Monday, January 30, 2012

Perusing Pathfinder's Bestiary 3

Welcome to post 600.

I picked up the pdf of Pathfinder Bestiary 3 last week.  I had heard it had some Lovecraftian creatures in it, and I was curious, but in general, I like mining monster manuals for ideas.  Paizo's previous entries in the Bestiary series have been pretty good in this regard.

First off, there are a lot of mythological creatures repurposed in tried and true rpg fashion.  Quite a few of these are of Asian derivation making this suitable for a "Oriental Adventures" sort of game.  There are also creatures from the myths of Native Americans, Inuit, and Pacific Islanders as well.  The Fiend Folio and Filipino folklore veteran, the Berbalang, makes an appearance.

There are a lot of other Fiend Folio also-rans.  The dire corby, adherer and the flumph get entries, for reasons beyond my understanding.  There are some Monster Manual II refugees too.

There are the obligatory expansions to giants, dragons, demons and devils.  As is typical, the ranks of evil classes of creatures get expanded with the divs (evil genies) and asuras (philosophic devil sorts), and our old friends the demodands (who all look much more militant and badass in their illustration than the MM2 originals).

One of the things I like is the cryptid and more modern folklore entries.  There's the hodak and globster from North America and the kongamato, lukwata and popobala (which was changed for some reason from popobawa) from Africa.

The aforementioned Lovecraftian critters include the moon-beast, voonith, and Yithians.  There are other literary borrowings including the bandersnatch and the jubjub bird from Lewis Carroll and monsters likely inspired by other media: the hungry fog and the sargassum fiend.

There are a lot of original monsters, of course.  Some of these (like the bogeyman and the pale stranger) are interesting, but seem better suited to a non-Medieval game.  Then there's the cold rider, who's sort of a frosty Nazgul astride a demonic reindeer, and the deathweb--the husk of a giant spider animated by thousands of little spiders!   Both of these guys would make cool one shots, at least.

Overall, I think it's a decent selection of monsters.  More time is spent on more of particular, familiar clades of creatures than I would like (more giants, demons, devils, and variant dragons and dragon-like creatures), but I really like Paizo keeping alive the tendency to borrow entries from literature and modern folklore in addition to mythology.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Way of the Gun

“...a gun isn’t a thing of miracles. It’s a mechanical contraption that is capable of just so much and no more.”
- “One Hour” Dashiell Hammett

In the world of the City, it was opined over a century ago that “Forces beyond Man’s kin make the wizard, but with his own hand Man makes the gun, and so makes himself the Wizard’s equal.” Firearms represent the triumph of scientific arts like alchemy over the arcane; A triumph which has shaped the modern world.

The oldest firearms utilized the chemical explosive now called black powder. Given these older weapons were made by individual smiths rather than factories, they are more likely to bear enchantments. There are still matchlock and flintlock weapons in use by adventurers for this reason. The Dwergen-made wonderbuss is an example of such a weapon.

Historical sources attest to another (rarer) explosive called red powder, which is now lost. This rust-colored explosive was a closely guarded secret of a cabal of alchemists. (This group is supposed to have been called the Brethren of Steropes and resided in a mobile flying monastery always hidden behind a thunderhead--or so legends say). The compound was activated by exposure to light. It was used in guns of a wheellock mechanism where the striking of two crystals caused a small flash of light. It was also used in ceramic grenades and even in “time delayed” explosives that were placed at night, to go off with the coming dawn.

The modern form of gunpowder is a so-called “smokeless propellant” as it produces negligible smoke compared to the older compounds. It’s made from the alchemical fixation of “smokeless fire,” the same para-elemental substance (airy fire) of which jinn are composed. Modern, mass-produced guns are seldom enchanted--not purposefully, at least--but being close to death and strife sometimes leaves an arcane imprint. Adventurers and special government agents do sometimes use custom ammunition of a magical material or mundane bullets enchanted for a specific effect.

The City has stricter gun control laws many localities in the Union--at least nominally. Ownership or carry of any firearm small enough to conceal requires a license. These are issued by the police department (and usually require a bribe or a friendly contact to acquire, in addition to the licensing fee). Loaded long arms are illegal to carry (and even carrying unloaded ones will invite police involvement unless one can convince them one is on the way to a shooting range or to a hunt), but their ownership is not restricted.

In the Union overall, cities and towns closer to the wilderness or to uncleared caves or ruins have fewer restrictions than safer areas.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Any Requests?

Maybe it's because I'm in spitting distance of 600 posts and people have had time to digested Weird Adventures (and if you haven't, check out Booberry's review), or maybe it's just because it's Friday and I'm lazy, but I'm inclined to take suggestions for future posts.  So if you've got questions (burning or otherwise) you want answered about the City or the Strange New World, or some hint from a precious post you want me to expand upon, now's your chance to ask.  I won't necessarily do a post on every suggestion, but any I get will form my list for consideration when it's time to revisit the City. 

Here's some things I've thought about--but don't feel bound to this list.  It might be worth revisiting the (mis)adventures of Cap'n Clanton in the South Tranquil Sea.  There's also the Old World east of Staark as yet unchronicled.  There's always room for more famous adventurers of yesteryear. 

So that's what I've got. Anything from the audience?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Where's Your Head?

One of the strangest artifacts of the Ancients is the so-called Spectral-Head Harness. The device is a heavy, wide-shouldered pectoral of some reinforced leather-like material attached to a thick, rune-inscribed collar of black ceramic. The device is strapped to a wearer by a harness that seems composed of what seem like industrial hoses that follow lines of the wearer's ribcage. Once the device is strapped into place, it activates.

Jarus Shanck, adventurer and assassin, who gave his name to the City barony of Shancks, is the only recorded bearer of the artifact. What we know of its operation comes from accounts by Shanck’s associates. When Shanck was secured in the device, it began to emit a low hum. The sound lasted a few minutes. During this time, the flesh and hair on Shanck’s skull seemed to sublimate as a cloud of roiling mist formed around his head. Soon, only his skull was left, seemingly floating in the mist. Given that Shanck had never been considered a handsome man (He was extensively scarred, it was said, from too many narrow victories as a boy fighting giant rats in the gaming pits), this wasn’t an especially great loss. Interestingly though, the flesh of his skull was not actually gone. Close observation suggested it had merely been transformed--become hazy and indistinct--and mostly hidden by the mists it seemed to diffuse into.

Jarus Shanck always explained that his head had gone "elsewhere." Whatever that meant, the device seemed to grant the powers of True Seeing, Arcane Sight, and at least at sometimes, Precognition. Some claim it was futuresight that led Shanck to kill the sea creature, Thraug--but no one knows for certain. Shanck also ceased to need sleep, though his body still needed rest through inactivity. Attacks against his head would pass harmlessly through the mist and suffocation or drowning had no effect. It has been theorized that attacks that could effect the astral could have harmed his head, but this remains unproven.

Besides the obvious cosmetic effects, the harness had other disadvantages. The longer Shanck’s head spent wherever it went, the more he became distracted from things on the material plane. Increasingly concerned about this problem, Shanck finally sought to have the harness removed--and discovered another downside.

After Shanck’s death, the harness is said to have unlatched on its own. None of his lieutenants claimed it, and it disappeared from history. If the rumors about Shanck’s hidden treasure trove behind the cliffs along the Eldritch are true, it maybe that that is where the harness can be found--awaiting another head.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Warlord Wednesday: Future Trek

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...

"Future Trek"
Warlord #80 (April 1984)
Written by Cary Burkett; Penciled by Dan Jurgens; Inked by Dan Adkins

Synopsis: At the end of last issue, a wolf-headed, bare (and hairy) chested New Atlantean captain and his troops had the drop on Tara and her Shamballan soldiers in the weapons cache cave. Before Captain Wolf-head can seize the weapons for the glory of New Atlantis, a stranger in black appears and starts shooting things with a ray gun.

That gives Tara and Scarhart the opening they need:

They make short work of the New Atlanteans. Before they can thank their mysterious benefactor, he’s disappeared.

Somewhere in the future, Morgan, Shakira, and Krystovar are chowing down on some fine nutria-stew and chatting with Dr. Reno Franklin. He thinks he’ll probably be able to return them to their own time once they get the kinks worked out of the saucer craft. Right now, they only go forward in time.

Our heroes will have to wait. Weeks pass. Krystovar studies English, Morgan explores the futuristic complex, and Shakira gets bored and does something rash.

In cat form, she sneaks up of the complex via an air duct (despite Morgan’s warning about the temporal incongruity between inside and outside). Following some interesting smells, she comes upon a fine denizen of the future:

It looks like cat is considered fine eating in this time because future primitive and his gang chase Shakira, forcing her to hide in a ruined city.

Later, back at the complex, Shakira angrily interrupts Morgan and Reno to ask why Morgan didn’t come looking for her when she’s been gone for days. It’s the time difference again; For those inside the base, she’s only been gone for a short while.

