Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Influence of Yragael: Urm By Philippe Druillet For Your Old School Campaigns

Imagine a world where humanity is on its last legs, a doomed warrior deals & dallies with the forces of demons as well as gods. This is the universe of Yragael and his child Urm who are dealing with a wounded far future Earth and given full birth by the creative mind of Philippe Druillet (French: [dʁɥijɛ]; born June 28, 1944) is a French comics artist and creator, and an innovator in visual design. It tells the story of the mystic warrior Yragael and his child Urm who are best on all sides by petty gods, demons, and the horrors of a far future Earth as humanity does a slow death around the rim of entropy.  The  WIN WIACEK blog Now Read This has a very nice break down of the graphic novel

The tale is a nasty bit of sword & sorcery business equal parts Jack Vance, HP Lovecraft, & with a sustained air of the Michael Moorcock's absurd style of mythology. At times monstrous, tragic, and with air of the doomed that seems to echo throughout the piece.  This graphic novel is the first thing I thought of when I read Carcosa. way back in '07 or '08. Everyone sites The Six Voyages of Lone Sloane but for me its YRAGAEL : URM which has all of the weirdness & awesomeness that make Druillet's artwork a visual feast. Murder, horror, and all of the sins are still with humanity even in this far flung era of extinction.

Comic panel to comic panel in this doom laden saga of operatic proportions that has many of the same elements of Carcosa. The weirdness almost seeps through the whole affair winds its way almost like a hex crawl as one event of the lives of these characters wind their way through to the next. Yragael: Urm is a masterpiece of the absurd and cosmic surreal as Druillet the 'space architect is in full force with weird temples, outrageous terrain, space gods of the most dangerous kind and a landscape peppered with characters whom Jack Kirby would have loved. When I picked up Carcosa from the Lamentations of the Flame Princess imprint I knew what the landscape looked like Philippe Druillet had created the visual landscape for me.

If you haven't read Yragael: Urm its not for the faint of heart but its real doomed cosmic opera of the type that Elric by Michael Moorcock echoes with the same refrains. Philippe Druillet style is dark, dangerous, and at its best here and this is a cosmic beast of a story.  I'm glad to have dusted this one off last night and started rereading it, its a brilliant ride!

© 1974 Philippe Druillet/Dargaud Editeur. © 1975 Philippe Druillet/Dargaud Editeur. All rights reserved.
Carcosa and Lamentations of the Flame Princess are copyrighted & trade marked to their owners this blog post is for educational and entertainment purposes only.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Review & Commentary On The Mutant Future rpg System & Wisdom from the Wastelands Issue #52: Nanotech Undead From Skirmisher Publishing

Wasteland horrors and zombies are always a favorite but here in  Wisdom from the Wastelands Issue #52: Nanotech Undead we get a boat load of monster options and weirdness for the Mutant Future rpg. But is the issue worth getting? Yes but there are some interesting give and take things here in the wastelands.

My sweet spot for post apocalyptic rpg's has always been Gamma World first & second edition, the games were and are some of my favorite systems & rpg's. They form a good part of my next phase of gaming in my life. The thing about Gamma World was its flexibility, the apocalypse could be anything from a zombie plague to a full blown holocaust of Biblical proportions with little bits of everything in between. Everyone I knew mixed in everything from Logan's Run to Night of the Living Dead. In case you don't know;"Gamma World is a science fantasy role-playing game, originally designed by James M. Ward and Gary Jaquet, and first published by TSR in 1978. It borrowed heavily from Ward's earlier product, Metamorphosis Alpha."

So I was thrilled to see Mutant Future a retroclone of old school post apocalyptic rpgs from Goblinoid games  was available but like its originator the DM has to do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to developing the background, setting material, adventures, etc.  Which is fine because there's some great licensed products out there to help fill in the gaps such as Skirmisher Publishing's Wisdom From the Wastelands and other fine source books to help fill in the gap. Now Skirmisher Publishing has  come out with  Wisdom from the Wastelands Issue #52: Nanotech Undead.   Basically this is Skirmisher's undead & zombie source book for their version of the Mutant Future setting. The book is really nicely done at twenty nine pages for three dollars, I do wish it had an index because this issue is slightly bigger then normal issues. The undead rules are very well done and there is a vast array of undead to keep your players busy but once again we've got the same issue that I've had with Skirmisher Publishing in the past. None of the content of this book is OGL. They used public domain sources such as Wiki for the artwork and interior art work modified but none of the sweet Mutant Future content from Chris Van Deelen or the Skirmisher crew  is 'open game content'.  This has been a huge thorn in my side with about ninety nine percent of their publications going back to Skirmisher Publishing's issue #1 of Wisdom From Wasteland. For me as a blogger & writer I understand their stance upon their trademark and copyright but its God damn frustrating too. Skirmisher Publishing makes some of the best content for Mutant Future out there but I wouldn't touch it with a ten foot radioactive pole. Without the OGL open game content label I can't publish or use these great monsters in an adventure or scenario for Mutant Future without the risk of legal action. This is something I'm not willing to do. See that's one of the reasons why its important for companies to use and produce 'open game content' it lets other writers and companies continue the OSR momentum while at the same time putting money in the coffers of companies.
Because of the success of properties like Walking Dead, the Night of the Living Dead films, World War Z, and so many numerous video games,etc. zombies and thousands of variations are in circulation. This is because of a lapse in copyright & trade mark of the original Night of the Living Dead. The fact is that this another example of companies raiding the public domain without fueling the content to continue the creativity at the expense of future projects that could benefit the whole Mutant Future community.


