Friday, September 28, 2018

Bring Me the Heads of the Seven Jade Disciples

Campaign: Cinderheim, the Land Under the Demon Sun

Characters: Ka-Seti Blackhand, aasimar paladin; Shaasha, half-orc paladin; Tanni, human druid; Kyzzak Sloogh, lizardfolk sorcerer; Meatpie, tiefling monk.

The party had tracked the Seven Jade Disciples, a gang of raiders and desperadoes, to the mining town of Salamara. The party's motivation--REVENGE! Each of them were seeking vengeance for someone killed by the Seven Jade Disciples. Sweetening the deal, the warlord Lesedi Gheda had placed a bounty on the heads of the Disciples, payable in gold.

The first of the Disciples to die was Fareed, who was caught otherwise occupied with a prostitute in a brothel and didn't see the attack coming. For the rest of the melee, he fought stark naked. His lackeys entered the fray too late to save him; they were slain as well. Three down, four to go.

An impromptu game of demon chess with an old miner in the town alerted the party that the many of the miners in Salamara had been part of a warband led by Fareed and his brother Samir, so the village was largely loyal to the Seven Jade Disciples.

As the group prepared to find and kill Hassiba, the Seven Jade Disciples' sharpshooter, they were interrupted by the arrival of Phineas Sharpe on his giant lizard steed. Sharpe attempted to get the group to clear off, claiming to represent "the law" in the desert. 

When the group wouldn't be dissuaded from their vengeful purpose, Sharpe offered to join forces with them and split the bounties fifty-fifty: half for him, half for the other five to divide among themselves. Surprisingly, the group agreed--but they were also using magic to secretly communicate among themselves and agreed to kill Sharpe when the job was done.

As they began to plan out how to take down Hassiba, Sharpe immediately proved his worth by taking a bolt to the back from the Disciples' sharpshooter. The group wouldn't have to worry about splitting their take or murdering the bounty hunter after all. Sharpe's corpse, however, did make for an effective shield. What followed was a dangerous fight (involving crossbow fire, hurled javelins, magical flame, martial arts, and heavy bludgeons) in which three members of the party were momentarily taken out--but they were ultimately victorious. Six down, one to go.

Just before the fatal blow fell on Hassiba, she looked to the strangely verdant hill in the distance and smiled. Using Sharpe's spyglass (he certainly didn't need it anymore), the party could see the last of the Seven Jade Disciples, Samir, atop the hill--seemingly conducting some sort of ritual. The group raced to meet him and conclude their vendetta.

As they neared him, his ritual was completed: he animated two of the corpses buried on the hill as zombies. Samir fell back, leaving the group to deal with his summoned undead. Tanni attempted to use Sharpe's giant lizard mount as a beast of war, but the unruly creature proved difficult to control. The zombies were dealt with, as was Samir--who had his wand slapped from his hand before he was killed and decapitated.

The Seven Jade Disciples had fallen; blood paid for blood.

XP - 165.

Bounties on 7 Jade Disciples - 170 gp for each member of the party
Looted coin - 400 cp, 28 sp, 16 gp, 4 ep, 1 pp for each member of the party.
Gems - 1 gem worth 25 gp for each member of the party.
Magic items - Handy haversack, scroll of mage hand, scroll of mending.
Misc. items - Giant lizard mount, rifle (20 shots), pistol (20 shots), spyglass.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A City of Institutions


Generally looked upon merely as an institution that fosters the study of history, art, and culture, the Magpie Museum of Natural Inquiry has secretive bureaus that pay adventurers and explorers to find and retrieve rare objects for its collection. Picaros and crypt-kickers possessing of the requisite skills in larceny and flexible ethics can often find a little “night work” with the Museum if they know who to ask.

One of Umberwell’s most powerful institutions is the Libris Rex, the grandest circulating library in the known world. The librarian-explorers of Libris Rex often fund expeditions to forsaken ruins to retrieve lost knowledge and to preserve rare texts. The current head librarian of the Libris Rex is Rahadma, an angel who formerly served Orthea, goddess of knowledge and progress.

Magical messages can be sent far and wide instantly by the gnome-run Ethergram Cooperative. Ethergrams are transmitted by the gnomes of the Cooperative directly into the intended recipient’s mind. Sometimes ethergram transmissions are intercepted by the Elder Evils, who instead relay horrible cosmic truths instead of the intended message. Whether they do this altruistically, as a prank, or for sinister reasons best left unplumbed is currently unknown—and most sensible folk fear the day when speculation about this topic turns to certainty.

The most important holiday in Umberwell is the week-long Feast of Iniquity that ends the summer months. During this week the rule of law is suspended, and citizens hide behind masks or painted faces to pursue their passions unhindered and unpunished. After the Feast, a period of atonement begins. It’s a good time of the year to take what needs to be taken, or to finally bed that married neighbor who has been making eyes at you all year. And best of all, no one can say squat about it after; it’s custom that what happens during the Feast goes without redress, recrimination, or even public mention.

