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

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

Review: WITCH Fated Souls

I supported the WITCH: Fated Souls Kickstarter back when it was coming out and have been meaning to do a review for ages.  Given that Halloween is nigh and the PDF is on sale at DriveThruRPG this might be a great time.

+Elizabeth Chaipraditkul is a new name to the RPG biz, but one that is getting out there. In addition to being the lead hamster at +Angry Hamster Publishing she is also working with +Stacy Dellorfano on a new adventure for the upcoming Swords & Wizardry Complete 3rd Printing Kickstarter.  WITCH: Fated Souls though is her masterwork.

WFS is a modern supernatural game. It has elements of horror and universe destroying, or defining, magics.  Now lets be 100% fair here.  We all have several of these sorts of games.  I have more than I can count right now and I have written or worked on a few myself.  So any game in this field has some really steep competition.  For myself I am likely to compare this game to CJ Carrella's WitchCraft and to Mage: the Ascension.  I am also likely to compare this to Ron Edwards' Sorcerer.

Liz has an impressive RPG Playing career and you can see influences of D&D, Vampire, and Mage in her game.  So WFS can be judged as a setting and for her game mechanics.

As mentioned WFS is a Modern Supernatural game with elements of horror.  Not, "you fail a SAN check" sort of horror but more along the lines of "what are you willing to do, willing to give up, for power".  The characters of WFS are witches, also known as the Fated.  These characters have sold their soul to a "demon" for power.  In some cases, this is a fire and brimstone devil or it's a nebulous concept, the Horned Beast,  the Reynard, or it is something they don't even understand themselves.

For my review I am looking over my hardcover book and PDF from my Kickstarter package.  This included a GM screen and a deck of "Devil Deck Cards".  I also got a lot of images, character sheet package PDF and some desktop wallpapers.  The book is 208 pages, standard format with full-color covers and interiors, though the color palette is predominantly blacks, blues, and violets.

WITCH is divided up into nine chapters and an introduction.

Here we get some setting fiction and the typical "what are RPGs" section.  There is also a Chapter overview here.

CHAPTER 1: Character Creation
WFS is a character focused game.  One might even say it is a story-telling game, but it has more crunch than most storytelling games.  Regardless of what you might, or might not, call it, characters are the most important element.  What will your character do for power? What will they sacrifice and how much of their humanity is left when they are done?  In this respect, it has a lot in common with Vampire and Sorcerer.  You are expected to have a concept in mind when you begin your character creation.  To this end the various "Fate" or types of Witch you can become are presented. These include the Hecks, Druids, Djinn, Yokai, Sósyé, Liches, and Seers.  You can read about all of these and get details on who they are and what they do on AngryHamster's webiste,  Also detailed here are the types of demons associated with each Fate.
When creating a character the player needs to think about who this character is and what they are going to be doing in this world.  So there are prompts like "Before my Fating..." and "I was Fated because..." and "My relationship with my demon is..." Here, and throughout the book there are examples and story elements to help guide you.  There is also a step by step instruction guide.
Character creation, mechanically speaking, is a case of point-buy.  If you have played WoD, GURPS, Unisystem or other games then this will feel familiar.
Like WoD and WitchCraft we also get a couple pages, with character art, dedicated to each Fate.
The art in this game is really great.

CHAPTER 2: Vital Statistics
This deals with the stats of your character; attributes (nearly fixed qualities like Charisma, Dexterity, and Intelligence), skills (who good are you at driving, etiquette, social empathy), pursuits (things you own or are), and talents (akin to magical skills or qualities).
This is set up similar to many games so navigating what this is and how to use it are not difficult.  There is a LOT of room for customization so the number of potential characters is really great.  So there is no reason for every Sósyé or Djinn to be the same as the others.

CHAPTER 3: Magic
Now this is a fun chapter. An overview of the game mechanics of magic is given including the important "botch" roll.  Magic here has a bit of different feel than otehr games. The closest for me is WitchCraft, but with plenty of Mage added in.  Magic spells are grouped by Fate.  So the Djinn have different magic than the Hecks and so on.
All the fated also have access to Rituals, these are "longer" spells that take time and sometimes multiple casters.  Others are simple spells that are more rote.
In a similar cancept we are also given potions.  This is a true gem of these rules since it represents one of the best potion creation, use and mixing rules outside of the 1st Ed Dungeon Masters Guide.
It also has some of the most attractive art too.

The magic alteration section is great.

CHAPTER 4: Higher Spell Levels
This chapter is a treat since "higher level spells" are treated as something qualitatively different than the lower, more common magic.  The only thing I can compare this to is as if there was a new D&D book that covered 10th level spells.  This spells, known as Deireadh spells, can significanly alter the world and the character including, but not limited too, casting off their own demon.
Even if I never get a chance to use this chapter in a WFS game, it has given me plenty of ideas.

CHAPTER 5: Mechanics
The mechanics of WFS is pretty simple.  2d10 add the necessary mods and roll higher than a 13 (or 11 in some cases).  This makes many of the rule mechanics easy to abstract.  Sure if you roll higher (with mods) than a 25 then you get an Outstanding Success and a natural 20 is still good.  Botching is getting two "1"s.  So again, the feel here is very much like WitchCraft. Picking up these rules are a simple matter.  The rules have some special cases of course. Combat versus non-combat and using Talents. But nothing here will cause any experienced gamer any concerns.
There are plenty of weapons here too. Don't go into this looking for differences between various types of guns, the rules are simplified to "light revolver" and "heavy revolver".  But that is really all the game details you need.

CHAPTER 6: Expanded Mechanics
This chpater covers some specifics like wishes (we have Djinn afterall), Familiars, Artefacts, and using the Devil's Deck.  The Devil's Deck was part of the Kickstarter and it looks fantastic.  I think you can order one from AngryHamster, but a "Witches" Tarot deck would work out well too.

CHAPTER 7: Setting
This covers the setting and the history of the WFS world.  This is what helps set this apart from other games of it's genre. I say "world" but I also mean areas and places from beyond this world.

CHAPTER 8: Animals, Entities, and Foes
Pretty much what is says on the tin. Though there is a section up front on the various demons you can serve and what they are all about.
A lot of creatures are present here (and many more an be added).  There is also a good section of NPCs.

Covers running the game and how to set the tone for this game.

I have been picking at this book for months and maybe it because it is close to Halloween I now get what I want to do with it.  This is a great game and with the right group, it will be a ton of fun.
I'd love to try it at a con sometime, but this is a game of many sessions and developing plots and layers of story.  This is a game of investment.

I will be spending some more time with it.
Will it replace WitchCraft in my life?  No. But it will make a for a nice addition.

I really, really like this game and want it do well.  The potential here is great.

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.

Witches Trine and Witch: Fated Souls

Witches Trine #2 is out!

I have been following this comic since I first saw it at Gen Con and I am really enjoying the story and where it might be going.  It is the tale of three immortal (or at least long lived) witches.  Though that is being tested since one of the witches was killed in the preview (that's not a spoiler).

Now things seem to be moving against them and the plot is really kicking into high gear.
Kris Lippert and all the folks at +Movierockets Entertainment is really building an interesting world here and one I am having a lot of fun with.

I can't but help to think how well I could model this world with +Elizabeth Chaipraditkul's WITCH: Fated Souls RPG.   Given what I have read so far I think Olivia would make a good Lich (though she doesn't look like one); Eva would make for a great Druid with healing ability; and Victoria is practically a "textbook" (or core book) Djinn.

I need to spend some more time with both worlds and truly appreciate them for what they are.  Both are so much fun.

Witches Trine #2 is out now. Witches Trine #1 and Preview Edition are also still available.
WITCH: Fated Souls is out AND on sale now thanks to DriveThruRPG's Halloween Sale.

For less than 10 bucks you can have a new RPG and three comics full of ideas. Not a bad Halloween gift for yourself I say!

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

Weekend Gaming: Return to the Land of Ice and Snow

This weekend had a massive amount of gaming.  The Order of the Platinum Dragon continued their foray into the lands of the Frost Giants to discover more of their plans.

Long the way they had to fight ice trolls, yetis, winter wolves the size of elephants and white dragons.

The party took more damage in the last two days than they did in the last adventure total.  They have taken to sniping at their foes using the rogues to sneak attack and assassinate where they can.  The recently discovered Hammer of Thunderbolts has proved to be an excellent aid in fighting the giants from afar.

They also have rescued a Storm Giant princess (daughter of the "Storm King") that has given me an "in" to add a rogue band of evil cloud giants.

The G series lives up to my memories and to the hype as one of the best adventures printed in the classic era.  We are having a blast.  Can't wait to see what happens next!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

October Horror Movie Challenge: Witchtrap (1989)

Kathleen Bailey and Linnea Quigley are the only actresses here I recognize.

The rest are pretty terrible. In fact the entire movie is really bad.  The premise is interesting enough.  An occultist turns up dead and is supposedly haunting his own home.  The new owner wants the haunting confirmed and taken care of so he can turn it into a "haunted bed and breakfast".

We get a pscyhologist, her medium husband, another medium (Bailey), a videographer (Quigley), and three private detectives. Basically a big crew of people to get killed by the ghost...which is what happens.

Quigley was a staple in late 80s early 90s horror/splatter flicks and she doesn't disappoint here.  Which is the ONLY thing in this movie that isn't a disappointment. Oh there are some marginally interesting ideas that made me think of some things for the Pathfinder Occult adventures book...but that is about it.

2016 Movie tally
Watched: 22
New: 17

Friday, October 21, 2016

October Horror Movie Challenge: Devil's Plaything (1973)

The Devil's Plaything, or "Der Fluch der schwarzen Schwestern", is one of those notorious movies I have always heard about but never seen.  I got ahold of a copy, but only the R rated version.  There is one that is 18 mins longer that contains more graphic sex, many of the actresses were Swedish porn actresses, but sadly that won't help the plot of this one.

The plot, such as it is,deals with bringing back to life a dead vampire baroness, her lesbian lover and to kill the descendants of those that killed her.  She has her own cult with high-priestess and acolytes that I guess have to dance around in the nude all the time.

The actors and actresses are speaking English, but it is obvious that this is not their first language.  Add that to a terrible script makes this almost a yawner.

I think it must have the fairly graphic scenes of nudity, sex and implied incest that put this on the notorious list.  I have seen DVD copies at Half-Price Books go for a $100.  Don't waste your money.

If you are really curious the scenes that were cut are here.

Edited to Add: I have picked this one up on DVD and there is almost no similarity to the movie I saw here and what I now have. Yes the same movie, but the edit of this one was terrible.  I will review it for a new Horror Movie Challenge.

2016 Movie tally
Watched: 21
New: 16

Kickstart Your Weekend: Old-School Style!

Have some great Old-School influenced Kickstarters today so get to it!

First up is +Stacy Dellorfano's Swords & Wizardry 3rd Printing

Now. I have been on record before about not liking this cover.  I have over the last two weeks had a change of heart.  But the bottom line is I am NOT the target audience for this.
Besides I love the idea of this book, I really want it to succeed.  The team that Stacy is rock solid and I am just dying to see what +Elizabeth Chaipraditkul will be doing for this. She is great.
So yeah, they might not need my support at this point, but they have it.

In more old-new-Old School news we are also are getting a new edition of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.

I really, really love this game.  Just such an awesome vibe about it.  +Jeff Talanian did a fantastic job with the first edition boxed set and this new 2nd Ed hardcover is something I have been wanting for years.

I mentioned this one earlier in the week, but it can be repeated.

Chill 3rd Edition Monsters.  This should also be a great book.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Unwanted (2014)

The Unwanted came up in my search for different sorts of vampire movies.  This one is a retelling of Sheridan Le Fanu's "Carmilla".  In this one Carmilla is the daughter of Millarca and it takes place in Georgia and not Austria.

Of course given that I should have guessed the ultimate fates of both Carmilla and Millarca, but no such luck. True it is closer to the original story this way but would it kill us to make something a little different once in a while?

William Katt plays the father in this with much creepiness.
Christen Orr and Hannah Fierman are both rather good as Carmilla and Laura respectively.

I was hoping for much better to be honest.

2016 Movie tally
Watched: 20
New: 15