Wednesday, January 25, 2023

The Gygaxian D&D Implied Setting Recipe

 


I present this only semi-seriously, and I'll admit to a less than unassailably rigorous methodology--but I think I have identified the key ingredients and steps involved in creating a D&D setting that would have the true old school D&D (as opposed to Old School Rennaissance) vibe. These steps were developed from pondering the various inspirational reading lists supplied by Gygax, including some forum responses regarding the most important works there in, and comparing it to the implied setting of the manuals and the explicit setting of Greyhawk.

Here's what I came up with:

1. Take Middle-Earth and excise the human nations/cultures, gods and history.

2. Replace with the relevant material from Howard's Hyborian Age (making sure to keep the ethnography and mass migration) and add additional nations/cultures and deities as needed from the Elric Saga and the fantasies of de Camp.

3. Work in a cosmic struggle between Law and Chaos, derived from Anderson with seasoning from Moorcock

4. Place at least one Lankhmar stand-in urban center.

5. Sprinkle in lost worlds from Burroughs and some extra dimensions from Theosophy and de Camp.

5. Strain out any pulp magic in favor of a "logical" and pedantic magical system flavored with Vance, but with a foundation in de Camp/Pratt.

6. Downplay any doomed or destined, great heroes in favor of a cast of scoundrels rounded up in Vance's Dying Earth and Leiber's Lankhmar. 

7. Pull monsters from anywhere and everywhere, including science fiction (particularly post-apocalyptic). 

8. Emphasize underground environments with a hint of St. Claire and Leiber's Quarmall.

Wednesday Comics: DC, April 1982 (week 4)

My goal: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, we bring 1981 to a close with the comics hitting the newsstand on January 28, 1982.


Action Comics #530: Wolfman and Swan are dragging this storyline out, but Superman and the Brainiac he reprogrammed for evil finally get to confronting the Planet-Eater. And predictably, evil Brainiac (now more evil than ever, we are told) betrays Superman and plans to use the device to clear out the clutter of the current universe so he can start anew. Superman manages to defeat Brainiac, though, stopping the Planet-Eater and trapping Brainiac inside.

Speaking of draggin things out, Aquaman is still hanging on that alien planet, but he manages to get a creature to blast him, and he's vibrated back to Earth's ocean. In a pointless crossover, the Atom and Jean just happen to be sailing by so they can rescue him.


All-Star Squadron #8: It's now December 30, 1941, and Liberty Belle, the Shining Knight, plus the new hero, Steel, defeat an assassin sent by Baron Blitzkrieg. The main story is by Thomas and Gonzales/Ordway, but the recap of Steel's origin is handled by Conway and Heck. This makes since because that team created Steel in 1978's Steel series, but it only lasted 5 issues thanks to the Implosion. This issue also has some file entries in the back.


Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #2: Thomas and Alcala/Shaw pick up where issue #1 left off. Thomas, showing his Marvel roots, has the team almost immediately beset by internal conflict. Pig Iron, not use to his new body, inadvertently wreaks havoc as he's just trying to leave town. Shortly after, he's approached by A.C.R.O.S.T.I.C. (A Corporation Recently Organized to Instigate Crimes) who want to pay him to join their side. Pig Iron declines, so they set their operative, the Armadillo on him. The team shows up, and ultimately Pig Iron decides to join the Zoo Crew after all. 


Detective Comics #513: Conway and Newton continue the Two-Face story from this month's Batman. Batman has been missing for a week, and Two-Face's gang has been on a crime spree. Robin thwarts one of the crimes and forces the goons to tell him Batman's whereabouts. Meanwhile, Batman devises his on escape by molding a plastic tray into a mask of Two-Face's scarred visage and using it to freak the criminal out. By the time Robin and the police arrive, Batman has captured the criminals. In the aftermath, Bruce tells Alfred and Dick of his decision to move out of the penthouse and back to Wayne Manor.

In the Burkett/Delbo Batgirl backup, Barbara tangles with a biker gang known as the Demon Riders but receives help from a mysterious stranger.


