Friday, September 30, 2016

Monsters, Blood & Treasure

John M. Stater has released the monster manual for the second edition of his retroclonish Blood & Treasure (discussed, here). While the stat blocks are pretty universal, one might reasonably think if they already have the monster book for their clone of choice, why do they need another? Okay, the cover is awesome, but why else?

It is true that many of the monsters are the usual assortment of humanoids, dragons, demons, and devils, but there are a few SRD notables I haven't seen in any old school product before. There are some new creatures and interesting homages to non-SRD beasties, too, like the "we-don't-need-no-stinking-Modrons" Polyhedroids. All of these stat blocks and descriptions are old school short (I don't think there is a page with less than 2 monsters), it is much more lavishly illustrated than most basic, old school monster books in an array of styles from well-chosen public domain illustration to cartoony. The only downside is that audiences used to modern monster books pinups, these will seem small. All in all, these traits make it probably the most AD&D Monster Manual of monster books I have seen.

There are the usual encounter charts by terrain, plane, and level. There are quick rules for many monsters as PC races. The typical extras, in other words. There are also a handful of one page "mini-adventures," all short and flavorful. John is good at this sort of thing as his hexcrawls attest. I'm not the only one that thinks so.

If any of that sounds good to you, you should check it out. Certainly if you already have Blood & Treasure 2e, you'll want it.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Wandering the Planet of the Apes


Player Characters:
Jeff Call as Brock Irving
Jarrett Crader as Aurelius
Justin Davis as Conrad "Rip" Ripper
Lester B. Portly as Eddy Woodward
Jason Sholtis as Francis La Cava

Nonplayer Characters:
Morgan Farley as Ilpasa Elder
Gorilla Troopers
Ilpasa Tribesfolk

Synopsis: The astronauts and their chimpanzee friend set off across the desert in search of human tribes and discover hints of another enemy.

Leaving the Pax base at Carlsbad, the group was not completely certain of what particularly course south they should take. Eezaya had said his people lived along "the ancient border," but that was pretty nonspecific. They decided to return to their ship to survey from the air, even though they knew their fuel was low.

A roll on a slightly modified version of the X4: Master of the Desert Nomads random encounter table suggested an encounter with an enemy patrol: They found four gorilla troopers investigating the ship. As formulated a plan to deal with them, a strange mechanical sound and trail of black over the next hill got the gorilla's attention. They quickly rode off in pursuit.

Quickly, pre-packing the ship and taking off, the group wanted to see what the fuss was about. Flying low (burning more fuel) they saw a weird, smoke-belching contraption leveling an ape homestead little more than a mile from where they had landed. The gorillas rode toward it, but didn't get there until the thing had drove off into a wooded area in the direction of the Pecos River. The group debated whether to investigate that weirdness, but ultimately decided to fly on. The players that had been in the last session were concerned this was likely to be the mutants the Pax-droids had mentioned.

They fly out toward the west, looking for the Rio Grande. They find it and see what appear to be human settlements, based on the more primitive design. Landing at a flat part of the desert, Woodward doesn't get high enough on his piloting roll and winds up damaging one of the thrusters. It's probably repairable, though no one ever rolls to try and find out for certain.

Walking across the desert to the camp provokes another random encounter roll. This time a gorgon, for which a giant iguana is a good substitute.

LaCava reminds them all its herbivorous, and they give it wide berth.

The villagers are understandably wary, but hospitable (the flags on their flight suits help). There is a curious lack of warriors in their prime among them, which later they are told is due to the Mehi and their mutant allies.

The people call themselves the Patryot Nation and revere the ancient American flag and apparently the King James Bible. This particular tribe is the Ilpassa. Eezaya is of the more ape-hating Tehis.

The Ilpassa Elder they speak with is fatigued by their antics, but seems fooled by their passing off a spacesuit-clad Aurelius as their "grandfather."

In the end, the group isn't interested in the plight of the Ilpasa, and their fight with the mutants. They head out South along the river to find the Tehi.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Legend of Yggdrasil

My exploration of the long-running euro-comic Storm, continues. Earlier installments can be found here.

Storm: The Legend of Yggdrasil (1981) (part 5)
(Dutch: De Legende van Yggdrasil)
Art by Don Lawrence & Script by Kelvin Gosnell

In the arena, Storm, Ember, and the dinos are encircled by horsemen with lances, waiting to charge. Storm pays them little heed as he investigates the large metallic dome at the center. It's made of the same material as the teleportation pads--and it has the tyrannosaur symbol on it!

Storm has Wagnar press his warrior emblem into engraving. A door opens and our heroes slip inside before the horsemen can get to them. A robot greets them on the inside and activates a holographic projector that reveals a startling history.

His creators were a peaceful race who found themselves beseiged by barbarians 1100 years ago. They used a time machine to bring dinosaurs from the past, then from that stock create a race of saurian warriors. Now they had a defense against the barbarians, but realizing the days of peace were over, they decided to leave the Earth and their creations behind.

Shocked by these revelations, the dino folk want to know who Yggdrasil is, if  humans were their creators. The robot presses a few buttons and reveals a tyrannosaur in a stasis field. This is their Yggdrasil: the genetic progenitor of their race.

Wag-Nar is shocked. Their god is a monster! He does have time to fully digest these revelations as the dome has more visitors. The traitorous priest used his medallion to open the dome and brought the humans with him. I fight breaks out and in the melee:

"Yggdrasil" is released. The tyrannosaur goes on a rampage. The priest is devoured by his own "god," who them breaks out of the dome. Ember, Storm, and Wag-Nar face the dinosaur in the arena. Only Wag-Nar is strong enough to deliver the killing blow:

Wag-Nar is fatally wounded, too. He asks Storm and Ember to find a safe place for his people. Storm promises he will. Fortuitously, Storm's ship arrives. He gives it to the robot and the dino folk. He and Ember are going to take the energy bridge to Antarctica--and the time machine.


Monday, September 26, 2016

Serpent Men in the Garden

"In those days the serpent went upright like a man, nor was he exactly nonhuman in shape, but his beauty was a different from a man's as day is from night. He was lithe and gorgeously scaled and by standards a supremely handsome, supremely male creature."
- C.L. Moore, "Fruit of Knowledge"

In my post on the demi-humans of the pre-Flood world. I forgot the Serpents. As you may recall from the temptation of Eve in the Book of Genesis, Serpents had limbs and come talk Sounds like a Howardian Serpent Man to me.

Getting cursed by God and loosing his limbs suggests (to me at least) variable levels of snake-ness among later serpent descendants--something like the Yuan-ti. Conflation with the Snake Men of Masters of the Universe is done at your own discretion.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Some Counter-factual Covers I Forgot

After Monday's post, I realize I hadn't tagged a series of fake covers I did a few months ago for our Hydra Cooperative products in the style of Mayfair's Role-Aids line:

Here's Mortzengersturm with a Michael Whelan cover. I was never completely satisfied with the font, but I didn't just want to use the one that will be on the actual cover.

This one all goes together nicely, though I'm afraid it doesn't necessarily reflect the contents of Operation Unfathomable well. The artist is Paul Lehr.

Fever-Dreaming Marlinko gets a bit more acid fantasy with a Gene Szfran cover. It's also got the most complicated logo of all of them.

Misty Isle of the Eld gets more mysterious with a Bruce Pennington cover. I used the same font Luka employed on the real cover (Prisma), and I think it works just as well here.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Kill 6 Billion Demons

Chances are, you've heard of Kill 6 Billion Demons the fantasy webcomic by ABADDON (Tom Parkinson-Morgan). What you may not know is that Book 1 is now available in hard copy from Image. The author says it's inspired by his "love of heavy metal and awesome French fantasy comics" but there also seems to be a fair amount of Gnosticism and bit of Hindu iconography.

Allison Ruth is about to have sex for the first time with her boyfriend, when strange beings appear. One puts some sort of key into Allison's head and the others kidnap her boyfriend. Allison is sent to Throne, the ancient city at the center of the multiverse. With help of an angel peacekeeper she must keep her self alive and find away to rescue her boyfriend. 

The universe and its mythology are complex and rich. It perhaps rivals the world of Smylie's Artesia in that regard, though it has a very different style and tone--more akin to Prophet, perhaps. Comparisons to Exalted would not be unwarranted, though mainly in its dealings with an exotic world full of gods and demons. It's definitely worth a look.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Legend of Yggdrasil

My exploration of the long-running euro-comic Storm, continues. Earlier installments can be found here.

Storm: The Legend of Yggdrasil (1981) (part 4)
(Dutch: De Legende van Yggdrasil)
Art by Don Lawrence & Script by Kelvin Gosnell

Going down into the subterranean complex, Storm and the others find an ancient teleportation station. (Apparently, they had those in Storm's time as he recognizes it immediately. Maybe he's seen one since arriving in the future.) A map shows them they can go to Sydney, which they are sure is the city in the South. The Priest is worried about the age of the equipment, but Storm says they have to risk it.

The group teleports--and finds themselves underwater! Luckily, it's not too deep, and they are able to swim to the surface. They see the lights of the "modern" City of the South nearby.

As they sneak into the city, Storm notices the Priest has disappeared. He thinks he didn't make it, but the other dinos aren't so sure. Turns out they are right, as elsewhere the Priest is brought before the human authority in the city after being captured. He gladly agrees to lead the humans to Storm and the others on the condition he gets to see Storm and Ember tortured to death!

Storm and the others try to keep a low profile. He and Ember have been going around the city is disguise, and so far they've only learned that they are being searched for.  When a drunken reveler stumbles into them, the authorities are soon alerted. They run, but are found on a roof by a strange flying fortress. Wag-Nar throws a chimney at it destroying it.

It turns out to have been a trap. The Priest and his new friends fire a net from another flying fortress coming up from behind, enveloping our heroes. The authorities haul them off.

After some time in a cell, they are marched out into a large arena do fight to the death!


Monday, September 19, 2016

Covers That Never Were

In addition to blogging and working on my various rpg projects I like to goof around creating alternate or fake covers to things. Chris Helton of ENWorld suggested I write about post about them and mention the fonts I use, presumably also how I find them all. Here are a couple I did over the weekend on a "old paperback style theme."

This is a hypothetical Ballantine Adult Fantasy series cover for Jason Sholtis's upcoming Operation Unfathomable. I based it on the cover to Hyperborea by Clark Ashton Smith published in this series in 1971. I picked this one because the cover image had some similarity to an image Jason had at one time considered using for the upcoming project and I was pretty sure I knew what the typeface used in the header was just by looking at it: Futura. As you can tell, I didn't have quite the same font they used (I used Futura Medium BT), but I didn't need it to be exact. The Unicorn logo I took from this cover. It isn't particular the cover I would make for Operation Unfathomable, but it fits the era and look of those paperbacks.

This one is a Slumbering Ursine Dunes cover based on the DAW paperbacks, specifically on the Gondwane series by Lin Carter. I picked the Gondwane series because it used the cover image was inset in a yellow border which was easy to work with. I matched the typeface with Font Matcherator, and it turned out to best match was Solemnis (sometimes called Solemnis Regular). What's interesting is some letters have different capital and lowercase glyphs in different versions of this font and not in others. The DAW paperbacks show this because the Gondwane books have different "T's" than what appears otherwise to be the same typeface used on the cover of the Years Best Fantasy Stories. Also, some freebie versions have more variations between uppercase and lowercase characters than Berthold's "real" version. Anyway, it required mixing lowercase and uppercase letters to get the look of the Gondwane books--which left room for me messing up the "e" in "Slumbering." If often takes me more than one try to get things "right."

I did another one of these for Fever-Dreaming Marlinko in the DAW Gondwane style. It's the same except the lettering is red is in red.

I certainly don't claim to be any expert with image or vector editing software, but I can get results I'm satisfied with. See more of my fake covers here.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Demihumans of the Antedilluvian Age

Ever noticed how the Biblical Old Testament is reminiscent of Epic Fantasy (or more precisely, epic fantasy often tends to echo the Old Testament)? Can't get your Tolkien without your demihumans, though.

"It happened after the sons of men had multiplied in those days, that daughters were born to them, elegant and beautiful. And when the angels, the sons of heaven, beheld them, they became enamoured of them, saying to each other, Come, let us select for ourselves wives from the progeny of men, and let us beget children."
- Book of Enoch, Book of the Watchers
Enoch is of course not part of the recognized Biblical canon for most, but this passage really just expands on Genesis 6:4. Historical the term was glossed as "giants," so D&D goliaths would work, but that may be a too literal reading. They're demigods so half-Celestials? Tieflings? Keeping Tolkien in mind, the race that stood between supernatural beings and mundane men, were elves, so I think elves presiding over the pre-Flood world fits nicely. They can be taller than humans in true Tolkienian fashion, too.

This is not necessarily a new view. The internet tells me that the late thirteenth-century South English Legendary and some Icelandic folktales explain elves as angels that sided neither with Lucifer nor with God.

Children of Cain (Qéní)
Cain (Qayin) may be glossed "spear," but it is a cognate to a mid-1st millennium BC South Arabian word meaning "smith." Cain's descendant Tubal-cain is described in Genesis 4:22 as a "forger of all instruments of bronze and iron." Perhaps the Mark of Cain was the stature and coarse features of his dwarven descendants? Ray Winstone as Tubal-Cain in Noah has the beard, too:

Lillith is now considered the first wife of Adam, but the term was originally glossed in Hebrew text translations as "night monster" or "night creatures" and appears in a list of animals in Isaiah 34:11. The term (likely the name of a demon) derives from the Akkadian lilitu which was the female version of the lilu demons. Perhaps the lilu creatures of the night are goblinoids with Lillith being the Goblin Queen?

Friday, September 16, 2016


When I encountered Alistair Rennie's "‘The Gutter Sees The Light That Never Shines" in the VanderMeers' New Weird anthology, I knew I wanted more. I tracked down "BleakWarrior Meet the Sons of Brawl" in Weird Tales, but it was still just a tease. Finally, the world has BleakWarrior, a novel-length excursion into the weird, pulpy, lurid, and violent.

In brief: BleakWarrior is less a novel than a series of shorts and vignettes in a fantasy world where a species of of super-powered sociopaths fight Highlander-style for...well, they don't really know. The characters have eccentric names like (The Light that Never Shines or Whorefrost) that sometimes point to their particular schtick, sometimes not. These Meta-Warriors stalk each other and fight to the death and  pursue idiosyncratic schemes and passions, all while dodging/slaughtering/abusing mundane--"linear"--humanity.

The effect of all this is like Masters of the Universe re-imagined by some 2000 AD-bred British writer into an edgy 90s comic. It's got sex, graphic violence, quirky badasses and colorful madmen with slightly silly nom de guerres, black humor, and the occasional faux-Shakespearean soliloquy. It's Sword & Sorcery remade for the post-anime and videogame world.

It will not be for everyone, but if any of  the above sounds interesting to do, then, check it out. Oh, and give Rennie's soundtrack it put together for it a listen. How cool is that?

( my friend Jack of Grotesque & Dungeonesque and I wound up reading it at the same time, so you can head over there and get his take, too.)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Secrets of the Past on the Planet of the Apes


Player Characters:
Jarrett Crader as Aurelius
Justin Davis as Conrad "Rip" Ripper
Billy Longino as Olsen Potter Graves
Lester B. Portly as Eddy Woodward

Nonplayer Characters:
Mariette Hartley as Lyra-7
Alex Cord as Dylan-14, Dylan Hunt and Supervisor Dylan
Majel Barrett Prima
Percy Rodriguez Primus

Synopsis: The astronauts and their chimpanzee friend enter the cave complex of Pax. The people are as peaceful as their name, but soon it becomes apparent they are not what they appear.

The only shot fired in this episode was  a stun dart from a Paxer weapon (seem above) to keep an overwrought Aurelius from defecating on the floor. The PCs showed remarkable restraint.

Pax is the peaceful society built in a Carlsbad Caverns base by scientist after a nuclear conflict as seen in Genesis II. The Pax civilization thrived in 2133. Sometime between then and the arrival of our heroes in 31st Century, the Pax civilization moved to the north and left the original base as an experiential history exhibit using some sort of advanced artificial beings. They act out the discovery of Dylan Hunt in suspended animation. In moments of intense questioning, the automata revert to offering refreshments.

The PCs did discovered a map of more extensive subshuttle stations than they were aware of, but their were unable to get to the local station thanks to the automata.

In Pax's extensive library, they discover a pamphlet published in 1991 by Ape Management Publications titled How to Terminate Your Ape. This publication originally appeared in Adventure Comics's Planet of the Apes #19.

In the end, the astronauts leave the living museum much as they found it (thinking it might be a resource they can pillage later), ignore Aurelius suggestions they travel to the apes' Terminus City, and instead head south to the territory of the warring human tribes.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Wednesday Comics: Annotations on Future Quest #4

My on-going look at Don Lawrence's Storm will take a break so that we can revisit Future Quest, one of DC's re-imagining of classic Hana-Barbera characters. This will contain spoilers.

"The Land Before Questand "The Structure of Fear"
Future Quest #4 (2016), Written by Jeff Parker; Art by Evan "Doc" Shaner and Ron Randall

I am Mightor!" Mightor and Moby Dick ran from 1967-69. In that series Tor was a teenage caveman who used the power of the club to turn into Mightor. Here, Tor is older and mated to Sheera, Mightor's club apparently contains part of Omikron's mass, which is what gives it it's power. The Space Ghost cartoon has already established Mightor as existing in the same universe.

Listening to some music. The band streaming on Deva's tablet is the Impossibles,  The stars of the 1966 series were pop stars and superheroes.

"My name's Todd." Todd is one of the two main characters in 1966's Dino Boy in the Lost Valley. He meets a Neanderthal presumably named Ugh. Their first meeting is portrayed differently here than in the cartoon series and Todd is also given parents and a last name.

Called GARGANTUAN. Frankenstein Jr. shared a show with The Impossibles. Buzz Conroy was the son of a male Professor Conroy (his mother is never mentioned) who built the giant robot Frankenstein, Jr. Here, Ted Conroy was killed by sabotage by Dr. Zin (the same incident that took the life of Ellen Quest) and it is Buzz's scientist mother, Linda Kim-Conroy who builds Frankenstein Jr.

Monday, September 12, 2016


Art by Jason Sholtis
Hwaopt are reptilian humanoids from a distant world. They have large eyes and their dorsal surfaces have tubercules and spines marked with splotches of drab colors. They have adapted to a trogloxenic existence, with the largest group dwelling in and maintaining a vast, library cave system, which may be the greatest repository of knowledge in the know world.

As their vocation would suggest, hwaopt are bookish creatures--to the point pedantry in the eyes of many. Their tendency to verbose lectures on obscure topics is minor social deterrent to other species compared to their odor.  Hwaopt use chemical signalling as part of their communication with others of their kind, but non-hwaopt often find these pungent scents unpleasant.

Hwaopt are generally nonviolent, perhaps even cowardly in the estimation of other races. This is not true of their degenerate, brutish relatives, the troglodytes.

Hwaopt Traits
Ability Score Increase. A hwaopt's Intelligence score is increased by 2 and Wisdom is increased by 1.
Alignment. Hwaopt tend toward lawfulness.
Size. Hwaopt are medium.
Speed. Base walking speed is 30 feet.
Darkvision. Accustom to life underground hwaopt can see 60 feet within dim light as if it were bright light, and darkness as if it were dim light for 60 ft.
Odor. Hwaopt scent glands deliver subtle chemical signals to other hwaopt. They can tell if another individual of their kind has been in a room or other enclosed location (60 ft. area) within an hour and make a DC 12 Perception to determine their general emotional and health state and whether it is an individual they have encounter before. Open areas, a lot of air movement, or other strong scents generally make this impossible. Other races tend to find hwaopt scents unpleasant, so they wear masking perfumes when they plan to be around other species in close quarters. Creatures with a keen sense of smell must make a DC 12 Constitution check or be poisoned until their next turn. A creature who succeeds their check is immune for 1 hour.
Languages. Hwaopt can speak and read the Common language of humans. They also speak their own tongue, a language whose grammar is notoriously difficult to master. Their scholar tendencies provide them one extra language.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Savage Swords of Middle-earth: Elves and Such

Continuing an attempt to pulpify Tolkien's legendarium, let's take a look at the races other than Men.

Elves in Tolkien are superior to men in just about every way. Pulp fantasy has that sort of thing, too. Check out this quote regarding an ancient race from "Queen of the Black Coast":
“Cast in the mold of humanity, they were distinctly not men. . .in physical appearance they resembled man only as man in his highest form resembles the great apes. In spiritual, esthetic and intellectual development they were superior to man as man is superior to the gorilla.“
Howard makes mention of  "evolution" in several places. Sword & sorcery pulp worlds tend toward pseudo-science, as they partake of the genre-blending weird fiction tradition, whereas Tolkien's is a mythic world. For the complete pulp feel, The Silmarillion would be merely myth and the true origins of most Middle-earth creatures would be scientific/materialistic--or perhaps some Theosophy-inspired mix of science and mysticism. No need to make a decision one way or another, though, for day to day adventuring.
"Do you not see now that your coming to us is as the footstep of Doom? For if you fail, then we are laid bare to the Enemy. Yet if you succeed, then our power is diminished, and Lothlórien will fade, and the tides of Time will sweep it away. We must depart into the West, or dwindle to a rustic folk of dell and cave, slowly to forget and be forgotten." 
- Galadriel in The Fellowship of the Ring
Decline of advanced races/cultures is a trope common to Tolkien and Howard, so good to go. The decline to "rustic folk of dell and cave" even kind of resembles the decline of the Picts as presented in "The Lost Race." Lord of the Rings is full of a lot of elvish badassery (the movies moreso) but the more that is downplayed and the more their waning and decline is played up, the more pulp fantasy it will be. Elves can still be a potent force, but they should mostly stay in their dwindling enclaves.

Other Howard stories present Picts as not just declining but degenerating. The same thing happens to the Winged Folk in "Queen of the Black Coasts" who become winged ape men by the time Conan meets them. One of several origins Tolkien considers for Orcs is that they are elves distorted and corrupted by Melkor. Perhaps the corrupted part is the main thing, then they sort of degenerate on their own?

In fact, there should be more evil, degenerate elves in general; the equivalent of the Black Numenoreans. I don't want to say, "drow," but Gary's description of Erelhei-Cinlu in Vault of the Drow is pretty pulpy.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Middle-Earth with More Pulp

"Know, O prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Númenor and the gleaming cities, and the years of the Fourth Age, there was an Age undreamed of, when realms of Elf, Man, and Dwarf lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars. . . Hither came Aragorn of the Dúnedain, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a ranger, a wander, a chieftain, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the thrones of Arda under his feet." 
- The Red Book of Westmarch
I posted that bit of Howardian remix on G+ yesterday goofing around, but it's a serious idea: What would Middle-earth be if presented in a more pulp fantasy (not just Robert E. Howard) sort of way? You could do a really comprehensive overall, sure, where maybe only the names remain the same, but I think a few tweaks here and there would make a big difference. Just take a look at things that are already pretty pulpy: 1) a fallen age following the sinking of a "Atlantis"; (2) Orders of beings with some more advanced and others more degenerate than others; (3) a lot of ruins strewn about; (4) a lot of wilderness separating civilized areas; (5) Magic (to the extent it is practiced by Men--i.e. humans) seems the province of sorcerers who are engaged with evil forces.

So let's start with Eriador, also called the Lone-Lands, which is pretty cool, because that's where the stories do, and see how it goes. Eriador is definitely a "Points of Light" place; a former advanced kingdom where most of the cities have fallen into ruin after a war with a Witch-King.

Witch-King Cultists: When a guy named the Witch-King used to rule, I think there probably should be hidden enclaves (or whole villages) fallen to his service and maybe worship of Sauron or Morgoth. They probably also engage in sacrifices commiserate with their Satanic cultist behavior.

The Rangers of the North: The Dúnedain who struggled against the Witch-King were descendants of Numenoreans (like Conan was a descendant of Atlanteans). After their defeat they become badass wildland types organized into tribes or bands, I'd guess. They're about as much "barbarian" as Conan is, except they're in tight with elves. They roam the wilderness and hunt orcs and trolls (and probably those Witch-King cults). They could be part frontier lawmen, but also a lot like the settlers described in Howard's "Beyond the Black River":  "They were all gaunt and scarred and hard-eyed; sinewy and taciturn."

Replace the Picts in those Pictish Border Howard stories with orcs or Hill-men, and you've got it. Or replace Solomon Kane in any of a few of his stories with a lone ranger (heh), and that works as well.

Woses: Speaking of Picts, a couple of Howard's Pict stories are perfect inspiration for the mistreated, more primitive Drúedain. Check out "The Lost Race." Here's a perfect description:
"Scarce above four feet stood the tallest, and they were small of build and very dark of complexion. Their eyes were black; and most of them went stooped forward, as if from a lifetime spent in crouching and hiding; peering furtively on all sides. They were armed with small bows, arrows, spears and daggers, all pointed, not with crudely worked bronze but with flint and obsidian, of the finest workmanship. They were dressed in finely dressed hides of rabbits and other small animals, and a kind of coarse cloth; and many were tattooed from head to foot in ocher and woad" 
Hill-Men: Again speaking of Picts, in either Howards frontier stories or some of his other Pictish yarns where their degeneration is more sinister (after Machen) and less sad, the Hill-Men can be those sort of Picts. A little degeneration won't hurt. They're really likely to be those cultists mentioned above, too.

The towns: As to the civilized or more settled areas of Eriador. I strongly support MERP's idea that Tharbad (before it was a ruin) was a decaying city of cutthroats and thieves. A standard Conan tavern ought to fit in well, in any of those towns, too. Just substitute "Brythunian" with "Breeland" and you're good to go.

The humans are easy, I suppose. Next up, Elves, Dwarves, and Hobbitses.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Zyrd: In the Crux

The Crux is the cross-shaped area of habitation in the center of the tesseract of Zyrd. At it's hub is the City of Zyrd, the last city of note after the end of the cosmos. Surrounding Zyrd and villages and farmland built amid the ruins of when the City of Zyrd was larger, grander. Everything's falling apart, now. Chaos is seeping in.

In the northern arm of the Crux are badlands. It's a broken place where stone is ground to dust--and built up from dust, too, somehow. Things don't grow well in their farthest reaches. There are brutish people and brutish monsters than look like they're are hewn from rock. It's colder here, colder than it should be, and the mountains that climb the farthest wall are coated with snow and ice.

In the east, farmland gives way to plains. Winds blow from the great face in the eastern wall. Giant birds ride the winds as do cliff-dwellers on gliders.

In the west, there is the only sea in Zyrd. It stretches to a great falls nearly fifty miles tall that plummets into the dungeon depths.

In the south, there are jungles, then desert and finally the uttermost southern wall were lava flows.

All around the Crux, settlements climb the walls as far as the air is breathable and at one time perhaps farther. Some of these vertical settlements haven't seen a flatlander from the Crux in a generation.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Legend of Yggdrasil

My exploration of the long-running euro-comic Storm, continues. Earlier installments can be found here.

Storm: The Legend of Yggdrasil (1981) (part 3)
(Dutch: De Legende van Yggdrasil)
Art by Don Lawrence & Script by Kelvin Gosnell

Storm makes the rather questionable leap of logic that the creatures whose tribe they have befriended must have evolved from dinosaurs. Since they are in the future, that can only mean their is a time machine somewhere. Storm wants to find it.

That will have to wait. The dino-people have a problem. They have been at war with humans for thousands of years, and they're loosing thanks to the the humans' more advanced weaponry. The humans have recently destroyed their eggs, wiping out the next generation.

Their only hope is to find Yggdrasil and reunite with their goddess. She is said to be imprisoned in a town to the South. Wag-Nar believes Storm can lead them their, fulfilling the prophecy.

The high priest is not so pleased. His prejudice and jealousy runs too deep. He and his cohorts plot to do away with Storm on the way south.

As they start their, they see many strange things: a floating suspension bridge, a dinosaur graveyard, a crashed starship. Ember begins to sense danger--and she's right. Human-fired bolts take out several of the dinos. Storm decides to ride out and try to talk to them. The humans are based in an ancient, crashed spaceship and call themselves the Jackal Troop. They take Storm captive and plan to kill him:

Ember bucks the dinos attempts to protect her. She convinces one of the warriors to help her stage a rescue.

Our heroes fight their way out, even stealing a vehicle. The Jackal's leader dies by his own giant insect.

Returning to the tribe, the dino-warrior relates the tale of their victory--when suddenly...

They discover an ancient tunnel!


Monday, September 5, 2016

Hercules's Labor Day

In honor of U.S. Labor Day, check out this classic post about Herakles Labor Day from a science fantasy Lens:

"Labor Day Labors"

Sunday, September 4, 2016


Someone fucked up. Wizards blame the gods--who are dead or gone and can't defend themselves. It's official church policy to blame the hubris of man and unofficially to suggest that means wizards. Whoever did it fucked up. Whoever did it opened a rent in the fabric of the universe and chaos poured in and the world was dissolved.

Gods, Wizards, or devils, somebody made a last ditch effort to save something. Gods were sacrificed, either willingly or unwillingly, and a haven was created: a hypercube hewn from the bodies of titans left to drift in amundic chaos. Zyrd.

Buried deep in the center of Zyrd is a cross of land, the Crux. Once civilization was more than the Crux, but over time, things have broken down. Beneath the Crux is the Underworld--any direction from the Crux is the Underworld. It holds out the chaos and traps the monsters spawned by it in its labyrinthine depths. 

But the chaos keeps creeping in. The only way to save Zyrd is to clear it. To reclaim the dungeon depths and the riches of ages lost there.

That's where you come in.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

A Harsh Welcome on the Planet of the Apes


Player Characters:
Jeff Call as Brock Irving, "Don't move or this chimp gets it"
Justin Davis as Conrad "Rip" Ripper, "Is the atmosphere breathable? I check the science stuff"
Billy Longino as Olsen Potter Graves, "Give that monkey a banana"
Lester B. Portly as Eddy Woodward, "They finally did it"
Jason Sholtis as Francis LaCava, "My God...They're communists."
And introducing:
Jarrett Crader as Aurelius, "But I must see it!'

Nonplayer Characters:
Ted Cassidy as Eezaya
? as Gorilla Sergeant Pullo
? as Gorilla Sergeant Vorenus
Mariette Hartley as Lyra-7
Alex Cord as Dylan-14

Synopsis: The astronauts land on the post-apocalyptic Earth, heading for their former base in Carlsbad Caverns. They are shocked to discover a group of talking apes--and a human thrall! After a tense standoff, they capture the gorrilla soldiers. With a chimpanzee hostage/companion they arrive at the ancient installation and are surprised to find it still inhabited by people who call themselves PAX.

At last, some apes on the Planet of the Apes! I used (modified) versions of the stats from Fight On! #12 for Apen by Andrew Trent.

The apes claim to be from a place called Terminus City but were a splinter contingent of an archeological expedition some distance to the north led by the ever-curious Dr. Georgius. He has with him a platoon of gorilla soldiers under the command of Lieutenant Perdix. The captured Vorenus threatens the astronauts with retaliation by a Colonel Salaco and possibly the human-hating General Orcus. Are these idle threats? We'll see.

The astronauts landed there ship in the area of what once was Whites City, New Mexico, but their is no sign of human habitation now.

Eezaya first appeared to be a meek slave to the apes but he claims to be a warrior of a tribe along the "ancient border" to the South. He plans to unite his people with their human enemies against the ape invaders. By Eezaya's appearance we might think he is a descendant of the "White Comanche" Izaiah as depicted in the pilot films Genesis II and Planet Earth.

The current inhabitants of Continental Command at Carlsbad Caverns look a lot like inhabitants back in 2133, as depicted in Genesis II (including unfashionable jumpsuits). They even have similar names. Probably just a coincidence, though.