Thursday, February 28, 2019

GM's Day Sale

All the books published by Dolorous Exhumation Press have been included in DriveThruRPG's GM's Day Sale. The pdfs are priced to move, so if you've been curious about my work (or just want to round out your collection) this is a great opportunity.

The sale lasts for ten days, so if you want to pick up any of the supplements below, now's the time to do it.

Krevborna: A Gothic Blood Opera
A Gothic fantasy setting inspired by Bloodborne, Castlevania, and Eastern European folklore.

Cinderheim: The Land Under the Demon Sun
An apocalyptic fantasy desert rife with demonic corruption, spaghetti western meets sword & sorcery.

Umberwell: Blackened Be Thy Name
A fantasy metropolis setting inspired by the New Weird fictions of China Mieville, KJ Bishop, and Felix Gilman.

Hexmoon Sabbath: A Folk Horror Doom
A set of three villainous witches to be inserted into any campaign setting as an emergent threat and campaign arc.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Umberwell Backgrounds

Umberwell Backgrounds
Since Umberwell breaks with some of the assumptions of baseline 5e D&D--the urban struggle rather than wilderness adventure or the trappings of village-life, modern themes like immigration--I felt like it needed some bespoke background options available for the player characters. It turned out that these were great places to insert some small acts of worldbuilding in addition to a place to provide more variety. Below are some of my favorites (but there's more in the book). Note: I considered writing bespoke features for each background, but reskinning the existing ones actually proved more popular with my players.

You were cast out of your homeland—possibly because of your political or religious beliefs.
    • Skill Proficiencies. Athletics, Insight.
    • Tool Proficiencies. One type of artisan’s tools.
    • Languages. One of your choice.
    • Equipment. A set of artisan’s tools with which you are proficient, a token from your homeland, a set of traveler’s clothes, and a belt pouch containing 15 gp.
    • Feature. As the Folk Hero’s feature.

Umberwell has public parks so vast that sanctioned foresters are employed to patrol them, keeping an eye out for lost citizens.
    • Skill Proficiencies. Animal Handling, Survival.
    • Tool Proficiencies. Vehicles (land).
    • Languages. One of your choice.
    • Equipment. A tent, a park map, a set of traveling clothes, and a belt pouch containing 10 gp.
    • Feature. As the Outlander’s feature.

Hex-Marked Partisan
You were a fanatical supporter of one of the city’s hex-marked houses of aristocratic tieflings.
    • Skill Proficiencies. Deception, Intimidation.
    • Tool Proficiencies. Forgery kit.
    • Languages. One of your choice.
    • Equipment. A forgery kit, a signet ring, a set of fine clothes, and a belt pouch containing 15 gp.
    • Feature. As the faction agent’s feature.

Parish Beadle
You were employed by a church or temple to deal with petty offenses in a neighborhood parish.
    • Skill Proficiencies. Investigation, Persuasion.
    • Tool Proficiencies. Thieves’ tools.
    • Languages. One of your choice.
    • Equipment. Thieves’ tools, a distinctive cloak, a parish insignia, a set of fine clothes, and a belt pouch containing 10 gp.
    • Feature. As the Acolyte’s feature.

You were convicted of a crime—rightfully or wrongfully—and sentenced to serve time in one of Umberwell’s gaols.
    • Skill Proficiencies. Deception, Perception.
    • Tool Proficiencies. One type of gaming set, thieves’ tools.
    • Equipment. A small knife, a set of common clothes, a reminder of your life before your conviction, thieves’ tools, a gaming set, and a belt pouch containing 10 gp.
    • Feature. As the Criminal’s feature.

Undercity Miner
You worked in the mines located beneath the city in the Slumgullian Warrens.
    • Skill Proficiencies. Athletics, Survival.
    • Languages. Dwarven and Undercommon.
    • Equipment. A shovel or a miner’s pick, a block and tackle, a climber’s kit, a set of common clothes, and a belt pouch containing 10 gp.
    • Feature. As the Outlander’s feature.

* * *

If you like the content above (or any of the content here), consider checking out Umberwell: Blackened Be Thy Name, system agnostic New Weird city setting, now available in print and pdf from DriveThruRPG.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Snakes Slithering Among Us!

Heh heh heh.

Sometimes you hear a phrase that sticks with you because of the ridiculousness of its intent and context.

Snakes slithering among us.

Truly, words to conjure with.

Text to the left from the forthcoming supplement The Liberation of Wormwood.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Mirror Reaper

"Bell Witch partnered with Director Taylor Bednarz to create this feature-length music video to accompany the Mirror Reaper album. The film is a video collage comprised of dozens of archival films. Each of these clips are woven together with the album to build a patient, heavy, and haunting narrative. Listen to the full 83 minute album, Mirror Reaper, while being taken into the state of a lucid dream."

Check it out:

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Interludes for 5e Dungeons and Dragons

Art by Max Gibson

It isn’t unusual for the characters in heroic fiction to engage in dialog or acts of storytelling that reveals something important about their pasts or gives the reader further access to their personalities. The system below gives a mechanical incentive for scenes of revelatory characterization:
  • During a period of natural downtime, a player may nominate themselves to roleplay an interlude scene.
  • That player must draw a single card from a standard deck. The value and suit of the card drawn determines the essential content of the interlude, as per the Interlude Table.
  • The player will then tell a story based on that theme in the voice of their character. The story should reveal something about the character’s backstory or give the other players a greater sense of who that character is, their motivations, their hopes and fears, etc.
  • After a player completes an interlude scene, their character immediately gains inspiration.
  • The next time an interlude scene is invoked, a different player must nominate themselves.

Interlude Table

First day on the job
Blossoming romance
New insight
Cunning plan
Patience rewarded
Dangerous attraction
False impression
Skilled leadership
Teamwork leading to success
Failure to express an idea
Goal achieved
Victim of greed
Recovery from injury
Victim of theft
Tragic loss
Hollow victory
Glorious victory
Spending a vast sum
Childhood nostalgia
Long journey
Last-ditch defense
Changing your path
Treasured daydream
Practiced deceit
Short journey
The devil in the details
Leaving someone behind
Feeling trapped
Prolonged battle
Sexual satisfaction
Guilty nightmare
Burden of duty
Familial happiness
Quick temper
Hard work
Falling in love
Fiery rebellion
Utter chaos
Maternal instinct
Emotional dependence
Sharp intellect
Rags to riches
Wise diplomacy


NOTE: This system is an adaptation of the interludes from Savage Worlds Deluxe, but I have significantly expanded the table found in those rules.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Toman Dak, the Grand Magus of the Nameless One

Although Toman Dak has exerted a great deal of effort to become the leader of the Druuz’Ket encampment, his true interests do not involve governance. Dak has assumed control of Druuz’Ket so that he might have access to the underground library that lies beneath the Stained Ziggurat. Dak is a warlock sworn to the service of the Nameless One, an Elder Evil. His master has directed him to recover an eldritch tome that may contain the secret of recovering the Elder Evil’s lost true name.
  • Appearance. Oni, deep blue skin, tusked and horned, stoutly built, wears ornate robes of multicolored silk.
  • Abilities. Magic, arcane research.
  • Traits. Inquisitive, faces adversity with unnerving calm.
  • Ideal. Become the most feared mage in the world.
  • Bond. Lives to please the Nameless One.
  • Flaw. Does not realize the danger to his life posed by other popular leaders within Druuz’Ket.
  • Warband. Druuz’Ket is home to experienced and merciless warriors, but internal divisions within its polity make it difficult to form a functional, lasting warband.

