Friday, July 21, 2017

Valerian

Luc Besson's new film Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets is based on the French comic book series Valérian et Laureline by by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières (The film seems largely drawn from the sixth story in the series, Ambassador of Shadows). It's good source material for Besson, has the exotic locales of the comic and multitude of aliens give plenty of opportunity for him to engage in the in the stunning visuals that have been part of his previous science fiction efforts.

Valerian and Laureline are special agents of the Federation, with a bantering, unresolved sexual tension thing going. After acquiring a cute and valuable alien organism, the Mul Converter, to the massive, multi-species space station Alpha, to save it from a mysterious threat. All is not as it seems, and Alpha's Commander has secret plans of his own. Our heroes make their way through the alien locales of the station to solve the mystery and save everybody.


The plot is perfunctory, its drama is simplistic, and the characters are thin, but the sort of science fiction films Besson makes have never particularly focused on those things. The Fifth Element had an breeziness about some of the core dramatic elements, but did a lot with action, humor, and a Heavy Metal visual sensibility. Valerian may not become a the cult classic it has, but would make a good double feature with it.

In rpg terms, the visuals in Besson's film will likely give plenty of fodder with sci-fi gaming. Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets: The Art of the Film, is worth picking up for that purpose, even if you don't like the film.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wednesday Comics: The Seven of Aromater

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 Seven of Aromater (1984) 
(Dutch: De Zeven van Aromater) (part 3)
Art by Don Lawrence; script by Martin Lodewijk

Ember and Nomad watch from hiding as the Prince's steamship launches a smaller boat with the Seven or Aromater aboard. As they head toward the waterspout beneath the red, Ember realizes in horror what they plan.

She breaks from hiding to try to reach Storm. She is quickly captured and the former Storm, now the Seventh, ignores her cries. The ship sails on:


The Prince has Ember and Nomad in changes. He plans to keep them alive until the the survivors of the Seven return from the Red Tear with the Brain Coral. Until then, his ship will circle the waterspout and wait.

Ember and Nomad don't plan to be idle. They have hidden the remainder of the potion that converted Storm into a monster. Ember drinks it quickly and:


With enhanced strength and resistance to harm, Ember makes short work of the sailors. She and Nomad take over the ship. Ember isn't mindless like Storm and the others, she guides the ship toward the waterspout! The ship rides through the Storm--and is ultimately smashed!


TO BE CONTINUED

Monday, July 17, 2017

3 Pitches, 4 Colors 3: Agents of A.X.E.

This is the third in a series of posts with brief campaign pitches for superhero games. This one is written by Jason Sholtis of  The Dungeon Dozen:


(based on a rejected proposal found in a briefcase left on the subway by Steve Ditko
in 1968...)

Dateline 1999: Thirty years after the total victory of the hippie counterculture,
a unilaterally disarmed America watches helplessly as nation after nation falls before an unstoppable blitzkrieg of super soldiers, futuristic war machines and weapons from newly independent Transylvania.

Shocking the world in a live press conference, President Tom Hayden unveils the existence of the Agents of A.X.E., secret defenders of America. These highly trained super-operatives, each a paragon of American virtue, are entrusted with the use of super-devices derived from the technology of an alien civilization (details still classified) such as the Gauntlets of Potential, the Girdle of Density, and the Eye of Mastery.  

Moments later, the secret headquarters of the National Institute of Xenostudies beneath
Mt. Shasta falls to a sudden strike by Transylvanian stormtroopers, the scientists and leaders
who created A.X.E. all either dead or missing. If only the Agents had been there to help instead of
a Washington dog and pony show! How can you Agents ever forgive yourselves?

There is only one way: Defend America from the Transylvanian menace until they have to peel the Girdle of Density from your cold, dead midsection.

Style/influence: In a nutshell, THUNDER Agents vs. MARS Patrol written by Pat Mills in the 80's as reactionary silver age satire but drawn by Wally Wood and Steve Ditko in their prime, so it looks cool. Old school in tone, emphasizing all-out super-hero war on beach head America, so there will be black humor, super mayhem, and super death. But fear not, when Captain Density perishes, sidekick girl is there to pick up the girdle.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes


It's five years after a brief and unease truce between humans and apes in Northern California led to war.  The latest films is at turns The Outlaw Josey Wales and The Great Escape rather than a war film unless the title is more clever than it appears and references a war where the apes or not the primary combats--and gives a sly hint to its outcome.

Andy Serkis is again great as Caesar, and so are the other motion-capture actors. The special effects have gotten so good the apes don't really seen CGI at all, other than of course they are. Steve Zahn sort of steals the show here is the new character "Bad Ape" adding a bit of tastefully done levity to otherwise fairly grim precedings. Woody Harrelson is playing crazy, as usual, in the flavor of Kurtz from Apocalypse Now.

If you liked the previous installments in the current trilogy, you'll like this one. If you haven't seen any of this current series, you should start with Rise.


One thing I've noticed, when the first film came out it was widely commented that it was essentially a reworking/re-imaging of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. This is sort of true and viewed from that perspective Dawn and War are then a two part reworking of Battle for the Planet of the Apes. (Dawn, particularly has a lot of specific scene parallels to Battle.)

Friday, July 14, 2017

3 Pitches, 4 Colors 2: Days of Dr. Nightmare

This is the second in a series of posts with brief campaign pitches for superhero games. This one is written by Michael "Aos" Gibbons of  The Metal Earth and Cosmic Tales:


The world lies at the feet of Dr. Nightmare and has for these 30 years. The lands he rules strain under the burden of his mad and sadistic ambition; those he does not struggle in vain to remain free, or exist now only as mutant infested wastelands, scorched by Zero-Bombs and stinking with the taint of gene-gas.

But the weed of hope grows in the garden of despair. A few individuals, scattered across the globe, locked in disparate lives, have begun to experience lucid waking-dreams of another, better world, where they were heroes. All of them know, even if they refuse to face it, that something has gone wrong with time, and only they can fix it- and at the cost of everything they know.

They are the Awakened, and Dr. Nightmare can taste their dreams.

Inspirations: Days of Future Past, Age Of Apocalyse, Uncanny X-Men in general. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

3 Pitches 4-Colors 1: OMEGA TEAM!

This is the first in a series of posts with brief campaign pitches for superhero games. The others to follow are written by some other gaming bloggers you might know...


All of the world, individuals with anomalous and fantastic powers are increasing in number: mutants or victims of strange accidents, these individuals are feared and ostracized. A secret organization located beneath a governmental office building has need of these so-called freaks. The voice of Control describes the coming threat: The work of a brilliant Dr. Rankin has clearly indicated the danger. The ever-increasing number of “freaks,” extraterrestrial contacts, and weird phenomena, can be plotted on a curve showing inexorable progress nothing less that the destruction of humankind as we know it, if it’s trajectory is not altered. A team of special individuals--freaks--can bend this curve. They are the last line of defense: the Omega Team!

Style: Silver Age veneer on Modern Age construction; like Arnold Drake writing Grant Morrison’s  Doom Patrol, or maybe Steve Gerber writing Drake’s Doom Patrol.
Inspirations: Doom Patrol, Challengers of the Unknown, Atlas-era  monsters/horror, Xombi, Thriller, Outer Limits, X-Men.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Wednesday Comics: Nocturnals: Sinister Path


I backed the Kickstarter for Dan Brereton's latest Nocturnals graphic novel, Sinster Path. The Kindle/Comixology versions are available now, and the hardcover should soon be available to the nonbacker public.

If you're not familiar with horror/pulp/superhero mashup The Nocturnals, you might want to read this post first.  If you are, then you know Brereton presents his tough guy underworld where super-science and magic exist in a matter of fact way, without a lot of explanation. Sinister Path continues this tradition, so no one evidences any surprise when Doc Horror and his crew head into the mansion of a deceased judge to get the files of dirt he kept on various underworld and government figures and encounter supernatural menaces. All in a days work for a werewolf/mob enforcer/scientist from a parallel dimension!

If that makes the Nocturnals sound like camp, it is not. The tone is serious for the most part, and Brereton makes his unusual concept work. His moody and lurid art probably helps.


Sinster Path could be read as a standalone, but it's probably, but best to start a little earlier so you know the relationships. It's fairly open-ended, promising more to come.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Looking for Adventure on the DMs Guild


While mostly I've been content to translate old school adventures for my 5e campaign, I decided to go looking for some adventures there. I haven't been too impressed with what I've found so far, though. They are no worse in basic conception than any number of older modules--indeed, they often have a more interesting high concept--but they tend to be sort of slight and written with a particular scene-based structure that doesn't give you a lot to work with if you're not going to follow their script.

While I don't absolutely reject a scene-based structure (if it's fairly "open"), as a general rule, if there isn't anything interesting about the setup or setting of the adventure, an author's pre-planned idea of a "cool scene" isn't going to work for me.

The DMs Guild 5e adventures I've read have one advantage over the Pathfinder adventures/adventure paths I've read in that at least they aren't as overwritten (though they aren't terse). They don't tend to be as interesting in details though.

Anybody got in 5e adventure recommendations?

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming and the Backdrop of the MCU


One of the good things about Spider-Man: Homecoming is that it brings Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not in the comic fetishist dream of now having Spider-Man in the same scene with Iron Man, but in the sense of the increasingly cohesive backstory of the CMU undergirding the plot. I am not found of the CMU in its homogenization of plot and uninspired sameness of production design, but the ways that it increasingly portrays a world being changed by the consequences of an alien invasion and the co-occurrent emergence of superheroes I like a lot.

They didn't plan this from the beginning. There is no unification of the origins of any of the Phase One characters, and only some of their villains. As late as Winter Soldier, the Falcon's flying prosthetic wings are just some Army contractors invention, with no need of Stark genius or reverse engineered alien tech.  The small screen is where things begin to change. Daredevil season one has as its setting New York in the aftermath of a very destructive alien invasion (i.e. the Chitauri as seen in Avengers). Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter deal with (and build on) things in the periphery of the films.


Of course, Civil War deals with the political consequences of Age of Ultron (which in turn, sort of grew out of the events of Avengers), but Homecoming shows us the origins of several of Spider-Man's foes in the Roadside Picnic-esque salvage of the Chitauri visitation. It's an interesting thematic element, having the "neighborhood hero" have to deal with the personifications of the mess left behind when the big players leave the field, but it also makes the universe seem more cohesive and real. It's a step away from the Marvel Silver Age comics toward  (again) the Ultimate Marvel Universe in approach.

I think this would be a good thing to emulate in superhero rpgs or really any genre where you wanted a sustain cohesive setting. Thirty years ago, the writers of the Wild Cards books argued a unified origin for super-powers aided suspension of disbelief. That's probably true, but given the proliferation of superheroes today, it seems less necessary. What is still somewhat novel, and still worth considering is the "ripples" in the pond of the setting when a new fantastic element is dropped in. There's a lot that can be mined from that idea, I think.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Dictionary of Azurth Update


I hadn't done one of these in a while, so I figured it was time. Here's the updated Dictionary of the Land of Azurth with entries for Zorka, Tsar of the Shooting Stars, and House Perilous, among others.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Spock has a 12th-level Intellect

This is something I was thinking about while traveling the other day: certain parallels between comic book alien species and those in Star Trek. What's the use of it? I don't know. Trek with different aliens or different backstories for the aliens? Supers with Trek aliens? Some sort of Wold-Newton Space (Woldspace)? Make of it what you will.

Skrulls and the Founders/Changelings
The Founders are a shapeshifting race that runs an expansionist space empire and so are the Skrulls. DC's Durlans would fit in a way, too. They've faced prejudice like the Changelings, but they don't run an empire.

Shi'ar and the Romulans
One species has a space empire with a bird motif and a sprinkling of Roman Empire terminology and the other is the Romulans. Sure, the Romulan Star Empire never seems as multi-species as the Shi'ar, but no reason it couldn't be. Might want to drop the link to Vulcan, though...

Coluans and Vulcans
Turning to DC comics for the Federation species, I'll not the somewhat emotionlessness and computer-like logic of the Vulcans and Brainiac's people, the Coluans.

