Monday, April 19, 2021

Sentinel Comics RPG Session 2: "Mayhem at the Midnight Museum!"


Roll Call:

Action Jack: Man of Action--Man Out of Time!
Infranaut: IR-Powered Celebrity Hero!
Il Masso: The Rock-Solid Hero of Little Italy!

Supporting Characters: Zauber the Magnificent; Fibbit

Villains: Spiderbots

Synopsis: Only moments after the revelations at the end of the last adventure, the group experiences a wave of what can only be described as jamais vu, and Space Racer is gone! Only Fibbit notices for certain he is gone, but when she points it out to the others, they agree that they vaguely remember him. Fibbit walks off into high order dimensions to investigate, promising to catch up with the guys "somewhere in the timeline."

A frantic police officer tells the heroes that a giant spiderbot has risen from the Eald River and is attacking a building in vicinity of the Gasworks. Infranaut flies himself and Action Jack to the scene. He doesn't quite stick the landing and they both come up a little off-balance. Il Masso takes a prodigious leap, but winds up crashing through a building on the way there.

They find the strange building they saw before surrounds by a shimmering field, which is in turn cover with spiderbots. The spiderbots are being steadily released by a sixteen foot tall "mothership" like a bigger version of them. There are a number of bystanders webbed up and strung around the area. Within the shield, Zauber the Magnificent seems taxed to his limit.

In a pitch battle, the heroes defeat the spiderbot, and Infranaut manages to rescue some of the bystanders. Even with the mothership disabled, the attack continues. Each hero trashes a number of spiderbots, and Infranaut throws Action Jack in the midst of them to play hell, but one manages to make it into the building.

Il Masso busts through the wall. It registers with him that the place must be a museum of some sort from the looks of it, but he doesn't have much time to look around, as he is scrambling to grab the spiderbot. It seems to be going for antique book within a plexiglas case. In their struggle they knock the display over.


Jack and Infranaut launch attacks that destroy the bot. While Infranaut and il Masso puzzle over the book, Jack helps Zauber to a waiting ambulance. They notice that Zauber has aged significantly during the fight; he now looks more like a man of his actual years.

Before Zauber is carried away he warns Jack: "We won't stop coming. If he can't get the book now, he will try in some other time."

"Who?" Jack asks.

"Anachronus, the Destroyer of Timelines," Zauber replies before falling unconscious.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Weird Revisited: Secret City

The original version of this post appeared in 2014...

 

An email from a friend  on every Russian's favorite holiday destination (not really) of Zheleznorgorsk (it's flag is pictured above), reminded me that secret cities aren't just for hidden cultures in comic books.

Zheleznorgorsk used to be called Krasnoyarsk-26 (like all Soviet secret cities, it was designated by a post office box). This town made produced weapons-grade plutonium. All the Soviet "closed cities" were doing secret military (mostly nuclear) or space stuff. The cities didn't appear on maps and could only be accessed by special permit.

This sort of thing just didn't go on in the USSR; Oak Ridge TN was similar deal in the U.S. during the days of the Manhattan Project.

The gaming value of a secret society out to be obvious. Beyond the spy/espionage genre, what better place for a zombie outbreak to start or a legion of Soviet Man-Apes to be based? Of course, if none of that is fantastic enough for your setting, Brigadoon (or Gemelshausen)--or it's gore-splattered, redneck counterpart--is just another sort of secret city

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Wednesday Comics: DC, May 1980 (part 1)

My mission: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands on the week of my 7th birthday in February 1980.


All-Out War #5: My favorite story this issue is Kanigher's and Granidenetti's Force 3 tale about Fredric (the Polish pianist--also Jewish we find out this issue) bringing a reckoning to the Nazi tank commander who killed his wife in the taking of the Warsaw ghetto. Granidenetti's gritty and almost primitive style (at this point) is great for this sort of thing. Black Eagle has a confusing (to me at least) adventure regarding a supposedly miraculous church--with a brief cameo by the Haunted Tank. Archie Goodwin and Rico Rival provide a downer tale of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, proving these war books aren't all American jingoism. And then there's the Viking Commando to be ridiculous, as usual.

Batman #323: Catwoman's committing crimes again--or is she? After two (and a half) issues of misdirection later, it would appear, no, it's C-lister, Cat-Man. 

DC Comics Presents #21: Elongated Man has contracted some illness--and before Superman can cure him so has everyone else in the world. Turns out its an alien attack that actually transform anyone who gets it into that alien species. Superman sciences up a cure using the Gingold extract. It seems like the hyper-competent Superman is something lost with the Byrne reboot.


Flash #283: "Featuring the Trickster," is seldom a description I associate with a great comic. He's a little bit more menacing here than usual, but it feels like mostly this issue is about Bates setting up Barry Allen's new status quo after the climatic solution to the "Who Killed Iris?" storyline. The Heck/Chiaramonte combo on art is not great this issue, either.

Ghosts #86: "The Phantom City" has Michael Golden art and is a sort of a novel tale of an architect killed by home-invading bikers who die in the titular city construct by architect's son's toys and imagination. The cover story "Harem in Hell" from Allikas and Rubeny is about a guy more in love with the ghost wives (he murdered) and only keeps his new living one around to do housework. Of course, the tables are turned in EC fashion.

Jonah Hex #34: The Confederate survivors of Ft. Charlotte capture Hex, but luckily also a saloon gal who knows him a favor--and then sacrifices her life so he can escape. which is really a bit above and beyond, I think. 


Justice League of America #178: This issue I had as a kid. I think I still may have the cover--and a great one it is by Jim Starlin. Despero is back, and up to his usual chess-playing tricks in this Conway/Dillin joint.

Secrets of Haunted House #24: A man returns from a near death experience to find he now shares his body with a spirit of a killer in a Kashdan/Carrilo story. Sutton and Nasser offer a cautionary tale about what reading too much about the meaning of dreams might get you: eaten by demonic entites, as I'm sure you guessed. Maggin and Rubeny in a nonhorror tale offer a "humorous" alternate take on Noah's ark.

Superman #347: Superman encounter's an alien "ghost." Actually kind of an old school Doctor Who sort of story in basic plot, I think. Art by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, and here he gives us a real disco-era alien design.

Superman Family #201: Everything here is pretty business as usual, except for this crazy Supergirl story by Harris and Mortimer. Supergirl is fixated on this guy Peter Barton, who is in turn attracted to this fellow professor--except for the fact he erroneously believes her to be Supergirl. Supergirl challenges his male ego or something, he muses. Anyway, at a hypnotism demonstration, Supergirl's absolute infatuation leads her into accidentally super-hypnotizing Barton into becoming a super-villain. In the end, he can safely pursue the woman he's into because he believes he's somehow made it so she will never become Supergirl, and the real Supergirl has to hide herself from him, lest he get "triggered" again.


Weird War Tales #85: In the perplexing lead story, Kanigher and Castrillo have a mysterious spacecraft visiting the Earth over various eras, where we seen scenes of violence. In the end, when the surface the Earth is consumed by nuclear fire, the craft deems it time to beam Satan down to hell on Earth. Who was carrying the Devil around in a spaceship? Anyway, the second story has art by Tom Sutton. It's about a cursed, immortal warrior sowing chaos in the Hundred Years War, only to be laid low by the Black Plague.

Wonder Woman #265: Conway and Delbo have Wonder Woman teaming up with Animal Man (or "A-Man" as he says he's called here) against the Cartel. The story has A-Man calling the Mod Gorilla Boss a "publicity stunt." I wonder if this is an attempted retcon or just a dismissive way of talking about the original story? 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Star Trek Endeavour: Agents of Influence

A continuing campaign in Star Trek Adventures...


Episode 5:
"Agents of Influence"
Player Characters: 
The Crew of the USS Endeavour, NCC-1895, Constitution Class Starship (refit):
Andrea as Lt. Ona Greer, Engineer 
Bob as Capt. Robert Locke
Gina as Cmdr. Isabella Hale, Helm Chief
Eric As Lt.Cmdr. Tavek, Science Officer
Tug as Dr. Azala Vex, Trill Chief Medical Officer

Supporting Cast:
Toshiro Mifune as Admiral Nogura

Synposis: Endeavour is summoned to Starbase 24 where they receive an unexpected visitor: Admiral Nogura. Nogura needs the ship to undertake a mission to the Ivratis Asteroid Field on the Klingon Neutral Zone ostensibly to search for debris from the recently destroyed scout vessel USS Ranger, but actually they wish to recover both the surviving Ranger crew and the 3 deep cover Starfleet agents that had recently ended their mission on the Klingon homeworld of Qo'noS.

Pretending to be smugglers, the Captain and a team enter the asteroid belt to look for the Ranger survivors. The mission is particularly urgent for Lt. Greer whose sister is captain of the Ranger!

Commentary: This adventure is based on a novel by Dayton Ward of the same name. In the novel, it is Ward's Endeavour crew that is being sought by Kirk and the Enterprise.

Nogura is mentioned in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but never seen on screen. Somebody helpfully made this image of him, though:

Friday, April 9, 2021

Our Heroic Age

This post first appeared in 2015...

 
Though we played a lot of fantasy games (mostly AD&D) in my middle and high school years--probably more than anything else--our longest campaigns (defined as the same characters in the same setting/situation) were in superhero games. While we'd played with Villains & Vigilantes and with the first editions of TSR's Marvel Super Heroes and Mayfair's DC Heroes, our "Heroic Age" really got started in '86 after the release of the Marvel Super Heroes Advanced Set.

Our first and longest running team was called the New Champions (taking the name from the L.A. based team of the Bronze Age and the idea of a new iteration from The New Defenders, which had just ended the year before). Our characters were street-level/near street-level characters, some of which were reformed villains. We picked the characters from the pages of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, for the most part, rather than going with well-known characters. I used Paladin, my brother, Puma, and our friend Al, Hobgoblin (the former Jack o' Lantern version). That was the core group of players and characters, but other players and other Bronze and early Modern C-listers joined the New Champions ranks at some point: White Tiger, Madcap, Shroud, and Unicorn, among others I've likely forgotten. The team had a West Coast era (borrowing from West Coast Avengers, which I had a subscription to), as well, and probably at least one "all-new, all different" period--but it was also part of the same continuity.

The second edition of DC Heroes, was probably our last gasp of superhero gaming. The Marvel games had mostly been over the summer and with a crew somewhat different than my usual gaming group, since none of us were able to drive yet and it was tough to get together when we weren't in school. By '89 though, that wasn't the case, so the DC group was largely the same as my Dungeons & Dragons and GURPS crowd. This time, we made up our own characters and our own super-hero universe. Lower key, more "realistic" superheroes were the order of the day. About half of the group (which was never named as a team, really) didn't wear costumes, and the villains were are somewhat quirky, and many of them didn't wear costumes either. I suspect the primary inspiration was the Wild Cards universe, but Thriller, the New Universe, and Doom Patrol might have been in there, too.

We played some 4th edition Champions after that and maybe some GURPS Supers, but neither of them had the ease of use of MSHRPG or DCH so they didn't last long. These two campaigns created some truly memorable characters--or at least memorable sessions.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Wednesday Comics: DC, April 1980 (part 2)

My mission: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around January 24, 1980.

Action Comics #506: It turns out the Kryptonian hairy hominid android was a ploy by it's creator to save all of Krypton's children from the coming cataclysm. Now it's threatening to steal all of Earth's children. Superman uses time travel and has Superboy inadvertently destroy it with a James Kirkian paradox. It is locked in on Superman's brainwaves to eliminate him--but it can't harm a child, so it explodes. Pretty clever, Cary Bates!

Adventure Comics #470: More forgettable Starman and Plastic Man adventures. The Plastic Man story by Martin Pasko has villains with construction-related pun names. That's really the only thing I remember about it.


Brave & the Bold #161: Conway and Aparo have Batman and Adam Strange switching places to solve a mystery. In the end, it doesn't amount to much, but it's a clever concept.

Detective Comics #489: You might think ass-kicking Commissioner Gordon was an invention of Frank Miller, but no Kupperberg and Novick have him going into a prison overrun by the inmates to secure the release of hostages and singlehandedly turning the tables on the ringleaders. Alfred gets to beat up some thugs, too, in a solo tale by Rozakis and Delbo. The Atom tries to fix the JLA satellite computer and gets in a fight with subatomic aliens. Batman gets two stories: one has him weirdly dismissive of the supernatural despite all the times he as encountered it--including possibly this very story! In the second, he's on the trail of the Sensei for the death of Kathy Kane. Bronze Tiger makes a (brief) appearance.

Green Lantern #127: This is an action-packed issue, with an all-out assault by the Green Lantern Corps to retake Oa from the Weaponers of Qward. A number of (nameless, never seen before) Lanterns die in the assault, and Jordan only prevails with the unexpected aid of Sinestro. A good issue, but I don't really feel like Staton quite delivers in the way another artist might have.

House of Mystery #279: The most ridiculous (but entertaining) of these three stories is by Barr and Noly Zamora and features con men named Ecks and Wye (get it?) in the Old West, apparently committing murders in a werewolf fashion, then charging the town for anti-werewolf supplies. When Ecks decides to double cross his partner, the twist is revealed--Wye really is a werewolf!


Legion of Super-Heroes #262: This is a sort of Star Trekian tale about an old spacecraft out to entertain it's long-dead captain. Better than the last couple of issues; particularly, the art by James Sherman.

New Adventures of Superboy #4: Superboy foils Astralad's every attempt to reveal his secret identity as nerdy Joe Silver to his classmates and thereby become popular. Then, the boy of steel convinces Joe it was all a dream so he gives up on making his life better by changing the past. I'm not sure Superboy was completely in the right on this one.

Sgt. Rock #339: Much of this issue is a flashback to Rock's participation in an unnamed attack that I assume is meant to be the Dieppe Raid (or its DCU stand-in). Rock definitely gets around a lot in this war.

Super Friends #31: This issue has Black Orchid! And Kryptonite! I honestly don't remember much else, other than the Ramona Fradon art, which I always find charming.


Time Warp #4: Two of these stories are time travel yarns, but not your usual ones. The one by Allikas and Ditko sees scientists deciding to prevent nuclear conflict by offing Einstein (there's an old Frederick Pohl story with the same basic idea, I think), but they can't do it. Instead, they take him back to the 18th Century--where he changes the future by giving Native Americans the atomic bomb! There's also an overly complicated tale by Kashdan and Patricio where a mutated astronaut landing in the future starts infecting the defenseless population with the common cold, so naturally the future-folk go back in time to ensure the astronaut never gets a cold, only to doom their future with a disease the cold would have prevented! 

Unexpected #197: Jockeying over an inheritance leads greedy relatives to ruin in a treasure hunt, a guy euthanizing stray cats for cash runs up against a witch's cat, and a horror writer gets the inside scoop first-hand from a vampire.

Unknown Soldier #238: The Unknown Soldier plays pied piper to get a group of Hitler-loving kids away from a German commander using them for human-shields in a Haney/Ayers tale. In the backup, an Olympic skier puts his skills to use leading his company in North Africa--in ways as ridiculous as you might imagine. It illustrates a common theme in these war books: the American G.I. heroes often prevail due to Yankee ingenuity. Out-of-the-box thinking is more often the key to victory than badassery.


Warlord #32: The first appearance of Shakira. More on it here.

Weird Western Tales #66: In a somewhat offbeat tale by Conway and Ayers, Scalphunter winds up in Pittsburgh, where he is nursed back to health by a single mother. To help the family, he goes to work in the factory besides her and her children, but revolts against the ill-treatment and poor conditions. The woman and her kid refuse to go with him, because it's the only life they've known.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Guns of Middle-earth

The Shire, particularly in the first published version of The Hobbit, has a number of (at the earliest) Victorianisms. I don't see why you couldn't run a sort of 19th Century version of Middle-earth that would make those not be anachronisms, or at least not as much of an anachronism, as we might want to not tie ourselves down to the feel of a specific part of the 19th Century.

The rangers of the North would be like Mountain men or frontier scouts.

Gondor might have the architecture and general vibe of Old Mexico or Spanish California.

And Mordor perhaps becomes some sort of Steampunk industrial nightmare.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Weird Revisited: People of the Feud

This alternate, sci-fi origins of Mind Flayers and Gith-folk first appeared in 2016...

 

There was a colony ship, sent out from Earth or a world very much like it to settle a new world. It's navigators had been genetically modified to take advantage of a new drive system allowing FTL travel. The majority of the colonist were placed into cryogenic suspension for the voyage.

Something went wrong. Inadequate shielding? Purposeful sabotage? No one remembers. The navigators began to mentally breakdown, expose to psychoactive and mutagenic properties of the manifold outside normal spacetime. The ship was stranded stuttering in an out of spacetime.


The navigators began to develop psionic powers and with them certain physical requirements. Boosted quantities of certain neurotransmitters. No synthetic source was available, but there were the stored colonists to feed on.

To help them manage the ship and their food source, the former Navigators awakened a military contingent, a few at the time. They mentally enthralled them and enslaved them. Molding them over generations.


As generations passed under the accelerated mutagenesis of the manifold, both the Navigators--calling themselves the Masters now--and their soldier caste had diverged significantly from their original genotype. The Masters had long ago authorized larger scale awakening of more of the colonists to serve as a more docile slave caste--and cattle.

The Masters grew complacent and removed from human concerns and feelings. They didn't see the revolution coming. A soldier named Gith lead a coalition of the soldiers and the menials against their oppressors they now called Mind Flayers after their manner of feeding.

The former Masters were either killed or used their power to flee into the non-space. The coalition that had brought about their downfall did not long survive. Former menials resented the soldiers as long time collaborators and the soldiers disagreed with the menials attempts to master Mind Flayer psionic disciplines.

When the ship was finally cannibalized and destroyed, two cultures had emerged as firm in their hatred of each other as they were in their former masters.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Ewoks!


I happened to see one of the old Ewoks cartoons on Youtube the other day. It was a pretty good fantasy cartoon of the era. It prompted me to recall than "Endor" is the Quenya name for Middle Earth, which may or may not be relevant.

Anyway, I feel like halflings/hobbits could be replaced with ewoks with very little difficult and bring a slightly different feel to things.