image from Frobidden Planet

image from Frobidden Planet
Graves of Altair IV

Monday, August 13, 2018

Going forward

 Play A bit of follow up on the last While the be thing is still in editing (slowly because I find editing my own work akin to using a cheese greater on one's own flesh but far less rewarding), the 'scribbling phase' is done.   That being the case, aside from some tweaks as play testing and any landmines from that are revealed (being, you know, the point of play testing....) the content as such is a set thing.   

About that - Sub-ether Zero zero is a MONSTER.  I toyed about with calling it a mega-zine for a bit but I can’t quite bring myself to do that. (ya’ll remember this started out as a 60 page zine idea right?  No? Well it did. But enthusiasm is a powerful thing. Now it’s a doorstop,) so … be aware we are now talking about something more book length. It is a hot mess of space fantasy horror high weirdness.  The tribes of space, citizens and worlds of the imperium, and...
There’s a lot in there. 

 So I can talk a bit about what I want to do next. 
-         Abandon hope ye who do not wish to keep up with bouncy free text ramble -

     First I still want to do the zine! 
     So between stuff written for the zine/ashcan when it was still of reasonable length, and bunches of other stuff, cut content and lots cut from the book above and beyond, I’ve got about … a lot of extra stuff.   Much of which is interesting but I just can’t justify packing into an already overweighed thing.  So if I do these, these are each going to be themed and will kind of drill down deeper into the setting established in Sub-ether Zero zero.  Each should have (at least) several articles, scenario seeds or full adventures, a full class, a worlds of the imperium article, and likely some critters as I do love to make monsters.
AS stands I’ve got two short (one might even say…zine length.  Go ahead, laugh.) maybe issues and by theme, seven clearly sketched out, SHOULD I even decide to go this route.  (This route which, you know, I do keep thinking is going to be easier than is.  All of this aside from the actual writing part is new to me so I am going slowly. But as I do prefer to learn what and how as I go this is preferential if tedious.   Maybe not confidence inspiring but honest – and I’m doing this for me anyway. )

 Poor Nethermancer’s Spellbook
The cursed tome.  Indulgent and so pro’ly something to put on the backburner - esp since I have to start from scratch on these (the 17 or so I had of these were lost in January’s hard drive failure and EVERYTHING was lost in the subsequent two computer fails. 2018 has exacted a rough toll) but the Poor Nethermancer’s Spellbook would be just that, 50 (space or on topic themed) spells for DCC.  Not sure when this would be in the cards, but it’s still something I’m thinking about.

Galaxies Black
Something I’ve mentioned to a few of you individually (Mostly you Chris!)  But want to mention is Galaxy Black - a campaign generator and kind of a follow up Sub-ether Zero zero.    It started (back in the mists of time of mid 2011) as an attempt to do an SF version of the Ready Ref Sheets, so it also has the advantage of being a wholly anachronistic follow up.  As it stands the thing that prevents this from being ready for prime time is my sake of completeness – and in this case that completeness is part of the point of the book.  Ideally the thing, when done, will help, inspire, or aid you in creating a horror themed science fantasy campaign setting, by choice or random roll, from the critters up to worlds, sectors, polities, and gods.  (You might get the impression I have a hard time doing things small.)
It’s being written, has been “being written” since 2011 and will pro’lly take a few more years to finish if we’re honest.  Assuming I don’t die first. 
Which, you know, that heart attack thing has reminded me is a distinct possibility.

Other stuff
I had a thing for the GFA that being internetless for six weeks utterly prevented me from getting in.  I’ll drop that somewhere, at some point, pro’lly with a bit less edited profanity than would have been the case.   It’s a follow up to my hex from last year (2017).  I don’t think anyone but +Jarret Crader has seen the thing (tho the copy I shared out was BLOATED and pre first hard drive crash) – an extended patron write up and a load of magic items and monsters.

Other stuff
But not worth mentioning.  None of this covers things I have done/did for other folk or may be under contractual obligation to do. This is all just my stuff.   
Yeah I know I'm doing this all in the wrong order.  Bite me.  It ought to be my tag line – “Oh no, I run a shoddy, no budget operation.” J
 Stuff is done when it’s done, not before, not later.  Any attempt on my part to say otherwise has gotten smacked down by the universe so I shall do no such thing.   That said, all irons are in the fire right now.  Aside from the process of living life itself, I have no other commitments on my time from here on out, save what entropy, anxiety, and Mr. Death can get out of me.