The other other identifications I thought of, but some are too similar to add anything particularly interesting (The Khunds and the Klingons) and some distant enough to be suggest substitution (Thanagarians and Andorians. Thanagarians might stand-in for Romulans, too, depending on which version we're talking about) but you get the idea.



Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Seven of Aromater

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 Seven of Aromater (1984) 
(Dutch: De Zeven van Aromater) (part 2)
Art by Don Lawrence; script by Martin Lodewijk

Storm has changed into some sort of monster--the Seventh--then he and the Eternal Prince disappear to prepare themselves for the mission ahead.

Ember and Nomad have no idea what's going on. They go back to the merchant who tried to buy Ember earlier. He tells them the story of the history of  Aromater.

Once Aromater was an incredibly prosperous trading city, ruled by two young and apparently immortal Princes who controlled the forces of nature. Then, for unknown reasons, a rift developed between the twins. One of them used a device called the Brain Coral [or Brain Cell, in some translations] to create a potion from the Blood of Pandarve. It turned the Prince into a "dark demon" and his seven trusted followers into monsters. They slaughtered the guards and stole the Brain Coral.

From they time on, luck was no longer with Aromater. Their crops were destroyed, their ships lost, and their remaining Prince began to age.

The Prince formulated a plan to regain the Brain Coral. A had a fountain made surrounded by seven swords. Only the bravest and strongest citizens were allowed to try to pull them free. Those that succeeded became members of the Seven of Aromater. From the goblets left behind by the fleeing Prince and his followers, the remaining Prince and his confederates were able to synthesize the potion and change the six victors into creatures that could reclaim Aromater's lost glory. Storm is the Seventh. Now, they will go to reclaim the Brain Coral.


For their remaining questions, the merchant jokes they'll have to ask the Eternal Prince. Ember decides to go to his Tower and do just that.



Nomad has to meditate to center himself to throw a grapple across the magma moat. He succeeds! Ember crawls along the rope to an opening in the Tower.


Nomad follows, but the rope catches fire and he would would have fallen in without Ember's help.

Meanwhile, the Eternal Prince and his Second are preparing to leave. Their may only be enough of the Blood of Pandarve for one more transformation left. the Prince puts it in a chest for safe keeping. As they leave the room, Nomad pokes his head up through a hatch in the floor...

The next, morning the Prince, the Seventh, and his men leave in a paddle steamer to the cheers of the crowd. The ship heads out into the great ocean. The next morning, The Red Tear appears on the horizon. As the ship draws loser they see the Red Tear fully:



TO BE CONTINUED

Monday, July 3, 2017

Strange Encounters in the Boundless Sea

Here's a short random table of unusual encounters in the Boundless Sea west of the Land of Azurth. Some of these are likely to appear in the upcoming Azurth Adventures Digest:


Roll d8:
1 - Zoobian Pleasure Barque - Storm-damaged and adrift, 1d4 winsome, green-haired maidens in silken veils cry out for succor. They claim to be brides to be on their way to the harem of a Zoobian potentate. They are actually harpies looking for a meal.
2 - Brazen Devil - With a screeching of rusty hinges, a brass gargoyle, corroded green and white, its wings festooned with seaweed, claws its way aboard. With determined spite--and mutterings of “Trifling jackanapes!” and “I’ll not be the butt of your japery. Not I!"-- it will stalk and kill everyone aboard, if it can.*
3 - Lovelorn Sea Serpent  - The beast begins following in the ship’s wake, occasionally moving close enough to gently nuzzle the vessel’s stern suggestively. Its head and neck are above water at times, and its expression is comically lovestruck. It will place sea creature carcasses on the deck at night as tokens of affection.
4 -  Iceberg - It drifts on the current. A frozen Viking longship and crew can be seen inside.
5 - Eight-Armed Bandit - An immense octopus demands to be giving all the gold aboard, hinting at some dire consequence if its demand is not satisfied. 
6 - War Party - A double-hulled war canoe of the Gator Folk attacks. They wield spears and alligator-toothed war-clubs.
7 - Professorial Sea Cows - A pair of large and apparently quite learned Steller's sea cows can be heard conversing about metaphysics and the nature of the universe. Eavesdropping might well illicit useful information for magical research into spells related to other planes, but attempts to enter into the conversation or even requests to clarification or elucidation will lead them to either give disinformation out of spite or simply submerge (50% of either).**
8 - Strange Shipwreck Survivors - 3 former ship's crew, adrift on debris of their smashed vessel, cry out weakly for rescue. Each offers a different account of the destruction of their ship--and each tale is more terrifying and apocalyptic than the last. They wail and sob hysterically if question about these contradictions.**

*Inspired by a random table by GusL
**Based on suggestions by Jason Sholtis  

Friday, June 30, 2017

Weird Revisited: Strange Things at the Automat

I recent review of Weird Adventures reminded me of this post from July of 2010. The name of the establishment is, of course, a reference to characters in the works of James Branch Cabell and Robert W. Chambers, two writers whose work certainly influenced conception of Weird Adventures.



A phantom automat stalks the streets of the City. Horvendile & Hawberk’s may appear any where, but is less likely to be found on a busy thoroughfare or crowded street. It seems to thrive in the shadows. It's never found in the same place twice, and less than half of people who have been there have visited it more than once--and urban legend holds that to encounter it more than seven times is a bad omen, and harbingers death.

Horvendile & Hawberk’s, or sometimes “Double H’s” (used somewhat superstitiously), looks new, though its decor and signage looks a decade or more out of date. Decorative glass fixtures around the upper walls are etched with astrological symbols. The staff is always crisply dressed and pleasant, but doesn’t engage in conversation. In addition to the automat staples like coffee, pie, sandwiches, and macaroni and cheese, the coin-operated, hinged glass slots at double H’s sometimes hold (seemingly random) unusual items:

1. A Subway and Elevated Rail-Lines map of the City, with unknown stations identified.

2. The egg of an Oriental Griffin, worth a fortune--had it not been cooked sunny side up. Eating it leads to heightened sight for 48 hours.

3. A girasol ring, worth $200 to a common fence, but an evaluation by an expert reveals it to mark the bearer by tradition as the heir to a micronation in Eastern Ealderde.

4. A risque postcard of a Poitêmienne prostitute, imbued with the power of the eikone Doll, so that the owner has the power of charm over members of the opposite sex as long as they carry it on their person.

5. A used napkin with the address of a warehouse where a Staarkish Imperial military manhunter golem has been stored. It’s battered, but only needs a power source to return to operation.

6. Four-and-a-half pages of illuminated text in a magical script from a grimoire on which someone has over-written a series of bawdy limericks. Contains 1-4 spells, but must be recopied to separate the formulae from the limericks.

7. A post-bill asking after a lost dog named “Jakey.” The crude drawing of the dog is so indistinct as to be unhelpful, but it's strangely unsettling to the viewer. Any one who touches it will have vague nightmares and unrestful sleep that night.

8. A ornately engraved antique sixgun. It's intelligent (Int 17) and will attempt to dominate any bearer to force him or her to seek out its original owner who’s taxidermied corpse is currently on display in a roadside curio and oddity museum in the Dustlands. When used, it confers a +2 to hit.

9. A slice of preternaturally tasty pecan pie, that the consumer will talk about from time to time with some nostalgia for 1d20 years after.

10. A pocket note-pad with a glossary of hobogoblin cant and signs, which, if utilized improves reaction when encountering the tramp humanoids, and provides other helpful information for to “gentlemen of the road.”

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Let Alex Toth Illustrate Your Monster Manual

I've posted some Alex Toth animation model sheets before for their inspirational value. Here are more in that same vein:

This one could be a salamander:

Dogheaded? Junior dragons? How about insectoid kobolds?


If you ignore the heights given, these guys could be frost giants:


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Wednesday Comics: The Wretch

Strange things happen in Glass City: a rain of babies falls, a grinning cut-out of a sun on a little girl's wall demands she give it a body, the spectre of a wailing woman kills children with her tears. The Eisner nominated comic The Wretch by Phil Hester and others resembles a superhero comic in some superficial ways, but it's actually something more akin to the New Weird literary genre in comics form.

The titular Wretch is a ink-black shape in bandages and occasionally hoses (he resembles a bit, a messier version of Spider-Man's black costume). He patrols the small midwestern city of Glass City where a lot of weird things happen. The Wretch never speaks. We're not given a clear indication of his powers, nor anything regarding his motivation of origins. The focus is more on Glass City's denizens and the odd things happening to them. The Wretch just tends to show up in the nick of time to fight something. The stories are all short and not very deep but they are a nice mix of absurdity and horror.

The second volume of Slave Labor Graphics collections subtitled "Devil's Lullaby" actually collects an earlier limited series (from Caliber Comics, 1996) than the one collected in the first volume. I think the chronological reading order of the SLG collections would be to start with the third and work backwards.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Random Motley Pirate Captains & their Ships

Art by William Stout

Here's an excerpt from the Azurth Adventure Digest: A series of random tables related to Motley Pirate captains and their ships.

Name
1 Black Hart
2 Black Mark
3 White Lily
4 White Lyle
5 Red Herron
6 Yellow Rose
7 Green Horne
8 Golden Boyd
9 Blue Yonder
10 Silver Bullitt
11 Gray Harriet
12 Purple Patch

Known For:
1 challenging captives to a game of checkers
2 an exotic pet
3 tendency to break into song
4 gold prosthetic nose
5 fine swordsmanship
6 prodigious appetite
7 half-merperson ancestry
8 mismatched eye color
9 numerous tattoos
10 sartorial excess
11 seasickness
12 Obsession with a specific sea creature

Ship
1 Scarwhal
2 Nigh Invulnerable
3 Blatant Beast
4 Typhoonigator
5 Luminous Nose
6 Hardluck Hooligan
7 Runcible Goose
8 Grand Panjandrum
9 Black Barnacle
10 Bandersnatch
11 Dubious Venture
12 Terrible Dogfish

Exotic Booty
1 A velvet bag of invisible, yet glowing star-gems.
2 Crates of ancient automata parts and junk machinery from Sang
3 The captured Frogling ambassador of Undersea and his attache
4 Casks of fine Viridian chrysochlorous wine
5 A nereid in a tank, actually a favored niece of the Sea King
6 Mirror boxes of bootleg moonlight
7 A small flask containing a condensed squall
8 Somewhat water-damaged back issues of the periodical Wizardry
9 Three cursed swords with a hatred for each other
10 A barrel of exotic fruit that act as a potions of healing if eaten
11 A corked and sealed bottle with a letter of introduction to King Volturnus, the East Wind
12 Crystalline unicorn figurines in various colors

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Dungeon Boomtown

The suggestion of boomtowns (linked not because you don't know what a boomtown is, but because of the list of historical boomtowns) near dungeons is something mentioned in D&D, but seldom is the concept developed in any interesting way. Chris "Hill Cantons" Kutalik has suggested before that the description of Maust on the border of the Dirdir-infested but also sequin-filled Carabas in Vance's The Dirdir is great for evoking this very thing, and he's right:

By noon Maust appeared in the distance: a jumble of tall narrow buildings with high gables and crooked roof-lines, built of dark timber and age-blackened tile...Running boys came out to meet the motor-wagon. They shouted slogans and held up signs and banners: "Sequin-takers attention! Kobo Hux will sell one of his excellent sequin-detectors." "Formulate your plans at the Inn of Purple Lights." "Weapons, puffpads, maps, digging implements from Sag the Mercantilist are eminently useful." "Do not grope at random; the Seer Garzu divines the location of large purple nodes." "Flee the Dirdir with all possible agility; use supple boots provided by Awalko." "Your last thoughts will be pleasant if, before death, you first consume the euphoric tablets formulated by Laus the Thaumaturge." "Enjoy a jolly respite, before entering the Zone, at the Platform of Merriment."
...They entered a narrow street running between tall, age darkened structures, the beer-colored sunlight barely penetrating to the street. Certain of the houses sold gear and implements conceivably useful to the sequin-taker: grading kits, camouflage, spoor eliminators, tongs, forks, bars, monoculars, maps, guides, talismans and prayer powders...
After a meal of stewed hackrod and mealcake, the three repaired to the library, at the back of the second floor. The side wall displayed a great map of the Zone; shelves held pamphlets, portfolios, compilations. The consultant, a small sad-eyed man, sat to the side and responded to questions in a confidential whisper. The three passed the afternoon studying the physiography of the Zone, the tracks of successful and unsuccessful ventures, the statistical distribution of Dirdir kills.
No quite as on the nose, but with plenty to inspire the town adventures that would take place between dungeon delves is Deadwood (2004). Here's a choice quote adventurers would do well to keep in mind: “Announcing your plans is a good way to hear God laugh.”

The movie Tombstone (1993) that civilizing forces are drawn to areas of great wealth as well as treasure seekers. They are a strange mixture of raw and upscale. From the opening narration: "Tombstone becomes queen of the boom towns where the latest Paris fashions are sold from the backs of wagons." And from Sheriff Behan:
"Have you seen how everyone dresses? Awful tony for a mining camp. No, sir, the die is cast. We are growing. Be as big as San Francisco in a few years and just as sophisticated."
Of course, a gunfight in the streets is ironic punctuation to his comment.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Azurth Adventure Digest


I've been working on a shorter publication, to tide people interested in more Azurth stuff over until the release of Cloud Castle of Azurth (which is still some distance in the future). The above is my mockup banner for the Azurth Adventure Digest (no cover illustration has been completed, as yet). This short publication will on the Boundless Sea, west of the Land of Azurth and collate what has been on the blog regarding the Motley Isles, have some random generators related to Motley Pirates, and give stats for a few sea-going folk who have showed up in my game. There will a short (longer than a one pager dungeon, but smaller than a published adventure) write up of the sandbox adventuring locale the Candy Isle.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

D&D Style

Which is more you?
As anyone who has read this blog for any amount of time (there's got to be someone!) knows, I don't not have one style, tone, flavor, what have you of D&D that I want to do all the time. The Land of Azurth is a bit whimsical and perhaps silly. The earliest setting I blogged up was perhaps reasonable standard if more rigorously rationalized "serious wordbuilding" D&D fare. If touched on more survival horror sort of setting riffs, and hope to one day finish a horror-tinged, pirate adventure (In Doom's Wake). This is to say nothing of the highly variant settings like Weird Adventures.

In other words, I like my D&D sort of like I my TV and music: eclectic. The at the table experience with me probably doesn't vary quite as much as my writing about them might suggest (getting a group of people around a table pretending to be elves with funny voices tends to engender some degree of humor), but they are not identical.

My time in rpg related social media has suggested that a lot people have a style/tone or at least a narrow range of style or tone they tend to like in their game. People are probably more tolerant for one shots than longterm campaigns of course, and probably have broader tastes in what they play in than what they run.

I confess I envy this a bit. I feel like avoid the siren's call of a new setting is hard enough, but add in a new or long ignored style or tone and it gets even harder! I feel like I could stick with a campaign longer if I knew what my favorite flavor was.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Seven of Aromater

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 Seven of Aromater (1984) 
(Dutch: De Zeven van Aromater) (part 1)
Art by Don Lawrence; script by Martin Lodewijk

Storm, Ember, and Nomad are floating down a river on a raft they made from the remains of the balloon they escaped in last adventure. The travel through a swamp, then into a delta, as they approach the sea they passes the wharves and docks of a city. Hungry, they make their way to the docks.

It turns out the city's name is Aromater. A merchant overhears them discussing their need for money and sends one of his warriors over to make an offer:


He wants to buy Ember. They reject his offer, and Ember slaps him. When the warrior begins to pull his sword, Storm slugs him.

The warrior demands a fight, and Storm decides to oblige him, if only to keep Ember from doing so. Storm breaks his sword against the warriors armor. The warrior holds his sword to Storm's throat and taunts him:


He suggests if Storm needs a sword, he should just pull the Seventh Sword from the stone block that holds it.

Elsewhere in the city, two men watch what is occurring in a crystal ball. They decide that Storm may be a suitable seventh. As Storm struggles with the Storm, the two men work the lever that releases the sword from the molecular lock that holds it.


The crowd that has gathered proclaims Storm as the Seventh. They carry him on their shoulders to the temple. Nomad and Ember follow after them, uncomprehending.


Storm is brought be for the Eternal Prince, who we saw watching the scene before. The Prince explains that Storm is the Seventh he is fated to return Aromater to glory. First, though, Storm must drink from the goblet with the Blood of Pandarve--or be punished by death by fire.

With no other choice, Storm drinks from the offered goblet.


Storm becomes the Seventh!

TO BE CONTINUED

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Strange Lights and Noxious Odors of Murk

A Murkman, likely named Grundy

Murk is a marshy island of scrub and small stands of cypress, frequently shrouded in a malodorous, yellow-gray fog and inhabited by a dour people, aloof from the raucous society of Polychrome and the other inhabited Motley Isles. The people of the island may be one extended clan of pale and course-featured folk.

The Grundys (as they all seem to be named) are not of a piratical inclination, but instead harvest mussels and net fish that they trade with the Motley pirates for practical goods. They are also known for the product of  The disposition of the Grundys discourages visitors, though the ever-present miasma is likely more of a deterrent.

On some nights, variegated illuminations move through the fog, and its dullness is pierced by winking, dancing will-o’wisps. These lights are most prominent on nights of the new moon, when the sharp-eared also claim to hear strange music and other sounds of merriment emanating from the island.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

I Call Upon the Great Gazoo!

A lot of people don't like the Cleric class and its "my god gives me cool powers." Certainly, that sort of heavy divine involvement doesn't fit all settings, nor does the idea of granting the powers rather ran just performing miracles.


Another option would be the "personal genie" or guardian angel type character common to genre media. Jeannie and Shazzan are examples of this type, but I'm thinking more the smaller, invisible to most imp-type like the Great Gazoo, or in a less helpful mode, the impish would be side kicks of comic book heroes like Bat-Mite or Qwsp.

So when a cleric used a "spell" this would be this spirit/being doing stuff at their request. Why they would have such specific and limited interventions could be explained by them being "in training" or maybe just getting used to the Prime Material Plane.

(You might think this fits even better with the 5e Warlock and their Patrons, and I suppose it could, but their spells seem even less a fit than the clerics for this sort of setup.)

In media, this sort of thing is typically portrayed humorously, but it doesn't have to be. If you did portray it humorously, though, not having other characters be sure of whether the tutelary spirit actually exists or whether the PC is crazy might be amusing.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Why is Mortengersturm Upset?


After this week's mailing, there are only about 9 copies of Mortzengersturm, The Mad Manticore of the Prismatic Peak still available in print. If you were thinking about getting it, you may want to go ahead. There probably won't be another printing for while.

If you've been on the fence check out these reviews:
Gnone Stew
EnWorld
Zardoz the Magnificent
Tales of the Grotesque & Dungeonesque
Dungeon of Signs

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Making Fantasy of History


"I am Zorro. I have come to return King Arthur to the throne."
- The Simpsons, "E-I-E-I-(Annoyed Grunt)"

This post is a callback to my post yesterday (or actually the previous post it linked to), so for a full appreciation,  you might want to catch up. So DC's Beowulf bore very little resemblance to the real world of the sixth century and not just in the fantastic elements. It cheerfully dispenses with any actual history (or legend, for that matter) with things like a contemporaneous-to-Beowulf Dracula harassing lost tribes of Israel. Ahistoricity of fiction is hardly anything new--it shows up everywhere from Arthurian legend to Hercules and the Masked Rider--but for some reason in rpgs anything really crazy gets safely placed in Hyborian world-esque fantasylands. In Mystara, you can have your Not early modern France in the same world with your Not Vikings, but you can't have the real thing together, it seems.

Why that is, I don't know. Maybe it's the historical wargame roots of the hobby or the pedantry that is not uncommon in the world of geekery. There's the off-repeated GM fear of being called out for inaccuracy in any sort of game where the players might have deep knowledge. But I think the advantage of a obviously gonzo, ahistorical game (or "stupid ahistorical game" ) is that it's so obviously wrong that questions of historical accuracy are sidestepped.

I think it's time to stop being held back by the shackles of chronology, ahistory awaits!