Friday, December 30, 2011

Rpol Hideouts & Hoodlums Campaign - pt. 8

Alpha-Woman saw the other man coming and acted quickly. Ignoring her combatant now that Silver Scorpion had joined the fight, she intercepted the second mobster at the top of the stairs. She attacked the unarmed man by swinging her captured rifle over her head and bringing it down on his head just as he tried to dodge. He tumbled down the stairs, landing unconscious at the bottom, though whether he was out cold from the head blow or the fall down the stairs was hard to say.

Behind her, Silver Scorpion found her unarmed opponent lunging for her, but she neatly brought her knee up into his groin and dropped him cold.

Hearing the gunshot from inside the house, the Daoist sprung into action. He shifted himself into the mountain lion guise that he had been contemplating earlier and pounced into the house, ready to fight.

Dice crouched at the sound of the gunshot, his hand going inside his jacket on reflex, then recalling that the Feds nixed the idea of him packing heat. His hand instead slipped into his brass knuckles before he entered the building. "What's all the hubbub, bub?" he asked as he looked for a light switch. Finding one, he flicked it off and plunged the front of the motel into darkness.

In the darkness, the Daoist in mountain lion form let out a loud snarl that startled two more intruders who had been in another room of the ground floor when the gun fired. They came in now, one of them shooting a hunting rifle at a shape in the dark that looked vaguely mountain lion-ish, but missing in the absence of light. Dice also took some wild swings in the dark and got lucky, cold-cocking the other intruder and laying him out flat.

The Mountain Man rushed around the house to the back entrance from the porch. As he ran he focused the power from his gorget and felt the power of the mountains suffusing his muscles and toughening his skin. He was ready to punch the first cultist who came out the back door or to rush in towards the fight.

A fifth intruder strayed too close to the backdoor and met the Mountain Man. Bolting outside, the man could not slam on the brakes before barreling into the Mountain Man. Unfortunately for him, he also barreled into the Mountain Man’s fist and took a nasty punch. The Mountain Man put the power of a landslide into his next punch. He had not wanted this fight, but he would end it.

Alpha-Woman ran back down stairs, scooped up the man she had knocked down them, and brought him over to where she had left Silver Scorpion fighting so they could tie up their prisoners together.

Dice hunched his shoulders and lowered his head in a fighter's stance, ready to deliver a brass-handed uppercut to anybody in his area. He squinted in the poor light to see if any of his cronies needed some help.

The Daoist, meanwhile, followed the muzzle flare to pounce on the man who had fired at him. The hapless man, caught between a pugilist and a puma, raced around the room to escape them both so fast that he lapped Dice and came straight at him. Dice Morgan got in another lucky sucker punch in the dark, landing it on the gunman’s jaw. The gunman reeled back into the waiting form of a mountain lion, who mauled the gunman unconscious.

Also meanwhile…the first gunshot had not waked the sound-sleeping Captain Liberty, but the second shot did. He joined the action, emerging in the dining room where he found a sixth intruder hiding. "Is this a private party or can anyone join?" Captain Liberty quipped. "For Liberty!" he roared, without waiting for a reply, as he attacked the remaining intruder with glowing knuckled fists, channeling the very might and right of liberty and freedom itself into the punch.

Outside, the power of a landslide proved to require too much aiming by moonlight, causing his punches to land well off their mark and almost crashing his fists through the wall of the motel instead. Still, the man was suitably impressed by the show of strength. He dropped his gun and threw up his hands, shouting “Not in the face! Not in the face!” like a sissy.

Sewer Rat was also still lurking outside, having not become involved in the struggle yet.

Back inside, Captain Liberty’s foe also sensed the battle had swung against him and his comrades, so he turned and ran from Capt. Liberty’s liberty-powered fists. His foe raced out of the dining room, through the kitchen, to the front room, where he escaped out the front door right behind Dice Morgan’s back. In the dark of the front room, Capt. Liberty saw Dice Morgan by the front door and moved up to him to attack.

Of the two remaining foes in the motel, only one kept his nerve and turned up to join the battle. He showed up in the dark living room, shooting wild with a revolver. He missed everyone, though the bullets came closest to hitting Captain Liberty.

"Stand back, villain, or face the mighty fist of Captain Liberty!" Capt. Liberty shouted at Dice Morgan. But after that they quickly identified each other and chose not to subdue each other.

Alpha-Woman had hers and Silver Scorpion’s prisoner tied up by now, waiting to interrogate them as soon as the fighting around them was over.

The Daoist was the first one to spot the remaining gunman in the living room. Still in mountain lion form, he lunged through the doorway and knocked over a chair on his collision course with the gunman. For a moment, the gunman had The Daoist in his sights and maybe could have taken him down, but lost his nerve at the last moment before he could pull the trigger. Turning to flee, he was quickly overtaken by The Daoist, who pounced on him and raked his back.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Top 10 Comic Book Purchases of 2011

My dad was generous with the Christmas money this year and Comic Quest in Evansville had an amazing 18 boxes of $1 comics to go through, so I picked out some great comic books to give myself for Christmas. Below is just the top ten.

Fantastic Four: The End #1 (2007). Alan Davis extrapolates a lot more than I have, but this real-time version of Marvel continuity deals with some of the same issues – and resolves some things the same – as I do in my fanfiction.
Avengers vs. Atlas #3 (2010). The classic 1963-64 Avengers vs. Agents of Atlas – two charming teams written with smarts and wit and drawn excellently.
Justice Society of America #19 (2008). Earth-2 cameo, Kingdom Come crossover, and an Alex Ross cover!
Fantastic Four #514 (2004). Not the best work of Mark Waid and Karl Kesel, but – hey – it’s Mark Waid and Karl Kesel. I can even overlook the ridiculously big noses all the characters are drawn with.
X-Men: the Hidden Years #19 (2001). Previously unknown WWI mutants? X-Men vs. Mole Man? Why did this get canceled and all the sucky X-titles got to keep going?
Spider-Man: Lifeline #3 (2001). It’s an interesting sequel to the classic Infinity Formula story, but really, I just love it for the Steve Rude art. Yum!
Justice Society of America #2 (2007). Awful dark, with the death of Mr. America, but I love all the character interaction and the set-up to a new Steel.
Lost Stories #1 (1997). One of those black-and-white indies that is so hard to find, yet so rewarding when you find it. The love child of Thieves & Kings and The Travelers would be Lost Stories.
JLA Classified #52 (2008). I read the ending to this storyline first and was let down, but this issue sets up what Roger Stern writes best, scenarios where you can’t see coming how the good guys can beat the bad guy.
Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers #3 (2009). A big letdown from how much I loved #1, but still a lot of fun character interaction between a talking cat, a dog, and a frog.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Rpol Hideouts & Hoodlums Campaign - pt. 7

Outside, Dice said in a loud voice (to make sure that anybody who was asleep would be up), "Hiya, gents. I guess ‘dis is the night ta’ be out admirin' the moon. What's with the rods?"

The Mountain Man didn't like the looks of this. He walked over to his truck, keeping the vehicle between him and where the men were coming from, and pulled his hunting rifle out from behind the seats. He kept the rifle low and out of sight and ducked behind the cab so he would be somewhat difficult to see.

Back inside, Silver Scorpion woke up at Alpha-Woman’s prodding. "Hmmm?....Trouble?!" Silver Scorpion exclaimed as she woke and leapt from the bed. "Just give me a sec to get back into this jumpsuit!" She slipped into her outfit at a terrific speed before moving to the window for a peek. She then took her cue from Alpha-Woman and rushed out to the interior hallway that connected their rooms to go rouse the others.

Having been alerted by Dice's loud greeting, the Daoist needed neither Silver Scorpion nor Alpha-Woman pounding on his door to wake him. He rolled out of bed and peered through his window at the scene outside. Americans were a strange people, but even for them such a late night visit by armed men could not be a good sign. He stole out the back of the inn and attempted to circle around behind the gunmen.

Back outside, Dice Morgan confronted the mob of eight alone.

"He's okay," one of the hunter-looking guys said, pointing at Dice. "We'll come back for you and your friends in the morning still. It's the two women and the guy that came with them we're supposed to take now."

"Don't forget the Chinaman," said another.

"Shut up, Earl," a third man said to the second man.

"No, you shut up," Earl said. "You think I'm going to want some slanty-eyed Asian sitting next to me when I'm saying my prayers to the rooster god? Do any of you? I say we take him along too."

The Mountain Man had hard cover and had not been spotted yet. Sewer Rat had slunk off somewhere and was nowhere to be seen.

Back inside, Alpha-Woman and Silver Scorpion managed to rouse only Gandor the Great. "A mob? At this hour?" Gandor asked. "How uncivilized. Sigh...give me a minute to dress."

At first, Alpha-Woman and Silver Scorpion were unaware that The Daoist was already awake and kept trying to rouse him. After finally realizing that the Daoist was not in his room, Silver Scorpion checked out the window again from the dark bedroom to see what is going on. Both women were ready to spring into action if it looked like Dice could not handle these guys.

The Daoist, as he circled wide around the stand-off, heard himself being discussed. He was angered by the stranger's slur, but continued to flank the men in silence for now. If given the chance, however, he intended to belt the man in one of his big round eyes.

The Mountain Man leaned out from where he had been listening and spoke up. "The Chinaman snuck off and we ain't sure where he went. He does that sometimes, but I'll vouch for him. The rest of these newcomers are folks we worked with down south. We thought they might be coming but weren't sure."

Dice Morgan and The Mountain Man had made the best case they could to avoid a violent confrontation, but the small mob simply called back that "Orders are orders!" and advanced on the modest motel. Dice and the Mountain Man balk at the four-to-one odds in case no one else joined in to support them and simply chose to follow instead, interfering with and stalling the mob as best they could without stopping them.

The mob was met at the front door by Jason Tenner, the burly motel's keeper. "Glad you boys got here so soon," Jason said to them.

"Orders from the temple are to take the three new people with us," Jason was told.

Jason responded with a nod, saying, "They're in rooms three and four."

Moving swiftly to rooms three and four on the upper floor, but the only person the mob encountered was Gandor the Great, sitting fully dressed in his room, who asked coolly, "Am I missing a welcoming party?"

