Xilland stats for B/X

Armor Class: 2
Hit Dice: 6+6
Move: 150’ (50’)
Attacks: 2 claws/1 bite
Damage: 2d6 each
No. Appearing: 1
Save As: Fighter 6
Morale: 10
Treasure Type: None
Alignment: Neutral

Xillands are huge woolly monsters with an ursine head, large tusks and four sets of limbs.  They are nearly 20’ long and can rear up to 12’ in height.  Xillands’ foremost set of limbs end with long saber claws.  Below those are arms with anthropoid hands that it can use for grasping.  Next is another set of claws.  The last set of limbs end in cat-like feet.  They mainly inhabit chilly swamplands and are exceptionally fast.  If both claw attacks hit a single opponent, the Xilland will use its second set of hands to grasp its target; if this happens, its bite attack will automatically hit and the Xilland will make two additional claw attacks.  Xilland fur is so thick that only piercing weapons of short-sword length or longer and only magical projectile attacks can hurt them.  Xillands are immune to cold and take half damage from fire.  Xilland furs may be used to make clothing with a permanent “Resist Cold” effect (see Cleric Spells, p B16)


1st Draft Done!

I just finished the first draft of my Abraham Strongjohn’s “At the Feet of Neptune’s Queen”!

Plans and details will be forthcoming…  In the meantime, enjoy some back-cover grade synopsis text.

Just the night before, Ch’Or had been in Vraala’s bed chamber.  A fortnight before that, Ch’Or had been standing before the sacred altar of his people, a coronet about to be placed on his head.  He would be the king of one world, but never this one.  He would have one woman at his side for his queen, but never the lamia that had brought him here.  The Prince of Mars would not be made to bow At the Feet of Neptune’s Queen!

Tower of Zenopus pt 4: Conclusion

My library group running Tower of Zenopus wrapped last night. There were a few loose ends, namely the Thaumaturge Alain, about whom little can be done by a small party, but on the whole I think that it reached a satisfactory conclusion. The module had more than enough content to cover the 4 sessions despite my worries that it might not.

The party (without the mage this week), returned to the tunnels, one fighter intent to pry out some goblin teeth. They made short work of the giant rats who were nibbling at corpses. Some ghouls were wandering about, gnawing on the petrified adventurers (Rollo the Pirate was presumably eaten); the party won surprise and used the opportunity to back away.

The party quickly figured out why the goblin from the previous session had led them around the long way; he figured he’d have a better chance of living admitting failure to the boss than going up against the giant spider. The spider put the hurt on and almost killed the Dwarf. A few lucky blows and the party’s rather impressive strength bonuses managed to make fairly short work of the deadly foe. After the party recovered, they made another delve, a straight-shot west and got the drop on the pirates. The pirates didn’t put up much fight but almost got away (they tried to shove off and put out to sea), though the party was able to take them down, showering them with arrows and spears.

They rescued Lemunda and were rewarded by her father Lord Alba. Good guys win. Yay!

So, some ideas for expanding Tower of Zenopus:
-Lemunda is a tough broad, and she probably could’ve taken any of the pirates one on one in a straight up fight. So, why is she there held by the pirates (besides being lovely)? Well, in my own game, the reason is that she’s tough who likes to hang out around the docks drinking and gambling (she’s also probably a would-be adventurer; how else would she have made it to Level 2?). I reason that she won big against the wrong guy and one of the pirate lords of the city wanted her punished. I think that this is a really great place to drop in something like Gron & Krim’s Blood & Guts Tavern; depending on how one treats greenskins in the setting, one could easily swap out the demihumans for other ruffians. Hell, maybe Lemunda was part of the underground fighting scene in Portown?
-The Tower of Zenopus and Portown were supposedly built over an ancient city. Even though B4 – the Lost City takes place in a desert, there’s no reason you can’t stick the pyramid deep underground. Then you have an underground lost city with an even deeper underground city below that one! The tough part of working out the underground city aspect of Tower of Zenopus is that there’s nowhere on the map that reasonably could lead to it or anywhere else. What I did, on the off chance (which was never realized) that I’d run out of content from Holmes, was create an adjunct mini-dungeon just east of where 10 x 10 dirt “tunnel” off the ghoul room is. If the players tried to excavate it, they’d find more of the crypt structure under the graveyard and beyond that tunnels into more limestone caves. At the far end of this dozen or so room cave system, I dropped B4, waiting to be discovered.
-Theoretically, I could retcon Portown into Portsdam and drop it into Alfheim. I won’t, though, for several reasons, not the least of which being I don’t want to be one of those DMs who runs their games in a single pet setting.

In other news, I’m so close to finished with my first draft of my Sword & Planet novelette I can almost taste it! Progress on it has been a bit slower than I would’ve liked, in part because of other work, time spent working on B&B, on my Zenopus game, blogging and just in general screwing around when i should’ve been writing. I’m not cut out for the story mines, as they say. But I ought to have something to show a few people for suggestions and review in a few weeks.

I don’t think it would work to shoehorn it in this time, but after reading Brackett, I feel like I need at least a couple chainsmoking characters in whatever I write next. I don’t know if I’m ready for all the ‘thrusting’ yet, though. From Martian spires to the Venutian economy, everything is thrusting about in Nemesis from Terra/Shadow Over Mars.  From the petrified tunneling worm to the bird girl’s ‘soft downy hair’, there’s nothing about this book that’s not screaming sex.

"Mr. Fallon, Rick Urquhart's leading a slave riot in your mines!"  "We'll bring out the Banning Ray and put a stop to him as soon as I finish my Kent."

“Mr. Fallon, Rick Urquhart’s leading a slave riot in your mines!” “It’s all right… Me and Storm’ll bring out the Banning and put a stop to him as soon as I finish my Kent.”

Tonight, more Civil War!

Next Week I’ll resume Short Reviews, finishing off the January ’76 issue of F&SF and taking on, at the recommendations of Joachim Boaz, a few of the stories from the Feb ’74 issue.

Music – Winter World, Reliquary

I was recently told that the inappropriately dressed ice-themed female character was a fantasy trope that needs to die.

Vraala’s customary attire would be immodest even by the laxest of Martian standards in the Elysian summers.  How could the blue-skinned royal so comfortably wear naught but a translucent sapphire gorgerine and spidersilk loin cover when even her courtiers seemed to enjoy having some protection from Neptunian weather?  Ch’Or now knew the answer.  Vraala was colder than the planet she ruled.  – At the Feet of Neptune’s Queen


Short Reviews – At the Feet of Neptune’s Queen, Abraham Strongjohn

At the Feet of Neptune’s Queen is not featured in the January 1976 issue of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

One of the beautiful things about sword and planet fiction is you can allow reason and scientific knowledge to be thrown out the window in favor of the Law of Awesome. Abraham Strongjohn most certainly knows like the rest of us that Neptune is an uninhabitable cold gaseous world, but what better a spot for a villain like Vraala the cold-hearted Queen of Neptune to rule over with an iron fist?

Our story begins with three heroes, Ch’Or, Bi’Tik and Ra’Ana, human natives of Mars who have been kidnapped by sci-magic means for the pleasure of Vraala, fighting their way through an ice maze pursued by Neptunian Ice Bugs. After fighting through the labyrinth, they arrive in the midst of a great coliseum where the Neptunian nobles await their bloodshed. An ice dragon is brought forth, but the heroes narrowly manage to triumph over the beast. With the dragon dead at the heroes feet, Vraala holds up a single garland and promises that she will send home whichever of the three warriors can kill the other two.

At the prospect of being returned to Mars, Bi’Tik attempts first to kill the beautiful Ra’Ana, but Ch’Or intervenes to save her from their dishonorable companion. Pleased with this bloody scene, Vraala offers Ch’Or the opportunity to be her consort and rule at her side over all of Neptune, if only he will kill Ra’Ana. Ch’Or refuses and cuts a swath through Vraala’s guard, and with a knife to her throat, he forces the evil ice queen to return both Ra’Ana and himself to Mars. She relents and uses the machine to send them away, but the strange smile on her face indicates to Ch’Or and Ra’Ana that something is wrong. Wherever they were sent, it wasn’t Mars.

Overall, At the Feet of Neptune’s Queen was an absolutely ridiculous affair. Not only does Neptune probably not have a solid surface, the idea that it would be ruled by a lascivious and scantily clad matriarch is one that would be barely justifiable in modern science fiction, much less mixed company. Bi’Tik’s betrayal seemed like a shallow excuse for the male protagonists fight over the female warrior who had already shown herself to be a competent fighter against both the Ice Bugs and the Ice Dragon. One might wonder why she didn’t seize the chance to rid herself of both of them. Still, something just came together here. Maybe it was the thermal swords cutting through frosty carapace. Maybe it was the pathos of fighting for survival in a strange and alien land. Maybe it was how Strongjohn managed to give us heaving bosoms on a planet with a -218C temperature. But something here worked!