Friday, July 27, 2012

Happy Gygax Day!

Lately, my Gamer ADD has been acting up something fierce.  I've been bouncing all over the place, from OSR-ish stuff to superheroes to Pathfinder to Urban Fantasy.  Makes it hard to sit down and actually write about something.

Somewhere in all of that, I started looking at Dungeon Crawl Classics.  It drinks deep from the OSR well, specifically, the famous Appendix N from the original DMG.  For those not in the know, Appendix N is the list of inspirational reading, the fictional works that informed the creation of D&D.  It's a very diverse selection of old school fantasy, with lots of pre-Tolkien stuff and weird fantasy.  DCC fits that bill nicely, reading more to me like early White Dwarf-style D&D adventures.  Reading it got me thinking about the sort of music I'd want to play in that style of game.  Thinking turned to musing, and musing yielded this:

Appendix N: The Soundtrack (requires Spotify)

(Executive Summary:  Classic and Prog rock.  A few formative metal tracks.  Enjoy.)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Vacation's End

I've had the last week off.  Most of it, I spent doing as little as possible.  This weekend, though, I had to travel up to the Dallas area.  My wife had a meeting to attend for the SCA (she's a Kingdom-level officer), and we had to be back in Houston today in order to attend a family reunion.  So, my job was to hang out all day and drive us home last night.

Of course, the meeting wasn't actually in Dallas; it was in Terrell, a very small and sleepy town about 45 minutes away.  Given there was nothing for my son and I to do, we drove over to the Big D to hit bookstores of the used, comic, and game variety (as Dallas actually has some decent game stores).

Yesterday's Haul:
A signed Mouse Guard print for my son
Physical copies of Heroes & Villains, v1 and 2 for DC Adventures
The Advanced Races Guide for Pathfinder
Rise of the Runelords for Pathfinder
A copy of the Walt Simonsen Thor Omnibus collection for 1/2 cover price

My wallet has yet to forgive me, but most of those things are items I couldn't get in Houston, and the last was too good a deal to pass up.

Then, today, my wife and I decided to exchange anniversary presents a couple of days early.  I gave her some books on Renaissance art and some painted lead collectors figures of Big Barda and Black Canary.

She gave me this:

Stylish, and epic!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Reflections On A Life In Geekdom

This isn't a gaming post.  Well, there's gaming in it, but there's a lot more.

Today is my 49th birthday.  For most of those two score and nine, I've been neck-deep in geeky pursuits.  What follows is not meant as a brag or name dropping or anything like that, but an appreciation on my part for a number of things I've been very lucky to do.

Witnessed the Apollo 11 landing on TV
Attended my first Star Trek convention at age 12
Saw Star Wars for the first time on by 14th birthday (35 years ago today)
Had a vendor's pass at the first comics convention I attended, which let me in to all the cool after-hours stuff, so I got to meet a ton of my heroes.  The rest of the time, I hung out with Jack Herman (the co-creator of Villains & Vigilantes), who I met at the con and hit it off with.  Good times.
Commissioned a Nightcrawler as a swashbuckler sketch from Dave Cockrum.  It's framed and sitting over my desk.
Went to Origins the next year and got to play Champions with George MacDonald.
Went to San Diego Con in 1985 and met Alan Moore, Jack Kirby, Jerry Siegel, and Julie Schwartz all in the same afternoon.
Inked and lettered two comics penciled by Ben Dunn.
Silenced Gary Groth during a panel at another convention.
Got to hold the original pages of Murphy Anderson's last finished work in my hands.
Met and married someone who puts up with all this.
GMed Champions for Aaron Allston
Made a member of the Order of the White Scarf of Ansteorra in the SCA (it's a fencing thing)
Got paid for writing articles about gaming

Played Champions with Steve Long
Had an adventure published and characters I created appeared in another sourcebook.
Got turned into an NPC for Far West.
Accumulated thousands of books, comics, and RPGs over the past 35+ years.

I'm missing things because memories fade, but the point is, being a geek has afforded me some truly wonderful experiences.  Apart from the stories I've experienced over the years, it's allowed me to meet writers, artists, and actors I admire.  It's given me something I'm genuinely proud of, and nourished my soul.  It's something that's such a part of me, I can't imagine living any other way.

So let your geek flag fly, Gentle Reader.  In whatever way you can.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Meridian Emergent

(Sorry for the lack of updates.  I go on vacation next week, which means I’m trying to get a ton of loose ends wrapped up at work, not the least of which was conducting personnel reviews for my three minions (a first in my career).  As a result, when I wasn’t working at the house in the evening, I was avoiding computers altogether.)

