Monday, October 22, 2018

Armchair Planet Who's Who: Imp

It's great to come back from out of town and have new art to show off. Here's Libby Knight aka Imp, the Teen Devil, by Dean Kotz.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Sword & Planet Character Name Generator

Art by Clyde Caldwell
After way more intensive review of Barsoomian names in Edgar Rice Burroughs Mars books and adding a dash of Gardner Fox's Llarn novels, which pretty closely mimic Barsoomian morphology, I have come up with a series of generators for Martian names, as accurate as I can make it. Well, there's one name from the series it can't generate, but by the time I discovered this, it was too late. Anyway, it's pretty close to getting them all. Check it out.

Note the in the structures given for the names multiple "elements" typical mean a new word for males names, but is more likely to be a multi-syllabic "single" name for females, but since this isn't always the case I've elected to leave the dividing up to you. For example: EES is the structure of Djor Kantos, but also Carthoris and Vanuma.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Wednesday Comics: The Flash Gordon Comic Strip


Flash Gordon first appeared in the Sunday Comics section and was born of King Features Syndicate's desire to compete with Buck Rogers--and only after they had failed to acquire the rights to John Carter of Mars. Alex Raymond is given credit for its creation, though he was partnered with the (uncredited) writer/editor Don Moore.

Until recently Alex Raymond's original run was not fully available in reprint, to say nothing of the work various artists that came after him. Titan Books has been working on their "Complete Flash Gordon Library" and has the most comprehensive reprint series so far (well, at least since Kitchen Sinks' in the 90s) with Austin Briggs, Mac Raboy, and Dan Barry represented, but they are reproduced at a smaller size than the original strips.

For you purists, IDW has a solution, at least for the Alex Raymond years. Their four Definitive Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim volumes carry you through Raymond's entire 1934-1943 run, and the first storyline by Austin Briggs to end up in 1947. The real draw, though, is that they are reproduced slightly larger than original print size. (Some pedantry might come in regarding sizes and definitiveness. Earlier reproductions of only Flash Gordon split  the full pages into landscape pages, so they are not smaller than IDW's, but this comes at the sacrifice of faithfully reprinting the page.) IDW also included the paper dolls that occasional ran with the original strip.

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Cultivating and Care of Campaign Mysteries


I wrote a post last week that was a follow-up to a previous posts where I outlined a few mysteries that had come up in our new 4 years-old Land of Azurth campaign. Anne of DIY & Dragons asked if I had in thoughts to share regarding who these mysteries developed and the development of this sort of stuff in general.

I should say this campaign is not an open sandbox. Most adventures come about by me as the DM laying out the particularly setting and situation, and the PC's confronting the problems as presented, or reframing the problem as something else and confronting that. The applicability of what I say here will of course vary based on how you run your campaign and the degree you care about such things, obviously.

Embed mysteries. I constructed the bones of the Land of Azurth setting to have some deep mysteries. I hinted at these but didn't strongly telegraph them, or push them on the players. They are to this day, not aware of most of them--though they have brushed against them once or twice, and are interested in things that connect to them. You have to be patient, but if you want the player's interested in the mysterious background of your setting it has to be there.

Don't make it all up. Some people feel like the fixed details of the setting are necessary for player's to make maximum meaningful choices about their actions. I advocate a more of a tv series looseness as I've discussed before. So, if one of my initial ideas was "the World Emperor is mad!" or whatever, but as I'm dropping hints to this, the PCs become convinced the "World Emperor is possessed!" well, you know, maybe he could be? Also, you have to leave room for the players' to become interested in things you hadn't thought of yet, and no need to waste all your good adventure seeds on fallow ground.

Recurrent NPCs with their own agendas. My players are suspicious that Viola, the Clockwork Princess of Yanth Country, despite most appearances as a benevolent monarch, may have a sinister agenda. What made them suspicious? Well, the Princess's somewhat callous behavior and general "need to know attitude," and conspiratorial musings of a pirate queen they once interacted with. These things would never have mattered if the PCs hadn't had frequently and suggestive interactions with the Princess for them to start wondering about her.

Treasures with a story. Magic items and treasure serves a utilitarian purpose, but it shouldn't just be --or even mostly--be that. In prepping for the session, I substituted the Book of Doors for a spell book in the original run of Mortzengersturm, and added a portal to 19th Century Earth in Mort's chamber. That has gotten at least one player very interested in portals and incursions from or too other worlds, and given me further references to drop in later adventures. The Projector to the Etheric Zone was another adventure seed lying in wait for the player's to take interest. And potentially valuable mysteries tend to get their interest first!

Work with the Players' creation. Most of my players came up with a little backstory at creation. No multi-page epics, but a paragraph or so, based on the map and campaign intro materials I gave them. Plus, I had asked them all at the outset, "Why are you in Rivertown?" Jim's bard, Kully, for instance had come looking for his missing father. He had initially told me a talking calico cougar had told him to seek his father in Rivertown. I suggested maybe it was a Calico Cat Man, and Jim agreed. Now, part of the setting intro was that their were no cat folk in Azurth. So, now we had a mystery--and a coincidental name connection to the mysterious crime lord I had already named. Then of course, there was the recent return of Kully's father to set off the recent adventure.

So that's it. Or, at least that's all I can think of at the moment. It's been gratifying to run a campaign where the players aren't just interested in the adventures, but in the world behind them.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Frozen Führer [ICONS]


FROZEN FÜHRER

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

Determination: 1
Stamina: 10

Specialties: Military

Qualities:
Needs the Cold
Ruler of the Abhumans
"Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold"

Powers:
Resistance (Cold): 7
Cold Control Gloves: 6
         Affliction (freezing), Blast (Ice), Binding (ice)


Background
Alter Ego: Arno Kaltmann
Occupation: Professional Criminal, Terrorist
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: Hans and Ilse (parents, deceased)
Group Affiliation: Masters of Menace
Base of Operations: The Hidden City of the Abhumans
First Appearance: DOUBLE ACTION #30
Height: 6’ Weight: 180 lbs.
Eyes: Blue Hair: White

History
Arno Kaltmann was born from a eugenics experiment by the German Thule Society. His parents were selected for their “pure Aryan” heredity, and in the womb, he was exposed to chemicals synthesized from instructions found in a manuscript discovered in the Antarctic in what was believed to be one of the last outposts of the Hyperborean civilization. From birth, Kaltmann exhibited an unusually low body temperature and an aversion to warmth. He was raised in  a special cold room, which suited his metabolism, but kept him isolated.

When the Thule Society disbanded, the Nazi government took over care of the young Kaltmann. Hitler viewed him as embodying a rediscovery of the pure Hyperborean ancestry of the Aryan peoples. The Nazi leadership wanted a army of genetic Hyperborean soldiers, but the Allied forces defeated them before their plans could be realized.

Kaltmann was captured by the U.S. military and moved to a secret facility in Greenland. There he was studied with the goal of replicating his resistance to the cold. A secret prisoner of war, he was kept in a containment cell and given no contact with the outside world.

When Kaltmann was in his early twenties, he took advantage of the guards’ distraction and escaped, killing a particularly callous military scientist as he went. He yearned for revenge against the Americans who had mistreated him and robbed him of the destiny he was promised as the forerunner of a master race.

He escaped into the Arctic, where he believed his enemies could not easily follow. There, he was discovered by a hidden offshoot of humanity known as the Abhumans. Some of the Abhuman community worshipped the extinct Hyperboreans, and recognizing Kaltmann’s link to them, hailed him as a messiah of sorts. Opportunists used the cult to overthrow the Abhuman royal family and install Kaltmann, with the idea that he would be their puppet. Kaltmann carried little for ruling the Abhuman city, but saw the Abhumans as allies in his plan for revenge against the United States.

To this end, Kaltmann had a cryosuit and cold projectors built by Abhuman engineers. As the Frozen Führer, he and his lackeys attempted to gain control of an ICBM silo in North Dakota. He planned to start a nuclear war to bring about “Fimbulwinter” and a new Ice Age, but his scheme was foiled by Thunderhawk and the female motorcyclist troubleshooters known as the Avenging Angels.

