Tuesday, October 4, 2016

October Horror Movie Challenge: Gaslight (1940)

Amber Benson once told me that all great Victorian horror stories need to begin with a murder.  Gaslight is no exception.  Now there are few things about this movie.  First, this is the original British production from 1940, not the "remake" from America in 1944.  In truth, they are both remakes of the stage play.
Second, this movie is the origin (or maybe the American one is) of the term "Gaslighting"; or making someone (in particular a woman) think they are insane by manipulating the environment around them.   Upfront you can tell that is an adaption of a play. Not that this a bad thing, but there is a certain level of melodrama that comes from a stage play that you can see here.

The film is Noir even if the story is straight out of gothic literature. It makes for a great late-Victorian, early-Edwardian piece.  I am calling it horror because there are some fairly horrific implications of this movie.  Paul is quite a monster in this, to be honest.  I kept wanting him to die a horrible death.  His ending is very delicious.

The atmosphere skips between the whimsy I associate with films from the 1940s and the think gothic atmosphere of the story.

I saw the 1944 version years and years ago. This one really reminded me of that one.


2016 Movie tally
Watched: 4
New: 3



Review: Victorious

Victorious or Victorious: Steampunk Adventure in the Age of SuperMankind is a game that I had been waiting for sometime.  I had not been able back it in the Kickstarter so I picked it up this past Gen Con.  I was quite pleased to do so.

Victorious is not the game I thought is was.  That is not a problem of the game, but rather a problem with my expectations.  I thought this was going to be a Victorian steam-punk game closer to Leagues of Adventure.  The game I got  though is rather fun and different than other Victorian games I have played and own.  This is a very good thing.

Victorious is a game of Victorian era Steam Punk Superheroes.  Once I got that into my head then the rest was a ton of fun.

The system is the tried and true SIEGE Engine from Castles & Crusades and Amazing Adventures and is largely compatible with both of those games.  So adventures for one will work in the other.  In fact, I tried out an Amazing Adventures scenario I had used in the past and it worked brilliantly.

Let's look into the chapters.
First, though, full disclosures.
1. I purchased both the hardcover and the PDF versions with my own cash.  Troll Lords did not send me copies for review, nor are they expecting reviews.
2. Links in this review often link to affiliate sites where I get a small percentage of anything bought.
3. I have authored a Victorian game that could be considered competition to this game. I do not see this as such.  Victorious and Ghosts of Albion can be played in similar time periods and even tell similar stories (I am planning on running a Ghosts adventure under Victorious to test this) but the games are not in competition with each other or other Victorian era games.

The Book. The book is a sturdy hardcover with color covers, black and white interiors, 144 pages.  The form and format reminds me of the original AD&D books.  The PDF comes with two files, one is a little more print friendly than the other.  Both are bookmarked.

Introduction gives us the basics of the game, some background and some information on RPGs in general.  It should be noted the the GM in this game means "Genteel Magistrate".  Damn.  I wish I had thought of that first!

Only if we are very, very lucky...

Chapter 1 is all about Character Generation.  If you have played Amazing Adventures or Castles & Crusades (or even D&D) then you know how this works.  First, we go through the standard Attributes and modifiers.  This is followed by a simple skill system.  In fact, this skill system would make a nice important to Castles & Crusades.  Up next is the big feature of this game; the powers that the characters gain as they level up.  Again, this is the primary feature of the game.  There are quite a few powers listed here and they remind me a bit of Mutants & Masterminds.  This is not a surprise really, given the focus of the game.  One could, I imagine, add more powers from other d20-derived games.
Some hindrances and shortcomings are also discussed.  Such things as "enemy" or "fame".
This is followed with some character examples that are roughly character classes. These include the Contraptionist (gadget guy), the Hypnotist, the Inquiry Agent (Sherlock Holmes), the Magician, the Paragon (Victorian Super-men), the Radiant, the Strongman, and the Vigilante (Gaslight Batman). We end with some ideas on completing the character.
There are enough character concepts here to create any sort of character you want.  I mentally "stated up" a few characters and was able to come up a Victorious version of them.

Chapter 2 covers the rules of the game. If you know Castles and Crusades then these rules will be very familiar. The main addition here are a bunch of Victorian-era firearms and some Steam-Punk gadgets. If your C&C game has black powder then this is a great chapter to have. Unlike some Victorian games there is no lengthy list of firearms (looking at you Dracula RPG), and this is a good thing.

