Showing posts with label horror. Show all posts
Showing posts with label horror. Show all posts

Friday, July 21, 2017

Adventures with Venger As'Nas Satanis

Somewhere in the depths of Hell...or the Midwest, hard to tell these days, +Venger Satanis is plugging away putting out material for his own style of Old School gaming.  I thought it might be fun to check in on some of his newest books.

I like Venger's stuff. It is the right amount of nostalgia, old-school charm, sleaze and high production values and often tongue firmly planted in cheek.

Full Disclaimer: Venger sent me copies of His Flesh Becomes My Key, High-Stakes Q'uay-Q'uar, and Stairway of V'dreen for review.  I already had purchased Stairway of V'dreen and I bought Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss a few days ago.

His Flesh Becomes My Key
18 pages, $3.00, PDF
A cool horror/noir murder investigation. While overtly made for The Outer Presence RPG it is mostly crunch free. So it could be used with 1930s Call of Cthulhu, 1970s Chill or even in the 2010s with any game.  Frankly I would like to try it with Witch: Fated Souls or even Majus.  It is that flexible.
Now putting this right out there, this one is less tongue in check sleaze and more gritty urban horror.
I will not spoil the ending, but it is part of what makes this adventure interesting and good to use with nearly any horror game.
Personally, I think it is great fun and would love to try it out under different systems with different groups just to get a different feel each time.  Come to think of it, there is something in the adventure where I COULD run it multiple times, with the same players and characters under different systems.
This adventure is Eldritch Pulp meets the ugly streets of New York or Chicago or San Francisco of modern day.  It is has a nice "old school" vibe to it.  It is H.P. Lovecraft meets Clive Barker.  I hope to see more like this.

High-Stakes Q'uay-Q'uar
18 pages, $5.00, PDF + image file of game
I think most of Venger's adventures revolve around finding a dead body.  That's how this Alpha Blue adventure begins.  I am inordinately fond of Alpha Blue, so a new adventure is always welcome.
The adventure revolves around the game of Q'uay Q'uar.  It is a big deal in this area of space.  There was a Doctor Who episode, "The Wedding of River Song" that features something like this with Chess.  Now imagine that, only with purple and yellow pieces and none other than David "Space" Pumpkins as your host. Then you have an idea what is happening here.
There is alot going here with a lot of characters.  The PCs can compete in the Q'uay Q'uar challenge or they can be observers. There is a smuggling ring to stop (or join up with), a mercenary and a ton of other things to do here.
Included in the adventure is a PDF on how to play Q'uay Q'uar and an image file of a board.
I would be utterly disappointed to hear that Venger does not have his own Q'uay Q'uary game set up to play at home. I did something similar for Ghosts of Albion: Blight with a game of Fidchell. I did make a Fidchell board (well, really a Tafl board).
Like all of Venger's products, this one is heavy on substance and style, and light on crunch.  I could see this played under White StarStarships & Spacemen, or even the new Star Trek game.
I am going to use it in my Star Trek/Cthulhu-mythos mash-up for certain!

Stairway of V'dreen
19 pages, $4.00, PDF
This adventure for Crimson Dragon Slayer (or any OSR/Fantasy game really) starts In media res with the PCs needing to find shelter. Here they meet Doctor Ebzub and his almost completed experiment.  What happens next is ... well ... ok the PCs end up in V'dreen. But is V'dreen is left to some questions.  It feels like some in-between world where PCs encounter the remnants of gods that were, or could be.  V'dreen is a dying world. Not in the Jack Vance sense but in the "it is rotting right before your eyes" sense.  The PCs must either save it or euthanize it.
There is a fair bit of meta to this adventure and a lot more that can be added by any group.  This is the type of adventure that works best with a group that has been playing together a long time, but maybe the first time with these particular characters. The adventure can be played for bizarre laughs or as deadly serious.
Either way it will be a lot of fun.

Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss
14 pages, $3.00, PDF
Have you ever wanted to make your own adventures? Do you want to be like Venger and write them like a fucking boss?  Well, this is the book for you then.  Overtly the book is focused on people writing their own adventures for the first time, but the advice given is so solid that even old veterans like me kind find it useful.  Some of the advice is common sense, but never underestimate the value of stating something plainly.   There are no groundbreaking revelations here, no paradigm shifts and no occult insights. And that is perfectly fine by me.  Adventure writing is not supposed to be Shakespeare, it's supposed to be Poe.  The advice given though is rock solid, and it provides easily repeatable to create fun, entertaining adventures that don't feel like a railroad.
Honestly, I would package this up with his How To Game Master Like a Fucking Boss to give GMs a full toolbox of advice and tricks to help any adventure; whether they wrote it themselves or grab one off the shelf.   Venger really should bundle this with the Character book and call it the "Be A Fucking Boss Bundle".
I have a Trek game coming up. I know what I want to do with it, but I am going to run my ideas through this book and give them a test.  So far all the advice has panned out well and I believe that this will be a better adventure because of it.

Play Your Character Like A Fucking Boss
13 pages, $3.00, PDF
I picked this up based 100% on my reading of Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss.  In fact I did not even own this book when I started this review.  This book is great. Plenty of advice on how to play your character to get the most enjoyment out of it.  A lot of this I already do and have done for years.  In fact, I think playing in horror games made me a better player as well as a GM. I see a lot of that advice here too, but with a different focus.
I stand by my idea of the "Be A Fucking Boss Bundle".  Using all this advice will make you a better player and a better GM.

I started this review a couple of days ago, since that time OneBookShelf started their Christmas in July sale.  So ALL these titles are on sale now.  Grab them, now. Make them yours.  Your Players will thank you.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Star Trek: Horror and the Old Ones

Somewhere in the Galaxy, the stars are right!

I got the new Modiphius Star Trek game the other day. I am not ready for a review, yet, but there is a lot of great stuff in the game.

It got me thinking about my terrible, horrible idea to mix Trek with the Lovecraftian Mythos and do a horror based Star Trek game.  I talked about this last year with my ship idea, the USS Protector, NCC-3120 and my idea for a Black Star game.



One of my favorite episodes of the TOS was "Catspaw" which naturally had some serious horror themes to it.  It is also notable for two other reasons.  First, it was written by Robert Bloch. Bloch not only wrote "Psycho" he wrote one of my other favorite TOS episodes "Wolf in the Fold".  He was associated with the Mythos circle through writers like  August Derleth and Clark Ashton Smith.  Lovecraft's own character of "Robert Blake" was dedicated to Robert Bloch.  So his connection is as solid as they get.

Catspaw is interesting for another reason.  The main antagonists, Korob and Sylvia, are referred to as "Servants of the Old Ones".  There is no reason to doubt that these Old Ones are not the same as Lovecraft's. The idea of having the Mythos in Star Trek has appeal.  It also is not entirely foreign to Star Trek cannon.

Trek has dipped into horror many times over the last 50 years.  Here are some of the episodes I am using for inspiration.

"Wolf in the Fold" also has strong horror elements and postulates that Jack the Ripper was actually "possessed" by a malign alien intelligence known as "Redjac".  While Jack the Ripper is not Mythos, an alien intelligence is.  It is also one of my favorites too.



"Conspiracy" was one of the few stand-out episodes of the first season of TNG.  It dealt with an alien brain parasite invading the Federation.  It is too bad they never followed up on it more.  Given the time frame I am wanting to play in it is likely I won't be either, but still a great resource.

"The Man Trap" (TOS) scared the crap out of me when I first saw it. Ok, I was 6 or 7, but still.  I love the idea of an enemy that looks like everyone else.

"Schisms". This sixth season TNG episode put the alien abduction scenario to the test with aliens from a "tertiary subspace manifold" or for all intents and purposes, another dimension or universe.

"Night Terrors" from TNG's fourth season shows us what will happen if the crew can't dream.  Personally I wanted to Crusher to be a little more immune to this situation. I am sure she once had to do a 48 hour shift at Starfleet Medical back when she was an intern!

"The Magicks of Megas-tu" from the Animated Series deals with magic and witches. While not the horror implied by the Mythos, there is something to this that helps bring magic and science together.

And really, couldn't the monster from "The Thing" been a wounded Founder?

Dark Elf or Romulan cultist?
Over the years I have developed a few Trek adventures for different versions of the game. But mostly for the FASA version.

"Ghost Ship" was my pastiche of the Flying Dutchman featuring the Enterprise-B (long before I knew it was going to be an Excelsior class ship).
"Citadel of Never" was a similar adventure to a dead ship in a dead star system.
After "Event Horizon" came out I wanted to run a Trek adventure just like it, only replacing the ship with a Romulan one.

I love the idea of a fresh group of new Federation explorers running head first into the horrors of the Mythos.  Maybe they find Azatoth in the center of the galaxy or get a distress call from a planet near Yamil Zacara.

Sounds like a fun Halloween themed session.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #150

Moving more forward in time to October 1989 and to one of my most favorite issues of all time, Dragon #150.  This issue was during the prime of the "themed issues" of Dragon magazine, where each month/issue had a theme.  October was always horror and always my favorite.  Plus this issue also features one of my all-time favorite bits of Larry Elmore cover art.
This issue had one of the articles that honestly had such far-reaching effects that I am STILL using ideas from it.   Issue #150 came out in 1989, and I am sure I picked it up right away. I would have been a Junior in university at that time.  I wasn't playing much since I was busy studying all the time, but I do know that I had at least a draft copy of the witch in text format on a floppy disk.

The Dragon's Bestiary is up first with a bunch of new mind-flayer related monsters from Stephen Inniss.   I remember reading this one over and over.  I really wanted to use these guys in my games and I still do.  I noticed while re-reading this recently that the monster stats are for 1st Edition, but the other parts of the magazine are fully 2nd edition.  This was the dawn of 2e and the magazine has a strong post-Gygax vibe about it.  This article though feels older, though there is also a pre-Dark Sun feel to it as well.  The article introduces the Illithidae, or natives of the same world of the Mind Flayers.  If we stick with the mythology they could have easily come in the starship from Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.  The monsters include the pack hunting Cessirids, the lone hunter and slow moving Embrac, the large Kigrids and the near-Illithid Saltors.  These monsters would later be updated to the Illithidae monsters for 3.5 in the Lords of Madness book.

Stephen Inniss follows this up with an article that is heavy on fluff, light on crunch and one that has stuck with me for years. The Sunset World deals with the world of the Mind Flayers.  The article is a long one and presented in the style of an academic symposium, which is likely what attracted me to it.
This article was the start of the idea of block out the sun as a plot device in my games.  I used it in the Dragon and the Phoenix for Buffy and currently in the Come Endless Darkness campaign for D&D 5.

Speaking of vampires and vampire slayers.  Fangs Alot! has the updated/corrected version of the Vampire listing for the 2nd Edition Monstrous Compendium.  If you recall the vampire had the same material printed on both sides of the page, the difference only being the "western" and "eastern" vampire pictures.  This version has the proper second page in place.

The Well-Rounded Monster Hunter details some skills every investigator should have in Call of Cthulhu.  I always read these articles with great interest, looking for things I could port over to my then-current (but sadly dying) Ravenloft game.

The Role of Computers covers some video games. The late 80s were an interesting time for computers, I felt he had hit something of a golden age; computers were getting more powerful and cheap and yet there was still enough of a hacker mentality that kept these machines (mostly) in the hands of nerds adn geeks like me.  In many ways if you were a teen playing D&D in the 80s you grew up to be one of the people playing around with computers in the 90s and part of the Dot.Com boom in the late 90s.  It is interesting now, rereading this, to see all the variety of computers software was made for then.  I know in my own case back then I desperately wanted to see more games fro my own Tandy Color Computer 3.  Mock it if you like, but that little computer got me through my undergrad degree in psychology.  I would need the help of an "IBM PC-clone" to finish up my grad school degrees.  Still, it is neat seeing some of these games.  I bet many would run well  on my phone with an emulator.

I still love looking at all these ads.  I actual had sent off a SASE once upon a time to get my own character art. Never sent it back with my payment; never had the money to spare. I always wanted one though. Maybe that is one of the reasons I love getting art now.

John J. Terra has a great article for the FASA Trek RPG, A Final Frontier of Your Own.  Rereading now I am impressed how much of it still applies for LUG Trek and new Trek playtests.  Sitting at my kitchen table re-reading this I sketched out an idea for a game.  I want to run a Star Trek game called the "Daughters of Kahless".  It would be a group of dishonored Klingon Women in a broken down D6 cruiser trying to regain their honor and for the greater glory of the Klingon Empire.  I remember at the time I wanted to do the adventures of a ship propelled to the far ends of the Universe.  I guess that why I have such a love/hate relationship with Voyager. Love the idea, hated the exicution.

In another article by Dean Shomshak we have another CoC article, Unspeakable Secrets Made Easy. This details a number of magical texts.   No spells are listed, but plenty of background information.

More ads follow including the ads for the then new Monstrous Compendiums.  Vol. 1 was out (I picked mine up at a game store in Harrisburg, PA while on vacation) and Vol. 2 was on the way.  The ad though looks different than the binder I picked up and I always wondered if it was because I picked mine up from a different part of the country than I typically bought my Dragons.  Turns out nothing so interesting, just a mock-up for the ad.


It's hard to see, but there is a red border behind the images of the monsters.

Again, this was a great issue that brought back a lot of great memories.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

New Movie: The Lure

Mermaids are not something I think about or use very often.  I will admit that after "Splash" came out I wanted to try an underwater campaign, or at least an ocean-based one. But I don't remember actually ever using a mermaid, merman or even a triton in my games.

That all being said I am really looking forward to this new movie "The Lure" described as a Mermaid Horror Musical Comedy.  I mean mermaids have to sing right? That is part and parcel with their myths.  While Hollywood seems content on remakes and sequels, we have to go abroad for something original.



Here is the "Red Band" trailer.



Pretty weird right?
Looks like it could be a lot of fun too.

It is by brand new director Agnieszka Smoczynska.  She has a vision that is certain.


I love hearing about her influences. Glamor amongst poverty. I am looking forward to seeing what else she can do.

Hopefully, I'll be able to add this my October Horror Movie Marathon.

This does give me an idea. What if Kuo-Toa, who were described as living on land once, have a mermaid-like sub-species. Something that is appealing to humans, but used as a lure.  Like something out of the movie Dagon.  I might have to watch this before October!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

October Horror Movie Challenge: 2016 Wrap-up and Looking to 2017

Another October Horror Movie Challenge is done.

Final tally: 35 movies watched, 26 were first time views.  Not bad, that is about my average.


While I did great in the challenge, I failed in making these "game related".  I have a few things I am going to post this week that might make up for it.

The Movie of the Month was, of course, The Witch.  So good I watched it twice.
The surprise hits, for me, were Eyes of Fire (1983) and Haunter (2013).

I also promised to talk about what my favorite horror movies of all time are.  That is much harder since there are so many.  I am going to give it more thought.

If you are curious I have set up a Pinterest Board with all the posters of the movies I have watched over the last 7 years of doing this. 228 pins total.




For next year I am thinking of doing something very different.
First, yes, I want to make as many game stats for the movies I watch as possible.  I have to stay true to my first and most loyal audience.

Also, I have all the these VHS tapes that I copied in the 80s and early 90s, about 16 total.  Each one is 6 or 8 hours long with anywhere from 3 to 5 movies per tape, but usually 4.  Rough estimates I put it at 45 movies, give or take.  What I want to do is go through all of those and review all those movies before tossing out the tape.  I would also check to see if there are Blu-Ray or DVD options for the movies.  Now I am totally expecting these tapes to be in complete crap condition.  Some I know have not seen the light of day in 20 years. But I think it would be fun.  Since they are all movies I have seen before, game stats will come quicker to me.

The bottom row are horror tapes.  If this works I'll tackle the row above which is all MST3k.

That is also the problem.  45 movies, all of them are ones I have seen before,   So no first-time views. I hold out that there might be one or two on there I have never seen. It is possible. I used to work nights, so I'd go to the library, check out some tapes, take them home and cue them up to copy to watch while I was in college.

While this pleases my OCD and my need to declutter I am hoping that the tapes are still in good enough shape.  The other issue is I have only one working VHS player in the house (i think) so I am locked to watching these in one room.  I am very, very spoiled with all my on-demand streaming options.

We will see how it goes.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Witch (Audio Commentary) (2015)

I wanted to end my Horror Challenge with the movie I began with, The Witch.

This time I watched it with the director's audio commentary.  I also watched the special features that went along with the movie and they were all a treat.

There are some things I noticed this second viewing, but mostly I am still pleased with this movie.

Again I am struck with this idea of burgeoning sexuality = horror.  Thomasin is a threat to this family because she is no longer a child.  Think I am stretching?  Compare this to other characters from this challenge; Dren or on the other side of it all Nancy.

Look at Crimson Peak or I Spit On Your Grave. The women are defined more by their sexuality than any male character.

Even outside of a game this is something worth my effort to look into.  I am still, an academic at heart and practice.

The consensus among people in the 2016 challenge is that this is the best horror movie of the year.



2016 Movie tally
Watched: 35
New: 26


October Horror Movie Challenge: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

A Nightmare on Elm Street.  This is the movie that changed horror movies forever. It gave us the slasher and it gave us a villain that in many ways it more important that the heroes (though I think I hear Gorjia roaring at me).  But also it made horror a bona-fide box office hit.  Slasher movies in the early 80s were the super hero movies of today.   None were bigger, better and more scary than Freddy Krueger.

I have been wanting to rewatch this one for years.  I had forgotten how good it really was.  Some movies age poorly, especially ones from the early 80s.  But this one is a classic in every sense of the word.  Not just Robert Englund as the iconic Freddy but Heather Langenkamp as Nancy is every sense the iconic "Last Girl".   Lets not forget that this is the movie that introduced us all to Johnny Depp.

I watched this with Connor and he really loved it.  He didn't think it was as scary as "Crimson Peak" but he loved it all the same.

There is a lot to unpack in this movie for a game. But the trouble is it's hard to fully replicate the whole "Last Girl" feel and to get the characters to make "horror movie decisions".

Still. This one is so much fun.  We are going to do more horror movies together next year.



2016 Movie tally
Watched: 34
New: 26



October Horror Movie Challenge: Splice (2009)

Splice is a movie I have wanted to see for a few years.  It is a basic mad-scientist makes a monster movie with some twists.

There are some interesting twists in this modern Frankenstein tale. Instead of body parts it's DNA. Instead of a horrible, disfigured monster we get Dren which could be considered cute at first.  Also the issue of burgeoning sexuality.  Side note: Why is it that female sexual awareness scares so many people? It is something so deeply ingrained that we are still seeing horror movies about it today.  Hell, that sounds more like a dissertation than a blog post. Maybe I should do that for my next October Challenge; see where this takes me.

Anyway there is/was room for a sequel ala the new Fly movie, but no idea if it ever happened.

The actors in this were quite good.  That sets this a notch above most horror flicks.




2016 Movie tally
Watched: 33
New: 26



October Horror Movie Challenge: Ghost Ship (2002)

I enjoy a good tale of ghost ships. Ever since I had read about the Flying Dutchman and other tales of ships lost at sea I have had a morbid sort of curiosity about them.

So when Ghost Ship from 2002 showed up on my TV and just starting, how could I say no?

It was not a bad tale really. One we have seen time and time again in the movies.  There is a wreck of a ship floating in international waters and a team of salvagers go out to claim it.  One by one they experience strange things, see things and soon the dying starts.

This one had a few interesting little twists. Emily Browning has one of her first ever screen roles as a ghost.  The "cable death" is by far one of the more gruesome ones.

Desmond Harrington's character is obviously Charon or something like him.

This movie, and this story, is ripe for adventure seeds.  In fact one of the reasons I wanted to watch this one was to scrape it for ideas for this White Star adventure involving a lost starship in a 'haunted" area of space.


2016 Movie tally
Watched: 32
New: 25



Saturday, October 29, 2016

October Horror Movie Challenge: Crimson Peak (2015)

This is one of the big movies I wanted to see this Challenge.  It had such a cool look and I was looking forward to watching it with my son.

Well I have to say it did not disappoint.  It is less a horror movie as it is a movie with horrific moments.  Much like it's not a ghost story as it is a story with ghosts.  I think that set some people off a bit.

The movie was written and directed by Guillermo del Toro and you can really tell.  Aside from all the Pacific Rim guest stars, there is also a Pan's Labyrinth feel to this.  
The actors are great really especially the three leads.

Connor really enjoyed it, loved the mystery but wanted it to be more scary.

Still. I enjoyed it.



2016 Movie tally
Watched: 31
New: 24


October Horror Movie Challenge: Late Night Cable

Been suffering through some migraines this week.  Thankfully a lot of my posts were pre-written and cued up.  Today's post wasn't.
Since I have slept something like 24 hours in the last 48 I was up late last night.  So I decided to cruise the depths of the premium movie channels to see what was on.  Starz and The Movie Channel provided some hits.

First up I Spit on Your Grave (1978) (rewatch).
The older I get I find my tolerance for "torture porn" lessens.  I have seen this movie a number of times and this time I wanted to focus on some the horror I might have missed in the sea of exploitation.  Camille Keaton must have went through a real hell in filming this.
I have now seen the remake and I see there are a host of sequels including one that continues Camille Keaton's Jenifer as an author several decades later.  Morbid curiosity of course calls to me on this, but I doubt I'll go out of my way to watch it.

In a similar vein I also caught Girl House (2015) (FTV).
This is simple slasher flick with a crazy dude obsessed with a cam girl.  Given that this is about an "x-rated" cam show there is surprising very little nudity from our star. That's fine.  The crazy dude, "Loverboy" is more of the focus here. It's an effective mix of both old-school slasher and new-school "the internet is watching" mentality.  Special shout outs go to Camren Bicondova ("Selena Kylie/Cat" on Gotham) as Loverboy's first victim as a child and Wesley MacInnes as the happles voyeur who watches the horror unfold on the cam shows.  He had the best line in the movie, "I am going to so need therapy."  Had to be there for it I think.  The movie needed more Nicole Fox in my opinion.

Watching these back to back I noticed that "I Spit on Your Grave" really set the tone for the modern slasher film.  Not just tone, but how some of the shots were done.



And no. My son did not watch these with me.

2016 Movie tally
Watched: 30
New: 23


Friday, October 28, 2016

October Horror Movie Challenge: Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

Oh, what to say about this movie. I figured it was timely with all the clown "attacks" being reported.
Of course, I saw this when it came out, but wanted to watch it again with Connor.  He honestly didn't know what to think. But we were both laughing a lot.

Things I noticed/remembered.

Royal Dano as the farmer.  That was either inspired casting or lazy casting.
Suzanne Snyder as Debbie. She also played a "Debbie" in "Weird Science" and was from nearby Park Ridge Illinois.
Christopher Titus is in this movie too.  Wearing glasses I didn't even recognize them.

Though I swear there was a scene where the Dickies were playing in a concert.

A lot of the lines are really on the nose, no pun intended. It's not a great script. The movie is still a silly one.  The Klowns are scary though, but all clowns are scary.



2016 Movie tally
Watched: 28
New: 22


Reviews: Leagues of Gothic Horror Guides (and a Kickstarter)

Yesterday I went on (and on) about my love for the Triple Ace Games' Ubiquity-powered Leagues of Gothic Horror.   Today I want to focus on a few of the supplements from the Kickstarter.

In all cases, I am reviewing the dead tree and PDF versions of the books. I purchased these via the Kickstarter they had a while back.   All links are affiliate links. No review was solicited or expected outside of me emailing the author to say "hey,  I am reviewing your books" a couple of days ago.


Leagues of Adventure - Globetrotters' Guide to London
Softcover book. Full-color cover, black & white interior art. 78 pages.
A great sourcebook for the Leagues of Adventure game this covers the City (and County) of London in the 1890s.  The bulk of the book is devoted to a "tour" around London pointing out places of interest.  There are also sections on the police force, entertainment, and transportation.  The book is largely fluff free (ie not much in the way of games stats) so it immediately has utility for a wide variety of games. Even the adventure hooks for London are game-stats free. Most of the game-related material comes in the form of detailing various NPCs and archetypes, but there is enough flavor test to still make them usable in other games too.
This is a well-researched guide and extremely useful.  If you are playing a London-based Leagues of Adventure, Leagues of Gothic Horror or Leagues of Cthulhu game then I say pick this up.

Leagues of Gothic Horror: Guide to Black Magic
(currently on sale at DriveThru RPG)
Softcover book. Full-color cover, black & white interior art. 64 pages.
Set up in a similar fashion to all of TAG's "Guide to" books, this covers Black Magic and "Wickedness".  This book is fairly setting specific, so it has more game stats than some of the other guides.  I still found it to be a fantastic read and can't wait to try some of this out in my next Ubquity game.  The book covers a brief history of "black magic" practices around the world.  Later (Chapter 2) we move into why someone might take up this sort of power.  Fiendish lairs are also discussed since in the tried and true traditions of both Gothic and Pulp fiction every bad guy needs a lair.
The next three chapters I found the most interesting, they are respectively, Power, Demons and Evil NPCs.  So much great stuff here that I really could spend dozens of sessions working through all the ideas this has given me.  In particular, I have a Ghosts of Albion adventure that would work so much better with some of the ideas here. I am going to have to re-run now under Ubiquity to see.
For a small book it packs a lot of punch.

Leagues of Gothic Horror: Guide to Apparitions
(currently on sale at DriveThru RPG)
Softcover book. Full-color cover, black & white interior art. 64 pages.
Set up in a similar fashion to all of TAG's "Guide to" books, this covers ghosts and the damned.  Again, this is fairly setting specific but a lot of the material here is drawn from myths and legends from around the world, so first of there should be something in this book that everyone recognizes. Secondly there is plenty in this book that everyone can use.
The first third of the book covers why ghosts happen and their nature. This is followed by the means of disposing of these pests and some of the powers that they have.  The last third (more like half) covers new monsters and some very specific ghosts.  Frankly it is worth the cover price for the ghost of Lady Macbeth alone.
I once said in a game at Gen Con that are more ghosts in London than living people.  This book helps prove my point rather nicely.
Another really solid buy.



Also don't forget about TAG's newest Kickstarter, Leagues of Cthulhu.  Yeah the name is awkward, but it does tell you exactly what this is about.  My youngest son, who is turning into quite a Lovecraft fan, really wants this game.
You add on any other "Leagues of..." book you like.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Lords of Salem (2013)

I like Rob Zombie. I like Sherri Moon Zombie. I love anything to do with witches.
So yeah, I actually rather enjoyed this movie.  There is a lot about this movie that worked as far as I am concerned, though I do recognize the that there were some valid criticisms.

Unlike the Witch, which tried to play the witch stories of America with an even hand, this movie goes full on myth and fairy tale.

Not to be too much of a critic, Sherri Moon Zombie is not the best actress in the world, but she is good in this role.   The movie has a feel to it that reminds me a bit of Kubrick...or more to the point someone (Rob Zombie) trying to do Kubrick by way of Ken Russel.

The basic idea of this movie is a tried and true one; descendants of those wronged are not enacting their revenge/curse or whatever in the present day.

So far this movie has 100% more Rush than any other movie I have seen this challenge.

I am going to say this one was a good one.  Plus it had Meg Foster and Dee Wallace in it as witches, so how can that be bad?

2016 Movie tally
Watched: 27
New: 22


Review: Leagues of Gothic Horror

A while back I spent some quality time with the Ubiquity system reviewing a number of games including Leagues of Adventure one of my favorites.

Today I want to have a look at Leagues of Gothic Horror, the gothic horror (naturally) supplement to Leagues of Adventure.

Leagues of Gothic Horror (LoGH) is not an independent game but rather a "thick" campaign supplement with a lot of rule additions.  In it is designed to be used with Leagues of Adventure, but it could also be used with any Ubiquity game with a little work.  Actually with a little more work it could be used with any Victorian era game.   It is light on crunch really and full of flavor.

I am reviewing my hardcover and PDF from my Kickstarter backing.  The book is 158 pages, color covers with black and white interiors.  Again for my money black and white interiors are the way to go for both Victorian and Horror.

I am just going to come right out and say this.  This book is damn near perfect.
This really has everything I enjoy in one volume. Gothic horror, the Victorian era, black magic, science, horror, it's all here.

Chapter 1 covers new Archetypes for the LoA game.  These include some of my favorites of gothic and Victorian lore such as the mystic, the mentalist and an old favorite, the alienist.   There is even a subsection on how to play Ghost characters!  If I didn't love this book so much I might feel threatened that it was encroaching on Ghosts of Albion's territory!
There are also new talents, skills, and flaws for your character.  These are of course designed with LoA in mind so no idea how they might overlap with say, Hollow Earth (HEX) or other Ubiquity games. There are also new Leagues.  These are usable in any game.  In particular, I was thinking of Victorious the whole time.
Chapter 2 details horror and sanity mechanics.  Again this is expected. The sanity system is mostly relegated to phobias.  This is fine for me since this game deals more with heroic actions of daring-do.
This chapter also deals with more magic including black magic, pagan magic, ceremonial magic and ritual magic.  There is a great sidebar here on various Solar and Lunar eclipses during the late Victorian era.  Really handy to have.
The large section of magical texts, their translations and uses is also really great. Not just to use, but to read.  Many are based on real-world books too.  Along with that are new magics and magical/occult artifacts.
Chapter 3 is another great addition with new monsters. All the usual suspects are here; vampires, golems, werewolves, demons, even evil witches and a couple of different types of necromancers.  We get a section on major villains too, Dracula, Count Orlock, Brain in a Jar, Lord Ruthven, Varney the Vampire, even Rasputin.  Pretty much any Gothic-age or Victorian-age bad guy is here. Like the leagues presented in Chapter 1 there are some new sinister cults.
Chapter 4 takes us on tour to the Dark Places of the world. Great addition to LoA.  Reminds me a bit of the old AD&D Gazetteer to Gothic Earth.  Specific locales are given and more generic ones for use anywhere in the world.
Chapter 5 covers advice for the gamemaster and Chapter 6 has ideas for running games using this book. There is a great "Gothic History" timeline and list of "Who's Who" in the real world.  The last page has a nice list of references of Gothic literature, audio, movies and television.  I'll admit I had fun trying to guess the references from the material in the book.  I did pretty well if I say so myself.

I have already gushed over this book, doing so more will only make me look foolish, but I can't help it.  It is that much fun.  I call it a "must have" if you are playing Leagues of Adventure.

If you are playing other Victorian era games and want to add more Gothicness (as opposed to "Gothiness") then please consider this book.

This is going to be a lot of fun when Leagues of Cthulhu is released.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

October Horror Movie Challenge: Horror Rises from the Tomb (1972)

Have not done a Paul Naschy film yet this year.
This one has a warlock and his witch bride coming back from the dead as something similar to a vampire.  It's not bad but less blood, gore and nudity than I expected from a Paul Naschy film to be honest.

Alaric de Marnac is the warlock from this tale and he would later go on to appear in other Naschy movies.  I kinda like the idea, even if this movie was only so-so.










2016 Movie tally
Watched: 26
New: 21


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

October Horror Movie Challenge: Carmilla (1989) & Styria (2014)

With the somewhat disappointing nature of The Unwanted, I went looking for some more Carmilla based movies.  Finding them wasn't the issue. Finding ones I have not seen was.

First up was Carmilla (1989) with Meg Tilly and Ione Skye.  This moves the tale to post-Civil War Georgia. The story is largely unchanged with Ione Skye and Laura and Meg Tilly as Carmilla.  There were some neat scenes but it was a Showtime Nightmare Classics episode, so there isn't the investment you see in a big movie production. Still though it was fun.  There isn't much chemistry between Skye and Tilly, which struck me as odd to be honest.  Plus you get the feeling in the end that Laura became a vampire after Carmilla was killed.

Styria (2014) or "Angels of Darkness" as it is known in the US, is also a retelling of the classic tale.  This time moved to 1986 and Styria, Slovenia.  This time Laura and Carmilla are played by Eleanor Tomlinson and Julia Pietrucha.  These actresses had more on-screen chemistry and the tale has a bit more terror.  Moving it to Communist-controlled Eastern Europe was an interesting twist and I liked it. Plus it gave them a good excuse to use music from Joy Division and The Jesus and Mary Chain.
Unlike the 1989 version or Unwanted, Carmilla is much more of a predator here and more of a classic vampire OR Laura is insane.  Could go either way. Of the three "Carmilla" movies I have seen this challenge so far, this is the best.




2016 Movie tally
Watched: 25
New: 20


Review: Pathfinder Occult & Horror Adventures

I don't review a lot of Pathfinder material here.  Mostly because I have been writing a lot of Pathfinder material and I don't want to read much of it so as not to unduly influence myself.  Well, those manuscripts are off (more or less) so I picked these up for a review.  

The Pathfinder Occult Adventures and Pathfinder Horror Adventures are the two most recent books I have picked up.  Like all Pathfinder books these books are compatible with D&D 3.5 and still fairly compatible with D&D 5 and other OSR games.  How compatible depends on how much work you want to put into it.

Given that most people reading this are likely not Pathfinder gamers, I am also going to talk about how to port these over to your own games.

Pathfinder Occult Adventures
Hardcover 272 pages, full color cover and interior.
This book is essentially the psychic powers book for Pathfinder.  It uses the same 3.x spell system that Pathfinder has always used only now there is Divine, Arcane, and Psychic magic.  This makes porting over to other systems a lot easier, but it certainly lacks some of the flavor of some other psychic books.
Chapter 1: covers Occult Classes.  The classes are the elemental Kineticist (which has powers and not spells), the Medium (powers and spells), the Mesmerist, the Occultist (which is a rather cool class), the Psychic (the star of the book really), and the Spiritualist.  Some racial options are also given for the classes.  Of all these, the psychic could be ported over the easiest. They are, essentially, magic-users with a unique spell list.
Chapter 2: Archetypes give an "occult" or psychic bend to the Pathfinder classes (of which I think there are about 135 by now).  We start out with the classes in the book, lots of different ideas to swap out powers and feats for other types of characters.  The more interesting one is the Tome Eater Occultist; this archetype actually eats books and scrolls to gain their magical powers.   We get to archetypes for the previously published classes.   Cavalier + Spiritualist, for example, gives us a Ghost Rider.  Which is actually really cool.  Occult Witches are known as Ley Line Guardians.  There is a lot if interesting ideas here.
Chapter 3 Feats details all the new feats.  Now either you love feats or you hate them.  I am hitting a little bit of feat fatigue myself.
Chapter 4 is all about the Psychic Spells. Now the advantage of using the existing spell system for a new class is that other class spells can be used for the new classes and the new spells can be used for the older classes.  So everyone gets something new. At 46 pages this is one of the larger sections in the book.
Chapter 4 covers Occult Rules. This covers a wide variety of rules and rulings for an occult game.  In particular rituals, possessions, and auras.
Chapter 5 gives advice for running an Occult game. This includes planes of existence and other locales for adventuring.
Finally, Chapter 6 covers Occult Rewards or magic items.
The book is a lot of fun and has a lot of material that I have seen elsewhere in different games over the last 35+ years, this just has them all in one place with the same system.

Pathfinder Horror Adventures
Hardcover 260 pages, full color cover and interior.
Playing a good horror game is not easy. It takes work on the part of the DM and the players. But for me I find it one of the more rewarding types of games.  Playing "Horror in D&D", even if that D&D is Pathfinder, is a bit trickier.  Horror relies on a certain sense of powerless and unknown.  D&D characters are largely powerful.  The difference is the same as a horror movie versus and action movie.
Chapter 1 covers some horror rules.  The usual suspects are here; Fear, Corruption, and Sanity.   I am as a rule pretty particular about using Sanity in my games.  I spent years as a Qualified Mental Health professional only see some game rules that were beyond embarrassing.  These rules work well enough due to their simplicity. Though I question the actual use of sanity in heroic fantasy.  In gothic fantasy, sure. But here it feels, well, perfunctory.  Corruption is interesting since your character can now slowly become the monster they hunt.
Chapter 2 covers the various archetypes for all the Pathfinder classes (453 at last count).  There are some neat ones here too. Alchemist + Horror gives you a Mad Scientist. Cleric + Horror gives us a Elder Mythos Cultist.  Various types of hunters, slayers, killers, and collectors are also given.
Chapter 3 is Feats.
Chapter 4 gives us horror themed Spells and Rituals. The rituals use the same rules as does the Occult Adventures book.
Chapter 5 details various Horror Rules. This chapter also has a section on curses and diseases and how to use them in a horror game. Different environments and their effects on the characters are also detailed.  One of these changes includes Madness.  Again, I am generally very critical here but nothing jumped out at me save that I am not sure I need another set of sanity rules at this point.  There is also a great section on horror domains. So yes you can add some Ravenloft-like areas to Pathfinder, but also Dreamlands, Far Realms and more.
Next we get the main focus of this book, Chapter 6 Running Horror Adventures.
There is some good stuff here. In particular ideas on running a D&D-style horror game. Now there is a section on "Consent".  Sorry Paizo, but I have been running horror games for decades.  So have others.  Consent is given by sitting down at the table.  I hate to sound like a jerk here, but seriously. Pick up a copy Vampire the Masquerade, Call of Cthulhu or Chill to see how this can be done.
The various horror sub-genres are covered here.  Not all of them, but enough and some ideas on how to run a game using those sub-genres.
Chapter 7 lists our Horror Gear and Magic Items.  Yes, there is something similar to the Lament Configuration.
Chapter 8 Bestiary, was an unexpected surprise. There are not a lot of creatures here but there are some interesting ones.
The book ends with a list of horror inspirations in print and film.

Both books are fun, but they are viewed through the lens, naturally, of the Pathfinder game.
Either book has something to offer the Pathfinder GM/DM but also the D&D/OSR DM willing to do a little work and little tweaking.  Classes and Archetypes can be converted as can spells and magic items.  Advice on running the games is good for any sort of game system really.
They are good guides, not the best, but still pretty good.


Monday, October 24, 2016

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Blood on Satan's Claw (1970)

A deformed skull sends a small 18th century English town into a Satanic Panic as children begin to murder each other and others.

The movie, has a lot of style, but not a lot of substance.   While it is cut from the same general cloth as The Devil Rides Out and other folk-horror films it's not as good.  It does pick up a bit, but never enough to really get going.

I like folk horror and pagan horror, but one has to ask why the Devil is wasting his time in tiny little English village full of superstitious villagers.








2016 Movie tally
Watched: 23
New: 18


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