Friday, August 30, 2013

A World Unconquered

Sword & Sorcery comics of the seventies usual got around to supplying a map at some point, and Claw the Unconquered was no exception. Though it ran only 12 issues (from 1975 to 1978), Claw featured a map in issue #5.  Wikipedia seems to think Pytharia is the name of Claw's world--and it may be--but it's also the name of one of the country's in the "Known World," as you can see. Interestingly, Claw shares this world with another sword-wielding DC hero: Starfire, who's part Red Sonja and part Killraven, living in a post-apocalyptic alien-overrun future.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure there's some game inspiration in this.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


As fearsome as the ssraad are, there is one species that at least lone ssraad seem to fear: A race of bone pale monsters, the accursed and implacable enemies of the zurr. These monsters who monsters fear are known as the xann.

The xann [ksahn] claim to have been a peaceful species in the Zuran Expanse (before it had that name) whose habitats were destroyed by the zurr. Millions were killed, but refugees escaped. Taking shelter among other species, the xann refugees remained a people apart. They nursed their hate--and plotted revenge.

That's the popular story. The xann of today are chalk white-skinned, slim, almost delicate-appearing humans. They are never seen in groups larger than 3 or four. Often their children are abandoned to be raised by other sophonts. Xann hide their identities, to avoid being shunned by other species. No one who has heard the stories wants to be near a xann when the transformation occurs. 

Despite historical consensus that the zurr are an extinct cultured, the xann believe that a few of their enemies have passed their minds down through the ages, downloading them into new bodies. The xann believe they have the ability to detect them. They are a driven people, hunting the stars for these hidden zurr. When a xann finds a target (be it one of their secret zurr or a ssraad), he or she transforms into a hunter form, a monstrous, bioengineered killing machine.

The single-mindedness of the xann and their propensity for sudden violence have given them a negative reputation among other sophonts, but they aren't barred from any major ports or habitats. Most choose to keep a low profile, if only to better stalk their prey. Even when they don't die by violence, the xann tend to have shorter lifespans than other near human sophonts. The metabolic stress of their transformation takes a toll.

No. Appearing: 1-2
AC: 3
HD: 7
Saving Throw: 11
Attack Bonus: +8/+8/+6
Damage: 2d4/2d4 claws, 1d6 bite
Movement: 40’
Morale: 11
Special Abilities: They regenerate 2 hit points per round, starting after 2 rounds of combat. They possess the equivalent of the biopsionic power Invincible Stand.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Warlord Wednesday: Ballad Part 5

Here's another installment of my examination of  the adventures DC Comics' Travis Morgan--The Warlord.  The earlier installments can be found here...

"Ballad Part V"
Warlord (vol. 2) #5 (May 1992)
Written by Mike Grell; Art by Dameon Willich and Tim Burgard

Synopsis: The skies over Skartaris turn crimson, and all its people gaze upward fearfully. A skull-faced visage appears and intones:
“Bring me Travis Morgan or I shall cast a darkness upon the land unto the end of man.” Tara recognizes the voice if not the face: Deimos.

Tara points out Deimos will have to look elsewhere for Morgan; he tends to stay far from responsibility. One of her servants informs her that Morgan was sighted in a tavern called the Golden Acorn in the city today, despite her orders that he be barred from entry. The guardsmen who tried to enforce her will should recover. Tara’s not surprised he’s back: Adventure will always summon when nothing else can.

Tinder heads off to the Golden Acorn to meet his hero. As he’s climbing the stairs to its entrance, he’s surprised when the black cat in front of him with a mouse in its jaws turns into:

Tinder recognizes her from the stories. He asks if Travis Morgan, the Warlord, is there. Shakira comments that he speaks as if they’re the same person, then adds: “The Warlord is what they have made him. Travis Morgan is..well…See for yourself”:

Tinder approaches. Morgan snaps awake and grabs Tinder by the throat. He points his pistol at the startled minstrel and demands to know who sent him.

Morgan asks “Why?” Tinder tells him that they met once before and Morgan had told him incredible stories of the world he came from. Morgan says he doesn’t remember. He asks what Tinder wants.

Tinder replies that he wants to meet the legend. Morgan tells him that being a legend isn’t all it’s cracked up to be: You've always got to prove it to someone, and you never get used to “the look”:

Tinder shows Morgan the sky (Morgan replies he thought he had just drank himself blind) and asks for his help. He tells the Warlord that Tara is gathering an army to march on Thera. Morgan is sure she can handle it. Tinder gets angry at him and leaves.

Watching him go from the window, Morgan muses to Shakira that maybe every time one of them comes, he ought to just shoot them and be done with it. He doesn't have the heart for it though; they’re already mourning a hero.

Still, Morgan begins to put on his armor. “So another war?” Shakira asks.

“One’s as good as the next,” Morgan replies.

Later, Morgan rides into the palace grounds in front of the massed troops. He greets his mate and queen with a lame joke, and she breaks his nose as per usual. After some encouragement by Tinder,  Morgan gives a rousing but meaningless speech to the troops:

And they’re off to meet a eagerly waiting Deimos.

Things to Notice:
  • As it has throughout this limited, Morgan's outfit appears  a bit more like genuine armor than it did in the actual series. Maybe this is an attempt at a minor retcon?
  • Shakira has dark skin in this issue not particularly in keeping with her previous appearances. Maybe she just got a really good tan?
Where It Comes From:
Grell references the first meeting between Tinder and Morgan back in issue #58. Of course, this wasn't actually their first meeting as Tinder is really Joshua, Morgan's son.

Tinder references Deimos death in the darkness and cold along the Terminator. Morgan left Deimos to be devoured by wolves in issue #50. Of course, Morgan had already killed him not once, but twice before. He was also killed once by Tara's faithful dog, Shadow.

Monday, August 26, 2013

God of the Forge

Fights As: L15
Movement: 60' (20')
Armor Class: 4
Hit Points: 210
Attacks: 1
Damage: by weapon as below
Save: L15

S: 25   I: 25   W: 20   D: 12   C: 23   CH: 11

Special Abilities: as an Olympian, and see below

Hephaistos is the chief engineer and technologist of the Olympians. Unique among his people, his usual body is based on an extinct human subspecies: neandthalensis. He walks with a pronounced limp due to an old injury. His continued physical infirmity and less attractive appearance despite the technology of his people likely say something about his psychology. Hephaistos has a gruff demeanor and little time for things that don’t engage his curiosity. While he's seldom cruel, he doesn't forget slights.

The forge god maintains a secret workshop within an undisclosed volcanic mountain, though humans have identified many different mountains as its location in folklore. He is attended at all times by four golden automata (treat as androids) of unmistakably female form and aided in his experiments by the three elder cyclopes.

Hephaistos generally carries a hammer (actually an all-purpose tool) that can reconfigure as walking stick, sensor probe, cutting torch, and weapon (as light energized hammer: 4d6 damage; as energized war hammer: 7d6 damage; laser cutting torch: 5d6 damage, but close range only).

Sunday, August 25, 2013


Fights As: L5
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 4
Hit Points: 194
Attacks: 1
Damage: as below or by weapon
Save: L10

S: 17   I: 18   W: 17   D: 18   C: 23   CH: 25

Special Abilities: as an Olympian, and see below

Aphrodite is worshipped by mortals as the goddess of beauty, love, and procreation, but it is her own pleasure that she cares for more than anyone else’s. Aphrodite engages in research (if it can be called that) in various ways of enhancing mortal sexual pleasure and manipulating emotion. She most often appears as a perfectly formed woman with golden hair, but Aphrodite makes alterations both major and minor to her bodies the way other Olympians change clothes. Whatever the particulars of her form, her vanity ensures she is always beautiful.

Aphrodite doesn't engage in combat if she can avoid it. She wears a belt from which she can release nanites capable of manipulating emotional areas of the brain. It works like empathy except its effects are limited to creating attraction or pleasure (WIL 21 for the purposes of attack).

Friday, August 23, 2013

Gods, Demi-Gods & Strangeness

Is my new working title for my posts on the startling science fantasy truth behind Greek myth, a Mutant Future setting in the past. Here's what I've written so far for those who need to catch up:

An introduction.


Titans: (Overview)
Mnemosyne, Phoebe, and Themis


Giant Boars, Dragons, and Satyrs
The Minotaur and Pasiphae
Stymphalian birds

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bomoth Bebop

Bomoth (sing. boma) are a species of renowned throughout the known galaxy as musicians. Though there home moon (Woon) is in the Coreward Reach, they can be encountered on tour in the various hegemonies and even the Zuran Expanse. They are best known for the improvisational, syncopated musical genre known as Bomoth jook.

