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.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Weird Revisited: 70s TV Science Fiction Combined Timeline

Back in 2016, I was running a Planet of the Apes game that stole liberally from other science fiction shows besides PotA. In talking it over with my friend Jim Shelley of The Flashback Universe Blog, he hit on doing sort of trading cards of major timeline events. Here's my timeline, and what Jim did with it. I didn't use everything in the game, but it was a fun exercise.

An additional note: This is a TV timeline. A lot of dates in Planet of the Apes are given in the movies, so it doesn't so up in this version. The Logan's Run tv show and film offer different starting dates, but the show is being used here (though in my game, should the City of Domes ever show up, I'm using the movie date).

Creation of cyborgs (like the Six Million Dollar Man) may also rank among the late 20th Century's achievements.

Suspended animation was used in spaceflight in the 80s, so either a less developed version was already in use (as suggested by the POTA films) or data from Hunt's project  did lead to a breakthrough despite the loss of the team leader.

The actual date is August 19, 1980.

The Great Conflict is the name given this war in Genesis II/Planet Earth. These shows make it clear that the war occurred in the 20th Century, though it most have been after a subshuttle station we see in the Planet Earth pilot was built in 1992. The Planet of the Apes tv show suggests a later date. No never specifies, but this date fits with the POTA film series. The Logan's Run series sets the apocalyptic war in the 22nd Century, which is why I chose to go with the earlier film dates in my game setup.

This is also true of the 2nd Roddenbery pilot to deal with this material, Planet Earth. There Dylan Hunt is played by John Saxon.

No evolved apes are seen at the time of PAX (or even Logan's Run), true, but it could be the apes were confined to the area that once was California then. Neither of these shows necessarily covered a wide territory.

Astronauts Burke and Virdon arrive in a North America (or at least Western North America) controlled by apes in a well-established civilization in 3085, so the culture must have spread before that.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

The Challenge of Ysgard

Ysgard in some metaphysical sense is found between the pure (or what passes for it in the current multiverse) chaos of Limbo and the pursuit of sensation and individual freedom of Arborea. Indeed, it may well be the ferment from which the heady wine of Arborea was born. Ysgard embodies conflict and striving. It is both the wanting and the expression of the idea that achieving the thing wanted often comes at a price.

In the belief of adherents of Chaos (or at least some of them), Ysgard was differentiated and divided from pure Chaos when the moment the schism between Law and Chaos was recognized. The Ysgard of today, however, bears little resemblance to that primal conceptual realm as it has been shaped by the minds of beings since. It is a realm of archetypes and story, in a myriad variations. The trials it subjects souls to are often of a violent and dramatic cast, with bloody, heroic battles played out on an exaggerated terrain. They seldom have a clear beginning and ending; there is a reason that Ysgard is often associated with the serpent devouring its own tail. 

In keeping with this essential nature of the plane, participants may come to violent ends, but these endings are never permanent, merely transformative. There are some souls, however, that come to perceive their experiences as imbued with profundity beyond what is readily apparent in the events themselves, while others come realize they are mere shadows, lacking in substance. In the end, there may be little difference between the two positions, and souls of achieving either sort of enlightenment are not seen again in Ysgard.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Quest for the Serpent Throne!

We gave Broken Compass a go last night, playing the adventure that appears in the Golden Age sourcebook for "classic" 1930s pulp. I've given me read through impressions of the system previously, but this was my first time running it.

The "Quest of the Serpent Throne!" brings our intrepid adventurers: hunter and sometime smuggler, Kerry "K.O." O'Sullivan, and archeologist, Margaret Stilton to Calcutta to meet with Stilton's colleague, Professor Upandra Ram. They bring with them an artifact known as the Naga Shell which is supposedly to be essential to finding the mystical Chintamani stone, and opening the temple where the stone can be used to summon the Naga back from their exile to the netherworld.

They head out in search of the lost temple in the Bengal Jungle, but on a steamer up the Hooghly River, they discover they aren't the only one seeking it: Sumar Nagarani, an arms dealer and fascist sympathizer also seeks the temple. He offers our heroes a lot of money to recruit them, and they agree, but refuse to give up the Naga Shell. What will the consequence be? We'll have to wait until next session to find out!

The system went pretty well in play or it being our first time with it. Overall, I was pleased with it, but I'm glad I chose to go with an adventure they wrote as it made up for some of the lack of examples of the mechanics in action in the book. Not that there are any, but I could have used more.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

The Planar Grand Tour

I've been thinking about finishing this series on the Outer Planes. We'll see if that happens, but here's a review of where it's been so far.
The Layers of Heaven (part 1) (part 2) (part 3) (part 4)

Friday, August 19, 2022

Weird Revisted: Cold War Planescape

"Intelligence work has one moral law—it is justified by results."
- The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, John Le Carre

This is what came of seeing The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2016) and Atomic Blonde in the same weekend back on 2017.

Take Planescape's Sigil and re-imagine it as vaguely post-World War (it really doesn't matter which one) in technology and sensibility. It's the center of fractious sometimes warring (but mostly cold warring) planes, but now it's more like Cold War Berlin or Allied-occupied Vienna.

Keep all the Planescape factions and conflict and you've got a perfect locale for metacosmic Cold War paranoia and spy shennanigans. You could play it up swinging 60s spy-fi or something darker.

There's always room for William S. Burroughs in something like this, and VanderMeer's Finch and Grant Morrison's The Filth might also be instructive. Mostly you could stick to the usual spy fiction suspects.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Wednesday Comics: DC, November 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 August 20, 1981.

Action Comics #525: Wolfman and Staton start this story a year ago, when Superman responds to a terrorist attack (courtesy of Luthor) on a nuclear power plant. Superman saves two of Luthor's hirelings, but they lie for some reason and tell him there wasn't anyone else, and Supes can't see the guy due to lead shielding I guess. The hireling, Nat Tryon (get it?) manages to survive and makes his way back to Luthor who puts him in a suit under a ray--and leaves him there for a year. Tryon is changed by a into Neutron, a nuclear-powered villain, and when released by an accident seeks revenge on his former buddies and Superman for not saving him. In the end, Neutron kills his former cohorts, but his fights with Superman are draws. If he can't kill Superman he decides to destroy him emotionally by striking at Metropolis itself. This a lot more action-y story than most in Action; Wolfman brings more of a Marvel approach.

In the Air Wave backup, Hal and his girlfriend science fiction art exhibit, encounters a costumed thief called the Cosmic Corsair and gains a case of amnesia. His girl has to cosplay as the Cosmic Corsair to shock him into regaining the memory of his superhero identity so he can defeat the badguy.

Adventure Comics #487: The cover blurb calls this "the most talked about new series!" I am skeptical. In the first story, Radiator and Crimson Star are working for the mysterious Master, but the Avatar (one of the more interesting IDs in this title) and Kismet stop them quickly. Chris and Vicki also patch up their differences (mostly) and decide to be friends and partners again. The second story is pretty silly with a scientist having turned himself into a giant snake. Our heroes have to save him from the police who plan to kill the monsters. 

Brave & the Bold #180: Fleisher and Aparo, the creators of the infamous Bronze Age Earth-1 Spectre, present this team of that character with Batman. An ancient Japanese relic is stolen from a Gotham museum and a guard is murdered. Batman discovers the item is part of a staff belonging to an evil wizard with the un-Japanese name of Wa'arzen. If the pieces of the staff are re-united, Wa'arzen can return. Jim Corrigan gets involved as well, bringing in his alter ego, the Spectre. The wizard achieves his power, and is strong enough to challenge the Spectre, but Batman uses a well-placed batarang to knock the scepter from his hand, so the Spectre can defeat him. Teamwork!

All-Star Squadron #3: Thomas and Buckler have the different groups of here defeat the disparate portions of Per Degaton's overcomplicated plan, and the team finally comes together! A lot of "business" goes on in this issue, and I'm going to go to the unusual step of linking to a detailed synopsis here, because the author humorless points out the plot goofs and continuity errors. As a kid, I would have eaten this up but as an adult I feel its a bit to jam-packed with stuff that winds up being not terribly entertaining. Some of it may be a consequence of having to juggle so many protagonists.

Detective Comics #508: Conway and Newton drop the ball here after the Manikin two-parter. Selena Kyle is missing. Batman finds dust that he realizes (somehow) is the same as dust from ancient Egyptian tombs. He goes the the museum for help from an expert, but resident Egyptologist, Geoffrey Griffin is also missing. It turns out, Griffin was obsessed a Egyptian Queen Kara (who happens to look a lot like Selena) and the pyramid at Giza. Bruce is off to Egypt and finds Griffin and Selena in a previously undiscovered room inside the Sphinx! Griffin thinks he's Khafre reincarnated, somehow has magical Egyptian artifacts, and wants to preserve Selena alive as his undying queen. Fight ensues, Batman defeats Griffin who then gets mauled to death by jackals. This is 70s cartoon level plotting.

In the Batgirl backup by Burkett and Delbo, Barbara gives an impassioned speech for prison reform. Meanwhile, a geologist who feels people are taking his discovery of an energized space rock seriously goes an mutates himself into a superhuman freak with it. Calling himself the Annihilator, he defeats Batgirl. When Supergirl shows up to save the day, he begins absorbing her power!

House of Mystery #298: The first story here by Harris and Sutton is okay. It's a Twilight Zone pastiche about a 19th Century looking settlement were an alien arrives and robs the grave of the recently deceased burgomeister--and is mistaken for the undead and attacked by the townsfolk until it's revealed the alien actually rescued the burgomeister from premature burial and cured him. The alien takes off his space helmet and proclaims he brings greetings from Earth.  

Next up, DeMatteis and Gonzales have the ghost of a blind bluesman get revenge by blinding the record exec who cheated him. Then there's an EC type story with an EC-esque exploitation of deformity, where an escaped robber on the run from the mob with money is drawn into a weird house for people with various gruesomely acquired deformities. When he see's their room full of money, he decides to rob them too, only to have a terrible accident like all the rest and wind up a hunchbacked, twisted, permanent guest. 

The last story by Jones and Infante exemplifies the principle of Chekhov's dynamite retrieving dog. A a handsome ne'er-do-well is caught dynamite fishing on the property of a reclusive, but wealthy young woman, who has a pure breed dog he is quite taken with. The man feigns interest in the woman to get her to marry him, and she has done so, he drowns her in the pond. He celebrates his wealth with a little dynamite fishing, but the good dog retrieves the dynamite and they both die in the explosion.

Superman Family #212: Pasko and Mortimer finally reveal what the deal is with Greg and his odd behavior: he's got a gambling problem. They leads to Supergirl tangling with Blackrock, who I only knew from the Who's Who before this. Also, Lena is having severe headaches. In Mr. and Mrs. Superman, a rival reporter plants a fake "Superman stops A Flying Saucer Story" but Lois and Clark but turn his lie into a staged reality. In the Rozakis/Calnan "Private Life of Clark Kent," a newsboy who wants really badly to be a reporter manages to actually help Clark on a story by being an eye-witness to a jewel robbery. In the Levitz/Oksner Lois Lane story, she tangles with yet another criminal who wants her dead. It involves a scene of Lois, undressing from the shower, when a hand grenade is lobbed in her window. She quickly picks it up and throws it back outside, then takes her shower. 

The Jimmy Olsen story by Pasko/Delbo is the wackiest of them all. After a visit to the dentist, Jimmy is plagued with insomnia and people keep trying to kill him. Turns out, the dentist and his nurse are both plants and working against him (though not with the same goals) and the fake distant has been broadcasting a high pitched signal into a receiver implanted in Jimmy's tooth to keep him awake.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Fire from the Void

Our Land of Azurth 5e continued to explore the tower built to channel the the wild magic of the fallen star. After damage from some traps, they found a room where the energy could be dampened by slowing the flow of energy to the spinning stone--which a wizard's notes was be used somehow to bore into realities.

After shutting off two dampeners, the power decreased considerably. They entered the room where the jagged length of obsidian-like star stone was slowly stopping it's spinning. In the distance sealing of the dark room a shadow shape spoke: 

"How long have I waited? Drawn here from the shadows, warming myself on this meager fire and hating the wan light of the young stars...And you, you come to extinguish it!"

"Once there were many of us. We were born in the first hot rush of the universe with the primal stars. We danced and sang amid the radiance. Now there are few, and the universe has creatures such as you things--cold and leaden. I will share with you the fires of the heavens!"

A void dragon unleashed it's star radiance breath weapon on them! Kairon was dying and none of the rest were feeling so good.

The dragon told them to bring it the creature that had been in the stone. It wished to consume it's celestial energy. It admitted it was unable to fit into the room where the thing was held. It showed them the door and again demanded they get it. 

Kully taunted the dragon that he was hardly afraid of a creature that could leave the room. It wasn't an accurate taunt, but it served for the moment, because the party was through the door before the dragon could react.

In the room there was a glass orb full of an energized arcane fluid. This was the source of the power for the entire place. Within, they saw the shadow of a slim, human hand beckoning them.

They debated briefly on what to do. Kully used music to attempt to communicate. The creature responded with something like ethereal, whale-song. The party decided to cracked the orb. A slim, strange being emerged.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Weird Revisited: Graustarkian Karameikos

This post originally appeared in 2014. I think several Known World/Mystara nations could be fictional countries in the real world. I may do a further post on it.

The Grand Duchy of Karameikos is a small nation in the Balkans on the Adriatic Sea. It has a long history going back to ancient times when the Romans built a fort and founded a trading outpost at Specularum--now Karameikos's capital, Spekla. Since those days, Karameikos has been in the hands of a succession of empires: the Byzantine, the Serbian, the Ottoman, and briefly, the Austro-Hungarian.

The current ruler of Karameikos is Stefan III. He has retained the title of "Grand Duke" despite his nation's liberation from Austria-Hungary. Grand Duke Stefan and most of the nobility trace their families back to Byzantium, but rule over an ethnically mixed populace of Albanians and Serbs, as well as Greeks. The predominant religion is the Orthodox Church of Karameikos, though there are also Muslims and a small number of Roman Catholics.

Believed to be the only photo of the leader of the Black Eagle
One of the greatest threats to modern Karameikos is the terrorist group known as the Black Eagle. The group is vaguely related to Albanian nationalism, but its direct aims seem to be criminality and destabilization of the current government. It's leader is named either Ludwig or Henrich. As his name would suggest, he is said to be of Austrian descent. His primary advisor and bomb-maker is believed to be a former monk named Bargle.

The Mad Monk Bargle, while briefly in custody
This post relates to my previous Ruritanian ruminations--and of course to D&D's Known World.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Wednesday Comics: DC, November 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 August 6, 1981.

Justice League of America #196: I've read this issue by Conway and Perez/Tanghal I don't know how many times since my childhood, and it still holds up. Batman, Earh-2 Flash, Hourman, the Atom, and Earth-2 Superman get taken out by the Secret Society members, one by one. Now the Ultra-Humanite stands poised to achieve his goal of wiping all the heroes off Earth-2! This is really rock solid 80s superhero comics here. This arc is the best so far of Conway's run.

Krypton Chronicles #3: Bridwell and Swan walk us through more of Superman's family tree, this time without even a hint of conflict in the framing story. We get the story of the Kryptonian Noah and the sort of Krytonian Archimedes--both of which are ancestors of Superman, as is the inventor of the Kryptonian surname. Clark's book is a big hit, which has Morgan Edge thinking about approaching Hawkman for a Thangarian saga.

New Teen Titans #13: Starfire and Raven enjoy a vacation on Paradise Island--that is until the purple ray turns Changeling into an enraged dinosaur--while the guys investigate Mento's disappearance, discovering Madame Rouge's secret base and Robotman. They recover Mento, but he's actually a mole for Rouge. Meanwhile, Wonder Girl gushes over Terry.

Secrets of Haunted House #42: Nothing really great here. There's a witch from the Amazon who gives a Great White Hunter talking boils that look like her face after he rebuffs her advances and kills her, courtesy of Gonzales/Breeding. Then, a humorous barb at comic book fanboys by Sciacca and Bender where the Devil gives said fanboy all the comics in the universe, killing him. I feel like their are some in-jokes here I don't get. 