But is Wisdom from the Wastelands Issue #52 undead necessary or needed? Well in fact not at all. Labyrinth Lord and The Labyrinth Lord Advanced Companion both provide lots of undead and a zombie template that can be used with Mutant Future with little modification and some numbers crunching. What Issue #52 of WFW does is provide a whole host of zombie and undead nanite animated goodness. The rules cover the entire gammit of zombification and the various types of  Mutant Future undead. There are over a dozen varieties and sub types across the board in Wisdom from the Wastelands Issue #52. The pdf is worth getting for the support of the monsters and zombies alone but this book covers the whole range of wasteland horrors.  Do I think that  Wisdom from the Wastelands Issue #52: Nanotech Undead is worth getting? Yes I do especially for Mutant Future and other OGL players but is this product for me? Probably not because I've got this end of the wasteland covered.

Monday, August 29, 2016

'You will not find it on any map. But you know its name...' 'A Revelry In Torth By Venger Satanis- Actual Play Event

The PC's into tonight's adventure ended up in Aryd's End after trying to track down a member of the Merchants faction a group of post apocalyptic mad scientists & gene splicers. Duvaul is a dirt bag low level black wizard & shadow priest upon whom the adventurers have sworn vengeance some months ago. The party knows that some secret society has been acting as a patron for Duvaul for months but they weren't sure who it was. Meanwhile Duvaul had become infected with a dangerous parasite & ported over to Torth through through a planar spell via a dimensional door scroll. The party's wizard followed quickly on the heels of Duvaul and ended up in Aryd's End instead of the basement summoning circle in the temple where their enemy was. Fortunately they ended up in a back alley instead of the in the middle of the neighborhood. Sorcery and magick has a bit of a bad reputation in the world of Torth.The party after almost buying it with a group of tribal assassins manages to track down our NPC to a local house of a well known noble.

Finally they were able to make heads & tails out of the locals after not seeing a single sun nor a sunrise at all after many hours. The locals went about their business but a cold wind blew across the desert as the party made their way through the streets filled with milling people. Traders, exotic warriors, tradesmen all went about their business. The smell of fried desert rat & other weird food filled the nostrils of the PC's. The PC's were able to meet with Count Indengogilaeg  a  bard & traveling minstrel ( the class is detailed in Revelry In Torth) who is actually a wheeler dealer information broker of the highest caliber. He does give the best details about artifacts, relics,etc but takes them for every penny he can. So after a sizable down payment he gave them the name of the house of Vaugoduangiatu. That got a groan from the players to say the least.

The house of Vaugoduangiatu are a clan of  renegade Drow (these Drow are actually cast off slaves of a race of near god like Elves whom they loath, they settled upon Torth because of the lack of sunlight )  the party has had dust ups before with the Vaugoduangiatu. The house is headed up by the lady Anangla a wealthy widow and trader who specializes in erotic cargoes, high end relics, antiquities, weapon running, and a healthy dose of slavery. Have I mentioned that she's had dealings with the Merchants before and settled in Torth after a lengthy campaign of assassination among certain clans of space pirates. The wrath of  Atlach-Nacha is said to have been visited upon them.  The house has deep ties to that which dwells under
Mount Voormithadreth.

The party made its way into the house grounds where an orgy was in full swing, they were able to make their way to the central rooms and finally figured out that they were in deep trouble. The place was in full gear not for an orgy but a summoning and birth of the parasite! The party was to be the sacrifice! Oh how the tables had turned! The party killed off a few guards & managed to double cross the Merchants by offering the Vaugoduangiatu triple rate for Duvaul's head. The party had no part in the god thing summoning nor the valuable parasite  & so in the middle of the 'fight' the pact was struck. Of course the party is going to triple cross the Vaugoduangiatu with the royal inquisition but they've gotten themselves captured and are now in the king's dungeons as well! The Vaugoduangiatu have made a tidy profit & have payed off certain royal officials to look the other way about the whole affair.

This isn't the first time I've run my version of  Revelry In Torth by Venger Satanis. Torth is a combination of  sword & planet, Robert Howard's Conan, the Lovecraft Mythos, bits of Dune thrown in there, and a whole helping of Biblical weirdness drawn from countless hours of classic movie viewing. The place is a howling alien desert planet in perpetual night with countless factions and aliens at each others throats all centered around the decadence of ancient Torth's technological past. This is how I run the setting and the above factions are all my creation that have been worming their way through my games for years now. Revelry in Torth is a great setting and one that's going to get more air time at my table. The Merchants made their first appearance in my Accursed Atlantis setting under my Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea rules. Tonight's game was a hybrid of fifth edition and those rules which worked out quite well but the crew of players wants to go back to our AD&D 1st edition hybrid. More to come.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Nineteen Seventy Five OD&D Campaign Movie Memories - 'The Equinox... A Journey into the Supernatural' 1970 For Supernatural Sunday

So last night I got together with my OSR systems guy ( you know that guy at the table who knows rpg & OSR systems back to front) and we started talking about the Evil Dead. Joe was surprised to learn that Evil Dead isn't as original as many folks think. The film was inspired by The Equinox... A Journey into the Supernatural'  Where the hell do I begin with The Equinox... A Journey into the Supernatural', I'm trying to think what year I had it plastered into my brain in a New York State ' Drive In' by baby sitter and her friends?  It might have been '74 or '75. First of all the this is schlock film with wooden acting, fantastic weird stop motion, and lots of action to keep the whole affair moving.  Is there a OD&D connection? Well for us back in 1975 yeah there was!