Meanwhile, Alpha-Woman and Silver Scorpion dropped out of the second floor window and snuck around through the front door to deliver the first blow from behind, but the outdoorsman at the rear heard the floorboards creak at her approach and turned around in time to block a punch that would have struck the back of his head.

"Crazy dame!" he yelled as he struggled to hit her with the butt of his rifle. Alpha-Woman was much stronger than he suspected and she shrugged the attack off. While they grappled over the rifle, though, the rifle went off, making a thunderous noise that everyone inside and out heard and put a nice hole in the ceiling. Some plaster and dust rained down on the man's hunting cap.

Silver Scorpion saw the melee starting and saw that the rest of the intruders were still upstairs. Seeing only a moment’s opportunity to finish off this one before the others arrived to reinforce him, she lunged across the room and crashed the pommel of one of her silver knives right into the side of the man’s head, seriously injuring him. In horrible pain and thrown off-balance, the man let go of his rifle and Alpha-Woman took possession of it.

In response, a second man, unarmed, appeared at the top of the stairs.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Rpol Hideouts & Hoodlums Campaign - pt. 6

Inside, the motel was staffed by a big man with flame-red hair and a leathery face, and his homely, mousy wife with a really big head of blonde hair on her. Dice, The Daoist, and Gandor the Great did not faze them much, but the more unusual appearance of The Mountain Man and Sewer Rat made the wife shrink back behind her husband.

"New recruits, Jason," Milo said, gesturing to them all.

"Then rooms are on the house," Jason -- obviously the red-haired man – responded.

Sewer Rat had followed them back, a bit irked at the walking he had to do. Travel was hard when keeping stealthy. He lurked outside the building, waiting for the best opportunity to contact his teammates. When the coast was clear, he snuck inside.

The Mountain Man planned to do a little investigating to make sure the group wasn't being set up or being watched before going to bed. He was glad to see Sewer Rat as he had done his reconnaissance for him. After asking his questions, the Mountain Man learned that the proprietor of the motel was watching their rooms from his office window.

"Now I wish I'd brought playing cards," Gandor the Great half-joked. "How long should we follow this 'recruits' ruse--"

"I think once we're in the front entryway we could commence with the …prearranged methods," The Mountain Man said in his gravelly voice, to cut Gandor off. He was nervous about being overheard and wished to keep conversation to innuendo. Or was that excitement instead of nervousness? His expression and body language did not show it, but he was really enjoying getting into the role of being a hero like in the dime store pulp novels.

Dice Morgan got bored quickly sitting around in a cramped room with no dames. He took out a deck of cards and pulled off a few flashy shuffling tricks. "Awright, gents. The game is Texas hold 'em. Anybody ready ta’ lose some money?"

"I daresay I have some spare change on me," Gandor said. "This 'Texas Hold Em' is some variant of poker, yes?"

The Mountain Man decided to play and use it as an opportunity to gauge his companions.

Dice Morgan found that The Mountain Man and Gandor the Great were both reasonably proficient at poker, but he was able to use their unfamiliarity with these obscure variant rules to his advantage.

Sewer Rat was uncomfortable in the closed quarters with other people and grew quiet. The Daoist, too, stood stoically silent by the window and watched the dark, quiet street outside.


Silver Scorpion's motorcycle best handled the dirt road leading out to Highland Township from Lake Superior's shoreline. Alpha-Woman's unadorned Chevy followed, with Captain Liberty's customized and colorful car behind hers. It was midnight when they reached what appeared to be a ghost town, save for a few lights on in the Highland Inn.

The Daoist spotted what appeared to be a small parade of vehicles pulling up to the motel. He could not see the drivers of the two cars yet, but the motorcycle driver appeared to be a woman in tight silver coveralls.

Silver Scorpion drove her bike up to the motel parking lot and parked it, then got off and waited for Alpha-Woman and Capt. Liberty to park and get out. "We may as well stay here, this place looks like a ghost town and we won't be able to find anything out until morning anyway," she said.
"Yeah, looks like we are staying here,” Alpha-Woman said. “I am going to go get a room. Should I pick out one with two beds, or are you bunking alone?"

Inside, Dice collected his winnings with a smug look. "Pleasure doin' business wit' ya, gentlemen." He glanced for a second at what could be holding the Daoist's interests out the window, then turned back to the dough in his hands. Then he did a double-take and stared out the window with renewed interest. "Holey smoke! Dames!" Completely forgetting the whole situation the group was in, he spiffed up his collar and headed for the door.

The Daoist turned away from the window and related what he saw to the others, unsure of exactly what was going on. "Either the Rooster's minions are on to us, or the cavar-ry has just arrived," he said.

The Mountain Man, who had only bet on poker what he could afford to lose, settled back into his chair and it creaked ominously. His craggy features and mountainous physique settled and the other heroes could see how he had gotten his name. He waited to see what would come of these new arrivals.

Dice Morgan was outside and introducing himself to Alpha-Woman and Silver Scorpion so fast the others half-suspected he had super-speed. Dice was charming and flirtatious, though Silver Scorpion was all business and Alpha-Woman seemed more interested in getting a room and taking a shower. When Dice offered to help her with that, he showed his true colors and the women were easily able to brush off his advances.

Less easy to deal with was explaining their mission to each other. Silver Scorpion and Alpha-Woman tried to evade Dice's queries about what brought them to Highland and Dice, for his part, was equally evasive back. Silver Scorpion and Captain Liberty were obviously superhero-types by their colorful outfits, though Capt. Liberty hung back and said little.

Although Dice did not seem like vigilante material to the lady vigilantes, these new eccentric-looking characters might be the vigilantes they were looking for. Finally, some direct questions revealed to the two groups that they were here to meet and team-up with each other.

While this give and take was going on, The Daoist and Sewer Rat left to go to a separate room for the night.

With that out of the way, more rooms were procured from Jason, the motel proprietor, and everyone agreed to work together in the morning.

Around 1 am, the Mountain Man and Dice Morgan could not sleep so they step outside for a smoke. When they were out there, they noticed Sewer Rat, still in his wet suit and mask, compulsively going through a garbage can out in front of the motel. Alpha-Woman, too, had trouble sleeping and happened to look out the window and saw the gathering of her would-be allies.

Just then, the four Heroes who were up noticed a group of eight men approaching the motel. Five of the men were the same as the group that had been with Milo earlier and were still armed with their hunting rifles.

Alpha-Woman shook Silver Scorpion awake. Then she put an undershirt on over her flannel shirt. The letter A was printed on the undershirt -- her only costume. "Hurry and dress," she told Silver Scorpion. "There could be trouble outside." Then she ran next door and pounded on Captain Liberty's door, trying to wake him up.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Rpol Hideouts & Hoodlums campaign - pt. 5

The man approaching them from the hallway wore glasses, a red flannel shirt, and blue jeans with semi-casual shoes. He was a balding man in his late 40s with a big, round chin. He smiled when he first saw everyone, but quickly turned with a start at the sight of the masked Mountain Man. "Who--who are you?" he asked a moment later as he began to collect himself.

The man soon identified himself as Morton Helms ("You can call me Mort"), Township Clerk. "I'm afraid you boys caught us on a bad week, is all," he said in regards to how deserted the town seemed to be. "Fishing's been bad, but when it picks up people will start coming around again. Maybe you could try coming back in a week or two..."

The Mountain Man had waited to see if one of the others would speak up, but then took the lead. "Mort, we were interested in doing a little hunting once the season starts again. Are there any properties around here that we should definitely steer clear of? I don't want any crazy trapper or guy in the woods shooting our heads off for wandering onto his land, ya know?"

Mort's face sobered and he seemed to be trying to read everyone's intentions. Then his mask of politeness came back and he said as he beamed a big smile, "I don't think you'll find any good hunting in these parts either. But I would avoid going east out of town if I were you. There's some...well, grumpy old men living out that way who might not like you wandering through their property."

That seemed the best lead they had, so they left Town Hall. Sewer Rat opted to skulk behind them on foot, leaving Dice Morgan to drive his jalopy, with Gandor the Great riding shotgun. The Daoist rode in the passenger seat beside the Mountain man.

Dice Morgan scowled as they headed back out of town. "Dat old coot knew more'n he was tellin' us. Mebbe’ we shoulda’ leaned on him a lil' bit. Just so's we knew exactly what we're gettin' into." He cracked his large knuckles. "Ah well. Least we'll get the chance to crack some heads." He looked around at the company he was keeping and quickly added, "Y'know, fer’ Uncle Sam an' all."

After two miles of driving on a dirt road running between increasingly spread out farms and seeing no sign of a temple, everyone began to think they'd been had by the township clerk. Dice and Gandor, both particularly suspicious, stopped their car first. Everyone got out and conferred in the middle of nowhere and agreed that Mort knew more than he let on and that he needed a second talking to.

When their mini-caravan was almost back to the Town Hall, they found the road ahead blocked by an old, beat-up pickup truck parked sideways across the road. Behind it stood five gritty-looking farmhands in overalls and holding hunting rifles. They seemed to be expecting the heroes.

Dice Morgan and the Mountain Man stopped their vehicles and rolled down their windows. Then they could hear one of the armed men yell out, "You can't come this way! Might as well head back where you were going!"

Dice growled, getting a bit riled at the sight of the weapons. "You boys seem so all-fired insistent,” he shouted back, “maybe ya’ oughtta’ tell us just what you think it is we were headed towards!"

Sitting in his truck behind the Sewer Rat's vehicle, The Mountain Man reached into his heavy pack on the floor of his truck and got a grip on the haft of his hatchet, but kept it out of sight for the moment.

The Daoist opened the passenger door of the truck a tiny bit, preparing to charge at the gunmen if things came to blows.

Dice called from the window, "So, you boys got something you wanna tell us?" He quietly loosened his fighting knife in its sheath under his coat.

“We don't need strangers in Highland," the speaker continued angrily from about 20 ft. ahead of Dice’s parked car. "Unless you know somebody in town who can vouch for you, you're about to lose your radiator. And then we aim for the windshield! Hoist 'em up, boys!" the leader commanded as the other four lifted their rifles to their shoulders and took aim.

"I've never been so unpopular before putting on a show," Gandor the Great quipped to Dice. "I see you're fondling a weapon there. Shall we rush them and see what a little brawling can do?"

