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Wednesday Comics: Daredevil

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 01/24/2018 - 12:00

Since about 1983, seems like everybody's Daredevil run has include angst, Catholicism, and probably ninjas and the Kingpin. There was a time before Frank Miller's seminal run where Daredevil wasn't like that. Where he smiled and fought guys like Stilt-Man. (Yes, Stilt-Man appeared in the Miller run, too. No need to tell me.)

Enter Mark Waid, who brings that more standard superhero sensibility back to Daredevil without jettisoning the character's history. The idea is that the reveal of Daredevil's secret identity (in a previous run) has not be completely refuted, leaving Matt Murdock too infamous to try cases in court. Instead, he coaches people no one else will represent to represent themselves, while solving the problem that makes it so hard for them to get a lawyer as Daredevil (because it always seems to involve super-villainy!).

In addition to restoring more of a early Bronze Age Daredevil, Waid also avoids the serious decompression that is too common in modern comics. Most of these cases take two issues. "B Plot" runs through the background, but it's along the lines of a network TV drama in terms of complication.

The art by Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin is great, too. They really try to find visual ways to represent his super-senses, which is not completely new to Daredevil, but appreciated.

Volume 1 contains issues 1-6. There's also an omnibus of the Waid run if you feel like going all in.

Weird Revisted: Release the Hounds

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 01/22/2018 - 12:00
This post from 2011 was one of a series on planar related stuff for the Weird Adventures setting. None of it saw publication other than on the blog..


Chronos hounds, or temporal hounds, are extradimensional beings who sometimes hunt the Prime Material Plane. Some ancient tomes hold that these creatures are benevolent, and defend causality and stability against horrors form outside spacetime. Observed behavior of chronos hounds is ambiguous at best, and those who may encounter them are urged to caution.

From a distance, a chronos hound has the silhouette of a large, lean dog. A closer look reveals that the body of the creature is actual more like a human's, perhaps specifically an androgynous youth's, twist and stretched to conform to a canine’s basic arrangement. It's front paws, for example, are slender, human-like hands. The heads of the hound is always blurred and indistinct, as if in constant motion, but there is the suggestion of toothy, canine jaws, and glowing eyes. Hounds appear to be able to speak by telepathy, but also make a garbled sound like the cough and growls of a pack of dogs, as if heard at the other end of long and empty hallway. Their skin is hairless, and the faintly luminescent blue-white of moonlight.

Only in the past decade, has metaphysics developed the proper theoretical framework to understand the chronos hounds--and even now those theories remain controversial. The most brilliant minds in the City hold the hounds to be a wave function which only observation causes to collapse into the form of the creatures described above. Thaumaturgic investigation suggests they serve an eikone called Father Time, or are perhaps extensions of his will. They act to prune "streams" of time and possibility--making reality from probability--toward some inscrutable purpose.

# Enc.: 1d6 (1d6)
Movement: 120’ (40’)
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 4
Attacks: 1 (bite),
Damage: 1d6
Save: F4
Chronos hounds are only visible if they choose to be, prior to acting. Only some rare circumstance keeps a first attack from being by surprise. Their actions in this plane have a stuttering appearance, as if they are teleporting short distances rather than moving normally. Chronos hounds reduced to 0 hit points disappear entirely. Chronos hounds are able to pass through (or around) any physical barrier--or indeed temporal barrier. A combat with them may begin one day, only to have them break off the attack, and re-appear months or even years later.  A first encounter with a chronos hound, maybe not be the true first encounter, from the perspective of the creature's timeline. Whatever subjective amount of time appears to pass in combat with them, 1d100 minutes have based for the world external to the combatants.

The greatest enemies of the chronos hounds are the achronal hyperbeasts, which they will fight to the death when they encounter them. Thankfully, these higher order dimensional monstrosities are seldom encountered on this plane.

A Supers Campaign Idea from the Vaults

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 01/19/2018 - 12:00
Re-organizing some old gaming stuff (i.e. moving from one closet to another). I came across a campaign intro document for a Mutants & Masterminds game I ran maybe 10 years ago. The idea was a universe where characters from virtually every comic book publisher existed in the same world and there was no "sliding timescale," so characters than first appeared in the 60s for example were in that era.

I don't have it in digital form anymore, but here's a scan of it:

Operation Unfathomable Players Guide

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 13:00

One of the stretch goals in the Operation Unfathomable kickstarter was the Players Guide. Like all the other, Operation Unfathomable material it's nearing completion. It's one I've been involved with in some small ways, and I got a look at the rough layout of yesterday.

