Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Maps Of The Apocalypse

With the end coming soon (according to some prophets) lets take a look at what the world will look like in the post-apocalypse, shall we?

First up we have TSR's 1st ed. Gamma World map. Brilliant and ready to inspire the imagination of any GM/Mutant Lord!
Gamma World had a general campaign world background with factions set up but left things open - wide open, in fact, to really fill in the blanks DIY old-school style. One hex on that map of the future United States was about 80 miles, I believe. The map itself is fantastic with parts of the east coast blown to bits as well as California tumbling into the sea and notice Florida shrinkage. Classic post nuclear world!

Here's hoping that whole east coast - west coast thing is settled....or not!
I'll try to get an actual scan of this map in the near future.

Next we move into the realm of comic fantasy with Jack Kirby's world of Kamandi.
The creative insanity of Jack's vision of a future world brings us mutant animals controlling their own empires within the former United States. Beyond that we have such lovely vacation spots such as The Kanga-rat Murder Society, Mad-Hole, Island of the God Watchers and The Strange Fire Area among others. So plan your travel packages and Mutant Games now!

Vaughn Bode's future world fantasy of Cobalt 60 (now optioned by Universal Studios and Zach Snyder for a live action movie) brings us again to a grim world of mutants and savagery. The beautiful map below (created by his son Mark, I believe) shows the San Francisco area complete with flooded craters. Poor California!

The distopian future of Judge Dredd brought us the Judge, Jury and Executioner police force along with it's Mega-cities. But the real challenge for any traveler is a journey through the deserts of the Cursed Earth, a land of mutants, gangs and dinosaurs. Land too tough for even a Judge!

Finally, Dr. Chet Snow's post earth-change map of the United States. Again, bad news for California but not so bad for Tucson AZ where I may be able to pick up some beach-front property. I believe Dr. Snow's first major earthquake prediction date has come and gone but he still has a year and a half so we'll see. Other prophetic maps of similar ilk can be found here dealing with Nostradamus and pole-shifts.

And last I'd like to mention, if you really want to get a gander of what a post-nuclear world will be like in your home town, head on over to Ground Zero at Carlos Labs and look at the grim reality for yourself.

Mutant Future here we come!

"History shows again and again
How nature points out the follies of man"
-Blue Oyster Cult

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Ads Of The Dragon Issue 55

I don't have to tell you how awesome my players are, I've mentioned that numerous times here at the Home Brew. Clay, who is now running our Savage Worlds game, picked up this little relic from his home state of Nebraska. Cover by Erol Otus no less too!

Now I'm sure we've all walked through the pages of Dragon Magazines loaded with classic treasures and anecdotes of bygone eras and this one is no different. A great little article by Gygax about his 200+ page Temple of Elemental Evil Module (release date pushed to early 1982), there's a great little Basic D&D dungeon, and dinosaurs galore. This issue falls just after that imaginary border-line of the Dragon when it began to be more of a promotion for AD&D and less about OD& D (great post about this over at Original Editions).

But what I always find more interesting in these 'vintage' magazine (comics and pulps too) are the ads. For all you sociologists out there, the ads can give you a great snapshot of the underlying culture surrounding the publication.

Let's take a look, shall we? (click to enbiggen)
Great little ad illustration by Gene Day for a Wild West RPG.

I love all of the ads for the hobby shops carrying RPG products. Truly a golden age!
And you thought Play By Post took forever!
Get you geek on with a cool dragon tee-shirt then get beat up wearing a not-so-cool Unicorn belt buckle.

I don't think I ever knew what the flip this was. It looked ugly as hell. But it was a gaming aid so it couldn't be all that bad, right?
Back cover ad for some old school computer gaming action!
(Check out James' Crush, Crumble and Chomp Epyx ad)

And finally, this beautiful ad for White Dwarf illustrated by Emmanuel, cover artist for The Fiend Folio (and new banner image for The Warlock's Home Brew).

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Word About The Failed Rapture And The Coming Of The New Age

As some of you may know, the Christian 'rapture' has come and gone with nothing more than a whimper (it did make Preacher Harold Camping quite rich though).

Okay, there seems to be some confusion on this rapture, Apocalypse, 2012 thing so here's the scoop in brief.

As the earth spins on it's axis it 'wobbles' through the cosmos. This is called the precession of the equinoxes and it represents the shifting of the position of the sun across the equator into a new constellation every 2,156 years (approx) with the complete cycle lasting around 25,868 years.

Each new 2,156 'precession' represents a new 'age'. Within that age the constellation represents the symbol of that god for that age; Age of Leo (lion, sphinx (with a lion head 10,000 = years ago), Age of Taurus (Bull headed god-symbol minotaur), Age of Aries (Ram god symbol around Moses' time), and the age of Pisces (current age and god-symbol of fish/fisherman Jesus). Note that Jesus (age of Pisces) was born opposite the sign of Virgo (the Virgin).

