Sunday, December 31, 2017

Weird Revisited: On New Year's Eve

In the Weird Adventures heyday, I did a number of holiday posts. This is part one of a two-parter from 2011-2012... 


On New Year’s Eve, the people of the City prepare themselves for a celebration, unaware of the danger--never guessing that more than just a year might be ending.

The eikone Chronos, Father Time, lies near death. His hounds howl in their tesseract kennels and his imbonded servants, the bumbling giants of old chaos, Gog and M’Gog, blubber at his bedside. The old man--the old year--will die at the stroke of midnight.

In the Heavens, the angels gird for war. They double the host in shining panoply that guard the Celestial Gates and patrol the ramparts of paradise. They prepare for possible siege.

In the streets of the world, the soldiers and made men of the Hell Syndicate push bullets into magazines and check the action of their guns nervously. There’s the scent of blood and brimstone in the air. There may be war in the streets.

At the final collapse at the end time, the last singularity pulses omninously. It's vibration plays the funeral dirge of the cosmos; negative energy propagating backwards through time. The beat carries the slavering existence-haters of the Pit and the mad form-refuseniks of the Gyre dancing into the world for one last party.

The material plane draws, moment by moment, closer to the knife-edge of continuation and dissolution. And the clock ticks down.

to be continued

Friday, December 29, 2017

Holiday Haul

My holidays have not been exactly rpg-heavy, what with a new baby at home, but I did get a few rpg-related items around the holidays. I don't know how much table-mileage I'll get out of them, but each is cool in its own way.

My wife picked up Shogun & Daimyo by Tadashi Ehara way back at Gary Con and saved it until Christmas to drop it on me. This gamer's guide to the power structure of feudal Japan. If I ever get around to running a feudal Japan game again (and for more than a couple of sessions!) this will come in handy.

My wife also got me the only print item in the Exalted 2nd Edition line I didn't have: Return of the Scarlet Empress. While I've never played Exalted (and certainly I don't think I ever would with the Exalted system), I've gotten inspiration from the fluff. This book has a bad rep, but mainly because of what it did to the "canon," which is not really a problem for me.

Kickstarter Santa delivered the long awaited English version of the Trudvang Chronicles to me. At first blush, it seems very much worth the wait. It's a slipcase with 6 gorgeous books inside. I've gushed about the art before. I haven't read enough to say anything about the system yet, though.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Wednesday Comics: Back to Storm

Things have been busy around here of late, but I plan to get back to Storm: The Slayer of Eriban next week. Here's the first installment (of 4 so far) just in case you need a refresher on the story.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Have We Got a Deal for You!

Mortzengersturm is the Deal of the Day on Drivethrurpg/Rpgnow! Get the pdf for the low holiday price of 2.65 USD! Today only! 

Friday, December 22, 2017

World Guides

I do love a good guide to a fictional world, especially if it is richly illustrated. I even enjoy world guides to worlds in other media that I am not particularly into. I like these in and of themselves, but I also like them as inspirational material for rpgs. I tend to like world-related fluff in non-game books more than game books, not necessarily because it is better written (though, of course, it is at times) but because gaming fluff tends to always think in terms of the game. I would rather my inspirational material not be so bound to rules and conventions.

I enjoy the DK books for various fictional world, but the Star Wars books always showcase Lucasfilm's attention to design. This new Star Wars the Last Jedi Visual Dictionary is no exception. Even if you didn't like the movie, there is probably stuff in here that would interest you.

An older book, but new to me is The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia. I have never been a big video game fan, but I do like concept art and world-building and this has both, detailing both real world and fictional history of Hyrule.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Wednesday Comics: Holiday Special

DC Comics has a 2017 Holiday special out. Like most anthologies, it's a mixed bag: there's a pointless Batman and a ghost story, but also Sergeant Rock story in the classic style that shows nothing is ever easy in Easy, even during Hanukkah.

Anyway, if you really want to get into the season, check out these posts examining the DC Super-Star Holiday Special from 1980.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Weird Revisited: Noom the Ubiquitous

This petty god first appeared in a post back in December of 2010.

Symbol: A small statue, boundary marker, or herma with an head of an (often bearded) old man wth a bemused expression.
Alignment: Lawful

Noom the Ubiquitous, or Noom the Unlooked For, is the patron of the lost (both people and things), wanders, and things overlooked. For as long as there have been roads, streets, and trails, people have been placing crudely fashioned statuettes of this smiling godling along them. He oversees journeys that are not as planned. He brings the lost traveler to a place more interesting than where she intended to go, and insures that lost items wind up in the hands of those who might need them at a crucial moment.