Skeates/Cullins present a story of a astral projectionist who wants to kill a guy for undisclosed reasons. His heart is too weak to do it, so he trains he successor, who reneges on the deal, but then his ghost gets revenge. Three escaped convicts get turned into the crew of a model slave galley in a story by Kashdan and Pender. 

Wessler and Ayers/Rodin put a murder in a blackly humorous situation after he hides his wife's head in a bowling bag, but then gets caught up in who close call for discovery after another. Finally, Mishkin/Cohn and von Eeden/Mushynsky combine forces for a story of ghosts who switch victims to make it easier to enact their revenge.

Superman #365: "When Kryptonians Clash" Bates and Swan have Supergirl out to get Superman after he cures her of a rare disease. This isn't any slugfest, of course, but another of their puzzle stories and yet another nefarious alien plot. This one at least hints at a conspiracy as the alien is about to reveal who put him up to this when he is vaporized.

In the Rozakis/Schaffenberger "The In-Between Years" backup, Clark is in Metropolis for college, but Superboy has eventually settled anywhere yet, and the world wonders where he's going. Clark in the meantime is having to save folks like reporter Perry White without revealing Superboy's in town. In the end, White catches on though.

Weird War Tales #105: The Creature Commandos are really back, this time. This again hammers DeMatteis' frequent theme for this strip of the people who created the commandos being the real monsters, as Shrieve leads the team in terrorizing and driving out a town full of German sympathizers in the U.S. Shrieve views the situation in black and white, but some of the Commandos have more empathy. 

Kanigher and Yandoc present a tale of a German concentration camp commandant who has his face replaced with a replica of a dead Jewish prisoner and has the prisoner's number tattooed on his arm, so he can escape when the camp is liberated. Heading to South America to connect with Nazi expatriates, he is captured. No one believes his story, and he is gassed and his skin winds up making a lampshade for the leader. Kanigher is back again with Ditko with a story of German conjoined twins, separated after an accident, with one raised in the U.S. and one raised in Germany. By unlikely circumstance they both end up dying on a German U-boat on opposing sides. The final story by Kashdan and Estrada that posits a future where wear is expediently waged by robots playing chess--but the system falls apart when Mauritania cheats by sneaking a human player inside the robot.

Wonder Woman #285: The final showdown with the Red Dragon, and the of his schemes. What I noticed most about this issue is that it perfectly illustrates Conway's vagueness about Wonder Woman's power level. We have her saving the day, by jumping up and redirecting a missile in flight with her strength, then "gliding on air currents" back to the ground. Then she has an extended conflict with the (as far as the story tells us) relatively human but badass Red Dragon. 

The Huntress backup by Levitz and Staton has hints of unresolved sexual tension between Robin and Huntress, which feels a little off since earlier installments have played up the "big brother, little sister" dynamic, but it serves only to leave a thread dangling for another story. Her DA beau, after he's finally out of harm's way from the joker toxin breaks up with her because he can't have a superhero girlfriend.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Broken Compass

Last week I picked up game Broken Compass by the Italian gaming company Two Little Mice from drivethru. It's a rules lite-ish game in the pulp adventure vein. Interestingly, the default setting such as it is is not the 30s pulp heyday of most rpgs, but the 1990s, positioning it as primarily meaning to replicate pulp-derived films like The Mummy (1999) and games like Tomb Raider and Uncharted rather than the original sources. It does, however, have a supplement for the pulp "Golden Age" also available on drivethrurpg.

In brief, it's not unlike YZE games: a d6 dice pool based on attribute (or Field here) plus skill, with a "push" mechanic (called Risk in BC) where you get to reroll. BC looks for sets of matching rolls, though, rather than a target number, and difficulty is ranked by the number of matching dice you need. I think BC intends for characters to fail their roll or at least partially fail a fair amount, though this often doesn't mean that their action has failed. Instead the Fortune Master is meant to apply a complication, setback, or plot twist (though this is mainly for Challenges, not life-threatening Dangers. For a Danger it seems like a failure is more likely to mean a failure).

There is no damage and no "hit points," though Luck points are lost in offsetting life-threatening failures. When all Luck points are gone the character is out of the adventure, though not necessarily dead. There are also Bad Feelings which are conditions that can be applied as a consequence and reduce the dice available for future rolls, and Good Feelings which are their opposites that can be earned to award additional dice.

With its mechanics and campaign structure based around "episodes" and "seasons," what Broken Compass struck me as likely being good for is action/adventure tv shows. Tales of the Gold Monkey, obviously, but with a bit of tweaking The Wild, Wild West or even Buck Rogers. Also, I think this would be a good game to run comic strip or bande dessinée type stuff like Terry and the Pirates or Tintin. Or Popeye!

There were some supplements Kickstartered last year that give alternative settings like Space Opera, Westerns, trad Fantasy, Cyberpunk, Occult Investigators, or Toons, but frustratingly they are not yet even available to nonbackers as digital products. Still, it seems a super-easy system to hack on your own.

There are some areas where it doesn't shine. It isn't really made for long-term play, perhaps; there isn't much advancement to speak of. Also, characters are not really mechanically much different, particularly if they are of similar "types," so if mechanical specialness is important to a player, they probably need to be in a game without too many fellow players.

Those things aside, I think it's well worth checking out and plan to give it a whirl soon. You can download the preview of the game here.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Weird Revisited: Ozian D&D

The original version of this post appeared in 2017 after a bit of discussion on Google+ about Oz-influenced D&D. With two 5e Oz supplements currently available, it seems like it's still a current topic.

From its conception, Oz has been an important (though certainly not the only) influence on the Land of Azurth (particularly for the primary campaign site, Yanth Country), so I've thought some about how Ozian elements can be used to inform D&D fantasy.

First off, it must be acknowledged that "Ozian fantasy" may not be a precisely defined thing. The portrayal of Oz itself changes from the first book to later books by Baum--and to an even greater degree throughout the "Famous Forty" and beyond. Oz in the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is mostly uninhabited, and the places that are inhabited are mostly agrarian, but later books pile on more and more civilization. Baum's vision is of an American fairytale, and so the early books lack standard European-derived or Arabian Nights-inspired creatures and characters: The Tin Man is a woodsman not a knight. Ultimately, however, knights, dragons, and genies all become part of Oz.

(Anyone interested in Baum's American fairytale conception and examples of it in his non-Oz fantasies should check out Oz & Beyond: The Fantasy World of L. Frank Baum by Michael O. Riley)

With that sort of lack of specificity in mind, here are my broad suggestions for how to make a D&D campaign more Ozian:

Lost worlds/hidden kingdoms instead of dungeons: Whether standard D&D or Oz, exploration and discovery plays a part, but D&D's exploration sites are often known areas of material wealth and danger near settled areas that are usually purposefully visited to be exploited. Ozian sites are unknown or little known areas, accidentally discovered, like the lost worlds of adventure fiction.

Animated Simulacra and Talking Animals instead of the usual demihumans: Both D&D and Oz have nonhuman characters, but Oz’s are more individual, not representatives of "races." They also aren't the near-human types of elves, dwarves, and halflings. In fact, all of those races would probably fall under the "human" category in Oz. (In the first book, most Ozites are short like halflings, not just the Munchkins).

Social interaction/comedy of manners instead of combat or stealth: Violence and death sometimes occurs in the Oz books, but conversation and timely escape are the most common ways of dealing with problems. While this may in part be due to them being century plus year-old children's books, some of the exchanges in Dorothy and the Wizard are not dissimilar to the ones that occur in the works of Jack Vance, albeit with much less wit or sophistication. No Ozian villain is too fearsome not to be lectured on manners--at least briefly.

Magical mundane items or magical technology instead of magical weapons: The noncombat orientation of Oz extends to magic items. Magic belts, mirrors, food dishes, etc., occur in Oz but few magic swords or the like that you see in D&D or European legend. Oz blurs the lines between science/technology and magic to a degree. (The examples of this that are more Steampunkian or magictech seem to be unique inventions, however.) Pills and tablets will fantastical (though perhaps not magical in the sense the term would understood in Oz) properties are more common than potions, for instance. In general, foodstuff with fantastic properties, both natural and created, are more common than in D&D.

Faux-America instead Faux-Medieval: Ozian society seems almost 19th century in its trappings, or more precisely, it is a society that is not foreign (except where it specifically means to be) to the a young reader in the early 20th century. It lacks most of the elements of the real world of the 19th Century, however, like industry, social conflict (mostly), and (sometimes) poverty. It also lacks complicated social hierarchies: there is royalty, but no nobility.

Friday, August 5, 2022

5e Hadozee

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


Hadozee are tall, furry humanoids with manes around their necks and heads and large (sometimes tufted) ears. They evolved from arboreal hunters. Humans sometimes call them "monkeys" because they resemble to a degree simian primates of Old Earth, but this can be considered somewhat derogatory. Two large flaps of skin (a patagium) grow on either side of their bodies, attached along their arms, torso, and legs. A Hadozee can use these as a sort of wing or gliding.

Hadozee have four joints (one more than Humans) on their digits. The inside toe is partially opposable like a thumb, allowing them to grasp things with their feet. The tips of their fingers and toes end in broad, ribbed pads, giving them an excellent grip.

Hadozee communities are divided into large, loosely organized clans. All the members of a clan are related to each other. In the past, clan ties were very strong, and inter-clan conflict was common and often violent. These tendencies have been tempered in the modern age, but hadozee still have a proud warrior tradition.

Homeworld: Verdis 

Average Height: 2.1 meters

Average Weight: 50 kg (male), 60 kg (female)

Phenotypic Variation: Individual hadozee vary in color of their head manes and body fur from glossy black to pale yellow. Their skin color ranges from deep gray to light-tan. Certain colorations tend to run in particular clans or historic geographical groups.

Reproduction: Two sexes, viviparous


Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2, and your Intelligence score increases by 1.

Age. Hadozee mature a little faster than humans, reaching adulthood around age 14. They age similarly though and can live up to 100 years.

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

Speed. Your walking speed is 30 feet, and you have a climbing speed equal to your walking speed.

Darkvision. Darkvision. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light and in darkness as if it were dim light. You discern colors in that darkness only as shades of gray.

Dexterous Feet. You can take the Use an Object action as a bonus action.

Glide. If you are not incapacitated or wearing heavy armor, you can extend your skin membranes and glide. When you do so, you can perform the following aerial


• When you fall at least 30 feet, you can move up to 5 feet horizontally

for every 1 foot you descend.

• When you would take damage from a fall, you can use

your reaction to reduce the fall’s damage to 0.

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

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Wednesday Comics: DC, November 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  August 6, 1981. 

Arak Son of Thunder #3: Thomas and Colon/DeZuniga have Arak and Malagigi trying to help a village under the thumb of an evil sorcerer after granting mercy to a dying brigand and taking him home. The sorcerer sends a knight to kill them, who turns out to be Valda, who will become a regular here. Malagigi frees Valda from ensorcellment, but greedy villagers turn on them, and take them to the sorcerer for reward. They get killed for their initiative, and the sorcerer forces Valda and Arak to fight to the death. Arak resists the sorcerer's control enough to send a tomahawk at Valda which she easily ducks, but the sorcerer takes a blow to the skull. After dispatching the wizard, the trio heads on their way. Valda wears a mail shirt here like it's a mini-dress. She gets pants in later stories.

Batman #341: Conway and Novick bring Terrence Thirteen from the pages of Ghosts to Gotham. Both kids and cop are saying Wayne Manor is haunted. Gordon wants to investigate but Bruce is afraid the entrance to the old Batcave will be discovered and declines to allow it. He heads out to the mansion as Batman to make sure all the Batcave entrances are closed. Gordon shows up anyway with some of his men and Dr. Thirteen. Batman plays "ghost" for a bit, trying to distract them, but that only makes Thirteen more curious. Then, Batman discovers that the Man-Bat is squatting in the batcave. To be continued.

The next story is kind of novel. It invites the reader to try to solve the murder mystery with Batman. It's brought to us by Snyder and Gonzales.

The final story is a Robin solo-feature by Conway and von Eedon/DeCarlo. Grayson leaves the Hill Circus to hitchhike back to Gotham. He tales a ride from a guy with a scarred face who turns out to be involved in a Satanic cult!

DC Comics Presents #39: Pasko and Staton team-up Supes with Plastic Man, and it's very much a continuation of the goofy style of their defunct Plastic Man strip in Adventure Comics. The two heroes bring in the Toyman and two Acme City (I wonder when this homebase for Plas was dropped?) crooks, Dollface and Fliptop, who have stolen one of Toyman's toys, a wind-up fake dog, to help in a bank robbery. I feel like this version of Plastic Man might work better as an adult cartoon on HBOMax. 

The "What Ever Happened To..." backup we catch up with Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu. Mainly, this story by Barr and Saviuk seems to be tying up loose story-ends from his previous appearances. I would imagine it certainly sets up Bronze Tiger for further 80s stuff.

Flash #303: Sorry Bates and crew, but this ending of the Henry Allen storyline is silly and underwhelming. It turns out, that Barry's dad briefly died  before CPR after the car crash and the Top's spirit just happened to be around to enter his body. The villains' plan is to cause the Flash's heart to stop, so the Top can migrate to his young, toned body. The Flash tricks them, though, and the Top's spirit goes wherever, and Henry Allen is back in control of his own body. Maybe with a magic based villain this plot would have worked better, but with the Top?

In the Firestorm backup by Conway and Broderick, we tread water so the plot doesn't advance much over the reveal regarding Ronnie's girlfriend's sister being the Hyena at the end of last issue. Here, we are left with a cliffhanger with Hyena about to attack her sister.

G.I. Combat #236: The first Haunted Tank story is overstuffed with a sadistic German commander taking prisoners only to execute them and some holdout Germans from World War I hiding out in a French forest. Our heroes lose another tank and learn (again) that war sucks, y'all. O.S.S. operatives go hang-gliding to stop an an experimental u-boat armed with a nuclear warhead about to leave to destroy New York. Then it's back to the Philippines as MacArthur leaves, shadowed by a PT boat trying to make sure he gets to Australia safely. They succeed in their mission, but give their lives to do so. Kashdan gives Kanigher a break as he teams with Vicatan for a story about a spy who fails to keep the French German collaborators from getting a briefcase--which was always the plan since it leads the Allies to their hideout. The last Haunted Tank story has Slim getting to drive something faster and sleeker than a tank--a liberated 1935 Italian Hispano-Suiza. They still manage to take out a German tank.  

Ghosts #106: Kanigher and Giffen open the issue with the story of an American fencing champ in Scotland, who duels the ghost of a Scottish hero to win a sword, but winds up freeing the ghost from his punishment. Kelly and Carrillo follow-up with a piece about an archeologist and his Seminole ally against a ghost Conquistador and his magic sword. Then there's a Snyder and Trinidad story that is neither a ghost story, nor a horror story. 

The last story, by Gonzales and Sech, tells the tale of a guy who murders a good Samaritan preacher to get the money he gives out to help the homeless, only to find himself haunted by the preacher's ghost and eventually possessed by him (I guess), so that the murderer becomes the new Samaritan.

Jonah Hex #54: After divesting Hex of his wife and kid (at least for a time), Fleisher wastes no time in getting him back to Old West adventuring. He's asked by a Mexican Colonel to infiltrate the hideout of his old enemy El Papagayo. He does, but Papagayo catches him and puts him in a death trap: a well where a rope will slowly tighten and strangle him. Hex escapes with the aid of another of the Colonel's agents, Papagayo's girl, but before he can return to report what he found out, he runs up against some ex-Confederates looking for him for his old enemy, Turnbull.

In the Tejano backup by Mishkin/Cohn and Veitch/Yeates, the Mexican Army plans to hand over Tejano to their Comanche allies. On the way, Tejano realizes a boyhood friend of his is with the Mexican forces, and they reminisce about a Comanche youth who's life they saved after they took back the horses he had stole. It turns out that boy is now the Comanche chief and far from being grateful for what they did, he feels Tejano humiliated him before his tribe. Uh oh.