Monday, October 3, 2022

Travelers Tales at Bar in the Anadem


The blogging equivalent of a clip show this week, as I give you a chance to catch up on my posts in the Spelljammer-ish setting of the Anadem:

Lycaon, the Werewolf World

Those itinerant Earthshiners

The mysterious Toymaker

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Weird Revisited: In the Blood

This post originally appeared almost 10 years ago to the day...

 

The element iron has a special status: it carries oxygen on our blood; it’s the most abundant element in the earth’s crust; and it has the most stable atomic nuclei. More to the point for fantasy gaming: "cold iron" is said to ward off or harm fairies, ghosts, and/or witches.

In the novel Enterprise of Death by Jesse Bullington, magical attitude is inversely related to iron in the blood. A necromancer explains it this way:

“Iron, as I’ve told you, is one of the only symbols that represents what it truly is, here and on the so-called Platonic level of reality...Because it is true material and not just a symbol of something else, iron restricts our ability to alter the world, be it talking to spirits or commanding symbols or however you put it.”

Not only does this nicely tie some of the real properties of iron with its folklore properties, but it would have some interesting implications in fantasy games. Prohibitions against metal armor and the working of magic make sense in this light. Even more interestingly, it might it explain why D&D mages tend to be physically sort of weak--they need to be somewhat less robust in order to work magic well. Maybe higher Constitution scores actually impairs magic, or impairs the “level” a mage can advance too? That might also example the traditional dwarven poor magic aptitude: they’re hardy, creatures of the earth (where iron’s abundant).

Friday, September 30, 2022

Howl at the Moon


Scholars disagree on whether remote Lycaon, the Wolf World, should be considered part of the Anadem proper or not, lying as it does on the far side of the Moon. That face of Luna, forever hidden from Earth, looms large and bright in Lycaon's sky, and that has a particular effect on the Wolf World's inhabitants.

It is said that in a previous age suffers of lycanthropy were deported to the Outer System in an effort to eradicate the curse forever from Old Earth. In the time sense, a tribe of werewolves were given leave by the Elven Queen to settle bring a worldlet into the orbit known by the ancient designation of El-Tu. Why the Queen of Elves should allow this is unclear, but the lycanthropes benefited greatly from close proximity to the celestial body that governs their malady.

The Wolf World is by all accounts beautiful with its old fashion castles and keeps and deep shadowed forests, but it is seldom visited. The werewolf lords are high-handed and capricious hosts. One might be the guest of honor at a lavish feast, or the quarry in a hunt under the bone pale moon.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Wednesday Comics: DC, December 1981 (wk 2 pt 2)

My goal: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around September 24, 1981. 


Adventure Comics #488: Two Dial H stories here. In the first by Rozakis and Infantino, Jinx, a villain with bad luck powers is convinced that all the superheroic duos appearing in this one small city most be the same people, and he surveils them long enough to confirm his suspicions.  In the end, not even bad luck can stop the ring-throwing Captain Saturn and the cold-powered Snowball from taking him down.

The second story by Kashdan and von Eeden is weird because it's odd to see the Dial H stuff drawn by anybody but Infantino. Beyond that, it isn't memorable at all, as the kids take on the poison-wielding Belladona, "Princess of Potions." 


Detective Comics #509: Conway and Newton bring Catman sets a trap for Batman as he wants to retrieve the scrap of his cape Batman tore off last time they met. Catman is convinced his cape is magical, giving him nine lives, and the tearing of the cape ruined it's magic--and now Catman has a scarred face to prove the loss of his luck. He thinks the cape can heal it. He puts Batman in a rising tide death trap, but of course Batman escapes. He tracks Catman to where he has Selina Kyle captive and he has finally recovered the missing piece of his costume. His face isn't fixed, though, and Selina explains that perhaps the magical cloth has been used too many times and it doesn't work anymore. (She doesn't mention she might have used it to cure her illness.) Batman defeats Catman. Later, Selina tells Bruce she is leaving Gotham because her past is always in the way between the two. Meanwhile, Bruce, unaware that he is being watched closely by someone from his past, who is determined to find a connection between Bruce Wayne and Batman.

In the Batgirl backup, she is still trying to take down the Annihilator who has siphoned Supergirl's power. Batgirl manages to free her friend, but they are unable to defeat the Annihilator (who continues to mutate), and he teleports away. Annihilator decides he's going to repopulate Gotham (after he destroys it) with his own super-progeny, but he needs to mind the right mate. He starts building a ray to use on the woman he wants to carry his offspring. Batgirl and Supergirl have tracked him down, but with his precognitive powers he knows they are coming. He muses that Batgirl is a prime specimen for his mate.


Legion of Super-Heroes #282: I get the feeling Thomas fashioned this entire arc just to give an explanation for the Reflecto statue in the adult Legion story in Adventure Comics #354, and it shows. Anyway, we've got most the Legionnaires still imprisoned on Earth in the 60s as commies or something, and Superboy, Dawnstar, and Phantom Girl are in Bgztl. Luckily, Superboy regains his memory, and even more luckily, Dawnie is able to track down the not-dead Ultra Boy. Also, the Time Trapper is defeated, the other Legion members escape, and back in the 30th Century they change the statue of a dead Ultra Boy to Reflecto, 'cause he kinda died. Sure, Roy (and Paul).


New Adventures of Superboy #24: I had this issue as a kid. After the Curator strikes Superboy with a Red Kryptonite bomb, the Boy of Steel is blind without his Kryptonian glasses, imperiling either his effectiveness as a hero or his secret identity. A blind Superboy is still an effective one, though. In the Superbaby backup by Rozakis and Calnan, Superboy foils an alien invasion while being baby-sat.


Sgt. Rock #359: Kanigher and Redondo bring back the Iron Major, who manages to capture Rock and beat the hell of of him but doesn't kill him since Rock spared his life last time. The next story by Bill Kelley with amateurish art by Ron Randall has a young woman getting close to a Nazi officer to get travel papers for her husband. The Nazi double-crosses her and kills her husband but is killed accidentally by his subordinate, trying to shoot the woman. 

The Men of Easy feature has whistler Canary providing the wedding march for a couple whose church pipe organ was destroyed by a German attack. In the last story, a WWI pilot's cat, Blind Faith, helps him after a crash when he has been blinded. The cat jumps at a German sneaking up on him, allow the pilot to turn and shoot.


Unexpected #217: In the cover story by Sheldon Mayer, Lincoln is removed from the timestream moments before his assassination and brought to 2265 in order to run for president of the galaxy. The ol' Railsplitter figures out everything is not on the up and up, and turns the tables on the disguised aliens, foiling their plans. Next up, Sciacca and Carrillo give a slightly modified version of the Japanese Yuki-onna legend where a man marries a beautiful but mysterious wife and has kids, but loses it all when he asks too many questions about his wife's past.

Mishkin/Cohn and Speigle present the tail of a hat store owner who chooses not to ask too many questions when his business turns around with the patronage of an odd man and his equally odd friends--even after he discovers they all are hiding aliens under the hats they bought. Drake and Vince Perez/Vicatan present the sort of story you might have seen in an EC sci-fi book.  In the future, a criminal left adrift in space after she tried to steal from her partner crashes on a planet with deformed mutants, descendants of the victims of ancient Earth nuclear accidents. ("3 Mile Land," offer as example.) They want to breed with her to produce normal children, but she isn't having any of that. After poisoning the mutants, she escapes with a seeming "normal" human only to find he is another mutant concealing that all of his limbs are separate mutants, and all vying for her affection.

The closing page is another meta bit, signaling the 3 Witches will no longer be hosting the book. We see tombstones of other DC horror hosts like Destiny and Dr. Geist and features like Johnny Peril and Dr. Thirteen.


Unknown Soldier #258: Haney and Ayers/Talaoc love their dramatic set-pieces gets to battle a Nazi in the bell of the Notre Dame Cathedral on a mission in Paris to find the injured Allied spy, the Sparrow. In "Swan Song" by Mitchell and Spiegle a young pianist turned "demo man" plays his last to lure German soldiers toward a home before he blows up their artillery outside. 

The Captain Storm story has got a guest appearance by JFK, as Storm goes on a mission to find the missing PT-109, unfortunately, the story ends on a cliffhanger with it unclear if they all make it back home with a Japanese sub blocking their way. I'm guessing they do, but we'll see next issue!


World's Finest Comics #274: In the Burkett and Gonzales/Breeding pick up from last issue. With Batman now super-powered but dying thanks to the Power Charger, he rushes off to save Superman from the Weapon Master. Armed with futuristic weapons stolen from the Fortress of Solitude and maybe elsewhere, he's tough to handle, but even he can't stand up to the combined might of Superman and Super-Batman. In the end Weapon Master makes his escape, and Superman has to let him go to rush to save Batman. Using the Weapon Master's device to drain the powers from Batman, the Dark Knight is depowered but not dying. The Barr/von Eeden Green Arrow story plays on the plot of the reporter refusing to reveal his source after the police want to know how GA knew about a drug deal he busted. Ollie refuses to reveal his source and a judge gives him 24 hours to change his mind or go to jail. Ollie does some soul-searching, but ultimately decides to take the jail time for his ethics.

In a new Zatanna feature, Conway and Colon pit the the sorceress against a mystically empowered food critic who becomes The Shrieker on a fancy cruise. Rozakis and Saviuk have Hawkgirl live Hawkman and take the rocket so he can't follow. Katar tries to enlist his JLA friends to follow her, but they aren't willing to get involved in this marital drama. He goes home and let's himself go for a bit, but a serious of robberies at the museum get him to pull himself together and get back in action. In the Marvel Family story by Bridwell and Newton, Captain Marvel is stymied by a villain with the ability to create silence, which keeps Billy from turning into his heroic form. Billy's a smart kid, though and has a plan involving a telephone and a tape recorder.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Into The Phantom Jungle

 Last night, I got my other gaming group to try Broken Compass in one of our "not Azurth" off-weeks. I decided to run "The Phantom Jungle," which I found on One Shot Adventures. The group were headed up the Javary River in South America, inadvertently carrying and Inca artifact sought be a cult.

As we the other group, the part was impressed by the simplicity and cinematicness of Broken Compass' rules. I made some pregen's for them (well, adapted some from the basic rules) using some new images.

From the top left they are: Jake O'Donnell (Daredevil Action Hero), Gus Geraty (Old Cheater Wingman), Laura van der Woodsen (Explorer Professor), and Sam Stone (Hunk Soldier).

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Earthshiners


There are rustic folk that sometimes visit the Anadem from more remote asteroids. These insular people build ramshackle settlements on whatever tumbling rock or abandoned worldlet they can find, eking out a hardscrabble existence growing what crops they can and raising their weird livestock, but often staying only one season. Long enough to produce one good batch of their primary trade stuff and cultural artifact: earthshine.

Earthshine, so these rockhoppers aver, can only be distilled from the captured radiance of humanity's homeworld. It is collected in "pans," broad-rimmed, shallow dishes which are pointed at the Earth and somehow collect it's light, which then flows down coiling tubing to the heated processing apparatus. The end product is clear but tinged silvery-blue has a slight glow in darkness. It can be “poured” or contained, but moves more like a heavy fog than a liquid. It is bottled in opaque receptacles--sunlight will degrade it within others. After a day or two, it becomes more volatile, and can by used as an intoxicant by inhalation from bottles or from cloths on which some of the substance has been pored.  The earthshiners also use it some how to power their dubious vessels to cross the void, to the next convenient place to make their concoction.

The Earthshiners are clearly of human stock, but tend to be taller than Earthly humans, strapping and clean-limbed in youth. In old age, they can sometimes by gnarled, perhaps even dwarfish. It is believed the habitual use of earthshine takes its toll.

For obscure reasons, the fey empire of the Moon has no love for the Earthshiners. It's swift, silver-white patrol ships uproot them where they find them, deporting them beyond the bounds of the Anadem. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Wednesday Comics: DC, December 1981 (wk 2 pt 2)

My goal: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around September 24, 1981.


Action Comics #526: Wolfman and Staton continue their Neutron story. Superman races against time to discover where Neutron has planted an atomic bomb which, if and when it goes off, will destroy Metropolis. He's hampered by the fact Neutron has planted decoys, and HIVE is involved. Ultimately, he discovers the bomb is the new Daily Planet globe. This is a real Marvel style story, I think, different that the "alien conundrum of the month" stories we often get with Superman.

In the Air Wave backup, Hal temporarily develops the power to read minds after receiving an electric shock.


Brave & the Bold #181: Brennert and Aparo team Batman up with Hawk and Dove, who haven't made an appearance since Showcase #100 in 1978. When Hawk accidentally causes the death of a drug kingpin's son, Batman and the Dove team up to try and get to him before the gangster can do so. Hawk and Dove have become "stuck" in personal/political ruts since the 60s, leading to both losing their way. In this story, Hawk and Dove reconcile as brothers, and regain the powers they (briefly) lost. I like that the story specifically places the two in their 60s context and appears to take place in the early 80s.

The Nemesis storyline comes to an end as he makes a final assault on Samuel Solomon, and manages to at least free himself of the device controlling his heart.


All-Star Squadron #4: Thomas debuts his explanation for who the existence of superheroes didn't alter the course of the war. After seeing the devastation at Pearl Harbor, the combined All-Star Squadron is ready to hunt down the Japanese fleet for some payback, despite FDR's desire that they protect the homefront. When they fly off toward Wake Island, the most powerful heroes fall under the sway of the Dragon King who with the help of the Germans and some mystic artifacts, has set-up of protective shield around Axis-controlled territory. The heroes barely make it out of the sphere of influence and are forced to return home.


Green Lantern #147: Wolfman and Staton threw Jordan in prison last issue, so now we get the fight with the inmates out for revenge. It's rendered a bit sillier because Jordan is jailed in his Green Lantern outfit--and put in a cell with Black Hand who is in his costume! Of course, we're also told Goldface has police on his payroll and bribed a judge, so maybe things were arranged. Anyway, it's a fairly tense issue with a powerless Jordan forced to take on one group of inmates after another, while elsewhere Tom races against time to find the power battery and recharge Jordan's ring. Of course, he does in the nick of time, and Green Lantern makes short work of his assailants.

However, they can't tie any of this to Goldface rather amazingly, so GL is forced to leave him alone or get in trouble with the law again. Also, the congressman out for revenge against Ferris Aircraft makes his move and accuses Ferris of treason. The next issue blurb promises a wrap-up of all this and a new creative team with a more cosmic approach. I think that's a good move.

In the Adam Strange backup by Sutton and Infantino, Adam and Alanna take the lost boy, Rad, to the place that he says is his home: a ruined city in the jungle. In turns out Rad was put in a thousand year stasis after a monster attacked the city. When the monster wakens, Strange and crew defeat it. They discover Rad's family have transported themselves 2000 years into the future, and Rad goes to join them.


