Monday, April 29, 2024

Larry MacDougall's Gwelf


Gwelf: The Survival Guide
(2021) is a gorgeous art book by Larry MacDougall who once upon a time did art for Palladium and Magic: The Gathering. I say it's an art book, because that's what Amazon likely calls it, but in the rpg world it could credibly be called a systemless setting book.

Gwelf is a Medieval(ish) land of anthropomorphic animals. Its author says it's like a cross between Wind in the Willows and Lord of the Rings and that's not just high concept, but pretty much literally the case. Gwelf is the last bit of civilization of the border. It's a place where Otters, Foxes, Badgers, and the sage Sparrows come together peacefully, but beyond the frontier are the Hinterlands where the Ravenfolk hold sway. They're practitioners of dark magic.

This book details the peoples and cultures of Gwelf. There's another book on the way in June, which promises to reveal more about the Hinterlands.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

The Houses of the Dragons

The home provinces of the Draconic Empire are ruled by noble houses with a chromatic dragon progenitor. While not all nobles are sorcerers, few without magical aptitude ascend to real power. Those most often undergo the Ritual of Rebirth to be transformed into Dragonborn, a privilege accorded to the draconic-blooded sorcerers as well. 

The great dragons seldom involve themselves in mere human politics; they are mostly content to rest in their lairs and receive what tribute is brought to them--though occasionally they may roam the countryside and take it from the common folk directly. Only the most senior members of the Houses consult with them, and even for that elite, it is a fearful summons to receive.

These are the eleven Great Houses currently. Two houses are in immediate contention for the throne as they are descended from the Empress herself:
  • House Argaman: A conservative house in control of the much of the Spine mountains. They field an elite corps of Dragonborn trooped who where a personal guard to the Empress Pyrekhis.
  • House Vyssinis: Less martial than many others, Vyssinis controls the fertile lands of the central islands. The wine of their vineyards is prized.  They are stereotyped as politicians, sometimes schemers, rather than fighters.
A third red House is descended from the Empress' slain consort, Angrazar:
  • House Porphyrion: Nakedly ambitious, this House both plays to the people and touts its accomplishments on the field of battle. Its formal connections with the other houses are fewer than its Red rivals and it is seen as an upstart.

The other houses, descended from other chromatic dragons, are not directly in contention for the throne, but may support or hinder the three that are:

  • The Houses whose progenitor is the green dragon, Esmaragd
    •     House Harilak: Mystics known for their might at magic and divination. They seek stability within the Empire.
    •     House Gwyrth: Holders of rich timberlands and farms. They are ever on the lookout for an opening to advance their own fortunes.
  • The House whose progenitor is the black dragon, Mordax,
    •     House Melacanthus: Genteel schemers whose swamplands provide the ingredients for the infamous black lotus poisons employed by their assassins.
    •     House Karas: Merchants and smugglers, certainly, pirates, possibly, their lands are in the eastern marshes. They care little for who sits on the throne, so long as their operations are not disrupted.
  • The houses whose progenitor is the white dragon, Isaz,
    •     House Valko: Known for its remote holdings in the northern forests and its powerful sisterhood of sorceresses known as the Snow Witches.
    •     House Brimir: Descendants of a tribe of barbarian reavers that worshipped the white wyrm, they hold fortresses along the Northern coast.
  • The Houses whose progenitor is the blue dragon, Azarakh,
    •     House Lazuran: A House in the arid southern regions with a strong martial heritage. They are scrupulous to appearances and fastidious about honor. They have no favorite among the Red Houses.
    •     House Takilt: Strong in the magical arts. They are inclined to house Argaman because of a fondness of tradition.
There are persistent rumors of a hidden twelfth house, Typhon, who are adherents and priests of the Cult of Tiamat and work for her return. If such a group exists, its members live in secret among the other nobles and even common folk.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Wednesday Comics: DC, July 1983 (week 3)

My mission: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around April 21, 1983.

Brave and the Bold #200: This is the final issue of Brave and the Bold, ending a 28-year run. It also happens to be a comic I bought off the stands (one of three this month, it turns out! The first time that's happened in this review.) so I have a lot of nostalgia for it. It perhaps doesn't read as well to be today as it did at 10, but I still think its a good Bronze Age comic, starting with a great Aparo cover. 

