Tuesday, February 27, 2024

"Uncle Sam Sends His Regards"

Here's what happened in the third session of Mike Royal's Pulp Cthulhu game:

Our next stop in the South Seas was the decaying colonial isle of St. Peters. Our captain, H. H. Humphreys, sent us on an unusual errand: we were to go to shore with a cardboard box and deliver it to a man named Mr. Lao. We were explicitly told not to look at the item in the box.

Of course, we looked in the box.

Inside was a stone idol that we all found quite disturbing. (Read: immediate Sanity loss.) However, our attempt to offload the idol on Mr. Lao was unsuccessful; we were informed that Mr. Lao "fell down the Stairs," meaning that he took a self-directed tumble down an infamous part of the island behind the French tower. We also learned from a salty dog of a sailor that the idol was connected to a maritime cult of ancient origins. Furthermore, we heard rumors of a mysterious location known as the Isle de Cranios.

We wanted to take a look at the tower under control of the French authorities for ourselves. When we spoke to the French soldiers outside, they were friendly and cordial. Our meeting with Captain Rochelle, the island's governor, went a bit more strangely. When we showed him the idol, he immediately commandeered it and declared that it had been stolen from a French museum and needed to be returned. Instead of fighting to keep ahold of our property--especially since French soldiers were filing into the room--we decided to hide out in the nearby cemetery to watch and see where Captain Rochelle took the idol.

Most of us hid behind some tombstones while we kept watch on the tower, but a few of our group decided to explore the church presiding over the burial grounds. They found the priest bleeding from empty eye sockets, gibbering something to the effect that it was "too late to stop what was coming."

When Captain Rochelle and his men exited the tower, they did so in ritualistic garb. They had the idol with them, along with a number of zombie-like men whose eyes glowed green. We followed them to where they had a number of motor boats moored. They took off into the swamps, and we took the two boats they left behind and gave chase.

Two of our party stopped to examine a strange green lantern and were assaulted by what were either the walking dead or men in trances. They had to beat a hasty retreat.

The rest of us kept pace as we shadowed the boats...until it was clear that they planned to jump ship for a larger vessel and take the idol to some unwholesome location. We rammed Captain Rochelle's boat with out own, bellowing "Uncle Sam sends his regards." A gunfight broke out, but we sent Rochelle and his men down to Davy Jones's locker. We recovered the idol and...well, that's where we ended the session.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Escape From the Isle of White Apes

What follows is my fragmentary recollection of what went down in the second session of Mike Royal's Pulp Cthulhu game.

When we last left our heroes, they were descending into the stygian abyss beneath a mysterious ruined temple on an island that seemed curiously out-of-time. We dodged a number of white ape servitors and determined that the area below the temple was some kind of arcane scientific facility.

We chanced upon a fiendish reptile man who appeared to be some sort of doctor--well, he was performing vivisection on a white ape at any rate. Our attempts to parlay with the reptile man proved ineffective, which ultimately resulted in a brutal melee in which we executed said reptile man and performed a mercy killing on the white ape. Negotiations breaking down and setting the stage for carnage would largely be the running theme of our attempt to get to the bottom of things on the island.

We found glass-like pipes filled with magma that seemed to be powering the eldritch machinery within the facility. We attempted to destroy the power source and necessary machinery with some well-placed explosives, but unfortunately the pipes proved impervious to our incendiaries. However, the explosion did cause chaos within the facility; white apes were running to and fro attempting to put out fires and clear the mess.

When we found plinths that held a massive army of reptile men, each frozen out of phase in a temporal shift, we knew that we couldn't leave without foiling the alien threat. The machines at work were bringing the army into the present--we had to stop the plot before earth was overrun by an implacable, scaly menace.

Our resolve led to a desperate assault on a control center housed within an underearth watch tower. Several of us were injured in the firefight, but we managed to kill the white ape soldiers guarding the control panel. We caused more destruction to foil the machinery, piled the corpses of white apes in front of the door to slow anyone who tried to correct the damage, and fled for our lives. We had another tense fight on the way out as we tried to gain control of an elevator to the surface, but no white apes could stop us. 

The volcano was poised to erupt and the island was shaking as we made our way back to our exploratory vessel. Once we boarded we discovered something uncanny: although our ordeal had lasted hours, the crew reported that we were only gone about twenty minutes.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Nightmare House and Airport '77

Episode 74: Nightmare House and Airport '77

Once again, Jack and Kate trade reviews of books from their archives. This time around, Jack explores the terrifying mystery and romance of Rae Foley’s Nightmare House (1968) and Kate plunges straight into disaster with Airport 77 (1977).

Why is dealing marijuana a worse crime than murder? Does a nightmare dude make a nightmare house into a nightmare home? Whose dick will be compared to a tiny airline bottle of booze? Is Airport 77 the disco era counterpart to Moby Dick? All these questions and more will be explored in this episode of Bad Books for Bad People. 

Sunday, February 18, 2024

The Valkyrie Heist

Mike Royal needed an extra week to prep the next Pulp Cthulhu adventure, so I offered to run a Blades in the Dark one-shot in the usual timeslot. Most of the group was new to Blades, save for one player who had been in a previous one-shot I ran of it and a player who had run the game before but never had the opportunity to play a scoundrel. People really seemed to love this one--so much so that there were requests to come back to these characters and their capers at some point. Here's what went down.


Ilya, the Lurk

Dusk, the Spider

Poppy, the Slide

Blunt, the Cutter

Miranda, the Whisper

Hawky, the Hound


This was the intro to our one-shot:

This morning, the Valkyrie, the largest and most luxurious airship in the known world, docked in Brightstone. The Valkyrie will be taking on supplies during the day, but tonight it will host a banquet and ball before departing in the early hours of the morning. The Valkyrie and its passengers are bound south to Iruvia. As part of the festivities, Marist Larkin, a celebrated chef, will be preparing an exclusive tasting menu for the invited guests. 

The Valkyrie has one added attraction that your gang has learned of: Severina’s Tear, a fist-sized sapphire intended to be one of the crown jewels of the new queen of Iruvia, is secretly being transported aboard the airship. Your goal is to make your way onto the Valkyrie, steal Severina’s Tear, and fade away into the underworld before the airship departs for Iruvia.

Their first order of business was figuring out how they would gain entrance to the Valkyrie. Ilya leaned on his friend, the noblewoman Roslyn Kellis. Roslyn had a genuine ticket, but could produce counterfeits that would pass casual inspection. In return, Roslyn wanted Ilya to publicly embarrass a rival named Aisling Bennigard. Figuring that two ways in were better than one, Blunt hatched a plan to arrive at the Valkyrie before the event started in the guise of a deliveryman and then hide himself inside to scout around.

Other pre-mission preparations included figuring out the list of notables who would be aboard. They learned a bit about the ship's captain, the chef, and learned that Sergeant Dresher, an Akorosian military leader, was also seen entering the airship for unknown reasons. Miranda made a dangerous deal for supernatural back-up: she bound the demoness Sitarra to a poison ring that could be triggered for aid. However, if Sitarra was not given a soul in return for her help, she would take a chunk of Miranda's as payment.

Most of the group made their way down the red carpet leading to the Valkyrie (Blunt was already hidden inside) and were shown to a table in the airship's banquet room. Aisling Bennigard was pointing out by Roslyn and Hawky noticed that three members of the Red Sashes gang, including a swordsman called Reaper who had beef with him, were also posing as guests. The group also noticed that the chef, Marist Larkin, seemed to be in a foul mood this evening.

Feigning a fainting attack, Miranda was accompanied by Hawky and Dusk as they pretended to look for a couch upon which to rest the lady. They managed to bluster their way past the guards and made their way to the third floor. When their elevator opened, they had a moment of panic when the elevator opposite also opened--but luckily it was just Blunt, who had also made his way to the third floor of the airship's gondola. 

Operating under the theory that the chef may be in a bad mood because her kitchen had been commandeered as a place to store Severina's Tear, Poppy made her way into the kitchen--just in time to hear Marist Larkin inform her sous-chefs that "the assault will start when we serve the soup course." FLASHBACK: the group had bribed the produce supplier to provide Larkin with substandard edible lavender. So when Poppy appeared with a cachet of fresh, exquisite lavender, she had an easier way in with the chef.

During their conversation, Poppy won Larkin over by listening to her complaints about being as artist serving the pinnacle of haute cuisine to wealthy pigs who failed to appreciate the rarefied experience. Larkin warmed to Poppy and appreciated her sympathy as an artist frustrated by the whims of the rich, so much so that she warned Poppy that she and the kitchen staff were planning on poisoning the soup. Anyone who survived, or declined the soup, was to be knifed. 

Meanwhile, Ilya did a bit of subterfuge, stealing a socialite's ring, planting it on Aisling, and then calling attention to the theft. As an embarrassing tumult broke out, the soup course came out of the kitchen to be served. Poppy gathered up Ilya, tipped off Roslyn, and they exited the dining room. As they left, chef Larkin gave Poppy a knowing nod. Ilya and Poppy now made their way to the third floor of the airship.

Up on the third floor, Hawky, Dusk, Blunt, and Miranda noticed that one room in the hallway was under guard. In fact, one of the two guards approached them to escort them out of the area. Blunt attempted to push past the guards and Miranda theatrically collapsed onto the floor. The guards picked Miranda up to carry her to the infirmary, and that's when the rest of the gang struck. Dusk produced a bottle of slumber essence and held a rag full of it over one guard's mouth, while Blunt and Hawky bludgeoned the other into unconsciousness. During the struggle, Miranda made her way to the guarded room and used her spirit key to bypass the lock.

At this point they were joined by Ilya and Poppy. The room they were infiltrating was a storage room with a safe, but the safe's door hung open--someone had beat them to the punch and stolen Severina's Tear. As they looked about, they quickly deduced that the ventilation shaft leading into this chamber was just wide enough for the teenage girl who was accompanying Reaper. Ilya produced schematics of the Valkyrie and they confirmed that this ventilation shaft had an outlet in the airship's ballroom. FLASHBACK: Dusk had rigged a device on the doors of the ballroom that would hold it closed on a timer.

Knowing that they had little time to confront the Red Sashes and get their hands on Severina's Tear, the gang rushed down to the ballroom. When they disarmed their timed lock and pushed wide the door, Miranda threw in a vial of ectoplasm and opened her mind to the ghost field, causing the ectoplasm to cohere into nightmarish specters that forced the Red Sashes back into the ballroom. This was Blunt's cue; he strode in and confronted the three Red Sashes in combat, on his own.

FLASHBACK: since Hawky knew that Reaper and his crew would be gunning for the gem too, he had discovered that Reaper was superstitious and believed that only a pure maiden was fit to sharpen his dueling sword. Hawky had arranged to have a package delivered to her business, and while she was at the door he came in through the window and sabotaged Reaper's blade.

Blunt turned the faulty blade aside easily, punched Reaper in the face with a cestus, and sent him crashing to the ground. Reaper's bearded associate tried to psychically assault Blunt, but he got a punch to the face for his troubles as well. The teenage girl, who was now in a tug of war over her handbag with Ilya, merely got a backhand that sent her reeling. With the handbag now in their possession, they looked inside: they had obtained Severina's Tear.

To take care of loose ends, Hawky shot Reaper through the eye, sending blood and brains cascading across the carpet. Eager to make sure that Sitarra wouldn't consume her own soul, Miranda set it on the teenage girl (FLASHBACK: they had been seeding her mind with occult ideas that made her amenable to this!), but things didn't go according to plan. Yes, Sitarra claimed the girl's soul, but she also claimed the girl's body--which was now issuing a horrible ululating scream and hovering mid-air.

It was now time to go. They saw the soldiers who had been hidden in the airship rush down the stairs and head for the bloodbath still unfolding in the dining room. With that distraction aiding their escape, the crew made their way into the dark of a Doskvol night.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Through the Eyes of a Dead Man

Way back in the heady days of G+, I accepted a challenge: watch the movie version of Wild Wild West and come up with something gameable to justify the time spent watching a movie generally held in low regard. What I came up with is a piece of equipment that would be right at home in Deadlands.

The Final Projector

As it turns out, the commonly-held belief that the last image a person sees is burned onto their retina as the die is true. The Final Projector can be used to unlock that last image: it bores a hole into the back of the deceased person’s head and shines a light through their eyes, which projects the last image they saw.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

The Theatre Diabolique and Villa Kazmark

Two more locations in Krevborna's witch-haunted town of Hemlock Hollow:

The Theater Diabolique

The Theater Diabolique is a playhouse specializing in gory productions that dramatize crimes, murders, and supernatural terrors as ghastly spectacles for stout-stomached crowds. 

    • The artists of the Theater Diabolique are infamous for their mastery of theatrical artifice; they have pioneered techniques for creating fake blood, steaming entrails, and dismembered corpses that seem all too real. 

    • The gruesome plays performed at the theater are also supported by a few gore-obsessed illusionists who use their magic to enhance the Diabolique’s phantasmagoria of slaughter and carnage. 

    • A deformed masked madman named Erik Bercilan lives in the ancient tunnels beneath the playhouse; he is liable to abduct any starlet performing at the Theater Diabolique that catches his eye.

Villa Kazmark

Villa Kazmark is an abandoned manor house in Hemlock Hollow with a sinister reputation. It was once rented by a circle of Romantic poets as a place of collaboration—and some say for drunken orgies as well—but their tenancy ended in a bloody suicidal pact.

    • Villa Kazmark is secretly used as a place of worship for Hemlock Hollow’s remaining Church of Holy Blood adherents now that their faith has been driven underground.

    • Secret chambers in the basement of Villa Kazmark are used to store outlawed religious tracts and contraband copies of the Holy Blood Bible.

    • Villa Kazmark features a number of “priest holes”—hiding places for clerics and other members of the faith who are being hunted by the witches of the Graymalk clan and their satanic servants.

    • The manor house is also haunted; at night, the poets who met their demise within its walls reenact the violent scenes of their deaths. 

    • In recent years, the ghosts inhabiting Villa Kazmark have become more active and agitated; soon they will seek to possess those who worship clandestinely within the house.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Nazi Submarines and Reptile Men

We played our first session of Mike Royal's Pulp Cthulhu game last Friday. I thought I'd do a weekly write up of our adventures, at least until we all die and/or go insane, but it turns out that my notes were pretty shitty. I'll try to get the highlights down for future reference, though:

We are in the South Seas on an expedition to explore a strange temple on what is believed to be a currently uninhabited island. Before we got to the island, we spotted a drowned man floating nearby. However, when we brought the body aboard, it turned out not to be a human being at all--it was a white ape of a sort never before documented. The white ape was wearing an unusual headband, the purpose of which struck us as perhaps ritualistic. Also, the white ape wasn't actually dead, which I discovered firsthand when it sprang up and attacked my character. A combination of fisticuffs and gunfire brought it down.

With the ape problem settled, we took rowboats from our ship to the island. On the way, we found a wrecked submarine with a strange symbol on its side. (That symbol: a swastika.) We decided to take a detour and explore the submarine. At first it appeared that the submarine was abandoned, but we found a number of skeletons inside--the remains of the crew. Also, it was conspicuous that the technology level of the submarine was higher than anything we were currently aware of in our world. The truth of what was going on hit home when a newspaper (in German) was found and translated: according to the date on the newspaper, the submarine was from the future.

We also found a book written in an unrecognizable language. I'm sure taking that won't come back to bite us on the ass later on.

When we finally reached the island, we found ourselves following a golden metal road. We spotted (and hid from) more white apes gathered together in what appeared to be a hunting party. These apes were also wearing headbands like the one on the ape we killed previous. (We suspect that the headbands may be used to control the apes, but we could be barking up the wrong tree with that.) 

We found a field of giant petrified squid; the squid were bearing runes or sigils of some sort. (They weren't swastikas, at least.) We also stumbled upon a field of dead bodies in what appeared to be, judging by the debris, the aftermath of a zeppelin crash. Each of the bodies was wearing an alien medallion. When the medallions were removed from the bodies, they ceased to be of human appearance--the medallions were disguising the fact that the corpses before us were all reptilian humanoids!

When we finally arrived at the temple, we watched the white apes enter. However, when we entered, they were nowhere to be seen. However, we did find a lever that caused part of the floor to begin to descend into the darkness as a sort of elevator. We will find out what lurks in the stygian abyss when we pick up the game later this week.

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Mordenkult, the Rackrend Estate, Streghastra Road

The following three locations might figure into adventures within Hemlock Hollow in Krevborna. Mordenkult brings black metal to the setting, kinda. The Rackrend Estate adds a creepy family standing guard over a horrible evil. Streghastra Road has its own Black Philip-inspired monster to deal with. Good luck, adventurers! 


Mordenkult is the most infamous tavern in Hemlock Hollow; it is regarded as the birthplace of “black skaldism,” music best described as morbid, dark, and misanthropic. 
    • The bards who perform black skaldism music for the entertainment of rough crowds at Mordenkult paint their faces with stark black and white pigments to give themselves a startling, demonic appearance.
    • Some alarmists claim that black skaldism is corrupting and encourages blasphemy, arson, diabolism, and murder.
    • The tavern has several private rooms that can be rented on an hourly basis; these rooms are enchanted to make them safe against scrying and other forms of divination magic.

The Rackrend Estate

The Rackrend family are decrepit necromancers who own a crumbling ancestral estate on the outskirts of Hemlock Hollow. 
    • The house sits at the base of a brackish tarn, its foundations cracked and the land around it is choked with black weeds.
    • The remaining members of the Rackrend family have inherited a familial duty to maintain the magical wards keeping a “sleeping” woman imprisoned within a glass coffin in the tombs that lie under their manor house. 
    • As part of the ritual necessary to keep the woman incarcerated within her glass coffin, the Rackrends wear black garb decorated with the yellowed remnants of ancient bones and don gilded, skull-like masks. 

Streghastra Road

Streghastra Road cuts through the Kressig Woods to the south of Hemlock Hollow and ends at the northern gates of Creedhall. 

    • The road is haunted by a fiend known as Black Samael, who takes the form of a massive goat with jet-black fur, fearsome curling horns, and eyes that smolder with infernal flame. 

    • Black Samael has an especial taste for the flesh and blood of priests, clerics, and other devout followers of the Church.