Friday, October 23, 2020

Friday Night Videos: Arden and the Wolves

One of the things I love about this time in music is not just how much of it is being made, but the unlimited access to new music and talent.

One I have been following for a while is Arden and the Wolves, although these days it is just Arden. 

There is something about her voice and lyrics that just call to me at some level. Not sure what it is really, but I like it and want to share.

https://ardenandthewolves.bandcamp.com/album/who-can-you-trust


I am going to start out with my favorite song of hers.  

What Arden calls "another year of rain" I would have called my "sojourn in Hell." Though for different reasons.


You can do far worse than covering the Ramones.  Arden covers them well and gives this song a new meaning.

The Who Can You Trust album is one of the most emotionally raw things I have listened to since The Lion and the Cobra

 

She has more, but these are the ones I listen to a lot.


October Horror Movie Challenge: Anime Demon Cities

An "Attack of opportunity" tonight of sorts. I had installed the Tubi channel on my Roku recently and I was paging through all the horror movies to see what they had. One came up that I had seen before (so I thought) and figured, why not, it had not seen it since the 90s. So I loaded it up.

Well...it was not the movie I thought it was.

Wicked City (1987)

Ok, so this one seemed familiar at first. And then it turned soft-core hentai. The premise is that the human world and the "black world" or the demon world have been fighting for years and a new peace treaty is about to be signed. An agent for the Black Guard, Renzaburō Taki, has been called in to protect a mystic, Giuseppe Mayart. He is partnered with a woman from the Black World, named Makie. She is a demon and can grow long claws.

Anyway Giuseppe Mayart might be a few hundred years old, but he is a big old pervert. Constantly grabbing at Makie, reading adult magazines and finally sneaking off so he can visit a brothel. Taki and Makie follow him but get separated. Makie is found by her ex-lover, a demon, so he proceeds to sexually assault her for a bit. Till Taki kills it. Mayart is wounded and needs to be taken to a hospital, they are chased by demons but Makie sacrifices herself to protect them. Something that has a huge effect on Taki. While at the hospital the demon lord lets Taki and Mayart (and most of Tokyo I think) know he (and the spider demon Taki had sex with in the opening) has Makie and she is currently being gang-raped by three demons. Taki of course takes the bait and saves her.

In no amount of logic, Taki and Makie have sex in a church. The big bad demon shows up to kill them and a perfectly healed Mayart shows up to kick the demon's ass. Turns out that Mayart was actually here to protect Taki and Makie so they could conceive a child, the first Demon-Human child to be born and be the one to bring peace to both worlds.

It's an interesting premise with some cool ideas.

Demon City Shinjuku (1990)

Ok, THIS is the movie I thought I was watching. It is a lot less violent and a lot less tentacle rape. This one takes place 10 years after a huge earthquake caused by a demon, Rebi Ra, happens. The entire Shinjuku area of Tokyo has been destroyed and overrun with demons.

We meet up with Kyoya Izayoi, a martial artist in "Nem Po" training who wields a wooden sword. He is the son of the man who failed to kill Rebi Ra in the opener. He is sent by floating mystic, Aguni Rai to protect the World's President's daughter Sayaka. Though she has gone to Shinjuku to find Rebi Ra.

Rebi Ra has been spending the last 10 years opening a portal to let in more demons. Of course our hero now only has 3 days.

Kyoya jumps at any combat, whether he can win or not, and is soon captured by Rebi Ra. Then there is a bit where Sayaka tries to free some ghosts from a park. This wakes up Kyoya. They are recaptured by Rebi Ra and Sayaka is chosen for the sacrifice. Kyoya finds his father's wooden sword (filled with his Chi/Qi power) and he kills Rebi Ra.

Oh, and there is this strange dude named Mesphito and a kid who helps named Chibi who for reasons unknown to god, man or demon has the worst Mexican accent I have ever heard. Mesphito seems like he could be demon, but certain on his own side.

The movie is a bit slow and the dubbing in some places doesn't make a bit of sense.

It is easy to see Demon City as a sequel of sorts to Wicked City, with Kyoya acting as the son of Renzaburō Taki and Makie. Aguni Rai could even double as Giuseppe Mayart.

Watched: 41
New: 27

NIGHT SHIFT content: Demon City Tokyo: 2055
A new experimental Quantum Nuclear Reactor has gone critical but instead of blowing up Tokyo a rift has appeared opening the city up to the depths of hell. Now 20 years later the children of the people trapped in the Demon City deal with demon excursions, the walking dead, and the police of the DCO (Demonic Control Operation).   High tech meets old magic. Demonically possessed humans and the undead fight cyber-enhanced martial artists.  It is all happening in Demon City Tokyo!



Remembering Len Lakofka

Just got word a bit ago that Lenard "Leomund" Lakofka passed away this morning. 

Len and I got along well even when we had a difference of opinion.  I likely talked about him more than any other old-school designer, save for Gary, Tom Moldvay, and Eric Holmes.

I had just picked up a copy of L3 and had mentioned to him I wanted to get it signed if he ever came to Gary Con or Gen Con.

I have a stack of his notes for the Town of Ulek he wanted me to go over and scan.  Now I am not sure what to do with them.

I'm going to miss the guy. 


Kickstart Your Weekend: Halloween Theme, Part 1

Today and next Friday I am bringing you some Halloween-themed Kickstarters that I think you my readers might enjoy. I was going to break these up by theme, but some are ending soon.

Tempus Halloween Special - Witch & Vampire Zircon Glass Dice


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tempustales/tempus-halloween-special-witch-and-vampire-zircon-glass-dice?ref=theotherside

Ok. I'll admit it. I love themed dice. And these look great. They look a touch larger than the typical dice we get, but that is a good thing. They are not cheap, but these are what I guess we can call "luxury dice sets."

The next two came up in a search and I think they work well together.

Widdershins: the Roleplaying Game


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/libomni/widdershins-the-roleplaying-game?ref=theotherside

Early 20th Century steam-punk-esque, battling Eldritch Horrors indie RPG?  Sounds like a blast to me!  There is a focus on LGBTQ play and characters, but frankly we need more of that in RPGs.  I also like how sexuality is used as a metaphor for being on the outside and thus being able to comprehend the horrors in the world that others ignore. 

It looks like there is a rich world here to explore and the art looks fantastic so far.  Can't wait to see more.


Love Potion: An Illustrated LGBT Novel


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/everafterprint/love-potion-an-illustrated-lgbt-novel?ref=theotherside

The purpose of Kickstarter in my mind is to give a boost to new artists, game designers, and authors whose material we might not otherwise ever see.  I try not to use it as pre-order system or a ransomware buy, I have a FLGS I like to support and I would rather buy there and wait than not support them.

But every so often something comes up and I feel the need to share. This is one of those.

The project creators have never done a Kickstarter before nor have they backed one. Normally this is a red flag for me.  But everyone must start somewhere.

I like the story. I once joked (ok, more than once) that why is the witch always the evil one in the story? Why can't the prince fall for the witch instead of the princess?  Then that logically went to why can't the princess and witch fall in love and tell the prince to take a hike?

This is not that story, but it is a story of the witch not being the one at end of the villager's pitchforks for once.

I enjoy the art and the creators both seem like good people.  How do I make that assumption?  They refer to each other as a "writer orc" and an "art goblin."  

There is always a part on a Kickstarter that says "back it because you believe in it." I believe in this project and would like to see it made into a reality.

DMSGuild Witch Project: 5e Witches, Part 3

Going to look at some more D&D 5 Witch classes today. Today and the rest of the week I am going to look at some of the smaller PDFs.  Usually less than 20 pages.

For these DMSGuild classes, I am going to still follow my own rules and guidelines to make sure I am giving these a fair review. 

Witch Class
by Todd D

This PDF is eight pages, all content. The PWYW price is set to $0.00, but following my guidelines $0.80 or even a buck would be good. There is no art but the layout is good. This is one of the earliest witch classes submitted to DMSGuild.

This witch is more like a warlock, but that is what it is advertised as. These witches appear to be manipulators of Fate. These witches also use Wisdom as their spellcasting ability. Instead of pacts or traditions, this witch has "Heritages"; the Traditionalist, the Blighted, and the Clairvoyant. Each one gives the witch some different sorts of powers. Ends with a spell list. At eight pages it seems a bit thin but does exactly what it said it was going to do.

It is less like a witch and more like a "Hedge Warlock" in my mind.  Granted, this is not a bad thing at all. 

Toss the author a buck and wish them "Happy Halloween."


Witch Class for DND 5e
by Dani Sankovich

This PDF is 8 pages, all content. The PDF sells for $0.50 PWYW, so under my 10 cents per page guidelines. Since it is also all content and no filler, so $1.00 would be appropriate here. 

The class is a full 20 levels with spell casting to the 9th spell level. There is a max Spells Known per level. The ability for spell casting is Intelligence. 

These witches have a "Binding Locus" that gives them their power. This also grants them abilities at certain levels. Binding Loci can be Arcane, Void, Wilds and Entity. The Entity is somewhat like the Warlock's patron and has a few more powers.

We end with the spell list. No new spells.

It's Halloween, go ahead and give them $1.00.


Witch Class (D&D 5e)
by Brian Barnshaw

This PDF is 11 pages (1 title, 1 legal, 9 content) and no art. The layout is clean but the background image makes it a little harder to read.  

There is some background given, relating the witch to the druid. It is fine, but I don't quite think it came over the way the author wanted it to. 

This witch is a full caster of 20 levels and to the 9th level of spell ability. This witch is also a wisdom caster and has ritual casting.  These witches also gain a familiar.

The archetypes are known as covens, as expected. There are two Creators and Hag's Disciple.  The Hag one is expanded based on the type of Hag. 

There is a spell list, but no new spells.

Again, each one gets at the witch from a different point of view and works well within that point of view. It might be interesting to build a Grand Coven with a witch from each of these.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: La Fille de Dracula (1972)

While watching Vampire Ecstacy I recalled there were a lot of similarities to this movie.  I ordered it then and thanks to Prime got it this morning.   

I watched this one back in 2013 but the copy I had was a really terrible VHS to DVD transfer.  

There is no comparison between the two.  After watching the BluRay I might pop in my DVD just to see if there are a lot of differences.   This one is in French with English subtitles. 

One thing I didn't cover with my last watching was the Karlstein/Karnstein issue.  The castle is called Castle Karlstein but given the time when it was filmed, I can't imagine they didn't mean Karnstien as in Carmilla. 

The story fits the Karnsteins better than the Draculas any way.

Britt Nichols plays Luisa Karlstein and Anne Libert plays Karine, Luisa's cousin, and lover.  And of course, Franco appears playing a creepy dude.  I mean if you are going to cast yourself in a role you should get your choice right?  

Throughout the movie women are attacked and drained of blood.

Luisa returns home to her dying mother and learns the family secret. Their ancestor, Count Karlstein, was a vampire and mom has been keeping him in the crypt.  Luisa goes to the crypt wakes up great-granddad.  Next time we see her she has fangs and begins to seduce her cousin Karine.  Though from the looks of it, Karine is a willing convert. 

There are some issues with this movie.  Luisa and Karine in their first scene act like they have just met, but later on, Karine tells Luisa about how she always loved her and they were "best friends" growing up.  They even relate a scene where Luisa plucked the eyes out of a bird and Karine cried in her arms. 

And the movie goes downhill, or rather, nowhere from there.  In fact the Luisa/Karine story seems completely disconnected from the Vampire killing plot.  If you assume that it was Luisa doing it then she was a vampire before she encountered the count (and it was the actress, if not the character). If it is the count doing the killings then what exactly is Luisa doing in the movie? Other than to lay in bed with Karine all day.

I learned while doing some preliminary research on this before tonight that this movie is part of a loose trilogy from Franco.  Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein (1972) features Howard Vernon as Dracula, the same role he is playing in Daughter of Dracula.   It occurs before this movie.  Daughter is followed by The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein (1973).  This movie also has  Britt Nichols and Anne Libert, though in different roles than in this one. The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein is also the film debut of frequent Franco star Lina Romay. She would go on to appear in 100 of his movies and they eventually married in 2008, four years before her death. They had been a couple though for 40 years. I forget which DVD commentary it was on, but Franco, in his 80s, still spoke of her very warmly and lovingly.  He would later go on to die a year after.

I think at this point I am a little burned out on Franco. I have another one for the weekend, also with Britt Nichols and Anne Libert, playing sisters this time instead of cousins.  I might save them for another year, but likely not. 

My original, bad VHS to DVD edit, ran 78 mins, the BluRay is 82 mins. The BluRay also has an edited "clean" version.

Watched: 39
New: 26

NIGHT SHIFT and Old-School Content
How about this. I have seen a few movies about Dracula's family and a few more about the Karnsteins and their family.  I have done some work on witch families. What about two warring families who patriarch/matriarchs are both ancient and powerful vampires. The descendants can be living, but living under a curse that when they die they become the undead.  The two family leaders have some sort of relation; say like cousins or half-siblings.  A good example would be the historical Dracula and Bathory clans. They shared a relationship by blood and other ties. Or the literary one of Dracula and the Karnsteins; we know that Stoker was a fan of Le Fanu's work and in the Hammer Karnsteins, Dracula is often in the background.

The war between rival families of vampires might sound a little World of Darkness, but it is something that could work well for both an Old-School game and Night Shift. 


Plays Well With Others: Night Shift and Modern Supernatural Games

I am a firm believer that a rising tide lifts all ships, and that other Game Designers are not my competition, but my colleagues.  I buy their games, they buy mine. We all benefit and we all enjoy.

Naturally, I also feel that a good gaming experience can be had by looking to see what others are doing and seeing what I can bring into my games when I am running them.


When we were working on NIGHT SHIFT we had a fairly strict "no looking at other games" policy.  We really wanted our game to have it's own unique feel and direction.  But that was last year, and now NIGHT SHIFT is out and I am pulling out all my other games to see what each one has that can help NIGHT SHIFT and what Night Shift has that can help them.

Old School Roots

Jason and I have worked on a lot of games. Both together and separately for dozens of publishers. But the one thing we both enjoy are old-school games. This doesn't mean we don't like new ones, quite the opposite in fact. But it is the old-school design aesthetic that keeps us coming back and saying "what else can we do with this?"  NIGHT SHIFT covers both halves of our RPG hearts.

The mechanics in NIGHT SHIFT (what we call O.G.R.E.S. or Oldschool Generic Roleplaying Engine System) are firmly rooted in the Old School mechanics of the world's first popular RPG system.  What does this mean? Well if you have been playing RPGs for any length of time since 1974 then chances are good you can pick up the rules for NIGHT SHIFT very, very quickly. 

Also, it means that out of the box, NIGHT SHIFT is roughly compatible with thousands of RPG titles. 

Appendix A of the NIGHT SHIFT book covers conversions between NS and the Oldest RPG, it also covers conversions between the O.G.R.E.S. of NIGHT SHIFT and the O.R.C.S of other Elf Lair Games products; namely Spellcraft & Swordplay and Eldritch Witchery.


It also covers 0e, B/X and BECMI style conversions. Converting then between NIGHT SHIFT and anything based on Swords & Wizardry or Labyrinth Lord for example is easy.



There are guidelines on how to convert classes, but since the classes have the same DNA as the ones in many of these clone games I am going to take the extra step and say, just play them as is.

So yeah, run a Sage in Labyrinth Lord.  Put a Chosen One in Swords & Wizardry.  In fact, I'd love to hear how this works for you.  This also gives you a good way to add a new supernatural species to your game.  What to play an Angel cleric? With NIGHT SHIFTS rules on supernaturals, you can. IT also makes a nice way to create something my Basic Games have needed, a Vampire Witch.  In NIGHT SHIFT this is easy.

Need more monsters? Grab any monster manual and you can be set to go. Monstrosities and Tome of Horrors Complete are only two examples but they give hundreds of monsters. More than you will ever need.

NIGHT SHIFT is not the only Modern Supernatural RPG out there based on old school roots.  So many in fact that my next one and others would have to constitute another full post to them justice.  But I will mention a couple.

DP&D is such a delight. It really is. I am very fond of this game and I still enjoy playing it.  On the surface it looks like DP&D and NIGHT SHIFT could be used to tell the same sorts of stories, and that is true to a degree, but that really underplays what makes both games special.  

NIGHT SHIFT covers adults (for the most part, I'll talk Generation HEX specifically) in a very dangerous supernatural modern world.
Dark Places & Demogorgons covers kids in a very dangerous supernatural world of the 1980s.


Both games are built on the same chassis and have similar cores.  One day I want to run a game where the Adults (NS) flashback to when they were Kids (DP&D).  Sort of like Stephen King's "It."
Or one could start out as a kid in DP&D progress a bit and then become an adult to continue on in Night Shift.

There is not a good One to One class correspondence between the games and nor would I want there to be.  A Jock (DP&D) might end up as a Veteran (NS) or even as a Chosen One (NS).  In truth, I would give any DP&D kid character some "free" levels in Survivor but allow them to keep some of the perks of their original DP&D class.  So Goths still see ghosts, Karate Kids still kick ass, and so on.  
Frankly, I think it would be a blast with the right group.   Maybe I should write a two-part adventure that covers both. A little like "It" but something very different.  Something "Strange" happened in the 1980s and now a group of characters have gotten back together in their old home town to stop it once again.  

I singled out Generation HEX since that one already covers kids.  I can see a game though were kids from AMPA (Academy of Magic and Paranormal Arts) have to work with the "normies" of DP&D to solve some great mystery.   Likely one that is affecting adults only.

I have also used monsters from the DP&D Cryptid Manual for NIGHT SHIFT many times.

Modern Supernatural

It is no great secret that I LOVE games like WitchCraft and Chill.  I have talked many times about my love of both games. Chill was my first Horror RPG and WitchCraft might be my favorite game of all time.  Jason and I met while working as freelancers for Eden Studios, the company that made WitchCraft.  We worked together on Buffy, Angel, and Army of Darkness.  I helped him with his All Flesh Must Be Eaten books and he helped me on Ghosts of Albion.  A lot of what is in NIGHT SHIFT came out of our conversations of things we wanted to do in those games.


I guess then it is not a shock or surprise that I see NIGHT SHIFT and the spiritual successor, at least on my shelves and table, to games like Buffy and WitchCraft.


Buffy and WitchCraft defined horror monster hunting for the 90s and into the 2000s.  NIGHT SHIFT takes this to 2020 and beyond.  With NIGHT SHIFT I want to be able to play anything those other games offered me.  Sure the playstyle will be different.  WitchCraft is more about the machinations of the Supernatural World.  The Gifted (WC) for example are all covered by the Witch Class in NIGHT SHIFT.  In WitchCraft though there is a HUGE difference between the Wicce and the Rosicrucians. In NIGHT SHIFT those differences would have to be played out by the players in role-playing.  NIGHT SHIFT also is more Normies and Weirdos vs. Dangerous Supernatural types. More like Buffy or Ghosts of Albion in that sense. 


All Souls Night

There is an adventure that I have been dying to finish, "All Souls Night."  It is part of a trilogy across time and distance that includes Ghosts of Albion's "Blight", Buffy's "The Dark Druid" and what I have been thinking of as D&D's All Souls Night.  Translating them all into NIGHT SHIFT makes this so much easier to run. 

Supernatural and Chill
Not the new version of "Netflix and Chill" but adapting the best monster hunter games. 

Chill has such a long history I could not do it justice here.  I love the game but one place it has always felt a little lacking for me is the ability to play a spell-caster.  The Supernatural RPG is the same way.  In truth, Supernatural RPG is the cinematic version of Chill.   I mean sure. If I wanted to play a spellcaster, or a witch, I still have Buffy, WitchCraft, Ghosts of Albion, and about 100 other games to do that.  Both Chill and Supernatural are solid "let's go hunt some monsters" games.  So is NIGHT SHIFT.



Adapting the style of either game is easy.  Having these games also gives your NIGHT SHIFT game a slightly edgier feel.

I have already shown that Supernatural characters like The Wayward Sisters and Charlie Bradbury can have new life in NIGHT SHIFT.  

Some games, like say Call of Cthulhu, fit their niche so perfectly that I would not want to run a "Mythos" game with NIGHT SHIFT, but I certainly could borrow ideas from CoC for my NIGHT SHIFT games.  

In many ways doing a Plays Well With Others and NIGHT SHIFT is a cheat.  One of my own design principles for the game was to make it as flexible as I could so it could cover a wide variety of game and play styles.  I am happy in my belief that we succeeded in that.

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