Showing posts with label Night Shift. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Night Shift. Show all posts

Monday, May 20, 2024

Monstrous Mondays: Aliens, Monsters, and the Unknown in Thirteen Parsecs

Alien girl by Hernán Toro
Alien girl by Hernán Toro

It's a sci-fi Monstrous Monday and I wanted to talk a little about monsters and aliens in Thirteen Parsecs.

Like our other RPG NIGHT SHIFT, Thirteen Parsecs is a "tool kit" game. That is, we will give all sorts of rules, some sample settings ("Solar Frontiers"), and let you build your own.

Some of our settings will have aliens. Jason has a few he has been working on for his Solar Frontiers. Derek has some others. 

For my Solar Frontiers, aliens are treated very differently.

In "Space Truckers," aliens only add flavor to the game. The eponymous Dixie of Dixie's Truck Stop is described as an "attractive alien girl with blue skin and bug-like antennae."  But otherwise, she is pretty much a human. There are Ursians, bear-like aliens who make up the police force of the "Colony Hyperspace Patrol" or CHyPs. There are Porcines who control most of the Badlands where Space Truckers have their shipping lanes. And finally, there are Lot Lizards, who are lizard people. I have a chimpanzee-like species that are the best engineers on the Frontier and more. But again, these are just for dressing. They still all more or less act human. Maybe exaggerated traits, but human enough to relate to. This is part of the fun of this particular setting. It is meant to feel like a 1970s Trucker movie in space.

"Darker Stars" is very different. 

In this Solar Frontier, humankind has moved out into space and found monsters waiting for them. 

While we will have some monsters in the core rules, my goals here was to re-purpose monsters from both NIGHT SHIFT and Wasted Lands. Indeed this is the source of those monsters. Darker Stars is my "horror in space" setting.

Let's take an example of a typical Darker Stars sort of adventure.

The crew of your starship encounters a derelict spacecraft. You send a landing party to investigate only to be attacked by the crew. The long-dead crew.

Our dead crew, and they could be human or aliens, will use the Zombie stats from NIGHT SHIFT. If you think about it, what are the Borg or even Cybermen but fancy zombies? The commanding officer? A mummy or a lich.

Does this mean there is magic here? Well...I take Arthur C. Clark's view here with his Third Law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." The captain of this ship, knowing his crew was in danger makes a radical adjustment to ship's life support and keeps everyone from not dying. "Not Dying" isn't the same as "Alive" though.

But don't worry. There will be aliens, both as playable races and as creatures to encounter.  

It will be up to you whether your encounter with them is more like Ripley's or Kirk's.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Sci-Fi Month: Thirteen Parsecs is LIVE!

Thirteen Parsecs

Thirteen Parsecs

http://tinyurl.com/13psignuptim

We want this game to be your sci-fi RPG of choice, so help us make that happen.

This uses the same O.G.R.E.S. as NIGHT SHIFT and Wasted Lands. 

Much like NIGHT SHIFT, there are core rules for playing in all sorts of Sci-Fi genres; Space Opera, Action, Comedy, Horror (of course!), and more.

There will be "Solar Frontiers," mini-settings you can use to start your game (much like the Night Worlds for NIGHT SHIFT). My Solar Frontiers will be "Space Truckers" and the currently titled "Dark Stars," my "aliens and horror in space" setting.

Jason will provide the bulk of the core rules and his two Solar Frontiers, and our long-time collaborator (and demo game GM extraordinaire) Derek Stoelting will also add his Solar Frontiers. We are all working on adding rules and expanding what worked best in NIGHT SHIFT and Wasted Lands. We have over 75 years of game design experience for a couple dozen different companies/publishers.

Speaking of our other games, Thirteen Parsecs is 100% compatible with NIGHT SHIFT and Wasted Lands.  Do you want to play deeper, dark sci-fi horror? NIGHT SHIFT + 13P has you covered. Want to pilot your Time Ship back to after the KT extinction and find a world populated by the proto-human experiments of the Great Old Ones? Wasted Lands + 13P! Or combine all three.

I am planning an epoch-sweeping adventure that takes you from Wasted Lands to NIGHT SHIFT to Thirteen Parsecs, in the vein of one of my favorite books and movies, 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's not exactly the same, of course (I do not liken myself to a Clark or a Kubrick), but it's an echo of a time when I read both 2001 and Lord of the Rings one summer.

Help us make this a reality! We are going strong out of the gate but let's hit those stretch goals.

We are exactly the type of publisher these crowdfunding sites are really for: small professionals with grand ideas and the desire and skills to get it done; we just lack the capital for some art and printing costs upfront.

All of our and Jason's crowdfunding has met our goals, and more importantly, we have delivered on time. We are even offering some nice perks for early backers.

So please check us out!

http://tinyurl.com/13psignuptim

alternate link: https://www.backerkit.com/c/projects/elf-lair-games/thirteen-parsecs-adventures-beyond-the-solar-frontier

 

Friday, May 3, 2024

Dracula, The Hunters' Journals: 3 May, Jonathan Harker's Journal

 Jonathan Harker leaves Munich and enters the lands of Eastern Europe, where he eventually meets with Count Dracula.


Dracula - The Hunters' Journals

--

CHAPTER I

JONATHAN HARKER’S JOURNAL

(Kept in shorthand.)


Dracula, First Edition Reproduction
    3 May. Bistritz.—Left Munich at 8:35 P. M., on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning; should have arrived at 6:46, but train was an hour late. Buda-Pesth seems a wonderful place, from the glimpse which I got of it from the train and the little I could walk through the streets. I feared to go very far from the station, as we had arrived late and would start as near the correct time as possible. The impression I had was that we were leaving the West and entering the East; the most western of splendid bridges over the Danube, which is here of noble width and depth, took us among the traditions of Turkish rule.

We left in pretty good time, and came after nightfall to Klausenburgh. Here I stopped for the night at the Hotel Royale. I had for dinner, or rather supper, a chicken done up some way with red pepper, which was very good but thirsty. (Mem., get recipe for Mina.) I asked the waiter, and he said it was called “paprika hendl,” and that, as it was a national dish, I should be able to get it anywhere along the Carpathians. I found my smattering of German very useful here; indeed, I don’t know how I should be able to get on without it.

Having had some time at my disposal when in London, I had visited the British Museum, and made search among the books and maps in the library regarding Transylvania; it had struck me that some foreknowledge of the country could hardly fail to have some importance in dealing with a nobleman of that country. I find that the district he named is in the extreme east of the country, just on the borders of three states, Transylvania, Moldavia and Bukovina, in the midst of the Carpathian mountains; one of the wildest and least known portions of Europe. I was not able to light on any map or work giving the exact locality of the Castle Dracula, as there are no maps of this country as yet to compare with our own Ordnance Survey maps; but I found that Bistritz, the post town named by Count Dracula, is a fairly well-known place. I shall enter here some of my notes, as they may refresh my memory when I talk over my travels with Mina.

In the population of Transylvania there are four distinct nationalities: Saxons in the South, and mixed with them the Wallachs, who are the descendants of the Dacians; Magyars in the West, and Szekelys in the East and North. I am going among the latter, who claim to be descended from Attila and the Huns. This may be so, for when the Magyars conquered the country in the eleventh century they found the Huns settled in it. I read that every known superstition in the world is gathered into the horseshoe of the Carpathians, as if it were the centre of some sort of imaginative whirlpool; if so my stay may be very interesting. (Mem., I must ask the Count all about them.)

I did not sleep well, though my bed was comfortable enough, for I had all sorts of queer dreams. There was a dog howling all night under my window, which may have had something to do with it; or it may have been the paprika, for I had to drink up all the water in my carafe, and was still thirsty. Towards morning I slept and was wakened by the continuous knocking at my door, so I guess I must have been sleeping soundly then. I had for breakfast more paprika, and a sort of porridge of maize flour which they said was “mamaliga,” and egg-plant stuffed with forcemeat, a very excellent dish, which they call “impletata.” (Mem., get recipe for this also.) I had to hurry breakfast, for the train started a little before eight, or rather it ought to have done so, for after rushing to the station at 7:30 I had to sit in the carriage for more than an hour before we began to move. It seems to me that the further east you go the more unpunctual are the trains. What ought they to be in China?

All day long we seemed to dawdle through a country which was full of beauty of every kind. Sometimes we saw little towns or castles on the top of steep hills such as we see in old missals; sometimes we ran by rivers and streams which seemed from the wide stony margin on each side of them to be subject to great floods. It takes a lot of water, and running strong, to sweep the outside edge of a river clear. At every station there were groups of people, sometimes crowds, and in all sorts of attire. Some of them were just like the peasants at home or those I saw coming through France and Germany, with short jackets and round hats and home-made trousers; but others were very picturesque. The women looked pretty, except when you got near them, but they were very clumsy about the waist. They had all full white sleeves of some kind or other, and most of them had big belts with a lot of strips of something fluttering from them like the dresses in a ballet, but of course there were petticoats under them. The strangest figures we saw were the Slovaks, who were more barbarian than the rest, with their big cow-boy hats, great baggy dirty-white trousers, white linen shirts, and enormous heavy leather belts, nearly a foot wide, all studded over with brass nails. They wore high boots, with their trousers tucked into them, and had long black hair and heavy black moustaches. They are very picturesque, but do not look prepossessing. On the stage they would be set down at once as some old Oriental band of brigands. They are, however, I am told, very harmless and rather wanting in natural self-assertion.

It was on the dark side of twilight when we got to Bistritz, which is a very interesting old place. Being practically on the frontier—for the Borgo Pass leads from it into Bukovina—it has had a very stormy existence, and it certainly shows marks of it. Fifty years ago a series of great fires took place, which made terrible havoc on five separate occasions. At the very beginning of the seventeenth century it underwent a siege of three weeks and lost 13,000 people, the casualties of war proper being assisted by famine and disease.

Count Dracula had directed me to go to the Golden Krone Hotel, which I found, to my great delight, to be thoroughly old-fashioned, for of course I wanted to see all I could of the ways of the country. I was evidently expected, for when I got near the door I faced a cheery-looking elderly woman in the usual peasant dress—white undergarment with long double apron, front, and back, of coloured stuff fitting almost too tight for modesty. When I came close she bowed and said, “The Herr Englishman?” “Yes,” I said, “Jonathan Harker.” She smiled, and gave some message to an elderly man in white shirt-sleeves, who had followed her to the door. He went, but immediately returned with a letter:—

“My Friend.—Welcome to the Carpathians. I am anxiously expecting you. Sleep well to-night. At three to-morrow the diligence will start for Bukovina; a place on it is kept for you. At the Borgo Pass my carriage will await you and will bring you to me. I trust that your journey from London has been a happy one, and that you will enjoy your stay in my beautiful land.

“Your friend,
Dracula.”

--

Notes

Moon Phase: First Quarter

This really is the last time things are normal for Harker and the reader. Great way to begin this novel. The English reader of the time would have wanted to read of far away places where the people were different than they were, but comfortable in the fact they were in fact far away.  There was some xenophobia back then.

This is also the start of the main themes of Dracula. West vs. East, New vs. Old, Science and Technology vs. Religion and Magic. I will detail these more as they happen.

A note on Dates: The exact year this is all supposed to be taking place is a bit of a debate. Dracula was published on May 26, 1897, so we can be reasonably assured this is taking place before that. There are some other elements, but I am going to put a stake (heh) in the ground for 1892. This will put May 3 on Tuesday, though I need to consider if trains would have run on a Sunday. 

Punch Calendar 1892


Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Dracula, The Hunters' Journals: Walpurgis Night (Dracula's Guest)

 This is a new series where I am going to take the text of the Bram Stoker novel "Dracula" and break it up into the days they were posted. In a sense recreating the scenes as they were happening. I will also include any explanatory notes. Since this is still an RPG blog I will include RPG tips, leaning heavily on NIGHT SHIFT

This is my ode to the episodic horror I loved as a kid and one of my favorite novels.

Dracula - The Hunters' Journals

While the events take place on Walpurgis Night (April 30) I am going with the notion that Harker ("The Englishman") did not record them till the next day, May 1 while on the train.

--

Dracula's Guest (1914)  by Bram Stoker
Dracula's Guest (1914)

by Bram Stoker

When we started for our drive the sun was shining brightly on Munich, and the air was full of the joyousness of early summer. Just as we were about to depart, Herr Delbruck (the maitre d'hotel of the Quatre Saisons, where I was staying) came down bareheaded to the carriage and, after wishing me a pleasant drive, said to the coachman, still holding his hand on the handle of the carriage door, "Remember you are back by nightfall. The sky looks bright but there is a shiver in the north wind that says there may be a sudden storm. But I am sure you will not be late." Here he smiled and added, "for you know what night it is."

Johann answered with an emphatic, "Ja, mein Herr," and, touching his hat, drove off quickly. When we had cleared the town, I said, after signalling to him to stop:

"Tell me, Johann, what is tonight?"

He crossed himself, as he answered laconically: "Walpurgis nacht." Then he took out his watch, a great, old-fashioned German silver thing as big as a turnip and looked at it, with his eyebrows gathered together and a little impatient shrug of his shoulders. I realized that this was his way of respectfully protesting against the unnecessary delay and sank back in the carriage, merely motioning him to proceed. He started off rapidly, as if to make up for lost time. Every now and then the horses seemed to throw up their heads and sniff the air suspiciously. On such occasions I often looked round in alarm. The road was pretty bleak, for we were traversing a sort of high windswept plateau. As we drove, I saw a road that looked but little used and which seemed to dip through a little winding valley. It looked so inviting that, even at the risk of offending him, I called Johann to stop—and when he had pulled up, I told him I would like to drive down that road. He made all sorts of excuses and frequently crossed himself as he spoke. This somewhat piqued my curiosity, so I asked him various questions. He answered fencingly and repeatedly looked at his watch in protest.

