Sunday, July 31, 2022

Vrusk for 5e

Another species in my 5e pulp sci-fi game, which will probably be somewhat familiar to those of you that remember Star Frontiers... 


Vrusk resemble giant arthropods, though they have internal skeletons. Eight legs grow from their abdomen, four on each side. Their torso is upright and humanoid, with two arms connected at the shoulders. A Vrusk's shoulders are double-jointed, so they can rotate their arms in a full circle without straining any muscles. They can reach any point on their abdomen or behind their backs easily. Vrusk hands are circular pads with five, evenly spaced fingers around the edge.

Vrusk have a highly regimented society where everyone knows their role and performs it for the good of all. This was not always the case and hive conflict in the past hastened the environmental decline of Marva and nearly drove the Vrusk to extinction. Modern Vrusk are seen as industrious, stoic, and rational. Their Council of Experts advise and oversee the various citizen committees which manage most aspects of Vrusk society. Vrusk consider it their duty to serve their race in whatever capacity required of them.

Of course, Vrusk have their free thinkers and eccentrics just like any other people. Where the Vrusk collective cannot find creative ways to utilize these individuals, they are politely ostracized, and they drift elsewhere in the system.

Homeworld: Marva 

Average Height: 1.5 meters tall, 1.5 meters long

Average Weight: 85 kg

Phenotypic Variation: Vrusk skin and carapace varies in color from dull red-brown to black. Their eyes likewise vary in color. These distinctions to not represent any meaningful groups within Vrusk society so far as humans know.

Reproduction: Two sexes, oviviparous


Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity, Intelligence, and Wisdom scores increase by 1.

Age. Vrusk mature similarly to humans, and have a life expectancy of 175 years.

Size. You are Medium or Small. You choose the size when you select this species.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 40 feet.

Ambidexterity. All Vrusk are ambidextrous and gain an ability to use any melee weapon that does not have the two-handed property in either hand. When fighting with two melee weapons at once, you are able to have your ability modifier to the attack in the second hand, provided it is a light weapon.  

Comprehension. Given their complicated, hierarchical society, Vrusks are attuned to intricacies of social dealings. You gain advantage on Wisdom (Insight) and Charisma (Deception) checks.

Educated. The Vrusk education system is second to none, you gain an additional skill proficiency of your choice.

Natural Armor. A Vrusk’s hard carapace provides natural protection. You have an Armor Class of 13 plus your Dexterity modifier when not wearing armor. If there are multiple features available to determine your AC, you choose which one to use.

Poor Swimmers. A Vrusk is a poor swimmer, and you will have disadvantage on Strength (Athletic) checks for swimming.

Languages. You can speak, read and write in Solar Trade Common and Marvanic.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Plasmoids for 5e

A species in my 5e pulp sci-fi game, which will probably be somewhat familiar to those of you that remember Star Frontiers... 

Art by Jason Sholtis


Plasmoids are rubbery, elastic invertebrates. They can change their shape at will, creating a number of pseudopods as needed. Their skin is a flexible and surprisingly tough membrane. It generally is dull gray and lined with dark veins that meet at the Plasmoid’s two eye spots. The internal structure of a Plasmoid is much more chaotic than other species. Their central nerve bundle or brain and subordinate nerve clusters, numerous small hearts and other internal organs float in proteinaceous fluid with the consistency of pudding. 

Plasmoids are generally good-natured, philosophical and thoughtful. They seem unconcerned with wealth, power or status symbols. They are infamous for their strange sense of humor. They love old jokes and groan-worthy puns. Human comedians who can’t buy a laugh on New Terra can get rich performing on Merkuro, though few are willing to make the trip to that forbidding world.

Homeworld: Merkuro

Average Size: 1.3 m tall, 1 m wide

Average Weight: 65 kg

Phenotypic Variation: Individual Plasmoids are not quite identical, but do not vary in predictable ways reflecting ethnicity or familial relationships.

Reproduction: Sequential hermaphroditism, offspring bud off of mother


Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 2, and your Constitution score increases by 1.

Age.  Plasmoids are fully mature within 1 year after budding and usually live up to 250 years.

Size. You are Medium or Small. You choose the size when you select this species.

Speed. Your walking speed is 20 feet, though this may be improved by adding additional limbs.

Blindsight. You have blindsight within 30 feet by using your chemical and tactile senses.

Elasticity. You can squeeze through a space as narrow as 1 inch along its narrowest dimension, provided you are wearing and carrying nothing. You also have advantage on ability checks you make to initiate or escape a grapple. 

Grappler. Because of your elastic nature, you have advantage on attack rolls against any creature that you have grappled.

Resilience. You have natural resistance to piercing and slashing damage.

Shape Self. If you are not incapacitated, you can reshape your body to give yourself a head, one or two arms, one or two legs, and makeshift hands and feet, or you can revert to a limbless blob (no action required). You can have a total number of limbs equal to your Dexterity Ability score divided by 2. A Plasmoid needs at a minimum of 2 legs to be able to walk at base speed. A Plasmoid with 3 legs has a walking speed of 25 feet, and 4 legs or more has a walking speed of 30 feet.

As a bonus action, you can extrude a new pseudopod that is up to 6 inches wide and 4 feet long or reabsorb one into your body. This requires concentration until the start of your next turn. If you have three or more arms, you gain one additional unarmed melee attack or grapple as a Bonus Action during your turn when using an Attack action. Also, you can perform a Use Object Action as a Bonus action. You can use this pseudopod to manipulate an object, open an unlocked door or container, stow or retrieve an item from an open container, or pour out the contents of a container without the use of a Bonus Action.

Languages. You can speak, read and write in Solar Trade Common and Merkuran.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Wednesday Comics: DC, October 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 July 23, 1981. 

Legion of Super-Heroes #280: So Reflecto wasn't Ultra Boy, he's Superboy--but a Superboy who thinks he's Ultra Boy. The Legion sets out to interrogate him to find out the truth. When that proves inconclusive, they decide to travel back to the 20th Century to see if they can solve the mystery. This story seems to take place before (at least partially) the team-up with Batman in the Brave and the Bold issue this month, as that is foreshadowed here.

New Adventures of Superboy #22: Bates and Schaffenberger put the Teen of Steel through the ringer in a story titled "The Heroic Failures of Superboy." A series of heroic deeds seem to lead to worse unintended consequences, so Superboy gets so bummed out he leaves Smallville. 

In the Krypto backup by Rozakis and Tanghal, Krypto proves himself a hero to canine kind as he saves a dog falsely accused of being rabid from execution and catches two human crooks.

Sgt. Rock #357: Kanigher and Redondo end this one on a darker note than usual. Rock and Easy save an orphan from a bombed convent school, and Rock discovers the boy wears his dogtags. He recalls saving an orphaned infant and recognizes this must be the kid grown older (just how long has this war gone on?). Anyway, Rock goes through various perils to get the kid to his new family, but in the end we see the family are secret Nazis! 

In an amateurish early work by Ron Randall, mutants in 2095 overwhelm the last of the human troops that had sought to exterminate them. Finally, a clan feud in the Scottish highlands is settled by the serpentine Beast of Blackloch in a tale drawn by Jan Duursema.

Unexpected #215: Not much good this month. Harris and Rodriquez present a Victorian era tale of a Scotland yard detective who falls for a beautiful woman while investigating a series of murders of woman, only to discover she's the murderer, killing attractive women she is jealous of. Snyder/Ayers give us a non-horror story about a woman looking at old pictures of her kid with the twist he became a criminal and got the electric chair. Snyder doubles down on no horror with a "comedic" (in form, if not result tale of a guy who daydreams about flying, and one day he does. Snyder's third story is slightly better than the other two and is about a guy in a post-apocalyptic future who throws away his gun because because its a continued symbol of violence and hate--only then to be weaponless when he needs to save a woman from a pack of feral dogs. I did say only slightly better!

The last story by Wessler and Nebres has a woman and her hypnotherapist husband scheme to stop her brother's new girlfriend from becoming his wife and inheriting his money by hypnotizing her into worrying about his age and healthy. When the girlfriend dies from worry, the hypnotherapist goes to jail, but the sister's ambitions are thwarted after her brother cremates his money with his girlfriend.

Unknown Soldier #256: Haney and Ayers/Tlaloc come up with an inventive problem for the Soldier. He's concussed in a bombing in London, and wakes up what he's told is months later in an underground resistance enclave. It seems the German's have conquered the UK and the USA has signed a treaty. Before he figures out its all a Nazi trick, he gives away the location (vaguely) of the Enigma machine! Before he can plot his escape, the Germans are coming to kill him.

In the Dateline: Frontline, we get a Comics Code safe taste of the cruelty of the Bataan Death March, before the protagonist manages to escape the Philippines. The Micheline/Simonson Captain Fear comes to an all to soon, but action-packed conclusion. Fear and the ninja team-up to leave the Spaniard without gold or the document. There's also a story about a Japanese soldier who believes he's following Bushido and two American soldiers: one who tries and fails to understand his enemies code, and one who is dismissive of it.

Warlord #50:  Read about this issue here. No backup this month.

World's Finest Comics #272: In the Burkett and Buckler/Giella Batman and Superman lead. Supes hears that Batman has been getting more ruthless lately, and this being 1981 not 1986, he goes to try to cheer his friend up, not violently confront him. He invites Batman to the Fortress of Solitude. It's tempting, but these criminals aren't going to capture themselves--so Superman basically kidnaps Batman. At the fortress they reminisce about old times and Superman thinks it maybe Robin leaving that changed Batman's mood. Anyway, Superman has speed away to help some people caught in an avalanche. It turns out the avalanche was artificial created to get him away from the fortress so robots with phasing abilities can rob the place. They don't expect Batman to be there though. He manages to keep the robots at bay until Superman gets back. The robots are being controlled by an alien spacecraft, but that gets away. To be continued.

