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Category Archives: Weirdness

Stop the Presses!

One of the perks of living in Southwest Ohio is that I’m not terribly far from the National Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH. It’s a wonderful facility, filled with aircraft and artifacts from every era of flight. Including of course the dawn of flight, appropriate for a museum located not far from the Wright Brothers’ home.

Not long ago we took a family trip to the museum. In the section where they have a Wright Flyer they also have an issue of the Washington Post dated Saturday, July 31st, 1909 that includes the announcement of the Wright Brother’s first flight.

This is a cool thing in itself, but what caught my gamer’s eye were two more articles that also ran on the front page; one is about a new secret weapon rumored to have been developed by the U.S. military and the second regarding a medical breakthrough that would be quite at home in the annals of mad science.

Please excuse the image quality. I had planned to find better shots online, but the Post’s archives are behind a paywall.

WashPost1

The first story is about a death ray that can hurl lighting to, “Make Enemy’s Guns Useless, Slay Men, and Cripple Ships.” The story comes from an anonymous source within a European government, and is used as an explanation for why the U.S. military seemed to have very little interest in the success of the Wright Flyer. The suggestion is that aircraft would be insignificant against an army capable of swatting them out of the sky with lightning bolts.

The second story is unrelated to flight, but no less intriguing:

WashPost2

The topic is a medical procedure being explored in Paris, by which a surgeon could sever a nerve in the brain. Doctor Bonnier believed that removal of this nerve, “relieved greatly persons suffering from melancholia and timidity.” Speculation was that the procedure had, “the possibility of turning a coward into a hero by a surgical operation,” a concept that was of interest in 1909, when everyone knew that another major European war would happen sooner or later.

I couldn’t locate more information on Dr. Bonnier, though I did find reference to the article in a professional journal of Phrenology. However it’s worth noting that the article uses the past tense regarding the doctor’s procedure.

He’d already performed the operation. More than once.

To sum up; we have the front page of a world-renowned newspaper running articles about aircraft, death rays, and medically created supermen.

Happy gaming!

 
 

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Strange, unearthly island, jutting out like a stone blade from the South Pacific?

Check.

Giant insects thought to be long extinct?

Check.

Courageous scientists risking life and limb to discover their secrets and reintroduce them to the populated world?

Check.

I think we all know how this is going to turn out.

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By all means, check out this story from NPR about how the “tree lobster”, long thought extinct, was found to be thriving in the most unlikely of places. The science nerd in me loves the story, and the gamer geek in me sees many possibilities.

Currently I’m leaning towards the rats of Lord Howe Island catching wind of the plan to reintroduce their vanquished foes, leading to their attempts to sabotage the human scientists’ plans. Even if they have to risk revealing their uplifted intelligence to do it.

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Posted by on January 18, 2016 in Cool Stuff, Weirdness

 

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Save us, Space Bear!

This is another one of those wonderful, “What the heck is going on,” sci-fi images. It’s made even better because the look on Space Bear’s face is just as amazed and confused.

We’ve got aborigines, we’ve got what may be a post-apocalyptic ruin in the background, and we’ve got aliens. Why are the flying saucers shooting at the one on the ground? Did Space Bear escape some fiendish alien base by stealing it? Is Space Bear a mutant? An uplift?

This looks like a job for Mutant Futures! Or perhaps Justifiers? It could be a Beta.

Space Bear

Image found on the Infinite Machine Tumblr

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2016 in Cool Stuff, Weirdness

 

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Random Thoughts

My schedule continues to be bad for blogging, but has improved on other fronts.

Gaming: Our gaming group had a rare double-header, holding games two weekends in a row. Our GM is running a GURPS Supers/Horror game, where the adventures feel like a mix between Justice League and Hellboy, and set in 1960’s Florida. For this game I also get to run one of my long standing desires in supers gaming, a heroic duo. My friend and I created two brothers who were subjected to experiments by a mad scientist. This gave them the power to take on the abilities of different animals, much like DC’s Vixen or Animal Man, and like those characters they don’t change shape. However they do take on some physical characteristics as a special effect, such as growing feathers when channeling a bird, fur when channeling a canine, scales for fish, etc…

Their powers are activated or deactivated when the brothers touch, bringing in the inevitable Wonder Twins jokes. The two brothers are polar opposites on philosophy and argue incessantly, but are also protective of each other. Their code names are War and Peace and the animals they channel reflect their differing attitudes. War is a hot head and channels animals like wolf, kestrel, and shark. Peace is a pacifist (and a communist) and takes on animal powers like bloodhound, spider monkey, and dolphin. Their flexibility has made them very useful heroes and a lot of fun to play.

We’re looking forward to playing War and Peace again soon. Of course in a horror game there is the strong possibility of one of us dying. What will the other brother do if this happens?

Well… we did both take the Leatherworking skill…

Projects: My schedule has been bad for a number of things, but it has let me get started on a few projects. One of which is Car Wars related.

My love for Car Wars is well documented. I picked up a copy of the Classic Car Wars box set and a .PDF copy. One of the difficulties with the Car Wars arenas of old is that they came as folded maps and could be a bear to flatten out for game play. Using my PDF I’m printing an arena out in card stock and plan to assemble it on foam core, then play some games using the classic scale and rules. I want a fresh look at the old game to compare with 5th edition. I still have my classic Compendium, but the new box set takes the game back to a more basic form, before there was too much bloat in weapons and equipment. I’m quite pleased with the set and eager to try it out.

I’ve also finally started working on painting miniatures, something I haven’t done since my undergrad days. There are some miniatures I’ve been wanting to acquire and paint, but I know my limitations and I don’t want to invest the cash in something that might end up sitting in the closet undone for years. So I made a deal with myself; if I put a dent in some of the miniatures I already own I’ll go ahead and invest in the ones I want to work on.

To that end I’ve pulled out a couple boxes of Renegade Legion: Centurion anti-gravity tanks that I’ve had sitting in the closet for years. Centurion was another outstanding game from FASA that evokes the feeling of science fiction classics like Hammer’s Slammers. In my opinion it’s a far superior game to Battletech, with tighter and faster rules than it’s stompy-mecha big brother. Once I have enough tanks painted up I plan to pull the game out of mothballs and fire it up. It’s a good goal to work towards and I now have several Renegade medium APCs primed and waiting to go.

What about the miniatures that I want to acquire after I finish my tanks? For that I’ll be turning to the golden age Sci-Fi goodness that is War Rocket.

Adventure Seeds: One of the podcasts/blogs I follow is Skeptoid, a site where they take a critical look at various events and beliefs including cryptozolology, alternative medicine, and urban legends. Recently they ran an article entitled Lost Treasures of the 20th Century, and it’s full of great plot ideas for pulp adventures.

Some of the stories covered in the post are well known to me, such as the lost Nazi gold in Lake Toplitz and the lost Amber Room of the Russian empire (a subject worthy of its own post). Others I had never heard of, such as Yamashita’s Gold and the vanished crown jewels of Ireland. The post gives a nice short summary of these and other lost treasures, any of which would be a great candidate for writing an adventure.

Kung Fury!

Kung Fury is out! It’s free on YouTube in HD! Go! Go now!

Centurion1

Soon my plastic brethren! Soon we ride!

 

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Battle of the Bands

This is what happens when it’s late at night, I’ve been working on servers for eight hours, and I haven’t had enough caffeine.

I get this desire to run a game about inter-planetary war; one between people based on Boston album covers vs beings from Journey album covers. I see them doing battle over the landscape of an Asia album cover. Hey, it can’t be any stranger than the time Journey got their own Atari 2600 game.

But what system to run it with…

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2015 in Science Fiction, Weirdness

 

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More Naturalist Nightmares

Our local NPR station has a fun feature called “The 90 Second Naturalist“.

This is a short done by Thane Maynard, director of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens and each day he shares some fascinating info about the natural world. It’s a ritual in our family to listen to it right before the kids go to bed. Two recent episodes set my gamer’s brain to twitching.

The first was about cone snails, two species of which, “have turned insulin into an underwater weapon.” Cone snails are predators who hunt fish for prey. These snails release a cloud of “weaponized” insulin which the fish suck up through their gills causing their energy to plummet and effectively paralyzing them. Unable to swim away they become an easy meal for the slow moving killers.

Let’s think about that a little more deeply; These species have turned a chemical we all need to survive into a weapon. It doesn’t knock the victim out, it doesn’t render them senseless, and it doesn’t dull their nerves. It saps the energy out of them so they can’t flee from the killer they can see moving inexorably closer to them. Slowly. To devour them. At a snail’s pace.

I do not share such thoughts with my children before bedtime.

The second story that caught my attention was about black widow spiders. It turns out that the black widow’s venom has evolved rapidly and is much stronger than necessary for eating insects. The black widow is capable of killing larger prey, such as small mammals and reptiles. Scientists think that this powerful venom is natures way of expanding the spiders’ menu.

If this news isn’t unsettling enough the episode goes on to say, “scientists have discovered that the spiders are even crafting stronger webs to handle ever-bigger prey.”

We have this image of Mother Nature as some kind, benevolent caretaker of the Earth when in reality she’s a cackling mad scientist, constantly developing new horrors to unleash into the world.

The 90 Second Naturalist airs every weekday on WVXU/WMUB and can be heard on the web at this link.

 

 

 

 
 

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Game Idea From The Bad Astronomer!

I’ve been a fan of Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog for a long time. It’s always full of cool science information and sometimes good articles on skepticism. Phil was even the president of the James Randi Educational Foundation for a while.

Today he posted a link to one of his other blogs. Unfortunately this one is behind a pay wall, but the title alone is enough to inspire gaming ideas.

What headline could be so evocative?

Ancient Radioactive Lunar Volcano!

 
 

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Trying Too Hard

I follow several Tumblr pages devoted to fantasy artwork, especially those of the Old School variety.

One of my favorites is Meanwhile, Back in the Dungeon, which features images both sublime and silly.

This would be of the latter type:

Cattaur

I adore this image. Fantasy artwork is known for being over-the-top and it can be hard to tell where the line is between “awesome” and “trying too hard”. I’m not sure where that line is, but I am sure that this… cattaur? It’s definitely well past that line.

At the same time the swordswoman is far better attired than the norm for fantasy artwork. She’s reasonably armed, posed, and dressed, which somehow makes the overall image even more strange.

This screams “80’s paperback cover”. Does anyone know what it is from?

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2015 in Cool Stuff, Fantasy, Weirdness

 

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This is a Real Thing?

Redemption! The collectable card game of biblical battles.

“Redemption® is a collectible trading card game of biblical adventure. Players use Heroes to rescue Lost Souls, overcoming any Evil Characters that oppose them.”

Redemption Game Website

Christian themed games are nothing new in the gaming industry. Usually they’re pretty lousy but sometimes they have clever ideas, like the fantasy role playing game DragonRaid where characters read bible verses to invoke divine powers. I think that idea is cool and I’m far from being religious.

So finding a Christian collectable card game, let alone one in its 4th edition, isn’t surprising at all. What is surprising is the artwork:

90’s Style God will redeem you, WITH HIS FIST!

Did they get Rob Liefeld to do the artwork? Christian theology says man was created in God’s image. If this cover represents God, then something got lost in the process and I think we’re better off. I kind of like having a ribcage.

I do find some amusement in agents of the divine will competing to see how many souls they can save. “Hah! In your face Gabriel!”

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2015 in Gaming, Weirdness

 

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I’m Losing My Mind(s)!

File this one in the “News of the Weird” department.

From The Raw Story, “The University of Texas at Austin has lost about 100 brains stored in jars of formaldehyde.”

The brains had been transferred to the university almost 30 years ago from a state hospital and were stored in the basement. One of the missing brains may have been that of Charles Whitman, the man responsible for the bell tower shootings on the campus back in 1966. Theories of what happened to the brains include students breaking in and stealing them to use as decorations for their dorm rooms.

However I think we gamers know something far more sinister must be at work here. In the United States a State Hospital is usually an asylum for incarcerating mental patients accused of crimes and found not guilty by reason of insanity. This includes violent crimes, such as those of Charles Whitman. Now 100 brains from such an institution have gone missing.

Sometimes the adventures write themselves.

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Or maybe they just have a hungry Mind Flayer living in the university’s steam tunnels.

These can be especially dangerous if they have tenure.

 

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2014 in Horror, Weirdness

 

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