Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Voodoo Superheroes

There were a couple books that I checked out multiple times from my local library as a kid. One of those books was Milo Rigaud's Secrets of Voodoo. I was absolutely obsessed with that book, despite the fact that it was more of a dry, factual account of the Voodoo religion than anything more lurid.

(Another book I was fascinated by at the time was a particularly well-illustrated tome about Norse myth. We'll talk about that one some other time.)

One thing that Secrets of Voodoo inspired was an idea for a superhero comic. One facet of Voodoo belief is that the Loa (the spirits or gods of Voodoo practice) can be invited to "possess" or "ride" the worshiper, thus granting them magical power. I thought that was a really cool explanation for why a team of heroes had their powers: each was "ridden" by a particular Loa and had gained abilities related to that spirit's spiritual purview. Sometimes the Loa would "take over" and use the hero's body for their own ends; losing control sometimes is the price you pay for superpowers when you gain them from the gods.

I did end up writing and drawing a single issue of that comic, called The Loa Legion, by the way. I even Xeroxed a copy of it and gave it to the nice man who ran the local comic shop. 

If I ever run a superhero game, this might be the set-up I go with.

Monday, January 28, 2019

B/X Mars Using 5e Dungeons and Dragons

The playtest of Aos's B/X Mars game has concluded successfully! One thing we talked about when he was writing it was how it might be converted to 5e D&D rules. Now that the playtest is over, I've got some thoughts about how to model the bespoke character classes that will be in the B/X Mars book when it's finalized.

Race Options
B/X Mars ties race and class together into one package, as you might expect from the B/X designation. Here's how I'd map out their separation in 5e, without going down the road of bespoke races (though that is certainly an option I'd consider working on):

  • Red Martian: Since "Red Martian" is the baseline race in B/X Mars, it makes sense to use either the "human" or "variant human" options from the 5e Player's Handbook for them throughout.
  • Terran: Oddly, Terrans wouldn't use either of the human options. I'd make them goliaths to emphasize their strength, hardiness, ability to carry heavy loads, resilience, athletics, etc. It's not a perfect fit; in fact, I think replacing the goliath's mountainous trait with a d8 unarmed strike attack would be in order.
  • Thark!: Tharks! can probably be replicated with half-orcs. That gives them an additional rage-like ability, higher strength and constitution, intimidation, etc. Unfortunately, it doesn't mechanize their extra arms.

Class Options

  • Red Martian Menton: Mentons are Mars's masters of the psionic arts. They're also the hardest to fit into the 5e rules, but the way I would go about it is to use the cleric class as the basis since mentons and clerics favor the same ability score (wisdom/psionics) and both use "spells" and can "turn undead." Making a custom spell list that focuses on enchantment spells, psychic damage, and illusion would go a long way toward getting the flavor right. I'd probably narrow down the domains to two choices: "life" and "death" correspond nicely to the alignments in B/X Mars.
  • Red Martian Princess: Interestingly, the class that suits the princess best is rogue. The rogue specializations also give you a nice variety when it comes the role a princess might take. "Thief" works for crafty princesses, "assassin" works for sneaky princesses, "arcane trickster" is pretty good for princesses with psionic talent, "mastermind" works for princesses used to leadership, "swashbuckler" is a good fit for warrior princesses, etc.
  • Red Martian Warrior: Red Martians are fighters. The "champion" and "battlemaster" sub-classes might be the only ones on offer, although "cavaliers" might make sense for mounted Red Martian Warriors. "Elritch knights" might make for a cool "psychic warrior" archetype, but I'd have to give that a second look.
  • Terran: It is very tempted to make some sort of monk variant for Terrans to preserve their "they are very strong and punch stuff to death because of Martian gravity," but barring that they are fighters with the same range of options as Red Martian Warriors.
  • Thark!: Tharks! are barbarians, and they're probably only ever berserker barbarians at that.
Technological Weapons
The DMG has stats for laser pistols and rifles that would work. Just replace "energy cell" with "tubes." Yeah, they'll be pretty deadly but in my experience B/X Mars has Gygaxian levels of lethality, so it's probably a good fit. You could always give the PCs a 10 hp kicker if you want to compensate.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Seven Soldiers: Quicksand, the Rip Current, a Black Hole

The cover is a glorious
red herring.
Dedicated to Anne, who asked for my thoughts on Seven Soldiers. She surely deserves better.