New Adventures of Superboy #28: The Kryptonian criminals from last issue finally seem to have convinced Superboy that they are his parents, much to the distress of the Kents. Superboy's own memories seem to confirm it. Superboy releases Sar-Ul and Ralsa from where he imprisoned them and goes with them to another world. It turns out to be be under a red sun, so they are powerless. Superboy reveals he's onto their memory-falsifying telepath tricks. He leaves them on that world where they can't cause trouble.

Dial H for Hero arrives in this issue as a backup. The villain (presumably created by a fan, so we can't blame Rozakis and Bridwell for the name), the Senses-Taker, goes on a crime spree and only the kids can stop him.


Unexpected #221: This is a sci-fi focused issue. In the opener by Snyder and Catan, a group of astronauts return to a devastated Earth with a desire to repopulate it. The grow their children in an accelerated way in some sort of artificial wombs, though there's dissention among the group about this. In the end, the evolutionarily advanced children emerge and reject their flawed parents to set out on their own. The next story by Ditko is an old fashioned if creative Atlas style story about an electromagnetic alien that can inhabit and animate any material. 

The next story by Kelley and Ayers is the only non-sci-fi piece, and also the worst. I guy runs to a woman's aid and inadvertently kills her assailant only to discover she was the assailant and the other guy her victim. The final story by Conway and Zeck has an explorer on Pluto getting frozen to the spot with no way to call for her thanks to frozen oxygen from a ruptured tank, but she saved by alien creatures she previously didn't recognize as being alive.



Unknown Soldier #262: This issue has two new backup features: Balloon Buster and Tomahawk. Both of these characters I feel like are under-appreciated. Kanigher and Spiegle reintroduce Balloon Buster, telling his origin, and recounting part of an encounter with Enemy Ace. I feel like this basically recaps stuff from previous appearances, but I'm not sure. There's no Balloon Buster Archives to consult! The Tomahawk story by Haney and Delbo starts out on an odd note: Tomahawk at odds with Washington and his foreign military supporters over the execution of a deserter who needed to return home and tend his farm. Tomahawk is whipped for insubordination to a von Steuben. Tomahawk is then sent on a scouting mission as punishment and is captured by the British force's allies, the Delaware. He escapes and makes it back to the fort, only to find he is under arrest for the attempted assassination of Washington!

The Unknown Soldier story by Haney and Ayers/Tlaloc involves a French painter sent to pretend to paint Hitler's portrait while secretly encoding the German preparations to counter D-Day. When he gets so angry at Hitler's callousness that he paints him in an inflattering light, he's marked for death, but Soldier as a master of disguise manages to get the painter out alive and the painting out intact.


World's Finest Comics #278: Rozakis and Buckler/Marcos team-up Hawkman with Batman and Superman to finish off the Hawkman arc. The three go to Thanagar and execute a plan to take down Hyathis' rule (if it was this easy, why wait until now?). Hawkgirl briefly appears again, but before Hawkman can attempt to reconcile, she's gone again. Barr and von Eeden continue their Green Arrow story, with Ollie's quick thinking and quicker reflexes saving him from a fall to his death. He discovers who framed Green Arrow for murder, and it is ironically, the informant whose identity Ollie went to jail to protect.

The Kupperberg/Spiegle Zatanna story shows the shortcomings of the anthology format as executed as Zatanna takes on dog-nappers and goes to a dog show. The Bridwell/Newton Marvel family story has the group taking on a new villain, Darkling, who appears this issue. Mary has to defeat her, because the male Marvels can't hit a woman.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Back to Broken Compass

 


One of my two gaming groups picked back up last night after the holiday hiatus. We got back into the "Serpent Throne" adventure for the pulp version of Broken Compass.

I've noticed that CMON has made the pirate supplement, Jolly Roger, and Voyages Extraordinaires, the supplement for Jules Vernes type adventures, available on drivethru. They both seem pretty cool, but there are other things from that last Kickstarter I hope they get out soon.

Friday, January 20, 2023

Weird Revisited: The Conquered Setting

One of the dangers of writing a long-lasting blog, is that you sometimes can't remember what you wrote about versus what you just thought about writing. I wrote two posts on a "Conquered Setting"--one in 2020 and one over a year later in 2021--because I forgot I did it. Here's the first one again.

 

It's widely understood that the D&D is generically post-apocalyptic, but seldom is this fact exploited other than the existence of dungeons and treasures, or possibly some science fantasy stuff in old school games. I think more could be done with that idea.

Maybe the apocalypse involved conquest? This could have been a long time ago, explaining a decline in technology (if you wanted to have a decline in technology) or maybe some degree of pseudo-Medievalism is enforced by the conquerors. (This is the case in Divide And Rule by L. Spraque de Camp, and The Tripods series by John Christopher.) The technology level could be more mixed due to temporal proximity to the apocalyptic event like in Killraven (Thundarr appears to be close, though canonically it's been 2000 years!) Another possibility is a society that was not really that advanced when it got conquered, like Lord of the Rings if Sauron won or there was some sort of faerie apocalypse.

There are at least couple interesting elements to this sort of setup. One, is it would set up a world where humans weren't the dominant culture, which would be fairly novel for D&D. Too, it would provide background for PC adventures beyond just treasure hunting. Vance's Planet of Adventure would be instructive with this last part.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Wednesday Comics: DC, April 1982 (week 3)

My goal: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around January 21, 1982.


Brave & the Bold #185: Kraar and Gonzales/DeCarlo throw Green Arrow into the mix. It's a fun pairing because, despite the characters' not dissimilar schticks, their personalities are very different. It almost has a bit of "buddy comedy" feel. Batman asks Green Arrow to play the role of Robin Hood during the party of a millionaire, and Ollie reluctantly agrees. The Penguin crashes the party--and who knew he had robots at his disposal? The portrayal here of Penguin's menace and competence isn't what I expected. 


Legion of Super-Heroes #286: Levitz and Broderick/Tanghal have the Legion enjoying some time off when Dr. Regulus shows up on R. J. Brande's private planetoid for a death match against Sun Boy. It takes more than Sun Boy to defeat Regulus and stop the destruction his sabotage will cause. Also, Brande tries to connect with his son, Chameleon Boy, but Cham takes the espionage squad off on a mission, apparently to avoid his dad. 

In the backup by Levitz and Giffen, Princess Projectra is crowned Queen of Orando after her father's death, but her cousin challenges and defeats both her and Karate Kid in a trial by combat for the crown.


Green Lantern #151: Wolfman and Staton detail Jordan's last 24 hours on Earth before his space exile. He's got a lot to do. He tells the Flash to tell the League he's going. He goes to Carol's house and winds up in another fight with Gold Face and his goons and defeats them. Gold Face reveals he's been working with Bloch. Jordan flies off, arriving just in time to save Carol and Bruce Gordon from Benjamin Bloch and his men. 

Green Lantern also arrives in the desert just in time to save Carl Ferris from Ted Bishop. Bishop manages to burn some of the papers than prove Bloch's guilt, though. Still, there's enough to exonerate Ferris even if it doesn't convict Bloch. Lastly, Jordan professes his love for Carol again and leaves.


House of Mystery #303: Here is the carnival story promised last issue. Jones and Sutton have Bennett infiltrating the show which is controlled by agents of the Blood Red Moon to stop their plans and rescue a woman. In the end, the woman is killed, and he appears to get a stake through the heart from Mary. Next up is a two-pager nonhorror thing by Wein and Spiegle about a primitive couple in a post-apocalyptic, swamp Los Angeles area.

"Hellride" by Mishkin/Cohn and Infante has a jack-o-lantern headed fiend riding after an outlaw biker, but the biker's skill wins out in the end. Jones and Tlaloc round out the issue with some EC-esque ridiculousness about a man with such a fear of bugs, he goes into pesticide synthesis to eradicate it. He marries a woman who is an insect enthusiast, but eventually he can't take it anymore and hatches a murder scheme. The insects he hates so much make sure he's the one that dies instead.


