Thursday, October 21, 2021

This Old Dragon: Issue #43

Dragon Magazine #43
It's October and that means horror here at the Other Side. It also used to mean horror in the pages of Dragon Magazine.  While the horror-themed issues would not start in earnest until the mid- and late-80s, this little gem of an issue was released in November of 1980.  

Let's put this all into context.  Holmes Basic was the D&D people were going to now to get started. AD&D was about to hit its highest levels of popularity.  The famous Moldvay Basic set was still a year away from publication.  Personally, I had just learned of the Monster Manual a year before and had gotten my hands on a shared copy of Holmes Basic that had been making the rounds.  I can vividly recall riding my bike to the burned-down Burger King in my neighborhood thinking it would make a great dungeon.  Ok. I was 11.  I wonder how things might have been different if I had gotten ahold of this issue before Dragon #114 (for reasons that will be obvious)?

But let's start at the beginning and that is November 1980. Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" is the #1 song on the radio.  The Awakening is the number one movie and on the stands is issue #43 of This Old Dragon.

One of the real joys of reading any old magazine, and reading Dragon in particular, is seeing all the old ads.  

Ral Partha
Ral Partha, a huge favorite, is up with some of their boxed board games. Here we see one that would vex me for years, Witch's Cauldron.  I mention it more below, but here is the start of what would become my "Traveller Envy."

A couple of things I noticed right away.  One, I tried reading "The Dragon Rumbles" a couple of times and I still am not sure what it was trying to tell me.  Maybe it's because I am tired.  The second one of the featured artists in this issue is Ed Greenwood.  He really was doing it all.

The grinning hag cover art was done by Ray Cioni, a Chicago artist and we are told there are more color pages in this issue of Dragon than any other.  This includes the witch art from Alan Burton and pages of Wormy and Jasmie from Tramp and Darlene respectively.

Out on a Limb covers the questions of the time. Where can I get a copy of Issue 39? Do Angels have psionics? It is continued later in the magazine. Breaking up longer articles was more common then.

Our main feature is Brewing Up A New NPC: The Witch.  This is an update to the witch found in issue #20. Though the presentation is better here.  There is a lot here to unpack.  This article is written by Bill Muhlhausen, revised and edited by Kim Mohan and Tom Moldvay.  The witch here is very similar to the one found in Dragon #114.  Again, we get Low Order Witches limited to 16th level and High Order Witches limited to 22nd level.  I wondered if this was related to the 22 level cap found in the Greyhawk supplement.  The class reads through much like that of #114 and I am hard-pressed to find the exact differences. The article covers several pages.  I have had a fairly poor photocopy for years in my research binder. It was a thrill to finally read it again, this time with color, on the Dragon Magazine CD-ROM.  Now I have a print copy.

The Witch

 The true gem for me is The Real Witch: A Mixture of Fact and Fantasy by Tom Moldvay.  This article covers what a witch could be in D&D.  It is only half a page but is punching way above its weight class and I reconsult it often.  With Holmes' "promise" of a witch class and Tom Moldavy Basic about to rock my world in just one year's time, I have often (and I mean all the time) wondered what a Basic witch might be like as penned by Holmes or Moldvay.   I have mine, but they are my witches, not theirs. Especially a couple of scholars like them.

Jake Jaquet is next with the Convetions 1980 report.  It was a pretty good year for cons.   Speaking of which Dave Cook reports from Gen Con XIII with Survival tips for the Slave Pits.  And a report on the winning Dungeon Master of the tournament play, in  He's the top Dungeon Mentzer with none other than a very young-looking Frank Mentzer.

Sage Advice covers some AD&D questions that really are new.  A brief article on D&D in Germany from a West German player.  West German, I have not had to write that in a while. 

There is a six-page questionnaire/survey to determine how good of a DM you have.  It is more of a self-guide to help the players figure out what their DM is or can do for them.  It is a tool for discussion, not actually dissimilar to the RPG Consent list.  The difference lies in who should have the supposed power in this structure.  

Len Lakofka is up with his Leomund's Tiny Hut discussing Action in the Meele Round. It is always nice to go back to these and read not just what the official interpretation of the rules are/were but what were the areas where they were ambiguous.  41 years and 4 other editions later we lose track of these things.

We get some more color with the Dragon's Bestiary.  Not only color but Erol Otus art at that.  One of the "monsters" is an Amazon.  This is not the first time we get a witch and amazon connection. There is art in the OD&D books of a "Beautiful Witch" and an Amazon together.   It is one of the reasons I like to include Amazons in my witch books.  Both for the Cult of Diana and the duality of magical and martial qualities.   

Dragon's Bestiary

I didn't find the other two monsters, the Tolwar and the Lythlyx to be as interesting. Though I did find the Ed Greenwood art credit. He created the text and art for the Lythlyx.

Philip Meyers discusses illusions in Now you see it . . .but is it really there?.  I wonder that if Dragon #43 had been my first Dragon about witches and not #114, would my witches today have more illusion spells?

Ad for the 1981 Days of the Dragon calendar. If you can find one it will work for 2026 as well. 

For our big center-piece is a Traveller adventure called Canard from Roberto Camino. I have read through it a couple of times and it looks fun. I might need to use this Summer of 2022 when I plan my big outing for Traveller.   

Speaking of Traveller.  The reviews section is next and Roberto Camino is back reviewing the latest Traveller product Azhanti High Lightning in Azhanti: Almost too Creative.   This is likely the start of my Traveller Envy.  This was popular among the "older kids" that played Traveller a lot and it just looked so cool to me. It's a game all by itself AND it is a supplement to the main Traveller RPG.    

Douglas P. Bachmann reviews SPI's DragonQuest.  While he is not a fan of the ad copy hyperbole, he does make me want to try out this game even more.  Though we are warned that with the supplements then planned that DragonQuest could end up costing you $94 to #98 to play. A very expensive game!

A reminder of our forebears is next from Bryan Beecher in the next in his series of Squad Leader articles, #5: The Fall of Sevastopol. This one deals with a battle between the Russians and Germans in the late Spring of 1942. The DM I would meet the very next year was WAY into Squad Leader and tried to get me to play a few times.  He drifted away from RPGs eventually and even deeper into Wargames and Reenacting.  Not my bag, but I could see how he enjoyed them.  This was the DM that ran me through the Slave Lords series years ago. 

An opinion piece is up from Larry DiTillio.  The same that worked on He-Man and She-Ra as well as the Masks of Nyarlathotep.  The article, Apples, Oranges, Role-playing, and Morality, replies an article (in Dragon #39) by Douglas P. Bachmann on morality in fantasy. This article works on the premise that Mr. Bachmann did not truly understand the game worlds and the responsibility of DMing.  It's hard to evaluate this response without reading the first, but there are some interesting takeaways. There is room in AD&D (and other RPGs) for both DiTillio's world and Bachmann's.  As AD&D  game progresses with a good DM there will be other solutions to deal with problems other than with "the sword" (Witchlight is a good modern example).

Hate Orcs? You'll Love this Campaign by Roger Moore details his ideas for an all dwarven game in AD&D.  Now this might strike newer players as odd' not because of the all dwarf nature, but because back then in AD&D dwarves had class limits making it a different sort of challenge.  For example there were no Dwarven wizards.  While I like the newer versions of the game and can choose any class, I personally still find Dwarven wizards a little odd.  BUT that is not the point of Moore's article. His point is how to make it work in spite of the rule of rule limitations. 

Out on a Limb continues. We get a letter from an "E. Gary Gygax" from Lake Geneva, WI. He addresses an article from Dragon #40 about buffing up undead. This Gary guy seems to know a thing or two.

The Electric Eye covers Four From Space on Tape by Mark Herro. What we have are four different space-themed computer games on one cassette tape. I am not going to be all "well..back in my day computer programs were on cassette tape and you had the CLOAD them before you could play..."  No instead I want to reflect on two things.  First. Wow, have we come a long way!  These game were designed for the TRS-80 Level II Basic on a 16k computer.  16k! As of right now this post is 8.5k and takes up 12K of disc space.  One of my new hardware projects here at home is rebuilding a TRS-80 Color Computer 2 (with a HUGE 64k).  Let's pause a moment and be impressed by how far technology has come since the 80s.   The second point is, wow, companies really were fairly open about their copyright infringement back then.  This cassette has four games, Ultra Trek (Star Trek), Romulan (also Star Trek), Star Wars (what it says), and Star Lanes which was an outer space stock market.

Dragonmirth is next with the comics. In our color section, we get Finieous Fingers, a Wormy, and Jasmine.  The art in Jasmine is so different from anything else here. This is of course thanks to artist, cartographer, and under-sung hero of the World of Greyhawk, Darlene. I think Jasmine was too "adult" for the target audiences of Dragon at the time. Not "Adult" as in nudity (we have a bare ass on page 70, six pages before this) but in content. The art is fantastic, but the story doesn't pull you in, at least not unless you were there in the start.  Sadly Jasmine was cut for space, but I would like to do a retrospective on it someday.

Jasmine by Darlene

Really one of the great issues for me and it captures a time, for me at least, where there truly was no end of the possibilities in sight. 

Minus Issue #5 (but represented my Best Of Vol 1) I have all the published Dragon Magazine Witches.

Dragon Witches


October Horror Movie Challenge: 5ive Girls (2006)

5ive Girls (2006)
I am not going into this one with very high hopes.  It deals with demons, witches, and Ron Perlman.  

5ive Girls (2006)

The movie begins with Ron Perlman as Father Drake.  He is the teacher of a Catholic girl's school, St. Marks.  One of his students, Elizabeth, is drawing a scene from the Bible where Jesus casts out the Legions of demons (is Legion the number or the name? Sunday school was a long ass time ago).  Anyway, while Drake is talking to some students, Elizabeth starts to hear voices.  Soon the door slams shut and she begins hearing the voices of demons.  Drake finally gets into the room, but Elizabeth is gone, leaving only blood.

Five years later, the school reopens with just only five students and recovering drunk Father Drake.  The newest girl, Alex, is a witch with TK and can hear voices coming from nowhere. She also sees Elizabeth walking around the halls.  The other girls also experience strange happenings.  Leah passes through a filing cabinet.  Cecilia is blind but has second sight. Connie is a Wiccan.  Not sure what Mara does other than being a pain in the ass.  No, actually her power is healing by touch. 

Former student and current head Mistress, Miss Anna Pearce played by Amy Lalonde, also can see Elizabeth.  She tells her she is trying to help her.

We get typical Catholic School Girl shenanigans. Spanking with a ruler, girls sneaking off to smoke, breaking into the third floor.  While there they find a pentagram in a magic circle. At the same time, Miss Pearce is casting a diabolic spell to try and free Elizabeth with the other five girls as the sacrifices. 

Elizabeth, or a demon, is summoned and lands in Connie, but Mara is able to heal her.   Alex discovers a book belonging to Elizabeth. 

The next day a possessed Connie tries to kill Leah and then vomits a bunch of demons into her.  The girls realize right away that Leah is possessed. Leah confronts Father Drake and he tries to exorcise her, but she stabs him with the crucifixes instead.  We learn that Miss Pierce is Elizabeth's sister. 

Legion jumps from girl to girl, killing them along the way. 

The ending is kind of neat with the demon made of blood. But otherwise fairly derivative and predictable. 

About the cover. In this movie when you get possessed your eyes don't go all black, but all white.

--

Ok, I think I need to create a category of movie, Daughters of the Craft.  These are movies made after 1996 with teen witches, usually four, sometimes five. One should be good and one should be evil, or at least misunderstood. The filmmakers obviously loved the Craft and thought that was the movie they wanted to make.  I'll go back and see which ones fit it. 


2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 36
First Time Views: 23


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The NPCs of "The Wild Beyond The Witchlight"

Skylla, my ex
While "The Wild Beyond The Witchlight" has a lot going for it the reason, well one of the reasons, I really wanted it was because we were getting some official D&D 5th Edition stats to some classic NPCs, in particular, Skylla and Kelek two "iconic" characters that I am using in my War of the Witch Queens campaign. So I want to look at these old friends and maybe a couple of new ones too.  I'll leave poor old Thaco alone with his pipe and bitterness today.  Plus it is October and Horror month, so I really just want to talk about my favorites, the bad guys.

Who Are These Characters?

Long before the use of the term Iconic Characters to refer to reoccurring D&D characters in publication, there were names like Warduke, Strongheart, Ringlerun, and Kelek.  They appeared in the AD&D toy line from LJN and in other media including coloring books, stickers, adventures, and sometimes even the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon.   It is also one of the reasons why I have to laugh when people today will see a stuffed Owlbear and complain that "WotC is selling out and ruining D&D."  They must have forgotten the Official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Yoyo or Sunglasses.

Of all of these characters, there were a few standouts who got extra attention.  Ringlerun, the Good Wizard would be the cover boy for the Jeff Easley recover of the AD&D Player's Handook, although many at the time did not see the connection.  Kelek and Warduke would go on to get a guest spot on the D&D cartoon.  Warduke in particular would go on to be a minor celebrity in D&D iconic circles, getting 1st Ed (well...Basic really), 3rd Ed, and now 5th Ed Ed stats.

LJN D&D Toys

We would get all their official D&D Basic and Expert set stats, not AD&D, in the product AC1 The Shady Dragon Inn.  This was sort of a Rogues Gallery for BECMI D&D. You can read my review of it here

What I would like to do here today is compare these characters from the Wild Beyond the Witchlight to their Shady Dragon Inn and Quest for the Heartstone counterparts. 

Bad guys

The League of Malevolence

Heroes are great, but give me a "good" villain any day of the week.  Here are five iconic D&D villains. I will compare them to their D&D Basic versions to see what has changed and what has stayed the same.

Kelek

First up is the leader of the League of Malevolence, our Legion of Doom for D&D.  All these characters are Chaotic Evil which tracks well to their original alignments of Chaotic.  

In Basic D&D Kelek was an "Evil Sorcerer" of course at this time a "Sorcerer" was the level title for a 7th level Magic-user.  In 5e his class has become a Sorcerer.  This actually make a lot of sense and I approve of this change.  His stats are pretty much the same from edition to edition with the exception of his Charisma which goes from 7 to 17.  Charisma is the "prime" stat for sorcerers. Here he is described as a sociopath. That tracks with how I have seen him in the past

Part of this adventure is searching for a lost Unicorn horn. Well that was more or less the plot of the only D&D Cartoon to feature Kelek.  If nothing else I am saying he is still after unicorn horns. 

Skylla

Ah. My beloved Skylla.  I was the most excited and the most worried to see what the Wizard's dev team was going to do to you.  I have to say I am not disappointed. In Quest of the Heartstone, she is listed as a 6th level Warlock. Again, this time "Warlock" meaning 6th level magic-user. I do note that the TSR team avoided calling her a "Witch" at the time. Likely due to the Satanic Panic (but Warlock is fine?).  Like her former boss Kelek, the level title is translated to Class here and she is a 6th level Warlock. It fits well if you ask me

Skylla's stats are mostly the same with some tweaks to improve what she needs to be a Warlock.  Though the best changes are in her background.  For starters, her patron is not a demon (like I did) but rather with Baba Yaga (like...I did).  Additionally they tackle the Skylla/Charmay art issue head-on as sometimes Skylla goes by the name Charmay.  It's different than what I do with her, but it works out fine in my mind.

For the record, they got Skylla as close to a "witch: as D&D 5e's rules will currently allow.  I think they did a great job with her.  Kelek too.

Warduke

I do have to ask. Why does everyone like this guy so much? I never quite got it, but hey someone out there is looking at my nearly 30 posts about Skylla and scratching their head. 

That all being said, Warduke here is fairly impressive. I think the fans will be happy.  His stats are all the same in both versions.  His Dread Helm in Basic gave him Infravision to 60'.  The D&D 5e version only makes his eyes glow red.  Well, as I have said many times, I have a pencil.

Zarak

The half-orc Assassin was just an odd dude in Basic D&D that didn't have half-orcs as monsters, let alone as a character race, nor did it have assassins.  Yet there he is on page 18 of my Quest for the Heartstone. In D&D 5 he also has some strangeness. He is a full orc here BUT he is a short one to fit the AD&D/D&D Basic orcs.  Though he is still a Chaotic Evil Assassin.  His Dexterity gets a buff in 5e, but he loses his "boomerang" dagger!

Zargash

The evil cleric is back.  He is 7th level, so that makes him an evil Bishop. Zargash is still Chaotic Evil and he worships Orcus. Stats are tweaked a bit, but otherwise he is largely the same.

Missing Evil Characters include, Grimsword (Evil Knight aka Anti-Paladin), Zorgan (Evil Barbarian) and Drex (Evil Warrior) all from Quest for the Heartstone. Fox Fingers (Thief) and Raven (Evil Cleric) from Shaddy Dragon Inn.  In might be fun to make Raven. She is evil (but maybe not totally), and in love with Warduke. She was once friend with Mericon. Who is up in the next batch.

Valor's Call

Our group of good hereos had the real chance of being boring on one hand and overly sanctimonious on the other.  Thankfully were spared the worse.  They are not as interesting as our bad guys, but they are still fun and there are still some tweaks that make them worth reading and using.

Elkhorn

Our Lawful Good dwarf might have been one of the more popular figures right behind Warduke.  His stats are the same in both versions.  I do like how they took an essentially blank canvas and made a dwarf that is not a Flint Fireforge clone or a Dime store Thorin and gave him some goals.  He is a staunch enemy of evil.  If Strongheart is the founder of Valor's call, then Elkhorn is its heart.

Mercion

Ok. She is no Aleena, but Mercion is the cleric of the group. Her stats are tweaked a bit to give her better Strength and a higher level, but the Mercion in 5e is much more interesting.  In what I feel is a real homage to her Basic D&D roots, she does not worship a god but rather an ideal. She believes that truth gives life to artistry and beauty.  It's kind of a cool concept. If I were to use her as an NPC I would make sure she never lies about anything, ever. In fact, the brutal truth is better for her than a sweet lie. 

Molliver

Molliver the good thief was not in the Shady Dragon Inn product but can be found in the Quest for the Heartstone. In Quest no gender is given for Molliver, so in the 5e book their pronouns are "they."  I like it. I like it because a.) it works for the character and b.) it will certainly piss off the ones that need pissing off.

Molliver is also the only Chaotic Good member of the party. A "Lawful" thief does not make much sense really. Stats are largely the same with a buff for Dex. They even have their boots of levitation, handy for a thief.  

Ringlerun

Our Lawful Good Wizard from Basic remains a Lawful Good Wizard in 5e.  Never as interesting as Kelek, Elminster, or Mordenkainen he was on the cover of the Player's Handbook and a popular figure. 

Ringlerun
His arm must be tired

He is still largely a generic wizard. He has kind of a James Randi in his later years look about him.  In my games he is dead; died of old age, but that doesn't really make sense for a wizard I guess.  I have some ideas forming that I might explore later.  Or not. After all he was never very interesting.

Strongheart

If I have one purely AD&D gripe it is that I rarely see anyone playing a paladin a good way.  "Sanctimonious Asshole" is not a Paladin. Neither is "Grim, tortured because there is so much evil in the world" isn't either.   I was worried that Strongheart was going to fall into one of those two camps. Or even worse, weak Sturm Brightblade clone.

Thankfully, that is not what we got. Instead, 5e Strongheart is the kind of paladin who is all about "we should get together to defeat evil because there is so much good in the world to enjoy!" He makes a good leader.  Again his stats are slightly tweaked to give him a better Strength (13 to 15) which, by the way, his D&D Basic stats were not good enough to make him an AD&D Paladin!

He was the character I was prepared to dislike the most (I have played paladins in EVERY version of D&D) and his actually was pretty cool.

It is mentioned that there are more characters in Valor's Call, off doing Good elsewhere.  They do have a solid feel of "The Superfriends" here. Not s big surprise I guess. Potential other members from Quest of the Heartstone include Peralay (Elf Fighter/Mage), Figgen (Halfling Fighter or Fighter/Theif), Deeth (Fighter), Hawkler (a totally NOT the Beastmaster Ranger), Bowmarc (Good "Crusader") and Valkeer, a half-giant warrior.  Of these Valkeer might the most fun to update to 5e.  Of these Peralay also appears in The Shady Dragon Inn.  

Strongheart and Warduke

Other NPCs

There are plenty of other really interesting NPCs in this book.  Many I plan to lift and convert back to D&D Basic for use in my War of the Witch Queens campaign.

Burly the Hobgoblin

Before D&D, a hobgoblin was more a trickster as exemplified by Puck or Robin Goodfellow. In Witchlight we have Burly a Neutral Good Hobgoblin.  Ok, I'll go with that. My favorite bit is he is a hobgoblin who wears a pumpkin on his head.  Now, where have I seen that before?

Pumpkin head

Bugbear. Hobgoblin.  The differences are largely academic.

Likewise, Chucklehead is a goblin with a  head shaped like a taffy apple.

Iggwilv the Witch Queen

Yes! Getting Skylla was one thing, getting a new Iggwilv?  That's just crazy good.

This is Iggwilv after she has left the Abyss and has been hiding out in the Feywild for centuries. Here she is also known as Tasha, Natasha, and Zybilna.  There is an interaction here with Kelek that plays so well into my plans it is hard not to use it all.  There is an interesting Maiden-Mother-Crone aspect of Iggwilv here in the form of Tasha-Zybilna-Iggwilv.

Iggwilv

Now I am perfectly happy with the formerly Chaotic Evil Iggwilv becoming more Chaotic Neutral as time goes on.  What I am not 100% sure about is her desire to abandon all her research on the Abyss and Demons in favor of learning about the Feywild instead.  But...I can live with it.

The Hour Glass Coven

I like them. Very interesting bunch of witches and hags.

The Minis

This is such an interesting group of NPCs it makes sense that there is also an equally interesting group of minis to go with them.  Sadly the supply chain breakdown has pushed many of these minis till 2022.  But I am really looking forward to them.

Kelek
Kelek

Skylla
Skylla

Zyblina
Zyblina


Looking forward to them.

October Horror Movie Challenge: Satan's Baby Doll (1983)

Satan's Baby Doll (1983)
Tonight's movie is a fairly notorious one that dates back to my VHS days.  I always saw this one in the video store, Prestige Video (long since gone), but it was always checked out.  Years later it became harder and harder to find.  I finally scored a copy this year, though a Region 2 DVD only.  Not a problem!  You don't become a European horror aficionado without some tools at your disposal. 

Does the movie live up to all the hype?  Well...let's see shall we?

Satan's Baby Doll (1983)

There are two versions of this movie.  A horror version and a softcore porn version.  For tonight's review, I am more interested in the horror version.

While the movie looks like a demonic story, it's actually a demonic, or more to the point, diabolic witchcraft story.

Marina Hedman plays the recently dead Maria. While waiting for the reading of her will her husband Antonio (Aldo Sambrell), and children Miria (Jaqueline Dupré) and Ignazio (Alfonso Gaita) explore her old estate along with weird nun Sol (Mariangela Giordano).  

The makeup effects of the dead Maria are all over the place. Sometimes she looks like a rotting corpse other times just dead. I am not counting the times she is walking around as a spirit.  This is an 80s movie, but the make-up effects are closer to the mid-70s.

Maria's spirit begins to possess her young, and formerly innocent, daughter Miria into seducing and killing her former husband (father), son (brother), priest, and Sol. So yeah a little squicky. What is it with demonic possession and incest?  

Maria/Miria goes through her whole family, killing them all. The end was not what I expected, but it was fun. 

Let's address the cover. Satan never really appears in the movie and certainly never like that.  Also our femme fatales, Jaqueline Dupré and Marina Hedman are both blondes.  The cover is obviously geared towards the style of covers popular in the heyday of early 80s fantasy.   The alternate cover is not exactly safe for most social media platforms.

Satan's Baby Doll alt cover

Again, this scene never happens in the film.


2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 35
First Time Views: 22

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Thoughts on "The Wild Beyond The Witchlight"

The Wild Beyond The Witchlight
The newest D&D 5e book is now out and so far it is a lot of fun.  I have not had the chance to read through it enough for a full review, but I do have some thoughts on it. 

It's An Adventure, Not A Source Book

Unlike Van Richten's Guide, or any of the other "name" books, this book is designed to be an adventure first and a source guide second.  The guide part comes into play for the setting, the Feywild D&D's version of the lands of Faerie, but that is the situation the adventure finds itself in.  The key piece here is the Carnival.

There are some "crunchy" bits here. But most of them deal with the adventure and its surroundings themselves.

There is a Non-Combat Solution to the Adventure

I have seen some complaints about this online and the question I have is "why are you complaining?"  I applaud the designers for trying something new.  I have often longed for a good adventure that you can get through without combat and get through on skill and cleverness alone.  Yes, D&D is a combat game and yes the monsters in this book still have stats, hitpoints, and alignments.  So you could very well murder hobo your way through it.   OR you can be more intelligent about it and try to get through it without combat.  I understand though that some gamers are not up to that challenge and might never get there.

The NPCs

I wanted this most of all for the NPCs.  I now have 5e stats for my beloved Skylla along with Kelek, Warduke, and more. I actually want to get into the NPCs in a future post. But I want to start with I am remarkably pleased with how the 5e versions of some classic villains (and let's be honest, the bad guys were always more interesting) turned out.

Bad guys

And then there are the new NPCs and among them is one of my favorites.  Thaco the kid-hating clown.  I began my D&D playing LONG before "THAC0" was a term used except informally.  And I have to say this about Thaco.

Thaco
I think he is fucking hilarious!

Are they poking fun at a certain set of Grognards, many of which are actually younger than I am? Very likely.  But look, if you can't stand a little poke like this then maybe you stay off of the Internet for a while.  I have seen some insane and stupid shit like "oh WotC is making fun of us" and "I won't buy their books."  Well, they might be, get over it, and their marketing data shows that only 5% or so of their sales are to people age 45 or over.  WotC is approaching $1B in sales now.  Not Hasbro. Wizards of the Coast.   

I am going to tell you this now.  WotC does not NEED the old-school gamers anymore. They need to cater to the Grogs and the sooner they drop that bowing in fealty to a group that doesn't even buy their product the sooner they can move on to serving the people that buy their product. 

Our season in the sun is over and that is ok.  

Plays Well With Others

There are some obvious callbacks to older D&D here and that is always fun.  It also makes adding more material a little easier with that hook.

Want to know more about the League of Malevolence or Valor's Call? Simple grab a copy of Quest for the Heartstone and use it as an introduction.  Need an inn to stay at?  Why not The Shady Dragon Inn? I reviewed it a while back and it works fine with 5e, you just need to redo the characters. Well, guess what TWBTW has? Yup.  Again, some more about that in a bit.

Given that this place in the Feywild you could easily add, and I say get a great benefit from, the Tome of Beasts series from Kobold Press. Tome of Beasts and Tome of Beasts II both have a large number of Faerie Lords that would work very well here as well as a fair number of fey creatures.

Tomes of Beasts

If you are like me you also will look at this product and think, yeah it is great and all, but it needs more horror. Say along the lines of "Something Wicked This Way Comes" or "Carnival of Souls" or even "Freaks"

As it turns out the answers are not that far away over in the Demi-plane of Dread.  The AD&D 2nd Ed Ravenloft product Carnival has what you need.  There are many parallels between both traveling carnivals and their relationship to their respective planes.  Sadly, Carnival is not set up as a Print on Demand yet and print copies are super rare.  But the PDF is on sale and the "new" scan is 1000x better than the scan WotC used to give out for free on their website back in the  2000s.

The Wild Beyond the Witchlight has a lot going for it and is something I would love to use. I might even convert it over to an old-school ruleset, say like OSE.

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Noonday Witch (2016)

The Noonday Witch (2016)
I love weird mythological creatures. I love ones that are connected to beliefs about witches.  If I can find a horror movie about one, then all the better! 

The Noonday Witch (2016)

This one is in Czech, which I believe is a first for me.  The language sounds almost lyrical to me.  I am going to have to find some more movies in this so I can hear more. 

The original title was Polednice or Полдень in Russian or, the more familiar to readers here, Południca in Polish.  

Eliska (Anna Geislerová) and her daughter Anetka (Karolína Lipowská) move to her husband's old hometown and buy a farm.  Her husband is not with them and Anetka asks when her dad will be joining them, which gets no response from Eliska other than "soon".  We learn from the locals that it has been very hot lately and many don't even have water. 

Something is obviously up and Eliska does not want to tell Anetka.

The film follows along with the folklore of Lady Midday, but in a modern setting.  I also got a solid Babadook vibe from this.  

As the movie, and the summer goes on the relationship between mother and daughter gets worse. There is steady-state of mounting terror and anxiety in this that really makes you feel for Eliska, even if you can't tell if she is going crazy or things are crazy around her.   This is exemplified by the story that Eliska reads to Anetka every night. It goes from a nice bedtime story to a perfunctory exercise.  

We get warnings from the old neighbor that "She" is back.  One day while playing in a field with other children the church bell rings out non and all the kids hide, except for Anetka at first.

One of the kids shows Anetka the gravesite of her father to prove he wasn't lying and Eliska gets a letter from the insurance company stating that her claim was denied due to no sign of foul play in his death. 

Anna Geislerová and Karolína Lipowská do a really great job here into their descents into their personal hells.  In particular Anna Geislerová in her dual role of both the mother Eliska and the witch Lady Midday.

The ending was a bit anti-climatic, but it could have gone so much worse.  

I am sticking with my original Babadook comparisons.

2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 34
First Time Views: 21

Monday, October 18, 2021

Monstrous Monday: Sennentuntschi

This particular creature has been on my list to do for a bit.  I had read about this creature in connection to the succubus many years ago but never could find anything else about it.  Mostly I think due to my inability to remember how it was spelled. 

Thankfully I now have the movie to help me out. 

Sennentuntschi
Sennentuntschi

Medium Construct (demonic) 

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic [Chaotic Evil]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
Armor Class: 9 [10]
Hit Dice: 3d8+3*** (23 hp)
To Hit AC 0: 14 (+5)
Attacks: 1 fist or by weapon
Damage: 1d6+2 or by weapon+2
Special: Charm, illusion, immune to mind-affecting magic, immune to poison and gas, only harmed by fire
Save: Monster 3
Morale: 12 (12)
Treasure Hoard Class: None
XP: 125 (OSE) 170 (LL)

Str: 16 (+2) Dex: 16 (+2) Con: 18 (+3) Int: 14 (+1) Wis: 14 (+1) Cha: 18 (+3)

Sennentuntschi, which is believed to mean "shepherd's wife" or "herdsmen wife," is a type of construct inhabited by a demonic spirit. The creature is created by making a life-sized doll out of clothes, straw, and whatever is on hand and then animated with the demonic spirit. 

The sennentuntschi, once animated, will act as the "wife" of the shepherds who animated her.  She will cook, clean, and even share their bed at night.  She cannot speak but casts a powerful charm and illusion effect on all around her.  The men who created her automatically fail their saving throws. To them and all others who fail, she will appear as a beautiful young woman.  If the save is made, then she will appear as a grotesque collection of rags and straw in a human shape.  Clerics of pure and good intent (Lawful, Lawful Good) gain a +3 bonus to their saving throw against this charm.

The goal of the sennentuntschi is to kill the men that animated her and return to her native plane with their souls. She can't though just kill them outright. The men must first commit an act of violence against her. This can be as simple as one of the men slapping her, though usually, the violence escalates from there.  Each of the men that animated her, typically three, must commit this act. Once that is complete she will seek to kill them or have them kill each other.  As a construct, she is immune to all mind-affecting magic but is vulnerable to fire. Cold, electricity, gas, or poison has no effect on her.

If anyone attacks the sennentuntschi anyone charmed by her will do anything to protect her including killing others.  If the sennentuntschi is destroyed then the charm is broken. It is rumored that if a sennentuntschi is created and no violence is perpetrated against it for the season then the magic holding it together dies and no souls are damned.  This is a very rare occurrence.

Animating a Sennentuntschi:  A sennentuntschi can be animated by a folk magic ritual (0 level Witch spell) known to the shepherds and herdsmen of the mountains. 

Sennentuntschi
Create Sennentuntschi
Witch Ritual Level: 0
Ritual Casters: Three shepherds
Duration: One Season, typically Summer
Range: One Sennentuntschi poppet

The ritual to animate a sennentuntschi is typically handed down from older shepherd to younger in the form of a story about how the first sennentuntschi was animated.  All that is needed is a life-sized poppet to house the sennentuntschi spirit and the three men to summon it.  

Typically this is an older shepherd, a younger one, and a boy; each representing the stages of life for a man. The ritual is then performed, usually with the imbibing of much alcohol, and the spirit is summoned.

Many occult scholars believe that the demonic spirit inhabiting the poppet is akin to the succubus or other Lilim. 

October Horror Movie Challenge: Sennentuntschi (2010)

Sennentuntschi (2010)

This one has been on my list for a while and I could never find it, and then suddenly it was on all my streaming channels!  It's a Samhain miracle!

Sennentuntschi (2010)

Based on the Alpine legends of the same name.  Is she a demon? A witch or just an abused woman?

An aside.  The mushrooms the little girl is supposed to be picking in the first scene are King Mushrooms and they are wonderful.  Not sure what the red-capped ones are.  Anyway, she finds more, which leads to a shallow grave with the body of boy who likely died over 40 years ago.

Flashback to 1975.  

Ok.  The movie is in German and my German, as mentioned before, is not what it once was.  Yes, there are captions, but often I am writing the review while watching.  Or in this case also working the Monstrous Monday version.  Where am I going with this?  I missed parts and had to go back rewatch it.

So back in 1975 in the nearby village, we find a priest has killed himself and the other priests claim that it was the Devil ("dämon" and not "teufel").  After burying the priest and "wild woman" (Roxane Mesquida) is found.  The local police take her to the police station where she is examined by the local doctor.  She doesn't speak at all and she is covered in dirt and leaves. 

Soon the villages start to suspect the woman has had something to do with the priest's death. Claiming her arrival is not a coincidence.  The woman drops a carved goat that local bar owner Theres recognizes as the the work as her brother, Albert.  She asks Reusch, the policeman to go up the mountain to check on Albert and Erwin.   Reusch finds no one and assumes they went hunting.  As he leaves we see a bloody hand reach up to the window.

Everyone is convinced the woman is some sort of witch or demon.  Especially the local priest, the head of the same church the younger priest killed himself in.  The officer, Reusch gets the woman cleaned up and takes some Polaroids of her to send out to find out who she is.    He tries to find out if she can write, but all she can do is draw some sort of glyph. 

In what we later learn is even earlier in time, we see a man, Martin, head up to the mountains where he meets Erwin and Albert.  He is getting out of city he claims and spends time with Albert and Erwin.   Erwin shows Martin his stash of Absinthe and they begin to drink. 

Back at Reusch's place, the woman, make Reusch some coffee, showing she at least remembers how to do that.  They go to the city records and Reusch finds another woman that went missing in 1950 that looks exactly like the woman.  He heads to the valley to find out more.  He encounters a man who was a policeman in the area and he has pictures of the woman from 1950 in relation to a fire that killed three men.  

While Reusch is gone he lives the woman with his friend.  But while there the priest attempts to kill her.  In the confusion, she runs off.  She finds Theres but is frightened of the cross she makes in the bread.  Later we see that Theres loses the baby she was carrying because of the attack.  We see the woman running up the mountain. 

Back on the mountain, the men are getting really drunk.  Erwin asks Albert to make a "Sennentunschi" for Martin, but he seems afraid to do so.  While Albert is making the Sennentunschi Erwin retells the tale of how the first Sennentunschi was made.  They hallucinate from the absinthe and soon their straw and rag Sennentunschi looks just like the woman from the village. They wake up in the morning from their drinking and find the woman in hiding in the cabin.  The men decide to take her back down to the village, but Irwin has other ideas.  Starting with showing her how to make coffee and ending with raping her in the kitchen.

Martin suspects something is going on and he tries to take her back to the village himself, but she won't go. She runs off and Martin chases her, captures her and it is his turn to assault her.   Martin and the Woman return. More drinking and we learn that both Irwin and Martin have a past of assaulting and later in Martin's case, killing, women.  

That night both Martin and Irwin rape her some more.  When they pass out we see her going down the mountain.

Through a series of events, we learn the woman's mother, the woman from the 1950s, was staying at the church where the older priest had kept her and impregnated her. She gave birth to girl.  He kept the girl in captivity for 25 years treating her like a demon.  The younger priest didn't commit suicide but was killed while trying to prevent the girl from escaping and the older priest made it look like a suicide.  This would also explain why she was afraid of crosses. 

Reusch finds her on the mountain and discovers that when she escaped she came here first and then killed Erwin, Albert, and Martin, but that was days ago.  She took their bodies and stuffed them like in the tale.  She runs off but falls down the side of the mountain. Reusch kills himself. 

The movie is dark and has a few generally horrific moments.  I have to give credit to actress Roxane Mesquida who has to go through the movie as a mute and several different stages of undress. It would be interesting to see her with some speaking lines.


2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 33
First Time Views: 20

Sunday, October 17, 2021

October Horror Movie Challenge: Coven (2019)

Coven (2019)
Someone, really, REALLY, loved The Craft and thought "if four witches are good, then five MUST be better!"  That someone is writer and star Lizze Gordon. 

Coven (2019)

Our coven is made up of nice, but insecure Beth, crazy leader Ronnie, her psycho girlfriend Jax, and hippie wanna-be Taylor.   They need a fifth when Ronnie kills Christy.  That fifth turns out to be Sophie (Lizze Gordon).  Though, unlike the Craft, all these witches already have power, and seemingly quite a bit of it

The Coven wants to summon Ashura, the spirit of a witch to give them all even more power; all they need is Sophie. Though known only to Ronnie and Jax, they are planning to summon Ashura's spirit into Ronnie and not sharing in the power.

So Ronnie is the updated Nancy.  Sophie is the updated Sarah.  Beth is...well kinda like Bonnie. Jax is just crazy.  I do like the brand they all have on their backs; I did something similar with one of my witches.  

And again, like the Craft, the witches let the magic go to their heads. 

The night of the 22nd of September they summon Ashura, who is pretty obviously not good, starts out by killing Taylor.  Beth and Sophie runs off, but Jax and Ronnie, now possessed by Ashura plan to go after them.

I was about to talk about Beth and Sophie running around in just their underwear, but Sophie casts a spell that dresses them before they head back to the occult bookstore (yeah, just like store in The Craft).  Sophie, with the help of Beth and Emily (the bookstore owner played by Sofya Skya) powers up from her dead mother's magic.  They decide to go after Ashura. 

They find the spell to stop her, but needs a sacrifice.  Sophie's professor ends up sacrificing herself to defeat Ashura and Ronnie.

Ok. Let's be upfront. This is not a great movie, but it is a fun one.  Lizze Gordon looks like she is having the time of her life here really. I enjoyed the bit about the witches having their own ancient language, something we saw in Emerald City (Inha) and Motherland: Fort Salem (Méníshè) as well.  So it is a good idea. 

2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 32
First Time Views: 19

Saturday, October 16, 2021

October Horror Movie Challenge: Curse of the Mayans (2017)

Curse of the Mayans (2017)
Another one with my wife tonight.  She was in the mood for something Egyptian or similar, but I remembered I had this one on my list.  It is horror, it is sci-fi, and I have been wanting to find something more about Mayan myths, even if it was in the form of a cheesy movie.  Actually for what I have planned a cheesy movie is perfect.

Curse of the Mayans (2017)

This movie was also known as Xibalbá.  An American professor, Dr. Alan Green (played by Steve Wilcox) hires a professional cave diver Danielle Noble, played by Carla Ortiz, to uncover what he believes is the lost library of the Mayas.

There is a bit in the start about an alien race of reptile aliens from the Pleiades. And a Mayan retelling of the Nibiru tale, Va Sheck.

The movie starts slow, but about 1:05 in it really begins to kick in.  The divers find what they think is the library, but it looks like alien technology.  One of the divers tries to grab a gold jaguar head, but instead, they let something out.  The demons/aliens begin to kill the divers.

The professor tells us the alien/demons are "Tlaloc."  While the name is Aztec, there is a Mayan god that is similar.  They can possess humans, but their eyes look like snakes.  Cool, but how does the professor know all of this?

The movie ends just as it is getting interesting.  

So some scares, but not enough and too little too late.

I had hoped for more really. 

2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 31
First Time Views: 18


October Horror Movie Challenge: Werewolf Night

I love horror movies.  My wife doesn't.  BUT she does enjoy a good werewolf movie.  Over the month we have tried a few with varying degrees of success. I thought I'd switch it up tonight with a few werewolf movies.

The Wolf of Snow Hollow (2020)

This one was out first one and I liked how it looked and started.  I was written, directed, and starred Jim Cummings. Normally I avoid movies where one guy wears all the hats, the notable exception is Spike Lee.  But this one did not feel like an ego trip (looking at you M. Night Shyamalan).  It also featured Riki Lindholm, which is always a plus in my book.

So this sleepy little town in Utah, which barely sees any sort of crime, is suddenly beset upon by a bunch of grisly murders that are soon blamed on a werewolf.    Only the Sheriff (Cummings) doesn't believe.  We see many of the victims get torn apart from the point of view of the werewolf and even see bits of the creature.

The movie is a bit slow, but the cast is likable.  In particular, Robert Forster plays the older Sheriff Hadley and Cummings father in this.  It would be his last role before he died.  In fact we would later comment that some of the other sheriffs we see later on, seemed to be modeled on the whole Robert Forster vibe. 

In the end it is not a werewolf, but a serial killer dressed up in a wolf pelt with homemade claws.

Lycan (2017)
Lycan (2017)

This is one of those horror movies where the director and writer know that horror fans are watching, so they set up some deliberate tropes to knock them down.  In this one six highschool or college (never really clear) are given the assignment to re-write some local history.  

It was set in 1986, which I can only assume they wanted to avoid things like the Internet or cell phones to tell their story.  A cell phone would have come in handy and a quick internet search would have likely saved some lives.  But I digress. 

The six students, three boys, three girls, very convenient, head out to the woods to get more details on the legend of Emily Burt, the Talbot County werewolf.  In the process they manage to get themselves lost and killed in no time. 

In some trope defying moves, there is no sex and no nudity from our main cast members. There is also no werewolf or ghost werewolf.  The killer is again (or before) just someone with a weird wolf claw-thing.  The killer though is Isabella, one of the girls on the camping trip.  Turns out she is crazy and so is her caretaker.  Isabella is the daughter of Emily Burt.

Everyone dies, EXCEPT for the jock.  So a change there. 

Into the Dark: Blood Moon (2021)
Into the Dark: Blood Moon (2021)

Finally! A real werewolf.  It also answers the question "is lycanthropy sexually transmitted?"  No, but it can be inherited. 

We did not realize this was part of an anthology but it does work as a stand-alone movie.   

Esme and Luna move to a new town where Esme pays for everything in cash and keeps Luna close to home. Especially on the full moon.  Luna is a 10-year-old werewolf.  We get the idea from flashbacks that Luna's father and Esem were together for a bit, even to the point where they got married.  But something happened to Luna's dad and the impression is he got out and Esme had to kill him.

Esme moves from town to town and avoids any personal contact when she can.  It doesn't help that local sheriff, NOT played by Robert Forster though he tries, takes a quick dislike to Esme.  

Through some events Sam the local bartender takes a liking to Esme and shows up at her place one day.  He comes into the house and smells the meat she leaves out for Luca when he is a werewolf.  Sam freaks out, she freaks out and accidentally knocks him down the stairs and kills him.  She locks Luna in his cage and goes to get rid of Sam's truck.  Not soon after the sheriff shows up looking for Sam, finds his dead body in a cage with Luna and the full moon is rising.  

Well, you can figure the rest out from here. 

Not a bad flick, but really didn't scratch that werewolf itch we have. Still, better than rapey aliens and rapey fishmen.


2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 30
First Time Views: 17

Friday, October 15, 2021

Kickstart Your Weekend: Magical Artifact and Lazy DMs

A couple of Kickstarters came my way this week.  One is perfect for Halloween (and this blog really) and a collection of DM's tips.

Dice, Runes, and Magical Artifacts for RPG's and Witchcraft

Dice, Runes, and Magical Artifacts for RPG's and Witchcraft

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ravenstead/dice-runes-and-magical-artifacts-for-rpgs-and-witchcraft?ref=theotherside

This one is kind of fun.  A bunch of dice, rune stones, a wand, and more that can be used for an RPG or for ritual work in WitchCraft.   I already see a lot of use for these in my "War of the Witch Queens" campaign and the metal wand is rather cool. I think the pendulum is the coolest, however.  

You can find the creator, and his work, on Twitter or his Instagram page.

Up next is a well-known name.

The Lazy DM's Companion

The Lazy DM's Companion

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/slyflourish/the-lazy-dms-companion/description?ref=theotherside

Mike Shea, aka Sly Flourish, is back with The Lazy DM's Companion.  

From the Kickstarter:

This Kickstarter launches the third book in this series: The Lazy DM's Companion. The Lazy DM's Companion includes guidelines to help streamline your 5e D&D games, and inspirational generators to help you build your own D&D adventures and campaigns. Each set of guidelines makes it easier to focus your game on the fantastic stories shared with your friends, while the generators help you break out of creative ruts and build unique adventures and campaigns.

I have a few of these books on PDF.  They are good guides. I still prefer my trusty AD&D DMs Guide, but these are also quite great.

Obviously, there is a need or a want for these, he is sitting at over $260,000 right now and was fully funded in 20 minutes.   Maybe I should do a review of the ones I have.

October Horror Movie Challenge: Horror Planet aka Inseminoid (1981)

Horrorplanet aka Inseminoid (1981)
Man, I am in some kind of rut.  Ok in my defense this movie has been on my list for years, but even I thought it was too cheesy to consider.   Also there are not a lot of choices when your search terms are "Horror," "Sci-fi," "Alien," and "Archeologist." 

So if you read my post earlier today you know I have an idea, or the start of one, for my alien reoccurring Big Bad.  

So this film is taking place on an alien planet.  Writing is discovered on the walls while the research operations are going on this frozen planet.  There appear to be a lot of couples here, convenient really.  One of the researchers is hurt in an explosion and his buddy starts to go crazy.

I am not sure what the future is like, but according to this movie, they must be outlawed by then. 

While out (even though the commander ordered everyone to stay on the base) Sandy and Mitch get out of communication range.  Mitch is killed by some sort of monster and ripped apart.  Sandy is captured and taken to some room where she is stripped naked and impregnated (via a long clear tube full of green slime) by some weird-looking alien creature. 

Sandy starts acting strange.  Not in the "I am traumatized" way, but in the "I have an alien baby growing inside me and I need to kill and eat people now" way.   Sandy is played by Judy Geeson, who has had a really great career over the last 7 decades. This movie wasn't even the start of her career, she had already been working for 20 years at this point.  

Each plan to stop Sandy ends up getting more people killed, often from complete stupidity.  By the end I was rooting for Sandy since pretty much everyone was the cause of their own deaths.

I am not sure what was the biggest scientific screw-up.  When Mark was able to go outside and see Sandy when everyone else died outside.  Or that Sandy was able to get her pants off to give birth and back on again without ever taking off her shoes.

There are some minimally interesting ideas here, but not enough to sit through an hour and a half of this.  At least I have some ideas of things not to do. In the end, it is just a fairly weak Alien rip-off with a side helping of misogyny.   

Directed by Norman J. Warren who also gave us Satan's Slave and another potential one for tonight, Prey.  Let me say right now I am not really that impressed. 

I need to make some better choices in my movies.


2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 27
First Time Views: 14

Thursday, October 14, 2021

BlackStar: Horror in Space. Children of Earth, Cardassians, and Aliens

Plain, simple Garak
Plain and simple Garak

In many RPGs, the enemies are easy to figure out.  In *most* horror RPGs the bad guys are the supernatural creatures.  If you are playing Buffy for example then you are going to be hunting vampires.  Now it is also fun to "flip the script" so in the various World of Darkness Vampire games you are the vampire.  You are still the monster, but you have some more control over that evil.  In "Ordinary World" in NIGHT SHIFT you can play a supernatural creature, but you are not the bad person, you are "just a person" trying to get by in a world full of mortgages, jobs, oh and neighbors that might want to kill you.

In many fantasy games there are plenty of other monsters that want to kill you. We might be getting away from orcs (thank goodness) and goblins (have not used them as "bad guys" in over a decade or two) but there are still plenty of evil dragons, beholders, and of course demons and devils. 

Sci-Fi games tend to fall into the same sort of tropes.  Only this time it is whatever aliens are the focus.

I want to talk about three different sorts of aliens, all considered to be enemy species, but handled in different ways.

First are the Cardassians.  Introduced in Star Trek: The Next Generation and really got the focus in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  The Cardassians are humanoid (this is important later) and come from the world of Cardassia.  They had occupied the nearby Bajor in a very clear analog to fascist Germany occupying France.  The Cardassians are never painted as irredeemably evil. Yes, many of them are in fact evil, but there are some that are not.  They are also depicted as highly intelligent, organized, and utterly brutal.  For most of the seven seasons on DS9, they were the bad guys.  Each step forward (oh look they love their kids) is reversed (oh, but they slaughter Bajoran orphans).  They are richly detailed and complicated, but always a foe to stand up to.  They are not an existential threat though to anyone but the Bajorans.  They are not even "supernatural" threats until the very, very end when Gul Dukat (a Cardassian and our main bag guy since Season 1) is possessed by the Kosst Amojan, the literal Bajoran devil. 

The 456
The other alien race is known only as the 456, for the frequency they contact Earth on in Torchwood: Children of Earth.   The Nazi connections with the Cardassians are intended, and not designed to be subtle.  These aliens are also not subtle; they steal human children and graft them into their own bodies because the chemicals the children create feels good to them.  They are back because they want more kids.  These creatures are never seen clearly, we never learn their name, their language, or even where they are from. Only that they want our children and they have the means to get them.  They are properly scary.  But. Do they make for a good "big bad?"  I don't think so.  They have one trick; stealing children.  While that is good enough for a fairy tale witch, the witch usually gets tossed into the oven at the end.  The 456 get sent back to their planet/ship or are destroyed much in the same manner when Capt. Jack Harkness feeds their communication signal back on them and killing his own grandson in the process.

The last is the Xenomorph from the Aliens franchise.  Alien is a true horror film in space, right down to a monster stalking everyone to a "final girl" in Ellen Ripley.  Aliens is sci-fi adventure.  I have lost track of how many Traveller games I saw in the 80s that were more or less a riff on the Aliens movie.  Again these guys are properly scary.  One on a ship is a true horror. Hundreds on a planet can take out a bunch of Marines.   The trouble with the Xenomorph is there is little to no mystery about them anymore.  In the original movies they were mindless, insectlike killing machines.  In future movies they...well I am still not 100% sure what Alien Covenant was about or Prometheus, though I did enjoy them.  The "Shared universe" of Alien, Blade Runner, and Predator though does give me a lot to game with. 

Use In BlackStar

The issue for me is not just "do these aliens make for a good scary monster?" They do.  The real question is "will they work for me and my particular game?"

I mean this is no different than any other game or setting.  Let's take an odd example.  Orcs in Ravenloft.  I originally did not want to do orcs, a classic D&D/Fantasy monster, in my Ravenloft games.  When it came up that I needed an orc-like monster I went with something more akin to a Grimlock or even a Neanderthal-Troglodyte (in the classical sense of the word) creature.  I made it work AND it also made me want to redo the troglodyte from D&D to make them more "devolved" human. Like the old Homo Sapiens Troglodytes. Maybe even a cross between H.S. and the Pan Troglodytes

But what about BlackStar which happens in a Star Trek universe. Well oddly enough that rules out the Cardassians. We know what they were doing at the time in Universe, they were at war with the Federation.  So I will have that going on, but in the far background.  They are on the far side of the Alpha Quadrant. My action is closer to home and might even take tiny little excursions into the Beta Quadrant.

The Xenomorphs would be fun for an "Episode" (what I am calling a single adventure) but not a "Season" (a campaign).  Same with the 456.

Originally I WAS thinking the 456 would be my focus as the bogeyman alien in the background.  But having a couple of conversations with my oldest he was like "why not just use the Mi-Go?"

He has a point.

There are a lot of great reasons to use them not just for the Lovecraftian origin.  They would have had an outpost on Yuggoth/Pluto that I absolutely LOVE.  It fits in with my ideas when watching the Thing and the various horror movies on Mars

I mean if I am going to do "Cthulhu meets Star Trek" then I kinda need to have appearances by the Mi-Go, Elder Things, Shoggoths, and Yithians.  They were described as "Alien" but I think I want to use them in the "Alien" sense of both Lovecraft AND of Trek.   The Mi-Go could take the place of the Borg in terms of a lifeform that can't be reasoned with and have their own, completely separate, morality. 

Given that my preferred version of Trek for this is Modiphius' Star Trek Adventures this makes things pretty easy for me.  I can now use ideas and stats from the new Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20 system. 

But system and stats are only the start of the conversation, not the end.  I have to make sure these guys are scary.  Mi-Go landing on the hull of The Protector while not wearing EV suits and cutting through (like the Borg did) is scary.  Leaving behind dead crew with their brains surgically removed (not unlike "Spock's Brain", but less...bad) is a little more horrifying.   Finding crew members whose livers have been altered to create a sort of super-acid that eats through their bodies but keeps on working is more horrifying still. The Mi-Go don't communicate. Their chitterings are unable to be translated.  Since they are reported as not being able to be filmed or photographed they are largely invisible to sensors; having natural stealth abilities. 

I could introduce them much in the same way we saw in "At The Mountains of Madness" only this time they are discovered on Pluto/Yuggoth.  This leads to discoveries of bases on Earth, millions of years old, in the Andes, Appalachians, and Himalayas mountain ranges. How to get the crew out into deeper space to encounter them is the bridge I have not built yet.  

Frankly, I am overwhelmed with the potential. 

ETA:  I have found some more data that puts the Mi-Go origin, or at least another base of operations, at 61 Cygni, about 11.4 light-years away.  64 hours at classical Warp 9, but only 19 hours at The Protector's Warp 13.  In Star Trek, this is also the home of the Tellarites.  So obviously the Mi-Go visited them as well.

I will take a completely different approach in my Star Trek: Mercy game.

The Aliens