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Sitting atop a pile of diluvial corpses, Glenn Fabry depicts Sláine and, just to highlight how it’s going to be a fantasy game, a chest full of treasure on this cover.
Tharg’s Nerve Centre just about has time for Tharg to hype the Tomb of Terror and offer the usual voting coupon (oh, and also to advertise the latest Strontium Dog Titan Books collection as well as another outing for the 1986 Judge Dredd and 2000AD annuals).
Having said all that, it’s on to Sláine The Tomb of Terror by Pat Mills and Glenn Fabry, which is a conventional comic story – more about that in the next paragraph. The full-page splash panel from last prog’s teaser shows a huge pyramidical structure with a large sculpture on top, Aztec-style steps leading up. Presumably this is Grimnismal’s resting place, waiting for the cythrons to collect enough prana to allow the dark god to escape the ray barrier imprisoning it on Earth (which is stuff we found out in the last Sláine story). I can’t exactly remember where they are right now though – on the planet Cythrawl? So are the prison-tombs on Earth or on Cythrawl? Wherever they are, Nest is feeling the affects of an earthquake (or possibly cythrawlquake) as the dark god is regenerating. Sláine and Murdach are not interested in stopping Grimnismal, as they just want to get back to their tribes and a dark god escaping Earth doesn’t bother them. So Myrddin has to point out that Grimnismal would destroy all life on the planet(s) before leaving, including their “precious tribes”. Next, they just have to execute the cythron girl before heading off on their quest. There’s a page of how none of them want the cythron to live before the cythron themselves points out that they can help them get to their goal (starting by pointing out one of three paths to take). Whether they believe her or not has to wait as a group of diluvials turn up. Now, on to the gaming bit…
You are Slaine (and it is called that and not ‘You are Sláine’) Tomb of Terror Part 1 by Pat Mills, Garry Leach and Glenn Fabry. So, the way this works is that the week’s episode is printed, then there’s a few pages (this first episode there’s three) of game. The splash page is by Garry Leach and I’m wondering when we’re next going to see any art by Leach in 2000AD, if ever. Text-wise it’s revealed that the leyser sword emits a mystic green fire. Much simpler than the average roleplaying game, this uses warp points – a combination of strength, intelligence and experience. Which is good as we have a party of eight characters to deal with. I’m going to play through this. I did play through it back in 1985 – I know this for a fact because my copy of the prog has been dutifully filled in in pencil, like the instructions say. I can’t remember if I kept this up until the end of the 15-part story/game, but we’ll see. 1985-me got an initial warp rating of 11 (on 2d6) while 2021-me got 9. First battle was with the diluvials who just turned up at the end of this week’s story. Both 1985 and 2021 me succeeded, and the warp rating of the defeated opponents gets added to my warp rating (remember, it’s a combination of strength, intelligence and experience, so it’s like increasing your statistics in what we’ll call a ‘normal’ roleplaying game by the XP you get at the end of each combat. 1985-me went in to the next episode on 21 while 2021-me is on 19. Switching things around a little, that choice of three paths comes after the combat. 1985-me choose to trust the cythron and so is 2021-me – trusting that the cythron is still under the influence of that magic talisman and won’t betray us (yet). As there is a Sláine roleplaying game (I’ll turn that in to a link when I cover the game – though as this entire blog has only covered 1977 to 1985 so far, and the RPG won’t be released until 2002, don’t hold your breath! Where was I? Oh yes, as there’s a Sláine RPG I did wonder if this could be converted, and there is actually a note on this first episode saying that experienced Game Masters may wish to use it as a scenario and that there’s going to be a map printed at the end of the adventure all those weeks down the line. Don’t recall seeing it but I’ll look forward to that (I love my maps). It also encourages non-players to join in (paraphrasing, skip the fights but tick the choice boxes). I’m finding myself wondering how this combat system would hold up in a serious game – a single characteristic which increases by the total of the opponents defeated at the end of each combat? Fine when you’re playing a scenario where you need to go from prehistoric primitives to fighting a dark god in one adventure.
Enough on games players adventuring through an ancient land fighting fantasy creatures and on to Mean Team by “The Beast” and Belardinelli where some death game players adventure through an ancient land and… uh… So, the ship crashes, they get out, it explodes, they’re stranded on Earth. I say they get out, but Henry Moon informs Bad Jack that three of the crew died – wonder how many of the named characters survived? The Artificon pursuit ship is also crashing but doesn’t have as soft a landing (the Mean Team survived by crashing into the high branches of a forest). Steelgrip reveals that the atmosphere has some sort of corrosive agent, causing mechanical breakdown – causing both of the ships to malfunction and for the robot’s circuits to deteriorate (VZZT! BLEEP!). The surviving crew aren’t happy about being marooned on a hostile planet but there’s not much they can do about it because that fantasy creature turns up next – a giant centaur (judging by the crew or passenger it’s picked up, Miss Peabody, it must be about three to four metres tall). Mungo takes care of it with a gun, but remember that mechanical corrosion? The gun blows up, killing Mungo, so the rest of the Team ditch their modern weaponry too. They’re left with just a few weapons, Bad Jack’s ball-and-chain flail and the hammer that another Team member chucked to finish off the centaur (sorry, can’t remember the name of the character). And there we leave Mean Team for at least a year and a half – by the time it returns, 2000AD will have better quality printing and paper. Fully painted covers and centrespreads will be the norm, though we’ll only get to see the odd painted Belardinelli page. Which leaves just one or two questions – if the atmosphere corrodes electronics and mechanics then how come Von Richmann managed to land on the planet, kidnap young Jack and take off again? And how come Henry Moon’s panther speech synthesiser still works? I can’t claim originality on pointing out these inconsistencies – I seem to remember that a reader at the time noticed and will be writing in to the Nerve Centre. Wouldn’t be surprised if Conrad and Fox noticed either, but I won’t listen to the relevant episode until after I’ve written about this batch of progs.
The Marvel Super Heroes Heroic Role-Playing Game gets another advert – it’s the exact same one we’ve already seen so I won’t say anything about it.
Judge Dredd: The Ugly Mug Ball by T.B. Grover and Cliff Robinson opens with a two-page splash panel acting more as a starscan instead of the flash forward it is from the week’s episode (flash forwards being a personal pet hate in most instances). The judges are out in force (though in the small-scale manhunt rather than large scale H-Wagons, Mantas, block war sense) on the lookout for an escaped con. As you can tell from the title of the story and we’d have seen in the opening flash centrespread, the Uglybug Ball is taking place in the same sector. From contextual clues the Uglybug Ball seems to be an event for the top echelons of ugly people in Mega-City One (it’s getting broadcast coverage like the Oscars or an awards ceremony). None of this means anything to the con though, as they’re just out for blood, trying to get their revenge on the person who put them away. They appear to succeed, certainly they blow up half of the building that person lives in though the judges take chase. The important bit is that the con has been in an iso-cube for sometime – they must have been put away before 2102 as they completely missed out the ugly craze so when the chase takes them through the Ball they’re shocked and discombobulated by the array of ugly faces that greet them. Dredd uses the environment to catch the perp (shooting down a chandelier and hanging from an ugly’s ears) and sends the perp in to a table full of Sump products. Dredd postpones face change surgery to get them back to their usual face as an additional punishment to being put back in the cubes, being led off by a very Hershey-esque judge. I did um and err about whether this was supposed to be Hershey but I’m concluding that it’s another judge with a similar, but lighter coloured, hair style. Hopefully before too long I’ll see a pic of Hershey by Cliff Robinson so I can compare.
Strontium Dog: Max Bubba The Ragnarok Job Part 3 by Alan Grant and Carlos Ezquerra. We’ve been told that this is the story where Johnny and Wulf meet for the first time so I’m going to treat the rest of this blog like you already know that Wulf is an actual historical Viking, so when Harvey from the S/D Agency tells Johnny they’re going to drop him off near the village of Norstad on the South coast of Norway, that’ll be Wulf’s home village. Johnny gets sent off through time armed with a standard blaster and a bunch of time grenades (that send their targets back to Canterbury Hi-Security cells). Switch to the eighth century and Wulf and friends are coming home after pillaging Lindisfarne and seizing slaves (yep, that’s right, Oor Wulf is a slave trader) and treasure. Of Wulf’s home life we find out he has a mother (Olga) who keeps him in check while back in the village and at least two romantic interests (whom he calls ‘piglets’). There’s a few details about what the Vikings do when they get home from a raid, and I do wonder if some of this was taken from a history book (and then I wonder how accurate the mid-eighties or earlier book would be judged nowadays). Anyway, the skald (poet or bard) starts on a drapa honouring Wulf but Sternhammer himself heads out to check the long-ship is secure as the tide is changing. Of course, Wulf being alone outside is the exact moment that Alpha materialises from the late twenty second century and no matter what Johnny says, having glowing mutant eyes prejudices Wulf against him… Oh, and as the fight begins, Wulf lets us know that the happy stick was forged from a shard of Thor’s own hammer. Wonder how many shards of that hammer there are lying around to be forged in to other hammers?
Rogue Trooper: Return to Millicom by Gerry Finley-Day and Jose Ortiz. In the time that Azure takes to re-slot the chips in to their equipment and aim at the invading aliens, the aliens themselves have taken the genetic engineers hostage. Azure takes a hit as she secures the antigen from destruction at the hands of the aliens as they dematerialise. The rear-guard aren’t dematerialising though, they’re sticking around to destroy stuff and kill people and Azure lures them after her in to the airlock and jettisons them all out in to space. Rogue arrives just that little too late to find a patrol shaft outside the porthole picking up the bodies. Lamal isn’t quite dead yet, summons Rogue up to the top deck…
The History of Justice – Punks Rule: Prog 110 by Brian Bolland. You know this image – it’s from the first issue of the Eagle Judge Dredd reprint series and has been re-used and had pastiches produced over the years. For those not familiar – it has Dredd standing to one side, lawgiver held aloft in one hand, the other holding the collar of a saw-toothed mutant kneeling on the floor (with the caption “He is the law and you’d better believe it!”)
Grailpage: I’m going for Glenn Fabry’s splash page for Sláine (used in the pre-series trailer last prog) which shows the tomb of Grimnismal in a deserted landscape.
Grailquote: Pat Mills, Calgacus: “I agree with Hen. Cythrons don’t deserve mercy.” Nest: “The name is Nest, actually.”