Friday, August 21, 2015

A Catalog of Baroque Space

Too John Dee and Paracelsus to be Spelljammer, too antiquated and weird to be Space: 1899. Here's all the posts I've written on Baroque Space in one place:

Baroque Space: The Argument.
The Planetary Spheres: A cosmos in one place.
The Fae Moon: Is an eldritch mistress
The Inner Planets: Mercurians and Venerians.
Among the Asteroids: Random asteroids.
Death & Time: Saturn is a gloom place.
Famous Pirates of Baroque Space: Dashing villains all, I'm sure.
Social Classes: Life on Earth.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wednesday Comics: A Marvel-ous Treasury of Oz

You may be familiar with the Eric Shanower scripted, Skottie Young illustrated Oz adaptations published under the Marvel Illustrated line. If not, you can still get them in the trade--even in an omnibus. These are not Marvel's first forays into Oz. For that, we have to look back to 1975, and Marvel's first collaboration with DC.

By the 70s, the MGM film had become a yearly television event. Mego launched a toyline based on it in 1975. Marvel and DC are (coincidentally) both planning comics adaptations. When this is discovered, Infantino and Lee agree they should jointly publish the venture. The book as eventually published winds up with the title MGM's Marvelous Wizard of Oz and a Marvel creative team: Roy Thomas for script, John Buscema on pencils, and inks by Tony DeZuniga's Filipino crew, "the Tribe." It was published in the larger "treasury" format.

Apparently, a story pre-branded with "Marvelous" in the title was just too much for the House of Ideas to pass up--particularly when said book was in the public domain so no licenses need be paid--so 1975 saw a treasury-sized adaptation of the second Oz book, the Marvelous Land of Oz. The full title (according the indicia) is Marvel Treasury of Oz featuring The Marvelous Land of Oz. Thomas again scripts, but this time art is by Alfredo Alcala.

Marvel apparently planned at least third go in 1976. A house ad proclaims that Ozma of Oz is coming with the same creative team. Apparently, quite a bit of art was done, and Thomas was even working on the script of the fourth book, when Marvel discovers that Ozma isn't in public domain (and it wouldn't be until 1983). The John Buscema cover is still around, too:

Marvel based their character designs on the MGM film throughout the series, giving a sort of glimpse into what it might have looked like if the movie had become the sort of franchise that's common today. Of course, new characters had to be introduced, which tend to look like a Marvelized version of John R Neill's art work in the original books.

Monday, August 17, 2015

In Doom's Wake Again

This weekend the expedition into the weird weed sea around the Doom's Wake continued. After the unexpected assault last time (for the pirates, but also the PC's actions for surprisingly effective to me as the GM). The pirate's get on a little better footing. Good rolls and strategy (involving a druid transformed into a bear and a cloud of daggers in front of a door) let the PCs the prevailed against lieutenants shark-faced Squalo and starfish-headed sorcerer Astero, as well as a dozen nameless pirates. It did not, however, prevent the pirates from informing their compatriots the PCs were coming.

By luck as much as design, the player's avoided a confrontation with the grim matriarch of the pirates, which very likely would have resulted in their deaths--and probably unhappiness with the adventure. This was not an old school crowd inured to the total party kill. The warnings by NPCs made them more curious than afraid, but in the end the learning the prisoners they sought were actually held elsewhere made them move on.

On the next assault, the pirates had the high ground and a warning the PCs were coming. There was even an ambush by the lamprey-faced lieutenant Handsome Blut with a wight's drain attack! In the end though fate left Blut with really bad rolls and the superior numbers of the PCs forced him to flee, badly injured.

The victory at the prison ship was more attributable to good player tactics. They had an approach over the weeds that left them easy targets for pirate crossbows, but they used an obscuring mist and minor illusions to improve their odds. The pirates were also beginning to feel the loss in their numbers.

In the end, the prisoners were rescued, but by negotiation, not force. Some pirates were left alive to continue their raids, and the source of the pirate queen's particular interest in Ligeia Marsh, adopted daughter of Clegg Hobtree, major of the Raedel, remained a background mystery.

One of the player's (an experienced GM of other games) suggested weakening the mook pirates, and increasing the power of the more colorful lieutenants. Uping the lieutenants power is probably a good idea, though the pirates were probably about as weak as they can get. The difficult with them is just a nature of their number and the D&D system. It may be I need to think about the staging of the encounters though, so perhaps fewer mook pirates might be necessary.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Consult the Dictionary

I've updated the Dictionary of Azurth with a few new entries, reflecting things from more recent blog posts and adventures in the ongoing campaign. Read it here.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


Art by Diane Özdamar
In the first part of my pirate-Sargasso adventure "In Doom's Wake" the PCs encountered three unusual, but alluring creatures in a half-submerged wreck. There were 3 Cecalian (thanks, internet!) mermaids: Giddy, Sheela, and Pru. In place of legs, or a traditional mermaids fish tail, they had squid-like tentacles--a vampire squid's webbed tentacles in this case, making them look like they wore long skirts. They also had a color change and light-producing ability like a cuttlefish. In 5e, I statted them pretty much like Merfolk with a few special features. Here are their abbreviated stats:

AC 11, HP: 16
STR: 10, DEX:13 (+1), CON: 12 (+1), INT: 11, WIS 11, CHA 13 (+1)

Tentacles. Melee Weapon Attack +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 2 (1d4) piercing damage. Hit creature is grappled (escape DC 12).

Mesmerizing Light Display. As the spell Hypnotic Pattern. Wisdom save or be charmed (incapacitated, speed of 0). DC 11 to resist.

In all other respects they had the abilities of Merfolk.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Wednesday Comics: The Spire #2

The Spire #2 (August 2015); Written by Simon Spurrier, Art by Jeff Stokely

The Spire is a tower city in the middle of a desert. A desert (we discover in this issue) that has air toxic to humans, at least with repeated exposure. This also ties in to the origin of "the Skews," the strange, near humans that suffer prejudice within the city. They were apparently made in the "Antiki" times to live places and do things humans could not. Watch Commander Shå is a Skew. She's also trying to solve a series of murders.

There's a serial killer in the lower city who has ties to the high class upper part of town, according to a couple of tracker animals. Then there's an apparent attempt on the life of the Marchioness, the mother of the newly ascended Baroness that instead takes the life of her nursemaid.

Meanwhile, religious zealots in the deserts are massing, and a messanger sent at the death of the old baron is returning to the Spire with a mysterious group of Sculpted (the polite name for Skews).

I suspect all these things tie in together and to the history of the Spire. Still a lot of worldbuilding in this issue (which isn't bad, but any means) but the mystery seems to be picking up steam, even if the main characters don't seem to know it yet.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Castle in the Clouds

The Land of Azurth 5e campaign continued last night, with the party returning from crystalline Mount Geegaw on just one of the flying swanboats. After stopping for the night to rest (and heal), they are perhaps only half a day from Riverton when their vessel is buffeted by an unnatural wind. A whirlwind grips Waylon the Frogling, and a leering face forms out of mists to taunt him. The group manages to free Waylon, but a fierce gust tosses Dagmar, Shae, and Kairon from the boat. The wind seems to catch them, and its voice extorts their cooperation in return for not letting them drop.

The living gale introduces himself as Zykloon. He carries their ship even higher into the air to a cloud with a strange castle on it (something more like a sci-fi amalgam of futurism and brutalism than anything the PCs have seen before). He demands the crystal they took from Mortzengersturm--the magical Whim Wham stone. They reluctantly agree, but do manage to capture its reflection in the magic mirror the Princess Viola gave them before turning it over.

The dishonorable Zykloon smashes the front of their boat, stranding them, and flies off laughing. Luckily, the party finds the cloud is spongy but solid enough to walk on, so they go looking for another way back to the surface.

They find a dock with a giant-sized airship, and a number of man-sized, blue-skinned Cloud Folk. The leader of the Cloud Folk (Prince Thunderhead) explains that the Zykloon, a sorcerous giant, has been forcing them to raid the surface for captives and riches while holding their king, Cumulo, and other important Cloud Folk hostage. The Prince and his people are honor-bound not to attack Zykloon, but if the party could free their people they would share the wealth of Zykloon's castle with them and return them to the surface.

The party agrees. Thunderhead gives them healing gels and a medallion which will show the other Cloud Folk they are working together. They also are provided with a guide they meet at the gates of the castle: a young and feckless Cloud Boy named Nimbus.

Nimbus leads them through the castle's first floor to the dungeon where they free a number of prisoners: five Cloud Folk including the king, a frogling thief named Woggin, two merchants and a peasant farmer.

The poor farmer is killed during their escape by a bestial boggle (as the Cloud Folk call them) guard. Soon, the party is locked in a pitch battle with more of the creatures...