Thursday, March 22, 2018

DC at Marvel: Bring On the Bad Guys

This is a follow-up to this post and those that came after.


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R                 GD (10)
I                   EX   (20)
P                  EX   (20)
Health: 120
Karma: 50
Resources: GD (10)

Real Name: Anton Hastor
Occupation: KGB special operative
Identity: Known to authorities
Legal Status: Citizen of the USSR
Place of Birth: Unknown
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: None
Base of Operations: Previously New York City, now Moscow
Group Affiliation: Former Soviet Super-Soldier

Nth Metal Armor: All powers and enhanced abilities derive from a powered nth metal exoskeleton he wears Without it, his physical stats at F TY, A GD, S GD, E GD. The Armor possess Incredible Material Strength and has the following powers:
Body Armor: Incredible rank.
Flight: Remarkable airspeed.
Energy Blast: Remarkable damage.
Solar Absorption: Remarkable rank.
Self-Sustenance: 1 hour air supply.
Talents: Trained spy, engineer.

History: Anton Hastor either is (or believes himself to be) the reincarnation of an Egyptian high priest. He is obsessed with killing Hawkman and Hawkgirl, but wishes to still all of Hawkman's inventions for the Soviet Union as well.


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E                 RM   (30)
R                 EX (20)
I                   GD   (10)
P                  EX   (30)
Health: 100
Karma: 60
Resources: EX (20)

Real Name: Carol Ferris
Occupation: Queen of the Femizons; Acting head of Ferris Aerospace
Identity: Secret
Legal Status: Citizen of the United States with no criminal record
Place of Birth: Los Angeles, California
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: Carl Ferris (father)
Base of Operations: Central City, California
Group Affiliation: Queen of the Femizons

Star Sapphire: All powers are derived from jewel of Amazing material strength she wears.
Energy Blasts: Amazing rank.
Force Blasts: Amazing Rank.
Force Field: a solidified energy shield of Amazing rank in a single area.
Flight: Incredible air speed within atmosphere, Class 3000 in space
Life Support: A life-support field, providing breathable air and protection from the elements, as well as an Amazing force field. This field can be sustained even if she is unconscious.
Phasing: Remarkable rank.
Talents: Pilot, business.
History: Ferris is the boss and sometimes love interest of Hal Hogan, the Green Lantern. On a solo flight across the California desert, Ferris was transported to the 23rd Century (though she was initially allowed to believe it was a different planet) where a gynocratic civilization known as the Sisterhood of Femizonia had emerged in North America after a nuclear war. The sacred jewel fallen from space the Sisterhood venerated told them to select Ferris as their queen. The jewel pushed Ferris to proof her superiority to men by defeating Green Lantern.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Hounds of Marduk

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 Hounds of Marduk (1985) 
(Dutch: De Honden van Marduk) (part 4)
Art by Don Lawrence; script by Martin Lodewijk

An aircraft carrying the newly evolved hound and a group of the Theocrat's soldiers lands in a field outside of town. They carry with them a device to locate the Anomaly aka Storm.

Meanwhile, Storm and friends are meeting with the rebel leader. He wants to know why Storm as the Anomaly is so important to Marduk. Storm reluctantly explains Marduk's theory as to how his travel through time and space has filled his body with some sort of energy. Storm demonstrates:

But that's enough to make him show up on the Hound's device. The Theocrat's men track Storm to an abandon temple.

The rebel leader tries to sell Storm on letting the rebellion harness his power. Storm isn't buying it. The rebels detect the incoming Theocrat troops. The temple is full of ancient traps. They kill some of the troops, but the Hound figures out how to avoid them and a contingent makes it through. I firefight breaks out, and the rebel leader attempts to get Storm and friends away.

The Hound, again thinking quickly, uses a prismatic Tear of Pandarve to reflect the energy beam from the booby trap against the rebel forces.

He leads the Theocrat's men forward, but they are stymied by another trap.

Meanwhile, Storm and friends have had about enough of being pushed around by the rebels:

Unaware what's going on in the other room. The rebel leader surrenders to the Hound and his troops who have just made in through. He promises to give them the anomaly in return for his life.


Monday, March 19, 2018

Crashing the Sea King's Party in a Yellow Submarine

Imagine this underwater
Our 5e Land of Azurth campagin continued last night with the party hearing a desperate plea for aid from Old Freedy, the kaleidoscopic tophat-wearing frogling ambassador from the Land of Under-Sea. It seems the utopia of Under-Sea has been overrun by the evil toad people from beyond the Blue Wall. Kully's father, Cory, and the cat-man Calico Jack were in Under-Sea at the time and are now aiding the froglings in finding champions.