In manifestation, Noom looks like a portly, aged, dwarf in bright clothing. The pockets on his clothes always look full, and he typically carries a peddler’s sack, fit to burst,on his back. He seldom appears though, preferring to act through his idols.

Noom has few if any worshippers. So ancient and forgotten is his cult, few even realize the small, roadside statues represent a god. Noom aides travelers not in exchange for their veneration, but out of whim. Anyone lost in the presence of a Noom statue has a 40% chance of attracting the godling’s attention. This increases to 60% if they sleep in close proximity to a statue.

Noom will not help a lost traveler find their destination, but will either subtly guide something interest their way, or guide the person to something of interest. “Interest” in this case, may be the threshold of adventure, but it will generally not be something immediately dangerous (like a wandering monster). Noom’s intercession will never be obvious. Events will always seem natural, if perhaps a little strange.

Other times, Noom’s influence will be felt in the finding of an innocuous, but ultimately useful item. These will seldom be magical, and will never appear to be particularly value at first (though they may actually be). These will be found in the dust or weeds around Noom idols. It will be strange in many cases that the item could have been lost where it is found.

Destroying a statue of Noom will bring the godling’s displeasure. Doing so may result (50%) in getting lost, at least for a time, in an unpleasant and possibly dangerous way.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Last Jedi May be a New Beginning

To be fair, I guess it started with Rogue One, but that was a side story set in the past. (It had more of an EU feel than The Last Jedi.) Still, together they are a trend that will hopefully continue: the evolution of the Star Wars Universe.

Be warned, there will be minor spoilers here, though my definition of "minor" may not coincide with yours.

The Last Jedi is set both sequentially and script-wise to be the Empire Strikes Back of the new trilogy. Not even considering the homages and fan service that link the two, they have a lot in common. Despite their victory in the previous film, the rebellion (or Resistance here) is on the run. Our protagonists are split up, and perusing different goals. New wrinkles are introduced that change the stakes or our protagonists understanding of the stakes.  And, things happen that seem counter to what the first film set up.

Here is where TLJ gets controversial because some of the apparent mysteries dangled by The Force Awakens, come to naught here, rendered irrelevant. Who is Snoke? We may never know, and in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't appear to matter. He is another in what may be a long line of hubristic dark lords. Who are Rey's parents? The answer may surprise you, but only because you expect films of this sort to play out a certain way.

That gets to what is best about TLJ: it subverts tropes of Star Wars-type narratives while staying firmly rooted in that universe. Here the hero doesn't always know better than their older, more staid superiors, the odds of a harebrain scheme are important sometimes, the war may not be so black and white, and colorful rogues don't always harbor a heart of gold. These plot points aren't merely subversion for subversion's sake, they mostly lead to character development: heroes get galvanized to greater action; heroes become leaders instead of loners.

Along the way, the usual Star Wars stuff occurs. Lightsabers blaze. Ships blow up. Daring escapes are made, as are tearjerking heroic sacrifices. TLJ never stops being a Star Wars movie, it just broadens a bit what it means to be one.

It's not perfect, of course. The trope subversion means some actions of the protagonists are sort of wheelspinning, and you may not find them engaging enough on their own to warrant their inclusion. Luke's arc from RotJ to here maybe not sit well with everyone. It's believable, but perhaps less than ideal. Inter-Ressistance conflict may violate your view of Star Wars.

It's also saddled with the less than ideal choices made in the first film. How exactly the First Order came to such power is never clarified; in fact, this film doubles down on their puzzling rise. Captain Phasma got punked in TFA, and she does here, too. The relationship of Snoke, Kylo Ren, and Rey, just means that scenes that resemble ESB and RotJ occur, upping the fan service feel. The humor is at a higher level than in the original trilogy, but not (yet) to Marvel Cinematic Universe level.

I'm not sure about this, but my suspicion is that if TFA was everything you wanted in a Star Wars sequel, this film may frustrate you. If you haven't liked any film since RotJ (and you're iffy on that one) then you probably won't like this one either, and really what the hell are you doing wasting your time with modern sequels? Down that road is only heartbreak. If neither of those apply to you, I say check it out.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Kill Six Billion Demons RPG

Over at his Patreon page, Abaddon, author of the comic Kill 6 Billion Demons, has released an rpg in that setting for any patreon level. I haven't looked at the rpg yet, but given the comic, I'd say that's a pretty good deal!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Star Wars (Posts)

With a new Star Wars film upon us, it's a good time to revisit these classic Star Wars related posts:

What Star Wars Got Right What's good about SW that might be applicable to gaming.
The  Truth About Droids What's going on behind the scenes with these comic relief helpers?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wednesday Comics: A Couple of Recommendations

Here are a couple things I've read recently that I think are well worth checking out.

Doomsday Clock #1
Ozymandias's horrific ruse has been revealed and a world in turmoil wants him dead, but he's nowhere to be found. A new Rorschach in league with Ozymandias breaks two super-villains out of prison for mysterious reasons. This comic had a lot of marks against it for me: it's an "event," it's tied in to a story that is better left alone, and it's written by Geoff Johns, whose work I am generally not particularly fond of. But you know what? I actually thought it was pretty good. Frank and Johns manage to capture the vibe of Watchmen, making it seem like a credible sequel and though not a lot was revealed in this first issue, it has got me interested.

Mickey's Craziest Adventure
This graphic novel  purports to be a lost Disney comic from 1965, but it's actually a new work somewhat mimicking an older style by French comic artists Lewis Trondheim and Nicolas Keramidas. The concept is that some installments of the story where lost, so Mickey and Donald go from one page episode to one page episode with a lot of the bridging material missing, making the crazy situations (and Trondheim and Keramidas pretty much pull out all the stops) the characters find themselves in even crazier. The episodic and "incomplete" format serves to break you out of the story, but the art is good and events interesting enough that it doesn't overstay its welcome.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Stork of Azurth

The Royal Family of Azurth (when there was such a thing), did not have children in the messy way of the common folk. Rather, it was their tradition and prerogative as the chosen heirs of Azulina, who made the Land of Azurth, to call upon the Stork to deliver to them a child.

This Stork was no ordinary wading bird of the earthly lands of which you are no doubt familiar, which is the same sort of stork common to the Land of Azurth. This stork is a fae creature, in ancient times tasked with ferrying souls but allowed the enter semi-retirement after Azulina appointed the royal line of Azurth.

The process, described in certain ancient texts once in the hands of the clerics of Iolanthe, but now confiscated, required a summoning ritual to call forth the Stork. Then, the would-be royal parents would negotiate with the great bird and be levied a price based on the number and traits of the children desired. Where the Stork acquired the children was a closely protected trade secret. The price was seldom measured in gold but rather in something highly valuable to the customer, though perhaps no one else.

Since the Wizard became ruler of the Land of Azurth, the royal line has ended and the Stork brings no more children. Some scholars believe (and a few royalist agitators hope) that some fugitive Stork-summoning texts may yet be in circulation. There are a number of folk who might pay handsomely for one, if one was located.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A Brief Hiatus

They'll be a brief interruption due the arrival of a baby. Programming will resume again shortly.

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Neo-Westerns of Taylor Sheridan

Though occasionally I've seen the term "neo-Western" to mean "a Western made in the last couple of decades," I think the term is most usefully applied to films that deal with thematic material and often locales that are part of the Western genre tradition, but place them in a more modern era and reflect modern concerns.

Actor/writer/director has been three unrelated (other than perhaps thematically) films that are recent exemplars of this genre, though all there also partake of other genres. Each film recalls classic Western plots but manages to do so in a way that doesn't seem rote.

Sicario (2015), directed by Denis Villeneuve, seems at first glance fairly fare from Western conventions. It's a crime story about about government agents going up against Mexican drug cartels. It plays out as a noir with deception and moral compromise the order of the day. Despite it's modern setting, Sicario plays out as sort of an inversion of many late-era American Westerns set in Mexico. The Emily Blunt's FBI agent is not a anglo-savior for the Mexican people. Instead, she's merely a pawn in a game who's rules are concealed from here and are much crueler than she naively imagines. Benico del Toro is the avenger so grim his justice it is without catharsis. It's just another move in the game of horrors. Josh Brolin's affably amoral CIA agent resembles in some ways the gringo schemers of the Zapata Westerns, but Sicario is bereft of any sort of cynical humor regarding the actions of imperialist powers.

Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water (2016) is more recognizable as a Western, being a tale of Texas bankrobbing brothers pursued by an aging ranger (Jeff Bridges). This might be a story decent men driven to law-breaking by predatory money men, or the story of the Law personified by the dogged lawman trying to stop two wrong-doers. In fact, like more nuanced Westerns, it is both. When their chase ends after many a scene of dying, economically crippled small towns and dust two-lane highways, neither side will get exactly the ending it hoped for.

This year's Wind River, Sheridan's directorial debut, again finds a female FBI agent (Elizabeth Olson) out of her depth. This time, a young Native woman has been a murder in the snowy wilderness of a Wyoming Indian Reservation. Olson's agent has help, at least, particularly Jeremy Renner's hunter for Fish & Wildlife, who lends his tracking and shooting skills. Amid freezing vistas and the business of police procedural, grief is as ever-present as the snow. Grief for the decimation of Native cultures and Native families. Grief at the loss of daughters. Wind River could have easily been a story of revenge as many of its Western progenitors were, but again those particulars are handled in a matter of fact manner. Moving on, but never forgetting, is the order of the day.

I'd recommend all of these films, but Hell or High Water feels like the strongest, or perhaps the most unified in terms of theme and action.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Dictionary of Azurth Updated

It's been a while since my last update of the Dictionary of Azurth, your abbreviated (but free) guide to assort people, places, and things in the Land of Azurth. This update includes the skinny of Elementalist wizards, the Land of Under-Sea, and the very seasonal Father Yule.

Get it here.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Ahistorical Historical Setting

Historically accurate Aristotle?
A social media thread about bad history in historical costume drama caused me to recall an idea I had years ago upon a re-read of Aaron Allston's wonderful Mythic Greece: Age of Heroes. At the time, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys was still in syndication, and while not particularly good, it did suggest the using of Greek Myth and geographic as a backdrop for a fantasy setting that might not otherwise have a lot of the trappings of Greek myth. For the most part, Hercules stuck to the big names, but there's no reason you couldn't get as detailed as Allston's book, but give it a wholly un-Mythic Greece feel.

The changes can be big. Reign: The Conqueror (based on the novel Arekusandā Senki by Hiroshi Aramata) re-imagines the life of Alexander the Great as a sort of science fantasy thing with giant Persian war machines and Pythagorean ninjas. Or, they can be subtle, like Black Sails weaving historical pirates with a sort of prequel to Treasure Island. (The difference I see between this last one and a standard historical setting which would generally tend to insert fictional characters, i.e. the PCs, into history, is the "high concept" of the literary/historical mashup.)

A lesson on Greek myth every week?
So I say go ahead and run a Kirby-esque space opera based on the book of Exodus. Recontextualize the War of Roses to have it take place in something like Warring States Japan. Or take the history presented in the Book of Mormon and turn it into a hexcrawl as Jeff Reints did.

Let history be your guide, not your boss.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Weird Revisited: Nawr the All-Consuming

Need a rat god? (And who doesn't really?) Here's a petty god post from December 2011 that has you covered.

Symbol: Stylized image of a rat-king, as if the animals are dancing in a circle.

Alignment: Chaotic

Ravenous Nawr is one of the group of petty deities know as the vermin gods.  It is not so much worshipped as placated.  Every harvest, offerings of grain are arrayed around small statues or carvings of rats where real rodents can consume them.

If this ritual is not observed, there is chance that rats will gather and in the twist and tumult of rodent bodies, a rat-king will form and instantiate the godling.  The composite deity wil summon up a swarms of rats and swirl through the community that has offended it, chewing, biting, and possibly consuming everything in its path.

The visitation always occurs at night and is of variable duration, but always ends by sunrise.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Planescape Cold War

"Intelligence work has one moral law—it is justified by results."
- The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, John Le Carre

This is what comes of seeing The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2016) and Atomic Blonde in the same weekend.

Take Planescape's Sigil and re-imagine it as vaguely post-World War (it really doesn't matter which one) in technology and sensibility. It's the center of fractious sometimes warring (but mostly cold warring) planes, but now it's more like Cold War Berlin or Allied-occupied Vienna.

Keep all the Planescape factions and conflict and you've got a perfect locale for metacosmic Cold War paranoia and spy shennanigans. You could play it up swinging 60s spy-fi or something darker.

There's always room for William S. Burroughs in something like this, and VanderMeer's Finch and Grant Morrison's The Filth might also be instructive. Mostly you could stick to the usual spy fiction suspects.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Meaning of Good & Evil (Alignments)

I don't use alignment much in my games admittedly, but I do like the idea of alignment as indication of at best only loosely morality-related cosmic teams or alliances. Even with the approach their are times where you might need to articulate in some way what an alignment means on a closer to human level. What follows is a way of looking at it in those situation.

