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

Monday, March 25, 2013

If you're receiving this transmission, make no attempt to come to its point of origin...

There is only death here now...

Over the past few days I've been catching up on a bunch of movies I've wanted to see for a while. Theses days I'm not much for one going out to the theatre and since I got Netflix I don’t really rent DVD's all that often either. All this is a round about way of saying I finally watched Prometheus.

I'm not sure how I feel about this movie. On the one had the visuals were pretty amazing. It also hit a lot of the same notes as in previous instalments in the Alien/Predator franchise. But I don't know, some how it just fell flat.

Warning if you haven’t seen this film then what I'm going to talk about next will probably spoil things for you. You've been warned.

What I did find interesting was the concept of God and the creation of life. So the basic idea here is that the Engineer alien race created humans. Then for some reason they decided that us humans needed to be terminated by some kind of bio-engineered virus. Or maybe the idea was that humans were just stage one of the Engineers plan. Phase two was the introduction of the mutating alien virus. Which begs the question of why they would want to either kill us all or turn us into some kind of new mutant species.

Now were talking about something interesting. Maybe were dealing with a sort of reverse terminator scenario. Maybe the Engineer's were afraid of what humanity might one day do to them. That we had become to violent to control. Maybe Earth was the failure. Like lab rats that served their purpose it was time to put them out of their misery. Maybe there were other Earth like planets that served their purpose better than we could. Maybe we were the cain to this alternate Earths Able.

Or was it that the Engineer race was divided on what to do with us. Maybe this was a rogue group who was out to do some kind of terrorist act versus it's own species. Turn us humans into a bio-weapon to be used against a more powerful political entity in the Engineer's home world.

Or were humans being used as bio-weapons against some far greater enemy. Another alien species even more hell bent on destruction than we humans ever imagined possible.

I guess it also changed my view on what a Creator-God might really mean. Someone who creates just because they can. Some kind of artistic drive for no other purpose then it seemed like a good idea at the time. That maybe, like an abusive parent this God might not be so nurturing and benign to it's creation. If anything it makes me less inclined to believe or have any sort of loyalty to any God/Creator if one did exist.

Ultimately from a gaming perspective it really breaths new life into aliens for me. I've had this idea for some time about having a intergalactic war between a species of aliens and humanity in my Digital Dark Age campaign. The idea of an alien race who has left archaeological traces of existence for mankind to uncover, and whom mankind believes to be extinct, only to return with a vengeance is one that really appeals to me. Prometheus has if anything really sparked my imagination in terms of why and what this war with this returned alien race might mean and be about.

So in the end I guess in some way Prometheus was a success. At least from the point of view that it entertained me, and then let my my reflect on hidden deeper meanings within the film. It sparked my imagination in a way that I had never anticipated. New interesting possibilities lie ahead...           

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Escape From Innsmouth Campaign Outline

So I've been sketching out and searching for some scenarios to round out my Escape From Innsmouth campaign. These would be scenarios that reinforce the monster/investigation of the week slot I have planned. In between these I and the main scenarios from the Escape book I would fit in the more personal level scenarios that feature my individual investigators. Heres my thoughts right now. This is still all up in the air.

The Introduction Scenario
My plan as it stands now is to use the Miskatonic University as a home base. I want to introduce Dr. Armitage as the investigators patron/quest giver. I'm wondering if maybe theres a way via the Dunwich Horror or some other scenario that I could neatly intertwine their fate. The main idea is to provide the springboard that slowly introduces the investigators to the Mythos and thus draws them in to further investigations .

Coming Full Circle (Pagan Publishing)
This is a mini campaign with four non-mythos horror scenarios. It's something I've always wanted to run. It's meant to take place over a decade between 1929-1939. I'm thinking I would change this time period to 1918-1928 in order to fit everything in and wrap it up just before the Raid on Innsmouth scenario which is supposed to take place nominally in February 1928.

More Adventures in Arkham Country (Miskatonic River Press)
In my search for ideas/scenarios I found this collection of scenarios. I've heard good things about this company and their work. In particular there are two scenarios in this book which might be fun to run. The first is “The Hopeful” by Oscar Rios, and the second is “Spare the Rod” by Adam Gauntlett. “The Hopeful” in particular is reputedly a great replacement for the “Crawford Inheritance” in the Escape campaign. Perhaps I can mash the two, or take bits from one or the other.

The Outline
So if we put it all together we have a pretty epic campaign framework. I could see this lasting a good long while. Not sure if thats a good thing or not. It could be a case of me biting off more than I can chew. Or it could lead to the magnum opus that I've always dreamed of running. Heres what we get:

  1. Introduction Scenario (1918)
  2. Cold Spot”, Coming Full Circle (1918)
  3. In-term Period / “Spare the Rod” (1920-1921)
  4. Remains To Be Seen” , Coming Full Circle (1922)
  5. In-term Period / “Crawford Inheritance/The Hopeful” (1923-1924)
  6. The Whitewood Horror” , Coming Full Circle (1925)
  7. In-term Period / “Escape From Innsmouth” (1926-1927)
  8. Full Circle” , Coming Full Circle (1928)
  9. The Raid on Innsmouth” , (Feburary 1928)
  10. Campaign Conclusion   

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Now With More Pac-Man

I just added a new Pac-Man widget to the bottom of the blog. I know how could I deny my readership such a valuable widget for so long ? What kind of self respecting game blog is worthy of the name with out it ! So read the blog, stay for the Pac-Man.Oh Zombiecowboy you crazy!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

I'm Going To Be A Writer

"As things stand now, I am going to be a writer. I'm not sure that I'm going to be a good one or even a self-supporting one, but until the dark thumb of fate presses me to the dust and says "you are nothing", I will be a writer."

-Hunter S. Thompson, Gonzo

Monday, March 18, 2013

Escape From Innsmouth Campaign Planning

I've begun to plan out the Escape from Innsmouth campaign. What follows is sort of a rough plan of my thought process and what I'd like to try and accomplish. I'm the kind of person who sort of needs a visual road map on paper in order to keep things organized and running smoothly. 

The Rules System
I've run a bunch of Call of Cthulhu in the past using the 5.6 edition of the rules. After running Arkham Heat I became really dissatisfied with the way combat played out. I know tons of people feel like this system is the be all and end all and that combat is not the point, but I really want to try something new. So I will be doing a conversion using the NEMESIS rules. I plan to post my conversion notes as well as talk about my feelings on it here as the campaign goes along.

The Campaign Core
The basic core from which my campaign will be built around will be the expanded and revised, second edition of Escape from Innsmouth. This book contains a in depth look at the town, as well as the following scenarios: The Crawford Inheritance, Escape from Innsmouth, of course the Raid on Innsmouth. I will try to run these with an eye towards foreshadowing Delta Green. Of course I will be rereading “The Shadow over Innsmouth” but I will also be rereading “Once more from the top” which is a Delta Green short story that takes place during the Raid.

The Setting
With the Escape book as my core I will expand out from there. I don't want to run a globe trotting campaign. I'm going to keep this thing around Lovecraft country, specifically Arkham. I ran a noir campaign called Arkham Heat a while back. That was a much darker campaign. This time I think I'll make Arkham a little closer to Lovecraft's vision of a quiet university town. If I need a grittier city element I may send the players as far as Boston.

The Home Base
One thing I've learned from running previous campaigns, be that Call of Cthulhu or D&D, it's important to have a home base for your characters. In particular I'm looking for an easy way to bring in new characters in case of death. I've decided that in order to help stimulate the horror I want to evoke in this campaign death needs to be a distinct reality. To that end I can't be afraid to kill off characters. But killing off characters can really screw the campaign if introducing new ones becomes a joke, not to mention the loss of continuity that it can bring with it. In addition, a good home base should provide a spring board for new scenarios/investigations. An idea I've long wanted to try was to centre a campaign around Miskatonic University. The basic idea here would be to have a group based around a team of paranormal investigation researchers run by Dr. Henry Armitage. I'm looking for a semi realistic/plausible team. Less Buffy/Ghostbusters, more Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston as seen in their Pendergast series of novels. This will provide me with an opportunity to slip in Brian Burnham and Dr. Najar and fully realize their NPC potential when they become important to the Escape scenarios.

The Campaign Framework
With all that figured out I sort of need a road map of the plot points I want to hit along the way. This campaign will be a hybrid of prewritten scenarios and stuff I write myself. The way I see it there are three basic types of scenarios:
  1. The main plot point scenarios. 
  2. Investigation/monster of the week scenarios. 
  3. Character story/development scenarios. 
The main plot scenarios
These cover the scenarios important to telling the main story. In this case thats the scenarios found in the Escape campaign book. Of course I may find it necessary to expand on these a little. The idea of this campaign is to run a fleshed out version of Escape. It's the core of this thing after all.

Investigation/monster of the week scenarios
These scenarios are not tied to the main story. I want to stay away from Innsmouth with them. No Deep Ones etc. If everything revolves around Innsmouth the town starts to become familiar and lose it's creepiness. These scenarios are meant as a pallet cleanser. A way of adding verisimilitude to the campaign. These should take no longer than a session to run, two at the most. I don’t plan on adding a lot of these. The basic idea here is a quick investigation into a mystery, weird event, or perhaps stop a monster/serial killer.

Character story/development scenarios
These scenarios are meant as a way of developing and telling the individual stories of the investigators themselves. These will involve how the characters start as regular people and then change as the mythos starts to wreak havoc on their normal lives. The Sarah Connor effect if you will. At minimum I'd like to run at least one of these for each of the players in my group.

So that's where my thoughts are at in terms of running Escape from Innsmouth. Much of this will stem from what kind of investigators the players ultimately decided to make. I figure if I start small with something that begins at the Miskatonic University and then weave my own ideas with that of the players and the Escape campaign I should have something pretty awesome. The ultimate trick will be to keep myself on target and not allow myself to get distracted by anything else.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Do you hear them? Sunken bells... they are tolling for me.

"Abraham Sapien. Do you hear... sunken bells are tolling for thee. Out of caverns of num-yabisc, dark and terrible deep, the ocean is calling her children home."
                                                                                                                 Hellboy: Wake the Devil

My mind works in messed up ways. I chalk it up to my gamer ADD. Recently I purchased some Delta Green PDFs. Delta Green has to be some of the best game lines ever. If I have one criticism its that they take way too long for the stuff to come out. But when they do they are always well worth the wait.

Thinking about Delta Green brings two thoughts to my mind. One, what game system I want to use in running it. Two, The Escape from Innsmouth campaign and my need to run it. Escape was the first Call of Cthulhu campaign I ever played in. Hell, this was the campaign that busted my proverbial gaming cherry.

Theres just something about Escape from Innsmouth that seems like the perfect introduction to a Delta Green campaign. Part of it stems from the raid on the degenerate fishing town. Part of it has to do with that this is the pivotal event that lead to the creation of the Delta Green organization.

Now that I've discovered the NEMESIS rpg, the first question has been answered. But then I felt like I needed a way to test out these new rules. Something that has been tried and tested. Something that I have a solid idea how it should turn out. Which leads me back to Innsmouth.

Which got me thinking about how I would like to run the Escape campaign. I want this to be scary. So one goal I have is to put a real effort into making sure that I can evoke a few moments of horror. To think I can make every session scary is ridiculous. But if I do it right I think I can at least make a couple of sessions creepy.

So how am I going to make it scary ? I've been watching a lot of the Lost television series lately. This show is all about the secrets of the main characters and the island. Good secrets seem to be the lynch pin behind most awesome RPG campaigns too. In a horror/investigation campaign this would seem to be doubly important since you cant rely on that D&D formula of encounters being based more or less on a combat/treasure model. There needs to be more to it. So for this my NPCs and my players investigators are going to need secrets. Horrible secrets. Secrets that reveal themselves slowly over the course of the campaign. Something that creates a building sense of dread and revulsion in both the characters and the players. 

For sure one of the players is going to have a tainted Deep One bloodline. This should be relatively easy to do with "The Crawford Inheritance" scenario found in the book. 

Another idea I had was something inspired by PS2 game Silent Hill 2. Perhaps a loved one, a family member, wife, son, whoever, sends the PC a letter telling them their waiting for them in Innsmouth. But the catch is that person supposedly died sometime ago. Or did they ? Who or what sent the letter ?  Why ? Are they alive ? Are they human, a ghost ? Or is the PC just crazy ? Thats just the start. I dont have too much yet but it's the general direction I wanna go with while I meld the written campaign with my own ideas.

In terms of NPCs there are two that stick out in my mind right now as needing to be developed further. There are spoilers below so if you don't wanna ruin the campaign stop reading now you've been warned.

First is Brian Burnham the young manager of the First National Grocery Store in Innsmouth that disappears and kicks off the investigation of "The Escape From Innsmouth" scenario. I feel like its absolutely critical for the players to have a sympathetic connection with this guy. So I defiantly wanna play up his role. Maybe make him a family member of one of the characters.    

Dr. Ravana Najar is an East Indian parapsychologist  and avatar of Nyarlathotep. He is apart of "The Marsh Mansion Objective" in the "Raid on Innsmouth" scenario and is there to capture Esther Marsh before the investigators can. It's an interesting idea, but it comes straight out of left field. Because of that I feel like it loses the full potential that it could have. 

Lastly I would like to develop some more adventures in between "The Crawford Inheritance" and "The Escape From Innsmouth" scenarios since once "Escape" happens Innsmouth becomes a very difficult if not impossible location for the investigators to be right up until the "Raid" happens. I've read "Before the Fall" but to be honest its in my opinion pretty weak. Who knows maybe a read read is in order.

Anyway thats pretty much where I'm at at this point. More thoughts and ideas to follow.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Righteous Infliction of Links Manifested by an Appropriate Agent

You're always gonna have problems lifting a body in one piece. Apparently the best thing to do is cut up a corpse into six pieces and pile it all together. And when you got your six pieces, you gotta get rid of them, because it's no good leaving it in the deep freeze for your mum to discover, now is it ? The I hear the best thing to do is feed them to pigs. You got to starve the pigs for a few days, then the sight of a chopped-up body will look like curry to a pisshead. You gotta shave the heads of your victims, and pull the teeth out for the sake of the piggies' digestion. You could do this afterwards, of course, but you don't want to go sievin' through pig shit, now do you ? They will go through bone like butter. You need at least sixteen pigs to finish the job in one sitting, so be wary of any man who keeps a pig farm. They will go through a body that weighs 200 pounds in about eight minutes. That means that a single pig can consume two pounds of uncooked flesh every minute. Hence the expression, "as greedy as a pig".                                                   
                                                        -Brick Top (Snatch)

What a bloody brilliant movie Snatch was. Not that the former has anything to do with this post nor the mini review of the NEMESIS rpg that you can read HERE. No what this post is about is me doing you ORE game masters a favour. Below are a bunch of links I thought might prove useful for the NEMESIS system all in one handy dandy place. No thanks needed, thats just how I roll hombres. In particular the links to the character sheets will prove pretty useful since the core rules don't seem to include any. The NEMESIS in a nutshell from the totally rad Swords Against the Outer Dark blog looks like it will also come in pretty handy. If your reading this and you have any additional links let me know and I can add them to the list.

NEMESIS RPG Tools & Links

Friday, March 15, 2013

Innsmouth Porn

By Cribs from deviantART
No word of a lie. I was checking out my Blogger stats and one of the keywords for finding my blog was Innsmouth Porn. Dude. That's just messed up. So I felt obliged to rectify that particular situation. So there you go you filthy pervs. Enjoy your Innsmouth Porn.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

My New Nemesis

Published in 2006, NEMESIS is a generic horror RPG that uses a hybrid of the One Roll Engine (ORE) rules from Godlike, and the Madness Meter from Unknown Armies. Created by Greg Stolze and Dennis Detwiller this 52 page PDF can be Downloaded free of charge HERE.

The rules are an interesting twist on dice rolling mechanics. The One Roll Engine utilizes solely d10s and is designed to provide all the information needed in one roll. Task resolution is done by rolling a dice pool (maximum 10 dice). Dice pools are created by taking the skill you want to use (skills are rated in dice with human average of 1-5) and adding dice from from one of six associated ability scores (the 6 scores are rated in dice with human average of 1-5). Success is determined by making matches. The height and width of your roll determines how successful you are at an action. Width equals how many matching dice you have, hight equals how high those matches are. So for example if you rolled a pool of 8 dice (for example 4 for the Body ability, 4 for Martial Arts skill) and got a 4, 7, 8, 4, 6, 9, 4, 1, your roll would be noted as 3 x 4 or a width of 3 and a height of 4.

The other interesting mechanic is the Madness Meter. This was first seen in the Unknown Armies RPG and functions as a way of tracking a characters mental health. There are four gauges that track: Violence, the Unnatural, Self, and Helplessness. Characters can become hardened to sanity blasting effects or become unstable and descend into madness. I feel like this system helps emulate real life mental trauma better than say the Call of Cthulhu sanity system.

The core mechanic is relatively simple and with additional rules adding layers of complexity. The system itself seems to lend itself to tinkering and seems like they would be able to handle most if not all genres without a problem. While technically there seems to be enough here to run a game and its available free I personally feel like the NEMESIS document is incomplete. It feels like there should be a little more meat on this things bones. A minor thing but I feel it bears mentioning. Lastly these days I find myself more and more of the mind that RPGs should be setting specific as opposed to being generic. Again just an opinion. Lastly there is a Call of Cthulhu/Godlike Conversion Document available for download that would work well as a guide for converting the massive back catalog of Chaosium material out there.

Final thoughts. This seems like a very cool system. I feel like it captures that line between the crunch and rules light system I'm looking for. I defiantly wanna tinker around with the rules a bit and see what I can do with them. In particular I think they would make a great replacement in a Call of Cthulhu campaign.    

Friday, March 8, 2013

My Lovecraftian Menstrual Cycle

I've been on a Cthulhu kick lately. This seems to happen on a regular basis. I seem to suffer from some kind of horrid Lovecraftian menstrual cycle. When it hits me I feel a crawling in my gut, a cold shrivelling of my balls as they retract inside me, and a feverish hammering in my head that threatens to tear the womb of my imagination apart, and bleed horrible half-formed mutant ideas on the floor. These ideas reek of rotten fish and non-euclidean geometrical dimensions, slick with the after birth of knowledge mankind was not meant to know...

Gross. I know. Being me is hard.

This most recent bout was brought on when I made a few RPG purchases at my favourite PDF one stop shop Drive Thru RPG. I picked up from ARC Dream Publishing:

Now my mind is on fire with ideas that I would like to share in the coming days in the form of sperated blog posts. So what can you readers expect ?

First up Delta Green. I'd like to do a review on each of the PDFs DG:Targets of Opportunity, and DG:Eyes Only. Secondly I had some thoughts and ideas on how I would go about setting up a Delta Green campaign.

Secondly I wanted to write about Call of Cthulhu and the Escape from Innsmouth campaign. Why and what does this have to do with anything aside from being Lovecraftian ? Well I'll get into that in it's own blog post. The short answer is that because Delta Green has it's origins in the Raid on Innsmouth. Whenever I think of running Delta Green my thoughts invariably come back to Escape from Innsmouth. Now I have some ideas on how I would like to run this and things I would do to make this a totally awesome and memorable campaign.

Lastly the NEMESIS rpg (A.K.A the horror version of the one roll engine game system, or Dark ORE). The system is free and I'll let you know what I think of it, and how/why I plan on using it in the future. I will also cover horror roleplaying in general, my experiences with the genre in the past and what I'd like to experiment with in the future.

The ultimate goal here is to provide other GMs with ideas that they could use to run there own games, and provide some useful information. Some of this is me trying to document some experimental ideas I want to try out. All in all I have a good 3 to 6 blog posts lined up here that should be useful to others as opposed to me talking out of my ass here for the sake of hearing my own voice.

In the mean time pass the Elder Sign strength Midol. I'm feeling another wave of cramps coming on of the Shub-Niggurath, Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young variety.