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Monday, 29 June 2020

Celebrating The 100th Anniversary Of The Birth Of A Special Effects Titan...

Ray Harryhausen
29 June 1920 - 7 May 2013

I've mentioned on HeroPress many times over the years how the work of Ray Harryhausen was a the single biggest influence on my gaming when I started playing Dungeons & Dragons in the late 70s and his style of animation and storytelling has continued to inspire me to this day.

Of particular importance to me were Jason And The Argonauts and the Sinbad trilogy (especially The Eye Of The Tiger, which was my first exposure to the world of Sinbad and became a direct inspiration for a world-spanning, nautical campaign I ran for Gublin).

The skeleton fight in Jason And The Argonauts is always my role model for fights against animated skeletons (if not all fights!) while the Medusa in Clash Of The Titans is, of course, the definitive look for the snake-haired demon whenever she appears in one of my dungeons.

As I've said before I wouldn't be the person I am today - proud gamer and geek - without the cinematic masterpieces of Ray Harryhausen which informed and coloured my childhood.


Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger
has a bad rep in some quarters, but for me this is where it all started.

Back in the mid-70s, when Tonbridge still had a poky little cinema, my parents took me to see this and, literally, my life was never the same again.

In the same year that I discovered Dungeons & Dragons and saw Star Wars for the first time; 1977 was the making of me.

My very first Dungeons & Dragons character was called Sinbad (he killed - some say 'murdered' - a couple of dwarves in a drunken tavern brawl, changed his name to Bassin and fled to sea) and the first 'campaign' that Gublin and I played was ripped, whole-cloth, from Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger.

It was a make-it-up-as-you-go, seaborne adventure unfolding on an ever-extending roll of artpaper (or wallpaper, maybe), where we just drew in islands, land masses, reefs and ice barriers on a whim. There was, of course, a "top of the world" (through the ice barriers) where we, unsurprisingly, found a magical temple (as seen in the movie) aka the Shrine of the Four Elements.

Even though it was (teenaged son of mum's friend) Steve Grover's evocative recounting of the plots of Tolkien's Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings that led him to introduce me to D&D originally, it was that campaign with Gublin that cemented the connection between fantasy gaming and cinema (which remain my two great passions to this day) in my brain.

So, yes, Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger might have some shockingly poor green-screening, but it's a very special movie to me - and it's got Ray Harryhausen monsters in it!

Let's not forget the fact that it also stars John Wayne's son, Patrick (which was a big deal to a little kid like me at the time) and a scantily dressed Jane Seymour - which is always a big deal!

Seriously, she looks stunning in this film and the sight of her topless - even fleetingly - to an 11-year-old boy has been permanently etched into my brain (thank God for the invention of home video).

GAME MATERIAL (Swords & Wizadry)
:


Trog
(trogloditus giganticus)

The trogs are a peaceful, humanoid species bred as a slave race by the Arimaspi (the spellweaving inhabitants of the lost, northern land of Hyperborea, who also used giant sabre-toothed smilodons as we use guard dogs today). However, when the Arimaspi fell victim to their own hubris and were wiped out by the magical forces they believed they had ultimate control over, the trogs were left to thrive in the lush, green valleys the Arimaspi had magically created at the North Pole.

Standing about 10 or 11 feet tall, the horn-headed trog can look quite intimidating. However, they are easily spooked and are afraid of the unknown. When one discovers newcomers in its land, it will try to warn them off - or warn them of the dangers ahead - but as it has no concept of language, its gestures and weapon waving may easily be misconstrued.

Trogs are very gentle towards females and would never attack a woman - unless she had physically wounded him in some way first - and are easily befriended with the right approach.

#ENC: 1d3
Size: Large
HD: 4+1
AC: 5 [14]
Attack: Weapon (usually a giant club for 1d10 +3, or any other oversized weapon for +3 damage). Its head-horn can only be used against other large (or bigger) sized creatures, for 1d6+3 damage.
Move: 10
Alignment: Lawful
CL/XP: 4/120
Saving Throw: 13


Summoned Ghouls

Summoned Ghouls are nightmare creatures conjured up by a wizard that knows the correct spell. They will appear out of the nearest large, man-made fire - be it a fireplace or a camp fire - and, although only five foot tall, their appearance strikes terror into the hearts of those who see them.

They look like demonic skeletons wrapped tightly in an inhuman skin, but with giant bug-like eyes. Two-thirds will arrive already armed (usually with swords or axes), while the rest scavenge what they can find from the surrounding area.

The ghouls live to kill, communicate by chittering between themselves and will only obey the mental commands of their summoner.

#ENC: 1d4+1
Size: Man-sized (5')
HD: 3
AC: 7 [12]
Saving Throw: 14
Attack: by weapon (long sword/battleaxe 1d8+1)
Move: 12
Alignment: Chaotic
Special:
  • Damage Resistance - a summoned ghoul can only be harmed by any single attack that does enough damage to kill it (e.g. a ghoul with 12 hit points can only be killed by a single attack that does 12 or more points of damage). Anything less than that amount, even though the weapon may pierce or batter the ghoul, has no effect.
  • Spell Immunity - summoned ghouls are totally resistant to fire-based attacks.
  • Surprising Appearance - when summoned ghouls first appear, any humanoids within sight (except the summoner and his allies) must save versus magic or be unable to act for a single round.
CL/XP: 5/240


Giant Walrus

Found in the coldest parts of the world, the giant walrus is very territorial and will attack any creatures it believes are invading its turf. However, much of its attack is bluster and should a walrus suffer a loss of over a third of its initial hit points, it will attempt to escape back into the sea. Its ivory tusks are each worth (1d6x100) gold pieces.

It is also rather slow and plodding outside of the water and so suffers a -1 penalty on Initiative rolls.

#ENC: 1- 2
Size: Giant (25ft long, about 15ft tall at head)
HD: 10
AC: 5 [14]
Attacks: Tusks - usually for batting aside prey, 1d0+3 damage plus STR check on 5d6 vs STR+LVL, for be knocked (four + 1d6) feet. Sometimes tusks are used for stabbing (at -2 to hit, but 1d12+3 damage). The walrus can also trample fallen prey for 1d10+3 damage.
Movement: 6/12 (swimming)
Alignment
: Neutral
Special: Immunity to cold-based attacks.
CL/XP: 10/1,400

Minaton

A unique fusion of black magic and technology, brought to life by the dark arts but kept moving with a golden, clockwork heart (worth 1,000gp if it can be salvaged somehow).

Created in the shape of a minotaur (a giant, muscular man with the head of a bull), the minaton is an eight foot tall animated bronze statue that is relentless, untiring and totally loyal to its creator. Gifted with superhuman strength, it is incapable of independent thought or any form of speech/communication.

It is only capable of acting when given direct orders (and only by its creator), otherwise it will stand totally motionless and not react to any outside interference.

#ENC: Unique
Size: Large  (8ft tall)
HD: 10 (50 HP)
AC: 3 [16]
Attacks: Weapon (any oversized weapon for +4 damage, usually a giant spear for 1d10 +4 damage)
Saving Throw: 5
Movement: 8
Alignment: -
Special:
  • Damage Immunity: the minaton is immune to non-magical weapon attacks, as well as spells that affect the mind or frailties of the human body (such as charm, paralysis, poison etc), but takes full damage, as normal, from aggressive spells such as fireball, lightning bolt etc
CL/XP: 12/2,000

TREASURE TROVE:

Potion of Transformation
: a powerful draught found in a small, locket-sized vial (with 1d8+1 sips remaining), that can transform the drinker into any small (non-monstrous) animal - of the drinker's choosing - until the animal takes a second sip of the potion.

Out of its container, the potion can evaporate reasonably quickly and so if there isn't enough left to trigger a reversion to human form, it is possible for the drinker to be subjected to a partial restoration (ie. they will revert to human form, but some part of them will remain in the shape of part of the creature they were - although scaled up to human size).

However, the potion can also be used as an ingredient in a transformation spell (using two sips worth), which will then transform its victim permanently into a smaller-then-human-sized creature (although not a bird or insect).

The transformee will retain his human intelligence (but obviously not the power of speech) for 1d4 months, then gradually begin to revert to the creature's true animal nature - taking a further 2d4 weeks until the transformation is complete (and irreversible).

If a sip of the potion is fed to an ordinary animal, bird, insect etc it will transform into a monstrous-sized version of its original form and will no doubt attack anything within sight.


As we celebrate 100th anniversary of Ray Harryhausen's birth, we mustn't forget The Ray & Diana Harryhausen Foundation's informative and entertaining podcast - The Ray Harryhausen Podcast.

Featuring a mixture of archival interviews with Ray, as well as specially recorded commentary on his movies, recorded in the years just before his death in 2013, the podcasts are hosted by Collections Manager Connor Heaney and Foundation Trustee John Walsh, discussing Ray's work, his films, and items in the Foundation's collection of more than 50,000 pieces of Ray's art, monster models, props etc

The podcasts come out, roughly, monthly and episodes range in length from around 20 minutes up to an hour (for the current Top Ten of Ray's creations, as voted for by this fans).

So, if you're a fan of Ray's work (and who isn't?) you really need to subscribe to this podcast.


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