Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Z is for Zombie

There isn't a strong tradition of classical zombies in DARK•HERITAGE so I don't expect them to feature much.  Undead in general become much more singular, or at least very rare, in this setting, then they would in, for example, a typical D&D style fantasy setting.  But, I'm a huge fan of the concept of undead in general if done correctly (which usually means sparingly.)  Of course, your typical zombie appearance is anything but sparing; they've become highly correlated with concepts like zombie apocalypses, where zombies are running around all over the place.  Individual zombies are rarely meant to be frightening; it's rather the vast horde of them that leads to the survival horror instinct.

To be perfectly honest with you, I have no use for this type of zombie.  Foot-soldiers of the undead, if you will.  Cannon fodder.  Those are attributes that stand in direct opposition to the notion of zombies that are actually terrifying in any way.

Zombies in DARK•HERITAGE are known from ancient rituals passed down through the Tarushans, where a type of semi-legendary Tarushan wizard or warlock known as a bokor (or boccori in the Terassan tongue) would raise the corpses of the recently dead to be his slaves.  This practice apparently persisted into fairly recent times, and Terassan academy scholars have theorized that these so-called zombies were never truly dead at all, but were instead drugged into a state of near-death, buried alive, and retrieved by the boccori.  The boccori then used a combination of cultural indoctrination and forced drugs to keep them susceptible, paranoid and compliant.  This debunking of the zombie myth by Terassan academics has been touted as triumph of the rational over the superstitious, and most Terassans (at least, if not necessarily Tarushans) believe that the zombie myth is just a myth.

However, less well known is the case of a young Terassan student, a true genius although a psychopathic one who cared only for the advancement of knowledge rather than the moral or ethical ramifications of his experiments, seized upon the data obtained by this study and built upon it.  This fellow, one Heriberto Òvest, believed in the ability to use chemical reagents to bring dead tissue back to functionality.  He seems to have been successful in his experiments to a degree, although all of his reanimated corpses have devolved into a horrific, bestial state, and there has been little of rational ability left to any of them.

Heriberto Òvest is, of course, a play on words of Herbert West, the titular character of Lovecraft's story Herbert West - Reanimator.  This story is itself a pastiche, of sorts, of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein.

Zombies in DARK•HERITAGE are therefore more like flesh golems of D&D lore than the monsters that are called zombies.  If using a d20 variant to represent the setting, that would be your best bet to recreate them.  The m20 rules include both flesh golems and zombies, but those are just (basically) cut and pasted from other sources.  I'm not quite sure what, if anything, the zombie stats would represent other than perhaps the very early boccori type zombie, which should be nonexistent at this point in the setting.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Planet Stories

After my unexpected mini-hiatus, I'm trying to get my arms around what to blog about next.  A few things are on my mind, in general.

First, of course, is DARK•HERITAGE, supposedly the main topic for this blog.  At the moment, I don't have anything new for it, however.  I'm working on digitalizing my big poster-board map of the setting, but in the process have decided I'm going to basically redraw the entire thing.  A lot of places need to be renamed, and because I did the posterboard in pen, by hand, I'm going to do the new map completely digitally.  Most likely what I'll do is scan the map by portions, stitch them together digitally, wipe out all of the labels and names, and retype them using a font on the computer, so I can have a consistent look.

Not sure if I'm going to bother coloring it or not.  Color naturally looks nice, but my "gold standard" in fantasy maps remains Christopher Tolkien's black and white ones of Middle-earth, which I first saw on my original copies of Lord of the Rings--y'know, the ones with the Darrel K. Sweet covers that were on sale during the 80s.  This same map, "aged up" in Photoshop or whatever, was used in the Peter Jackson movies during the voice-over intros, and an example of this version of the map can be seen here.  Although, like I said, the original that I saw, in the books, was black and white.  As are most fantasy maps, since many are, of course, published in novels that feature only black ink on white paper.  Only in the realm of Photoshopped fan versions or roleplaying game material are color maps commonplace. 

However, this particular project is not imminent.  My free time at home in the evenings is, if anything, even more scarce than my free time during the day, which is a sad state of affairs, and not likely to change in the immediate future.

I'd also like to make some updates to my ODD D&D series of posts.  Although I've already described the setting in nearly as much detail as I'd like, I'd also like to whip up a quick and dirty map of this, describe a "home base" from which PCs could embark on adventures, and do a few "campaign threads" type examples of what I think a campaign in this setting would look like.

What has been an awful lot on my mind, when I can spare the mental effort, is space opera, however.  The original Barsoom stories of John Carter remain among my favorite books ever (beat out, really, only by The Lord of the Rings itself).  In my lifetime, space opera has been really defined by Star Wars of course, and because the new movie started filming just a few days ago or so, I've had it a lot on my mind.  I'm also playing, of course, in a Star Wars post-Jedi campaign at the moment, which I've discussed here before several times, although our play schedule is extremely sporadic, and I had to miss the last session anyway.  I've also got my own houserules to m20 that specifically cater to my own preferred playstyle.

But Star Wars is only one iteration of the genre.  Another one that I've enjoyed quite a bit over the years is the Marvel version of space opera, which incorporates a fair bit of superheroic action--hardly a surprising development.  But the three "super powers" of the Marvel space universe, the Shi'ar, the Kree and the Skrulls, have universally been interesting stories.  Groups like the Starjammers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and characters like the Silver Surfer, Warlock, Quasar, Ms. Marvel, Nova and others have established quite a lot of interesting super-hero colored space opera for us to digest.  Villains like Blastaar, Thanos, Vulcan, D'Ken, Galactus, the Celestials (who aren't necessarily overtly villainous, but... y'know) add to the mystique. We'll even get big-budget big screen treatment of the so-called "cosmic Marvel" in this summer's imminent Guardians of the Galaxy film, and all indications are that when Avengers 3 hits the big screen, we'll finally have the true debut of Thanos as villain.

Although I've focused my space opera more on my Star Wars "one thousand years after Jedi" setting, I'd like to also try my efforts at an original space opera setting.  Perhaps one that even feels more like a Marvel space opera setting within a setting.  For this setting, I'd also like to use m20, but maybe not the Star Wars m20, since Knights are such a specific Star Warsian application.  Although I haven't yet decided that such is the way I want to go, here's a link to an m20 Superhero ruleset to peruse.  I've only had time to glance through it at the moment, and it's probably not exactly what I want, but there could be stuff in there I can borrow. 

I did find it amusing that the document linked there refers to its obvious Thor analog as Norse Storm Hammer Guy.  Thor is, of course, as a mythological figure, in the public domain. 

And here's another Microlite superhero ruleset

As I develop this... yet another... series of blog posts, I'll be using the tagline AD ASTRA, Latin for "to the stars" (and famous as a motto of various organizations, where it was largely cribbed from Virgil).  I don't know that that's what I'll call the setting, but heck; it beats Odd D&D, doesn't it?

Friday, May 16, 2014


Well... I haven't abandoned blogging.  I've just been extremely busy.  Work has been kicking my hiney, and when I go home in the evening, I haven't been any less busy.  Pretty much all of April and May so far has been completely toast for me.  I haven't had any time to read much of anything, watch much of anything, think about much of anything, or otherwise indulge any of my hobbies, other than some minimal planning for my big hike that I'm taking out West later this summer, and sending my oldest son off to South America for a time.

Well, it's not true that I haven't watched anythingCaptain America 2 is, for example, a fantastic movie, that I happen, by sheer coincidence, to have seen twice.  Although I'm not the first to point this out, no doubt, one funny little thing about the teaser at the end (the one with Baron von Strucker--for those who noticed.)  The actors who play brother and sister mutants Quicksilver and the Scarlett Witch (probably not going to call them mutants, because the rights to the mutant movies are not with Marvel Studios, as it turns out.  That's OK, the characters were Avengers for a long time in the comics before they were revealed as Magneto's kids.) play husband and wife in Godzilla.  That might be just a bit awkward...

As a fan of comic books and space opera, I'm excited about the coming few years.  Lots of Marvel stuff, Star Wars moving again, DC finally seems to be lurching to life with a good Batman trilogy behind their belts and an actually good Superman movie (I was sceptical, I admit.  I don't really like the character, and think that it's kinda boring to try and challenge the guy who can do it all while yawning.)  And that's just a couple of franchises!

Anyway, work seems to be calming down at least just a bit.  I hope to be ready to make some DARK•HERITAGE and gaming related posts... as well as some book reviews or something... in the very near future, and make this blog seem less like an afterthought.  As it no doubt has seemed in the last couple of months.