The party quite reasonably wonders what they can do against a toad people army. Old Freedy explains that their are not actually that many toads, but that are too tough for the froglings to handle. The party was suggested by Cory Keenstep and Calico Jack (who had heard of them through his sister, Calico Bonny). Freedy discloses they have hired the party's old friend, the steam-powered  Commodore Cog to command the submarine craft they brought from Under-Sea.

This is all pretty incredible, but the most adventurous members of the party are eager to do it, and they overrule the more strictly avarous members. The first step (Freedy now reveals) is rescuing Cory Keenstep from the Sea King's folly. It seems he beat the libertine old merman in cards too many times, and the King won't let him go until he has gotten his money back.

The party traveled down a tube of airy water to the Sea King's palace. Only the female members were allowed inside by the sahuagin guard. They learn that the Sea King is sulking in his sanctum to avoid his ex-wife Cecaelia, who had taken over the second floor lounge. She was monopolizing Cory's attentions there. On a tip from some sea elf party-girls, Shade drugged an octopus body guard so that the males in the party could sneak in the back door. Unfortunately, the sahuagin and his four sharks caught them in the act and a bloody underwater melee ensued. The party was victorious, but at least 3 were seriously wounded.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Azurth Digest--Still copies available

The first issue of the Azurth Adventures Digest  print edition is still on sale, but only about 10 copies remain! Twenty-eight full color pages at 5.5 in. x 7.75 in. with art by Jeff Call and Jason Sholtis. There are random tables for the generation of quirky Motley pirates, a survey of interesting and enigmatic islands, and a mini-adventure on the Candy Isle. Plus, there are NPCs and a couple of monsters, all straight from my Land of Azurth 5e campaign.

 Go here for the print(+pdf) edition, while supplies last. If you only want the pdf, well, that's always available here.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Kickstarters Fulfilled

I've had several Kickstarters I backed drop their products in the last few weeks, and though some of them had longer than expected waits, I've been pretty pleased. Here's a brief rundown:

Talislanta: The Savage Land is a "prequel" to Talislanta as we traditionally have known it, written (at least in part) by Talislanta's creator Steven Michael Sechi. It's more barbaric setting loses so of the Vancian nature of the original and the various cultures are often familiar but different which will take so getting used to, but it has the creativity I expect from a Talislanta book and probably the highest production values yet.

Paladin: Warriors of Charlemagne adapts Pendragon's rules to Charlemagne's court as depicted in the Song of Roland and related Romances. I haven't dug much into this one yet, but Pendragon has a good ruleset, and this is a setting that has always interested me.

Aquelarre is the English translation of a well-regarded Spanish rpg. It bills itself as "A Medieval Demonic Roleplaying Game" which says it all really. Just browsing it, I'm really digging the wealthy of detail on the setting, broken down in easy to digest, pretty playable pieces. There are a host of classes like Muccadim (Jewish militia in ghettos) and Goliardo (licentious, worldly young monks) (the whole chargen system reminds me a bit of WFRP at first blush) and a number of monsters from Basque and Spanish folklore.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

DC at Marvel: Green Lantern--Most Cosmic Hero of Them All!

This is a follow-up to this post.


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I                   EX   (20)
P                  IN   (40)
Health: 120
Karma: 70
Resources: GD (10)
Popularity: 20

Real Name: Harold "Hal" Hogan
Occupation: Test Pilot
Identity: Secret
Legal Status: Citizen of the United States with no criminal record.
Place of Birth: Riverside, Iowa
Marital Status: Single
Known Relatives: None
Base of Operations: Central City, California
Group Affiliation: the Green Lanterns; the Avengers

Power Bands: Green Lantern's powers are derived from the power bands he wears on his wrists. He can utilize one effect per round, but can maintain up to 3 effects with a successful Psyche FEAT roll.
Energy Blasts: Monstrous rank.
Force Field: a solidified energy shield of Monstrous rank in a single area.
Flight: Incredible air speed within atmosphere, Class 3000 in space
Life Support: A life-support field, providing breathable air and protection from the elements, as well as a Monstrous force field. This field can be sustained even if he is unconscious.
Energy Solidification: Monstrous ability to create and shape solidified energy. Power stunts include:

  • Containers of Monstrous material strength
  • Carrying Monstrous Loads
  • Acting as a limb of Monstrous Strength

Phasing: Excellent rank.
Mystic Lantern: The countainer for the Green Flame energy which powers his bands is a green lantern made of Unearthly strength material. The lantern may be invisible at Amazing rank, if Green Lantern wills it.
Limitation: The power bands must be recharged in close proximity to the lantern every 24 hrs. or they lose their powers.
Weakness: Without his power bands, Green Lantern's Strength and Endurance drop to Good and Excellent, respectively.