Haney and von Eeden/Breeding send Green Arrow and one of followers to Vlatava to return Count Vertigo's body--but it's all a trick! And a very Haneyian trick, at that. Now Vertigo has gained new power. In the Rozakis and Saviuk/Rodriguez Hawkman story, Katar traps a Thanagarian invasion fleet in hyperspace, which shocks Hawkgirl with its callousness--enough that she makes the long overdue demand that he call her Hawkwoman, not girl. On the other hand The Robot Killer learns tolerance in the Conway/Delbo Red Tornado story where he and Reddy most rely on each other after getting trapped after an explosion. In the Bridwell/Newton/Mitchell Mary Marvel story, Mary uses her brains to defeat a one-off villainess, Chain Lightning, who figures out she can steal Marvel's powers.

Monday, July 25, 2022

West Coast Avengers: Radioactive Fallout!

Last night, we continued our double exploration of out of print games by running through the MSHrpg adventure Last Resort using Marvel Heroic Roleplaying

Not remembering how close Pyro was to done, I elided the end of that combat, and the crew picked up with the interrogation of the mutant villain. He spun the say tale about the caves to the North and Mr. Chu. The team called in the park rangers to pick him up, too, and moved on to cliffs.

Soon they ran in to Whirlwind, and even after Hawkeye successful suckerpunched him (metaphorically speaking) Whirlwind put up a good ight, refusing to go down, even though he had no success in hurting the heroes. He eventually tells them a similar story to the others.

Finally, reaching the cliffs, Tigra is scouting a cave, when she spotted a big green guy seated on a log in a clearing. Hawkeye is sure it's the Radioactive Man, and shoots a foaming radiation absorbing arrow, that bounces off the guy's back. The battle is joined, and the first round is a draw. Then, the Radioactive Man attempts to sicken them all with an intense dose of radiation. Not only do they resist, but Tigra turns her acrobatic escape into a counter-attack, and claws at his face. Wonder Man stepped in to deliver the knockout punch.

Hawkeye yells at him for hitting Radioactive Man right as he was about to say something about the Mandarin.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Olshevsky's Marvel Time Revisited

I had forgotten I had written a post about this back in 2018. I've updated it a bit here. To allow their characters to stay evergreen, both Marvel and DC have established "sliding timelines" so that the present is always today, and modern Heroic Ages of their respective universes are only 10 or 15 (or some less specified number) of years old.
(There is some evidence Dan DiDio was looking to kind of abandon this at DC in favor of "generations," but then he got the boot before he could do it.)

As I've mentioned before, this was not always the case. George Olshevsky's Marvel indices argue that in the early years, Marvel seemed to preceded in real time. While most are unfazed by this, at least this guy thinks abandoned it ruined the Marvel Universe. While I wouldn't go that far, I do think there are certainly tradeoffs. The eternal present comes at the sacrifice of allowing characters to truly grow and inevitably means big changes are impermanent.

Anyway, here are the "Marvel Years" as outlined by Olshevsky. He measures them by years in Peter Parker's life. The actual calendar years are my addition and relate to the most likely real-world translation (if your were inclined to do that) based on the time of publication.

YEAR ONE [1960-1961] (PP-HS-SophY):
June*- FF spaceflight.
Sept. - Peter Parker is a junior in high school.
Winter – events of FF #1.
(Hank Pym in the Ant-Hill) (The Hulk)
Spring (March-April) – Peter Parker becomes Spider-Man [Aug 62]
intro Thor
debut Ant-Man

YEAR TWO [1961-1962] (PP HS-JunY)
debut Wasp
Intro. Dr. Strange

YEAR THREE [1962-1963](PP HS-SenY):
Sept. – PP is a senior in high school.
Sept. – The Avengers form.
Oct. – The X-Men go public. [Sep 63]
November – Ant-Man becomes Giant Man.
mid-Dec. – The Black Widow first appears.
March – Iron Man fights Hawkeye and Black Widow.
May – Reed and Sue engaged. Johnny and Ben almost meet the Beatles.
June – Hawkeye joins Avengers. PP and JS graduate High School. Quicksilver and SW join the Avengers. Reed and Sue marry. Nick Fury named director of SHIELD.
July – Galactus arrives. Sentinels. Quentin Quire is born. (this wasn't in Olshevsky!)

YEAR FOUR [1963-1964] (PP-CY-1):
Peter Parker’s freshman year of college.
Winter- Captain Mar-Vell arrives.
Feb. - Bobby Drake (Iceman) turns 18.
Late May-early June – 1: Lorna Dane
Summer. Franklin Richards born.

YEAR FIVE [1964-1965] (PP CY-2):
September. The Vision is created. Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne are married.
Late Sept-early Oct – 1: Sunfire
June-July: Hank McCoy goes to work for Brand Corp

YEAR SIX [1965-1966] (PP CY-3):
October – Beast gets furry.
May – GXM#1. The New X-Men

YEAR SIX [1966-1967] (PP CY-4):
Sept – Thunderbird dies.
Jan – Jean Grey replaced by Phoenix.

If Jean Grey was 24 when she is presumed to have died (based on the dates on her tombstone), and she is the same age as Peter Parker, then she must have died around 1968-69. This might jibe well with X-Men #101, which depicts snow in New York City on Christmas, something that has only happened 18 times since 1900, but did happen in 1966.

*Obviously the start date is speculative. Fantastic Four #1 was published in August of 1961 so the events must have occurred before that. 

Friday, July 22, 2022

The DC Comics Work of Alan Grant

Art by Norm Breyfogle

The Scottish comics writer Alan Grant passed away yesterday. He started his career with 2000AD and Judge Dredd, but I became aware of him when he and co-writer John Wagner teamed up with artist Norm Breyfogle on Detective Comics. For me, and I think perhaps a lot of others, that late 80s-early 90s run really defines the post-Crisis Batman. The run added several interesting villains to the Batman's rogues gallery, and one perhaps the pantheon of all-time greats: The Ventriloquist.

His other big contribution to DC was probably the Lobo limited series with Keith Giffen and Simon Bisley. Lobo had first appeared in the Omega Men, but this series recreated him essentially and catapulted the character to super-stardom for a time--and unfortunately, over-exposure.

To get a taste of Grant's DC work, I would suggest starting with Batman: The Dark Knight Detective vol. 2, The Batman/Judge Dredd Collectionand  Lobo by Keith Giffen & Alan Grant Vol. 1.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

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

My goal: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around July 23, 1981.

Action Comics #524: The Superman titles of this era are big on callbacks and continuity, definitely. Perhaps it's the writers, like Martin Pasko here, being former fanboys? A Luthor-created clone escapes from the Fortress of Solitude (though he thinks he's the real Superman at first) and tries to steal Clark Kent's life. Superman defeats him, but the convenient death of a family-less newscast allows the clone to assume that guy's life, so everybody lives happily ever after.

The Atom backup continues the Calculator story that was already stretched then, by having the Calculator escape from a court room. He's prepared for the Atom's powers, so the Atom calls in Air Wave to help him out. Sorry, Rozakis and Saviuk, but this feels like filler.

Adventure Comics #486: This demonic creature, Grockk, sends his supervillain minions to make way for his kingdom on Earth. They're stopped by the Dial "H" kids in the usual array of supposedly reader suggested superhero identities. Also, Chris is giving Vicki a hard time about hanging with her old boyfriend and reformed badboy, Brad, which only serves to make him look bad and drive Vicki closer to Brad. So much so she goes on a solo Hero Dial adventure and wanders if she needs a partner, after all.

Brave & the Bold #179: Pasko and Colon/DeCarlo have Anton Halkor, an ally of Universo's, traveling to 20th Century Gotham replace a time capsule with a look alike alien, anti-matter egg from the 30th Century, but Batman comes to the future to get help from the Legion of Super-Heroes to stop him. I like that the Legion don't know Batman (though certainly know of him) but it doesn't take much to convince them he's the real deal, because hey, folks time traveling happens to them all the time.

All-Star Squadron #2: Given their marching orders by FDR, the nascent Squadron heads out to the West Coast to protect it from further Japanese aggression. This provides a chance for everyone to introduce themselves. Meanwhile, the heroes captured by Per Degaton get an ear full of his origin and his evil plan for conquest. The heroes manage to stop his hypnotized Japanese pilots flying toward San Francisco, but Degaton decides to eliminate the rest of the JSA with a volcano--but then Shining Knight gets free..

Detective Comics #507: Continues the Conway/Newton Manikin story. Batman manages to save the designer Hoston and escape the fire, but only because the smoke takes its toll on Manikin. That gives Batman the idea of get some sort of spray sealant to cut off her air long enough to incapacitate her. While Batman is preparing his weapon and a trap to lure her out, we get the Manikin's origin. She is, of course, a model and the woman Batman saved from the car. Horribly disfigured she's out for revenge on the fashion designers--one of which she thinks is responsible. Her devoted brother made the suit for her. Despite his warnings, Manikin walks into the trap. Batman defeats her with the sealant, but only her brother is able to convince her to choose life over revenge. Batman confronts Hoston about the car fire, and he confesses his guilt. This was a solid two-parter.

House of Mystery #297: DeMatteis and Sutton are back with I...Vampire. Bennett and friends are on the trail of the monks from a Zen monastery who they are told now serve the Blood Moon, but it turns out to be a trick. The monks are vampires, but like Bennett, have retained their humanity. Then there's an EC-esque story by Kashdan and Carrillo about a crooked televangelist who's schtick is he beats the devil on all his broadcasts. When his devil actor threatens to reveal he's a fraud, the televangelist kills him. The replacement is the actual devil who disintegrates the preacher on TV. The final story by Conway and Cowan/De Zuniga is about a musician whose been around since the 30s, thanks to the fact he's a mutant with the ability to draw life force for anyone who can hear his singing. When a journalist discovers his longevity, he drains her to keep his secret, but he when his car wrecks shortly thereafter he's mortally wounded--and outside a hospital for the deaf.

Green Lantern #145: Wolfman and Staton are still on duty here. Carol's dad isn't all bad as he buys her a cliffside mansion like in Malibu or something. She lets Hal stay in the Gardener's house because she isn't ready for commitment. Meanwhile, Richard Davis, the new Ferris Aircraft VP and mentor of Hal's is acting oddly, like there's a health issue with him. The big problem this issue is Goldface's attempts to become a crime boss. He fights GL and beats him--GL not seeming to realize until late in the fight that his inability to use his ring against yellow only applies to directly using it against yellow.