Appearance and Biology: Bomoth appear something like blue giant caterpillars, 1.5 to 2.5 m long. They are invertebrates, possessing a hydrostatic skeleton. There faces are oddly human-like, though they have four eyes, each inferior to the human eye, but roughly comparable in the aggregate. Their auditory sensors are arranged around their head in a corona-like fashion, and have different receptors for different frequency ranges, lending overall superior sound discrimination to humans. 
Their bellows-like lungs enable fine breath control, aiding their playing of some musical instruments. Their vocal apparatus is such that they are incredible mimics. The number of their limbs depend on the individual's length, but the first 2 to 3 segments end in muscular tendrils capable of fine manipulation. The other limbs are similarly equipped, but less dexterous in most individuals. It's unclear how many sexes there are among them; bomoth are circumspect on that question with other species. Some individuals grow twin rows of dorsal spines, but the size of these vary with age and likely other factors.

A popular theory (likely suggested by their resemblance to caterpillars) is that bomoth are a larval form of some other organism. Visitors to the underground mushroom forests of their home moon occasionally report sightings of butterfly-winged creatures resembling human females flitting through the twilight. These sighting are dismissed as the result of exposure to psychoactive fungi spores in the atmosphere.

Artist rendition of one of the so-called "Angels of Woon"
Psychology: Bomoth tend to be relaxed, almost to the point of imperturbability. This is often attributed to their habitual use of a fungus-derived, mild intoxicant chreech, but it's likely a species trait. Bomoth are often philosophical and given to obscure musings, but this never gets in the way of praticalities, like payment for performances or seeking pleasure. Jook musicians are known for a distinctive slang, all but impenetrable to the uninitiated. 

No. Appearing:1-4
AC: 8
Hit Dice: 1
Saving Throw: Warrior 1
Attack Bonus: +0
Damage: by weapon, or 1-2 punch
Movement: 20’
Skill Bonus: +3
Morale: 7

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Warlord Wednesday: Ballad Part 4

Here's another installment of my examination of  the adventures DC Comics' Travis Morgan--The Warlord.  The earlier installments can be found here...

"Ballad Part IV"
Warlord (vol. 2) #4 (April 1992)
Written by Mike Grell; Art by Dameon Willich and Tim Burgard

Synopsis: The stone body housing the skull of Deimos rises as the cultists prostrate themselves and praise him. They tell Deimos they worship him and hate the Warlord. They are ready to serve their god and await his command. Deimos’s first order for them:

Deimos laughs at the idea that he’s a god as he takes the throne, surrounded by the bodies of his would-be worshippers.

Meanwhile, Mariah finds Tinder playing guitar in a garden. She asks if it bothers him, going in search of the legend of the Warlord and finding the man Travis Morgan. She tells him she understands and relates her own story: how she met Morgan and followed him to Skartaris for the promise of adventure. Like Morgan, she fell in love with it and the freedom it offered. Coming from an oppressive society, she was eventually taken in by Morgan’s words like everyone else.

Back in Thera, Deimos infuses his slain worshippers with magical energy. The bodies rise as a zombie army! Deimos has a plan to finally destroy his hated enemy, the Warlord: “This time, the very Sun will run red with blood…and black with fear!”

Continuing their ride to Shamballah, Tinder remarks to Petrus that Morgan seems to hold an attraction to beautiful women. Petrus says except for one—the woman who was a cat or the cat who was a woman. He warns Tinder to be careful around her should they meet her.

They arrive in Shamballah and make their way to the palace. Morgan (predictably) isn’t there, but someone else is:

Tinder is surprised; he thought she was dead. Tara remarks he shouldn’t believe everything he hears. She leads them into the palace. Morgan is seldom there, she tells Tinder. He’s bored by affairs of state and runs off with his mistress. Tinder doesn’t know what to say, but Tara clarifies:

He runs off and then returns. Every time he does, Tara breaks his nose. He didn’t believe her the last time, when she told him if he left to never come back. He couldn’t believe her, because if he did he couldn’t have left. She knows he loves her after a fashion, but to stay would mean a slow and boring death. “And it takes no wizard to forsee that for Morgan death will be anything but boring.”

Suddenly, there’s an earthquake. When it’s subsided, they notice the sun is darker and it’s light redder.

Somewhere, Deimos laughs.

Things to Notice:
  • Deimos is pretty ungrateful. No surprise there.
  • Despite her cover appearance, Shakira only appears in flashback in this issue.
Where It Comes From:
Grell is perhaps referencing story arc in the original series (#126-133) that had Tara killed. Of course, she was eventually resurrected.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Easy Being Green

The planet Gaea is one of the wonders of the Coreward Reach: It's an exact replica of Old Earth down to the landmasses. It's most obvious difference is the lack of hominids and most of their artifacts. The other changes are less visible but even more profound; The biosphere forms one gigantic mind, and the most independent and intelligent of its constituent programs are the virids.

Appearance and Biology: Virid tribes vary a great deal in height and build: some are small, slight, and elfin, while others are large and brutish. They all resemble each in that their biology shows a blending of plant and animal characteristics. They have skins of various shades green (due to presence of symbiotic cyanobacteria) and foliage-like hair.

All virids have nanites in their systems linking them with Gaea, whom they think of as the Great Mother. Gaea's consciousness (if such a term is relevant for such an alien intellect), is too distributed to interact in a verbal way without great effort, but virid experience dreams and visions that they view as messages from her.

Psychology: Virid are little different from primitive humans--except that they live in an environment that resembles primeval Earth, but is actually a fairly closely maintained garden. They're world isn't without dangers, but their lives are much more free of hurt or want than any other primitive humanoids. This has made them generally a gregarious and pleasure-loving people. This friendliness does not extend to those who seek to harm any of their tribe.

Stats/Abilites: Most virids have ability scores in the same range as humans, though larger or smaller tribes will vary. Their symbiotic organisms supplement their metabolism and faster healing when they are under visible light sources with spectra similar to their native yellow sun. Every day spent in direct sunlight allows them to heal 1 additional hit point, and every day resting in direct sunlight allows a virid to recovery 2 additional hit points. They also lose System Strain at a rate of 2 points a day in the sun. Virids get a +1 to Physical Effect saving throws against plant-derived toxins.

Mysteries: It seems clear that Gaea and the virids were engineered (or at least modified), but what ancient power was responsible, and to what purpose? Why is Gaea intelligent and what does she want?

Sunday, August 18, 2013


This is my 1000th post. That's 180 Warlord Wednesdays, 221 posts about a place called the City, and nearly 7000 comments--some of which are actually by other people.

Thanks to everyone that has stopped by over the three and a half years of this blog's existence and the other bloggers (some still going strong, some checking in sporadically, and others long moved on) that have made it a good community to be a part of.

I don't know if I've got 1000 more, but there is more to come. Stick around.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Mother to Monsters

Echidna is a vast, protoplasmic entity whose main body is in the abyssal depths, though she has spread tendrils to shallower regions. She was a creation of the Titans, a living bio-assembler and the primeval source of all life on Earth. She should have long ago lapsed into programmed senescence, but instead, infected by Typhon, she makes monsters. Her rippling, protean bulk disgorges half-formed, primitive organisms (some free-swimming, others encased in membraneous sacs) from its surface. Many of these die, falling back into Echidna to be engulfed and re-absorbed, but others rise to the surface--and continue to evolve. Echidna is intelligent (though with an intelligence alien to humans) and will respond to stimuli, sometimes exuding shapes to mimic them.

Any monster can potentially be generated by echidna, but here are some vaugely mythology related ones. Feel free to reskin the monsters for maximum grotesqueness while keeping the stats the same:
1 - Giant Boar
2 - Chimera
3 - Naga
4 - Giant Fish
5 - Hill Giant
6 - Hydra
7 - Giant Leech
8 - Manticore
9 - Giant Octopus
10 - Giant Snake

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Warlord Wednesday: Ballad Part 3

Here's another installment of my examination of  the adventures DC Comics' Travis Morgan--The Warlord.  The earlier installments can be found here...

"Ballad Part III"
Warlord (vol. 2) #3 (March 1992)
Written by Mike Grell; Art by Dameon Willich and Rick Hoberg

Synopsis: The minstrel and the veteran ride into Kiran Pass, a waystation for caravans along the trade routes. They’ve only just arrived when they see a woman on a horse, apparently beset by robbers. The minstrel leaps from his horse to help. He handles himself well, and soon the robbers run away. The woman has missed her caravan to Thera, but the minstrel offers that she can accompany them, as they’ll be passing near the border on their way to Shamballah.

The veteran introduces himself to her as Petrus, and she gives her name as Driana. The minstrel says he’s had many names, but most call him Tinder.

After a night in the wilderness (where the two men tell Driana of their quest to find the truth behind the legend of the Warlord), they bid her goodbye at the Theran border. She says she’s certain she will see them again “in one fashion or another.”

The men ride on to the gates of Kiro. They enter the palace where Petrus demands impertinently to see the king. Machiste enters and the two exchange insults. By the time Mariah arrives, it’s apparent the two are old friends with Pertrus. He tells them the minstrel is seeking the truth of the legend of the Warlord:

Later, the royal couple share stories of the Warlord. Machiste admits that he has always loved Morgan as a brother—but he didn’t always like him. He tells the minstrel how he and Morgan met as gladiators. How they learned kill to avoid being killed—something Morgan both hated and loved. He tells of how Morgan inspired them all with his words about freedom and justice, and how he tried to be the legend they all wanted him to be:

Meanwhile in Thera, Driana arrives at the strange temple we saw last issue. One of the robed acolytes asks about her journey:

Then, she is ready. She lays down upon the altar, a willing sacrifice performing a duty she believes she was born for. After her life’s blood has seeped away unto the sarcophagus she laid upon, something evil awakens. The cultists chant:

Things to Notice:
  • The identity of the minstrel is revealed: Tinder, who is in reality Joshua, the son of Morgan and Tara.
  • Mariah first appears in this issue in a pose that is clearly an homage to the first time she was seen "in costume" back in issue #7 of the original series.
Where It Comes From:
The old veteran is named "Petrus," a Latin name derived from Greek meaning "rock." It's the source of the name Peter. Perhaps this suggests that Petrus was a "disciple" of Morgan's in the same way Peter was of Jesus, though this Petrus has since become disillusioned.

The first Warlord series ended with Mariah with the abusive Danny Maddox, but she is back with Machiste in this story. This may suggest Grell is discounting events in the series after he left, but it could just be assumed that they got back together since the end of the series.

Likewise, Burkett left Tinder (then still a young boy) in the distant past of Skartaris known as Wizard World. How he got back to the present is unexplained, so this again could be a signal Grell only sees his work on the series as canonical.

A Special Note: Grell's official website reported he's in the hospital with cellulitis. I hope all the readers of Warlord Wednesday will join me in wishing him a quick and full recovery.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Monster Behind the Myth

In my posts on a science fantasy truth behind Greek mythology, I've given some pretty science fictional remaking of classic monsters, but the "truth" behind the monster need not always be elaborate. It's just more science-based and less mythological. Here are couple of easy ones that are more prosaic--and more pulpy, maybe.

Giant Boar
Greek myth has at least three giant boars: Calydonian, Crommyonian, and Erymanthian. While giant boars are relatively "realistic" as it is, there's no reason to hypothesize genetically engineered giants, as we've got a real animal (or a family of animals) close enough to fit the bill: the dinohyus ("terrible pig") and the whole enteledont family.

 Dinohyus was 12 ft long and 5' 1" at the shoulder. That's plenty to give Heracles a challenge!

The familiar image of the satyr of a half-goat, half-man creature is a later invention. The original conception was of a some hirsute guy with big ears, a pug nose, and a goat-like tail.

A Hellenistic era satyr
In other words, not really much different (except for the tail) from the wildman or woodwose--in other words, the cryptozoological hairy hominid. Further supporting this idea, is that the Libyan satyrs and satyrs described living on the Satyride Islands off the coast of Africa, seem pretty clearly to be monkeys or apes.

Last but not least are the drakones or dragons. These are almost always depicted as just as big snakes in Greek art. Not as cool as modern conceptions of dragon? Well, it was good enough for Conan! And there's titanoboa upping the ante on very real world giant serpents.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Three Titanides

Mnemosyne embodies memory and so is both archive and archivist. She forms a shared conceptual space linking the intellects of all her fellow Titans. Olympians and humans may access her through certain passcode rituals and altered states of consciousness. Mnemosyne very rarely appears in a physical form, but when she does it as a giant bronze mask of a woman’s face.

Partnered with Koios, Phoebe is the programmer of causality and the engineer of future probabilities. She was once the operator of the Oracle at Delphi, but is now subservient to Apollo on that project. Phoebe appears as a woman whose body is made of gently pulsing white radiance, her face a stylized golden mask, etched with lines of bright light.

Themis embodies divine order and cosmic law. She punishes violations of causality and reality, and wards against extracosmic incursions. While she didn't side with the Olympians in the coup, her desire for order led her to support Zeus’s rule once he was enthroned. Themis appears as a giant woman clothed in golden body armor. The lower half of her face is bare, but her eyes are covered. She carries a golden sword.

Friday, August 9, 2013

An Enclopedia of Ooo

I picked up the Adventure Time Encyclopedia this week (or to give it it's full title: The Adventure Time Encyclopædia: Inhabitants, Lore, Spells, and Ancient Crypt Warnings of the Land of Ooo Circa 19.56 B.G.E. - 501 A.G.E.). If you're not familiar with Adventure Time, this post will give you the basics.

Everyone caught up? Anyway, this encyclopedia purports to be written by Hunson Abadeer, evil Lord of the Nightosphere, though there are humorous annotations by Finn, Jack, and others. It basically gives Abadeer's dismissive take on the people, places, and things of the land of Ooo.

Beyond the setting inspiration, it has another interesting element possibly worth stealing for rpg use. The entries on the major characters have a list of rumors about them. This strikes me as a good thing to write up for NPCs. Maybe some are true and some are false (a random die roll might decide), but in brainstorming you could put down whatever came to mind.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Dionysos Syndrome

Dionysos is not a superhuman Olympian or a Titan from beyond the Cosmos. Any human worshipped as that god (and there have been several) is actually an infected carrier of a nanomachine virus that the Olympians call "Dionysos." The origins of the nanomachines are unclear; Some tales imply it was born in the Underworld (perhaps created in a plot for revenge by the imprisioned Titans), while others suggest Zeus is it's creator. Whatever its origins, the Olympians seem unwilling or unable to stop its spread.

In the typical infected individual, Dionysos causes an extreme losing of inhibitions, exacerbated by uncontrolled use of any intoxicant available, most often wine and plant-derived hallucinogens or deliriants. In some cases, Dionysos itself causes hallucinatory experiences. Groups of Dionysos infected will often go into an estatic frenzy of sexual abandon and compulsive violence. They congregate in groups, roaming the countryside following one of their number that they believe to be Dionysos. The so-designated individual acts accordingly. The role shifts after a period of days to weeks, though the shift may occur abruptly.

Must Dionysos infected celebrants will be normal humans, though satyrs, nymphs (called maenads, though this term is sometimes applied to all infected females), sileni, and centaurs will also be found among them at times. When a group of Dionysos infected are encountered, a roll on the Monster Reaction Table determines how they respond. Resisting their demands to join their revels, causes a +2 penalty on the roll. Anyone in close proximity to an infect individual (within 3 feet) must make a save versus poison or join the revelry for 1d6 turns. Thereafter, as long as the individual remains in proximity to the infected, a failed saving throw means the effect continues for 2d6 turns, and a success 1d6. Three failed saving throws in a row mean the effect is permanent until cured by sorcery or "divine" intervention. Contact with body fluids of infected give a -2 to saving throws.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Warlord Wednesday: Ballad Part 2

Here's another installment of my examination of  the adventures DC Comics' Travis Morgan--The Warlord.  The earlier installments can be found here...

"Ballad Part 2"
Warlord (vol. 2) #2 (February 1992)
Written by Mike Grell; Art by Dameon Willich and Rick Hoberg

Synopsis: A man trudges through the snowy wastes of what must be the Skartarian Terminator. He carries something wrapped in his cloak, something that compels him in his task. In the town of Hazrak, he’s confronted by robbers eager to get a look at what he holds so dear, but he dispatches them easily. Nothing will get in his way.

He arrives at a strange temple. Inside a woman, a priestess, is waiting.

He lays his burden upon an alter and:

Meanwhile, the minstrel accepts the challenge the veteran gave last issue—but only if the veteran accompanies him. The old man agrees.

They’ll need horses for their journey, though, and neither has any coin. The minstrel picks the purse of a passerby. He grew up on the streets and knows how to get by.

After acquiring horses, the two ride to Castle Deimos:

Initially, they are chased from the gate by phantom monsters. The minstrel realizes that he and the veteran saw different monsters and notices the horses weren’t frightened. It’s an illusion, based on fear. They advance again, cautiously, and this time pass through the phantoms unharmed. A man greets them and says the Mistress will see them, now.

She says the minstrel has “come seeking a hero” like she “came seeking a father.” She fears they both will “have to get use to disappointment.”

