Thursday, March 31, 2016

Apokolips Now

Yesterday, Evan Elkins requested someone do a hexcrawl of Darkseid's homeworld of Apokolips. Since Apokolips is pretty much a particular vision of hell, it seems like the misery can be safely distilled to a pointcrawl. Here's a quick and dirty rundown:

Overview: Apokolips is whole planet composed of a dirty, hellish industrial complex; it produces the implements of Darkseid's war against New Genesis, but it's main product is misery. The majority of the populace are the Hunger Dogs/Lowlies, normal humans who are the oppressed abject slaves of the Apokolipsian elite.

Armagetto: The city-slums surrounding Darkseids palace. Security/military patrols are more common than elsewhere. It's the most "police state" of a planet-wde police state.
Fire Pits: These gigantic opening to the planet's core are fed by trash and refuse from the planet-city.
Happiness Home: Here, Lowlie children are trained and indoctrinated under Granny Goodness to become soldiers in Darkseid's armies.
Necropolis: Subterranean domain of the Dreggs--the undead corpses of the Old Gods acting out their days of glory.
Terrorium: An arena where bloodsports are held.
Tower of Rage: Darkseid's palace/fortress with a big sculpture of his head on top. In addition to the Darkseid himself, his chief torturer Desaad can be found here.
Unholy Sea: Supposedly the "lifeblood of Apokolips, where the souls of the deceased are trapped within its icy waters." The Deep Six likely dwell here.

Non-Unique Adversaries/Encounters:
Aero-Trooper: Solider flying on aero-discs.
Dog Cavalry: Elite troops riding giant mastiffs.
Parademons: Flying, genetically modified troops.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Green Hell (part 2)

My exploration of the long-running euro-comic Storm, continues. Earlier installments can be found here.

Storm: The Green Hell (1980)
(Dutch: De Groene Hel)
Art by Don Lawrence & Script by Dick Matena

Storm and the old man put up a good fight, the ape men overwhelm them and knock them out. Looting the cabin, one of them accidentally activates a lighter and sets the whole place on fire. The apes flee leaving Storm and the old man at the mercy of the flames.

Meanwhile, Ember and Toriander arrive in Carefree City. When Ember rebuffs his advances:

Ember slaps his bear and it causes it to rear up and knock Toriander over. She makes her escape into the twisting alleyways of the city. Luckily, she meets a saloon owner named Saran that offers her a place to hide.

Storm awakens to find the cabin burning and an apeman dressed in clothes throwing "Gran'pa's" body over the railing. He moves to attack, but the apeman tells him he was only burying Gran'pa: the souls of the dead find peace when their bodies nourish the forest. He's a friend the old man has dubbed "Ugly Brute." Storm saves the the helmet from the fire and tells Ugly Brute he needs to get to Carefree City to ask Sudden Death Toriander about it. Ugly Brute agrees to take him:

In Carefree City. Saran shows Ember her prosthetic arm which she got thanks to Toriander accidentally firing off his gun. She disguises Ember to look like one of the barmaids to hide her from Toriander:

They catch another barmaid eavesdropping, but they aren't sure what she heard. Downstairs in the bar, Toriander is harangying his mooks about their inability to find Ember. The eavesdropping barmaid slinks up and tells Sudden Death the girl he's after is upstairs.

Around this time, Storm and Ugly Brute arrive in Saran's Saloon. They see Toriander race up the stairs. Toriander finds Saran and Ember. When Storm hears Ember cry out, he runs upstars, too:


Monday, March 28, 2016

Azurthite Bestiary: The Arthropods from Nowhere

There is a place that the inhabitants call Zrgztl, but you might as well call it Nowhere because it's here and not here all at the same time. Its inhabitants live out of the phase with the world we know and only seldom interact with it. They are as smart as any normal folk--perhaps a little smarter--in Nowhere, but like a fish's gills don't work so well in the air, the Nowhere creatures' brains can't fully turn the corner to Earth and they become rather stupid here.

