Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Thoughts about Zardoz

I've been trying to get back into the blogging habit and had this post rolling around my brain for a while. So it's at least an exercise in getting creative juices flowing again. A while back I found Zardoz on Netflix and it had been a long while since I'd seen it so I gave it another whirl. It's supposed to be (at least the way I've viewed it over the years) part action adventure/part intellectual experiment.

As an adventure, it has some really inspired moments, but kinda falls short of its potential. As an experiment it does well on grand scale, but the details get sort of muddled.

With movies like Inception, Dark City, and even something as wacky as 12 Monkeys, I think Zardoz could be remade and given a bit more gusto, perhaps fewer suspendered banana hammocks. Side note: I've tried to love the film, but in truth I've found it mostly boring with some good bits and an overall interesting--if sometimes shocking--premise.

Oh, and while the Book of Eli may have borrowed from ol' Zed, I'm talking more a straight-up re-imagining. So the characters and story details would be mostly intact beyond the overall concept. Sorry Singleton, we're not counting that one.

In Japan, Zardoz is in SPAAAACE!
So here's my pitch to re-imagine a new Zardoz:

First, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the original plot. Done? Okay, we begin with a band of masked marauders known as Brutals sporting theme park mascot heads as helmets is laying seige to a seaside village. They take no prisoners and bow to a giant floating head, the god Zardoz. The most fierce of the bunch is Zed, whose curiosity leads him to discover the truth about their infallible, flying deity. His journey takes him to Vortex, a clandestine community of Eternals (psionic immortals) who yearn for the excitement that death brings--whether it's their own or the primitive villagers that make up the outer settlements. An artificial being known as Tabernacle rules as a beneficent adjudicator and administrator of Vortex's citizens. She has served humans for more than three centuries as a chorus of consciousnesses trapped in a single synthetic body. Over that time she has grown envious of her wards and planted the seed of their doom in a power hungry Zardoz pilot...Arthur Frayn.

Let's leave the English countryside of the original behind and move to a beach on the California coast, dotted with ruined piers and broken highways. Since this is in the future, it'd be nice to see a few twists on the theme, maybe some mutated animals (carnivorous steeds for the Brutals) and evidence of a slightly more advanced civilization than our own (an upgraded Tabernacle that could neurologically control Vortex and its citizens). Zardoz itself is a remnant of a Wizard of Oz theme park erected in the late 21st century to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the film. The giant head really is the "wizard" as it appears inside a replica of the Emerald City--as part of the Wiz's main audience chamber. Vortex is a biodome commune that sprouted several towns over in a more rural area. Vortex appears similar to the Eden Project or Biosphere 2.


Probably the most important aspect since a quirky film like this is usually driven heavily by the hand of the artist in charge. Chris Nolan seems like an easy bet with his deft direction of sci-fi-with-a-message films. Overall, I think he'd be good to reel in some of the more muddled elements that weighed down the Boorman version and still be able to make it the thought-provoking action/thrillers he's known for.

Yeah, cynics may decry him for being a bit over-wrought, but I honestly think he's yet to put out a bad piece of filmmaking. Whom would you rather have, Zack Snyder? (As if!) Ten years ago I would have said Alex Proyas who directed one of my favorite-ever films, the aforementioned Dark City. But until he comes up with something to make up for I, Robot--I think Nolan is the guy to make Zardoz fly.

So what would your Zardoz look like?

Previously: Zardoz Video Game in 8-Bit, Intro

Friday, September 30, 2011

Tips for Spotting a New Evolutionary

New Evolutionaries (NEs) are a completely new breed of humanoid that has arrived on the Gamma landscape. They typically appear so massively mutated that they no longer resemble homo sapiens--nor do they seem to be of a purely alien species. It's almost as if they are a hybridized species. It should be duly noted that they are not extra terrestrials--their origins are of this planet.

Physical Appearance
The sheer variety of body types and appearances is astounding and no two seem to be exactly alike. Many though seem to exhibit a mask-like appearance which appears to have glowing eyes that seem to indicate a churning biologic energy. Many learn to suppress the glowing effect in an effort to escape notice.

Some NEs have no discernible mouth or other sensory organs, but this is likely a sign that they do not require them, having evolved other means for metabolic function (see Biologic Abilities) or sensory input. All NEs are relative to humanoid size in their natural state.

Body types typically have some sort of organic armor, carapace, or rough pattern that acts as a protective barrier to attack as well as helps conceal their massive radio-logical output.