Phantom Zone #4: Gerber and Colan/DeZuniga's epic concludes. Superman challenges and escapes from Aethyr, but only after the death of Charlie Kweskill/Quex-Ul. Meanwhile, Earth's heroes have rallied. Superman and Supergirl smash the giant, Phantom Zone projector the criminals are menacing Earth with, knocking out the villains, and restoring Green Lantern's power battery to him.

The Zoners turn on each other. Az-Rel burns Faora to settle a score. The fanatic Jer-Em kills himself and Nadira with kryptonite. In her dying moments, she uses her power on Az-Rel, who loses control of his power and burns himself to ash. The surviving villains are sent back to the Phantom Zone created by Green Lantern.


Sgt. Rock #363: Easy Company is lured into a trap in the town of Boileau. While they are holed up, the men are convinced they are going to die and carve their names on a wooden post by way of memorial. Rock isn't ready to give up yet and gets them out in the end. Mandrake joins Kanigher on a story about a pilot so haunted by dreams of dying in fire, he chooses drowning instead. The last story has G.I.'s overthrowing the commander of a sadistic Japanese P.O.W. camp after the war has technically ended. It's marred by the carcicaturish coloring of the Japanese skintones, somehow made worse paired with Truman's somewhat crude art here.


Superman Family #217: No Private Life of Clark Kent story this month which is really just as well. In the Bridwell/Schaffenberger Mr. and Mrs. Superman story, Metalo (one "l" on Earth-2) weakens Supes with a ray, so he's got to do an exercise program to regain his strength for the fight. In the Kupperberg/Mortimer Supergirl story we're treated to an amazing display of her powers (following radio waves visually back to their source, memorizing a fingerprint then perusing police files from miles away to find a match) as she brings to justice a bomber bent on revenge in the 2 minute break of TV interview.

Kupperberg is back again with Delbo for Jimmy Olsen. Jimmy has to solve a mystery when his lunch with Inspector Henderson is interrupted by a writer who confessing to a murder he didn't commit. Finally, the O'Flynn/Delbo Lois Lane story has a famous country singer performing a song stolen from Lois's old college roommate, now a struggling songwriter (who's so Western-dudded out, it makes me wonder where Lois went to college), and Lois sets out to find the guilty party.


Warlord #56: I detailed the main story in this issue here. The backup continues Kupperberg's and Duursema's Arion. Arion heads out into the frozen wastes with his companions/protectors Wynde and Chian to find his former master. They get in a fight with a primitive tribe dwelling in a cave. Ultimately, Arion is captured and about to be sacrificed. 

Monday, January 16, 2023

Science Fantasy Knights


I feel like knights in a post-apocalyptic setting is an under utilized setting in rpgs. The sort of thing where in the mid- to far future, human civilization has gone back to something more like the Middle Ages. Often magic will have returned or old science will seem like magic. There is some pretty good source material out there, but the only game I think can think of is Mutants in Avalon. 

Fiction-wise, we've got: Moorcock's History of the Runestaff, Christopher's Sword of Spirits trilogy, and Harrison's The Pastel City (less so the sequels), at least. Comics-wise there isn't an exact fit (beyond the adaptations of Moorcock's work), but Camelot 3000 is close. There is even an 80s cartoon and toyline in the form of Visionaries.

Stephen King's Dark Tower series does a bit of this, but also leans on Western aesthetic and tropes and does that a bit more. Into the Badlands likewise has an Western element, but also wuxia.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Wednesday Comics: DC, April 1982 (week 2)

My goal: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around January 14, 1982.


Batman #346: Two-Face escapes from Arkham by hypnotizing the guards with a special coin. While Batman searches for him, Gordon worries about Mayor Hills promise to get rid of him, Dick frets over his mysterious new girlfriend, Dala, and Vicki Vale becomes ever-more suspicious that Bruce Wayne is Batman. Conway is juggling a lot here! In the end, Batman tracks Two-Face down and overcomes numerous traps but is captured anyway.

In the Catwoman backup by Jones and von Eeden/Marcos, Catwoman discovers that the detective who hired her is really an ex-Nazi searching for an h-bomb formula hidden on the train. H wants revenge on her because her father killed his father. He ties Catwoman to the railroad tracks and he explains how he made the trains disappear with an underground tunnel and made everyone believe in ghosts with holographic images. Catwoman gets free and uses his own holograms against him.


Flash #308: Bates and Infantino/Smith have actress Daphne Dean seeking out the help of her childhood friend Barry Allen. It seems she's been getting increasingly more creepy letters of love from Lance Basilla, their childhood bully. Lance has been participating in some sort of sleep study and while he has dreamed his fancies are given physical form. A mummy monster from his mind challenges the Flash in an attempt to get Daphne. In the end, lightning thwarts the monster, and Lance seems to give up his obsession.

In the Dr. Fate backup, The Lord of Chaos Malferrazae (who has masqueraded as the god Totec) has sent a creature to destroy Fate. Only after the combat has gone on for sometime, does Fate discover the creature is borne of Inza's jealousy. If Fate manages to destroy the monster, Inza will die, devastating Kent Nelson's and destroying his will to serve as Doctor Fate, allowing Malferrazae to cause the fifth massive extinction on Earth! But if he doesn't destroy the monster, Malferrazae still wins.


G.I. Combat #240: There's a note in the letter column of this issue that they've had to cut back on pages. In Kanigher's and Glanzman's first Haunted Tank tale is more fantastic than most, with our heroes going up against a robot tank crew. When they are defeated by quicksand, Hitler executes the inventor in a fit of pique in true super-villain fashion. Kashdan and Matucenio deliver an ode to a hardworking truck. In the O.S.S. story, the metal plate on an agent's head gives a signal for the bombers to follow to destroy a German radar installation. Kashdan and Redondo present a story about a really by the book sargeant--who ultimately uses that manual to leave a paper trail for rescues to follow when he and his men are captured. 

The issue is rounded out as always by the Haunted Tank. With his tank busted and his men injured, Jeb has to go for help, but runs into a German death squad. His crew comes to the rescue at the last minute in a captured German armored car.


Jonah Hex #59: DeZuniga's cover for this issue is completely misleading because it just depicts the events of a nightmare Jonah has. Meanwhile, Wu Gong Phat, who claims to be a merchant from Nanking, sets a trap for Hex. Mei Ling receives a mysterious letter and rides off. The issue ends with Hex apparently being loaded on a boat in the San Francisco harbor.

The El Diablo backup by Cohn and Ayers has a traveling hypnotist arrive in town. After a seemingly innocuous show of his abilities, he gets the subjects he demonstrated on to rob a bank. All except Lazarus Long who becomes El Diablo and brings the wrongdoers to justice. Something El Diablo does leaves the hypnotist a jibbering madman.


New Teen Titans #18: Wolfman and Perez bring back the original Starfire. When his son is killed by Americans in El Salvador, a Soviet official seeks revenge by sending his secretary, Maladi Malanova, to America ostensibly as a courier--but she's also carrying a deadly disease. Learning of the plot, the Soviet government dispatches Starfire (the Russian one) to the U.S. to stop her. This being a superhero comic, the Titans mistake Starfire for the plague-carrier, and they fight. Then, they fight some more when they find out he intends to kill Maladi who is incurable. The Titans fight Starfire to a stalemate and Maladi is finally taken to a hospital to die in peace. Kid Flash condemns Starfire for his callousness, but the hero ultimately reveals that Maladi was his fiancée, and he had only volunteered for the mission to spare her the pain of a tortuous death.


Superman #370: Wein and Swan present "Better Living Through Chemo-stry!" Chemo returns to Earth and somehow merges with a laid-off factory-worker whose animus for his old employers drives Chemo to attack their factories. Superman succeeds in separating the two.

In the retro-topical "Superman: The In-Between Years" backup by Rozakis and Schaffenberger, Clark Kent learns that his roommate Tommy Lee's parents in South Viet Nam are endangered by the Communists and goes to help them as Superboy.