Monday, October 31, 2022

Broken Compass: Incident on the Hooghly

My alternate Sundays gaming group played its third session of Broken Compass continuing the "Quest for the Serpent Throne" adventure in the Golden Age sourcebook. Paul joined the group playing the Dwayne Johnson-esque pregen Sam Stone I had created for an adventure with my other gaming group.

His strength and brawling skill was much appreciated when the Sumar Nagarani's goons attacked them in the night, trying to get the naga shell. O'Sullivan, Stilton, Stone managed to escape the boat, bringing Professor Ram with them. O'Sullivan commandeered the shuttle boat and guided them to the shore to make camp as he figured it would be impossible to navigate the rapids in the dark. 

O'Sullivan took first watch and his keen hunter instincts allowed him to kill one menacing tiger with a literal shot in the dark and scare off the other. Once everyone got to sleep after being startled awake by the rifle shot, the rest of the night based uneventfully.

We are still getting used to the Broken Compass system but I continue to like it. It moves pretty quick in play. Some aspects (only players rolling and enemies only having one stat) lead to it requiring some thought about how to accomplish certain types of action, particularly things done to require some sort of advantage or give the enemy a disadvantage (the terms used here in the general sense, not in the game mechanics sense). Also the lack of a rules summary, I still continue to feel keenly.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Weird Revisited: The Dungeon Mad God Machine

This post originally appeared in 2017...


Seeing Alien: Covenant yesterday, which (no real spoilers) carries a theme from Prometheus (and from Frankenstein, ultimately) of lesser beings meddling in creation of life, gave me an idea. I've written before (and it's sort of baked into the rules in any case, most explicitly in BECMI) about dungeons in D&D being an engine of apotheosis.

What if dungeons didn't just create gods or god-like being? What if they tended to create mad ones? All those weird D&D monsters are waved off as the products of crazy wizards, but maybe they're more specifically the product of crazy, god-level wizards?

In fact, it's possible dungeons weren't originally a tool of apotheosis at all. One mad race, the Engineers (or Dungeoneers) did came upon that accidentally. The first dungeons were their laboratories, their three dimensional journals of magical experimentation. A delve into one charts (and recapitulates) their ascension to post-mortaldom--and their descent in madness. A dungeon then, is a living blasphemous tome, recording secrets man was not meant to know.

It goes without saying that probably all life in the campaign world began their. Everything crawled up from the depths, evolving away from its original purpose to its current form. Unless of course, that evolution was the point. The Dungeoneers might have felt they would only have arrived at godhood when they could create beings that could follow in their footsteps--or maybe even challenge their supremacy. Perhaps there's another, higher level game and they need soldiers, or experimental subjects, to win it?

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Wednesday Comics: DC, January 1982 (week 4)

My goal: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around October 29, 1981. 

Action Comics #527: Superman is a pawn in the struggle between two sorcerers from 1 million years in the future: Syrene and her husband, the villainous Lord Satanis. They seek Merlin's Runestone, but in the end Satanis is banished to Hell--at least until issue 539 when he's going to return to trouble Supes again. All this is courtesy of Wolfman and Swan.

Adventure Comics #489: Two Dial H stories again, with more one shot heroes created by readers against more one shot villains created by readers. The first story by Rozakis and Infantino/McLaughlin has the concept of the superheroes Chris and Vicki turned into having to appear in court to testify against the villain--which is difficult because they can't become the same heroes twice. They instead dial up other heroes and have to disguise themselves to keep their court date. The second story by Bridwell and von Eeden/Mahlstedt has the kids dialing in now identities to take on an alien menace who is a literal marionette with strings going to an x-shaped spacecraft. It's kind of a weird but interesting character than could have been used in a better story.

All-Star Squadron #5: As usual Thomas packs a lot of story in 28 pages. Most of the members of the Justice Society intend to resign and join the military in their civilian identities, but first they need to go to the Yucatan to find out what happened to Shiera Sanders (Hawkgirl) who was down there on an archeological expedition. Meanwhile, Johnny Quick and Robotman thwart terrorists at the statue of liberty, then arrive in time to see the new Firebrand's debut. The Buckler/Ordway art continues to be great for this sort of standard superhero material.

Detective Comics #510: Conway's mayoral contest subplot continues but seems to be drawing toward its conclusion as Reeves threatens to unleash photos revealing Batman's secret identity. Meanwhile, Lucius Fox is kidnapped, and Batman has to tangle with a foe he has dealt with in a long time--the original Mad Hatter. Now, up until this issue, there was just one DC Comics Mad Hatter, but here Conway retcons Alice in Wonderland-obsessed, Tennell character resembling Mad Hatter of his first 1948 appearance to be the original, and the hat-themed crime committing, mustachioed Mad Hatter that was in the tv show and the comics from the 50s-70s as "an imposter." Tetch says he was in a mental institution and that since getting out he has killed the imposter, but that guy shows up again in the late 80s.

In the Batgirl backup, the Annihilator is still trying to make Batgirl is bride, but the dynamic duo of Supergirl and Batgirl keep foiling his plans. Batgirl frets about being useless with all Supergirl's might, but in a twist, you can see coming a mile away, it's her clever thinking that wins the day.

New Adventures of Superboy #25: When Prof. Lewis Lang and his hippie-ish assistant Burt Belker bring back the Chaos Helmet from the Valley of Ur, Belker puts it on and is possessed by a Lord of Chaos. He becomes Dr. Chaos who looks like a costume color switched Dr. Fate. I wonder why Dr. Chaos never got picked up as a Dr. Fate foe? 

Unexpected #218: In the first story by Snyder and Ayers, the Mexican General is defeated in 1836 because the Texans attack during his siesta time. Okay, that may be "unexpected," but c'mon, DC! Next, Kashdan and Ayers have a story about a guy traveling to the future and discovering aliens have taken over Earth. His fellow researchers don't believe him, but he manages to track down the aliens in his present and wipe them out. He's killed in the process, and his fellow time travels never realize he saved the future for humankind. 

In the cover story, Native American survivors of a nuclear holocaust venture forth from their home into the deep swamps of southern Florida only to discover horrors including gator people eager to transform others into their kind. The final, meandering story by Kanigher and Vicatan, a woman finds the mask of Medusa in a scuba-diving scavenger hunt and lives only long enough to regret it.

Unknown Soldier #259: Haney and Ayers/Talaoc give us another one of their high concept yarns. The Soldier is in Italy and forced to fight a crazy Italian strongman who has sided with the Germans in a gladiatorial arena for the amusement of Goering who's decked out like a Roman emperor. In the gallery of war feature, a pair of young soldiers on guard duty on opposite sides of the Civil War bond over there commonalities, including their harmonica playing. That doesn't keep them from accidentally killing each other in the next day's battle. In the Captain Storm story, he finally manages to get John F. Kennedy out of harm's way and take out the commander of the Japanese sub he's been after, but only at the cost of his own PT boat.

World's Finest Comics #275: Metropolis is having a heatwave when Gotham unseasonable snows. it turns out to be Mr. Freeze in an abandoned Soviet space station, but I like that Kupperberg sticks with the Bronze Age idea that Metropolis and Gotham are not very far apart. Barr and von Eeden have prison leading Oliver Queen to develop even more of a social conscience as he befriends a fellow inmate Green Arrow nabbed and gets Black Canary to help his undocumented immigrant family deal with an exploitive landlord forcing them into crime.

Zatanna is still fighting that guy with a sonic scream on a cruise ship courtesy of Conway and Speigle. He's crazy powerful, being able to freeze a large area of water with a scream, but he gets an accidental electric shock and loses consciousness. His powers are gone but their source is still a mystery to our heroine. After some new bachelor bonding with Flash, Hawkman nabs the Matter Master who has been robbing the museum by changing the material of items so that the museum thinks they have been stolen and replace--and then stealing the items and changing them back. Bridwell and Newton have Captain Marvel have to come to the rescue of a kidnapped Billy Batson, which involves a stand in and the help of Captain Marvel, Jr.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Astral Space, The Final Frontier

The cosmological setup of the 5e Spelljammer where spelljamming ships fly into Astral Sea after passing through something like normal space combined with the Astral Plane's (or Sea's) traditional roll of connecting the Material Plane with various afterlifes (i.e. Outer Planes) makes me think this new setup would be good for doing something similar to the comic Outer Darkness (which I wrote a post about before).

I fell off Outer Darkness the comic but the setting still has a lot of appeal. A magitech future with a starship (like the Enterprise in a universe with magic and less noble authorities) can fly out into a magical space and encounter demons inhabiting stars and storms of ghosts.

Without upping the horror factor, D&D space with the appropriate emphasis could be pretty darn horrific to a crew from a relatively sedate wildspace (really "normal space") like the one we appear to inhabit. Not unlike how standard dungeons would be places of horror if they popped up in the real world.

They makes me think it might be most interesting to play this not in D&D but in a science fiction game and just use the D&D cosmology as setting. Then again, having the ship's doctor actually be a cleric (so the Chaplain, I guess) has a certain appeal, too.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Wednesday Comics: DC, January 1982 (week 3)

My goal: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around October 22, 1981.

Brave & the Bold #181: Brennert and Aparo give us a team-up both familiar and unfamilar: The Earth-1 Batman with the Earth-2 Robin and (briefly) Batwoman. This winds up being a more interesting combo than you might think as this Robin is the age as this Batman and doesn't want to be treated as a junior partner--nor does he like this guy who reminds him of his mentor and father figure but isn't him. Batwoman has unresolved feelings for her Bruce, and her presence reminds Earth-1 Bruce of the recent death of his Earth's Batwoman. Anyway, it's not all drama. There's a suitably villainous plot by Hugo Strange, but there's more going on here than the average Brave and the Bold issue.

In Burkett and Spiegle's Nemesis backup, the three surviving members of the Council hire Greyfox, an assassin, to take out Nemesis. I feel like this series has sort of overstayed its welcome. I don't know if the backup enforced installment lengths have served it well.

Legion of Super-Heroes #283: Thomas does the sort of thing he tends to do well: fill in backstories. In this case, he has Wildfire relate his complete origin for the first time to a group of Legionnaire wannabes. It's got all the pathos Thomas learned at Marvel: lost loves and fears of lost humanity. 

Green Lantern #148: Wolfman and Staton start "change of direction" for this title. A shipful of Ungarans, (Abin Sur's people) show up seeking the help of the Green Lantern of Earth. They basically kidnap Jordan in the middle of some heavy soap opera-ish subplots at Ferris Aircraft, so he isn't happy, but even after they plead that their world is in peril, he won't help. He's got his own stuff to deal with, and besides the Guardians would have alerted him of they required his intervention. The Guardians aren't pleased this this response, and though his friends plead with them to give him time to deal with issues on Earth, he is sent off to Ungara. After that, Hal says he'll go to Oa and give up his ring.

Honestly, with pretty much everything going wrong at Ferris from Congressional hearings to his mentor's heart attack to Tom's whining, I'd think Hal might be glad for the respite.

House of Mystery #300: It's the 300th issue and the stories are maybe a bit better than average. Wein and Kane start things out strong with the story of a middle-aged man dissatisfied with his life who employs the services of an unusual therapy company that allows him to kill the aspects of himself he doesn't like. In the end, he kills so much he winds up committing a murder of someone who isn't him and sealing his fate. Wolfman and Staton follow that up with a woman caught in a construction collapse who frets about her baby, not realizing the man working to free her is death. Conway and Craig have the only survivor of an airplane disaster taking another flight with the ghostly passengers he was destined to join in death. Mishkin/Cohn and Gonzales present a "humorous" short about a paper girl trying to collect from Cain. Jones and Spiegle bring the issue to a close with a long-suffering guy fed up with his limelight hogging partner planning murder but accidentally getting his wife instead.

Phantom Zone #1: Gerber and Colan/DeZuniga set out to tell the definitive tale of the Phantom Zone. Charlie Kweskill, a Daily Planet pasteup man, is the focus of psychic assault from the denizens of th Phantom Zone. It turns out Kweskill is an amnesiac former Phantom Zone inmate whose Kryptonian powers removed by Gold Kryptonite in an elaborate escape attempt. The Kryptonian cons hypnotize Kweskill into breaking into hi-tech labs in his sleep, stealing valuable components, and using them to assemble a Phantom Zone Projector. Superman finds out about the plot just in time to break into Charlie's apartment as Kweskill activates the projector. It frees the Phantom Zone villains and sends Superman and Charlie Kweskill into the Zone! Along the way, Gerber presents an abbreviated history of the Zone and its most infamous prisoners. I've always liked this limited, and I'm looking forward to revisiting it.

Sgt. Rock #360: Kanigher and Redondo make it appear as if Easy Company has been wiped out, after they are sent on a dangerous mission, which is essentially a suicide mission when they keep being denied supplies and support. Of course, Rock and much of Easy survives. Next up, A mercenary questions his career choice when the solider he kills turns out to be his own son. There's the rare Vietnam story with art by Randall with the obligatory heroism and sacrifice. Finally, there's a Confederate junior officer who proves to his father the general he's no coward by dying.

Superman #367: The Bates/Swan Superman Revenge Squad story continues. Superman has infiltrated Revengers in his elaborate disguise as Vlatuu, but the aliens are sharper than he thinks. A conversation between Green Lantern (who along with Batman has been playing Clark Kent) and Supergirl is overheard by a Revenge Squad spy, who clues in his fellows that Vlatuu is really Supes. There's disagreement among Squad members about whether this is true, but when Vlatuu destroys the Superman proto-droid in battle, both the Squad leaders decide to send him to Earth to assassinate Superman. If Superman has hypnotized himself into thinking he is really Vlatuu, then Superman will become his own assassin! I'm enjoying this storyline so far. It's not exactly "modern" (meaning for this purpose post-Crisis) storytelling--more the surviving Bronze Age DC style that's one of the three types of stories you get in this era--but it's well done.

Superman Family #214: Pasko and Mortimer bring us the last (I guess) chapter in this Lena Thorul arc, but it's pretty convoluted to summarize briefly. They pack a lot of plot in! Suffice to say, Lena isn't happy with the reveal that Luthor is her brother, but Supergirl manages to foil a plot by Luthor's cellmate to get revenge on Lena's FBI officer husband. Lena and Lex seem to move cautiously to some reconciliation. 

In Mr. and Mrs. Superman, Lois realizes the Insect Queen is Lana and they figure out the sound of Superman's high-speed flying is somehow triggering the broach and setting her off. They, the Ultra-Humanite shows up with his brain in the body of one of her giant ants. Rozakis and Calnan present more of a PSA than a story as Clark Kent participates in a blood drive with a little help from a disguised Zatanna. Lois gets in a modern thriller sort of predicament courtesy of Levitz and Oksner as she's gassed unconscious and wakes up in handcuffs in an apartment which a guy she helped send to prison has designed to be her prison cell for life. She kicks his ass and runs the water until the apartment beneath floods to escape. Finally, Jimmy Olsen escapes from the gym deathtrap and helps Lucy Lane's beau but can't escape his own jerkdom as he pines for Lucy openly to his current girlfriend.

Warlord #53: I detailed the main story in this issue here. In the Levitz/Yeates Dragonsword backup, Thiron, his sidekick, and his mentors show up at the castle of Quisel who comes across less as a threat to the entire world and more a just bald guy with an axe. We're given several hints that the mentors have played Thiron in some way and he will have to sacrifice to when the victory they are after, but in this installment all we see is they won't do anything to help.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Lost on Planet X

I've been thinking about an alien planet hexcrawl in the vein of my posts about somewhat goofy somewhat gonzo science fiction. The sort of thing that could sit on a shelf next to a Gold Key Star Trek collection:

Of course, a planet in big--particularly a planet (like Vance's Big Planet or Silverberg's Majipoor) that is substantially larger than Earth, but less dense. So I think the way to limit that is a shipwreck sort of scenario, so that travel would likely only be in a limited radius around the "home base" of the ship, at least at first.

The aforementioned Gold Key Star Trek comics would be an inspiration as would the 60s Lost in Space show, the 70s Logan's Run show, classic Dr. Who, the works of Jack Vance and assorted science fiction/science fantasy comics.

Friday, October 14, 2022

Wonders Beyond the Orbit of Old Earth

Few denizens of Old Earth or worlds of the Anadem that dance around it like myriad, glittering jewels, would think to brave the distances to visit the worlds of the solar system beyond. Let mariners with starlight in their blood make the journeys of weeks, months, or more to these distant and often uncivilized places!

Still, who can fail to wonder at these literally unearthly locales? Everyone enjoys the tales of the far roving spacers in the comfort of familiar surroundings.

The Giant and the Beanstalk

Growing up from one of the mountains of the Martian desert is a beanstalk grown from an alien seed, purchased on some distant world. At the top of it is a castle where a giant lives. Once this giant was a congenial host and servant of visitors, but now he is jealous of his prerogative of access to the castle and has been known to eat trespassers. Once travelers move frequently up and down the beanstalk, and ships docked at the castle, but no longer.

The Titans of the Belt

The legends say that long ago, Titans from the Outer Dark tried to conquer the solar system. They were defeated by Gaia and the Overminds of the other planets and somehow petrified into a state not living, but not fully dead. Their corpses floated in the wastes between Mars and Jupiter and over the centuries, rock accreted on them. their rock-encrusted corpses now often serve as the home bases of the notorious Gith pirate bands.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Wednesday Comics: DC, January 1982 (week 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 October 15, 1981.

Batman #343: The arrival of Colan on art suggests we are getting close to some issues I remember from my youth. We pick up shortly after last issue, as Batman is still looking for Man-Bat without success. Also, Poison Ivy is about to take over Wayne Enterprises and Bruce can't tell anybody as they tiresome storyline continues. But the "A-Plot" this issue features another of Conway's one-off villains: Dagger, who specializes in thrown edged-weapons. He manages to destroy a Batmobile (indirectly) before Batman strikes down the origin of his weapons to a Rennington Steel plant in the small town of Stokely. Turns out the owner is Dagger, and Batman defeats him on his home turf.

In the backup, Robin just can't catch a break. After taking the traumatized girl he saved last issue to a psychiatric clinic he just happened to pass in Virginia, Robin learns that the "staff" are actually stand-ins and drug smugglers! The crooks capture Robin and leave him tied to a bed to overdose on anesthesia. Seeing Robin brings the young woman out of her dissociation, and she saves him. Robin is able to capture the criminals and free the real staff of the clinic. When the cops arrive, they ask Robin if there is anything they can do to repay him. He asks for a bus ticket to Gotham City!

Flash #305: Bates and Infantino/Smith present a Silver Age throwback sort of issue with Barry tormented by a dream about the death of Joan Garrick, then journeying to Earth-Two to investigate. His worry increases when he finds out from Jay that she as disappeared! Their search involves Dr. Fate and leads them to the realm ruled by the Lord of Limbo Barry tangled with back in issue #284. Joan is saved and everyone goes home--except the Lord of Limbo, who's still trapped there.

G.I. Combat #237: In Kanigher's and Glanzman's first Haunted Tank yarn, the crew is tasked with meeting the Soviets at the Elbe, and a courageous war photographer is sent along with them. Trouble is that the crew think the photographer's a jinx as they notice he's the only survivor of all the incidents he takes pictures of. They try to leave him behind or thwart his picture-taking, but in the end, he saves them from a Nazi ambush, and his own death is the last thing he photographs.

Kanigher and Trinidad follow that up with story of a lone-surviving Marine tricking dug-in Japanese troops into revealing themselves on an island in the Pacific. Next up is the obligatory O.S.S. story. This one features Kana the Ninja so unlike a lot of O.S.S. tales, the protagonist survives. 

Kashdan reveals a rematch between two Olympic skiers, one a German officer and one an American. The American sacrifices himself to blow up a German train so this time "The Loser Takes All." Then, we're back to the Haunted Tank as the crew helps defends Dover from an invasion from Calais with a group of wounded Commonwealth soldiers.

Jonah Hex #56: Having shoved Jonah's wife and child aside, Fleisher and Ayers/DeZuniga can get Hex out of the domestic world and back to done-in-one adventuring. Here he discovers a damsel in distress in a somewhat improbable frontier mental asylum. Jonah's meets up with the woman's husband who reveals she was committed by her uncle in an effort get control of the future left to her by her father. Jonah manages to get her out, but then the husband reveals that he plans to kill her and get the fortune for himself. Jonah dispatches him with a knife.

Bates/Mishkin/Cohn and DeZuniga present a pretty good El Diablo backup. A young gun comes to town convinced that Lazarus Lane is just pretending his "locked-in Syndrome" state and his really notorious outlaw Del Corbett. After the gunman shoots the sheriff, El Diablo comes to bring him to justice, and it is revealed that the town preacher is actually Corbett, having become the peaceful, empathetic role he played for years.

New Teen Titans #15: Wolfman and Perez bring this Doom Patrol-related storyline to a close with nonstop action, and more than a little meditation on trauma. Zahl and Rouge put Robotman and the Titans in a "Devolving Pit" causing them to begin changing into "Neanderthals." The two villains continue their brutal invasion of Zandia, which is actually a haven for escaped criminals. Changeling teams up with the new Brotherhood of Evil to attack the villainous duo and their followers and to free his friends. In the battle, Zahl is killed when one of his bullets ricochets off Robotman's body, and Madame Rouge meets her death accidentally in a struggle with Changeling but ends up thanking him for it. The Titans and the Brotherhood escape from the villains' flying island before it explodes, and for their help, the Brotherhood is allowed to go free. The original Doom Patrol is avenged at last, and Changeling and Robotman are reunited with Mento.

Secrets of Haunted House #44: The first story by Cohn/Mishkin and Gonzales is appropriately Halloween themed. A farmer invites a writer on the paranormal to see the Halloween God that supposedly lives in the town pumpkin patch. The creature is harmless, but the writer finds to his horror that the goblins that it produces every 20 years demand a new Halloween God take its place--and the writer is it.

Next to futuristic scavenger hunters fall prey to aliens also on a scavenger hunt, the difference being their hunt ends with the humans' heads on their wall.  Finally, Mishkin and Cohn are back again with Carillo on art and a tale of colonialists as a sought-after artifact is the means of an Indian cult's supernatural vengeance.

Monday, October 10, 2022

The Perilous Road to Yai

 Our Land of Azurth game continued last night with our 8th Anniversary session!

The party emerged from Subazurth in the vicinity of the domed city of Yai. They followed a mountain trail and were forced to do battle with mindless, mutated and muscled beastmen:

Then, they scaled a precarious ledge to find an apparent entrance to the domed city guarded by a faceless, silver man. He first incapacitated all the party but Kairon with some sort of gas, but otherwise didn't seem particularly belligerent. 

Shade scouted into his cave invisibly and found him trying repeatedly to shut a great mechanical maw (perhaps a door) with a violet light emanating from his hand. 

With no other way to get around him, the party reluctantly attacked. He shot needles at them and was resistance to injury, but couldn't long hold up against them all. He died in a shower of sparks.

The group climbed between the half open "teeth" and entered the room beyond. 

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Return to Planet Funhouse Dungeon

Back in 2016, I wrote a post suggesting that there had never really been a sci-fi rpg equivalent of old D&D in the sense there had never really been a gonzo, promiscuously borrowing from all sorts of media sci-fi game of exploration that is generic. I think that statement is still largely true, if we limit it to games that really capture the gaming zeitgeist. Currently, horror science fiction hybrids seem to the order of the day.

It's true that gonzo/less serious science fiction has never been its most popular form in other media, but I feel like it's as popular as it has ever been with Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor: Ragnarok, and less popular but still big budget movies like Jupiter Ascending and Valerian.

The think, though, that the best model for a game of this sort is a show from nearly 60 years ago: the original Lost in Space. Sure it was aimed at kids and the amount of money spent on episodes left it with special effects like something from a decade earlier in comparison to Star Trek, but the mix of the lack of concern for serious science fiction (or logic at times) that came from making a kid-focused so combined with chasing the aesthetic of the popular Batman tv show, created encounters with the "unknown" that would be at home in any old school goofy dungeoncrawl.

A vending machine that can deliver androids to order--but then you have to pay for them. Faceless aliens in besparkled bowler hats. A space prospector that look like a miner forty-niner (complete with mule) but is blasting away to find an element that can create (or bestow) life. Space hillbillies. The Great Vegetable Rebllion.

Of course, Lost in Space has a bounded setting--and I think this is important. The Space Family Robinson are lost and marooned for most of the show on first one planet then another. This makes there adventures closer to a dungeoncrawl or at least wilderness crawl of a specific area. Of course, we never see the Robinson's methodically exploring, but there isn't a lot of ten foot pole poking around in Sword & Sorcery fiction either. If you want that sort of thing nothing stops you from doing it. 

In any case, I think the appeal of a science fiction campaign limited to one world, like Vance's Planet of Adventure or Lost in Space, but a world that is pretty gonzo as appeal.

Friday, October 7, 2022

Plasmoids of the Anadem

These rubbery, elastic invertebrates are one of the most commonly encountered nonhumankin of the Anadem. They have few wordlets of their own but can been found on many multi-kin habitats. They are generally easy of disposition and gregarious. They can often be found among the ranks of entertainers. 

It is believed that the ancestors of the plasmoids were discovered on some distant world by ancient human explorers. This world has been lost or at least misplaced, so that none of the scant visitors Old Earth receives from the outer galaxy can recollect any details regarding it. The tale told on Old Earth is that the pre-sophont ancestors of the plasmoids were known as zhmoon and came from a pleasant world called (appropriately, if unimaginatively) the World of the Zhmoon. Earlier spacers happening upon the world noted the gelatinous species, with seemingly no fear of other creatures. They also noted the tastiness of zhmoo flesh if appropriately prepared. 

It is possible hungry visitors would have caused the extinction of the zhmoon had not conservationists noticed them beginning to exhibit signs of intelligence greater than that of an animal. These behaviors, curiously, seemed to increase over time. It was generally accepted that exposure to human behavior and culture had triggered an aptitude for evolutionary mimicry, though there were other opinions. A renowned scientist, noting the malleability of zhmoo structure, suggested the only mimicry had been in the reciprocal consumption of some hapless would-be zhmoo hunters. The zhmoon had thereby absorbed human knowledge and mental structures. The scientist, determined to prove his theory, disappeared in the wilds of the World of the Zhmoon.

Shortly thereafter the zhmoon present humanity with manikins, the vaguely human-shaped, living but nonsentient snacks still cultivated on Old Earth today, demonstrating a biochemical know-how heretofore unseen among them. The snacks enjoyed a brief period of faddish popularity, but they were the plasmoids entre to galactic society.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Wednesday Comics: DC, January 1982 (week 1)

I'm reading DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! Today, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands on the week of  October 8, 1981. For the first time since I've been doing this series, DC has four weeks of releases with this cover date.

Arak Son of Thunder #5: Thomas and Colon/DeZuniga Carolus Magnus is holding a tourney and Angelica and family shows up. Arak wants to fight them, but he can't because of the tournament truce. The champion of White Cathay defeats Rinaldo with help from Angelica's sorcery, and they force him to accompany them back to their country. Arak and Maligigi follow to get proof of sorcery, but they are beset by monsters and defeated. Angelica wins this round!

DC Comics Presents #41: Clark, Perry, and Lois are headed off to Los Angeles, but so are the Joker and the Prankster. The two villains are temporarily working together to steal from a comedian-turned crime boss the two super-villains have a grudge against. When Prankster double-crosses the Joker and kidnaps Perry White, it's Superman and the Joker who must become uneasy allies. Pasko manages to take a number of digs on L.A. and Hollywood. I like how the script uses a the then-common not psychopathic but still potentially deadly Joker, and ups the menace of the Prankster, so the two are roughly as "serious." Jose Luis-Garcia Lopez art helps everything, though, and this is no exception.