Finally I said, "Well, Johann, I want to go down this road. I shall not ask you to come unless you like; but tell me why you do not like to go, that is all I ask." For answer he seemed to throw himself off the box, so quickly did he reach the ground. Then he stretched out his hands appealingly to me and implored me not to go. There was just enough of English mixed with the German for me to understand the drift of his talk. He seemed always just about to tell me something—the very idea of which evidently frightened him; but each time he pulled himself up saying, "Walpurgis nacht!"

I tried to argue with him, but it was difficult to argue with a man when I did not know his language. The advantage certainly rested with him, for although he began to speak in English, of a very crude and broken kind, he always got excited and broke into his native tongue—and every time he did so, he looked at his watch. Then the horses became restless and sniffed the air. At this he grew very pale, and, looking around in a frightened way, he suddenly jumped forward, took them by the bridles, and led them on some twenty feet. I followed and asked why he had done this. For an answer he crossed himself, pointed to the spot we had left, and drew his carriage in the direction of the other road, indicating a cross, and said, first in German, then in English, "Buried him—him what killed themselves."

I remembered the old custom of burying suicides at cross roads: "Ah! I see, a suicide. How interesting!" But for the life of me I could not make out why the horses were frightened.

Whilst we were talking, we heard a sort of sound between a yelp and a bark. It was far away; but the horses got very restless, and it took Johann all his time to quiet them. He was pale and said, "It sounds like a wolf—but yet there are no wolves here now."

"No?" I said, questioning him. "Isn't it long since the wolves were so near the city?"

"Long, long," he answered, "in the spring and summer; but with the snow the wolves have been here not so long."

Whilst he was petting the horses and trying to quiet them, dark clouds drifted rapidly across the sky. The sunshine passed away, and a breath of cold wind seemed to drift over us. It was only a breath, however, and more of a warning than a fact, for the sun came out brightly again.

Johann looked under his lifted hand at the horizon and said, "The storm of snow, he comes before long time." Then he looked at his watch again, and, straightway holding his reins firmly—for the horses were still pawing the ground restlessly and shaking their heads—he climbed to his box as though the time had come for proceeding on our journey.

I felt a little obstinate and did not at once get into the carriage.

"Tell me," I said, "about this place where the road leads," and I pointed down.

Again he crossed himself and mumbled a prayer before he answered, "It is unholy."

"What is unholy?" I enquired.

"The village."

"Then there is a village?"

"No, no. No one lives there hundreds of years."

My curiosity was piqued, "But you said there was a village."

"There was."

"Where is it now?"

Whereupon he burst out into a long story in German and English, so mixed up that I could not quite understand exactly what he said. Roughly I gathered that long ago, hundreds of years, men had died there and been buried in their graves; but sounds were heard under the clay, and when the graves were opened, men and women were found rosy with life and their mouths red with blood. And so, in haste to save their lives (aye, and their souls!—and here he crossed himself) those who were left fled away to other places, where the living lived and the dead were dead and not—not something. He was evidently afraid to speak the last words. As he proceeded with his narration, he grew more and more excited. It seemed as if his imagination had got hold of him, and he ended in a perfect paroxysm of fear—white-faced, perspiring, trembling, and looking round him as if expecting that some dreadful presence would manifest itself there in the bright sunshine on the open plain.

Finally, in an agony of desperation, he cried, "Walpurgis nacht!" and pointed to the carriage for me to get in.

All my English blood rose at this, and standing back I said, "You are afraid, Johann—you are afraid. Go home, I shall return alone, the walk will do me good." The carriage door was open. I took from the seat my oak walking stick—which I always carry on my holiday excursions—and closed the door, pointing back to Munich, and said, "Go home, Johann—Walpurgis nacht doesn't concern Englishmen."

The horses were now more restive than ever, and Johann was trying to hold them in, while excitedly imploring me not to do anything so foolish. I pitied the poor fellow, he was so deeply in earnest; but all the same I could not help laughing. His English was quite gone now. In his anxiety he had forgotten that his only means of making me understand was to talk my language, so he jabbered away in his native German. It began to be a little tedious. After giving the direction, "Home!" I turned to go down the cross road into the valley.

With a despairing gesture, Johann turned his horses towards Munich. I leaned on my stick and looked after him. He went slowly along the road for a while, then there came over the crest of the hill a man tall and thin. I could see so much in the distance. When he drew near the horses, they began to jump and kick about, then to scream with terror. Johann could not hold them in; they bolted down the road, running away madly. I watched them out of sight, then looked for the stranger; but I found that he, too, was gone.

With a light heart I turned down the side road through the deepening valley to which Johann had objected. There was not the slightest reason, that I could see, for his objection; and I daresay I tramped for a couple of hours without thinking of time or distance and certainly without seeing a person or a house. So far as the place was concerned, it was desolation itself. But I did not notice this particularly till, on turning a bend in the road, I came upon a scattered fringe of wood; then I recognized that I had been impressed unconsciously by the desolation of the region through which I had passed.

I sat down to rest myself and began to look around. It struck me that it was considerably colder than it had been at the commencement of my walk—a sort of sighing sound seemed to be around me with, now and then, high overhead, a sort of muffled roar. Looking upwards I noticed that great thick clouds were drafting rapidly across the sky from north to south at a great height. There were signs of a coming storm in some lofty stratum of the air. I was a little chilly, and, thinking that it was the sitting still after the exercise of walking, I resumed my journey.

The ground I passed over was now much more picturesque. There were no striking objects that the eye might single out, but in all there was a charm of beauty. I took little heed of time, and it was only when the deepening twilight forced itself upon me that I began to think of how I should find my way home. The air was cold, and the drifting of clouds high overhead was more marked. They were accompanied by a sort of far away rushing sound, through which seemed to come at intervals that mysterious cry which the driver had said came from a wolf. For a while I hesitated. I had said I would see the deserted village, so on I went and presently came on a wide stretch of open country, shut in by hills all around. Their sides were covered with trees which spread down to the plain, dotting in clumps the gentler slopes and hollows which showed here and there. I followed with my eye the winding of the road and saw that it curved close to one of the densest of these clumps and was lost behind it.

As I looked there came a cold shiver in the air, and the snow began to fall. I thought of the miles and miles of bleak country I had passed, and then hurried on to seek shelter of the wood in front. Darker and darker grew the sky, and faster and heavier fell the snow, till the earth before and around me was a glistening white carpet the further edge of which was lost in misty vagueness. The road was here but crude, and when on the level its boundaries were not so marked as when it passed through the cuttings; and in a little while I found that I must have strayed from it, for I missed underfoot the hard surface, and my feet sank deeper in the grass and moss. Then the wind grew stronger and blew with ever increasing force, till I was fain to run before it. The air became icy-cold, and in spite of my exercise I began to suffer. The snow was now falling so thickly and whirling around me in such rapid eddies that I could hardly keep my eyes open. Every now and then the heavens were torn asunder by vivid lightning, and in the flashes I could see ahead of me a great mass of trees, chiefly yew and cypress all heavily coated with snow.

I was soon amongst the shelter of the trees, and there in comparative silence I could hear the rush of the wind high overhead. Presently the blackness of the storm had become merged in the darkness of the night. By-and-by the storm seemed to be passing away, it now only came in fierce puffs or blasts. At such moments the weird sound of the wolf appeared to be echoed by many similar sounds around me.

Now and again, through the black mass of drifting cloud, came a straggling ray of moonlight which lit up the expanse and showed me that I was at the edge of a dense mass of cypress and yew trees. As the snow had ceased to fall, I walked out from the shelter and began to investigate more closely. It appeared to me that, amongst so many old foundations as I had passed, there might be still standing a house in which, though in ruins, I could find some sort of shelter for a while. As I skirted the edge of the copse, I found that a low wall encircled it, and following this I presently found an opening. Here the cypresses formed an alley leading up to a square mass of some kind of building. Just as I caught sight of this, however, the drifting clouds obscured the moon, and I passed up the path in darkness. The wind must have grown colder, for I felt myself shiver as I walked; but there was hope of shelter, and I groped my way blindly on.

I stopped, for there was a sudden stillness. The storm had passed; and, perhaps in sympathy with nature's silence, my heart seemed to cease to beat. But this was only momentarily; for suddenly the moonlight broke through the clouds showing me that I was in a graveyard and that the square object before me was a great massive tomb of marble, as white as the snow that lay on and all around it. With the moonlight there came a fierce sigh of the storm which appeared to resume its course with a long, low howl, as of many dogs or wolves. I was awed and shocked, and I felt the cold perceptibly grow upon me till it seemed to grip me by the heart. Then while the flood of moonlight still fell on the marble tomb, the storm gave further evidence of renewing, as though it were returning on its track. Impelled by some sort of fascination, I approached the sepulchre to see what it was and why such a thing stood alone in such a place. I walked around it and read, over the Doric door, in German—

COUNTESS DOLINGEN OF GRATZ
IN STYRIA
SOUGHT AND FOUND DEATH
1801

On the top of the tomb, seemingly driven through the solid marble—for the structure was composed of a few vast blocks of stone—was a great iron spike or stake. On going to the back I saw, graven in great Russian letters: 

The dead travel fast.

There was something so weird and uncanny about the whole thing that it gave me a turn and made me feel quite faint. I began to wish, for the first time, that I had taken Johann's advice. Here a thought struck me, which came under almost mysterious circumstances and with a terrible shock. This was Walpurgis Night!

Walpurgis Night was when, according to the belief of millions of people, the devil was abroad—when the graves were opened and the dead came forth and walked. When all evil things of earth and air and water held revel. This very place the driver had specially shunned. This was the depopulated village of centuries ago. This was where the suicide lay; and this was the place where I was alone—unmanned, shivering with cold in a shroud of snow with a wild storm gathering again upon me! It took all my philosophy, all the religion I had been taught, all my courage, not to collapse in a paroxysm of fright.

And now a perfect tornado burst upon me. The ground shook as though thousands of horses thundered across it; and this time the storm bore on its icy wings, not snow, but great hailstones which drove with such violence that they might have come from the thongs of Balearic slingers—hailstones that beat down leaf and branch and made the shelter of the cypresses of no more avail than though their stems were standing corn. At the first I had rushed to the nearest tree; but I was soon fain to leave it and seek the only spot that seemed to afford refuge, the deep Doric doorway of the marble tomb. There, crouching against the massive bronze door, I gained a certain amount of protection from the beating of the hailstones, for now they only drove against me as they ricochetted from the ground and the side of the marble.

As I leaned against the door, it moved slightly and opened inwards. The shelter of even a tomb was welcome in that pitiless tempest and I was about to enter it when there came a flash of forked lightning that lit up the whole expanse of the heavens. In the instant, as I am a living man, I saw, as my my eyes turned into the darkness of the tomb, a beautiful woman with rounded cheeks and red lips, seemingly sleeping on a bier. As the thunder broke overhead, I was grasped as by the hand of a giant and hurled out into the storm. The whole thing was so sudden that, before I could realize the shock, moral as well as physical, I found the hailstones beating me down. At the same time I had a strange, dominating feeling that I was not alone. I looked towards the tomb. Just then there came another blinding flash which seemed to strike the iron stake that surmounted the tomb and to pour through to the earth, blasting and crumbling the marble, as in a burst of flame. The dead woman rose for a moment of agony while she was lapped in the flame, and her bitter scream of pain was drowned in the thundercrash. The last thing I heard was this mingling of dreadful sound, as again I was seized in the giant grasp and dragged away, while the hailstones beat on me and the air around seemed reverberant with the howling of wolves. The last sight that I remembered was a vague, white, moving mass, as if all the graves around me had sent out the phantoms of their sheeted dead, and that they were closing in on me through the white cloudiness of the driving hail.

Gradually there came a sort of vague beginning of consciousness, then a sense of weariness that was dreadful. For a time I remembered nothing, but slowly my senses returned. My feet seemed positively racked with pain, yet I could not move them. They seemed to be numbed. There was an icy feeling at the back of my neck and all down my spine, and my ears, like my feet, were dead yet in torment; but there was in my breast a sense of warmth which was by comparison delicious. It was as a nightmare—a physical nightmare, if one may use such an expression; for some heavy weight on my chest made it difficult for me to breathe.

This period of semilethargy seemed to remain a long time, and as it faded away I must have slept or swooned. Then came a sort of loathing, like the first stage of seasickness, and a wild desire to be free of something—I knew not what. A vast stillness enveloped me, as though all the world were asleep or dead—only broken by the low panting as of some animal close to me. I felt a warm rasping at my throat, then came a consciousness of the awful truth which chilled me to the heart and sent the blood surging up through my brain. Some great animal was lying on me and now licking my throat. I feared to stir, for some instinct of prudence bade me lie still; but the brute seemed to realize that there was now some change in me, for it raised its head. Through my eyelashes I saw above me the two great flaming eyes of a gigantic wolf. Its sharp white teeth gleamed in the gaping red mouth, and I could feel its hot breath fierce and acrid upon me.

For another spell of time I remembered no more. Then I became conscious of a low growl, followed by a yelp, renewed again and again. Then seemingly very far away, I heard a "Holloa! holloa!" as of many voices calling in unison. Cautiously I raised my head and looked in the direction whence the sound came, but the cemetery blocked my view. The wolf still continued to yelp in a strange way, and a red glare began to move round the grove of cypresses, as though following the sound. As the voices drew closer, the wolf yelped faster and louder. I feared to make either sound or motion. Nearer came the red glow over the white pall which stretched into the darkness around me. Then all at once from beyond the trees there came at a trot a troop of horsemen bearing torches. The wolf rose from my breast and made for the cemetery. I saw one of the horsemen (soldiers by their caps and their long military cloaks) raise his carbine and take aim. A companion knocked up his arm, and I heard the ball whiz over my head. He had evidently taken my body for that of the wolf. Another sighted the animal as it slunk away, and a shot followed. Then, at a gallop, the troop rode forward—some towards me, others following the wolf as it disappeared amongst the snow-clad cypresses.

As they drew nearer I tried to move but was powerless, although I could see and hear all that went on around me. Two or three of the soldiers jumped from their horses and knelt beside me. One of them raised my head and placed his hand over my heart.

"Good news, comrades!" he cried. "His heart still beats!"

Then some brandy was poured down my throat; it put vigor into me, and I was able to open my eyes fully and look around. Lights and shadows were moving among the trees, and I heard men call to one another. They drew together, uttering frightened exclamations; and the lights flashed as the others came pouring out of the cemetery pell-mell, like men possessed. When the further ones came close to us, those who were around me asked them eagerly, "Well, have you found him?"

The reply rang out hurriedly, "No! no! Come away quick-quick! This is no place to stay, and on this of all nights!"

"What was it?" was the question, asked in all manner of keys. The answer came variously and all indefinitely as though the men were moved by some common impulse to speak yet were restrained by some common fear from giving their thoughts.

"It—it—indeed!" gibbered one, whose wits had plainly given out for the moment.

"A wolf—and yet not a wolf!" another put in shudderingly.

"No use trying for him without the sacred bullet," a third remarked in a more ordinary manner.

"Serve us right for coming out on this night! Truly we have earned our thousand marks!" were the ejaculations of a fourth.

"There was blood on the broken marble," another said after a pause, "the lightning never brought that there. And for him—is he safe? Look at his throat! See comrades, the wolf has been lying on him and keeping his blood warm."

The officer looked at my throat and replied, "He is all right, the skin is not pierced. What does it all mean? We should never have found him but for the yelping of the wolf."

"What became of it?" asked the man who was holding up my head and who seemed the least panic-stricken of the party, for his hands were steady and without tremor. On his sleeve was the chevron of a petty officer.

"It went home," answered the man, whose long face was pallid and who actually shook with terror as he glanced around him fearfully. "There are graves enough there in which it may lie. Come, comrades—come quickly! Let us leave this cursed spot."

The officer raised me to a sitting posture, as he uttered a word of command; then several men placed me upon a horse. He sprang to the saddle behind me, took me in his arms, gave the word to advance; and, turning our faces away from the cypresses, we rode away in swift military order.

As yet my tongue refused its office, and I was perforce silent. I must have fallen asleep; for the next thing I remembered was finding myself standing up, supported by a soldier on each side of me. It was almost broad daylight, and to the north a red streak of sunlight was reflected like a path of blood over the waste of snow. The officer was telling the men to say nothing of what they had seen, except that they found an English stranger, guarded by a large dog.

"Dog! that was no dog," cut in the man who had exhibited such fear. "I think I know a wolf when I see one."

The young officer answered calmly, "I said a dog."

"Dog!" reiterated the other ironically. It was evident that his courage was rising with the sun; and, pointing to me, he said, "Look at his throat. Is that the work of a dog, master?"

Instinctively I raised my hand to my throat, and as I touched it I cried out in pain. The men crowded round to look, some stooping down from their saddles; and again there came the calm voice of the young officer, "A dog, as I said. If aught else were said we should only be laughed at."

I was then mounted behind a trooper, and we rode on into the suburbs of Munich. Here we came across a stray carriage into which I was lifted, and it was driven off to the Quatre Saisons—the young officer accompanying me, whilst a trooper followed with his horse, and the others rode off to their barracks.

When we arrived, Herr Delbruck rushed so quickly down the steps to meet me, that it was apparent he had been watching within. Taking me by both hands he solicitously led me in. The officer saluted me and was turning to withdraw, when I recognized his purpose and insisted that he should come to my rooms. Over a glass of wine I warmly thanked him and his brave comrades for saving me. He replied simply that he was more than glad, and that Herr Delbruck had at the first taken steps to make all the searching party pleased; at which ambiguous utterance the maitre d'hotel smiled, while the officer plead duty and withdrew.

"But Herr Delbruck," I enquired, "how and why was it that the soldiers searched for me?"

He shrugged his shoulders, as if in depreciation of his own deed, as he replied, "I was so fortunate as to obtain leave from the commander of the regiment in which I serve, to ask for volunteers."

"But how did you know I was lost?" I asked.

"The driver came hither with the remains of his carriage, which had been upset when the horses ran away."

"But surely you would not send a search party of soldiers merely on this account?"

"Oh, no!" he answered, "but even before the coachman arrived, I had this telegram from the Boyar whose guest you are," and he took from his pocket a telegram which he handed to me, and I read:

Bistritz. Be careful of my guest—his safety is most precious to me. Should aught happen to him, or if he be missed, spare nothing to find him and ensure his safety. He is English and therefore adventurous. There are often dangers from snow and wolves and night. Lose not a moment if you suspect harm to him. I answer your zeal with my fortune. —Dracula.

As I held the telegram in my hand, the room seemed to whirl around me, and if the attentive maitre d'hotel had not caught me, I think I should have fallen. There was something so strange in all this, something so weird and impossible to imagine, that there grew on me a sense of my being in some way the sport of opposite forces—the mere vague idea of which seemed in a way to paralyze me. I was certainly under some form of mysterious protection. From a distant country had come, in the very nick of time, a message that took me out of the danger of the snow sleep and the jaws of the wolf.

--

Notes

Moon Phase: Waxing Crescent

Dracula's Guest was published in 1914 after Bram Stoker's death in 1912. It was intended to be the first chapters of Dracula but was cut prior to publication. In some notes the current Chapter 1 (May 3) is designated as "Chapter 3."  Though there are some notes of Harker encountering some vampire women in the original Chapter 2. This was expanded upon in the "Icelandic Dracula" Powers of Darkness.

The Englishman here is not named, but notes included with the original manuscript suggest that this is Jonathan Harker. Future entries in his diary allude to these happenings. I like the idea that Dracula was keeping an eye on Harker as far away as Munich.

I also think that filmmakers, in particular the 1931 Dracula and the 1992 Bram Stoker's Dracula, used this story as their backstory for Renfield.

The "Countess Dolingen of Gratz In Styria" is an obvious nod to Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's "Carmilla." 

Note: For these entries, I am going to use the "Courier" font. It looks more like typed pages, and it separates what I am doing with these journals from writing in my own voice. While I might make minor font corrections or emphasis, I am not going to spell or grammar check the original documents. I will leave them as the author (and fictional authors) intended.

I will annotate and link though where I think is appropriate. 

Monday, February 5, 2024

Monstrous Monday: Greater Astral Spiders

 For the next few weeks, I will be posting monsters for use in the various "Powered by O.G.R.E.S." games I work on and use. These are NIGHT SHIFT, Wasted Lands, and the upcoming Thirteen Parsecs. I would also like to use this space to feature some new artists and their work. 

Up first is a favorite around here. This one is bigger.

Astral Spider by John Kozlowski
Astral Spider by John Kozlowski

Astral Spider, Greater

No. Appearing: 1
AC: 4
Move: 40 ft and Special (Astral)
ViD: 8
Special: Wits and toughness drain. 1 point/day each
XP VALUE: 1,600

Greater Astral Spiders are larger and more terrifying versions of the smaller Astral Spiders. Like their smaller cousins, they are not true spiders but creatures of the deeper dark.  These creatures are about three feet high and six feet long when manifesting in the material world. Since they are not true spiders but creatures of fear from the Deeper Dark, they are not limited to just 8 legs.

As their name suggests, these creatures are native to the astral plane, but they are attracted to people with psychic or empathic abilities.  These creatures drain Wits (wisdom) and Toughness (constitution). Like the smaller varieties, these creatures are invisible. They find targets that have high levels of empathy (psychics, witches, sorcerers) and attach themselves to feed. They do not have a physical attack in terms of Vitality damage.

An astrally projected or sensitive witch can see these creatures, either on themselves or others. A Dismissal spell can remove the spider, but they can only be attacked in the Astral Plane. A Dimensional Anchor used against it can prevent it from latching back onto a victim.  A Lesser Restoration and one week of bed rest for each day of ability loss will cure the victim. Without magic, the recovery period is one week per point of Wits and Toughness lost each. Thus, a minimum of two weeks.

Use in the Wasted Lands

During the Dreaming Age the Astral Spiders were far more common and could manifest in the Material World more easily. There is conjecture on their relationship to the other denizens of the Deeper Dark, but few are willing to study them up close.  These creatures can sometimes be summoned by dark-aligned Sorcerers, but with no real means of controlling them, they can be the victim just as often.

Use in NIGHT SHIFT

These creatures cause much fear in the communities of psychics and witches. There is a lot of talk on various online groups on how to best deal with them, but there is little to no consensus.

Astral Spiders online

Use in Thirteen Parsecs

As in the Dreaming Age, Astral Spiders are able to manifest in the Material World. What is worse that due to their ability to travel via the Astral, attacking starships on the Solar Frontier is as easy to them as attacking a sleeping person back on Earth.  The closer a planet is to the Solar Frontier, the more likely an attack by an Astral Spider will become. 


Monday, January 29, 2024

Character Creation Challenge: Brigid for Wasted Lands

"A Bhrigid, scar os mo chionn, do bhrat fionn dom anacal."

 Something a little different today, a little bit of Wasted Lands myth-making applied to D&D rather than just using Wasted Lands as a D&D substitute.

One "character" that has been a feature of many of my games (fantasy, horror, sci-fi) is that of Brigid. My version is based on the famous saint, St. Brigid of Kildare AND the goddess Brigid of Celtic myth. I figured with Imbolc (Feb 1) coming up, it is a good time to talk about her.

Brigit (of Kildare / "Cil Dara")

Who Is Brigit?

A simple question with a very complicated answer. In the mytho-historical tales of Ireland there are two Brigits. The Goddess and the Saint. Was the saint named for the goddess? Was the goddess named for the Saint thanks to a 2000+ plus oral tradition that mostly predates writing? In the years I have paid (casual) attention to the academic debates, I have seen them shift back and forth a little (or a lot, depending on the journal).  She is also related to the ancient British Goddess/figure Brigantia, who the Romans saw as aspects of the goddesses Minerva (Athena), Tyche/Fortuna, and Victoria (Nike). She is a complicated Goddess. 

This is fascinating but only tangentially related to my games, save for how my readings add to them. 

She is a Goddess, a Saint, and a figure in Celtic Pagan Witchcraft. So yeah, I am going to find a place for her in my games. Given her influence on me, I don't think it is a surprise that I have so many redheaded witches.

In my games, Brigit is more of a force than a character. I have talked about her in terms of Celtic Myth. The Witch Guardians for D&D 3.x and 4e. As a historical figure in my modern horror games. And as Protectors of Éire for my Ghosts of Albion games.

In my games where I like to play on the themes of the Rise and Fall of Paganism vs. the Coming of the Christian Faith, Brigit is my chance to "cheat a win."  In these games, Brigit is a pagan Goddess. She has a following of women pagan worshipers who are no longer druids but not yet witches. My version of Bodhmal is a great if not prime, example of this.  In these games/set-up Brigit tucks her fire-red hair under a nun's habit and continues on.  Her witches now hiding in plain sight.

I never worked out how that works for her, but with Wasted Lands I can give it a try!  Before there was the St. Brigit of Kildare, or there was Goddess Brigit, there was the woman Brigit. She was many things: warrior, philosopher, healer, and the spirit of her land. Because of her connection to Ireland, she is remembered by many in many different forms.

Brigit (of Kildare / "Cil Dara")
Brigit (of Kildare / "Cil Dara")

Class: Warrior / Theosophist / Spirit Rider
Level: 15 (5/5/5)
Species: Human
Alignment: Light Good
Background: Animistic

Abilities
Strength: 15 (+1) A
Agility: 12 (+1) 
Toughness: 17 (+2) 
Intelligence: 11 (+1) 
Wits: 16 (+2) N
Persona: 17 (+2) N

Fate Points: 1d12
Defense Value: 5
Vitality: 114
Degeneracy: 0
Corruption: 0

Check Bonus (A/N/D): +7/+4/+3
Melee Bonus: +5 (base) +1 (str) +2 (touchstones)
Ranged Bonus: +5 (base) +1 (touchstone)
Magical Attack: +2
Saves: +2 to all saves (warrior), +2 to Persona saves, but -2 on Magic away from Ireland (Animistic).

Animistic Powers
Mystical senses, Speak with Plants and Animals,  Animal Summoning 1 (spell)

Warrior Abilities
Combat Expertise, Improved Defence, Melee Combat, Master of Battle, Supernatural Attacks (melee and ranged), Spell Resistance, Tracking, Masters of Weapons, Extra Attacks (x2), Extra Damage

Theosophist Abilities
See Dead People, Turn Undead, Summon the Dead, Channel the Dead, Protection from Undead (2/day), Command, Death Knell (Banshee Wail), Suggestion (1/day)

Spirit Rider Abilities
Innate Magic (5), Arcane Power (2), Commune with Spirit, Limited Power (outside of Ireland), Magcial Battery, Add Wits bonus to Supernatural attacks

Arcane Powers
Empathy, Precognition

Spells
First level: Gout of Flame, Restore Vitality
Second level: Eternal Flame, Lesser Renewal
Third level: Concusive Blast (Fire)

Heroic/Divine Touchstones 
1st Level: First Level Spell: Black Flame
2nd Level: +1 to melee combat
3rd Level: Charm Power
4th Level: Favored Enemy: Undead
5th Level: +1 to all checks, attacks, and saves
6th Level: Immunity to Undead Attacks
7th Level: Character ceases to age

Heroic (Divine) Archetype: Craft, Fire, Warrior

Gear
Sword, Leather Armor

Brigit in the Wasted Lands

For these stats, I played up the aspects of her character that will become important in my games: her connection to fire and her hatred of the undead. This is the warrior aspect of her personality.  Her Animitic background (from Wasted Lands) and her levels in Spirit Rider (NIGHT SHIFT) play very well with each other. As long as she is in Ireland (however I choose to define that) she is powerful and can avoid corruption, outside she is less protected.

Brigit in NIGHT SHIFT

From NIGHT SHIFT I get her Theosophist class (Core Rules) and her Spirit Rider class (Night Companion). This works well for me since it also gives me more mechanics to represent her aspects.  Brigit is still active in the world of NIGHT SHIFT since she is the head of the Daughters of the Flame coven. A world-wide organization of witches dedicated to Brigit. 

Brigit in Thirteen Parsecs

Ah...now this one is fun. How does a Celtic Goddess find her way out into the Solar Frontier? I guess this is my answer to the infamous question, "Why does God need a Starship?"  In my Black Star games (soon to be converted wholesale over to Thirteen Parsecs), there is a ship in the Mystic line, the Imbolc Mage NX-3119. This ship is the sister to the Protector NX-3120. I have not talked much about that ship because I have been using it as an NPC ship. I have also been using it as my test-run ship for ship-to-ship combat rules. Brigit herself is not on this ship, but she has a vested interest in it. 

You can get the Wasted Lands RPG and the NIGHT SHIFT RPG at Elf Lair Games. Thirteen Parsecs is coming soon.

Character Creation Challenge

Sunday, January 28, 2024

True Detective: Night Country and Valhalla, AK

True Detective: Night Country
I am a fan of the HBO series True Detective. I had a bit to say about the first season here and here, so I am a fan. The new season, Season 4, is out now, and so far, it is excellent, too.  I am not going to get into any spoilers here, but Jodie Foster is fantastic in this. Maybe some of the best acting of her career, and I have been a fan of hers forever. And Kali Reis is amazing so far.

This season, subtitled "Night Country," is a fantastic idea. It takes place in the fictional town of Ennis, Alaska just north of the Arctic Circle. It is a detective drama, but there appear to be elements of the supernatural in it as well. Plus, it ties directly back to the first season of True Detective.

It also sounds a lot like what I wanted to do with my Valhalla, AK

Now, let's be honest here. The idea is a good one. Plus, I know there is really no way Issa López (showrunner, writer, and director) has read anything I have ever written here. It is just a great idea. Mine might have been a little closer to "Northern Exposure," though my Valhalla would be somewhere south of Ennis and a bit north of Cicely. 

While it is a great idea and one I have some fun with, I am not sure I could get away with building anything for it now for publication. Sure, I have the benefit of having my Valhalla predate Night Country and the first season of True Detective, but I am not sure I could really do it justice.

So, I am thinking of going back to my original idea and doing it as something for free here online. Something people can use in their NIGHT SHIFT games. Hell, if I throw in more alien abductions, then I can add in bits of Thirteen Parsecs, or other games from Elf Lair Games.  

Something I have been working on for Thirteen Parsecs is the fact that the barriers between the multi-verses are very thin here. People wander and get lost and end up in a different universe. One of those Earths is a planet called Gaia where history is like our own, but due to disease and runaway climate change, the population is only a 10th of Earth's, and the global temperatures have risen an average of 7-10 degrees Celius. Valhalla, AK, on Gaia, is much warmer and wetter than it is here. I mentioned some of this in the Night Companion book for NIGHT SHIFT.

I hope to develop more ideas and ways to use this weird little town in NIGHT SHIFT. 

Starting Adventure Seeds

The Last of 97s

In this seed there is a local gold mine. The mine has been shut down since the turn of the last century. Then, one night, a stranger comes to town with handfuls of gold he claims he has taken from the mine. His paperwork is all in order and legal for his purchase of the mine. He begins paying the locals in this gold. Soon he, his miners, and anyone he gave gold too end up dead by mysterious and brutal ways.

The Culprit: The ghosts of the dead miners from the failed rescue of the 1897 Mine Collapse do not want their gold taken away. Getting to bodies is difficult. The only way to quiet the dead miners is to return all the gold taken out.

Prophecy in the Petroglyphs

A cave with petroglyphs from the last Ice Age seems to be depicting scenes in the nearby town. Are these a warning from the past about the future or is history repeating itself?

The Culprit: Unknown as of yet. But it's likely something I can add to another adventure.

Petroglyphs

The Fur Trapper's Curse

An old abandoned fur trapper's hut is discovered along with the frozen remains of two Russian Fur trappers from the late 1700s. They walked over the frozen sea during one of the coldest winters of the last 400 years. They froze, and their faces were frozen in terror. But what else is there? A nearby cave, now uncovered due to warming temperatures, has the answer. 

The Culprit: A giant frozen bear that is a throwback to prehistoric times. It is bigger than any grizzly or polar bear recorded. Maybe it is an Amphicyon

The Wrath of the Wendigo

This one is obvious.

The Culprit: The wendigo!

The Strange Auroras

The Aurora Borealis are a common sight this far north. But not these. These auroras have strange colors and patterns; if you listen closely enough, you can hear them whisper to you. It is a strange language that worms into your mind, and you can't get it out of your head, no matter how hard you try.

The Culprit: Unknown as of yet!

Aurora Borealis

Utopia

A reclusive tech billionaire builds a self-sufficient town in the Alaskan wilderness, promising a new age of peace and progress. But beneath the sleek surface lurks a sinister secret, fueled by technology and dark bargains.

The Culprit: You think it is the billionaire, and yeah, he is to blame, but it has more to do with the creature he has made a pact with.

These are just a few of the ideas I have. There are more where this came from.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Character Creation Challenge: Tanith Winters for Wasted Lands

 It's still cold outside. So another winter-themed character is needed, and nothing is more winter than the Winters family of witches and my current character, Tanith Winters.

Tanith is a great character to test for Wasted Lands. For starters, I have been playing her in both D&D/OSR clones and for three editions of Hyperborea. I also have used her in NIGHT SHIFT as part of the modern versions of the Winters family.

Tanith Winters sheets

Wasted Lands and Hyperborea have similar DNA and can be used to play very similar sorts of games. The biggest difference between them setting-wise is that the Wasted Lands takes place in the distant past, and Hyperborea is in the far future.

Both games are solid in their Old-School sensibilities and feel. Both games are a lot of fun for that Dark Fantasy mixed with horror overtones with more than a little influences of Howard, Lovecraft, and Smith. 

Tanith Winters
Tanith Winters

Class: Witch (Sorcerer) 
Level: 12
Species: Human (Hyperborean)
Alignment: Neutral
Background: Barbarian

Abilities
Strength: 10 (+0) 
Agility: 12 (+0) 
Toughness: 14 (+1) N 
Intelligence: 16 (+2) N
Wits: 12 (+0) 
Persona: 16 (+2) A

Fate Points: 1d10
Defense Value: 5
Vitality: 53
Degeneracy: 0
Corruption: 0

Check Bonus (A/N/D): +5/+3/+2
Melee Bonus: +1 (base) 
Ranged Bonus: +1 (base)
Spell Attack: +6
Saves: +5 to Spells and Magical effects (Sorcerer), +2 to Toughness saves (Barbarian), +1 to Cold (Touchstone)

Sorceress Abilities
Arcana, Arcane Powers (4): Familiar: Owl Psychic Power: Cryokinesis, Enhanced Senses, Supernatural Senses

Sorceress Spells
First Level: Arcane Darts, Chill, Protection from Good/Evil, Armor of Ice
Second Level: Create Wated, Cool Metal, Lock, Unlock
Third Level: Slow, Dark Lightning, Dispel Magic, Curse 
Fourth Level: Control Tempature, Life Drain, Control Ice
Fifth Level: Blight, Elemental Wall
Sixth Level: Invoke Weather, Disentergrate

Heroic/Divine Touchstones
1st Level: +1 Saves vs. Cold
2nd Level: +1 attacks w/ Cold
3rd Level: Magical Recovery
4th Level: Defense Cold
5th Level Ray: Ray of Cold
6th Level: Cold Immunity

Heroic (Divine) Archetype: Winter

Familiar: Snowy Owl, "Beira."

Gear
Cloak of Winter

Wasted Lands & Hyperborea

Both the Wasted Lands and Hyperborea scratch a similar itch for me. I would have to say that I can play many similar games with both games. The tenor is different enough that playing the same sorts of adventures do feel different.

I'd love to try out a set of adventures, maybe even featuring the Winters family, in both Wasted Lands and then millions of years later in Hyperborea. 

Character wise, this version of Tanith is great. Hyperborea has a few more choices in spells than Wasted Lands, but there is also a big difference in size of the rule books. Granted, the spells are also largely interchangeable.  

Links

You can get the Wasted Lands RPG and the NIGHT SHIFT RPG at Elf Lair Games.

Character Creation Challenge


Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Character Creation Challenge: Raven Ebonflame for Wasted Lands

While I am done with the various versions of Johan Werper, I am still working on his family. Today, the girl that Johan Werper III fell in love with and their adventures in "Ravenloft."

Bit of a background first. The period between 1986 and 1989 or so was a transition period for me and for my games. I was leaving High School and headed to University so I wanted to wrap up a lot of different loose ends in my game world. This was one of the reasons why I wanted to merge my world with my DM's world in what would become our Proto-Mystoerth. This was also a time I wanted to do a new world, one that was more horror-focused. Eventually, I would find this with the AD&D Ravenloft campaign setting, but for the time before that we were just calling it "ShadowEarth."  This is where Johan III would end up.

Part of the problem was the girl he was in love with. A girl known as Raven.

Raven Character Sheets

Now I will be truthful here, my Raven (full name Morgan "Raven" Ebonflame) began as little more than a copy of the infamous Richard Kirk's "Raven Swordmistress of Chaos," a book I had seen but had never read (yet). So my mind was already primed for this character idea.

Back in 1986, my DM Michael Grenda wrote up a new class he was calling "The Riddle Master," which was essentially a Psychic-powered class that looked like a combination of a fighter and wizard. They were more than that, but that is the overall gist. It was an experiment in class creation. This was the same time I was making my first witch class. While I had made one Riddlemaster already, I wanted another one. Someone that fought undead (sorta my thing then) and in particular, vampires (very much my thing then). Combine all of these together, and 1987 Raven Ebonflame was born.  She was the daughter of my assassin character and, what I said then, an angel. Though he did not know the woman he was with was an angel. Raven then was a supernaturally strong girl with blond hair, who's task was to destroy vampires.

Look. I am not going to sit here and tell you I invented the idea of the Vampire Slayer. 

I am going to sit here and tell you the idea was not as original as some Vampire Slayer creators might want you to believe. Hey, maybe if my father and grandfather had been big-name Hollywood writers, I could make this claim. Plus, I also know at least two other creatives who did similar things and, in one case, had published their work before the Buffy movie and series.

So Raven was a slayer hmm hunter of vampires. I used the Riddle Master class for her as a test bed for what would later become the Shadow Master class. NOTE: Don't expect to see the Riddle Master, Shadow Master, or Beast Master classes anytime soon. They were grossly overpowered even if the XP per Level were excessive. 

Fast forward to the early 2000s. I would revisit my Raven using the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG. She would even be a part of my Buffy "Season" The Dragon and the Phoenix

I did a version of the Richard Kirk Raven (her "Godmother") for Wasted Lands last year, I figure I should do my Raven now.  There is no Riddle Master analog in the Wasted Lands, so what is she? I thought maybe I could build her out XP for abilities like I did her namesake. It would be fitting given how the Riddle Master class came to be. But the more I thought about it the more I kept coming back to the same conclusion.

Morgan "Raven" Ebonflame is a Chosen One from NIGHT SHIFT.

Morgan "Raven" Ebonflame
Morgan "Raven" Ebonflame

Class: Chosen One (NIGHT SHIFT)
Level: 8
Species: Human*
Alignment: Light 
Background: Warrior (Wasted Lands p. 185)

Abilities
Strength: 17 (+2) A
Agility: 18 (+3) N
Toughness: 18 (+3) N
Intelligence: 16 (+2) 
Wits: 16 (+2) 
Persona: 18 (+3) 

Fate Points: 1d8
Defense Value: 1
Vitality: 87
Degeneracy: 0
Corruption: 0

Check Bonus (A/N/D): +4/+3/+1
Melee Bonus: +5 (base), +2 (STR)
Ranged Bonus: +5 (base), +3
Saves: +3 to all Saves, +2 to Toughness (Warrior background)

Chosen One Abilities
Brutal Warrior, Melle Combat, Stunning Blow, Killing Blow, Supernatural Attack, Difficult to Surprise, Improved Defence, Ranged Combat, Survivor Skills (Level 2), Mental Resistance, Regeneration

Heroic/Divine Touchstones
1st Level: Sense Evil
2nd Level: Favored Weapon: Sword
3rd Level: 
4th Level: Smite
5th Level: 
6th Level:  Great Smite
7th Level: 
8th Level: Destroy Undead
9th Level: 

Heroic (Divine) Archetype: Protection

Gear
Longsword, leather armor, vampire hunting kit

Wasted Lands as D&D and Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Ok. THIS is Raven. At least this is the Raven I imagined she was when I made the character so long ago. Wasted Lands + NIGHT SHIFT gives my the perfect combination of Fantasy plus Horror that I really enjoy in my games.  Here stats are high because her mother was a freaking angel after all. 

Of course, now I am a little sad I don't get to share this one with Grenda. He would have loved it. In fact I can hear him now saying "Oh shit! That IS her!"

I am going to have to go through my various folders of characters and see who else I have in this Dark Fantasy Horror theme and see if they are as equally improved by this conversion. 

You can get the Wasted Lands RPG and the NIGHT SHIFT RPG at Elf Lair Games.

Character Creation Challenge