2017. július 8., szombat

Hex map interpretation of "The Men from Porlock" by Laird Barron

(click to zoom)

"The Men from Porlock" by Laird Barron is a kick-ass horror tale. Set it 1923, it's about a group of lumberjacks stumble upon a village, seemingly stuck in the past. The villagers worship the Great Dark and the Old Leech and generally do things cultists do in Barron's stories...

I was re-reading it, and mapped it out for fun. 

The story would make a great Call of Cthulhu one-shot, maybe?

DJ or DM? - RPG soundtracks

Background music is a time-honoured game master tool, perfect for setting the atmosphere of the session. Ideally the soundtrack has to be of the ambient sort, from the Brian Eno gray zone of “as ignorable as it is interesting”. There are many ready-made solutions, which work perfectly (e.g. Cryo Chamber ambient releases for dark fantasy/horror games), but I tend to go the extra mile, and most of my prep time is spent compiling the perfect playlist for the upcoming session.

I love RPGs and I love weird obscure music.

So here’s a sample of what I’d used for an early modern LotFP game. This mix conveys melancholia and a sense of the weird, but it is not overtly dark or oppressive. It features both ambientish materials and a selection of period music. Just make sure you put the playlist on shuffle: too much period music in one bunch leads to a Ren-faire atmosphere. But if the short harpsichord interludes are mixed with brooding ambient, it’s great.

MIXTAPE – “17th Century Schizoid Man”

Mort Garson – Black Mass/Lucifer (1971)

Pioneering electronic composer Mort Garson created several “occult” themed albums (Ataraxia: The Unexplained (1970) being one of the other prominent ones), but Black Mass/Lucifer is my favourite… For today’s listener, this doesn’t sound like a grim & dark “Satanic” album – but it’s wonderfully weird and creative.

Anna Själv Tredje – Tussilago Fanfara (1977)

This Swedish gem is one of my favourites. Atmospherically it goes from mellow and fairy-tale qualities to eerie otherworldliness. Abstract synth music tends to work great, and I find that even if sometimes it sounds “futuristic” (with cosmic beeps and echoes), it blends in perfectly with a pseudo-historical setting.

Henry Purcell – The Suites for Harpsichord [Played by Colin Tilney] (1979)

Tilney is a renowned master of early keyboard instruments, and there are many albums where he plays old harpsichords and organs. Any compilation of baroque music is great, but Tilney is my personal preference.

The City Waites – Sorcery and Spectres: Songs of the Supernatural (1995)

Music from the other end of the social hierarchy: a collection of traditional folk songs, broadside ballads (and some chamber music too). This album is great, but you have to go through the songs first, because some of them can be distracting, and, as such, have no place in your session background music.
Check out also Popular Tunes in 17th Century England (1980) by the Broadside Band, or any other similar compilation.

The Unquiet Void – Scorpio (1999) & Poisoned Dreams (2004)

If the list sounds too up-beat, add some Lovecraftian horror ambient!

Klaus Morlock – The Bridmore Lodge Tapes (2014)

Nowadays there is certainly a revival of “hauntological” music, inspired by the Berlin school of electronic music, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, and many other weird apparitions. Check out the Ghost Box label and their ilk, or, for instance, Klaus Morlock. The Devon Folklore Tapes series is great as well.

John Foxx – London Overgrown (2015)

More haunting synth washes, this time by John Foxx (of Ultravox fame). I love London Overgrown, because thematically it depicts a world after the downfall of humanity... But if this sonic vision is too new-agey and soothing, replace it with an unhealthy dose of Lustmord or Atrium Carceri.

The Radiophonic Workshop – Burials in Several Earths (2017)

Closing of the list is a recent release by the revived BBC Radiophonic Workshop... this tapestry of noises, drones, chimes, buzzing synths proves that they are truly the masters of their art.

2017. július 7., péntek

[LotFP] Two spells, VAM-style

Vaginas are Magic! is now available in pdf format as well, and it's one lovely grimoire!

It inspired me to write up some of my spell ideas. No spell levels defined, Miscast tables provided. Writing Miscast tables is FUN... Most of them make you wanna miscast.
Take a peak, if you are interested:

One is a variation on the theme of the poisoned apple, the other one reads like a cantrip (but with dire possible consequences)...

The spells are named after bands / songs / albums I love, so that's in keeping with the trend set in VAM.

 - You've got to pray for it...
 - Pay for it, you mean?

2017. június 25., vasárnap

[Actual Play] Barbarians of the Dead Wastes #2 [LotFP]

(c) Philippe Druillet

This week we resumed our barbaric sword & sorcery game.

The Fighter (Max) and the Magic-User (Hiram) rested a bit, bandaged their NPC friend, the Specialist (Ludwig), then decided to venture deeper. The next level of the tower was partially "flooded" with earth through the windows (as the tower sank into the ground). When the PCs passed by, tendrils burst from the window openings and paralyzed the Magic-User. The Fighter cut him free with his ax (true barbarian style), then they ran into a tunnel through a collapsed part of the wall.

They ended up in a small cave system, formed by collapsed buildings, rocks, etc., the ruins of a sunken ancient city. Most of these tunnels were now inhabited by fungi and yellow fluorescent slugs. They found the skeleton of a humanoid, albeit with the head of a crocodile, squashed under a fallen block of stone. They took the skull, because why not. Further down they found a small room, which used to be the crocodile-creature's sleeping place. A different tunnel took the players to a cavern with a subterranean lake. On the other side of the lake they saw the facade of a magnificent building.

Unwilling to enter the water, the Magic-User used Spider Climb to cross the ceiling and fix a rope to the facade. I described the effect of the spell as something akin to the "spiderwalk" scene from The Exorcist. The Magic-User's contorted body creeped out the Fighter big time.

Magic is weird.

Behind the facade they found an ancient archive, with racks full of baked clay tablets.

The shimmering stroboscopic figures from sessions #1 started to appear again, this time for longer periods. Then the players entered a big hall, which had an altar of sorts, with a big pulsating crystal in the middle. Standing next to this crystal, the ephemeral (almost holographic?) people could maintain their visibility in this world...

These ghastly figures turned out to be the last echoes of the ancient city, kept "alive" by the crystal's force. They communicated telepathically with the PCs, and were bent on keeping them underground, to ease their isolation... They launched a nerve-wrecking mental assault, when the characters tried to remove the crystal. In the end, they managed to come to terms, and the Magic-User vowed to re-create the crystal altar somewhere else, before it gets destroyed under the ruins of the ancient city. 

The players will now return to their hometown. To be continued.

(c) Doug Kovacs

2017. június 17., szombat

[Actual Play] Barbarians of the Dead Wastes #1 [LotFP]

(c) Kevin Hou

Just a quick report...

Played with two friends - one of the with some experience, the other totally new to RPGs. We share a love of Conan, horrors & experimental metal so we settled upon a sword & sorcery type game.

I rolled up some pre-gen characters for them. They picked a Fighter and a Magic-User. The pre-gen Specialist was brought in as an NPC, to round out the party. To make introductions quicker, and to be able to show as varied an experience as possible, we agreed that the characters already know each other, and that they are adventurers / treasure hunters. They live in a city called Agad, which is situated right next to the Dead Wastes, an ever-changing land of sand, rocks, monsters and ruins.

They ventured into the Wastes after hearing a rumor about a recent storm clearing out a patch of volcanic sand and revealing an ancient ruin. They found the ruin, which turned out to be (at least its visible part) a hemisphere buried in the ground. Unfortunately, their rivals, a small group of adventurers led by Tarsus the Rat got their first. We spent some time making up a story about Tarsus, who used to work together with the players, then betrayed them. The players hid behind a rock and decided to let the Rat enter the ruin first. Then they followed into the building a bit later. The structure turned out to be the top tier of a huge tower, an ancient structure, which had either sunk into the ground, or was buried by sandstorms.

(c) SolFar

The players explored the first room, found some artifacts, then eventually encountered the rival party. One thing led to another, and it all turned into a bloody and quite deadly fight, with all the rivals dead, the Specialist reduced to 0, and the Fighter and M-U both reduced to just 1 HP. During the combat scene, all characters experienced something weird: shining humanoid figures blinking in and out of existence in the peripheral vision...

We stopped here. It was a fun session, something we will continue next week.

2017. június 6., kedd

2017. június 5., hétfő

Dark Magic in New Orleans: Death on the Bayou

Long time, no post... But that's how it usually goes.

I'm always on the look-out for swampy RPG stuff, and came across an interesting piece, Dark Magic in New Orleans: Death on the Bayou, by Randy Richards, published in Dungeon (#71). It's an adventure for Mask of the Red Death, the 1890s century Ravenloft / Gothic Earth setting.

The players are thrown into the murky waters of voodoo, alligators, and ritual murders.

Marie Laveau

The usual suspects are present: the adventure's background draws heavily on historical Voodoo practitioners such as Marie Laveau and Doctor John, who also seems to be channeling Dr. Curt Connors / Lizard from Spiderman... albeit he relies on dark magic, not science.

I even found an Actual play of this on youtube, by people who can be familiar from the Fantastic Dimensions roster. Ran using LotFP.