House of Mystery #299: "I...Vampire" gets a new writer in Bruce Jones. This story smacks of "a new direction" sort of writing, as Bennett decides he's putting his companions too much in danger and heads off on his own (hitchhiking) for a show down with the cult of the Blood Red Moon. When the guy that gave him a ride is killed, Bennett sees it as an opportunity to fake his own (un)death.

Mishkin/Cohn and Matucenio have a great white hunter in India who meets his end when "thinking like a tiger" winds up putting him just where the maneater wants him. McKenzie and Spiegle present a nonhorror but interesting story of a future Earth where humanity is rich and moving off-world owing to the sale of the Sun to aliens. An elder couple (named Kuttner and Bradbury) and a robot wind up getting left behind, but wind up believing it's for the best. Kelley and Bissette sort of lampoon the excitement around a grunion run, as giant aliens use it as an opportunity to snag large groups of humans to snack on.


Superman Family #213: Pasko and Mortimer choose the title that was going to come up at some point with Blackrock as the heavy: "Bad Day with Blackrock." He and Supergirl fight to a standstill, but the Maid of Might ultimately triumphs due to trickery, enticing the villain to chase her into a tunnel where he can't get a radio signal and his power depletes. Also, the Lena Thorul subplot moves toward its conclusion as everyone finds out she is Lex Luthor's sister. 

In the Mr. and Mrs. Superman story, Lana Lang turns into an evil Insect Queen thanks to a scarab she got from her archeologist father and gives Superman trouble. To be continued. Rozakis and Calnan present a weird Private Life of Clark Kent, where Clark lies to another reporter about the circumstances of Superman interviewing him, so he has to stage Superman taking a photo of him to convince her the interview happened. They're the same guy, why would Clark spin a tale for the reporter that she could obviously know was made up because of Superman's verifiable whereabouts at the time? It's a weird slip. Levitz and Oksner have Lois helping out Inspector Henderson after his Sherlock Award is stolen during the award dinner. In the Pasko/Delbo Jimmy Olsen story, his old flame Lucy Lane shows up (and she has white hair, which I don't think she had before and it makes her look old) and tells him that her new airline pilot boyfriend, had a disastrous landing which killed the passengers in his plane, and thinks the crash was engineered by crooks. Jimmy investigates and finds up put in a slowly filling pool with weights holding him down by the crooks.


Warlord #52: I talked about the main story in this issue in detail here. In the Dragonsword backup by Levitz and Yeates Thiron is upset at having a talking dragonsword and attacks his masters because they won't explain. The Archmage Anna shows up to halt the fight and explains that Thiron wielding the dragonsword is the only chance the world has got against Emperor Quisel and his demonic axe. 

Monday, September 19, 2022

Choice of Primary Ability Score


While it's not the only reason, one of the primary motivations beyond removing racial ability bonuses in 5e (and D&D One) is so every race can be optimal at every class. Whether optimized race/class combos are a thing one feels like is necessary, it seems to me the unasked question here is my are classes still tied to specific abilities to begin with? Why can't you have a dexterity based fighter or even an intelligence based one? They'd be a bit different "in the fiction" from a strength-based fighter, but wouldn't that be part of the fun?

I know primary ability scores are still a thing for legacy reasons, but if you can given up racial ability bonuses (and penalties!) and broaden spellcasters to be able to use various ability scores for spellcasting, then I hardly think this is a bridge too far.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

The Toymaker


One of the most enigmatic figures of the Anadem and Old Earth is the Toymaker. Hailed as a genius, albeit an eccentric one, his smaller creations are sought by wealthy collectors and his larger recreational devices, benevolently gifted to communities are sources of civic pride. Each of these is marked with a modest, but never-tarnishing brass legend proclaiming it "A Gift of the Toymaker."

A list of known works of the Toymaker would run too long, but I will remind you of but a few you have likely heard of: The Clockwork Courtesan of Yejem, the Arcade Spatterlight in the Pleasure Garden of Oressund Major, the Leaping Lepidopterists in the possession of the Pajandrum of Gloorb, and of course the Merry-go-Round Tower of Ooth-Ithrain,

The Toymaker's most commonly encountered creation are the Wind-Up Gnomes. Most serve their generally wealthy owners as servants, but a few have experienced some sort of damage and become freewilled.  Some localities are fearful of freewilled wind-ups, but in most places they are accepted into society. There are persistent rumors of isolated wordlets of wind-up beings that have become quite mad and constitute a danger to flesh beings, but these are no doubt just old space-sailor tales. Probably.

No one knows where the Toymaker himself resides. Some people believe the Toymaker to not be an individual at all, but rather a brand. They suggest that it perpetuates itself by the kidnapping of promising artificers and forces them to work on its factory world, guarded by ever-smiling wind-up soldiers. If such a world existed (and really, it is ridiculous to believe it does), it might even lie beyond the Anadem, perhaps in the wilds of the Belt.

Friday, September 16, 2022

The Anadem


Millions of years hence, when the technology and magic have long ago become one, the center of human-descended civilization will have largely forgotten the quaint backwater of its birth. Still, there  is much to recommend Old Earth as a diverting, if rustic, tourist destination.

The still-blue (or once more blue) world is garlanded with a  swarm of habitats and microworlds, aggregated in orbit over millennia. This curious and eclectic mixes of cultures and species is known as the Anadem.

Upper class youths of Earth have the custom of a the Grand Tour, a rite of passage where they visit worlds of the Anadem in the ships of alien, antigravity wood, brought to Earth in previous ages from some distant world. 



This is a Spelljammer campaign idea. Inspirational media include any number of bande dessinée from Barbarella to the works of Moebius, Don Lawrence's Storm, the works of Jack Vance including The Dying Earth and Planet of Adventure; Matthew Hughes' Henghis Hapthorn stories, and Rob Chilson's Prime Mondeign stories.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Wednesday Comics: DC, December 1981 (wk 1 pt 2)

My goal: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around September 10, 1981.


Jonah Hex #55: Hex and his pursuers, sent by Turnbull, are forced to work together to defend themselves against El Papagayo's men. One of the younger men begins to view Hex more positive after he saves the group's life more than once, but the leader can't let go of his hate, and in the a confrontation kills the younger man who is defending Hex. Hex then shoots him and is the only survivor.

In the Tejano backup, Mishkin/Cohn and Yeates have the ranger making his escape from the Mexican army and the Comanches, but his friend is killed by his own commander, and he has a show down with the Comanche chief he met in his youth.


New Teen Titans #14: Wolfman and Perez reunite the team. The whole group gets to hear the story of Steve Dayton--who proves to have been brainwashed by Madame Rouge. He attacks the Titans, but Raven manages to defeat him. The Titans track the villains' now-airborne headquarters to the island nation of Zandia,  The Titans are all defeated and captured and Changeling finds himself in the presence of the revived Brotherhood of Evil.


Secrets of Haunted House #44: Snyder and Rodriquez open this one with a topical tale of an unusually hardy plant found in the wake of the Mt. Saint Helen's eruption. A scientist hybridizes it, and it grows to control him, forcing him to feed it neighborhood children. The fire fighters discovering it set the house ablaze in horror, but the smoke only proves to spread the spores. The next story is a weird, sci-fi piece about a guy who's captured by the enemy and tormented by illusions, so even when he escaped he doesn't know truth from psychological warfare.

Kashdan and Henson present a future world desperate for energy whose problems get solved when explorers DNA gets altered on an energy exploration mission, and he and his wife produce an unhuman kid who generates energy. The final story is an EC-esque tale by Harris and Gonzales where a guy murders the owner of a wax museum and hides him in one of the displays. The perfect crime, until it melts the wax on the corpse and he drops his executioner's axe right on his murderer!


Superman #366: "Revenge, Superman-Style." Bates and Swan reveal that it is the alien Superman Revenge Squad responsible for the events of last issue. This issue makes it seem like that was revealed previously, but I took a look at last issue again, and it wasn't. Anyway, Superman says good-bye to everyone, then alters himself into a reptilian alien form to infiltrate the revenage squad. His plan works, and he's accepted as a member of the group. 

The the "In-Between Years" backup  Perry White proves that Superboy is in Metropolis when he secretly observes the Boy of Steel dealing with warring gangsters. He gets him to appear at the Daily Planet to prove to his editor, George Taylor, that the story is true.


Weird War Tales #106: Another War That Time Forgot yarn, another orange dinosaur. This time frogmen with a mission to sink a Japanese aircraft carrier wind up on an island, but one of them follows an alluring island woman to safety. Later he sees a mermaid, and the story never makes clear whether he is hallucinating or not. Barr and Cruz send a near catatonic German WWI vet on a mission to assassinate this Hitler guy that just became leader, but he's thwarted in the end. In a short by Kanigher and Talaoc a U.S. soldier is killed by the fixed bayonet of a dead Wehrmacht trooper. The final story by Kashdan and Ditko is some nonsense about Scottish clans with a feud lasting into modern day, and a witch's curse.


Wonder Woman #286: Kanigher and Delbo present an off-beat story, where it appears that Wonder Woman may be dying of cancer, but no, it's an aspiring actress going out for the part of Wonder Woman in a movie that is dying. Wonder Woman gives the chance to play her in real life, not knowing that the girl has only has a short time to live. Amazon science can't save her, but she dies accepted by them as one of their own.

In the Huntress backup, she tangles with a guy with the 90s name of Karnage who is trying to make a name for himself in the underworld by taking her down.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Star Child


Our Land of Azurth game continued last night, with the party trying to communicate with the child-like star being they had freed last session. The creature didn't know the language but was a quick study. Still, comprehension seemed to lag behind linguistic fluency. The being expressed and interest in a story, and Waylon decided to read from the Wizard of Azurth book.

Meanwhile, the void dragon is getting impatient and anxious for his meal. Kully tries to stall him.

As if they don't have enough problems, and amorphous shadow creature emerges from hiding. It's touch is necrotic and drains strength. The party defeats it, but is forced to take a short rest.

After that, they hatch a plan to make the star child invisible and create an illusion of it to fool the void dragon while they escape. The dragon sees through the illusion quickly, but is at first confused as to the whereabouts of the real creature. Waylon uses that opportunity to attack, and the party is in a fight they initially hoped to avoid.

Using the energy weapons they got in the future, the party gives as good as they get, though not before Waylon goes down. Still, Shade manages to revive him with goodberries while the others make the dragon beat a frustrated retreat to the heavens.

The star child is joined by friends: luminous fairy-type creatures from the stars. She asks for the story, and Wayon (somewhat reluctantly) gives her the book. All the star beings huddle around it, and a sphere of light seems to push the party away and back to their own time. They materialize in Lum-One's workshop.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Wednesday Comics: DC, December 1981 (wk 1 pt 1)

I'm reading DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! Today, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands on the week of  September 10, 1981. 


Arak Son of Thunder #4: Thomas and Colon/DeZuniga bring Arak and friends to Charlemagne's court, where Arak's paganism and different appearance provokes Charlemagne's peers and leads to a dual between Arak and Rinaldo, which Arak wins. Later, a malign, living tree grows from the remnant of the Irminsul Charlemagne destroyed, so Valda and Arak must save the Emperor.


Batman #342: After Man-Bat's reform to a hero, then the effective resolution of his storyline in earlier this year, Conway and Novick reset him to adversary mode. After the encounter with Man-Bat in the Batcave last issue, Batman tracks down Francine Langstrom and finds out Kirk actually overdosed himself on his man-bat serum and thinks his daughter died of her illness and Batman is to blame. Batman tracks him down to cure him with the old antidote, but it doesn't work this time and Man-Bat gets away.

The Robin backup by Conway and von Eedon has Robin about to be burned alive on an upside down cross by a Satanic Cult. He manages to get free and takes the woman with him who was the intended sacrifice. They escape in the cult leaders big rig.


DC Comics Presents #40: Conway and Novick team Superman with Metamorpho. Simon Stagg duplicates the Orb of Ra in an attempt to cure Rex Mason of being Metamorpho, but Java the caveman, jealous of Sapphire's love of Mason, steals it and uses it to cause havoc. Our heroes join forces to stop him. It's good to see Metamorpho but this story doesn't really have any of the charm of his 60s run.

This months "Whatever Happened to..." feature we find out what became of the first Air Wave, Larry Jordan. Turns out he was shot and killed by a criminal, and his wife briefly took up the Air Wave identity to bring his killer to justice. 


Flash #304: Bates and Infantino/Smith bring the Flash into the digital age with the introduction of a new villain, Colonel Computron. Computron is out to get Willard Wiggins, the head of Wiggins toys, makers of the new, hugely popularly Captain Computron home video game. We're given two likely suspects--a disgruntled Wiggins Toys engineer and his wife, for Computron's identity, but the story tries to play a bit coy as to which one it is. There's a sequence where Computron digitizes the Flash and puts him in a video game where Infantino's presentation of digitization is pretty good.

In the Firestorm backup by Conway and Broderick, we get the origin of the Hyena, and Firestorm manages to keep her from attacking her family long enough that everybody gets to reconcile.


G.I. Combat #236: The first Haunted Tank has the crew sent on a hostage retrieval mission that seems more inspired by the recent Iran Hostage Crisis and other events of the 70s than anything World War II related. Arab allies of the Germans (called "terrorists" in the story) have kidnapped an American military officer. In the O.S.S. story, a German SS officer and chess champ gets a rematch with a Jewish champion turned O.S.S. operative after there match before the war end in a stalemate. The German officer wins the game--but the O.S.S. agent boob-trapped the board, and the German's predictable moves lead to both of their deaths in an explosion. The next story by Allikas and Rubeny has a G.I. faking correspondence to a dead buddy's mother--but it's okay because he turns out the mother was dead too and her friend from faking it. In a Kanigher/Carrillo story, a flight surgeon grounds a bomber pilot for several medical conditions, then has to help that same pilot fly blind so the surgical team can make a retreat from a Japanese attack.

The final Haunted Tank story is more ridiculous than most. When an explosion concusses Stuart's crew and leaves them acting delirious, Jeb ties them up in the tank and completes the mission solo rather than turn them over to the medics who might could help them because--well, it's not really clear, other than they never reported him for talking to ghosts no one else sees, but I don't think it's the same thing. In the end, Stuart prevails and the crew snaps out of it just in time to ride to the rescue.


Ghosts #107: I think this is the second themed issue we've had since I started this? Anyway, in the first story by Kanigher and Bender, a Welsh king takes his crown to the grave rather than pass it to one of his no-account sons. Which leads them to dig it up and generally engage in treachery and murder until all are dead, and the King's ghost sees it pass into the hands of a young shepherd boy. In the next story with art by Rodriguez, a circus acrobat murders his sisters lover, but then is attacked by a tiger and injured so the only circus job he can get is that of a clown. And he's going to lose that job too, until he steals a crown from a pawnshop and declares himself King of Clowns. That night, he drinks excessively in celebration near an oil lamp, and manage to catch himself, then part of the forest on fire. He dies in the blaze.

Finally, and most unexpectedly, the crown winds up with a chimpanzee who had been taught sign language then given an operation so they she could theoretically speak. The ghost briefly possesses the chimp and speaks through her, but then it winds up in the talons of an eagle who drops it out at sea.


Justice League #197: Hell hath no fury like super-villains scorned! The Ultra-Humanite's plan goes into its final phase with the 10 heroes captured in the previous two parts being banished to Limbo. All the heroes subsequently disappear from Earth-Two. Ultra reveals he knew this all along, and he and the Earth-Two baddies dismiss their duped Earth-One allies. Killer Frost ain't having it. She leads the Earth-One crew to the JLA satellite where they use the transporter to go to Limbo and rescue the heroes. The heroes return to Earth-Two and in a rematch, defeat their opponents, returning things to normal. 

Monday, September 5, 2022

Views on the Great Wheel


Intelligent beings of planar aware civilizations have attempted to conceptualize the meaning of the Outer Planes. Some of the these explanations are mutual exclusive, but that does not mean they are false. The planes are beyond human understanding in their totality. Or best theories are vastly simplified models.

Pseudo-Xrieixes in his frequently cited commentaries to the Analects of Law, proposed that the cosmos was in fact driven by seven syzygies, with the concepts in the pairs being conceptualized as planes, but unable to be fully comprehended in isolation. The earliest of the these was Law and Chaos, but others were elaborated in an increasingly complicated universe:

Community and Isolation
Abnegation of self and egotism
Willing service and imprisonment
Contentment and despair
The natural world and perversion of nature
Liberty and authority
Noble struggle and senseless conflict

Seswura views the planes are distinct entities. She is less concerned with their opposing planes across the wheel, and more concerned with the "major gravities" of concept in the local area. She states their various ethe in the following way (in Grelmarthan's translation):

Mechanus: The Program is All. Execute the Program and Unity will be restored.
Archeron: Law is what Authority makes it. An Army will be forged and subdue enemies without and within.
Hell: The Law must punish all transgression. If Unity cannot be restored we will fashion a new Order.
Gehenna: Nothing burns in Hell but Self-will, and we will immolate it for the New Order.
Hades: All that is left of self is Despair.
Carceri: The Demons of Self-Will must be chained and taught to self-confine.
Abyss: There is only Self and only ever was. All else is ugly falsehood and must be destroyed.
Pandemonium: Is there self? What are these voices that torment?
Limbo: Change is all. Unity is eternal and also never was.
Ysgard: All things are impermanent but the contest. We will harness chaos through noble struggle.
Arborea: Revel in freedom and passion, and let others do the same.
Beastlands: There is a cycle to all things. Be in the moment.
Elysium: What is the Godhead but Joy?
Bytopia: Be content in good works at the foot of the Mountain.
Heaven: There is a Mountain and at its Peak you may know the utter self-lessness of Unity.
Arcadia: Not all may scale the Mountain, but all can find meaning in Law at its foot.

Friday, September 2, 2022

The Known World in the Real World

I've previously re-imagined Karameikos as a state in the Balkans. I don't think it's the only D&D setting Known locale that would be easy to translate into fictional countries in the real world. Here are some others:

Darokin: An alpine microstate and republic (like it's larger neighbor, Switzerland), likely descended from the kingdom of the Lombards. It's a modern banking center.

Glantri: A city-state near the Italian-Slovenian border, landlocked, but not far from the Adriatic.

Ierendi: A volcanic archipelago, part of Macronesia, in the North Atlantic.

The Isle of Dread: A mysterious island in the South Pacific.

And here's a now a non-Known World one:

Barovia: A small region in the Carpathian Mountains in Eastern Europe.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Wednesday Comics: DC, November 1981 (wk 2 pt 2)

My goal: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around August 20, 1981. 


Green Lantern #146: Following his defeat last issue, the Goldface has Green Lantern captive and shows him off to a bunch of criminals he invited over in his bid to become a crime boss. Then, Green Lantern remembers that he can effect things that are yellow indirectly and busts out them defeats Goldface. The cops show up and arrest GL, because he's in Goldface's house and the villain claims assault. It seems like Wolfman is trying to make Green Lantern seem like a loser, and the plot seems like something out of a Bronze Age Spider-Man story. I just don't see Green Lantern doing much crimefighting of the Earthly variety, but that's just me.

Infantino is handling pencils on the Laurie Sutton Adam Strange backup. Strange's defeat of the spider creature last time only led to it reproducing. Now it's kids are the problem. It turns out they aren't out to destroy, they just need to food to hatch from their larval stage and go home to space. 