The main story by Barr and Gibbons/Martin is billed as a team-up between Earth-One and Two Batmen, but is really a sort of team-up between parallel world counterparts of a new villain, Brimstone. On Earth-Two (rendered in Jerry Robinson-esque style by Gibbons), Nicholas Lucien is a B-grade villain with a devil gimmick who is defeated by Batman and Robin and accidentally put in a long coma by a head injury. He is revived 28 years later in Arkham to find himself an old man, and Batman dead and thus beyond his vengeance.  Unwilling to accept this, he mentally reaches out to that other him he always sensed existed who is a respectable businessman on Earth-One. He essentially possesses that version of himself to execute a terroristic plan to lure Earth-One Batman into a trap and kill him. The Earth-One portions of the story are, of course, rendered in more gritty, modern style. It's a nice gimmick that leads to a good story, if not necessarily a memorable one beyond its high concept. Gibbons changing art styles are a large part of its success.

This issue also as a preview of the comic that is to replace Brave and the BoldBatman and the Outsiders. In the continuity of that title, I am told, this story comes after the third issue. Anyway, it's a nice introduction by Barr and Aparo and left me wondering as a kid who these characters were. A group cultish terrorists seek to liberate their leader Miklos from the hospital where he is being held in police custody. When they attack the hospital, they run up against Batman and the Outsiders.

Legion of Super-Heroes #301: This is another issue why brother and I had as a kid. Despite it's very Silver Age-y cover by Giffen and Mahlstedt it's a very modern comic for the era. In fact, this title is one of the ones really closing the book on the Bronze Age 70s style, I think. Anyway, Chameleon Boy and his father, RJ Brande, are on Durla trying to regain Chameleon Boys powers which involve trials, including a fight with the Durlan elders. Meanwhile, there's a lot of character drama stuff, including Proty II making space for himself as a newly recognized sophont being, and the announcement of Karate Kid's and Princess Projectra's wedding. 

Night Force #11: In the 1930s, Winters and Vanessa get more than they bargain for when they meet with the cabal financially supporting Hitler whose members are all malign ghosts in 1983. Turns out the group is able to summon (or maybe form Voltron-style, it's unclear) the Beast of Revelations. After Fleeing back to the present, Winters blunders again by sending Jack and Vanessa to the house, where for some reason he didn't think the ghosts would attack them (but they do). He's forced to call in allies: Katina, with which he has personal history.

Daring New Adventures of Supergirl #9: Kupperberg and Infantino/Oksner continue the team-up with the Doom Patrol. We get the origin of Reactor, who Tempest knew in Vietnam as Krullen. Tempest first manifested his mutant powers to stop Krullen from massacring a village of civilians. Krullen had been irradiated during atom bomb tests in the 1950's and was later turned into Reactron by the Council. Reactron attempts to absorb all the radiation from an experimental reactor and blasts Supergirl. She manages to create a wind-funnel that draws him into the upper atmosphere, where he explodes from radiation overload. Unfortunately, in the aftermath, Robotman tells his teammates that his sensors detect an unknown radiation Supergirl has absorbed from Reactron--which is killing her.

Halloween (1978) must be really in the Zeitgeist in 1983, because it is referenced in two comics this week. In this Cavalieri and Oksner/Hunt Lois Lane backup, Lois spends the day with film scream queen Jenny Lind Keaton, but then she is mistaken for a disguised Keaton by a nutty gunman who thinks she's really a witch.

Green Lantern #166: The story that's been building in the background comes to the fore, as we get a new creative team with Cavalieri and Tuska/McLaughlin, and a promising start. Krista, the newest member of the Green Lantern Corps, gets stranded in the yellow desert planet of Sikarra, where a ring can't protector. She is rescued by Jordan, but she is badly injured.

