Monday, February 27, 2023

The Essential Elf

What's an elf? For a lot of people, it seems to come down to pointy ears. (See any discussion about the accuracy of Talislanta's "No Elves" tagline line--which really seems to upset a lot of people--or discussion of Vulcans as "Space Elves.") Tvtropes, of course, has some ideas, but I feel like their definition only skirts the narrative use of elves in fantasy, mixing both surface characteristics and other qualities. My list overlaps in some places but has some differences. Not all elves or elf-like beings have all of these traits or possess the ones they do have to the same degree, but they tend to have the majority of them to a greater than humans (or whatever the baseline group of the setting is) in a work.

The qualities are:
  • Otherworldliness. Magical, mythic, or nonmaterialness. This is probably the essential elven trait.
  • Scale. Supra- or metahumanness.
  • Alien. Nonhumanness in outlook/mentality.
  • Morality. Association with greater moral clarity/absolutism.
Other qualities seem very common, but maybe not essential: "Clandestine/Hidden" and "Dwindling," are two the come to mind.

Tolkien's elves are perhaps only modest scorers except in Scale. Elquest elves are worse performs, but still outdo humans in several eras. The elves of Anderson's The Broken Sword, hit 3 out of 4 significantly. The Minbari of Babylon 5, ostensibly non-elves, manage to tic all the boxes.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Hither Came Conan...

This map of the Hyborian Age world by Katrin Dirim is pretty cool, and gives a different sort of vibe than typical illustration of Conan's world. There are a couple of illustrations from Conan stories, too. You should check them out!

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Wednesday Comics: DC, May 1982 (week 4)

My goal: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, we review the comics hitting the newsstand on February 25, 1982.

Action Comics #531: Wolfman is joined by Staton on this one. The Daily Planet is in danger of being taken over by a publisher who wants to turn it into a tabloid, but when apparitions out of 18th and early 19th century literature (including Frankenstein's Monster) start appearing, he changes his mind. It turns out the ghost of a printer's devil who really loves the Planet is responsible. 

In the Atom backup by Rozakis and Saviuk, Ray and Jean are in Curaçao, Venezuela, for a physicists' convention, the Atom thwarts the theft of a nuclear bomb that must be deactivated, but his power has been doing weird things since last issue, creating tiny nuclear reactions nearby when he uses it--what will it do to the bomb?

All-Star Squadron #9: It's New Years Eve 1941 and the All-Stars are at a party with Roosevelt and Churchill where Steel is the hero of the hour. Unfortunately, when he was captured at near a concentration camp while on a mission, Steel got the Manchurian Candidate treatment and has been brainwashed to kill Churchill by Baron Blitzkrieg. When the signal is given, the other All-Stars have to fight him to a standstill. Ultimately, though, Blitzkrieg's own PTSD around the scarring of his face with acid is his undoing as a blast of fire breaks Steel from his mental control.

Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #3: Thomas and Shaw/Smith borrow a sort of classic JLA plot style, where the Zoo Crew split up into duos to battle agents of A.C.R.O.S.T.I.C which are spread out across the country. The issue culminates with a battle with an animated statute from the Linkidd Memorial in the capital. This comic makes me wonder who the intended audience was? Younger readers, maybe? Or did they think there was an untapped market for furry animal humor books, so long as they were supers?

Detective Comics #514: Wein and Newton open this one in media res as Batman pursues Maxie Zeus who has just escaped from Arkham through the snowy mountains "north of Gotham." Road conditions lead to Batman wrecking the Batmobile, and his unconscious body is found by mysterious guy named Haven who lives in an isolated cabin and is a friend to animals. Haven is a pacifist and tries to convince Batman so stay with him until the storm is over, but Batman stubbornly insists on going out to look for Zeus. He almost immediately has to fight a bear (a lot of wilderness north of Gotham!), and Haven finds him and brings him back to cabin.

