Sunday, December 29, 2013

Player Character Morgue: Adolphus Magnusson

My solo gaming has continued through classic AD&D modules, including the Tomb of Horrors.  Deterred by traps and unable to find their way very deep into the tomb, the PCs had to leave behind Adolphus Magnusson, trapped in the forsaken prison.

Adolphus was the highest level character I'd played in a long time, raised all the way from 1st level to 9th.  I had run his original party through Castle Blackmoor and Tegel Manor, then he joined a different group of PCs I was running through the G and D series modules.  They made it all the way to the Vault of the Drow, though they were overwhelmed by sheer numbers in the Vault and had to flee for their lives.

I even tried to get Adolphus in a non-solo game when one of my friends was running Expedition to Castle Greyhawk, but Adolphus was rejected because of some non-standard magic items.

Adolphus was fabulously wealthy and certainly didn't need to keep adventuring for a living.  But he adventured to live.  Until he died.

Character Name:  Adolphus Magnusson
Race/Sex:  Half-Elf/Male
Alignment:  Neutral
Regional Origin:  Blackmoor
Faith: Nature worship
Level/Title:  9/Initiate of the 7th Circle
Experience Points:  109,361
XP Bonus:  +10%

Strength:  15
Intelligence:  14
Wisdom:  17
Dexterity:  11
Constitution:  14
Charisma:  16

Hit Points:  52
Armor Class:  6

Special Abilities:  Druidic spells; identifies plants, animals, pure water; pass without trace at will; +2 to save vs. fire and lightning; 30% resist sleep and charm; 60' infra-vision; 1 in 6 chance to find concealed doors within 10'; 3 in 6 chance to find concealed doors if sought

Spells Typically Memorized:
1st - Detect Magic, Entangle x2, Faerie Fire, Invisibility to Animals, Locate Animals, Speak with Animals
2nd - Charm Person or Mammal, Create Water, Cure Light Wounds x2, Heat Metal, Warp Wood
3rd - Cure Disease, Hold Animal, Neutralize Poison, Stone Shape
4th - Cure Serious Wounds x2
5th - Commune with Nature

Treasure Stashed:  3,377 cp; 5,823 sp; 5 ep; 14,170 gp; 20 pp; 3 amber stones worth 10 gp each; 3 gems worth 50 gp each; 3 gems worth 100 gp each; 1 gold sickle worth 90 gp; 8 crystals worth 10 gp each; 7 pearls worth 100 gp each; 4 scrolls worth 1,000 gp each; 2 books worth 2,500 gp each; 3,724 gp in folios; 1 ruby worth 100 gp; 1 topaz worth 100 gp; 1 garnet worth 10 gp; 3 gems worth 10 gp each

Magic Items:  Silver War Hammer +2, Silver Torc of Spell Reflection (65% effective), Ring of Spell Storing (Animal Summoning I, Call Woodland Beings, Dispel Magic, Transmute Rock to Mud, Wall of Fire), Scroll of Plant Growth and Control Weather, Wooden Shield +1, Dagger +1

Other Mundane Equipment:  Leather armor, leather backpack, large belt pouch, 1 garlic bud, 1 bunch of greater mistletoe, 3 days of iron rations, 2 iron spikes

Mount:  Agamemnon, a heavy warhorse

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Player Character Morgue: Skalar Kallionkiel

I haven't done this since 2007

I wanted to play a dwarf paladin.  The fact that the rules forbade that combination only made it more tantalizing.  When I learned that the original write-up for the paladin class in the Greyhawk Supplement made no specific reference to the "humans only" rule, I knew I wanted to play some OD&D real bad.  Lacking a game at that time, I made up a slate of new PCs -- including my dwarf paladin (I cheated and rolled 3d8 for stats -- I was going to make sure I qualified for a paladin!).  Then I went about solo gaming (which consists of rolling randomly for everything, to eliminate player knowledge from the equation).  To keep an element of danger in the game, I decided that I would not fudge any character deaths.  And so, at 4th level, my beloved and only ever dwarf paladin, bit it in mortal combat with a fire giant.  Pretty unfair, I know; there was only a random chance of the PCs running away...

Character Name:  Skalar Kallionkiel
Race/Sex:  Dwarf/Male
Alignment:  Lawful
Regional Origin:  Blackmoor
Faith:  Church of the Facts of Life
Level/Title:  4/Paladin
Experience Points:  12,000
XP Bonus:  10%

Strength:  18/73 (+3 to hit and damage)
Intelligence:  11
Wisdom:  17
Constitution:  15 (+1 hp/die)
Dexterity:  16 (+1 to hit, -2 to be hit)
Charisma:  18

Languages:  Common, Lawful, Dwarf, Gnome, Hobbit, Elf, Kobold, Goblin

Hit Points:  32
Armor Class:  3 (-2)

Money:  12 sp, 1 ep, 273 gp, 1 37 gp gem, 1 100 gp gem

Items:  Platemail armor, helmet, leather backpack, wineskin, silver cross, shortbow, quiver of 20 silver arrows, silver dagger

Magic Items:  Sword +1

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Vision for Progressive Fiction in the Superhero Genre

The fanfiction site, Altered Visions, is rebooting itself.  I contacted the editors privately to share with them what I thought would be good world-building.  It was rejected, but now I share it here, so perhaps others will profit by it someday.

Most people who know my fanfiction know I have a fondness for a) writing in past decades and b) advancing superheroes in real time.  I have a particular vision for how a superhero world would turn out by modern times and I've written a short essay about it. 

If superheroes had really been around since 1939, then the world should be about ¾ of the way to utopia by now.  By the year 2013, then, technology (boosted by super-intelligent superheroes and alien tech) should be around 2089-level tech, with androids in public service, AI computers, solar power and fusion power everywhere, magnetic rail robot cars, and inter-solar system space travel.  Some things are still off-limits for most people, like teleportation technology, that only the superheroes (and villains) have. 

Further, the superheroes should have long since given up defending the status quo and worked collectively to better the world in a liberal progressive direction – the only political direction based on wanting to help make everyone’s lives better.  Universal health care is now truly universal.  The rain forests have been mostly replanted.  Global warming has been slowed down.  There are no third world countries anymore, just developed and developing countries.  Crime is almost unheard of and when it does happen, it tends to be something BIG that only superheroes can stop.

Globalization has happened too, just because of all these global emergencies that have needed rapid responses.  There is a world currency (though many people now use microchip embedded debit cards in their hands) and the United Nations is an actual, working government with nations’ leaders serving more like state governors now. 

Man is spreading throughout the solar system, with a base on or orbiting every planet even out to Pluto.  Orbiting Saturn is Baxter Station, a scientific satellite home to Fantastic Four Inc., a hundred scientists and their families and support staff, numbering 1,000 people.  Mars has two domed cities on it.

Forget that sliding scale of history.  The Golden Age took place in the 1940s.  The Silver Age took place in the 1960s.  Mr. Fantastic was 60 in 1980 and Spider-Man was 33.  The superheroes around now are often the adult sons and daughters of the Silver Age heroes and -- because this business is dangerous – some legacy heroes are actually the third or fourth person to wear the costume. 

And these superheroes are more cooperative than ever.  The teams are specialized in function, but coordinate their efforts.  Everyone can get in touch with everyone else.  And the superhero community has a very active role in both society and politics.  These heroes are actively guiding mankind into the future.

Most supervillains from before mid-1966 are dead and the remaining ones are reformed. 

So where will conflict come from in this brave new world?  There are still haves and have-nots – though 78% of the population wants for nothing now.  There will always be people trying to make more have-nots – either by claiming political power in some country or withholding some new or developing technology that could benefit everyone – and these people are willing and able to hire old-fashioned supervillains to protect/enforce them.  By now, Earth’s superheroes have humiliated every alien empire out there.  Some aliens races have responded by trying diplomatic relations with Earth, but others are still looking to get back at Earth for past embarrassments.  And then there are ecological issues related to overcrowding -- terraforming the deserts on Earth, making Antarctica inhabitable, and living with mermen in the oceans to consider.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Beatles music

Nothing to do with me, other than wanting to listen...

Monday, November 4, 2013

From the Dominican Star, 4/22/1998

One of the few comic strips I had printed during my last stint in college. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

"Dun" Drover, Cowboy Spy

Continuing from this project.

#1 - September 1939 – (“Red Ryder” feature in Crackajack Funnies #15) – Dun Drover rides the range and chases off a rustler (40 xp in Cowboy).
#2 – October 1939 – (“Biff Bronson” feature in More Fun Comics #48) – Dun is recruited by a government agent to go on a secret mission to Spain and track down a missing American (100 xp in Cowboy).
#3 – November 1939 – (“Sis Sez” feature in King Comics #43) – Dun returns to America, successful, and stops in New York City to visit his sister, Ruth (200 xp in Cowboy).
#4 – December 1939 – (“Chuck Dawson” feature in Action Comics #19) – Dun returns out west to find being a cowboy is boring to him now, to the point where he tracks down a boot thief (240 xp in Cowboy).
#5 – January 1940 – (“Capt. Cook of Scotland Yard” feature in Smash Comics #6) – Dun joins U.S. Espionage Division just in time to investigate a mysterious dirigible pilot terrorizing New England cities (240 xp in Cowboy/-80 xp in Spy).
#6 – February 1940 – (“Mr. Satan” feature in Zip Comics #1) – When a young girl’s father goes missing in the German embassy, Dun investigates and finds it a plot by a Count Bocker to find a mystic item called the Eye of Oglu (240 xp in Cowboy/-20 xp in Spy).
#7 – March 1940 – (“Herky” feature in Popular Comics #49) – Dun is taken off the task of searching for Count Bocker and the Eye of Oglu and is put on guard detail for the girl, “Tippy” Nelson, and her brother Arnold, who like to get into mischief (240 xp in Cowboy/180 xp in Spy).
#8 – April 1940 – (“Fantasy Isle” feature in Amazing Mystery Funnies #19) – While bored with his assignment, Dun misses the abduction by the Nelson children.  He pursues them to “Fantasy Isle”, in the Atlantic, where the Eye of Oglu had been kept and the Nelson children are now held by its worshippers (240 xp in Cowboy/230 xp in Spy).
#9 – May 1940 – (“Rance Keane” feature in Feature Comics #32) – Still on Fantasy Isle, Dun investigates the death of the only other American on the island, “Bus” Pritchard, and suspects Count Bocker is already on the island (240 xp in Cowboy/260 xp in Spy).
#10 – June 1940 – (“Ellery Queen” feature in Crackajack Funnies #24) – Count Bocker kills again on the island while Dun slowly ferrets out which islander is the Count in disguise.  Dun figures it out and saves a third victim (240 xp in Cowboy/390 xp in Spy).
#11 – July 1940 – (“Scoop Smith” feature in Whiz Comics #6) – Dun has his final showdown with Count Bocker, finds the Eye of Uglo (which Bocker had guessed correctly magically returned to the island), and is proclaimed emperor of the island.  But turns it down to get the Nelson children back home to the States (240 xp in Cowboy/1,700 xp in Spy).
#12 – August 1940 – (“Did You Know That” feature in Popular Comics #54) – Reporting back in to U.S. Espionage Division, Dun is briefed by a Lt. Tito Falconi for an undercover mission to Japan (240 xp/1,800 xp in Spy – 2nd level!).
#13 – September 1940 – (“Prop Powers” feature in National Comics #3) – After a long trip across the Pacific, aviator “Prop” Powers flies Dun into Japan (240 xp/1,960 xp in Spy).
#14 – October 1940 – (“Chip Collins” feature in Fight Comics #9) – Dun makes his rendezvous with Chip Collins and begins a manhunt for the Japanese air force general called “The War-Eagle” (240 xp/2,140 xp in Spy).
#15 – November 1940 – (“Black X” feature in Smash Comics #16) – Dun and Chip pursue the War-Eagle into China (240 xp/2,300 xp in Spy).
#16 – December 1940 – (“Human Torch” feature in Human Torch #3) – After sabotaging the War-Eagle’s plane (a trap the War-Eagle escapes), Dun finds a dead Chinese scientist in his bombed lab and saves a half-android boy named Tai who becomes Dun’s sidekick (240 xp/2,600 xp in Spy).
#17 – January 1941 – (“Flash Picture Novelette” feature in Flash Comics #13) – Dun stays in China to try and find Tai’s parents and locates an older sister, Min, who Dun starts to fall for while saving her from a blackmailer (240 xp/2,920 xp in Spy).
#18 – February 1941 – (“Spark Stevens” feature in Green Mask #4) – Dun is sneaking Tai and Min out of China when he hears of a very familiar attack dirigible terrorizing India.  Yes, it’s the same mad scientist who escaped from Dun 13 months earlier, now calling himself The Master.  Dun takes him down (240 xp/3,140 xp in Spy).
#19 – March 1941 – (“Greasemonkey Griffin” feature in Wing Comics #7) – En route by ship to South Africa, Dun, Tai, and Min’s boat is attacked by a Nazi U-boat (240 xp/3,490 xp in Spy).
#20 – April 1941 – (“Spin Shaw” feature in Feature Comics #43) – In South Africa, Dun, Tai, and Min run into hoodlums trying to shake down an airport (240 xp/3,810 xp in Spy – 3rd level!).
#21 – May 1941 – (“Blaze Barton” feature in Hit Comics #11) – While still in South Africa, aliens attack, using some sort of vacuum-like weapon to suck up diamonds to their ship.  Dun and Tai borrow a plane, board the alien ship, and while trying to take control of it, accidentally set off its self-destruct (240 xp/5,070 xp in Spy).
#22 – June 1941 – (“Jungle Detective” feature in Wonderworld Comics #26) – Dun and Tai came down in the jungles of Africa, still trying to find their way out so they can be reunited with Min (240 xp/5,190 xp in Spy).
#23 – July 1941 – (“Dr. Mortal” feature in Weird Comics #16) – Dun and Tai stumble across a Nazi science lab in the jungle where a cosmic wave monster has been unleashed.  Dun and Tai manage to beat it after a dying scientist figures out how to use the cosmic wave rifle that Dun had earlier brought back from the alien spacecraft (240 xp/6,070 xp in Spy).

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Reviews that Were on DriveThruRPG - pt. 2

BLUEHOLME:  The Maze of Nuromen, by Dreamscape Designs.

I've finally got around to writing a review of The Maze of Nuromen and, again, wanted to share it first here for feedback before posting it to DriveThruRPG.

The Maze of Nuromen is a short, introductory adventure module for use with the BLUEHOLME Prentice Rules. Just as the BLUEHOLME rules are a retroclone of the Holmes edition of D&D, “The Maze of Nuromen” is meant to evoke the sample dungeon from the Holmes edition, without being a direct copy of it. In this the module succeeds greatly. The map of level 1 of this dungeon is reminiscent of the layout of the sample dungeon. The background to both are similar, as is the geography above the dungeons.

Like any good sample dungeon, there is a good variety of combats, tricks, hidden treasures, and things to do. There’s a stolen item to retrieve, a useful password to look for, and even a riddle to answer. For an Old School module, there seems to be a dearth of traps here. There’s also very little opportunity here for role-playing. We know what the elves are up to, but the bandits and goblins have no reason for being here, nothing to learn from talking to them.

Many of the old D&D basic modules for levels 1-3 assumed you were starting with a party of 1st level characters and would level up 1-2 times in the course of play. This adventure is probably too dangerous for that unless the players go in with a large party, bolstered with hirelings, or with a smaller party containing at least one 3rd level character.

The artwork is too grisly and unpleasant for my liking. Others may find that very appropriate for the sort of games they run.

My last minor complaint is that I feel an opportunity was missed here. It would have been nice had there been at least some hint as to how to combine the Holmes sample dungeon level into this dungeon to make a deluxe, 3-level dungeon.

All minor complaints aside, it IS a pretty solid adventure, very Old School, highlighting its simplified style with one-line stats for almost every encounter. With 25 rooms on 2 levels, there is plenty enough here to do for multiple game sessions.

City of the Gods, by Zeitgeist Games.

Up front, I want to say I bought the City of the Gods eBook hoping for more of a gazetteer-type book. I wanted a big map of the whole city and block-by-block descriptions of what I would find there. That’s what I was hoping for. What I got was an Expedition to Castle Greyhawk-style adventure module that uses a plot to railroad you along just a selective path through an expansive setting.

Now, that’s not necessarily bad. I really enjoyed Expedition to Castle Greyhawk, but that was because I already had several other Castle Greyhawk-related titles to help me fill in the blanks. In this case, I was going into City of the Gods blind, as it were.

So I guess the real question is, did I learn enough about the City of the Gods to make this a worthwhile purchase? Of its impressive 108-page page count, I got 5 pages of introduction, a whopping 48-page wilderness adventure taking place in the Valley of the Ancients around the City of the Gods, and 33 pages on the City itself. Some of the stuff inside is neat, like the table of effects of mixing magic and science, the list of mutations from radiation, and the table of laboratory specimens, but already having S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and DA2 Temple of the Frog, a lot of this felt like déjà vu to me.

In the appendices, there are 11 pages of new monsters. Most of them did not excite me, but the fire nymph might fill a niche outside this particular environ and the thermal godmite is impressively spectacular. There are 4 pages on new equipment, half of which is pretty neat hi-tech gear treated as magic items (which is very Blackmoor-ish), but some of it seems weirdly out-of-place, like elven bucklers.

The maps are pedestrian. Most of the art is good, but some images are inappropriately full-page, seemingly just to fill up space. I highly recommend this book – BUT, only for someone who doesn’t already have Expedition to the Barrier Peaks or any of the DA module series. For owners of those products, this purchase is entirely optional.

Cupid Must Die!  Kobolds Ate My Valentine, by 9th Level Games.

Not as funny or creative as the rulebook, but an interesting mini-scenario that might require more problem solving than laughs.

Reviews that Were at DriveThruRPG - pt. 1

I just learned tonight that I've been breaking the rules at DriveThruRPG by posting reviews of other people's products there, something publishers are not supposed to do.  Thank goodness I hadn't written any more than I did!  I'm taking them down off their site, but I hate to let anything I've ever written go to waste, so I'm saving them here.

100 Dark Fantasy Hirelings, by The Amazing List of Things.

For a dollar, and what it is (essentially a big list), this is pretty good. The 100 hirelings are grouped by type into 10 shorter lists, each getting a 1-2 sentence description. Some are thought-provoking; all are at least decent. Names tend to be English, with both some other real world ethnic names and some fantasy gibberish names slipped in.

1st Ed Advanced Character Sheet, by Gold Piece Publications.

Visually compelling, but difficult to use, character sheet. It really needs bigger boxes and a back side for everything it leaves out.

Advanced Adventures #1:  The Pod-Caverns of the Sinister Shroom, by Expeditious Retreat Press.

Rare and welcome are the level 2-4 adventure modules (or, “What to do after you finish a basic level module”) and this level range does seem appropriate for the adventure. This adventure is very short on story and background, but long on utility. Notes help the DM place this module for adventurers heading straight to it from civilization, or already exploring the underworld and just stumbling across this place. Opportunities for magical healing abound, making the locale not too difficult for exploring all in one expedition. Inverting the typical dungeon design, the bottom level seems like it would be the easiest. The pod men seem reminiscent of the old D&D vegepygmies, while the shroom is a tongue-in-cheek evil version of the old D&D myconids. Matt Finch is the “double-danger” of a writer who can draw as well and the interior black and white art is both suitably weird and engaging. If the product has any weakness, the maps are rather boring to look at.

BLUEHOLME Prentice Rules, by Dreamscape Designs.

This book is a retroclone – one of many out there – this one of the true second edition of Dungeons & Dragons, edited by Eric Holmes in 1977.

Part 1 is a very introductory introduction, more than the Holmes edition had and more, I feel, like how the 1981 Moldvay ed. spelled everything out for the novice gamer, especially in terms of spelling out all the different uses of the word “level” in D&D.

Part 2, though, is an excellently organized approach to character creation and the simplified tables are an improvement on the original version. While the rules do not deviate from Holmes ed. D&D, there are clarifications on almost every page, like how dwarven perception works or which weapons are “legal” for the cleric class. Information is grouped together better, like how scroll creation rules are now right there in the description of the Magic-User class. Elven multi-classing is explained better and we get a clearer graph of how a five-point Alignment system works.

Curiously, for a retroclone that otherwise adheres so closely to the original rulebook, the 2nd level Magic-User spell list includes several new spells, dealing with the heightened importance of Dexterity in this edition. The Dexterity spell makes sense, but the Ray of Clumsiness spell is mis-worded to apply to Strength and -- I've already been told by the author -- will be corrected in the next printing.

The combat section attempts to add some new rules with mixed results. The explanation for hitting with flaming oil is an example of a good addition. A confusing addition is separating weapons by light, normal, and heavy, which seems to have no game mechanic purpose here, though I've been told it will make more sense in the Compleat Rules. Other things are more clarification, like exactly how “infra-vision” works.

The section on how combat works is nicely written. I particularly like Strangelove the Cleric.

The monster section is very deadly for 1st-3rd level characters, with monsters like the purple worm and the vampire included for completeness’ sake rather than any likelihood of being encountered (under all but the meanest DMs!). The carrion crawler and shrieker are revived here under new names (I doubt I would ever get used to calling a carrion crawler a “grick”).

I like the separation of individual treasure and treasure hordes into different tables. It is very close to the old treasure types. The absence of treasure types in the Open Game License has been a problem for retroclones before and I would much rather use this system than Swords & Wizardry’s bulkier treasure system.

The magic items section conceals barely any new items, the best being the Staff of Clouting which I actually prefer to the old Staff of Striking.

Spelling has been uniformly switched to British English, a distinction D&D has always had a problem with consistency on.

The sample character sheet looks a bit top heavy, with a silly amount of space reserved for ability score modifiers (in a game with very few) and very small space for writing in equipment down below.

The art is good quality public domain art, but really, if given a choice, I’ll take a D&D book with Trampier and Wham art instead any day.

The book is currently available as Pay What You Want. Years ago, I had been lucky enough to buy a used copy of the Holmes ed. for $3. I'd say this version, as an ebook, is easily worth $4.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Mystery Man: Overview of a Comic Book that Never Was

Circa 1995-1996, I had plans for creating a stable of Victorian-era superheroes.  I’ve posted before about what would have been my flagship character, The Century Man before here.  The following is fleshed out slightly from a one-page synopsis I had written back then.

The next biggest character I had planned out was The Mystery Man (also known as The Hood).  His story would begin in April 1888, when a young (maybe just 17) man named John would wake up with huge gaps in his memory, including how he came to be wrapped from head to toe in bandages and, beneath that, heavy scarring.  He would have fighting ability and enhanced (though not superhuman) strength he did not remember having, with the implication being it was somehow surgically given to him.

In May 1888, John would charge into a burning building to rescue people, discovering that his bandages were also fire resistant.  The bandages also allowed him to act anonymously, being dubbed by the press as The Mystery Man.
In June 1888, the Mystery Man – now combining his mummy look with a ragged hooded cape to give him a frightening mystique -- would begin patrolling London in a one-man campaign on keeping it safer.  After rescuing an architect from street toughs, the architect would repay him by taking John on as a draftsman apprentice.  Following the serious injury of the street toughs, however, Scotland Yard would take an active interest in discovering the Mystery Man’s true name and whereabouts.

In August 1888, John would have to return to his childhood home of Gravesend, which was being terrorized by a fairy Jack-in-Irons.  As the Mystery Man, John would confront it and win.
In September 1888, Sherlock Holmes would track down John, having surmised his true identity.  After a lengthy interview, Holmes would decide not to share what he knew with the police.  Around this same time, Jack the Ripper would be killed by a fairy Redcap, which would begin copying his crimes.

In October 1888, the Mystery Man would corner the Redcap – thanks to a clue from Holmes – and defeat it.

In November 1888, the Mystery Man would come to the attention of a man called The Enchanter, a magician using charm magic to move up through London’s social circles.  Ensorcelled, the Mystery Man would briefly serve as The Enchanter’s bodyguard and enforcer.

In December 1888, the Mystery Man would throw off the spell on him.  He would then work to discredit The Enchanter and ultimately confront him in a battle that would leave The Enchanter presumed dead and the Mystery Man badly injured.

In January 1889, John would be convalescing in the care of the niece of his architect boss.  His boss would not be pleased with this, however, and both fired John and forbad him seeing her.
In February 1889, John would receive a visit from The Invisible Man, who would suggest some shared points of origin for them, while refusing to do more than drop clues.  The Invisible Man would, of course, elude John, but he would run into H.G. Wells, hot on the trail of the Invisible Man as the subject for a book he was researching.

In March 1889, bounty hunters would lure the Mystery Man into a trap and attack him.  The bounty hunters worked for a wealthy socialite named Liam Mansfield, though the Mystery Man does not know this yet.
In April 1889, the Mystery Man would encounter the Jumping Man.  John would also, inspired by Wells, become a writer.

In May 1889, the Mystery Man is ambushed by gunmen working for Mansfield.  The Mystery Man would escape, injured, but this time with the name of their employer.  The Mystery Man would go to Sherlock Holmes for help and information to use against Liam Mansfield.
In July 1889, the British government would contact Mansfield and give him carte blanche to hunt down the Mystery Man and bring him in alive.  The government clearly knows the Mystery Man’s origin, but not his whereabouts.

In August 1889, the Mystery Man would be captured by Mansfield’s agents.  Liam would explain what little he had been told of the Mystery Man’s origin before MM escaped.
In October 1889, MM would capture Mansfield, confront him with evidence of criminal activity, and force a confession out of him that would end hostilities in a stalemate.

In November 1889, MM would investigate the Seelie Court – fairies welcome in Victorian society – and disappearances of some of their leading members.
In December 1889, agents of the Seelie Court, from the other side of the Fairy Veil, would contact MM and ask an alliance with him.

In January 1890, MM and the Seelie Court would thwart an Unseelie plot to replace Parliament with doppelgangers.
In February 1890, MM would cross the Fairy Veil to help take the battle straight to the Unseelie Court.

In March 1890, MM would find himself in pitched battle with the Dark King of the Fairies, and win.
In April 1890, Robar the Conqueror would bomb London from his super-plane, The Albatross.  MM would give chase. 

In June 1890, MM would finally catch up with Robar, the self-styled Master of the World, and defeat him.
In July 1890, MM would be captured by a now-dying Invisible Man, along with government men responsible for both MM’s origin and behind-the-scenes in the Invisible Man’s.  MM would free them all, but only after extracting a promise that the government would not try to have anything else to do with him from that moment on.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Original D&D Campaign Worlds

My discussion of this topic was hijacked by Mishler on the OD&D Discussion boards, so I thought I'd just save my results over here.  With the help of others, I've been compiling a "master list"* of known, invented campaign settings that existed before 1980 that gamers in the 1970s either did or could have** played in and that, in some way, became significant*** later on.  I've even numbered the list so it could be used as a random campaign setting generator!

1. Aquaria (Mentzer)
2. Arduin (Hargraves)
3. Baldemar (alternate Middle Earth used in the GenCon IX Dungeons)
4. Barsoom (as part of the Greyhawk campaign; not for Warriors of Mars, which was not a RPG)
5. Blackmoor (Arneson)(Temple of the Frog and the First Fantasy Campaign)
6. Edwyr - (Blacow) (co editor of TWH, author of the fourfold way classification of gamers)
7. Forgotten Realms (Greenwood)
8. Fred's World (Funk)
9. Glorantha (Stafford)(initially more D&D-like?)
10. Gorree - Mark Swanson (co editor of TWH)
11.Greenlands - Don Turnbull (frequent White Dwarf and Dragon contributor)
12. Greyhawk (Gygax)(quasi-published as part of C&C's Great Kingdom uber-setting, as well as referred to and partially described in modules, magazines, and the core D&D rules themselves)
13. Holmes Original Campaign (World of Caladan?) (Holmes)
14. Kalibruhn (Kuntz)
15. Known World (Mentzer & Shick)
16. Lendore Isles (Lakofka)
17. Middle Earth (often imitated, obliquely referenced in the original core rulebooks, and originally used by Bledsaw before Wilderlands)
18. Midkemia (Feist)
19. Minaria (a board game, but with its own campaign setting easily used in D&D)
20. "mythic Earth" (the real world with magic added to it, which many people essentially did and Chivalry & Sorcery officially did)
21. Perilous Lands (Snider)
22. Rythlondar (VanDeGraaf and Scensny)
23. Tekumel (Barker)(not D&D, but its rules are heavily influenced by D&D)
24. Toricandra (Jeff Grubb)
25. Trollworld (St. Andre)(not D&D, but its rules are heavily influenced by D&D)
26. Verbosh (Nevin and Faust)(separate setting published by JG)
27. Warden (Ward)(not D&D, but it had cross-overs with D&D characters)
28. Wilderlands (Bledsaw)(all Judges Guild products)
*Inclusion required some work to have gone into actually creating a world.  Just saying your dungeon was in its own world doesn't count and generic names like "Fred's World" or "Allen's World" doesn't count.

**Given the geographic limitations of most campaign settings.

***With significance admittedly highly subjective.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Flying Greek Project

#1 – May 1939 -- (“The Adventures of Phoozy” feature in Movie Comics #2) – Photios is a 20-year old poor Greek immigrant determined to get to Hollywood – by rail until his money runs out, then by hitchhiking, then by riding the rails with the hoboes (10 xp in Fighter).
#2 – June 1939 -- (“Dan Dunn” text feature in Crackajack Funnies #12) – Photios Floros reaches California and boards with an old man named Watson, the night before the man’s son, a thug called “Sweetface” comes home to strangle his old man for inheritance money. Photios avenges the old man and captures his son (60 xp in Fighter).
#3 – July 1939 -- (“Annibelle” feature in Crackajack Funnies #13) – Photios attends Old Man Watson’s funeral and meets his niece, Annibelle, a pretty young woman, an insomniac, and stamp collector. Photios is taken with her and tries to woo her (70 xp in Fighter).
#4 – August 1939 – (“Bunky” feature in Magic Comics #1) – Annibelle Watson inherits her uncle’s house and invites Photios to stay there after hearing what sounds like her uncle haunting the place. It turns out to be a hoodlum friend of Sweetface’s, hiding out in the house. Photios discovers him and turns him in (190 xp in Fighter).
#5 – September 1939 – (“Sweeney & Son” feature in Super Comics #16) – Annibelle’s neighbor, Mr. Sweeney, becomes a rival for her affection. Photios strikes back by showing Annibelle how much better he is with Sweeney’s son, who needs someone to play baseball with (400 xp in Fighter).
#6 – October 1939 – (“Spark O’Leary, Radio Newshawk” feature in Keen Detective Funnies v. 2 #10) – Because of his minor, local celebrity status as a crimefighter, Photios is hired to serve as a radio journalist, reporting on crime (460 xp in Fighter).
#7 – November 1939 – (“Flash Fulton” feature in Smash Comics #4) –“Photos”volunteers to be a war correspondent and goes to Poland, messes with some Nazis (540 xp in Fighter).
#8 –December 1939 – (“Adventures of Patsy” feature in Famous Funnies #65) – “Photos”,still in Poland, learns of a Count Blood, who is putting Polish officials’children into unbreakable hypnotic trances to force their surrender. “Photos” manages to trap and capture the Count (660 xp in Fighter).
#9 – January 1940 – (“Mickey Finn” feature in Feature Comics #27) – “Photos” goes to Greece to check on his Uncle Petros after received a letter saying Petros was in trouble. The problem was that Petros had lost everything to a conman named Michalis.  “Photos” gets some evidence against Michalis and blackmails him into giving Uncle Petros everything back (820 xp in Fighter).
#10 – February 1940 – (“Nickie Norton” feature in Thrilling Comics #1) – While looking for a ride back to the U.S., “Photos” meets and befriends Jim Fulton, inventor of a new submarine.  “Photos” is invited onto the submarine crew and helps defend it from Cortez, a spy on board (960 xp in Fighter).
#11 – March 1940 – (“Speed Centaur” feature in Amazing Mystery Funnies #18) – Upon reaching the U.S., “Photos” meets Nickie Norton, Secret Service agent, through Jim Fulton.  Nickie recruits “Photos” to help him investigate a magic portal, for some reason standing alone and abandoned on the Oklahoma plains, that leads to 13th century Greece (1,160 xp in Fighter).
#12 – April 1940 – (“Don Winslow” feature in Crackajack Funnies #22) – Nickie uncovers evidence that a spy ring is already aware of the magic portal and sends Photios back to California to work with Don Winslow of the U.S. Navy to find the spy ring (1,400 xp in Fighter). 
#13 – May 1940 – (“Bulletman” feature in Nickel Comics #1) – Photios finds the prize the spies took from 13th century Greece – the magic Flying Helm of Bellerophon.  Donning it, Photios managed to defeat the spies and their leader, Black Mask (2,000 xp in Fighter – 2nd level!  And
-380 xp in Superhero).
#14 – June 1940 – (“The Voice” feature in Feature Comics #33) – As The Flying Greek, Photios breaks up a counterfeiting ring (-220 xp in Superhero).  Los Angeles is now his home, having an apartment he rented with money taken from Black Mask.  After eight months away, Annibelle is no longer interested in Photios.
#15 – July 1940 – (“Cliff Cornwall” feature in Flash Comics #7) – The Flying Greek matches wits with the Clue Criminal (-100 xp in Superhero).  Though Photios still does some freelance photography for the Los Angeles newspapers, his life is more about being The Flying Greek now.
#16 – August 1940 – (“ZX-5 Spies in Action” feature in Jumbo Comics #18) – Running low on money, The Flying Greek is eager to take a mission from the Secret Service to root out spy-saboteurs in Ohio (20 xp in Superhero).  During this mission, he learns to draw on the magic of the helmet for remarkable strength.
#17 – September 1940 – (“Doctor Fate” feature in More Fun Comics #59) – The Flying Greek learns the saboteurs were not working for a foreign country, but aliens from outer space.  He meets a landing party of the aliens, learns of their intent to conquer, and is taken prisoner.  But in escaping their ship, damages it and causes it to blow up, taking out the aliens too (480 xp in Superhero).
#18 – October 1940 – (“Patty O’Day” feature in Wonderworld Comics #18) – The Flying Greek hunts down Professor Grant, the Bridge Destroyer (560 xp in Superhero).
#19 – November 1940 – (“Zoro” feature in Master Comics #8) – The Flying Greek pursues the Pearl of Porra from a crime syndicate (1,560 xp in Superhero).
#20 – December 1940 – (“Yank Wilson” feature in Fantastic Comics #13) – The Flying Greek is challenged by Nazi Count von Heindorff to a series of challenges designed to distract FG from the sabotage work of his spy ring (1,800 xp in Superhero – 2nd level Fighter/2nd level Superhero!).
#21 – January 1941 – (“Lena Pry” feature in Crack Comics #9) – Lena Pry, a gossip columnist, ferrets out FG’s true identity and starts following him around for scoops (1,900 xp in Superhero).
#22 – February 1941 – (“Hop Harrigan’s History of American Aviation” feature in All-American Comics #23) – Hanging out an airfield between adventures, sharing stories with aviators and with a growing appreciation for aviation, Photios decides to pursue a pilot’s license in addition to being able to magically fly (2,000 xp in Superhero).
#23 – March 1941 – (“Lynx” feature in Mystery Men Comics #20) – FG takes on the Lynx’s foe, the Rook (2,120 xp in Superhero).
#24 – April 1941 – (“Bringing Up Father” feature in King Comics #60) – Photios’ father moves here from Greece and, needing a place to stay, crashes with Photios (2,220 xp in Superhero).
#25 – May 1941 – (text piece in Wonderworld Comics #25) – when a plane piloted by a new buddy of his crashes, FG flies off in search of the wreckage to search for survivors (2,320 xp in Superhero).
#26 – June 1941 – (“Green Mask” feature from Green Mask #5) – FG has to deal with yet another spy ring, but this time complicated by both Lena Pry and his father getting involved (2,760 xp in Superhero).
#27 – July 1941 – (“Lightning” feature from Jumbo Comics #29) – FG receives a call from a Major Larkin, representing the U.S. Armed Forces.  The Air Corps in particular wants to know if FG’s ability to fly can be duplicated (mistakenly assuming it is hi-tech) and ask to examine his helmet.  FG goes to Washington to show off the helmet in person and promises to help when the time comes (2,860 xp in Superhero).