The transitions between the ages can be felt for 500-800 years. Thus we are currently in the dawn of the age of Aquarius (like that song form Hair - no really), the beginnings of a New Cosmic Age of the earth and thus of a new god-symbol. Remember the gods of the old become the devils of the new (sorry jesus followers but it's inevitable). Thus the 'christian' symbol of the 'devil' is a ram-horned head, cloven hoof variety (the symbol of Aries). The future image of the Catholic church and Christianity doesn't bode well I'm afraid.

The Mayan calendar ends on 12/21/2012, the winter solstice. Our sun is in the process of crossing the galactic equator and entering a new age of Aquarius - give or take 500-800 years of pre/post influence.

Sorry, no rapture as the bible is just a heavily edited compilation of god-myths adapted to the age of Pisces. But we are indeed entering a new cosmic age.

Where do our god-myths come from? Ask our ancient astronauts, my friends!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fantasy Artist Jeffrey Catherine Jones 1944-2011

We lost another artist of fantasy today. Jeffrey Catherine Jones was best know for her ACE fantasy covers such as Fritz Leiber's Fafhard and the Grey Mouser series as well as being a member of The Studio with Barry Windsor Smith, Bernie Wrightson and Michael Kaluta.

"Legendary fantasy artist JEFFREY CATHERINE JONES passed away today, Thursday May 19, 2011 at 4:00 am surrounded by family. Jeffrey suffered from severe emphysema and bronchitis as well as hardening of the arteries around the heart. Jeffrey's dear friend Robert Wiener reported that there was a no resuscitation order as Jeffrey was weak from being severely under weight and had no reserves with which to fight"
Jones' artwork will live on....

To view more of Jeff's fantastic work please visit the Jeffery Jones web site.

Jeff Jones spotlight at Muddy Colors

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Keeping Busy With Hex Maps

Last night we played our fourth session of our Savage Worlds campaign (I'm actually a player in this one). Good times with a good, lite system. For recaps you can go over to our site and check out our shenanigans: The Tesla League

As a quick note about last night, it turned out that the monkey we saved from the clutches of Thomas Edison turned out to be a talking Monkey Assassin from the future (1965) who basically gave us the finger and then flew off in a stolen plane with the mysterious green crystal we've been investigating. Gotta love the anything goes RPG!

It's been nice taking a break from DMing our Swords & Wizardry campaign and just being an active player. But that doesn't mean I haven't been using my time 'off' wisely.

When I started the campaign I only had a broad-stroke of the areas involved. I actually had to narrow it down to just a small wilderness area. As play progressed, travels outside of the main town and it's dungeon were few and far between so I ended up again narrowing down to an even smaller area of play - a roughly 200 square mile area.

Since I've kept things open and let my players do what they may, thus having them help create the world in which we play, I've taken this time to flesh things out a bit more in the surrounding area to make the game available for more of a hex crawl if desired. I'm using the trilogy of aid in the form of the One Page Dungeon template, One Page Wilderness template and the One Page City Template.

So below is the areas where our players have explored, traveled or seen in the distance using a 2 mile hex scale. This is the official player's view hex map. This is the hex map I would show my players if they needed it (with unexplored areas 'blacked' out. The DM map, of course, if fully keyed in a 10X10 One Page Wilderness format (the above map is a combination of two such maps) and a lot of random charts. Don't ever under-estimate your random chart!

The players have loosely drawn map of the area(s). The benefit of the loose player map is that it doesn't have to be accurate; scale, points of interest, I can throw anything I want in there as play progresses; forests can be larger, Hamlets can towns can pop up as needed. It leaves room for growth and flexibility.

This little bit of exploration has now lasted 33 sessions and over a year and a half of real time. Let this be a note to all DMs out there - world building doesn't have to be a long arduous process. Even in a sandbox campaign your players may not end up traveling very far giving you plenty of time to flesh things out what you begin your campaign. A city/town, a dungeon or two and about 100 square miles is really all you need to get yourself and your players going. And those don't even need to be completely fleshed out. Let your players give you a hand with that.

Of course it's always good to have an idea, in the back of your mind, what the larger world may be like, but don't let the stop you from just jumping in and rolling some dice with some friends.

I'll be running a portion of the campaign in the next couple of weeks for the PCs that are lost and trapped beneath Zenopus' tower to see if they live or die or whatever else fate has in store for them. Whatever the outcome of that, the original campaign will continue in the near future. But I'll be using this time to come up with some more Home-brew wickedness to be throwing at my players!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

One Page City Templates

Two of the most useful items to come out of the Online D&D community were the creations of the One Page Dungeon (created by Sham and ChicagoWiz) and the One Page Wilderness template. I use both of these items as my go-to creation format whenever I need to add something to my campaign. My players are still exploring my One Page Wilderness (hex scale = 2 miles!) over a year and a half later! And the 30 X 30 grid Dungeon format can last numerous sessions.

So I thought I'd add one final element to complete this trilogy of One Page Gaming Aids; The One Page City Template.

I've created and Open Office template as well as a Word template and a PDF version for those who like to put pencil straight to paper all packaged in a nice ZIP file.

Download the One Page City Template

Monday, May 9, 2011

With Great Power Comes Great Humility

I'm not going to write a review of the movie Thor as there are countless other reviews posted about the interwebs. Needless to say, it is as great as everyone says it is. Marvel Studios keeps knocking their properties out of the park! Even before Marvel studios took over the productions of their superhero films, the Spider-man and Hulk movies showed that the Marvel characters and stories are full of pathos and depth that are perfect for the big screen.

The Thor movie is pure entertainment which captures the Marvel concepts of the characters and situations amazingly well. Jack Kirby would be proud of the cosmic drama that unfolds in this picture filled with the depth and grandeur of the Gods of Asgard.

Oh and there's plenty of eye candy for the ladies in Chris Hemsworth's thunder god so your wives/girlfriends will enjoy this geek outing as well.

Thor was never one of my favorite Marvel characters and rereading the Marvel Essentials of the 1960's stories validates my feelings. I love him as an Avenger but on his own, I never really clicked with those godly tales. For the most part, from '66 on it seemed that Kirby was pushing the book and stories in what would become his iconic bombastic cosmic tradmark and define his books when he moved to DC in the early 70's.

Still, the movie captured all this to a perfection and I enjoyed the film immensely (as did the wife for the reason mentioned above).

Now all these Marvel films are building up to the penultimate Avengers movie, which I have to say I'm pretty excited about especially if what I've heard about the direction of the plot is true. Growing up I was all about Captain America, Spider-man and the Avengers. Those were the super-hero characters / stories I resonated with (this was still before the rebirth of the X-Men). Seeing the Avengers on screen in the near future will be quite spectacular. Marvel studio's concept of tying in all their films is very reminiscent of their comic concept of the intertwined Marvel universe that they developed in their earliest superhero books in the beginning of the 1960's. It was something that was never seen before in comics. It was exciting then and it just as exciting now in the movies they're bringing to the screen.

Excelsior indeed!

One other thing to note is that the previews they ran before the feature. I love previews, BTW and if any of you have a Roku box be sure to activate the Flixter app. Plenty of movie previews to keep you busy for quite a while.

Anyways, there played a preview for Conan the Barbarian movie. The preview did look much better on the big screen than on a computer screen but it still just looked like a swords and fantasy movie and not much of a Conan story especially since the title character is only shown very briefly. Audience reaction? Not much.

The big preview if you haven't seen it yet is for Captain America: The First Avenger. Now that's a preview! Coming out later this summer it is the final prequel to the Avengers movie. You can read about my thoughts of the preview here but needless to say, this is one I'm looking forward to. Howling Commandos, WWII, Red Skull and the Cosmic Cube! Nuff Said!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Full Length Conan Trailer

Does it look like a decent action movie? yes
Does it look like a decent fantasy movie? yes
Is it R. E. Howards Conan? No way to tell, we'll just have to see.

Either way it's much better than that crappy teaser trailer they put out.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Future Was Yesterday

Almost by default, post-apocalyptic futures are just that, grim futures after the fall of man. We can all imagine a time in the far future where our once mighty though foolish civilization, at the peek of it's power, is now in ruin.

But what if that future was yesteryear? What if the apocalypse happened in the past?

In films and stories where, at the time, the end of the world was within arms reach. That always sent more of a chill up ones spine. What if that future was not centuries away but maybe decades or just years?

Remember John Carpenter's Escape From New York (1981)? The Future - 1997 where New York was turned into a giant prison didn't seem that far off or that implausible.

The Last Man On Earth (1964) film was based on the book I am Legend and took place between 1966 and 1968.

What if, at the end of Dr. Strangelove (1964) we continued the story? 2011? Almost 50 years after the great war?

What if the post-apocalypse was now? What if the Mutant Future was now? Where was technology in 1964? Sure, we had The Bomb but computers still filled a room with memory on tape. The Beatles just invading the American shores. Fifty or one hundred years in that future sure would be different.

I've been thinking a lot about running a Mutant Future / Gamma World 1st ed. game. I think it actually might take place now, in 2011 with the destruction of the world happening in our recent past, 1964, and using Stanley Kubrik's Dr. Strangelove as the back-story. What is the ratio of males to females? Would a mine-shaft gap come into play? The Purity of Essence cults?

I think that would be very interesting and maybe even a bit more messed up as one may face 1st generation mutations in the very year we live in now.

Much to ponder, much to ponder.....