Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Warlord Wednesday: In the Hands of the Brood-Brothers

Let's re-enter the lost world with another installment of my issue by issue examination of DC Comic's Warlord, the earlier installments of which can be found here...

"The Prophecy: Chapter 2: In the Hands of the Brood-Brothers"
Warlord Annual #2 (1983)
Written by Cary Burkett; Penciled by Dan Jurgens; Inked by Mike DeCarlo

Synopsis: After capturing our heroes in Chapter One, the theriocephalic “Brood Brothers” of New Atlantis bind Morgan and Krystovar to poles and carry them to the coast. They suffer from the eternal sun and the cruelties of their captors. At the coast, they’re thrown in the hold of the Brood Brother’s ship, on their way to New Atlantis.

Krystovar resumes his tale of the history of their destination. As the community built by Norrad and his band began to thrive, a group of Atlantean refugees arrived under the leadership of Ar-Diamphos, one of the princes who had led in the evil rites. Norrad made them swear an oath to abandon their former wickedness before allowing them to join the colony.

Unfortunately, Ar-Diamphos was not to be trusted. It wasn’t long before he was presiding over the old rituals again. Ar-Diamphos influence grew to the point that he was bold enough to send assassins against Norrad.

Norrad slew the attackers, but was himself fatally wounded. As he was dying, he dictated a prophecy concerning his winged helmet. It would leave New Atlantis but would someday return—and herald a final doom for Atlantis’ evil. Norrad’s wife and the scribe who wrote down the prophecy fled the colony as soon as he died. Those loyal to him either fled or became victims of Ar-Diamphos’s experiments. The prophecy didn’t stay hidden from Ar-Daimphos for long:

The strongest of the beast-men became Ar-Daimphos’s bodyguard, known as the Brood Brothers. In the centuries since, the descendants of Ar-Daimphos continued to replenish the Brood’s ranks with slave captives.

While telling his story, Krystovar has managed to slip free of the chains by use of some ancient body contraction techniques. Morgan’s appreciative, but he still wonders how Krystovar wound up being chased by the Atlanteans.

Krystovar’s twin brother was captured by Atlantean slavers when they were children. He spent most of his life searching for their hidden city. Eventually, he found it and stole certain items from their vaults (though it doesn’t say what those were).

Morgan doesn’t pry. He tells Krystovar to take up a link of chain so they can strike back. They sneak up on deck, where Morgan is surprised to discover their surroundings: There's a cave ceiling above with glowing stalactites:

He doesn’t have time to marvel further, as the Brood Brother’s discover them. They’re out numbered and poorly armed, but Morgan’s got a plan:

They climb the mast. Morgan decides that jumping into the sea is their only chance. He puts his plan into action—but Krystovar doesn’t follow. He won’t leave the ship without the items he risked so much to steal. Morgan is unaware of his new ally’s concerns but has troubles of his own:

To Be Continued

Things to Notice:
  • Morgan calls Krystovar out on his blatant exposition.
  • The allure of blasphemous rituals is apparently just too much for Atlanteans.  They just can't resist getting into it. 
  • Given the number of aquatic monsters we've seen in the series (even in fairly shallow water) Morgan's dive into the sea seems pretty bold.
Where it Comes From:
Again we get the Warlord against up against the  Warrior Beasts.  Too bad Remco didn't make Krystovar toy.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Which Way to the O.K. Corral?

Over Thanksgiving I found a street map of Tombstone, Arizona, I got on a visit several years ago.  I had the thought of scanning it, but its too large for my scanner.  I did find this decent stand-in online and a map of Old West Deadwood as well.  Next time a black hat in a Wild West game tells a PC "this town ain't big enough for the both of us" these ought to be helpful in determining the veracity of that statement.  They might have a use in other settings, as well.

Tombstone was a silver mining town, though it is, of course, most famous as the site of the O.K. Corral where the gunfight took place in 1881.  Much of historic Tombstone remains to this day, though wikipedia notes the National Park Service as taken the town to task for having a lax approach to historic preservation.

Deadwood, South Dakota, also trades on its historic past.  That and gambling seem to be the town's primary sources of revenue.  Thanks to several fires over the decades, less of Old West Deadwood remains than of Tombstone.  The graves of Wild Bill Hickok, "Calamity" Jane, and Seth Bullock can still be found in the cemetery on Mt. Moriah, however.



Sunday, November 27, 2011

Gods from the Comics Page

Fantasy rpg settings usually make-do with Bullfinch’s Mythology derived/inspired pantheons, monstrous deities of the Lovecraftian or Howardian variety, or the occasional monotheism. Nothing wrong with those, but looking to the pages of comic books suggests some interesting variations:

Space Gods
Kirby’s Eternals posits that those classical pantheons were just misidentifications of a subspecies of humanity uplifted enigmatic aliens. In the fantasy context, maybe the aliens are some sort of elder gods (recall that Lovecraft’s Elder Gods felt unaccountably protective to the gods of the Dreamlands) and the Eternal stand-ins could be something like the Menzter’s Immortals. The other option would be to play up the science fantasy aspects for the full von Daniken. “A sufficiently advanced technology, etc., etc,”--maybe the world only appears to be a fantasy world and alien super-science is the order of the day?

The Endless
Neil Gaiman’s Sandman strips down the pantheon idea with the Endless. Destiny, Death, Destruction, Despair, Desire, and Delirium are (as their names would imply) personifications of concepts. Marvel Comics has a similar (though less developed) class of beings like this: Eternity, Oblivion, Lord Chaos and Master Order, and again Death. The Endless fit into the mythologies of various cultures in various ways, but they don’t have mythology of their own really, just personal history. A group of beings like the Endless could be the sole deities of a world, just worshipped under different names by different cultures, or (like in Sandman) these sorts of personifications could be an order of cosmic beings separate and “above” the usual pantheons with whom PCs could interact.

New Gods
“There came a time when the old gods died!” as Kirby told us in New Gods #1. As the title suggests, Kirby started in with the exploits of the New Gods--and Grant Morrison gave us even newer new gods in Final Crisis. A world could be post-god shift, adding some interesting background, or the setting could be in the midst of the “godless” period, post-Götterdämmerung but pre-reemergence of the new gods. Players might actually have a roll in finding/shaping the new gods that would appear.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope everybody has a good holiday and doesn't spend it running around, particularly to escape arrows.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Warlord Wednesday: The Prophecy

Let's re-enter the lost world with another installment of my issue by issue examination of DC Comic's Warlord, the earlier installments of which can be found here...

"The Prophecy"
Warlord Annual #2 (1983)
Written by Cary Burkett; Penciled by Dan Jurgens; Inked by Mike DeCarlo

Synopsis: Morgan is riding along (presumably) back to Shamballah, when he hears a cry of anguish nearby. Urging his horse to a gallop, he quickly comes upon a man locked in a struggle with a pack of reptile-dog creatures. Morgan joins the melee to help the man. The creatures are unsually canny, and their attacks are coordinated, but ultimately, the two men prevail.

The last dog-thing goes running off, but the man won’t let it go:

The man explains that it couldn’t be allowed to return to its masters or it would bring more trouble.

Morgan introduces himself, and (after examining Morgan’s wound and providing treatment) the other man does the same. He’s Krystovar: “A seeker of knowledge and a gatherer of ancient lore.”

Morgan retrieves his gun and helmet from where he lost them in the fight. The man is surprised by the sight of the helm. He’s also surprised Morgan doesn’t know its origins. Krystovar believes the two of them meeting can’t be a coincidence. Morgan doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

After they make camp and Krystovar has again checked on Morgan’s wound, he tells his tale. It begins in ancient Atlantis, a learned and advanced civilization. It was defended by the knights of the Order of the Sea-Eagle, men who wore helmets of the same design as Morgan’s.


Anyway, as its people became more decadent.  They turned to the usual human sacrifice and other abominable rituals. They discovered a process to meld men with beasts. Their princes engaged in competition to see who could twist life into the most perverse monstrosity.

As the evil grew in Atlantis, the leader of the Order, Norrad the Younger, led a group of people away in the last of the swan-ships. Their goal was to form a new society and leave the corruption of Atlantis behind. Using their advanced techniques of navigation, they sought a place on the same “psychic energy plane” as Atlantis. Skartaris was such a place.

Norrad and his band settled in a hollow area in the crust, between the surface world and Skartaris. They named it New Atlantis. Morgan asks what this colony has to do with whoever’s chasing Krystovar. Before the scholar can reply, they see a lizard-dog skulking at the edge of their campfire. They give chase on Morgan’s steed.

With the advantage of an ambush, the beastmen of the Brood quickly get the better of our heroes:

To Be Continued

Things to Notice:
  • This is the first appearance of Krystovar.
  • So this group of Atlanteans settling Skartaris is different from the other group of Atlanteans settling Skartaris?  Why was the other pseudo-Greek and these are a bit more fantasy super-science-y?
Where it Comes From:
It seems awfully coincidental that beastmen start showing up as villians in Warlord after the 1982 Remco line of Warlord action figures were given the Warrior Beasts line as antagonists.

Of course, it may be that the origins of this story lie instead in earlier issues of Warlord.  The a beast-making machine appeared in the hands of the aliens of the Blood Moon in issue #18.  We've seen the history of Atlantis previously (in issue #27). These Atlanteans (despite being from a later era according to this story) were less technologically advanced than Norrad's group.  These earlier Atlanteans only developed advanced technology after reaching Skartaris--and then destroyed themselves in nuclear war.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Real Magic in the Dungeon

Magic in D&D (and most rpgs, for that matter) doesn’t bear much resemblance to magic as people practiced (and practice) it in the real world. There’s probably a couple of reasons for this: 1) in the early days of the hobby, there really doesn’t seem to have been much interest in real world models (or at least not as much as fictional ones); 2) real world magic may not seem particular “gameable.”

There have been a few attempts to inject more real world elements over the years: Isaac Bonewits’s Authentic Thaumaturgy, Chaosium’s Liber Ka for Nephilim, and the ritual magic system originally presented in GURPS Voodoo. The internet tells me that 4e has added a ritual magic system to D&D, though I don’t know anything about it. Most of these are icing, additions, or alternatives for more “standard” rpg magic systems.

I wonder if traditional dungeon fantasy sort of games would work with only ritual magic? This would mean most spells would be difficult to cast in the dungeon, much less in combat. Of course, just like in the real world, there would be charms and magical materials (and presumably other magic items) that could be employed. The computer rpg Darklands did this by replacing magic use with alchemy created potions that could be used in combat.

This might be a big change in the game role of the magic-user. I don’t think if this were the way magic worked in the setting that it would mean magic-user’s wouldn’t adventure. The chance to wrest magical secrets and items from dungeons would still get them down there. But of course, game “balance,” etc., etc. Still, if magic were rarer and more “realistic” would having a little magic be as much of an advantage as having a lot is in a standard game world where it’s much more common?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Five Kooky Cults

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.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Random Weird Background Trait Table

Too often, unusual backgrounds mean super-special abilities.  But they don't have to...

The character in question (1d12):
  1. Once saved a magical creature from a hunter’s trap and received 3 wishes in gratitude but squandered them long ago, with nothing to show for it.
  2. Was the sole survivor of the mysterious disappearance of all the other people and livestock in his or her home village.
  3. Owns of a pouch full of seeds which family legend holds are magical. 50% chance they are--but only sprout if planted in a singular (and far away) location.
  4. Is the victim of an unusual familial curse that causes sex change under the a particular phase of the moon.
  5. Bears a prominent scar, but cannot remember when or where it was acquired.
  6. Once had a brief--but torrid--dalliance with a personage of some prominence which he cannot forget, but the former paramour gives no indication that he or she remembers.
  7. Has two shadows (slightly offset, so not immediately noticeable) owing (it’s rumored) to a demonic ancestor.
  8. Feels a strange longing for the sea and bears a nautilus shaped birthmark.
  9. Could pass for a twin for a person of some renown or infamy.
  10. Was found as infant in ancient ruins by foster parents.
  11. Had a twin that was stillborn but with whom he or she converses at times of stress. 30% chance the never born twin blames the character for his or her death.
  12. Occasionally, at night, can catch a glimpse of large dog-like animal that seems to be stalking him or her, but never approaches close enough for clear identifcation, and disappears if approached.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Warlord Wednesday: Cry Plague

Let's re-enter the lost world with another installment of my issue by issue examination of DC Comic's Warlord, the earlier installments of which can be found here...

"Cry Plague"
Warlord (vol. 1) #73 (September 1983)
Written by Cary Burkett with Jennifer Reinhold; Penciled by Dan Jurgens; Inked by Dan Adkins

Synopsis: When last we left our hero, Morgan was unconscious in the grip of a carnivorous tree, and Scarhart was approaching to kill him! Scarhart raises his axe to strike, but he’s distracted by the attack of flying reptiles.

Morgan awakens and manages to free himself. He decapitates one creature, but notices Scarhart is pinned by another. Before he can run to help, the plant grabs him again. Only one chance:

Scarhart returns the favor by cutting Morgan free. Morgan decides they might as well join forces—even though Scarhart wants to kill the plague unicorn, while Morgan wants to take it back alive so an antidote can be made from its blood.

Tracking the unicorn, Morgan and Scarhart come across the camp of the itinerant Kaash’Ban. The folk and their animal companions agree to help them track the unicorn. If they find it, it will be none too soon, as Morgan starts to show signs of sickness.

Shortly, they get word that the unicorn has been found:

They rush to place only to find the unicorn already being sucked into a bog. Morgan lassoes it, but he’s too weak to pull it out. He appeals to Scarhart for help, but Scarhart has other ideas:

Morgan is about to give in to hopelessness when he realizes that Scarhart hasn’t gotten sick. The Kaash’Ban girl (who has taken an interest in Scarhart) mind-melds with him again to find a clue as to the reason: Scarhart drank from a secluded forest pool that seemed to invigorate him.  He believed it to have healing properties as foretold by the legends of his people.

Our heroes return to Castle Deimos. Jennifer opens a portal back to Scarhart’s world. He and Morgan jump through, then quickly make their way to the pool. Morgan fills flasks with its waters. Suddenly, a reptilian guardian rises from its depths! Morgan doesn’t have the time…

Back in Castle Deimos, the water of the pool indeed cures Jennifer, Morgan, and Shakira.

Scarhart and Shakira take an instant shine to each other and decide to travel with the Kaash’Ban for a bit. Shakira tells Morgan: “Don’t worry, Morgan…our paths will cross again.”

Morgan smiles and replies that he’s certain they will.

Things to Notice:
  • Not for the first time, Shakira leaves Morgan for another guy.
  • Team Warlord seem awful quick to assume drinking some water in the forest is what kept Scarhart from contracting the plague.
  • The Kaash'Ban make a return appearance after last being seen in issue #63.
This was my first issue of Warlord.  At the age of 10, I bought it off a spinner rack at a Suwannee Swifty store in Southwest Georgia.  I still have the copy. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Tales of Sword and Sorcery, Dagar Style

Run through your collections of Conan and Savage Sword of Conan, and even read a little Kull and Warlord?  Well, Dark Horse Archives has got more comic book Swords and Sorcery for you with Dagar the Invincible.

In the early seventies, Gold Key got in on the sword-swinging with Tales of Sword and Sorcery: Dagar the Invincible.  Dagar was the creation of Donald Glut (also author of the early Masters of the Universe mini-comics) and drawn by Jesse Santos.  The Dagar stories don't have quite the flash of Marvel's Conan efforts, but there are the industry standard werewolves, evil sorcerers, and single-horned apes a-plenty.  Check out these covers for hint of the sort of action Dagar gets into:

Undead smashing? Check.

Ape punching? Indeed.

So if that's the sort of stuff you're into (and I think you are) check out the Dagar the Invincible Archives.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Invading Mars

The first thing that strikes any Earthling visiting Mars for the first time is that Mars is old. The seas and lush vegetation of its youth have given way to anemic canals and barren rock and sand. Many of its canal cities are more ancient than Sumer--and even these are young compared to the ruins that dot the dust-choked wastes.

The Great Powers of Earth came to Mars hoping steal knowledge and wealth from the dying world. It was the first planet to be conquered with the arrival of the Age of Space and with good reason. The 1898 invasion that had nearly ended the human race had come from the red planet, after all. When man mastered the psychic technologies of the Invaders, it was only natural to want to strike back.

The Invaders weren’t actually from Mars, of course. That had only been a staging point. But the old canal cities of the true Martians had been waystations for space travelers in the past, and they still held ancient secrets. In the arid wastes there were underground complexes, the abandoned redoubts of ancient Martian civilization, constructed when they burrowed in to survive their world growing inhospitable. These subterranean ruins contain treasures both magical and mundane.

Treasure-hunters, thieves, and spies flock to the colonial cities. The British and French have governmental presences and peacekeeping forces. The Americans are represented by soldiers of fortune and freewheeling traders. The Russians are divided between White Russian spies, dreaming of a czarist resurgence, and Communist agitators, looking to make Mars more Red. German agents of the Nazi Ahnenerbe or the more shadowy Vril Society search out secrets for their mysterious “Aryan” masters in Agartha.

The Martians themselves tolerate these new invaders like all the others over the millennia. The canal and Lowland dwellers are generally solicitous and eager for Earth coin--though there are occasional small scale uprisings, and always there are rumors of murderous cults that wish to purge Mars of alien influences. The grim highlanders, however, seldom recognize colonial authority. They act as bandits and are often organized around fanatical ghazaerai monks.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Post-Apocalypitc Drive-In

Pull in at A Field Guide to Doomsday (remember to let your ticket-dodging friends out of the trunk) and get ready for Devastation at the Drive-In--a free pdf collection of posts by Justin Davis fashioning Mutant Future monsters from shlocky films:

Your Blood Will Chill...When faced with the Cinderkid from The Children (1980).
You'll Feel A Bit Unconformtable...As you learn the horrible truth of the Fangbaby from It's Alive (1974).
You'll Be Confused...By the Bleast from God Monster of Indian Flats (1974).
You'll Be Amused...By the improbability of the Ro-Man from Robot Monster (1953).

Check it out at Justin's site.  Bring your own popcom.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day

In honor of Veterans Day here are a few of comics' stellar servicemen...

Where else to begin, but with Sargeant Joe Rock? The Rock of Easy Company fought his way through World War II--and beyond.  Brave and the Bold #108 had him teaming up with Batman to take on the Devil.

Captain Simon Savage may not be as well known as Sgt. Rock or Sgt. Fury, but he also led an eccentric commando squad known as the "Leatherneck Raiders." Those soldiers knew how to surf--which puts them one up on the Howlin' Mad Commandos.

Captain Ulysses "Gravedigger" Hazard outdoes them all.  He overcame polio and racism to become a one-man special forces unit and even led Easy Company briefly--but only after he broke into the Pentagon just to prove himself!

Happy Veterans Day to all the nonfictional veterans, too.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Beneath Rock Candy Mountain

It’s imparted by the sagacious urban druids that contemplate on street corners and rumored by stoned hobogoblins that pass canned heat ‘round campfires that there is an earthly paradise hidden in the great mountains of the West. The wondrous land’s fame has even spread to the world we know, where balladeers longingly recount the virtues of the Rock Candy Mountain or the Hobo’s Paradise.

The hidden mountain valley (so the tales claim) sits in the benevolent shadow of a mountain of candy (or at least with the appearance of such) and boasts trees which grow cigarettes, whiskey running in streams, and ponds of hearty stew. The inhabitants of the valley comport themselves like those in small towns elsewhere, but they are unfailingly friendly, even deferential, to the lowliest of visitors—perhaps especially the lowliest. No crimes against property are prosecuted; in fact, everything is given freely.

Adventurers, notorious hard cases (or thinking of themselves as such), scoff at those yarns. Calloused to eldritch horrors and exotic treasures alike, they’re disinclined to get misty over vagrants’ fairy tales of a hobotopia. Still, a few have caught the fever and gone looking over the years. As far as is known, none have returned.

Even in the tales, the way to the Hobo’s Paradise isn’t easy. Though the trail’s exact location is unknown, it’s believed to run treacherously through the cold heights of the Stoney Mountains. Mine slavers and road agents haunt the lower parts of the trail, while apemen guard the more remote passes.

These may not be the only dangers. Certain heterodox urban druids believe that this Paradise may not be what it appears from a distance. The air that should be fresh and sweet is instead choked with the stench of an abattoir. The whiskey streams are spiked with methanol and cause blindness, delirium, and death. And the smiling, wooden-legged constables and comic railyard bulls, aren’t benevolent—and aren’t even human behind their skin masks.

Could be that more than teeth rot in the shadow of the Rock Candy Mountain.

For the Garrisons at the Old School Heretic family of blogs.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Warlord Wednesday: Curse of the Unicorn

Let's re-enter the lost world with another installment of my issue by issue examination of DC Comic's Warlord, the earlier installments of which can be found here...

"Curse of the Unicorn"
Warlord (vol. 1) #72 (August 1983)
Written by Cary Burkett; Penciled by Dan Jurgens; Inked by Dan Adkins

Synopsis:  Morgan and Shakira arrive in the real Castle Deimos in the after passing through Jennifer’s magic mirror portal.  She’s glad keeping it open all this time paid off and allowed two to get home.

Morgan plans to tell her about the somewhat grim future they visited, but first he just wants to rest.  Fate has other plans however, as something comes through the still-open portal:

Trying to stay out of its way, Shakira is scratched by the unicorn’s horn. The creature bolts down a hallway.  Morgan, laughing at the absurdity it all, doesn’t notice another visitor following behind.  Morgan fights with the tall stranger while he yells at Jennifer to close the damn portal.

Morgan gets the upper hand, but the stranger isn’t giving up.  Finally, Jennifer puts him to sleep with a spell. 

They’d like to send him back to his own world, so Jennifer plans to enter his mind like she did with Rostov to find out where he came from.  While she’s preparing, Shakira in cat-form (miffed at being laughed at) scratches Morgan on the leg.

Ignoring them, Jennifer enters the strangers mind and gets his story:

The gifts even included the hand of the chief's daughter, Lianthe.

Unfortunately, Wynah Hunnuh's happiness didn’t last long.  He returned from a hunting trip to find everyone in his village dead.  The old chief lingered long enough to tell him that the unicorn he captured brought a plague.

Waynah Hunnuh built a pyre for his people.  He vowed to avenge them by hunting and slaying the animal responsible for their deaths.  He surrendered his old name and becomes Scarhart, the name without a tribe.

The hunt wasn’t easy.  He tracked the beast deep into the enchanted forest of Vulnicarn, and ultimately through a strange waterfall—which Jennifer surmises is a portal just like her mirror.

Suddenly, Shakira falls ill and collapses.  The unicorn’s contagion was passed to her when it scratched her!  Luckily, Jennifer has a plan that might save her:

Morgan rushes out to track the unicorn and bring it back alive.  Reading its tracks, he finds the beast is heading back to the Terminator, the band of darkness at the border of Skartaris.

Meanwhile, Jennifer is so intent on tending Shakira, she doesn’t notice Scarhart awaken.  He knocks her unconscious and makes his escape.  He has a quest to fulfill and plans to let no one stop him from killing the unicorn.  Like Morgan, he quickly picks up the animal's trail into darkness.

A distance ahead, Morgan follows the animal into a grove of weird plants.  He wonders how they grow here without sunlight.  Then, he finds out when he sees the unicorn struggling in their tendrils: They're carnivorous!

Morgan frees the unicorn, but now he’s in the plant’s grasp.  He manages to mortally wound it, but he’s still held in its death grip and blacks out out from the struggle. 

From a ridge above, Scarhart clutches his tomahawk and watches the battle…

Things to Notice:
  • This is the first issue written by someone whose last name isn't Grell.
  • The Terminator is so dark here Morgan needs a torch.  Previously, its generally been portrayed as a land of eternal twilight.
Where It Comes From:
This first non-Grell penned issue of Warlord features a Grell staple: the unicorn.  Unicorns have played a role in issue #3 and issue #12.

In a bit of irony (perhaps intentional), the story has a plague coming from world with pseudo-Native American culture to world with a pseudo-European feel, reversing history.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Images from the City

More weird things from the City...

The wizard was rich, eccentric--and dead.  His house awaited adventurers' brave enough to try to seize what treasure he had left behind.  The fresh bodies decorating the facade were only a mild deterrant.

The Hissmen sort of resembled gatormen, but they were much smarter and more dangerous. The attacks ended as mysteriously as they started. What they did with the humans they took back to their subterranean world, no one every discovered.

No one would have guessed the unassuming old lady was a witch. That’s before her dollhouses with their ritual dioramas--each room replicating (and causing) a recent murder--were found.

City officials were never happy with the public danger the monster trade represented, but of course, mail order businesses presented a question of jurisdiction.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Bestiary and Bill

Tim’s post about monster manuals over at Gothridge Manor got me to thinking about an interesting monster book from back in the day: The Bestiary (1986) from Bard Games. It was part of the “Atlantean Trilogy” which included The Lexicon (a setting book) and The Arcanum (a rule book). The Bestiary was co-written by Stephan Michael Sechi (creator of Talislanta) and, most interestingly, featured art by then popular comics artist Bill Sienkiewicz:

The stats were for the Arcanum system but that was close enough to AD&D at a glance that conversion wasn’t too difficult.

The Bestiary separated the stats and fluff--and it gave quite a bit of fluff, which was written “in world.” While this isn’t fashionable in some circles these days, it did allow most of the book to perhaps function as a reference for players.  Kind of a unique approach.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Warlord Wednesday: Gateway to Doom

Before we move into the post-Grell issues of DC Comic's Warlord, let's re-enter the lost world of... 1982, and examine Warlord's first annual. The earlier installments of my issue by issue review can be found here...

"Gateway to Doom"
Warlord Annual #1 (1982)
Written & Pencilled by Mike Grell; Inked by Rodin Rodriguez

Morgan and Shakira rescue a haughty Princess Alisandre and a well-meaning, but inept minstrel, Tristan, from savage sub-men. The princess and her entourage was on the way from Kalabas to Groniko where she is to wed King Marselus.

Morgan points out the sub-men didn’t attack for no reason, but because the group blundered into a holy site. He shows the two the ancient Atlantean ruins and the remnants of the technology wielded by the sub-men’s ancestors.

Alisandre is utterly uninterested in the lesson in humility Morgan’s trying to teach. She does, however, recognize a minstrel doesn’t cut it as a guard, and offers to pay Morgan to help them. Morgan agrees, but tells them he’s up for no nonsense:

Offended, Alisandre pulls a dagger to stick in Morgan’s back, but that just gets her a scratching from Shakira’s claws. The princess gets even more indignant when Morgan tells her she’s got to leave most of her belongings behind so they can travel light. Before they go, Shakira (in human form) gets into a little scuffle with the princess:

The group begins their travels, Alisandre with a sore behind, and lovestruck Tristan doting on her. Shakira and Morgan decide to help poor Tristan out. They throw a small lizard into the pool where Alisandre is bathing so Tristan can rescue her from it. That doesn’t turn out so well:

While Morgan’s killing the bigger reptile, soldiers in horned helms are kidnapping Alisandre to give her to “Tarantis.” Our heroes track her to the fortress city of Doomgate, but Shakira doesn’t think the chances of a rescue are good:

Despite that dire prediction, the three sneak in as entertainers. While Shakira and Tristan perform, Morgan goes looking for Alisandre. He finds her, but in trying to find their way out of the maze of tunnels, they take the wrong one:

They manage to get by the spider Tarantis, but it gives chase. Morgan manages to eventually make it follow him through the narrow space between two stone columns. It’s bulk breaks them and the giant statue they supported seems to stomp Tarantis as it topples.

The group is reunited and make their escape. Outside the city, Morgan can’t take it anymore and gives Alisandre a lecture on how she treats Tristan. She’s touched, but explains to Tristan the realities of the world:

The group arrives in Groniko, and Alisandre gets to meet her betrothed for the first time:

Things to Notice:
  • This is the first annual, but an editorial at the end tries to make the case that "annual events" have been occuring in Warlord since the beginning.
  • Tristan is so smitten with Princess Alisandre he misses Shakira's flirting.
It's hard to know where this issue occurs specifically in the Warlord chronology.  The unofficial Warlord Index places it between issue #54 and #55, but I'm unable to find anything in the issue that argues for specific placement there.  All we can say is that it probably occurs sometime during Morgan's second wanderings with Shakira, before he is reunited (again) with Tara and saves Jennifer from Deimos.