Space Angel – Part Two

Well, two months have passed and I figured it had been about 4 or 5 weeks since my last post. Today, I’m going to review some of the spaceships that populate the Space Angel series.

I really dig these ships – they not only fit together pretty well, but most seem like they could exist. Most of these ships are designed for vertical launch and landing on planets, and some can also land (and even launch) horizontally. None of the vessels is remotely close in size to something like Trek’s U.S.S. Enterprise … or even like Khan’s Botany Bay. The longest are +/- 125 feet in length. The space stations are much larger.

The “fighters” mostly seem to fire rockets from the nose area. One episode has the fighters of the Neptune squadron equipped with “megatomic” bombs – think planet busters. It’s worth remembering that Space Angel, like Star Trek, is primarily an analog for the world of the 1960’s. The United Planets is alternately like the United Nations or NATO, the Anthenians sometimes have a USSR feel to them, etc. If the 1960’s had atomic bombs that could destroy cities, then Space Angel has megatomic bombs that can destroy planets. You get the idea.

Starduster

First and foremost is Scott McLeod’s ship, the Starduster. It appears to be a singular vessel, and more powerful than just about everyhing else in space. It has lasers that can fire perpendicularly to the vessel, from above and below the cockpit and rocket launchers fore and aft (the aft launcher is atop the tail fin).

It is also equipped with:

Gyro gravity and equializer (i.e. artificial gravity)

Atomic engines (i.e. fusion or fission)

Radar and scanner beams (more precise than radar)

A magnetic boom for towing things (deployed from a hatch below the cockpit)

A cooling ray (called the BRB ray)

A small hangar bay for the Dart, a smaller, faster ship

A shielded room for avoiding radiation

A storage room two compartments away from the atomic engines

Landing legs that extend from the wings and tail

The ship later carries the Dart II, which is “a megatomic engine with a seat strapped to it). It has 10 million pounds of thrust – for comparison, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy has 3.4 million pounds of thrust.

Fighters

Each of the planetary squadrons appears to use a different type of spaceship.

Neptune Squadron has dart-shaped fighters. They show up the most often in the series, usually under the command of O’Hara, an old friend/rival of Taurus. These ships are also launched from the Space Force Complex 1 (a.k.a. Defense Complex 1).

Space Force Complex 1 is one of my favorite designs. It is a collection of spheres, situated mostly vertically, with four sphere’s jutting out from the forward central sphere and rear engine module. The spheres are large enough to hold several space fighters. It is located in solar orbit between Earth and Mars and is under the control of Commander Selkirk.

Pluto Squadron has some interesting, almost fish-like vessels. These patrol vessels are armed with rockets. They are based at Complex Core.

Jupiter Squadron has heavy launch vehicles that launch from ramps. It also operates some of the space fighters used by Neptune Squadron.

All of these vessels show up in the episode “Rescue Mission”. It’s one of the more realistic episodes (and believe me, a few are real doozies).

To challenge the United Planets, the Anthenians have fighters of their own, and they are alien looking enough to be easily told from the human ships.

Space Stations

The most commonly seen station is Evening Star, commanded by Professor Mace, Crystal’s father. Evening Star orbits Earth. It has tubes from which the Starduster and other ships can be serviced and launched, an astronomical observatory and various sensors. It is called Earth Weather Station in one episode.

Another similarly sized station, called Complex Core, orbits Pluto. There is also a refueling station orbiting Jupiter.

In “Cosmic Combat”, an alien space station at least 300 years old is discovered 10.5 astro-leagues from Earth. It is run entirely by computers, and launches six drone fighters to protect itself. It’s also protected by an electro-magnetic field. When McLeod manages to disable it, it self-destructs.

Other Ships

Survey 2 is seen in “Rescue Mission” orbiting and studying the planet Prometheus. The planet has 5.5 gravities on its surface and neglible oxygen, requiring some fancy work to rescue the crew when they are forced to land. The survey vessel’s forward section can separate from the engine section in case of emergency.

Super Mariner is launched into the new frontier of Vector Five. Part of Project New Frontier, the episode uses the term galaxy when it should use the term star system, so Super Mariner is designed to explore star sysems along a vector from Sol as yet unexplored. Super Mariner uses +X plasma fuel, which somehow involves magnetism. It is clearly FTL or can travel close to light speed. Its pods have enough fuel to destroy a planet.

One episode involves the testing of an ion engine that should get them faster than light. It was originally tested by Eddie Colfax 25 years ago, but he disappeared. When Scott gets the new test vehicle up to speed, he discovers Eddie and brings him back – and discovers that Eddie didn’t age.

EX-47 is an explorer ship used by Donavan and Vanilla. Donavan was expelled from the Space Council 10 years ago. He plans to make people more efficient by ruling them with computers. He has a base on one of the moons of Jupiter.

The space hijackers of Queen Zorra and the General have black ships nicknamd “Bat Ships”. They are equipped with force rays and magnetic force fields than can disable another ship’s instruments and drag them through space. Queen Zorra’s troopes are really cool looking – remind me of those hooded dudes from that one episode of Jonny Quest.

I love this space freighter – the cargo pod concept

X-45 is commanded by Commander Kelly. It has a mission to destroy meteors (using megatomic explosives) beween Venus and Mars that are a hazard to navigation. X-45 is equipped with space cannons. It gets from Earth to Mars in less than 10 minutes, which implies getting at least close to light speed.

The ships also shows up as a space freighter, also called Jupiter, carrying 6 tons of salt.

The Anthenians have “colonizer-class” ships that are 40 feet wide.

There are also ships called “meteor sweepers” that can survive solar flare storms.

Honestly – there are tons of great designs by Alex Toth in this series – you really should check them out. For a very cheap kid’s series, it punches way above its weight in the creativity department.

Space Angel – Part One

I am finally getting around to doing a couple posts about one of my favorite little pieces of mid-century sci-fi, Space Angel. Airing from 1962-1964, Space Angel is a limited animation (and I do mean limited) cartoon following the adventures of Scott McLeod, the “Space Angel”, as he enforces galactic law and defends the Solar System for the Interplanetary Space Council.

While squarely aimed at children, Space Angel has a couple things to recommend to adults of the nerdy persuasion. The first is Alex Toth. The legendary comic book artist and cartoon designer worked on Space Angel, and lends the production some really cool and beautiful designs.

The second great thing about Space Angel is the setting. As with Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, this series primarily takes place in the Solar System, with maybe a few forays into the wider galaxy. Also like Rocky Jones, Space Angel plays it very loose with science fact, and like so many productions of the period, the writers did not have a firm grasp on the definitions of galaxies, star systems, planets, moons, etc. If you’re going to set a game in the Space Angel setting, you’ll need to use some interpretation to make it realistic enough for your players to understand.

The Basics

Scott McLeod lives and works in the Solar System in the 21st century. The time is confirmed in one episode when Crystal proclaims, upon visiting twin worlds, one enslaved by the other, that it’s hard to believe slavery still exists in the 21st century. I couldn’t agree more.

In Scott’s time, humanity has spread out from Earth, populating the other planets and their moons, and perhaps some planetoids in the asteroid belt and the Kuiper Belt.

The other inhabited planets appear to be politically independent, but they belong to the United Planets. The United Planets is governed in some fashion by the Interplantary Space Council (ISC). The ISC meets on Jupiter (or perhaps a moon of Jupiter) in never-ending session. In some episodes, we get to see shots of the city in which the ISC meets, as well as the building, and we get to see the different peoples of the Solar System. All of them look generally human, but it’s possible some are meant to be aliens, or perhaps people who have changed somewhat since their ancestors left Earth.

The Space Council has an Executive Committee, and at one point we hear of a World Court that will try an extra-solar emperor for his planet’s attack on Diamond Harbor on Earth. Diamond Harbor – get it – like Pearl Harbor.

In one episode several planets are maneuvered into declaring war on one another by a hostile extra-Solar power (more on them later). The living situation seen on the planets suggests that major terraforming projects were done to make them habitable. Proximity to the Sun and a body’s mass do not appear to get in the way of humans living on them. Mars may be more recently terraformed than other planets, as one episode features a land rush, like the races that used to occur in the American West, to claim portions of the planet’s southern hemisphere.

Under the ISC is the Space Force or Space Corps. The Space Force consists of numerous planet-based squadrons (which are called upon by their home planets during the near interplanetary war) of space vehicles, as well as Space Intelligence, for whom Scott McLeod works. The Space Force and Space Intelligence are commanded by a Chief of Space Force, whose aid is a major. The chief’s rank is unknown.

Space Intelligence is also referred to as Earth Intelligence, Earth Spatial Intelligence and Interplanetary Space Intelligence. Scott McLeod, in the guise of Space Angel, is their top agent. The “secret identity” angle never makes much sense. McLeod keeps his visor down when acting as Space Angel, but he wears the same suit with the angel emblem, and both he and Space Angel fly the Starduster with the same two additional crew members. Honestly, Scott does a worse job of hiding his true identity than Superman.

Scott’s crew are Taurus, a big (as in tall and fat) red-headed Scotsman who acts as engineer and weapons officer, and Crystal Mace, who is in change of communication and navigation. Crystal’s father, Professor Mace, is in charge of the space station Evening Star. Professor Mace does not appear to be a member of Space Force, but rather a civilian. We also see a large space station orbiting Pluto, called Complex Core, and an orbiting fuel station orbiting Jupiter.

In one episode, we catch a glimpse of Space Force Complex 1 (or Defense Complex 1), under the command of Commander Selkirk. This craft looks like a space vessel that appeared in some old science magazine. While SFC-1 at first seems to be a space station equipped with a space squadron of its own, it later appears to be mobile, which would make it something like an interplanetary aircraft carrier.

In Grit & Vigor, you could portray Scott, Taurus and Crystal as members of the Spaceman class. Crystal seems to be the youngest of the three, and therefore probably the lowest in level. Taurus and Scott are the veterans of Space Force. I would suggest they are 5th level and Crystal is 3rd or 4th. All are highly competent and very professional. They are equipped with firearms when necessary, and Scott wears a ring in early episodes that permits him to hypnotize people. This was a concept that seems to have disappeared in later episodes.

Other members of the Space Force appear to mostly wear white or very light grey uniforms. Technicians wear white or light grey or light blue jumpsuits, though some of the techs on Evening Star seem to wear khaki jumpsuits. Scott McLeod wears a white spacesuit, while Taurus and Crystal wear grey. Under their spacesuits they wear grey turtle-neck sweaters and trousers. Due to the quality of the surviving episodes, it is very difficult to tell what color things are supposed to be. Most make Taurus and Crystal’s spacesuits look blue, rather than grey.

In one episode we see cadets from the Space Force Academy, who wear different style spacesuits marked with their planet of origin. One has his spacesuit marked with Texas, rather than Earth. Other space squadrons wear different spacesuits as well. Spaceships from the differen planets are marked with that planet’s zodiac symbol. During the series we see Jupiter Squadron, Pluto Squadron and Neptune Squadron.

In future parts of this series I will discuss the spaceships and their technology (what little of it I could figure out), aliens in the series, the other planets and moons and the villains who challenge …

SCOTT MCLEOD – SPACE ANGEL

Happy New Year*

* Please do not take this as a guarantee that your new year will, in fact, be happy … but I sure hope it is

We’re a couple days into 2022, and I’m on the last day of my annual Christmas vacation. I take a couple weeks at the end of the year to revitalize the old brain and soul, and I’m happy to say this was a pretty good vacation. I got some work done around the house, including finally building a work bench, got to do some cooking (a roast for Christmas dinner and hoppin’ john for New Year’s Day), did some reading, and watched a metric ton of Gerry Anderson shows – Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Joe 90, Space: 1999 and the Secret Service (ooo – and there’s a new episode of Nebula 75 out – not Gerry Anderson per se’, but close).

I even took a couple naps (unheard of) and spent a couple nice days sitting on the patio listening to tunes and sipping pop.

What’s on slate for 2022?

First and foremost, I need to finish editing the Blood & Treasure version of Deities & Demigods. I also have a few cool ideas for blog posts that need some finishing/polishing. Other than that, I’m just trying to enjoy the beauty of life, spend time with family, and get myself right with the Lord.

Speaking of blog posts and Gerry Anderson – one of my favorite things about the Anderson-verse is the design. The sets, the costumes – just mid-century awesome. This is part of the reason I dig Star Trek so much. For some reason, I started making notes on the military uniforms that appear in the different series.

While some of the series reference the U.S. military and British military, they also reference world-wide military organizations – the World Army, World Air Force and World Navy. They have some pretty groovy emblems:

Where uniforms are concerned, they can jump all over the place. At some point I’m going to diagram them, because they are super cool, but for now, I’ve diagramed some of the rank insignia. It’s often hard to figure out just what they look like, since the marionettes are fairly small. It’s also hard to figure out the overall schema sometimes. But here’s what I’ve figured out so far …

U.S. Army

As a life-long American, I would have once said that the chances of our military changing its rank insignia was nil … these days, who the hell knows? Maybe we’ll get creative by the 2060’s.

U.S. Air Force

The U.S. Air Force got a few different looks in Thunderbirds.

The first one is probably the most realistic, with the traditional colonel’s insignia

The last batch are the oddest; they were worn by men in a control tower. I don’t think there was ever a mention of rank, so how they hang together, I have no idea.

U.S. Navy

One comment on the emblem worn on the cap of the U.S. Navy personel – it look remarkably like the chrysanthemum emblem used in Japan. I can promise you that the U.S. Navy will not soon be adopting the emblem of Imperial Japan on its caps. 

World Army

We get a good shot of World Army uniforms in the “Avalanche” episode of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.

While the different stripes on the general’s epaulettes and sleeves is weird, one can actually see how this rank system would work. The only question would be what symbol accompanies the stripes for the major – lt. colonel – colonel ranks.

World Navy

The World Navy apparently gets different rank insignia for surface vessels and submarine vessels.

There’s a taste of the weird and wonderful militaries of the Anderson universe. More to come when I have more time to spend.

Ghosts of Christmas Past

When I was a kid in the late 70’s and early 80’s, I was a lucky son of a gun. An intact family, lots of love, food on the table, etc. I also got plenty of toys to play with – legos, Star Wars figures, Hot Wheels, a bike – no complaints.

But there were a few items circled in the annual Christmas catalogs that didn’t appear beneath the tree. As good as I had it, we weren’t rich, so there were a few items that didn’t make the cut. I suppose that’s true with most folks – and maybe more for some than others. I also suppose most folks, when they’re my age, look back with gratitude for all they got, and just a little nostalgia for the ones that got away.

Here are my top three presents I never got … but still kinda want:

#3 – Mouse Trap

A good friend had this one, and it was in the category of stuff I desperately wanted to play with, but which she never wanted to play with. Drat the luck. This thing absolutely fascinated me, but to this day I have never laid hands on it, and have no idea how it actually works.

When I mentioned this to my daughter, she remarked that she remembered seeing one at grandma’s house (i.e. my mother) when she was little. I have no idea how it got there, or where it went … but I know I never saw the darn thing!

#2 – The Millennium Falcon

Another toy that was just across the street at my friend’s house, I at least got to play with this one. I’ll admit that I felt, at the time, that being a boy, and my friend a girl, that it was mildly unfair that she had a Falcon and I didn’t. Now I’m much more mature … I realize that it was unfair that a non-nerd had one, and a big old nerd like me didn’t.

#1 – Mazinga

Or, as I would have called it then – that big shogun warrior with missile fingers that really shoot. If there’s one really expensive piece of nostalgia that I get tempted to buy, this guy is it. I had one chance to see one in real life – a kid that moved in next door for a very short period of time. As usual for my luck, he didn’t want to play with it, preferring to play poker instead. If that sounds weird, keep in mind that my generation were raised on re-runs of M*A*S*H, and while we didn’t have stills in our bedrooms, we were able to imitate all that poker playing the doctors did.

So which Christmas wishes didn’t come true for you? Leave a comment below – misery loves company!

When we’re done crying, let’s be thankful for all our blessings and get ready for a groovy Christmas!

Rocky Jones, Space Ranger

Well, watching all the episodes of Rocky Jones, Space Ranger and Space Angel took longer than I anticipated … in fact, I have three Space Angels left to go. Today, though, I can finally write a little report on the underrated, and probably forgotten if not for a couple episodes of MST3K, science fiction series Rocky Jones, Space Ranger.

The Basics

Rocky Jones, Space Ranger consists of 39 episodes broadcast in syndication in 1954. Although not as popular as Tom Corbett, Space Cadet (1950-1955) or Space Patrol (1950-1955), it has the benefit of all of its episodes surviving to the modern day. All three series were aimed at children, but Rocky Jones didn’t play down to the kids, and it lacked some of spaceman elements that its rivals did. It seems to me as a bridge between Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers and Star Trek. Despite a lack of longevity, Rocky Jones did get some merchandise and a few comic book stories.

Rocky Jones had some pretty good special effects for the time period (and budget), some decent acting (I especially like Richard Crane’s calm and collected depiction of Rocky Jones – I’ve heard he was among the actors considered as captain of old NCC-1701) and a few decent stories. It also had pretty good continuity – when characters left, they were not forgotten. When a moon joins the United Worlds in one episode, a representative of that moon appears in a later episode at a conference.

Side Trek – One of those lost characters was Winky (presumably a nickname), Rocky Jones’ first assistant. Winky was played by Scotty Beckett, best known for being in the old Our Gang comedies. Winky made it through 26 seasons before Scotty was thrown in the clink on a concealed weapons charge.

The Setting

Rocky Jones is set almsot entirely within the Solar System. It is worth noting here that scientific realism is not a strong suit of Rocky Jones, or any other kids sci-fi series (or, frankly, any of the Star Treks if we’re honest). The Space Rangers are headquartered on Earth, under the direction of the Secretary for Space Affairs Drake. From there, they patrol the United Worlds of the Solar System. Some episodes send the crew beyond the Solar System to Una and Alpha Centauri.

In the early episodes, Rocky captains the XV-2 Orbit Jet. When it is destroyed in one episode, he is given command of the XV-3 Silver Moon. Both craft are identical. In one episode the XV-12 is mentioned, so there is presumably at least 12 vessels in the Space Rangers’ fleet.

These ships have the traditional rocket ship look, and can land directly on planets. They are perhaps 130 to 150 feet long/tall. The vessels are equipped with rocket launchers or missile launchers, a “cold light” mechanism which we would know as a cloaking device, and a primitive form of universal translator (you have to speak into it so others can understand you on a paired device). The ships are nominally crewed by two, a pilot and co-pilot, but Rocky also had Vena Ray in his crew as navigator and language specialist, and Bobby, presumably a cadet, and Professor Newton or Mayberry were usually along as well.

The space vessels had a cockpit, an adjoining room with chairs to facilitate blast-offs and equipment used by Vena for navigation, and an additional room that may have been for storage. These rooms always appear to be “upright”, whether the ship is vertically or horizontally oriented. Artificial gravity – a rotating capsule – lazy set design – we’ll never know.

Before one of these vessels was launched, it had to be charged. A Star Trek fan could imagine the vessel being “charged” with anti-matter to allow it to generate enough energy to warp space. The quick journey to Alpha Centauri suggests that the XV-2 and XV-3 could warp space.

A few space stations, all of the ring-and-spokes variety, appear in the series. They are not massive, and apparently have a single operator.

Space Station RV5

I really dig the uniforms worn by the Space Rangers. We see a field uniform in the series that consists of a white undershirt, jacket, trousers and cap, and a dress uniform that reminds me of Kirk’s fancy uniform in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Both are well-designed. Secretary drake wears a uniform unique to him. We see three rank insignia in the show, consisting of a low rank with one “stripe”, a high rank of three “stripes” and the wide bar worn by Secretary Drake. Presumably there is a middle rank with two “stripes”. The ranks could be something like lieutenant – commander – captain.

Rocky in dress uniform and Secretary Drake

Rocky and Winky in field uniforms without jackets

The Ophicians and Herculons have their own consistent uniforms. I meant to draw them all, but frankly did not have time. Look for a future addition to this post.

Hey – here’s that future addition!

And here’s those nasty Ophicians:

Characters

Rock Jones (Richard Crane), the principal character, is a level-headed, serious leader. He never came off as a parody to me – no grand speeches or easy victories, but a skilled, determined guy who sees things through to the end.

Rocky is first assisted by Winky (Scotty Beckett), who was a wise-cracker, but perfectly competent in his job. When Winky left the series, he was replaced by Biffin “Biff” Cardoza (Jimmy Lydon), an inhabitant of the friendly planetoid Herculon as part of an exchange system.

