Sunday, April 28, 2013

"She" 1935 film

I'm watching the 1935 film adaptation of H Rider Haggard's "She". This movie has it all!

It's a thirties adventure story with intrepid explorers tracking down a crazy legend in the Siberian arctic. In the arctic, they find a huge unexplored mountain range. They find an entrance to volcanic caves inhabited by degenerate cannibal cave men!!! They are almost literally boiled in a cauldron like bugs bunny when they are saved by warriors from a lost kingdom on the other side of the mountains.

There they find an Art Deco kingdom ruled by an immortal woman with magic powers. There's some jealousy and love triangle and mistaken identity and blah blah blah.

This movie has some amazing matte paintings and costumes (the immortal queen was the inspiration for the evil queen in Disneys Snow White). And did I mention there's a saber tooth tiger and its last victim frozen in a glacier? From only 500 years ago!

The film also gets bonus points for explaining why the lost kingdom speaks English. Plus they have their own fictional language.

The ending is amazing. The entire sacrificial procession and dancing! The rituals and masks! The giant statues of gods sitting around the chamber! My eyes boggled! The design and choreography and costumes and set design just all come together to be perfect pulp adventure film. The special effects of the Flame of Life at the very end were amazing, even by today's standards. They were beautiful and mysterious and very modern looking.

The whole movie is like a pulp-adventure rpg campaign come to life! This movie should be required viewing for anyone wanting to run a pulp adventure RPG.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The FP is EPIC!

First things first. The FP is an epic film. It's a 2011 film that's currently available on Netflix Streaming. It's an homage/parody of 80's direct-to-video fighter movies about some kind of underground fighting arena, like any of the dozens of Bloodsport knock-offs. The schtick is, however, instead of fighting, the FP is a bout the underground world of high-stakes Dance Dance Revolution  Beat Beat Revelation. The film is the best kind of parody: It's not only funny, it's one of hte best examples of the genre its trying to emulate. Other great examples include Black Dynamaite, Galaxy Quest, Planet Terror, and Shawn of the Dead.

The genius of the FP is that it takes itself SO SERIOUSLY! The only hints that this is a parody are plot elements that are just intentionally over-the-top. If the movies it emulates took their plots to 11, the FP takes its plot to 12!

It's a movie where two rival gangs vie for control of Dawn's Liquor Mart, the only liquor store in the rural California town of Frazier Park (the FP), through underground duels of Beat Beat Revolution. In the opening scene, the main character's older brother dies in an especially intense match against the leader of the rival gang. The main character, named JTRO, who wears an eye-patch by the way, gives up BBR and becomes a logger. He is lured back into the scene when he learns that L-dubbah-E, the leader of the rival gang, has shut down the liquor store. All the drunks in town have now switched to meth and crack, causing the town to go downhill. What's worse, without alcohol there are no bums. Without bums, there's no one to feed the ducks. Who's gonna feed the mutha-fuckin ducks, yo?

A lot of the promotional material for the movie says its in a dystopian post-apocalyptic future. Don't believe any of that. It's in the modern day normal city of Frazier Park, and that makes it truly hilarious.

Anyway, Christa and I laughed our butt off. And I thoroughly recommend this film for anyone who appreciates a good combination of the sublime and the rediculous.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Pendragon, Carcosa, and DCC. Plus, a realization about my Sunday group's preferences.

The entirety of my creative attention lately has been focused on finishing "The Blade of Takshaka", a full-length adventure scenario for the Swords of Cydoria, written for BRP. I have finished the writing and am ready to move into layout and illustration.


We're still playing Pendragon on Fridays. Last week, our intrepid knights tracked the knave Ithyll into the Saxon-controlled northeastern section of England. We passed through a dense forest and found some moors. On the morrow we awoke to find ourselves magically transported to a fairy realm. A gigantic sword balanced on its edge to form a bridge across a raging river. Sir Hyll made it across. We found a pagan cairn atop a hill and a sword in a magical red stone. Nearby, we found a city filled with beautiful fairy ladies. Our knights were besotten and partook of the comely hospitality. They laid out a test for us the next day, a gauntlet designed to test our knighly qualities. We all failed pretty quickly.

Failing the test, we found ourselves returned to our original location. We continued our mission and came across an abandoned farm. It was a Pictish trap. The three of us slew a score of Picts. My knight, Sir Hyll, had no small difficulty defeating the final Pict who was, in fact, the bastard Ithyll. The rest of the eschille stood by and looked on as Ithylll and Sir Hill traded blows for nearly an hour. Finally, Sir Hyll won the day and grudge-killed that evil traitorous mother-loving... Anyway. You get the point.


 On Saturday, I picked up the book Carcosa. It is nominally for Lamentations of the Flame Princess, a D&D retro-clone, but it can be used with any OSR game. I have been wanting to purchase this book for a long time. It's bound in soft embossed leather. It has amazing artwork and typography and layout. It's just a really well done book. Christa was admiring the printing of it and the overall design.

Carcosa is a hex-crawl adventure setting. The book consists of a hex-map, a guide to the setting, the special rules for characters, some new special rules for combat, psionics, alien technology, and sorcery, new monsters, and a big section with two encounters in every ten-mile hex. Then there's an adventure.

As a setting, Carcosa is weird-fantasy mash-up of science fiction, sword and sorcery, and Lovecraftian horror. It is very inspired by the writings of Clark Ashton Smith and Jack Vance and H.P. Lovecraft. It feels like a Rene Laloux sci-fi film. It's creepy and dark and menacing.

The setting catches a lot of flak because of the graphic nature of the sorcerous rituals. The rituals all require some kind of human sacrifice, and some of the sacrifices involve rape and infanticide and, well, just really really depraved actions. But that's the point. Sorcery in this setting is meant for bad guys. If you, as a player character, are willing to do these things for sorcery, then maybe you're the bad guy! I think it's totally in keeping with the setting and mood of the game. The book is also clearly marked on the cover with a warning of the mature and gruesomely graphic nature of some of its contents.

The hex-crawl aspect is fascinating. I want to run a hex-crawl type of game and I really wanted this book to help inspire me. Although, now I kind of just want to run Carcosa instead.

Dungeon Crawl Classics

On Sunday, we continued DCC. In recent weeks, we plumbed the depths of a dark pit inhabited by faceless (literally) cultists and giant tentacles. We reached a point last time where we had to retreat out of the dungeon. We re-traced our steps using our maps and managed to get out. We returned to the town of Swallow and recuperated for a few days. We levelled up (Level Two! W00T!), resupplied, recruited some new henchmen (our original four had died or fled), and went back into the pit.

We explored some side-passages we bypassed, lost some henchmen and a PC (poor Pyramis the Halfling) to some basilisks during a scouting mission, retreated and returned with the full party to kill said basilisks. Henchman Hector Mierdas Vendedor became a bad-ass warrior in this battle thanks to being Enlarged by the wizard Zebediah. Afterwards, we continued down. We defeated a tomb full of ghosts and got a +2 short sword, which we gave to Hector the Zero-Level Henchman. Then we linked up this path to a path we previously explored, closing the loop. We came across and defated some cultists and brainwashed captives and our out-of-game characters decided to call it day.

I really enjoy DCC. It's very weird fantasy. It feels like Clark Ashton Smith's Hyperborea. As I keep saying, it's like Warhammer FRP and Basic D&D had an RPG baby.

I have also come to the realization that our Sunday group really enjoys games were the PC's kind of suck. We have the most fun playing games were our characters are nobody sub-standard slightly amoral peons just trying to survive. Not where we are failing, mind you, but where we are making our way in spite of our lot in life. Where we're playing rat catchers and shit farmers and blacksmiths fighting kobolds and goblins and giat rats. Or, like in our Ghostbusters campaign, where they are just dudes who get enough money to purchase a ghostbusters franchise which they operate out of one of their mom's basement, with a crappy van and no office and yadda yadda yadda. You get the idea.

I'll need to remember this when designing future campaigns for this group.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Glaive of Krull, a Heroic Tier artifact for D&D 4E

The Glaive of Krull
Heroic Level

The Dragonborn hero Krull had the Glaive forged deep in the heart of Mount Grem. Five chromatic dragons were sacrificed in its creation and enchantment. Krull used the Glaive to help conquer the neighboring tribes, forming an empire in the Northlands in the name of Tiamat. Krull continued his campaign of conquest until he died, assassinated by his own slaves. The Glaive passed from one would-be conqueror to another until it was taken by the Knights of Bahamut during their crusades against the Northlands.

The Glaive is a +2 magical throwing weapon (Superior Ranged Weapon, Prof +2, Damage 2d4, Range 6/12, Weight 4 lb, Group: heavy blade, properties: heavy thrown) with the following properties and powers. When de-activated, the weapon consists of five 6-inch curved equidistant radial spokes around a central hand-held hub. When activated, 6-inch curved blades extend from the end of each spoke and has the appearance of the symbol of Tiamat. The weapon is thrown in a spinning motion. It magically returns to its wielder after each throw, or can magically fly about on its own under the mental control of its wielder.

The artifact at first appears to be nothing more than an over-sized magical symbol of Tiamat. After its owner takes an extended rest with the Glaive in his possession, the artifact becomes bonded to the owner and its true nature and powers are revealed.

Enhancement: Attack rolls and damage rolls
Critical: +2d6 damage
Property: You gain a +1 item bonus to Athletics and Thievery checks.
Property: You can speak and understand the Draconic language and script.
Power (At-Will): Standard Action. The Glaive does not need to return to the wielder at the end of the turn, it can be maintained and controlled remotely.
Power (At-Will): Free Action. The blades can be retracted to hide the weapon’s true nature.
Power (Encounter): Immediate Interrupt. You gain resist 5 vs. ice, fire, poison, acid, or lightning (choose one) until the end of the encounter.
Power (Encounter): Attack five different targets, each with separate attack and damage rolls.

Goals of the Glaive of Krull

  • Hoard wealth, acquiring much and spending little. Wealth is its own reward.
  • Forgive no slight and leave no wrong unpunished.
  • Take what it wants from others. Thos who lack the strength to defend their possessions do not deserve to own them.

Roleplaying the Glaive of Krull
The Glaive of Krull is selfish, avaricious, deceptive, and manipulative. It does not speak directly to its wielder, but it insinuates itself into the wielder’s own conscience, urging the wielder to choose a course of action that furthers its goals.
Starting Score 5
Owner gains a level +1d10
The owner’s wealth is doubled +2
Acquire something that rightfully belongs to someone else +1
Kill out of vengeance +1
Suffer an insult -1
The owner loses something that belongs to them -1
The owner’s wealth is halved -2
Defeat a Chromatic Dragon -2
Offering money, making donations, or any other charitable gesture -2

Pleased (16-20)

“Greed captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed is liberating. Greed is empowering. Greed is good.”
The Glaive is excited to serve its new master, goading him to greater acts of vengeance and acquisition.

Property: the Glaive’s item bonus to Athletics and Thievery checks increases to +5.
Property: Gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls against any enemy that damages you with a cold, fire, acid, poison or lightning attack until the end of your next turn.
Power (Encounter): Standard action. If the glaive scores a hit on an enemy, the enemy is immobilized. On subsequent turns the wielder may expend a standard action to will the Glaive to remain in place, spinning like a buzz-saw, and continue to do damage each turn (save ends).
Power (Daily): Immediate Interrupt. You gain resist 10 vs. ice, fire, poison, acid, or lightning (choose one) until the end of the encounter. This supersedes the normal resistances granted by the artifact.

Satisfied (12-15)
“Too much is never enough.”
The Glaive is pleased with the wielder’s greed and avarice and encourages him to take more and more.

Property: the Glaive’s item bonus to Athletics and Thievery checks increases to +2.
Power (Daily): Free Action. Gain 1 action point.

Normal (5-11)
“One possesses only what one has the strength and cunning to guard. All else is forfeit.”
The Glaive inspires its wielder to acquire more wealth, brook no insult, and to kill all those that deserve vengeance.

Unsatisfied (1-4)
“To know want is to be unworthy. Those are blessed who have the will to seize what they desire.”
The wielder is not acquiring enough wealth to satisfy the Glaive.

Special: You take a -2 penalty to all defenses against creatures whose level is equal to or lower than yours.

Angered (0 or lower)
“Poverty deprives a man of all spirit and virtue; it is difficult for an empty bag to stand upright”
The wielder is not living up to the Glaive’s expectations. It will not remain in the wielder’s possession for long. The artifact’s enhancement bonus to Attack rolls and damage rolls drops to +1.

Special: You take a -5 penalty to all defenses against creatures whose level is equal to or lower than yours.
Special: Any time you miss with an attack, there is a 25% the Glaive makes an attack against your Reflex defense, rolling 1d20 + your level, when it returns to your hand. If this attack hits, your Concordance is decreased by 1. If it misses, your Concordance in increased by 1.

Moving On
“I will never be satisfied. There will never be enough.”
When the wielder next gains a level, the Glaive of Krull melts into residuum worth 5,000 gp. Its magic and sentience appear elsewhere in the world as a new Glaive.

If you spend an extended rest without the Glaive on your person for any reason other than moving on, the Glaive makes an attack against your Will defense, rolling 1d20 + your level. If this attack hits, it does a number of d6 psychic damage equal to your level. You are no longer bonded to the Glaive.

Attempting to disenchant the Glaive automatically fail and result in an immediate interrupt attack against the disenchanter’s Will defense, rolling 1d20 + your level. If this attack hits, it does a number of d6 psychic damage equal to your level.

Symbol of Tiamat

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Donaar of the Jagannash Bloodline, Hand of Tiamat

In our long-running three-year D&D 4E campaign, one of the players wanted to switch characters, so I took his old PC and turned him into a recurring villain. I will post stats for Donaar's artifact: the Glaive of Tiamat, as soon as I can find that file.

Donaar of the Jagannash Bloodline, Hand of Tiamat                                      Level 14 Soldier
Medium Natural Humanoid                                                                                         XP 1000
Initiative +7
Senses Perception +15
HP 102; Bloodied 51
AC 32; Fortitude 23, Reflex 23, Will 24
Resist 10 ice, fire, poison, acid, or lightning
Immune poison
Speed 6
Action Points 1

(M) Ardent Vanguard Strike (standard; at-will)
+13 vs. AC; 2d6+5; may be used as a Basic Melee Attack when charging.

M Vanguard Charge (minor; encounter)
+1 to attack on any charge made using Ardent Vanguard Strike until the end of Donaar’s next turn. If the charge is successful, damage is increased by +1d8 and all allies within 10 squares gain +1 bonus to attack and +3 to damage until the end of Donaar’s next turn.

(R) Glaive (standard; at-will)
Ranged 6/12; +13 vs. AC; 2d4+5.  The glaive does not need to return to Donaar at the end of the turn. It can operate independently and move with a speed of 6. Moving the Glaive requires Donaar to expend a Move action. Attacking with the Glaive requires Donaar expend a Standard action. Simply maintaining the Glaive at a distance requires Donaar to expend a Minor action. If no actions are expended, the Glaive immediately returns to Donaar.

R Glaive Assault (standard; encounter)
Attack 5 different targets with the Glaive, each with separate attack and damage rolls.

R Glaive Buzz-saw (standard; encounter)
Ranged 6/12; +13 vs. AC; 2d4+5 and the target is immobilized. On subsequent turns, the wielder may expend a standard action to will the Glaive to remain in place, spinning like a buzz-saw, and continue to do damage each turn (save ends)

C Dragon Breath (minor; encounter)
Close blast 3; +11 vs. Reflexes; 2d6+2 lightning.

C Divine Challenge (minor; at-will)
Close burst 5; One target in burst; the target is marked until not engaged. The target takes 10 radiant damage the first time it makes an attack that doesn’t include Donaar as a target. Additionally, all targets of an attack made by a creature challenged by Donaar that doesn’t include Donaar are healed for 11.

Glaive’s Protection (immediate interrupt; at-will)
Donaar gains +1 to attack and damage rolls against any enemy that damages him with a cold, fire, acid, poison, or lightning attack until the end of his next turn.

Draconic Telepathy (standard; encounter)
Donaar may send a short message to a dragon that is up to 1 mile away. Donaar may also use this power as a free action when he drops to 0 hit points, even if he has already expended this power.

For the Master (within 5 squares of a dragon)
Donaar gains +1 bonus to attack rolls.

Dragonborn Fury (only while bloodied)
A dragonborn gains a +1 racial bonus to attack rolls

Five Heads of the Dragon Queen (standard; special)
Donaar creates 4 copies of himself, each appearing in an adjacent square. Each new Donaar is identical in every way and may attack or perform any other action Donaar can except for Five Heads of the Dragon Queen. The new Donaars have no Action Points. The original Donaar may perform this once per encounter. At the end of the encounter, all but one Donaar crumbles to ash. The remaining Donaar is now the true Donaar regardless of which Donaar originally used the power. This power cannot be used if there have been any allies nearby within the last 5 minutes.

Alignment Lawful Evil
Languages Draconic, Common
Str 17 (+9) Dex 15 (+9) Wis 18 (+11)
Con 15 (+9) Int 11 (+7) Cha 17 (+10)
Equipment carried: The Glaive of Tiamat, +2 Vanguard Mordenkrand, +2 Immunizing Armor

Monday, April 1, 2013

Cartoon Network on Netflix!!

As of yesterday, a good deal of Cartoon Network's best shows have been added to Netflix Streaming! This is HUGE! I added a bunch of shows to my instant queue yesterday.

  • Samurai Jack, season 1
  • Justice League, seasons 1-2
  • Justice League: Unlimited, seasons 1-2
  • Adventure Time, seaon 1
  • Power Puff Girls, all seasons
  • Dexter's Laboratory, all seasons
  • Batman Beyond, seasons 1-2
  • Regular Show, season 1
  • Metalocalypse
  • Venture Bros., season 1
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold, season 1
  • Robot Chicken, season 1
  • Secret Mountain Fort Awesome, season 1

There's a bunch of other shows that I didn't add to my queue:
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends
  • Ed, Edd, and Eddie
  • Squidbillies
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force
  • The Boondocks

and a bunch of their crappy kids shows and live-action shows in which I have no interest.