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Kung-Fu Post-Apocalyptic Ravenloft

Fri, 07/13/2018 - 11:00
I have enjoyed Into the Badlands on AMC much more than I thought first saw advertisements for it. The fight scenes are well choreographed (much better than Marvel's Iron Fist) and it's vaguely Western post-Apocalyptic setting is more intriguing than expected.

Anyway, watching Into the Badlands the other night, I thought it not be cool in a mashup with Ravenloft. Perhaps it was the hint of 19th-Century that made me think of it, but you could replace Into the Badlands' barons with Ravenloft's Dark Lords and stir in some Vampire Hunter D seasoning.

This seems like it might work particularly well in 5e where the greater number of character powers/abilities would be easy to translate to a wuxia sort of thing.

This is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but it has martial arts, 19th Century stylings, and supernatural stuff too

Weird Revisited: Toward A Hard-Boiled Fantasy Sandbox

Thu, 07/12/2018 - 11:00

"Walk down the right back alley...and you can find anything."
- Sin City (2005)
Folks of a poetical inclination have called the City "unnamed."  Truth is, the City has too many monikers for anybody to know them all. But you say "the City," and everybody from yokels up in the Smaragdine Mountains, to the newsie on the corner knows where you mean. There was a city here before it became the City, you know?  Then some swell got himself itch to be an emperor and brought the five baronies together. So here we are, and that swell got his empire, but maybe it didn't turn out the way he thought. The City doesn't need soldiers or armies when it's got commerce and style.

Alright, maybe they've got all the movie stars--and most of the sunshine--out there in Hesperia, but all the other culture's right here. Ships come into this harbor from all over the world--bringing stuff to sell, bringing people. And a lot of the decide to stay.  You go to the right neighborhood and you'll swear you got dropped into some foreign country. And the nightlife? This town jumps, friend. From low-class gin-dives to tony swing-clubs, it roars.  I'd steer clear of the hinky alchemical liquors, though.  Word to the wise.

Now, those joints I was talking about are full of would-be toughs and hard-cases come here to make a name for themselves. They go ransack the ruins the Old Ones, left all over the countryside, then they come to the City to sell their haul and hit the town. City-folk are happy to separate a rube from his money. Gin, jazz, janes--you know, whatever. Guys can make money too, if they know were to look. The gang bosses that run the streets always got a need for muscle, or a little cheap wizardry. Sometimes the ghouls from Undertown get kind of rowdy, and the coppers start looking for guys to deputize, too. Or maybe the rail-yards are looking for bulls to crack a few goblin skulls. Then of course there are bounties on monsters that need killing.  What, you think there's only gold down in those ruins? Anyway, you get the idea. There's dough to be had, and plenty.

So welcome to the City.  Have a good visit--but watch yourself, pal, things can get rough.

Wednesday Comics: Steve Ditko

Wed, 07/11/2018 - 11:00
With the passing of comics legend Steve Ditko, I thought it was worth looking at some of his work. I'm going to take a broad view of his career and not just focus on his work at Marvel, which many would consider his high point.

Likely his greatest work, the early issues of Spider-Man also have the virtue of being almost constantly in print in one collection or another.

Ditko's characters got more off-beat in his DC years, presaging the sort of stuff he would do in his later career in indies (though without as much of a political bend). This collection includes both the Shade the Changing-Man and Stalker stories, as well as some anthology pieces. You should check out his Creeper stuff too, but that collection is out of print and pricey.

While we wait for an omnibus of his work with the Silver Age Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, and Question at Charlton, you can check out the early issues of that work in this DC Archive.

Finally, for a nice overview of his career, check out Stranger than Strange: The World of Steve Ditko.

The Aberration!

Mon, 07/09/2018 - 11:00

I had hoped to show an example of the layout for the front (fluff) and back (game stats) of the pages in the Armchair Planet Who's Who today, but unfortunately, I was only able to get the front page finished to my satisfaction. Hopefully, I'm have the back page with ICONS stats up in a post later this week.

If you'd like to see the Marvel Super-Heroes rpg stats for this guy, you can find them here.

The Adventures of Indiana Jones Role-Playing Game

Sun, 07/08/2018 - 14:00

TSR's Indiana Jones rpg from 1984 carries a reputation for badness. While tastes, of course differ, the only factual information used to support this claim is the decision to not include character generation rules in the basic game, the designers intending you to play Indiana and his cohorts. This decision was corrected in the 1985 Judge's Survival Pack in rules that take up one page. The one time I played this game back in the day, we were undeterred and made up our on characters anyway by modelling them on the existing ones.

I've seen other deficits or poor decisions asserted on line that aren't true. Even wikipedia claims "No formal system of hit points or determining actual character death is put forth, and instead is left to the referee as a role-play element." The lack of hit points is technically correct, but the rest of that sentence is completely false. Their are other similarly "true, but that gives a false impression" statements in the article.

So what is the game actually like? Well, in brief in resembles in broad strokes our TSR games of 1984-85, including Conan and Marvel Super-Heroes. It uses a percentile system and a color-coded chart in part of the process. It has skills, but it isn't really a skills based game. It is cinematic and fairly "rules lite" in a 80s way, in a pre-1990s way, which is to say not really rules lite by modern standards. More on the light side of rules medium.

It has attributes clearly derived from the D&D standard, but doing slightly different things. Strength is what you would expect, and Appeal is Charisma. Prowess is like Fighting in MSH. Movement is both speed and some of Dexterity, and Instinct is mostly Perception or Wisdom, but carries a bit of Intelligence's water, too.

Most actions are based on roll under attribute rolls. Like those other games, it has something of a unified mechanic, though it has not fully committed to this and has a number of special subsystems, which use the same sort of die rolls but in different ways. Attributes rolls can be modified to twice rating as a situational bonus or half or fourth rating for situational penalties. These are the only dice modifiers. Rolls of 96-00 are always "bad breaks" (critical failures), and 01-05 is a "lucky break" (critical success). Beyond that, there are levels of success based on the roll which have color codes and different meaning depending on which attribute is being checked.

It has the sort of rules quirks common in games of this era. It uses hit locations (different for various types of attacks) which are determined by reversing the numerals in the Prowess "to-hit" roll. The initiative system seems like it would either be fun or really irritating in play. It requires a sort of competition (using Movement rolls) among all those declaring they want to act at a given point. While interesting, I'm not sure what it adds over a simple initiative roll for everybody and seems like it would take up time.

It has "mook rules" of a sort with goons not accorded the same advantages that PCs and villains enjoy. Certain types of threats like drowning or falling are given "Danger ratings" that function like Prowess does in combat-style roles. Chases get almost a minigame all their own.

So what about the lack of hit points? Well, damage causes wounds light, medium, and serious, and wounds are applied to various body locations. Wounds are additive with 2 mediums equalling 1 serious, and impairing after a certain level. Three serious wounds carry a change of death or unconsciousness, and four serious wounds mean death.

All and all, it looks like it would work pretty well in play. Some systems are a little wonky or over-complicated but none look really unfun. Other parts of it seems like good choices, for a pulpy, lighter ruled game.

More Superhero Art and A Table of Contents

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 11:00

This first piece is still a bit of a work in progress (coloring-wise). It's the Cosmic Knights by Dean Kotz, of which Earth's hero, the Cosmic Knight is but one.

We're playing on two "issues" of characters and stats. Here's the projected contents of the first issue done up in the appropriate style. It may be subject to minor changes.

Weird Revisited: Stone Walls; Iron Bars

Mon, 07/02/2018 - 11:00
This post is loosely a follow-up to one my one on the lower planes last week, in that it continues to riff on ideas for Taterus/Carceri. It first appeared in 2011. This would pretty much become the Weird Adventures view of the plane.

The Black Iron Prison is the Plane of Confinement. Despite it’s name, the prison is not always as apparent as iron bars and stone walls (though it has plenty of that, carved as it was from ancient bones of some demonic titan)--its evil is more subtle than that. Restriction and imprisonment of various forms permeate it.

Portals to the plane are sometimes found on the Material Plane in the form palm-sized, rusted, black iron boxes, heavier than they appear.  Visitors to the plane describe an "outer" desert of squalid intern camps, stretched arond and inner, three (or more) dimensional Escher maze of cell-blocks, isolation chambers, and interrogation rooms.

The plane is the home (and the prison) of the deodands, a vile race sentenced to serve as the guards and administrators of the apotheosis prison as punishment for ancient crime. Demonologists have cataloged three primary castes or species of these creatures (though there are undoubtably more):

The lowest caste of deodands are tall, emaciated, scabrous creatures with frog-like mouths. Their bare skins weep a tarry ichor from numerous injection sites. They're junkies and dealers; they mix the astral excreta of despair, callousness, and resignation that oozes from the souls that fall into their hands with the bile of arthropodals that make their homes in the prison’s substructure and inject it beneath their skin. The tarry substance--and a brief respite from their paranoia in a cold, sneering high--are the result. The tar is packaged and sold (to the prisoners to be smoked or injected) in exchange for pleasant memories or dreams or hopes--anything that defines the former self-hood of the soul. When not engaged in commerce, these tar demodands are the menials of the prison.  On the Material Plane, their shadows have the same viscous consistence as their tar, but no psychoactive properties.

The middle caste are the color of a fresh bruise.  Their limbs are swollen like blood sausages, and their tick-like bellies appear filled to near bursting, sloshing loathesomely as they waddle or fly drunkenly on ridiculously small wings. Their bloated faces are unpleasantly human-like and wear expressions of volutuous satiety, complete with drool running from the corners of their mouths and down their double (or triple) chins. Always their skins appear to glisten as if oiled; this is due to a slime they secrete.  They sweat even more when they eat, and they eat almost constantly. They fancy themselves gourmets, and there is nothing they consider so refined as dining on astral substance of souls. They prefer fatted souls, though, and always expose victims to their slime before dining on them.  Under the slime's influence, the poor souls become grossly corpulent. At that point, they're ready for the slime deodands to drain them to emaciation but never destruction. The they restart the slime feeding and the process begins again. Slime deodands are torturers and interrogators in the deodand hierarchy.

The highest caste are strutting, sadistic martinets--the wardens and senior guards of the prison. They’re vaguely human-like in form, but with pale, wrinkled skin that seems ill-fitted to their bodies. They’re androgynous with bald heads and unfeminine faces, but pendulous breasts and high-pitched voices. They have a penchant for dressing in uniforms, the more elaborate the better. Sagging deodands (as they’re called) are found of searches, interrogations, and tortures. They foster paranoia not as a hobby, or even a vocation, but simply due to their natures. Infractions are always found, and prisoners are encouraged to inform on others--but only after they themselves are questioned to the breaking point.

It’s a good thing for Prime Material Plane that deodands seldom arrive on it unbidden. Sadistic sorcerers have been known to arrange “renditions” for enemies, though the price for such a service is rumored to be steep.

Weird Revisited: A Conceptual Tour of the Lower Planes

Fri, 06/29/2018 - 11:00
This was one of the first things I wrote about planes back in April of 2010, when the blog was less than 6 months old. This is more conventional than the views of the lower planes I'd present later, but it contains some ideas I would revisit. I don't like to ever let a good idea go to waste.

In my current campaign setting, I'm working within the bounds of the traditional AD&D "canon," but trying to wring somewhat novel and interesting (at least to me) interpretations from it. One of these elements is the "standard model" of D&D cosmology--what's sometimes called "The Great Wheel."

As portrayed, it's a bit literal and mechanical, which is a shame because at its core its a crazy enough mashup concept to appear in a mimeographed pamphlet left in public places. Bissociation should be the watchword here. Or maybe multissociation? I think the planes can (and should) be both other realms of consciousness and physicalities. Conceptual overlays on the material world, and places where you can kill things and take their stuff.

To that end, I decided to riff on the concepts of the planes, and see what associations they brought out. Not all of these will be literalized in the version of the planes visited by adventurers from the world of Arn, but all of these associations might inform how I presented the planes and the alignment forces they're of which they're manifestations or vessels. Maybe later I'll get into all the heady faux-metaphysical theory I devised behind all this. Or maybe I'll xerox my on crackpot tract.

Anyway, I figured the best place to start was a trip to hell.

The Abyss: The Abyss is the best place to start as it was probably the first of these planes to exist--the formless, primordial chaos, tainted only by Evil. An Evil that emerged, ironically, only after a material world appeared to be appalled at, and to yearn to destroy. Without creation, destruction would just subside into roiling chaos. AD&D cosmology gives us 666 layers to the Abyss, but I suspect the Abyss is infinite. Maybe its the demon lords that number 666--and the so-called layers are really the lords. Maybe all the other demons are merely extensions of their substance and essences--their malign thoughts and urges accreted to toxic flesh. They're like a moral cancer maybe, seeking to metastisize to other planes and remake them in their image--or maybe madness is a better analogy, if we're talking about the kind of madness that afflicts killers in slasher films. A psychokiller madness on a universal scale.

Tarterus: This plane is later called the Tarterian Depths of Carceri or just Carceri. I'm calling it the Black Iron Prison, because it fits, and because it recalls Phillip K. Dick's VALIS and The Invisibles. It's called the prison plane--which the Manual of Planes interprets a little literally. Not that it isn't all the obvious bad things about prisons, but its also got a Kafka-esque quality, maybe. Most souls don't know why their there and don't remember how they got there. And watch what you say 'cause the bulls have informants all over. You wait and wait for a promised trial that never comes. I suspect souls get "renditioned" from the material plane and brought here for angering a god or an Ascended. The gaolers (as Lovecraft would have it) are the demodand or gehreleths. Demodand is an interesting name as it probably comes from Vance's "deodand" which is a real word meaning "a personal chattel forfeited for causing the death of a human being to the king for pious uses" which may (or may not) hint at some sort of origin for the demodands/gehreleths. It's also interesting that the kinds of demodands--shaggy, tarry, and slime--are all related to things that can sort of be confining or restricting.

Hades: Later called the Gray Waste (a better name, I think), it's a plane of apathy and despair. There's some Blood War nonsense later, but apathy and despair is a theme to conjure with. It makes me think of Despair of the Endless from Sandman and her somber realm of mirrors. The Gray Waste is depression and hopelessness actualized. Not the sort of place for adventures, maybe, but a place good for some creepy monsters to come from.

Gehenna: Later called the Fourfold Furnaces, or the Bleak Eternity of Gehenna. This is the plane of the daemons, later yugoloth--which is suitably Lovecraftian. Daemons I liked in Monster Manual II because they were sort of "the new fiends" that seemed fresher than demons and devils, which were kind of old-hat by that time. As neutral evil, the daemons have nothing to motivate them but evil, really. The various alternate names of the plane make me think of Jack Kirby's Apokolips and its ever-burning fires--Gehenna has an assocation with fire anyway, going back to its origins as the Valley of Hinnom. Like the denizens of Apokolips, I think daemons should represent evil in various forms from banal to sublime. The Bleak Furnances fire the machineries of war. Being close to the realm of lawful evil, they sometimes dress up in the trapping of law, but its just fancy uniform facade. The whole place might appear as an armed camp run by tin-plated fascists. There are secret police, and propaganda bureaus, and sadistic experiments.

The Nine Hells: Later Baator, which doesn't work as well. This is the realm of the fallen--not the romantic, Miltonic rebels, but the fascist generals who tried to stage a junta and got exiled. Sure, they dress it up in decadence and "do as thou wilt" but really they're all oppressive laws and legalistic fine-print. And every one of them thinks they'd be a better leader than their boss, so they plot and scheme while playing it obsequious and dutiful. Some of the devils might say they're still fighting the good fight--that they do what they do to preserve the system from the forces of chaos. A multiverse needs laws after all, they say. That's all just part of the scam.  Still, I like China Mieville's idea of New Crobuzon having an ambassador from hell.  Maybe no city in the world of Arn has an infernal ambassador, but at least Zycanthlarion, City of Wonders, has sort of a "red phone" that can get a high-placed devil on the line.  After all, better the devil you know...

Futura [FASERIP]

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 11:00

F                 AM   (50)
A                 IN  (40)
S                 IN  (40)
E                 IN   (40)
R                 RM (30)
I                   RM   (30)
P                  IN  (40)
Health: 170
Karma: 100

Real Name: Futura, "Eve Hope"
Occupation: Record store employee
Identity: Secret
Legal Status: Undocumented immigrant in the United States of the present era
Place of Birth: Eden-One, North America
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: None
Base of Operations: San Francisco, California
Group Affiliation: Super-Sentinels
First Appearance: FUTURE WORLDS #65

True Invulnerability : Remarkable resistance to physical, energy, heat, cold, toxins, aging, and disease.
Hyper Running: Typical ground speed.
True Flight: Incredible air speed.
Enhanced Senses: Excellent level sight, hearing, taste and smell.

Talents:Martial Arts: A, B and C, Natural Sciences, Medicine

History: In a possibly alternate future, a war among superhumans devastated the Earth and destroyed most of civilization. So massive were the energies unleashed, the Earth itself was damaged to the core and threatened to break apart.

Some time after the war, perhaps as much as a millennia, intelligent robots lived in a massive, enclosed city known as Eden-One. They had been the caretakers of the last humans they knew to exist, and now sought to preserve human history and knowledge. One of these robots, a bio-specialist name Maia-1A457, engineered a human embyro with the superhuman attributes from stored genetic material. The infant was gestated in an artificial womb. Maia-1A457 named the girl Futura, because she hoped the child would provide a future for humanity.

Futura was raised by the robots, not knowing she wasn't one of them until late in her childhood. In adolescence, she ventured outside Eden-One with the reluctant acquiescence of her robot caretakers and encountered post-human beings and aliens, making some friends among them. Most of her time, however, was spent in training and education so that one day she could make a trip to the past and prevent her catastrophic future from ever occurring.

When she reached womanhood, she asked for her final examinations and proved to Maia-1A457 and the others she was ready for her mission. Using an ancient time machine, she journeyed back to the 20th Century, where she began living among humans in the identity of Eve Hope, observing the culture and way of life of past humans, and protecting them from super-powered threats as Futura.

Wednesday Comics: Underground Comics #1 on Comixology

Wed, 06/27/2018 - 11:00

You can now purchase Underground Comics #1 at Comixology in digital, and of course, it's still available at IndyPlanet in digital and physical copy.

It's 36 pages by some great DIY rpg illustrators. Here are the preview pages that will (eventually) be on the IndyPlanet page:

Weird Revisited: Deals With Devils

Mon, 06/25/2018 - 11:00
This is more recent that my usual revisited posts, coming as it does from 2015, but it continues the theme from last week of taking the basic concept of Spelljammer (fantasy in space) and doing something different...
Art by Paul HarmonHyperspace works on laws altogether different than the amoral, mechanical physics ascendant in our universe. Some experts theorize that in the bulk in which the multiverse is embedded, forces that could be reasonably described as moral principles are objectively real--or at least as objectively real as anything else. Evil might be tangible and quantifiable. That would go a long way to explaining the Diaboli.

The Diaboli are a clade, a culture, or maybe a corporate entity that despoil worlds and corrupt other cultures—even whole universes—with faustian bargains of advanced technology and metaphysical knowledge. Maybe they've tempted some with miracle cures for disease or solutions for world hunger, but more often they appeal to baser instincts with advanced weapons of war or aids to the pursuit of pleasure. Whatever they offer, the cost is inevitably high--too high. The Diaboli are quick to sell fixes for the problems that arise, which inevitably just make things worse. At every turn, the Diaboli enhance their material wealth and create misery from which they are able siphon metaphysical energy. Some of their victims survive the devastation of their previous culture to become junior Diaboli themselves, and the toxic memeplex propagates like a multiversial pyramid scheme.

The Diaboli are very old; some believe they are the degenerate remnant of the Precursors who built the Ways. The truth, though, (at least as much as can be gleaned from a group as duplicitous as this one) is that the Diaboli fear the apotheosed Precursors. They believe the Precursors' Judgment is coming someday—and they plan to deny that judgment by becoming powerful enough fight back against gods. Only by draining or corrupting all potential rivals do they believe this end to be achievable. They view this as a net good for the entire multiverse and see themselves as defenders of order and civilization, albeit one where their inherently superior culture is in power.

Dungeonmaster [FASERIP]

Sun, 06/24/2018 - 14:00

F                 TY   (6)
A                 GD  (10)
S                 TY  (6)
E                 GD   (10)
R                 EX (20)
I                   EX   (20)
P                  RM   (30)
Health: 32
Karma: 70

Real Name: Arnold "Arnie" Francis Dilbert III
Occupation: Former college student; Professional Criminal
Identity: Known to authorities
Legal Status: Citizen of the United States with a criminal record
Place of Birth: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: None
Base of Operations: Mobile
Group Affiliation: Masters of Menace


Icosahedron of Ioum: A roughly soccer ball sized crystalline, two-sided solid of Unearthly material strength that grants Dilbert the following powers:

Reality Manipulation: Dungeonmaster has Illusion Generation Powers of Unearthly ability, such that for most people, indistinguishable from reality. His area of effect is limited to no more than 10 areas, however, otherwise he is unable to maintain fine detail and his creations seem less substantial or fake. Even with concentration, his creations last no more than 4 hours. He can maintain only only 3 effects at a time at full solidity, any others tend to become more insubstantial and are illusions only of Excellent rank. He uses this power in the following ways:

  • Creation of "monsters" he can control
  • Creation of a underground maze environment
  • Creation of "magic items" that can duplicate powers up to Incredible rank

Teleportation: of himself or others with Incredible ability.
Probability Manipulation: Dungeonmaster can attempt to reverse the outcome of a roll not to his liking made by himself or another character with Amazing ability. This requires him to make a power FEAT roll of an equal degree or greater degree of success. He uses this power very sparingly as either he or the Incosahedron considers it cheating, and his worry about the consequences is that he must make a Psyche FEAT roll equal to the degree of success of the of his Probability Manipulation roll, to continue using his powers. A failure means he is without them for 1-20 hours.

History: Dilbert was a capable but poor-performing college student, due to the time he spent planning the role-playing game Monsters in Mazes with his few friends. Unhappy with his real life, Dilbert began to immerse himself more and more into fantasy. He convinced his friends to act out their gaming characters exploits in a small cave system near their university. Annoyed by Dilbert's increasingly demanding behavior, the others left in, and he became lost in the cave.

While in the cave, Dilbert claims to have discovered a hidden run where he found the large, crystalline Icosahedron of Ioum. This artifact obeyed his commands, giving him apparently magical powers, but whether by design or Dilbert's own psychological quirks, it limited him to the mimicking the powers analogous to those wielded by a Monsters in Mazes referee.

Dilbert used these powers to settle scores with his neglectful parents and former classmates, before embarking on a criminal career. His most common modus operandi was to great a "dungeon" in the area the crime was to take place and force bystanders to achieve his goals by coercing them with monsters and traps. His opposed by Rocket early in his career, and considers her his archenemy, though Rocket does not reciprocate.

Weird Revisited: Space Fiends: Marauders from Hyperspace

Fri, 06/22/2018 - 11:00
This post original appeared in December of 2013. It followed  a post about using AD&D Fiend Folio monsters in a science fiction context. It's not set in any particular sci-fi universe I've presented, any more than the write-up of the monster that inspired it was. This was one of a number of posts over the years of monsters or setting trying to get at something that was Spelljammer but not Spelljammer.

No. Appearing:1-4
AC: 4
Hit Dice: 1 (or better)
Saving Throw: as per class and level
Attack Bonus: +2
Damage: 2d8+2 mag rifle, 1d8+1 monoblade
Movement: 30'
Skill Bonus: +1
Morale: 9

Gathyengi are a xenophobic humanoid species who act as pirates, striking from hidden bases within hyperspace. They are theorized to be descended from humans abducted by the psionic Masters from Earth millennia ago to serve as both labor and food source.

Gathyengi (sing. gathyen) are ectomorphic, almost skeletal in appearance. Their skin is dusty yellow to the color of parchment, and leathery. Their skull-like faces, solid black eyes, and pointed teeth (likely ritually sharpened) give them a fearsome appearance in keeping with their reputation for violence.

A gathyengi raider will have a crew compliment of various classes, similar to any human vessel. A raid will be led by a captain of 4-7th level, depending on the size of the ship. It is likely there will be at least one combat psychic among them.

All gathyengi can shift back into hyperspace at will. Whether this is an innate ability or technological is unclear. Dead gathyengi shift back into hyperspace as well, thwarting attempts at close examination.

Some Art from An Upcoming Superhero Thing

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 11:00
No stats today, but here's some spiffy new art for a planned supers project:

The villainous Dungeonmaster by Chris Malgrain, and

the Champion's wizardly mentor by Jeff Call.

More to come!

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Living Planet (part 3)

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 11:00
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 Living Planet (1986) (part 3)
(Dutch: De Levende Planeet)
Art by Don Lawrence; script by Martin Lodewijk

Storm and Ember work at turning the great wheel, paying off their debt to the ship Salamander. Storm asks another man at the wheel where they are headed. His reply:

The ship hunts the great fire worm, a creature from whose glands a spice can be extracted that fetches a high price all over Pandarve. It's used for medicinal purposes but also in the manufacture of a love potion.

An overseer hears them talking and comes over to whip the man back to work. Ember stands up for the man and she trips the overseer.

Meanwhile, the ship has sighted a fire worm. Their bait ships are luring it closer to them with the beat of drums. The bidge wants to know why one wheel sector seems to be slacking in helping steer the ship.

In that sector, Storm and Ember are standing up to the overseer. The man backs up to a bulkhead to talk to his superior on the comm, when he's killed be a splintering wall. The fire worm has emerge next to the ship and heaved its bulk against it!

While the ship's crew frantically try to respond, the fire worm rises up and falls upon the ship again. The rocking of the vessel with the blows allows Storm to grab the dead overseer's keys. The debtors at the wheel all make their escape.

When they make it to the deck, the fire worm is still attacking. Storm sees a girl in the path of the rampaging worm and rushes to the rescue:

He returns the girl to her mother, who recognizes him as a debtor. Storm doesn't have time for any of that. He demands to know why they don't use their harpoons to kill the worm. The woman explains:

Storm realizes their is another place it must be vulnerable. He notices the flyers above, and quickly arrives at a plan:


Weird Revisited: The Robots of Rome

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 11:00
The original version of this post appeared in December of 2013.

The Lokapannatti (an 11th-12th Century Pali cosmological text) tells the story of Ashoka obtaining Buddhist relics from the underground vault of King Ajatasatru. Like all good dungeon treasures, this one is guarded--by robots; bhuta vahana yanta, literally "spirit movement machines."  What's more, these robots are based on stolen Roman technology!
The thoroughness of this ancient text is such that it just doesn't drop a bomb like "Roman robots" and leave it at that. No, we get an origin story. See, Roma-visaya ("The Kingdom of Rome") has a class of skilled bahulayantakara ("machine-makers") who build these wonders for "commerce, agriculture, capturing, and executions."  These engineers are kept under close watch so that Roman technological secrets don't fall into the wrong hands. If they leave the city, they're chased down by a flying beheading machine!
An Indian entrepreneur from Pataliputra wants to get ahold of these marvels so bad he vows on his deathbed to get reincarnated as a Roman. Amazingly, that is exactly what happens! He then marries the daughter of a Roman inventor and when the time is right, snags some blueprints from his father-in-law. This is where his plan gets really complicated: he writes the secrets down and has the paper sewn into his thigh. Then, he tells his son to have him buried back in India when he dies. He leaves Rome and the robot executioner gets him.
His son takes his body (and the stolen secrets) back to Pataliputra and goes into the robot-making business for the king. The robots are still active a hundred years later when Ashoka shows up to reclaim the lost treasure. Lucky for Ashoka, the Roman that built them is somehow still alive and tells him how they can be disabled.
I got this story from Relics of the Buddha by John S. Strong, and with further details from here. Not that something so rife with gaming potential needs solid academic sourcing! It's just one step from this legend to a robot arms race between India and Rome and mecha battles across Afghanistan! 
Bhuta vahana yanta, go!

Professor Fright [FASERIP]

Sun, 06/17/2018 - 14:00


F                 TY   (6)
A                 GD  (10)
S                 TY  (6)
E                 GD   (10)
R                 EX (20)
I                   EX   (20)
P                  EX   (20)
Health: 32
Karma: 60

Real Name: Zachary Graves
Occupation: Former psychology professor, former television personality, criminal
Identity: Known to authorities
Legal Status: Citizen of the United States with a criminal record
Place of Birth: Erie, Pennsylvania
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: None
Base of Operations: Mobile
Group Affiliation: Masters of Menace


Mind Control: Professor Fright has the ability to manipulate and control individuals made susceptible by his broadcast with Remarkable ability. Since a victim's suggestibility arises from their fear, His mind control is limited to the sort of actions a fearful person might make.
Fear Broadcast: Monstrous rank, requires a person to see or hear a powerful broadcast. Victims must make an Intuition FEAT or suffer neuro-muscular spasms, cardiac arrhythmia and panic attacks. The effects last 1-10 turns per exposure.
Hallucinations: Monstrous ability to fill a victim’s mind with fearful illusions with lower exposure to the fear broadcast. The hallucinations will be particular to a victim, unless Professor Fright has suggested otherwise (see below).Victims may dispel the illusion by making an Intuition FEAT.

History: Zachary Graves was fascinated with fear from a young age. He pursued a career in psychology  was a specialty in research into fright. Though concern about the direction his studies were taking drove him from academia, he found work as a horror movie host on a local television station, creating the character "Professor Fright." There he perfected his broadcast device for causing frightening hallucinations in the viewer, but was he fired when an intern was injured tampering with the device. Graves attempted to sell this invention to a defense contractor, but reputation as a television personality led them to dismiss him as an eccentric. Angered at the world he perceived as failing to reward his genius, Graves used his device to get revenge on those who wronged him as Professor Fright/

Rocket [FASERIP]

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 11:00
Art by Dean KotzROCKET

F                 EX   (10)
A                 RM  (30)
S                 GD  (10)
E                 RM   (30)
R                 GD (10)
I                  GD   (10)
P                 EX (20) 
Health: 90
Karma: 40

Real Name: Kelli Cross
Occupation: College student, roller derby player
Identity: Secret
Legal Status: Citizen of the U.S. with no criminal record
Place of Birth: Los Angeles, California
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: Walter Rush (grandfather)
Base of Operations: Sparkle City, California
Group Affiliation: Super-Sentinels

Hyper Speed. The magic roller skates increase her reaction time to an Unearthly degree, allowing the following abilities:
  • Delivering one hundred Good blows per turn.
  • Perceiving an catching high velocity objects with Unearthly ease
  • Airskating: Remarkable speed by rapidly fanning her feet and arms.
  • Waterskating: Unearthly speed by skimming along on surface tension
  • Extra attacks with Unearthly ability or multiple attacks that inflict up to Unearthly damage, ignoring body armor (only one to hit roll is made).
  • Create cyclones for Excellent damage and Unearthly stunning or slamming
  • Wallskating (500 feet with a 1000-foot approach)
  • Invisibility by moving extremely fast, Red intuition FEAT to notice
  • One must make a Red FEAT to hit Rocket with anything other than an area effect or Psychic attack. If he is making multiple attacks against the same target the FEAT is reduced to Yellow.
  • Considered Amazing rank for Fighting for multiple attacks and evading.
  • Considered Amazing rank for Agility for dodging and catching projectiles.
  • Considered Monstrous rank for Intuition for initiative.
  • She may perceive any object's momentum as though it were 14CS slower than it's actual movement speed. E.g: Arrows and bullet sized objects appear moving at 5 m/ph
  • Rocket is considered to have Unearthly Endurance for movement and tiring purposes, while wearing her skates.
  • Unearthly resistance to friction
History: Kelli Cross was a college student, but what she was really into was roller derby. When she discovered her grandfather Walt had been a costumed crime-fighter during World War II with a set of magical roller-skates that supposedly came from an extradimensional imp—well, it all sounded pretty hard to believe, but skating and fighting crime just seemed like the thing to do!

Kelli began fighting crime in Southern California as the new Rocket and later became a member of the Super-Sentinels.

Wednesday Comics: Comic Book Kickstarters

Wed, 06/13/2018 - 11:00
Kickstarter doesn't make it easy to find stuff just browsing, so as a public service, here are a few Kickstarters that I have backed in the past week or so that might be of interest to comics fans:

Aztec Ace: The Complete Collection: Eclipse originally published these adventures of a Native American time traveler doing the sort of Doctor Who save the timeline thing back in the 80s. This is the first time this Doug Moench/Dan Day work has been collected, as far as I know.

Cosmic Master Jim Starlin's Art Book and Illustrated Novella: Readers of this blog likely know I am a big fan of Jim Starlin and his Bronze Age of Comics cosmicism. It's great to see he's getting a nice artbook. The illustrated Hardcore Station novel interests me less, but it's a nice extra.

Scout:Marauder: Scout was another Native American hero published original by Eclipse. It was set in a dystopian future where the United States had been crippled after its ecological excesses led other nations to turn against it. Scout was the creation of Timothy Truman. He promises this adventure is standalone, so familiarity with the previous series isn't necessary.

Send in the (Exploding) Clowns

Mon, 06/11/2018 - 11:00

Our 5e Land of Azurth game continued last night with a free adaptation of Misty Isles of the Eld, with Shade the Ranger, Kully the Bard, and Kairon the Sorcerer heading onto the Misty Isle to find there friends. They found the same blasted landscape, the same weird ridgelines, and the trail made of crushed toys.

Luckily froglings leav pretty distinct footprints, so the ranger has and easy time tracking them to the Pagoda City. At the main pagoda, they meet a goose-stepping patrol of Meanies. They try to convince them they are on their said and and searching for the other intruders, but Kully's guitar gives them away. It seems the Meanies are not music lovers.

A fight ensues that the Blue Meanies lose, but the party still isn't able to gain entrance. While they are trying, they're approached by a group of clowns--and not the friendly variety.

The clowns attack, so the party must defend themselves. The Clowns don't go down as easy as the standard Blue Meanies, and when they finally do they explode! The remaining clowns advance on the party threatening to trap them against the pagoda's door. Kairon and Kully dive off the steps for safety. Shade, noting that the exploding clown had pushed its nose just prior, punches one of the clowns on its red nose and jumps for safety.

The clown explodes, and the chain reaction takes out the other two--and blows open the pagoda's doors.