They're mean where ever they are.

The arthopods of Nowhere have strangely human-like faces, but they always look angry, like an irate schoolmaster. Even when they are in our world, they are only half here. Their forms are shimmery as heat haze. Their shadows seem more solid; They look like very flat mirrors or thin pools of mercury. The arthopods are always after something, but often they can't remember what it is.

Stats: Use the stats for the Phase Spider.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Sir Clangor's Character Sheet

Last week, showed off a couple of portraits for the pregens for my Mortzengersturm, the Mad Manticore of the Prismatic Peak game at NTRPGCon. Here's the character sheet for the first one--at least the front side:

Friday, March 25, 2016

Superman v. Batman is Just Ok, But It Made Me Hopeful for Justice League

I saw Superman vs. Batman: Dawn of Justice last night, and while I don't agree with the degree of negativity in a large portion of the reviews (some of which I suspect were at least partially composed before the movie even came out, given the hate it got and Zack Snyder gets in some quarters), a lot of the specific criticisms aren't without merit. The movie tries to do a lot and at times making this particular movie good in this particular moment seems to take a backseat to setting the dominoes in place for later scenes or future films.

The good: It's generally shot well and well-acted. Ben Affleck is both a good Bruce Wayne and a good Batman. The fight scenes in general are good, but particularly in the area of "Batman vs. normal folks" which have suffered in previous Bat films. Amy Adams as Lois Lane (though she doesn't have as much to do as I would like). Lawrence Fishburne as Perry White. The rationale and structure for how the Justice League sequels are established. The fact that Gotham and Metropolis are across a bay from each other (as suggested by numerous Silver and Bronze Age comics). The result of the battle with Doomsday (which I would not have done but is an interesting way to move forward). And Wonder Woman--pretty much everything to do with her:

The not good: The choppy nature of the first half of the film; I realize "show don't tell," but showing too much makes your film a series of vignettes. Some of that could have been handled as exposition. Batman is far from the world's greatest detective here. Luthor has a nicely set up super-villain ridiculous plan (I mean that to be complimentary) in many ways, but his final push that makes Batman go into a reason-abandoning, anti-Superman frenzy is elementary school level subterfuge. Superman standing or floating majestically instead of--well, doing something--too many times; I realize less-active-Superman is a tactic other media has often engaged in to deal with his power level (even in the DC animated stuff, Superman moves awful slooowwww at times for a guy with super-speed and super-reflexes), but it just makes you mad at him. Here his passive broodiness is suppose to convey emotional conflictedness (I guess), but they didn't sell you on that with dialogue. Lex is sometimes perfect in his manic-ness and other times overdone; my biggest complaint regarding him is that no one in story comments on his clearly mentally ill behavior until he reveals his villainous plan.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Pregen PC Portraits

My con game of Mortzengersturm, The Mad Manticore of the Prismatic Peak (and the published adventure after all) will have pregenerated characters. The awesome Jeff Call has been working on portraits to bring the particular character of the Land of Azurth to them. Here are the first two:

A Knight of the old and famed Order of the Pennon Or.
His blazon is: Or, a chess knight sable.
Fighter (War Master)

Wood Elf of the Aldwode
She is reputed to have once killed an Ogre with attitude alone.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Green Hell

My exploration of the long-running euro-comic Storm, continues. Earlier installments can be found here.

Storm: The Green Hell (1980)
(Dutch: De Groene Hel)
Art by Don Lawrence & Script by Dick Matena

Storm and Ember fly over the thick jungles of what used to South America in the aero-transport, looking for a place to land so they can find water and food. Suddenly, they are attacked by large vultures looking for a meal. Storm is knocked from the craft.

The birds keep chasing Ember, but she manages to find an opening in the thick canopy and dives down. She looses the birds, but also control of the craft. She jumps free before it crashes into a cliff-side. She falls through the canopy, bouncing off vines and branches until she lands, dazed by relatively unharmed on the mossy floor. She isn't alone:

Meters away, Storm is hanging unconscious on a vine higher in the canopy. An ape-man approaches him and is about to bash Storm's skull with a stone axe, when he's felled by an arrow. The old man who fired the arrow lifts Storm over his shoulder and carries back to his cabin in the trees.

Meanwhile, the green humanoids are advancing on Ember with clear intentions of eating her. Suddenly, they stop they sense someone else coming. They turn and run but one gets shot from behind as they go.

When Storm comes to, the old man introduces himself as Gran'pa and says he's a snake hunter. Storm notices a space helmet that looks just like the one he had (destroyed back in Volume 1). "Gran'pa" tells Storm he got it in Carefree City from a guy named Toriander. He's the only one with guts enough to go scavenging on the ground.

Ember is face to face with her rescuer--"Sudden Death" Toriander. He can't believe his luck finding a beautiful outsider on the ground. He figures he can get a good price for Ember in Carefree City. Brandishing the gun he used to blast the "corpse-eaters" he sets Ember walking.

Meanwhile, the old man explains the lingo of the forest civilization to Storm: The ground floor is the ground, Only crazy folks like Toriander go there, but that's where he found his gun. The third floor is the highest level with the most sunlight--and food. The second floor is where the old man lives. The first floor is inhabited by snakes and ape men. Carefree City is on the third floor.

Storm will need to go there to meet Toriander and find out where he found the helmet. Before they make any further plans:

Ape attack!


Monday, March 21, 2016

Hewcrawl Rann

Chris Kutalik wrote a post last week that got me thinking about science fictional (or fantasy) hexcrawl appropriate locals. I've mentioned Krypton before, but that's not the only planet in the DC Universe that has a lot of crazy locations. Check out the map of Rann, above I shared in this old post that has background. Here are some highlights:

Dancing Waters of Athline: A field of high-power geysers whose sprays are shaped by strong winds.
Flaming Sea: Flames sprout from the surface of this body of water.
Illsomar: A ruined city where Nimar, a megalomaniacal, super-intelligent energy being that resembles a gigantic, Bohr-model atom has taken up residence. He is able to animate humanoid figures of metal, stone, and sand to serve him.
Kryys: A city of ice in the polar regions.
Land of A Thousand Smokes: An area containing numerous fumaroles.
Old Reliable: A sinking island in the Sea of Ybss; a source of the rare metal orichalkum.
Samakand: An advanced city that exists outside of conventional spacetime and only appears once every 25 years.

Tower of Rainbow Doom: In the ruined city of Yardana (or Vardana), it is a sacrificial place for the primitive Zoora tribesman. When a switch in thrown in it's central room, concentric flashes of rainbow light surround a throne-like chair and transport anyone or anything in it to a neighboring planet.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Starrunner Kit

After an untended hiatus caused by internet-outage, I'm back with a copy of Mike Evans's The Starrunner Kit in my hand (figuratively, since it's digital) that got released last week. Mike is a friend, so I wouldn't call this an unbiased review, but I think Mike has done a bang up job.

The "kit" portion of the (so important it gets mentioned again in the subtitle) is the key. Everything that's in here fills in some little gap or another that may be present in the old school sci-fi game you're playing: mechs, or a hover-bike pilot or plant lifeform class. These are particularly aimed at White Star, broadening a bit its serial-numbers filed off Star Wars with stuff out of space opera seen in film, comics, and anime post-Star Wars.

There are a lot of gear and character options, but there are also goodies for the GM. In fact, the plethora of random tables are probably where The Starrunner Kit shines brightest and where it's most useful for those playing a fantasy game not derived from the D&D chassis. There are tables for random jobs, random events between adventures, random sights and sounds in the city, even a short random table of alien religions. All of these are easily usable in any space opera game and more importantly, they are a springboard to the imagination for creating your own setting specific ones. Looking through these I started getting a lot of ideas of things that could be used in Strange Stars--and that was without rolling any die!

If any of that sounds interesting to you, then you should definitely head over to rpgnow/drivethrurpg and check it out!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The People of the Desert (part 3)

My exploration of the long-running euro-comic Storm, continues. Earlier installments can be found here.

Storm: The People of the Desert (1979) (part 2)
(Dutch: Het Volk van de Woestijn; Alternate English title: The People of the Plains)
Art by Don Lawrence & Script by Dick Matena

The heli-jet lands at the Prof's lab. He reveals to Ember that he was controlling Storm. He plans to turn them into his homo incultus, too, so that they may lead his new race. Ember resists, by the Prof has one of the White People disarm her. Seeing Storm in the Prof's DNA changing machine gives her a surge of strength to fight back. She grabs the gun and fires, inadvertently hitting the hypnometer. All the mind-controlled slaves are freed.

Hanyin wakes up just in time to signal an alarm as the White People in the mines revolt. The now freed Storm knocks out the Prof, and he and Ember escape in the heli-jet. Unfortunately, Hanyin sees them fly by:

Storm and Ember are found by the White People who recognize them as fellow fugitives. They heal the two with their powers, then sit down in a circle and seem to be performing some silent ritual.

Meanwhile, Hanyin is getting his men together to round up the desert people. The Prof warns him it won't be so easy. Hanyin finds out that's true when his heli-jets are sweep into a desert storm that the White People somehow created.

Hanyin survives the crash. He makes it to a rock reef outcropping where he's found be Storm and the desert folk. Hanyin challenges them to a one man fight,  Storm has a score to settle, so he volunteers. Though the White People could easily deal with their former captor, they agree. Storm and Hanyin seem pretty eveningly matched, but the fight ends abruptly when Hanyin's helmet (and sunglasses) get knocked of:

He's permanently blinded by the sun's harsh glare. The White People let him go. The desert will take care of him.

Before they leave for the deep desert, the White People have one more villain to take care of. They capture the Prof and put him in his machine, making him desert adapted like them. The White People bid Storm and Ember could bye and go off to build a new life. Our heroes find a new aero-transporter and fly out of the desert.

Monday, March 14, 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane and the Mystery Misdirection

I saw 10 Cloverfield Lane this weekend. For those of you wondering if it has anything substantively to do with the 2008 found footage monster film: the answer is "no." There are some easter eggs, maybe.

That's about it. For those of you who don't care anything about that and think the trailers look intriguing: you should see it. It's a decent thriller in a confined space with a couple of twists. In brief: Melissa (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is driving--well, somewhere--after a breakup. There are odd news reports on the radio, but before she can register any of this given her personal drama, she's in a car accident. She wakes up in an elaborate bomb shelter built by Howard (John Goodman) who tells her attacks have come from well, somewhere, and everyone else is dead.

Needless to say, Melissa is not immediately convinced that her captor is telling the truth or that his motivates are altruistic.

 From gaming perspective, you could say the the underground bunker in which Melissa finds herself is a variant of the mystery sandbox--or more accurately, a version of the mystery terrarium, because there are two mysteries in 10 Cloverfield Lane and only one is the protagonist (or PC) initially aware of. A game in as small a space as the film would likely need to be very shorter than the usual mystery sandbox or even mystery terrarium, but it show's the way those sorts of campaign set-ups can be made to work longer, by distraction with another, more momentarily pressing mystery.

Doing something like this, you get more time in a campaign before the Big Discovery. The danger is you build in too many "mysteries of the week" that the big reveal doesn't seem so big when you final get there.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Coming of Crom!