The idea (not original to me) is that Law vs. Chaos is the primary conflict underpinning the multiverse. This works well with both the Appendix N source material and earliest iterations of D&D. The Good vs. Evil can only be understood in relation to that primary axis.  This secondary parameter gives an indication of the zealotry and methods employed to combat the opposing force. Those on the Good side of things believe that the opposing force can be moderated, ameliorated, or dealt with with less violent means. Those on the evil side of things believe that the opposing force cannot be tolerated or reasoned with, only destroyed.

So Lawful Good and Lawful Evil agree that Chaos is a threat, but Lawful Good has a more moderate maybe even "hate the sin, love the sinner" view, whereas Lawful Evil feels all chaos must die by any means necessary. Chaotic Good believes that Law is a wrongheaded constraint on freedom, but hearts and minds can be changed without violence in most cases (violence being coercion, after all), whereas Chaotic Evil wants what it wants so intently it's willing to see everything burn.

This way of looking at things has the advantage of showing a way around the rigid, asshole paladin, and also explaining the Dwarf/Elf tension despite the fact they are both Good, and also suggests demons and Devils would never team-up. Neutral Goods become "let's all get along" maybe and Neutral Evil is  perhaps "a pox on all your houses!" True Neutral remains about balance.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Weird Revisited: The Infernal Mob

The above is Mammon, boss of the Pluton family, ably rendered by Jeremy (that Dandy in the Underworld). He's one of diabolic mobsters that control Hell in the world of Weird Adventures. Check out these posts if you missed them back in 2011:

     Andras: "Hell's Hoods: The Owl"
     Avernus family: "Hell's Hoods: Meet the Avernus Family"
     Belial: "Hell's Hoods: Sin's Queen"
     Bifrons: "Hell's Hoods: Two-Faced Politician"
     Mammon: "Hell's Hoods: The Fat Man"
     Moloch: "Hell's Hoods: The Bull"
     Pluton family: "Hell's Hoods: Casino Infernale"

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Wednesday Comics: Kamandi

According to the DC Comics 1976 Calendar, November 21st was the birthday of Kamandi. In the unlikely event anyone reading this blog doesn't know who Kamandi is the last human born in a underground bunker called Command D (from whence he takes his name) after a nebulous cataclysm known as the Great Disaster has cast human civilization in ruin and anthropomorphic animals have risen in their place. Kamandi was created by Jack Kirby in 1972 and his original series went on for 59 post-apocalyptic issues.

In honor of Kamandi's birthday, here are the places to catch up on the highlights of his story if you are unfamiliar:

Kamandi by Jack Kirby Omnibus: Kirby's original run on the title has been collected in DC Archives (out of print) and previous two volume omnibuses (also out of print). The new omnibus is schedules to be released in March of 2018. He carries a hefty price tage, but also a hefty 896 page page-count. This is the most essential reading on the list.

Wednesday Comics: was a 2009 anthology published in a broadsheet format resembling a Sunday newspaper comics section. There was a serialized Kamandi story written by Dave Gibbons with art by Ryan Sook with a real comic strip feel, sort of like Prince Valiant. Sook's artwork is gorgeous. There are several other good stories in this hardcover, so you don't have to get it for Kamandi alone. A warning though: It is awkardly sized at nearly 18 inches tall, so it's tough to find a shelf for it.

Kamandi Challenge: Back in the '80s DC did a sort of round robin limited series called DC Challenge. A number of DC characters appeared, but notable Kamandi did not. This year, they're doing similar sort of series, but focused on Kamandi, aptly named Kamandi Challenge. Like the original DC Challenge, Kamandi Challenge is uneven and a bit loose in its narrative as every creator tries to do something with the threads they are given. Still, it's all Kamandi and very inventive. The individual issues can be purchased digitally at Comixology or physical at your local comic book store. The collected hardcover will be out in April of 2018.

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Contents of the Cube

Roll Call: Dagmar (Dwarf Cleric), Erekose (Fighter), Waylon (Frox Thief), Kully (Bard), Kairon (Demonlander Sorcerer), and Shade (Elf Ranger)!

Our Land of Azurth 5e campaign continued last night with the party about to barge into a room full of death dwarfs that also contained the 7 foot metal cube that fell from the sky. The party is prepared for the dwarfs this time, but they soon find their are also magic-users among them which changes things up a bit. After a short melee, our heroes prevail.

Inspecting the metal cube in the aftermath, they find a hatch hiding a recessed box in one wall with lever in it. Pulling it downward causes one of the walls to drop, revealing a lot of packing material--an a familiar looking automaton. Familiar, because it seems identical to Viola, the Clockwork Princess of Yanth Country!

The automaton comes out, twitching. In a stuttering voice, it announces itself as "Violet." It extends a hand, but when Dagmar shakes it, the automaton explodes. Only a few of the party members take damage, but they are caught off-guard when a second automaton emerges (this one seemingly undamaged) and gives her name as "Violetta."

Violetta is unable to answer most of their questions. She says she was made in a laboratory, but doesn't know by whom.

Around that time, the cave shakes again with another, milder, impact. The party heads out to take a look. They hear voices from outside the cave. Wanting to potentially hide the automaton from searchers, they send Kully out to greet the newcomers.

The three arrivals almost look like automata themselves, but most resemble Astra of the Shooting Star Folk, whom they met in House Perilous. The metal bearded leader calls himself a King as says he and his fellows were to transport the cube to a man named "Loom" who lives in the junk city in the desert. Loom likes making automata, apparently. The King also mentions during the conversation that he has a daughter named Astra.

Relatively convinced of the good intentions of the Shooting Star Folk King and not really knowing what is going on, they turn Violetta over to him. The Shooting Star Folk retrieve the cube and repackage Violetta with care, then take off. Kully wants to go with them, but the ballistic nature of their travel scares the others off, and they manage to convince him that should continue home.

When they get back in Rivertown, there's a surprise waiting. A calico cat man, doubly impossible for being a cat man (unknown in Azurth) and a calico male, and a frox in a fancy tophat are waiting for Kully in his room. They wish to enlist the party's aid in a journey to the Land of Under-Sea--and they also promise to take Kully to his father!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

5e in Exalted's Creation

Art by UDON
In a rare visit to rpgnet the other day, I saw a thread about utilizing the setting for Exalted for a 5e D&D game. The easiest way to do this would be to excise the Exalted themselves to one degree or another. Their fantasy superheroics would necessitate too drastic an overall to the D&D system (or the use of something like Kevin Crawford's Godbound). Removing the Exalted drastically changes the setting, true, but I think that's part of the fun of the mashup.

In brief for the unfamiliar, Exalted's Creation is a flat, roughly square, world with the Blessed Isle and a Holy Mountain at its center. The Mountain is the Elemental Pole of Earth, and in all other compass directions, Creation bleeds into the other Elemental Poles (Air, Water, Fire, and Wood).  Heaven is the home of the Celestial Bureaucracy and the gods that oversee the multitude of spirits in the world. Hell is something like the Greek Tartarus; it's the place of imprisonment of the overthrown and now demonic Primordals, the Titans that created the world. The Underworld, the realm of the dead, was created by the death of some Primordals during the titanomachy. Outside of Creation proper, orbits the body of a surviving Primordial, Autochthon, with people living in its Steampunkish interior.

All of Creation was born from the chaos of the Wyld, and it still lies beyond the borders. Fey have come from it in the past and attempted to destroy the irritant of stable form and matter.

Art by Christopher Stevens

With that out of the way, here are a few not-fully-formed thoughts on how to adapt some things:

There's a lot of change to basic D&D cosmological assumptions, but also some congruities to be exploited. Demons and devils get combined to the Yozis and both the Abyss and the Nine Hells can be encompassed in the hell prison of Malfeas. Tieflings would be the demon-blooded of Exalted. Warlocks fit well as their servitors.

Conflating the elves with the Fair Folk would emphasis the Chaotic portion of their traditional Chaotic Good alignment. The Wyld would make a more alien Feywild. Many aberrations might aslo fit within the Wyld.

The champions of the Moon, the Lunar Exalted, could be represented by Shifters and lycanthropes. Warforged could by Autochthonians. Dwarves are, of course, the Mountain Folk, and the Dragonborn take the place of the more dinosaurian Dragon Kings. The Elemental-powered Dragon-blooded could probably be placed with Genasi.

That's just to start. I think it's an interesting thought experiment.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Justice League is Finally Here

Justice League is, by and large, the Justice League movie fan complaints about Man of Steel and Batman v Superman suggest they have been waiting for. It is more uneven and rough-edged than Wonder Woman, but it does put the DC cinematic universe on firm footing.

I would say the negativity in most of the critical reviews is a bit of a puzzlement to me, except that it isn't entirely. The polish and ready humor (bordering on outright comedy at times) of the Marvel films have set the yardstick by which these things are judged. Warner hasn't understood the memo (particularly Snyder) and the only thing to be done is to keep reading it to them until they do.

There was a time when superhero product wasn't so slick and by-the-numbers. Iron Man was original at one time, and it's follow-up reverted a bit to tried and true superhero film formula. Dark Knight is often considered the best superhero film ever, but it is completely bereft of comedy relief CGI characters that now seem a standard element at least of the Guardians of the Galaxy style Marvel films. The earlier Snyder films certainly have their faults, but as others have argued the dislike directed against them seems to have less to do with their cinematic failings than their approach to the characters.

Justice League responds to many of those complaints. We have heroes being heroic--and heroes finding their way to heroism after being lost in some way. There is humor, particularly from the Flash, who is different from his tv and comic incarnations to a degree, but has enough to charm to win you over. Momoa's Aquaman seemed like he might be tedious and one-note from the trailers, but I didn't find that to be the case. Though their on-screen development is necessarily limited, every one of the characters gets a bit of an arc that takes off and lands nicely (unlike say Valkyrie's disappearing alcoholism in Thor: Ragnarok). Much of the humor is kind of at Batman's expense, which serves to undercut any grimness or  the "hypercompetent Batman" that sometimes plagues the comics.

The setup of the film is very comic book like in structure. It establishes and moves on. This might feel choppy to some viewers and those not familiar with the characters and the universe might feel some things are under-explained. Atlanteans just are, as are Mother Boxes. The movie doesn't spend any time trying to make you accept either or give you more than the story-essential backstory.

The last two thirds of the film have more conventional pacing and cutting and fall into problem solving and fisticuffs. Superhero fights in film have gotten a bit tired by now, I think, and this film doesn't do anything to make me rethink that assessment, though it is far from the worst example. Flash's speed effect winds up being similar to Quicksilver's but it's utilized in a different enough way that it doesn't seem derivative. Wonder Woman is a badass, Aquaman is sort of reckless, Batman is out of his depth, but smart. Cyborg is lacking in confidence, but the key to defeating the villain.

The film has it's problems of course. Its villain continues the superhero film trend of being not terribly interesting. He's better realized than Wonder Woman's antagonist, at least. The CGI is strangely dodgy in spots, particularly in a sort of prologue (don't let that brief scene sour you on it). The color palette is still darker than ideal.

But you know what [and this is a SPOILER so you are warned]...

The mid-credits sequence is Flash challenging Superman to a race. It made me smile for comic book nostalgia reasons, which it as been a while since a Marvel film did that.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

In the Vicinity of Gyrfalcon, Everybody Has Their Hand Out

This week we had the second session of our GURPS Dungeon Fantasy campaign, "the Dungeons of Zyrd." It found the PCs bribing the snooty butler of the vintner and crime boss, Pnathfrem Lloigor, to gain access. They offered Lloigor their services for--well, something.

He admitted to doing a bit of trade in counterfeit world stones. These he acquires from the dwarf excisemen encamped near the Tower of Might in Castle Zyrd. Another group of adventures had gone to secure more forged jewels from the dwarves, but that party (led by the Brothers Salasius) were late in returning. They agreed to complete the task. They were to make contact with a dwarf named Rogov.

Setting out, they paid a flatboatman to take them across the Broad River and to wait for their return. A mile up the road, they found the way blocked by a group of hobgoblins who demanded tribute. The price was rather steep (every coin they had), so the party entered combat rather than negotiate with such an unreasonable group of humanoids.

Art by Iain McCaig
The hobgoblins had been neglectful in securing distance weapons, and this cost them. A rain of javelins, sling shot, arrows, and magical fire dropped two of them quickly and sent the other three running for the woods. Fearing reprisals from a larger hobgoblin band, the party pursued them, and cut them down in the forest.

That unpleasant business out of the way, they continued on toward Castle Zyrd.

Treasure: None; Deaths: 5 Hobgoblins.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Wednesday Comics: Popeye & Ghost Island

Bud Sagendorf began his career as E.C. Seegar's assistant on Thimble Theater (the strip that brought the world Popeye) as a teenager. In 1948, a decade after Seegar's death, Sagendorf produced Popeye stories for Dell Comics. IDW has been collecting those Dell stories in Popeye Classics.