The Mountain Man got out of his truck with his pack over his shoulder, "We know Milo Haroldson. He said we should look him up if we came up here." The Mountain Man was using the name just so he could cover some of the distance to the men. If he could get into fighting range he planned to bring his hatchet to bear on the closest man.

The Daoist slid out of the truck and followed a few paces behind the Mountain Man. He hoped violence could be avoided, but should events prove otherwise he was prepared to transform into a mountain lion. He had encountered the impressive beast in the wilds of Montana several months prior and thought it would make a formidable attacker.

Sewer Rat, in his outfit, lurked nearby. He had spotted the ambushers and followed them out here. Fortunately, it was easy enough to notice when a militia started mobilizing. "Anywhere there's men with guns, there's trouble," he had said quietly as he followed them through the woods. He did what eavesdropping he could, but no one had said anything that seemed like a clue. He prayed that no one would remember there was one less person with his comrades trying to get back into town. He could see the other heroes being held up, but after Mountain Man spoke he decided to wait and see if diplomacy could work. Nevertheless, he had held a length of pipe tight in his hands, just in case.

Dice got out of the truck and loomed up to his full, impressive height, his bowie knife still hidden by the car door. "Hey, easy on the car; it's a rental!"

Dice Morgan was not used to thinking in combat situations, so that was as clever as he got. He narrowed his eyes at one that he guessed was their leader. "Pal, you don't want any of us. Do yerself’ a big favor and put the guns up." He was hoping to draw attention away from the Mountain Man and Daoist so they could get close enough to strike. If it looked like the rednecks were going to open fire on any group members, Dice planned to barrel into the nearest gunman before he could draw a bead and kick him in the, well, Southern exposure.

The speaker lowered his rifle slightly and asked, "Milo, you say? That's really interesting, because I'm Milo." He lowered his rifle more and the other four men with him relaxed their aim slightly too. "Where are you from? Where have you traveled? What skills do you have?” Milo fired off in rapid succession.

Although everyone had been ready to rush the riflemen, it seemed that the moment has passed and an opportunity for subterfuge had arisen. After some vague answers, they learned that Milo had been hanging around town waiting for recruits from Missouri who had fled when Doc Savage defeated The Evil Gnome. “The pay is $10 a month just for being in the cult and there'll be more for you soon enough if you prove yourself useful. We need experienced soldiers, captain material, and you might be what we're looking for. Our temple is about a 10-hour hike from here and the terrain is so rough that you'd never find it without a guide. Why don't you get some rest at the Highland Inn and we'll set out in the morning?”

"I think that will be okay," The Mountain Man said. "Myself, I can do a lot of things. I'm handy in the woods and have some experience fighting. These other guys can speak for themselves if they choose."

The Daoist kept his mouth shut and his eyes low, doing his best to appear as some sort of manservant.

On the south end of the township was a small, 5-room motel. It had been dark and appeared to be closed up when they all passed it earlier, but now that the locals were leading them there, two lights came on inside and the front door was left open. The sign out front read "Highland Inn."

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Rpol Hideouts & Hoodlums campaign - pt. 4

When Alpha-Woman saw two of the men exiting the Comeback Diner, she snuck up behind them quietly and tried to lasso them both with her rope. But the breeze shifted at the last moment on Alpha-Woman and her improvised lasso only fell harmlessly on top of one of the two men.

"What the--?" he cried as the two turned around and saw a black-haired beauty in a dark flannel men's shirt and jeans attempting to capture them.

The Silver Scorpion drove up on her chromed motorcycle to the Comeback Motel. Noting the car with the empty basket on top, she parked beside it and disembarked, stretching lithely after such a long ride. She looked around for anyone nearby.

Is this really the place? I hope I’m not too late! she thought to herself. She noted the two men coming out of the diner and was about to try and catch their attention with a smile and a wave when she noted someone sneaking up behind them. What in the..., she thought, her face showing her concern. She quickly moved forward to stop any nefarious deeds that may be afoot, keeping a careful eye on the un-lassoed man. She was ready to disarm him if he should pull a gun.

"Let's no one be too hasty or I'll have to lay all of you out, alright? Now, what's going on here?" Silver Scorpion demanded.

Alpha-Woman replied to the stranger in the silver jumpsuit. "These guys have been doing suspicious things. I've been watching them for a week. There is two more not here." She also attempted to grab them both so they could not move.

"Funny business, hey?” Silver Scorpion said. “What do you have to say for yourselves?" she demanded of the two men. But she was ready to stop both them and the mysterious woman if any of them tried to flee the scene.

Alpha-Woman managed to grab one of the two men by the shoulder as he'd brushed the lariat off his shoulder, but the other one saw her coming and stepped back to dodge.

"You should'a just asked, doll face," the guy Alpha-Woman grabbed saied. "Steve, show 'em your badge."

The man apparently named Steve opened his jacket and pulled out a badge. "He's right, ladies, we're the FBI. Your little sting operation only caught us eating pie at taxpayer expense. Are either of you two here about the ads?"

After more cross-examination, it became apparent that Silver Scorpion, from out of Minneapolis, had not been targeted for recruitment, but had read the classified ad meant for the Daoist and guessed it was suspicious enough to investigate. And Alpha-Woman was just in the right place at the right time.

"You two babes want in on a mission?" asked the agent not named Steve as he took his shoulder back from Alpha-Woman.

Still a little suspicious of the guys, Alpha-Woman reluctantly agreed to join in on this mission.

"A mission? Sure, that's right up my alley!" Silver Scorpion said, more enthusiastically.

The two lady-vigilantes were led to the storm doors that Alpha-Woman had seen the FBI agents descend down many times. She was right to suspect they had a secret lair under the motel, though their activities were not what she had suspected.

"Agent Fletcher," the agent in charge said, identifying himself to the two once they were in the main room of their underground headquarters.

"What's the mission?" Silver Scorpion asked boldly.

"First, Saul, go up topside and see if any more vigilantes show up late!" Agent Fletcher sayid to one of the other G-Men. "Pardon me, ladies," Fletcher continued, turning back to Alpha-Woman and Silver Scorpion. "We'd actually heard about female vigilantes operating in the Minneapolis area and right here around Duluth, know, we thought this might be man's work. Still, you showed a lot of initiative and detective skills just finding us, since we set out only to contact four vigilantes initially.

"The mission is this," Agent Fletcher continued. "We've got three agents missing in the field, we presume captured by a bunch of nutty rooster-loving cultists up north in a little out-of-the-way place called Highland Township. We're trying to get them out quietly, which is why we took the unorthodox method of contracting the job out to costumed vigilantes. We sent our recruits there a few hours ago."

"Hey, boss!" Saul said when he returned abruptly. "Some guy in a costume just showed up in a red, white, and blue car!"

"Cripes! I've turned this place into Grand Central Station for vigilantes!" Agent Fletcher cried. "If this doesn't work, I'm gonna be fired! Somebody get me an aspirin! You two," he said, pointing to Alpha-Woman and Silver Scorpion. "Intercept this new guy for us, find out if he's got the chops for vigilante work, and let him tag along if you think he'll be useful to you. Me, I'm seriously gettin' a headache..."

Alpha-Woman and Silver Scorpion returned to the nighttime air and meet Captain Liberty in the parking lot.

Silver Scorpion waved to the newcomer. "You arrived just in time. We're off to Highland Township to stop some cultists, you in or what?" she asked with a smile.

"This is a lot for one day, but very exciting!" exclaimed Alpha-Woman. Then she shook the man's hand and added, "Yeah, are you in?”

"I'm Captain Liberty. Count me in," the last arrival said.

Alpha-Woman offered to give anyone a lift, as she also had a car parked nearby, but everyone felt more comfortable taking their own vehicle and caravaning to Highland. Captain Liberty produced a map, held it up under the neon light of the motel sign, and they all found the route they would take.

"So, how are we going to play this?” the Mountain Man asked. “Bash in the door of the place or try to join up? My inclination would be for goin' after 'em hard. I'm not to keen on the sneakin' about." The Mountain Man asked this as soon as the caravan of vehicles had stopped at the south end of the dirt road serving as the main street through the township, within sight of Town Hall and the closed businesses.

The Daoist was the first to answer the Mountain Man's question. "I do not think I wouwd’ find much ‘ruck joining their group."

Dice Morgan cracked his knuckles. "Heh. I sez we just goes in swinging. Can't be more'n, what, a hun'red of 'em in there at most."

The direct approach seemed to be favored by everyone -- only, no one had yet come up with any idea for finding this temple. Most of the buildings in town were pretty small to be hiding temples in them and the only place they could look for one without breaking and entering was Town Hall. So they tried that first.

The lobby of the Town Hall has some old, weather-beaten chairs in it, a dying potted plant in the corner, and a ceiling fan overhead that did not move. The walls were decorated with a moose head and some mounted fish. Town Hall sounded quiet and deserted at first, but soon they heard footsteps approaching.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Rpol Hideouts & Hoodlums Campaign - pt. 3

"How very intriguing," Gandor the Great said, though he did not elaborate further on which part of this he found so intriguing.

One of the agents brought The Daoist a can of pop from the fridge.

“All done getting to know each other?" Agent Fletcher asked a minute later. "Now get nice and comfy because it's my turn to tell you all a little story. Any of you ever been to Highland, Minnesota? Probably not. It's a little, out-of-the-way township up and over in Lake County," he said, gesturing as if there was a map behind him he could point to. "Problem is, some nutballs built a temple up there seven years ago. At the time they said it was a synagogue, but no later than 1934 we know they were being led by some kook calling himself St. Stephen. We've found some pamphlets these people distributed back then full of quackery like how rooster parts could solve everything from your love life to your job hunting. On the back is the really disturbing stuff, about the End of Days and roosters inheriting the Earth." As he speaks, he produces an old, bent-up pamphlet from his pocket and shows it to you. The subject matter matches his description and there is a picture of a rooster on the front cover. "You'd think that would get them laughed out of town, but this was the height of the Depression and they somehow had money to throw around. They'd built up quite a cult for themselves when we got called in a year ago by a local sheriff who told us he'd seen...human sacrifice going on at their temple. The sheriff turned up dead shortly after that. We've sent in three agents since then to either observe or infiltrate this cult and they've all gone missing. We have learned that St. Stephen is still leading the cult. We also know that he's hiring mercenaries, mostly ex-cons. He seems to be recruiting a small army, but we don't know why. We also don't know if our missing agents are alive or dead.

“Our idea is to get you recruited by the cultists. Sending in our agents hasn't been working and we're afraid to send in more. There's a slim chance that we lost three agents because the cultists got one of them to identify the other two. You, on the other hand, are fresh faces who should be in no danger of discovery. Whether you sneak in as recruits or make a frontal assault on the place is entirely up to you. We don't really care what happens to these nutball cultists, which is why we don't care that you're all vigilantes. Whatever happens in that temple, we're turning a blind eye to, if you get my meaning. If you find any of the missing agents, don't worry too much about getting them out of too far out of Highland. We'll have another team following you. Once you're clear, they'll get you home. There should be enough agents on that team to raid the temple once you've done all you can.”

"Sounds like someone is obsessed with cock," said Tommy, only half-aware of the joke. "Well, I'm more of an infiltrator I guess. I'm sure they'd love a fresh new face to fill with Rooster love."

"What exactly is in it for us if we do this for you?” asked the Mountain Man. “Why not just send in the army and take the place down? That's what you government-types did to the Bonus Army back in '32. Sent the tanks and the gas canisters in against some respectable veterans, why not against these crazy cultists? And last I checked, the Depression is still raging, at least it is for most of America." He leaned heavily against the wall, awaiting his answers.

The FBI agents started to snicker at Sewer Rat's comment. Evidently, this was something of a private joke between them already. But their looks sobered at The Mountain Man's mini-speech. Agent Fletcher answered dryly, "Different administration, different response. Hoover would of rolled in tanks, but Roosevelt doesn't want another public relations debacle, like headlines saying the Army had to kill a bunch of poor, crazy farmers. And I didn't mean to rile you up about the Depression. I'm sure it's still bad for a lot of people. At least in my neck of the woods, though, it's not as bad as it was a few years ago. That's all I meant by 'height of the Depression'."

Dice Morgan cracked his neck to the left and then to the right. "Yeah, yeah. Get in, look around, raise a ruckus, an' then get outta’ Dodge. Let's get ‘dis over with already. I'm gettin' grey hairs just standin' here listenin' to all the talk."

“That's the mission. If you need a reward, we can offer you $1,000 per agent you get out of Highland. The agents you'll be looking for are Andrew Morland, Rudy Malefor, and Vincent Meridan. Here's a photo of each of them. You can look at them as long as you need to, but you can't take them with you. There's only one thing more we can give you – another name. This guy is from Highland and we're pretty sure he's a low-level cultist. You might be able to throw his name around to get you into or out of places. It's Milo Haroldson.

"One last thing,” he says, holding up a small pill bottle. “This is hush-hush stuff now, but the FBI has whipped up these things we call healing pills. This bottle has two of them. You swallow one, it cures anything short of a serious wound. We're letting you take these two pills with you if you accept the mission. Now, you can talk over the offer yourselves or, if you're already sold, you can start planning what you're gonna do right here. You already know everything me and the boys know, but if there's anything else you need, we'll try to help.”

Much of what Agent Fletcher said meant little to the Daoist. He couldn't understand American politics one bit. He did, however, know the rooster.

"The Rooster is a stwong figure. One that should be ‘wespected. His forrowers’ wirr’ be brave. And keen of sight. We muss be cautious."

Dice Morgan narrows his eyes. "So just ta be straight, do we get the dough if, say, we bring your boys back in little bits, or only if we get 'em out in one piece?"

"I'll make that extra clear too," Agent Fletcher answered. "The $1,000 is for bringing each one of them back alive. If I wanted them dead, I could send agents in now with guns blazing. But I figure someone like The Shadow could do it with a little more finesse. I can't get The Shadow, though, so you guys will have to do."

After The Daoist finished his Coca-Cola, and Dice and the Mountain Man finished their questions, everyone headed up topside. With two vehicles for five Heroes, there was ample room to transport everyone.

It was a lonely 30-mile stretch of dirt road reaching northeast of Duluth, with dense forest all along the left side and Lake Superior staying within sight past the trees to the right. The road kept going on and their only company for most of the trip, beside each other, were truckers heading to and from Canada and vacationers hauling boats to some remote lake for a fishing expedition. The townships became few and far between, pockets of civilization punctuating the spreading wilderness, with Palmers Township the last before entering Lake County. The townships were more like rustic farming villages now, each more rustic than the last. It was like going back in time as they passed Knife River, Larsmont, and Two Harbors. By the time they reached a dirt road heading north from a wooden signpost that read “Highland, 12 miles,” they had the uncomfortable sensation of having driven back into the 19th century.

When they did reach Highland, they were not even surprised to find it looked like a dried-up ghost town. Most of the businesses had “closed,” “out of business”, or “gone fishing” signs on their doors. The only place that seemed to be open was Town Hall. And there was no sign of a temple.

Back at the Comeback Motel and Diner, FBI agents were (unbeknownst to most people) becoming a common sight. Two of them were heading out of the diner after a lengthy chat over cigarettes and apple pie, punctuated with their favorite hobby of hitting on the waitresses. The basket of apples was empty, but still sitting on the roof of their car out front. Little did they know that they were being observed.

Alpha-Woman, Duluth’s still-unknown hometown defender, had been working surveillance on the Comeback Motel for a week and decided that she was going to make her move and confront these suspicious characters, who were surely hoodlums.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Rpol Hideouts & Hoodlums Campaign - pt. 2

The Mountain Man walked up to the passenger's side door of the parked car with the two men inside and leaned over. His deep, gravelly voice startled the men somewhat, "I was hoping to buy some apples."

Dice Morgan, a cheap thug in an expensive suit, chewed on a toothpick and scowled as he heard the sudden voice from outside his window. He turned to the source of his irritation and his broad features did a double-take as he found himself staring at more gold than he'd ever before seen in one place.

After his eyes popped back into his head, Morgan turned to the man sitting behind the wheel. "Hey, suit. Looks like another one a yer mooks made it." His grin was like a razor on velvet as he nodded towards the newcomer's costly gear and muttered under his breath, "How ya like THEM apples, suit? Least he ain't wearin' tights."

Morgan extended a hamlike hand to the man outside the window. "Dice Morgan. Pleeztameetcha."

Tommy pulled into the parking lot. His sloppy parking job gathered more attention than he liked, going in and out three times. Once he was satisfied, Tommy hopped out of the car and looked around. He saw his contacts, realizing the apple basket on the hood meant the men he was looking for thanks to the classified ad that had reached him in Detroit. He got out, then doubled back again to lock the car. As nonchalantly as he could, Tommy sat on the car next to his contact, grabbed an apple and began to munch on it.

It was likely that none of the men out front of the Comeback Motel even noticed the small brown squirrel jumping off the rear bumper of a passing car. The animal bounded across the parking lot towards the mountain of a man standing alongside the Ford Roadster and scurried under the car. One might think it was dropping eaves, if that wasn't such a ridiculous notion. After the second man arrived and loudly crunched into an apple, the squirrel made its move.

Darting out from under the car, it pounced onto the hood, next to the most recent arrival, leapt into the bucket of apples and then back to the ground, at the feet of the gold-laden man, a piece of the fruit held between its tiny arms. The animal stood there a moment, looking up at the men peering down at him curiously, when suddenly there was no squirrel anymore. Instead a small Chinese man was crouched on the ground, holding the apple in his left hand.

Rising to his feet, he looked at the suited man in the car and said quietly, "I am the Daoist."

Lao-Tzu, the Daoist, was garbed in loose fitting black pants and a white coat that was tied together by a cloth belt. He wore no mask, for he found that Americans were wholly incapable of telling one Chinese man from the next. He had come from Minneapolis, summoned by a classified ad just as the others had been.

A taxi cab pulled up to the parking lot less than a minute after the Daoist's startling transformation. A man with a mustache and goatee, wearing a long black scarf over a black dress suit, climbed out of the back of the cab and paid his driver. The man looked over the group assembling in the parking lot and walked towards them.

"Well, well," the man said. "What an interesting group of people. Dare I trust that we are all here buying apples? Allow me to introduce myself. I am Gandor the Great."

When the four would-be heroes had all made their presence known, the driver of the Ford put down his paper and motioned for Dice to get out of the car with him. The driver grabbed the remaining apple and took a bite out of it. He was a tall, lean man of about 40 years old. "This is my favorite part of this job so far," he said. "I'm not the guy you need to speak to, but I can lead you to him. Follow me." With that, he led everyone around to the side of the motel and the storm doors to a cellar. Still eating his apple, he gave a secret knock on the doors before opening them. The stairs below led to a small, concrete-walled cellar being used for mundane storage, but there was a door at the rear of the cellar that the man went to and gave the same knock. This door led to a narrow, bending corridor that required everyone to go single-file before it emptied into a larger concrete-walled cellar. There were some appliances down here, including a refrigerator, and three men in suits rose from sitting around a folding table when they arrived. Two of them kept their hands tensed, as if ready to go for concealed guns. The third man, shorter, with a roundish face, acted more cordial.

"Nice work, Saul," the third man said to their escort. Then he addressed the assembled would-be heroes, saying, "You want Saul to fetch you anything from the diner while you're down here? If not, that's fine. We've got Coca-Cola in the fridge too." He opened his jacket pocket and produced a badge to show you. "My name is Fletcher, we're all FBI here, and I'm the Agent in Charge. As I'm sure you can imagine, contacting vigilantes and bringing them into a case is not standard operating procedure for the FBI, but we have an ongoing situation that requires unusual reactions. Have a seat if you want," he said, waving towards some spare chairs and stools. "I have to give you a short speech soon, but first, I have to tell you that the FBI knows something about each of you that would help us track down your true identity – if we wanted to. We're not interested in that today, so I want you all to introduce yourselves to each other, but you don't have to say a word about who you really are, unless you really want to. You already met Saul. The man with him is 'Dice' Morgan. Make no mistake, he's a two-bit crook – but he's going to help you do what we need you do and that's gonna’ wipe his slate clean. And my other agents are Rob and Steve here.”

"I am The Mountain Man," The Mountain Man said to anyone in the room who did not know that. And to those who knew anything about such things, they realized that on closer inspection his golden gorget was of crude, perhaps ancient construction. Indeed, it was of pre-Colombian origins.

"Ah, no sank you, I have eaten arready," the Doaist replied in his thick accent to Agent Fletcher's offer of food. "But I woud rike a Coca-Cora. Your American beverages are very tasty. You cahn cawr me the Daoist."

The Rpol Hideouts & Hoodlums Campaign -pt. 1

[Although my ongoing campaign is archived at, I find it increasingly hard to find anything in their archives, since the site has no search feature that searches across multiple pages. Hence, my decision to "clean up" the story a bit and publish it here in installments.]

Prologue: Dice Morgan

Eu Claire, Wisconsin was his own personal purgatory. Rural life was such a drag compared to the hustle and bustle of Chicago. But, for the last six months, it meant staying out of Malone's reach and staying alive. It wasn't all boring. Dice took a job washing dishes at the local diner just to keep busy and had been romancing one of the waitresses, Cassie. Unfortunately, because he never knew when to keep his trap shut, he started bragging to Cassie about his criminal past to hold her attention. That, and Cassie was married. The night he talked Cassie into staying late at the diner and kissed her, she went home and confessed everything to her husband. Of course, Dice didn't know that at the time. He only found out days later when the guys in suits came into the diner asking about him.

Dice was smart enough to attempt to escape out the back, but they had expected it and had a man waiting back there for him. If they had been Malone's boys, Dice would have been fitting for a pine overcoat, but this was almost as bad because the guy out back flashed him a badge and said he was FBI.

The other two from out front joined them and, once the three of them had Dice’s complete attention, the oldest and the tallest one said, “Dice Morgan? You don't have to answer; we know that's you. We know about Chicago and the Romanian too. Got a hot tip that you were hiding out here and chasing people's wives. Your rap sheet is about as long as my arm and I've got long arms. But we're here to talk to you about a deal. We need a criminal for a sort-of inside job. Something that's going down up by Duluth, Minnesota. It's gonna get you even farther away from Chicago and, if you do right by us, we can make your record disappear. You interested?”

Duluth, Minnesota meant more rural life, but since all three of them were packing heat, it made no sense to say no. The man who did the talking, Agent Schultze, said he would rendezvous with Dice in Proctor, Minnesota. Agents Outcalt and McCay were to “stick to him like glue” until Dice got there. They drove him back to the motel Dice had been staying at and let him pack. Dice considered making a break for it, but that offer about a record was too tempting. With the heat off from the law, Dice would only have Malone to worry about for the rest of his days. Maybe the FBI could even help with Malone too, he considered.

On the ride up to Proctor, Agent Outcalt opened up to Dice a little. He said Dice might be holed up in Proctor for a week before they needed him. He wouldn't be handcuffed at all unless he misbehaved. They had a room waiting for him there at the Comeback Motel. It sounded like Eu Claire all over again, except without Cassie and the dish washing. As to the job they needed him for, all Outcalt would say was that it involved some vigilantes. And he didn't sound too happy about that.

Prologue II: Cliff Shale, the Mountain Man

Life in the wilds of Northern Michigan had changed since his exciting adventure at the mine last month. The Mountain Man was already becoming a local legend. No one had yet realized that the legend vaguely resembled him. That might have been a good thing too, as the Mountain Man was not a popular legend at the moment. The mine had been closed all month while under investigation, which meant a lot of temporarily unemployed miners. The owners were promising to reopen soon and his father, Thomas, was confident he'd soon have his old job back. Cliff wasn't as confident and, though he was happy with being a lumberjack, he began checking the classified ads in the paper to see if something that paid even better was available. That was when he saw the strange personal ad. It read:

“MM, you're needed in Minn. Take U.S. Rt. 2 to Duluth tomorrow and stop for the night after you pass it. Stop to buy some apples. Will pay you back generously.”

He could not shake the thought afterward that “MM” referred to the Mountain Man and that some mysterious benefactor was trying to offer him a clandestine mission! Of course, his father had always accused him of being a romantic dreamer and perhaps he had read too many pulp novels and superhero comic books since realizing what the gorget could do. Still, it wouldn't hurt to check it out. A glance at a map revealed that he could follow Rt. 2 almost the whole way from Michigan. At worst, he'd be gone for a day or two.

Chapter One
The Comeback Motel

May 2, 1940. Thursday, early evening.

Cliff Shale was slow to decide things but once he did he was like an avalanche tumbling down a mountain. He made excellent time and was pulling into Ashland, Wisconsin where he pulled off at a park overlooking Chequamegon Bay and ate the lunch he had packed.

He drove on through the afternoon and the low skyline of Duluth was well in view as the sun was beginning to set behind it and Cliff drove his Ford across the bridge from Superior and over the estuary of the St. Louis River.

The destination along Rt. 2 closest to Duluth turned out to be Proctor Township. At the top of a hill, overlooking the highway, sat a lonely motel with an unattached diner next door. The neon sign proclaimed this to be the Comeback Motel. Some cars, mostly Chevrolet and Plymouth sedans, sat out front, but one was a Ford roadster with a bucket of apples sitting on the hood. A man in a suit and hat was sitting behind the wheel, reading the newspaper, while another man sat next to him looking bored. The bored man was Dice Morgan.

Cliff Shale was the first to arrive, pulling up to the motel and going inside to rent a room for the night. He quickly decided that the roadster outside with the two occupants must contain his mysterious contacts and changed into his Mountain Man outfit.

From Detroit, Michigan, teenaged Tommy Russel arrived in his car. Tommy was rather excited. I can't believe I got hired to do something. I can't wait to find out, he thought to himself. He drove an old Buick, a junker he had to fix himself. Used to the city, he had little driving experience, and the rental shop had banned him because of the smell he always left after his adventures as Sewer Rat. Still, Tommy tried to be as comfortable above ground as he was below ground.

The Mountain Man walked purposefully up to the car with the apples from a half-block up the street while everyone assumed that the Cliff Shale, the man who had arrived in the old Ford pickup, was entertaining himself in the room he had rented. The Mountain Man was a built like mountainside. He was just over 5 1/2 feet tall and seemed to be almost 4 feet wide. He had a barrel chest and stocky legs. He sported a red plaid shirt and heavy work-worn blue jeans. His heavy work boots bore the dirt, dust, and scuffs of many a wilderness trail. All that just made him seem like any other hard-working man from around Lake Superior. What made him look unusual was the black domino mask he wore and the even stranger heavy gold gorget that was clasped to his neck. The gold shined with the wealth of a lost civilization and the craftsmanship looked ancient.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

DriveThruRPG Newsletter article - 9/22/2011

Ten Years and Growing

RPGNowJust a reminder that we're still celebrating the tenth anniversary of RPGNow and the Digital Revolution. Check out the Top Ten Titles for each of those Ten Years (just don't try saying that ten times fast; I sprained my brain doing it).

Bring it to the Table

Gallery of Rogues

The following is a preview of The Trophy Case vol. 1, no. 5, brought to you by Great Scott! Games

Trophy CaseRunning HIDEOUTS & HOODLUMS on the fly and need some quick Supporting Cast Members? Below are three ready-made SCMs that can be dropped into most any campaign.

William J. Bacon, City Councilman

F 1, hp 4. AL L. S 10, I 17, W 11, C 13, D 8, Ch 8.

“Porkbelly” his enemies call him and the name seems to fit; this WWI vet has not aged well and is round and portly now in his 40s. But he is also a genius with a fantastic memory for facts and figures, as well as having an earnest desire to help his constituents by bringing more jobs to the community. His political enemies see it as coddling the working class and wish to sink his chances of re-election. They may not have to work hard; William is a quiet, soft-spoken man with a habit of murmuring his way through speeches. Unless he acquires a more vocal and outgoing spokesperson, like perhaps a local Hero, then his political future seems dim.

Michaela Salmons, Zookeeper

E 2, hp 13. AL L. S 13, I 9, W 10, C 15, D 12, Ch 9.

At only 30 years old, this explorer has spent a surprising number of years in Africa and South America, trapping exotic animals both large and small and bringing them back to zoos in the United States. Prescient of the dangers of extinction, she has made it her mission to secure as many animals to be safeguarded in zoos as possible. She was never so na├»ve as to believe that the animals were better off in zoos than in the wild, but it still shocked her to see the appalling conditions at the zoo in your Hero’s home town. She promptly applied for the job of head zookeeper and began making severe changes as soon as she won the post. Of course, the old head zookeeper, now fired, resents her intrusion and has been plotting his revenge.

Also, wanderlust has been tugging at her and Michaela desperately needs to find a worthy successor so she can go exploring again. Not all of this is a natural wanderlust. When she was last in South America, she was scouting some ruins and saw a bright, sparkly object there that she can barely recall the appearance of now in her mind, but subconsciously is compelled to go back and look at again…

Minnie Green, Architect’s Wife.

M-U 2, hp 6. AL N. S 11, I 14, W 7, C 13, D 12, Ch 7.

Minnie Bernstein was perfectly happy when she married Phillip Green and became a housewife and she remained happy for several years. Then things became boring at home. She tried getting involved in the community, her church, and her neighbor’s personal business through gossip, but nothing seemed to help – until she found a real spellbook for sale in a bookstore. At first it was just a lark, but to her surprise, she understood the spells and could make them work. And, for awhile, the secret life of being a witch kept her from feeling bored.

It started out with just telling one friend. Then another. Soon, Minnie had a whole coven of bored housewives in her neighborhood, eager to become her apprentices. They knit, gossip, and learn black magic, all without their husbands knowing. So far.

go to top

A Better Game
Another Trip Down Memory Lane with Phil

I'd like to open with a nice and interesting letter I got in response to my Speaking Out with my Geek Out about minis last week.

The most recent newsletter was, as usual an enjoyable read. Our views on the painting of miniatures are totally different, I've always found the painting to be more than half the fun of the total gaming experience. I seem to paint "life" into them and think up plots and powers as I go. When pre-paints showed up, I was kind of disturbed, as here was a trend that would take the young players away from the enjoyment of the creative portion of using miniatures and 3D terrain in gaming. In a way that was a loss in my attempts to get the beginners into working with their hands and actually making something tangible. Well, I lost a few potential Painters but the games carried on -- and after all, the Game's the thing! - Karl Stimeling

And now I'd like to share something a little different; it's another great look back at the history of our hobby from Phil Brucato, in the guise of birthday wishes.

Happy Birthday, Bill and John Bridges!

Gods, gods... has it really been 28 years?

More DriveThruRPG Newsletter mentions

From 3/15/2011:

ZEITGEIST Adventure Path Intro
by EN Publishing

Download this FREE short two-page introduction to EN Publishing's upcoming ZEITGEIST adventure path for D&D 4th Edition and PATHFINDER RPG, available here on RPGNow and DriveThruRPG! You can purchase the ZEITGEIST subscription here.

Trophy Case vol. 1, no. 3
by Games by Scott Casper

HIDEOUTS & HOODLUMS is back with more goodies, like four new mobsters, addenda to a Supplement I appendix, a review of the book Supermen: The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes, original fiction from blogger Steve Lopez, and tips for H&H players!

Newest Products

Power Pics Villains 12- Timeshift M&M edition
by Mesozoic Press
Price: $0.99

New and improved! Now contains stats to instantly use in your M&M game, all at the same old price! Power Pics are intended to be used in roleplaying games for either PC and NPC portraits or generic stock art in personal or professional...

From 6/29/2011:

A Wanderer's Romance
by Stargazer Games

The world began as nothing but ocean. The Origins raised up a million colourful islands, anything larger than a few dozen miles being swallowed by the envious deep. Some of these immaterial beings chose to take a physical form and live in the varied lands...

The Trophy Case vol. 1, no.4
by Games by Scott Casper

HIDEOUTS & HOODLUMS is back with more free goodies, like more fiction, optional rules for Fighters, an in-depth review of Captain America Comics, the Trickster class, and conversion notes for running a classic MSH module in H&H!

Newest Products

0one's Blueprints: Eerie Forest
by 0one Games
Price: $1.95

Are your players going through a spectral and haunted forest? Do unnerving noises and strange apparitions surround them? They are not? Well, they will be... Eerie Forest is a haunted forest you can place anywhere in your own campaign. The forest is...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

DriveThruRPG Newsletter 1/13/2011

Otherworld Creations
As always, the Drunken Goblin has lots of cool sales going on. Two that bear pointing out, though are Super Genius Games' 25% Off Everything, going on until 1/17.

Hero 5thAt the same time, Hero Games has put ALL Hero System 5th Edition products on sale for 50% OFF!

Bring it to the Table

The Villain Class

By Scott Casper of Games by Scott Casper

The following is a preview of character class debuting in Supplement II: All-American, coming very soon, for HIDEOUTS & HOODLUMS!

Villains: If the Editor is amenable to a campaign of non-Heroic activity the players may opt to play this class, though it is best used as a foil for the Heroes under the Editor's control. There are too many examples from comic books to list them all here, but some obvious examples are the Claw, Luthor, the Joker, Dr. Sivana, and (very early in his career) even the Sub-Mariner.

The Editor may, however, wish to use the villain class for mobsters only. Levels in the villain class can be added on to established mobsters, especially those who have survived earlier run-in(s) with the Heroes – for example, a Master Criminal/3rd-level Villain, a Napoleon/2nd-level Villain, or a Fu Manchu/5th-level Mysteryman/4th-level Villain (see Book II for stacking levels onto mobsters).

The Prime Requisite of the villain is Intelligence, which must be 12 or better, though Strength must also be 12 or better. Wisdom cannot be higher than 17. Villains may be of any race, but must always be of Chaotic Alignment. They may wear any armor, use any weapons, and any magic items a Mysteryman can employ.

Saving Throws: Villains make saving throws against science and magic at +1 and against poison and missiles at +2.

XP Bonus for Intelligence: This class bonus is due to a high Intelligence attribute.
Click Here for the Villains Class Level Table

The main special ability of the Villain is the ability to survive events, such as falling a great distance or drowning, that would normally even kill Heroes. If the Villain is reduced to 0 hp by something that should be capable of killing him, but makes a successful survival roll, then the Villain somehow survived. The Editor may have to get creative with an explanation for how the Villain survived (the Villain was caught on a tree branch no one saw in the ravine and was saved from the fall, the Villain found an underwater air-filled cave before drowning, etc.), but may not need the explanation ready until the Villain is next encountered.

Villains also have the ability to disguise themselves. If given enough time and materials to prepare (typically 1d6 days and 1d6x10 dollars) a villain can disguise himself to look like anyone. The disguise does not even need to be particularly clever. Normally, a rubber mask would not fool anyone, but on the face of a villain, a rubber mask is astonishingly realistic until removed. The villain may even be wearing a second mask (or even glasses!) underneath it.

A Villain can “monologue” at any time in the presence of a Hero. So long as the Villain is talking (or the Player playing the Villain is talking), any Heroes wishing to act must successfully save against plot to interrupt. Any pause in the monologue allows the Heroes to act normally.

A Villain may also “attach” himself to a Hero and become his nemesis. When in direct conflict with his nemesis, the Villain is equal level to the Hero. For example, a 3rd level Villain is the nemesis for a 7th level Hero. On the first turn of a combat, the Villain attempts to pistol whip a Supporting Cast Character (SCC), so he attacks as a 3rd level Villain. On the following turn the Hero shows up, so the Villain sprays multiple bullets (two per turn, being an automatic pistol), choosing both the SCC and the Hero as targets. The Villain now can make both attacks as a 7th level Villain, and even has extra HD (additional hp rolled on the spot) for the Hero's counterattack. On the third turn, the Villain fails his morale save and flees. Because the Villain is no longer directly confronting the Hero, he only has his normal HD for when the Hero pounces on him from behind.

A Villain cannot un-attach himself from a living Hero once a nemesis is chosen, even if the Villain becomes higher in level than the Hero. If the Hero actually dies, the Villain may choose a new nemesis after a year of game time has passed.

Villains can invent temporarily-functioning hi-tech items, just as Fighters, Superheroes, Mysterymen, and (non-Hero) mad scientists can, as per Book II: Mobsters and Trophies.

Starting at 8th level, Villains may establish hideouts and attract mobsters to them. When the Villain is being played by a Player, the details of the hideout must be worked out by the Player and approved by the Editor.

A Villain can never kill a Hero directly. If a Villain should defeat a Hero, the Villain must place the Hero into a death trap from which there is a chance (however slim) to escape. No saving throw against plot is allowed to circumvent this rule. If a Villain is being played by a Player, the Player must invent the details of the death trap, including describing how the Hero could possibly escape from it. The Player and Editor together must then agree on how likely the Hero's chance of escaping is (typically between a 1 in 6 or 3 in 6 chance) and the Editor will roll for it.

Villains have difficulty resisting the urge to boast in front of Heroes. Every time a Villain encounters a Hero, he must save against plot or reveal his planned intentions to the Hero(es) present.

Starting at 10th level, Villains must begin competing for territory. There can only be one Villain of 10th level or higher claiming a territory no smaller than 2,500 square miles. If there already is an established Villain claiming the desired territory, the new Villain will have to fight the old one until one of them is forced to leave or is killed.

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Treasures of the Net
Matt Looks Back at 2010 (Flames Rising)

2010 is just about over, where did the time go?

This was a pretty big year for me all around, with my expanded role at OneBookShelf (the company behind DriveThruRPG, DriveThruComics and related sites). If you don’t already know, I’m the Publisher Relations and Marketing Manager for OneBookShelf. I had the chance to work some awesome publishers and travel to quite a few conventions across the country. Recently, we got a print program up and running where folks can order print editions of titles like Descended From Darkness from Apex Book Company, Laws of the Night from White Wolf and King Arthur Pendragon from Nocturnal just to name a few. This has been a busy and detailed process working with some great publishers to get this program up and running and I’m looking forward to seeing it further develop in the new year.

My role managed to cut into my review writing time a lot more than I wanted it too, which meant I only wrote a handful of them for Flames Rising this past year. Still, I did have the chance to do some fun interviews in 2010, including Mouse Guard creator David Petersen as well as Forgotten Realms authors Ed Greenwood and R.A. Salvatore. The most popular interview I did this year was with Shane DeFreest from White Wolf where we discussed The Grand Masquerade. That was a fun show and I’m looking forward to the upcoming Vampire MMO they have in development.

This was the first year we did Theme Weeks at Flames Rising and they were certainly a lot of fun. I don’t think I can pick a favorite, but Cthulhu Week was certainly fun to put together. I’m looking forward to a few new themes we have been discussing behind the scenes for next year.

We also added quite a few awesome design essays from creators of RPGs, comics, games and films this past year. Along with our previews, these articles are among our most popular content and I’ve had a blast working with very talented people to give them a chance to tell us about their creative process. You can find most of these essays in our horror articles category. So check ‘em out, some great material there.

We added some great people to the Flames Rising crew this year as well like Eric Pollarine, Nancy Greene, Decapitated Dan Royer to our list of talented contributors. Our writers have helped increase the quality of content we’re offering including reviews, interviews and articles. Just dig into the archive of your favorite part of the site and you will see some of the excellent material everyone on the team has posted over the course of the year.

What’s new for next year? Stick around and find out.

Matt M McElroy

Flames Rising

DriveThruRPG Newsletter free product notices

From 9/2/2010:

Open Game Table: The Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs, Vol. 2
by Nevermet Press
Normal Price: $9.95 Discount Price: $8.50

Looking for the best content and commentary from RPG Blogosphere? Loved OGT Volume 1? Well - Open Game Table, Volume 2 was released at GenCon'10 and is now available as a PDF eBook! Inside you'll find interviews with Dave Arneson, Jonathan Roberts, and Robin D. Laws; and inciteful forward about the state of RPGs by White Wolf Designer Justin Achilli, and dozens of amazing articles that will take your game to the next level. As a special discount from this newsletter - you can grab it today to complete your collection for the same 60%-off coverprice discount available through Two-Volume Bundle New to Open Game Table? Grab the Volume 1 & 2 Open Game Table together in our Two-Volume BUNDLE for over 60% OFF THE COVER! Original, vetted 4E D&D content and much more are included in both volumes! Over 120 peer-reviewed and impactful posts from over 50 authors in the RPG blogosphere. LEVEL UP YOUR GAME - AND GET OPEN GAME TABLE TODAY!

Newest Free Products

Trophy Case vol. 1, no. 1
by Games by Scott Casper

Now the HIDEOUTS & HOODLUMS campaign has its own support newsletter! The premiere issue features the first part of a review of the Golden Age Flash Archives, Swords & Wizardry-compatible statistics for a new mobster - the evil eye - and a so...

Sartar Clan Questionairre
by Issaries

The Sartar Clan Questionnaire contains all the questions for the Clan Questionnaire from the Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes book (but without the answers) to help your players create their own clan. Players have found just filling out the questionairre shows t...

From 12/2/2010:

Newest Free Products

Trophy Case vol. 1, no. 2
by Games by Scott Casper

HIDEOUTS & HOODLUMS is back with more goodies, like a new mobster, a new character class, more golden age comic reviews, and a first -- conversion notes for playing a classic MSH game with H&H!

Shark Bone Podcast - CHUM07
by Shark Bone Games

CHUM episodes are our version of bonus episodes. And this one is super-bonus. It's me (Devon) talking, audio-blog style, about gaming. Practicing our gaming. This is the hobby we love? Why DON'T we practice it to make it/ourselves...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011 Weekly Newsletter

If DriveThruRPG has an online archive of their newsletter, it's not easy to find. So I decided to archive my own contributions to their newsletter and, for context, the articles around mine.

From 8/19/2010:

[SYSTEM: Eclipse Phase]
We here at DriveThruRPG want to extend our heartiest congratulations to Posthuman Studios for their taking of the Gold Award for Best Electronic Book with Eclipse Phase!

Bring It to the Table
Actual game content from our various publishers and fellow readers; stuff for you to use in your games, or perhaps simply to inspire your own creative pursuits.
This week's installment comes from Scott Casper, who's about to release a new support quarterly for his game. I'll let him explain from here -

"The following is a preview from The Trophy Case newsletter for HIDEOUTS & HOODLUMS (the SWORDS & WIZARDRY-compatible golden age superhero RPG)."
Evil Eyes
[SYSTEM: Hideouts & Hoodlums/Swords & Wizardry]
Armor Class: 5 [14]
Hit Dice: 7+3
Attacks: 1d3 tentacles (1d10)
Special: see below
Move: 180 (flight)
HDE/XP: 12/2000

While floating eyes observe the world of man to watch justice being meted, evil eyes are there to kill people so they can watch them die. An evil eye appears to be a giant human eyeball floating in a mass of slimy, gray tentacles up to 7 ft. long. Like floating eyes, evil eyes are never surprised and can communicate telepathically, but there the similarities end.

(Image from clip art; not supplied by creator)

When encountered, an evil eye will attempt to grab and constrict up to three people in its tentacles at a time. A constricted foe can be freed by a Superhero wrecking things vs. cars, a Magic-User magically compelling the eye with a spell such as Charm Mobster, or another class of 9th level or higher. Once per turn, the evil eye can turn one of its victims to face into the eye. It is impossible to resist looking into the eye and it can be seen even if the victim closes his eyes. The effect of looking into the eye is based on the Intelligence score of the victim, as follows:

INT / Save against
3-5: Death
6-9: Feeble mindedness (as per the Feeblemind spell)
10-12: Madness for 2d6 weeks
13-14: Comatose for 1d6 days
15-16: Paralyzed for 1d4 hours
17: Stunned and unable to act for 1d6 turns
18: Confused (as per the Confusion spell) for 1d4 turns

The save is further modified by Alignment, with Lawfuls saving at +1 and Chaotics saving at -1. A Magic-User with an active divination spell cast on him receives a +4 bonus to save and the mental feedback forces the evil eye to save against magic or be stunned for 1d3 turns.

A Hero driven mad by an evil eye will be terrified to ever be stared at – anyone spending a whole turn looking at the Hero must make
a morale save or flee for 1 whole turn.

The evil eye is content just to know its victims fail to pass this test, it does not need to observe the effects. So it will still
be trying to kill the victims, even if unconscious in the eye's grasp. This would count as a deathtrap and can be lethal for Heroes.

As if that were not bad enough, evil eyes are also resistant to magic. The spells of 1st-level casters do not affect them, and
against higher-level casters they are 50% immune to all spells (before saving throws).

Treasures of the Net

I've talked a little about this before, but I wanted to go ahead and specifically call out Obsidian Portal as a real Treasure of the Net. In part, this is due to their winning an ENnie Award for Best Web Site for gaming.

In the greater part, however, is that I've been very successfully using the site for managing my own campaigns (including The Unending War).

With an opening tutorial video and omnipresent guidelines in view, the management of a campaign wiki is something I've finally managed to grok. It's also amazingly easy to upload images, post character sheets, and communicate with your players.

In other words, Obsidian Portal is a GM's - and a campaign's - best friend.


Friday, November 18, 2011

The New Death and others reviewed

It is seldom that anyone acknowledges I have a blog, let alone ask me to review their book on my blog. So, when a correspondent named James Hutchings offered me a review copy of The New Death and others, I could not turn it down.

James cites Lovecraft, Howard, Ashton Smith, and Dunsany as influences on his contents pages (there are two pages of contents, a whopping 63 short short stories and poems for me to review!). It is an impressive collection of names. The biggest influence on the early stories is, appropriately, the earliest of those authors, particularly Dunsany’s own collected works like Gods of Pegana. Indeed, quite a few stories deal with fictional gods and fictional worlds (such as all four authors used) and with an archaic voice of storytelling that sounds very much like Dunsany (more than the others, to my ear), yet with a modern, wry, yet ultimately depreciative twist. Before his first Dunsany-like tale, “The Gods of the Poor”, ends with the fate of the impoverished decided by process of elimination between uncaring gods, James has inserted the jarring anachronism of Fame and Fortune saying, “Darling, I don’t think so.” It is a wink and a nod to the reader, saying, “See? I can do Dunsany and be funny.”

Yet even in this example it is too soon to label the story as trite, for there is interesting depth hidden behind the brevity. When Sky-Father says someone must be the God of the Poor because, “Those with no gods will grow restless and cunning, and in time will cast us down, and we shall be gods no more,” it hints tantalizingly at an entire cosmology in one sentence.

“How the Isle of Cats Got Its Name” is about eight times as long as the first story and at least twice as complex. It deals with a powerful witch, talking cats, gods and their cults, and introduces them all in a curious order that obscures, until the very end, which one of them is the real main point of the story. Along the way, it engages in the same clever, yet tongue-in-cheek word-building that was hidden behind the scenes in the shorter work preceding it, but plays it out to less satisfying effect. The details that work best are the more thought-provoking ones, like the nature of spirits and how their powers function differently by geography, while too much attention is spent on one long, cruel joke about a cat-torturing harp.

“The Enemy Within” is the first story to cast off fantasy elements. It is the first story intentionally hard to place, lacking a defined setting. No doubt it is intended to show the timelessness of bigotry, yet it is to the story’s loss that James engages here in none of his clever world-building, giving us a not-particularly nuanced character sketch instead.

“The End” is a particularly clever one-page satire of slipstream fiction and the preponderance of the supernatural in mainstream media today. Here, the world-building is behind the scenes again, but kept there until the end so as not to spoil the surprise.

“A Date with Destiny” returns us to the style of winking nods to Dunsany’s Pegana, this time making the winking nod the whole joke of the story by updating a Pegana-like goddess to the age of meeting people in online chatrooms.

“Everlasting Fire” is a delightfully clever and often humorous three-pager (complete with puns in endnotes) about how both sinners and devils alike in the afterlife are trapped in an all-too Earth-like bureaucracy. Some of the finer touches are interoffice memos that end in maniacal laughter and adding the act of saying “lol” out loud to the list of deadly sins. Some of the humor, though, is unnecessarily cruel (Oprah as a devil?) and the joke about fanfiction should strike uncomfortably close to home for someone selling self-published short fiction anthologies online, as it does for certain reviewers who also write fanfiction…

“Under the Pyramids” is the first poem in the collection, a 5-page ballad inspired by a Lovecraft story of the same name. It might help to know the original story and I have never read it, so I won’t comment on the content. Indeed, the only reason I mention it is to point out how the ballad is technically proficient, and thank goodness. I personally find free verse to seldom be more than lazy writing and cringe at the sight of it, so you can understand my relief that James knows how to write a proper ballad.

By the time we get to “The Face in the Hill” we have moved on again in style, returning thematically to the terrain of “The Enemy Within”, but with a lighter tone that reminds me of 1950s Marvel Comics (particularly with its O. Henry-esque twist ending). The theme, about people who only hear what they want to hear, is much subtler and hence, for me, more enjoyable than “The Enemy Within”.

“The Prince of the Howling Forest” is a trickier poem to label. That meter is not for a ballad. Twelve syllable lines? Is this a canzone? The form is too obscure for me – perhaps appropriate for the murkiness of the subject matter.

It seems to me that James accomplishes much more in brevity than he ever does in longer pieces, and perhaps there is no better example than “The Uncharted Isle”. In seven sentences we have a wonderful fantasy setting (more behind-the-scenes world-building), charmingly evocative language (I love the “wine-faced sea”), and a clever ending. That the whole story is just one joke hardly matters when done this well.

The antithesis occurs a few stories later, “The Scholar and the Moon”, again proving my point. In over five pages, James stuffs what could have been another fine, seven sentence story with metaphor, explained world-building, asides to the reader, and verbose characters -- though Conwy’s exchange with the gargoyle is well worth the read (I hope to steal the encounter for a D&D game someday).

There are so many more examples left untouched (indeed, I’ve barely covered more than one-sixth of the stories), but I think I have given enough examples to demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of the collection. James is a master world-builder and an economist of words who is most brilliant in brevity. He is witty and literate. But he tries hard, perhaps too hard, to impress the reader. By demonstrating his range, he ranges all over, like a writer suffering from attention deficit disorder.

That said, there is much worth reading here and should please any intelligent fantasy fiction reader with tastes running from Lord Dunsany to 1950s Marvel Comics.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

My Marvel 52-Title Relaunch - pt. 1

It seemed like a natural companion to my previous project for the blog. If I could develop a more grandiose restart for DC comics that would celebrate the richness of their history better than they recently had, I wondered, could I do the same for Marvel Comics?

Marvel Comics. A 42-page adventure anthology featuring three 14-page serials set in 1939 and starring the Sub-Mariner, the Angel, and Ka-Zar. The Sub-Mariner is young Prince Namor, an angry young half-merman taking out his issues on a world that is new to him, getting embroiled in world politics, falling for policewoman Betty Dean, and ignoring his loving cousin Dorma. The Angel is a world-traveling man of mystery, master of disguise, with great strength and agility, plus a glider cape. Ka-Zar is a Tarzan-like character in Africa.
Captain America Comics. A 42-page adventure anthology featuring Captain America with three 14-page ongoing serials starting in different times, 1941, 1945, and 1949. The first will feature Bucky as his 12-year old sidekick. The second will start immediately after Bucky’s death. The third will feature Golden Girl (Betsy Ross, who will also be an FBI agent helping Cap in the two earlier serials) who is now Cap’s fiance and partner in adventure. Contrary to previous retcons, these are all Steve Rogers.
Terry-Toons Comics. A 38-page comedy anthology featuring a rotating cast of anthropomorphic animal characters like Gandy Goose, Oscar Pig, Frenchy Rabbit, and Andy Wolf, in a world kind of like our 1943. There will always be four features, the first two being 10 pagers and the second two being 9 pagers.
Human Torch. A 42-page adventure anthology featuring two 14-page installments of the Human Torch and one 14-page installment of the Sub-Mariner. The first Human Torch story will feature him in 1944, the synthetic human still struggling to find his place in human society, but with the help of an 8-year old boy he calls Toro (a mutant who’s immune to fire). The second serial will pick up with the Torch in 1949, now posing as a human, living as a police officer by day, and striking as a vigilante at night. Toro will be 13 now and be able to generate intense heat and start fires. The Torch’s love interest, secretary, and companion calls herself Sun Girl. The Sub-Mariner back-up will follow Prince Namor’s adventures in 1949, bored with life in Atlantis and touring the world with his cousin and love interest Namora as they have adventures together.
Comedy Classics. A 34-page comedy/adventure anthology featuring three stories about Super Rabbit in a world of anthropomorphic animals similar to our 1944, with the superheroics played semi-serious. The first story will always be 12 pages, with two lighter 11 page stories following.
Gay Comics. A 26-page comedy/romance anthology featuring two 13-page independent stories set in 1945. The stories may or may not suggest homosexuality (50/50), while keeping the stories light and PG.
Krazy Komics. A 34-page comedy anthology featuring a rotating cast of anthropomorphic animal characters in a world like our 1946. There will always be four features, two of them 9-pagers and two of them 8-pagers.
Patsy Walker. A 26-page comedy/romance anthology featuring two serials set in 1946 and featuring 18-year old Patsy Walker and her boyfriend Bill Baxter. The main, 14-page feature stars Patsy and Bill, fresh out of high school, looking for work, and choosing a college, while the back-up 12-page focuses on her jealous friend/rival for Bill Hedy Wolfe.
Margie Comics. A 34-page comedy/romance anthology featuring three stories set in 1950 about 19-year old Margie going to college, pursuing boys, getting into hi-jinks, but also finding a life for herself. The lead story will always be 12 pages while the two back-up stories about her will be 11-pagers.
Cindy Comics. A 34-page comedy/romance anthology almost identical to Margie Comics, save that Margie is strictly middle class and Cindy is from a richer family and so is able to do more globe-trotting while she discovers herself.
Captain America’s Weird Tales. A 26-page horror anthology set in 1950 with two 13-page stories. A semi-retired Captain America either introduces or is peripherally involved in each weird tale of the supernatural, or seemingly about the supernatural (about 50/50).
Love Tales. A 26-page romance anthology set in 1950 with different characters each month. The lead story will be 17 pages with a lighter 9-page back-up.
Marvel Tales. A 26-page fantasy/science fiction/horror anthology set chiefly in 1951 with different characters each month. Both features will be 13 pages.
Lovers. A 26-page romance anthology featuring two 13-page, unrelated stories each month with different characters, each set in 1952 and PG-rated.
Miss America, Starring Patsy. A 26-page domestic comedy/light-adventure anthology, featuring 25-year old Patsy Baxter, army wife to Bill Baxter in 1953, who’s I Love Lucy-like schemes tend to get them both into hi-jinks or trouble.
Tales of Justice. A 26-page true crime (well, mostly true) anthology, featuring two unrelated 13-page stories each month set chiefly in 1955 and focusing on the good guys in law enforcement (sort of a cross between Dragnet and Law & Order).
Kid Colt, Outlaw. A 26-page cowboy adventure anthology set in 1879 and featuring Kid Colt in two 13-page serial adventures. Kid Colt rides around, doing good deeds and trying to vindicate himself being accused of murder by being a gunslinger who never kills.
Marvel Mystery Comics. A 42-page adventure anthology set in 1957 featuring three 14-page installments of the Human Torch, Terry Vance, and Electro. The Human Torch is fully integrated into human society by now, living as a police detective and openly using his fire power to help fight crime. Toro, who’s now 21, can do everything the Torch can but fly and is a hero in his own right (but will sometimes still team up with his old partner). The Torch and Sun Girl will be engaged. Terry Vance is a 17-year old genius inventor and private detective with a pet monkey named Watson. Electro is a powerful robot that is partly self-aware, but the rest of the time controlled by his creator, the Secret Operative, Professor Philo Zogolowski.
Strange Tales. A 26-page lite-horror anthology set chiefly in 1958 with three unrelated stories each issue, the first two being 9-pagers and the last being 8 pages. The PG stories are more weird than horrific, though with a strong supernatural focus.
Battle. A 26-page adventure/war anthology set chiefly in 1959, dealing with conflicts spanning the globe in two 13-page unrelated stories each month.
Patsy and Hedy. A 26-page comedy/romance anthology, serializing the 1960 goings-on of Pasty Baxter, now age 32, with one child in school and a baby at home. The main, 14-page serial is always about Patsy and her old, single friend Hedy who keeps luring Patsy out of the home to see more of life, and the unspoken attraction between them as Bill spends most of his time at work managing the security team for a big company. The 12-page back-up focuses more on the domestic hi-jinks of Patsy trying to keep her kids, her marriage, and her home in working order.
Journey into Mystery. A 26-page science fiction anthology set chiefly in 1961, always with two unrelated 13-page stories per month featuring encounters with bizarre aliens.
Tales to Astonish. A 26-page adventure/romance/science fiction mix set in 1963. The 21-page lead serial always stars Ant-Man, a science-based hero who can shrink himself to 18” tall or grow to 7’ tall and control ants, and his partner and love interest, the Wasp, who can also shrink and grow wings. They will battle foes like the Living Eraser and the Human Top. In the 5-page back-up feature, Wasp will narrate a short tale of science fiction.
Tales of Suspense. A 26-page adventure/science fiction/romance mix set in 1968. The 21-page lead serial always stars Iron Man, a wealthy industrialist in a 7’ suit of armor that lets him lift 10 tons. The criminal underworld, including super-science outfits like AIM, will throw robots and hi-tech villains like Whiplash at him while inside the suit, while outside the suit he woos business rival Janice Cord. The 5-page backup feature will be a random, unrelated short tale of science fiction or weird fantasy each month.
Rawhide Kid. A 26-page cowboy adventure anthology set in 1880. Identical set-up to Kid Colt, Outlaw.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

My DC 52-Title Relaunch - pt. 4

#43 Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes. A 48-page book with one main, 22-page adventure featuring Superboy and a rotating group of 3-7 Legionnaires tackling cosmic menaces through time and space (but mostly the Legion’s own 30th century), and then two 13-page solo adventures of Legionnaires (any ones who debuted by 1979). Because Superboy/Superman II is time-traveling to work with the Legion, he can show up at any age out of order, but the Legionaires are from 2979 ($3.75 book).
#44 Unknown Soldier. A 30-page book with two 15-page stories in an adventure serial featuring the Unknown Soldier, as he wanders internationally from war to war in 1982 ($3 book).
#45 Brave and the Bold. A 36-page book featuring one 22-page adventure serial starring Jason Todd, the brand new Robin without a Batman, but looking to sidekick himself with a new partner each month, starting in 1983. The back-up feature is a 14-page solo outing of the guest hero, either independent of the main story or somehow tied into the main story, but without Robin ($3.25 book).
#46 Green Lantern. A 36-page book featuring one 22-page sci-fi/adventure serial starring Guy Gardner as the new Green Lantern, being advised by a close-to-retiring Hal Jordan in 1986, battling alien menaces that seek to or have entered our solar system. The back-up feature is a 14-page solo story of Guy going solo, either independent or somehow tied into the main story ($3.25 book).
#47 Jonah Hex. A 30-page book featuring two 15-page adventures of an old, scarred cowboy, Jonah Hex, as he travels through the last of the Old West in 1899 ($3 book).
#48 Warlord. A 30-page book featuring Col. Travis Morgan as he explores a hollow Earth-world called Skartaris in the lead 20-page adventure, with a 10-page back-up of his supporting cast -- Tara, Machiste, Shakira, Mariah, or Jennifer -- having adventures on the same world, all in the year 1988 ($3 book).
#49 DC Comics Presents. A 36-page book featuring one 22-page adventure serial starring Superman II (now 38 and able to lift 100 tons) and one other, random hero in 1986 (or possibly time traveling). The back-up feature is a 14-page solo outing of the guest hero, either independent of the main story or somehow tied into the main story ($3.25 book).
#50 Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes. A 48-page book with three 16-page sci-fi/adventure stories featuring 1-3 of the Legion in each, all set in 2987 ($3.75 book).
#51 Adventures of Superman. A 36-page book featuring 2 18-page adventures of Superman III (age 14, grandson of the original - or is he a clone? - able to lift 9 tons) in 1989, battling modern versions of classic Superman foes ($3.25 book).
#52 Green Lantern Corps. A 36-page book featuring 2 Green Lantern sci-fi/adventure stories. The first 20-page story stars John Stewart, the Green Lantern charged with supervising the Green Lanterns of this sector of the galaxy in 1988 with up to 2 other (possibly alien Green Lanterns), while the 16-page back-up story features 1-3 other Green Lanterns without John Stewart, rotating between all Green Lanterns introduced by 1988.

Once each title starts, it will progress in real time from month to month. Characters will grow, age, and rotate out of the spotlight. Lastly, imagine these titles being created, not by unknown and untested writers, but by true masters like Jerry Ordway, John Byrne, Walt Simonson, Roger Stern, and David Micheline. Unpopular back-up stories (or just to beat a deadline) can always be reprints from DC's glory days.