Friday, January 31, 2020

The Art of Karen Vaughan

The art below is by Karen Vaughan from the book Tangleweed and Brine by Deidre Sullivan.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The Ring and Wand Society

The Ring and Wand Society
A faction in Krevborna

The Ring and Wand Society is a secretive cabal of scholars within Creedhall University that studies the fey and their descendants. The Ring and Wand Society is mostly comprised of faculty from Creedhall University, but they do admit the occasional student who shows the right combination of promise and discretion. The Society’s end goal is to endow themselves with the longevity of the fey. To arrive at this desired result, the Ring and Wand Society pays monster hunters to capture fey creatures and elves for examination and dissection. They also abduct human victims to test their formulae upon in hopes of perfecting their methods without endangering themselves through self-experimentation.
    • Motto. “To know the truth of life we must never die.”
    • Belief. The strange longevity of the fey can be obtained by those who dare to explore fringe sciences.
    • Goal. Steal the powers of the fey to initiate the next phase of evolutionary advancement.
    • Quest. Abduct an elf for experimentation.

Monday, January 27, 2020


A location in Krevborna

Creedhall is a melancholic town that is home to the renowned Creedhall University, a sprawling campus of domed lecture halls and weathered libraries. Under the deanship of Wolfram Hague, the university has amassed a vast library of obscure and forbidden tomes. Scholars and students garbed in dark robes bustle to and fro throughout the town, seeking curious shops tucked away on forgotten avenues that peddle tomes, scrolls, and other research materials. Creedhall is home to a thriving trade in rare books, particularly books of an occult nature, and rogue artificers feel free to pursue their mad experiments in the name of advancing the pursuit of knowledge.

Creedhall is situated on the shore of Loch Riven, a lake whose depths disclose hideous portents on nights when either the blood moon or the bone moon are full. Impenetrable mists roll in from the lake with the coming of night, bringing with them monstrous aberrations from the abominably alien Far Realm.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Blood Standard

Episode 40: Blood Standard

Weird fiction luminary Laird Barron ventures into red-blooded, two-fisted territory in his 2018 novel Blood Standard. The book follows wise-cracking mafia enforcer Isaiah Coleridge as he navigates Upstate New York's organized crime world in search of a missing teen. Themed gangs, knuckle-busting dust-ups, and unexpected romance are just part of what he encounters in his unlikely hero's journey. Kate and Jack discuss the book, its relationship to classic hard-boiled fiction, and whether or not it might be a feel-good male equivalent to the romantic comedy.

How believable is a two-fisted Air Force colonel? Does New York State have a pagan festival underground? Are bean bag chairs appropriate gang lair decor? Which one of your hosts mistrusts horses and which one is a secret beastmaster? Find out the answers to all these questions and more in this month's episode of Bad Books for Bad People.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The Ulver Guild

The Ulver Guild
A faction in Krevborna

The members of the Ulver Guild are professional monster hunters who have been trained in secret combat arts at the mountain fortress of Cairn Volkov in the Nachtmahr Mountains. The Ulver Guild recruits new members exclusively from Krevborna’s population of orphaned children. At Cairn Volkov, these children are trained to their grim, thankless task. Some of these orphans are experimented on and given monstrous grafts or alchemical infusions that imbue them with superhuman abilities.
    • Motto.  “Toss a coin to your Ulver.”
    • Belief. The common people must be protected from the monsters that plague Krevborna, but that protection comes at a price.
    • Goal. Profit from purging Krevborna of monstrosities.
    • Quest. Hunt a werewolf that has been killing villagers.

Monday, January 20, 2020

6th Edition Dungeons & Dragons

There was a "who is your dream design team for 6e" thing going around on Twitter and because everybody was tagging their friends as the team you could just imagine all the completely dysfunctional editions they would actually produce. But really, my ideas for what I would do if put in charge of a new edition of D&D are also going to sound terrible to a fairly large swath of the game's audience too. To wit:

Ability Scores
  • The six standard ability scores? Cut down to four. Strength kills Constitution and takes its stuff. Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma get broken apart and reassembled as two ability scores. Shadow of the Demon Lord already does this and it's smart.
  • No numerical ability scores, just the bonus/penalty. The numerical score is already a vestigial tail that barely sees any use in the game; the time has come to jettison it.

  • Races would have a whole lot less in terms of features because they tend to include a bunch of cruft that is quickly forgotten about in play. One or two spiffy features, maximum.
  • Ability score increases would be decoupled from race choice, or at least remade as a potential source of ability score increase among others.
  • Tabaxi and warforged are core now. Sorry. (Not sorry.)

