Wednesday, April 3, 2019

From the mists of time; the Dwarf Thing revisted

Long ago, in the mists of 2014, I started a project that I found myself unable to finish; except I did finish it- but I suck at figuring that out- as I’ve recently been informed. The good news is I am going to put it together and re draw all the art and maps- and you’ll get some of my fancy new shit  with all the arrows and text clutter we’ve all grown to love.

Here is a link to everything I remembed to tag. There is more I’m sure. There is a
mega dungeon map at the very least.

The bad news is I’ll need to do like 100 illustrations. Because.
2014 was an exceeding bad art year. Brace yourself, youngling:

Monday, April 1, 2019

BX mars, final update

Mars went to the copy editor a few days ago layout is 8/10ths done and the cover art is below. The next time we’ll see anything about it here will be when we look at the proof in a month or so.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Star Wars AP 1

Star Wars AP
Session 1
Escape from Hoth:

Start: The Battle of Hoth
Taken from the front during the heat of battle, Lay-Sinn, the soldier and Gauge, the failed Jedi, were suddenly tasked with escorting Commander Danu, a pilot,  to his ship: The Distant Hope, an ancient Old Republic fast attack boat.

The officer who assigned this mission died in an ice fall seconds later. Danu took a fatal wound on the way to the ship, and barely remained alive long enough to make  the jump to light speed. 
Before he died the pilot imparted his mission onto Lay-Sinn and Gauge.
They were to find a world suitable for the new rebel base. The next step in their mission was to visit the planet Trinn, a water world and meet with an agent residing on the planet’s only island, in the planet’s only city: Port One.
The DH came out of light speed near Trinn; endured an inattentive imperial boarding party’s half assed search, and made landfall at Port One.
After leaving the ship the pair went to meet their contact at a fast food restaurant; a note passed to them told them to seek out Krusk in Pipe-town, deep beneath the surface, on the city’s lowest level. 
A few inquiries led them to Krusk, who gave the pair a computer storage crystal with the additional details of their mission and the course to a planet in a distant and little known sector at the galaxy’s rim. 
 As they left Krusks, a short distance down the pipe way, a gravity lift opened, discharging a squad of storm troopers led by Lorquin Qu’all, minor lord of the Sith. 

To be continued...

EDIT: Ref notes: the game was easily played although slowed by a little by page flipping; which is not to be unexpected in a first session. The second sessions way cooler. 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Fractal Setting Three: Pyramid of Empire (Star Wars Part 1)

Fractal setting Creation three: 
A familiar example: Star Wars Part 1
The Empire

The Empire’s Pyramid: 
2.Vader/Moff Tarkin/ Aristocracy*
3 Organized crime; (formerly)the senate.
4. Top brass military officers- the guys Vader likes to choke
5. Military Personnel: Officers and administrative staff.
6. Enforcers: Stormtroopers; cops.
7. Citizens

Excepting the emperor, each category has a pyramid of it’s own- and in many cases, pyramids at the same level or even adjacent levels may battle over resources or power- or just as mutual expression of anger and hatred- even the Emperor is not immune. 

*the place of the aristocracy in the empire is ambiguous at best. Assuming it’s old money and and old boy network controlled, a place near the top seems fitting. 

It may or may not be useful to design a similar pyramid for your current setting. 

Of course we can argue about the exact placing below, if you like

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Review WEG Star Wars 30th Anniversy Set.

Review: WEG Star Wars 30th Anniversary Edition

My first campaign ever was with FGU’s Space Opera RpG, set in the Star wars universe. However, by the time the actual Star Wars RPG was released, I’d moved on to dating. Before last night, I’d never run or played this system at all. Before last week, I’d never even looked inside one of the books. 

Watching the the Clone Wars show with my son and reading Archie Goodwin and Carmine Infantino’s run on Marvel’s original Star Wars comic rekindled my  interest in in the franchise. I really enjoyed the Force Awakens and (especially) Solo, too. And just out of curiosity, mostly, 
I’ve been looking at this set since before it was actually available. 
Anyway, I scored a big art commission, got paid, split the money with my wife and bought myself a whole bunch of comics- and this game. 

The set includes reprints of Star Wars the RPG and The Star Wars source book.

First physically- it’s fantastic. The slip case is sturdy; the books are hardcover and pleasing to hold. The interior photos and the graphics have charm and communicate an awesome space opera aesthetic. 
The only drawback to the presentation of the game is a separation of some combat stuff between the mechanics chapter and the combat chapter- and a few missing things, or things that should have a heading, but do not; however, this is mitigated to a high degree by thurough cross referencing. All in all it’s a wash. Organization is adequate. 

The system is amongst the best I have ever seen. I’m absolutely taken by it’s simple elegance. 
Another thing about the system and the rules, that frankly blows my mind, is if it happens in the movies and its cool or sounds cool- there’s likely a cool system for it in the game. Can you: Angle the deflector shields; use parsec as a logical sensible measure of travel time; plot a course though Hyperspace in an cool and exiting way; engage in an exciting chase; get snagged by a tractor beam- fuck yeas you can. 

I can’t say enough good things about the system, and there is only one thing I dislike about it and it was easily remedied. 

The PCs are in no way even half as competent as Luke on his first day off planet.  The version of Luke presented in the Sourcebook is an OP demigod, but that’s not even what I’m talking about. You cannot with the system as written create a character that has the skills Luke has when the movie starts- much less Han or Ben. 
This is a weird design choice, and I’ve seen it before- Hollow Earth Expedition PCs are crazy anemic, for instance. This is some kind of “earn your fun” shit that is endemic in RPGs and, frankly has no place in Star Wars.  
Other points of interest. The game has a mechanic to turn you character into an NPC if you do too much terrible shit. 
The environment is friendly to players. Things go their way when it’s possible and sometimes when it’s not.
Referees are strongly cautioned against killing characters 
Finally the book is 141 pages long; with 94 pages of rules and related; a character sheet; 3 pages of charts at the end; 17 pages of character templates; 5 pages on designing adventures and a 15 page adventure. I probably dropped a one in there somewhere. We’re all gonna make it. 

The sourcebook is a collection of descriptions and diagrams of common technology; starships; droids; creatures and aliens. The Wampa failed to make the creature section, but the Taun Taun is in there. Weird. The movie characters are all stated up and are incredibly OP. You’d be all like Mon Mothma, baby, why the fuck they stat you? And then she would hand your entire party and a platoon of storm troopers their collective ass.  
“Don’t call me Baby”

Other than that the source book is really cool. 

Our game was rocking. After months of play testing my own thing, followed by several weeks of trying to sort Icons die mechanic and poorly organized text, it was a relief to play something so well designed and easy to run. Improvisation- something I’m normally not on board for as it limits player agency, if I’m pulling consequences of their choices out of my ass, is very easy in this game, and it’s Star Wars, consequences are pretty easy to work out ahead of time. Further if you hit a rough patch, just toss in something from the movies. I did it like three time last night. We stated during the battle of hoth.  My (home made) encounter tables were mostly stuff that happens in the movies. 1. Pitched battle 2. Ice Fall 3. Wampa; 4 storm troopers; 5 something explodes; 6. Lorquan Qu’all, minor lord of the Sith. 
The characters are now tasked with finding a new planet for the Rebel base. 
Which brings us to my final point and another aspect of the game that has only emerged over time- and that is the crazy amount of additional material- and I’m not tlaking about EU stuff or RPG supplements. I’m talking about awesome DK picture/ map books; encyclopedias and art books and all that stuff. It is so easy to stat up creatures, NPCs and ships you don’t really need game books at all. 

Sadly, there are no complex rules on financing a 30 year mortgage for your starship. Otherwise if you’re running a game with a space empire- even some of the most esoteric aspects of the setting, Star Wars are common knowledge. This one campaign (of two that I can think of) where you don’t have to worry about the players not reading the setting material. 

Our cannon (So Far)

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Planet Zal (Map, handout)

I was rusty as fuck with supers so the entire first session of our ICONS game was a bust. I retconned the entire thing out of existence.
Anyway,  I made this map that got no real use.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Save Vs Conan: The Monster of the Monoliths

Save Vs Conan: The Monster of the Monoliths
Conan the Barbarian #21, December, 1972
Roy Thomas/ Barry Windsor Smith

The Makkalet Epic chronicles the siege of the titular city. It runs through issues 19-26 of Conan the Barbarian. It’s a flurry of battles; captures and escapes. Conan switches sides a couple of times, and leaves the entire area only to return more than once, too. These are the last of BWS issues,and the first of John Buscema’s. Red Sonja makes her first appearance in issue 24 (BWS’ last).  

In issue 21, after getting the sexy-eye and a fancy armlet from the queen Conan leaves Makkalet with a band of soldiers, bound for  an ally of the city to request aide. The soldiers stop along the way. They kidnap some hapless girl and tie both her and Conan to slabs of stone set between two large stone blocks. A giant frog thing is summoned and it kills a bunch of guys- but seems really focused on Conan. The armlet given to him by the queen has the exact same runic markings as the monolith. Both sets of script are glowing. Conan realizes the armlet attracts the monster. He tosses it to one of the soldiers. The frog monster eats the dude and vanishes in a puff of smoke. 

This one seems to be useable in a variety of settings and genres.
Here, however, are the key components:
A traitorous power with lackeys
A poisoned gift(s) (i.e., something that attracts the monster- like the armlet).
A journey with a seeming purpose
A battleground (e.g., temple; center of ring of standing stones; arena; rouge asteroid; highway- really, wherever). 
A monster (e.g., frog demon; warbot; dragon; Hulk, whatever). The entity vanishes, destructs or just leaves after the destruction of the poisoned gift. 

I suggest, that rather than taking all the PC’s stuff and leaving them tied to a slab naked, that the referee use a little more finesse.  Have the lackeys lead  the PCs to the battleground, and leave them there, trapped, somehow; but with gear and weapons intact. The monster should be formidable enough that it wont matter. 
There should be some dark hints and foreboding leading up to all this - and at least one opportunity for the PC’s to suss out the trap. I find that whether the PCs get fooled or not, the results to such a scam are very satisfying on both side of the screen, but only if there was a viable way out at some point. 
Otherwise, it’s cheating. 
Either way- the players are going to want revenge upon the giver of the poisoned gift(s), which will lead to its own set of adventures. 

Google +pk

So it’s just about over on G+. Yesterday notifications stopped working and I gave up.
You can contact me here- just make a commetn in any old post and I get an email even if it’s from 2009.
Or you can just email me- the address is the same “themetalearth at gmail dot com” don’t forget the “the” or it goes to someone else on another continet.
My instagram (where  post finished art only) is linked on the right side as is my discord tag. i have server too, you can join. i don’t expect mush will happen there, though.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Save VS Conan PSA

PSA: Save vs Thomas/BWS Conan

Normally, this feature will deal with specific stories from specific comics- but due to circumstances beyond my control I’m going to make a PSA.
This book, containing BWS entire run and a ton of cool extras, came out earlier this week. It is as cheap as it’s ever going to be right now. Roy Thomas is THE comic book conan writer- no one comes close. BWS is THE Conan artis (right behind John Buscema, I mean). 
I am not affiliated with IST- but I love comics and I want YOU to have comics. It’s what Crom wants too. Sadly, by Crom only the ugly cover remains. That’s how civilized folk are. In Cimmera everyone would have gotten the same cover or none at all!

I’ve also heard that a lack of regular Conan comics is associated with ED. 

Rpg uses- there’s a useable adventure seed in pretty much every issue. We’ll get to a few inthe near future. 
 Edit: This is not a recolor- but it is on white glossy paper- and is a new printing so it will look different than your originals. Pictured below on the left is the DH recolor; to the right is the current omnibus. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Cutting Online Screen Time

Reducing My online screen time
Lately, I’ve been making a solid attempt to reduce my screen time in general and my active online time especially. I am also interested in restoring my attention span. I’m not really talking about research or destination reading. 

I could just avoid going online altogether, but that hasn’t worked so well for me in the past. 

With that out of that out of the way:

What I don’t like about the internet:
It’s a distraction, an emotional and intellectual drain and a barrier to getting work done- in short, when used without moderation, the internet is not so much a waste of time as it is an active pollutant of time. If you think it’s harmless, cool. Get lost, as implied above, I have no time for you. 

How do we reduce online screen time? The answers are simple, but require effort to put into practice: also all of these come with an unwritten “when/where it’s possible” clause

  1. Commit to the physical world to whatever degree you can manage. If you want to do this you must want to do it.
  2. This is the key- fight fire with fire. If the internet is a barrier and a distraction- it is in part due to its infinite nature. These days, whenever I feel the urge to get online- I find something else to do until the urge passes. I read a comic book; or a chapter from a novel; or walk the dog; or do some pull ups; I can even write a blog post. If I am working- I work. There are probably a dozen or more better ways to spend your time within arms reach of you right now. I think it’s best to keep the distractions shortish in the beginning- unless you can be consumed by work or reading or a movie marathon or what have you, in which case this is a very good option.
  3. It’s probably best to work at reducing your screen time ingeneral. Turn your devices off if you can. This creates a moment to resist the impulse to go on line, “just for a minute.” 
  4. Go back to or engage with physical media whenever it is feasible. Collecting physical media is another good distraction. 
  5. If possible keep your new activities close at hand ready to go instantly.
  6. Infinite choices are your true enemy: when you do go online, plan your consumption; go with a destination and purpose. This includes stuff like streaming movies- it’s best if you know what you want ahead of time. An hour browsing Netflix is no better than an hour arguing about class and level limits for the 70th time. I get my movies from the bargain bin; the choices are generally way better than what you can stream; but I’d rather pay full price than spend half the night looking for something that doesn’t suck- finite choices are your best friend. 
  7. Online shopping isn’t so bad if you have at least an idea of what you want. Sometimes it’s the only way. But if you want to browse without the internet, go to a used bookstore or even a B&N; they all sell movies and vinyls now. Buy camping gear; go camping. Find something amongst the finite choices that interests you- and then go buy it online for less money- unless it’s cheaper in meatspace, in which case buy it there.  
  8. Keep in touch with text, calls or email, not social media. This is pretty key.
  9. Get an NES classic.
  10. That’s all I got; any suggestions

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Fractal Setting 2

Pic unrelated?

Heroes: Individuals who sacrifice their own interest in service to those who are unable to help themselves. Heroes often, but not always, have special resources, skills and/or powers. 
Heroes can work alone or in groups. Both egalitarian and hierarchical groups  exist.  Heroes generally arrange hierarchies  based upon experience and intelligence.  Hero motivations vary, but the greater good is nearly always the foundational philosophy of the hero. 

Villains: Individuals driven by selfishness and greed, often remorseless; power hungry; murderous and cruel.  Villains always have a hierarchy based on power and fear. Fear is power. Most villains, regardless of their place in the hierarchy,  have similar goals: To gain, expand and exploit turf. Villain hierarchies are generally arranged in a pyramid style. The desires of the chief villain have more impact on the arrangement of the pyramid than the power of fear. Villains often feel they have a monopoly on the use of violence. 
Governments operate in exactly the same manner as villains. 

Citizens: The vast and overwhelming majority of beings who live and die in the turf the villains exploit and the heroes protect. All citizens are in danger all the time, but citizens attached to a hero in even the most ephemeral way are in constant danger from every imaginable sort of hazard, ranging from abduction to cancer to meteor strike- anything can (and will) happen to these people. 

Forces: Inscrutable beings of immense personal power. Forces act according to their own mysterious and motivations, often with catastrophic consequences. Forces manifest  in countless ways; some examples: a living planet; a giant life hating robot; planet eating space monsters; a vast, sentient space storm bent on the eradication of everything; and a swarm of hive minded space bugs

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Save Vs. Comics # 1


Thimble Theatre Presents: “Witch Whistle” 
22 pages
Bud Sagendorf
Popeye # 12 
Currently available in Popeye classics V3 Ed. Christopher Yo. 

Elements of note: 
Recurring Villain; powerful magic item (the titular whistle); unbalanced adventure party; nautical and airborne action; mystery; escape. 

Synopsis: The farmers of Spinichovia are disappearing. Ignorant of the crisis, Popeye, Olive and Wimpy arrive on the coast. Giant vultures abduct Olive and Wimpy, fly the pair to a hidden castle and lock them up with about a hundred farmers all of whom are nearly identical (clones?).

Soon after their incarceration, Olive and Wimpy discover that the Sea Hag is in charge of the castle; furthermore, she controls millions of giant vultures with her magic whistle. She used the giant birds to kidnap the farmers. The Sea Hag never really explains her plan in regards to the farmers. 

Discovering that Popeye is nearby, the Hag sends 500 vultures to slay him. Popeye defeats the vultures, but falls from the sky, smashes through the roof of the castle and into he dungeon, where he meets Olive and Wimpy. 

In the course of their subsequent escape attempt, the trio encounters the Sea Hag, who proposes matrimony to Popeye. Eschewing the customary can of spinach, Olive opts to open a family size can of whupass instead. Beaten within an inch of her life, the Sea Hag survives, but in a subdued state. Popeye and company take her whistle and, using the vultures, return all the farmers to their homes. 
The end.

This story, like many Popeye stories, invokes a mood that lies at a right angle to both high and low fantasy and emanates a  sort of whimsical, fairytale vibe instead. The art style mirrors this perfectly, giving equal weight to swashbuckling adventure; character warmth; slapstick, tall tale physics and fantasy. 

5 cans of spinach out of 5


Science Fiction: Pilots and navigators have been vanishing from the local spaceport. Star-Kahn a notorious space pirate possess advanced mind control technology. Using an army of rogue robots moving through a secret tunnel complex beneath the space port, Star-Kahn kidnapped the spacers. He intends to brainwash them into crewing his armada. His captives are hidden in a domed city somewhere far away from the space port. Star-kahn requires a special cybernetic implant to control the robots. 

The adventure begins upon the discovery of the hidden tunnels. Where do they lead- to answers- or horrible death? 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Fractal Superhero Setting creation 1

(Image from Cosmic Tales #1)

Fractal Campaign Creation 

A complex and satisfying campaign requires a solid and coherent setting. Superhero settings range in scale from a single city to a multiverse and often encompass elements such as time travel and alternate reality as well. 
Despite this variation in scope, most settings and sub-settings share a similar array of traits, differing from one another in degree, but not kind. This similarity in characteristics, regardless of scale, allows one setting to be nested within another, i.e., a neighborhood within a city; a city within a country; a country within a continent; a continent on a planet; a planet in a solar system; a solar system in a galaxy; a galaxy in a cluster; a cluster in a universe;  a universe in a multiverse and so on. 

These traits are as follows:

Four classes of sentient beings exist: Villains; citizens; superheroes and forces; each engages reality with unique motivations; behaviors and philosophies.

Environment is often, at least in part, a reflection of the villain(s) and, in game terms, should be thought of as an hostile NPC. Otherwise environment should contain several landmarks, hazards, wonders and mysteries. 

History reduces to the following: The beginning; the good old days; the disaster- which leads up to the present, AKA: This fallen world. 
Each class of sentients views the same history through a different lens. 
Origins profoundly impact the present.
Historically speaking, everyone feels put upon. 

Turf belongs to someone. Turf unprotected will fall to chaos. Villains claim their turf in an explicit and hierarchal manner; heroes, perforce operating in the same territory, assert their claim in much more passive, implicit and (often grudging) egalitarian manner. Turf wars manifest in many different ways and provide the initial impetus for numerous conflicts.