Thursday, December 28, 2017

[Swamp '70] George Rodrigue paintings

The paintings of George Rodrigue (1944-2013), depicting life in rural Louisiana have an eerie, haunting quality to them... Definitely inspiring. Check out the site of Wendy Rodrigue (the artist's wife), it has background info on several paintings.

Aioli Dinner (1971)

Doc Moses, Cajun Traiteur (1974)

"A traiteur is a Cajun folk doctor with a special, inherited gift for healing one ailment. In George’s painting, Doc Moses heals earaches. He pours a ring of salt around the patient and touches his ears. Amazingly, only the healer must believe. The patient’s skepticism does not affect the cure." (source)

The Cajun Bride of Oak Alley (1974)

"In 1850, on the occasion of the simultaneous weddings of his two daughters, Durand’s slaves decorated the arboreal alley in a manner befitting his most eccentric nature. Prolific web-spinning spiders were brought in (some say from the nearby Atchafalaya Basin, others say from as far away as China) and were released in the trees to go about their arachnidan business. Then slaves went to their task of coating the dewy, billowing webs with gold and silver dust blown from bellows. And under this splendidly shimmering canopy proceeded the ethereal promenade of the wedding party and its two thousand guests." (source)

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

[LotFP] Musings on Mirror Image

Mirror, mirror...

In Lamentations of the Flame Princess the classic Mirror Image spell it is given an interesting twist:

"This spell grabs 1d4 duplicates of the caster from near-identical timelines to confuse foes and make it more difficult for the original caster to come to harm. Since all of the mirror images are the caster, in the same situation and fighting the same battle in their own timeline, they are indistinguishable in every way from the caster and mimic his every motion." (LotFP: Rules & Magic, p. 117)

In other D&D variants* Mirror Image is usually treated as an illusion spell. Which is fine, but for reasons of WEIRD, the LotFP version holds many possibilities, reaching behind the mere use of the spell.

Magic is supposed to be dangerous, and have serious consequences, right?

If the mirror images are real people (from a different timeline), forced to appear next to the caster by foul sorcery, then when they die or take damage in their stead, well, that's real death and damage. Not many Magic-Users realize this dark feature, that by using Mirror Image as a parlor trick or to get out of some mundane trouble, they are actually eradicate themselves from "1d4 timelines".

So, if a Magic-User in your game casts Mirror Image often, as a Referee (DM) you can certainly introduce some creepy weird elements. Have the "eradicated alternatives" haunt the Magic-User in his/her dreams, or just flicker in and out of existence in their field of vision.

And what if the alternative timeline self casts Mirror Image? Does the Magic-User from your game get siphoned into the alternative timeline for the duration of the spell?

These are also good ideas for a Mirror Image miscast table...


* At least to my knowledge, this variation is included only in LotFP. Correct me if I'm wrong.

"Which version of myself should I kill today?"

Monday, November 20, 2017

Contacting unnameable cosmic forces

"Then, toward midnight, the necromancer arose and went upward by many spiral stairs to a high dome of his house in which there was a single small round window that looked forth on the constellations. The window was set in the top of the dome; but Namirrha had contrived, by means of his magic, that one entering by the last spiral of the stairs would suddenly seem to descend rather than climb, and, reaching the last step, would peer downward through the window while stars passed under him in a giddying gulf. There, kneeling, Namirrha touched a secret spring in the marble, and the circular pane slid back without sound. Then, lying prone on the interior of the dome, with his face over the abyss, and his long beard trailing stiffly into space, he whispered a pre-human rune, and held speech with certain entities who belonged neither to Hell nor the mundane elements, and were more fearsome to invoke than the infernal genii or the devils of earth, air, water, and flame. With them he made his contract, defying Thasaidon's will, while the air curdled about him with their voices, and rime gathered palely on his sable beard from the cold that was wrought by their breathing as they leaned earthward."
 "The Dark Eidolon" by Clark Ashton Smith

Wonderful passage from a wonderful story.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Shark-Man, Nanaue

I was reading a collection of Hawaiian folk tales, and stumbled upon a great and horrific one about Nanaue, the Shark-Man.

Nanaue is the son of a human female and the Shark King.

"...a fine healthy boy, apparently the same as any other child, but he had, besides the normal mouth of a human being, a shark's mouth on his back between the shoulder blades."

There is a DC villain of the same name, but he is a full-blown humanoid shark, which, frankly, I find less horrifying, than the shark mouth grafted onto an otherwise normal human body, and who only occasionally turns into a shark. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

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.

Friday, July 7, 2017

[Spell] Two spells, VAM-style [LotFP]

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?

Sunday, June 25, 2017

[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

Sunday, June 18, 2017

[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.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Monday, June 5, 2017

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.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

[Actual Play] A Field in Lorraine #1 [LotFP]

Recently I've ran a short session of LotFP, using ideas from A Field in Lorraine as the setting. It wasn't a spectacular session, because most players were tired after work, but we still wanted to get together and play a bit.

The characters are traumatized mercenaries in the Thirty Years' War, who are heading back home. There's a weaponsmith/engineer who was buried in a tunnel for some time (Specialist), a soldier who was burnt by quicklime (Fighter), and a mercenary who dabbles in the black arts and killed off his own platoon by summoning a demon he couldn't control (Magic-User).

The players first encountered a ruined village. One of the houses was inhabited by a lone woman, who kept everything in order and cooked meals for the characters - but it turned out that she thought that they were her long-lost husband and children. I wanted to include this small scene to emphasize the inhumane and sanity-wrecking nature of the setting.

Then the characters met two noblemen and their entourage, who turned out to be high officials of the Church, sent to investigate the case of mass stigmatization in a near-by village. The players traveled together with them to that village, then stayed at the inn for the night. The village had the heavy odor of chemicals hanging above it: the players soon learned that its source was the tannery. The locals were all discussing the miracle: the Five Sacred Wounds have appeared on the bodies of several villagers.

In the inn they were approached secretly by a local merchant (and owner of the aforementioned tannery). He said that he was afraid that the clergymen, who are also infamous witch hunters, will investigate the miracles, and then go after the rich people of the village, accusing them and their families. He said that this took place in many other places beforehand. The players agreed to move to his house and act as bodyguards while the witch hunters are in town. The next day they followed around the witch hunters a bit, while they visited the houses of stigmatized people.

We finished at this point, the session serving basically as an introduction. The tone was set as I wanted, but, of course, the lack of action is always a bad thing... Something you always have to keep in mind when GMing!

Saturday, January 21, 2017


There is this tendency, that I tend to play video games mostly during times when I'm SWAMPED with tons of IRL stuff and work... They are a great way to relax and to procrastinate. To write tabletop RPG-related stuff or to play, you need to be able to concentrate more; while computer games can be played for full effect even when tired.

Lately, I've been playing a game called Betrayer.

It's a first-person action/RPG hybrid, set in 17th century Colonial Virginia...

The whole game is presented in grayscale, with red accents. It seems kinda gimmicky, but it really adds to the whole atmosphere. There is an option to colorize the graphics, but I prefer the original b&w world (you can tune the dark & light balance, contrast, so it's not as heavy on the eyes as you would expect).

You fight using period weapons: bows, crossbows, pistols and muskets - these last two deal high damage, but reload times are very long, a nice realistic touch. Usually you only get to fire each gun once per combat...

You slowly work your way through the game world, fighting possessed Spaniards and flaming Savage Braves (this game is 'colonial' in many ways...), investigate clues scattered around the map, try to learn what kind of evil possesses the land. Sometimes you have to enter into the shadow worlds, a dark parallel dimension, which allows you to interact with the flipside of this horrorshow. In this mode, you can cleanse objects and chat with the spirits of the deceased.

Quite an engaging game, overall, so I really recommend it.