The Equinox... A Journey into the Supernatural' has a plot straight out of pulp magazines of the 1930's;"Equinox (also known as The Equinox... A Journey into the Supernatural, and released on home video as The Beast[1]) is a 1970 American independent horror film directed by Dennis Muren and Jack Woods, and starring Edward Connell, Barbara Hewitt, Frank Bonner and award-winning science fiction/horror writer Fritz Leiber. The plot focuses on four teenagers having a picnic in the canyons of California who stumble upon an ancient book containing secrets of a strange world that exists alongside humans, and consequently unleash a plethora of evil creatures and monsters." Yes this sounds very familiar but the real stars of the film are the monsters, the special effects and the stop motion;"Made on a budget of a mere $6,500[2][3] in 1967, Equinox initially gained a reputation as a midnight movie during its theatrical run, but has in later years been noted for its economical yet sophisticated use of stop-motion special effects and cel animation, which were provided by Dave Allen and Jim Danforth; the latter later worked on Flesh Gordon, in which he animated a giant monster similar to the ones in Equinox." 

For my dungeon master Jason way back in '77 this was an instrumental film as our party was called from beyond the gate to seal the unholy creatures and a crazy mix of Metamorphosis Alpha 1st edition & D&D was the result. It wasn't until years later that the first Evil Dead film hit the Drive In circuit that I recognized plot elements. But that's a post for another time, the film inspired the crew of Evil Dead in many ways;
Due to the similarities in their plots, Equinox is believed to have inspired Evil Dead, yet this has not been confirmed. It was seen by members of the crew of Evil Dead before production:
"I had seen Equinox at least twice in drive-ins before making Evil Dead. I don't recall having discussed it with [Evil Dead director] Sam Raimi, but the similarities are remarkable. I think they come from the low-budget nature of both films. That is, a few characters, an isolated, inexpensive location, and ambitious special effects. All in all, Equinox did inspire me to continue my goal of making movies. 'If they can do it...'" —Tom Sullivan, special effects and makeup artist for the Evil Dead movies, as quoted in the booklet included with the Criterion DVD set, "Backyard Monsters: Equinox and the Triumph of Love" by Brock Deshane.
For us we spent years in that campaign tracking Asmodeus and that damn book across the planes and wastelands. Characters were rolled up, ascended levels, only to die at the hands of that fiend. Yes it was a glorious campaign. It ended for me when my family moved back to Connecticut.

Years later I got to talk with Forrest Ackerman at a science fiction convention in '88 about The Equinox… A Journey into the Supernatural or as I knew it many years later as The Beast on VHS. He was happy that it had such an impact on a group of  young kids. 
Make no mistake this is a low budget cult film with lots of praise; "The film has been influential to the horror and sci-fi monster genres, receiving praise from filmmaker George Lucas and effects artist Ray Harryhausen;[2] it was also noted as a main inspiration for Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead (1983).[4] It was released on DVD by The Criterion Collection in 2006."
If you ever want to see this film grab the Criterion Collection which has both cuts of the film the original '67 student version and the recut theatrical version. "The audience to wonder if the story will ever continue and if Susan is still possessed by Asmodeus." yeah we didn't wonder we chased that aspect of that archdevil across the planes to get that book and we lost many characters along the way. As far as I know he's still out there & the Equinox might be breached at any time.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Saturday Morning OSR Campaign Fodder - Ark II 1976 Television Series As Old School Campaign

Saturday morning on CBS in 1976 were post apocalyptic filled with the Ark II television series & probably one of the things that fueled my life long love of the genre. Somehow this morning I ended up watching a good chunk of this live action series. When your six years old this was hard science fiction, the vehicles, the factions, gadgets, etc. are sort of Gamma World lite. Gamma World would come out three years later but for my DM Brian back in the Seventies it was fodder for his Metamorphosis Alpha campaign. For those who don't know about the show;"Ark II is an American live-action science fiction series, aimed at children, that aired on CBS, beginning on September 11, 1976 and ending on December 18, 1976 (went into reruns through November 13, 1977, but was returned on September 16, 1978 and ran all the way through August 25, 1979), as part of its weekend line-up. Only 15 half-hour episodes were ever produced. The program's central characters were created by Martin Roth; Ted Post helped Roth develop its core format." Yeah it wasn't Saturday morning without Ark II, Thundarr The Barbarian wouldn't come until much later.

"For millions of years, Earth was fertile and rich. Then pollution and waste began to take their toll. Civilization fell into ruin. This is the world of the 25th century. Only a handful of scientists remain, men who have vowed to rebuild what has been destroyed. This is their achievement: Ark II, a mobile storehouse of scientific knowledge, manned by a highly trained crew of young people. Their mission: to bring the hope of a new future to mankind."
"(Voice of Jonah): Ark II log, Entry Number 1. I, Jonah,...Ruth,...Samuel,...and Adam are fully aware of the dangers we face as we venture into unknown, maybe even hostile, areas. But we’re determined to bring the promise of a new civilization to our people and our planet" So basically Ark II is a hexcrawl Gamma World/Mutant Future style. Ark II has everything that a Gamma World DM could want to pull from for adventure construction from great communities, factions, hokey post apocalpytic artifacts & relics, to weird plots that can be dropped ad hoc right into the back end of a Gamma World or Mutant Future style hex crawl.  The background is perfect to jump start a campaign;"The show had a racially mixed cast, starring Terry Lester as Ark II's commander, Jonah, Jean Marie Hon as Ruth, José Flores as Samuel, and a chimpanzee (owned and trained by Darrell Keener) responding to the name of Adam. The show's premise was inspired by the story of Noah's Ark, and the characters were given names taken from the Hebrew Bible. The show's setting was in a post-apocalyptic 25th Century (specifically, 2476, the show having debuted in 1976), after Earth's civilizations had been decimated by the effects of waste, pollution, and warfare, falling back to a level comparable to the Dark Ages. The surviving scientists pooled their knowledge and resources, training three young people (and the chimp, who was capable of speech and abstract reasoning) to search for remnants of humanity, reintroducing lost ideas as they traveled the barren landscape in the high-tech Ark II."

Rewatching the show something struck me about the world of the 23rd & 24th centuries, the scientists, military, and day to day corporations of the world of Ark II were up to some very sketchy stuff. Uplifted animals, weird 70's style A.I experimental entities ("Omega" & "The Robot"), poison gas weapons, weird mutations and powers ( the "The Mind Group", the "Orkus" the "The Wild Boy") and more make this a great low level gate way adventure into the world old school post apocalyptic games. Another thing is the fact that Ark II adventures are on a much lower scale and far more personal then Gamma World or classic Metamorphosis Alpha encounters  making this a much better 'fixer upper' style introduction into an old school gaming environment. The lethal levels came as the PC's gained experience and found out just how dangerous the world really was.
I have to say that I mined the hell out of this show for everything from Metamorphosis Alpha to Stars Without Number especially my Beta Max Black run of SWN. I think if you don't mind throwing caution or your childhood to the wind this series would work for a Crawling Under A Broken Moon

But if your want to put together your own OSR Ark II  game campaign there are some descent resources on the web. First of all wiki has a decent break down of the show with a quick episode and tech guide.
Next there's a fan site with everything you need to set up a fast series of notes and what not.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Dragonring Issue #1 Comicbook by Guang Yap From Aircel Comics As D&D Campaign Fodder

Its been a long time since I've dug out my copies of  The Dragon Ring from my long boxes in a very long time. In my last blog post I tripped down memory lane with Carl my boss from my old underground mail order Eighties comic book & rpg hobby shop operation who was busted for drugs. Now let's get into Aircel comics and Nineteen Eighty Six.

Eighty six was a hard year in many ways. It was the middle of the black and white comics boom & it was a solid year for B movies. Aliens was redefining science fiction films & there were a ton of B films like the Wraith, Big Trouble In Little China, The Golden Child, Poltergeist II The Other Side, Flight of the Navigator, Little Shop of Horrors, Blue Velvet, Star Trek The Voyage Home, etc. But let's grab Big Trouble In Little China & The Golden Child for a moment. Dragonring draws deeply from Hong Kong action cinema against a  background of Oriental mysticism and modern sensibilities. You could always tell an Aircel book because of the black background & weird action covers. Big Trouble In Little China is a comedic  homage to Hong Kong action flicks, the martial arts craze of the Eighties, a Chinese cinematic mysticism, & audiences at the time didn't get it. So is Aircel Comics's the Dragonring which is a homage to Raiders of the Lost Ark, Buckaroo Bonzai, Thirties & Forties musicals, Chinese cinematic mysticism, and adventure series of the past along with a huge dose of pulp magazines especially HP Lovecraft.

The Golden Child a film with similar Chinese mysticism themes (Chinese American actors Victor Wong, James Hong, and Peter Kwong appear in both films) and pulled from the same well as Aircel's The Dragonring. The plot is an interesting little b/w effort that I loved as a kid.

Kohl Drake is an adventurer living on a leaking tub of a ship along with his buddy Captain Miles Corkin ( ship captain straight out of the pulps whose seen 'things man wasn't meant to') & plucky adopted side kick son Yue. He's hired by Raymond Wharfin (Buckroo Banzai name drop) to take him to an island that he's inherited from his distant uncle. Of course all of his other relatives have been killed & he's completely unaware of it. Our heroes are attacked by Ju Ju zombies with Oriental style daggers and Kohl dispatches them with a set of nunchakus. Upon the island we're greeted by a Carstairs the lawyer for the estate & a tribe of Amazon warrior women who look like the line up for a D&D party of hirelings. They come with the island estate and much more as we soon learn.

Kohl that night goes walking out on the island unable to sleep & meets an older alternative version of himself who gives him the dragonring ( a D&D style relic of mysterious powers). The old man has been shot full of arrows passes away. Seems as though the island was originally the head quarters for a Lovecraftian cult & the head priest and some of the remains are still in the dungeons of the island. The island is rife with Lovecraftian hordling demons as Yue and his buddy Alex discover when they head down to the local swimming hole with the local kids. Kohl later on kills the tentacled horror that almost drowns both boys but it takes out a local kid with easy. Kohl follows the beast to its lair and comes across the old black cleric whose been summoning the beasts. He kills him just as the priest can recognize the dragon ring as he falls to his death. Carstairs the lawyer has been corrupted by the cult the whole time and holding the Amazon warriors at gun point but flees the island once Kohl kills off the evil priest. There's also a subplot about the Amazon leader Kohl & his girlfriend back home none of which comes into play until three or four issues later.
So what does this have to do with D&D? Well besides the monsters & pulpy elements? Essentially the Dragonring is a Hong Kong cinematic hex crawl. Other issues had the party coming across lost tribes, lich kings, and other pulpy elements. But I've got to address the eight hundred pound gorilla in the room when its comes to Aircel Comics. 
"Barry Blair (1954 – January 3, 2010)[1] was a Canadian comics publisher, artist and writer, known for launching Aircel Comics (publisher of titles such as Samurai, Elflord, Dragonforce, and Men in Black) in the 1980s. From early on, Blair's art style was influenced by the comics he had seen living in East Asia, at a time when manga and other Asian comics were largely unknown in North America. His art was typically characterized by childlike figures, and included nudity and partial nudity. This continued into the erotica which became his main focus later in his career, and these attributes were a common criticism of his work"
Yeah rereading The Dragonring today, I can see why this criticism was leveled but I was into the comics for the pulp elements. I borrowed from the series to create an island hoping campaign with the Isle of Dread at its center. Everything lined up perfectly with the Isle including the Lovecraftian style Hong Kong cinematic monsters. Peter, Steve, & even Peter's wife Eve would later love this mini campaign

The Dragonring series was a book of its time and a part of the B/W period of comics in the Eighties which was one of the most innovative and creative times in comic books since the Thirties & Forties. We're not likely to ever see this type of explosion in creativity in comics again but the Dragonring is a product of its time and while good remains an interesting series to revisit from time to time. It also makes great fodder for a pulpy D&D style campaign.

