Thursday, July 2, 2020

Weird Revisited: Hohmmkudhuk

The original version of this post appeared in 2016...
Art by Jason Sholtis
Hohmmkudhuk* are dwarfish beings resembling bipedal anteaters whose dorsal surface is covered with over-lapping, plate-like scales similar to a pangolin's. They spend much of their life underground in great subterranean halls or warrens. They are clannish and eusocial. Each hall belongs to a Queen, though her holdings are managed by her mate or mates, the Drone-Princes, of which there may be as many as three.

Only the Queen and her consorts reproduce, the rest of the clan is made up of their siblings and children who are sterile. Children are raised communally and in the same way: they pass through a sort of apprenticeship, doing low-skilled tasks as soon as they are able, then advancing to the role of warrior, trader or artisan as they so aptitude and develop the appropriate skills.

If the Queen dies or decides it is time to create a daughter-clan, one of her female progeny becomes able to reproduce and becomes a new queen. This new Queen will have a mate from an unrelated clan. These unions are arranged to form alliances, but their is also a strong tradition of wandering male adventurers winning the heart of a young queen.

Hohmmkudhuk know the ways of the underground and the working of stone. Their magic is bent to this purpose. They personify the planet itself as a goddess.

Hohmmkudhuk Traits
Ability Score Increase. Constitution score is increased by 2 and Wisdom is increased by 1.
Alignment. Hohmmkudhuk tend toward lawfulness.
Size. Hohmmkudhuk are around 4 feet tall, but heavy for their height.
Speed. Base walking speed is 25 feet.
Darkvision. Accustom to life underground Hohmmkudhuk can see 60 feet within dim light as if it were bright light.
Natural Armor. Due to their scales, Hohmmkudhuk get a +1 bonus to Armor Class.
Resilence. Hohmmkudhuk have an advantage on saving throws against poison and resistance against poison damage.
Languages. Hohmmkudhuk can speak and read the Common language of humans. They also speak and read their on consonant-laden, rumbling tongue.

*pronounced ho-hmmm-ku-thuk, where u is as in put and th as in though.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Hypnosnake Strikes!

Our Land of Azurth 5e game continued last night with the party moving on from the room full of zombies they slaughter last session. Moving cautiously through the underground area of the shrine, they made short work of most of the monsters they encountered: 2 gargoyles, a wight and the hypnosnake, above. Two ogres in cells (who loudly proclaimed wrongful imprisonment) they wisely chose to bypass.

Finally, they came to a chamber where a large, sickly green gemstone pulsated with evil energy. There Erekose laid low a specter with one action (and an action series) in a ferocious series of blows. The group gained the specter's not insubstantial treasure--and the gem, which they somehow recognized as the one containing the soul of Slekht Zaad.

They try to destroy it, but they can't. They decide they'll have to town and seek help from the Hierophant of Azulina.

But before then, emboldened by the relatively easy time they've had so far, they decide to explore a little further into the subterranean portion of the shrine.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Solar Trek: The Eden Trip

This is another post in this series that takes the "stars" out of Star Trek...

Thomas Sevrin (2219-2263) was an an expert in neurocybernetics and advocate for a rejection of physical existence for a purely digital one. Sevrin believed a technological singuarlity was swiftly approaching and only by forsaking the the limitations of human bodies and brains could "the new human"hope to continue to play a part in the coming order.

Sevrin and a group of his young followers (including the the son of a dignitary of an important colony) stole a spacecraft in an attempt to reach the Romulan Neutral Zone. A dangerous reactor malfunction would have likely been the end of them, had they not been rescued by Enterprise.

Interrogation revealed that the group hoped to reach Eden--the name for server running a simulated reality and the asteroid housing it built in the outer system in pre-Federation days. Eden was generally considered a myth of the counterculture, but Sevrin claimed to know its location.

Medical examination following their rescue revealed that Sevrin perhaps had other motives for wishing to find Eden: he was dying a neurodegenerative disease, the accidental result of some of his self-experimentation.

Ultimately, Sevrin's intelligence proved correct, at least in part. There was an ancient server. Unfortunately, the simulated reality within had long ago been corrupted. Sevrin's body died of his illness and any digital copy of his mind he hoped would live forever was also lost.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Weird Revisited: Reskinned!

The original version of this post appeared in May of 2012...

The usual D&D races getting more than a little stale? Just give them a makeover and keep the old mechanics.  Try these knew visuals on for size:

For Elves:
Insect(-ish) men.

