Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wednesday Comics: European Fantasy

I've done several posts on American fantasy comics, but haven't really touched on fantasy comics from across the Atlantic--with the exception of Thorgal. There's a good reason for this: Most of them are in French not English. There are some, though, that have gotten official English translations.  Here's a sampling:

A somewhat gritty historical fantasy about a fictitious Crusade to reclaim Jerusalem that's manipulated by a demonic plot. The first 3 volumes (of 6) has been republished in English (even for Kindle) by Cinebook, but they are expurgated versions, removing some nudity.

Lanfeust of Troy
A longrunning series with several spinoffs and an rpg tie-in, the main series tells the story of Lanfeust and his companions on the planet Troy, a world of magic. Drawn in a bit of  a cartoony style, the Troy series has a fair amount of humor and a little bit of cheesecake.

Only the first two volumes of the first series are officially available in English from a South African publisher.

In 1000 AD, a relic trafficker and his companions combat monsters and solve a mystery. Humanoids (the French and English publisher) says it's like Name of the Rose meets The X-Files, which I think is pretty reasonable. It's available in digital but a nice collected edition is coming from Humanoids in February.

Roxanna & the Quest for the Time Bird (La Quête de l'oiseau du temps)
From 80s (so out of print), a sword & sorcery-ish yarn about a young woman, Roxanna (Pelisse, in French) sent by a witch (her mother) to prevent to resurrection of an evil god. It's got great art by Régis Loisel. It was published by NBM in English in 3 volumes.

Monday, December 29, 2014

History, Real and Otherwise

Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of this blog. it started all right here. I don't know that anyone has been reading that long, but how ever long you've been coming here: thanks for reading.

I've done a number of setting riffs related to alternate history over the years. In case you missed them or just forgot about them, here's the list:

"Alien Underground": In a 1981 other than our own, Centralia, Pennsylvania was where the world became aware of monsters underground. An alternate history, modern day, conspiracy dungeoncrawl.

"The Weird Frontier": Put Gygax's whole civilization versus strange wilderness theme back where he got it: the American frontier. A Colonial era, points of light fantasy.

"Gods, Heroes & Super-Science": What if the Greek myths were real? And by real, I mean tales of Bronze Age humans having contact with Kirby-esque science fantasy, Chariots of the Gods-style. This one got a number of posts. A Greek mythology science fantasy for Mutant Future.

"The Muvian-American War": In the aftermath of the Spanish American War, a more arcane threat looms. An alternate history, early 20th century, Guns & Sorcery setting.

Pulp Space: The War of the Worlds was only the beginning. By the 1930s, occultism and alien science have taken the empires of Earth to other planets--carrying their volatile politics with them.This one got multiple posts, too, but it started here. A science fantasy, alternate Spelljammer.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Hanna-Barbera Superhero Universe

Art by Carlos Mota
I've played superhero rpg campaigns set in the Marvel and DC Universes and even considered one set in the Atlas-Seaboard Universe (that never happened, unfortunately). Recently, though I've given consideration (probably not seriously, though, but as a thought experiment) to a campaign set in the universe of Hanna-Barbera's superhero cartoons.

One notable thing about Hanna-Barbera's supers characters is that when you leave aside the licensed properties (Super Friends, The Fantastic Four) and the completely comedic ones (The Impossibles, Atom Ant), very few of the characters follow traditional superhero conventions. Few are set on modern day Earth or have a stable base of operations and supporting cast. The only one that does (Birdman) is a bit unsual because he's more of a superhuman agent of a governmental organization.

Despite this different in focus and presentation, I think many of them could be adapted to a more traditional superhero mold. Call it "Ultimate Hanna-Barbera," if you will.  Let's run the list:

Art by Alex Ross
Space Ghost: A very superhero-y and well realized character as-is. Perhaps like the Legion of Super-Heroes he is a futuristic character in the same universe. A future Phantom/Batman in the same way Captain Future is kind of a futuristic Doc Savage. The other option would be to make him sort of Green Lantern-like. A space cop assigned to protect earth. Or some combination of the two?

Young Samson: (Also known as Samson & Goliath) A teen with a Captain Marvel schtick who wanders around Route 66 or Incredible Hulk style, getting into adventures, works pretty well as-is. As suppose, it would be better to have him settled down and become more of a Peter Parker.

Shazzan: The cartoon has two kids transport to an Arabian Nights fantasy-land after finding their genie, but they could have just as easily stayed in the modern day. Two teens sharing a genie to fight evil would be an interesting concept.

Mightor: A Stone Age Thor, essentially. There isn't any reason a worthy successor couldn't find the magic club and become Mightor in the modern day. Of course, the character is a bit on the silly side and would probably work best for a Silver Age vibe rather than a Modern Age one.

Herculoids: In a comic book universe, the Herculoids could be sort of Ka-Zar type characters where their Savage Land is a world in another dimension, or they could be treated like a primitive Forever People and have them arrive on Earth to be super-powered fish-out-of-water.

Art by MarioPons
The Galaxy Trio: These teen heroes are probably better candidates for Forever People stand-ins. You can transport them to the modern day and have them be alien heroes stranded on Earth for some reason.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Cosmic Tales

Got a Bronze Age Itch Most Cosmic you need scratched? (And really, who doesn't?) Well, Michael "Aos" Gibbons has launched his new webomic on Tumblr: Cosmic Tales. It's got a bit of Legion of Super-Heroes in a Jim Starlin-with-a-dash-of-Grant Morrison Cosmic Crisis vibe, all given a generous coating of Kirby.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

Have a great holiday!

Here's hoping you didn't stay up forlorning waiting for the man with the bag like Clara Bow here:

But you're with your loved ones happily opening presents like Carol Lombard:

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wednesday Comics: Star Light, Star Bright

This week, we conclude our look at the DC holiday anthology Super-Star Holiday Special from 1980:
Super-Star Holiday Special
DC Special Series #21 (Spring 1980). Cover by Jose Luis-Garcia Lopez

Synopsis: The next tale begins in a "realm we only visit in our darkest nightmares." A weird world, particularly on Christmas--the world of DC's horror anthology hosts, brought to us by Bob Rozakis with Romeo Tanghal and Dan Adkins on art.

The horror hosts are gathered for in the House of Secrets, waiting for Santa Claus to arrive and they (surprise) get into an argument about how can tell the best Christmas story: The Witches Three (from The Witching Hour) tell a story of a family saved from a shipwreck in the fog by the light of a star. Cain, caretaker of the House of Mystery, spins the next yarn where a greedy pawnbroker makes a deal with a mysterious stranger for all the goods in his shop for a diamond. The diamond turns into a lump of coal and the stranger is revealed to be Santa Claus. Finally, Destiny steps up to tell a shaggy dog story about a rocket pilot chasing a strange star in the future, only to break the time barrier as his own ship burns up...

Next we go to December 1941 to see if maybe Christmas is easy in Easy Company for Sgt. Rock and his boys. Turns out "no," as revealed in "The Longest Night" by Robert Kanigher with art by Dick Ayers and Romeo Tanghal. Easy is on its way to the Italian town of Santa Maria. When their compass is destroyed by a German, they have to rely on an unusually bright star to guide them. They meet a group of pilgrims with candles led by a nun on the way of to the Shrine of Saint Maria. Rock realizes:

They meet a kid who is living in the bombed out city who doesn't believe in miracles. Long story short, by the end of the story the kid does. Though it takes Easy Company killing a number of Germans and Rock blowing out the shrine's statute of Santa Maria first.

Finally, we head to 2979, where Superboy learns the meaning of the season from the Legion of Super-Heroes in a tale written by Paul Levitz with art by Jose Luis-Garcia Lopez and Dick Giordano. It's Christmas Eve and the Legionnaires are cheerful and celebratory, but Superboy just can't get into it.

Even after being shown various celebrations, Superboy still isn't satisfied, so the Legion heads out in space to find the Christmas star to mollify him. As you would expect by now, a phantom star leads them to a planet where aliens are in dire need of rescue. After do-gooding, they still have time for a little cheer:

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Witch of the Woods

Ursa the Witch, as rendered for a mini by Renee Calvert
My Land of Azurth 5th edition game continued last night. When last we left our heroes, they were preparing to return to the ceremony ring where they believed Ursa the Witch, servant of the Horned One, was turning men into manhounds so they could hunt talking animals in the Enchanted Wood.

Leaving the bard and the ranger (the player's were absent this session) to guard the still-ailing druid, Lailogan, the group returned to the Spouting Spring and then to the abandoned hermit's hut near by. Investigating it (like they hadn't done when they first passed), they found the door to be magically locked and noticed it to be unusually clean on the inside--and their was a spot under a wooden table Kairon the Warlock detected as magical.

After much dithering and some failed attempts to get in, the group finally got inside and discovered an invisible box of some sort. They were reluctant to try too hard to get it open when they couldn't see what they were dealing with, but they suspected (erroneously, it turns out) they it held the musical device they knew the witch had. They took it back to the druid's cabin for safe keeping and set up and ambush around the hut, thinking the witch would come there for the box.

At nightfall, they heard the music wafting up from the ceremonial ring and knew they were wrong. They headed toward the ring; there was now animal sounds coming from it. They hid beside the trail, and manged to get the drop on three manhounds. Erekosse the fighter fell pray to a number of bad rolls, but Waylon the frox thief more than took up the slack. Kairon took shots from cover, and Dagmar the Cleric delivered some coups de grace. They manhounds returned to human form when near death. They saved one to interrogate and tied him to a tree.

Ursa the Witch o' the Woods by Richard Svenssen
They made their way stealthily to the ring, where they found the witch. She was talking to the shadow of a horned man that flickered against the great oak, despite the fact their was no one there casting it. They also saw the music device:

They wasted no time, and their first attacks are really successful. They blast her from a distance and she reels from the assault. Still, she isn't down yet and her counter-attack puts the two spellcasters to sleep. Then she steps to the side and seem's to dissipate like mist. The party looks around the ring and finds six indentical robes that must belong to the manhounds. They detect magic on the phonograph and find that only thecylinder is magical.

The shadow watches them a bit then slides off the tree into the night sky, and its dark laugh is carried away on the wind.

The group confiscats the phonograph and the wax cylinder. They scoop up the naked former manhounds as they come wandering back to the ring, looking like drunks recovering from a binge. They quickly give up their cabal of libertine gourmands and tell how they paid the witch to transform them for the hunt. The one the group left tied to the tree has had his throat slit, though, and the boat and the hunchback henchman holding their clothes and waiting for their return is gone. Ursa has made good her escape.

The group takes the captured malefactors back to Rivertown to claim their reward and again be lauded by Mayor Gladhand. They also kept the invisible chest that turned out to be the gold the gourmands were paying Ursa.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Get it Started

Just in time for the holidays, my longtime blogging compadre, Tim Shorts, over at Gothridge Manor has released Starter Adventures in pdf on Drivethru/Rpgnow and pdf or print-on-demand on Lulu. This is what Tim says about it:

Starter Adventures is where you learn to fight, steal, cast spells and heal.  You'll have to use your wits to figure out puzzles.  Use a sword to murderize goblins.  And crumble the undead beneath the power of your god.
It's time to grab a weapon, memorize a spell and strap on some armor.  This is going to be fun.
Starter Adventures is targeted toward introduing a new player into RPGs.  Inside are four short adventures for each of the four main classes, a tavern to hangout in, and a full-fledged adventure when they've got enough blood encrusted on their blades. 
I have not had a chance to give it a good reading myself (being business with usual holiday prep and striving to get Strange Stars done), but I have been a reader of The Manor and a Patreon supporter of Tim's and he does good stuff, so pick it up to stuff your own stocking with.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Baroque Space: Among the Asteroids

I may do a more robust drop dice and random table thing for this that might be fairly applicable to weird islands, but for now here are some asteroid encounters for this setting.

1. A dwarf planet inhabited by naked, acephalous dwarfs. They are primitive of speech and manner and cannot be understood, nor do they understand any Earth language, though they do comprehend Enochian, the language of the angels. They zealously guard a crashed starship and their shamans perform crude rituals before it, including (perhaps) human sacrifice.

2. What appears to a solid asteroid at a distance, is only a loosely held pile of gravel, rocks, and sand. Any ship landing will likely sink to the core and become trapped. Debris from previous, unfortunate landings is buried within.

3. A peanut-shaped asteroid with a vertiginous, tumbling spin and the giant, vitrified skeleton of an angel embedded in the surface of one end. The crystalline bones would fetch a handsome price, if they could be mined.

4. A small world with great mounds at either end like giant anthills. Dome-headed, dwarfish creatures less than two feet tall dressed in skins and brandishing cudgels and spears swarm angrily from each if any vessel should land. The creatures from either mound are roughly identical, save that those from one are orange and the other purple. They will attempt to overwhelm any intruders they find and drag them back inside their respective mounds.

6. A rocky, desert world where lives a wretched hermit. He is along but for one-eyed, whimpering things he calls his "dear companions." Perhaps he has been driven made by his isolation, but his rants will frequently return to a great treasure who's location he alone knows.

7. A jagged. ice-streaked asteroid with a faintly luminous, ice gynosphinx, much larger than the sphinx of Egypt, in a gorge between peaks. There is rumored to be a great antediluvian treasure horde buried beneath it, but no one has found it. The sphinx emits a vibration that causes the space armor to thrum ominously, driving some mad who are exposed to it for too long.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Strange Stars, 5 Operations

Last time I gave a Strange Stars update, I had hoped it was going to be the last tease. Unfortunately, things have not gone quite as fast as I wanted. This is mostly for two good reasons: We're trying to turn out the best product we can and Lester was swamped with work doing a lot of cool stuff for Goodman Games. I am happy to report that the last pages (glossary and intro, essentially) are being laid out. leaving only our last proofing reviews and submission to Drivethru/r\Rpgnow. So it's close.

To tide you over, here's an excerpt from a page called "5 Operations 8 Iterations" which will be lists of 8 items in (hopefully) interesting topics: Valuable Artifacts, People Someone Wants Found, Contents of Spacehauler Container 49, Drugs in an Epic Stash, and Exotic Locales.

Here's one from each:

Gravid War Womb 38 cm diam. spheroid nanoassembler capable of replicating a Sisterhood of Morrgna hive.

Rhona Tam Captain of Moral Hazard, privateer/custom enforcement contractor out of Circus.

Bottles of “Burner” Cyberware [4, 200 count] When ingested, crudely anonymizes noospheric interface for up to 20 ks.

Bouncing Balls of High-Grade Chroma [7] Psychedelic and euphorigenic.

The Pampas of Taprobane Habitat On safari, hunting the sharp-beaked blushing shraik.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wednesday Comics: Wanted: Santa Claus--Dead or Alive!

Super-Star Holiday Special
DC Special Series #21 (Spring 1980). Cover by Jose Luis-Garcia Lopez

Synopsis: Len Wein tells it like this:

Iffy history aside, it's a good enough intro for 4 seasonal tales in the DC universe.  First up, Jonah Hex:

"The Fawn and the Star" Written by Michael Fleisher, art by Dick Ayers & Romeo Tanghal

It's Christmas eve, and Jonah Hex is after the Tull brothers across the snowy wilderness. He comes across a little girl and her father fighting over whether to kill a fawn with a hurt leg. Uncharacteristically, Hex sides with the girl and even bandages the animal's wound. To mollify the father, Hex agrees to get him something else for the family's Christmas meal. Maybe Hex's show of softness is due to a similar episode in his childhood. He saves a raccoon from a trap and nursed it back to health in the family barn. When his father found it, it wound up on the families dinner table.

Hex follows the bright star in the south and comes to a cave. The Tull boys are hiding there. In a firefight, Hex blows them up with dynamite, but somehow manages not to mangle them too badly to collect his bounty or destroy their stuff--which includes a bunch of provisions for the trail he takes back to the relatively greatful family. We can only hope the Tull brothers learned the true meaning of Christmas before their deaths.

Next up, it's Christmas Eve in Gotham...

Written by Denny O'Neil, Art by Frank Miller & Steve Mitchell

Crime never takes the night off--someone even stole a star off the department store nativity scene-- but luckily neither does the Batman. He moves through the sleet-coated night to a party thrown by Matty Lasko. Lasko has a boat waiting in Gotham harbor and that's enough to raise Batman's suspicion.  After Batman roughs up some goons, Lasko tells him it was a favor for an old cell-mate: Boomer Katz.

At a soup kitchen in Crime Alley, one old timer asks another about Boomer Katz and finds out Katz has got a job as a Santa at Lee's department store. The old timer leaves an envelope surprisingly full of money, and sheds his disguise on the roof, revealing himself to be the Batman. He's certain the only reason Katz would have gotten a job at a department store is to case the joint, and Lasko must have arranged his escape. It's a shame , too; Even Batman believed Katz had finally gone straight.

At the department store, Lee is having second thoughts. When his boss praises his skill as a Santa, it brings a tear to his eye. Out by the nativity scene, he tells Fats (a bald guy that holds a cigarette holder like a German in a movie) he can't go through with it. Fats isn't cheered by this turn, and he and his goons pull guns then force Katz to get them in to the store's service entrance. They're after the store's daily receipts. When they've got them, they plan to kill Katz, but he throws a box of ornaments at the thug and runs away. He's shot in the shoulder but manages to escape.

Batman hears the shots. He bursts through the window and saves the store manager from Fats, taking him down with a small Christmas tree. The manager tells Batman how the thugs forced Katz to help them and are now trying to kill him.

Inbeknowst to Batman, the thug has his gun to Katz's head and his holding him somewhere near the nativity scene. Batman has been unable to find Katz, but ironically, he's nearby talking to a cop. Batman looks up and notices the star is back on the nativity scene and its light is shining on--Katz and his would-be killer!

Batman saves Katz and takes out the thug. And that star?

Batman is pretty unconcerned, but I guess in a world with Superman and Green Lantern and what have you, stuff happens.

The holiday spirit moves us again, next week.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Baroque Space: The Inner Planets

This is a follow-up to this post.

The planets Mercury and Venus, being closer to the Sun where the Demiurge slumbers, move through aether closer in vibration to creation. The natives of these worlds, though they may appear human in form, are unaging and live in Edenic innocence, neither tainted by the sin of man's fall nor redeemed by the Savior's blood.

Mercury: The sun is too fierce upon this planet's surface, so that there is no vegetation, but the creative potency in the Sun's light inseminates the ground and generates myriad creatures, most of which soon die in the glare, but some crawl or hop or slither into shaded crater valleys where they may grow and reproduce.

The Emperor of Mercury, Helios XXIII, is one of the great rulers of the Cosmos and dwells in an opulent palace beneath a golden dome. At his ascension, as is the custom of the Mercurian monarchy, his human head was removed and replaced with a solar orb. His benevolent visage literally shines upon his subjects.

Courtiers must have servants apply light-repelling ointments, lest their pale skins be darkened by His Majesty’s effulgent glory.

Venus: Wet where Mercury is desert and as fecund as that other world is barren, Venus is covered by warm, shallow seas and dense, tropical forests. It's natives are women--or creatures in the semblance of women, They are seldom surpassed in all the Cosmos in beauty, if one can abide their inhumanly colorful skins and hair the texture of flower petals. They go almost entirely naked and chastity is not counted a virtue among them.

There is a  ruler on Venus, recognized by Earthly and Mercurian powers, called the Doge, who is always from another world. This title may be held by a man or woman, but in either case, the floral and lovely native Venerians are the Doge's solicitous wives or concubines. The Doge's identity is always hidden behind an ornate mask of that durable Venerian fungal matter that resembles teak. The ruler scarcely wears any more clothing than the Venerian women, except for the notable exception of an impressive phallocrypt, also decorated and enlaided with gold, for public ceremonies.

A Doge only rules for a Venerian day, as measured by the fixed stars, which is hundreds of Earth days. At the end of that time, the Doge is taken by the Venerians into the forest and is seen no more.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Following Yonder Star

While I was vacillating on where to do a seasonal game session, Casey Garske was writing one. Unholy Night is an old school hexcrawl taking place in Judea at the time of the birth of Jesus. If that's not high-concept enough, it's got demons, cultists, and dinosaurs. At a "pay what you want" price on drivethru/rpgnow, it makes a great stocking stuffer--for yourself.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Holiday Special

The holiday's are quickly approaching and I haven't decided yet whether to run a holiday-themed adventure on G+ or not. I have done Weird Adventures sessions of that type in previous years, and at one time wanted to get my adaptation of Chris Kutalik's Slumbering Ursine Dunes done in time, but work on Strange Stars--and just plain work--got in the way.

Having started my Land of Azurth 5e D&D game, I've entertained the idea of running one in that setting. Something inspired by Baum's The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, maybe with some further inspiration from Rankin-Bass other Santa origin, Santa Claus is Comin' to Town--a Winter Warlock, perhaps?

On the other hand, time is drawing nigh. I guess we'll see how the holiday spirit moves me.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Dragonborn of Sang

Art by Yuriy

In the desert Country of Sang in the Land of Azurth, there dwells a race of warriors called the Dragonborn. They are few in number, but they are at war with all other folk, including other breeds of their own kind. Only rarely do they permit themselves companions.

The Dragonborn fight--and fight among themselves--to prove their strength. Only the strongest of each breed can keep the vigil. Only the strongest can stand steadfast through the long years in the caves where the ancient machines incubate the next generation. Only the strongest can ensure the Dragonborn survive.

When the hatchlings come mewling and snapping from the incubators, this is what their guardians tell them: "We came from the void. We are not of this small world. But here in this desert, in the bones of our old ships, we abide. You will grow and fight. The strong will survive to teach the hatchlings that follow after, as I have taught you. This is what it means to be Dragonborn."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wednesday Comics: Holiday Shopping Guide

Want to give the gift of comics this holiday? Or give yourself the gift of comics? Here's a list of where you can get some of the comics I've chronicled this year:

Jim Starlin's Dreadstar: The Beginning
This hardcover contains Metamorphosis Odyssey (fully colorized) and The Price graphic novel, plus the first Dreadstar graphic novel I've yet to get around to.

Artesia: The Book of Dooms
Volume one of the Artesia epic is out of print and pretty pricey in either hardcover or paperback on Amazon. In digital format, though, you can get a great deal: the first volume is under ten dollars on Drivethru Comics (a little bit more on Comixology) and you can get the whole series plus the rpg in a bundle on drivethru for a steal at $24.

I haven't done an issue-by-issue review of Prophet (yet), but I've sang its praises on more than one occasion. Their are 3 volumes currently available and I belief a fourth will take it to the end of the first series.

Monday, December 8, 2014

My Various Appendices N

Some G+ discussion last week reminded me that my D&D inspirations haven't remained constant over the time I've played. Not only have I discovered new media and new influences, but playing the game itself shaped what I found most inspirational. To but them all in a single list would suggest an equivalence across time that never really existed. Here's my stab at personal gaming archeology:

The Platinum Age
It's hard to remember my earliest inspirations completely, but I suspect they relied heavily on the small amount of fantasy I had been exposed to. Interestingly, D&D related material figured in from the beginning: my first AD&D character (the first version of D&D I ever played) was an elven fighter/magic-user who wielded the Sword of the Magus--like Landron, the hero of the D&D Endless Quest book, Mountain of Mirrors in 1982. In his adventures, he gained a pegasus mount and medusa's head, suggesting Clash of the Titans figured strongly in my cousin the DM's mind and probably my own. Beyond that, I suspect Bullfinch's Mythology, Sidney Lanier's The Boy's King Arthur (more for illustrations by N.C. Wyeth), and Steinbeck's The Acts of King Arthur loomed large. Even more important was probably Tolkein's work, The Chronicles of Prydain,  Hawk the Slayer, and the TV fantasy Wizards & Warriors.

The Golden Age
By 5th grade, I had moved into DMing Basic D&D. By this point, Sword & Sorcery played a bigger role, mostly as filtered through comics like Warlord and Savage Sword of Conan, and barbarians films like Conan the Barbarian. The pulp stories that inspired those sorts of comics followed. The first setting I created in junior high was written up in a style similar to the Greyhawk boxset but clearly following the Hyborian Age model as particularly outlined in The Official Handbook of the Conan Universe. Country names borrowed from Howard appear (Argos, Shem, The Black Coast), mixed with a dinosaur and volcano-filled savage land similar to the one inhabited by Ka-Zar. The center of play was a sprawling, decadent city--essentially Lankhmar by another name.

The Silver Age
High school saw a break in playing D&D. My group moved on to other games: various superhero games, Shadowrun, a little bit of Rifts. Our D&D campaign shifted to GURPS where the inspirations were much as they were before, though real history began to influence me more, as did the gritty look of the Warhammer Fantasy rpg. Then, their was a break for college, where I played not a single fantasy rpg.

Joining an old high school friend's gaming group in 1995 after college, I was under the sway of the resurgence of epic fantasy--a subgenre I had mostly avoided before, besides Tolkein. Tad Williams Memory, Sorrow & Thorn was all over the world my friend and I co-created, though there was also a bit of Jordan's Wheel of Time, and more than a little of the Known World Gazetteers.

By the time that campaign indeed, it was 1996 and my gaming took another long break for medical school and a couple of years of residency, allowing me to skip third edition in all its iterations. While my return to gaming predates this blog by a few years, the archive here is as good a chronicle as any of where my head has been since.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Hang out in the Dunes

The first release of the Hydra Collective (one hopes the first of many) and the first Kickstarter I ever back to deliver on time: Slumbering Ursine Dunes is now available for you non-backers on drivethrurpg (and rpgnow) in pdf.

Hopefully they'll be some unbiased reviews coming soon, but you can take me word for it: I've read it three times now and that familiarity has not dimmed the enjoyment I get from reading it. Most modules are kind of dry, but dry this most certainly is not. Though it's a good read, it doesn't give the impression it was meant it was meant only to be read. On the contrary, it's meant to played--to be explored. More than that, while it's got a unified backstory, it's written modularly so that it practically begs to be kit-bashed for your own setting.

Get your own copy today!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wednesday Comics: Science Fiction

Last week saw the release of two new science fiction comics worth checking out.

Prophet Strikefile

Prophet Strikefile #2 continues a look at the world of Btandon Graham's far future sci-fi remake of Extreme Studios' Prophet. If you liked the ongoing series, you'll like this. Here's a sample:


ODY-C #1 is a sort of a psychedelic space opera retelling of The Odyssey with all of the male characters switched to female. It reminds me a bit of Lob and Pichard's previous sci-fi retelling Ulysses, which I do think is just the same sort material.  The jaded gods seem similar and there is an element of fetish-wear in some of the costume designs. It also reminds me a bit of Barbarella, which seems to have been Fraction's intention.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Strange & Pretentious Wizards of Troglopolis

The wizards of Troglopolis, that underground city of the Land of Azurth, are a strange lot indeed--and that is taking into account the general peculiarity of all sorts of arcanists in the realms above! While the deleterious effect of the practice of the magical arts on the mind and body is an often cited complication to their mastery, the particular afflictions of the Troglopolitan wizards form a unique cautionary tale.

The other people of Troglopolis call them "thaumaturgists," but they call themselves "artists." As such, they consider themselves separate from the mass of under-humanity; they disdain all those who do not share their gifts and (though they sometimes affect a great show of fraternity) resent all others that do. They dress in outrageous ways, take on dramatic pseudonyms, and generally conduct themselves as to appear mysterious or otherworldly. The most successful among them (like the Inconnu in the Velvet Mask or Lady Phosphor or the Laughing Shrouds) may go through the streets with phantasmagoric retinues (usually just illusionary--but not always) or might ride upon kaleidoscopic clouds of smoke. All this theater serves to disguise their general scrawniness and ill-health owing to their dissipated lifestyles.

The Troglopolitan thaumaturgists eschew the more practical applications of the arcane arts in war or commerce, instead focusing on more aesthetic uses. They work in illusions and minor enchantments put to a theatric or artistic purpose. These are ideally done at the behest of wealthy patrons, but may also be displayed to the public in the hopes of enhancing the thaumaturge's reputation. Some of the more of eccentric (and often the more despised by their fellows) thamaturgists work exclusively in public displays typically done without official sanction.

Despite their pretensions, surface wizards sometimes seek out the tutelage of the Troglopolitan thaumaturgists. In the magical arts they practice, few are as skilled. The only caveat is that one must tread lightly with their egos.