Thursday, March 29, 2012

ICONS Session Issue 2: Automaton On The Loose!

Get caught up, true believers, and take a gander at the Shore City Chronicle article of Mr. Roboto's escape from Iron Island Prison then come back here for the second issue of our ICONS session: Automaton On The Loose!

The scene opens at the Fort Mauldin Army Base where Vanguard 13 has set up it's base of operations in a hanger. The villainous Blitzkrieg is in the clink and her brother Panzerfaust is recovering from being shot in the face*. The Vanguard 13 consists of Automaton: the mechanical wonder, Lord Genovasis: the father of Meta-Humans, and Nate Brown - janitor.

Nate and Genovasis were looking over the Panzerfaust's heavy armor while Automaton was working in the lab with Professor Millicent Barnes when in flies Captain Victory of Shore City's Golden Gladiators. He's worried that after Vanguard 13's initial adventure they've just been sitting around wasting government project funds. Capt. Victory has brought in a couple of new recruits for the government sponsored group; King Cobra and Prophylactica the woman wonder of rubber (seriously, that's my wife's character).

Heading up stairs to the lab, Professor Barnes bursts through the door, a disheveled mess. It seems that the micro-controller in Automaton's brain put in place by Mr. Roboto, the mechanical wonder's creator, has been activated and Automaton destroyed the lab and burst through the wall.

Suddenly the base's alarms go off and the group of heroes runs outside. It seems that Blitzkrieg has been set free by Automaton and she's wrecking havoc in the base, cutting down a water tower. The heroes jump into action! Lord Genovasis enlarges to his twenty foot height and tries to stop the water tower from falling, Nate Black (the Sponge) absorbs Blitzkeig's power and she stumbles to the ground and Prophylactica stretches and grabs the speedster's foot preventing her from escaping. King Cobra rescues a couple of wounded soldiers from an endangered ambulance. Oh, and Capt. Victory receives a call from the Gladiators to aid them in an orphanage fire, so he flies off!

No sooner do they apprehend Blitz when Automaton steals a plane and flies off. Luckily for our heroes, Automaton comes built with a homing device. Within moments Vanguard 13 has hopped into a gyro-plane and are in pursuit!

The chase leads Vanguard 13 to an abandoned warehouse where they see a mysterious figure on the roof. Lord Genovasis lifts King Cobra to the roof and the mysterious figure attacks but is quickly defended by the Cobra. The figure is none other than the Scarlet Hood, following a lead connecting a murder with Mr. Roboto which landed him at this very warehouse. It was decided that the Hood would team up with the Vanguard 13.

Exploring the warehouse they find that it is mostly in disarray and abandoned. Nate Brown spies an observation camera keeping tabs on their movements and he proceeds to disable it with a shot from his pistol. Prophylactica discovers an unopened crate inside of which is a heavy electric blaster of an alien design.

Going through a couple of more doors the group hears a metallic clacking sound. The Scarlet Hood's light reveals robotic spiders that attack the heroes with nets and blasts of acid! After a the battle, Vanguard 13 is victorious.

Some more exploration of the warehouse reveals an office with blueprints for a giant fifty foot robot. A future plan of Mr. Roboto or a discarded idea?

Going through one final door brings the superheroes into a darkened and burnt-out observation room lined with visual monitors with cracked screens. In the center of the room is a chair. The chair spins around to reveal MR. ROBOTO!

The Scarlet Hood, now invisible, leaps at the mastermind villain and smacks him in the head with his quarter-staff. Roboto's head goes flying off in a shower of sparks and rolls towards the group.

"Foolish Americans", the robot head says. "You have fallen perfectly into my trap!"

Suddenly the visual monitors click on to reveal Shore City in chaos and citizens run for their lives from some unseen giant foe! Mr. Roboto's fifty foot robot has attacked the city while sending Vanguard 13 on a wild goose chase using Automaton as his pawn!

With that, Lord Genovasis steps on the robotic head, destroying it...

*See our brutal first issue - bliss

The Vanguard Roster:

Lord Genovasis - The father of Meta-humans
Automaton - The Mechanical Marvel
Nate Brown - Lowly janitor (AKA The Sponge)
The Scarlet Hood - The bane of organized crime and political corruption
Prophylactica - The woman wonder of rubber!
King Cobra

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Last Night's ICONS Session

So we finally got back to our Icons game last night since our last session in late January.

Since part of the concept of the campaign is to go through rotating GMs (like different writers on a comic book) Corey ran the show. He did a great job expanding upon the previous sessions events and then taking the team off into his own nefarious plot featuring the notorious Mr. Roboto! I'll have a full session report in the next day or two.

The 1942 era team, Vanguard 13, expanded into a full roster of heroes:
Lord Genovasis - The father of Meta-humans
Automaton - The Mechanical Marvel
Nate Brown - Lowly janitor (AKA The Sponge)
The Scarlet Hood - The bane of organized crime and political corruption
Prophylatica - The woman wonder of rubber!
The Cobra - Superhero (don't quite remember what he was)
On to Icons itself....

Again, it's a pretty fast and loose system. In fact, it was commented on that OD&D was loose, Icons is even more sparse than that. And that's true to some extent especially when it comes to the powers. I am even more convinced that with campaign play many of the powers need to be tweaked and house ruled to flesh them out. I think I'll touch on this area in a future post.

Character creation is pretty fast and fun. It's best to not have any concept of a hero and just let the dice create the basic character. There's plenty of room after that to then flesh the rest in.

I'm convinced that this game really brings out a loose, on the fly GMing style. Though the GM can have his plot and villainous situation fleshed out he's best to keep things loose and ready to adapt and improvise the situations. In that sense it's a great learning tool to help GMs break out of a rigid framework. I think that will show itself more as well play out.

For the players, it's pretty open to doing whatever you feel like your character can do. There's not rules for covering every situation but those are the games that I like. Just state it, go with it, and move on.

Corey also gave the session a nice balance of having to use various abilities throughout the adventure and investigation which was nice in having to use more than just your character's powers.

We still had trouble getting into the use of Determination. I did use a point of determination to retcon a flashlight but beyond that, I think we're still all a little vague on how best to incorporate it into game sessions. More sessions should hopefully help with getting that ironed out.

As with last session we were a little rough on the combat results but by the end of the session that became much smoother. Having a month between sessions didn't help with that. With our next session in two weeks that should flow much better.

Overall, I still think it's a great little Supers game - incredibly rules lite but with enough to really give it some teeth. I had a blast playing as a character and not running a session and we all had lots of laughs at the table.

Corey is going to run part two of his adventure next session then we'll move on to the next 'writer'.

Looking forward to it already!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Zenopus Tower Cut-away

Even though our Swords & Wizardry campaign has been on hold for quite a while while we delve into some other games (plus giving the trusty GM, me, a break) I thought I'd share this with the Warlock's loyal readers.

Note to players....Stop reading NOW! The wrathful campaign gods will not take kindly to mortals prying into their dark mysteries!

Since I love side-view maps of dungeons I created this map of the Tower of Zenopus levels a while ago and just ran across it today. I've altered the dungeon to make it a mega-dungeon campaign. With a few side-quests the campaign had gone on for over two years now.
Click to enlarge

I started with Holmes' original dungeon as a starting point and added deeper levels to it, some being borrowed and some being created by yours truly. I've highlighted the explored areas in purple so you can see that they players have fought their way quite deep into the Underworld but there's still much more to explore.

Zenopus' mega-dungeon was created using the following:
  1. Graveyard & Crypt (created 1 page dungeon)
  2. Main dungeon level Holmes blue book
  3. Rat tunnels (made up on the fly)
  4. Tomb Level (forgotten tomb of the warrior King 1 page dungeon)
  5. Crotch-goblin and Mushroom-men level (created 1 page dungeon)
  6. Purple worm level (1st level of R. C. Pinnell's Holmes' dungeon sequel In Search of the Forgotten City)
  7. Weird giant eye-ball sub-level (Forgotten Chambers by Ramsey Dow which exited into the level 1 of The Darkness Beneath mega-dungeon from Fight On! magazine)
  8. Lowest Levels (R. C. Pinnell's Holmes' dungeon sequel)
As you can see, this mishmash of dungeon adventures has served quite well. The players still haven't gotten to Zenopus' lair though they have rebuilt and claimed the tower for themselves. We'll get back to this campaign probably sometime this summer and see what happens.

Updated with In Search of the Forgotten City module links.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Sword of Shannara Comic Strip '78

Back in 1978 there was a syndicated comic strip called "Bestseller Showcase". It featured illustrated versions of the best selling novels of the time. One story they featured was Terry Brooks' The Sword of Shannara.

The time period is interesting because Holmes' Basic Dungeons and Dragons was just coming out and D&D was just beginning to create some buzz among the hobby shops. Was it a coincidence that the editor of the strip at that time chose to go with a high fantasy story about elves, dwarves and dark lords just at the beginnings of what would be a rebirth of a fantasy genre ushered in by a strange fantasy role-playing game? It's also interesting to note that this is the same year that Bakshi's Lord of the Rings animated film came out.

The strip is drawn by classic illustrator Gray Morrow. It's also interesting to notice the character designs have that early D&D/Holmes feel to it, no doubt inspired by the book's original cover art, before fantasy become more polished in the mid to late 80's.

Say what you will about Brooks' story, I would have loved to have seen this strip at the time. I had just gotten into the Holmes Blue Book, was reading the Conan books and collecting the Marvel comics and just watched and begin reading The Lord of the Rings and seeing this type of fantasy in comic strip in the newspaper would have just been another thing I would have obsessed about (and lowered my math grades even more!).

More about the artist Gray Morrow

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fire and Ice: Behind the scenes

I've always been a huge Ralph Bakshi fan. I've even loved his contentious use of rotoscope to animate his movies which he used in Hey Good Looking, Wizards, LOTR, Fire and Ice and American Pop.

One of my least favorite of his fantasy films of his surprisingly is Fire and Ice. One would think that gathering together Bakshi, Frank Frazetta and Roy Thomas would produce one hell of a fantastic fantasy drama, after-all, these three creators are seen by some to be the top in the genre at the time. Frazetta's artwork being transferred to the screen is a blast to watch but that doesn't save the plodding stereotypical fantasy story.

Teegra, anyone?

Regardless, seeing how Bakshi works his magic is quite thrilling. I've always loved the process of classic hand drawn animation but Bakshi took it one level further. Having to shoot the entire movie in live action and then illustrating it to later embed into a fantasy world has always seemed like a grand mystery. The video clip below shows Bakshi's rotoscoping process and it's quite amazing to watch:

It's interesting to note that his use of rotoscope was looked down upon by traditional animators. However, with today's use of motion capture to animate modern CGI creations like the creatures in Avatar and Gollum from Peter Jackson's LOTR, Bakshi can be thought of as a forerunner to modern-day special affects.

Still from the live action shooting of Bakshi's Lord of the Rings

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Mysterious Dissapearance of the Warlock and Other Tales

Greetings all.

Anyone who casually follows this here blog may have noticed that I've been missing in action for quite a while. Well, the sad news was that my wife's mother passed away a few weeks back. I'm sure that many of you know that an event like this is not an easy thing to deal with. We flew my mother-in-law's body back to Chicago so that she can be buried with her parents. Needless to say it's been quite an emotional couple of weeks with estate sales and cross-country funerals and it's been a hard time for Christy.

But as time slowly passes, one once again begins to dance to the rhythms of life and though events such as this takes precedence over pretty much anythings else, getting back into old habits can be the best medicine.

So the Warlock's tower is just as I had left it, though a bit dusty, not abandoned.