Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mr. Miracle - 1st Play-by-Post Character

[In 2000, I played in my very first Yahoo!Club-based PbP RPG. I think it was called "World's Finest Superheroes." I dropped out after leading the first scenario and it died shortly thereafter. I'm pretty sure the archives are gone, so these earliest posts I wrote for it may be all that remain.]

"You can't make me. I'd rather face a supervillain."

"Oh, come on, Oberon. Step out so we can see how you look in it!"

Oberon reluctantly came out of the dressing room. His gray leisure suit looked well-fitted and comfortable, but Oberon squirmed in it as if he were in chains.

"You look daper," Scott Free said to his old friend. He smiled down at the aging midget as the tailor checked the measurement of Oberon's right sleeve.

"I don't see why we're doing this," Oberon grumbled. His tailor disappeared from the room, just in time to miss Oberon's wrath.

"Yes you do. We need to make a good impression on these company executives, and you need all the help making a good impression you can get. Now that we're business partners in Miracle Inc., we need the quick capital that licensing my image will give us."

"Aw, you just want to play a Mr. Miracle video game."

"That too." Scott slid out of his coat and tossed it casually over his shoulder. "Now come on, let's pay for these and get out of here."

After changing, Scott caught the eye of the lady cashier, who smiled at him. Despite being of an incalcuable age, Scott Free appeared to still be a handsome young man. He reached into his wallet and produced a credit card while Oberon put their bagged outfits on the counter. But Scott paused, and looked more closely at his own card.

"Uh, oh," he spoke.

Oberon spun around. "What is it?"

"Eh...I had told Mother Box to set random traps for my skills don't atrophy. I guess I thought of it too late, because this one almost got me." Scott slowly turned the card and tilted his head so he could look under it. "There's a cellular matrix trigger on here...very complex for it to be thicker than laminate..."

"You'll be the death of me yet."

"I doubt Mother Box would create a charge that powerful, but perhaps you should ask this young lady to show you another suit -- one near the front of the store?"

Oberon, comprehending, urged the perplexed store employee to accompany him. Scott slowly bent down and took off one of his shoes with his one free hand. He popped off the fake heel, and produced a tool from inside...


On Michigan Ave., one day in the Windy City, two men left a men's fashion store with neither notice nor fanfare. This was ironic for two reasons -- they had just survived an ordeal with a miniature bomb, and one of the two men was MISTER MIRACLE!

"That was a close one," Oberon said.

"All too true, ol' pal, but luckily I had a pretty good idea the trigger was activated by thumbprint and detonated by release of pressure. And then I had a kinetic sponge in the sole of my shoe I was able to drop my credit card into. It was just a small charge, anyways, probably wouldn't have taken off more than a hand."

"And that's supposed to make me feel better?"

"Maybe I'd get a hook hand like Aquaman had when I saw him last." Scott Free chuckled. "The downside is that I didn't have enough cash on me for those suits! I'll have to call Barda and see if she spent all her's already..."

Scott produced a cell phone from his jacket pocket, which immediately started to ring. Scott arched his eyebrows and looked down at Oberon. "Well, she must be a mind-reader now!" He turned it on and put it to his ear. "Hi, honey!"

"Ooo, awkward..." came a man's voice.

"Who is this?" Scott asked.

"It's me, Ted."

"Ted Kord? It is tomorrow we're supposed to meet your board of directors, right?" *

"Yeah, but this isn't about that. The big guy wants to start up the league again. He's contacting all of us old reserve members too."

"No kidding? Hmm...are you going?"

There was a pause on the other end of the phone. "I don't know, Scott. After that Extreme Justice
debacle, I've been trying to stay away from teams."

"Okay. Thanks for the call, Ted. If the world isn't in too much danger, I'll see you at your office tomorrow."

"Who was that?" Oberon asked, after Scott turned off the phone and tucked it away.

"Blue Beetle says the JLA might need Barda and me again."

"What about Miracle, Inc.?"

"I don't know. But we've got to find Barda at Watertower Place and talk to her about this."

* (Ted Kord/Blue Beetle appears here only in cameo -- I'm not picking up a new character)

Oberon started to hail a cab, but Scott Free stopped him.

"No need for that. I think we'll travel a little faster." With that, Scott reached behind his jacket, and pulled out what appeared to be two plastic, flexible discs. He tossed them on the ground, stepped on one with each foot, and the discs stiffened and glowed. In a moment, Scott Free was hovering in the air on his aero-discs!

"Oh no, not that way!" Oberon protested briefly before being scooped up under Scott's arm. Soon they were flying ten yards over the city streets. A fender bender or two resulted, and many people were late coming back to work from their lunch breaks, as they craned their necks to see this sight.

They were soon joined, as if in an aerial ballet, by Big Barda herself -- dressed for battle in her full armor. Her battle rod hung at her side, and instead she held two bulging shopping bags.

"Hi honey!" Scott called. "Don't tell me you got in a fight at the mall..."

"I received a telepathic notice from the Justice League, Scott. They would like us both to come to the moon for some sort of briefing." She held out one bag and shook it a little. "This one has your uniform in it...the other one has some really nice clothes I got at the department store..."

"You can give me a fashion show later. Here, let's land down there." Following Scott's lead, the three flying friends landed on the roof of a parking garage. "I'll suit up in the elevator," Scott explained, "Oberon, take Barda's things back to the hotel room, and when I'm done changing, Barda and I will use a Boom Tube to get to the moon in style..."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Retroconversion of Root of All Evil to OD&D - pt. 4

51 Hachita tribesmen veterans: AC 7; MV 12"; F 1; hp 6 (x25), 5 (x26); leather armor, club, javelin each.
10 Belsona tribesmen veterans: AC 8; MV 12"; F 1; hp 5 (x5), 4 (x5); shield, short bow, quiver of 20 arrows, hand axe each.

Belsona (village): AL N; population 180 (100% human)
Authority Figures: Krunk, male human F 3
Important Characters: Halaan, male human M-U 7
Others: 70 1st level fighters, plus an additional 3rd level fighter
Krunk, swordsman: AC 8; MV 12"; F 3; hp 12; AL LN; S 18, I 13, W 9, D 13, C 15, Ch 14; shield, short sword, short bow, quiver of 15 arrows.
City of Belsona
B) Fire god temple
4 Belsona tribesmen veterans: AC 8; MV 12"; F 1; hp 5 (x2), 4 (x2); shield, short bow, quiver of 20 arrows, short sword each.
G) Guardian temple
3) Halaan
Halaan, enchanter: AC 9; MV 12"; M-U 7; hp 15; torn robes.
Spells: None at present.

In addition to awarding xp for monetary treasure (1 gp = 1 xp), each PC should be awarded xp for each section of the adventure completed, as follows:
THE CRATER = 200 xp
THE ATTACK = 100 xp
THE BELSONA = 100 xp

The Coin of Power
The Coin is a powerful magic item that bestows the following powers:
• The owner gains one level in his or her class.
• On command, the Coin can cast finger of death once per week.

Zoa city encounter notes:
Roll (d%) Character Race
01-05 Dwarf
06-10 Elf
11-12 Gnome
13-17 Hobbit
18-23 Human, Brandobian
24-26 Human, Dejy
27 Human, Fhokki
28-37 Human, Kalamaran
38-95 Human, Reanaarian
94-99 Human, Svimohzish
00 Sil-Karg (Half-hobgoblin)
Armorer: The armorer (or any craftsman -- armorer, basketweaver, blacksmith, bookbinder, carpenter, cobbler, cooper, jeweler/gemcutter, locksmith, potter, sculptor, shipwright, stonemason, or tailor) has a 50% chance of also being a Fighter, Magic-User, or Cleric of 1st-3rd level, and a 50% chance of just being a 1st level fighter.
Artist: The character is a Fighter, Magic-User, or Cleric of 1st-3rd level who also fancies himself a fine artist. Two artists will be a master with a student or admirer. An apprentice is at least one level lower than his mentor. Admirers are non-classes, peasants or levees by Chainmail rules.
Assassin: The assassin is a 1st-10th level fighter who may be working with 0-2 (d3-1) assistants. Assistants are 1st-3rd level fighters.
Bards: Bards need both adulation and coin, though 25% are adventurers. A single bard is a lone traveler, two bards are a master and an apprentice. The main bard will be a Fighter or Cleric of 1st-4th level; an apprentice would be a 1st level fighter or cleric.
Beggar: A beggar is a peasant or levee, though there is a 20% chance the beggar is actually a 1st-2nd level fighter in disguise.
City guard: Most guards are 1st-2nd level fighters. For every 8 soldiers, there will be one 3rd-level fighter. Use the guard subtable for race.
Roll (d%) Guard's Race
01-27 Human infantry
28-66 Dwarf soldiers
67-00 Gnome archers
City official: The official is a 1st level fighter, magic-user, or cleric. Officials travel with 0-3 guards or assistants. The assistants are 1st level fighters, and the guards are 1st-2nd level fighters.

Retroconversion of Root of All Evil to OD&D - pt. 3

Driscall's House
Driscall (fights as peasant, as per Chainmail rules. Useless in one-on-one combat.)
The Sentinels of the True Way
Faupel, Daarle, Vaeniiv, Suetin, veteran guards: AC 5; MV 9"; F 1; hp 6 (x2), 5 (x2); chainmail armor, broadsword, javelin, 6 ep each.
Neaboo, Kaizil, veteran sentinels: AC 6; MV 12"; F 1; hp 6, 5; leather armor, shield, handaxe, 4 ep each.
Tealia, warrior: AC 7; MV 12"; F 2; hp 9; leather armor, cloak, broadsword, short bow, quiver of 10 arrows, 10 gp.
Fulkaft, Kazuk, Borli, dwarven veteran miners: AC 6; MV 6"; F 1; hp 5, 4, 3; leather armor, shield, warhammer, 4 sp each.
Kibik, veteran: AC 7; MV 12"; F 1; hp 7; leather armor, club, short bow, quiver of 20 arrows, 4 ep, small sack, 50' of rope.
1 more veteran: AC 7; MV 12"; F 1; hp 6; leather armor, short sword, short bow, quiver of 10 arrows, 9 sp, small sack.
Raspar's Silver Book. It contains the following spells: detect magic, read magic; phantasmal forces, and invisibility.
Book of Carlisle. The pages are all dogeared, though the spells within are intact. They include: detect magic, read magic, charm person, sleep; and knock.
The Leaf and the Twig. This druidic book of herbs and medicine allows anyone to learn how to doctor wounds. Anyone studying this book, and keeping the book as a reference, can see his patients return to full hit points after just 6 days of rest.

A. Castle Exterior
2) Tower
The doors from the inner bailey to these towers are barred from the inside, and the bars have rusted to their brackets (23 hp, blunt weapons only).
3) Inner bailey
2 gorillas (treat as ogres): AC 5; MV 9"; HD 4+1; hp 13, 11.
B. Keep Interior -- Ground Floor
5) Main keep
Strong wooden doors fill the place. Most are swollen and stuck from the humidity (25 hp, blunt weapons only).
9) Kitchen
18 giant rats: AC 7; MV 12"; HD 1/2; hp 3 (x7), 2 (x8), 1 (x3).
C. Keep Interior -- Second Floor
11) Balcony and landing
2 skeletons: AC 7; MV 6"; HD 1/2; hp 3, 2.
14) Guest room
The ring is a ring of fire resistance.
18) Secret passage
The shield is actually a shield +1, though the other items are not magical.
21) Great room
The doors on the east wall are locked (25 hp, blunt weapons only).
22) Armory
Most of the weapons are damaged beyond repair. However, one light crossbow is intact, as well as three short swords, a battleaxe, and a composite bow +1.
23) Treasure room
The throne is indeed solid gold and is worth a good 10,000 gp to the right buyer but is securely bolted and held to the floor with a wizard lock cast by a 10th level magic-user. It would be a major undertaking to remove or even move it. It weighs 500 pounds. A potion of ESP lies on its cushioned seat.
The chest the vampire cat guards is wizard locked (10th level) and holds seven pieces of jewelry; a gold crown studded with gems (6,000 gp), an ornate spyglass (900 gp), a silver tiara with small sapphires (2,000 gp), a platinum scepter studded with rubbies (7,000 gp), a jade bracelet of intricate design (1,400 gp), a pair of silver and gold earrings (300 gp each), and an ivory armband (600 gp).
The second chest is sealed shut and must be bashed open (15 hp, blunt weapons only). In the chest are 2,730 sp.
1 vampire cat: AC 2; MV 12"/18"; HD 7; hp 25; attack energy drains one level from the victim.
24) Landing
9 giant mosquitos: AC 6; MV 3"/15"; HD 1+1; hp 5 (x2), 4, 3 (x2), 2 (x4).
29) Laboratory
13 giant centipedes: AC 8; MV 15"; HD 1/2; hp 3 (x4), 2 (x4), 1 (x5). Poisonous bite -- save vs. poison at +4 or die in 1-4 hours.
30) Library
Anyone who views the scene must make a saving throw vs. spells or immediately panic. Unlike most fear encounters, those who fail the save are rooted to the spot and must watch the whole grisly thing.
31) Study
The raven is just an illusion masking the presence of a wight.
1 wight: AC 5; MV 9"; HD 3; hp 10; attack paralyzes unless victim saves vs. paralysis.
32) Wizard's room
A wizard lock, at 10th level, holds the door to this room.
35) Kitchen
3 poisonous snakes (adders): AC 4; MV 9"; HD 1+1; hp 6, 5, 4; poisonous bite -- save vs. poison or die in 1-10 rounds.
36) Lieutenant's quarters
8 large spiders: AC 6; MV 12"; HD 1+1; hp 7, 5, 4, 3, 2 (x4); poisonous bite -- save vs. poison at +2 or die in 3-18 rounds.
45) Bedroom
2 giant owls: AC 5; MV 3"/18"; HD 4; hp 14, 13.
3 huge owls: AC 6; MV 3"/18"; HD 2; hp 9, 8, 6.
50) Temple
12 skeletons: AC 7; MV 6"; HD 1/2; hp 3 (x4), 2 (x3), 1 (x5).

Retroconversion of Root of All Evil to OD&D - pt. 2

g) Back door
The door must be bashed in (10 hp from blunt weapons only).
4 goblins: AC 6; MV 6"; HD 1-1; hp 4, 3, 2, 1; leather armor, shield, morningstar, 2 javelins, 1d4 sp.
h) Rear guard
2 goblins: AC 6; MV 6"; HD 1-1; hp 5, 3; leather armor, shield, morningstar, 2 javelins, 1d4 sp.
j) Great hall
There are ten female goblins here; four are pregnant and avoid combat. One is afraid, and runs for help. The remaining five attack (as if kobolds).
5 goblin females: AC 8; MV 6"; HD 1/2; hp 4, 3 (x2), 2 (x2); shield, dagger, 1d6 cp.
3) Alchemist's Hut
The lone foor to the place is chained and locked (20 hp of blunt weapon damage). The shutters hang ajar, but the windows are blocked by iron bars (10 hp of blunt weapon damage to dislodge).
Arowain Fain, warlock and alchemist: AC 9; MV 12"; M-U 8; hp 22; tools, clothes, leather apron.
Spells: No spells memorized.
The sorceress comes to check on her charge and overhears most of the conversation. She is incensed at the betrayal, but smart enough to have cast protection from good and protection from normal missiles on herself.
Daresh, sorceress: AC 9 (7 with spell); MV 12"; M-U 9; hp 27; AL L; S 8, I 18, W 11, D 16, C 15, Ch 10; ring of telekinesis, wand of fear (22 charges), potion of flying, potion of healing, dagger, 3 darts, gold necklace with lapis lazuli worth 550 gp.
Spells: detect magic, protection from good, charm person, sleep; levitate, continual light, knock; hold person, lightning bolt, protection from normal missiles; polymorph self, dimension door; teleport.

Dinner Anyone?
Grumm, Blash, ogres: AC 5; MV 9"; HD 4+1; hp 19, 18; club, pouch with 67 gp (27 of which belong to the dwarf in the bag), small ornate silver dagger worth 25 gp (also the dwarf's) (Grumm); spear, gold belt with three ruby chips forming the eyes and mouth of a skull (rubies 50 gp each, belt as a whole 200 gp) (Blash).
Wegred, hobgoblin: AC 5; MV 9"; HD 5; chain mail, short bow, quiver of 20 arrows, 2 gp.
Stirukar, dwarven veteran and smith: AC 9; MV 6"; F 1; hp 7; no possessions carried (unless returned from the ogres).

The Forsaken
18 sailors (fight as levee, as per Chainmail rules. Useless in one-on-one combat.)
Shipmaster Haager Pocaat, warrior: AC 7; MV 12"; F 2; hp 9; AL L; S 14, I 15, W 8, D 15, C 10, Ch 11; leather armor, short sword, dagger, 5 sp.

1) Becalmed (keep weather conditions, but substitute sahuagin with encounter 2)
2) Sea Serpent
1 giant sea serpent (constrictor snake): AC 5; MV 9” (12” swimming); HD 10; hp 36.
3) Pirates!
10 pirates, veterans: AC 6; MV 12”; F 1; hp 7, 6 (x2), 5, 4, 3 (x2), 2 (x2), 1; leather armor, shield, short sword, hand axe, 1d6 cp each.
Shipmaster Vile, swordsman: AC 6; MV 12”; F 3; hp 15; leather armor, shield, morningstar, 10 cp, 11 sp, 7 gp, 1 pink coral gem worth 100 gp.
4) Death Ship
Mast. 8 zombies: AC 8; MV 6”; HD 2; hp 11, 10, 9 (x2), 8 (x2), 7 (x2).
3 ghouls: AC 6; MV 9”; HD 2; hp 9, 8, 7; attack paralyzes unless victim saves.
Varin, evil prefect: AC 5; MV 9”; C 5; hp 20; AL L; S 10, I 7, W 15, D 8, C 9, Ch 10; chainmail armor, footman’s flail, potion of invisibility, potion of healing, 6 gp.
Spells: cause light wounds, purify food & water (x2); blight, hold person; animate dead.
Wheel. Shipmaster Wien, swordsman: AC 9; MV 12”; F 3; hp 12; AL L; S 11, I 14, W 9, D 9, C 10, Ch 17.
Galley. 1 zombie: AC 8; MV 6”; HD 2; hp 7.
Captain’s Cabin. 8 skeletons: AC 7; MV 6” HD ½; hp 3 (x3), 2 (x3), 1 (x2).
Bilge. 16 animal skeletons: AC 7; MV 6”; HD ½; hp 3 (x5), 2 (x7), 1 (x4).

1) The Market
Scam A) Please Sir, May I Have Some More?
Elvoir, veteran: AC 9; MV 12”; F 1; hp 6; dagger, chalk, wax, a whistle, and some string.
Scam B) Sleight of Hand
Beriece, anti-hero: AC 9; MV 12”; F 4; hp 23; dagger, short bow, quiver of 12 arrows, ring w/needle (for cutting purses), pouch containing 9 gp and 28 sp.
Scam C) Going Once, Going Twice, Sold!
Miana Reemae, myrmidon: AC 9; MV 12”; F 6; hp 33; dagger +1, merchant’s scale, pouch containing 11 gp, 39 sp, and 19 cp.
Scam D) Now You See It…
Miana Reemae (see above).
Scam E) In a Hurry
Semaj, swordsman: AC 7; MV 12”; F 3; hp 18; leather armor, battleaxe, pouch containing 5 sp and 27 cp.
3 warriors: AC 9; MV 12”; F 2; hp 14, 11, 9.
5) Small Town
Purguld, dwarven warrior: AC 5; MV 6”; F 2; hp 14; chainmail armor, dagger.

Geolain’s Tower
Geolain, enchanter: AC 9; MV 12”; M-U 7; hp 20; AL L; S 10, I 18, W 18, D 14, C 16, Ch 17; quarterstaff, ring of invisibility, scroll of finger of death, wand of paralyzation (12 charges), silver pin worth 70 gp.
Spells: detect magic, light, protection from evil, read languages; detect invisible, ESP, locate object; dispel magic, lightning bolt; dimension door.
The Blind Beggar Inn
3 sentinels (fight as peasants, as per Chainmail rules. Useless in one-on-one combat.)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Retroconversion of Root of All Evil to OD&D - pt. 1

[While I never ran a Kalamar-based campaign, nor used this module, I was very much interested in the game setting until 2002 and worked to convert several modules in the hopes I would get to use them someday.]
Kingdoms of Kalamar

Author: Andy Miller, et. al. -- 2001
Conversion Editor: Scott Casper -- 2001

You, the DM, will need a copy of the D&D booklets, Men & Magic, Monsters & Treasure, and The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures for this adventure. It may also be useful to have the Chainmail wargaming rules. One can find statistics for monsters and key Non-Player Characters (NPCs) in the Appendix at the back of this book. As the adventure takes place in the Kingdoms of Kalamar campaign setting, the DM should also have the Kingdoms of Kalamar core sourcebook.

Conversion Note: This module has been converted from 3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons (c. 2000) back to 1st edition Dungeons & Dragons (c. 1974). This is not a complete reproduction of the original module; it includes only paragraphs in which game mechanics-specific changes have been made.

Note on Resting
Since this adventure does not take place in a single dungeon, there will be more than one opportunity for the PCs to rest, recover lost hp, and rememorize spells. It is recommended that this be allowed to take place whenever the PCs have returned to the village of Haanex or the city-state of Zoa during the adventure.

Note on Character Death
Expect at least several. Players should be encouraged to have wills made for their PCs, and possibly back-up PCs on hand.

Haanex (village): AL NG; population 600 (99% human, 1% dwarven).
Authority Figures: Mayor Foosiwain, male human F 2
Important Characters: Veoden, male human M-U 7; Elskin Torris, male human C 4 (Holy Mother/home); Fortis Aluz, male human F 2 (militia commander); Alexis, female human C 1 (Lord of Silver Linings/healer).
Village Militia: 13 1st level fighters (led by Fortis Aluz, above).

All windows and doors of the place have a wizard lock spell cast on them at 7th level.
Veoden, enchanter: AC 8; MV 12"; M-U 7; hp 18; AL N; S 9, I 18, W 16, D 13, C 14, Ch 16; dagger +2, +3 vs. orcs, goblins, and kobolds; ring of protection +1, potion of flying, potion of healing, scroll of lightning bolt.
Spells: read magic, charm person (x2), sleep; levitate, invisibility, continual light; hold person, fireball; dimension door.

1) Main gates
The bronze chains on the gates are old. They are heavy and resist any attempts to damage them (10 hp, affected by blunt weapons only).
2) Mausoleum
The old, sealed door can be bashed with blunt weapons (5 hp).
8 skeletons: AC 7; MV 6"; HD 1/2; hp 3 (x3), 2 (x3), 1 (x2); shield, short sword each.
3) Atuur Dairoo's grave
If the PCs have the shovels Veoden offered them, it only takes 30 minutes (with two people digging) to uncover the coffin of Atuur. The casket is wrapped in iron chains and held by a stout lock. The lid is tightly shut but easily opened once the chains are removed (10 hp, from blunt weapons only), to reveal the decaying body of Atuur Dairoo.
Atuur Dairoo (wight): AC 5; MV 9"; HD 3; hp 10. Attack paralyzes unless victim saves. Immune to normal missile fire.

Girion, veteran: AC 5; MV 9"; F 1; hp 7; AL N; S 16, I 13, W 12, D 17, C 15, Cha 8; chainmail, short bow, quiver of 20 arrows (4 silvered), longsword, silvered dagger.

2) Goblin lair
4 goblins: AC 6; MV 6"; HD 1-1; hp 5, 4, 3, 2; leather armor, shield, short sword, 1d8 cp each.
a) Entrance guardroom
2 goblins: AC 6; MV 6"; HD 1-1; hp 5, 3; leather armor, shield, short sword, 1d8 cp each.
b) Goblin barracks
10 goblins: AC 7 (or 9); MV 6"; HD 1-1; hp 5 (x2), 4, 3 (x2), 2 (x3), 1 (x2); leather armor, morningstar, 2 javelins, 1d8 cp each.
c) Lieutenant's barracks
4 goblins: AC 7; MV 6"; HD 1-1; hp 5 (x3), 4; leather armor, longsword, 1 sp each.
d) Guard barracks
10 goblins: AC 7 (or 9); MV 6"; HD 1-1; hp 5, 4, 3 (x3), 2 (x3), 1 (x2); leather armor, morningstar, 2 javelins, 1d8 cp each.
e) Chief's room
When someone attempts to open the door, a trip wire across the top pulls a burning lantern into a pan of oil in an overheard compartment. The compartment opens, splashing flaming oil onto those below in a 6 foot diameter. If the first person through the door tries to close it immediately upon seeing the charred goblins, then there is only a 1 in 6 chance of the lead PC being killed. Otherwise, there is a 2 in 6 chance of the lead PC being killed, and a 1 in 6 chance of the second PC being killed. The oil burns for 3 rounds before it burns away.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Top 45 Beatles Songs

In honor of the big releases today (wish I could afford Beatles Rock Band SO MUCH!), and inspired by a top 50 list (that got some wrong) in Entertainment magazine, I present my list of top 45 Beatles songs. I cannot begin to put all of these in order of preference, so I present them in chronological order by when they were recorded.

Misery. The Beatles' first perfect effort at anti-feel good lyrics.
Hold Me Tight. A childhood favorite thanks to the Beatles cartoon show that transformed this song into one of the more exciting episodes.
Twist and Shout. A testament to the Beatles' early talent that they could take a song that was originally awful and perfect it when they covered it.
Til There Was You. This show tune-turned crooner ballad showed the Beatles had far-reaching range in both competence and inspiration.
Don't Bother Me. Like “Misery”, the Beatles realized that the love songs were for chicks and guys with girlfriends, but if they really wanted to appeal to everyone, they needed to reach the lonely, depressed male audience too.
And I Love Her. Admitted weakness: pair McCartney with a ballad and I'll love it every time.
I'm a Loser. When I was depressed, these were the songs with which I identified.
I Don't Want to Spoil the Party. The first Beatles song that tells a story.
Eight Days a Week. Foreshadowing the illogical lyrics to come.
You Like Me Too Much. Practically defines my current relationship.
You've Got to Hide Your Love Away. They out-Dylaned Dylan.
Help. With hindsight, so insightful.
I've Just Seen a Face. Pure fun.
Yesterday. Pure magic.
Norwegian Wood. Wickedly funny and smart.
Tomorrow Never Knows. Mind-blowing entrance into psychedelia.
Paperback Writer. Absurdly funny.
And Your Bird Can Sing. Long before I was fully cognizant of the ironies the Beatles were playing with, this was one of my childhood favorites for what I perceived as its playful innocence – demonstrating the levels on which the Beatles were operating.
Eleanor Rigby. Buddy Holly had already given us rock n' roll with classical instruments; McCartney one-upped him by giving us rock n'roll that was classical music.
For No One. Their first truly sad song (which is why I didn't like it until I was older) which, coincidentally, is the only Beatles song to prominently feature a French horn, the only instrument I was ever tempted to learn how to play in grade school.
Yellow Submarine. As dazzlingly imaginative as any of Lennon's drug-inspired songs, while possessing the innocent sound that McCartney could still do so well and Lennon had lost.
Good Day Sunshine. The complete opposite of the band that had three years earlier written “Misery” -- now they were ready to push happiness in your face!
Strawberry Fields Forever. Powerful, with a sound music had never had before.
When I'm 64. More pure fun.
Penny Lane. The perfect B-side to “Strawberry Fields”; where “Strawberry” vaguely evokes a mist-shrouded past, “Penny Lane” is a snapshot-clear picture of a moment in time.
A Day in the Life. Transcendent. My #2 favorite Beatles song.
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite. Mesmerizing, how Lennon took something so mundane and twisted it into something almost scary.
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Along with “Mr. Kite”, my other favorite song from Sgt. Pepper's in childhood for their imagery, when “A Day in the Life” was still too powerful for me to absorb.
It's All Too Much. While Lennon sang better about love as pain and McCartney sang better about love as an ideal, Harrison could sing about love as overwhelmingly powerful. This is “You Like Me Too Much” on steroids.
I Am the Walrus. Probably what I would pick as my #3 favorite song, this song combines the power of “Strawberry Fields” and the stark imagery of “Lucy in the Sky” while, again, sounding like nothing that had come before it.
Blue Jay Way. Harrison matched “Mr. Kite” for creepiness, with an emphasis on match. The Beatles were no longer complementing each other at this point, but competing with each other.
The Fool on the Hill. McCartney showed a new level of lyrical skill with some of Lennon's darkness (although masked with ambiguity).
Across the Universe. Lennon's most beautiful song (and a great movie too!) until "Beautiful Boy".
Hey Bulldog. Lennon showed that they could still do rock n'roll, though transformed by the sounds they were inventing around it.
Blackbird. One of McCartney's most beautiful songs and the simplest of them.
Revolution. Yes, they could still rock, but now they could rock with purpose!
While My Guitar Gently Weeps. I have to cheat – this song warrants inclusion not for the final, heavier version, but for the softer version discarded and only released later on Beatles Anthology. Harrison here could have complemented the other Beatles as he used to by demonstrating power with a whisper, but instead decided to compete with Lennon by rocking it out.
Hey Jude. Not just a song, it's the anthem of the human race. Powerful beyond measure and easily my #1 favorite song.
I Will. What I consider to be McCartney's most perfect expression of ideal love (though some of his post-Beatles work, like “Silly Love Songs” would come close).
Julia. Gripping in its biographical depiction of pain, regret, and sadness.
Two of Us. Even though not originally intended to be about Lennon and McCartney's partnership, still ironically poignant.
Let It Be. A sort-of “Hey Jude” Jr., that's still better than most other songs.
The Long and Winding Road. But my loyalties are torn between versions – on one hand, I like the power of the Phil Spector version, even while it subverts the simple wisdom of the quieter version McCartney had intended.
The One After 909. And after all that, they could still come back around to this and do an old-fashioned rock n'roll song? If you're the Beatles, you COULD go back home again.
Come Together. Almost a B-side song for “909”, though it was not released that way. After looking back at the beginning with “909”, “Come Together” could have been a fresh start for the Beatles, becoming a rock n'roll band again informed by their old influences, but also by the music they had created in between. That it never happened is so tragic that this song barely squeaks onto my list and would probably be #45 if I had ranked them all.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Living Fantasy Review

Gary Gygax's Living Fantasy is important for being one of the last books he ever wrote – not just edited, like most of the Gygaxian Fantasy Worlds series. Here, then, are his final thoughts on, in a fantasy world where the D&D game mechanics are reality, how much would be different and how much the same as our world.

Gygax was clear about his biases and the limitations of having barely over 150 pages to work with. He clearly cannot describe a whole world in this span of pages and, indeed, he confesses in his introduction to only being interested in re-imagining England in its late Renaissance/early Tudor period. Gygax's interest in developing a fairly close parallel England date back at least as far as his last game system, a more narrow focus than the broader historical simulation dating back as far as Chainmail. Other things have stuck with Gygax since the early '70s, such as his belief that gunpowder weapons are antithetical to the swords & sorcery genre.

Other ideas introduced here seem newer to me, such as including “hi-tech” items like coaches and mechanical watches. To some extent, this is just pushing the clock forward from the early days of D&D. Except for anachronisms like backpacks, most of the D&D equipment lists reflected what was available in 16th century Europe. Here, Gygax not only looked ahead to the 17th century, but the really new idea is that magic would not hold back technological development, as we have commonly envisioned it would in a magical world, but would push it forward to keep up.

Almost immediately, the impact of non-humans living among humans was written off as irrelevant. Gygax imagined, probably for the convenience of it, that human civilization would be so attractive to any nearby dwarves or elves that they would become completely assimilated. Gygax had admitted to his “humanocentric” approach to fantasy world-building as far back as the 1978 Players Handbook, but here this approach seems particularly arrogant.

The book is broken into two sections, “the physical landscape” and “the cultural landscape.”

The “physical landscape” section begins, reminiscent of the 1979 Dungeon Masters Guide, with lists of landscape “dressing” (to borrow a term from the older work). We are treated to random encounter tables, as we have been since the very first D&D booklets. But here the purpose has changed dramatically. The encounter tables are no longer filled with random monsters, but contain information about farmers and the size of their wagons. There is descriptive text about castles, but no information anymore for high-level characters wanting to build their own. The game has shifted from characters mastering their environment to simply interacting with it. Nowhere is this paradigm shift more obvious than the list of “magical products and services.” The focus on magic has flying carpets to “dirt-eliminating carpets”. From fireballs snuffing out groups of opponents in a blaze of fire to “self-heating water kettles.”

This change in focus is meant as an observation rather than a complaint; the descriptions are evocative and thorough, giving much food for thought for the DM looking to run a campaign with a focus away from combat. But the descriptive nature of non-combat campaigning does not lend itself as well to game mechanics as combat does and, if the book has a main weakness, it is where d20 mechanics are shoe-horned onto the descriptive text. The “Practical spells for the d20 system” section, for example, supposedly has 16 new spells in it, but most of them are really just new ways to interpret preexisting spells – Floating Object is a (why did it take 26 years to think of this?) more generic version of Tenser's Floating Disc, Ventilation is a variant of Gust of Wind, Transparent Object is a more generic version of Glasteel. Some of the spells, like Accurate Tally and Pleasant Weather Zone, already had their niches filled by the Tome of Magic 12 years earlier. Conjure Spice is perhaps the only spell with a previously unfilled (though probably not in great demand) niche of filling the “void” between Purify Food & Water and Create Food.

“The Cultural Landscape”, or “Book Two”, is perhaps most typically Gygaxian when it is assigning number values. One can only wonder if statements like how the upper upper class is composed of “about 0.002% of the total population” is based on meticulous research or that same wonderfully quirky arbitrariness that determined that a longsword does 1d8 damage instead of 1d6 or 1d10.

The “Fantasy Society” section is a poorly named one, as there is little fantasy content here. While it reads much like a history textbook, interesting thoughts for a DM to ponder are sprinkled all throughout the text on social classes. Which social classes should have access magically warm water and indoor plumbing? Who should have access to coffee and chocolate (we are expected to accept without a double take that these are fantasy world-appropriate items)? How many acres on a manor holding should be crop land and how many woodland? How large a household staff should an upper middle class person have, and which occupations would be in this class? How is one promoted upwards from class to class?

The “Civilized Communities” section, again, is full of tidbits for the DM to ponder – the officers on a manor, the options for roofing material in a town, and the typical diet of people who live in particular types of dwellings. More importantly, this section includes practical advice for DMing players passing through said communities or building permanent residences in them. It may help to know how many people would live in a hamlet, for example, but what is really going to help the DM is the (more than a) page on information media, entertainment, drinking and smoking options (to the list of questionable presences like coffee and chocolate, add tobacco – why doesn't gunpowder exist again?), and visitor accommodations a hamlet would typically offer. Personally, I struggled to find a good guide for land and building costs in my last AD&D campaign – here, I get that very table, succinctly, on less than half a page.

The Cleric character class began its existence back in '74 as a thinly veiled Catholic -- as evidenced by the wooden cross on the equipment list and the hierarchical level titles. In '85, Gygax co-wrote The Temple of Elemental Evil, using the floorplan of a cathedral. By 2003, Gygax here said “[t]he fantasy world can't have cathedrals and churches. Those are Christian appellations.” Again, I have personally struggled in the past with this same issue – trying to education Greyhawk gamers about how we erroneously place monotheistic values on a supposedly pantheistic setting. Later in the text, Gygax spent 13 pages on the role of the clergy and began it with his most personal essay in the book, detailing how his views on this evolved over the decades. Curiously, the material on the clergy still seems to fall into the same old patterns – shrines dedicated to single deities and a Catholic Church-like hierarchy. And while he might have been ready to discard cathedrals and churches, he included a detailed floor plan for an abbey.

The last section of the book is “A Day in the Life...”, which details the daily schedules of citizens of varying social standing. In 11 pages, this section neatly summarizes what would have been chapters in one of Greenwood Press' “Daily Life” books. This, in essence, is the nature of the entirety of Living Fantasy – the distillation of all of Gygax's reading he had done since AD&D while preparing his later fantasy games, particularly Lejendary Adventures. It is both an answer to and a continuation of his earlier works, particularly the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide. It is at times odiously detailed (plumbing materials by social class?), historically astute (distinguishing between medieval and renaissance models of military command), personal (his essay on divesting clerics of the trappings of modern religion, but also an earlier essay on the “error of 'peace-knot' use” in other game products), and whimsical (frog legs and crème Brule on his menu list?). It is also fascinating as both a reference work for DMs to skim for ideas and as a window into the mind of the Father of Roleplaying Games in his final years.

Lastly, for a better organized essay on how Living Fantasy fits into Gygaxian publishing history, see

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Why Twilight Sucks

Until recently, I could only speak generally about how the Twilight phenomena sucks. Vampires are so over-done and vampire-human love is repulsive. Not that its legion of girl fans even bat an eye when you remind them that it's all about necrophilia.

Last night, my girlfriend made me watch the movie version. I still can't speak specifically about the books, but at least I can finally say, with specifics, why Twilight: the Movie sucks.

I have to start by backing up to the main premise – vampires. Vampires are, or would be if they existed, abhorrent monsters that exist in defiance of the sanctity of life. They are not sympathetic superheroes. Twilight keeps trying to make us think of them like that. Spider-Man is alluded to and their super-climbing certainly looks a lot like Spider-Man and their strength and reflex levels seem to be on par with Spider-Man's and even Edward's mind-reading skill serves him a lot like Spider-Man's spider-sense. Makes me wonder if Stephanie Meyer is just a big Spider-Man fan. But no, she insists her characters are vampires. But are they?

Twilight's vampires drink blood and they avoid sunlight and they come back to life after they die, but vampires do not sparkle in sunlight and they do not reflect in mirrors. Yet Twilight makes such a huge deal out of these exceptions (the climax conveniently taking place around a lot of mirrors). So Twilight's vampires don't pass the duck test – if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and acts like a duck, it's a duck – these vampires simply fail too many criteria to be vampires. They could just as easily be blood-drinking aliens as vampires. Oddly, our main character Bella never considers this at all. She just accepts right away that they are vampires. Why? Because Edward the Pasty/Homely/Inexplicable Heartthrob Vampire says so.

And no one questions Edward. Ever. When Edward says James, the evil vampire, will never give up trying to kill Bella, we only have Edward's word on this because he's the only mind reader. But we also know that Edward is jealously over-protective of Bella (and a psycho stalker to boot, sneaking into her room at night to spy on her, though Bella inexplicably doesn't mind this invasion of her privacy). Couldn't at least someone have said, “You know, Eddie, maybe you misread his intentions in the heat of the moment. Could you at least double-check before we all gang up on him to kill him?” But no, Edward says James has to die, so everyone jumps into action to do what Edward says.

And there are so many things Bella should be questioning. Does she really love Edward? She thinks she does because she feels drawn to his staring and she thinks she dreams about him at night. Yet while he's staring, he's trying to probe her mind and she is probably somehow feeling that mind-probe as a pleasurable experience. And she soon finds out that she's not dreaming about him, she's really waking up and seeing her in her room, but – again – this doesn't phase her in the least because Edward says he's just watching her sleep. If she caught him sniffing her panties would she bat an eye?

Does Edward really love her? He even tells her that he's drawn to her physically, like a pheromone attraction. What woman wouldn't be insulted when he doesn't mention respecting her mind too? And can we even trust that Edward inexplicably can't read her mind when he can read everyone else's? Like so much else about Edward, we only have his word on it.

We are told that James is an amazing tracker thanks to his heightened senses. If his sense of smell is so great that he can track Bella cross-country, then how on Earth does it take him about five minutes before he notices she smells like a human at a range of about 30 feet? And why does she believe Edward when he says James won't hurt her father, but then she worries that James will hurt her mother? Because Edward didn't say she would be all right?

I think Edward isn't just a mind-reader – he's a mind-controller. He's pulling everyone's strings and engineering all these dangers for Bella just so he can conveniently rescue her. He made up the thing about James wanting to kill Bella and then contacted James and asked him to play along. Edward conveniently shows up to save Bella from James before any of the other vampires. We're supposed to believe it's because he's faster, but what if it's because he already knew where they were because he had arranged the whole thing?

I was also annoyed because the father-daughter relationship subplot is never really resolved, but mainly because of my huge unanswered questions and the giant plot holes they illuminate, I gave the movie a D for a grade. Now, the movie could have upgraded to a B if the dad had been the hero. Gathering clues about the Cullens, Dad would figure everything out – including seeing the obvious holes in Edward's stories to Bella. Just as Edward was performing his fake-rescue of Bella and using James as his fall guy, Dad would show up, confront Edward with the truth, and stake the jerk through the heart. Then Bella would see that she should never have hid things from her dad, would respect him more than ever, and their healed relationship would be our happy ending.

Now, Megan was initially pretty disappointed in me for not liking her movie, but the next day she agreed that her appreciation of the movie really comes from having read the books and being able to fill in the gaps that the movie leaves. And maybe the books really do answer my questions better than the movie does. Not that I really need to know. Twilight is a primal fantasy for girls – the need girls have to feel that she will not only find someone who loves her, but that he will be special in a secret way. Megan was fascinated by that first in Lois Lane’s Superman and then in Gwen Stacy’s Spider-Man. My biggest problem with Twilight is that it’s been done so much better.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Another Far Side-Like Comic

[From the same page as the last one.]

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Far Side-Like Cartoon

[Circa 1998, I was briefly obsessed with the cartoon The Far Side. On my breaks at work, I sketched some one panel cartoons. Here's a sample.]

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Captain America Eulogies

Sadly, when I thought I had finally encountered the last mildew damage in my comic book collection, I as wrong. Here are more mini-obituaries, this time from my Captain America collection.

Captain America and the Falcon #203 (Nov. 1976). “Alamo II”. Grade: A-. Jack Kirby's pencils are not at their best; some of the figures are way off in proportion, even for Jack. The Falcon being brainwashed by insane scientists always struck me as too dark for this title. And yet, we get Texas Jack as a great, one-time sidekick; a terrific plot that mixes sci-fi and western genres; and, just as rare in Cap's book, we see him beating the bad guys by outsmarting them. I bought this issue just a few years ago, but it had a sequel in Marvel Team-Up that was the first issue I ever owned of Marvel Team-Up back in '76.

Captain America and the Falcon #204 (Dec. 1976). “Unburied One”. Grade: B. The best stuff here is Cap having to decide if he should retire to be with Sharon Carter or not. And there is a nice build-up of dramatic tension to the show-down next issue. The Falcon is still brainwashed, though (bleh), and the super-zombie is just...weird. Why does SHIELD think he's from the future again? I just read it and I don't get that part.

Captain America and the Falcon #205 (Jan. 1977). “Argon Walks the Earth”. Grade: B-. The opening is pretty effective, following through with last issue's cliffhanger promise of a shock. Argon does look pretty shocking when we see how he's changed this issue. Now the super-zombie is suddenly super-talkative and sounds just like a hundred of Stan Lee's villains. Is that intentional?

Captain America #247 (July 1980). “By the Dawn's Early Light!”. Grade: A+. Man, is it hard giving up the Stern/Byrne classic run on this title! Stern's mastery of Marvel continuity has seldom been matched and Joe Rubinstein brings out the best in anyone he inks. Even without Rubinstein, Byrne makes it all look so easy.

Captain America #248 (Aug 1980). “Death, Where Is Thy Sting?” Grade: A+. Even pursuing a fleeing Dragon Man for half an issue is exciting in these guys' hands. And the showdown with Machinesmith is remarkable for its surprise twist ending.

Captain America #251 (Nov. 1980). “Mercenary and the Madman.” Grade: A++. A two-page origin recap, the return of Batroc the Leaper and Mister Hyde – better handled than ever, Steve Rogers with stubble (a Byrne technique to humanize characters he would re-use with Mr. Fantastic and Superman later), more of Bernie, and a great cliffhanger!

Captain America #252 (Dec. 1980). “Cold Fire!” Grade: A+. Stern wisely leaves Mr. Hyde unstoppable by both Cap and Batroc, setting the stage for Hyde to be a much bigger menace when he next faces Spider-Man. Batroc is just too much fun. And the bonus feature reminding us about the not-seen-enough supporting great it would have been to see Stern stay on longer and develop them all more. Poor Bernie! J.M. DeMatteis tried to use her well when he took over, but he was never Roger Stern.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Find Out About Flu (Swine or Otherwise)

Swine Flu Information Available via the Cook County Government

Swine Flu Updates.
Cook County Dept. of Public Health, Cook County Health and Hospitals System.

Illinois Documents

IL/AUG 1.21:F 67
Management Audit of the Flu Vaccine Procurement and the I-Save Rx Program.
Illinois. Office of the Auditor General, 2006. 131 p.

Swine Flu Information Available via the Illinois Government

Influenza: Get Your Flu Vaccine!
Illinois Dept. of Public Health.

Federal Documents

HE 1.2:H 75/5
Home Health Care Services Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist,
Version 5.
Washington, D.C.:Dept. of Health and Human Services, 2006. 4 p.

PR 43.8:H 75/2/IN 3
National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza [electronic resource].
Homeland Security Council (U.S.), 2005. 12 p.

Y 4.C 44:F 67
China's Response to Avian Flu: Steps Taken, Challenges Remaining, and Transparency: Roundtable before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, One Hundred Ninth Congress, second session, February 24, 2006.
United States. Congressional-Executive Commission on China, 2006. 40 p.

Y 4.G 74/7:F 67/6
Working through an Outbreak [microform]: Pandemic Flu Planning and Continuity of Operations: Hearing before the Committee on Government Reform, House of Representatives, One Hundred Ninth Congress, second session, May 11, 2006.
United States. Congress. House. Committee on Government Reform, 2006. 128 p.

Swine Flu Information Online via the Federal Government

2009 H1N1 Flu Virus
U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Questions and Answers on the 2009 H1N1 Flu Virus and the Food Industry

Medline Plus: Swine Flu.
U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) Dispatch.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One-Stop Access to U.S. Government Swine, Avian and Pandemic Flu Information.
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

Questions & Answers: H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu) and You
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Swine Influenza: General Information.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Swine Flu Information Online via International Organizations

Assessing the severity of an influenza pandemic

Epidemic and Pandemic Alert and Response (EPR): Influenza A(H1N1)
World Health Organization.

EOC Update on Influenza A/H1N1
Pan American Health Organization, Regional Office of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Adult Non-Fiction

Global Epidemics.
Mari, Christopher. New York: H.W. Wilson Company, 2007. 189 p.

Flu: the Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus that Caused It, 1st ed.
Kolata, Gina Bari. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999. 330 p.

616.9/ROT (New Books)
Germ Proof Your Kids: the Complete Guide to Protecting (Without Overprotecting) Your Family from Infections.
Rotbart, Harley A. Washington, DC: ASM Press, 2008. 380 p.

Young Adult Non-Fiction

YA 614.58/GRA
Deadly Invaders: Virus Outbreaks around the World, from Marburg Fever to Avian Flu
Grady, Denise. Boston, Mass.: Kingfisher, 2006. 128 p.

Childrens Non-Fiction

J 614.518/PET
The 1918 Influenza Pandemic.
Peters, Stephanie True. New York: Benchmark Books, 69 p.

Report on EPA and Village of Hanover Park Public Conference over Mallard Lake Landfill Leak

October 6, 2008

On Oct. 1, I attended a public meeting on the Mallard Lake Landfill at the Hanover Park Village Hall. I was expecting less. I expected maybe one EPA officer addressing a small crowd of concerned homeowners, fielding some questions, and then sending everyone home. Instead we had two EPA officers – Steve Faryan and Mike Joyce, plus two or three guys working for the EPA (Steve Ryan and Thomas Kruger among them -- consultants? Kruger looked familiar, but I can’t imagine where I had encountered the man before), Carol Fuller from the Ill. EPA (her name should be recognizable from a lot of IL/EP documents); and in the audience, someone from the DuPage County Health Dept., the Mayor of Hanover Park (Rod Craig), at least one trustee for sure (Wes Eby), and possibly up to two other trustees. So, besides the purpose of assuring homeowners that methane gas would not kill them, the function of this meeting was a political one, to be seen and be seen taking an active role in dealing with the methane leak issue. In all, there were maybe 25 people at the meeting.

We have hundreds of pages of material on the landfill and the leak the EPA has given us, but the story boils down pretty much to this: If you are going to build homes around a landfill, you should have a protective liner – no more than a thick sheet – under the shallow soil you are building on. Carol Fuller said before 1993 (or maybe she said 1991), there was no regulation requiring landfills to have that liner, so Mallard Lake was initially built without any liner. Later, when homes were going to be developed by the south end of the landfill, a liner was finally laid down that would protect those homes. There have been no methane leaks found near the south end of the landfill, thanks to the liner.

Under the landfill is a vacuum chamber that creates a negative pressure. Methane gas is drawn towards a negative pressure, which keeps the methane from spreading – normally. Without the liner, the gas is also to touch the water table when it rises. Methane does not mix with water, so the gas just rests on top of the water table. But, in times of drought, the water table lowers back down, creating a low-pressure opening that the methane gas fills. Later, when the water table goes back up to normal levels, it pushes the methane gas against the soil above it and, because the methane still will not mix with the water (except under great pressure), the methane spreads out over the surface of the water table. Now, it can be virtually anywhere. And while that may sound like a good reason to move to a new neighborhood, the truth is that this diffusion of the gas is a good thing. As long as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), like methane gas, found in quantities below health-based screening levels, it does not pose much of a danger. The other thing to be concerned about is how high into the soil the methane gas has seeped. If the gas reaches the shallow soil near the surface, it can poison plants and seep into basements.

Up to this point, while all this sounds very dangerous, there was not much of a problem. Methane gas leaked slowly from the landfill, as it typically does from landfills, and the water table acted as a natural remedy to gas accumulation, diffusing the gas over a wide area. All that changed in October 2007 when BFI, the company maintaining the landfill – powering the vacuum pump under the landfill – suffered a power outage. It was like unlocking all the doors in a prison; lots of methane escaped.

The landfill is dotted with probes that monitor the soil for methane leakage. Soon after the power outage, one probe detected methane in the shallow soil. It was now a situation that required the federal and Illinois EPAs to be called in. Through November, the EPA tested homes in the area. Sub-slab ports were installed under six homes and 224 homes have been monitored with a combination of above-ground detectors and sink-bar tests. The sink bar is a three-foot long metal pipe with sensors at the bottom end that is slammed into all the way into the ground.

No methane was found in people’s homes or detected by the shallow soil tests. However, deeper wells drilled in the residential areas by the north end of the landfill and the portion of the Hawk Hollow Forest Preserve on the east side of Schick Road have turned up methane in the permeable, silty sand that is found 35 to 40 feet down. The clay layer above the sand layer has so far blocked the methane from rising higher. The only living things in danger at that depth are the roots of very old trees. One resident at the meeting complained about the prize tree on his property dying, and of him knowing one other tree that had died since October of last year.

Every time a well led to methane, another well was drilled a block further out to determine how far from the first spot the methane was concentrated. They called this “perimeter monitoring” and it is currently their top priority. As the search widened, it was determined that no gas had leaked as far as the west side of Schick Road, but gas was detected as far north as the vicinity of Greenbrook Elementary School, to which forest preserve land almost touches. No methane was found in the school.

Evidence was found recently of a methane gas fire underground. An underground fire was, the experts there admitted, an uncommon event. The recovery wells in that area were shut down and will not be re-opened until the waste-mass cools. Fuller said the underground temperature at a landfill site needs to stay below 131 degrees Fahrenheit.

The next step is to recover the leaked methane. There are currently five recovery wells, with another seven proposed. One main well, where the most methane has been detected, will have a pipe running gas straight back to the landfill. Since this method requires the most construction, most wells are using mobile compressors – basically 4-cylinder Ford engines running on propane – to pull gas up into the mobile units for later removal back to the landfill. Three will be in Hawk Hollow, three will be in residential areas, and one near the intersection of County Farm Rd. and Schick Rd. Landfill regulations say the clean-up will not be over until it can be proven that no landfill gas is going offsite. Right now, there are six wells where gas readings have gone up. No one has figured out why, though there are some normal explanations for it, such as barometric pressure fluctuations. The EPA wants to run deeper tests to see if any methane is somehow beneath the sand layer.

Steps will be taken to make sure this incident never happens again. BFI has been ordered to have back-up generators to maintain power to the vacuum chamber. This, more contingencies, is the EPA’s second priority. There is no required number of recovery wells the site must have per acreage to return all the lost methane, but however many necessary to prove no methane leak remains will have to be maintained, possibly for up to a year. This will be part of EPA’s “phase two” operation, about four months from now, when they will determine how many wells will be needed for the remainder of the investigation. Wells will then be monitored monthly (one persistent homeowner insisted the wells should be checked in random order, but everyone else agreed that would be a meaningless precaution, as methane gas travels too slowly for activity in one well to push gas towards another.

BFI is upgrading its gas collection system and re-sealing the surface of the landfill and may be made to report annually to the public, or maintain a public web site with updated monitoring data.

EPA has a superfund and has spent $300,000 of it already to oversee the clean-up. At some point, EPA will be in cost recovery mode, though that is a medium- to long-term issue. At that time, they will be looking at the DuPage Forest Preserve’s $100,000 landfill emergency budget.

The Forest Preserve District is checking groundwater separately. BFI has already tested their groundwater. In addition, Nicor Gas has done some of its own soil testing for its customers. This is sort of a “checks and balances” system that keeps everyone honest (one homeowner asked if EPA would hire a third party to monitor them).

A landfill produces methane gas on a bell curve. Mallard Lake has already peaked and is producing less methane now, but still has many years to go until it stops. The BFI permit has a court-ordered 100-year closure period (30 years is typical, though Blackwell’s is 100 years too). BFI can develop the landfill property if they wish as long (as per the rumored ski slope once proposed for the hill), as they have no gas leakage. Their ability to develop the property would be limited by their being completely surrounded by forest preserve land, which cannot be developed.

In the meanwhile, the EPA is willing to write “comfort letters” for homeowners looking to sell their property, assuring potential buyers that the neighborhood is environmentally safe. They are checking private wells one a time, as some owners have complained of gas contamination. However, air in the pressure tanks is a common problem that could appear to be gas contamination in the well, which is why the EPA has to come in and examine the equipment.

By 7:30, the questions were becoming repetitive, but for one and a half hours there was a lot of interesting information. After 8, everyone was invited out into the parking lot to observe a mobile compressor running, to allay fears that they would be too noisy. I did not think they were too loud, but then again, they won’t be on my property.

Monday, April 27, 2009

My Top 15 Favorite RPGs

The voting and the tabulations are all done here, so I'm going to share my personal votes. Mind you, I could not come up with a list of 25 games, as I limited myself to games I own, have played, and still would like to run a campaign using them someday.

1. Hideouts & Hoodlums (2008- )
2. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1st ed., 1977- )
3. Marvel Super Heroes (1st ed., 1984- )
4. Dungeons & Dragons (Moldvay/Cook ed., 1980- )
5. Pendragon (3rd ed., 1990- )
6. Call of Cthulhu (4th ed., 1989- )
7. Castle Falkenstein (1994)
8. Dungeons & Dragons (1st ed., 1974- )
9. Gamma World (1st ed., 1978- )
10. Champions (4th ed., 1989- )
11. Toon (1984- )
12. James Bond 007 (1983- )
13. Kobolds Ate My Baby (1998- )
14. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness (1985- )
15. Star Wars (2nd ed., 1992- )

Addendum: Two RPGs that I would like to run someday, but did not make the list because I have never played them yet, are Paranoia and Star Trek (the Lost Unicorn version).

Friday, April 24, 2009

Cartoon Favorites from the Saturday Morning Cartoons of the 1970s

This was inspired by something I saw on Facebook recently, where you're supposed to give your five favorite cartoon shows from when you were growing up. Well, I thought, "There's no way I can limit it to five!" and wrote this up instead. Indeed, I had to limit this to just Saturday morning cartoons, which eliminated Speed Racer. Thanks to the miracle of re-runs, though, I was able to include some classics from the '60s that I still grew up with.

1964–1966 -
This show, especially in its premiere episode, is actually pretty insulting to the superhero genre. Superheroes are shown to be bumblingly destructive, inexplicably adored by the public, and challenged by puzzles that a kid viewer can solve long before Underdog can. And yet, the show was done with such charm and the lampooning so subtle, that I still like this show.
1967 –
Some kids like Space Ghost best. Me? I liked the Herculoids. Oh no, not for the human cast. You could dump them in a heartbeat and I wouldn’t bat an eye. No, it was Igoo, Gloop, and Gleep that you watched the Herculoids for. Oh yeah.
What do you get when you give Ralph Bakshi a stack of comic books, trip him out on acid, and give him a limited budget? Only one unbeatable superhero cartoon with its own unique character unrivalled until Batman the Animated Series.
1968 -
Banana Splits
There were cartoon shorts, but even as I kid I knew those were lame. But guys dressed up in goofy mascot costumes doing short visual gags? I couldn’t get enough of it.
1969 –
Scooby Doo, Where Are You?
The original three seasons have never been surpassed by later incarnations. This show may have more camp humor appeal today, but this defined what was “edgy” and “darkly atmospheric” for cartoons circa 1970.
1973 –
Multiplication Rock/Schoolhouse Rock
Has any kid since the 1970s made it through school without the benefit of these amazing cartoon shorts? Shouldn’t all classes be taught via jingles by now?
1977 -
Scooby’s All-Star Laff-A-Lympics
Bizarrely anticipating the entire reality TV show craze, this series had almost the entirety of Hanna-Barbera’s stable of characters competing in teams against each other. And was more interesting than all the live action reality TV shows (and cartoons based on the reality TV genre) to come.
1978 -
Challenge of the Superfriends
The Superfriends had been on TV for awhile by this point, but this is where it got bad guys. The Legion of Doom was more evil than had ever been seen on children’s programming before.
Fantastic Four
Storyboarded by Lee and Kirby themselves, this series was, in its own way, as faithful an adaptation of the comic book series as the earlier Hanna-Barbera version. To the Human Torch’s eternal embarrassment, he was replaced by Herbie the Robot and I never even missed him.
Godzilla Power Hour
My introduction to the Japanese monster genre. I was hugely into dinosaurs at the time and couldn’t get enough of episodes that had actual dinosaurs in them (though I was never, ever able to watch Land of the Lost and its cheesy special effects).
Baggy Pants and the Nitwits. A long forgotten cartoon and probably for good reason, though it introduced me to what I had missed on the adult program, Laugh-In (the first of many shows to steal from Laugh-In, most notably Nickelodeon’s pre-Spongebob main show, You Can’t Do that on Television). Indirectly, the Baggy Pants character introduced me to Charlie Chaplin.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

CodConXV Report - pt. 2

After that I was scheduled to play Munchkin Cthulhu, which had a surprisingly large turnout. Rather than crowd the table, I gave up my seat to a more enthusiastic player and, after walking around the convention a bit more, headed home early. Anything after Dan the Bard would have been anticlimactic anyway.

Sunday was a cold, dreary day and attendance looked like half as much as we had on Saturday. I was signed up to play a (shudder) “3.5 ed.” D&D game, but one being run by Penny and Skip Williams, late of WotC. We had a small group of five players and, by that, I mean we practically had three and a half players because three of our group were not very good at playing high-level characters. I myself almost never get to play high-level D&D characters, especially as high as 12th, so doing things like casting Flame Strike and doing 12d6 damage was a real treat for me. And it was the first time I have ever killed a rakshasa with a blessed crossbow bolt. The adventure was just above average, but me and my dwarven high priestess rocked.

After that, I set up for Hideouts & Hoodlums. Still no names on the sign-up sheet and dwindling prospects of finding any players. I had already resigned myself to this sad possibility, but I did try one more time to recruit my friend Darren into abandoning his RPGA tournament for H&H. Although he declined, he did sound interested in my game (we had not had the opportunity to discuss it before). Penny Williams came by, trolling for people to come to her seminar, but also took an interest in my H&H project. I’m hoping her Phoenix Lore magazine can do something for me, like maybe an H&H review.

Then, and only when all hope had faded, did someone actually stop by my table and showed an interest in H&H. He was alone and looking for one more game to play before he left. However, there was also one person left from the Steve Jackson Games crowd competing with me for our one available player! Even though I’d promised Penny Williams I would come to her seminar if I did not have any players, I was not ready to let this one get away. I sat through two hours of Lord of the Fries, a zombie-themed Old Maid variant that I did not even care for that much just so I could get another chance to talk him into my game afterwards. Luckily, we picked up another player during Lord of the Fries and I recruited both of them! And then we ran into a couple of gamers (literally a couple) who were also looking for one more game before they went home. Half my session time was gone, but I finally had my group of players!

This was my fourth time running “Reuter Mansion”, based off the sample dungeon in the original D&D rules (book 3). Level 1 of the hideout is 15 rooms and described in 6 pages. This group made it through about half of this level in just two hours – including the last two rooms that I had written descriptions for only in the time I was setting up for the session (who knew they would find that secret door in so short a time)! They were smart players, constantly returning to the abandoned mansion above to raid for supplies and using them, or the chest full of pennies in the hideout (the boyfriend taught me about using pennies to spike doors shut), to neatly solve every challenge. They also knew when to avoid trouble more than most players I’ve known and managed to avoid combat with the mobsters until almost the end of our session. We had a lot of laughs over their reliance on always following the left wall of the hideout (“We can’t go through that door – it’s not left!”) and their avoidance of combat (“You’re not into fighting evil so much as inconveniencing it” and the mobster that said, “You’re not superheroes – you penny doors!”). It seemed like everyone had a great time and they all thanked me for the session. The girlfriend said she had never played anything else like it, which I took to be a compliment. Sadly, not one of them took the H&H handouts I offered them – they didn’t even keep their character cards (clearly, none of them are packrats like me, as I still have folders full of old handouts from cons). They all said they were satisfied with the number of games they have now and were not looking to expand, but hopefully they came away from it with a good impression of H&H and will recommend it to anyone they meet looking for a good superhero game system.

I left the con as happy as can be. I felt I had accomplished a lot, having introduced H&H to four players in play, several others just by talking to them about it, including one in the professional arena. I also just had a lot of fun.

Monday, April 20, 2009

CodConXV Report - pt. 1

This past weekend was CodConXV, held at the College of DuPage, and was the convention debut of Hideouts & Hoodlums. But that part comes last.

Friday, I raced to Glen Ellyn after work so I could play Toon. It was the first of the “Old School” games being run at the con and the theme of this con was “Old School”. How unfortunate, then, that most of the gamers in attendance all weekend stuck to the RPGA’s adherence to “4th ed.” D&D, the same cosplay group they apparently always game with, the Steve Jackson card game group, or the even smaller miniatures group. Not too many people looking to try some Old School games. No one else was there for Toon – not even the guy who was supposed to run it!

The exhibit hall was interesting, mostly for the “ebay store” exhibiting their collection of used games for sale. I had my eyes on a copy of Tunnels & Trolls all weekend, but did not have $30 to spare for it. Indeed, I had to take in the whole con on the cheap and this turned out to be really easy. I stayed all three days and, not counting gas, it cost me only $13!

I did run into my old friend Darren there, as he’s hugely into the RPGA crowd. We talked for a little bit. I also found the Toon guy an hour later, but instead of playing Toon solo, I joined the Steve Jackson card game group for Kings Blood, a Uno variant that was pretty fun. But the good times were marred by an uneasiness caused by the sign-up sheets for games sitting out – no one had signed up for Sunday’s H&H demo!

Saturday started out very similar to Friday night. The same guy was going to run Car Wars. One of the card gamers, George, and I were looking forward to it. The guy showed up a half-hour later – he thought he was scheduled to run it at 10 instead of 9. George and I wound up playing Munchkin instead. That was fine, as I really enjoy Munchkin and had never played it with a group of seven before. For the first half of the game I had the lowest level character, but after some lucky cards and aggressive playing, I came from behind and, at one point, all but one of us was one level away from winning, going around the table almost three whole times stopping each other from winning. It was exciting and fun. I don’t think either George or I minded that the Car Wars guy ran that without us.

I had planned to stick around with the card game crowd after that anyway, as I was next scheduled to try Greedquest. It was fun, looked great thanks to Phil Foglio artwork, but in play it was a lot like playing the dungeon expansion for Talisman by itself and I had done that plenty of times already. Again, I came pretty close to winning, but that goal still eluded me.

Michael, my DM for his “Dark Ages” 1st ed. AD&D campaign, was running a Swords & Wizardry event that afternoon and I ran into him soon after Greedquest as he was setting up. I had told Michael before that I was going to play a different game in that time slot, as I was already used to seeing him behind the DM’s screen. His sign-up sheet had been blank the whole time so far, just as my game’s sheet still was. Indeed, I was kind of hoping he would cancel his game and come play in the game I had chosen so I could see how he handles being a player on the other side of the DM screen, which I had not had the opportunity to see yet. However, his loyal player Patrick came to his rescue with his own team of Savage World players and Michael’s S&W game was saved.

Coincidentally, the only two 1st ed. AD&D games at the con were running against each other and I had chosen the other one. And, boy, had I backed the wrong horse. The scenario seemed promising enough at first, as we were 1st level spies being sent to find out where orcs scheduled to break off from a passing orc caravan were heading, with four or five possible destinations to choose from. It was a nicely open-ended set-up, but the time limit forced on us made it impossible to explore the locations and we had to head straight for the orcs. Our DM was an old board gamer so, to him, getting us from point A to point B was exciting enough. Our characters had done nothing but buy equipment and travel for two hours before we met our first orc. When we met the main party of orcs, there were over 60 of them! Half of us were ready to call it quits and return to town with the information we had by then, including one of the DM’s friends. We agreed that, had there been half as many orcs or we had at least 3rd level characters, we would have had a chance of winning, but this was impossible. So our DM cheated for us by having the orcs so complacent that they posted no guards at night. Now we were expected to sneak into their camp and kill them in their sleep, using 1st ed.’s infamous assassination tables. There was a combat after that with waking orcs, but I was so put-off by the un-heroic nature of this scenario that I wanted nothing to do with it. Worse, I had snuck out twice already to observe Michael’s game and he and his group were laughing and having fun while my group was frustrated and bored. I went back, packed up my stuff, and came out to watch Michael, et al., have fun and enjoyed that more.

After that lesson in “always trust the DM you know”, the convention took a dramatic turn for the better. A late addition to the convention schedule was an hour-long performance by a “bard” named Dan Marcotte. He was amazing. Basically, he takes real Renaissance ballads and “updates” them to D&D. To get some idea of just how funny this is, you must go to and listen to their theme song, “Phil the Phoenix”. Though the real standout was the “Owlbear Song”. We were spellbound for an hour, or at least spellbound when we weren’t roaring with laughter. The cost of admission for the convention was well-spent on that concert alone. He was just that good. He’s been performing at the Bristol Renaissance Faire for 13 years, he said, but amazingly this is the first time he had ever been invited to perform at a gaming convention, where his true audience has been waiting for him all along.

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Lesser Bard Class

[The following also comes from my City of Greyhawk campaign in the early '90s. This bard was meant to correct problems I perceived in the 2nd ed. AD&D bard class and the "lesser" part compares it to the 1st ed. AD&D bard, which was retained as the "greater" bard.]
Lesser Bards

of the two types of bards, lesser bards are the ones most people hear about and see. Some people do not make a distinction between the common bard and the great bards of legend, much to the lesser bard's advantage.

The lesser bard travels about, performing for his living. While traveling, the bard starts to pick up the skills of adventurers. The bard becomes a jack-of-all-trades, knowing a little from various classes without mastering any one in particular.

Humans, elves, and half-elves can be lesser bards. A lesser bard must have at least the following scores: a 9 in Strength, an 11 Intelligence, a 10 Wisdom, a 12 Dexterity, and a 13 Charisma. They may be of any alignment. A lesser gains a 10% bonus to experience points earned if Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, and Charisma are all 15 or higher.

The lesser bard can cast spells. Although they can begin casting as early as 1st level, they begin with no spellbook of their own and must find or borrow scrolls or spellbooks. A lesser bard can learn to cast any spell from any spell list, including cleric and druid spells. All spells cast by a lesser bard are less effective than those cast by normal spellcasters. Like a druid using oak leaves, spell range, duration, and area of effect are halved. Saving throws made versus these spells are at +2.

Lesser bards may use thieving skills as if a thief of the same level. However, a lesser bard may only have five skills initially. He may choose any five from the thieves' skill table. Additional skills are gained at the same rate as thieves.

Lastly, the lesser bard has certain abilities of his own. A lesser bard above 1st level has a percent chance of knowing a legend related to any particular person, place, or thing. This skill can only be used once on any subject. Also, the bard's poetic ability raises the morale of associated creatures by 10% and inspire a ferocity in attack that bestows a +1 bonus to hit. This skill requires 2 rounds to implement, and then lasts for one turn. The bard may engage in combat while reciting, but may not sing or cast spells with verbal components. Lastly, a bard's singing and playing negates other song effects, such as harpies use. A bard can also, by singing, sooth a shrieker into not shrieking.

Lesser Bards Table I.:
-------------------Experience--# of Hit
Experience Points--Level-------Dice (d6)--Level Title
500,001-660,000----11----------11---------Bard (11th level)
660,001-880,000----12----------12---------Bard (12th level)

Lesser Bards Table II.:
Experience---Know Legend---Number of Spells

Note on Bard Colleges: Aside from role-playing, level of college is a useful reference for determining rarity of training facilities and access to peers. The higher the college, the fewer there are of them.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Thief Class Revisited

[This is from the house rules I wrote for my 1st ed. AD&D City of Greyhawk campaign, back around 1989.]
To allow more variety in the thief class, the thieves' skills have been expanded upon to include the following: tightrope walking, pole vaulting, high jumping, broad jumping, tumbling, falling, street fighting, street smart, forgery, and disguise. The 1st level thief still starts out with 7 skills, but chooses which 7 they will be; thus allowing for custom-made thief kits.

Thief Function Table--Expansion (Plus Racial Modifiers)

Level ---- Read ------ Tightrope - Pole ----- High
of Thief - Languages - Walking --- Vaulting - Jumping
1 -------- 05% ------- 50% ------- 6 1/2' --- 2 3/4'
2 -------- 10% ------- 55% ------- 7' ------- 3'
3 -------- 15% ------- 60% ------- 7' 1/2' -- 3 1/4'
4 -------- 20% ------- 65% ------- 8' ------- 3 1/2'
5 -------- 25% ------- 70% ------- 8 1/2' --- 3 3/4'
6 -------- 30% ------- 75% ------- 9' ------- 4'

Level ---- Broad ---- Tumbling --- Falling -- Street --- Street
of Thief - Jumping --------------- ---------- Fighting - Smart
1 -------- 6 1/2' --- 05% -------- 20%/10' -- 1% ------- 05%
2 -------- 7' ------- 10% -------- 50%/10' -- 2% ------- 10%
3 -------- 7 1/2' --- 15% -------- 90%/10' -- 3% ------- 15%
4 -------- 8' ------- 20% -------- 30%/20' -- 4% ------- 20%
5 -------- 8 1/2' --- 25% -------- 70%/20' -- 5% ------- 25%
6 -------- 9' ------- 31% -------- 10%/30' -- 6% ------- 30%
7 -------- 9 1/4' --- 37% -------- 30%/30' -- 7% ------- 35%
8 -------- 9 1/2' --- 43% -------- 60%/30' -- 8% ------- 40%
9 -------- 9 3/4' --- 49% -------- 100%/30' - 9% ------- 45%
10 ------- 10' ------ 55% -------- 40%/40' -- 10% ------ 50%
11 ------- 10 1/4' -- 61% -------- 90%/40' -- 11% ------ 55%
12 ------- 10 1/2' -- 67% -------- 30%/50' -- 12% ------ 60%

Level ---- Forgery - Disguise
of Thief
1 -------- 30% ----- 15%
2 -------- 35% ----- 20%
3 -------- 40% ----- 25%
4 -------- 45% ----- 30%
5 -------- 51% ----- 36%
6 -------- 57% ----- 42%

Race of - Tightrope - Pole ----- High ---- Broad
Thief --- Walking --- Vaulting - Jumping - Jumping
Dwarf --- -10% ------ -2' ------ -2' ----- -2'
Elf ----- +5% ------- no mod. -- no mod. - no mod.
Gnome --- -5% ------- -2' ------ -2' ----- -2'
Half-elf no mod. --- no mod. -- no mod. - no mod.
Half-orc no mod. --- no mod. -- no mod. - no mod.
Halfling +10% ------ -1' ------ -1' ----- -1'
Hobgoblin no mod. --- no mod. -- no mod. - no mod.

[-The tumbling skill is a percent chance to make one attack that would otherwise have hit miss, limited to one hit per round.
-The falling skill is a percent chance to fall up to that far without taking any damage.
- The street fighting skill is a bonus to chance of knockout in unarmed combat.
- The street smart skill (which was very popular in the urban campaign) is a chance of evading a rolled wandering city encounter before it happens.]

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Guest-Starring Gene Ha!

As a nice postscript to the run of Journey into College I've shared, I'm going to break my rule of only featuring my own work and share the only new JoC work to be done in recent years. At a comic book workshop a few months ago, I had the opportunity of showing professional artist Gene Ha my last JoC strip and he honored me by sketching Judge Chamblin in marker. Ha is a remarkable artist, I think more so in thick marker than with his regular tools, as it keeps his art cleaner and free of spidery lines. I told him he was channeling Gil Kane in this sketch, but he complemented me by saying he was actually channeling me!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Journey into College, Vol. 2, No. 13

[From May 11, 1993 -- the end! Yes, JoC ended on a cliffhanger 16 years ago, 6 days before my 22nd birthday, and I never worked on it since. I don't think I ever had worked out how the courtroom scene would play out, but I did have ambitious plans for after that, including a "Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner" sequel, inspired by Dirk Gentley's Holistic Detective Agency. Again, thanks to Megan for wanting to add color to all my old strips.]

Monday, March 9, 2009

Journey into College, Vol. 2, No. 12

[From the April 13, 1993 Aurora Borealis. I can't tell you why this installment was labeled as no. 13 when, by my current count, it's no. 12. I was either off then or I'm missing another one now. Colors by Megan.]

Friday, March 6, 2009

Journey into College, Vol. 2, No. 11

[From the Feb. 5, 1993 Aurora Borealis. Colors by Megan.]

Monday, March 2, 2009

Journey into College, Vol. 2, No. 10

[From the Aurora Borealis, Oct. 30, 1992. Colors by Megan.]

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Last Archived Adventure of the Elongated Man

Continued from here

The Animated JLU campaign has ended and, thus, so have my online adventures as Elongated Man. Completing my partial archive of saved posts, I present the following:

"I'm ready when you are, boys," the disguised Elongated Man said in his false-gruff voice. "Oh, and this 'ere is the buyer I was representin'," he said, pointing to the false-villainess Roulette. "You can pat me down for weapons if you want, but I think it would be a bit tactless if you tried that on 'er."

Sue was three blocks from the bar, holding her husband's communicator. She had ((let's say, for expediency)) asked Cindy if she would keep an open channel on her communicator so Sue could listen to what was going on. Sue un-muted the communicator to see if Cindy had remembered to do so and given Sue a chance to listen to her husband at work.

The two mugs seemed satisfied with patting down just the disguised Elongated Man. Luckily, they didn't pat the pocket that had Beast Boy in it too hard.

"So, think you can casually stroll us to your contacts now?" the disguised Elongated Man asked the two mugs.

Sue hugged the wall of the building she was standing by and pulled her jacket up around her tighter as the dark sky overhead began to drop rain on her. She sought out a nearby door frame to stand in and hoped that, hanging around so idly, she would not be mistaken for a woman of ill repute.

Elongated Man and "Roulette" were led to the weapon sellers (with Beast Boy and Gypsy in tow). Then...

Elongated Man had listened for clues as to where they were on the ride there -- not that he was worried about four superheroes being able to save themselves, but just for practice.

"The boss lady here don't wanna talk price until she sees the merchandise," the disguised Elongated Man said. "Show us the weapon and we'll talk about the money."

Sue let out a held breath as she heard noise coming from Cindy's communicator. She heard her husband's voice and was glad to know everyone was still okay.

The disguised Elongated Man and Black Canary were led to a large chamber. Lights turned on across the chamber as they entered it. A voice, electronically masked, crackled to life.

"You drive a hard bargain," the voice said, "but I've decided to be nice and let you see my little toy before we get down to business."

Elongated Man's jaw dropped (though only a normal amount). "I never thought the super-weapon would be...THAT," he said.

"Arr, two Routlettes?" the disguised Elongated Man asked with not-entirely pretend surprise. "Then that one must be an imposter!" he said, pointing to the one that had just entered the chamber, in the slim chance that anyone would be fooled by it.

Sue was listening with the communicator pressed to her ear, hoping that her husband's outlandish stratagem would not get anyone killed.

Elongated Man ducked and weaved about the room as he tried to evade Mr. Mohawk, stretching around concrete pillars that helped support the chamber's high ceiling. Provided he was not pummeled unconscious first, he would stretch himself taut and then let Mr. Mohawk charge into him -- then snap back like a rubber band stretched too far and send Mr. Mohawk flying into Mandragora's henchmen.

At least, that was the plan...

Seeing Beast Boy down, Elongated Man tried to draw fire from him. He stretched out his arms and tried to clothesline as many non-superpowered opponents as possible, particularly the armed guards by Mandragora who had been holding back until now.

As far as Elongated Man could tell, this guy charging him was just some fat guy in a suit like any number of hired muscles. Elongated Man swelled his fist to the size and shape of a big hammer and tried to knock Steve out with it.

"What's your deal?" Elongated Man asked Steve. "Couldn't decide on a costume to wear? Do you even have a supervillain name?"

"Hey, I could use a little help here!" Elongated Man said as his face was stretched out by punches. When punching back didn't seem to do much good, Elongated Man stretched himself thin and attempted to wrap himself tight around Steve's head, hoping that Steve would suffocate and pass out or, better yet, punch himself out trying to punch Elongated Man off.

"Whew..." Elongated Man said, taking a much-needed breather. Even his elastic skin was badly bruised, mainly from the beating he had taken earlier from the speedster with the mohawk. "Let's not go back and brag about this one. Aside from Roulette...I don't even know any of these guys! Do you know this fat guy?" he asked Black Canary about Steve.

After a short rest, Elongated Man took stock of their haul. "Gypsy, nice work catching the Riddler!" he said once he learned of this. "Wow, he must have gave you a lot of trouble. He's about the only big league name we've caught here. So, Riddler, want to save us some time and squeal on your partners so you can cut a better deal with the police? Why not tell us what you stole Luthor's super-weapon for?"

Elongated Man stretched a hand over to Beast Boy to help him up on his feet. "C'mon, BB!" Ralph shouted over encouragingly. "I thought you Doom Patrollers were made of tougher stuff!"