If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably already know that I am working on a ‘monster book’ for LotFP called Exquisite Corpses right now (well, not right now, but you get the idea). You can read LotFP’s announcement here.
At right are the paintings in progress for the new edition. I published the original edition of E.C. via Lulu in 2010 and a lot of people liked the concept behind the book. Each page had a picture of a man, a woman, a bird, a robot, a tree-man, etc., on it and each page was cut into three sections — one cut at the neck and one cut at the hips — thus dividing each picture page into three tabs; the top tab has the head on it, the middle tab had the torso, wings, arms, etc., and the bottom tab has the legs and groin. The pages are arranged so that you can flip the tabs and put the man’s head on the robot’s body, the snake’s head on the insect’s body, etc., and build ‘hybrid’ creatures. Each tab also had suggestions for powers and abilities associated with that part, so giving the dragon’s head to a creature would give that creature the ability to breathe fire and bite, putting a bird’s torso on a creature would mean that it would have wings, etc.
In addition to the 26 basic monsters (which could be combined to create +17,000 unique critters if my calculations are right), there were optional random tables to add special powers and vulnerabilities to creatures and even a set of simple psionics rules for old school D&D games. The new edition not only increases 26 base monsters to 40 (thus, 64,000 combinations) and the illustrations are in color.
There will be other features and supplementary downloads for the new edition… today I decided to offer a free pdf of little pants and brassieres that users could print out and paste over the creatures in case they didn’t want to see all that full frontal nudity. Not every creature in the book is naked (some are wearing pants or armor) and not all have visible genitals (i.e.: aliens and snakes)… and personally I can’t imagine wanting to paste little trousers on the guys, but at least one person said that they didn’t particularly want their kids getting bothered by it so I want to try to be accomodating.
The idea was (I think) a good one, but Lulu is not the best vehicle for publishing and promotion. And, although I really liked the concept, the drawings of the creatures were, in all honesty, not my best work. Plus the user had to cut the tabs himself to prepare the book for use (which always made me wonder how disspointed people might have been if they screwed that up). After some online discussion James Raggi IV (LotFP) and I agreed that a better edition could be a fun addition to most people’s game library. Raggi deals with a quality printer in Finland that could do the book in a nice binding with color illustrations and perforated pages (so the user could cut or tear along the perforation rather than slitting the pages with an x-acto knife or cutting them with scissors, which is just asking for trouble).
I’d like to congratulate the mainstream media outlets on finally having found the courage to say that ‘The Donald’ is full of shit. Like here. And here. And here. In my opinion, the best high-level analysis I’ve seen of the whole kerfuffle is in The Christian Science Monitor. Even David Letterman, a barometer of ‘middle America’ if ever there was one, is done with The Donald.
And I just find myself wondering, “What took you guys so long?”
My beef, however, is less with Trump (who is a self promoting blowhard to the core) and more with the media who do not seem to feel the need to do anything other than ‘feed the beast’ and sell advertising time. And when I say, “Feed the Beast” I mean that the mainstream media outlets don’t seem to follow any other dictum in deciding what to put onscreen other than, “If it bleeds it leads.” Even if the ‘bleeding’ is just a fatuous real-estate developer with an outsize ego running his mouth and attempting to stoke up controversy to promote his ‘reality’ show and engage in his public displays of masturbatory self admiration while stoking racism tinged conspiracy theories that lead nowhere other than into a self perpetuation news cycle where the same story returns, again and again, like the killer in a series of brain-dead slasher films.
Perhaps if someone like Donald Trump wants to make stupid statements about Obama’s birth certificate, it is “news.” But why does it have to be reported witht he same gravity and given the same level of coverage as our two wars in the Middle East or the US budget? Why have the major media outlets given self promoting, ‘personal memoir’ writing, reality show starring media whores like Trump and Palin and all the rest so much airtime and softball questions with cozy brown-nosing television personalities? Why can’t we have a sense of proportion? Why do we need these perrenial ‘junk stories’ clouding the view of more serious matters? Why can’t more producers at NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, etc., say to themselves, “Okay, let’s take 5 minutes for the bullshit stories after we get done with Afghanistan, the Budget, North Korea and jobs…“
It’s not a matter of the media ‘playing politics.’ I don’t think asking the media to have a “sense of proportion” is asking too much. Nobody likes bad news; that doesn’t mean that we don’t need to hear it… especially when it is something we may need to deal with.
Z is for Zontar. I’ve never watched the John Agar movie, “Zontar: The Thing from Venus.” I’ve seen clips and stills and read a brief plot summary, but, by all accounts “Zontar” is boring, which, for me, is one of the few ‘dealbreakers.’ Monster movies can be silly and hokey and stupid for all kind sof reasons and I will still watch them ,but a movie is boring I find that unforgivable. “Zontar” was originally made as a ‘straight to television’ film in 1966 by Larry Buchannan. In those pre-cable days there was a market for cheaply made monster, crime and science fiction films for television. Zontar was actually a remake of Roger Corman’s “It conquered the World!” (1956). Plot synopsis: Zontar convinces an Earth scientist that he (Zontar) can help solve the Earth’s problems. Zontar hitches a ride back to earth on an unmanned rocket and hides in a cave. Zontar can grow little flying bat-bugs on his skin… they fly off, attach to people’s necks and implant little antennas that control people’s minds. He starts controlling the minds of important people and taking over the world, using his power to stall cars and cut power to throw earth into confusion. Zontar is immune to bullets but the scientist who originally helped bring Zontar to earth redeems himself by using a crystal from the device he used to communicate with Zontar in the beginning to destroy the invader from Venus (but getting killed in the process). The Earth is saved. A longer and more amusing plot synopsis (with pictures) can be found here. Just because a movie is really crappy (and may even be too crappy for me to watch — which is really BAD), doesn’t mean that it can’t end up becoming fodder for some gaming fun. At some point I suspect Zontar shall invade Aldeboran. Look forward to it!
I loved this song back in the day. The video is a bit cheesy (with Johnny Lydon “going big” for the camera — but his lack of subtlety is a part of his charm).
I first heard of “The Yuan Ti” back in 1981 or so via the TSR adventure, “Dwellers of the Forbidden City.” The Yuan-Ti are an evil race of snake-people that are divided into the castes of ‘abominations,’ ‘purebloods’ and ‘halfbreeds.’ What made the Yuan-Ti unique as a monster is that they could appear in all sorts of different configurations — some might be snakes with human heads, others might be snakes with human torsos and arms or creatures with snake heads for hands, etc. We thought this was pretty cool at the time (and I still think it’s great).
The ‘forbidden city’ that they lived in was also pretty cool. It was in a valley that was accessed through a series of dungeon-like tunnels with various guards and traps. The city itself was mostly ruined and overrun with “mongrelmen” (sort of half breeds that combined the worst features of almost every humanoid), “Tasloi” (little guys that, as I recall, climbed trees and threw javelins… I thought of them as monkey-men) and “bullywugs” (frog people). Plus there was some very cool art on the cover of The Forbidden City by Erol Otus.
A few years ago I placed the “Forbidden City” in Blackmoor/Aldeboran (I was using the Blackmoor map for a while for my adventures and might go back to it… but everything can be moved from one place to another as far as I am concerned). I placed “The Forbidden City” on an island and jammed “The Tomb of Abysthor” from Necromancer Games in there. I decided that the ‘Forbidden City’ had once been a holy city of an order of Paladins who were subsequently destroyed and their city became a nest of evil. The Yuan-Ti in my campaign were actually interfertile with medusas… the medusas and the Yuan-Ti could breed and some of the children would be Yuan-Ti while others would be medusas.
The players had to travel to the city in order to return the remains of a paladin they had found to The Tomb of Abysthor (as well as rescue some slaves). This ended up wiping out half the party, but, in the end, they were successful. Good times.
I’m tempted to use a creature like ‘The Meenlock’ (also see this excellent Russ Nicholson drawing; the meenlock is the one in the upper RH corner) from the 1980 Fiend Folio. Instead of bursting out of the chest of the victim like Geiger’s “alien,” the meenlock converts the vistim into a fellow meenlock… which is really fucking creepy (see the bog, ‘Dreams in the Lich House,’ linked above, for some observations on the Meenlock in horror).
Although I thought it was a crappy movie (I saw about 1/2 of it), I think “Alien Vs Predator” might get mined for inspiration in order to bring the Xenomorph to Aldeboran. The temple from that movie is particularly interesting to me… especially the way in which the walls move and re-arrange themselves. How to make a map of that, however, is a challenge I have not yet undertaken.
To the east of Arding, across the Great Easter Sea, lie the shattered remains of a group of islands commonly referred to as, “The White Empire” or “Lenara” or “The Lenaran Empire.” Almost 500 years ago, these islands were much larger and represented the single most powerful empire within known Aldeboran history. The decadent”Dragonlords of Lenara” (for they have mastered the art of riding dragons) once ruled the rest of Aldeboran much like the Melnibonéans once ruled Moorcock’s barbarian lands. As a teenager I ripped the whole thing off from Moorcock.
A little background: About 500 years ago, while the ‘young kingdoms’ of the continent were in rebellion against the Lenarans, the Lenaran Islands themselves were 90% destroyed by a great cataclysm. Fire fell from the sky, the ground shook, waves inundated the lands… the whole bit. Nearly everything was destroyed. The remaining islands are called Thambar, Elmmar, Summar, Xenar and Tessar (which are also, by strange coincidence, the names of late 19th/early 20th century photographic lens formulas created by the engineers of Leitz GMBH and Zeiss-Ikon). Priests of the gods of the young kingdoms and wizards of the rebellion took credit for the cataclysm, but evidence that the rebels or their gods actually caused the near total destruction of Lenara is somewhat thin.
The ruler of Lenara is known as “The White Emperor” because the palace he occupies is made of white stone (and ‘Green Emperor’ was already taken by Bob Bledsaw’s Wilderlands). Like the Roman emperors of earth, the White Emperor is considered a god by the Lenarans… and, strangely enough, the Emperors themselves have lifespans that are much longer than the average Lenarans… while the Lenarans have lifespans much longer than the average ‘barbarian’ or ‘Hinterlander,’ so there might be something to this claim.
Although still powerful, the Lenarans are in no way as strong as they used to be and currently devote most of their energies to the constant assassinations and rivalries that plague their royal families as well as various decadent entertainments. Few non-Lenarans willingly visit Lenara. Some end up there as slaves and are seldom seen again. Some people on the continent still claim descent from Lenarans which is a badge of honor that many others may look somewhat askance at — sort of like a modern day Virginian on Earth bragging about how many slaves his great-great-great grandpappy owned.
I just wanted to note that my copy of ‘Surge of the Wine Dark Sea‘ arrived from Lulu the other day. ‘Surge of the Wine-Dark Sea‘ is an “OSR” art book edited by Matt Finch; it features illustrations by 36 artists who have drawn or painted illustrations for the old school revival game materials being published currently… and I am lucky enough to be one of the artists featured. This book is published by Mythmere Games via Lulu and is available in both hardback and soft cover. I splurged and got myself a hard back.
The illustrations include drawings and paintings, digital art, maps, etc., in a variety of styles and has a brief bio of each artist. I’m quite pleased at the quality of the printing and have been enjoying looking at the work of some of the talented people out there.
The Lulu ad copy says: “This full color book is filled fantasy and swords & sorcery illustrations by artists of the D&D “Old School Renaissance.” These artists have created the visual imagery of recent publications focusing on playing D&D by its early rules, including works by publishers Pacesetter Games, Mythmere Games, the First Edition Society, Frog God Games, Usherwood Adventures, and many others.”
“Wine dark sea” is apparently a reference to Homer’s Odyssey.
Looking at the picture, I wonder if the woman is saying, “You know, underneath this gown and wimple I am wearing a chainmail bikini.” Plus, in the picture it looks like “Ye Olde Torche Shoppe” is right on the edge of a cliff — the customers have to stand really close to the counter to keep from falling to their deaths.