Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Strahd Loves, Man Kills Issue Four Now Available

Strahd Loves, Man Kills, my Ravenloft fanzine, is out now! 32 pages of content, printed on #24 white bond paper, cover art by Becky Munich. I will also send a pdf version of the zine to the email address attached to your order! This issue's contents include:

Lurid Locations revisits three classic domains to present Saragoss, Bluetspur, and Souragne in new and unheralded forms.

Baleful Backgrounds details three new backgrounds for characters: demimondaine, mooncusser, and mudlark.

Seeds of Evil outlines several adventure seeds you can use to craft scenarios set in Ravenloft.

Wicked Wanderings offers my thoughts on how to make Ravenloft a more connected setting with greater potential for cross-domain adventures.

Portraits of the Damned divulges the vile truths of three subordinates of greater evils: the dhampir Parvoska sisters and the corrupt aarakocra known as Birdlime.

Tragic Heroes suggests ways to create dire duelists as characters in your games.

Random Ruin presents a table for randomly generating adventures for your Ravenloft campaign.

Forbidden Tomes provides a bibliography of the cosmic horror genre for your edification and entertainment.

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Additionally, all previous issues of SLMK have been restocked, so if you need an issue to round out your collection, you can find it here

In particular, I have two copies of Dirge of Urazya left. It's not going to be reprinted, but these last two copies are on sale for the low, low price of five bucks.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

More Strahd Loves, Man Kills Coming Soon


The picture of the right is of the "dummy" (printed on my laser printer at home) copies of the next six issues of Strahd Loves, Man Kills. Yes, I was working on six issues at one time. Which, by the way, I do not recommend; if you want to make a zine, it's better to finish one issue before moving on to the next. And yet, all six are now done! 

In fact, the pages for issues four-through-nine have already been professionally printed, as seen in the picture to the left. That is a lot of paper. At the time of this writing, I am busy assembling each issue. My long arm stapler is crying at the thought of this herculean task. 

But it will get done, and issue four will go on sale in early April. After that, I think I will be making a new issue available every other month. That's the plan, anyway.

As with the earlier issues, when an issue of SLMK sells out of its initial print run, I will make the pdf of it available as community content. Issues one and two are already available to all and sundry over on the sidebar of this blog. Issue three will probably soon join them soon.

However, I have some good news and some bad news about the zine going forward. Let's start with the bad news and get that over with.

I'm going to have to raise the price slightly. You may have heard that paper is in shorter supply these days due to pandemic-related shenanigans and hiccups in the supply chain. This has caused the price of printing my pages to increase, and unfortunately the price per zine has to follow suit. It sucks, I hate it, but that's where we're at right now in 2022.

Hopefully the good news will counterbalance that a bit.

Starting with issue four, each issue of SLMK will have an additional four pages of content. Even if the price is increasing a bit, you will be getting more bang for your buck. I'm extremely excited for people to get a look at the stuff the zine has in store.

I've also found better ways to ship internationally. Expect the shipping fee to decrease if you're overseas and especially if you're in Canada!

Finally, I will be restocking a limited number of print copies of issues one and two since people have requested those. There aren't a ton of them in my inventory, so if you want one, strike while the iron is hot. The Big Cartel is here.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

You're Haunting Me, Unstoppable, The Woman Who Fell to Earth

Three howls of the damned:

Blackbriar, "You're Haunting Me"

Ad Infinitum, "Unstoppable"

Cadaveria, "The Woman Who Fell to Earth"

Sunday, March 20, 2022

The Crucifuge and the Vhage Agency

Below are two factions I've been using in my Ravenloft campaign. The Crucifuge is a secret society I created; they were inspired by the "devil forge masters" from the Castlevania video games. The Vhage Agency is presented as a domain in Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, but since I couldn't figure out what to do with it as a domain, I decided it would work better as a faction inspired by the historical Pinkerton agents.

The Crucifuge

The Crucifuge is an order of necromancers who experiment with novel ways of combining dead flesh, black magic, and the vital essences of demons to birth new forms of corporeal undead. Members of the Crucifuge possess a nihilistic philosophical perspective, regarding life itself as a cosmic stain that should be effaced by the depredations of the undead. Many necromancers of the Crucifuge revere Orcus and consider their dark work to be a form of worship. The undead created by the necromancers of the Crucifuge are endowed with demonic boons as detailed in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes. 

