Thursday, October 2, 2014

Mapping Yanth

I've been trying to but together a map so I can send notes off to Gus L of the Dungeon of Signs to get a map like this cool ASE one he did. Mainly, I just seem to be adding now locales and not getting much drawing done.

So far we've got:
The Vale of Thorns
The Warrens of the Rabbit Folk
Mount Brawl
The Mounds of the Ancients
The Great Standing Stone Sages
Apiaria, the Hive City of the Bee Folk
Lardafa, the Shanty-City of the Swamps
The Elder Dragon
Aldwode Forest
The Motley Isles

Some of these places I've talked about before, but the pictures will have to serve for the rest at the moment.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wednesday Comics: Artesia

"Walking the Line"
Artesia #1 (January 1999) Story & Art by Mark Smylie

Synopsis: Two forces prepare to meet on the field of battle. The captain of on one company, Artesia, offers up a prayer: "Yhera, Queen of Heaven! Yhera Anath, Queen of War! Strike off the chains of the Gorgonae! Loose the Three Sisters of Battle!"

She continues her prayer and her soldiers add their voices to hers. Then, the battle is joined.

When it's over, Artesia's side is victorious. The carrion crows come to feed and Artesia senses the coming of the guides of the dead. At her request, they show her the spirit world.

Fear cuts through her religious ecstasy when she sees Geniche, Queen on the Underworld. The goddess assures Artesia it is not her she came for and kisses her on the lips. She returns to the mundane world still trembling from the touch of the divine. Used to this sort of thing, Artesia's men, go about their business: Ferris plans to go to the nearby temple of Hathnalla to ask her cult sisters for aid; the men plan to give the honored dead over into their care and make camp near the temple.

King Alexus, leader of the opposing army, sees the spirtiwalkers glow around Artesia and knows why he lost the battle--and why his cousin Bran didn't even bother to show up for the battle. Artesia replies he's hiding in shame, since he let his concubine lead his army into battle. Alexus gets to the point and asks Artesia to join him.

Either or both. He also offers a place for her company. Artesia declines. Her lieutenant notes that Alexus seems in good spirits for a man about to loose a third of his lands and just saw his champion beheaded. He knows something. "It matters little; the die is cast," Artesia replies. She's in a hurry to get home before the Coming of Blessed Night.

Home is Dara-Dess, a Highland citadel held by King Branimir of Huelt. Artesia is not only his captain, but his concubine--and his priestess. In Yhera's shrine she offers up the head of the vanquished champion as sacrifice.

In the next hall, she presents the banner of the enemy and the most prestigous hostages to her king. Bran is pleased; he wishes her company to feast and celebrate at the citadel. Artesia demures, citing her need to secure the field of battle and press on. She has one more stop before she goes:

Her concubine-sisters can't understand why she has chosen the ways of war. Lysa the oldest of them, says Artesia has turned from the true of arts of women and of civilization and clad yourself in iron. Artesia counters that she will have them all. Lysa also has a prophecy to give:

The other concubines are afraid. Artesia says they should come with her, but Lysa replies they cannot. Artesia leaves with a sense of foreboding.

And well she should. Her king conspires with witchhunters.

They are mistaken, though, that Artesia didn't sense their presence.

Things to Notice:
  • Artesia's armor is much more "fantasy female" than it will be in later issues.
Smylie starts his story in media res and pretty much expects you to follow along. He lets context and iconography allow the reader to figure out enough about the deities he names by analogy to real world ones to be able to keep going. Here's a resource, though, to help sort them out.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Tales of Two Cities

The Witchocracy of Ix is perhaps the most vexing of the lands across the Wastes to the north to Azurth, but it is not the only one. It is one of three descendants of the dreaded Empire of the Barbarous Name, which was so feared that its very name was stricken from any record so that no one might speak it aloud and inadvertently evoke a ritual of resurrection. The only parts of that feared land and its hexadecagrammaton known to have survived are Ix, Yai, and Zed.

Many rumors and legends circulate regarding Yai, but all truth is hidden beneath a massive dome, ensconced in a remote mountain valley. It is widely known as the "Pleasure Dome of Yai", as tales tell of travelers being received by a youthful, beautiful, and most solicitous folk, eager to fulfill the travelers' every need and desire--save one. The folk of Yai are said never to age and never to tire of serving others; they are so devoted, that they demure from allowing their guests to leave, no matter how strenuously they state their desire to do so. One of the most peculiar stories told about Yai is that one of its pleasures is a game that somehow involves manipulation of the people beyond Yai. This "god-game" is rumored to be one of the most addictive of Yai's many pleasures.

Art by Alayna Lemmer
One of the peculiarities of the Mysteriarchy of Zed, the City of Wizards, is that no non-initiate may recall both the location of its gates and their passwords at the same time. The location of the city itself is well known; geographers with their particular thaumaturgy have fixed it in place to the north of Azurth and the Waste and the east of Ix and Yai. (Though, one must recall, the geographer has a luxury of imprecision not afforded the traveler.) Even still, an eidolon or mirage of the city is given to wandering. It has been glimpsed in many places but always to the north near the horizon, shimmering like heat-haze, staying forever out of reach--until it disappears entirely. The city gates are much less elusive but just as unpredictable; one might find them on a sheer cliff face in Sang, standing on a small isle in the midst of bubbling mudpots in the vicinity of Demonland, or in the back of a poorly lit Rivertown larder. The Wizard of Azurth, for all his presumed might, has never been invited to join the citizenry of Zed and so puts a great deal of effort into trying to find a way through these gates.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Strange Stars' Most Wanted

Here's a selection of  "most wanted" criminals culled from various crime databases across known space:

The Dragon’s Teeth: An infosophont which generates for its clients a specially synthesized, infectious nanoweapon for the purposes of creating assassins from random bystanders.

Haxun Malokk: Penitent crime lord operating out of an independent principality on Circus. Though associated with numerous crimes, he may be more notable for his eccentricity: he has patterned his criminal persona on an Old Earth historic work named Chicago Mobs of the Twenties and forces the members of his gang to dress and act accordingly.

Ligeia-988: Eratoan bioroid who masterminded a large-scale kidnapping ring in a supposedly unused pleasure dome. Most of her victims believed they were on vacation during the duration of their confinement.

Mako Orm: An infamous Zao Pirate who escaped capture by the privateer vessel Thermidorian by use of a bootleg genderswap nanoswarm. She is believed to be living under an assumed name in the Strip.

Polychrome: Allegedly the target of contract killers hired by Neshekk Banking Clans, this con-artist was responsible for a major “correction” in Alliance financial markets after a spectacularly successful execution of the “new node scam.”

Friday, September 26, 2014

Some Folk of Yanth

Just brainstorming a bit. Here are some characters the players in my 5e game may well meet in the near future:

Art by Renee Calvert
Viola, the Clockwork Princess of Yanth. A marvelous invention and marvelous inventor in her own right.

Art by Yuriy
Rarebit Finn, Hara pirate from the Motley Isles and Black Iris's first-mate.

Yrrol B. Gladhand, Mayor of Rivertown, but with ambitions that reach higher--perhaps much higher.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

First 5e Session

Last Sunday my gaming group met for a character creation session in 5e in preparation for our upcoming Land of Azurth game (now with a logo!). I gave this this doc ahead of time to get them prepped. We were joined by two new players that weren't in the Weird Adventures crew so we're at 7 now.

No one was over-burdened by too much prior study of the Player's Handbook, but everybody found it easy enough to use--particularly in comparison to some older editions. A outline of character creation with page references would have been a help, though.

We wound up with a frox thief, a human bard, an infernal-blood (don't call 'em tieflings!) sorcerer, a human fighter, a wood elf ranger, and an Azurthite dwarf cleric of Iolanthe. A fairly non-muscle heavy bunch, but the ranger and fighter ought to be able to handle it.

I'm planning on running this more sandboxy than my "mission style" approach to Weird Adventures. After the first adventure, the player's will get a list of rumors/adventure seeds to choose from for the next session--a technique I've seen put to good use in Chris Kutalik's Hill Cantons game.

The players seem eager to get started and so am I.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wednesday Comics: Conquerors of the Counter-World

"Conquerors of the Counter-World"
The Multiversity: Society of Super-Heroes: Conquerors of the Counter-World #1 (November 2014), Written by Grant Morrison; Art by Chris Sprouse & Karl Story & Walden Wong

Last week saw the release of the second part of Morrison's Multiversity storyline. Society of Super-Heroes takes us to the world of Earth-20 where a pulp- and serial-flavored group of heroes is battling for the fate (heh) of their world against an invasion from Earth-40 lead by Vandal Savage and (presumably) a Society of Super-Villains.

Earth-20 first appeared in Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1 and its prominent heroes are named in Final Crisis Secret Files #1. Earth-40 is a bit of a puzzle. Comments Dan DiDio made about the Countdown: Arena limited series suggested Earth-40 was the home of the government operative pulp versions of the Golden Age heroes in JSA: The Liberty Files. It's possible the concept of this Earth has changed, but it's also possible that Vandal Savage and his crew took over that world sometime after World War II.

Anyway, here's a scorecard with the prominent players and what you need to know:

Immortal Man (Earth-20) 
First Appearance: Final Crisis Secret Files #1
The Pre-Crisis Immortal Man first appeared in Strange Adventures #165 (1965) and appeared sporadically for two years, then didn't show up again until 1984 when his backstory and link to Vandal Savage were revealed. Then he died in Crisis. This Earth-20 version adds the interesting wrinkle of apparently also being Anthro. Anthro is a Cro-Magnon born to Neanderthal parents and has fairly light-hearted adventures until he settles down and becomes the father of modern humans. He first appeared in Showcase #74 (1968). Pre-Crisis Immortal Man was a different prehistoric guy (Klarn Arg) but he is said to have been from the Bear Tribe, which is the name of Anthro's tribe, too.

Doc Fate (Earth-20)
First Appearance: Final Crisis: Superman Beyond #1
Doc Fate is more of a man of action that his Golden Age (and other Earthly) counterparts. He's also a person of color, who tells us he was adopted (both differences from other Kent Nelsons). His helmet is also explicitly tied in to Novu, the Proto-Monitor, not Nabu the Lord of Order. (Unless those are one and the same?)

Mighty Atom
First Appearance: Final Crisis Secret Files #1
The original Al Pratt Atom first appeared in 1940. Like this version, he was a short guy with no super-powers who toughened himself up to fight crime. This version trained using the Arn Munro method. This is a reference to the old Charles Atlas ads and exercise regimen, but also to the pre-Crisis character Arn "Iron" Munro from Young All-Stars. In the series, Munro was the son of Philip Wylie's Hugo Danner from his 1930 novel Gladiator, one of the inspirations for Superman. Interestingly, "Mighty Atom" was the stage name of the strongman Joe Greenstein.

Lady Blackhawk (Earth-20)
First Appearance: Final Crisis Secret Files #1
There have been more than one Lady Blackhawk over the years, but all of them were so named because they were the only female member of the Blackhawks at the time. This Lady Blackhawk appears to be who her all-female team is named for.

Green Lantern (Abin Sur)
First Appearance: Final Crisis Secret Files #1
On Earth-0 ("New Earth"), and on Earth-1 Pre-Crisis, Abin Sur was dying alien Green Lantern that bequeathed his power ring to Hal Jordan. This Abin Sur looks sort of like a demon (or the Demon), which is his reason for keeping his existence secret from humankind, much like the rationale of the Overlords in Clarke's Childhood's End. He wears a costume more reminiscent of the Golden Age Green Lantern than the Silver Age one his origin is taken from.