Sunday, April 29, 2018

FASERIP Black Void


F                 RM   (30)
A                 GD  (10)
S                 IN  (40)
E                 AM   (50)
R                 EX (20)
I                   EX   (20)
P                  AM   (50)
Health: 130
Karma: 90

Real Name: Ted Crawford
Occupation: Former petroleum engineer
Identity: Known to authorities
Legal Status: Citizen of the United States
Place of Birth: Hagerstown, Maryland
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: None
Base of Operations: Mobile
Group Affiliation: Masters of Menace

Amorphous Form. Outside of his containment suit, he is a mass of protoplasmic entity.
Telepathic Link. Black Void has Monstrous rank telepathic communication with the black mass entity that he is an offshoot of.
Conversion and Draining: Black Void can heal himself by touching his victims, which alters their cellular structure, converting it into more Black Mass Entity like himself. He gains health equal to the targets health or material strength. He does this with Monstrous ability and the target can attempt an Endurance FEAT to avoid.

Containment Suit. Made of Incredible material. Providing:
Body Armor: Excellent rank.

History: Ted Crawford was a petroleum engineer for Hexxon Oil, tasked with exploring a deep underground pocket wherein a material with unusual properties, dubbed the "black mass," had been found. Upon opening the chamber, the Black Mass was revealed to be a vast sea of protoplasm with an alien intelligence. Telepathically communicating with Crawford and his team, it asserted it was the first living thing on earth and all other lifeforms were ultimately derived from its substance. It absorbed all of Crawford's team, but left him with part of his intellect intact and animated his partial absorbed corpse within his environmental suit, so it could use him to explore the outside world.

The Crawford-Black Mass hybrid soon came in contact with Subterrans, who had long been aware of the entity they called the Black Void and had sought to contain it. The prince of the underground civilization, the Subterranean, battled Black Void and forced him back into the chamber then resealed it.

Later, the Black Void escaped again and was brought by agents of Hexxon to its board, who were revealed to all be members of a secret cult that worshiped the Black Mass and sought to use it to gain power. Black Void killed most of the board members and more a time took secret control of Hexxon.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Infinity War

Since Avengers and a shoddily animated post-credits scene, we've been teased with this. So even if, like me, you're beginning to tire of the Marvel Cinematic Formula, then you are probably going to up for this installment. And you should be, because damn if they didn't stick the landing.

In brief: Thanos of Titan (No reference here to comic's original Greek Mythological origin or his actual birth on the Saturnian moon. It's just some planet here.) is after all these plot coupons that have had major to minor appearances in previous films, to crush gemstones from them--the Infinity Stones. He well on his way to collecting them all, when Avengers: Infinity War opens.

What follows is a film structured like a classic comic book crossover with mismatched groups of heroes in different locations try to prevent Thanos or his minions from getting one Infinity Stone or another. Each time they engage them entertainingly. I don't think I felt my interest in the doings flag noticeably over the nearly three hour run time. It is impressive how well paced it is despite the number of location jumps and protagonist shifts. I can't think of any film with an ensemble so sprawling that has done it so well.

And the ending? Well, without significant spoilers let's just say this is the Empire Strikes Back to the Star Wars: A New Hope comprised of entirety of the Cinematic Marvel Universe before.

Are there things not to like? Well, it carries the baggage of previous CMU stuff, so if (like me) you didn't like the "science-fiction"-izing of Asgard and Asgardian, that's all in your face here, starting with Asgardian's sending a distress call like they are Free Trader Beowulf from the cover of Traveller. All you Hawkeye fans (there's gotta be someone) will be disappointed that he isn't in it, and many other characters largely just get brief lines and brief appearances in fight scenes. There is not as much character stuff or dramatic beats here; there just isn't space. In that regard, this is the story of Gamorra, Tony Stark, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Thor, and Thanos, and every one else is showing up just to fight. The CGI is great at times and unaccountably bad in others. Thanos's footsteps always seem too dainty.

And finally, this is perhaps the most comic book of comic book movies, with that fact entailing both good and bad perhaps. This certainly shouldn't be anyone's first Marvel film. It is not as accessible in the way Black Panther or the more comedic Marvel entries like Thor: Ragnarok are.

But overall, I loved it, and if you've been a fan of the other films or even most of them, you probably will too.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

What Are These Items Being Displayed by This Hand Model?

Why, they're the latest proofs from the Operation Unfathomable Kickstarter! The Player's Guide and the second volume of that hymn to the oracular dice gods, Dungeon Dozen vol. 2.  Both adorned with snazzy cover designed by your truly (he said with all due modesty).

First, they will go to the the deserving faithful (i.e. Kickstarter backers), then they will go on sale to more recent converts at the usual outlets.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Weird Revisited: From The Mound

This post first appeared almost eight years ago to the day. The original version ended with a blank #9, but commentors filled in more, included here:

You never know what might be found in those ancient mounds doitting the Strange New World and perhaps other worlds, as well. Here are a few suggestions:
  1. Eight giant (8-9 ft. tall) human-like skeletons in breast-plates and ornaments of a copper-like (but harder) metal. Armor is +1 but half the usual weight.  
  2. 2d10 eggs that will hatch dungeon chickens if incubated.
  3. A phantasmagoria magic lantern obviously of more recent manufacture than the mound itself.
  4. Three partially buried skulls inscribed with mystical designs, which upon closer inspection are actually necrophidii.
  5. The mummified corpses of 1d8 children of both sexes who were killed by ritual strangulation. They will rise as undead mummies on the first night of the new moon after excavation. 
  6. A sarcophagi contain a person in strange, futuristic outfit. If the round, reflective glass helmet is removed it will reveal the apparently dead (but remarkably undecayed) body of one of the PCs at an advanced age.
  7. A glass pyramid containing a Mantid Warrior-Nun, who is alert and active, but unable to escape.
  8. A beautiful woman in ancient garb, who appears to be asleep. Approaching close enough to touch the woman (even if not actually doing so) will allow her to take possession of a victim’s body as per the magic jar spell. If successful, the victim’s soul enters a large gem in her regalia.
  9. A copy of a murder ballad tattooed into the skin of its victim preserved in a whiskey jar. (Tim Shorts)
  10. An ancient spacecraft. A 20% chance of a given system being operational, with the first checked being the entry mechanism. Think of the data banks... (Porky)
  11. A tomb decorated with a finely detailed model of the surrounding area at it was at the time of the original internment. The art style might be native, OOPS Oriental ("How did a diamyo of the Demon Isles end up here?"), mysterious Ancient, etc.If the investigators can work out what they are looking at (the gross landforms are the same, but the rivers have shifted course slightly and some of the distances are just plain wrong according to modern survey maps) it acts as a Treasure Map to 1d6 previously unknown ancient native sites.The models have resale value as antiquaries, but there is a non-trivial chance that removing 1 or more destroys the Treasure Map effect. (Chris Hogan)
  12. One really, really big egg. (NetherWerks)

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Classic Marvel Negastar

               RM   (30)
               RM  (30)
S                 GD  (10)
E                 IN   (40)
R                 EX (20)
I                   EX   (20)
P                  IN   (40)

Health: 80
Karma: 80
Resources: GD (10)

Nega-Cosmic Power Manipulation: Negastar is imbued with the extradimensional energy of the dark entities of the Negacosm. He can form simple shapes such as spheres, cubes, columns, and rings or simple tools like pincers.  He can effect up to 2 areas at a time and increase the density of the Nega-Cosmic force to Monstrous Material Strength. He can create a force shield of Monstrous Rank or the power as a weapon to fire a damaging beam up to 2 areas. If Negastar falls unconscious, his constructs will dissipate.
Life Support: Nega-Cosmic energy sustains him giving him breathable air and protection from the elements of Monstrous rank. His effect remains even if he is unconscious.
Flight: Negastar can utilize the energy to fly at Remarkable speed in atmosphere and Class 3000 speed in the vacuum of space.

See Friday's post for more background.

Friday, April 20, 2018


Jim "Flashback Blog" Shelley and I are working on a comic (and possibly a related rpg project) with artist Chris Malgrain. Here's a DC Who's Who style entry for Negastar, the first of the character designs completed. The text is semi-accurate, semi-placeholder, and as such is subject to alteration.

There will be game stats at some point for this guy, but not today!

Here's the character in color:

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Terror And the Ice-Gripped Sandbox

The AMC drama The Terror is based on the novel by Dan Simmons which in turn is a fictionalization of the lost expedition of Sir John Franklin. The events in the show and the novel have light supernatural element, but most it's a tale of the typical things that would befall ships stuck in the arctic ice for years.

I've been thinking the ice pack could replace the Sargasso Sea in the film The Lost Continent. It could hold the descendants of people marooned their years ago. Their could be a frozen graveyard of ship with weird micro-societies and weird monsters.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Wednesday Comics: X-men Grand Design Treasury Edition

I've mentioned X-Men: Grand Design by Ed Piskor before. It's a retelling and synthesis of the history of the X-Men into a single narrative. If you haven't picked up either of the issues in the first chapter in another format, let me suggest you get the Treasury Edition that recently came out. It's an attractive packing (see above) and oversized (over 9 in. wide and over 13 inches tall) size that compliments Piskor's dense page layout.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Submarine Shenanigans

Our 5e Land of Azurth game continued last night, with the party trying to find Kully's father, Cory Keenstep, and figure out how to get him out from under the Sea King, who was holding Keenstep until he won back all the money he had lost. After some exploring of the Sea King's nautiloid manse, they discover Cory is keeping the Sea King's ex-wife, Cecaelia, company in the upstairs sitting room.

It turns out the Cecaelia is a self-absorbed, former (or at least so she claims) starlet. She's keeping Cory busy fetching her drinks, thereby frustrating her ex in two ways: by keeping sea ladies from getting up to him, and by keeping Cory from gambling with him

Cory, an old swindler, is unhelpful in collaborating with the party to make his escape. He wants them to kill (or at least suitably wound) the Sea King so they can get out with the money. This does not strike his son or any of the rest of them as a good plan. Instead, they go to talk to the Sea King, sulking in his penthouse.

The Sea King is willing to let them take Cory--if the royal treasury's gambling debt to him is cancelled and the party smuggles up some young ladies from the party past Cecaelia. The party agrees, but rather than forfeit the funds, they hatch another scheme: they'll sell Cecaelia on headlining a touring stage show in the Land of Under Sea and take her off the Sea King's hands. He'll presumably be grateful enough to let them keep the money.

A natural 20 Persuades the ex-Sea Queen of this plan. The Sea King is incredulous that anyone would want to take the high maintenance Cecaelia with them, but he agrees, tentatively. Cory suggests this is a bad plan and they should just make a break for it.

In this, the party soon begins to realize, he may be right. Logistics of supplying Cecaelia the staff she needs and taking her with them prove daunting, and the Sea King is stingy with extra funds. Ultimately, they decide to stick Cory with her and deal with all this later--only to to find he's slunk off to the submarine and left them holding the bag!

The party takes off too, and makes it to the submarine where they resume there voyage, but they don't get far. The Sea King, grown to giant size, grabs the submarine and flings it through the water a great distance. When they finally right themselves and are able to take bearings. Cog announces that they are lost!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Underground Comics is Almost Here

First mentioned six months ago, Underground Comics #1 is now nearing completion! It will be 36-pages and 6 black and white features of dungeon-related stuff. Jeff Call debuts that delvers best friend, "Dungeon Dog." James V. West uncovers a lost poem of Barrowstain Goodly, Great of the Brownie poets in "The Ballad of the Doomed Delvers." Karl Stjernberg gives us a glimpse of the dungeoneer "Before and After."

A veritable treasure trove, right? But we're not done. There's also OSR art luminaries like Jason Sholtis, Luka Rejec, and the legendary Stefan Poag!

Look for it in POD and digital in June.

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Operation is About to Begin!

At last, the Operation Unfathomable soft cover proof is in Jason Sholtis's trembling hand--and it looks good! Check out this two-page spread:

Vouchers for order will go out to Kickstarter backers very soon and in in a short time, it will be available for purchase by anyone on rpgnow.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Return of Descriptions in Need of Hexes

Edd Cartier

Between Inaust and Rynaw on the Old Panarch Road, a hired coach rumbles past pulled at breakneck speed by a velocipede team. One wonders what mission drives the passengers to brave the dangers and discomforts of the road at night with marauding Gog bands in the vicinity, an ogre slain nearby within a fortnight, and the uncanny croak of a nyctoghoul heard in the distance.

In a clearing in Unthran Wood, a flame-colored thrykee has fallen, bleeding and broken-winged, dying. Skeleton Men pirates move out from their flier, stalking cautiously toward the creature with weapons drawn. The thrykee's saddle is empty. Citrine scintilla glint in the grass, forming a loose trail out from it and toward the surrounding trees.

Enrique Alcatena
Beyond the old fortress of Eneb-Draath, at the edge of the Sanguine Desert, youthful bands of tribesfolk howl and dance around fires built amid the fearsome, angular shadow of their war machines, their war gods. Drunk on liquor made from desert lichen and machine ichor, they whip themselves into a battle frenzy. The tribes claim descent from the First Men who were born in the void and reared solely by machines, and so view the ancient and derelict things left from the First Men's war with the ieldri as their birthright.

