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

Monday, October 30, 2017

No Spell to Right This: Carmilla Week Round-up

Well...it was more than a week really.

I love doing these week-long deep dives into a character or a system. It's a great way to explore a topic in my mind. Whether it is a week-long deep dive into a game system like Blue Rose or Superbabes or investigating a set of characters like I did with Miriam and Fran it is something I really look forward to planning and doing.

Doing this for Carmilla and Laura was just as much fun.

I did a lot of stats for various horror games.
Not to mention my original Ghosts of Albion stats for "book" Carmilla.

I also watched a lot of movies.
I would like to try some more systems to be honest. Chill 3.0 comes to mind.
Anyone have any requests?

I am looking forward to doing some more of these deep dives.  Maybe next time a game system.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Seven Best Horror RPGs

I wanted to get this out in time for Halloween weekend gaming.

This is based on a conversation I was having on Facebook where we all discussing the "Seven Best".  I had a number of people ask me what I felt were the Seven Best Horror RPGs.

For this I immediately thought I am not going to include any horror RPG I have either written or worked on, but as it turns out that is a non-issue since my top seven are all ones done by others.  If this was a Top 10 then we might have other problems!


So without further ado, here they are my Seven Top Horror RPGs, arranged by year and one honorable mention.

Seven Horror RPGs
There is a chill in the air, gloomy clouds in the sky and leaves are all turning.  It is October and it's the time of the season for horror games.  I have been playing horror games for as long I have been playing RPGs.  Even my fantasy and sci-fi RPGs take on a slightly darker tinge to them.  So with Halloween just around the corner I wanted to talk about my Seven Favorite Horror RPGs.

Call of Cthulhu (1981)
Call of Cthulhu might not be the exact first horror RPG, but it was one of the first and the most influential. It was certainly the first horror game that most of us have played or knew about.  It perfectly blended the mythos stories of H.P. Lovecraft with RPG mechanics. Out of the gate the game did exactly what it was supposed to do, which is why the changes in the first six editions are relatively minor.
Call of Cthulhu was monster hunting, but it was so much more than that.  “Monster hunting” covers D&D pretty well but there the similarities end.  In CoC you had to investigate, you had to research and then maybe, just maybe, you found the clue you needed.  If there was magic you used it only in the direst of circumstances and even then your victory or your sanity was never assured.  For many in the 80s, CoC was their first introduction to the weird and alien worlds of the Cthulhu Mythos. Stories from 30-50 years prior were now in vogue again and influenced a generation of gamers and game designers.
The Basic Roleplay System from CoC also powered other games namely Stormbringer (1981), Superworld (1983) and RuneQuest (1978, 1980).

Chill (1984, 1992, 2015)
Chill has the distinction of being the second RPG I ever played (Dungeons & Dragons was first).  Chill is a horror game in the vein of the Saturday night creature feature monster movies, or monster hunting TV shows of the 80s to today.  Here our heroes are brave (mostly) but are expected to push back the dark for just another day.  Chill First Edition came out of Wisconsin and Chill Second Edition came from the Chicago suburbs, so it had a strong Midwest flavor to it that drew me in immediately.
Like Call of Cthulhu’s investigators the characters of Chill are normal humans caught up in an abnormal world.  There are monsters and they need to stop them.  Not always because they are the best at what they do, but because they are the only ones that can. Unlike CoC, the characters of Chill are expected to survive, more or less.  Call of Cthulhu has investigators, Chill has heroes. The definition is subtle in play, but you can feel it.
Chill introduced me to the idea of a meta-plot in RPGs. That there was more going on than just what your characters did. There was this worldwide organization, S.A.V.E., and they helped with the beasties and things that went bump in the night. As the books came out the S.A.V.E. plot expanded.   But we ignored this for the most part with 1st Ed.  In 2nd ed and later 3rd Edition, this became more of a central feature of the game.

Vampire: The Masquerade (1991)
Very, very few games have changed the business as much as Vampire.  Up to this point, you fought the monsters.  With Vampire you became the monster and the battle was with yourself.
Vampire asks the question, what would you do to stay alive? What price is your humanity to just exist for one more long night?  There is personal horror here along with existential horror.    There are also other horrors. Things worse than you, things less human than you are.
The mechanics of the Vampire game, later the Storyteller System, were nothing new; a dice pool with successes and botches, but combined with the story and the effects it became the system of choice for many in the 1990s.  In fact it captured the fear and horror of the 90s so well that it can be better compared to the fear and horror seen in Dracula at the turn of the prior century (1890s).  Though Vampire owes its largest debt to Anne Rice and embraced (pardon the pun) by those who grew up on “Interview with a Vampire” and “The Vampire Lestat”.
For better or for worse Vampire changed not only how we view games but how they were also marketed and sold.