I picked up the Seven Soldiers omnibus at the urging of Michael Gibbons, one of the few people I trust enough to take the recommendation of a capes-based comic seriously.

And it was a great recommendation; I can say that Seven Soldiers is one of the best superhero comics I've read.

Seven Soldiers has a lot going for it: the art varies wildly in style from series to series but it's uniformly quality stuff that reaches brilliancy more often than most, the plot is the kind of intricate maze of archetypes and ur-conventions and genre detournment that Grant Morrison is known for but it is rarely too pleased with itself, the story benefits overall from focusing on c-list and invented characters instead of DC's mainstays, and it mostly avoids the continuity porn that frustrates my enjoyment of a lot of superhero media.

Hawkman and Superman! Double reference!
We're comics now, bois!
But therein lies a central tension the book cannot resolve. Although Seven Soldiers mostly avoids being overly referential to DC's canon, already told backstories, or whatever Crisis they're pushing at the moment, there are a few moments in that vein that were mildly irritating to me as a reader. The Zatanna story line was one of my favorite pieces of the puzzle, but I could have done without Zatanna making jokes about the Flash or reminding us that she was in the Justice League. (Fair enough, of the titular seven soldiers she's the one with the most recognizable connections to the DC Universe, but come on.) 

That minor annoyance becomes a bit more pronounced in the Mister Miracle issues of Seven Soldiers. In those sections, the references to the New Gods and Kirbiana come fast and furious. Making matters worse is the unnecessary cruft that the Mister Miracle issues add to an already complex story that has a lot of moving parts; much of the Mister Miracle elements could have been excised without changing the overall effect of the story as a whole, so they're not really pulling their own weight. It tries a little too hard to bring in traditional DC elements into the picture.

Which is an odd choice, given the way Morrison develops a theme: delving into the past is regressive and fraught with danger. 


Looking back, in anger or otherwise, holds progress in check throughout Seven Soldiers. In the first issue, the Vigilante tries to assemble a new Seven Soldiers squad--he wants one more hit of the old glory before riding off into the sunset and there's unfinished business that has re-surfaced from the past to be dealt with. 

The team he assembles is a pale regurgitation of the past: I, Spyder is the son of the original Spider, Gimmix is the daughter of the Woman of a Thousand Gimmicks, Dyno-Mite Dan has replica magic rings that rip-off somebody else's powers, The Whip is the grand-daughter of another Whip, and Boy Blue has some unsavory connections to the DC rogue's gallery. This new crop of "heroes" is in every way as deficient as a fading echo; their trip into Miracle Mesa is a massacre--trying to relive the past was a fatal mistake.

Bask in this illustration
for a bit.
The next batch of heroes is more successful, but each of them must struggle against the weight of their pasts as well. Zatanna is cursed by the legacy of her father to the extent that self-doubt robs her of her powers--and the attempt to find her father's lost grimoires kills off her colleagues. The Manhattan Guardian bears the weight of his own tragic personal history; he only becomes a superhero in hopes of shaking off the memory of having killed an innocent kid during his tenure as a cop. Klarion must escape a moribund culture that is an endless nightmare of a twisted Puritan era that threatens to drown him in senseless inherited convention. Similarly, the Shining Knight's first real task is warding off Guilt--an embodiment of accumulated failures and previous defeats. Frankenstein grapples with his very origin as a creature--he learns that his existence was contingent upon the villains' meddling. 

What is the past? In Seven Soldiers it is quicksand, the rip current, a black hole. For Mister Miracle it is a literal black hole--a cosmic-level spectrality tied to the rise and fall of gods, entropy, and the crushing density of trying to live in the shadow of the world's first superhero. As a stunt, Mister Miracle attempts to escape an artificially generated black hole and ends up confronting horrifying visions of the future that are all predicated on past events over which he has no control.

Move over, Power Girl.
Although Mister Miracle's plot line has clear connections to DC's back issues--up to and included a gangsta-fied Darkseid--it is Bulleteer's story that sharpens the theme Morrison is working throughout Seven Soldiers. Bulleteer is a woman haunted by the past of superhero fandom. The marriage that she assumed was happy and fulfilling was troubled by her husband's fetish for superhero women. The fetish led to his experiments with a metallic "smartskin" that caused both his demise and her unwanted transformation into a seemingly indestructible superbeing. It's not a destiny she wants--the past intrudes on the present and forces the change upon her. The fantasy of the capes comic is a wraith that cannot be exorcised.

Even once changed against her will, the past still makes demands on Bulleteer. Unable to continue her career as a caregiver to autistic children (her altered form scares them), she is forced into minor-league superheroics. Her powers enable her to do good in the world, but they also land her the dubious honor of acting as a bodyguard to a personality challenged mermaid on the superhero convention circuit. Washed-up nobodies want to "team up" with her. The possibility of doing supers porn looms ominously. 

Bulleteer is impervious to most everything except the way past steers her life; ultimately, even her attempt to reject fitting the mold of the superhero archetype (as established by countless dog-eared and faded back issues) ends in triumphant failure--she's the Soldier who ends-up taking out the Big Bad, even though she emphatically doesn't want to. The past makes the present fait accompli and no one can swim against the tide.

Resistance is futile.
The villains of the piece, the Sheeda, are equal parts horrifying fey of legend and post-apocalyptic Borg-esque perverts. Frankly, they are great villains and Gloriana Tenebrae, the Sheeda Queen, exudes a palpable air of sexy menace. There's a touch of Baker-era Doctor Who here that thrill me. Of course, if you're going to work a theme fully you have to tie it to the villains' motivations as well.

The Sheeda, it turns out, are us. They're the humanity of the future, doomed to a ruinous world barely existing under the light of a vampire sun. The only way the Sheeda can survive is by pillaging the past. Their incursion in the main plot line of Seven Soldiers isn't their first rodeo; they've already strip-mined the neanderthals for sustenance, fed on the fall of Camelot, and generally bled reality dry. They leave just enough scrap for humanity to reestablish itself in a new age. The cycle has to repeat itself because even a harrower of worlds knows that you don't drink too deeply from the grail.

The Whip was the only one I was sad to see go.
When reading Seven Soldiers it's hard to shake the feeling that Morrison might actually detest a segment of his audience. Morrison knows that capes fandom has a strong element of continuity wankers too eager to riffle the past for nerd cred and commodity fetishists who cast a leering eye on the page without deeper appreciation. When the Whip admits to being a "crazy fetish person with a death wish," she encapsulates exactly why a certain kind of reader might want to see her on a splash page. Zatanna's Vegas showgirl get-up is part and parcel of employing her in your comic, of course, but Seven Soldiers adds a extra layer of Dita-derived pin-up to the depiction. Bulleteer, the most self-conscious and obvious strand of putting the libidinal comic fan on notice, is drawn in a Victoria's Secret pose in most of her panels. 

I mean, come on.
Grant Morrison suspects that you're hot for shapely lines, connecting the dots, and quoting chapter and verse volume and issue. The Sheeda are an indictment of that instinct. They are the modern repetitive and iterative superhero phenomenon as a murderous pathology. If the past is something to be escaped, to be transcended, the Sheeda are a warning against obsessively returning to the past and shifting through old glories as the foundation of the present. They are a cautionary tale about an industry that fears going forward. The comics fan who wants more of the same, endlessly repackaged, continuity resurrected and replayed again, is the enemy.

The irony, of course, is that as much as Morrison would like to critique that impulse, he cannot escape it himself. His cast of characters still bears the marks of what has come before; they have connections, there are clear reference points, and the story remains the same. Seven Soldiers draws on the tale of Snow White to give the Sheeda Queen an extra touch of drama, but that borrowing, like all the referential and allusional tropes we politely call "the greater literary conversation," is a rummaging through past stories to make sense of the present in way that condemns itself to a lens crafted by some unknown wordsmith lost to time.

Michael, if you've read this far, I hate to be the one to break this to you but: Seven Soldiers might be a story about stories. Or, at least, or inability to free ourselves from the story structures and archetypes we inherit and continue to use as we create.

To beard or not to beard? That
is the question.
One of the most exciting imaginings in Seven Soldiers is a sequence in Guardian where we learn of the existence of pirate trains operating on disused lines beneath the streets of New York. The idea of roving marauders riding illicit rails in search of fabled treasures is heady stuff. But even this carries a sad note: even though the ideas in this portion of the story are vital and fresh, the rivalry between the two captains illustrates how much Morrison is unable to escape the past. In this segment he relives his hoary feud with Alan Moore. One of the pirate train captains is named All-Beard; the other is named No-Beard. You may recall that Moore posses a prodigious beard, and that Morrison is circumspectly clean-shaven. The rivalry of the past is the rivalry of the story's present. The past derails us; not only does it cause a train wreck in the Guardian issues, we see that this has happened in the Frankenstein issues as well when our dead boy confronts the vile Melmoth. Returning to the scene of the crime feels inescapable and disastrous.

The past is quicksand, the rip current, a black hole. Not even a chaos magician has the power to swim against the tide.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Liberation of Wormwood

Cinderheim: The Liberation of Wormwood
Wormwood, the frontier town to which you were born and bred, has been invaded by a hostile force.

The invaders came swiftly and without warning. The people of your town tried to resist them, but the town’s defenses were overrun and its protectors defeated. 

The occupiers have put the town’s leader to the sword. Most townsfolk now keep their heads down and offer only token resistance to the invaders.

But this is your town, your home, your Wormwood.

You might be able to fight back against the occupiers and free Wormwood from their tyranny. 

You may be strong of arm and skilled with a blade. You may have mastered a few arcane secrets. You may possess guile and deftness. You may have the gods on your side.

You and your compatriots are Wormwood’s last hope.

Welcome to the resistance. It’s time to rise up.

* * *

What I'm working on: a campaign set-up for Cinderheim. As you can see from the text above, the initial scenario is that each character has come of age in Wormwood--a frontier town that has been invaded and occupied by outsiders. There's a random table for the DM to roll on to determine who has invaded the town, with each invader getting their own page of brief info, suggested stats, danger and doom, and two additional random tables for the DM to find inspiration and detail to grab onto:

The supplement will also have random tables for players to roll on during character creation. This is a two-part process: you get to roll to see how your parents or guardians influenced you and you get to roll to see who your mentor in the town is and how they influenced you. Here's the Parental Influence table thus far:

As you can see, each background will have its own table that adds more detail to the town and its inhabitants. The Mentor's Guidance table does something similar, but will be more focused on a personal aspect of the character:

One of the challenges is adding "surprising" or "weird" results that could come up without having them dominate. If everything is weird and edgy in your setting, nothing is actually weird or edgy in your setting. As it is, it's possible for Wormwood to be a town that engages in cannibalizing outsiders:

And I would say "sorry" to the player who rolls up that they sealed the pact with their warlock's patron by performing the Kiss of Shame, but I'm not really that sorry about it tbh:

I plan to add some additional random tables as needed, a quick die-drop system for sketching the town's layout, and a table that will generate a "kicker" or starting scene with which to begin play.

Lemme know what else you'd like to see in the comments--no guarantees, but I might take it under consideration.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Black Helicopters

Caitlin R. Kiernan's Black Helicopters is an atmospheric, ultra-dark fantasy novella that manages to do modern-day Lovecraftiana oh-so-right. Creepy twins, cosmic horror, and shadowy conspiracies combine to create a mind-bending reading experience.
Is the best Lovecraftiana the stuff that strays furthest from the mythos? Why were conspiracy theories so awesome in the 1990s? How can a book that doesn't focus on plot OR character be so damn satisfying? This episode of Bad Books for Bad People dares to answer all these questions, plus learn about a home-made version of The Crow, haunting tales from gym class, and Operation Midnight Climax!
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.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Danes Just Want to Have Fun

Uhtred is our Jon Snow-esque protagonist
Shotgunned through The Last Kingdom while down with the flu. If you've got Netflix you could follow suit.

Although ostensibly a medieval action-drama about the battles between the Saxons and the Danes, the show sometimes feels like a critique of respectability politics. Alfred the Great chooses what looks "right" over what is actually smart or noble, and frankly he eats shit for it every time.

I'd extend the argument to Christianity as a whole, as it's presented here. 

Hild will fuck you up
Also there's a heavy critique of spin-doctoring in a pre-mass media age. A mouthy monk is equivalent to a thousand twittterers. Gossiping first counts for more than a first strike on the battlefield.

Faster death-rate than Game of Thrones too; Game of Thrones wants you to start liking a character before they eat steel--The Last Kingdom doesn't have time for your affection. That said, it does give you the space as a viewer to take an immediate dislike to some of the squirming wormtongue villains, and it does reward you with some very rewarding death scenes for the same.

The show even gets away with some noble savage nonsense because the difference between Dane and Saxon is (usually) less about ethnicity than it is about heathenry. 

I do wonder at the places where show gets a little squeamish. The use of the word "hump" in place of any stronger language is simultaneously jarring and charming, for example.

And then there's this crazy witch
My early favorite character was Hild, a warrior-nun who kicks ass and takes no shit. Current favorite character is Skade because she has just the right combination of feral witchiness and utter bloodthirstiness that I like in a woman. "There's this witch in season three you'll like," they said...and they read me like a god-damn book.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Worldbuilding Through Backgrounds

Backgrounds and Worldbuilding
Selecting a background for your character in 5e D&D is a way of making an assertion about your character’s history. But what if it was also a way of making an assertion about the campaign setting as a whole? 

Dungeon Masters who are interested in shared worldbuilding with the other players could use the background system as a place to open-up some of the more important worldbuilding details to player input. When a player selects their character’s background, they get to answer questions about the world connected to that background. Those answers become facts in regards to the invented campaign setting; the Dungeon Master is then obligated to include the players' answers to those questions in the evolving campaign in play—those answers must be given weight and they must matter.

Note: this assumes that only one player can select a particular background for their character. Each background is essentially unique.


Background Worldbuilding Questions
Acolyte There is one god who is never spoken of: what is their name and why are they reviled by the faithful?
Charlatan You know the name of the alchemist who has discovered the true panacea: who are they and why are they in danger?
Criminal What is the name of the most powerful crime syndicate? Why are they justly feared?
Entertainer Who is the most famed entertainer in the land? What secret lurks in their past?
Folk Hero Who is raising an army of the dead? To what end are they assembling this unholy horde?
Guild Artisan Which guild is the wealthiest and most powerful? What corrupt dealings are they involved in?
Hermit An otherworldly threat has entered the Material Plane: what is it and what does it want?
Noble Which family possesses a valid claim on the crown? What are they doing to place their scion on the throne?
Outlander What legendary beast still prowls the wilderness? What is the beast’s vulnerability?
Sage Where is the greatest library in the known world located? What unique tomes are safeguarded there?
Sailor What mythical land beyond the seas actually exists? Who are its people, and why do they wish to remain hidden?
Soldier What war rages beyond the boundaries of the kingdom? What caused the conflict to ignite?
Urchin Where do the tunnels in the sewers lead to? What creatures live in seclusion beneath the streets?

Monday, January 14, 2019

Top Metal of 2018

I'm not narrowing this down to a Top Ten or ranking it, but if you like metal here are some worthy albums that came out this year:

Friday, January 11, 2019

2018 in the Rear View Mirror and Looking Ahead at 2019

Not bad for a year's work
2018, huh? What a wild ride.

Over the course of the year I managed to publish five game supplements on the Dolorous Exhumation Press imprint:  

All of those were done without Kickstarter or Patreon--I made them because I wanted to make them. They have been well-received. Krevborna is currently an electrum best-seller on DriveThru, Umberwell is a silver best-seller, and Cinderheim is a copper best-sellers. People I respect have said nice things about them; I met new people who wanted to tell me they liked my work. Thanks to everyone who bought a copy.

It was also important to me to get to work with artists that I love on these projects, so shout outs to Becky Munich, Michael Gibbons, Wayne Snyder, and Tenebrous Kate

An additional shout-out is due to Heather, who edited Krevborna, Cinderheim, and Umberwell. And those books wouldn't have been possible at all without Katie handling the cover engineering for me.

It was always exciting to hear about how these supplements helped people run fun games. Aside from reading play reports of how games went in my settings (which I love, hit me up if you got some I haven't seen), I also got to watch some Cinderheim content see play on Jim Davis's Land Between Two Rivers stream and Krevborna in action in Technoskald's Dungeon World game. And excellent people like Anne have been using Umberwell to make some cool stuff I'm going to borrow for my own games.

The Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque blog continues to roll along. I wrote 198 blog posts in 2018

I ran a bunch of games, but not as many as I ran in 2017. It is still amazing to me that I can put out a call as simple as "Hey, anyone want to play on Wednesday?" and will easily get enough eager responses to get an adventure going. My games aren't for every taste, but apparently I serve it up good enough to get return customers and new player alike.

I played in some other people's games and helped playtest both GRIDSHOCK and B/X MARS.

The Bad Books for Bad People podcast is unstoppable. We've gotten a lot of positive ratings, and even some heartfelt messages from fans and creators alike. I couldn't ask for a better partner for the podcast--Tenebrous Kate is the mvp of our journey through the weirdest halls of literature. Thank you to all the fans who listen and banter with us. We love you as much as we love trashy books.

