'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

Corrupt Cliffs
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Places of Interest

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Remakes! Red Sonja and Last Starfighter.

This blog is Starships and Steel because I love Sci-fi and Fantasy. Yesterday we saw two cool announcements in both of these genres.

Red Sonja

The Red Sonja remake gets a writer and a decent one at that.
Wikipedia lists the following credit to him.

check out the article at deadline for more info:

The Last Starfighter

Concept art by Matt Allsopp
This is apparently in a pretty early concept phase. A remake of this was only a matter of time. I am tentatively excited for it. Some early concept photos were released on twitter yesterday and the writer attached to the project is Gary Whitta of Rogue One.

Check out io9 for more info:

I am not going to lie, I am pretty hopeful for both of these films. I loved Last Starfighter...No. I STILL love Last Starfighter. It is an awesome film and represents a landmark use of CGI. Red Sonja, they will get my money for trying, but I am hopeful they will produce a good Sword & Sorcery movie.

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?

Printable Miniatures. Part 1, Getting the Image.

In Part 2 we talk about basing options!

We all love miniatures, or at least I suspect you do if you are reading my blog. If you play a system that uses a lot of smaller level fodder type characters, such as a 2d20 system or Savage Worlds, you might find it hard to have 15 or 20 of a single figure type. Even for me, with the Conan board game to pull from, it can be hard to have enough bad guys.

Custom Minis from a Ghoul stock image I got from DriveThruRPG
Enter the paper miniature, sometimes refered to as flats. I first came across these when I was getting back into gaming and watching the various channels on youtube that exist. Check out Wyloch's tutorial on how to make your own.  He goes through how to make these props, step by step using images found images.  Please be respectful of copyright when you are building printable minis this way.

We also have Printable Heros over on Pateron. For a couple of bucks you can get access to the cool collection of figures he has produced. For me though, I often need something fairly specific and I am building them pretty close to the last minute. I don't have time to search the net for the image and cut and paste it, trim it up, size it and get it ready for play. Sometimes I just want to do a quick search, print out the figure and get it on my table. For this I go to DriveThruRPG.

I am sure you are all aware of DriveThruRPG. If you are not click the above link and it will take you to a wonderland of digital products, BUT back to printable miniatures.

These guys are probably my favorite shop creating printable miniatures. They are have a wonderful distinct style and he has a wide variety to fill many many different gaming roles! Get them here!
Another store that has an excellent selection of figures for use with your games. Like Okum arts there is a wide variety of figures from fantasy to sci-fi. Get them here!
The ICRPG Core set is more expensive but comes with a wealth of content, including a selection of printable miniatures for your table in Hankerin's distinctive black and white style. Get it here!
These guys have a wide selection of printable miniatures(some are even free!) as well as papercraft buildings. Get them here!
A later entry to this list, as I just found them recently is Trash Mob Minis. Like Okum Arts above these guys have an impressive collection of paper figs in a very distinctive style. I recommend checking them out!

There is a wealth of people creating these printable heros and monsters! Part 2 of the series will talk about the supplies I use to make mine, as well as some alternatives. Once we have all of our supplies together we will see about putting together some of these creations!

Until then, keep it weird!

The above post contains affiliate links, using them will give this blog a small commission on the sale.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Robert E. Howard House Archaeology

There is currently a push on GoFundMe to help fund an archeological expedition at the Howard house in Cross Plains, TX.

There is a sealed storm cellar behind the house that hasn't been opened in a very long time. They might find nothing, but they might find something cool. If you have a couple of dollars why not support the initiative?

Check out the GoFundMe page for more information!

Friday, March 30, 2018

Conan 2d20 - Quick, cheap and easy Combat dice!

If you are familiar with Conan 2d20 either through playing or reading about the system, one thing that stands out is it's damage system. Instead of weapons doing 1d6, 2d8, 1d10 or other combination it uses a number of combat dice to determine the damage and effectiveness of the weapon. These dice are nothing more than a fancy 1d6, and you can easily use a regular d6 to get the result.

Modiphius does however make custom combat dice, and I have found they can make a difference. They sell these in a players dice set that will run you about $30cad and comes with 4 of these combat dice, 2d20 and a hit location die. Four combat dice is probably not going to be enough for most players, especially ones with high brawn. As mentioned above we can simply replace the missing dice with d6s.

We do have another option. You can buy a set of inexpensive blank dice from Aliexpress or Amazon. I prefer the sets from Aliexpress, simply because I get more bang for my buck, even if shipping is a little slow. This is a link to a set of 20 16mm blank dice for about $5US, with shipping included! The size of these are the same as the combat dice, but have a slightly different shape, mirroring the dice you might find in Monolith's Conan boardgame.

Using a regular fine point sharpie we can simply write on the values we want, following the patterns laid out by the combat dice. It is important to note that when you write on the dice, the ink from the shaprie will take a little time to dry. I have found it to be fine after about 10 seconds. Once dry it is a fairly robust addition to the die and can't be wiped off. I am sure after some use it will begin to wear out.

One of the happy parts of these dice is a little acetone will clean the ink right off the dice face without damaging the face. Over the course of the last couple of days I have been experimenting and have cleaned the sharpie from the dice multiple times with no issues. This is a super quick way to make a multitude of combat dice at your table.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Why Pulp Fiction?

Escapism is all around us. Today society has myriad forms of entertainment ranging from the written word to the moving picture. We live in a world that has made all of this entertainment and escapism accessible to the masses.

Stories have always been important to us. Since the dawn of man we have found ways to record our exploits and our heroics, but until the modern era these stories were told by word of mouth or perhaps through expensive reproductions laboriously copied by hand on vellum.