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Top 10 New Comic Books

I recently got some comic books cheap through the mail from a collector getting rid of his collection, plus some cheap at the Gail Borden Library comic book convention.  In fact, I acquired enough to do another top 10 new comic books list!  Of course the “new” part is only relative to my owning them…

1. The Power of Shazam! #10 (12/95) – Oh yeah!  I was only four issues away from having a complete collection of this title for the past 14 years – and now I’ve got them all!  This gem was hard to wait for, the missing chapter in the big first year story arc, with the never-before-or-after told origin story of the wizard Shazam in it!  Woo!

2. Kirby Genesis #2 (2011) – This title was on my radar two years ago, but two things stopped me from getting it then: a) I’d already mostly retired from buying new comic books and b) Alex Ross projects disappoint me more often than not because of their dark pessimism.  None of which is on display here because Kurt Busiek wrote it.  Kurt understands more than most comic book authors how to be reverential to Kirby’s properties and he makes me care about every one of them…even if the plot is an awful slow build…

3. Doctor Who #10 (10/2011) – Other than the Star Trek/Doctor Who crossover, I didn’t know IDW even had an ongoing Doctor Who comic book until I saw this, again, two years too late.  It’s great because I can now see “new” adventures with Amy and Rory long after they left the show.  I’ve never heard of Tony Lee, but he writes well.

4. Kirby Genesis #4 (2011) – I already raved about Kurt, and it’s nice that this issue seems to have more panels of Alex Ross art, but even the main artist, Jack Herbert, is really good. 

5. Doctor Who #11 (11/2011) – Can’t say the same about the art here, though.  Matthew Smith tries really hard to be Mike Mignola and largely fails.  His Matt Smith looks right because Matt Smith himself has exaggerated features, but he makes Amy Pond look ugly and that should be against the law.

6. Kirby Genesis #3 (2011) – Kind of a slow issue compared to 2 and 4…did I mention the plot builds really slow?  But I’m still excited!

7. Archie & Friends #140 (4/2010) – You know, every Free Comic Book Day, I’m pleasantly surprised by the Archie entry, but I can never bring myself to start collecting them.  And it’s not like they save their best stuff for the free book because this was a regular issue (pretty reasonably priced at $2.50 too). It’s a fairly complex 23-page story about Jughead and the girlfriend he almost had once.  It’s nice that Jughead’s parents are real characters and not just around to be the butt of jokes, like I remember Archie comics being like when I was growing up.  And it’s inked by Marvel veteran Al Milgrom!

8. Danger Girl #1 (1/2012) – Yeah, it’s cheesy, but this sexier send-up of James Bond is a lot of fun and I’m glad to see IDW revived it.  I own six of these Danger Girl comics now.  Chris Madden is no J. Scott Campbell, but it still looks good and maybe Chris was able to make deadlines. 

9. The Power of Shazam! #42 (9/98) – The story, as I understand it, is that Mike Carlin was ready to pull the plug on this great comic book with issue #41, but he made writer Jerry Ordway a Faustian offer.  Mike would kick loyal, long-term Shazam artist Peter Krause off the book and let Jerry have six more issues if Jerry took over the art chores.  Jerry must have wrestled with his conscience and lost on this one and it shows in the darker feel of the book for the last six issues.  BUT, this issue still has lots of nice touches, like the deft characterization of Bill Clinton, as well as lots of stuff about Billy, Mary, and Freddy just being really likable young people, growing up and doing stuff.

10. The Power of Shazam! #45 (1/99) – In addition to getting dark, things were also getting really rushed in these last few issues.  A big Black Adam storyline was being told in about half the space it would have had at the old pacing, and is hurt by it.  What could have been an epic Black Adam vs. Orion of the New Gods battle lasts just a page.  Such a waste, Mike Carlin…

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Sam O'Shea Project

Like the Clyde Beatty Project, this post will supplement an article in the next issue of The Trophy Case zine, vol. 2 no. 5.
#1 -- December 1938 – (“Phantom” in Feature Book #20) – Sam O’Shea is vacationing from college in Qatar when he spies pearl pirates and jumps right in to thwart them. While fighting the pirates in their lair, Sam finds a magic crystal that transports him back in time (710 xp in Fighter).
#2 -- January 1939 – (“Magic Crystal of History” feature in More Fun Comics #39) – Sam finds himself in Qatar in 1588, then under the control of the Ottoman Empire. After one month of adjusting to his new life, the magic expires and Sam is returned to the present (730 xp in
Fighter) .
#3 -- February 1939 – (“Salesman Sam” feature in The Funnies #29) – Sam tries to readjust to life in the present, getting a door-to-door salesman job to help make ends meet, but still craves adventure (740 xp in Fighter).
#4 -- March 1939 – (“Slim and Tubby” feature in Feature Funnies #18) – With graduation approaching, Sam helps a guy nicknamed “Tubby” on his research paper and Tubby becomes his sidekick (860 xp in Fighter)
#5 -- April 1939 – (“Apple Mary and Dennie” feature in Crackajack Funnies #10) – Emboldened by his lack of chances after they graduate, Sam asks out Mary Dennie, who says yes and becomes his girlfriend (1,000 xp in Fighter)
#6 -- May 1939 – (“Abbie and Slats” feature in Comics on Parade #14) – Tubby makes a joke about too-serious cop O’Kelly and winds up with a huge fine. Sam and Mary manage to smooth things over with O’Kelly and convince him to drop the charge (1,250 xp in Fighter).
#7 -- June 1939 – (“Pete the Tramp” feature in Ace Comics #27) – Sam, Mary, and Tubby try to protect Pete the Tramp from O’Kelly, even if it means being late for their graduation ceremony (1,560 xp in Fighter).
#8 -- July 1939 – (“Archie O’ Toole” feature in Feature Comics #22) – Mary gets a job at the local orphanage, where Archie O’Toole, a boy convinced he’s really a king, leads a protest. Sam comes in to help Mary diplomatically restore peace (1,680 xp in Fighter).
#9 -- August 1939 – (“Chuck Dawson” feature in Action Comics #15) – Sam has to use fighting skills he hasn’t needed for a long time when “Killer” Keefe develops an interest in Mary (1,840 xp in Fighter).
#10 -- September 1939 – (“Sandman” feature in Adventure Comics #42) – When the Sandman goes looking to protect old service buddies from a murderer, he encounters Sam because Sam’s father “Happy” recently died (from natural causes, it turns out, unrelated to the murders). Sam
aides the Sandman in catching the killer, “Teeter” Sneed, and becomes interested in becoming a vigilante. (2,000 xp in Fighter – 2nd level!)
#11 -- October 1939 – (“Mortimer Mum” feature in Feature Comics #24) – Tubby, whose real name is Mortimer, decides to play detective and find out who in his community helped the Sandman last month and stumbles onto Sam’s secret, which Tubby agrees to keep silent about (2.110 xp in Fighter).
#12 -- November 1939 – (“Ray Powers, Eagle Scout” feature in Famous Funnies #64) – Sam, a longtime Eagle Scout himself, becomes a den leader for cub scouts while trying to decide how best to go about becoming a hero (2,150 xp in Fighter).
#13 -- December 1939 – (“Charlie Chan” feature in Feature Comics #26) – Sam tries to apprentice himself to Charlie Chan when the famous detective comes to town and does succeed in helping the detective (2,210 xp in Fighter).
#14 -- January 1940 – (“Tarzan” feature in Crackajack Funnies #19) – Sam and Tubby are asked to accompany a group of Eagle Scouts on safari to Africa. A gorilla attack separates Sam and Tubby from the scouts, but Sam and Tubby eventually find the scouts, being protected by a
group of lost Boer warriors (2,380 xp in Fighter).
#15 -- February 1940 – (“The Gay Thirties” feature in Famous Funnies #67) – Sam is still on safari in the Congo. He has the magic crystal with him, that he’s always carried, and is staring into it while daydreaming about the past when it activates again. This time, Sam is transported to 1931 to observe the Pende Revolt against the French Colonialists, but doesn’t get to stay long enough to make a difference (2,400 xp in Fighter).
#16 -- March 1940 – (“Camilla” feature in Jungle Comics #30) – Sam returned to the present only to find Tubby and the Eagle Scouts captured again.  He tracks them to a hidden empire ruled by the She-like Camilla.  Her fancy for Sam allows him to safely sneak out Tubby and the others to freedom (2,560 xp in Fighter).
#17 – April 1940 – (“Masked Pilot” feature in Popular Comics #50) –Sam, et al. are on their way back to the States by plane, but the plane is actually being piloted by foreign spies taking them to
Mexico.  Sam leads an uprising onboard and takes over the plane, then is forced to land it (2,740 xp in Fighter).
#18 – May 1940 – (“Danny Dash, Globe Trotter” feature in War Comics #2) – The plane landed in Mexico, where Sam, et al. are stranded on the night that the “gray hordes from the center of the Earth” rise up to raid (orcs?) (2,900 xp in Fighter).
#19 – June 1940 – (“Planet Patrol” feature in Silver Streak Comics #5) – Sam has become a local leader in the defense of Mexico against the gray hordes.  From captured hordelings, Sam learns that they have come to the surface expecting to meet allies there.  The allies show up from space – The Toad Men of Titan (lizard men?) (3,060 xp in Fighter).
#20 – July 1940 – (“Flying Trio” feature in Crash Comics Adventures #3) – Sam decides it’s time to get Tubby and the boys out of Mexico, so he commandeers a 1912 Bristol Coanda monoplane and flies them all back home (and keeps the plane) (4,010 xp – 3rd level Fighter!).
#21 – August 1940 – (“Dr. Dekkar” feature in Prize Comics #6) – After being a terrible boyfriend for 11 months, Sam goes looking for Mary and finds Dr. Dekkar has turned her into a tiger-woman in his first step in creating a race of animal-men.  Sam saves Mary (4,160 xp in
#22 – September 1940 – (“Babe Bunting” feature in Famous Funnies #73) – While Mary is slowly losing her tiger-like abilities, she takes an interest in playing baseball and disguises herself as a man to play.  Sam realizes he had lost interest in pursuing Mary during his
adventures, but is impressed enough to fall for her all over again (4,180 xp in Fighter).
#23 – October 1940 – (“Blast Bennett” feature in Weird Comics #7) – Sam and Mary start dating again as soon as Mary’s facial hair goes away (though she still has a 9” tail!).  The fakir Karnak comes to town on Halloween, falls for Mary, and tries to claim her as his bride.  Sam intervenes (4,360 xp in Fighter).
#24 – November 1940 – (“Lone Eagle” feature in Thrilling Comics #10) – Sam and Mary go flying around the country in his Bristol Coanda.  In Virginia, a robber named Rossi tries to steal the plane from them.  Sam intervenes (4,440 xp in Fighter).
#25 – December 1940 – (“Wizard” feature in Shield-Wizard Comics #2) – After a long dormancy, the magic crystal reactivates, transporting Sam to 1812 Colonial America.  This time, he is able to hold Mary’s hand and bring her along.  They both intervene, on the side of the Colonialists (4,660 xp in Fighter).