Commentary On The Nineteen Eighty Four D&D & Comicbook Sweet Spot

For me Nineteen Eighty Four was a seminal year in many ways especially table top gaming because it was one which marked a turning point in many ways. There were two flavors of Dungeons & Dragons to choose from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons & Dungeons & Dragons Set 1: Basic Rules or Mentzer Basic as its known. Here are the facts according to Wiki;"In 1983, the Basic Set was revised again, this time by Frank Mentzer, and redubbed Dungeons & Dragons Set 1: Basic Rules. The set included a sixty-four page Players Manual,[12] a forty-eight page Dungeon Masters Rulebook,[12] six dice,[2] and in sets in which the dice were not painted, a crayon.[6] The 1983 revision was packaged in a distinctive red box, and featured cover art by Larry Elmore.[2] Between 1983 and 1985, the system was revised and expanded by Mentzer as a series of five boxed sets, including the Basic Rules (red cover), Expert Rules (blue),[13] Companion Rules (teal, supporting levels fifteen through twenty-five),[14] Master Rules (black, supporting levels twenty-six through thirty-six),[15] and Immortal Rules (gold, supporting Immortals, characters who had transcended levels).[16] Instead of an adventure module, the Basic Set rulebooks included a solo adventure and an introductory scenario to be run by the Dungeon Master"  Essentially there were two flavors of Dungeons and Dragons Advanced & Basic which for our groups, war gaming clubs, etc. meant there was one.

In the movie theaters there was hit after hit with Ghostbusters, Gremlins, Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Star Trek The Search For Spock, Conan, The Last Star Fighter, Repoman, Buckaroo Banzai, Dune, Streets of Fire, Dreamscape, etc. It was a heady time in a lot of ways especially the black & white comic book boom at the time. The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were created in Dover New Hampshire and I was drooling over a brand new comic book series Warlock five from Aircel comics. At the time I was working in a little hole in the wall underground mail order comic book shop in Torrington getting paid under the table after school. My buddies Steve & Peter also hung out there with me, it was a glorious time. We used to get paid in AD&D & D&D material especially old issues of Dragon and the occasional box set but we got into some of the more off beat titles like Game Lords,Ltd Thieves Guild or the occasional Arduin or Dragon Tree books. There was much more to this year but let's concentrate on Warlock Five for a moment. Warlock five was a title where you had five powerful mystical guardians who were linked and guarded a multidimensional gate. All of the while the guardians are trying to off each other in alliances and betrayals. The Off The Beaten Panel Blog has a really good breakdown of the series and their summery is spot on;"The Warlock 5 are a diverse and interesting group. There's a medieval knight called Doomidor, Argon the Terminator, Tanith the Sorceress, a Mystic dragon that takes human form called Savashtar, and Zania, a punk rocker Witch straight out of Mad Max. Together they get along like an episode of Survivor, taking alliances and strategizing together to manipulate the outcome for the ultimate control of the Grid."

The artwork of Canadian artist Denis Beauvais (who did a number of Dragon magazine covers) & writer Gordon Derry was like setting fire to our young brains. We drew from this series and it was a glorious train wreck of a campaign because we combined it with Lords of Creation which was another rpg out at the time and it worked gloriously.

This was also the same year that produced the wonderful tenth anniversary box set for basic D&D and I actually had the chance to buy one from my boss at the time Carl. "The 10th Anniversary Dungeons & Dragons Collector's Set boxed set, published by TSR in 1984, included the rulebooks from the Basic, Expert, and Companion sets; modules AC2, AC3, B1, B2, and M1 Blizzard Pass; Player Character Record Sheets; and dice. This set was limited to a thousand copies, and was sold by mail and at GenCon 17."

So what happened to Aircel comics? Why isn't it now a household name? Well Aircel was a victim of the B/W implosion of
"Aircel Comics evolved from Aircel Insulation, when the government pulled its contract with the company. Blair, an Aircel employee, convinced the owner to shift the company's focus from insulation to comic book publishing.[1] Aircel's initial talent line-up included Blair, Cooper, Patrick McEown, and Guang Yap.
Releasing their first books in 1985, Samurai, Dragonring, and Elflord, all of which featured line-art manga-styled illustrations, were the first Aircel publications to receive international attention. (Manga was still new to the North American market at the time.)[1] In 1986, illustrator Denis Beauvais collaborated with Blair (as writer) to create Warlock 5, highly regarded among international comic collectors at the time, featuring high-realism mixed-media and airbrushing techniques as a unique trademark style. The Maelstrom series was released shortly thereafter. Aircel's future, like the strong Canadian arts and music industry of the 1980s, was very promising.
By 1988, however, the independent comics bubble burst,[1] affecting Aircel's niche market. Financial problems caused founder Blair to strike a deal with Scott Mitchell Rosenberg (associated with the American publisher Malibu Comics), whereby Malibu would be "lent" Aircel to publish a number of titles, in return for a financial assist. This resulted in Aircel's de facto merger with the Malibu imprint Eternity Comics.[2] Staff changes at Aircel left their acclaimed original series in uncertainty. New illustrators assumed responsibility for continuing some of the existing series (e.g. Elford vol. 2, Warlock vol. 2). This in turn led to copyright disputes over some of Aircel's titles.[3] Ultimately, Aircel terminated most of its previous titles and pursued sex-themed comics in a partnership with Malibu."
Many of the elements of the B/W comic implosion reminded me of the D20 collapse. So is there an OSR implosion in our future? Perhaps its already underway. So what happened to Carl & the underground mail order comic book & rpg business? Well Carl was busted for heroin & the business folded. We didn't know anything about the drugs but all of us got questioned by the cops. Needless to say that our parents were not happy. As for the The 10th Anniversary Dungeons & Dragons Collector's Set  I did eventually get one but then it turned to ash in an apartment fire back in the 90's. With that being said I've still got a soft spot for the gonzo D&D meta gaming aspect and it remains my sweet spot for D&D.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Cult Of The Dreaming Lizard A Faction of Bokrug, the Great Water Lizard For Your Old School Campaigns

Out in the wastelands where the rains seldom come many adventurers find communities by clear lakes of water where none should be. Strangely wrought monoliths and odd stones seeming carved by the winds rife with odd carvings have been reared around such places. Adventurers should avoid such places for these are often the domain of followers of
Bokrug, the Great Water Lizard. This ancient god of dream will visit his future priests in dream and send  messages of hope, survival, & clean water in return for clean water.. These are half truths told by the lake-dwelling god of the semi-amphibian Thuum'ha (Beings) of Ib. Almost over night a portal to the realm of the Great Water Lizard will open. A lake of water will appear  filled with alien game & abundant plant life. Those who feed upon this alien bounty will pay a terrible price.

Those who feed from the incredible alien bounty will gain 1d6 mutations such as

bulging eyes, pouting, flabby lips, and curious ears, and will become without voice gaining the telepathic mutation. These places will be marked by idols of Bokrug. Who will demand a blood sacrifice at the end of each month when the moon is gibbous. According to the ancient writings this cult is not of this universe;
"Not far from the gray city of lb did the wandering tribes lay the first stones of Sarnath, and at the beings of lb they marveled greatly. But with their marveling was mixed hate, for they thought it not meet that beings of such aspect should walk about the world of men at dusk. Nor did they like the strange sculptures upon the gray monoliths of Ib, for why those sculptures lingered so late in the world, even until the coming men, none can tell; unless it was because the land of Mnar is very still, and remote from most other lands, both of waking and of dream.

As the men of Sarnath beheld more of the beings of lb their hate grew, and it was not less because they found the beings weak, and soft as jelly to the touch of stones and arrows. So one day the young warriors, the slingers and the spearmen and the bowmen, marched against lb and slew all the inhabitants thereof, pushing the queer bodies into the lake with long spears, because they did not wish to touch them. And because they did not like the gray sculptured monoliths of lb they cast these also into the lake; wondering from the greatness of the labor how ever the stones were brought from afar, as they must have been, since there is naught like them in the land of Mnar or in the lands adjacent." 
Thus of the very ancient city of lb was nothing spared, save the sea-green stone idol chiseled in the likeness of Bokrug, the water-lizard. This the young warriors took back with them as a symbol of conquest over the old gods and beings of Th, and as a sign of leadership in Mnar. "

In the lands of Atlantandria Port City Of Accursed Atlantis these cults are avoided at all cost for their taint & chaotic faith spreads in the wastelands. There are whispers of the ghosts of Ib and mutants of this strain who spread the faith of the Water Lizard far across the planes. They have been appearing with more frequency and are a danger to those who encounter their silent hate filled stares of madness.
The cult is slowly growing and spreading its faith by allowing communities to thrive in the name of their god.  Mage priests of the cult pick from the elemental & the black list of magic and clerics perform miracles in
Bokrug's name. There are also psychics of Bokrug who boadcast his message telepathically and send dreams of madness on the star winds. They await his coming from the lake portals that lead to his realm.  His cults slowly spreads its corruption of chaos and depravity across the wastelands and the stars. His slack jawed flabby psychics and telepathic mutants have been seen in star ports across the universe. They are best avoided as many spacers have disappeared around them never to be seen again.

Taken from the Doom that Came To Sarnath  By HP Lovecraft 1920 Dream Cycle.
Public domain.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

'Martian Bug Hunt' One Shot Actual Play Event - Hulks & Horrors

It is the future the year 1979, the crew of the USS Endeavor has been sent to routine mission to the red planet. Its been twenty years since the limited nuclear exchange & war has engulfed Mars; recently trade has been reestablished with certain mining out posts. That was six months ago & another expedition has been mounted as the USS Galileo hurtles it way to Mars to find out the fate of the Endeavor.
They're not going to be alone on this mission.
A group of travelers from an alternative world is on its way to make sure a series of events does not happen on the red planet lest an ancient evil is let loose upon the universe from the red planet. A recent dust storm has uncovered some ancient ruins and within them was trapped a hostile Martian life form of incredible evil. It killed the crew of the

USS Endeavor & even now awaits the coming of the Galileo

Unknown to the creature a group of alternate world adventurers & mercenaries have been dispatched to deal with it and make sure it never leaves Mars whatever the cost.  Dressed and equipped like normal Martian 'thin runners' and adventurers the party blends in with the local population.

