"Bruno takes 2 points of damage. Not enough to kill him, but the spider's bite is poison. Bruno rolls his saving throw against poison, fails to make it, and dies a horrible death." -Dr. Eric Holmes, "The Blue Book" (D&D 1978)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

[Comic book] Captain Marvel and CC Beck

This is the second in an irregular series of posts about stuff, possibly a bit outside the rpg norm, that has sidled into my subconscious, crept into my conscious, cuddled up next to the kobolds and magic missiles and, one way or another, in some measure, in some manner, mostly mutated, crawled out into my gaming.  (Here’s the first post of the series, on the Hammer flick Seven Golden Vampires).

CC Beck is in my list of the top five all-time greatest comic creators, and his brainchild, Captain Marvel -- best-selling superhero of the 40s, created by Beck and writer Bill Parker -- is one of my favorites.  Many of Caps adventures were scripted by Otto Binder.  Occasionally dismissed as naught but a Superman knockoff, he’s more than that, including a healthy dose of fantasy.  Superman’s origin is science fiction, Batman’s is testament to human will, but Captain Marvel’s is pure magic and myth.

An ancient wizard:

Super-science, weird humanoid races:

Captured by the dragon-folk:

Beautia and Billy face the germ people:
(Beautia -- who grew up on Venus as the ruler of a race of giant frogs -- is Cap’s love interest and she also happens to be the daughter of Cap’s arch-nemesis Sivana.)

Strange palaces:

Creatures out of classical myth:

Legendary ruins, a mystical statue:

Of course there’s a lot of stuff in Cap – a throw-in-anything approach, humor and goofiness, madcap-ness, off-the-wall characters, great villains, sf, fighting the Nazis, Billy’s everyday life, the Lieutenants, the Marvel family, and I like it all – but magic and the fantasy elements are usually not too far away.

CC Beck is a remarkable storytelling artist for the medium.  Extremely clean.  Minimalist.  Cartoony.  Fast moving.  Classic simplicity.  Tremendous layouts and design. 

Cap’s weaknesses proved to be changing times and a vigorous lawsuit from National, claiming infringement of their Superman copyright.  Publisher Fawcett voluntarily ceased publication of Cap in 1954.

Among the first comic books I ever got, after some Disney Digests and Caspers, was DC Treasury Edition no. 4, which reprinted Whiz Comics no. 1 from 1940, including the origin of Captain Marvel.  I feel lucky that I got that Treasury early; it made an impression and started an interest and appreciation for Captain Marvel and for golden age material generally. 

DC is now in the process of re-imagining The Big Red Cheese.  “Shazam” currently appears as a back-up in the most recent incarnation of the Justice League.  Billy’s a total delinquent.  At first that put me off, but I can accept it, depending on where they go.  Too early to tell.  It could end up terrible, could be ok, maybe better than ok.  I’m reserving judgment, hoping for the best.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

[Monster] Forest Troll

For LL…

Forest Troll
No. Enc.: 1-5
Alignment:  Chaotic
Movement:  90’ (30’)
Armor Class:  5
Hit Dice:  3+1
Attacks:  3 (claw/claw/bite)
Damage:  1-3/1-3/1-4
Save:   F3, +1 to saves vs. spells or spell-like devices
Morale:  8
Hoard Class:  XX
XP:   130 + 35 per spell-like ability

These vile magical creatures are about the size of gnomes.  They most often live alone or in small groups of two to five, usually in caves or huge hollow trees, almost always in forests (especially magical forests or areas).  Because forest trolls are masters of camouflage, their homes are 90% undetectable; they also have the same ability as halflings to conceal themselves in a forest environment (90% undetectable).

A forest troll possesses from 2-4 of the following spell-like abilities. Determine randomly how many and which ones (or select). Each is useable once per day unless rolled, or selected, more than once.  In that case, the number of times per day the ability may be used is equal to how many times that ability is rolled or selected.

1. Animal companion*
2. Animal Growth
3. Barkskin
4. Charm mammal
5. Curse (reverse of bless)
6. Entangle
7. Faerie fire
8. Hallucinatory terrain
9. Hold person
10. Invisibility
11. Obscuring mist
12. Pass without trace
13. Putrefy food and drink (reverse of purify food and drink)
14. Silence 15’ radius
15. Snake charm
16. Snare
17. Speak with animals
18. Stumble
19. Tree shape
20. Warp wood

*Not usable once per day; this ability is reusable once companion(s) has/have been killed. If it is rolled or selected more than once, then a more powerful companion or more numerous companions may be obtained.

Typically, forest trolls guard an area or landmark in the forest, such as a bridge, a clearing, a tunnel, a cottage, etc., close to their homes.  They harass -- verbally, by traps, magic, or violence -- most anyone passing by.   Forest trolls will parley and negotiate (not necessarily honestly) and sometimes a payment of some sort will be enough to secure clear passage. They are adept at setting traps, some of which will be of the sort to alert the trolls to the presence of intruders or startle or embarrass the victim(s).  Other traps will be more lethal.  They often attempt to use their spell-like abilities from positions of concealment.  Even though they are quick, vicious fighters, forest trolls usually only engage in open combat as a last resort, preferring traps, magic, deceit, trickery, and intimidation. 

Forest trolls are extremely chaotic and serve no masters, but they have been known to form alliances with other evil beings out of mutual interest or for pay. For instance, the trolls often act as intelligence operatives, providing information about those travelling through the forest. Their treasure is almost always scattered about in many different small containers, most trapped, and buried in separate locations in the vicinity of their homes. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

[My art] F & MU vs. Dragon

My illustration of a fighter and magic user facing a dragon:

My inspiration for the fighter, especially his shield, comes from this illustration, by my favorite rpg artist, Dave Sutherland:
This drawing appears in G2, The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Couple-o-purchases and evil halflings

I have been perusing my two most recent purchases (pdfs):

"The Manor #1" is good stuff.

What I like best is the extreme usability factor. Things you can read and then drop in that very night to just about any "standard," "traditional" campaign (whatever that means, yet I think we know). In this first ish, my favs are the forest encounters -- great for riffing off -- and the Salt Pit adventure. I personally like the pdf rather than print (I will print off what I'll use and put in binders), going against the os grain I guess, maybe because I just spent a few years trading and selling thousands of comic books and magazines, down to about 600 now, which I'll keep.

I’m going to supplement the Salt Pit adventure with this pair of evil halflings.  Either they will try to insinuate themselves into the party or follow them into the pit, wait for an opportune moment, and attempt to steal from or ambush the party:

Cnut (aka Rollicko Goodfriend), Halfling, Chaotic, Level 2, S-11, I-12, W-8, D-15, C-9, Ch-14, AC 5, hp 8, leather armor, shield, short sword (1-6), sling (1-4), a +1 magical sling stone (only usable by halflings, flies back to user at utterance of command word “voltar,” ignores any to hit penalties due to cover).

Hugo (aka William Masonson), Halfling, Chaotic, Level 2, S-12, I-14, W-8, D-14, C-10, Ch-8, AC 5, hp 8, leather armor, shield, short sword (1-6), short bow (1-6).

These two are thoroughly evil, cruel, deceitful, and duplicitous. Former servants of the evil Queen Lar, Cnut and Hugo narrowly escaped the renowned collapse of her fortress, in which she was buried beneath a huge pile of rubble, and presumed to be killed, along with her paramour Ijub-Niron, a High Priest of Malcor, and most of their followers. Since then, Cnut and Hugo have been travelling the land under the assumed names of Rollicko Goodfriend and William Masonson, making use of their considerable juggling and tumbling skills to pass themselves off as wandering entertainers.

Both Cnut and Hugo wear amulets that will magically enable them to teleport back to the site of the fortress at will.  The amulets function this way only for those who have been branded by Queen Lar.  Cnut and Hugo will only use this in desperation, at the last minute, to save their skins.  They fear returning to the rubble where they might encounter any surviving minions of Queen Lar who might hold their desertion just before the collapse against them.

My other purchase:

I haven't had too much time to delve into this.  I'm looking forward to reading it in detail when I get the chance. I feel like it might reawaken a dormant case of gamer add in me (these days I stick to D&D) -- might get the temptation to try to start something with it (maybe a fun summer activity).  At any rate I'll most likely steal stuff from it.

Both good purchases, at good prices!

Meanwhile over at The Breach appears this post sort of about the death of the blog. Just when I start.  Figures.  The only times I've ever been on the “cutting edge” were with the Vic-20 and Holmes Basic. Ever since I've been comfortably falling further and further behind.