Vhage Agency

The Vhage Agency is a guild of occult detectives, spies, private investigators, thief-takers, and bounty hunters. The Vhage Agency excels at bringing the worst criminals in the Land of the Mists to justice, offering an alternative to often incompetent or uncaring parish beadles, watchmen, and local constabulary. The Vhage Agency will take any case—that said, their services do come at a price that is sometimes too dear for the truly downtrodden to pay.      

Rumors that the Vhage Agency will take innocent lives for the right handful of coins dogs the organization and tarnishes its reputation. Additionally, it is known that the Vhage Agency’s members have worked as strikebreakers and as private security for the wealthy and powerful. 

What is not well known is that every Vhage Agency office is part of the domain that entraps the Darklord Flimira “Flintlock” Vhage. No matter what domain a Vhage Agency office is located in, there is always a hallway within it that leads to Flintlock’s personal chamber—a strangely monotone gray room where she spins webs of deceit, as she is a criminal mastermind successfully masquerading as a detective.

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If the above catches your fancy, check out Strahd Loves, Man Kills, my Ravenloft fanzine. Print issues are here, and there's a new issue coming soon. Every copy sold of the current issue helps "unlock" it as a free pdf for all and sundry. So far, issues one and two are free--look at the sidebar on the blog if you want 'em.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

The TotGaD Discord is Open

Tired of the same cyclical discourse? I've made my personal Discord server open to anyone who wants to stop by and hang out. We mostly talk about rpgs and related nerd ephemera, but off-topic chit-chat is welcome as well. 

We also try to keep the server open for people who want to workshop their game content or put together a group to get a game going. I try to regularly run games, so if you've been wanting to play and haven't found anybody willing to DM--roll up.

Remember playing games instead of just talking about them? Great times, right? The server just had a major refresh, which means there's plenty of room to start some new conversations.

Click here for the invite link.

The rules for the server are pretty basic. If you show up looking to be chill and not be an asshole, you won't have a problem.

1. Be cool. It should go without saying that if you are racist, sexist, transphobic, etc., you will be banned. If you are rude to me in particular, you will be banned. 

2. Adult content and adult language are permitted on the server. If you post explicit images (genitals, gore) please be considerate and put them behind a spoiler tag.

3. We support creative work regardless of content. If you see something that makes you uncomfortable, navigate away. 

4. This server is open to discussion of rpgs in general. We don’t support the idea that there is One True Way to play. No edition warring, no grogging, no indie snobbery, etc. If you have an axe to grind against a certain kind of game or style of play, do it elsewhere. If you can’t engage without frothing rage, find a different conversation to join.

5. Abide by the Discord community guidelines, found here:

6. If you have a problem, contact a moderator via tag or private message.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Reverend Krast and Sister Vulcra

Reverend Krast and Sister Vulcra

Two NPCs from my Ravenloft campaign

Reverend Krast

As a child, Grigori Krast’s father left him at an orphanage run by the Church of Ezra. The hardships he endured there only served to make him unfeeling, cruel, and suspicious. As an adult, Grigori became an ordained priest of the Church of Ezra and made the hunting of witches his vocation. Grigori Krast is a tall, gaunt man who rarely smiles. He is never without the blood-encrusted maul that has served him well in his campaign against witchery.

Reverend Krast’s Traits

Ideal. “I will rid the world of the stench of witchery.”

Bond. “My father’s lesson was harsh, but the orphanage made me the man I am today.”

Flaw. “I look for pretenses to accuse others of witchcraft.”

Sister Vulcra

Vulcra took the veil as a nun of the Sisterhood of the Requiem Vow, a militant ascetic sect of the Ulmist Inquisition. By all accounts, Sister Vulcra was slain by devils who assaulted the Sisterhood’s stronghold, but she miraculously arose reborn from her crypt three days after burial. Many in the Requiem Vow believe her to be a living saint. Sister Vulcra is a stern woman who wears a suit of battered armor and covers her beautiful hair with a bloodstained wimple.

Sister Vulcra’s Traits

Ideal. “I have been called to serve a higher power as their chosen disciple.”

Bond. “I have the utmost respect for sainted martyrs.” 

Flaw. “I disdain anyone who notices my beauty.”

Adventures with Grigori and Vulcra

Reverent Krast uses the stats of a war priest. Sister Vulcra uses the stats of an inquisitor of the sword. The duo are often accompanied by orphaned children they “adopt” in their travels. These children are purposefully reduced to a feral, wild state. They are kept on leashes and their teeth are filed to sharp points to make them into weapons useful to the two witchfinders. These children use stats similar to those of wolves. Consider the following plots when featuring Grigori Krast and Sister Vulcra in an adventure:

    • The witchfinders have accused an innocent of practicing black magic and plan to burn them at the stake to demonstrate the fate that awaits heretics.

    • The pair have taken a child into their retinue who is not an orphan; the child’s parents are desperate to have the girl returned to them.

    • One of the pair have been captured by a coven of witches. The other demands that the characters help them free their compatriot. If the characters refuse, they will be accused of being in league with fiends. 

* * *

If you like this kind of content, check out Strahd Loves, Man Kills, my Ravenloft fanzine. Every print copy sold of the current issue pushes it closer to becoming a free pdf as community content! Two issues are currently available as free pdfs:

Issue One

Issue Two

Friday, March 11, 2022

The Barbarez Legion

The Barbarez Legion
A faction in Ravenloft

The Barbarez Legion is a mercenary band comprised solely of gnolls who engage in carnage to honor the demon lord Yeenoghu. Their lust for gold and plunder is outpaced only by their love of bloodshed. The gnolls of the Barbarez Legion serve anyone depraved and wealthy enough to employ them. The contract insisted upon by the Barbarez Legion is simple: they expect to be paid well to fight on behalf of their employer, and they reserve the right to feast upon the carcasses of their fallen foes and deceased allies when battle has concluded.

The warriors of the Barbarez Legion are likely to be found in any domain when military conflict is imminent or ongoing. They might appear in Falkovnia, offering to engage the undead hordes that besiege Levkarest, or they may enter into a contract to repel the advances of the faceless warriors who continually assault Staunton Bluffs. When not under contract as soldiers, they operate as brigands and raiders.

Sunday, March 6, 2022

The Latest Batch of Sufferers in Ravenloft

These are the characters in my current Ravenloft campaign. Who will survive and what will be left of them?

Lady Margot Hursthall

Human Horizon Walker ranger

Lady Hursthall is a famed explorer in the Land of the Mists. She is has status, wealth, and fame...but not all is well in the House of Hursthall. Lady Hursthall's teenage son has gone missing, and has possibly has been abducted by fell agents. Lady Hursthall has gathered the rest of the party to help find her son.

Margot's Dark Secret: Stolen Valor. Margot Hursthall passes herself off as a heroic explorer, but the true history of her expeditions is one of brutality and exploitation.

Doctor Viktorina

Human Battle Smith artificer

Strangely, Viktorina looks exactly like Viktra Mordenheim did in her early twenties. Something odd is afoot there; surely, this can't be a coincidental resemblance. Viktorina is accompanied by her "manservant" Romulus, who is actually a construct she created and endowed with life.

Viktorina's Dark Secret: Grave Robbery. In the past, Victorina violated the sanctity of the grave to aid her hellish research.

Lucian Frost

Dhampir Undead pactron warlock

Lucian Frost was raised in a cult devoted to Azalin Rex. He serves as Lady Hursthall's occult specialist; their relationship is an odd one--he appears bound to Margot Hursthall in some way, enough so that others refer to Lucian as her "pet warlock." The only person Lucian seems to truly care for is Essie Tenfang, though the nature of their relationship is yet undefined. 

Lucian's Dark Secret: Cold. An attack by an undead creature has left Lucian with muted emotions and an inability to experience pleasure.

Essie Tenfang

Shifter Battle Master fighter

Essie is a sharpshooter who keeps her past shrouded in secrecy. When asked about her history, she invents wild tales. Anyone who is in her company long enough is sure to realize that her tall tales are mutually incompatible. Essie's best friend is Lucian Frost, though how and when they met is unknown.

Essie's Dark Secret: Divine Punishment. Essie was struck by lightning—evidence that she has earned a god’s personal disfavor.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Vampire: The Masquerade, Wulf's Bane, Nightmare Alley, and More

Things that brought be delight in February, 2022:

Vampire: The Masquerade (2nd Edition)

Right before the Blizzard of 1993, I bought a copy of the second-edition core book for Vampire: The Masquerade. Now, on a snow day in February of 2022, this arrived in the mail. Coincidence? Probably. But this book is an amazing hit of nostalgia, even though we only played Vampire a couple of times in high school. Maybe it's time to pull a "reverse OSR guy" in which I, a D&D player of many years, pack it in and make a swerve toward the White Wolf Renaissance and pretend like I was here rolling d10s the whole time.

In retrospect, it's hard to view Vampire as anything other than a sea-change. It isn't the wild "storygame" revolution that people sometimes paint it as, but the art and emphasis on style had a tremendous impact on the gaming scene for the rest of the 90s.

Joseph Delaney, Wulf's Bane

Although the Brother Wulf books are never going to capture the magic of Joseph Delaney's Last Apprentice series, they're still fun little reads set in a world of witches, monsters, and the magical folk who deal with them. This one's got a bit of everything: time travel, tulpas, shape-changing, and a bit of old-fashioned god slaying for good measure. I'm definitely looking forward to the third book in this series, particularly after I found out that Alice gets to narrate at least half of it! I'm looking forward to that in part because the weakness of the Brother Wulf books, at least as I perceive it, is that the characterization of the newer characters just isn't as rich as that in The Last Apprentice books.

Nightmare Alley

As a huge Guillermo del Toro fan, I was really looking forward to seeing Nightmare Alley, but I assumed it was going to be a good long while before I got to lay eyes on it since I'm not particularly keen on spending two and a half hours in a theater at the moment. Lo and behold, it came to HBO Max much sooner than I could have anticipated.

The movie has a lot to recommend it: the first chunk of it follows Stanton as he ingratiates himself into the carnie life and romances the beautiful Molly away from her ersatz family. In the second half, Stanton gets himself ridiculously in over his head, and it's obvious to everyone but Stanton. He and Molly have been performing as a psychic act for the monied elite of Buffalo, NY, but things take a turn when he begins to pass himself off as a genuine medium and becomes involved with a cold-hearted psychologist. You can see the hammer falling on his sordid little deceptions a mile away, but I can't fault the tension of its drop.

Hangman's Chair, A Loner

I was previously unfamiliar with the Parisian band Hangman's Chair, but A Loner turned out to be a great onboarding point. I'd characterize their sound as mostly coming from the world of doom metal, but there are elements of shoegaze and post-metal in the mix as well. Unafraid of shimmering beauty, things on A Loner are emotive throughout. I even detect a slight Type O Negative influence in the tone and color--minus the Brooklynite goomba humor, of course.

Creature Codex, Tome of Beasts, and Tome of Beasts 2

One challenge I set myself in my current D&D game is to not use any monsters from WotC's books, outside of mundane animals and summoned or animated creatures. I probably couldn't do it without Kobold Press's monster books. Creature Codex and the two Tomes of Beasts are great because not only do they add a lot of cool creatures that simply don't exist in baseline D&D, they also add creatures from more varied environments and creatures of types that have been a little neglected in the official offerings. Additionally, you really can't beat the surprise factor of an unexpected monster with abilities your players can't account for. "It does what now?" is pretty satisfying.

Tim Powers, On Stranger Tides

I have much more to say about On Stranger Tides over on the Bad Books for Bad People episode we did on it, but suffice to say that this Tim Powers novel gets an enthusiastic recommendation. If you like pirates, this is a must read. It weaves figures from the Golden Age of Piracy in with its magical fancy, which includes voodoo, ghost ships, and spirits, resulting in a really great example of what Powers can do with his "secret history" style of fiction; because he hews so closely to the historical record, On Stranger Tides feels strangely plausible for a tale in which loa-empowered pirates square off against each other over the fate of a woman's immortal soul.

The Lost Citadel

The Lost Citadel is a horror-fantasy themed setting for 5e D&D. The content of this project was quickly overshadowed by controversy when it was revealed that the lead designer on it was a sex pest of some sort. Green Ronin, the publishers of The Lost Citadel, didn't help matters by being insanely combative in their public relations. To be honest, I forgot I even had this thing: I found it, still in the original shipping box, while cleaning out a closet. 

The premise of The Lost Citadel is roughly "The Walking Dead-meets-D&D." Hordes of zombies have killed off most of the population; those who survive cower behind the walls of a dwarven citadel. Oh, and things didn't go too well for the dwarves either. Playing into the (somewhat tired) notion that "man is the real monster," human refugees have overthrown the dwarves and now use their erstwhile saviors as slaves. You can see where this is going. It's bleak. 

The book cuts down on the various options open to players in most D&D games, whittling the races to a handful and substituting its own bespoke classes in place of the usual suspects. Magic is less prevalent in The Lost Citadel across the board. Most of the book is devoted to setting; I'm not sure I'd ever use this book as is, but I certainly have some ideas for how using it to spice up the new Falkovnia as presented in Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft.

Nocturna, Daughters of the Night

I come from an era where every other goth night was named "Nocturna," and even the cover of Daughters of the Night reminds me of that time period. (They don't make them like that anymore.) Daughters of the Night showcases a strong mix of Gothic metal, symphonic metal, and power metal; the unique twist is the presence of two singers sharing vocal duties. Admittedly, Nocturna doesn't really innovate in their nexus of genres, but this is a good, solid album overall.

Shaenon K. Garrity and Christopher Baldwin, The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor

The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor is pretty firmly rooted in the tradition of "portal fantasy": our protagonist is a teenager girl utterly immersed in the world of classic Gothic fiction who gets pulled into an alternate reality that is build from the archetypes and conventions that define the Gothic novel. What seems like it will be a Northanger Abbey-style parody of the Gothic gets turned on its head; ultimately, it is the heroine's deep knowledge and appreciation of the Gothic that saves the day.

Grim Hollow: The Campaign Guide and The Players Guide

Grim Hollow intrigued me, but the shipping price tag to get the books sent from Australia caused me to balk. Luckily, a few good eBay purchases got me The Campaign Guide, The Players Guide, and a cloth map that I will almost certainly forget to look at. Like The Lost Citadel above, Grim Hollow is decidedly "dark fantasy" in style and tone. The worldbuilding is admittedly not the most startling or memorable, but there are bits and pieces here I could see stealing. I particularly like the bespoke subclasses it offers, though as always I have no idea how "balanced" they are. Still, there's strong raw material here.

Funeral, Praesentialis in Aeternum

Praesentialis in Aeternum begins in an oddly Danny Elfman-esque place--morbid, but upbeat orchestration that make it sound like opening credits are about to roll, and you might just see the words "Tim" and "Burton" on the screen. But from there we immediately crash into the depths of funereal doom. It's been nearly a decade since the last Funeral album, but they haven't lost their touch. It's nice to see the stalwarts of the genre return with a chunky slab of the sound they helped put on the map.

Katsura Hoshino, D.Gray-Man vol. 4-6

Of course my interest in D.Gray-Man's continuing storyline picked up a bit as soon as the manga introduced a vampire tale arc. Although the arc doesn't resolve into the standard Gothic story (it does ultimately involve the D.Gray-Man mythos) it's a pretty fun detournment of the conventions of the vampire tale genre. The art is still sometimes a little inexplicable during action scenes, but the number of noteworthy panels does seem to be on the upswing. The sixth volume gets pretty wild, with a giant torso flying around and shooting energy beams out of where its arms should be. 

Old horror comics

My girlfriend found a pile of old horror comics stashed away at the antique market, so now my to-read stack has been replenished! A couple Charltons, a bunch of DCs, and even an issue from Modern Comics--whatever that is. (Apparently it was an imprint of Charlton.) The real question: will I read them now or do I have the will and patience to save them for the Halloween season?

Cult of Luna, The Long Road North

Cult of Luna dwells in the same doomy, crushing post-hardcore niche as Neurosis, but I generally find it easier to hear the hardcore influence in Cult of Luna's records. It sounds especially strong to me on The Long Road North, a disc that reminds of those rare occasions where you'd go to a hardcore show and encounter one band that stood out from the rest by being a bit more abstract, a little brainier, and dare I say leaning toward the epic. The Long Road North is the kind of release that will take time to fully digest, but I wouldn't be surprised if this ends up being one of the best of the year. 

Marcus Sedgwick, The Kiss of Death

The Kiss of Death is a sequel of sorts to Marcus Sedgwick's My Swordhand is Singing, a book I read back in 2020. The Kiss of Death doesn't pick up where the previous book left off, nor does it share the same cast of characters. The action shifts from Transylvania to Venice, where two men have gone missing and their children, an apothecary in training and a gothy girl with a sharp tongue, band together to find them. What they discover is a mystery involving the mother of all vampires, a cult that has infiltrated the highest levels of the Church, and a grizzled hunter of the undead granted a terrible immortality by the enchanted sword he wields.

I really enjoyed the way My Swordhand is Singing delved back into the folklore of the vampire and the way it crafted a historical monster-hunting adventure. The Kiss of Death had a bit less of that vibe, though I did appreciate the Venetian setting and the new characters it presented. As an ending, it's a little loose--in this instance I think I would have preferred either a bigger finish or something more concrete--but I liked this one enough to pull the trigger on a few more of Sedgwick's books.

Vampire: The Masquerade supplements

The thing about old Vampire, as I discovered high on the rush of nostalgia, is that many of the supplements for it are dirt cheap. There must be so many in circulation; my advice: check Craigslist and eBay to see if someone is trying to unload a big stack of them, like the ones pictured here. Absolute 90s time travel. But...what should I do with them? Get a Vampire game going using the old rules, warts and all? A series of reviews of the Clanbooks in the order they were published? Something has got to give with this fantastic pile.

Sabbat: The Black Hand

It isn't all vintage Vampire rpg supplements up in here in the month of February; the new Sabbat book for fifth-edition Vampire is also getting some love. Hardcore fans seem mad at this release, but being fairly untutored in the former lore I didn't really find anything that rustled my undead jimmies. This version of the Sabbat seems less cartoonishly evil than what I remember, and that seems like a good thing. I don't really mind that the Sabbat are more or less reserved as villains. Sorry, edgelords! Also, it's interesting that the art style relies less on the "fashion mag" aesthetic, and more on traditional illustration. 

Vampire Wars: The Antagonists

The vampire action just didn't let up in February! I've been looking for a copy of The Antagonists, a supplement for the Vampire Wars war game for a long time. The company who made it has it for sale, but the shipping price they were asking was absolutely insane for such a thin book. eBay once again pulled through; I bought this from an "estate sale" for under five bucks.

I'll probably never play Vampire Wars, in that it feels like playing anything face-to-face is a distant dream, but I enjoy this line as a curiosity. And honestly, the art has some verve to it, the named characters could be repurposed or serve as inspiration elsewhere, and maybe even the scenarios could be the start of something interesting if transposed to a tabletop rpg.

Zeal & Ardor, self-titled

It wouldn't be fair to say that Zeal & Ardor's self-titled album, their third full-length, is a disappointment; rather, it's probably more true that it didn't give me exactly what I want. Their debut, Devil is Fine, sounded like the start of something; it wasn't fully realized but it reeked of promise. The follow up, Stranger Fruit, gave me exactly the combination of gospel, soul, and black metal I had been hoping for--it felt like a culmination of all the best bits finally coming together. 

My hope was that the self-titled record would continue in that vein, but it goes off in some new directions I don't love. The electronics are a little too prominent, and a little too peppy and upbeat in places; the post-rock elements feel a little too transcendent, when what I want out of Zeal & Ardor is hell on earth; there's also some bits that sound too much like NIN. That said, this really isn't a bad album: when it's on, it's on, but not every track here wins me over.

Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad

Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad is a magic lantern show that lets the many monstrous faces lurking beneath the mask of American ideology flicker into dreadful life. Cora, an escaped slave, makes her way north via a literalized underground railroad (it's a real system of secret train lines cutting through tunnels beneath the nation), but each stop that seems to promise freedom reveals a different shade of disappointment, oppression, untenable dreams, and broken promises. 

It's difficult not to compare The Underground Railroad against Toni Morrison's Beloved, in that both are fantastical literary events that engage with race and history in America. Beloved feels more harrowing to me, which is interesting because it's really The Underground Railroad that has the more ambiguous ending.

Malifaux Burns

Malifaux Burns is the latest expansion for the Malifaux miniature war game. It's definitely a "metaplot" expansion: the Burning Man (unfortunate name, makes me think of hippies in the desert) has come to Malifaux, infecting several characters with his fiery madness. Of course, it's all an excuse to update some models, bring some characters back into the game, and offer alternate ways of playing the crews you already own. The art is always a treat and the fiction bits are surprisingly readable, as is usual for the Malifaux line.

Clive Barker, Books of Blood volume 1

It's been a long time since I read the first volume of Clive Barker's Books of Blood, so I was overdue to give it a re-read. Imagine encountering this book when it first came out: you probably wouldn't have known who Clive Barker was, right? The raw ferocity and style coming off these stories would have felt like a crowbar popping open your skull and exposing your skull to fetid, unwholesome air. There are some absolute (and obvious) gems in here: the title story and "In the Hills, the Cities" are just audaciously perfect. And even the stories that didn't grab me with as much force the first time around, such as "Sex, Death and Starshine" or "Pig Blood Blues," now feel like monumental offerings.

Salome print

I picked this up at the antique store. My logic is very simple: if I find a cheap print of Salome, I buy a cheap print of Salome. This one is of Hungarian actress Sahary Djeli as the biblical temptress. According to the clipping on the back, she was known as the Lady of the Jewels because she was said to own more precious stones than any other woman in Europe, a claim that is almost certainly untrue. A bit of hokum does nothing to quench my ardor, of course.