Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The Knights Labyrinthian


The Knights Labyrinthian
A faction in Krevborna

The Knights Labyrinthian are delvers who search for lost knowledge within the Grail Tombs. Knights in name only, members of the Labyrinthians are trained in diverse talents; they must be equally adept at exploring subterranean dungeons, combating monstrosities, and employing the academic arts of antiquarian scholarship. Some theorize that prolonged exposure to the Grail Tombs results in the gradual development of the strange psionic powers often found within the ranks of the Labyrinthians.
    • Motto. “We need eyes beneath the earth—to keep watch on what watches us.”
    • Belief. Occult means should be used to ensure Krevborna’s survival, even if it is heretical to do so.
    • Goal. Uncover the secrets of the Lilituans in the magically preserved catacombs beneath Krevborna.
    • Quest. Unseal an ancient vault and map its uncanny depths.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

The Changed

The Changed
The changed are individuals who were originally human, but have been altered beyond their humanity by sin, magic, divine intervention, or the experiments of artificers.


Ashen
In Krevborna, death is not always the end. Ashen are dead men and women who have been mysteriously returned to life to complete a task assigned to them by the gods. The time allotted to an ashen to finish their task is limited. When someone reanimates as an ashen, they find that their skin has turned gray and that they are now marked by a bleeding black sigil that attracts the attention of fiends; their memories and sanity slowly erode until they become a hollow, mindless husk.
Suggested stats. Use the Hollow One supernatural gift.


Greshniks
Being a greshnik is a condition, something akin to a disease—albeit a malady of a spiritual nature. Some sinners are so consumed by their misdeeds that their bodies begin to reflect the foulness of their souls. Their skin becomes reptilian and squamous, their teeth elongate into fangs, their fingers curl into claws, and horns crown their unwholesome heads. The Church of Sacred Blood generally regards greshnik as spiritually unclean; although atonement is possible, a greshnik’s body only reverts to its original, unchanged human form upon their death.
Suggested stats. Dragonborn.


J├Ągerborn
The monster hunters of the Haxanjager guild adopt orphans, urchins, and other discarded children with the hopes of training them to the task of hunting supernatural horrors. The strongest and most promising of these children are experimented upon to transform them into superior monster slayers. Using secret artificer magic, the chosen children are injected with alchemical infusions or given grafts taken from samples of monstrous flesh that endow them with superhuman abilities; the children who receive these infusions are marked by the experience—jagerborn often have cat-like eyes, discolored skin, or faded hair.
Suggested stats. Genasi, Simic hybrids.




Kaliabano
Kalibano are humans who were exposed to black magic while still in the womb. They are born misshapen, bestial, hulking, and brutish; no two kalibano look exactly the same—they may be hunchbacked, gnarled of limb, or possess tusk-like teeth. When a child is born a kalibano, the community often sends for a witchfinder as a befouled birth is a sure sign that a witch or hag is lurking in the vicinity. Kalibano are often feared because many possess an innate ferocity due to their malign magical origins.
Suggested stats. Half-orc, orc.


Malocha
Malocha are humans who have become infected by the baleful influence of the elder gods that emanates from the accursed stars of the Abhorrent Cosmos. Their bodies become infected with aberrant power that distorts their essential humanity. Transformation into a malocha takes a variety of forms—flesh that turns into fish-like scales and forked tongues paired with the cold eyes of serpents are but a two signs of being touched by the psychic miasma of the elder gods. Due to their connection to the elder gods, malocha often possess strange abilities. Some find themselves able to live comfortably beneath the sea’s waves or feel a newfound inclination to the dark paths of occult science.
Suggested stats. Tritons, yuan-ti purebloods.


Prometheans
Prometheans are are constructed creatures crafted from inanimate matter and granted life through magical means. Some wrought are created in vats by alchemists or in cauldrons by witches. Others are stitched together from corpses or built of metal and clockwork mechanisms by artificers, particularly the mad inventors known as the Scions of Adamus, before given the gift—or curse—of life. It is rare that a promethean survives the ordeal of their creation; as they are unlikely to meet another of their kind, the life of a promethean tends to be a lonely existence.
Suggested stats. Warforged.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

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 an ancient aristocratic lineage. The heads of the family are vampires; the lesser members of the family aspire to prove themselves worthy of undeath and greater status within the House of Draghul through martial prowess. The house’s current leader is Magnus Draghul. 
    • Motto. “May our swords ever be slaked by blood.”
    • Belief. The blood of a bested foe is the sweetest libation.
    • Goal. Embroil Krevborna in a war that will act as a bloody crucible that allows the House of Draghul to gain control of Lamashtu.
    • Quest. Learn where Queen Alcesta’s defenses are weakest.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Vampires in Krevborna


Vampires and Their Domains
The vampiric nobility of Lamashtu are intimately tied to the land of their fiefdoms. When crops are sowed, they emerge from their ornate fastnesses to consecrate the earth with their blood; this rite ensures a prosperous harvest and gives them supernatural control over their dominion. When a vampire lord is wounded or sickens, their land is blighted through sympathetic connection.