Biologic Abilities
NEs do not require regular food to metabolize. It's theorized that at the moment of conception they initiate a subatomic reaction that produces a lifetime supply of energy. During the gestational period (note: no evidence of juvenile or adolescent NEs has ever been uncovered) it's thought that they produce a sort of internal "reactor". How they are able to cool this process is unknown. The energy can be converted into all manner of ability, allowing for deft control over their own physical shape and the ability to release the energy without obvious detriment or depletion. The energy may be hidden by armor or body covering, but there's usually always a tell-tale glow coming from some part of the NE. Note: this energy is extremely potent and close contact may result in mutation or death of those within very close proximity.

Biologic Energy Weapons

  • Radiation Beams (emitted from eyes, mouth, hands, or chest, etc.) may be plasmatic or electrical in nature
  • Auto-atomic Polymorphism - transformation of physical form to create energy weapons (sonic, plasmatic, lightwave, concussive, or other energy); propulsive organs (engines, rotors, fins, tank treads, etc.), or any other embellishment (claws, spikes, drills, etc.); or phase (walk through solid objects) Note:  no NEs are able to use this ability to take an entirely new/different form, it's usually localized to limbs, head, etc.
  • Propulsion - bio-wing (jointed non-organic wing with slow speed and average agility); bio-rotor (above average speed, average agility while in flight) bio-turbine (fast, very agile); bio-combustible propulsion (extremely fast, not very agile)
  • Signal Overload - act as a massive transmitter to overwhelm adversaries with a radial or directed (cone) blast
  • Absorb & Dissipate Energy - incoming energy volleys can be absorbed/attenuated without harm to the NE

NEs typically have a far greater range of sensory input than average Earth creatures. Some have surpassed using traditional "eyes" where they would normally be located on a humanoid head and instead employ organelles that can "see" a much broader range of the electromagnetic spectrum--beyond just visible light. Others have developed sonar, radar, seismic, enhanced olfactory, and/or barometric organs that allow them to detect a multitude of stimuli.

It's believed most also have some sort of psionic ability that may allow for identifying others by aural signature. Sensory organs can manifest as antennae, additional "eyes", multiple heads, colorful body patterns, or in other ways.

It's believed that NEs can "smell" each other's bio-radio-logic signatures.

Typical Habitat
NEs have no obvious range and almost never found in a lair. That's not to say they don't have permanent habitats, but all encountered have remained hidden from sight. Many seem to inhabit mountainous areas or lowland swamps. It's thought they are also nomadic and do not stay in one place for too long. They generally avoid large populations due to precarious encounters with locals. It should be noted that to date, no single specimen has been captured by a Valid mutant hunting squad.

Cultural Traits
It's not known if there are particular species of NEs or if they each seem to exist as a single specimen. They tend to live solitary, nomadic lives so data about NE communities is null. When one is encountered there is a 1d4 chance that they do not speak common tongue (though they always seem to understand it). Some may communicate through telepathy, but all will usually make due with gestures or an artificial means (vocorder or visual display). All NEs should be regarded as dangerous as they have a tendency to either accidentally or intentionally try to obliterate those who approach them. They seem to live apart from one another, but one theory hold that they may in fact be looking for others like themselves. As to how they view humans or mutants, their exact motives are unclear, save that they seem to regard them similarly--whether that means all they encounter are friend, foe, or prey is yet to be seen.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

X-Plorers Now Available!

This is a repost from Exonauts, but I added a few clarifications. Also, a while back Brutorz Bill asked me if it was possible to use X-Plorers as the engine for a post-apocalyptic game. I'm officially throwing the gauntlet down for this challenge! I think it's totally possible, and while I'll keep my own Gamma setting stuff fairly neutral--I dare anyone to make it happen! (In this example dare = hope!). If you attempt it, please shoot me an email or post and link back.

Okay, on with the show....


X-Plorers is now available as a box set, softcover print-on-demand, or a no-art FREE download. You now have THREE WAYS to start conquering the galaxy--and you could be doing so as soon as THIS AFTERNOON while you wait for your box or softcover to arrive in the mail. Here's a look at the inside of the softcover....

The game is rules-light and can be played as-is, but it's REAL strength is in it's ability to be fiddled with under the hood. Personally, I like to tinker and I'm working on my own setting using the rules. If you're looking for more resources to help get started, check out the X-Plorers tab on the top of this blog.

On a side note, the venerable Space Admiral and X-Plorers Publisher John Adams is holding a new character sheet design contest. The winner will receive a FREE box set of the game! So submit your designs to Brave Halfling. UPDATE: the PC sheet size is 5.5 x 8.5" and John has not yet set a deadline. He also reports that there are approximately 50 Boxed Sets are left--but that was a few days ago...

More info:
Anyway, go get your copy and start X-ploring!

American Barbarian gets a publisher!

You may recall me shouting from the rooftops back in May about my love for Tom Scioli's awesome web comic American Barbarian. It turns out my earlier wish will come true: alternative comics publisher AdHouse Books just announced today that it will release the series as a 6"x9" hardcover early next year.

This is great news for Barbaric Americans and anyone with red-white-and-blue hair. Pre-order page is up, but the link isn't quite active yet. I'm ecstatic to see the wonderful work of creators like Scioli and Joe Casey get the real world treatment. Congrats to them and kudos to AdHouse for making it happen.

You better believe I'm getting my mutated mitts on this one!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Gamma Inspiration: Original Kirby Sketches

Here's some original artwork by the King of Comics himself posted over at Bleeding Cool. The top image is an unused cover that Kirby illustrated for Black Magic. Thought this would be a fitting tribute with yesterday being "Kirby Day" (his birthday).

Very cool!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Zardoz Video Game in 8-Bit, Intro

If only it were real. Pray to Zardoz that whomever made this decides to set up a Kickstarter project and finish it!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Punks of the Apocalypse: My Chemical Romance

I dig this music video from My Chemical Romance a la Mad-Max-on-SNL-Laser-Cats-production-values.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Aftermath Illustrations

Boing Boing has a recent post about some illustrations from an old Pageant magazine from the 50s. The artwork is great, even if the articles in the magazine are schlocky. Some of the other illios--which can be found on SF Weekly's website--are slightly disturbing, but the crazy piles of junk might provide inspiration for rubble in a campaign setting.

Check out SF Weekly for more images and their write-up about a truly goofy issue of Pageant.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Thundarr link round-up

What can I say about Thundarr that's not already been said? Nothin. But what I can do is provide a list of awesome Thundarr stuff that will make you wish you were 10 again. Feel free to suggest more links in the comments.

Click image to see a clip of the show's intro






Saturday, August 6, 2011

Casting Call: Alien Overlords

This has been bugging me for a while. I want to be able to visualize what these buggers look like so I can flesh out their stats and give them a proper backstory. I have some ideas for both look and how they should play, but I'm not so wedded to them that I couldn't update it if I was inspired by something really interesting. My only rule is no greys. They're just boring. Yes, they may have seeded our civilization with ancient knowledge about how to construct the pyramids. They're also bland. But that' doesn't mean all cliches are out. So let's start with the obvious--big, headed aliens.


I threw M.O.D.O.K. in there because, well, what the hay--he's freaky lookin'. Beholders are aliens. We all know it. And you've got to pay tribute to the martians. They're the ones who started it all!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Secret Japanese Pyramid Base!

Click to embiggen

Everyone needs one. From Shōnen Magazine, circa 1967 for a Japanese TV program called The King Kong Show.

via Pink Tentacle.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Thundarr Presto Magix

If I had a time machine it would be set for 1981 and I would buy CASES of them. What are Presto Magix? They're like Colorforms where you'd use a pen to transfer the characters onto a battlefield--but full color and permanent. Plus you could "forget" to transfer a leg or a wheel and inflict cool battle damage. I had mostly Star Wars. Maybe a Transformers one, I can't remember. Here's the awesome background.

Thundarr looks awesome. I love that horned whale. What sets did you have?

Props to Branded in the 80s.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Valid Grudge

Valids are a sanctimonious lot that consider themselves the true heirs to humanity, but they believe they have good reason to think so--other than their un-mutated appearances.

After the Cataclysm, humans on the surface did their best to survive. The first generation of mutants that rose from the disaster were beastly and made the survivors their prey. Those humans who hadn't sought shelter underground and not yet succumbed to mutation would fall to one of two fates: mutation or gruesome death by those who had.

Feeling helpless, the now subterranean Valids could only watch quietly from their secure bunkers. They made sure that neither they--nor subsequent generations--ever forgot the horrible fate of their brethren topside. At least, the leaders of the pure strain humans made sure to use the atrocities to their advantage--crafting an impenetrable police state that gave them full power over the populous.