Kult (1993)
Kult asks the question “What is reality?” and the answers are not ones that normal people want to hear.  Characters can come from all walks of life and persuasion and the background can be any large modern city.  But that is where most games stay, Kult goes beyond that and characters (and players) discover that reality is an illusion and the real reality is a battleground of supernatural forces vying for control.
If WitchCraft posits that “All Things are True”, Kult’s point of view is “Nothing is true”.  In many ways, it presaged the ideas from the movies “That Dark City” and “The Matrix”.  There are supernatural creatures that control various areas of human action and interaction behind the scene and some humans know about these creatures, Archons and Death Angels, and follow them in cults. The characters do what they can to discover these forces or keep them at bay.
The game had a great concept in Mental Balance that was the first real challenger I felt to Call of Cthulhu's Sanity score in terms of gauging the mental health of the characters involved. More out of balance you are the stranger you become even to the point of not being altogether human yourself anymore.
With Kult, the horror is also of an existentialist variety, but in that way, only the Scandinavian seem to do well. If Call of Cthulhu is Lovecraft and Chill a Saturday Night Monster Movie then Kult is Søren Kierkegaard.

CJ Carella's WitchCraft (1999)
WitchCraft is, hands down, my favorite game.  Period.  Picking up a copy of this book back in 1999 was just like picking up a copy of the Monster Manual in 1979.  Everything I ever wanted in a game was right there. Everything.
WitchCraft had such a profound effect on my gaming that I can draw a rather clean line between what came before and what came after it.
The central idea behind WitchCraft is the same as most other Modern Supernatural Horror games.  The world is like ours, but there are dark secrets, magic is real, monsters are real. You know the drill.  But WitchCraft is different.  There is a Reckoning coming, everyone feels it, but no one knows what it is.  Characters then take on the roles of various magic using humans, supernaturals or even mundane humans and they fight the threats.  Another conceit of the game (and one I use a lot) is that supernatural occurrences are greater now than ever before.  Something's coming.
You can play the same sort of games you played in Call of Cthulhu or Chill as well as Vampire.  WitchCraft assumed that all supernatural views of the world were equally likely. So vampires could rub elbows, metaphysically speaking, with elder horrors from beyond. Your characters can be there to stop them, study them or join them as the case may be.

Little Fears (2001)
When was the last time you were really, really afraid? Most people would say childhood.  Little Fears is exactly about that.  Little Fears is a game of childhood fears.  The monsters are real, they hide in your closet and under your bed. The scary old lady down the street really is a hag. But don’t worry. You are protected by Belief and items that seem mundane or meaningless to grownups can help you.   Little Fears is based on a simple system, as befitting its nature of school children fighting monsters adults can’t see. 
Little Fears also has the notoriety of being one of three RPGs one of my FLGS will not sell in the open.  You can order it, but they don’t stock it.  I don’t agree, but I respect their choice.
While it is a game about children, it is not a game for children.  The subject matter of abuse and death can be a bit much for some adults, let alone kids.  It is also one of the most effective horror RPGs I own.

Sorcerer (2002)
If Vampire is all about what will you do to remain human, Ron Edward’s Sorcerer is all about what price will you do for power?  Created at the height of the creative output of The Forge, indeed the first RPG from and starting the independent RPG movement from The Forge. 
Like Vampire your character struggles with their Humanity. But where Vampire can be described as the Beast Within, Sorcerer is the Beast Without or in this case a personal Demon.  You make a pact with a Demon for power and the more power you need, use or take causes you to lose your humanity and become more and more enthralled to the demon.  The game can do a lot of different types of play, but it is all centered around this central idea.

And one more.

Special Mention: WITCH Fated Souls (2016)
I know I am only doing Seven games, but WITCH Fated Souls by Elizabeth Chaipraditkul combines a lot of what made all these other games so much fun.  You have the struggle with power vs. humanity vs. damnation you see in Vampire and Sorcerer. The hidden world of Little Fears, Chill, and Kult and the power struggle between faction you can see in WitchCraft and again in Vampire.   All against a background that is as unique as Call of Cthulhu and Kult.
I picked up this game last year and have not done enough with it yet.

All these games are great and many have won numerous awards over the years.  They have been enough that they cover most aspects of horror.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #126

October 1987.  I am a Freshman in University and about to hit my first big Halloween bash at a school notorious for it's 50,000+ people Halloween party.  But that is at night. Durning the day I pick up a copy of Dragon magazine that is destined to be one of my top three Dragons of all time.
So "Here I Go Again" with October 1987 and issue #126 of This Old Dragon!

Let's first talk about that cover.  It is easily one of my all-time favorite covers. Daniel R. Horne's "Saving the Best for Last" is an epic in a picture.  An old enemy back from the dead to exact his revenge and a ranger down to her last magic arrow.  Only one is going to walk away here.  To this day if I ever use a frost giant against a group of characters you can best believe that at least one of them is coming back as an undead to try to avenge.  That's some powerful shit there to still affect my gaming 30 years later.

Letters come from people looking for PBM games. I didn't have a mainframe account yet, but I knew even then that LISTSERVs were going to be the future of gaming, at least anyway for the next few years.  We also learn that Star Frontiers will no longer be published. More on that in a bit.

The Forum covers two letters concerning setting up a BBS (Bulletin Board System) for accessing older Dragon articles via modem.  Oh the can of worms that must have raised in the offices then.  This is the dawn of the age that TSR clamped down on ANYTHING on the Internet that was D&D related.  Heck in the 90s I seriously doubt I could have even done an article like this without hear from their lawyers.  Look, I am all about nostalgia here of the "Golden Age" of our hobby, but let's not forget what a bunch of assholes TSR had back in the late 80s and early 90s.  You could barely talk about anything online.  When it comes to doing anything online with D&D give me WotC over TSR any day of the week.  Sorry if that makes me loose my old-school street cred, but it is also the truth.

