Friday, November 28, 2014


Ah, the disenchanter: yet another monster from the world’s oldest role-playing game’s Fiend Folio given the Misfit Monsters Redeemed buff & shine.  For those who don’t recognize it by name alone, the disenchanter is a blue-furred, camel-like creature with an elephantine nose it uses to suck up magic.  This includes disenchanting PCs’ weapons, make the disenchanter the #2-most-hated monster of all time, second only to the rust monster.

Colin McComb does the rehab in MMR, proposing that disenchanters were created by one powerful mage to undermine the plots of another (Nex and Geb, respectively).  That’s all well and good for the Golarion setting, but personally I prefer a more natural explanation.  I mean, if our nonmagical world can produce an elephant in a few million years, a magical ecosystem should be able to spit out a disenchanter in a couple of weeks.

The other thing McComb goes to great lengths to point out is how intelligent disenchanters are.  Which means simply dispatching or starving them isn't an option, especially if you have a paladin or good cleric in the party.  As a paladin player myself, I don’t believe in GMs baiting paladins into alignment conflicts unnecessarily…but for disenchanters, I think we can make an exception…

Prescott Turmint is a witch-finder with an unusual mount: a blue-furred disenchanter.  Not only does the beast help lead him to witches, but it also deprives them of their magicked objects while enchanting Prescott’s own (via magic weapon).  Prescott has grown more intemperate with age, however, and now regards anyone not willing to be sniffed out by his steed as a witch or a diabolist just waiting to be burned at the stake.

Exploring the Lost Island was supposed to be easy—the adventurers were to get ferried over on one of the natives’ catamarans, protect the professor while he made sketches, and bring back any loot or small exotic specimens they found.  But there was that incident with the wererats in port, storm wyverns harassed the party en route, and then the professor took ill.  Now the adventurers have finally made it to the island…only to have their gear disenchanted on the beach by strange blue camel-things with prehensile noses.  Suddenly the dinosaurs and megafauna of the Lost Island are looking much more menacing…

The mercanes of Starsail are notorious for a scam they pull on dirtworlders.  Posing as customs agents, they lead disenchanters onto the docks to search the cargo being offloaded from ships flying the colors of backwater planets.  In the normal course of events, the disenchanters suck up the magic from mundane items like scrolls and magical daggers, likely impoverishing the owners and making them more likely to need the mercanes’ moneylending services.  If the disenchanters get too excited about a find, the mercanes know they have an artifact on their hands, and they distract their disenchanter sniffers long enough for their confederates to open negotiations.

Misfit Monsters Redeemed 22–27 & Pathfinder Bestiary 3 81

For David Fanany and other budding Mystara fans out there, hang tight—I’m about halfway through my Known World primer, but I want to polish it up a bit more before I hit post.  Look for a full reply on Monday.

Stand back you guys.  This week I was a Pretty Big Deal on the Internet™.

So I’m a pretty big comic fan.  Not truly hardcore, but I go to the shop (Big Planet Comics in College Park) most every week after my radio show and I have a box there so I don't miss any issues.  And when I’m doing my timesheets at work I like to listen to Jeff Moss and Donnie Coulter’s podcast The Watchtower, because they’re super entertaining and it’s a great way to stay up on the comic industry with zero effort on my part.

A few weeks ago they had a show that really resonated with me (Episode 329: The Fury of Donnie) and they’re always asking for listener feedback, so I wrote them a long-ass email in reply.  And I expected I’d get a slight nod in the next podcast and maybe a comment or two. 

What I didn't expect was that they’d spend basically an entire show responding to it.

So despite absolutely butchering my first name, they were really gracious and kind of awesome about the whole thing, and I’m really flattered they took the time to respond in such a big way.  (They also gave this page a nice shout-out as well.)  If you’re a fan of comics, definitely check Jeff and Donnie out; their website is here and that particular episode (Episode 330: Programmed By You) is here.  Hope you enjoy!

PS: The guys actually only got to about half my letter—mostly the cranky bits—so here’s the whole thing (slightly edited for clarity) if you’re curious. 

Note that the tone is snarkier than a lot of my reviews here—in this space I keep things positive; I’m enthusiastic about the things I like and I rarely feel the need to mention the things I don’t—so be aware that you’re getting the far-less-edited version of the friendly neighborhood blogger you’re used to.

date: Fri, Nov 21, 2014 at 5:33 PM
subject: The Fury of Donnie gave me feelings

Hi guys, Patch here.  After last week’s show I had a bunch of random responses to…basically everything.  So I figured I’d email and you can use or discard as much as you like.

First the grumpy stuff:

1) So not excited about Hickman on titles.  He’s the reason I dropped Avengers during the “Ex Nihilo” storyline.  I want my adoptive dysfunctional family, not a military team.  It’s like he watched the Avengers movie and walked away convinced that the best parts were the Helicarrier and the hordes of faceless aliens.

2) Remender is killing me, too.  I finally dropped Uncanny Avengers. I also just nixed Axis.  I only have so many spins round the sun in this life, and Kluh did not belong in any of them. 

Plus, since I missed Remender’s apparently amazing run on Uncanny X-Force, I don't see his scripts as continuing the epic of the En Sabah Nur clan; I just see a dude who keeps getting his Apocalypse fetish in my Avengers peanut butter.

