Friday, April 22, 2016

The Motley Isles

The Motley Isles lie but a few miles from the coast of the Country of Yanth in the Boundless Sea. The islands are known as a haven of pirates who value their freedom above all else, except perhaps the plunder they take from hapless ships.  Vessels that call the Motley Isles their home often fly a distinctive flag: a skull and crossbones emblazoned on a crazy-quilt pattern.

The only settlement of note on the isles is Polychrome. The authorities in Yanth and the Land of Azurth in general paint Polychrome (and the Isles in general) as a place without law, but this is not entirely correct. Polychrome has few codified laws, its true (other than those governing apportioning of shares of loot and the sanctity of property) but disputes between between individuals or groups of folk are settled in a prescribed manner. In the town hall of Polychrome there is an ancient, oracular device: a black sphere marked with a skull and crossbones.

The origins of the device are obscure, but it is doubtful that it was made the Land of Azurth. It is operated by shaking it and reading its pronouncement in a window on the underside. The answers it provides requires some interpretation, and that is provided by the officiants who perform the ritual. Such is the aversion of the pirates to anything that smacks of governmental service, they rely on press gangs to force citizens into service.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Wednesday Comics: The Spire

My review of the Storm Chronicles is going to take a two week break but will return. In other comic news, the 2016 Eisner nominees are out and The Spire was among the titles to make the list for "Best Limited Series." I reviewed the first four issues of the series here and then...well, I probably got distracted by something else. But I didn't quit reading the series, and I'm eagerly anticipating it's final issue.

To review, the Spire is a tower-city and bastion of humanity rising out of a toxic alien desert. Commader Shå of the city watch, a "skew" (a slur for a nonhuman), has to deal with the prejudices of the people around her while trying to catch a murderer whose crimes have ties to the city's past.

The issues are available now. The trade will be out in December.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Azurth NPC Card

Over the weekend, I got to thinking using Jeff Call's great character portraits only on the record sheets for the pregens wouldn't allow enough folks to see them all, so I decided to do a giveaway for the Hydra booth: 3x5 NPC cards statted for 5e. Shouldn't be too hard to get those printed up.

Here's a sample of the front and back of one:

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Mystery Men! 2nd Edition

John M. Stater of the Land of Nod blog has just recently released the 2nd edition of his Mystery Men! superhero rpg. As readers of this blog know, I am a big fan of superhero stuff, and I've also noted before how Mr. Stater is one of the most prolific quality content generators in these parts, so this project was definitely in my wheelhouse.

D&D mechanic-based superheroes has never been my first go to, but John employs it to really good effect. It seems like it would be light and fast place to play, and without the fiddly bits that slow up character creation in something like Mutants & Masterminds. The graphic design and art both seem to support this sort of "open the book and go!" inviting feel.

John has also got support for the system over on his blog. Only one post for the latest version yet, but you can check out the likes of Crystar the Crystal Warrior for the first edition and a fembot from Doctor Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine.

Check that stuff out, then get over to rpgnow and get yourself a copy.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Meet Ina Quick

North Texas Rpg Con gaming registration opened last night and my session is nearly full. I showed off the character sheet of Sir Clangor, one of the pregens for game previously. Here's another (minus complete equipment): the rogue, Ina Quick.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

People of the Feud

There was a colony ship, sent out from Earth or a world very much like it to settle a new world. It's navigators had been genetically modified to take advantage of a new drive system allowing FTL travel. The majority of the colonist were placed into cryogenic suspension for the voyage.

Something went wrong. Inadequate shielding? Purposeful sabotage? No one remembers. The navigators began to mentally breakdown, expose to psychoactive and mutagenic properties of the manifold outside normal spacetime. The ship was stranded stuttering in an out of spacetime.

The navigators began to develop psionic powers and with them certain physical requirements. Boosted quantities of certain neurotransmitters. No synthetic source was available, but there were the stored colonists to feed on.

To help them manage the ship and their food source, the former Navigators awakened a military congent, a few at the time. They mentally enthralled them and enslaved them. Molding them over generations.

As generations passed under the accelerated mutagenesis of the manifold, both the Navigators--calling themselves the Masters now--and their soldier caste had diverged significantly from their original genotype. The Masters had long ago authorized larger scale awakening of more of the colonists to serve as a more docile slave caste--and cattle.

The Masters grew complacent and removed from human concerns and feelings. They didn't see the revolution coming. A soldier named Gith lead a coalition of the soldiers and the menials against their oppressors they now called Mind Flayers after their manner of feeding.

The former Masters were either killed or used their power to flee into the nonspace. The coalition that had brought about their downfall did not long survive. Former menials resented the soldiers as long time collaborators and the soldiers disagreed with the menails attempts to master Mind Flayer psionic disciplines.

When the ship was finally cannibalized and destroyed, two cultures had emerged as firm in their hatred of each other as they were in their former masters.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Green Hell (part 4)

My exploration of the long-running euro-comic Storm, continues. Earlier installments can be found here.

Storm: The Green Hell (1980)
(Dutch: De Groene Hel)
Art by Don Lawrence & Script by Dick Matena

The mutants begin dancing, presumably before killing Ember and Storm. Suddenly, there's a loud noise and large begins rushing into the area, washing away most of the mutants, and pouring into the chasm where the ships are.

Storm leads Ember into one of the hulks. He finds what he's looking for: a pair of old spacesuits.Donning the suits, Storm and Ember are safe for the moment. Then, a hatch opens:

The frogmen shoot our heroes with something that knocks them out. They care them down into an underground tunnel. Entering an airlock, they move their wetsuits and reveal themselves to be blue skinned humanoids.

Storm wakes up on a veranda surrounded by lush vegetation. He turns and looks out over an advanced alien city. He hears Ember call his name and runs into the next room where a one of the blue humanoids seems has her on a table and is monitoring her with some sort of device. Storm pushes the man away and they're about to fight when:

The supervisor gestures and their surrounds change to a scene of a space battle. Storm realizes its all a hologram. The visuals reveal a story beginning hundreds of thousands of years ago as the Supervisor narrates: The planet Azuria became overpopulated and its people spread out among the stars and conquered many worlds, including Earth. The Azurians established hidden colonies underground and in high mountains. They took control of the planet's weather. They wiped the minds of the remnant human population and destroyed much of their civilization, reverting them to savagery. As humans civilization rebounded, spies (like Toriander) assured that the Azurians could monitor and control the rate of technological process. The mutants protected the graveyard of ships from prying eyes.

Storm and Ember are threats to this order and their brain must be erased. Storm's not having that.

With the Supervisor as a hostage, the two get back to the airlock and make their escape. They sabotage the equipment before they go. The Azurians swear to catch track them down and destroy them, while Storm vows to take back his world.


Monday, April 11, 2016

Assault on the Candy Temple

Last night, our Land of Azurth game continued with our heroes deciding to enter the temple ziggurat of the tribesman of the Candy Isle where they were sure Gwendolin Goode and the Pirate Queen Black Iris were being held.

by Dyson Logos
This map by Dyson Logos served as the temple. In this case, it was made of huge blocks of fudge and built into the side of a chocolate volcano.

Shade the Ranger and the Frox Rogue, Waylon, snuck up and dispatched four gummy guards in Area A. Two outside and two inside, despite Shade's initial qualms about killing them. When the others arrived, they noted paintings on the wall showing the Candy People being led to the temple area by a mysterious glowing man.

The room to the left in Area B contained a baptismal font of cholocate and containers of chocolate dust. Steathing past the larger room, they did peek in past the candy frond-weaved door to see too acolytes post-preparation in the other room in the midst of some ritual. The didn't enter the small side room at that time, but later they found out it was the priest's cell--and it contained the Confection Perfection.

Area C had a large ritual room open in the back into the volcano and a fall of liquid chocolate with an altar in front of it. The room was empty at the current time. In the side room, they discovered a a giant-sized sarcophagus that Waylon and Erekose assumed was full of treasure, but in fact held a ogre-sized, creature wrapped in gum and fruit strip bandages. In was actually a giant adherer, the ancient king Goo-Gum. A number of fire spells finally defeated here, but not before guards were roused from the next room and the priest and his acolytes came from the level above.

A lucky thunderstrike spell obliterated the tribal warriors, and the warriors made short work of the priests--not before Kairon the Sorcerer got hold personed, though.

In the next room, they found the two captives they were looking for. They managed to imtimidate the remaining guards (who knew what carnage the party had wrecked in the adjacent room) who fled to get reinforcements from the village.

Dangerously low on spells, the party made a break for it back up through the temple. When Black Iris mentioned the Confection Perfection, they sent an invisible Waylon back to retreive it only to watch a mysterious mage in magenta beat him to it:

by algenfleger
Waylon made it back to his friends with only a curvy athame (of real metal, not candy!) to show for his effort. Keeping ahead of the angry tribesfolk, our heroes beat a haste retreat around the mountain path and made it back to their ship.

The question is: To get their payment, will they force Gwendolin to return to her parents against her will?

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Alternate Ravenlofts

Friday, Jack Shear brought to my attention an idea Kreg Mosier proposed of a Southern Gothic Ravenloft. Which is a great idea. It also got me to thinking about other settings where Ravenloft could be repurposed:

Planet of Vampires
A commercial cargo-hauler spacecraft responds to a call from the Demeter from a nearby planetoid, and finds an planet shrouded in eerie mists. The Demeter's crew have undergone a frightening transformation into the undead. At the center of all this strangeness is a weirdly earth-like castle and its master.
Inspirations: Planet of Vampires, Alien, and the Star Trek episode "Catspaw."

The Creepy Castle
Teenagers returning from Spring Break have their car break down in an eerie fog somewhere in Appalachia. Going the the forbidding European-style castle for help seems like a good idea...
Inspirations: any number of horror films including Texas Chainsaw Massacre; Scooby Doo, and for more of a tripped out euro-feel, things like Nuda per Satana and Requiem pour un Vampire.

Friday, April 8, 2016

A Sampling of the Hydra Sampler

The Hydra Cooperative is proud to be supporting ConTessa and Gen Con. As part of that port we're in the process of putting together a sampler of Hydra products and upcoming products. Above is our tenative cover and here's the Strange Stars OSR page I put together for the sampler:

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Space:1977, or Set Coordinates for Planet Funhouse Dungeon

It occurs to me there's never really been a sci-fi equivalent of D&D. (At least back in the day. Maybe someone's doing it now, and I'm just unaware.) By D&D I mean D&D of OG (Original Greyhawk) Gygaxian mode: a stupid, freewheeling, game of exploration that borrows promiscuously from genre media (of multiple genres) without bothering to particularly try to emulate any of it. Traveller is too interested in emulating specific source material and is more serious; Space Opera is goofy enough, but it still wants to be that sci-fi thing you like (whichever one it is) rather than being not any of those things but wearing their clothes. Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma World get the vibe, but their scopes are more limited.

What I'm talking about is something a bit Vancian, definitely picaresque, where exploration for the purpose of profit is the order of the day. The character archetypes are from all over. An adventuring party might look like the ragtag protagonists in Battle Beyond the Stars (except that John Boy guy would be a Jedi in training and the lizard man would be Tars Tarkas) and act like a more disreputable Serenity crew. Only Silver Age comics truly encompass the level of crazy alien worlds ought to embody--given the appropriate figleaf of Gygaxian realism, of course. I figure adventures would often go down like an episode of Lost in Space, except more people would die. And then the Robot would take their stuff.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Green Hell (part 3)

My exploration of the long-running euro-comic Storm, continues. Earlier installments can be found here.

Storm: The Green Hell (1980)
(Dutch: De Groene Hel)
Art by Don Lawrence & Script by Dick Matena

Storm rushes in before Toriander can murder anyone else. He kicks the gun from the killer's hand and beats him up. Toriander calls for his cronies to help, but Ugly Brute stops them on the stairs. Storm brings Toriander out and Ugly Brute tosses him down into the lot of them.

Storm only wants one thing from Toriander: Where did the space helmet come from? Toriander gets very afraid. He says he can't tell or they'd kill him!

As if on cue, lightning flashes and thunder sounds. Toriander begins to run down the walkway. A bolt of lightning lands very near him. He runs again, crying out for mercy. He falls down on his knees, pleading with the skies:

Toriander is ash. Storm and the others wonder at the lightning that seems to have targeted him. They soon have bigger problems as blasts of lightning start destroying Carefree City. As the people fall into the grow below, the vines seem to go alive and attack them, while they are pelted by hail and driving rain.

Ember falls. Ugly Brute is impaled on a giant, poison thorn and Storm falls too. The survivors of the collapse are being killed by the swamp itself. Ember finds Storm and the two manage to find shelter in a cavernous interior formed of trees. Suddenly, a net drops on them--they are captured by the green mutants Ember met before!

What's more, they see something surprising over the edge of a nearby cliff:


Monday, April 4, 2016

5e Retro Character Record Sheet

A couple of people asked if I was going to release a blank version of the B/X-ish 5e record sheet I'm using for the Mortzengersturm pregens. I hadn't thought about it before, but I seems like a good idea. A proper pdf will arrive at some point, but here's the front and back with the Mortzengersturm elements removed.

Friday, April 1, 2016

More Pregen PC Portraits

Here's more great Jeff Call art for the pregens in my NTRPGcon game of Mortzengersturm, The Mad Manticore of the Prismatic Peak:

First up, ZABRA KABRA, Mistress of the Mystic Arts, Wizard (Enchanter):

And here's MINMAXIMUS THE MIGHTY, Dwarf Fighter (Champion):