'Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,' the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. 'Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.'

-Robert E. Howard
Beyond The Black River

Corrupt Cliffs

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Showing posts with label CLMoore. Show all posts
Showing posts with label CLMoore. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Conan 2d20 RPG - The Black God.

When I started writing the last adventure for our group, I had no clear goal on what I wanted to do. The players had trapped themselves in a small vault designed to contain an artifact of, perhaps, alien origin. Why they were there or how they became trapped isn't of great importance. I set out with an eight point system for writing short fiction: Stasis, Trigger, Quest, Surprise, Critical Choice, Climax, Reversal, Resolution. Armed with a basic outline I laid out the first room and then proceeded to not go very much further.

A few weeks later 'ol Hankerin' Ferinale posted a podcast on something he called "Monster Sets", basically 3 creatures connected in theme and perhaps in some other method. Translated to Conan 2d20, maybe you have a Minion type who is easy to kill, and perhaps you have a toughened opponent that can summon Minions at will, or whatever. The Nemesis is probably your boss. For a clearer idea I highly recommend you check out Hankerin' at the link above.

I wanted to try the Monster Set idea in my game. I knew my players had an aversion to statues. I had already placed several statues as creatures in the adventure but was at a loss on how to go forward. I needed to find a way to create a Monster Set around these. Fortunately for me I had just read "The Black God's Kiss" and "The Black God's Shadow" by CL Moore.

To make a long story short, Jirel, the main character retrieves a weapon to exact her revenge, which she then determines was the wrong action. In her attempt at redemption she heads back to the realm from which her weapon came from. Here she finds her victim locked in a black statue, the personification of all of his magnified sins. She releases him from this and he becomes a shade she needs to track across this unholy landscape. Meanwhile she is assaulted by the Black God and feels herself losing and becoming a statue herself, barely fighting them off. If you haven't read those stories, I do highly recommend them, there are of course links on the sidebar to Amazon so you can get copies of the stories.

But back to Conan. And so I had Statues, Shades and the Black God itself, and with this triumvirate the Monster Set was born. I wrote some custom creatures that were perhaps a little over powered, but only by a little.

The first is the Black Statue, an unholy abomination of some black material. Sin, magnified and made real. Physical forms twisted and distorted, no two the same.

The second is the Black Shade, an ethereal form of the statue. The soul trapped within the statue freed from its physical constraints. These are horrific apparitions that strike the most stalwart warrior down to a gibbering child.

I failed to used these strategically so I am not certain on how useful the ability to regen the statues is. I pretty much attacked with the Black Shades and followed up with the Black Statues.

Finally the Black God itself. The Black God can not actually be attacked by physical means. It must be present to be attacked, ie it must be engaged in combat with someone. I would allow direct mental attacks against it. As well, a player resisting successfully over two rounds will drive it off for 2cd rounds

These challenges proved exceptionally difficult for my party of five, the shades wreaking havoc on them with the mental attack they possess. I modified them a little in this post to make them a little more reasonable, but you might wish to tweak them further if you so desire.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Black God's Shadow by CL Moore.

Jirel of Joiry returns in this direct sequel to CL Moore's the Black God's Kiss. This time she must return to that same place she retrieved her weapon and earn her redemption. Is she worthy of redemption or will the dark claim her as one of their own?

The Black God's Shadow was published in Weird Tales in December of 1934, this time CL Moore didn't get the cover, which was given to Robert E Howard's Conan story, "A Witch Shall be Born".

One of the first things that strikes me about this story is that it is a direct sequel. In my other explorations of pulp literature, being mainly Robert E Howard, Clark Ashton Smith and some HP Lovecraft, this is not really done. Certainly Robert E Howard also has numerous characters that span stories, and in the case of Solomon Kane we have stories following each other in a very specific chronology and we see character development along that chronology. As a direct sequel, this story is dealing with events and ideas raised in the first, and revisits some of the same settings. It is not just another story dealing with the same character later in her life.

Overall I again enjoyed CL Moore's Jirel character, and again I found her journey to pull me along with her and want to join her at it's conclusion, whatever that might be. It again strikes me that over the years more has not been done with Jirel of Joiry.

Within this story are several chase scenes. Although these scenes introduce interesting aspects to the environment she is in and do help to build on the in earthly creepy factor, there were times I felt they were a little drawn out. This flight across the same dark landscape as the first Jirel story also made me feel like more of the same at times. However even with these thoughts, I don't think these possible negatives were strong enough to take away from the story.

Despite the slightly drawn out chases and more of the same dark landscape the story moves well and has good pacing. The writing is excellent and I felt it was little more descriptive than the first Jirel story. Aspects of those chases and the descriptions of the things she faces are awesome and terrifying. I also enjoyed the overarching themes of light and dark, clearly not something new, but cool to see in early fantasy literature.

Jirel is again shown as a powerful and fiery warrior. She again seems to give little thought, or at the very least, little care to venturing from our reality to another to accomplish a task she views as correct. In "The Black God's Kiss" she is tormented by another's action and knows she must strike out and gain her vengeance. In "The Black God's Shadow" knowing her error and haunted by it she knows she must return and undo as much of her error as she can. In both of these she is willing to risk her very soul. To me she is an incredibly engaging character.

If you want to check out some of CL Moore for yourself why not click through to my Amazon affiliate link either through the sidebar or by clicking here?