Thursday 26 May 2011

The Spirit of Dungeonpunk '87

Orcs is da best, da 'ardest and make da most aggro noise. We is da punkest punx! Waaagh!
Savage Orcs 1987 Spring Citadel Journal | Perry Bros.

Throw the post-colonial caricature of bones-through-the-nose cannibals from 1930's cartoons, Neanderthal skull-shapes, symbolism of the disaffected white urban youth and American Indians into a semiotic melting pot and what do you get? Savage Orcs. The mohican haircut, of course, is named after the American Indian nation of the Mowhawk, and is resonant with ideas of the noble-savage and was easily assimilated by the anarcho-primitivistic current within punk. 

Taking for granted that the whole cannibal cartoon is a projection of primitivism onto Africans by way of blackface stylisation largely by white post-colonialist media-producers, the admixture of 'punk' signifiers goes some way towards redeeming the Savage Orc caricature as a symbol of a more universal primitivism, rather than one as a sole product of post-colonial stereotyping.

Of course, it is needless to say that the box-set of plastic Savage Orcs you can buy from Games Workshop no longer carries any punk signifiers.

Enough of the run-on sentences and polysyllabic babble!

Wots dis den? Kevin Adams Gobbos wiv da moheekan hair, innit. 'Cos Gobbos iz Punx too.

Click for bigga!

Naaah! Orcs iz da best punx. Jes Goodwins Lord of the Rings Orcs, wiv mohawks. Mohawk Orcs in Lord of the Rings. So let's get this absolutely straight: Tolkien is Dungeonpunk, official. Well, officially licensed by Elan merchandise. In the 80s. On 1 miniature.

Tolkiens Uruk-hai, dungeon punk orcs by Jes Goodwin

And here's a more recent member of the dugneonpunk goblin tribe, a rather natty fellow from Kevin Adams, with nose-ring.
Kev Adams Punk Goblin 2010 from Rhoninstorm

Saturday 21 May 2011

Frank's Alcoholic Root Beer in The Castle of Lost Souls

So I wake up 3 months later with a blistering headache and wondering what on earth is going on. At breakfast with my employers, the Greengosh family I crack open a bottle of Frank's Alcoholic Root Beer (4%), and receive disapproving glances from their youngest. I'm also given "a rather foul smelling preparation made from rancid milk, animal fat, and rotting vegetables" - What a bizarre coincidence! The root-beer tastes like a rancid preparation of Coke (probably because of the vanilla) and anti-septic mouthwash (probably because of the aniseed) and lager.

Wishing pseudo-medieval Europe had toothbrushes to clean the taste out of my mouth, I put on the magic boots I stole from the giant (see prog 131 - Zhu) and head off to get some Nuns hair and saints ashes. Throwing 4 coins at an underbridge toll-man beggar, he informs me that nuns shave their heads before entering a coven (so it's downstairs nun hair I'm looking for?!?) - I head off to desecrate a shrine and steal some charred saint corpse. The gods spot that I'm a good for nothing low-life scum and send an Angel Warrior to defend their saintly relics. A swig of Franks (not so bad with the second go) to aid my courage and I send him back to the mists he came from. Rolling the 3 dice the 2 'to Hit' and one 'Damage' at the same time, speeds up combat dramatically. I steal the urn and head off to the hills.

I come across a gang of robbers beating up an old man and his travelling companions and decide to help them out, an epic amount of dice rolling ensues as I fight off 4 robbers, one named Emaj Dogbreath,  perhaps he had some of Frank's Alcoholic Root Beer earlier in the day. But rather than show him sympathy for his stinky-breathed plight, I beat the living daylights out of him. I get 2 points of honour for my efforts and disapproving looks from a novice-to-be, probably due to the stench of Root Beer exuding from my mouth.  Nonetheless I escort them to the nunnery, where the nuns heal me up, give me food and board and a strand of newly shaven nuns hair.  So it was upstairs hair all along. Thank goodness for that!

Off we go, and come across some guy fishing, I try to pass off some of my Root Beer on to him and he hands me his fishing rod. Together we land a fish the size of a dog and he gives me a magical 'ring of light'. What a lovely chap, despite his hints of cannibalism. Wander off,  away from the river and taking another swig, decide that the Alcoholic Root Beer is really not for me, but, I'll see it though to the aniseedy end. Suddenly. out of no-where a Lammasu appears. I take the pseudo-medieval comment back, there is clearly some middle-eastern thing going on. Time for some game-theory: I know Lammasu in D&D are good aligned, but I also know that Dave Morris expects that I know that Lammasu in D&D are good aligned. But Dave Morris also knows that I expect him to throw a googly every now and then, so if he thinks that I expect a trick, then it won't be a trick and the winged lion-man will be good. While debating my next move with myself, the Root Beer seems to have gone flat (which doesn't improve the flavour at all) and the Lammasu shows me his paw has a thorn in it. Like something out of the Bible, I remove the thorn from the Lammasu and he gives me a point of Honour, congratulates me on a fine use of game-theory and advises me to not try that sort of thing in future in case I doublethink myself into oblivion.

What's in your backpack?
Stinky potion of healing, the 3 dice combat-fu and Ljósdvergar
Heading out of the hills, I meet two goblins who do the classic 'he always lies' routine, and I go right and head off into the mists. The Root Beer seems to have coated the inside of my mouth and I'm belching like a giant toad in mating season. Not good. The alcohol doesn't seem very prominent just a slight blurring of the edges and the whole world smells like a dentists surgery. I start to see various items from my back-pack hanging off trees, but am used to the effects of hallucinogenic mist, so choose to ignore them and just keep walking. While trying to get some sleep, a gaggle of Marshoons - strange leathery creatures - are attracted by the light of the fire and threaten to squash me with their curiosity. Using the ring of light gained from the fisherman person, I send out an impressive flash of light scattering the Marshoons off, into the night. Next morning, staggering around a bit more in the mist, I eventually espy the Castle of Lost Souls, but it seems to keep moving, every time I get close, it moves away. The beer isn't that strong, so it must be the magics. Gipsy Gails crystal ball shows the way out of the mist and onwards, towards episode 4 and the conclusion of the quest...

At last we enter Castle Greyskull (at least that is what the illustration looks like) I poke around on the ground floor for a bit, finding nothing. Then go upstairs, ignore a lot of doors and get into a fight with a bearskin rug. I'm not sure ignoring the doors is the best thing to do, the Castle of Lost Souls seems to generally reward curiosity and exploration, but I'm eager to see the end. Not as eager as I am to get to the end of the foul brew I'm forcing myself to drink. Nonetheless, I manage not to freeze to death in a freezing trap of death and not be turned to a minion of the demon Slank by having enough Honour Points. Then ta-da, up pops the final battle with the demon himself. He's a toughie, who guarantees a hit every round, but of course evil is vanquished in the end. Liberally sprinkling powdered saint  over his demon corpse I free the imprisoned spirits from the castle and have finally won the day! The people of the land celebrate, give me some mithril armour (no mention of it's armour value tho') and 700 GP, which should pay off this adventurers bar tab. THE END.

If you like Root Beer a lot, then give Frank's a try. If your not a frequent Root Beer drinker, avoid it. Not even with a 10ft pole. Rancid doesn't come close to describing its awfulness, it's just not worth it. Never again.

Overall, I really enjoyed the Castle of Lost Souls. The episodic format works nicely, the combat system is quick, but like most solos, involves a lot of dice rolling. The multi-combatant combat even had a slightly tactical element, as choosing the order of which enemy to fight has an impact on the outcome. The use of Honour is a well implemented 'alignment' system, that allows you the freedom to do good or bad things and those actions to have consequences. For example - the episode with the robbers and the nun gave the choice of fighting on the robbers side, I don't know what happens if you take that choice, but just having the 'do evil' choice there has a much more mature feel than only giving the options of heroic or cowardly action.  The moral-relativity 'grittyness' is balanced with encounters which are both colourful and enjoyable, the quirkiness of giants with rubber gloves and acid lakes or Lammasu with thorns in their paws doesn't become ridiculous, but added flavour and interest.

The series ran in White Dwarf issues 52-55, and was reprinted in the Golden Dragon Gamebook series, which was named after my local Chinese restaurant (or not).

Beer: -1 Gamebook: 4 (just need a graphic of Derek the Troll jumping with glee)

Sunday 15 May 2011


More Swords and Sorcery influenced DIY/punk culture, looking at a few 80's 'zines which appropriated images from the Fantasy genre and some AD&D inspired Black Metal.
Alchemist | Tony Ackland 1984 | via uk zine lbrary
Tony Acklands Alchemist first appeared in Warhammer Fantasy Battle 2nd Edition, and was to reappear in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st. Edition. Here it has been appropriated by the editor of Fight Back Zine for a cover. According to the uk zine library, Fight Back contains an impressive list of interviews, which tend along the thrash-metal / crust-punk axis of the alignment-chart*. Legion of Parasites, Uproar, Wretched, Instigators, Ma Maus, Bloodlust, Criminal Justice, Venom, Metallica, Deformed, Stupids, Terveet Kadet, Sarcasm, Morbid Humour, Chaos UK, Rafgier.

Elves | Victor Ambrus  | 1987 zine | via uk zine lbrary

Head | Ian Miller | 1987 zine | via uk zine lbrary

The charmingly named Poosheet - "lake district gig guide" with a modified Ian Miller head (2) and Victor Ambrus Elves (1), both from David Days Tolkien Bestiary. The Bestiary has terribly cobbled together text (with many errors and misrepresentations of Tolkiens work), combined with superb illustrations from Ian Miller, John Blanche, Victor Ambrus and others. I've no idea what content Poosheet contained.

UPDATE: Just stumbled across "Evilspeak" at Punk is Hippies blog. Which only goes and puts a Trevor Hammond image (the smoking zombie ghoul creature) from White Dwarf on the cover, pure 80's dungeonpunk gold...

Russ Nicholson | Zombie 1982 | Blast 'zine 2009

A more recent Death Metal 'zine Blast feturing Russ Nicholsons amazing Zombie from the first Fighting Fantasy Gamebook The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (1982). I love it when artwork from childrens books is used for thee seriousness ov troo kvlt black metal. But really, that is one hell of a piece, the pure artistry of the detail and shape forming aside, I really wonder how the gore got past Puffins editorial team back in the day...

With regards reclaiming 'dungeonpunk', I'm stretching the idea of 'punk' to include DIY / 'zine culture that isn't necessarily punk in ethos or aesthetic. Of course crust/doom/grind/death/black metal grew out of punk, but then so did the new-romantics and art-rock, so such geneologies ultimately prove useless exept to show mutability of genre (which more often than not are a consrtuction of journalism than a defined movement which artists seek to identify with) and the monumental influence of punk.

Unlike Toyah who herself had punk-era credentials and created a certain weird-fantasy vibe mixing pop-occultism, fairy-tale and post-apocalyptic imagery or indeed the Hawkwind space-rock crossover with Michael Moorcock (mentioned in passing here), which more rightly belongs with prog-rock psychedelia (although with a much crustier production), pinning down a more definite influence of fantasy (rather than say, a horror based influence) on punk subculture does seem a little unlikely, especially when looking at the agendas of grindcore bands like Extreme Noise Terror or Napalm Death who are more interested in a radical anti-corporate, vegan, anti-war politic than the kind of conservative romanticism associated with High Fantasy.

However, Burzum named after "darkness" in Tolkiens language of Mordor, and whose lead Varg "Count Grishnackh" Vikernes name-checks AD&D The Temple of Elemental Evil as an influence on the album art. He puts these influences down to youthful exuberance, and nowadays more often than not tends to head straight for the neo-völkisch jugular rather than messing about with the gateway drug of fictionalised mythologies.

Burzum artwork based on The AD&D Module: The Temple of Elemental Evil

Realm of Chaos / Bolt Thrower Tsirt | Ian Miller / John Blanche(?)
Finally a Bolt Thrower T-shirt for the "Realm of Chaos" album, with custom lettering by John Blanche (based on the Warhammer Realm of Chaos Supplement which grounded the concept of the album, provided artwork for the sleeve-notes) with a lovely thorny skull pile by Ian Miller. Damn. I want one of those.

* I hereby release the Thrash/Speed/Doom/Black/Crust alignment system under a Creative Commons attribution non-commercial license.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Motörhead vs. Khörne

So I'm working though creating a Chaos Champion and his retinue using Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness, and accidentally looked across at the sleeve of a Motörhead LP.  Khorne + Motörhead = Khörne.

Khorne| John Blanche 1988

Snaggletooth / Warpig | Joe Petagno 1977

The original War Pig device designed by Joe Petagno in 1977 for British rock-band Motörhead, named after a song Lemmy wrote for space-rock pioneers Hawkwind, released as the B-side of the single Kings of Speed which had lyrics by British sci-fi/fantasy writer Michael Moorcock, who essentially invented the concept of "Chaos" as commandeered by Games Workshop, eight-pointed star logo and all, in his Eternal Champion series (and is namechecked in WFB 1e as an influence).

The Warpig / Snaggletooth character appears on almost every album Motörhead ever released, however Petagno and Motörhead have (recently) parted ways, with Petagno reclaiming the character as his own.

Juggernaut of Khorne | Joe Petagno 1988

Balrog Bloodthirster -note the elongated side-tusks | John Blanche (1988)

Realm of Chaos | John Sibbeck 1988

It might be possible to dismiss the similarities between as belonging to a pre-existing "generic demon" category, drawing on the bestial equals evil theme, which leads to chaos beastmen, werewolves, the Elphias Levi's Goat of Mendes / Baphomet and the cynocephalus of medieval propaganda.

However, I think there are some more definite resemblances between The Motörhead Warpig and The Blood God Khorne. Putting aside the John Blanche Bloodthirster with massive elongate side-tusks - exactly the same as The Motörhead Warpig -  the fa ce in the centre of the composition of the cover of Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness by John Sibbick, has some very specific motifs, the curve of the helmet over the eyes, the oversized teeth, the helmet spike which match up perfectly.

In a slightly looser sense, its the combination of dog-monkey-pig face that can also be seen in the early Bloodletter and Juggernaut designs seems to derive from the The Motörhead Warpig. Indeed the whole Juggernaut seems to be some kind of biomechanical pig monster.

The Irön Pig | Juggernaut

Dög of War | Bloodthirster

No idea who Taylor Momsen really is, but appears to be some kind of plastic Avril Lavigne type rock chic / actress / vacant polymath / attention whore with a vague Motörhead Khörne fetish. Her 'band' is called The Pretty Reckless (sounds like pop muzak with a 'rawk' production, and zero lyrical subtlety or wit) and she plays a 2500pt Khornate army at her local FLGS. OK. I made the last bit up. She plays Dark Elves.

Taylor Momsen | Disciple of Khörne (via)
And the Motörhead influence still seems to continue through more recent manifestations of Khornate imagery.

Khaös WarPig gets his tusks back | Warhammer Online 2008

Finally, nothing to do with Khörne - I don't have much interest in GWs output after 1990, but do think they owe Derek Riggs and Iron Maiden a pint for the Tomb Kings imagery.
Derek Riggs | Powerslave (Iron Maiden) 1984