Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Legend of Yggdrasil

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

Storm: The Legend of Yggdrasil (1981)
(Dutch: De Legende van Yggdrasil)
Art by Don Lawrence & Script by Kelvin Gosnell

The Azurian War is overed and peace reigns. Storm and Ember are bored. Storm is an astronaut, not a leader, but as a figure in the revolution he's saddled with responsibilities. After showing off in an ancient airplane just earns him a lecture from a councilor, Storm decides to try for Jupiter's Great Red Spot and see if he can return to his own time.

Ember wants to go to, but Storm worries it's too dangerous and she would be out of place in the past, so he sneaks off to go without her. He steals a spacecraft only to find Ember has stowed away aboard!

The two fly into the red spot. The intense gravitational forces knock Ember out and threaten to do the same to Storm--and then destroy the ship. When he can't take any more, Storm activates the automated reverse trajectory to return them to earth.

The ship has been damaged and the chances of landing safely are slim, but they have no choice. Storm's piloting skill keeps them from burning out but the landing is far from an easy one. After the crash, everything is silent. Strange watchers look on from a distance:


Monday, August 22, 2016

Down In A Hole

On 5e Land of Azurth game continued yesterday with our heroes deciding to investigate the large and mysterious sinkhole in the nearby village of Huggson. After suitably gearing up for such an endeavor the group made their way to the town. They found the villagers building a fence around it as they reported the lose of a heard of goats and two drunken farmers to the 20 foot wide maw.

They waited until night to make the descent themselves as they wanted to see the strange oscillating colors of light that seem to project from an unseen source deep within the hole. The after tying their rope off to a stout tree and rigging a block and tackle, they went in. They found that some the sides sloped away and they were climbing in darkness with still no bottom in sight. Even stranger, they discovered that the deeper they went the slower things fell. Near the end of their rope it was almost as if an object was falling through water.

They went back to the surface got more rope and bought a chicken to experiment further. None of that experimentation led to much of anywhere, other than to prove a chicken could "fly" at least until it got tired in the weird gravity of the hole. Ultimately, three daredevil party members jumped. Not wanting to be left behind the holdouts Kairon and Shade eventually followed suite.

The group fell for a long time at a slow rate. Eventually, they passed through an opening into a new sky, passed the too bright but not warm orb of a sun orbited by crystalline lens of color, they cast the light into a new shade as they passed. They fell or floated toward onion-shaped crystalline structures arranged like a series of small towns.

When they landed with only a slight hurt for all they distance, they were accosted by people they initially thought were all wearing hats, but turned out to be humanoid mushrooms. They accused the party of assaulting them from the air. Apparently, some of their buildings had been damaged in the "rains of rock and meat" that had come before.

art by zelldweller

The Sovereign of the Matangoos (as they were called) convened his elders to decide what to do with the strangers. The options seem to be kill them and throw them in the Spawning Garden (where the hapless goats and farmers must have gone) or toss them in the Black Pit. The party searches for another option, first hitting up the stoner Matangoo wizards, Gweeg, for information, then deciding on a engineering regime change: it seems the current Sovereign had been purposely be delaying the transfer of power to the now fully grown new Sovereignm who was still sleeping in the Spawning Garden.

After killing a few guards, they made it to the Garden and awakened the new Sovereign, Her first act to was kill the old ruler and return his spores to the ground. Her second was to convene her council. The party's hopes were dashed when she too ordered them to the Black Pit.

It turns out the Black Pit isn't so bad, just a cave in the side of the mountain that forms the curious wall of this weird world. They passed through it, leaving the Matangoos behind and enter an idyllic looking valley. Idyllic, except for the crashed pulp rocketship at its center...

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Bronze Age-Four Color Fantasy Adventure Seeds

A follow up on Friday's post. These aren't actual stories from comics, but pastiches of the sort of thing that does show up.

1. A madman seeks a golden disk to bring life to colossal automaton, an ancient weapon of war, that lies half-buried in a remote desert.

2. A city under seige! Legend holds a magic gem will restore to life the mummy of the cities demigod founder. His body lies in a crypt in deep within the city's catacombs.

3. The jungle-choked ruins of an ancient city surround a vast, walled garden, an earthly paradise, inhabited by beautiful, golden-skinned youths. The brutish beast-folk that dwell in the ruins will let no stranger enter the garden, nor any of the garden's inhabitants leave.

4. An arboreal village of elfs is harassed by pale, giant bat riding goblins from a cave  high on a nearby mountainside, who raid the village for victims for their cook-pots.

5. A PC has a rare trait that fits a prophecy--a prophecy predicting the downfall of a tyrannical ruler, who means to ensure it does not come to pass.

6. A lake of lurid, swirling mists where time becomes strange. At it's center is an island with a castle where an immortal witch queen dwells with her eternally youthful handmaidens. No one comes to the witch's castle without being summoned.

7. A playing piece from the game of the gods falls to earth, perhaps accidentally or at the whim of a capricious godling. This touches off a race to acquire the piece with the rat-men minions of one sorceror contesting with the shadow demons of a cambion child--and the PCs caught in the middle.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Elements of Bronze Age Four-Color Fantasy

By Bronze Age, I mean the Bronze Age of Comics, which largely conicides with the 1970s. Any readers of this blog will know that's an era I have some affection for--particularly its fantasy comics. These comics (particularly when original to the comics medium and not adaptation) present a flavor of fantasy distinct from other fantasy genres or media.

I feel like this sort of fantasy would make for a good game, and I don't think that's really been done. Warriors & Warlocks supposedly set up to do this, but that supplement really winds up adapting a wider range of fantasy to the Mutant & Mastermind system. I've been trying to think of the elements/tropes of this sort of thing:

1. Very much a “Points of Light” thing with large stretches of wilderness and clusters of civilization.

2. Cities tend to look more fantastic ancient world/Arabian Knights/Cecil de Mile spectacle than grotty Medieval

3. Above ground ruins and natural obstacles as more common adventure locales than underground “dungeons”

4. Fantastic terrain is more common (because it makes more good visuals)

5. Magic-users generally fall into 1 of three categories: 1) almost god-like patrons (who maybe secretly be of Type 2); 2) villains; 3)bumbling,  sometimes comedic helpers, makers of anachronistic references

6. Magic tends to be visual and flashy.

7. Elves and dwarves (or Elfs and Dwarfs, more likely) are more Disney and Keebler than Tolkien. They are less powerful than humans and perhaps comedy relief.

8. Beings that stand between humans and gods (like Tolkien elves) are either extremely rare, degenerate, or both.

9. Monsters tend to be unique or very uncommon (even if of a recognized “type”). There are seldom nonhuman territories. More fairytale naturalism than Gygaxian naturalism.

10. Magic items are rare and tend to be unique.

11. Frequent faux-Lovecraftian references, but virtually no cosmicism.

12. Sometimes, there's a Moorcockian as filtered through Starlin sense of cosmic struggle.

13. Armor is as a signifier of profession/role (soldier) or intention (the hero goes to war) rather than actual protection.

This is not an exhaustive list, I'm sure, and it bears some overlap with pulp fantasy/sword & sorcery and fantasy/sword & sandal films that influenced it, and rpg fantasy that arose around the same time, but I think it has elements on emphasis distinct from those forms.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Orbiting the Planet of the Apes


Player Characters:
Jeff Call as Brock Irving, "We need that liquor!"
Justin Davis as Conrad "Rip" Ripper, "Two-Fisted Psychiatrist"
Billy Longino as Olsen Potter Graves, "Psychological Profiles for Everyone"
Lester B. Portly as Eddy Woodward, "The Pilot Stays with the Ship"
Jason Sholtis as Francis LaCava, "Madre di Dio!"

Nonplayer Characters:
James Gregory as Dr. Jacob Krigstein

Synopsis: Five astronauts taking part in a suspended animation experiment on a space station awaken a thousand years after they were schedule to revive and find civilization apparently destroyed by a nuclear war. With no way to return to Earth, they make a desperate trip to nearby station, The Broderick Astro-Mall, long ago quarantined in an effort to find another way home. They discover a working commercial shuttle, but also semi-gelatinous plague zombies!

System-wise we used a combination of Mutant Future and skills from Stars Without Number, which worked pretty well for a low-effort kludge, though a single zombie fight turned into a a bit of a comical slog thanks to low damage weapons and low level.

Jacob Krigstein is likely the same Doctor Krigstein that shows up in the Marvel Planet of the Apes comic and in the novel Conspiracy on the Planet of the Apes. By the 1980s, he has been promoted to the head of ANSA.

Krigstein mentions the tragic fate of Dylan Hunt, lost in a cave in the laboratories in Carlsbad Caverns. These events are depicted in the Genesis II pilot film. The experiment our PCs were taking part in was a continuation of Hunt's work.

Broderick Astro-Mall was built by aerospace entrepreneur Harry Broderick. His rise from scrapyard owner to ersatz space program director is depicted in Salvage pilot film and the series that followed, Salvage 1. The Astro-Mall was a more "realistic" (i.e. no artificial gravity or matter transporters) take on the station appearing in the Gamma World classic adventure "Albuquerque Spaceport." The zombie-creating plague in our version is caused by a botched attempt to find a cure for the alien malady that wiped out all domestic dogs and cats in 1983 (see Conquest of the Planet of the Apes).

The shuttle the PCs found allowing them to safely head for Earth (their own spaceplane had damaged heat-shielding) is of the same model as Spindrift, the suborbital commercial vehicle seen in Land of the Giants.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Wednesday Comics: Future Quest #3 Annotations

My on-going look at Don Lawrence's Storm will take a break so that we can revisit Future Quest, one of DC's re-imagining of classic Hana-Barbera characters. This will contain spoilers.

"Birdman in: The Deadly Distance" and "Vortex Tales: The Herculoids in Mine-Crash"
Future Quest #3 (2016), Written by Jeff Parker; Art by Steve Rude/Aaron Lopresti and Karl Kesel

Vortex Tales. The stories in this issue are a departure from the storyline in the first two. They showcase past exploits of characters.

Mt. Avia. We see Birdman in his secret hideout with his pet eagle, Avenger. We learn he was an academic before he was endowed with power in the temple of Ra (a process he doesn't understand) and became a secret agent.

"I wonder if Mentok has surfaced again?" Mentok was a villain with mind control powers who appeared in a 1967 episode aptly titled "Mentok the Mind-Taker."

"Her name is Deva Sumadi." We are seeing the events just before the start of the first issue. Birdman leaves Avenger behind and sets off to meet his contact.

Xenomass. The amorphous creature called Omnikron appears again, though Birdman

Amzot. The homeworld of the Herculoids, at least until the 1981 Space Stars series.

Quasar, The name of the Herculoids homeworld in the Space Stars episodes. Here it is used as the name of a sister planet, the former home of Zandor and Tara.

Organite. A living mineral. It makes up much of Igoo's rocky hide and it's used to make the synthetic brains of the robot overlords of Quasar. The Herculoids are the gardens of the largest deposits on Amzots.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Land of Azurth Rumors

I've got a Land of Azurth 5e game coming up next weekend. Here's another round of rumors/adventure hooks I'll give to the players: