Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Wednesday Comics: BABC Podcast: Korg 70,000 B.C. #9

I new episode of the Bronze Age Book Podcast is out! Listen to us ramble about Korg: 70,0000 B.C. #9 on your podcast app of choice!

Listen to "Episode 10: KORG: 70,000 B.C. #9" on Spreaker.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Weird Revisited: The Elements of Bronze Age Four-Color Fantasy

By Bronze Age, I mean the Bronze Age of Comics, which largely conicides with the 1970s. Any readers of this blog will know that's an era I have some affection for [since I now do a podcast on it!]--particularly its fantasy comics. These comics (particularly when original to the comics medium and not adaptation) present a flavor of fantasy distinct from other fantasy genres or media.

I feel like this sort of fantasy would make for a good game, and I don't think that's really been done. Warriors & Warlocks supposedly set up to do this, but that supplement really winds up adapting a wider range of fantasy to the Mutant & Mastermind system. I've been trying to think of the elements/tropes of this sort of thing:

1. Very much a “Points of Light” thing with large stretches of wilderness and clusters of civilization.

2. Cities tend to look more fantastic ancient world/Arabian Knights/Cecil B. Demille spectacle than grotty Medievalism

3. Above ground ruins and natural obstacles as more common adventure locales than underground “dungeons.”

4. Fantastic terrain is more common (because it makes for good visuals).

5. Magic-users generally fall into 1 of three categories: 1) almost god-like patrons (who maybe secretly be of Type 2); 2) villains; 3) bumbling,  sometimes comedic helpers, makers of anachronistic references.

6. Magic tends to be visual and flashy.

7. Elves and dwarves (or Elfs and Dwarfs, more likely) are more Disney and Keebler than Tolkien. They are less powerful than humans and perhaps comedy relief.

8. Beings that stand between humans and gods (like Tolkien elves) are either extremely rare, degenerate, or both.

9. Monsters tend to be unique or very uncommon (even if of a recognized “type”). There are seldom nonhuman territories. More fairy tale naturalism than Gygaxian naturalism.

10. Magic items are rare and tend to be unique.

11. Frequent faux-Lovecraftian references, but virtually no cosmicism.

12. Sometimes, there's a Moorcockian as filtered through Starlin sense of cosmic struggle.

13. Armor is as a signifier of profession/role (soldier) or intention (the hero goes to war) rather than actual protection.

This is not an exhaustive list, I'm sure, and it bears some overlap with pulp fantasy/sword & sorcery and fantasy/sword & sandal films that influenced it, and rpg fantasy that arose around the same time, but I think it has elements on emphasis distinct from those forms.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Down the Mean Streets of Neo-York

A gaming compatriot of mine has started up a new blog Neo-York Chronicles where he's detailing his vision of a cyberpunk future New York. It's good stuff. You should check it out and add it to your blog rolls!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Shadows Fell

This post is a follow to a couple of previous posts during Exalted's Creation into a D&D setting.

The cosmos had not been constructed to parse the deaths of one of its creator Titans nor were the spiritual algorithms of reincarnation equipped to handle such complex beings. When the Titanomachy led to the exactly this outcome, Oblivion, a plane of negative energy, was manifest.

Theories differ as to the nature of this negative energy plane. Some believe it was formed by the collapse of the abliving yet undying souls of the slain Titans under their own gravity. Others hold that this collapse merely created a whole in the fabric of the cosmos allowing access to pre-existing Oblivion. Either way, the Underworld, a dark shadow of Creation, was generated on this puncture's event horizon.

The pull of Oblivion drew dead souls to it and kept them from the stream of Lethe, cosmic reincarnation function, creating ghosts and other undead for the first time. These creatures of Oblivion began to plague the mortal world. Most fearful of all of these are the Deathlords, powerful souls granted power by the Neverborn, the undead Titans, to serve as their agents in Creation, to prosecute their war against the living world.

The Deathlords often rule Shadowfells, places where the Underworld bleeds over into Creation, with their puissant soldiers, Deathknights. Thirteen Deathlords are believed to exist. Known Deathlords include Mask of Winters, Dowager of the Irreverent Vulgate in Unrent Veils, the Whispered One of the Rotted Tower, and The Count of Ravenloft. The last has the distinction of being the only lord to have a Deathknight rebel against him, the Knight of the Black Rose.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Brother to Dragons

This post is a follow to a couple of previous posts during Exalted's Creation into a D&D setting.

The Dragonborn, Princes of the Earth, rulers of Creation for over a millennia, are the descendants of the elders of dragonkind. Gaea, the Titan of Earth, was mother to The Dragon Ao [1], whose nature warred against itself until he split into Tiamat and Bahamut. The two represented the forces of chaos and order. The first progeny of Tiamat were the elders of the chromatic dragons, while Bahamut's children were the metallic dragons.

The elder dragons, both metallic and chromatic, bore human children, who carried a portion of draconic power. Those who carried the most draconic power were transformed by it and were able to take on the form of a humanoid dragon [2]. Those with a weaker, but still potent connection, became sorcerers. The Dragonborn and their sorcerer kin were the soldiers of the gods in the Titanomachy. This estranged the chromatic Dragonborn from their grandmother, Tiamat, who sided with the Titans and was imprisoned in Hell with them following their defeat [3].

Today, the Dragonborn rule a vast Empire (though less vast than it was in the past). They are organized into Great Houses, one for each of the types of metallic and chromatic dragons.

1 D&D sources report this name as "Io." This seems better to me.
2 I figure these Dragonborn would have a human/mostly human form as well as the draconid form.
3 D&D tradition places her on the first layer of Hell.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Weird Revisited: Back to the Strange Stone Age

Reading Korg 70,000 B.C. for an upcoming podcast reminded me of this post from 2015.

Or maybe forward to a remote future? Whichever, it's a time where prehistoric humans do battle with monsters--both known to history and unknown--and with incursion of aliens or ultraterrestrials, part Kirby and part von Däniken. The actions of the aliens create sores in the skin of reality where the normal laws are warped and disrupted.

Some humans have benefited (or so they believe) from alien technology and even interbreeding. They view themselves as superior to the others and hunt them for slaves--or worse. But humans have allies, too: the gregarious Small-Folk (Halflings, pakuni, homo florensis), the hardy and aloof Stone Folk (dwarves, T'lan Imass, Neanderthals). And then there are the spirits, made stronger since the aliens rent holes in reality, with whom the shamans intercede through the use of sacred, hallucinogenic technologies--their "passkeys" into the operating system of the universe.

Comics: Devil Dinosaur, Tor, Tragg and the Sky-Gods, Henga (Yor), Turok, anything New Gods by Kirby or Morrison (for the "magic as technology" aspect).
Fiction: Karl Edward Wagner's Kane stories (mainly the implied pseudo-scientific background), Manly Wade Wellman's Hok, Roadside Picnic (the portrayal of zones and alien artifacts)
"Nonfiction": alien abduction stuff and forteana, "forbidden history" stuff, Chariots of the Gods.

Friday, November 15, 2019

The Planes of Exalted [Exalted/D&D Mashup]

Some thoughts on social media by Jack Shear reminded me of this old post, with Jack suggesting replacing elements of the Exalted setting with rough analogs from D&Ds implied setting. As most things D&Dish do, this inevitably got my thinking about the planes and how one could break the Great Wheel in Exaltedish pieces. 5e's cosmology even starts doing some of the work.

Yu-Shan: Exalted's Heaven, a continent-sized city. Much of it would resemble part's of D&D's Mount Celestia, but some of it's nation-sized parks would be like The Beastlands. The Celestial Bureaucracy would have elements of Mechanus (including Modrons and Inevitables).

The Wyld: The Chaos outside and encrouching on Creation. Pure Chaos is probably not something worth getting into (maybe it's like the D&D Far Realm?), but the middlemarches are like D&D's Limbo and home to Slaadi. Maybe there is an area of Pandemonium, too. We might as well call the bordermarches the Feywild, but they also include elements of Arborea the "deeper" you get.

The Underworld: This occupies the position in relation to the Prime Material Plane/Creation as the Shadowfell, but they term should be applied to the areas Exalted calls Shadowlands, where the Underworld and the Prime overlap. The Underworld proper should get a lot of Hades/Grey Wastes stuff, and beneath it is Oblivion, the Negative Energy Plane.

Malfeas: The prison of the Yozi's (the Primordials betrayed by the gods) would by the repository of much of the Lower Planes stuff: the Abyss, Carceri, and the Nine Hells. The Law and Chaos division of these worlds in D&D terms would be a hindrance to making them more like Exalted, so maybe that's dropped, or maybe demons and devils are different factions of Yozi.

Autochthonia: The world within the body of the Primordial Autochthon. Mechanus is a better name for this god and this place anyway, so whatever Mechanus stuff wasn't shunted to Yu-Shan should be here. Also, some of the old quasi- and para-elemental planes would be the elemental "reserviors" of this world (Smoke, Radiance, Lightning, Mineral, etc.)

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Wednesday Comics: BABC Defenders #34

A new episode of the Bronze Age Book Club podcast is available! Check it out here on on your podcast app of choice.

Listen to "Episode 9: DEFENDERS #34" on Spreaker.

Monday, November 11, 2019

The Vault Job

Our Land of Azurth 5e campaign continued last night with the party meeting with the former mayor, Gladhand in an underground hideout. Gladhand wants their help ousting the new mayor who has apparently becoming something of a despot. Gladhand claims to have a stash of gold he can use to hire mercenaries, but he needs the party to get it for him.

He had entrusted the money to the Sly Took, a member of the Raccoon Folk Thieves Guild and operator of a vault where people can keep valuables they want to stay hidden. The vault is protected by a cadre of elite rat folk mercenaries and apparently some vicious weasels--and has very high security.

The party is unsure whether they should help Gladhand or not. While the current mayor was supported by another adventuring party who the group feels has stolen their thunder, they know Gladhand to be something of a crook, and the vault sounds pretty difficult to get into. Ultimately, the greedier members of the party carry the day, and they at least agree to look into the job.

Waylon uses some underworld contacts to inquire about stashing some money and potentially some magic items in the vault. He uses this visit to case the joint as well as he can. Security is indeed high, with traps, arcane locks, and requirements for 3 magic key charms for each one.

Unsure of how best to approach things, the party contemplates a frontal assault, while acknowledging this seems like a bad idea...


Friday, November 8, 2019

Weird Revisited: Five Kooky Cults

I came upon this post when searching for another one. I had forgotten some of these (this post was original presented in 2011), so it seemed worth a revisit... 

Here are a few minority religious groups seen at least as bit odd (if not outright dangerous) by the majority of the City's citizens:

The Abattoir Cult: Secret followers of the sinister and bloody-handed Lord of the Cleaver. A liturgical text (anthropodermically bound) honoring this obscure eikone is known to exist in a private collection in New Lludd. His cult tends to crop up in districts devoted to meatpacking or slaughter pens and is associated with the emergence of serial killers.

The Temple of Father Eliah Exalted: This Old Time Religion sect preaches racial and gender equality, chastity--and the godhood of its prophet, Father Eliah Exalted. The Temple owns a number of groceries, gas stations, hotels, and other business. These are ostensibly held by acolytes but seem mainly to enrich the Father. The Temple is politically active and the Father’s support can sway elections. Many are suspicious that Exalted’s powers of oratory and occasional miracles suggest that he is one of the Gifted or perhaps a secret thaumaturgist, but proof has been hard to come by.

Serpent-spotters: An informal collection of people forgotten by society--mostly poor and elderly spinsters and widowers--who are convinced that the monster that appeared in the Eldritch River 30 years ago, and supposedly delivered secret prophecies to City fathers, will return, heralding the apocalypse. On days individually chosen they hold vigil in Eldside Park. They hope to be present at the time of the serpent’s return so it will reward their faith with a ride on his back to a watery Paradise.

The Electrovangelic Church of the Machine Messiah: A worldwide movement dedicated to building the perfect construct to manifest the Messiah and usher in a new age of mechanical spiritual perfection.

The Followers of the Rabbit: Not an organized religion, but instead a collection of superstitions and cautionary urban legends forming a secret liturgy for some folk working along the boardwalk of Lapin Isle. They hope to placate the godling of the island, the dark personification of the rabbit in the moon--the man in the rabbit suit that is not a man.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Wednesday Comics: Two Collections from Roger Langridge

Roger Langridge is Harvey and Eisner award winning comics writer and artist from New Zealand who tends to work in a quirky cartoon sort of vein (though he has written Thor and did a sort of surreal strip in Judge Dredd Magazine called Straightjacket Fits). Here are a couple of his works I've read that I would recommend:

Written by Ryan Ferrier with art by Langridge tells the story of the Criminy family who looks sort of like Bosko (and sort of like the Animaniacs) who get into a series of fantastic adventures after their are forced to flee their island home by invading pirates. Criminy is aimed at younger readers (though might be more intense in places that strictly kiddie comics), but enjoyable by older ones, too.

Popeye vol. 1
IDW's 2012 Popeye series was written by Langridge with art by several different artists who do pitch perfect renditions of the Thimble Theatre characters to match the stories recalling the classic Dell Comics of Sagendorf. There were 3 volumes, all now available in hardcopy or on Kindle/Comixoloyu.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Well Blow Me Down! Popeye Maps

I'm not sure what iteration of Popeye this is from, but it suggests Popeye lives in a pretty small town:

Here's one definitely from the Sagendorf comics. At least Wimpy owns his on home in this version:

Friday, November 1, 2019

Black Iron Prisoners' Dilemma

Not even the solipsist monsters of the Abyss can continue forever under conditions of ever-changing insanity; some ideas produce too great a gravity for even the the most fluid minds to escape. And so, like a body faced with cells that might mutate beyond restraint, the Abyss walled off the offending ideas in a cyst. The cyst endures in the astral nothingness, holding its dark enlightenment within. This is the Black Iron Prison.

The pull of the Black Iron Prison attracts others. Monsters of the Abyss convinced that something besides Self was real and that something was Punishment. But by whom? The Godhead who had appeared to have forsaken them or some new Godhead yet to come?

Fearful and paranoid, the monsters elaborated prisons around the original one like nested labyrinths. There they hid, and interrogated and punished themselves and any other souls that fell into their grasp.

Some might consider the multiverse's largest prison a place of Law, but there is little Law here. Rules are arbitrary and changeable. As are punishments. All the jailers operating under vague authority are just more prisoners. Those jailers, the prisoners with the longest sentences, are the fiends called deodands, this name being an an ancient term for an object which has caused a death and so is forfeit to God. If anyone knows why the fiends have this name it is the Baatezu, and like most secrets, they have classified the information.

The most common deodands are tall, emaciated, scabrous creatures with frog-like mouths. Their bare skins weep a tarry ichor from numerous injection sites. They're junkies and dealers; they mix the astral excreta of despair, callousness, and fear that oozes from the souls that fall into their hands with the bile of arthropods that make their homes in the prison’s substructure and inject it beneath their skin. The tarry substance--and a brief respite from their paranoia in a cold, sneering high--are the result. The tar is packaged and sold (to the prisoners to be smoked or injected) in exchange for pleasant memories or dreams or hopes--anything that defines the former self-hood of the soul. When not engaged in commerce, these tar deodands are the menials of the prison.

The the second most common variety are the color of a fresh bruise.  Their limbs are swollen like blood sausages, and their tick-like bellies appear filled to near bursting, sloshing loathsomely as they waddle or fly drunkenly on ridiculously small wings. Their bloated faces are unpleasantly human-like and wear expressions of voluptuous satiety, complete with drool running from the corners of their mouths and down their double (or triple) chins. Always their skins appear to glisten as if oiled. They sweat even more when they eat, and they eat almost constantly. The eat when they are worried, and they are always worried. About informers or conspiracies. About a time when the tortures they apply to others might be applied to them.

The rarest of deodands have assumed the most authority. They often pass themselves off as wardens and are just as often found in solitary confinement. They sometimes watch and titter at the interrogations as they undergo torture themselves. They’re androgynous humanoids with bald heads and unfeminine faces, but pendulous breasts and high-pitched voices. Their pale, wrinkled skin seems ill-fitted to their bodies. They have a penchant for dressing in uniforms, the more elaborate the better. Sagging deodands, they are called.