Monday, October 31, 2016

Hold Out Your Bag for a Treat

Did you miss out on physical copies of MORBID FANTASIES? Well, we're in a trick or treating mood, so to celebrate Halloween, we're offering a completely free PDF copy of the book for you to read and enjoy. Follow this link to download your copy:

Brought to you by Heretical Sexts, the finest purveyor of 'zines known to man.

Friday, October 28, 2016

A Sacrifice in Eisengraz

The episode began with Luka, Tristan, and Kylic gathered together at the Cat's Eyepatch to toast to the memory of the recently-departed Anton Sellvek. As the evening wore on, Luka suggested that it was time to return to Eisengraz, speak again to Celestine the Dove, and finally resolve the curse that was still afflicting the trio.

Before venturing forth, Luka put his affairs in order and decided to say goodbye to Ivara Olashenko in case this adventure was to be his last. However, as he was walking toward Ivara's house, Luka saw the young scholar being led from her home in chains by two parish officers. Luka stopped them and learned that Ivara stood accused of cold-blooded murder in a public square. Conversing with the young scholar through the bars of the carriage she had been loaded into, Ivara imparted that she had committed many crimes, but ironically had been arrested for a crime she didn't actually commit. She and Luka wished each other well, and she said that her mother would get her out of this one way or another.

The group hired Rafael, the coachman they took on their venture, and set off to the cursed village of Eisengraz. The journey to Eisengraz was largely uneventful, save for a duel that the group witnessed in a small town on the way. Their carriage was stopped along the high street by a teenage girl with tangled black hair and roughly-sewn clothes so that the duel could proceed in full view of the main thoroughfare. The duelists in question turned out to be a strutting peacock decked out in velvet finery, a ridiculously lacy shirtfront, and a flashy new rapier. His opponent was a blond woman wearing the rustic leathers of a forester. The dandy assumed a trained fighting stance; the woman simply drew her blade and ran him through in one thrust, leaving his body to fall in the street as she went back to drinking in the tavern across the street. Tristan admired her skill with a sword, but declined the opportunity to meet the winner of the duel. Rafael maneuvered the party's carriage around the dandy swordsman's corpse, and they carried on their way to Eisengraz.

The accursed village of Eisengraz still smoulders and stinks of fire, even though it was put to the torch generations ago. Luka could tell that a number of shod horses had been ridden into the town recently, but he saw no evidence of tracks leading away from the village--it was likely that the group was not going to be along in Eisengraz. Luka also used his connection to the land to determine that there were three supernatural forces at work in the vicinity: celestial (Celestine, obviously), the undead, and a dragon.

More evidence of other people within the town was discovered when the group spotted a number of horses tethered to the charred slats of a paddock fence. Not wanting to run into anything that would delay Luka's plan to speak to Celestine, the trio kept to the shadows behind the few remaining buildings in Eisengraz. As they approached the sound of an argument could be heard. Rounding the stone walls of Celestine's cottage, Luka, Kylic, and Tristan saw the Dove being confronted by Artem (their contact in the Church of Saintly Blood), a heavily armored woman, and a large number of armed acolytes wearing white tabards. Artem was haranguing Celestine that it was her duty to go with them, act as an emblem of the faith, and fight the darkness that troubles Krevborna on behalf of the Church.

This stand-off between Artem and his churchmen and the angel Celestine had been unwittingly set into motion by Tristan. Since Tristan had dutifully reported to Artem, his superior within the Church of Saintly Blood, Artem knew where the Dove was and set off with his lackeys to return Celestine to useful service to the Church.

Enter the player characters. What followed was a series of tense stand-offs, in which various parties tried to convince other parties of a course of action. Artem was insistent that the Dove needed to be brought to heel and re-bound into the service of the Church. The characters mostly wanted to deescalate the situation and for everyone else to be reasonable. The Dove noted the sword that she had previously bestowed upon Luka and told him that she had given him the tool, and now he had the opportunity to use it.

What she meant was that Luka has previously struck a bargain with Celestine: he was to take the sword she had forged and kill a priest with it. In return for this act of priest-slaying, she would lift the curse that afflicted Kylic, Tristam, and Luka. Now that there were a number of priests to choose from among Artem and his troop, Luka could simply kill one and fulfill the Dove's request.

But that wasn't Luka's plan. Luka drew the sword given to him by Celestine and...fell upon its blade.

Luka had been absent for the last few adventures that the rest of the party had pursued. On his own time, Luka was secretly pursuing priestly investiture; when he turned the Dove's sword against himself, he was effectively killing a priest as she had stipulated. 

Of course, Kylic and Tristan rushed to Luka's side to heal him back from the cold brink of death. As they did so, they felt the black tendrils that crept at the edges of their vision--an ever-present reminder of their curse--recede until it disappeared completely.

However, while the Dove impassively watched Luka's bloody self-sacrifice, a cohort of Artem's acolytes was approaching her from behind with a pair of rune-etched shackles. What followed was a series of melees interrupted by attempts to settle the situation. At various points: Kylic froze the shackle-bearing in place with his magic so he could later be easily disarmed from him; Celestine impaled a few of the acolytes on a silver spear; Tristan did his best to defuse the situation; Kylic faced off against the woman in plate mail, and surprisingly was getting the best of her; the newly-revived Luka put himself once more in the path of death by making himself a target for Celestine's fury--but a protective spell from Kylic kept him from being skewered by her powerful spear.

The skirmishes and arguments came to an impasse. In the heat of the moment, Tristan make a vow to Celestine...and then, a familiar sorrowful song was heard in the distance...and from the sound of it the source of the song was rapidly approaching. The singer was the ghostly presence of the deceased adventurer that the group had previously encountered within the Grail Tombs. She was followed by a roiling black darkness, within which could sometimes be seen shades of human faces or forms like that of man. 

The spectral presence was clearly angry; she accused Tristan and company of being oath-breakers since they had promised to free her from the crypts beneath the Church of St. Othric--because it had not been in their power to do so, she regarded them as untrustworthy and as objects of her frustrated revenge. 

(She also mentioned that she had been freed by someone else--surmised to have been the Master.)

The spectral woman returned to her song, but this time it was charged with her hatred and malice. Kylic, Tristan, and Luka felt the song roll over them like a storm of cold knives digging into their flesh, but they managed to stand their ground. Artem, his armored lieutenant, and most of the acolytes were not so lucky; they fell to the earth, their hearts stopped by the apparition's dirge. A new battle commenced. Kylic managed to disperse much of the roiling black cloud of desolation, but what remained troubled Tristan by draining away his bodily vitality. Luka wielded the rapier formerly in the care of Anton with aplomb. Tristan finally sent the spectral woman to a final rest in the name of St. Othric and destroyed what remained of the roiling dark.

When the dust settled, only one acolyte (named Wilhelm) remained alive. Celestine, who had withheld herself from the battle so that she might observe, was impressed that the party and the acolytes had fought side-by-side against the undead threat despite the fact that they had been enemies only moments before. In her eyes, perhaps their was still something worth saving within the troubled hearts of humanity--she pledged her aid against the darkness of the Master in the battle to come.

Most of the dead churchmen were buried outside accursed Eisengraz, but the bodies of Artem and his lieutenant were transported back to Chancel to be handed over to the Church for all due ceremony. Wilhelm was dropped off at the Church of St. Othric, so that he might learn further of the mysteries and contemplate his own survival after the events of the Sacrifice at Eisengraz. Sensing trouble on the wind, Kylic split from the group and went into hiding, telling his companions that if they needed him they should contact an urchin named Thinpenny. Luka made inquires and discovered more of the facts of the murder that Ivara was accused of, as well as that she was currently being held in Newmarket Gaol.

Back at the Cat's Eyepatch, a letter was waiting for Luka and Tristan. It reads:

Dear Sirs,

I regret to inform you that evil things are afoot in Sellvek’s Hollow. Please come when you can.

With Sorrow,


* * *

The Spoils
XP - 825 each

Inspiration - Inspiration all round


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Historical Inspiration for Liches

Need some inspiration for the villainous Big Bad Lich of your campaign setting?

Let these two historical lists guide the way:

List of sexually active popes

List of occultists

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Ghost Souls

Proposed: Ghouls n Ghosts is actually a Dark Souls prequel. Discuss.

And while we're on the topic, check out Wisecrack's "The Philosophy of Dark Souls"; it made a lot of Souls fans angry, so you know it's good:

And if you want to catch up on the lore of Dark Souls, check out EpicNameBro's playlist.

Or VaatiVidya's Youtube channel, which is chock full of awesome Dark Souls content.

Finally, here's the Ashes of Ariandel trailer:

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A Night Gallery: More Krevborna Influences

A Knight of Lilith
The Knights of Lilith are sent forth from dreaded Lamashtu by Countress Alcesta to find a consort who will quicken her with the foretold Child of Blood. The Polnezna believed that the birth of the Child of Blood will complete an ancient prophecy and transform Alcesta von Karlok into the Mother of Evil.

The Grail Tombs
Labyrinthine catacombs located beneath the earth, the Grail Tombs are the uncanny remnants of the eldritch Lamian civilization. The Church sends cunning agents into the depths of the Grail Tombs in search of something they seek it to safeguard it or to use it for their own ends? 

The lonely mansion of the Sellvek family
In recent years, it has been whispered and wondered whether some horrible curse has fallen on this once noble house. The younger members of the family line are snuffed like candles that gutter on the wind. The House of Sellvek teeters on the brink of an unfathomable tarn.

A northern church devoted to the Saintly Blood
Even in the far reaches of Krevborna, the Church practices rites that involve blood drinking or blood baptism. Since motifs involving the imbibing of blood appear throughout the Grail Tombs, one must wonder what the Church of Saintly Blood has inherited from the Lamian civilization that predates the rise of man.

Making a pact with a fiend
The deep woods, and other wild places, are greatly feared as places where fiends lay their temptations bare, ensnaring those who hunger for power with promises of occult knowledge and fell witchery. One hardly dare speak of how such pacts are sealed, but the making of a pact always leaves a tell-tale mark upon the unholy supplicant.

Monday, October 24, 2016

My Sweet Audrina

The potboiler Gothics of V.C. Andrews were beloved by adult women... and their tween daughters. Both Jack and Kate are new to the author's infamous tales of female woe, and they discuss what it's like to read her work for the first time during this discussion of Andrews' 1982 novel My Sweet Audrina. This claustrophobic tale of a girl raised with family secrets in the shadow of her dead sister proves to be a surprisingly traumatic experience for Kate who is forced to confront some of her darkest fears, including the horrors of inheriting someone else's kids.

Here to read an especially sensational passage from the book is Wendy Mays, hostess of Pet Cinematary, the podcast dedicated to taking a deeper look at the role of animals in film. This is her first time reading the work of V.C. Andrews as well, and it turned out to be a much more difficult task than your hosts imagined to find a woman unfamiliar with these macabre little novels.

How does the domestic nightmare world of My Sweet Audrina effect your hosts? Did V.C. Andrews' life experiences add to the intensity of her stories? What were your hosts reading as tweens? Why did tween girls love these depressing forays into mental illness and isolation so much? Find out all this and more on this episode of Bad Books for Bad People.

Listen to the podcast here.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Wake

The King is Dead! Long Live the King! The death of Morpheus is, ultimately, a costume change as Daniel Hall assumes the mantle (and dialog font) of the departed Dream.

Having, at this point in its run, amassed an ensemble cast of characters, it's time for the curtain call and final bows. Among the break-out stars are Nuala, Rob Gadling, Lyta Hall, Rose Walker, et al. Everybody really. Even you.

And so it's Whatever Happened to King of Dreams, before that style of wake became a thing--a precursor to the notion of a wake as a celebration not of life but rather as a celebration of the surrounding mythology. Goodnight Dreaming, Goodnight Matthew the raven, Goodnight, Goodbye, Goodnight.

Having exhausted mythic Greek tragedy, the final act had to bend the knee to Shakespeare--covering both ends of how a British man forges the links between his epic and what we might think of as The Epics. Of course, the Shakespearean reference in the denouement has to be to The Tempest; if you fancy that you've written something lasting, you must also fancy yourself to be a (if not the) Prospero. You don't go into this business if you haven't enslaved Ariel only to set him free, if you aren't a bit afraid that Caliban is your reflection in the glass, and if you don't have a deep and abiding need to set things to right and be seen as the real hero for doing so.

Also, you want the privilege of being the one to tidy things up in the end, I reckon. Sometimes that cleaning of one's own doll house means killing off your protagonist, your proxy, your shadow-self in the shadow box you built with your own two hands.

Death is not the end, we're told. And it isn't. It's exile from life and from dreams. But never an exile from stories, no, never that. For that is the kingdom and key, even after you have abjured your rough magic, broken your staff, and drowned your book.

Stories end, and go on.

* * *

Previous installments in this series:

Preludes and Nocturnes
The Doll's House
Dream Country
Season of Mists (part 1)
Season of Mists (part 2)
A Game of You (part 1)
A Game of You (part 2)
Fables and Recollections
Brief Lives
Worlds' End
The Kindly Ones

Friday, October 21, 2016

Morbid Fantasies

Morbid Fantasies, a book I wrote about Gothic literature, is now available to purchase directly from Heretical Sexts.

Here's the ad copy for the book: Morbid Fantasies is a richly illustrated reader's guide to Gothic literature, guiding fans both old and new over the ever-changing face of this most ghoulish of genres. In its pages, scholar Jack Shear covers the history, key themes, and major books in the Gothic movement from its inception through the current day. It's a love letter to this often misunderstood and under-appreciated form of entertainment, hand-bound and designed by Tenebrous Kate with featured illustrations by Dana Glover, Becky Munich, and Carisa Swenson.

This is what I want you to know about the book: I can honestly say that this is the publication that means the most to me. The ideas in Morbid Fantasies came directly from me researching and teaching Gothic literature for over ten years. And yet, this isn't an academic book; Morbid Fantasies is a book for anyone with an interest in Gothic fiction. My aim was to give the casual reader a primer on the Gothic's history, an idea of what to look for as you read, and a road map to what to read as you venture into the literature. Gothic novels were written to be enjoyed by people who read for pleasure, who want to experience wonderment and fright, and I want to help you find the enjoyment, wonderment, and fright I've experienced while reading these books.

This is what I want you to know about the artists who illustrated the book: the women who lent their talents to this project have taken my words and elevated them into something resplendent and fine. I was a fan of each artist who contributed to the book long before they were approached about working on Morbid Fantasies; each of them is ridiculously talented, and I am humbled that they deigned to gild my book with their art. Becky, Carisa, Dana, Kate--thank you.

This is what I want you to know about the publisher: Kate is a stalwart friend, and the best collaborator I could ever hope for. Not only do we have a reciprocal appreciation for the other's talents, we like to inspire each other to run with our ideas to see where they lead. Morbid Fantasies wouldn't exist if Kate didn't say "I want to publish that" when I mentioned the notion of writing a reader's guide to the Gothic. More than anyone else involved in the book, Kate kept the fires burning and the target in sight. And since Kate hand-assembled each book, the accolades for the book's aesthetic value are hers to collect. Kate--well, you already know how dear you are to me.

The hardcover version of Morbid Fantasies has already sold out. The softcover remains available, but only in strictly limited quantities. It's only available here, at the Heretical Sexts shop. And if you want to add any of the other 'zines for sale from Heretical Sexts, you won't be sorry.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Many Crimes of John La Tier's The Tell-Tale Heart