For Halflings:
Satyr-like guys.

For Half-Orcs:
Hairy hominids.

For Warforged:

Okay, that last one may be a bit of a stretch, but only a little.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Wednesday Comics: Stardate Collection

As any Star Trek aficionado likely knows, the stardates given in the series are mostly for color and can't be used in the original series to order episodes at all, and are only a bit more consistent in The Next Generation.  So while IDW's hardcover Star Trek The Stardate Collections, say in their ad copy they are by stardate, they really just mean they're are ordering the stories from various Star Trek comic book publishers in the order they would have occurred.

There are two volumes currently--and that's likely it, since the second and latest came out in 2014. They cover the Christopher Pike's Enterprise related stories published mostly by Marvel, but there's a bit of IDW in there.  The 90s Marvel efforts are hardly the best of Star Trek comics, but the Pike issues here work a bit better than some of the others they did.

What's most interesting about these collections is the commentary from Trek experts Scott and David Tipton, and occasionally from the creators. That and the fact they are nicely put together collections makes them worth picking up cheap.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Weird Revisited: Four Nonhuman Species, Briefly Described

The original version of this post appeared the first of July in 2016.

They are all inhabitants of the same distant world.

Art by Jason Sholtis
Ylthlaxu: There are few of them left, and for that, a great many sophont beings are grateful. When they emerge from the shadows, tall and skeletally thin, too often it is to feed. Their tendrils snake out from their face that is not a face and devour the brains of humanoids. It is very unpleasant to see. They once commanded a vast star empire by mental domination, and they are accustom to being obeyed. They reproduce by turning other beings into more ylthlaxu by introducing a mutagen into the bloodstream and nervous system of their victims.

Skarzg: Sometimes they run on four legs, sometimes on two. They are gaunt things, like greyhounds the size of men, if greyhounds had rubbery, scabrous hides, and long snouts faces full of nightmare teeth. They are very hard to kill, and they will eat anything. They live like animals, but they have the power of speech and are cunning and cruel.

Trell: Blueskinned, four-eyed giants from another world, the Trell came in great flying cities where the parties and symposia seemed not to end. They are now somewhat fallen and decadent--and sometimes more savage--than before. They can be hedonists or ascetics, but their personal desires tend to outweigh the desires of lesser creatures. Every non-Trell is certainly a lesser creature. In times past, they were often trendsetters and propagators of cult religions and faddish notions. Now, their dwindling race mostly keeps to their crumbling sky cities and celebrates the past.

by Ken Kelly
Ieldra: One of the native species of this world, ieldra are now only a remnant of what they once when when their sacred groves dotted the land and their queens fought Nest Wars for glory and territory. They remind humans of insects in many ways: antennae, large eyes, and peculiar movements.  Ieldra may be immortal, and their life stages are marked by instars named for the seasons. Summer wildings, their honey-colored adolescents, are savage things left to hunt and laugh and sometimes kill in what sacred groves and hidden grottoes are left to them. They seldom work stone or metal, but instead shape living things.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Cosmic Delving

"If you can leave your flat land thinking and think of many surfaces, one over the other, extending on and on under the water as well as under the land, you begin to understand. But you can’t really comprehend immensity, can’t comprehend a pioneer job that has been going on for hundreds and hundreds of years and is still only beginning."
- Richard Sharpe Shaver

Not all subterranean spaces exist wholly in this reality. The upper regions may be near mundane, and just beyond that merely stocked with the detritus of the visitor's own unconscious, but the deeper regions, the outer regions, bleed into the cosmic. These are the places that few venture purposely, but some freak pyschonauts do, risking sanity, body, and perhaps soul, for an elusive apotheosis.

One has to be prepared, of course. The delvers rely on protocols self-published and passed around by fringe theorists and weirdos. They hunt for cryptic hints in Forteana and pulp science fiction. The details are various, but in all regimens there must be some development of the avatar, the psychic projection of self that can slip from the mundane to the other realms. The avatars are themselves archetypes from the Jungian depths, ready for the hero's journey. Is your inner self Wizard or Warrior?

For the act of slipping itself, well, there's the chemical trigger.

The underworld isn't empty. It's populated by monsters to wound and frighten the delvers, and scattered with treasures to tempt them. Both the horrors and wonders are distractions to the true adept, though more than a few have contented themselves with some bauble from dream or nightmare, and an unbelievable story to tell.

The true seeker, however, keeps going. Down, down, down. And beyond.