Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Wednesday Comics: Fourth World Re-Read

I have not read the entirety of Jack Kirby's run on his so-called "Fourth World" titles at DC in the 1970s (Forever People, Mister Miracle,  and New Gods, and ok, it starts in Jimmy Olsen, but I'm not reading that) since the black and white collections of 1999, so I seemed like the right time.

These titles were supposedly an attempt to write a new mythology for the modern age, an idea Kirby had had at Marvel, but never got to execute. The titles are interrelated but not strongly interlinked (not unlike Morrison's Seven Soldiers over 30 years later). Last night I read Mister Miracle #3 and 4 both published in 1971.

Mister Miracle tells the story of Scott Free, a man form another world, who befriends, and then assumes the stage persona of an aging escape artist known as Mister Miracle. While Free's athletic and escape abilities are impressive, he accomplishes most of his escapes by using advanced alien technology. Scott Free is being hunted by agents of the planet Apokolips. So far, we've seen their human, organized crime agents, Intergang, and the monstrous orphanage matron, Granny Goodness.

Issue #3 introduces us to Doctor Bedlam. Bedlam is a being of pure thought, and very malign thought at that. His psychic assault upon Mister Miracle and his assistant, Oberon, is almost Satanic (or maybe Outer God-like) in intensity--only Free's "Mother Box" device protects them.

Bedlam draws Free into a trap in an office building. After a confrontation with what is essentially an android body possessed by Bedlam, Free must make his way through 50 floors of people turned into violent suffers of psychosis by Bedlam's "paranoia pills."

Bedlam is a great concept, particularly within the Apokolipsian pantheon, who all are some sort of aspect of oppression. His name comes from the nickname of Bethlehem Royal Hospital, which at one time represented the most frightening and dehumanizing aspects of mental asylums. Bedlam seems a personification of the snakepit asylum. He is almost literal madness in human form, or rather in the form of a number of faceless automata--suggesting the evil of systems, not individual actors.

Free's escape through 50 stories is likewise a great story conceit that would work well today. The choice of a single office building and an urban setting as opposed to some sort of small town or even city street, seems to suggest the deleterious effects mental effects of corporate employment, or maybe the paranoia induced by office politics. It's not hard to see Kirby's experiences at Marvel as informing these choices.

As good as it all is, Kirby seems to have a dilemma as to how to deal with the amazing feats of his super-escape artist. The "trick" of the last three of Mister Miracle's daring escapes are related to Oberon as he and Scott make dinner and all involve the use of one really versatile device. Oberon's response seems to sort of lampshade the shakiness of it all:

The other weak spot is a couple of panels of Big Barda (who is introduced this issue). Perhaps is was the inker (Vince Colletta) that let him down, but I suspect being a one man band essentially on some many titles just sometimes led to him being rushed.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Harnessing the Power of Grayskull

My recent posts about the world of Masters of the Universe, had me thinking about how I would run a MOTU type game. Given the multiple canons, it's a matter of choosing and refining. This is what I've got:

Mineternia Plus. As I've discussed previously, the earlier minicomics included with the toys, before Prince Adam and before the Filmation cartoon (what fans call Mineternia or the "Savage Canon") place the action in a post-apocalyptic, science fantasy world with something of the aesthetic of 80s barbarian films, mixed with that of 70s barbarian comics. There have been a number of cool or interesting additions to MOTU since, and the world detailed in only a few abbreviated storybooks in a toyline is pretty barebones, so this canon would only be the jumping off point.

Sword & Sandal. MOTU has the mostly austere terrain and musclebound heroes of 80s barbarian films, but the world seems to call for a bit more "PG" approach, so I think another sort of musclebound hero genre is a good reference, the peplum film. Protagonists would largely be wondering do-gooders, like the Herculeses, Goliaths, Macistes, and Ursuses of these films.

A Sufficiently Advanced Technology... MOTU is science fantasy, but its tech (particularly if you discount the cartoon and some toy boxart) seems to be one-off rather than mass produced stuff. Even if we allow it's all salvage from ancient caches, it shouldn't be down to each individual with unique tech like it seems to be. I think MOTU technology is more like magic items (maybe it even runs off magic after a fashion). Individuals can only "attune" to so many items at a time.

More Henchmen, More Underbosses. The MOTU of the comics and the cartoons that follow winds up working like a superhero comics, where Skeletor and his cronies are defeated, but allowed to escape to fight another day--or in the cartoons occasionally put in jail! In keeping with a more fantasy fiction vibe, more henchmen would die. To give name villains more of a chance, Skeletor should be at something of a remove, and even his traditional underlings should command gangs. Taking out a name villain should generally be something of an accomplishment.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Misconceptions About Sword & Sorcery Relevant to Gaming

I had in mind maybe to write a post about the elements of the fantasy subgenre Sword & Sorcery that might be useful to think about it trying to capture that feel in gaming, but after noticing there are a number of blog/forum posts on that topic, I thought the most original thing I could do in point out where I believe they go wrong, or at least overstate things. This contains slight spoilers for a bunch of stories 30 or more years old.

Magic is Inherently Corrupting. I think this belief comes from the fact that most sorcerers/wizards that show up in Sword & Sorcery are evil, but the textual evidence evidence that magical power is more corrupting than regular old power is slim. Howard's The Hour of the Dragon features good magic-users in the form of priests of Asura (maybe they are clerics?) and a witch. Gray Mouser's original mentor Glavas Rho in "The Unholy Grail" is a "good" wizard. Pelias in "The Scarlet Citadel" and Fafhrd's and Gray Mouser's mentors Sheelba and Ningauble are at least helpful and not obviously evil.

Heroes Are Amoral. While many a Sword & Sorcery hero engages in the sort of larceny and possibly murder that D&D characters are known for and some would be aptly termed anti-heroes (Karl Edward Wagner's Kane might at times be a villain protagonist), most aren't sociopaths--or at least they are less so than a lot of D&D characters. In "Two Suns Setting," Kane not only doesn't double cross Dwassllir, but he doesn't even take the treasure when it wouldn't have mattered. He even tries to save one of his subordinates who's in anaphylactic shock in Bloodstone. Conan saves more than one damsel in distress and seems to care for the people of Aquilonia when he's its king.

The Stakes Are Small. In general, S&S isn't about the epic, but this is not always the case. The Hour of the Dragon is about the fate of kingdoms, and suggests the entire world may be imperiled if Xaltotun succeeds in resurrecting Acheron. Kane is often out to conquer the world. Imaro's saga has some epic tendencies.

The Gods Are Uncaring or Evil. Most gods showing up in person in Sword & Sorcery tend to, well, monsters--but certainly not all. In the Conan stories neither Mitra or Asura are certainly not evil, and Mitra even makes an appearance in "Black Colossus." The gods in a number of Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories seem over-involved, if anything.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Sinbad's Seventh Voyage Mapped

"Unfathomable" Jason Sholtis clued me in to this cool map from the Dell Comics' adaptation of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. It seems perfect for an adventure or island crawl.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Hero Forge in Color

The beta of the color version of Hero Forge is available to those of us that backed the Kickstarter, and I have been having fun playing with it. It really has a lot of options. Here are some of things I've done so far:

This is a Demonlander (Tiefling) Sorcerer from my Land of Azurth campaign.

Here's another character from that campaign. He has a shield with a hole to a void between dimension affixed to it. Maybe once the decals are added, I'll have a better way to represent that.

This is a recreation of an 80s Remco action figure, The Jewel Thief (part of there Conan line). The toy was made of translucent plastic, so I gave his body a red jewel color/texture, which turned out pretty well but may not come through so well in the picture.

I'm interested to see what the color will look like printed for the characters from my game.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Strange Days and Nights in Shkizz

Our 5e Azurth game continued last night with the party still on the road to the Sapphire City at the center of the Land of Azurth. After several days on the road, they were now near the northern border of Yanth Country. Tired of sleeping by the roadside, they decided to spend the night in the sound of Shkizz. Kully has heard through on the bard circuit that Shkizz is a really boring town, but a safe one.