Years ago, I created a superhero setting called “Meridian by Moonlight,” for a short-lived Champions campaign.  The key influences on the setting were “Batman: the Animated Series” (still in first-run) and the Fleischer Bros. “Superman” animated shorts from the 1940s.  Despite the various Dark Deco set dressing, the actual material I wrote for the setting was pretty much a paint-by-numbers approach to city building I’d learned from years of playing Champions.  Looking back on it, there’s a lot I’d do different today, starting with discarding about 75% of the original material, and then adding things that actually made it an interesting superhero setting instead of a simulated city where superheroes can hang out.

Which, I guess, is kind of what I’ve been doing for the past year.  Mostly by accident.  Back when I started making up ICONS characters for this blog, the very first one (Fedora Noir) was just the sort of character I’d always imagined living in Meridian.  So, I wrote her background to include the city.
When I wrote the next one, Blight, I mentioned that EUREKA was Meridian’s leading scientific institution.  It was?  This was news to me at the time, hey, it sounded pretty cool.

So yeah, now I had a whole new aspect of the setting that just showed up from random glurge on the virtual page.  What next?  Soon, I found myself incorporating little bits from “Sins of the Past” (my ICONS adventure), which made sense, since I’d had Meridian in mind when I wrote it.  As I continued, the city and the setting accreted, creating something far more interesting (to me) than my original ideas.

And that’s where I find myself today.  This post is about going back and collecting all the random bits I’ve made up and putting them in one place.  They may not all make sense, but I want to be able to reference them in the future.  So, without further ado, here are the facts of Earth-Meridian, in the order I found them.

  • Fedora Noir is the granddaughter of The Black Fedora, Meridian’s original Midnight Detective.
  • The Midnight Detective Agency – run by Fedora Noir
  • Meridian Star – Newspaper
  • Detective Walt Levinson – Meridian PD, Fedora Noir’s boyfriend
  • Little Augie Caesar – Chimpanzee Crime Lord from “Sins of the Past”
  • EUREKA – Meridian’s leading scientific institute (I don’t know what EUREKA stands for)
  • Rex Radium – Local hero?
  • Blackatoa – Local hero?
  • The Collider – Local heroine?
  • The Day of the Blight – First appearance of the Blight
  • In our world, famous actors go to Japan and shoot cheesy TV commercials. On Earth-Meridian, superheroes appear on "El Juego Más Peligroso" ("The Most Dangerous Game") a cheesy reality show in which they are hunted by the star of the show, a man known only as Huachu (a Quecha word meaning "Orphan.")
  • Stu Murphy is probably the only super-powered dogcatcher in the world.
  • Doctor Cereberus the Science Dog works at EUREKA
  • Doctor Cereberus was created by HADES, which is EUREKA’s opposite number
  • Dumont Family – one of Meridian’s richest families
  • The Deco City – Meridian’s nickname
  • Julia Whitmore – Daughter of the Mayor at the time of the Bowin Opera Hall Fire
  • Bowin Opera Hall – local music venue, burned to the ground in a horrible tragedy that birthed Ripfire
  • When historic moments involving superhumans occur, the Witness is always present.
  • Meridian University – local college
  • Nephilim – Old Testament supernatural monsters
  • The Olympians: A superhero team (presumably local)
  • Rorek the Ice Elf – escaped servitor of the Frost Giants (“Villainomicon”)
  • The Great Summer Blizzard – Isenkriegerin’s first attack on Meridian
  • Time Travel Is Real.  And Insanely Dangerous.
  • Western Yunnan Province is a hellish wasteland.
  • Wei Xiong – China’s official superteam
  • The Many-Angled Ones – Cthulhoid baddies from outside reality
  • Maxwell Demon – 70s rock star (totally stolen from “Velvet Goldmine”)
  • The Elder Dark – A powerful magical entity from outside our reality (perhaps one of the Many-Angled Ones)
  • Al-Gereshki – The Doombringer’s true name
  • WCBN – local TV station
  • WCBN has a superpowered meteorologist
  • Thunderhead – unstatted weather-controlling villain
  • Raymond Gregory – Meridian PD Liaison to the Superhero Community
  • Armbruster Industries – local industrial giant
  • Detective Andrew Drake – local maverick cop
  • The Octofather – local crime boss with an octopus head (ICONS)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


I totally failed to post yesterday.  I had to revise three employee reviews, and by the time I was done with that, the only thing I wanted to do was ride my stationery bike and watch "Clone Wars."

Tonight's my regular game night, so I hope I'll have time to put something up.  If not, I'll do a double-feature tomorrow.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

They Called Them Ogres...

Yesterday, I took my son to Brick Fiesta 2012, the Texas Lego Enthusiasts' Convention, which was held in Houston this year.  It was mind-blowingly cool.

Not surprisingly, there was a bit of gamer geek overlap, both in the crowd (I saw this t-shirt) and among the participants themselves.  One guy had about a dozen home-built Battletech mechs, ranging from the small ones up to an Atlas.  Another guy had two different versions of an Ogre Mk V: a display model (about a foot long) and a minis-scale one (about three inches).

When I geeked out over them, The Boy asked, "What's an Ogre?"  Which led me to realize I needed to shore up a mighty gap in his education.  How could I have missed it? The boy loves giant robotic death machines.  He likes things that go boom.  Ogre is so firmly in his wheelhouse, I don't know why I never thought to show it to him before.

Probably because I had to root around in the garage to find my copy (still in its little plastic case).

Anyway, today I taught him how to play (of course, he got the Ogre).  Between poor howitzer placement and the worst die rolls in the history of mankind, he pretty well skunked me.  I managed to take out his main battery and one secondary.  He successfully used both missiles and lost a whole two tread boxes when he ran over one of my tanks.

Of course, it's like my wife said, "You know better than to ever give him a giant robot ANYTHING."

(There may be a new ICONS character later tonight, but probably not.  I've got another ICONS-related post rattling around in my head that I want to write soon.)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Can ICONS Do Gritty?

A sentiment I've seen on occasion is that ICONS is only good for Silver Age-y, bright and shiny superheroics.  I think some of that is due to the artwork in the official products, which is intentionally rather cartoonish.  But the rules themselves are pretty style-agnostic, and cover lethal damage on page 70.  So, really, it's just a matter of perspective and description.  Like anything else in a superhero game, it's a matter of what you want to emphasize.

Which brings us to this charming fellow...

David Armbruster

Prowess  7
Coordination  5
Strength  6
Intellect  5
Awareness  6
Willpower  4

Stamina  10
Determination  2


  Blast Device 4 (Shooting)
  Swinging Device 5
  Invulnerability Device 3

  Catchphrase : "Go Ahead And Run, You'll Just Die Tired."
  Connections : Armbruster Industries
  Connections : Detective Andrew Drake (Maverick Cop)
  Epithet : Scourge of the Streets
  Motivation : Justice

  Enemy : Little Augie Caesar
  Enemy : The Octofather
  Personal : Cruel
  Social : Obsessed

Point Total  47

From birth, David Armbruster was marked for greatness.  His father, Owen Armbruster was a renowned industrialist and philanthropist, but he also subscribed to some unusual notions of child-rearing.  David was raised by a team of specialists, top men and women in their fields.  From an early age, he was put through strenuous physical exercise and training.  His mind was similarly challenged, as were his senses.  In short, David was being raised to achieve the very peak of human potential.  The elder Armbruster did this out of a true sense of public service.  He dreamed that, one day, everyone would benefit from such an regimen and humanity would progress far beyond its current achievements.

As he grew older, David's education included ethics and philosophy, along with the practical skills he would need to one day run his father's company.  In short, he was shaped into a veritable superman.

And then, it all came crashing down.  Owen Armbruster died, cut down by a mobster's bullet in an ill-advised attempt to rob a charity benefit.  For all his education, David lacked the means to cope with the loss of his father.  He became obsessed with justice and with destroying the criminal element in Meridian.  He threw himself harder than ever into his physical training, incorporating martial arts and weapons skills until he became as expert in them as he was in everything else.

Taking up a crossbow (a nod to the Armbruster coat of arms), he donned a costume and stepped into a world of violent retribution.  The criminal underworld would pay for what they took from him. And he won't stop until they're in prison or in the grave.

Can ICONS do gritty?  Hell yes, it can.

Friday, July 6, 2012

They Came From Beneath The Earth!


Prowess  4
Coordination  4
Strength  6
Intellect  5
Awareness  5
Willpower  6

Stamina  12
Determination  *

  Stealth Expert

  Paralysis 4
  Burrowing 5
  Life Support 5 (Breathing, Eating, Heat, Pressure, Radiation)

  Epithet : The Terror From Below!
  Motivation : Kill All Humans!
  Catchphrase: HSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!

  Social : Hideous Monster
  Weakness : Bright Light
  Personal : Controlled by HADES

Point Total  46

Created in a HADES lab, by means unknown, the M.O.R.L.O.C.K.s are bestial brutes with one mission in life:  Kill All Humans!  Their origins are shrouded in mystery; no one can say which twisted mind birthed these foul creatures!  None can say what M.O.R.L.O.C.K. even means!  All we do know is that they come from below!  Infiltrating our cities through the sewers, they live only to prey!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Reap The Whirlwind!

Sharon Robertson

Prowess  2
Coordination  4
Strength  5
Intellect  6
Awareness  6
Willpower  6

Stamina  11
Determination  4

  Aerial Combat
  Science (Meteorology)

  Blast Device 5
  Elemental Control Device 5 (Air)

  Motivation : Protect the Innocent
  Catchphrase : Reap The Whirlwind
  Identity : WCBN Meteorologist Sharon Roberson
  Connections : EUREKA

  Enemy : Thunderhead
  Personal : Loves Raymond Gregory
  Personal : Obsessed With Weather

Point Total  42

Ever since she was a little girl, Sharon Roberson was fascinated by the weather.  She majored in Meteorology, graduating at the top of her class.  With her looks, a career in television was almost guaranteed, but Sharon wanted more.  She took weather and public safety very seriously.  It was this that drove her to seek the assistance of EUREKA in designing a flying suit that would allow her to study weather conditions up close and personal, without the limitations of a conventional aircraft.  The Cyclone suit was a success, and on her first field test, the examination of a tornadic thunderstorm, Sharon encountered Thunderhead, a potent weather controlling villain.  Although she was unprepared for a superhuman encounter, Sharon found herself having to fight for her life in the skies over Meridian!

Thinking quickly, she used the vectored air propulsion system to first protect herself, then blast Thunderhead from the sky.  Within minutes, the villain was in custody and Meridian had its newest superhero.  Sharon still works at the TV station, even though her bosses make her wear her costume on the air.  Her newfound second life has made things difficult in her young marriage, especially since her husband is a police lieutenant tasked with superhero liaison.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Returning to ICONS

A bit less than a year ago (by about four days), a random combination of words inspired me to create an ICONS character.  That post unleashed a burst of creativity that saw me post here pretty regularly for the next few months.  Then things fell off again.  I'm still not where I want to be creatively, but there's an old saying that goes, "Fake it until you make it."  So, I'm going to try to get back into the swing again.  I found a way to once again create the character art I find necessary to my ICONS project, and to celebrate, I present the first in what I hope will be a new series of writeups:

was Ezra Carruthers

Prowess  5
Coordination  5
Strength  9
Intellect  4
Awareness  5
Willpower  4

Stamina  13
Determination  *

  Occult Expert

  Elemental Control 5 (Darkness)
  Binding 5
    Affects Incorporeal

  Epithet : Black Bones, Blacker Deeds
  Motivation : Bring Down The Elder Dark
  Identity : Servant of the Elder Dark

  Social : Horrifying Skeletal Form, Unsettling Aura
  Personal : Insane

Point Total  45

Ezra Carruthers was born into a comfortable, boring upper class existence.  While his family weren't the cream of British society, he wanted for nothing.  Except entertainment.  Nothing ever seemed interesting enough.  He flitted from one hobby to another, one major to another, never settling on anything except his own pleasures.

Then, one night in 1974, backstage after a Maxwell Demon concert, he met the woman who would change everything.  Stacy Lynn Boyd was an American expatriate who called herself "Monica Thorne."  She claimed to be a channel to higher powers, and made quite a stir in the staid (and mostly male) London occult community.  While it wasn't love at first site, both Ezra and Monica saw something in the other.  Ezra found himself entranced not only with the exotic beauty, but with the new world she opened up to him.  Monica saw in Ezra something of far greater value: a potential host for a great supernatural power.

For Monica, it should be noted, was anything but a poseur.  She'd summoned her first demon when most girls were having their sweet sixteen party.  By age eighteen, she'd allied herself with something she called the Elder Dark, a powerful magical entity from outside our reality.  Although the time for the Elder Dark to fully manifest in our world was decades, if not centuries away, she believed by bringing forth his mightiest servitor, she might hasten the process.

For months, Monica kept Ezra entranced, dangling tidbits of mystical knowledge before him, and indulging his physical lusts.  On All Hallows eve, she led him to a gathering of her coven, in the wilds of Cornwall, ostensibly to initiate him into her cult, but in truth, to summon Al-Gereshki, called the Doombringer, Herald of the Elder Dark.  On that storm-lashed hillside, Ezra Carruthers ceased to be.  Stripped of all flesh, his bones turned to obsidian, a malevolent mad intelligence took up residence in his skull.

Although Thorne's cult was discovered, defeated, and scattered, the Doombringer remains firmly a part of this reality.  Driven solely by a desire to bring about the time when the Elder Dark can manifest, it launches its own plots to wreak terror, but also joins up with those it deems advance its cause.