Monday, October 31, 2016

Voyage to the Sun

The Demiurge, the creator of the Cosmos, convalesces within the Sun. His rest is not to be disturbed on order of the Heavenly Powers. Even in repose, the orb of pure creative energy formed around him is a source of life for the entire Cosmos; a source of the animating substance azoth as well as mundane heat and light.

The energy spontaneously generates lifeforms, in shapes, perhaps, from the dreams of the Demiurge. Angels flit about, recording the birth of ever creature, and assuring nothing dangerous escapes, though solar flares sometimes eject such beings beyond their reach.

Their activities are directed by the Oyarses Och. It may be that Och is mere avatar of the Demiurge. Certainly she is able to tap into the mind of that being. Och sometimes speaks with visitors, mostly warning them away, for fallen beings like humans were never intended to look upon the resting creator or walk in the splendor of the solar halls.

This doesn't stop them from trying. Swift and specially-hulled sunrakers set out from Mercury to catch what plumes of azoth they can. Such cargo brings a high price on other worlds.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Halloween Special

Sorry, no Fall Guy or Elvira actually in this post. I didn't do any Halloween related posts this year, but just sit back and relive these horror-themed classics:

Need a name for a horror comic? Generate it with this post.
Ever heard the legend Spring-hilled Jack? Well here are his stats.
A different way of the thinking of Ghost Towns, from Weird Adventures, but usable anywhere.
And finally, a 2013 Santacore request unwittingly opens, "The Tome of Draculas!"

Friday, October 28, 2016

Rapping With Thrantrix

Anybody who has watched the Operation Unfathomable Kickstarter video is familiar with that chaos godling and bon vivant (well, maybe just the former) Thrantrix the Ineffable. Now, as you know, Chaos Godlings say the darnedest things, and that Thrantrix is quotable beyond all others. Hydra has a little contest going: Give us your best Thrantrix quotations and we'll collect them into one tome. Also, the very best will go into the adventure as "sample dialogue" the godling might drop on the PCs, so that's the sort of quotation we're looking for: cutting adventurer put-downs, Underworld gossip, incomprehensible cosmic musings, weird worship requirements, gripes about other Godlings, etc.

The top submission will receive the actual model of Thrantrix that appeared in our Kickstarter video, once the campaign ends and a winner has been chosen!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Bad Hombres on the Planet of the Apes


Player Characters:
Jeff Call as Brock Irving
Jarrett Crader as Aurelius
Billy Longino as Olsen Potter Graves
Lester B. Portly as Eddy Woodward
Jason Sholtis as Francis La Cava

Nonplayer Characters:
Ted Cassidy as Eezaya
Mutant driver
Various tribesfolk

Synopsis: The Kreeg War Wheel attacks the conclave on the Rio Grande, but the astronauts and their ape friend strike back.

As heavily armored as a tank, the weapons of the astronauts are pretty much useless. Graves and Aurelius hatch a plan to tip the machine over with the grenades they acquired a few sessions back. From the back of a horse-sized mutant dog this doesn't go exactly smoothly, but is nonetheless sucessful enough in damaging the War Wheel to make it retreat.

Graves continues his alcohol-fueled heroism and tries to blow torch his way into one of the gun turrets. After evicting one of the mutants, he manages to damage the controls and crash the thing.

A mutant like the one Graves killed

Eezaya finally seemes impressed with the Men from the Sky and willing to listen to their suggestions.

Aurelius acquires a pistol (the astronauts hadn't been letting him have one before) and a helmet like this:

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Wednesday Comics

No Storm update this week, instead here are a couple of recent comics related purchases I made:

Head Lopper is the story of a white-haired and bearded warrior who carries around the still living head of witch he decapitated, while he goes on a quest to kill a sorcerer for a queen. Headlopping is what he does best and there is a lot more decapitation along the way. This is fun fantasy comic with an interesting setting. I only wish their was more of it.

