My Blades Flame Crimson
Somewhere outside the realm of reason and linear time lies the Akashic Library, its phantasmagorical shelves stretching off endlessly into the horizon. What arcane mysteries shall we uncover there today? Read on, wanderer, and see . . .
So I've been reading sword and sorcery stories lately. You know sword and sorcery? The fantasy sub-genre? Lord of the Rings is High Fantasy, right, because it's about noble heroes battling the forces of evil for the fate of the world. Sword and sorcery is grounded, and tends to focus on an outsider protagonist who's out to make some money. Notable examples include Conan, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, and Elric.
I've also been learning about the history of the genre--I'm 150 pages into Brian Murphy's Flame and Crimson: A History of Sword-and-Sorcery, and I'm loving it. It's educational but not boring.
I'd read various stories by sword-and-sorcery luminaries like Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Fritz Lieber, and Jack Vance before but there's something satisfying about learning how all the pieces fit together, how the different writers influenced each other, and how the genre took shape, rose, and fell over the decades. I'll probably write more about it once I've finished reading it, but if you're intrigued by this short description you can order a copy here, or here, if you don't mind supporting the vast corporate evil that is Amazon (I got my copy from Amazon).
One reason I'm reading sword and sorcery stuff is because it's cool. The other reason is that it's research for a game I'm going to work on, once I've finished Swann Castle. We'll talk about the sword and sorcery game in a minute, and I might even give you a world-exclusive sneak peak, but first . . .
SWANN CASTLE UPDATE
Blu and I have been working hard. Long-time readers will know that we ran a Kickstarter for not one, not two, but three versions of our RPG setting Swann Castle. With tears of relief streaming down my face, I am here to tell you that we have finished both the QAGS and the TROIKA! versions of the book and mailed them off to Kickstarter backers. But are they only available to backers? My friend, they are NOT! They are now on sale to the general public!
"But wait, Leighton . . . didn't you way there were three versions of the book?" It's true--there's also the Old School Essentials edition.
WHAT ABOUT THE OSE VERSION?
Blu and I are working diligently on it, and we are almost finished with the character stats. This has taken much longer than I anticipated, because I am a fool. I can't believe I ever thought I would have all three versions done by the end of summer.
When I say there are three versions of the book, let me give you an example. Let's take, say, Queen Caroline Swann, ruler of Swann Castle, and look at what her stats are in the three systems.
Job: Queen of Swann Castle (15)
Gimmick: Vast Resources at Her Disposal (16)
Weakness: Massive Responsibilities (16)
Skills: Dodging +1, Fencing +2, Diplomacy +3
Tag Line: “Everyone calm down, I’m sure we can work out a mutually beneficial solution.”
WWPHitM? Laura Dern
Dumb Fact: Has an extensive leaf collection
(WWPTitM? Laura Dern)
SKILL: 7 STAMINA: 14 INITIATIVE: 3
Damage as Longsword.
SPECIAL: As long as Queen Caroline is within the castle, she can summon 1d6 guards to her side in 1 round.
OSE version (subject to change):
AC 8 , HD 3 (12hp), Att 1 x sword (1d8), THACO 19 , MV 120’ (40’), SV D12 W13 P13 B15 S15 (E3), ML 10, AL Lawful, XP 20
STR 11 INT 15 WIS 16 DEX 15 CON 12 CHA 15
Equipment: beautiful orange dress, royal crown, short sword, royal jeweled scabbard, 1d6 interesting leaves, 1d4 sugar cubes
*As long as Queen Caroline is within the castle, she can summon 1d6 guards to her side in 1 round.
As you can see, very different systems.
Blu and I made huge progress on the OSE stats over Thanksgiving break and we should have them done soon, then we'll be on to layout, which should go quicker this time because I've laid the book out twice before.
Once Swann Castle is done, I can focus on my next RPG project. I haven't said what that's going to be . . .until now! GET READY for a world exclusive announcement!
WORLD EXCLUSIVE ANNOUNCEMENT
In February 2024 Hex Games is going to launch a Kickstarter for a sword and sorcery game written by Steve Johnson, Josh Burnett, and me. This game will have a cover by the supremely talented James V. West. And ONLY HERE in Akashic Library can you get a glimpse of the cover art. Are you ready?!? Okay . . .
Isn't it gorgeous?!? James is a busy game, and I'm super thrilled that he fit this into his schedule. With a cover like that, you know the game's going to be good!
I HAVE BOOKS AVAILABLE THROUGH KINDLE VELLA
Forget what I said about Amazon being a vast corporate evil--There are currently 27 chapters of my science-fiction adventure Armistice Hawkins and the New Architects of Creation available on Kindle Vella, and Chapter 28: Activate Doomsday Device is coming out this week! The title isn't a lie, the doomsday device really does get activated, don't miss it.
And as always, you can read the entirety of my occult detective novel The Lobster-Quadrille on Kindle Vella. If you surreal detective stories, go ahead and start at the beginning.
THE TOWERING WORKS OF GRAPHIC LITERATURE CHALLENGE
What are 5 towering works of graphic literature that blew your mind and which you still think about regularly? I’ll start . . .
1. Frank by Jim Woodring
2. Beanworld by Larry Marder
3. New Gods by Jack Kirby
4. Stray Toasters y Bill Sienkiewicz
5. From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell
BOOKS I'VE READ SINCE LAST MONTH
The First Late-Night Show After a Rapture, Emily Clouse
Doctor Strange: Fall Sunrise, Tradd Moore
Nocturnals: The Dark Forever, Dan Brereton
Squadron Supreme, Mark Gruenwald, Bob Hall, Paul Ryan, and various
Aquaman: Andromeda, Ram V and Christian Ward
All comics this time. Those are just the books I've finished, though--I'm currently in the process of reading at least four prose books, including Flame and Crimson (mentioned earlier) and Darkness Weaves by Karl Edward Wagner (a book I learned about through Flame and Crimson.) I'll write about those when I've finished them.
As for the comics I read, I particularly recommend Andromeda--it's the self-contained, horror-tinged hardcover Aquaman graphic novel the world's been waiting for!--and Fall Sunrise, which I bought solely for the beautiful art (see above) but which has a surprisingly touching story.
MOVIES I’VE WATCHED SINCE LAST MONTH
Spider-Man: Across the Spiderverse
Spider-Man: No Way Home
Dark Knight Rises
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
There are two types of movies here: comic book movies my kids wanted to rewatch, and David Fincher movies. Of the comic book movies, I will say that Spider-Man 2 is still the greatest superhero movie ever made . . . at least the greatest live-action superhero movie, because the Spiderverse movies are really good.
I've been watching David Fincher movies to keep up with Blank Check, the movie podcast I listen to. I really enjoyed Mank and The Killer, but man, I loved Gone Girl. I've been meaning to watch it since it came out, which I realize is almost ten years ago, but I'm so glad I finally got around to it. It's a dark, twisty, consistently entertaining movie with really great performances, that caused me to tell my wife "You've got to watch this, you'll love it!" and then, later, "Okay, there's some really disturbing graphic violence, maybe you wouldn't love this!"
I enjoy watching kid-friendly movies with my kids, and then dark and disturbing movies after my kids go to bed. I am a well-rounded individual.
I am also a sleepy individual, so I'm gonna wrap this up. I'll see you again in December when, RPG gods willing, I'll have finished the third Swann Castle book.