A while back, Grognardia was working on collecting a book of fantasy gods made from descriptions and illustrations contributed by the masses which was to be called ‘Petty Gods’— a tribute to the old “Unknown Gods” published back in the day by Judge’s Guild (I still have my copy of ‘Unknown Gods’ squirreled away). At some point, the project stalled and Grognardia retreated from the public scene. Most people thought it was a shame because the contributor work had all been all or mostly done — someone said it just needed layout and editing and the book was just in limbo (which reminds me — I have several things to finish, but that’s another subject for another post).
Greg “Gorgonmilk” has been working on getting the stalled ‘Petty Gods’ book back up and running. To that end, Greg started trying to get in touch with the original contributers and re-assemble the book (or a close facsimile thereof)… and new suggestions for godlings, godlets and other divine beings began pouring in. Which is great because:
a) The ‘Petty Gods’ book was so far along that letting it stall seems a shame,
b) Rather than just pissing and moaning, Greg grabbed the gorgon by the horns and milked it! He got off his ass and did something… which is something we need more of in this world.
Now it seems that the original manuscript for Petty Gods has been discovered and released via free PDF! Get it from GORGONMILK here! The new contributions will apparently be assembled into another volume! It’s an Easter miracle! Thank the Rabbit God! Praise his chocolate eggs! And thanks to Gorgonmilk for lighting the fire that made it happen.
I didn’t get in on Petty Gods 1, but will contribute to the 2nd one. I have some illustrations of some divine beings based on an Arthur Maachen story (written up by Geoffrey McKinney) that I just finished (they need to be scanned) and am trying to contribute my own Petty God… a (very) minor deity named ‘Pafflum’ from my own Aldeboran campaign.
The above picture is a scene from some play about Mormonism. I think those are the ancient ‘Lamanites.’ Looks like something that would happen on Aldeboran. Although on Aldeboran it would probably involve a lot more stabbing and head chopping.
I’ve been musing more on the ‘Improvised Apocalypse Arsenal’ concept that I introduced on Saturday. I think I have more posts in me on the subject. Sorry.
Today I’d like to talk about ‘Self Defense.’ No, not ‘self defense’ as in having weapons with you — I would categorize that as ‘defense of self through self offense.’ When the shit comes down. whether it be ravenous undead, Mad Max type wastelanders armed with hand-made crossbows, feral children with tooth and nail or mutants with super powers, you are going to want something to protect yourself from harm — a barrier between you and danger that can be as big as a castle or as small as a shield improvised from a trash can lid. Self protection becomes doubly important in an ‘infection’ scenario — when the bite of one zombie = eventual zombification, then taking pains not to get bitten seems a worthwhile investment.
|It’s just a matter of time…|
1) Don’t get out of the car: Is this good advice? I don’t know. I guess it depends. The good thing about the car is that you can lock yourself inside of it and drive away. And maybe you’ll have some bottled water, road flares or a blanket in the trunk. But when the apocalypse comes (and come it will), the roads are going to be jammed with bumper-to-bumper vehicles, each containing a happy-meal for the undead, mutants or cannibals in the form of a commuter who is probably armed only with a smart phone and a coffee. Easy pickings.
Also, most cars have a lot of glass, so, unless you are moving down the road at considerable speed, any determined adversary who can pick up a rock or other window smasher is going to eventually get you. The car is also a crappy place to hide; anything taller than a schnauzer is going to see you trying to hunker down in the driver’s seat of your Corolla. Be smart. Know when to make a break and hoof it. I suppose there are exceptions — if you have a helicopter instead of a car, you can thumb your nose at the proles stuck on the freeway below, but what goes up must eventually come down (and, if the apocalypse scenario is flying monkeys or fire breathing dragons, perhaps up in the air is the last place you want to be).
Max Brooks recommends vehicles like armored cars and the like, but good luck in getting your hands on one of those. If you try to jack the dudes who work for the armored car company, they will just shoot you; end of your story, or maybe they will just smile and wave at you through the bullet proof glass as the rabid mole rats or whatever rip you apart.
|Zombies: more persistent than Amway people.|
2. Don’t go outside: Good advice? Again, it depends. If you are shopping at ‘The Sunglasses Hut’ and suddenly the irradiated ghouls attack, unless you can lock down the whole mall immediately, get your ass out of there. If the threat is outside and you are inside, that’s probably more good than bad — figure out where they are going to get in and either barricade or surrender indefensible parts of the territory. But always leave yourself an exit! That upstairs bedroom might seem like a good place to hide, but if they are coming in the bedroom door can you go out the window? Have an exit strategy.
Also: how defensible and well supplied is this place you want to call home? Shopping malls seem to be a movie favorite for zombie survival, but Hollywood has some peculiar ideas about the defensibility of a mall… too much glass and not enough moats and machine-gun nests for my taste. Most malls seem to be a good source for stylish clothing, designer purses and jewelry, but these items are going to be less useful than shotguns, iodine and canned beans, which, in my experience, are left for more prosaic shopping destinations to provide. Some place like Wal-mart might be better, but those big box stores are also going to be ground zero for infection as panicking suburbanites pack in there, trying to grab all the toaster pastries and bottled water that they can fit into their mini-vans.
The last urban high school I taught in might have made a pretty good fortress. The kitchen was provided with industrial sized cans of cling peaches and fruit cocktail. The pre-war building had thick walls and bars on the windows. The nurses office had at least some medical supplies. There might have even still been some dated supplies* in the fallout shelter. Best of all, it was a run-down place with an undesirable zipcode, so few people are going to contest you for it’s ownership.
3) Learn from the ancestors: Time was, our ancestors defended themselves by scampering up a tree. And a tree still makes a good refuge… consider the dog and squirrel. If dogs had hands instead of paws, squirrels would have been wiped out years ago.
4) Clothes make the man: We need to divide this into sub-categories:
|Survival skills for post-collapse America!|
4a) Hooray for the SCA: I never did the SCA thing, myself. When I heard of it, I envisioned people in armor whacking each other with blunted weapons, which seemed to me like a very good way to train for many possible versions of the apocalypse. Unfortunately, most SCAers seem to spend most of their time wandering the Ren Faire in floppy hats, bodices and cloaks; garments that offer little or no protection from bites, claws or bullets and probably are impossible to run or climb a chain link fence in. If you an SCAer, leave the pirate costume in the closet and stick with the chain mail instead. Accessorize that battle armor with a decidedly non-period shotgun and replace the rattan sword with a machete or baseball bat. Armor will slow you down, however, so stay close to a vehicle in case you need to make a quick get away.
Dress for success
4b) Road Warrior: Leather motorcycle gear is probably a good choice – a nice compromise between protection and maintaining a decent movement rate. Stylish AND lots of zippered pockets for extra ammo, etc. Plus it makes you look like a tough guy… and, in case you dress for the apocalypse on a day when it fails to come about, you can just tell people that you are on your way to Sturgis. Accessorize with boots, leather gloves and helmet. Leather won’t stop a bullet, but it will probably slow down the teeth and claws of the undead or offer at least some protection from the teeth of rabid doberman pinchers.
Kelley was a badass, no doubt.
4c: The Sporting Life: Football players wear shoulder pads that would make damn good protection while battling other post-apocalyptic warriors armed with chains, boards studded with nails, lead pipes, etc. Lacrosse helmets offer great impact protection and high visibility — probably as good or better than those buckets most SCAers wear on their heads. Hockey offers shin guards, elbow protection, knee protection and gauntlets. Baseball offers the ever important groin protection: preserve your ability to repopulate the earth! About the only thing I can’t see being that useful are those giant shin guards that Cricket players wear — maybe if the apocalypse involves low-to-the-ground attackers like prairie dogs.
4d: Full Metal Jacket: Modern body armor, made for the military and law enforcement, offers medieval style protection with less weight, easy on-easy off velcro fasteners PLUS it is the only garment that can have a chance of stopping a bullet. Unfortunately, it is also expensive.
For those of us on a budget, I suppose there is the Ned Kelley “Hillbilly armor” option. A few visits to the scrap yard and hardware store, a few hours with the blow torch and pop-rivet gun and maybe you, too, can walk through a hail of bullets like Kelley.
He who smelt it, dealt it.
4e: Hazmat: To be truly prepared, you gotta figure out a way of getting at least one of those Hazmat suits and masks into your life in case the future apocalypse involves contagion, chemical menace or similar. The problem is, of course, that unless you KNOW that the risk is and what form it will take (is a painter’s particle mask sufficient? Or are you going to need the full body condom with bottled O2?) and you know exactly when to put your gear on, you are either limited to living your life like ‘The Boy in the Plastic Bubble’ (i.e.: assume 24-7 that you are under attack from some sort of unseen chemical or biological menace and spend your life inside a giant zip-lock bag — sorry; I’d almost rather be dead than succumb to that level of paranoia) or hope for an early warning from the CDC. Perhaps a few filter masks and latex gloves in the glove compartment couldn’t hurt…
4f: Less is More: I envision that the future might belong to the fit and athletic practitioners of the art of parkour. Dressed, at most, in Adidas, jeans and a hoodie, they seem to effortlessly leap from parapet to fence to rooftop, always one step ahead and out of reach of whatever menace the apocalypse holds. I envy them and wish them well; the future probably belongs to them.
*On a dare I once ate some “survival biscuits” that we found sealed in tin cans in an abandoned building. I think they dated back to when Nixon was in the Whitehouse. They were dry and tasteless; like Saltines without salt.
|School of Hard Knocks|
Last night I watched about 1/2 of ‘Battle Royale,’ a circa 2000 Japanese movie/novel that some say inspired the more highbrow novel, The Hunger Games. The basic premise is that in the near future, the school kids of Japan start to behave so badly that the adults decide to pass a ‘Battle Royale’ law in which classes of kids are chosen at random and dropped on an uninhabited island where they have to battle one another to the death. Each student is given a bag that contains food, water, a map and one weapon. The weapon is chosen at random; it might be an Uzi or it might be a spork. In addition, the students are fitted with explosive collars and certain regions of the island will randomly be chosen to become “get out of here NOW or your head will explode” zones to keep the kids moving around. I don’t know how it all turned out because I was tired and I couldn’t bring myself to keep watching it — maybe I’ll finish it when I am less tired. It’s not as unwatchable as some Japanese popular cinema, but the acting conventions of Japanese popular cinema are something I think I just don’t get. People are always convulsing with anger, fear or sadness which usually involves screaming through clenched teeth, doubling over like they have been hit in the stomach and having their eyes bug out… in short, they behave like cartoon characters. This Gaijin just doesn’t get it and will leave it to the bloggers who are Japan-o-philes to explain.
The genius of having the kids get random weapons, however, is hard to ignore. Which made me want to wonder, with my morning coffee, about the question, “When the shit hits the fan (be it attack of space aliens, the rising of the disenfranchised classes, zombie outbreak, etc., take your pick), how are YOU going to defend yourself?”
1) Guns are the obvious choice, especially if you live in the US where there seem to be as many guns as people. Unfortunately, unless you are a concealed carrier of weapons or in a job that gives ready access to guns (like law enforcement or working in ‘Firearms’ at Bass Pro Shop), you are only likely to have your guns with you if you know the shit is about to come down or you are at home (or wherever you keep your gun(s) if you have them).
My sidearm of choice would be my .38 Special revolver or a shotgun (only because I am familiar with these tools), but people who are into guns will probably have Glocks with 30 round magazines and semi-auto rifles illegally modified to class 3 status with 75+ round drum magazines, so my shootin’ irons are probably woefully outclassed and I’ll be dead in the first few minutes.
Speaking of gun porn, if one had to choose just one gun, you might want to go for the Kel-Tec shotgun. It features twin magazines that hold 6 shells each, so you could load one with buckshot and the other with slugs and then blast away, switching back and forth with buckshot for close range and slugs for further away. Plus it looks like it’s from the future. Kel-tec says the ejection port is underneath so southpaws won’t have it ejecting spent shells into their face. $800.00 MSRP means it’s not the most expensive option, either.
The good news is that if you live in the US, guns are cheap and easy to get, so you can easily add a .380 to your wardrobe, a pump shotgun to your hall closet and a 9mm to your nightstand. The bad news is that if you live in the US, guns are cheap and easy to get, so when the shit goes down we will all probably be shooting each other. We won’t have to wait for the zombies to kill us; our neighbors will probably shoot us because we look a little off or we were about to grab the last pack of Twinkies from the floor of the looted Wal-Mart.
2) The kitchen provides a lot of potential improvised weaponry. My first impulse is to grab a “chef’s knife” with as long a blade as I could find, perhaps 8″ or more. I like the chef’s knife because it could be used to stab or slash and has a little more reach than the paring knife or cleaver. Since it’s made for chopping, the blade has a little more heft than some of the longer knives. AVOID the wavy bladed bread knife. It looks like it would hurt like hell (and it probably would if your enemy just stood there and let you saw at him) but the blade is usually too thin to stand up to living sinew and bone (which is a lot tougher than cooked meat). Let some other fool take the bread-knife. Remember, although a lot of people show up in emergency rooms with cuts from bread knives every day, those wounds are always self inflicted by bagel eaters who are too lazy to get out a cutting board (yes, I have thought about this… wait, don’t look at me like that…).
Whacking someone with an iron skillet seem like a no-brainer (get it?), but the cast iron skillet has become a relic of a bygone era in many US kitchens, probably because you can’t just stick ’em in the dishwasher, so unless you are in the kitchen of a foodie or a southerner, the likelyhood of finding a plain old iron skillet is greatly reduced. The problem with the iron skillet is that it is damned awkward to wave around… in order to do damage with it, you are going to need a lot of wind up for your swing, and the short handle combined with the big round pan makes it just too damn top heavy. These space-age material pots and pans usually have all the disadvantages of the iron skillet (awkward shape and you need a lot of swinging room) with none of the heft; I’d leave ’em on the shelf unless you really have no better options. Rolling pins seem like a good idea, but they are usually too light to give a good whack. I’d probably grab a meat tenderizer mallet instead, although, honestly, go for the chef’s knife if you can.
People in the movies often seem to throw hot water or coffee on an attacker, but, honestly, unless you standing right beside the stove and the liquid is REALLY fucking hot, you really can’t make this your battle plan. It’s also a one shot weapon — afterwards, you are just a guy holding an empty carafe and facing an enraged and wet opponent.
|Be nice to the groundskeeper; maybe he’ll let you live.|
3) The garden shed / storage area provides some very good options. Baseball bats, axes/hatchets or a machete might be my first choice, but a shovel shouldn’t be underestimated. Erich Maria Remarque discussed the possibilities of the shovel as an effective hand-to-hand weapon in ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ (go for the throat with it!).
I’d take the hardwood ‘Louisville Slugger’ over those $100.00 aluminum bats simply because I remember seeing a kid in grade school take a whack at a phone pole with an aluminum bat and bending the thing in half… and he wasn’t that strong a kid. Remember that you can also use the bat as a baton in close quarters — a good poke in the gut with 3 feet of ash or hickory is going to slow most tough guys down, although you should swing for the head if it’s a zombie situation.
Axes or crowbars are also good for getting through doors, windows, etc., in a hurry when you don’t have a key. Speaking of axes — why are there so many ‘fire axes’ in office buildings in movies? I’ve been in hundreds of office buildings in real life and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fire axe just hanging on the wall, but in every movie it seems the hero is always breaking the glass and grabbing that bright red axe when he needs to do some chopping. Fucking Hollywood bullshit is what that is.
Speaking of Hollywood, LEAVE the chainsaw in the garage for some Tobe Hooper fan-boy to take. Chainsaw injuries are horrific, but are, as far as I know, almost always self inflicted accidents. The chainsaw is only dangerous when it is running… and while it is running it is so fucking noisy that you might as well tie bells all over yourself to tell the zombies, “Here comes dinner!” If you switch it off, good luck in starting it when the shit hits the fan; your opponent will have chewed out your throat or stabbed you 100 times with a pointed stick before you can get it started. I’m no Hercules but I can cut tree trunks lying on the ground all afternoon with a chainsaw, but when I have to reach out from my body to get the high branches, I’m exhausted in about ten minutes… imagine trying to hit a moving target with that thing? And, if you are dealing with an infection situation, do you really want all that blood flying around?
I hope my little essay has helped you consider YOUR apocalypse plan. Remember, we don’t know what form it will take or when it will come, but unless Murphy’s Law is wrong, we know it’s coming so BE PREPARED!
Paolo from The Lost Pages Blog commissioned me to do a color illo for a cover for his Adventure Fantasy Game; I shipped it off to him last week but have been distracted by other stuff; I didn’t notice until today that it was up on his site so now I can share it with you.
We see a group of intrepid explorers with pistols, swords and spells fighting their way through a horde of skeletons. Maybe they are going to that castle in the valley?
When I was a young pup, there was a TV series about benevolent seeming aliens who had come to earth to control mankind called ‘V.’ The ‘big secret’ about these visitors was that they were actually reptiles who wore masks and wigs to appear human. They remade the series a few years ago, but I haven’t seen the new version. I tried to watch the old series a while back when I heard they were remaking it, but only made it halfway through the first episode. I was pretty amused by seeing the aliens swallowing hamsters and guinea pigs, but the acting and dialogue was so freaking wooden I couldn’t make it past the first 1/2 hour. Sometimes you just can’t go back.
|looks rather reptilian to me|
A few years ago, I heard about ‘David Icke‘ for the first time. If you don’t know who he is, follow the links. Icke claims to believe that ‘alien shapeshifters’ control the world and people in positions of power (like the Rothschilds, most or all of the presidents of the US and other nations, etc.), are members of a race of reptiles that have interbred with humans and control us. It sounds like a pretty entertaining set of ideas; I kind of wish it WAS true because that could be so cool and I could then join the freedom fighters trying to take down the evil reptiles and wear bandoliers of bullets and grenades on my armor vest like I am in some Schwartzenegger movie. And who wouldn’t want to do that? It certainly would be more fun than marching in protest against the greed of bankers and financiers and the collusion of politicians to bend democracy to the will of corporate interests. And I’d rather carry an AK 47 and kill lizards than carry a bindle and curse the man — but right now the latter scenario seems more likely.
Apparently some people think Icke is an anti-Semite. I don’t know anything about that, but, unfortunately, it would not surprise me. Ray Arnold Palmer, one of the fathers of modern UFOlogy, apparently would go on tears about ‘The Jews’ in the years before his death; I don’t know if that was approaching senility or if age had just removed the filtering software from Palmer’s brain. Anti-semitism has a long history in the conspiracy theory movement… perhaps hating ‘the other’ is a part of the dark underbelly of human imagination.
If it is not clear already, I love thinking about ‘outsiders’ and freaks and eccentrics of all kinds.
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.
In one of Fafhrd and Mouser’s later stories by Fritz Leiber (I think it was “The Knight and Knave of Swords“), Odin and Loki end up in Newhon because their last worshipers on their home world have died (presumably that was our earth, which Leiber made mention of before as a ‘different’ world than Newhon; although if it was another dimension or just another planet is not made clear if I recall correctly). Weakened by a lack of worshipers, Loki and Odin somehow wander to Newhon where they arrive, barely alive, and are adopted by Fafhrd, the Mouser and their friends. They build up the power of these gods and nurse them back to health because they hope these gods can help save Newhon in an upcoming battle, but after the battle Loki and Odin try to betray them for more power. Happily, the evil Norse gods are frustrated in the attempt (although Fafhrd makes a painful and unintended sacrifice of his left hand to Odin).
A similar conceit (where gods gain power from their followers) is introduced in L. Sprague DeCamp‘s Reluctant King books. Jorian, the main character, finds a small statue that he keeps… and every night the god represented by the statue appears in his dream since he is now that god’s only contact with the human world (all of the rest of his followers having died). What makes it funny is that the god is constantly whining about how long it has been since someone brought him flowers and seems more of a pain than he is worth. Finally when someone steals the statue and the god disappears, Jorian pretty much considers it good riddance.
Everyone keeps telling me I have to read ‘Small Gods.’ It’s on my list.
The idea that fantasy gods draw their power from their worshipers is one that appeals to me, and I enjoy the idea of a dynamic roster of gods whose power rises and falls with the fortunes of their churches in the material planes.
I have been calling my campaign world by several names over the past years — at one point it was ‘The Vales’ since there were different regions (Silver Vale, Red Vale, East Vale, etc.,). It has also been called ‘Hinterlands’ or ‘Northlands’ since most of the action took place is an area that was considered remote and removed from the more ‘civilized’ lands to the south and east. I also called/call it ‘Aldeboran’ (after the sun that the earth-like planet revolves around) or ‘Tellus’ (after the planet itself) but I go back and forth between wanting it to be a planet as an astronomer might define one… or just a ‘world’ which might just be a bubble in space, or moss on the back of a giant turtle… or a clump of dirt floating in space or whatever.
‘Aldeboran’ is an alternate spelling of ‘Aldebaran’ which is an actual orange giant star only 65 light years from Earth and in the constellation of Taurus. The name is arabic and apparently means ‘The Follower’ because when observed, it appears to follow The Pleiades. Lovecraft associated Aldebaran with Hastur, one of his ancient gods, so the name seemed apt.
Most of the action takes place on the large continent divided into several smaller kingdoms. Some of the places are Lenaria — an ancient empire to the east which once rules the Hinterlands where most of the action has taken place. Lenaria was 90% destroyed by meteors a few hundred years ago (or was it fire from the sky — or even some sort of stange curse or magic or weapon?) but the Lenarians still dabble in powerbrokering in the new world (they are a rip-off of the Melniboneans from Moorcock — powerful sorcerers with gigantic galleys, armies of slaves and dragon air cavalry, they worship the Dragon Goddess). The remaining islands of this once mighty empire share the names with German photographic lens formulas of the late 19th/early 20th century (Thambar, Xenar, Tessar, Summar, Summitar, Noctar, Elmar, etc.).
South of Eord lie the Vales, including Red Vale and The Red Mountains… home of the dreaded red dwarves (who are cannibals who consider everyone else as potential food). North lies a forest kingdom of Elves (named, quite unimaginatively, Alfheim), and Aluria, a kingdom of Amazons as well as other various wastelands. There is also a large swampy land known as ‘The Sinking Lands’ which is ruled by a very powerful magic user… and to the west lies Thool (or Thule) which is ruled by a priesthood who have evolved (or devolved) into creatures with enormous brains and frail bodies. Of course, they maintain armies of lesser intellects to serve and protect them. There is also the ruined city of Tana Tak, which is said to be overrun by flesh eating ghouls, but great ancient secrets are said to be buried deep beneath the ground. There are various other kingdoms, some swamplands to the south (which are littered with gigantic stone statues rumored to be the petrified remnants of gods).