Of course, meanwhile the next issue of Axis was already in my pull box, and since I don’t want to screw my retailer I paid for it…and it was actually delightful and charming and full of delightful Spidey-Nova back-and-forth.  THIS IS HOW REMENDER GETS YOU.  It was great and for a second I wanted more…but I know the next 4 issues will be shite.

3) The big 4-series Aliens/Prometheus/etc. relaunch is also frustrating me.  Yes, the source material only gives us a limited world to work with, but I still want more story options than: go to a place, greedy person makes a bad decision, everyone dies, or go to a lab, make an alien/human hybrid, everyone dies. 

Not every Aliens series can have the vitality of the original Aliens graphic novel trilogy or the first nearly perfect Aliens vs. Predator trade, but Aliens: Genocide and A/P: Deadliest of the Species proved there’s still plenty to do in that world.  Prometheus should have been a giant shot in the arm to the whole franchise—so why am I this bored?

4) I may have to give up on Batman.  The art is great, no question.  The stories have been riveting.  But they have also been…similar.  I watched the Court of Owls torture Bruce for months.  Then I watched skin-face Joker torture the Bat-Family for months.  Then I watched Riddler torture Gotham for months—a great storyline, but once again, more deathtraps.  And now we’re back to skin-face Joker again!  I can't take all the grimdark, I’ve seen more bruises and bondage rigs in these pages than I would on, and I feel like I’m just kickstarting the trade.  Give me some interlude issues and other tones!  There’s a reason the X-Men play basketball once in a while.  For one issue can’t somebody just, I dunno, rob a bank? 

5) Ranty tangent re: kickstarting the trade.  I know I’m doing it, but I don’t want to feel like I'm doing it.  That means I don't want to buy $5 comics that are going to show up in a $15 trade.  I want the occasional stand-alone story.  I want some plot threads to dangle between one arc and the next.  I know the economics of trades and the trade reading experience make tight arcs appealing, but there also needs to be a reason to pick up the next issue.  I feel like we’ve got the worst of both worlds right now—you have to read every arc because of whatever crucial death/plot point/crisis each one involves…but we lurch from arc to arc instead of flowing smoothly between them.

Don't make me feel like I’m kickstarting the trade, creators.  At least Powers and Saga have kickass letters pages.

6) PS: The answer to making the monthly comic worth it is not secondary stories, especially serial secondary stories.  I love a good anthology title—the first comic I collected was Avengers: Spotlight—but I have never read a secondary story in a standard comic that has been of any value.  That includes you, Batman.

OK! Enough negativity!  I don't want you to think for a second that I am a total curmudgeon, though, because there’s lots to love on the shelf.

7) Loving Batgirl and have added it to my pull list.  You're totally right it’s not the same Barbara Gordon.  But I have zero baggage, because I never read the old Batgirl or Birds of Prey stuff, and I’m okay with her being occasionally dumb.  (Let’s call it brilliant but scattered.)  I say, pick it up, pretend it’s an Elseworlds title, and just enjoy.  

8) Totally second you guys on Tooth & Claw.  Gorgeous art, shockingly elegant world-building for a first issue, and only $2.99. 

9) Ditto Copperhead at $3.50.  I hope the market doesn’t get flooded with sci-fi westerns—I don't know if I’d need Six-Gun Gorilla, Firefly, and Copperhead all at the same time—but for right now, yes please!

10) I’d love to hear more recommendations on some great comic books that are just happy to be comic books, particularly of the pulp variety, but straight-ahead superhero comics are fine, too.  Atomic Robo had me for a while for its clean art and humor, but I’ve fallen off it.  Spidey, Avengers, and the X-titles all have me in so much event fatigue—independent of their quality (Edge of Spider-Verse being fine doesn't make me any less exhausted)—that I’m putting my foot down on all spin-offs, weeklies, and tie-ins in my pull box. Recommend a comic that's a comic, please.

11) You know where crossovers are totally appropriate, though?  Annuals.  I used to love Marvel’s summer annuals, and a good crossover story would expose me to titles I’d never buy otherwise (Captain America, Avengers West Coast, New Mutants…).  I’ll happily do annual crossovers, because in an annual I get the story and three or four other stories as well.  (But they have to be fresh stories...none of this repackaging Silver Era issues nonsense.)  The crossover fan wins, the anti-crossover fan wins, and the regular story doesn't screech to a halt or skip like a broken record.  How about a year where we just keep the crossovers to annuals and limited series to let the other titles breathe?

12) Speaking of which, know any good anthology titles? I used to love Marvel’s Summer Spectaculars full of random-ass stories and characters.  Only one off the top of my head is Dark Horse Presents…is it worth it?  Anyone else?

I’ll shut up now.  I know this email is super-long.  Sorry.  Like I said, last episode just resounded with me, and since you want mail, I wanted to respond.  Later and thanks for the podcast!

1 comment:

  1. Re: point 4 of your e-mail

    I read a comment on a completely unrelated forum a while ago from someone who said that he was basically giving up on current comics. He said "Comics aren't fun any more; now it's all just grimdark BS". After reading Death of the Family, I kind of see what he means. The basic concept for the story is good, but why (spoiler alert) did Joker have to cut off his own face? Does that really make the story more compelling? I think sometimes the writers think they need to shock people, but it can easily go overboard and become absurd (and not in the amusing shark repellent sort of way).

    Looking forward to the Mystara primer!