The PC's were a mix of fighters, psychics, a thief, & a wizard. The party tracked the monster to its Red valley lair and had several hours before the
USS Galileo. They came across the creatures other victim's remains and had to side step the remains of a Martian carrier that had crashed into the wasteland.  The PC's quickly set about exploring the ruins & came across several clues about the monster. They saw it was a humanoid & had awakened after a long nap in weird bio stasis pod. They burned the pod and most of the monster's lair.

The creature was able to grab one of the party members and carted him off into the darkness. The players weren't amused at all at this. But we had to end early. So continued next week!

Set up & expansion

Early this past week I dusted off Hulks & Horrors for a quick one shot game after reading through Voyage of the Space Beagle.

Voyage of the Space Beagle is a space opera about; "A huge globular spaceship, manned by a chemically castrated all-male crew of nearly a thousand, who are on an extended scientific mission to explore intergalactic space, encounters several, mostly hostile, aliens and alien civilizations. On board the spaceship during its journey, both political and scientific revolutions take place." Many of the aliens and situations that the crew of the Beagles stumble upon point to the fact that this is a Lovecraftian universe where alien civilazations have risen & fallen, their remains are out in the void waiting for man to stumble upon them. A. E. van Vogt really does a nice job of setting up the tension and certain conceits about the nature of his take on the universe
Many folks see Voyage of the Space Beagle as the precursor to the movie Alien. But in actuality 'It The Terror From Beyond Space'.  

In fact there's a whole school of thought that thinks that Alien 1979 is a complete remake & retread of 'It The Terror From Beyond Space' . 'It! The Terror from Beyond Space' Stars the Alien Before 'Alien' 

& “Alien” vs. “It! The Terror …”: Feud Revisited 
So using a combination of OD&D and Hulks and Horrors I was able to roll up a ship, get the contents together and get the whole adventure put together in about an hour or so. Hulks & Horrors is a free retroclone & has some fantastic resources that can easily fit just this type of adventure one shot.
GRAB Hulks & Horrors  RIGHT HERE

Gateways, Generals, & Some Real History Resources For The Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Dark Albion, & Your Old School Campaigns

Real history is rife with weird characters incidents of the odd, the macabre, and the down right horrid. All of this is excellent fodder for creating memorable NPC's, incredible adventure locations, and linch pin events for their old school or retroclone campaigns.

First up is Eunus whose exploits are mostly forgotten today but he was known to be a king, magician,general, and finally slave to Rome. According to many outside sources he was;"His name was Eunus – which may be translated, roughly, as “the kindly one” – and although he is practically forgotten now, he was a leader fit to rank alongside Spartacus – or, in truth, above him, for while both men were slaves who masterminded wars against Rome (Spartacus six decades later), Eunus’s rebellion was four or five times as large, and it lasted something like three times as long. He built a state, which Spartacus never tried to do, and all the evidence suggests that he inspired fierce loyalty in ways the Thracian gladiator could not – after all. " He's perfect NPC fodder for a Dark Albion or Lamentations of the Flame Campaign, in fact for Dark Albion does his state persist into the alternative history of that world? 
You can learn more about Eunus right over here.

 Need a real life 'blue beard' of sorts, the sort of an NPC that will have your players talking about them for years to come? Another customer from the pages of history rife with possibilities was;"
Conomor the Cursed, and he lived in the darkest of the Dark Ages – in the first half of the 6th century, 150 years or more after the fall of Rome, when much of Brittany was still dotted with dolmens and covered by primeval forest, when warlords squabbled with one another other over patrimonies that were generally less than 40 miles across, and the local peoples were as likely to be pagan as they were Christian. We know almost nothing about him, save that he was probably a Briton, very probably a tyrant, and that his deeds were remembered long enough to give rise to a folkloric tradition of great strength – one that endured for almost 1,500 years. But the folk-tales hint at someone quite extraordinary. In local lore, Conomor not only continued to roam the vast forest of Quénécan,  south of his castle, as a bisclaveret – a werewolf – and served as a spectral ferryman on another Breton river, making off with Christian souls; he was also the model for Bluebeard, the monstrous villain of Charles Perrault’s famous fairy tales."

  You can read more about
Conomor the Cursed right Over Here

 Next up is an article on Salvador Dali's
  Crucifixion hyper cube which uses some weird mathematics at the core of this modern master piece. Perhaps these same principals might be applied to an artifact or relic of Dark Albion or Lamentations of the Flame Princess. "While it’s difficult to grasp, the idea of multiple dimensions allows scientists to envisage shapes that mathematician Marcus du Sautoy calls “sculptures of the mind”. As he argues in his Radio 3 programme The Secret Mathematician, “It’s not possible to see a 4D cube in our limited 3D universe, but there are different ways to imagine one.”Dalí’s own ‘sculpture of the mind’ brings geometry into the realm of the metaphysical. “There is a meditative intensity to Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus),” says art critic and poet Kelly Grovier. “The painting seems to have cracked the link between the spirituality of Christ's salvation and the materiality of geometric and physical forces. It appears to bridge the divide that many feel separates science from religion.”

  You can read more about
Dali's Hypercube Cross right over here 

Underground secret libraries, strange societies, and preserving hidden knowledge for future generations? Sounds like the latest Hollywood block buster doesn't it. Instead its an account of recent from Syria about one of their hidden libraries. "
Beneath the streets of a suburb of Damascus, rows of shelves hold books that have been rescued from bombed-out buildings. Over the past four years, during the siege of Darayya, volunteers have collected 14,000 books from shell-damaged homes. They are held in a location kept secret amid fears that it would be targeted by government and pro-Assad forces, and visitors have to dodge shells and bullets to reach the underground reading space.
It’s been called Syria’s secret library, and many view it as a vital resource. “In a sense the library gave me back my life,” one regular user, Abdulbaset Alahmar, told the BBC. “I would say that just like the body needs food, the soul needs books.”" This is a perfect fodder  for a hidden library in your war torn old school campaigns where your PC's have to rescue certain forbidden or ancient books or scrolls for future generations of scholars and risk their very lives in the preservation of knowledge.
You can read more about Damascus's hidden libraries right over here
 Surely when the bloodshed and violence of feuds and strange casual violence of history's dust ups is done the settings where these  took place is over? What if these places are merely place holders for door ways into the realms of the dead? These places get more then mention in this article. There's plenty of food for thought and potential fodder for unique adventure locations.

The Bloody Histories and Remaining Relics of 5 Violent Feuds

Could these places where violence has thinned the veil provide crossover points into the lands of dead? Perhaps in your old school campaigns they might making this a perfect point to use for a Lamentations of the Flame Princess Old West adventure campaign.

Need an adventure location for a post apocalyptic dimensional teleporter or dimensional gate right in the middle of New York City as a bridge gap for Carcosa to say your favorite  Mutant Future city or Old Earth setting? Then look no further then the windowless Long Lines building, a sky scraper designed to withstand a nuclear blast and fall out. No admittence and security is very tight to say the least. According to Wiki;"
It is often described as one of the most secure buildings in America, and was designed to be self-sufficient and protected from nuclear fallout for up to two weeks after a nuclear blast.[11] Its style has been generally praised, with the New York Times saying it is a rare building of its type in Manhattan that "makes sense architecturally" and that it "blends into its surroundings more gracefully" than any other skyscraper nearby.[12]
The building is completely self-sufficient, and contains its own gas and water supplies as well as generation capabilities. Even with no public utility support the building can remain open for two weeks. During the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, it was the only building south of Canal Street that was operational." I've used the Long Lines building numerous times as the location for faction of other worldly alternative Earth travelers with shadowy ties to the US government.
You can read about
the Long Lines building from here
Is there a series of books of forbidden knowledge that shook a real world empire to its foundations and does it have ties in legend to one of the most legendary court magicians of all times? The answer is yes. According to an article by Mike Dash on The Blast From The Past Website;"The sibyl, so the story goes, was a woman named Amalthaea who lurked in a cave on the Phlegræan Fields. She had once been young and beautiful–beautiful enough to attract the attentions of the sun god, Apollo, who offered her one wish in exchange for her virginity. Pointing to a heap of dust, Amalthaea asked for a year of life for each particle in the pile, but (as is usually the way in such old tales) failed to allow for the vindictiveness of the gods. Ovid, in Metamorphoses, has her lament that “like a fool, I did not ask that all those years should come with ageless youth, as well.” Instead, she aged but could not die. Virgil depicts her scribbling the future on oak leaves that lay scattered about the entrance to her cave, and states that the cave itself concealed an entrance to the underworld.
The best-known–and from our perspective the most interesting–of all the tales associated with the sibyl is supposed to date to the reign of Tarquinius Superbus–Tarquin the Proud. He was the last of the mythic kings of Rome, and some historians, at least, concede that he really did live and rule in the sixth century B.C. According to legend, the sibyl traveled to Tarquin’s palace bearing nine books of prophecy that set out the whole of the future of Rome. She offered the set to the king for a price so enormous that he summarily declined–at which the prophetess went away, burned the first three of the books, and returned, offering the remaining six to Tarquin at the same price. Once again, the king refused, though less arrogantly this time, and the sibyl burned three more of the precious volumes. The third time she approached the king, he thought it wise to accede to her demands. Rome purchased the three remaining books of prophecy at the original steep price.

What makes this story of interest to historians as well as folklorists is that there is good evidence that three Greek scrolls, known collectively as the Sibylline Books, really were kept, closely guarded, for hundreds of years after the time of Tarquin the Proud. Secreted in a stone chest in a vault beneath the Temple of Jupiter, the scrolls were brought out at times of crisis and used, not as a detailed guide to the future of Rome, but as a manual that set out the rituals required to avert looming disasters. They served the Republic well until the temple burned down in 83 B.C., and so vital were they thought to be that huge efforts were made to reassemble the lost prophecies by sending envoys to all the great towns of the known world to look for fragments that might have come from the same source. These reassembled prophecies were pressed back into service and not finally destroyed until 405, when they are thought to have been burned by a noted general by the name of Flavius Stilicho." Now this is prime stuff for either a Dark Albion or a Lamentations of the Flame Princess campaign. Imagine those books being used for predicting the outcome of the Rose War as the civil war rage across England. Now according to legend John Dee had connections to the Sibylline Books which he had copies of in his special library but like many things this turned out to be mere mythology and occult hyperbole. Perhaps in your old school campaigns this is not the case.
You can find a ton of information on John Dee here

A John Dee style court magician is the perfect figure to add into a Dark Albion campaign, his methods, magic, and courtly spy network ties are a nice balance against the players of the Rose War. He's subtle and canny enough to survive in the dangerous and dark intrigues of the events of the Rose war with easy. His possible ties to the Sibylline Books would make this style of magus a force to be reckoned with.

Finally there is a series of articles on real life historical sex cults that are perfect to add to your old school campaigns for adventure fodder. This article covers the cults of
Simon Magus to Antinous & The Adamites plus lots more. This is perfect fodder for LoFP and especially Dark Albion because its by the author of that campaign setting.

Read about 

15 Of The Craziest Sex Cults Of All Time here