These are from this world.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Wednesday Comics: Stuff I Read in the Last Week

Injection Vol. 1
A thinktank of eccentric geniuses do a bad thing combining the occult with AI and the world may pay for it if they can't set it right. Typical Warren Ellis characters (very competent but flawed, unique protagonists) in a story that is a bit X-Files-ian (or really more reminiscent of the X-file progenitor Nigel Kneale) but with a more action-y flair.

The Terrifics #1
Four super-powered individuals (Mr. Terrific, Metamorpho, Plastic Man, and a Phantom Girl) led by a genius get together to have fantastic adventures. Not a lot happens in the first issue but it ends with an appearance by [SPOILERS] Tom Strong, so they have my interest at least for a couple more issues.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Visit Skaro

For those of you not familiar with Doctor Who lore (which I would imagine are vanshing few members of my audience, but still), Skaro is the homeworld of those plunger-armed, shrill-voiced robotic monsters, the Daleks.

According to the map, first appearing in The Dalek Book (1964), Skaro is almost D&D Outer Plane weird. Check out the named locales here:

Seas of Rust, Ooze, and Acid. The Lake of Mutations. The Radiation Range. All pretty dire stuff. Also, don't miss the note on the giant "serpents" of Darren that are really mutated earthworms!

If that's not enough, subterranean Skaro, is just as weird:

Friday, April 6, 2018

DC at Marvel Collected Edition

In case you missed the previous installments, here's a collated list of the posts I've done so far based on the idea that the staff at Marvel in the late 50s early 60s got to revamp DC's Golden Age characters (except for those that never stopped being published. The idea was introduced here.

All the characters presented so far are statted for the TSR Marvel Superheroes rpg:

The Atom The Nuclear Man!
Green Lantern Most Cosmic Hero of Them All!
Hawkman Master of Flight!
And a couple of villains Silver Scarab, the nemesis of Hawkman, and Star Sapphire--is she Green Lantern's lover or his enemy--or both?

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Wednesday Comics: The Tragically Uncollected 1963

1963 was a 6-issue limited series published by Image in 1993. It was a homage (and gentle parody) of the Silver Age of Marvel. It features the talents of Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, Rick Veitch, and Dave Gibbons. It is twenty years later incomplete and is unlikely to ever be completed.

The characters in 1963 are familiar without (mostly) being straight analogs. Mystery Incoporated comes the closely to a straight pastiche, by being the Fantastic Four with different powers and slightly different personality dynamics. The Fury fills the Spider-Man niche, but has a more Bucky-like backstory with hints of Daredevil. USA, Ultimate Special Agent is the Captain America stand-in, but more resembles lesser known patriotic heroes. Horus feels the Thor god-slot. Johnny Beyond is a beatnik Doctor Strange. The Hypernaut is like Iron Man by way of Green Lantern, done all Kirby/Starlin cosmic.

The issues strive for a 60s feel with faux-bullpen bulletins, fake ads, and nicknames for all the creative staff.

Attempts have been made by Bissette and Veitch to complete it or get a collection published but something has always got in the way (and that something may very well be Alan Moore who seems to now hold a grudge against Bissette) but the individual issues can be picked up relatively inexpensively.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Weird Revisited: Highlights from the Dungeoneering Medicine Conference

This post first appeared in 2012. It was one of the minor posts in the Weird Adventures setting that didn't make it into the book.

In 5887, the City Medical Society hosted a symposium on unusual maladies seen among delvers and possible treatments. Here are a few of the highlights:

Spectral Encounter-Induced Cataracts: J.H. Shaxwell discussed a series of cases of cataracts resulting from close encounter with incorporeal undead. Shaxwell theorizes this is the result of negative energy exposure.

Care of the Soul-Dislocated Patient: Trelane Cantor described the care provided unfortunates who have had their astral bodies separated via thaumaturgy. Emphasis was placed on environmental safety.

A Case of Amathocosis: A unique pneumoconiosis resulting from inhalation of the particulate matter left after a demilich encounter was described by Nyland Tonsure.

Antibiotic Resistance of Infernal Acquired Venereal Disease: Villard M. Sturm warns that succubi derived sexually transmitted diseases often required potent alchemical intervention.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Work in Progress

Coloring the sketch of our Land of Azurth adventuring party by Steve LeCouilliard.