  • You make the subclass choice for your character at 1st level now. No more waiting until 3rd level to play the character you want to play. You wanna play a beast master ranger? Now you can from 1st level. You're welcome.
  • Classes will only be detailed up to level 10 in the Player's Handbook. According to the available data, 10th level is about the highest level people tend to play to before their campaigns end anyway. Higher levels can be their own book later on, which will give that stuff time to actually be playtested.

  • Milestone XP is now the default. Totting up XP as homework is hereby abolished.
  • Alignment is gone. You won't miss it.
  • Backgrounds stay. That shit slaps, as the kids say.
  • The skill list can probably be pared down just a little bit more, especially if we make mix-and-match skill plus ability score a core concept. Do we really need perception and investigation?
  • Bonus actions are gone. We can do better.
  • More emphasis on reskinning the fluff around mechanics to get your desired game aesthetics.
  • No default setting. The emphasis will be on making your own setting. 
  • This time let's figure out what we want psionics to be before we publish the edition, even if it isn't in the core books.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Things to Look Forward to in 2020

It's a new year and it's nice to have things to look forward to. Here's some lists and trailers to whet your appetite.


- The Fantasy Hive

- LitReactor

Film and Television Trailers

The Turning

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels

Locke & Key



Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears


Myrkur, "Ella"

My Dying Bride, "Your Broken Shore"

Medico Peste, "God Knows Why"

Igorrr, "Very Noise"


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Apostles of Dawn

The Apostles of Dawn
A faction in Krevborna

The Apostles of Dawn are an order of wild and romantic artificers who push the combination of science and magic beyond the constraints of what is accepted or currently possible. Many of their order are obsessed with discovering the power of Lilitu’s ancient magical machinery. Since the Apostles promote scientific inquiry over faith and spiritual beliefs, they often find themselves at odds with the Church of Sacred Blood.
Motto. “We light the lantern that defiles ignorance.”
Belief. Scientific and magical research must always be pushed to the bleeding edge.
Goal. Create new forms of weaponry to fight back against the monsters that trouble the land.
Quest. Steal back a prototype weapon that was pilfered by bandits.

Monday, January 13, 2020


A location in Krevborna.

The scent of incense hangs heavy in the air of Chancel, a large city of towering churches and cathedrals that is at once a den of immoral decadence and religious fanaticism. Chancel is under the theocratic rule of Pontiff Lazarus and the Church of Sacred Blood. Clusters of statues of saints and gods crop up like funereal marble gardens throughout the city, and penitents often consider traveling to Chancel as a holy pilgrimage.

The Church of Sacred Blood infiltrates every facet of life in Chancel, but the Church is hideously corrupt. Crackling pyres stand ready to burn accused witches and other heretics alive—regardless of the veracity of their guilt. Chancel is the most wealthy city in Krevborna, yet it is also a place of crushing poverty for the city’s underclass. Afflicted beggars dressed in rags call for alms as gilded carriages roll past. Periodic outbreaks of strange miasmas and diseases that transform citizens into ravening beasts or the walking dead afflict the city.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Best of the Rest of 2019

Best of the Rest of 2019

Jack and Kate look at what they've read and watched in the second half of 2019 and make some recommendations in the world of books and beyond. 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 the last half of the year that was.
Ranging from comfort food comedy to critically acclaimed foreign films to avant garde metal and right back around again, your hosts take a meander through what delighted them during the waning of 2019.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Welcome to Krevborna

Map by Michael Gibbons

Once a country of picturesque villages, pristine forests, and sublime mountain ranges, Krevborna is now a land of Gothic ruins preyed upon by fiends, ravening beasts, and the unquiet dead. Shadows triumphantly lengthen across Krevborna as two fell moons ominously illuminate the ink-black night sky. The blood moon brings pain, bloodshed, and uncontrollable passion. The bone moon brings the silent morbidity of the grave. The great powers of darkness converge to usher in the dread dominion of an everlasting empire of night. Someone must light a candle against the enveloping, corrosive darkness. The land is in need of heroes to save it from falling into damnation.

Aside from Krevborna’s major settlements, the land is dotted with farming communities, hamlets, villages, and isolated towns. Krevborna’s settlements are connected by rough trade roads fraught with hazard. Those who travel through the wilderness had best keep an eye out for highwaymen, bandits, and supernatural horrors that prey upon wayfarers. 

There is no tsar and no national army to protect the land and its people. Krevborna was once a land ruled by a hereditary nobility, but is now without centralized authority. The Church of Sacred Blood holds sway in many areas—Chancel and Piskaro, the largest cities, are under the Church’s control—but it is highly factional and has difficulty managing secular matters. The Church of Sacred Blood venerates a pantheon of gods through rites that involve the imbibing of sanctified blood. It is the last bulwark of authority in Krevborna, yet the Church is internally divided by sectarianism, intrigue, and corruption. 