More Sub-ether blather.
I’ve had but a small number of informal pick up playtests so far; nothing earth shattering but success is not always measured in Epic Amounts.  Honestly being able to run a game without being an anxiety ridden mess is victory enough.  2018 has been rough.  (Living with anxiety as a constant companion makes things like playtests interesting.  The knowledge that any time that any social situation could theoretical go immediately south because of your Own Damn Brain can harsh any mellow under the right circumstances.  Much fun.)

The best thing to come out of it and, if I’m honest, one of the best things anyone’s ever said to me came out of it though.  A play tester said it was like an “EC comics version of Warhammer 40K.”

That’s an IIIIInteresting take.  Wrap it up though, I will happily take it.  

I have a deep and abiding fondness for the original WH40K Rogue Trader and there’s a bit of that love in this book, but if there’s a warhammer comparison I would say the Empire is more like the Old World / Empire of Warhammer Fantasy than it is the Imperium of Man.  THAT I would call an apt comparison.
(That said, could you run a 40K DCC game with it?  Yes. At the least it’d get you started.  Ya’ll are a clever bunch though and can – and do – wing it all the time.  I’m not worried.)

It’s a ‘serious’ toolkit/setting book in that you could pick it up and run some (I think) pretty kick ass DCC space adventures with it in the course of whatever a normal campaign is for you without a massive tonal shift save maybe smudging a bit closer to horror than DCC genuinely hews.  With the proviso that my stuff tends to run to the surreal and horrific anyway….though it is packed with little funny bits (well, I hope) because I like to remind you all not to take this more seriously than we have to.
 It’s a GAME. After all.   A thing we do for fun. I hope it doesn’t take you out of the text too much.
Besides, we could all do with a little more amusement nowadays I think.  

But I apologize for nothing. Ultimately, this is a thing that’s been trying to get out of my head since I was five or six.  Yes, of course it’s self-indulgent but who else is going to indulge me? 
Enjoy your fantastic space horrors

A Real Update and some design blather

 Playtesting has been leaning this way for a while but last weekend nailed it.  So in part I have spent this week (to a limited degree, there’s been a lot on my plate not related at all to gaming) tearing the psychic powers up and redoing them.   

This grates but it makes for a better (by far) end product - also I have lost my proofreading and layout slave to the wilds of a summer semester and a move for the next month so any thoughts I might have had about dropping this in the next few months. just went twip so there’s no great temporal pressure as is.   I do have an awful lot of free time on my hands tho.  (See prev.)  Which, at least in itself, is good as I’ve now been at this thing long enough that I’m wanting done with it.  

So far the best thing to happen in playtesting by far was the apprentice wizard smiting a bunch of space pirates with The Means of Production.   I think the causal spell needs tweaking. (Could I possibly vague that up for you? Yes YES I Could. Don't tempt me.) 

I’m at a point though where the extra time is good for being able to make little playtest kits, which is a good thing.  I’ve got two stable casts of pregens (the low level party and the 0 level party) which represent a decent enough spread of what’s in the book so far BUT still keeping many surprises.  A couple of classes, all with varying levels of new mechanics, some simple, some not, and then lots of other moving parts.  Testing them all one at a time though, which is very beneficial to the process but tbh kind of tedious.

This is kind of a lengthy update so far, but that’s because it’s been a long time in coming and also because I’m about to start packing everything up for a move (end of the month) so I want to push this while it’s still current.
So what’s in the damn book?
Right now?  The ad copy would sound like this

3 character classes
5 levels of psychic powers
Alien creatures, parasites, needle guns, gods and
Loads of Undead
An alternative system for Chargen for the Judge (or the players) to populate the star lanes with.
The Free Tribes of Space
And the roiling multicoloured madness of the the Sub-ether

Life and death in a collapsing universe,

ΞΞ  Sub-ether Zero zero 

Or some sort of marketing soundy bullshit like that.  But an accurate if wildly unhumble assessment. 

Once set up in the new place I should have space and time (!!!!) sufficient to start a serious playtest game of some kind going.  I have not run a game online in a long time (2004) and I’m not sure how I would go about it BUT if there’s interest here (be it hangouts or some other means/platform) I think I’m ready to start throwing this at folk in a big (well bigger) way.
In the highly unlikely environment where someone would be similar levels of both masochistic and anti-captialist as to contemplate a servile role as “sawbuck compensated proofreader”, please contact this office immediately. :P
So some playtester feedback / inspired FAQ
So this started as a thing to answer some questions and took on a life of it’s own.  So…putting it here.

So some playtester feedback / inspired FAQ
So Saurids - are they supposed to be dragonborn?
Um...they can be if that’s an archetype that works for you and your table. But more to the point they were intended to call to mind the large, leathery reptilian alien of the golden age, oft an enemy, sometimes an ally, mostly it should be admitted, on the more lurid covers of some of the pulps.  
Also various conceptions of upright dinosaur people, and bluntly, fading memories of playing a mistress race troll in someone’s one off runequest 3e game in the mid-80s.
If there’s a thing I wanted to callback to it would definitely be the Klegs from Judge Dredd, with maybe a helping of Gorn on the side.
In-universe, while the draco forms probably tinkered with their evolution a bit early on, there isn’t any other hard link between the two.  Unless you want there to be of course.  I know I beat this into the ground but it’s your game.

What about the insecivroids?
Those are actually named after my own childhood mispronunciation of Insectivorid, the species that Bug (from the classic Bill Mantlo micronauts comic) belonged to.  
By name it can be (probably) inferred that all of them were uplifted from a common species that primarily consumed other insectoid life forms.

What’s the deal with Manifesters? (Psions)
A question I never anticipated honestly.  Bu tI get it a lot.  I like the idea that psychic power is, since it’s grounded in your biology, in your neurology, that it burns you out as you use it.  Also since it drawns more on your own inner power reserves rather than (at first) things from elsewhere it really does a number on you...but on the flip side you can offset that by using a psionic device or through other technological means.
But of course as they increasingly draw from other places - other universes and planes to call upon and fuel their power, it draws those places closer and affects things on other, maybe more subtle levels.
And one of those levels is the one that lets them use their kind of gimped powers to break the universe, recharging power cells and stuff that on a low key sort of level can make any PC party near invincible.
Which is, again, by design.  I wanted psychic powers to be a distinctive thing and a distinct unique (or so) take on psi powers BUT also to compliment divine and chaos magic as it exists in the dcc core.

Are there any other classes?
Yes.  I’m working on a Field Scientist class (which is meatier than you might think), a Gunfighter, and one or two others.  There’s another branch of psychic powers I haven’t let out the bag yet and a class to use them. :)

What’s the class?
Still in flux but right now imagine if Jedi had different, warring schools, like in Golden Harvest or Shaw Bros films.  Honestly at the moment it’s hewing a lot closer to a psion as martial artist than any kind of jedi thing but there is a group of them that specialize in energy blades.   
I’m also still tinkering with a dedicated Navigator class.
There may be some surprises in the Legion book too.

Legion book?
Well, the first issue of the zine.  Um.  When I started all this, there was going to be an inaugural sort of ashcan, and then some zines to build up support for a book.  
Obviously I tossed that out on like day two.  But that was the idea.  Anyway, unless there is just no interest at all when Zero drops or some other explodey plan thing happens I still plan on doing the zines, or at least the issues I have planned.  The first one is going to be the military SF one;  lots of weapons, and general starship troopers action. Yes with battlesuits.

But if you are looking for a coherent design philosophy from me it's this - meticulously plan step one.  Step two, ignore step one and all it's works in favor of the cool thing You Just Wrote Seconds Ago.   Step three, wing it. 
I’d say there’s a step four – profit, but I’m almost certainly going to give all of this away for free or as near as.  We po’ kids need cool toys too.   

And now a word about the Zero Levels
Before you get down my gullet for the “overpowered’ zeros realize that most of them will not be starting with weapons of any kind.   That means they aren’t proficient in ANYTHING til level 1. Impose that shit.
Also the weapon charts reflect the HD loadout of the galaxy around it.  IT will likely not be the problem you think it is.
In any case I find that in practice roughly three Sub-ether zeros equal about four from the core book so it balances out IMO.

Anything else?

It’s not a setting…
IT’s a toolkit book that has some setting elements* but it’s up to you to decide how you want to use them in your game.  That said you can pick it up and use it verbatim *as* a setting….provided you like filling in details on your own and as you go.   You could (and should) regard the material that *is* in the book as examples because as presented that’s what they are.  Of course I’ve put a lot of work into those “examples” but the point, as indeed, is the point of almost all my game writing, is to fire the imagination of the Judge and their players; if I have inspired or suggested ideas, then my job is done. Everything else, to me is gravy.
You see one of the best ways to counter the Forgetten Realms effect, where every minute detail has been categorized and extrapolated to death, is to not put but a handful of facts down and let the Judge and their players do what they will.
But that’s always my M.O. I make things to inspire stuff for you to do at your table.  Use this book and it’s contents literally HOWEVER you like.   Change what you want.  Hack the thing and use it in some chaos fueled Bunnies & Burrows/Top Secret crossover (tho if you do that TELL ME ABOUT IT)

There are over a million worlds in the imperium and more added every day. Add your own. 

*with every passing day however this becomes less and less the case

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sub-etheric location The Beautiful Face

Sub-etheric location
The Beautiful Face

Far beyond the imperial border, somewhere below the Third Sub-ether it is said by certain, perhaps more philosophically minded spacers, lay a profound transformative experience that allows one to touch – and be touched by – a God.

Finding the right set of coordinates should find the PCs and their vessel some one thousand lights into the Rimward Beyond where, in an analog to otherwise empty interstellar space (there are no star systems for 8 - 10 lights in any direction)  
A brilliant white light will seem to emanate from a distant patch of dense mist of etheric ‘matter.’
Penetration of this ‘fogbank’ will reveal a sort of mini domain approximately half a light across – inside which, the ship or any voyages will be mystically drawn toward the nucleus regardless of intended heading or engine configuration.   (Exception: turning the ship round 180 and going to full will allow a ship to leave relatively unmolested so long as they do so prior to encountering the nucleus.)

At the nucleus, which could take anywhere from 2 hours to five days to reach depending, they will seem to be in an endless expanse of white that stretches off to infinity in every perceived direction; Have they been dumped unceremoniously into some far sector of the White Sky? No.  This close to the nucleus, time and space apparently go on forever, both sensors and mystic information gathering will reveal much the same thing.
Some 2d3 hours after arrival at the nucleus, the crew will see the Face.  Best viewed from a distance, it will appear around 800,000 kilometers ahead, in the ship’s intended path of movement – a pale, made up, humanoid face about 8000 km high, surrounded by balls or bubbles of coloured light that ripple and change texture constantly.

On approach, the most startling transformation occurs.  Those who have been touched by the whims of fate and the winds of luck (the Player Characters) are intriguing to the thing that appears as a face, and it will seek to draw them out so as to better examine them.
Flesh flows like wax as all of the party are simultaneously ‘blended’ – their flesh ‘flows’ off of their bones and slides into a central pile where it combines with the other flesh of the party.  Unless the resident skeletons of the PCs exceed a DC 20 Will save, said skeletal remnants will be compelled to gather the now roiling pool of shifting flesh into a ball, whereupon they will roll the ball down to the nearest airlock.  Eventually the ball will be ejected into the Sub-ether and the skeletons will, one at a time, leap into the jelly-like ball and be consumed by it until the last skeleton has done so.
IN the meantime the ball of flesh continues to generate a bizarre array of sensory information to the fully aware and strangely not riddled with pain brains of the PCs.  IT will slowly be drawn toward the face itself, at which time a voice will seem to ripple from the face, whose lips do not move,

Be One Flesh

And so they will become.  In moments, the characters will flow together, experiencing a temporary feeling of oneness and the death of their ego.   The face, if any can perceive it, will seem to close it’s eyes and derive some sort of satisfaction, possibly pleasure, from the experience. 
Then as soon as it began, the characters will, one at a time, be reconstituted out of the flesh ball and, in a kind of stasis, returned to their vessel.  Once all are aboard, the ship will be propelled out of this region, often emerging 1d3+7 days later at a point some (roll %d000) lights distant in a random direction.
Further, the PCs will find that not all of their qualities have come through intact, in fact it does seem that they have traded certain aspects of themselves with one another.  These do seem to be permanent.
System – For every PC who experiences this bizarreness, pick a single ability score (randomly works), this score is about to change, rather permanently.  Consult the other PCs record sheets; from them determine (pick or roll randomly) which one swaps that ability score out with the PC.
Repeat this process for all Player characters so affected.  Stats may be swapped between multiple parties.  If this means that some all wind up with one character’s 14 strength (or whatever) then so be it.  All of them will seem to have inherited bits of the strength donating character, and vice versa.
This will probably prove pretty unsettling for them. 

Ideally this should be an unsettling encounter that leaves the party a bit closer together, one way or another.   At the Judge’s option and with the full cooperation of the players, possibly other character attributes could be swapped out. Alignment, class, race, in theory it’s all possible depending on how far you want to take the remixing of the player party.  

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Feed the Witch’s Bloodflowers

Feed the Witch’s Bloodflowers
You have successfully journeyed to and petitioned to gain audience to the Seer Witch of the Violet Fens; she greets you and leads you forward into her garden where she stops to show you her BLOODFLOWERS.
A 20x30 patch of red and black flowering plants, appearing as somewhat oversized /exaggerated rose petals surrounding a pink and black orchid’s inner workings. They are warm to the touch (she says) and they reach for her hands when she gestures over them.  She claims that some have been pleased to flatter her by ‘feeding’ her flower beds.
The stems wave in the non-existent wind and gently meeping if you approach to ‘feed’ them.