The Star Reach Companion is a history of an obscure, but in some ways, important part of comics history. The titular Star*Reach (1974-1976) was one of few anthology series that bridged the gap between underground comics and the mainstream. Featuring edgier work by known creators, it prefigured Heavy Metal and independent comics in general. This retrospective not only gives comprehensive coverage of Star Reach, but it also covers similar anthology series of the 70s.

Monday, October 24, 2016

What's Got this Alien So Surprised?

Could it be he's heard that Strange Stars OSR is now in layout? It's been a long time coming, (longer than I planned!) but I am happy to say I placed the manuscript and art in the hands of the very able Lester B. Portly this past weekend.

We're in the home stretch. Stay tune!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Science Fantasy World

Art by Jason Sholtis

Here's a roundup of the posts I've done for a (as yet) nameless science fantasy world.

Two PC races statted for 5e:
Hwaopt: Smelly reptilian scholars
Hohmmkudhuk: Anteater folk.

Four Nonhuman races, not statted: The Skarzg, Ylthlaxu, Trell, and Ieldra

And some encounters/locales in that world:
"Aboard the Aureate Majestrix on the Occasion of the Panarch's Anniversary"
"In the Vicinity of the Unthran Wood"
"More Descriptions for Hypothetical Hexes"
"Three Descriptions in Need of Hexes"

Friday, October 21, 2016

Apes of the Southwest

Here's the map with some events labelled from my ongoing Planet of the Apes game. Of course, this old map contains cities and roads, none of which continue to exist in the 36th century.

Review the highlights of the campaign here.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Würm: First Look

The Kickstarter for the English translation of the French prehistoric rpg Würm dropped yesterday. I haven't had time for more than brief flip-through but it seems pretty cool. Here are not observations:

  • The art is at times a bit on the cartoony side (it reminds me a bit of some Franco-Belgian comic art), but is "realistic" in what it depicts, not pulpy. No Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C. lookalikes. Neanderthals get a lot of depiction and as protagonists, not brutish adversaries.
  • The mechanics related to hunting, tracking, and killing are as robust as combat is in most rpgs. There is a "Butchering" roll and a "Skinning" roll, apparently--and cool features like this: "If eaten raw in the moments following the death of the animal, the liver of a killed mammal grants the one eating it the Strength connected to this kind of animal until next dawn. Note that this power only applies to mammals."
  • "Magical" abilities of various sorts are discussed including Shamanism and "Sorcery" (the making of potions and ointments). There are also rules for handling relationships with spirits and curses.
  • The monster section contains the usual prehistoric beasts (no dinosaurs), but also, somewhat surprisingly, some fantasy staples like dragons, a couple of types of giants, and spirits of the elements.

All and all, it looks interesting, and I'm glad I backed the Kickstarter.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Wednesday Comics: Storm: City of the Damned

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

Storm: City of the Damned (1982) (part 2)
(Dutch: Stad der Verdoemden)
Art by Don Lawrence & Script by Kelvin Gosnell

Through the device given him by the city's representative, Storm sees the fall of the 25th Century. The massive array of satellites around the Earth somehow  delivered a surged of deadly solar radiation through all the world's television sets and monitors. What few that were left in the ruins of society soon reverted to barbarism. If Storm returns to the past he will most likely die, but he stubbornly still intends to go.

The man reluctantly agrees to take Storm to Terminal One. On the way, he shows off the space and amenities of the city. When they pass a fire, he also gets to point out the robot emergency services directed by the central computer. Unfortunately, the robot transport breaks down. The building will be sealed to smother the fire, killing the people inside.

Storm and Ember rush to the rescue. Elsewhere a woman named Anor monitors the events. She is intriqued by Storm's behavior. She appears never to have seen "courage" before. Storm has a little girl in his arms, but the fire rages around him. Anor's unseen Master bids her to help him. She doesn't feel her powers are equal to the task, but she does as commanded.

Storm manages to jump to safety. The girl is safe, and Ember commends him on the rescue. For his part, Storm feels like he had some help in some way.

They travel on to Terminal One. The man shows Storm and Ember the central computer. All the important decisions for the city are made there. Before the man programs it to take Storm to the 25th century, Storm wants to ask it some questions. First off: What's the purpose of the city?

The computer tells him that after the barbarian invasion, the people of the city began to study humanity, to understand the setbacks that seem to periodically plague civilization. They studied evolution, then began to look toward man's future development. They began to look for and develop psychic powers. One subject developed telekinetic powers, but he couldn't control them and had to be atomized.

Storm questions the necessity of that action. The computer responds that it was not programmed for morality, only to protect the city. The computer then surprises Storm be making a request of him...


Monday, October 17, 2016

Jovian Revelry

The most farflung civilized court of the Cosmos is that of Bethor, the convivial Oyarses of Jupiter. In the great hall of a domed palace bobbing in the variegated clouds, the revels are ceaseless, though the partcipants are everchanging.

Bethor himself is a laughing giant, bearded and ruddy-faced. His head is wreathed in laurel. The bejeweled cup in his hand is always full, despite the way he seems to heedlessly spill its contents with his gesticulations.

All the delights of the Cosmos find their way to Bethor's table: Mercurian wines, Venerian viands, the finest game meat of Earth. Beyond food and drink, entertainers of all sorts are invited by the monarch for his guests' pleasure--though the palace is hardly the full extent of diversions to be found close at hand.

Jupiter has many moons, and several of these host gambling houses, bordellos, and other places of pleasure. Small vessels flit between these worlds, but the more adventurous and properly accoutred travel betwixt in batwinged flying suits.

One of the most singular recreations is hunting leviathans, the great beasts that swim Jupiter's cloud depths. Hunters do not always come back alive, but all that do bring a tale with them. It is said that the only thing that may truly darken the mirth of Bethor is talk of Scarred Rahab, the greatest of the leviathans, in whose terrible pursuit Bethor is doomed to die in some remote future.

All the wealth of Jupiter is stored in coffers and compting houses are located on Io. Other great banks of the Cosmos also have houses there. Such wealth in one place might attract would-be thieves, but among the contingent of guards there is no less than a dragon--and the wrath of Bethor, who wields Jupiter's lighting, is not a thing to be trifled with.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Odious Uplands

The Operation Unfathomable Kickstarter is going strong! We reached the first stretch goal last we: Odious Uplands. This describes the upper world of Operation Unfathomable: Stonespear Province, Upper Mastodonia. There's a sample layout spread and more info on the Kickstarter page.

Here's a vaguely mid-Centory travel ad I made for it a while back:

Friday, October 14, 2016

New Alliances on the Planet of the Apes


Player Characters:
Jeff Call as Brock Irving
Jarrett Crader as Aurelius
Billy Longino as Olsen Potter Graves
Lester B. Portly as Eddy Woodward
Jason Sholtis as Francis La Cava

Nonplayer Characters:
Ted Cassidy as Eezaya
Robert Sutton  as Kreeg Dog Rider
Frank Sorello as Kor-Tez
Jem of the Rey-Gonites
Various tribesfolk

Synopsis: While the astronauts and Aurelius are guests at a meeting of human tribes, the mutants make a surprise attack.

The PCs met Eezaya again (last seen back in Episode 2) and take part in a conclave of human tribes (both Tehi from the former Texas side of the Rio Grande and at least some Mehi from the Mexican side). The astronauts find the humans woefully unprepared in their estimation to take on a gorilla fort, which is their plan.

A mutant attack forestalls any consideration of deserting the humans for the moment.  The mutant raiders ride giant mastiffs like Darkseid's dog cavalry in The New Gods. I used the stats for the podog-rdiing Scarlet Knights from the Gamma World adventure The Cleansing War of Garik Blackhand.

The mutants call themselves Kreeg. They are no doubt the descendants of the Kreeg mutants in the Planet Earth pilot. They have the same Klingon head bumps and purple uniforms.

In the end, the PC's glimpsed the Kreeg's secret weapon:

A war wheel, much like the one that plagued Blackhawk.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

In Case You Forgot

The Operation Unfathomable Kickstarter is "go." Check it out and lend your support! The full list of stretch goals is now available.

