Monday, May 30, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse & Changing Times

I saw X-Men: Apocalypse Friday, and if you liked First Class and Days of Future Past you'll like this one too. A complete aside from the overall point of this post: contrary to many Marvel fanboys and girls I kind of like it that Fox rather than Marvel Studios gets to make X-men movies because (1) the X-men have long been sort of a sub-universe within the comic with their on distinct feel, and (2) if Marvel had had all there characters from the beginning, I don't think we would have seen an Ant-Man or even an Iron Man movie this soon--and we'd probably have Wolverine on the Avengers.

Anyway, one thing about the latest trilogy of x-films is that that are firmly rooted in specific eras of recent history (the 60s, the 70s, and the 80s), even if their evocation of those eras is more akin to Happy Days than Mad Men in accuracy. This is a departure from the Marvel Studios films which are always up to the minute "now" (except flashbacks) and most comic books which are in a strange present, that keeps getting retconned as time moves forward. Stan and Jack may have told us that Reed and Ben fought in World War II but by Byrne's Lost Generation limited in the '90s, they weren't even out of college in the 80s--and now they are probably younger than me.

The reasons for this are understandable, but it doesn't have to be that--in the comics or in your superhero rpg campaign. Maybe most campaigns don't run long enough to see much history pass during them even if you had the sessions take place more or less when they were played, but there's no reason you can't start in the past and skip ahead, playing a certain number of sessions in each era or maybe establishing a "legacy setting" by running a short campaign as "the Justice Society" before moving to the present (or at least a couple of decades) to play their legacies. The setting quickly gets historical depth that means more to the players than backstory the GM just made up.

The Wild Cards books edited by George R.R. Martin are on example of this sort of campaign and Marvel: Lost Generation is another. Both are fairly different, which shows the versatility of the concept. 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Mortzengersturm Playtests

My NTrpgcon of Mortzengersturm, The Mad Manticore of the Prismatic Peak is just 6 days away. This past week there were not one but two playtests of the adventure: one Friday by Jeff Call (whose art will grace the adventure when published) and one by me yesterday with a group of seasoned gamers other than my regular one. Both sessions seem to go really well and will inform some minor tweaks I'm make to the adventure at the con and also to the eventually published thing.

After spending a good bit of time this past week on the pregens, I was curious to see which one the players' picked. Sir Clangor (fighter), Minmaximus the Mighty (dwarf fighter), Wulf Howlen (barbarian), Moonflower (elf ranger), and Brother Mudwort (frogling cleric) were chosen, so both the intelligence-based spellcasters and the thief were eschewed--probably having some implications on how they made to approach problems later.

One interesting thing was how much I forgot! Having written the thing based on an adventure I ran in my regular campaign (almost a year ago now, admittedly) I didn't necessarily prep in the way I might a published adventure (Orr either my desire to adhere to adventure-as-written is stronger with my own stuff! Likely a bit of both.) and so there were so fun (to me) details and NPC bits that fell by the wayside. I didn't really effect the players' enjoyment, obviously.

Another was how things play differently in the context of an ongoing campaign than they do in an isolated adventure. I've tried with the pregens and through the adventure itself to convey the feel of the Land of Azurth, but interacting with the Clockwork Princess of Yanth Country or encountering a bunch of weird creatures with punny names plays differently depending on how much you've run across this stuff before. Again, I don't think that effects player enjoyment, but it gives me something to think about in terms of generizing an adventure enough it can be used most anywhere and without losing the flavor that makes a particular setting (hopefully) interesting, because with an adventure or adventure locale derive from an ongoing campaign, that was part of the alchemy that made it fun.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Wednesday Comics: Annotations on Future Quest

My on-going look at Don Lawrence's Storm will take a break so that we can dive into Future Quest, the first of DC's re-imagining of classic Hana-Barbera characters. This will contain spoilers.

"Part One: Lights in the Sky"
Future Quest #1 (2016), Written by Jeff Parker; Art by Eric "Doc" Shaner & Steve Rude

"A Distance World." The story opens with what appears to be the origin of Space Ghost as the last survivor of a Green Lantern-esque group of space peacekeepers. They they all wear uniforms resembling those worn by Jace and Jan (and Gleep) in the Space Ghost cartoon. The opening caption ("years before") suggests Space Ghost's adventures do not take place in the future,  point that was unclear in the various cartoon series.

Looking for Strange Phenomena. Next, we're introduced to the members of the Quest team: Jonny, Hadj, Benton Quest, "Race" Bannon, and their dog, Bandit. They seem pretty similar to the original versions from the 1964 series, though Jonny and Hadj are older than they were when they were first introduced.

Birdman. Two characters are introduced as government agents visiting Dr. Quest: Ray Randall and Deva Sumadi. We're given a couple of clues to Ray Randall's other identity: He has a pet bird named Avenger and we're told his superior is named Falcon 7. He is (as confirmed later) Birdman, solar-powered secret agent superhero, who worked for Inter-Nation Security in his 1967 cartoon series. He was never given a secret identity in those adventures.

One of the Other Three Great Minds. Dr. Quest is still contending with his arch-nemesis, Dr. Zin. Zin appeared in 4 episodes of the original 1964 Jonny Quest cartoon and on episodes in the 80s and 90s revivals. Here, he is working with F.E.A.R., the villainous organization that opposed Birdman in his series. Zin's spider-eye robots that appear later in this issue first appeared in the 1964 episode "The Robot Spy."

"Where do you think it came from?" Hadj and Jonny come across the body of a creature from a dimensional rift that resembles Tundro, a member of The Herculoids. In another rift they peer into they see Space Ghost, Jan, Jace and Gleep, Shazzan, Mightor, and the Herculoids. Space Ghost had crossovers with all of these other characters in the six part "Council of Doom" arc in 1967.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Further Tales of Vo

There are two human(-ish) tribes dwelling in the Vale of Vo. Both are likely the descendants of the folk who crashed their ship into Vo sometime in the distant past, and both claim the ancestral hero of Liberator-Vo.

The Vozerai are a pious people who live an austere and simple life, rejecting of physical pleasures, that dwell in the nose section of the ship. Even dama-fruit is not to be overly enjoyed, lest it lead one to impiety, and from impiety to death in the jaws of the bugbears. This ultimately serves the wheel of life, true, but it is impious to throw away existence lightly. Vozerai society is somewhat theocratic, ruled by cleric scholars, but theses Learned Ones only wield as much power as the number of folk they can sway to their interpretation of the record of accumulated utterances and noises of the bugbears. One thing all Vozerai Learned Ones agree on, whatever their other doctrinal differences, is that the Voyanki are heretics deserving of devouring by bugbears.

The Vozerai are all invisible as is typical from creatures in the Vale of Vo. They have the cultural habit of murmuring or mumbling to themselves, either their inner thoughts or scraps of prayer, so as to make others of their kind aware of their presence. They try to stifle this habit when bugbears may be in hearing.

The Voyanki live in the former tail section of the ship. They hate the preachy, milksop Vozerai for long-nursed but vaguely-remembered grudges, but it may be that they are also a bit jealous. By some trick of heredity, the Voyanki are not completely invisible but only mostly so. Their flesh is utterly transparent and their bones are a very pale white with a faint pinkish tinge. For this reason, Voyanki are somewhat more likely to be meals for the bugbears. They have become into strong warriors for their own defense--and to raid the better supplied Vozerai. The war chants and cries of the Voyanki sound like an attempt to mimic the bugbear voices. Their greatest warriors claim to wear bugbear skull headdresses, but of course, no one has ever seen them.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Tale of Vo

The Vale of Vo looks pretty enough, but that is because the carnage is invisible. The valley is a demiplane or pocket dimension bound by two tall mountains and a ring of hills. Its small stands of forest and orchards of fruited tress are divided and crossed by cobbled paths and clear brooks and streams; a bucolic tranquility only visibly marred by the strange craft that has crashed awkwardly across it's middle, leaving a scar in its wake. The vessel, too, was injured in its arrival; its torpedo shape is broken along is width, leaving two colorful, enameled chrome sections: nose and tail.

