Friday, March 31, 2017

Again, the Giants!: Wedding of the Hill Giant Chief

This is the first in a series (maybe) of posts inspired by the classic Against the Giants:

Highlights include:

1. Hill-billy Hill Giant father-in-law keeping the groom under lock and key so there's no cold feet!
2. Monstrous would-be Mother-in-Law!
3. Battle-hardened bridesmaids at a bachelorette party bash!
4. The Ettin moonshiner cooking up his "Catoblepas Kick" for the festivities.
5. And of course, the clan's prize pigs!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Weird Alien on the Planet of the Apes


Player Characters:
Jeff Call as Brock Irving
Lester B. Portly as Eddy Woodward
Jason Sholtis as Francis La Cava

Nonplayer Characters:
Ted Cassidy as Eezaya

Synopsis: Irving, Woodward, and La Cava set out to investigate the site of a fallen meteor and find an alien monster with the power to turn men to stone!

Commentary: The alien is this adventure first appeared in Perseus Against Monsters (Perseo l'invincibile) (1963)--which also goes by a bunch of other names. The creature bears something of a resemblance to the alien in an episode of Space:1999, "The Dragon's Domain," but I can't conclusively say they are the same one.

This creatures eye blast was sort of petrifying but turned bodies to hardened ash, sort of like this:

The PCs spent a lot of time trying to think of a creative way to defeat the monster, but it proved to be fairly susceptible to bullets, ultimately.

I used this theremin music to represent the monster's alien call. It's petrifying eye blast made a sound like the Martian heat ray sound effect from Pal's War of the Worlds. (You can hear it here. eventually).

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Wednesday Comics: New Image Fantasy

Image Comics has been on a roll of late. Case(s) in point: Two relatively new fantasy collections you might want to check out.

I mentioned 8House, the science fantasy series of series by Brandon Graham and various collaborators before. 8House seems to have stalled, but the first storyline, Arclight, with art by Marian Churchland, finished as its on series and has been collected in a trade. Arclight is set on a desert world where blood is the source of magic. A queen is this world is trapped in a root-like body while an alien masquerades as her. The queen's served by one androgynous knight (the titular Arclight) while other knights unknowingly serve the pretender.

There was a bit of a gap between issues, so I was a little uncertain of how everything shook out in the end, but all the more reason to give the trade a read!

A Land Called Tarot is a hardcover by Gael Bertrand. The story is wordless, so I'm not exactly sure what's going on, but it is gorgeous. The art reminds me of Akira Toriyama and Miyazaki, but the whole production has kind of a Moebius vibe. Here's a sample:

Monday, March 27, 2017

A Blurry Picture of my Haul of Dubious Treasures from GaryCon

What we've got here is: Journey to the Cloud Castle, All The Worlds' Monsters Vol. 2, DM's Book of Nasty Tricks Misfits and Magic, The Hole Delver's Catalog, Dragons of Weng T'Sen, Amazon Mutual Wants You! Vol. 1, and The Trouble with Friends.

Why these particular items? It would be ahrd to say, though some of them had the requisite amount of old school kitsch or nostalgia from seeing ads in Dragon. I did buy a couple of newer things but this was the weird stuff.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Weird Revisted: Weird Weapons, Weird War

Usually with these revisitations, I go for a most from around the same date, but Jason "Dungeon Dozen" Sholtis aske me a related question yesterday, so I thought it was worth revisiting this one from 2010:
The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his."

- Gen. George S. Patton
When the crazy-quilt patchwork of nations that was Ealderde erupted in the Great War, a number of new technologies were brought to bear. Thaumaturgical and alchemical weapons and "weaponizable" advances were among these, and were utilized on a scale never seen before--with long-lasting, and terrible consequences.

First among these was the use of alchemical weapons, particularly gas. The forces of Neustria were the first to utilize them with fragmentation shells filled with stinking cloud potions. The Staarkish army soon escalated to lethal chemicals. Their "Magic Corps Men" cast cloudkill which, as a heavier than air gas, was ideal for filling enemy trenches. Since mages are a quirky lot, generally ill-suited to military discipline, their numbers in the Staarkish forces were small, and it proved expedient to replace them with thaumaturgic shells which could be fired from artillery at a greater distance.  The gas could also be pumped out of tubes, if the wind directions were right. Soon these methods were adopted by all the larger nations.

Other, more exotic chemicals were tried. Acid fog was released from sprayers to discourage attackers or soften defenders. Yellow musk, the pollen of the eponymous creeper, cultivated in secure greenhouses, was used to entrance enemies and make them easy targets. Amorphing solutions delivered via artillery shells sowed terror by making flesh malleable, dissolving limbs or even melting soldier's together. The only limits were the imaginations (and funding) of the alchemists and thaumaturgic engineers.

Magical weapons of mass destruction were also employed, and could be delivered to distant targets through the use of artillery and airships. Thaumaturgical explosives and blights laid waste to cities and farmlands. Rays of searing light, or jets of intense cold fired from zeppelins cut swaths of destruction across enemy trenches. Implosive weapons literally collapsed fortifications--or hapless troops--in on themselves.

Then there were the weapons calculated to cause as much terror as direct damage. Teleportation beams were turned upon population centers. Fear rays lead to mass panic. The battlefield fallen were briefly animated to turn on their grieving comrades. This is to say nothing of the even more exotic reality-warping weapons which, though rare, were powerful enough to disrupt the elemental fields to this day.

Another technological change in the Great War was touted as potentially rendering the human soldier obselete. Constructs and automata have been used before, but never in such a scale. "Land ironclads" or "landships"--now colloquially called "tanks"--were an innovation by the army of Grand Ludd on thaumaturgical techniques used to make anthropomorphic golems. Some tanks required human operators, but others were automonous to a degree, like the golems. This proved to be another one of the mistakes of war, as man-hunting kill-machines still roam the blasted former battlefields and depopulated wastes of Ealderde.

Man-shaped golems were still used--largely for their flexibility and, in some cases, greater psychological effect on the enemy--but these were produced with greater mechanical skill, giving them a wider variety of uses. Once again terror was a prime goal, as squads of murderous constructs with the appearance of children's toys were sent into unsuspecting villages in the dead of night. 

It's the hope of many that the most lasting innovation of the conflict will be that man has finally had enough of war. Certainly, the devastation wrought in Ealderde, and the refugees that still pour into the New World to escape the post-war horror, ought to be powerful reinforcers for such a lesson. Still, as the cynics among us would point out, no one has ever lost money betting on the short-memory or long-term foolishness of mankind.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Wednesday Comic: Head Lopper #5

Andrew MacLean's quarterly heroic fantasy comic Head Lopper returned last week with the first part of a new story arc: "And the Crimson Tower." I've discussed Head Lopper before, pimping the collection of the first storyline. In brief, it's the adventures of a burly, bearded warrior with a flair for decapitation and an unusual sidekick--the still-living, severed head of a witch he decapitated.

This new arc starts off with a setup pretty much as D&D as you can get. Head Lopper, his friends, some plucky little humanoids, and some ne'er-do-well adventures, enter the Crimson Tower of Ulrich the Twice Damned. It's pretty much a killer dungeon with puzzles, deadly traps, and a fight with a three-headed dragon automaton.

Check it out!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Midnight on the Prismatic Peak

I've been working on Mortzengersturm, Mad Manticore of the Prismatic Peak all weekend--and Jeff Call has put in some awesome work too. Check out the illustration of the Prismatic Peak above. Jeff does a really good Mary Blair, don't you think?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Weird Revisited: Curse of the Wolf

This post first appeared five years ago today. It a part of the mostly unpublished (except here) planar stuff for Weird Adventures:

Besides the usual sorts of lycanthropes, the City sometimes sees a rarer sort created by an elixir from the Outer Planes. Known as the Potion of Werewolfism, the magical elixir is thought to be brought to the Prime Material Plane by agents unknown from the Land of Beasts. It appears as a shockingly effervescent liquid of shifting color within a somewhat oversized test tube stoppered with a cork.

Imbibing the liquid has the immediate effect of transforming the drinker into an anthropomorphic wolf resembling the inhabitants of the Land of Beasts. Despite the startling change, people encountering the person for the first time in werewolf form will not react as if anything is unusual: such is the extraplanar magic of the potion.  This initial transformation lasts 1d100 minutes, but there is a 50% chance that the potion has given the imbiber the hiccups and each hiccup will bring a shift between forms. After the initial transformation, the imbiber will return to normal, but the wolf form will re-emerge ever night at sundown.

