Friday, November 17, 2017

The Justice League is Finally Here

Justice League is, by and large, the Justice League movie fan complaints about Man of Steel and Batman v Superman suggest they have been waiting for. It is more uneven and rough-edged than Wonder Woman, but it does put the DC cinematic universe on firm footing.

I would say the negativity in most of the critical reviews is a bit of a puzzlement to me, except that it isn't entirely. The polish and ready humor (bordering on outright comedy at times) of the Marvel films have set the yardstick by which these things are judged. Warner hasn't understood the memo (particularly Snyder) and the only thing to be done is to keep reading it to them until they do.

There was a time when superhero product wasn't so slick and by-the-numbers. Iron Man was original at one time, and it's follow-up reverted a bit to tried and true superhero film formula. Dark Knight is often considered the best superhero film ever, but it is completely bereft of comedy relief CGI characters that now seem a standard element at least of the Guardians of the Galaxy style Marvel films. The earlier Snyder films certainly have their faults, but as others have argued the dislike directed against them seems to have less to do with their cinematic failings than their approach to the characters.

Justice League responds to many of those complaints. We have heroes being heroic--and heroes finding their way to heroism after being lost in some way. There is humor, particularly from the Flash, who is different from his tv and comic incarnations to a degree, but has enough to charm to win you over. Momoa's Aquaman seemed like he might be tedious and one-note from the trailers, but I didn't find that to be the case. Though their on-screen development is necessarily limited, every one of the characters gets a bit of an arc that takes off and lands nicely (unlike say Valkyrie's disappearing alcoholism in Thor: Ragnarok). Much of the humor is kind of at Batman's expense, which serves to undercut any grimness or  the "hypercompetent Batman" that sometimes plagues the comics.

The setup of the film is very comic book like in structure. It establishes and moves on. This might feel choppy to some viewers and those not familiar with the characters and the universe might feel some things are under-explained. Atlanteans just are, as are Mother Boxes. The movie doesn't spend any time trying to make you accept either or give you more than the story-essential backstory.

The last two thirds of the film have more conventional pacing and cutting and fall into problem solving and fisticuffs. Superhero fights in film have gotten a bit tired by now, I think, and this film doesn't do anything to make me rethink that assessment, though it is far from the worst example. Flash's speed effect winds up being similar to Quicksilver's but it's utilized in a different enough way that it doesn't seem derivative. Wonder Woman is a badass, Aquaman is sort of reckless, Batman is out of his depth, but smart. Cyborg is lacking in confidence, but the key to defeating the villain.

The film has it's problems of course. Its villain continues the superhero film trend of being not terribly interesting. He's better realized than Wonder Woman's antagonist, at least. The CGI is strangely dodgy in spots, particularly in a sort of prologue (don't let that brief scene sour you on it). The color palette is still darker than ideal.

But you know what [and this is a SPOILER so you are warned]...

The mid-credits sequence is Flash challenging Superman to a race. It made me smile for comic book nostalgia reasons, which it as been a while since a Marvel film did that.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

In the Vicinity of Gyrfalcon, Everybody Has Their Hand Out

This week we had the second session of our GURPS Dungeon Fantasy campaign, "the Dungeons of Zyrd." It found the PCs bribing the snooty butler of the vintner and crime boss, Pnathfrem Lloigor, to gain access. They offered Lloigor their services for--well, something.

He admitted to doing a bit of trade in counterfeit world stones. These he acquires from the dwarf excisemen encamped near the Tower of Might in Castle Zyrd. Another group of adventures had gone to secure more forged jewels from the dwarves, but that party (led by the Brothers Salasius) were late in returning. They agreed to complete the task. They were to make contact with a dwarf named Rogov.

Setting out, they paid a flatboatman to take them across the Broad River and to wait for their return. A mile up the road, they found the way blocked by a group of hobgoblins who demanded tribute. The price was rather steep (every coin they had), so the party entered combat rather than negotiate with such an unreasonable group of humanoids.

Art by Iain McCaig
The hobgoblins had been neglectful in securing distance weapons, and this cost them. A rain of javelins, sling shot, arrows, and magical fire dropped two of them quickly and sent the other three running for the woods. Fearing reprisals from a larger hobgoblin band, the party pursued them, and cut them down in the forest.

That unpleasant business out of the way, they continued on toward Castle Zyrd.

Treasure: None; Deaths: 5 Hobgoblins.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Wednesday Comics: Popeye & Ghost Island

Bud Sagendorf began his career as E.C. Seegar's assistant on Thimble Theater (the strip that brought the world Popeye) as a teenager. In 1948, a decade after Seegar's death, Sagendorf produced Popeye stories for Dell Comics. IDW has been collecting those Dell stories in Popeye Classics.

Amid some forgettable Swee'pea one pagers, and mildly amusing comic strip-style shorts, there are two fun stories: "Death Valley" and "Ghost Island." In particular, "Ghost Island" is a certain charm with it's ghosts that look very much like people in sheets (well because--SPOILERS--they are). However, for much of the story Popeye is helpless against their mischief because he reasons fisticuffs are no good against incorporeal spirits.

Sagendorf's Popeye world is perhaps more fantasy than Segar's. Popeye seems to live on some island in an archipelago that includes other fantastical islands that appeared in the Segar strips. Here's a map Sagendorf supplies for Popeye's travels in "Ghost Island":

If your only going to read one set of Popeye reprints, I'd suggest The Segar strip reprints (particular the one with Plunder Island), but if you are interested in delving deeper, the Sagendorf stories are worth a look.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Weird Revisited: Beneath Rock Candy Mountain

This post originally appeared in November of 2010. It's genesis was a comment by Garrisonjim over at Hereticwerks. Jim is back blogging again, so it seemed appropriate:

It’s imparted by the sagacious urban druids that contemplate on street corners and rumored by stoned hobogoblins that pass canned heat ‘round campfires that there is an earthly paradise hidden in the great mountains of the West. The wondrous land’s fame has even spread to the world we know, where balladeers longingly recount the virtues of the Rock Candy Mountain or the Hobo’s Paradise.

The hidden mountain valley (so the tales claim) sits in the benevolent shadow of a mountain of candy (or at least with the appearance of such) and boasts trees which grow cigarettes, whiskey running in streams, and ponds of hearty stew. The inhabitants of the valley comport themselves like those in small towns elsewhere, but they are unfailingly friendly, even deferential, to the lowliest of visitors—perhaps especially the lowliest. No crimes against property are prosecuted; in fact, everything is given freely.

Adventurers, notorious hard cases (or thinking of themselves as such), scoff at those yarns. Calloused to eldritch horrors and exotic treasures alike, they’re disinclined to get misty over vagrants’ fairy tales of a hobotopia. Still, a few have caught the fever and gone looking over the years. As far as is known, none have returned.

Even in the tales, the way to the Hobo’s Paradise isn’t easy. Though the trail’s exact location is unknown, it’s believed to run treacherously through the cold heights of the Stoney Mountains. Mine slavers and road agents haunt the lower parts of the trail, while apemen guard the more remote passes.

These may not be the only dangers. Certain heterodox urban druids believe that this Paradise may not be what it appears from a distance. The air that should be fresh and sweet is instead choked with the stench of an abattoir. The whiskey streams are spiked with methanol and cause blindness, delirium, and death. And the smiling, wooden-legged constables and comic railyard bulls, aren’t benevolent—and aren’t even human behind their skin masks.

Could be that more than teeth rot in the shadow of the Rock Candy Mountain.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Underground Comics is Slowly Being Unearthed

Though we don't expect to release it until first quarter of 2018, the various creators involved in Underground Comics #1 are fired up and hard at work. Here's a bit of a "Sunday Comics Section" teaser of the work in progress:

A panel from Jason Sholtis's Operation Unfathomable story:

Part of an almost completed first page from James V. West's "Zarp: Croak of the Frost Toad":

And Jeff Call's Dungeon Dog gets some ink:

More to come!

Friday, November 10, 2017

In case you forgot: BUNDLE OF HOLDING OSR+5

The Bundle of Holding Old School Revival +5 (including all the fine products you see above like the Mortzengersturm digital edition) is still for 10 more days as of this writing. So you haven't missed out yet, but don't wait!

Also, the boys at DIY Games have extended an extra offer: Just send Mike Evans a receipt showing the purchase and he'll give you a discount on the print on demand version of Gathox. How cool is that?

Thursday, November 9, 2017

2000+ Posts

Today is actually blog post number 2003. It may not be what it was back in 2010, but I still think it's got life in it yet.

Here's a selection of posts to walk you down memory lane, one from every year:
Hateful Glare: The Beholder Examined (2010)
The Night Mail (2011)
In the Belly of the Beast (2012)
Cyclopes (2013)
Ruritanian Rogues (2014)
The Fae Moon (2015)
Mall Security 2020 (2016)
Again the Giants!: Sanctum of the Stone Giant Space God (2017)

This is not a best of but rather a "posts I thought were interesting that were not the most popular in their year."

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Slayer of Eriban (part 4)

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 Slayer of Eriban (1985) 
(Dutch: De Doder van Eriban) (part 4)
Art by Don Lawrence; script by Martin Lodewijk

In the unwilling service of  the assassin Renter Ka Rauw, Storm and friends set sail for the capital of the strangely shaped planetoid of Marrow. Not long after they are underway, Storm discovers a stowaway, a young boy who really wants to learn to play chess.

Renter immediately wants him thrown overboard. Storm tries to argue, but Renter reminds him who's boss:

Renter suggests a fishing vessel will like pick him up, but then two eel-like sheels come swimming toward him! Storm swims out to try and save him, and surprisingly Renter tries to help out as well. 

Ultimately, It falls to Ember to rescue Renter with a well-placed arrow, though he insists he never needed her help at all. Still, her efforts convince him to let the boy stay aboard until the next port.

Along the way, Storm teaches the boy chess, Renter even gets in on the game after picking up the rules by watching, but he throws a bit of a tantrum when Storm wins.

Soon, they arrive in the capital city of Rommily:

After docking, they say goodbye to the boy, Tillio, who plans to make a living teaching people chess. Renter plans to go into the city and find where the Barsaman games are going to be held. He takes Ember with him and commands Storm and Nomad to stay with the ship.

As soon as Renter is out of sight, Storm goes ashore too. He plans to find the authorities and warn them of Renter's planned assassination of their ruler. It reassures Nomad he'll be back before Renter and Ember return.

Storm locates some guards, but when he warns them of the assassination, he does get the response he hoped for.


Monday, November 6, 2017

Weird Revisted: The Tintype of Dark Wonder

The original version of this post appeared on November 2, 2010. This version has been lightly modified for 5e usage:

The Tintype of Dark Wonder is a magical artifact, often discovered at a carnival photography booth or in the possession of a street photographer. The photographer will not have taken the picture himself, nor will he know how it has come to be among his wares. It’s usually sold cheaply.

The small cult who follows the picture's movements, and chronicles them in iterations of the mimeographed or photostatted tract known as The Menagerie Grotesque, holds that it has its origins in drowned Meropis. No serious scholars view the cult as anything more than a collection of crackpots, so this, like all their other claims, are doubted. What is not in doubt, however, is that the item gives the possessor control over three magical entities, but at a price.

The possessor may summon the three, frankly ludicrous, animal caricatures pictured by simply holding the tintype, looking at the desired creature, and willing said creature to act in accordance with his will. When a creature is summoned it disappears from the picture, returning only when its task is complete. The creatures will act in the following manner:

The gluttonous frog: When called the frog will follow any individual the possessor wills. It will be invisible to all with magically aided vision but the possessor. The victim will find themselves with a growing appetite for food, sex, and other pleasures. Over time, these appetites will grow increasingly bizarre. The victim will gain weight, whether eating excessively or not. Over a period of 2-12 months they will become immensely fat and virtually immobile, and entirely depraved. A saving throw will allow the victim to intuit that they are under a curse. Remove curse will chase the frog away.

The lanky hound: When called, the hound begins harrying a victim. It will only be visible to the victim, the photo’s possessor, and those with magical sight. The hound will always stay far enough away from the victim so that it is a vague shape in the distance, or perhaps a distorted figure in the fog, glimpsed by peripheral vision. The hound's presence will cause the victim increasing feelings of dread and paranoia. Within a week, they will be suffering the effects of poor sleep. Within two, they will be unable to perform in any critical situations and be essentially homebound by fear--only being able to leave with a successful Wisdom save at disadvantage. The victim seeking out the hound and chasing it, will drive it away for a time, but it will return in 1d4 days. Only remove curse or the like will drive it away permanently.

The twisted eel: The twisted eel causes the degeneration of the body of the victim, by progressive nerve death, and crippling arthritis. The victim will feel the eel's cold-blooded presence but only the possessor and the magically sighted see it. After a 1-6 days of the eel’s influence, pain will cause a -1 [disadvantage] to all roles involving physical aptitude. After 2d4 weeks, dexterity and strength will begin to be reduced at a rate of 1 point a week. Healing magic will stave off loss for that week, but not halt the degeneration. When strength and dexterity are reduced to zero, constitution begins to decline at a rate of one point a day. Once again, remove curse or the like will drive away the eel.  If the eel is driven off before a score reaches zero, it will fully heal with time.

Death of the one who summoned the creature will also end its attack. If a remove curse drives the creature from its intended target, it will attempt to attack the possessor instead, unless a successful saving throw is made. Each possessor may only summon each creature once, after that the picture seems to be just a picture....except for the untoward attention it brings to the possessor from extraplanar entities, and sorcerous collectors eager to add the tintype to their collections.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Weekend Movies

A saw a couple of movies this weekend, and I both of them made me think of gaming in one way or another:

Everyone will tell you Thor: Ragnarok is the most fun of the Thor installments, and I can say it is the best of that lackluster franchise, but its pleasant in the moment farce doesn't entirely makeup for it's threadbare story, and lack of any dramatic core. What Thor: Ragnarok sort of reminded me of, though, is the conception of an rpg session versus its reality. Thor is the PC trying to cool and dramatic but fumbling. Surtur is the GM trying to present a heroic drama tone, but can't do it due to player interruptions. Goldblum's Grandmaster is the GM darling NPC who the GM finds more amusing than any of the players. In the end, the adventure doesn't come together in the way any of the participants were individually guiding it, but it's still a fun romp.

Free Fire by Ben Wheatley is kind of a more humorous Reservoir Dogs, if the shootout between the criminals near the end of Reservoir Dogs had been two-thirds of the movie. Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy, and other character actors are party to a gun deal gone bad for random reasons who wear each other down bullet by bullet, blow by blow. You wouldn't necessarily think a film that spends most of its length following wounded gangsters crawling around the dirt floor of an abandoned factory would be interesting, but it will surprise you. What this one reminded me of was a Boot Hill session. It's all down to the gunfight, injury and the maneuvering for cover and placement. In fact, a little reskinning and you could run a cool modern Boot Hill session with this premise.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Bundle of Holding Old School Revival + 5

A new Old School Revival Bundle of Holding has dropped and it is a doozy. Check out the two levels:

I personally own everything in the first block (and I wrote one of them!) and most of the stuff in the second, and I can say they are well worth full price, but to get them all together at such a discounted rate is not to be passed up.

As always ten percent of the payment goes to charity--in this case Human Rights Watch, so you can pruchase guilt free. You've got 19 days to pick it up, but why wait?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Wednesday Comics: Nocturnals: Sinister Path

Ignore the calendar. Halloween doesn't have to be over yet, not when there's a new Nocturnals graphic novel out. I backed the Kickstarter for Dan Brereton's Sinster Path, so I first mentioned it back in July, but now the nonbacker public can get it. The Kindle/Comixology versions are available, as is the soft cover, through sellers on Amazon.

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, October 30, 2017

Underground Comics

I'm proud to announce that Underground Comics is coming. In an unexpected turn, an idle G+ comment has become an anthology comic with a crew of stellar old school gaming artists: Jason Sholtis, James West, Jeff Call, Stefan Poag, Karl Stjernberg, and Luka Rejec. Coming along for the ride are myself and Billy Longino, penning a couple of stories, and pitching in elsewhere as we can.

Underground Comics will be 52 pages of black and white dungeon-related comic goodness, available in print on demand in 2018. Stay tuned for further updates as things develop!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Three Years in Azurth

October 20th marked the third anniversary on 5e Land of Azurth campaign, though we played our anniversary month game a couple of weeks earlier. The sessions have been about monthly, so it isn't as many adventures as it might be, but still is a milestone for a group of adults with busy lives.

In that time, the party has ventured briefly into the depths beneath the Clockwork Princess's Castle Machina. They defeated the schemes of a witch and cult of jaded gourmands in the Enchanted Wood. They took on the crime lords known as the Baleful Burly Brothers in Rivertown. The escaped the clutches of a manticore named Mortzengersturm. They explored a Cloud Castle and escaped a cloud giant wizard, Zykloon. The cleared out a wererat carnival. They rescued Gwendolin Goode from the Motely Pirates, and almost obtained the Confection Perfection from the Candy Isle.

Then things got really weird. They explored a floating Gelatinous Dome. They headed out into the Etheric Zone to break a Super-Wizard out of the Carnelian Hypercube. The investigated a whole in the ground and fell into a land of mushroom people, then a land of warring clans living in a ruined spacecraft, and hunted by invisible bugbears. Escaping their they were accosted by wooden gargoyle puppets, and encountered a weird control of dragon-wannabes, before finally getting whisked back to Azurth by the timely intervention of Father Yule on a windswept peak.

They were barely back in Rivertown when Shade's estranged mother sent them into the fairy-madness of House Perilous. Their adventures there included a brief sojourn to France. On their way back to Rivertown, they got sidetracked helping a milltown and forest overrun with iron woodsmen.

At the moment, they're looking for a fallen star in the caves of a group of Death Dwarfs.

Dagmar (Cleric): Andrea
Erekose (fighter): Bob
Kairon (sorcerer): Eric
Kully (bard): Jim
Shade (ranger): Gina
Waylon (thief): Tug

Thursday, October 26, 2017


Art by Jason Sholtis
Large monstrosity, neutral evil

Armor Class 15 (natural armor)
Hit Points 84 (8d10 + 40)
Speed 30 ft. (40 ft. on all fours)

 STR 18 (+4) DEX 13 (+1) CON 20 (+5) INT 7(-2) WIS 9 (-1) CHA 6 (-2)
Skills Perception +2
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 12
Languages Skarzg
Challenge 5 (1,800 XP)
Keen Smell. The skarzg has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on smell.
Regeneration. The skarg regains 10 hit points at the start of its turn. If  it takes acid or fire damage, this trait doesn’t function at the start of the skarzg’s next turn. The skarzg dies only if it starts its turn with 0 hit points and doesn’t regenerate.

Multiattack. The skarzg makes three attacks: one with its bite and two with its claws.
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 9 (1d10 + 4) piercing damage. If the target is a Medium or smaller creature, it is grappled (escape DC 14). Until this grapple ends, the target is restrained and the skarzg can’t bite another target.
Claw. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (2d4 + 4) slashing damage.

Skarzg are rapacious predators, animalistic but cunning. They are very hard to kill, and they will eat anything. Their origins are lost in the mists of time, though some believe they were brought to this world by the Ylthlaxu who used them in sadistic hunts. They now roam free in the wild places, though thankfully, not in great numbers.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Slayer of Eriban (part 3)

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 Slayer of Eriban (1985) 
(Dutch: De Doder van Eriban) (part 3)
Art by Don Lawrence; script by Martin Lodewijk

After docking the ship on the strange planetoid, Marrow, the young assassin, Renter, decides he needs to reconnoiter the city to figure out a way to get close to his target. He takes Ember with him to look less conspicuous: She can pass as his sister--or mother. Ember isn't pleased.

They see people entering some sort of arena and decide to check it out. They learn it's a sort of gladiatorial game called Barsaman. It's more than a game to the people of Marrow; it's practically a religion.

The columns lower at different rates, providing a constantly changing battlefield. In the end, only one competitor is left standing.

Renter is interested when he hears there is a more important Barsaman game coming:

He has figured out how he can get to his target. He returns to the ship with plans to sail to the capital. He finds that in his absence Storm and Nomad have been playing a new game--and they've got spectators.

Renter has no patience for such things. He tells them to set sail.

[Note: In the publication of this Story in Heavy Metal, Barsaman was called Barsball.]


Monday, October 23, 2017

Mortzengersturm: Back in Print

That manticore wizard is at it again on the Prismatic Peak. I have a few copies available of the adventure that Christopher Helton at Enworld declares "channels the darkness of an 80s fantasy movie through the lens of old Hanna Barbera cartoons" and John Arcadian at Gnome Stew calls "incredibly fun and whimsical."

Order soon, supplies are limited!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Duelling Babysitters

The Halloween season is upon us, and if that puts you in the mood for a horror-comedy about kids who seem a bit old to have babysitters in bloody confrontation with said babysitters, then there are options available for streaming. Before I go into details, I have to warn you that discussion of these films necessitates some spoilers, so if you are particularly adverse, the bottom line is both Better Watch Out and The Babysitter (2017) are worth checking out.

(here we go...)

Better Watch Out is also a Christmas film, and it suggests that Home Alone might have a lot to answer for. Precocious 12 year-old Luke and his medicine-cabinet raiding, bad influence best friend, Garrett seem to have learned its lessons in mayhem well. At first, though, all we know is that Luke has high hopes of seducing his 17 year-old babysitter, Ashley, involving watching horror films. Before his clumsy efforts get too far, there is apparently a home invasion, but all is not as it seems. Suffice it to say, Ashley spends a night trying to escape a pre-teen sociopath amid some gruesome deaths and a few booby traps.

The Babysitter is directed by the infamous McG and is consequently more over-the-top than Better Watch Out, and bit more farcically humorous. Here, the 12 year-old is Cole, who is bullied by neighbors and suffers from anxiety about almost everything, but he does have a very attractive and almost preternaturally cool babysitter, Bee, who genuinely seems to enjoy spending time with him. The downside is that Bee is the leader of a Satanic cult and she and her cult of evil high school stereotypes have sacrificed a guy in Cole's living room after a game of spin the bottle. Cole must find his courage to make it through the night, and in the process deliver improbable and occasionally gory cinematic deaths to the Satanic teens.

So you've got choices: evil charge or evil babysitter. Then again, you could just make it a double feature.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Weird Revisted: Hobogoblin Garbage Kings!

This post related to the City and Weird Adventures first appeared on Halloween in 2011. I think I may can coined the term "nyfitsanthropy."

The City generates a lot of garbage, and most of it goes to the expansive Klaw Island landfill. Marshy Klaw Island has always had a sparse human population, but the coming of the landfill with its hills of garbage and pits of refuse has drawn gangs of hobogoblins.

The hobogoblins have divided up into tribes with zealously guarded territories. They mine the garbage for usable (and saleable) items. Hobogoblin “alchemists” have become adepted and making various minor potions with the most dubious of alchemical wastes, and can distill hooch from virtually anything organic.

The hobogoblins must defend their holdings from monsters of various sorts, attracted to the waste. They’ve been able to train giant rats as guard animals to protect their settlements from giant insects, aggressive fungi, or hungry otyughs. In years past, inbred wererat clans sometimes contested the hobogoblin hegemony, but periodic eradication and vaccination campaigns by City sanitation officials seemed to have sharply curtailed (if not eradicated) nyfitsanthropy on the island.

Hobogoblin legends tell of the first and greatest of the landfill kingdoms, Wastenot, a scrap Atlantis now sunk beneath the brackish waters of Lake Zathogua. Hubris of the swells in Wastenot led to neglect of due tribute to the beast of the lake, and all of Wastenot’s “grandeur” was pulled down by pale and vengeful tentacles in a single night.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Castle Zyrd Treasures: The Jeweled Thief

One of the most unusual treasures rumored to be have once resided (and perhaps does still) in the Castle of Zyrd is the remains of the once-famed thief, Kathulos, who specialized in the theft of valuable jewels. The archmage Zryd (so the story goes) for a time dabbled in the creation of miniature worlds within large, semiprecious stones. He would populate these worlds with animalcules and homuncules and watch their lives play out with in.

A cabal of sorcerers of Carsulth, rightly fearful of the archmage, but also covetous of his knowledge and art, hired Kathulos to infiltrate Zyrd's Tower of Magic and bring one of the world stones back for their study. The thief was supplied with certain charms to aid his trespass--minor ones lest Zyrd be alerted by arcane means the cabal all agreed he must possess--and given a substantial advance against the sum of his final remuneration to be paid upon delivery.

The existence of the jeweled statue of Kathulos argues persuasively that the initial phase of his mission was successful, but latter portions less so. The prevailing belief is that Zyrd transmuted the substance of Kahtulos's living body to ruby or something very like it it. Some legends say the thief still lives in this state, after a fashion.

It goes without saying that a human-sized statue made of gemstone would be quite valuable--an emperor's ransom--but of course the not-insignificant difficulties in carting it away are likely smaller than the attendant difficulty of finding a suitable and trustworthy buyer. The world stones that Kathulos sought are a far more reasonable prize, though the jeweled thief remains a singular cautionary tale against their pursuit.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Wednesday Comics: The Clandestinauts

Comics don't get much more D&D than Tim Sievert's The Clandestinauts. There are, of course, others to mine this territory (including the Intrepideers, which Sievert also did some issues of), but the Clandestinauts has pretty much perfected a combination of random death, weird encounters, seat-of-the pantaloons improvisation, and  character casualness to the above that really feels like something out of a longrunning campaign.

The Clandestinauts starts in media res with an established group of adventurers in the thick of things in a dungeon. Things are not going well:

They manage to make it out of this predicament, but then the part gets split for a while, having encounters both dangerous and at times a bit farcical before coming together again. The characters are not particularly heroic, though they are competent enough to do this job--if not in a particularly elegant way.

Obviously not completely serious, but not a lampoon either, Sievert shows up the gaming dungeoncrawl as it generally is, not how D&D fiction (or some adventure designers) would like it to be. Check it out.It's free to read!

Monday, October 16, 2017

More Operation Unfathomable Comics Pages

Here are more of the comics pages that will appear in the Operation Unfathomable Player's Guide, coming soon.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Castle Zyrd Rumors

Rumors abound regarding the castle, that crumbling yet still imposing ruin, built by the quite possibly mad archmage whose name it bears, Zyrd.  Here are a few of them told only scant leagues away in the taverns of Gyrfalcon:

1. The environs of the castle exist in a bubble of twisted time and possibility, they are both ruined and unruined, and sometimes one can walk between these worlds. Some say this is due to Zyrd imprisoning a manifestation of the Cosmic Androgyne of Neutrality within his donjon.

2. The octagonal Tower of Might holds all prizes ever taken by the All-Brawler Tyco Wraxl, but to take it will call forth the great warrior from Hall of Heroes for another match.

3. Zyrd still lives, in fact, he was never a wizard at all, but an avatar of the demiurge, Gigas.

4. The Tower of Magic once was a conduit for magical energy. Now that it is broken, the use of spells is dangerous within it.

5. A heretical order of Issian monks sells relics of arcane power somewhere within the castle.

6. An Elven Commando unit resides on the castle grounds. They have long ago lost contact with their commanders in Ylvewood and their methods have become unsound.

7. A golden sphere lies somewhere deep beneath the ruins and grants wishes.

Art by Gary Chalk
8. Some rogues choose to waylay wounded delvers exiting the ruins and relieve them of their loot rather than braving its dangers themselves.

9. The dwarves claim all the underground treasure as their own and their excisemen prowl the ruins to tax looters.

10. There are several enigmatic wizards within the ruins. All of them have claimed to be Zyrd.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The World of the Glass Harmonica

It has been argued before, that Barbara Ninde Byfield's 1967 "Lexicon of the Fantastical," The Glass Harmonica (republished in 1973 as The Book of the Weird) was an influence on D&D. It's easy to understand why, given Byfield's atmospheric illustration and whimsical prose. While it would certainly be a variant, more fairytalish world, I think you could do a lot worse than basing a campaign on the details from the book.

Here's a few tidbits:

"If times are not propitious for battle, Berserkers tend to sink into lethargy and untidiness and show interest in little save becoming Werewolves."

"Dragons drag; they are lazy  and sluggish and prefer to live on their reputations...Like Nobility they take place names for their own."

"Dwarves own all treasure underground, and all treasure that originated underground. Dwarves do not steal; they reclaim what belonged to them in the beginning."

"Frogs live under a Monarchy."

"Gnomes have an unfortunate tendency to become transformed into toads; their King is particularly prone to this enchantment."

"[Witches and Warlocks] lead disorderly lives, hate salt, and cannot weep more than three tears."

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Strange Stars Reviews

I couple of Strange Stars reviews went up this week. One for the OSR Gamebook and the other for the sourcebook. Both of there are by that reviewing machine Endzeitgeist. Also, here's a review I recently discovered from back in 2015. Any news you haven't heard is still news!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Wednesday Comics: Head Lopper #7

Andrew MacLean's quarterly heroic fantasy comic Head Lopper is now up to issue #7, the third part of the "And the Crimson Tower" arc. (I discussed the first part here.) In an trap-filled "dungeon" environment belonging to Ulrich the Twice Damned, Head Lopper and friends are trying to collect a number of crystal eyes by overcoming a unique challenge.

MacLean's characters and story continue to be engaging and his art, while perhaps not to some tastes, is dynamic and serves the story well. I just wish it came out more often! Quarterly is not enough.

If you're new to Head Lopper, you should check out the collection of the first arc.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Shooting Stars & Death Dwarfs

Our 5e Land of Azurth campaign continued last night (brining an end to our 2nd year of this campaign), with Dagmar (Dwarf Cleric), Waylon (Frox Thief), Kully (Bard), Kairon (Demonlander Sorcerer), Shade (Elf Ranger), and Erekose (Fighter) making their way back to Rivertown after a series of adventures, when they see a falling star. It's large enough and close enough that they hear an impact so they decide to go an investigate.

In the foothills of the Dragonspine Mountains they find a crater in the side of a hill and evidence that the squarish thing that made the crater got taken away by some sort of humanoids. The track leads to a partially collapsed cave entrance. Inside are several dead creatures that Kully and Dagmar recognize as Death Dwarfs apparently killed by the cave collapse precipitated by the impact.

Given the unnaturalness (even anti-naturalness) of Death Dwarfs, Shade feels that need to root out this evil, and the others at least want to see what they are up to. They find another entrance to beneath the hill, this time through a natural cave. There, they encounter 7 Death Dwarfs and slay them in a quick battle.

Passing through a submerged passage, they find a hopelessly insane human slave moving rocks for the Death Dwarfs. The follow him back to a room with falls an floor covered with a disorienting black and white chevron pattern and kirby-esque machinery crushed by the cave in. Here, more human slaves are working under the watchful eye of seven more Dwarfs. These go down even quicker than the last, but three display a previously unrevealed ability to turn invisible and escape.

Following them down the passage, Erekose and Waylon kick in a door to find more Death Dwarfs studying a 7 foot metallic cube.

To be continued!