Outline for a Force of July Solo Book

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The Jihad have been hired by an unknown agent to orchestrate a major terrorist attack.

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Lady Liberty and Mayflower have been invited to sing the National Anthem at a championship game between the Metro Bay Minutemen and Gotham Knights.

One of the Gotham Knights has been kneeling during the anthem, making a spectacle and it’s expected that all of the Knights will be kneeling at this game.

Sparkler’s angry—“How could they disrespect the flag and soldiers and police like that?! Someone should force them to stand!”

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Major Victory—“No, Sparkler. Dark as times might be, this is still America, and they still have freedom of speech, even if that speech is disrespectful.”

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While the ladies prep to sing the Anthem, Sparkler is given a tour of the Minutemen locker-room; he notices one of the players looks like Rustam. He finds one of the Minutemen tied up and gagged in a janitor’s closet, his uniform missing. Sparkler passes the warning along to Major Victory and Silent Majority.

Major Victory chases Rustam, who is cut off by Silent Majority’s duplicates. Rustam reveals that Jaculi has swapped out the Knights’ kneepads for detonator triggers—when they kneel, it will set off bombs that have been placed in the stands.

Mayflower tries to stall for time, but Lady Liberty insists that the National Anthem must be sung. Abe Lincoln Carlisle has scanned the stadium with his supercomputer, and informs the team it’s a ruse—there are no detonators in the kneepads; the Jihad wanted to create the bad optic of the Force of July trying to stop the football players from kneeling.

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As Lady Liberty sings the National anthem, Djinn appears on the jumbo-tron, declaring that nothing can stop the Jihad. The screens and lights shatter, causing pandemonium in the crowd. Silent Majority helps the police and soldiers who were being honored that night rescue the injured and evacuate the stadium.

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Other members of Jihad appear on the field, as Major Victory, Sparkler, and Mayflower spring into action. Mayflower quips about being glad they didn’t opt for astroturf as she uses grass tendrils in the fight.

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Through the fighting, Lady Liberty keeps singing the Star Spangled Banner. One by one, kneeling players stand, tears in their eyes. “Those cops and soldiers out there helping people–it’s time we helped them!”

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Their plans foiled and completely outnumbered, the Jihad are captured.

Story ends with a peroration from Major Victory on the importance of the Anthem and respecting the sacrifices made for the country. “Just remember why you have free speech the next time you think you should kneel.”

Resurrecting Hitler: Generally the Worst Idea

The first big Outsiders arc after Looker’s origin is a second invasion of Markovia. Baron Bedlam’s back with a cadre of Soviet soldiers, he’s kidnapped the royal family and the kingdom is on the verge of falling before the Red Army and the Master of Disaster. Also, he has a harebrained scheme to resurrect Hitler. Bedlam died after the first war in Markovia, but a chubby German mad scientist lady was able to bring him back to life via cloning, memories intact. Bedlam’s great idea was to get her to do the same for Hitler. It worked out as poorly as you’d expect from this kind of thing, only with the twist that, given a Jewish maid-servant who was supposed trigger cloned-Hitler’s Jew-hate, clone-Hitler is driven mad by his memories when they start to return and he kills himself again.

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It got me thinking, though, about the cloning/resurrecting Hitler trope that comes up so often in comics. Of all the Nazis to resurrect, unless you were a Hitler-cultist (which admittedly some neo-Nazis are), Hitler seems like probably the least beneficial one to whatever evil super villain cause you might have. Unless your plan relied entirely on the charisma and oratorical skills of a man that three generations around the world have been taught to hate like the devil himself, with Hitler, you’re really getting all of the worst elements of the Reich with none of the benefits.

Best case scenario (aside from the clone killing itself), Hitler is going to unseat you from your evil plans Serpentor-style and proceed to undermine any strategic and/or tactical advantages you might have (cuz that’s what he does).

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You thought you were in charge here?

“Let’s not listen to the generals regarding realistic strategic operational objectives,” “Give the Paratroopers trucks, use them as regular infantry,” “Let’s attack Russia.” You’d really get more bang for your villain buck resurrecting/cloning Rommel, Guderian, Student, or (if you were really evil and needed a super evil underling) Peiper. There’s actually a lot of really good, nuanced comic fodder for any of those beyond what we normally see from Hitler clone stories.

Anyway, I mentioned that I thought Looker’s origin story was probably one of the best mini-arcs from Batman and the Outsiders; in the letters column, Mike Barr confirmed that it was inspired largely by Lester Dent and playing with the notion of Batman as Doc Savage and the Outsiders as his Fab Five.

Later this week, I may tease out my (admittedly ham-fisted) idea for a Force of July one-off. It will be tacky and jingoistic as suits them.

Guest Blog: DARK GENESIS – Adrian Cole’s Sword and Sorcery

mightythorjrs - The Black Blog of Nameless Cults

As part of my author guest blog series I am proud to present another guest blog spot. Adrian Cole the author of The Voidal Trilogy and many other great sword and sorcery tales has been kind enough to write a guest blog post for MightyThorJRS today. I am very excited and I would like to thank Adrian for the opportunity to host this Guest Blog. It’s not everyday I get to host a S&S legend!

Would you like to be a part of my author guest blog series? Please contact me! (mightythorjrs@gmail.com)

Now without further adieu here is Adrian’s awesome guest blog.

And don’t forget to check out his books:

Oblivion Hand: The Voidal, Vol. 1

The Long Reach of Night: The Voidal, Vol. 2

and

The Sword of Shadows: The Voidal, Vol. 3

by Adrian Cole

Are Out NOW

So go get your copies!

adriancscole.com


DARK…

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ARPG-Con DCC Session Report (Pt. 2, Evening)

The second DCC session I was in on Saturday at ARPG Con was a run through the level 0 module The Arwich Grinder.

Unlike other DCC modules I’ve played, this one was rather story and role-play heavy, but that wasn’t a bad thing at all!

We had three players and were allowed 6 characters.

The Arwich Grinder is a bit of a fun-house module that is bigger on building atmosphere than instant kill traps. A local family is your typical Lovecraft villain family: reclusive and prolifically inbred with a penchant for the occult. But they’ve got some good will in the town because during a famine they provided everyone in the town with foodstuffs. Well, it turns out they were breeding meat-men; a couple meat-men got out, including one who had the bonnet of “Bessie”(the one young pretty member of the family) in its hand before collapsing dead in the middle of the tavern.

There were a few things that were odd about this session:

  • We were playing as about 10% of the town’s populace, going to check in on the Curwen family to see if everything was all right, in turn-of-the-century America, but none of us had any fire-arms with us. This made it a bit hard to suspend disbelief.
  • It was always a strong point of discussion among the players about meta-gaming vs. roleplaying. While we always opted for the latter, it was funny, because we were all “The obvious solution would be to burn their house down, but we’re here to check on our neighbors and we’re convinced that they need to be rescued from something”.
  • While we “Lost Characters”, they didn’t die—in wargamer parlance, they “successfully exited the map”.

Even for DCC, we had pretty impressive manpower, but we used our resources wisely, treating our characters as the normal townfolk that they were trying to do a normal townfolk thing in the face of otherworldly horror.

  • The meat-man eating pig-slop and brandishing a human rib-cage? The poor retarded lad had to be put down, he was a danger to the community and our neighbors the Curwens!
  • The crazy lady locked in the upstairs? When she came running and shrieking at us, we subdued her, talked her down, put her on a cart and had a few characters drag her back to town for medical treatment.
  • The giant invisible baby in the attic? The characters who saw it were convinced it was a ghost, those who didn’t didn’t believe them or decided it was best not to muck with; we were there to save the Curwens!
  • The crazy old man downstairs? He’s hungry and senile and not a problem; we gave him some food and were all “We’ll come back for you.”
  • In the under-area we run into one of the Curwen couples. “Horrible stuff’s been goin’ on! We’re here to rescue you!” Husband attacks, gets killed because there are still a dozen of us after a few folks went back with the crazy lady. We subdue the wife, because it’s not gentlemanly to kill one of the ladies you’re trying to save. She tells us what’s going on, that the chanting we hear is the patriarch with Bessie and “he’s gonna fix it”. A few characters escort the wife into a room where she’ll be locked up for a minute; we’ll come back for her once we know Bessie’s safe.
  • Patriarch is gonna sacrifice Bessie, tossing her into a pit of boiling mud; a couple folks grab Bessie while we D’Onofrio the Patriarch.
  • Another Curwen couple shows up; we knock out the husband but were unable to apprehend the wife and toddler.
  • We continue sending Curwens back to town in waves, having “rescued” them. Our best characters stay to mop up and look for survivors. Characters going “off-the-map” run into the Constable and tell him they need to send a rider or telegraph to the city, get out the state militia, somebody who actually has guns.
  • We kill a couple of out-of-town cousins who didn’t believe that we’d solved the problem by not letting them summon a tentacle monster and calling up the militia.
  • While we’re unable to find the one woman who escaped or her child, we consider it a job well done that we saved most everybody, our neighborly duty was fulfilled, and G-Men could handle the rest. Also, it seemed like a good time to pack up and move out of New England.

Maybe this was an “easy” module? Or maybe we just “did it right”? The GM was impressed with our run, saying she’d never seen anyone play it the way we had; usually folks would either burn down the house, kill everybody inside, or mess with the giant invisible baby and get killed. I liked it, though, because even though it wasn’t hack & slash, the story emerged from the setting and things we could interact with; nothing felt forced. The GM rolled with our ideas of sending “rescued survivors” back with PCs for medical attention or to jail. The module had a story, but it was non-linear and could’ve played out any number of ways. For us, it played out with no PC casualties, minimal NPC death, and no eldritch horror “fixing” the problem. Ironically, had we NOT investigated, other than at the cost of Bessie’s life, the problem would’ve fixed itself.

It was a great Halloween horror module, even if it wasn’t a particularly good “Funnel”. I don’t think any of our characters would become Level 1 Adventurers following the escapade, but given that no one died, it’s probably the closest you could get to a “flawless victory” in a level 0 module.

Still, I’d like to see this with guns. “Giant nekkid deaf-mutes are shamblin’ into town? A bonnie lass may be in danger? Let me fetch the match-lock from me mantle…”

ARPG-CON DCC Session Report (Pt. 1, Morning)

Over the weekend I attended the inaugural ARPG Con and played in a couple of DCC games. Funnels, of course, since that’s what most folks are into and surviving a funnel is something that you can do in the time-frame of a con one-off and leave the table with a sense of accomplishment.

I don’t know the name of the first module, or if it was even a full module or a portion of a whole, but the second session was The Arwich Grinder. They were good sessions, and I had fun in both, but they were very different. Most significantly, one of them was a story-driven Call of Cthulhu module and I didn’t hate it!

Morning game was framed as a “Mystery” adventure. It was set in the Sutterlands or something. There’s a wedding, the PCs drink from a mystery jug, and they wake up on a haunted farm. It was less of a mystery and more of a puzzle; a puzzle that had to be solved before ghosts killed you.

Table was myself, an experienced gamer who’d not played DCC, and two kids who were experienced players (parents were DCC Judges, and I think they may have been niece & nephew of the folks who organized the con). We each had 4 characters.

Deal was there were 4 farm-houses, a well, a graveyard, and a cornfield. One house had an instant kill death-trap that made no sense so could not have been avoided by smart play (seriously, who would have expected a ramshackle wood cabin would instantly fill with flesh-burning acid in a single round the moment you stepped inside it?). Another house was a “safehouse”, with sigils on the doors that keep the ghosts out, plus two halves of a broken hawthorn staff that you could actually hit the ghosts. Third house had a spellbook that would’ve been great if we were using this to launch an ongoing campaign. Last house had images depicting the puzzle’s story. Cornfield had a pile of corpses around a scarecrow, Graveyard had a pair of earthhounds in it, and the Well had a debris monster.

So, we wake up in the middle of these houses and are almost immediately set upon by ghosts from the woods. Not wanting to make things easy on the GM, we all sent our characters in different directions. Two of my characters got instant killed by the trap (was it a Trap House or an Acid House?) while the other two headed for the house with the sigils that seemed to hold. Other players’ characters ran around in all directions; some with me in the safehouse, at least one other killed by the trap, one triggered the earthhounds, others ran for the other two houses, while one found the scarecrow and the pile of bones. All over the course of a couple rounds.

So, the “story” of the site was that the people who lived there were evil (natch), and a priest had gone to visit them. They killed the priest, broke his staff, threw his holy symbol down the well and left the body as an offering before the Corn Lord.

The solution to the puzzle was to go into the well, retrieve the holy symbol (the debris monster was entirely optional), and place it in the out-stretched hand of the dead cleric. The cleansing rain would destroy the curse and dissolve the ghosts (but only after they got to attack for a couple more rounds). I got a “bonus” (free mini-dice bag!) from the GM for being the first to suggest improvised weaponry (I started with a mithril ingot that my dwarf fastened to his hammer); we were supposed to fashion improvised weapons from things like the hawthorn sigils, the broken staff and at least one silver key to fight the ghosties.

It was a puzzle and we solved it. There was some satisfaction to it, but not a lot of real resolution. Who gave us the jug of magic liquor? Why was there a jug of magic liquor that would take us to redneck Ravenloft? There was not a massive sense of accomplishment, but as a funnel to kick off a campaign, I guess it got the job done.

I did like its scale, however. It felt like the right amount of adventure that would take a character to first level. One of the things that bothered me about Sailors on the Starless Sea was that the upper-castle should’ve reasonably gotten characters to level 1, and level 1 characters would’ve stood more of a chance against the last set-piece encounter. All but the very end of Sailors could be smart-played, which damn near made it a cake-walk for our group, and therefore an ineffective funnel, other than the fact that it expected you to roll up on the last fight and just slug it out toe-to-toe with a(n admittedly weak) chaos avatar and his army of beastmen. With the exception of the instant-kill acid trap that could not have possibly been foreseen, this adventure could be smart-played to a degree where you’d only lose a few characters. Less experienced players would probably finish this one out with at least one character alive apiece, with some smart-plays mitigating character-death.

  • Go straight for the safehouse and wait for the ghosts to leave
  • Burn any corn-husk dolls; this should’ve been a no-brainer, especially as a one-off, but I kept my characters’, and, of course, they attacked me during the final fight.
  • Without pressure from ghosts (whose raids are intermittent), you’d probably only lose one character to the acid-trap
  • Earthhounds are a tough fight for someone who just stumbles into them, but you have economy of action on them like a mo-fo, especially if the ghosts aren’t attacking.
  • You don’t even need to fight the debris monster.
  • At worst, you lose a few characters in the final ghost attack.

All-in-all, much better than “here’s 40 guys, fight them and the characters who live are your level 1”, at least in terms of giving players as much agency as possible over the outcome.

Next, I’ll talk about our power-house, flaw-less victory run of The Arwich Horror!

Kirkus Withdraws a Review (and that’s a big deal!)

Recently, YA author Laura Moriarty wrote and sent out arcs of a book called American Heart. Its description:

Imagine a United States in which registries and detainment camps for Muslim-Americans are a reality.

Fifteen-year-old Sarah-Mary Williams of Hannibal, Missouri, lives in this world, and though she has strong opinions on almost everything, she isn’t concerned with the internments because she doesn’t know any Muslims. She assumes that everything she reads and sees in the news is true, and that these plans are better for everyone’s safety.

But when she happens upon Sadaf, a Muslim fugitive determined to reach freedom in Canada, Sarah-Mary at first believes she must turn her in. But Sadaf challenges Sarah-Mary’s perceptions of right and wrong, and instead Sarah-Mary decides, with growing conviction, to do all she can to help Sadaf escape.

The two set off on a desperate journey, hitchhiking through the heart of an America that is at times courageous and kind, but always full of tension and danger for anyone deemed suspicious.

Basically a story about how Muslims are people too and rounding people up in camps is a bad thing, probably handled with all of the nuance and subtlety of Margaret Haddix’s cheesy Among the Hidden series.  Not really my kind of thing, probably written as a genuine and heart-felt progressive kumbaya from a well-intentioned liberal YA writer.

Unfortunately, it was less-than-well received by certain individuals on Goodreads:

Jabba the hudge

It’s easy to laugh about this, because progressives have the tendency to eat their own–you can never be progressive enough to satisfy those more progressive than you. So, “ha-ha, look at the lady who tried to virtue signal and got dog-piled for ‘doing it wrong'”, right? Well, it gets more complicated than that.

Moriarty had submitted her book for a Kirkus review, a site that will write reviews for authors on a for-pay basis. Now, paid reviews are sketchy as it is, but this is gonna take the cake!

Originally, Kirkus gave a positive review for Moriarty’s book. It was apparently even reviewed by a Muslim woman who “is an expert in children’s &YA literature and well-versed in the dangers of white savior narratives”, and “she found that American Heart offers a useful warning about the direction we’re headed in as far as racial enmity is concerned.”

So, ironically, Kirkus has chosen to silence a Muslim woman because people disagreed with her review. They’ve backpedaled and thrown up this new review calling the book problematic.

Here’s the thing about reviews. Reviews are always going to be subjective. They are the opinion of the reviewer giving the review based on their experiences, prejudices and believes as they make contact with the content they’re reviewing. So, yeah, even ‘fuck muh whiteness!’ up there is perfectly entitled to her review and I don’t have any real problem with it. But if you’re a review site whose sole purpose is, well, reviewing stuff, then you need to stand by reviewers’ reviews. You may feel like you need to say, as an editor, “I don’t necessarily agree with what this reviewer said,” but to pull down a review and take it out to the woodshed because people have different opinions from the reviewer means that you should probably get out of the reviewing business because your credibility is shot.

More from Slate.

Plowing through Batman Trades

Spent a lot of the weekend reading a backlog of comics I’d gotten across various Christmases and birthdays and made a lot of headway.

I’ve got to say, I’ve actually really been enjoying the Final Crisis era Batman stories, particularly the Dick/Damien pairing (shades of Prodigal?), but I’ve got to say, the continuity of it is damnably confounding.

I’d known that Batman “died” in Final Crisis and that he would eventually pop back up and launch Batman, Inc., but when the story is being told across several titles, including special series and new titles, and collected in trades that don’t give any indication of reading order, it’s been a hassle figuring out which books to read. Sometimes Bruce’s dead, sometimes he’s back, sometimes he’s back but not really back… Early on, it also took me a bit in some of the books to go “Oh, okay, this is Dick”, because for some reason Dick Grayson gets drawn a lot like Bruce Wayne did in the 90s (sickly Dustin Hoffman from Midnight Cowboy).

The Batman & Robin series that picks up after Battle for the Cowl was really good. Trade-mark dark Grant Morrison, sure, but it’s the “good” Grant Morrison. While he’s probably my second favorite Bat writer after Dixon, the pendulum swings wide: when he’s on, he’s on, but there’s always the chance that he’ll churn out some absolutely muddled non-sense that’s damn near impossible to figure out what’s going on. And he’s on for Batman & Robin. Last Rites and Time and the Batman are a damn mess, but that’s probably because they’re respectively tacked on to a trade out of continuity or isolated from the story that would give it the context needed for them to make sense as anything but a fever dream of random Batman panels.

I also enjoy some of the arcs in the mainline titles featuring the Dick/Damian team, like the story of Vicki Vale trying to piece together the connections for her big expose on the Bat Family and the Road Home event that ties into those. Except the thing that bugs me is that they have so many overlapping and intersecting storylines that only some of them make sense.

Everything is building up to Bruce’s dramatic return from TimeTM. The main Batman books do a slow-burn story, working in some of the major threads but with the missing Bruce as a haunting spectre. The Batman & Robin book works on those same threads but in a much more serial manner, with Bruce’s absence becoming ever more pressing as the Black Glove and Joker are both fighting over Wayne’s legacy in their own ways until Batman 1.0 showing up at the last minute is a matter of life and death. Which doesn’t exactly jibe with a Bruce Wayne who has time to dick around subtly and not-so-subtly testing members of the Bat Family around the world while Dr. Hurt is in Gotham pretending to be Thomas Wayne, slandering Bruce as a deviant lunatic, and trying to murder everybody with cultists.

The storylines are good on their own, and I’m interested to see where the Vicki Vale one goes (if it goes anywhere), but when taken as a whole, they are a damn mess as far as any sort of continuity is concerned. I think I’m a few arcs away from covering everything I’m interested in from this period, and will be glad to be going back to the Pre-Knightfall stuff, mostly out of Legends of the Dark Knight.