  • The Blood Tusks. The Blood Tusks are Dak’s ogre magi bodyguards. Each reveres the Nameless One; they spill blood in its name as a sacrament.
  • Salk’s Raiders. Salk’s Raiders are a group of orc rangers renowned for their trained packs of velociraptors.
  • Xalak. Xalak is a mad troll warrior in thrall to Druuz, the oasis’s demon lord. He fights with a suicidal fury; the closer he comes to death in combat, the happier he is.
Druuz’Ket is currently recovering from a period of turmoil. The previous leader of the encampment was assassinated, and Toman Dak has only recently gained enough influence to consolidate his position. Dak’s rule is tenuous; other powerful individuals within Druuz’Ket already plot his overthrow.
  • Population. Two-thirds of the population are orcs. The remaining third are mostly ogres and trolls.
  • Aesthetic. A series of connected, fortress-like buildings of stone and wood. Dour, but functional.
  • Supplies. Handicrafts. Druuz’Ket’s water is drawn from twelve wells that are always guarded.
  • The Stained Ziggurat. The Stained Ziggurat is an ancient temple of sand-colored stone. The Ziggurat’s steps are stained deep brown from the blood shed in ritual sacrifice to Druuz, the Hoarder of Secrets.
  • The Arena. The fighting pits of Druuz’Ket draw audiences from throughout Cinderheim who hunger for the spectacle of gladiatorial games.
  • The Pagoda of the Uplifted. Contrary to the brutish atmosphere of Druuz’Ket, the encampment houses the Pagoda of the Uplifted—an ascetic monastery where monks and nuns train their bodies and minds to find enlightenment.

  • Infiltrate the Arena and lead an uprising of enslaved gladiators against their masters.
  • Delve into the library beneath the Stained Ziggurat and locate the Nameless One’s true name before Toman Dak can discover it.
  • Aid Salk in ousting Toman Dak from leadership.
  • Sacrifice upon the steps of the Ziggurat to summon a demonic servant of Druuz into the world.

If you like the content above (or any of the content here), consider checking out Cinderhein: The Land Under the Demon Sun, a system agnostic apocalyptic fantasy setting, now available in print and pdf from DriveThruRPG.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Worm Ouroboros

Episode 30: The Worm Ouroboros
The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison is considered to be a classic of the fantasy genre, rediscovered during the 1960s as the canon of modern fantasy was developed in a post-Tolkien world. Drawing its influences from classic epics of the Nordic, Celtic, and Greek cultures, the novel tracks the culture clash between the noble and straight-dealing denizens of Demonland and their treacherous enemies in Witchland. It also has characters with names like Goldry Bluzsco, La Fireez, Spitfire, and Cargo, so strap yourselves in for some real high fantasy nonsense.
What will Kate and Jack make of the numerous old timey ballads and poems within the book's pages? Which characters does it seem like the author wanted to make kisses on? Who in their right mind would publish a ravenously pro-war novel four years after the close of World War I? What do Electric Wizard, decadent literature, and McDonaldLand have to do with any of this? Listen to the latest episode of Bad Books for Bad People and find out the answers to these questions and more.
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, February 11, 2019

The Circle

A faction in Umberwell:


The members of the Circle are ascetics who eschew worldly possessions. Adherents of the Circle’s ideology choose to live in poverty, and the nature of their beliefs means that they are often shabbily dressed and filthy from living rough on the streets. Since members of the Circle tend to live as squatters in abandoned buildings that shelter other members of the underclass, they are privy to secrets, street gossip, and idle talk. The Circle has a vast network for relaying information, and they trade knowledge for the coin they use to feed and clothe the city’s impoverished.

They who have nothing possess everything.

  • Wealth is a shackle that keeps the soul bound and unable to achieve peace after death.
  • Material goods should be given away freely to those who have less.
  • Information is more valuable than gold.
  • Gain wisdom through humility, privation, and suffering.
  • Operate soup kitchens and missions to ensure that no one in Umberwell goes hungry.
  • Convey sensitive information into the right hands.
  • Aid an orphanage besieged by a cruel landlord.
  • Rescue a captured Circle member from interrogators before they manage to extract an important secret.

If you like the content above (or any of the content here), consider checking out Umberwell: Blackened Be Thy Name, system agnostic New Weird city setting, now available in print and pdf from DriveThruRPG.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Two Good Tubes: Cartoonist Kayfabe and Global Overkill

There are a lot of ways to waste time on Youtube, but there are also a few channels that are really worth sitting down and paying attention to. Here are two I'd recommend if the subject matter appeals to you:

Cartoonist Kayfabe
Cartoonists Ed Piskor and Jim Rugg sit down with an old issue of Wizard Magazine, flip through the pages, and give their commentary. I'm not even all that interested in capes comics, the main focus of Wizard's end of the comics industry, but the enthusiasm and knowledge Piskor and Rugg bring to the table makes this a fascinating channel. They bring multiple perspectives to the analysis: they reminisce about being young comics fans during the era, bring the knowledge that comes with being artists themselves, and the insider knowledge of being professionals working in the industry. And they're not afraid to cut a promo on some knuckleheads when necessary. They've got big plans for the channel; look for them to diversify the portfolio with interviews and expanded content in the weeks to come.

Global Overkill
Global Overkill is a recurring segment of the Canadian heavy metal channel Banger TV. Global Overkill is a deep dive on niche metal scenes around the world. So far, the series has delved into Quebec Tech Death, Australian Prog Metal, Icelandic Black Metal, Finnish Doom Metal, Lebanese Extreme Metal, Russian Heavy Metal, French Avant Garde Black Metal, South African Slam & Brutal Metal, Chilean Blackened Death Metal, Japanese Metal Girl Groups, Indonesian Grindcore, Brazilian Death Metal, and Chinese Folk Metal. Unfortunately, Global Overkill is on hiatus right now, but those previous episodes will keep you busy for a long time if you're into searching out wild new sounds from every corner of the globe. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Feast Your Eyes on This

Art that inspired me in January, 2019:

Anne Simon

Colleen Doran

Tom Parkinson-Morgan

Hyun Lee

Doug Mahnke

John Blanche

Djuna Barnes

Dan Mumford

Monday, February 4, 2019

The Invasion Game

The first draft of Cinderheim: The Liberation of Wormwood is done! The premise of the supplement is simple: it's designed to help you set up a frontier town that has just been invaded by outsiders. It has a lot of random tables for creating characters that are tied to the town (and have a reason to care about it) as well as random tables to figure out who has invaded the town.

We did a "playtest" of sorts for the player-facing tables over on G+ that was pretty successful. Basically, I asked people in my circles to roll some dice and I would tell them about their characters from the tables that will be in the supplement.

Let's try something similar with the DM-facing tables for the invaders. If you want to play along, roll a d10, a d6, and another d6 and tell me the results in the comments section of this post. I'll reply for the next couple of days with who has invaded your version of Wormwood and some extra information about the occupiers. Also, if you play along let me know how you want to be credited and I'll stick your name on the dedication in the supplement.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Last Plane to Heaven, Electric Messiah, The End, What Should Not Be Unearthed

Things that brought me delight in January, 2019:

Jay Lake, Last Plane to Heaven
A long time ago, I posted an rpg monster riffing off a chapter from a Jay Lake novel. He found it on my blog, somehow, and seemed tickled by it. (That bit made it into my Umberwell book.) And now, after he's passed, it was time to read his last collection of short fiction. The man had no shortage of ideas or powerful language with which to convey them.

High on Fire, Electric Messiah
I don't care if this one is too fast to qualify as "doom"; this trashes too hard to be denied by gormless categorizers.

Gallhammer, The End
Gallhammer is a recent discovery for me. There is something really special about their brand of crusty, blackened doom & drone. The first time I heard this album was one of those rare "this is making the hair on my arms stand up" moments.

Nile, What Should Not be Unearthed
"Age of Famine" has proven highly inspiring lately.

Kentaro Miura, Berserk vols. 25 and 26
More shocking than the story's turn toward a D&D-style party complete with magic weapons is Guts's turn toward dad of the group.

Behemoth, The Apostasy
I've been trying to locate exactly where Behemoth became a supreme example of blackened death, but The Apostasy feels too fully formed to be the turning point. Which is to say, it's magnificent.

Behemoth, Demigod
Okay, I think I found it.

Cannibal Corpse, Butchered at Birth
Cannibal Corpse was the only band of its ilk that seemed scary back in the day. Still do, actually.

Caitlin R. Kiernan, Black Helicopters
Unexpected nostalgia hit from all supernatural conspiracy elements. Hit up this podcast episode for more.

Seven Soldiers
I went in on this one here.