Monday, October 31, 2016

Monstrous Mondays: The Piasa Bird for 5e

Welcome back to Monstrous Mondays!
Today I want to add a monster from stories of my childhood.  If you grew up in Central or Southern Illinois you heard stories of the Piasa Bird.   I featured this monster in one of my earliest posts here and thought I really need to bring it back.

The following text is considered Open for use under the OGL.


According to the diary of Louis Joliet, the Piasa Bird "was as large as a calf with horns like a deer, red eyes, a beard like a tiger's, a face like a man, the body covered with green, red and black scales and a tail so long it passed around the body, over the head and between the legs."

Piasa Birds in the game are a larger and resemble a manticore or a dragon.
They do not keep treasure. They are only interested in killing for meat and sport.

Story of the Piasa Bird 
The following story appeared in the Alton Telegraph (1836) by John Russel. It is claimed that this is story told to Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet by the Indian tribes of the valley.

When Marquette and Joliet came down the Mississippi river in 1673 they encountered a bluff on the east side of the river with the painting of a giant monster. When they asked the Indians what this monster was, they retold for them the story that had been handed down to them for generations. Marquette named the monster "Piasa," pronounced Pie-a-saw, which means "the Destroyer."

The Legend of the Piasa bird that was related to Marquette and Joliet went something like this. Many years ago a great bird roamed the land. Every morning the people would wake in fear to the shrill screams of the great Bird. The bird awoke hungry and would carry off dozens of boys and girls to its cave to be eaten. Chief Ouatoga [OO-wa-toe-ga] was getting old. He wanted to destroy this terrible monster before he died. He called his braves to a meeting and told them he was going to ask the Great Spirit what to do.

He went up on the highest bluff. He spoke with the Great Spirit. The Great Spirit told the Chief, "Dip your arrows deep into the poison of a copperhead snake and shoot them into the body of the Bird. They will cause its death." He returned to the camp and told his people what the Great Spirit had told him. He gathered up a small army of the strongest braves and set out to hunt the Bird. Chief Ouatoga told his braves that the plan was for someone to stand on the cliff to lure the Bird down. When the great monster swoops down they were to shoot it with their poison arrows.

The braves all begged their chief to be the one to sacrifice themselves. But the chief told them no, he would be the one, since he was older. While the braves practiced with their bows, Chief Ouatoga spoke with the Great Spirit. "Think not of my life," he said, "but the lives of the children."

The next morning the chief stood tall waiting for the great bird to come. Its screams could be heard as flew down the river looking for victims. The bird saw the old chief and swooped down on him with a terrible scream.

Just as the monster was ready to attack the braves shot their arrows and all 100 met their mark. The monster fell into the Mississippi river and died. The braves carried the broken and bruised body of their chief back to the tribe. The medicine man healed him and he awoke the next day surrounded by his grateful people. In remembrance of the act the returned to the site and painted a life-size picture of the monster. Every time an Indian went down the river after that, he fired an arrow at the bluff.
In alternate versions of the story, the youngest brave stands on the cliff instead of the Chief. When he is healed the next day he becomes the new Chief.

The rare female Piasa Bird.   
Section 15: "The Piasa Bird for 5e". Copyright 2016 Timothy S. Brannan.


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

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


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