Friday, May 27, 2016

Swords & Serpents! (A Mr. Amazing Comic Adventure!)

My good friend Leighton Connor draws a lot of comics. His current comic is The Electric Team. He co-writes this post-apocalypse sci-fi/fantasy all-ages adventure comic with his school-age daughter Abby, and it is drawn by Samantha Albert. If you like Adventure Time or Steven Universe, you'll no doubt enjoy The Electric Team, and you should check it out.

The Electric Team recently wrapped up its third chapter, and Leighton wanted to give Samantha a break while also branching off and exploring some solo stories about the individual characters. Leighton asked if I was interested in illustrating a solo story he wrote about the lightning-powered science hero Mr. Amazing. Well, of course I said yes!

As of this writing, we're in the middle of Swords & Serpents, wherein Mr. Amazing meets the barbarian warrior Druuj the Slayer and confronts evil Snake Men. You should go read it now. Tell your friends! Tell everybody!

This isn't the first time I've worked with Leighton. I produced the Thoroughly Thurl spin-off story for his Laser Brigade space opera comic. I also wrote and drew part of the Hate Frog vs. Drip-Drop Man fight from his wonderfully funny and surreal Fuzzball & Scuzzball comic (my favorite of his comic projects). And, of course, together we co-wrote the beloved RPG sourcebook Leopard Women of Venus.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Random Thoughts on "Batman V Superman"

This blog usually focuses on roleplaying games, but comics are my first love, and I just got back from watching Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Plenty of people have already done full reviews of the movie, so I'm just going to make some comments on things that stuck out.

Here's some full reviews by other people:
King Yak's Review of Batman v Superman
Movie Bob's Major Spoilers Review
I've Never Hated Anything The Way I Hate 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice'

Long story short... After a bunch of scathing reviews I expected this movie to be an absolute trainwreck. Instead it was just meeeeeeeh... I left the theater with no sense of joy or excitement, just a dissatisfied numbness.

Spoilers ahead...

I knew it was a bad sign when the music for a Supes/Bats movie was credited to some guy named "Junkie XL"

Hey! The film gave Bill Finger a co-credit for creating Batman! So that's good.

Despite the script he was given, Ben Affleck was really good as Batman/Bruce Wayne... despite all the murder. One could actually make a really compelling movie following Batman's slow decent into cruelty and fanaticism after a global disaster, and Bat-Ben would be perfect for it. This movie didn't go that way, of course. That would be too much character building.

Actually, I'd be happy to see Affleck in a straight-up adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns or All Star Batman and Robin (aka The Goddam Batman). I'm not a big fan of Frank Miller's version of Batman, but Affleck pulls it off. 

Jeremy Irons' Alfred looked cool rocking his British commando sweater in the Batcave. 

Hey, did you know Jimmy Olsen was in this movie? Yeah, check the credits. He was the photographer executed by terrorists in the first 10 minutes of the film. Yeah, Zak Snyder murdered Superman's Pal because fuck you.

Jessie Eisenberg made a terrible Lex Luthor, but he looked cool in that weird lab coat. He could have made a decent Leo Quintum.

Perry White angrily tells Clark "It's not 1938! any more!" The year Superman was created. Fuck you, Zak Snyder. 

Clark comments that Batman has mostly been terrorizing poor and underprivileged neighborhoods in Gotham. Someone later calls Luthor's party the "Lat Them Eat Cake Crowd." The movie comes ever so close on topics of classism and privilege, but of course it goes nowhere. 

I am going to assume that the weird cube that was used to create Cyborg is a Motherbox, in a clumsy attempt to tie the character to Darkseid and Apokalips. 

I am also going to assume that Batman's weirdly prophetic dreams are the result of The Flash mucking around with time travel, somehow granting Bats glimpses of alternate timelines. 

That highly-advanced alien warship has absolutely terrible security protocols. 

I'm still not entirely sure how Luthor learned Superman's secret identity. It also seems that, after his arrest, he'd share that info with the first reporter, cop, or lawyer he talked to. 

So, Superman can tell when Lois is in danger on the other side of the world, or knows when she's falling off a building somewhere, or has fallen into a well, but for some reason he can't keep tabs on his own mother? I guess she's bad at multitasking. 

It seems like Superman should have started his conversation with Batman by mentioning his mother. "Hey Batman, while I'm still way up in the sky here, I wanna tell you that Lex Luthor kidnapped my mom and wants me to kill you. Maybe we're both being played."

