Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Brainstorming an OSR kaiju franken-game

With that thing known as "real life" looming larger than usual these days, I'm somewhat consciously allowing myself to only obsess about one gamer "project" at a time.  Luckily, I've been able to stick to that pretty well as I daydream about what I'm just referring to as an "OSR kaiju game"...that is, a game involving giant monster combat that's at least vaguely inspired by old school D&D-based RPGs.  And since that fits this blog pretty nicely, I might as well brainstorm here...

Scale (Part 1)

While pretty much any miniatures-based game can be shifted up or down in scale, I'd like to keep something specific in mind as I imagine and fiddle with minis-oriented aspects of these OSR kaiju rules.  (Isn't playing with toys half the reason to play a kaiju game, anyway?)  I played in a 6mm battle earlier this year and think it's time I gave the scale a much better look.  It's convenient for quickly visualizing the size of an element on the table, since it has an easy 1 foot = 1 mm conversion factor.  There's a fair amount of 6mm miniature stuff out there already.  And, most importantly, it seems like it'll hit a "sweet spot" where monsters really can be the most imposing forces on the battlefield without having to reduce everything else to unrecognizable bits and pieces.  A common tank should be about an inch long at this scale; that seems about right to me.

Scale (Part 2)

As far as managing battles among forces of different sizes, I think I'll go with something like the size categories I proposed a little while back.  Basically, the stats assigned to any being are presented as if it's a human-sized D&D character.  So, for example, a 150-foot giant monster with a Strength of 10 only has average strength if you're comparing it to other 150-foot monsters.  Damage, to-hit probabilities, and attribute tests can be further adjusted according to where an individual falls on the size scale.  In the previous entry, I threw this together:

Size Category (sort-of-rounded average height in meters/feet)
Small (1/3)
Medium (2/6)
Large (4/12)
Optimus Prime (8/25)
King Kong (16/50)
Godzilla Junior (32/100)
Godzilla (64/200)

I think I'll keep working within this framework.  I do want to extend the scale a bit in both directions (so garden gnomes can get in on the action, and to allow for even gianter giant monsters), and my working method eases up on the mechanical jump from one size category to another.  Right now, I'm trying to let each step on the size ladder represent a +/-1 to hit and a +/-1d8 damage.

So that's where I am.  More to come.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Monster Monday: The Creature That Couldn't Die

All 'bout we take a few moments this #MonsterMonday to check out another Kaiju of the Silver Age?  This evening's entry encountered my favorite Silver Age hero (or...close, at least) in 1960's Showcase #24.  This would be Hal Jordan's final Showcase appearance before gaining his own title a few months later.  It's also the first time he shared a cover with a giant monster.  Which I think is pretty cool.  (It's something I've never done.)

Here is The Creature That Couldn't Die (hereafter TCTCD): this image from here...

Unfortunately, I only own this story in black and white (in the GL Showcase trade), and I don't have access to a scanner at the moment (just an outdated digital camera), so there are probably going to be a couple of janky pics following.  I did find one nice color image on the web that gives a little idea of TCTCD's scale and general kaiju-ness...

...and got this one from here...

TCTCD started life as a blob in a test tube.  We don't really know anything more about what it's made of, as the scientist responsible for its creation literally says (as he sees it growing in the tube):  "Great stars!  What's happening to the blob I placed in the test tube?"  A natural reaction, I suppose...although understandable when your research is on...wait for it...cosmic rays!

So...blob placed in test tube...cosmic rays turn it into a giant monster...giant monster rampages.

In typical daikaiju fashion, the usual modes of defense just aren't helping:

As luck would have it, the scientists who witnessed the genesis of the monster happen upon GL, who heads off to halt the destruction.  There's a twofold challenge for Hal, though:  First, because every Silver Age GL story apparently required Hal to work around his ring's weakness, TCTCD fires yellow beams from its eyes.  More importantly, though, being powered by a constant bombardment of cosmic rays makes the beast too powerful for even a Green Lantern ring to defeat.

Except that...well, Hal has an idea.  Maybe if he can block off the monster's power source, he can weaken it.  For extra irony, why not block the cosmic rays with a GIANT test tube construct...?  The results are remarkable:

TCTCD shrinks to become a lifeless blob, revealing as he does that his path of destruction was only a result of his own clumsiness.  His final words:

Now at last...thanks to you...I am no longer a myself...or world...

I unfortunately didn't come upon this story while I was a kid, because I think that would have been one of those comic book moments that would have stuck with me.

It's also a bit unfortunate that, even with that result, GL's encounter with the creature is sort of anticlimactic.  Around half the story is devoted to Hal's interactions with Carol Ferris...all that she-only-loves-Green-Lantern-and-how-ironic-that-I'm-him-but-I-can't-tell-her stuff.  Sometimes, though, I guess that's half the charm of these old stories.

As with last week, I'm not gonna stat this guy(?) up (yet).  I've been doing a lot of daydreaming about an OSR-based kaiju game, so when I start brainstorming for that here on the blog, I'll work in the Silver Age monsters I've covered.  Stats aside, though, I would like to be able to give an idea of how big this thing is...but the scale is pretty tough to figure on this one.  Based on the number of floors in the buildings it's next to when Hal defeats it, you could argue that TCTCD should only be about 70 feet tall.  In some shots, though, it looks like it's towering over skyscrapers in the Coast City skyline.  Maybe it's variable due to the effects of the rays...?

For simplicity, when I stat it up, TCTCD will probably stand around 100 feet.  That seems like a nice basic size for metropolitan kaiju.

Hopefully, I'll get my #MonsterMonday post up a little earlier next week...and hopefully with another giant creature from the Silver Sixties...!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Saturday Evening Cartoon: 1967 Fantastic Four cartoon (completely out of context)

The Fantastic Four animated series that ran from 1967-1970 on ABC has some funny moments.

Y'know what makes those moments even funnier, though?  Taking them completely out of context and stringing them together to make a collage of superheroic cartoon nonsense.  I really like this video...

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Another Dogwood City Drabble

Time for another foray into Dogwood City Drabble, in which I indulge my obsession with constructing 100-word stories based on Dogwood City characters (and presenting them to the world).

Today's edition features the greatest archer of the Dogwood City universe...the Arrow!

Quivering Words

featuring the Arrow

First rule of being a vigilante archer:  Know your arrows.

No one is better at this than the Arrow himself.  It’s more than a science.  It’s poetry.  A web arrow here…a smokescreen arrow there…whatever it takes to get the job done and make a statement.  He always has his words at the ready.

Right now, though, the Arrow doesn’t need a poem.  This isn’t a job demanding subtlety.  Reaching back without hesitation, he pushes aside a dozen clever turns of phrase and pulls out three exclamation points.

You can never really have too many boxing glove arrows, now can you?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Monster Monday: Kaiju of the Silver Age

If there's one thing I'd like others to say about me, it's that I can appreciate a good giant monster.  (Actually, that'd be way down on the list, but please trust me, I can appreciate a good giant monster.)

I'm also a pretty big fan of the Silver Age of comics.  The era that gave us the Green Lantern Corps, the Fantastic Four, the Challengers of the Unknown, Adam Strange, Animal Man, Thanagarian police officers protecting the Earth, and so on (for days...) is always worth celebrating.

I'm a lucky man, because the two are pretty much inseparable!  There's probably a lot that could be written about this connection (by folks a lot more knowledgeable than I).  It's interesting that superhero comics as we know them today and Japanese tokusatsu were forged in the same post-atomic era, were informed by the same drive-in movie aesthetic, and followed many of the same themes.  While the giant monsters of Silver Age comics rarely reached Godzilla's stature (physically or culturally), American superheroes tangled with daikaiju in one form or another quite a bit.  (Check out this post by Hugh Fox III, where he gives a really cool overview of DC heroes' encounters with giant monsters in the Silver Age...and a great starting point for checking out Marvel's contributions!)