There's a "A Bold New Direction for... Wonder Woman" insert by Thomas and Colan/Tanghal where Wonder Woman receives her new "double-W" halter from a feminist organization, and then returns to Paradise Island. There she has to best Hercules in a contest of strength and Hermes in a contest of speed to win freedom for the Amazons. Oh yeah, and Steve Trevor is dying--again. I've complained about Conway's wishy-washiness about how powerful Wonder Woman is. Thomas clearly comes down on the "very superhuman" side.

Ghosts #108: Squire Shade presents an unnecessary frame regarding a wrestler who has had three lifetimes to be tested. In the first story by Gill and Gonzales/Martin a treasure-seeking tender of his family gravesight is forced by his wealthy brother's ghost to pursue the bikers that took a metal, gargoyle-head ornament from his tomb. The man receives it and returns it, never noticing the jewels he had been seeking leaking from it. Snyder and Craig have a young man on vacation confronting a haunted house and defeating it's illusions with his refusal to believe. O'Flynn and Texiera/Celado reveal the hubris of a scientist who takes credit for his assistants discovery of a means to demonstrate the the soul leaving the body in a sensory deprivation take. When the scientist's eagerness to gain fame leads to his assistants death, the assistant's spirit seeks vengeance. 

The last story is another weird science fiction piece from Drake and Vicatan. Two criminals and their collaborating guard escape a future prison, discover a means to make their spirits leave their bodies after an alien encounter. They visit a utopian alien civilization who offer them the formulas for all sorts of societal improvements, but when they return to their own bodies the one them memorized the formula is left without a body. 

Justice League #198: Conway and Heck/Breeding break out a Old West crossover. In 1978 amnesiac Leaguers Green Lantern, Zatanna, Flash, and Elongated Man encounter and enlist the aid of Jonah Hex, Cinnamon, Scalphunter, and Bat Lash, respectively, all while under the watch of a shadowy, glowing-eyed figure.

Back in the present, Superman heads to the Grand Canyon where his colleagues disappeared but winds up being defeated by a Kryptonite-containing robot serving the Lord of Time. The villain explains that he is responsible for sending the League members back into the past. He knows that a cluster of antimatter energy is going to fall in the Arizona deserts in 1878, and he plans to use the League to collect the powerful energy source for him!

Weird War Tales #107: In a story by Newman/Carrillo a German commander must contend with the Furies of Greek myth who bring his plans to ruin and then get him arrested by his own people. Next Snyder and Trinidad present a non-weird non-actual war story about National Guard re-enactors in Oregon who change the result of the battle of Rappahanock Station. Newman is back with Rubeny for the story of a mercenary crew hired to terrorize and drive out indigenous peoples in Africa, find themselves in trouble when the people they are attacking hire a mercenary local sorcerer.

Barr and von Eeden/Smith present a presumably a fall of Skylab inspired story. The Wanderer satellite is going to fall to Earth and peoples fear leads to a political push that shuts down the space agency, effectively ending America's exploration program. However, a young boy sees the satellite falling like a shooting star and is inspired to one day go to outer space.

Wonder Woman #287: With the DC Comics Presents preview promising a "new direction" for Wonder Woman starting next issue, Wolfman and Heck are left to finish the lame duck "old direction" here--which means a Titans guest appearance. Wonder Girl and Starfire respond to a mysterious summons to a New York harbor dock and are attacked by costumed assailants, who manage to capture Wonder Girl. Starfire captures one of the gang, and contacts Robin, who in turn calls Diana Prince to get Wonder Woman's aid. Wonder Girl is being held prisoner by Dr. Cyber, who lures Wonder Woman to her hideout, intent on having Dr. Moon transplant her brain into Wonder Woman's body. Rather than risk Donna's life, Wonder Woman appears to agree to Cyber's terms. But the Teen Titans bust in to free their friends. Wonder Woman defeats Cyber, and Wonder Girl breaks herself out of the glass prison she had been held in. I feel like this one was better than most of the Conway issues that preceded it.

Monday, October 3, 2022

Travelers Tales at Bar in the Anadem

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

Lycaon, the Werewolf World

Those itinerant Earthshiners

The mysterious Toymaker

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Weird Revisited: In the Blood

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


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

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

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

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