Also, on an unrelated note, here's another one of my counter-factual covers, this one with art by Earl Norem:

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Wednesday Comics: Storm: City of the Damned

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

Storm: City of the Damned (1982) (part 1)
(Dutch: Stad der Verdoemden)
Art by Don Lawrence & Script by Kelvin Gosnell

Following the events of the last chapter, Storm and Ember are riding the moving energy bridge across the Antarctic landscape. They hope it will take them to the location of the time machine. That hope is at least temporarily dashed as the bridge seems to dead in into a mountainside. The two jump to safety in the snow beneath and luckily enough find a door in the mountain before they freeze to death.

There is warm(er) clothing on the inside, some supplies--and a frozen body! The dead man has a letter in his hand. He was the last worker on Project Aleph. They tried to warn the outside world about something, but got no response. Storm had heard vague rumors of Project Aleph on his time, but he doesn't know what it was about.

Leaving that mystery behind, Storm and Ember ski into others. First the sky gets strange and there is a pink snow storm. Then, they see this:

They approach the base of the structure, but they can't get the doors to open. Ember just knocks, and an armored warrior on back of some dragon creature accosts them. Storm realizes the thing is a robot, and is able to deactivate it by cutting through the mount's tail. Suddenly, a beam of blue light strikes them. They are transported inside the city.

They are greeted by a man who welcomes and apologizes for the antiquated robot that threatened them. He reveals that the city has been following their progress. He knows they have come to find the time machine, but if they return to the past they will die in a few weeks. Rather than eleborate further, he leads them to their quarters that he has the computer furnish in late twentieth century.

Storm has had about enough delays and demands answers. The man tells Storm that he and his people are the descendants of those who fled the barbarians and their wars. They built this city as a safe haven. The isn't what Storm wants to know about: He wants to hear about the 25th Century. The man says its too horrorific to repeat, but he gives Storm a helmet where he can see the events directly from the central computer.


Monday, October 10, 2016

Countdown to Unfathomable!

The Kickstarter launches in just a few hours!
OPERATION UNFATHOMABLE is an internally-consistent, gonzo funhouse that runs like a subterranean wilderness trek instead of a “down the 10 foot hall and kick in a door” affair. There are random elements aplenty to keep GMs guessing as well as players. No balanced encounters to be found here, but the clever setup allows low level characters to drop into the dungeon “deep end” and still have a chance of making it out alive—if they’re smart and wary.
  • Underworld Phenomena: Novel environmental hazards to challenge explorers like Horizontal Cave Lightning, Whirlwinds of Unbidden Transportation, Sudden Seismic Events, and many more!
  • Fractious Factions: Enter a crossroads of Underworld civilization where combat is only one of the options (and often not always the wisest!) for dealing with its denizens. The PCs can make a temporary truce with Blind Antler Men or forge an unlikely alliance with the minions of Nul the Mindless God!
  • Races, Weirdos and Chaos Godlings Galore: Over two dozen new creatures, from Batwinged Dwarfs to Shaggath Ka the Worm Sultan, malevolent…and even more malevolent!
  • Near-Endless Adventure: Enough NPCs, encounters, and areas to explore to keep a campaign going well beyond the initial scenario.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

On Venus

Wet where Mercury is desert and as fecund as that world is barren, Venus is covered by warm, shallow seas and dense, tropical forests. Its 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 their 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, save for the notable exception of an impressive phallocrypt, decorated and enlaided with gold, for public ceremonies.

A Doge’s rule lasts only a Venerian day, as measured by the fixed stars, which is hundreds of Earth days. When the sun sets, the Doge is taken by the Venerians into the forest and is seen no more.

I posted this before, but it's been nearly two years and it beared repeating with Luka Rejec's gourgeous art. It is a follow up to this post.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Get Ready to Enter the Weird Underworld

My Hydra Cooperative partners and I are getting ready to launch a Kickstarter on Monday, October 10, for Operation Unfathomable by writer and artist Jason "Dungeon Dozen" Sholtis. Readers of this blog no doubt know Jason's work and many of you will have no doubt read (and hopefully played) the original version of "Operation Unfathomable" from Knockspell #5. I got to play the original version at NTrpgcon, and I can tell you this expanded version is more of what makes the original so cool: more semi-gonzo weirdness, more underground sandbox, and more art by Jason. Plus, layout by Jez Gordon.

But wait! There's more. Hydra got together with Jason and cooked up a number of cool stretch goals. I've been working with Jason getting the Kickstarter page together. The video alone is going to be worth a small pledge, trust me!

Look for it come Monday.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Warlord Wednesday Flashback

It's Wednesday which means comics, but for years on this blog meant DC Comic's Warlord. Let's re-enter the lost world with flashback installment from almost 6 years ago today of my issue by issue examination of the series. The previous installments can be found here...

Warlord (vol. 1) #30 (February 1980)

Written and Pencilled by Mike Grell; Inked by Vince Colletta

Synopsis: Morgan is riding to Shamballah through the borderlands between it and Thera, when he hears sounds suggestive of soldiers on the march. Knowing well the enmity between Thera and his wife’s city, he climbs into a tall tree to get a look. What he sees must be nearly the entire Theran garrison on the march--with their only possible destination Shamballah.

That’s when Morgan notices a more immediate danger--a jaguar on the branch next to him, ready to pounce. Morgan draws his knife and lunges first! He and the jaguar battle until they fall from the tree, with the cat getting the worst of it.

Morgan’s got to beat the army to Shamballah, but his horse has run off. He runs, hoping to cut across a swamp to save five miles. He dives into the water...right on top of a big aquatic reptile. He fights the creature, and almost escapes, but then it swallows him whole!

The Warlord’s not an easy meal. He cuts his way out of the creature with his sword. He looks back from the shore to see piranha devouring the corpse. He made it out just in time.

Morgan's not done with the derring-do yet. He starts racing along tree branches and swinging by vines, Tarzan-style. Ahead are the outlying settlements of Shamballah. Morgan has to warn them so they can mount some resistance to the coming attack.

His vine-swinging comes to a halt when the tree in front of him falls. He looks down to see a woodsman with an axe wondering what it is he’s doing. Morgan tells him about the approaching army. He says they have to raise an alarm among the outpost settlements.

The woodsman’s first thought is to warn his family, but Morgan says there isn’t time. The Therans won’t bother with one cottage. He promises to go back to his home with the woodsman once they’ve warned the outposts. The two split up, the woodsman going east and Morgan west. The man reminds Morgan that if anything happens to him, Morgan must warn his family.

After they warn the settlements, the two meet at the bridge across the great gorge, beyond which is the woodsman’s cottage--and the Theran army is upon them. Morgan tells the woodsman to go to his family, but leave him the axe. The woodsman says that Morgan’s either “a great fool or a great hero” as he leaves him to hold the bridge alone.

What Morgan can’t know is that family the woodsman is saving includes a little boy who is actually Joshua--Morgan’s own lost son, taken away by Deimos. Morgan unknowingly saves his own child as he fights an apparently doomed battle against an army.

His family safe, the woodsman releases logs into the river hoping to help Morgan. The logs tumble over the falls. Morgan leaps to safety as they smash the bridge, and take many of the Therans into the gorge.

They’ve beaten the Therans for now, but Morgan knows they’ll soon regroup. He has to get to the garrison at Shamballah to prepare them for total war.

Things to Notice:
  • Morgan goes full on Tarzan, in what's possibly the most dangerous 5 miles his ever crossed.
  • The peasant family raising Joshua hasn't sold the one-of-a-kind artifact (a wrist watch) the baby sports as an ornament.
Where It Comes From:
The first portion of this issue seems to be an homage to Tarzan.  Morgan engages in a lot of stereotypical Tarzan-esque activities: he fights a big cat with only a knife, fights a crocodile stand-in underwater, and swings on vines.  Morgan even references Johnny Weissmuller, probably the man most associated with the film version of Tarzan. 

The set piece of the issue, Morgan's stand on a narrow bridge armed with an axe was no doubt inspired by an event legend holds occurred at the Battle of Stamford Bridge on September 25, 1066.  The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says that a giant Norse axemen held the narrow bridge for a time against the entire Saxon army.  He's said to have killed 40 Englishmen single-handed before he was brought down.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Valley of the Bugbears

What the bugbears look like if they weren't invisible
Our 5e Land of Azurth game continued last night. The party had passed through the so-called Black Pit into yet another strange, pocket world. This one was the mountain-ringed Valley of Vo., as they would soon discover.

They made their way to the crashed ship, along the way noting that they could see any birds in the odd fruit trees, despite hearing them. Near the great broken vessel, they were accosted by two voices--though the speakers were unseen, invisible. These were the gatherers Phanuvo and Gadrevo of the Vozerai. They filled the party in on the basics of their valley: invisible "bugbears" and the feud between their people and the Voyanki.

The party gets an audience with Learned One Hanivo. He isn't able to tell them much more than they've already heard: The dama-fruit makes all who eat it invisible. They know the ship carrying them crashed here long ago, but they do not know how long. They also don't know what world they originally came from. The one bit of useful information is that the Pyramidal Mountain on the otherside of the valley has a stairway inside that can take them out.

The group decides to talk with the Vozerai (who are more warlike and so, they reason, may know of some tips for fighting off the bugbears). Approaching the tail section, they encounter a young warrior who gets them a short audience with Shaman Vo Angra. The Vozerai are indeed more bellicose than the Voyanki, but equally ill-informed, and grudge-holding against their foes.

The party decides they'll have to just make a break for it. They make it most of the way across the valley, but then they encounter two bugbears. A vicious battle ensues, but both bears are killed. Dagmar suggests they skin them for fur for invisibility cloaks. A good idea, but the execution leaves them vulnerable to bugbear assault. A total of 3 approach at various points. One they drive off with some damage, and the other two they lure away with offal from the two carcasses. After harvesting one skin, they decide not to press their luck and make for the entrance to the mountain.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Hungry Gods

A universe with "objective" morality as suggested by alignment in D&D has always been hard to operationalize without silliness.This has led to subsequent additions downplaying it and many groups ignoring it all together.

R. Scott Bakker's novels set in the Prince of Nothing and Aspect-Emperor series suggest a different take on deities, clerics, and alignment that might be useful in gritty, maybe even slightly horrific games. I guess it could be used anywhere really, but some of the implications lend themselves to those sort of settings. Anyway, here's an idea riffing off Bakker's ideas:

So first off, the metaphysical geography: Beyond the physical universe is the Outer Dark. Visitors might perceive planes or realms here due to local control of some being, but really all the heavens and hells are just different regions or aspects of the Outer Dark. This is where human souls go when people die, into the waiting grasp of demons and gods. The difference between the two is only one of power, not substance. All the beings of the Outer Dark feed off the emotions of human souls where it be in life or death. The gentlest of gods has the same diet as the cruelest of demons. Humans are their bread or cattle.

The gods' strategies from cultivating food varies according to their nature. Some gods are Compensatory Deities who reward the faithful with various afterlife paradises, while others are Punitive and are worshiped to placate them against punishing humans. A third group might be termed "Bellicose" because they like humans to strive in opposition to them. These might even damn humans for prayer. These inclinations could be matched to alignments--or perhaps alignment is a reflection of what sort of actions a given god wants humans to take?

In any case, no god is truly "good" in humanocentric terms, because what they ultimately care about is suffering in life leading to humans to develop strong emotions toward them, nourishing them mildly in life, and delivering an eternal repast in the afterlife. Pro-civilization gods encourage humans to prosper, but if humans were too prosperous they wouldn't come to the god with their prayers and bring their devotion.

Alignment then is just the particular set of rules by which the gods use to judge a human soul. It's perhaps unfair and nonsensical if examined too closely, but that's because its only a means to mark and trap human souls for the metaphysical reaping.