Legion of Super-Heroes #281: Ditko is back on art. The Legion is trapped in 20th Century Smallville as they try to unravel this Reflecto/Superboy/Ultra-Boy mystery, and they have to contend with an android menace called the Molecule Master, the U.S. Army, and townsfolks' intense thoughts about Saturn Girl's outfit! Oh, and the Time Trapper shows up in the end.


New Adventures of Superboy #23: Bates and Schaffenberger continue their story from last month with Superboy, convinced that he's a menace due to some mistakes, deciding to travel into the past because he believes that's the only place he can't hurt anyone. (His reasoning is the past is immutable, so anything he is able to do had already happened anyway.) He winds up in the Old West and gets a job as a reporter, but eventually finds trouble in the form of outlaw Jess Manning and an alien outlaw, too. Superboy gets his confidence back, and the alien adopts Manning's son Toby who will one day become the Superman villain Terra-Man.

In the backup story, the President of the United States (who looks like JFK) has trouble getting in touch with Superboy to take care of an emergency, so the Boy of Steel creates the emergency signal lamp whenever the police chief of Smallville needs to reach him.


Sgt. Rock #358: Kanigher and Redondo again have Rock interacting with kids as he meets a group of war orphans playing at soldiers, but he when the Germans actually attack, Rock tries to save them. They end up saving him when a tank spoils his Molotov cocktail throw. Then we get a story that I feel like we've seen before where a German frogman kills an Allied one, but then is himself killed by a shark. Next is a story set at the time of the Norman Invasion of England where a young peasant becomes a warrior after being taunted and later wishes he had stayed out of the bloodletting. The last story is a "Men of Easy" focus on Jackie Johnson. He uses a grenade in a boxing glove to blow up a German tank.


Unexpected #216: In the cover story by Mishkin and Gonzales, a European vampire has landed in Japan and is preying about the peasantry in the year 1600. A young samurai defeats the creature with the help of a Christian priest. The samurai considers killing the priest and his feels the powerful magic (the Christian symbols) that helped to defeat the vampire are a threat to Japan, but ultimately he decides to leave it to fate. 

The next story is the worst of the issue, with the youngest of the three witches getting a criminal caught who displeased her. The Harris/Zamora story that follows it about a dream door and a fraudulent psychotherapist is only marginally better. It does poke fun at the disappearance of the ongoing features from the past year in the horror titles (like Mr. E, Dr, 13, etc.). The final story by Newman and Landgraf is a overly complicated sci-fi piece about aliens taking the form of robots in an orbital station, convinced they are the rulers of Earth when they are actually the servants.


Unknown Soldier #257: Haney and Ayers/Tlaloc have the Soldier turn the tables on the Nazis who tricked him into believing he had been in a coma and the war ended: he tells them there's a secret missile on the Scottish coast about to fire at Berlin. When they take him there to show them, he escapes and manages get to England to fool the Germans into thinking the Enigma Machine was destroyed.

The next story is a pessimistic tale about a racist  white soldier about the costs of prejudice by Kanigher and Sparling. It contains a couple of racial slurs that wouldn't appear outside of mature reader comics just a few years later. Kanigher is on the next one, too, with art by Gonzales: Captain Storm. I know Storm from the Losers, but here is his origin as a PT boat captain with a grudge against a Japanese sub with shark teeth painted on its bow that killed his crew and cost him a leg. There's a brief appearance by JFK.


Warlord #51:  The many story is a reprint of Warlord #1. The backup is the debut of Dragonsword by Levitz and Yeates. A young knight, Thiron of the King's Isle, accompanied by his talking chimp squire, slays a dragon, but finds that the dragon may in fact live on in his now-talking sword.


World's Finest Comics #273: In the Burkett and Gonzales/Smith continue the story from last issue with Superman and Batman trying to find out who sent the robots that stole some weaponry from the Fortress of Solitude. In a Chekhov's gun moment, Supes shows Bats his "Power Charger" that would restore a Kryptonian's powers temporarily if lost to Gold Kryptonite or give a non-Kryptonian powers--but them kill anyone that used it. They track the mastermind, called the Weapon Master, to his mountain hideout, but he shoots down the batplane, and defeats Superman with Kryptonite. The Weapon Master uses his devices to make Superman and everyone else mindless slaves--except Batman who is back at the Fortress, preparing to use the Power Charger to save the world...

In the Green Arrow story, Count Vertigo has launched a missile toward Moscow, forcing Green Arrow and his sidekick to sick the aid of a Soviet military officer and his troops to take Vertigo down and stop the missile. Pasko and Staton bring more Plastic Man goofiness with Plas taking down murderers in the fashion industry. Punny names abound. In the Hawkman story, the Hawks take a moment to taunt Hyathis before rushing back to Earth to take care of a Thanagarian spy which they deduce to be Byth. Hawkman finally gets him when Byth (disguised as Hawkwoman) calls himself "Hawkgirl." The Bridwell/Newton Shazam story is pretty good. Sivana is upset when he finds out he one a Nobel Prize and tries to turn his trip to the ceremony into another attempt to take over the world, but his efforts are subverted by Captain Marvel and he wins another Nobel Prize.