Showing posts with label Lovecraft. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lovecraft. Show all posts

Sunday, October 27, 2019

October Movie Challenge: Housewife (2017)

This one has been on my list but I debated because I saw some fairly poor reviews. But I wanted to see it so tonight was the night.

The movie starts with Holly and Hazel, young sisters, playing with dolls.  Hazel is drawing, including a very strange one with tentacles coming out of the clouds.   Hazel notices that she is getting her first period so Holly calls for their mother who is going on about "visitors".  The mother tells Holly to stay behind while she takes Hazel.  Holly goes to see where they went and she sees her mother drowning Hazel in the toilet.  Her mother chases her through the house to catch Holly, but her father comes home.  Holly's mother kills him but Holly manages to escape.

Fast forward to today and Holly is a bored housewife.  Holly and her husband Tim get invited to a cult meeting, UML, where they find their former lover Valery is now a "family member" of UML.
The cult's leader seeks out Holly and manages to read her mind and learn about her pain.

Holly, Valery and Tim head back home where they rekindle their love affair.

But things are not that simple.  Holly begins to question reality.  Did they come home? Did she meet up with Bruce the UML leader again?  Is she seeing her mother and sister?   A session with Bruce makes her think she killed her sister.

Then it gets weird.

I won't ruin the ending for you, but in truth I kinda liked it.  Weird, surreal and frankly a lot of fun.

Watched: 30
New: 23

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

OMG: Cthulhu Mythos

I am fresh off of Gen Con 2019 where I got the chance to play a lot of Cthulhu; Call of Cthulhu and Cthulhu Tech. We even checked out Cthulhu Wars.  I figure it is a good time to talk about the Cthulhu Mythos as they appear in the Deities & Demigods.

Of course, there are a few points that need to be cleared up.  Or rather, should be clear already.

There is a lot of talk about how TSR didn't have the rights to the Cthulhu myths and that Chaosium threatened lawsuits.

Well, here are the words right from the author, Jim Ward.

Ok that out of the way. Let's talk about the mythos in D&D.

It is not an exaggeration to say that for many gamers their first exposure to the Cthulhu mythos were the entries in the Deities & Demigods, published in 1980.  The Call of Cthulhu RPG came out in 1981.  Zenopus Archives has a nice rundown of what was going in D&D and TSR at the time.

One of the main purposes of One Man's God is to fit the gods and monsters into the likes of AD&D style demons.  It would be easy to do this with the various Cthulhu monsters.

I absolutely do not plan to do this.

The biggest thing about the Cthulhu mythos and Lovecraft's purpose is diametrically opposed to this. "This" meaning to lump the Cthulhu Mythos into the likes of demons, devils, werewolves, and vampires. 

In fact, D&D would later change to accommodate the Mythos with the addition of the Far Realm.

The Far Realm was introduced in the pages of the 2nd Edtion adventure The Gates of Firestorm Peak and later expanded in 3rd Edition's Manual of the Planes.  It is a bit of a Lovecraftian pastiche, but it still works nicely. It was expanded even more under 4th Edition where it became part of the core cosmology and in-game history.

Outside of the Deities & Demigods and the books mentioned above, Cthulhu and Friends would go on to make more appearances in D&D.

If 3rd Edition is still your jam, then you have the Call of Cthulhu d20 rules, the Pathfinder Bestiary 4 for monster stats, and Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos - Pathfinder, plus the aforementioned Manual of the Planes.

For the OSR crowd, we have Realms of Crawling Chaos and Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

This only a fraction of the 2300+ entries on DriveThruRPG and even more elsewhere.

Of Gods and Monsters
Back to the present discourse, what does the D&DG have for us in terms of Cthulhu mythos?

In D&D terms we have our Gods: Cthulhu, Azathoth, Cthuga, Hastur, Ithaqua, Nyarlathotep, Shub-Niggurath, and Yog-Sothoth. All of these gods are "Greater Gods" with the maximum 400 hp, save for Nyarlathotep who is a "Lesser God" at 200 hp and Ithaqua a "Demigod" at 250 hp.

The monsters include Byakhee, Cthuga's Flame Creature, Deep Ones, the Great Race, Mi-Go, Primordial Ones, and Shoggoths.

Most of these are not even what we could, or should, consider demonic.  Sure they are monstrous and even some are evil, but mostly they are another kind of life that is not really interested in humans.

With that, we will leave the Cthulhu myths and head on to other gods.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Review: Realms of the Crawling Chaos

One of my favorite Old School books has been Realms of the Crawling Chaos by Goblinoid Games.  It's a nice blend of both D&D Basic-era (via Labyrinth Lord) and the mythos of H.P. Lovecraft.  We get a little bit of Call of Cthulhu and the Cthulhu Mythos from Deities & Demigods.

Available as a PDF and softcover for years it is now out in hardcover for backers of the Advanced Labyrinth Lord Kickstarter.

The book looks fantastic, as to be expected.

The hardcover book is 60 pages worth of material and deals with running a Lovecraftian-inspired game of horror fantasy.
A few new races are introduced for a Race-as-Class style game with notes on other classes to use in an advanced game; Sea-Blooded, Subhuman, White Ape and White Ape Hybrid.

Next, are some new magical formulae and some new spells all based on various Lovecraft sources. Enough to sprinkle into various dammable texts for the players to find AND then really get into trouble with.

We come to the monsters and all the old favorites are here. Comparing them to other sources of similar monster will give you plenty of differences in stats, which is a good thing really. Players who are familiar with other books should not have knowledge their characters do not.

A small section on Eldritch Artifacts, a staple of many of Lovecraft's mythos stories.

And finally a section on Psionics which differs from other books/games.

We get some appendices on Eldritch tomes and an artifact generator.  Appendix 3 covers the use of these psionic rules in Mutant Future. And Appendix 4 covers the stories and books used.

We end with the OGL section.

If I have one complaint there are no rules for sanity or madness. A fair staple of many Lovecraftian games.

The book is awfully fun and is full of great ideas.  If you are a fan of Labyrinth Lord and Lovecraftian tales then I would most certainly grab this.

For me, this is has been the "missing" part of both my BlackStar game and War of the Witch Queens.  I say "missing" but I have had the PDF forever.

This is actually a HUGE part of my BlackStar game.  This plus Starships & Spacemen So I am going to talk a little about in the frame of reference of that game soon.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

True Detective: The Forests of Leng

If you have been here for a while you will know that I am a fan of the murder mystery show "True Detective".  Of course, I loved the first season and really disliked the second season (hate is too strong of a word).   Well the third Season started last week, we got three episodes so far and I am completely hooked.

I am not going to give out too much of the story but it revolves around Detective Wayne Hays, played by the amazing Mahershala Ali and the kidnapping and murder of two children (so far).  While investigating the room of 10-year-old Will (one of the missing children) we get to see this:

Yup. That's an AD&D book "The Forests of Leng".  A book we all know does not exist.

There are a few problems of course.  This book uses the trade dress of the 2nd printing of the AD&D 1st ed books featuring covers by Jeff Easley, but this scene takes place on November 7-8, 1980.

We can't see the cover very well, but there appears to be a tentacled monster on it.

Film Goblin does a fantastic break down of the cover and the Leng-Carcosa connections in both Season 1 and Season 3 of True Detective.  Go there for the Lovecraft and G.R.R. Martin connections as well.

I will not retread that ground here.
I do however want to speculate what a Forests of Leng book might be.

So we know that in 1980 the idea of a mega-module, ala T1-4 was still some ways off.  But I look at this and think that this would be a good mega-module...but that is not really enough is it.

No the closest thing I think this could be is a campaign world book like Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms or World of Greyhawk books.

It should have new classes, spells, monsters and of course locales include the titular Forests of Leng and the dread city of Carcosa.

Back when TD Season 1 was out I thought how fun it would be to run a Southern Gothic adventure with Ghosts of Albion.  I even called Ghosts of Albion: Carcosa.

I should come up with something.


These mockups appeared on Juan Moore's Instagram accountHe designed these props for the True Detective show.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

At the Planets of Madness

Throughout October and November, I have been rereading everything from H.P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith.  In particular, I have been focusing my attention on their "Cosmotism" and sci-fi stories.  All the while thinking about how I want to approach my own "Star Trek meets Cthulhu horror is Space" game, something I have been working on under the title of "Black Star".

Of course looking at Lovecraft through the lens of Sci-fi rather than horror gives the stories an extra dimension.  Once I got back to the "Dream of the Witch House" and the equations of Walter Gilman I knew there was something there.  I figured what if we took the Gilman equations and used those to power Warp drive?  It seemed like a great fit! Really, really great.  Too great. I had to go back to my shelves and sure enough, the idea is not my original one.

Eldritch Skies was published by Battlefield Press a few years back does exactly this.  I was a consultant on the original Cinematic Unisystem version, but now you can only get the Savage Worlds version.

Still, I am pressing on to use the Gilman drive in my own games.  The Gilman equations are added to normal warp drive to produce the Gilman-Cochrane drives.  I'll adapt Eldritch Skies as needed with plenty of Lovecraftian beasties to fill my CAS-style planets.  Hey, it makes as much sense as the Spore Drive.

Converting the stories to Sci-Fi/Horror adventures is easy.

After the first adventure which is Star Tre + Galaxy Quest + Alien + Lovecraft + Event Horizon I figure I can do these:

At the Planets of Madness.  The PCs find a planet that is older than the known Universe! To make matters worse there is evidence of an ancient civilization.  (At the Mountains of Madness + the Image of Fendahl)

Ghost Ship.  The PCs find a derelict adrift in space and it is full of the ghosts of the dead crew.  Originally this was going to be the Enterprise B when I ran it as a pure Trek game. (The Haunting of Hill House, Dreams of the Witch House, the Flying Dutchman)

The Color out of Hyperspace.  A slow moving wave is "eating" up parts of space and everything in its wake.  (Color out of Space)

Starcrash on Hyperborea.  A shuttlecraft with the PCs crashes on a primitive frozen planet.   (Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea + The Galileo Seven +  All Our Yesterdays)

At least that is what I have so far.  I want to use more of Clark Ashton Smith's planets, in particular, his planets around Polaris.  It is also giving me a chance to adapt some Tékumel material to White Star.  This page on Wikipedia, Stars and planetary systems in fiction,  has been invaluable for finding planets and star systems I can use.

Much like Lovecraft, I started out in life as an astronomer.  Also, like Lovecraft, I discovered I lack the skills in math to ever get very far.  Though in my defense my wall comes up around Calculus 2.  I did go on to get a degree in Statistics and Measurement.   But the idea of using some long unused parts of my brain are appealing to me.

I have posted a lot in the past about various worlds.  All of these can be used too.

Time to boldly go where no one can hear you scream!

This post is part of my contribution to the RPG Blog Carnival for November 2018.
This month's topic is "All these Worlds..."
Looking forward to what my fellow RPG bloggers are doing this month and how many ideas I can use from them!

Friday, October 5, 2018

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Watcher in the Woods (1980)

There was a time in the late 70s and early 80s when Disney was going through a slump. It roughly corresponds to the time when Walt and Roy Disney died and before the coming of Micheal Eisner.  This gave us some very different kinds of movies from the House of Mouse.  The Witch Mountain series on the onset and the Black Hole near the end typify of what I think of when I say Dark Disney.
We also got the thriller with multiple choice endings, The Watcher in the Woods.

Now I'll be honest, at age 10 this movie gave me a scare, but I was fascinated with it too.  It' doesn't quite hold up to today, but it was still a ton of fun to watch again.

I have to say Bette Davis left a mark on my psyche so deep that I think every old witch I have done is a bit of a reflection of her Mrs. Aylwood. Or maybe that and her role in Disney's earlier Return to Witch Mountain (1978).  Both films were directed by John Hough, so that might explain the similar vibe.

The Watcher in the Woods is also part of a string of movies, books, and other media popular at the time (and before) that took the point of view of "it's not supernatural, it's alien!" but never to the extent that Lovecraft took it.

Still, it is interesting to view this movie through the lenses of Lovecraftian cosmic horror.  Especially if you stick to the original ending of the movie the alien creature at the end (The Watcher) could very easily be a Mi-Go.

The ending is still a little too happy to be real Lovecraft.

I watched the less interesting Official version.

But it was still a blast to go back to this!

Watched: 3
New: 2

Friday, April 29, 2016

A to Z of Adventure! Y is for YS

Y is for YS1 The Outpost of the Outer Ones.

There are no classic adventures that have a Y or a Y-related code.
Thankfully there is an adventure that does have a Y code, YS1, and it is set up very much like the classic adventures.  Created for OSRIC it can be played using AD&D 1st Edition.

YS1 The Outpost of the Outer Ones was written by Jeremy Reaban. I have featured some of his products here in the past.

Y in this case might stand for Yuggoth, which is the home-world of the Mi-Go, or at least one of their outposts.  This adventure, designed for characters 6th to 10th level for any old-school game, heavily features the Mi-Go.  While he describes it as a "Science fiction" "dungeon crawl" only a tiny bit of work is needed to make this one horror or a mystery.  Afterall, people are going missing, strangers are showing up in town and there is that whole eerie cave system.

Like most of the old-school adventures, this one is light on plot and heavy on the dungeon crawl atmosphere, and that is by design really.  The adventure is simple enough but there is so much more that can be done with it if you want.  Note: I should point out this is NOT a criticism of  the adventure, quite the opposite really.
So basically the Mi-Go are in town and they are doing what the Mi-Go do, removing brains from bodies and putting them into other bodies or their special cylinders.  The brains stay alive and are even immortal after a fashion.  They are also experimenting on the local fauna.  A couple of things in this adventure jumped out as me as hitting that 70's/80's nostalgia sweet spot. There is a Flumph the Mi-go can't figure out. A bionic Sasquatch! (I mean really, was this written just for me?) I biologic towel, a Valley Girl brain, and this whole "Escape to Witch Moutain" vibe about it.  There is a witch and Swanmay in it as well.

Personally I would take Jeremy's advice and expand the module a bit.  Have the party meet the old witch Gwen in her "old" form, but then encounter her again when she is in one of the brain jars and then again when she is in her new body.  Also, I'd make all the Mi-Go's human form all look roughly the same; perfect, blonde, blue eyes, devoid of any real personality.  Like something out of Village of the Damned.  Liked they learned how to be human by reading it in a book.
I'd also make their plans a little more nefarious. This is a scout group looking to colonize this planet.  Makes that bionic Bigfoot look a little more scary if you ask me!

Obviously, a good companion to this adventure would be Jeremy's own OSR Warlock. Make Gwen a warlock AND the one responsible for bringing the Mi-Go here.  I'd also play it under Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  Give it that "colder and darker" feel that AS&SH can provide.  Plus there are already a number of good Lovecraft Mythos beasties in that game.

My biggest issue with this adventure is where do I use it?  I have so many choices to be honest.  I could easily slot it in as a "Monster of the Week" story, but that would sell it's potential short. I could make it part of a larger campaign, but I would also want the Mi-Go to be more that just a one shot.

In any case I know this will be a fun one.

Thursday, January 21, 2016


I love White Star. It's been a ton of fun so far and I really, really enjoy it.
But I also love Basic D&D more than I do White Box S&W. What's a guy to do?

Simple. Make a new mashup of everything I enjoy!

Basic? Yup! Horror? Sure why not!  Lovecraftian beasties?  Of course!

In the little campaign I am working on for my Sci-Fi game it is a giant big Galaxy that has been mostly explored.  So it is less Star Trek and more Star Wars, but certainly there are Trek enfluences.

However there is trouble on the horizon, and that trouble is in the form of the Old Ones.
The stars are finally right.

This is not really an original idea.  But It does include a lot of things I have laying around.

White Star
Starships & Spacemen 2e (for ideas on using Basic)
B/X Basic and Expert (for the rules)
Labyrinth Lord (for rules up to 20th level)
ACKS (for more rules)

So Basic, Labyrinth Lord, ACKS, and Starships & Spacemen...

Welcome to BLACK STAR! ;)

For some background I want to use Eldritch Skies.
I would then mix in Psionics and Lovecraftian Beasties.
A place to adventure and place to play.

The obvious tribute to David Bowie also makes this appealing to me.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Endless Darkness vs. The Outer Darkness

No game this weekend. It's my son's birthday so he is taking over my game room this weekend.

This gives me some time to work on their next adventure (well, future adventure), the D series.

I have been re-reading the D series for a bit now. It's funny how when reading it today I have a really different perspective on things than when I was going through the adventure 30 years ago.  That's not a surprise really, nor is how much of it I had forgotten.  What is the surprise is how much of it I remembered.  Not from reading it or even the printed page, but what my characters were doing at the time.

I remembered how much I HATE Blibdoolpoolp.

Not the goddess herself actually, but the deception.  20 foot tall nude human with a lobster head?  Why would Kuo-toa worship something that looked so different than themselves?  Well the answer was obvious even to my then pre-teen and teenaged mind.  It was an excuse to draw a naked woman.
Now generally speaking I don't have a problem with this, but I would like to think I am a bit more sophisticated today.

Since Kuo-toa are supposed to be stand-ins for Deep Ones anyway, why not go all the way and use Mother Hydra instead of Blibdoolpoolp.  I can keep all the same names, Kuo-toa are a more "fishy" offshoot of the Deep Ones and they call their Goddess Blibdoolpoolp instead of Mother Hydra, but they are the same thing.  She would become one of those things that is a mix of demon, goddess and what those things are from the outer darkness of Lovecraft's mind.


I have been adding more "Lovecraft" to this adventure series anyway.  Castle Amber was already very steeped in the mythos of Clark Ashton Smith.  I have a bunch of Yithan minis now too.  Plus I have wanted to bring the Mind Flayers closer to their Lovecraftian step-fathers.   So in this sense it all works out.  I also have all of these books at home with the monster stats; Deities and Demigods,  Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of HyperboreaRealms of Crawling Chaos and what I call neo-Mythos books like the Teratic Tome.

My kids are really into reading about the mythos, but not the actual stories yet.  My oldest doesn't read horror and my youngest is working his way up to Lovecraft now.  
Ok. For the record, I know there is so much more to Lovecraft than the Mythos.  But that is the part I want to use here.

I am not planning on bringing in the big C himself.  But I can see Dagon showing up sometime.

In any case it is going to be a lot of fun.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Review: The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence

Continuing my week of +Venger Satanis posts here is his next big one.

The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence
Described as weird fantasy/sci-fi/gonzo, I also wondered if it was a subtle jab at "The Big Purple".
Let's start of with the easy stuff.  Yeah, some people are likely to get offended by this adventure.  That's not a bug, but a feature, as we say.  Typically anything done either to purely offend or go out of it's way to push an agenda is going to suck.  I get the feeling here that this is the sort of game he plays all the time.  The art is still more "Heavy Metal" than it is "Hustler" and there is a solid 80s vibe to reading it all.  Please keep in mind this aesthetic when reading; it is a guiding principle that fits the art and the game design.   I think in someone else's hand it would have come off as crass or even as complete shit, but VS owns this. There is an honesty here that can be respected.

This book is a campaign book/hexcrawl/sandbox.  The PDF is 110 pages and packed.  It would make for a gorgeous looking book and it would sit nicely on my shelf with my other books circa 1983.

VSd6: This is a new mechanic introduced for skill checks/ability checks.  He mentioned it has been influenced by 100s of other d6 based mechanics and you can see that here.   It is an interesting system and provides some nice dramatic elements to the game, but not something I am planning on using myself.

Darker Secrets: This book also brings over the "Dark Secrets" idea/tables from Demon Slayer.  So in some respects you can use this book as a means to "beef up" the Demon Slayer adventure, although you don't really need too.   Though adding in the changes to magic that this book does might be fun.

The Monk: This campaign guide also features a Monk class.  It is not too far from the AD&D1 standard, though not as much detail is given.

We get into the islands proper and are given some background; 20,000 years of background to be precise, but only in a couple of pages.  The interesting bits happened in the more recent past including turning the "Purple Islands" into a penal colony.  Yeah, no jabs here at all...

There is a lot going on with these islands and the worship of the Great Old ones is just a small part of it.  The wording of the monsters, settings and even location is basic or even vague enough to allow you to put this anywhere.  It feels kitchen-sinky enough to fit into places like Mystara (which has a little bit of everything anyway) but focused enough to give you hints that is part of a much larger world.   Though I do like the appearance of the Shiny Demon and a preview of "Alpha Blue".

There are pop-culture references galore here, and it is very obvious that VS pulled out every bit of fantasy, sci-fi, euro-sleaze horror and 70s metal he had at his disposal and threw it into a blender with plenty of purple dye.  It could have turned out to be a horrible mess, but it doesn't.  Instead we get a ton of options spread over three islands.

I have to point out, don't play this as a single adventure.  The purpose here really is not to clean out the island, but to explore it.  It's a great place to strand some PCs after an ocean-going adventure.

At the end of the book we are given new spells and new magic items.

In the Afterword VS mentions that this product should not be used in isolation.  I agree, again I think that this would make for a great semi-tropical island in Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. The mythos are similar enough, or at least enough to fit together.  The only thing that would make it more perfect is if this book could be printed in 7.0" x 8.5" format to fit in my AS&SH box.

Not sure where or how I want to use this yet, but I know I really want to.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Whatever Happened to the Teenage Witch?

I don't talk much about Sabrina the Teen-age Witch much here.

I never read the comic, I never watched the Melissa Joan Hart TV show or movies.  I do remember seeing a cartoon of it back in the 80s.

A while back I did do a post about her as a potential Queen of Witches.  But that was it.

Well, not just content with zombies, Sabrina has a new adventure in the Afterlife with Archie comic.

Check out these links for more information.

Sabrina Spellman, Queen of Carcosa.

I have to admit. I never saw that coming.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Light's Winning: True Detective


That is really all I have to say about the season finale of HBO's "True Detective".

I am not going to discuss the finale at all here, there are still people that have not seen it here or overseas.  But honestly this is one of the best things I have seen on American TV in a long, long time.

Not only were Matthew McConaughey (Det. Rustin "Rust" Cohle) and Woody Harrelson (Det. Martin "Marty" Hart) fantastic, they were the best I can ever remember seeing them.

The story pulled you in and kept you in till the end.  Honestly I kinda want to rewatch it just to make sure I caught everything.

It is one of the best "Southern Gothic" stories I have seen in a long time, and I will admit to having a soft spot in my heart for this genre. It was not just Noir-ish cop drama, although it works as that too, there is an undercurrent of pure darkness here that should disturb any rational thinking person.

A lot has been made of the "Lovecraftian" (ok really "Chambersian") uses of "Carcosa" and "The King in Yellow".  The fact that it was all steeped in hard reality and not some mythic world made it even more terrifying.  It certainly makes any other use of Carcosa seem pale and immature in comparison.  Seriously.

This would make such a fantastic Call of Cthlhu adventure it staggers my mind to think about how cool it could be. Horror, even 'Lovecraftian' horror, does not have to be about the monsters from beyond.  Especially if the monsters in the bayou or the local church school work well enough.

If you have not had the chance, check out the companion website,

If that is not enough then listen to the title song ("theme song" seems wrong). Haunting.

I am very surprised that something unseated American Horror Story as my favorite show of 2014.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

White Dwarf Wednesday #86

February 1987 gives us White Dwarf #86.  The cover looks like it is an older style than the others.  Closer look shows it is from 1978.  Mike Brunton gives us a long editorial on how WD is made.

Open Box hits us up with The Price of Freedom from West End Games.  In my mind this was the golden age of WEG, or just when they get the Star Wars game.  The Price of Freedom is one their big games, though I never cared for it.  For starters it has the same problem that the movie "Red Dawn" had, that the idea of Soviets invading America was crazy at best.  Ashley Shepherd likes the game, but hopes it is tongue-in-cheek.  Other items include Paranoia HIL SECTOR Blues and Hawkmoon.  I have talked about Paranoia before.  Hawkmoon the game suffers the same problems that Hawkmoon the novels has. Namely, the problem is "it is not Elric".   Hawkmoon is played as a game, but it can be played as a supplement to Stormbringer. Hawkmoon, like the books, deals with more tech than magic.
For D&D we have Adventures in Blackmoor adventure DA1 and for AD&D The Book of Lairs, the revised Player Character Record Sheets and Night of the Seven Swords for Oriental Adventures.   I can honestly say I still have a number of my original sheets left over.  I never owned DA1, but I have always wanted run it.  I picked it up just recently, but have not read through it all.

Critical Mass has an interesting book among all the others.  The Vampire Lestat is reviewed and enjoyed.  About this time I also read The Vampire Lestat and I thought it was brilliant. Right here folks is the start of the Vampire the Masquerade.  Some where around this time Mark Rein·Hagen would form his first company and the RPG market would soon change forever.  Interestingly I read "Lestat" before I knew about "Interview with a Vampire" so I always had a better opinion of Lestat than my friends that had read it.
People have complained that this was the start of the "pretty boy" vampire craze.
Well. They would be wrong.
Lestat is still a monster, he kills and he relishes in being a hunter.  Eight years prior we had Frank Langella on stage and in the movies as uber-sexed Dracula, so the evolution of vampire as monster to sex object had been going on a while. Arguably since Stoker and even Carmilla.  Saying otherwise is ignoring the facts.
Now Twilight...yeah that is garbage.  But that's not Anne Rice's fault.

Curse of the Bone is a modern Call of Cthulhu adventure for 2-5 investigators. It looks fun and I like the modern twist to it.  For some reason the "used car dealer/cultist" made me laugh.  But it is also a good adventure in showing that relatively "minor" monsters can make for a great story.  "Lovecraftian" does not always mean elder gods and tentacles.

Open Box is back for some more, this time talking about all 14 of the D&D Dragonlance Modules. Dragonlance gets a bad rap among the Grognards out there. Some of it earned, but most of it is typical "get off my lawn" crap.  Yes they were rail-roady, but the were, as this article points out, epic.  Gordan Taylor does mention that classical role-playing is limited in these modules and no character development outside of what the modules dictate.  But I don't recall Grognards being that interested in character developemnt in the first place.   The modules can be played as "Strict AD&D" as the author mentions, but they are deadly and don't expect things to end well.  Maybe that is what we need (and it must be due to my 6.5 hours of meetings yesterday and my migraine today that I am even suggesting this) is a Grimmdark Dragonlance.  Instead of the Heroes of the Lance, run your typical Murder Hobos through it.  Go all out and use Dungeon Crawl Classics.   I never played these modules back in the day, but my younger brother's group did and they had a great time.  Maybe that is the selling point of these to my generation (and the generation before me) "Dragonlance, it is great for your little brother".

Illuminations is a new feature. It features the art of a particular artist.  This month is Ian Miller.  I would have loved to have seen this in earlier issues to be honest.  But with my impression of WD's art budget I am not sure they could have done this before now.

In what seems like a contradiction on the order of "Grimdark Dragonlance" Phil Gallagher gives us Warhammer Fantasy player character stats for Gnomes in Out of the Garden.

There is a new team for Blood Bowl, the Skaven Scramblers. They are the mutant by-blows of giant rats. The background information on the Skaven is actually kind of cool.  Think of a society of giant rats, like Splinter from TMNT, only warped by religion and placed into strict castes. And plenty of random mutations. So more like the twisted child of Splinter and the Rat King from The Nutcracker.  They would be fun for AD&D/OSR.

It's a Kind of Magic tries to bring magic and tech closer together in your FRPGs. Interesting the article advises against bring magic into technological games and gives a number reasons why it is a bad idea.  It is as if the designers of ShadowRun read the article, laughed and then broke all the rules.  Though this article really concerns itself with tech in a magic world.

'Eavy Metal has a number of great looking minis.  I took a look at a much newer WD recently. I am not sure if the painting of minis has gotten better or the photography is better.  I am not saying that the ones here in issue 86 are bad; far from it.  But they don't look as polished as the ones from newer issues.  I am guessing there is some Photoshop involved too.

Dogs of War covers mercenaries for AD&D (or any FRPG). The article is an interesting one because it not only instructs how to use them, but how they were used. For example you won't see mercenaries randomly killing people; that's bad for business.  I think the trouble is that what most players think of as mercenaries is more defined by fantasy novels and comic books than history.   The authors suggested reading Fredderick Forsyth's "Dogs of War" for more insight.

We get an article on time travel in Judge Dredd.  The article is mostly fluff.

Letters. Followed by Gobbledigook and then ads.

Not an inspiring issue, but set off for me with the CoC adventure and the extended product review of the Dragonlance modules.   While I expected my interest in these later magazines to drop off after issue 80, I am still finding tidbits I like and can use.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Unboxing: Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

Every Halloween I buy myself a new game or game supplement.  Usually something with a horror theme.
I got mine 2013 one last night.

Nice big box from Noble Knight Games.  What's inside?

OOOO  a Game in a Red Box!

Nice thick spiral bound books and dice that I have to color in!  No crayon though.

The Witch class looks awesome.

Lots of character sheets!

And a big hex map of the lands beyond the North Wind.

Cool back of the box.

Looks great with my other boxed games.

And I saved some space for it on my OSR/Clone shelf.

So far I am far, far more pleased with this game than I have a right to be!  In fact I like it even more than the when I reviewed the PDF back in March.   I think it is because I have been spending most of my summer and fall reading the Pulp/Appendix N classics.  I was always a fan of Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, but I have been reading Edgar Rice Burroughs (John Carter,Pellucidar) and Robert E. Howard.
This game is called "Weird Tales: The RPG" in the Forward, I think that is very, very apt.  And since Weird Tales is my new current favorite thing to read, I really enjoy this.

I talked before about wanting to add a Hyborea/Hyperboria to my own world/playing and this might is exactly the sort of thing I wanted to do.

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea covers a lot of the same ground as Adventurer, Conquer, King. But the ground in AS&SH is older, colder and has the foot prints of unnamed horrors.

Among other things this game is one of the best I have seen that mix the Lovecraftian Horrors and classic "AD&D" demons together into a believable whole.

Expect me to be going on (and on and on) about this game in the future.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

White Dwarf Wednesday #50

Wow. 50 Issues.  We are half-way through my collection now, give or take a couple of Best of's.  The staff of White Dwarf is just as excited in this February 1984 issue.  Let's go!

Now this issue I have some pretty fond memories of.  First I enjoyed it when it came out and it was also one of the first one I sought out in the 90s when I wanted to get back into Call of Cthulhu.  The cover art represents the main feature of this issue, a new CoC adventure.

There is a big ad for Warhammer which includes some game bits about Dark Elves.  I liked how "elf maidens are a as cruel and murderous as their menfolk."

Ian Livingstone starts out my also being amazed at 50 issues. It's a pretty big milestone really.  He lets us know some more changes are on the way by Issue #52.

Garth Nix is up first with Red Tape in Traveller.  Almost as exciting as red tape in real life.  Glad he went on to bigger things.

Open Box has the first set of reviews in a long time that do not have any D&D or RuneQuest books.  Marcus Rowland reviews GW's Steve Jackson's Socrcery for use with Fighting Fantasy. He liked it but didn't think it brought anything new to the game, 7/10.   A bunch of ICE Middle Earth RPG supplements are also reviewed.  Back in 84 ICE's Middle Earth was a big deal for me.  I loved the books, but no place local had them and no one around me would play it.  Reviewed by Jonathan Sutherland are: Guidebook and Gridded Map (6/10), Angmar - Land of the Witchking (7/10), Court of Ardor - In Southern Middle Earth (7/10), Umbar - Haven of the Corsairs (7/10), Northern Mirkwood - The Woodelves Realm (8/10), and Southern Mirkwood - Haunt of the Necromancer (8/10).    Rereading this review still makes me want these books, even if I never play MERP.  Finally Tarsus for Traveller is up. It is called an "Adventure module"; scenario having been dropped. Andy Slack, Traveller expert in residence, gives it 9/10.

Critical Mass reviews some Brian Aldiss.  Aldiss gives me a headache sometimes. I get why he is liked, I just don't share it.

Fiend Factory self-indulges in stating up the various personalities from White Dwarf in both RQ and AD&D versions.  Included are The White Dwarf, Gobbledigook, Thrud the Barbarian, Agaroth the Unwashed (guy from the ads), Ugbash Facesplitter,  and Ian Livingstone (??).  Also included are Griselda and Wolfhead for AD&D, their RQ stats having premiered earlier.  While I normally am cool to these sort of things and don't care for the stating up of real people as themselves in game, I like this because of the dual stating.

Jim Bambra has another look of Clerics in Divinations and the Divine.  I remember using some of this for my cleric classes.

The Watchers of Walberswick is the aforementioned CoC adventure.  I was excited for this adventure back then, and it is fine, but it doesn't stand up to the tests of time and memory.

Dean Aston has some "hardware" for RuneQuest characters.  Again this one is generic enough to be used anywhere.

Part 2 of the The Key of Tirandor is next, picking up right where Part 1 left off.  It is quite long at 5 pages.

Thrud is messing things up on the next page.

Microview is still chugging away, this time with two short programs on vehicle capacity and costs for three different games.  I liked this one becuae it ws using the flavor of BASIC I was using at the time, so no need to convert.  Though I seem to recall that the ' for comment didn't work on my CoCo and I had to use REM afterall.

Letters has some quibbles about the survey.

Lew Pulsipher has an alternate view of leveling up in AD&D in Going Up.  The same idea would end up being reused in True20 and D&D4 (for the most part).

Counterpoint covers ICE's The Fellowship of the Ring board game.

Treasure chest has weapons for the Assassin: Garrote, Two-Stage Poison (used a lot of that!), The Killing Cup and Dagger of Slaying. I don't recall this article per se, but I do recall these items.

Another attempt at a gossip, rumor, small news page is rolled out.  This time it is "KaLi Presents: Baelpen Bulletins".  Still under the "News" header.  Nothing jumps out at me in this one save that TSR is working on a "Spider-man" game.

Travellers is next, followed by Small Ads and Gobbledigook.

We end with ads.

All in all a great issue.  I remember using quite a bit of these things back in the day so this issue holds up for me.  Funny that the reason I re-bought it turned out to be the least interesting to me now.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Willow and Tara: Call of Cthulhu

I was talking with my good friend Dr. Lloyd from my days on the Kittenboard.  He was interested in my old RPG sessions of The Dragon and the Phoenix.  I updated him and he was thrilled.  He shared with me this idea he has had to run his own "Call of Cthulhu" game with Willow and Tara.
We talked back and forth for a while and this is what he came up with.

He came up with this "Uber" campaign. What is Uber you ask? Uber has it's roots in Xena fandom.
You can read more about it here:

Well where Xena and Gabriel go, Willow and Tara often follow.  This is some I have used in my games many times. It was a central feature in The Dark Druid, Heaven Bleeds, and This Blessed Plot.

And of course I am not the only the only one who does this.  There is an entire subsection of fandom that is dedicated to this.  You can see some of them on the "Uber Willow & Tara" site "Through the Looking Class".

Below is an "uber" version of Willow & Tara for the Call of Cthulhu RPG.  This one is set in the 1920s.  These would be the prior incarnations of the girls prior to their appearance in the 1980s (birth) to the present day.

The following was all created by Dr. Lloyd & Rebecca Ashling, enjoy!

When Buffy met Lovecraft

 This is a character build out for a BTVS campaign centering on Willow and Tara that is set in the 1920's world of HP Lovecraft.
There are two build outs for these characters.  One is the "Canon" one, where Buffy is the slayer abet 75 years earlier and everything is the same otherwise.  The other is the "Uber" campaign where Buffy is merely far too inquisitive young woman investigating the super natural.