Ken Rolston is up first with his Copyright 1987 Role-Playing Reviews (No snark, I only point that out because it is one of the reasons why the BBS would not have worked and the CD-ROM didn't).  Covered this month is Role-Aids Undead.  I enjoyed the Role-Aids products even if they never had much, or any, traction in my groups back then.  Everyone was all "only TSR!". But Undead is a fun book an a fun adventure.  It had some great alternate lich ideas and some cool undead.  It even had a clan of disgraced dwarves.

Sage Advice runs the gambit.  One player asks if his LG Paladin could marry a CE Magic-User. It must have made a sub-conscious impact on me cause I'd spend the next few years having my Paladins fall in love with Witches.  Or maybe they are both my favorite classes.
We learn also there will be no more Star Frontiers (less details than promised) and no more D&D Cartoon.

We come up to our October feature! The Dead of Night.

To start off with a home run we have THE Tom Moldvay talking about a bunch of different vampires in Hearts of Darkness.  He gives us stats not only for the vrykolakas, Baobhan sith, and the ch'ing shih but also for Dracula himself. I had been working on the stats for Dracula for every game I knew at that point.  I even had Star Frontiers stats for him.  Seeing this was like a bolt from the blue.  I knew I was doing something right.  I still continue to this day.

Dead on Target by David Howery is a great article on using the right weapon against the right undead.  If you go with the idea that clerics can't use swords, then this article makes a lot of sense in explaining that.  Swords are not that effective against skeletons, zombies or ghouls. Sorry Michonne.  A lot of these ideas have been used in other games before or since, but here they were new and fresh and really, really bugged the crap out of my players. Especially since I Was about to go All Ravenloft, All the Time.

Vince Garcia is no stranger to the Other Side.  His article on A Touch of Evil:  Breathing life into the world of the dead was another one of those articles that were common sense in retrospect but seemed revolutionary at the time.  The article covers how to make undead scarier and more unique.  It flows well from Dead on Target to really, really make for a bad day.

And now the scariest article of all....Steve Winter is up with The Game Wizards Second Edition: An Editors Viewpoint.  Yes, 2nd edition is going to be here in about a year.  It is an overview of what the Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide will contain.  I remember a few years back comparing this list to my PHB and DMG and found minor differences, but nothing that stood out.  I can't recall if I was excited then or not. I DO know what I did think eventually.  It is the same cycle I go through with ever edition change.  1. "I am not going to upgrade, I am happy with what I have." 2. "Ok, I'll have a look and see, but I am not really going to play." 3. "Wow this is awesome! I love what they did!" 4. "Abandon everything, this is now the only edition I will ever play!" 5. Repeat.  The notable exception was 3.0 and I was ready for that one the moment I knew it was coming.

Dan Salas is next with a world changing article for me. Well, game world changing.  The Ecology of the Shade gives us a look into the Shade (from MM2).  AS an alternate to the Lich this was a viable option for characters looking for immortality and not exactly Good.  Some of this would come back from the dead in 4e as the Revenant.

Bazaar of the Bizarre covers Treasures of the Orient. Neat, but I would have rather seen more spooky stuff.

Dean Shomshak is back with some spells for Call of Cthulhu in A Ghastly Grimoire.  I adapted some to AD&D.

Letters and Forum have their overflow pages.

The Dragon's Bestiary covers mutants for Gamma World.  Yes, I converted some of these as well. Especially the Giggle Bugs.

New contact system for Top Secret.

The Marvel Phile is next and it is another home run.
One of my FAVORITE Marvel Comics was The Tomb of Dracula.  Loved it. Was introduced to such great characters as Drake, Blade and of course Doctor Strange.
The Marvel Phile has stats for Dracula and bringing his "history" up to date.
I spent HOURS pouring over various books and movies and comics to come up with the most detailed history of Dracula.  I had him doing something every year from the time he was born till 1987.  Obsessive much? Yes. But you should expect that by now.
I added his Marvel stats to my collection as well.

HUGE ad for something I never thought I would see in 1987.  A Star Wars RPG.






Role of Computers covers the state of the art for PC games at the time.  One game it covered was Rogue by Epyx, Inc.  It reviewed the PC and Mac versions, but not the one I was playing at the time, the Tandy Color Computer 3.  I was most disappointed.

Small ads.
Convention Calendar
Snarf Quest and Dragon Mirth.
A double shot of Wormy in the form of a Hex-Word puzzle and the normal comic.
Fun stuff.




All in all a crazy great issue and one I still use.

Want to know what I thought of White Dwarf from the same month? Spoiler, it doesn't measure up. But check out White Dwarf Wednesday #94.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #54

Again today is a bit of cheat. I had been going through all my October issues and this is the next one on the pile.  It's October 1981.  I am in the earliest days of my gaming life, having played Basic D&D pretty much exclusively but adding the bits from AD&D where we wanted. This would place me in 7th grade and my life was full of D&D and learning to program on a TRS-80 Model III.
Radio and the movies have been dominated by "Endless Love" and "Arthur" since August and on the shelves is Issue #54 of This Old Dragon!

Ok let's get to that cover.  I HATED it!  Not because it is bad or anything, but when I was little I had gotten really scared of the trees in the Wizard of Oz movie.  I also was scared of the Tree Monster from the terrible movie "From Hell it Came".  Poltergeist didn't help either. Ever since then Tree Monsters freak me out. Not today of course...that would be silly...(looks behind).
But all kidding aside it is actually a really fun cover.

We start of the issue with a letter from J.D. Webster concerning the fate of the comic Fineous Fingers.  FF was also that bit of D&D history that "predated" me. While I was playing and had been now for two years (little less) I was not reading Dragon yet and I had not even heard of White Dwarf.  I used things like FF to judge how long people had been playing.  If they talked about it I knew they had been more involved than me.  Plus one of the groups in town had a player (I forgot who) whose character was Fineous Fingers.   Oh, the letter.  Yeah, this is the last issue for FF.

There are some letters, mostly about a recent adventure competition.

Up first in real articles we have something from Ed Greenwood.  So this year (2017) I have been spending some time expanding my knowledge of the Forgotten Realms.   This article is one of the earliest articles on the Realms I know of.  Down-to-earth Divinity discusses how Ed has put together his Pantheon of Gods.   You can easily see how this evolved into the gods of the Realms.  I found it interesting that he includes the elemental gods from the Melnibonéan mythos. There are a lot of "reskinned" Deities and Demigods gods here too (which is the point of the article).  I liked that Ed specifically mentions that witches worship Selûne.  The article is long and seriously good.

A feature I loved in the past is present in this issue, The Dragon's Bestiary. We get a different version of the Boggart here, closer to it's Brownie origins. The Stroan, which looks like a giant water bug, and the Incubus.

Beware the Jabberwock is next by Mark Nuiver.  Background and stats for the creature and the poem that gave us the vorpal sword.

The centerpiece of this issue is the competition adventure for AD&D, Cavern Quest by Bill Fawcett.  It's a long one and has one of the most complex scoring systems I have seen. It might be fun to try with the right group.

Abomination is the fiction bit. Seems related to the cover.

Cash & Carry for Cowboys by Glenn Rahman is one of the very few Boot Hill articles I can recall reading in the pages of Dragon.  Odd that Boot Hill has not been remade in the wave of nostalgia hitting both WotC and the OSR.   It is a very useful price list of items for sale in the Old West.

Simulation Corner by John Prados looks like it was a semi-regular feature on Game Design.  This one, Practicing Game Design III Rules of Realism covers how to get realism into your game.  It might be interesting, in a purely academic sense, to compare this five-part series to what later would be said about GMS game theory or the work at The Forge.  My philosophy of game design is a simple one.  Do what is fun and serves the game the best.  Derive everything else from that.

Another favorite feature from the past, Bazaar of the Bizarre is next. This time we get More feather tokens by Edward J. Greenwood.   To go with a loose Halloween theme there is the Skull Mace, Mace of Pain and Jug of Undead.

Hmm...there is a continuation of an article on Ruins that I don't seem to have the first part of.

There is a silly little technology quiz on page 74.  At 11 I would have loved it. Today...it's like seeing an ad for polyester kung-fu pants.

We get a What's New. A Dragonmirth.  Both Wormy and Fineos Fingers in color.

Ads for both the D&D Basic set (A Dungeons & Dragons Adventure!)


Loved these ads. But you never got to fight a Purple Worm in Basic!

And and ad for the D&D Folders.


Always wanted one of these!

Great issue. Not very Halloween-filled, but still a lot of fun.

Here is what I said about White Dwarf #27 from the same month.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

October Horror Movie Challenge: Black Swan (2010)

Is Black Swan a Horror flick?

It certainly has elements of it and IMDB and Wikipedia list it as Psychological Horror.  I mean it is no Silence of the Lambs, but it can get to you.
Plus Darren Aronofsky can do some really creepy shit (see "Requiem for a Dream").

There is no "last girl" here and certainly no one is murdered (except for a hallucination) and we can never really be sure of Nina's (Natalie Portman) ultimate fate (though to stick with Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake theme she certainly died).

Portman gave a fantastic, Oscar worthy,  performance, as to be expected, and Mila Kunis was also really good as Lily.

This movie was a happenstance for this challenge.  I do not have it on tape but it was on one of the movie channels.

A good movie makes you think afterwards.  Though not all movies that make you think are necessarily good.  This is both.  Sometimes Aronofsky can get on my nerves, but this was a good one.





Thursday, October 12, 2017

October Horror Movie Challenge: Burn Witch Burn! (1962)

Also known as Night of the Eagle, this is one of the many versions of Fritz Lieber's Conjure Wife and one of my favorite versions of it.

this version cleaves much better to the spirit of the book, but it is also missing significant portions of the book and some of the elements that made to book so good.  In particular, it changes the entire ending.  To be fair, the movie ending fits the movie better, but I do prefer the book ending more.

The whole bit where Tansy looses her soul is also missing.  The movie does not suffer for it, but the story has less punch.

Janet Blair and Peter Wyngarde are very good as the young college professor and his witch wife Tansy.  They look very much like I would expect them to look from the book.

My son Connor did not watch this with me.

This Old Dragon: Issue #138

October 1988.  I was a sophomore in college, but not just any college. I was at Southern Illinois University and Halloween was a HUGE deal. I debuted my first version of my "Astaroth" devil costume.  A couple of my friends got wasted, damaged part of the football field and got arrested.  I also "invented" the "Bush Whacker"; a double shot of vodka washed down with a Bush beer.  Never been able to drink vodka after that night.  My college roommate had a new girlfriend so I ended up with a dorm room all to myself.  It was pretty sweet really.  I had finished my first draft of the Witch class nearly two years prior and was now into deep playtesting and revising.   It's October 1988 and this is issue #138 of This Old Dragon!

As far as Dragons go I consider this one in my top five.  I remember walking to the bookstore down "The Strip" (Illinois Ave) to pick this up.  The cover could not be more Halloween-themed if it tried.   The material inside completely lives up to this cover.

Roger E. Moore is now the Editor, replacing the departing Kim Mohan.  I am not sure when exactly this took place, but I do know that this was the first issue I really noticed it.   This is post-Gygax TSR and if we didn't know that know we soon will.  Not that I am trying to draw parallels between Moore and the people that took over TSR.  Far from it.  But there was a new direction in art and in in content in Dragon and other TSR works that really began to show about this time.  It is easy to lump it all into 2nd Edition era, but it started before that.

Letters cover the lack of Dragon magazine indexes.

Nice big full ad for Space 1889. I picked up this game used not soon after, but sold it in one my "purging" moods.  I finally got another one at Half-Price books a while back.

The Forum covers a variety of topics, heavy on contributions from IL I notice.  At the time I really had no idea how good I had it.  I have heard of an Original D&D corridor that ran from Chicago and Lake Geneva all the way down to Carbondale, IL (where I was) and hitting nearly every major university along the way down south.  Even in my hometown, there were several independent D&D groups running at same time.   The Egyptian Campaign (in Carbondale, aka "Little Egypt") had been running since it's involvement with fellow Saluki (SIU alum) Tim Kask.   All I knew was I had access to books, games, and people and I thought everyone had this.  Later I learned this was not the case and one of the reasons these other games and supplements began popping up, to fill a gap.

We get some advice on painting undead in Through the Looking Glass.

Ad for Dragonfire computer-aided DM's software.  I know people that swore by this.


I have heard that this software had been released as share-ware, but I could be mistaken.

The unofficial start to our Halloween issue is Sage Advice. Here Skip Williams covers various questions about the undead that I found very useful.  I notice that a lot of what was written here later informed the undead monsters of 2nd Edition.

Page 15 we hit the meat of this issue, all about horror!

Up first a little something for the Call of Cthulhu game. The Black Book and the Hunters by Craig Schaefer introduces The Black Book of Shub-Niggurath and the Hunters of Shub-Niggurath (Greater Servitor Race).  While I am not sure if I ever used these in CoC, I certainly used a lot of ideas from this article in dealing with demons.  In fact, I penciled in "Lesser" and "Greater Servitor Race" on many demon entries.

Double page ad for the SF&F book club.  Some great books here!

Up next is something from none other than Tom Moldvay.  No wonder I love this article so much.
The Ungrateful Dead expands the ranks of the undead with some monsters I STILL use to this very day.  These horrors include The Bloody Bones, Skleros,  Dry Bones ("Dem Bones"), Gem Eyes, Shock Bones (something I had come with independently based on a nightmare I had as a kid), Galley Beggers, the Walking Dead, the Lesser and Greater Colossus, the hungery Dead, Le Grand Zombi, Ghula, Baka, Gelloudes, Spirit Ghouls, a Wendigo (!), Black Annis and her cat, and the vampire like Callicantzaros.  Whew. A ton of undead from myth, legend and popular culture. So many I have used over the others and others I had forgotten!

Up next is an article I have a bit of contention with.  Not this article per se, but ones like it.
Ed Friedlander gives us madness in fantasy RPGS in Methods to Your Madness.
The article itself is not bad and really focuses on the fantasy aspects of the game and the potential effects.  In general, I find many bits on madness, "insanity" and psychological impairment to be hamfisted at best and dangerously wrong at worst.  My background is in Psychology. I have undergraduate and graduate degrees in it. I spent years working as a Qualified Mental Health Professional in a group home setting with schizophrenics. I don't like "sanity" rules in most games.  I like the ones in Call of Cthulhu because they work within the confines of the system and the mythos.
The rules in this article work because they do not try to cleave to close to modern psychology.  Instead of a diagnosis of a disease, we get descriptions of behaviors.

Eileen Lucas is up with an article I didn't read much then but have since come back too many, many times. The End of the World: Of plagues, player characters, and campaign worlds.  I think I am not the only one.  Remember the old Knight Rider TV show?  Every season it seemed like they had to crash and nearly destroy KITT (and sometime Micheal) to only rebuild it and make it stronger, better.  I see this sometimes in Campagin Worlds.  We saw it in Greyhawk and I am not sure how many times in Krynn and the Forgotten Realms.  The article though is very, very good and has a lot of great ideas on how to end the world and start again.  At this time in my own gaming the "Dragon Wars" had just happened and my world had been largely destroyed.  When I wanted to bring my world back for 3e I went back to this article to read up on the plague and the after effects of wars.

We break from disease and death to talk about lasers.
Martin Landauer is next with Putting Fire into Firepower or lasers for the original Top Secret game.  I always thought of this as the bridge between Top Secret and Star Frontiers.  Maybe they were in the same universe.

The fiction piece is next, Between Lightning & Thunder by Nancy Varian Berberick.

Cool full page ad for DC Heroes with my first introduction to Amanda Waller.


The Role of Computers covers the then cutting edge of computer games. Many with new CGA graphics!  Many games are listed at around the $40-$45 area.  Interesting how the price of games has not changed all that much.

A couple of pages of small ads.

Role-playing Reviews covers a few horror-themed game titles.  Cthulhu Now is a supplement for the Call of Cthulhu changing the setting to modern times.  Future versions of CoC will fold this information into the core book to some degree.  GURPS Horror was at this time considered to be the MUST HAVE horror supplement for any game.  I remember looking for it for years in my local stores; so much for easy access!  Beyond the Supernatural was also considered one of the hot horror games of the late 80s.  It is notable not just for it's content but for also starting the writing career of many horror RPG authors like C.J. Carella who would later go on to write WitchCraft.

A page of TSR Previews. This features (and there is an ad later) the LAST AD&D hardcover to be produced, Greyhawk Adventures. This book was notable for being 1st Edition, but also having 2nd Edition AD&D stat blocks for monsters.


I can't help but notice that the blue background on this is almost the same blue background that will be later used for the AD&D 2nd Edition preview book.

Convention Calendar is next.

DragonMirth has some comics including newbie Yamara.
SnarfQuest hits episode #62.
There is no Wormy.  Little did I (or anyone else) know Tramp had moved and was living about 2 miles from where I was.

Lots of full color, full page ads.

Wow. What a packed issue.  AD&D 1st Ed was in it's twilight years and we all knew it.  What we didn't know was that soon AD&D players would engage in "The Edition Wars".  Yes there had always been the AD&D vs. D&D ones, but that was minor when it came to the 1st vs. 2nd ed or the TSR vs. WotC ones over the next, well, forever.

But until then we have this brief moment of stillness and this really great issue.

What are your memories of October 1988?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

October Horror Movie Challenge: Alien Covenant (2017)

Another new one.  Plus I am running out of tape material.

Note: Spoilers ahead.

Alien Covenant attempts correct some of the mistakes from Prometheus.  Not sure how well it succeeds. For starters, this is a proper Alien movie, with xenomorphs, spaceships, a crazy android. Everything that made the first one a sci-fi and horror classic.

This one doesn't quite work as well.

It's a good sci-fi flick and has some good moments, but otherwise, it is only ok.

I am not exactly sure why that is.

I talked to my wife and son about this.  They pointed out that the alien was not really the enemy. They were only a tool. The real bad guy was the android, David.

Well, I had hoped for more.




Saturday, October 7, 2017

October Horror Movie Challenge: Gothic (1986)

Gothic is another one of those films that you either love or hate.  I enjoyed the hell out of it. The story of how Frankenstein and the Vampyre came to be? Ken Russell as the director? Gabriel Byrne as Lord Byron, Julian Sands as Percy Bysshe Shelley, and an absolutely lovely Natasha Richardson as Mary Shelley (in her film debut)?  Music by Thomas Dolby? What's not to love?
Well plenty it seems.  The movie was a commercial bomb, though it did make good money on the home video market.

Connor hated it. Though he did recognize Timothy Spall who played Dr. John William Polidori here and later Peter "Wormtail" Pettigrew.

I watched this a few Challenges back but for the life of me I can't find the write up.  My wife hated it then too. It does feel dated and the music is very much mid-80s synth.  But it is still a lot of fun.





Friday, October 6, 2017

October Horror Movie Challenge: Lair of the White Worm (1988)

On to my vampire tapes now.  I am not going to review all of these since I had done so many of these in past Challenges. But there are few that stand out.

Lair of the White Worm (1988) is one of those movies.  Rather infamous at the time and a lot of the same visuals from director Ken Russell that made Tommy (1975) so good.

The star of this is a deliciously sexy-evil Amanda Donohoe as the snake-vampire thing Lady Sylvia Marsh.  I read that the role had been offered to Tilda Swinton. Could you have imagined that? I think it would have been awesome. Of course watching it now it is a very young looking Peter Capaldi with a thick northern accent as archaeology student Angus Flint.

I know this is based on a Bram Stoker novella, but it's not a very good novella really.  I read it, gods, back in my university days.  Connor wanted to know why worms, dragons, snakes, and vampires were all getting blended together in this.  It's a good question really.





Thursday, October 5, 2017

October Horror Movie Challenge: Dark City (1998)

This must be my Alex Proyas tape.  Dark City was one of those movies that came up a lot on the old Kult RPG list I was on.

Connor thought it was cool, but had a lot of his own theories and questions.

As much as I talk about the Occult Revival 70s, there is also the Paranoid 90s.  Everything is a conspiracy and THEY are always out to get you or keep you from the truth.  You can see this in the X-files and movies like The Matrix and They Live.

Games like Kult (1991), Conspiracy X (1996), Beyond the Supernatural (1987), Chill 2nd Edition (1990), even to a degree Alternity's Dark Matter, all captured different aspects of this feeling.

I was involved in many online debates on what system would do Dark City justice.  I had always put my chips in a Conspiracy X/WitchCraft hybrid.








This Old Dragon: Issue #90

Ok. I will admit this. I am totally cheating.  Normally I grab an issue off the top and review it as is.  But this is October and that's a big deal here at The Other Side.  So I went through my stacks and pulled out the remaining October issues I had and put them on top.  So let's go back to the scary 80s.  Reagan is in office. We have two Germanys. And the USSR is still biggest big bad on the planet. Nukes will fly at any moment, especially if there is some "glitch" in a computer (or a kid with a modem wanting to play a game). It's October 1984 and this is issue #90 of This Old Dragon!

The cover. I always liked this cover a lot.  I always felt that harpies were an under-used monster and they needed to be scarier. When I first saw this though I thought the harpy and human were on a DESK not a deck and that for some reason they were shrunk down to a smaller size.  It was such profound first impression that I have to look hard at it NOT to see that.  Strange how memory works.

Ok for an October issue there is not much in the way of a horror theme here.  There are some horror elements to be certain, but nothing that explicitly ties them all together.

Out on a Limb covers the seemingly impossible relationship between chaotic to the core Norebo and hard-line lawful Wee Jas.  Kim Mohan makes two suggestions. First, opposites attract and Norebo has a big mouth.  Second, they goofed.   I like the idea of them being together, to be honest.  Gods need to be complicated.   There are some letters of praise of Baba Yaga's Hut adventure but pointing out how Baba Yaga does not match earlier versions in Dragon or the Hut matching up with the one in the DMG.  In these cases that was all done on purpose; which I get.

The Forum begins (or continues) the long debate on physics and falling damage.

Our first proper article is from Ed Greenwood.  We are introduced to the Incantatrix NPC class.  This is issue 90, we are still 2 years away from the witch class so, for now, this is the current AD&D attempt at a witch.  Incantatrix means a woman that makes incantations, or a female spell caster.  This class has seen a lot of love and hate online and it was a little controversial in our groups as well.  The article is six pages and has some great ideas and some really neat spells.  I have a lot of issues with this class, but I want to focus on only a couple.  First, it is much weaker than a similar level magic-user. I guess this is why it is an NPC class afterall.  Also, the class has something of a split personality. It is a spell-thief AND a class that fights other spellcasters and outsiders.  I think splitting it up into two separate concepts would fit much better.   Let's talk about the spell-thief bit for a second.  Here is a quote from the article:
But how could a mere wizard defeat the Archmage with a spell so beyond her powers? asked the sage skeptically.
Ok. First point. How did you know that the incantatrix was a "mere wizard"?  Now granted, many worlds have classifications of wizards. Look at Krynn and I know that "Archmage" is actually a big deal.  But at the same time to a casual observer, do you know how powerful someone is?
Now that is not to say that this class doesn't have a lot of potential. It does. In fact, it came back as a 3.0 Edition Prestige Class in Magic of Faerûn. This version focused on her "meta-magic" feats.
An OSR or 5th Edition Incantatrix is needed I think.

Nice big ad for Chill.

Gary is up next with Hold that person! The definitive list of charm-able humanoids.  This is the list of anything affected by Charm or Hold Person spells. I had kept this list in with my notes on what would become the Witch.  It's a good list.  Gary shares other news like the huge GenCon 17 turnout and how they sold out of the D&D Companion set.  He is also working on T2 The Temple of Elemental Evil, or rather handing it to Frank Mentzer who is also busy with the Masters Set of D&D rules.  There is no more movement on AD&D 2nd Edition at this point, but there is speculations that the Monster book will be two books.  The D&D cartoon is renewed and the D&D movie script is moving ahead.  It does make me wonder if some of the items for AD&D 2 ended up in next year's Unearthed Arcana.

Ed is back again with Bats that do more than bite: Six species from Elminster's latest lecture. Or six types of bats unique to the Realms.

The next installment of Gods of the Suel pantheon is up. Len Lakofka gives us Phyton, Xerbo, and Osprem.   Our two sea gods Xerbo and Osprem both have tridents.  I guess there is a rule that sea gods must have one.

Mike Beeman has some advice on Playing the political game: A change of pace for AD&D game adventuring.  This article covers how to play a game of political intrigue.  I nice companion piece I think to the rules from the Companion Set and the upcoming Master Set.  Also one I think that would be well received today with the popularity of Game of Thrones.

Plane facts on Gladsheim: What it's like in the land of the Norse gods covers the planes of Gladsheim by Roger E. Moore.  It is a nice companion piece to the adventure coming up. I liked this article because at this time I was really beginning to move away from Greek myth and into more Norse and eventually Celtic myths.  This is a good starting point. Most of the article is devoted to spell changes.

This is followed up with Aesirhamar, a high-level adventure taking place in Gladsheim also by Roger E. Moore.

Jerry Epperson contributes to the Halloween feel and gives us a review of the first edition of Chill.  The review, while only a page an half long, is very positive and covers all the basics of what you can do with Chill.

Lots of ads.

We get to the Ares section now.

Up first is Skills for the Super Agent: Agent skill packages in the CHAMPIONS game by Gregg Sharp.  This is for making proper "Super" Spies in a Supers game.
Steve Perrin has some more powers for the Superworld game.

The big one, and one I had cut out of my original copy and stuck in my Star Frontiers box, is The Mega-Corporations for Star Frontiers by Kim Eastland.   This article shifted my SF playing from a Star Wars/Star Trek kitbash to a proto-ShadowRun game.  Though we took a lot from Blade Runner too.   I swear I had created some mega-corps myself but for the life of me, I can't recall any.

Riddle of the Ring has a big full-page ad.  They have sold the rights to their "unique" game to Iron Crown Enterprises.



Another Gen Con 17 report, this time from Roger Moore and focusing on the sci-fi elements of the con.

Big for Bard games.
Convention Calendar.
Lots of small ads.

Wormy's trolls go fishing and Aveeare encounters magic in Snarf Quest.

Very memorable issue.  Lots of nostalgia.  I was a big fan of I.C.E.'s Middle Earth back in the day and seeing the ads for it and the "Riddle of the Ring" always make me smile.  If you want to learn more about I.C.E.'s Middle Earth in White Dwarf #58 from the same month and year as this Dragon.

Did anyone play an Incantatrix? I am curious to hear your experiences.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Crow (1994)

No movie captures the "Noir of the Nineties" more than "The Crow".

It has been said that the only difference between a slasher flick and an action flick is if the "Last Girl" is a woman or a big action star.  The Crow does this in reverse.
The "Last Girl" is Brandon Lee's Eric Draven. Who is not a big hulking action star, but a man engulfed in sadness.   The plot, minus the supernatural elements, is not much different than Steven Seagal's "Hard to Kill".  The difference, of course, is that Eric Draven is an undead champion of vengeance.  He is not a zombie though and he still feels, well, everything.

This leaves us the question. Is The Crow a horror movie?
I still say yes.  The horrors visited on Eric and his fiancé Shelly are enough to merit a "Horror" tag.  Eric himself, an undead force of vengeance is akin to Freddy and Jason; he just kills bad guys.

In truth, this movie influenced a lot of what we think of as the Modern Supernatural out now.  This struck the same chords in people (and often the same people) that "Lost Boys" did.  While Lost Boys was very much a product of the late 80s, The Crow is a product of the mid 90s and it's influences reached far and wide.  Watch the scene where Eric confronts Top Dollar and his gang and then watch Heath Ledger's Joker confront the criminal underworld in The Dark Knight.

Ultimately the movie is sad.
Sad not just for the subject matter, but sad for the real-world death of Brandon Lee.



Tuesday, October 3, 2017

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Shinning (1980)

This might not be the best Stephen King book made into a film, but it is certainly a great one.  This is a Stanely Kubrick masterpiece of insanity, murder, and supernatural happenings that few movies can compare too.

This is Kubrick at his best, Nicholson at his most manic, and Stephen King at his most...well, Stephen King.

Connor loved this one. He had known about the movie and many of the scenes for a long time, I mean how could you not?  So the movie lived up to the hype in his mind.

Rewatching this now, many years later, I am struck by how much I really enjoyed Kubrick's direction here.  His vision may not have been the same as King's, but it is a good vision, even a great one.

This isn't just one of my favorite horror movies it is one of my favorite movies of all time.  It's not perfect of course, but it is great.









Watched: 3

Monday, October 2, 2017

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Car (1977)

Ah. This little piece of cinematic trash made to it TV sometime in the late 70s. I am sure I recorded it back in the 80s at one point, and then transferred to another tape in the 90s.  I WISH I had kept the commercials in this, but I edited them out to make more room on the tape.   That's a lot of work to spend on this movie.

Rewatching this now, 40 years later, I am again taken with the 70s obsession with the Devil.  Plus I will never get that horn out of my mind.
The movie is lack luster really.  Killer car.  People find some really dumb ways to put themselves in the path of this thing.

I remember thinking at the time it was cool concept, but poorly executed.

Connor, predictably, was bored. So was I to be honest.

My memory of this movie is much better than the movie itself.  The final scene where the car is blown up and "the devil" is released was also much cooler in my memory than on this tape.
I remember my brothers and sisters watching this and then laughing many years later when a still of the explosion was later used in a supermarket gossip rag as the "face of the devil" in a storm.

Maybe it is time to remake this one.  Maybe now with a killer drone.







Watched: 2

Sunday, October 1, 2017

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Exorcist (1973)

Let's start this off right with a movie I consider one of the scariest ever made. 1973's The Exorcist.

By today's standard, this movie is slow. In fact my son kept asking for when it was going to get going.  But one it get's going, man does it keep going. It is almost relentless, to be honest.

The cast delivers a top notch performance but obviously, the big nod goes to Linda Blair.  She ended up nominated for an Academy Award and won a Golden Globe and People's Choice award for her role as possessed girl Regan.

There is a lot going on this movie and there is now, of course, an entire "expanded universe", but this is the first, this is the where it started.  Directed by William Friedkin and produced and written (book and screenplay) by William Peter Blatty this movie takes everything I remember about the 70s Occult resurgence and boils it down in a crucible over hell fire.

My son, who has grown up on a steady diet of monster hunting shows like Supernatural, did not see the horror.   He had at least a dozen ways in his mind that the demon could have been gotten rid of.

In the end, though he still enjoyed it.

Still, scares the shit out of me.





Watched: 1

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.
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