Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Fungi That Walk Like Men, A Labyrinth Lord Monster

The Fungi That Walk Like Men

No. Enc.: 2-8
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 30' (10')
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 4
Attacks: 2, special
Damage: 1d6
Save: F4
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: I
XP: 100

Spore Cloud: Once every three rounds a Fungus can fill a 10' x 10' area with its fungal spores. This takes the form of a yellowish-grey cloud that emanates from the Fungus. Everyone within range must make a Saving Throw versus Poison. If the save succeeds, characters are coughing and blinded by tears for 1-4 rounds, during which they are at -1 on all rolls. If the save fails, characters take 1d6+1 damage from breathing in the spores. When killed, a Fungus will explode into a spore cloud that is twice the size of their normal cloud.

While the origins of The Fungi That Walk Like Men are unknown, it is believed that they were the creation of a wizard looking for ways to protect himself and his tower from attacks. Fungi reproduce via spore, and each time they use their spore cloud there is a 1 in 6 chance that 1d6 of the spores grow into new Fungi within 8-10 days. Fungi exist best in dark, dank locations like deep dungeons or the depths of forests. The appearance of a Fungi is vaguely bipedal humanoid, of about 5-6 feet in height, but the shape is formed from various mushrooms, molds and fungi held together in a humanoid shape. They are not very intelligent but can recognize people and follow very simple orders. They have no method for speech, nor have the developed any method of communication. They do not use tools or weapons, mostly because they cannot hold them.

Simple Random Treasure Table

You ever have that moment when you need to figure out how much money was in a room, or on some monsters, and forgot to figure it out in advance? Use this simple d4-based table to make up some quick treasures. All this table does is figure out the money that they have on them. You can use this table in two ways, you can roll once and then just move across the line of the table, or you can make two rolls. If you make two rolls, use the first roll to determine the first two columns, and the second roll to determine the second two columns. You could roll 4 4-siders and then just use one die for each column. This would give the most random of results, and might even work best.

If you want to go faster, just ignore the last column and assume the treasure is in gold (unless you're using Lamentations of the Flame Princess, then silver is the standard).

d4 roll
die to be rolled
number of rolled

Now you have a fast way to find out what's inside their wallets, after fighting some monster in the dungeon.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Nothingface: OSR Blogosphere Monsters Project

The Nothingface is a monster for Swords & Wizardry that I did a write-up for over on Google+ a few months back. This is a slightly updated and cleaned up version of that initial posting. The monster was inspired by a song/album by Voivod that I used to listen to a lot, back in college. I decided to clean this up and post it to my blog after reading about the OSR Blogosphere Monsters Project. I figured that a creature this horrid deserved to be inflicted upon others. Converting this monster from Swords & Wizardry to another retroclone like Labyrinth Lord or Lamentations of the Flame Princess should be easy enough for referees of those games.

This particular write-up is for Swords & Wizardry Core.

The Nothingface
Hit Dice: 8
Armor Class: 7 [12]
Attacks: 2 claws (2d6)
Saving Throw: 8
Special: The unnaturalness of the Nothingface requires a saving throw when you first encounter it, failure causes a character to freeze up and be unable to do anything for 1-4 turns. Their extraplanar nature makes them immune to normal weapons.
Move: 10'
Alignment: Chaos
Challenge Level/XP: 10/1,400

The Nothingface is a vaguely humanoid creature with spindly, elongated arms and legs with swollen joints and longer than normal, thin fingers and toes. The nails on their toes make a faint scratching/scraping sound as they walk. Their body hair is sparse and pale and their flesh is, at best, pallid. The remarkable feature of a Nothingface is the void where their face should be. This void is a frightening lack of a face that the observer's mind attempts to fill in but cannot.

A Nothingface is extraplanar and summonable with the right spell. Their resilience and doggedness make them popular as guardians of a dungeon, even if they are likely to turn on their summoner. Typically only one appears when summoned.

Howard Chaykin and Shadowmania

1986 was a heady year for comics. Two stories that have since come to be regarded as modern classics were released by DC Comics: Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons Watchmen and Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. Both of these books have left their marks on comic books. Moore and Gibbons' Watchmen has become for many the highwater mark for comic book storytelling, while Miller's Dark Knight single-handedly altered the course of The Batman forever. Somewhere in the middle of all of this was released a four-issue miniseries that has every bit of the same right to be considered a masterpiece of comics as those other two series: Howard Chaykin's The Shadow.

Since Dynamite Comics is publishing a new trade edition of this mini-series, I will try to avoid spoilers in the story itself for those who have not yet experienced this masterful comic.

Howard Chaykin is a comic artist and writer, sometimes doing on or the other on a book and sometimes doing both. With The Shadow Chaykin wrote and drew the book, infusing it with his characteristic fusion of 1940s period dress with a modern sensibility. Previous to doing The Shadow, Chaykin was known most for having done some well-regarded fantasy series for DC Comics and the early run of the blockbuster Star Wars comic from Marvel Comics. Chaykin has the rare distinction of being one of the first people outside of Lucas' production company to create original material for the Star Wars Universe, helping to usher in what we now know as the Expanded Universe. Chaykin also adapted Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination and worked with British fantasist Michael Moorcock for Heavy Metal magazine. He also found the time to create one of the earliest independent comics in 1976 with Star Reach, and his seminal character Cody Starbuck.

Each of Chaykin's works informs the next, and it was with characters like Cody Starbuck, Dominic Fortune, and of course Han Solo that he became known for his roguish male lead characters. In The Shadow, this disposition towards the roguish lead was married to an old school social conservative to make his interpretation of Kent Allard/Lamont Cranston/The Shadow. Chaykin's Shadow is probably one of the more fleshed out interpretations of the character too, leagues away from the cipher of a character that plagued the radio shows and some of the more poorly-written instances of the pulp magazines.

In this mini-series Chaykin made a ballsy move that upset a lot of pulp purists...he moved The Shadow into the modern day of 1986. Before this pulp characters adapted to comics either existed still in their original eras or were "updated" to a hazy setting that could be the contemporary world, or it could still be the past. A lot of people did not like that Chaykin moved the story to a contemporary setting. However, the strength of this idea is that it pitted the character of The Shadow, who was still very much rooted in a pre-World War II social and psychological mindset, against the contemporary world of 1986. As with any Chaykin work, this play of the vintage against the contemporary is a method of showing that change is both good and bad, and the past should not always be viewed through rose-colored glasses. The Shadow's attitude towards women is compared to that of his contemporaries, like Harry Vincent (an important supporting character from the original pulp stories), who have been exposed to the changes for forty years and have been able to adapt to those changes. The Shadow is still very much the force of nature that he was in the pre-War days, and still he has to come to grips with the societal changes around him as well as the physical changes to New York City.

The plot of this mini-series is launched by having a number of The Shadow's operatives from his early exploits, now old, being targeted and killed by an unknown villain. This serves to bring The Shadow out of his lengthy retirement in the Himalayas. The Shadow himself is unchanged and unaged in the near forty years since he was last in New York City, and now establishes himself as the son of his original cover identity of Lamont Cranston. Assembling a team of his remaining operatives from the 1940s and new contemporary operatives (including two sons that he had while retired), The Shadow moves against this new villain. The balance of these issues deals with The Shadow and his operatives uncovering the villains of the piece and finally moving against him.

Despite the opinions of those who felt (and those who probably still feel this way) that the adventures of The Shadow should have remained in their original historical period, I think that a great deal of the success of this story came because Chaykin decided to update the time period to the contemporary. Much of the tension of the story comes from the interplay between The Shadow and his "unenlightened" (according to other characters in the story) attitudes. The Shadow as a man out of time is as much of a driving factor to the story as the actions of the villain of the piece. The story is an engaging one, although ironic because now the setting of 1986 is a historical one as well. For some current readers, the 1980s can be just as foreign as the 1930s of the original pulp stories.

I do think that the story holds up well, regardless. The characters (new and old) hold up well and Chaykin demonstrates that he can write a Shadow story in the vein of the original pulps and update it at the same time. This mini-series was the launching point for a long-running on-going series featuring the characters which would lead to some of The Shadow's strangest adventures. Fans of the pulps should enjoy this story because of the loyalty to the characters and concepts of the original pulp stories (despite the time period updating). Fans of Chaykin's current work should enjoy this story because of how it shows the development of some of his now standard storytelling tropes. If you would be bothered by a lot of people in 1930s-era clothing in the 1980s, this might not be the comic for you.

I am glad to see that this story is getting a new lease on life, and a printing up to modern standards. I never picked up the first trade collection of these comics and have had to rely on my original comics over the years. At least now I can get a good trade collection and I can put away the comics.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Shadowman Is Coming Back From Valiant!

The next epic expansion of the Valiant Universe starts this November in Shadowman #1 – the FIRST ISSUE of an all-new ongoing series from comics superstar Patrick Zircher (Captain America, Thor: Ages of Thunder) and Harvey Award-nominee Justin Jordan (The Strange Talent of Luther Strode, Team 7)!

There’s a million dreams in the Big Easy. But now its worst nightmare is about to come true. As the forces of darkness prepare to claim New Orleans as their own, Jack Boniface must embrace the legacy he was born to uphold. As Shadowman, Jack is about to become the only thing that stands between his city and an army of unspeakable monstrosities from beyond the night. But is the mantle of Shadowman a blessing or a curse? And what is the true cost of his otherworldly power?

"Shadowman is one of the most popular characters in the Valiant Universe and the fans have been asking me since day one when he's going to return," said Valiant Executive Editor Warren Simons. "Justin and Patrick have put together an action-packed debut that also adds an incredibly important new dimension to the Valiant Universe. And as Patrick's pages clearly demonstrate, he's one of the finest artists working in the medium today. We've got an amazing team at the helm of our fifth ongoing launch and I can't wait for the first issue to hit the stands."

On sale this November, Shadowman #1 features a standard cover by Patrick Zircher with incentive variants by Eisner Award-winning industry icons Dave Johnson and Bill Sienkiewicz. Additionally, Valiant is continuing its wildly successful Pullbox Exclusive Variant program with a "blackout" cover by Patrick Zircher - available only to those comic shop patrons who pre-order Shadowman #1 with their local retailer.

X-O Manowar, Harbinger, Bloodshot, and Archer & Armstrong have captivated a new generation of fans and critics. Now prepare for the rebirth of the next Valiant icon. Fear no evil when Shadowman #1 strikes this November!

"Blackout" Pullbox Exclusive Variant by PATRICK ZIRCHER

Monday, July 23, 2012

Dorkland! Roundtable with Zak Smith

Perhaps you've heard of Zak Smith. He is an artist, writer and game designer who has written/designed the excellent game supplement called Vornheim: The Complete City Kit. He has also done porn, and plays D&D with a group of porn actors, models, strippers and a hairdresser. You may remember when I wrote about them before over at this post. Today I talked with Zak for one of my Dorkland! Roundtables. It was a good chat/discussion/interview. Whatever you want to call them. One of the things that I like about Zak is that he is a man of opinions but he goes beyond just stating opinions and tries to back up what he says with facts and information.

More than a few people get upset because Zak has done porn, because he games with people who do porn, because he has a blog called D&D With Pornstars. People shouldn't be afraid of sex and sexuality, or think that all forms of entertainment has to be safe, sanitized and polite to all ages. There is plenty of room in gaming for people with all sorts of backgrounds, genders, orientations and races. It is OK to want things to be a little grown up too, and to want to game differently than you might have when you were 13.

You should check out the videos of Zak and his friends gaming. They are fun to watch, and they have a group of people who are having a lot of fun gaming. There's a bit of strong language in them (and my YouTube video above) so I wouldn't suggest watching them at work. People say that we need more people in gaming, and sometimes I even agree with that idea. I think that one way to do that is to show different people, outside of the conventional stereotypes of gaming, having fun at table top gaming. I think this group is as good of an example as any others. They kick ass, take names and have fun. Who cares about their jobs?

I had a good time talking with Zak, and I hope that you enjoy this interview. My standard Thumper rule is in place for this post. If you can't say anything nice about the people, don't say anything at all. I will delete people for being a dick. You're more than welcome to be a dick on the internet, you just don't get to do it on my blog. There's plenty of other virtual real estate out there if you want to do that.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Internet And The Art Of The Actual Play In RPGs

Updated: I will add our new videos to this post as we make them.

I have to first admit that I'm really not a fan of reading, listening to or watching other people's actual play reports/podcasts/whatevers. I've been running a Swords & Wizardry game for a couple of months now, using the Google+ Hangouts for its video chat services. It's been a lot of fun. The last two weeks, we decided to use the Hangouts on the Air function to broadcast and record our sessions.

This is our first recording:

And this is our second recording:

Our third recording:

Before I had started running this game, I was strongly anti-running games online. I'm what you would call a social gamer (in that I game for the social aspect of things, hanging out with people and that sort of thing), and I didn't think that using online tools would come close to equally the feel that I get from gaming. It turns out that I was wrong about that. Maybe it is just because of the group of people that I have met because of this game, but this group has been every bit as engaging for me socially as any face to face group that I've ever been a part of.

I'm still not a big fan of actual play however. People seem to be watching and getting something out of our posts, so I guess that's a good thing for them. I can see the benefit of actual plays for games that you have never played before, and would like to watch others doing it so that you can make sure that you are doing things right. I'm not saying there's no use to actual play posts or reports.

What do you get out of seeing someone else doing an actual play?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Tabletop RPG Gaming and Social Responsibility

I took part in a conversation online about gaming and "Social Responsibility." There are a small, yet vocal, group of people out in the table top gaming community who want to impose their narrow standards upon everyone else who is involved in gaming. That is wrong. I think it is wrong to impose my standards upon others, and I think that it is wrong for others to try to impose their standards upon me.

There are legitimately bad things out there in the world, many of them things that I have experienced myself. I've been homeless, sleeping on benches on building stoops. I have been in halfway houses for those suffering from mental illness. I've been sexually assaulted. I've been robbed, mugged and had guns and knives pointed at me. On the whole spectrum of things whether a piece of art shows a woman's breasts or a tabard is pointing at someone's genitals is pretty damn insignificant.

I am sure that someone, somewhere will misquote or misrepresent what I am saying here, or elsewhere, but that reflects more upon them and their standards and the fact that they have to actively misrepresent the viewpoints of those who have opposing viewpoints means that they have already lost any discussions. Nothing stays static, and no culture should ever stagnate, but that is what happens when some try to impose their ideologies onto others.

I don't know, this is something that I am close to so my language isn't going to be as precise as it probably could be but I am just going to muddle through this. It is OK to not like things. It isn't OK to start telling other people what they can and cannot like. Like George said in the discussion, so many great pieces of art/literature would be lost to us today if publishers and others listened to the loud voices.

Here's the video of the panel:

Honestly, I think that we can get through this patch of things. We have to start by trusting that others are capable of thinking for themselves and that they are capable of coming to their own decisions. We also have to realize that the existence of a game or book or movie or piece of art that does not fit into what we like, what we enjoy, does not invalidate what we do like.

It is OK to not like things, just keep your biases off of me and I promise to do the same and keep my biases off of you. That is what will make for a better community.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Dorkland! Roundtable with James Desborough

Today I spent some time talking with James Desborough of Postmortem Studios about gaming, the cultural differences between the U.S. and the U.K., being a controversial figure and 2000AD comics. It was a fun time and enthusiastic for us both, at least I think that it was enthusiastic for us both. One of the important things about these Roundtables is that we get to put a humanizing face to the people whose books we read, or games that we play.

Just remember, this blog isn't a democracy and I have zero qualms about squelching the rights of expression from anyone who can't be polite about things. You're more than welcome to disagree with people and their ideas, just don't be a dick about "attacking" them.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Valiant Preview: Bloodshot #1

Out today at your comic stores!

Valiant Entertainment is proud to present an advance preview of Bloodshot #1, from acclaimed writer Duane Swierczynski and red-hot artists Manuel Garcia and Arturo Lozzi! You've seen X-O Manowar and Harbinger take fans and critics by storm. Now find out on Wednesday, July 11th why Bloodshot #1 is the book that has IGN declaring, "Valiant is quickly becoming the publisher to beat and as long they keep putting out quality books like Bloodshot, it's likely to stay that way."

It was supposed to be your final mission. One last job before leaving black ops behind. Dropped into the middle of a Third World firefight, you must rescue your captured comrade from certain death. No - wait. You're infiltrating an enemy compound to bring an international terrorist to justice. No - that's not right either. You're on a one-man revenge mission to avenge your wife and family. Everything used to make sense, but - wait, what is Project Rising Spirit? Are they the ones pulling your strings? And who are you really?

On July 11th, the most dangerous man in the Valiant Universe takes on his most formidable opponent yet – the truth. Trust no one – even yourself – when Bloodshot #1 charges into action this Wednesday!

But the saga of the Valiant Universe doesn't end there. Look for Harbinger #2, available in stores and on comiXology the same day, and X-O Manowar #3, on sale July 18th!

Cover by ARTURO LOZZI (MAY121309)
Pullbox Exclusive Cover by MICO SUAYAN (MAY121310)
Variant Cover by DAVID AJA (MAY121311)
Variant Cover by ESAD RIBIC (MAY121312)
$3.99/Rated T+/32 pgs.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Super-Powered Dorkland! Roundtable

My guests were Steve Kenson, Chris Rutkowsky, Joshua Kubli, Jeff Dee and Cam Banks. Cam, unfortunately had some serious technical issues and didn't get to contribute as much as he would have liked. Hopefully I can get Cam back for a future Roundtable. We talked about super-heroes, comics and role-playing, as well as their games: Mutants & Masterminds, Villains & Vigilantes, the Bash RPG, Invulnerable and Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.