Monday, May 28, 2012

Infernal Sorceress (Planet Stories # 13)

Infernal Sorceress was Gary Gygax's final novel, and it sat unpublished in his files for almost fifteen years before Planet Stories got a hold of it.  Set in Gygax's world of Aerth (the setting for his Dangerous Journeys RPG), the novel introduces two new characters: thief/swordsmen named Ferret & Raker.  After being framed for murder, Ferret & Raker become pawns in a political power struggle involving fake royal regalia and have to keep one step ahead of the authorities while discovering the true villains involved.

TSR refused to publish the novel on the grounds that it was a swipe of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, and one can definitely see the inspiration.  On its own merit, the novel is passable but unremarkable sword-and-sorcery.  Neither the characters, dialogue, or plot are particularly memorable.  One can definitely imagine having a lot of fun playing through the adventure in a role-playing game, but as a standalone novel, it simply falls flat.  I think Gygax's other novels set in the same world, involving an arcane detective named Magister Setne Inhetep, had much more interesting characters and portrayal of magic (even if Gygax was a poor mystery writer).

Sunday, May 27, 2012

GrimJack Omnibus Volume 1 [COMICS]

I had never really read any GrimJack until I came across this collection at the library, and I thought it was very good.  The premise is a great set up for a wide variety of stories:  Cynosure is a city that serves as a dimensional nexus, with a wide variety of technology and even physical laws varying from street to street.  This allows the main character, GrimJack (a sort of hard-boiled mixture of private investigator and bounty hunter) to get involved in everything from SF to sword-and-sorcery stories and everything in between.  I could definitely imagine swiping the setting for a fun role-playing campaign.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Clone Wars Campaign: The Nine Forgotten

One of the major elements of the overall myth-arc of the campaign was that the Anomaly served as a prison for nine Sith Dark Side Force-wielders from thousands of years in the past.  These Sith, called the Nine Forgotten, entered the Anomaly millenia ago along with their Massassi slaves in a bid to uncover the secrets of its power.  Due to the strange nature of the Anomaly, the Forgotten were unable to escape and, because time did not pass normally in the Anomaly (or at least in the portion they were in), they survived the centuries, locked inside, forgotten in the galaxy at large.  Arranging themselves in a hierarchy of power, the Nine Forgotten divided the areas of the Anomaly they controlled into separate realms, biding their time until an opportunity to escape should come.

During the course of the campaign, the PCs encountered five of the Nine Forgotten.  They destroyed three of them and lost track of the other two.  As for the four they never encountered (more powerful than any of the others), they may or may not remain prisoners of the Anomaly.  Perhaps future campaigns will tell?

The Ninth of the Nine ("The Sentinel")

The Sentinel was the first and weakest of the Nine Forgotten encountered by the PCs.  Wielding a wicked, Dark Force-power infused spiked chain, she guarded a bridge built by the Massassi that led further into the Anomaly.  After a terrible battle, she was defeated by Jocasta and the Sun Runners.

The Eighth of the Nine  ("The Beguiler")

The Beguiler used her command of the Force to create powerful illusions to lull, delay, and surreptitiously interrogate the PCs about their purposes in coming to the Anomaly.  Disguised as a refugee freighter passenger in her '60s named Tessa, The Beguiler succeeded in clouding the minds of Tarn Tamarand and some of the Sun Runners.  Although the others pressed forward and eventually rescued their companions, The Beguiler succeeded in avoiding confrontation and learning several of their secrets.  Presumably, she survives to this day.

Force Adept 4/Sith Acolyte 2  (created under WOTC Revised Core Rulebook)
Abilities:  Str -1, Int +2, Con +1, Wis +2, Cha +1
Defense:  +7;  Fortitude +6, Reflex +4, Will +9
Feats:  Dissipate Energy, Mind Trick, Force Sensitive, Iron Will, Force Feats, SE: Illusion
Wounds: 12; Vitality: 38
Attacks:  The Beguiler does not engage in physical combat, preferring to rely on misdirection and evasion.