On Oa, Lanterns Eddore, Kaylark, and Galius-Zed accuse the Guardians of betraying them by hiding an advanced model of the Power Ring that is effective against the color yellow, and thus endangering the lives of the Corps members. When Jordan arrives with Krista, who then dies of her injuries, the situation turns violent. Jordan fights on the side of the Guardians, but the rogue Lanterns find the advanced rings inside the Central Power Battery. Two of them escape from Oa, leaving Galius Zed to fight Hal Jordan with the advantage of the improved ring. Jordan is overpowered and Galius vows never to be dictated by the Guardians again.

House of Mystery #318: We're at the penultimate installment of the "I...Vampire" saga. Bennett and Deborah track Mary to Paris. Bennett decides to take the untested Rashnikov Formula, that's supposed to remove vampire weaknesses. It seems to work, leaving him with vampire powers but removing the weaknesses and need for blood. He is able to start a romantic relationship with Deborah. He's keep hunting the Blood Red Moon, and under cover, follows several vampires back to their hideout where he hides in a coffin. When day comes, he's unable to move. When Mary wakes him from the coffin the next night. She tells him rigor mortis has set in. The experimental formula apparently wasn't meant to be taken by existing vampires, but by people who would be turned into vampires. Looks like it's the end for Bennett, but we'll find out next issue.

There are two additional stories this issue. The first is a post-apocalyptic yarn by Kashdan and Matucenio where a couple repairs a robot to be a servant, but instead gets a killing machine. The last story, by Kelly and Trinidad has a serial killer who uses various weapons with occult significance. Only one reporter realizes what's going on, but when the killings stop, he's ridiculed so he commits a murder himself to keep interest up. That of course brings him to the attention of the serial killer.  

Sgt. Rock #379: The main story has Easy getting their mail months overdue, and then deciding to play Santa Claus to the German kids in an orphanage, complete with Jackie going down the chimney dressed as Santa. Since nothing is ever easy in Easy, there's the Wehrmacht to fight, too.

There's a story credited to "the Kubert School" about a G.I. eager for a war souvenir, a French kid playing with a German helmet he found, and a tragic accident. Finally, Harris and DeMulder deliver a schmaltzy story of a soldier who keeps talking about his gal back home, who we discover (after his death) was his mother.

Warlord #71:   I reviewed the main story in this issue here. No Barren Earth backup this month.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Preparing for a New Campaign

I think my group will finish up our current campaign in the Land of Azurth this year, and though with months to go some plenty of time to change my mind, I'm in the mood for something different. With a semi-new edition of D&D arriving around that time and other, similar options available (Shadow of the Weird Wizard, 13th Age--possibly with a 2nd edition) it will be a good time to do it, too. My prerequisites are that the system be close enough to D&D so as not to cause undue angst for my players who don't always appreciate new systems and so I have an easy time finding/adapting published material. My experience running at a regular clip for 10 years now is that I need to use premade material a lot to keep it going.

Right now, I'm thinking about expanding on the world introduced in my recent "Draconic Empire" post. Inspired by my recent consumption of some anime with the Japanese version of "generic D&D fantasy" I think that's what it will be with influence from the two settings of various editions of the Sword World rpg and Uresia, as well as hints of more console game-inspired settings like BREAK!!, Fabula Ultima, Exalted, and Icon (though more "standard D&D" than any of those). I also want to utilize as much official D&D "lore" and character options as possible to keep it familiar, though they may be given a slight twist.

Additionally, I'd like to try to capture the passage of time better, something like Frieren: Beyond Journey's End, so I think I'll try to use the Fellowship and Journey rules from One Ring (or it's 5e adaptation).

Friday, April 19, 2024

Solar Queen

Our Action Tales system sci-fi game continued last Sunday with the group going aboard the spaceliner, Solar Queen to get the untraceable credit stick to pay a group of pirates for a captured Martian vessel which supposedly contained classified data potentially useful to the Earth freedom fighters. Things didn't exactly go smooth, though, as there were more Ares Corp agents waiting in Chandra Roberts' stateroom.

The battle was in a confined spaced and unorthodox. Zarek and Rusty pushed one agent into the bathroom and beat him unconscious. Ryne flipped a mattress over on another and Ariana stunned him with an electrolaser blast through it. In the end, the agents were defeated and stolen keycards and some fast talking convinced ship security that they party were in law enforcement.

