Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Sinister Science Seeds

At the suggestion of Huth I have created a number of hooks for investigative/horror games based on 1950s sci fi and horror movies.


1950
  • Reports of flying saucers in a remote area of the country attract government officials, but the intelligence behind the saucers may not be "otherworldly" at all (The Flying Saucer)
  • A government investigation into piracy leads to an island dominated by life from another epoch (Two Lost Worlds)
1951
  • Scientists observing a mysterious body passing through our solar system believe an intelligence from it has landed in a remote location on Earth.  This intelligence must be apprehended, and interrogated! (The Man from Planet X)
  • Strange substances found in the South American jungle awaken alien parts of a white overseer's genome (Bride of the Gorilla)
  • A group of arctic researchers and military personnel uncover a spaceship and the entity it contained (The Thing from Another World)
  • A cosmic object is on a collision course with our solar system and threatens to wreck havoc.  Experts must work to prevent the disaster or to otherwise ensure the survival of humanity. (When Worlds Collide)
1952
  • Strange extraterrestrial transmissions seem to be coming from intelligent life.  Is it a hoax or a genuine alien?  Either way it could throw the world order into chaos. (Red Planet Mars)
  • One of a number of lost airman is recovered, raving about a strange civilization unknown to man. (Untamed Women)
1953
  • Investigators attempting to stop an alien plot find their inquiries blocked by the police.  Could this be the result of mind control? (Invaders from Mars).
  • Freed from its body, the brain of a sinister madman find it has new and terrible powers. (Donovan's Brain)
  • Atomic testing awakens a creature not seen in millions of years.  The creature begins a rampage through mankind's greatest cities. (The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms)
  • Investigators learn mankind may be the true threat when they must decide what to do with the discovery of a benign group of extraterrestrials. (It Came from Outer Space)
  • Astronauts threaten the Earth after being mind-controlled by extraterrestrial entities discovered while on a mission. (Cat Women of the Moon)
  • Investigators awake to find that they are the last survivors of humanity and that the automated engine of man's destruction is seeking them out. (The Robot Monster)
  • An unintelligent but seemingly monstrous phenomenon baffles scientists and threatens lives as it seeks to engulf a town (The Magnetic Monster)
1954
  • An expedition into the remote wilds of the Amazon discovers a monster whose biology is completely inimical to human science. (Creature from the Black Lagoon)
  • The bottom of the ocean may hold more terrible creatures than the farthest stars, especially when they decide to attack those on land. (Monster from the Ocean Floor)
  • A mad scientist uses advanced (perhaps extraterrestrial) technology to create towering robot monsters. (Gog)
  • Scientific experiments create horrendous monsters out of normal earthly creatures. (Them!)
  • Aliens secretly encourage human exploration into science in the hopes that the resulting monsters will wipe out mankind. (Killers from Space)
1955
  • An alien intelligence extends its hive mind to the animals and then humans of a small, isolated town. (The Beast with A Million Eyes)
  • A criminal organization uses a scientist to create technology to aid in their crimes - including immortal zombies. (Creature with the Atom Brain)
  • An astronaut returns to Earth infected with an alien organism that threatens the whole of humanity. (The Quatermass Xperiment)
  • An attempt to put an inhuman monster on display ends disastrously when the creature is freed and terrorize the area. (Revenge of the Creature)
  • A think-tank of scientists and politicians turns out to be a front for an alien conspiracy. (This Island Earth).
1956

  • A mad doctor creates mutilated horrors out of human test subjects in order to better understand the nature of the body and the mind. (The Black Sleep)
  • A mad dictator uses super-science to engineer his people into the perfect subjects. (The Gamma People)
  • An alien invasion replaces people with identical replicas. (Invasion of the Body Snatchers)
  • Explorers discover a subterranean civilization similar to a lost empire, but adapted to its fantastical surroundings. (The Mole People).
  • Mysterious deaths in a mining community are the product of creatures awakened by nearby atomic testing. (Rodan)
1957

  • An alien entity seeking to make contact with Earth comes from such an unearthly environment that its physical presence is poisonous to humans. (The Astounding She-Monster)
  • Creatures created by atomic testing absorb the memories and intelligences of those they devour, allowing them to plan a world-wide empire. (Attack of the Crab Monsters).
  • An alien renegade uses its powers to help it control humans in a remote town but is soon pursued by an alien of the same species that seeks justice. (The Brain from Planet Arous)
  • A strange substance brought to Earth by a meteorite threatens to destroy a small town as it replicates incessantly. (The Monolith Monsters)
  • A creature terrorizing an isolated village in a remote part of the world is actually a normal insect that was exposed do strange radiation when NASA shot it into space. (Monster from Green Hell)
  • A group of seemingly-human like aliens attempt to take over the world with an advanced robot. (The Mysterians)
  • An alien's mutilation of Earth creatures (including humans) is actually its attempt to find a cure for a terrible blood disease ravaging its home planet. (Not of this Earth)
  • A man is turned into the living embodiment of a monster from folklore after conducting experiments on himself using animal blood. (The Vampire)
1958

  • An organism deposited by a meteorite may hold the clues to early life on this planet, but the conditions now are such that the creature grows exponentially and becomes dangerous to humans. (The Blob)
  • A sinister scientist uses advanced hypnotherapy to turn those seeking treatment into mindless slaves. (The Electronic Monster)
  • A scientist's experiment turns him into a half-man half-monster and relegates his intelligence to a place incapable of dealing with his new form. (The Fly)
  • An alien entity seeking to sabotage mankind's scientific advancement takes possession of human children. (The Space Children)
  • A mysterious fog in a remote area is actually the portal to another world, and it unleashes a terrifying monster. (The Crawling Eye)
  • Radiation gives a man strange powers that he turns towards crime and violence. (The H-Man)
  • The strange behavior exhibited by a number of townsfolk may be evidence that they have been replaced by alien entities. (I Married a Monster from Outer Space)
  • Experiments into ESP, telekinesis, and atomic radiation go awry, creating a thought-creature hungry for human brains. (Fiend Without a Face)
1959

  • A scientists experiments on himself allow him to access other dimensions.  At first he uses this for self-advancement (and even criminal pursuits) but soon realizes it has a horrible toll on his body and mind. (4D Man)
  • A sink hole in Florida reveals that ancient monsters aren't just found in far flung locations. (Attack of the Giant Leeches)
  • Invaders from another planet seek to conquer Earth using their power to make items invisible to the human eye. (The Invisible Invaders)
  • A doctor seeking to end world hunger accidentally makes a group of giant, ravenous shrews.  (The Killer Shrews)
  • A scientist unlocks the secret to eternal life, but it requires him to take the brain tissue from living subjects. (The Man Who Could Cheat Death)
  • Aliens take on the form of adolescent humans to hopefully catch human authorities with their pants down. (Teenagers from Outer Space)
  • An attempt to arrest the aging process turns a woman into a hybrid insect creature. (The Wasp Woman)
Here's a bonus one from 1963, since Blue Oyster Cult wrongly thinks its from the '50s.
  • A scientist's experiments with vision allow him to see things normally outside the human possibility space.  What he sees causes misery and madness. (X: The Man with X-ray Eyes)

Monday, July 23, 2018

Unfocused Thoughts on Karse

Normally I do these posts for something I haven't developed as much as I have Karse, which I've posted about a few times, but I want to nail down some of the bigger picture stuff and think about how I would actually run it.

The name, I should note, comes from taking Sark and Gygaxifying it.  After hearing it said "Cars" by a number of blog readers I play online games with, I added the E to make it clear it rhymes with arse.  Apparently there is a place in the Forgotten Realms called that, but I haven't thought of a better name yet.


  • Karse is made up of a set of islands - a largish main island shaped like southern Britain, smaller islands that are like a split off version of Wales and Cornwall, and an archipelago like the Heberdies stuck at the top.
  • The main island is home to a fair number of towns and one city - the capital of Nindle.
  • The area between these towns is sparsely populated moors and marsh or the occasional greenwood. 
  • These between-spaces are the haunts of giants (leftovers from the first race to live on the islands), fairies and elves (the second race), the undead, and vicious bandits.
  • In a crater lake north of Nindle there sits an island.  On that island are the ruins of Llamalot, the capital of Rutha the Unconquered who united the peoples of Karse long ago.  This acts as a large dungeon/ruincrawl for those who like that sort of game.
  • Travel between towns is fraught even in the day time.  Visibility is rough due to the almost ever present mist which is only occasionally banished by the Sun, whose glare then blinds the Karslish eye unused to its presence. 
  • The most famous giant roams the remains of the road between Nindle and the ruins of Llamalot.  His name is Headless Jack.  Once he had two heads, but Brutus, the son (or maybe father?) of Rutha took off one of the heads and now he roams the countryside mourning the loss of it.  If you hear his cries come from across the moors you'll get the shits.
  • The idea, in case it was not clear before now, is to create a kind of spooky/miserable setting based on British folklore, folk songs, Arthurian Myth, Celtic Mythology, and filtering that through the World of Nightwick as already established.
  • Other monsters include fomorians, linworms, nuckalavees, and any number of other British or Irish bugaboos.
  • Social class would play a big part in town - where the gulf between the nobles and the peasantry is vast - but very little part in the misty wastes between them.
  • Brian Froud and Alan Lee are major visual influences but you kinda have to imagine them with meth mouth.  The over all effect, I hope, will be something like a mix of Excalibur, Jabberwocky, and Hammer Horror.
  • I'm not sure if I would use some version of D&D for this (either OSD&D or 5e) or some WFRP derivative, given the tone.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Wounds and Criticals in WFRP

That goblin is feeling it.

I am what is know in horror movie circles as a gorehound.  During some theater-going experiences it has taken all my willpower to not throw up the horns and scream "Rad!" at the display of human viscera.  Spewing blood, glistening intestines, and swinging limbs - I like it all.*

Naturally this propensity has made it into my refereeing.  Nightwick's rooms are often blood-spattered abattoirs and enemies often fly apart like the clay and goo effects of Evil Dead.  In the early days of my DMing the PCs were just as likely as the monsters to be described as walmart bags full of blood and wet chicken parts.  This led to my having a reputation as a killer DM even more than I do now.

That was until what remains either my first or second favorite rpg: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (2nd edition).** In WFRP (1e and 2e anyway) instead of hit points you have Wounds (which are basically hit points but their name is taken from the wargame rules).  When a character runs out of Wounds, they do not die as they would in OSD&D, but instead they go to something like a OSR Death & Dismemberment table.  These are called critical hits.

It is a bit more detailed than a typical Death & Dismemberment table, with hit location mattering (though usually only for crits) and some optional tables differentiating results based on the type of weapon used.  This is maybe a bit much for many refs, but I found reading off the hideously detailed descriptions of evisceration very appealing.

Another difference between a WFRP critical and a Death & Dismemberment table result is that the character could very easily still be alive and capable of taking actions, though at a penalty.  A character who has had their knuckles jammed can push on if they feel brave enough, but may end up losing a leg or dying of gut rot.

This is an obvious inference from what I've already said, but I think it bears reinforcing: WFRP crits were not like D&D crits.  They did not happen on a special die result, they happened when you ran out of wounds.  They were a buffer between the character and death, but they were a buffer that allowed me to revel in spilled blood.  The characters no longer had to die to satiate my desire for gore; in fact, the means by which I got to describe the gore usually meant the PCs were alive longer.

For a lot of you this may be common knowledge - though I know from various G+ conversations that their role as a buffer is often lost on people. I bring all this up because of my disappointment with the modern inheritors of WFRP.  Zweihander has exchanged this beautiful system for one that is much more like the damage track in d6 star wars and having special wounds occur on special rolls.  This makes combat in that game more dangerous than it would be in old school WFRP.  A preview of Cubicle 7's upcoming edition, which I had been looking forward to, states that

"Critical hits are a staple of WFRP, and in Fourth Edition occur on especially successful blows, as indicated by the roll of a double. In addition to extra damage and special wounds, critical hits can inflict a variety of Conditions that change the way combat works for those who receive them."

To my mind, that misses a lot of what made the original system good, and when combined with the weird meta resource of "advantage" it looks like I'll be sticking to 2e for any adventures I want to have in the Old World.

One last thing: There's a kickstarter where I'm a stretch goal. 



*I suppose I am not one for scenes of torture, preferring instead the explosion of sudden violence.

**One of my players in my first WFRP campaign said that "[I had] been waiting for the system my whole life" in order to express his view that WFRP fit me like a glove.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

5e Froglings


Froglings are frogs that walk and speak in the manner of men.  They are short, only about 4' in height on average, and range between thin and stout.  Froglings make their home in a distant, marshy country known as Hoppland; however, they are found throughout the World of Nightwick as brewers, merchants, and adventurers.  Their skin ranges between slick and bumpy, and is usually a dull green or brown - though more exotic colors and patterns are not unheard of.  They favor flamboyant clothing and jewelry in garish colors.

Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity increases by 2 and your Constitution score increases by 1.

Age. Froglings reach maturity by age 10 and live to be as old as 60.


Alignment.  Most Froglings are neutral, caring more about profit and hedonism than the fight between good and evil.  In worlds with the full nine point alignment they sometimes tend towards Law, because of their belief in personal honor, but often still seem capricious and madcap to the other races.


Wary. You have proficiency in the perception skill.


Size. Froglings grow between 3' and 4'.  Your size is considered small.


Speed. Your have a walk, climb, and swim speed of 25'.


Amphibious.  You may breath both air and water.


Resilience. You receive advantage on saving throws made against poison and disease.


Standing Leap. You may long jump 25 feet and high jump 15 feet from a standstill.


Water Dependency. If you are unable to immerse yourself in water for at least 1 hour a day, you suffer one level of exhaustion.  You may only recover from this exhaustion through magic or by being immersed in water.


Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Croakish. You may speak the language of Bullywugs.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Unfocused Thoughts on the Fyrdlands

For a bunch of reasons I don't want to get into I wrote a new setting that would allow me to hand someone the PHB and make a character without my telling them X or Y thing was off limits.  It started out as a C&C project but quickly became a 5e one for more reasons.

Anyway here's some stuff to know about it and to help me crystallize some of the ideas in my head.



  • The Fyrdlands is a coldish border region north of the Realm of Man.  It was previously colonized by some humans who wanted to escape the Realm of Man but now the Realm has begun to push into the region itself.
  • The area lies on the southern border of what was once the land of a powerful entity referred to primarily as the Prime Evil but also as the Dark Enemy and the Shadow.  He was destroyed long ago but many of his lieutenants and evil spawn remain.
  • Some of the most famous of these surviving "lieutenants" are Elemental Evils, which some ancient texts believe only came about when the Prime Evil was destroyed.
  • There may be other big-time lieutenants (Vecna maybe?) who have quasi-god like powers.
  • There are also the races he created: Goblins (from Dwarves), Hobgoblins (from Elves), and Orcs (from Men).
  • Some evil wizards have used the work the Prime Evil did to create their own monsters, such as the Dragonborn which may only be chromatic due to their being an evil experiment (though their personal alignment is up to them).
  • Elves and Dwarves lived in peace for a time but warred because the Dwarves supposedly did not actively help in defeating the Prime Evil.  Both those races dwindled and it allowed for the servants of the old Enemy to return, filling the Fyrdlands with goblins and orcs again.
  • Tieflings are the descendants of Men who chose to side with the Prime Evil.  They founded a strange culture known as the Nations of Night which flourished sometime before the birth of the Realm of Man and ruled the goblinoids of the Fyrdlands through governors.
  • The Nations of Night collapsed for reasons unknown to Realmish folk.
  • The original wave of Realmish settlers (actually fleeing the Realm) came a few hundred years ago.
  • The PCs are assumed to have arrived in a Realmish settlement from the direction of the Realm.
  • Some new evil is stirring in the wilderness in the area causing orcs and goblins to return and breathing out fresh horrors.
  • The local town (which I think I need to rename) is ruled by a Marques (who also needs to be renamed).  He generally would like to control the old settlements as well.
  • The chief religion is the Unconqured Sun who, in addition to having other divine aspects, allows for the worship of smaller gods.
  • Many of the setting elements not present here will be stolen from the Jennell Jaquays penned Forgotten Realms supplement "The Savage Frontier," which is a book I think is phenomenal attached to a setting I basically hate.
That's probably enough for now, though this one might need multiple posts.


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Unfocused Thoughts on the 5th Millennium


A Traveller thing I've been working on to fight the Blues.

  • It's a homebrew Traveller setting that keeps as many of the assumed setting elements of Traveller as possible.
  • I'm keeping the name "Imperium" but it is not set in the "Third Imperium."
  • The overall political situation of the Imperium in the 5th Millenium is not unlike the Roman Empire during the Crisis of the Third Century.  The imperial throne is contested (and most people in the further provinces of the Imperium don't even know who the candidates are) and large swathes of territory are becoming de facto independent.
  • There are also parallels to later Roman history - for example, Terra has been "sacked' by human and alien "barbarians," but since it is no longer the Throneworld its relevance is mostly psychological.
  • Play will focus on the Zenobia sector, which lies close to (on?) the border with [Click] Space.  It is normally ruled by a Warduke, but due to the confusion about the emperors there are currently two Wardukes in the sector gearing up for war.
  • I'll be using the aliens from the Directorate setting I made because I like them and don't really have a good sense of what the OTU aliens are like.
  • The players will start in the only subsector I've developed so far, Palmyra.  Here's a map:

  • The Palmyra subsector is at the heart of the dispute between the two Wardukes.  Warduke Ignatius Casso has built a powerful defensive line at the capital of Palmyra and the planets of Hannibal and Sinbad.  His rival's primary toehold in this subsector is Al-Mahdi
  • In addition to the the looming presence of the [Click] (subbing in for Sassanids) and the two Wardukes threatening to war with each other, the region also holds a large number of ruins of an ancient alien empire. 
  • The [Click] claim to be the successors to this empire, but archaeological records clearly show it was ruled by a different species.
  • I'm using Mongoose Traveller (1st edition) because it's the one I have and I like it.
  • I'm not sure I'll actually keep the time as the "5th Millennium" because it seems too distant from our time for a lot of the references in the planet names. 
  • However, the far off date allows me to explain some of the clunky technology of Traveller.  Progress is a myth.
  • One thing I want to establish very clearly is that there is no FTL communication.  If you want news from another planet you need to get it from a free trader who has been there recently.
That's more or less what I've got for now.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Nightwick News Catch Up

My Nightwick players have been so busy with things in the dungeon that I have neglected the news for several months (since January!).  Here is a short summary of the major events that transpired while they were more interested in uncovering the secrets of the dungeon...

A Map of the Dark Country

In March of this year (1393), an Inquisitor from the Realm of Man arrived to investigate certain rumors that surround Bishop Notker the Unshaven and the death of Arn, son of Arnawald of Waldheim.  A short month into his investigation, the inquisitor was himself killed.  Now a new inquisitor has arrived and displaced the bishop from his palace until the matter can be resolved.

Meanwhile Baltzer the Bold, Lord of Blackleg since the death of Arn and Bishop Notker's Man, married Arn's wife to protect her from further depredations.  Unfortunately, she died tragically in a riding accident during torrential rain in May.  After what he felt was a suitable grieving time, he has announced he will be married this month to a young noblewoman from Nunshead.