They focused their energies in building incredible underground cities and advanced technologies. In time they flourished, but they still needed resources from the surface so they organized salvage posses. When they re-emerged on the surface they quickly realized they'd technologically surpassed the topsiders and retained a "civilized society".

The Valids long buried their resentment underground, and now they finally had the means and opportunity to vest themselves of a centuries old contempt. Soon their salvage parties were bringing back mutants as prisoners. Valid scientists immediately saw the possibility of testing new advances on near-human subjects without impunity. All too quickly they began sending out more hunting parties, which reaped a bounty of prisoners--so many that they needed a place to stow them until needed. Eventually the experiment became entertainment. Word of the Valids' cruelty spread quickly amongst the mutant tribes and soon it would be their turn to bear a grudge....

Underground city illustration via Comic Book Cartography

Monday, July 25, 2011

New mayhem-filled Rise of the Planet of the Apes trailer

So the new film needs to show two very important things that will determine it's success as a true "Planet of the Apes" successor:

1. Full-on monkey mayhem (preferably with weapons)
2. Apes standing erect as humanoids

DONE and DONE my friends.

I can't believe this comes out in under TWO WEEKS.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

When You Wish Upon a Gamma Ray, Your Dreams Come True...

We all saw Zombieland, yes? Remember the climactic theme park excursion? Now, imagine that about 100 x's bigger, more twisted, with better rides, zombie mascots, android Lincoln, and a labyrinth of underground tunnels for "cast members".

I give you...

(Click to embiggen)

Props to Boing Boing. Maps courtesy of Wishbook. Check out the "Download the Large size of this photo" links for each pic on Wishbook's Flickr pages to get supa' high-res versions suitable for gaming. Our 16th robotic president courtesy Monster Brains.

Gaming with Strangers: Gamma World Play Report Update

A while back I went to the Gamma World Mega Event at the Source (my FLGS) and rolled up a telekinetic yeti (from the Serengeti!) named Psi-Squatch. I didn't get to posting play reports until now as I'd missed several games, but last week I was able to finally join up with a group who had made it's way to the lunar surface. Tonight, ol' Brain Ape goes back to the moon base to wrassle with a couple of space eels. I'll post highlights after the carnage ensues.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fight On! #12 is all about the GAMMA!

Thanks to Sniderman for his post on the latest issue of Fight On! which includes lost of post-apocalyptic goodness, not to mention a submission from former TSR editors James M. Ward and Tim Kask.

Just look at that cover--that's an adventuring party if I ever saw one!

It's available in print or PDF. Oh, and do yourself a favor and use this coupon code: BIG305 to save 20% on orders $100.00 or less. Yes, it works, I just used it to order my copy.

Props to Netherworks for the coupon info.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Appendix "G": Inspirational Sources

Literature, movies, and TV have long served as inspirational sources for games (duh!). Fantasy games in particular have a well known list, created by Gary Gygax and co. that has been amended through time, but it's name has remained: Appendix N. Star Frontiers was among one TSR's early efforts at science fiction and they published a comparable list of sci-fi for that game as well.

It got me thinking that it would be nice to have an "Appendix N" for the Post Apocalyptic genre. And while there's no codified criteria, I think there are some easy ones to list, not to mention a few that I personally enjoy. So I've begun compiling a list, which also includes some of my own choices that may or may not be directly related to P.A. per se. For instance, I'm not sure Buckaroo Banzai counts as post apocalyptic, but it's certainly weird and wahoo enough that I find it inspiring. :)

I'm calling the list Appendix Gamma or Appendix G for short. I've had this on the blog for a while, but I've added several new links recently so it seemed appropriate to call it out. It's not a "complete" list (and that's also kind of on purpose since it's mainly stuff I'm looking to inspire this blog) but at least the "easy" ones are on there. Feel free to drop any other suggestions in the comments.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Punks of the Apocalypse: Bebop and Rocksteady

Two mean mutant mutha's: Bebop the boar and Rocksteady the rhino from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT).

Here's our dubious duo realistically rendered by the talented Dave Rapoza...

Here's artist HORiA DOCiU's take...
From illustrator Jason Heuser...

Deviant artist Basshole...
 David Cutler's interpretation of Bebop...

Original toy concepts by Stephen Murphy...

After the Bomb was a great supplement to the TMNT roleplaying game which had a terriffic system for creating mutants. I still look over that book when I want to roll up mutants, aliens, whatnot.