Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope everyone celebrating today has a good holiday.

May all your wishbone-wishes come true.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Warlord Wednesday: Death from Above

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

"Saga Part 6: Death from Above"
Warlord (vol. 4) #6 (November 2009) Written by Mike Grell; Penciled by Chad Hardin; Inked by Walden Wong & Wayne Faucher

Synopsis: When last we saw our heroes, it looked like Ned Hawkins, aka the Golden God, had used ancient Atlantean technology to bring an avalanche down on the Shamballan army--with Tara, Jennifer, and Machiste leading it.

Turns out not:

Morgan and Ewan McBane ride down to meet them. Their all quickly joined by Tinder leading a motley troop of volunteers he was able to round up in the villages and the homesteads. Morgan is skeptical as to their abilities and their motivations. A one-eyed man tells Morgan that they don't fight for Tinder, or the Warlord; They fight for the cause he once spoke of: Freedom.

Morgan's shamed by the man's words. Morgan admits he forgot the cause he was fighting more long ago. He admits he was wrong, but he also charges that the people who followed him were wrong in thinking that freedom was something he could give to them.

Unaware of these events, Hawkins is certain he has defeated the Warlord. "What can he do without an army?" He asks Mariah.

"Terrible things, Hawkins." is her reply.

Hawkins isn't convinced. He goes to greet his returning mercenaries who have brought him a box he was looking for that had been "buried deep beneath a temple of the ancients." In payment, he grants them the rights to slave trade in the conquered kingdoms. Hawkins agrees and suggest that start with his paramour Kate. He explains to her that she's challenged him too much of late. That's when:

The army of freedom is here. They storm the fortress. Jennifer uses her magic to Hawkins's Atlantean super-science/sorcery at bay. She says he's not bad for "an amateur" as she blasts him. Mariah snatches up a sword, kills a few guards, and goes after Kate for payback But when Machiste and McBane fight their way to her, Kate has a gun on her. Kate tries to seduce McBane back to her side.

It doesn't work.

Meanwhile, Alysha has been captured and taken aboard Hawkins's skyship as he tries to make his getaway. The damaged (thanks to an RPG fired by Morgan) crashes at the base of the temple with the portal to the Himalayas. Hawkins plans to take back magic and conquer earth! Morgn has tagged along though. Hawkins pushes Alysha at him, then runs for the temple. Morgan quickly sets the skyship's weapons to fire--and blows up the portal.

Their comrades arrive. Morgan proclaims this a new beginning. Tinder asks what became of Hawkins--the Atlantean armor made him basically invulnerable. Morgan replies he's got a new world to conquer...

Things to Notice:
  • Hawkins doesn't seem to think all those superheroes in the DCU will stop his attempts at conquest.
Where it comes from: 
Finally, Morgan gives a response to charges of him abandoning the cause of freedom he sold people on rather than guilt or cynicism. Grell seems to be setting the stage for the Warlord to become a full-fledged hero again.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Variations on a 4-D War

I enjoyed "Day of the Doctor," but the last battle of the Time War seemed a little--prosaic--for a protracted conflict between two ultra-powerful, reality-spanning powers. It got me to thinking about the gaming potential of a Time War, or as Alan Moore had it Doctor Who Weekly: A 4-D War. I've got two ideas.

Version One: 
"'Nowhere' was run by an old sasquatch named Lukashev. Found as a baby at 25,000 feet, he was captured and trained. His youth was spent as part of a super-naut space program along with a chupacabra and a dinosaur from the future."
- Brandon Graham, King City
This version goes full Kirby and quite possible layers on the gonzo. The Time War is strange--and fought by strange combatants with stranger weapons. Lords of Creation probably has some inspiration for this version (it might even provide a system if you could figure out how to play it.).

The combatants might be as starkly good and evil as Silver Age superbeings, or they might be painted in shades of gray with the protagonists (the PCs) cheerfully unconcerned with their superiors' ultimate goals--or even possibly their identities.

Version Two:
"Just remember this: All agents defect, and all resisters sell out."
- Naked Lunch (1991)
Maybe there's no need to be that cynical, but this version is Philip K. Dick by way of John le Carre. The time war is more of a cold war with brief flashes of violence. The weapons are still strange; they just get used less often. Individual agents might be a bit like 007 for a bit, but ultimately they may discover they've become Number 6 and all of spacetime is the Village.

The Agency is shadowy--and may in fact be the same as the Enemy, just at a different point on their timeline. All of this can be grim or even horrific, but it can also be played for satire (think G vs. E, and the relative amorality of Good and Evil in its cosmos).

Version Three:
Or, you could dial both of them back a bit and crash the two together. This is probably the Grant Morrison version (The Invisibles and The Filth would be good inspirations, here). Time agents are eclectic and flamboyant, but not usually Yeti's from alternate timelines. The weapons and battles are psychedelic, but the stakes can be grim, and the moral fog never dissipates--even in higher order dimensions.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


They were driven out once. The world changed; the magic went away. Now, the stars are right and the ancient mounds release the hosts of Otherworld. We're all to familiar with zombie and vampire apocalypses, and I've given other monsters their fearful day in the sun, but now let's consider the revenge of the Good Folk: the Faerie Apocalypse.

So Nuada from Hellboy II (or someone a lot like him) gets their way and a lot of terrible and beautiful (but mostly terrible. Basically think of things from del Toro's other faerie movies--Don't be Afraid of the Dark and Pan's Labyrinth) fae are loosed upon the world.

A game set in this period is more War of the Worlds or Walking Dead. Ragtag survivors are combating magical fairy hordes as best they can. Move a bit more into the future though, and you get something I find more interesting: the post-fairy apocalypse.

In this setting, the faerie would have overrun the world (possibly setting up new Medieval kingdoms and the like--or not) turning into a new Fairyland. Humans might be subjugated (like in Killraven, Planet of the Apes, or DC's original Starfire), or essential hiding in redoubts that provide protection from the essentially disorganized faerie (something similar to Vertigo's new Hinterkind or maybe the post-alien invasion series Falling Skies, if humans have more a resistance left). Playing up the Medieval element here (the faerie's struck against industrial society the hardest, maybe) might give you something like El Cid crossed with Moorcock's Hawkmoon novels.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Some Art for Inspiration

I don't think you can not get at least some gaming inspiration out of one of these:

Art by Don Lawrence
Not all green giants are jolly, apparently.

Art by Barry Windsor-Smith
That doesn't sound good.

Art by Frank Thorne
Some monsters require some assembly to be truly menacing.

And you scoffed at my giant mummy post!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hard Science Fantasy

Art by Bruce Pennington

Genre titles are really imprecise things, so let me explain what I mean: A setting that looks like fantasy, but is in fact sort of post-technological science fiction. What would make it "hard" as opposed to the usual science fantasy is that it wouldn't resort to what are essentially fantasy concepts like extradimensional entities or psionic powers to do it. The fantastic would come from at least moderately more possible sources like near Clarketech ("any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic") nanotechnology, cybernetics, and bio-engineering.

I haven't really seen this out there in gaming. True, Numenera presents a world utterly drenched in nanotech that can be tapped like magic by the masses, ignorant of it's nature. But Numenera still has psychic powers and extradimensional monsters, though. What I'm envisioning is more like Karl Shroeder's Ventus (where the "spirits" animating the natural world are AI controlled nanotech) or the Arabian Nights-flavored Sirr of Hannu Rajaniemi's The Fractal Prince where spirits in ancient tombs are digital mind emulations and the jinn are made of "wildcode" malicious nanotech.

Beyond nanotech, monsters would be genetically engineered creations of the past or descendants thereof. Or perhaps genuine aliens. Gods would be post-human biologic or AI entities--or often some combination of both. Or figments of human imagination. Or leftover bombs.

Why a more "rigorous" science fiction masquerading as fantasy world than the usual Dying Earths or what not? No real reason other than it seems to me starting with far future science fiction and figuring out how it would be rationalized by a more primitive mindset might yield a fresher take on the standard fantasy tropes.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Warlord Wednesday Delay

Your regularly scheduled Warlord Wednesday is delayed until next week. I misplaced my copy of the nest issue and didn't get a replacement until too late. Instead, here's a tease--the cover of the next issue:

And a bonus 2 page spread from issue #3 by Chad Hardin:

Monday, November 18, 2013

Used Treasures

Amazon Marketplace sellers delivered onto me several used books this week, a few of which I hope will provide some game inspiration:

The Book of the Weird by Barbara Ninde Byfield periodically comes to my awareness, but this recent post by perdustin finally made me quit procrastinating and order it. Head over there and read the post, but suffice it to say, it's just as charmingly pre-D&D as I had hoped. Well worth the time to track down.

Star Barbarian and Lord of Blood by Dave Van Arnam form a science fantasy duology. I haven't heard much about them (I was drawn them by the title of the first and the Steranko cover on the second volume.)

but check out this cover blurb on Star Barbarian:
Centuries before the multiwave-drive ships had come to Morkath of the Caravan Stars--bringing colonists, empires, confederations of plunderers. Finally, the planet was exhausted and left to descend into barbarism. 
Now, savage tribal leaders fought over the blighted lands. Among those warriors was the young hunter Jamnar, who vowed to reclaim Morkath from the demonic powers that gripped it--the dark god Shaphath, the priestesses of Astaphar, the evil priests called Kvununun... 
The mighty Jamnar would have aid in his quest. Prosperon, the interstellar castaway, would lead him to the forbidden temple of Telshasoth. But only if Jamnar himself dared to enter the temple's portals--and therein seize the 3000-year-old secret of a lost civilization--could he hope to save his people and a planet plunged into infamy and terror...
How could I pass that up?

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Fights As: L15
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 3
Hit Points: 210
Attacks: 1 (2 with bow)
Damage: as below or by weapon
Save: L18

S: 20   I: 20   W: 18   D: 23   C: 23   CH: 24

Special Abilities: as an Olympian, and see below

Apollo usually appears as a well-formed, beardless youth, with an almost feminine beauty to his features, and curly blonde hair. He tends to wear clothing merely to accentuate his body and seldom takes on any unattractive form.  Apollo takes almost as many lovers both male and female.

Despite his vanity, Apollo isn’t shallow. He’s an aesthete and both artist and patron in the fields of music and poetry. He’s a medical researcher and designer of both diseases and cures. He’s a mystic with an interest in prophecy and overseer of the Oracle at Delphi. Finally, like his sister, he enjoys the hunt and the sport of archery.

Apollo has photo-emitter nanites implanted in his skin so that he can generate light of variable degrees up to flash blinding anyone (4 point penalty to attack rolls and armor class) within 30 feet for 1d4 rounds. He carries a bow with computer aided targeting (+4 tp hit, negates penalties for firing into groups), that actually fires arrow-like micro-missles that do 2d6 damage, but can be programmed to explode (7d6 damage), or to release preloaded toxins or poisons (per bio toxin bomd in Muture Future or poison type).

Friday, November 15, 2013

Subterranean High Strangeness

Frank Frazetta
The old cliche says "truth is stranger than fiction." I don't know if any of the tales here are true, but hey, they're presented as such--and they're certainly strange. Strange in a way that would be great fodder for modern (or modernish) adventures, particularly of the dungeoncrawling sort:

Subterranean Lumberjacks
On December 26, 1945, there was an explosion in the Belva Mine in Fourmile, KY. What was apparently reported much later (1980-81) was that survivors recounted takes of a "door" opening up in a wall of rock and a man dressed like a "lumberjack" or "telephone lineman" emerging to reassure them they would be rescued. He then disappeared the way be came.

Trapped miners in Shipton, Pennsylvania, experienced similar strangeness. Again survivors reported meeting strange men (similarly clad to the Belva lumberjacks, according to some accounts) who told them they would be rescued and gave them a bluish light and showed them some halographic visuals. The miners seem to have been unclear if their benefactors were fully corporeal. I bet.

Mine Monsters
It could be a lot worse. Just read this pretty likely untrue account that appears on a lot of internet paranormal sites:
PENNSYLVANIA, DIXONVILLE - Mine inspector Glenn E. Berger reported in 1944 to his superiors that the Dixonville mine disaster which "killed" 15 men was not the result of a cave-in, but rather an attack by underground creatures capable of manipulating the earth [partial cave-ins], whose domain the miners had apparently penetrated. Most of the dead miners were not injured by falling rocks but showed signs of large claw marks, others were missing, and one survivor spoke of seeing a vicious humanoid creature that was 'not of this world' within an ancient passage that the miners had broke into. The creature somehow created a "cave-in", blocking himself and another inspector [who closed his eyes when he felt the creatures 'hot breath' on his neck] from the main passage until another rescue party began to dig through the collapse, scaring the "creature" away. 
Shaverian Mysteries
The monsters don't confine themselves to miners, apparently. The 1967 issue of the Hollow Earth Bulletin prints portion the so-called "The Messerschmidt Manuscript" that proports to give the account of a French woman, who describes her horrifying kidnapping at 19 by deros (or something similar) from an elevator in a building basement in 1943. She and other women endured months of captivity in the hands of monsters than sound a lot like George Pal's morlocks in physical description until they were rescued by pale men in gray, metallic uniforms who slaughtered the beastmen and gave the former captives clothing and medical attention.

44 Cities
It's not all monsters down there, though. An article in the Summer 1978 issue of Pursuit Magazine puts forward a claim by a Dr. Ron Anjard that he knew personally of 44 underground cities in North America. He learned this from anonymous Native American sources. Maybe these relate to the lost cities of the Grand Canyon? Or some of those giant containing tombs?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ghita's World

This is a map of the world of Ghita of Alizarr, a Sword & Sorcery character created by Frank Thorne, debuting in Warren's 1984 #7. Thorne had worked on Marvel's Red Sonja, but Ghita is much racier fare. Eventually, Thorne got around to providing a map--and here it is, suitable for game usage:

Oh, and here's the text that accompanied the map to give the "flavor" of the strip:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Warlord Wednesday: The Castle

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

"Saga Part 5: The Castle"
Warlord (vol. 4) #5 (October 2009) Written by Mike Grell; Penciled by Chad Hardin; Inked by Wayne Faucher

Synopsis: Machiste climbs to a craggy peak and slaps a hungry pteranodon in the jaw with his mace hand so he can raise Jennifer's signal jewel high.

Jennifer's twin jewel begins to glow. She and Tara urge their horses to a gallop, and the army of Shamballah they lead does the same. Jennifer has had a troubling premonition: an image of ravens.

Morgan and McBane go though the portal to Tibet. Morgan is less impressed by the cold than seeing stars again after so long. The two make their way to a Chinese base. They break in an raid the places for all the weapons they can find.

They don't make it back through the portal before the Chinese army catches up. Morgan's convinced that McBane's just a voyeuristic journalist, not a man of action, but McBane saves his life, then sets an explosive trap for the Chinese. The two head back to Skartaris with the weapons.

Meanwhile, Ned "Golden God" Hawkins is showing off his new toys (what appear to be various war robots) he has found. Mariah warns him:

Hawkins isn't having any of it. Kate basically tells Mariah to stay away from her man. She doesn't need to worry.

While they're talking, Shakira has been eavesdropping while snacking on a mouse.

She heads out to warn the others and interrupts a moment between Tinder and Alysha. They're in the village where Tinder had been trying to rouse the townsfolk to action with his oratory, but it's unclear anyone's interest was stirred but Alysha's. Shakira draws their attention toward the fortress, from which an Atlantean war airship is rising!

Hawkins uses the ship to fire a blast of energy. It hits a mountain near the Shamballan army, sending an avalanche down upon them--seemingly burying them all include Tara, Jennifer, and Machiste!

Things to Notice:
  • McBane never answers Morgan's question about what side he was on in the sectarian violence in Belfast.
  • Morgan again points out he's been in Skartaris since 1969.
Where it comes from: 
Morgan worries about his enjoyment of combat, and quotes the lines he "read off a barracks wall in Saigon." Both his ambivalence about his love of combat and the lines he quotes first showed up in issue #3 of the original run. See my commentary there. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Alien Underground

"In February of 1981, it became horrifyingly clear the ominous occurrences beneath Centralia were not the result of a coal seam fire. On the night of Valentine's Day, a 4 foot wide sinkhole in a backyard disgorged something more than toxic vapors. The next day, the reports of shocked survivors and the physical remains of creatures unknown to science attested to the stunning fact that humankind had experienced it's first verified encounter with extraterrestrials. Instead of coming down from the stars, they had risen from the subterranean depths.

It was the first, but it would not be the last. Very soon the words 'maze', 'breach", and 'irruption' would take on new, more specialized meanings."

- John Kiehl, The Abyss Gazes: A History of the Underground Invasion (1995)

"Despite appearances, the mazes are not located within the lithosphere. All evidence suggests they are engineered spacetime features similar in some respects to wormholes. They interface exclusively with subterranean environments, though these may be naturally occurring or man-made. Areas of interface--or breach--are associated with paranormal phenomena.

The interiors of the mazes are generally supportive of earth-like life. Indeed, they show evidence of longterm utilization and habitation by extraterrestrial organisms. Many are still inhabited by extraterrestrial biologic entities who perhaps (like humans) discovered the mazes through breaches on their worlds. Despite the obvious the intelligence of these entities, attempts at communication have been limited due to their hostility. Many appear to regard the mazes and the material culture of uncountable previous explorers and colonists found therein as their property alone.

The tensions around contact with these entities have only been exacerbated by the actions of looters and thrill-seekers illegally entering the mazes, despite the efforts of world governments..."

- UN Report on Extraterrestrial Subterranean Structures and their Inhabitants (1991)

"Q: By whom was the Dulce installation constructed?

A: There are natural caverns, first off. Big ones. Bigger than Carlsbad, even. These caverns have been connected to the mazes since prehistoric times. The Draco [reptilian humanoids] used the caverns and tunnels for thousands of years. The original caverns included ice caves, sulfur springs, and energy 'hotspots' that the ’aliens’ found perfect for their needs. Later, the U.S. government enlarged the area. According to several senior maintenance workers I talked with, part of it was blasted out by nuclear devices in the sixties. There are sections, like the shuttle tunnels, that were formed by an advanced tunneling machine powered by arcane technology that leaves the tunnel walls completely smooth. The walls in those tubes look like polished black glass.

Q: The 1960s? So you're certain the government's awareness of the mazes and aliens didn't just start in the 80s?

A: Absolutely. Every President since Grover Cleveland has had high level talks with aliens from the mazes. Certain secret societies and occult groups, of course, have also been aware of them for a long time."

Q: Was there ever any talk of delvers at Dulce?

A: Both the 'aliens' and the human agents were very aware of them. The government's official line is that the delvers are a nuisance. That was the attitude you got from the human agents working there. The 'aliens', on the other hand, saw the delvers as much more of an affront. What you see in the media is only part of it. Theere are paramilitary bands--sometimes funded and equipped by so-called 'rogue elements' of various governments. There's basically a covert war going on."

- Transcript from "A Dulce Insider Speaks Out"

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Zone Phenomena

Logo by Hereticwerks
blue buzz: A roughly phone booth sized patch of pale blue light, flickering like a dying fluorescent bulb. Within 20 feet or so, a constant buzz like an alarm clock can be heard, though approximately 10% of individuals will hear haunting, indescribable music instead. Anyone entering the area of light experiences a slowing of time to roughly 14% it's normal rate. Leaving the area can be a shock to the system (saving throw), and lead to sudden death with autopsy revealing advanced aging of the heart muscle. Everyone experiences distracting tinnitus for  1-6 hours.

chasing shadow: Too thick and deep black to be natural, the chasing shadow is nevertheless able to lurk unseen in normal darkness. It slides out of hiding when a living thing draws near, and if not stopped, attaches itself to them at their feet like a normal shadow--though does not also flow out in the same direction as the natural one. It slowly begins to crawl up the victims body and if not stopped, will cover a person complete in darkness in 20-30 hours. Over the next 30-45 minutes it will contort and collapse their body until only the flat shadow remains. What happens to the victim is unknown. If caught early, the shadow can be removed but only if the victim is surrounded by bright light and a small laser (like a laser pointer, for example) is used carefully "cut" away from the chasing shadow.

memory flashes: Groups of will-o'-the-wisp-like flashes of light with colorful after-images. They move quickly to swarm around a person, typically for no more than a minute. After the flashes pass, a person so caught will have one or more new memories of things that happened to someone else instead of them. They will also likely notice at some point that one or more of their own memories are missing--always small, discrete things, but perhaps important (like a telephone number of the location of something).

razorfog: Appears as a patch of fog or white smoke (typically 10'x20'), drifting in the breeze (even when the air is still), but is actually more like a cloud of talcum powder in consistency. Anyone caught in a razorfog takes 2 points of damage per round if not armored or wearing protective clothing. Anyone damaged by the fog may become confused (per spell) and will be at -2 to attacks and saves as long as they're engulfed. The damaging effects of razorfog linger 3 rounds after being freed of the fog, only the victim is thoroughly washed.

voidflower: Voidflowers are translucent tubular structures (from a distance they look like wavering heat haze) with funnel mouths like featureless black holes poked in the fabric of the world. They're found in clumps of 5-20 and stand about 2.5 feet tall. Voidflowers are believed to stretched out pricks in spacetime. Anything brought within reach of a voidflower maw will trigger it to snap, swallowing any matter inside. The quantum-thin edge of the maw can pass through solid matter as easy as air, swallowing internal material as easy as that on the outside.

See more of the collaborative The Zones project here.

Friday, November 8, 2013

In the Zone

Over at the Fate SF blog, John introduced a cool community project inspired by the science fiction novel Roadside Picnic and the 1979 film based on it, Stalker. Porky's already got a contribution in, and Hereticwerks has made some cool logos (like the one above).

I had intended to jump in today, but going to Thor: The Dark World ate up my evening. I'm going to get my contribution ready for next week, and I encourage other bloggers (or nonbloggers for that matter) to think about getting in on it.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Night Music

There was discussion on G+ a few days ago about a suitable soundtrack for a game of Night's Black Agents, Kenneth Hite's GUMSHOE combination of spy thriller and supernatural horror. Here are my suggestions (follow the links for a listen):

1. The Gothic Touch
("Convoy Destruct" Atticus Ross)
2. Hunters
("Pinned and Mounted" Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross)
3.  A Deserted Bahnhof Just After 2 AM
("Under the Midnight Sun" Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross)
4. Chase
("Container Park" The Chemical Brothers)
5. The Smell of Blood
("Relapsed" Atticus Ross)
6. Crate from Wallachia, Coffin-Sized
("Den of Vice" Atticus Ross)
7. Knives and Stakes
("Special Ops" The Chemical Brothers)
8. In the Dark
("Oraculum" Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross)
9. Wings in the Night
("Bird of Prey" Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross)
("7 Years Later" Atticus Ross)
11. Assault
("Infiltrator" Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross)
12. Fight in the Crypt
("Bahnhof Rumble" The Chemical Brothers)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Warlord Wednesday: The Castle's Secret

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

"Saga Part 4: The Castle's Secret"
Warlord (vol. 4) #4 (September 2009) Written by Mike Grell; Penciled by Joe Prado & Chad Hardin; Inked by Wayne Faucher, Dan Green & Walden Wong

Synopsis: Tinder and Alysha try to convince villagers near the Golden God's citadel to stand and fight, but they're having none of it. Tinder decides he and Alysha have to sneak back into the citadel to get more information that might help Tara and the Shamballan army (who are on the way).

Alysha will need to be dressed less "Earth style" to be inconspicuous. She refuses the standard Skartarian look:

Shakira, of course, takes issue with this opinion. She also tells the two that Morgan, Machiste, and Mariah are captives.

In the citadel, reporter Ewan McBane tells Morgan and Machiste about how he and his group got to this point. Ned Hawkins apparently found something--a gem maybe. Somehow, it led him to the citadel and gave him powers. Kate Archer became his concubine. Alysha ran off and (Ewan believes) probably got killed.

Meanwhile, Alysha is very much alive and now in Skartarian duds. Shakira shows Tinder and Alysha a back entrance to the castle: what appears to be a sewer opening in a cliffside. After a bit of a climb, they find it actually leads into Deimos's old laboratory.

Ned Hawkins, the Golden God, is having a little trouble with his Theran allies. He motivates them by shooting their leader, then promising them Morgan's head on a standard to carry into battle. Mariah reminds him he promised to spare her friends if she translated for him. He suggests she gets translating.

It turns out Deimos wrote his spells in blood in an Atlantean technical manual. Kate realizes that the technical manual has code in binary. They don't need Mariah to translate that part, just Kate's laptop, apparently.

Tinder and crew run into Ewan who has had a change of heart and is heading back with keys to free Morgan and Machiste. The group does so, but quickly meet resistance from Hawkin's guards. They fight to the laboratory, where Morgan tells the rest to run ahead while he holds the goons off. Machiste and Shakira ignore him and stay behind.

Morgan and friends push a large crystal container over to block the doorway. Unfortunately, it breaks open and frees this guy:

After a bit of a fight, Shakira kills it with a spear. They join the others in the river, and manage to drop a portcullis to keep their pursuers out.

They've got to stop Hawkins before he gathers his forces. Morgan gives Machiste the crystal Jennifer gave him to and sends his friend to the nearest sunlit peak to make contact. Shakira is going back into the citadel in cat form to spy. Morgan and Ewan ride back to the portal to the Himalayas. Morgan plans to go through and get weapons to combat Hawkins's Atlantean tech.

They're going to need them, as Hawkins has finally unlocked the secrets of Deimos's book.

Things to Notice:
  • Ewan McBane says its been "almost 40 years" since Morgan got to Skartaris. Given that this issue takes place in 2009 and Morgan arrived in 1969, there's nothing almost about it.
  • Morgan is shocked to learn he would be 82 years old in the surface world.
  • Morgan opines: "When I die, I want it to come as a complete surprise." Foreshadowing?
  • Tinder's hair is colored purple all this issue.
Where it comes from: 
The slowness of time in Skartaris compared to Earth is touched on in this issue. This was something frequently brought up in Grell's run but abandoned by later writers. Strangely, Morgan can't believe it's 2009 as that would make him 82. Morgan had been to the surface world several times over the years, so it seems odd that "2009" is a particularly surprising year.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Weekend Matinee

Hammer of the Gods, despite sharing a title with a Led Zeppelin band biography, does not have a single Led Zeppelin song in it--not even "Immigrant Song." Actually, the Doors might have been more appropriate, as Hammer of the Gods is essentially Viking Apocalypse Now. That's a bit of a spoiler, I suppose, but one that will hopefully make you more likely to check out the film.

It's 871 CE and the Vikings trying to conquer lands in the British Isles have hit a setback with their king mortally wounded. He sends one of his sons Steinar on a quest to seek his exiled older brother Hakan and return with a suitable king for their people. The journey will take him across hostile Saxon territory through the deaths of friends and allies and straight into (heh) the heart of darkness.

The film might could have used some of the more artsy direction of Nicholas Refn's Valhalla Rising--then again, maybe its more straightforward action flick first half makes where it's going more of a pleasant surprise.

Bounty Killer isn't as heavy. In a post-apocalyptic future, bounty killers deliver grim (if it wasn't so humorous) justice to the white collar war criminals that brought the world to its current state. Few bounty killers are more successful than the enigmatic Drifter and celebrated Mary Death.  A conspiracy puts the two at odds and leads to a chase across the devastated wastes to confront the secretive rulers, the Council of Nine. 

Bounty Killer plays out like Cowboy Bebop crossed with Mad Max--with a dose of 80s British comic book gallows humor. For what must be a fairly low budget film, it's got good action sequences and a chase scene out of the Road Warrior. Plus, they had to pay Gary Busey's no-doubt exorbitant fee for his small roll.

It also introduces the concept of the "gun caddy"--a henchman for our time (well, the post-apocalyptic future). Barak Hardley steals the show as the would-be best gun caddy in the world, unobtrusively slipping magazines into empty guns or producing new weapons when needed from a dufflebag.

Of course, there's also Christian Pitre as Mary Death to like about the movie: 

Sunday, November 3, 2013


Typhon was a doomsday weapon created by the Titans in the depths of Tartarus, a matter worm designed bring system failure to the Cosmos--a final revenge against the usurpation of the Olympians. Typhon was defeated before it could reach full virulence, but only after infecting Echidna and turning her into the mother of monsters.

Typhon appears as a storm of black dust--actually a gigantic storm of rapacious micro- and nanobots. Those caught in the storm may be temporarily blinded on a roll of 1 on a d6. Even those not blinded can become confused per Mutant Future. The Typhon storm inflicts 2 points of damage to any character engulfed, double damage to those without some degree of protection (at least thick clothing or armor). Hiding in a body of water halves damage. Even after leaving the storm, a victim with take damage for 3 rounds. The swarm takes no damage except from fire or area effect energy or cold attacks.

Anyone who dies in the swarm rises as a zombie-like vector of Typhon. They develop a random physical mutation as their DNA is overwritten by Typhon. Anyone who takes damage but does not die must make a save vs. Poison or be infected:

Typhon Infection
Save Modifier: -2
Infection Duration: 2 weeks
Affected Stats: INT -1, WIL -1
Damage: 1d4
Further, every week of infection carries a cumulative 20% chance of developing a random physical mutation for the duration of the infection. Those infected hear the whispers of Typhon in their minds, urging them to destruction.