Monday, July 24, 2017

The Final Programme

Michael Moorcock is one of the most influential science fiction and fantasy authors of the latter half of the 20th Century. Chief among his contributions to speculative fiction is the creation of the Eternal Champion, a hero "doomed" to save the world. One such manifestation of the Eternal Champion is Jerry Cornelius, the central character of The Final Programme, a book deemed too psychedelic for publication in 1965 but finally unleashed upon the world in 1968. Jerry gets wrapped up in a wild scheme concocted by sinister computer scientist Miss Brunner to steal documents created by his dead scientist father from the clutches of his drug-maddened brother Frank. What starts as a heist story quickly reveals itself to be something far more bizarre.

How do ultra-decadence and flashy modernity mix? Which is more exciting: World Ice Theory or radical gender fluidity? Where does pro wrestling fit into all of this? Is Michael Moorcock a time-traveling wizard? Find out the answers to all this and more in this month's episode of Bad Books for Bad People.

Intro/Outro music: "Christ You Bring the End" by Sabbath Assembly

Find us at, on Twitter @badbooksbadppl, Instagram @badbooksbadpeople and on Facebook. You can discover where to get all the books featured on Bad Books for Bad People on our reading list.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Witch's Guest

† Interview with a Vampire soundtrack - Theatre des Vampires †
† Penny Dreadful soundtrack - Mother of Evil †
† Sleepy Hollow soundtrack - Into the Woods/The Witch †
† From Hell soundtrack - Death Coach †
† The Wolfman soundtrack - The Funeral †
† Van Helsing soundtrack - Attacking Brides †
† Dracula soundtrack - Vampire Hunters †
† The Village soundtrack - It is Not Real †

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Rise of the Forgotten Fangs

Campaign: The Forgotten Fangs (Scarabae, 5e D&D)

- Kaldwyn Nessilnor, half-elf sorcerer
- "King" Rance, cactusoid fighter
- Nestor, shadar-kai wizard
- Bellwether Hooks, human rogue
- Ambrose Lynch, human ranger

Objective: Steal Bargle's stash of opium and cocaine from the Mentzer Distillery.

Events: There's a new gang in the Toiler's Ditch area of Scarabae: The Forgotten Fangs. The Fangs' leadership is comprised of Kaldwyn Nessilnor, the nominal brains of the operation--a disowned son of an elf shipping magnate; "King" Rance, the gang's muscle--he claims that in his home country he was king until he was ousted by a coup; Nestor, the group's schemer--he's an acolyte in a horrible Cthulhu-worshiping cult; Bellwether Hooks--she says she's a society lady, but her accent and skill with lock picks say otherwise; Ambrose Lynch--a traumatized former soldier. 

The Forgotten Fangs want to enter into the local drug trade in a big way, but that niche is already filled by dealers working for Bargle the Infamous, an intoxicant-peddling wizard who is the current drug tsar of the district. Rather than take on his dealers in the streets and fight for territory, the Fangs decide to move in on Bargle's supply. 

Greasing the right palms in Toiler's Ditch gives them a lead: Bargle is storing his wares in the old Mentzer Distillery, a disused booze-yard at the edge of the ward. The locals who aren't on Bargle's payroll and aren't addicts are only too eager to help; it turns out that Bargle was responsible for the murder of a much-loved local cleric who always gave alms to the poor. The upstanding citizens of Toiler's Ditch would love for the wizard to get some comeuppance for that.

The Forgotten Fangs make their move at night. The sentry at the distillery's back door, a bugbear thug with a pet wolf, is taken out quickly and quietly. Inside, things are quiet. Too quiet. Disturbingly quiet. Where are all of Bargle's henchmen? Who is guarding the stash?

Opposition first comes in the way of a group of skeletons that Bargle had animated to scare off any trespassers. The Fangs manage o bottleneck themselves in a narrow hallway; Bellwether furiously tries to pick a lock so the gang might make their stand under better circumstances while the group's scrappers hold off their undead assailants. They make a hash of it, honestly.

Things get even worse when the gang is ambushed by Bargle's trained darkmantles. The darkmantles cut the lights, then begin to pick off each member of the Forgotten Fangs one by one, knocking them unconscious. When the Fangs awaken, the snickering, goatee'd Bargle is standing over them. He has an offer they can't refuse.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Bewildering Attitudes I Have Encountered in the Wild (part 8 of don't go away mad just go away)

  • This adventure is not a true sandbox because it fails to detail every possible place on the planet/multiverse that the players could choose to go to. What a railroad!
  • I am really mad that my gaming group wants to play D&D instead of this game that they find less fun.
  • It's problematic that players have to wait until 3rd level to get some of their big abilities! (Do you give 1st level characters access to 9th level spells?) No! Players should have to work for new abilities!!
  • The people in my small niche of the hobby are the only creative ones! We deserve awards and mentions in history books. And if we don't get them, we'll give ourselves awards!
  • When I ask who is doing interesting game design what I am really asking you to do is draw a circle around me and my friends.
  • I've created a revolutionary new mechanic. I'm calling it a "dice pool."

      Wednesday, July 19, 2017

      Into the Tomb of Lornegreene

      art by Fnautic
      Excerpted from the diary of Cassie Mabcrowe, teenage warlock currently adventuring in Wampus Country:

      Dear Diary,

      I come from a land of nightmarish horrors, but Wampus Country manages to be unnerving in hitherto untold and unimaginable ways. I found myself in Thistlemarch with a odd assortment of fellow travelers, being offered employment by a talking duck! Can you imagine such a thing? If only my employer knew how delicious he would be considered in my homeland. In any event, the duck was willing to outfit us for an expedition to explore (and apparently rob) the tomb of some ancient king I've never heard of. So off we went.

      We found ourselves in a canyon, but the desolate place was not uninhabited. A tribe of barbarians whose totem is the Black Eagle had made their camp below. One of our number, a maniac named Soq, crept down to their encampment of yurts and...set fire to their dwellings. Dear Diary, I have begun to suspect that my companions on this journey are madmen. 

      The barbarians came out of their yurts and put out the fire, so this seemed like as good a time as any to approach them and signal that we mean no harm. I bluffed their leader by claiming that we spotted the fire and came to aid them; I patted my satchel of herbs and surgeon's tools and inquired if any of them required aid. A little false deference to their "noble savagery" and protestations of rural kinship went a long way. We discovered that their shaman had disappeared down a mysterious hole and had not yet returned. The Black Eagle warriors seemed to fear the worst, but also not really care if their shaman made it back or not.

      We began to ascend a weird, pillared platform so we might descend down into the aforementioned hole when we were attacked by a gaggle of...murder blankets. I blasted one into oblivion and felt the invigorating thrill of bringing death into the world. (Jezamine, my diabolic tempter, smiled with delight at this wanton viciousness.) But then my face was engulfed by one of the carpets. One of my compatriots graciously cut the thing off of my face before I was smothered. It tasted like a babushka's afghan. 

      Down into the hole, which now appeared to be the entrance to a sunken tower. We found a trail of blood that led us to where the Black Eagle shaman and his fellows were hiding from sand creatures that we never saw. One of the shaman's companions was badly injured, but my divine gift kept him on this side of the Black Door. (Evelyn, my guardian angel, smiled beatifically at this act of kindness.) I also got to show these primitives what a little book learning can do; I used my surgical implements and midwifery to expertly amputate what remained of the wounded man's arm.

      Despite their reputation for barbarism, the Black Eagles had no stomach for exploring the tomb. They returned to surface, but we kept delving. Mosquito, the dwarf in our party, seemed obsessed with detecting magic. We encountered some sort of undead monstrosity, whose head I exploded much to devilish Jezamine's amusement, and another undead thing that seemed to be a reanimated butler. Do all rich people employ the deceased to press their dainty underthings? The mind boggles. Anyway, Mosquito asked to be alone with this one to speak to it privately. 

      Note to self: keep an eye on this Mosquito person; something isn't quite right there. Why does he wear a mask all the time? Why is there an arrow on his hat? Why does he want alone time with dead people?

      Note to self #2: Mosquito did not like the "short" jokes Alesandro and I were making about him. 

      Note to self #3: Keep making those jokes. Even Evelyn doesn't tsk me for them.

      We later discovered some giant pale ants ransacking a room and trying on clothing or somesuch. We killed one of them, and the other fled down a tunnel. With few other options for exploration open to us, we eventually went in pursuit. What we found was an ant-woman hybrid, hideous of aspect and querulous of character. Alesandro and Mosquito parlayed with the unnatural beast and her entourage while Soq and I waited for the inevitable violence to break out. Parlay came to a crashing halt when the ant-woman began to demand that we bring her a harpsichord in return for her permission to explore deeper within the tomb. 

      And then we slew them all, even the larvae. We gathered up an astounding array of treasure--I believe I have enough saved up now to buy my own horse! Dear Diary, whatever shall I name her? 

      We also brought up some larvae to roast and eat. Can't be worse than snake, I reckon.

      And so, Dear Diary, goodnight!


      Monday, July 17, 2017

      Post Traumatic Adventure Syndrome

      Campaign: Scarabae Open Table (5e D&D on Google Hangouts)

      - Leonid Vok, weretouched fighter
      - Traviata Manu, human artificer
      - Lavender Wildrose, human rogue
      - Alesandro, half-elf rogue
      - Jupiter Jones, (something short, I think?) mystic
      - Khajj Khala, minotaur cleric

      Objective: Restore a dead adventurer's apartment to normalcy.

      Events: The party was assembled by Phineas Smiley, a representative of the Smiley Bank--a smarmy dwarven banking institution whose motto is "Give Us Your Money and You'll be Smilin'." Phineas explained that the bank had taken ownership of an apartment after the loanee, a former adventurer, had died with his loan left unpaid. The Smiley Bank wanted to employ a group of adventurers to venture inside to "fix" the second floor of the apartment; the second floor was experiencing some planar weirdness, and the bank needed that corrected so they could flip the property and sell it off.

      Key in hand, the party traveled to the tower apartment complex. The tower's elevator was on the exterior of the building; it took the form of a mechanically-modified giant roach--the wings opened like doors and inside were buttons to press corresponding to the desired floor. The party opted to start at the first floor of the adventurer's two-floor apartment; the cockroach lurched and clambered up the building, depositing them on the twelfth floor.

      The kitchen and living room area were arranged on a open plan, with a sliding glass door leading out to a balcony. In the living area the party discovered a mechanical device shaped like a cardinal; the cardinal's beak was open and the interior covered with a metal mesh. A wax cylinder was held in the cardinal's claws. As a former opera singer, Traviata knew how to operate the device; pressing one of its feathers set the cylinder spinning--the apartment was soon filled with the mournful sound of film noir-style jazz. Horrid saxophone solos and all that.

      The desk in the corner of the living room had a large metal turtle on its scarred surface that turned out to be a typewriter. Someone had typed "Only blood can open the silver door of the mind" on the paper still stuck in the machine. Alesandro noticed that the balcony was covered with some sort of hive, but when a number of gigantic buzzing bees emerged he quickly shut the door and decided that they were better left undisturbed. A further strange message was found etched into the bottom of an enamel wash basin discovered in the laundry room: "GUILTGUILTGUILT NEVER CLEAN AGAIN CANNOT WASH MYSELF CLEAN I REMEMBER IT ALL." Further exploration located a walk-in closet. Inside was a single wardrobe that held a former adventurer's gear: a set of unmended and blood-stained leather armor, a bag containing thieves' tools and a number of coins, and a rusty shortsword. The adventurer's bedroom evidenced that his life had taken a turn; the sheets were soiled, the bed was unmade, and a pipe was found on the side table. 

      Due to her training as an alchemist, Traviata identified the pipe as a "runeburner" and the translucent parchment as hallucinogenic runes. She understood that the runes on the translucent parchment were a type of drug taken by people looking for a way erase traumatic memories; however, she also knew that in some cases these drugs could actually make traumatic memories manifest as reality in the world. This information, combined with a psychic impression that Jupiter received, went a long way to explaining what had gone wrong in the apartment. Jupiter had a vision of someone in leather armor desperately picking a lock in a dungeon while their compatriots screamed for help behind them.

      Ready to tackle the second floor, the party ascended up the apartment's spiral staircase. Whereas the first floor held evidence of residency by a disturbed person, the architecture of the second floor was itself disturbed and deranged. Instead of a series of rooms that matched those on the previous floor, the party exited the spiral stairs and found themselves on a short stone landing surrounded by rough brick walls that would be more at home in a dank dungeon than a rental property. The only feature before them was a heavy stone slab door with half a silver bowl embedded in it. Above the bowl was carved "FEED YOUR PAIN," and the bowl had the remains of dried blood within it. Leonid sought to cut his hand to drip a few drops of his blood inside, but he was gripped by a mania to cut deeper--his blood splattered within the bowl, and the door groaned open.

      Beyond was a tunnel of rough stone bricks that opened into a small chamber and then turned right. The party followed the right turn and found themselves in a circular chamber. A pile of small rectangular stones sat the the middle of the chamber; a hole of utter blackness floated at the top of the domed ceiling directly above the pile--every so often another rectangular stone block would drop from the hole and tumble down to the pile. Another stone slab door--this one with a small hole in its center--made up a portion of the circular wall. Examining the stones revealed that each was inscribed with the word "BURDEN"; an inscription above the door read "YOUR SHAME GIVES YOU SUBSTANCE." 

      While investigating the room, the adventurers were subjected to a sudden flash of light. When the light receded the party was confronted by three menacing shadows that attacked them. The battle was dangerous; Khajj and Traviata used their healing magic to keep their compatriots from death. The party was triumphant; the shadows were dispatched--they faded away, leaving behind three moss agates and three black feathers. The party then decided to experiment with reenacting the vision that Jupiter experienced earlier; they brought the apartment's former occupant's adventuring gear up from the first floor--and the trip to fetch the gear revealed that a previously-missed door had opened in the first tunnel they had ventured down.

      This door was connected to another winding tunnel that terminated in a chamber whose only feature was a massive stone altar crowned by an amalgam of "sacred" statues. As a priest, Khajj had the insight that the statues were a confused admixture of extant deities; it was as if they were the imagined fancy of someone with only a vague understanding of the religious practices that comprised the statuary. Six figures, each garbed as a member of an adventuring party, knelt before the altar, their heads bowed in prayer. Attempts to get their attention discovered that each of the six was an ambulatory corpse--once disturbed they closed on the party to engage in melee. Lavender was particularly excited to throw a dagger into the undead bard. The monsters were resilient but slow; when the dust cleared, the bodies of the undead adventurers quickly rotted away--each leaving behind a gemstone and a withered, blackened heart.

      The party tried out a few theories by placing various items upon the altar; the religious statues animated and reacted in a myriad of ways to these "offerings." Next, the party experimented with placing a BURDEN stone in the hole below the legend that read YOUR SHAME GIVES YOU SUBSTANCE in the circular chamber. The door opened, revealing another curving tunnel that ended in a briny-smelling room whose only feature was a wooden chest. Inside the chest, laying on a bed of gold coins, was an ornate set of scales. Inscribed on the scales was this message: "Here be the truth, all things are not balanced, and neither guilt nor forgiveness can be weighed against the other." The feathers collected from the shadows were placed in one of the scale's pans, and the hearts harvested from the dead adventurers were placed in the other. 

      The scale did not sit in equilibrium, but even attempting such caused something miraculous to happen: the "dungeon" of the second floor of the apartment began to crumble away into dust. The party decided to run back to the stairs; a stolen glance over the shoulder showed that even though the environment around them was flaking away like ash, it was revealing a normal, empty second floor of the apartment that was living underneath. They had successfully intervened against the traumatic memories of the dead adventurer made manifest in the world.

      XP - 152
      Coin - 163 gp, plus 75 gp each from Phineas Smiley.

      Gems - (each worth 10 gp each) - turquoise (opaque green-blue), two tiger eyes (translucent brown with golden center), three moss agates (translucent pink with green swirls), lapis lazuli (opaque dark blue yellow flecks), hematite (opaque grey-black), blue quartz (translucent pale blue). (All claimed by Lavender.)

      Items -Weird scales (75 gp), turtle-shaped typewriter (50 gp, claimed by Khajj), cardinal-shaped phonograph (75 gp, claimed by Traviata),

      Magic Items - Two hallucinogenic runes.