Sunday, October 31, 2021

October Horror Movie Challenge: Witchcraft Documentaries

Last year I did a few documentaries and I rather enjoyed it.  I am WAY over the requirements for the challenge, so these are fine in my book.  Given all the streaming choices I have, I collected a nice list of these.  Hope to get through them all. 

The Witch of Kings Cross (2020)

I mentioned this one earlier the week.  This is documentary from Sonia Bible about surealist occult artist ] Rosaleen Norton. It is quite good really and an interesting look into an interesting life.  There is horror here, but the normal kind of what humans will do to each other when they are afraid of what they don't know or understand.

The Witch of Kings Cross (2020) Vampira and Me (2012)

Vampira and Me (2012)

A look at a contemporary of Norton, though on the other side of the world. This one covers the career and life of Maila Nurmi, aka Vampira. Writen, directed and produced by Ray Greene, this documentary doesn't shy away from the problems Nurmi faced in her life, but this is obviously a piece made by someone that considers Nurmi a friend.  Completed a few years after her death it features archival footage of Nurmi being interviewed by Greene for another project. I was sad to hear, though not surprised, that no material from her Vampira days still exist.   

Parallels can be drawn between Nurmi and Norton, women that bucked and went against the trend of what was expected of women in the 1950s.  Both embracing something darker in their own psyche I suppose to give us something entirely new.

I also read "Yours Cruelly, Elvira: Memoirs of the Mistress of the Dark" by Cassandra Peterson this past month and there are plenty of parallels between Nurmi and Petersen as well as Vampiria and Elvira.  I heard the tale of of how Vampiria was involved, then not, with what would become Elvira Mistress of the Dark from both sides.  Again it is a tale where a woman is not given any agency for her creative efforts and how it turns out. Poorly in the case Nurmi and Vampiria.  Or what happens when she takes control and how it turns out. Well in the case of Petersen and Elviria. 

Ultimately Nurmi's tale is a sad one and one I fear is not all that uncommon.

Magic: Witchcraft and Magic (2004)

This one featured Patrick Macnee of The Avengers. Not the Marvel ones, the BBC ones.  This might have been made in 2004, but it feels like something out of the 80s or 90s.  There is not a lot of substance here.  In fact, pretty much anyone that reads this blog knows everything already knows all the material presented.  I was annoyed by some of it with some out right wrong information and other things, like talking to a white "magic shop" owner as their expert on Voodoo.  I supposed it is fine given how much of it they got wrong.   Can't recommend it all. 

Witchcraft and Magic (2004)

Witchcraft: A History of Dark Arts (2020)

From writer/director Kim Harrington.  The narration is from Deryn Oliver.  

It covers all sorts of witch-related topics, but none in detail.  The video is made up of a bunch of clips that have all the feel of "stock art."  They often never line up with what is being spoken about.  For example, a discussion of the Salem witch trials features an image of what appears to be a Bronze Age Rabbinical tribunal. Many of the images/clips are often reused. 

In general, the research is pretty good, this one might have more information that the readers here may or may not know.  If you have read most of my books then likely not.  Though there is more about Luciferian Witches than I typically talk about.

Deryn Oliver gives a great narration and her voice reminds me of Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins. 

Witchcraft: A History of Dark Arts (2020) Ghosts and Witches of Olde England (2001)

Ghosts and Witches of Olde England (2001)

This one largely focuses on stories of witches and ghosts of England. 

We cover ghosts like the ones from Dickens to evil ghosts in Cornwall.  Plenty of ghosts of priests were killed in the conversion of England from Catholicism to the Church of England. 

It was a fun watch, but there was not all that much that was new for me here.  I guess I should not be surprised at this point.


Here we are. The end of another October and Halloween.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN from The Other Side!

2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 62
First Time Views: 48

October Horror Movie Challenge: Halloween-eve Marathon

Hit a bunch of movies all day. One repeat, a couple are new, and couple are not very good.

Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker (1981)

Also known as Night Warning is a fairly terrible movie I always remembered from the salacious cover. Baby Billy is left with his aunt while his parents drive out to start their new lives and jobs with plans to get Billy in a little bit.  Good thing because their breaks give out and they are killed. 

Move forward 15 years later and Billy is not a high school senior with a girlfriend and still living with his aunt.  I could go on, but the movie is like I said terrible. Aunt wants to bang Billy. So bad that she is killing everyone to keep him with her.

Man Beast (1956)

This was on Midnight Pulp while I was looking for something else.  Bigfoot-like creature in the Himalayas.  I watched it to double-check to see if I still dislike horror from the 1950s.   Yeah. Still do.  I nearly fell asleep.

Wicked Lake (2008)

Rewatched this one with the DVD commentary.  The cast had a blast doing this one.  Was sorting through all my horror DVDs to see which ones I can unload at Half-Price books.  It's still fun. It starts out looking like an "I Spit on Your Grave" rip off but at midnight the women turn the tables and kill everyone.  They are all witches and have powers.

Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker (1981)Man Beast (1956)Wicked Lake (2008)

2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 57
First Time Views: 43

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema / October Horror Movie Challenge: Vlad the Impaler (2018)

Vlad the Impaler aka Deliler (2018)
Found a good movie for double duty today, though it is a bit light on the Sorcery and Horror.

Vlad the Impaler aka Deliler (2018) 

This is a Turkish movie detailing the battle between the Turks and Prince Vlad of Wallachia in the 15th century.  It is pretty obvious from the start that this movie is very pro-Turkish and paints Vlad as not just evil, but the embodiment of evil.

The Deliler of the Turkish title refers to the band of elite warriors of the Sultan Mehmed sent to stop Vlad. A bit like the 15th-century SAS.  There is seven total, and they are all portrayed as bad-asses, but bad -asses in the service of the side of good. They are also kind to widows, small children, and babies. They are featured on the cover (the top three anyway, Gökkurt is the one with the wings) and Vlad on the lower right is the obvious bad guy.

Vlad is seen killing his own people, working with an alchemist to devise weaponized rats, and even having his men kill the beggars that help them collect the rats.   All the while claiming to be the Son of God.

They are not going for subtlety here. 

Despite what the American covers of the movie might have you think, this movie is about the Deliler, not so much about Vlad. Throughout the movie, the Deliler seem to have a sort of supernatural connection to each other and their Sultan.  Not to mention their near-supernatural fighting ability. 

It takes a while but we finally get to the big battle at the end.  Six Deliler against all of Vlad's army.  How do you think it will go?  Well more of the Sultan's men show up just in time. 

A lot of reviews online claim this movie is nothing more than a propaganda piece by the Turks. Maybe. Maybe not. I don't know enough about Turkish politics to be able to say for sure.  The movie is very obviously pro-Turk and anti...anti bad guy? I am not sure what it is against.  I suppose it must be like seeing an American movie with a Rambo like figure, or seven of them, fighting some Commie, or Nazi, or whomever we are mad at today.  I guess this is "Team America: World Police."


Game content.  Well, it would not be bad to get a good feel for how you could run Barovia with a more 15th-century feel as opposed to the Hammer-Horror filter of the 15th to 19th Century.  How about this. A group of elite, obviously Good, warriors (fighters, barbarians, bards, a ranger, and paladin) whose only purpose is to destroy vampires and Strahd in particular.  Maybe something like the Order of St. Johan

Are there better, more historically accurate tales? Of course. But this is a place to start for some D&D background. 

2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 54
First Time Views: 41


Tim Knight of Hero Press and Pun Isaac of Halls of the Nephilim along with myself are getting together at the Facebook Group I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters to discuss these movies.  Follow along with the hashtag #IdRatherBeWatchingMonsters.

October Horror Movie Challenge: Draug (2018)

Draug (2018)
This one was interesting. I was looking for a movie about one of my favorite topics, the last stand of Paganism against the rising tide of Christianity.  I was looking for something with witches, or even vampires.  If it was Swedish or Norwegian even better.  I was rather pleased to find this one.  It is in Swedish, so that is another language that I can add to my list this month.

Draug (2018)

In the 11th century, a missionary goes missing in the forests and Hakon (Ralf Beck) and his fosterling Nanna (Elna Karlsson) who is on her first mission.  They travel with the local Lord and Sherif Kettil (Thomas Hedengran), who feels a little like a Viking Lord of old.   We are told that there is something "old and evil" in the forests.

Kettil would like to torture all the villagers he encounters to get them to tell them where the missionaries are, later revealed to be a bishop, but Hakon, formerly "Hakon the Terrible" convinces him they don't have to. 

They travel through the dark Ödmården forest in Hälsingland on Sweden's east coast when they are attacked by bandits. The normal, human, kind, but it is still a horrific battle.  

While torturing one of the captives Nanna thinks she sees a body that later moves.  She then notices carrion birds that lead them to the dead bishop.

During the night Odd, one of the party that was wounded, is woken up by what looks like a dead body.  It attacks him and Deja, Kettil's slave and healer, sees it and screams. 

The Draugr attack in the night and kill most of the group leaving only Kettil, Nanna, Gunder, and Kol. They try to leave by a boat they find, but Kettil attacks Nanna thinking she is the witch that summoned the draugr.  Nanna has figured out how to stop the draugr and wants to try before they leave.  She enters some sort of trance where she is confronted by a witch (Lina Hedlund), who may or may not be her real mother. 

Nanna stays in the trance till dark. Gunder tries to wake her, and get everyone onto the boat. But he is killed by a draugr.  The boat capsizes leaving only Kettil and Nanna.  He kills Nanna, but only to late does he discover she isn't controlling the draugr and they kill him. 

In the post-credits scene we see Kol survive the boat wreck and he swims to shore.

Not a bad flick with some good scares, but the plotting could have been a little tighter.