In the Adam Strange backup from Sutton and Infantino a giant, ugly insect attacks Rann, and Strange defeats it but gets sent back to Earth before the eggs start to hatch.

Superman Family #211: Pasko (he's all over the place this month!) and Mortimer present the Supergirl story. A psychic saboteur, the Mind-Bomber, boosts Lena Luthor powers so she figures out Supergirl's identity. Supergirl is weirded out by the way stories in the soap opera she works on predict the Bomber's attacks, but it turn out that Lena was ghost-writing those scripts and the ideas were being planted in her mind by the bomber, who was really after revenge on his family. A lot of convolution here for little payoff.

The Bridwell/Schaffenberger Mr. and Mrs. Kent story have them stumbling upon an assassination plot at the wedding of Bruce Wayne and Selena Kyle. The plot turns on a bit of comics trivia that the Earth-Two Two-Face is named Harvey Kent, not Dent. In the Private Life of Clark Kent, Clark gets a visit from Elongated Man. He thinks its a ploy by someone to reveal his identity as Superman to Dibny but the truth is dumber: Dibny just dreamed a phone call. Conway and Oksner have Lois Lane getting too close to a hostage situation so she gets taken hostage herself, but ultimately she saves the day. Pasko's and Delbo's Jimmy Olsen has Jimmy confronting the criminal that tried to ruin his life with duplicates. His friends and family (well, mainly Superman) come to his rescue, and Olsen helps the guy who had set out to hurt him.

Monday, July 18, 2022

A Journey to Pre-Azurth


Our Land of Azurth 5e campaign continued last night with the party following a puppy automaton into a scret cave where they found a strange observatory, and it's observer, Lum-One, a automaton version of Mirabilis Lum. He says he's been expecting them. He needs them to go into the prehistory of Azurth and foil "the Shadow" (by which he means the servants of the Anti-Sun, not the living shadow that has been perplexing the party). Lum's theory was that Azurth was born from solidified chaos magic that fell to earth in the distance past (these celestial objects were the origin of the Whim-Wham Stone), and the Anti-Sun's servants are trying to co-opt that.

He reveals to the party that Lum is likely still alive, but senile, and residing in a junkyard city in Sang. He doesn't know anything about the Clockwork Princess' current doings.

He also suggests the shadow the party has been dealing with may be a temporally fractured individual.

All that deep lore out of the way, the party agrees and is transported to a landscape that looks post-apocalyptic (there are ruins of strange buildings) but they do find the knife-like, black tower he told them to find.

Eldritch glyphs that decorate many doors and some floors prove punishing for the unwary, and the party doesn't make it far before needing to rest. Kully does get to viciously mock a gray ooze, though. They do find out something of the tower's workings, however from the writings of whoever was here before. It was apparently built to capture and channel the chaos magic of the stone from the heavens.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Damselfly for Marvel Heroic

Here's another Marvel Heroic RPG adaptation. This time, one of my own creations. You can read more about her here.

Art by Dean Kotz

Xazandra Zaantarz/Cassandra “Cassie” Saunders [secret]

Affiliations: Solo d8  Buddy d6  Team d10

Distinctions: Alien Law Enforcer; Called a Traitor on Zurrz-Zann; Compassion must always temper justice

Power Sets:
Alien Physiology
Insect Control d8 Enhanced Senses d8
SFX: Stronger on Earth. When using Insect Control to create an asset or complication, add a D6 and step up your effect die.
Limit: Feedback. Shutdown a Alien Physiology power to gain 1 PP. Recover power by activating an opportunity or during a Transition Scene.

Biomechanical Enhancements
Enhanced Reflexes d8 Shrinking d10 Flight d6
SFX: Boost. Spend 1 PP to step up or double Biomechanical Enhancement power for one die roll.
Size Matters. Add a complication equal to Shrinking to an opposing dice pool to gain 1 PP.

Enforcer Equipment
Energy Blast d8 Enhanced Durability d8
SFX: Stun Setting. If your attack roll includes Energy Blast, add a d6 and step up physical 
stress. If the target is stressed out from this attack, they take no trauma.
SFX: Burst Setting. If your attack roll includes Energy Blast, add a d6 and keep an additional effect die for each additional target.
Gear. Shutdown Enforcer Equipment power to gain 1 PP. Take an action vs. the 
doom pool to recover Enforcer Equipment.

Specialties: Combat Expert d8, Covert Expert d8, Crime Expert d8, Psych Expert d8, Tech Expert d8

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Wednesday Comics: DC, October 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 July 9, 1981.

Justice League of America #195: This is a good one from Conway and Perez/Beatty and builds anticipation for the next issue. A shadowy someone recruits the Monocle from Earth-2 and Killer Frost from Earth-1 then sends them to recruit Psycho-Pirate, Signalman, Cheetah (her first appearance since the 2-parter that introduced her in Wonder Woman), the Ragdoll, Brainwave, the Mist, and the Floronic Man for a new Sercret Society of Super-villains. It turns out that the mastermind is the Ultra-Humanite whose got a plan to take out selected heroes from the two universes, thus causing an equilibrium reaction that will wipe out all heroes from one universe or the other. Oookay. Of course, Ultra isn't telling the crew everything he knows. Anyway, the JSA and JLA are having their annual mixer, so their guard is down. The villains split up and acquire their targets: Black Canary, Earth-2 Hawkman, and Earth-1 Wonder Woman this issue. This such classic, meat-and-potatoes supers right here. 