Amid some forgettable Swee'pea one pagers, and mildly amusing comic strip-style shorts, there are two fun stories: "Death Valley" and "Ghost Island." In particular, "Ghost Island" is a certain charm with it's ghosts that look very much like people in sheets (well because--SPOILERS--they are). However, for much of the story Popeye is helpless against their mischief because he reasons fisticuffs are no good against incorporeal spirits.

Sagendorf's Popeye world is perhaps more fantasy than Segar's. Popeye seems to live on some island in an archipelago that includes other fantastical islands that appeared in the Segar strips. Here's a map Sagendorf supplies for Popeye's travels in "Ghost Island":

If your only going to read one set of Popeye reprints, I'd suggest The Segar strip reprints (particular the one with Plunder Island), but if you are interested in delving deeper, the Sagendorf stories are worth a look.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Weird Revisited: Beneath Rock Candy Mountain

This post originally appeared in November of 2010. It's genesis was a comment by Garrisonjim over at Hereticwerks. Jim is back blogging again, so it seemed appropriate:

It’s imparted by the sagacious urban druids that contemplate on street corners and rumored by stoned hobogoblins that pass canned heat ‘round campfires that there is an earthly paradise hidden in the great mountains of the West. The wondrous land’s fame has even spread to the world we know, where balladeers longingly recount the virtues of the Rock Candy Mountain or the Hobo’s Paradise.

The hidden mountain valley (so the tales claim) sits in the benevolent shadow of a mountain of candy (or at least with the appearance of such) and boasts trees which grow cigarettes, whiskey running in streams, and ponds of hearty stew. The inhabitants of the valley comport themselves like those in small towns elsewhere, but they are unfailingly friendly, even deferential, to the lowliest of visitors—perhaps especially the lowliest. No crimes against property are prosecuted; in fact, everything is given freely.

Adventurers, notorious hard cases (or thinking of themselves as such), scoff at those yarns. Calloused to eldritch horrors and exotic treasures alike, they’re disinclined to get misty over vagrants’ fairy tales of a hobotopia. Still, a few have caught the fever and gone looking over the years. As far as is known, none have returned.

Even in the tales, the way to the Hobo’s Paradise isn’t easy. Though the trail’s exact location is unknown, it’s believed to run treacherously through the cold heights of the Stoney Mountains. Mine slavers and road agents haunt the lower parts of the trail, while apemen guard the more remote passes.

These may not be the only dangers. Certain heterodox urban druids believe that this Paradise may not be what it appears from a distance. The air that should be fresh and sweet is instead choked with the stench of an abattoir. The whiskey streams are spiked with methanol and cause blindness, delirium, and death. And the smiling, wooden-legged constables and comic railyard bulls, aren’t benevolent—and aren’t even human behind their skin masks.

Could be that more than teeth rot in the shadow of the Rock Candy Mountain.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Underground Comics is Slowly Being Unearthed

Though we don't expect to release it until first quarter of 2018, the various creators involved in Underground Comics #1 are fired up and hard at work. Here's a bit of a "Sunday Comics Section" teaser of the work in progress:

A panel from Jason Sholtis's Operation Unfathomable story:

Part of an almost completed first page from James V. West's "Zarp: Croak of the Frost Toad":

And Jeff Call's Dungeon Dog gets some ink:

More to come!

Friday, November 10, 2017

In case you forgot: BUNDLE OF HOLDING OSR+5

The Bundle of Holding Old School Revival +5 (including all the fine products you see above like the Mortzengersturm digital edition) is still for 10 more days as of this writing. So you haven't missed out yet, but don't wait!

Also, the boys at DIY Games have extended an extra offer: Just send Mike Evans a receipt showing the purchase and he'll give you a discount on the print on demand version of Gathox. How cool is that?

Thursday, November 9, 2017

2000+ Posts

Today is actually blog post number 2003. It may not be what it was back in 2010, but I still think it's got life in it yet.

Here's a selection of posts to walk you down memory lane, one from every year:
Hateful Glare: The Beholder Examined (2010)
The Night Mail (2011)
In the Belly of the Beast (2012)
Cyclopes (2013)
Ruritanian Rogues (2014)
The Fae Moon (2015)
Mall Security 2020 (2016)
Again the Giants!: Sanctum of the Stone Giant Space God (2017)

This is not a best of but rather a "posts I thought were interesting that were not the most popular in their year."

Thanks for reading!