Friday, August 31, 2012

Relax and Enjoy

Nothing goes better with a good beer than updates to the Weird Adventures Index.

You can check out a few monsters you might have missed, including the gill-men, the oh so sweet (and oh so deadly) candy zombies,  and the undead weirdness of the swarm of husks.  If travel reading is more what your in the mood for, then how about an exotic locale like Demiurge Island?  If you'd rather stay closer to home, you can enjoy that good beer in the bar at the Capricorn Hotel.

Maybe you like travels of a more metaphorical nature?  Then let the doors of perception open your third eye through the use of weird psychedelics or take a no less harrowing trip down some adventurer's photographic memory lane with the contents found in a shoebox.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Brain Games

Last nights WaRP Weird Adventures game opened with Erskine Loone getting an odd letter from an old grad school friend, William Carmody. Our heroes--joined by the mentally deficient pugilist Big Lenny--went over to Carmody's lab to see what was going on.  They find what's left of Carmody in the basement--and he asks them to solve his murder!

Carmody, at this point, is a brain floating in a vat of nutrients.  Only his scientific genius (and his trusty automaton Laurence) kept him alive.  Unfortunately, the trauma of his death and transformation left him with a good deal of memory loss.  He doesn't know who killed him.

He's got an idea as to why, though.  He's been working with an alien artifact in the form of a large dodecahedron.  He believes this could revolutionize the automata field, and so does his business partner, the aviator and inventor, Hew Hazzard.  Maybe Hazzard wanted the new technology all to himself?

Or maybe it's "Waxy" Moldoon--the Hell Syndicate boss Carmody borrowed start-up money from--that killed him.  He might want to get his mits on a valuable dingus like that.

Two good suspects--but Diabolico always wants to pin it on a dame. The one at hand (or not) is Carmody's  fiancée and lab assistant, Olimpia. She's now disappeared and Carmody thinks the murderer kidnapped her, but he doesn't really remember.

While they're trying to piece all this together, one of Carmody's automata prototypes becomes active somehow and goes on a short rampage.  Loone cuts the broadcast power just before it can decapitate Diabolico.

It's their first case in their own office, and looks like "Team Victory" has some dangerous work ahead.

Programming note: I'll be doing a Weird Adventures Q&A tonight at 8:00pm Eastern on rpgnet IRC. To join:  Go to, select your nick, login, and type "/join #rpgnet"

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Warlord Wednesday: 100!

Let's re-enter the lost world with another installment of my issue by issue examination of DC Comic's Warlord, the earlier installments of which can be found here...

"Skartaris Unchained"
Warlord #100 (December 1985)
Written by Michael Fleisher; Art by Adam Kubert.

Synopsis: Following the information they acquired from Norrad’s scrolls last issue, Morgan and Krystovar are canoeing down a river in a canyon toward a back entrance to New Atlantis. The way isn’t complete smooth. They’ve just discovered the handholds in the rock face that provide a way to climb to the entrance when a giant crab attacks them. Morgan manages to stab then thing in the and kill it, but it’s death-throes send him flying toward the cliff face. Incredibly, Morgan manages to grab the handholds and even reach down to give Krystovar a hand up out of the river.

Morgan and Krystovar scale the cliff face, only to find their way in blocked by metal bars!

In the camps, Machiste and Mariah prepare to ride out on their mission. They will raise a banner to signal Tara and the Shamballan army when they’ve completed it. They’re banking on Sabertooth not expecting a second assault on occupied Shamballah after their recent defeat there. Mariah wonders if Tara is really going to be able to lead the army to victory without Morgan. Machiste replies that Tara is not only a queen, but the second most fearless warrior in Skartaris—after her husband, the Warlord.

With some work, Morgan manages to pry one of the bars loose. He and Krystovar squeeze into the small passage. They find it opens into:

There are guards patrolling the area, but our heroes keep to the shadows and put them down quickly before they can raise an alarm.

In Shamballah, a veiled woman leads a donkey pulling a cart into the market. She passes the guards without arousing suspicious—or maybe not:

Still, Machiste and Shakira get the drop on him.

Elsewhere, Graemore, looking to prove himself, arrives at the secret entrance to New Atlantis. He follows the path taken by Morgan and Krystovar. The minstrel isn’t as stealthy, though, and winds up getting captured. The guards raise and alarm, and Morgan and Krystovar will soon be discovered!

The Shamballan crew goes about their mission. Shakira sneaks into the armory and gets control of an energy cannon, allowing them to take the whole place. Machiste uses a rope and a grappling hook to scale the palace walls and take out the guardsmen there.

Krystovar are swarmed by guards at an entrance to the throne room flanked by two centaur statues. There’s no way both of them will make it. Krystovar urges Morgan to go on and get Cykroth while he holds this chokepoint. Morgan is reluctant to go, by Kystovar convinces him it must be done for the good of Skartaris.

Elsewhere, Jennifer Morgan sense her father’s battle with Cykroth the Wizard-King is about to begin:

In his sanctum, Cykroth hears the tumult. He calls for his guards, but someone else answers him:

And the battle is joined!

To Be Contined

Things to Notice:   
  • Mike Grell returns to the series he created with a great cover.
  • After so long laying the foundation, the end of Burkett's New Atlantis saga is penned by Michael Fleisher.
While it's uncertain, last issue seems to have been written to set up a quick solution to the whole New Atlantean saga.  There are events to come suggesting dropped storylines, as we'll soon see.

The statues in the "temple of human sacrifice" seem lazily (and perhaps offensively) close to statutes of real world Hindu deities.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Hell's Hoods: Meet the Avernus Family

Damned souls fresh of Charon’s ferry from the Underworld, step off into Hell’s quarantine and processing centers. All this territory along the docks on the Acheron, is controlled by the Avernus crime family. It’s boss, Andras, was described yesterday. Now, let’s take a look at a few of his subordinates:

Murmur: Andras’s moll--and his underboss. She appears is a pale woman with straight, black hair, wearing a cloak of vulture feathers and little else. She wields an obsidian knife when forced to do so. She is an adept necromancer, and will summon the spirits of the dead for a summoner for interrogation. Murmur runs the processing center and ensures every one of the damned go to their appropriate reward.

Barbatos: The consigliere of family Avernus, he appears as a thickly-bearded old man dressed as an Old World peasant. He roams near the docks of the Acheron like a vagrant, mumbling to himself and setting simple traps for vermin. He could be just another of the damned, driven mad by his experiences. The old devil may be damned, but he is far from mad. He knows the languages of birds and animals. He’s adept at settling disputes, mostly in his family’s favor.

Flaures: A captain with the appearance of a humanoid leopard with flames dancing in his eyes. He’s sometimes mistaken for the Cat Lord--which is a good way to earn the Cat Lord’s ire. He dresses in dapper suits suggestive of Ascianan styles and smokes cigarettes in a holder. He performs most of his assassinations by fires. For a summoner, he can answer questions on past, present, and future, but is also willing to make contract hits on demons or devils.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hell's Hoods: The Owl

The devil known as Andras the Owl is the current boss of the Avernus family in the Hell Syndicate. His family’s territory is closest to the Astral Plane. As long there as been a Hell, they've been tasked with the processing of new arrivals: both run-of-the-mill evil souls and those fulfilling general faustian contracts.  

Andras rose through the diabolic ranks as a hitman and since he became boss, the Avernus family has gone into the business of murder for hire.

In the modern age, Andras appears as a thin man with the head of an owl in an immaculate suit (of conservative cut) and gloves. His large, soulless eyes glow like headlamps.  He never speaks; communications are carried out through surrogates (sometimes a Hell Syndicate made man, other times a black dire wolf that accompanies him) with whom he seems to communicate telepathically. He smells like clove cigarettes. His angular, razor-edged shadow can cut creatures less than 1 HD that it falls on.

Combat: Andras uses knives of a silver-like material that cause wounds that will not heal normally. A favorite tactic is cutting a mortal’s face in a Cheshire grin, then coming back to kill them on a night of the new moon months or years later.  The blades will sublimate if exposed to sunlight in about an hour. He also has a high-powered rifle that appears to be made from the fossilized bone of a qlippothic beast and fires hell-glass bullets containing fragments of a sphere of annihilation. Any entity hit by them is sucked into the void contained within.

Diabolical Abilities: Andras's unblinking stare can cause severe inflammation of the eyes, resulting in temporary blindness.(lasts 1-10  rounds of successful saving throw, 2-20 days on failure). Once per encounter, he may issue the croaking cry of a night-raven which may cause fear in those who hear it.

Pacts: Andras will take contracts for hits on any mortal being, particularly if doing so will put others’ souls in peril. A petitioner must fatten 13 white mice on his own blood and then feed them to an owl of pure black plumage.  The petitioner must collect the regurgitated pellets and use them in the drawing of a ritual circle. Summoning wards must be strong; if Andras escapes he will most likely kill everyone present.  

Friday, August 24, 2012

In Oceans Deep

For a race that has long bedeviled the surface world, the gill-men remain mysterious. Any school child in the City knows the story of Horatio Stormalong who repelled the last incursion of the creatures, but the only modern account of them in their native habitat comes from the memoir of a journalist held hostage by the merman separatist and terrorist known as Nemo.

Nemo’s vessel seems to have been captured by the gill-men in the ocean’s depths and taken to a sunken ruin of ancient Meropis where the gill-men lived.  Though this point was never entirely clear, it seems the gill-men consider themselves the descendants of the Meropisians. If this is true, the forces led to their smaller stature and inhuman appearance are mysterious.

Gill-men seem a distinct species from the sea devils, who are larger with toothier maws and may be (horribly) interfertile with humans.  They also seem unrelated to whatever species the head of Thraug belongs too.

Nemo’s encounter with the gill-men shows they have made advances in technology since their last attempted invasion, even if not exactly at pace with humanity's.  This fact, combined with their belligerence and organization, suggests the gill-men remain a potential threat to the surface world. 

[Mechanically, treat the gill-men has aquatic versions of humanoids of some sort. Either goblins or hobgoblins.]

One of the divers from Nemo's vessel captured by Gill-Men

Thursday, August 23, 2012

And the Killer is...

Continuing our Weird Adventures game last night, things got more serious in Westerly Manor as Rothger Croston (the lawyer) disappeared just as he was about to reveal who stood to benefit the most from the current heiress Cordelia's death.  Investigation revealed a secret, magical passage behind the bookcase in  the library that twisted upward in some extra-dimensional space and led to the master bedroom upstairs.  There, Boris found Croston's dead body and another secret panel.

Loone and Diabolico went up to the tower and found a window that allowed one to get out on the flat roof around the skylight.  Someone had used it recently, because the window seal was damp with rain.  Also, there was a rain-smeared remnant of an occult circle drawn in chalk.  If they needed any further proof, there was a candle left behind that reeked of extraplanar energies to Loone's acute mentalist sensitivities.

A line-up of the would-be Westerly heirs revealed only one with any chalk stains on him.  Charlie Wildman had one damp knee with a smear of chalk on it.  The boys were sure he was their man, but he was playing it cool and didn't admit to anything.  Boris even roughed him up a bit and he still didn't talk.

However, those harsh interrogation techniques opened a door for Loone's mental powers.  He discovered an ancient evil within Charlie and our heroes figured out the truth: Charlie was possessed by the spirit of his wicked, sorcerous ancestor, Curwen Westerly.

Loone and Harley Blythe apprehended the now-ranting Charlie/Curwen. That's when the Shrike made his appearance from the basement.  Boris pulled out his shotgun, beloved Ivanka, and blasted the fiend.  The Shrike was wounded, but not dead.  Boris made sure he stayed docile by judicious application of his crowbar.

Feeling Curwen was the actual murderer and Charlie an unwitting accomplice, they tried to induce the spirit to leave.  They didn't really have any methods at their disposal, until Curwen let slip that he had a laboratory in the basement: The locked room they didn't search before!

They hauled him down and restrained him while looking for some sort of malign spirit remover.  Diabolico discovered another magical tunnel whose other end was movable and allowed travel to the secret passages in the house if one just thought of the location. Loone got the idea to ask it to go to the land of spirits--and it opened a portal to the gray, dreariness of the Underworld.  A couple of helpful dead guys were willing to pry Curwen's spirit out of Charlie's body and wrangle the thing.  The portal closed with Curwen trapped.

Croston was dead, but Cordelia made good on the payment owed "Team Victory." Boris made a public show of returning the Shrike to the sanitarium and got some positive press.

Another mystery solved!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Warlord Wednesday: Fire and Sword

Let's re-enter the lost world with another installment of my issue by issue examination of DC Comic's Warlord, the earlier installments of which can be found here...

"Fire and Sword"
Warlord #99 (November 1985)
Written by Cary Burkett; Art by Andy Kubert; Inks by Pablo Marcos.

Synopsis: The Shamballans trudge through a swamp on the way to a new camp.  Their old camp has become too dangerous with the instability of the Fire Mountain volcano.  Morgan and Machiste scout the way.  The march is abruptly halted by a rise of a hydra creature from the muck.  Morgan predicts it will be hard to kill—and he’s right.  The thing drags him beneath the surface and almost drowns him before he slays the last head.

The group forms two camps. Machiste leads the group with the women and children, and Morgan leads the camp of soldiers.  When Krystovar asks what their next step is, Morgan (predictably, if nonsensically) says he’s going it only.  He intends to take out the big boss, Cykroth the Unholy, Wizard-King of New Atlantis, by himself.  He walks off alone to do some planning, but Krystovar and Jennifer decide to help him whether he wants them to or not.

Meanwhile, Tara is cooling off in a stream, when Graemore comes along doing the minstrel thing.  He’s heard that she stayed by his side while he was healing.  He leans in and kisses her.  Tara pushes him away.  He’s misunderstood.  He was her first love, and she’ll always care for him, but she loves Morgan.  Graemore, downcast, finally gets it.

In New Atlantis, Cykroth summons the chief of the Vashek assassins before him. He commands the warrior to take on a solo mission to find and kill Travis Morgan. He imbues the man with some of his wizardly power, making him grow bigger, stronger, and faster. He also summons a dragon for the warrior to ride.  The Vashek flies forth, following the psychic trail left by Morgan’s visit last issue.

Back in Skartaris, Krystovar and Jennifer are hard at work.  Krystovar pores over scrolls of Norrad he snagged in New Atlantis. Jennifer uses her power to probe Cykroth’s mystic defenses.  The wizard cyclops senses her and sends a blast back down the line, but in doing so, he inadvertently reveals something about the source of his power.

Sitting alone, Morgan is attacked surprised by a blast of fire from the assassin’s dragon mount. He gets off a few shots with his pistol, but to no effect.  He heads for the forest and manages to ambush the Vashek, wounding him.  Soon though, he’s forced to retreat again.  The man is too strong and too skillful.

Still, he notices that the dragon flies slower once the man was injured.  He surmises the two are linked in some way.  He sets up another ambush using his helmet on a stick as a lure.  He’s able to knock the warrior out of the sky, but soon he’s fighting defensively again.  Seeing the dragon coming in for an attack, Morgan takes a desperate gamble and positions himself between the two:

Link as they are, his foes are both destroyed.

Returning to camp, Morgan’s greeted by Krystovar and Jennifer.  Krystovar has discovered there’s another way into New Atlantis besides the sea route.  Jennifer has realized that Cykroth draws his power from his Atlantean subjects. Morgan stares at them for a moment, and comes to a realization, himself. Embracing them, he says they should go find the others and tell them what they’re going to do—together.

Things to Notice:   
  • Why Morgan is intent on going it alone here isn't really clear. Residual effects of the spell banished last issue?
  • Cykroth gets a sobriquet this issue ("the unholy") that hasn't been mentioned before.
Where It Comes From:
The title of this issue refers directly to the dragon-riding Vashek assassin.  The story seems mainly set-up for the big confrontation to come--giving Morgan and crew a way to get the upper hand over the Atlanteans.

The multiple-headed swamp monster is a reference to the Lernaean Hydra, a mult-headed reptillian monster of Greek myth, killed by Heracles in the second of his Twelve Labors.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Gimme Your Weird Adventures Contest

Back from Gen Con and ready to get to work on a long percolating idea: a companion to Weird Adventures.  To help lazy ol' me generate content, I’m turning to the time honored internet tradition of crowdsourcing--and sweetening the deal with a little competition.

Here’s what i’m looking for: give me your best adventure seed in the in the world of Weird Adventures.  Inspiration from the usual suspects (B-movies, pulp stories, comic books) is always appreciated, but whatever you think would work and highlights the fun elements of the setting. The seed can be for a sorter incidental

I want the entries in the following format:

Title: this should ideally be something pulpy and possibly hyperbolic.  The titles of the adventure seed boxed pieces in the book are good examples--and check out this old post on “weird menace” titles.
Tagline: a one sentence teaser like found on the contents page of some old pulp mags.
Set-up: a brief rundown of how the setting and situation of the adventure.
Highlights: a montage of the interesting/critical things in the adventure--important encounters, possible set-pieces, some evocative sensory fluff.

Ok, here’s a quick example:

“Burial On the Far Side of Hell”
An ancient plea brings the promise of riches and unimagined danger.
The Set-up: In a oddities museum, the PCs happen upon a Native mummy who puts out a psychic plea: “return me to my ancestral grounds for burial, and I'll show you the hidden riches of my people."  What the mummy does not know--and neither does anyone else--is that the road back now cuts through a dangerous stretch of badlands swallowed by a black dust elemental and crawling with black dust zombies.
Highlights: the fury of a malevolent storm; shambling,moaning zombies, all but invisible in the swirling, choking dust; an isolated town with desperate survivors are wholed up; a mad preacher fallen to worship of the demonic storm.

Easy! So give it your best shot. All of them I like will get included in the next Weird Adventures supplement (with full credit, of course), and everyone who’s entry makes the book will get a free pdf.  The best two entries will get either a $10 Amazon gift certificate or a hardcopy of Weird Adventures (whichever their preference).

All entries should be submitted by Monday September 17 at noon Eastern Time.  Email them to me at theinscrutabledr3 on gmail.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Game, Interrupted

Our Weird Adventures game got postponed last night, so we’ll have to wait another week to find out what happens in Westerly Mansion. 

Here’s a little background I sent the players earlier this week to tide you over:

Tranquility has been restored to the usually quiet communities of the Eldritch Valley.  Fennix Orgo, the so-called 'Shrike' killer, has been apprehended by law enforcement and returned to the Blufton Sanitarium, where he is to spend the rest of his days.  Orgo was responsible for at least seven deaths by brutal, bestial means, including the murder of J. Wyllard by impalement--a grisly deed which earned him his nickname.

[from The City Inquirer - a little over one year ago]

I’m off to Gen Con today.  Maybe I’ll see some of you there!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Warlord Wednesday: From the Ashes

Let's re-enter the lost world with another installment of my issue by issue examination of DC Comic's Warlord, the earlier installments of which can be found here...

"From the Ashes"
Warlord #98 (October 1985)
Written by Cary Burkett; Art by Andy Kubert; Inks by Pablo Marcos.

Synopsis: Winged reptile scavengers feed on the fallen from last issue's battle. Morgan rides out and scatters them with his sword and pistol. A dangerous thing to do, but Morgan feels the men deserve better than having their bones picked clean. Later, after Morgan’s had men gather the bodies, the survivors stand around a great funeral pyre.

Morgan goes to check on Graemore and finds Tara with him. “I couldn’t take losing you,” she tells her unconscious childhood friend. Morgan knows that if Graemore dies, he’ll be blamed. He finds Krystovar in the infirmary tent and tells him he’s got to save Graemore.

In frustration and guilt Morgan rides off on his own, but not before rebuffing Mariah who comes to urge him to provide leadership to the demoralized Shamballans. Morgan believes he can hear the personification of Death whisper to him that he will sacrifice everything he holds dear.

He hasn’t ridden far before another tremor occurs and unhorses him.

Briefly we turn to the Age of the Wizard-Kings where Mungo is trying to return Tinder to Skartaris. The spell doesn’t go as planned:

Mungo manages to restore the boy’s human form, but he still can’t send him back to home.

Morgan awakens in a cave with the mysterious old hermit he met in issue #90. The old man tells him the earthquakes here are a reflection of a crisis affecting all the planes of existence. There are men whose choices will be pivotal in these events—and Morgan is one of them.

Morgan denies the man’s words. He walks away--only to find the hermit again standing in his path. Next to the man is the glowing portal Morgan knows as the Eye of Truth (from issue #26). The old man tells him that that the demoralization he’s feeling seems to be due to dark sorcery. Only going into the eye will tell them for certain.

Morgan steps through. He sees a twisting path where death awaits him on the other end. The shades of his fallen friends appear, blaming him for their death. Before he can give in to despair, a voice tells Morgan to look deeper, and suddenly he sees the ghosts for what they really are:

He knows now he’s been duped. He cuts his way through the demons to the doorway at the end of the path. “Whoever you are,” he snarls, “I’m coming for you!”

He stands before death and sees her true face—a sight no other man has ever seen and lived. Then she’s gone, and Morgan faces a doorway to an abyss. He steps through and enters a throne room where we see the legs and feet of the Wizard-King of New Atlantis we’ve seen before. Then, Morgan sees his face:

Morgan attacks. Cykroth’s guards delay him long enough for the Wizard-King himself to fire off a blast, knocking Morgan back through the portal. The light around Morgan (the light of the eye of truth?) has weakened the sorcerous Cyclops and he calls for a Shamballan captive to be brought to him. He extends a clawed hand and drains the life force from the woman, leaving her a husk.

Morgan wakes up back where he fell after the tremor with Mariah fussing over him. Morgan gets to his feet. He has work to do. His sense of purpose has returned.

Back at camp Krystovar comes up excitedly and tells him it looks like Graemore is on the mend. Strange thing, though: at one point he thought he saw an old man standing over the minstrel, but when he looked again, there was no one there.

Things to Notice:   
  • At least one tricorn rider survived from last issue.
  • The Wizard-King of New Atlantis makes his first full apearance.
Where It Comes From:
Again, the mysterious earthquake in this issue is a reference to the greater upheaval going on in Crisis on Infinite Earths at the time of this issues publication.  The old hermit alludes to this fairly directly--and a editors note urges you to check out the "maxi-series."

Morgan encountered cyclopes back in issue #45, but Cykroth doesn't seem to be of the same ilk.

Monday, August 13, 2012

City Rumors

Here are some rumors (adventures hooks big and small) from the City by neighborhood:

Barrow Island: “Trouble’s brewing again between the Barrow Men and the ghouls.  Some adventurers killed some punk kid ghoul that wound up being connected to a muckety muck in Undertown.  The Barrow Men are looking for somebody to take the restitution they’re offering to the ghoul bosses.”

Yiantown: “Word has it that Tsan Chan has been replaced as head of the Five-Headed Dragon Society. No one knows who would have the moxie to pull off a coup like that, though.”

Grand Terminus District: “The Imperator Hotel is looking for a new night auditor and a house detective.  The last ones disappeared--they say--on a night when the hotel actually lost a room instead of it’s usual weirdness of growing and gaining 'em.”

Empire Park East: “Who’da thought it? Celebrity detective and perennial skirt-chaser Heward Kane seems to be smitten with the headmistress of the Mircalla Karnstein Finishing School for Young Ladies. It’s a bit odd.  She’s not hard on the eyes, but she’s a little bit more schoolmarm than the usual glamor girls Kane has on his arm.”

Hell’s Commot: “There’s a new crime lord in the Commots.  That’s right, lord--though people sometimes call him “the Mermaid.”  He operates out of the backroom of the Iceberg Club.  He ain’t human. He may not even be alive.”

Grimalkin Village: "Leland Throne runs an antiquarian book shop. He doesn't usual have magical tomes, but sometimes some stuff that deals with occult lore and related topics. People say Throne is also a bit of an amateur photographer--takes naughty pictures of girls for sell or trade with like-minded enthusiasts. Sometimes he gets a young lady with a rich family to pose for him, and he isn't above a little blackmail. His 'collection' might be worth quite a bit to the right people."