Willow Rosenberg

Investigator Name: Willow Rosenberg
Occupation: Student/Witch
Colleges, Degrees: Sunnydale
Birthplace: Sunnydale, CA
Mental Disorders: Insecurity, Monomania, also Homosexuality was treated as one
Sex: Age: 20
STR: 8 DEX: 11 INT: 18 Idea: 90
CON: 11 APP: 14 POW: 22 Luck: 110
SIZ: 8 SAN: 110 EDU: 20 Know: 100
99-Cthulhu Mythos: 74 Damage Bonus: -1D4

Accounting 10% Anthropology 11% Archaeology 11%
Astronomy 46% Bargain 5% Biology 41%
Chemistry 46% Climb 40% Conceal 25%
Credit Rating 30% Cthulhu Mythos 25% Dodge 22%
Drive Auto 20% Electrical Repair 30% Fast Talk 25%
First Aid 40% Geology 21% Handgun 20%
Hide 10% History 50% Jump 25%
Law 20% Library Use 60% Listen 25%
Locksmith 1% Machine Gun 15% Martial Arts 1%
Mechanical Repair 20% Medicine 35% Natural History 30%
Navigate 10% Occult 40% Operate Hvy. Machine 1%
Other Language: Hebrew 36% Other Language: Latin 36% Persuade 25%
Pharmacy 26% Photography 10% Physics 56%
Psychoanalysis 16% Psychology 25% Ride 5%
Rifle 25% Shotgun 30% Sneak 30%
Spot Hidden 25% Submachine Gun 15% Swim 25%
Throw 25% Track 10% Fist/Punch 50%
Head Butt 10% Kick 25% Grapple 25%

Willow Rosenberg is a Jewish, Lesbian, Wiccan, and well educated young woman, which in 1920s America *any*of those qualifiers will drawn unwanted attention.  Her father ,Ira, is an investor in the shipping business, and her mother Shelia has a Masters degree in Sociology and is very active in local philanthropic and charitable women’s groups as well as supporting her husband in any business functions. Her father travels a good deal, and her mother is frequently involved in social work. As such this means Willow is almost always left to her own devices.

Her closest friend and companion growing up was the son of the housekeeper, Xander Harris.  They went to school together and while Shelia isn't too happy about their friendship, it makes her feel progressive that her Daughters best friend is a working class child.   Xander's father died of Influenza years before.  In many ways Xander is her "beard" to deflect unwanted questions about marriage.

Willow met Buffy in school in a similar way to "Welcome to the Hellmouth" and worked under the mentor ship of local antiquarian and librarian  Rupert Giles.   She met Tara and fell in love with her as a Freshman in college.  While their closest friends know about their relationship, almost no one outside that circle do and would be hostile if they did.

Having said this, two single women living together for the entirety of their lives itself would not raise any eyebrows even if it led to them both being termed spinsters.
In the uber campaign she and Tara have limited access to magic, and almost all of it is complex ritual magic.  However, because of the emotional, romantic, and spiritual connection between the girls, they are able to work as a Coven of 2.

 This means for the purposes of spells they can combine their POW and Magic points, and loose 50% less sanity from ritual magic when together.

In the "Canon" campaign they have a wider list of spells, and when holding hands use 50% less MP for a spell.

Tara Maclay

Investigator Name: Tara Maclay
Occupation: Student/Shop girl
Colleges, Degrees: Student in California college
Birthplace: Birmingham, Ala
Mental Disorders: Shy, beleaves she may be evil
Sex: F Age: 21
STR: 8 DEX: 12 INT: 15 Idea: 75
CON: 13 APP: 14 POW: 18 Luck: 90
SIZ: 9 SAN: 90 EDU: 19 Know: 95
99-Cthulhu Mythos: 99 Damage Bonus: none

Accounting 10% Anthropology 21% Archaeology 1%
Astronomy 26% Bargain 25% Biology 1%
Chemistry 41% Climb 40% Conceal 40%
Credit Rating 15% Cthulhu Mythos 0% Dodge 24%
Drive Auto 20% Electrical Repair 10% Fast Talk 5%
First Aid 50% Geology 1% Handgun 20%
Hide 50% History 35% Jump 25%
Law 5% Library Use 55% Listen 50%
Locksmith 1% Machine Gun 15% Martial Arts 1%
Mechanical Repair 20% Medicine 5% Natural History 20%
Navigate 10% Occult 50% Operate Hvy. Machine 1%
Persuade 15% Pharmacy 21% Photography 10%
Physics 1% Pilot: Read Latin 55% Psychoanalysis 1%
Psychology 40% Ride 5% Rifle 25%
Shotgun 30% Sneak 50% Spot Hidden 60%
Submachine Gun 15% Swim 25% Throw 25%
Track 10% Fist/Punch 50% Head Butt 10%
Kick 25% Grapple 25%

Tara Maclay is an independent young woman who is a student as well.  She lives far from her estranged family in Alabama, and lives on meager resources.  She works as a shop girl in a local book store and has a small inheritance from her dead mother that was ostensibly for her Hope chest.  Her stutter is more pronounced in this world, and her knowledge of occult even great that Willow's because of her family traditions.   She formerly was sure she was damned for her Witch tendencies, but has learned from Willow and Buffy that this is not the case.

To help set the structure of the campaign, here is a description of Buffy.

Buffy Summers

Investigator Name: Buffy Summers
Occupation: Slayer
Colleges, Degrees: Sunnydale HS
Birthplace: Los Angeles, CA
Mental Disorders: None, but suspected
Sex: F&nbspAge: 20
STR: 21 DEX: 21 INT: 13 Idea: 65
CON: 20 APP: 15 POW: 16 Luck: 80
SIZ: 18 SAN: 80 EDU: 12 Know: 60
99-Cthulhu Mythos: 79 Damage Bonus: +1D6

Accounting 10% Anthropology 1% Archaeology 16%
Astronomy 1% Bargain 25% Biology 11%
Chemistry 1% Climb 65% Conceal 55%
Credit Rating 35% Cthulhu Mythos 20% Dodge 42%
Drive Auto 20% Electrical Repair 10% Fast Talk 50%
First Aid 40% Geology 1% Handgun 20%
Hide 45% History 20% Jump 55%
Law 15% Library Use 35% Listen 55%
Locksmith 1% Machine Gun 15% Martial Arts 66%
Mechanical Repair 20% Medicine 10% Natural History 10%
Navigate 10% Occult 35% Operate Hvy. Machine 1%
Persuade 35% Pharmacy 1% Photography 10%
Physics 1% Pilot: Detect Vampires 70% Psychoanalysis 1%
Psychology 35% Ride 15% Rifle 25%
Shotgun 30% Sneak 50% Spot Hidden 65%
Submachine Gun 15% Swim 50% Throw 65%
Track 60% Detect Undead 65% Fist/Punch 50%
Head Butt 10% Kick 25% Grapple 25%
Stake 65% Sword 55% Axe 55%

Buffy is the daughter of the  well off and often wooed widow Joyce Summers.  Her father was a well off Military officer  but died in the great war.  Her mother took the loss hard, and turned to spiritualism and mediums to deal with the loss.

In the "Uber" campaign Buffy tried to use the numerous magical paraphernalia her mother had to divine her future, and accidentally got a tiny glimpse of the horrors about us.
Her strength,  speed, and fighting skills are all within normal human parameters but are very high.  She was close to her father and he taught her some martial arts he learned in Philippines during the rebellion, and now she is determined to make the best of it.

In the "Canon" campaign the above is still true, but the trigger to her adventuring  was her watcher contacting her as in the show.

The Buffy in both of these worlds is far more fatalistic than the one in the show, she is aware that the cosmic deck is stacked against her and is not optimistic of her having a normal life.   There would be a feeling from her and the other Irregulars that the horrors of the Great War were part of a larger scheme to end the world by unknown forces.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Eldritch Skies

Eldritch Skies is the new SF/Lovecraft/alt-history game from Battlefield Press.

A few disclaimers are in order first I think.
1. I have worked with John Snead in the past ("The Magic Box" for Buffy) and personally think he is a great guy. 2. I reviewed a playtest copy of this several months ago to "check the math" on the Unisystem rules.  3. I have a project coming up with Battlefield Press.

So what can I say about Eldritch Skies?

Let's go basic. Certainly there is the feel of Aliens here more than say Avatar.  One thing though for certain, this is not Star Trek, Star Wars or anything like that.  Though to be fair, Trek did have a story by Robert Bloch and it was very Lovecraftian in tone.   Also if that is what you want (SW or ST) then the rules will support that. This book is Lovecraft as SciFi (dark SciFi to be sure), but not so much as horror.

Chapter 1 deals with the recent history and the present day, 2030.    The history of the world here is slightly different.  Think of it as if all those Lovecraft stories were true and humanity found a way to start using some of that alien tech/magic to get to the stars.  There is a history and the changes start out subtle till we get to the 90s.  We get to the present day and now we are stepping out into the reaches of space and we find wonders and horrors.

Chapter 2 is Character Creation and Chapter 3 is Game Rules.  The game system is Cinematic Unisystem.  The same system that powers my own Ghosts of Albion and other games like Army of Darkness, Buffy and Angel.  So if you are familiar with those games then you will be familiar how this one works too.
Like other CineUnisystem games there are three "levels" of characters, Civilians, Operatives and Veterans.  Unlike other CineUnisystem this game uses the Secondary Attribute Speed, from Classic Unisystem.
For Qualities and Drawbacks there are all the expected ones, Fast Reaction Time, Nerves of Steel, etc. But there are also a lot of "Ab-Human" abilities, such as Deep One Hybrid and Sorcery (it is not the same as Buffy's) and some augmentations.
The rules are same as other Cine Unisystem games with some additions to support the game, ie lots of gear.

Chapter 4 is Arcane Secrets including the secrets of hyperspace. Not just how to travel, but the biggest issue of the hyperspace madness. This is the keystone of the game.  What separates this from other Unisystem games and it from other Mythos games.

Chapter 5 deals with the Realms of the Mythos.  These are the worlds known to humankind.  This also includes the psychic Dream Realms.  This is a very cool chapter that had to be a lot of fun to write.  Tons of new worlds ready for you to use and have adventures on.

Chapter Six: Eldritch Threats and Wonders: The monsters and creatures of the settings. Includes the mythos creatures, humans and ab-humans.  If you have any passing interest in mythos monsters or expanding your CineUnisystem games with more creatures, then this chapter is worth the price of the book alone.  Yes, you can play it as is. Or use it in your Buffy, Army of Darkness or Ghosts of Albion games.

Chapter Seven is the Director's section on how to run a game.  This includes setting the tone and what to do.

The Appendix has rules for using the Classic Unisystem  and a bunch of tables for your ease.  No character sheet though.

I think one of the troubles about playing games like D&D and even to a degree Call of Cthulhu is we have tended to categorize the mythos creatures as well, Mythos Creatures.  They often times are "Stated up" as gods or some other similar sort of being.  We tend to forget that while humans may have worshiped them in cults most were not in fact gods at all.  Powerful alien beings yes, but not so much gods.  Looking at them again as aliens is a deft move and this change of the point of view makes this book less Buffy-doing-Aliens and more Armageddon/ConspiracyX-doing-Event-Horizon.

What I really, really like about this is it treats the Mythos Creatures as aliens and magic as advanced science.  The Thing is a good example of Lovecraft as SciFi story.
Also this book remembers that Lovecraft's stories were also not all about tentacle monsters and evisceration.  Sure we have the Mi-Go, but this more about the madness that lies between the stars.   Honestly to get a better feel of what you can do here, take the Sam Rockwell movie Moon and assume there are outside alien influences on the whole thing.  We never see the aliens, except for maybe when Sam's character sees a Mi-Go with a brain tube at the very end.

I mentioned the playtest files because I'll admit I was not initially a fan of this game when I first read it.  But I was focusing on the crunch rather than the fluff.  The Unisystem parts were (and are) fine. But since it's release I have grown to like it more for both the crunch and the fluff.

Now that I have come back to it I really like it.  I Am not 100% sure I'll play the game "as-is", I might re-do it a bit and set it in 2130 so I can include some ConX or  Armageddon  background.  Or I might just take Chapters 5 and 6 and use them with my Ghosts of Albion games.
Needless to say this thing screams "Use me with All Tomorrow's Zombies" and it would be right. Using the Classic conversion guide in back makes ATZ a perfect add-on for this game.

If you like SciFi, Lovecraft, the Mythos or Unisystem, or all the above, then this is a great game to get.
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