Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Conjure Wife

Episode 37: Conjure Wife
Fritz Leiber is probably best known to fantasy fans as the creator of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, but he was also an accomplished author across a myriad of pulp formats. In his 1943 novel Conjure Wife, he creates a world that is only modern on its surface, where behind every great academic is an equally great witch. When sociologist Norman Saylor discovers his wife's occult activities, he convinces her to stop her conjuration. Shortly thereafter, a series of terrible coincidences--or is it black magic?--start to turn his world upside down.
What are the risks of being the big bohemian on campus? What are some of the ways authors keep magic magical in their stories and stop if from being just another form of science? What do this book's witches think about astrology? And what is up with the sexy college gown striptease? All these questions and more will be answered in this episode of Bad Books for Bad People.
BBfBP theme song by True Creature 
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Monday, October 21, 2019

Making a Powder Keg, the Dune Way

Want to make a setting that is a powder keg of competing interests, intrigues, and goals? A potential conflagration into which to thrust your player's characters?

The set-up of Frank Herbert's Dune is what you should be stealing from. Although it's got a ton of worldbuilding and detail, the basic set-up of Dune is pretty simple and easy to reskin to suit just about any campaign setting. The conflict in Dune revolves around six competing factions, each of which is easy to scrub of specificity and refashion. 

Here's what Dune has and here's where you get to play with the ideas therein:

Dune Has...

  • House Atreides & House Harkonnen
  • The Bene Gesserit
  • The Fremen
  • The Padishah Emperor
  • The Spacing Guild

So You Need...
  • Two noble houses with a long-standing hatred of each other that will inevitably erupt into violence
  • A religion that masks its political power in the guise of spiritual guidance
  • The unaligned tribal military force that exists outside the structure that defines the place of the other factions
  • A powerful military force that defends traditional power structures and the interests of a distant ruler
  • A mercantile force that masks its political power in the guise of pure economics
Notice that each of these groupings represents an approach to political power: the power of aristocratic title, the power of religion, the power of the nomad, military power, and economic power. Create factions that represent these groupings of political power, make them compete for a limited resource, and let the sparks fly. Now you've got a powder keg. Hand your players the match and see what happens.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Halloween Sale

The following Dolorous Exhumation Press titles are on sale for the Halloween season:

Dirge of Urazya - $4 $3

Krevborna: A Gothic Blood Opera - $10 $7.50

Hexmoon Sabbath: A Folk Horror Doom - $3 $2.25

This is a great time to pick them up if you haven't already. Plus, you get the added thrill of knowing that your money is going to exorcise some horrific vet bills that are currently haunting my house.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Paean to the Red Planet

It began with a maelstrom. It ended on a savage red planet, its sun gone sullen and weird, its wind hot and devouring.

A world not so much dying as it was already dead. It just refuses to acknowledge the cruel fact of its demise.

Away from our world's gravity we grew stronger here. Like Icarus, we could leap for the sun. And fail. Perhaps we too grew sullen and weird.

The things we met there were alien and beautiful. The Red Martian warriors, their voluptuous princesses, and their devious menton mind-wizards. The brutal, multi-limbed Thark!!!, whose tribes evidence the nobility of a warrior caste doomed by its own traditions.

Fast friends, some, and implacable foes otherwise.
Beyond those things we might call people we found only monstrosity. 

Death made flesh, death awoken from its long desert sleep, death so cunning that its weirding ways are scarcely comprehensible to our racing Terran minds.

Thirsty death, hungry death, death that comes on night-black wings.

And yet, despite its strangeness, this is a world that could be mapped, traced, and understood. The world of Mars wages its own peculiar war, but it is a war we can win. What else is there? Spilling one's blood on the burning sands, like so many others have done since time immemorial.

The sullen sun, gone weird in its death throes, looks on and laughs.

* * *

What I am saying is that you should seriously consider buying Michael Gibbon's recently released B/X Mars. You may need to log into your account and allow DriveThru to take you to the unheralded garden of NSFW Martian delights, but the naughty thrill you feel by doing so will soon be eclipsed by the greater pleasure of beholding Mars for yourself. 

Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Burning Throne

art by Gayle Mandle and Julia Mandle
The Dirge of Urazya 'zine (last print copy available herepdfs here) features twenty worldbuilding prompts to help you create your version of the setting before you begin play. 

I've been posting the answers to the prompts that we used in our games using Urazya as a setting. I'd love to see other people post their creations as well; this could be a rich vein to mine, with lots of sharing, borrowing, and remixing. If you do post some of your stuff, link me to it, please! Maybe we could even get a public wiki going. Let a thousand Urazyas bloom and all that.

Last time I did a religion in my Urazya campaign; this week I'm doing a warlock patron inspired by the picture above: Two fiends from the netherworld prepare to make bloody war against each other. Who are they? What is the cause of their enmity?

The Burning Throne
  • On a night five years ago, the sleep of many residents of Urazya was interrupted by a dream of the Burning Throne, an emblem of law and order that took the form of a baroque ceremonial chair wrapped in coils of raging flame.
  • The Burning Throne did not speak, but those who dreamed of it understood its message without the need for words. The Throne christened all who dreamed of it as light-bringers who will help usher in a new age of order, stability, and law in Urazya.
  • As word of the Dream of the Throne spread throughout the land, it became a symbol of hope for those who crave stability, unity, and progress.
  • The ideas that the Throne represents are seductive in a world so often shaped by the chaos and destruction left by the Global War. Many of the adherents of the Throne’s ideology are more than willing to trade a measure of liberty to achieve its ideals. 
  • The Burning Throne is not considered a god and is not worshiped in any conventional sense. It is regarded as an idea possessing cosmic power or as an underlying principle that gives shape to the universe. 
  • However, devotees who pledge themselves to the Burning Throne sometimes find themselves gifted with supernatural power to exercise on the Throne’s behalf. Those who have made a pact with the Burning Throne feel that they serve a force of law and order that exists outside of fickle divinity and human frailty.
  • In reality, the Burning Throne is a guise adopted by an archdevil to encourage the violence of fascism and imperialism in Urazya. Posing as a principle allows the devil to move Urazya toward political and military conflict.
  • Some of the original dreamers who first beheld the Burning Throne view themselves as righteous conquerors who are permitted to use warfare, brutality, and oppression as necessary tools to achieve law and order in the disconnected Borderlands, the savage Devastation Zones, and the oft-fractious Capital.
  • These would-be conquerors style themselves the Scions of the Throne. Each sees themselves as the chosen one who will unite sundered Urazya into a grand empire. Each believes it is their destiny to be crowned emperor or empress of a glorious, continent-spanning nation.
  • Of course, this means that the Scions of the Throne--and the fanatical warbands they are assembling--will inevitably clash in open war against each other as their competing visions for Urazya’s future come into conflict.