At Comic-Con I encountered Badass author Ben Thompson at the Maerkle Press booth. The first volume, simply titled Badass, details 40 badasses ranging from the infamous Genghis Khan, Vlad the Impaler, and Blackbeard to the relatively obscure Peter Francisco and Agustina of Aragon. Peter Francisco was a Revolutionary War hero touted by George Washington as “truly a one-man army”. Or as author Thompson describes Francisco, an American who “quickly decided that he would dedicate all of his energy to punching British people in the dick and pulling out their vas deferens.” This is Thompson’s style throughout Badass as he describes various foes of the 40 badasses getting pwned left and right. Female badasses are represented as well. Agustina of Aragon, the Maid of Saragossa was a Spanish heroine of the Napoleonic Peninsular War named Agustina Zaragoza Domènech who lived in Saragossa. When her fellow Spaniards fled their positions “shrieking like grade-school girls just because a couple of French dudes were waving knives in their faces”, she took over their abandoned canon and fired grapeshot into the invaders from point-blank reducing “the bloodthirsty, stab-happy French troops” to a “smoking crater of dead-ass bitches.” Thompson also presents Soviet WWII pilot Irina Sebrova and female pirate Anne Bonny as badasses.
When I picked up Badass and the second volume Badass: The Birth of a Legend, I was attracted by the premise of the books as a collection of great warriors, as well as by the black and white illustrations accompanying each badass, in particular Matt Haley’s evocative work. Thompson’s in-your-face hypermodern style has been a pleasant surprise, but it has also left me picking through his prose to figure out what the real story was. While the original Badass focuses on the historical, Badass: The Birth of a Legend provides portraits of 40 gods, mythological heroes, and fictional characters ranging from Thor, Anubis, and Saint Michael the Archangel to Captain James T. Kirk, Darth Vader, Sauron, and Skeletor. A third volume in the Badass series is in the works and Ben Thompson provides a badass of the week at his site badassoftheweek.
While Thompson’s Badass series are in no way gaming products, they’re helpful compendiums to GMs who like to populate their worlds with badass villains for the PCs to fight or even for PCs to take inspiration from on that new character concept. The AD&D 2nd Edition handbook referenced historical, literary, and mythological badasses in each classes’ description, drawing upon Charlegmagne and Roland just as much as Conan, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, and Gandalf and Strider, if I recall correctly. These examples spurred me to try the Lord of the Rings saga, as well as Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar books, and to dig deeper into actual medieval history to learn more about D&D. With the Badass series Thompson has taken care of some of the drudgery of picking your way through history or literature to find the moments of true epicness that we all want to emulate in our own characters’ adventures. As it stands, Thompson could improve Badass though by tossing in a little Drizzt Do’Urden. Love him or hate him, R.A. Salvatore’s drow hero is inarguably one of the greatest badasses in the history of fiction. Thompson is no stranger to D&D and references the game in the chapter on the Greek hero Diomedes, likening Diomedes’ attack on the God of War himself, Ares, in the Iliad to “playing a game of D&D, deciding to have your character attack the Dungeon Master, and winning.”
Also in the Maerkle Press booth promoting Badass was one of its illustrators, Brian Snoddy. He is inexplicably absent from the credits in the original Badass, but illustrated Voytek the Soldier Bear who carried ammo for the Poles in WWII. In Badass: The Birth of a Legend he has many more illustrations including Moby Dick and a chupacabra. With him Snoddy had Deadfellas the Zombie Monster Card Game, which he designed along with Jesper Myrfors and James Ernest. Available since April from Exile Game Studio, the game contains 110 playing cards featuring undead Mafia mooks with the object of the game being to whack your opponent’s mooks before he can whack yours. Deadfellas is designed for two to six players and features Snoddy’s artwork on all of the zombie mobster cards.
Brian Snoddy explains Deadfellas’ mechanics and a little of his involvement in Badass in the video we recorded on July 15: