One of God's own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.” -Hunter S. Thompson

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Well Shit....

Getting back into the blogging saddle is a little harder than I would have liked it to be. Still super busy on the home front and it dosent look like it's going to ease up in the near future.I havent had much free time latley and the time I have had has been spent with Mrs. Zombiecowboy and the twerps. Hopefully some dice chucking will happen this Saturday night, but nothing is confirmed yet.

Something I've been thinking about latley is the Savage Worlds RPG and my mega-dungeon idea Castle Wyrmfall. The first is a system that I really want to try out and I have a couple of ideas of how I would like to do that. One idea would be a swords & sorcery type game closer to Moorcock's writings. An apocalyptic science fantasy world. Another idea is a cyberpunkish setting based on some of the stuff I wrote up for a one shot adventure I ran called the Saints of Los Angeles.

As for the mega-dungeon idea, I was thinking of a new approach to how I might tackle this thing. Every time I sit down to work on this thing I get bog down in how much work there is involved. I get caught up in details that arent important, at least right now. I'm not sure what system I want to use to run the thing but I'm leaning strongly towards Pathfinder. The new approach I was thinking of using was tackling one level at a time, and one encounter or room per day. One of the things I read in Paizo's Gamemastery guide was an idea that you take a regualr sheet of paper and draw about 10 circles all over the page. Then you fill those circles in with encounters and you have a really rough sketch of a dungeon complex. I like the idea of doing encounters first and THEN draw a map to fit the encounters. It's worth giving it a shot. Part of me is also leaning towards Rappan Athuk's smaller dungeon level design, rather than trying to make a dungeon level that uses up as much of one sheet of paper as you can fit rooms and halls.

Anyway, just some ideas Im kicking around. I'm still looking forward to running Arkham Heat and the two week break was nice. Lets just hope this week we can play...   

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Still Alive, Just Busy....

The title says it all. I've been meaning to get some blogging done but between recovering from the Black Plauge of colds, and from cleaning/gutting out my basement so we can start the mega renovations I just havent had time to write.

On the gaming front no dice were chucked to feed the Dice Gods this weekend and none will be chucked this coming weekend. I do hope to have that Arkham Heat second session up some time this week. I think I'm going to update the blog three times a week from here on out. Maybe more if something worth writing about creeps into my mind.

Lastly, I just wanted to give a salute to those of you folks who are doing the NaNoWroMo thing this year. Write Pen-Monkey's write. If all is going as it should, your at the halfway mark. Keep it up! 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Some Arkham Heat Thoughts

I've been down in the Suck for the last few days. Fragging cold has me locked down and out, leaving me feeling like doing zero, zip, and zilch. Some dice chucking was had Saturday night, and I have about a third of Arkham Heat, Session 2 written up for your reading pleasure. I'm not sure how many people enjoy reading those things. Last session was pretty busy and I the Investigators decided to be a pain in the ass and split up into three diffrent groups. The result was a lot of chaos and scene juggling by myself. In the end I thought I handled it well and it was a pretty fun session. Things are shaping up nicely. In fact I'm thinking that after this Call of Cthulhu campaign ends I may run a Savage Worlds powered game. First I may take a break just to recharge the old GM batteries. Anyway here's a few thoughts I've had since I started running this camapign:

1. Pre-Written Scenarios. I've learned that I enjoy running scenarios I write myself much more than canned adventures or secnarios. I like to have pre-written stuff to get my brain working, steal little chunks of them like NPC names and that sort of thing. But over all I enjoy myself much more when I create my own stuff for my players.

2. Scenarios On The Fly. I've discovered that if you have the right material prepped in advance running a scenario on the fly is a breeze and a joy. I have a little notebook that I write all my stuff down in. In it I have a little calender, some basic stat blocks for thugs and monsters, a list of random names, and a list of important NPC,s I also put some notes beside those important NPCs on what their goals and personality are like. My notes are really rough and are probably only understandable by myself.

3. Creating Adventures. I have a basic skeleton written down in my notes of how the scenario might play out. I include shit the players will most likely investigate, a few clues, some NPC,s and a basic outline of how things went down before the PC'S got involved, and how they might procede when the PCs do get involved. I try not to stress to much on this. No plan survives contact with the enemy, and I count on the fact that my players will attack the problem in a way that I wont be able to anticipate.

4. The Battle Mat. I wanted to stay away from the battle mat and tokens for this campaign. Last session we had a number of fights that were pretty simple. I'm not sure if it was a failure on my GM abilities, but it became clear fairly quickly that a lot of headache could have been avoided if we had a battle map and tokens laid out. Next week I plan of brining out the wet erase map. Kinda a shame but I'm not sure how to otherwise solve this problem. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Origin Story

I'm feeling pretty under the weather so this post will be rather breif. With NaNoWriMo starting this month my mind has turned to writing a short novel or story. Personally having done the month long even last year I wont be participating this year, though I did find it fun and learned a few things along the way.

The idea I had for my story was based on a masked vigilante hero. The basic idea stems from the pulp stories of masked heros back in the day, but written for the modern day. I'm thinking Batman or V. Something more akin to the Watchman. My hero dosent have too much in the way of super powers, but like Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark is smart enought to piece the mystery together using his brains.

But all this got me thinking. How important is the origin story? Do I really need to tell it, or can I get away with leaving it something of a mystery? Do we really need to know how Batman became who he is? A large part of me feels you do, but then when I read comics with a character like Mike Mignola's Lobster Johnson I wonder how true that is...

Anyway, I turn to you readers and ask you the question; Is the first time a masked hero makes his appearance do we need to learn his or her origin story? If no, should it ever be told? 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

10 Books That Should Be On Your Bookshelf

I wish this was what my Man Cave looked like!
Like many people I'm a book lover. I don't buy a lot of books, and when I do I tend to pick them up second hand from a used book store. If I borrow a book from the library or a friend and read a book or author that I feels really kicks ass I try to pick up a copy for my own personal library in the Man Cave. Yeah, I have a Man Cave, and it is my personal opinion that everyman should have his own personal sanctuary, a home away from home if you will.

Anyway, I thought I would share some of my personal Top 10 novels  from my collection. These are books that I would actively replace if my house ever burnt down (knock on wood), or would re-read if the right mood struck me.

10. The Witching Hour- Anne Rice
This is the first in the Mayfair Witches trilogy. Strangely, I've never read her vampire chronicles.

9. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy- Douglas Adams
Hilarious, I've re-read this classic a few times now.

8. Clear and Present Danger- Tom Clancy
One of my favorite of Clancy's and his Jack Ryan stories Patriot Games, and The Hunt for Red October (the books, not the movies) also really good.

7. Druss the Legend-David Gemmell
My first introduction to the Drenai stories, Druss, and Gemmell's writing. Gemmell is AMAZING. If your into fantasy you need to read Gemmell's stuff. It's a major bummer he'll never write again.

6. The Dragonbone Chair-Tad Williams
The first in the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series, this is great epic fiction. Totally on par with Tolkien in my opinion.

5. Imajica-Clive Barker
Barker's imagination and ability to create weird magical worlds is amazing. This book so big it's sold in two separate volumes is a great sample of his genius. His more recent and uncompleted Abarat series also stands out.

4. Bag of Bones- Stephen King
King is the master. This compelling modern ghost story was haunting and brilliant and proves that King is a great writer.

3. Altered Carbon- Richard K. Morgan
Modern hard boiled science fiction. Morgan does cyberpunk right in his first of the Takeshi Kovacs trilogy.
while his stand alone novel Market Forces showcases and interesting twist to the corporate side cyberpunk fiction.

2. The Gunslinger-Stephen King
There's a reason King is on this list twice. The first novel in the Dark Towers series is short and sweet, leaving you with a hankering for more. I've re-read this multiple times as well.

1. Hyperion-Dan Simmons
Dan Simmons is my all time favorite writer. It's hard to go wrong with almost any of his novels, but Hyperion is just so original and fresh. It's like a mixed bag of sci-fi and fantasy. In it's composition it's almost like reading a series of connected short stories combined into a larger narrative. I've also re-read this multiple times and loved it every time.

Obviously this list just scratches the surface of my reading and favorite authors. I love a lot of books and authors so this list might fluctuate a little. Consider this list more of a wine sampling than anything else. I also really love discovering new authors as well. So who are your favorite authors and books? What are the gems of your collection? Have problem with my list? Lets here it in the comments section.      

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ultimate Iron Man

Last night I finished reading the first trade paperback of Ultimate Iron Man. I'm not a comic book guy by a long shot, but I sure would love to be. I think one of the reasons I never got too much into comics in the first place was the same reason why a lot of people don't want to get into some RPG campaign settings. Forgotten Realms being a prime example. After years of publishing sometimes theres just too much baggage and history, and for some people that can be down right intimidating. For other's that's just too big a buy in to get into a story in the first place. That's why I think when Universe re-boots like the Marvel Ultimate series of comics happen it opens up the stage to a much wider audience and lets some fresh ideas and stories see print to boot.

So Iron Man. The first time I ever saw this guys costume I had made up my mind that I never wanted to know about this guy. Give me Wolverine, Spider-Man, but lets forget a guy who has a tin can for a face! Even when I found out he was a rich scientist dude, and perhaps was Marvel's version of one of my favorite's Batman, I could care less. Even Later on when the first movie came out I couldn't give a shit. Of course that would change one day when the movie was playing on TV and I had to admit that it actually wasn't that bad. In fact by the end of the movie I had to admit total defeat. This movie kicked ASS.

Of course I went to the theatre to see the 2nd movie, which rocked, and I can't wait to see the Avengers and Iron Man 3. Because Robert Downey Jr. is the man. I in fact have a man crush on him (but just don't tell Christian Bale, he has a temper...) So when my buddy was letting me borrow a stack of his comics, I was totally pumped to read this version of Iron Man and Tony Stark. The fact that this particular story arc was written by Ender's Game author Orson Scott Card was even more exciting.

So not knowing all that much about Iron Man's back story I could see the various core elements crop up here and there. It was a great read, and left me wanting more. I would reccomment it to anyone enjoys comics. For the record I felt like this was a good re-boot, unlike Forgotten Realms 4e, which in my opinion was bad re-boot. This isn't meant to be D&D 4e bashing, it's just that I don't really have anything else to compare it to, and also that sometimes things can and do go wrong in a re-boot. So if like me, you dig Iron Man and/or the movies, you should give this book a shot. Just my 2-cents.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin Carving With The Zombiecowboy Family

Heres a few pictures from yesterday during one of our regular Sunday Family dinners at my parents house:
Mrs. Zombiecowboy hard at work.
Hey that's me!
Me and Pumpkin Cthulhu
A close up of my Pumpkin Cthulhu
Getting sexy with Pumpkin Cthulhu
Look Ma, I'm a Thrall of Cthulhu!
All Hail Pumpkin Cthulhu 'Ia Ia! Cthulhu Fhtagn!Ph'nglui Mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!
Ahhh! Chillaxing in the Hot Tub-Time-Machine with my Dude-Bros-in-Law and the Wife!
Can't you feel the love?

From left to right, my niece Little K, my daughters Big Trouble, and Princess Chaos.

Special Thanks to my little sister The Littlest Crafter for taking the photo's
Have a Happy Halloween Everyone!

Arkham Heat: Session 1

Session 1: Saturday, October 29, 2011

Karla Blackwood: Private Detective and proprietor of Blackwood Detective Agency.  

Ajax Windsor: Mechanic/tow-truck driver and freelance bootlegger/rum runner.

Jimmy Mills: Special Agent with the Bureau of Investigation in Arkham.

Arkham City Monday, April 15, 1929

The campaign begins with a summons. At Benito’s Italian Café, a speakeasy the Investigator's often frequent, Mafia God-Father, Guisseppe "Joe" Potrello invites the group to breakfast.  The God-Father has just received a ransom note and ultimatum from his rival Danny O’Bannion, leader of the Irish Mob:

We have your son Michael. If you ever want to see him alive again shut down your operations, and get out of Arkham by Friday.

Potrello, not one to be easily pushed around has decided to make his stand against O’Bannion and his mob. Potrello makes them a job offer, please find my son before Friday. Having no love for the Irish mobster, the group accepts . They soon learn that Michael was last seen by one of Potrello’s lieutenants entering Fenner’s Roadhouse a popular hangout located 20 minutes out side of Arkham. Ajax, having personally delivered booze to the place knows the spot well and the three of the pile into his tow-truck to pay Fenner a visit.

At Fenner's the group learns from the Roadhouse's owner Mel Fenner, that yes Michael was indeed there a few nights ago, and that he was in the company of the beautiful " Little Gina" Lorenzo. Fenner found this a little odd since last he’d heard Gina was the arm piece of Vinnie Fazuli, an enforcer in O’Bannion’s gang. At some point later in the evening the pair had left, but Fenner made little of that since he figured they had just gone off to do the midnight dance with one another, if you understood his meaning.

The group decided that they wanted to track down Vinnie, or Gina and ask them a few questions. Not being sure where to find either of them they went out to shake a few of O’Bannion trees and see if they could knock loose a few low hanging apples. The first "tree" they decided to shake down was the Irish speakeasy in Arkham called the Bell Café. At first they met a little resistance trying to get into the back of the café, but eventually after some minor threats the clerk buzzed them in. While there was no Vinnie or Gina here they did manage to have a conversation with a low ranking thug in O’Bannions gang known as Twitch. Not the sharpest tool in the shed, the nervous and twitchy man had no idea where either Vinni or Gina might be, though he was also surprised to learn that Gina was messing around with another man. He was able to give them the address to Gina’s apartment in Arkham’s North Side. Guardian Apartments, 622 Brown St. Ajax thanked  Twitch and told him to keep his eyes open and let Mel Fenner know if he saw or heard anything. When Twitch asked him what he did for a living and what his name was, Ajax replied,

"Just tell Mr. Fenner I’m the Delivery Man",
" Like the Milk Man?" Twitch replied.
"Yeah Twitch, I’m the Milk Man…"

The Investigator’s made their way to Gina’s apartment. When no one answered the buzz at the door, Jimmy used his law enforcement credentials to get the building manager to let the group in and check out Gina’s apartment. The place was clean, and a talk with local’s lead them to learn that Gina had not been home for the past few days. As the group left the apartment they ran into three of O’Bannions thugs. Ajax managed to get the drop on the leader of the group, an enforcer named Ian Fitzroy, clubbing him with a big wrench he kept hidden up his sleeve. Fitzroy pulled a gun, but between Jimmy’s skill in martial arts, Ajax’s big wrench, and Karla’s mean right hook they soon managed to take down the thugs.

Shortly after the scuffle, the Arkham PD arrived on the scene. Leading Arkham's "Boys in Blue" was Lieutenant Ray Stuckey. It was well known to the Investigator’s that Stuckey was on O’Bannion’s pay roll and that they could expect little to no help from the man. Jimmy was able to find out that the thugs were being taken to St-Mary’s Hospital, and after a long period of questioning from Stuckey he reluctantly let the group go on their way.

At the hospital, the group was able to get Fitzroy to spill the beans. The thugs were to tasked break legs and warn people off of asking too many questions about Michael, Vinnie, or Gina. It was Twitch who innocently tipped off the thugs that the group had been looking into the trio's whereabouts. All Fitzroy knew was that Michael was being held in an old mansion somewhere out near Falcon Point, roughly 45 minutes out of Arkham.

Armed with this information the group headed out to Falcon Point to locate the mansion. In Falcon Point's ramshackled community of fishermen no one knew anything about a mansion, but maybe someone out on Boynton Beach might know something. They were warned to stay away from the town of Innsmouth, which was located about a mile up the road. Oddly they were also told a story of a missing local named Enoch Conger. A fisherman, Conger once claimed to have caught a mermaid off of nearby Devil's Reef.Unsure of what to make of this odd story the group took their leave and took the pathway down the cliff side that lead to the settlement of Boynton Beach.

