Friday, July 25, 2014

Do You Have An Alignment or Does It Have You?

What follows is some brainstorming on a conception of alignment that probably just over-complicates things, but hopefully will be of some interest to somebody.

As we all know, alignment is derived from Moorcock and Anderson and is suppose to provide some moral and ethical structure to--well, the universe--and to provide a behavioral check on certain character types, but any attempt to relate it to actual moral quandaries, leads to discussion of baby orcs. Some people (myself included) have suggested at times the obvious solution of just viewing the sides as teams or opposing armies free of a moral dimension, but mostly it seems like people just ignore it. While I'm still advocating for a bit of blue and orange morality here, I want to suggest another wrinkle.

I recently finished the third of Hannu Rajaniemi's science fiction novels, The Causal Angel (more on that another time, maybe). One of the futuristic societies, the zoku, tend to form group minds, but individuals joining one or more zoku (Japanese for "clan") related hobbies, interests, or vocation. This process involves "entanglement," a sort of co-mingling of though and desires. The higher one's rank (i.e. the longer one is a member or the more "good" they do for the group) the more entanglement the individual becomes and so the more their thoughts and desires are reflected in the group consensus and action, or "volition." This effect is reciprocal, though, so the higher rank, the more one's on thoughts and actions are shaped by the zoku volition.

Maybe alignments could be a bit like that? Joining up with a fundamental metaphysical power of the universe means getting benefits (positive reaction, access to power) but also means you lose a bit of your individuality (or at least have that individuality altered). for someone powered by alignment (a paladin, a cleric), the higher level you become the worse it gets. A high level Paladin would be unlikely to worry about straying from their alignment; they would become one with it, or at least part of it.

This would make adhering to any alignment sort of like bartering your soul for magical power. The only difference is, with bartering your soul you are still quite aware you've given something up. With this approach, it would get harder and harder to ever imagine yourself doing anything differently.

This of course means that gods and other beings of great power and strong alignment allegiance have probably become more or less avatars for the consensus overmind/soul of the alignment.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Fortress of Fear

Tales say the grim citadel congealed from a wanly luminous cloud that came down from ulterior stars. Surrounded by a blasted landscape, cloaked in mists, it crouches like some alien crustacean, black, hunched, and spined.  It thrums always with a sound part machine and part beating heart, and that sound is the insistent hunger of the Fear Lords.

Art by Mitch Grave
These Lords are well named; they draw their sustenance from the emotion fear in all its varieties. For eons they have been shut outside; only their hunger can reach into the cosmos. On this world and all the others where the fortress has appeared, they have fed through the actions of the master of the fortress. A creature with a face like a mask of flexible bone, he is their emissary, their general, and their will and soul. He commands their legions of terror: automatons powered by the soul-remnants of captives who died in abject fear in the fortress's chambers of horrors.

Art by digitalinkrod

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wednesday Comics: The Price (Part 3)

We continue our examination of Jim Starlin's Dreadstar Saga with The Price. The earlier posts in the series can be found here.

The Price (part 3)
Eclipse Graphic Album Series #5 (October 1981) Story & Art by Jim Starlin

Synopsis: The demon Bailgesaurd has revealed to Darklock that the sorcerer Taurus Killgaren ordered the death of Darklock's brother. The demon is confident the knowledge will be of no use since Darklock has not the power to defeat the sorcerer. There might be a way, though.

Darklock is suspicious of the demon. He uses a magic amulet to ensure its truthfulness. Bailgesaurd sticks to his claim:

With the demon's help, Darklock can get to a 10th level reality called Nirvana's Gate, accessible to only gods and demons. There he will find an enchanted iris known as the Eye of the Gods. The Eye is the portal to an 11th level realm where the god's store there reserve's of mystical energy.

Darklock wonders why Biagesaurd doesn't take the energy for himself. The demon explains that the god's tainted the energies precisely so his kind couldn't get it. They did not, however, believe humans to be a threat, so they never proofed it against them. Why would a demon want to make a human more powerful? Bialgesaurd wants to see Killgaren die horribly:

Darklock agrees and commands Bialgesaurd transport him to the Eye. The demon does so, and Darklock is able to enter the eye with a simple spell of access:

To be continued.

Things to Notice:
  • Starlin's higher planes are reminiscent of Ditko's magical metascapes.
It all seems to be going pretty easy for Darklock, doesn't it? A demon just up and tells him how to still a whole bunch of power so they can both get revenge.

Of course, there's a catch, but it's really a bigger hint that Starlin isn't just telling a sci-fi revenge tale, here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Have A Yule (in July) That's Cool

Rpgnow and Drivethrurpg are running a "Christmas in July" Sale with a big list of rpg products at 25% off. This includes a lot of great books, like stuff by blogging compatriots like Tim Shorts--and my own Weird Adventures!

If you've been fence-sitting on picking it up, you can get the pdf now for under a sawbuck, and the hardcover/pdf combo for under $25.

And remember, friends:

recommend it!

Monday, July 21, 2014

War Machines of the Toxic Wastes

There is a vast desert, a creation of the Great Wars, where ancient, giant war machines decay into the poison dust. Limbs rust-ravaged and twisted; ichor clotted in their arteries, they look dead. Their energies are long spent, but the machines aren't dead. A power source can awaken them from their millennia-long slumber. They once ran on energy distilled from the bones of gods, but the machines are versatile. Even blood will do.

The cults that worship them with sacrifices and the sorcerer's that seek to control them agree the machines can be made to serve, but all if the proper incantations, called "command codes" are uttered. Even knowing the proper incantations, commanding an ancient war machine is not without it's perils. The spells of the ancients that bond them to service have faded over time, and the war machines have become more willful, if no less violent.

[Hey, kids! Want to randomly generate your own giant war machines? Just use Jack Shear's Random Automaton Generator and embiggen the damage on account of giantness. Also, you might want to replace the "humanoid" rolls on the chart with some of the other body shapes suggested in the comments.]

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Artesia on Sale

The digital comics site Comixology is running a sale until the 21st on Archaia's fantasy comics. That includes the collections of Mark Smylie's Artesia for 4.99 USD each. Though  it's incomplete (and seriously delayed) it's perhaps the best epic fantasy comic going. I've discussed it before in my review of comic book swordswomen.

So if you've ever been tempted, get over and check out the sage for a low price.

Friday, July 18, 2014


Map by Grimklok
Is He-Man's Eternia the future or past of our own world? This map super-imposing the two hints that their only a cataclysm apart, one direction or the other. Something like a run away comet hurtling between the earth and the moon, perhaps?

Someone should do a comparison map with She-Ra's Etheria: