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The Slayer’s Best Friend WILLOW Features in New Solo Series from BOOM! Studios 

First Comics News - Mon, 03/16/2020 - 20:51

Uncover the Hidden Secrets of the Sunnydale Witch in this Brand New Buffyverse Series in June 2020

LOS ANGELES, CA (March 16, 2020) – BOOM! Studios, in collaboration with 20th Century Fox, is proud to announce BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: WILLOW, a special five-issue comic book miniseries, from award-winning writer Mariko Tamaki (Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me, Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass) and acclaimed artist Natacha Bustos (Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur), that brings Willow face to face with the truth of her past…and plants the seeds for a future no one could’ve predicted.

After everything—and everyone—she lost to the Hellmouth, Willow is leaving Sunnydale on a world-spanning road trip in search of her true self. She stumbles on a community of people like her: lost witches looking for answers…but there’s a darkness at the heart of it, one that reminds Willow of something she’s felt before, something that she fears inside herself.

Now, truly alone for the first time in her life, Willow must rely only on her instincts—and her magic—to save herself from a threat Buffy never prepared her to face…or the rest of the world will pay the price.

Mariko Tamaki is the award winning co-creator of the graphic novels This One Summer, with Jillian Tamaki, and Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me with Rosemary Valero-O’Connell. She also writes about heroes, villains and mutants for Marvel, DC Comics, and BOOM! Studios and curates the Abrams LGBTQ imprint Surely Books.

“As a nerdy queer I cannot think of a better job than writing a WILLOW adventure. Thrilled to be a part of the Buffy world.” said Tamaki.

Natacha Bustos is a comic book artist based out of Spain. She obtained her first published work at Vertigo with the story Going Nowhere, written by Brandon Montclare, in 2015. Bustos made her Marvel debut with Spider-Woman #10, before becoming the regular artist on Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, for which she won a Glyph Award for Best Female Character in 2016. In 2017, Bustos drew a story written by Ann Nocenti for Mine! Comic Anthology.  She’s also known for her cover work,, including Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur and World of Wakanda, and BOOM! Studios’ Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy, Go Go Power Rangers, Thrilling Adventure Hour, Jonesy, and Slam.

“One of the greatest things about making comics is being able to give life to the characters you love the most, and WILLOW from Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of them. I’m excited to be working on this comic with such an amazing team.” said Bustos.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer premiered on March 10th, 1997. The Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated series, which ran for seven seasons from 1997-2003. Chosen to battle vampires, demons and other forces of darkness, Buffy is aided by a Watcher who guides and teaches her as she surrounds herself with a circle of friends called the Scooby Gang.

“Since we first started building our corner of the Buffyverse, we’ve been excited to give Willow her own miniseries—partly because she’s an absolute favorite of ours, but also because she is one of the most iconic queer characters in pop culture,” said Jeanine Schaefer, Executive Editor, BOOM! Studios. “Mariko and Natacha are the perfect team to dive into the dreams and struggles of the 21st-century witch who’s survived more than she ever thought she could, from breaking up with her girlfriend to battling literal demons from Hell. But as strong as Willow has been so far, what she finds over the course of this series will be the true test of who she is, both for herself and for the future of the entire Buffyverse. And I mean that quite literally.”

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: WILLOW, featuring main cover art by fan favorite artist Jen Bartel and variant art by Mirka Andolfo, is the newest release from BOOM! Studios’ eponymous imprint, home to critically acclaimed original series, including Once & Future by Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora; Faithless by Brian Azzarello and Maria Llovet; Abbott by Saladin Ahmed and Sami Kivelä; Bury the Lede by Gaby Dunn and Claire Roe; Klaus by Grant Morrison and Dan Mora; Something is Killing the Children by James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’Edera; The Red Mother by Jeremy Haun and Danny Luckert; and the upcoming Alienated by Simon Spurrier and Chris Wildgoose and King of Nowhere by W. Maxwell Prince and Danny Luckert. The imprint also publishes popular licensed properties including Joss Whedon’s Firefly from Greg Pak and Dan McDaid; Buffy the Vampire Slayer from Jordie Bellaire and David López; Angel from Bryan Edward Hill and Gleb Melnikov, and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers from Ryan Parrott and Daniele Di Nicuolo.

Print copies of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: WILLOW #1 will be available for sale in June 2020 exclusively at local comic book shops (use comicshoplocator.com to find the nearest one) or at the BOOM! Studios webstore. Digital copies can be purchased from content providers, including comiXology, iBooks, Google Play, and Madefire.

For continuing news on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and more from BOOM! Studios, stay tuned to www.boom-studios.com and follow @boomstudios on Twitter. And follow Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Categories: Comic Book Blogs

Crazy 8 Press to Release ZLONK! ZOK! ZOWIE!

First Comics News - Mon, 03/16/2020 - 20:50

The Subterranean Blue Grotto Guide to Batman ’66 – Season One

 

March 16, 2020 – Crazy 8 Press announced today it has agreed to release ZLONK! ZOK! ZOWIE! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Guide to Batman ’66 – Season One, Jim Beard’s celebration of the 1966 classic Batman television series. This new collection of essays creatively examines each episode of the ABC series which aired during the first half of 1966.

Edited by respected comic book writer and essayist Jim Beard, the 208-page Bat-tastic collection will be released by Crazy 8 in April, both as a trade paperback and eBook.

“There’s still so much to say about this legendary TV series, and this book sets out to prove it,” said Beard, who also wrote the opening essay examining the two-part pilot episode.

The worldwide Batman TV series phenomenon starred Adam West and Burt Ward as the Dynamic Duo, adapting the DC Comics series to the small screen, riding the Pop Art and Camp craze that were trends during the turbulent 1960s. The show spawned a feature film and a bonanza of merchandising the likes of which had never been seen before. Thanks to syndication, the show has rarely been off the air and in the last decade has spawned a fresh wave of merchandising.

Season one introduced viewers to Batman, Robin, Alfred, and Commissioner Gordon, as well as iconic villains including Julie Newmar as Catwoman, Frank Gorshin as The Riddler, Caesar Romero as The Joker, and Burgess Meredith as The Penguin. And, of course, the inaugural season thrilled fans with the Batcave, Wayne Manor, and one of the most heart-pounding elements of the entire franchise — the Batmobile.

“Crazy 8 Press is always on the look-out for kindred spirits, given most of our roots in comics,” said Crazy 8 co-founder Robert Greenberger, who has spent more than 30 years as a comic book editor and contributor for DC and Marvel Comics. “Previously, Crazy 8 released Rob Kelly’s anthology Hey Kids, Comics, a look back at the joys of comic collecting. It was high time we added to that portion of our inventory. Jim’s book project seemed a perfect fit. And as we still see today, Batman never goes out of style.”

The paperback ($14.99) and eBook ($4.99) contains essays from Crazy 8’s Greenberger and long-time comic book writer Paul Kupperberg, in addition to frequent Crazy 8 contributors Keith DeCandido, Will Murray, and Dayton Ward. Other ZLONK! ZOK! ZOWIE! contributors include long-time Batman writer Chuck Dixon, comics historian Peter Sanderson, ComicMix contributor Ed Catto, 13thDimension.com’s Dan Greenfield, the Batcave Podcast’s John S. Drew, Rich Handley, Alan J. Porter, Pat Evans, Steve Thompson, Mark B. Racop, Joe Crowe, and, Chris Franklin.

“I’ve never ceased in being amazed and delighted at fans’ appetite for a show that lasted barely over two years back in the 1960s,” Beard added. “It‘s a testament to not only the character’s overall appeal, but specifically the unique take on Batman offered up in the series.”

Beard previously explored the television series in Gotham City 14 Miles (Sequart), an anthology of essays covering the length and breadth of Batmania. He is a regular writer for Marvel.com, an essayist for pop culture collections, and made his Crazy 8 Press debut in 2019’s Thrilling Adventure Yarns with a short story co-written with his late wife Becky.

He is already at work on ZLONK! ZOK! ZOWIE! Volume two, exploring the complete second season, to be released by Crazy 8 Press in 2021.

ZLONK! ZOK! ZOWIE! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Guide to Batman ’66 – Season One will be available for purchase on Amazon’s and Barnes & Noble’s sites, as well as various comic book, and mass media conventions.

Categories: Comic Book Blogs

A Small Announcement from Hermes Press Regarding Covid-19

First Comics News - Mon, 03/16/2020 - 20:47

Hi all! While we at Hermes Press can (and do!) often work from home, some things require us to go into the office, such as packing orders off the website.

At this time we are going to be having a delay in shipping out books – we want our staff to be as safe as possible! So we would advise that if you are ordering in-stock items to skip Priority Mail and just use the regular, slower options and save yourself some money. We are temporarily lowering the “free shipping” option to $30 to qualify for free US/domestic orders so that people can get more books more easily.

We are still working on getting our new books to the printer on time, and will continue to have sales and specials as normal, but be aware that shipping times may be longer than usual.

Stay safe everyone!

-The Gang at Hermes Press

Categories: Comic Book Blogs

Vault Announces ENGINEWARD, a Zodiac-Inspired, Twelve-Issue Science-Fantasy Series by George Mann, Joe Eisma, Michael Garland, & Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

First Comics News - Mon, 03/16/2020 - 17:30

Missoula, MT (3/16/2020): Vault Comics is thrilled to announce ENGINEWARD, a zodiac-inspired, twelve-issue science-fantasy comic series written by George Mann, drawn by Joe Eisma, colored by Michael Garland, lettered by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou and designed by Tim Daniel.In ENGINEWARD, Earth is an ancient myth, long forgotten. Now, the god-like Celestials, who embody the surviving zodiac signs, rule with brutal efficiency. When Joss, an Engineward, discovers and reactivates the head of a fossilized Ghoulem, she learns all is not as intended. Her destiny—and the truth about her imperious rulers—lies somewhere far beyond the borders of her shantytown.

Every issue of ENGINEWARD will feature a special “Zodiac Cover” drawn by Joe Eisma and designed by Tim Daniel that portrays one of the twelve Celestials of ENGINEWARD, released according to the zodiac calendar and the sign they represent.

“I couldn’t be happier to be working with Joe and the team at Vault Comics on ENGINEWARD,” said George Mann. “This is a story that’s been brewing in my head for nearly a decade, and seeing Joe breathing life into these characters is something very special indeed. He’s bringing such a fantastic look to the series. I can’t wait for people to meet Joss, Ichabod, Kreek and Thrycia, and to delve deep into the mythology of the Celestials alongside us. It’s going to be a wild ride!”

“I’m so fired up about ENGINEWARD,” added Joe Eisma. “I have always wanted to work in this genre space since the beginning of my career, and I’m so excited about this book! George has crafted a thrilling and intricate story that I know will excite readers. Crafting this world with him has really energized my art, and I can’t wait for everyone to join us on this epic journey across our compelling world!”

ENGINEWARD #1 debuts with a Pulp & Paint B cover variant by Nathan Gooden and Tim Daniel. It hits store shelves in June 2020.

Categories: Comic Book Blogs

Weird Revisited: Middle Earth with More Pulp

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 03/16/2020 - 11:00
"Know, O prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Númenor and the gleaming cities, and the years of the Fourth Age, there was an Age undreamed of, when realms of Elf, Man, and Dwarf lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars. . . Hither came Aragorn of the Dúnedain, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a ranger, a wander, a chieftain, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the thrones of Arda under his feet." - The Red Book of WestmarchI posted that bit of Howardian remix on G+ yesterday goofing around, but it's a serious idea: What would Middle-earth be if presented in a more pulp fantasy (not just Robert E. Howard) sort of way? You could do a really comprehensive overall, sure, where maybe only the names remain the same, but I think a few tweaks here and there would make a big difference. Just take a look at things that are already pretty pulpy: 1) a fallen age following the sinking of a "Atlantis"; (2) Orders of beings with some more advanced and others more degenerate than others; (3) a lot of ruins strewn about; (4) a lot of wilderness separating civilized areas; (5) Magic (to the extent it is practiced by Men--i.e. humans) seems the province of sorcerers who are engaged with evil forces.

So let's start with Eriador, also called the Lone-Lands, which is pretty cool, because that's where the stories do, and see how it goes. Eriador is definitely a "Points of Light" place; a former advanced kingdom where most of the cities have fallen into ruin after a war with a Witch-King.


Witch-King Cultists: When a guy named the Witch-King used to rule, I think there probably should be hidden enclaves (or whole villages) fallen to his service and maybe worship of Sauron or Morgoth. They probably also engage in sacrifices commiserate with their Satanic cultist behavior.

The Rangers of the North: The Dúnedain who struggled against the Witch-King were descendants of Numenoreans (like Conan was a descendant of Atlanteans). After their defeat they become badass wilderness types organized into tribes or bands, I'd guess. They're about as much "barbarian" as Conan is, except they're in tight with elves. They roam the wilderness and hunt orcs and trolls (and probably those Witch-King cults). They could be part frontier lawmen, but also a lot like the settlers described in Howard's "Beyond the Black River":  "They were all gaunt and scarred and hard-eyed; sinewy and taciturn."

Replace the Picts in those Pictish Border Howard stories with orcs or Hill-men, and you've got it. Or replace Solomon Kane in any of a few of his stories with a lone ranger (heh), and that works as well.

Woses: Speaking of Picts, a couple of Howard's Pict stories are perfect inspiration for the mistreated, more primitive Drúedain. Check out "The Lost Race." Here's a perfect description:
"Scarce above four feet stood the tallest, and they were small of build and very dark of complexion. Their eyes were black; and most of them went stooped forward, as if from a lifetime spent in crouching and hiding; peering furtively on all sides. They were armed with small bows, arrows, spears and daggers, all pointed, not with crudely worked bronze but with flint and obsidian, of the finest workmanship. They were dressed in finely dressed hides of rabbits and other small animals, and a kind of coarse cloth; and many were tattooed from head to foot in ocher and woad" Hill-Men: Again speaking of Picts, in either Howards frontier stories or some of his other Pictish yarns where their degeneration is more sinister (after Machen) and less sad, the Hill-Men can be those sort of Picts. A little degeneration won't hurt. They're really likely to be those cultists mentioned above, too.


The towns: As to the civilized or more settled areas of Eriador. I strongly support MERP's idea that Tharbad (before it was a ruin) was a decaying city of cutthroats and thieves. A standard Conan tavern ought to fit in well, in any of those towns, too. Just substitute "Brythunian" with "Breeland" and you're good to go.

Elves from the Broken Sword

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 03/15/2020 - 14:00

The elves of Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword are like the standard elves of D&D to the extent they both share similarities to Tolkien's elves (in the case of Anderson's book, it's because they share the same sources), but are very different in other ways: they are haughty and cruel, more classic faerie-like, invisible to human's without witchsight and vulnerable to iron.

Here's an elven subrace for 5e that is a bit more like Anderson's version than the standard D&D ones:
Ability Score Increase. Your Charisma score increases by 1.Elf Weapon Training. You have proficiency with the longsword, shortsword, shortbow, and longbow.Cantrip. You know one cantrip of your choice from the wizard spell list. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for it.Fleet of Foot. Your base walking speed increases to 35 feet.Iron Sensitivity. Iron weapons do +1 damage against one. You cannot wear iron weapons or armor, or even touch it without taking 1 point of damage per round.

Why Ants?

The Splintered Realm - Sat, 03/14/2020 - 20:28
I think it's a fair question. Of my three 'properties', Army Ants is the most niche. It's got the smallest audience. It doesn't have the potential broad appeal of fantasy games. It doesn't have the competitiveness (and money-making ability) of supers gaming. It is, consistently, my lowest-performing major 'brand'.

So why the heck do I keep coming back to it?

It's a fair question, and one I ask myself a lot. Why wouldn't I work on something that people are more willing to pay for? Why wouldn't I develop a game that has a larger potential market? I think that there are two primary reasons...

1. Themes and Story. This is the big one. Army Ants keeps confronting me with the same themes that have always been interesting to me: the role of the individual in a society, sacrifice and friendship, grit in the face of adversity. Good vs. evil. These are hard-wired into the heart of the Army Ants world, and I get to continually refine these in new directions.