Though defeated, Frozen Führer was not deterred and as clashed with various heroes in his attempts to start a new, cold Reich.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Mysteries of Azurth Report Card


Back in 2016, I wrote a post about mysteries that had emerged in our Land of Azurth 5e campaign in play. Let's look back and see which ones the PCs have answered in the years since and which they haven't:

1. Who is the man in the metal suit beneath Castle Machina?  The name "Lum" was thrown around, and Mirabilis Lum is said to have disappeared beneath the castle, but is the man in the metal suit him, who was he gaming with, and why does he stay down there? Updated. The party still doesn't know, but perhaps more information has come to light since, with the mention of a man named Loom living in a distant junk city.

2. What does Calico Bonny look like? The Queen of the Floating World of Rivertown tends to hide behind a folding screen if she bothers appearing at all. Is there a reason? Solved. Calico Bonny is a member of the so rare as to be believed mythical Cat Folk. The party has met her brother.

3. Who were the builders of the Cloud Castle? The scale of the castle indicates they most have been near giants, though the ancient images suggest they looked something like the Cloud People that live there now. Who were these people with a flare for Googie architecture and mid-Century design and what happened to them? Still unknown. This hasn't really come up again. Maybe someday.

4. What does the projector do? The Princess Viola says it can open a portal to another world once it is fixed, but what world? And who built it? Solved. The device turned out to be for opening portals into the Etheric Zone.  The party went there and was tricked into releasing the Super-Wizard criminal Zuren-Ar from the cosmic prison known as the Carnelian Hypercube. The repercussions of this act have yet to be experienced.

5. Where does the magic portal in Mortzengersturm's mansion lead? The frox thief Waylon saw an image of another world: people in unusual clothes in an impressive city, beyond the technology of the Land of Azurth. Where (or when) was this place and why did Mortzengersturm have a portal to it? Partially solved. The portal was actually a page from the Book of Doors. A book of magical portals that keeps popping up.

6. What was the deal with Mr. Pumpkin and his carnival? Since when can a swarm of rats manage a carnival, and what became of all those rats that got away when the carnival got destroyed? Do these events have anything to do with the giant rats seen later in the beer cellar of the Silver Dragon Tavern in town? (Probably) Partially solved by someone else. As revealed in the Public Observator, the new celebrity heroes of Rivertown, The Eccentrics, uncovered a plague of wereratism that was not explicitly, but quite likely, related. Read what is known here:




Thursday, October 11, 2018

Ozoom

Art by Kyle Latino
Scott Martin can be blamed for this post for pointing out the similarities between Oz and Edgar Rice Burroughs fandom....

Mars is dying and has been for millennia. The only truly fertile land left in the squarish Land of Oz, surrounded on all side by the deadly desert.

Oz has four countries, each home to a different race of men. The east is the home of the Blue Men, sort in stature and friendly. It was once ruled by an ancient crone, but she was dispatched by a little girl from Earth. In the South is the Country of the Red Men, ruled by a benevolent queen. In the west are the Yellow Men, who are renowned for their technological skill. They are ruled by a metal man. The northern country is the land of the Purple Men. They have been ruled by a succession of queens with a mastery of powers of the mind.

In the center of Oz is the Emerald City-State, made entirely of crystal. Its true color is not one human (or Martian eyes) may see, but the people wear optics which convert the color to green. It was formerly ruled by a man of Earth, a charlatan and huckster, but the rightful queen has been restored, who had spent her young life disguised as a boy.

Young Dorothy Gale was transported to Mars by a strange storm that through her and her house and dog across the astral void. She killed a which, exposed a charlatan, and helped restore the rightful ruler of Oz. She didn't do it alone. She was aided by a Lion Man, exiled for his supposed cowardice, a an artificial man without the ancient brain that formerly guided him, and a Yellow Man who's mind was placed in a metal body. They took the ancient Golden Road that followed the canals that flowed from the hum of the great Emerald City, then undertook a quest to depose the witch that ruled the Yellow Men and forced them to use their knowledge to build an army for war.

This was only the first on many trips Dorothy Gale made to Mars. A younger farm girl became an dying world's greatest hero.