Your soul is filthy, crypt-kicker. Best you get to a temple and beg the goddesses for mercy.                     
– Varan Trask, professional urchin

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Wild Boys

Episode 25: The Wild Boys
William S. Burroughs' The Wild Boys: A Book of the Dead is a psychedelic, stylized journey through a near-future world where roving gangs of gay youth are on a mission to destroy Western civilization. The experience of reading the book is something like watching Dr. Strangelove on one screen, Apocalypse Now on a second screen, and having both feeds interrupted by explicit gay erotica. Join Jack and Kate as they discuss this ambitious, outrageous work of speculative fiction.

What was the impact of Burroughs on 90s Kids? How does the book translate the cinematic experience on to the page? What do our hosts make of the Beat Generation? Tune in to this episode of Bad Books for Bad People to find out!

BBfBP theme song by True Creature 

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 About Page.

Monday, September 24, 2018

September's Horror - Week Three

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 three:

Sept. 16 - Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
Horror-comedy is incredibly difficult to pull off. While this ended up being lighter fare, I have to give it credit for having a pretty original premise.

Sept. 17 - Hush
You ever notice that in movies where a killer is terrorizing a deaf, blind, or mute person...that person is usually a woman? It kinda feels like these movies are fantasies about "helpless" women more than anything else, but at least this wasn't a terrible example of the genre.

Sept. 18 - The Girl With All the Gifts
Very Average. A good horror movie to show a brave child, perhaps.

Sept. 19 - Tusk
Why did I bother? Any potential here is poisoned by Kevin Smith's relentless wandering into lame indie comedy territory.

Sept. 20 - Mandy
The most "extreme metal" movie I have seen in a long time. Did not disappoint.

Sept. 21 - You're Next
Don't spring your home invasion murder scheme when there is an Australian girl who might get caught up in the madness--she will fuck you up, she is from Australia and she is used to everything trying to kill her.

Sept. 22 - Black Sunday
Unimpeachable, a forever favorite.

Sept. 23 - Child's Play
In retrospect, Child's Play is pretty clunky, but it's charming in the way that only clunky horror movies can be charming.

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

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 About Page.

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.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Demonic Magic: Cantrips

One of the quirks of character creation in Cinderheim is that the land's demonic corruption grants starting character access to two cantrips from any spell list. 

As someone on G+ pointed out, not all cantrips are created equal; some are obviously better picks than others, especially when taking Cinderheim's particularities as a setting into consideration. These are the cantrips I think would be most useful in the setting:

Eldritch Blast
If you really want a cantrips that deals damage, eldritch blast is probably the best choice. It has big damage dice, great range, and few creatures have resistance to the force damage type.

Guidance is a great all-around buff that grants +1d4 to any ability check that you or an ally makes.

Characters with darkvision won't need this, but those who don't will find light to be exceedingly helpful at night or while exploring underneath the earth.

Mage Hand
Being able to move light objects with your mind alone might not provide a constant benefit, but when you need it mage hand is clutch.

Although this isn't quite telepathic communication, message is a good way to get an idea across to an ally without a potential foe being able to hear your plan--such as coordinating a sudden betrayal.

Minor Illusion
Illusions are a little dependent on DM fiat, but if your DM is open to creativity Minor Illusion opens up some cunning options.

Spare the Dying
Cinderheim is a dangerous place, so it's inevitable that one of your allies will end up bleeding out on the desert's hot sands. Spare the dying isn't great in terms of action economy; it takes a full action to cast rather than a bonus action, and it requires you to be in touch range--but it will stabilize a party member about to shuffle off the mortal coil.

Cinderheim: The Land Under the Demon Sun is available for purchase in print and pdf at DrivethruRPG and RPGNow

Monday, September 10, 2018

I Roved Out is Back With A Generous Handful of...Pages

The "warmly pornographic" fantasy webcomic I Roved Out in Search of Truth & Love went on hiatus after the print publication of the first volume, which was totally understandable given the amount of effort that went into successfully running a Kickstarter and creating a truly beautiful book

Well, I Roved Out is back from hiatus. I expected, I dunno, maybe ten new pages of the next arc to kick things out, but...Alexis Flower gifted us with something like eighty pages to herald the comic's return. Holy crow.

I'm posting some splashy images below to entice you to give the comic a read if you haven't yet. The panel work is also excellent, but I've avoided it for fear of dropping some spoilers on the uninitiated.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

September's Horror - Week One

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

September 1: Carnival of Souls
I find the gentle spectrality of Carnival of Souls to be especially charming. I've watched this one many times, and I feel like I can always just put it on and relax, oddly enough.

September 2: Trilogy of Terror
Three Richard Matheson adaptations, all starring Karen Black. The first two segments are slight, but the capstone segment with the Zuni fetish doll is still frenzied enough to be noteworthy.

September 3: Burnt Offerings
We really need to bring back the 70s-style downbeat ending. Stunning haunted house flick.

September 4: Alice, Sweet Alice
The grotty social world surrounding the characters in Alice, Sweet Alice (the pedophile neighbor with the horrifically stained pants, the police detective with nudie pin-ups surrounding his desk, the police psychologist who comments on an underaged girl's "tits," the too-friendly relationship between the mother and the family's priest, etc.) makes the murder of a young girl at her first communion feel strangely inevitable.

September 5: Stir of Echoes
Decent, but really predictable and devoid of surprises. This one definitely got eclipsed by The Sixth Sense. Also, it feels like it's trapped in the late 90s.

September 6: Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things
Low budget and goofy, but fun. Surprisingly downbeat ending.

September 7: Halloween III
A classic "bad" movie. You ever steal a chunk of Stonehenge to make microchips that turn kids' heads into masses of writhing vermin because you're a druid? Yeah, me neither.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Let's Read Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron: Sharn, the City of Towers

Where the previous chapters of Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron gave a broad-strokes overview of the setting as a whole, the last full chapter focuses on a specific section of the world: Sharn, the City of Towers. Sharn is the Big City of Eberron; in many ways, Sharn is emblematic of the setting overall. Before digging into the metropolis, the chapter takes a look at the player character backgrounds presented in the Player's Handbook and offers suggestions on integrating them into Sharn. Unfortunately, each background only gets a meager d4 random table of Sharn-centric origins.

Sharn, as its "City of Towers" sobriquet indicates, is a city constructed from fantastically tall spires. The city's verticality is more important than its horizontal urban spread; the city's populace is stratified according to the height of the city they inhabit. The wealthy live in the highest heights of the city--this is where you find opulence, and where the City Watch is very active in suppressing crime. The middle heights are inhabited by middle-class citizens--and their shops, business, entertainments, and homes, as well as a City Watch presence that generally keeps the peace. The lower depths of the city house a mix of laborers, the destitute, and war refugees--this is the most dangerous part of the city, where the Watch doesn't dare intervene. These divisions are generalizations; the facts of city life vary a bit neighborhood by neighborhood.

Since Sharn is such a vertical city, traversing it entails walking across bridges and ramps, as well as magical lifts and gondola-like skycoaches that take advantage of Sharn's naturally occurring flight-enabling magic. Flying mounts are also a common sight within the city.

Next comes brief descriptions--complete with adventure seeds--of Sharn's districts:

  • Central Plateau, where wealth and power congregate.
  • Dura Quarter, the oldest section of the city, now fallen into ruin, poverty, and misery.
  • Menthis Plateau, the entertainment quarter, also home to Breland's most prominent university.
  • Northedge Quarter, a quiet residential area.
  • Tavick's Landing Quarter, a place of coming and going.

Aside from the five districts of the city, it also has Cliffside docks, an enchanted ward called Skyway that floats above the city, the ruins of a previous city beneath the streets, and tunnels that lead to magma used for industrial production in the Cogs.

Beyond describing the city through its constituent parts, this chapter also has information on the practical matters of using the city as a whole, such as yearly events that characters could get mixed up in, communication in the city (letter boxes, gargoyle delivery service!!!), and what happens when you fall from one of Sharn's many bridges (you probably land on another bridge, and some of them are imbued with a feather fall effect).

Given the murderhobo proclivities of adventurers, we also have a section on criminal activities in Sharn, including information on the Boromar Clan (a halfling criminal syndicate), Daask (a criminal organization of monsters within the lower parts of the city), House Tarkanan (thieves and assassins possessing aberrant dragonmarks), and the Tyrants (changeling and doppelganger blackmailers and forgers). We also get information on dreamlily, an addictive drug that adds a nice grotty sheen to the Weimar-esque decadence of Sharn.

Capping this section of the pdf off are a set of "starting points," places you might start a new campaign set in Sharn. Included are notes on:

  • Callestan, dark Western-esque adventure in the lower wards of the city.
  • Clifftop, pulp adventure with possible jaunts to uncharted lands.
  • Morgrave University, light-hearted, Harry Potter-esque coming of age adventures.

We also get random tables for quick adventure outlines, encounters on the streets of Sharn, suggestions for further reading among Eberron's back catalog of gaming materials and novels, a glossary of proper names used throughout the document (that is very helpful as a setting reference), images of the crests of all the dragonmarked houses, and full color maps of the setting.

Full review, section by section
Chapter One: What is Eberron?
Chapter Two: Welcome to Khorvaire
Chapter Three: Races of Eberron

Chapters Four and Five: Dragonmarks and Magic Items