Friday, December 21, 2018

Vintage Christmas Cards as Adventure Ideas

(roll and put the ideas the image gives you in the comment section)




















Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Immolating Your Friends and Foes on the Red Planet

High jinks continue on the Red Planet. Our picklehaube-wearing German was abducted by an airborne monster. Unfortunately, the Dancing Swordsman's attempts to shoot the beast down resulted in cooking our Terran compatriot. 

One cannot mourn for long on Mars. It is a waste of precious water. We decided to head toward a guarded tower we had seen nearby.

Of course, we were ambushed on the way by a party of Red Martians and White Apes and stripped of our weapons. We resisted our captors' attempt to lock us away in a prisoner's cell. My character, Cymzo Drox, Menton of Mars, threw a "stingstick" at the group's leader, then drained the lifeforce from our captors to power his mental warp abilities. We freed a Thark! who quickly joined the fray on our side. We then made a mad rush for the tower to escape further pursuit.

The "tower" turned out to be a rocket ship currently operated by our nemesis, Mr. Whip. Although Mr. Whip had been an object of abject terror for us in the past, we quickly liquefied him. He will moonwalk no more. 

Cymzo then realized that the rocket could be weaponized against the Red Martians and White Apes banging on the door outside. He initiated launch, immolating our foes, and enabling the rocket to fly on its pre-programmed course to the moon.

And then we blacked out.

Monday, December 17, 2018

A Swell-Looking Babe

During his lifetime, Jim Thompson's masterful novels of crime, obsession, and dark Americana were published as pulp novels. Intervening years have seen a reassessment of his work, with Stephen King singing his praises and cultural historian Geoffrey O'Brien dubbing him "The Dimestore Dostoyevsky." A Swell-Looking Babe finds Thompson at his sharpest, weaving a taut tale of a bellboy who finds himself drawn into a seedy series of schemes that might actually be about altogether different--and far darker--themes.
Listeners are encouraged to seek out the book before listening, since SPOILERS ABOUND.
Will Kate and Jack encounter any familiar themes as they explore a new-to-the-podcast genre? Are women, once again, the root of all evil? What do manatees have to do with any of this? Find out the answers to these questions and much more on this 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.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

In Praise of Lesser Lights

The way "canonical literature" supposedly works is that over time scholars figure out which authors are the best artists of their eras and which of their works are essential contributions to the literary form. Think of canonization as the notion of "the cream always rises to the top" mixed with a largely unseen political impetus. It's a comfortable myth that serves a variety of social and political ends; the intellectual deputies of the status quo tend include authors and works whose virtues just so happen to fit the current and persisting ideological goals of "culture" and "society" when formulating the literary canon. 

Canonization also has the unfortunate tendency to narrow focus on an author's works to a scant handful of their creative expressions; we know that Melville is the Moby-Dick guy and that Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, even if we haven't read either--and the average reader will never even think of straying beyond those well-worn paths.

In this post I am going to draw your attention to some fantastic "lesser lights"--the novels, plays, and short fiction that have been overshadowed by their more famous counterparts and deserve a wider audience.

William Faulkner, The Unvanquished
Faulkner's reputation largely rests on his novel The Sound and the Fury and the oft-anthologized short stories "Barn Burning" and "A Rose for Emily." (Oddly, Oprah helped boost his modern profile with her book club, so some of his other novels have maintained some rediscovered prominence.) The Sound and the Fury has always struck me as a bit of a dodge; it sometimes gets away with really obvious symbolism by cloaking it in a stream of consciousness form that bowls over educated rubes. In contrast, The Unvanquished, though little-read, is a profoundly powerful novel-in-short-stories that addresses the Southern family, the nature of vengeance, and the violence inexorably tied to American history. It's also beautifully written. Consider this prose from a scene in which a young man of the modern world is offered deadly tools of honor and revenge--and is expected to use them as his forefathers would:

I could see that too, who had had no presentiment; I could see her, in the formal brilliant room arranged formally for obsequy, not tall, nor slender as a woman is but as a youth, a boy, is, motionless, in yellow, the face calm, almost bemused, the head simple and severe, the balancing sprig of verbena above each ear, the two arms bent at the elbows, the two hands shoulder high, the two identical dueling pistols lying upon, not clutched in, one to each: the Greek amphora priestess of a succinct and formal violence.

I give them to you. Oh you will thank me, you will remember me who put into your hands what they say is an attribute only of God’s, who took what belongs to heaven and gave it to you. Do you feel them? the long true barrels true as justice, the triggers (you have fired them) quick as retribution, the two of them slender and invincible and fatal as the physical shape of love?

Oscar Wilde, Vera; or, The Nihilists
Wilde was a celebrated playwright in his own lifetime, but that miraculous career writing for the stage got off to a rocky start. Before he hit on the winning formula behind successful dramas such as Lady Windermere's Fan and The Importance of Being Earnest--critique of British society adorned with witticisms and bon mots--Wilde tried his hand at political theater...and failed spectacularly. Vera; or The Nihilists was withdrawn from the theater within a week of its debut, and has rarely been revived since. And yet, although it isn't the kind of play that Wilde became known for, Vera is a moving and insightful look at political and social extremism that is perhaps more relevant today than it was when Wilde wrote it; neither the extremism that defends the status quo nor the extremism of revolutionaries willing to sacrifice their humanity for retaliation are allowed moral ground. For example, look at the internal struggle that results from the "Nihilist's oath," a catechism meant to harden the heart against the very feelings that make human life worthwhile:

Ay, red with the blood of that false heart. I shall not forget it. To strangle whatever nature is in me, neither to love nor to be loved, neither to pity nor to be pitied. Ay! it is an oath, an oath. Methinks the spirit of Charlotte Corday has entered my soul now. I shall carve my name on the world, and be ranked among the great heroines. Ay! the spirit of Charlotte Corday beats in each petty vein, and nerves my woman's hand to strike, as I have nerved my woman's heart to hate. Though he laughs in his dreams, I shall not falter.

Isak Dinesen's "The Monkey" 
Isak Dinesen, real name Karen Blixen, is most famous for her dream-like memoir Out of Africa and the story "Babette's Feast," but it is a shame that so many people miss out on her weirder and darker short fiction, which is a particularly strong vein of oddity. One of my favorites in her bibliography is "The Monkey," part of her collection Seven Gothic Tales. "The Monkey" ushers us in a strange world: we have a soldier wishing to marry to avoid censure for "inappropriate" sexual dalliances, his prioress aunt who is more than willing to engage in secular manipulation, a woman marked out as a potential love-match who towers over her intended with a Valkyrie-like form, uncanny transformations, and a crossing of the boundaries between rational man and irrational beast. Ultimately, we're adrift in a world to which we are poorly suited because we crave stability even amid the maelstrom: 

The real difference between God and human beings, he thought, was that God cannot stand continuance. No sooner has he created a season of a year, or a time of the day, than he wishes for something quite different, and sweeps it all away. No sooner was one a young man, and happy at that, than the nature of things would rush one into marriage, martyrdom, or old age. And human beings cleave to the existing state of things. All their lives they are striving to hold the moment fast, and are up against a force majeure. Their art itself is nothing but the attempt to catch by all means the one particular moment, one mood, one light, the momentary beauty of one woman or one flower, and make it everlasting. It is all wrong, he thought, to imagine paradise as a never-changing state of bliss. It will probably, on the contrary, turn out to be, in the true spirit of God, an incessant up and down, a whirlpool of change.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Why TSR Failed, Manifest Zone, Ravenloft

Some podcasts that aren't Bad Books for Bad People that might be of interest:

Plot Points - Why TSR Failed
There's always been a lot of speculation about the end of TSR's reign as stewards of D&D, but some of the tidbits dropped in this podcast are frankly jaw-dropping.

Manifest Zone
This Eberron podcast features Keith Baker, Wayne Chang, Kristian Serrano, and Scott W. Yeah, that's right, not only does this podcast feature three passionate fans but the guy who actually created Eberron is on it. They do really good deep dives into the setting, but also place the emphasis on Eberron being a setting you can and should customize and use how you want.

Darker Days Radio - Ravenloft
An old episode, but it might be as new to you as it was to me.

Fear of a Black Dragon - Ravenloft episode
Only a single episode--and really the only episode of Fear of a Black Dragon I've listened to--but a Ravenloft fan in 2018 has to take what they can get, you know?

Wednesday, December 5, 2018


Players seems to love spears, but D&D has never really given spears much love. 

In 5e, the spear is a simple weapon. (Literally.) There's not much to recommend it over martial weapons if you have access to them.

This is a problem we can fix for the spear-lovers out there by creating a spear for all seasons, like so:

Name Cost Damage Weight Properties
Battlespear (1) 10 gp 1d8 piercing 3 lb. Versatile (1d10)
Greatspear (2) 30 gp 1d12 piercing 6 lb. Heavy, two-handed
Longspear (3) 20 gp 1d10 piercing 6 lb. Heavy, reach, two-handed
Quickspear (4) 25 gp. 1d8 piercing 3 lb. Finesse

What I've done here should be obvious: I've really just re-skinned existing weapons from the game as spears:

(1) - It's a longsword.
(2) - It's a greataxe. Could also be a 2d6 damage weapon, as per the greatsword. Whatever you like.
(3) - It's a glaive. Actually, it's already in the game as a pike but people get scared off by pikes when they have a spear fetish. Don't ask me why. But hey, maybe renaming it a "longspear" will convince your DM to let you use it with the Polearm Master feat. I'd allow it.
(4) - It's a rapier. Now your swashbuckling rogue can be that spear guy from Game of Thrones who got his face crushed.

This is a method that can get you where you want to go. And nothing will be broken because you're already using the tried-and-tested stats for weapons that already exist in the game. No need to add new properties, complex rule kludges, etc. 

Need a bunch of Castlevania-style chain whips? Change the damage type to bludgeoning. 

Think the idea of dual wielding two rapiers is goofy? (It is.) Write down "Parrying blade (rapier)" on your sheet and use the stats for the rapier anyway.

Want a bludgeon with the finesse and/or light properties so you can play a thuggish rogue who sneak attacks with a blackjack? Shouldn't be hard to figure out, amigo.