2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 53
First Time Views: 40


Friday, October 29, 2021

October Horror Movie Challenge: Another aka Mark of the Witch (2014) and Sorceress (2017)

This is another couple of movies that came recommended. Not sure if the recommendation though panned out.  These two have a lot in common. Both movies deal with dead mothers of witch girls, family curses, insanity, and both movies are way, way damn slow.

Another aka Mark of the Witch (2014)
Another aka Mark of the Witch (2014) 

On her 18th birthday, Jordyn (Paulie Rojas) begins to notice some strange things going on around her, starting with her Aunt harming herself.   Turns out that her mother was in some sort of cult with her sister and Jordyn was conceived during some ritual.   Her mother died in childbirth and her aunt has protected her this entire time.

Jordyn is going crazy seeing all sorts of strange things, but mostly someone that looks just like her doing evil acts.  As the movie, slowly, develops, we learn her doppelgänger, is the spirit of her mother trying to take over her life. 

The movie is 80 mins long, but if all the slow-motion scenes were played at normal speeds it would have only been an hour long, tops.

I wanted to like this movie more. It had a lot of good ideas going into it, but they never quite jelled in my mind.

Sorceress (2017)
Sorceress (2017)

So, oddly enough a lot of similar elements here.  We have girl, this time Nina (Naama Kates, also the writer and director) who's mother just died by suicide.  Nina has traveled to Russia to visit her mother's family.  Nina was told her life that she was a witch like her mother.  While she does not get along with her uncle and his family she does meet Katya.  Katya (Oona Airola) flirts with Nina and soon both women are living together.  Nina though is either going crazy, like her mother did, or does have magic, her mother did. 

This one looks great; I find there is a bleak beauty to Russia, I find it oddly fascinating.  Sadly this is not enough to save this movie.

There is something about the intersection of madness and witchcraft.  Something that I think Rosaleen Norton was tapping into.  I was hoping for more with both movies to be honest. I am going to need to find more on this topic.  Hopefully ones that won't put me to sleep.

2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 52
First Time Views: 39

Thursday, October 28, 2021

This Old Dragon: Retrospective, Devils and the Nine Hells

It's the last full week of Halloween (October to you mundanes out there) so what better topic than the go over all of the Devils that have appeared in the pages of Dragon Magazine. 

Dragons #75 and #76

This Retrospective could go on for a long time, so I think I am going to limit myself to mostly 1st Edition treatments.  Thanks to TSR bowing to the moral panic of the time we got exactly one article about Devils proper that I can find for the 2nd Ed days.  They pick back up for D&D 3rd Ed, but that is getting beyond the scope of "This Old Dragon."

dragon magazine 13 demons
"The Dragon" Days

These were some of the earliest discussions on the Devils and the Nine Hells. They typically coincide with the release of the AD&D 1st Edtion Monster Manual when we introduced devils to D&D for the first time. Demons had already been added in Eldritch Wizardry for OD&D and had become a staple as these articles show.  This also set the divide of Chaotic Evil Demons and Lawful Evil Devils that persists to this day.  But before we get to devils proper, let's have a look at some early articles on Demons.

The Dragon #13

This issue comes to us from April 1978.  This issue is notable in our discussions for two reasons. First is an ad in the back for the Monster Manual and secondly, there is the brief one-page article on Demon creation.  Ok, so not devils, but the same logic could apply. 

The Dragon #20

I covered this one in a proper This Old Dragon a little bit back. In this issue we have Demonology made easy; or, How To Deal With Orcus For Fun and Profit by Gregory Rihn.  This expands the above article and makes it more AD&D than OD&D.  Again these are demons, but the same rules can apply to devils.

The Dragon #23

This is the third attempt at a random demon system, this time from Gary himself. This one draws from the first two. Random Generation of Creatures from the Lower Planes is exactly what it says on the tin really.  We should make a note here. This is for creatures of the Lower Planes, not just demons.

The Politics of Hell

Dragon #28, or more specifically for me, The Best of Dragon Vol. II gave us a landmark article that is almost entirely fluff; The Politics of Hell by Alexander von Thorn. Mr. von Thorn's only other contribution to Dragon would be 10 issues later with some skill for Traveller. He continued working, mostly on GURPS, and is still active online.  

Politics of Hell

This was a landmark article that among other things it lets us know why Asmodeus, a lesser demon from the Tobit originally, was the ruler of Hell and where Satan was.  The mythology presented here is extremely Judeo-Christian, so that may or may not work for a lot of games and gamers.  It did however introduce me to Astaroth and by extension Astarte. 

Dragon #42 would make a good choice for a future This Old Dragon.  I'll have to see if I have it in my big old box of Dragons.  This is the October 1980 Halloween-themed issue and has a few articles on Devils and even features on of the most famous pictures of Orcus ever.

The article "Demons, Devils and Spirits" comes to us first from Tom Moldvay.  This one features four new spirits that are Lawful Good, Neutral, Chaotic Evil, and Lawful Evil. So a full house!  Ashleigh Parker is next with The Possessors, or demons that can possess others.  Lewis Pulsipher wraps it up with Patron Demons, a forerunner to what we will see in warlock pacts

The Nine Hells by Ed Greenwood

Not since Dragon #28's The Politics of Hell did Devils and Nine Hells get as much attention as they did in the pages of Dragons #75 and #76.  There is a faint hint of the Realms here, but not so much that I felt this was world-specific.  In fact, in the summer of 1983, we were still a couple more years away from the Forgotten Realms being a thing for the rest of us.

The Nine Hells, parts 1 and 2

These two articles cover every layer of the Nine Hells in descending order and discuss the Dukes that rule them, their consorts, their advisors, and even some of the other devils that can be found here.  There are shades of Dante's Inferno here but this is pure D&D.

This series casts such a long shadow that one would be forgiven if they forgot that Gary opened the series with the Devils that would appear in the upcoming Monster Manual II.  This includes the Abishai devils, which are the spawn of Tiamat.   Even though in my personal campaigns I have taken Tiamat out of Hell, the Abishai remain and are still her spawn. 

Combining these we can see there is a certain level of world-building that has gone on past the publications of books like the Deities & Demigods.  In particular, all non-Devil Gods have been kicked out of the Hells.  I took this a step further and even removed Tiamat and placed her on her own plane.

The articles are long and just filled with great information.  It would not be until the later AD&D 2nd Ed years that we would get this much detail on Devils.  

For Dragon #400, Wizards reprinted the entire series, with AD&D 1st ed stats.

Dragon #91

Greenwood (and Gygax) are back a little more than a year later.  Gary has a revised Goristro demon from Monster Manual II. But the big news is Ed has more Nine Hells with some details left out of the original series. It is quite a long one to be honest.  Of note for me there is a devil "Gargoth" that should replace "Astaroth" from the Politics of Hells article. We are told that Astaroth is a demon prince, but that is all.  Astaroth/Astarte just can't catch a break at all.

This is followed by Eight Devilish Questions, something of a FAQ about devils. 

Interestingly enough, this is also the issue that Ed gives us the sword that would change my campaign in very profound ways; Demonbane.

What the Hell is a Baatezu?

Dragon #223

It will be a little more than 10 years before we get anything else about Devils in the pages of Dragon.  This time it is a similar article to Politics of Hell but the new Lords of the Nine only have a little connection to old lords. Some are the same like Dis, others are related, like Fierana, and others still are new or so heavily disguised they might as well be new (Levistus and the Dark Lord respectively).

Honestly, it wasn't until Wizards of the Coast bought TSR that we ever got proper Devils back.  These lords though have been woven back into the history of the Devils since 3e.  Even in this article the term "Devil" to mean these fiends is never used. 

Final Thoughts

Doing a retrospective like this is mostly just time-filling fluff unless I want some takeaways from it all. 

Cosmic Chicken

There seems to be a game of cosmic chicken going on in the early depictions of devils. While there are some that are different in their mythological origins, Geryon from Dante's Inferno and the Erinyes from Roman Myth to name two, the vast majority of these creatures, especially the ones in Dragon, are from Judeo-Christian sources.  That is of course except for The Devil himself.  The authors are willing to pour through all the Medieval demonologies for names, but when it comes to Satan they blink. That is except for one article.  I get it.  There is a lot of baggage with "The Devil" both for religious and cultural reasons.  If you are going to mine "The Inferno" and "Paradise Lost" then why leave out one of the main characters?

Though I will admit I have also struggled in using the Big D in my games, only because it needs to be something special.

Worlds Apart

While a lot of "game rules" can be applied to both demons and devils equally, I am reminded in this retrospective that they are not, and should not be the same.  So while I was mentally looking over the differences and resorting (something that D&D 4e tried to do as well and met with some successes but most criticism from the fans) them into different categories, one category began to show itself in a surprising way.

Gary was better at creating demons and demon-like devils, Ed Greenwood was better at devils.  So for this reason I have decided that in my games demons take a larger interest in the world of Oerth (Greyhawk) and devils take more of an interest in the world of Toril (Forgotten Realms).  There are some exceptions of course.  Orcus has tried to make headway into the Realms many times.  But generally speaking in the games I have run and the D&D novels I have read, this seems to hold true.

October Horror Movie Challenge: Coven of Evil (2020)

Coven of Evil (2020)
I wanted to get in more witch movies this Challenge, but I am running out of days.  I added this one early one and just never got around to it till now.  Many of the reviews for it online are fairly bad but a couple suggests checking out for yourself. So I did.

Coven of Evil (2020)

Joe is a journalist and he just published his first article about a coven of witches in England.  He is later approached by the high priestess Evie asking him if he wants to come to one of their rituals so he could correct some inaccuracies he published.

He meets many of the members including Evie's jerk husband Zander and a few other guys who all live in the house.  There is also a woman upstairs that no one acknowledges.  

He agrees and is soon joining a ritual where he gets high and ends up having sex with one of the other girls, Talia (we think).  The next morning Joe wants to leave until he sees one of the other guys hitting one of the other girls. 

Joe finally runs into Alice, the girl he saw in the upstairs room. She later returns to her room where she is beaten with a belt by Zander.  He does it again when she sleepwalks out. The guy is a sadist.   For some reason, they don't want or let Alice join the coven.  

Some errors in the plot/script.   The night after she gets beaten by Zander so bad she needs a healing spell, she is walking around the house with a low-cut dress in the back.  No scars.  

We learn they are planning on sacrificing Alice, so they practice by killing Talia.

While all of this is going on Joe and Alice end up having sex, or at least trying. Turns out that when Joe had sex with "Talia" it was actually a drugged-out Alice. 

We get to the sacrifice and learn that Alice is no longer suitable for sacrifice but her unborn baby will be. 

The eclipse comes and Alice sees herself talking to herself telling her not to be weak.   She wakes up from her stupor and turns the knife onto Evie, who she ends up killing.   Turns out they summon the "Gate Keeper" anyway and he is pissed off that the sacrifices were inadequate. 

The Gatekeeper takes everyone to hell (or wherever) and leaving Alice and Joe.

A year later the baby is born and it might be evil.

They try for a "Wicker Man" vibe here and more or less get it.  The movie is independent, so don't expect great special effects, acting, or production values.   The biggest issue is the movie is slow and the script for the most part makes little sense at times.

2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 50
First Time Views: 37

October Horror Movie Challenge: Carmilla (2019)

Carmilla (2019)
"I'll never let the devil into this house Lara."
- Miss Fontaine

Not too long after saying this, she does exactly that.

One would think I had seen every version of Carmilla out there. And in truth I had, until very recently.  This is a new one and one that came highly recommended to me. 

The cast is pretty amazing with a personal favorite of mine Jessica Raine as Miss Fontaine, the Mademoiselle De Lafontaine character from the novella.  Tobias Menzies of Game of Thrones and Outlander fame as The Doctor (Spielsberg).

It also includes new(-sh)commers, Hannah Rae as Lara "Bauer" (not sure why the name is changed), and Devrim Lingnau as Carmilla.

The movie more or less follows the basic story novella but also takes a few liberties.  It is atmospheric and gothic and sadly dreadfully slow. It does play up the tension between Carmilla and Miss Fontaine more.

The story is fine, not a lot of horrors though and some of my favorite lines from the book are gone.

Not really a fan of how it ended.

2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 49
First Time Views: 36


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Review: She is the Ancient: A Genderbent Curse of Strahd

She is the Ancient: A Genderbent Curse of Strahd
A couple of months ago, beginning of September I think, I was made aware of a new title on DMsGuild called She is the Ancient: A Genderbent Curse of Strahd by Beth the Bard. 

I checked it out and liked it. Hopped on to Twitter to offer her congratulations and mentioned that she would hit Gold Best Seller status.  Well, this past month she did it!  I thought with Halloween coming up and so many people running the 5e Curse of Strahd this would be a great time to review it.

She is the Ancient: A Genderbent Curse of Strahd

by Beth the Bard

157 pages, color art, PDF.

To start with you will need the 5th Edition version of Curse of Strahd to use this resource. Though I am going to also talk about how this can be used with the original AD&D 1st Edition adventure I6 Ravenloft.

She is the Ancient is more than just giving us a distaff Strahd. You don't need a guide for that.  This guidebook shows how changing the gender of Strahd, but keeping her as a strong warrior figure, changes the nature of her relationship with, well everyone. The most interesting is her new rivalry and even hatred of Tatyana.  These new relationships take up a good bit of this guide. 

Beth the Bard reminds us that this IS a horror adventure and to assume that bad things can't happen to, well, everyone, is unreasonable.  So yes there is still violence here and it's directed at everyone this time.

The changes are largely of these sorts:

Characters/NPCs.  Several characters get changes, some minor, others are major.  Strahd is now female, as is Van Richten.  Others get minor changes. Any of these can be used optionally.  Many of these are much more interesting than the ones we get in Curse of Strahd

Relationships. Related to the characters are new relationships.  These are very well detailed and even if you never change a single character according to this guide this is a very useful tool for Curse of Strahd.

Encounters.  There are also changes to various encounters all over the Curse of Strahd adventure.  This takes the shape of some encounter rewrites and others with tips.  Additionally, there are encounter "flowcharts" that show how the various encounters are related to each other.  There are also new handouts that you can print out to give to players.

That is overly simple, there are 157 pages here after all, but this is the gist of it. 

The layout is clean and clear and the art is rather fantastic.  It is on sale right now, but even at its regular price of $19.99 is a good deal, especially considering all we are getting here.

She is the Ancient

The overall feel is the same I get from watching a classic horror movie.  "Dracula" is a horrid monster, someone that kills pretty much everyone in his path.  "The Bride of Dracula" is just as evil, and likely kills as many people, but for some reason, her story seems more tragic.   This new guide turns even this around.

Strahd is tragic, his love for Tatyana has driven him to become a monster.  In this new Strahd, she is still a tragic figure, but it is nothing so prosaic as love that drives her, but hate and betrayal and yes jealousy.  THIS Strahd is motivated by more violent emotions and desires.  You anger her at your peril. 

There is an accessible version of this adventure available. Link included in the PDF.  There are tokens and NPC portraits you can use with this OR with the original Curse of Strahd if you choose.

I6 Ravenloft

Curse of Strahd is the newest iteration of the classic Ravenloft tale.  This is "Dracula Untold" with Luke Evans.  "I6 Ravenloft" is Hammer Horror with Christopher Lee.  SO it stands then that "She is the Ancient" applied to I6 Ravenloft is Ingrid Pitt, in her "Countess Dracula" role. 

I have not sat down with this new guide and Ravenloft and analyzed it line by line, but I have run Ravenloft several times since I purchased the original shortly after it was released.  I have run it for every version of D&D since 1983, including D&D 5e before Curse of Strahd was released.  My feeling here is that She is the Ancient can be used with the classic module just as easily. 

All versions of Castle Ravenloft

Much of what is presented in the She is the Ancient is relationship-based. So conversion to or from 5e and 1st Ed is not an issue.  There are some 5e stat blocks, but nothing that can't be easily replaced or swapped out. 

Honestly the next time I run I6 I am going to give this a try.

What I like best about this is an attempt to do something different with what is now can be considered a classic sort of tale. It shows that like love, the topics of hate, revenge, and undying purpose are universal and can transcend simpler concepts of gender. 

I had thought, originally, that this would give me some ideas for my own Darklord and Domain, Darlessa and Arevenir.  Thankfully, She is the Ancient is not only NOT distaff Strahd, it is also NOT just a generic female vampire Darklord.  I will, however, adopt the adventure flowchart idea and the relationships as they are modeled here.  There are some great ideas to be honest.

Who should buy She is the Ancient?   Anyone who has run and wants to re-run Curse of Strahd and wants to try something different. Personally, I feel the DMs that have run Curse of Strahd already will benefit the most from this.

I also think that first-time DMs of Curse of Strahd will enjoy this, but there is a LOT going on in both Curse of Strahd AND She is the Ancient.

Once you have this you can adopt/adapt as much or as little as you like.   Or even just use the flowcharts and relationships to flesh out all the characters more.

I would say my ONLY complaint is that there is no POD option, but in truth, the layout and design are such that any page or collection of pages can be printed out and slotted into your Curse of Strahd book. Though a POD would be nice. 

She is the Ancient: A Genderbent Curse of Strahd is not going to be for everyone and that is OK.  BUT, for the people that are inclined to use it is a great resource and guide.  It is well written with great art and layout.  A lot of work went into this and like the original Ravenloft, it provides yet more options for replayability.  

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Queen of Black Magic (1981, 2019)

Believe it or not, I did not get the streaming channel Shudder, until really recently.  I was building my list and I saw one I knew of but had not seen yet, 1981's The Queen of Black Magic, also known as Ratu Ilmu Hitam or Queen of the Dark Arts. I also saw there was a Shudder exclusive, 2019's The Queen of Black Magic.  Thinking they might be the same I opted to make a night of it.  

The Queen of Black Magic (1981)
The Queen of Black Magic (1981)

This one came highly recommended.  

Baedah is getting married, but something is wrong.  She sees maggots, snakes, and the groom as a corpse and his men as demons. Something also is attacking the local shaman.  The groom, Kohar, quickly decides that it must be Murni's fault because she is a witch. She is a witch because this is all her fault. Solid logic!  We learn that he had seduced Murni and took "her dignity" (virginity) but would not marry her. 

Murni is played by Indonesian horror queen Suzzanna (Suzzanna Martha Frederika van Osch).  "Murni" by the way means "Pure" in Indonesian.  Kohar and his mean go to her home and lynch her. He even slaps her old mother and sets their home on fire.  They toss her off the side of a cliff to make sure to "get rid of her black magic" but she is caught by a strange man.   

The man rescues her and nurses her back to health.  He tells her if they accuse of her black magic then she should use black magic to get her revenge. She will be the Queen of Black Magic.  

We get a "training montage" which involves Murni doing naked backflips under a full moon until smoke comes out of her head.  This had to be near-pornographic for Indonesia in the early 80s.

Murni returns to her village, much to the shock of the men that tried to kill her.  They try to warn Kohar, but she summons bees to kill one of them.  She then causes huge boils to form on another and they explode, filled with blood.   Gruesome, yet satisfying.  Lots of great examples of sympathetic magic here too.  

An Indonesian Lionel Richie-looking dude shows up to the village. He seems very religious and immune to the effects of black magic. 

Murni killing Kohar by getting him to rip off his own head is worth the price of admission alone.  Then watching Kohar's head fly around is just great. 

The becomes a battle between black magic and the power of the new stranger, Permana, invoking god. 

In their battle, we learn that Permana is Murni's older brother to learn from a holy man far away.  Makes sense since they both can do the same backflips.

They fight, but when the evil priest/magician that trains Murni shows up to kill Permana, Murni turns on him instead.  She blows him up with magic, but it is implied she dies as well.

Some great effects really, given the time and budget, and a fun story.

The Queen of Black Magic (2019)
The Queen of Black Magic (2019)

This one is also Indonesian and described as a loose-remake of the first. 

This one starts out strong. A family is driving back to visit the orphanage the father grew up in.  While talking they hit something. Getting out they find a deer on the side of the road, but it seems like it has been there a bit.  As they drive off we see a bloody girl on the other side of the road that they missed. 

They meet at the orphanage and others are also here to see the old caretaker., Mr. Bandi.

We learn that one of the kids from the orphanage was a girl named Murni. But no idea if it is the same one. Obviously, there is something about Murni that makes the adults very squeamish.  

Hanif, the father, is getting food from his car when he notices the blood on the car but also the black hair.  The deer he hit was brown.  Driving back he and one of his brothers, Jefri, find the girl.  They also find a bus full of the orphans and they are all dead. Murdered. 

They let their other brother Anton know and he drives back to see and go get the police.  He gets trapped on the bus and attacked by bugs. So many that his eyes pop out of their sockets.  Back at the orphanage the same thing is happening to his wife Eva.  Lina, believing she is too fat due to hormone treatments and begins cutting off bits of her flesh.   Eva rips off some of her skin and bugs come crawling out.

We learn the three boys as orphans discovered that Ms. Mirah had abducted a girl and was using black magic. So they locked her in a room where she banged her head against a door until she split her own skull open.  So with Mr. Bandi's help, they tore up the floor, put her body in, and covered it in cement. 

We see her ghost at one point. Damn. The Indonesians have some scary-ass monsters.

Nadya, Hanif's wife, discovers a bunch of photos of half-dressed underage girls that apparently Mr. Bandi took.  One of the girls is Siti, the woman married to Maman who invited them all there.   When confronted with the photos Siti tells everyone he did it with all the girls. When three were going to tell, he locked them in a room and poisoned them.  It seems that Ms. Mirah was protecting the girls and she was going to kill Mr. Bandi.   

Nif finds another picture and we learn that Murni was Ms. Mirah's daughter.

Something, Murni likely, begins to torture everyone. Eva is clawing her skin off, the orphans are being scalded with steaming water. Nif's children are getting whipped. It's all pretty brutal. 

Murni gets her head cut off, but puts it back on in an obvious nod to the first movie.  Nadya sets Murni on fire.

Later Nadya is picking Haniq from school but thinks she sees Murni. 

The movie ends with scenes from the 1981 original. 


Both movies were pretty good with some good scares and a good story.  Glad I watched them back to back. 

2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 48
First Time Views: 35

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Featured Artist: Rosaleen Norton

I have not done one of these for so long.  I am watching "The Witch of Kings Cross" the documentary of artist Rosaleen Norton.  The movie is great and it reminded me how much I love her work.  Before I get into talking about Roie, I want to mention that actress Kate Elizabeth Laxton who plays Roie in the documentary is just fantastic.  

Ok. On to Roie.

Rosaleen Norton

Rosaleen Miriam Norton was born October 2, 1917 and lived till December 5, 1979.  She was considered to be an esoteric artist and one of Australia's most notorious artists.  She was one of the first women to ever be charged with obscenity for her art. 

So I guess fair warning for the art that follows.

satanic orgies

She referred to herself as a "witch" and used altered states of consciousness to make her art. She often called herself "Thorn," much like a craft name.  But her friends all called her Roie.

I came to know her via her art "The Seance."  I thought she had tapped into something deep and maybe even a little dark.  For someone young and obsessed with witches and the writings of C.G. Jung she seemed like some sort of prophetess or seeress to me. 

The Seance by Rosaleen Norton

Later I learned her art was fueled by drugs, sex, and trying to commune with other powers, in particular Pan.  Sounds perfect to me.  

If The Seance grabbed me, then her Lilith cemented her in the pantheon of people that influenced my RPG writings.


The Spinner by Rosaleen Norton

She does a lot of Jungian archetypes in her art and I use the same ones when I wrote my first books on witches.

Bacchanal by Rosaleen Norton

Firebird by Rosaleen Norton

Fohat by Rosaleen Norton

Her demon Fohat (above) was something of her personal demon or even a Jungian Animus. 

Black Magic

Norton art

Rosaleen Norton

Norton art

Norton art

Norton art

Interviewer: What would be the state of the world if evil ruled?
Roie: Exactly as it is now.

If I could, her art would be the covers for all my books.

"I came into this world bravely, and I will leave this world bravely."

- Last Words of Rosaleen Norton

October Horror Movie Challenge: Astaroth (2017)

Astaroth (2020)
This one came up as a suggested movie on Tubi so I had to check it out.   I have long been fascinated by the Goddess Astarte and her literal demonization to the male demon Astaroth. This movie covers some of that and adds some neat little tidbits as well. 

Astaroth (2017)

The movie is Brazilian and completely in Portuguese.  Thankfully the captions are in English.  Not that it would matter much, it's not a difficult one to follow.