Smaller than Falcon Point, the group met the community's leader, Corey Weston. He had a lot to say. Yes he knew of a mansion. Round these parts it was known as "Old Man Babson's Place", and shunned by the locals. Word around here was that Babson was reputed to be a Warlock. Weird noises and lights had been coming from the place lately. The mansion is located further up the beach past Fish-Head Rock, an ancient site sacred to the Indians that once lived in the area. Just take the path in the cliff side to the top and you cant miss it. Weston also warned the group to stay away from Innsmouth. When asked why, he told them that he didn’t know nothing from nothing, as he would often repeat during the conversation, but he heard that people who lived there wernt quite right. If rumour was to be believed the town folk laid with their own kin if you know what I be saying, though I be knowing nothing from nothing in all...

Following Weston’s directions the group found the Babson Mansion. A rotting hulk of a building Old Man Babson's Place had seen better days. Inside they found recent muddy footprints that lead them to investigate the basement. In the basement they discovered the signs of recent habitation new, but used cots, empty liqueur bottles and playing cards, and in a nicely furnished room Little Gina…

To Be Continued

Friday, October 28, 2011

Here In Arkham, We Play By Our Own Rules.

                                                                                Yo my peeps! I'm your resident undead-cowboy, and host back with another action packed Arkham Heat update that will knock you to the moon and back baby! Just watch out for Mi-go on the re-entry, word is there into the probing of the anal variety. But hey, maybe your one of those people who are into that sort of thing....
If your confused, (more than me) or just checking this out for the first time now, I'm referring to my new Call of Cthulhu Campaign compadre, coming exclusively to a gaming table somewhere around the island of Montreal. In Part 1 I discuss what inspired me to get the ball rolling on this thing. Part 2, is the down low on the protagonists of the campaign. And today, (that would be Part 3 meat-head) I shoot the shoggoth shit about rules, systems, and all that jazz.

So rules.

The Call of Cthulhu rules are pretty venerable. Not much has changed in the 30 years they've been around, and I'm not holding my breath that 7th edition will be much different. Don't get me wrong, I dig the rules, and I love the simplicity behind the system, yet after running The Realm of Shadows using the d20 rules, and the Shadows of Yog-Sothoth campaign using the classic rules I found myself wanting a little bit more from the system. I think it's a dude thing, wee like to get dirty under the hood and tinker. To quote Tim Allen "It needs more POWER"!

So taking a page from the Binder 2000 play book I decided to check out a product that I have long wanted to get the 4-Eleven on, The Basic Roleplaying Rules 4th edition.

OK, First off there is a lot of stuff here. I had no idea the long history that BRP has had in the RPG industry.

Second thought, wow, I had no idea just how stripped down the CoC rules really were when you compared them to the BRP rules!

But what I really liked about this book was all the options that you have at your disposal both as a player and GM for creating characters and running the game. Ultimately, I didn't take too much away from the book. I decided that I wanted to remain rather rules light. But I did swipe the rules for a point buy system. It's too early to tell how this will work in the long run, but like a lot of what I'm doing this is part of the experiment.

The second mind blasting tome of un-carnal knowledge I checked out was the excellent Unknown Armies 2nd Edition. OMG my brothers and sisters! Praise be too all that is unholy! This is an awesome, gnarley-gnarligton of a RPG. The writing is second to none, and the mechanics, in addition to being a percentile system are bloody easy to run with and understand. I can't praise this book enough. So I ripped off a few combat rules from here that I'm going to experiment with as well.

So in the end I'm running this thing as a hybrid monstrosity combined with 2parts Classic CoC, 1 part BRP 4e, and 1 part Unknown Armies 2e. Stew in a broth of awesome sauce and BAM! that's the rules system powering this campaign.

Like I've said before this is an experiment. Who the eff knows how it will all turn out. Maybe it it will just end up being a big pile of Deep One doo-doo. But hey, one of the things that I've discovered about myself is that as much as tinkering with rules can be fun, I tend to run pretty rules light. The most successful campaign I( in my mind at any rate) that I ever ran was powered by d20 Modern, and I pretty much ignored most of the rules except for chucking a d20 here and there for attack rolls and skills checks when I though it made the most sense. It's my theory, that the enthusiasm of both the players and the GM are way more important than any one system can ever be. So in the end, my rules tinkering may fly out the window and into the mouth of madness. Only time will tell. Of course at some point in the future I will revisit this topic and let you all in on what worked, and what didn't.

Till then have a safe weekend and see y'all Monday.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pawns and Players

Yesterday I talked a little about the inspiration behind my new Call of Cthulhu campaign, Arkham Heat. Today I wanted to show case the three characters that will be the focus of the campaign.

It's a small group, but I actually like that. I find investigation games work better with fewer people. It's easier to stay focused, and get shit done. But also, there's just so much investigating and clue gathering that can get done. With too many players people start stepping on each others toes. I mean everyone wants to feel useful right?

Take a show like CSI for example. All the characters tend to break off into smaller groups and work on separate cases. Occasionally a big case will require more people, but I see that as more of a logistics thing, and not particularly applicable to RPG scenarios. In addition, you tend to have specialist characters that show up in order to analyze the clues and give lab results. These characters are present just to pass on info and are on screen for a scene or two, rarely does it makes sense for a lab guy to be out in the field.

But this campaign is more than just about investigating weird spooky stuff. It's about people trying to live their own lives in a tough town full of crime and corruption. Each of these characters have their own problems and most of them not supernatural.

The glue that binds this group together is Karla Blackwood. This attractive 25 year old private detective has inherited her missing father's PI agency. Karla's father was an officer and in the Great War, and was for a short time a detective on the Arkham Police force till he left for reasons unknown to his daughter. As time went on the PI became more and more withdrawn and secretive, till one day 6 months ago he vanished. Declared dead, he left his agency and all his possessions to his daughter. Karla now runs the Blackwood Detective Agency, with the aid of a couple of her friends, James Mills, and Ajax Windsor. Despite the official declaration that her father is dead, something in her heart leads her to believe that he may still be alive....

James Mills fought in the Great War was once apart of the tank crew commanded by Norman Blackwood. During the war he formed a strong friendship to the man, and was friends with him till the day he disappeared 6 months ago. It was during this time that he also formed a friendship with Blackwood's daughter Karla. Today, James is a Special Agent with the Bureau of Investigation in Arkham. James career in the Bureau was on the fast track till an unspecified incident brought down the ire of the Bureau's head honcho J. Edgar Hoover. Stuck under the direction of an incompetent jerk of a boss, James often finds himself working along side his friend Karla on cases with her at the Blackwood Detective Agency.

Ajax Windsor was a tank driver in the Great War. During that period he befriend both James Mills and his superior officer Norman Blackwood, a friendship that continues to this day. While Ajax is a talented mechanic, and runs a decent auto garage and towing operation, it is in fact a cover for his freelance booze smuggling operation. An operation that has been aided and abetted more than once with the help of his connections with James at the BoI. During that time the Irish mob boss in Arkham put a hit out on the bootlegger, and Ajax's wife was killed by mistake. Now Ajax plans to do everything in his power to take the mobster down. The last part of the Blackwood triad, Ajax often fills the role as a wheelman for Karla, and James.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Arkham Heat

Yesterday I wrote that I was in the process of starting a new Call of Cthulhu campaign. This past weekend characters were made and this coming weekend the insanity begins. However, today I figured I’d shoot the proverbial shit behind the inspiration for the campaign I'm calling Arkham Heat...

I’ve been wanting to write a hard boiled detective/mystery story for some time now. I wanted to create a noir setting involving a detective that I could come back to again and again in a series of short stories. One of the things that intrigues me lately are TV shows and comic books. By that I mean I find it fascinating how writers are able to craft an ongoing series based on a cast of reoccurring characters and scene locations. Used over and over again, we seen the cast pitted against all manner of events and watch them grow as a result. Both TV and comics, two similar yet different mediums of story telling allow the author to tell shorter stories in the context of a larger over arching plot line. But I’m digressing from my main point.

Right, so hard boiled detective fiction. I think everyone knows what the stereotype of hard boiled fiction is, and yet I'm sure few people actually know what the genre is all about. More over I feel like many people have their own personal definition of what they consider the genre to be. At least that's how I felt. So I decided to do a little bit of personal research into the subject and went to the local library here. There I checked out two collections of stories by the God-Fathers of the genre Raymond Chandler, and Dashiell Hammett.

I wasn’t able to actually finish the collections as my reading time as of late has been rather reduced, but I did manage to finish Hammet’s novel Red Harvest.

Holy Shit.

As I read this story all I could think was “This is Cyberpunk, with out the cyber!” It was bloody, and dark. Bullets, broads, and booze were everywhere. People were being killed, plots, within plots were being hatched, and I found myself completely blown away. What I thought was going to be a dry boring read made me think that this could easily be slightly modified as a modern action flick for today's big screen with no problem at all.

And it made me think of Cthulhu. Strangely, Lovecraft wrote in this same time period more or less and yet his stories did not sound like this at all. While Hammett was raw and rough, Lovecraft had some kind of old English gentility to his writing. Regardless, the streams were crossed and my mind began to wander pregnant with possibility.

I imagined an Arkham that resembled something more akin to Gotham City, than a peaceful university town. A place that was full of greedy, low life thugs looking out for only themselves, and that was just the cops. A place where the mob rubbed shoulders with the heads of banks, and government officials. A place that if you wanted justice done then you needed to pay off the right people. And of course at the very center of this web of corruption, awaited the biggest cancer of all. The Cthulhu Mythos.

I don’t want to say too much right now because my player’s may be reading this blog. But that’s the seed that started it all. Next time I will talk a little about the characters that are about to be burned alive in the Arkham Heat…

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


This is a blog post in response to The Happy Whisk's question of  what I've been up to in my comments section.

It's been 5 months since this blog went dead. Or something like that. I had a little bit of momentum going, I was picking up some followers and then SMACK. I hit the WALL. If your a blogger, or a writer, you know what I mean when I write of the WALL. And no, not the Pink Floyd variety either.

When I first started blogging the intention was to get my writing chops in shape. I wanted to be a writer. One day I was going to be the next Stephen King. Yup...My Balls were that big.

First I was going to write that gaming supplement. Just for shits and giggles. Because hey RPG's were my first love, the thing that gave me hope of breaking into writing for a living. But the blogging thing was taking up all my time. All the writing projects I wanted to do were being pushed to the side because I needed to blog every day. Of course during the break, some how sitting down to write everyday fell by the wayside. Apparently I have the drive and willpower of a 5 year old... So depressing.

In addition, this was a gaming blog. The reality is I don't really game all that much anymore. I still dig it, but it is no longer at the center of my universe. My family has taken front and center, and that's how it should be. So with no real gaming going on, and no real writing going on, I decided it was time for a break. I just didn't imagine the break being this long. Mostly I feel like a failure, and the desire to write anything has been pretty much non-exisitant. Serisouly, I'm pretty envious of all those guys in the OSR blogsphere who have put out some top notch material. Regardless of the production values, anyone who has written and published something should give themselves a big pat on the back. They do what all proffesionals do. Make it look easy. So the tip of my hat to all of you, and you all know who you are.

As for the future of this blog...I dunno. I'm no game Guru. I dont keep up with the game news anymore. I dont give a shit about what edition of D&D people play, or if 5th edition is on the way. I dont care about the endless debates on whats old skool or not, or if thats what Gygax would have wanted. But mostly I don't really feel like I have anything useful to add to the community. There are a lot of fine bloggers out there, people who actually have something to say, and are saying it better than I ever could.  

On the flip side, my gaming group did just recently finished up our steam punk mini-campaign using the Cyberpunk rules. I  have taken ahold of the GM reins again and am now getting ready to run a Call of Cthulhu campaign, nominally called Arkham Heat. So there will be some dice chucking goodness to report on in the near future. I dunno, I just don't really have the drive to do it anymore. Mostly it comes down to time. Can I make the time? Sure, but theres just so many other things that seem to be demanding my time these days it a little over whelming.

So If I do get back to blogging it will most likely be only a few times a week. More if I feel like I have something to say and have the time to say it. But I do hope that the stuff I wrote in the past was interesting, useful, or enjoyable. If you did miss this blog and there was something you liked about it drop me a line in the comments and let me know. Perhaps, it will help me get past the WALL.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Weekend To End Womans Cancer

I just added a button link on the top right of my blog for my wife's Weekend to End Womans Cancer Walk. I'm really proud of her and all the work she has done for this thing. Yet it's not enough. Why? Because she is part of a team, and while she has exceeded her goal, many of the girls on her team are still struggling to reach their's. I know theres a lot of generous people who read this blog out there in the blogosphere. So I'm putting out a call for help here. Please, if you can spare it, help my wife's team out by makinga donation. Whatever you can give no matter how small would be much appreciated.

Thanks Zombiecowboy

The Boardinghouse -A Lazy Man's Call of Cthulhu Adventure- Part 1

Last week Evan on his blog In Places Deep posted a link to Sandy Petersen’s " The Lazy Man’s Guide To Constructing A Call of Cthulhu Adventure". You can find this article and many others as well on the highly recommended CoC website This site is easily one of the best places to go if your even thinking about running a CoC game. So the next time your in the mood for a little bit of Yog-Sothery go check it out.

As the title of the article suggests it shows you how to quickly create a CoC adventure. It was a fun and interesting article and my curiosity was peaked, so I decided to give it a shot of my own and see if I too could pull this off.

Step 1: The Situation
Petersen suggests you take a plot or scene from a favorite movie and then twist it into something new. He chose a random horror movie for his example, and I’ve decided to do the same. So I looked up horror movies and low and behold wikipedia has an entire list of horror movies by decade. I choose the classic 80s period and scroll through the list and choose the not so classic 1982 film Boardinghouse, starring and directed by John Wintergate.

Here's the plot as per it’s wikipedia entry:
On September 18, 1972, the Hoffman house was closed due to several mysterious deaths. Ten years later, the house is reopened as a boarding house by a man with telekinetic powers who inherited it. A group of nubile young women quickly move in and the killings begin all over again.
I've never seen it but this sounds like a classic T and A slasher film to me. The idea of a boarding house really resonates with me, in particular as a starting point for a CoC scenario set in the roaring 20’s. So my basic situation is an old house that a decade ago was the scene of a series of unexplained deaths. In the past few months it has been reopened and refurbished as a boarding house in Arkham, and history is about to repeat itself. For the worse...

Step 2: The Plot
Ok so its time to flesh this out a little more. In order to do so we follow these 4 sub steps:

2A: Who Are Available As Victims?
Petersen suggests that you have a cast of bystanders, villains, and allies available to bite the big one in the scenario. His reasoning being the deadly nature of the game, and of course in horror movies, people tend to start dropping like flies once things get in gear. Being that this is a boarding house we have a good list of people we can choose from. We have of course the boarders, the owner, and any support people employed by the owner like a cook, gardener, handyman, and so on.

2B: How Do The PC’s Get Involved?
This can be tricky in CoC. Since I imagine this as a starting scenario in which the PC’s have had no contact with the Mythos before, I see this as a perfect opportunity to baptize a new generation of investigators. All of the PC’s meet at the boardinghouse as either boarders renting a room, or maybe as a one of the workers in it’s employ. It’s perfect as it allows for a whole range of character types and professions.

2C: How Can The Plot Be Prolonged?
I envision the scenario playing out over a period of time with new deaths occurring slowly at first and then quickly rising into a frantic bloodbath by the end. Clearly someone or something has an agenda in the house, and it relates to the death of the family that lived in the house ten years ago. These deaths serve a deliberate purpose, that being to feed an extra-dimensional creature that had been summoned by the grandfather of the family that lived in the house before. When the grandfather passed away and his eldest daughter’s family moved into the house the creature slowly began to feed on the family finding both pleasure and sustenance in the souls of it’s victims.

2D: Why Don’t The Authorities Intervene?
After the first death at the boarding house, there is no doubt that the police will become suspicious and seek to get involved. In fact, one of the creepy residents or perhaps even the owner himself will come under the scrutiny of the local authorities. They might even be arrested for a short time and then later released after another death occurs. A fun twist might be that one resident is really a criminal and gets nailed for an entirely different crime that he had been evading for the last little while. The real reason the police wont get involved is that there will be very little evidence to suggest that the deaths are in fact murders. Perhaps the fugitive house resident commits one of the murders at the behest of the entity, his actions not entirely under his own control. But the fact that he is inclined to be violent lends the creature a certain power over controlling his actions. All of the other deaths will either be seen as accidents, unexplainable or interpreted as a suicide. Or could it be that the owner of the house through a combination of wealth, and being seen as a powerful and influnental citizen is able keep the police at bay. I see the big bad evil guy is some kind of psychic vampire who needs to feed massivly once ever decade. Perhaps he has the ability to control the minds of others like the police?

Step 3: The Wow Finish
As Petersen suggests, and I agree wholeheartedly every scenario should have a great climax to it. Since this is an introductory scenario, one of my goals is to pull back the curtain and reveal the true nature of the cosmos to the PC’s in what I like to think of as the Sarah Connor syndrome. In the start of Terminator Sarah is a normal person, just like you and me. By the start of T2 she has long shed her skin of normalcy and has changed into a full-blown true believer. This same disturbing metamorphosis happens to CoC investigators as well, as is only fitting when dealing with something as disturbing and wrong as the Mythos itself.   

With that being said I envision the climax of the adventure happening in a secret sub-basement of the house. This is the secret redoubt of the villian, who is none other than the owner of the house. Perhaps he has a shrine to some other worldly god here, or it is a place in which he can bring to bear the full power of his pyschic abilities.Maybe he has some kind of alien pets he keeps here as well, or he does weird and sick experiments on unspecting people. Probing their minds and trying to unlock further mysteries of the mind. It is here that he has rested in a deep slumber till recently when he needed to feed again and recharge himself after every decade or so.

Step 4: Finalize The Plot

OK, so here's what I’ve got it's a little rough around the edges but I think it will work well: 

Arkham 1917- Peter Wintergate is a long-lived and outspoken dilettante and secretly a kind of psychic vampire. Every decade or so he must go on a feeding frenzy in order to recharge himself with psychic energy. This energy allows him to live longer, but still age at a much slower rate than normal. In addition he has the ability to use this energy within him to perform various magical like powers. Control minds, use telekinesis, and so forth. A deacade ago he invited his eldest granddaughter Cindy and her husband Elliot McKinley, their five young children and a handful of servants to move in. Not long after the move, Wintergate begins to orchestrate a disturbing series of murders in order to recharge himself but also enact a final ritual that will allow him to access more power than he could possibly ever imagine.The deaths all appear as mysterious and unexplainable. Shortly after the death of both Cindy and Elliot, and a number of servants, the remaining house staff quit and the few surviving children are move on to places unknown. With the house empty again, Wintergate falls into a state of torpor in order to lay low and conserve his strength and power for another try in the future. A decade later in 1928, the house is purchased and renovated into a boardinghouse, named Wintergate House. Wintergate has once again turned his thoughts back to the ritual he sought and failed to accomplish in time a decade ago…
To Be Continued...Tomorrow I will finish up with steps 5-8, but I'm curious to hear what you think so far. To be honest I feel like its a little weak and cliche. But as a relatively quick and dirty method and the process seems to work so far. All in all it's really only took me an hour or two to work through things to this point thus far, and if this was just for a home campaign It would probably take less time since you don't really need to write out everything like I have for this blog post. Oh, and thank's Evan for pointing out that article in the first place, totally worth the read!  

Monday, May 9, 2011

Big Trouble In Little China-Six Shooters And Sorcery Style

Lo-Pan, loves the green eyed ladies
 I've been strongly considering running a Savage Worlds powered weird western game for the last little while now. In this post I describe some of the points that I would like to see if I ran this. It was mostly me just thinking out loud. What was interesting was that  Jamie over at For A Fistful of Coppers suggested in the comments that it sounded like a western version of the 1986 movie Big Trouble in Little China.

After thinking on it, it totally made sense what he was saying. That movie was and still is a huge favorite of mine. Yes, it's a little cheesy at times, but it's funny as hell, and it kicks all kinds of ass.

So then I start doing some research and I discover that according to it's wikipedia page the original script for Big Trouble in Little China was indeed intended to be a western. That's wicked crazy, but makes sense on so many levels.

So yeah, if I'm going to sum up what this little weird western campaign will be about to my group it would be imagine playing in a campaign in which the movie Big Trouble in Little China and the Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns had a love child together. Add in a few pinches of Lovecraftian horror, and a measure of Robert Rodriguez and Antonio Banderas, and you have my new campaign in a nut shell.

Chinese Beholders Priceless

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Listen Up You Primitive Screwheads!

Welcome to another edition of Savage Swords Saturday. Today we have this beauty of a cover with Conan getting the drop on a bad ass primate. The only thing that sucks is the missing scantily clad large breasted hot chick.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Making A Setting Your Own

Yay! The internet is back.

I wrote earlier that I had picked up the Savage Worlds rules and thought that they were pretty wicked awesome. I also have been musing on various ideas that I would love to use in a weird western campaign. Naturally, the Deadlands setting lends itself very well to this concept.

But, yeah here comes the but, here's the problem.

While I think there's a lot of cool stuff with the Deadlands story and world, it's not really what I want for MY Deadlands game. Which got me thinking, (I know, I do that too much) I have this real problem with all too often trying to stay true to the setting or world. I'm not sure why I do this, and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this kind of obsessive compulsive need to make sure I've unearthed every little piece of information on a campaign setting. Heck I even do this with books. I refuse to read a series of books until I figure out which books come first even if it's just not all that important. I mean for a lot of books, the publishers want readers to be able to jump into a series with whatever book the reader just happens to find lying around.

In thinking about this there are a few pros and cons as to why you might or might not want to use the campaign setting as written:

Pros for using a published campaign setting
  • Everyone is on the same page.
  • Less work for the GM in preparing his adventures.
  • Easy to provide the player access to information on the setting.

Cons for using a published campaign setting
  • Some adventure ideas might need a lot of work or just wont work at all in an established campaign setting.
  • There's a lot of information for both the players and GM to take in.
  • Some of the mystery and newness of the campaign can be denied to the players.
  • Established events can be messed with as new source books are published.

I feel like looking at that list I'm hating on campaign settings. I don't really think that's fair. I do think that campaign setting have their place. I guess what it comes down to is that like rules bloat, I'm also tired of setting bloat. In particular it's the campaign settings that have a storyline that changes and reveals itself as more an more books come out, or as a new edition moves time forward that have really started to bother me the most.

I blame this on the need to sell books. Look, I get that publishers are out there to make money. I don't begrudge that. But I think it's safe to say that we've all been there before when one of your players knows more about the world than GM, just by virtue of having the disposable income and desire to buy the latest book. The only thing more annoying than a rules lawyer is the setting guru. Both deserve a punch in the neck if you ask me.

So yeah, here's my new gaming resolution, and it's one I think many of you out there who feel the same as I might want to adopt as well.

Screw the campaign setting. It doesn't matter what's written in the book. It's my game after all, and I'll cry if I want too...wait...that's not right. Anyway, you get my drift. Say it with me now:

I will not be a campaign setting whore, I will run my game the way I want to, not the way a book tells me I should. I am a rebel, I am creative, screw canon and the horse it rode in on. I am the Game Master, not the game reader, and in this world my word is that of God.

That feels better. I'm glad I got that off my chest. Aren't you?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dude! Where's My Internet?

For reasons beyond my understanding my home internet connection is down. I'm not sure what the dilly with that is, just that my town left an automated message saying that our service provider would be interupted for the next few days. Well that sucks. I mean where am I going to get my internet porn from now? It also means that I wont be able to really make any new blog posts for the next little bit, since I'm restricted in how much I can use the computer at work, which is where I'm writing this now. So for the next little while I'll be on a blogging break. Hopefully by Monday (Oh how I loathe you Mondays) I will be back in action here. Till then, aim for the head, and nuke em from ornit, and wear a condom.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I'm Living In A Steampunk World

After a month long drought, I finally got to chuck some dice this weekend. Let me tell you something, it felt really fucking good.

