy or Elvira actually in this post. I didn't do any Halloween related posts this year, but just sit back and relive these horror-themed classics:

Need a name for a horror comic? Generate it with this post.
Ever heard the legend Spring-hilled Jack? Well here are his stats.
A different way of the thinking of Ghost Towns, from Weird Adventures, but usable anywhere.
And finally, a 2013 Santacore request unwittingly opens, "The Tome of Draculas!"

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Wednesday Comics: Bronze Age Book Club: Monsters Unleashed!


The latest episode of the Bronze Age Book Club podcast is available, just in time for Halloween!

Listen to "Episode 8: MONSTERS UNLEASHED (1973) #2" on Spreaker.

It's also now available on Podcast Addict!

Monday, October 28, 2019

The Rolling City and the Devil Sun

This post is in response to a challenge from Anne at DIY & Dragons based on this post a the Githyanki Diaspora from 2009 suggesting an easy way to "Make Your Own New Crobuzon."



The Last City
Clacking, rumbling, the city moves. It rolls through the night on sixteen indestructible rails carved from the bones of dead gods. The shanties on its ziggurat steps rattle; it's bristle of towers sways. The city never stops for long, and it always stays ahead of the dawn. It's being chased by a vengeful god, the Sun.

The Devil Sun
There is a face in the green Sun, and it looks down on the world it hates with grinning, idiot malice. It chases the city across the face of the blighted world, through the ruined cities of the elder days. Where its morning light shines, its energy creates cancer jungles and fleshy masses of monsters. Even these wither and die under the force of its noon regard, leaving only blasted desert in the dying light of evening. The Devil Sun would destroy the clanking redoubt of the city, too, but it moves too slowly across the sky to catch it. For now.

Three Minor Humanoid Races
Xixchil once had their own city, but it was lost, and they bought their passage on the last city with their art. It was the Xixchil surgeons that developed the Warforged. The Xixchil are mistrusted because they live in enclaves of their own and practice secret rituals they do not allow others to see.

The Warforged were made to be the city's soldiers. There are many fewer now than there once were. They are officially accorded respect for their service, but many former refugees blame them for the loss of their old homes.

Athasian aarakocra live in the precarious high towers of the city. They are scouts and foragers.

Three Monsters
Clockwork automata serve in every level of the city, particularly performing jobs around the engines or on the city's undercarriage where living things can't go. Some damaged automata become rampaging clockwork horrors.

Obliviax is cultivated in some labs in the city for it's various memory uses: to fashion an anti-senility drug, to steal memories, or simply to make people forget. It has escaped and grows wild in some lower levels.

Arcane oozes sometimes crawl up the cities exterior. The gorge themselves to a torpor on the divine magic that powers the city. Sometimes they become a hazard and must be removed.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Weird Revisted: The Secret Life Stages of Elves

This post from 2016 is more recent than my usual revisits, but I had forgotten about it, only coming across it while looking for another post and thought it was worth a reshare...


What humans mistake as different tribes or clades of elves are actually different stages in their millennia long, perhap endless, lives.

Wood elves are elven adolescents. They rebel against their parents and go to live in bands of others of their age. They throw racuous parties in the woods and experiment with intoxicants. They are capricious, emotional, and cliqueish. Their tribes run the gamut between Woodstock and Lord of the Flies.

High elves are elven adults. They interact most with other species and are responsible for the maintenance of elven civilization. It is in this age cohort that the immortality of elves begans to take its toll, however. Elven brains are not structurally that different from humans. They do not have the capacity to hold countless centuries of memories. Their initial compensatory mechanism is monomania. Elves develop a strong interest that narrows the array of factual information they must recall and provides constant reinforcement for the things they find important. Some become swordsmasters, some master artists or craftsmen, some archmages.

For some elves this is enough, and they grow more skilled, more focused, and stranger, until they become almost demigods in their chosen vocation. These are the Gray.

Others, though, are not able to maintain such focus. Something akin to dementia sets in. They become forgetful, and paranoid. As they begin to lose their past--lose themselves. They find only intense linger long. These are the drow, the dark elves.

Dark because of the darkness that consumes their minds; dark for the deeds they commit to hold on to self and not slip into endless reverie. They go to live in the dungeons of their kind to pursue intense pleasures and horrors or simply howl or cackle in the darkness. These elders are feared by other elves. They avoid them and will not reveal their relationship to them to non-elves.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

A Premise for Opposing Planes


I'm planning on expanding on the version of the Outer Planes posited by these two posts.  In brief, the planes are reframed in a sort of gnostic background wherein Law and Chaos relate to competing ideas about how best to restore unity with the Godhead. I like this idea because it gives a structure to hang both Law and Chaos on and the other various flavors radiating out from these "poles."

Good and Evil don't carry quite the same weight. Instead, they are shorthand for approaches for dealing with the opposing side. Lawful Good seeks accommodation with Chaos and peaceful conversion where possible; Lawful Evil feels there is no compromise with Chaos and force is always an option. This is not an idea new to me. It's hinted at the the Planescape material, and I've seen if discussed on forums. Adding the layer of competing visions of the Godhead adds something extra.

Anyway, more to come.

Monday, October 21, 2019

What The Clockwork Princess Said

Our 5e Land of Azurth campaign continued last night (now in its fifth year!) with the party trying to get some information from the the tree-like mass of gears and wires that bore the face of the former Princess of Yanth Country, Viola. They couldn't make much from her comments.  Was she merely repeating words from their questions or genuinely answering? They did think they got the phrases: "Not trust", "Queen Desira", and "Find. Now." Those may or may not have been related thoughts.

Suddenly, there was a flash of light in the hallway, and a mysterious stranger in a long coat with a flying-V guitar slung across his back stepped into the room. For some reason, the party immediately assumed this was "Future Kully," though the Kully of this time was supposed to be dead. The stranger seemed flustered by their questions about his identity, noting that he wouldn't have worn a bandana over his face if he wanted it to be known. He told them they needed to return to their own time, and quickly, because "the forces of darkness" were coming. He invoked concerns about effecting the future were he to answer any of their quite reasonable questions. He would say of his own origins: he was from "their future, but also from the distant past." He left the room playing his guitar and disappeared in another flash.

The stranger's words soon proved true, as the castle rocked as if struck. The party decided it was time to escape. A giant, insectoid creature of clicking metal and whirring gears broke through the wall, but after favoring them with a scream like an approaching train, turned and stumbled its way in the direction the party had come from.

They made it down two levels. The crazy gnomes were now fleeing with them. They exited the front door and saw two dragons blacker than the night sky, smoky and insubstantial around their extremities, circling like hawks overhead.

The party featherfall-ed (featherfell?) to the ground below. They saw black-armored riders on weird, loping steeds like hairless dogs with monstrous, human faces. They sprinted out of the clearing into a nearby stand of trees. Two riders peeled off from the many body and trotted over to the wood. Keeping a distance, one shot an arrow high. It transformed into a mass of arrows burning with green flame. The volley fell upon the party, seriously injuring Kairon and Shade. Again, the party ran for the deeper woods.

There, Phosphoro (finally) appeared, expressing regret for having forgotten to bring them back to their own time until now.

Back in Rivertown, the party discovered there have been some changes in their time away. A new palisade is around most of the city and there is a greater guard presence. They return to the Dove Inn and find their rooms are still intact, but they have back rent to pay.

When they see the innkeeper slip a note to a young boy, Waylon follows him through the streets. The boy goes to the house of Inkwell, the former bookkeeper to the former mayor. Inkwell returns to the inn looking for the party and asks them to meet him at his house this evening--and be careful of being followed.

That night, Inkwell tells them what has passed in the year they have been absent. Drumpf was elected mayor and used both his wizardly family and alleged aid from the land of Noxia to the North to enforce his rule in Rivertown. Gladhand, the former mayor, is in hiding, but Inkwell says he will offer the party a share in a large treasure if they will help him use the money to hire mercenaries to help drive Drumpf from the city. The party agrees to meet Gladhand.

Art by Jason Sholtis

Sunday, October 20, 2019

From Pole to Pole


While doing some research of the origins of the Ethereal Plane as a concept, I came across what I believe to be the origins of the Positive and Negative Energy Planes. The writings of "Christian Rosicrucian" Max Haindel describe the etheric regions composed of four different ethers. Each of these has a positive and negative pole. Though these bear little resemblance to the positive and negative planes (beyond the positive being associated with generativity and vitality) the planes are positioned over the Prime (and the Ethereal) in a manner than would suggest poles.

Of course, it's entirely possible that these were independent creations, but given that Theosophic publications seem to be the primary source of the Ethereal Plane, it doesn't seem like a stretch that that other esoteric writings of the same era might have provided some inspiration.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Printing the Prime Material Plane in the Ether


This was an idea I posted on Google Plus (may it rest in piece) and mentioned it again earlier this week on Discord, so I might as well preserve it here, too.

The idea of Elemental Planes existing outside the Prime Material Plane seems strange, when the elements are presumably fundamental building blocks of matter. That is why they are called elements, after all.

I think a better analogy for the relationship of the Elemental Planes to the Prime would be CYMK printing. The Prime is "printed" on the ethereal medium by overlay of patterns of Air, Water, Earth, and Fire. The elemental planes (branes is probably more appropriate) maybe not be center over the prime, perhaps they have poles or sources they emanate from, but they could be.

The arrangement could be represented diagrammatically like this:

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Wednesday Comics: Star*Reach #1

A new episode of the Bronze Age Book Club Podcast is here! This time, we talk about "ground level comics" and Star*Reach #1 from 1974.


Listen to "Episode 7: STAR*REACH #1" on Spreaker.

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Psychonauts of Gyre

The Psychonauts, also known as the Alchemists, are a policlub in Gyre who believe that most intelligent beings are incapable of perceiving the true nature of the multiverse and the Godhead (if such a thing exists), but the appropriately altered state of consciousness can unlock these hidden secrets. To this end, the Psychonauts engaged in personal experiment with a variety of chemical substances are neurologic modifications of their own devising. To fund these experiments they are also the primary suppliers to Gyre's illicit drug trade. They also supply many of the legal mood altering drugs many a citizen of Gyre and provided the experimental research central to much corporate subliminal media.

Psychonaut club members are always eager for more subjects (willing and unwilling, in some cases) for their experiments. They also will at times pay handsomely (or more likely over drugs or chemicals in trade) for exotic psychoactive substances from the Outer Planes.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Weird Revisited: Do You Have Alignment or Does It Have You?

Recent discussion of alignment on discord brought to mind this post from 2014...


What follows is some brainstorming on a conception of alignment that probably just over-complicates things, but hopefully will be of some interest to somebody.

As we all know, alignment is derived from Moorcock and Anderson and is suppose to provide some moral and ethical structure to--well, the universe--and to provide a behavioral check on certain character types, but any attempt to relate it to actual moral quandaries, leads to discussion of baby orcs. Some people (myself included) have suggested at times the obvious solution of just viewing the sides as teams or opposing armies free of a moral dimension, but mostly it seems like people just ignore it. While I'm still advocating for a bit of blue and orange morality here, I want to suggest another wrinkle.

I recently finished the third of Hannu Rajaniemi's science fiction novels, The Causal Angel. One of the futuristic societies, the zoku, tend to form group minds, but individuals joining one or more zoku (Japanese for "clan") related hobbies, interests, or vocation. This process involves "entanglement," a sort of co-mingling of though and desires. The higher one's rank (i.e. the longer one is a member or the more "good" they do for the group) the more entanglement the individual becomes and so the more their thoughts and desires are reflected in the group consensus and action, or "volition." This effect is reciprocal, though, so the higher rank, the more one's on thoughts and actions are shaped by the zoku volition.

Maybe alignments could be a bit like that? Joining up with a fundamental metaphysical power of the universe means getting benefits (positive reaction, access to power) but also means you lose a bit of your individuality (or at least have that individuality altered). for someone powered by alignment (a paladin, a cleric), the higher level you become the worse it gets. A high level Paladin would be unlikely to worry about straying from their alignment; they would become one with it, or at least part of it.

This would make adhering to any alignment sort of like bartering your soul for magical power. The only difference is, with bartering your soul you are still quite aware you've given something up. With this approach, it would get harder and harder to ever imagine yourself doing anything differently.

This of course means that gods and other beings of great power and strong alignment allegiance have probably become more or less avatars for the consensus overmind/soul of the alignment.

Friday, October 11, 2019

B/X Mars is Upon You! Who Will Save You Now?


Michael "Aos" Gibbons released his long-awaited B/X Mars this week. As the name suggests, it's based on the Moldavy/Cook iteration of D&D. It is also inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs's Barsoom, but that's only the roots; Mike's Martian tree grows in much more of a "Dying Earth" direction, with more than a little Kirby and perhaps a bit of Heavy Metal attitude in there.

In addition to the basic rules, it covers the society and culture of Mars, numerous factions, monsters, and equipment. It's also got a gazeteer of the Zerzura area ready to start a campaign.

Of course, it's profusely illustrated with Michael's high contrast black and white art that is at ERB accurate in terms of nudity and decidedly unlike any of the famous Barsoom illustrators of the past. The cover's above, but here another taste:


Go get it!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Jacked into Etherspace

This is a follow up to this post about the data etherspace of Gyre.

The natural Ethereal Plane is the substrate that underlies material spacetime, and is continuous with it. The artificial ether network of Gyre is surrounded by an astral bubble, a firewall, that keeps it from being accessed without the use of specific nodes. The legitimate and illegitimate users of etherspace most employ stables of proxies or individual avatars constructed from etheric stuff. Artificial subtle body avatars are sometimes called "subs." Ethernauts can construct them in any form they wish, limited only by the available resources. The subs are controlled via technology and a neural interface.  Not only does a sub allow the creation of a secondary identity, it also insulates the user from the dangers of etherspace. If the sub dies, the users consciousness returns to their body, unharmed. Usually.

Proxies are programs that have many different names depending on their use. They are simple etheric creatures for the most part; mindless, engineered etheric fauna and flora that have a specific data function. Sometimes these programs slip their chains and go feral in the network. Most starve or waste away without a way to perform the function they were built for. Rarely, some can undergo evolution to more free-living forms and become vermin. They may prey on legitimate programs or gnaw holes in data conduits, but they are perhaps more of a danger to rogue ethernauts lurking in the shadows, so aren't as vigorously hunted as they might be.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Wednesday Comics: Vermillion


Vermillion was a series from DC's Helix science fiction imprint created and written by the science fiction and fantasy author, Lucius Shepard. Like all the Helix line save one title, Vermillion was short-lived, lasting along 12 issues, published 1996-1997. (The one that had staying power was Transmetropolitan, which moved over to Vertigo.) Vermillion is a science fantasy about an eponymous endless city that is the entirety of its universe. Vermillion came after our universe and was created through the machinations of dark gods, the survivors of the universe prior to ours. Only Jonathan Cave remembers what came before and fights against the entities to restore his world. It bears some resemblance, perhaps, to John M. Harrison's Virconium (and maybe prefigures his Kefahuchi Tract, a bit). It is definitely not typical comic book science fantasy, even for the Vertigo 90s.

Vermillion has an interesting set up, but the stories read like they were written by a prose writer rather than a comics writer. The art in the first arc is by Al Davison and is firmly of the 90s "the writing is the important thing" camp, so it can't come to the rescue. Shepard hits more of a groove in the second arc, and John Totleben and then Gary Erskine improve the art side, but it is perhaps too little too late.

Still, the setup up and universe is interesting, and Shepard gives us a sort of complicated protagonist for a comic in Cave. It has never been collected, but if you run across the issues for cheap it is worth picking up.


Monday, October 7, 2019

Weird Revisited: Gill-Man vs. Wolf-Man

This post was originally presented in October of 2010, part of a series on the Universal Monsters.

The gill-man and the werewolf. Both are zoanthropes, and perhaps as such, both represent fears of nature or man’s own animalistic side, though at that point the similarity seems to end.


The gill-man is elusive. His appearances in media are more rarified, no doubt due to his proprietary, rather than folklorish, origins. In addition to the Creature trilogy, stand-ins make appearances in The Monster Squad, and Monsters vs. Aliens--where interestingly he’s grouped with decade-appropriate monster stand-in colleagues rather than the Universal monster old guard.

The proto-gill-men of Lovecraft’s "Shadow Over Innsmouth" have miscegenation fears in their DNA, which seem absent from Universal’s creature--unless his attraction to human females is a hint at this. In some ways, the Lovecraftian angst underlying the Deep Ones makes them more interesting than a fish King Kong. That’s part of the reason D&D’s Kuo-toa (more Deep One-ish in character) have always been more interesting to me than the other evil fishmen, the Sahuagin (Gill-Men).

I guess Dr. Who's Sea Devils and Silurians might be mined for gill-man inspiration. Anything might help. Gill-man’s got a good look, but little else to give him real monster memorability.

Neil Gaiman has a short-story called “Only the End of the World Again” where Larry Talbot, the Wolf Man, winds up in Innsmouth and tangles with Deep One cultists. This may be as close as media has given us to a Gill-man-Werewolf bout.

Werewolves seem to have what it takes for urban fantasy fiction. Werewolf sex probably seems even naughtier, I suppose, than lovin’ the living dead. In fact--Teen Wolf aside--there’s always been something a little “adult situations”--maybe even exploitation--about werewolves. They don’t just strangle like the mummy or Frankenstein, or give a killer kiss like a vampire--they rend and tear and chew. Werewolves are as much serial killer as wild beast.

Is it any wonder that werewolves are almost as likely as vampires to get the grindhouse treatment? I would suspect only “almost” because vampires maybe give more excuse for nudity, and blood effects are cheaper than wolf prosthetics. But the wolf man gets by, and whatever budget.  Paul Naschy’s got a whole series of werewolf movies where the werewolf's origin involves being bit by a Yeti, and he fights Templars--how’s that for game inspiration! Then we’ve got a werewolf biker film (Werewolves on Wheels), a werewolf women in prison effort (Werewolf in a Women’s Prison); and, if Rob Zombie had his way, a werewolf Nazi-ploitation film--Werewolf Women of the S.S.

Werewolves: the most gameable of monsters, whatever your genre.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Thursday, October 3, 2019

The Etherspace of Gyre


Gyre, the city at the center of the multiverse, has a ghost. It envelopes the city like an invisible fog or unseen shroud, bunching and gathering in centers of commerce, thinning out in the lonely, post-industrial stretches. In its unfathomable complexity, it is more solid--more real--than the city to which it belongs. It's only ether, but ether is more tangible than ideas, after all.

The ghost is a network arising from the interconnected computers of Gyre. It's a bubble of ethereal space floating in the Astral Manifold, somehow built around the city. Like most things about Gyre's construction, no one remembers at all how it came to be there. Inside this etherspace, the data of Gyre takes on an emergent if abstract form perceivable by human minds, but not constructed by them. It's a memory palace without an architect.

In addition legitimate users, rogues slink through the pale mists, between the bright-edged, corporate data-monoliths with their constellations of vibrating, platonic solid programs, glowing like neon wrapped in fog. In the shadows, they snatch will-o-wisp secrets and pick the fractal locks to chest full of ones and zeroes that become gold in the real Gyre.

The Ethereal Plane proper has no access to Gyre's etherspace, nor do any of the Outer Planes. Officially. There are persistent rumors that hackers based in any number of planes have created backdoors, dug ether tunnels, into etherspace for their own purposes.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Wednesday Comics: The Joker

A new Bronze Age Book Club podcast is up: The Joker #7.

Listen to "Episode 6: THE JOKER #7" on Spreaker.

If that's not enough Joker for you, then check out The Joker: The Bronze Age Omnibus that collects the entire series this issue is from.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Weird Revisited: The Two Cities of Hoborxen

I think this post from February of 2011 may be one of my favorite Weird Adventures related posts...

On some moonless night in the City, you can look across the Eldritch River and see on the other bank a shining, alien city with buildings that look as if there made of blown glass and infused with a pale, fluorescent glow. In the morning, you might look again at the same place on the far bank, wondering if the strange city had just been dream, and you’d see the gray smokestacks and worn docks of humdrum Hoborxen, and you’d be sure you that it had been.

And you’d be wrong.

Since the earliest days of Ealderdish settlement, strange things have been seen and heard in the area that would eventually become the city of Hoborxen. These irruptions from elsewhere have only increased over the centuries since. Now, in the night, the working class neighborhoods and decaying waterfront of day Hoborxen are intruded upon, and sometimes replaced, by an otherworldly city of tall spires, all its buildings made of something resembling glass, warm to the touch like the mantle of a recently lit lantern.

Every night, some part of Hoborxen is replaced by the intruder--sometimes only a single structure, other times an entire neighborhood. On nights of the new moon, Horboxen is entirely replaced. The city begins to appear at dusk, as if emerging from an unseen but evaporating fog, or coalescing from the dying light. The strange glow of its structures rises slowly; it's brightest at midnight and wanes toward dawn.

No human inhabitants of the alien city are ever seen, but it's not completely deserted. Fairy-like creatures--obscenely jabbering, cinereous, and moth-winged--sometimes buzz about its streets or lewdly call from high perches. A low growl, a sound as much felt in the bones as heard, periodically reverberates through the streets, and some explorers have claimed to heard a woman crying or laughing softly.


Exploration of the glassy structures usually turns up everyday detritus from Hoborxen, most of which is of little value. Sometimes, things lost elsewhere in the world turn up here, but again seldom anything of real value except perhaps to the one that lost it. It’s a common tale among adventurers that there's a great treasure haul somewhere in the city, but no one has retrieved anything more than a few enigmatic, otherworldly trinkets.

Would-be treasure-hunters should weigh the likely gain against the potential dangers.  A number of people entering the areas of the alien city are never seen again. 

The people of Hoborxen are inured to these nocturnal visitations, and rarely remark on them, though addiction, violence, and suicide are more common there than in neighboring towns. No one knows where they go when they’re elsewhere. “Nowhere,” they say, and shrug and turn away.

Some thaumaturgist muse darkly that there may come a time when Hoborxen will be gone entirely, every night. And after that, will the incursion spread?

Sunday, September 29, 2019

The Silver Metal Face of Gyre


"All right, for all you cutters out there in the Big Ring, all you street people with an ear for the action, this is Argent with a special request..."

Outlaw broadcaster, street artist, vigilante, and possible demiurge, the mysterious Lady of Gyre, the city at the center of the multiverse, is known as Argent for the silver mask all her manifestations wear. She is always a she. Cis or trans women, certainly, but also gynoid automata, on occasion. Within those parameters, she can appear as anyone, and on rare occasions, multiple someones at one time.

To say the Lady rules Gyre isn't strictly true. Despite the number of bureaucrats, elected officials, and megacoporate CEOs, no one really does much ruling in Gyre--but Argent has ways of making her displeasure known. When rendered, there are no appeals from her judgments. The surest way to bring down her wrath is break one of her rules like trying to incarnate a god in the city, disrupting one of the portals to the Outer Planes, or starting an unsanctioned policlub. Occasionally some small thing will piss her off, though. Those are more random incidents, but dealt with just as severely. Some get unmade in a blast of light. Others get trapped in nonorientable topologies and shot into the Astral.