Friday, August 10, 2012

Opening the Doors of Perception

While mind-altering (and mind-expanding) chemicals have long been known to mankind, but there has been a prejudice against their therapeutic use by the church, science, and modern thaumaturgy.  In recent years, renegade scientists and alchemists have begun to catalog and experiment with these substances--and some maverick thaumaturgists have even begun to take notice.

These chemicals are often grouped under the name phantastica, but all fall into subcategories based on their effects on the mind and body.  While few engender the physical dependence observed with alcohol or various bootleg alchemicals, they can pose serious risks to the psyche.

The use of various phantastical mushrooms is of ancient vintage.  It has been suggested that the fruiting bodies of fungal sapients are among the most potent, and their widespread harvesting by primitive man drove these beings to near extinction and created enmity lasting to this day.

Mescaline (derived from several New World cacti) is one of the most widely studied phantastica. Some thaumaturgists have attesting to it aiding the early stages of magical research by increasing intuitive connections with the Planes Beyond.  Indeed, mescaline's only consistent thaumaturgical use is to aid in travel to the astral plane. Small doses have also been reported to allow a magical practitioner to see etheric or astral bodies.

Some phantastica come from the other planes themselves.  So-called “bug powder” sold in the astral waystation of Interzone, is a potentially dangerous example. Alchemists have work to isolate the essence of the astral moth for planar transport, but with little success.

A number of other sources of phantastica are currently under scientific investigation.  Adventurers report life-transforming visions from consumption of certain molds that grow in subterranean areas--often ones which are found near the “lairs” of certain slimes. Tincture of a distillate of ectoplasm is rumored to produce a dissociative state resembling catatonia, but allowing communication (one way) with spirits.    It has even been suggested that smoking the flakes or scraps of a lich (if one can acquire them) increases sorcerous potency for a period of hours to days, while slowing perceptions of time and heightening the senses.

It is the hope of many of researchers that the scientific study of these substances many usher in a new technological age. One perfectly integrating thaumaturgy and psychology through chemical means.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

At Midnight

Weird Adventures resumed last night in the WaRP system. The gang was on hand for the reading of Old Cyrus Westerly’s will to his five (six if you count one’s daughter) hopeful heirs. The would-be heirs were unusual characters, and a couple seem to have past history. Given these dynamics, it was lucky that Don Diabolico and Boris were accompanied by Erskine Loone (The Grumpy Old Troll , Michael), psychologist and psychonaut, who turned an analytic eye on the clan.

Cyrus’s will gives his entire estate to Cordelia, the only surviving relative bearing his surname. The gang felt this immediately put a target on her back. But from whom? Matti Besant, the housekeeper, says spirits roam the house--the result of the diabolism of Curwen Westerly, Cyrus’s grandfather. Then, there’s an escaped homicidal maniac on the loose from a nearby sanitarium. Compared to those threats, jealous family members seem positively mundane.

Diabolico schemes! Boris scowls! Erskine expounds!  Will they be up to the task of protecting Cordelia Westerly from harm?

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Warlord Wednesday: Disaster

Let's re-enter the lost world with another installment of my issue by issue examination of DC Comic's Warlord, the earlier installments of which can be found here...

Warlord #97 (September 1985)
Written by Cary Burkett; Art by Rich Buckler; Inks by Pablo Marcos.

Synopsis: Machiste, the Danko knights, and a force of Shamballan soldiers wait outside the gates of Shamballah, now in the hands of the forces of New Atlantis.  They wait tensely for Morgan’s contingent to open the city gates.

Meanwhile, Morgan’s group has fallen into an ambush. Trogero is already dead and more Shamballan troops follow him by the moment. Morgan calls for a retreat. He and Scarhart bring up the rear, holding the narrow entrance to the tunnel by themselves.  Morgan tries to come up with a plan of escape, but Scarhart has out-thought him.  He pushes Morgan out of the way, them knocks down the columns supporting the entrance, Samson-style.  It collapses, closing off the New Atlanteans—but burying Scarhart.

The gates of Shamballah open to reveal energy cannon.  Machiste is knocked from his horse and Lord Kaldustan is killed.  Seeing their leader fall, the Danko warriors charge fearless into the mouth of the cannon—and into death.  All Machiste can do is watch:

Mariah and Machiste sound a retreat as well.  The retaking of Shamballah has failed.

What’s worse, Saaba shows up to tell Lord Sabertooth exactly where the free Shamballan camp is located!

A battered and grieving Morgan arrives back at camp and punches Graemore.  He believes that he must be a spy.  He remembers Mariah catching him listening in to their plans. Morgan wants to kill him, but Tara intervenes.

Remembering his dream where he did kill those he love, Morgan backs down.  At that moment, they get word that the Atlanteans are attacking the refugee camp.  Morgan and his friends charge into battle. The Shamballans fight fiercely, and Morgan has his archers keeping Sabertooth’sartillery out of action.