When they arrived, they are greeted by Maxie and his goons who were also stranded by the storm. When Maxie kills a bird, Haven gets enraged and attacks, but the goons shoot and kill him. Batman takes them down, except for Maxie who runs away, but the bear from earlier attacks him, and Batman has to save him. On his deathbed, Haven reveals that he came to live in isolation in the mountains after he killed another man in anger. Haven dies of his wounds and Batman buries him out back.

In the Batgirl backup by Burkett and Delbo, a carnival is in Gotham, and Batgirl investigates it after reports that a guy was attacked by a vampire. It's no vampire, but a fanged snake woman, Lady Viper!

New Adventures of Superboy #28: When "salesman-supreme" Huey B. McKay again tries to open a Superboy park, criminal mastermind Alex Traynor tries to make it a trap for McKay and Superboy with a bomb in a giant Superboy statue.

In the Dial H for Hero backup by Bridwell/Rozakis and Bender/Giella Chris and Vicki as Tar-Man and Miss Hourglass take on the Disc Jockey, who flies around on a giant record with an arm and needle attached. The story ends as a cliffhanger with Chris, reverted to his nonsuper form, thrown from the flying record by the Disc Jockey.

Unexpected #222: This is the last issue, and it's hardly uh--unexpected since the horror titles have been going deceased this year. Like last issue sci-fi predominates, but there isn't much here to recommend. Drake and Infante having a bitter widower discovering that his strange child is actually an alien. It supposedly has a happy ending as the aliens take the kid and present the guy with a clone of his wife as a "sorry your original wife died in childbirth." Pasko and Silvestri bring us a vampire story with not one but two twists: The vampire turns out to be the brother of the cop hunting him, and also a former priest. The longest story is by Kanigher and Giffen/Mahlstedt and has a guy stealing the coin to pay Charon from the mouth of Alexander the Great's corpse so that the conqueror is denied ferrying across the Styx. His ghost gets revenge on the thief, but he still doesn't get his coin and so his soul sinks into the river.

Unknown Soldier #263: Ayers and Talaoc give us perhaps the most ridiculous visual in history of this book: the Unknown Soldier as a scuba diver with the same old bandages on his face. Haney delivers the usual high concept with an abandoned U.S. sub that's really part of a Japanese attempt at biowar as the beer inside has been contaminated with the bubonic plague. The Unknown Solider blows it and its infected crew to hell before it can reach a U.S. port.

In the Tomahawk backup by Haney/Delbo, our hero is tried and convicted for the assassination attempt against George Washington. While he's awaiting execution, he and his rangers discover that the prosecutor is really his old enemy Lord Shilling in disguise. In the Balloon Buster story by Kanigher and Spiegle, the maverick Steve Savage is in trouble with his command, particularly after the Enemy Ace flies over and drops a personal message and trophy for him. That doesn't stop Savage from stealing a plane to fly a French boy to Germany to get surgery to cure his blindness. He calls in a favor from von Hammer to get the boy to the surgeon and back.

World's Finest Comics #279: Burkett and Pollard/DeCarlo have Batman and Robin tangle with a group of C-list villains who General Scarr has brought together because their noms de guerre all contain military titles: Major Disaster, Colonel Sulphur, and Captain Cutlass. They're out to kidnap Bruce Wayne. Green Arrow investigates a new cult called Harmony to help a reporter at the Daily Star get his daughter out courtesy of Cavalieri and von Eeden. He finds out that the cult and the deprogrammers supposedly working against them are in cahoots.

Rozakis and Saviuk send Hawkman to hyperspace on a quest to find Shayera, but instead he finds a motley band of space pirates. In the Captain Marvel story, Bancroft Fisher may be the worst rich person ever as he incentivizes doctors to find a cure for his condition by setting missiles to launch and destroy life on earth if he dies. Kid Eternity summons Asklepios to heal him. Bancroft reveals he was just bluffing, and he called the Marvel's specifically so they would stop the missiles. Instead of Bancroft getting beat to a pulp by the Marvels, we get the reveal that Kid Eternity is Captain Marvel, Jr.'s brother.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Elements of 80s Fantasy Style

 I've written before about the implied setting of 80s TSR art, but it's really only a subcategory of more widespread trends in fantasy of the 80s. Obviously, with something as broad as a multimedia genre, it's difficult to encompass all the works that appear in that time period with any sort of list of features, but I think the following elements are ways that the body of fantasy of the 80s tended to be different from what came before and to an extent, what came after.

The Triumph of the Barbarian
The barbarian (thanks to Conan and paperbacks with Frazetta covers), loosely defined, was the predominant protagonist type of the Sword & Sorcery subgenre, but in the 80s it may squeezed out the knight to become the predominant fighter variant in general. The barbarian films, rushing to cash in after the success of Conan the Barbarian (1982), had a lot to do with it, probably. A lot of fantasy warriors in the 80s just had the classic barbarian look whatever their origins.

The 80s was the third "ninja boom" in Japanese pop culture, but it was the first time North America really took notice. Ninja were part of a revitalization of the martial arts genre in the U.S., but they also crept into fantasy in the form of various black suited and masked thieves and assassins.

More Women Warriors
The 80s didn't invent the woman warrior, but they certainly became much more common then. The trend was heralded Richard Kirk's Raven series that started in the late 70s (possibly inspired by Marvel's Red Sonja?), but there were many more to come.

Glam over Grotty
Gone were the muted or moody colors of Frazetta in favor of Vallejo body-builder sheen. Medieval grime gave way to gleaming Excalibur plate armor, Royo rocker leather, and there was a lot of gorgeous hair.

The Elf and Dwarf  Move toward Codification 
The cutesy elf or dwarf of the children's story-derived popular imagining was giving way to the more Tolkienish D&D version, but we hadn't arrived at peak Tolkien "better than humans in every way" status for elves. From Elfquest to Hawk the Slayer, elves were no longer comedic craftsmen, but instead wilderness warriors. They were often depicted in Robin Hood-ish attire.

Dwarves continued to become differentiated from elves and perhaps moved closer to their Nordic roots. The most emphasized trait seems to be their warrior nature. They seem just as likely as barbarians to wield double-headed battleaxes, and they began wearing horned helmets appropriated from Vikings of earlier eras.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

The Delver Underworld

In wuxia fiction, the characters are members of the Wulin, the World of the Martial Arts or community of martial arts practitioners. This term has overlap with, but is not identical to Jianghu, which is the sort of demimonde/underworld that includes the Wulin practitioners and associated people and locations.

While D&D and D&Dish settings sometimes feature guilds adventures are members of, I don't think I've ever seen this developed into a full-fledged community analogous to the Jianghu or Wulin. As I've briefly suggested before, there are a number of interesting developments taking this sort of approach would allow, though. Just off the top of my head:

  • Schools of magic using types would be given an in-setting function.
  • It would provide an in-setting rationale for the separation between adventuring clerics and stay in the temple priests
  • The "keeping the Martial (or in this case Adventuring) World" separate from "civilians" aspect of wuxia would explain why adventurers are running every kingdom in the land.
  • It would seem to naturally lead to more rivalry between adventuring groups, potentially meaning more faction play within dungeons.
  • Guilds/sects/collegia are an easy source of adventure hooks.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Wednesday Comics: DC, May 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 February 18, 1982, the week of my 9th birthday.

Brave & the Bold #186: Mishkin/Cohn and Aparo have Batman and Hawkman looking to recover a stolen Egyptian sarcophagus and starting a manhunt in Gotham City to find the culprit. They find out that the art thief is the Fadeaway Man, who sets up an auction for Gotham underworld--where he offers a fake sarcophagus for sale. The heroes infiltrate the auction, but the villain uses the Cloak of Cagliostro to escape. Back in his hideout, the Fadeway Man is surprised by Horus (really Hawkman) emerging from the sarcophagus. The heroes capture the the villain, but his magical cloak gets away.

Legion of Super-Heroes #287: Giffen arrives on art duties as Chameleon Boy, Timber Wolf and Shrinking Violet infiltrate the Khund's homeworld, only to be challenged to a death-fight because Timber Wolf jostled an irritable Khund. The important stuff this issue is the Mon-El and Shadow Lass backup with art by Broderick, "Prologue to Darkness," where our heroes investigate a planet filled with hidden defenses, an awaken an ancient evil.

Green Lantern #152: Wolfman is joined by two other writers this issue: Mishkin and Cohn. It seems the Guardians are out to teach Jordan, so they've had him cooling his hills for the 5 weeks of his exile. Finally, though, they send him to the planet M'Brai with no explanation as a test. He finds two humanoid species warring with each other. He takes sides against the technologically advanced species, assuming they are invaders. After he's knocked unconscious, he's rescued by yet another group. He learns that all three sides--the primitive folk, the advanced Queln, and the Cormm, are all natives of M'Brai. The presence of these three species is mystery for Jordan, but then he sees a similar scar on a Queln and a Cormm and realizes what is happening.

In the backup by Kupperberg and Infantino, the planet Glirell is a world totally against violence. So when Jeryll, the Green Lantern of that world, hard-pressed by a violent madman, strikes him with a fist constructed of her ring's power, she is ostracized by her people. The cigh council give her one last chance, else she will be banished. Unfortunately, slavers from the planet Drel choose that moment to attack. When she flies off to stop the fighting, but the council reminds her of their decree to do it without violence.

House of Mystery #304: After immobilizing Bennett with a stake through the heart, Mary has her goons put him inside a coffin in the carnival's dark ride. Bennett, clinging to life, uses telepathy to induce a teenage girl into releasing him. He manages to rescue the millionaire's kid Mary's group had kidnapped, but the carnival is set on fire in the process and the shadow of a cross shape inadvertently cast. The remaining vamps are pinned down by the cross and go to their fiery deaths. Bennett sees a single bat escape and knows that it must be Mary.

Newman and Zamora follow that with the story of an old woman with a dog who can predict people's deaths, including in the end, her owner's. The last story, written by the letterer Todd Klein and drawn by Estrada, is the creepiest this title has had in a while. A new family moves into an old house, where their son makes a new friend, the ghost of a boy abandoned there by his parents who died of starvation. The new kid begins wasting away too and dies so that ghost can have a companion. They decide to get another friend: the son of a new family moving in.

Sgt. Rock #364: Easy gets a new addition in Pete Anthony, a brave and experienced soldier, who unfortunately is blinded in a fighter strafing run. Rock has promised to get him to his grandparent's house, where he grew up as a boy before immigrating to America. Luckily, Anthony other senses remember the way, and he's able to lead Easy Company--who only have to take care of the Germans occupying the village. Duursema does the art on a fantasy story about a war between pterodactyl-men and centaurs, that ends with both sides losing. Harris and Randall round out the issue with a major league pitcher ironically unable to make his last throw--a grenade--but getting it to its target anyway.

Superman Family #218: Kupperberg and Mortimer provide the Supergirl story. An aging rich woman summons Hecate to bargain for extended life. Hecate will grant her request only if she can deliver Supergirl's soul but gives the woman the power to do it. Dealing with magic, Supergirl has to use her knowledge of mythology to win the day. Kupperberg is back again with Delbo with the Jimmy Olsen story where Jimmy has no memory of his past 24 hours and finds his signal-watch is in the window of a pawn shop. He can't call Superman for help with the goons that tried to kill him, but luckily Olsen is kind of a badass in these stories and prevails anyway.

O'Flynn and Oksner send Lois to cover the Winter Olympics trials, where she is caught in the crossfire of two hitmen on the slopes. Finally, Mr. and Mrs. Superman go undercover as The Flying Tiger and his moll to figure out who's supplying kryptonite to street-level criminals. This is the last appearance of the Tycoon of Crime who only has had one other appearance in 1944.

Warlord #57: I detailed the main story in this issue here. The backup continues Kupperberg's and Duursema's Arion. Lady Chian and Wyynde fight to save Arion from sacrifice, meanwhile, he has mentally slipped into a realm where he is confronted by three god-like beings. He tries to fight them, but it doesn't go well, as they appear to break free into the real world.

Monday, February 13, 2023

Weird Revisited: Froglings for 5e

This post originally appeared in 2014. it's interesting what remained true and what got tweaked regarding the Land of Azurth from this conceptual, pre-game phase...


Frox or Bufokin (a bit of a misnomer, as frox resemble frogs more than their warty, dry-skinned cousins) are amphibious humanoids native to the bottomlands and marshes of the country of Yanth. Following rivers, they've ranged beyond their ancestral home to be a common sight in river towns. Their call and response work songs can be heard dockside all over Azurth. Frox work as bargemen or stevedores in civilized areas, and as hunters, farmers, or guides in their villages.

Frox legends say they come from a land across the Boundless Sea, which they left to escape persecution by a terrible and poisonous race of toad-folk, but this claim is considered doubtful by the scholars of Azurth for many reasons--not the least of which being that the Boundless Sea has no other side!

Frox are generally shorter than humans and tend to be thinner of limb, though many develop a potbelly as they age. Their skin colors are generally a dull green or brown, though they range from muted reds to purplish-gray.

A wealthy Frox businessman and tribal chieftain visiting the palace

Frox Traits
Ability Score Increase. Dexterity increased by 2 and another ability score by 1.
Age. Frox live shorter lifespans than humans on average with only a few living beyond their mid-60s. They are mature by their early teens.
Alignment. Frox tend toward good but are have no special affinity for Law and Chaos.
Size. Frox are between 3 and 4 feet tall. Small.
Speed. Base walking speed in 25 feet.
Jumper. Frox can long jump their full Strength score in feet from standing start, and double their Strength in feet with at least 10 feet of movement in a running start. They can high jump a total of 6 feet (rather than the usual 3) + their Strength modifier in a moving high jump and  half that for a standing jump. They have an advantage on Dexterity (Acrobatics) checks to land in difficult terrain.
Swimmer. Frox can swim at their full movement rate and rough waters only cost them 1 extra foot for each foot of movement. They use double their Constitution modifier for the purposes of holding their breath.
Resistance to Poisons. Frox have an advantage on saving throws against poison and resistance against poison damage.
Moisture Dependent. Frox require twice as much water as most races. However, submerging most of their body in water for 20 minutes or more reduces their requirement to standard levels.
Languages. Frox can speak and read (limited) Common. They also speak their on croaking, chirping tongue, which has no written form.

[Thanks to Evan Elkins, the creator of the Froglings, the basis for the Frox.]

A frox traditional dwelling

Friday, February 10, 2023

Weird Revisited: Found in a Shoebox

This a Weird Adventures post, originally present in August of 2012...

Cataloging of a deceased adventurer’s belongings revealed a shoebox full of assorted old photos.  A few held more than sentimental interest:

The Dark Manor
The most dangerous photo of the lot.  If stared at during night, the photo may open a portal to the pictured manor in a strange demi-realm shrouded in mist and populated by people who appeared to come from a gothic horror yarn. Anyone transported to the realm will be there for 24 hours on earth--though the exact time in the demi-realm is variable: anything from one night to a two weeks.

The Gold Women
A set of automata construct by a Staarkish thaumaturgist two centuries ago.  They disappeared from a private collection in Lutha during the Great War.  This photo has an address in Metropolis written on the back of it.

The Succubus
Naughty postcard from roughly 40 years ago.  It can be used to summon a succubus once per week if the incantation written on back is read and a few drops of the summoners blood (or other body fluid) is spilled into a circle draw on the floor.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Wednesday Comics: DC, May 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 February 11, 1982.

Batman #347: Slifer and von Eeden/Marcos present one of those "people talk about Batman" type stories within a story as a small-time crook tries to persuade a buddy to join in on a bank robbery, but his friend relates two tales of their biggest obstacle: Batman. In the end they decide to go straight. More interesting is the politics of the story. A group has been setting fire to slum tenements ostensibly as a "blow against capitalism." Batman calls it the "big business is bad syndrome." When the arson hurts someone in the community Batman is able to show the group the error of their ways. 

The rest of the issue is filled with mystery "shorts" with Bat Family characters: Batman and a retired police detective turned security guard solve the mystery of a detective's murder. Then, Alfred gets in the game by proving that the nephew of a friend's employer murdered his uncle and made it look like suicide.

Flash #309: Bates and Infantino/Smith have a time-traveler from the 98th Century comes back to the 1982 to find out if superheroes are real, and if so, steal the powers of one to save his future from a monster. The Flash prevents the visitor from stealing his powers but helps him by leading the guy back to the day Barry Allen became the Flash (April 23rd, if you were wondering) and allowing the visitor to get duplicate Flash powers. The visitor returns to his time and as the Flash of the 98th Century, sacrifices himself to save his people.

In the Dr. Fate backup, all seems lost as the Helm of Fate has been stolen by Malferrazae and Inza is dead. Inza's spirit reveals to the grieving Nelson that there is a way to bring her back, by reuniting her body with the entity of jealous the Lord of Chaos made from her. Nelson smartly defeats the Jealous entity, by showing interest in her, causing her to turn her wrath on herself. This allows him to snatch back the helm and reassume the mantle of Dr. Fate. Using his power to his utmost, he is able to defeat Malferrazae and repair the damage done. Inza is restored and the riff between the couple patched.

G.I. Combat #241: The Haunted Tank crew in some ways seem to be the luckiest guys in the war. They are being transported from North Africa to Sicily on an LST, but they are attacked by German aircraft. Everyone else on the ship is killed, but the vessel runs aground and the door opens to let the Tank about before the ship is consumed in an explosion. Anyway, Jeb is guided by his superiors to a series of locations seemingly for no reason, but really to to drive a narrow wedge through the enemy lines while the American forces followed in secret behind them. The tank is destroyed, but the crew survives and wins the day. 

The second Haunted Tank yarn is a flashback to their earliest days in Africa. Once again, the Tank is the only survivor of a squadron, but Jeb grabs his dead captain's helmet to replace his missing one, inadvertently spurring the company coming behind them to come to their aid in an assault on a German fortress.

The other stories include a history of the song "Taps," and a story by Allikas and Bercasio set in the Korean War where a rich kid learns he can't always buy his way out of work or trouble, but steps up and becomes a better man and soldier. The O.S.S. story involves trying to keep the site of the D-Day landing secret from the Germans. Hitler thinks the Allies are using reverse psychology via a captured spy and the landing will be in Calais, but Control is employing reverse reverse psychology. Or something like that.

Jonah Hex #60: Hex has been kidnapped and is on a ship to China. When pirates attack, Hex falls off the ship, but then washes up on the Chinese coast. He's nursed back to health by a local couple, but then captured again by the authorities. It turns out a Warlord wants Hex to do something for him--and they've got Mei Ling captive to ensure his cooperation. 

The El Diablo backup by Cohn and Ayers/DeZuniga has the town all riled up due to some abductions which they blame on a new religious group that's moved into town. I was thinking wrongly accused Mennonites or something, but nope, they are full-on robed, Satanic cultists into human sacrifice. They call up the Devil, but El Diablo turns the tables on them, because he and the Devil apparently have an understanding.

Saga of the Swamp Thing #1: Just in time for the movie (premiering on February 19, 1982) we get a new Swamp Thing title by Pasko and Yeates. After a recap of his origin, we find Swamp Thing near Limbo, North Carolina, near the Great Dismal Swamp. He's having a bad time of things, as he loses a hand while trying to save some dumb hunters from a bear. While waiting on his hand to regrow, he befriends a strange young girl who's father was preparing to kill her because he thinks she's a witch. Instead, he accidentally kills himself after the Swamp Thing intervenes. Meanwhile, a guy working for the Sunderland Corporation is after Swamp Thing. He's got Swamp Thing's dismembered hand, and he tells his boss Swamp Thing is dying.

The Phantom Stranger backup is by Jones and Spiegle. The Stranger bears witness to the strange end of a corrupt Baptist Preacher who fleeces his parishioners and uses his church as a front for his heroin operation. Unfortunately for him, one of his flock is a former voodoo practitioner, and when she gets wise to his con, she summons a swarm of cockroaches to end him.

New Teen Titans #19: Wolfman and Perez bring back Dr. Light and again play him as a joke to the heroes. He tries to rob an Indian exhibit in (I guess) a Midway City museum, only to run afoul of visiting museum curator Carter Hall in his Hawkman identity. Somehow, his light power brings to life monstrous incarnations of Vishnu. Light leads them to the Titans, hoping they will protect him from the vengeful beings. Once Robin and Hawkman get the truth from Light, Starfire uses her power to reverse the effect and banish the creatures. Light goes back to jail.

Superman #371: Wein and Swan have Superman puttering around the ol' Fortress, when he discovers a 
race of tiny, other-dimensional aliens have taken up residence in the Kandor replica Superman built in the old bottle. They want to live and normal sized people somewhere in our universe. Superman helps two volunteers to grow to human-size, but they are devolved into humanoid monsters by Earth bacteria. Superman is able to turn them back to normal with Kryptonite. He promises to work on a way to vaccinate them all, but until then they must remain in the bottled city as the new Kandorians. This has the feel of a "discontinuity nod" as the tvtropes folks say.

Rozakis and Calnan bring "The Private Life of Clark Kent" over here from World's Finest. An exposure to the rays of a purple sun gives Superman temporary mind-over-matter powers, which leads to numerous instances of hm creating money out of nowhere until he realizes what's going on. 

Monday, February 6, 2023

13th Age


I've had the 13th Age core book for sometime, but after picking up most of the rest of the publications for the game in a recent Bundle of Holding, I decided to give it a try. My online group was willing to give it a try. 

For the unfamiliar, 13th Age is sort of an "alternate evolution" of D&D. Debuting in 2013, it sort sort of took D&D 4e and stepped in a rules lighter direction, adding some freeform elements, quite different from the specification of 3e versions of the game. It's roughly equivalent in crunch, I would say, to 5e, but lighter than 5e in some areas.

We spent the first session in character creation. It took perhaps a little longer than 5e because the freeform elements required a little more thought. What are these elements? Well, the biggest is that every character has "One Unique Thing" some (noncombat) thing that sets them apart from perhaps everyone else. Not only does this serve as a character hook, but it allows the player to define something about the world. 

Then there are backgrounds. Unlike 5e backgrounds which are essentially packages of skills and accoutrements, 13th Age backgrounds are player defined (and presumably GM negotiated) broad skills. You could do something simple like "Miner," but it could also be something like (one my wife picked) "Gnomish Debutante." Like the One Unique Thing, backgrounds have the effect of fleshing out the world to a degree. The only downside I see to them is that characters might not be as "well-rounded" in the arena of adventure related tasks as their 5e counterparts. Still, that just means that (like older versions of D&D) skills are likely of less importance.

One final element not found in typical D&D is that every character has a relationship to one of the settings Icons, vaguely defined (so the GM can flesh them out more) beings of great power and importance in the setting. Characters can have a positive, conflicted, or negative relationship with one or more Icons. These are meant to be adventure hooks. You roll to see when they might come into play.

Anyway, the group seem to like what they've seen of the system so far and are interested in giving it a go.

Friday, February 3, 2023

The Age of the Wizard Kings


Millennia after the technological civilization of humankind was cast in ruins, a strange, new world had risen from the old. This time was known as the Age of the Wizard Kings as it was dominated by practitioners of magic. While the most of humanity had reverted to primitivism, the smaller, near human folk that are the ancestors of elves, dwarfs, and halflings, dominated the eastern part of the continent through their mastery of magic.

The Wizard Kings at earlier times had been ranked according to power, but by the time of the Orc Incursions that ravaged the land and threatened the stability of their rule, they were more or less equal in power. They held a magical contest to see who would possess a mystic tome of great power. Details have been lost to time, but someone that contest resulted in the ascendance of the Dark Lord, whose ultimate defeat came at a terrible cost. The city-states never recovered and were easy conquests for the human tribes entering the region.

Despite the millennia since it's fall, the influence of the Age of Wizard Kings can be felt in the present day. Many of the spell formulae known by human mages in the present day and many half-buried ruins and subterranean treasure vaults current adventurers seek to plunder date from this period.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Wednesday Comics: DC, May 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 February 4, 1982. 

Arak Son of Thunder #9: Thomas and Colon/Rodriquez are following the Conan playbook and have Arak and Valda head out to sea, trying to get to Constantinople. The sailing is of course not smooth as they must fight back against piractical types. In the Viking Prince backup by Kanigher and Duursema, the Prince loses an arm saving a woman from druidic sacrifice, but she knows a place he may be able to get it magically reattached!

DC Comics Presents #45: A freak accident while stealing tech secrets for the Soviets turns a Kristopher Kross (not that one) into Kriss-Kross (not the other ones) into a lame, one-off villain for Superman and Firestorm. But Conway does get to plug his upcoming Firestorm series.

Ghosts #112: This title gives up the ghost with this issue, but they saved some not bad stories for it. Also of interest is the editorial that thanks the writers and artists and plugs some new/upcoming DC titles. It particularly spends time on the titles in what it calls the "mystery genre" which include Saga of the Swamp Thing (premiering later this month) and the upcoming The Dark Force--which will see print as Night Force.  

In the stories, Harris and Texeira have a kid named Joey who is allowed to join the bigger kids pirate club rise to lead it after being possessed by the spirit in an old pirate's skull. Kanigher and Bender send John Wilkes Booth to hell where he has to live out the assassination he committed over and over--in Lincoln's place. Finally, in a proto-Death Note, a cop gets ahold of a page from Death's book and uses it to extort money from people looking to prevent their death or the death of a loved one. When Death comes to get it back, he extorts immortality from Death, too! The Grim Reaper tricks him though, and he gets eternal life--buried alive!

Justice League #202: I don't know what Conway and Heck were thinking on this one. It's like a Space: 1999 plot or something. Batman's injured while doing repairs on the outside of the JLA satellite. Before his teammates can get to him, he's picked up by an alien medical ship, whose automated systems heal him--but in the image of its presumably long-dead creator, Ursak. The process leaves Batman deranged. His teammates have to defeat him, before they can get the ship to heal him again, then Hawkman reprograms it and sends it on its way.

Weird War Tales #111: I had this issue as a kid. Kanigher and Spiegle do the sensible thing and team-up G.I. Robot and the Creature Commandos on an island with dinosaurs and survivors from Lemuria. Well, technically they are Atlanteans from an Atlantide colony in the Pacific--and they are survivors, but instead their robot descendants. Due to the Doctor's snaky tresses the Atlanteans decide to attack, but the Creature Commandos dispatch them. The Atlantean leader appeals to a fellow robot for help, but as with all G.I. Robot stories, the robot's humanity shows through, and J.A.K.E sacrifices himself to save the Commandos.

Wonder Woman #291: This is probably Thomas' Marvel roots showing. A gigantic and ultra-powerful alien, The Adjudicator, arrives to judge the Earth, as he has countless planets before. He discovers all the parallel Earths and plans to judge a number of them, too. Wonder Woman calls in the assistance of the JLA. Black Canary heads to Earth-2 to warn the JSA, Green Lantern heads to Oa to see what the Guardians know about the alien, and Superman goes to the Fortress of Solitude to search its archives. Wonder Woman and Zatanna are left to challenge Adjudicators physical manifestations: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The two battle the Horseman Famine in India and manage to defeat it.