Outside of the areas controlled by the Church, villages and towns are independently governed by landholders and burgomasters. Evil has wormed its way into the land and its people. The citizens of Hemlock have turned to witchcraft and devil-worship for protection and insurance against bad harvests and failing mines. Lamashtuans live under the thumb of vampire masters who demand blood tithes in return for what little prosperity they are allowed in that frigid and unforgiving realm.  

The Sea of Cerna lies off Krevborna’s coast. Its waters are rough, the weather temperamental. The Sea of Cerna connects to the larger Onesti Ocean both south and west of Krevborna. Travel by sea to other lands is perilous; few can boast of seeing other shores. The River Krev winds its way from the mountains, past Chancel and down to Piskaro. Riverboats traverse the Krev and the land’s other major rivers and canals.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Surprisingly Good Things on Twitter

Some excellent rpg Twitter threads that are absolutely worth your time:

Math is scary, and often we stick to what we know because its easy, but the best games examine the mechanical choices they make, so I'm gonna demistify some shit about 2d6 math.

Alternate Title: PbtA designers, please stop using +/- x modifiers in your games.
- @ammourazz

* * *

Some mid-morning spice: You CAN create a satisfying layout for your game using Google Docs.

- @DeePennyway

* * *

Hello, beautiful creative people. Have you considered making a zine? Like a physical, printed zine on actual paper?

Great. You should definitely do that. And once you do, you should maybe sell it on Itch, if that's a place where you sell stuff. Here's how.

- @infinitemao

* * *

OK so this is a thread containing productivity tips I have learned from making ttrpgs, though probably they are applicable to other creative arts as well. It will end up being fairly long.

- @chthonstone

* * *

A Thread

So you want to make cool RPG Zines and have just discovered you can use paintings and illustrations under creative commons CC/public domain PD license. This are some advices around this kinda tricky thing. Here we go.
- @guilhermedenovo

* * *

I've been writing and publishing RPGs for a few years now. I can't say I am successful but I have a couple of tips.
- @lostpaolo

* * *

Okay, I have an hour to kill: Retweet, then reply here to the original tweet, and I'll invent a D&D class for you.
- @scumbelievable

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Neon Genesis Evangelion, Daemon, Knives Out, Spiritual Instinct

Things that brought me delight in December, 2019:

Neon Genesis Evangelion
Come for the giant robot battles, stay for the existential dread, deep-seated sea of anxieties, meditations on the abjectness of the physical form, and the nihilistic relief of the dissolution of a sense of self! Oddly, the ending reminded me a bit of The Prisoner.

Mayhem, Daemon
De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas is great, of course, but I haven't been into most modern Mayhem albums. Daemon is a notable exception: it sounds exactly like the kind of infernal war music it ought to.

Knives Out
Quite possibly the funniest movie I've seen in a theater in a long time. I mean intentionally funny.

Alcest, Spiritual Instinct
The Alcest formula is a strong one: complex layers of sunlight and darkness, each song good on its own but achieving greatness in context.

Simon Stern (ed), The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories, Volume Three
Read a volume of these Victorian Christmas ghost stories is probably my favorite part of the holiday season. Haunted ovens! Ghost brides! Misers! Editors! Dyspepysia!

The Witcher
I had my doubts, but this adaptation of The Witcher is actually good! It could have done with a date flashed on the screen to identify the various timelines, but that complaint aside the show was a lot of fun to watch.

Oxxo Xoox, Y
Who releases a potential album of the year in late November? Oxxo Xoox, that's who. As bold a move as that is, it pales before the mix of beauty-and-the-beast vocals, chugging guitars, and an utter lack of artistic restraint.

Richard Gavin, Sylvan Dread: Tales of Pastoral Darkness
In less enlightened circles, I think we'd call this "folk horror," but I reckon that is a disservice. Nature's monstrosity is unveiled, as is our craving for it.

Blut Aus Nord, Hallucinogen
"Blut Aus Nord goes psychedelic," is a phrase that gives pause, but works.

Officium Triste, The Death of Gaia
Lush orchestration coupled with growled vocals that are surprisingly precise in their delivery.

Vampire Hunter D Reader's Guide
A handful of short-stories and an encyclopedia of "lore" entries from the long-running light novel series. Whoever wrote the lore entries was clearly having a ton of fun.

Nile, Vile Nilotic Rites
Everyone else can go home: "The Oxford Handbook of Savage Genocidal Warfare" is the best song title of the year.