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Ghouls in the Hyborian Age

Rambling Conan Blog, pt. 118

Ghouls appear in the Conan novel The Hour of the Dragon. Conan is knocked unconscious and awakens with a ghoul hovering over him. “Half-forgotten memories surged back, of grisly tales whispered of the shapes that haunted these uninhabited forests at the foot of the hills that mark the Zingaran-Argossean border. Ghouls, men called them, eaters of human flesh, spawn of darkness, children of unholy matings of a lost and forgotten race with the demons of the underworld. Somewhere in these primitive forests were the ruins of an ancient, accursed city, men whispered, and among its tombs slunk gray, anthropomorphic shadows—Conan shuddered strongly.”

As for the ghouls appearance, the story says they have gray corpse-like skin with unblinking, soulless eyes. They have dog-like jaws, and misshapen man-like hands. They are stronger than a man. They smell of a charnel-house. This description matches well with Lovecraft’s description of ghouls in stories like Pickman’s Model. It also matches well with the description of ghouls in Clark Ashton Smith’s The Charnel God.

From these sources we know ghouls are corpse eaters, and some weird interbred degenerate things. The ghouls in The Charnel God worship the corpse-worm god Mordiggian in a dark temple. The inhabitants of the city gladly give the corpses of their dead over to the temple’s ghouls, who wear purple robes and silver skull masks, to be eaten by the ghoul priests and the god Mordiggian.

In the Hyborian Age the ghouls have an ancient city in the primitive forests surrounding the hills on the Zingaran-Argossean border. We know from the Hyborian Age essay that the Valley of Zingg was inhabited by an agricultural race before Picts swept in and intermingled with them. Eventually Hyborians also swept in and intermingled with this culture. This is how “modern” Zingarans arose. These original inhabitants of the Valley of Zingg could be the “lost and forgotten race” mentioned in The Hour of the Dragon. Extrapolating further, this city could have been one much like the city in The Charnel God. A city that worshipped Mordiggian with it’s ghoul cult, but once the original race thinned or were overtaken the city degenerated into purely a ghoul city. Now it is ancient and ghoul haunted, where corpses are brought to feed the population and their crawling god. Perhaps the ghoul priests still wear tattered purple robes and stained silver skull masks.

Gaming with ghouls: To utilize ghouls in your Hyborian Age RPG of choice, make them immortal (undead works for D&D and it’s clones), and for D&D type ghouls remove the paralysis effect, and instead add a “Worrying bite” effect where after hitting with a bite attack the ghoul no longer has to roll to do bite damage each round until the victim breaks free. Powerful ghouls (Ghasts in D&D and clones) may have spells. Ghouls have rubbery flesh that is hard to damage (natural armor). Their attacks should be sharp claws and canine bite. Ghouls are created through interbreeding or ritualistic cannibalism.
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Dark Horse Conan Omnibus 3, a review
Rambling Conan Blog, pt. 117

The third (and I’m assuming final) Dark Horse Conan Omnibus 3 was released a while ago, but I only just got around to finishing it. So how is it?

It’s wrapped in a good cover by Frank Cho, and good front piece by Tomás Giorello.

The stories here are all written by Timothy Truman. The art is by Tomas Giorello and Richard Corben.

The Hand of Nergal - Starts much differently than Howard's original, which was a fragment but still began a story. Much like de Camp’s terrible version, this one neglects Howard’s awesome story opening. The entire story doesn't convey the same dread that Howard did in his few short pages. Overall though the story is good if a little too demon filled and cliche. There are some good Conan moments. Better than the terrible deCamp version.
Artwork by Tomás Giorello is good. Characters are well drawn, including a nice dark, sinister, scarred Conan.

Cimmeria - Nice little story with REH’s poem as a background. More nice art here too! Good depiction of Cimmeria.

Hunter's Moon - The artwork is at times great here, and at times pretty terrible. My wife saw a picture of a wolf and asked “who's that happy bear?” The story itself, about Conan's grandfather, is pretty good.

The Skrae - Continuing Conan's return to Cimmeria, as well as the flashbacks about his grandfather. Again this story has very good art in the “modern day” bits and very rough art in the flashbacks. Both modern and past stories are good however.

The Wolf’s Promise, Homecoming, and Darkness and the Night - These “issues” all continue the Cimmeria storyline (and the storyline with Conan’s grandpa), and do a great job of both. In the end, I really liked this story. It felt like a Conan story, and there weren’t any real glaring problems with it.

Black Colossus - Fills in the original story by showing how Conan joins Amalric’s mercenary company and learns the ways of “civilized” warfare. Also featured are cameos of three characters from another Conan story, Iron Shadows in the Moon.
The artwork is again very nice here, and is also mature-rated which is great to see in a Conan title. I wish all Conan titles were this free with nudity.

Overall I give this Omnibus 4 Happy Cimmerian Bears out of 5. Hand of Nergal is the crap part, but the Cimmeria story is pretty darn good. Black Colossus takes a couple liberties on the original story, but isn’t terrible, and the art is mostly great.
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Wonder Woman / Conan issue 3 review
Rambling Conan Blog, pt. 116

I’ve really enjoyed the first two issues of this mini-series. I was a fan of the old Marvel What-If books that featured Conan interacting with other characters in the universe, and this book feels like one of those. It’s written by Gail Simone, who knows both characters well. I was pretty excited to wake up this morning and read the latest issue. So, how is it?

The cover art by Darick Robertson and Tony Avina is not really to my liking. It looks very harlequin romance and does this title an injustice in my opinion. It’s also pretty boring to look at. The variant cover by interior artist Aaron Lopresti is pretty great though. It captures the content well and draws your attention.

The interior art is all amazing! I continue to be surprised with how good Aaron Lopresti’s art (and Matt Ryan’s inks) captures the characters. The detail, the action, and realistic posing is all top notch. There is no confusion as to what is happening on the page, it’s all clear, artistic, and gorgeous. Contrast this with the crap art in Conan the Slayer and it makes me even sadder that Slayer wasn’t placed in better hands. I like this art so much that a screen capture has replaced the Frazetta painting on my Kindle home screen. That says a lot.

The last issue was good but had a couple of plot transitions that didn’t fit right or feel entirely in character with Conan. This issue has none of those problems and is pretty great from start to finish. It’s titled “The Dance of the Wicked Crows”, and we are finally treated to some explanation of the mysteries surrounding the story in this mini-series. The “Crows” of the story are interesting adversaries that fit well in both Conan’s world and Diana’s. Conan is not portrayed as the raging barbarian, but instead as the character Howard fans are used to reading. The flashback sequences of Conan’s youth are well done and fun. The two action scenes are well written and look great. The chemistry between the two characters is fun and interesting. There are touching moments, humor, and bloody action. Overall this entire issue is a fun ride.

I give this issue 5 Scheming Field Maiden’s out of 5. Looking forward to the next issue and wishing that this was part of a regular Conan series.
As I keep saying of this title: Unless you really hate strong women in stories or the idea of any Conan pastiche or crossover books, do yourself a favor and buy this immediately to see what good non-REH Conan stories can look like. If you do hate strong women in stories, maybe stop reading Robert E Howard as well; he had a lot of them.
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Another Guest Article on Mighty Thor JRS

The sword & sorcery and sci-fi blog Mighty Thor JRS has hosted another guest blog article from yours truly and the Rambling Conan Blog.
If you like sword & sorcery and classic sci-fi, check out James Schmidt's blog:
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Jeff Talanian asked to run "celebrity D&D" at Gary Con, using Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

AS&SH was the winner of the Conan RPG Challenge I ran this year. The author, Jeff Talanian has been asked by Luke Gygax to run AS&SH as the "celebrity D&D" game at the next Gary Con. Big Rambling Conan Blog congratulations to Jeff. What an honor!

I'm hoping to make it to the convention, as it's not too far from my Cimmerian homestead.
::::: Gary Con X Special Announcement! :::::

It is with great pleasure and immense honor to announce that I have been invited to run "Celebrity D&D" at Gary Con X on Saturday, March 10, at 8pm. However, it won't actually be a session of D&D, because Mr. Luke Gygax has requested that I run the role-playing game that I created, Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. Why? Because he wants to play AS&SH! How could I possibly say no?

AS&SH is inspired by traditional rules as conceived by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, with setting materials inspired by the fiction of Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, and Clark Ashton Smith. It fits the paradigm established by Gygax, Arneson, et al., and it is my sincere hope that the event is both fun and memorable for participants and spectators alike.

What a privilege to be asked to run this event! I had the fortune to work closely with Gary Gygax during his final years, co-authoring Castle Zagyg, and functioning as an author and project manager for the Yggsburgh line of city supplements. During that time, we became good pals, so it is also bitter-sweet for me to accept this honor, because I do miss Gary, and I will always be his fan.

The event will also include some celebrity players, such as "Melf the Elf" (aka Luke Gygax), "The Sage" (aka Skip Williams), and more to be announced soon! I have created a brand new Hyperborea adventure for the event, called, The Ice Sphinx, inspired by a painting by Nicholas Roerich, and by the animated film, "Fire and Ice". Here is the full description:

An Adventure in Hyperborea, by Jeffrey Talanian

Nightfall: a one-year timespan in Hyperborea, when the giant red sun does not reveal its face, and scant light is provided only by sparkling auroræ and the two ellipsoid moons. It is also the time of winter, when temperatures plummet, winds howl, and glaciers crawl hungrily. In the Keltic city of Gal, local shepherds have arrived bearing alarming news: Whilst gathering their flocks in the fields below the southern mountains of the Broken Coast, they spied a sphinx composed of ice. One herdsman’s brazen sons dared enter the mouth of the sphinx, and at length they emerged with a handful of sapphires. Since then, a voluminous wall of ice has formed, spreading outward from the ice sphinx and consuming all in its path.

If you have not yet registered for Gary Con X, I would advise you to do so at your soonest convenience. From all that I understand, this is going to be the best one yet -- a complete weekend of fun and gaming in the little town where it all started: Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Gary Con serves as a celebration of Gary Gygax's life and the wonderfully collaborative and creative form of game play that he and his fellows shared with the world. Don't miss out! It is going to be a fantastic weekend.

Jeffrey Talanian
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Guest article on Mighty Thor JRS

Another early article from The Rambling Conan Blog is featured on the guest blogger spot today on James Schmidt's Mighty Thor JRS blog.
Check out James' blog for more great tidbits aimed at sword & sorcery and sci-fi fans.
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Monolith Conan Khitai expansion
Rambling Conan Blog, pt. 115

I didn't order the expansions for the Monolith board game with my post-Kickstarter pledge. I wanted them but I was cautious. Followers of this blog probably already know that I now consider the Monolith Conan board game to be the best official Conan product to be released in many years.
Still, I wasn't going to buy the Khitai expansion. First, Khitai is never seen in the REH stories, so nothing was going to be very recognizable from the stories I love. Second, the expansion looked to contain a lot of "Foo Dogs" and I wasn't sure how many times these would get used in the RPG's that I also use this game's components for.

However, with my love for this board game, and my AS&SH Hyborian Age RPG campaign heading slowly towards Khitai, I decided I needed this when it became available on Miniature Market. I'm really glad I got it.

There are only five of the "Foo dogs" and they are lion-ish enough that I can use them as such for other RPG's. The new "hero", Shentu, is a great miniature. The three different types of Khitan soldiers are also pretty great, with exotic armor that makes them stand out from the more Western miniatures in the sets so far. Finally, the Khitan sorcerer is a fantastic mini, with a very mysterious and flavorful design.

The boards (of which there are two, a standard and a half size) are nicely detailed maps of a river market and a sorcerer's tower. Both have lots of detail and interesting little locations that will be great for the board game and RPG's.

We haven't played any of the scenarios yet, but there are some really fun looking ones. I'm particularly looking forward to the tower theft scenario, which upon quick glance looks like a really fun raid / Tower of the elephant type adventure. There are mechanics for climbing the tower as well.

Overall this expansion really hits the mark. I'm once again impressed with this game. Sure Monolith had some problems getting this game out in the first place, and they have a lot of translation problems and seem to care much more about their native language audience than anyone else. However, as a Conan fan and collector, this stuff is just fantastic. Each box is like a mini-playset of the Conan toys I never had as a kid. The board game is very fun, and the components are all useful for RPG's as well. Super value for the money.

If you are a Conan fan and have not purchased the board game yet, buy it right now. If you like the board game, buy all three expansions. Also, if you know a Conan fan, Xmas is coming and this game would make a perfect gift!
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Rambling Conan Blog index

The Rambling Conan Blog has attracted a lot more followers lately, so I thought I'd repost a link to the Index. It's unfortunately not an alphabetical index, but it at least helps to sort through the out of date or random posts.

I realized way too late that Google Plus is not the best place for a blog. This index is my way of trying to organize things in a searchable manner.
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Beastmaster is on Amazon Prime!

For free (with Prime subscription)
I'm downloading it on my Kindle right now.

Fire & Ice, another great S&S flick, is also free!

(Also, Cast a Deadly Spell, which if you haven't seen it you may watch it right now)
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