Monday, April 21, 2014

The Best Source for Monster Folklore

Are you looking for monster ideas to stat up and surprise your players with? Are you looking to add folkloric touches to the monsters you've already got stats for? Surprisingly, the solution to both of those problems can be found in the same place. Check out two books by Carol Rose: Spirits, Fairies, Leprechuans, and Goblins and Giants, Monsters, & Dragons, both published by Norton. 

Each book is an encyclopedia-style tome with comprehensive entries on a variety of supernatural creatures drawn from world mythology. And I do mean comprehensive; everything I've looked up has been in one of these two books--I haven't been able to stump them yet. (Though the entry on the penanggalan was disappointing.)

Best yet, each book has a lengthy appendix that sorts its entries by type (angels, nymphs, spirits associated with corn or grains, etc.) and by Country, Region, or People. So, if you've ever wanted to do a game influenced by ancient Babylon, these books will point you toward the monsters drawn from Babylonian stories.You will not believe what a wealth of resources these books have.

Friday, April 18, 2014

I'm on Bleeding Cool; Tomorrow: The Cover of the Rolling Stone

I'd be officially defrocked from the OSR for lack of self-promotion if I didn't mention this, but I'm in this article on Three Fantasy RPG Supplements You Won't Find in Game Stores on Bleeding Cool. Come for my contentious and bombastic statements, but stay for the good company I've been placed in--Trey Causey and Jason Sholtis and both in the mix as well.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Oh GURPS Swashbucklers, Shut Your Pretty Mouth


Generally speaking, GURPS's genre and historical supplements are regarded as the best in show, and with good reason; they tend to give decent overviews of their topic and be chock-full of gaming inspiration even if you aren't planning on using the GURPS system. That said, it's interesting to note which supplement authors are more attached to the idea of "genre purity." 

Enter GURPS Swashbucklers.

In a rather stuffy sidebar about whether history should be changed in a swashbuckling game, the author designates what facets of real-world happenings you can change, which ones you maybe could change, and which ones you should never change. Under the DO NOT CHANGE section, he writes:

"No, don't grossly alter the lives of major personalities. For example, there were many plots to kill Queen Elizabeth I. The PCs may become embroiled in one of these on either side, but Elizabeth should not be assassinated. If she is, the game embarks on an alternate timeline, and all of history after that date is radically affected!"

Wait, you're telling me that a game in which the players have to deal with the political intrigue and upheaval that would erupt in the aftermath of Elizabeth I's assassination wouldn't be awesome? GO HOME GURPS SWASHBUCKLERS, YOU'RE DRUNK.

Most of the book is commendable though. Also, if anybody has copies of GURPS Faerie, Age of Napoleon, or Steam-Tech they want to sell, hit me up at

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Coming to Terms with Blood and Innocence


Hard decisions.

With that monstrous, thorn-bedecked bear run off, Erin and Saul could sit a spell and tend to their own wounds (which are, at this point, considerable). But the bear is their best lead in finding out what flavor of hell has broken loose out here amongst the logging camps, so maybe they should follow it now before the trail goes cold. Then again, this might be a good time to head back to Golgotha and renegotiate with the town fathers for taking care of this spate of trouble.

Much as it pains him to admit it, Saul grudgingly admits that he's in no shape to go after the bear. Erin has a solution; she rustles around in her saddlebag until she finds a fresh bottle of whiskey, sits down with it in Indian fashion, closes her eyes and begins to chant. Now, Erin Landry is what you'd call a "plain woman." You wouldn't turn your eyes from her in disgust, nor would you ever spare a second to think her beautiful. But as she chants, Saul stares in wonder as face changes--becoming bright, alluring, and wicked. Saul feels a sick feeling awaken in his gut as he looks at her, for the low words she repeats are words given to her by Lilith, the Mother of Sin.

When the chant ends, Erin is road-worn again, no longer comely and fair and serpentine. She offers the bottle of whiskey to Saul; the slug he takes from the bottle burns going down, but it also stitches his wounds together from the inside. They pass the bottle back and forth, and are restored.

Time to see about that bear.

The trail is easy enough to follow, up to a point. Then the way branches off in two directions with no clear indication where the bear went. Misdirection is afoot. Saul and Erin choose the right-hand path, which carries on for a bit before opening out into a little clearing. At the center of the clearing is a large wooden cross; the lumber used in its construction looks an awful lot like the rough wooden plants used back at the logging camp. Nailed to the cross is the twisted and broken body of a logger.

"Aww, hell no," Saul growls. He unholsters his pistols and puts lead into the body on the cross. His intuition served him well, as the woman's eyes flutter open and his face twists into a grin as she rips herself free from her own crucifixion. The thing eats dirt before it can even reach Erin and Saul.

Pushing on, then. Deeper into the woods they go, until they arrive at another, larger clearing. At this center of this one is an enormous, warped tree that heaves and shakes as though breathing. Surrounding it are the men from the second logging camp who ran off during the fight with the transformed woodsmen. They glare at Saul and Erin. "You shouldn't have come here," one of them mutters.

Something like a man, but green of skin with gnarled branches for arms, acorns for teeth, and leaves for hair emerges from the pulsating tree. The bear emerges behind him, its wounded bandaged with greenery. Guns unslung, of course. "Let's parlay, if you're able," says Erin.

The Green Man gestures for the loggers to hang back a pace. In a voice ancient and deep, he explains that Saul and Erin now stand at the Sacred Heart of the Woods, and that the loggers from Golgotha had begun to cut too far into forest for their lumber. Only these loggers, he gestures to the men around him, have offered the proper blood sacrifice to maintain the balance. Perhaps the town fathers of Golgotha would be willing to pay a blood tithe to the Woods so that all could remain in agreement, and no more violence or transformation of its men would be necessary? Such a bargain would require a lot of blood...

This is a dark bargain to strike, but in their heart of hearts both Erin and Saul know that it is one that the town will readily assent to. Part of them would like to just open fire and put an end to this here and now, to strike a blow for progress against this demon-twisted aspect of nature. But this isn't that kind of world anymore; continued existence is paid for in shed innocence. And so they deal; the Green Man agrees to a truce, Saul and Erin will take his offer to the town and return in the morning with an answer. Blood will water the soil and strike the balance between the natural world and man's coexistence with it once more. So it goes under the demon sun.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Horrowhock Asylum, The Pale Obelisk, The Queen's School

Continuing our series of locations of note in the city of Lowedon, the capital of Ulverland.

The Queen's School – Situated near the mercantile district and the courts of law, the Queen's School is the premier university in Lowedon. Most of the faculty are learned members of the clergy; indeed, a functioning chapel devoted to the Lady of the White Way is at the center of the college. For such a recent construction, the interiors of the buildings that make up the school are perplexing and labyrinthine in internal structure; rumors abound about hidden rooms and secret passages. The grounds of the Queen's School are guarded by several stone golems shaped like fierce lions—gifts from the magisters of Orxham Academy.

The Pale Obelisk – This chalk-white monument was a gift from the Necropolitan of Mord-Stavian to the sovereign of Ulverland. It was a strange and unexpected gift; it is currently erected upon the north bank of the Albin River, near the Queen's School. Interestingly, the queen's alchemists are unable to determine what substance the Pale Obelisk is made of—but whatever it is, it is oddly warm to the touch no matter what the weather.

The Horrowhock Asylum for the Untreatable Insane – A lonely edifice located far to the south reaches of Lowedon, the Horrowhock Asylum was founded by Dr. Horrowhock in hopes to creating an establishment that could advance the burgeoning science of mental surgery. However, it quickly altered from the course of Dr. Horrowhock's dream to a place where the most violent of cases were locked up shoulder to shoulder with inconvenient relatives. Dreadful things are said about the current administration that runs the asylum; whispers abound of secret experiments that happen deep below the premises.

Queen's School - inspired a bit by my time at KCL, Pale Obelisk - Cleopatra's Needle, Horrowhock Asylum - Bedlam and a book I read last year on the evolution of asylums throughout history (probably a bit of Arkham Asylum in there somewhere too).

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

More Mysteries of the Wycherly Family

I was thinking more about the assumed background for characters in Slithdale Hollow. All the children are part of the same family, which in turn seems to imply that all the characters are of the same race or ethnicity--and that kinda bummed me out because I'm just not into locking players into a narrow conception of who they can play.

But then, the more I thought about it, there's no reason why the Wycherly children have to all have the same skin color. Their parents already have an utterly impossible numbers of kids, so it doesn't really stretch things to also note that their children represent all colors. Think a really dreary United Colors of Benetton and you've got the right idea.

In fact, I think this makes the uncanny "something is strange here" nature of the family even more interesting. Clearly, all of these children cannot be born of the two people they call Mother and Father--even though everyone in Slithdale Hollow acts as though they are. The children's origins are just another mystery to be explored by the characters in play.