Cirsova Merch Store Test

Stickied Post

We are trying a thing.

We’ve set up a small merch store through Teepublic.

Teepublic is substantially cheaper to buyers than CafePress and has a reputation for better quality prints. While it’s not quite the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink product approach that CafePress offers, T-Shirts and Coffee mugs tend to suffice.

Right now, the Issue #2 variant cover art and our logo are the only two designs available. If things work out, we may expand the product line to include some other designs.

Until 11 CST, T-Shirts are only $14.

Rumor has it, if you buy soon, you will get it in time for Christmas.

Cirsova Makes the Sad Pookas!

The Sad Pookas is “a recommendation list…for you to consider when deciding on what to nominate for Science Fiction and Fantasy awards, such as the Hugo or the Dragon…composed of Furries and allies to the Furry cause.”

Cirsova has been given a nod for Best Semi-Pro Zine, and I’ve been given a recommendation for best Short Form Editor!

They have a lot of other really great picks, too, particularly Fan Writer and Podcast, both categories significantly overlapping with what I’d probably recommend people check out, myself. Also, Cirsova contributor Donald J. Uitvlugt’s “In the Days of the Witch-Queens” makes their pick for best short story.

Now, while it may seem odd at first glance that Cirsova and the Pulp Revolution folks at places like the Puppy of the Month Book Club have caught the eye of the Furry community, keep in mind that Furries have SFF fans among them just like any other group, and anthros are actually a pretty common feature in science fiction and fantasy. But, you tend to get your talking gorillas, cat people, wolf-men, etc. in the kind of wild and fun anything-goes SFF that has been championed by the likes of the Pulp Revolution crew.

For the curious, I did an interview with The QuQu and Dan Wolfgang, the driving duo behind QuQu Media, which can be found here at Castalia House.

 

Guest Post – Craters of Doom: A review of Barbarians of Mars/Masters of the Pit by Michael Moorcock

Guest Post by J. Comer.

The genre of sword-and-planet, popular in the decades after 1912’s A Princess Of Mars, `was showing its age by 1965.  Increased telescopic resolution had failed to show the fabled canals on Mars, and Venus seemed less likely to resemble the Mesozoic below its clouds.  Leigh Brackett framed her 1950s Martian tales as colonial critiques, and Robert Heinlein’s Red Planet had showed terraforming as necessary.  Finally Kenneth Bulmer (Transit to Scorpio), L. Sprague de Camp (the Viagens Interplanetarias series) and Brackett would move their sword-and-planet tales out of the Solar System entirely.

Yet it was in this Solar System setting that Michael Moorcock paid homage to Burroughs with his early Sojan the Swordsman and the much better Kane of Old Mars series.  Moorcock had already debuted his best-known hero, Elric, in 1961, but had not completed the Elric series.  The three Kane books were homages to Burroughs’ sword-and-planet material: an Earth hero is transported to another world, has swashbuckling adventures with a native pal, and wins the love of a human-like princess.  Moorcock, writing as “Edward P. Bradbury”, imagines that Michael Kane, his hero, travels to the Mars (“Vashu”) of the Cretaceous era, since by 1965, it was clear that the Mars of our era is inhospitable (as Otis Adelbert Kline had noted in The Swordsman of Mars).  Time travel seemed better, probably, than abandoning Mars entirely.

The third book, Barbarians of Mars, is representative of the Kane series.  Kane appears and tells his story to Bradbury, Moorcock’s “fictional author” persona.  In the tale, Kane sets out on an adventure with his Tars Tarkas- like friend, Hool Haji, a Martian ‘blue giant’.  A plague is ravaging Mars, and has driven the folk of Cend-Amrid to destroy their machines.  Kane seeks a cure amidst the ruins of the ancients, and is captured by pirates. He fights them and wins the help of the cat people.  The machines prove useless as disease-ridden Martians advance to spread the plague, which like the lancet fluke can control the mind of its host.  Finally the hero, whose home city evacuates for fear of the plaguey horde, finds a man with a cure. But will there be time? The book is an enjoyable light read.

The ending is written to suggest a sequel (and a villain’s return?), but the summer of 1965 brought the end of fifty-three years of Barsoom-like adventure novels.  The photos sent back by Mariner 4 showed neither cities nor canals, but a cratered, Moon-like world.  (Likewise, Lin Carter’s Callisto series ended in 1978, with the arrival of Voyager 1  at Jupiter). Moorcock wrote no more Kane of Old Mars novels.  Sword-and-planet gave way, in Moorcock’s work, to the apex of his career, with the Eternal Champion meta-series, in which Kane was included retrospectively. For Moorcock, Mars  may have cratered, but adventure is eternal.

1280px-first_tv_image_of_mars
By NASA/JPL/Dan Goods – NASA Photojournal, Public Domain, Link
 

J. Comer is a writer and teacher. His story “The Wooing of Etroklos” appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of Cirsova.

 

Gutters, Guilds and Grimoires

We’ve finally got a “rulebook” for Gutters, Guilds & Grimoires, with a few tweaks and a few things which had existed but weren’t written down anywhere so never got used all that much, and the playtesting continues!

I dare say, our last session may have been one of our most awesomepic yet.

We didn’t really have any major storyline quests going on, since our last session not only resolved a major arc, it also cut off a handful of other plots because of certain PCs dying. But we did still have a favor we could do for the Rat King. When he’d said, though, that there were rats who weren’t obeisant to his authority, we hadn’t been thinking heavily armed rat-men…

The party lost two PCs, an arm and a leg.

We cleared out the nest of rats, but one PC died and another almost died, getting his arm cut off at the shoulder by a ratman with a Zweihander.

::ratman crit succeeds on his attack:: “Wait a sec, we’re fighting in a 5-foot corridor, surely the rat can’t use a Zweihander to maximum efficiency in these circumstances!”

::DM relents, rolls again to give the ratman disadvantage on his attack and crit succeeds again::

Despite being somewhat tanky, my character still had kinda lame armor and a crossbow bolt to the leg from the rat sentry forced me to play it cautiously – I’d just lost a nearly 4000 XP character, I wasn’t going to lose a 400 XP character on his second session. Ranged attacks are a bitch in this system, as at least one person is bound to get hit while closing the distance, and crossbows, the most common weapon, ignore a point or two of damage reduction from armor. So, after killing all of the ratmen except for the one with the Zweihander, I sold most of my belongings and begged 10 silver off two other characters so I could get a chain hauberk, upping my armor/damage reduction to 4. That means that Jonthony, newly promoted Corporal of the Watch on Special Detachment, is going to be only susceptible to ping damage except against the heaviest hitters. My tank is finally tanky, and it’s gonna be awesome.

Confident from our victory over the ratmen, we roped two other newly rolled up rubes to go back into the sewer with us to look for that last ratman (we wanted his sword, damnit!) Ratman was long gone, though we busted down the door he’d locked himself behind the day before. We sent in one of the new PCs first; just a friendly hazing, “don’t worry, we’ve got your back!” New guy was nearly killed by a ghoul-thing, and one of our other heavies got paralyzed. Luckily, my new armor kept me safe and I was able to slice it to bits.

We spent a little too long playing Morrowind with the crates hoping to find precious liquor or other vendor trash, and we ended up having to fight a sewer mutant chimera. It proved pretty damn nasty and bit the leg off one of our other fighters, but we managed to kill it, too.

Low HP Fights

Because this is such a low HP system, all of these fights were incredibly skin-of-the-teeth. But, just as my guy getting taken out a bit early put a real damper on our combat strength, the same can and has happened to enemies we’ve fought. Unless you can secure some sort of real tactical advantage, there’s a very real chance in every fight that you’re getting a broken nose, a lopped off limb, or outright killed. I’d say we were closely matched against the ratmen: 3 fighters, a magic user, and a rogue against 6 ratmen (2 pikers, 3 xbow, & zweihander). The magic user in our party was probably the equalizing factor, and he’s the one who got his arm cut off and very well could still die from it (it happened in a sewer, so I would not be surprised if he dies of sepsis).

Armor as soak

The very low player HP in this system (Grit), represents not actual wounds, but minor dings, bruises, and stamina lost in a fight. Most characters who’ve died or been permanently maimed have been done in by fewer than 4 hits. Getting chainmail for my character was a big deal – with damage reduction of 4, I was able to take 3 hits and still have more than half of my grit. It’ll be interesting to see how finally having a heavily armored character in this system will change the combat dynamics.

Regaining HP/grit vs Healing

While there are “healers” and magical healing in the system, they have more to do with reducing the number of weeks it takes for broken bones to heal or keeping severe wounds from getting infected. Fun tidbit: the character who got an arm lopped off was just about to have his leg, which had been broken in one of our first sessions, finally all healed up. No amount of magical healing will let the character regrow his arm, but there’s a chance that diabolists can grow him a new one for some exorbitant fee.

Part of the incredibly low HP/grit is somewhat mitigated by the ease in which it can be recovered. Consumable vice goods restore half of one’s missing points rounded up – it is not entirely unlike Popeye and his spinach, where the fighter can pull out a flask of bourbon, take a couple swallows and get a second wind. This has given my character a chance to develop his identity – after a fight he can smoke a victory cigar to regain a chunk of his missing HP. His “Hearten Ally” ability he got when he upgraded from Watch Recruit to Man-At-Arms also means that after a fight he can slap somebody on the shoulder, tell em they did a good job, and go get back into the trenches, so they can recover 2 points of grit. At this point, he’s going to basically turn into ‘the Old Sergeant’ character from every WW2 movie ever, which is gonna be awesome.

Economy

One thing I’ve noticed is that part of the glue that holds the system together is keeping the characters in perpetual penury. It’s a silver based system, but unlike many silver based systems, copper is not only common, it’s the primary coinage one will earn and spend on everyday items. Weapons and armor costs are silver, while food, lodging, and most simple amenities cost a few coppers. There are mechanisms in place that keep characters from jumping straight from poverty into the middle class from one or two successful adventures, but a DM would have to use them. We haven’t really seen the effect yet of a massive influx of treasure, so there’s no telling how a Monty Haul DM could break the system.

We’ve played for months, and our party has amassed power enough to be an influential part of our city’s ecosystem, but no one has freewheeling cash spending money. The 5 SP each the other two fighters loaned me for armor was no small sum, and only a fraction of the 75 SP I needed for my chainmail. I think that the way we’ll need to test the system next is to see what happens if we are able to actually sell every scrap of equipment and vendor trash we come across. Too bad we’re getting out of the organized crime business, because a single hit on a merchant or noble with more than a few hundred silver could be game-breaking. We’ve just never been in a situation to find out.