The Baroque Nature of the Vampire
It is in a vampire’s unholy nature to favor grandiosity; their baroque ostentation is a mockery of the natural sublime. The impulse toward majesty inspires vampire nobles to construct sprawling castles and towering cathedrals. This impulse also causes them to favor extravagant finery and aesthetic reverie.

The Lusts of the Undead
Plural marriages and harems of mortal concubines and vampire spawn are common among vampires. New vampires are added to a vampiric house when a desired mortal is completely drained of blood to transform them in a vampire spawn. When a vampire spawn is given the blood of a true vampire, they are raised to the status of a true vampire themselves; this process is referred to as ennoblement.

The Mater Monstrum
Legends foretell the coming of a woman who will be known as the Mater Monstrum. Unless thwarted, she will become the bride of either a fiend or a vampire and birth a horde of unthinkable monstrosities that will usher in a lasting reign of evilAlthough Krevbornite folklore contains many tales of monsters unable to withstand sunlightthe orb that shines down upon the world is a pale and compromised beacon. With the coming of the Mater Monstrum, the sun has turned sickly and its rays no longer harm creatures of darkness. Oddly, prophesies written in the Verbis Diavolo concerning the Mater Monstrum are imprinted on the insides of the skin of vampires; flayed vampires are studied by occultists in hopes of unraveling the mystery of this foretold bringer of abominations.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Ministeria Dominus


The Ministeria Dominus
A faction in Krevborna

The Ministerium Dominus is a monastic order of warrior ascetics who believe that contemplation of the angels, meditation, and extreme bodily exercise is the true path to spiritual redemption. Each monk of the Ministerium Dominus inscribes their body with angelic seals. Once their training is deemed complete by a rector of the Ministerium Dominus, the first task given to a monk of the order is to venture into the world to find an evil or accursed magical item that they will then take to the vaults below their abbeys in the mountains south of Lamashtu. 
    • Motto. “The firstborn of the gods shall guide us.”
    • Belief. Angels are exemplars to be emulated.
    • Goal. Honor the angels by removing cursed artifacts from the reach of those who would use them for ill.
    • Quest. Retrieve a malign artifact from a warlock’s clutches.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Expanded Dark Secrets Table

In some games set in Krevborna, the characters may not be pure-hearted heroes in the traditional sense. If you want a cast of characters burdened by their past misdeeds, havw each player either pick or roll a dark secret from the following table.


Dark Secret

d100

Secret

01-02

Abandonment. You abandoned your family, leaving them to fend for themselves.

03-04

Abusive. You were physically or emotionally violent to someone vulnerable.

05-06

Accomplice. You covered up the heinous crimes committed by some else.

07-08

Accursed. You are the unfortunate inheritor of a familial curse.

09-10

Addict. Perhaps you favor the sweet oblivion of opium or cannot resist drinking yourself into a stupor.

11-12

Bedlam. During a time of crisis you had a complete mental breakdown and were institutionalized.

13-14

Blackmailer. You once blackmailed a prominent member of society.

15-16

Bleak outlook. You find no pleasure or value in life.

17-18

Bloodsport. You participated in or were part of the audience for a game that was fatal to a participant.

19-20

Brawler. You entertained yourself by getting into needless, brutal fights.

21-22

Bully. You tormented someone else, pushing them to the very brink.

23-24

Cannibal. During an expedition you were forced to indulge in cannibalism to survive.

25-26

Compelled. You have always heard voices in your head urging you to do cruel, inhuman things.

27-28

Coward. You once witnessed a grave crime, but did not intervene.

29-30

Cultist. You were raised in an unwholesome cult.

31-32

Debasement. You supported yourself by engaging in activities you believe are beneath you.

33-34

Deserter. You were a soldier, but you abandoned your duties to save your own skin.

35-36

Double. You have adopted someone else’s name and identity to escape from your old life.

37-38

Duelist. You killed someone in a frivolous duel.

39-40

Extortionist. You demanded money and used the threat of violence to get it.

41-42

False witness. You turned in a rival who you knew was innocent to the authorities.

43-44

Feytouched. As a child you frolicked with the wicked fey under the cover of a deep, secret forest.

45-46

Flagellant. You abuse your body in the name of your religion.

47-48

Forbidden Love. You are in love with someone unsanctioned and disallowed.

49-50

Fraud. You pretended to be someone or something you are not in order to enrich yourself.

51-52

Gambler. You are addicted to gambling and have racked up an impressive debt.

53-54

Gossip. You spread malicious rumors, ruining someone’s reputation and good name.

55-56

Graverobber. You violated the sanctity of the grave for your own gain.

57-58

Haunted. You perceive the ghost of someone you have wronged at inopportune moments.

59-60

Hedonist. You are addicted to sensual pleasure and have led others down the path of the hedonist.

61-62

Heretic. Some of your religious sentiments run contrary to accepted church dogma.

63-64

Hypocrisy. You publicly crusade against a sin you freely indulge in private.

65-66

Illness. You suffer from an incurable fatal disease.

67-68

Lovelorn. You are in love with someone who does not return your affections.

69-70

Mad scientist’s assistant. You assisted an insane artificer with their horrid experiments.

71-72

Masochist. You find pleasure in accepting pain.

73-74

Massacre. You were a soldier who participated in war crimes against civilians.

75-76

Meddler. Your meddlesome ways have ruined someone’s life.

77-78

Murderer. You have taken a human life in cold blood.

79-80

Parricide. You killed one or both of your parents.

81-82

Predatory. Your financially predatory ways have ruined someone else’s economic prospects.

83-84

Raised by Wolves. Your parents abandoned you to nature in a place of desolation.

85-86

Resurrectionist. You exhumed and sold fresh corpses to medical schools for their anatomical lessons.

87-88

Robber. You stole an item of great worth.

89-90

Sadist. You find pleasure in delivering pain.

91-92

Sold to a Hag. You parents sold you to a vile hag you raised you in a hut deep within the woods.

93-94

Spendthrift. You squandered your inheritance shamefully.

95-96

Sworn. You have made an unholy pact with an otherworldly creature.

97-98

Vampire’s thrall. You willing gave your blood to the vampire who seduced you.

99-100

Voyeur. You take pleasure in watching and spying on others surreptitiously.






Thursday, September 10, 2020

Elena Verrier

There are a lot of channels on Youtube devoted to guitar covers, but one of my favorite's is Elena Verrier, who specializes in absolutely tearing up metal tracks.

Metallica, "Blackened"

"Resident Evil 3 Save Room"

Death, "Spiritual Healing"

Slayer, "Dead Skin Mask"

Nile, "Permitting the Noble Dead to Descend to the Underworld"

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

The Rooks


The Rooks
A faction in Krevborna

The Rooks are a guild of investigators and bounty hunters. The Rooks excel at bringing the worst of the land’s criminals to justice. Many Rooks wear stylized masks to strike fear into the hearts of the criminals they pursue and to preserve their anonymity. Over the years, the Rooks have gained renown for disrupting the illegal slave trade in Piskaro, capturing several bandit warlords, and solving a number of mysterious murder cases. However, rumors that the Rooks will take innocent lives for the right handful of coins continue to dog the organization and tarnish its reputation. 
    • Motto. “We hunt the hunters.”
    • Belief. Innocence deserves protection.
    • Goal. Maintain a semblance of law and order in the absence of greater authority.
    • Quest. Apprehend a murderer currently seeking sanctuary within a church.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Veil


Veil
A location in Krevborna

Although it was set ablaze to purge it of evil by the Church’s templars, the forbidden town of Veil is still home to the desperate and depraved. Veil is comprised of the barely standing ruins of a once prosperous town; it consists of hastily repaired homes, looted buildings with shattered windows, and ramshackle shelters made from scavenged goods. Veil is haunted by the ever-present reek of smoke, soot, and ember.

Veil is a haven for outlaws, heretics, and those who do not want to be found by the world at large. In Veil, the strong dominate the weak. It is expected that those with power will abuse it. Among those who make Veil their refuge are gangs such as the Cutters, a gang of petty thieves and smugglers who are most famous for selling secrets and illicit information; the Jesters, motley-clad miscreants who run gambling houses, brothels, and fighting pits; the Headsplitters, dwarven thugs who operate an extensive protection racket; and the Fishwives, a consortium of bloodthirsty river pirates and assassins.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Mexican Gothic, Vision, Harrow the Ninth, The Alienist, and More

Things that brought me delight in August, 2020:

Silvia Moreno-Garcia,
Mexican Gothic
When Noemi's cousin writes a frantic letter to her family begging for aid against her husband's family, whom she claims is both poisoning her and afflicting her with ghosts, the young socialite is sent from Mexico City to an obscure mining town in the mountains to ascertain her relative's mental status and health. Noemi's fear for her cousin Catalina springs fully formed from the Gothic: she worries that Catalina's husband, the heir of an English family who owns a defunct silver mine, has married her for her money and is slowly killing her or driving her mad for his own mercenary reasons. 

