Monday, August 3, 2015

The Wizard of Mu; Part One-Upon the Lost Isle



Through perils untold with demons

for my shadow, I braved the shattered

coasts til at long last I had found

fabled Mu, the Dreaming Isle.


A fortnight in those lost jungles

brought me at last to the destination

I had sought for my entire life, a place

I had searched out  in tattered parchments and fading scrolls for countless

years and then by dreadful sea wanderings with murderous buccaneers and

fearsome beasts...the lost temple of Shynn-Ahbra.


The thousand deaths of the forest had consumed every member of my crew

save Ziglym, my loyal and faithful servant; we alone had survived by my magic.

I leave you who know of my fame to judge whether this was by my design or

that of a Will far greater, but the world will not miss a single soul of those

dealers of knives in darkness...


I paused beneath a canopy of emerald shadows and I, yes, even I, Ferulius

whom  some men name The Immortal, I who have delved the very deepest

catacombs of the Jennerak, gave gasp at what I saw...
































A calm river of incandescent water, lit by some strange manner of stone

scattered everywhere upon its bottom, wound towards a vast stone portal whose

crumbling and ancient face was bathed in magic mist.  The water skirted a foot

of the  Temple door and meandered off into the limitless jungle.  At a glance I

could see the stonework was not of Jennerak artifice, though obviously much

older, and my mind reeled with the revelation of the certainty of a fact I had

long merely guessed at...that the Old Ones were not the Oldest Ones.


They had in truth come after a much more ancient civilization, a culture which

had begun  here upon this lost Isle of Mu when it had not been lost, and which

had flowered here far from the environs of Rysanthis...only to fade and then

wither and finally from it's vine like the husk of hemer'u gourd rotting in some

garden of the dead.


These rumours I had heard, as well as whispers of a magic even greater than

 the highest priests of the Jennerak had possessed.  Hither I had come on these

desperate hopes, and now, that magic, I, Ferulius, would possess.


I was astonished by the magic glow of the river stones.  Yet I feared that

influence--the forest grew unhindered here, but this did not set me at ease.  For

here I heard no sound of bird or monkey, as I had for my entire journey after

leaving Ziglym with the ship and a hastily conjured Shadow Gaurdian to keep

him safe in my absence. Aside from the rugged jungle that had toppled those

ruins, there was no sign of life...


I whispered a spell of protection and made signs to the spirits, feeling the

mystic power bathe my limbs and head in its prickling energy, as I passed on

towards the Temple portal.




I came to the ancient arch and marvelled

at the evident age of those stones. 

Creeper vines and small yellow flowers 

cascaded over the massive supports,  an

eerily beautiful threshold to the black

abyss that stretched before my eyes when

I peered within.  All was deathly still in

that pit. The Jennerak had favoured

 ornately carved reliefs and gargantuan

statues of themselves as adornments for

their Old Places...these builders, none.



What I would face within Shynn-Ahbra I could only guess. The parchments

which had led me to Mu had contained cryptic riddles and warnings of magicks

left to guard the Temple secrets, magicks wrought by demons.  I sensed the truth

of those warnings now--the ground here throbbed with an ancient power

altogether unwholesome. And there had also been a single line, barely legible,

in the dusty scrolls which had hinted at some horror forgotten by the world of

men...a creature of a sort whose like was in the world above no more but

whose nature I had been unable to discern from the fragments of the book.



I clutched my staff and felt the comforting weight of

 the simple oaken wand that hung at my side,

crowned with a single glittering ruby.  I did not fear. 

The magicof Ferulius had not failed him before, and

 it would not fail him now.

I spoke the spell of darkseeing and my eyes clouded with a red light that

unveiled the shadows like robes shorn from a naked body.  The gloom became

as light to me, and I started down the yawning passage which in ancient days

must have been a street in a Temple that had been a holy city...or an unholy one,

rather.




Here in this vast hall began my descent into Shynn-Ahbra, Temple of the Elder

Lords, and what I found there, I shall not spare to tell you of, O traveler of Old

Places....





NEXT: THE WITCH'S CHAIR






Saturday, May 23, 2015

Temple of the Winds Model Part Five





Greetings from the Mazes! We are currently getting pounded here in Oklahoma with record rainfall, flooding, and even a few tornadoes today but as yet we have not floated away!

 I am pleased with the way this section of my model turned out.

The figures pictured are actually twice the scale of standard D&D minis (I really like these figures and wish I had an entire collection of such pieces for gaming) so this platform actually has plenty or room for a good sized battle with many combatants.

I found out that if you prime a styrofoam model with cheap black spraypaint the solvent will erode and pit the material, giving it a much more ruinous and weathered look.

You can then drybrush on gray acrylic and repeat the process a few times.

I use joint compound to fill in any unwanted depressions and this actually ends up lending a nice variation of texture as well which is random but looks planned in the final appearance.

A couple coats of clear, brush on varnish has yet to be applied, but when this is done it will seal the piece and also make it a little sturdier.

I may carve a flight of steps going up to the crumbling arch--this piece will be embedded in paper mache mountain side with some perilous walkways and ledges leading to it.

Now I need a story as to why this European swordsman has come to this forlorn ruin and how he came to encounter Pegasus....












Monday, May 18, 2015

Pyschotic Flying Stuffed Animals, Cigar Chomping Buddhist Gods, and Dungeons and Dragons/Video Game Trope Lampoonage; "The Hero Yoshihiko"

Well, file this one under "I am extremely bored and in the mood to watch Japanese comedy which does not border on absurdity but exists in a vacuum sealed universe of it."

I was recently introduced to this nutty but somewhat amusing "Low Budget Gamer Fantasy Drama" (this description of the show is actually contained in the opening credits) by a family member who likes to watch Asian cinema and television.

Video gamer and table top role playing culture are the mine from which this show's writers (????) draw enough satire, absurd gags, and goofy LARP like action to give any seasoned gaming nut a few chuckles and the occasional outright belly laugh.

The plot is simple: the old trope of the questing party sent on a mission by a god to defeat monsters, gather relics, save towns and indeed the world in an ongoing campaign which, of course, never ends because, well, it's D&D. Or something like it.

The main hero is a hapless, naive and totally sincere knucklehead named Yoshihiko who is on a quest to bring peace to the world equipped with a magic sword which does not kill it's victims but sleeps them instead. He is accompanied by an old grizzled fighter named Danjou who seems to be a parody of the samurai trilogy hero, a strange silly wizard who is part charlatan, part real magic user named Merebu always inventing really cornball spells, and a female fighter/rogue/druid of some sort named Murasuki who is always discovering dumb skills she has like Big Eye, where she stares at her opponents with a vacant goofball stare that is sufficiently dumb enough to throw them off their guard so she can attack them.

Together they encounter paper mache monsters animated by strings or stop motion, goofy bandits who usually end up doing themselves in in one stupid fashion or another, crazy spirits, buxom celestial maidens, and live video game characters who don't know they are in a video game...

It's not ingenious by any means but if you can appreciate Japanese humor its free on the Internet.

Look, the less you know about this one going into the better, so I'm not going to comment on anymore of the show, except to say that every DM who has ever BullShat his way through explaining his game devices or why a quest hasn't really ended will get a kick out of Hokote, the god who is forever sending them on missions that are supposedly life and death world struggles but which sound as if he is making them up as he goes...

You can watch the series at www.gooddrama.net .....

Here are a couple of scenes uploaded to You Tube that should tell you right away whether or not this kind of comedy is for you. I am not responsible for any loss of productivity that results from watching this show...but I will state that it was worth watching just to see the episode wit the scene where they fight a  proud bandit who slips as he is about to deliver his death blow because he steps in....never mind.







Relics of Gaming Glory; Little Brown OD&D Books and Greyhawk Supplement




Last night I was privileged to make a photocopy of the Greyhawk Supplement from my father-in-law's OD&D books.

I already have the LuLu reprint of the LBB's. I also have a Chainmail reprint and a photocopy of the original Chainmail rules.

The books pictured here are not Scott's original set ,which has long been lost--they are copies picked up at a yard sale in Tulsa Oklahoma about five years ago for thirty dollars.

Scott was a longtime gamer and all five of his kids, including my lovely wife, are avid gamers along with their spouses...and a few wargamers in the lot to boot.

He bought Chainmail new at the store when it came out--and said they always played with paper chits because none of them owned miniatures!

When the White Box D&D game was released, Scott and his brothers bought it and became D&D freaks for  long, long time. It's one of the activities my mother-in-law did with him when they started dating. I've met Scott's mother and she related to me how she would come home and find a throng of young men encamped in the living room floor or at the kitchen table playing D&D for hours.

Those early games apparently were full of the same humorous streak hinted at in the original books--my wife told me how when they were kids and played D&D with the family every dungeon came equipped with a magic item vending machine that had every magic item in the book if you but had the gold.

There were also Land Sharks....and these tried to fool you by knocking politely at dungeon doors, hoping you would open so they could eat you.

The Greyhawk Supplement has some water stain and a bit of mold damage and is unattached from the cover but otherwise sound, all pages legible. The LBB's are in perfect condition. Lisa has said she might sell them if Scot doesn't care, so if anyone wants to make an offer, message me.

I told her she ought to hang onto them, though.

 I would buy them if I had the change-- as it is, I get a little thrill each time I thumb through them!

As a side note, one illustrious member of their gaming group was a player who would later achieve fame as a writer--she was none other than author Laura K. Hamilton, whom my wife remembers from the gaming table at her house. Apparently Mrs. Hamilton played a Cleric with a powerful warhammer!


Good times!









Friday, May 15, 2015

The Rysanthian Chronicle; Environs of the Mistwater


 Here are portions of a map I fashioned of the locale of the campaign we ran for about a year and a half. The map is one portion of a wilderness, town and dungeon expanse within the greater world of Rysanthis. Its strange how the stories of the gaming table remain--I have so many good memories of the hours spent with my friends exploring the shores and depths of the Mistwater.

Our first party was Thaddeus, a fighter who became a Paladin of Illuvion, Phantom Fireborn, a thief who was raised from the dead after being burned by dragon's fire, Gerta the Priestess of Illuvion who was basically Joan of Arc, Perseus, a warrior from the Merling sea people who joined Thaddeus in the Order of Illuvion, a hill giantess of the Tol Myr race, and a one handed warrior NPC named Daag Mahn. There was also a cowardly retainer named Gort who will forever be infamous to the players for his acts of treachery and his untimely end....

The campaign ended with the party at 10th and 11th levels using 1st Edition AD&D. It has been over a year since we held that game--the party had solved many secrets of the locale and was right at the epic conclusion with a war brewing when life intervened...I still hope to run that battle with the group as a Chainmail wargame!

I am taking other friends through the Mistwater, and yes, I am running the exact same campaign and encounters. They are at fourth level now and are taking an entirely different course...and they have agreed to help playtest the Chainmail OD&D system I want to try.

I am in the process of hammering out a module and campaign setting based upon the Mistwater games and promise it will be available soon!

When I can, I want to share some of the funny, touching, tragic and scary tales that happened along the way. You know you've done an NPC right when the party mourns his death--Daag Mahn died bravely and became a song of the heroes. I will get some of these tales on the blog.

The green portions of the Map are of course deep coniferous forests with some deciduous growth--this is the Forest of Wyr, also known as the Wraithwood. Once an elven kingdom, since the Elves abandoned Rysanthis it has become a haunt of ghosts, goblins, and unsavory men...except for the portions of the King's Road which are kept up by the lords of Carrhoene.  











Brandyburg is a good sized town on the North Shore of the Great Lake and the Rushwater River. The folk there enjoy the favor of the Temple of Illuvion and this gives them some autonomy though they are tributary to Carrohoene. Smith's Ferry takes supplies and pilgrims to the eastern shores of the lake where lies Whiterose Abbey and the Sisterhood of the White Lady. The Abbey is not pictured but I have constructed a model of it scaled to miniatures and will upload pics. Near Smiths Ferry is a settlement of the friendly and peaceful Bog Folk. A bell on either side of the Rushwater summons the Ferry. It is not a pleasant duty to be stationed at night on the Eastern Shores...

Pictured here is the Southern reaches of the Mistwater which peters out into boggy fens and marshes. There is of course another populous Bogfolk settlement here, but the primary concern to the inhabitants of the Mistwater environs is Arnforth, the Citadel. The Citadel serves as the southern defense against the perils of the vast wilderness and also as the training grounds for the soldiers of the Great City. Citizenship in Carrohoene can be granted to any willing and able soul who serves three years in the Citadel's forces-but acceptance in the ranks is based on the strictest standards of General Felhaus, the grimfaced warlord who answers directly to the House of Vhulkas in Carrohoene. Felhaus is reputed to be unbeatable in single combat and known for his severity in dealing with criminals, rebels and derelict soldiers.

The Mistwater is a massive freshwater lake filled with abundant fish and useful crops and mollusks. Many fishing boats are always to be seen in the waters between Carrohoene and Brandyburg. Military boats are to be seen as well ferrying soldiers to and from the Citadel. The presence of water sprites and other mysterious creatures are generally accepted as fact by the superstitious folk but no one who grew up on the Mistwater doubts--fishermen see things while at their nets. There are documented cases of people vanishing near or in the waters in olden days, and it is accepted that a few live now who were the wife or husband of a water sprite for a year and a day beneath the waves before reappearing to live as a legend the rest of their days....

The Bog Folk are to be found in three different locations on the Mistwater. They dwelt here long before Men, perhaps even during the First Age of the Elves or the Second Age of the Jennerak. They survived the Dragon Age; Perhaps it is because few among Men, Dwarves or other races think them much more than walking frogs, and the Dragons were probably no different in that respect. They speak with chirps and croaks that are impossible to mimic or understand, and communicate with Men by means of a simple sign language they have used with the people of the Mistwater for time immemorial. They dwell in mud waddle domed huts on the shores among reed and fern. They will fight at need with their simple spears but prefer to dive into the waters and vanish at sign of danger. They resemble a cross between a frog and a salamander, the tallest among them being well under five feet. They dress in only trinkets and leather belts, travel in reed canoes, and are sought after occasionally as guides.Almost no one in Rysanthis pays them any mind at all--they are treated rather contemptuously by city dwellers, considered nuisances because of their curiosity and chirping voices. Rural folk regard them somewhat more highly--they have knowledge of medicinal plants and trade these for baubles and trinkets when they do not simply give them away. The Bogfolk revere the great Horned Serpent that is found in the Southern Marshes. They display the bones and skulls of these creatures as if religious symbols. The Horned Serpents are not numerous and scholars think they are dying out, but they appear to have once been the greatest predator against the Bogfolk, who will unite to slay the beast when it appears to wreak havoc. Travelers who have seen the aftermath of such a battle have reported seeing the Bogfolk prostrate themselves before the dead beast and sing in chirps and trills as though imploring forgiveness...

It is rumored that an Elf Lord named Thingon lives in the Wraithwood in a protected enclave where he is attended by sylvan guardians. Elves are a lost race in Rysanthis. You've more chance of meeting the Man in the Moon than ever crossing paths with one of the few Elves who remained after the Jennerak Kingdoms fell and the Dragons ruled Rysanthis. That people fled in ships across the seas of Rysanthis, never to be seen again. Many elven ruins were left behind, and somewhere in the vicinity of the Wraithwood a great elven stronghold once stood.

So these are a few highlights of the Mistwater region. I will post more this weekend about Carrohoene, Brandyburg, White Rose Abbey, the ruined town of Barrow on the South Eastern shores, and the Isle of Kazamir. Kazamir is a ruined castle on an island off the shores of Barrow. Its spires can be seen on a clear day all the way from the Great City. It is forbidden by the House of Vulkhos for anyone to go near it, even if they were stupid enough to want to since it is known to be one of the Old Places of the Jennerak, now a haunt of evil spirits and trolls...Barrow was once a thriving town named Thuvial whose people tampered with the Isle and were destroyed by its guardians or some evil they awakened there. Only foolhardy adventurers would even dream of visiting Kazamir...






Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Temple of the Winds Part 4


Some painted Temple sections.  I rushed things a bit, and as a result I did not get the realism I envisioned for this model. There were a few serendipitous accidents though, and overall, I am happy with the pieces for table top gaming. My errors will be obvious to anyone--let's just say I did not plan for such a weathered and pitted look, but fortunately I am pleased with it for the purpose hand. Hope to finish the remaining pieces as quickly and run some Chainmail battles in this desolate and forlorn ruin...










Monday, May 11, 2015

Temple of the Winds Part 3


This weekend was busy as it was Mother's Day. Besides my wonderful wife and my awesome mother, I have a very nice new mom-in-law as well, so it was a full day. Also had time to work on a zine of song lyrics for the band.

I worked for an hour and a half on the Temple, and I'm getting excited because the inner sanctuary is almost ready to paint.

I have a huge bag of old game pieces and little toys and decided to sacrifice a couple of my knight figurines to provide statues of the Temple guardians flanking the arch.

I also glued down my "dragon head" statues by the main altar, carved some wall reliefs with a pop bottle lid and a marker pen cap, and used joint compound to fill in the circular impressions in the chamber floor. I added cornices to the pillars by carving them and then using the compound to fill in the gouges and round the pillars out. They have a slight rough appearance but its fine because this is after all an ancient ruined temple.

I decided to leave one impression in the corner near the arch as an ancient sacred pool of Illuvion which will likely be made into a fountain. I realize that the compound will have a different texture than the rest of the walls and floor but again, being a ruin, even this might not compromise the realism when I paint, though if any experts out there have suggestions on a step before painting or with paint to unify the texture, I would love to hear from you.

I will be spraypainting the model completely matte black and then a somewhat heavy dry brushing of a gray over this (black will leave shadows in the cracks and crevices) and then mottle it a bit with an even lighter gray.

I must also cannibalize a suitable dragon head from a toy or carve one for the altar-part of the Quest is that the Dragon Cult has set up their images upon the altar of the Ineffable Flame, so the head must be removable should the heroes complete their mission!

Hopefully will have a pic of the painted and finished sanctuary to show soon, though I still have to construct my mountains for the exterior ruins.






A thief stands in the mystic arch, perhaps frustrated at the ancient locks and wards within the sanctuary, as the impassive stone sentinels keep their ancient watch.

In the Second Age, the age of the Jennerak, San'seriaat's main altar held a perpetual fire and the dragonhead statues were not present. Illuvion has no carven image and is not depicted as anything but a circle of flame. When the Dragon Reign began in the Third Age, and the elves abandoned Rysanthis, San'Seriaat was the first place to fall because it was the sacred site of Illuvion. An image of Gehennos the Dragon Lord was set up there after the priests were slaughtered. It should be noted that the Temple Keepers at this time were not Jennerak, as that culture had long vanished by the time of the Third Age. The stone altar was also added by the Dragon Cult to honor Gehennos with the unspeakable rites that transferred the Dragon Magic to men.