Hal Hogan has Remarkable knowledge of piloting, aeronautics, and navigation.

History: See the previous post for his origin.

After managing to survive an all-out assault by the Baron Sinestro, Blastaar, and a force of Qwardian Thunderers from the Negative Zone, the Guardians of the Universe summoned Hal Hogan to bestow upon him greater power. His ring was transformed into twin power bands, through which flowed even greater power.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Weird Revisited: We Have All Become God's Madmen

This post first appeared in 2012.

[This view of clerics follows from my post "Apocalypse Underground"]

The clerics aren't priests. Before the underground was discovered, Man had priests--and gods whose intercession they sought. Their prayers had been in vain. The old gods had abandoned Man to the monsters.

Then the clerics came. Their gods were unyielding of personifications of law. They marked their chosen with fits, visions, and miracles of faith. Their precepts were few: Destroy chaos and evil, protect the innocent.

The monsters are (in the view of the clerics) chaos and evil manifest. The clerics wage a savage holy war against the denizens of the underground and are willing to martyr themselves in the service of their gods.

The clerics sometimes use titles of the old priestly hierarchy, but all clerical groups are cults founded around a charismatic leader who is considered strong in the faith due to the spiritual power he or she wields.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

DC at Marvel: High-Flyin' Hawkman

This is a follow-up to this post.


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R                 RM (30)
I                   EX   (20)
P                  EX   (20)
Health: 80
Karma: 70
Resources: GD (10)
Popularity: 20

Real Name: Henry Carter Hall
Occupation: Inventor, adventurer
Identity: Secret
Legal Status: Citizen of the United States with no criminal record.
Place of Birth: Chicago, Illinois
Marital Status: Married.
Known Relatives: Susan Sanders Hall (wife)
Base of Operations: New York City
Group Affiliation: Partner of Hawkwoman, Avengers

Winged Flight: His artificial wings and nth metal belt (Unearthly material) allow Hawkman to fly at Remarkable speed.
Avian Communication: Cybernetic circuitry incoporated into his cowl allow him to command birds at Remarkable ability.

Hawkman has Remarkable knowledge of aerial combat. He is a brillaint scientist skilled in Electronics, Physics, Biophysics. Orinthology, and Engineering. He also has the Repair/Tinkering talent, and is an armchair Egyptologist.

History: Henry "Hank" Hall, scientist and inventor, was experimenting with a metal of extraterrestrial origin that could be used to produced antigravity effects. He dubbed "nth metal" which had been recovered from a meteorite in Africa. He attended an exhibition of newly discovered artifacts at a local museum to investigate his theory that the  Ancient Egyptians had utilized nth metal in tools.

At the exhibition, Hall surreptitiously exposed a ceremonial dagger he suspected of being nth metal to high frequency sound waves. Energy emitted by the dagger caused Hall to experience a vision of the distant past that felt like he had lived it. He was an ancient Egyptian prince who was slain along with his betrothed by a treacherous and power-hungry high priest. Unknown to Hall, two others present experienced that same vision. Susan Sanders saw it through the eyes of the Prince's wife to be, and Anton Hastor, a Soviet agent who had been monitoring Hall's research, felt he had been the high priest.

The three left somewhat disoriented, but Hastor kidnapped Sanders on her way home, planning to use her to coerce Hall into turning over his nth metal research, then kill the both of them as he believed he had done in his previous life.

Hall agreed to meet Hastor and turn over his notes, but instead donned his experimental wings and nth metal lift belt, a cybernetic helmet he had been working on to communicate with birds, and a makeshift costume. He rescued Sanders in the guise of Hawkman.

Hall and Sanders instantly fell in love. She suggested he continued fighting crime as Hawkman and had him build fight gear for her so that she could assist him as Hawkgirl.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Marvelous DC Universe

Here's a superhero rpg campaign idea: What if DC had outsourced their Silver Age revival to Atlas/Marvel? Nevermind that there is not really any reason they would have done this, but imaging what it might have been like has a lot of possibilities.

In general, I think it would mean more commie villains in the early days, more contentiousness relationships with supporting characters, and more angst for the characters themselves. This would mean re-imagining the characters that were revamped in the 50s, so Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Arrow would stay the same (at least at initial concept).

What would this do for you? Well, allow you to recreate a lot of DC characters in a Mighty Marvel manner, and give you both universes to plunder for something both fresh and familiar.

Here's an example:

Hal Hogan is an Air Force pilot, flying an experimental spy plane over Southeast Asia when he is shot down. He is captured by red guerillas and in mortal peril thanks to a piece of shrapnel lodged close to his heart! Imprisoned, he meets a strange old man named Yinsen who reveals to him a green lantern carved from a fallen star and a ring. The light of the Green Flame in the lantern stays the motion of the shrapnel and saves Hogan's life, at least temporarily. Yinsen explains he has been an agent of mysterious beings known as the Guardians of the Universe for hundreds of years, but he is too old to continue, and they directed him to choose a successor as the Green Lantern, the protector of this world. He has chosen Hogan to be that successor. Donning the ring (which must be recharged once a day with the Lantern) Hal Hogan becomes one with the Green Flame of Life. He is the Green Lantern!

Hogan escapes the communist forces and returns to America. His injury gets him discharged from the military, but he gets a job at Ferris Aircraft. The owner, Carl Ferris doesn't fully trust Hogan. He believes he was compromised during his time in communist hands. His daughter Carol, though. is in love with the handsome flyboy. Neither is aware that Hogan is secretly the Green Lantern.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Hounds of Marduk

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 Hounds of Marduk (1985) 
(Dutch: De Honden van Marduk) (part 3)
Art by Don Lawrence; script by Martin Lodewijk

The tattooed fisherman who rescue Storm, Nomad, and Ember come from a place called Pandarve's Ribs. Ember won't seem to wake up. The fisherman explains that she must have taken in some of the waste-water from the sewer, which has an intoxicating effect.

Meanwhile, the hound of Marduk they encountered previously has run far to the north. Marduk still watches through the creature's eyes. he and his servants don't know where the it was when it saw Storm, so they have no clue as to where to find him.

The fisherman take Ember to their shaman to cure her. The old man proclaims that since she is in "the sleep of Pandarve, only Pandarve's breath" can save her:

As no one can be "naked" on the Ribs, Storm and Nomad are sent off to get temporary tattoos while Ember is treated.

As days past, the hound makes its way back to its master. Marduk has an idea of what to do to allow the hound to tell him Storm's location. He transforms him into a humanoid form so he is capable of speech:

Back on the ribs, members of the Anti-Marduk group that was trying to capture Storm in the city sneak up and kidnap Ember. She awakens before they make their escape, and her cries summon Storm and Nomad. They threaten to kill Ember if Storm won't come with them.

Angrily, he agrees, and they leave the island in a small boat.


Monday, March 5, 2018

Weird Revisited: Magic from Davy Jones' Locker

This post first appeared in November of 2012. The magic items were intended for the world of Weird Adventures, but could be used anywhere.

Besides the riches dredged up from the wrecks at the bottom of Dead Man's Cove, the treasure grotto of the Phantom Diver contains several maritime magic items:

Spyglass: This brass spyglass allows the user to look back into the past as well as into the distance. 1d4 indicates hours, days, months, or years into the past; d20 indicates how many, at GM's discretion.

Diver's Helmet: This antique diver's helmet smells of the briny depths. It allows the wearer to see the shades of things that have died in the area, all the way back to the dawn of life. Spirits appear almost like neon lights, translucent, faintly glowing and colorful.

Whaler's Harpoon: This antique and somewhat rusted tool has a blade strangely unblunted by time. It's a normal weapon against man-sized or smaller creatures but +1 against large adversaries and +2 against anything bigger than that.

Walrus Tusk Scrimshaw: Yellowed tusk engraved with a swirling pattern that perhaps depicts eddies and currents. When held, it allows command of pinnipeds and communication with selkies. Hungry killer whales and sharks, however, will be drawn to anyone holding it.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Adventures on Weird Worlds

Jason "Dungeon Dozen" Sholtis and I were talking the other day about the potential for D&D or Gamma World-esque adventures in a setting inspired by the Silver Age version of Superman's Krypton or Adam Strange's Rann. I've blogged about inspiration from elements of these worlds before (the maps, here, here, and here--and monsters!), but the idea we were bouncing around was sort of a "Dying Krypton" setting. What if there was no cataclysmic destruction but instead civilization just sort of wound down. (Rann already is sort of post-apocalyptic, though recovering.)

How would this sort of setting differ from the usual Dying Earth or even Carcosa? A glance at those maps provides a clue. The planets are fool of a lot of weird, possibly even goofy locales and monsters. They are evocative and intriguing but made up as color in mostly low violence kid's publications of forty years ago, and so are a completely different line of evolution from the pulp fiction that proceeded it than most old school game material. A vein of untapped gold.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Operation Unfathomable by Blacklight

I shoulded the proof of concept version of this cover before, but here's the mostly final version of cover of the DCC Conversion of Operation Unfathomable:

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Annihilation and the Dungeoncrawl

Some relatively non-spoilery ways I think the movie adaptation of Annihilation could inform dungeoncrawls:

1. Relatively mundane creatures with an odd twist can create atmosphere, but also a more interesting threat.
2. Oddly behaving things can create a sense of menace without actually doing anything hostile.
3. Dressing a locale is important. The details don't have to be extensive, but they should set the adventuring environment apart from mundane environments.
4. Even a map-able/navigable terrain can be made to feel disorienting or untrustworthy.
5. The terrain itself may be toxic to the visitor. (Operation Unfathomable already points in this direction, as no doubt others have.)
6. The remains and things left behind by those who went before can provide useful clues, but also add to a sense of dread.

My previous posts on Roadside Picnic-inspired elements might be helpful here, too.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Weird Revisited: The Phantasmagoric Lantern of Kulu Tu

This post originally appeared in March of 2010. Kulu was the name of an NPC created by my cousin, who dungeonmastered my earliest games of D&D.

The exact number of these items in existence is unknown, but it's theorized to be less than seven. Tavern-tales attribute their creation to the infamous Kulu the Illusionist, but these devices are actually the products of an unknown--though no less malign--genius.

These devices appear like any other mundane example of the primitive slide-projectors known as magic lanterns, the only difference being there is no way to change the slide being projected. When activated by placing a candle inside, the device projects strange and unsettling images of distorted, ghost-like figures and beasts. The projected image is larger and more distinct when a magical light-source is used, like a hand of glory, for example.

The image projected is no static scene, but a glimpse of the Negative Material Plane. The longer the device is left on, the thinner the "skin" between worlds becomes until the beings, the phantoms, from that plane are able to enter the Prime Material. When seen in the wan light of the projector the phantoms are ghostly pale, but when they pass out of the projector's cone of light, they become deep, featureless shadow. Their touch drains living things, indeed their very presence can can cause the wilting of nearby plants.

When the phantoms first emerge into the Prime Material, they may be given the name of a single individual. This individual the phantoms will seek out and drain with their life-stealing touch until he is dead. The phantoms are able to travel at great speed, perhaps by traversing between points of mundane shadow, so distance is no obstacle, but it does take time for them to locate the individual (by what ever eldritch means they utilize) and this process seems to take longer for more distant targets.

If they are prevented from getting to the individual, they will continue to try to do so until they are destroyed, or they dissipate. Phantoms drawn forth by light from a normal candle or other mundane light-source can only hold coherent form for twenty-four hours in the Prime Material, and every moment spent in bright sunlight doubles the rate of dissipation. Phantoms drawn forth by a magical light-source in the lantern will last for a week, or perhaps more, depending on the potency of the magic used, but are still just as susceptible to bright sunlight.

The wise user never allows more than three phantoms to emerge before extinguishing the lantern. More than that number, and the phantoms become likely to act more willfully, killing the summoner and anyone else they find rather than heeding a command. If the lantern is left lit and unattended, phantoms will continue to emerge until the light-source burns itself out, and wander out into the world with undirected malevolence.

The lantern can be used to study the beings of the Negative Material Plane, but only if care is taken to limit the length of its usage so that no phantoms emerge.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Completely Unfathomable Covered

Jason Sholtis and the rest of Hydra are still at work on the various Operation Unfathomable stretch goals. Jason and I have been bandied about cover ideas. Here's the latest (and possibly final, but you never know) for the omnibus Completely Unfathomable based on classic bubblegum card packaging:

Friday, February 23, 2018

Exploration, Hold the Violence

It's a common reframe that old school games are less about killing that later D&D. This idea is supported by an experience system that favors treasure acquisition over killing. Still, the idea of killing something and taking its stuff, or the description of characters as "murderhobos" seems pretty ingrained.

A fair amount of fantasy fiction suggests a different approach. The characters in the short stories that make up Vance's Dying Earth are not adverse to employing violence, but it isn't their first resort, nor are an of them warriors by trade.The number of kills attributable to the protagonists in these stories is pretty low. A number of Clark Ashton Smith stories are similar, as is Lovecraft's Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, just to name a few.

I wonder if the sort of adventure found in these stories would be adventurous enough for players accustom to heavy monster slaying? I think it would be interesting to really focus on the exploration and social encounters (and a bit of treasure). It would challenge both players and DMs in a sort of different way. The XP system as currently constituted doesn't necessarily support this (5e has a variant that might, but it's fairly loose), but I think it's worth thinking about.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Hounds of Marduk

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 Hounds of Marduk (1985) 
(Dutch: De Honden van Marduk) (part 2)
Art by Don Lawrence; script by Martin Lodewijk

With their way blocked in front and behind, Storm and his companions go to the side--through a bathhouse. Their pursuers plunge in after them, running into the already irate bathers. On the other side of the house, Nomad knocks done one of the wooden support pillars, purposely collapsing the front of the building.

It only buys our heroes a few minutes to make their escape through a sewer grate. Their pursuers note the grate has been disturbed saying the Anomaly has fled downwards into "the gullet." This means certain death!

Meanwhile, in the sewers. Ember is puzzled by the lack of rats. When the walls take on a flesh, pink appearance, Nomad realizes where they must be:

He explains to his friends that some coastal towns connect their sewer systems into the maws of giant, unmoving worms who feed on the cities' effluvia. They have entered such a gullet, if they don't go back, they will be digested in acid. It's already too late. The walls have pinched off behind them.

On the surface, the pursuers realize they can't go into the gullet after the Anomaly. Instead, there leader has the idea to find the sewer-doctor. This veternarian is responsible for the gullet's health. When asked, he reveals they sometimes flush indigestible things from the worm with water from a large sluice. The leader demands orders his men to open the sluice as wide as possible, over the doctor's protests that it might kill the gullet.

Within the gullet, Storm and friends trill cutting their way out to no avail. The water pressure sends gratings flying all over the city, then:

The worm's spasms and the blast of water send our heroes shooting out into the ocean. They barely escape drowning and luckily and picked up by a fisherman.


Monday, February 19, 2018

The Unfathomable

Our 5e Land of Azurth game continued last night with the party undertaking a journey to Subazurth and the uncharted region of chaotic, wild magic called "The Unfathomable." This was an adaptation of Jason Sholtis's Operation Unfathomable with a modification of backstory as presented yesterday.

The party journeyed via boat on an underground river from Rivertown in Yanth Country to Troglopolis in Subazurth. From there, they were guided to the entrance to the Unfathomable, separated the Troglopolitan region by a chasm spanned by a tongue bridge from the devil-visaged entrance. The took the admission for stealth and monster-avoidance to heart. They were also, pretty lucky with random encounter rolls.

The crossed the seemingly never-ending googlopede. Everyone but Waylon the Frogling demured from trying the fungal offerings of the mushroom folk, and he got a gray growth that made him decidely less charismatic until it healed. They met a strange, depressed cyclops, who they tried to counsel. Then, Kully the Bard and Shade the Ranger fought three brain-bats, but made quick work of them.

They found a strange floating vessel and soon discovered it belonged to Major Mungo Ursus, a werebear in Her Majesty's Special Bureau. He explained he was here in this alternate future or past to stop Doctor Hugo Zunbar Gorgomza, the self-styled Robot-Master, who planned to utilize the Null-Rod to create a magic-free future where his robots could rule. Ursus planned to destroy the rod so Gorgomza couldn't get his hands on it.

Not entirely trusting of what Princess Viola would do with the Null-Rod, the party agreed to let Ursus destroy it--if he would give them his gamma ray pistol. Ursus agreed, and the he joined the party in going toward the west where his instrument readings had said the rod might be.They found a cave with a minature ice-city, and tiny beings who were worshiping the Null-Rod.

The party stole it. The Major destroyed it with his pistol, then handed the pistol over to the party. He admitted he had permanently set the power setting low so they wouldn't destroy civilization. The party agreed this was probably wise. Then, the werebear left in his saucer, and the party returned to the surface, mission accomplished.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Operation Subazurth

My 5e Land of Azurth campaign will continue this afternoon and I'm playing on running the Knockspell version of "Operation Unfathomable"(with a few things borrowed from the Hydra version--now on sale!). This will require a few modifications to fit the campaign and will likely have a few more because, why not?

The set up is this: Viola, the Clockwork Princess of Yanth Country, asks the party to help out Indigon XI, Prince of Troglopolis and curator of the Museum of Eldritch Wonders. It seems his ne'er-do-well adventurer of a third son, Hokus, has stolen a device called the Null Rod and he and a group of mercenaries went into a prohibited underground zone, their to wrest new territory for Troglopolis to settle. This area has been prohibited due to its exceeding high levels of chaotic wild magic.

Hokus and his party appear to have been killed, but the Troglopolitans want the Null Rod returned, and Princess Viola (believing they are too incompetent to hold on to it) wants it brought back to the surface.

The bones (and most of the meat) of Jason's adventure will remain intact, because why change it? But many of the monsters and encounters will get an Azurthian veneer--by which I mean a veneer borrowed from cartoon model sheets, Silver Age comic books, and Oz stories.

Should be fun!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Uncovering Krevborna

Krevborna: A Gothic Blood Opera is a system agnostic setting book released this week by Jack Shear of the Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque blog. The world detailed is the sort of place Jack deals with in much of his rpg writing: an early modern setting with more than a hint of the Gothic.

Full disclosure before I delve into the review proper: I am listed in the credits of the book as I have been a player in Jack's online game (Tobias Rune, Scientific Occultist!), and Jack has done some editing for me on my stuff in the past. We have been blogosphere friends since long before that. My view, then, is perhaps biased.

Krevborna is 109 pages plus an index. In that space it vibrantly evokes a certain type of setting, and gives you locales, NPCs, organizations, and conflicts with which to populate it. It is fashionable in many circles to say setting books should always be short or deliver things very lightly. This is an understandable reaction given the bloat that has afflicted many a "major" rpg company setting book. My opinion is this: A setting book should have exactly as much verbiage as it needs to achieve its goal (and that goal should in part include usability). This will inevitably mean that no setting book is for everybody. some people will want the exotic cultural detail of the Empire of the Petal throne or Glorantha, and some want a setting heavy on new mechanical tidbits, but otherwise interchangeable with any number of faux-Medieval worlds. Having written a couple of setting books myself, I can say that there are always people that think you gave just the right amount of detail and then those who want more. (There are probably also those who think I wrote too much, but they don't send me emails.)

I don't think I'm off base when I say that Jack isn't concerned with you being able to replicate his Krevborna in  minute detail; he wants you to be able to create your own Gothic-tinged, dark fantasy setting that may happen to also be named Krevborna. He is light on many details, focusing his time on directly addressing theme, tone, and atmosphere, and how you leverage these things in a fantasy game as a DM. Jack is very good at delivering these elements flavorfully but briefly.  Maybe it's his college educator background, but he's able to bullet-point and not be at all dry!

I don't mean to suggest there is no setting detail, because there are plenty of Krevborna-specific information and tools, and plenty of stuff to help players get into the mood, too: sample names by region, appropriate backgrounds, tables of dark secrets, and NPCs to be patrons, acquaintances, or antagonists. The great supernatural powers are briefly described, allowing DM's and players to flesh out the details as they will.

The last section of the book is a brief summary of Jack's approach or "house rules" for running Krevborna in 5e. This is light enough that no OGL is required, but meaty enough that those versed in the 5e rules will know what he is doing. The strength of the system agnostic approach is this can be easily ported to old school simulacra or DungeonWorld or whatever.

In summary, I think this is a great setting, but also a great demonstration of a way to present a setting, and is well worth the price of purchase.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Azurth Digest is back--for A Limited Time

The first issue of the Azurth Adventures Digest  print edition is back on sale! Twenty-eight full color pages at 5.5 in. x 7.75 in. with art by Jeff Call and Jason Sholtis. There are random tables for the generation of quirky Motley pirates, a survey of interesting and enigmatic islands, and a mini-adventure on the Candy Isle. Plus, there are NPCs and a couple of monsters, all straight from my Land of Azurth 5e campaign.

 Go here for the print(+pdf) edition, while supplies last. If you only want the pdf, well, that's always available here.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Wednesday Comics: Valentine's Day

Romance comics were a pretty big thing back in the day, and all the major publishers (including Marvel and DC) did them, but none of those have been collected, so far as I know--and they probably wouldn't appeal to the readers of my blog in any case. Here are a few comics with romance as an element that might.

Deadman: The Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love puts DC's disembodied former aerialist in a gothic mystery with a hit of romance.

Scott Pilgrim In Toronto, slacker Scott Pilgrim tries to date a cool girl, but first he has to defeat league of her evil exs. You've seen the movie, now read the comic that inspired it.

Sex Criminals Suzanne and Jon bond over an unusual trait they both share--their orgasms stop time! They decide to use this unusual ability to rob banks...

Wonder Woman: The Golden Age Vol. 1 Wonder Woman lives Paradise Island to bring love and peace to Man's World with her beau Steve Trevor. She seems to get into a lot of predicaments involving bondage.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Weird Revisited: The Wonderbuss

This post originally appeared in February of 2011. It will show up in a couple more Weird Adventures posts after that...

Magical blunderbuss-type firearms were used by some wealthy Dwergen in their early conquest of the Strange New World. The weapons gave these sorcerously inept folk help against the shamans of the Natives and the thaumaturgists of rival Grand Lludd. Today, these antiques sometimes find their way into the hands of adventurers--in this world, and perhaps others.

Though they were manufactured in a variety of styles, they’re all muzzle-loading weapons with short, large caliber barrels and flared muzzles. They all can fire relatively normal projectiles of appropriate size (provided there is gun powder) , but their real power lies in specially designed spherical ammunition called “shells.” Interestingly, it appears likely that it was the prior existence of these magical shells which spurred the development of the gun, and not the other way around. No one knows who originally designed the shells, nor for what weapon.

Thaumaturgists (with alchemical aid) can manufacture new shells, but the process is tedious and expensive, so they tend to be rare. Sometimes, a supply is found in Ancient ruins or even other planes. The shells are classified by number, which denotes their effect. All shells of the same number historically tend to be of similar appearance, and modern manufacturers have kept with this tradition. Shells don’t not require gunpowder.

Magic Blunderbuss (Wonderbuss)
Dmg: 1d10 or special; Rof: 1/2 ; Range: 50’/100’/300’

Shells: (all spell references per the SRD)
#1: appears to be a lead ball, but too light for its apparently size. +1 weapon; Dmg. 1d12.  These are 80% of all shells found.
#2: brass-appearing. Casts two shadows, one distinct the other shimmering like heat-haze. Leaves a fiery streak when fired. 4d6 fire damage.
#3: appears to be a steel sphere etched with three 7-pointed stars. +2 to hit, 2d8 points of damage.  These are 5% of shells found.
#4: glass, containing a roiling green liquid. On a successful strike creates an Acid Fog as per spell.
#5: glass, faintly glowing and warm like the mantle of a lantern. Acts as the spell Sunburst, though it misfires on a roll of 1-2 on 1d6, and only does 1d10 damage.
#6: smoked glass. Faint moans can be heard within. Target’s soul is imprisoned on sucessful hit as per Magic Jar.
#7: silver and etched with glyphs which seem to shift when its not being watched. 1d10, deals double damage to lycanthropes, and extraplanar beings of evil. These are 5% of shells found.
#8: white, with the look of fine china, cool to the touch. Explodes for 5d6 damage in a 20 ft. radius.  Sleeping near (2 ft.) of one of these shells has a 75% chance of causing a ringing in the ears (leading to a penalty for rolls to detect things by hearing) lasting 1-4 days after removal of the shell from that distance.  Wrapping the shell in cloth will prevent this effect.
#9: appears as a flawless sphere of obsidian. Acts as a Sphere of Annihilation, though it can’t be moved, and exists only for 1 round before winking out.

Some scholars believe that more shell types are yet to be discovered.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Random Paths from the Crossroad of Worlds

In Incredible Hulk #300, Dr. Strange tried to get read of the menace of the Hulk (who was in one of his brutish menace periods) but banishing him to another dimension. The Hulk ended up at the Crossroad of Worlds in a trippy, Ditko-esque space. Throughout the next 313 issues, he went to a number of weird worlds. The details of these worlds would make interesting places to visit in a fantasy rpg, but the brief, descriptive names given to the them by the folks at the Marvel Universe Appendix are in many ways even better for just getting the creative juices flowing.

Here's the list made into d30 random table (I had to add one to the end to get 30):
  1. Crossroad of Worlds (choose a path, roll again!)
  2. Acid Rain World 
  3. Barren World 
  4. Burning World 
  5. Daniel Decyst's World 
  6. Demon World of the N'Garai 
  7. Desert World
  8. Devil World 
  9. Frozen World 
  10. Furry Blue People World 
  11. Glob World of Floating Things 
  12. Idol World 
  13. Mist World 
  14. Octopod World
  15. Paradise and the City of Death 
  16. Poisoned World of Spine Creatures
  17. Purple Giant World
  18. Quicksand World 
  19. Radiation Monster World 
  20. Robot World 
  21. Sky Shark World 
  22. Swamp World
  23. Toad World 
  24. Vacuum World 
  25. War World 
  26. Underwater World 
  27. Wind World 
  28. Yellow Dwarf World 
  29. Purple World of Exile
  30. Chiming Crystal World