Art by Al Williamson. The ship before the crash, perhaps.
No inhabitants are visible in the Vale of Vo, because every animal in the valley is invisible. They are made so by eating the fruit of the trees: the dama-fruit. The dama-fruit is roughly tear-drop shaped and a pinkish color striped with yellow-green. It's flesh is like a papaya's in texture and tastes something like a grape mixed with a apple with hints of fond childhood memories and notes idle summer days. Consuming of most of one fruit will make a man-size creature invisible for 2d6 hours. Regular consumption of the fruit (at least 5 days) will lead to invisibility for 2d4 days after the last fruit was eaten.

The inhabitants of the valley have had to adapt to this condition. Bats have filled the niche of birds, and some of these sing eerie songs in the dappled tree canopies. The primary predator, the dread bugbear, uses smell to find its prey--which is an imperfect method, but good enough to make the bugbears a great threat to the vale's human denizens.

The humans call the bears "bugbears" because they are something out of nightmares, but also because they make an at-first-faint hissing, buzzing, rustling, droning sound that reminds one of insects, but in truth sounds more like mostly-static on a radio. If one was the stand near a bugbear for long enough (this would not be advisable) one might come to discern a tone behind the surface noise that swells and subsides, and this might precede a low, warped, and crackling voice or voices that would be near unintelligible (if truly there at all) but might repeat numbers or nonsense phrases before being swallowed again by the tone and the noise. Sometimes the voice (or voices) is said to cut sharply and suddenly into the static and to say something with great insistence but no greater clarity.

The occurrence of the voice has lead one group of humans in the Vale to assume the bears are gods or at least speak for the gods. These are the Vozerai. More on them tomorrow.

[freely adapted from Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum]

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Paper Town of Azurth

Paper Town (it is said) in some sense occupies space in the Uncanny Valley in the west of the Country of Yanth, but the most reliable way to gain entry to the town is via a map. Potentially any map will do, but it must be one noting a nonexistent settlement, street or island. These fictitious entries serve as gates to Paper Town.

As is common with magical places, gaining entrance is not as simple as finding a suitable map. Luckily, the legend regarding Paper Town's creation delineates the necessary procedure. Paper Town, as the story says, was a gift given to Princess Hyacinthia of Azurth on the occasion of her birthday by a mysterious stranger. He informed the Princess that she could not visit Paper Town in person, being compose of something other than paper and possessed of general lack of flatness as she was, but her shadow could—with the proper attire. The stranger traced the outline of the Princess’s shadow on a large sheet of paper and cut around its edge. The cutout was taken to a place where the stranger’s map showed a hamlet to be but was not. The cutout vanished, like a piece of paper slid under an unseen door into an equally unseen room.

The fact Hyacinthia never regain her shadow nor have many who have repeated this ritual might give some pause, but that detail is not frequently repeated.

In Paper Town, the cutouts become paper doll doppelgängers of the person that served as their model. These visitors find unfolding streets of pop-up trees and citizenry and flat facades that elaborate to Escher-architectured structures when entered. The city seems endless, but the clever observer will note that it recycles itself to appear so. As the preceding portion grows, the receding part folds up behind. This can happen in any direction: Tall towers erect themselves when an evil sorcerer flies up to his sanctum. Dungeons unfold like inverted houses of cards when heroes go delving. The ostensible ruler of Paper Town, Princess Seven, paper doll of the long dead Queen Hyacinthia, makes the final decision on how "permanent" a new structure is in her city.

One attractive trait of Paper Town is that it conforms to a visitor's imagination in certain ways. Anything one wishes for may be found there, though anything of value is likely to require a quest or be obtained in a way that makes one not want it after all. In other words, Paper Town adheres to laws of story.

The archons or godlings that truly rule Paper Town enforce this reality zealously. These Great Tall Tailors, or Scissor Men as they are sometime called, will catch paper doll visitors who are ill-fitted for the story the Tall Tailors wish told and snip, snap, snip, reshape them into a more pleasing arrangement. The Tall Tailors are paper themselves (Or perhaps they are the shapes left when slender, lank-limbed manshapes are cut of paper?) save for their gleaming, scissor hands. Their shadows are also Tailors but their shadow-scissors cut the spirit exclusively while their metallic doubles cut the physical.

It is said that the Book of Doors, a book where every page is a portal to another place, originated in Paper Town, but how it came to be in the wider Land of Aurth is unknown.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Battle for Earth (part 3)

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

Storm: The Battle for Earth (1980) (part 3)
(Dutch: De Strijd om de Aarde)
Art by Don Lawrence & Script by Dick Matena

Solon has come to offer Storm help, saying he can show the humans a way into the city of the Azurians. He wants revenge on the Supervisor who sent his men to their deaths. Balder doesn't trust him, but Storm agrees to go along.

Solon leads Storm, Ember, and a nameless extra across a marsh where he seems to prove his intentions by saving Storm from a monster. They enter the city from an old sewer pipe, and make their way through the tunnels until they come up through a manhole and find:

Balder gloats to Solon they they discovered his treachery by him discussing his plans over an open comm. He throws Solon, Storm, and Ember in the dungeon.

Meanwhile, the extra, though fatally wounded, made it back to the camp to tell Balder what happened. Enraged, Balder leads an all out assault on the city. Though the humans fight bravely, the advanced technology of the Azurians inflicts heavy losses.

The Supervisor watches the battle on his viewscreens but also finds time to get grabby with the beautiful serving girl, Silene--who it turns out is the fiancee of Solon.

She steals his keys from him and frees our protagonists. They run to open the gate, but some where along the way, they lose Ember in the crowd. There is no time to look for her. In the control room, Storm and Solon take out the guards and raise the gate. Balder and the army pours in. The fighting is fierce, but eventually the Azurians are overcome.  The Supervisor has one surprise left though:

He demands a ship and safe passage for himself and his remaining men. Mordegai grants their request. The Azurians fly off to an old, deserted Chultu Monastery in the mountains once known as the Himalayas.


Monday, May 16, 2016

The Shooting Star Folk

The Shooting Star folk (or Asterians) are a vagabond and rowdy bunch, who are generally not welcomed among the Stars and Planets that comprise polite society of the heavens. They are forever crashing into things, (Planets, Stars, each other) and despite the danger, consider it a great thrill to do so, burning bright and screaming to the void.

Sometimes their dives or their landings sap them of too much celestial energy, and they must consolidate themselves into more suitable forms for whatever place they find themselves. There they wait until their fellows scream by and rescue them. [The Warforged for 5e is a reasonable approximation of earth-bond stats.] A few are known to be in the Land of Azurth at present.

Despite their unruly nature, the Shooting Star folk have a monarchy. The Tsar of Shooting Stars is Zorka. He holds little real authority over his far-flung and itinerant people, beyond being revered as the most daredevil and thrill-seeking of them all. His holds court in the void between Mars and Jupiter when he isn't out surveying the heavens on long orbits.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Hanna-Barbera Multiverse

With the news that DC is doing a crossover with some Hanna-Barbera characters, it got me thinking about applying a DC style multiverse to their diverse stable of characters. This might be useful for a Hanna-Barbera Supers Universe game. Here's what I've got so far:

Description: Anthropomorphic animals capable of speech exist side beside with humans and have humorous adventures.
Series Examples: Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Magilla Gorilla, Peter Potamus, Quick Draw McGraw

Earth-Familia (or Flintstone)
Description: A world where humorous family adventures take place. Civilization was very advanced in the Stone Age and dopplegangers of famous people in the 20th Century recur in various eras. By 2062, there is at least one city in orbit.
Series Examples: The Flintstones, The Jetsons, The Roman Holidays

Description: A relatively (in comparison) mundane world of pulpy heroics. There are no costumed heroes and no talking animals, though pets may display near human intelligence.
Series Examples: Jonny Quest, Clue Club, Jana of the Jungle, and Valley of the Dinosaurs and (in the future) Sealab 2020. The unadventurous There Are the Days may also take place in this world, if anyone cares.

Description: A world with a inordinate number of meddling teen mystery solvers and their unusual sidekicks. Some animals here have human-level intelligence and limited speech, but this may not be a universal condition and they are still treated as animals. There is at least one costumed superhero on this world, possibly more. By the 2070s, there is extensive undersea settlement. Astro and the Space Mutts may also take place in this world, meaning the Jetsons's dog has a counterpart in this universe.
Series Examples: Scooby-Doo, Funky Phantom, Captain Caveman, Galloping Ghost and Buford, Speed BuggyDynomutt, (in the future) Jabberjaw.

Description: A world of costumed and non-costumed heroes across multiple eras that take on super-villains.
Series Examples: Birdman and The Galaxy Trio, Space Ghost, Mightor, Teen Force, Shazzan, and The Herculoids.

Description: A world of superheroes that are more cartoonish in nature. This may also be the world of the child heroes without adult involvement.
Series Example: Frankenstein Jr. and the Impossibles, The Powerpuff Girls, also possibly the Space Kidettes.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Dictionary of Azurth Update

Here's the latest version of the Dictionary of Azurth with entries from recent events in my game (the Motley Isles, the Confection Perfection, and the Chromic Witches) but also new stuff like Roquar the Nome King and Wizardry, the magazine for the magical practitioner.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Chronology of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Unlike the comic book version of the Marvel Universe with its sliding timeline in order to keep characters perpetually young, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has to employ real live actors and has no reason not to tie things to real dates since the actors are just going to get old anyway.  The movies don't pin themselves down so much on when the actual films take place (or their references are contradictory), but we do know quite a bit about the events before them:

Tony Stark was born on May 29, 1970.

Hank Pym resigns from SHIELD in 1989.

Howard and Maria Stark are assassinated by the Winter Soldier on December 16 1991.

Anyway, check out these timelines here and here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Battle for Earth (part 2)

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

Storm: The Battle for Earth (1980) (part 2)
(Dutch: De Strijd om de Aarde)
Art by Don Lawrence & Script by Dick Matena

Under Storm' guidance and with the work of Mordegai and his people, the shelter soon has power for the first time in centuries. Balder, though, is jealous of the favor Mordegai is showing Storm, so he decides to switch sides. He breaks the Azurians free and helps them get back to their craft. This is how they show their gratitude:

Still alive, Balder stumbles back and tells Mordegai and Storm what he has done. Storm believes they'll be back in force soon--and he's right. A squadron of Azurian ships are sooner approaching the shelter. The Supervisor is so eager to get revenge on Storm he's come in person.

The shelter is not as defenseless as the Azurians believe. Storm directs their magnetic ray weapons to be fired. The Azurian fighters are pulled down to crash against the mountain. The people of the shelter engage the survuving Azurian floating down on parachutes. The attackers are routed; the survivors run into the forest.

In an effort to contain Storm and his forces, the Azurians come out of hiding and occupy towns and villages surrounding the mountain. They deal ruthless with the local populations, but many of the townsfolk escape and flee to the shelter in the mountain for safety.

Storm realizes it's now all out war. He and Ember lead an army out of the mountain--but they are unaware that the Supervisor knows there plans, having planted spies among the refugees. Still, as they march, more and more troops join Storm's army to help take back the planet.

The Supervisor directs General Solon to take his elite squadron and "bomb the army back to the Stone Age." Solon expresses reservations about another secret weapon, but the Supervisor isn't having it. His squadron flies out and finds where Storm and his troops have pitched camp at nightfall.

The human army appears defenseless. Solon begins to think this will be easy, but then Storm activates an ancient device he's brought with them:

As if they were all struck by lightning the ships fall from the sky. Solon manages to survive by bringing his ship down in something approximating a landing. His only thought is avenging his men. He stumbles into the human camp:


Monday, May 9, 2016

The Hidden Country Setting

A significant number of works of fantasy take place in some sort of lost or hidden realm within the real world: Oz (at times), Neverwhere, Pellucidar, the Savage Land, Fraggle Rock, Hogwarts, and some versions of fairyland are all around here somewhere. This sort of setting doesn't seem to have been often used in fantasy rpgs, at least outside of modern/urban fantasy.

I suppose their are reasons for this. The Medieval(ish) nature of most fantasy gaming suggests a historical(ish) setting. The scales many settings inhabit would preclude them being tucked away in some corner. Perhaps there's also a fear with the modern world close by it would be too easy for it to intrude.

These seem to me to be only relative contraindications. Most gamers (at least of the old school variety) are comfortable with plenty of science fictional or science fantasy elements that violate the pseudohistorical milieu  The scale may be sort of a problem (though Burroughs never set that stop him in Tarzan's Africa and a Hollow Earth could have plenty of space) and a smaller scale setting isn't necessarily a bad thing.

This sort of setting opens up some new elements: Lost-like underground bases complete with enigmatic video instructions, modern world epherma as treasure, secret societies working in both "worlds." Pretty interesting stuff, I think, with a lot of potential.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Civil War

Captain America: Civil War (or as my friend Matt Penn insists it must be called "The War of Superhero Aggression") manages to transmogrify the 2006 crossover even that made me virtually stop reading Marvel into an entertaining film, though it is inferior to its predecessor, Winter Soldier.

Civil War plays with interesting thematic elements: individual freedom vs. control, dealing with consequences of well-intended acts, the destructiveness of vengeance, Iron Man vs. Captain America (ok, not a theme)--but mostly it's about superheroes wailing on each other, and it doesn't think a whole lot about what it has to do to get there. So we get an unelected monarchy lecturing the Avengers about accountability after a handful of civilians die when the Avengers prevent the release of a toxin into the city of Lagos that would have killed who knows how many, and the U.S. secretary of state rushes headlong into putting American superheroes (several of whom were super-secret agents of the U.S. government just a film ago) into the hands some sort of UN committee.

Now, even if all that can be made since of with the pat "the Marvel Universe is different from our own," we also get former soldier Captain America being the staunch "we can't be under someone else's control!" guy, which for most of the translates as "my friends shouldn't have to face consequences for their actions!" The film has to have those who oppose him behave stupidly and heavy-handedly to make his position justified.

The villain in the film seems to have accounted for all these things, because his plan hinges entirely on people performing very specific actions that there's no way of knowing they would do. He and Batman vs. Superman's Lex Luthor must have take the same super-villain prognostication classes.

All this, though, is in service of a superhero punch 'em up, which is a sight to behold. We get all of Marvel's crew and sees some great tricks pulled out including one big reveal I won't spoil, but also the classic bit of Ant-Man riding Hawkeye's arrow. This battle is probably the best done multiple characters battle in a supers film-- it beats any of the X-men films in that regard, I think.

We also get the intros of Black Panther and Spider-Man. I'm ready for that Black Panther film now. This Spider-Man is probably my 3rd favorite cinematic portrayal (though I have no doubt there are many places where Marvel Cinematic Universe adherents are proclaiming he's finally "done right" now that he's in the "Universe.") but I don't blame the actor as much as the writing and the use he's put to in the film.

All in all, it's a solid superhero film. I'd put it above Age of Ultron.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Projects Update

It's been a while since I outlined where my current rpg projects stand. This will just focus on the bigger ones (the one's I've discussed here; I always have a few slow-burn, "for the future" things, as well.) First off, let me say there's been a bit of a global delay as I got married the end of last month and I'm now in the midst of integrating houses, so progress will be slower for a bit. Anyway, let's run the list:

Strange Stars OSR: First (and hopefully the only major) round of edits/suggestions are on hand, and I've begun responding to them. All the art has been done.

Mortzengersturm, the Mad Manticore of the Prismatic Peak: Also has gone through first round of edits and art is in process. I'll be running this in Juna at NTRPGCon.

Cloud Castle of Azurth: Still in the writing process. On a little bit of a hiatus to get one of the other projects off the table.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Battle for Earth

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

Storm: The Battle for Earth (1980)
(Dutch: De Strijd om de Aarde)
Art by Don Lawrence & Script by Dick Matena

Leaving their doomed world, the Azurians set about conquering planets throughout the galaxy. One of those worlds was Earth. They wiped the minds of the conquered survivors, destroying civilization and returning humanity to barbarism. They cultivated spies among the surviving humans to ensure their technological knowledge rose above a certain level.

When Storm arrived in their time and discovered what they had done, it had the potential to disrupt their plans. They had no choice but to hunt him down and destroy him. So far, that's proved difficult. Despite their advanced sensors, they have been unable to locate Storm and Ember.

An Azurian patrol finds a hidden entrance in the wall of a ravine. They enter it and discover an ancient ruin where they're set upon by barbarians. Though they have superior weapons, they're overwhelmed by the human's numbers.

The captive Azurians are taken to an audience chamber to the human's leader, Mordegai. The blue men confirm the story of their other prisoner's: Storm and Ember, by calling out Storm by name. The warrior, Balder, still isn't convinced they shouldn't kill Storm. He hasn't trusted the two strangers since they found them at the entrance to their cave. He doesn't believe Storm's story that their cave is actually a bomb shelter built to protect human's against the Azurian onslaught.

Mordegai has had enough of Balder's lip and sends him away. Mordegai apologizes for Balder, explaining that they have had to fight many other tribes that have tried to invade their caves. Storm points out that it didn't take long for the Azurians to find them. Others will follow.

Storm has a plan. There must be a power generator and equipment in this shelter, perhaps ones that have never been used. They may be able to use them to make weapons to fight back against the Azurians. Mordegai agrees to the plan. With the help of his people work begins.


Monday, May 2, 2016

A Tower in Gelatin Floats By

art by Jeff Call
Our 5e Land of Azurth game continued last night with our heroes planning on taking Gwendolin Goode back to her parents and relieving the pirate queen Black Iris (both of whom they rescued from the Candy Isle) of some of her treasure, but in disagreement about how forcefully they wished to pursue either goal. Before they could come to consensus, Cog sighted something strange off the bow: a large, floating, blue gelatinous bubble with a broken up tower inside, and a few fallen or tottering trees along the outer edge.

The PCs couldn't quite comprehend how this came to be, but it seemed to be drifting, so they surmised it must have slid off land somewhere. Black Iris wants to investigate (which makes Shade the Ranger suspicious of a trap) but talk of a wizard's magic treasure soon has Waylon the thief and Erekose also favoring exploration.

The player's entered the open balcony. I won't describe what they found in detail (you should read Jeff Call's one page dungeon!) but I'll summarize the high points: they defeated a lisping, anthrophagous black pudding with an odd since of propriety, rescuing two scrawny cooks in the process; they saved the same cooks again from a confused, jade bear who turned back into a statuette after being "talked down" by the ranger; they used a table to form a tunnel to protect themselves from falling gelatin to took the weapons from the armory and rescue a servant from the privy, being reward with a gaudy ring of protection with a jewel as large (and as fake) as a ring-pop's.

That was as far as they dared explore with some of the rooms beginning to crumble. The servant told them the sad tale of his former master, the Wizard, Clabber, who had summoned the great former king of the Ooze Folk, Goo the Great, and in doing so brought about his own end. The servant also mentioned "vampire dignitaries," which made them surer in their desire not to push on. They circumnavigated the blob, hoping to find more easy picking near the surface but were unsuccessful.

So they sailed back to the Motley Isles and then for the coast of Yanth. They got 3 magic items from tower, 10% of Black Iris's treasure, and one of her magic items: a page from The Book of Doors, which is a portal to...somewhere. She also introduced them to conspiracies about the hidden malevolence of the Wizard of Azurth, but they considered that to be nonsense. Miss Goode got returned to her parents (though she's likely to run away again) and received a stern lecture from the bard Kully about life choices.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Heroes of the Islands

art by Herb Kāne

Erene was the most beautiful woman in the world, so beautiful that it was said she was the daughter of the Sky God Tiwo, who had lain with the wife of the Chieftain of Raketaminio. She was married to Mengerao son of Ateru, but stolen by Prince Palitisi of Taloia. Mengerao called upon his brother, Akakamuna, mighty chief of Mukanai, his face tattooed with the likeness of the tusk and whiskers of the boar, for aid, and a great host was assembled and there war canoes made for Taloia, with cunning Uluihi, veteran Nehetoru, and strong Aiwaha among them. Greatest in battle would be the demigod Akirihi, who would dance his war dance before palisades of Taloia and kill its champion E’etolo with his shark-toothed war club.

So, basically: Why not recast the Greek Age of Heroes in a pseudo-Polynesian fantasy Oceania? Here's a list of gods (with name variants):

Tiwo/Kiwe: Sky God
Era/Ela: His wife
Emā: Messanger god
Are/Ale: War god
Tiwonuho/Kiwonuho: God of kava and beer
Apaitio/Apaikio: Volcano god.
Pāwone/Aparanu: God of song
Pohetahone/Pohekao: Sea god.
Atana/Akana: Goddess of Wisdom
Atamito/Akemike: Shark goddess of the hunt
Apatite/Apakiki: Love and fertility goddess
Ehatia/Ehakia: Goddess of the cook fires
Tamate/Kamaki: Goddess of cultivated crops, particularly sweet potato and taro