Vena Ray (Sally Mansfield) was a civilian whose brother was a member of the Space Rangers. Conern for her brother brought her onto the crew as navigator. Rocky wasn’t thrilled with this addition at first, but happily included her when he discovered how good she was at the job.

Bobby (Robert Lydon), presumably a cadet due to his young age, was often taken along as a valued team member. In early episodes, Professor Newton (Maurice Cass) served as the ship’s science advisor. When Cass passed away, Professor Mayberry (Reginald Shieffield) took over.

Ranger Clark (William Hudson) commanded space refueling station OW9. We also meet Ranger Griff and Ranger Marshall during the series.

Leading them all is Secretary Drake (Charles Meredith), head of the office of Space Affairs. Drake is a fatherly sort, who treats his underlings more like family than employees.

All is not peace and harmony in the Solar System. Opposing the United Worlds in the early episodes is the planet Ophicius, head of the Ophicius Group, under the reign of its Suzerain Cleolanta (Patsy Parsons). While Cleolanta had a yen for Rocky Jones, she was always plotting against the United Worlds. Assisting her were the likes of Atlasande (Harry Lauter), her chief aide.

Rocky later visits the twin gypsy moons of Negato and Posito, where he tangles with Bovarro (John Banner), the blowhard ruler of Posito until that moon crashes into Ophicius. And yes, it is the same John Banner would would play Sgt. Shultz on Hogan’s Heroes.

After Rocky and the Space Rangers evacuate Ophicius and Posito, the Positoans are apparently re-settled on the plantoid Herculon. Bovarro’s daughter, Juliandra (Ann Robinson), becomes Suzerain in place of her evil twin sister, Noviandra. Side note – I have to admit that I though Juliandra was smoking hot.

Perhaps the most fun villain was the egotistical coward Pinto Vortando (Ted Hecht). Pinto begins as a villain, becomes a bum on the moon Ankapor after his defeat, and ultimately becomes an ally of Rocky Jones and the Space Rangers. Pinto always refers to himself in the third person.

The Final Frontier

A Rocky Jones-inspired campaign would never have to leave the Solar System. The series mentions a few real places, many imaginary places that could be renamed moons or planetoids, and at least one completely made up moon of Mercury.

As mentioned above, scientific realism is not high on the series’ list of accomplishments, so places far from the Sun and much smaller than Earth manage to have habitable climates and normal gravity. I guess it can all be explained with the magic of future technology. A few of the more notable spots (and my guess for where they could be located) follow:

Let’s begin with real places.

Mars is mentioned in the series, though never visited. It has humanoid inhabitants, as well as mammoths. I imagine a world of cold, red grasslands, where primitive Martians once hunted their mammoths the way ancient Siberians did.

Saturn has two inhabited moons. Enceladus (Saturn-2) is mentioned to have a tropical climate. Titan (Saturn-6) is mentioned as the place where a criminal named Mickey Simpson was arrested. Since Mickey was held at Space Ranger’s HQ, we can presume Titan was a member of the United Worlds.

Venus is also inhabited, though never visited in the series. It appears that Venusians are not humans, though they are humanoid.

Jupiter has a few inhabited moons, though you won’t find them in any text books. Fornax is visited in “Bobby’s Comet”. The people dwell underground, and have a slightly Ancient Egyptian/Middle Eastern vibe to their clothing. Their planet has a crystal that can be used to power spaceships … dilithium, maybe? It is ruled by Zorovak. Another moon, Positta, is described as a great place to visit for 24 hours.

“Pyramid” on Fornax

Ankapor also has an underground civilization. Not a part of the United Worlds, it hosts many ne’er-do-wells. I could see it being the same as Ceres in the asteroid belt – a marketplace located between the inner and outer worlds.

Apollo Minor is a moon ruled by Pinto Vortando. After his overthrow, it joins the United Worlds. It is located on the fringes of the Solar System.

Cylenus is a planetoid or moon where the Ophicians captured Bobby and Prof. Newton.

Hermes is a planetoid on the fringes of the Solar System that is pulled out of orbit by the magnetic power of Regalio.

The planet Medina is ruled by the villainous Agar and his kindlier sister Yara.

Ophicius is called a planet, and has an Earth-like climate/atmosphere, but when Secretary Drake notes it on the map in his office it appears to be a moon of Jupiter. The location of New Ophicius, after its collision with the gypsy moon Posito, is anybody’s guess.

Ophician spaceship

Prah is a planetoid supposedly impossible to land upon. It hosts a gang of space pirates.

Torida is the uninhabited moon of Mercury.

Rocky also visits an unnamed moon on the fringes of the Solar System in “Blast Off” – maybe my favorite series of episodes in the series.

Three places outside the Solar System are mentioned in the series. The two most important are Regalio, a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri (and the furthest a Space Ranger has ever traveled), and Herculon. Regalio does not have atomic power, but rather has perfected magnetic power. It is ruled by a Nizam. Herculon orbits Una, a star located between Sol and Alpha Centauri, which if we’re picking a real place means Una is Proxima Centauri. It is ruled by Suzerain Juliandra, daughter of Bovarro.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed this series. I started exploring it when I was prepping my personal Star Trek campaign. With a few small changes, it could serve as Star Trek’s past. You have to figure the kids who watched Rocky Jones were probably the young adults who watched Star Trek. Although aimed at children, the show managed a few interesting episodes. It was action-packed and fun, and I highly recommend watching a few episodes. If you think you’ll be bored with it, try one of the stories done on MST3K.

Actuaries in Outer Space

Holy smokes! Three months since the last post – not a record, but pretty bad. I now deploy some chaff in the form of excuses – tons of work to do around (inside and outside) the house, a one-year old puppy (we were just in the backyard – he was doing donuts around me like a maniac) and – and here’s more of a reason than an excuse – I was doing research for the blog. This is the first of three posts I was researching – and the first for which I finished my research – so stay tuned.

Who is Manning Draco?

I would have asked that question myself a couple months back. I was goofing off on the Internet Archive, doing some random searches for star names, and up popped a story about an outer space investigator for an insurance company. The first thing that struck me was a sense of deja vu – I knew I hadn’t read the story, but it was dang familiar. Turns out, I’d recently read another story by Kendell Foster Crossen which was written in a very similar manner to the Manning Draco tales.

After finishing the story, I went searching for more. The stories were humorous and creative – and the “world building” was wonderful. If you’re doing some light space opera or pulp sci-fi, you probably can’t do worse than read these stories for ideas. I knew I could get a fun blog our of the stories, so I started taking notes … and then it hit me. Some of the notes I was taking could really ruin the stories for first time readers. With that in mind, know that though I’ve tried to suppress spoilers, they probably have krept in just the same.

The Stories

Manning Draco was introduced by Crossen in “The Merakian Miracle” in Thrilling Wonder Stories Vol. 39 No. 1 published in 1951.This story was apparently popular, because it is followed by “The Regal Rigelian”, “The Polluxian Pretender” and the “Caphian Caper” in 1952, “Whistle Stop in Space”, “Mission to Mizar” in 1953 and “The Agile Algolian” in 1954.

The Setting

Manning Draco is a 35-year old man living in Nuyork on Earth in the 35th century. He is good-looking, quick-thinking, positively addicted to the ladies and makes a living as an insurance investigator for The Greater Solarian Insurance Company, Monopolated. Greater Solarian is run by J. Barnaby Cruikshank, age 41, who inherited a small insurance company from his father and turned it into a galactic monopoly. This isn’t too strange a thing – the Galactic Federation has more monopolies than competition.

All would be well for J. Barnaby (who is played by Lee J Cobb in my mind) if it weren’t for a galaxy full of people trying to cheat his company out of trillions of credits. The two worst offenders, early on, are two of his own insurance salesmen, the Rigelian Dzanku Dzanku, and his Terran sidekick Sam Warren. Rigelians come from a culture of corruption, and Sam is a perfect toady. The two give Manning plenty of trouble, but he has an ace in the hole. Manning Draco is the only human to have ever developed a secondary mind shield. In a universe of psionic species, it has saved his life more than once.

The Federation has 107 members. It is governed by a president and an assembly called the Assembly of the Stars. The Federation’s capital is Rigil Kentaurus. The dominant political party is the Republicrats (kind of like in the USA). The members of the Federation are not often on good terms – the Capellans hate the Polluxians, the Procyonese hate the Acturusians, the Vegans hate the Achernarians, etc.

The Federation Bureau of Investigation gets a mention, and appears to be as iffy as our own FBI. The Galactic Police wear black uniforms and are armed with large-barrelled guns from which fire force nets. The Federation Patrol wear yellow uniforms.

The first planetary union was founded at the end of the Seven Hundred Years War. The Festival of Planets, celebrating the foundation of the Federation, is held from the first Friday in May to the following Sunday.

The Technology

Spaceships run on magnidrive, which puts Starfleet’s warp drive to shame. Manning’s ship, the Alpha Actuary, can get from Earth to Rigil Kentaurus in about 10 minutes, and intergalactic travel is not unknown – Greater Solarian has some interests in Andromeda. Most of the trappings of pulp sci-fi are present – televisors, ray guns of various sorts, etc. The key thing to remember is that these stories are not hard sci-fi – the tech doesn’t really matter – it’s more window dressing.

Hypno-perfumes were banned in 2963.

Sub-atomic guns can bring down anything up to a Marfakian lair lizard, which weighs up to 70 tons.

A Guide to the Galaxy

If there are going to be spoilers in this post, this is where they’ll be.

Part of the fun of Manning Draco is the world-building (or more properly galaxy-building). When Manning gets an assignment, he listens to an encyclotape to learn a few things about the place he is visiting. The stories include footnotes to better explain off-hand references – it’s like the things were designed for gamers!

Achernar: The Achernarians are evolved from bees, and inherited their tempers. They are 2 feet long and have six appendages. The two front appendages have double-thumbed hands, while the others are used for walking upright. The drones are the politicians on Achernar. They have wings, but they are not strong enough to fly. Their eyes are weak, so most need glasses. Achernarians are very intelligent, but physically weak. They are always irritable. The Federation’s fiercest citizens, their soldiers wear atomic-powered armor and are nearly invincible in them. 

Acrux: Acrux and its satellites (the Acruxian Axis) have long opposed the Federation. Acruxians are related to the Rigelians. They stand 7 feet tall and are incredibly strong. They have cylindrical bodies on three sturdy legs, dark grey skin, red, round, knob-like heads perfectly smooth except for a mouth opening and inverted ears covered by fine, sensitive hairs. They have four tentacles, two at waist level and two at shoulder level, and two eye stalks. Acruxians have booming voices and difficulty pronouncing the letter ‘r’. Acruxians are expert lock-pickers. They attempt assassination at the smallest slight – failure means the gods do not wish them success, so they do not try again. They consider material goods more important than people, so harming their goods is the worst insult you can offer an Acruxian. Notable is the Acruxian leeba highball cocktail. Acruxian pets are basically living balloons – go read the stories to get the full picure.

Al Na’ir: This system produces a cool, green wine.

Al Suhail IV: The dominant race evolved from an animal similar to the Terran mouse. They have eight-fingered hands, and are, indeed, quite mousy in temperament.

Aldebaran III: The inhabitants are humanoid and very much like humans, but with silky blonde fur on their heads instead of hair. They have husky, sensual voices. Aldebaranians have natural telepathic shields. They are masters of seduction. Evolved from fruit bats, they are still exclusively fruit-eaters. They are often attracted to humans, and Terran-Aldebaranian marriages often work very well.

Aldebaran IV: The inhabitants of this planet are very similar to those of its sister planet … and I can say no more. 

Alnilam: Alnilam fire-ice is part Alnilam frozen rum, part pineapple-lime ice, and part pure explosion.

Alpha Centauri: The Alpha Centaurans are actual centaurs.

Alpha Cygni: A planet of this star has professional mind-probers.

Alphard VI: This is the only inhabited planet among ten in the system. It is a Class C planet, despite having a civilization which rates Class B because the Alphardians are incurably eccentric. The planet is almost a twin to Earth in terms of gravity, atmospheric pressure, size and shape. It has seven moons which are so close to be always visible, six of the seven revolve around the seventh so rapidly that they make people dizzy. Alphardians are evolved from the order scolopendromorpha, subclass epimorpha – i.e. centipedes. From the eaist down they are 6 foot long russet-brown centipedes. From the waist up they are extremely attractive humanoids. Their empire is in the 2000th year of the Ix Dynasty. The Emperor Romixon is the son of Dumixon. The City of Ix holds the Royal Alphardian Library.

Alpheratz: Populated by giants.

Andromeda Galaxy: At one point we meet Captain mmemmo of this galaxy, trying to recruit young men for the Pleasure Camps of Andromeda. Andromeda is a matriarchal galaxy, and they rely on slaves for their entertainment. mmemmo is humanoid, with metallic skin, a perfectly round head with a small, mouth-like opening (like a speaker on a robot) and above it a larger oval opening with an electric eye. 

Arcturus: Mention is made of the pleasure islands of Arcturus.

Algol: I can’t say much about the Algolians here – you need to read the stories. Under the Treaty of 3106, Terrans were forbidden from visiting Algol.

Atik: The dullest planet in the galaxy. They reproduce by fission, and thus their dullness is attributed by some to the fact that they have never discovered the joy of sex.

Canopus I: Mention is made of the City of Sentiment. Canopusia is their capital city. Canopusians have body and head as one piece, like an inverted gourd. They have two stubby legs, two tentacles placed midway on their body, a bud-like mouth, two eyes similar in shape to a human’s and a third eye on a thin, flexible 3-inch long stalk. There are two circular rows of stiff hairs on their heads – the outer row is hearing hairs, the inner row olfactory in nature. They stand 3 feet tall, and have lemon yellow skin.  

