Chemru, the Malevolent Dancer

Some gods are

  • articulate masters of disguise, given to divine pontification; powers or bit-players in the struggle between Law and Chaos [deities]
  • take on primal aspects combining nature-imago from our reality and those of another, unfamiliar zone perhaps adjacent to it; often nurtured with blood sacrifice [eidolons]
  • cannot be beheld by mortals or even gods without consequences [gorgoliants]
* * *

In the town of Slar found near the desert that has no ending they fear the arrival of the dancer called Chemru. It is said those who witness the god are compelled to dance like him forever, even as their flesh falls from their bones and long after only their threadbare ghosts remain. In this way Chemru will slowly bring destruction to the world as he capers through it, whirling and screaming and exulting in the darkness. To see his dance is to become a part of it, so the people of Slar must go blindfolded and must learn to walk through life as blind folk do. For Chemru and his company of mad ghosts dance across these lands, leaving empty towns in their wake, following the path to Eskaton. 

Chemru, gorgoliant of the Dance, cannot be seen by any PC/NPC without eliciting a save vs dragon breath every round that they look upon him. He is immune to all magics, and thus the very object of horror for all practitioners of the magical arts. Anticipating his arrival, many folk choose to flee rather than blind themselves. Often as not, warning comes to a town too late. 

Chemru is merciless and egalitarian, a destroyer of evil as well as good, hating all things equally, eternally.

[Music Video] "Substance" by Cryo

Nitzer Ebb is right up there with Häagen-Dazs on my top ten list of made-up pseudo-German names. For those not in the know -- Nitzer Ebb was a British EBM/industrial band that peaked in the late 80s and produced memorable cyberpunk stompers like "Let Your Body Learn" and "Control, I'm Here". 

Artists like Cryo and Muscle and Hate have sorta kinda picked up where Nitzer left off. What follows is some neo-classic Industrial vibes accompanied by unintentionally hilarious images. Enjoy.


[Rant] Decline of the Superhero Movie

Just watched Kick-Ass 2 and was thoroughly unimpressed. The fighty/actiony bits were fine in their way I guess, but there was only the weakest of Disney Channel scripts to hang them on. The first film, at least, held a few surprises.

And as much as I despise the idea of putting a Bat-suit on Affleck, I doubt he could do a worse job than Christian Bale. But to blame Bale for those films' shortcomings is unfair. I couldn't even finish the last one. All that ersatz gravitas and pseudo-drama amounted to a massive fucking bore. I suppose if I want to watch a decent Bat-film I'll turn to DC's animated Bat-features which -- in terms of storytelling and performance -- at least offer something for the viewer to think about and immerse himself in.* 

I'm a certifiable comic book nerd, and I can't wait for this glut of flashy, insubstantial superhero flicks to just DIE. Stick a fork in that beaten-to-death horse. It's like a nightmare where every new superhero "blockbuster" turns out to be a re-screening of BATMAN FOREVER. 

*If you have no idea what I'm talking about, try the animated version of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One.


Ingredients for a Fantasy France Sandbox

Been delving into the work of James Branch Cabell this week for the first time ever. Long been familiar with the author's name via Michael Moorcock, who references Cabell's Jurgen often as an inspiration for his Elric saga. Cabell wrote for the slicks during the early 20th Century, when young H. P. Lovecraft was still cutting his teeth as a writer (to give it some context). Much of Cabell's work concerns a fictional French province called Poictesme (pronounced "pwa-tem") -- a place not that far off from the early Medieval/legendary time of King Arthur and Camelot, rife with monsters and powerful magic-users. If you have an ear for the lyrical quality of Lord Dunsany or William Morris, then you're sure to eat Cabell right up and be combing your beard for crumbs after.

I have to wonder if Clark Ashton Smith and C. L. Moore were fond of Cabell's milieu. Smith contrived a similar ersatz French province called Averoigne and set a number of short stories there. Moore -- an author just as formidable and inventive if not as poetic as Cabell and Smith -- gave us yet another Gallic holding called Joiry. Are there other imaginary French provinces created by contemporary fantasists?

With just these three (Poictesme, Averoigne, Joiry) it seems a sizable section of legendary France could be constructed, hexed and numbered.



Found at Staples

This green fellow was walking toward me as I entered the store. First mantis I've seen all year.


D&D & Marvel & DC

So I noticed something interesting today. Apparently Marvel Books put out some AD&D board books for kids in the 80s. Some of these characters look pretty familiar:

So why didn't Marvel pick up the rights to do some AD&D comic books? It seems like it would've been a no-brainer. Instead we got DC's take:

So what gives? What happened behind the scenes?


An Interesting Group Shot

  1. Jack Kirby [you may have heard of him]
  2. Bill Mumy [appeared in original Twilight Zone series]
  3. Jerry Siegel [co-created a certain Kryptonian]
  4. Bob Kane [created some guy called Batman]
  5. Miguel Ferrer [appeared in Robocop]
  6. Mark Hamill [starred in a few sci fi movies]
(I originally conflated Bill and Miguel. Thanks to Patrick and James for setting me straight.)



Unlike your games, your old school cereal has probably gone stale at this point.

(via The Retroist)


TSR Pop Quiz

Name the two most Clark Ashton Smithian products TSR ever published.


Pig-Faced Orc in hide armor, wielding sword

What film is this guy from?

[General Project Update] Palpating the Imagination Glands

I am not the timeliest of motherf***ers, I admit. 

Here are 1d3 excuses:
  1. I have this 9-5 gig that pays the rent and buys me your sweet books.
  2. I do my best work at night, when I'm slightly inebriated. Sadly, being slightly tossed on a regular basis interferes with the 9-5 gig and so happens less often than I would like.
  3. My chronic masturbation habit eats up most all of my free time :(
Clearly, I am no professional.

I do want to let you know that I'm not being entirely idle, though. PETTY GODS is still in utero, but he's really starting to kick us in the collective vagina like he's preparing for a career in professional football. I'm also hexmapping a little place called WORMWOOD with Gavin Norman (of the City of Iron). I'm not sure exactly how to describe it yet, but let's call it a twisted jaunt through the nightmares of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson with a touch of Vancian seasoning. Btw here's the completed* map:

Also, as you may or may not know, I am presently collecting material for an offshoot of the PETTY GODS project called UNDERWORLD LORE. In fact, here's the first community-produced table (still looking for more entries on this -- where is that Matt Schmeer guy anyway?)

*I reserve the right to completely revise this at any time!


Some Positive OSR Developments

Just a couple things I noted last night/today:

  • BRW Games, publisher of the Adventures Dark and Deep RPG, will be taking over publishing of Joseph Bloch's Greyhawkian megadungeon The Castle of the Mad Archmage which was originally in the hands of Black Blade Publishing. BRW's press release states that the Castle will be available in pdf, softcover and hardback in early 2014. Among the changes mentioned will be the appearance of a more complete megadungeon (oh, this thing will be monstrous!) All the crunchy bits will be converted to the Adventures Dark and Deep system -- which I hope is not that far off from the other clones. Additionally, the Castle will be fitted to BRW's upcoming house-setting called Fallen Eria. This last move I'm kinda iffy on -- perhaps the final product will be relatively campaign setting agnostic. BRW claims that it won't require much tailoring to work in the setting of your choice.
  • After some health setbacks, the Brave Halfling is back up and running! John Adams has a lot of great ideas, and I'm happy to read that he's doing well again. It's amazing how these self-publishing ventures can explode into a fully fledged business. I'm not sure if that's a good thing yet!
This is probably old news for a lot of you. As ever, I am out of the loop :)


Love as a Player Character Hazard

Jeff o' the Gameblog's contributions to the OSR's cauldron of ideas are many, but perhaps his greatest feat of dungeon mastery is the creation of the (in)famous Carousing Rules, which create opportunities and consequences for player characters who like to rock with their cocks/tits out during their off-time. Essentially this adds some random spice and gameability to those sometimes painfully boring shopping/resting stints in town between dungeoncrawls.

But aside from acting like complete assholes, what other sort of trouble might unsuspecting player characters get into? What other activities could we randomize (judiciously, of course)  to create new dilemmas for them?

Earlier today I was thinking about how awkward role-played romances can be to watch or (horror) preside over as dungeon master. Painfully awkward, I decided. Couldn't we make them more interesting by -- as in life -- portraying love as a mercurial, dangerous, often temporary situation with wide-ranging consequences? 

Love is messy, and if we portray it as such within the game it will become an unwelcome situation that players will actively try to avoid. So be it. 

But falling in love should not be entirely under the player's control. Let's say that for each day the character spends in town there is a cumulative percentage chance that he will become infatuated with an NPC. A small percentage chance, say, like 3% per day, resetting each week back to 3% so that it never reaches higher than 21% (or 5 or less on a d20, if you like). Maybe it's the maid who cleans his room at the inn, maybe it's the mayor's wife -- we can make a table for that.

Once the PC finds himself "snared" into a romantic situation, he will find it difficult to extricate himself.

It is implied that the object of the PC's desire is a consensual party, but it will not be clear to the player what the NPC's true intentions are (at least at first).

Consider that adventurers returning to town from a successful outing and flashing around their spoils at the local tavern will almost certainly attract the attention of gold-diggers. What are the odds that he'll become involved with a woman like that? 

The DM should secretly determine a NPC's true intentions with a 2d6 roll: 

  • (2 - 7) She's in it for the money and has little to no regard for the PC (money-grubber)
  • (8 - 10) She's only got a passing interest in the PC and will ultimately spurn him/her (future x)
  • (11) She's somewhat obsessed with the PC and will be loyal to him/her for a long time (loyal)
  • (12) She's got a fatal obsession with the PC and will quickly spiral into a jealous monster (murderous)

The money-grubbers will automatically extract a randomly determined amount of gold from the PCs every time they are in town. The proportions of this payout will increase with the PC's experience level.

The next two situations (results 8-11) do not extract any automatic payouts from the PC's coffers. However, an "11" could possibly become a "12" if certain situations arise. For example, a PC who finds himself in two simultaneous romantic situations is running a big risk. If one or both of these lovers is an "11" (loyal) then there is a 75% chance of them escalating to a "12" (murderous) the moment they become aware of one another.

The referee must determine the appropriate behavior for each NPC. A jilted barbarian swordswoman might seek immediate revenge against her rival and her lover. A more civilized lover might try to kill them both secretly with poison.

The player should be completely in the dark regarding the true mindset of his NPC hanger-on(s). If the DM is looking to torment the player (and what DM isn't?), he could leave little hints and clues here and there as to the trajectory the romance has taken. He can attempt to "read the situation" with periodic WIS checks, but if successful these should reveal only the vaguest details.

cereal:geek, a zine dedicated to 80s animation

So I haven't yet ordered any issues, but I am sorely tempted to check out this cereal:geek thing. If it's the animation equivalent/approximation of Back Issue magazine, I am sold. Anyone seen/read any of these yet?

My Early DAW Moorcock paperback checklist

So I have some books to trade to fill in the holes on my checklist below. Especially interested in Elric of Melnibone. Slightly scruffy is okay but I like to avoid ex-library, near-death stuff. Contact me and I'll send you a list of my for-trades: flowthrake AT gmail DOT com

Old School: The Clone Wars

D&D and Clone(ish) Rulesets I currently possess:

  • OD&D
  • Empire of the Petal Throne
  • Holmes Blue Book D&D
  • Moldvay D&D
  • Mentzer/BECMI D&D
  • AD&D 1st
  • AD&D 2nd

  • Labyrinth Lord AEC
  • Sword & Wizardry Whitebox
  • 3d6 In Order
  • Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG
  • Lamentations of the Flame Princess RPG
  • Adventurer Conqueror King System
  • Blueholme Prentice Set
  • Hackmaster Basic
  • Crypts & Things
  • Dark Dungeons
  • Renegade ~ Corruption
  • Delving Deeper
  • Creatures & Caverns
  • Mazes & Perils

Currently I have no regular gaming group, but I am itching to run several of the systems above: (1) ACKS because of its broad, career-based focus on level progression and the endgame. (2) DCC because it seems to offer a distinctly pulpy playing experience, what with the magical Patrons and robust spell system. (3) LotFP because it cleaves closely to the clear/organized clone-standard set by Labyrinth Lord while streamlining rules I've never been all that fond of but still felt were necessary (encumbrance!) Also the gun rules are quite concise and straight-forward, and as a whole the system seems open to little modifications, which are sometimes my bread and butter. 

The design and presentation for all three of these products is top-notch. That in itself may not be the only factor that puts them at the top of my stack, but it's damn important.