Monday, December 31, 2018

Weird Revisited: Hyades Plains Drifter

This 2015 post is a bit recent for revisit, but playing with Hero Forge over the weekend and designing Tex Hex from Bravestarr brought it back to mind...

Take McKinney's Carcosa, remove whatever homology to Masters of the Universe is there, replacing it instead with echoes of Bravestarr. For the more literary minded: take out some of the Lovecraft and replace it with elements of King's Dark Tower series. Now you've got a weird western on an alien world.

A Bone Man, probably
Drop those sorcerous rituals that upset some people and replace them with drugs. Now you've got an acid weird western on an alien world. That ought to be enough for any game, but you're a jaded bunch with a decadent palate so don't let the alien thing keep you from borrowing from Forteana related to the America West: tombs of giants, tiny mummies, underground lizard (or snake) men. Thunderbirds. Season to taste with Shaver mystery.

Saddle up, cowboy. Lost Carcosa awaits.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Playing with Heroforge

Heroforge, a custom 3D printed miniature design site is pretty cool. My wife and I were playing with it over the holidays, and while there are some frustrating lacks, it already has an impressive array of design elements. Here are a couple of the characters in my Land of Azurth campaign:

Kully the Bard:

And Kairon the Demonlander (i.e. Tiefling) Sorcerer:

 Its inclusion of Western/Victorian elements not only helped Azurth designs, but also my old Wampus Country character, Horvendile Early:

And there's sci-fi stuff. Here are the three characters from the cover of Strange Stars:

Friday, December 28, 2018

More Monster Manual Taxonomy: The Demihumans!

This is a follow-up to this post. D&D suggests that tribe Hominini is much like Canini and has species, even genera, close enough genetically to reproduce. Here's what we've got:

In genus Homo:
Elves H. formosus
Drow H. formosus tenebrarum
Halflings H. pygmeus
Orcs H. ferox

In genus Genomus:
Dwarves G. barbatus
Gnomes G. artificis
Deep Gnomes G. profundi

It is likely that there is a genus Gigantanthropus which includes ogres (proposed G. atrox) and goliaths (proposed G. montanus) and perhaps other near giants. Research is ongoing.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

In the Cellar of the Silver Dragon

As I previously mentioned, I ran a short D&D 5e game for my inlaws on Christmas Eve. I ultimately elected to run "A Most Potent Brew," which I picked up on the DMs Guild. I thought it would be short and relatively uncomplicated, and it wound up being a good choice, having samples of exploration and puzzles as well as combat.

The setup involved a brewery (which I remained the Silver Dragon) where workman had inadvertently opened a whole into the buried lower levels of a forgotten wizard's tower. The monsters were mostly vermin: giant rats and giant centipedes. There was one unique monster, though, a giant spider with a fiery bit and web.

The party consisted of a fighter, a cleric, and a warlock, all first level. My wife (as usual) was the cleric. She let her parents take lead, but helped them with the rules and encouraged them when they dithered too long. Ironically, her character was the only one that came close to dying, having been heavily damaged by the fire spider, though some difficulty with a puzzled-based trap was a close call for the fighter.

A good time was had by all. The adventure had little novelty, but it was just about perfect for introducing rpg-naive player's to the mechanics and conventions of D&D in short session. A couple of observations, perhaps of interest: the oft-repeated old school saw of longer and more detailed character creation leading to player's not being sufficiently willing to let their character's die is, at best, only part of the picture. My inlaws were not involved with character creation at all beyond choosing their class, and they were very cautious and death-averse. Both being avid gamers, I suspect they equated death with loss and didn't want to lose. Secondly, so much of D&D mechanics are sort of legacy (ability scores as opposed to just their modifiers, for instance) and could probably be streamlined to make it easier for new player's to understand.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Wednesday Comics: Hey, Kids! Comics Sales

Christmas is over and the time of buying stuff you didn't get as gifts has begun. Comixology is running a number of sales on digital comics. Here's the big list of sales, including big sales from Marvel and DC. Most of these last until January 3rd.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

More D&D With the In-laws

Headed to the in-laws for a couple of days and a bit of D&D may be in the cards. Having a newborn meant no family gaming last holiday season, but New Years 2017 my wife and I introduced her parents to D&D with a bit of Lost Mines of Phandelver--and a total party kill. We'll see what this second session brings.

The question is: What should I run this year? I need an adventure either 5e or easily adaptable (pretty much on the fly) that is navigable by new players and delivers some good stuff in just one setting.

Friday, December 21, 2018

The Christmas Specials

A few years ago, I managed to do three "Christmas Specials" in my two Weird Adventures campaigns (though I only did 2 write-ups): "Twas the Fight Before Yule," and it's sequel, and "Another Weird Yule." In 2016, there was a holiday related cameo in my Land of Azurth game.

I still haven't gotten around to doing the reskin of Slumbering Ursine Dunes involving the Weird Adventures version of the Tunguska Event, the mysterious Siberian cauldrons, a captive Father Yule, and talking bears, but I still think it would be great.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Monster Manual Taxonomy

A comment by Gus L of the now-dormant Dungeon of Sighs (though he recently started a new blog, I don't have the link at hand), led me to think about scientific classification of D&D monsters. Not useful for much perhaps, but a fun line of thought. I decided on the rules I would follow on the thought experiment and made several G plus posts along these lines, and got some good suggestions, some of which I incoporated in what follows.

Bulette (Geocacharias sp.)
Bulettes are part of family of cingulate mammalsVelocifodiens.

True Giants
Gigans is a genus of hominins with several extant species: 
G. horridus (hill giants), G. troglodytes (stone giants), G. gelidus (frost giants), G. igneus (fire giants), G. nubicolus (cloud giants), G. tempestatis (storm giants). Tentative identifications not completely accepted: fog giants (G. nebulosus) and mountain giants (G. rancens)

Cobalus is the genus of the goblinoids. They may be a separate subtribe (Cobalina) of hominins. Known species include:
C. cobalus  (goblins), C. bellatorius  (hobgoblins), C. terribilis (bugbears), C. prodigiosus (nilbogs), and C. armatus (norkers)* 

*[Thanks to Paul V for this one.]

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Wednesday Comics: 80s Moon Knight

Moon Knight is often derided as an ersatz Batman and had sort of an inauspicious beginning as a gimmick villain for Werewolf by Night. The latter point on serves to show how good characters in comics are often only arrived at over time. The former criticism misses the point that Batman himself had antecedents, and comic book are full of completely valid variations on a theme.  Is it interesting, though, that Moon Knight's co-creator and the scribe on his seminal first series, Doug Moench, left the character to write both Batman books for the next three years.

Though the earlier appearances aren't bad, the character only really comes into his own in backup stories in the Hulk! Magazine. (These and other early stories are collected in the first volume of the Epic Collection.) That's where Moench teams up with Bill Sienkiewicz, who gives Moon Knight a silhouette and ghostly presence not unlike Neal Adams' Batman. Moench's stories are less superhero that pulp, with villains lurid for the printed page, but not really for 4 color comic. They are at once mundane and strange for that mundanity. This is the blueprint for the 1980 ongoing series.

Moon Knight finally gets an origin with an ambiguous hint of the supernatural, a set of cover identities, and a group of operatives. These last two schticks come courtesy of the Shadow, only Moon Knight's identities are suggested to be virtual alternate personalities--phases of the moon, perhaps--an idea only barely ever hinted at in the stories.

Most of the issues portray Moon Knight as a premier, perhaps even only, hero of a New York City still recovering from the seventies. Political machines, xenophobic terrorists, educated winos, and disgruntled vets stalk its streets. The rest of the Marvel Universe seems pretty far away, despite an occasional cameo or team-up.

Sienkiewicz's art begins as a bit like a rougher Adams, then looks a bit like Frank Miller (when like Miller, he is inked by Janson), before becoming more expressionistic and stylized. It isn't quite the Sienkiewicz of New Mutants until the very end, but he's on that trajectory. The art also conveys a bit of noir edge in later issues that might make one think of Sin City, but in a comic spinner rack sort of way.

While my favorite story (maybe because I read it as a kid), is the two-parter where terrorists dose Chicago's water supply with hallucinogens in #8-9, the storytelling gets more ambitious in the direct sale only later issues like the meditation on violence in #26 ("Hit It") that sort of reminds me of _The Spirit_ in its artifice.

Not all of the '80-84 series has been collected yet in color (though up to issue #23 has), but the third volume of the Epic Collection, Final Rest, is on it's way the 30th of this month.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Rocket [ICONS]


Prowess: 5
Coordination: 6
Strength: 4
Intellect: 4
Awareness: 4
Willpower: 5

Determination: 1
Stamina: 9

Specialties: Athletics

Queen of Speed
Legacy Heroine
"Let's Go!"

Magic Roller Skates (Super Speed Device): 9
Extras: Air Control: 6, Fast Attack, Defending, Surface Speed

Kelli Cross was a college student, but she preferred to spend her time with her roller derby team. When she discovered her grandfather Walt had been the costumed crime-fighter, Rocket, during World War II, using a set of magical roller-skates that he supposedly come from genie—well, it all sounded pretty hard to believe, but skating and fighting crime just seemed like the thing to do!

Kelli began fighting crime in Southern California as the new Rocket and later became a member of the Super-Sentinels.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Moon Goons (for 5e and Old School Simulacra)

Moon Goons get their name from their heads or masks, large, round, and faintly luminous like the Moon, and their vile behavior. The Moon Goons avoid the real moon, only striking when it is new. Their spindly, bone-white limbs are animated with odd gestures and faintly aglow despite the lack of moonlight. They are forever mumbling and conversing, but their lips never move and their speech is unintelligible.

They arrive in balloons--or what look like balloons--but their gondolas are slung from metal spheres with the appearance of lead. The spheres are hollow, and no one knows from where they derive their buoyancy nor what propels them forward. Perhaps the Moon Goons know, but they don't say. Each gondola carries 2-3 moon goons. They arrive in groups of 2-4 balloons.

They prey on small, isolated villages or farms. The items that interest them are often not particularly valuable at all--at least not in the strict monetary sense. Sentimental value seems the be the primary quality evident in the things they steal.

Moon goons try to put the humans they rob to sleep with the silvery metallic rods they carry. The slumber the rods produce sleep that is plagued by weird nightmares. Humans that prove resistant to their rods or harm one of the moon goons raiders, may find themselves on sharp end of their scalpel-like knives.

Old School Stats:

#Enc: 1-3 x 4  AC: 3 HD: 4 Attacks: 1 (sleep on failed saving throw, or 1d6).

5e stats:

medium aberration, neutral evil
AC 15 (natural armor)
Hit Points: 22 (4d8+4)
Speed: 30 ft.
STR 11(+0) DEX 13(+1) CON 12(+1) INT 13(+1) WIS 12(+1) CHA10(+0)
Skills: Stealth +6
Senses Darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 11.
Languages Understands any language but don't speak any of them

Magic Resistance. A Moon Goon has an advantage against spells and other magical effect.

Rod. Ranged Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, one target in a 30 foot range. Hit: On a failed DC 12 Constitution save, the target falls to sleep.
Scalpel-like Knife. Melee Weapon Attack. +4 to hit, 5 ft. reach, one target, Hit: 1d8.

Friday, December 14, 2018

It Ain't Over

A professional trip followed by a family medical emergency left it quiet hereabouts for a little bit. Expect a return to the regular posting schedule soon.

To tide you over, here's a piece of art for the Armchair Planet Who's Who by Anna Liisa Jones: Zota, the evil extradimensional wizard, responsible for the creation of the Aberration:

Monday, December 3, 2018

The Toad Temple Slaughter Continues

Our Land of Azurth 5e campaign continued last night, with the party and their compatriot, Calico Jack the Cat Man, locked in the Toad Temple and in command of the room, after killing a whole lot of cultists, but with an alarm sounded and voice announcing the presence of intruders. Their attempts to find an escape route or at least a place to hide, are stymied by the appearance of a a very angry radiant gun-armed warrior and her displacer beast pet.

The party tries to run at first and leaves their figurine of wondrous power, the ruby bear, fighting the displacer beast. The bear, unfortunately, is killed, and the warrior waits in ambush in a storeroom. She's tough, but she isn't tough enough to take the full onslaught of the party, particularly after her already-wounded pet is dispatched. At this point, though, the party is low on healing, and have exhausted most of their spells. In the assets column, however, they have gained two energy weapons and three temple access rings.

Waylon the Frogling discovers a secret door, just as they hear more voices in the nave outside. The part descends into the levels beneath the temple. Most rooms here are vacant--the owners appear to be out looking for the party, giving our heroes time to loot the cultists' rooms. They avoid a few soldiers on cleanup duty in the mess hall, but then run into a couple of monks and their acolytes in a study hall.

Threats with energy guns don't dissuade these fanatics, but they sure help put them down quickly. With their teacher's dead, the acolytes surrender--though they are just as fanatical and don't seem trustworthy. Still, when they let slip the existence of a route to a loading dock outside the temple, the party forces them to reveal its location.


Sunday, December 2, 2018

Devil-Man [ICONS]


Prowess: 6
Coordination: 6
Strength: 4
Intellect: 5
Awareness: 5
Willpower: 6

Determination: 3
Stamina: 10

Specialties: Athletics Expert, Investigation, Martial Arts Expert, Occult Expert, Stealth

The Curwen Curse
Hellfire Harrier of Evil-Doers
Wealthy Dilettante, Kurt Ward

Gadgets: Binding. Dazzle, Life Support 4
Devil-Darts (Stunning Device) 6
Devil-Line (Swinging Device): 3

Alter Ego: Kurt Ward
Occupation: Philanthropist; amateur occultist and antiquarian
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: Charles and Mary Ward (parents, deceased), Dane Ward (brother, possibly deceased), Libby Knight (neice), Roderick Curwen (ancestor)
Group Affiliation: Super-Sentinels
Base of Operations: Arkham
Height: 6’1” Weight: 210 lbs.
Eyes: Blue Hair: Red

Kurt Ward was born to an old and wealthy family, but one long considered cursed by the people of Arkham. They saw the death of Kurt’s parents in a strange automobile accident (and the presumed death of his older brother under mysterious circumstances) as the most recent evidence of this supernatural misfortune. Legend blamed the curse on the Wards’ ancestor, infamous occultist Roderick Curwen, who made a Faustian deal with the Devil but reneged on his part of the bargain.

Kurt spent years investigating Curwen and the supposed curse. One night, he discovered a secret cave beneath the family estate. There he found a journal that proved the old stories about his ancestor were true, at least in part. Roderick Curwen had indeed made a pact with a member of an extradimensional race he took to be the Biblical Devil for scientific knowledge. Curwen had used this knowledge to fight injustice as Doctor Diabolus, striving to find a way to escape his bargain.

Kurt decided to follow in his ancestor’s footsteps, using the equipment and knowledge Curwen had left behind. Drinking an “invitalizing draught,” he soon found his capacity for strength, agility, and endurance greatly increased. Fashioning a dramatic disguise from an old costume once worn by his father to party, he became a weird avenger of the night, a frightening foe of evil—and Devil-Man was born!

At first, Devil-Man was pursued by the Arkham Police, but eventually the Crimson Crusader came to terms with Police Chief Steve Harrison. Devil-Man became an official consultant to Harrison on his department’s weirdest cases.

Several years later, Ward took in young Jim Chase, whose occult detective parents had been murdered by a cult. Ward sensed in Jim the drive and raw skill to become his successor, but the eager young man wanted to be his partner. In a devil costume of his own, Jim became the first Imp.

Ward eventually discovered that Roderick Curwen’s contract with the Devils did indeed forfeit the soul of anyone who took up his mantle. Ward has not wavered from his fight against evil, but has began to seek a way out of his ancestor’s bargain.

Jim eventually ended his partnership with Devil-Man and took a new crimefighting identity as Hellion. Ward has recently acquired a new partner, his niece, Libby Knight, who has become the second Imp. Devil-Man and Imp continue to work with the Super-Sentinels.