Thursday, June 29, 2023

On to Junk City

Our Land of Azurth game continued on Sunday with the party still in the midst of fighting the Wheeler marauders in an isolated Sang fort. They manage to capture the leader of the gang, Hatch-Head, and interrogate him a bit. Unfortunately, he doesn't know anything about the Princess. 

They also take a couple of things from him. A fist-sized metal ball and a glass vial of some substance.

Heading on into the city, they find it aptly named as the city is made from and built into caverns of junk. At the only entrance to the city, they are accosted by the formidable leader of the guards who sizes them up as "adventurers" and warn them against looking for gold and experience around here. They assure her that they will be on their best behavior.

And they promptly start looking for trouble to get into. Using Waylon' owl familiar Celestie as a scout, they identify areas of interest within the city. One of them is a weird, giant shallow bowl. They approach it and find several bodies lying outside. They decide to explore the interior. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Wednesday Comics: DC. September 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 June 24, 1982.

Action Comics #535: Wolfman and Staton have Superman still suffering from the halving of his power (since last issue) and accidentally imperiled in performance of a heroic deed. Luckily, the Omega Men are there to request him and make a guest appearance. They were looking to enlist the help of Green Lantern, but weakened Superman will just have to do, though the Omega Men are dubious. Before he can help them, though he needs their help in saving some buildings in Metropolis from destruction by the Mole and his minions. Forgetting his reduced power, Superman gets injured shielding Primus and winds up in the hospital needing surgery. Kalista hears Superman mention Jimmy and Lois so she brings them to his bedside, but the Mole bursts up through the hospital floor and kidnaps Superman.

The Air wave backup by Rozakis and Saviuk, Air Wave defeats the alien menace he caught on to last issue, neutralizing a bomb that could destroy the Earth.

All-Star Squadron #13: Another "in-between action" character business story from the team of Thomas and Gonzales/DeCarlo. The All-Star's elect their first leader. The JSA members that joined the military make their goodbyes and return to their units. Firebrand learns to rethink her growing prejudice against the Japanese when she finds our her brother's life was saved by a Japanese American soldier.

Other developments aren't as positive. Steel visits his old girlfriend, Gloria, and learns that she has married an Army captain, and her father is dead. He leaves without revealing his secret identity and tells her that Hank Heywood is dead. Robotman rescues his friends Chuck Grayson and Joan Carter from malfunctioning machinery, but then discovers a sleazy lawyer has declared Robotman a public menace as he slaps "Paul Dennis" with a summons.

Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #7: The Zoo Crew is in Follywood planning to stay at the home of Byrd Rentals (who is the alter ego of Zoo Crew member Rubberduck). Arriving at his home they meet the writer Ezra Hound who is desperate for help because he believes his creation, Bow-zar the Barkbarian wants to kill him! He had grown tired of writing the series and planned to kill the character off, but since that time he has had vivid nightmares of Bow-zar's revenge and has been unable to sleep. Thinking this is all ridiculous, Pig-Iron agrees to serve as his bodyguard but when Bow-zar really does show up, transported from the distant past, the Crew has to fight him across Follywood. Ultimately, Bow-zar's actions are due to his fears of Hound killing him. The two agree not to harm each other, and Hound winds up being pulled into Bow-zar's time with him.

Detective Comics #518: Batman and Robin are cured of their vampirism by Father Green, using the sample of the vampire's blood and a transfusion. When it's all done, the Father whisks away the vampires, for some mysterious purpose. Batman isn't much concerned.

In our major plot point, Chance is going to dinner this evening as Bruce Wayne with Vicki Vale so that they can prove Bruce isn't Batman. But Thorne has hired Deadshot to kill Bruce Wayne because of Vale's suspicions. 

Batman is on Deadshot's trail, though, thanks to some detective work and arrives just in time to stop him from shooting Chance. Deadshot manages to get inside the building leaving Batman behind and he goes straight to Wayne, to complete his contract. "Bruce Wayne" acts fast and takes Vicki away from danger, buying some time until Batman returns and confronts Deadshot. "Bruce Wayne" uses his trademark throwing knife to break Deadshot's weapon, giving Batman enough time to capture the killer.
With Batman and Bruce Wayne in the same room, Vicki apologizes to "Bruce" for having suspected that he was Batman. Meanwhile, Thorne learns of Deadshot's failure and he prepares his next move.

In the Batgirl backup by Burkett and Delbo, Batgirl tangles with the Velvet Tiger, a Catwoman wannabe. The Velvet Tiger has stolen her brother Gilbert's new program that can tap into all of Gotham's computers, stealing information across the entire network. Unaware that Gilbert isn't being totally honest, Batgirl quickly follows the trail of the Velvet Tiger and locates her in his office.

New Adventures of Superboy #33: Continued from last issue, renegade Superboy Revenge Squad member Trohnn is still trying to kill Superboy and is holding Pete captive in a death trap so he can replace him. Pete manages to tip off Superboy to the deception by giving Trohnn false information, and the Revenge Squad lends a hand as well. Next the Squad tries to trick Superboy into changing the color of a star to give them powers, but even without knowing of their treachery, Superboy thwarts them.

In the Dial H for Hero backup, Bridwell and Bender force Chris and Vicki must battle a water-based villainess, the Naiad, who seeks pretty petty revenge on a movie star by trying to disrupt the shooting of a movie.

Tales of the New Teen Titans #4: Wolfman and Perez tell the origin of Starfire. It becomes apparent here that Perez, despite all his other strengths as an artist, is not great at drawing kids--unless Tamaranean children don't resemble earthly ones as closely as adults do human adults. We get more background on the Warlords of Okaara and the first (non-retcon) appearance of the sadistic Psions. The story is a nice bit of space opera but marred a bit by its simplicity in that Blackfire is a irredeemable villain from childhood.

Unknown Soldier #267: Haney and Ayers pit the Unknown Soldier against two German circus performers posing as refugees from the Nazi rise to power, but who are actually terrorists who kidnap six British children from a circus show. The Soldier to track them down the villains and rescue the kids, but a loadmouthed, unflagging patriotic kid helps him a lot by undermining the bad guys.

 In the Kanigher/Evans Viking Commando yarn, a near death experience promotes the Commando's over-eager Valkyrie admirer to whisk him away from the MPs who are carrying him in for psych evaluation, giving him the opportunity to destroy the array directing the Nazi killer satellite and proving his worth to the Allied cause.

In the Kanigher/Severin Enemy Ace bit, Steve Savage and von Hammer are still trying to have their duel. even going so far as to have a go at it by pistols on the ground, but the War always intervenes. I like Balloon Buster and Enemy Ace in general, but this whole sequence of them trying to find away to kill each other "honorably" and being unwilling to let it go really undercuts any anti-war message the stories might have and makes the protagonists seem like nuts.

World's Finest Comics #283: This is no longer a dollar book, in fact the dollar book thing may be done except for annuals. If so, it's the end of era, and also it means no Hawkman or Marvel Family this issue due to the reduced page count. There is a one-pager by Rozakis and Novick where the Atom faces...a mugger

Burkett and Tuska bring back one of the most "what now?" villains in the DC rogue's gallery: the Composite Superman. Xan, the alien who helped the original Composite Superman get his powers back, turns himself into a second Composite Superman and travels to Earth to eliminate his greatest foes. Batman is attacked by his friend, Superman and almost killed. In the same evening, Superman is attacked by Batman in Metropolis and the Man of Steel barely escapes from a Green Kryptonite trap. When the heroes confront each, Composite Superman II reveals himself and the two heroes are unable to defeat him. After failing to catch Composite Superman in a trap, Superman abandons his ally, apparently seeming to turn coward, but really he's traveling to the future to get help from the Legion of Super-Heroes.

In the Barr/Kane Green Arrow/Black Canary story, Mrs. Hollinger seems to have succeeded in tricking GA into killing again (as he did her son) and breaking him--but it's all a ruse. He knew his arrows had been switched by their weight and missed shooting Slingshot directly on purpose. Slingshot is up again and holds the gagged Black Canary and Mrs. Hollinger hostage, intent on a showdown with Green Arrow. Instead of sending another arrow at Slingshot, GA fires a shot that tears loose Black Canary's gag. She uses her canary cry to disable Slingshot. Hollinger acknowledges that Green Arrow saved her but she can never forgive him because hate is all she has left.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Godless in the Outer Planes

The Archons of the Cosmos and their lesser progeny have the comfort (or curse) of an unshakable belief that there was something different before. Their separation and conflict is based on different ideas about how to regain what once was and what precisely the characteristics of that thing was but they know it existed.

Mortal souls, even planar dwelling ones, don't share that faith or knowledge.

Mortals on the Material Planes are generally unaware of the wider conflicts in the Cosmos, but Planar ones, particularly those dwelling in the Concordant Opposition cannot help but be aware. In the city of Sigil, very mortal philosophies have emerge or at least congregated to explain the clash of realities around them.

The Athar deny or at least doubt that the gods and Archons have any privileged knowledge of the multiverse compared to mortals. An elephant might seem godlike to an ant, they say, but it has no greater insight into how or why the sun rises. In fact, some Atharan thinkers have argued that the certainty experienced by the Powers (as they call them) is a barrier to their rational examination of the Cosmos, suggesting that, whatever their puissance, they may be less capable of reason than mortals. Athar sages see the simplistic duality of Law and Chaos with their ill-defined and contingent categories, for explain, as proof for this line of thinking.

In general, Athar adherents seek to free mortal minds from the tyranny of the Powers, for only then can anyone ever hope to understand the Cosmos. Some Atharans believe that a Godhead does exist that undergirds or perhaps created reality, but the nature of such a conceptual being is only conjectural, while others feel such assertions are at best premature.

Friday, June 23, 2023

CowBoy Bebop the RPG

The pdfs for the core book and quickstart for the Cowboy Bebop RPG went out to Kickstarter backers today. I haven't had a chance to read it, but on a quick perusal, it's certainly a nice looking game. The rules are pretty simply and borrow a bit from Blades in the Dark (and apparently Monsterhearts, which I'm not familiar with). It uses a lot of thematically flavored names for attributes and mechanics, which I like in general, but at first blush seems a bit overdone here.

One interesting thing I saw along these lines is that ever character has a trait called Memory, which can come into play as a bonus, but also adds to "Bullets" which is a Stress track of sorts. When Bullets run out, the past comes back to haunt you, which is very in keeping with CB.

Anyway, I probably will give it a whirl at some point, though I confess Outgunned (the successor to Broken Compass) looks like a strong contender to be my go-to game of choice for something Cowboy Bebop-esque in the future.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Wednesday Comics: DC, September 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 June 17, 1982.

Brave & the Bold #190: Barr and Infantino send Batman to Rann for a  team-up with Adam Strange. After Strange is mysteriously killed, Sardath and Alanna summon Batman to Rann to help find his killer-- and fight the Kyrri invaders, because Rannians still need humans to do that. In his investigations, Batman comes up with a way to bring Adam back to life by using the Zeta-Beam. It's a good thing, too, because only Strange has the out-of-the-box thinking to defeat the Kyrri weapon that turns people to water. Batman reveals Strange's killer as one of Ranagar's soldiers, who had a personal grudge against Strange. This is not a spectacular story in a lot of ways, but solidly done. It allows the Dark Knight Detective detect, Strange to do his thing has that breezy Bronze "of course all the heroes are friends" charm.

DC Comics Presents Annual #1: This one by Wolfman and Buckler/Hunt is an okay story but interesting from a DC universe point of view as (I believe) it is the first appearance of the Earth-Two Lex Luthor. Not the Golden Age Lex Luthor who was of course retconned into being the Earth-Two Luthor, but the first time Luthor appears and is designated as being the Earth-Two version in story. It's also important was one of the building blocks of Crisis as it introduces Earth-Three's heroic Alexander Luthor.

Anyway, Alexei Luthor of Earth-Two and Lex Luthor of Earth-One decide to switch Earths (and Supermen) to defeat their foes and then relocate to Earth-Three to use that as their base and the evil Earth-Three "Superman, "Ultraman, as their enforcer. What they don't know, is a hero will rise on Earth-Three to team up with the Supermen of two worlds and defeat them--a hero named Luthor!

Legion of Super-Heroes #291: Levitz and Giffen/Mahlstedt continue the The Great Darkness Saga with the mysterious Master freeing, then feeding on Mordru. The casual defeat of the Legion's greatest foe is an ominous sign of things to come. 

Meanwhile, the Legionnaires have a lot of stuff on their plate. Shadow Lass and Mon-El discover the captured servant of darkness is a clone of Shadow Lass's ancestor, but they don't know what that means, if anything. There's an impending Legion election and Element Lad, Ultra Boy, and Dream Girl are jockeying for position. Reep Daggle is in jail and things don't look good regarding his trial for his anti-Khund adventurism. Lighting Lad is still in a coma.