Saaba shows up to hit the archer’s from behind with fire, but her spell is cut short by a superior power:

Saaba gets a reprieve when an earthquake shakes the valley and Fire Mountain starts to blow! Jennifer has to turn all of her sorcerous powers to restraining the volcano.  Saaba sees her chance to escape and changes into raven form.  She doesn’t make it:

The earthquake and volcano causes Sabertooth to retreat. Morgan and his forces may not have one the day, but they’ve survived.

Jennifer shows Morgan the raven’s mangled body.  He realizes Saaba was the spy—and he wrongly accused Graemore.  He goes looking for the minstrel and finds him being tended by Krystovar.  Tara angrily tells him that Graemore entered battle to prove himself after Morgan’s accusations. If Graemore dies, she’ll never forgive Morgan.

Full of guilty and pain, Morgan wanders off alone.  Exactly as his unknown enemy wants:

Things to Notice:
  • This issue marks the death of two recurrent characters: Scarhart and Saaba.  
  • The riders of the tricorns certainly don't get to do much before taking their exit.
  • The evil lower limbs of the Wizard-King of New Atlantis make their second appearance.
Where It Comes From:
The mysterious earthquakes and volcanic eruption in this issue are a reference to the greater upheaval going on in Crisis on Infinite Earths at the time of this issues publication.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Comics' First Barbarian

Before Claw, Wulf, and Ironjaw--even before Conan--there was a barbarian Sword & Sorcery hero in comics. Though there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of this particularly mighty-thewed sword-slinger, he’s got a famous name: Crom the Barbarian!

Crom was the creation of Gardner Fox and first appeared in Out of this World #1 (1950) from Avon. Fox tells us that Crom’s adventures come to us courtesy of “long-lost parchments recovered in an underwater upheaval, translated by a lingual expert,” but I suspect he made it all up.  He also took a lot of inspiration from Howard's Conan yarns.
Anyway, Crom’s a yellow-haired Aesir living in an age forgotten by history, and he’s got a problem. His sister Lalla have been kidnapped by ape-men called Cymri (which may or may not tell us how Fox felt about the Welsh). Crom makes short work of the ape-men, but he and Lalla wind up adrift.

They end up on an island. Good news: It’s full of lovely women. Bad news:

The wizard is named Dwelf, and he’s got a job for Crom. Dwelf wants him to bring back water from the fountain of youth which was built by “people from the stars’ and will one day be lost “under what men will call the Sahara desert.” Dwelf threatens Lalla if Crom doesn’t get the stuff for him--and then hypnotizes him to make double sure.

Crom sails to fabled Ophir. He sneaks into the city and while he’s casing the tower that houses the fountain, he meets a girl who doesn’t really get the concept of sword & sorcery tavern-dancing:

Crom takes the girl (Gwenna) dancing and formulates a plan to get into the tower by first being thrown in jail. It works, but once at the tower, he’s got to fight panthers and some guards. He dispatches them all with his sword “Skull-cracker.”

When he gets to the fountain he finds he guarded by a giant snake! He kills it, too, but is almost done in by the queen of Ophir, herself, Tanit. He takes her hostage so he can get out of the city:

By the time they’ve escaped though, Tanit has warmed to Crom and is asking him to come back and be her king! She and Crom deliver the water to Dwelf, who suffers the ironic fate of being turned into an infant.

Not really into childcare, apparently, Crom leaves the wizardling and decides he and Tanit should head back to that kingdom she’s promised him--with his sister Lalla, too, of course. They don’t make it back without adventure, but that ends this particular issue.

Crom goes on to have two more improbable adventures in the pages of Strange Worlds.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Found in a Shoebox

Cataloging of a deceased adventurer’s belongings revealed a shoebox full of assorted old photos.  A few held more than sentimental interest:

The Dark Manor
The most dangerous photo of the lot.  If stared at during night, the photo may open a portal to the pictured manor in a strange demi-realm shrouded in mist and populated by people who appeared to come from a gothic horror yarn. Anyone transported to the realm will be there for 24 hours on earth--though the exact time in the demi-realm is variable: anything from one night to a two weeks.

The Gold Women
A set of automata construct by a Staarkish thaumaturgist two centuries ago.  They disappeared from a private collection in Lutha during the Great War.  This photo has an address in Metropolis written on the back of it.

The Succubus
Naughty postcard from roughly 40 years ago.  It can be used to summon a succubus once per week if the incantation written on back is read and a few drops of the summoners blood (or other body fluid) is spilled into a circle draw on the floor.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Medieval or Other?

While D&D is a mishmash of various (and often disparate) elements, as written its base is the European Middle Ages. This is true of most fantasy games that have could after it.

Of course, that’s not the only way to go. Supplements have been published that pushed the game back into the ancient world (Imperial Rome, the time of the Old Testament, etc.) and forward into Renaissance and the world of gunpowder. None of these options require too much chance to the basics of the game.