Our stars are three college students living together whose primary interests seem to be tattoos and metal.  There is tattoo artist Dri (Ju Calaf),  guitarist Lia (played by former top Brazilian porn star Monica Mattos), and martial artist Mai.  Dri and Lia meet up with tattoo artist Gregório (Janderson Tucunduva) who has been communing with the demon Astaroth (also played by Mattos).

Gregório has been tattooing sigils on to people so Astaroth can claim them.  Once she has enough she can come into the mortal world.

All in all not a bad premise.  The movie feels like an American horror movie circa 1995, only a lot less sex and nudity if you can believe that.  The movie doesn't really get going until the half-way mark. 

Eventually, Lia gets possessed by Astaroth kills Dri, but not before Mai can find out.  Mai figures out what Astaroth is and kills Gregório and the possessed Lia to send Astaroth to hell.

The movie is quite obsessed with metal with the bands getting top billing right after the actresses. Not a bad thing really; demons, metal, horror, it all fits together.  The trouble is sometimes it comes across as an 80s training video.  If it had been made in the 80s there would have been a larger body count and at least one song by Dokken.

It wasn't a bad flick really, it just had the feel of some people doing this on a budget and they got all their friends over to do it. 

2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 46
First Time Views: 33

Monday, October 25, 2021

Monstrous Mondays: Nicnevin, Faerie Queen of Witches

Been spending some time working on my various Lords and Ladies of the land of Faerie. With the new Wild Beyond the Witchlight out, I have been thinking more and more about what I'd like to do with them.

Case in point is an old favorite, Nicnevin the Faerie Queen of Witches from Scottish lore.   I mentioned her all the way back in 2014 as servant/ally of Aradia. She would later appear in the Tome of Beasts from Kobold Press.

My version fits into my vision of the Lands of Faerie and my War of the Witch Queens a bit better.  She is the Witch Queen of the Faerie Tradition and can be a patron for witches or Fey Pact Warlocks.

Nicnevin, Faerie Queen of Witches
Faerie Lady

Nicnevin, Faerie Queen of Witches
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Neutral [Chaotic Neutral]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
  Fly: 150' (50') [15"]
Armor Class: 0 [19]
Hit Dice: 13d8+39*** (98 hp)
  Large: 13d10+39 (111 hp)
To Hit AC 0: 8 (+11)
Attacks: 1 sickle or by spell
Damage: 1d6+2 or by spell
Special: Fly,  Immune to charm, hold, and sleep spells, Magic Resistance 50% (all magic), Magic Resistance 100% (Witch magic), witch spells and powers
Size: Large
Save: Witch 13
Morale: 12
Treasure Hoard Class: See below 
XP: 4,200 (OSE) 4,350 (LL)

Str: 17 (+2) Dex: 12 (0) Con: 19 (+3) Int: 16 (+2) Wis: 18 (+3) Cha: 20 (+4)

The Witch Queen of the Faerie is also known by the names Nicneven, Nicnevin, Nicnevan or Nic an Neachneohain.  She is the current Witch Queen of the Faerie tradition and the longest-serving.  Previous Faerie Queens of Witches were known as Satia, Bensozie, Zobiana, Abundia, and Herodiana.  She is both a Faerie Lord (Lady) and the Queen of Witches for all witches in the Faerie Traditions.  She is served by faerie witches of all courts.  Her retinue includes elves, nymphs, and hags among many others.  Any faerie creature that becomes a witch or has witch-like powers are hers to command.

The Witch Queen can attack with a special sickle made from pure moonlight.  It can attack creatures as if it were a +3 weapon.  In her hands, the sickle acts as a sword of sharpness +3 and will do double damage to clerics and magic-users (wizards).  In anyone else's hands, it is only a simple harvesting sickle.  She also may cast spells as a 13th level witch of the Faerie Tradition with the appropriate occult powers.  She knows all the spells of the Faerie tradition and does not need to prepare them beforehand.  She employs a magical cloak that reduces her AC to 0 [19] and provides her an additional +3 to all saves. 

Magical attacks against her have a 50% chance of failure. If a witch casts a spell at her the spell is completely negated.  No witch may harm her via magic or mundane means.

The Queen of Witches appears to be a statuesque, 7' tall, Faerie woman of middle age.  She is beautiful in a wild, uncontrolled way like that of a towering waterfall or a dangerous storm.   Her hair is a bright red that seems to shimmer like flames, glowing brighter as her emotions run higher.  Her eyes are a uniform blue that glows when she casts spells.  Her skin is covered in blue woad designs. 

She rides out at night with her retinue of nymphs and hags on great faries steeds like giant elk or stags searching the countryside for girls to add to her coven of witches and for clerics that honor gods of the sun to kill. 


Might tweak her a bit. Have a couple books on Scottish folklore I'd like to go over again. Plus I want to work out her relationship with Scáthach.  Likely Nicnevin is a daughter or something similar. 

Nicnevin, Faerie Queen of Witches