Out at the edge of the spaceport, they found the newly repainted and repaired "salvage" in Bay 11. They turned over the credit stick and took possession of the Rowdy Yates. They did some quick, preflight checks, then blasted off for a 10 hour flight to their rendezvous station. 

They were only a few hours out of Luna when they were hailed by the Martian cruiser Yangwei. Captain Willard Tang demanded they prepare for boarding. 

They party elected not to do that. Hesperos did some fancy flying, aided by the ship's powerful drive, and manged to race out ahead of the other vessel, but the high G maneuvers caused several of the party to lose consciousness. Quickly everyone had had time to strap in.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Wednesday Comics: DC. July 1983 (week 2)

I'm reading DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! Today, I've got the comics at newsstands the week of April 14, 1983. 

DC Comics Presents Annual #2: Elliott S. Maggin brings Kristin Wells, a history student from the 29th Century, who appeared in his novel Superman: Miracle Monday, into official DC continuity in this story with art by Pollard/De Carlo. In the 29th Century, Wells, now a history professor, is discussing the enigmatic Superwoman with her class and they debate how many of the heroine's powers could be replicated with "modern" technology. Foreshadowing! Anyway, Wells decides to go back in time to investigate because, I guess, in the 29th Century any history professor is allowed to do that.

Superwoman has appeared yet and Superman doesn't know who she is, but Wells (in a cover identity as a new Daily Planet employee) knows the heroine will show up soon and she has theories. When King Kosmos attacks from space and Superman can't handle him alone, Wells is forced to become Superwoman to help save the Earth, in a twist that might have surprised DC's putative tweener audience, but likely no one else. That isn't to say the story is without a certain charm. 

Saga of the Swamp Thing #15: Mishkin and Hampton continue the story from last issue. This may have marked the first time I bought 2 consecutive issues of a series off the spinner rack. Pretty sure I got it at the Suwannee Swifty store in Blakely. After being crystallized last issue, Swamp Thing's regenerative powers restore him to normal, and the Phantom Stranger just reappears, mysteriously back to his old form, playing a synthesizer. The silicon-crystal Nathan Broder plans to take over all the computer networks in the world and as his friends and colleagues discover his plans, he kills them. Swampie helps his wife escape, but they don't know how to stop him until Sally remembers he may be vulnerable to vibration at his resonance frequency and rushes back to her keyboard the Stranger was noodling on earlier. Broder shatters, and Swamp Thing returns to the Swamp.

Batman #361:  Moench and Newton bring us more Man-Bat. He's kidnapped Jason Todd and wants him to be a replacement son for the daughter he thinks (wrongly) that Batman killed. Neither the police or Batman appear able to contain him. Ultimately, Batman tracks him to the Gotham Natural History Museum and uses trickery (with some life-size photos of Langstrom's family, courtesy of Vicki Vale) to get the Man-Bat, but it's help from Jason that allows him to administer the antidote to his condition at last. Also, a new assistant is foisted on Gordon by Mayor Hill: Harvey Bullock.

Flash #323: Barry's and Fiona's rather rushed wedding day is here, by Bates and Infantino sort of tip their hand there, because their focus is on Barry (now tipped off to Zoom's return by the Guardians) frantically plays cat and mouse with the villain. I think I can guess how this one will turn out, but maybe Bates has a surprise up his sleeve.

The Creeper backup by Cuti and Patton/ reaches its conclusion none too soon with the Creeper having a showdown with Cris Kraken, the monstrously mutated drug supplier. There's a coda with art by Giffen that promising the Creeper's return, but I don't know if what was teased here ever actually happened.

G.I. Combat #255: The first Haunted Tank piece is a focus on Rick, who's feeling isolated until he has a whirlwind romance with a young Italian woman. After a German sneak attack badly scars her face, Rick decides to marry her, but the woman, fearing he's doing it out of pity, jilts him on their wedding day. The second story, the captain in charge of the tank group is in the spotlight. He resents having to right vague condolences to the families of the men he loses in battle, but after being forced to go into the field himself, he finds the vague condolences better that the gritty reality of war.

There's Kana story which has him doing the sort of thing he does while being the victim of prejudice. In the final story by Drake and Patricio, an infantryman reassigned to supply resents not being involved in the war, oblivious to the harrowing situations he gets into having to deliver supplies under fire.

New Teen Titans #33: When the new villain Trident is found down, the Titans (minus their resident detective, Robin) must find his murderer. Meanwhile, Adrian Chase and Robin break into the home of a crime lord. This issue is well put together, but the key to discovering the clears' identity isn't so much as hinted at early in the story but blared from a loudspeaker. It's probably more surprising to kids, I guess.

Omega Men #4: Slifer, Giffen, and DeCarlo serve up a pretty visceral issue, making use of their direct only status. There's some body horror as the Greeshagurt absorbs Kallista's body and mind, turning into her and transforming her into protoplasm. Meanwhile, tensions between Primus and Tigorr over leadership (stoked by Demonia) come to a head, and they engage in a struggle that turns savage, again thanks to Demonia's manipulation.

In the end, Kallista is saved by her people and Euphorix's force shield stays intake. Tigorr realizes he's being played before he kills Primus, and confronts Demonia, then kills her in combat. While Primus' wounds are tended to, he leads an assault against the Citadelians.

Superman #385: Bates and Swan/Hunt continue the revitalization of Luthor as a villain, started in Action #544. Luthor is out for revenge for the destruction of Lexor and builds himself an island base and starts recruiting. Superman, meanwhile, is unaware that Luthor survived. He's pre-occupied with guilty over his role in the death of a whole world's inhabitants. He starts hallucinating and sees images of Luthor everywhere. He causes damage at a local suspension bridge and the Superman Museum because he thinks he sees Luthor. Is this madness or some cunning revenge plan of Luthor's? This is a good follow-up to the Action anniversary issue.

Monday, April 15, 2024

The Draconic Empire

To its foes, the Draconic Empire is perhaps the greatest threat to the peace. Rapacious and destructive as the chromatic dragons that founded it, it will enslave the free peoples of the world, burning what it cannot hold, either wittingly or unwittingly enacting the vengeance of the chromatic dragon's mother, the elder god, Tiamat. 

In the minds of most of the empires people, the liturgies of its priesthoods and the assurances of its diplomats, the Draconic Empire is the best hope for order and safety in a world beset by Chaos from without and enemies from within. If the Empire's hand must be firm, they contend, it is only because the stakes are so high.

What is not in dispute is that the Empire is the largest and mightiest state in the world. It was born from the rebellion against the Wizard-Kings and their allies whose sins in their pursuit of Immortality led the gods to withdraw their favor, leaving the world to its fate. After a period of war and unrest, a red dragon, mighty and cunning as any of her kind but more ambitious by far, seized a throne for herself and declared her empire. Many other chromatic dragons bowed to her, as did their kin and faithful minions, the hybrid Dragonborn. The Empress and her closest dragon supporters interbred with humans, creating sorcerous bloodlines, the Great Houses, who administer the Empire to this day.

The dread, red Empress has not been seen in some time. Officially, she has gone into seclusion to better focus her efforts on some great endeavor or another, but there are rumors that she simply disappeared and no one knows whither or why.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Where'd the Grot Go?

Watching Delicious in Dungeon and Frieren: Beyond Journey's End (which are both great, so watch them), I've noted that both display very D&Dish world, but ones completely without even token gestures toward the gritty and grime of Medievalism. They are grot free, nothing like this to be seen:

This could be put off to the style of anime or cultural differences between U.S. and Japan, but I noted this same thing back in my review of Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. Compared the production design and costuming of that film to something like Excalibur (which is pretty gritty despite all that gleaming plate) or even Jackson's Lord of the Rings

I think it's even in the art of a number of 5e products, too, and in The Legend of Vox Machina animated series (at least the parts of it I've seen).

I'm sure there are counter examples, but these are fairly high profile works in the D&D world, some of them official, so I think we're in a moment where D&Dish fantasy worlds partake of more of a fairytale feel, perhaps, in regard to depict of their environments. Nothing wrong with that, really, just an observation.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Wednesday Comics: DC, July 1983 (week 1)

My ongoing mission: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! Today, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands on the week of April 7, 1983. 

Camelot 3000 #6: Barr and Bolland are back after a couple of months with the wedding of King Arthur and Guinevere. Morgan le Fay and her allies (both alien and on Earth) are working behind the scenes to bring about Arthur's downfall. Morgan tries to turn Tristan with the promise to turn him back into a man. Tristan resists, but then Morgan throws the cover ball of putting the reincarnated Isolde at the wedding. That's after the former fiancé of the woman Tristan was before re-awakening kills Guinevere while trying to assassinate Arthur. Luckily, Guinevere is revived by Lancelot's love or something, which I'm sure has no implications for her marriage to the King. Bolland's art remains the star of the show.

Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld #2: Mishkin/Cohn and Colon spend a lot of time this issue dealing with Amy's lengthy disappearance from our world, giving her parents more to do. We find out how Amy got adopted in the first place and that there was already so unusual stuff about her. Then, in the end of the story her father straight up catches her jumping through a portal to another world. While all this is going on, Citrina is pretty gullibly falling into a trap set by Dark Opal, and Granch is revealed as an exiled son of Dark Opal, and he sets out to save other captive sons.

DC Comics Presents #59: Giffen is still working hard to make Ambush Bug catch on. This story works better than the last one and also features other characters Giffen will return to (to humorous effect) later in the decade: the Legion of Substitute Heroes. Ambush Bug escapes from prison and attacks Superman at exactly the wrong moment only to end up in the 30th Century. With no one else to turn to and other time travel work to do, Superman drops him with the Subs. Ambush Bug plays Daffy to their Porky Pig for the rest of the issue. Reading this in 2024 and knowing where these characters are going, this is sort of fun, but I wonder what I would have made of it in'83?

Arak Son of Thunder #23: Arak, Malagigi, and Johannes go to hell and confront the demon, Baphomet. Johannes answers the demon's riddle correctly and Baphomet grants his wish to release Gog and lets him go. Arak and Malagigi, Baphomet plans to eat. Malagigi makes a play to answer another riddle and release Magog to counter Gog. Baphomet kicks the wizard out of his domain.

Back in White Cathay, Angelica follows Johannes into Hell. Meanwhile, Arak answers the riddle. The demon keeps his bargain by releasing the Magog and not killing them, but he won't let Arak go. He leaves with Arak stranded in hell with Angelica.

Blackhawk #260: Spiegle gets a break, only drawing the framing story this issue, while Evanier teams with other artists for three "Detached Service Diary" solo character shorts. Chaykin draws an Andre story, Rockwell a Hendrickson one, and Toth ends the issue with a Blackhawk tale. All of them are okay, but none are really a standout, though Toth's art looks great with the material, and I wish he had done more.

Fury of Firestorm #14: Stein and Ronnie are attacked while separated by the Enforcer who captures Stein.  His ex plays a part in his capture, but it's still unclear who she's working for. Stein manages to escape well enough from the Enforcer to form Firestorm, but that was exactly what their enemies wanted. They're captured again and the mastermind behind this all is revealed as Multiplex. A better issue that the previous Hyena saga, I think, from Conway and Broderick/Rodriquez.

Wonder Woman #305: Mishkin and Colan/McLaughlin have Wonder Woman attacked in D.C. by transformed animal men, which really sort of gives it away that Circe is behind it all. The artwork in this issue looks particular nice, I think, though I can't really say why. Colan just draws a good animal man, I guess.

In the Cavalieri and Bair/Bryant Huntress backup, the Huntress has been captured and whisked off the Arkham which is apparently under the control of the criminal doctors Tarr and Fether. They are using the criminal insane to further their ends. They plan to lockup Huntress for good, but then there's a breakout on their "violent cases" ward.

Justice League #216: Conway and Heck wrap up the Microcosmos saga, and Conway says goodbye to the title. The Sisterhood with its allies and the League rout Kass'andre and her guards, but then the groups have a falling out over the fate of the Atom. Stealing into the city separately, they see there moment to strike when Kass'andre turns against her father and assassinates him. Krystal Kaa and Kass'andre battle and the villainess is killed, while Mother Moon uses her healing power to free the Atom of both Goltha's mind-control and his own madness. The new ruler of L'arra Sha sends the Leaguers home, where Ray and Jean Palmer are happily reunited.

The issue ends with "A Personal Note" from Conway saying he's enjoyed his "five-years and sixty-six issues" on this title, but it's time for him to move on. His run isn't necessarily a lauded one, but I think it's more good than bad, if seldom spectacular. It is also unfortunately under collected. You'd have to buy multiple collections and still not get everything after issue 181. 

Monday, April 8, 2024

The Elements of Generic D&D

Over the years since its creation, the standard mode of D&D has become a subgenre of fantasy unto itself, codified now in the other rpgs that followed on its coattails and the other media they've inspired. GURPS terms it "Dungeon Fantasy," though I don't think it required dungeons--though obviously they play a big part.

The essential element as I see it are:
  • The primary characters are a loose group of companions.
  • Well-defined character roles/types and capabilities, very often recognized within the fictional world.
  • Characters engaged in quests or missions in dangerous locales, mostly commonly underground. 
Other elements that are common are:
  • A setting with pre-modern technology.
  • Adventurers as a recognized role in society.
  • A large variety of monsters, categorized and taxonomized. 
  • Hierarchies of capability within character types.
  • The development of character abilities and capabilities over time through dangerous trials. Sometimes there are in-setting codified tiers or levels.
There are, of course, others but these are things I feel like are less common in fantasy works that aren't in the subgenre than those that are. There may even be some work that if you play loose enough with definitions that would fit all of the above that we wouldn't consider "D&D fantasy," but genre boundaries have never been impermeable and precise things.

Friday, April 5, 2024

Xeno-File: Ythnat

Art by Jason Sholtis

The ythnat evolved from omnivorous, beaked homeotherms. They are smaller than most known sophonts being around 1 meter tall on average. They are not above using their size and appearance to ingratiate themselves or at least appear non-threatening to others. It would be a mistake to underestimate them, however. They are "first among equals" in the Interstellar Compact by their own admission. In actuality, the o'omkaro and the hna-hunkpa are essentially client civilizations.

It has been opined that the ythnat have no laws, only obligations. Compared to human cultures, they certainly rely on complicated webs of patronage, referent power, and custom, more so than codified law. The contract, however, is always sarcosanct. The planetary political structure of the ythnat is prone to change to a dizzying degree, but the powerful merchant princes and syndicates effectively control the planetary economy and that of the entire Compact. 

Thursday, April 4, 2024

The Retro-Reviews Continue!

This is your periodic reminder that Jason Sholtis and I are still watching old TV shows free on streaming and blogging about them on the Flashback Universe blog. This week was the Western  Have Gun – Will Travel (1957). The week before was the trucker drama Movin' On (1974).

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Wednesday Comics: Fourth World Omnibus vol 2

Recently DC released The Fourth World Omnibus vol 2. This 1336 page, backbreaking tome is the companion to the equally voluminous volume 1. That volume covered most of Kirby's work on the Fourth World mythos. This volume picks up with the continuation of the characters in concepts by other hands: Gerber's Mister Miracle, Conway's New Gods revival, the Great Darkness Saga in Legion of Super-Heroes, and Kirby's return with Super Powers, and a lot of other stuff. A lot of it is, well, not that great but some things (like the Great Darkness Saga and the Justice League two-parter on Apokolips) are, and others are at least interesting.

Here's the full contents:  Mister Miracle #19-25; The New Gods #12-19; Adventure Comics #459-460; The Brave and the Bold #112, #128, and #138; DC Comics Presents #12; First Issue Special #13; Justice League of America #183-185; Legion of Super-Heroes #290-294; Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #3; Secret Society of Super-Villains #1-5; Super Powers #1-5; Super Powers (vol. 2) #1-6; Super Powers (vol. 3) #1-4; Super Powers Collection #13-23; Super-Team Family #15; and stories from DC Special Series #10 and Legion of Super-Heroes #287.

I'm not a thick omnibus reader myself, but I do like to see these handsome volumes sitting on my shelf while I read digital.