* * *

So what does 2019 hold? Some thoughts:

  • I'm not exactly sure what I'll do next for Dolorous Exhumation Press, but I've got some ideas for short supplements already in mind. At the same time, I'm never going to publish something just for the sake of having new content. If it doesn't hit my standards, I'll never ask you to pay money for it.
  • At this point I'm happy to move away from earlier game stuff I did, such as the World Between. I'm fine with leaving that stuff out there to be used non-commercially, but I don't think any commercial products (mine or by anyone else) are in the cards for the future. The past is a foreign country.
  • The death of G+ will probably hamper getting online games going, but as we learned from Mad Men, "When God closes a door..." Anyway, I can't get that emotional about Google shuttering one of its projects--that's just what they do.
  • I started writing a short story and I'm going to finish it. I don't really even care if it's good or not; it's nice to knock the rust off and remember how to write fiction. If it turns out good enough, maybe I'll let you read it.
  • This blog will continue for as long as it entertains me to keep up with it. I do wonder if the demise of G+ is going to cause my enthusiasm to flag a bit, but there's no predicting that. Either way, I've got enough future posts saved as drafts to keep it going for a ways.
  • We've got a list of books to cover on Bad Books for Bad People that is long enough to sustain us for at least two years. The podcast is only in danger if we get bored with it.
  • I'd really like to record the material from my Intro to Gothic Lit course as a podcast this year. I need to talk to people wiser about this stuff than I am, but I'd really like that to be out there in the world for anyone who loves Gothic fiction. If it works...maybe I record the material from my Oscar Wilde course after that.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Beast Master Ranger House Rules

Beast Master Ranger House Rules
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that the beast master ranger is poorly designed. In 5e D&D the ranger’s beast is most often seen as a liability rather than a fun constellation of mechanics and theme; choosing the beast master over the other ranger archetypes feels like intentionally choosing style over substance.

The recent errata for 5e D&D went a little ways toward making the beast master ranger a more viable and attractive choice, but I don’t think those small fixes and clarifications go nearly far enough. In my games, I implement the following for any player who might be interested in playing a beast master:

  • Real talk: I will rarely target your animal companion in combat. I will also mostly forget to include your animal companion in area effect damage.
  • When it comes to choosing the kind of animal companion you can have, be aware that re-skinning is an option on the table. If you want a bear companion, we can probably find some stats to use that fulfill the beast master’s requirements for an animal companion.
  • If your beast dies, you can resurrect it over a long rest. Actually, I’d probably let you bring your companion back over a short rest if you ask nicely.
  • When you gain your beast companion we’ll assign it saving throw proficiencies that make sense for the kind of beast it is.
  • We’ll also assign your beast companion some skills. Up to four.
  • Every time you gain a ranger level your beast companion gains an additional hit die and the corresponding hit points.
  • At every level that you gain an Ability Score Increase your beast companion also gains an Ability Score Increase. Note that these Ability Score Increases may affect things such as attack bonuses, hit points, and saving throw DCs.
  • You and your beast understand each other. For example, if you send your beast to scout ahead it can relay information to you upon its return without you having to magic the information out of it.
  • I treat your beast companion as an extension of your ranger character. For example, if you cast hunter’s mark on a foe your beast companion’s attacks benefit from the additional damage provided by the spell.
  • Similarly, your beast companion can benefit from your Hide in Plain Sight, Vanish, Feral Senses, and Foe Slayer abilities.
  • If you command your beast to attack and you’re wielding two-weapons you can make one off-hand attack as part of this action—your beast’s attack counts as the primary attack, your attack counts as the secondary attack.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Best of 2018

For better or for worse, 2018 is one for the history books. Jack and Kate take some time to recommend some of media they enjoyed during the year that hasn't been discussed on the podcast. The rules of engagement are simple: the hosts each choose one movie, album, TV show, book and "wild card" from any category that was the best experience of its kind encountered during 2018.
Your hosts go down pop cultural byways that include corpsepaint, 19th Century British crime, highbrow comics, brave artists willing to take dares from internet cesspools, and very weird dads.
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.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Umberwell: Blackened Be Thy Name is the Deal of the Day at DriveThruRPG

UMBERWELL: BLACKENED BE THY NAME is the Deal of the Day on DriveThruRPG today!

For the next twenty-four hours the pdf of the book is half-off and priced to move at a mere $4.97.

What for you get for about five bones?

Discover Umberwell, a fantasy metropolis of stunning strangeness and decadent splendor. Explore a city of urban dungeons, encounter marvelous artifice, and hear the prayers offered to the six goddesses of the City of Exiles. Tour the city’s island sprawl, its underground warrens, its undersea domes, and the rusting towers that lead to its skyward reaches. Mingle with devious wizards, thieving gangs, and creatures drawn to the city from across the planar multiverse. All you have to do is learn to survive the streets, crypt-kicker! Beautiful fiends, deadly assassins, scheming secret societies, raucous cabarets, and horrid monsters await just beyond the harbors. Embark and taste the impossible fever dream.

Umberwell: Blackened Be Thy Name is a system-neutral city campaign setting for picaresque urban fantasy adventures inspired by New Weird fiction. The book includes:

  • Art by the incomparable Tenebrous Kate.
  • Details on the city of Umberwell, including information on its demoness mayor, its worm trains, its dangerous gangs and cults, its interplanar zones, and much more.
  • Information on the myriad races who populate the city.
  • Ideas for genre-appropriate characters and the reasons that brought them to the metropolis.
  • Eleven factions and twenty-six NPCs to involve your players in intrigue.
  • Advice and tools for running a fantasy RPG in an urban setting.
  • Tools for use in game, such as copious adventure seeds, random tables, and a comprehensive adventure generator that gives you the basis of a scenario with little prep.
  • A full index of subjects, an index of adventure ideas, and an index of the book's random tables.
  • A design philosophy that prioritizes ease of use and speed of play. All "lore" entries are easy to scan, and make use of bullet points and bold text to draw your attention to the important bits so you can get on with your game.
  • Bundled with the pdf is a free supplement, Scardogs and Scapegraces, which expands the detailed NPCs to fifty characters that can act as contacts for player characters in the city.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Total Skull: Helvete, Gospel,Swell-Looking Babe, Hamartia, Christmas Ghosts

Things that brought me delight in December, 2018:

Helvete: A Journal of Black Metal Theory, Issue 1: Incipit
The essays I've read from the para-academic world of black metal theory have been hit or miss, but the value here is less in the sharp delineation of ideas and more in the rupturing atmosphere the best of these pieces exude. 

Opera IX, The Gospel
Opera IX's theatrical, orchestral black metal still delivers the pomp and satanic circumstance on The Gospel. The orchestration does more work than the riffs, which honestly is a nice change of pace of this style of black metal. Bandcamp link.

Jim Thompson, A Swell-Looking Babe
You're in luck, we did an entire podcast episode about this book here just for your edification.

 November's Doom, Hamartia
November's Doom is death-doom that always weighted their work heavier on the death side of the equation, until Hamartia. Hamartia still has moments of ferocious strength, but that is more of a moody balancing act throughout.

The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories, 
Volume Two

I'm not sure I ever really see myself getting sick of Victorian Christmas ghost tales. There is a glorious alternative here: you don't need to be bah humbug about the holiday--you can delight in the specters and murders and murderous specters it brings instead.

Helllight, As We Slowly Fade
Imagine a mouth opening in anguish, the words emerging only as frost caught on the wind-bitten air. That's the kind of funereal doom that Helllight serves up on As We Slowly Fade--a kind of apocalypse that feels as personal as it does cosmic. Bandcamp link.

Brandon Graham, Multiple Warheads book 2: Ghostown
"Raiding the wizard's tower" is the barest of cliches, but even the most shopworn of concepts cannot escape become unfathomably something else when it comes into contact with Brandon Graham's Multiple Warheads.

Neurosis & Jarboe, s/t
The sound of the chora entering the lingual stage through shrieks and expressive rage against the abjection to come. Bandcamp link.

Kentaro Miura, Berserk vol. 23 and 24
December arrives just in time for a fight with snowmen! But really, this bit of the story feels like a meditation on Wilde's thesis that each man kills the thing he loves.

Octave Mirbeau, The Death of Balzac
Hagiographies are frequently uninteresting, but this one is. "Balzac did not pay his dues. He only paid in masterpieces: coin that was not legal tender in the Academie."

Not exactly a Christmas Eve tradition yet, but maybe it should be.