The truth that Noemi uncovers is far stranger and far worse. Mexican Gothic revels in Gothic conventions; it traffics in a variety of excesses that entwine the sexual, familial, and cultic. Horrid theories of eugenics and purity of blood give a pseudo-scientific veneer to the evil lurking in the family's dilapidated manor. What impressed me most, in a novel full of impressive flourishes, was Moreno-Garcia's mastery of chapter length--they are exactly the perfect length to keep you turning the pages to find out what will happen next.

Julia Gfrorer,
Vision, vol. 4
There's a thing we say about suicide, that we probably shouldn't: "I can't believe they did that. Things were picking up. They had made plans for the future. You couldn't see this coming." But any gesture could be a warning sign. Grasping at one last fleeting pleasure, one more stolen moment, one more attempt to see if the abyss isn't, in fact, bottomless...these aren't displays of happiness or a newfound optimism, they're reassurances that the void is still there, still waiting, still inevitable. That's the idea that the last volume of Vision hits you with, like a punch to the solar plexus. How could it be otherwise?

Tamsyn Muir,
Harrow the Ninth
Some series advertise that you can jump into them at any point. The Locked Tomb series does not make that claim. If you were to jump into Harrow the Ninth without having read Gideon the Ninth first, you might be instantly slain. However, reading Gideon prior to its sequel is no guarantee that you won't be lost for a good portion of Harrow anyway. You're going to be lost; this is a complicated and sometimes difficult book. But it is ultimately a rewarding book.

The overall delivery of Harrow the Ninth feels very different from Gideon because of the switch in main characters. Gideon was just such a basic, brash dummy who was unphased by the horror show around her that it made the journey pretty breezy. Harrowhark, on the other hand, is a neurotic fucking mess, so the book feels a good deal darker because she's just not as fun to be around. Her self-loathing is palpable. She not only notices the horror show, she is the horror show. If anything, reading Harrow feels like reliving an important life lesson I had to learn years ago: all those icy-demeanor'd goth girls that I used to fall for are not actually displaying their callous superiority--they're just kinda broken and miserable. That's the Harrowhark Experience right there!

The Alienist: Angel of Darkness
The second season of The Alienist, which adapts Caleb Carr's novel Angel of Darkness, gave me everything that I was hoping to get out of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels. Give me crime amid the historical grot and gilding of the late nineteenth century. Give me deeply flawed characters that I will absolutely care about despite the worst parts of themselves being hideously evident. I didn't even miss the supernatural element because the stakes were high enough to matter. One thing that is particularly noteworthy about this, and the previous season, of The Alienist: it has a way of making you edge-of-the-seat fearful about the fates of its minor characters--those poor pawns being moved about the chessboard as the protagonists solve a mystery that consumes them.

Tanith Lee,
The Blood of Roses Volume 2: Jun, Eujasia, Mechailus
I imagine that tackling Tanith's Lee The Blood of Roses in one volume, as it was originally published, must have been a truly daunting task. Although the plot, such that is, is not difficult to keep track of--and really, at best it's a fleeting and ephemeral thing--the familial, spiritual, and psychic ties between the various characters are complex and a little challenging to keep straight in your head when they are constantly in a state of revelation and flux. 

Continuing from the first volume, Anjelen, the apple of the Church's eye, continues to spin wheels within wheels of a divine arc of a scheme, but we also step back into the past to find the man who would become Anjelen. Jasia and Mechail fled the strange destiny that Anjelen had arranged for them, but here they return to undo what he has wrought and, in an unexpected move, reestablish the status quo. Tanith Lee posits an unusual notion of change not often found in fantasy fiction; no explosive moments of revolution or restoration here, just grand schemes withering on the vine due to boredom, inaction, and lack of passion. It's less he who dares wins and more he who cares wins.

Dark Sarah,
Grim
The best, well, possibly only, cinematic metal band is back with a new album entitled Grim. Grim is not aptly named; there is darkness to the record, but it is darkness very much of the Tim Burton carnivalesque fairy tale variety. The Gothic metal elements are here, the sympphonic elements are here--there's some sort of epic, over-arching story in play, something something through the looking glass darkly, I'm sure! I was too busy nodding my head along to the songs to piece it all together, admittedly. 


Dark Shadows: The Complete Original Series Volume One
This first collection of Dark Shadows comics, originally published by Golden Key in the late 60s and into the 70s, are a real hoot, but they could have easily been titled Barnabas Takes a Kicking instead. Each issue features a self-contained, multi-part story in which Barnabas encounters a supernatural force out to ruin his life. Sometimes that force is the ghost of a young sea diver, but it could be an immortal werewolf, a mummy, or the specter of a Native American man who is posing as the Collins's gardener. In most cases, the real villain is Angelique, of course. You've got to at least give some grudging respect to Angelique for her tenacity. She has what would be called "follow-through" in the modern corporate era--a model employee if I've ever seen one. Anyway, come for the Gothic tomfoolery in comics form, stay for the absolutely insane panels of Barnabas running like a cartoon cop.

Errementari
Errementari is an interesting Basque-language fantasy film about a seemingly deranged blacksmith who has been keeping a devil confined within the ruins of his fortified forge. The film mixes dark fantasy, fairy tale, a tiny bit of Viy-style horror, and a smidgen of slapstick comedy. (That sound effect whenever the wife slaps her husband!) The film's overall aesthetic reminds me a lot of the dark fantasy movies that enthralled me in my younger years; I especially appreciate the use of practical effects. Also, how often do you get to see the classic red devil with horns and a pointy tail wielding a pitchfork? We need to bring that back, culturally speaking.


Leigh Bardugo,
Shadow and Bone
In Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone, an orphaned mapmaker in the king's army finds herself suddenly thrust into the world of power and prestige when it is discovered that she is a mythical sun summoner--someone with the supernatural ability to generate and control sunlight. Sunlight, in the world of Bardugo's novel, is a potent weapon against the Shadow Fold, a man-made cataclysm of darkness that hides warped monsters and splits the kingdom in two. Also, it's a weapon that the Darkling, the head of the mage-like caste that seems to hold the real power in the land, desperately wants to control, putting our heroine in dire straights from both assassins sent by the enemies of her country and from within the ranks of those who would be her country's savior. There's a Netflix adaptation of this series coming at some point; I'll definitely continue on and try to finish the novels off before that drops.


Freud
Since Tenebrous Kate made such a strong case for Freud in our half-year check-in episode on Bad Books for Bad People, I had no choice but to seek it out and see what was what. Although the premise of young Sigmund Freud teaming up with a Hungarian spiritualist with the unlikely name Fleur Salome to solve crimes in late nineteenth-century Vienna has the potential to be groan-worthy, the show is actually very enjoyable if you love the flavor of fin de siecle crime mixed with decadence and Gothic supernaturalism. There's a lot to love in Freud's mix: gruesome murders, mensur fencing, seances, strange cults, hypnotism, and showers of blood that would make the House of Hammer envious. 

Joseph Delaney,
Aberrations: The Witch's Warning
As the second book in the Aberrations series, Joseph Delaney's The Witch's Warning functions a lot like The Empire Strikes back. This book is a series of set-backs and losses for the main characters as they fight against the advancing darkness known as the Shole. Their main base of operations is lost, dreadful casualties are inflicted on the defenders of the daylight world, and they are forced to abandoned dear allies to encroaching, corrupting evil. Also like The Empire Strikes back, this novel leaves many threads dangling--what comes of heeding the titular witch's warning, what is the nature of their foe, can the queen of the bog be trusted, will the White Woman be making a return appearance? Yeah, on that last one...we definitely haven't seen the last of her.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

The Scions of Adamus


The Scions of Adamus
A faction in Krevborna

The Scions of Adamus are a cabal of arcanists who hope to master the art of giving life to inanimate matter. Their methods are varied; some hope to stitch together new beings from bits and pieces of corpses, some attempt to grow artificial life in vats of alchemical creation, and some craft constructed creatures from base materials. The Scions of Adamus who work with corpses as their raw material maintain a secret network of resurrectionists and grave robbers who supply them with the grisly fodder for their work.
    • Motto. “We kindle the stolen fires of creation.”
    • Belief. Mastery of alchemy and artifice allows us to be as gods.
    • Goal. Create an army of constructed beings to fight against the dead and the damned.
    • Quest. Capture an escaped flesh golem so that it might be studied further.