Friday, April 30, 2021

It! The Terror from Beyond Space 1958 film adapted for The Cepheus Engine's Hostile Rpg Setting

 The Martian Reptilian is a horror from some unknown star system that crash landed on Mars or perhas a mutated survivor of some lost Martian civilization. The xeno reptilian as it has become known is a strange abomination like exotic hybrid of the Reticulan Xenomorphic & some unknown alien life form. The creature shares many of the xenomorphic biological & ecological traits. This includes an insane instinct  towards violance  & reproduction. 

 The xeno reptilian was first encountered by the  Carruthers expediation after exploration missions to Mars for the reopening of the colonies,bases, & exploration of resources after the Fall of Man. The   Carruthers expediation was murdered by the xeno reptilian after encountering the alien. The bodies of the crewman only left , Colonel Edward Carruthers alive. The bodies of  the colonial's crewmates were saved by the alien for food for the growing reptilian larva. The xeno reptilian larva would burst from within the crew's chest & then feed upon the body to grow into the next stage. Colonel Edward Carruthers  was accused by the Earth authorities of murderingg his crew man. And this so insensed his fellow countrymen that they mounted another expediation to find out what happened to the first. Colonel Edward Carruthers was spared to provide a host for the next generation xeno reptilian.
The xeno reptilian is an incredibly powerful built semi xenomorphic humanoid whose alien organs & circulitory system makes it immune to small arms fire, most melee weapons, and even some energy weapons. The powerfully built alien is capable of ripping small metal apart with its bare claws. The claws themselves have powerful alkoloid posion glands built into them capable of paralysting a grown man or woman. 

Prey is often takn alive to allow the monster later on to consume it at the beast's leaisure  after being paralysied by the monster. The monster is capable of webbing into place a victim which  same will  slowly morph into a xeno reptilian egg. The monster is deadly beyond compare flying into a violent rage at the drop of a hat. Its claws capable of rending light metals apart easily. 

A  xeno reptilian is capable of using its brain as well as the beast's natural weaponry. But the alien life form has the over riding psychology of  breeding to continue the species. 
120 Kg Str 18 (+4) Dex 15(+3) End 9 (0) Int 3 (-2) Inst 12 (+2) No. Appearing: varies Speed: x3 (18m/rd) Armor: 9 Weapons: Teeth (2D6+2); Claws (2d6+2), Stinger+2 (2D6 or V/Difficult End roll to avoid Paralysis) Attack: 6+ Flee: 3-

The xeno reptilian has been found on other worlds as well where its colouration, camoflauge, & even looks are slighly different. But its tactics, life cycle, as well as the passion for violent behavior remains. 

The xeno reptilian life form is hardy, highly adaptable, and capable of taking on many larger groups of PC's. Since It! The Terror from Beyond Space is a spirtual precursor to the Alien franchise I decided to modify it to work with the Cepheus Engine inspired Hostile Rpg setting from Zozer Games. 

High Tech Mysticism & High Caliber Adventure - Nightshift Veterans of the Supernatural Wars By Jason Vey & Original Dungeons & Dragon's The Underground & Wilderness Adventures

We should be wondering tonight, "Is there a world?" But I could go and talk on 5, 10, 20 minutes about is there a world, because there is really no world, cause sometimes I'm walkin' on the ground and I see right through the ground. And there is no world. And you'll find out.
"Is There A Beat Generation?" forum at Hunter College, New York, New York (8 November 1958)
Jack Kerouac

Someplace along the lines yesterday or the day before the wilderness started getting to me. This blog post picks right back up after this blog post here. 

The underground & the wilderness surrounds us even in the urban landscape we're not even aware of it 99.9 of the time in my experience. The wilderness & underworld intrudes big time on our universe in ways that we don't expect. And that's the key here. The wildness & the underworld don't wait because they as well as their inhabitants are mythic. There's something deeply mythological in the nature of the wildness & dungeon enviroments. The fear of the unknown & inhuman that as the older one gets that one can feel deep down.

Eric Haddox 
A composite image of the 2007 Guatemala city sinkhole

The dungeon doesn't wait for you it comes for you, your family, & everything else. Mythic landscapes of the invasive dungeon are as instinctive as our fear of the alien, the other, & the unknown. These fears & point of fact our fears feed these realms.
Is there a weird  wilderness planar realm that bleeds into our world on occassion taking humans as food, slaves, or worse?! Blobs of planar weirdness that Karl Edgar Wagner's Kane alludes to & Michael Moorcock's Elric slid into on occassion that PC's might find themselves in becomes a possibility. 

"Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.
Stanza 5
Edgar Allan Poe's the Raven. "

Wizard warlords are not going to wait around for the wilderness & the underworld to expand themselves. Instead their going to use the natural buffering of worlds & planes to impose the alien invasive landscape onto our natural reality. And this is something that we see time & again in Sword & Sorcery. When you least expect it then you're suddenly going to find yourself an adventurer regardless of circumstance or more likely because of it. So time & again we see treasure being liberated by parties of adventurers & they sell it there's never any repercussions of this from a wizard, lich, etc.. But their most likely dead or destroyed?! Really?! No doubt it. Most likely that was  double or the party ran away or were they let go?!Think about it, the 'treasure' might in point of fact be spreading the alien landscape & dungeon's influence as it passes from hand to hand. The PC's doing the tyrant's work spreading the plane's alieness as it goes. 
Suddenly an entire neighborhood find itself engulfed in the  alien chaos of the Fey's world. The familiar finds itself face to face with the unknown & the horror of it quickly escalates. 

"The Cave of Spleen", illustration by Aubrey Beardsley for The Rape of the Lock (1896) by Alexander Pope

Suddenly a neighborhood convience store is engulfed in chaos only to be swept away by monsters & demons from some Hell of the unknown. The central idea that the Bakshi & Bourroughs realms are off over there someplace runs counter productive to the ideas put forth in the original Dungeons & Dragons games in a way. Let me bring this back to Nightshift Veterans of the Supernatural Wars & Age of Conan both by Jason Vey.

The PC's are at the edges of reality dealing with these incursions of the reality of the forces of the unknown. Perhaps the million spheres are actually aspects of this unreality that occasionally allows horrors into this Earth. Time & again we keep coming back around to the Lamentations of the Flame Princess rpg. Not so much because of the adventures or the rpg itself but the adventure design philosphy of James  R. Raggy the third within the game. Monsters being unique, the dungeon as incredibly dangerous weirdness waiting to spring upon the PC's, and more. These philosphies are as important to me about LoFP as the actual rpg is itself. 

Would the mythic underground realms actually wait for the PC's to find them like a predator waiting to strike its prey. Or would the dungeon or wilderness barrel into the PC's because of its own machinations?! 
Why does Jack Kerouac keep getting qouted?! Because there was an HP Lovecraft Beat generation pastche that was written by Nick Matmas called 'Move Underground'.  And while it was solidly done the ideas put forth in the book really hit home for use with the Wilderness & Unworld OD&D book. 

 And I'd read it when LoFP's Carcosa came out. This became the basis for a very long running campaign which is where the High Tech Mysticism & High Caliber Adventure label comes from. And one where Venger Satanis's Cha'alt books have played havoc with colliding campaign realities. 
For what's going on in this campaign setting, LoFP's No Salvation for Witches By Rafael Chandler demon generators might be on tap. 

The idea of the wilderness & the underworld isn't simply the sum of its parts. Its a dangerous predator waiting to spring on the party of adventurers. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Rifts: Crazy PC class adapted for Cepheus Atom & Barbaric!


The crazy receives a nano cybernetic enhancement that completely rewires the human mind down to the neuralogical level. They gain several abilites right off the bat, the crazy can or may the character  take two Significant Actions and two Minor Actions (or five Minor Actions) in each combat round, though this does not allow a character to move further than 12 meters in a single round. They also have enhanced senses gaining a +2 DMR to all tracking, physical actions involving thier senses. The Crazy can hear a conversation over a hundred yards away with their enhanced senses. 
The crazy also gains the equivelant enhancements or mutations  of robust & permanently gain 2D additional endurance.And once per day the crazy  can also        enter a trance that gives the abilities of the fast healing mutations heal minor Wounds immediately after combat &  heal severe wounds in 2D days.

The crazy will gain 1d4 minor mental mutations see Cepheus Atom for details.The crazy will develop mental problems associated with their enhancements within 2d6 months & their intelligent scores will go down by 1d4 points reflecting their slide into insanity. The crazy also gains the mutation of biazzare appearance. The crazies as a whole are percieved as powerful but very dangerous. Many communities of the wasteland want nothing to do with crazies as they sometimes cause as much destruction as they prevent. The slide into utter insanity makes these enhanced beings both a tragic thing to watch & simply another legacy of the ancients. 

High Tech Mysticism & High Caliber Adventure - Nightshift Veterans of the Supernatural Wars By Jason Vey & Lamentations of the Flame Princess


"I felt like lying down by the side of the trail and remembering it all. The woods do that to you, they always look familiar, long lost, like the face of a long-dead relative, like an old dream, like a piece of forgotten song drifting across the water, most of all like golden eternities of past childhood or past manhood and all the living and the dying and the heartbreak that went on a million years ago and the clouds as they pass overhead seem to testify (by their own lonesome familiarity) to this feeling. Ecstacy, even, I felt, with flashes of sudden remembrance, and feeling sweaty and drowsy I felt like sleeping and dreaming in the grass."

The Dharma Bums (1958) By Jack Kerouac

There isn't a day that goes by in life when social media absolutely drives me insane. The sameness of it all cuts like a knife through a man's soul. So when I've been away from it for a day or so its like break fromthe hollow desert of an empty echoing chamber. So let's pick it up again from this blog entry here. 
 And that brings us to thoughts of a wilderness that lays just beyond the substance of the imagination of reality  in the for now & the yet to be. Over the years there's been this campaign & setting that's been aching to get out of my head.  Someplace between the Phantasm films, hard core Sword & Sorcery, bits of the CW's Supernatural, & original Dungeons & Dragons or perhaps B/X D&D. Somplace between a modern supernatural horror game & full on Sword & Sorcery. 
 Karl Edgar Wagner's Kane keeps prowling the edges of dreams & nightmares. If Karl Edgar Wagner's Kane is the anti champion of the Balance then perhaps he looked upon his Earth & things went down hill from here. Did the gods & supernatural monsters really ever really leave Earth? Or are they still here? 
Is there a weird  wilderness planar realm that bleeds into our world on occassion taking humans as food, slaves, or worse?! Blobs of planar weirdness that Kane alludes to & Elric slid into on occassion that PC's might find themselves in becomes a possibility. 

Now talking with DM Rick & Steve we spoke at length about the Bakshi Burroughs realms. How PC's crossing over into these demi planes may pick up mutations or worse from their stay. And how wizard warlords often use Chaos  magics to make mutates or mutants as shock troops or guards. 

What happens when your average PC & party from say a modern world of the '00's finds himself face to face with a mutant warrior group from Bakshi's Wizards only to find out that its not a come on. And then finds themselves saved by a Robin hood style fighter whose party has been hustling out in this realm for ages. We got glimpses of this in the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon episodes 'The Time Lost' episode 23  from season three in 1985 & the 'Lost Children'  episode 12 Season one in 1983. 

Let me bring this back to Nightshift Veterans of the Supernatural Wars & Age of Conan both by Jason Vey. T
he Age of Conan sorcerer rules are fierce & very dangerous. They give black sorcerers teeth, & have almost all of the usual Lovecraft along with Conan monsters &  demons of the Outer Darkness to them. If you were paying attention to yesterday's blog entry on Mars. Then you know that the gods of Law & Chaos from Michael Moorcock's eternal champion mythos wear different masks depending upon the reality of the Million spheres. And perhaps the million spheres are actually aspects of this unreality that occasionally allows horrors into this Earth. 

This brings to mind many of the abominations, freaks, & horrors that seem to prevade Lamentations of the Flame Princess adventures. The idea of one off horrors that could be randomly created due to the weird radiations of Law & Chaos are very appealing. But also the idea of many of Lamentations of the Flame Princess's dungeon & adventure design philosphy might also apply here.

A mix of the normal Dungeons & Dragons monsters as well as the occasional mutated one off that has some special tie to with regards to the adventure or location. These are all elements that are still being toyed with at the moment. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Spectral Samurai Warrior For Sword of Cepheus, Barbaric!, & Cepheus Atom

 An ancient clan of nameless samurai warriors have been cursed by the elder Oni to forevermore be at the beckoned call of black wizards from across space & time. This clan's name has been struck from history but the summoning ritual has been passed from black wizard to cult for eons. The spectral samurai are incredibly dangerous husks of their former selves with absolutely no souls left within their ecoplasmically created armor. They will carry out feats of incredible cruelty & bloodthirsty evil without a thought. 

0kg Undead, urban flyer, EAP9A0 #App: 2-3  Treasure: Large Athletics-2, Melee Combat-2, Sorcery-1, Recon-3, Stealth-3 Attacks all living beings Special attack; armor 0; flying speed 10m/action Chaotic; Morale DM+4

Special undead characteristics 

Undead: immune to poison, disease, and suffocation. • Immune to mind-affecting magic • Incorporeal: immune to non-silver, non-magical weapons. • Knows 1D spells, chosen randomly from the Black Magic lists. • A character damaged  by a spectural samurai's swords  must throw END 6+ or permanently age 4 years (which may entail Aging Table throws). • A creature slain by a samurai will rise as a wraith on the next full moon. Each samurai will have 1d10 wraith's former victims under their control 

Each spectral samurai are unique undead that on an instinctual level hate all living beings & will seek to answer the call of a black wizard for the opportunity to slay the living. They are very dangerous because of the malevolently chaotic behavior that drives these undead fiends. Because they can be summoned with a sorcery check of 4 many wizards open doors to allow these horrors through the plane prime. These undead can & will appear in barbanian infested lands or even within the post apocalytic land scape. They are not adverse to workin with mutants or other evil warriors as long as these beings submit to the leadership of these horrors from across space & time. 

Monday, April 26, 2021

The Order of the Alligator Knights For Sword of Cepheus, Barbaric! & Cepheus Atom

 The Order of the Alligator was founded on a backwater swamp plane that had come into contact with an Arthurian order of knights who were slain saving a group of young Alligator lizardmen mothers &  hatchlings. A survivor of the maccacre of the knights stayed behind to educate the younglings in the precepts,beliefs, & traditions of his knightly order.  The order continued to train even when the old knight had passed on. 

The Order of the Alligator Knights

100kg Humanoid, swamp walker and swimmer, 9795A5 #App: 1D, Treasure: Small Athletics-2 , Melee Combat-2, Recon-2, Survival-2, Tacticcs-2 Attacks on 8+; flees on 4- Claws (1D), Bite (1D) or by weapon; Armor 2 or by worn armor; walk of swim 10m/action Lawful & Chaotic; Morale DM+1 

Not sure of the artist came across this artwork in a random google image search. Was inspired to create this knighly order. 

Over the centuries the order of Alligator knights has ventured far & wide across the planes vanquishing evils, righting wrongs, & coming to the add of both humanoids, as well as humans. Evil reared its head when Sir Darktooth & his knights plotted with dark powers to murder his fellow knights as a sacrifice to an evil demon. Knight fought against clutch brother & sister. The survivors of Sir Darktooth continued to have a far more darker turn of mind even though the peace between the orders has survived now for eons. 
The Order of the Alligator journeys across the planes with the add of their wizard lizards & draco magus who are often squires who have been wounded in mating battles or veterans who have foresworn the sword. Because the alligator lizard men are so long lived they can easily switch up into magical pursues as they age. The average alligator knight can live into his or her late two hundreds. 
Many knights use the draco mounts, peuso dinodraconic monsters able to easily bare the full weight of a knight into battle. The alligator knights are often seen as slow or ill intelligent by other humanoid & humanoid races. A tactic they often encourage to lull  their enemies into a false sense of superioty until the knights have teeth & blade at the necks of their enemies. The order of alligator knights can be inplacable enemies & have been known to eat their enemies should they absolutely beyond anger with their foes. 
The order of the Alligator knights are not above taking on other humanoid or reptilian squires into their ranks. This has over the centuries included several human champions with whom an alligator knight is often partnered with. Knights are incredibly loyal to both their communities, cities, nest lodges, & the order itself. There are many chapter houses & lodges of the order of the alligator knights scattered across vast stretches of the planes prime.  Choatic & Lawful knights will not fight one another by tradition but they will team up against any manifestation of a demon or devil. They have long standing hatred of the infernal. 
The order of the alligator knights feel that is their civic duty to journey to worlds where human & lizardmen have suffered apocalytic events. They will fight against any mutant, demonic, monsterous horrors that they find in such places. 
The order of the Alligator knights is perfect for Barbaric!, Sword of Cepheus, & Cepheus Atom 

Frozen Blood & Focused Ambitions - Leigh Brackett's Black Amazon of Mars 's 'Shining ones' & Michael Moorcock's Stormbringer mythologies

 This blog entry picks right up where yesterday's left off & we dive into another Martian ecology with an OSR twist or two. 

Leigh Brackett's Black Amazon of Mars wraps up the Stark triliogy of stories. Black Amazon of Mars by Leigh Brackett originally appeared in the March 1951 issue of Planet Stories. It can be read online here at And yes it has some incredibly interesting characters & an apocalpytic situation of dire Pulp proporations upon Brackett's Mars. What I want to do is tackle this story from the other end of the spectrum & that is the Lovecraftian monsters lurking within this story. 
Stark, as an "Earthman out of Mercury" sits in the Martian setting like the Old  Western hero of a typical Orientalist yarn: he's violent and morally upright, and he's confronted with exotic beauty and spooky mysteries. And could in many respects be considered an aspect of the Eternal Champion of Michael Moorcock fame. 
All of this kicks off with a Martian thief & Stark's partner having stolen the artifact of 
Ban Cruach. And Stark fufilling a life debt for his partner. It rings out in an 'Old Western' life debt between the native & the outsider. The trope isn't lost on the reader & it works. And it also works as a motivator for old school adventure. But what strikes me is the dual role of the hero king  Ban Cruach to both sets of Martians. He sits as genocidal warlord of Hitler proporations to Lovecraftian polar martians beyond the 'Gates of Death' & as a hero king to the humanoid tribes. The Pulp microwave set up of the old king is a clever plot device.  

The Lovecraftian 'shining ones' with their deep freeze apoclaytic slide want back their lands & their inheritance of Mars. And then there are the Martian humanoid tribes around the city states that have become roving hordes of Gengis Khan level armies out to plunder all of Mars. The barbarians  end up becoming Mars polar guardians but interesting is the fact that the 'shining ones' are far more then they seem. Two sentiant races of Mars evolving along the same lines. What are the odds?! Slim & none come to mind.  The 'shining ones' remind me of some of the tribal ancestor mythological figure races  of the plains American original tribes both their outlook & their goals. The view point of the humanoid tribes of Martians & the 'shining ones' stands in stark contrast to the view point of Michael Moorcock's 
Melniboné empire vs its human rivals of Pan Tang. 

And this is a theme we see in both old school adventure  modules & OSR role playing games such as Lamentations of the Flame Princess. The old races vs the upstarts who are moving in. This conflict isn't new & is the basis for many conflicts within campaigns. Another stark contrast is the fact that the 'shining ones' are unique among the patheon of Martian monsters. They appear once & then quietly set into the background. 

Humanity vs the old races in this case Elves from Lofp 

The notations of colonial Mars & colonial based conflicts in Dungeons & Dragons style games isn't racist its adventure & campaign driven. The racial motivated battles are not race driven their driven by resources of a campaign. the hero king  Ban Cruach strove to push back the 'shining ones' so that his own peoples would have the resources of Mars to expand & evolve. The Man with No Tribe and the Warrior Queen of Kushat are the new hero champions. The losers in this conflict are the 'shining ones' & the same goes for the  Melniboné empire vs its human rivals of Pan Tang.  And this is a cycle that repeats over & over again perhaps the real essence of Law vs Chaos even on an alien world. The real losers are those nameless  adventurers caught in the cross fire. 

Conflict is good in old school & OSR games, because it allows us as both DM's & players to explore issues from the safety of dice & sanity. Within the bounds of games we see pig faced orcs as servants of the 'other'  & the existence of the shining ones is no different. Their very alien  presence is immical to mankind  & the aliens have an  agenda of taking back Mars regardless of genocide . This contrasts with the 
Melniboné empire Make no mistake the Melniboné empire is utterly evil & decident in its treatment of humanity within the Elric mythos. Yes there are indivdual examples of  Melibonean champions but on the whole. Humanity are late comers to the scene. A fact that the Pan Tangians emulate their former Melibonean benefactors. This irony isn't lost on many readers & players of the  Stormbringer rpg. 
And Leigh Brackett isn't a comfortable writer folks & even though the tales are set on Mars they contrast quite nicely with the plots of a great many peoples through out our Earth. Leigh Brackett's Mars seems very much in the same vein as her mentor's C.L.Moore's solar system. A silent frontier that was set out & up in Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles waiting for mankind. But mankind is the tresspasser on very ancient legacies. And in many ways the 'shining ones' remind me very much in the same ways that the enemies & ancient sorcerous legacies of the Young Kingdoms. Many of the Elric book's monsters would be right at home among the red & raw sands of Brackett or C.L. Moore's worlds. In many ways many of the conventions of the Sword & Planet vs Sword & Sorcery literature remain. But this is a form & function of the genre & not a take away. 
But my question becomes will the amulet & sword of the old warrior king keep the 'shining ones' at bay forever?! Perhaps not.  
There are many, many, questions about Leigh Brackett's Mars still in the back of my mind. But that's another blog entry. 

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Warm Wet Ragged Tendrils - C.L. Moore's Shambleau & Michael Moorcock's Stormbringer mythologies

 "Somewhere beyond the Egyptians, in that dimness out of which come echoes of half-mythical name - Atlantis, Mu - somewhere back of history's first beginnings there must have been an age when mankind, like us today, built cities of steel to house its star-roving ships and knew the names of the planets in their native tongues..." "Man has conquered space before, .... and faint echoes still run through a world that has forgotten the very fact of a civilization which must have been as mighty as our own".

Shmableu C.L. Moore 



This blog entry picks right up from this Mars themed Sword & Sorcery entry from the other day. 
So Cha'alt is the deal of the Day on Drivetru rpg, but my game campaigns  with Cha'alt & its sister book are on hiatus. Why?! Controversy by Venger, lack of eithos on the players part, a host of reasons?! Nope its work schedules & real life commitments the bane of all table top gaming. So for the moment that little slice of purple & vallium hazed desert Hell is put on hold. 
But let's get back to Mars or more specifically C.L.Moore & Northwest Smith's solar system. There's something about C.L.Moore's solar system that indicates that mankind is a very late comer to this universe. And there's been lots conflicts & wars between the Martians, Venusians, & other entities going back millions of years. Because mankind or an offshoot of it has been on the interstellar stage before. C.L. Moore's Shambleu feels like a tapestry of an old Western, Sword & Planet, & a Lovccraft tale all rolled into one. The C.L. Moore solar system tales feel like this solar system has been a battle ground before. Not simply a place where Law & Chaos have gone at one another but where even the older  races have had a go. 

But Northwest Smith reminds me quite nicely in the same vein as Michael Moorcock's Elric. This reviewer writes of Northwest Smith: "We are told repeatedly that he is an Earthman, though it is only in the later stories that we actually see him on Earth; for all his sentimental attachment, Earth is a place to come from, not a place to be. He is subtly marked as an alien by his eyes, which are colourless. It is only a small step to see the colourless eyes of Northwest Smith turning into the albinoism of another wanderer from exotic adventure to exotic adventure, Michael Moorcock's Elric."

Alexandr Komarov's Elric artwork 

The question isn't where does Northwest Smith fit in but when?! We know that the cycles of Law & Chaos repeat endlessly upon themselves over & over again until the end of all things. 
C.L. Moore's Shambleau tale feels like a book end to a struggle that we as humans don't have a clue about. The Shambleau feels like she (it?!?) feels like a left over bio weapon created by the elder things or perhaps the ancient Melnibonéan sorcerer king's black magicians. No but it might be something that the Melnibonéan used or deployed as a tool of addiction & seduction. 

C. L. Moore's Shambleau as illustrated by the one and only Jean-Claude Forest, the creator of Barbarella.  It's available over at the Cool French Comics site.  You can find it here

The Shambleau has all of the hallmarks of the 
the ancient Melnibonéan legacies. The Shambleau is an intimate cosmic horror that at the same time feeds upon both the soul & the dignity of its victims. Again this has the sardonic humor & inhuman horro of the Melnibonéan race. I'm I saying that the 
Melnibonéan's created the Shambleau?! Nope, but the creature has many of the hall marks & weirdness that we find within the stories & novels of Elric & his doomed 
Melnibonéan race. And just because it wears the shape of a little brown girl creature don't think that it is one even remotely. James Garrison of the Old School Heretic blog goes into the racially charged aspects of the Shambleau far better then I here. 

But the fact that every planets seem to be inhabited by every shade, stripe, & tendriled human variation has been lost on DM Ricky or DM Steve. Shambleau evokes the same disgust that Elric's drug addiction passages do. The Shambleau is 'need' incarnate both sexual, & soul perhaps even other. And yes C.L.Moore's writings are Space Westerns but like her protege' Leigh Brackett. The Space Western here is one that evokes the fact that humanity is pushing out the older races. The monster could easily be at home on Hyperborea of the  Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers rpg or on Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique. And that's one of the beauties of the alien thing. At this point the race is so ancient that even it has no idea how many millions of years of the Shambleau is.  And there's an undercurrent of HPL alieness & 
Cosmicism ro it. The thing is that the alien Shambleau could be at home on some alien back water boom town or found operating within the Young Kingdom's at a brothel or worse. According to the Shambleau wiki entry

"Several commentators refer to the lynching scene that starts the story. Thomas F. Bertonneau remarks that "Moore's protagonist gets into trouble by rescuing what appears to be a young woman from a Martian lynch-mob: his sense of the dignity of the persecuted victim leads him to put himself in danger by opposing the witch-hunters. (Later, Smith has to be rescued from the young woman, who turns out to be a monster in disguise; victimhood can be a disguise.)"[1]

Bernard Fields adds that, "The disturbing undercurrent is that the lynch mob turns out to have been right in wanting to kill the 'sweetly made girl'. Smith was wrong in his chivalrous impulse to save her, and the mob was right to despise him for it." 
The Shambleau are ancient beyond time & the mob itself was right. The inhuman horror of the alien is terrible beyond words. But what would adventurers do against such a creature or would one of the party become an addict to the soul sucking horror of the Shambleau itself. 

Saturday, April 24, 2021

The Murder Carnivals - a Post Apocalpytic Encounter For Cepheus Atom & Sword of Cepheus

 In the shadow years of Nineteen Eighty One when the limited nuclear war broke the back of reality weird radiations flooded into the world. And strange mutations began to roam the countryside. Some of these mutations found niches in road side attractions & touring carnivals. 
Travelling from city to city these elaborate rides, attractions, & touring carnivals hide their mutations in plan sight while after hours freak shows & like allow dangerous mutants to target the settlements that they move into. 

Bright eyes, needlemen, & a wide variety of mutants not normally seen among both urban & rural locations are free to circulate among the population. Carrin ring leaders & bosses target likely settlements while ghoul packs clean up after the looting & murdering has been done. There are in point of fact at least three different murder carnivals traveling from place to place throughout the wastelands. These franchises are under the control of a polymorphed Gamma Worm named Mr.Velvet, A Morlock wizard known as Madam Underwood, & A Carrin sorcerer known as Mr. Shaper. 
Each of these beings is under the direct control of a lich lord known as 'The Manager' who over sees the entire operation through his underlings. No one knows who or what the 'the manger' is other then a lich who has surived since the 'before times'. This lich acts to dimensionally gate each carnival from one location to another 1d100 miles away from their last location. This leaves the authorities guessing about the carnival until its too late. 

The most dangerous mutants that work for the travelling murder carnivals are 'Conway's Mutates'. These twisted & highly dangerous strain of mutant has been with this network of murder carnivals for years. Highly motivated, evil, & devilishly twistly violent these mutants have a knack for murder mayhem & violence. 

'Conway's Mutates'
10/20, Move 10m, Armor 3, Spear (melee or ranged 2D damage). Combat-3, Physical-1, Survival-2.
 Thick hide, robust,  infravision, aberrant deformity.

The murder carnivals are actually the cover for a gangs of Koboldoids  & heavily mutated cavemen who operate as the carnival hands & works the attractions or rides. All of the while these workers are scoping out likely targets for raiding & pillaging by the murder carnival.
1D  10/20, Move 10m, Armor 4, Spear (melee or ranged 2D damage). Combat-2, Physical-1, Survival-1  Thick hide, robust

Tonight's blog entry & encounter is inspired by the '91 Tope Hooper classic horror flick Funhouse. 

Robert E. Howard, Michael Moorcock, & Karl Edgar Wagner - Age of Conan & Nightshift Veterans of the Supernatural Wars By Jason Vey

  Yesterday was one of those days where you find yourself stuck in a waiting room of a garage. This happened to be in my home town which meant 2 hours or so of garage back & forth for car parts. So grabbing the first printed out pdf from the stack. And in this case it was a print out of two classic OD&D resources Grey Elf' (Jason Vey)'s Age of Conan II: Secrets of Acheron,a sourcebook for sorcerers and sorcery in the Hyborian Age & Age of Conan III: Secrets of the Black Circle, a further sourcebook for Hyborian Age campaigns. Now all of this back slots into Jason Vey's Age of Conan original Dungeons & Dragons rpg hack. 

Several things jumped out at my attention immediately  in  Age of Conan III: Secrets of the Black Circle, the use of fate points was very fimilar. These are points that are used in the O.R.G.E. system of Night Shift Veterans of the Supernatural Wars rpg. Could the sorcerer & black wizard magick systems in Age of Conan be applied in Night Shift?! 

Who cares?! Well lets go backward for a moment, the Age of Conan sorcerer rules are fierce & very dangerous. They give black sorcerers teeth, & have almost all of the usual Lovecraft along with Conan monsters &  demons of the Outer Darkness to them. If you were paying attention to yesterday's blog entry on Mars. Then you know that the gods of Law & Chaos from Michael Moorcock's eternal champion mythos wear different masks depending upon the reality of the Million spheres. But what if there was another mythology that was done by one of the other titans of modern dark fantasy that joined into both the Robert E. Howard stories & Michael Moorcock's stories. 
Yes I'm talking about Karl Edgar Wagner's Kane here & last night reading through The Midnight Sun: The Complete Stories of Kane several things stuck in my brain. Kane is the one who created his world's apocalpyse & shares many of the darkest characteristics of Elric. Kane is in many ways far worse then Elric. Kane rips across his world causing mayhem, horror, & insanity in his wake even as he tries to make the world better?! 

In the past with my uncle we ran through his Stormbringer rpg Kane appeared as a major NPC. And we as a party of adventurers worked for (we really didn't have any choice), under,& finally fled from this Gothic antihero. On the East of Eden Karl Edgar Wagner fan site there was a very interesting little tid bit:'Gothic Touches in The Gothic Touch   The first Karl Edward Wagner story I ever read was The Gothic Touch. This was a crossover between Wagner's anti-hero Kane and Michael Moorcock's iconic albino, Elric of Melnibone, which appeared in an anthology of Elric stories called Tales of the White Wolf. At the time that I read it, I knew very little about Kane, Wagner, or the Gothic Novels of the eighteenth century. All that would soon change.

Like many people who hadn't actually read the Kane books, I assumed he was just another Conan knock-off. The Frank Frazetta covers of the Warner paperbacks did a lot to further this image, showing the usual sword & sorcery images of a big guy in armor fighting demons or just standing there looking dangerous. Reportedly, Wagner wasn't completely pleased with Frazetta's vision of Kane, but a Frazetta cover certainly didn't hurt sales in the mid 1970s.

As I began to track down and read the Kane stories though, I soon learned that Kane not only wasn't a Conan clone, he wasn't even a barbarian. He was instead, a staggeringly well read and intelligent man who had traveled his world for centuries and was able to discuss music, poetry, politics, and any number of subjects. He was also a born killer and completely amoral. He was, in fact, the biblical Cain, an immortal who must walk the world until slain by violence. And Kane is darn hard to slay.

In his essay, The Once and Future Kane, Karl Edward Wagner discusses the origins of his character. While Wagner admits to admiring and being somewhat influenced by the works of Conan's creator Robert E. Howard, he gives his primary influence as the Gothic Novels of the 1700s." 

Kane has in several of his stories gone after & killed immortals, gods, & others in his eternal game with his mad version of the Almighty. Which begs the question, 'If Kane is still out in the multiverse & playing his own game against the powers of Chaos & Law what could the fall out be?!' Imagine for a moment that the Cults of Chaos or Law  are operating on a modern Earth ala CHAOS CULTS OF THE YOUNG KINGDOMS BY CHARLES GREEN. Kane isn't going to stand the competition in any arena. And this makes the immortal incredibly dangerous. 

But your crew of Gothic themed defenders of mankind come up against the machinations of Kane. What would a crew of immortals do against Kane whose agendas often seem to wreck entire countries or empires. Neulow Games Secrets of the Immortals could easily be converted over to Nightshift.Giving a possible organization that could potentially have Kane in its sights.

 Vampires, immortals, gods, oh yes Kane's killed all them& more besides . But it seems that the black sorcerers of Age of Conan present a real target & challenge. Kane the immortal represents a very dangerous antagonist & possibly an anti champion of both Law & Chaos. Kane might even be the dark champion of the Balance. 

Would this set up work as an OSR supernatural thriller & horror game with a Sword & Sorcery spin?! Very possibly & we're talking with DM Steve & DM Ricky right now. 

Friday, April 23, 2021

Brackett & Moorcock - Leigh Brackett, Astonishing Swordmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, & Michael Moorcock's 'Kane of Old Mars'

 Today we're going to dive into a very different Mars then readers might be familar with. A Mars that sits in the sights of three very distinctive authors of Sword & Plantary fiction 

Its been a very busy couple of weeks & its only getting busier. So during this St.George's day it seems like the perfect opportunity to return to the shores of Mars. DM Ricky & DM Steve have been riding my behind now for some weeks & today's blog entry picks up with Michael Moorcock's Kane of Old Mars saga. Yes we've covered this saga in these two blog entries here & here. Michael Moorcock's Kane contrasts utterly with other Martian or Barsoomian heroes. Why?!  The Kane series is a homage to Edgar Rice Burrough's Barsoom stories; "Michael Kane is the principal character, a Vietnam veteran that goes into physics and ends up on Mars during one of his experiments. He tells the author of the book his tales of adventure and the life he made on Mars. Typical of Moorcock's Eternal Champion stories, Moorcock's hero is a philosophical man who hates war (except Elric), but is good at it when he needs to be. Through Kane, Moorcock speaks of how fear affects us and causes us to do the wrong thing (kill, hate, etc.). Kane tries his best to remedy that with logic and compassion." All of the above comes from Michael H. Weekley Amazon review on Kane of Old Mars. We've read all of this before. What you haven't read is the fact that recently 
Sea Kings of Mars and Otherwordly Stories By Leigh Brackett  (Fantasy Masterworks) has come back into my collection. Why back because an ex friend of mine stole my copy. 

Everything about Leigh Brackett's Mars & even her solar system is completely in line but opposite with Michael Moorcock's Kane stories. The reason for this simple Kane solves his problems with his brain,brawn, & heart. Brackett's heroes & anti heroes solve their problems with ultra violence, fists, honor, determination, & despration. And before we go further yes the Kane stories are homages to Edar Rice Burroughs, Leigh Brackett, & the Pulp stories of Moorcock's youth. 
But what strikes me are the contrasts of C.L. Moore's North West Smith Stories & Leigh Brackett's  Sword & Planet  stories in Sea Kings of Mars and Otherwordly Stories  along side Michael Moorcock's Kane of Old Mars. The meta take away from these stories is the fact that our solar system had other tenants & land lords in long forgotten ages ago. And the neighborhood didn't always get along. Lovecraftian gods & alien races carved out their own niches in this solar system landscape. At some point in the far future millions of years Ragnorok happens & the old gods of Mars return. But are they all that old!? 

If we do a cross comparison between the gods or aliens of Kane's Mars & say Elric's Old Kingdom are we simply looking at old celestial masks for the forces Law & Chaos?!  Gods of Law in the Young Kingdoms (written by Charles Green- with large contributions from Richard Watts)  has some excellent references for the cults of Law for the fifth edition Stormbringer rpg. These along with the CHAOS CULTS OF THE YOUNG KINGDOMS BY CHARLES GREEN stand in sharp focus to some of the stories in all three of the cited sources in this blog post. 

But already the OSR & the Stormbringer fifth edition crowd is howling for my blood & souls. Calm down this is a mental excercise. Since the fact is that mankind is on a colonial expansion kick in Leigh Brackett & C.L. Moore's stories. Then we have to turn to Clark Ashton Smith's tales especially The Seedling From Mars.  This entity along with CAS's Mars cycle give us a seemless background for the peperation of the Mars life forms on a 'dead mars' of the far future:

These tales contain the Martian Lovecraftian Satan which means that Vulthoom might be in point of fact 'old Reg' from Michael Moorcock's Von Bek tales. A being whose closely connected with the Black Sword & might be connected with several artifact swords of Mars itself. 
This revelation is nothing new & has been put forth in several Barsoom & Brackett fanzines over the years. After the gods of Earth die in Ragnorok then the Martian races & gods retake Mars in a nasty event. Humanity on Mars might well be in the very smallest minority. The forces of the balance shift the pendulum again. This could help to explain some of the forces & entities that we see in the Kane of Old Mars series. 
But Kane's position as an eternal champion is an interesting one. He's more of a figure of balance in these stories then one of Law or Chaos. His use of his mind instead of ultraviolence contrasts sharply with the situations he finds himself in. 
The legacy of Kane compared to the tone of AS&SH is both an interesting one & one could work well to pull the PC's into the eye of a storm that a Mars that a campaign that  uses all three authors as source material offers.