Thursday, February 28, 2013

Inner City Blues

Weird Adventures presents the City and it’s world in the year 5888, an era of automobiles, machine guns, and jazz.  Of course, that’s not the only age when there’s adventure to be had:

About thirty-five years in the future, the City is again seeing hard times. A  grinding war continues with Red Lemuria. Political scandal and public corruption has eroded trust in institutions. The aging subway trains are covered with graffiti. Solace is full of abandoned buildings, crime, drugs, and poverty. The Circus, once the brightly lit crossroads of the world, is now the home of sleazy grindhouses and a haven for pimps, hookers, and drug pushers.

The reputation of thaumaturgy has suffered just like other traditional institutions. Murderous gurus, scandals involving sex rituals, and scam artists have led to the thaumaturgic arts being viewed unsavory and dangerous by the masses, and old-fashion and hokey by the counter-culture.

There are still adventurers, though--and more than ever they're quasi-outlaws sticking it to the Fat Cats and the Establishment. Most of the dungeons have been cleaned out, but there are plenty of treasures in the hands of the wealthy. And there are always monsters--just now some of them sit in positions of power.

Foes: thrill-kill cult gurus, street gangs, the decadent wealthy with secrets to hide, corrupt cops and politicians, the Hell Syndicate.

Media Inspirations: Film/TV: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Enter the Dragon, Kolchak: the Night-Stalker, Shaft, Sugar Hill (1974), To The Devil...A Daughter, The Warriors, Vanishing Point; Books: the works of Dennis Wheatley and Stephen King, the Doctor Orient novels, the Destroyer novels, exploitive seventies nonfiction about witches and the occult; Comic Books: Night Force, Swamp Thing, Vampire Tales and any of Marvel’s other black and white magazines; Music: Jimmy Page’s unused soundtrack for the film Lucifer Rising. The Shaft and Truck Turner soundtracks by Isaac Hayes, Superfly soundtrack by Curtis Mayfield;  any of Goblin’s music from Argento’s films.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Warlord Wednesday: The Times (and Costumes) Are A-Changin'

Let's take a break this week from the adventures of Morgan and the gang, and consider the changes that have come in the visual depictions of The Warlord's cast. Our canary in the fashion coal mine will be Mariah Romanova, Russian fencing champion and archaelogist. Mariah isn't in Skartaris long before she acquires a standard Skartarian outfit:

As impractical as it is improbable, Mariah's outfit nevertheless marks her as a hero: bit players in the saga tend to have more standard Conan comic attire. Note the Farrah Fawcett feathered hair and the colored eye patches that were sported by several comic characters in the era.

As the years go by, Mariah's hair changes a little bit--and when Ron Randall takes over, her costume gets a bit skimpier. Then after the "Morgan's Quest" saga, Randall gets into a bit of costume experimentation:

Here we see what must be Mariah's "lounging about the castle" outfit. (This is an idea with precedent: Tara and Morgan got them in previous issues.) It's a pretty 70s design despite the era; it recalls the duds of DC's first Starfire. Not that she's got kind of 80s hair, though, and the eye makeup has expanded beyond the old raccoon eyes look.

When next Randall has her back in her standard outfit, it's been subtly (or maybe not so subtly) altered. It's just as revealing, but more a more complicated design. She's now sporting hair and a headband borrowed from some aerobics instructor. Her eye makeup is asymmetric has gotten all Jem and the Holograms (which started around this same time--this stuff was just the zeitgeist).

What's next for Mariah?  Come back next Wednesday and find out.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Galactic History with Pictures

It's commonly accepted that most of the galaxy's sophonts are either descendants or creations of humanity who came into being on the fabled world of Earth. The location of this ur-world of the humanoid phyle is lost. 

The original civilization of humanity collapsed (perhaps multiple times) or perhaps it ascended. Whether the end was glorious or tragic, the true history of these times is only fragmented legend.

The Archaics rose with the aide of knowledge salvaged ruins of the past. They built crystalline cities that floated in the air, and connected the noospheres of their worlds with superluminal relays via wormwholes.  

Something happened. There was a Great Collapse and galactic civilization fractured into individual worlds, and some of them slid back into savagery.

The Radiant Polity, one of the successor states to the Archaic Oikumene, was torn asunder by conflict between toxic memes. The Instrumentality of the current age was born out of this struggle.

The planet Phobetor is home to monsters: Bandersnatches, kalidahs, cateblopases, and crocotta are among the deadly bio-art horrors released onto the world's surface by the artists living in the dilapiated floating city above it. This artists' colony became the Phantasists of today.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Zao Corsairs

The Zao are an infamous group of space pirates. Their brazen crimes and theatrical flair have made them a favorite as villains and anti-heroes in sims and other popular entertainments. The truth is far from glamorous: the Zao are killers who capture ships, loot them, and hold their passengers for ransom or sell them into slavery--sometimes selling their bodies separately from their uploaded minds.

The Zao are a multi-bioform (perhaps even multi-species) association, but the original founding group was composed of perhaps a few hundred former prisoners of the Radiant Polity. As the polity was torn apart by meme wars, the prison asteroid Naraka was left understaffed.The prison was taken by a group of inmates (legend has it, after one of their rehabilitation programs was replaced by hackers with a sim mixing elements of various ancient adventure and crime narratives), and the asteroid has served as the pirates base of operations since. The asteroid is cloaked in a defensive dust that only allows authorized craft to pass unscathed.

Anyone may call themselves a Zao pirate, and some vessels operating under that title may have no connection to Naraka, but the actual Zao pirates react harshly to those “flying their flag” who don't obey their established codes governing the division of plunder, interactions between affiliate vessels, and the secrecy of their defense system keycodes.

No. Appearing:1-10
AC: 7
Saving Throw: 15+
Attack Bonus: +1
Damage: by weapon (1d8+1 monoblade, 2d6 void carbine)
Movement: 30'
Skill Bonus: +2
Morale: 9
The Zao have fondness for old-fashion appearing bladed weapons for close-quarters boarding, but are certainly not adverse to the use of ranged weaponry.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Science Fiction Inspirations

My appreciation for pulp science fiction is well known, but I haven’t recommended any non-pulp stuff in a while, so maybe it’s about time. These are not only good reads, but good gaming inspirations:

The Risen Empire and The Killing of Worlds by Scott Westerfield form a space opera duology about a struggle between two powers: an empire ruled by the immortal-after-death Risen and the Rix, cybernetic humans who worship planetary-size AIs. The opening battle is much more “hard science fiction” than anything in Star Wars or Star Trek--and all the more  fresh and inventive for it. The Rix, there abilities and goals, are much interesting than the Borg ever were, while filling a similar niche.

Diaspora by Greg Egan is less of an action narrative and not as immediately gameable, but has plenty of interesting elements. In the far future, when the solar system is inhabited by post-humans, a cosmic catastrophe endangers all life. The digital citizens of one polis hatch a plan to escape--to higher order dimensions! Probably the most gameable bits here are the different clades of post-humanity and their societies: the digital polis citizens, the robotic gleisners, the devolved dream-apes.

The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi sits between these two. It’s got a bit of Diaspora’s heavy science flights of fancy and post-human setting, but more of the Succession duology’s action and conflict. Jean le Flambleur, the greatest thief in the solar system, is busted out of prison by an Oortian warrior and her intelligent ship. The Oortian’s master has a job for le Flambleur, but first the thief has to retreive his own memories from a moving city on Mars--and match wits with a young consulting detective to do so. The various societies of Rajaniemi’s future are exotic and the technologies presented are really evocative.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Necromancers

They can sometimes be seen along the space ways and at port: black ships, sleek, angular and glinting like an obsidian blade. Their crews are small; often only the master of the vessel and his slave daemons or bioroids are aboard. They do not come to trade or to meet other species. These dead men, these Necromancers, have other concerns.

Tall and cadaverous, the Necromancers are of a near human bioform. They appear to be lacking in biologic processes--except perhaps decay, slowed by the black nanosuits they wear. Though they don’t live in the usual sense, they do use energy; nanites infuse their tissues, reanimating them. But the bodies break down, after centuries--or millennia perhaps. Then their intelligences, held in palm-sized scarabae, can attach themselves to the nervous system of a new host.

There are a lot of stories told about the Necromancers: that they have magical powers or that they’re ultraterrestrials or qlippothic entities from a previous universe. The most credible theory holds they are the guardians of an ancient culture: A culture which committed mass suicide to avoid some sort of cataclysm, with a plan to resurrect themselves in a future time. Their bodies were interred in tomb worlds and their minds uploaded and conveyed through a wormwhole to a secure data underworld. The Necromancers were their people's psychopomps and were to be their resurrectors.

Something went wrong. The underworld was lost. The Necromancers search for them still, dealing with any being that might be able to help them--and destroying any that stand in their way.

AC: 3 or better
No. Appearing: 1-2
Hit Dice: 5 
Movement: 20'
Saving Throw: 13
Attack Bonus:  +7
Damage: 2d8 energy weapon or better
Morale: 10
Skill Bonus: +4

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Warlord Wednesday: Of Captives and Cannibals...

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...

"Of Captives and Cannibals... Scavengers and Kings"
Warlord #118 (June 1987)
Written by Michael Fleisher; Art by Ron Randall

Synopsis: The ship taking the blonde stranger to New Atlantis is attacked by a strange scorpion-looking vehicle. The stranger flies from the ship, blocks stinger blasts with her bare hands, and starts punching the craft open, The pilot distracts her by blasting the ship in half.

The stranger flies back the ship. Holding the halves together, she carries it to a nearby island. There the crew can make repairs, but it looks like the stranger will be flying to New Atlantis.

In Shamballah, Morgan is saddling his horse to ride out looking for Tara. The Queen for her part is on her way back, presumably, just stopping to water her horse. That’s when the former Vathek Y’Smalla makes her move:

Using Apokolipsian illusions, she gets the drop on Tara and knocks her out.

Morgan comes across a woman being attack by an weird, orange, insect monster. He dispatches it in his usual way, but the girl--far from thanking him--tells him to stay away, then she faints. Puzzled, Morgan picks her up to carry her to a nearby town.

Morgan brings the girl into an inn. He doesn't get the welcome he expected:

Desaad’s smear campaign has turned the townsfolk against him. He has no choice but to fight them. Luckily, a blind man who was tortured by Desaad (then freed by the Warlord) shows up to vouch for him.

Elsewhere, Redmond is in the hand of tribesmen about to sacrifice him in the flaming maw of their idol. He manages to get free, and lobs a couple of grenades at them. In the chaos the follows, Redmond retrieves his and makes his escape.

In Shamballah, Jennifer is practicing to get her magical mojo back. She’s interrupted by Mariah, who has come to tell her goodbye. Mariah feels guilt about how her actions have made everyone else miserable, and she’s leaving:

The blonde stranger has reached New Atlantis and finds it deserted. Her thoughts reveal her to me the superheroine known as Power Girl. She used to believe she was Superman’s cousin, but now she knows herself to be the granddaughter of Arion, Lord of Atlantis. She doesn’t plan to leave New Atlantis until she finds out more about her parents and grandparents.

A bit later, Morgan rides back into Shamballah. He’s greeted by an angry Machiste who suckerpunches him. Machiste is angry about Morgan’s relationship with Mariah. He declares their friendship over and rides off.

Things to Notice:
  • This issue marks the first time a DC Universe superhero has appeared in Skartaris.
  • Mariah, Morgan and Jennifer are back in their old costumes (though Mariah still sports her new eye make-up).
Where it Comes From:
This issue marks the beginning of a series of retcons over decades to the origin of Power Girl. When Power Girl first appeared in All Star Comics #58 (1976) she was Kara Zor-L, Kryptonian cousin--essentially the Earth-2 version of Supergirl. Post-Crisis there was no Earth-2, and post John Byrne's Man of Steel Superman reboot, Superman was the last survivor of Krypton.

Power Girl needed a new origin. In Secret Origins vol 2 #11, she got one: She was now the descendant of the Atlantean sorcerer Arion, and she had been in suspended animation for a long time.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Selling Dreams

The Phantasists are renown throughout the galaxy as dream merchants. No purveyors of mere sims or other mass produced neural trickery, the Phantasists use ancient arts to craft neurochemical mixtures that deliver an individualized, specific, and vivid oneiric experience.

The Phantasists inhabit the sky city of Eidolon (believed to be a folly constructed by a prelapsarian plutocrat), floating above an environmentally damaged world populated by nightmare horrors. They generally appear as baseline humanoids with pale complexions and blue eyes, though they are a creative people and sometimes wear other more varied bodies. Phantasist society is a syndicate subdivided by guild and class. At least when dealing with the public, all Phantasists affect an air of ancient nobility. Though their own official history is perhaps purposefully obscure on their origins, historians believe the Phantasists are descended from an artists’ colony that took up residence in the city during the age of decline before the Great Collapse.

Phantasists have made extensive study of dreams. Their technicians (or “oneironauts” in their advertising copy) delve into simulations constructed from centuries of dream log data gathered in their sleep laboratories from a myriad of sophonts. Comparing the subjective experience with real-time neurologic data they have been able to isolate dream elements and experiences. All this knowledge goes into the synthesis of their oneiric neuronanochemical cocktails for high paying clientele.

Phantasists don’t seek to create crude and causality-bound simulations of physical reality; Their aim is the crafting of experiences with the particular sensation of a dream. There are rumored to be rogue oneirochemists who are willing to create jamais vu traps and  unwaking nightmares for special clients, but the Phantasists vigorously deny that any of their number would participate in those practices.

[For Brutorz Bill who's been wanting new science fiction material. More to come. ]

Friday, February 15, 2013

How Do You Like Your Sci-Fi?

My recent science fiction posts in multiple settings (Star Trek, Pulp Space, Talislantan Space) has got me thinking about the different levels of "hardness" in science fiction. (A topic that TV Tropes--unsurprisingly--has some thoughts on). This scale is a bit granular and more detailed (and perhaps a bit more judgey). Here's my sort of summary of the basics of both of these:

Hard: So, on one end we've got fairly plausible stuff that mostly extrapolates on current technology. This includes stuff like William Gibson's Sprawl series and the novels of Greg Egan (from the near future mystery Quarantine to the far future Diaspora). A game example is this category would be somethig like GURPS Transhuman Space.

Medium: Getting a little more fantastic, we arrive in the real of a lot of TV shows and computer games. One end of this pretty much only needs you to believe in FTL and artificial gravity but is otherwise pretty hard. Powerful but plausible nanotech might fall here, too (like in John C. Wright's Golden Age triology). The fewer impossible things you're asked to believe (and the better rationalized the ones you are asked to believe in are), the harder it is. The middle of this group adds in something like psionics (Traveller gets in here, and a lot of science fiction novels, like Dune and Hyperion). The softer end throws in a lot of too-human aliens and "pure energy" beings (Babylon 5, most Star Trek).

Soft: Here lies fantasy but with a science fiction veneer and context. Some Star Trek (the animated series, particularly) comes in here, and Farscape. This is also the domain of Star Wars. Simon R. Green's Deathstalker cycle turns up here, too.

Ultra-Soft: Some Star Wars tie-ins in other media come in here, as do things that include magic (or similar fantastic elements} mixed in with an otherwise soft sci-fi universe: This would include superhero sci-fi properties (the Legion of Super-Heroes and Guardians of the Galaxy) and comic book epic sci-fi (what might also be thought of as Heavy Metal sci-fi) like Dreadstar, The Incal, and The Metabarons. It's possible it stops beings science fiction on the mushiest end of this catgory and just becomes "fantasy."

So what consistency of sci-fi is your favorite--particularly in regard to rpgs?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Talislantan Space: In the Expanse

The Zaran Expanse is a region of decimated star systems and damaged worlds, the epicenter of the devastation of the Great Disaster. The area gets its name from the ancient Zaran Empire, though how much of the territory the empire actually controlled is a matter of debate. Traversing through and residing in the Expanse are a mix of species from all over the galaxy:

A Nagra bounty hunter draws on his quarry. The Nagra's "spirit tracking" ability allows them to trace the psychic ripples of their prey's passing, even across space.

A group of Zandir fencers perform an exhibition bout.

Two Batrean females run a confidence game.

A rare glimpse of a Muse Empath outside the Seven Worlds Alliance.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Warlord Wednesday: Legacy of Nightmare

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...

"Legacy of Nightmare"
Warlord #117 (May 1987)
Written by Michael Fleisher; Art by Ron Randall

Synopsis: As Shamballah celebrates the end to the aging plague caused by Muldahara’s magic, Queen Tara is still troubled by traumatic dreams of the mental tortures she suffered at Desaad’s hands. She’s got to find away to get over her fears. She heads out of the palace without telling Morgan where she’s going, reminding him in passing of all the times he’s done it to her.

Meanwhile, Machiste confronts Mariah. He wants to know who she ran out on him for. She resists telling him, but ultimately the truth comes out: It was Morgan.

Tara rides out toward the only place she can truly face her demons: Desaad’s citadel (actually, it’s unclear in the story that that’s where she’s heading, but it’s the only thing that makes sense). Crossing a desert landscape, she attracts the attention of a group of bandits. Though she’s deadly with her bow, she’s outnumbered. The only place close enough for refuge--the citadel, of course.

A world away on Dinosaur Island, Redmond has found a cave that he believes may provide an entry point to Skartaris. He’s still convinced that Morgan went over to the Russians at some point. Even though Morgan has spent most of the last decade in a sword & sorcery fantasyland, and he couldn't have given the Soviets any information recent or useful, Redmond’s going to get his man.  He immediately runs into trouble:

Tara makes it to Desaad’s Citadel. She plans to hide inside, luring the bandits in after her, then take them out one at the time Die Hard style. The former Vathek assassin, Y’Smalla hides in the citadel, planning to watch events unfold on the monitors but not interfere.

Tara manages to separate off some of the bandits and kill them, but there still too many, and she’s on the run. Cornered in a room, she accidentally triggers some of the illusion creating machinery. The bandit is disoriented, making him easy pickings. She begins luring the men into rooms and using the illusions to her advantage. The last bandit has gotten wise to the trick, though and doesn't fall for the illusion. Tara puts on Desaad’s helmet that allows the experiencing of the subjects emotions--and the exploitation of their greatest fears.

As she causes the bandit believe he's being squeezed to death by eel-things, she gets a jolt of the sadistic pleasure Desaad experiences.

She finally is able to stop, but the man is dead, and killed in a horrible way by her hand.

Meanwhile, the mysterious blonde stranger is trying to book passage to new Atlantis. The captain wants to head south instead of north. When a cargo net full of crates threatens to crush his daughter and the stranger saves her with a speed one might call faster than a speeding bullet...

...he relents and agrees to take the woman where she wants to go.

Things to Notice:
  • Despite wearing her old outfit on the cover, Tara (just like everybody else) sports her new outfit in the story.
  • On the subject of new outfits, Mariah's eye makeup has gone totally 80s and combined with her new headband, she looks like a member of Jem and the Holograms
Where it Comes From:
This issue continues to deal with the dangling plot threads of the "Morgan's Quest" storyline. The new costumes tend to abandon some of the 70s-ism--and some of the fur. They didn't make the lasting impression Grell's outfits did, though.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Celluloid Rocketship

By the mid-thirties, the major film studios were all exploiting the public’s interest in the exotic worlds of the solar system. Of all the one-reel travelogue series produced, perhaps none was more popular than The Rocketship of Movietone, debuted in 1931.

Several of the earliest films dealt with Venus. “Giants of the Jungle” focused on the exotic and dangerous Venusian saurians. In early 1932, “Lost Cities of Venus” used footage from the Markheim survey expedition's dangerous foray into one of the ruins of the ancients.

Of course, Mars figures prominently in the early subjects. The low canal markets and bazaars were featured. Another dealt with the desert tribes--though the tragic fate of the expedition that provided the footage was wisely kept from the movie-going public.

While the initial run of films dealt predominantly with the inner worlds and their satellites, one was made from footage shot by one of the earliest commercial missions to Ganymede. While the footage is limited (still photos had to be used at times) and of lower quality than what was coming from film crews on Mars or Venus, it did give the public their first view of the eerie necropolises of that cold and distant moon.

More than one spaceman of the fifties and sixties sited these early Rocketship of Movietone films as an important influence on their lives.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


Hwuru are bipedal sophonts bearing some physical resemblance to Terran apes and sloths. They are shorter than humans but powerfully built with arms longer than their legs, and digits with claw-like structures (actually bony projections covered with horn) on their dorsal surface. They're covered with shaggy fur except on the anterior surface of their torsos, which are covered with leathery plates.

The hwuru evolved from arboreal insectivores. They have small, beak-like snouts (like the Terran echidna) and extendable tongues to aid in snatching up arthopods or their larvae in hard to reach places. Hwuru can’t swallow anything very large and must have bulkier foodstuffs made into a mash before they can consume it. Most hwuru have a mild dependence on chaoofsh a chemical attractant released by the trees native to their world. When off-world, they tend to wear a breathing apparatus to deliver this chemical.

On their native world, no hwuru have advanced beyond the Iron Age, and most live in tribal societies that use stone tools. Interaction with starfaring civilizations has afforded hwuru the chance to leave their planet, and they are sometimes found among the stars where their physical traits make them useful as hired muscle.

Stats for Starships & Spacemen:

Encountered: 2d4 (5d10)
Movement: 120' (40')
Intelligence: Average
Psionic Potential: 2d4, inactive
Hits: 1d8+1
Armor: -1
Combat Skill: 12
Save: L1
Attacks: 1 weapon or 2 claws
Damage: by weapon or 1d3/1d3
Morale: 9
XP: 15

Notes: This is an alien species of my own devising, inspired by an unnamed character in an episode of Superman: The Animated Series.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Tome of Draculas!

An orphaned Secret Santicore request from Ian was for “better draculas.” This cryptic request I interpret as referring to D&D’s propensity of turning unique creatures from mythology or fiction into a class of creatures. A dracula then is pretty much like the standard D&D vampire--except that they have a whole “urbane foreign noble fallen on hard times” thing going for them.  For a standard dracula, simply use your vampire stats of choice: give him (it’s going to be a him, most of the time) a foreign accent, a stylish cape, and a dilapidated castle.

With that in mind, here are some dracula variants:

Aquatic draculas haunt sunken funeral ships or castles submerged by some natural or manmade upheaval. Draculas are restrained by running water, but relatively still lakes, inlets or lagoons provide a place where they may be active at least some of the time. Aquatic draculas are unable to summon rats, bats, or wolves, but crabs, sentient seaweed, piranhas, and unsavory otters are an option.

Merely vampiric animals (besides bats) are impossible, but the power of a dracula’s curse is such that even beasts must succumb. Dracula dogs are the most common variety, but even cows have been known. Dracula animals have HD 7 and all the usual vampiric powers and weaknesses, plus whatever innate abilities they possessed in life. Magical animals may not be dracula-ized. (An alternate version of the hellcow appears here.)

Some draculas ache for a love lost and often mistake some woman or another for this long dead inamorata. The charm ability of the lovelorn dracula often convinces the woman in question that she is indeed a reincarnation. Lovelorn draculas are mechanically identical to the standard version, but they are often hunkier and have flowing locks and a penchant for going shirtless. They seldom bother with summoning vermin, though they probably can.

These draculas are hideous and vaguely rodent-like in appearance. They lack the suave demeanor other draculas affect: they are either testy and animalistic, or creep- pathetic and lonely. They have a special affinity for vermin and can summon twice the usual number of rats. They also tend to bring plagues where they go and can cause disease. When exposed to sunlight they fade away rather than turn to dust.

This dracula violates the "mostly male" rule. These draculas are mostly female and their foreignness comes from being from another world or plane where blood flows like water. They have none of the shapeshifting or animal summoning powers of usual draculas, but make up for it with HD 9.

After a dracula dies, they turn to a reddish powder. This dust can be collected and made into a beverage when mixed with wine and human blood. When this potion is consumed, the imbiber must save vs. polymorph or painfully transform into a duplicate of the dracula whose dust was used.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Talk to the Animals

For Starships & Spacemen, here's an obscure species from the background of Star Trek: The Motion Picture:

Requirements: CON 9
Ability Adjustments: INT +1
Skill Adjustments: Contact +1
Metabolism: Iron Based

Kazarites are a Federation member species known for largely living a simple, bucolic lifestyle, despite their technological advancement. There are few cities on Kazar and herds of great beasts still migrate, guided by shepherds in telepathic communication with their charges.

Kazarites are somewhat anthropoid in appearance and tend to dress in homespun garments. They possess active psi abilities: most notably, the ability to communicate telepathically with nonsapient lifeforms. Perhaps because of their abilities, many Kazarites are vegetarians and carry their own food for practicality’s sake. They wear small bags of pellets around their neck that can be mixed with water to make a yeasty paste.

Psi Powers: In addition to Animal Telepathy (functions similar to the telepathy, except that it is limited in the complexity of the thoughts that can be conveyed due to the limited intelligence of the animal), a player may select 1 more psi powers at character creation.

Note: Kazarites just appeared in the background of ST:TMP and have never been featured prominently. They don't even show up in any of the Trek rpgs. What little information has been published about them comes from the costume designers for the film.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Warlord Wednesday: Revenge of the Warlock

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...

"Revenge of the Warlock"
Warlord #116 (April 1987)
Written by Michael Fleisher; Art by Ron Randall

Synopsis: Amazingly, Tara forgives Mariah for trying to steal her husband, though saving her life has something to do with it. Everyone’s primary concern now is Jennifer: She’s still dying and they don’t have a cure.

Meanwhile in P’Thun (a small kingdom north of Shamballah) the flamboyant wizard Muldahara prances into the throne room and announces his intention to take over the city. He blasts the king with his jeweled wand causing the monarch to rapidly age to death.

A rider arrives in Shamballah from P’Thun and gives Morgan and Tara the news. Morgan remembers Muldahara as the wizard that sent him on the quest to find V’Zarr Hagar-Zinn. The jewels in his wand sound like the eyes of Ankanar Morgan stole for him. And the aging--it’s just too coincidental. Morgan’s been played.

The object of Morgan’s ire is luxuriating in a bath and reminiscing about how he got to this point. He was skulking around around the rebel camp when he saw Ankanar attack and blast Jennifer with the aging ray from its eyes. When Morgan came to him for help, Muldahara sent him to steal Ankanar eyes, then dispatched him on a long quest to the edge of the world to get him out of the way. Mudahara then fashioned his fancy rod to hold the eyes.

On the road to P’Thun, Morgan encounters a large hedge maze that wasn’t there before: More wizard’s work. The magic ring from Hagar-Zinn points out the right path, but then:

A world away in the South Pacific, Redmond is flying to Dinosaur Island. His interrogation of the hapless tourist captured by a lost group of Mayans (back in Annual #5) reminded him of this place. After a run in with some pteranodons damages his plane brings the jet in for a crash-landing.

Morgan’s neither Morgan’s sword or his pistol does much to the creature. It regenerates. Finally, he hits on the idea of setting it on fire. The monster dispatched, Morgan is soon storming the steps of Muldahara’s palace. The wizard is waiting.

Muldahara uses his wand to age the floor to crumbling beneath Morgan’s feet. Then, he ages his sword to dust. Eventually, once he’s done playing with him, he’s going to age Morgan himself.

Miles away, Jennifer--frail as she is--senses her father is in danger. She summons all of her sorcerous powers and instantly transports herself to the palace in P’Thun. She shatters the gems in Muldahara’s rod with a blast.

With the jewels gone, Jennifer de-ages.

Meanwhile, a mysterious stranger arrives in Bandakhar:

Things to Notice:
  • Mike Grell returns to Warlord--at least its cover.
  • Our main characters get new outfits this issue. They aren't that impressive.
  • This is the conclusion (finally) of  "Morgan's Quest" after a sort of hiatus for Legends
Where it Comes From:
Muldahara is back (last seen in issue #101) and his very complicated evil plot is finally revealed.

The aircraft flown by Redmond to Dinosaur Island in this issue appears to be the F-19 Stealth Fighter--which never actual existed as far as is known. The design here is based on the Testor Corporation model kit for the "Lockheed F-19 Stealth Fighter," released in 1986.

Monday, February 4, 2013

And the Superhuman Krewe

The Southron canal city of New Ylourgne has a culture all its own. This is as apparent in its magical traditions as anywhere else. While a  professional, (somewhat) public, and singular Thaumaturgical Society holds sway in the City, New Ylourgne is home to a patchwork of societies and cabals, secretive in their teachings but often flamboyantly public in their rivalry.

Despite the tales sometimes heard in the Sorcerers' Quarter, most of these mystical societies or “krewes” don’t trace their traditions to the Averoignian magocracy that once ruled the city. Most seem instead to date back about fifty years, and the oldest rarely more than a century. They began as as social clubs for local thaumaturges (and non-thaumaturgist adventurers), who threw public parties and helped fund parades and celebrations related to Oecumenical holy days. These krewes began to compete for public acclaim, and thaumaturgical spectacle was part of winning these contests.The spells that created illusions and wonders became closely guarded secrets, hidden behind layers of coded language, and artificial mythology, unique to each krewe.

There was some precedent for these organizations. The mages of the Black Folk had long formed gender-specific orders for socialization and the exchange of knowledge.These orders waged ritualized magical battles in order-specific costumes in the city’s streets. Though this practice was suppressed by the ruling Averoignian sorcerers, it was never completely eliminated. The krewes may have been inspired to a degree by these groups, and in turn the Black Folk orders have conformed their primary ritual performances and competitions to the Oecumenical holiday calendar.

The krewes typically have exalted or archaic sounding names, harkening to some legendary founder or progenitor. The officers of the krewes (which are typically almost every thaumaturgy practicing member) take on ornate and nonsensical titles, and often go masked in public performances to evoke an air of mystery. Much of this mummery is magical enhanced; in many ways, the krewes are as adept as illusionists at fooling the public.

While the vast majority of the krewes are only out for fun and entertainment, the magics they wield are very real. Though it happens less these days, it’s not unheard of for serious magical feuds to exist between krewes that have ended in death.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Talislantan Space: Kasmirans

Kasmirans are a short, lean, humanoid species with heavily wrinkled skins. Displaced by the Great Disaster, they now inhabit an arid world near the Seven Worlds Alliance's border with the Zaran Expanse. Despite their origin as refugees, the Kasmirans have become a wealthy people, though how they acquired this wealth is not entirely clear. They are infamous throughout the galaxy, however, as misers and shrewd negotiators.

The Kasmirans have maintained (and expand) their fortunes through investment banking.They have a reputation for ethical behavior and conservative investment, but also infamous as sticklers for the letter of contracts and for their hard credit terms.

Kasmiran society is divided into clans. The heads of these clans elect a Chief Executive Officer of Kasmir. When the Kasmiran clan leaders lose confidence in a CEO, he or she is replaced--and memory-wiped to insure the protection of secrets. This process is referred to as “beheading.”

Their desire to protect their wealth (and the wealth of their clients) has led the Kasmirans to become experts in both physical and data security. Prevailing Kasmiran aesthetics in physical security measures tends to favor clockwork mechanical devices with only sparing use of electronics; they extend this mechanical design into the nanoscale.

Kasmir City, the capital of the world of Kasmir, has a walled and check-pointed city center full of windowless high-security towers where the wealthy Kasmirans reside. Offworlders that work for them reside in the more modest areas surrouding it.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Hidden Lands & Inner Space

Here are a couple of maps from the pages of Marvel comics that could be put to good rpg use.

The first is from the pages of Micronauts. It gives me flashbacks to organic chemistry but also provides a basic layout of Homeworld:

This one is of a hidden land of prehistoric holdouts in Antartica: Ka-Zar's Savage Land: