Brain Eater

Yesterday I posted a pic of a monster I am working up; today I have a revised image.  It’s a little smaller and is more ‘dug in’ to the victim’s brain, using 1/2 of it’s eight tentacles to grasp the victim by the throat and sticking tentacles in the ears and mouth to ‘pull the strings’ on the person it is controlling… leaving 4 tentacles free to attack the next victim.

Edit: Better yet!  Jon C. asked me if I had ever seen the old horror movie, “Fiend without a Face.”  I have not, but check it out… brains crawling around like inch worms:

Replacing Mind-Flayers and other I.P. protected monsters

I was doodling in the sketchbook this a.m. and came up with some sort of flying squid that was eating an off-market He-Man’s brains — something inspired by looking at too many old pulp sci-fi / horror magazine covers no doubt.

It occurs to me that this is how I might replace ‘I.P. protected’ monsters like ‘the mind flayer’ and others when I publish Mines of Khunmar eventually — plus it has an ‘Aldeboran’ vibe that I like.

I imagine this thing is capable of eating the victim’s brains and then using the brainless victim as a puppeteer uses a marionette.  Obvious ripoff of Wolverton’s Brain-Bats of Venus I guess… but nothing really feels original anymore, so why not just go with it?  Of course, it should have other cool powers as well.  Gone is the mind-flayer’s human body — but the mind flayer really didn’t ‘use’ the human-like body it had (other than for walking around and using it’s hands to open doors).  The ‘brain octopus’ (don’t have a good name for it yet) could travel around by crawling unless it has a ‘puppet’ — then it could just ride around and let the puppet do the walking.

While we are on the subject, since monsters like “The Displacer Beast” were obviously ripped by Gygax and company from an A.E. Van Vogt story (1)  how is it that Wizards now ‘owns’ it?  I mean, I guess Gygax (or someone at TSR) came up with the name ‘Displacer Beast’ — shouldn’t the monster itself belong to Van Vogt’s estate while Wizards owns the name ‘Displacer Beast’?

1) Wikipedia tells me it is called ‘Coeurl’ and appears in the story, “The Black Destroyer”, which also features a space ship called ‘The Beagle’.  I know ‘Beagle’ is a reference to the career of Charles Darwin, but didn’t a space ship called ‘The Beagle’ for the basis of some of the ‘Blackmoor’ adventures published by TSR (I’m thinking ‘City of the Gods’ and ‘Temple of the Frog’?)


Posts on religion seem to be making the rounds; never one to waste the opportunity to ride on another person’s coattails, I thought I would get in on the game.

The D&D games I have been involved in never seem to have taken religion terribly seriously (which might be ironic since I learned to play D&D while going to Catholic school). Priests of Thor and Mitra always rubbed shoulders with other faiths; individual priests might not have been happy with the arrangement, but players were unconcerned with the finer points of theology and just wanted to get on with their tomb-robbing. Most ‘priest’ characters were pretty much interchangeable. And it was fine.

The real world, however, is much more complicated (as posts and replies on Grognardia, LotFP and other places will show). Up until a few years ago, if you had told me that pantheism involved the worship of cooking pans and polytheists believed that god was made of plastic, I might have believed you. What a strange hobby this is — it constantly forces me to learn new and weird things. But, cruising around the blogs, I learn that some people take religion in the fantasy world pretty seriously and ponder the questions of, well, “how do all those gods get along?”

I’ve written about my own take on religion in the fantasy world before. The people of Aldeboran worship a hodgepodge of gods and goddesses including some drawn from/inspired by real world religions and some yanked from the zany and pretentious art-psychobabble of the Church of the Subgenius… as well as a few made up ones just tossed into the mix. I respond pretty positively to Stuart Robertson’s premise that the game really is “a cultural Borg … that rolled around borrowing from just about every source it encountered.” (sourced from Grognardia), so the ‘buffet style’ of religion doesn’t bother me anymore than having Scandinavian/Germanic gnomes/dwarves occupying the same world as Javanese Naga. However, some folks really seem to want to understand how having a bunch of competing deities might work, though, which could be a fun project for the philosophically and theologically inclined.