Here on Monstrous Matters...and especially on days like today when we celebrate a fine #MonsterMonday...I was thinking it'd be fun to take a look at some of the iconic, near-iconic, or should-be-iconic giant monsters from Silver Age comics.  I'll start things off with one of the most important of the era, because we see it on the cover of one of the most important books of the era:

By the time Marvel Comics entered the heroic era with FF#1 in 1961, the company (along with its very recent predecessor Atlas Comics) was already known for the monsters it was putting out.  And when you have Jack Kirby on board to draw these awesome creatures...well, why not?  I think there's something very fitting about the cover to Marvel's first Silver Age superhero comic featuring a hero in the Human Torch that followed the DC Comics recycle-a-Golden-Age-super method, a giant monster as the antagonist, and a hero that helped define the Marvel approach to supers by being a "monster" himself (the Thing, of course).

That guy the FF is fighting...that's Giganto, a resident of Monster Isle and servant to the Mole Man.  Here's how we're introduced to it in the story...

To be honest, we don't learn much about Giganto at the time.  We have an idea that it's subterranean in nature...and we know it's big and strong...but the issue's action actually ends pretty soon after his appearance, as (spoiler alert) the team escapes the Mole Man's underground lair, and Johnny creates a rock slide that seals off the beasts that have been enslaved by the villain.

Giganto would make more appearances in the Marvel Universe.  When possible, his role in that iconic Silver Age cover is referenced.  Like here...

...and here...

...and here...

...and here, the book where we're finally able to learn Giganto's name...

I normally like to stat up these creatures when I post about them on a #MonsterMonday, but I don't know that it's worth it in this case.  Giganto would basically be a big (60', apparently) beastie with enough hit dice to be a threat and the ability to dig and hold its breath underwater pretty well.  At the moment (which is getting pretty late on Monday), I'd rather just appreciate the huge (no pun intended) role Giganto has had in the history of comics, and give it a big hand (pun intended) for that.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Saturday Evening Cartoon: The Boy Who Learned to Fly (Usain Bolt)

If I ever start to think that some of the names that show up in comics are just a little too coincidentally perfect to take seriously...y'know, characters like Victor Fries or John Henry Irons...I remember that the fastest man in the world is named Usain Bolt.

Here's one final Olympic-related post before the Games end...a little tribute to one of the most superhuman people of our time ( presented by Gatorade, so...well, product placement...).

Friday, August 19, 2016

Modern Pentathlon: The RPG

The Rio Olympics come to a close in just a couple of days, and today marks day 2 of competition in one of the oddest events to maintain its status in the Games: the modern pentathlon.

Here's a quick video guide for those interested...

Most of us are probably somewhat familiar with the decathlon and heptathlon, track and field competitions that combine a variety (a total of ten and seven, respectively...naturally) of events so that men and women can run, jump, and throw their way to being declared the world's best athletes.

Compared to those, the modern pentathlon is kinda weird.  It has running, swimming, fencing, shooting, and horseback riding (specifically jumping with an unfamiliar horse).  When I first paid attention to the sport, I thought it looked like a reality competition for spies.  Apparently, it really was created with the idea of including things that were important for a cavalry officer to be skilled at in the early part of last century.  George S. Patton...later to be known simply by his surname...even competed in the first event in 1912!

In thinking about it lately, I've realized that the events of the modern pentathlon could also define a great RPG adventurer. it is...

Modern Pentathlon: The RPG

All characters start at level 1 and have 5 points to divide among the following skills: Running, Swimming, Riding, Shooting, and Swordsmanship.  Whenever a task is attempted that has a chance of failure, a player rolls 1d20 and adds their character's level and rating in the relevant skill.  If the total meets or exceeds a target number, the attempt is successful.

Target numbers match the ranges used in some of the games you're already familiar with.  A moderate task will have a difficulty of 10, a difficult task will be 15, and a very difficult task should be around 20.  In combat, use armor/defense class as the target.  When facing off in a sword-fight, characters can make opposed rolls, with the winner dealing damage to the loser.  If in doubt, damage should be dealt 1d8 at a time.

At the beginning of each adventure, players roll 1d12 for each level of their characters.  This is the maximum HP of the character for that adventure.  For each successful adventure, a character gains a level and can distribute 3 more points among the five skills.

If a character ever attempts a task that doesn't have an associated skill, the GM can houserule that players may double their level bonus to the roll.  But...this is the Modern Pentathlon RPG, so c' with me here.  If the adventure isn't all about running, swimming, riding...and so should probably play something else.

David Svoboda
2012 Olympic Modern Pentathlon gold medalist
(and an actual Czech military officer)
Level 5, 33 HP
Running 4, Swimming 1, Riding 4, Shooting 2, Swordsmanship 6

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

I may have found just the setting for your next horror game...

The wife and I happened upon this place while traveling around the Great Smoky Mountains yesterday.  I can't say I know much of the history of the Teddy Bear Motel, but I found an image on the web of an old business card for the place, which may have been made during its heyday.

Here's the back of said business card:

I have a feeling the place could be a pretty creepy spot anyway.  It has a very Batman-villain feel to it.  This is only enhanced by the fact that by the time we drove by it yesterday, it had fallen to this state:

I don't really know why part of it is taped off...

...and part of it isn't...

...but the fact that it was apparently abandoned recently enough that when I got out to take a few pictures, I could still hear a smoke detector calling for a new battery, added a little touch of the macabre somehow.

Is it standard procedure to just leave most of the doors open when you have a motel sitting around hoping to be sold?

Oh, and here's a great place to stuff some bodies:

Thankfully, Laura picked up enough of a haunted house vibe that she wanted to stop off for some pictures.  There was also an abandoned Teddy Bear Restaurant right next to it.  I kind of regret not getting any shots of that...

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Saturday Evening Cartoon: Misha, mascot of the 1980 Moscow Olympics

I posted one for the home team with the Sam the Olympic Eagle here's a cartoon that seems like a great companion piece.

Hope y'all are feeling the Olympic spirit!

(Oh, and if you don't feel like watching the whole story, I highly recommend skipping ahead to 7:54 so you can hear the closing song!)

Thursday, August 11, 2016

IDW Crossover Sale

As of the time I write this, there's a sale going on for digital versions of various crossover series from IDW Publishing.  I don't know how long it's been running, or how long these sales usually last, but there's some really worthwhile stuff there.  Besides the fact that IDW is the publisher for licensed they have a great stable of their own to mix together...they've also done some crossovers with DC that are taken straight from a fanboy's Christmas list.  Like this dream series:

Here's the link to the sale at IDW's site, and here's the comiXology link (the .com version) if you prefer that.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Dogwood City Drabble

So here's something new for this blog: original fiction!  Why?

Well...why not?

I've been thinking lately about figuring out a way to elaborate on the characters of Dogwood City (my supers setting based on public domain characters).  At the same time, I've become a fan of the drabble (a micro-story), and specifically those that stick to a specific word count.  So, why not combine the two?

Gotta say...the superhero drabble thing is pretty fun to write!  I'm thinking it might be the next big thing in speculative fiction. should be.  If anyone else wants to write a 100-word superhero story, I'd love to read it!

Here's my first crack at it:

Decision at Midnight

featuring Cub

Cub looked down at his gloves.  He could see a glimmer of blood shining under the pale streetlight.  It had only taken him two punches to bring the hood down and render him nearly unconscious.

Black Lion would be proud.  He’d barely approved this first solo patrol for the young sidekick, but results like this should help.  Now, what was it that Black Lion always said about fighting criminals?

The first punch is survival.  The second is justice.  The third is vengeance.  You have to figure out where you’re going to draw your line.

Cub gritted his teeth and swung.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Monster Monday: The Mugato

I finally saw Star Trek Beyond yesterday.  (I thought it was pretty good; my initial feeling is that it's better than Into Darkness but not as good as the first reboot film.  Opinions subject to change.)

So, Trek is stuck in my mind today, and that got me thinking about a book from my squandered youth...

In the 7th grade, I won a trivia contest at my school.  Actually, for some reason they randomly asked one trivia question over the intercom, and then awarded a prize to the first student who could make it to the library with the answer.  I think it must have been some sort of national reading day/week or something.  I remember that the question involved Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart."

At any rate, after racing my friend Griff to the library, I was allowed to pick out a prize from a rack of books.  (Griff also got one; the librarian decided that it was only fair to call it a tie.)  I chose The Monsters of Star Trek.

