Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Somna, What Happened at Hawthorne House, Wet Moon, and More

Things that brought me delight in April, 2024:

Becky Cloonan and Tula Lotay, Somna #3

The third book of Becky Cloonan and Tula Lotay's Somna brings the comic to a fiery conclusion. Literally. The murderer reveals themselves, though that isn't the crux of the climax; rather, the book ends with a consideration of faith, doubt, guilt, oppression, and the possibility of redemption. The set pattern of how art is used in the comic--with Cloonan handling the "real world" elements and Lotay covering the "dreamlike" sections--is disrupted here to fantastic effect as the boundary between dream and reality gets muddled and ruptured. The end may well be too ambiguous for some, but I'll be thinking on it for a while.

Hadassah Shiradski, What Happened at Hawthorne House

The first half of What Happened at Hawthorne House is about orphans who invent a strange game of social hierarchy, each a "princess" vying to be the "queen." The orphan girls construct a crown for the reigning queen out of barbed wire and make a scepter by studding a wooden mallet with nails. Within paragraphs of these items being introduced there is bloodshed. Within a chapter further, there is a disastrous cataclysm. And that's only the first half of the book. This is a compelling novella if, like me, you have an interesting in the morbid games of childhood. I do think that the ending fizzles out a bit and lacks bite, but as a quick, creepy read What Happened at Hawthorne House has merit.

Sophie Campbell, Wet Moon, Vols. 1-7

Wet Moon is definitely not my usual kind of comic. It's more a soap opera about gothy queer college girls, than my more traditional Gothic nonsense. One thing I really like about it is that it refuses to paint the characters as anything less than messy, as most people are at that stage in their lives. Their relationships are pretty toxic, and they're still figuring out how to be people. It's also a pretty funny snapshot of a particular era: the characters are huge fans of the band Bella Morte, who used to be one of the bigger names in the goth scene--but I wonder how well that name resonates with anyone in 2024. Probably doesn't, I bet. The Southern Gothic qualities emerge over the series' volumes, and what a series it is. Wet Moon really does feel like Sophie Campbell's opus.

Danza Macabra

"Dared to spend the night in a haunted house" is one of my favorite premises, and Danza Macabra uses it to good effect. I had seen Danza Macabra in its English-language cut under the title Castle of Blood before, but this was my first time with the European cut. Although it's a bit hilarious how slow the dare-accepting protagonist is in catching onto the fact that he is being visited by the murderous ghosts haunting the castle--as well as the fact that he's gone to bed with a dead woman--but overall this is a fun Euro Gothic that is well worth your time if you're a fan of the genre.

The First Omen

Between Immaculate and The First Omen, we're currently in a renaissance moment for nun fanciers. Though I'd say that Immaculate is easily the better movie, I was shocked at how good The First Omen is. Usually a prequel to a long-standing horror franchise is doomed to mediocrity, but The First Omen has some great tense moments and dares to go pretty hard on its gross fx. The story might not hold up under too much scrutiny, but it's easy enough to turn off the skeptical part of your mind and just have some fun with the Evil Catholicism on display here.

Shudder and Vampiress Carmilla

I kept up with the latest issues of Vampiress Carmilla and Shudder in April, as well as continuing to make progress through the back issues! Man, check out the cover of Vampiress Carmilla #20: if you don't have a deep desire to have a framed print of that art on your walls, I don't understand how you're choosing to live your life at all.

The Sins of Thy Beloved, Lake of Sorrow and Perpetual Desolation

There are a number of gothic metal bands whose work I never got the chance to delve into when it was fresh; The Sins of Thy Beloved falls into that category, so I decided that April was the time to investigate their back catalog. Overall, it feels like the bastard child of Theatre of Tragedy and My Dying Bride due to the combination of "beauty and the beast" style vocals and morbid violin. Lake of Sorrow is exactly the kind of gloomy Gothic doom I love. Even the slightly shoddy production makes me feel a bit nostalgic. Perpetual Desolation is the band's second and final album, and although Perpetual Desolation got poor reviews upon its release, I think the occasional experimental flourish keeps the album interesting and perhaps even more noteworthy than its more staid contemporaries.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Season One (Parts One and Two)

I watched the first part of the first season of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina when it first "aired," but I abandoned it because it didn't live up to the comics--which rule, by the way. I've gone back to the beginning and...it still doesn't live up to the comics. It's a strange mix of decent ideas paired with some of the worst plotting, to a maddening degree. That said, the episode with the tarot readings really worked because it felt like a throwback to the anthology horror films of yesteryear, but that episode also illustrates how the show generally struggles to earn its per-episode runtime and how the show is stronger when it doesn't focus on Sabrina. Miranda Otto and Michelle Gomez make the whole thing occasionally worthwhile.

Stephen King, Joyland

When I put Stephen King's Joyland on the short-list for books under consideration for Bad Books for Bad People episodes, I was expecting the thrill of seeing how "the horror author" would handle a pure-strain hardboiled crime novel on the Hardcase imprint. I'll certainly be talking more about this one on the podcast, but what I got from the book was so very different from what I was expecting and also so much more. My recommendation: get a copy of Joyland now so you're all caught up by the time our episode on it drops!

Brandon Seifert and Lukas Ketner, Witch Doctor, Vols. One and Two

I picked up Witch Doctor on a whim and it turned out to be a pretty fun comic. The main character feels like he lives at the overlap point between Herbert West and Carnacki the Ghost-Finder. The comic is a monster-hunting book at heart, but the premise--that monsters as the parasites Cthulhoids brought with them from another dimension--is a pretty cool idea. The second volume takes things in more of a long-form direction, and it makes the transition from "monster of the week" to extended narrative very well. I wish we had a third volume; the characters definitely have more juice left in them.

Stephen Graham Jones, The Angel of Indian Lake

I've been looking forward to The Angel of Indian Lake for quite some time off the strength of the previous My Heart is a Chainsaw and Don't Fear the Reaper. As a conclusion to the Indian Lake trilogy, The Angel of Indian Lake is overall good-to-great, though I do think the middle nearly goes off the rails in a somewhat muddled lake of plot contrivances and a tide of dimly remembered characters who have been accumulating over the course of the series. I also think a tighter hand at the editing wheel could have cleared up some of the repetitions--there's so much "calving," so many chins that are constantly "pruning"! But the final reel really lands, even if Stephen Graham Jones passed on the opportunity to go really dark with it. I will say, though, I was terrified for Jade Daniels all the way through; god damn, he made me care about that character so much. 


There's nothing in Abigail that you won't be expecting if you have seen the trailer, but it was undeniably a fun movie. Horror doesn't always have to be deadly serious, obscure, or elevated; if you don't have love in your heart for a popcorn horror flick about a vampire ballerina running roughshod on a team of criminals, I don't want to know you. It's got some cool gross moments, some genuinely funny bits, and a cast who seems to be having a blast with the material. All that a Danzig song in the mix? Yeah, I can get down with that.

My Dying Bride, A Mortal Binding

Do you like melancholy? Crushing guitars? Somber violin? If you said yes to the above, you're in luck because My Dying Bride has a new album just for you. At this point in their career, the question for any new My Dying Bride album isn't "is it good?" it's "how good is it?" Aside from one misstep in their long and storied catalog, every My Dying Bride album ranges from "pretty good" to "classic of the genre." On A Mortal Binding, the band is sounded energized and vital; it may not equal the highest points in their discography, but from any other band it would count as an unqualified success. 

High on Fire, Cometh the Storm

It will be a sad day when High on Fire's new album isn't a roaring slab of bad attitude doing wheelies on a road ragin' motorcycle, but with Cometh the Storm today is not that day. Lots of churning grind, pounding drums, and throat-shedding war cries here. And it never really lets up; no quarter is granted on Cometh the Storm, so lay down your white flag--surrender is not allowed with music this gnarly.

Messiah of Evil

I'm not sure what kind of horror movie I had assumed that Messiah of Evil was, but as it unfolded I realized it falls squarely into the "all vibes no plot" style of horror flick, so I had to adjust my expectations while watching. Messiah of Evil feels a bit like Carnival of Souls' seedier 70s cousin. The movie concerns a woman looking for her artist father, who went missing in a strange seaside California town. She encounters a dandy and his two swingin' lovers, and the mystery only deepens from there. There's a great sequence inside a grocery store, which I had somehow seen before--maybe in a documentary on horror movies? 

Dan D., Unicorn Meat

Unicorn Meat is an adventure supplement intended for use with OSR-style rules. The tone of Unicorn Meat is unique; eschewing the tired standard dungeon format, it centers instead on the last unicorn farm and the horrors that have unfolded there. Overall, there's a Southern Gothic feel to the book that charms me. There's quite a bit of content packed into Unicorn Meat, but I find myself a little bewildered by the order that information is delivered; for example, we get advice on how to alter the adventure to meet our players' various sensitivities before we actually get a glimpse of what the adventure is actually about. A roadmap at the very beginning of the book, detailing the shape of the adventure and the basic gist of what you might use it for, would go a long way toward making Unicorn Meat easier to parse.

The Vision Bleak, Weird Tales and The Unknown

Reviewers tend to say that the Vision Bleak specialize in Gothic metal in the style of Type O Negative, but I don't really hear the sonic resemblance. The guitars are more traditionally heavy, there are way more aesthetic flourishes, and the vocals just aren't the same. The Vision Bleak are very much their own animal, and now they're back with a concept album based on the legendary magazine of horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. A concept album is already a dicey proposition, but The Vision Bleak tempts fate further by making Weird Tales a single, forty-plus minute track. And...it works. Somehow they pulled it off. Uncanny. Then I went back and listened to The Unknown, another rock-solid album in their discography.

Elaine Lee and William Simpson, Vamps: The Complete Collection

Vamps is a pretty fun comic that doesn't try to pretend that it's about anything other than skanky vampire biker chicks--which is fine because that premise rules. This collection brings together three different series: the first centers on one of the Vamps' quest to find the child taken away from her by the courts before she became undead; the second lands them in Hollywood to make a movie, with predictably funny and gruesome results; and the third details what happens when one of the girls gets marked for death by the vampire council. Trashy, but it's a nice ride. I liked the addition of Elaine Lee's afterword where she talks about how people couldn't decide if she was trying to make a feminist point or if she was just really horny when making Vamps. Insert "why not both?" gif here.


Jennifer Reeder's Perpetrator is a pretty weird movie: it feels like it takes place in one of those slightly off mirrors of our own world, something like Twin Peaks. The movie's protagonist is a young girl who is not quite human, but her nature--and, by extension, that of her weird family--is never fully explained. But whatever she is puts her in the perfect position to discover why other young women in her town keep going missing under mysterious circumstances. This is a movie that attempts a lot--maybe too much--as it works in themes of the way women are encouraged to remain young and plaint, the sexualization of youth, warped family dynamics, etc., but I did ultimately enjoy the uniqueness of tone in Perpetrator

Monica Ojeda, Nefando

Monica Ojeda's Nefando is an abject book, and it is frequently disturbing both in what it describes and the implications of its content. It's well executed, if occasionally a little lit-wanky for me, but I'd have trouble recommending it widely because of the content. The story, such that it is, is told through a collection of interviews with its polyvocal cast of characters, excerpts from their creative work, drawings, and challenging perspective pieces. The six central characters were all roommates, sharing a space while three of their number--siblings who were sexually abused by their father and forced to participate in child pornography--directed the design of a video game called NefandoI appreciated the way the presence of the titular video game--an indie project that appeared on the internet, messed with people's heads, and then disappeared--lurked in the background like a digital specter, made all the more effective because there is another website, barely discussed, that also seemed be an object of unquiet fixation that was hiding behind the game itself. It's an odd novel, and if I were trying to sell it to you (I am not), I would say it is like Story of the Eye meets the urban legend about Polybius.

Creepy Cryptids

I picked up Creepy Cryptids on a whim, but I'm glad I did as this is a neat little product. What you get is a pack of cards. The front of each card has a nifty illustration of a different cryptid drawn from real-world myths and legends. The back of each card features stats in OSE format--that's B/X D&D to the real ones out there. Although I haven't really run B/X D&D in years at this point, I could see doing a one-shot or short campaign that focused just on cryptids rather than the usual vanilla fantasy orcs, goblins, and trolls.

Jeremy C. Shipp, The Atrocities

I had a quiet morning to myself in late April, so I brewed a cup of tea and read Jeremy C. Shipp's The Atrocities cover by cover while I waited to see if the weather would turn. The Atrocities has a pretty interesting premise: a woman arrives at the isolated house where she is to be employed as a private tutor, only to find out that her sole student...is a ghost. Or perhaps the mother of the house has simply gone mad with grief over the death of her daughter, and she is simply being employed to go along with the charade that the child persists beyond the veil. 

Agathodaimon, Blacken the Angel, Chapter III, Higher Art of Rebellion, Phoenix, The Seven

As with The Sins of Thy Beloved, I did a deep dive on Agathodaimon's discography in April. The band's transition between symphonic black metal and extreme Gothic metal has been a fruitful exercise: there's something on every album of theirs that I listened to that had something thrilling or surprising. Observed over the course of several albums, the band's evolution feels entirely natural. Can't wait to go back and fill in the few gaps I didn't get to this month.

Nancy A. Collins and Paul Lee, Dhampire: Stillborn

Dhampire: Stillborn is another of the Vertigo titles that got a lot of ad space in the goth mags of the mid 90s, yet somehow I never picked up a copy until recently. Dhampire has definitely got that tragic Gen X thing going on; the main character is a messed up would be suicide coming from a bad background, though truth be told he doesn't initially understand how bad his background truly is. Hint: he's the son of a woman who had vampire blood running through her body when he was born. His search for identity take some dark paths, and ultimately he chooses the darkest road for himself. Not exactly heart-warming, but a fun comic with that 90s flavor I crave.

Yellowjackets, Season Two

Speaking of that 90s flavor, we polished off the second season of Yellowjackets and now must wait patiently for the third season to arrive. I continue to be Team Misty in the second season of Yellowjackets, but I have to admit that Elijah Wood's character has rapidly grown in my estimation. Overall, the mix of crime elements in the present and folk horror-themed survival horror in the flashback segments continues to really work for me. So many astounding performances from both the adult veterans and "the kids." Yellowjackets might just be the best thing on "tv" at the moment.

Sunday, April 28, 2024


The game group needed to blow off some steam with something dumb and fun, so I ran PLANET MOTHERFUCKER for 'em. Did you know that you can buy PLANET MOTHERFUCKER and its first supplement BLACK SUNSHINE over on Drivethrurpg? Well, now you do. Now you can also be dumb and fun.


Runa, Church Burner

Chet, Living Dead Hustler

Dr. MK ULTRA, Doctor Feelbad

Dan Smakob, Spooky Scary Skeleton


The characters had all been captured in an ambush. They were stripped of their weapons, handcuffed, and marched onto a repurposed school bus that now read SCHOOL BUS at the top. (They ran out of standard-issue handcuffs, so they had to bind Chet with some pink fuzzy handcuffs.) From the chatter they could overhear from their captors, they were being taken somewhere to be tried for a crime they did not commit: MURDER!

From the bus's windows, they could see that they were entering a compound called Truckstopsylvania, which was a series of gas pumps and trailers arranged around a building with shops and services inside. The characters were brought before the Honorable Judge Abigail Sweetcooter, an elderly woman with some obvious breast enhancement, who was presiding over their "trial." She was quick to pass a guilty verdict and a death sentence for the crime of murdering Truckstopslyvania's mayor, Leon Buttermouth.

At the last minute, the group's court-appointed lawyer came running in and demanded that his clients be offered a Trial by Snoop. Trial by Snoop worked like this: the characters would be strapped into Snoop Suits--aka wetsuits with built-in explosives--and given the opportunity to prove their innocence by snooping around until they found the "real" guilty party. If they weren't able to establish their innocence within six hours, the explosive would detonate, which they were told would be "messy."

Their first order of business was to examine the mayor's corpse, which was still where it was found in his office--which was a defunct Pizza Hut. He had no signs of violent injury, but they did notice that he had two puncture marks on his neck and seemed a little light on blood for a man of his size. Unfortunately, everyone they questioned about the possibility of a vampire on the loose would reply with a variation of "Vampire? Everyone knows they aren't real!"

Searching his pockets turned up some possible leads: a receipt for the convenience store he bought rubbers at, a handful of urinal cakes, a wash cloth wrapped around a bar of Irish Spring, a diner menu with a note that someone had written "I'll see you later, big boy" on it in lipstick, a book of matches from a gentleman's club called Skeezer's, and a key marked "Moon Room."

They decided to hit up the convenience store first. There was a teenage girl reading a copy of Ninja of Fortune magazine behind the counter. Dan poured a blue slushy into his skull and because he was a skeleton it just ran out the bottom of his Snoop Suit, prompting the teenager to have to get the mop and bucket to clean up in aisle three. Dr MK Ultra traded the girl a syringe full of drugs for information. Both the mop and the drugs would become plot points in a little bit--wait for it.

At Skeezer's strip club, they learned that Mayor Buttermouth was a regular and that his favored "girl" was Misty--the club's most elderly stripper. Over at the Truck Nuts Cafe diner, they learned from a gum-poppin' waitress that Mayor Buttermouth's last meal was the steak & eggs--which he always ate when he was expecting to "get lucky." In the shower room, a strapping fellow with an ever-changing accent introduced them to the concept of "Special Sauce"--a combination of Aqua Velva and Old Spice that was purported to be a pussy magnet combination. The mayor had requested the special sauce on the night of his death.

While they were in the shower, the heard a woman screaming down the hall. Following the hollerin', they backtracked to the convenience store, where they found the teenage ninja fan under attack by a vampire who had emerged from the Beer Cave. Runa threw some punches at the vamp, Dan concocted a flamethrower from a lighter and a can of Aqua Net and lit the dude up, but Chet grabbed the mop, broke the head off, and staked the sucker. He dissolved into ash, which means they couldn't pawn the mayor's death off on him. Also, they couldn't get the teen girl to testify as to the existence of vampires because she had taken the drugs Dr. MK Ultra had given her and was now tripping balls so hard that she saw Naruto running backwards into infinity everywhere she looked.

Putting the pieces together, they figured out that since the mayor had a kink for aged women he had probably gotten vampirized by Judge Sweetcooter, who had then tried to pin his death on the motherfuckers as soon as they got hauled before her bench. They revived the mayor with a drop of blood, got confirmation of their theory from him, then burned his ass to a crisp too.

They found the judge in her chambers, where she offered them wine coolers. She declined to drink one herself as she said she "Never drinks wine...coolers." They forced her into calling a town meeting, where they proved she was a vampire by showing that she had to reflection. She jumped through a glass plate window and started running her old ass off toward Dr. MK Ultra's coffin car. She veered off at the last minute and climbed into a big black monster truck instead. 

Runa and the Dr. got in their vehicles because they figured that Judge Sweetcooter was making a run for it, but she had gotten into a monster truck because her plan was to crush the fuck out of them. Both of them found their vehicles getting smacked around by the monster truck. Dan threw his skull at the truck, which did more damage to him than to the truck. Chet managed to climb aboard the monster truck, which gave him a good vantage point to stab the judge with the broken mop.

Chet gouged out the judge's eyes, causing her to aimlessly run amok in the monster truck. Runa jumped her motorcycle onto the back of the monster truck, allowing Chet an easy escape route...which was good because the monster truck was now headed straight toward Truckstopsylvania's gas pumps. They biked off just before the massive fireball consumed the truck and the judge. All that was left was a pair of melted implants.

Their innocence established and the real murderer now brought to justice, the gang were released from the Snoop Suits. Dr. MK Ultra had his car back, but missing from his trunk was his dead gal pal. Where the fuck did she end up? We'll find out someday.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

On the Strength of My Disdain

I recently finished--well, "finished" as in good enough to show people publicly--another short story set in Krevborna. This one is about Viktoria Frankenstein, heir to the infamous family's legacy of monstrosity, and the lengths she's willing to go to get her doctorate.

I've been told that there are several "killer lines" in this by my advance readers, so if you like the kind of vicious patter and megalomaniacal declarations that you can see at the right, you might just enjoy the whole thing.

You can read "On the Strength of My Disdain" here.

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Beyond the Mirror

This is the second part of the write up of the adventure that started here. In this section of the adventure, the group finds themselves battling against family members in the shadow of a Baba Yaga-style hut and one of their number chooses to walk the path of darkness.

The Characters

Catarina, unconventional prioress

Pendleton, rogue anatomist

Raoul, necromancer

Geradd, swashbuckling nobleman

Daytona, dhampir gunslinger

Panthalassa, feral child

Asudem, undead antiquarian


When we last left our heroes, they had found a magical portal in the Hall of Mirrors at the Skarnesti Circus and had traveled beyond the mirror in search of a missing child.

After crossing through the mirror, the group found themselves in a strange dining room. The walls of the room indicated that the building they were in was fairly primitive, such as a hut or hovel. However, the dining room table was well crafted and was set with fine china and sparkling silverware. Panthalassa recognized the china as being her grandmother's pattern. There was a place set for each member of the party, plus one extra. 

While exploring the building, the characters found a kitchen with a meat grinder bolted to the counter. Mysterious meat spilled from the grinder, but they could not determine the meat's provenance--though they suspected that it to be human flesh. They also discovered that the oven was hot and currently in use: inside were a number of meat pies, their number again matching the number of members of the group plus one. One of the pies with marked with a P that had been cut from pastry.

In another chamber, the group uncovered a room with child-sized cages hanging from the ceiling on chains. One of the cages held a young boy wearing only one shoe--they had found the missing Bastien! Geradd tore the bars from the cage, freeing the boy and arming himself and Panthalassa with makeshift iron bludgeons in the process. The Widow and Serafina were sent back through the mirror to return the child to his mother, but the rest of the party went looking for the person, persons, or entities responsible for his abduction. 

Exploring further, the group encountered a slim man with a pencil-thin mustache lounging in an overstuffed chair in the parlor. Catarina instantly recognized him as Wallace Redmoor, her brother-in-law. Wallace arrogantly mentioned that he had contrived this meeting because he believed that Catarina was responsible for her brother's death. (He's correct, actually.) In a nod to her companions, Wallace noted that Catarina had "made many friends" since they had last spoke, but that the group had also made "several enemies." He offered to introduce the party to another of their enemies and made for the front door. The party followed him outside.

Turning back to see the exterior of the building they had been in, the group saw that it was a large hut perched on massive chicken legs. The field surrounding the hut was littered with ominous scarecrows. Catarina wanted Wallace taken alive so she could determine how much he knew about her role in her husband's death, but things were not to go easily for the party. Wallace flicked his cane, turning it into a segmented whip, the scarecrows dismounted from their stakes and brandished knives, and Panthalassa's grandmother, Melantha Dinmere, warped by evil and her skin was slicked with blood, appeared in the doorway behind them.

Melantha's appearance caused several members of the group, including her granddaughter, to run in fear or stand helplessly stunned. Melantha also cast a spell that entangled many of the remaining party members in blood-red vines that erupted from the earth. Wallace whipped at them with his cane, and the scarecrows moved in to gut the group. 

The group quickly rallied. Melantha was put down by pistol shot, which freed them from the vines. Daytona's recently acquired flaming sword proved to be highly effective against the scarecrows, but several characters took grievous wounds from their knives. When Panthalassa attempted to grapple Wallace, he turned the tables on her by wrapping the threaded cane around her throat and using her as a human shield. Panthalassa found it impossible to escape Wallace's clutches, and being his captive allowed him to stab her in the side with a dagger over and over. Geradd ended the stalemate by staving Wallace's head in with the iron bar he wrenched from the cage earlier.

Catarina promptly lost her senses and bludgeoned Wallace's corpse in a frenzy of frustration. Panthalassa also attempted to make sure that her grandmother was truly dead, but the hag sat up and exclaimed "We gave you a name!" The old woman was then sent to her grave for the second time that night. 

Searching the rest of the hut, they found a shrine to Panthalassa's father, which included his skull and bones (all of which had been gnawed upon by sea creatures) surrounded by candles. The bones were pulverized.

Crossing through the mirror once more, the party saw that Bastien had been reunited with his mother. Zoskia Skarnesti thanked the group for dealing with the issue and thus saving the circus's reputation; she gave them free passes for the circus and also entrusted them with the Mantle of Iron Tears, which she claimed to have won in a card game against a witch. However, she cautioned them that sorrow often visited those who used the Mantle.

The group spent the rest of the evening relaxing and enjoying the rest of their time at the circus. Wanting to know more about the nature of the Mantle of Iron Tears, the group turned north to Hemlock Hollow, where they hoped that the Graymalks could tell them about its powers and the dangers that attended it. Unfortunately, they found their path north blocked by a large black carriage bearing Count Magnus Draghul's coat of arms.

As they pulled up to the Count's carriage, the vampire lord exited and approached them. He asked if they had chosen one of their number to join him as a vampiric replacement for Countess Vlodeska, whom they had slain in a previous adventure. They attempted to stall for time, but Magnus was not having it--they would need to choose tonight or he would make the choice for them. They briefly considered trying to fight their way out of this situation, but ultimately Catarina stepped forward as the sacrifice.

The last the group saw of her was when Magnus led her by the hand to his waiting carriage and thundered off into the night.

Things will be very different when we next look in on our heroes.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

A House With Good Bones


T. Kingfisher's A House With Good Bones is not a novel I would recommend widely among my cohort; it has a lot going against it: I found the main character's quirky banter to be repellent, the plot involves the hated "a character discovers they are the heir to magical power, which they suddenly and conveniently wield to make things right" convention, and the horror is so light in this novel that it fulfills the milquetoast dreams of those who demand "cozy horror." 

Despite all that, there are some high spots. I was surprised that Jack Parsons and Aleister Crowley figure into the backstory, for example. That lent the book some surprising and interesting texture. Also, I can fully admit that even though a novel isn't for me, there are readers out there who would love this. Your maiden aunt who finds Stephen King too scary, but still wants to read horror, might get a real kick out of A House With Good Bones.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

A Night at the Skarnesti Circus

In this adventure, the party made their way to the Skarnesti Cicus, which had pitched its tents in a clearing just outside of Hemlock Hollow. They were in search of an artifact known as the Mantle of Iron Tears that could aid Raoul in his quest to resurrect his deceased beloved, though their quest for the item was hampered by the fact that they neither knew what it looked like nor who was in possession of it. This is the first part of a two-part write up of the adventure; according to several of the players, this was one of the best adventures of the campaign thus far.

The Characters

Catarina, unconventional prioress

Pendleton, rogue anatomist

Raoul, necromancer

Geradd, swashbuckling nobleman

Daytona, dhampir gunslinger

Panthalassa, feral child

Asudem, undead antiquarian


As the party waited for the Skarnesti Circus to open its gates, they observed that the makeshift fairgrounds were contained within a plank fence that had been painted with a graveyard scene in which cartoonish ghosts rose from their graves. Eventually, a woman--her face powdered deathly white, wearing a slinky black dress--appeared, mounted a platform, and addressed the crowd:

Good evening, boils and ghouls. I bid you welcome...to the Skarnesti Circus. I am your host and proprietor, the mistress of the macabre, the ghostess with the mostess, Zoskia Skarnesti. Lurking just inside, you will find an untold number of attractions that will shock and amaze you, but I must warn you: those of weak hearts and unsound constitutions should turn back IMMEDIATELY. But those of you made of sterner stuff may brave your horror of what’s to come. We have a freak show that will shiver you down to your bones, a monster of unmatched strength who could rend you apart with his bare hands, and a sinister seductress to which no succubus could compare. If you slaver at the sinister, if you moisten at the morbid, if you have no regard for your personal safety, why then, step right up and buy a ticket to…YOUR DOOM!

The party bought their tickets and entered. They found that the grass in the clearing had been turned black somehow, saw a number of black and white striped tents, noticed the unusual number of young women in black dresses and especially pointy shoes among the crowd, and could hear the sound of a calliope playing minor-key carnival music. They located a hand-painted sign listing the attractions on offer and set off to investigate.

Their first stop was the tent of Mister Marvelo, Gentleman Fortune Teller. One by one, he told their fortunes via the tarot, giving them eerily accurate assessments of their lives and, possibly, of their futures. (I did an actual tarot card reading for each character; I highly recommend doing this if it suits the aesthetics of your game, as the results were fascinating and in many cases surprisingly apt.)

Panthalassa wanted to test her strength against Dogface, the Hirsute Brute, a massive mountain of muscle covered in brown shaggy fur. Dogface mistook Catarina for Panthalassa's mother and wanted to make sure that it was okay that a "mere child" compete against him. He tried to offer her a dainty, small hammer with which to pound the high striker, but she insisting on wielding one of the biggest mallets on offer. Both of them swung. Dogface's blow caused the bell to ring at the top of the high striker. Panthalassa's blow caused puck to hurtle off the end of her high striker. Amazed at the child's strength, Dogface loaded Panthalassa with prize tickets and proclaimed her the victor. 

The group also took the time to watch the performance of Vandia, the Human Pincushion. Inside Vandia's tent, the doll-like woman--who looked uncannily like a human version of the Widow--gave a speech about how women are often the target of violence at the hands of men, but that she would prove that women were truly the stronger sex. Vandia invited Pendleton to select a blade from a barrel and run her through with it. Pendleton chose a rapier, and tested it to make sure it was real. He drove the sword through her heart; blood coursed from the wound and poured from her mouth, but she strutted across the stage to show that she still lived. Daytona turned a keen eye to the performance to note any trickery and Raoul tried to detect magical interference, but neither could determine how it was done.

The group also took a tour of Captain Cadaver's House of Horrors, in which a tour guide in a boiler suit painted with a skeleton and wearing a skull mask directed them through the circus's "dark attraction"--a series of black chambers designed to surprise and disgust the visitors with examples drawn from Krevborna's terrible history. The group saw mechanical ghouls and zombies feasting upon "living" dummies (and a few of them were sprayed by fake blood from the exhibit), stereotypically alien Vlaak (Pendleton was "abducted" by actors in Vlaak masks), and even a scene depicting a haggish Viktoria Frankenstein cooking up horrors in her laboratory (which caused Serafina to say, sotto voce, "This isn't accurate at all."). 

The final exhibit in the House of Horrors showed Dracula rising from his coffin. However, they also noticed a child's discarded shoe in this room of the House of Horrors, which they found troubling.

Catarina and Daytona faced off against each other at Kassidy Durango's Shooting Gallery. Daytona was the winner, and some unspoken promised prize was on the line. Sensing a worthy opponent, Kassidy challenged Daytona to face her, with a similar prize hanging in the balance. Upping the stakes, Kassidy proposed that they would fire at the targets blindfolded. Daytona was able to hit two of the milk bottles in the gallery, but Kassidy took down three--with a fourth taken out by a trick shot with a ricocheting bullet!

The group decided to enter the freakshow next. At the tent's flap, Zoskia Skarnesti offered Pendleton a job with the freakshow, since he was still sporting a fish-face from a ritual undertaken in a previous adventure. Inside, the encountered a hallway of pickled punks (some of which scratched at their jars from inside), the World's Tallest Man, and a geek they declined to feed live chickens. When they were within the freakshow, they could hear a distraught woman calling for someone named "Bastien." 

Ducking out of the tent, they made the acquaintance of a woman named Navenka Sokoloff, whose son had entered the House of Horrors but seemingly had not exited. They showed her the shoe they had found and she confirmed that it was his. Daytona was able to track a pair of footsprints--one a child wearing a sole shoe, the other wearing low-heeled women's shoes--to the Hall of Mirrors. 

Inside the Hall of Mirrors, they saw the usual assortment of mirrors that distorted their images, but they also found one mirror that was out of place because it seemed utterly normal. However, it was anything but normal. Gazing into it, Catarina could have sworn she saw the reflection of Wallace Redmoor, her brother-in-law. Touching the mirror revealed that it was a portal leading--somewhere. Guessing that whoever abducted Bastien from the circus had passed through the mirror, the group decided to enter it for themselves.

We'll find out what happened beyond the mirror in the next write up.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Blood on the Beach

We left off the last session on a cliffhanger: the characters had fought their way to the beach so they could infiltrate a fortress in hopes of liberating the "goddess" Scylla, but they roused the fortress's guardians, who were now on guard for their arrival. 


Catarina, unconventional prioress

Pendleton, rogue anatomist

Raoul, necromancer

Geradd, swashbuckling nobleman

Daytona, dhampir gunslinger

Panthalassa, feral child


We opened with the party on the beach, their fallen foes arrayed before them. In the center of the island stood a five-towered fortress. A causeway connected a small guardhouse to the fortress proper. Cannon fire and the occasional death scream could be heard from the sea, where the Dawnrazor was locked in nautical combat with a ship flying the Church's flag.

A bell was tolling from within the fortress, probably alerted to the party's presence because they had been firing pistols at the foes who followed them ashore, calling troops to form ranks outside the guardhouse. From the dim lanterns at the guardhouse, the party understood there to be six templars in knightly armor, a templar captain, a nun with a shaved head, and ten humans in ragged clothes who were walking on all fours instead of upright--the latter of which made them very uneasy.

(Because Daytona has night vision he could also see that there were three archers standing atop the guardhouse with longbows.) 

The party hid within tree cover and debated how to tackle the enemies between them and the fortress. They considered trying to lure their enemies in waves into successive ambushes, they floated the idea of a frontal assault, and even a stealthy approach was (briefly) on the table. In the end, they discussed their options for too long; the figures going about on all fours caught their scent and the entire host made their way down to the beach.

What followed was a massive, edge-of-the-seat battle. The party summoned as much aid as they could to make up for the disparity in size between their group and their foes, calling forth dire wolves, a few undead, and a demonic knight. Still, they were mobbed by enemies, effectively cut off from aiding one another. Things tipped badly against them when the nun began chanting and afflicted them with blindness.

Both Catarina and Pendleton were nearly gutted by their enemies. The tide turned when Geradd managed to slay several templars and then moved to dispatch the bestial penitents who were biting and clawing at his companions. When the battle was over, the group badly needed to recuperate and made full use of Pendleton's healing alchemy. Still, much of their resources were now spent and they hadn't even entered the fortress.

Daytona slipped away and, under the cover of night, made his way to the guardhouse. Taking the archers unaware, he fanned the hammer of his pistol and managed to shoot them all down in one fell swoop. The way in was now clear.

When the group ventured inside the fortress, they found it eerily quiet. During their exploration of the fortress, they found the journal of Cardinal Radinov. Although Geradd had slain the priest in a prior adventure, the dates in his journal suggested that he had somehow survived. 

They also found notes that hinted at the Church's current plan. The Church was pursuing "the Golden Push," an organized crusade to take back land that had been wrested from their hands. Among the places to be reconquered were Lachryma and the Isle of Omera. There were also references to the summoning of an entity called the Autarch Angel, which sounded distinctly sinister to their ears.

(Daytona also found needed to cause the angel's sword he had taken to flare to life with a blade of flame.)

When Raoul examined the fortress's towers through the enchanted kaleidoscope, he saw a shaft of light descending from the heavens and piercing through the northwestern tower. Deducing that this is the tower in which the Autarch Angel had been summoned, they entered and found that the stairs descended down into a pool of water and ascended up several floors. 

Three of the group could easily breath underwater: Catarina because she wore enchanted bracers, Pendleton and Geradd because they had gills from the mask ritual they participated in within the Necropolis of Omera. Catarina and Geradd decided to dive into the water to see if Scylla was trapped as she was in the dream that Panthalassa and Catarina shared. Down in the briny depths, they found Scylla trapped within a cage made of angelic blood. Catarina passed Scylla the Brineblade, and the "sea goddess" began bashing the sword into the bars of the cage, slowly cutting them away. Once their was a hole big enough to escape, Scylla left the cage and gathered Geradd and Catarina too her, kissing them with her fang-lined mouth. After the brief embrace, Scylla swam off and Geradd and Catarina returned to the tower. 

At the top of the tower, the group discovered an angel in black armor, its head obscured by a helmet, hanging from chains. The angel's body had been pierced through in several places with golden lances. Daytona, craving angelic blood, climbed up to the angel to sample its essence. However, the angel broken its chains, landing in the chamber with Daytona's companions. The angel pulled one of the lances from its body and stalked toward the party.

Still battered and bruised from their fight on the beach, the group decided to drop down into the water rather than face the angel. Of course, since only three of the party could survive the swim to safety from underneath the island, many of them were still in dire peril. As they struggled to reach breathable air, they lost consciousness. The last thing they saw was a feminine shape, her lower extremities a mass of tentacles, swimming toward them out of the darkness.

The group awoke on the beach, having been saved from drowning by Scylla. From the timber and detritus washing up on shore, they could tell that the Church's vessel had been destroyed. Recovering their boats, they rowed out to the Dawnrazor. As Pendleton climbed aboard, he was intercepted by Captain Laurant. She bent down to whisper in his ear. As she turned away, everyone realized that she had quickly cut his face. The wounding object she had used to cut him clattered to the deck: it was a sharp, broken seashell.

(Raoul later determined that the wound was magical in some way, but was unable to identify or dispel the magic.)

Once back in Lachryma, the group received a letter from Serafina: she had discovered that the Skarnesti Circus would soon be setting up outside of Hemlock Hollow. Serafina and Widow would meet the group en route so they could try to find the Mantle of Iron Tears within the circus.

Sunday, April 7, 2024


Assuming you don't go blind staring at the eclipse, maybe you've got a second to check out BLACK SUNSHINE, the first supplement for PLANET MOTHERFUCKER

(Note: you'll need to have "show me adult content" checked on your Drivethru account for those links to take you where you need to go.) 

What's in BLACK SUNSHINE? It's packed full of the outrageous content you've come to expect from the premier psychoholic post-apocalyptic trash culture rpg:

  • New character types to cause mayhem with! Doctor Feelbad, Hoodlum, Looter, Murderist--all total shitheads.
  • Rules for vehicular combat and chases!
  • Dirtbag NPCs for your scummy characters to pal around with! A drunk bear! A big-breasted alien babe! A fuckin' caveman! And more!
  • Seedy adventure seeds! Many involving strip clubs!
  • LOOT!!! A Kool-Aid man suit that lets you smash through walls! Russian steroids! A big fuckin' gun! And more!
  • Lotsa random tables!
  • A FAQ of dubious value!
This shit will put hair on your chest.

And just as a heads up, this is the first of a whole pack of PLANET MOTHERFUCKER supplements coming your way this year. DEMONOID PHENOMENON drops this summer, to be followed by LIVING DEAD GIRL before Halloween. Something called PUSSY LIQUOR might show up and wreck the party at some point too. Put your helmet on, if you know what I mean.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Creedhall Overview

Creedhall is essentially the Gothic end of "dark academia" in Krevborna.


A University Town of Dark Experiments and Mad Science

The town of Creedhall is regarded as a shining beacon of enlightenment in the superstitious darkness that pervades Krevborna. The atmosphere in Creedhall is electric; the town’s cafes and salons host fevered debates over the latest philosophical and scientific propositions, new ideas strike like lightning from the ether, and the academic community pushes innovations and modernization unheralded in the rest of Krevborna.

Creedhall is home to the prestigious Creedhall University, Krevborna’s premier institute of higher learning. 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 obscure research materials. Creedhall has a thriving trade in rare books, particularly tomes of an occult nature. Due to its culture of intellectual curiosity and mechanical inventiveness, artificers and inventors working at the crossroads of science and magic feel free to pursue their mad experiments within this Promethean burg. Creedhall is the only locale in Krevborna that is lit by magical lights—a gift to the town from a prominent scholar of the arcane.

Desolate, mist-shrouded moors surround Creedhall, enhancing the feeling that the town is a point of light in the darkness. The moors are notoriously haunted by a wide variety of spirits; paranormal researchers from Creedhall University often send expeditions to research ghostly phenomena. 


The following elements and aesthetic notes define Creedhall:

    • Creedhall is a site of magical and technological marvels.

    • The town is home to the famed Creedhall University, Krevborna’s most prestigious institution of higher learning.

    • Obscure books can often be obtained from Creedhall's book stalls and markets.

    • The architecture in Creedhall tends toward neoclassicism; domed buildings and colonnades are common.