What do you feed them?
Water – HOW DIRTY IS THE WATER? (If not known determine by %)
If water is more than 67% dirty, then her flowers immediately dissolved into putrid brown and purple mud.  The Fen Witch is now super honked off and throws 9d6 of lightning at d5 members of your party, conveniently standing in a line up unless specifically and previously stated otherwise.  Roll init.  The Fen Witch should be pretty tough – equal to an 11th level magic-user or thereabouts.   Most of her magic involves throwing curses, weaponized bad luck, and gruesome transformations your way.  Also elements.  Speaking of, on her next attack, she ignites anything mundane and flammable the party is carrying or, you know, wearing. D3 points of damage the first round, d2 the second, and one point the final round if they are still peeling out of flaming robes etc.
If water is less than 67% dirty then the flowers turn chalky white.   Immediately a 10x10 thundercloud appears over the PCs and dispenses life giving rainwater.   If 01-32% dirty then 3d8 points of damage are healed by the single round rain shower.   If 33-46 % dirty then 2d6 points are so healed, and if 46-66% dirty then 1d6 of healing rain ensues.
UNLESS HOLY WATER, then 0% dirty – The flowers sizzle and crack like frying bacon on contact with the now smoldering vapor that was your holy water.  In an instant the whole mass dissolves into a puddle of greenish, putrid slime.  The Fen Which, meanwhile, polymorphs (or perhaps De-polymorphs) into (or from) the shape of Be-Nighel, least angel of guardian forces, a 12 foot battle maiden resplendent in shimmering celestial armor of mithril and cobalt.   Smiling in acknowledgment she claims “You have passed the test, sinful mortals.” And immediately gates you to the source of what you seek, answering any other question within her purview honestly in the meantime.  Anyone foolish enough to attack even a least angel will be counter attacked by a 12 HD creature who strikes with the Holy, Avenging, and Vorpal qualities.  Once she collects the offender’s head, she disappears, gone forever.
Did you feed it unholy water?  Wow really?  You’ll go far and then you’ll die bad.  With an exultant cry in low-middling Barazhad of I’M FREE The flowers immediately fuse into Dionaeheus Drosaria, known else as
 FLARGNIVIGORTH the FLORAL CATASTROPHIE, (AC -2 / 22 HD 10 HP around 60; immune to non-magical missiles and non-magical fire.) who in one single attack springs, eats, and consumes the Fen Witch.  How can its Floral Dreadfulness assist you mortal? “ The abyssal arch druid can do almost anything involving demon flowers. 
Milk –
Cow’s Milk?  Hundreds of tiny little mouths audibly slurp up that which was meant for calves.  The witch nods once and sees to your question.   If Hathor or another cow goddess exists in your campaign, you may have just honked Her off.
Goat’s Milk?   Better.  It turns blue when it splashes over the bloody rose petals and is rapidly absorbed into the thing.  Meanwhile its stalk grows several inches over a few minutes time.
Mare’s Milk – the milk itself recoils from the flower petals as though a living thing.  Tendrils from the inner folds of the flower snap out and audibly suck the milk from mid-air where it attempts to flee with a scream. (Yes this is just as surreal as it sounds.) 
Mother’s Milk – human milk? I’m not going ask why you’re carrying that around in a wineskin but whatever.  The flowers hungrily devour it directly, the veins noticeably swelling to absorb every drop.  Secretly, the donor is given one (demonic) wish.
Yes  - That which fed the offending liquid is consumed in a fireball of spontaneous human (or elven, dwarfen, etc.) combustion; 10d6 of stinky gas blasting organic residue erupt from the feeder, likely (at least) splitting them in half, if not making them explode outright. If less than 0 hp remain, then after the fireball (which lights nothing else on fire) only charred bits of teeth and bone remain. 
No - The flowers drink it, as though they possessed a mouth, esophagus and so on. You have no idea how they are doing it but they consume as much as you feed. If you have wine remaining they seem to “follow” you until you leave the area.   The witch smiles and answers your questions.
Blood – the most obvious…save that they don’t drink blood. You pour the stuff of life itself uselessly over the succulent, fleshy blood petals.  The witch laughs at you. She will tell you nothing and your quest has failed.   You are teleported home (1 in 6) or (5 in 6) to room (roll a d24) in the Judge’s favorite scenario or adventure.  IF this makes no goddam sense either roll with it or have the whole thing be a pollen induced hallucination that wears off in d12 rooms’ worth of encounters. Either way you keep the XP. Either way, if you’re dead, you die.  If you still care about your quest thereafter, the witch will tell you what you wish to know and offer to transport you there via scrying portal or giant bird-demon.
Mead – You lucky soul you.  You are either very lucky, very wise, or very very favored by the Gods (assuming there is a meaningful distinction anyway).  The open petals of the flower or flowers so anointed turn a shade of golden-amber immediately.   The Floral Abomination has not had a drink in SOOOO LOOOONG and certainly not Godsblessed mead.  When the mead-donor next dies, they will immediately be reborn d24 hours later as a PC possible class possessing half their current experience points but not necessarily as their original class or race (or gender, or age, or sex, or ethnicity, or any other such thing).
Not a Damn ThingSmart.  Also safe and so not very daring. Not at all. Your next expenditure of luck will cost double as a reminder to take the occasional risk you so-called adventurer you.

Memento Mori (Not Gaming Related)

It is a hell of a thing to be told, after the fact, that you’ve recently had a heart attack but that was my Friday.  Having finally completed the Trans “quest chain to get health care” (hey it only took eleven years - “‘MERICA!”)  I have come to find out that on top of all of my pre-existing medical and psych BS, that I am recovering from a heart attack that went untreated and so there is damage.
Lots of new meds and some lifestyle changes afoot.   More to the point I’m to cut down stress. I literally have no idea how to do that without abandoning things, which I’m not really willing to do, so I have no idea how that’s going to work itself out.     .

Nothing else is changing, and certainly nothing that affects anything here, precisely.  If that changes I’ll say but I don’t foresee it.

Hopefully this means I will be about (much) more often again but I have to acknowledge that this has been a pretty toxic year online for me - and social media remains the ‘Most unpredictable dragon’ for certain types of Anxiety disorders (which are likely with me for the full run time at this point).  But Imma tryin.

Also, because I don't express this enough.  Thanks for sticking around folks.  Your continued toleration of my vast unpredictabilities is appreciated more than I can simply express. 

Friday, July 13, 2018

Sub-ether update (and near Corduroy Spock)

I think this might be the first time in 30 some odd years of scribbling that I have not cringed while editing/reading back over my own work.  
Whether that’s a sign of great stuff or some sort of full event singularity of sniffing my own farts remains to be seen.
Edit's pretty much done, on my end anyway. I do need to remember to motivate the galley slave/layout droid however.   
Really want to get this out this month, though I’m honestly not sure how realistic that is.  We shall see.  

AT this point, I could take the Sub-ether section (by far the biggest bit of it) and slap some 70s “Nimoy-needsd-a-paycheck occult newage conspiracy wango tango” on it and release a hacked hack and call it
Startling New Evidence.
Hell I might just do that. Or invite someone to.
Gotta get the one out first.  
That title amuses tho.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Nagrul Rising (mostly blather about Epic illustrated)

This is not directly a gaming post by any means save in the vaguest of senses so if me blathering on about my influences and comics from 35 years ago aren’t your thing then feel free to happily skip this one.  More interesting stuff will come.

One of the bigger inspirations for the galaxy crawl was an old marvel magazine called Epic Illustrated.  Very much like the Heavy Metal of its day (itself, initially just an Americanized version of Metal Hurlant where most of HM’s early strips first appeared) - but while Heavy Metal was still (at that time) very much hooked into the Euro comics scene (where a bunch of other influences come into play - Moebius, Drullet, etc. multiple cetera) Epic was all about promoting American (mostly) artists and writers….while also giving some marvel folk the place to do let’s just say untraditional material.  Lots of the stuff in there (especially the Ostrander) is VERY appendix N in flavour, style, and direct influence IMO.
There was an adaptation of Almuric in the early issues that was I think my exposure to non-Conan, Howard fiction. It was favorable. Also Sword & Planet. There was a LOT of Sword & Planet in Epic, though not nearly as much as in HM. A good balance of post-apocalyptic stuff too (It was the 80s after all).  Like, Cobalt-60, which was, however indirectly, was my first exposure (it was by his kid I think) to Vaughn Bode, which led me to Crumb and all that later on when I was a bit taller. (But only a bit, I was a curious kid.)
Other notable and memorable bits I recall were P. Craig Russel’s Dreaming City (but that had already appeared in Star Reach I think) and Wendy Pini did a weird little tie in to their Elfquest comic in one issue.  (Like I said the magazine was random. Not that there was a dearth of magazine sized comics in the early 1980s.  Fewer if you take out Mad and Cracked and that lot.)  There was some Corben I think, though not nearly as much
as in HM; probably because of the nudity. 
Eventually Epic was (briefly) successful enough - well “successful” in that the magazine itself ended but the imprint, sort of a proto-Vertigo lingered on for many years, giving us Dreadstar (more Ostrander), the Alien Legion (a HUGE influence on the thing), and a few others besides. I loved that imprint.  (And it was all over the place too. Swords of the Swashbucklers (sort of adolescent girl escape story meets Crawljammer style space pirates – it was a lot of fun), Stray Toasters (by Sienkiewicz) and Groo were all put out at the same time as the rest of this stuff.
Anyway, I’m getting off topic.
 Nagrul (below) originally appeared in Heavy Metal back in the 70s but I didn’t know that when I first saw it in a later issue of Epic Illustrated (in the 20s I think) - I read this right when I was sinking my teeth in Moorcock’s other characters besides Elric, and the whole idea of cyclic time and cycles of doom really appealed to me - and still does, from a story standpoint.)   But also the way the panels mate the classical with the cosmic. Like Kirby’s Thor and New Gods, it nailed the idea in my imagination that myth cycles taken onto a cosmic scale are, well, very appropriately….mythic. Especially to a jaded audience from today that has no trouble comprehending the idea that symbols evolve, but the meanings remain.

Wow that got deep.  To the point then, Nagrul Rising.  A direct inspiration in
some ways to the sort of galaxy crawl meta setting that’s emerging, though a strong tonal one as well. But mostly, just a cool seven page epic from Epic.  

This was from Epic Illustrated so yes there’s sex & violence.  It’s a myth after all.
Dude totally looks like Nicol Williamson from Excalibur.

Back when I ran a crapton of Werewolf the Apocalypse in the late 90s this spread always came to mind with regard to the Apocalypse. Still does. 

Loving the Four Nazgul of the Apocalpse thing gong on here. 

At some point, I need to sit down and scribble out why Bill Mantlo is one of the greats of
comics and def. one of those lucky few who warped my tiny little mind growing up.
We all have our inspirational and creative debts; the muse dictates that we pay it forward.