Paper, in the Western world at least, wasn’t really needed until the invention of the printing press in 1450. Suddenly we had the ability to mass produce books, but we still lived in a labor intensive society. We still didn’t have time to sit down and consume entertainment like we do now.

Listen to me talk, I complain about not having enough time to do half the things I want to do. In reality though I could make much better use of my down time. In the middle ages and renaissance, living and working by sunlight or lanterns, I simply would not have. I wouldn’t have the luxury I have now.

Enter the Industrial Revolution. Automation of processes brings workers time and an increase in the standard of life. It gives them, for the first time, the ability to have a sustained ability to consume entertainment. Although I am not going to discuss, or hypothesize as to why, we also see a dramatic increase in literacy. (Devon Lemire, 2012)

Now we have paper, the ability to produce the written word and an audience. What becomes of this? If we type “Penny Dreadful” into google we largely get hits from a TV show called “Penny Dreadful”. This TV show about the weird and dark side of Victorian London takes its name from the widely available cheap literature of the day. These magazines, known as a Penny Dreadful specialized in sensational stories and offered the working class a way to get the written entertainment without having to buy the more expensive novels. You should check out this article for a more in depth look at the Penny Dreadful.

In 1900s United States we see the rise of the pulp magazine. These magazines are the direct successors to the serialized cheap publications that came to be known “Penny Dreadfuls”. The collective name for those publications is a combination of the content and the price, the pulp magazine takes its name from the paper used, which has become synonymous with how the content is generally viewed; cheap, tawdry and of no value.

From the introduction of these magazines in the early 1900s to their demise in the 1950s, a wealth of these magazines were produced, and because of this need for content many people tried their hand at writing. Some created iconic characters that have lasted to this day; Conan, Tarzan, Doc Savage, The Shadow.

In the 1950s rising costs and increased competition from books with higher production quality, television and comic books saw this boom in pulp literary entertainment begin to wane and the majority of the pulp magazine companies going out of business. I found a graph stating that in 1950, 9% of US households had television, and in 1955 it had rise to 64%, by 1965 92% of households had television (Understanding Media and Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication). I am sure it’s now close to 100% and although reading is still popular among some, I am sure we all know someone who just doesn't read anymore.

Pulp magazines are often looked down on. Their authors are not held up like “true” authors. They are not typically views as literary masters, or authors that made a contribution. I am not here to tell you that everyone who wrote in a pulp magazine was an expert wordsmith, but to wipe our hands of every author because they were commercial authors being published in the pulps is a disservice to literature. I would argue that these authors writing in the early 1900s have had a significant effect on our culture, as great as any of the large names. They have created ideas and characters that have become our modern heroes, or the basis for them. Who’s work reached a larger audience: Hemingway or Howard, Lovecraft or Lawrence, Steinbeck or Smith?

These magazines defined a large portion of entertainment for the working class for the first half of the 20th century. They were a large part of culture during that time and to ignore their influence on it is folly. The authors of those magazines certainly wrote to get published but that doesn’t make them less. This does not mean that there is not depth in their stories.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Black God's Kiss by CL Moore.

Jirel stands defeated as Joiry is conquered by Guillaume. Captured and imprisoned Jirel escapes and seeks a weapon to exact her revenge. Is revenge worth it at any cost?

Today I want to talk to you about to a pulp author from the 1930s that is new to me and perhaps to you as well. CL Moore was published in the same magazine that published many of Robert E Howard, HP Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith's stories; Weird Tales. I believe I became aware of CL Moore through CromCast Podcast, and due to their work had a basic idea of the story line of this tale.

The main character is "Jirel of Joiry" a warrior and Lady of Joiry. Although female characters are not unheard of, what sets Jirel apart is that her author was also a woman. Catherine Lucile Moore wrote under the name CL Moore and perhaps this allowed her to get published? This was the 1930s after all. That is supposition on my part as the artists who create the risque covers for Weird tales was also a woman. With that bit of background behind us I thought I would try my hand at a little review of this enjoyable pulp story who's character never rose to the fame of Conan and Robert E Howard or the Cthulhu Mythos and HP Lovecraft.

The Black God's Kiss was published in Weird Tales in October 1934, vol. 24, no. 4. I enjoyed the story and the character of Jirel and will be looking forward to continuing her adventures. I felt it stood on it's own and wasn't just a carbon copy of other heros I had read. It kept me interested as Jirel progressed across her journey with both good visuals and some depth to the story. I highly recommend you pick up this story and give Jirel and CL Moore a try. This was clearly an important character from the time of the pulps that is often overlooked.

The story was enjoyable and it flowed well. I found when I had put it down to go do something else, I was drawn back to the story to find out what would happed to Jirel, clearly the mark of a good tale! There was a few places I had to go back over and re-read to fully comprehend what had happened, but it was very few and I didn't find it hurt my enjoyment of the story. For good or bad depending on your opinion, I felt that CL Moore was less "thesaurasy" than some of the other pulp writers I am familiar with, especially Clark Ashton Smith. I felt this took a little potential flavor out of the story, but substitued it with easy of flow and language across nearly a century.

I think the story was paced well and had a lot of interesting visuals and ideas within it's pages. On it's surface it starts as a simple revenge story, but quickly becomes a question of what is actually worth sacrificing for that revenge. I especially liked this lack of black and white. Revenge wasn't portrayed as a simple right and wrong. Jirel being the hero doesn't instantly make her revenge justified or even a correct course of action. Jirel isn't just a carbon copy of the other Heros of her day, she feels like she has her own motivations, ideas and needs.

"I know. Do you think I'd venture down if I could not be sure? Where else would I find such a weapon as I need, save outside God's dominion?"