Hold me closer, tiny lantern
  • Okay, why are some rooms inexplicably smokey in the background? Are they covering up unfinished sets with a fog machine? Or is the police station on fire?
  • I'm pretty sure "Carve me a chess set" is not an approved psychiatric treatment.
  • In a reversal of the Gothic trope of a woman exploring an old house by the light of a flickering candelabra, our protagonist is exploring with the world's tiniest lantern. He's also using the lantern in a hallway that is already remarkably well lit.
  • "I'm pretty sure this used to be a ballroom," Rose McGowan says, leading the protagonist...outside the house to a porch.
  • The white flakes falling around them during this sex scene makes it seem like they are trapped in an erotic snow globe.
  • "You've carved all the pieces for the chess set, but they still need to be stained," he says, looking at a chess set that already has two differently-colored sets of pieces that they are currently and successfully playing a game of chess with.
  • "Sorry to disturb you so late," the cop says in front of a window through which seems to stream daylight. I guess the lights on the porch could be hella bright or something.
  • Better movies this movie appears to be alluding to: Seven, Audition, Marathon Man, every film noir ever.
  • Someone read Poe's story and thought, "You know what this needs? A plot line about PTSD." Poe's story about perverse and murderous impulses is now a statement about the under-funding of VA hospitals. Send help.
  • This movie is clearly a labor of love--it took a series of failed and semi-successful crowd-funding efforts to get it made--so I really don't want to slam it too hard, but woof this not a good movie.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The People of Krevborna

Krevborna is home to a variety of peoples...

Most Krevbornites are all too human—mortal creatures of passion and sorrow. They are a people of mixed ethnic origins who share a culture of folk tales and superstitions in common. Whether civilized or barbaric, they tend to face the horrors of their land stoically.

Some Greshnik are scaled and dragon-like, others are brutish, hunchbacked, or evidence horns of fiendish origin. They are not a separate people, but rather their unfortunate condition is commonly believed to be the result of witchery, misdeeds, or inherited sin.

The Polnezna are human vagabonds without a homeland who are adept at telling fortunes via the tarot. They either dress in colorful, exotic garb or the drab vestments of penitents, and travel in clans by wagon or riverboat. 

Podmenysh are those whose ancestries bear a trace of fey blood. They sometimes appear completely human, but also may possess tell-tale features such as pointed ears, slight statures, ethereal beauty, or unnaturally colored eyes or hair.

* * *

In a different system than D&D, Krevborna would probably be a humans-only setting. But in D&D the various races on offer do give a good bit of mechanical and thematic differentiation, so it would be a shame to lose them. Plus, some players really like having the option of writing "elf" on their character sheet. 

Here, I've split the difference: broad-yet-folkloric ways of including the various races in the setting. Krevbornites and Polnezna give two variations on humanity; Greshnik encompass dragonborn, half-orcs, tieflings, dwarves, gnomes, etc. (with room for aasimar even, now that I think about it); and the Podmenysh fit-in elves, halflings, dwarves, gnomes, half-elves, etc.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Last Apprentice and 5e D&D

Joseph Delaney’s The Last Apprentice is a cracking series of books. (It’s also called the Wardstone Chronicles in the United Kingdom.)

The novels in this series are about a young man named Tom Ward, the seventh son of a seventh son. Being the seventh son of a seventh son opens up a strange job opportunity for Tom; he’s apprenticed to John Gregory, the "Spook" of their County.

Although something of a lonely outcast, a Spook is entrusted with dealing with the witches, boggarts, and ghosts that make mischief (and worse) in the area they’re sworn to protect. Armed with folkloric knowledge, bladed staves, a bit of the second sight, and a silver chain, Spooks are the common man’s protector against the forces of the Dark.

Though the books are intended for an audience of young readers, the writing is brisk enough for an adult to enjoy as they breeze through the volumes. The characters are compelling enough to hold interest, without being overly cloying or naive.

The books have great chapter illustrations done by Patrick Arrasmith. I mean, just look at this:

The way that British folklore has been woven into the books is subtle, but also sometimes unnerving. Some of the elder witches are quite monstrous. You wouldn’t want to find this in the your attic:

* * *

If you’re looking for a darker point of inspiration for a campaign about novice adventurers, the Last Apprentice novels would be the perfect starting place for young adventurers being trained-up to the task of protecting their village from evil. It would be a good fit for 5e D&D characters at the early levels, say 1-3 with 3rd level being their "graduation" into junior Geisters.

As an example from my own Krevborna campaign setting, the characters would all be apprentices or agents of Mad Meg, the local Geister, an aging woman who was once an adventurer in service to the county of Lychwyck-supra-Mare, but who now finds that the years weigh too heavily upon her–age makes it impossible for her to fulfill her duties.