Now, as far as I know, this isn't anything close to a classic of Trek literature.  For a while, however, it was my definitive encyclopedia for the creatures of Star Trek (and I do love how the title uses the word "monsters" rather than "aliens").  While I think the first version had a Gorn on it, I had the second edition picured above, and that guy on the cover, the Mugato, became the quintessential Trek beast to me.

If you're a fan of old toys, you might know the Mugato as the monster that for some unknown reason was put into a funny alien uniform when he was made into an action figure (image from the Mego Museum)...

For today's Monster Monday, I figured I'd whip up some quick stats for the Mugato (for general d20-based gaming...see the GRIND for more info):

Level 6
5 HD
Exceptional Constitution, Superhuman Strength
+1 Defense from natural armor

2 arm strikes (1D damage)
1 horn (1D damage)
1 bite (1D damage + poison)

A victim of a Mugato bite must make a successful saving throw vs. poison/Constitution or become poisoned.  Until they receive appropriate medical care, they will endure 1D damage per hour that passes after the bite.


Here are the Mugato's entries at Memory Alpha and Memory Beta.

And finally, here are some great Mugato renderings from DeviantArt that really caught my eye...


my toon version of mugato from star trek the original series. mugato

Domo Arigato Mr. Mugato

originally posted on my sketchblog: The Mugato from the original Star Trek series--the version on the left is based on the crea...


Blah, blah, blah....... Mugato

Mugato Love

This one spent a while in WIP status, hehe. Wanted to perfect it. Wanna give a shoutout to the peeps at, who helped me tremendously with all of their comments and suggestions! And ...


Disegno a grafite acquarellata - Pubblicato all'interno del LOG 4 - Senato delle Razze - Star Trek Italian Club Mugato

Sunday, August 7, 2016

MM gets the Six of the Best treatment...!

Tim over at HeroPress was kind/confused enough to feature Monstrous Matters in today's edition of his Six of the Best series.  Tim's blog is one that I make sure to check out every day, and if I may be so bold, I think that you should too.  You can see the interview here if you'd like...and please don't hold this choice of interviewee against Tim; he does great work!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Saturday Evening Cartoon: 1967 Green Lantern short

Continuing the focus on Green Lantern media, here's the first GL short from 1967-8's Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure.  Pretty cool cartoon, even if the changes to the Guardians and Tom are a little...baffling...

Friday, August 5, 2016

I'll write it here for all the world to read: The Green Lantern movie was not that bad!

With Suicide Squad's release...and some less-than-stellar views from seems that people's thoughts are naturally turning to the history of DC's hits and (perhaps more often) misses on the big screen.  (Quick note:  I haven't seen Suicide Squad yet, and while I'm disheartened by the critical reception, I'm encouraged by the number of people who are stepping up in their own corners of the internet to say, No, it's not that bad...and it might actually be pretty good!)

Over at Rotten Tomatoes on Tuesday, they posted a gallery of DC's superhero movies, ranked best to worst according to the famous Tomatometer.  Now, there are some clear issues with the methodology.  Glancing at the list reveals that some of the obvious entries are about where they should be...such as The Dark Knight and the first two Christopher Reeve Superman films leading the charge, and Catwoman falling near the end.  I'm not sure that Supergirl should be last...but the biggest problem is probably with Tim Burton's 1989 Batman.  How in the world is it #10?  This may not seem so bad when you consider that most of the films above it could be argued as better works...but, it's rather laughably wedged in between Superman Returns and Watchmen.

Superman Returns beat Batman.

Okay...yes...these things are what they are, and there are going to be some differences from one list to another.  One thing that I don't see much variance in, though, concerns this movie:

Why is it that I hardly ever see GL at least given a little bit of credit for being a fun movie?  Please note that, in that Rotten Tomatoes list, it falls a full two spots below The Return of the Swamp Thing.

Now, I know I'm a little biased, as the Lanterns are some of my absolute favorite characters in comics.  Is it a great movie?  No, mysterious question-asker, it's not great, and Guardians of the Galaxy did eventually come along and show us what a fun, superheroic, space-based movie with a wisecracking leading man could amount to.

However, the makers of Green Lantern seemed to know what kind of a property they were dealing with, and they made a movie to match.  Green Lantern is a story about a guy who becomes a space cop when he gets a magic ring from a dying magenta alien.  It has no choice but to wear its Silver Age pedigree on its sleeve, and it has a little fun with it.  There's the joke about the domino mask not really concealing his identity from Carol...the time he makes the Hot Wheels track...heck, the climax of the movie has Hal just making a huge green fist and punching the crap out of the bad guy.  Why aren't more viewers acknowledging that there's something a little bit awesome about that?

I try not to be a DC fanboy/conspiracy theorist, but I do wonder a bit if falling into the Marvel Cinematic Universe could have given GL a little push toward acceptance.  I don't really see it falling short compared to say, Thor, which came out the same year and similarly celebrates some Silver Age themes.  I like Thor, but I don't see how it falls on the side of the line marked good, while GL will be forever relegated to the side marked crap.

Perhaps the worst result of the GL response is the fact that, had it been more of a hit, we might see a very different DC Extended Universe taking shape.  Green Lantern looks like it was DC's one shot at making serious-but-fun superhero flick in the general style of the MCU.  When it didn't work as planned, they took the opposite route, which includes stuff like putting Zack Snyder in charge of the Justice League.  The DCEU is now trying to "recover" when it never really got started, and the spirit hinted at in GL is only put to good use on the small screen with The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow.

We're not even getting a Lantern in the first Justice League flick, apparently.  That 2011 film really did a number on GL's place in the DC Universe.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Monster Monday: The Dot

I wasn't sure what I wanted to feature for today's #MonsterMonday, so I conducted an informal survey of my cats to see what they would like to read about.  They were nearly unanimous in requesting the most frustrating creature they have ever encountered...

The Dot

The Dot in the wild.  Image from

Very little is known about the true origins of The Dot.  The most common belief is that it is a semi-sentient, extradimensional being that enters our realm for the sake of curiosity.  However, many people believe that it is actually a hyperintelligent creature made of pure energy that desires only to drive us mad.  Most cats do agree on one thing:  They need to get it.

A number of variants of The Dot have been reported, including green and red forms.  These may be different individuals or alternative expressions of the same mystical force.  The Dot is usually seen in close proximity to small cylindrical machines of no apparent use or value, although a connection between the two has never been confirmed.

The Dot is often found near beings of feline heritage, as well as (strangely) projections of PowerPoint presentations.

Here are some basics for using The Dot in your game.  The rules are presented in the generic form of the GRIND...which I plan on overhauling at some point in the near future...

Level 5
3 HD
Exceptional DEX, expertise in Stealth (Hiding/Moving silently)
No defense bonus due to armor

Attack:  1 sting (1D damage)

The Dot can only be damaged by magical or super-scientific weapons.

While capable of a painful and potentially deadly sting, The Dot rarely engages in combat.  Its most common action is to speed in between and around the appendages of beings who observe it, occasionally moving onto walls or other surfaces.  It will often disappear from view entirely; in these cases, it may be hiding beneath another structure or temporarily located in its dimension of origin.

Whenever The Dot unexpectedly disappears, any character that attacked it in the last round of combat must make a roll/save vs. Wisdom (or Sanity, if your game has that).  If successful, the character is unaffected.  On a failed roll, however, the character gains 1 Dot Madness point.  Acquiring these points leads to the following penalties:

1 point:  1 in 6 chance of being unable to act in any round.
2 points:  3 in 6 chance of being unable to act in any round.
3 points:  Unable to take actions, temporary penalty of 10 to Intelligence
4 points:  Falls unconscious.

Dot Madness points disappear at a rate of 1 per 15 minutes' time and can be cured by magical means.

Unsurprisingly, it wasn't difficult to find a ton of videos online that feature cats facing off against this horror...

(Also, I don't have The Cat Hack and have no idea if there's something like this already featured there; if so, my apologies for any toes I may have stepped on.  And if not...well, here's a monster that you might want to use in The Cat Hack...)