Thursday, February 25, 2010

Weird Masterpieces of Paul Lehr

Paul Lehr (1930-1998) is one of the greatest future-fantasist painters of the post-pulp era. He was very prolific and produced a large body of work of remarkable intensity and consistent high quality. Lehr did many mindbending paperback covers in the 1960s-80s before Michael Whelan and his wave of imitators moved science fiction and fantasy illustration towards photorealism. In the late-80s and 90s, after paperback publishers had lost interest in putting beautifully weird covers on their books, Lehr turned his attention to painting epic and highly detailed dream landscapes, a few of which are included below.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

D&D Music Videos

I posted some of these before, but they are so charming I'll post them again...

World Oranj - Session 2

Player Characters:
A mostly chaotic collection of fringe personalities…
  • Cookie – A large and unpredictable fighting creature with a lupine aspect and ambiguous gender.
  • Franklin – Bearded young cleric with one short arm. Follows the Time Demon of Zymos.
  • Sproutface – Cleric, affinity for love, plants, and the Dark Side Demon of Zymos.
  • Monolaba – Pre-teen cleric, runaway from wealthy family after envisioning a demon’s face in the moon. A chaotic monster killer, this boy.
  • Scunibro – Ex-musician turned student of magic. Unpredictable personality.
  • Gorlark – Amnesiac fighting man. Another borderline personality. Has a large scar on his head of unknown origin (amnesia).
In a rural tavern in the hamlet of Fen the party chatted up a group locals. The party ended up hiring two local farming fellows, named Mess and Pipple, to accompany them back to explore Morton’s caverns. The party also gathered some rumors relating to Morton’s occasional travels in the area with two fighting men named Throx and Tinnix. None of the three - Morton, Throx, or Tinnix - had been seen for the last few months. Others rumors suggested another pair of travelers had been through in the last few days also asking about Morton.
The group returned to the caverns with Mess and Pipple tagging along. Extensive exploration, mapping, and adventure ensued. Another cavern with a blue skeleton tree was explored. A passage marked with the freshly decapitated head of a recent adventurer dissuaded the party from further exploration in the southeastern tunnels. At one point an illusory wall of vines was passed through and an underground lake was found. Undead toads with seeking purple tongues were vanquished. A cryptic passage among the limestone was revealed, leading the party to an area guarded by blue crystal skeletons. This turned out to be a more comfortable set of chambers where Morton apparently worked and resided. A few interesting rooms included:
The chamber of geometrized syllabic algorithmic poetry: This chamber hosted a series of stone obelisks with abstract inscriptions of recent syllabic algorithmic poetry, as favored by the current pharmaco-literati of city-state Bryll. Apparently these were very recently composed. Most unusual was a 10’ diameter orb of ochre gelatin floating in the middle of the room. The party pulled a naked human out of the gel who slowly came to consciousness. Scunibro instantly recognized the man to be Shiply Mently Portly Kymus – a renowned algorithmic composer from Bryll who had gone missing almost a year ago. Shiply described how he was shanghaied by poetry-loving Morton and compelled to engage in syllabic compositions and social intercourse with the magician.
A gallery of stimulating paintings: Large paintings of Morton and Shiply engaged in various reclining positions, etc. Shiply, now traveling with the party, refused to acknowledge it was himself in the artworks.
Morton's living quarters: Morton’s personal chambers. Some nice clothing was liberated but nothing of great value was found.
Normandy the Homunculon: The party found a basket in a cupboard. Inside the basket was a fatty greasy hairless head with a large foot where the neck should be. The giggly thing was alive and asked for wine and sausage. When wine was offered up he wet himself out of his little buttocks near his heel – he has a very small stomach you see. His name is Normandy, he is magical and seems to have an intense interest is reading magical inscriptions, however he is not much of a conversationalist. Shiply said he observed Morton working with Normandy in some way in the course of his magical research. Morton called Normandy a “Reminder”. Scunibro, being the only magician in the group, took Normandy along with him in his little basket.
The Myosenian Sofa: A stone bed bearing glowing inscriptions was found. Scunibro and Mess decided to lie on the bed and both immediately gained muscle mass through some magical means. Sadly, the magical charge was depleted upon this use. Scunibro allowed Normandy to read some of the inscriptions on the Myosenian Sofa.
After exploring Morton’s area, the party removed an interior wooden door and returned to the underground sea where they used the door as a float to ferry across to a small beach on the north side of the lake. Beyond an archway the party found a large dark chamber with a translucent half-globe 50’ in diameter. Peering into the half-globe revealed another level, 50’ below, where there was a 30’ long human head laying the darkness, peering up at the party through the glassy bubble. The party fought a bit with wood golems being sloughed off a golem-generating monolith before jumping down a feather-fall shaft that brought them into the room with a giant head.

It looks like we will have two more players tonight, bringing the number of PCs to 8, with 3 NPCs.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Map - Bisbee & Penelia

Here is the area map for Bisbee / Penelia. The old Outdoor Adventure map wasn't really doing the trick for me, so I made a new more detailed locality map using Hexographer.

The party in our Labyrinth Lord game has moved from the coastal town of Bisbee and is now based in Penelia. I'll aim to post a brief report on all the has happened over the last 10-15 sessions. Next game: Tuesday night.

World Oranj - Session 1

The party heard rumors of a magician having recently lost his life. This magician, a minor but respected necroparamathematician called Morton, was rumored to have maintained a special compound not so far outside the players’ city-state. There is a strong possibility that this currently abandoned compound could provide some interesting opportunities for material and intellectual advancement for adventurous and amoral individuals…
An entrance was discovered: The party located the entrance to the compound and solved the puzzle of ingress through an illusory hillside.
A crystal tree and the words of Morton: Upon entering the party found itself in a large limestone cavern with a skeletal blue crystal tree. On one wall a magical speaking mouth welcomed the adventurers.
A large spider attacks and a secret passage is found: After exploring and mapping a variety of tunnels and examining some closed doors, the party was set upon by a vastly overgrown spider emerging from a large crevice in a tunnel wall. After dispatching the spider the party squeezed through the crevice into the spider’s lair – burning its eggs and looting the corpses of previous victims. At the rear of the spider’s lair was hidden passage leading to the…
Hall of ghosts: A huge limestone cavern was filled with hundreds of miniature wooden houses, each less than 8 inches tall. Above each house hovered an apparition of a human spirit. The houses were filled with miniature human bones. The party spent some time talking with some of the ghosts and mapping the cavern. The ghosts politely requested to be freed from the houses by the means of a “crystalline hand”. The party evntually located such a device across an underground river, but sadly it was guarded by three rotten humanoids with transparent skin and paralyzing touch. Difficult melee with these supernatural men liberated the crystalline hand from its small stone alter. Monolaba, the dark spirited boy cleric and super slayer, removed the scalp of one of the guardian creatures and placed it upon his own head. After gaining the quartzish hand, Young Cleric Franklin collected 100 souls into its fractal phalanges, whereupon the hand began to murmur low groans and dark statements not repeatable on this particular internet outlet…
Due to the late hour the party left the cavern and returned to a rural roadside inn to retire.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

OrcCon 2010

Last weekend was OrcCon - one of the three major gaming conventions in the Los Angeles area. The four-day convention was quite large and focused mostly on boardgaming, but there were also a lot of miniature games, card games, and RPGs as well.

The RPG offerings were completely dominated by 4th Edition "Dungeons and Dragons" - there was an entire ballroom devoted entirely to 4e RPGA. I engaged one 4e DM in conversation and asked if he had an pre-gens so I could join in. He said no, but I might be able to find someone in the room with a computer who could help me build a character. I wandered off to play in the Zooloretto tournament.

The demand for RPGs was high and most of the games filled up early and had waiting lists. I played in a session of All Flesh Must Be Eaten GM'd by Mike Lowrey, which was very enjoyable thanks to the kooky players. I also played in a hilarious World of Darkness game run by Steve Ramirez of the L.A. Dead Gamers Society. Steve's scenario was called "Aliens Invade the Drive-in" and we all played teenagers in a small town being visited by invisible aliens. The interactions between the jock, geek, and rebel characters were highly entertaining.

Besides a few sessions of Call of Cthulhu OrcCon lacked much old school RPG activity. Robert Lionheart ran a last-minute late-night old school D&D megadungeon on Feb 14, but I couldn't join in because, for me, after 8pm on Valentine's Day usually does not involve rolling polyhedral dice.

World Oranj Background

In response to requests from players, I will do my best to post background notes and session reports for our D&D games. There's a bit a catching up to do. First off, here is the background for the World Oranj WhiteBox D&D game in Los Angeles. Also included are some illustrations I made to help clarify some specific points...

Our Game begins on the World Oranj - a large rainy planet circling a large ocherous sun. This planet has an amber-hued gaseous atmosphere that has the odor of freshly sliced agaric mushrooms. For tens of thousands of years this planet was dominated by a progression of far-reaching human civilizations. Remnants and ruins of these cultures are found everywhere among the forests, swamps, mountains, and seabeds of the world. Over the years, as the various surviving civilizations became more isolated and inwardly focused, the sprawl of humankind declined as wildness retook the world. Currently, the larger portion of remaining humanity is concentrated in a handful of large and isolated city-states that are surrounded by sparsely populated wilderness. Within the city-states the greater bolus of humans maintains an obliviousness to the outer world, focusing instead on complex and decadent artistic, cultural, and pharmaceutical endeavors. Most people spend their entire lives within their city-state, however each progressively shrinking generation produces its own small share of scholars, adventurers, and psychopaths who venture beyond the city walls into the black-leaved forests stalked by translucent beasts.
Clerics: In the sky there is a blue and silver moon called Zymos. This moon appears very large due to its close proximity to Oranj. On Zymos there resides Six Demons living in six ancient temple complexes, respectively. Clerics are able to call on these Demons to gain supernatural favors. While a cleric may call on any of The Six, each cleric has a special association with one of the Demons, usually originating from a dream or vision early in life. Each cleric carries a book of collected meditations and supernatural scripture he or she uses to record and study incantations necessary to invoke favors and spells from the Demons. Clerics are often motivated by a desire to discover lost meditations and artifacts related to the Demons, and, of course, to travel to Zymos to meet the Demons face-to-face.
Fighters: These individuals have spent their lives focused on disciplined physical pursuits - usually violent, athletic, and/or erotic in nature. Fighters are often motivated by a passion for contests and conquests – a disposition often considered to be a sort of mental illness by the good people of the city-states.
Magic Users: Scholars of the ultraphysical sphere, specialists in paramathematics, hypergeometry, and pharmaceutics, magicians practice using their mental abilities to alter the elements around them. They rigorously train regions of their brains to act as storage reserves for physical formulae encoding certain atomic manipulations. Magic users are a strange and rare breed who jealously guard their personal books of spell formulations while seeking out additional knowledge and materials to add to their collections.

David Jien - Top Wizards

Perfect images of Top Wizards by David Jien.

Monday, February 15, 2010

House rules for our White Box games...

For our White Box D&D sessions we are employing a few basic house rules beyond what is in the 3 little brown books. Here is a brief list of the major house rules. These are pretty much inspired by Gary Gygax's latter-day White Box house rules:

Character Generation:
  • Abilities: 4d6, and remove the lowest die. Assign the six totals to abilities of choice.
  • Level 1 characters start with maximum hit points.
  • Players may not name the characters after themselves, because character death may result in death of the player.
  • Each character starts with 3d6 x 10 pieces of gold.
Ability Bonuses:
  • Strength: Fighters with STR of 14 or higher do +1 damage.
Combat Round:
  1. Players declare actions (move, missile, melee, spell).
  2. Player and DM roll for initiative.
  3. Actions resolved for high initiative group.
  4. Actions resolved for low initiative group.
  • Natural 1: Weapon dropped or misfired.
  • Natural 20: Roll double dice.
  • Bind Wounds: Immediately after combat (within one 10min turn) players may bind wounds for +1d4 HP. This will restore consciousness.
Weapon Damage:
  • Unless otherwise noted, all normal weapons do 1d6 damage. Exceptions:
  • Dagger: 1d6-1
  • Two-handed Sword or Hammer: 1d6+1
Unconsciousness and Death:
  • A character is unconscious at 0HP.
  • A character is dead when it reaches a negative number of hit points equal to its level.