Emblazoned on Shkizz's walls are the motto: "Blandness is Next to Godliness." The party finds out the town tries their hardest to live that by that creed. All the food is bland, the clothes unisex and colorless, and there is no alcohol to be had.

The party gets rooms at the Tranquil Glenn Inn, where they are in bed by curfew. Several hours after they are in bed (but not sleeping, suspicious of this town), they are awakened by sounds of merrymaking, and wild abandon. The people of Shkizz have traded their drab clothes for colorful carnival attire (when they are wearing clothes at all), consuming massive amounts of alcohol, and generally engaging in wanton hedonism and even criminality.

The party doesn't understand what's going on, but they do a little drinking and play some music to blend in. After a few hours, the revelers were either passed out, concussed, or secluded for amorous activities. The party took up strategic hiding places to see what happened next. As dawn begin to break, hungover workers arrive in their daytime attire to clean up the the detritus of the night's debauchery.

When the party tried to question the townsfolk they were met by icy stares--and then they were approached by guardsmen who arrested them for not disturbing the peace the night before! They were swiftly taken before a judge and found guilty of not committing any number of crimes. They're sentenced to two days in jail.

The party plans to break out at night time, thus committing a crime and obeying Shkizz's rules, but before they do, they see robed figures descending down a hidden stair in the back of the court building.

Their curiosity piqued, once they escape, they follow the mysterious figures below.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Weird Revisited: Over There

Take the fairyland across the border of Lud-in-the-Mist or A Fall of Stardust. In between it and the "real world" there is a wall or barrier-- let's say an "Anti-Alien Protection Rampart" in official terminology. Instead of England on the real world side there's East Berlin and the GDR or some sutble Eastern Bloc stand-in. Drüben indeed.

While "Workers of the World, Unite Against the Faerie!" would be interesting enough, recasting the fairy presence with some Zone phenomena-like details out of Roadside Picnic and a bit of the seductiveness of the Festival from Singularity Sky: "Entertain us and we will give you want you want." Faerie should be weird and horrifying but also weird and wondrous--in a horrific way, naturally. Miracles, wonders, and abominations.

Of course, the authorities don't want anybody having interaction with the faerie, much less smuggling in their reality-warping, magical tech--and maybe they have a point. But if PCs did the smart thing they wouldn't be adventurers, would they?

Thursday, April 16, 2020

The Sons of Hercules Against the Giants

I have discovered that Prime Video has a decent number of Italian Sword and Sandal/peplum available, and I have been availing myself of them. It has me thinking that a D&D game with a muscle-bound heroes would be an interesting change of pace. What better place to deploy those mighty thews than--against the giants!

The king of a city-state beset by giants sends a small band of heroes to put a stop to this. The Steading of the Hill Giant Chief could be reimagined as some fortress of ancient world Mediterranean "barbarians," (though in the realm of Sword and Sandal films, there's no need for strict historical accuracy!) but beyond the trappings everything else could pretty much go the same way.

Maybe using something like Exemplars & Eidolons would be suitable to give the heroes the right amount of muscle?

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Wednesday Comics: Dreadstar Returns

Hot on the hills of the Dreadstar Omnibus, there's a new Kickstarter for a continuation of Dreadstar by Starlin himself! Check it out.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Gods of Eternia

Gods and titanic monsters are not uncommon in Eternia's Masters of the Universe mythology, but very little genuine Eternian religion is revealed in the stories. What little we know of what gods were actually worshipped only comes from the post-Great War epoch, though it sometimes purports to detail events from before that era, from the time referred to as "Preternia."

Eternian myth is only passingly concerned with cosmogony. There is the vague notion of primordial, creator gods, but these are either destroyed or sacrifice themselves at the dawn of the universe. They leave things in the hand of custodial beings, which may in fact represent an advanced civilization the ancient Eternians encountered. These beings, called Trollans, occupy a space between archangels and trickster gods. By the time of the legends of the Randorian court, the Trollans had been diminished to elfin beings and comedy relief, perhaps a reflection their decreasing importance next to Goddess worship.

Serpos was titanic, three-head serpent worshipped by the Snake folk, a people said to have been created by a renegade Trollan. The Snake folk are said to have unless their god to level entire cities in their bid for conquest. The Snake folk dominated much of Eternia in the Preternian period and after their defeat and purported exile, Serpos was reinterpreted as either a destructive primitive aspect of the Goddess or her offspring.

The Goddess
The Goddess was typically depicted wearing a cobra headdress and sometimes with green skin. While some scholars have connected the headdress with Serpos and the Snake folk, others view it as predating the Snake folk's arrival. The green skin possibly links her with vegetation and life, allying her with the forest deity who appears in the mythos as Moss Man.

The serpent-themed Goddess initially seems predominant in the Eternos region, but immigrants from the northern plains identified her instead with an Eternian bird of prey. By the Randorian era, the Sorceress of Grayskull, held to be the Goddess' living incarnation and oracle, was garbed in feathered raiment.
Art by Gerald Parel

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Rabbits and Eggs in Azurth

This post has become my lazy Easter blog tradition...

There is, in the Land of Azurth, a magical treasure peculiar to the Hara or Rabbit Folk and celebrated in their legends. A number (though no one knows the exact number) of eggs in variegated pastels are forever being lost and rediscovered; they are objects of quests for great heroes and the catalyst for small folk to elevated their station. They are associated with both just rulers and holy madmen.

The eggs are said to have been crafted on the Moon by the rabbit goddess the Bright Lady as gifts to favored mortals or saints on the occasion of the birth of spring. The shell of each egg is held to not be mere eggshell but ceramic made from moonstuff. The eggs have moved down through history, sought, horded, and fought over for their beauty and their magic power--each egg has a unique arcane property. One might have the power to heal, while another the ability to command others to do the bearer's bidding. Still another might allow one to see the future.

The Rabbit Folk sometimes make their own mundane eggs for vernal celebrations in honor of the goddess, while unscrupulous relic-dealers occasional try to pass off fakes as the real artifacts. The abundance of imitations has only increased the difficulty of finding the real thing.

It is said that Lapin XXII, King of the Warrens of the Hara, has several of the eggs in his possession, stored in a ceremonial basket.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Eternian Armsmen

At the onset of the Eternian Dark Ages, warbands swept across much of the so-called Light Hemisphere, disrupting the struggling remnants of civilization and destabilizing fledgling powers on the rise. Their ranks were drawn from the displaced or rootless warriors of an entire continent. Their equipment came from salvage; these soldier-scavengers targeted the ruins and ruin-adjacent settlements with the largest deposits of metals and technology. Tools from the time before the Great War were reconfigured into weapons, and raw material were beat into armor, making the Armsmen, as they came to be called, the most formidable military force of the era. They struck quickly as savagely, some by aircraft ("the Wind Raiders") and others employing an assort of land vehicles.

Within two centuries the Armsmen underwent significant changes. While many still served as mercenaries, they had developed into a quasi-religious military order with the technology of the Ancients venerated as relics. Technical manuals were treated almost as liturgical texts. While the Armsmen were still formidable fighters, their focus was more on the location and recovery of lost technology.

By the time of the folk hero "He-Man," it is believed they the Armsmen no longer existed as a cohesive cultural group, but some families and small sects held to some or all of the Armsmen's practices. The Man-At-Arms of the Masters of the Universe legends represents a hermitic example of the dwindling, latter day Armsmen.

The elite Eternian Guard of the Randorian era were depicted dressed in the "classical" armor of the Armsmen, though most scholars believe any lingering Armsmen belief were at best vestigial by that point, a testament to the Armsmen's enduring cultural cachet.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Wednesday Comics: Free Comics

While you're sheltering in place, some comics companies are making some titles available to you for free.

Humanoids has some comics this week you can read for free in memoriam of Juan Giménez. This includes the Jodorowsky/Gimenez epic Metabarons.

2000AD has made 400 pages of Judge Dredd available for free download!

Finally, Marvel Unlimited is offering some free comics in the Mighty Marvel manner for a limited time.

Monday, April 6, 2020

The Tower & the Shadow

Our Land of Azurth 5e game continued last night with the party pressing on toward the shadowy ruined tower (and forgetting their captive in the process). They made their way to the wall surrounding the tower's courtyard. It was made of an alien stone black as vantablack. As the party was peering over it to get a glimpse of structures on the other side, a monstrous black wolf whose breath was icy cold.

They found fire effective in combating the beast, but it seemed to be able to pass through other dimensions to move from place to place. It appeared behind the party and blasted them with its frigid, slaughterhouse-stinking breath. Most of the party went down under the assault; only Shade, Dagmar, and Erekose withstood it. Waylon had chanced to jump over to the other side of the wall, and so was unharmed. Dagmar did a mass healing, and the party dispatched the beast with fire based spells.

They moved into the courtyard and where drawn to a sinister looking stone shed. Waylon saw a treasure chest inside and was undeterred by the corpse of another of the wolf-things in front of it. He manages to pick the lock and get the platinum coins and opals inside, but then is trapped in the shed by a descending wall of shadow. He fills his life being drained away. He can't get through the door! He blasts it with an energy rifle and the shadow seems to weaken but doesn't give.

Dagmar uses a Sacred Flame against it, and again it weakens, but doesn't give. The rest of the part decides the evidence of radiant attacks damaging it isn't quite sufficient, and tries a series of other attack forms, as Waylon's life ebbs away. Eventually, they all switch to radiant attacks and the door is open and Waylon is freed.

The party moved on to the ruined tower and found several of the gloom elves waiting more them. They have a couple of captive members of the deer-centaur tribes folk caged with them, and then there's a door of purest shadow that writhes like a flame.  A Gloom elf huntress steps forward to parley. She suggests the party and the elves call a truce and go their own ways without further blood shed.

Shade demands the captives be returned. The elves are reluctant to do so; the captives "life energy" feeds the shadow and strengthens the connection to the Anti-Sun. The wish to extend the dark country of Noxia into this region. Shade holds firm and the Huntress agrees to consult their master. She walks to the door of shadow and calls out in a language the party doesn't understand.

The shadow of a man comes forth. It seems somehow familiar to them, but none of the party can place it. The shadow consults with the Huntress who bends her knee to it. She reports her Master agrees to their terms, but also wishes to speak with them. The party is wary, but agrees.

The shadow man writes upon a piece of the black stone of the ruined tower with his finger. The result are letters, black but now reflective and so visible. It reads: "You don't even know who your enemy is."

The shadow man leaves through the doorway.

The elves free the captives. The party also attempts to extract another promise that they won't disturb the villagers again. The elves reluctantly agree.

The party returns to the village for a rest with the grateful centaur-folk.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Eternian History Revealed

Eternian historians tend to agree that aspects of the Masters of the Universe myth and literary cycle are rooted in fact, though the historicity of any given aspect of the corpus is likely to be a matter of debate. There several recognized strata of textual sources forming the cycle, each paralleling a series of popular entertainments on Earth. Earth scholars have been slow to treat the Masters of the Universe mythology as an area of serious study, in part due to the bowdlerized form of its transmission, but also to the fanciful, even frivolous translations, done to serve the needs of a toyline.

The name of central figure of the mythos, for example, is risibly rendered as "He-Man." While this is not a wholly inaccurate, literal translation of his title[1] in the earliest texts (which could be read as something like "Supreme Man" or "Male Exemplar"), it seems to have been understood as something more like "Powerful Hero" or "Mighty Person" at the time those texts were written. Such carelessness is rife in widely available translations.

The most widely known version of the mythology, forms what is essentially the "Matter of Eternos," particularly focusing on King Randor and his court. The term "Masters of the Universe" arises from this era and refers to the elite warriors, comparable to the Knights of the Round Table, whose exploits are primary focus of the various epics and romances. He-Man is central to these stories, as the secret, heroic identity of Randor's son Adam, who is otherwise portrayed as callow or even foppish. He-Man's inclusion is unhistorical, but the Randorian Renaissance is a matter of historical record, and some of this Masters of the Universe are likewise attested.

The historical He-Man is believed to belong to the oldest strata of tales. These stories are simpler and portray a more primitive world still suffering the effects of the Great Wars, far removed from the technological rediscovery and courtly sophistication of Randor's time. This He-Man is a folk hero, who leaves his tribe to began taming or reclaiming the wilderness. He contends with monsters and personifications of cultural competitors.

One of the key events in these early myths is He-Man's encounter with a green-skinned Sorceress who gifts him with ancient weapons and armor from a cache hidden in a cave. In some myths of this strata, she is referred to as a goddess. The confusion regarding her identity likely later editing of the stories to preserve the importance of the Sorceress of Grayskull or her cult.

The earliest depictions of the Sorceress/Goddess show her in a cobra headdress. Many scholars believe this to be an important and revealing historical detail, reflecting the continued influenced of the Serpent centered religion of the conquering Snake Men. In contrast, by Randor's time, the Sorceress is clad in feathers and associated with the Eternian falcon, the Snake Men and their cultural having been thoroughly demonized.


1. Initially the title was thought to have been the character's actual name, but it appears in other records of that era clearly not referring to the hero. Perhaps the Eternian chroniclers were unaware of his original name among his tribe. This lack of identification is consider significant by those who doubt a single He-Man existed historically, instead viewing him as at least a composite of several real individuals, if not completely mythological. Some have seen Wun-Dar of Tundaria as the original of the He-Man character, noting the similar stories told about them, but it seems more likely some of He-Man's exploits were attributed by the Tundarians to their local hero.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Weird Revisited: The Ahistorical Historical Setting

This post first appeared in 2017...

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, April 2, 2020

Weird Revisited: A Plague of Goblins

The original version of this post appeared in 2010...

"Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours."
- Planet of the Apes (1968)
Goblin plagues are suffered in the less settled areas of the world. They are more common in places which lie near ancient ruins. In such an infestation, tens, perhaps hundreds, of goblins swarm forth from underground dens or nests. They overrun manor, hamlet, and village, and have even been known to assail the gates of small cities.

No one knows what spawns goblins, but it is certain they don't reproduce in the manner of most humanoids. All goblins seem to be of the same sex, though in truth, this is something of a conjecture. Smaller goblins, perhaps immature ones, are seen among their swarms, but never is any parental nurturing or concern directed towards them by any of their fellows.

It's difficult to guess the intelligence of goblins. There's no questioning their cunning, but they don't build structures or make tools; they behave only as brute beasts. This may be more preference than lack of capacity, as there are reports of them taking up knives and smallswords and brandishing them in deadly mockery of humans. Though they may wear rags or stolen bits of clothing or armor as rude decoration, they are just as happy to go naked.

When swarms of goblins pour forth from the underground, they tend to move toward human habitations, though wild animals will sometimes suffer their assaults. While popular stories make much of the mischievous nature of goblin attacks--their crude pranks, surprise scares, and harassment of livestock--their deadliness should not be discounted. Typically, the actions of the swarm escalate from behaviors which create fear or annoyance to outright attacks with their sharp teeth, stolen weapons, fire, and sheer numbers. They have been known to consume humans they kill, but that seems to be an after-though.

The infestations may last as little as a night or two or as long as a month, depending on the amount of resistance they encounter. If the swarm doesn't end of its on accord, it can be dispersed by killing a quarter or more of its number.

Scholars have attempted to discern how goblin plagues might be predicted. Folklore suggests that they are "summoned"--perhaps by a child entering puberty. Adolescents suffering from the anxiety of an unwanted betrothal, the birth of a new sibling, or other sorts of emotional duress are thought to become unwitting "Goblin Kings" or "Goblin Queens," and call forth their subjects in some psychic manner.  Naturalists remained unconvinced but are at a loss to explain the tales of goblins paying rude homage (in imitation of human courtly deference) to a single child in a decimated village or attempting to abduct such a child without harming them in any other way.