Caph: This system has two planets in the same orbit. They are Class G planets. Both planets exist in a time fracture. One year in the galaxy is 20 years on Caph II, while one year on Caph II is 5,200 years on Caph I. Caph II has a light side and dark side – the dark side is warmer than it should be due to volcanic activity, while the light side is uniformly 75-degrees F. The planet has no moon. Caph II has blue sands, towering purple trees and pink water that tastes faintly like champagne. The dominant species, evolved from bats, live in the dark side. They are humanoids with small faces, pointed noses, tiny eyes, huge ears, light brown hair on their faces and especially long webbed fingers. They stand about 5 feet tall. The main city is Optville, and I won’t say more to avoid spoilers, other than that the Caphians are non-telepaths with naturally impenetrable mind shields.

Castor: Castorian rummy is played with three decks of 95 cards each – seven suits of 13 cards and four super-jokers – orbit, comet, asteroid and nova. Each player gets 39 cards and plays three games simultaneously.

Deneb XIV: An outlaw planet. The Denebians are bird creatures, about three feet long, two feet tall, with wings evolved into arms with three-fingered hands. They have long beaks with double rows of teeth and brown and white feathers with a black stripe across the eyes. They are thieves and murderers.

Denebola: The dominant species is evolved from the ass (i.e. donkey).

Ganymede: Mention is made of a Ganymedian dancing girl.

Hamal: Hamal is home to Sin City, which has an area called the Twilight Zone.

Kholem: A planet in the Coma-Virgo Galaxy. The Kholemite met by Draco is roughly humanoid, with light purple skin. Its hands have five fingers and two thumbs. Its head is pyramidal, with slanted eyes, a v-shaped mouth and no apparent nose or ears. Kholemites can survive in the vacuum of space. They have no sexes or reproduction, but are actually the children of a species called the Dreaming Old Ones. These creatures project geometric shapes which turn into Kholemites – who are all geomatric in nature, but might be different shapes and colors. They have eidetic memories.

Kochab: Kochabian sex dervishes are mentioned. Kochabians have six arms.

Martians: The personal secretary of J. Barnaby Cruikshank is a Martian by the name of Lhano Xano. She has red head-fur, copper skin and three eyes. Most Martians are exceedingly thin, but Lhano has a bit of figure, and Manning spends a few stories trying to win her affection. Martians stand around 7 feet in height. They speak with a slight lisp. They are not known for their sense of humor, but they do have love poetry. Manning has a collection of tsigra art from the Zylka period. Martians are telepathic.

Merak II: This planet has recently been opened up to galactic trade. The natives call themselves Deetahs. They are not humanoid, but rather have globular bodies with no necks or heads. Their mouths, noses, eyes and ears appear as needed on the surface of their bodies. They usually have two arms and two legs, but they can change that as well, and they can stretch up to 20 feet. Deetahs can stand from 3 to 8 feet tall and live as long as 400 years. They have high-pitched voices. I’d say more, but I’d be giving too much away. They are culturally and socially Class D. The planet has a population of 75 million. Its capital city is Tor-Melpar. The architecture is all spherical lines. Charted 362 years ago by Galactic Commander Daniel Horlan, it has 0.9 Earth mass, 0.976 Earth volume, 0.97 Earth gravity, is 6900 miles in diameter and has a day that lasts 25 hours and 6 minutes.

Mizar I: A binary system. The only inhabited planet is Mizar I, but the other planets are rich in mineral wealth. The dominant species is Class B, but technologically behind the Federation. They dwell entirely underwater in cities protected by synthetic bubbles with fresh air extracted from the water. They coralscape their cities, and have extensive algae farms; whales are used as dairy livestock. The Mizarians evolved from the platypus, and it shows. They stand 6′ tall, lay eggs and have retained their poisonous heel spurs. They are cryptesthesists – they can predict a creature’s next action, but are not telepathic. Mizar is an empire ruled by His Royal Mostness Emperor Alis Volat. The planet has a small island holding a spaceport for visitors. 

Muphrid VIII: A Class A planet with a humanoid population, the Greater Solarian has only recently opened a branch office here. The Muphridians look almost completely human save for their head of feathers – steel gray and blue. Their minds cannot be read by telepaths. They evolved from parameciums, and thus reproduce by fission.

Pluto: This planet has a metal termite. It is a blind, subterranean insect, about 10 feet long and weighing 3,000 pounds. It devours ore and excretes pure metal, so it’s valuable to Terran mining companies.

Polaris: Produces spiced wines.

Pollux I: A Class D planet, and thus not a member of the Federation. There are only 25 families on the planet, each with one billion members. The planet’s environment is similar to Earth in the Jurassic period. The dominant species evolved from crocodiles, and look like bipedal crocodile with shorter snouts than their predecessors. They wear Earth-style clothing. Aatobi Uu, most beautiful Emperor of Pollux, wears a toga and crown. The first two letters of a name are silent, and denote only social position. Uuville, the capital, has a small spaceport. The Polluxians do not travel in space, and relatively few Federation ships come to call due to their troublesome laws. Pteradactyls are used as riding beasts. The local liquor, dtssea, tastes like fermented swamp water. Polluxians are oviparous; the females lay self-fertilizing eggs, and begin having children as soon as they mature. The planet has 1.2 Earth mass, 1.17 Earth volume, 1.02 Earth gravity, is 7200 miles in diameter and has a day that lasts 27 hours and 5 minutes.

Praesepe I: Manning tried a cocktail on this planet that caused him to lose his voice for two days.

Procyon: Procyon suede is mentioned.

Rasalague: These people are 4 feet tall and formed like perfect human women. They have light blue hair, golden tanned skin and bright orange eyes. They wear a long white scarf that hangs between their breasts to their waist, a jeweled thong around their waist, and from that another white scarf. The rest I’ll keep secret, other than that they are natural telekinetics.

Regulus II: A recent admission to the Federation, its joining was viciously opposed by the Achernatian planets. The planet’s surface appears to be uninhabited; the dominant species is evolved from the star-nosed mole, and thus lives entirely underground. Their spaceport features one above-ground building – the residence of the Terran ambassador, who seems to despise the Regulusians. Zeloha is the planet’s capital. Regulusians stand as tall as humans. They have long tails covered with silky hair. Their hands resemble paws. They have long noses tipped with 22 light pink tendrils; a Regulusian’s nose blushes when they are embarassed. They are psionically sensitive, but not telepathic, and have natural barriers to telepathic reading. Because they are insectivores, they are hated by the Achernarians, who are evolved from bees. There has never been a murder in the history of Regulus II.

Rigel IV: The Rigelians get a bit of attention due to the prominance of Dzanku Dzanku in the stories. Rigelians are as tall as humans, but weigh about 1 ton. They have square torsos, legs like tree trunks, six tentacles projecting from their upper bodies, and small, expressionless faces topped by three eyestalks. You can only trust a Rigelian if they swear on their gambler’s oath.

Rigil Kentaurus: This system has two inhabited planets. The natives were moved by the Federation, who completely took over the system. One planet is the seat of government, while the other produces all the energy and industrial needs of its sister. Rigil Kentaurus I is entirely covered with buildings and parks. There are elaborate defense installations on Rigil Kentaurus II.

Sabik II: The Sabikians are 4 feet tall. Their bodies are slender and round from top to bottom. The upper half of their bodies are covered with straight platinum hair – it grows from the top of the head and falls downward like a mop. A pair of tentacles pokes from under this hair, and their two feet are like flippers. Sabikians have loud, deep, bass voices and malevolent minds. They are sightless, and thus rely on echolocation. Their anti-social nature means that patrol ships always accompany Federation merchantmen that trade at Sabik II. The Sabikians produce prohna, an alcohol distilled from the wild proh. It is green, with amber streaks, pale smoke curling from the top of the tall glass in which it is usually served. It burns the throar terribly.

Sirius III: Sirians marry in threes.

Spica: Wild love fruit from Spica is mentioned, as are Spican termites.

Upper Seginus: The people here are not remotely humanoid.

Vega: Vegans have skin the color of old jade. They have chlorophyll in their systems. High caste Vegans wear woven plastic suits. The planet is notable for its pastry.

Venus: Mention is made of the Venusian tree dragon.

Lots of detail for a few short stories folks, and ripe for a fun sci-fi campaign. I especially like the mix of detail and ambiguity – the detail is great for a quick game, but the ambiguities leave tons of room for devising your own material.

I’ll be back soon with some thoughts on Space Angel and Rocky Jones, Space Ranger.

Memorial Day and G.I. Joe

Here we are at the end of May – Memorial Day – looking back on brave men and women who have fought for America and looking forward to future generations of soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, guardians (hey, I prefer spacemen, but I’ll go along with the official name of our Space Force volunteers), God bless them and help them.

My father served in the US Air Force at the tail end of the Vietnam War, and my grandfather took care of the survivors of Hiroshima in the U.S. Army. I would have loved them no less if they hadn’t, but I’m proud of their service.

Apparently, more than a few young men and women were inspired to serve in the military, police and as firefighters and paramedics by the antics of America’s highly trained special missions force, G.I. Joe. I remember the first time I saw those action figures in the basement toy department at Sears – they were a combination of my two favorite things at that age, Star Wars and “army stuff”. They were at the top of my list for my birthday that year, and Christmas as well.

About a month ago,  I was helping my father clear out his garage, preparatory to selling his house. This wasn’t the house I grew up in, but there were still lots of childhood things in it – my mother saved everything. Lo and behold, there was the box with toys, sitting where we’d stored it 30 years ago. Honestly, I didn’t know what I’d find in it, it had been so long. I won’t reveal all of that boxes treasures now, but today seemed like a good time to show off the old G.I. Joes that survived childhood, garage sales and 30 Las Vegas summers in a hot garage.

And here’s the crew … well, most of it.

There are a few figures not present, as I know I had Stalker and Rock n Roll. None of the equipment appears to have survived except Doc’s stretcher, but I still have the troop carrier/carrying case, the motorcycle (without the sidecar-gun), the artillery piece and the jetpack and its platform.

All of the Joes there had just one owner – me – and they’re in pretty good shape for their age. You’ll note the twin Cobra Commanders; I know I got one of them by sending in my flag points and ordering him through the mail. I think there are two Grunts, in different colored uniforms. There are also a couple figures who I think came from the Sgt. Rock line.

I’m pretty sure the data cards are stuffed away elsewhere. Those cards were an inspiration to me when I wrote GRIT & VIGOR. One could probably stat out the Joes for G&V pretty easily using these cards. You’d have to fudge the ability scores a bit, but you could use rank as level (i.e. E-5 is 5th level, O-3 is 3rd level), or maybe double if you want the Joes to be more “badass”. Their training can determine their feats and skills – for example …

Found at 3D Joes – awesome site!

COMMANDO, CODE NAME: SNAKEYES

10th level commando

Abilities: Str 16, Int 13, Wis 15, Dex 16, Con 13, Cha 11

Proficiencies: Auto Pistol, Dagger, Knife (large), Knife (small), Machine Gun (light), Military Rifle, Pistol, Submachine Gun, Sword (Katana)

Skills: Bend Bars, Break Down Doors, Communicate, Demolitions, Endure, Hide in Shadows, Jump, Lift Gates, Move Silently, Ski, Sky Dive, Survive Outdoors, Treat Injury (knack)

Feats: Cleave, Expertise, Jujutsu Master, Karate Master, Power Attack, Pugilist, Trip

International House of Heroes

Hey true believers (he says in honor of Stan) – I caught a couple superhero flicks recently that I thought were worth a review and some Mystery Men! stats. The hook – neither of these epics came from the good old USA!

GUNDALA (2019)

So I recently installed the Roku TV channel on my Roku, and going through the channels on their live TV I came across Gundala. I think I’d read about the character some time in the past, but I didn’t know much about him and figured this was a great opportunity to learn more. Besides, I don’t think I’d ever watched an Indonesian-made film before.

First and foremost, the Gundala character was created in 1969 by Harya Suraminata. The movie features an updated version of the character – which, funny enough, means that if I’d grown up with the character I’d probably be annoyed at the movie. Fortunately, I didn’t, so it’s all new to me. The film is the first in a planned Bumilangit Cinematic Universe, and based on this movie, I hope they can follow through.

The film has a subdued, bleak aspect to it that didn’t bug me. It involves a hero coming to grips with his powers and responsibilities, as well as the corruption infecting Indonesian government, and, I suppose, society. I thought the acting was excellent, the special effects were fine for me – I’m not much into computer effects, and since they weren’t overused in this movie, I give them high marks. The main villain is a powerful gangster called Pengkor and his legion of orphan assassins. There’s plenty of martial arts action in the film, and I liked it. The movie ends with a more powerful villain coming to the fore, and the teaser after the credits introduces the next hero to be filmed – Sri Asih.

I really enjoyed this movie – honestly, I enjoyed more than many of the MCU films. It was fun seeing what Joko Anwar could do with the subject, which he clearly loves – and folks – he did it on a budget of just $2.1 million!

Here’s my MM! take on the film Gundala (with the triumphant return of my old stat format that I never should have abandoned) …

GUARDIANS (2017)

I remember seeing the trailer for this a few years ago, but never had the chance until recently to see the film. It showed up on Tubi (another streaming service) in the English-dubbed version, so I gave it a shot. Apparently, this film was panned by critics … and while I’ll admit it wasn’t a great film, it really wasn’t terrible. At worst, I’d say it didn’t meet its potential, and I’m sorry that it doesn’t sound as though they’ll get another shot at the movie.

The Guardians are a group of genetically-modified heroes from the old Soviet Union days, reassembled by a SHIELD-like organization called Patriot to meet a new threat – August Kuratov, an angry, traitorous scientist who is mutated when his laboratory is attacked. This gives him super strength to go with his genius. He’s back, he wants revenge on Russia, and the Guardians have to come together after years alone to fight them.

Let’s start with the bad – the plot isn’t ground breaking folks, though frankly, most superhero plots are not. I didn’t love the design on the villain. In fact, I hated it. Could have been much better. The ending was a bit forced, and the acting in the dubbed version was not always great.

The good – while the first half of the movie is a bit grey and bleak (very Russian, one might say), it brightens considerably in the second half and I liked the characters much more after this shift. The shift actually makes sense in the film, as the heroes go from hunted, hated misfits on their own to a family of sorts. I’ll also say that I enjoyed a bunch of Soviet-era superheroes that were not dressed in red with hammers and sickles all over them (which is coming from a guy who created a bunch exactly like that in a much older post …). I mean, yeah, they have a guy who turns into a bear … but he’s really pretty cool and he has a big machine gun and stuff … I won’t count that against them.

All in all, I’d give the movie a C, maybe C minus. I think it had potential, and I mostly enjoyed the second half of the film.

As for the Guardians …

Happy Anniversary to Nod

We have had a beautiful weekend here in Las Vegas. Perfect temperatures, sunny skies, singing birds – the works! We usually get a few weeks of this in Vegas until the Summer heat hits us full force.

Besides being a beautiful weekend, this weekend also marks – more or less – the 11th anniversary of the Land of Nod blog. Eleven years! I certainly didn’t forsee that when I started, and I guess I’ll have to aim at 20 years as the next milestone.

I’ve had a bunch of “looking back” going on over the last week, as I was recently going through some boxes from my dad’s garage that contain some artifacts of my past. I’ll share some of those soon enough. In the meantime, here are a few milestones of the blog, in case anyone is interested:

THE FIRST POST

The first post was actually made on the original Blogger blog, but it has been preserved here as well. It wasn’t much, but it was a start. If you go to that first post and start reading, you’ll find my initial forays into setting up the Nod campaign setting within the Swords & Wizardry rules, my decision to try collecting the blog posts into a downloadable magazine, and on to creating Pars Fortuna, Space Princess, Mystery Men! and so on.

THE FIRST BIG NUMBERS

So, what post got me my largest audience ever? I wish it was something insightful or creative that I wrote, but alas, it was not. You can find the post HERE. I’ll take it over recent fare in that series any day.

THE FIRST BIG DRAW

If that post got me lots of views, THIS POST used to be the champion for bringing people in from search engines. I used to do a weekly post showing off art from artists on DeviantArt – it was first called the Deviant Friday Five, and then just Deviant Friday. I’ve cleaned up many of those old posts to remove missing art, or in some cases removing posts when the artist is no longer on DeviantArt. Mahmud Asrar’s depiction of Dejah Thoris was a hit, so I always made sure to include a Dejah Thoris if an artist had done one. I’ll note that the images no longer come up properly in the post, but if you click on where they should be, they still link to the images at DeviantArt.

THE CURRENT FAVES

The two current favorite posts at the site are The World of Star Command, which I think got a link at Reddit, and an old favorite The Mother of All Size Charts.

And that’s it for the Land of Nod’s 11th birthday. I should have NOD 36 up for sale by the end of the day, and work continues on more goodies and more posts.

Have fun folks, enjoy your day, and please be kind to one another.

Weather Made Easy

If you’re running a wilderness campaign, you know that at some point you have to think about the weather. Weather can create interesting challenges for a party of explorers, or even just lend to the mood of a session. Referees can always just arbitrarily determine the weather based on their needs, but for long treks across the wilderness seem to call for randomized weather.

I’ve tried a few different schemes for randomly determining weather in my years of writing hexcrawls, but for the last couple of years have used a system that I think is relatively easy, and provides something usable, rather than trivial.

In each of my later hexcrawls, I begin my section on regional weather with this:

“You can use the following tables to determine the overall weather conditions during a hex crawl. The table is divided into the four seasons. Temperature is determined by rolling 1d6 and comparing the roll to the chances of temperature being freezing (below 30°), cold (31-60°), mild (61-85°), warm (86-95°) or hot (96° or higher). Freezing, cold and hot temperatures might require the adventurers to take steps to avoid negative consequences. Precipitation is a percentage chance. If the temperature is below freezing, the precipitation is snow (10% chance of hail). The TK can decide how much rain or snow falls during the day and its duration based on how much she wishes the weather to hinder the players.”

This is followed by a table like this:

Western Wood

Winter Spring Summer Fall
Freeze 1-2 1 1
Cold 3-5 2 1 2
Mild 6 3-5 2-3 3-5
Warm 6 4-5 6
Hot 6
Rain 55% 45% 45% 40%

The table provides a bare-bones account of the weather on any given day, which the TK can flesh out as much or as little as he likes.

The upper portion determines the general range of temperature based on the season, rolled on D6, while the last line is the percent chance of precipitation that day rolled on D%. If the weather is freezing, any precipitation that comes up is snow or maybe hail. Otherwise, precipitation is rain. How much rain? That’s up to the TK. If the TK wants the rain/snow to be a real problem for the PC’s, then it is heavy. Otherwise, it’s a moderate or light rain that provides mood and interest, without becoming a major pain in the butt.

Making the Tables

To make the tables, I could just make up the numbers willy-nilly. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but I usually like to keep things more realistic. To that end, I choose a city in an environment like the one I’m simulating, and look it up on Wikipedia.

If I’m lucky, the Wikipedia page has a table like this one for Rio de Janeiro:

To figure out the percent chance of precipitation, I just take the total of the average days of rain for the three months that make up a “season”, such as December, January and February for Summer (I almost wrote “winter” until I remembered I was working south of the equator), and divide by 90. In this example, Rio would have a 32% chance of rain during the summer season.

I then take the average high, daily mean and average low for each of those three months, and rate it using the scale mentioned above and repeated here: Freezing (below 30°), cold (31-60°), mild (61-85°), warm (86-95°) or hot (96° or higher).

That gives me 9 temperature readings for each season – I use those to determine the chance on a D6 of a day falling into one of those temperature ratings. Using Rio in the summer again, we get the following temperature ratings:

DEC JAN FEB
Average High Mild Warm Warm
Mean Mild Mild Mild
Average Low Mild Mild Mild

So, we have 7 milds and 2 warms. Seven divided by nine is 78%. Multiply that by 6 (i.e. D6) and you get 5. That means a 5 in 6 chance of mild weather. We don’t need to do the calculation for warm, in this case – it would be 1 in 6, but if we had more temperature ranges, we would use the same procedue for each. Naturally, the Referee can intervene a bit in these figures. Because Rio can get quite hot in the summer, I decide to go 1-4 = mild, 5 = warm and 6 = hot.

You do this same process for the other seasons, and you end up with a table like this:

Rio de Janeiro

Winter Spring Summer Fall
Freeze
Cold
Mild 1-6 1-5 1-4 1-5
Warm 6 5 6
Hot 6
Rain 17% 29% 32% 26%

So, if I’m running some adventurer in the region around Rio during the summer – maybe they’re searching for some ancient ruins or a satellite that crashed in the region – I roll 1d6 and d%, On the d6, I get a “6”, meaning it’s a hot day. On the % I get a 53, meaning no rain – just humidity.