Intrigued by Shakira’s story, Reno suggests they check out the ruined city. Morgan concludes that the destruction could only have been caused by a nuclear attack. Reno finds a calendar showing the date is later than he thought: The devastation occurred sometime after October 1 2303! Realizing his life has become a Twilight Zone episode, Reno freaks out a bit. Morgan tells him to man up. They need to organize a scouting expedition to find out just how much devastation there is.

The scientists have got a small plane that Morgan can fly. They decide to fly out over Salt Lake City (the closest metropolitan area) and see what they can see. Morgan tells Reno he’s been to the future before, but this one is different. Reno explains that, theoretically, there are an infinite number of alternate future timelines.

Salt Lake City is bombed out. Morgan prepares to fly in low to look for survivors, but:

Futuristic soldiers bring them aboard with a sort of force beam. Morgan tries to explain who they are to the captain of the group. Unsurprisingly, he’s skeptical of Morgan’s story of secret time travel projects. They’re arrested as spies…

Things to Notice:
  • The Shamballan soldier extras with Tara and Scarhart seem to appear and disappear in different panels.
  • There's little continuity between the dress of the Shamballans and the New Atlanteans here and last issue.
  • Morgan's military training doesn't lead him to offer any other suggestion to the future Air Force captain than "call the President" to confirm his tale of a secret government project.
Where It Comes From:
This issue references Morgan and Shakira's previous jaunt to the future Australia in Grell's last storyline (issues #69-71).

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

How Many Are Out There?

So it looks like the orders of Weird Adventures are getting out there.  Over in the Land of Nod, Matt had some kind words.  It's got Bill the Dungeonmaster fired up over at The Crown and the Ring, and Jack, spinner of Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque, has got a copy in his hands.

Anybody else got theirs yet and care to let me know?  I think the lord of Gothridge Manor is still waiting...

Monday, January 23, 2012

In the Belly of the Beast

Leviathans are perhaps the largest and most mysterious denizens of the ocean depths. These gigantic creatures dwarf both whales and reptilian sea serpents. Their name in the gurgling language of the sea devils translates roughly as “monster-thing stronger than even the gods.” Despite their great size, the creatures are seldom seen, and carcasses are rarer still.

Some have suggested that the size of leviathans is impossible and therefore indicative of a magical nature. It has been theorized that the creatures' rarity is a by-product of the fact that they actually swim through the etheric substructure of reality, only passing through the physical world’s oceans incidentally.

The discovery of a leviathan carcass always instigates a mini-”gold rush.” The flesh and bone of the beast are of interest to alchemists (synthetic insulating blubber was an outgrowth of study of the leviathan) and thaumaturgists who use various leviathan parts for spell materials. Leviathan ambergris can be used to make perfumes and colognes easily infused with charm or suggestion properties. It’s also a psychoactive and can be smoked to produce a euphoric effect and intense sexual desire that in some individuals manifests a a mania lasting 10 x 1d4 minutes.

Less scientifically minded individuals hope to salvage treasure swallowed by the leviathan in its journeys. Whole ships laden with cargo are sometimes found (this is facilitated by the fact that internally leviathans are cavern-like, evidencing a strange paucity of organs). The loot-minded must be wary, however. Strange miasmas are sometimes produced inside a dead leviathan that can cause death or mutagenic effects on the unprotected.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Get Your Motor Running

I watched the science fiction anime Redline from Madhouse Studios last night,and it got me thinking about the “crazy road race” genre. You know, things like Cannonball Run (1981), It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), and the Hanna-Barbera cartoon, Wacky Races. I think this sort of race set-up is rife with gaming potential.

The genre goes beyond mundane (well, not that cars with buzzsaw wheels are mundane to begin with) auto-racing. Redline puts the race in a sci-fi context as does Yogi’s Space Race (remember that one?). Thundarr gets into the game with the “Challenge of the Wizards” episode. Almost all the animated version of this trope have vehicles tricked out with weapons, and some live action one’s do, too--see the rally sequence of the criminall underrated live-action Speed Racer with it’s morning-star armed viking racers.

Obviously, Car Wars could do this sort of think. The ever prolific Matt Stater's Mutant Truckers would work, too. Fantasy systems aren’t out of the question, though (see Thundarr). And of course, you can do this sort of thing pre-automobile. A race to become leader of a kingdom or some such (similar to the tournaments for leadership in Mystara's Ierendi or the titular Empire of the Petal Throne) could use various sorts of fantastic mounts or maybe flying ships--or flying carpets. However you choose, just get those those charcter's on the road to adventure!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Railroading All Gamers Can Enjoy

Hell on Wheels on AMC tells the story of a mobile camp accompanying the construction of the first intercontinental railroad. It has the usual assortment of characters and professions one would expect in any boomtown, plus individuals looking to actively escape civilization for reasons of there own.

The series (which just completed its first season) would obviously be good inspiration for a Western or Steampunk game, but I think it has something to offer fantasy gaming, as well. Non-traditional fantasy would be the most obvious (Mieville has a railroad being built in Iron Council and Eberron has got trains) but a good old fashion wilderness hexcrawl might be informed by the series, too.

All that’s really needed is a reason for a raucous camp of adventurers and hangers-on to be travelling through the wilderness. Perhaps they're doing something as mundane as cutting a new road (like Daniel Boone and his men in Cherie Priest’s Those Who Went Remain There Still) or maybe they’re doing something more exotic, like riding a giant monster so they can mine stuff from its body. Whatever. They just need to be travelling across the wilderness and dragging a bit of civilization with them.

One of Hell on Wheels’s promo posters proclaims: “Blood will be spilled. Lives will be lost. Men will be ruined.” Sounds like a call to adventure to me.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Walls of Graveston Prison

“Abandon All Hope” reads the blood red graffiti some wag has managed to scrawl on the stone cliff beside the docks. It may well be the first thing most prisoners see when emerging from the department of correction’s ferry at Graveston, the Union’s most notorious maximum security prison.

Graveston looks like a Medieval fortress and seems to rise from a rocky isle in San Tiburon Bay as if it grew from it. Popular stories suggest that sea devils once held pagan rituals on the island before the Natives were finally able to drive the humanoids. Current thaumatological theory considers this unlikely, because of the island's unusual properties: The stone which forms it generates an anti-magic zone that leeches the power from any spell.

This property made the island an ideal spot for a prison to hold thaumaturgists. Though modern Graveston holds dangerous men of all sorts, its lowest levels hold criminal mages and magical entities. Hell Syndicate hitman Charley Rictus and the murderous ventriloquist’s dummy Otto were held here at one time alongside a host of thaumaturgic wrongdoers. All of them are rendered powerless (supposedly) by the island’s stone.

There is some evidence that the current theories island's anti-magic nature are incomplete. Belief has power here, which is why the warden and guards work hard to break the spirits of the inmates. No god or spirit-form can be more powerful than their authority within Graveston’s stone walls. Some have suggested this has had the effect of allowing seepage of the Black Prison into the Material plane--which may have long term consequences.

Also, magically enhanced shivs and shanks are sometimes found among the population. Beyond the power of petty spirits and eikones yet unbroken by the screws’ clubs, life itself carries a thaumaturgic charge. And when that life is wasted in spilled blood, the blood does, too. Blood sacrifices (of their own, or better yet, others) grant prisoners power, but some of this blood power is always lost to the floor, to the walls. What might the stones do with all that power, one might wonder?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Warlord Wednesday: Paradox

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...

Warlord #79 (March 1984)
Written by Cary Burkett; Penciled by Pat Broderick; Inked by Rick Maygar.

Synopsis: Morgan, Krystovar, and Shakira find themselves travelling through some strange space in the Atlantean saucer. A beam of energy seems to grab them and pull them back into the earthly realm, where they find the beam emanating from an array operated by two men.

The saucer comes in for a landing. The three are surprised that men seem to know them, but seem confused as to how they wound up in the craft. One of the men, Reno, even seems aware of Shakira’s shape-changing ability. Before Morgan can ask many questions, our heroes get an even bigger surprise:

Other-Morgan makes some cryptic comments about everything "starting to make sense." Reno doubles over in some sort of spasm he blames on “chronal radiation.” A weird blue cloud begins to grow out from around him. It blots out the world and our protagonists find themselves falling through a churning formlessness.

When the three find themselves again on solid ground, they’re on board a ship: the U.S.S. Eldridge! Morgan’s heard of it, and relates the legend/conspiracy theory about its involvement in secret invisibility experiments during World War II. But as the story goes, something went wrong. As if to reinforce this point a crazed crewman runs by them and phases right through a gun turret.

They see another group of crewmen trying to keep a man they recognize as Reno from floating off into the void. Morgan confronts him, but Reno doesn’t know him. The other crew think Morgan and his friends are aliens, but they’re distracted when the strange fog begins to recede. The experiment is coming to an end.

Unfortunately for our heroes, they fall out of time again and into the void.

When they’re again able to stand, they again see Reno. This time he knows them as the “beings” he encountered on the Eldridge in 1943. He gives them chronal-dampener belts to keep them from getting pulled into the timestream again. The weird fog evaporates and they find themselves in a laboratory populated by busy technicians.

Dr. Reno Franklin tells our heroes that their doing experiments similar to the one on the Eldridge. The current year (as near as he can determine) is 2068!
Reno was the only one of the Eldridge’s crew, exposed to chronal radiation, that didn’t go insane (or at least that’s his story). Somehow, the Eldridge teleported from Philadelphia to Virginia and back. The government wanted to build craft (saucer-like, naturally) that could replicate that. They sent Reno and others to a secret base in the Rockies to work on it.

The chronal radiation made time begin to run differently on the inside of the base than on the outside. Only a few years passed for the researchers, but over a century on the outside. Despite that, they kept working, and now they’re almost done with the craft.

In the “present” of Skartaris, Tara has found the right cartridge to open one of those saucers in the cave. She plans to go after Morgan. Those plans are interrupted by the arrival of a group of New Atlantean soldiers lead by a wolf-headed beastman—who plans to seize the weapons cache himself!

Things to Notice:
  • Future-Shakira is wearing a dress!  And it's pink!
  • Chronal-Dampner?  Presumably they mean "damper" or "dampener."
  • Reno Franklin has the same haircut and fashion from 1943 to 2068.
Where It Comes From:
This issue uses as its basis the conspiracy theory/hoax known as the "Philadelphia Experiment."  The Eldridge was a real U.S. Navy destroyer, but the facts of its service don't match the story.  A couple of proportedly true accounts of the Philadelphia Experiment were published in the late seventies, so one of these may be where Burkett encountered it.

This storyline in Warlord appears to have done it's own inspiring. The Asylum direct to video science fiction film 100 Million BC has a scientist who once worked on the Philadelphia Experiment named Frank Reno.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Maps of Places to Escape From

Or maybe, to break into.  You and your players can decide.

First, a small island named for the pelicans that (presumably) once nested there.  Of course, Alcatraz is more famous for the Federal prison that was located there:

Here's a floorplan of the prison itself:

Next, here's the truly sprawling High Royds Hospital in Menston, England, part of the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

In the Classifieds

Here are some classified ads (which appear in the hardcopy versions of Weird Adventures.  Secure your copy today!) that might lead to adventures weird or otherwise:

BIG MONEY AND FAST SALES. Minor magics and household charms are a boom industry. Low prices. High profits. Write for particulars and free samples. KING TALISMAN CO., Dept. 55, 666 Torio Ave., Lake City.

APPRENTICE ADVENTURERS Get paid a competitive wage in treasure. Experience unnecessary. All you need is a stout heart and a strong back. FLEISCHSCHILD’S INSTITUTE St. Gorgan, Lichmond.

RANGER POSITIONS pay $125-$200 month; nice cabin. Hunt. Trap. Patrol. Get free list of Union Protected Forests immediately. RALSON INST., Dept. A-14, Mountain City, West.

ASSISTANT NEEDED Attractive young woman (18-28 yrs.), preferably blonde. $175 a month, plus housing. Discretion and comfort around large animals a must. Inquire at 616 Grimalkin St., Empire Island. Come alone.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Don't Ask! Just Buy It!

Or so says Aos (channeling Jack Kirby) in his review of the Weird Adventures pdf.  Well, the same advice applies, I'm sure, to the now available hardcover and softcover versions. 

Head over to RPGNow (or Drivethrurpg, whichever) and order your copy today.  It will change your life! In a fairly minor way, most likely--but I'm sure it will be positive.

Don't (just) take my word for it.  Read this review at Fame & Fortune and this one from the Armchair Gamer.

Whiskey not included.

(Oh, and as I mentioned yesterday.  If you bought the pdf prior to the release of the hardcopy, and you now want a hardcopy, contact me for your discount. Some restrictions apply.  Void in the Outer Planes.)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Say the Secret Word and Win a Prize

If you purchased the Weird Adventures pdf at any point up until 9:00pm (East Coast U.S.) today (January 12), contact me if you want a $10.00 discount on either the hardcover or softcover (or both, if you're a completist!).

Email me at the address in my profile with your purchase date and RPGNow/Drivethrurpg customer number and I'll send one or both discount codes (specify your choice).

Look What Came in the Mail

Well, that and this:

That's the hardcover and the softcover.  Here's a peak at the insides:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Warlord Wednesday: Doom's Mouth!

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...

"Doom's Mouth!"
Warlord #78 (February 1984)
Written by Cary Burkett; Penciled by Dan Jurgens; Inked by Mike DeCarlo

Synopsis: Morgan, Tara, and their companions sail the newly-christened Wind Shadow in the sea-passage cave lit by “weirdly glowing minerals” in its walls on their way to New Atlantis. They're scarcely inside the tunnel when they sight a New Atlantean warship headed their way. It doesn’t take long for the Atlanteans to realize the Wind Shadow isn’t one of their own, and they open fire.

Our heroes don’t have weapons to match, so Morgan decides to play a game of “chicken.” The Lizard-headed captain of the other vessel believes the crew of the Wind Shadow must be mad as the ship picks up speed and appears to be preparing to ram his ship. He panics and orders a rash turn to starboard:

Their enemy sank by their own hand, our protagonists sail on. Exploring the ship, Morgan discovers (to his delight) that the New Atlanteans have discovered tobacco and have a barrel full of cigars. He tries one:

The lesson: Don’t smoke, kids.

Soon, the ship reaches the place where Morgan blasted a whole out of the weapons cache cave. They anchor the ship and enter the passage. After travelling a distance, they discover they’re not alone:

Scarhart and Krystovar manage to kill the creature, but not before its tail-spine skewers one of the Shamballan guards.

When our heroes reach the cache, the others are as impressed as Morgan was when he first saw it. Krystovar comments that the saucercraft alone would give them an advantage over the New Atlanteans, if they could only figure out how to use them. Looking for a way to open one, Morgan notices a slot that the silver cassette he had would fit perfectly.

He takes a cartridge from the stack on the floor. It does fit, but it doesn’t do anything. After chastising Shakira for knocking over a stack of them, Morgan finds a surprise: A cartridge with his name on it!

Krystovar notices the saucers have numbers on them like the cassettes and suggests they try to match them. Putting the cartridge with his name on it in the matching saucer, Morgan finds the top opens. Krystovar and Morgan climb in to check out the inside.

Meanwhile, Shakira has tracked a rat:

Running in fear, she jumps into the arms of a surprised Morgan. He falls backwards into the saucer’s controls. The canopy closes and the craft disappears in a whirl of smoke!

Things to Notice:
  • Tara never wastes an oppurtunity to show her dislike of Shakira.
  • A comic book protagonist smoking?  Wouldn't happen in kid's comics of 2011!
Where It Comes From:
The battle with the giant arthopod was possibly inspired by the giant scorpion fight in the original Clash of the Titans (1981) perhaps with influence from the clash with the giant crab in another Harryhausen film Mysterious Island (1961).

Monday, January 9, 2012

Weavers in Darkness

If the rumors are to be believed, in the places below the City, one can sometimes encounter creatures half-woman and half-spider. Unfortunate creatures--and dangerous ones.

The spider hybrids are the result of past illegal and immoral thaumaturgic practices in the City’s garment industry. Before the muckracking exposés and the formation of the Garment Workers Union, destitute young girls were preyed upon in a horrific way. Using thaumaturgic arts stolen from pagan temples of the Far East, unscrupulous sweatshop owners had these girls transformed, into spider centaur-things. The silk produced by these creatures was valued for its strength and its ability to hold enchantment better than mundane fabrics (halves the time for creating magical items).

After the practice was put to an end, not all the hyrbids were accounted for. It’s possible some escaped into the underground beneath the city. Here they spin--and hunt. Their minds shattered by the trauma they have undergone, they’re given to unpredictable, murderous rages.

Spider-woman: HD: 5; AC: 3; Attacks 1 bite (1d4+poison) or with improvised weapon; Move 12.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The City Indexed

The Weird Adventures Index is online.  It can be reached from this post or the link under "Pages" in the sidebar.  It continues to be a work in progress, but there are already a lot of posts in a wide away of topics to review.  Which topics got a heading and which ones didn't is a bit arbitrary--and subject to future revision.

On the Weird Adventures hardcopy front: The files have been accepted by the printers, and I'm awaiting my copies to proof.  Assuming everything looks good, expect those to be available for purchase soon.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Work in Progress

As I wait for the proofs of the hardcopy versions of Weird Adventures to come back, I've been following a suggestion of sagacious Porky and working on an index of all the related posts on the City and the Strange New World.  It's still in progress, but here's a sample.  More to follow.

    Failed: "Spectacular Losers"
    Famous: "Lifestyles of the Adventurous and Famous", "Tall in the Saddle", "Adventurers of Yesteryear"
    Men of Magic: "Magic Men"
    Tough Guys: "Two Tough Guys"
    Criminals, Wanted: "Most Wanted"
    Femme Fatales: "Random Femme Fatale Table"
    Gaunt, Hieronymus: "Rogue Elephant"
    Hell Syndicate: "Hell's Hoods", "A Piece of the Action"
    Knights-Templar of Purity: "Legion of Hate"
    Sorcerers: "Five Sinister Sorcerers", "The Unknown"
Anomalous Beings
     Beings from the Void: "Out of the Void"
     Dead God Drag-Racers: "The Dead Travel Fast"
     Red Dwarf, the: "In Deep, Crimson Shadows", "Season of the Witch"
     Well-Dressed Man from Elsewhere, the: "The Well-Dressed Man from Elsewhere"
Druids: "The City's Druids"
Eikones/God-Like Beings
     Cat Lord: "Stray Cat Blues"
     Doll: "Spirits of the Age"
     Lords of Beasts: "Stray Cat Blues"
     Management: "Spirits of the Age"
     Maker: "Spirits of the Age"
     Phile: "Spirits of the Age"
Ethnic Groups
     Dwerg-Folk: "Short People, Big Worm"
     Ibernian Little People: "Luck of the Little People"
     Immigrants: "Random Immigrant Urban Encounter Table"
     Mer-folk: "The Life Aquatic"

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Take the Subway to the Wizard's Sanctum

You may have heard this one: A homeless newsboy in a nameless city follows a mysterious stranger into a subway station. 

The stranger leads the boy aboard "a strange subway car, with headlights gleaming like a dragon's eyes," and decorated inside and out with weird, perhaps mystic, symbols.  The car "hurtles through the pitch-black tunnel at tremedous speed."  Their destination:

And beyond, a cavernous hall decorated with grotesque statues of the iconic failings of man.  At the end of the hall, a hierophant sits immobile on a throne, a square block of granite hanging precariously over his head by a slowly unraveling thread.

The wizard is, of course, Shazam and the Boy is Billy Batson.  Billy is about to be given the power of six mythological figures. At that point this story becomes a superhero origin, but at all times it's a fantasy story, too.  Grant Morrison (in Supergods) sums it up like this:

"the train carries Billy into a deep, dark tunnel that leads from this world to an elevated magical plane where words are superspells that change the nature of reality."

My point is bringing up Whiz Comics #2, is that I think fantasy in an urban setting ought to have a bit more of this and a bit fewer succubus streetwalkers, werewolf bikers, or angels in white Armani suits.  Not that there's anything wrong with those things--but they've gotten commonplace.  Perfunctory.

There's no reason why fantasy in a modernish setting can't be infused with weird or wonder.  We've got plenty of examples: Popeye's pet jeep, the Goon's antagonists, or in a less whimiscal vein, VanderMeer's city of Ambergris suffering under occupation by fungoid invaders. I can't be the only one that wants fantasy in the modern world to be something other than 90's World of Darkness retreads.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Warlord Wednesday: Let My People Go

Let's re-enter the lost world with 2012's first installment of my issue by issue examination of DC Comic's Warlord, the earlier installments of which can be found here...

"Let My People Go"
Warlord #77 (January 1984)
Written by Cary Burkett; Penciled by Dan Jurgens; Inked by Dan Adkins

A black cat (Shakira, of course) sneaks into the New Atlantean camp and steals a set of keys. Transforming into human form, she moves to free Ashir from a cage. Unfortunately, she’s caught by a goat-headed beast-man and some soldiers.

Or is she? At that moment, Scarhart drops out a tree above the New Atlanteans and attacks. Our three heroes make their escape into the woods.

Meanwhile, in the secluded Valley of the Lion, Morgan and Tara frolic in a pond. Morgan’s gunbelt and the silver mysterious cassette sit on the ground nearby. At least for a while:

A tender moment between Morgan and Tara is interrupted by Graemore. He tells them Captain Trogero has just returned with yet more refugees. Morgan emerges from the pond to go meet Trogero. He notices the cassette is missing and begins to get suspicious of Graemore.

Elsewhere, a bear-headed Brood Brother and a contigent of Atlantean soldiers prepare to storm Castle Deimos. The sudden appearance of large and terrifying monsters from the castle routs the New Atlantean force. These horrors are illusions created by the magic of Castle Deimos’s mistress, Jennifer Morgan. She decides she needs to find out just who this army is that's disrupting the countryside.

Meanwhile, Scarhart, Shakira, and Ashir capture a warrior that turns out to be a Shamballan soldier. When he realizes who Ashir is, he quickly leads them to the camp in the valley.

Reunited with his friends, Ashir tells Morgan and Tara about the fall of Kaambuka. Now his people are being led away in chains to be slaves in New Atlantis. Krystovar reminds Morgan that the New Atlanteans will have to march their captives to the seacoast for transport. Our heroes have a chance to intercept them.

Morgan and his friends lead a small contingent to set up an ambush. Archers distract the soldiers, while Shakira in feline form sneaks in among their ranks to free the captives. Morgan leads an attack and the Atlanteans are soon fighting a battle on two fronts with Shamballah soldiers and freed slaves.

By putting on their enemy's horned helmets, Morgan and his troops disguise themselves. They lead the captives to the ship awaiting them. Striking with surprise they quickly overwhelm the skeleton force left on guard and seize the ship.

Morgan renames the ship the Wind Shadow. He and Tara plan to take it to the cave of the ancient and secure advanced weapons to put an end to the New Atlantean threat once and for all.

Things to Notice:
  • Tara disses Shakira's fashion sense (despite the fact they're both dressed in sort of fur bikinis).
  • Horned helmets are apparently slaver standard use, as previously seen in issues #2 and 3.
  • Virtually all of the Warlord supporting cast appears in this issue (we're just missing those still in the Age of the Wizard-Kings).
Where It Comes From:
The title of this issue is ultimately a reference to the Exodus 7:16: "And the Lord spoke unto Moses, go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, thus saith the Lord, Let my people go, that they may serve me."

Monday, January 2, 2012

Dead Wizard's Weird Possessions

The executor of Malregard’s estate has put more of the wicked old sorcerer’s belonging up form auction:

A murder’s last breath in ether: A brown glass bottle containing the dying breath of notorious mass murderer Eldred Toombs (executed in 5879). Inhaling the mixture infuses the user with a murderous impulse and the abilities of the maniac template for 1d4x15 minutes. The bottle contains approximately 10 inhalations.

Demonologia Sexualis: A leather-bound copy of the infamous tome detailing the perversions and sex magic rituals of the beings of the lower planes. Possession of a single illustration is probably enough to get one arrest in most jurisdictions. Many demons and devils are willing to barter a service for a copy. There are no doubt dubious advantages to actually reading the tome, as well.

Tape recording of an unknown language: A reel to reel tape labelled “Sample 13, 5882.” The language is unintelligible (even with magic), but the malevolent memetic entity inhabiting the strange, sing-song tongue can infect the brains of listeners. It will attempt to possess the most intelligent individual within hearing range. On a failed saving throw, it takes command of the person's body for a period 1d20 hours. Then, a series of seizures will signal the brain’s rejection of the alien presence. Any time period greater than 5 hours is likely long enough for the entity to launch itself into the astral plane. The entity can be trapped in the host by magical means and induced to reveal what secrets it possesses before the host dies (1d4 days).

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Day

Then the weird codger just smiles under his beard and says:

“Take it easy, fella. It’s just a yarn.”

And that’s when you realize you were holding your breath. As you let it out slow, it occurs to you that there’s a murmur of “happy new years” around and somewhere the pop of a champagne cork, and there’s a dame standing close with a creased brow and disappointed pout because you didn’t kiss her at the appointed moment. The moment you just missed ‘cause you were listening to some old man’s story about the end of the world.

You take a glass of champagne from a passing waiter. The strange spell seems to be fading with the old year, but you still have to ask: “So what happened. How’d the world get saved, anyway?”

The old man strokes his beard. “It just so happens that Father Time prepares for this eventuality. He knows that the agents of entropy will try to take advantage of the changing of the year, to try and force a premature end to time. He has a plan...”

The new year is born at the center of a maze--almost a giant puzzle box, really-- outside of time and the material plane. Here the new born year can’t be strangled in its crib before temporal custodianship changes hands. All sorts of nefarious forces send their champions to seize it or kill it, true, but Father Time has his champions, as well. He can choose anyone, but it’s often adventurers that make his list. His temporal champions must brave the challenges of the achronal labyrinth and present Father Time's hourglass sigil to the multidimensional titan that guards the neonate year.

Finishing your second glass of champagne, you say, “Guess the good guys won again, huh? I’d be glad to meet one of those guys that saved the world. I’d by ‘em a drink.”

The old man shrugs and puts on his hat like he’s going to leave. “Well, the thing about that is, none of those brave souls ever remember what they did. The maze is outside of time. Everything that happens there occurs in less than an instant and outside of causality as we know it here. No, I’m afraid none of them has any idea what they accomplished.”

With that he turns to walk for the door. He’s only gone a couple of steps when he stops and half-turns. “Unless, of course, someone tells them.” And then he winks.

“Happy New Year, friend.”