A little teaser for a project Jason Sholtis and I are working on. More to follow. You can see a brief encyclopedia of Crom's world as presented in the Golden Age stories, and (courtesy of Matt Schmeer) you can read all those stories in one pdf here.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The World of Crom

"Crom" by Gardner Fox and John Giunta's Crom (I've discussed it before here and here) may well be the first sword & sorcery comic. All three Crom appearances are available on line. Here's a short guide to the people, places and things you'll encounter in them:

Aesir: The tribe of Crom; a migrating yellow-haired people.
Akka: The ancient city of the ape men (though they have tails like monkeys).
Balthar: A giant worshiped as a god by the people of the cliff country south of Ophir, and in return, he raided caravans for them.
Bokris: King of Ophir when Tanit was held captive.
Calla: The priestess of Balthar (who was taken with her beauty).
Cave People: The worshipers of Balthar in the cliff country.
Cavus: A soldier of Ophir.
Crom: The titular barbarian hero.
Cymri: Monkey people; enemies of the Aesir.
Dwelf: A wizard who rules an island full of young women. He desires water from the Fountain of Youth from the Black Tower of Ophir.
Garm: A hound by whose teeth Crom swears.
Kard: A rocky land south of Ophir along the the Nexus River; possibly the same place as the "cliff country."
Lalla: Sister of Crom.
Hounds of Hel: Crom compares the Cymri to them.
Id: Presumably a deity. Crom swears by "the bones of Id" 
Ind: A place of jungles where black panthers dwell.
Iormungundir: "the Earth-Spanner"; Crom compares the giant snake in the Black Tower of Ophir to it.
Iss: A deity. Crom and others swear by Iss.
Nessus: Crom swears by this hooved being on several occasions,
Ophir: A city (and possibly city-state or country) considered "the richest on the inland sea"; the location of the Fountain of Youth.
Skull-Biter: Crom's sword--at least in his second and third appearances.
Skull-Cracker: The name of Crom's sword in his first appearance.
Spraa: A giant spider worshipped by the ape men of Akka.
Rou: King of the ape men of Akka.
Taka: An Ophirean soldier.
Tal: An Ophirean coin.
Tanit: The queen of Ophir; Crom initially kidnaps her, but she soon decides being with him is more exciting that ruling alone and she shares his adventures.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Azurth in North Texas

I'll be running a session of Mortzengersturm, The Mad Manticore of the Prismatic Peak at North Texas RPG Con in June. This will be the first time I've run the adventure as written (the game session it was based on was a bit different). I'll be using pregens like character portraits (hopefully) done by Jeff Call whose doing the interior art for the module. Anyway, here's the pitch:

Game Title : Mortzengersturm, the Mad Manticore of the Prismatic Peak
Game System : D&D 5e
Number of players : 4-6
Pregens/Level of characters : yes / 3rd-5th

Game Info : After turning himself into a manticore, the self-styled wizard-artiste Mortzengersturm moved to the crystalline peak of Mount Geegaw to practice his transformation magic without interference. You've been hired to snatch his most prized artifact, the Whim-Wham Stone--or at least some of its eldritch light. A menagerie of magical hybrids, a self-absorbed vampire, more than a few hippogriffs, and of course, the mad manticore himself, await.

I'm not the only Hydra Co-op member running a game at the Con. Chris Kutalik is doing Misty Isles of the Eld on Friday. Hydra will also have a booth to move our wares and give away some swag.

It's been a great con the past two years, and I'm looking forward to it this year.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Wednesday Comics: The People of the Desert (part 2)

My exploration of the long-running euro-comic Storm, continues. Earlier installments can be found here.

Storm: The People of the Desert (1979) (part 2)
(Dutch: Het Volk van de Woestijn; Alternate English title: The People of the Plains)
Art by Don Lawrence & Script by Dick Matena

Hanyin and his goon reveal that the Directors of the United Cities plan for the "white people" (or Desert People) to be hypno slaves used to construct the new settlements for them. Hanyin figures they can delay the Prof and use the hypno slaves to empty the cortite mines before then. The Prof, hearing all this via surveillance, is none too happy that his new race will be slaves.

Meanwhile, Ember wakes up and manages to escape thanks to a drunken would-be rapist. She forces him at gun point to take her to Storm. On their way up in the elevator tube, Hanyin sees them and realizes something is up. He shoots the controls and causes the elevator to stop.

Ember won't be detered. She forces the guard to climb out through the elevator's roof and:

They make it to the top, but they're met by the Boss Hanyin. Ember tries to use the guard as a shield, but the Boss just shoots him. Still, Ember is faster:

Ember makes her way into the mines and locates Storm, but a guard gets the drop on her. He's about to put a hypno spot on her. Then, Storm turns and fires his laser drill at the guards back!

Ember runs to him, but his blank expression and stiff movements show he's still being controlled. He picks her up and carries her to a heli-jet. The Prof watches them approach on his viewscreen.


Monday, March 7, 2016

Mortzengersturm's Menagerie

Here are some of Mortzengersturm's creations that appear in his menagerie in the upcoming Mortzengersturm, the Mad Manticore of the Prismatic Peak:

Parrotbear: A bear covered in downy, green feathers with parrot’s head. It will mimic short phrases spoken to it.

Iron Shrike: An eagle-sized bird of prey made of metal. His crest and wings are sharp as knives.

Ink Dog: A sepia dog, technically, but Mortzengersturm has never been one for pedantry so far as his art is concerned. The creature resembles a messy, living sketch of a large fox made entirely of brown ink. As it moves, it throws off squiggles and errant marks in the air behind it to fall to the ground in drips. Its bite leaves tattoos.

Mocka: This attempt to cross a naga with a clown triggered even Mortzengersturm’s coulrophobia in the end. It giggles and mugs, and sways and bounces like a jack-in-the-box unboxed, eager to bring laughter and joy. Or something.

Moonster: A glowing spherical creature resembling the moon with a face: a bemused smile under half-lidded eyes. The Moonster is a narrator—and an annoying one. It will narrate the actions of anyone that enters the shaft in a somewhat florid diction, but with an ironic distance. It knows the past of the subject of its narration with certainty; its predictions for the future are only speculation, no matter how assured their delivery.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Salvage on Gogmagog

Here's an excerpt from Strange Stars OSR with new art by David Lewis Johnson. Okay, the excerpt's repeated, but the art is new!

(Strange Stars Setting Book p. 9)
Tags  Desert World, Local Specialty
Enemies Crazy bot-breaker Haxo Ysgar; Robber gang
Friends Merc Faizura Deyr working for the bot-breakers, A free trader supplying bot-breakers
Compl.Von Neumann machine swarm, Malfunctioning giant robot
Things Hidden entrance to the mysterious planetary substructure, A forgotten ancient giant bot
Places a shanty town; a junkyard

Friday, March 4, 2016

In the Twilight

At least ten empires rose and fell during the Meridian of Earth. Each was glorious and wrested such secrets from the universe as to enable it to bend laws of nature obdurate to earlier cultures to its whim. Each in time fell into decadence, dwindled, and died, but at the end of the Meridian Time, the Earth had been transformed by their works; it had become the abode of beings other than Man.

As the Twilight fell and the sun grew bloated and sanguine, those Outsiders and abhuman things encroached ever closer on the nations of Man. By and by, they gained greater dominion over the Earth. In the early centuries, the technologies of the elder Meridian still functioned, and Man comprehended enough to build great walls as a defense against the inhuman. As Twilight deepened, many of these redoubts fell, but a few stood fast and managed even to throw back their foe. The Coming Night was held in abeyance for so long that generations passed and many began to doubt it would ever fall.

But beyond the walls, the Great Beasts crouched and waited with patience inhuman but not infinity, and abhuman armies gathered in the deepening in gloom...

Here's the pitch: Take the early modern bleakness, occasional black humor, and body-warping chaos of Warhammer Fantasy and put it in a Dying Earth gone weird like Hodgson's The Night Land, making sure to filter the Watchers (Great Beasts in this case) through Lovecraftiania, a hint of kaiju, and good old fashion goetic demonology. Wrap it all in "points of light" surrounded by walls out of Attack on Titan.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Six Mysteries in Azurth

While I "built in" some mysterious background elements in the Land of Azurth setting, more have emerged in the year and a half of play. Here are some of the questions the player's have been left to ponder--and possibly follow up on in the future:

1. Who is the man in the metal suit beneath Castle Machina?  The name "Lum" was thrown around, and Mirabilis Lum is said to have disappeared beneath the castle, but is the man in the metal suit him, who was he gaming with, and why does he stay down there?

2. What does Calico Bonny look like? The Queen of the Floating World of Rivertown tends to hide behind a folding screen if she bothers appearing at all. Is there a reason?

3. Who were the builders of the Cloud Castle? The scale of the castle indicates they most have been near giants, though the ancient images suggest they looked something like the Cloud People that live there now. Who were these people with a flare for Googie architecture and mid-Century design and what happened to them?

4. What does the projector do? The Princess Viola says it can open a portal to another world once it is fixed, but what world? And who built it?

5. Where does the magic portal in Mortzengersturm's mansion lead? The frox thief Waylon saw an image of another world: people in unusual clothes in an impressive city, beyond the technology of the Land of Azurth. Where (or when) was this place and why did Mortzengersturm have a portal to it?

6. What was the deal with Mr. Pumpkin and his carnival? Since when can a swarm of rats manage a carnival, and what became of all those rats that got away when the carnival got destroyed? Do these events have anything to do with the giant rats seen later in the beer cellar of the Silver Dragon Tavern in town?

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Wednesday Comics: Storm: People of the Desert

My exploration of the long-running euro-comic Storm, continues. Earlier installments can be found here.

Storm: The People of the Desert (1979)
(Dutch: Het Volk van de Woestijn; Alternate English title: The People of the Plains)
Art by Don Lawrence & Script by Dick Matena

Storm and Ember stumble through a salt flat desert that was once a sea bottom. Ember soon passes out from heat and exhaustion, but Storm manages to carry her to the shelter of an ancient coral reef. despite an attack by vultures sensing their weakness. Finding shade and fresh water, the two rest until the hear someone:

The oddly white-skinned stranger collapses. They notice he has a red circle on his forehead. They are about to get the man water when:

One of the men fires a gun that places another red disk on the man's forehead. When Storm tries to remove if, he gets a strong shock. The disk seems to place the man under the control of the two strangers. Under their command, he stands then easily overpowers Storm knocking him out with a chop to the neck. Storm and Ember are taken prisoner.

On the March to their camp, one of the men explains what's going on. The United Cities want to colonize the salt desert, so they commissioned "the Prof" to engineer a race of people capable of living and toiling there. This guy and his crew raid the tribes at the edge of the desert to supply test subjects. The place a "hyno" on them to get them under control. He plans to turn Storm over to the Prof and give Ember to "the Boss," who he thinks will like her.

Later, in the raiders' cave base, the Boss, Hanyin1, is indeed impressed with Ember's beauty; Ember's response to his advances is predictable:

Storm wakes up and manages to get a knife to Hinyan's throat. One of the raider's fires a hypno at Storm, however, and he is quickly under their control. Ember tries to remove it and is shocked to unconsciousness. Hinyan has her thrown in a cell to await his return.  He gets a message the Prof wants to see him.

Hinyan takes a glass tube elevator to the Prof's lab. The Prof's experiments to perfect homo incultus--the desert people--are almost done. He only needs one more batch of test subjects. Hinyan doesn't want it to be the last one; there's still a lot of work to do in the cortite mines. The Prof is adamant, however, He only worked with Hinyan and his crew and put the desert people to mining to fund his research. Now he's close to a solution to the cities' overpopulation.

Hinyan isn't happy about any of this. He takes the elevator to his heli-jet and heads over to the mines. Storm is at work there beside the mind controlled desert people. Hinyan tells his confederate about the Prof's orders. They begin to plot on how to insure the mines stay open--unaware that the Prof has them under surveillance.


1. "Banjo" in the original Dutch.