Friday, January 30, 2015

Strange Stars in Print!

Now the future can be in your hands. Print copies of Strange Stars are available now on rpgnow and drivethrurpg.

Cover not enough for you? Okay, here's an interior shot:

Join the Galactic Legion! Well, not really, but that was what the Star Frontier ads used to say. Just buy a copy, via the magic of the internet.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Fae Moon

The sphere of the Moon is a threshold, the place where travelers from the Earth pass into the more rarified aether of the heavens. Despite its proximity to the Tellurian sphere, the Moon is untainted by Man's fall. It's inhabitants are the faerie of old who have built their strange mansions and gardens in the luminous, silvery wastes, on the banks of viscous seas like liquid obsidian.

The fair folk rule over an insectile people they either found there or fashioned with their arts after their arrival. These are the Selenites. They do not speak to humans so far as is known, but they do have a language of mental emanations they use to speak with their masters.

The Moon faerie trade with the Earth. They sell oneiric wine, rumored to be made from the scintillant, diaphonous gray petals of the night-flowers they cultivate amid the geometric, coral-like, alabaster growths of their gardens. It was also the faerie who provided the King of Albion with his heir, Gloriana, gestated in a great egg in an underground grotto. The egg—round, quivering, and iridescent as a soap bubble and filled with a milky fluid stirred by opalescent swirls and eddies—was brought down to Earth and delivered to the King by a company of fae, their gangling limbs and moths' wings only slightly less luminous than moon itself.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wednesday Comics: My Favorites of the 00s

Ben of Mazirian's Garden asked on Gplus the other day about good superhero comics of the mid-90s through the 2000s. They got me thinking about what my favorite comics were in the first decade of the 2000s, leaving out series/runs that began or ended in another decade. In no particular order, here's what I came up with:

ALL-STAR SUPERMAN by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitley
In a decade where Grant Morrison was a dominate creator, All-Star Superman may well be his best: a clever and at times touching love letter to the Silver Age Superman. A multi-award winner.

Darwyn Cooke imagines the history of superheroes from the end of World War II, through dark days in the 1950s, to a new age dawning in the early 1960s. Winner of just about every award comics has got to give and well-deservedly so.

THE ULTIMATES 1 & 2 by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch
Millar and Hitch re-imagine the Avengers for the celebrity-obsessed 21st Century and provide a blueprint and visual inspiration for the Avengers film. There run was followed by Jeph Loeb--and the less said about that, the better. Millar returns for a another run well worth checking out with Ultimate Avengers.

With several different artists, Morrison delivers almost everything one could want in a Batman run, while mixing in elements from a lot of older stories--including his son with Talia and the return of the Batmen of All Nations. He continues it in 2009 in Batman and Robin and then into the twenty teens with Batman, Incoporated. The collections are confusing but this one begins it and this one takes it up to Final Crisis.

ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR: GOD WAR by Mike Carey and Pasqual Ferry
Ultimate Fantastic Four was always kind of the alsoran of the Ultimate line. It had a string of good creators, but none of them really seemed to click with it and left after competent, but uninspired runs. Mike Carey game in and gave us a superhero sci-fish take on the Eternals and Thanos that played out their obvious similarity to the New Gods. Carey's whole run is pretty good, but this is the high mark.

JLA/AVENGERS by Kurt Busiek and George Perez
The most "conventional superhero" title on this list, but a damn competent and entertaining one. This crossover is a thing of fanboyish fantasy and the sort of yarn that made us all fall in love with comics as kids.

SEVEN SOLDIERS OF VICTORY (1 and 2) by Grant Morrison and various artists
Morrison's most ambitious project to date, about a team of lesser known or new DC heroes who save the world, but never meet each other. The story unfolds over seven limited series and book ends. It's all collected in two volumes.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Shifting Setting

Changing elements of continuity or setting through retcon or revision are common in comic books. When we include alternate universes like the Ultimate Universe or DC's multi-Earths, the number of variant characters, organizations, and situations gets even greater.

Reading Viriconium by John M. Harrison was the first time I had seen this sort of thing in a fantasy world. Characters often retain the same name and vaguely similar characteristics, but their histories are different, and so is the history of the city they inhabit. Viriconium always seems to have the same streets, the same neighborhoods, even the same shops, but it doesn't always seem to be same place.