The sorceress relates how her father (devastated by the death of her mother, perhaps) shipped her off to live with an aunt, while he went off to fight in a war. When he didn’t return, she went looking for him, and found him in Skartaris. Even there he couldn't stay committed to the rebellion he started or the warrior queen he loved. He always needed a challenge: something new to discover, something new to conquer.

He comes and asks for her help from time to time. She never denies him, but she never lets him close anymore.

She leaves the minstrel and veteran with one final thought: “He’s not a bad man,” she says. “Not in his heart…”

After the two have left Castle Deimos, Jennifer Morgan looks into her crystal ball and sees and image of her father. She tells him she misses him. Though of course, there is no one to hear.

Things to Notice:
  • On the cover, Grell puts Jennifer in the tiara she wore in her first "in-costume" appearance in issue #54.
Where It Comes From:
Grelle expands a bit here on the details he presented in issue #38 in regard to Jennifer's and her father's pre-Skartarian histories.

The flashbacks in this issue show Jennifer's hair as white in her childhood. This is consistent with her earlier portrayals where it was blonde until she learned magic. (The change in her hair color was never explained in-story.)

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Roadside Distraction

After the busy with this swamp witch, the crew in my WaRP Weird Adventures game finally arrived in Fort Lagarto, the town closest to Urst's opulent estate, Shamballa. After getting situated in their hotel, they went out to buy "adventuring supplies" (determined not to get caught without the necessary items this time--they spend a lot of time prepping), they became curious about a tourist trap they saw called the Snake-a-torium. So curious, in fact, that they delayed their journey to Shamballa to take it in.

The place was run by a Southern gentleman-type named Gaston Redfoot:

(He wasn't dressed this nice at the Snake-a-torium)
Gaston guides them through some fairly shabby enclosures with an albino alligator and various and sundry snakes. Nothing is particularly of interest, until they get the final room that contains a naga. She eyes them, but does not speak--and Redfoot warns them about disturbing him. The player's are pretty sure this all is important and they are even more certain when Redfoot shows them to the gift shop and there's a shelf full of snowglobes almost identical to the one that is supposedly the "key" to Shamballa!

Is there a connection or are the player's just seeing things that aren't there? We'll find out.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Mother Earth

Though intimately connected to biological life in the Cosmos, Gaia is a Primordial and mother to titans and monsters. She predates matter and time, but apparently chose to sacrifice that transcendant existence for reasons known only to her.

Gaia is the Earth. The molecular substrata of her nervous system run through the soil and powers itself from the magnetic field generated by churning magma in the planet's core. The infrastructure of her consciousness weaves through the limbs of trees, transmits signals through the emergent patterns of birds in flight; and absorbs data from nanite motes carried on the winds and rains and molecular machinery in the bloodstreams of animals.

Her mental architecture as it is, Gaia's thoughts and experiences are alien to more limited beings, though she is aware of all those connected to her in a deep way. Gaia has subsystems or partial avatars instantiated with consciousnesses more relatable to humans and Olympians called nymphs. They allow her more specialized actions and directed experiences than she is able to get otherwise. Nymphs are often classified by a geographical feature, locations, or specialty. It's unclear if Gaia herself makes any such distinction, however.

Brief manifestations of a nymph are typically of the faces or bodies of women formed from a convenient medium, generally the one to which the nymph is "related" (i.e. water for a naiad). Longer manifestations are full physical beings, gynoids built from their associated medium (if practical) but more commonly from biological materials. It takes Gaia less than five minutes to assemble a nymph body under normal circumstances.

Some nymphs have long lifespans and develop very distinct personalities and attributes, though not all of the beings the Greeks classify as nymphs are actually avatars of Gaia. Some of the frenzied maenads in Dionysos's retinue are nymphs, but the Lampade will-o'-wisps that accompany Hekate and other so-called "underworld nymphs" are different sorts of servitors.

No. Enc.:  1d6
Movement:  120' (40')
Armor Class:  9
Hit Dice:  3
Attacks: 1
Damage: 0 or by weapon
Save:  L4
Morale:  6

This represents an embodied (long manifestation) nymph. They may possess slightly different abilities based on their particular type. Nymphs appear as beautiful young women, often nude.

All nymphs possess the abilities empathy and regenerative capability. They can functionally teleport (as per the Mutant Future power, but with no chance of error for unfamiliar surroundings) by being "re-absorbed" into Gaia and re-assembled elsewhere. Examples of the abilities specific to certain types:

Anthousi (flowers): fragrance development
Dryades (trees and forests): natural armor