The Sad, Silly Saga of F.A.T.A.L., Part 2

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How 4Chan reacted to FATAL.

Having spent some quality time with my “serious” writing, gotten some encouragement from my would-be agent and hung out with my girlfriend and other very real, very pleasant people of the female persuasion I think I’ve reached the point where I can once more lower myself into the open sewer that is (was?) Byron Hall’s masterpiece, F.A.T.A.L. (From Another Time, Another Land — NOT Fantasy Adventures to Adult Lecherey! How many times do I have to tell you?)

FATAL Metal Mayhem!

Once more I’m reminded just how utterly disingenuous Byron’s big name change was. Initially, the man was not only proud that he had come up with such a stupid acronym, he actually celebrated it by recording his idea of a musical theme song for the game.

Esteemed thrash-metal god that he was (see his bio in the previous posting) Byron apparently felt that his off-key growling “FANTASY ADVENTURES TO ADULT… LECHE… REEEEEEEEE” accompanied by some fat-fingered fretwork while a drum machine pounds incessantly like an broken jackhammer in the background wasn’t a good fit for the game’s new title, and removed the song from on-line. Fortunately, a number of people actually downloaded this little slice of heavy metal history, and one even posted it on youtube, and I’m embedding it here for your ongoing enjoyment. Be advised that there are disturbing images in the video, but none are anywhere near as disturbing as the game itself.

Knowing me, I’m sure you’re wondering why I haven’t posted the lyrics and it’s because I’ll be damned if I can figure out exactly what they are. There’s the expected stuff about chopping of your head and similar, as well as the aforementioned gargling of the game’s name, but as to the rest of it, I agree with the original rpg.net review that said it sounded like the Cookie Monster chasing a drum machine down a flight of stairs.

Hymen Resistance and Retard Strength

Does it come as any surprise that this guy plays FATAL?

Does it come as any surprise that this guy plays FATAL?

Character generation continues for another 100 pages or so, and for the most part it’s a dreary slog through endless tables, mathematical formulae and entries like “Height and Weight of various fantasy races have been computed by consulting biology, physiology, and zoology textbooks that refer to the Cube-Square Law, and the proportions to larger and smaller creatures. For example, as a creature increases proportionately in size, its surface area increases by a ratio of difference in Height squared, but the Weight increases by the ratio of the difference cubed. When a muscle is increased twofold in all 3 dimensions, its volume and weight are cubed, but the muscular power is only multiplied by 4, since cross-sectional distance determines muscular strength, not volume and Weight. The fact that the percentage of bone weight to body weight increases with creature size has been considered, as well as the fact that more muscle is necessary at larger creature sizes in order to do less when compared to body weight. The interesting implications of the Cube-Square Law on larger and smaller creatures is that smaller creatures will be strong for their size (such as an ant being able to put 40 times its body weight over its head), and larger creatures will be weak for their size. For more information, see the References section at the back of the book.”

Now I don’t know about you, but when I read an rpg book the first question that pops into my head is whether the designers strictly followed the Cube-Square Law when determining racial height and weight rules. Since Byron has conveniently included a list of references to assure us of his scrupulous and unbending demand for historical and scientific accuracy, we can all now see his genius for ourselves.

And so the body generation rules drag on for page after page after endless page, with detailed rules for determining such vital statistics as Body Mass Index, Body Part Proportion (i.e. the length of your hill troll PC’s left foot), Most Attractive/Repulsive Feature (possible features include “crotch” and “buttocks”), Breadth (or armspan), Eyesight, Head Circumference, Hand Size, Facial Features and so on. Note that I found such rules to be one of the Arduin Grimoire’s greatest charms, but as with most things FATAL, Byron Hall takes the concept, drives it into the ground, stomps on it, piles on dirt, stamps it down and seals it all in concrete.

It is two specific sections of the body generation chapter that gamers and reviewers found noteworthy. The first is the “Freak of Nature” table. I quote the rules for generating a “Freak of Nature” here verbatim: “Roll 1d1000000 (6 dice that are 10-sided) to see if something about a character is a freak of nature. If the results equal 000001, then the character is a freak of nature who has survived; most freaks of nature are killed when their deformity is discovered at birth. The player of a freak must roll 1d100, and consult the table below:”

A sweet, beautifully rendered illustration from the section describing aging. A frightening contrast to the nightmares that fill the rest of the book.

A sweet, beautifully rendered illustration from the section describing aging. A frightening contrast to the nightmares that fill the rest of the book.

After the ludicrousness of actually rolling a million-sided die to determine a character’s “freak” status (Byron’s use of the English language is stunning, believe me), there are a grand total of five (yes five) actual results on the table — funnel chest, hermaphrodite, pigeon chest, polydacytly and a supernumerary nipple. Yes, an extra nipple. All of these result in minor penalties such as -1d10 Bodily Attractiveness or -1d10% strength. Not only do you have to be spectacularly lucky to be what Byron so sensitively calls a “freak of nature” he can’t even think up anything interesting for the table, preferring instead to give the character another minor penalty to a stat.

So after all those pages of tables we get to the section that raised eyebrows, blood pressure and gamer’s ire — the infamous “Sexual Features” rules.

The rules are, we are assured, “optional.” Of course, the “optional” nature of the rules was added later, after the rpg community’s initial wave of outrage, disdain and hysterical laughter. Prior to Bryon’s come-to-Jesus moment, he was convinced that rules for nipple length, areola hue and penis circumference were indispensable elements of any modern (and of course historically accurate) roleplaying game. I think we can also see Byron’s personal views showing through, as “medium” hued areolae add +1d4 to a female’s (and only a female’s) Bodily Attractiveness Modifier, while “dark” ones subtract 1d4.

(As a sidebar, it’s interesting to note that Anakim and ogres can have eight-inch wide areolae, and ogres can have nipples up to five inches in length. Picture that in your nightmares…)

Byron strays into creepy territory once more with the “Cup Size” table which ranges from of course AA (-2d10 to Bodily Attractiveness) to “>D” (which doesn’t affect BA at all). His justification is (naturally) “A scholarly study on female human bust size indicates that both males and females prefer a female with a medium bust size…” I’m sorry, Byron, but speak for yourself, dude…

An anakim carefully checking his victim's cup size for historical accuracy.

An anakim carefully checking his victim’s cup size for historical accuracy.

And it’s probably petty for me to mention this, but — HEY, BYRON! “CUP SIZE” IS A MODERN MEASUREMENT BASED UPON MODERN BRASSIERE DESIGN! IT WASN’T USED AT ALL IN THE PERIOD THAT YOU’RE WRITING ABOUT! WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED TO “HISTORICAL ACCURACY”, ASSHOLE? I GUESS IT ONLY COUNTS WHEN YOU’RE TRYING TO JUSTIFY YOUR MISOGYNISTIC, SEXIST SHITHOLE OF A GAME, NOT WHEN YOU’RE COMING UP WITH RULES FOR DESIGNING YOUR FAVORITE REALDOLL, HUH?

The creep-factor enters with the “Cup Size Modifiers” table, which is indexed for age and relative body type. You will be happy to know that an infant has a -75 Cup Size Modifier. And if you once more feel like taking a hot shower to wash the stains from your soul, just wait until we get to the next table, the “Vaginal Circumference Potential.”

Once more we have modifiers based on age, including “infant,” “child” and “puberty.” Tell me, oh God, please tell me what kind of fucking pervert would have the slightest interest in such a statistic? I’m not even going there. Byron Hall is one of the most vile human beings ever to stain the rpg community with his presence, including this motherfucker.

So with that piece of unutterable horror still in our minds, we scan down the “VCP” table and discover modifiers for “Age, Venerable” (+5), “Mother” (+1d20+5), “Nymphomaniac” (+1d20+10) and (wait for it…) “Slut” (+1d20 “if unsure”).

In the name of all that is holy and good, I feel utterly horrible after writing the previous couple of paragraphs. Rules for “Vaginal Depth Potential” follow (“No object may be fully inserted into a vagina if it is longer than the female’s Vaginal Depth Potential. In such extreme cases, internal damage may occur, though this is best left to the Aedile…”), as do Tongue Size and the crowning horror, “Anal Circumference Potential” and everything that goes with it.

We then have rules for a Ripped Orifice (“A vagina or anus that is stretched to twice its limit results in the necessity of a Health Check at TH20. If this check fails, then death occurs.”), Hymen Resistance (“Each player of a female character may, at their option, determine Hymen Resistance of the character by rolling 5d20… Every time a male inserts his Manhood into a female with an intact hymen, he must roll 1d100 to see if it breaks… He must divide Manhood Circumference by Vaginal Circumference Potential and multiply the quotient by 100. Apply this modifier to the roll…”) and Menstruation (“A common belief regarding menstruation is that it is punishment from the gods for being female.”).

Byron Hall and a friend discussing the size of each other's manhood.

Byron Hall and a friend discussing the size of each other’s manhood.

Next come rules for “Manhood,” and I don’t mean learning how to paddle a canoe and skin a deer. We’re talking penile dimensions here folks, and here Byron is in his element. “A manhood that is short but extremely thick is known as a chode. Most females prefer a Manhood that is thick so she feels it, but not thick enough to hurt, and long, but not long enough to hit tehe end of her vagina. Some females prefer veins, others do not want to see them. Some females prefer that the head, or glans, is large and puffy, while others do not care… Other details are left to the Aedile.”

As always, we roll “Manhood Size” on a table that is so scientifically accurate that it hurts. “The Manhood Size Modifier,” gushes Byron, “was solved with a polynomial using quadratic regression based on what Fatal Games believes is the smallest to largest possible Manhood relative to height. In the following equation, ‘x’ represents the category of roll (1-6=1, 7-12=2, etc. and ‘y’ = Size Modifier. Here is the equation: y = 0.205078125x2 + 0.683597375x – 70.888671875.”

Leave it to a perfectionist like Byron to work out penis size to the ninth decimal place. Clearly he feels that every tiny fraction of an inch counts…

And now at last we are reaching the end of the body section, and include a number of other useless statistics and tables. When we get to rules for pregnancy, we are informed that “Pregnancy occurs when a sperm of a male fertilizes an egg of a female.” Clearly, Byron knows the level of his intended reader’s experience. Rules for allergies and intoxication follow, with suspiciously detailed rules for intoxication from marijuana and psychedelic mushrooms.

We conclude with rules for a bunch of diseases, including Tourette’s Syndrome, which is not a phyical disease, but which Byron apparently finds hilarious, as it is accompanied by an illustration of a hot blonde with an unlaced bodice screaming “Cunnus! Perite! Canis! Nothus! Futue te ipsuni! Mentula!” (Roughly “Slut/cunt! Die! Dog! Bastard! Go fuck yourself! Penis!”) Nothing like a little random Latin to spice up an otherwise dull roleplaying session, eh?

Huge Hung Hero Hunks

Next comes the long chapter on Abilities, and it’s more of what we’ve come to expect from FATAL — long, drearily overexplained rules, thousands of words of unnecessary detail and the occasional moment of brain-numbing stupidity (“The standards for female Bodily Attractiveness have been referenced from Life in a Medieval Castle by Joseph and Frances Gies… Gies claims that “Nicolette… physically exemplified the medieval feminine ideal…” and quotes the source who describes the following female: ‘Her breasts so firm that they showed beneath her vesture like two rounded nuts; so frail was she about the girdle that your hands could have spanned her…’ A thin waist and large, round breasts are physical standards of female attractiveness, and are historically accurate.”).

The expected statistics — Physique, Charisma, Dexterity, Intelligence and  Wisdom are further subdivided into related abilities. Charisma, for example, consists of Facial, Vocal, Kinetic (“the beauty of [the character's] bodily movements, gestures, stride, etc.”) and Rhetorical (“the potential to seem credible, to make one’s ideas or suggestions seem appealing by soliciting emotions.”).

Abilities are determined through the convenient formula (10d100/5)-1, which generates a number between 1 and 199. How Byron decided that this oh-so-convenient number would be the cornerstone of his masterpiece is beyond me, and God knows I have not played this turkey, but some reviews assure me that the system itself sort of works.

An example of how Byron thought Ability checks should work follows, once more in its absurd entirety:

Okay, what the fuck is supposed to be happening in this picture?

Okay, what the fuck is supposed to be happening in this picture?

For instance, a slovenly chambermaid offers herself to a strapping young character if and only if he can expediently repeat a tongue-twister of her choice. Driven by hormones, the young male agrees, and asks “What is the tonguetwister?” The chambermaid challenges “Huge hung hero hunks hastily hump horny heaving hot whores. How ‘bout it, huh?” To make an ability check, roll 3d10 and apply the Skill Modifier to the result. A 6 or less always represents failure or a fumble. This number may be compared with a difficulty threshold (TH) determined by the Aedile or the roll of another player. In the example provided above regarding tongue-twisting, the Aedile may have secretly decided the TH to be 20. The player of the strapping young character tests his character’s Enunciation sub-ability at the moment by rolling 3d10 and applying the Skill Modifier from Enunciation to the roll. He rolls 11 and the Aedile tells him that he tried to say it faster than he was capable at the moment. To the dismay of the character, the chuckling chambermaid abandons him for a lad with a more nimble tongue.

Evidently, making ability checks is not only simplicity itself, but it invariably involves sleazy sex of some kind.

Secondary (tertiary?) abilities derived from the primaries follow, in endless, endless tables. Under the Facial Charisma table and an entry for the term “butterface”, Byron once more shows what a charmer he is: “Although most who are unfamiliar with this term think it is ‘butterface’ when heard the first time, ‘but-her-face’ describes when every physical aspect of a female character looks good, but her face. This term should not be taken literally, since the character described by this term may not be female, or may have low Bodily Attractiveness as well.”

(Also on the table are ratings for facial beauty with descriptions such as “causes wetness” and “orgasm from viewing.” Still keeping it classy, I see…)

Why waste any more time with this horror, anyway? The chapter continues like this, but it includes one more footnote that really must be read to be believed. I’m not even going to bother coding the superscript numbers — it’s simply pointless:

Although the relationships between many variables in the tables for sub-abilities are linear, such as Strength and Damage, many are also curvilinear, such as sub-ability scores and Skill Modifiers. Most curvilinear relationships are calculated as parabolas. The parabolic formula that opens to the right is: (y - yc)2 = 4a(x – xd). The variable ‘c’ is the vertical distance from the vertex to y=0, and ‘d’ is the horizontal distance from the vertex to x=0. Finally, ‘a’ is the distance from the vertex to the focus of the parabola. For example, Skill Modifiers are considered to range from -99 to +250 over 200 categories (such as 1-6, 7-12, etc.) of sub-ability scores. Only Strength has 200 categories; other sub-abilities have 50. Therefore, the vertex is (1, -99), so consider the vertex in the equation: (y + 99)2 = 4a(x – 1). Now, solve for ‘a’ by inputting any other known point, such as the apex (17, 0), and: (0 + 99)2 = 4a(17 - 1). Hence: 992 = 4a(16). Therefore: 9801 = 64a. Finally, a=153.14. Consequently, 4a=612.56. Now, any point may be plotted along the curve: (y + 99)2 = 612.56(x – 1). For example, the highest Strength category (1,195-1,200, the 200th category) is: (y + 99)2 = 612.56(200 – 1). Next: (y + 99)2 =12.56(199). Next: (y + 99)2 = 121899.44, and is equivalent to: y + 99 = 121899.440.5. And: y + 99 = 349. Finally: y=250. All curvilinear relationships were calculated in Microsoft Excel.

Well, I’m certainly glad to see that playing FATAL doesn’t require any math skills. Yet another of Byron’s vile lies, but hey who’s counting by now?

Okay, after all the disgusting misogyny I figured we were due for a picture of a truly beautiful woman in armor. She can come riding to my rescue anytime...

Okay, after all the disgusting misogyny I figured we were due for a picture of a truly beautiful woman in armor. She can come riding to my rescue anytime…

The last horror I’ll visit upon the patient reader is yet another example of Byron’s sensitivity and intelligence: Retard Strength. Humans with Intelligence of less than 70, he tells us, are “retarded.” But don’t despair — roll 1d00 using the following handy formula — (lowest Slow score – retard Intelligence) x 3 = % chance of Retard Strength. If you succeed, presto! You get +2d10% Strength! Voila! Scientific and historical accuracy triumph once again!

Chapter 4 is a long, long discussion of FATAL’s equivalent of Alignment — Disposition. An individual can be Ethical, Neutral or Unethical, cross-indexed with Moral, Neutral or Immoral (yielding such alignments as Ethical Moral, Neutral Immoral, Unethical Immoral and so on). Byron’s example for Ethics predictably involves whether a married man will go to bed with a woman he meets on the street, an example I’m sure that Byron’s supermodel wife found amusing.

The whole thing reads extremely dryly, just like the rest of the book, and it’s followed by pie charts that list the relative proportion of each alignment per race, some with pie slices so tiny that it’s all but impossible to determine what the actual percentage might be.

Honestly, I skipped most of this chapter. Games like D&D may try to fit their characters into artificial alignment systems, but at least it provides guidelines for behavior and can be summed up in a couple of pages. Good ol’ logorrheic Byron takes dozens and dozens of pages to do the same thing, to the point where you just want to reach into the fucking PDF and shake him ’til his teeth rattle.

Chapter 5: Mind follows, with yet more alignment/temperament crap. Byron uses the medieval temperaments of sanguine, bilious, melancholic and phlegmatic to describe personalities, along with still more long tables with tiny print. He follows this with rules for various mental illness, from Avoidant Personality Disorder (one of my personal favorites) to bipolarism, OCD, dependent personality disorder, intermittent explosive disorder and the like. Needless to say, sexual disorders such as coprophilia, erotomania, erotophonophilia (obsession with sexual murder), pedophilia, raptophilia (obsession with rape, of course!), frotteurism, satyromania, sadism, masochism, urophilia, zoophilia and nymphomania are prominently displayed, and pretty much outnumber the non-sexual ones by a significant margin.

Once more, Byron’s obsession with “historical accuracy” falls bleeding by the wayside, as most or all of the disorders he includes were first described only in the last century or two. Though he insists that his description of women as sluts, whores and kitchen-lurking inferiors is absolutely required by his obsessive drive for accuracy, he nevertheless dispatches with any kind of contemporary treatment of mental illness, opting instead for a laundry list of modern afflictions, most of them involving sex and/or filth.

More mind-numbingly pointless detail follows in the next chapter, “Sociability.” On the very first page, we get the following:

To determine a character’s birthday in a format of (month/day/year) for Neveria (a fantasy world), simply apply the following formula:

{1d20* / [(1d12 + 1d20) - 1] / [5100 - age]**}

* Note: Reroll results of 14 or higher. In Neveria, the year consists of 13 months because months are based on lunar cycles.
** Note: In Neveria, different cultures count their years differently. The formula used above represents kobold years (KY). If another fantasy world is used, consult the Aedile to determine a character’s birthday.

First off, I’m really glad that birthdays are measured in Kobold Years. Second, given Byron’s penchant for offensive perversity up to this point, I wonder whether the abbreviation “KY” was entirely coincidental…

Just like every other fucking thing in FATAL, social status, education, birthplace, marital status, family and even sexual orientation are all generated randomly. Mind you, this isn’t necessarily a bad idea, as I enjoyed the early manifestations of such a system in Arduin and in the old Central Casting books from Task Force Games, but I’m growing suspicious now, as if FATAL uses a rule system, there must be something evil about it…

Doin’ It Dark Elven Style

Speaking of dark elves... Believe me, if the rest of FATAL lived up to some of its art, this would have been a happier world indeed.

Speaking of dark elves… Believe me, if the rest of FATAL lived up to some of its art, this would have been a happier world indeed.

Byron then touches on the marriage customs of various cultures (and since FATAL is historically accurate, they pretty much all treat women as property), then moves on to the various races’ languages.

Again, more bog-standard fantasy blather here, with the following delightful entry regarding the “buggeric” language (the language of bugbears, natch):

Examples abound of new Buggeric words that have entered common usage. The kobold word for sodomy has been abandoned in favor of buggery, from which the name of the dialect is derived. Seeming to other races as though male bugbears are obsessed with sex, they refer to their flaccid Manhood as their little human, roughly translated. Male bugbears refer to their erect Manhood as their poop-poof, which is often shortened to pupoof, and said quickly. The variant poop-oops, now quickly pupoops, developed in response to finding feces on a Manhood upon removal from a rectum.

(Given Byron’s own description of male bugbears, it makes me wonder whether he himself counts one or two among his illustrious ancestors.)

And then follows another spate of tables (which I’m sure were among Byron and Burnout’s favorites) for determining “Debauchery.” And by “Debauchery” we mean just exactly how far a character is willing to go in pursuit of pleasure. Once more random rolls are the rule of the day, modified by various factors such as the character’s race (Anakim get a whopping +30, while dwarves and elves a miserly -10).

Byron is apparently a student of human (and I guess non-human) sexuality as well, for he ranks debauchery based upon what act the character will perform or allow to be performed. Lowest of course is “Refuse all sex,” but after that we start with handjobs, then proceed to receive oral, vaginal, digital, give oral (much more debauched than receiving it apparently), entertain multiple partners, give anal, give pain, urinate on partner, be bound, receive pain, be urinated on, defecate on part…

Okay, okay… Once more the staggering level of complexity and historical accuracy is making me sick. I also find it very instructive that Byron feels that willingness to be tied up is more debauched and kinky than giving golden showers, which strikes me as a bit odd, but then again I’m not a speed metal god with six college degrees who’s married to a supermodel, so what do I know?

Rules for Chivalry (no, really… fucking chivalry…) follow, along with guidelines for Courtly Love (no, really… fucking courtly love), types of communities and government. In a footnote Byron, in his never-ending quest to impress you with how literate he is, quotes Bertrand Russel, as well as Plato’s Republic as the basis for his commentary.

Byron then gives us several pages of information on racial cultures, with the usual emphasis on slavery, violence and sex (Dark-elven-style [sex] consists of the male entering the female from behind, who is on her knees with vagina exposed and head on the ground. This entry may simply be a result of Byron Hall never encountering a woman who wanted to see his face during sex, but that’s only speculation on my part).

For a dark elven female to become a citizen, she must masturbate a male and make him ejaculate a horizontal distance at least half his height. For a male to become a citizen, he must masturbate on a female and ejaculate at least 8 streams.

Holy shit — what the hell does that even mean? No, no… Don’t answer that. I don’t fucking want to know.

Rules for diverse things like roads, inns, schools, public baths, and the like follow, and wouldn’t you know it, but Byron seems really interested in telling us all about prostitutes:

Even respectable inns include whores among services offered. The staff of inns are usually slaves, including the doorman (doorwoman), bellboys and porters, waiters, wenches, and chambermaids (who double as whores, at the request of a guest).

Crime and punishment comes next, painstakingly detailed and divided up by race. Then comes a loooong list of crimes and how each race punishes it. The entry on rape in human cultures spends most of its time justifying and lovingly describing the crime, then telling us that it wasn’t all that big a deal, rather than simply describing how it’s punished. I include Byron’s comments in their entirety, lest someone accuse me of selective quotation. And it must be right, because he backs it up with the one book he read on the subject (the by-now familiar Medieval Prostitution):

Little latin phrases like this are sprinkled throughout the book. Just for historical accuracy, of course.

Little latin phrases like this are sprinkled throughout the book. Just for historical accuracy, of course.

In an average community, an average of 20 rapes occur annually. In 80% of cases, rapes are committed by between 2-15 characters. They force the female’s door at night, do not disguise themselves, and either rape the victim in her home and in the presence of terrorized witnesses, or drag her through the streets into 1 of their houses, where they have their pleasure all night long. In 80% of cases, the neighbors do not intervene. Almost all rapes involve extreme brutality, though they never attempt to wound or kill her. The rapists come from all levels of society, but the majority are artisans and laborers. Less than 10% of rapes occur by ruffians. In 50% of cases, human rapists are between 18-24 years old. The group is composed, on average, of 6 characters. Only 20% of rapes are committed by a group of more than 9 characters. Half the male youth participate at least once in gang rape. Sexual violence is an everyday dimension of community life. There tends to be less in smaller communities such as hamlets and more in larger communities such as cities.

If identified, rapists are imprisoned for weeks, though no more than a month. If the victim withdraws the complaint, the rapist is freed immediately. Imprisonment for rape consists of flogging, unless the rapist is an outsider, in which case the rapist is banished. When freed from imprisonment, a rapist is not considered criminal or bad.

The social reaction to rape is rarely favorable to the victim. The human victims of gang rape are age 15-33. Child rape is rare. The rape of a child under the age of 14 or 15 is considered a serious crime, even though the female could marry at age 12. The victim loses her good name in almost all cases, and encounters difficulty in regaining her place in society and family. If the victim of rape is single, then fewer males desire her as a wife. If she is married, then her husband may abandon her. 

Priests comprise 20% of the clientele at private brothels and public baths. Some priests are even members of nightly gang rapes. The victim of gang rape almost never accuses them of committing sodomy.

Now just what that last paragraph has to do with the price of tea in China is anyone’s guess, but it really seems to me that Byron is spending waaaay too much time and effort excusing rape and essentially telling us that if we want to roleplay it in his game, well that’s just dandy.

Jesus, boys and girls… If anything would make me want to give up on D&D and Savage Worlds, it’s that paragraph…

For some strange reason known only to himself, Byron chooses to follow this section with a collection of delicious recipes, including Makke, Porridge, Dulcia Domestica, Gingerbrede and, of course (wait for it…) Rapes in Potage. Of course “rapes” is just another word for “turnips,” but Byron never misses a chance to use the term “rape” in a sentence…

How to Become a 21st Level Baker

Next comes occupations and skills, and they take up a vast majority of the rest of the book. Occupations more or less take the place of character classes, though what the fuck a Papermaker is doing out slaying ogres and participating in gang rapes is beyond me.

Experience is figured in Advancement Points (or AP). It takes 1,000 to reach Level 2, 256,000 to reach level 10, and 524,288,000 to exceed level 20. But how does one earn AP, you ask?

Well, by practicing your occupation, of course! Each Occupation has a number of tasks listed, along with how many AP the activity earns. If the character is a Baker, for example, he (and it’s most assuredly going to be a “he” given Byron’s obsession with women’s subordinate role) earns .1 AP for every loaf of bread baked. In order to reach level 21 therefore, the baker must produce 5,242,880,000 loaves of bread. If he bakes an average of, say ten loaves a day, he will reach level 21 in a mere 1,436,405 years. And after all that labor — slaving away for over 1,436 millennia — what have you got for your time? A fucking 21st level baker.

There are similar examples, to be sure. A Beadle (who apparently assists a Reeve in his duties) gets 100 AP for every month of service. That means that achieving the much more modest 10th level will take the aspiring Beadle a far more reasonable 213 years. A cook gets 1/5 AP for every meal he cooks successfully, meaning that a cook who prepares a hearty three meals a day earns a whopping 3/5 of an AP, taking only 73 years to reach the dizzying height of Level 5.

Oh, the joy of picking apart a broken game system… In stark contrast to the unfortunate Bakers and Beadless, an Assassin receives AP equal to his victim’s Life Points (aka “Hit Points”) x the assassination’s pay in silver pieces. Assuming that the assassin is being paid a mere 100 sp to kill a low-level victim with 40 LP, he earns an instant 4000 APs, an amount that it would take the unfortunate cook in the previous example over 18 years to accumulate. And so on.

Notably (and surprisingly) missing from the seemingly endless list of occupations is “Pimp,” but never fear — “Brotheler,” “Wench,” “Courtesan” and of course “Whore” are there in all their glory. The Brotheler is I guess the closest thing to a pimp we’ve got, and Byron lavishes several hundred words describing his duties.

This could be an illustration of what I'm going to look like in 10 years or so. Unfortunately, it's an illustration from FATAL...

This could be an illustration of what I’m going to look like in 10 years or so (the figure on the bottom, that is). Unfortunately, it’s an illustration from FATAL…

Courtesans, we are told, “are essentially expensive, intelligent, and skillful Whores (see Whore).” They earn 10 AP for each satisfied customer, so a Courtesan who entertains three clients a day, every day, will take 11 years to reach Level 8.

A Wench, may of course “perform as a whore to collect money for her master or mistress” and gets 1/10 AP for each satisfied patron. If she successfully serves food to 100 people per day, every day, our overworked Wench will reach Level 15 in only 2,244 years. But hey, hopefully she has a good retirement plan.

And finally, the Whore. She gets a full page and almost a thousand words where the lowly tinker gets only 250 or so. Needless to say, “For each successfully assisted ejaculation or orgasm, a whore acquires a number of AP equal to the adjusted number of her Sexual Adeptness skill check.” To reach Level 10, a Whore who rolls an average of 30 per skill check need only successfully have sex with 8,533 customers. Now this is clearly much more skilled work than that poor Baker, for at a rate of 10 customers per day, the enterprising Whore will make it to level 10 in only 853 days.

Leave it to Byron to be simultaneously misogynistic, sexist, offensive and boring in the same entry.

Consult the Urination Table

Next come Skills. Lots of Skills. Tons of Skills. Craploads of Skills. About 250 skills, in fact, ranging from simple shit like Climb and Hide to ludicrously detailed and/or obscure shit like Delousing, Sheathmaking, Tilemaking, Basketweaving and 33 (count ‘em… 33) different types of Divination, from Alectromancy to Xenomancy.

Surprisingly there is only one skill for “Sexual Adeptness,” but that’s offset by the fact that there is actually a skill called “Urination.” Yes, there is a skill for how well your character takes a leak. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?…

While every character is capable of Urinating, it requires skill to urinate accurately or to maximize the distance of a stream of urine. Generally, this skill is for males, though under certain circumstances females may exercise their Urinating skill. This is best left to the discretion of the Aedile.

Whenever a character attempts to urinate on a target, and urination requires accuracy or distance, a Urinating skill check is made. 

Check: Roll 3d10 and apply the average of the modifiers from the Health and Hand-Eye Coordination sub-abilities. If aiming at a target, then the TH also represents CA.

2 factors determine most variation in urination: time elapsed since last urination and the weight of the drink considered as a percent of body weight. Consult the first table to determine a Urination Modifier:

For the record, there is also a skill called “Spitting” with similar rules. You don’t really need to see them, do you?

And of course there’s a skill entry for “Logic.” Let’s see what Byron has to say about Logic:

Logic
This is a science that deals with canons and criteria of validity in thought and principles of reasoning. Logic is divided into deductive and inductive. Things demonstrated deductively must be true, provided the logic is not flawed. Things demonstrated inductively are probably true. For example, if all chambermaids exercise fellatio, and fellatio always feels good, then it follows deductively that the fellatio administered by a chambermaid will always feel good. Of course, each of the 2 premises are logically flawed, since there may very well be chambermaids who refuse fellatio, and it is possible for fellatio not to feel good, such as by including fierce biting. Inductive or probabilistic logic may be characterized by the following basic example. If chambermaids typically give fellatio, and fellatio typically feels good, then I probably want to meet a chambermaid. Any time the validity of logic needs to be assessed, a Logic skill check must be made.

God. Byron must have been a really fun hotel guest. I’d say that the last sentence applies doubly to games like FATAL…

Also as expected are the lovingly detailed rules under Sexual Adeptness, possibly the most detailed and painstakingly microscopic rules for sex in rpg history. And that is not a compliment. In typical fashion, Byron manages to turn one of the most beautiful and fulfilling of human experiences into the dullest and most-soul destroying mathematics lecture by the dustiest and most decrepit tenured professor imaginable. I include the entire thing below simply to illustrate the utter horror that these rules have now become…

ParabolaCheck: Concluding the act of sexual intercourse or each sexual position, a character must make a Sexual Adeptness check concerning the quality of their performance, as does the partner(s). The higher the roll, the more the character has satisfied their sexual partner.

Roll 3d10 and apply the average of all relevant modifiers:

• Bodily Attractiveness (except in darkness)

• Facial Charisma (except in darkness, or with a sack over the head) [Keeping it classy as ever, Byron.]

• Kinetic Charisma (except in darkness)

• Contortion SP invested (depending on the position, and only if Debauchery exceeds 50)

• SP invested in Sexual Adeptness

• SP invested in the most appropriate Specialty (such as cunnilingus, fellatio, etc.)

• Tightness

 Tightness: For vaginal or anal sex, tightness ratio is a major factor of pleasure. To determine the modifier for tightness, divide Manhood Circumference by Anal or Vaginal Circumference Potential. Multiply the result by 100, consider it to be Base Tightness (BT), and use the following parabolic formula:

(BT – 80)2 = -4y + 120

Solve for y.

For example, if BT is 70, then:

(70 – 80)2 = -4y + 120

(-10)2 = -4y + 120

100 = -4y + 120

0 = -4y + (120 – 100)

0 = -4y + 20

4y = 20

y = 5

Therefore, the most sexual pleasure is experienced from a fit that is neither too tight nor too loose. The result from tightness is averaged with other modifiers and included in the skill check. Consult the table below to observe the performance of your character and the typical impression made on the sexual partner. Finally, in the case of multiple partners, a character’s satisfaction may be considered either partner to partner, or averaged for the entire experience.

Ejaculation: Many factors affect ejaculation, including Physical Fitness, Age, Scrotum Fullness (SF), and points invested in ejaculation control. The scrotum may accumulate sperm for 2-5 days before becoming full. The rate of filling varies with age. From being totally drained, the scrotum fills with sperm in 5 days while in puberty, 2 days for young adults, 3 days for middle age, 4 days for old age, and 5 days for venerable characters. Consider the accumulation of sperm as a percent, from 0-100. This is Scrotum Fullness (SF).

Each ejaculation drains a percentage of accumulated sperm based on age. Pubescent ejaculation drains 80%, young adults drain 50%, middle age characters drain 60%, characters in old age drain 70%, and venerable characters drain 80%. It is uncomfortable for a scrotum to contain 10% or less of its potential sperm. For example, if the scrotum of a young adult is full, then he will be reduced to 50% fullness with the 1st ejaculation, 25% fullness after the 2nd, 12% fullness after the 3rd, and 6% after the 4th. After 4 consecutive ejaculations, the scrotum of the young adult will feel uncomfortable, and SF is 6.

The number of ejaculatory contractions is (4 + 1d6). The distance that sperm is launched in the 1st contraction is affected by Age, SF, Physical Fitness, Facial Charisma or Bodily Attractiveness, and novelty. To determine Ejaculatory Distance (ED), progress through the following: Consider Base ED to equal the Breadth of the character. Age penalties include – 25% for pubescent and middle age characters, – 50% for old age, and – 75% for venerable characters. Next, divide Physical Fitness by 100, and multiply ED by the result.

When a male ejaculates, the attractiveness of the object he is watching affects his ejaculation. Now consider whether the male is looking at or imagining a face or body, and divide either Bodily Attractiveness or Facial Charisma by 100. Multiply ED by the result. The novelty of the stimulus for the male affects his ejaculation. For example, if a loyal husband only has sex with his wife repeatedly, then while she was exciting in the beginning of their relationship because she was new, she becomes boring in time and decreases his ejaculation [I'm sure this comes as welcome news to Byron's supermodel wife]. A new partner or position may affect his ejaculation. If this is not the first time the male has ejaculated for this partner, then decrease ED by (1d10)%. If the position is not new, then decrease ED by (1d10)%. Finally, ED is affected by SF. Divide SF by 100, and multiply ED by the result. Each contraction launches sperm only (1d100)% as far as the last contraction. 

Vaginal Soreness: Sometimes vaginal penetration can cause the vagina to be sore after sex. Factors include Base Tightness (BT) and the duration of vaginal penetration. To determine BT, see Tightness above. Then, multiply BT by the duration of sexual penetration in minutes. Finally, multiply the result by 0.003. This is the number of hours that the female’s vagina is sore.

When speaking at Gettysburg in 1863, Abraham Lincoln captured the greatness of a nation and the nobility of a selfless cause in a mere 278 words. Byron Hall, on the other hand, devotes 448 words to determining how far a man can ejaculate. I’m sure that President Lincoln would be proud of the great nation that his words helped preserve.

Next comes equipment, and it’s the usual list, though of course it includes prices for and a loving description of the dildo:

This is how Byron Hall imagines beautiful elven women. Right before he and his friends rape  them.

This is how Byron Hall imagines beautiful elven women. Right before he and his friends rape them.

Dildo: Often called an olisbos, this tool is sold to single females by merchants. A dildo is made of stone and represents a Manhood in size and shape. A horny female may masturbate by feverishly inserting the dildo into her vagina. Prior to insertion, olive oil is applied to the dildo as a lubricant. BCT is 1 day for a mason.

Yes, there they are… Construction rules for dildos…

Now Byron writes about combat and I’ll be damned if I even bother reading the fucking thing. I guess the rules probably work after a fashion, and I guess some people actually tried to play them, but I sure as hell wasn’t one.

Prominent among the combat rules however are the “Graphic Gore” (aka Critical Hit) tables. Here, we get such anatomically detailed (and largely impossible) wounds as:

The calf muscle is mostly removed, but still dangles by a thread and flops around. The rest of the lower leg is unharmed. Bodily Attractiveness – 30%, Agility – 50%.

The pubic bone is split from the front, and the hacking weapon opens the uterus. If pregnant, then she experiences a bloody and instantaneous miscarriage, and if the fetus is older than 3 months, then the baby is (1d100)% likely to emerge, at least partially, with the weapon. Within 1d10 minutes, the aborted fetus is covered by ants or appropriate flying insects such as horse flies. Bodily Attractiveness – 50%.

If the foe is female, then her breast has been hacked off. If pregnant, then milk squirts upon impact. Roll  1d10 to determine whether the (1-5) left or (6-10) right breast was hacked. Strength – 40% and Bodily Attractiveness – 50%. If the foe is male, then reroll.

Roll 1d10. The upper head has been either (1-5) partially or (6-10) fully dismembered from the lower head. The hacking attack entered the head through the face. If the upper head is only partially dismembered, then the hacking weapon exited the rear of the head, but either the foe’s (1-5) left or (6-10) right side of their skull remains intact. In either case, the foe dies instantly, and brains splatter forth.

The gluteus maximus, known more commonly as the ass, is pounded. If the foe is civilized, then for a split-second, they will be reminded of being a naughty child who was spanked. Roll 1d100. If the result 01-10, then the tailbone was broken and it will be painful for the foe to sit for 1d10 months. If the result was 11-20, then their rectum, known more commonly as their asshole or poop-chute, was pounded.

I would note, in poor Byron’s defense, that this crit system is markedly better than that presented in Fantasy Adventures to Adult Lechery, (which he defended most eloquently on-line, then radically changed in the following edition) in which various internal organs were damaged without any affect on surrounding or intervenikng locations, and the following can happen under hit location, Rectum:

The hacking weapon enters the rectum mid-stroke, and the opponent feels pain during the following 1d4 weeks involving defecating and, if female, during alternative sexual practices [since, in Byron Hall's fantasy world, only women engage in such "alternative" practices]. There is a 25% chance that the hacking releases (roll 1d6: on a 1-5 this is the number of chunks released, on a 6 it is runny instead) chunks of defecation from the confines of the body.

Though it seems impossible, the later edition of the game is actually in slightly better taste than the previous one. Not much, though, as we shall see.

Okay, I’m really starting to burn out on this one again. The very thought that someone actually took a significant portion of their precious years on earth to design this is staggering and, in some ways, makes me feel slightly better about myself.

Whosoever Attempts to Play F.A.T.A.L. Shall Bleed from Every Orifice

Slaves! You will play FATAL, and LIKE it, or you will taste my whip again!

Slaves! You will play FATAL, and LIKE it, or you will taste my whip again!

Then there follows another endless list, this one of spells, all of which are either familiar, useless or offensive (for example, Perpetual Orgasm and Seal Orifice, which are both exactly what you’d expect). Many are all three at once, as hard as that may be to believe. Each one has its own little set of sub-rules and I’m pretty much not going to say anything else about them, since everything about this fucking game is just stupid.

Next (and we’re really getting toward the end, I promise) come magical items, along with (surprise, surprise!) random tables for generating objects and their powers. The table once more goes on for page after page, and most of the entries begin with “Whosoever touches this item.” Not “Whoever,” mind you — “Whosoever.” Byron’s mastery of the English language is truly impressive…

Okay, I’m sure you know what comes next. Here are a few of the more choice powers that an item can have:

Ejaculate Acid: Any male who touches this item will cum acid the next time they  ejaculate, as per the spell.

For an Erection: Any male who touches this item will acquire and maintain an erect Manhood even after ejaculation while in contact.

Wet Dream: Whosoever touches this item to a sleeping creature will cause that creature to have a sexual dream while in contact. For more information, see the spell description.

Actually, the number of offensive and/or sexual item powers is surprisingly reserved, considering how the rest of the book has gone (and what lies ahead). As I observed in my previous entry, there were originally a number of offensive and racist items which Byron claimed were included for “humor,” which clearly says a lot about him and his friends. They are notably absent from this particular version of the game, and no one misses them one bit.

In the specific magic item section, we have a few more delightful devices:

Cane of Unchastity: Whenever touched, this cane inspires the toucher to desire to repeatedly insert the cane in 1 of their own orifices, selected randomly, for sexual pleasure…

Rapeseed of Raping: If a character swallows this seed, then they will attempt to rape the next member of the opposite sex in sight regardless of age.

Stone of Spermicide: This black stone may be rubbed across the Manhood [Do you find it interesting that Byron always capitalizes the term "Manhood"?] of a male prior to copulation. If so rubbed, then the female will not become pregnant no matter how much sperm the male releases. This stone is (4 + 1d6) inches in circumference. If this stone is forced deep inside the vagina, then the female will not become pregnant, but it is very difficult to remove and may prevent the entire Manhood from being able to enjoy this moist cavity.

Women. Just how Byron likes 'em...

Women. Just how Byron likes ‘em…

I’d go into more detail and pull down more examples, but I think you get the idea by now. We end up with some general guidelines for running campaigns and once more it’s bog-standard stuff. A sample adventure is included, which involves the characters rescuing a maiden from a troll in a cave. The maiden’s name is Sanuuicula (try saying that three times fast), but in the original version of the game she was named “Cuntrina.” Byron changed her name in yet another desperate effort to prove that he wasn’t a misogynistic motherfucker. Fail.

There’s a bit more, but do you really give a fuck? There’s stuff on natural substances, some stupid-ass mass combat rules, and FATAL’s handy-dandy eleven page long character sheet.

And at last we approach the end of our long, long 900 page journey…. Random Magical Effects. There are… wait for it… 2,000 random magical effects, taking up page after page after page, and few if any are likely to ever be encountered by players.

The Random Magical Effects (which Byron once more insisted were intended for “humorous” purposes) neatly encapsulate everything that is ugly, vicious, sexist, misanthropic and stupid about this game. Below I include only a tiny, tiny fraction of them:

0011. A scratch n’ sniff magical symbol of a festering vagina appears on the forehead of the target.

0013. All adult females in the world masturbate tonight while thinking about the caster (aka Byron Hall’s favorite jack-off fantasy).

0211. All characters within 3d10 feet acquire a bonus of 1d10 with the Urinating skill.

0393. All characters within 3d10 feet acquire dissociative identity disorder.

0585. All characters within 3d10 feet become unable to defecate, except while sprinting.

0656. All characters within 3d10 feet fart and diarrhea squirts out.

0813. All characters within 3d10 feet now shit 1 bar of silver bullion on their birthday.

When I get depressed about FATAL, I look at this picture and imagine that the little guy is Byron Hall. Then I feel better.

When I get depressed about FATAL, I look at this picture and imagine that the little guy is Byron Hall. Then I feel better.

1021. All males within 3d10 feet now believe that rape is wrong. (What the hell did they believe before?)

1062. Fruit ripens in the cunt-pipe of the nearest female in 3d10 days. If eaten, Drive decreases by 1. (Once more, Byron shows what a skilled wordsmith he is…)

1077. The anal hair of the caster grows 1d10 feet long, and obeys the thoughts of the caster.

1370. The nearest female is now famous for servicing 3d100 males in 1 night.

1371. The nearest female is now naked, except for a leather collar naming her new owner.

1372. The nearest female must jack-off 1d10 ogres before she can sleep again.

1373. The nearest female must mention her breasts in each conversation.

1374. The nearest female must now speak through her vagina.

1375. The nearest female must perform fellatio for any male who batters her.

1988. Whenever the caster becomes invisible, their genitals remain visible.

A long list of phobias follow which, once more, no GM (excuse me… Aedile) will be likely to use more than once or twice in an entire campaign.

And at last we conclude our trip to hell with another long, long, long table — this one of random ingredients. It’s more of the same, including delightful items such as:

0041. Anally-inserted mast of a ship – reusable

0267. Breast-milk of a character in old age – expended

0282. Breast-milk of breasts larger than D-cups – expended

1799. Stew made of 1d10 puppies – expended

1906. Urine of a father who values the life of his child more than his own – expended

1988. Woman willing to do anything for the caster, and licking the caster’s foot at the moment – reusable

2000. Yeast of a vagina – expended

And truth be told, this is the revised version of the list, for the Fantasy Adventures to Adult Lechery version contained a couple of other items such as the dismembered sex organs of an old woman (though Byron of course used much more sophisticated terms for the item) and of course Byron’s favorite:

A sacrificial human or elven maiden with large breasts, long hair, and a thin waist, and with fresh semen implanted and seeping from three of her orifices must be tied or chained to a stone altar. She will die upon casting the spell.

Sexist? Us? Condoning rape and violence against women? Never! Racist? Fie upon thee! Byron Hall, Burnout and their motley crew of on-line apologists are simply striving for historical accuracy! The presence of a brutalized, multiply raped Playboy playmate as a chained sacrificial victim merely reflects the vast number of times such an individual has appeared in myth, legend and folklore! And if you dare suggest otherwise, well by God sir, we demand satisfaction on the field of honor!

Despite his insistence that his work was perfect and he wouldn’t change a damned thing (see the next entry for more details on FATAL’s reception and Byron’s colorful acts of self-destruction), he clearly pulled out some of the more blatantly offensive portions of his book, while of course leaving all the references to his favorite sex act and how all women are bitches and whores.

FATAL ends once and for all with a whimper — some tables for generating NPCs and sample names for different races.

More women in armor. For some reason I find this kind of picture very encouraging.

More women in armor. For some reason I find this kind of picture very encouraging.

And that, my friends, is FATAL. If Byron’s misogyny, his obsession with explicit violence and scatology, and his hastily but incompletely disguised racism were absent, it would still be one of the most insane pieces of detritus ever conceived. Without the offensive material, FATAL is a massive, unwieldy, broken and largely unplayable mess that seems to have been playtested only by Byron Hall and his sycophants, all of whom believe the hype that FATAL is the most realistic and historically accurate rpg in history, other entries like Ars Magica, HARN and Chivalry and Sorcery be damned. The sex, violence and borderline psychosis all combine to make for a pile of nauseating icing on an already disgusting cake.

Mind you, the story of FATAL doesn’t end there. It seems that Byron and his simpering catamites did not anticipate the disgust and outrage that their little turd blossom of a game would generate in the rpg community. Faced with anger, disdain and outright contempt, they did what any self-respecting artists would do when they see their creation — their beloved child, if you will — unfairly attacked by the unwashed masses. They counterattacked in the most forceful manner possible, and in the process conclusively proved what a bunch of sociopaths they truly were.

More on that in the next (and, thank God, final) installment. See you soon.

The sad, silly saga of FATAL, Part One

FATAL -- the game of leather jockstraps and little blue guys.

FATAL — the game of leather jockstraps and little blue guys.

One day — hell, it must have been ten years ago or more — I was surfing the Intrawebs and came across a game review on rpg.net. It was for a game called “F.A.T.A.L.” and it went on for pages and pages. Fascinated, I sat down to read the review, and as I made my way through it I found myself thinking, “This has to be a joke. It must be a fake review for a fake game, intended to amuse and possibly gross out the game-review reading community.” After all, it was written by Darren MacLennan and Jason Sartin, two well-known and well-respected reviewers for rpg.net, and they were well known for using humor in their many articles.

Alas, further investigation revealed that the game described in the review was all too real, and today, the game whose acronymous name stood for “Fantasy Adventures to Adult Lechery” remains a legend, still discussed, criticized and insulted from one corner of the gaming Internet to the other. And as I started this particular feature a few months ago with an exhaustive review of the classic Arduin trilogy, how can I resist including at least a cursory mention of Byron Hall’s repellent life’s work? (Actually, given how much horror the game contains, I could resist it pretty easily, but hell — I’m a Pryor and Pryors NEVER take the “easy” alternative, no matter how much sense it makes…)

As the game has been exhaustively reviewed and painfully dissected elsewhere (and I am really, really reluctant to dive into the mechanics of a game that has a “Urinating” skill and rules for determining penile dimensions), I’m not going to do a real in-depth analysis of the system, but focus instead on a general overview, along with the tale of F.A.T.A.L.’s conception, development and savage reception, followed as it was by its esteemed author’s complete disappearance from the gaming community (hopefully because he was sucked into one of the lower pits of hell). Also, the very notion of actually delving into the needlessly complex, microscopically detailed and unbelievably trivial character generation system (proudly described by its designer as “the most difficult, detailed, realistic and historically/mythically accurate role-playing game available.”) fills me with cold dread and horrified apprehension. And we’re off to the races…

I don’t know of any other rpg which uses its relative difficulty as a selling point. Were I to read this without knowing anything else about the game, I seriously doubt that my first reaction would be “The most difficult role-playing game available? Holy shit! Sign me up!” And hell, I was involved in the creation of Metascape, a long-forgotten vanity project that was once reviewed as “not for the mathematically-challenged.” So with that in mind, shall we go for a dip in the cesspit? Welcome to the world of FATAL, where the dice never lie. And if you have a weak constitution, I strongly suggest you stop reading now.

From Another Time, Another Land

Behold... The only way Byron Hall can score...

Behold… The only way Byron Hall can score…

This discussion (I hesitate to call it a review) of FATAL is based upon the most recent “edition” available — a PDF that is archived in several places around the ‘net. An earlier edition included offensive (not to mention outright stupid) elements such as armors of Nigrous Nincompoopery, Jewy Jewbacca and Gookems, which transform their wearers into the listed racial stereotype. (For the record, though Hall attempted to expunge the sins of previous incarnations by deleting the more egregiously racist items, the descriptions remain in the original review… Here is an example, entirely unedited. Guess which magic item it refers to — Whosoever dons this armor experiences a loss of 1d100 points from each sub-ability of Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. The ass of the wearer will grow by 50% and be abnormally high. If the wearer is male, then those around him are 80% likely to believe that his manhood has increased, though it has not. The skin of the wearer becomes cursed and dark as night… The eyes of the wearer are visible 3 miles away at night. The wearer will have a body odor for 1d10 feet. On the bright side, the Physical Fitness of the wearer increases by 10%.  Har-dee-fuckin’-har, Byron. You truly bring the gift of laughter to the unenlightened… The only thing missing is something about how the wearer’s teeth glow in the dark when he smiles. More on the racism and Hall’s defense of it later.)

Yes, apparently Bryon actually paid real, professional artists to illustrate this thing. I hope they made him pay through the nose.

Yes, apparently Bryon actually paid real, professional artists to illustrate this thing. I hope they made him pay through the nose.

Very little else from the original version is missing, however, save the most obvious change of all. Though FATAL was originally an acronym for the charming title Fantasy Adventures to Adult Lechery, Byron apparently realized that this was possibly not the best name for his game and changed it to the less offensive, but equally ungrammatical From Another Time, Another Land. Along with the removal of the racist material, that represents the only real change in the book between revisions. FATAL’s other endearing elements — rape, gore, violence, sexism and a near-sociopathic attitude toward women remain, as swollen and grotesque as the day Byron Hall committed them to paper.

Hall also paid for some very professional and, in places, quite effective black and white illustrations. Though there is little or no portrayal of the rapiness that FATAL is infamous for (thank goodness), the pictures stray into the creepy and disturbing, usually in the areas of anthropohagy and violence. Nonetheless, both the illustrations and typography of FATAL range from acceptable to very good, belying the horrific nature of the game they support. FATAL weighs in at a bloated 977 pages. It is, we are told, “The largest game-book ever printed” which is actually somewhat disingenuous, as FATAL was fated never to be physically “printed” anywhere, and the back cover assures us that it is “a role-playing game like no other.” In that, Byron Hall is being entirely accurate, and given that there never has been a game like FATAL, either before or after, we can all be grateful for it.

The cover portrays a male Anakim in a leather jockstrap bashing in the heads of a bunch of blue-skinned kobolds who are busy trying to drag a long-haired, big-breasted naked woman away by means of leash and collar. Knowing what lies inside FATAL’s richly-colored covers I’m sure we’re all aware exactly what the kobolds intend to do with their busty captive. Then again, once the Anakim kills them all with his big fucking hammer, he’s probably going to do the same thing to her, so I guess it’s six of one, half-dozen of the other. FATAL’s title page is enough to warm the heart of an old typographer like me. The book, Byron breathlessly informs us, is set in Garamond and Tiepolo Book fonts. Garamond, he says, “was selected as the main font due to its historical accuracy. Claude Garamond (1480-1561) was the first independent typefounder and first used his typeface in 1530.”

Get ready — Byron’s clarion declaration of “historical accuracy” is repeated many times and used as an excuse (along with “for humorous effect”) to explain away FATAL’s more excessive aspects. Further, though Garamond is indeed a very old font, its use in the 16th century really doesn’t make it appropriate for use in this game, especially under the dubious “historical accuracy” umbrella. Times-style fonts have existed since the Roman era, and a font that came into widespread use in 1530 is well past the supposed historical period that FATAL covers.

An Introduction to Idiocy

I'm not saying the pictures are bad. In fact I kind of like this one, though I'm not sure what the dwarf is supposed to be up to.

I’m not saying the pictures are bad. In fact I kind of like this one, though I’m not sure what the dwarf is supposed to be up to.

Anyway, enough with the nit-picking. The hilarity and horror are about to begin. We start off with Byron’s introduction, and the standard “What is Role-Playing” boilerplate, but from the start he gives it his own personal spin and makes the entire endeavor seem somehow dirty. He starts off with his favorite subject — how historically accurate his game is. FATAL, he says, is intended to reflect a Europe of about 1335 AD, isolated from the rest of the world. There is no contact with Africa, Asia or the Middle-East, monsters such as zombies are excluded, and PCs are (much to Byron’s relief I’m sure) exclusively Caucasian. “The application of historical accuracy to the fantasy of this game,” Byron proclaims, “is a neverending goal. Scholarly sources are preferred above all others. For consideration, please suggest references to fatalgames@excite.com.” (Of course if you want to send any suggestions, the email will probably bounce, as Fatal Games is currently as dead as disco. You’re welcome to try, however. I’m sure Byron will appreciate your efforts.)

Now we get to the meat and throbbing gristle of the game — Byron Hall’s view on what role-playing is. It is, he says, “a game in which the players make decisions as though they were a certain character. The decisions a player may make are diverse compared to other games. Table-top role-playing games allow more decisions to a player than any other type of game.” So far, so good. He seems to have a pretty decent grasp of the basic tenets, and as far as he goes, is pretty accurate. Just you wait.

Now, having given us a relatively sane and sensible definition of role-playing, Byron lurches right off the rails into sheer batshit insanity. “For instance,” he continues, “assume you are an adventuring knight who just fought his way to the top of a dark tower where you find a comely young maiden chained to the wall. What would you do? Some players may choose to simply free the maiden out of respect for humanity. Others may free her while hoping to win her heart. Instead of seeking affection, some may talk to her to see if they can collect a reward for her safe return. Then again, others may be more interested in negotiating freedom for fellatio. Some may think she has no room to bargain and take their fleshly pleasures by force. Others would rather kill her, dismember her young cadaver, and feast on her warm innards… No other game allows so much individual choice, and consequently, so much fun.”

Okay, I admit that I just had to go wash my hands after typing this (and will probably do so several times before I’m done), and I did selectively edit a few words out for dramatic effect. But the fact remains that Byron uses “feast on her warm innards” and “so much fun” in practically the same breath. And this is only page one, folks.

Fatal Games Considers [insert topic here] to Be a Serious Issue

The next page or two discusses terminology and pronouns (as avoiding gender bias is one of Byron Hall’s most important goals in creating this game, he chooses to use “they” in place of “he” and “she”, thus irrefutably proving his total rejection of sexism and the objectification of women), math (“Players will not need math that is more complicated than basic algebra, and even that is relatively rare”, or so he claims), character creation and roles. In this last section Byron does away with namby-pamby terms like “game master”, telling us that instead FATAL games will be administered by an Aedile (“a Roman official in charge of the games”). Once more, FATAL literally reeks of historical accuracy.

The Introduction continues with a brief paragraph about Hall’s proud creation — the Mean System, i.e. “the set of mechanics behind F.A.T.A.L. — the gaming engine, if you will.” While it’s based on math and statistics, you really don’t have to understand math at all to play. The Mean system, he tells us “is realistic, but also simple to use.” Of course, behind every simple system is a genius game designer, who is not only a talented musician but also irresistible to women. “The most common aspects of the Mean System are the normal curve, mean, and standard deviation, though parabolic curve-fitting and trigonometric functions have been incorporated as well.” Whoa! I’m starting to feel out of my league as a game designer here.

According to the bio at the back of the book, Byron Hall "adores gaming and writing," "has been a role-playing gamer since 1980,,, taught at Northern Illinois University where he earned his MA in Quantitative Research Methods and did pre-doctoral work with Structural Equation Modeling... enjoys dissonant shred guitar, ancient and medieval literature and history, neuroscience, philosophy, research and statistics." He is also a member of Seal Team Six, helped rescue POWs left behind after the Vietnam War, killed Osama bin Laden, is married to a gorgeous supermodel, traveled back in time to kill Adolph Hitler and invented ketchup.

According to the bio at the back of the book, Byron Hall “adores gaming and writing… has been a role-playing gamer since 1980… taught at Northern Illinois University where he earned his MA in Quantitative Research Methods and did pre-doctoral work with Structural Equation Modeling… enjoys dissonant shred guitar, ancient and medieval literature and history, neuroscience, philosophy, research and statistics.” This bio neglects to mention that Byron Hall was also a member of Seal Team Six, killed Osama bin Laden, is a millionaire rock-star brain surgeon, is married to a gorgeous supermodel, traveled back in time to kill Adolph Hitler and invented ketchup. It also doesn’t mention his hairstyle, but the less said about that the better.

“A mean game needs a mean system,” he continues. “Enjoy the most simple and sophisticated mechanics in the industry. Enjoy F.A.T.A.L.” And with that not-at-all-egotistical-or-slightly-demented introduction we conclude with the Intro’s centerpiece, the bizarre and slightly disturbing “Warning.” “F.A.TA.L. is for adults only. This roleplaying game is not intended for children due to content that is obscene, lecherous, and violent.”

With that understatement of understatements, Byron launches into a slightly desperate defense of his indefensible game. “Fatal Games considers obscenity to be a sensitive issue, and only includes it because of its prominence in the past as a significant part of human history. Most of the rules of the game avoid obscenity. For example, it is possible to determine a character’s manhood, not cock, or vaginal depth, not cunt depth. However, the greatest concentration of obscenity is in Appendix 3: Random Magical Effects, and is intended for humorous effect.”

Well that certainly reassures me. Us? Obscene? No way! We don’t babble on about “cock length” or “cunt depth”! We use normal, sophisticated terms such as “manhood” and “vagina.” Not obscene at all. No sirree. Our rules for determining the length and girth of a man’s penis and a character’s ability to perform anal sex are utterly proper and necessary due to our emphasis on historical accuracy! And if we do happen to offend you a wee bit, well it was all in a good cause since our real goal was to make you laugh, and who could possibly fault us for that?

“This game includes sex and sexual situations,” Byron continues, digging himself in even deeper. “Fatal Games considers sex to be a sensitive issue, and only includes it because of its prominence in the past as a significant part of human history.” Observant readers will note that this paragraph is almost identical to the previous one. Almost as if he’d just cut-and-pasted it… Hmmm… Next we’re told that the game’s level of violence is pretty graphic, but hey — “Killing is a core element of most role-playing games” so that makes it okay. “Fatal Games,” Byron continues, “considers the act of killing to be a sensitive issue, and only includes it because of its prominence in the past as a significant part of…” Okay, wait a damn minute. Is the whole book going to be like this? I guess I’ll skip this paragraph since it’s identical to the previous two and get to the discussion of Byron Hall’s favoritest subject.

A rather odd photoshopped picture from the FATAL PDF. This is either the real-life Beavis and Butthead or it's Byron Hall (right) and his faithful champion Burnout (left).

A rather odd photoshopped picture from the FATAL PDF. This is either the real-life Beavis and Butthead or it’s Byron Hall (right) and his faithful champion Burnout (left).

“Rape is not intended to be a core element of F.A.T.A.L. as killing is a core element of most role-playing games. Fatal Games considers rape to be a sensitive issue, and only includes it because of its prominence in the past.” Yeah, yeah. I get it. No one can accuse Byron Hall of not being sensitive to such matters. After all, he’s repeated it word-for-word four times now. Of all the copied-and-pasted warnings in this section, the defense of rape is easily the longest and wordiest. Methinks that the game-designer wannabe protests too much. To wit: “For example, Europe was named after Europa, who was raped by Zeus… Jacques Rossiaud’s Medieval Prostitution [I'm sure that Byron wore the fucking covers off of that particular volume while researching FATAL]… estimates that half the male youth participate in at least one gang rape, and that sexual violence is an everyday dimension of community life.”

Hot damn! Rape and sexual violence happened all the time in medieval Europe? Holy shit — then we can include all the rape we want and justify it as being historically accurate! My hat’s off to you, Jacques Rossiaud, and your book which is the only source that we cite before coming to our highly dubious conclusions! Likewise, Byron now tells us, brothels were very common in medieval and ancient Europe, and so must be included in his game, simply for the sake of (wait for it) historical accuracy! To do otherwise would be dishonest, and do a serious disservice to the roleplaying community, who have for years been clamoring for a game that accurately depicts rape, anal sex and prostitution.

And here's a picture of Fatal Games' playtest group, getting ready for a  Saturday evening of roleplaying gang rape.

And here’s a picture of Fatal Games’ playtest group, getting ready for a Saturday evening of roleplaying gang rape.

Hell, he tells us, you don’t even have to include sex in your game at all! And besides, kids shouldn’t be playing FATAL in the first place. “The information in this game does not represent the world-views of Fatal Games, nor is extreme violence or extreme sex condoned by Fatal games. Instead, the information is included for comprehensiveness. F.A.T.A.L. (From Another Time, Another Land [Not, repeat NOT, "Fantasy Adventures to Adult Lechery", an inaccurate title which suggests that the whole game might actually be about sex, rape and perversity, things which Fatal Games most assuredly DOES NOT ADVOCATE!] may be adapted to any gaming group.” And with that convenient warning effectively disclaiming his own game, Byron Hall closes his introduction and we move on into the travesty that is FATAL (From Another Time, Another Land. NOT Fantasy Adventures to Adult Lechery).

Off to the Races

Like all great rpgs, FATAL kicks off with character generation. The player’s (and I’m surprised that Byron didn’t come up with a special Latin word that meant gamer to go along with Aedile) first choice is race, and we’re now treated to a long list of the races available in the game. For the most part there’s nothing especially noteworthy here, save for the occasional grammatical howler (Anakim, we are told may “worship any religion” by which I’m sure Byron meant “practice any religion” or “worship any god” but who am I to judge?) and delightful facts about the various races such as the fact that bugbears usually rape human women before devouring their children and that “50% of human women who are ravished by a bugbear die due to a ripped uteral lining.”

Most of FATAL’s races are bog-standard fantasy tropes — dwarves, elves, bugbears, kobolds, various varieties of ogres (including kinder-fressers, who enjoy devouring “prepubescent, virginal” human children, a feature which should normally make for a shitty PC-race, but of course this is FATAL, so bring on the child murder!) and trolls. Most of the racial descriptions skimp on cultural details but treat the way that these races kill others with loving care — hill trolls, for example, love to eat brains and “savor the taste of the limbic system, most specifically the amygdala, basal ganglia, and hippocampus. Oddly, they always reject the thalamus, but devour the hypothalamus. While tasting the limbic system, hill trolls will become erect or wet with sexual excitement as well.”

A fairly decent illustration of the various dwarven races. Pity this art wasn't produced to support an actual roleplaying game...

A fairly decent illustration of the various dwarven races. Pity this art wasn’t produced to support an actual roleplaying game…

That’s our Byron… Always keeping it classy. The most interesting — if that’s the right word for it — race are the winged half-demons called Anakim. When generating an Anakim, the player must roll on a table (the first of many, many, many such tables) to generate a random feature. These range from rather normal effects such as the reduction or increase of various statistics, to the pointless (“The anakim has 2 horns, 1d8 inches in length, protruding from their head. Any headgear worn by the anakim must be custom-made to fit the horns” or “the anakim is able to cry at will, with tears”) to, of course the graphically violent, scatalogical and repellently sexual. “The anakim is addicted to vaginal or penile carrion. Once per week the anakim has the urge to kill the first member of the opposite sex in sight and feed on the previously stated remains.” “The anakim has blood for sexual fluid… If male, the anakim ejaculates blood. If female, then blood is the lubricating vaginal fluid all month long.” “The anakim is accompanied by the odor of sex, which extends 1d6 feet.” And so on. I’ll give Byron credit here — he certainly has the ability to fill up a random table with the most random shit imaginable. More on that later.

The Racial Hatred table follows. Not “racial attitudes” mind you — Racial Hatred. Each race is cross-indexed with all the others, with a rating of 1 (prefers the race) to 5 (utter and absolute hate). Of all the ratings on the table, almost all of them are “5″ — there are some “4′s”, a handful of “3′s” and almost no “2′s”. “1′s” are reserved for one’s own race. The world of FATAL is full to the brim with hate, kind of like the way most gamers feel about Byron Hall.

Next comes gender, and along with it some more delectable tastes of Byron’s attitude toward women. We are told that “According to a prominent philosopher, males tend to be more spirited, savage, simple and less cunning. Females… tend to be more compassionate… more easily moved to tears, at the same time are more jealous, more querulous, and are more apt to scold and to strike… more prone to despondency and less hopeful… more void of shame and self-respect, more false of speech… more deceptive… also more wakeful, shrinking, and difficult to rouse to action… males are more courageous, sympathetic, and stand by to help… Even in the case of mollusks, when the cuttle-fish is struck with a trident, the male stands by to help the female; but when the male is struck, the female runs away.”

Well, I’m glad we got that particular issue straightened out, aren’t you? Byron’s “prominent philsopher” is Aristotle, and Byron justifies this particular load of horse-shit by saying “His comments are deemed relevant to the setting of F.A.T.A.L. due to the prevalence of his opinion throughtout the Middle Ages.” Yes, Byron’s heroic dedication to historical accuracy above all other things has struck again.

After all of Byron's sexist crap I thought we could close with a picture of a real woman.

After all of Byron’s sexist crap I thought we could close with a picture of a real woman.

Now we get a quick history lesson. “Most cultures are patriarchal and the prevalent belief regarding gender is that females are inferior to males physically, intellectually, morally, and emotionally… [women] are deemed better suited to stay at home, cook, clean, and care for their husband and children. Prior to marriage, maidens are expected to be chaste, though few fulfill this expectation.”

You tell ‘em, Bro! They’re all just a bunch of sluts and whores, anyway… Why even waste our time letting anyone play female characters. I mean, any guy who would actually want to play a chick is probably a fag anyway…

Oops, sorry. I was channeling Byron for a second. It’s okay, I’m better now, but I think it’s probably time to wrap this up before something terrible happens. We’ll delve deeper into the slime next installment, kids. In the meantime, stay cool and do not ever, ever play FATAL.

Wizards_titleSo far, the ol’ Pit of Swords and Sorcery has focused on a wealth of material drawn from the gilded 1980s, but now I’m casting my memories back a few years, toward the days of Star Wars and Close Encounters, and the days when Jaws set the standard for summer blockbusters — to wit, the mid-1970s when I was writhing in the throes of adolescence, playing my first games of white box Dungeons and Dragons and reconciling myself to the notion that I would die a sad and pathetic virgin. In fact, I don’t think I actually started playing D&D until after I saw this flick, so believe me we are really talking about the dark ages here.

wizards_poster_01Into this depressing period in my life came a film that marked several milestones for me — my first viewing of a Star Wars trailer, my first experience with what might be called “adult” animation, and most importantly, my first case of lust for a cartoon character. So join us in the Pit of Swords and Sorcery for one of the more unusual entries — Ralph Bakshi’s cockeyed reflection on war, peace and jiggly boobs, as well as his homage to the great underground artist Vaughn BodéWizards.

Now I’ve been kind of hard on poor Ralph B on this blog. Not that it matters — my disdain for and amusement at Bakshi’s disastrous animated version of The Lord of the Rings isn’t really even a blip on the radar of popular culture. As the creator of numerous animated classics and a true innovator, Bakshi can easily shrug off the slings and arrows thrown his way by a minor-league rpg-writer like me, especially since in making fun of his movie I’ve derived enormous pleasure and enjoyment. So in a way, I guess Bakshi’s LotR was a smashing success, what?

Well, no. It’s still kind of a travesty, but back in 1977 when I went to see Wizards at a small theater in Portland I was sufficiently impressed that I looked forward to Bakshi’s take on Tolkien, and had high hopes for the future. Though my hopes were later to be brutally crushed, that day was a pretty good one.

Vaughn Bode’s Cheech Wizard — a short magician who likes to hang out with busty hippy chicks while wearing a big hat that hides his face. Sound familiar?

I went to movies by myself in those days. I didn’t have a girlfriend… Hell, I barely knew how to talk to women let alone ask them out on dates. My first attempt to do so took place when I was a freshman in high school, and consisted of my looking the girl up in the phone book and calling everyone with her surname until I got the right one, then nervously asking her if she’d like to go out with me. Unfortunately, she happened to be at her house with her football-player boyfriend, a couple of girlfriends, and their football-player boyfriends, and the sting of that humiliation still burns to this day. I will probably carry it to my grave.

My parents and I had somewhat similar tastes, but Wizards really wasn’t their cup of tea. Later that spring I’d take them to see Star Wars at the Westgate Theater in Beaverton, where it ran continuously for the next two years or so. A few years ago my friends and I went to the last show at the Westgate, Kung Fu Hustle, watching with lingering nostalgia before the whole place was torn down.

An interesting alternative poster for Wizards. Sheesh... She looks NOTHING like Elinore...

An interesting alternative poster for Wizards. Sheesh… She looks NOTHING like Elinore…

Anyway, enough rambling down memory lane — back to Wizards, which I saw all by my own little 16-year-old self several months before Star Wars. As noted, the trailers included a preview for George Lucas’ future classic, which didn’t suggest what a huge deal it would someday become, and after the trailers came a cartoon. Yes, this was in the days when they still ran cartoons before movies — this was an odd animation called Twins about two brothers who were totally different in temperament, ended up having various adventures, then were finally reunited (and as such was actually obliquely related to the main feature). I haven’t been able to find any reference to the cartoon anywhere, but I haven’t looked terribly hard. If anyone finds it, let me know — I wouldn’t mind reliving the experience, as it was actually pretty funny.

Before I throw myself into the cinematic acid trip that is Wizards, I’ll refresh our collective memories about Ralph Bakshi. He was (and still is) a premiere American animator, though he’s had mixed success over the years. Some of his best work was on TV, including a pretty cool animated series called The Mighty Heroes, which I watched as a kid in California, and of course the now-infamous Spiderman animated series, source of amusing gifs and memes to all and sundry.

WizBookBakshi broke a few taboos when he directed an animated version of R. Crumb’s Fritz the Cata production fraught with legal difficulties. To this day there’s controversy over whether Bakshi really had Crumb’s permission to make the movie, with all parties having their own version of the story (personally I believe Bakshi, but that’s just my opinion). Fritz went down in history as the first X-rated cartoon, though today it’s relatively mild and Bakshi himself says that there’s more explicit material in an episode of The Simpsons than there was in this movie.

So when Bakshi obtained the rights to produce an animated version of The Lord of the Ringsalarm bells started ringing and people began grabbing their pitchforks and torches. My memory is a little sketchy from this period — God knows, I wish it was because of all the drugs and booze that I consumed during my wild teenaged years, but it’s actually just because I’m getting fucking old — but I seem to recall reading that Wizards was seen as a sort of “warm-up” to LotR, to test out animation techniques and reassure people that Bakshi wasn’t going to make Fritz the Hobbit. That Wizards turned out to be vastly superior to Bakshi’s LotR is one of those great ironies of film history. And not Alanis Morisette irony either. This is real irony.

The credits for Wizard are in that kind of odd computer-style lettering that was popular in the 60s and 70s for when you wanted to look cool and futuristic in movies like The Andromeda Strain. Using the style at the beginning of a fantasy movie gives us a clue that what we’re about to see is basically what would happen if J.R.R. Tolkien and Samuel R. Delaney had a misbegotten love child.

Our narrator... Rowrrr...

Our narrator… Rowrrr…

Our opening shot is live action, with the camera panning up to an open book with the words (once more in pseudo-computer font): An illuminating history bearing on the everlasting struggle for world supremacy fought between the powers of Technology and Magic. There’s a voiceover for those of us who have forgotten how to read, but it’s uttered by the husky and haunting voice of cult movie and TV actress Susan Tyrrell, so it ain’t all bad.

With Hawkwind-style prog-rock synth music moaning softly in the background, she goes on to tell the future history of Earth, and what a nasty future it is.

The world blew up in a thousand atomic fireballs. The first blast was set off by five terrorists. It took two million years for some of the radioactive clouds to allow some sun in. By then only a handful of humans survived. The rest of humanity had changed into hideous mutants. These mutant species floundered in the bad areas — radioactive lands that never allowed them to become human again, and made each birth a new disaster.

Queen Delia suddenly realizes that she's pregnant. Now how the hell did THAT happen I wonder?

Queen Delia suddenly realizes that she’s pregnant. Now how the hell did THAT happen I wonder?

Basically she’s telling us that the radioactive lands ended up resembling New Jersey. The tale is accompanied by still illustrations showing us what a nightmare things were for the benighted mutants. It’s effective, giving the sense of an ancient tale being told, and I think Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings would have benefited from this technique instead of showing live actors in silhouette, but I guess that’s all water under the bridge now.

Fortunately all was not lost for future earth: Then in the good lands there came back — arising from their long sleep — faeries, elves, dwarves — the true ancestors of man. They lived happily in the good areas.

So there you have it — 2,000,000 years of future history all rolled up into one nice neat minute or so of narration. Now, with more sepia-toned still images, we get to the actual meat of the story, with the tale of how Delia, queen of the faeries mysteriously gave birth to twin wizards on a stormy day a few millennia ago.

So Delia had these two kids — one was good and nice and sweet and cool and did kind things, and his name was (wait for it…) Avatar (normally a name reserved for kids born on hippy communes or conceived at Burning Man). The other was nasty, brutish, smelly, ugly, ill-tempered, repulsive, evil, wicked, mean, nasty and generally uncouth. She named him Blackwolf.

Even in the far future, tragic crack babies were still being born.

Try naming a kid “Blackwolf” some time and you see how well he turns out.

On my reviewing of the movie I sense a certain level of elitism bordering on racism, folks. First we’re told that the world is divided between the untermensch – the ugly mutants in their run-down radioactive wastelands, and the master race — the elves and faeries who live in sunshine and peace and niceness. Then we learn that wizards are born either good or evil, and can’t change their destiny or nature — one is evil and one is good and never the twain shall meet.

For a movie that later on portrays the bad guys using Nazi ideology and racism, Wizards has an odd sense of morality. Consider this — if certain individuals and races are born inferior and/or evil, then isn’t it a good idea to suppress or exterminate the “bad” ones? As with its philosophy of “Magic good/technology bad” (which we’ll explore in detail later) Wizards presents a slightly schizophrenic and contradictory worldview. And given Bakshi’s stated motivations for writing the film (see below), the whole situation seems even crazier.

Avatar in his younger days. Jesus Christ, what the hell HAPPENED to the poor guy anyway?

Avatar in his younger days. Jesus Christ, what the hell HAPPENED to the poor guy anyway?

So as he grew up, Avatar spent most of his time conjuring bunnies for his mom and bringing her flowers and nice greeting cards on Mother’s Day. Blackwolf on the other hand was a mutant and therefore naturally evil, and never visited Delia, choosing instead to torture small animals (no, really… that very line is in the movie), listen to Scandinavian death-metal and hang out with the cast of Duck Dynasty.

Finally, Delia snuffs it. Avatar tries to save her, but fails, grief-stricken. Where others see tragedy Blackwolf sees opportunity however, and he steps forward to take over as leader. Unsurprisingly, Avatar has a few things to say about all of this, and the two begin a ferocious battle, still in static images, but with a 60s rock-concert lightshow running in the background.

Of course Avatar kicks his brother’s ass and banishes him to the land of Scortch to hang out with all the other genetically-inferior mutants. Being the good villain that he is, Blackwolf doesn’t take his defeat lightly. “The day will come, my brother,” he declares, striding off into the shadow, “when I will return and make this a planet where mutants rule!”

Mom always liked YOU best, you jerk!

Mom always liked YOU best, you jerk!

Okay, I won’t belabor the point, but come on! Apparently a planet where mutants rule is bad and a planet where elves and faeries rule, keeping the mutants penned up in the fantasy equivalent of the Warsaw Ghetto is good. Just because the elves are better looking than the mutants is no reason for them to lord it over everyone else… Unless of course you ask an elf in which case he’ll just silently stare down his long, aquiline nose at you, slathering you in disdain, knowing that in a half century or so you’ll be getting the senior discount at Denny’s and he’ll be barely out of adolescence.

Now, to the present, in the land of Scortch 3,000 years later. A lot of the backgrounds in Scortch were produced by fantasy artist Ian Miller, who illustrated (among other things) Michael Creighton’s Eaters of the Dead, and a whole mess of Warhammer novels and game books from Games Workshop. Wizards represents some of Miller’s early work, and these backgrounds are pretty kickass. Personally, I found that they clashed a bit with Ralph Bakshi’s more cartoony, Bodé-inspired images, but damn… They do give this flick a nice look.

Okay, I admit that you guys are three of the goofiest looking guys in all of Scortch, but hell... You're all I've got.

Okay, I admit that you guys are three of the goofiest looking guys in all of Scortch, but hell… You’re all I’ve got.

In the palace of  Scortch One, Blackwolf now sits on his throne, imperiously instructing his minions in a scene that kind of reminds me of Darth Vader talking to the bounty hunters in Empire, released a few years later.

Blackwolf’s not a bad-looking villain, though his animated incarnation is somewhat simplified compared to the painstakingly-drawn pictures from the prologue. He’s tall and emaciated, with grey skin, a long white beard and a hollow, red-eyed face. He’s gone pretty thoroughly bald, but hell what do you expect from a guy after 3,000 years? And oh, yeah — his arms are all bone, with no flesh on them. It’s an odd look, and one wonders how he actually moves his arms at all, unless he really does have muscles and tendons but, similarly to Venture Brothers’ Phantom Limb character, they’re simply invisible.

“The time has come,” he rasps. “Kill!”

Bode's Cobalt 60. Look familiar?

Bode’s Cobalt 60. Look familiar?

Damn, but Blackwolf’s got some pretty decent minions, since that’s all the instruction they need. There are three assassins and two of them — a clumsy-looking frog-guy and a horned devil wearing what appears to be a German pickelhaube, are expendable mooks. It’s assassin number three, the red android called Necron 99, who merits further attention.

Clearly, Necron’s design was inspired by Bodé’s character Cobalt 60, and when I was younger I was somewhat pissed off at Bakshi for appropriating the look in such a blatant fashion. Since then of course I’ve learned that Bodé and Bakshi were buds and much of Wizards’ look and feel is simply an homage by Bakshi to his friend. That said, check it out — it’s like Necron and Cobalt were separated at birth, man. What the hell?

(A side note here — during my research for this piece I discovered that we really dodged a bullet regarding Cobalt 60. A few years ago, hack director Zack Snider who brought us the atrocious but funny 300, the acceptable cinematic version of Watchmen and the crime against humanity and good taste that was Sucker Punch, was in negotiations to film a live-action version of Cobalt 60. Apparently the deal fell through, as I haven’t heard anything about it lately, so I hope we can count ourselves lucky that Snyder didn’t rape another batch of audiences with his subtle-as-a-brick-to-the-face style of filmmaking.)

…Annnd here’s Necron 99. Separated at birth, perhaps?

The three assassins ride out through more Ian Miller backgrounds, past what looks like the unseelie court’s red-light district where disturbing faerie hookers solicit squat goblin-looking things, but draw back in fear as Necron slowly rides past. Necron proceeds out of Scortch, through battlefields and past Blackwolf’s gathering armies, finally entering the good lands where the elves and faeries have no idea what’s about to happen.

In a lovely sylvan grove, an old faerie wise man reads to his people from an ancient book: My children, the only true technology is nature. All other forms of man-made technology are perversions. The ancient dictators used technology to enslave the masses…

Okay, here comes my other rant about Wizards. All through the movie we hear about how horrific and “perverse” man-made technology is, and how nature and peace and love are the only things we need. Yet over and over again we see the “good” faeries using the very “man-made” technology that they supposedly abhor. The village elder himself is reading from a book, which is manufactured from paper, leather, twine and other “man-made” substances. Later on we see the faeries defending themselves with “man-made” weapons and armor, and at the very end of the movie…

Well, never mind. We’ll save that one for later. For now I’m just struck at how irritated, over three decades later, I am at the movie’s lack of internal consistency. Of course, it’s still a cool movie, but hell it can be frustrating.

...And so little elves, heed my wisdom. Shun technology. Avoid modern medicine, farming techniques, plumbing and electricity. THEN see how long you can hold out against the mutant barbarians.

…And so little elves, heed my wisdom. Shun technology. Avoid modern medicine, farming techniques, plumbing and electricity. THEN see how long you can hold out against the mutant barbarians.

So before the elder can give us more faerie propaganda about how evil “techology” is, Necron shows up and blows him and his followers to kingdom come. Mind you, I found his speech a bit annoying, but I think that blasting him with an automatic weapon was a bit harsh. I might have just walked out, or at least told the elder to shut up and stop reading from a goddamned book if he finds technology so fucking evil…

Never mind. Back to the movie. Necron and the assassins’ campaign of terror continues, snuffing out more elf and faerie leaders, preparing the way for Blackwolf’s forces while in the background a kind of merry jazz ensemble plays.

Necron enters a moonlit forest, seeking out more victims. In the forest are two elf scouts, Weekhawk and his friend whom everyone else knows as Deadmeat. Now to the untrained eye, it might seem that both Weehawk and Deadmeat look exactly the same, as if they’re both drawn from an identical character model (or perhaps all of Weehawk’s clan are clones? The possibility is never explored). However, if you know what to look for, it’s easy to tell them apart, as Deadmeat has an earring in his left ear, and Weehawk has an earring in his right ear. Simple, huh?

They're elven warriors/Identical elven warriors/and you'll find/ They laugh alike, they walk alike/ At times they even talk alike.../ You can lose your mind/When elven warriors.../are two of a kind!

They’re elven warriors
Identical elven warriors
And you’ll find
They laugh alike, they walk alike
At times they even talk alike…
You can lose your mind
When elven warriors…
Are two of a kind!

Given the criticism some leveled at Bakshi for making his movie look too much like Vaughn Bodé’s art, I think it’s only fair to point out the design of his elves. These are definitely not in the Tolkien mold. They’re short, dark and kind of tough-looking and a few years later the comic series Elfquest was sometimes taken to task for copping the look and feel of Bakshi’s elves. Of course, like the criticisms of Bakshi, such suggestions are a little off the mark. While there’s a superficial resemblance between the Pinis’ elves and those of Wizards, they also differ in a lot of areas, and if Marv and Wendy Pini used this movie for inspiration, so what? They took their creation in a different direction and made it theirs, regardless of its origins. In all fairness, the same can be said for Bakshi’s use of Bodé’s designs.

As they bounce through the forest on their weird two-legged mutant horses, Necron opens up, shooting Deadmeat out of the saddle and pursuing Weehawk. Our hero is no slouch. He manages to elude Necron, then draws an arrow and nails the assassin’s mount right in the eye. And yes, bow and arrow are both pieces of man-made technology, aren’t they? I guess if he really believed all that bullshit that the dead elder was spouting he’d have just thrown a rock.

Necron and his mount tumble into a ravine, but Necron is only wounded. He sneaks back and starts tracking Weehawk, finding him in a clearing where he’s set up a ring of torches and is praying over his mount Westwind, who has apparently dropped dead of exhaustion.

Damn. Those elves really love their hideous two-legged camel-horse things, don't they?

Damn. Those elves really love their hideous two-legged camel-horse things, don’t they?

Now I understand sentimentality as much as anyone, but if you’re being chased by a ruthless, relentless cyborg assassin, shouldn’t you wait before having an elaborate funeral for your loyal mutant horse? Well, who can understand elvish culture anyway?

(And actually it isn’t really a funeral anyway, since Weehawk’s mount Westwind comes back, sound as a new dollar, a few scenes later. Go figure.)

Necron muffs the deal though, stepping on a twig and triggering a ferocious attack by Weehawk, who throws himself at the assassin, sword whirling (sword? You mean a sword that was made by a blacksmith who used TECHNOLOGY??? Sorry…). Necron and the enraged Weehawk tumble over a cliff and into a river. Is it the end for Weekhawk? I think not.

The wizard Avatar's tower. Remind you of anything?

The wizard Avatar’s tower. Remind you of anything?

So now we’re in the kingdom of Montagar, at the disturbingly phallic tower of the now-ancient good wizard Avatar, where he lives in slobby splendor with his apprentice and the object of my adolescent lust, Lady Elinore.

While the years haven’t been kind to Blackwolf, they’ve been absolutely brutal to his brother. Avatar is now a short, paunchy dwarfish creature in a green smock and a floppy wizard’s hat pulled down over his eyes and held up only by his gross, oversized ears. His nose is swollen and red, his feet are gigantic (and prehensile, as he often holds his cigar with them), his hands clumsy meathooks, and he has taken up smoking.

In fact, Avatar has gone so far to seed that he looks a lot like Vaughn Bodé’s other signature character, Cheech Wizard. Another homage, I guess, but hell — couldn’t Bakshi have picked another Bodé character to copy? Cheech Wizard is kind of creepy.

Avatar’s voice is provided by veteran voice actor Bob Holt, who performed in more Saturday morning cartoons than I can count, and according to imdb based Avatar’s voice on Peter Falk’s Columbo.

(Now unfortunately I can’t get that last fact out of my head… I keep waiting for Avatar to start to leave a room, then turn around at the last second and say something like “Just one more thing… I got this nutty notion… Maybe you killed the professor, then framed Mrs. Johnson! Nah, it’s too far-fetched…”)

Lady Elinore, in a typical pose. Okay, okay... She's a total bimbo, but hey, I like her, okay?

Lady Elinore, in a typical pose. Okay, okay… She’s a total bimbo, but hey, I like her, okay?

Lady Elinore on the other hand… Woof, woof, woof! While she’s not based on any specific Bodé character, she’s a Bodé babe through and through, though I think one of her distant ancestors may also have been Betty Boop. She has purple faerie wings, thick black hair, big blue eyes, full red lips and the most alluringly buxom figure imaginable — melon-sized breasts straining against her flimsy white faerie-stripper-lingerie garment, softly flared hips, a shapely ass and pale, sculpted thighs…

Excuse me. I’ll be in my bunk.

No, never mind. Sorry, the teenaged me was in the driver’s seat for a moment there.

Elinore’s voice is provided by actress Jesse Wells, who had a decent run of TV roles back in the 70s and 80s but currently has no imdb entry, so I’m not entirely sure what she’s been up to since then. She gives the sexy elf babe a sultry but giggly voice which appealed to me at 16, but I now find a little annoying. Then again, I wouldn’t mind what she sounded like if she was saying something like “Hey, big fella… Wanna show a faerie princess a good time?”

Avatar and the president of Montagar, just clownin' around...

Avatar and the president of Montagar, just clownin’ around…

So Avatar is scanning the distance with a telescope, then shares his concerns with Elinore’s father the president of Montagar — a guy in a top hat wearing a clown mask (no political commentary here… no sirree Bob) — worried that his scouts haven’t yet returned from their mission.

“They’re really late now, aren’t they old wizard?” giggles Elinore. “Bad magic, isn’t it? And if they don’t show, you’ll know-no-more-than-you-did-be-fore [yes, that's exactly how she says it]. Tee-hee-hee.”

Or maybe, just maybe they’re effing dead and Blackwolf’s assassins are on their way. Have you thought of that Miss Faeries-don’t-wear-bras? Hm?

Okay, so Elinore’s a hottie, but that doesn’t mean that she’s necessarily portrayed as smart, which also kind of bugs me, as if a woman can be pretty or intelligent, but not both. Sigh. I have to keep reminding myself that this thing was made in 1976…

Avatar the wizard, ladies and gentlemen... the epitome of wisdom, knowledge and sophistication. And he smokes cigars with his feet.

Avatar the wizard, ladies and gentlemen… the epitome of wisdom, knowledge and sophistication. And he smokes cigars with his feet.

The president’s pretty concerned about all this, as frankly what sensible head of state wouldn’t be? He wonders — justifiably I think — whether Montagar should start arming up.

Avatar thinks this is just a waste of time. They’ll never be able to convince the people of the danger, and besides, he says, science and technology were outlawed “millions of years ago, and we must admit it’s been a peaceful world since then.”

Outlawed, huh? What’s that thing you were just looking through on your balcony, Avatar? The product of peace and love and magic? Hell, no. It was a fucking telescope.

Unaccountably the president then has a fit, demanding to know more lest he banish Avatar. Clearly Elinore has daddy wrapped around her shapely little finger, for she talks him down, explaining that Avatar’s teaching her all kinds of magic ‘n’ stuff, and can make her a “full-fledged faerie, and as you can see I’m only half-way there.”

Okay, I’m just going to leave that line alone. Some of my best friends are faeries.

Avatar starts explaining his past while below, the fearsome Necron 99 is clambering up the side of his tower.

Okay, at least Blackwolf’s minions LOOK cool. Of course they couldn’t fight off a troop of girl scouts armed with cookies, but at least they LOOK cool…

Now we’re back to still images and our sultry-voice narrator. Blackwolf lurked in Scortch for 5,000 years (wait, I though the title card said 3,000 years… Oh hell, I give up trying to keep track of what happened when), gathering an army and attempting to fulfill his promise to conquer the good guys and put the mutants in charge. Summoning demons from hell for generals, he unleashed his armies. Unfortunately, despite their demonic leadership, Blackwolf’s troops were pretty pathetic, getting bored or distracted before retreating in disorder, and the elves and faeries didn’t even have to use harsh language to drive them back.

Now we cut to one of the funnier pieces in the movie, a scene with a gas-mask clad mutant named Max mourning over his slain companion, Fritz (apparently a reference to Bakshi’s involvement in the Fritz the Cat movie).

“They killed Fritz!” he screams. “Those lousy, stinking yellow faeries! Those horrible atrocity-filled vermin! Those despicable animal warmongers! They killed Fritz!”

Max and Fritz might have been an awesome comedy team if only Fritz had actually lived.

Max then opens upon the enemy with his pistol, screaming for vengeance, only to have Fritz stand up, tap him on the shoulder and explain that he’s fine (his voice is by our distinguished director, Ralph Bakshi, by the way).

Max doesn’t like this. “Damn. There you go again, stepping on my lines, raining on my parade, costing me medals! Damn!”

Of course in his frustration, Max then accidentally shoots Fritz dead.

“They killed Fritz!” he screams. “Those lousy, stinking yellow faeries! Those horrible atrocity-filled vermin! They killed Fritz!”

And so on. Yeah, it’s still funny even after all these years.

Blackwolf is unhappy with his army’s performance, and I certainly know how he feels (I played Wizard Kings this past weekend, and both Dale and Victor took me to the cleaners, slaughtering my elvish armies to the last unit, then dividing the world up between them. Those horrible atrocity-filled vermin…). He sends his legions out to scavenge for lost technology, eventually locating all sorts of cool tanks, bombers, missiles, guns, grenades and artillery. Everything’s in surprisingly good condition even after 10 million years, but no matter.

Blackwolf the Wizard frowns on your shenanigans.

Blackwolf the Wizard frowns on your shenanigans.

Unfortunately, even the best lost military tech means jack if you’ve got uninspired mooks to carry it, so Blackwolf keeps searching for something to motivate his legions and give them the edge they need to overwhelm a huge kingdom full of unarmed, inexperienced farmers and half-naked faerie babes.

Avatar believes that Blackwolf has solved his problem and now has what he needs to inspire his mutant forces, which is why he sent out Weehawk and Deadmeat. The clown-faced prez thinks this is a load of hooey, but before he can start ranting again, Necron 99 clambers over the balcony and shoots him full of holes.

Avatar responds quickly — not quickly enough to save the president, but quickly — zapping Necron with magic and knocking him out. Having just seen her father mercilessly shot down before her wide, expressive blue eyes, Elinore freaks out, throwing herself on Necron and tearing at his clothes.

Elinore shows her mean side.

Elinore shows her mean side.

(Now wouldn’t mind having Elinore throw herself on me and tear at my clothes, but I really don’t think I want to murder her father to get it.)

Weehawk now shows up a bit late to the game, rushing into the room and falling on his knees telling Avatar he’s failed both him and the president. Fade out on the scene of tragedy and fade back in on Scortch One, where Blackwolf’s minon, a lizard-man named Larry sees Necron’s little red light go out, then runs to go tell his master.

Blackwolf’s sitting on his throne in the middle of a huge swastika (a swastika! Aha! I think I know where this is going now!) playing with a couple of skulls. Larry tells him that Necron’s history. Blackwolf is delighted — that means that all of the free world’s leaders have been assassinated and his plan can begin in earnest.

“The remaining countries are now ruled by second-rate incompetents,” he says, “so confused that even now they blame the killings on those within their own ranks!”

These backgrounds kick so much ass...

These backgrounds kick so much ass…

Okay, enough about the current state of the Republican party. On to Blackwolf’s master stroke.

He strides through his fortress, past giant dynamos, swooping bombers, rows of armored vehicles and marching legions and lizard-guys throwing up Nazi salutes.

“It’s time to strike,” Blackwolf hisses as sirens blare ans summon his forces. “Sieg heil!”

And just in case Bakshi’s symbolism isn’t hammered home quite well enough, we cut back to Larry who’s wolfing down raw meat from a hanging side of beef, and when he scampers off we see that there’s a star of David branded on its side.

Okay, okay — we getit. We get it!

Blackwolf the Wizard grows weary of your tedious company.

Blackwolf the Wizard grows weary of your tedious company.

Two more of the gasmask mutants then discuss their mutual feelings. The fat one (it’s always the fat one, isn’t it?) says he doesn’t want to fight anymore, and has decided he loves birds and butterflies and flowers. His companion tells him not to worry, that Blackwolf has a secret weapon that makes them invincible, and then the fat gasmask mutant dutifully shoulders arms and happily marches off to Blackwolf’s Nuremburg Rally.

Blackwolf strides into his projection room where a couple of pixies are chained to a hand-cranked generator.

“It will never work!” declares the female. “People don’t want war. It destroyed this planet, it’s people and all records of past civilizations!”

“Heh-heh-heh-heh-heh,” chuckles Blackwolf, uncovering what appears to be a 16mm movie projector. “Not all records, as you’ll soon find out!”

What follows is something of an acid trip. Blackwolf throws open the curtains of his projection booth (emblazoned with a giant swastika, naturally) and addresses the troops.

“Attention, members of tomorrow’s master race!”

And with that we get the first of many pieces of stock footage, repurposed to the world of Wizards. The first is a recolored segment from Sergei Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky, that originally showed an evil Teutonic musician pounding away on a big pipe organ (no, really, it did… Go see the movie… It’s a long story).

In the name of Aleksander Nevsky... Wait... I mean BLACKWOLF THE WIZARD!

In the name of Aleksander Nevsky… Wait… I mean BLACKWOLF THE WIZARD!

The music gets everyone’s attention and Blackwolf’s legions stop shooting craps and picking up whores to listen. More processed footage from Nevsky follows (siege engines and knights with wings, devil horns and red eyes added, for example), as well as more repurposed sequences from (I kid you not) Zulu. While it’s all pretty trippy it is also far more convincing than the legions of rotoscoped guys in gorilla masks that passed for orcs in The Lord of the Rings.

Once the stock footage army has assembled, Blackwolf continues. “The time has come as I promised! The time when I reveal to you, my loyal followers, the ancient secret of war. The key to creating hysteria. Fear. GODDDDDSSSSSS!”

Yeah, that’s how he delivers it. Blackwolf’s voice, by the way, is from Steve Gravers, who passed away only a year or so after Wizards was released. Another veteran TV actor, Gravers was active in dozens of shows from the 1950s onward. Wizards was not his last role — he was active up until the very end, acting on Charlie’s Angels and a horrible possessed-auto movie called The Car before heading for the big retired actor’s home in the sky.

Having fired up his troops, Blackwolf then zaps the pixies, forcing them to crank the generator, powering the projector and providing his drooling legions with what they’ve been missing all these years — Nazi propaganda.

Always remember... The army that SLAYS together STAYS together.

Always remember… The army that SLAYS together STAYS together.

And so it is that, watching footage from Nazi newsreels and The Triumph of the Will, while listening to the Horst Wessel Song, Blackwolf’s troops are driven into a National Socialistic frenzy and thus driven to vent their righteous rage upon the elves and faeries who stand in the way of mutant lebensraum.

Yeah, we get it all. As pictures of Hitler, Junkers 88s, Panzer IVs and Focke-Wulf fighters scroll past them, the mutants throw their arms around each other, start foaming at the mouth, jumping up and down and praising Blackwolf, their beloved Fuhrer to the skies. Now I feel sorry for the elves and faeries.

Next we see an animated map of Blackwolf’s attack on East Elfland. It’s actually a pretty cool map, and it only appears on screen for a second or two. Fortunately, through the magic of modern DVD technology (there’s that word again, dammit), we can freeze-frame and learn more about the world.

For all you wargamers out there...

For all you wargamers out there…

East Elfland is the first victim. In the peaceful, tranquil forest, untouched by the evils of nasty technology and genetically-inferior mutants, a faerie leader gives a speech to her people.

“Blackmark’s armies come again!” she cries (and she does say “Blackmark” so it might be a misread or another word for Scortch… I like the latter myself). “Our cousin elves are already in the trenches. It’s our loved land too. For elfin and faerie-land united we fly!”

I believe that this was the slogan of Trans-Dimensional Airlines back in the 70s, wasn’t it? At least until 9/11, after which it became “Shut up and be grateful we’re even letting you on board.”

And so off fly the faeries in a rush of pixie dust. Now we dissolve to the trenches where grim but extremely short elves in armor attempt to peek over the edge.

Don't you worry, kid. Blackwolf's murderous demons won't even consider someone named "Peewhittle" dangerous.

Don’t you worry, kid. Blackwolf’s murderous demons won’t even consider someone named “Peewhittle” dangerous.

In one trench, a grizzled veteran named Alfie sucks on his pipe and reassures his greenhorn trenchmate Peewhittle (no, really… The damned elf’s name is Peewhittle. Jesus, if I was stuck with a name like that I’d want to die in battle too) that the enemy is a big pushover.

“Blackwolf must have lost one million men here the last time he tried to invade! And if Blackwolf’s stupid enough to try it again he’ll lose twice more! Them goblins and demons just look mean, but they’re yella! They got no cause to fight. They always give up and run with our arrows chasin’ ‘em all the way home! Hee-hee-hee! It’s always been that way and it’ll always be the same. In’t that the truth, boys?”

While I think that referring to Blackwolf’s troops as “men” is a little misleading, it’s obvious that Alfie’s confidence is misplaced, for a few moments later the fired-up neo-Fascists storm the trenches using classic Blitzkrieg tactics while wah-wah guitars play in the background.  World War II stock footage (with horns stuck on the German helmets) now runs, interspersed with images of Blackwolf’s demon cavalry and flying serpents.

The technology-hating elves now don their helmets (technology), strap on their breastplates (technology), string their bows (technology) and draw their swords (technology) and prepare to meet the assault.

I think I saw this guy at a Laser Floyd show back in '81.

I think I saw this guy at a Laser Floyd show back in ’81.

Things go okay for them until Blackwolf turns on the magic movie projector, sending images of Third Reich mayhem directly over the battlefield, terrifying the poor wittle elfs and scaring them so much they throw down their weapons and run away like a bunch of pussies. The demons and mutants slaughter everyone but Peewhittle, who is left shivering in the trenches amid the slain bodies of his fellow elves.

Back in Avatar’s palace of phallitude, the good wizard is busy inspecting Necron 99 and denying Elinore’s pleas to torture information out of him. When Avatar tells her that torture is immoral and against the Geneva convention, Eliniore replies that all she wants to do is waterboard him, and that, as we all know, isn’t really torture.

No, Avatar says, he’s managed to extract sufficient information from Necron’s brain. Blackwolf has a magic dream machine that inspires his armies, and it must be destroyed. Elinore and Weehawk are both raring to go, but Avatar just climbs into bed saying he’s too old for this kind of shit and to wake him up when the world goes kablooey.

Avatar doesn’t take much convincing to change his mind, and immediately they start planning their next move. As Elinore crouches alluringly above him, Avatar asks her to sit there for a few hours while he figures it out.

Elinore poses alluringly. She’s sure gotten over the death of her father quickly, hasn’t she?

And of course, rather than punching him and calling him a sexist old man, Elinore complies, posing like a centerfold. Sheesh. There’s a part of me that’s kind of sorry that I notice this kind of sexist shit more easily these days, but for the most part I’m glad I’m a little more discriminating than I was at 16.

Avatar plans to reprogram Necron 99 and rename him Peace, “in the hopes that he will bring it” and use him to guide our three heroes to the machine’s hiding place.

More narration now. Weehawk spends a night saying goodbye to his tribe, while Elinore assures the other winged ones that she will return as Queen of Montagar (so men are presidents and women are queens? It’s an odd system they have in Montagar) and a full-fledged faerie.

Avatar leads the bound Necron… No, sorry, “Peace”… down the stairs, telling him to behave himself, lest he face painful consequences. “I got stuff that’ll take 20 years to kill you,” he says, “and you’ll be screaming for mercy in the first five seconds.”

Jesus. This is the wizard of peace and love and flowers and rainbows? I’m starting to sympathize more and more with Blackwolf and the mutants.

Peace doesn’t want this, though, and agrees to cooperate. “Peace,” he says, “wants love. Wants free. Will help.”

Avatar was forced to tie up Peace the robot after he threatened to leave if Elinore started singing.

Avatar was forced to tie up Peace the robot after he threatened to leave if Elinore started singing.

Avatar brings Peace to his old mount — the one that took an arrow through the eye — clearly resurrected through Avatar’s dark necromantic arts and relatively whole save some stitches and an eyepatch. Weehawk doesn’t trust Peace, but Avatar assures him that his powers are mighty while levitating himself into his horse-thing’s saddle but landing backwards.

Elinore, being the fluff-brained bimbo that she is, giggles and says (once more in an exaggerated girly voice), “He’s gettin’ older but not much bolder! Tee-hee-hee.”

Okay, I wouldn’t throw her out of bed for eating crackers, but Elinore does have her annoying aspects. Damn you, age and maturity…

And so our slightly shorthanded Fellowship departs (reduced from nine to four due to the same budget restrictions that reduced the mutant mounts legs from four to two).

“Sing us a song, Elinore,” Avatar asks the suddenly-sulky faerie. (At this point during my original viewing back in ’77 I distinctly remember a woman in the audience loudly exclaiming, “Oh, brother!”)

“I don’t want to,” she pouts, apparently realizing that she hasn’t packed any hair care products.

Elinore's all pouty. Then again, wouldn't you be pouty if you had to put up with this guy all the time?

Elinore’s all pouty. Then again, wouldn’t you be pouty if you had to put up with this guy all the time?

“But that’s why we brought you,” Avatar says, busily digging himself in even deeper. “Come on!”

Oh, Jesus… This somewhat appalling bit of sexism goes unnoticed (most of the amazon-types I’ve known over the years would jam a foot or two of steel through my ear if I had the temerity to say something that patronizing, but I guess that Avatar and I move in different circles), and Elinore obliges, singing the following haunting tune (sung by Baywatch’s Susan Anton) over a brief montage of the devastation that the war has wrought:

Time renews tomorrow, 
When we’ve used today. 
It will find the sorrow 
And wash it all away. 

Love can play a new tune 
On this carousel. 
It may be tomorrow, 
But only time will tell. 

No one has the answer 
To give away or sell. 
Tomorrow holds the secret, 
But only time will tell.

Sorry, kid. No school today -- Blackwolf had your teacher flayed alive for teaching evolution.

Sorry, kid. No school today — Blackwolf had your teacher flayed alive for teaching evolution.

As we pan past a long line of elvish prisoners in the middle of a bombed out city, we see a family of faeries seeking shelter in a tree. The faeries’ child asks where daddy is and mommy tells him that he’s out guarding their home since their side has lost the war. When the kid asks why they lost mom tells him, “Because they have weapons and technology. We just have love.”

Oh, bloody hell… I’m going to resist the urge to start ranting again, but this whole sappy, saccharine scene with its sappy, saccharine music puts me in mind of a line from comedian Jack Handey, who said: “I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world because they’d never expect it.”

Anyway, back to the comic relief. Hundreds of elves are standing in line, guarded by Blackwolf’s troops and tanks. Several of the gasmask-wearing mooks are trying to figure out what to do with all the prisoners, and want to ask the local priests how to proceed.

Sacreligious? Us? NEVER!

Sacreligious? Us? NEVER!

A couple of mooks kick down the doors of the temple, which is stuffed with “holy objects that they’ve saved for millions of years.” Yup, you guessed it — the “holy objects” include a Coca-Cola sign, a baseball glove, an Oscar (TM) statuette, jukebox, TV, old fashioned telephone, etc.

The two mooks eventually find the priests, two dwarvish-types in robes and bowlers who are snoozing in the back of the temple on an old tapestry bearing a CBS-TV logo.

“My sons, you say you are the victors, but there is only one victor” intones the first priest, pointing up, “and that’s Him.”

The mooks insist on an answer, but the priests tell them that they must first observe sundown and pray. And pray they do, howling and babbling, whacking each other with sticks, doing the old soft-shoe, wheeling each other back and forth on improvised crucifixes, dousing each other with water, bowing, bobbing, jumping, etc. Eventually, after five hours the mooks lose patience and just shoot all the prisoners and blow up the temple, which is what we pretty much expected from the beginning.

Back to Scortch One, where Blackwolf is talking to a hot dark-elven woman who lounges unhappily on a couch.

When you think about it, Blackwolf is kind of Scortch's equivalent of Hugh Hefner -- a wizened shriveled semi-human mummy who still gets all the hot babes because he's so rich and leads an army of killer mutants.

When you think about it, Blackwolf is kind of Scortch’s equivalent of Hugh Hefner — a wizened shriveled semi-human mummy who still gets all the hot babes because he’s rich and leads an army of killer mutants.

“Will the birth be soon?” he asks.

“Very soon, my lord,” says the not-pregnant-at-all-looking elf.

“You are young to be queen,” Blackwolf replies, “but deliver me a son and you shall help me rule this planet.”

“I don’t want to rule this planet, lord,” she says. “Just our kingdom is enough.”

“Enough?” Blackwolf demands. “Enough for mutants to stay in their place, huh? Laden with radiation so our bodies crawl with hell? We will live in the good lands. My son will grow where there isn’t death in the very waters we drink and the air we breathe.”

Now consider this exchange  – what’s Blackwolf asking for, really? A safe, clean place to raise his children in, free of death and disease. The Nazi allegory starts to break down here — a people’s desire to live in health and happiness is a long way from racist fascist lebensraum. But more on that later.

Blackwolf approaches his wise men, a trio of greenish mutants who make Python’s Spanish Inquisition look competent. He asks them whether his son will be human or mutant. They assure him that it will be a mutant, and Blackwolf displays his horrific lack of good judgment skills by believing them.

There’s at least two things wrong with calling these guys “wise men.”

“The next one won’t be!” he snarls, stalking off. His future queen rushes after him, crying out not to have her son killed.

“It is not his fault!” she sobs.

Whoa, my head is now spinning. We’ve been spending most of the flick talking about how inherently evil and inferior mutants are, and now we’re trying to create sympathy for them as victims of Blackwolf’s eugenics. The fact that he’ll kill his son if he’s a mutant is contradictory, but that doesn’t really bug me, since villains of this type are usually hypocrites, and Blackwolf’s worse than most.

Meanwhile, our heroes are now riding perilously close to the domain of the mountain faeries, which neither Peace nor Weehawk think is a good idea.

“Faerie bad. Not good. Go around,” Peace says, summing up my feelings very precisely.

Awwww... Isn't dey jus' da cutest wittle things? And don't you just want to set them on fire or something?

Awwww… Isn’t dey jus’ da cutest wittle things? And don’t you just want to set them on fire or something?

Avatar vetoes the suggestion and into the faerie domains they go. Weehawk notes that elves and faeries are bad blood cousins, which kind of contradicts the solidarity they’ve been showing all through the movie, but no matter.

A bunch of faeries now starts to follow the companions. These are somewhat different from the ones we’ve seen up to this point — they’re a bit more like Victorian flower faeries, and consequently even more irritating. Needless to say, Elinore thinks they’re cute but Weehawk sensibly tries to gut one with his sword, with little success.

The faeries get even more aggressive. One transforms into a giant pink rat and menaces Weehawk, while the others levitate Avatar and Elinore’s mounts into a tree. As they do, a rifle falls from Avatar’s pack, and Peace discreetly picks it up. Uh-oh? Is he contemplating mischief, or even worse… shenanigans?

So THAT'S what Mark Hamill looked like before the car accident...

So THAT’S what Mark Hamill looked like before the car accident…

By now Avatar’s had enough. He orders the faeries to stop saying, “Even in the houses of elves I’ve seen more sophisticated magic!”

Weehawk lets this slight slide by, but the faeries continue with their antics. Eventually Avatar calls up the powers of magic and nature to sweep the faeries away. In the confusion, Peace slips away and nearby meets up with his two fellow assassins.

Avatar continues whipping up a storm, knocking faeries left and right until at last one of the more sensible faeries whips out a magic wand and casts a counterspell, stopping Avatar’s magic cold. The faerie then smiles adorably (or at least he thinks he’s adorable. I just want to squash him with a flyswatter).

The sky clears and Avatar, Weehawk and Elinore find themselves in the middle of a faerie feast.

“Please forgive us for the behavior of some of our more care-free brothers,” says the faerie who thinks he’s so fucking cute. “I’m Sean, leader of the Knights of Stardust, protectors of Dolan, king of the mountain faeries.”

Actually, after dealing with Sean I’d have considered shooting him, too.

Sean’s voice probably sounds familiar, because it was provided by a young actor by the name of Mark Hamill, who would one day go on to fame in movies like Corvette Summer, The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia and The Star Wars Holiday Special.

Eventually Avatar stops being annoyed, and discusses their mission with Sean while Weehawk walks away in disgust to go talk to the horses.

“We’ll eat alone, lest we sit with fools,” he says. Yeah, I knew I liked Weehawk, despite his dumb name.

Weehawk realizes that Peace has gone missing and raises the alarm, but it’s too late. From the forest automatic weapons fire cuts down Sean and next thing we know Elinore is magically imprisoned with her arms sunk in two blocks of stone, leaving Avatar and Weehawk to chase after her, knowing that Peace has turned on them. Or so they think, anyway.

Avatar and Weehawk race into the mountain faeries’ caves, but Weehawk falls into a pit, leaving Avatar to go on alone.

Evidently the mountain faeries take their bondage sessions VERY seriously.

Evidently the mountain faeries take their bondage sessions VERY seriously.

“You must save Elinore,” Weehawk’s voice echoes up from below. “Hurry, old fool!”

Avatar inches past the pit, muttering the mystic spell “Morrow-Krenkel-Frazetta” (a joke I even got when I was only 16).

While Avatar rushes off to save our zaftig heroine, Weehawk blunders around in the darkness, eventually facing a gigantic multi-legged insect-demon thing, but just as it’s about to finish him off, a volley of gunfire erupts from the darkness, killing the beast.

Badly wounded, Peace staggers forward mumbling, “Faerie bad. Not good.” He almost falls into the abyss, but Weekhawk pulls him back and they lie together, exhausted.

Now on to the faerie bondage scene, with the captive Elinore still trapped and surrounded by a crowd of faeries calling for her blood. The king, surrounded by his bodyguard of hot barbarian faeries, calls for calm.

Okay, the king's kind of a loser, but his bodyguards are dead butch. Especially that one on the right...

Okay, the king’s kind of a loser, but his bodyguards are dead butch. Especially that one on the right…

“Will it be brother against brother here, too?” he demands. “Only humans kill their own kind!”

(Let me take a moment to stew at this species-ist, ignorant remark… Okay, back to the movie.)

“She allowed technology and death into the golden circle!” shouts a rather haggish female faerie. “She is a traitor!”

Elinore takes umbrage at this, giggling (and Bakshi himself must have really enjoyed what giggling does to Elinore’s breasts) and telling the faeries that she doesn’t take this kind of shit from anyone, no matter how badass their king is.

Furious, Elinore blasts some of the angry faeries with magic, eliciting even more calls for her blood.

By now Elinore’s on a roll, realizing that she now has “full faerie power” and animating one of the statues on the column imprisoning her. The statue goes berserk, beating on faeries and threatening to provoke a massive riot.

I know this looks bad for Elinore, but believe me it's NOTHING compared to what female cosplayers have to put up with at Comicon.

I know this looks bad for Elinore, but believe me it’s NOTHING compared to what female cosplayers have to put up with at Comicon.

Avatar arrives just in time to throw himself on the faeries’ mercy while the animated statue starts humping Elinore’s leg. He didn’t kill Shawn, but is on a mission to save the world and if the king would be so kind as to let him and Elinore go, well, so that they can at least try to defeat Blackwolf, even though clearly the mission is doomed…

While he talks, the statue-thing starts clambering all over Elinore and she does her best to avoid it, without success.

“I have always been very good,” she says, kicking at it, “and can be even better sometimes…”

In the middle of Avatar’s speech, the image of Blackwolf appears, shouting, “My brother lies!” and a faerie arrow strikes Avatar in the arm. He takes it like a man, which impresses the king, who notes that he has kept his word not to use violence, and so can leave along with Elinore.

Hey, Avatar! This gives me an idea for my next poledance routine at the Crazy Horse!

With that Avatar and Elinore are transported into the frozen wastelands, where Elinore discovers that her somewhat abbreviated garments are inadequate to northern weather. Avatar conjures her a poncho, giving her the first decent clothing she’s managed for the entire movie. Note however, that he doesn’t bother to conjure actual shoes for either one of them, which strikes me as a bit of an inconvenience in a frozen wilderness.

The next day Avatar and Elinore dig themselves out of a snowbank and keep slogging on in the general direction of Scortch. When they’re confronted by riders, they prepare for a last stand, Elinore drawing her sword and Avatar preparing his magic (which I hope works better than it did on the faeries).

The riders are revealed to be Weehawk and Peace, who have been searching all this time, and finally get our happy couple off the glacier.

Hey, the mutants' wives are pretty cute, except for the fangs. And some of us are into that.

Hey, the mutants’ wives are pretty cute, except for the fangs. And some of us are into that.

More narration now, with an 80s montage of the rest of the journey. Traveling through the mutant lands, our heroes discover that the mutants are all gone. Well not all gone…

“All they left were their wives,” we are told, “hurling insults and rocks as the party passed through.”

Hey, don’t mutant wives get to fight, too? Well, I guess if the heroes are sexist, then the villains will be as well…

As they pass through the desert, Avatar and his companions are captured by a bunch of Arabic/Asian freedom fighters, led by a very loud viking-dwarf named Apu (no, really), who grabs Avatar and swings him around like a flag, bellowing, “AVATAR! FATHER! MOTHER! PEACE! LOVE! GRANOLA! HIPPIES! WEED! BURNING MAN!”

Surprise brohug!

Well, not quite that bad, but close. It seems that the companions have stumbled upon the last surviving elves, who have taken weapons from Blackwolf’s forces and are massing for a final assault on Scortch One.

Avatar doesn’t think much of this. He smacks Apu out of frustration with his suicidal plan, but the general takes it well, telling his followers not to hurt Avatar, and telling them that in the old days Avatar traveled the land, curing sickness and helping the bereaved. Why he never helped the mutants isn’t really explained, but I guess no one’s perfect, huh?

“And now,” Apu continues, “we have our messiah back again! He’s going to destroy his brother for us. With what? A woman-child, one elf, and a moron robot.”

Hey, you have to admit it’s a pretty accurate description. Disgusted, Apu stalks into his tent, leaving Avatar to walk sadly into the night, feeling totally pwned.

It seems that the elves have finally realized that to defeat cool-looking enemies you have to look cooler than they do.

Later that evening as Elinore and Peace look out to sea they’re attacked by one of Blackwolf’s spells, a massive red-eyed cloud that tries to seize Elinore. Avatar drives it off and then becomes Mister Buzz-kill, telling Elinore that it’s all her fault — her kind words took Peace’s mind off his internal battle with Blackwolf, allowing the wizard to attack.

We don’t have much respite after that, as one of Blackwolf’s tanks attacks. Peace tries to defend Avatar but — Surprise! Surprise! — Elinore draws her sword, kills Peace, and jumps into the tank, riding away with the gasmask mooks and leaving poor Avatar to wonder what the hell went wrong.

Shattered by Elinore’s betrayal, Avatar accompanies the rebel army on their awesome Ian Miller-designed ships as they sail to attack Scortch, but wanders around mumbling to himself, in full Heroic BSOD mode. When Weehawk tells him that they have to swim to Scortch to complete their mission, he pretty much goes along with all the enthusiasm of a damp dishrag.

Screw you losers... I'm heading off for a hot three-way with Blackwolf and that dark elf babe. (And by the way... EWWWW!)

Screw you losers… I’m heading off for a hot three-way with Blackwolf and that dark elf babe. (And by the way… EWWWW!)

Fortunately we aren’t subjected to the sight of Avatar swimming in that ridiculous outfit of his — we cut to the action after he and Weehawk have made it to Scortch and are both completely dry. Of course Avatar is still vapor-locked, mumbling nonsensically and generally carrying on like Mitt Romney after election night.  As they approach Scortch One, Avatar decides to brighten the place up a little by conjuring some nice flowers, an approach which Weehawk finds slightly objectionable.

They sneak through the lower city past the by-now expected images of Nazi-esque atrocities and nasty mutants wearing swastika armbands, and so on. Eventually Avatar completely breaks down and strides out, doing tricks for a mutant feldmarschall and his creepy looking doxy. Larry the lizard-man (remember him?) tries to warn the guy, but being a dumb Nazi mutant he ignores the danger until Weehawk shows up, gutting him with a sword and going all Wuxia action hero on the mutants who try to pile on and even going so far as to kick a fuckin’ mutant’s head off. Holy shit — Weehawk continues to blaze a trail of badassery all the way from Montagar to Scortch.

Weehawk shows what a badass motherfucker he really is. Provide your own Wuxia sound effects.

Weehawk shows what a badass motherfucker he really is. Provide your own Wuxia sound effects.

Larry the Lizard jumps Weehawk and slices his arm. Once more the mutants prove themselves to be pretty dumb, as Larry now thinks he’s killed Weehawk and rushes into the castle, muttering “Master! The enemy is dead! Master loves Larry! Master feed Larry!” Say what you will about Larry the Lizard, you have to agree that he is at least extremely goal-oriented.

Avatar is standing next to the fallen fieldmarshal, and looks distraught, but he allows Weehawk to lead him as they follow Larry into the heart of Blackhawk’s fortress.

Meanwhile on the beaches it’s D-Day as elvish resistance forces storm ashore. There’s a brief shot once more adapted from the movie Zulu in which a couple of Blackwolf’s scouts (Zulu warriors with horns painted on — what kind of message is that sending?) spot the enemy before all hell breaks loose. The elves have pretty much given up their crappy WWI tactics and now advance, fully armed and armored in Conan the Barbarian style, against Blackwolf’s tanks and artillery. Yeah, the elves may be doomed, but they’ve finally learned how to dress themselves stylishly.

Okay, assholes... No more "Peace-lovin', flower-power, tech-hatin' elf" crap. Come 'n' get some!

Okay, assholes… No more “Peace-lovin’, flower-power, tech-hatin’ elf” crap. Come ‘n’ get some!

More footage from El Cid, Alexander Nevsky and Zulu follows, interspersed with shots of Blackwolf’s mutants as the bad guys moves to engage our now totally-badass mofo elf army.

The rotoscoped enemy army from three other movies finally attacks and the elves give a fine accounting of themselves, standing firm and sending the enemy reeling back, chopping down demons, mutants and gasmask mooks and fighting to the last. And just when it seems that they might win the day…

Three guesses, folks.

Death to the British imperialists who have invaded our homeland! Oops... I mean death to the elves and faeries! Blackwolf Rules!

Death to the British imperialists who have invaded our homeland! Oops… I mean death to the elves and faeries! Blackwolf Rules!

Yes, Blackwolf turns on the magic movie projector and the rotoscoped stock footage from El Cid and Zulu is replaced by rotoscoped stock footage from Patton, Kelly’s Heroes and WWII newsreels. Stunned by the terrifying images and blown apart by superior weaponry, the elves are slaughtered and Blackwolf’s armies advance in triumph.

Keep in mind that, despite the extensive use of stock footage and other varied cost-cutting measures, the battle scenes in Wizards are far more effective than those in Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings, released just a few years later. I admit that the images from other movies are a little jarring (especially if, like me, you’re a big fan of the movies that were used for the footage), but the battle scene is still action-packed and quite comprehensible, as opposed to the cinematic trainwreck in the later film.

This is what happens when you try to open a Wal-Mart in an elvish neighborhood, so be warned.

This is what happens when you try to open a Wal-Mart in an elvish neighborhood, so be warned.

Blackwolf himself doesn’t seem to be terribly happy with all this, and just watches grimly as Avatar and Weehawk creep up on him. Weehawk’s pretty much given up on the mission by now, telling Avatar that he can’t fight Blackwolf — he’s just too strong. Avatar agrees, but hell, it’s in the script… He has to face his brother down in single combat. Luke Skywalker wasn’t due to face Darth Vader for a few years yet, so someone has to act as an example after all.

Avatar urges Weehawk to find the projector and destroy it, and tell Elinore that “Avatar will die with her tonight. Even if we win.”

And so with that jolly thought swimming through his age- and drug-addled brain, Avatar stands up, whistles and shouts, “Hi!” to his brother.

And so it begins…

“You have aged, old fool,” Blackwolf says. “The world is mine!”

And just as he’s about to snarl, “Shall we dance?” we cut back to Weehawk as he scurries through more Ian Miller backgrounds, eventually spotting Elinore crouching, weeping in a cell. He leaps down on her, shouting, “Slut!”

Weehawk's kind of channeling his inner Simpson when he slaps Elinore, wouldn't you agree?

Weehawk’s kind of channeling his inner Simpson when he slaps Elinore, wouldn’t you agree?

Okay, okay… I really don’t think “slut” is the best thing to call her right now… Bitch maybe (though it’s kind of rude). Traitress definitely. But not “slut.” I mean, what the hell’s wrong with being a slut? Some of my best friends are sluts. And faeries. And some are slutty faeries.

Just as Weehawk’s about to gut poor Elinore like a trout, Blackwolf’s queen (remember her?) shows up, cradling her infant son in her arms (he’s swaddled so we don’t see what kind of mutant he is… it probably turns out that he’s one of the gasmask mooks, which means that Blackwolf’s queen might strayed from the path slightly).

“Stop, elf!” she cries. “Blood on blood! Fathers and sons dying! Brothers and lovers spilling false hate and rivers of life flowing away! Fool elf! Think your sword is always quick? But what else? Think!”

My god. Something tells me she’s been rehearsing that speech for weeks.

All is forgiven. Fortunately Elinore didn't tell Weehawk that she's also been torturing elf prisoners and watching Fox News ever since she got to the fortress.

All is forgiven. Fortunately Elinore didn’t tell Weehawk that she’s also been torturing elf prisoners and watching Fox News ever since she got to the fortress.

Weehawk hesitates at this, as who wouldn’t, giving Elinore a chance to explain. Blackwolf was able to control her mind and forced her to kill Peace, and she was unable to prevent it.

Aw, come on… You knew that all along, didn’t you?

And so Blackwolf’s unnamed queen and son flee the fortress, and out of the movie. Unfortunately we don’t see them again, though they certainly look like interesting characters to follow.

(And if I were writing this as a Wulf story or something, you can bet your bottom dollar I’d have written a scene in which the queen comforts Elinore in ways that only a woman can… But then again, I make no bones about my various perversities…)

Meanwhile, Blackwolf is still busy monologuing.

“The trouble with you, my brother, is that you’ve always been too good.”

(Now isn’t that just the quintessential “evil brother” line of dialog? It deserves some kind of award, I think.)

Avatar takes this in stride. “That may be,” he says, “but I still think I look more like ma than you do.”

And so it begins... The two rival wizards face each other at last, presaging a magic duel that will shatter the very foundations of reality. Or not.

And so it begins… The two rival wizards face each other at last, presaging a magic duel that will shatter the very foundations of reality. Or not.

Blackwolf isn’t amused, and is still in villain speech mode.

“There is no need for me to destroy you,” he continues. “Surrender. Surrender your world.”

Yeah, like the elves would go along. They’ve already decided that Avatar’s kind of a dork and are busy outside fighting to the death.

Avatar replies with a slow clap. “You always did need an audience, you sap. Let me tell ya. I ain’t practiced much magic for a long time. I wanna show you a trick mother showed me when you weren’t around, to use on special occasions like this.” He rolls up his sleeves. “Oh, yeah. One more thing. I’m glad you changed your last name, you son of a bitch.”

And with that, Avatar, wizard of peace, lover of nature, hater of technology, defender of magic and foe of destructive engines and machines, draws a Pistole Parabellum 1908 Luger and blows a couple of nine millimeter holes in his brother’s chest.

Fortunately for civilization, Avatar had maintained his NRA membership for the last 5,000 years.

Fortunately for civilization, Avatar had maintained his NRA membership for the last 5,000 years.

(And what’s that about his last name? Hell, they have last names? And if they do, what the hell are they?)

Yes, after our near-feverish anticipation of a massive wizard’s duel, Avatar goes all Indiana Jones on Blackwolf and pops a cap in his wizened old ass. Blackwolf doesn’t even get a death speech before he falls and — predictably — his massive villain-fortress begins to crumble.

Avatar ditches the luger and gets ready to die, but Weehawk shows up just in time to tell him the truth, that Elinore’s not a traitor, and together the trio escape just as the magic movie projector blows up, taking Scortch One along with it.

“It is done!” Weehawk yells, providing some of the most unnecessary plot exposition in cinema history. “It is done! The world is free!

You shot me. You motherfucker! I can't believe you actually SHOT me! God damn it! You fucking asshole! You SHOT me!

You shot me. You motherfucker! I can’t believe you actually SHOT me! God damn it! You fucking asshole! You SHOT me!

And now with one last narrative interlude, we’re told that the shadow creatures faded away or crawled back to hell, and the mutants fled or were mercilessly cut down by the vengeful, genetically-pure elves. While there was some rejoicing, we’re told, most simply wanted to return home. Hitler, the narratrix says, once more pounding home the message with an oversized plot hammer, was dead again!

They could live once more in peace in the land they loved so much! God-given. Amen.

And, might I add, free of the threat of genetically-inferior mutants to mess up their perfect world since, after all, only the beautiful and the pure should be allowed to live in health and safety. The rest of us get to scrape out our existences in the living hell of Scortch.

Amen.

In the epilog, back in the green and lush good lands, Weehawk captures Larry the Lizard, but Avatar tells him to just set him free. Larry goes bounding happily off into the forest, where he is probably shot a week later by the elvish purity squad.

Elinore informs Weehawk that she and Avatar are going off on their own now, to form their own kingdom. Weehawk’s the new king of Montagar, and he can just ignore the dictates of those stupid presidents and “elected” legislators.

Weehawk skillfully hides his disdain for Larry the Lizard.

Weehawk skillfully hides his disdain for Larry the Lizard.

Weehawk thinks this sounds ridiculous and just the tiniest bit creepy. “You and Avatar married, my queen?”

Avatar doesn’t think that marrying a hot busty brunette who’s young enough to be his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great (etc.) granddaughter is at all strange. He has at least 1,000 years or so left, and he intends to fill them with the fleshy delights of Elinore’s voluptuous body.

Well, he doesn’t say that exactly but I know just what he’s thinking. At least it’s what I’d be thinking in his place.

Weehawk just shrugs and rides off to go be king, leaving Avatar and Elinore to contemplate the complexities of their future life together.

“Come on,” Avatar says, “let’s make it.”

Weehawk reacts with bemused horror as he imagines Avatar and Elinore's wedding night.

Weehawk reacts with bemused horror as he imagines Avatar and Elinore’s wedding night.

Elinore giggles (of course) and says, “Avatar, you’re getting older and much bolder.”

“C’mon!” Avatar replies. “I mean let’s make it out of here!”

“Suuuure you did,” Elinore says, and we cut to credits and an encore of her elf song from the beginning of the movie sung by that Baywatch actress.

Wizards is an odd movie, and I found the whole thing downright schizophrenic on many levels. Above all else, it’s both a good movie and a bad movie at the same time. Good for its images, animation, voice acting and overall mood, but bad due to the ham-handedness of its story and its contradictory messages.

One more final shot of Elinore being Elinore.

One more final shot of Elinore being Elinore.

And it’s the messages that bug me more today than they did in 1977.

Let’s see. We establish a world where there are some races born good (elves and faeries) and some that are born evil (mutants). There are two wizards who represent the same good and evil, and came into the world that way. Good will always be good and evil always evil with no hope for redemption.

So the good, pretty people get to live in the nice lands, where there’s sunshine and green grass and forests and flowers. The ugly people get to live in the blasted, radioactive wasteland, and if they try to leave and live in a better place, they are mercilessly slaughtered.

Then the evil wizard takes over the bad guys’ land and indoctrinates them with Nazi ideologies that claim just what the movie’s story espoused — that some races are genetically superior to others and that they must exterminate the “inferior” races to gain enough room to live and prosper.

It seems to me that the good, kind elves were the ones practicing Nazi eugenics, isolating mutants and forcing them to live in apartheid-style homelands from which they could never leave. Yet it’s the “evil” mutants who adopt the Nazi’s ideologies and the “good” elves who kill them for trying to find better lives.

There’s a lot of cool material about Wizards on the net (for example, it was originally called War Wizards, but Bakshi changed the name at George Lucas’ request in deference to the upcoming Star Wars). Bakshi himself says that Wizards was partially intended as an allegory of the founding of the state of Israel, which gives that whole “God-given” line at the end a somewhat unhappy political twist.

Apparently someone (http://fooray.deviantart.com/ to be precise) has done some kind of Elinore/Zaphod Beebelbrox crossover. I don't even want to know...

Apparently someone (http://fooray.deviantart.com/ to be precise) has done some kind of Elinore/Zaphod Beebelbrox crossover. I don’t even want to know…

I won’t get into the details of the mid-east situation because it’s complex and controversial, but I will at least say that all sides have their own point of view, and valid and rational arguments can be made for everyone. Reducing the mind-numbingly labyrinthine Arab-Israeli conflict to a story as simple-mindedly black and white as Wizards seems to do the entire situation an injustice. And if Bakshi is portraying the Israelis as peaceful elves and faeries who shun violence and weapons, and the Arabs as murderous mutants who embrace Nazi ideology, I really have to take exception.

And that’s all the dancing in that particular minefield I intend to do today, ladies and gents.

I won’t get too mad about the whole “technology vs. magic” dichotomy, but it’s a very flimsy device. As noted, the elves do use technology, and they use it quite extensively. Had Avatar said that “technological weapons were banned thousands of years ago,” I might not be quite so upset, but the story didn’t make any subtle distinctions. “They have weapons and technology, and all we have is love.” Riiiiight…

Yes, Cosplay Deviants has an Elinore page. Can you expect anything less from them?

Yes, Cosplay Deviants has an Elinore page. Can you expect anything less from them?

And so it is that, at the end, all the love and magic in the world is helpless against technology. The elves on the beaches were on the verge of annihilation before Avatar blasted Blackwolf with his Luger (which he probably lifted from the dead mutant fieldmarshal, though we didn’t actually see him do it). It’s something of a turnaround and a contradiction, but it could have been a very interesting story element, that in order to defeat your enemy you have to take up his own weapons, even though you hate yourself for doing it. However, that kind of subtlety wasn’t adequately explored.

In the years since its release, Wizards has remained a solid cult favorite, even as the far more ambitious Lord of the Rings has been either forgotten or (as in our case) laughed into obscurity. Its psychedelic imagery and magic vs. technology plot still appeal to younger audiences, while its sexy heroine and Bakshi’s homage to his friend Vaughn Bodé attract comic book and anime fans. Elinore herself remains popular with fan artists and (as you can see) cosplayers.

Why is Avatar smiling? I'll give you three guesses.

Why is Avatar smiling? I’ll give you three guesses.

In 1992, Whit Publications even came out with a Wizards rpg, and produced several supplements (for Montagar, Scortch and other locations), but today the game got at best mixed reviews and is hard to find today — I myself have yet to score a copy, and I like to think I’ve got a nice collection of obscure rpgs. I’d be interested to see it, if only to learn some of the details of the world that the writers developed.

More recently, in 2004 there was talk of a Wizards graphic novel, with chapters produced by various famous underground artists, then in 2008 Ralph Bakshi himself started discussing a cinematic sequel to the original. Though neither project seems to have borne fruit, rumors of Wizards 2 continue to circulate, and despite my now-mixed feelings about the original, I’d probably be first in line when it finally sees the light of day.

So like most things that I loved in my youth, my fondness for Wizards has been tempered somewhat by the experience and cynicism of old age. Though a few rough patches show, the movie still appeals to me, so strong was its influence over my teenaged years.

And Elinore. I mean, come on people. Elinore. Rowwf!

And again we’ve reached the end of another installment — too soon for some, too late for others. Stay tuned — I hope to review some bizarre rpgs soon and look forward to looking at the two competing versions of Conan the Barbarian very soon. Peace out, homies.


Sword and Sorcery Rating:

3Swords3 Broadswords

Though it has many of the tropes and expresses them well — blood, violence, swordplay, wizardry and voluptuous women (though there isn’t much beefcake on display… sorry, ladies) – Wizards hews more closely to the Tolkien model than that of Robert E. Howard, so I’m limiting it to three swords. On the other hand, what’s there pretty much satisfies this reviewer’s craving for sword and sorcery mayhem.

Comedy Rating:

2Swords

2 Broadswords

While not intended as a comedy, Wizards is fairly light-hearted and has some very good comic moments, especially the gasmask mook scenes such as “They killed Fritz!” and the scene with the two wacky dwarf priests. Overall however, the movie’s pretty grim and serious but isn’t bad enough to merit unintentional comedy.

Violence Rating:

3Swords

3 Broadswords

Wizards, for all its discussion of peace and love and non-violence, is actually pretty much soaked in blood. I mean hell — six billion people die in the first minute or two. Then there’s war, mayhem, assassination, sword fights, kung fu, stabbings, shootings, immolations, mass murder… Hell, Weehawk fuckin’ kicks a guy’s head off! Yeah, this gets three swords.

Titillation Rating:

2Swords2 Broadswords

Though in places Wizards is pretty sexy, it’s mostly in terms of window dressing. Elinore is one sexy faerie, and until Jessica Rabbit came on the scene, was the hands-down winner of my personal “What cartoon character would you most like to have sex with” competition. Most of the other women such as Blackwolf’s queen and the faerie king’s bodyguard, are also gorgeous and Bodé-esque, but as I noted, there aren’t that many sexy and underclad guys (I really have to be equitable here) and despite all the cute female flesh, there’s no sex at all. Still, kudos to Bakshi for introducing me to Lady Elinore in all her fleshy glory, so an extra half sword for that.

Awesomeness Rating:

3Swords3 Broadswords

Despite my more nuanced view of the movie as I get older and less interesting, Wizards still has that certain something, and remains pretty engaging. Perhaps the pieces fit together roughly and the message is contradictory, but Wizards continues to be greater than the sum of its parts. Bakshi accomplished something with Wizards that he failed to do with The Lord of the Rings, and the world is a better place for it.