The guide will include:

  • A compilation of the Operation Unfathomable one page comic strips that were created as promotional material
  • New Races: Underworld Otter and Wooly Neanderthal
  • New Classes: Citizen Lich and Underworld Ranger
  • New Spells & Equipment

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Slayer of Eriban (part 6)

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 12:00
My exploration of the long-running euro-comic Storm, continues with his adventures in the world of Pandarve. Earlier installments can be found here.


Storm: The Slayer of Eriban (1985) 
(Dutch: De Doder van Eriban) (part 6)
Art by Don Lawrence; script by Martin Lodewijk

Storm and Nomad race toward the royal box with the guardsmen on their heels. They effectively take the ruler hostage to get his attention. They are surprised to find young Tilio there--and even more surprised and he reveals himself to actually be Renter!

Storm tells Renter they've got him beat. One false move and they'll kill the ruler, depriving the young assassin of the ability to complete his graduation assignment. Renter, however, reveals a surprise:


Ember has been drugged and put into the Barsaman game!

Storm snatched two shields from the guards and improbably uses them as improvised "snowshoes" to cross the molten floor of the arena. He gets there just in time to catch Ember. His shoes begin to sink quicker with more weight, so Nomad is forced to relinquish the captive royal to help Storm out.

Renter takes over threatening the ruler to keep the guards at bay. One of teh guests in the bos has a surprise of his own. He removes his mask, revealing himself to be Renter's teacher. He delivers another revelation:


The royal family realizes this is the son stolen from them. Renter is in utter disbelief, but ultimately he can't bring himself to kill his father. His teacher reports Renter has failed his graduation exercise. As a horrified Renter is embraced by his mother, the teacher leaves. Storm, Nomad, and Ember make their escape, aided by both the turmoil in the royal box and the turmoil in the stadium caused by the escaped prisoners. The Barsaman games are suspended indefinitely.

They make it back to the ship. To their surprise, Renter is there waiting. He tells them he sent Tilio away with some money. Renter trained all his young life to be an assassin. He doesn't know what to do with himself now. He asks our heroes to place him in the regeneration capsule and set him adrift, where he can dream, maybe to the end of time.



THE END

Weird Revisited: Take the Subway to the Wizard's Sanctum

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 12:00
This post first appeared in January of 2012. It's still true today... 

You may have heard this one: A homeless newsboy in a nameless city follows a mysterious stranger into a subway station. 


The stranger leads the boy aboard "a strange subway car, with headlights gleaming like a dragon's eyes," and decorated inside and out with weird, perhaps mystic, symbols.  The car "hurtles through the pitch-black tunnel at tremedous speed."  Their destination:


And beyond, a cavernous hall decorated with grotesque statues of the iconic failings of man.  At the end of the hall, a hierophant sits immobile on a throne, a square block of granite hanging precariously over his head by a slowly unraveling thread.


The wizard is, of course, Shazam and the Boy is Billy Batson.  Billy is about to be given the power of six mythological figures. At that point this story becomes a superhero origin, but at all times it's a fantasy story, too.  Grant Morrison (in Supergods) sums it up like this:

"the train carries Billy into a deep, dark tunnel that leads from this world to an elevated magical plane where words are superspells that change the nature of reality."

My point is bringing up Whiz Comics #2, is that I think fantasy in an urban setting ought to have a bit more of this and a bit fewer succubus streetwalkers, werewolf bikers, or angels in white Armani suits.  Not that there's anything wrong with those things--but they've gotten commonplace.  Perfunctory.

There's no reason why fantasy in a modernish setting can't be infused with weird or wonder.  We've got plenty of examples: Popeye's pet jeep, the Goon's antagonists, or in a less whimiscal vein, VanderMeer's city of Ambergris suffering under occupation by fungoid invaders. I can't be the only one that wants fantasy in the modern world to be something other than 90's World of Darkness retreads.

What If?

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 01/14/2018 - 15:00

This is an idea I had this morning, so I haven't thought out all the angles of how to operationalize it best. Comic books have traditional had stories where things they didn't want to institute in the primary continuity occurred: DC called them imaginary stories; Marvel placed them in the pages of What If?

I've usually run superhero rpg campaigns just like most rpgs. The past is immutable and a bad outcome for the PCs is a bad outcome. What if one borrowed a from What If? You could give the PCs a "retcon" session, beginning perhaps at the point of one pivotal change in events. After the retcon session, the group could decide which continuity the campaign would continue in. The other wouldn't necessarily cease to exist, but could be the sort of visitors from alternate timelines to interact with the PCs later.


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