Monday, November 30, 2015

Islands in the Boundless Sea

In the Boundless Sea, east of the Land of Azurth and likely south of the pirate haven of the Motley Isles, maritime legend holds that their is an archipelago sometimes called the Chain of Fools. These isles continue to tempt sailors, despite all evidence they are best avoided.

The Candy Isle may be the largest of the chain. The basic elements of its formation are not the usual stuff of the material world, but instead various sweets: Licorice vines hang from stick candy trees, a chocolate stream flows into the sea from some spring, and cyclopean rock candy ruins loom in silence. No one has ever investigated those ruins and returned to tell the tale.

The Gilded Isle is a small atoll piled (or perhaps made entirely) of gold, mostly various coins. Its lagoon glints and sparkles; it's floor supposedly littered with precious gems. Even more than the Candy Isle, the Gilded Isle attracts interest, but the island seems to draw away as it is approached; it always takes longer to reach than it should. Indeed, it may be unreachable. In the attempt, whole crews have turned on each other, all eager to have for themselves riches they will never possess.

The perfumed Island of Revelry can be smelled before it is seem. It is never approached by daylight, only night or dusk.  Sounds of laughter and sensuous music can be heard coming from the tents that dot its jungles. Colorful paper lanterns sway luridly in the trees. The youths of both sexes can be seen passing between the tents or disappearing into the jungle in the growing darkness, but their beauty is only suggested in the glimpses offered. Perhaps ships do sometimes reach this island, as occasionally derelicts are found in its general vicinity, apparently abandoned by their crews.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Refurbished Apocalypses

I've spelled a lot of digital ink around here talking about various sorts of apocalypses. Here are a few of the best classic posts on the topic:

"Monster Apocalypse A Go-Go": Why limit your apocalypse to zombie related?
"Apocalypse Trio": I used a random Apocalypse Generator and this is what I came up with.
"Fairyland": Instead of going to it, it's coming to you.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wednesday Comics: The Key to Castle Grayskull

"The Key to Castle Grayskull"
Masters of the Universe #2 (January 1983), Written by Paul Kupperberg; Pencils by George Tuska, Inks by Alfredo Alcala

Synopsis:  He-Man and Battle Cat enter the jungles of Eternia is search of a talisman. They meet Ceril, a long time friend of He-Man's, and other members of his primitive tribe. He-Man recounts his origin: how as Prince Adam he came upon Ceril's village on a hunting trip and found it in the thrall of the sorcerer, Damon. Adam would have been defeated by Damon as well, had not the Goddess intervened, transforming him into He-Man. Since that day, Ceril's tribe have been allies of Adam's father.

As luck would have it, Ceril has seen the talisman He-Man seeks. They are on their way when demons appear and attack them. He-Man manages to get to the cave where the talisman is, entering where others cannot due to the protection of his power-vest. He-Man grabs the glowing talisman, and he and Battle Cat disappear.

Meanwhile, Stratos, Teela, and Man-at-Arms fly toward the churning waters of Sea of Blackness. Using a potion that Tarrak gave them, they are able to breath underwater for an hour. With the clock ticking, they locate the talisman in a temple in a city of the mer-people. Before they can get to it, they're attacked by Mer-Man and his people.

Mer-Man plans to betray Skeletor and take the power sword for himself. The odds don't look good for the heroes, but then Skeletor appears and confronts Mer-Man's betrayal. He also warns the mer-people not to harm his allies, unless they too want to face his wrath. Teela takes issue with that, so Skeletor is like "have it your way." and removes his protection.

Their time running out, and the mer-people pressing the attack, Stratos manages to grab the talisman. The heroes disappear. They find themselves in a strange place:

Skeletor shows up and taunts them again. He sends them deeper into the weird realm to retrieve the power sword. Neither the heroes nor Skeletor know that they are being watched.

Again demons attack the heroes. Their numbers seem endless. The heroes can't figure out who would have sent them if Skeletor wants them to succeed. Suddenly, the demons are blown away by a strange wind. Then:

Prince Adam's origin related here has never appeared in other media. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Heap of Trouble

Last night, our 5e Land of Azurth campaign continued. The party met with the Goodes of Swells Head and agreed to try to get their daughter Gwendolin back. The Goodes believe she was kidnapped by the infamous pirate, Black Iris. Waylon (the frogling thief), Erekose (human fighter), Kairon (tiefling fighter), and Dagmer (dwarf thief) board the keelboat Venture under Captain Tubbs to make the journey down the Yellow River.

In the area of the Beggar City, the boat is attacked by river pirate dwarfs using a sort of Hunley-style primitive submarine disguised as an alligator. Kairon breaks open the vessel with magic, but the blast does some damage to the Venture. After the pirates (the Gar Brothers) are sent packing, the captain decides to tie up the boat so they can do repairs.

The Lardafans come out to the bank to great them. In the crowd are Waylon's old bandmates who look a bit like these guys:

Waylon brags about being an adventurer. His old friends, and his very relaxed old mentor King Kuel, ask for the help of the party in helping the Lardafans with a rogue Heap that has been periodical attacking the town. The Lardafans believe the Heap's violence has something to do with a warlock that lives alone in a shack on an island at the center of Lost Lake.

The party reluctantly agrees--for a pick of the Lardafan treasure pile. The head out on a skiff to lost lake despite the sign:

The Heap attacks from the water as they close in on the shack. Four against one is good odds, but the Heap is plenty tough, so the fight is a tough one. Waylon goes for the shack to see if it holds a clue to what's going on. He finds a man (presumably the warlock) who is long dead with an empty wooden box in his wands with some vegetation hanging on the side.

Meanwhile, Erekose has been knocked unconscious by the Heap and Dagmar has been engulfed! The cleric manages to fight her way out and finds a skull inside as she does. Once the skull is removed, the Heap seems to collapse on itself, and slinks away.

The skull is magical, old and inscribed with runes. It also seems to fit in the box Waylon found. Taking the skull, the box, the Book of Shadows, and the various spell components in the warlock's cabin, the party returns to Lardafa.

They're greeted with much fanfare by the Lardafans and given the promised pick of the treasure trove--which turns out to be Gilligan's Island-esque version of an oversized claw machine. Each member of the party gets an odd trinket.

Their (side) quest completed, the party boards the boat for a night's rest.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Along the River

In the Land of Azurth, in the Country of Yanth, the Yellow River stretches some two hundred languid miles when it chooses to do so from its meeting with the Flint at Rivertown to its settling into the Boundless Sea near Ianthine.

Art by Cyril Corallo
It intermingles with smaller, less ambitious waterways in bottom land swamp in the vicinity of the Shanty City, Lardafa, home to thieves, beggars, and gentlefolk of the road. Sometimes travelers down the river glimpse one of the elusive Heaps in this area.

It accepts the azure tears from the blue hole spring called Deep Blue, near the village of Yonder. The hole is said to be so deep that Yonder fishermen sometime find things bobbing up from other worlds. In the woods near Yonder there's rumored to be the cabin of a witch, perhaps the infamous Urzaba, who loves card games and has a very short temper.

art from Privateer Press
Is it nears the coast, it almost loses itself meandering through the Great Yellow Marshes. Here dwell tribes of mostly friendly frox and mostly unfriendly gator-folk.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Real Dungeon, American Style

Back in rpg blogging's Golden Age (well, the part of it I was there for). I wrote a series of posts about "real" (meaning some people believe them to be real) dungeons of America. It seemed like a good time to collate those in one place.

Burrows Cave: A burial southeastern Illinois.
The Grand Canyon: It's not just big. It's weird.
Coral Castle: Not an actual castle, but still kind of cool.
Murder Castle: A real Tomb of Horrors in Chicago.
Lizard City Under L.A.: "Busy Los Angeles...stands above a lost city of catacombs..."

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Antediluvian Apocalyptic

"And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."
                                                      - Genesis 6:5
Think Carcosa is the only horrifying milieu for gonzo adventure fantasy? Ditch the mutli-colored men (maybe) and get Biblical, Old Testament style.

Before the Flood, (the book of Genesis tells us) humankind was exceedingly wicked, which is a good way for them to be for adventuring, really. And there were giants (gibborim) in the earth, and the Nephilim (either giants or fallen angels, or the children of fallen angelss), who were "mighty men or men of renown." Talking serpents from Eden were still probably around somewhere. And though the Bible doesn't mention they specifically, any good creationist will tell you there were dinosaurs. Check out this I'm sure meticulously researched timeline:

It's not hard to imagine a sword and sandals (plus sorcery) or barbaric sort of world were weird Antediluvian beasts and human-angel hybrids run rampant--and apocalypse hangs over it all. It's like Afronosky's Noah meets The Road. Or Hok the Mighty meets Blood Meridian. The new Aaron/Guera comic The Goddamned approaches this same era, the it's early to same how gonzo it's going to get.

Actually Masters of the Universe, but this fits.