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

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.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

October Movie Reviews: Lovecraft Film Fest

Last ones. This last round are some Lovecraft movies.  Pity poor Lovecraft, his books are so good and so scary; but the movie adaptations are usually so bad.  There are some exceptions.

Dagon (2001)
Loosely based on "The Shadows Over Insmouth" it moves the action to Spain.  Here the EoD is slicing up  humans to make "costumes" for the fish mutants.  It has gore, it has sub-par acting and most of the story is preserved but the overall effect is a bit sub-par.  It was an enjoyable little flick, but certainly more of the Lovecraft frame of mind (ie. how many and who survives) than what you normally see in Hollywood films.  It has it's problems to be sure, but it is one of the better adaptations.

Beyond The Dunwich Horror (2008)
This direct to Sci-Fi Channel movie (with an unrated version out there) is Dean Stockwell's second chance at doing The Dunwich Horror (the first was 1970).  This one is more Hollywood and it shows.  In a bad way.  Only barley recognizable as Lovecraft's tale it does have some nice special effects, Yog-Sothoth looks pretty cool.  But there is this whole drug-dream sequences with Abdul Alhazred and his harem of naked girls (I am not 100% sure that Lovecraft ever actually had any women in his stories).  There is a starting scene that is more "Exorcist" or even the movie version of "Constantine" than Lovecraft.  In the end this is weak movie, despite Dean Stockwell playing Henry Armitage and Lovecraft regular Jeffry Combs playing Wilbur Whateley. In fact both are completely misused here to let some D-List actors have all the screen time.  I guess that is how they paid for those special effects.

I'll tally up my movies later.
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