Those that make a pretense of ruling Gyre don't mention her much, though occasionally one will publicly deplore her tactics. None that plan to hold office wrong with do anything close to breaking one of her rules.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Random Ultra-Warriors Generator


I made this new logo yesterday so it seemed like a good time to post my Random Ultra-Warriors Generator. It's just a first draft, but it does a serviceable job of creating the sort of characters seen in Masters of the Universe or similar media.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

The Monster Makers of Gyre




The Promethean Society (Monstermakers, Frankensteins)
The learned members of the Promethean Society policlub believe that the multiverse is only intelligible when filtered through the senses of sophont beings, most specifically biologic sophont beings. They believe that a perfected biological being could perceive a more perfected multiverse, and thereby usher in a new age, the Godhead again made manifest through a creation worthy of it. To this end, the Promethean Society members are shapers of flesh and creators of artificial life. Some believe that mundane biological life could be upgraded through grafts or genetic alterations, while others believe only a bioroid Adam could possibly be the vessel for a new consciousness.

The equipment and supplies their experiments call for don't come cheap, so many members make a living providing biotech modifications to customers. Some make monsters for underground fight clubs, while still others illegal clones for the very wealthy.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Wednesday Comics: Wizards for Hire...Cheap!



Comic book writer and artist Von Allan was set to contribute a story to issue two of Underground Comix, which seems likely never to be, unfortunately. Von has a lot of comics work available, though. Stuff that you should check out like, Wizards for Hire - Cheap!

Bill and Butch are a wizard and his dog (possibly also a wizard; it's unclear) on the planet Rigel V. They are somewhat lazy, and somewhat cowardly, unless beer is on the line! Von Allan's short anthology of their adventures is sure to please anyone who enjoyed the comics in the back of Dragon Magazine back in the day, and may well also appeal to fans of modern, dungeoneering comics like The Clandestinauts. In fact, my favorite story of the three features a total party kill of an eclectic group of adventurers that would be very much at home in Sievert's work.

Von does more than D&D-related fantasy however, Head over to his website to check out other stuff he's got to offer.

Monday, September 23, 2019

weird Revisited: The Witches of Ix

This was one of the earliest Land of Azurth posts, appearing in August of 2014...

Art by Ian Miller
It is likely you will never have cause to visit the land of Ix, and in this, you should consider yourself lucky. The only exception might be those who have the misfortune to live in blighted, ghoul-haunted Noxia. To you Noxians an oft cold and mostly gloomy land of forests, bogs, and mountains, infested with goblins and ruled by witches, may not seem so dire. Remember though that you must cross the toxic badlands of the Waste to get there.

Ix has only one town worthy of note, and it cowers in the shadow of Hexenghast, an impossibly large and sprawling castle built beyond the memory of Ixians. Hexenghast is large enough to accommodate the four Great Houses of Ixian Witches and their various servants, mercenaries, guests, and prisoners. In fact, it is so large it houses these individuals and still has a great many halls and rooms that are unoccupied and perhaps unexplored for centuries.

Art by Yoshitaka Amano
A grand coven of the leaders of the Great Houses rules Hexenghast (no mean feat, given all the infighting and intrigue). The management of the rest land is done by lower level witches with mundane human and goblin subordinates. Mostly they are concerned with the collection of Hexenghast's due in taxes and farm goods, but they also suppress any unauthorized practice of magic and promulgate state propaganda.


There is an order of witches known as the Witchfinders. These cloaked figures appear within a day of the birth of any child in Ix. Every newborn is examined, and if the child bear some witches' mark, it's whisked off to Hexenghast and given over to one house or another to raise. When the children come of age, they cross the flickering Ghostlight Bridge that spans the chasm between Hexenghast proper and the sub-castle of the Scholomance. There, they are tutored in the dark arts until they are ready to assume their adult role in Witch society.

It has been the custom for new graduates of the Scholomance to spend some time abroad before settling into Hexenghast, engaging in the sort of infamies that youths who are schooled in the Dark Arts and confident in their own superiority are wont to engage in. This was the context in which Angvaine and Nocturose crossed into Noxia all those years ago.

Art by Yoshitaka Amano

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Three Policlubs of the City Gyre

In conceptual realms like the outer multiverse, there are few armchair philosophers. In Gyre, the ring city at the center of the multiverse, policlubs are registered and tolerated organizations formed around philosophic principals with elements of street gangs, secret societies, and sometimes, organized crime. Here are three of them:

Annihilists (Doomsters)
Things fall apart, in the planar multiverse as well as on the mundanes. It's a cold fact more eternal than any promise of Law, and more certain than any ephemera of Chaos. You can deny it or even fight it, but you can't defeat it. The Annihilists choose to embrace it to varying degrees, some by taking the time (as it slowly ticks away) to appreciate, even revel in, its workings, others by actively joining in and hastening things along. What comes after everything crumbles to dust also divides the group. Some feel that only by the destruction of the current multiverse can make way for a new, better, one. Others hold that there will be a final oblivion, and the wounded Godhead will finally rest in peace.

The headquarters of the more action-minded wing of the Annihilist movement is the metal club Rough Beast, located in an abandoned industrial foundry. The official policlub's current leader is a young tiefling woman who sings lead for the house band, The Eves of Destruction.

The Free (The Wardens, The Jailers)
There is a harsh purpose to the multiverse and that is to confine souls. The Black Iron Prison, the Plane of Confinement, is just the maximum security section of a larger and more subtle prison. The Free's founder claims to have escaped the Black Iron Prison but only after achieving a sort of enlightenment while he was in solitary. He and his followers offer this enlightenment to the worlds, but it comes at price. None can truly experience the truth of it without first going through a great trial.

The Free are based in a prison in Gyre; both guards and prisoners are members. Their aim isn't punishment but the stern refinement of the souls in their charge.

Ontic Programmer Collective (Reality Hackers)
Everyone agrees that the mundane universes are essentially patterns in ether and the planar multiverse is a pattern vibrating in the astral manifold, but the question of what structure supports those patterns has been left up to theologians, who obviously have no consistent answer. The OPC believes that the answer is nothing less than the Godhead, and the name of the Godhead is math. The OPC plan is to obtain power beyond even the so-called gods by understanding and manipulating the computational underpinings of the multiverse.

The OPC is an eclectic group of academics, corporate programmer wage slaves, and gifted dropouts. There main need is etheric network time and bandwidth, and they are quite willing to acquire it by almost any means. They seldom rumble in the physical realm with other policlubs, but have been known to make things very difficult for rivals by their machinations on the net.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Wednesday Comics: New Episode! Lois Lane #114

There's a new episode of the Bronze Age Book Club podcast available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or right here:

Listen to "Episode 5: SUPERMAN'S GIRLFRIEND, LOIS LANE #114" on Spreaker.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Ain't No Gods in Gyre


Belief is a virus. On the levels above those of heavy matter, the multiverse is an ideaspace, susceptible to co-opting or conversion by belief alone. The Outer Planes and their competing attempts to rebuild the Godhead are engines of it, and the City at the Center of the Multiverse, Gyre, is the one place with no agenda in the big game It has to keep their seductive memes suppressed at all costs, or the strange loop that enforces it's existence would broken, and possibly the stability of the entire multiverse with it. Again.

That's why Gyre's real ruler, not the corporate committees or the concerned citizen boards or even the occasional winners of the city's haphazard elections, works hard to keep belief out. There is a strict "no gods" policy, for instance. Gods are strange attractors for belief. The lost, outcast, or psychological vulnerable, have been known to fall for them on sight. So they're all banned. There have been attempts by rogue theists to instantiate a god in the city (in one case the smiling cat mascot of a fast food restaurant), but the Lady was on to them before they could power it up. Four manifestations of her twisted the whole block into a Klein bottle and tossed it into the Astral manifold.

The thing about sentient beings is they tend to want to believe in things, and even the Lady can't be everywhere. So registered policlubs are allowed. These tamed belief systems, whatever their intentions, only serve to strengthen the city's loop because they wouldn't exist without it. If one steps out of line despite the safeguards, well, they get disappeared too.

Though Gyre's citizenry complain about the policlubs, they are also a source of entertainment. Most have some sort of media presence from talk radio to slick television shows. Major street clashes between clubs tend to be televised events associated with gambling. 

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Warriors of Eternity


I came across these quickstart rules for Warriors of Eternity last week, a "Sword Dream" game that says it's "inspired by your favorite old school action fantasy cartoons," and it does have a light Masters of the Universe vibe. It's somewhat ruleslight, but looks like there's enough there to get the job done.

Get the quickstart document here.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Wednesday Comics: Obscure Indies

Inspired by Cartoonist Kayfabe, I impulse-bought some black and white indie stuff off a ebay recently. I got some good deals, though I didn't quite achieve quarter bin level value. Here are some highlights:

Warlock 5
I managed to get the whole run of this, though I haven't read anything but the first issue yet. It's a story of an eclectic group from across parallel dimensions (a cyborg, a dragon, a armored knight, a street punk, the usual) who are engaged in a conflict for control of a mystical grid located in an unnamed city which is a nexus for interdimensional travel. It's written by Gordon Derry and has generally pretty great art by Denis Beauvais. It was published by Aircel, a Canadian publisher eventually gobbled up by Malibu (who was in turn gobbled up by Marvel, ultimately). The reviewer in Space Gamer/Fantasy Gamer #83 summed it up: ""The lure of this book is that the reader is unsure of exactly what is going on. Lots of magic, guns, swords, robots, babes, motorcycles, and very nice art."


DragonBlade and She-Drak
These two super-obscure indies (there's virtually nothing on them on Grand Comics Database) are from 1991 (so far as I can tell) but resemble 80s black and white boom indies in a lot of ways, not the least of which is being in black and white. They are published by Comax, which seems to be an imprint used by cartoonist F. Newton "Butch" Burcham for some of his work. Mostly, Burcham does stuff in the Frazetta sort of vein: a few muscular, barbarian warriors, but an awful lot of scantily-clad, curvy cavewomen and the like. However, these two titles are actually superhero fare (though you would be forgiven from perhaps thinking otherwise from the cover). They tell the parallel stories of two astronauts who were part of an mission that fell into a blackhole to emerge in the Megaverse. There they are guided in gaining powers by a mysterious and powerful alien in a Marvel Comics sort of vein named Phiddeus Phoom. DragonBlade, She-Drak, and presumably Robo-Beast and Night-Flight were to appear together in the a comic called Mega-Force, but I can't find any evidence that actually came out.


Monday, September 9, 2019

Highway Across the Outlands


Climb up the walls of the city, passed the rookeries of the poor and dispossessed and the ramparts where the city guard stand bored but vigilant, and look over the side and you will see more gray nothingness, occasionally pixelating and deresolving to show the more abstract astral manifold beneath, same as if you looked up at flickering spark that passes for a sun. But if you take a corkscrew ramps below ground to one of the city's gates and pass through the checkpoint, quickly the gray mist would recede behind you, and you would find yourself on a highway in an immense desert. This is the Outlands.

The Outlands is the phase boundary between the city and the Outer Planes. Its existences preserves the city's ambivalence, keeps it from being conquered by some conceptual force or another. Its desert is vast, but it is more its indifference that keeps strongly held ideas at bay. The Outlands and its few inhabitants are stubborn.

The highways that stretch from the city gates run through alkali saltpan, scrub plans, and stretches of sandstone buttes. There are a few settlements along the way: outposts and waystations run by those too noncomformist for city life or exiled for some other reason. There are also bands of evangelists and missionaries from other Planes working to convert travelers, though these will die out eventually, either in conflict or by loss of faith. Some of them get violent in their death throes, though. Most Everyone else is a traveler or trader, headed one direction or the other--or a bandit. Though the highways are most often lonely (that is their nature, not a description) many convoys and caravans pass along them, and they all ripe for the taking.

At the edge of the Outlands are the Border Towns. Their appearance vary from town to town, but they control the flow of traffic from whatever plane is on the other side. All are fortified borders, no matter how benign the appearance of the Plane on the other side, indeed the most benign are often the most dangerous.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Carnacki Ghost-Finder

I recently discovered there are a number of readings of William Hope Hodgson stories on Youtube. They vary in quality of course, but all the ones I've listened to are decent. Try this one:


Thursday, September 5, 2019

The City at the Center, Reprise

Anton Furst
"I live now, only with strangers
I talk to only strangers
I walk with angels that have no place"
- Bruce Springsteen

It is the living (and dying and living again) embodiment of Reality 2.0. A ring and a promise. The strange loop that sustains itself and possibly the entire multiverse. Born out of the last war and the first cause (second iteration), it has no history and is nothing but history.

Its sights. Horizonless urban landscape, sprawling vertiginously upward in two directions to loom overhead, darkened narrow, cobblestone alleys feeding into modern thoroughfares awash in neon, lined with deco skyscrapers and gleaming glass spires, rooftop slums perched on skeletal high-rises, ramshackle mobile markets, the rusted out carapace of dead factories, dutch-angled slabs of never-finished freeway tagged in occult scripts, geodesic domes housing lush gardens, gargoyles that sometimes take flight, the sky gray with spasms of occasional pixelation, a sparking blue-white point instead of a proper sun.


Its sounds. The rattling rumble of an elevated train, the high-pitched invective of angry fairies, the beat drifting from open nightclub doors, the patter of street dealers, the nervous shifting of strange animals and the groan of heavy-laden carts, the growl of engines, the squeak and hiss of arthritic pneumatic joints, the distant crackles and pops of spells met with gunfire, the wail of sirens.

Its smells. Fast food thick with alien spices, stale alcohol and sweat, a hint of ozone, a stray whiff of expensive perfume, burning oil, cigarettes.

(sensory-based format borrowed from Jack Shear)