Thursday, August 22, 2019

Eberron & the Jackelian Sequence


The announcement of a 5e Eberron book got me thinking about a similar setting that I like better than Eberron: Stephen Hunt's Jackelian series. I wrote about it back in 2011. Hunt wrote a few more novels in the series after that point, but it's a shame there has never been an rpg.

Anyway, the novels are well work checking out.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Wednesday Comics: A New Episode of Bronze Age Book Club

Here's the latest episode, taking on Adventure Comics #462. Oh, and we're now on Google podcasts and Apple podcasts. Like! Subscribe!


Listen to "Episode 3: ADVENTURE COMICS #462" on Spreaker.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Weird Revisted: The Weird Frontier

The original version of this post first appeared in 2010. I've revisited it from slightly different angles a couple of times since.
 

This cover deserves to be the basis of an rpg setting.

Well, maybe not just this cover all on its own, but the crazy idea it and the series (Tomahawk) it's a part of suggests (at least to me)--namely, combining the James Fenimore Cooper-style frontier tale with fantasy. Transplanting the whole civilization-against-the-wilderness thing to a colonial pseudo-America.

It’s almost completely unmined territory. It’s only been sort of attempted once, as far as I know--Orson Scott Card’s Alvin Maker series does early nineteenth century fantasy in an alternate North America. Sure, one could point to novels (and even an rpg or two) with a kind of “Illuminati/Masonic magic behind the revolution” or a “Ben Franklin cavorts with the Hellfire Club” sort of deal, but all of that pseudo-historical “hidden magic” speculation fails to deliver a moment of rpg inspiration Zen like:


Wilderness adventures wouldn’t be the only way to go. Surely things like Mystery Hill, and the rampant speculation such sites inspired (even at the time) ought to suggest plenty of ancient American civilization to provide honest to goodness dungeons. There might not be demi-humans (though there could be), but all the other standard D&D ingredients are easy to find.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Garage Sale


My local gaming store (Firefly Toys & Games) had a "Gamer Garage Sale" where they sold old games that folks had brought in. Not a lot of rpg stuff, but some. In picked up the box set, Gary Gygax's Hall of Many Panes for five bucks, the Exalted boardgame War for the Throne, and most randomly this miniature, paper Old West town, and assorted Western miniatures. They're all different scales (H/0, 00, 1:72), but hey, that's an impulse buy for you.

Read for that next Boot Hill game, I guess.


Friday, August 16, 2019

Swords & Monsters


It occurs to me that you could throw out the atmosphere and, well, pretty much everything else about Ravenloft except for the vague notion of adventure fantasy characters fighting creatures of horror. If the world was more of a sword and sorcery setting, and the monsters leaned even heavier in the Universal Monsters direction, I think that would be pretty cool in its own right. The jeweled thrones of the Earth might be sat upon by wolfmen, vampires, man-made monsters, and perhaps even an invisible person or two.

There is some inspiration for this sort of thing in Sword & Sorcery/pulp fiction. Howard wrote "Wolfshead" (which isn't S&S, but hey). Karl Edward Wagner has Kane take on a vampire ("Mirage") and a werewolf ("Reflections on the Winter of My Soul"). In the DC Comics' Warlord there is at least one vampire and two werewolves over its run. I'm sure there are others, but that's off the top of my head.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Conqueror [ICONS]

CONQUEROR

Abilities:
Prowess: 6
Coordination: 4
Strength: 8
Intellect: 4
Awareness: 4
Willpower: 5

Determination: 1
Stamina: 13

Specialties: Athletics

Qualities:
Man Out of Time
Powers Granted by Otherworld Magic
Forgotten Hero

Powers:
Damage Resistance 4
Leaping 4
Life Support 3

Background:
Alter Ego: Joseph Henry Danner
Occupation: Retired
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: Ben and Abigail Danner (adopted parents, deceased)
Group Affiliation: formerly the United States Army
Base of Operations: Middleville, Nebraska
First Appearance: CHAMPION FAMILY #138
Height: 6'1"  Weight: 222 lbs.
Eyes: Gray  Hair: White

History:
Sensing the threat to the world that would be posed by the Axis Powers, the Otherworldly wizard Zyrd had sent a fragment of the Champion emblem into the world to be found by a worthy bearer. Shortly before the United States entered World War II, Joe Danner, found the magical emblem while clearing an old tree stump from his farm. The shield belt buckle embued him with the powers of the Champion! Shortly thereafter, the U.S. entered the War, and Danner volunteered for the Army. He was sent to the European theater where he used his powers (in secret) to fight the Germans, while pretending to be a country bumpkin in his real identity.  He lost the shield near the end of the war, and was imprisoned by a Nazi-allied sorcerer, the Yellow Lama. The spell made the world forget him.

It likely would have stayed that way, had not Tommy Trent, the Boy Champion, freed him decades later. Danner helped the Boy Champion defeat the Yellow Lama, but soon began to age rapidly when the mystical field was no more. Zyrd slowed his aging, and gifted him with a portion of the might he had wielded when he had the emblem. He renamed himself, the Conqueror, and occasionally joins the current Champion in fighting evil.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Wednesday Comics: Things I Read Last Week

Here some stuff I read in the past week or some that I recommend.

House of X #1
Hickman begins his X-Men epic. It is full of grand, science fictional ideas, giving the X-Men a transhumanist edge that has only ever appeared sporadically before. As he's a bit detached from characters with perhaps a Kubrickian coolness, which makes characters doing mysterious things (which may be intentional, but it's hard to tell). This has a companion series, Powers of X, that tells a story over several time periods.

Coffin Bound #1
Weird, hip characters with "cool" dialogue who we meet in media res, with very little explanation. It might be 90s Vertigo, but instead its Image 2019. Gorgeous art and intriguing story.

No One Left to Fight #1
A (perhaps) more serious take on a Dragonball Z sort of gang of fighters, focusing on what happens to them after they defeat the world-threatening baddie. I love the art on this, particularly the colors, which has a kind of gaudiness that makes me think of Jade Man Comics, in a way.


Monday, August 12, 2019

The Princess and the Darkness


Our 5e Land of Azurth campaign continued last night, with the party climbing the stairs to the next level, despite the madness-inducing noise. (Their plan of using Silence proved to be unwieldy.) They all stuffed wax in their ears (except the frogling that has no external ears to put wax in!). Shade was the first up. She found a room full of automata pieces with a whole in the ceiling and bodies of birds beneath it. Beyond that room was an iris-type door.

After retrieving the rest of the party (most of whom made their saves, and the one's that didn't were only minorly impaired), they opened the door. Inside they found a circular shaft with an obelisk, skirted with a platform floating inside. Leading to it was a climbing, arcing path of floating discs, each separated by about 5 feet. Interestingly, the dread noise seemed absent from the shaft--but no other spells worked, either.

Waylon the Frogling was made for leaping, so he was chosen to jump from disk to disk to reach the obelisk and platform. There, he discovered another brass mechanical face. The face explained it was the guardian of the obelisk's treasure, which certainly got Waylon's interesting. It initially was reluctant to reveal the treasure but Kully the Bard connived the head into doing it, though he strongly warned them any attempt to tamper with it would lead to the collapse of the floating obelisk and the release of the "criminal" fire elemental, leading to everyone's death.

Within a milky, glass sphere and festooned with wires, Waylon found a book called The Wondrous Wizard of Azurth, with a drawing of a smiling, benevolent old man on the cover. The book was dangerous, he was told, because it was an anomaly. Not heresy per se (as Dagmar though), but perhaps heresy against the nature of reality.   The book was somehow related to the Clockwork Princess' madness. It's author is listed as O. March Loam (which brought to mind Mirabilis Lum for the player's), but the guardian suggests this was the actual identity of the author who is a "thought form" of some other being, a being with name such "fragments."

Despite Waylon's desire to look for other treasure, the party is more eager now than ever to seek out the princess. On the next level of the castle, they find her. Her face, frozen in horror or madness, is on a great tree like shape of brass and iron, gears and wires. It's wire and conduit canopy spreads out across the ceiling, and his root-like tendrils radiate out along the floor.

There is a shadow, think as velvet, along the ceiling, that slowly brings itself together like a snake coiling for a strike. The party doesn't notice at first. When the shadow has become a whispy sphere, and triangular eyes open in its void like malevolent stars, they do take notice! It tells them it has waited so long for someone to kill so it can be released from this prison of cold light and return to the embrace of the dark void.


Then it nearly kills half the party with a blast of necrotic damage.

The party flees to heal and regroup. Dagmar's knowledge of the arcane suggests it's a aberration from the Outer Dark, which hates light. The party them remembers they are in possession of energy weapons they do radiant damage. Gearing out with Haste spells, Light, and of course those energy guns, they return the challenge the creature.

Though still a fearsome foe, it is perhaps overconfident from its last victory and they catch it off guard. It doesn't long survive what is practically artillery fire of laser beams form Hasted gunmen.

They now have the Princess to confront.

TO BE CONTINUED.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Weird Revisited: The Gods Themselves

This post originally appeared in June 2014.

I've being thinking on the idea that all deities in fiction can be defined by two axes: Mythological-Literal and Transcendent-Physical. Mythological gods have origins and interactions that don't make sense in a literal sense; Think gods born from salt licks or jumping from their fathers' skulls. On the other end of the scale are literal beings whose origins are at least logical and generally pretty much biologically or technologically similar to other classes of lifeforms. Transcendent beings are bound by the usual limitations of single body, mind, and/or perspective, while physical beings certainly are.

The gods from the Greek or Norse mythology are typically mythological, but either physical or transcendent. (They tend to be physical seeming in the texts of the myths, but seem somewhat transcendent in terms their actual historical worship.) 

The Asgardians of Marvel Comics or Apollo of the Star Trek episode "Who Mourns for Adonis?" are mostly literal and mostly physical in portrayal. The Asgardians of the movie Thor and its sequel are entirely literal and physical.

AI masquerading as gods? Literal, transcendent or physical. 
The Endless from Sandman? Straddling the literal-mythologic border, transcendent. 
Kirby's New Gods? Slightly mythological, physical.

So there it is. There may be other factors I haven't thought of.


Thursday, August 8, 2019

Classic Monsters Classed

After yesterday's podcast, I had the Universal Monsters on the brain. Probably got another, less frivolous, post on a monster topic.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Wednesday Comics: Bronze Age Book Club: Man-Wolf!

We're normally going to do biweekly episodes, but we were on a roll, so here's the second episode of the Bronze Age Book Club podcast: Marvel Premiere #45!


Listen to "Episode 2: MARVEL PREMIERE #45" on Spreaker.

In addition to Spreaker, you can find the podcast on Spotify, Castbox, and Deezer. Google Podcasts and Apple Podcasts are coming soon.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Once Upon A Time in Hollywood...With Cthulhu

Truthfully, I find Cthulhu himself a bit played out, but invoking his name is a nice shorthand for the concept I had in mind. Warning: This will contain some spoilers for Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, so read at your own risk.



In contrast to the rather enervated protagonists of a number Lovecraft stories and pastiches, rpg characters tend to face eldritch horrors with action. Cue Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth, the (perhaps unlikely) protagonists of Tarantino's latest, Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, who prove surprisingly handy at dealing with kill-crazed hippie cultists, even then intoxicated.

Los Angeles in 1969 is pretty far from Lovecraft country both geographically and conceptually, but their is precedent at least for California Noir as a Lovecraft pastiche setting. (See Kim Newman's "Big Fish," for one.) And if Charlie and the Manson family lurking in the desert and an abandon TV and movie Old West town can't be connected to the Mythos, then what is the Mythos good for?

I could see an initially clash with Manson just being the tip of the iceberg. A raid by the protagonist on the Spahn Ranch would follow, and what horrors would be uncovered?

Of course, the horror need not be cosmic and certainly it can be cosmic without any of the Lovecraft staples, but I think this sort of spin on the film would make a good one shot or con game, at least.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Omniverse: The Spirit of '76, or Get Down America!


In 1976, America’s dissatisfaction with the Presidential candidates offered by the major parties went in some strange directions. The All-Night Party, holding their convention in New York City, wound up nominating a security guard working the event. Who was also a talking duck.

The Constitutional question of whether a nonhuman from an alternate earth actually qualifies as an American citizen was never answered, because a photo published on the day of election suggesting inter-species sex destroyed Howard the Duck’s campaign.

The second most unusual candidate of that year was a super-villain, though admittedly, a super-villain in disguise. Ruby Thursday, a pipe-smoking young Californian, was actually ahead in the polls for a time. Her vague but proactive slogan “New Heads for Old” resonated with younger voters. Just when her campaign was gathering steam she was forced to reveal her head was actually a red sphere of flexible polymer circuitry at a public event. Her campaign was effectively over, as was her cabal’s attempt at world domination, thanks to the Defenders.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Weird Revisited: Zyrd

The original version of this post appeared in 2016. I've reused the name Zyrd at least twice since.
Someone fucked up. Wizards blame the gods--who are dead or gone and can't defend themselves. It's official church policy to blame the hubris of man and unofficially to suggest that means wizards. Whoever did it fucked up. Whoever did it opened a rent in the fabric of the universe and chaos poured in and the world was dissolved.

Gods, Wizards, or devils, somebody made a last ditch effort to save something. Gods were sacrificed, either willingly or unwillingly, and a haven was created: a hypercube hewn from the bodies of titans left to drift in amundic chaos. Zyrd.

Buried deep in the center of Zyrd is a cross of land, the Crux. Once civilization was more than the Crux, but over time, things have broken down. Beneath the Crux is the Underworld--any direction from the Crux is the Underworld. It holds out the chaos and traps the monsters spawned by it in its labyrinthine depths. 

But the chaos keeps creeping in. The only way to save Zyrd is to clear it. To reclaim the dungeon depths and the riches of ages lost there.

That's where you come in.