Archive for February, 2014

Tartary hooks and rumours

February 6, 2014 4 comments

Let’s start with the PCs’ more-or-less commitments:

You’re currently 2 days into a 3 day event Mecha Basho, the third day of which is being delayed by your irresponsibly absconding with the Pit Boss of Komtor.

cube of komtor

His vizier, OTAN, images figures that they won’t start the climactic day without him and besides, those bastards from Ulla-n-Batoor Overworld2 haven’t turned up yet and you guys were unceremoniously chased out of the Dashoguz arena by a nomadic horde of Purples so you probably have a bit of a grace period before people start to moan that you’re late.

You have a secret mech for this 3rd day showdown, and potentially awesome destructive capacity (using energy weapons + Holtzman shield, or possibly orbital bombardment). OTOH, now you’ve seen the size of the Pit Boss’s mech, giant saw mining machine it’s kind of comically out of scale with your own (like if yours were a 25mm scale figure, his would be a shoebox).

Cutter #5, driven by Jen the goat and Kyre the human

Come to think of it, it’s pretty much a classic hobbit/dragon scale relationship.

So there’s that.

Also somebody told Kyre to kill the Pit Boss via orbital strike because he’s a mere puppet for sinister Nautiloids (and so is the rest of the top rank of mechawrestlers).


The metal seed-pod in the next door chamber


OTOH OTAN has offered you guys a job fighting for him. Not clear right now how that’s gonna play into Day 3: is it even allowed in the tournament rules? What rules?

Meanwhile OTAN wants colourful belts like your Yellow Belts of Choison. He has not said why. So that’s why you guys went to the Farishta crash site,

Map of the inside of the farishta

Farishta interior, prior to looting

a hundred miles north of Otrar, City of 99 Seers. Apparently the Farishta has been extensively looted already, and its control furniture (likely including the belts) has been taken to Otrar – after a battle between Otrari and Ulla-n-Batoor forces. Wreckage of the battle (burned out Ulla ‘thopters) still litters the area.

So. 1. Farishta wreckage seems to be in high demand – except for the various creepy stuff that’s still left at the crash site (jelly eggs full of dead/dormant humanoids, Mi-go, and other hybrid and exotic body types), which even the ghouls won’t touch, even though it seems mighty meaty.
2. If you want to try to get those belts you’ll have to go to Otrar. 9RraiIrE17D6y36sPfK6fYvuLD0wUIFqQaNiUXLgyAI=w422-h597-no Locals can tell you that Otrar is a fortified city with a high blue tower and famous workpits, from which there is a near-constant banging of hammers and occasional flashes of light like they’re welding together continental plates or something. The Seers of Otrar sometimes have jobs for them, which either involve bringing stuff back from toxic wastelands or performing meaningless acts with mysterious metal stuff on mountaintops. It was a junior Seer who started the Carcosa Wacky Race going, the object of which was to recover the Farishta’s Black Box. Local sky men know that Seer (Mienu the Fat) – and Thora has met him, though I don’t think they exchanged words. You don’t know if the Black Box ever made it back to the Seer or not.
3. Whatever valuables the Otraris didn’t take is probably either in the hands of the sky men or of the ghouls.

Incidentally, the Carcosan sorcerer Chixi’lu the Melter chihuly_face2 used to be highly active in your area. You never figured out what he was up to, but the landscape is littered with his weird scallopy colourful glass towers. Red-Figure_original_large Dale_Chihuly_Mohegan_Sun_Tower_1668_32 Last time Thora was here, there were also lots of dazed/zombified women stumbling about, missing hands or feet. They’ve gone, but the ghoul population has boomed. Why do you care? Well, he was the previous owner of the Yellow Belts. Also he probably had a lair or hideout or something.

Farther afield, and back the way you came…

On the TV: news is still all about your amazing victory at the Basho – unprecedented! Complete unknowns, Cosmic Dancer… could they be another cover identity for The Vengeance of Kokand? Surely he was not so easily bested! Let’s replay that moment when…  interspersed with reports of the fighting around Dashoguz: apparently the main Purple infantry have now arrived, it’s not clear exactly what’s going on. News speculates that terrorist attacks (pictures of Kyre, Keisha and Iqbal with a moustache) were really scouts for this invasion force. The Khan of Khiva says the situation is in hand, but the Amir of Urgench says a strong counter-attack is the only way to stop the Purple Menace, and he’s parading his tanks,_8 implying that the Khan can’t handle it. Dashoguz may or may not have loot for the taking, now that you killed its Governor.

Khiva clearly has its own secrets – big toroidal underground complexes; oNUAv5-JtxN2OuR7iFl6teS8nrcqmF1HLhW6QKVRL14=w865-h592-no odd blue crystals. Extensive mech factories even though the Khan doesn’t fight, and a fondness for electrical powerplants even though the Gas Mining Colony is next door. The Khan

This guy is the Khan of Khiva

was perfectly happy to let you guys loose after you confessed your plan to “deal with” the Pit Boss, and even to host you at his parties, even though consensus seems to be that the Pit Boss is horribly dangerous. He also fixed you up with grease monkeys and supplies – all unofficially. Weirdest of all, he expressed interest in Cutter and where it came from (everyone seems to be curious about that) and then let you go do your thing, rather than, say, impounding Cutter and making you guys disappear.

Who else is curious about Cutter? Well, there’s the Space Psychics (represented by Birunni, mysterious Black Carcosan woman) who abducted, briefed and returned Kyre. They seemed super-excited about something that could fight the Nautiloids. But they also seemed to be in trouble when Kyre saw them – Birunni’s boss had disappeared and her Gigeresque home/base/ship was beiong taken in tow by 2 enormous Nudibranchs nudibranch that kyre saw.  And there’s the strange detail that, even though your attack on Dashoguz has been all over the news, no footage of Cutter is ever shown. Only those brief moments when members of the party are off the mech.

Oh yeah, and right when you got hold of Cutter – you had to bust it out because the caravanserai was being attacked by a band of desert pirates who were being manipulated by a giant red Mi-go. You didn’t think anything of it at the time but it sure was convenient that this supermech happened to be buried under what’s basically a desert truck stop which just happened also to contain a famous engineer on the run. And then the desert pirates didn’t try to hold the caravanserai after they’d taken it – they marched off with prisoners, in more or less in the direction the Mi-go had fled – are were themselves attacked by someone else. You saw the signs of fighting at night. So maybe the desert is teeming with hostile pirate bands. Or maybe there was some specific thing that brought all these people to this out-of-the-way sand bowl.

Cutter has been patiently sitting inside a statue for the past couple of days, _g unconsulted, but it stated quite clearly a while ago that it wants to go find the Ground Base of Tjerimai, the Sister to its own Mothership, Smeroe. And you guys think that’s probably inside a giant brass enclosure at Amritsar Amritsar+copy. Why a brass enclosure? Because that’s what you freed Cutter from, back at that desert caravanserai, SW of Dashoguz. IMG_1057

And that engineer, Wachim, and his grandson Selim (currently somewhere on the streets of Khiva) seem to have an intuitive grasp of what Cutter wants. They built the control panel you use to talk to Cutter without ever having actually seen the machine or opened its brass cucurbit. They knew there was something helpful in that cucurbit.


Does my Dune have pictures?

February 1, 2014 4 comments

So I reshared a collection of images from the David Lynch Dune movie and I noted that Lynch’s vision wasn’t what my Dune looked like… and Joshua Blackketter asked what does my Dune look like?

Well. Even though it was probably the book that made me decide to go to art school, I never actually made any pictures of it I was happy with. So I’m going to have to show a bunch of other people’s art that still isn’t my vision but which I think is fantastic. Thus:

Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 11.58.46 PM DuneCarry_all

First I think Lynch’s Carryall is unimprovable. No apologies, no explanations for how it hangs in the sky: it does so by sheer  industrial charisma. The only misstep is that the spice harvester has nothing in common with its superb brutality of form. But that’s because the perfect, complementary sandcrawler had already been used in a bigger scifi epic a few years before:


The stillsuits, the Fremen, even the Bene Gesserit I have no problem with. Lynch’s guild navigator (start at 3:20 or 4:10 if you’re impatient) is straight up the best thing ever seen in any science fiction film, narrowly beating Princess Aura’s costume in Flash Gordon and Chris Tucker’s hair in Fifth Element. But the Mentats and the Harkonnens… I just wasn’t buying them. Fortunately Moebius’s designs for Jodorowsky are freaking amazing:

baron rabban feyd

That’s the Baron, Rabban and Feyd (in heels!). Imma say that again: Feyd in heels. Melnibonean.

sardaukar2 sardaukar3 piter

Sardaukar guards. And Piter, the Baron’s Mentat-assassin. All from duneinfo.


Thufir, the Atreides’ Mentat… I’m less convinced about, even though I love the Pieter Stuyvesant callout with the wooden leg. Really the only other character I’ve seen who I think would make a great Mentat is that creepy dude from Game of Thrones.

Sandworms are the best thing evar in the book, but every illustration I’ve seen of them has only been ho hum. The consensus Penis Worm is OK I guess once you get over the whole penis thing.

Sheeanaandworm Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 9.31.32 PM ku-medium

In my game I have hot glass worms as a partial homage to Dune but adapted for my electroradiant hellscape (and riding them presents several novel engineering challenges). In that spirit, these are my faves:

Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 11.54.32 PM Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 11.54.57 PMdune_arising_sandworm_by_philippel-d5jsq2s

though if I were to draw one it would be blunt-ended, almost completely submerged, and more like a tunnel drill than a star-mouthed lamprey.

And the architecture. Lynch is pretty good. These are also good:

dunepix Dune8

but you know what I would love?

12 citadel walls merv13 merv14Great_Mosque_of_Djenné_1 IMG_3083 737691985_1be4a5c55a hotw_vardizacaves1 858053xixia-mausoleum-tomb-tower_0

Finally, ornithopters. Lynch et al said that flapping planes look crap, but I think Miyazaki pretty much nailed it – they’re not birds but dragonflies:

laputa_castle_in_the_sky_002 Weirdest thing: they actually work.

And there’s no shortage of orthoptera out there, via Jodorowsky among others, from the graceful to the charmingly awkward:

Ornithopter dune_ornithopter_by_ilya_b-d36rl91 DUNE_Spotter_AnimTest 1370425299136

but my favourite by far is this incredibly cheeky one in a set of custom minis:


43868-Conversion, Dune, Flyer, Flying, Ornithoptor, Star Wars 43873_md-ornithopter underside bow port 43876_md-Ornithopter Rear

My own would have cantilevered counterweights flapping opposite the wings and would be a health and safety nightmare.

Finally finally, apparently Frank Herbert himself really favoured Schoenherr’s magnificently moody paintings. I like ’em too, but I’m a child of the 80s: I like my science fantasy illustration more informative and detailed. Still, you gotta admire his Vladimir Harkonnen: dripping with menace, yet PG: