Thursday, February 23, 2017

Weird Revisited: Mushrooms, Pigs and Cold Light

This post originally appeared five years ago today. It was one of a few posts looking at the Old World (Ealderde) in Weird Adventures:

The thaumaturgic forces unleashed by the Great War have left much of Ealderde strange. For an example of just how weird this transformation can be, one need look no farther than Lumière,the former capital of Neustrie and the Gallian Alliance. Once Lumière’s lights were emblematic of a city that never slept, a place of art and culture. Today, Lumière is a bombed out ruin, and the amber luminescence that crawls or flows through its streets and buildings is something of another world.

The thing is alive; almost everyone agrees on that, but little they agree on little else. Is it matter? Some gelatinous substance similar to the strange denizens of the underground? Or is it pure energy, somehow thickened and held? If it’s the latter, it’s light with no heat.

In the day, it seems to hide in the skeletons of buildings, perhaps fearing the sun. At night it pours forth and spreads out over whole blocks. Rats and vermin flee it. Living things it touches develop strange tumors or growths. When it first rose, victims caught in its path were left rooted to the spot, transformed into masses of cancer.

The glowing touch of the thing seems to have created at least one mutant species. The wild swine that moved into the city to root and scavenge after the devastation of the war have been changed. They've grown large, and bloated and pale as grubs, with eyes that glow with a paler yellow that the thing. Though they can’t speak, they seem to have evolved an evil intelligence. They roam the streets in herds, seeming to take pleasure in spoiling what remains of the works of man, and looking (though they're hardly picky eaters) for their primary form of sustenance: fungal spores.

The Mushrooms, the swines' unrelenting foes, resent their progency being consumed by the swine with a displeasure that's more cold practicality than horror. These fungal sapients likely lived beneath the city even in previous times (certain legends hint at their presence) but when the humans fled they saw an opportunity. From their inhuman alchemical laboratories they create structures from fungal stock and weaponize molds to strike at the swine and keep humans away.

Looters and treasure seekers make forays into the ruin of Lumière, but it's a dangerous undertaking. Even if the poured-honey creeping of the luminescent thing can be avoided, there are the packs of hungry swine to be outwitted, and the silent and dispassionate Mushroom scientists to be dealt with.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Wednesday Comics: Storm: Pirates of Pandarve

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 Pirates of Pandarve (1983) 
(Dutch: De Piraten van Pandarve) (part 4)
Art by Don Lawrence; script by Martin Lodewijk

Storm's plan to free Rann's daughter involves starting a fight with the slaver, Redeye. The police almost arrest him--for not giving every a chance to wager first. Though Storm is weaponless and the slaver armed with a sword, Storm wins and Redeye lands on his on blade.

Unfortunately, the slaves now become the property of the auctioneer. Rann assures Storm he can get the money to buy back his daughter, but it will take time. Storm another idea: Rann can sell him and use the money to save his daughter, then go get the money to buy Storm back later.

They go through with the plan with Rann promising return in a few weeks. Storm, meanwhile, is sold to the boss of the watermines:

Meanwhile, Ember is getting the beauty-treatment much against her will, courtesy of the servants of Theocrat Marduk. He's pleased with the result:

He orders her image broadcast via newsfax and telepathic transmitter throughout the system. His hope is that "the Anomaly" (Storm) will see it. Storm does on a poster as he's being dragged off to the watermines, now regretting his deal with Rann.

Marduk tells Ember his plan:


Monday, February 20, 2017

Blood & Stone in House Perilous

Our Land of Azurth game continued last night with the second session of my adaptation of X2: Castle Amber. When last we left the party, they had managed to open a chest they found in a fountain, but had been caught in the act by an Elf woman. She looked sort of like this, and she and her hound were riding on the back of a rather large crocodilian with a gold chain and leash:

Art by  Vladislav Erko
She gave her name as Dismé and demanded the party put back the chest. After some hemming and hawing they did--except for a silver key, which Waylon the thief pocketed. She told them the Sylaire family was cursed and no one could leave the manor. Only perhaps, someone named Ystyvan could help them. She suggested they try the chapel, then rode off.

Next, our heroes encounter bronze-furred squirrels who could turn acorns (or anything they thought of as food) to gold with a bite. Shade the Ranger spoke with animals while Erekose and Waylon gathered gold acorns. All this activity brought the forest's ruler and his wild hunt from beneath a hill:

The party was afraid they were outmatched by this guy and his cat-and-dog-men riders. They tried diplomancy, but Herne (as he called himself) only agreed not to attack his "cousin" Shade. The party concentrated their fire on him and took all their foes out surprisingly swiftly.

The entered the chapel and found it lined with sinner statues in mockery of saints and the  personifications of sins leering from the altar:

They hoped one of the statues might be Ystyvan. Instead one winked and kissed Shade and her intelligence went up. After almost visiting all the statues, one reached out and touched Dagmar and turned her to stone!

The others had no way immediately to save her. They heard a voice calling from under the stones. Prying it open, they found a pit-like grave and released a little girl named Mabdalene:

She wanted to find her brother for revenge. Shade panicked and shot her and the party fought with her a bit, before she scuttled past them and escaped.

Looking desperately for a place of safety to rest, the group found monk cells inhabited by zombies. They cleared three rooms, but the undead fortitude of one zombie allowed him to comically old on to unlife after being reduced to zero on multiple attacks.

After a long rest they explored the rest of the chapel, finding the dead body of a Sylaire family member (presumably Mabdalene's brother) in a library, and a man in golden armor praying in another. After an exchange of pleasantries, he attacked.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Strange Stars Soft Cover & A Review

The wait is over! Strange Stars OSR is now available in soft cover as well as pdf. If you're still on the fence, here's our first review to help you decide.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Designing for Hydra

For the Hydra Products that I've been able to work on/contribute ideas to covers for, I like to play on nostalgia, but not strictly nostalgia for rpg books of the past. Weird Adventures was meant to evoke the original AD&D Player's Handbook, sure, but also the covers of pulp magazines.

In working with Jason Sholtis on ideas for a cover to Odious Uplands, I did a rush promotional cover without a lot of thought. It was fine, but neither of us were think of it as a potential final cover. In brainstorming later, I suggest we try a cover evoking the WPA Federal Art Project National Park posters made from 1935-1943:

In the meantime, though, David Johnson had done a great job of coloring the Fossil Forest image. That seemed like the cover version to use, so I made this mock-up riffing off a Fodor's Travel Guide design:

I don't know what the final cover will be, but it's an enjoyable process working with talented artists and trying out new designs.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Wednesday Comics: Gothic Romances

Storm will wait a week for a special holiday adjacent edition of Wednesday Comics. The Big Two produced a lot of standard romance titles from the late Golden Age until the mid-seventies, but they also tried to move away from the standard formula. Spurred on by a horde cheap paperbacks and likely Dark Shadows, they delved into Gothic Romance.

In 1971 at DC, the Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love took its place along side other eldritch property listing anthologies like the House of Secrets and the House of Mystery. In '72, it was joined by the Sinister House of Secret Love. In addition to having titles that sounds perhaps more boundary-pushing than its actual contents, both series share the same fate of having the romance angle jettisoned. The Sinister House of Secret Love became Secrets of Sinister House, while love also disappeared from the dark mansion leading to Forbidden Tales of the Dark Mansion, both with issue 5.
Stuff like this was always going on at the Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love
A trend had begun, though. Charlton began Haunted Romance in 1973, Atlas released the oneshot Gothic Romance in 1974, and Marvel's Curtis magazine line in 1975. None of these lasted very long.

DC at least has recently revived the title of one of theirs with the Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love series.

Most of the titles are unreprinted and uncollected. DC did put out a Showcase Presents volume of Secrets of Sinister House that also included the "secret love" days, but it is out of print now.

Monday, February 13, 2017


Luis Royo
Watching the new season of The Expanse has led me to start thinking about a game I ran in GURPS perhaps decade ago. A "hard" science fiction thing using a lot of stuff from Transhuman Space put giving it more of a Cowboy Bebop spin: a little bit cyberpunk, a little bit 70s action film.

Howard Chaykin
If I ever ran a similar I again, besides using a system besides GURPS, I think I would draw more visually from '80s and 80's sci-fi, borrowing some elements from things like American Flagg! and 80s cyperpunk rpgs. The players' would still be ne'er-do-well, planet-hopping bounty hunters/troubleshooters but with a different skin.

Janet Aulisio