Allow me to elaborate.

My buddy who loves Cyberpunk (perhaps more than is really healthy) decided he wanted to run this new game. He envisions a steampunk world, and shit has been percolating in his mind. This has been something he's been talking about for some time now. Talking, but we're never really sure if this is something that will see fruition. You know how fickle us gamer types are.

So with my Pathfinder game finished, B decides it's time. We go on something of a month long break, and I'm practically running up the walls from withdrawal. It was bad man. you have no freaking idea how bad it was. Well maybe you do. It was like give me dice, or give me death. I welcome both with open arms.

So B hands us these two character backgrounds each. He tells us to pick one. The catch is that whichever character we chose not to play dies. Yeah. It was kinda a nifty idea, if you don't mind that amount of extra work. So now I'm playing an ex-colonel from the south who's wife was killed in a house fire, while trying to rescue our son who is missing, and possibly dead. I've gathered a number of allies along the way and tracked something out of a nightmare known only to me as the "Thin Man". Now we are all in Paris at the World Fair. In our first fight we end up going up against this creature that likes to disguise it's self in other peoples skin. Weird.

It wasn't what I was expecting. I mean you say steampunk and fighting fey creatures isn't the first thing that comes to my mind. It's been mysterious and creepy. But most of all it was fun. Fucking fun. I cant wait till we get to play again. Unfortuanatly we will only be able to reconvene in about two weeks. Fortunately I plan on trying to run a Savage Worlds test game with the few who can meet this weekend.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Savage Worlds: Explorer's Edition

Last week I finally buckled under the pressure and picked up the Savage Worlds: Explorer's Edition rules book. Let me tell you, I wish that I would have picked this thing up a long time ago! It's fricken awesome, like sharks with laser beams attached to their foreheads awesome! For shizzel my whizzel.

One of the things that strikes me about this book is that it's only 10 bucks to own. That, and it also comes in 6.5" x 9" format. It has a 160 full colour, glossy pages, looks sharp, and is well organized. The book features a nice table of contents, as well as a full page index in the back.

All that stuff aside it has all the rules that you need to run virtually any genre you want! The rules emphasis what the designers call the three F's. Fast! Furious!, and Fun! All three of them things that I've been looking for in a game system for some time. Well maybe not the Furious part, but it sounds like a good thing, right?

I guess one of the reasons that I hadn't picked this up before was the fact that I had played the original Deadlands RPG. In fact Deadlands was one of the first RPG's that I ever ran as the Marshall, or game master, or as the call it in that system.

One of the things that I thought was cool about Deadlands was the "stuff" aspect to it. By that I mean all of the dice were important, not just a d20, and whatever your damage dice was, but ALL of them. In addition you used playing cards for initiative, and poker chips as a sort of action points system. The problem was three fold as far as I could tell. Number one, I found the system itself was a little clunky. Two, I was new to game mastering, and well, when you your new at something you tend to suck. Lastly, three, the weird wild west can be a little difficult to run. There's a lot of stuff going on that you as the game master needs to do, understand, and this isn't helped when your American history is weak, and your player's don't really "get" the genre.

So I ran a brief Deadlands game, and then moved on from there to try and do new things. I had always wanted to get back to it one day, but I just never had the motivation, or desire to do so. Eventually it sort of fell into the background as D&D, and d20 games became the poison of choice for our group. Fantasy it would seem would be what we were destined to play for a long, long time.

Anyway the point here is that these Savage Worlds rules, are a much cleaned up and refined version of those old Deadlands rules. The skill system is very tight, and theres not a lot of dicking around with lots of points, and best of all all dice rolls are balanced with an additional "Wild Die" that allows the heroes to have a better chance of success. The other thing I find really nice is how the Edges and Hindrances work. This system seems easy to use, well balanced and thought out, and covers pretty much everything you need to cover most genres.

In fact one of the things that the designers point out is that bloating the system with new skill, edges, powers and other non-sense is a bad thing. That you should attempt to use what you have and not go over board creating reams of material you don't need , or wont use. The reason I love this so much is that I'm tired of rules bloat! D&D 3e suffered from it, and so does 4e. In fact lot's of systems just keep pumping out useless material be cause players like it, and because they need to make money selling us stuff. I'm not knocking this, it's just as a GM I have come to find less is more. Lets keep it simple, mmm K?

Today I find myself with a new group. What's interesting is that we recently started a steampunk campaign that would have benefited with these rules greatly had I, or the current GM been aware of just how simple, versatile, and easy they are to use. I'm seriously starting to consider running a new Deadlands game because of it. All in this is a kick ass system, and book. If your looking for a game that is simple to learn and easy to find on your local game stores shelves, I highly recommend you pick this up. And remember it's only 10 bucks, so how can you go wrong?

Friday, April 29, 2011

Zothique, Ghouls, And Other Daemonic Strangeness

Finishing out this weeks theme of Call of Cthulhu I discuss My introduction to Clark Ashton Smith, and another kick ass campaign from Pagan Publishing.

A long while back I was kicking it in the store that I used to buy all my gaming stuff. I noticed this new book on the shelf that while looked interesting probably wouldn’t have moved me to pick it up if I hadn’t noticed the Call of Cthulhu logo on the botom of it. This was The Realm of Shadows campaign book, published by Pagan Publishing in 1997, and written by John H. Crowe III, and beautifully illustrated by Blair Reynolds. This book weighs in at a 204 pages and kicks ass and takes names. Heres the blurb from the back:

1940. Europe is burning…But a greater threat dwells in the shadows.

Dr. Franklin Quigley has a delicate problem: his wife has lost her mind and fled with their strangely deformed young daughter.

His innocent request: find them and bring them back.

But when the cemetery earth churns with the blood of the dead and the ground reverberates with the cries of feasting, innocence begets only corruption.
The Realm of Shadows is a major new Call of Cthulhu campaign from the author of Walker in the Wastes and Coming Full Circle. Inside you’ll find source material on ghouls, the cult of the Charnel God, and the notorious Cultes des Goules, as well as four adventures that take the investigators through Massachusetts, the Dreamlands, and the rain forests of French Guiana. Featuring extensive investigations, numerous player aids, and terrifying opponents, The Realm of Shadows is a feast of horror.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. OK, so what’s so great about his book Zombiecowboy? Well I’m glad you asked. No really, I am! The first thing you need to understand is that the author does his freaking research. Not just a little bit, but a lot. And it really shows in this book. Not only that but he does it consistently. Unfortunately Crowe doesn’t write very much Cthulhu material and from what I understand his last output in the field was a part of the writing in Pagan’s Mysteries of Mesoamerica.

One of the sources that Crowe used and highly recommends that the Keeper get his tentacles on is Clark Ashton Smith’s venerable Tales of Zothique. At the time Tales of Zothique was being published by the small Necronomicon Press, but I’m pretty sure that the stories have been collected into a newer hardcover edition by Night Shade Books, of which I have the first four volumes. More on this in a bit.

In addition to just being a well written and researched book, it’s also a beautiful looking inside and out. The art is amazing. The layout is wonderful, and extremely well indexed with multiple table of contents and bibliography. The four adventures are fun and exciting, and interestingly, take place in the 1940s. This is that sort of no mans land of a time period that strays from the classical roaring twenties and dirty thirties period that most CoC adventures fall into. But I honestly feel that it’s a time period that has a lot to offer Keepers, as this book just goes to show. With World War II raging, and the steady rise of the United States as a super power, it’s an exciting time to face off against the lurking Mythos threat. In fact it would be fun to run a Delta Green campaign while the organization itself was just coming into it’s own and still sanctioned by the government. And of course wasting Nazi’s is always good fun right?

Another unique feature of this campaign is that part of it takes place in the Dreamlands. Unfortunately, Crowe took some liberties here, and even admits to as much in the book. He felt that Clark Ashton Smith’s Zothique fit nicely in the alien fantasy world that is Lovecraft’s Dreamlands. And really it's hard to argue with that kind of logic. In fact I feel that Zothique is in many ways just a lot more interesting the Lovecraft's Dreamlands. During the last adventure in the campaign the Investigator’s have a chance to visit the grim city of Zul-Bha-Sair, home to the great ghoul-god Mordiggian. It’s at this point that things can quickly turn into something more akin to a fantasy romp al-la D&D style, as the Investigators explore the city and perhaps even invade the Temple of Mordiggian itself.

As I said earlier this was my first real introduction to the writing of Clark Ashton Smith. I’ve read very little of his non-Zothique stories, which is strange since I really enjoyed the little that I hvae read. It’s doubley weird since as I said before, I do own what I would consider to be a rather complete collection of his work. Even though I had heard of CAS before this point, and I knew that he had been a part of the Lovecraft Circle, somehow I just was never able to really find any of his writing to pick up and read.

Perhaps what I really dig about CoC in general is that interconnection between the fiction and the RPG. It’s the way both elements are able to weave into one another, and create a richer tapestry greater than the sum of it's indivuvial parts. That, and I really love how CoC warps history in a way that says this may be what people believed happened, but here’s the horrific truth. It’s the way that the fantasy, science, and the weird elements all combined to create something so much better than a Reese’s peanut butter cup….Mmmm peanut butter cup….

Anyway, you get my point. The bottom line is this: Not only was this a great book and campaign, but it also opened up a lot of other doors for me that, had I passed it by, might not have ever opened for me. So if you ever get the chance to pick this sucker up, or be a player in it, do it! It would be well worth your time and money.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

How I Survived A Mi-Go Anal Probe Part 2

The Mi-Go with the rubber glove was surprisingly gentle…I wonder what the sexual term is for someone who enjoys having sex with extra-terrestrials is? In this day and age I would think this rather odd. I mean Captain Kirk fucked a whole bunch of aliens…Anyway, that’s not the topic of todays post. No dear and gentle readers, today I’m going to rave about the second best Delta Green book that should be on your shelf. If you haven’t already you might want to read Part 1 here first.

So what is this the title of this book, and why is it so flipping great?

The book is called Delta Green: Alien Intelligence, and it’s a collection of Cthulhu Mythos stories of modern horror and conspiracy. Here’s the blurb from the back of the book:

You are not cleared for this book. These eight tales of cosmic horror and personal apocalypse were not written to make you feel secure about your place in the universe. They are here to unsettle you, to horrify you, and to challenge your misguided notions of history, humanity, and morality. Enjoy.

Born of the federal government’s 1928 raid on the degenerate coastal town of Innsmouth, Massachusetts, the covert agency known as Delta Green spent four decades opposing the forces of darkness with honor, but without glory. Stripped of sanction after a disastrous 1969 operation in Cambodia, Delta Green’s leaders made a secret pact: to continue their work without authority, without support, and without fear. Delta Green agents slip through the system, manipulating the federal bureaucracy while pushing the darkness back for another day-but often at a shattering personal cost.
Oh yeah that felt good didn’t it. Breath that shit in. Go on just sit back, close your eyes, and open your mind to the possibilities. Damn, just reading that gets me pumped to run a DG centered campaign. But I digress ( don't I always?). Weighing in at a nice and easy 189 pages this book has got to be by far the best collection of Mythos stories ever written. Of course not counting the Old Gent himself, I mean we wouldn’t even have a Cthulhu Mythos if it wasn’t for Lovecraft.

On the front cover there’s a quote attributed to Lucius Shepard. I have no idea who this guy is but what he says is this:

“As a training text for young mutants, I cannot endorse it too highly”
Then if you look on the front inside cover there’s another blurb attributed to him again:

“I unearthed a dog-eared copy of Alien Intelligence from beneath the stained pillow of a hooker in Huehuetenango.

Something pulled me into the pages, and after a long night of ignoring the woman, reading feverishly, I emerged with my mind on fire, filled with the irresistible impulse to shoot anything that looked the least suspicious.

As a training text for young mutants, I cannot endorse it too highly.”
I’ve often wondered if this Shepard dude is a real person, or if he was just some guy they made up in order to have a name to give the quote. If he is a real figure from myth, fiction, or reality, I’d love to know. Perhaps it’s an inside joke that I have failed to get. Regardless, I find something haunting about that statement. It gives me the creeps. I get this weird feeling in my gut, and my balls unwillingly retract inside me. I just know that that hooker wasn’t a real woman at all, but some weird Mythos warped succubus with row on row of razor sharp, shark like teeth inside her vagina just waiting to emasculate any man dumb enough to stick his junk inside there.

Weird, I know. But hey, tell me the same sick thought didn’t cross your mind either, OK? I mean if that kind of thing disturbs you then you probably shouldn’t read this collection of stories. Not because it has a woman with shark teeth in her baby maker, ( I just made that up) but because these stories are truly horrific. They hit home and make you squirm the way a good piece of horror writing should. They give a great modern take on how the Mythos really fucks you up. These stories are a great template for both running a Call of Cthulhu game, but in particular how to to run a Delta Green game. It highlights a number of the movers and shakers, as well as the important organizations from the main source book.

I’ll leave you with one last quote taken from the book:

“This is like nothing anyone has ever understood. This is pure evil, pure destruction. This is t he apocalypse.”

-Major General Reginald Fairfield, U.S. Army (Ret.), On the day of his assassination by members of Majestic-12

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How I Survived A Mi-Go Anal Probe Part 1

The Call of Cthulhu theme continues. Today I explain how Innsmouth has left it’s scars, yet prepared me for the future, when I would be kidnapped and relentlessly anal probed by the Fungi from Yuggoth.

After the sanity blasting experience of playing in the Escape From Innsmouth campaign, there was a lull in Call of Cthulhu and we moved on to explore other RPGs and games. Yet I had become a hopeless Lovecraft addict. Much like one of the ill fated protagonists of his stories I couldn’t stop and leave well enough alone. For better or worse I hunted down more collections of Lovecraft’s writing. Some were gems, and some were indescribable piles of shoggoth shit. At the Mountains of Madness, The Whisperer in the Darkness, and a slew of the Dreamlands tales culminating in the epic The Dream Quest For Unknown Kadath, being some of my favourites. They along with many others will always all hold a special place in my heart.

Then came the day that I discovered something that would get me more excited than the first time I cracked a dirty nudie magazine. Pagan Publishing’s Delta Green. Things were never the same for me there after. While there are a lot of awesome products from Pagan Publishing there are two that I think should have a special place on your gaming bookshelf.

The first book of course is the core Delta Green Campaign setting. This is the definitive modern Call of Cthulhu sourcebook, first published in 1996. Here’s the blurb from the back of the book:

Welcome to America at the dawn of the millennium. Do you know who is pulling the strings? Delta Green knows. Things from beyond space and time that lurk and titter in the shadows, the slow rot at the core of humanity, the dark stars that whirl madly above-these are the true masters of the world. Delta Green has been fighting them since the 1928 Raid on Innsmouth, and the fight still rages on.

This book is your weapon and your guide. The largest Call of Cthulhu sourcebook ever.

Inside you’ll find a secret history of the 20th century, and the movers and shakers who are players in the game: Delta Green, the outlaw conspiracy working inside the U.S. government to fight the darkness; Majestic-12, the clandestine agency that cuts deals with aliens and reports to no one; Saucer Watch, a UFO study group closer to the truth than they know; The Karotechia, immortal Nazis who serve a risen Hitler; and the Fate, an occult criminal syndicate that knows where the bodies are buried. Plus: new skills, spells, weapons, mythos tomes, profiles of 36 real-world intelligence and law-enforcement agencies, with character templates for each, a look at Mi-Go biology, philosophy, and operations, analysis of the Cthulhu mythos in the modern day, a factual history of the U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement community, dozens of useful NPCs, campaign construction guidelines, 2 scenarios, a short campaign, and more.
Yeah…take a second to clean the shit out of your pants. I’ll wait, because like you I was there once. I get it. This is one of those rare RPG books that can do that kinda thing to you. Gross yes. But so worth it. 

As you can see Delta Green has it’s origins in the 1928 Raid on Innsmouth. I immediately felt a kinship. This book brought up feelings in me that I can imagine are only shared between soliders that have shared a trench while bullets and bombshells explode way too close for comfort. That feeling are we going to make it out of this bullshit? Because I had been in those metaphorical trenches. I fought the Deep Ones, and the Deep Ones lost…Or did they? I really feel like you need to experience the Raid on Innsmouth to get the full appreciation for this book.

Regardless this book haunted me with it’s great writing and imagery. Its tight and polished, a true labour of love. You just know that the whole crew at Pagan sacrificed a part of their souls when they published this thing. Reading this book really shows you how to properly bring the mythos into the 90s. It makes you look at things differently, and soon the headlines in the news papers seem to have another meaning hidden in between the lines, mysteries and questions start to form. Before you know it you have yourself a whole campaign based on what’s going on in your own backyard and the world around you.

Tomorrow I’ll continue on in part 2 with what I consider another gem of the Delta Green era. That is unless the Mi-Go decided that their not down with the anal probing…

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Innsmouth Look

Yesterday I wrote about how I first came to learn about Lovecraft and the Call of Cthulhu RPG. Today I wanted to write about one of my favourite Lovecraft stories of all time, as well as the first CoC camapign I ever played in. That being the Shadow Over Innsmouth, and Escape From Innsmouth respectively.

During the winter of 1927-28 officials of the Federal government made a strange and secret investigation of certain conditions in the ancient Massachusetts seaport of Innsmouth. The public first learned of it in February, when a vast series of raids and arrests occurred, followed by the deliberate burning and dynamiting - under suitable precautions - of an enormous number of crumbling, worm-eaten, and supposedly empty houses along the abandoned waterfront. Uninquiring souls let this occurrence pass as one of the major clashes in a spasmodic war on liquor.

And so begins the fateful tale of one Robert Olmstead the narrator of this yarn first published in April of 1936. I’m not sure what it is exactly that endears this story so close to my heart. Perhaps it’s that of all of Lovecraft’s stories the main character is one that I can really identify with. There’s something about staying in a creepy backwater little town and then having to flee in the middle of the night that just captures my imagination. The entire tale is just so well written that it makes you actually believe that this mysterious and horrific place really does exist on the coast of Massachusetts.

The first time I read this story it was because my friend had invited me to play the Call of Cthulhu RPG for the first time. I was super excited and he handed me his beat up well read copy of The Best of H.P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre. I remember eating that book up, and hungering for more. Today it’s still one of my most cherished collections of Lovecraft’s stories.

The campaign that we were playing was of course Escape From Innsmouth. My friends excitement at running this thing was super high, and soon we had all created a team of investigators. My character if I remember right was Jim Dickson, a photo journalist that lived in a boarding house in the city Arkham.
One of the things that I’ll always remember about this campaign was all the stupid little things that came out of it. Little sayings and one liners that are only funny only to the small circle of us who had been there at the time. There was almost a palpable mystery and tension in the air during those game sessions. Part of that I chalk up to the newness of everything for me.

Perhaps one of the funniest moments of the campaign was when my girlfriend (who I would later marry) decided after a long run of me pestering her finally caved in and created a character. She was the daughter of an Irish mobster, and carried two violin cases with Tommy guns inside them. A couple of the group had broken into the local grocery store to gather some clues. While the rest of us kept watch the local (and corrupt) law enforcement showed up to investigate why a bunch of nosey outsiders were lurking around the closed grocery store. Hoping to buy our buddies on the inside some time in the store poor old Jim decided to cause a scene. He started spouting off about his civil rights, and how it was his God given right as an American citizen to go about were ever he damn well pleased. I knew Jim had it coming to him. The Sherriff started to beat the shit out of him, and that was when my wife decided it was a good time to bust out the Tommy guns. Well things escalated pretty fast from there. Pretty soon the whole town was coming down on our asses. That was more or less when we put the “Escape” in the Escape from Innsmouth campaign. Poor Jim didn’t make it unfortunately. As he hid in an ally he was wasted by a local with a well aimed spray of buck shot. Good times. Oh did I mention that Jim never took any pictures. He wasn’t a very good photo journalist either.

The coolest thing about Escape From Innsmouth in my opinion was how it doubled as both a collection of adventures as well as a sourcebook on the town of Innsmouth in Lovecraft country. In addition the actual raid on Innsmouth is divided into several scenarios (six of believe). Each scenario was one objective of the Federal Governments plan to secure the town. What was neat about this was that each of our main characters became leaders or advisors for the mission. Then everyone else got to play the soldiers and federal agents that were apart of that group, so you didn’t feel bad when the body count started to rack up. Let me tell you, the sanity checks and body count were huge.

Yet despite how cool this campaign was, for some reason it seems to get short shrift when compared to some of Chaosiums other campaigns.
Masks of Nyarlathotep and Beyound the Mountains of Madness seem to be talked about a lot more. I’m not really sure why that is. Regardless, this would be an important next step in my Call of Cthulhu career. Tomorrow I’ll explain why.

Monday, April 25, 2011

My Introduction To Call of Cthulhu

I’ve written a few post’s now that reference the Call of Cthulhu RPG. This week I felt like writing a little bit on Lovecraft and Call of Cthulhu as the theme for my posts. Today I’m going to start things off by writing a little about how I first came to discover Lovecraft, and as the week progresses I’ll talk about a little about some of my favorite stories and moments that I’ve had over the years.

I didn’t come to discover the Call of Cthulhu RPG through what I would consider normal channels. In fact it was the movie Army of Darkness that first piqued my interest in the works of Lovecraft’s fiction, never mind the fact than an RPG existed to support it. Yeah, Bruce Campbell, and the Army of Darkness lead me to discover Lovecraft. Weird huh? It was this opening dialog in the movie that moved me in a way that was neither healthy nor right for any young person to be moved at such a tender and impressionable age.
My name is Ash and I am a slave. As far as I can figure, the year is thirteen hundred A.D and I'm being dragged to my death. It wasn't always like this, I had a real life, once. A job. I had a wonderful girlfriend Linda. Together we drove to a small cabin in the mountains. It seems an archeologist had come to this remote place to translate and study his latest find: Necronomicon exmortis. The Book of the Dead. Bound in human flesh and inked in blood, this ancient Sumarian text contained bizarre burial rights, funeral incantations, and demon resurrection passages, it was never meant for the world of the living. The book awoke something dark in the woods, something evil. It took Linda. Then it came after me, it got into my hand and it went bad, so I lopped it off at the wrist. But that didn't stop it, it came back big time.

There was something insidiously beautiful about that book. It I began to obsess about it. After seeing this movie, despite it being a comedy horror fest, I wanted, nay needed to learn more and delve deeper, to explore it’s origins, and perhaps to see if there was in fact any basis for this blasphemous tome.

Not long I found a cheap soft cover version in the new age section of my local bookstore in the mall. Even though I bought it I was disappointed. This was decidedly not the book I was looking for. Much later I would discover the internet. At the time I had not idea that this new wonder would open up a whole new world. A world built of pornography, forums to enable masses of faceless haters to spew off whatever vitriol laden bullshit they desired, and whole new definition of what spam was. At the time the internet to me was the information highway. Un-restricted access to knowledge that somehow was being kept from the youth of the world and stopping us from taking over from the old people whom controlled everything. The first thing I looked up wasn’t porn but the Necronomicon.

And that was the first time I discovered this dude named H.P. Lovecraft. So the Necronomicon was fiction. Invented by a dude whose name could have been that of some cheesy 70’s porn actor. Yet at the time trying to get a hold of his fiction at the time was fairly difficult at the time. It seems as if for a period of time Lovecraft had fallen into the cracks. Only later when I moved to Montreal and joined a gaming club in college did I discover there was a Call of Cthulhu RPG. It would be several more years later that I actually got to play this game for the first time. It would also be around this time that I would actually read for the first time any of Lovecraft’s fiction. But that’s for a later post. Suffice it to say I thank Army of Darkness and the other Evil Dead movies for my first introduction to Lovecraft and the Call of Cthulhu RPG.

Tomorrow I’ll write about the first time I actually played the game, and what has become one of my favorite Lovecraft stories of all time…