The Seventh of the Nine  ("The Seducer")

The Seducer first appeared to the PCs as a shirtless, muscular man covered in ornate tattoos and wielding a black sword.  He boasted of his control over the Oracle, and became enraged when the PCs tried to free her.  He disappeared with the dying Oracle during the confrontation, only to reappear months later in the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, having been able to escape the Anomaly due to the actions of Tarn Tamarand.  As a game to test the strength of the current Order, The Seducer used his mastery of the Force to convince young Padawans in the Jedi Temple that their loved ones wanted them to commit suicide.  Although the PCs intervened and force The Seducer to flee, he evaded capture.  What they never discovered, however, is that Jocasta somehow managed to track down The Seducer and held him in suspended animation aboard her prison ship.  What secrets she managed to glean from her captive, and his present whereabouts, remain unknown.

Jedi 7/Sith Apprentice 5/Sith Lord 2
Abilities:  Str +3, Con +2, Wis +4, Dex +1, Int +2, Cha +3
Defenses (add 10 if not using house rules):  Reflex +18, Fortitude +19, Will +20
Attacks:  Sith War Sword +19 (d. 1d8+10) (Force Point & Swift Action gives +14 damage, ignores Jedi DR).  Double attack: +14/+14.  Whirlwind Attack
Force Powers:  Force Grip (x2), Force Stun, Mind Trick (x2), Rebuke (x2), Energy Resistance, Fear (x2), Wound, Slow
Force Secrets:  Multitarget Power
Force Techniques:  Improved Mind Trick, Dominate Mind
Skills:  Use the Force +19, Perception +14, Persuade +14, Stealth +14, Deception +14
Hit Points: 113 (Threshold 29)
Talents:  Affliction, Clear Mind, Dampen Presence, Master Negotiator, Dark Healing, Illusion

The Sixth of the Nine  ("The Necromonger")

The Necromonger was a powerful Sith Lord with mastery over death.  He created legions of undead aberrations capable of hurling their own bones at enemies.  He was a ruthless opponent, and the PCs destroyed him in the City Under the Sand only through the use of the infamous Red Chip.

Abilities:  Str +7, Con +4
Defenses (add 10 if not using house rules):  Reflex +15, Fortitude +20, Will +10
Attacks:  Chain-Hammers +10/+10 d.4d8+8
Hit Points: 130 (DR 5, Threshold: 30, Second Winds: 2)
Actions:  Swift w/ Force Points returns 15 hp;  Standard action summons 1d6 undead; Full-Round action has equivalent of Force Slam;  Improved Sunder (-5 to attack roll);  Roar (Standard action, 1d20+13 vs. Will or frozen in terror 1d4 rounds).

Nonhuman, Size Medium, Speed 4
Defenses (add 10 if not using house rules):  Reflex +12, Fortitude +12, Will +16
Attacks:  Thrown Bone Spear +11, d. 1d8+4;  Exploding Shards (area attack):  +12 attack, d. 1d8+4
Hit Points:  43, Threshold 20, No Second Winds
Skills:  Perception +15

The Fifth of the Nine ("The Plaguewomb")

The Plaguewomb used her twisted powers over the Dark Side of the Force to imbue toxins, poisons, and diseases with even more horrific effects.  Knowing that he had to return the strange, possessed lightsaber to the Anomaly in order to seal it from against escapes, Tarn Tamarand journeyed to the City Under the Sand.  Although able to evade the Necromonger, he was forced to submit to the Plaguewomb as the only conceivable way to gain entrance to the Anomaly.  When encountered by the PCs, the Plaguewomb was guarded by dozens of her minions, disfigured and leperous creatures who exploded into a burst of pus and disease if struck.  A foolhardy attack by Daal led to the Duro being inflicted with a revolting and deadly disease-laden kiss.  A'tel also fell before her might before Arresta (again using a Red Chip) managed to decapitate the Plaguewomb.  Although defeated, the Plaguewomb's legacy continued to threaten the galaxy. In a secret vault on the planet Haruun Kal, the Plaguewomb stored dozens of dangerous diseases and poisons; one of which, the Thought Spores, would be recovered by Tarn Tamarand for use in the final battle against the Accelerated.

Abilities:  Wis +4, Cha +4
Defenses (add 10 if not using house rules):  Reflex +18, Fortitude +13, Will +18
Attacks:  Toxic Kiss +15, d. -1/-2 Steps on Condition Track (DC 25 Fort).  Uncurable wasting disease.
Hit Points:  75 (Threshold 25, 1 Second Wind)
Special:  Cancer Tendrils (as Force Lightning, but 6 square cone); Blood Boil (1 target within 12 squares; 1d20+15 vs. Fortitude or Ebola-like meltdown: 5d6 damage & prone, 1/2 on on save).
Force Powers:  Rebuke, Sully Force

Size Medium, Speed 3 (shamble)
Defenses (add 10 if not using house rules):  Reflex +10, Fortitude +15, Will +12
Attacks:  Bite +6, d. 2d6+3 plus plague (1d20+15 vs. Fortitude; if hit, boils, sores, etc. & -1 on cond. track)
Hit Points: 15 (no threshold, no second wind)
Special:  When reduced to zero hit points, explode in 1 square radius inflicting plague attack as per bite above)
Skills:  Perception +15 (smell flesh within 10 squares)

Return to Clone Wars Campaign Main Page

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Linguistic Turn

As The Wife has also discussed on her blog, one of the fun parts about moving to a new country is hearing all the new slang and trying to figure out what it means from context.  Hearing contestants on The Block say phrases like "I'm stuffed, and now we're under the pump" makes us smile.  (don't get me started on "chippies" and "sparkies").

I'm still trying to figure out the exact parameters of some of the slang.  Take the globally-famous "mate", for example.  I hear it applied to me all the time, in every conceivable context: from strangers and people I know; from shopkeepers and academic colleagues; from men and women.  I don't think there's a non-Australian equivalent that has such widespread meaning.   In North America, "Buddy", "Pal", and "Man", for example, are gender specific based on the recipient (women aren't usually called "pal", for example).  "Sweetie", "Hon", and "Dear" are gender specific based on the speaker (waitresses might call every customer "Hon", but I've never seen a waiter do it).  "Dude" in some parts of the U.S. might almost be equivalent in its ubiquity, but is very informal.

I've also grappled with whether I should adopt the phraseology and pronunciations as my own.  Should I start asking people "How you are going" instead of "How are you doing"?  Should I start pronouncing it "to-mah-toes" instead of "to-mae-toes"?  Would that be a nice adjustment or acting as a poseur?

It's also interesting because my previous exposure to Australian slang was, like it seems everyone's in North America, limited to having seen Crocodile Dundee.  In contrast, the dominance of American pop culture extends to Australia, leaving me guessing what references I need to explain and what can be taken for granted. If I mention the NFL, for example, does everyone know what that means?  After all, the Super Bowl is one of the most watched global events in the world, and I don't want to be condescending if I mention that when I'm talking about football I don't mean soccer; but I also don't want to be misunderstood.

Anyway, we can't wait to see what sort of slang Boomer ends up picking up . . .

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Pride and Prejudice [Worth Press]

I think the reason Jane Austen's novels have remained popular--and have even undergone something of a resurgence in the past decade--is that they are eminently readable.  Pride and Prejudice, published almost exactly 200 years ago, is not full of dull, turgid prose like so many novels of that era (and, arguably, our own).  I first read the story of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy years ago, and quite enjoyed it again recently in the Worth Press edition.  Austen's characters, both major and supporting, are given distinct, memorable personalities, and one certainly gets a sense of life in a particular time and place (not that Austen can be fairly construed as overly concerned with realism).  It also provides a fascinating insight into an aspect of the evolution of the institution of marriage, where finding a suitable, moderately wealthy husband was the only avenue of financial security open to women of a certain class.

The Worth Press edition comes with four essays.  John Wiltshire discusses various adaptations of the book into film and stage productions alongside an interesting overview of modern evaluations of the novel by literary essayists.  Maggie Lane's essay on day-to-day life of the time period as portrayed in the novel offers a nice background into the important of music and dance for women of Elizabeth Bennett's class.  Caroline Sanderson discusses the geographical settings of the book and theorizes what real-life places may have inspired the fictional ones in the novel; as I have the scantiest knowledge of English geography, this didn't do much for me.  Finally, Josephine Ross briefly touches on a variety of subjects as portrayed in the novel:  fashion, marriage, the background of the Napoleonic Wars, and more.

Next Time:  Sense and Sensibility  (the last Worth Press literary classic I'm aware of and haven't yet read).