Krypton Chronicles #2: Bridwell and Swan continue to explore Superman's family tree. In the frame story, Supes figures out the yagrum beast from last issue is only an illusion. Zor-El helps Superman to learn the stories of yet more of his ancestors through a device connected to their headbands, which have absorbed some of their memories in addition to their sweat. He learns about Hatu-El, who helped liberate the Kryptonians from the alien Vrangs; Sul-El, who developed a telescope, saw the Vrang fleet in space, and tried to warn the governor of Kandor; Val-El, an explorer who discovered new lands; and of Val's black sheep brother Tro-El, who led an unsuccessful mutiny and became founder of an isle of pirates. While Superman is living genealogy, Supergirl nabs Black Flame, who has been trying to prolong Superman's and Supergirl's stay until the Cosmic Axis shifts again to prevent them from returning to Earth. Superman and Supergirl leave Rokyn shortly before it vanishes, and Superman tells his cousin he has another plan to get information about his ancestors prior to Val-El.

New Teen Titans #12: The enthralled Wonder Girl and the Titans of Myth attack and defeat the gods of Olympus. Athena brings the other female Teen Titans and the Amazons to Olympus to regroup for a second attack. Starfire frees the captive Zeus, and Wonder Girl is released from Hyperion's enchantment. The Titans abruptly realize the error of their ways and decide to go back to Tartarus, returning Olympus to the gods, and our heroes and the Amazons go back to Paradise Island.

Secrets of Haunted House #41: Better than the last couple of issues, I think, though not by much. Rozakis/LaRoque get the cover with a somewhat humorous tell of a man who finds a toy castle in his attic which somehow grows to full size. When he's captured by the giant there, he has to be rescued by his young son who is aware of it and has done battle with the giant in the past. Snyder and Zamora present a stumbling block just out of the gate, though with a short about a talking dog. Harris and Ditko are up next with a story about a woman and her ex-convict boyfriend fleeing to the a desert house at the end of Devil's Tail Road. The name turns out to be very literally, as the boyfriend tries to seize a rather phallic looking treasure, which turns out to be the literal tip of the Devil's tail. Gwyon and Nicholas follow it up with a confused time travel yarn that has a man from the future coming back to euthanize his bed and pain ridden father, but winding up a bed-ridden old man himself because he changed time. 

Finally, there's a Rozakis/Spiegle tale about blood coming from a well, which ties into a Hawthrone story and seems (if we buy E's not wholly satisfying explanation) a hoax in the end.

Superman #364: Swan takes a break, and Buckler is on art chores this issue. Same old Bates kind of story, though. A Metropolis reporter named Rory is upset that Olsen, Kent, and Lane always win the awards, feeling that they have an unfair advantage on the big scoops as they are tight with Superman. Then, when a mysterious amorphous Metro-Monster begins striking the city, it's Rory turn to get the scoop because he gets an exclusive from the monster's secret ID. It turns out the monster is an audiologist whose monster transformation is due to him trying to cure his own tinnitus. Anyway, he gets cured, and Rory and Jimmy become friends.

In the  Rozakis and Saviuk Superman 2020 backup, we learn that Grandpa Superman went prematurely gray from exposure to red solar radiation, and he fights valiantly to prevent his grandson from sharing that fate. Who says its hard to find credible challenges for Superman?

Weird War Tales #104: The Creature Commandos are back (well, the Monster Marines) but only in a gag one-pager by Manak. We don't even get dinosaurs this issue. Instead, we get central American revolutionaries stumbling upon a lost city, and at least one of them succumbing to murderous greed, "The Secret Enemy." Kashdan and Rogue present a "moral dilemma" with no answer when a court has to decide what to do with now adult clones of Third Reich leaders. Cavalieri and Dikto present a pirate yarn that asserts the origin of the jolly roger was a skeletal ghost. 

The last story is the best of the issue, though that isn't saying much. A pompous Soviet general disturbs the tomb of Tamerlane in Samarkand in 1982, and he and his entire force suffer the vengeance of the ghost conqueror and his undead army.

Wonder Woman #284: The dragon from last issue turns out to be a robot, but we don't find that out until Wonder Woman defeats it. Diana, Steve and Chinese agent Lao Chen investigate and find more weapons stolen from the U.S., including a crate that held a new cruise missile. The three head to China to find the missile and stop the Red Dragon. Soon after the arrive they are knocked unconscious by a sleep-gas bomb hurled by one of the Dragon's agents, who inserts a "control crystal" in Steve's neck. A The Red Dragon launches the cruise missile, which is able to evade all known aircraft, at Peiping. Steve has a device which can control or abort the missile, but the Dragon exerts his control over him and Steve destroys the device, allowing the missile to hit the Great Wall!

In the Huntress backup, the Huntress and the Earth-2 Robin team-up to lean on an organized crime figure trying to frame their senior law partner.

Monday, July 11, 2022

West Coast Avengers: The Mysterious Mr. Chu

We continued our Marvel Heroic rpg adaptation of the MSHrpg adventure, The Last Resort. The players seemed a little better with the rules this week, whereas I had forgotten a few things.

The adventure continues to be very silly, with random B-list villains who (as the player's learn) have been paid to hide out in caves in a state park in Idaho, and then get teleported to a spot to waylay the West Coast Avengers. From a testing the mechanics standpoint, though, that works just fine and the PCs tangled with, and defeated Blizzard and had Pyro on the ropes when we stopped for the evening.

Marvel Heroic is simple in base rules but has a lot of little "extras" to remember, particularly in regard to how the metacurrency of Plot Points and the Doom Pool are used. Still, it is pretty fast paced, and opponents go down pretty quick: one or two rounds of PC attacks mostly.

Hawkeye discovered an important clue this adventure after Plantman spilled what he knew. All the villains were hired by a shadow Mr. Chu. Thanks to a call to the Avengers Compound and a run through the databanks, they found that to be a known alias of the Mandarin.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Hourman for Marvel Heroic

 Still getting used to the Marvel Heroic RPG, I decided to make up a couple of characters in the system to get the feel of it. Here's the Golden Age Hourman, missing only XP milestones.

Rex Tyler [secret]

Affiliations: Solo d10  Buddy d8  Team d6

Distinctions: Man of the Hour; Secret Champion of the Oppressed; Better Living Through Chemistry  

Power Sets:


Superhuman Strength d10 Superhuman Stamina d10 Superhuman Durability d10 Superhuman Speed d10
SFX: Focus. In a pool including a Miraclo die, replace two dice of equal steps with one die of +1 step.
Limit: The Hour’s Up. Shutdown any Miraclo power to gain 1 PP. Recover power by activating an opportunity or during a Transition Scene.

Specialties: Combat Expert d8, Covert Expert d8, Science Expert d8, Tech Expert d8

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Thursday Comics: DC, October 1981 (wk 1 pt 1)

I'm reading DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! I'm a day later than my usual Wednesday post, but I'm looking at the comics at newsstands on the week of  July 9, 1981. 

Arak Son of Thunder #2: Thomas and Colon/DeZuniga pick up the story with the Son of the Thunder washing up, well, somewhere in Europe, where he meets Corinna, the beautiful daughter of Lord Hessa, and runs afoul of the mute knights that protect her. He's taken to the castle, where Hessa takes a dislike to him and has him thrown in the dungeon--but not before Arak discovers the knights are merely armor animated by magic. In the dungeon, Arak meets Malagigi a sorcerer serving Carolus Magnus. Before Malagigi can clue Arak in on what's going on, the not suspicious at all Corinna frees our hero and gets him to run away with her into the forest. It turns out Corinna isn't daughter but mother to Hessa. She made a pact with a devil, and she's used Arak to help her escape. In the end, she goes willing with the devil to Hell, as revoking his gift makes her age rapidly, and she can't take it. Malagigi and Arak set out for Charlemagne's court. Setting-aside, a rather Conan-y story, which makes sense and it works.

Batman #340: Conway/Thomas and Colan/Gonzales have Batman take on another one-shot villain, the Mole. The mole has been mutated by exposure to toxic chemical into a humanoid mole (which is convenient as mutation goes, since his nickname was "the mole" before), and he's getting gruesome revenge on the people he thinks are responsible. Batman puts a stop to it, of course. This story has a bit more of a horror angle than your average Batman story, but it's otherwise unremarkable.

DC Comics Presents #38: I've read this Pasko/Heck Superman and Flash team-up before in the DC Showcase trade for DCP. Anyway, Superman and Flash find the world around them frozen in time--just when they both need to rescue someone from a deadly situation (Jim and Fiona, respectively). It's all due to the machinations of an alien tyrant, but she tricks our heroes into thinking the other is to blame so they fight each other. The thing I find most interesting about this story is that some of it takes place at a location 102 miles from Central City and 322 miles from Metropolis, which might help in locating the two. Or might not.

The "What Ever Happened To..." backup by Wein and Saviuk is about the Crimson Avenger, the first costumed superhero to appear in Detective Comics. Lee Travis, feeling forgotten, is dying of an incurable condition. Seeing a boat in trouble in the harbor, he rushes to the rescue as the Crimson Avenger, stopping to save a young boy along the way. The boat is carrying chemicals and ready to explode, but he guides it away from the city, but dies in the blast. No one on the boat knew who he was, so it appears he will be forgotten, but he told his name to the mother whose boy he saved and she and the boy remember. A simple story, but the sort of thing this strip was meant for.

Flash #302: Finally the identity of the villain impersonating Barry's dad is revealed, and it turns out to be the Top, which, no offense to all you Top stans, but I find sort of anti-climactic. Anyway, most of this issue is the Flash dealing with the Top's accomplice, the Golden Glider. In their first skirmish, she mesmerizes him somehow, and the smitten Flash lets her go. And man, the people of Central City turn on him quick for that. In their second clash, he's onto her tricks and relieves her of the hypnotic gem that made him fall for her. 

In the Firestorm backup, Ronnie is visiting the home of his girlfriend Doreen Day. He's trying to figure out the connection the Hyena has to their family. He decides to snoop in Doreen's sister Summer's diary, but the Hyena appears on the window seal and they do battle. Firestorm winds up in the middle of the Harlem River.

G.I. Combat #235: In the first Haunted Tank story, it seems that since now that the crew is in a Sherman tank, the ghost of General Sherman shows up to take over and Stuart is given the boot along with his Confederate emblem. He flashes back to the H.Q. in the Sky, where Alexander the Great first ordered him to look at the tank crew. Hans von Hammer was there to, in case you are interested, suggesting that Enemy Ace was dead by World War II. Anyway, eventually after we get several pages of how callous Sherman is, Stuart is back. 

The second story is much better than that nonsense, and is sort of Twilight Zone-esque, with the crew picking up a soldier with a head wound, who keeps asking about whether Stein is still alive. The crew assumes Stein was his body, and they are unable to stop the G.I.'s reckless search, but eventually it kills him. His dogtags reveal he was Stein.

Rounding out the issue, with got an O.S.S. story with Vera trying to get an art book that supposedly carries a message to Control out from under the nose of Goering as she tries to escape his castle. Then there's "P.F.C. Snafu" by Kashdan and Vicatan where a G.I.'s screw-ups in an artillery squad wind up being their lucky break. Finally, in a "Woman at War" story by Laurie and Trinidad, a M.A.S.H. nurse in Korea, refuses to take the life of a Chinese soldier who had spared hers, even though the Chinese forces had killed her twin brother.

Ghosts #105: Better than last issue, but that may be damning with faint praise. The highlights: A Kanigher/Carrillo story set in 18th Century Sicily where a French soldier seduces a local girl with promises of marriage, leading her to commit suicide but after vowing that he will be with her even if in death. Sure enough, years later on the day he is to marry another girl, an earthquake sends him fleeing into the graveyard, where he winds up falling into a chasm around the dead girl's grave and being buried alive. A Haney/Zamora story of graverobber has Digger Duggan agreeing to take a drug that will make him appear dead provided by the doctor he works for. He's buried alive, but dug up by a competitor who mistakes him for dead, but ultimately winds up on the vivisection table.

Less good is the Allikas/Spiegle tale of a child custody battle that gets really ugly when the recently deceased dad tries to convince his daughter to drown to be with him forever. He has a change of heart, though, when she appears willing to do it. The less said about the Snyder/Estrada story about a farmer who complains so much to the ghost in a wishing well, the ghost strangles him and steals his body, the better.

Jonah Hex #53: In true cliffhanger fashion, this issue reveals Hex was not in the cabin when it blew up last issue. He pursues the kidnappers and succeeds in getting the kid, Petey Foster back and returning him to his family. Unfortunately, He returns home to find a note from Mei Ling saying that has left him and taken the baby. In the meantime, Mei Ling seeks a shelter in the house of Hiram and Ruth. Hex proceeds to get drunk and starts seeing illusions from ghosts of the past including his abusive father and his old enemy El Papagayo.

In the mostly charmless Tejano Ranger backup by Cohn/Mishkin and Veitch/Yeates we are introduced to Antonio Ramirez, a Hispanic Texan, who sides with the colonists from the U.S. against the Mexican central government, serving as a ranger. He faces prejudice from the gringo Texans, and ends up facing the spears of General Rojas' cavalry, as he is captured by Mexican forces.

Monday, July 4, 2022

Salvage in Space

We played the first session of a "rockets and rayguns" pulp sci-fi game using a modified version of Rocket Age for 5e. The characters were:

Jones: human, ex-soldier
Lor' el-Am: Hadozee engineer
Mitchell: another human and ex-Space Marine
Trzkt: Vrusk scientist

All were marking time in Ziszkhar, a minor spaceport and domed city of Marva, when Trzkt was approached by another Vrusk named Niszk Zrnn, who was acting as an agent for an insurance claims for a big New Terran shipping insurance firm. The firm was interested in hiring a crew for a salvage mission in the Belt. Niszk thought Trzkt might know a suitable group. In fact, she did, and they agreed to meet the insurance agent.

Arlik Taine told them that his company was preparing to pay out a significant amount on the Aurora Queen, a new luxury spaceliner that had mysteriously disappeared in the Belt, just days from Marva. It's inaugural cruise with only a small group of passengers had been a cruise out to Kronion's moons. It was coming back when contact was lost. A prospector in the belt had a caught a glimpse of a derelict in the distance that might by the Queen, so Taine was willing to pay to have it checked out.

He added that there was a famous archeologist on board, Dr. Brennan Carter, who was returning from an expedition to one of the nameless moons of Vurania, with a treasure in exotic gems.

The crew was outfitted with an aging but serviceable cruiser, and they set out for the Belt, to the coordinates extrapolated from the prospector's sighting. They find the ship, powerless and tumbling through space. Attaching themselves with a magnetic grapple, they went inside. There was evidence of some bloody conflict in gruesome stains on walls and doors, but no bodies. In the ship's control room they found the bleeding and concussed officer in the uniform of the line, Captain Cyril Falconer. He tells them there is an invisible monster on the ship that has been slaughtering the crew and passengers!