2017. november 19., vasárnap

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.

2017. november 16., csütörtök

[Review] Battle for the Purple Islands

Nowadays I'm up to my neck in work, with little time to play, read or write about RPG stuff, which is bad. But here's a quick review! I've already featured three adventures from Venger Satanis' weird pulp/noir Outer Presence line. The first review was my own initiative, the rest were based on review copies Venger provided.

Now it's time to take a closer look at Battle for the Purple Islands (review copy provided by author):

Battle for the Purple Islands

This is a 22-page booklet, with great b&w interior art (by Fuzzy Big, Monstark, and Craig Brasco). It can be used as a part of your Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence campaign, or as a stand-alone scenario.

In the beginning, there is a section for fleshing out your characters, mostly via random tables (this is usual for Venger's scenarios, and I actually like it - it is perfectly possible to use these snippets and tables as "modules" and use them when running any of the other adventures). The appendix holds some more random tables, e.g. a 1d100 hexcrawl.

The scenario includes three "entry points" (hooks) for PCs, depending on whether they are veterans of the Purple Islands or newcomers, or allowing them to cross over from the Alpha Blue universe. This is very useful stuff. The story itself is then propelled by the appearance of a messenger on a quest to save the universe, none the less... but the island is an arena between various factions and wildcard tribes, who make everything very hard. And very random. With so many agents, the situation can get out of control very fast, which is, by the way, a good opportunity for the players to gain the upper hand. A reptiloid moon priest attacks your cannibal captors? There's your chance for the escape! But be careful, 'cause an ape patrol is just around the corner, looking to slay some nameless cultists of an unnameable god!

So, yeah. This is dense pulp madness. Evocative! And handy, too: the section on local purple tribes allows you to cook up your own Mondo Cannibale. Nods to Heavy Metal and weird fiction all around. And yes, the dude on the cover is exactly who you think he is.

There are some organizational issues, though. Subheadings of the same level can cover factions, random encounters, set pieces... It is roughly in chronological order (the "ending" is in the end), but the middle chunk of the text doesn't provide enough pointers. It is comprehensible, but takes a read-through and copious note-taking. Not for pick-up play. However, while reading it, you can definitely fine-tune it to your own and your players' preferences.