I actually didn't hate the "My mother's name is Martha, too!" thing where Supes and Bats bond and become pals. It was perhaps the only Silver Age thing in the movie. 

He Superman, instead of using that kryptonite spear yourself, why not toss it to the bad-ass super-powered warrior woman in the Greek armor with the sword and shield. I bet she knows how to use a javelin. 

I was unabashedly excited to see Wonder Woman use her magic lasso on Doomsday, even so briefly.

Someone please tell Warner Brothers and DC that "The Death of Superman" is not this beloved classic storyline, and Doomsday is a terrible and boring character. You know what would have made for a better final fight with some more narrative weight? Have the good guys fight Luthor in his purple and green battle armor.  Since they clearly want to connect Luthor to Darkseid somehow, they could have even made the suit based on Apokalips technology, channeled into Luthor's brain like some mad fever dream. 

So yeah... Go read All Star Superman instead.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Dragon Temple Map

As I'm sure most of you know, I used to post a lot of maps here. That stopped a while ago, mostly because (a) I just plain ran out of ideas each week, and (b) most of the new maps I do draw now are for use in my home D&D game, and I don't want to post them until my players are done with them.

But recently my friend Colin asked me to draw a map for his own D&D game. I did, and now I'm going to share it with you. Yay maps!

Colin's description:
"Ok Dragon Temple specs..Dragon theme obviously,10-15 rooms, big epic dragon statutes.  The PC's are putting a Jewel, called the Eye of Utenkia, into the Temple to keep the Lovecraftian horror known as the Maw from entering this realm and devouring everything.  Ooh-- maybe put the eye into a huge dragon skull?  Just ideas though.  Go nuts and I look forward to what you create."

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Sludge Dwarf (5th Edition D&D)

A few years ago I created the Sludge Dwarfs for both Dungeon World and Labyrinth Lord. I liked them so much, that I've decided to add them to my D&D 5th Edition game. 

The Sludge Dwarves plumb the poisonous depths of the Deep Down Bellow, mining, collecting, and refining the most noxious and dangerous of alchemical substances under the earth. They sell these chemicals to the various factions of the Deep Down Bellow as well as evil wizards and alchemists on the surface world.

Sludge Dwarves are thinner and more wiry than other dwarves, with greasy green-black beards and hair. Their gray skin is mottled with scaly patches and unhealthy purple lumps. Gritty brown slime perpetually coats their clothing and gear. The sludgethrower is disgusting hand-held weapon connected by a hose to a tank full of caustic ooze worn on the user's back.

Sludge Dwarf
Medium Humanoid (Dwarf), Lawful Evil

AC: 15 (scale armor + dexterity)
HP: 30 (4d8+12)
Speed: 25’

STR: 14 (+2), DEX: 12 (+1), CON: 16 (+3), INT: 12 (+1), WIS: 10 (+0), CHA: 8 (-2)
Saves: Constitution +5
Skills: Survival +2
Damage Immunities: Poison
Condition Immunities: Poisoned
Senses: Darkvision 120 ft., Passive Perception: 10
Languages: Dwarvish, Undercommon
Challenge: ½ (100xp)

Shortsword. Melee weapon attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 feet, one target. Hit: 5 (1d6+2) slashing damage.

Sludgethrower*. Ranged weapon attack: +3 to hit, range 35/70 feet, one target. Hit: 8 (2d6+1) acid damage. If the target is a creature it must succeed on a Constitution saving throw (DC 11) or become poisoned. A creature so poisoned can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of their turns to remove the condition.

Poison Puddle*. Range 35 ft. The sludge dwarf uses his sludgethrower to fill a 5 ft. square with viscous, poisonous sludge. The square is considered difficult terrain. Any creature entering or starting their turn in the square suffers 2d4 acid damage and must make a Constitution saving throw (DC 11) or become poisoned. A creature so poisoned can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of their turns to remove the condition. The square remains full of sludge until it dries out in 6 hours or is washed away with copious amounts of pure water.

*Charges. A sludgethrower’s tank holds 12 charges. Each Sludgethrower attack or Poison Puddle action uses one charge. A depleted tank takes five minutes to recharge from a sludge dwarf chemical vat.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Llama (D&D 5th Edition)

Llamas are even-mannered camelids, often raised by halflings as livestock, pack animals, and mounts. Because of their relatively small size and skill in navigating rough terrain, these animals are valued by adventurers for dungeoneering. Llamas shy away from combat, preferring to use their Spit ability to blind an attacker while they run away. They can be trained to spit on command, and llama spitting contents are popular events at many halfling festivals.

Medium beast, unaligned

AC: 12
HP: 7 (1d8+2)
Speed: 40 ft.

STR: 13 (+1), DEX: 14 (+2), CON: 15 (+2), INT: 2 (-4), WIS: 12 (+1), CHA: 7 (-2)

Skills: Athletics +3
Senses: Passive Perception 11
Languages: -
Challenge: 1/8 (25 xp)

Beast of Burden: The llama is considered to be a Large animal for the purpose of determining its carrying capacity.

Sure-Footed: The llama has advantage on Strength and Dexterity saving throws made against effects that would knock it prone.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 2 (1d4) piercing damage

Spit (Recharge 5-6). The llama chooses a target within 10 feet of it. That target must make a DC 12 Dexterity Save or be blinded for 1d4 rounds.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Eresh'Ka (a literally dead language)

Eresh’Ka is the ancient secret language of the undead, created by the long-forgotten gods of the Neverborn. Knowledge of this language is gifted upon a creature in the infinite moment when it receives the Bleak Apotheosis of undeath. All undead, despite their mortal origins or heritage, know this language. Even non-sapient undead like skeletons and  zombies understand Eresh’Ka. The language has been compared to the echo an empty tomb, the shifting of charnel ashes, and the groaning of unhallowed earth. 

Ambitious mortals might learn Eresh’Ka from an undying patron or the ancient ghoul-hide tomes of Ur. Finding such a resource is not easy, but once the mortal has access to the language, they can learn it using the normal rules for learning a new language. (For D&D 5th Edition, this means taking the Linguist feat or spending time and money. The money buys exotic psychotropic compounds used to make the mind pliable enough to contemplate the tongue of the dead.)

Learning Eresh’Ka does not leave the mortal unchanged. As they study and contemplate the blasphemous language, the subtle touch of the Neverborn tortures their corpus, permanently reducing the mortal’s Constitution score 1. However, their Wisdom score also permanently increases by 1, as their mind is further opened to forbidden truths of the universe.

It should be noted that knowledge of Eresh’Ka does not give the mortal any special influence over the undead.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Pumpkin Knight (D&D 5th Edition Monster)

And we're back. We moved into a new house right after Gencon, and that was quickly followed up a record busy season at work. Consequentially, I've been away from the blog for a few months. That's all done now.

So, here's a monster that's been tormenting the heroes in my D&D game.

Pumpkin Knights are fey proto-creatures bound into suits of enchanted black plate armor. A flickering green witch-light glows within the jack-o-lantern that serves as the creature's head. These fey beings are often mistaken for constructs or even plant creatures.

Pumpkin Knights are created by the Archfey. They are often used as shock troopers by the Psychedelic Overlords and the armies of the Autumn Court. On the Prime, Pumpkin Knights are sometimes summoned to serve warlocks with pacts to the Archfey. They are often attracted to earthly locations thick with wicked sylvan magic.

Pumpkin Knight
Medium Fey, Neutral Evil

Armor Class: 18 (plate armor)
Hit Points: 85 (10d8+30)
Speed: 30 ft.

STR: 18 (+4), DEX: 12 (+1), CON: 16 (+3), INT: 8 (-1), WIS: 12 (+1), CHA: 16 (+3)

Saving Throws: Constitution +5, Charisma +5
Skills: Athletics +6, Perception +3
Condition Immunities: Charmed, Poisoned
Damage Immunities: Fire, Poison
Senses: Darkvision 60 ft., Passive Perception 13
Languages: Sylvan, Abyssal
Challenge: 4 (1,100 xp)

Innate Spellcasting. The Pumpkin Knight's spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 13). The Pumpkin Knight can innately cast the following spells, requiring no material components:

1/day each: Fear, Invisibility, Tasha's Uncontrollable Laughter

Not of This Earth. If a Pumpkin Knight dies on a plane other than the Feywild, its body, along with all its weapons and armor, instantly falls to ashes and burnt leaves.

Flaming Greatsword. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d6+4) slashing damage plus 5 (1d10) fire damage.

Fire Breath (Recarge 5-6). After making a successful melee attack, the Pumpkin Knight exhales fire on that same target as a Bonus Action. The target makes a DC 13 Dexterity saving throw, taking 14 (4d6) fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.