Persons suffering from this werewolfism aren't ravening beast like common lycanthropes but are compulsive carousers and cads. No attractive member of the opposite sex is safe from their crude come-ons. While in werewolf form a individual can be hurt, but quickly shrugs off any damage sustained (regenerating like trolls). They do not have any particular susceptibility to silver.

Victims of this “werewolf curse” often make themselves destitute with their spending and unwelcome in any night-spot in town with their skirt-chasing as they fulfill their wolfish appetites.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Straight from the Prismatic Peak

A Mortzengersturm preview! The Oubliette of Mistakes wher ethe mad manticore wizard keeps the creations that displeased him. The roll call:

Mocka: This attempt to cross a naga with a clown triggered even Mortzengersturm’s coulrophobia in the end. It giggles and mugs and sways and bounces like a jack-in-the-box unboxed, eager to bring laughter and joy.

Gruebird: This spiteful creature hides in total darkness that only a magical light source can penetrate. It will attack anything that comes close enough for it to peck or snatch with its talons.

Chimerical Chimera: A swirling, churning cloud of protoplasm that never looks like the same thing twice. Each round, its abilities and appearance changes.

Jam: A sweet-tasting, edible variant on the deadly slimes or jellies of Subazurth was not to be. It is sweet, but no less deadly. Those entrapped by it may die in a euphoric sugar-sleep.

Moonster: A glowing spherical creature resembling the moon with a face: a bemused smile under half-lidded eyes. The Moonster is a narrator—and an annoying one. It will narrate the actions of anyone that enters the shaft in a somewhat florid diction, but with an ironic distance. It knows the past of the subject of its narration with certainty; its predictions for the future are only speculation, no matter how assured their delivery.

Miszm Throppe’s wizardly capotain, indigo and silver and arrayed with mystical symbol, crouches atop his decaying skull and waits. It was never a particularly virtuous piece of headwear, and somehow it has gained a degree of life and with it an even greater measure of malevolence.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Wednesday Comics: Storm: Pirates of Pandarve

My exploration of the long-running euro-comic Storm, continues with his adventures in the world of Pandarve. Earlier installments can be found here.

Storm: The Pirates of Pandarve (1983) 
(Dutch: De Piraten van Pandarve) (part 5)
Art by Don Lawrence; script by Martin Lodewijk

After recruiting the other slave miners to their side, Storm and Nomad lead them to the elevator out of the mine. Along the way, they defeat more guards and bring ever more slaves to their side.

When Storm reaches the surface, he finds Rann just about to buy back his freedom from the mine owner.  That's all unnecessary now as the battle is joined between the former slaves and the owner:

The slaver breaks out some shuriken:

Before the mine owner can have his monster throw Storm in the pit, Nomad pushes them in. The monster tries to climb out, but Storm shoots the rope.

Storm has trouble keeping his army under control. They run wild in the street, looting and burning, as he attempts to lead them to the harbor. They force the ferryman to carry them into orbit, where they promptly commandeer a ship, sending the crew down to the planet.

Nomad poses a question to Storm:


Monday, March 13, 2017

Silver Keys in House Perilous

Our Land of Azurth game continued last night with the third session of my adaptation of X2: Castle Amber. We had ended on a cliffhanger with the chaplain in gold armor about to attack. He got in a couple of blows, but the party made short work of him and stole his loot.

They also found a chest containing a meteorite, which unfolded into Astra, one of the Shooting Star Folk. She was vague as to how she got here, but just as eager as the party to find a way out, so she joined them.

Astra by Jeff Call

Next was a room full of skeletons in cassocks, a four armed one had a silver key around its neck. The party took heavy damage, but prevailed. Searching for a place to rest, they found more gold and a cockatrice, but no one else got petrified. Our heroes left the chapel feeling they had either killed or allowed to be killed a person with information they needed to get out.

They passed through the garden again, wisely avoiding a field of poppies, and came to the other wing of the house. The bard, Kully, shook off an attempt at possession in a throne room full of skeletons. They chatted with a well-mannered ice salamander, but had nothing they would allow him to freeze to trade for more information.

Finally, they came upon the first generally helpful person they've met in the whole mansion: a mastiff-headed man named Claudas they encountered in the library. He showed Shade a scroll that revealed they needed several magic items to lift the curse and escape the house. These items are on Earth in a place called France. The players realize they have some of the Silver Keys they surmise open to the gates to France, but now they just have to find those gates.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Closer to the Prismatic Peak

The first published adventure in the Land of Azurth, Mortzengersturm the Mad Manticore of the Prismatic Peak, is scheduled to drop in June. We're close now, so barring some unforeseen calamity, I feel fairly confident in that. Ideally (though there is less certainty in this), the physical copies will debut at North Texas RPG Con.

Mortzengersturm features art (like the cover above) and cartography by Jeff Call and layout and design will be by Lester B. Portly who made the Strange Stars series look so good. It's written for 5e, but that means its fairly easily "back adaptable" to older editions.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Planetary Picaresque

We're all familiar with the Planetary Romance or Sword and Planet stories of the Burroughsian ilk, where a stranger (typically a person of earth) has adventures of a lost world or derring-do sort of variety on an alien world. I'd like to suggest that their is a subgenre or closely related genre that could be termed the Planetary Picaresque.

The idea came to me while revisiting the novels in Vance's Planet of Adventure sequence. The first novel, City of the Chasch, is pretty typical of the Planetary Romance form, albeit more science fiction-ish than Burroughs and wittier than most of his imitators. By the second novel, Servant of the Wankh (or Wanek), however, Vance's hero is spending more time getting the better of would be swindlers or out maneuvering his social superiors amid the risible and baroque societies of Tschai than engaging in acts of swordplay or derring-do. One could argue the stalwart Adam Reith is not himself a picaro, but the ways he is forced to get by on Tschai certainly resemble the sort of situations a genuine picaro might get into.

These sort of elements are not wholly absent from Vance's sword and planet progenitors (Burroughs has some of that, probably borrowed from Dumas), but Vance makes it the centerpiece rather than the comedy relief. Some of L. Sprague de Camp's Krishna seem to be in a similar vein.

The roleplaying applications of this ought to be obvious. You get to combine the best parts of Burroughs with the best parts of Leiber. I think that's a pretty appealing combination.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Weird Revisited: Desolation Cabaret

This post appeared in March 20, 2011. I think it was first straight up "rpg fiction" on the blog.

In 5880, writer and Great War veteran, Geoffersen Turck, arrived in the Republic of Staark intending to write a travelogue of post-war Ealderde. What follows is from Turck’s journals...

Like home, the capital of Staark has an old name, which nobody bothers to use. It’s just “the Metropolis” these days.  I have to admit, it outdoes the City in some ways--giant skyscrapers are everywhere, with aircars flitting busily between them like insects, interrupted by the stately passage of the occasional zeppelin. Automata direct traffic in the streets, and there’s the ever-present hum and vibration of the underground factories and power plants. You could almost forget the country was flatten by war, then buried by debt--but of course, glittering towers and airplanes keep you looking up, instead of at the faces of the poor walking the low streets.

Then there’s the dark side--what they call “the half-world.” This is a town so full of prostitutes they actually publish guidebooks so the inquiring libetine can stay up on the shifting codes of clothing and color accessories that signal what sort of perversions a hire is game for! Below the elevated roads and railways, lurid neon decorates cabarets and clubs that offer all that's on the streets and more. These streets are all-night candy store for drug fiends--their narco-alchemists must work in shifts. Maybe they’ve got automata doing that, too. In the shadows on the periphery of this underworld are the poor, discarded veterans of the Great War. Those pressed into service by crime or poverty as Eisenmenschen--men thaumatosurgically reconstructed in the Imperial bodyworks with machine parts to be implements of war. The rising National Purity Party has been scapegoating these unfortunates in their rhetoric--blaming them for Staark’s humiliation and defeat.

The air’s starting to get to me. They say things about Metropolis’ air, like its some sort of intoxicant all its own. To me, it’s just the constant stench of stale cigarettes, diesel fumes, and sweat, poorly covered with cloying perfume.

I think I'll give the country a try.

There are areas of the Staarkish countryside posted with warnings. These are the desolation zones, places still tainted by the strange weapons used in the War. Mostly people heed the warnings--the signs aren’t even needed really, when you can see the sickly vegetation, or the pale glow on moonless nights, or hear the weird cries of things unseen. Locals sit in taverns and swap tales about things like gibbering mouths, dire worms, flabby men, or susurrous shamblers. They talk about the zones, but they stay out.

The fellows I’ve thrown in with have other ideas.

The government’s put a bounty on the malfunctioning constructs and golems from the war still stalking the countryside, still carrying out their orders. Menschenjäger--manhunters--they’re called. From the description of the frightened farmers, the leader of our band calls the one we're after a Betrachter, but when we finally see the thing, it looks like a cyclops to me.  Then it fires that disintegrating ray out of its eye and one of our group is seared to ash in its too-bright glow.

That night, after we’ve wrapped the head for transport, we’re sitting in the cold, and the tomb-stillness with the smell of burnt flesh still lingering unpleasantly, and eating iron rations, and I think--Maybe Metropolis isn’t so bad after all?

Friday, March 3, 2017

Weird Revisited: Mantis + Prey

The this post appeared on the 1st of March 6 years ago. It was one of a series of posts I did doing variations on the Outer Planes.

The Mantid Sisterhood are ascetic warrior-nuns and servants of Law from the outer planar realm sometimes called the Octachoron of the Archons. They appear as full-scale, porcelain, marrionettes (without visible strings), in the form of insectoid centaurs, with feminine upper bodies, like slim ballerinas. They wear sphinx-like expressions on their perfect, identical faces.

They are sent out to the Prime Material to hunt down those guilty of transgressions against the Grand Algorithm of the Archons of Law. Transgressors need not know they have committed error--the judgement of the Archons is final; the punishments of the Sisterhood is precise and always delivered with the utmost serenity.

#Enc.: 1d6
Move: 40’(120’)
AC: 3
HD: 7
Attacks: 2 (strikes)
Damage: 2d8
Save: C7
Mantid sisters have the abilities of the Monk class at 7th level (except for feign death, and resistance to ESP, which are superseded by other abilities). As constructs of a sort, they possess darkvision, immunity ot mind-affecting effects, and immunity to poison, sleep, paralysis, charm, and disease--anything that requires a target be a biologic living being.  They are able to travel via dimensional doorways from plane to plane at will.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Firefight on the Planet of the Apes


Player Characters:
Jeff Call as Brock Irving
Lester B. Portly as Eddy Woodward
Jason Sholtis as Francis La Cava

Nonplayer Characters:
Strother Martin as the Mutant Priest

Synopsis: Irving, Woodward, and La Cava go all Wild Bunch on a group of mutants.

Commentary: After little action last adventure this one was a shootout. For the first time since we started this campaign, though, things got tense as the high Mutant Future hit points got whittled down. The fact that I house-ruled doubling the damage for firearms a few sessions ago also helped.

Though this came up last session and not this one, the mutants venerate "Mendes" as their divinely inspired leader and spokes man for the bomb. The priests seen in this session and the last are slightly more human looking than the Kreeg, but also more unhealthy appearing.

The PCs managed to acquire a couple of submachineguns (an M3 being the most coveted) and a dune buggy.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Wednesday Comics: Storm: Pirates of Pandarve

My exploration of the long-running euro-comic Storm, continues with his adventures in the world of Pandarve. Earlier installments can be found here.

Storm: The Pirates of Pandarve (1983) 
(Dutch: De Piraten van Pandarve) (part 5)
Art by Don Lawrence; script by Martin Lodewijk

Marduk explains to a shocked Ember that he really isn't interested in her; she's just bait for the Anomaly. Why is the Anomaly (Storm) so important? His travel through time has embued him with energies that Marduck thinks he can use to control "the powerlines of space and time."

When Storm comes for Ember, Marduk figures that power will be his. Ember tells him others have gone up against Storm before--and failed.

Meanwhile on the Pirate Planet:

All that ice is turned to Vertiga Bas's drinking water via monstrous worm things called griffs:

Storm is partnered with the red (literally) man Nomad and told they will work together until one of them dies.

Nomad shows Storm the ropes in the mines and the use of the equipment. Storm tells Nomad about Rann and his promise to return with money (though now Storm doesn't plan to wait that long). Nomad surmises that if a tariev hunter like Rann knows where to get that much money, it can only mean one thing:

Rann must know the location of the tariev graveyard. Another slave, eavesdropping seems interested in this information.

Storm and Nomad begin an escape attempt. Storm powers up their work lasers so they can actually hurt a guard and capture him. They force him to lead them to the central lift shafts. On the way, some other guards try to stop them, but Storm blasts a griff in the eye, and the creature's death throes kill them. Unfortinately, it also causes a rockfall!

After digging themselves out, Storm and Nomad ambush a maintenance crew heading in their direction. They overpower the guards, and recruit the slaves: