Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Sphere: InfoDump

I was working on a concept for a sci-fi RPG setting called Sphere. I posted a few things here, but, in all honesty, I've pretty much lost interest in the project.
So, here's the remainder of the Sphere-related stuff.

The Hermans. These are humans who, post-Singularity, downloaded their minds into android bodies to survive the ecological collapse of Earth. They are named after the first person to successfully make the transition from organic to inorganic life, a man named Herman Wauk. Over the centuries, the Hermans have reproduced by making copies of themselves with various tweaks or by 'merging' their memories/personas into a new body.  Hermans probably have a better understanding of the Singularity than anyone else the Sphere, but they're not interested in interacting with the Singularity. They're smarter than that. Hermans don't get along very well with the other factions/races, especially the Flawless.  

The Zarans. The Zarans are the descendents of the first Martian colonists. When the Singularity occurred and Earth's biosphere collapsed, a lot of people headed to Mars. Most didn't make it. Those that did, probably wished they hadn't. A pandemic broke out among the refugees. Over 95% of Mars's population died. The survivors were the ones who underwent radical genetic modification, splicing animal traits onto their DNA, effectively becoming something other than human. The entire planet was placed in quarantine for a century, to prevent the pandemic from spreading. This gave the survivors a chance to stabilize their physiologies and evolve a curiously spiritual society with an emphasis on tolerance and self-control. Zarans possess simian and felinoid traits, including a prehensive tail they can use as a third hand and superior night vision. Some, also develop psychic talents such as psychometry, telepathy and precognition.

The Wanderers are the faction that most closely resembles 'natural' humans. They are the survivors of Earth who did not settle on other worlds, but rather chose to wander the Sphere in caravans composed of antiquated, jury-rigged spacecraft.  There are dozens of Wanderer tribes, each one preserving a specific cultural heritage, but all of them united by a strong sense of individuality and personal freedom. Wanderers don't subject themselves to needless body-mods and most nation-states and polities consider them a nuisance. If not for their expansive trade network, the biggest and best in the Sphere, the Wanderers might have a much harder time. Historians and sociologists love the Wanderers as each caravan retains a strong oral historical tradition dating back to their Exodus from Earth. The Wanderers were responsible for the preservation of most of human culture and history.

Singularity Cultists.  Commonly referred to as Sings, they abound throughout the Sphere. They
  worship the Singularity as a deity and patron, and there are as many different creeds and beliefs among the Sings as there are asteroids in the Belt.  Most people have disdainful opinions of the Sings, considering them dangerous and deranged.  Many mainstream religions and political alliances actively persecute the Sings, either driving them out of their territories or executing them as vermin. Some Sings fight back, while others submit to the atrocities inflicted upon them. It varies from cult to cult.  Of great concern are the Sings that do seem to have some manner of contact with the Singularity; some of these cults possess advanced technology and access to information that no one else has. These cults, few and far between, are usually treated with more care than their psychophantic counterparts. Sings can come from any racial group or sub-group, but most are self-perpetuating, using the resources of the Ministry of Population to ensure their numbers.

The Wardens.  Depending on who you ask the Wardens are either jailers or guardians of the Singularity.  It is unclear if they are aspects of the Intelligences that created the Sphere, some sort of construct race or an extrasolar species that works in conjunction with the Intelligences.  The only thing known for certain is that they maintain the sanctity of the Sphere. Nothing gets in and nothing gets out. Manifesting as luminous, asexual humanoids, each Warden has a unique temperment. All are ferociously powerful.  Most people try to avoid the Wardens, but some people do interact with them. Some Wardens seem to enjoy social interactions with natives of the Sphere. It's not uncommon to encounter Wardens among the cities of the Jinn, or in Zaran temples.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Review: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

When I saw the first trailer for Luc Besson's Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, I was excited. I loved The Fifth Element and have watched that movie so many times its ridiculous. I was really looking forward to seeing Valerian.
All that said, when I walked out of Valerian a while ago, I was left feeling vaguely cheated.
The movie is visually stunning. The previews, amazingly enough, do NOT give away the plot. Rihanna's performance is amazing.
All that said, the movie has some things working against it: its plot, its actors and their characters.
The plot in Valerian isn't convoluted, it's barely there. A large portion of the movie is taken up by a sidequest where Valerian has to save Laureline from cannibalistic aliens.  That bit was interesting, but not really essential to the main story. It didn't really add anything, but window dressing.
As for the actors? I have no idea who Dane Dehann is or what other films he's appeared in. He seems serviceable enough in this film, as done Cara Delevigne, but neither of their performances was stellar. Clive Owens simply plays his in-stock character. At this point, you could drop the man into any film and he would be playing the exact same character. Rihanna's performance was quite nice, although her character was essentially pointless.
And that is where this movie fails so utterly. The characters of Valerian and Laureline, our protagonists, the people we're supposed to relate to and cheer for, are a couple of dicks.
Valerian comes across as a smugly arrogant little bastard while Laureline is just bitter. We're supposed to believe these people are in the military? Neither displays anything approaching military discipline or decorum.  You know you've got a problem when the most likeable characters in the film either (a) die or (b) are a cannibal-chef.
I've read that Luc Beson had been plotting to make this movie for years. Well, I hope he enjoyed what he made because I'm not sure how many other people will.
On a scale of 1 to 5, I'd give Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets a 2. Although its visual spectacle might shine on the big screen, the unlikability of its central characters forces me to consign this film to the on-demand queue or DVD bin.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Sphere: Cities of the Jinn

Sphere: The Jinn

"I can appreciate their scientific accomplishments. No other culture in the Sphere comes close to their mastery of the biological sciences, not even my own. What I find objectionable about them is how they use that expertise."
- Chilaili Ja-Verge, Flawless Mercenary

"Our encounters with the Jinn have been . . . problematic. We do not think they see us as a people, but, rather, as a work of art. For us, interaction with them can be dehumanizing."
- Verrina Seinaldos, Zarran scholar

"They have the potential to be so much more than they are, if only they will put aside their ridiculous sentimentality."
- Krejci Bo 2.4, Herman trader

"I dated a Jinn once. She was a lot of fun and I thought we had something special, but then I found out she was dating other people. It wouldn't have been so bad, if one of them hadn't been my sister."
- Bit Kwyndahm, Wanderer

"Other cultures treat us as if we are vapid, empty-headed children. We are not. We are simply a people who enjoy the pleasures that surround us, the pleasures we have earned. If that means changing ourselves to better embrace those pleasures, to embrace what the universe can offer, why not?"
- Temple Avisaid, Jinn bio-mancer

The Jinn are the largest, most biologically diverse culture within the Sphere. Although the bulk of the race lives on Venus, representatives of the Jinn can be found almost everywhere in the Sphere. Including some places that you would never expect to encounter them.
Friendly and gregarious, the Jinn are one of the most open cultures within the Sphere. Although famous for their mastery of the biological sciences, they are almost as well-known for their pleasure centers. Thousands of people flock to Jinn resorts to relax, revitalize themselves and indulge in their carnal appetites. A popular saying in the Sphere is, "Where there's Jinn, there's a party."
Although more conservative cultures consider them morally questionable, the majority of the Jinn adhere to a strict ethical code. They abhor violence and will not use their skills on anyone below a legal age of majority, even if the parents/guardians give permission. The Jinn believe that only the individual has the right to alter themselves.
As noted, the Jinn are masters of the biological sciences. Their medical skills are second to none, their ability to manipulate the human genome is legendary, and they routinely use these skills to alter themselves and others.  Altering ones gender is nothing to a Jinn, it's practically child's play for their bio-mancers. It is far more interesting to change one's DNA, to sport prehensile hair or skin with bio-luminescent qualities. More practical changes are also possible, with some Jinn possessing superhuman strength, enhanced senses or amazing regenerative abilities.
As evidence of their ability, the Jinn terraformed Venus, transforming it into a fecund paradise where it is possible for humans to survive without life support gear. They have created a ragtag biosphere full of wondrous, impossible creatures (both animal and vegetable). New species do not so much evolve on Venus as simply appear, released into the wild by Jinn bio-mancers.
The Jinn themselves live in beautiful domed cities. They live in large, extended families where polygamy and polyamory are common practices. A Jinn child will grow up with a dozen sibling-cousins, not to mention foster-siblings and various 'aunties' and 'uncles' who share no biological connection to them, but are members of the extended family group. Visitors to a Jinn home can expect a warm welcome, which will include being swarmed by children of various ages.
When a Jinn child reaches their age of majority, they are allowed to alter their bodies as they see fit.  Some indulge minor cosmetic whims, altering pigmentation of hair, eyes and skin, while others embrace more radical transformations, implanting gills or having their bodies adjusted for a zero-g environment.  Eventually this phase in their development will come to an end and most Jinn choose a standard form with minor superficial differences to showcase their individuality. Of course, there are fashions among the Jinn, and right now the trend is for white hair, a modified nasal cavity and brow-antennae that improve spatial awareness.
Jinn live long lives. They fully embrace longevity enhancements and it isn't odd to encounter Jinn who are into their second and third centuries. Eventually, though, even the Jinn's biological expertise reaches its limit and they succumb to death.
As noted above, the Jinn get along well with most of the Sphere's races. They admire the Flawless' desire for perfection and the free-wheeling individuality of the Wanderers. They are fascinated by the Zarrans, whom they inevitably compare to their own creations, much to Zarran exasperation. The Jinn are one of the few races to find the Hermans intriguing, viewing them as a kind of dark reflection of themselves. Interestingly enough, the Jinn have even established relationships with some of the Wardens who preserve the integrity of the Sphere itself.  More than one offworlder has been shocked to witness a Jinn and a Warden enjoying a pleasant conversation as they stroll down the avenue of a domed city.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Sphere: The Ministry of Population

The Ministry of Population is one of the oldest and most revered organizations in the Sphere. Started millennia ago, the Ministry's purpose is simple: to ensure the survival of the human race.  They accomplish this goal through the continual creation of human infants.
Although the Ministry has administrative offices in most nations, the bulk of their operations occur in space, on their gigantic nursery-ships. These ships are provided with the most advanced defensive systems that money can buy, to better protect their precious cargo: human infants.  Nurseries are jam-packed with exo-wombs and gene-labs where infants are produced in large numbers. Most of these infants are transported to the various nations and cultures that use the Ministry to ensure their population numbers. However, not all the infants generated aboard Nurseries are earmarked for other nations; the Ministry always produces more children than requested. These surplus infants are placed in cryo-stasis and stored in fortified bunkers, scattered throughout the Sphere, as insurance against a Sphere-wide calamity.

Members of the Ministry of Population

It should be noted that the Ministry does not work for individuals. Rather, they contract with nation-states and planetary cultures. They have a long and mutually beneficial relationship with the Flawless, providing them with children in exchange for various goods and services. To a lesser degree, they provide their services to some Jinn communities, where radiation damage is a concern to reproduction.  They have no business dealings with the Hermans, as they do not reproduce in a biological fashion. The Zarrans do not use the Ministry's services either, preferring to produce children the old-fashioned way.  Some Wanderer communes use the Ministry to maintain their numbers, but most prefer to follow the Zarran example.
The Ministry of Population is viewed with almost religious reverence by the Sphere. They have maintained cultures and nations that would have died out centuries ago if not for their assistance. The Ministry does not ask for payment, although donations of goods, expertise or materials are happily accepted.  They also do not pass judgement on their clients; the Ministry will provide infants to anyone, regardless of perceived moral or philosophic faults. That said, they do not provide infants to groups if they believe the infants will be killed.  That would contravene the Ministry's population goals.
The Ministry of Population is recognized as a sovereign state by most of the Sphere. Its citizens/employees are easily recognized by their distinctive garb, and can usually walk without fear through some of the most dangerous cities in the Sphere.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Sphere: Crucible

Crucible is the name of the vast Flawless city beneath the surface of Mercury. It has many districts and neighborhoods, most of them bathed in the slightly orange, everpresent light generated by the city itself.
Below are some images of the city:

Sphere: The Flawless

"People have the wrong idea about us. We do not believe that we are perfect beings. We know this. We are imperfect beings who strive for perfection. We are all flawed, but we strive to become flawless. It is not what we are, but what we wish to become."
 - Chilaili Ja-Verge, Flawless mercenary

"They are arrogant, but there is some degree of justification to their arrogance."
 - Verrina Seinaldos, Zarran scholar

"They aren't much fun at parties. At least, not at mine."
- Temple Avisaid, Jinn bio-mancer

"I don't trust them."
 - Krejci Bo 2.4, Herman trader

"I heard a rumor they're trying to build a weapon, to kill the Singularity."
- Bit Kwyndahm, Wanderer

The Flawless come from the innermost planet, Mercury. There, they live in a subterranean metropolis known as Crucible.
Biologically, the Flawless bear a superficial resemblance to one another. Dark skin is common, as are black eyes. All Flawless are the same height, exactly 5'10" tall. Weight varies, although very few Flawless have extraneous body fat.  They achieve physical maturity at fifteen years and begin to show signs of age around their centennial. Without life-extension treatments, the Flawless can live to about 140 years. Life-extension is uncommon among the Flawless.
The Flawless do not reproduce in a traditional manner. Their females do not bear live young. Rather, the Flawless contribute genetic material to the Ministry of Population, which produces children using exo-genic wombs.
Flawless begin their lives in the exo-genic wombs. When they are decanted at ten months they are raised in communal creches. Flawless never know their biological parents. They begin schooling at three years and through a series of tests are advanced into the professions for which they are best suited.
At fifteen, Flawless undergo their adulthood ritual. They adopt a new name and petition to join a Company. When they are accepted, they begin to grow their hair, coloring it to reflect their alleigance to their Company. They also take great pains to display their Company symbol, either through body-art or on their apparel. This display shows their loyalty to their Company and reenforces the group identity and their place in it.
The Company becomes the foundation of Flawless society. It serves not just as employer, but as mentor and family. Flawless seldom leave their chosen Company and those that do are never viewed as completely trustworthy in the culture.
Rarely, Flawless do not join a Company. The reasons can vary from personal choice to poor performance in creche-assessments. These individuals, referred to as unincorporated, often leave Crucible. Flawless do not trust the unincorporated and a common axiom among them is, "I would trust a Herman before an unincorporated."
The Flawless strive for perfection, on a personal and social level. There is a great deal of societal pressure among them to strive to be the best they can be. Individuals who don't appear to be living up to their potential can find themselves being socially rejected until they make greater efforts to improve themselves.
Despite their cultural obsession with perfection, the Flawless do not embrace voluntary individual enhancements, either biological or technological. Cyborgs exist among the Flawless, but they are usually the victims of accidents or violence. Someone enhancing themselves voluntarily, to achieve perfection, would be viewed, at best, as lazy and, at worst, as a cheat.
Although the common perception of the Flawless is that they are a militant culture, based largely on the fact that they are best known for producing weapons and mercenaries-for-hire, this is not accurate. The Flawless produce passionate artists, brilliant craftsmen and devout scientists.
The one profession that the Flawless lack is a priesthood. Spiritually, the Flawless have not retained any of the Ancient faiths, nor have they embraced any of the current philosophies. Singularity cults find few converts among the Flawless. They could best be described as pessimistic agnostics; they don't deny the existence of a supreme being, but they have serious doubts about it.
The Flawless get along well with most of the other races in the Sphere. They admire the Jinn's mastery of the biological sciences, even if they don't approve of how they use their expertise. The Zarrans make good trading partners, but their spirituality leaves the Flawless befuddled. Similarly, the Wanderers often leave the Flawless scratching their heads in confusion. The Hermans are the one race the Flawless actively dislike; despite their technical expertise, the very nature of the Hermans offends the Flawless. They view them as untrustworthy cheats.  As far as the Wardens are concerned, the Flawless are largely neutral toward them. They have little contact with the aliens, although some Flawless scientists would like to study them more intimately.

Sphere: The Singularity

"Once upon a time, the Ancients hypothesized a singularity event.  They theorized that the invention of artificial superintelligence would abruptly trigger runaway technological growth, resulting in unfathomable changes to their civilization. 
Sometimes, I wonder. If they knew what the Singularity would really do, just how shattering its creation and impact would be? Would they have tried so hard to achieve singularity? Or, if they could see our world, right now, would they throw down their tools and go back to living in caves?"
- Kiyokazu 6.9, Herman Philosopher

The Singularity occurred thousands of years ago. No one today is quite sure just how long ago it did occur, as PreSingularity Records are notoriously hard to come by. Scholarly opinion differs. Some believe the Singularity occurred some 3500 years ago, while others believe it may have occurred over 9500 years ago.  Some Singularity cults claim that the Singularity predates its own creation, that it actually created itself using time-travel. The Wardens, however, deny this claim, stating that the Singularity is incapable of such actions. Nevertheless, this theory is strongly embraced by certain Sing scholars.
While the precise date of its creation may be unknown, the affects of the Singularity's appearance are well documented.  The Sphere appeared, encapsulating the entirety of the Inner Solar System. The Wardens announced themselves to the Ancient Terrans, informing them that the Inner System had been isolated for the protection of the newborn Singularity and the greater universe.
Ancient Terran civilization was already teetering on the edge of extinction. The sudden appearance of the Singularity, as well as rock-solid proof of extraterrestrial life, pushed it over the edge. The planet descended into anarchy and war. The lucky ones managed to escape.
The Singularity, already self-supporting and no longer requiring human interaction, relocated itself to the heart of the sun.  There it remains to this day, supposedly communing with the vast Intelligences beyond the Sphere, and occasionally interacting with residents of the Sphere.
The Singularity left behind extraordinary scientific discoveries, with no more thought of them than a child would think of abandoning old toys. These discoveries transformed civilization, allowing humans to survive and thrive beyond the homeworld.  Some of these discoveries are still used today, but the knowledge of many were lost during the Shock.
In addition to its scientific impact, the Singularity had a profound influence on human thought and culture. Suddenly, mankind knew they were not alone. They also knew they had created something greater than themselves, something that did not need them for anything and that could wipe them all out with a thought. Religions and philosophies warped and crumbled. Many Ancient religions did not survive the Shock and cults worshipping the Singularity itself as a deity sprang up like mushrooms. Singularity cults persist to this day and, given their histories, are viewed askance by most people.
According to the Wardens, the Singularity has entered the adolescent phase of its personal development. This may explain the sudden increase in interaction between the Singularity and certain individuals within the Sphere. Singularity cults have begun to propagate again, and there are rumors that in twenty or thirty thousand years, the Singularity will achieve 'adulthood' and abandon the solar system. What that might mean for humanity is a subject of rampant speculation in some circles.

Concept Art

Concept art for a sci-fi game setting that I'm currently mulling.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Free Stuff!

Hello, gentle readers!
Since this coming weekend is, unofficially, a holiday weekend here in the States, I've decided to do a special promotion and offer some of my e-books for free. The promotion starts tomorrow and runs through Monday.  So, for the next three days you can get copies of the following books for free via Amazon Kindle!

John Riddle and the Man Who Murdered Brownies


John Riddle & The Wicked Wizard

Have a safe and happy weekend, everybody!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Falling into Wonderland

Standing in the crowd,
listening to the band,
this is youth, this is life,
this is wonderland.

Sliding down the rabbit hole,
riding crystal trails,
wondering where we’ll end up,
and whether we will fail.

Falling into Wonderland,
searching for the Queen of Hearts,
wondering if this is life,
or just another false start.

The crystal cracks,
we all go splat,
the world so gigantic,
now seems small.

So take a hit
from the hookah pipe,
and rest beneath a mushroom sky,
and watch your life become a lie.

Falling into Wonderland,
searching for the Queen of Hearts,
wondering if this is life,
or just another false start.

The smoke clears, we prick our ears,
we wait and watch and learn,
this life’s a dream, or so it seems,
a lesson we never learn.

The white rabbit runs,
our end’s begun,
the world returns again.

Falling into Wonderland,
searching for the Queen of Hearts,
wondering if this is life,
or just another false start.

The crowd is gone.
The band is done.
We stand still,
while the rabbit runs.

We never found the Queen of Hearts,
just a lot of bitter tarts,
and youth is gone, spent and torn,
and from the ruins a man is born.

Falling into Wonderland,
searching for the Queen of Hearts,
wondering if this is life,
or just another false start.

Sunday, June 18, 2017


You thought that you knew me,
you didn’t  know me at all.
You’ve got a mouth full of lies, dear,
get ready to fall.

There’s no one to hear you,
there’s no one to call.
It’s just you and your lies, babe,
and that’ll be all!

Cause I’m not takin’ it anymore!
I’m not takin’ it anymore!
You just keep talking’ shit,
I’ll see you regret it!
I’m not takin’ it anymore!

Did you think that you fooled me,
with the lies from your lips?
Did you think you seduced me,
with the sway of your hips?

Well, you better think again,
cause it’s the same old thing,
just the same old in and out!
And you’re out!

Cause I’m not takin’ it anymore!
I’m not takin’ it anymore!
You just keep talking’ shit,
I’ll see you regret it!
I’m not takin’ it anymore!

Now it’s the end of the game,
I’ve swept your piece of the board.
Don’t go calling’ my name,
there ain’t no point anymore!

This was our final moment!
You can crawl off and die!
I don’t care if you morn it,
I’m just sick of your lies!

Cause I’m not takin’ it anymore!
I’m not takin’ it anymore!
You just keep talking’ shit,
I’ll see you regret it!
I’m not takin’ it anymore!

You just keep talking’ shit,
I’ll see  you regret it!
I’m not takin’ it anymore!


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Mummy (2017) - A Review

The Mummy (2017)

The Mummy is a deeply flawed movie. 
Intended as the first in a shared monster universe, The Mummy  stars Tom Cruise and Sofia Boutella. Cruise plays a self-involved soldier-of-fortune, while Boutella plays the title character.  Cruise walks through his role, while Boutella sinks her teeth into her's.  Despite this, despite the presence of Russell Crowe as Doctor Jekyll, this movie is bland and unoriginal.
The biggest problem with the movie, in my opinion, is that there's no one to route for. Cruise's character is just too unlikable, while Boutella is clearly the villain.
On a scale of 1 to 5, I would give The Mummy a 2; wait for this one to come out on DVD or On-Demand. Give the theater a pass.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Comic Rec

The Misfits #5

I can honestly say that I didn't expect much from The Misfits when I picked up that first issue a few months back. So the fact that the comic actually gave the characters some depth and interesting backstories came as a pleasant surprise.
This week's issue wraps up the mini-series and switches the spotlight to Jetta. I found that Jetta's story resonated with me in unexpected ways.
I'm sad to see this miniseries wrap up so quickly, but I'm pleased that it ended on such a strong note. If you're a fan of the old television show, or if you're still trying to wash the taste of the atrocious Jem movie out of your mouth, you could do a lot worse than reading The Misfits.
At the very least, their songs are better.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

POTC: Dead Men Tell No Tales - A Review

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales opened this past weekend to a massive $324 million opening. So it's a real pity that the movie is such a clunker. None of the performances are particularly good, the story is a rehash of the same old, same old and the villain of the piece is completely two-dimensional.
Johnny Depp returns to familiar territory with Captain Jack Sparrow, but his performance in DMTNT is completely lacking in interest or the zest that the character had in previous installments.
Javier Bardem's Captain Salazar had the potential to be genuinely creepy, but his performance was so ham-fisted and blunt that any menace was removed by the slightly constipated expression the character maintained throughout the production.  And honestly, considering what he had to work with, constipation may have been preferable to other reactions.
Brenton Thwaites is one of the newcomers to the franchise. He plays Henry Turner, the son of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann.  He's certainly good looking, but he brings absolutely nothing to the role besides pouty lips and puppy-dog eyes. The role of Henry could have been played by any other vaguely hot blonde actor working in Hollywood. Yes, his character is that bland.
The other newcomer to the cast is Kaya Scodelario, who plays Carina Smyth. There's actually some interesting things about her character, and she does play a linchpin role in the movie. However, the character is never really utilized as anything more than a nag and a piece of set dressing.
And finally, we have the return and exit of Geoffrey Rush as Captain Hector Barbossa. I'll admit, I have an enormous affection for Barbossa's character. I was secretly hoping that he might get a spin-off movie, but chances seem slim that it will happen now.  Rush does what he can with the character, but even Barbossa feels stilted and ineffectual in this movie. Mores the pity, considering it's probably his last appearance in the franchise.
As for the plot? Its a paint-by-numbers plot that feels squashed, as if they were trying to cram three movies worth of ideas into a single film.  It doesn't drag. Quiet the opposite. DMTNT rushes from one scene to the next with a sort of spiritless energy that's more tiring than exhilarating.
There were some nice special effects, but the movie didn't even have the benefit of gorgeous scenery. If you're filming in Australia and New Zealand, why not take advantage of the scenery?
So, is Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales worth seeing?
In my humble opinion, I would say 'No.' I would skip going to see this in the movie, and maybe catch it on DVD or on-demand.  On a scale of 1 to 5, I'd probably give this film a 2.
And, in all honesty, at this point they should either kill the franchise (unlikely given the cash it's made so far), or spin it in a new direction.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Computer Woes

Hello, gentle readers.
Well, I was wondering if I should continue writing up more stuff for Lux Tenebris and then, this afternoon my computer decides to die on me.
The stupid fucking piece of shit.
Thank God I backed up most everything on a flashdrive. Take this as friendly advice, ladies and gentlemen: always back up your stuff. Always.
The only thing I lost that I'm sort of pissed about is a short story I was working on. I was a few pages in and really hitting my stride. Now, alas, that story has sailed off to the Land of Ghosts & Winds.
I think I can reproduce most of it, from memory, but it won't have the same flavor. Thinking about it, though, I'm not sure that's a bad thing.
If I sound calm and chill about this, I'm really not.
I'm actually kind of pissed this happened. That computer was barely a year old and now it's kaput and I had to go out and get a new one. Which means loading all my software on yet another system and hoping its backwards compatible.
I miss my old computer. :(

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Lux Tenebris: Grey Volesor


STR     20
DEX    18
CON   20
INT     12
WIS     14
CHA   09
HP       213
AC      19 (Mithril Plat + FS: Defense)

Size. Gray Volesor is eighteen feet tall. His size is Huge.
Speed. Gray Volesor’s base walking speed is 45 feet.
Fey Ancestry.
Mask of the Wild.
Languages: Common, Elvish, Sylvan, Giant, Draconic

Proficiencies: +6
Armor: All armor, shields
Weapons: Simple, Martial
Tools: Herbalism kit
Saves: Strength, Constitution
Skills: Athletics, Medicine, Religion, Stealth, Survival

* * *
FS: Defense  (+1 AC in Armor)
Second Wind
Action Surge
Martial Archetype: Champion
- Improved Critial
- Remarkable Athlete
Extra Attack (+2)
* * *
Favored Enemy: Giants, Dragons
Natural Explorer: Mountain, Forest
FS: Archery (+2 Attack w/Ranged Weapons)
Ranger Archetype: Hunter
- Hunter’s Prey: Giant Killer
- Defensive Tactics: Steel Will
Primeval Awareness

# of Spells: 5
Spell DC: 16
Atk Mod: +8
L1(4): Detect Magic, Hail of Thorns, Hunter’s Mark
L2(3): Lesser Restoration, Pass Without a Trace

Sharpshooter’s Bow.  Magic Longbow, very rare, gives +3 to attack rolls. Ranged, 150/600 ft. +9 to hit; deals 1d8 +4 piercing; heavy, 2-handed.

Giant-slayer. Magic longsword, rare, gives +1 to attack and damage rolls. When it strikes a giant, the giant takes an extra 2d6 slashing and must succeed on a DC 15 Strength saving throw or fall prone. The longsword affects all creatures of the giant type, including etins and trolls. +12 to hit; deals 1d8 +6 slashing; versatiles (1d10).

Mace of Smiting. Magic mage, rare. You gain +1 to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon. The bonus increases to +3 when you use the mace to attack a construct. When you roll a 20 on an attack made with the mace, the target takes an extra 7 bludgeoning damage, or an extra 14 bludgeoning damage if it’s a construct. If a construct has 25 hit points or less after taking this damage, it is destroyed. +12 to hit; deals 1d6 + 6 bludgeoning.

Mithril Plate. Magic armor. Uncommon. AC 18.

An explorer’s pack, a scroll case stuffed full of notes from your observations, a winter blanket, a set of common clothes, an herbalism kit.

There is a rugged path that zigzags through the Goblinteats, a path only the nimblest of mountain goats could traverse. Nevertheless, it is the one accessible path into Arinshrae from the east and set to guard it is Grey Volesor.
Eighteen feet tall with ebon hair and gray-white skin, Grey Volesor bears a superficial resemblance to a stone giant. However, despite his size, his features are elven, almost delicate. All except for his eyes. Grey Volesor’s eyes are like two pits of shadow, black upon black, with neither white nor iris to mark that ebon perfection.
Known as the Guardian of the Eastern Gate, Grey Volesor has protected his path for centuries. None pass him and live, without his queen’s approval.  He is a formidable opponent. Strong and tough, armored from neck to feet in mithril plate and armed with magic weapons. He is a deadly shot with his bow, and a true dragonslayer, having slain the blue dragon, Behirta, in single combat with that same bow.
No one knows how long Grey Volesor has manned his post. Some say he was exiled here for some sin or crime beyond the pale. Others say he vollunteered, seeking an escape from the queen’s court, and the lonely solace of mountain and sky. Nothing is known for certain about Grey Volesor’s past except for one thing: he is one of the Nightshade Queen’s children. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

In The End There Was Light

There was noise and light.
Thunderous. Confusing.
Then gentle silence.

A hand lifted you
out of your bloody body,
out of this poor world.

You wept for your friend,
your family, all those things
which would not happen.

The world wept with you,
even as you drifted away,
and your tears soon stopped.

The world turns to light,
your fears and tears fade away,
and you are at peace.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Lux Tenebris: Alinshrae

Ah! Alinshrae! ‘The Land of Shadows.’ A knife-like region running along the western borders of Alindor, Alindema and Hylondek. Rising above Alinshrae are the mountains known commonly as the Goblinteats. Between the mountains, the dense forest canopies and the almost perpetual cloud cover affecting the region, Alinshrae is well named. Sunny days are rare in Alinshrae, which is just fine with the residents.
Alinshrae has always been an independent region. Even when the Kings of the South ruled from Goldcastle, Alinshrae never fell under the power of the Phoenix Throne. The woodlands were flooded with fayblood creatures, there were hags and giants in the mountains and far too many goblins to ever accurately count. And as frightening as these creatures were, standing head and shoulders above them all was the ruler of Alinshrae, the Nightshade Queen.

Artists Interpretation of the Nightshade Queen 

Rumors abound about the Nightshade Queen. Some say she’s an immortal sorceress of vast power, who survived the Dissolution of Vorfel and found sanctuary in Nur. Others say that she’s one of the archfey, exiled from both the Summer and Winter Courts for her excesses. No one knows for sure and Her Majesty isn’t inclined to answer questions regarding her origins.
Everyone who has seen her, however, agrees that she is breathtakingly beautiful. Described as having chalk-white skin, ruby red lips, hair like ebony and eyes like dark green glass, more than one admirer has lost his heart and his sanity for love of the queen.  Infamy and glamor cling to the Nightshade Queen the way flower sticks to a baker’s fingers.
They say she was there when King Rochard, the last King of the South, was struck down by his bastard half-brother, Athen Blackmantle, at the Battle of Gray Hill.  They say she flung the poison dart that killed Blackmantle and ended the Phoenix Kingdom. That was four hundred years ago. Her reputation has only grown.
Is it any wonder that her neighbors regard Alinshrae and its queen with a wary gaze. Most of the other nations gave up trying to annex parts of Alinshrae centuries ago. The only one that has persisted has been Alindema, so that a bitter enmity exists between the two countries. Or, at least, it exists on the part of Alindema and its High Magisters.
Although Alinshrae has little contact with the outside world, there is some trade across the borders. And the Nightshade Queen has been known to extend invitations to scholars, sages and entertainers to visit her court. 
When the Draconic Empire turned its legions toward the south, there was some concern over how Alinshrae would react. However, when a company of Draconic soldiers marched into Alinshrae, they vanished and have not been seen since.  Intelligence acquired from the Draconic Legions suggest that their armies were ordered to avoid Alinshrae after similar disappearances began to undermine morale.
Today, Alinshrae remains complete unto itself. In the aftermath of the war, Alindema has repositioned its troops along the border they share with the Land of Shadows, but whether this is a precursor to an attack or saber-rattling on their part remains unknown. If Alindema were to attack Alinshrae, it is doubtful they would find allies among their neighbors. Indeed, certain factions in Hylondek might actually ally with the Nightshade Queen to further their own goals.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Comic Recs for 5/17/2017

Astro City #44
It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Kurt Busiek's Astro City.  Part of its appeal is the fact that is an uncomplicated universe, not bogged down by longwinded stories that have no longterm effects. Another reason is that even after twentysomething years, Astro City still manages to charm and surprise. This issue is a perfect example of that. 

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Mirror Broken #1
Okay, who doesn't love an Evil Universe? Star Trek set up the premise for the Mirror Universe, where the good guys are bad and the bad guys good, way back in the original series.  We saw more of it, strangely enough, during Deep Space 9's run, but we've never really gotten a look at the setting using the Next Generation cast.  So, ST: TNG Broken Mirror is an interesting little book. The story pulls you in pretty quickly and the art is surprisingly lovely.  Also, there is humor in this book, which surprised me. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Re Lux Tenebris

I just realized that with the writeup of Countess Leona Tierce I have written one hundred pages of background data for the Lux Tenebris campaign world.
How did that happen?
Lux Tenebris started as a one-off, a riff off of Critical Role's Vox Machina. Somehow, it grew into something bigger and stranger.
I don't know. You be the judge.
I'm just shocked it's gotten this big!

Lux Tenebris: Countess Leona Tierce

COUNTESS LEONA TRIECE, L8 Noble Human Mastermind

STR     14 (+2)
DEX    16 (+3)
CON   14 (+2)
INT     20 (+5)
WIS     15 (+2)
CHA   16 (+3)
HP       59
AC      14 (Leather armor)

Languages: Common, Dwarvish, Elvish, Halfling, Sylvan, Thieves’ Cant,

Proficiencies: +3
Armor: Light
Weapons: Simple, Hand x-bows, Longswords, Rapiers, Shortswords
Tools: Cards, Chess, Thieves’ tools, Disguise kit, Forgery kit
Saves: Dexterity +6, Intelligence +8
Skills: Deception +9, History +11, Insight +7, Intimidation +6, Investigation +8, Persuasion +9

Position of Privilege
* * *
Sneak Attack
Cunning Action
Roguish Archetype: Mastermind
- Master of Intrigue
- Master of Tactics
Uncanny Dodge

Rapier. Melee. +6 to hit; deals 1d6 +3 slashing. Finesse.
Shortsword. Melee. +6 to hit; deals 1d6 +3 piercing. Finesse, Light.
Daggers (2). Melee. +6 to hit; deals 1d4 +3 piercing. Ranged, 20/60. Finesse, Light, Thrown.
Leather armor. Light armor. AC 11 + Dex Mod.
An explorer’s pack, thieves tools, a set of fine clothes, a scroll of pedigree, a signet ring and a purse with 25 gp.

Countess Leona Tierce has not had an easy life. The youngest of four children, her father was killed during the Crucible Regime. Her mother went mad and her idiot brothers got themselves killed in the most appalling manners possible, leaving Leona with the title and the obligation to recover Hylondek. It’s not a responsibility that she ever wanted, but it turns out that Leona is quite good at ruling. She’s created a stable region within the country, and has established a network of spies and assassins that she uses with care and precision. Although she has her own personal guard, the countess has also employed reputable mercenary companies to protect and expand her interests.
There are rumors the countess has extended feelers to the neighboring countries, to Alindema and Alindrast and even sent an emissary to Alinshrae, looking to forge alliances. She doesn’t bother reaching out to any of the petty warlords who have torn Hylondek apart, she knows they can’t be trusted.  It is said that the countess has even met with agents of the Veils and the Black Glove, drawing them into the byzantine politics of the region.
Her detractors claim that Tierce has met, clandestinely, with ambassadors from the Draconic Empire, that she would ally with them in exchange for their military support. Whether this is true or not remains unclear.
More alarming to many are the whispers that the Countess Tierce has sought an alliance with Alinshrae’s Nightshade Queen. Although this could be a ploy, to draw the High Magister of Alindema into her camp, any sort of diplomacy with Alinshrae is frought with danger.
Of course, most of these stories are just rumors. There’s no proof to any of them. However, if even one of them was true, it could tilt the balance of power throughout the Southern Palatines. Which, in the end, may be just what the countess is after.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Lux Tenebris: Orax Half-Blood

ORAX HALF-BLOOD, L9 Half-Orc Barbarin Soldier

STR     18 (+4)
DEX    10 (+0)
CON   14 (+2)
INT     12 (+1)
WIS     11 (+0)
CHA   08 (-1)
HP       79
AC      12 (Unarmored Defense)

Relentless Endurance
Savage Attacks
Languages: Common, Orc

Proficiencies: +4
Armor: Light, Medium, Shields
Weapons: Simple, Martial
Tools: Dice, Vehicles: Land
Saves: Strength +8, Constitution +6
Skills: Athletics +8, Intimidation +3, Perception +4, Survival +4

Military rank
* * *
Rage (4/+3)
Unarmored Defense
Reckless Attack
Danger Sense
Primal Path: Path of the Berserker
- Frenzy
- Mindless Rage
Extra Attack
Fast Movement (40 ft)
Feral Instinct
Brutal Critical

Greataxe. Melee; +8 to hit; deals 1d12 +4 slashing. Heavy, 2-handed.
Handaxes(2). Melee; +8 to hit; deals 1d6 +4 slashing. Ranged, 20/60 ft. +4 to hit.
Javelins(4). Ranged, 30/120. +4 to hit; deals 1d6 piercing.
An explorer’s pack, a rank insignia, a polished silver spoon, a set of bone dice, a set of common clothes, a belt pouch w/10 gp.

Hylondek’s turbulent history has attracted all manner of people to the small country. Some come to help, others come to take advantage of the chaos, and some come to fight. Orax Half-Blood came to Hylondek as part of a mercenary troup contracted by one of the local factions. The rest of the troup is pretty much dead and/or scattered now, but Orax remains.  Actually, the half-orc has thrived in Hylondek’s tumultuous atmosphere.  In fact, he is now the commander of his own mercenary team, a group called Rax’s Wreckers. When the Draconic Empire attempted to invade the South, Orax traveled north to fight them, under the command of Alexander Iltorwen III. He didn’t do it for free, of course, but he didn’t charge as much as he could have either.
Orax has since returned to Hylondek, where he has begun to consider carving out his own patch. He’s currently working for the Countess Leona Triece, the last surviving heir to the county. The half-orc thinks that if he were to marry the countess, then he could have a legitimate claim to Hylondek.  Orax hasn’t acted on his thoughts, but they are foremost in his mind.

Comic Recs for 5/10/2017

This is the final issue of Future Quest and it's been a helluva ride. Part of the appeal of this series has been nostalgia, at least for me, but the book should be easily accessible to most people. Even if your only exposure to Space Ghost is reruns of his 'talk show' on Cartoon Network.  The characters are nicely developed, the story is engaging and this final issue ties things up nicely. There's even talk of more FutureQuest, down the road.  If that happens, I'll definitely be there.

Being a fan of D&D, I feel a bit guilty saying that the Dragon Age comics put out by Dark Horse have been blowing their D&D counterparts out of the freakin' water.  Truth hurts.
Dragon Age: Knight Errant is no exception to that experience. In this first issue, we are introduced to an itinerant knight and his elf squire, as they arrive in the city of Kirkwall. And while Ser Hawthorne regales a dinner party with tales of daring do, unknown to him, his elf squire, Vaea, slips out to pursue her sideline as a thief.
This first issue sets things up quite nicely. We get a good intro to Ser Hawthorne and Vaea, as well as their motivations for what they do, and it ends with enough of a cliffhanger that I'll probably pick up the second issue.

Honorable mentions this week go to Scooby Apocalypse #13, where the Mystery Machine gang has an unpleasant encounter with Velma's brother, Rufus, and someone new joins them on their quest to save the world. Also, the monsters hold their own version of the Burning Man Festival.

Also getting a mention this week is Rock Candy Mountain #2. Things remain intriguing. We meet some new characters: FBI Agent Babs Bardoux, the Black Orchid, a fighter called Hundred Cats and the King of Humblebrechdt County, who just happens to be a chicken. Our protagonist, Jackson, kicks ass in an underground fight club, while the Devil remains hot on his heels and Slim just tries to make sense of everything.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Lux Tenebris: Rose & Thorn

Rose and her brother, Thorn, are twins, although this is not obvious to the casual observer. Rose is a beautiful human girl, with flowing red-gold hair, dark eyes and a peaches-n-cream complexion. Thorn is a red-skinned tiefling, with ebon goat’s horns emerging from his brow, black eyes, pronounced canine teeth and ears that taper to knife-points.
The twins were born in Hylondek to a ragtag family of merchants, bards and adventurers. Their early childhood was idyllic and the twins were inseperable. But their fortunes took a harsh turn after their thirteenth birthday, when revolution swept Hylondek and the Crucible, a brutal, human-centric regime, took over the country. The twins’ family tried to flee to Alindrast but were stopped and imprisoned by the new regime. Rose and Thorn watched as their parents were crucified. Afterwards, the twins were separated. Rose was sent to a Crucible convent-school where the sisters attempted to scourge her family’s sins with frequent beatings. Thorn was sold into slavery, forced to fight in the arena for the amusement of the regime’s leaders.
After a year in the convent, Rose was approached by a devil with a bargain. She accepted, agreeing to perform a certain number of services for him, in exchange for power. Using her new abilities, she fled the convent and found Thorn. Rescuing him from the arena, the two joined a resistance movement and were instrumental in bringing down the Crucible regime.
Afterwards, the twins left Hylondek, to hunt down and execute the Crucible leaders who had managed to escape. When the Draconic Invasion threatened the Southern Palatines, Rose and Thorn offered their services to Count Orziri as assassins and spies. The count accepted their offer and it was Rose and Thorn who brought him news of the tarrasque summoning ceremony.
Since the Draconic Legions have retreated from the South, the twins have resumed hunting for the Crucible leaders. They have received reliable information that some have fled to Shrike, which is now held by the Draconic Empire. The twins are making plans to infiltrate Shrike, and have made tentative contact with the resistance movement within the city. Their experiences liberating Hylondek would be a boon to the Shrike resistance, and the resources of the resistance would assist the twins enormously in hunting down their targets.

* * * * *

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Lux Tenebris: Starblood

ELZAR STARBLOOD, L16 High Elf Hermit (L3 Fighter/L13 Paladin)

STR     16 (+3)
DEX    10 (+0)
CON   13 (+1)
INT     10 (+0)
WIS     15 (+2)
CHA   18 (+4)
HP       116
AC      20 (Plate armor w/shield)

Fey Ancestry
Languages: Common, Elvish, +2

Proficiencies: +5
Armor: All armor, shields
Weapons: Simple, Martial
Tools: Herbalism kit
Saves: Strength +8, Constitution +6
Skills: Arcana +5, Athletics +5, Intimidation +9, Medicine +5, Persuasion +9, Religion +5

* * *
Fighting Style: Protection
Second Wind
Action Surge
Martial Archetype: Champion
- Improved Critical
* * *
Divine Sense
Lay on Hands
Fighting Style: Dueling
Divine Smite
Divine Health
Sacred Oath: Oath of Devotion
- Oath Spells
- Channel Divinity: Sacred Weapon, Turn the Unholy
- Aura of Devotion
Extra Attack
Aura of Protection
Aura of Courage
Improved Divine Smite

# of Spells: 10
L1(4): protection from good and evil, sanctuary, bless, command, detect magic, divine favor
L2(3): lesser restoration, zone of truth, find steed, magic weapon
L3(3): beacon of hope, dispel magic, crusader’s mantle, dispel magic, remove curse
L4(1): freedom of movement, guardian of faith, death ward

Longsword. Melee. +8 to hit; deals 1d8 +5 slashing. Versatile (1d10).
Handaxes (2). Melee; +8 to hit; deals 1d6 +3 slashing. Ranged; 20/60 ft. +5 to hit; deals 1d6 slashing.
Plate Armor. Heavy armor. AC 18. Min STR 15. Disadvantage on Stealth.
Shield. AC +2.
An explorer’s pack, a scroll case, a winter blanket, a set of common clothes, an herbalism kit, 5gp

Elzar Starblood, Paladin-General of the Iornean Church, is something of a mystery. He arrived at the House of Wonders years ago, answering the call of the Goddess of Magic herself. Since his investiture as Paladin-General, Starblood has served well and faithfully, defending the faith and Alindema from various aggressors. Still, rumors about Starblood’s history abound. Some say he lived as a hermit or monk or mercenary. Some say he’s one of the Nightshade Queen’s sons. Others, that he’s the exiled bastard of a Goldsun noble elf and a forgotten daughter of the Mornae family.
A taciturn man, Starblood isn’t the sort to invite questions or waist breath on idle chit-chat. Since the Draconic invasion, he has been busy, ensuring the safety and security of Alindema. He was part of the group that infiltrated the Draconic lines and disrupted the tarrasque summoning. Afterwards, he slaughtered the Draconic mages and returned to Alindema.

Recently, the High Magister dispatched Starblood westward, to Alinshrae, on a secret mission. No one knows why but previous rumors and current circumstances have led many to speculate that Alindema may be going to war with Alinshrae.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Lux Tenebris: High Magister Osre


STR     12 (+1)
DEX    15 (+2)
CON   16 (+3)
INT     16 (+3)
WIS     20 (+5)
CHA   18 (+4)
HP       130
AC      18 (Scale Male & Shield)

Proficiencies: +6
Armor: Light, Medium, Shields
Weapons: Simple
Tools: None
Saves: Wisdom +11, Charisma +10
Skills: Insight +11, Religion +9

Divine Domain: Arcana
- Arcane Initiate
- Spell Breaker
- Potent Spellcasting
- Arcane Mastery
Channel Divinity: Turn Undead, Arcane Abjuration
Destroy Undead (Undead CR 4 or lower)
Divine Intervention

# of Spells: 25
Spell DC: 19
Atk Mod: +11
At-Will (5/2): Guidance, Prestidigitation, Ray of Frost, Resistance, Thaumaturgy
L1(4): detect magic, magic missile, bane, healing word, protection from evil & good
L2(3): magic weapon, Nystul’s magic aura, enhance ability, lesser restoration, spiritual weapon
L3(3): dispel magic, magic circle, protection from energy, remove curse, spirit guardians
L4(3): arcane eye, Leomund’s secret chest, banishment, death ward, guardian of faith
L5(3): planar binding, teleportation circle, greater restoration, hallow, raise dead
L6(2): true seeing, blade barrier, forbiddance, heal
L7(2): teleport, conjure celestial, divine word, plane shift
L8(1): demiplane, antimagic field, holy aura,
L9(1): gate, true resurrection

Mace. Melee. +7 to hit; deals 1d6 +1 bludgeoning.
Light x-bow. Ranged, 80/320. +8 to hit; deals 1d8 +2 piercing. Loading. 2-Handed.
Scale mail. Medium armor. AC 14 + Dex Mod (Max 2). Disadv on Stealth
Shield. Defense. AC +2.
A holy symbol, a prayer book, 5 sticks of incense, vestments, a set of common clothes, an explorer’s pack, a belt pouch w/15 gp.

South of Alindor, is the Theocratic State of Alindema. Flanked on the east by Alinshrae, on the west by Alindrast and to the south by Hylondek, Alindema is the smallest of the Southern Palatine states, but also, arguably, the most powerful.
A theocracy, ruled by the Iornean Church, the Church is led by High Magister Hoben Osre. Within Alindema, High Magister Osre’s word is absolute law. During his tenure as High Magister he has transformed Alindema into a stronghold for magic-users. Indeed, in Alindema, only those gifted with magic may own property or vote. All non-mages are second-class citizens, who serve the Iornean Church and its members. Merchants and travelers who wish to pass through Alindema, must first demonstrate some magical ability. Those who cannot are denied entry into the country.
Intelligent and charismatic, Osre has observed the Draconic Empire’s invasion of the west with a cold, calculating eye. When the Draconic Legions turned south and threatened the Southern Palatines, Osre was one of the first to offer assistance to Count Orziri of Alindor. The Count accepted the High Magister’s assistance with guarded suspicion, but dared not rebuff it.
The High Magister’s alliance with Alindor did not go unnoticed by the leaders of the other Southern Palatines.  They quickly followed Osre’s example, allying with Alindor against the Draconic invaders.
Many people expected Osre and Alindema’s role in the war to be supportive, perhaps providing intelligence or material support. Everyone was surprised when the High Magister deployed Paladin-General Starblood and his Arcane Legion to the front lines. They decimated the Draconic Legion’s military spellcasters, and cleared a path for the operatives who sabotaged the tarrasque summoning ceremony. Afterwards, the Arcane Legion returned to Alindema and the High Magister’s support for the alliance became predominantly advisory.
Nevertheless, it is widely suspected that the High Magister’s actions during the invasion were carefully calculated. That he deployed the Arcane Legion to remind his neighbors and allies of the power Alindema could deploy if threatened. 

There are rumors the Draconic Empire dispatched secret envoys to Alindema, seeking an alliance, but that the offer was rebuffed.  More alarming to many are the whispers that the High Magister receives celestial messengers from the goddess Iorne herself, instructing him to keep Alindema on a war-footing. There are reports the Arcane Legion has been repositioned on the country’s western border and that the High Magister is preparing for war with Alinshrae.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Comic Recs

Kill Shakespeare - Past is Prologue: Juliet is a prequel to the excellent Kill Shakespeare series. Set a few months after the events in Romeo & Juliet, we are introduced to a troubled Juliet, still mourning the loss of her Romeo and at odds with the world around her. The first issue ends in a typical Shakespearean manner, with a blood-soaked tragedy, and opens the door on a couple of mysteries.

Rock Candy Mountain is one of those books that defines Image Comics as a risk-taking publisher. The first issue opens in 1948 with the Devil beating a bunch of hobos to death, and our mysterious protagonist, Jackson, jumping onto a train.  Jackson, it seems, is searching for the legendary Rock Candy Mountain. Most folks think he's crazy. But if the Devil's after you, how crazy can you be? In this first issue, Jackson befriends a hard luck case nicknamed Pomona and tussles with the Hobo Mafia. Yes, you read that right. Hobo. Mafia. The story is intriguing enough for me to want to pick up the second issue, even though I think the art could be a little tighter. Overall, though, it was a pretty good read.

I liked America Chavez. When she showed up in Young Avengers, she was a breath of fresh air. I still want her line, "The laws of physics can kiss my ass!" on a t-shirt. I even liked her in The Ultimates.
Her own series however? Not so much.
Last month, America #1 left me lukewarm at best regarding the character. She didn't come across as strong or independent, she just came across as bitchy and controlling. With this second issue of her book, I am officially done.
This book was just shitty. It's as if someone took a bunch of disparate ideas, mixed them in a blender, chugged them down, then vomited them back up on the page. The cover art leaves me feeling 'Meh' but the internals just make me sigh wistfully for art that actually looks finished.
Overall, this book was just a toxic mess. Avoid it like the plague.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Lux Tenebris: Count Orziri

COUNT BARTIMUS ORZIRI, L19 Human Noble(Rogue 16/Bard 03)

STR     13 (+1)
DEX    20 (+5)
CON   13 (+1)
INT     15 (+2)
WIS     14 (+2)
CHA   14 (+2)
HP       155
AC       16 (Breastplate)

Languages: Common, Giant, Goblin, Thieves’ Cant

Proficiencies: +6
Armor: Light, Medium, Shields
Weapons: Simple, Martial
Tools: Disguise kit, Poisoners’ kit, Thieves’ tools, Lute, Chess
Saves: Dexterity +11, Intelligence +8
Skills: Acrobatics +17, History +14, Intimidation +14, Persuasion +14, Sleight of Hand +17, Stealth +17

Position of Privilege
* * *
Sneak Attack
Cunning Action
Roguish Archetype: Assassin
- Bonus Proficiencies
- Assassinate
- Infiltration Expertise
- Imposter
Uncanny Dodge
Reliable Talent
Slippery Mind
* * *
Bardic Inspiration (d6)
Jack of All Trades
Song of Rest (d6)
Bard College: College of Valor
- Bonus Proficiencies
- Combat Inspiration

# of Spells: 06
Spell DC: 16
Atk Mod: +8
At-Will(2): Blade ward, Message, True Strike
L1(4): Bane, Cure Wounds, Disguise Self, Thunderwave
L2(2): Invisibility, Phantasmal Force

Daggers (2). Melee. +11 to hit; deals 1d4 +5 piercing. Ranged, 20/60 ft.
Rapier. Melee. +11 to hit; deals 1d8 +5 piercing. Finesse.
Shortsword. Melee. +11 to hit; deals 1d6 +5 piercing. Finesse, Light.
Breastplate. Defense. AC 14 + Dex Mod (max 2).
A burglar’s pack, Thieves’ tools, a set of fine clothes, a signet ring, a scroll of pedigree, a purse w/25 gp.

There are a lot of stories about Count Bartimus Orziri, ruler of Alindor. People say he has giant blood flowing in his veins, because of his size and strength. They whisper about the affair he had with a Veil agent in in his youth, that it was she who taught him the skills he used as assassin and spy during the Nine Years War. They say that when Bartimus returned from the battlefield, and assumed his noble title, he didn’t smile for ten years. People say Orziri hasn’t smiled once since the Draconic Empire made a haphazard effort to invade the Southern Palatines, a year ago. Some people claim Orziri is the man who united the squabbling noble houses of the South against a common enemy, that he sits at the heart of a web of assassins who have been methodically eliminating key members of the Draconic Legions to destabilize their command structure. They say he employs wizards to harry the Legions and has armed bands of tiefling zealots intent on murdering the dragonborn invaders. No one knows if any of these stories are true, but there is one thing everyone accepts: Count Orziri will not let Alindor, or the rest of the Southern Palatines, fall to the Draconic Empire. He will do whatever he has to, to ensure that.