Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Umberwell: Azurites, Centaurs, Changelings

More races that populate Umberwell.

Naratet, the homeland of the scholarly azurites, was decimated in the crossfire of the War of Blue Orchids. Tall, slender, and blue-skinned, the azurites are a dispassionate people with minds made for calculation. Many find their lack of affect off-putting, but their extreme rationality has made them invaluable as artificers working for the Ministry of Wands, librarians cataloging the books of the Libris Rex, and teachers or tutors of the children of the city’s elite.

Although many areas of Umberwell were not constructed with the accessibility of its four-legged citizens in mind, the rare centaurs who live in Umberwell tend to work for the Ministry of Arrowheads as park rangers and custodians of wildlife preserves.

The origin of the identity-stealing changelings is shrouded in mystery, but the most persistent rumor holds that they are the result of a joint project between the Ministry of Wands and the Ministry of Stilettos to create the perfect spy on behalf of the city-state. As a “new” race with an inherent predilection for inhabiting and discarding personas, individual changelings often struggle with their sense of self.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Jules de Grandin, Occult Detective

At the time when they were published, Seabury Quinn's stories for Weird Tales were among the publication's most popular titles, but today, his name has been eclipsed by his contemporaries H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. In this episode, Kate and Jack explore Quinn's work by discussing his tales of the extremely French occult detective Jules de Grandin.

Is possession by the ghosts of evil knights the fastest way to artistic success? How effective is punching evil right in the goddamn face? Can we ever hope to tell if the real villain is an honest-to-goodness were-gorilla or just a bunch of Germans in masks? Find out the answers to these questions plus much more in this mini episode of Bad Books for Bad People.

BBfBP theme song by True Creature

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Sunday, September 16, 2018

September's Horror - Week Two

In the run-up to October I'm trying to watch a horror movie every day. Here's what I've managed to watch in week two:

September 8 - Ms. 45
Rape-revenge movies are generally uninteresting and derivative, but Ms. 45 possesses a strange feeling of magical realism (or perhaps urban fairy tale) that elevates it head-and-shoulders above other similar offerings.

Sept. 9 - The Killing of a Sacred Deer
This one has me bewildered. The purposefully stilted acting and inhuman dialog should illicit an automatic groan from me, but somehow this one defies its pretensions. But did I like it? No, not really.

Sept. 10 - The Lodgers
This had many of the things I'm a sucker for: Gothic horror, creaky haunted mansions, and deep-cut Irish history lurking in the background.

Sept. 11 - It Comes At Night
It Comes at Night is like an episode of The Walking Dead they forgot to put the zombies in.

Sept. 12 - Mausoleum
I love that the husband only begins to believe that his wife is possessed when she brings home a painting that is ~too surreal~

Sept. 13 - The Evil Within
A friend summed this one up better than I ever could: "Intensely weird entirely non-engaging."

Sept. 14 - Evilspeak
Carrie but with boys, and also with nothing that made Carrie interesting.

Sept. 15 - Angelica
While not perfect (dodgy cgi, dodgy merkin), this marriage of Henry James and Henrik Ibsen serves up psycho-sexual Gothic in Victorian garb. Not really horror, but I too favorable to the other elements of this to judge it on that merit alone.


Castle Rock
The only way the ending could have been more disappointing was if it were ~all a dream~

The Secret of Crickley Hall
Decent, but bland, supernatural thriller that needed more Gothic to really shine at what it was trying to do.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Vampire Hunter D: Raiser of Gales

Hideyuki Kikuchi and Yoshitaka Amano, Vampire Hunter D: Raiser of Gales
I was still hungry from more Vampire Hunter after watching the two movies, and forgot (again) that the tone of the light novels is radically different from their animated counterparts. I'm not sure how much of this difference is the work of translation or present in the original, but it's safe to say that everybody in these books wants the D. All women find D mysterious and irresistible. There is a scene where schoolgirls openly lust after the vampire hunter. There are tons of moments where the men in the book are all "no homo, but I guess I'd fuqq." Even the authorial voice tries to suck D's dick; he's described variously as an "Adonis" or a "gorgeous god of death."

All of that gives Raiser of Gales a very googly-eyed teenagers-in-heat sort of vibe, which would fit the imagined audience for a light novel, but plays strangely against the book's grotty content; threats of rape are pretty common in Raiser of Gales, and the sexual abuse of a minor by trusted adults rears it's head as a plot point--as does a scene in which a character is orally raped by her adopted father. Of course, our heroine gets through the horrific ordeal by day-dreaming about D. She literally lies back and thinks of England D. These books are fuckin' wild.

The whiplash juxtaposition of overheated fantasy reverie and stark grittiness permeates the book as a whole. The action scenes are breathless four-color affairs, but Amano's illustrations grant them an emotional weight missing from the text itself. The writing dashes around madly--the sex scenes, in particular, feel like a virgin's rush to the finish line--but occasionally a truly poetic sentiment emerges out of nowhere, blindsiding what is otherwise a pretty trashy narrative style. The world-building is more implicit than explicit, and it's compelling: the world is far-future post apocalypse where ancient vampires have space-age technology and tamper with the genetic fabric of life itself. And yet, that world-building is essentially just a backdrop for D to do real cool shit. (FACT: Vampire Hunter D is the Mary-est of Mary Sues.) In the end, the book's convolutions don't add up to much, but hot damn I can't wait to waste a couple hours reading another one in the series.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The House of Draghul

The House of Draghul
A faction in Krevborna

The House of Draghul is a family of Lamashtuan nobles whose bloodline stretches back to a royal line of ancient Lilitu. The heads of the family are vampires; the lesser members of the family often aspire to undeath.

Our blood is eternal.

    • The noble houses of Lamashtu are the rightful rulers of all Krevborna, and the House of Draghul should reign over all.
    • Commoners owe their betters fealty.
    • Vampirism must be reserved for the most worthy of the bloodline; it is a laurel to be given as a reward for serving the House of Draghul’s interests.

    • Prove the superiority of the House in combat and bring honor to family by excelling at the sorcerous arts.
    • Support Countess Alcesta until such a time as she can be deposed—with the House of Draghul taking her place.

* * *

The House of Draghul is a faction created by one of the players in my Krevborna campaign that their character belongs to. Here's a bit about their character:

Lady Anastasia Draghul, Lamashtuan eldritch knight fighter, noble background
Anastasia was raised to be a warrior fighting for the honor of House Draghul, but she harbors doubts about her family's desire to conquer and rule.

(To give the "human" members of House Draghul a mechanical emphasis on their unnatural bloodline, we used the rules for the githyanki race to flavor their connection to Lilitu. A rival Lamashtuan noble family, House Myrkalla, will be using the rules for githzerai.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Church of Radiant Hope, Risen Temple, Vidna Obscura

I've written previously about the goddesses of the People's Covenant before (here and here), but what do the various faiths that coalesce around them look like?

The Church of Radiant Hope 
The faithful who worship Eska and Verasti at the Church of Radiant Hope see them as emblems of divine optimism. Even after the darkest night, they reason, the sun always re-emerges and spreads its warmth and light across the land. Some adherents of this sect become fanatical in their belief in the triumph of better days over bad; a secretive group of zealots within the Church of Radiant Hope orchestrate disasters within their communities for the purpose of showing the glory of people coming together in the aftermath of a horrible tragedy.

The Risen Temple
The congregation of the Risen Temple reveres Komoa as the Divine Lady of Nepotism. They believe that personal advancement—political, economic, and even spiritual—can only be granted by one placed farther upon the ladder of success. As such, they deliver themselves into bondage to the wealthy, the powerful, and the elite in hopes that their acts of service will ultimately be rewarded with greater influence and eventual positions of authority. In their eyes, it is better to be a useful tool that is polished and well-kept than it is strive to find a use for yourself in an already stratified world.

The Vidna Obscura
This sect worships Orthea as the guiding light of a navigable cosmic mystery. They believe that Orthea doles out esoteric knowledge about the purpose of the multiverse and divine inspiration to those willing to devote their lives to chasing and collecting obscure, occult lore. The faithful of the Vidna Obscura are divided: some believe that apotheosis is the end result of accumulating sacred learning, while others believe that the pursuit of knowledge itself is a form of spiritual rebirth.