Monthly Archives: July 2010


With apologies to Mr. Frazetta. I don't know if there are evil Little Ponies, but if so the Ewoks will enlist them to destroy all other suffocatingly sweet cartoons wherever they may hide.


RP: Hitler's little known Transvestitkorps

(From "Our Flag Comics" number 3, 1941.)



"Lord of the Rings" looms over its genre like no other work of fiction in any other area. It forms the foundation of everything from the most successful pen and paper RPG ever in "Dungeons and Dragons" to the most successful MMO of all time in "World of Warcraft".

While it may be the most influential work of fiction on the genre, though, it's not the only one. Which got me to thinking about other favorite fantasy novels that influence how I think about other pieces in the genre, whether they be computer RPGs or movies.

I want to focus on fantasy novels for now, although certainly at some point you could also discuss influential movies, stand-alone games, or other genres like science fiction. For now, though, let's stick with fantasy novels.

One of the biggies for me was the "Dragonriders of Pern" series, partly because it was the first series I struggled with through its opening, only to be very glad I did. I liked how it took standard fantasy mainstays and merged them with science fiction explanations. "The Harper Hall of Pern" series also helped me appreciate the non-combat aspects of fantasy world building, understanding how interconnected a world has to be to make sense and how adventures can arise even if no one picks up a sword.

I discovered it too late for it to be formative, but for my money the "Vlad Taltos" novels by Steven Brust are among the best mature fantasy novels out there. I love the way magic and even more fantastic elements like resurrection are handled in a matter-of-fact way, which is how they ought to be if everyone is running about raiding dungeons all the time with Bags of Wonder on their belts.

I read and enjoyed the Xanth books when I was younger, but I can't say they influenced me particularly, since ultimately they're pretty derivative.

That's just the tip of the iceberg, but I didn't want to go on too much. I'm more interested in what fantasy novels influenced you (although my list of books that moved me has an awful lot of sci-fi on it), the ones that have stuck with you over the years and which inform your reaction to genre pieces you experience now. So sound off in the comments!

RP: And he was the GOOD guy!

(From "Our Flag Comics" number 3, 1941.)

Living Tattoos

I'm working my way through a fantastic set of "HeroMachine 101" lessons Hammerknight sent in, which I'll probably start next week. But meanwhile, frequent commenter "Me, Myself, and I" put together this really cool recipe for how to do a "Living Dragon Tattoo", a neat effect I don't think I've seen before:

His secret how-to guide after the jump!

Continue reading


Having left our Lone Wolf standing indecisively in front of a tunnel when last we checked in (sorry for the long delay!), we eventually direct him to proceed forthwith into the Freudian landscape:

The tunnel is dark and the air is much cooler than outside. You carefully advance with one hand on the tunnel wall to aid your sense of direction. You have been in total darkness for three minutes when you detect the foul smell of decay ahead, similar to rotting meat. If you have a Torch and Tinderbox in your Pack, you may light the Torch to see your way ahead.

Rifling through our Pack, we do not, sadly, have a Torch or a Tinderbox. We do, however, have a "Tablet of perfumed soap". I bet we try to set that on fire, but no luck.

Suddenly, something heavy drops from the tunnel ceiling onto your back and you fall to your knees. It is a Burrowcrawler and you must fight it, for it is trying to strangle you with its long slimy tentacles:

Burrowcrawler: COMBAT SKILL 17 ENDURANCE 7

If you do not have a torch, deduct 3 points from your COMBAT SKILL during this fight. The Burrowcrawler is immune to Mindblast and Animal Kinship.

That is unfortunate, as our favorite tactic is to use Animal Kinship to lure a critter close, only to blast it with the awesome power of our minds. Pity. Our regular Combat Skill is 19, +2 when using a Spear (which we are), -3 for being in the dark, for a total of ... um ... (carry the three ... curse that English and Art degree ...) 18. Or so. Ahem.

Closing my eyes and pointing to the Random Number Table, I get a 6. Turning to the Combat Table, I see we are at a +1 relative to the Burrowcrawler, meaning our foul, slimy foe takes 9 points of damage while we take 2. Since he has a paltry 7 Endurance, we not only kill him with one mighty thrust of our spear, we also get to dance on his corpse and hurl insults at him.

As an aside, how awesome is the caption of that image? "It is a Burrowcrawler and it is trying to strangle you" sums up the whole RPG experience so perfectly, I just love it.

The slimy creature lets out a long, ghastly death cry and collapses. You are near to panic and scramble to your feet, grabbing what you think to be your belt from the jaws of the dead beast. You can see light in the far distance, and you sprint for it as fast as you can. When you finally emerge into the daylight, you fall onto the leafy ground and fight for breath in painful gasps.

Slowly sitting upright, you notice that you are still wearing your belt -- you had not lost it after all. What you grabbed from the jaw of the Burrowcrawler was a leather strap with a small pouch and a sheathed Dagger half way along it. You break open the clasp to find it contains 20 Gold Crowns. You may take both the Dagger and the Crowns if you are able to.

Feeling a little better now, you gather your Equipment together and push on eastwards into the forest.

Turn to 157.

We can only carry two weapons, and we already have an Axe and a Spear. We aren't giving up our Very Special Spear, especially now that it's covered in Burrowcrawler guts (surely the next tavern wench will be impressed with that!), and I'd rather have an Axe than a Dagger since it can be used for chopping up firewood. So we're pocketing our hard-earned Crowns and turning to 157 like a good Lone Wolf.

The forest begins to thin out until finally you can make out a road through the trees ahead. The highway is full of people heading south. Many are wheeling their possessions along on handcarts.

This is a tough one. I mean, on the one hand we're the Lone Wolf, but on the other hand it would be nice to see some people who aren't either dead or trying to make us dead. I'm curious to see how you choose to go on this one.

RP: Me too!

(From "Mary Worth", July 27, 2010, via the very funny Comics Curmudgeon, who says:

Ha ha, I honestly believe that this is one of the best Mary Worth moments of the past year. Look at how angry and confused Dr. Mike is. “Grr! So angry and confused! I want to punch something or someone, but I don’t know who or what!”

Good stuff, thanks Josh.)

Engage Thruster!

I'm not sure this qualifies as a "Bad Super Costume", but I think it does a nice job of illustrating some of the problems inherent in using spandex as a covering material, problems most artists just gloss over.

Oh, who am I kidding, the costume is fine but I just couldn't resist posting this anyway for the sheer, unadulterated, nasty thrusting magnificence of the whole thing:

I think the flaps of the tunic fluttering back are a particularly nice touch, framing the ... area of primary interest quite well. Why do I get the feeling that his battle cry is nothing more than a series of cackling grunts and heavy breathing?