Friday, February 17, 2017

Beast Jewels Under A Cracked Hypreborean Moon Commentary On The Free Novella Leigh Brackett's The Beast Jewel of Mars For The 'Old Mars' Campaign Setting

Jack Kirby Thundarr artwork

The temperatures plunged into the teens last night here in Connecticut & after shutting down social media once again I dived back into a bit of Leigh Brackett & C.L. Moore especially the Martian stories. Leigh Brackett's The Beast Jewel of Mars is a classic & it appeared in Planet Stories, Winter 1948. I happen to have a treasured copy of this issue. The entire story centers around
the secret of Shanga which basically is a crystal that devolves whomever baths in its rays for 1d20 hours & does make their saving throw vs wands or devices. Victims will travel down an alternative evolutionary path of d30 thousand years for every twelve hours exposed.
The experience seems to be very addictive some who are exposed must make another save vs wands or device again or want to repeat the experience.

One thing I noticed right away is the parallels between these crystals & certain pulp setting elements from classic post apocalyptic Seventies & Eighties science fantasy classics both Thundarr The Barbarian & The Logan's Run television show not to mention some of Clark Aston Smith's cycles. This Shanga is the sort of stuff that we'd see run between colonies by Northwest Smith you know those same colonies that
were implied by other writers including Leigh Brackett, her husband Henry Kuttner, & Clark Aston Smith.

Planet Stories, Winter 1948 is now in the public domain and you can download the whole thing with some great pulpy artwork

"The wise men of Caer Dhu were not so wise. They found the secret of Shanga, and they escaped their wars and their troubles by fleeing backward along the path of evolution."  Another thing is the level of Martian on Martian tribal violence & harm that the Martians do to one another there is tribal codes and such but they'll sell out one another in a heart beat.

Now I mentioned Thundarr The Barbarian & The Logan's Run television show because

the secret of Shanga is just the sort of thing to keep the populations of degenerate tribesmen in line and productive along with a healthy dose of the 'death flowers'. It well could be that the Caroc lizard men are the product of an Earthly variation of Shanga.

This is just the sort of retro technology that would be available to some deep wasteland colony in the Logan's Run tv show, in fact a variation of the whole sale manipulation of the human mind is something we see in the episode 'Half Life' in which Jessica is split into two beings one of a good temperament & one evil.

This is also the sort of 'perfect' population control that would be used by wizards & even wasteland Forbidden Zone underdweller colonies in Apes Victorious & Mutant Future. We could also see the same methods of population control in Adventurer, Conqueror, King as an additional add on device for population selection for guards, guard beasts, and other desirable monsters. In Mutant Future this well could be the origin point for some of the prehistoric tribes & beasts. But where did this technology originate on 'Old Mars'? We know that there many examples of lost technologies in the Martian underworld but in Clark Ashton Smith’s tale “Ubbo-Sathla.” we see a different sort of transfer of mind. This is linked into the Elder Things from HP Lovecraft's at the Mountains of Madness & the Yithians from Lovecraft’s The Shadow Out of Time.

This basically means that one's consciousness might with the help of a wizard or other super scientist travel through parallel  worlds & gates ala both the Eighties film Altered States or HP Lovecraft's Through The Gates of the Silver Key. 
Where did these techniques originate? Who knows but one thing is that Lovecraft circle writers picked up on one another literary devices & often had Mythos races cherry picking forbidden technologies, magics, & relics from one another. So these mind altering crystals would be found on Hyperborea of AS&SH fame quite easily. There might be magics & super science there to reverse the effects of Shanga. This stuff clearly fits right into a sword & sorcery background
But the threat of the crystals is far more insidious then simply forbidden super science.In Old Mars Shanga addiction, trafficking, smuggling, etc. is one of the lowest crimes being fought. Why? Because it might lead to the extinction of the human & near human races including & especially the Martians. This is something that
I've used in Star Ships & Spacemen second edition games.


When it comes to the Adventurer, Conqueror, King Rpg system 
then the real damage can be seen as the addiction spreads through the underworld of thieves guilds, wizard's colleges, and the like. This stuff might be used in this game system as hidden tool of conquest with the right applications. 

A friend postulated that there are other crystalline gate systems deep in the wastelands of 'Old Mars' that can lead to other alternative Martian settings. Could these crystaline gateways be a variation the jewels strange radiation? This looks like the case for a Warriors of the Red Planet scientist.

Deep within the wastelands of 'Old Mars' time & physics can get very weird & dangerous. Here there are ancient things that bleed into our time as the Boreas winds blow strangely across the wrought red sands. Adventurers must tread carefully or they might become lost in time & as well as the spaces around the ruins that blanket the dead sea bottoms.

1d20 Random Deep Martian
Wasteland Encounters Table

  1.  A group of 1d8 Hyperborean monks & sorcerers on their way to some long forgotten dead bottom sea city to worship at a temple of one of the forgotten Martian gods who has recently awakened. They are carrying several golden and blue gold Martian weapons filled with 1d200 jeweled microdrones capable of ripping a man apart within 1d6 rounds doing 1d3 points of damage each. They wear the insect masks of their patron. They are friendly but guarded about their business. 
  2. A black gate sorcerer in the guise of a low lander pilgrim who is smuggling some delicate ancient texts he's found in the underworld. He's willing to talk but there are 1d4 white Martian android body guards with him. 
  3. 1d10 Green Martian warriors 2nd level on the backs of their throats looking for an easy mark or two. 
  4. A giant Martian sand lion on the hunt for its young. A dangerous and wily predator who hunts with telepathic powers. 
  5. 1d6 ancient Martian ghosts looking for souls to devour 
  6. 1d8 evil human bounty hunters looking for marks to bring to market for slaving. They have heavy stunners, hover bike's & sleep poison guns. 
  7. 1d6 Martian wights on the hunt for flesh and spirits!! 
  8. A single sand rat scouting for its 1d20 pack of giant sand rat brothers and sisters. 
  9. An ancient robotoid from a nearby dead city out exploring. 
  10. A flyer with 1d10 warriors on the hunt for slaves for the nearby auction! 
  11. 1d20 Mutant waste landers on move for anyone they can capture for their cooking pot! These used to be Red men whose tribes were subject to the secret of Shanga
  12. Giant drone craft on an attack pattern 1d8 of these insane things. 
  13. 1d8 ancient Amazon warrior women out for raiding on throats. 
  14. A delicate Ancient's sail barge from another age passes by. 
  15. 1d20 Green Martian warriors on a raid will you be caught?
  16. 2d6 Black Martian pilgrims on an alien holy pilgrimage deep into the desert. 
  17. 1d6 deep raiders on jet bikes out for prey armed with short bows, poisoned arrows & cavalry  blades they fight as second level fighters
  18. A black magician on a quest for an ancient artifact willing to pay five hundred gold pieces for your help
  19. An ancient temple has been uncovered by a recent sand storm 
  20. A fleet of flyers from a rogue Martian nation speeds over head and will kill anyone they can who witnesses their passing!
This post is not an attempt to violate the copyrights or trademarks of any of the films nor properties named in this post. All ideas are for a private table top rpg campaign. None of the ideas or opinions expressed in this post are meant to violate the trademarks nor copy rights of any of the table top rpgs discussed nor are they in away responsible for the thoughts or opinions of the author. The writing, ideas, and opinions are copyrighted and trade marked to the author and Dark Corner productions. This post is for entertainment & educational purposes only.

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