Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lands of Mystery, Trail of the Gold Spike, and Justice Inc.

Way back in the early 1980s, the Hero/Champions game system offered a supplement for its Justice, Inc. roleplaying game entitled Lands of Mystery. Now, back in the day, I was just a young whippersnapper who played Dungeons and Dragons pretty much exclusively, and my knowledge of new gaming products and offerings was limited to whatever was on the rack at the Erich Fuchs hobby shop at the Liberty Tree Mall. And even then, if it was not stated out for D&D, I pretty much ignored it.

Flash forward to the present. I'm older (but likely not wiser). I've got access to the Internet and several decades of roleplaying experience under my belt (not to mention gallons of Mountain Dew, a few hundred subs and pizzas consumed at the gaming table, etc.). I've developed an avowed hankering for anything that whiffs of "pulp adventure," thanks mostly to my fascination with the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game (horror pulp), weird tales, Indiana Jones, the Rocketeer, the Shadow, Doc Savage, and so forth.

A few years ago I was fortunate to stumble upon a pretty much near mint copy of the boxed set Justice, Inc. published by Hero Games. I don't remember what store or what bargain bin I fell across it, but I snapped it up, even though I don't play the Hero/Champions system (I'm more of a keep it simple, Call of Cthulhu/Chaosium Basic Roleplaying type of guy). This is the type of set that I won't read for the rules or mechanics of play, but I will read for the campaign source material.

Along with the Justice Inc. boxed set, Hero Games produced two supplements for the game: Trail of the Gold Spike, an adventure module, and Lands of Mystery, a sourcebook for conducting "lost worlds" type campaigns modeled after the fiction of Edgar Rice Borroughs, Jules Verne, and Arthur Conan Doyle. Or, if you grew up in the 1970s and remember that staple of UHF daytime viewing, the Land of the Lost television serial featuring "lost in time" adventurers Marshall, Will and Holly (on a routine expedition...).

Being an avowed Call of Cthulhu gamer, normally I'd take marginal interest in Justice Inc. and its two supplements. However...

Both Trail of the Gold Spike and Lands of Mystery advertise that - in addition to being stated out for the Hero/Champions system - they also are stated for use with the roleplaying games Daredevils (Fantasy Games Unlimited), Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes (Flying Buffalo), Chill (Pacesetter Games) and...wait for it...Call of Cthulhu (Chaosium). Huzzah!

Having some store credit handy with an online games seller, I'd previously ordered Trail of the Gold Spike and today I've ordered a copy of Lands of Mystery. Both were overpriced, but since I'm trading some of my older, unused gaming stuff for store credit, I had "free money" to burn and decided to beef up my Call of Cthulhu game bookshelf with these marginal, "non-canon" purchases. Trail of the Gold Spike has already arrived and I've flipped through it. I'm very much looking forward to the arrival of Lands of Mystery, since it is written by the very talented Aaron Allston (he of D&D Rules Cyclopedia fame and many other writing projects). Lands of Mystery seems to be universally acclaimed in all of the web sources I've checked, so I look forward to exploring this oldie but goodie when it arrives at my domicile.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Magic Kingdom Open Until 3 A.M.!

It's almost midnight and I have to be getting to bed for another busy work day tomorrow (Monday - ugh). At least it is the week of the Thanksgiving holiday, and I've got a few extra days off to look forward to, thus Monday does not arrive with as much of its usual sting.

As I sometimes do, I check the Magic Kingdom hours at Walt Disney World before going to bed. I enjoy going to sleep knowing that while I lay my head down, some lucky guests are even at that moment zipping through Space Mountain or singing along with grim grinning ghosts in the Haunted Mansion.

Checking this evening I see that the Magic Kingdom is open until 3 A.M.! God bless 'em, three o'clock in the morning. And bless those workers that will be keeping that place bright and lively into the wee hours for the guests. I wish I was one of those lucky guests! My son and I - who have a habit of late night adventuring in the Magic Kingdom after my wife and daughter have had enough magic for the day and retired to the hotel room - we would be two of those happy yahoos who stay until the very last minute. We'd be taking a 2:30 a.m. excursion aboard the Jungle Cruise and climbing aboard Big Thunder Mountain Railroad as the stars winked in the pre-dawn night sky far overhead. We'd be the ones munching hot dogs at Casey's Corner just before closing time, and the last ones to board our bus back to the resort, riding along the the dark, nearly abandoned Disney roads to whatever corner of the World held our resort.

Ah, how I wish we were there! Someday not too far from now, we'll be back to that happy place to create more memories. Until then, I'll have to go to bed tonight, in the quiet and dark of my bedroom, thinking of all the magic happening at that very moment at Walt Disney World. Although I cannot be there to share in that fun, still, it will put a smile on my face as I drift off to sleep.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Halloween that Wasn't

This year was the Halloween that wasn't. You see, this year, we got an unexpected snowfall a few days before Halloween. Only a few inches of snow, maybe three inches, and it was all melted away in a day or two. In the annals of New England snowfalls, barely anything at all. However, since the leaves were still on the trees, they acted like little hands that grabbed those fat wet flakes as they fell from the sky, weighing down the tree branches. Those branches snapped under the weight, snapped all all across Massachusetts and Connecticut, plunging hundreds of thousands of us into a new dark age.

Now, living by candlelight and sleeping before one's (mostly ornamental) fireplace may seem a romantic and fun notion. And it certainly was, for the first evening. But as the days dragged on without light or heat or power, things got miserable. My neighborhood was without power for six days. Six days! Halloween fell smack in the middle of those six days. Updates from our public safety officials delivered to our cell phones confirmed that Halloween trick or treat had been postponed one week. We were all disappointed, but too busy shivering in the dark to really give it much thought (right after the early snowfall New England was hit with a spell of unseasonably cold nights...for those of us living without heat or power, well, it was not fun).

I had taken a couple of days off from work (as was my custom) to really enjoy the Halloween holiday. I had no grand plans, simply to stay up late and watch a few favorite horror films, maybe take a quiet walk in one of my town's more picturesque and mood-inducing graveyards (being New England, we've got a few of those handy) read a few pages of Ray Bradbury's The October Country in peace and quiet with a steaming mug of coffee by my side.

Instead the holiday was marked by the whine of my neighbors' power generators (unlike those well-prepared souls, we had no such back-up), cold that seeped into your bones, and a pathetic vigil for the impersonal powers that be (the power company) to eventually restore us to the 21st century.

By the time the power came back up, we were several days into November and Halloween had passed. It was not even November first, Dia de Muertos, the Day of the Dead. Perhaps we could have salvaged something of Halloween if power had come up by Dia de Muertos. But no such good fortune. We were rudely ushered in cold and discomfort into November without passing through that spooky, black-and-orange, bat-and-skull festooned archway known as Halloween.

On Sunday, November 6th, our town celebrated Halloween Trick or Treat. Supposedly. It seems that nearly no-one was in the Halloween spirit anymore, since we only got three intrepid trick-or-treaters rapping at our chamber door. Even they seemed a bit downcast as they held out their trick or treat bags...perhaps seeing no-one else about in costume took the wind out of their sails. I rewarded the intrepid three costumed callers with copious amounts of candy (who else was I going to give it to?) and a friendly "Happy Halloween" greeting. But we seemed to be performing our roles (they the children holding out their goody-sacks, me the adult filling the bags with treats) a bit hollowly, as if going through the motions of a play that has already seen its last audience.

So now we look down the calendar towards Thanksgiving and the winter holidays (pick your tradition: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Yule, Winter Solstice...).

Let's hope they turn out better than Halloween, which did not stand a ghost of a chance this year.

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