In addition, I conceived of an Army Ants 'super narrative' about twenty years ago, and I've never had a chance to tell the whole story. When I sit down to write about it, I'm not 'making things up'. It's all there, already largely formed in my subconscious. I'm just telling you a story that's already happened.

2. It's me. My fantasy game will never (ever) be more than a shadow of the grand-daddy of them all. I think it's a great, simple, clean knock off. But, at the end of the day, it's a knock off. It gives me a chance to re-create the game I loved growing up. That is powerful. But, every time I walk into a game or book store, I cannot help but marvel at the quality and quantity of content for D+D that I will never be able to replicate. The supers game is the same way, but with a different set of limitations. My game world (which is a big part of what I think makes a supers game tick) is never going to be more than a mashup of and reaction to the big two comic book universes. At the end of the day, that game is attempting to emulate someone else's material, not to forge my own.

Army Ants doesn't have any of those limitations. Nobody is doing Army Ants better than me. There is no external yardstick that I'm inevitably falling short of.

The other nice thing is that with Army Ants, I'm lingering in the shadows of some of my favorite worlds. Tolkien was mocked by the scholarly community for writing about hobbits and dwarves. Richard Adams and Stan Sakai have crafted stories around rabbits. Dave Sim did 300 issues about an aardvark. These are some of the people I most admire as a creator, and it feels like Army Ants is my world. It's where I want to spend my time. 

Weird Revisited: Adventuring in The Time of Plague

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 03/13/2020 - 11:00
This post originally appeared in 2010, but recent events brought it to mind...


A little light reading about the Plague of Justinian the other day (and the plague of no home internet access I continue to suffer) got me to thinking about the use of epidemics or even pandemics in gaming. Obviously, succumbing to infectious disease isn’t the most adventurous way to die, but plagues, particularly big ones, have a tendency to cause a great deal of social, economic, and religious upheaval, which is the perfect backdrop for an rpg campaign, or fodder for adventures.

First a few terms. An “epidemic” occurs when the outbreak of new cases of a particular disease exceeds the expected number for a given population. This is, as the definition suggests, somewhat subjective. A “pandemic” is when epidemic conditions exist over a wide geographic area--possibly even the whole world.

The most famous historical pandemic is probably the Black Death which affected Eurasia, and peaked in Europe around 1350. Low-end estimates have it killing a third of Europe’s population. The traditional culprit was thought to be bubonic plague caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, though their are some new theories.

The societal effects were profound. Depopulation meant fewer people to farm, and that coupled with livestock plagues, and climatic changes lead to famine and starvation. Fearful people blamed convenient scape-goats--often Jews--and Jewish communities were wiped out in some places. Fringe religious groups like the Brotherhood of Flagellants became more widespread.

The Plague of Justinian (541-542 CE) is also thought to have been caused by bubonic plague. This plague may have weakened Byzantium enough that Justinian I was unable to reconquer Italy, shattering any hopes of reconstitute a whole Roman Empire. It may have also weakened Byzantium for its coming face-off with the Arabs a century later.

Y. pestis isn’t the only malefactor out there. Smallpox, influenza, cholera, and typhus caused pandemics before the the 20th century. Measles, yellow fever, and dengue fever never had the same spread, but have caused localized epidemics. Of course, in a fantasy world plagues might be more exotic, even magical in nature.

I can think of three broad ways a plague could be used in gaming. The first is plague as background color. Carts of dead, or oddly dressed plague doctors might just be part of the general ambience of a setting--particularly one with a grubby, "real" Middle Ages feel. It could be treated seriously, or darkly humorous.

The second is plague as apocalypse. As its been pointed out before, there is a post-apocalyptic element to the implied setting of D&D. Perhaps the apocalypse isn’t just a remote event, but ongoing? This could cast the player’s not as pioneers on the frontier, but as defenders of the fire of civilization. This might or might not have implications on the sort of adventures had, or it might just influence the tone.

The third is plague as campaign focus. Maybe the point of the whole campaign is defeating the forces of evil behind the plague? It could be introduced early, as a minor background element, but as more people succumb to the disease it grows in importance. Eventually, finding a cure might become the PC’s central concern, but only after its grown “naturally”( or unnaturally).

Weird Revisted: Demonland

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 03/12/2020 - 11:00
Art by quiteproustianThe promiscuousness of infernal beings is well-known, so it isn't surprising that by-blows of their trysts are found among mortals. While rare in most of the world, those with infernal blood are the majority of the populous in Demonland1, a city-state across the mephitic Wastes from the Country of Sang. Why so many descendants of infernal bloodlines should be found in one place is a mystery, but perhaps the area had a sulfurous air of hominess for their grandsires and granddams.

Demonland proper is built upon a cluster of small islands in a lake formed by hot springs. The boiling, caustic, malodorous waters are a perfect defense --though they also make life less pleasant for the inhabitants. Demonland’s potable water comes from filtered rainwater collect in cisterns and also by magical purification of the water of the lake itself. The city is only accessible by boat and all goods and visitors make the trip over by ferry.


Demonland is nominally ruled by a Duke (or Duchess), and though this ruler’s power is theoretically absolute, it is most commonly exercised in throwing lavish revelries at which the true rulers of the city go masked. These princes (and their masks) represent the seven capital vices exalted in Demonlander religion and culture. The prince of each vice is officially appointed by the Duke but in practice is more or less elected by general consensus, as the Duke shrewdly defers to the inclinations of the mob. They serve for an indefinite tenure, usually a year and a day. The princes are meant to most perfectly embody their vice, and would-be candidates campaign vigorously (all except the candidates for Prince of Sloth, of course) for the title by engaging in the most audacious (and public) displays of sinfulness to capture the jaded hearts of the populous. The princes hold absolute authority with regard to the practice of the vice they personify and make legal proclamations and levy taxes or duties that might be pertinent as they see fit. They are allowed to keep a percentage of any monies collected for themselves.

Diabolism is the state religion of Demonland. It inverts the morality of most human faiths, promoting vice and condemning virtue. Self-interest and the pursuit of pleasure are valued over altruism and self-denial; Greed and vanity are extolled, and charity and modesty condemned. Demonlanders, however, are only a trifle less likely to fall short of the ideals of their faith than folk elsewhere, so their practice of immorality is as prone to lapses as the practice of morality in other lands.

Art by Arthur Asa1. The correct demonym is "Demonlander." Never call a Demonlander a "demon" as this is both inaccurate and rude. "Tiefling" is just as bad.

The Half-Seen Tower

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 03/09/2020 - 11:00
Art by Petr PassekOur 5e Land of Azurth game continued last night with the party trying to find a way to close the portal to the Umbral Realm after having slain the shadow drakes. Nothing they try seems to work. They do discover the missing artifacts of the cervine centaur people (and 3 shadows in the process), and glimpse a partially ruined tower in the near distance, but only when the roiling shadow rising from the portal passes between them and it. Otherwise, it's invisible.

They decide to investigate, but first thing's first: return the artifacts to the tribe. Waylon and Erekose surreptitiously decide to Identify the items first, lest they turn over something truly valuable to the forest dwelling folk. The staff is nothing magical. The diadem is, but the specifics are hard to understand. Waylon asks Tualla if they might borrow for a while, but after Shade intervenes the matter is dropped.

But on the way back to the tribe's encampment they discover another enemy. A pale, black-eyed elf and a couple of hulking humanoids of unknown type are threatening a yearling of the tribe. When Erekose and Kully intervene, the elf and companions make their escape. The kid tells them they wanted to know about "the strangers that killed the drakes."

Shade will brook no child-threatening, so the party tracks them through a shadow-darkened mire to a dark, unwholesome pond surrounded by tall grass--and the half-ruined tower. Ever on the lookout for valuables, Erekose spies a glint of gold in the grass 'round the pond. It turns out to be a ring on the pinky digit of a half-decayed, severed hand.

Waylon tries to get the ring via mage hand, while Waylon goes in closer to investigate and a putrid undead thing rises from the muck to attack. Then another!


While the party is fighting the creatures, someone hidden snipes at them with poison arrows. When they are finally able to catch a glimpse of them, it's two more of the strange elves. The snipers press the party hard, but eventually 7 against two, causes one to beat a retreat and leaves the other asleep in the grass--a captive for interrogation.

East of Caldwellia, West of Elmoreon

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 03/08/2020 - 14:00
In recent discussions of vanilla fantasy, my friend Paul (owner of the long-hiatused blog, Dungeonskull Mountain) and I have bandied about the idea of an "80s fantasy" world. While we perhaps don't share exactly the same vision for that, both of us agree that famous D&D artists of mid-1e to 2e eras--particularly Clyde Caldwell, Larry Elmore, and Keith Parkinson--play a big part in that.

The visuals are clear and distinct, but is there a setting in the work of these artists distinct from just generic D&D?

I'm not entirely sure, but I think we can say make guesses as to what elements it may have and what elements it does not.

Glamorous Not Grotty
Glamorous might be a little strong, but hey, alliteration! Anyway, we are certainly not in the Dung Ages, or any version of gritty pseudo-Medieval verisimilitude.

Complicated Costumes and Culture
Compared to work of Frazetta, Kelly, or Vallejo, the clothing of the characters has a lot going on: fur trim, feathers, scales, etc. This tends to be true even when female characters are scantily clad. It's all more renfair that Conan. This suggests (to me) more of a high fantasy world than a sword & sorcery one, and an interest in visually defining cultures that doesn't get into the heavy worldbuilding of a Glorantha or Tekumel, but is definitely of the "needs a glossary at the end of the book" level.

Dragons & Drama
There are an awful lot of dragons. I mean,  they're showing up all the time. And often characters are confronting them in a way that suggest they are big, powerful heroes, not the type to die pointless in holes in the ground. The another name for high fantasy is epic fantasy, and that's what these images often convey.

A Touch of Humor
Despite the epicness and high drama, things are seldom if ever grim. In fact, from adventures posing with the tiny dragon they slew, to a muscular female fighter manhandling an ogre, a bit of humor is pretty common.

Red-Eyed Goblin

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 03/06/2020 - 12:00
A goblin made with Hero Forge, colors accurate to the AD&D Monster Manual, except the hair where I had to guess.

And here's a Hobgoblin:


Weird Revisited: Different Dwarves for 5e

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 03/05/2020 - 12:00
Relevant to my earlier post on vanilla fantasy...


The Tolkien-inspired, Nordic-derived dwarves of standard D&D aren't the only dwarven subraces out there. There is another dwarvish tradition: a more folklore and fairytale one. The dwarves of the Country of Yanth in the Land of Azurth are that sort of dwarf.

Compared to the average D&D dwarf, they tend to be more social and affable. They are fond of good food and drink and are renowned brewers. While they may be miners or metalworkers, they are not as oriented toward these tasks as others of their race, and are just as likely to loggers, woodworkers, or farmers.They have no more love or precious metals or jewels than humans.

Unless otherwise noted, the folkloric dwarf subrace has the traits of the standard dwarf.

Art by Jerad S. MarantzAbility Score Increase. Wisdom increased by 1.
Lucky. Like a Halfling's.
Size. Folkloric dwarves vary more in height than other dwarven races. Most are medium, but a few are under 4 foot and so small.
Dwarven Combat Training. They eschew the battleaxes and hammers employed by other dwarves, but are handy with the axe and short sword.
Tool Proficiency. Their choices for proficiency are smith's tools, brewer's supplies, cobbler's tools, woodcarver's tools, or cook's utensils.

Wednesday Comics: Bronze Age Book Club - Marvel Spotlight #33

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 03/04/2020 - 12:00
Last week saw a new episode of the Bronze Age Book Club podcast released Friday.


Listen to "Episode 15: MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #33" on Spreaker.

How to Create Your Own Country for Tax Reasons

Dungeoncomics - Tue, 03/03/2020 - 13:30
An arcology is a portmanteau of "architecture" and "ecology." The original architectural vision for an arcology was an ecologically neutral, self-powering, self-feeding, and self-sufficient enclosed system.

My Flavor of Vanilla

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 03/02/2020 - 13:10

Since my post on my occasional craving for vanilla fantasy, I've been thinking about what sort of vanilla setting I would do, if I was to do one. At least, what sort I'm leaning toward right now.

I would start with a setup substantially similar to Tolkien's Middle-Earth at the start of the Lord of the Rings. A great war, devastated the shining human kingdoms of the West. Amid the ruins are scattered petty kingdoms and free cities, "points of light" in the D&D parlance, dominated by the Small Folk--dwarfs mostly, but more of the folklore or fairytale variety than a Tolkienian one.


There are still humans there, of course, but the human dominated lands are mostly to the South. Elves exist too, but they are diminished (quite literally) from their Golden Age. They were once fairy lords, but now the elves of the West are short in stature and decidedly less magical. The Dwarf Folk view the elves with some suspicion, since some of their race sided with the forces of darkness.


The approach would be a bit more The Hobbit than Lord of the Rings; leaning more whimsical than epic. The 1937 original version of The Hobbit would be the most central of Tolkien's work. Other influences include Weirdworld, Wally Wood's Wizard King series, selected stories from Lord Dunsany, Scott Driver's Dwarf-Land, and bits of The Princess of the Goblin and a smidge of my own Land of Azurth, particularly some early ideas that got abandoned.

Launch Day: Part Two

The Splintered Realm - Mon, 03/02/2020 - 02:09
So, I'm not done with Army Ants news for the day. Hey, I promised the ants were on the march. For the next year or so, I plan to re-release the entire comics run of the MTDAA series, including some unfinished pages and a little bit of new connective tissue. I'm calling this Michael T. Desing's Army Ants remastered, and I will be sharing it on Tumblr. 

In the process, I am going back and re-scanning the original pages, or the best copies I can find. I am going to re-letter the entire comic using a font instead of the hand lettering, sharpening up the pages and doing touch-ups as needed. Since I am going a page a day, I can take the time to really clean this up to have a polished looking master set of pages at the end to do some sort of deluxe print edition. I've posted page one, and I hope you notice the difference between the versions.







Enter the Lumberlands!

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 03/01/2020 - 15:00

Erik Jensen of the Wampus Country blog and related publications is Kickstarting a new zine in that setting called Lumberlands: 

"...spend some time in the misty Lumberlands, a vast expanse of enchanted forest where brawny lumberjacks ply their trade, seek adventure and fortune, and defend the frontier from horrible sasquatches."

I loved playing in Erik's Wampus Country game in the days of G+ and I'm pleased it's been resurrected in this zine. Check it out!

MTDAA Twilight Has Arrived

The Splintered Realm - Sun, 03/01/2020 - 13:43
What if the B/X engine was used to create a mashup of a certain 1980s para-military post apoc game, another game set in a world of rampaging mutants, and the coolest elite military unit comic of all time?
It would probably look like this.
Michael T. Desing’s Army Ants: Twilight is two things: first, it’s an ongoing narrative about a group of ants at the end of the Ant/Wasp War, © Michael T. Desing. It is also a roleplaying game for two or more players, released under the Open Game License.
As a reader, you will hopefully decide to follow the exploits of a team of army ants on their greatest, and possibly final, adventure.
As a player, you will take on the role of an army ant or an allied bug, traversing the wilds. You will join with a team of other bugs to overcome the challenges that the referee places before you. You will use these rules, an assortment of dice, and your imagination to craft a shared tale of your adventures.
This core ruleset, which is also the first issue of the ongoing series, is released as a PWYW book in glorious full color, the way the 1980s would have wanted.
As part of the "Army Ants are on the MARCH" promotion, all other Michael T. Desing's Army Ants titles are also PWYW through March 31! Now is the time to get caught up on all things army ant.

One Day More

The Splintered Realm - Sat, 02/29/2020 - 21:23
Michael T. Desing's Army Ants: Twilight launches tomorrow, and I have a few little tricks up my sleeve yet to come. I finished edits today, and I'm very happy with this game. It is a tight little game - this is the game I wanted to write 25 years ago, but I just didn't have the chops to do it yet.

I look forward to sending it out to the world tomorrow, and I'm excited to hear what you think.


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