I don’t know if anyone else has this problem, but I have a hard time choosing at times. Solomon Kane and the world of Warhammer Fantasy have their appeal. So does the ancient Rome of Tierney’s Simon of Gitta, or the Hellenistic era of Leiber’s "Adept’s Gambit." And in between the two Robin Hood and many of the historical actioners of Robert E. Howard have an attraction all their own.

I know most fantasy settings are a bit of a anachronistic hodge-podge: one can put together elements from several different time periods. Howard’s Hyborian Age allows Conan to fight Picts (American Indians) on the frontier and a wizard from Stygia (ancient Egypt). Still, Conan’s world seems mostly Medieval; Howard had to make a choice of sorts and so does every GM making up a setting.
Like I say, sometimes that’s tough, at least for me.  Choosing one door closes off others.  Anybody else have this difficult? Or do you have a favorite era that you seldom stray from?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

One WaRPed Character

Last night, part of the gaming crew met in virtual for a character creation session for our new Weird Adventures game using the WaRP system.  Tim and Chris recreated their previous Lorefinder characters using the new rules set.  As I expected, the only step even the slightest bit difficult was just getting into the mindset of the system--the actually creation part was very easy.  Here's Chris's Don Diabolico--Gentleman Thief:

Gentleman Thief (dapper clothes, shifty eyes) - 4
Good shot with a Pistol (steady grip) - 3
Skilled Driver (calm behind the wheel) - 3

Greedy (covetous gaze)

Get rich or die trying

In debt to the Hell Syndicate

Equipment: Natty attire, swordcane, concealable pistol, gloves.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Warlord Wednesday: Nightmare Prelude

Let's re-enter the lost world with another installment of my issue by issue examination of DC Comic's Warlord, the earlier installments of which can be found here...

"Nightmare Prelude!"
Warlord #96 (August 1985)
Written by Cary Burkett; Art by Rick Stasi; Inks by Bill Collins.

Synopsis: In the Shamballan camp at the Great Fire Mountain, Jennifer casts a spell to bring Machiste and Mariah from the ancient Age of Wizard-Kings to the present. Those two disappear from that era mid-chess game leaving Mungo Ironhand perplexed.

Morgan explains to his newly arrived friends that a war is coming and he needs their help.  The three wander off, giving Jennifer the opportunity to cast another spell to find the now missing Tinder.  Unfortunately, Mungo’s trying to cast a reversal spell to get Mariah and Machiste back.  The two spells get crossed up and Tinder winds up in the past.

Elsewhere, Tara shares a per usual tense exchange with her old friend (and one time lover) Graemore the minstrel.  After his talk with Tara, Graemore goes off to strum his lute alone, and accidentally winds up eavesdropping on Morgan revealing his plans for a sneak attack:

Mariah discovers Graemore and takes him for a spy.

Morgan intervenes and introduces him properly. Mariah was right in suspecting a spy in their midst, though:  A raven takes flight from a branch overhead.

Meanwhile in the capital of New Atlantis, a Vashek assassin has an audience with the Wizard-King,  who is mostly hidden from our view. The failure to kill the Warlord requires a new strategy. The Wizard-King will send a nightmare to cause him to despair and weaken spiritually and mentally. Then the assassin’s will be able to kill him.  A blood red cloud flows from the palace and into the sky, seeking its prey.

In the Bloodrock Mountains, Lord Sabertooth gets a visit from the witch, Saaba.  Transforming from her raven form, she tells him about Morgan’s plans.  Sabertooth is angry at being duped into combing the mountains looking for a nonexistent enemy camp, and hungry for revenge.  Saaba, desiring above all to see Morgan defeated, sweeps up Sabertooth in a whirlwind to transport him to Shamballah ,so he can prepare a surprise for the Warlord and friends.

That night, the Wizard-King’s nightmare does its work. Morgan dreams of slaying Vashek assassins, only to have them revealed to be his friends and family beneath their masks. The sexy personification of death he met before appears and reminds him that he serves her. Morgan wakes up in a sweat and walks out in the night to sit alone. He wonders if he will lead people to their death because he is cursed to destroy everything he holds dear.

The next morning, the plan begins.  Morgan, Trogero , Scarhart and a small force of soldiers enter the caves leading to the ancient complex beneath Shamballah. When they reach the complex, Trogero is felled by a crossbow bolt!

Lord Sabertooth and a group of New Atlantean soldiers wait in ambush!

Things to Notice:
  • All the women look like bodybuilders in Stasi's art.
  • The Danko riders are called unicorn riders here, despite their mounts obviously having three horns.
  • The mysterious Wizard-King of New Atlantis is mentioned for the first time.
  • Krystovar comments that in the coming battle he might unknowingly kill his brother who has been turned into a beast-man by the New Atlanteans.  Foreshadowing, perhaps?
Where It Comes From:
The underground passage and the computer complex where the ambush occurs first appeared in issue #15.

The female personification of death first appeared in issue #14. Morgan found out her name is "Azrael" and entered her realm to save Shakira in issue #46.  See the commentary on those issues for more.