I’ve been fond of the idea suggested by reading stories from Leiber’sLankhmar‘ series and L. Sprague DeCamp’sNovarian‘ tales that suggest that an individual god or goddesses power might wax and wane depending on the number and fervor of his or her followers. I suspect such a system might be in place on Aldeboran, although I have not confirmed that.
Current, real world religions seem a bit of a problematic source of inspiration, though, mostly because many ‘real world’ faiths require their followers to reject other faiths as ‘untrue.’ That kind of becomes a problem in the fantasy world when the temples of Neptune and the temples of Thor are just down the street from one another and offer pretty similar services at competing prices. On Aldeboran, I imagine that most people are functional polytheists (like many ancient Romans). If they are trying to seal a business deal, they go to the temple of the god of money and burn a candle; before an ocean voyage, they drop off a few coins at the temple of the sea god, etc. Individuals might like one god more than another or feel like they have a ‘special relationship’ with one deity (much like many old school Catholics have a particular patron Saint), but it wouldn’t occur to most people on Aldeboran to insist that someone else’s god does not exist.

The notable exception to this rule are two religions modeled on real world religions. The Aldeboranian ‘Church of the Allfather‘ is fashioned after the medieval Catholic church in some of it’s less than admirable moments (what with the burning or heretics, inquisitions and all). They consider elves to be corrupt monsters (and will attempt to kill them on sight) and dwarves as ‘subhumans’ worthy only of being slaves. They have a highly organized hierarchy of priests, bishops, etc., and are always going off on crusades.

Another exception is the Church of Jeebus, in which the members practive all sorts of speaking in tongues, exorcism and other strange practices. Although less hierachical than the Church of the Allfather, there are several competeing sects in The Church of Jeebus and a few of the charismatic leaders are extremely influential. One of the most famous is James The Baker, a former owner of a bakery who saw the face of Jeebus in a griddlecake one morning and set off to create his very popular ministry. Baker and his wife ride around decked out in jewels and furs in a golden carriage, preaching the gospel of buying shares in their ministry in order to assure yourself a place in the afterlife.

Some people might find the inclusion of these two parody religions offensive (I don’t really think they are, since my mockery is reserved for the misbehavior of the human agents of these faiths — I don’t care if people want to beleive or go to shurch, but I also don’t think the misbehavior of the clergy should be above mention). I’m not running any games on Aldeboran right now so it doesn’t really come up.

see also:
A to Z: P is for Priests
Apr 18, 2011
Those who don’t know me might assume that, given the nature in which I portray religion and priests in this post that I am an atheist or a cynic or something similar. I will admit a distatse for organized religions… mostly due to how …

Welcome To Aldeboran
Feb 28, 2010
After discarding the rather pompous and unoriginal pantheon of my highschool years, I just toss in any and every god of religion I can think of, with Cthulhu cults rubbing elbows with pagans of every stripe, authoritarian churches and …

My Favorite Adventures
Mar 13, 2011
4) The Haunted Monastery: In my own homebrew world, I have a religion I call “The Allfather.” The Allfather’s followers are somewhat like the medieval Catholic Church; basically lawful but inclined to an excess of zeal and dogma. …

Welcome to The Village of Hamlet

Click the pic to go bigger! There’s lots of bad shit going on in Hamlet!

Welcome to Hamlet!

Hamlet (named in honor/satire of Gygax’s ‘Hommlet’) is/was a village in my original campaign just a short walk from Khunmar. It is a village where chamber pots are continually being dumped from upstairs windows on the heads of unsuspecting persons below, dogs fight over severed body parts in the street, executions are so commonplace and frequent that they barely draw a crowd and everything is for sale — East Saint Louis, pre-WW2 Berlin, Rome in it’s glory, NYC before Disneyfication and post-economy Detroit all distilled down to their essence and crammed into a village that will fit on one piece of graph paper.
Price lists should include standard dungeoneering items (ten and eleven foot poles, ropes, spikes, etc) as well as blow jobs, VD cures, exorcisms and whatever the medieval version of crystal meth might be.
Nihilist gaming at its best. Penis size and anal circumference size charts optional and probably not a good idea.

A to Z: Z is for Zontar: The Thing From Venus

Finally this A to Z thing is over.

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!

A to Z: Y is for Yuan-Ti

Today is brought to you by the letter Y and the evil half-snake Yuan-Ti.

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.

A to Z: X is for Xenomorph!

On Aldeboran there will be ‘xenomorphs,’ but exactly what form they will take and how they got there currently remains unresolved.

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.

Stay tuned!

A to Z: W is for Wind, Water and Waves

Today is brought to you by the letter W. W is the first letter in words like “Wind, Water and Waves which overwhelmed the Islands of the White Emperor.”

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.

A to Z: U is for Ummamrod

U is for Ummamrod!

Ummamrod is one of the less common deities in Aldeboran, worshipped by the occassional alchemist, lovers and people who deal in relationship advice. Her/his temples are considered a good source of love potions, aphrodisiacs and contraceptive spells.

Ummamrod and Her/his opposite, Dormammu, are both hermaphrodite deities who look nearly identical, but Dormammu is male on the left side and female on the right whereas Ummamrod is female of the left side and male on the right. Thus, Ummamrod is usually called ‘Her/him’ or ‘She/he’ whereas Dormammu will be called ‘Him/her’ or ‘He/she.’ The clerics of both deities are hermaphrodites (or at least bisexuals or transexuals; it is all so confusing) although bothe deities will accept worshippers of either sex. Their clerics usually wear garments divided down the middle, with male garments on one side and female on the other, and often have beards on only one half of their face. Of course, clerics of Ummamrod are female on the left and male on the right and clerics of Dormammu are male on the left and female on the right, but the similarity causes much confusion among the uninitiated. Technically speaking, the image at right is probably a better representation of Dormammu, but you get the idea.

Dormammu is a deity who deals in jealousy, sexual agression and other aspects of love gone wrong… jealous former lovers often appeal to him/her for vengence. Dormammu is as evil and Ummamrod is good, so watch out!

Ummamrod used to be much more popular among the people than she is today because of the recent rise in fashion of a ‘revisionist’ version of history that advocates a return to some invented ‘traditional’ values of a fictional past. Many of Her/his temples have been closed by local authorities out of a desire to protect public morality and because the open worship of a hyper-sexualized hermaphrodite deity makes some people (especially worshippers of The Allfather) pretty fucking uncomfortable. Dormammu’s worshippers have gone ‘underground’ because of all the shit they stir up.

Both Dormammu and Ummamrod appeal to alchemists since alchemists are people who deal in transforming the nature of substances.

The good thing about A to Z posts

I keep reading comments here and there where people are slagging on the whole ‘A to Z’ thing. I finsished the last of my A to Z posts the other day (they are all just sitting in the queue waiting to be autoposted when the right day comes around). While I’m not proud of all of my A to Z posts, I can honestly say that there are a few that I wrote that I think could be pretty interesting to the community at large and were fun to write and think about — and I would have probably never written them if I hadn’t had to find a topic that started with a certain letter.

This morning’s entry (T is for Tana Tak) is a case in point. I had a pile of notes and drawings in my binder, so all that stuff was ‘already written,’ but it wouldn’t have occure to me to look it over, scan it in, write it up, etc., unless I had to come up with something for the letter T. And once I started looking at it, I became more excited about it. And now that I have posted it, the wheels have started turning and I am eager to do some more work on it.

I took the A to Z challenge as a chance to repost a lot of campaign notes from Aldeboran which I have added to, very sporadically, over the years. It’s given me a chance to take a closer look at the stuff I’ve accumulated as a whole. And that’s a good thing.