I imagine Harrison feels like he does this for different reasons than comic book writers, but ultimately I think what they have in common is a desire not to straitjacketed by the past in the stories they want to tell.

It got me thinking about how rpg settings don't have to be set in stone. Maybe instead of growing into Tekumel with a lot of detail, each campaign can be sort of variations of the same basic setting sketch. It seems like this could have a few advantages: the style of the setting could change--new elements (new rules, new races) could be easily introduced that might have been uneasy fit before. At the same time, a familiarity with basic things like locations and cultures could be maintained.

This would also be away to participative setting development to players that might be a be hesitant. They get a "first pass" where the GM does most of the work, then a "redo" where they reconfigure things as they go.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Strange Stars Outtakes

There were some things that I wanted to include in the Strange Stars setting book, but had to cut because of the structure we ultimately went with or just plan space considerations. Here are a few of them:

While the zhmun get mentioned in the section on the Zuran Expanse, I had initially intended for one of them to be the character in that section, but decided to co with the cantina picture. While I think showing more of Expanse's inhabitants was the way to go, the loss of the zhmun did make all the featured characters strictly humanoid.

Similar to the zhmun, the Sisterhood gets mentioned in the Zuran Expanse section, but originally this was one of the characters on my list of those to include, I even already had a description/reference page made for the artist. Ultimately, an Amazon got ditched for the zhmun and then the zhmun got ditched.

I had originally wanted a Minga male dressed in an outfit like 70s Cosmic Boy above for this section, but ultimately I went with the Phantasist as the character for the Coreward Reach. The Minga slaves and their subtle manipulations had a bit too complicated a backstory for inclusion in the planet sections, so the poor Minga wind up not getting mentioned at all!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Random Adventures in the Strange Stars

Mike "Wrathofzombie" Evans had suggest a few months ago that I do some sort of adventure inspiration creator for Strange Stars for the setting book. It didn't make it into that book, but I'm going to refine something of that sort for one of the game system books. Here's what I've got so far:

 The Heist
 The Gauntlet
 The Unexpected

The Heist: [A] wants the PCs to steal [B] from [C]
A: 1 A neshekk insurance exec  2 Vokun lord  3 A zhmu collector  4 An eccentric Smaragdine celebrity  5 An Orichalcosan optimate  6 The Pharesmid Syndicate
B1 A proprietary genetic code  2 An Old Earth artifact  3 A work of art  4 a high-grade mind emulation  5 A weapon from the Archaic Oikumene  6 A mysterious box of alien origin
C1 a high security vault station  2 the interior of a Wanderer  3 the isolated asteroid estate of a rival  4 a stateroom safe on a luxury starliner  5 A Zao Pirate stronghold  6 an armored spacehauler

The Guantlet: The PCs must get [A] [B] despite [C]
A1 A Deodand hacker  2 An ibglibdishpan defector  3 A diplomate from the League of Habitats  4 A jook band  5 A group of Minga  6 A Wanderer avatar
B1 across an Interzone favela  2 off a prison asteroid  3 out of Vokun space  4 to an Alliance cruiser  5 home  6 off Deshret
C: 1 irate smugglers  2 a traitor in their midst  3 pursuing bounty hunters  4 a squad of kuath  5 moravec supremacists  6 a deadly outbreak

The Unexpected: When [A], the PCs unexpectedly stumble onto [B]
A1 responding to a distress call  2 exploring a derelict ship  3 on a routine intersystem flight  4 making planetfall for repairs  5 visiting an isolated station for supplies  6 on vacation
B1 a dangerous xenospecies  2 a cache of outlawed bioweapons  3 a hidden ssraad raiding vessel  4 a relic of the Archaic Oikumene  5 a new hyperspace node  6 a cabal of psi cultists

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Strange Stars Unleashed!

We interrupt our usual Wednesday Comics to report the release of Strange Stars in pdf via drivethrurpg/rpgnow. We regular readers have been hearing about this for sometime (and hopefully, anxious awaiting it).  If you're new (welcome!) you can "preview before you buy" with the index to all the posts I wrote on the setting.

The full-color, premium paper soft cover is coming soon--hopefully in the next couple of weeks. The system books for Fate and old school style gaming (Stars Without Number compatible) will be out later this year.