Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Warlord 52: A New Skartaris

Over the past couple of years Art Lyon and I have been working on several new pitches. Collaborating with Art has been a pleasure. We've developed some interesting concepts and gone down some blind alleys. We spent some time thinking what might work for DC's nu52 universe. We decided to play around with Warlord, a character who fits with our shared love of pulp fantasy and swords & sorcery. The pitch itself didn't get anywhere, but I thought people might enjoy taking a look at it. I may steal the premise for a campaign.  

In particular we owe a debt to Trey Causey and his blog From the Sorcerer's Skull. His "Warlord Wednesday" series is a must read for fans of the character. We wrote several versions of the pitch (full plot synopsis, character profiles, one-page). Below is the draft of a mid-sized version. 

THE HIGH CONCEPT:
Warlord re-imagined, fusing that classic character's action roots with fresh approaches from modern fantasy (Final Fantasy, The Hunger Games, Bleach).

THE PITCH:
Travis Morgan gains allies and enemies as he battles across the hollow world of Skartaris to save a land he endangered and a woman he loves from the apocalyptic schemes of an ancient tyrant reborn.

OVERVIEW:
Too restless to find a place in the modern world, Travis Morgan crashes into the "hollow world" of Skartaris after a rescue turns into a fight for survival. Seeking revenge, he pursues Deimos, an avatar of ancient powers battling over this realm. Once a lone wolf, Morgan must gather a team with their own grudges against the sorcerer. He’ll need to understand this world and himself if he has any hope of victory—a victory that may force a choice between this new world and the woman he loves.

CAST AND CONCEPTS:
  • Travis Morgan: Self-confident, adventurous, independent—and alone. He turned his back on the past to live in the wild, but fierce loyalty and love pull him back. Now he faces a perilous world where to survive he must confront not only great evil but his own failings.
  • Lethe Daniels: A visionary biotechnologist who shares a tumultuous past with Morgan. At a remote Antarctic research station, her startling discovery puts two worlds in jeopardy.
  • Maddox: This by-the-book security officer was once Morgan’s best friend until Maddox’ 'mission over morals' attitude put them at odds; his resentment, secret orders, and infatuation with Daniels escalate the conflict that catapults them into Skartaris.
  • Deimos: Dark sorcerer from Skartaris' ancient past, unwittingly resurrected by the merging of arcane magicks and Earthly genetics—a science Daniels knows and Deimos needs to remake Skartaris in his own lightless image...but is he just a facet of an even greater threat?
  • Shakira: Half-wild shape-changer; her fighting prowess and insights into Skartaris make her an invaluable ally. She guards her own secrets closely, at the risk of endangering Skartaris.
  • Tara: Seer and guardian of the golden city of Shamballah, exemplar of civilized Skartaris. Visions of Shamballah's destruction—and Morgan's role in it—thrust her out of a pre-ordained life and headlong onto a perilous path alongside Morgan's own.
  • Machiste: Warrior-lord of Kiro, he offered himself to his people's greatest enemy to save them from destruction. Rescued by Morgan but kept from his home by a Relic's curse, he joins Morgan's quest to bring down Deimos, hoping to end his bane and regain his crown.
  • The Relics: Constructed by the Ancients for purposes lost in the passing of ages, but whose powers and dominions are crucial to the survival of all life in Skartaris.
  • Skartaris: A pocket-universe “hollow world” lit by a constant noon-day sun. A foreboding moon orbits the sun and beneath it a crawling zone of darkness follows, the key to unlocking dark powers. Skartaris is a tableau of strange regions and cultures, from the primeval to the medieval and the brutish to the mystical. Arcane sorceries and multifarious conspiracies swirl in courts and covens. Living Relics—from the vast to the minuscule—litter Skartaris, fragments of their mysterious creators. All this—as well as steaming jungles, towering peaks, roaring oceans, and every manner of fantastic beast—presents deadly challenges at every turn.
THE FIRST ARC
Despite turning his back on civilization, a desperate call from former lover LETHE DANIELS sends ex-military freelancer TRAVIS MORGAN to a remote polar research station. In the facility—besieged by strange energies and fantastic creatures—Morgan encounters MADDOX, the security chief. A former friend infatuated with Daniels, Maddox resents Morgan, and points out the costs of his past recklessness. The pair fight the invaders and each other as they strike toward the barricaded main lab. They smash through to find the possessed researchers—including Daniels—chanting a single word: Deimos. Before them writhes the fruit of their labor: part plant, part animal, part construct. Morgan frees Daniels, but the conflicts come to a head. Following secret orders Maddox accidentally activates the device. Gravity shifts and the building warps. Morgan crawls from the wreckage to find they have  arrived in the hollow world of Skartaris.

Just as they gain their bearings, serpent-riding huntsmen set upon them. Morgan leads the survivors into the jungle, and then sacrifices himself as a distraction. The lead hunters overwhelm him, but the sudden appearance of a massive black panther turns the tables. When it transforms into the warrior SHAKIRA Morgan convinces her to aid them. Daniels' trail leads to a lost temple cavern where they arrive just ahead of the hunters. There Morgan's blood miraculously opens a cache of empowered armor and weapons, but the battle still goes against them. Amidst the fighting, Maddox seemingly kills Daniels as his body transforms. He tries to kill himself to stop the possession, but a furious Morgan prevents him. Maddox is consumed, and in his place stands the twisted form of the sorcerer DEIMOS.  He thanks Morgan and summons magical flames. Shakira tackles Morgan, hurtling them off a cliff.

Dragged from the river, Morgan swears vengeance against Deimos. Shakira points out he will fail if he goes alone. If they can gather allies, they may have a chance. At Shamballah, they meet the princess and seeress, TARA. Over objections from the council of nobles and her scheming husband, she secretly offers them a vision: they have thirteen days. Then Deimos will perform a ritual at the legendary Tree of the Unmaker and complete his rule over Skartaris. Assassins in league with Deimos sympathizers attack Morgan and company. They flee the city in a running battle with new allies, including a secretly disguised Tara. Meanwhile, Daniels awakens in Deimos' lair. The sorcerer has saved her life, but only as a resource...

To outrace Deimos they push through the sorcerer's conquered lands. Morgan now sees the death and decay his enemy has wrought. When a rampaging war colossus blocks their path, Morgan rushes to stop it, and finds MACHISTE attempting to do the same. Together they succeed, and the warrior-prince joins our heroes in their quest. They stage a break out from the slave pens of Golgoloth where Deimos' War Apes hold future sacrifices. To convince a freed mercenary mage, Tara reveals herself by calling a vision of Deimos—and a still-living Daniels. A shaken Morgan knows his desires will now clash with those of his allies.

Morgan's strike team reaches the Tree too late: Deimos has begun his ritual. He will now fuse genetic technology from our world with his own mastery of the living magick of the Relics to control Skartaris. Our heroes work their way through Deimos troops, but Morgan breaks off to confront Deimos alone. Only the intervention of his new allies saves him. Now they must battle Deimos together, but even if Morgan survives, he faces another test: return to Earth or save the life of the woman he loves…

What Comes Next? (The Second Arc)
Morgan has faced some of his own demons, and now he must find his place in this new world. He's quickly thrown into the complex maneuvering of Shamballah's nobility. Fighting his impulse to head off on his own, Morgan must learn to build friendships, and most importantly to trust those friends. At the same time, Morgan begins to learn about the sentient Relics of Skartaris—and that Deimos was one of these. Some of the relics appear benevolent, but Morgan suspects darker truths.