The characters would receive guidance from the Geister, but would also be expected to investigate and solve problems involving the supernatural in her stead. In their downtime, they would make their home at the Geisterhaus, and have access to its amazing library of occult lore.

Another gameable item: there's a lot in these books that helps situate what character classes look like in a setting based more on folklore than fantasy.

If you want a cool model of how the relationship between a warlock and their patron might go down, check out Alice and the Bane in Curse of the Bane. Damn. If you want a model of how a pact can go horribly wrong, check out what happens when Morgan tries to obtain power from the "winter god" Golgoth.

One way to envision the 5e ranger is to think of them like the Spooks in Joseph Delaney’s The Last Apprentice books:

  • Spooks are specialists in dealing with ghosts, witches, and boggarts (favored enemies!). 
  • They travel around their assigned county protecting the people from evil supernatural forces; indeed, the first part of a spook’s training involves them learning the lay of the land so that they might use it to their advantage against their foes (favored terrain!). 
  • To combat the forces of the Dark, they use martial skill (combat styles!) and folk magic (ranger spells!). (The Spook even sets his apprentice to learn all the witch-lore he can from the young witch Alice.)

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Master Claims a Soul

Tobias and Tristan's exploration of the Unseelie fey manse in the last session gave the group a good idea of its layout and its diplomatic purpose, but it didn't necessarily point in a definite direction as to how to proceed. There was some talk of returning to the manse to rescue the abducted child kept by the Lover of Twilight; the idea of tracking down the Knights of Lilith to forge an alliance against the Master was considered; finding an alternate cure for the curse that afflicts Kylic, Tristan, and Luka was a possibility; investigating Ivara or the Rue sisters was also floated as a potential course of action.

Ultimately, Kylic decided that it was best to confront the Master's threat against Krevborna directly. By using the fingerbone of St. Othric, Kylic had a vague notion of where they could find the Master. Kylic assembled a crew with Anton and Tobias, and hired a young coachman named Rafael to drive their carriage. Since the saintly relic pointed south and east, the group was traveling toward Krevborna's coast. The dog days of summer had ended, the air is turning chill and the leaves have begun to turn as the harvest approaches.

Eventually they were forced to abandon the roads and travel across open ground. The fingerbone finally brought the party into view of a black castle that sat upon a rocky outcropping of a dark stone precipice overlooking the sea. The castle looked to be in good repair, and yet, there was no well-worn path leading up to it; the castle looked as though it has simply been dropped into place. Oddly, no one in the party had ever heard of a castle being located in this particular place.

Since the group had arrived at the castle toward the end of day, they decided to make camp and approach the castle under the full light of the sun. Unfortunately, Anton was surprised during his watch by a cold "hand" upon his neck that drained his strength. Anton shouted a warning to his friends sleeping in the carriage and engaged the man-shaped shadowy figure that had attacked him as a similar blot of vile darkness approached the carriage's door. 

Despite the creature continuing to drain his strength, Anton's agility and prowess with a rapier got the best of the shadow-monster. Tobias blasted the figure of darkness through the window of the carriage--destroying the window in the process--but the figure still managed to reach in and drain away his vitality as well. Kylic tapped into the power of the cosmos and managed to banish the remaining shadow-monster. The party saw that it snaked away into the night and made its way toward the black castle on the precipice. 

The party chose to take another extended rest to regain their strength after the night's skirmish, putting their approach of the castle at midday rather than morning. The gate of black iron bars proved to be a challenge to entry, as it had no hinges to swing upon and no obvious way to raise or lower it. Anton decided that the easiest way through was over the walls. Using a grappling hook, he managed to scale the wall; luckily, he was able to avoid the shards of broken glass that had been embedded in the top of the wall. Wrapping his hand in his cloak, Anton smashed the glass away in an area large enough to make for safe passage over the wall for his compatriots.

The castle proved to have three stories, a number of connected towers, stained glass windows throughout the second and third levels, and only one obvious door at the front. Tobias sent Malphas to scout the perimeter of the castle, which discovered an ornate spiral staircase decorated with heraldic beasts that led up to a door on the second floor. It was decided that the back entry perhaps provided a safer entrance into the castle.

Anton attempted to pick the lock on the door at the top of the stairs, but found it immediately beyond his abilities. Other methods of entry were discussed, but Anton decided to give the lock another go. As he bent to work on it again, the door swung open on its hinges ominously. Within the room stood a long dining table. At one side of the table sat two bloated and eyeless corpses. On the wall facing the party was hung a painting consisting of two panels: one panel showed a religious figure in a white cassock being led in chains by fiends, the other panel showed the same figure in the white cassock having his tongue removed by fiends using metal pincers.

The party cautiously edged their way past the corpses at the table by sticking to the opposite side of the room. The door near the disturbing painting led them into a hallway, where they began to open doors to get the lay of the land, discovering a grand staircase leading down to the castle's main entrance and a conservatory equipped with a pipe organ. A crash was heard from the room they had just left, a likely indication that the corpses had left their seats and were coming after the group now that they were within the interior of the castle.

Anton hid in the room with the pipe organ, setting himself up to snipe at the corpses. Kylic readied himself to take action should a corpse appear in the doorway, which it did. Using his mystical power, Kylic slammed the door shut in its face. Meanwhile, one of the bloated, gas-distended corpses entered the room that Anton was hiding in from the adjoining door between the conservatory and the dining room. The shambling corpse did not notice him, which allowed him to pierce its belly with an arrow. A hiss of escaping fumes could be heard issuing from the wound. Now that the animate dead thing knew Anton was in the room, combat was joined. Switching to his rapier, Anton proceeded to stab the abomination in its gut, releasing more and more of the gas within it until its belly hung like a deflated balloon. Unfortunately, in the process Anton took a number of vicious, stunning blows from the thing's decaying fist. A final blow sent him reeling to the ground and everything went black for the ne'er-do-well nobleman.

Things were also grim in the hallway, where Kylic attempted to shield Tobias as the warlock attempted to best the walking dead man that had shattered the door and was now attacking them. Kylic took several wounds from the undead monstrosity, but kept himself alive through healing magic, all the while Tobias was blasting away at it with his fell sorcery. 

The situation became dire when the shambling corpse that had felled Anton stepped into the hallway behind Tobias and Kylic. Tobias turned his attention to the new interloper and dispatched the already badly-damaged thing with a well-placed blast of eldritch power. Kylic chose to risk taking a glancing blow from the monster he had been holding at bay to rush to the side of Anton. Tobias managed to blast apart the final abomination.

It was, however, too late for Anton Sellvek. Though he made a valiant effort to to save his compatriot, Kylic arrived in time to hear the death rattle of his fellow adventurer.

Deciding, perhaps wisely, that the black castle had already taken too much from them, Tobias and Kylic carried Anton's body from this sad scene and made good their retreat. On the way through the dining room to the black spiral stairs, Tobias noticed that the figure in the white cassock being tormented by fiends in the painting had been replaced by the likeness of Anton Sellvek, now forever trapped in spirit within the Black Castle of the Master.

Back in Chancel, funeral rites were performed for Anton Sellvek. Attending were a number of Anton's upper-class swells from his gambling and drinking forays, as well as an inconsolable Mirella--the woman who still assumed that the dead man she mourned was her savior.

* * *

The Spoils
XP - 693 each

Krevborna Death Count

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Perugian Witch, Carl von Cosel, Defining Ghost Hunter Fiction

Perugian Witch, 1908 (Beachcombing's Bizarre History, sent to me by Gustavo Iglesias)

Carl von Cosel Documentary (Charlie Hintz for Cult of Weird, sent to me by Kreg Mosier)

Toward a Definition of Ghost Hunter Fiction (Tim Brasil for The Merry Ghost Hunter)

Friday, October 14, 2016

Weapons for the Blood Hunt

Martial Trick Weapons
Trick weapons are clever inventions designed by the members of the Incendiary Guild. They are called “trick” weapons because each weapon can be transformed in the heat of battle to provide its wielder with an expanded array of options with which to fell the horrific beasts that haunt Krevborna. Trick weapons are rarely sold to private individuals; rather, they are either bestowed upon those who have proven themselves to be allied with the Incendiary Guild or passed from one hunter of the dark to another.

Weapon Properties
Combo. On a critical hit with this weapon, you deal the damage listed for the combo property of its current mode instead of rolling double damage dice. You choose the damage type of a critical hit from a weapon with the combo property from the types of damage it is capable of dealing. For example, a critical hit from a lashing cane can deal either bludgeoning or slashing damage.

A weapon with a ranged transformed mode can only deal extra damage from its combo property in melee combat; a critical hit that occurs outside of melee range deals critical hit damage as normal. For example, a critical hit from an arrow fired from a yeoman blade in its transformed mode deals 2d6 piercing damage. A critical hit with a trick weapon with the ammunition property must expend one piece of ammunition to deal its combo damage.

Transform. You can use a bonus action to transform a trick weapon from its normal mode to its transformed mode or from its transformed mode to its normal mode. When you attack with a trick weapon, you use the damage and properties of its current mode.

Nicely formatted pdf here

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All of the above was inspired by the weapons in Bloodborne, of course. If you need image inspiration, it probably plays out like this: beast saw = whirligig saw, church hammer = kirkhammer, duelist rifle = reitterpallasch, internment blade = burial blade, kirk pick = church pick, lashing cane = threaded cane, serrated cleaver = saw cleaver and beast cutter, stalker axe = hunter axe, temple blade = Ludwig's holy blade, warden pike = rifle spear, wild claw = beast claw, yeoman blade = Simon's bowblade.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Emotional Shit


There is a chamber in Fuck For Satan’s dungeon in which the characters magically shit their pants and then have to fight their own turds:

This seemingly empty, featureless cell contains a disembodied consciousness which can only possess the excrement of living beings. When the cell door is opened, the being will immediately be in the guts of every living creature present, causing severe debilitating pain as the being forces stomach acid through the intestinal tract (certain chemical properties of the acid is what allows the being to propel the resulting mass), and in two rounds all within the area will vacate their bowels. Each combination of piss and shit, even though possessing one collective consciousness, will act independently. 

Yeah, that is a thing that happens in the adventure. 

I’m not offended or shocked by the above, but I do think it is a lazy and dumb attempt to be offensive and shocking.

Nevertheless, we can think metaphorically about this shit-stirring room instead of thinking on a literal level where you are attacked by the shit your carry in your body. Think about all the other shit we carry around in our daily lives: the petty concerns, the haunting memory of past failures, our anxieties about the health and happiness of our families, the barely-repressed traumas that always already lurk on the edges of our psyches. What if entering the chamber caused that shit to pour out of the characters and coalesce into a monster to be combated? 

Isn’t that at least a little more weird and interesting than "I hit my poo for 2 points of damage"?

This variation on the encounter would work best if the characters have developed back-stories through play. I would describe the "shit" differently to each player based on the mental and emotional burdens their character carries from past adventures, or as something pulled from their background that has figured into the campaign in a meaningful way. Hell, since these are adventurers we’re talking about, you should have plenty to work with. 

Sure, my hack of the shitmonster isn’t genius stuff, but I think you’ve got to admit that confronting your own psychological baggage is a hell of a lot more in tune with the Lovecraftian "we are insignificant specks doomed by our own cosmic irrelevance" trope than wrecking your trousers.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Total Skull - September, 2016

Things that brought me delight in September, 2016.


Richard Littler, Discovering Scarfolk
(You know about Scarfolk, right? If not, why are you reading this blog? Why are you reading any gaming blog? Go here instead.)


Gehenna, First Spell
(Gehenna's First Spell is absolutely essential if you are a fan of symphonic black metal. They might not have invented the genre, but this record definitely shaped how it would develop.)

Imperium Dekadenz, Dis Manibvs
(The Scandinavian influence in black metal is pervasive and undeniable, so it's great to hear a black metal band create an explicitly Teutonic version of the genre.)

Carach Angren, Where the Corpses Sink Forever
(The Dutch Cradle of Filth?)

Opeth, Ghost Reveries
(My exploration of Opeth's back catalog continues.)

Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, The Night Creeper
(I've owned this for a while but for some reason it's gone back into heavy rotation. If you like 70s style hard rock done with slightly-doomy uncanniness, you need to loon into Uncle Acid.)