Chapter 3 Equipment and Encounters is kind of a catch-all chapter of money, equipment, vehicles. encounters and worldly goings on.  One nitpick, there is a section on "Cost of Living" that details various costs of goods in both British Pounds and American Dollars, but no actual cost of living.  Te second half of this chapter details various organizations active in the Victorian era.  If you play any Victorian game then this is a great chapter to have. Nearly every Victorian game has a chapter like this and I really can't get enough of it.  Many, if not all, of these can be used in any other Victorian game and the societies and groups from those games can also be used here.

Chapter 4 The Victorious Era details some of the world history from the point of view of this game.  At this point, I have one major issue with this game.  There is the assumption that there are some super powered humans that have time-travelled from the 21st Century here.  I understand why the author did this; to help players acclimate to the stranger times of Victorian England. Personally, I thought it was unneeded/unnecessary.   BUT it does fit with the game, so that is fine.  Personally I am not going to use it. If I am running a Victorian game you are going to play Victorian characters.
Ignoring that there is a bunch of information on Victorian life that is great for any game. There is a great section on criminal slang that gives us the expected British slang, but also the rarely printed American/East Coast slang.
There is a Chronolgy of the Victorious age next.  This lists all sorts of political and scientific advancements made.  Included in this are events from fiction (like Dracula and Sherlock Holmes) and events from within the game itself.

Chapter 5 is the Bestiary.  Included are a lot of animals and the expected monsters of the Gothic Tradition.  These monsters are 100% compatible with Castles & Crusades and Amazing Adventures. So if you need more monsters they can be found easy.

Chapter 6 covers Supermankind. This has some more information on the world of Victorious. This includes many of the NPCs; the good, the neutral and the bad.  There are some great characters here including John Henry, Sherlock Holmes and the Spring Heeled Jack.  Like most games (and most ficition) the bad guys are the most interesting. Listed here with full stats are Aleister Crowley, Baba Yaga, Dorain Grey, Dracula, Hyde, Moriarty, and Col. Moran.  Really a Whos-Who of Victorian Villainy.  Really the star chapter in this book.  Which is saying something because there is a good game here.  These NPCs could be used in Amazing Adventures too.

Next we get and adventure, Hyde and Seek, which is a lot of fun.
The Appendices cover the Designer Notes, which are really fun read. I have to admit reading these gave me a greater appreciation of this game. There are sections on quick combat, dice rulings, and my favorite; mob rules.
There is a section on "History vs. Fantasy" which is a great read if you have ever tried to run a pseudo-historical game.  There is a list of resources that is also a great read. It's not exhaustive and there are some really notable exclusions, but this in not *my* list but theirs.

All in all this is a really fun game and I have nearly endless uses for it.
Mix it with a bit of Castles & Crusades for more fantasy or Amazing Adventures for more pulp.  Include some ideas from Codex Celtarum to make a more fantastic faerie-themed game. Mix it even more with Tainted Lands and get something not unakin to Ravenloft Masque of the Red Death.
The game has a multitude of possibilities beyond what is presented in the two covers.

The game is full of possibilities to be honest, and I really can't wait to try some of them out.
This is certainly a game I would love to play at a Convention sometime.

Buy this game if you enjoy Victorian games, Castles & Crusades, or superhero games with a twist.

Monday, October 3, 2016

October Horror Movie Challenge: Event Horizon (1997)

I have been wanting to rewatch this one for ages.  I saw it in the theatres and I enjoyed it but my wife considers it one of the worst movies I have ever made her sit through.

There is a lot I had forgot about.  Namely a pre-Matrix Laurence Fishburne, a pre-Gotham Sean Pertwee (son of the Third Doctor), a pre-Harry Potter Jason Issacs (Lucius Malfoy) and pre-Nip/Tuck Joely Richardson.   The movie is a good mix of sci-fi and horror with elements of Alien, 2001, Hellraiser and the Shinning and maybe just a little bit of Doom.

The "ghosts" or hallucinations or whatever are still pretty cool.  Though I kept wanting it all to be a little better than it was.  In fact we did get a better one; The Impossible Planet and Satan Pit episodes of Doctor Who.

I still think it is a good mix.  The acting is not terribly great, which is odd given who all is in this cast.  The vast majority went on to do bigger and better things.

I always thought an adventure based around a lost and then found but haunted spaceship would be great for an RPG.  I even started one for one of the versions of the Star Trek RPG after seeing this.  The premise was that the Enterprise-B had been lost and now suddenly was located several thousand light-years and about 100 years after it went missing.

There is the White Star supplement, Event Horizon, that obviously takes some cues from this movie.
I am going to have to give it a run sometime.  The book is gorgeous and I think better than the movie.



2016 Movie tally
Watched: 3
New: 2



Monstrous Mondays: Street Faeries for Victorious/Castles & Crusades

I am going to spend some quality time with Victorious over the next week or so as I continue with my work on Castles & Crusades and then move into Victorian-era games.

I thought it might be good to bring back this little dollymop.
You can see other Street Fae here:
Ghosts of Albion and Rippers/Savage Worlds,
Victoriana 2nd Ed,
Victoria and
Swords & Wizardry.

Michael Thomas, Victorian Gothic Fairy
Street Faerie

NO. ENCOUNTERED: 1-3
SIZE: Small
HD: 2 (d4)
MOVE: 20 ft.,
AC: 10
ATTACKS: Spark* (
SPECIAL: Spell–Like Abilities (glamour, blink),  Twilight Vision,  takes 2x damage from cold iron
SAVES: M
INT: Average
ALIGNMENT: Neutral
TYPE: Fey
TREASURE: 1


XP: 45+1

Sreet Faeries are fae that have chosen to live in the urban sprawl of large cities rather than the normal sylvan glades and woods that one typically associates with their kind.

A typical street faerie stands about 3' high, but can glamour themselves to be taller or shorter by 2' in either in direction.  They have peppered moth wings that they can hide when needed.  Many will live in cities and disguise themselves as children or young humans.

A Street faerie can also "Blink" as per a Blink Dog or a Dimension Door spell.

Their only attack is a Spark which is a spell-like attack (no save). They can cause a spark of electricity to shoot from their fingers causing 1d4 hp of damage.
A typical attack of a Street Fae will consist of a spark attack and then them blinking away.

Don't forget to include the hashtag #MonsterMonday on Twitter or #MonsterMonday on Google+ when you post your own monsters!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Visit (2015)

This year I am going to watch movies with my 13-year old son Connor as much as possible.  He is showing a love for horror and I watched a few with him last year.

This movie is his pick.

The Visit (2015)
Ok. So. This is an M. Night Shyamalan movie.  While he is the guy that gave us the brilliant "Sixth Sense" his also the same guy that gave us "The Last Air-Bender".   Thankfully he doesn't appear in this movie, though personally, I would have been OK with a non-central or a non-speaking role.

The movie is a "found footage" type movie about a two kids visiting their grandparents for the first time.  There are some silly contrivances to get us to a point where the kids have never met their Grandparents before, but you know what, I am going to let that slide.

Tim:  I was expecting dreck to be honest and it was a cool little thriller with some gore and good surprises.
Connor: It wasn't that scary. I have seen scarier You Tube videos.

Connor called the big "twist" early in this one. He usually does. Though given this is M. Night the reveal was also a little weak.
The two kid actors though were good. Hope to see them both is other things.



2016 Movie tally
Watched: 2
New: 2



Saturday, October 1, 2016

Zatannurday: Doctor Strange

Oh Zatannurday!
I can't quit you.


The fall season is upon us!  That means more DC on TV. Which I am super-excited for.  But what I am REALLY looking forward to is the new Doctor Strange movie.






Really looking forward to this!


October Horror Movie Challenge: The Witch (2015)

Here we are.  The October Horror Movie Challenge.  I want to start this with a movie that has been sitting on my "to watch" list since it came out earlier this year.  I bought the Blu-Ray when it came out so really it is the only choice for my first movie.

It was worth the wait.

Set in New England in 1630 the Witch is a tale of fear.  Fear of the unknown, fear of child death, fear of the woods, fear of God (big one), fear of sexual awaking, and yes the fear of Witches.

The movie is beautiful.  This is why we have Blu-Rays.  It looks like a nature special. It is also thick with atmosphere, the woods are an ever-present threat.

There is so much to love about this movie really.  The dialog comes from authentic accounts and trial documents. The legends of the witches are right out of the 17th (and prior) centuries.  If you know anything about the witch hunts and myths there are a lot of little things here to really make you happy.

I know. I am going all "fan boy" on what is supposed to be a scary movie.  It had it's scary moments.  But it is more of a slow boil rather than full on pot boiler.

Personally, I can't wait to check out all the special features on the Blu-Ray.

2016 Movie tally
Watched: 1
New: 1




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