There are disturbances on Takron-Galtos and Naltor. On the Prison World, a group puts an end to the riot, and find the Time Trapper drained and stricken inside his now broken cell. Shadow Lass and Ultra Boy notice some kind of nearby dimensional portal, cloaked in darkness not even Ultra Boy's vision can pierce through. On Naltor, the Legion arrives in time to stop a Servant from kidnapping White Witch. During the battle, Invisible Kid tries to sneak into the portal, but even invisible, he's spotted by the Master and blasted. Their mysterious enemy decides the White Witch isn't worth all this trouble and he and his servants depart. After the battle, the Legion takes Invisible Kid to a hospital, and Dream Girl has another vision where the Legion fights the Servants again on Sorcerer's World--and gets defeated.

Green Lantern #156: Barr in joined by classic Green Lantern artist Gil Kane on this one. Following a distress signal, Green Lantern finds a duplicate of Earth where the planet Pharos IV should be, inhabited by humans, even Hal's friends, Carol and Thom. Jordan doesn't fall for any of this, though, and sneaks into a meeting, where the shapeshifting alien leaders helpfully explain their really complicated plan to use Earth as a weapon in their generations-long war against Dalgova. Their strategy is to send a group to Earth and live as humans for years, until they have enough numbers to take over and build Xeroz Tubes, a weapon that will allow them to move the planet and crash it into Dalgova. Yeah, it's nutty. Anyway, the Pharoids discover Green Lantern and attack him, but a renegade, Trigus, helps him escape and reveals he's the one who sent the distress signal. Jordan Kirks this whole thing, by grabbing a bunch of representatives of both Pharos IV and Dalgova and forcing them to face each other in combat, but they don't fight because none of them even know why they are fighting. Jordan makes them to sit together talk about how to put an end to their conflicts. He has the Pharoids change their planet back and before leaving, warns them that if they don't end their war, he'll be back.

House of Mystery #308: Having given up his magic time travel ring last issue to save young Deborah Dancer, Bennett is trying to get it back so he can pursue Mary and not be stuck in 1964. He commandeers a boat and goes diving, and wouldn't you know it? His ring just happens to have settled in the vicinity of a sunken U-boat and it's magic animates the crew. He manages to fight them off and get the ring. Following Mary into the past, he meets up with both their younger selves before their vampirification. On his way to meet young Mary in place of his young self, he's asked to assist a group of witch hunters.

Cavalieri and Texiera follow that up with the story of a mortuary sculptor so intent on keeping his son safe from the dangers of the world he's been giving him cement in his insulin until he's petrified. The final story by Harris/Redondo is a offensive by modern standards tale of Roma (though of course they use a different term) revenge on a gold-digger and her sexually harassing boss via a tree that turns into a serpent.

Night Force #2: Wolfman and Colan/Smith continue the origin of Baron Winter's "Night Force" without yet making any of the characters particularly likeable--which isn't a criticism, just an observation. Jack Gold gets all indignant and heroic-like when he thinks Kane's ritual/experiment is hurting Vanessa, so he busts in and takes her--to his hotel room. There he succumbs to the advances of a confused young woman who's a resident of a mental institution. At least, that's what the scene looks like. When Kane, all righteously indignant himself and concerned for Vanessa's safety (and his experiment, and his military contracts) bursts into Gold's hotel room, Gold jumps out of bed wearing a sheet and protests he didn't "lay a hand on her" but she's calling him "honey," and it sure looks like a comic book post-sex scene, so I don't know what Wolfman intends to have occurred.

Anyway, the ritual resumes, but the mysterious as yet unnamed conspiracy is now ready to strike. They disrupt the ritual, leading to demonic forces getting out of control and killing Kane's assistants and his wife. The bad(er)guys kidnap Vanessa.

Sgt. Rock #368: Command is weighing heavy on Rock as he collects the dogtags of a dead new kid who just saved his life. He remembers a lot of other single appearance characters who's dogtags he's had to collect. I'll say this for Kanigher's work here. There are few nameless G.I.'s dying in this book. There are a lot of deaths, but everybody at last gets a name.

In a humorous story by Harris and Randall, cookies backed for soldiers in the front take so long to get to the Pacific Theater they save a G.I.'s life by making the Japanese soldiers that captured him sick. Then there's one of those silly pieces where Rock's helmet, Thompson, and pistol are arguing about which is most important to Rock's survival. Kanigher likes a "talking piece of equipment" story. Lastly, there's a tale of the Little Big Horn from the Native American perspective where Custer is labelled the "savage."

Superman Family #222: This is the last issue of this title. Supergirl is going to get her own title coming up, but in this issue were just getting the "change in direction" as Kupperberg and Mortimer have her getting fed up with balancing soap opera stardom and superheroics in New York City, she gives up her job and decides to get back to college (grad-school, I presume, though it isn't specified. Or maybe a second degree?) I suspect that means another relocation, but that isn't clear here.

The rest of the issue has the usual Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Mr. and Mrs. Superman stuff. Oh, Insect Queen shows up again in Mr. and Mrs. Superman. I won't bother giving you all the other details. While this book is hardly one of my favorites, so I won't miss it in these reviews, for historical reasons I am kind of sorry to see it end. While these sorts of stories wouldn't have been what I was looking for then (or now really), they were for the most part competently done. I guess adventures of crime battling reporters probably were better served on primetime TV in 1982, but the loss of them in DC's publishing roster is symbolic of the slow retreat from the newsstand and from the attempts to get beyond superheroes in the 70s, and that retreat leads to where the industry is today.

Warlord #61: I reviewed the main story in this issue here. In the Arion backup, Arion battles Garn in the astral and there's a lot of discussion among cosmic powers about what they must or mustn't do and profound mystical events. I have to say, I find all this attempted weightiness sort of tedious. At least, I don't think the story is helped by these sort segments.

Monday, June 19, 2023

The New Marvel Universe

 In 1986, Marvel launched the New Universe. It was envisioned as a more realistic setting--"the world outside your window." There were to be more subdued and limited super-powers, no gods, magic, or aliens. Jim Shooter argued this was similar to how Lee had thought of the Marvel Universe at it's inception: "the original Marvel Universe -- Stan's conception of it -- instead of doing something Superman or Green Lantern, he was really trying to do science fiction. The Fantastic Four didn't have costumes in the first issue. He was trying to be down to Earth."

Before they created the characters and books of the New Universe they had pitched a reboot of the Marvel Universe, something like the Ultimate line to come along decades later. There is no indication this reboot had the same mission statement as the New Universe, but what if it did? A more realistic Marvel Universe starting in 1986 would be interesting as a supers rpg setting, I think. 

What would that look like? I have some thoughts:

Fantastic Four: The crew of an experimental space shuttle are on their test flight when a strange white light fills the sky. They come back changed. Reed Richards has his genius intellect boosted to superhuman levels. Sue Storm develops the power to turn invisible and telekinesis. Johnny Storm develops pyrokinesis. Ben Grimm is transformed into a monster. The four stay together to fight alien threats and other strangeness as a team more Challengers of the Unknown than the original FF. 

Iron Man: Iron Man probably works the best in this lower key format, you just make the armor bulkier to seem more realistic. He is never able to reproduce the armor for the military due to some change in his physiology due to the White Event, so lesser exoskeletons and armor suits show up, but nothing on Iron Man's level.

The Hulk: The experiment that created hm would be a genetic one rather than a strictly radiation one. Perhaps something akin to the tv show? Obviously, his strength would be toned down.

Thor: An amnesiac being who has memories of another world roams the world looking for his "brother," a being he calls Loki who is head of a criminal empire. He is able to summon or create his "hammer" a weapon of pure energy to wield against his brothers minions. Thor is one of the hardest for this format, but I think he can be toned down enough to work.

Spider-Man: The White Event occurs while Peter Parker is visiting a science lab and he gets bitten by an altered spider. This one could wind up with a very different, darker tone than the original. There might be a tinge of body horror to Peter's spidery condition.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Wednesday Comics: Things I Read Recently

 My review of 80s DC Comics is taking a week off. Instead, here are a couple of things I enjoyed recently that you might as well.

Incredible Hulk Epic Collection: Crisis on Counter-Earth: I hate that the Big Two don't number a lot of collections these days, but if it matters this is volume 6 of the Hulk Epic Collections, apparently. These are stories from the early 70s, written by Englehart and Thomas and drawn by Trimpe and they are crazy. The Hulk wanders from one situation (and fight) to another, often running into people he knows no matter where he is. The Marvel universe seems really small! 

It opens with Hulk returning to Earth after a sojourn in Jarella's microverse world, which he accidentally kicked out of orbit when he grew big again. He's briefly reunited with some of his supporting cast, but then he's attacked by the Rhino being mind controlled by the Leader. He pursues Leader/Rhino into a spacecraft and keeps trying to fight him as the ship veers off course and takes them to Counter-Earth. They are there for 1 issue and get involved in conflict with factions of New Men, before grabbing a rocket back to regular Earth. There, Hulk goes looking for Betty who's marrying Talbot. Ross sends Abomination to fight him, but Hulk beats prevails, and Abomination has a breakdown over the fact he had ben unconscious for 2 years (since his last appearance where Hulk punched him out of space). And all this isn't even halfway! The Hulk goes to Counter-Earth again before it's all over and bears witness to the death and resurrection of Adam Warlock.

This the sort of flying by the seat of the pants comics storytelling we don't get in this age of decompression. 

Solar, Man of the Atom (1991): Valiant wasn't on my radar when it started and by the time it was it was the darling of Wizard. I was skeptical and avoided it. So, 32 years later I'm getting around to reading it's second title. And I'm actually pretty impressed.

Shooter is definitely still cogitating on the concerns that led to the conception of the New Universe. Valiant is realistic superheroes. Where for Moore realistic means a whole lot of sexual fetishes, for Shooter it means them having to deal with problems like the unexpected difficulties of flying (it's like a motorcycle but worse) or what to do if your powers keep destroying your clothes. Shooter's protagonists in this realistic mode, from Star Brand to Solar, have a hard time figuring out how to do the superhero thing--the sort of stuff that somehow just seems to happen for people when they get powers in most comics.  

Shooter's protagonist, Phil Seleski, definitely can't get things right. He gave himself powers Dr. Manhattan-style in a fusion mishap, but then something bad happened that resulted in the deaths of a lot of people. So, now he's back in time trying to stop that. Maybe he'll kill his past self--but then he accidentally creates his childhood superhero fav Dr. Solar from parts of his psyche, and now that guy is convinced future Phil is a super-villain. Which, in a way, he sort of is. 

Eventually, all of this resolves into more standard stuff, but it's a pretty interesting origin, perhaps given additional resonance by the sense of foreboding Windsor-Smith's art creates with the flashback backstory--though maybe this is only for me since I last read his stuff in Monster. For some reason, comics in the 80s and early 90s at least tend to do interesting things with nuclear test related heroes: Dr. Manhattan, the Bates/Weisman/Broderick Captain Atom, and this. Firestorm is perhaps the odd man out.

Anyway, I look forward to checking out more old Valiant stuff.

Friday, June 9, 2023

Swords Against Sorcery: Claw the Unconquered in Action

 After the first playtest session of Swords Against Sorcery, the Bronze Age of comics Sword & Sorcery rpg I have been working on, I went through 1975's Claw the Unconquered #2, by Michelinie and Chan, and broke it down in game terms just to see if I thought the rules as I'm currently envisioning them could handle it.  Here's one fight scene from that issue.

The story up to this point: Claw and a former would-be assassin turned ally Gofflok climbed a rope to escape dog creatures and find themselves in a floating city. A beautiful maiden, Myrallya, appears and welcomes them to K’Dasha-Dheen. She invites the two to her palace to partake in food and rest. As the two visitors are eating, Myrallya reveals that her city hangs suspended between two separate planes of reality. It also grants its inhabitants immortality but this enchantment has to be renewed through the sacrifice of a god. Since no gods are available, the two men are informed that they will have to suffice...

With so many blades pointed at him, the guards are clearly out to intimidate. Claw's player makes his reaction roll of his dice in his Might Attribute and Swords Domain, counting a 5-6 as a success. Claw succeeds! Now it's on, He's going to enter combat, despite the odds.

The GM says since the guards still have the drop on him, they attack first, meaning Claw will react to their attack. Claw's player plans an acrobatic evasion that will morph into an attack, and wants to use Daring+Deeds for the Reaction. The GM agrees, but adds he'll have a penalty of -1 die for being seated. The guards attack as Tough foes, meaning 2 successes are need to avoid their attack. 

Against the odds, he succeeds! Now, it's his Action, and he uses Might+Swords to make his attack roll, looking again for 2 successes as they have a Tough Defense too. It works and the guards sustain Blows.

It's Grofflok's turn and he gets his Action first thanks to the Surprise Claw gave the guards. His coming up behind his target assassin-style, rolling Cunning+Swords for his attack with one die bonus.

The two continue to fight side by side, getting in some different maneuvers:

Claw uses Daring+Swords to improvise a ranged attack. Then, he uses Might+Swords to heave a piece of furniture in their way, spending a couple of Momentum he's generated from extra success in this scene to get catch multiple guards in its delaying condition.

Anyway, that's one way all that could have gone.

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Wednesday Comics: DC, September 1982 (week 2)

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 June 10, 1982. 

Batman #351: Conway/Levitz and Colan/DeZuniga have vampire Batman stop Dick from turning Vicki, too. He manages to subdue his ward and bring him back to the Batcave. It seems, according to Father Green, that they can only be cured by a serum made from the Monk's blood. Batman and Father Green go to the vampire's lair, but they only find Dala, who tells them about the Monk's hiding place in an abandoned church. Batman and Father Green go to the place and after a brief confrontation, Batman defeats the Monk and Dala, allowing Father Green to start the transfusion process. Meanwhile, Bard and Gordon get closer to discovering Rupert Thorne, Thorne hires Deadshot to take out Bruce Wayne (who he now believes is Batman), and Christopher Chance seems poised to discover Batman's secret.

In the Jones/Gonzales Catwoman backup, she teams up with an FBI agent who has been investigating the case of Candy Carole, a woman wanted by several loan sharks in Cleveland--the woman Selina has been mistaken for. Impersonating Candy once again, Catwoman lures the criminals out of hiding and they capture the whole criminal gang. That only leaves Roscoe, Candy's former lover, who forced her into a life of crime. When Catwoman finds Roscoe with all his criminal loot, he tries to escape, but dies in the attempt.

Flash #313: Barr takes a deep cut and brings back William Dawson, the guy whose body Grodd stole in wayback in Flash #115 (1960) as the psi-powered Psykon. Psykon is out for revenge on Grodd but Flash won't let him kill him--while largely sympathizing with Psykon's beef. When Grodd tries to betray his ally, the Flash makes a plan with Psykon that keeps hm his body back and leaves Grodd's mind in the body of a homeless alcoholic. Which hardly seems fair to the homeless alcoholic, but I guess that's Central City justice for you.

In the backup, Dr. Fate is able to defeat the combined forces of a Lord of Order and a Lord of Chaos by adding Inza to the mix of Nabu and Kent--shades of one of the conceits of the Dr. Fate 1987 limited series by DeMatteis and Giffen. It's surprising to see how far back that idea goes.

G.I. Combat #245: In the first Haunted Tank story, a German tank crew so horribly burned they look like undead returns to menace Jeb and friends a second time (after a brief stint in a circus sideshow). Jeb tries to save the commanders life, but he chooses to die after his defeat. In "The Easy Way" Kanigher and Talaoc have the path of apparent least resistance mean death for a group of GIs. In the O.S.S. story, Kana is put on trial for refusing to go through with his mission to assassinate the Emperor of Japan. Rather than go to prison, he prepares to commit seppuku, but he's saved with MacArthur orders the Emperor is not to be killed. In the second Haunted Tank yarn, Craig meets up with an old friend from WWI who is now a Colonel and moves Craig to a desk job due to his age. In the end, though, Craig is meant to be a tanker, and proves it. Also, Craig seems rather easily to have taken over the role of doubting Jeb's sanity from Slim. Kanigher wants to keep the same story formula, I guess.

Jonah Hex #64: We pick up with Hex in San Francisco, losing at cards, then rescuing a damsel in distress from some thugs. The woman is Sharon Hilliard – daughter of wealthy copper baron, Maxwell Hilliard. She claims her now deceased sailor boyfriend found a pearl of great value, and she knows where to get it but she needs protection. Jonah has to fend off her advances while dealing with the disapproval of her father (who doesn't believe any of this pearl nonsense) and unscrupulous treasure-seekers who do. Jonah and Sharon are kidnapped and threatened with death if they don't reveal the secret. Jonah manages to win their freedom, but after all that trouble, Sharon admits the story was a lie.

Saga of the Swamp Thing #5: Pasko and Yeates left Swamp thing in the hands of Sunderland goons and now he arrives at a private clinic for treating Sunderland employees. Dr. Barclay, who appears to have psychic healing powers, seems like a nice guy and heals Swampy, but something still isn't right. He finds out just what when he discovers that a lower level of the clinic is full of unconscious human clones. The clone are empaths and the wounds from the employees (and Swamp Thing) are being psychically transferred to them. Barclay and Elizabeth Tremayne are as horrified as him, and work to free the clones, but not before Dr. Kay (revived by the transfer of his burns to a clone) arrives to try to stop them. The revenge seeking clones overwhelm the staff, but not before Kay escapes in a helicopter, and our heroes flee.

New Teen Titans #23: Wolfman and Perez shift back to Vega System stuff. As the DA chews out the Titans for complicating his attempts to bring down Brother Blood and his cult, Starfire is hit by a Gordanian mental probe and goes wild. Then, She's captured by the Gordanian slavers under the command of her renegade sister, Princess Kornand'r. The other Teen Titans, with the help of Aqualad, salvage two Gordanian ships and infiltrate the Gordanian mother ship, but they're overcome by its defenses and hurled into space, where Raven's soul-self protects them until they can be rescued by Superman with the tractor beam from the Justice League satellite. Superman is unable to aid the Titans' rescue mission, since his powers were halved (as seen in Action Comics this month). The Gordanians escape with Starfire.

Superman #375: Bates and Swan/Adkins bring the Vartox/Lana wedding thing to an end. Syreena's treachery causes Lana to be turned to stone while Vartox jealously attacks Superman. When Vartox snaps out of his rage, the heroes managed to capture Syreena. She pleads her love for Vartox and eventually agrees to cure Lana. She does, but only by turning herself to stone. Another side effect is that the field that would have allowed Lana to live on Vartox's world is gone. The lover's part, with Vartox carrying the petrified body of his ex home with him.

The Fabulous World of Krypton backup here by Rozakis and Kane is better than average. A Kryptonian reporter spies on the Fel-Kar, head of the Kryptonian Science Council, and the agent Fel-Kar sent to spy on Jor-El. They learn of the scientist's plans to illegally launch a rocket bearing his son to Earth. But, when the Councilman fails to report the findings, the reporter realizes Fel-Kar plans to steal the rocket and escape in it himself. He fights with the Councilman and they are both killed in the collapse of the building, but not before Jor-El's ship rocket's the safety and the reporter records his account for posterity. Later, a group of aliens listen puzzled to the account, but cannot understand the Kryptonian language and decide to sell the device as junk.

Monday, June 5, 2023

The Plane of Whatever It is, I'm Against It

No one is quite certain how the Concordant Opposition came to be. It is quite possible that some soldiers of Law and some warriors of Chaos tired of the endless battle of natures and paradigms and came together in that consensus to make another alternative. Others believe (or hope) that it is the place where the last fragment of the Godhead exists. a strange loop of dreaming God unconsciousness, a bulwark against a schizoid multiverse. People in the City of the Sigil, in particular, like this idea.

However it came to be, it stays because he serves a purpose. It's the phase boundary between not only Law and Chaos but the other syxygies which emerged from their conflict come together. It is the place of concordant. Of course, it actively resists being incorporated into any camp (though they all try). It is a place of opposition.

Across it's expanse none the Powers hold sway, yet no where are their philosophies more discussed and debated. There are groups of evangelists and missionaries from other Planes working to convert travelers, though these all die out eventually, either in conflict or by loss of faith. The plane does not mock, but it is actively indifferent.

At the edge of these Outlands are the Border Towns. Their appearance vary from town to town, but they control the flow of traffic from whatever plane is on the other side. All are fortified, no matter how benign the appearance of the Plane on the other side. Indeed, from the perspective of the Opposition, the most benign are often the most dangerous.

Friday, June 2, 2023

Swords Against Sorcery: Kharron the Slayer! Anatomy of a Pregen

Kharron was one of the pregens I put together for the first playtest of my in-progress comic book Swords & Sorcery ruleset, Swords Against Sorcery. I don't know any more about Kharron and his background than these stats suggest. I gave the player a picture of DC's Stalker as drawn by Steve Ditko for an illustration, but I also had in mind Kharon: Scourge of Atlantis, a character created by my friend Jim Shelley and artist Pierre Villeneuve for the Zuda competition. Jason Sholtis drew this rendition with that in mind:

Anyway, every SAS character has two Archetype descriptors. These determine what abilities they have. For Kharron these are Cursed Warrior.  

His Distinction is "Neither Living Nor Dead," which can come into play as a special bonus once per session, but can also be used as a penalty at other times.

These are the primary abilities of the game. Every roll is a Attribute plus a Domain with situational modifiers. I talked about these before. Attributes range from 1-5 (with 2 being the minimum for heroes) and Domains 0-4 (with 1 being the minimum for heroes).

Expertises and Talents further flesh out a character. Expertises are skills they are exceptionally good at, while Talents are sort of special abilities that allow a character to "break" the usual rules n certain circumstances.