Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Space Age Slap Jack and the Lords of Faerie

space age slap jack card deck
A few months back I was digging through a bunch of old notes.  We were cleaning up my game room and as typical of me, I took the opportunity to reorganize my accumulated notes. 

One of the things I found was some hand-written notes on various personages from my games.  A couple that had a very strange genesis and how I worked around to get them to where I have them now.  Vague? Yeah. But let me start at the beginning and work my way back up.

Let's go back to Christmas 1982.  I was full-on in my Star Wars fandom.  I had seen Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back a couple of times. I had read everything I could my hands on about Star Wars and I was hungry for more.  Also at this time, I was really getting into D&D. My introduction three years prior and my gift of the Basic and Expert Sets had kept me going for a long, long time.  Anyway Christmas. We would always go to my mom's sister's house for Christmas eve or close to that. Here we would get small gifts.  Nothing huge, my mom had a big family, and getting something for everyone was expensive.

This year (and I don't remember many other gifts we got to be honest) I got something that was very strange to me.  I got a deck of Slap Jack cards.  I thought it was an odd gift really, I was 13 and this was a game for little kids. But this set was different.  At least my Aunt or whoever bought it knew of my love of Star Wars and this was a "Space Age Slap Jack."

Space Age Slap Jack. Cards laid out

While I might have played it as RAW once or twice that Christmas, that is not why I grew to enjoy this set. It was the art and the overall concept.

Jack, The Lord of Aggression was an obvious Dollar Store Darth Vader.  He may have been the "star" but he was also the least interesting.  There were cards named "Interstellar Demon" and "Guardian of the Oathbreakers" and "Orbital Guardians."  The art is not fantastic, but it is very compelling.

But it was the Queen of Goodness that captured my attention.

Queen of Goodness from Space Age Slap Jack

She was a Queen. She had a glowing sword. Not a "lightsaber" a glowing sword. And she looked profoundly sad to me. I wanted to know more about this deck, the story it was trying to tell me. But what was it? It was 1982, there was no Internet, BitNet was still new and no one had access to it. So I did what I always do.  I made a story up.

jack lord of aggression cards

In a way, these cards became an ersatz tarot deck.  I would deal out the cards and whatever came up I created a narrative in my mind.   Jack was what I'd call today a Warlock. He was the great traitor of the Galactic Peace. The Queen was the young ruler of the Galaxy, now in charge after the untimely death of her father the old King.  She ruled, but Jack strove to take it away from her.  In this tale, my Galaxy had both high tech and old magic. If this sounds familiar, then yes I have adopted some of these broad strokes for my BlackStar game.

I don't think I ever wrote any of this down. The material I found was recycling some years later. 

Fast-forward a couple of years. Now I am in my hardcore AD&D phase.  While I had been listening to music my whole life I was actually "listening" to the music instead of just "hearing" it as my late brother Mike would tell me.  One of the albums (tapes really) that also captured my imagination was Led Zeppelin's Four, or IV.   The song "Battle of Evermore" on side A, right before "Stairway to Heaven" grabbed a hold of my imagination with its epic Tolkienesqe imagery. But what really grabbed me more than anything were the haunting vocals of Sandy Denny.  I found the voice of my Queen.

But by this time I had moved my sci-fi fandom and my fantasy fandom further apart. Another little tidbit. While listening to the Battle of Evermore for the first time I misheard the lyrics (as we often did in the 80s).  The lyrics go:

Queen of Light took her bow
And then she turned to go,
The Prince of Peace embraced the gloom
And walked the night alone.

But I heard: Queen of Lies and Prince of Beasts.  These names took over the meta-story of the Queen of Goodness and the Lord of Aggression, but of course, they had changed a little.  The Queen of Lies was the Queen not because of lying, but because of the only lie she ever told, a lie that caused the death of her father (remember she was sad).  The Prince of Beasts, the former Lord of Aggression was also changed into a character that was aggressive, but not due to evil, but because he was protecting the wild spaces he lived. He became more of a Beorn-like character. Their stories are linked. And don't get me started on the Angels of Avalon or the Dragon of Darkness. Though my Orange Dragon from the Pumpkin Spice Witch certainly fits that.

The Queen of Lies and the Pince of Beasts eventually became something akin to faerie lords in my games. Both are sad figures and represent the melancholia of certain heroes in various tales.

The Tale of the Queen of Lies and Prince of Beasts

A long time ago a Faerie King had a beautiful daughter. Her mother had been human and died in childbirth.  The King, being a wise King, did not blame the girl as other monarchs might have, and instead of bemoaning the lack of a son he raise his beautiful, but sad daughter to be ready to rule in his place one day.

The King's lands were beset by all sorts of beasts so much so that his Kingdom and the surrounding lands became known as the Wild.  While the King loved his daughter, his people did not. In their minds, she was the cause of her mother's death and the reason the King would not remarry to have sons.  Over time the King's advisors suggested he marry her to the local Lord who had control over all the wild beasts.  The King saw the wisdom of this and prepared the marriage.  His daughter however did not want to marry the Prince, whom she felt was an uncouth savage, even if he was a Faerie Lord.

On the night before the wedding, there was a great feast. The daughter though, not being able to stand it any longer, broke hospitality and claimed she was already betrothed to another.  When it was discovered that the girl had done something no other fey in the kingdom could do. She had lied, but no one knew this or suspected it. 

The Prince, insulted waged war on the Kingdom. The war lasted for what felt like forever. Until a fateful day when the Prince was ready to kill the defeated King did his daughter admit her wrongdoing. 

The Prince, realizing his war was built on a falsehood, left the Kingdom and was never seen by it's inhabitants again, though he could be seen roaming the wilder places of the lands.  The princess, shamed, sat by her father's side. He forgave her and within a few nights had died from his wounds.  The girl, being the only one of royal blood, became the Queen.  She has been ajust, if unloved Queen, but her subjects still refer to her as The Queen of Lies.  Her lands are now known as the Kingdom of Rain.

Queen of Lies
Faerie Lady
Frequency: Unique
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Neutral [Lawful Neutral]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
Armor Class: -1 [20]
Hit Dice: 14d8+28** (91 hp)
Attacks: Sword or by spell
Damage: 1d8+4 or by spell
Special: Witch spells (13th level), damaged by magic weapons
Size: Medium
Save: Witch 14
Morale: 10
Treasure Hoard Class: NA
XP: 3,250
The Queen of Lies rules the lands known as the Kingdom of Rain. Named so for rain that always seems to be falling or threatening to fall at any moment.   She called the Queen of Lie because it was a lie that put her on the throne when her father died. 

The Queen is a beautiful, but sad and lonely Faerie ruler. She is a fair and just ruler and her people thrive, despite the weather, but they openly dislike her. She has gained the enmity of the Prince of Beasts, lord of the neighboring kingdom, an enmity that has earned her the attention of both the Erlking and the King of Goblins. While she has no interest in either suitor she knows she must choose one faithfully or the curse of rain her kingdom is under will not be lifted.

The Queen possesses her father's great Sword of Light, which provides her protection as well as magical fighting prowess. However, she prefers to use her magic when needed.  The Queen turned to sorcery and witchcraft to be able to lift her Kingdom's curse. She has not but can cast spells as a 13th level Faerie Witch.

Despite her name, the Queen never lies. She is half-human and can lie, but now she chooses not to.

Prince of Beasts
Faerie Lord
Frequency: Unique
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Neutral [Chaotic Neutral]
Movement: 240' (80') [24"]
Armor Class: 2 [17]
Hit Dice: 11d8+33** (83 hp)
Attacks: Fists or by animal type
Damage: 1d8+4 x2 or by animal type
Special: Beast form, damaged only by magic weapons, summon beasts
Size: Large
Save: Monster 11
Morale: 10
Treasure Hoard Class: NA
XP: 3,500

The Prince of Beasts is an odd fey lord in he does not like the company of other faerie lords and ladies, or faeries of any status. Instead, he prefers to spend his time in the wild running with the animals and communing with them.  

The Prince appears as a huge elf lord, standing 8' tall. He is broad and muscular. He is often mistaken for a large human or even a smaller hill giant. He wears simple animal skins though nothing can hide his regal bearing. 

Like all faerie lords he has a personal weapon, a sword, he can use. But the Prince prefers to fight with his bare hands or by transforming into any natural animal.  He can shape-shift into an animal and back 3/per day in the daylight hours.  At night he chooses a shape and sticks with it till the dawn.

He can summon any animal as per the Druid spells, Animal Summoning, they will obey his calls till the death.

The Prince of Beasts is on good terms with the various Animal Lords, but doesn't belong to their numbers. He ignores most of the Faerie Lords when he can.  He has a special enmity with theQueen of Lies, though he would rather avoid her at all costs.  He is also the enemy of the Erlking.  The Goblin King fancies himself as a rival, but the Prince does not take the Goblin King seriously.


NIGHT SHIFT Content

In NIGHT SHIFT the Lords of the Faerie continue into the modern-day.  The Queen of Lies is a real estate developer living in Seatle.  She has plans for the wild areas surrounding the Pacific Northwest.  The Prince of Beasts is a Wildlife conservationist.  Their battles are less about sword and claw and more about permits and lawsuits.  Both though are still powerful in their respective realms.

2 comments:

JB said...

What a great story all around.

I've never heard of Sandy Denny (had no idea the Battle of Evermore was a duet...just figured it was multi-tracked with Plant singing falsetto). Fascinating person. I'll have to check out her music.

The card illustrations are available on Board Game Geek, and they're quite evocative, especially the Queen of Goodness. I see how they could inspire you!

Thanks for sharing!

MC Showuz said...

I've been looking for this set for years and just finally found it on Etsy today. Just like you, I thought the art and vague hint of a story so thought-provoking. Now that I've started writing I want that same source of inspiration, although I doubt it will be as enchanting as an adult.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...