Sunday, May 26, 2024

The Borcheza Perfumery and Strayling Observatory

Two mode potential adventure locations in Creedhall. The Borcheza Perfumery has a strong "Rappiccini's Daughter" influence. For the Strayling Observatory...I just think big telescopes are cool, man.

The Borcheza Perfumery

The Borcheza family has a long history in the fragrance trade in Krevborna, and they are justly famed for the alluring and exotic scents they have produced for the aristocratic class and the well-to-do. However, despite the sterling reputation of the Borcheza name, the family hides a dark secret.

    • Roderick Borcheza was terrified when he thought of the future of the family business; as he and his wife had not managed to produce an heir who could assume control of the company, it looked as though he would be the last of the famed Borchezas involved in perfumery. 

    • Desperate for a scion who could continue the Borcheza’s dominance of the perfume market, Roderick resorted to foul alchemy, combining the vital essences of hanged criminals and rare flora to “birth” a sentient plant granted human shape and the ability to exude a deadly toxin from her skin.

    • Roderick named the “girl” Isabel and raised her as his daughter, hopeful that the family business would survive under her eventual stewardship.

    • Isabel possessed a cruel cunning from her earliest years, a trait that only become more pronounced as she blossomed into a beautiful and precocious teenager. 

    • On her eighteenth birthday, Roderick got his wish—she assumed control of the Borcheza Perfumery. 

    • However, this was a hostile takeover; Isabel released a noxious, poisonous perfume within the Borcheza home, which she was immune to, that killed her ersatz “father” and “mother.” 

    • Claiming that her parents had been taken to their graves by the plague, Isabel became the head of the family business. 

    • Recently, Isabel has begun to replicate Roderick Borcheza's experiments in hopes of creating more of her inhuman kind within the greenhouses she has inherited.

Strayling Observatory

Built atop the highest hill at Creedhall’s outskirts, Strayling Observatory tracks the movements of the stars. The natural philosophers who maintain Strayling Observatory point its telescope into the night sky, charting the wonders of the cosmos. 

    • Although most of their work is mundane in nature, a few members of Strayling’s staff have a particular interest in using the observatory’s facilities to make contact with the entities they believe lurk beyond the firmament.

    • The eldritch-minded members of the observatory’s staff tirelessly work to decode the strange emanations of the stars used as arcane messages from the dark reaches of the cosmos.

Sunday, May 19, 2024


Bad Books for Bad People, Episode 76: Joyland

Stephen King’s 2013 novel Joyland is the author’s second effort for publisher Hard Case Crime. Jack and Kate are ready to track the clues in this story of murder, romance, and amusement park professionals.

What happens when the King of Horror gets a chance to be the Crime Writer Guy? Can the main character of his book ever achieve full carny acceptance? Why doesn’t the magical child at the center of the mystery infuriate your hosts? All these questions and more will be explored in this episode of Bad Books for Bad People.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Chateau Frankenstein and Creedhall University

Two locations in Creedhall, each of which twists the virtue of knowledge toward horrific ends.

Chateau Frankenstein

A lone manor stands on the isle at the center of Loch Riven—the foreboding Chateau Frankenstein. This ancestral seat has been inherited by Doctor Viktoria Frankenstein, the heir of the infamous Frankenstein family who continues the “family business” of creating golems from corpses and the refuse of the slaughterhouse.

    • The only visitors to the chateau are the body snatchers and resurrectionists Viktoria employs to bring her the grisly fodder for her experiments. 

    • Lightning continually flashes over Chateau Frankenstein; Viktoria’s monstrous apparatus draws it to the manor, where it is used to fuel her inquiries into endowing dead flesh with a semblance of life.

    • Viktoria Frankenstein is protected by a number of constructs of her own devise, such as the Orphan—a construct devised to look like a young girl who functions as Viktoria’s assassin.

Creedhall University

Creedhall University is the preeminent institution of higher learning in Krevborna. Although the university employs respected scholars from a wide variety of disciplines, some departments are dogged by rumors that they pursue less than savory scholarly interests. 

    • Some families are reluctant to send their children to the university’s lecture halls for fear that they will return steeped in occult lore instead of more practical subjects.

    • As the library of Krevborna’s most hallowed educational institution, Creedhall University Library is an astoundingly well-funded repository of learning and knowledge. 

    • The library possesses books related to any imaginable topic, though some of its archives are highly restricted due to the fell nature of the tomes involved.

    • Although most of the staff of the library works to maintain and catalog the library’s holdings or assists the scholars of Creedhall with their research, the library employs a number of adventurers who are tasked with seeking out and obtaining rare books, scrolls, and other writings under the aegis of its Special Collections Department. 

    • The agents of Special Collections Department are rarely sent after mundane books; they deal in the arcane, the occult, and the forbidden.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

The Resurrectionists

We've come to the final adventure in this particular Krevborna campaign! It's hard to believe, but the campaign started in January of 2023, but we wrapped things up last Friday. For now.

The end of the last adventure found the characters once more on the Isle of Omera--this time to attend the coronation of Dorian Margrave as the island nation's king. However, Dorian's regime ended shortly after his coronation and Omera was soon under attack by the Church. The group also met with tragedy while fending off an attack from House Carathis; Serafina, long a friend of theirs, was killed in the ensuing battle. And worse: the entire island was under attack from something called the Executioner's Psalm. With Dorian Margrave gone, it was up to them to save the island and its residents.


Catarina, unconventional prioress

Pendleton, rogue anatomist

Raoul, necromancer

Geradd, swashbuckling nobleman

Daytona, dhampir gunslinger

Panthalassa, feral child


As the party approached the Executioner's Psalm, they got a better sense of what it entailed. The Executioner’s Song was a massive cathedral barge currently sitting offshore of the Isle of Omera. It was as if a sprawling cathedral of black stone has been ripped from the earth by its roots and set atop an ancient battle barge of dark wood and iron. The windows of the Executioner’s Song were brilliantly hued stained glass; a round window at the highest point of the tallest central spire was projecting a beam of pure white light onto the island. Where the light touched Omera, the land was dissolving into smoke–giving off a distinct ozone smell. They looked on in horror as the beam inched inland, destroying all in its path.

The group's plan was a three-pronged assault. Geradd had rallied Dorian's remaining troops and gave them orders to lure any guards aboard the Executioner's Psalm into a battle that would draw them away from the structure. Meanwhile, Captain Laurant would bombard the barracks on the Executioner's Psalm from the Dawnrazor to take out any additional forces the Church had brought. While all that chaos was raging, the party would storm the Executioner's Psalm and attempt to stop the beam it was using to destroy Omera.

Panthalassa smashed down a side door so the party could enter the Executioner's Psalm. The group began to explore the cathedral structure, desperately looking for stairs that would lead them up into the central spire that housed the window that the beam was emerging from. From the various tapestries, murals, paintings, and a carved stone sarcophagus they located along the way, they were able to piece together the origins of the Executioner's Psalm: it was an ancient weapon of war used against pagans by St. Vigil. Worse, they were hit with the realization that St. Vigil had probably returned and raised the Executioner's Psalm from the sea because Pendleton had inadvertently released him from imprisonment in the Necropolis during a previous adventure.

The group found the cathedral to be uninhabited, but still managed to put themselves in peril: when they made their way to the eastern side of the cathedral, a wall they were passing exploded from Vanessa Laurant's cannon fire, injuring several members of the party. Nevertheless, the group eventually found access to the cathedral's roof and discovered the stairs that would lead them up into the main spire. At the top of the spire, they found three figures busy in prayer: 

  • Cardinal Radinov, a man with a dashing mustache and pointy beard clad in red priestly vestments, who had a splinter of wood thrust into his heart; unearthly radiance poured from the wound.
  • A ten-foot tall winged angel in bladed silver armor--the very same angel they had fled from on a previous occasion! 
  • The remains of St. Vigil, a walking reliquary comprised of golden armor ornately decorated with cherubs, his saintly skull visible behind a glass helm.

As the three rose to face the party, their prayers and ended and the beam ceased its destructive procession. However, all three of their foes were armed with Dorian's missing enchanted swords. Things immediately turned against the party. St. Vigil conjured lances of holy light that ripped through everyone, causing some dangerous wounds before the fight had even begun in earnest. The bleeding angel took to the air, rushed at Pendleton, and tackled him out of a stained glass window. 

The group slowly fought their way back from the brink of defeat. Cardinal Radinov was the first to fall; Raoul weakened him with two necrotic bolts, then Catarina stabbed him to death with one of her magical bone daggers to heal herself. Out on the roof, Pendleton found himself stalked by the angel. As the angel was about to bring its sword down on him, Pendleton felt a sharp pain in his head and then heard the sound of steel on steel--Captain Laurant had interposed the Brineblade and parried the blow on his behalf. "No one gets to kill him today but me," she said. "On your feet, Doctor, there's still work to be done."

The Widow attacked St. Vigil, but was unable to break the glass protecting his skull. Daytona, leaning out the broken window at the top of the spire, channeled his infernal power into a shot that blew through the back of the angel's head. Meanwhile, Geradd was able to succeed where the Widow had failed. Hefting the sword known as the Fang of the Worm, Geradd smashed through St. Vigil's glass helm and sundered his holy skull into mere fragments of a now destroyed relic.

As the party regrouped, they noticed that tremors were now running through the Executioner's Psalm. The cathedral began to shake more and more, indicating that a hasty departure was now in order. But there was one problem: they still hadn't located Emily's body! Raoul quickly held a seance; following Emily's cryptic clues led them to a tomb on the Executioner's Psalm where her casket had been hidden. The group carried her to their rowboats, though by now it was clear that the Executioner's Psalm was sinking--they found themselves wading through water as the sea reclaimed the cathedral barge. 

Aboard the Dawnrazor, the group mulled over what to do with Thomasina. Catarina wanted to execute the girl for the murder of Rosaria, but the rest of the group attempted to talk her down. The Widow even placed herself in between Catarina and Thomasina should tensions escalate. Once they returned to Omera, Raoul set himself to the task of learning how to resurrect the dead. His first attempt was Rosaria, who he drew back through the veil of death. Rosaria was glad to be alive again, and perhaps even more glad to be out from under the thumbs of Dorian and Laorishe. She was conflicted about Thomasina, but did not believe the girl should be punished for her actions--even though she couldn't bear to take on the responsibility of fixing her.

There was much more riding on Raoul's second attempt to raise the dead, as he was now finally in the position to bring his beloved Emily back. He was again successful. There reunion was tearful, and Emily finally got to meet Raoul's adopted daughter, Panthalassa. When the girl approached her, Emily removed Panthalassa's skull helmet and whispered "Look at you. So pretty. I think we'll mean something to each other, if you'd like that." Panthalassa promptly burst into tears at meeting her new mother.

Meanwhile, Geradd wasted no time establishing himself as king of Omera in Dorian's place. There were parades in his honor and many feasts, as well as consolidating the remaining army under his control. Captain Laurant appeared, with two of her zuvembies carrying a treasure chest between them. Captain Laurant said, "I am considering stealing the honor of being the first to pay homage to the new king. I do have one question: what do you say to making Omera a safe haven for pirates?” When Geradd agreed, Laurant made him a sound offer: in return for yearly tribute and for defending the island by sea, the pirates would have safe haven on Omera henceforth. She presented him with the treasure chest as his first taste of a pirate's tithe, removed her hat, knelt, and swore fealty to the new king.

Before Captain Laurant left, Catarina asked her why she had come to the island in their hour of need and why she bore the Brineblade. Vanessa explained that Scylla had tried to sink the Executioner's Psalm, but its holy aura rebuked her approach. Unable to scuttle the cathedral barge herself, Scylla had charged Captain Laurant with the task of assisting the party and had given her the Brineblade for that purpose. Catarina also took the opportunity to ask Vanessa what she thought of Belle Silvra. Sensing that Catarina may be building up to a conflict with Belle, Vanessa Laurant stressed that Belle is adept at manipulating people and money in service to Scylla and that Belle and Catarina are perhaps the same sort of women--stubborn, beautiful, and possibly not the best at communicating openly. Before taking her leave, Vanessa suggested that Catarina approach Belle with her complaints before waging war against her.

Of course, the group's resurrection tour was not yet over. They made the journey back to the mainland and ventured to Viktoria Frankenstein's island on Loch Riven at Creedhall. First the stopped to talk to Father Prim, who was not wearing his customary priest's cassock, but was instead wearing a black suit and a mourning arm band. He said that Viktoria had shut herself up within the chateau, which they could see was now totally dark with no lights in the windows. They also observed that there were a number of bouquets and wreaths outside the chateau; Serafina's graverobbing admirers had braved the island to pay their respects to the fallen Angel of the Graves.

Pendleton led the group down into the catacombs beneath the chateau and found a very drunk Viktoria slumped in a chair in front of one of the cold storage chambers. Scattered at her feet were a number of empty wine bottles. She explained: "If I’m drunk, I can’t operate. This bottle is the only thing keeping me from going in there and making a monster out of her. I don’t want to do that, but (she tapped her head) I’m never entirely in control of myself." The "Viktoria" part of her brain, as opposed to the monstrous "Frankenstein" part of her brain, just wanted her friend back the way she was. 

When Raoul explained that he could bring Serafina back, she said, "I hate to admit it, but I think I’m starting to understand why you’ve worked so hard to bring Emily back. How embarrassing for me–I'm human after all." She then asked two more favors of the group: she wanted Panthalassa to shock her into unconsciousness with her lightning hammer, and she wanted Pendleton to bind her hands and gag her mouth so the "Frankenstein" part of her brain couldn't try to stop them by calling for Father Prim. She also had a life lesson to impart to Pendleton as her heir, "Let me give you some motherly advice: who we are pushes us to reject everything else in our lives in favor of our work. Resist that, resist it as strongly as you can. Resist it better than I have. Hold on to the people you love and who love you in return." 

They followed her instructions, and Raoul was once again able to return the dead to life. For her part, the newly returned Serafina was perplexed, having now experienced both sides of the grave. When Viktoria came to, and was released from bondage, she pushed everyone out of the way, gathered Serafina in her arms, and bawled. Serafina, her pale face visible over Viktoria's shoulder, appeared to be terrified.

In time, Pendleton defended his first "thesis," producing from his body a homunculus named Lillasyra. His friends were both terribly impressed and horrified. Viktoria Frankenstein was justly proud of her heir, Serafina applauded, and the creature was entrusted to the Widow's care.

Raoul, Panthalassa, Lenore, and Emily retired to the Sabbath estate to begin the work of figuring out their new family. Geradd reigned upon the island of Omera. Catarina began a new venture--making the lands under her control sanctuaries for the oppressed. She and Daytona even took tentative steps toward a romance that has yet to fully blossom. Still, we turn the page on our "heroes" here. They were never traditionally on the side of "good," but over the course of their adventures they did right some wrongs, save many innocents, and spare the world from becoming a darker place. What more could be asked of them?

* * *

If you would like one last recap, here's a short fiction piece I wrote from Viktoria Frankenstein's perspective the day after Serafina was brought back from the dead; she muses on each of the characters and their personal journeys over the course of the campaign. My players have dubbed this "emotional terrorism," and I am absolutely fine with that. 

Thursday, May 9, 2024

RIP Steve Albini

I found out yesterday that Steve Albini has died. It's hard to express what a huge influence he was on me in my formative teenager years. I might not have started a punk band in high school if it weren't for Big Black. I probably wouldn't still be making game stuff with a DIY ethos or prioritizing doing creative work with a sense of ethics divorced from the desire for mainstream success if it weren't for Steve Albini. 

To celebrate the man, let me suggest that you listen to some of his music or maybe read some of his writing.

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Blood in Omera

This adventure began six months after Catarina sacrificed herself for the good of the group and allowing herself to receive the Dark Kiss of vampiredom from Count Magnus Draghul. This session started with the characters meeting at a dock in Lachryma as they prepared to board a ship called the Gorgon's Kiss, bound once more for Omera. They had been invited back to Omera by Dorian Margrave, who had reconquered the isle after being released from imprisonment in the Necropolis by the party. Now he was requesting their presence so they might plan greater conquests to come. Accompanying the party as guests were Viktoria Frankenstein, Serafina, and the Widow. Raoul also brought the preserved body of Emily and a retinue of soldiers to guard her remains.


Catarina, unconventional prioress

Pendleton, rogue anatomist

Raoul, necromancer

Geradd, swashbuckling nobleman

Daytona, dhampir gunslinger

Panthalassa, feral child


As they waited on the dock for the Gorgon's Kiss to be ready to receive them, the party had several emotional reunions, particularly where Catarina was concerned. Panthalassa gave presents to her companions, Daytona wanted to make sure that Catarina was doing well enough after the change, and Serafina had an encounter with an admirer. Soon enough, however, they were off to Omera.

When they disembarked, they saw that Omera bore the signs of recent fighting: several buildings had been burned down, corpses hung in gibbets on streetcorners, and patrols of Dorian's soldiers were conspicuous. After arriving at the governor's residence, which Dorian had taken as the seat of his rule of the island, they were met by Rosaria--who had been instructed to give them a tour of the manor. Rosaria informed them that they would be guests of honor for Dorian's coronation the following day. (Pendleton noticed that Rosaria was nervous about something.) Later that night, the group attempted to address some security concerns with Laorishe, but she waved them off. 

When the time for the coronation came around, they found that the ceremony and crowning was handled by Raymond, Raoul's cousin and the former governor of the isle. Since Raymond was led out on a leash and chain, it appeared that his participation was not entirely voluntary. The ceremony completed, and a crown now atop Dorian's draconic brow, the group was invited to feast with Dorian and his wives. Once everyone was seated at the long dining table, Rosaria poured everyone a goblet of wine so Dorian could offer a toast to his guests: "To conquest and the many subjugations to come!"

After tipping back his wine, Dorian collapsed to the flagstones, his body now wracked with convulsions. Catarina's dainty sip was rewarded with a sudden spike of pain and then a feeling of exhaustion. Daytona was seized by a return of his visions of angels, crucifixions, and the End of Days. Laorishe was on her feet instantly and at Dorian's side. Pendleton examined Dorian, with Viktoria hovering over his shoulder to critique his work. Pendleton was able to determine that Dorian had not been poisoned in the traditional sense. Beyond that, he was in the dark, but Viktoria offered a theory: someone had added something holy to the wine, which is why it only had a deleterious effect on Dorian (a drakoi), Catarina (a vampire), and Daytona (a dhampir).

Rosaria pulled Catarina aside and said, "We need to secure the swords," referring to the three powerful artifacts that Dorian had in his possession, besides the one he was currently armed with. Catarina and company went with her to gather them. On the way, Rosaria broke down, saying, "I have something to confess,” she says. “It was me. I poisoned my husband. I thought you would understand. After you freed us from the Necropolis, I just couldn’t go on tethered to a man I do not love. This is my last chance at liberty." However, when they reached Dorian's personal armory, they found the door already ajar and the swords missing. When questioned about who she had conspired with, Rosaria denied that anyone else was involved and appeared to be sincere.

The moment was broken by the sound of raised voices and the clash of steel on steel. Looking out a window, Catarina spied soldiers wearing the Carathis family livery entering the governor's manor. Rushing back to the dining room, the group found Carathis agents spilling in from multiple doors. Geradd ran to cut them off from the door, but he became locked in combat with four soldiers. Viktoria Frankenstein activated one of her many arcane devices--this one surrounded her with a field of arcing electricity that roasted four of the warriors alive. She also called out in a loud, clear voice, "Father Prim, I require your assistance." The shadows in one of the room's corners began to boil.

Daytona cast an infernal spell that sent a wave of concussive force at the soldiers, dazing three of them. Catarina picked one of them off with her pistol. Raoul felled another with a necrotic bolt. Laorishe stood guard over her fallen husband and slew one of the soldiers who advanced toward them. However, the overwhelming number of Carathis agents began to take its toll. Geradd, Catarina, Raoul, Laorishe, and Viktoria all took wounds--ranging from minor to life-threatening. Father Prim strode forth from the shadows, removed his customary wicker mask, distended his jaws to an uncanny degree, and promptly ate four of the assailants.

Things then went from bad to worse. Valancourt and Tanith, Raoul's hated siblings, now entered the room and began firing crossbows at Panthalassa and Raoul. Serafina was stabbed by three soldiers and fell to the floor in a bleeding heap; Daytona rushed to her side and threw her over his shoulder, but before he could get her out of the melee he heard her death rattle. Enraged at the death of her favorite graverobber, Viktoria grabbed one of the soldiers who had slain Serafina and pulled him into her electricity field until he had been roasted alive.

Panthalassa and Pendleton dealt with the Carathis siblings. Earlier, Pendleton had given Panthalassa an alchemical grenade. She ran forward with it, confronting Tanith and Valancourt while tossing the grenade behind them. They were heavily injured by the blast, but were still standing. Pendleton picked up the spare by lobbing another grenade; this one took out the siblings and a number of their soldiers. Help arrived as a woman dressed in the hat and coat of a pirate captain strode through the smoke. "Grant them no fucking quarter," Captain Laurant commanded the zubembies who followed in her wake. It was initially unclear whether she meant to fight the party or their foes, but that concern was dispelled as she plunged the Brineblade into a soldier, disemboweling him. The cavalry had arrived.

Their numbers now bolstered and the worst of their foes slain, the party rallied and turn the tables on the remaining Carathis agents--the last of whom were gunned down by a flurry of shots from Daytona. Unfortunately, that was not to be the end of the tragedy and bloodshed.

Viktoria gathered the dead Serafina in her arms and asked Father Prim to take them home. Viktoria walked into the rippling shadows with Prim and Serafina, presumably leaving Omera for the safety of Chateau Frankenstein. 

Laorishe now realized that Rosaria was the one who had betrayed Dorian, drew her sword, and stalked toward her. Catarina interposed herself between Laorishe and Rosaria, but Laorishe commanded Thomasina to attack her sister-wife. Thomasina went ferally insane and launched herself at Rosaria, her hand axes biting into the other woman's neck. Laorishe then commanded Thomasina to "feast," which caused the girl to begin eating Rosaria. Laorishe was slain in disgust, and Panthalassa used her shocking hammer to knock Thomasina unconscious so she could be restrained. 

Dorian, still wracked with pain, beckoned to Geradd. His final action was to unbuckle his remaining sword, the Fang of the Worm, and gift it and his crown to Geradd--apparently with the intention for Geradd to take his place as the lord of Omera. Daytona then put Dorian out of his misery with his flaming sword.

Captain Laurant was emphatic that they needed to leave Omera. She explained to them that the island was under attack by the Church: the Church had raised the long-missing Executioner's Psalm, a cathedral barge, and it was now projecting a massive beam of holy light that was devouring the island inch by inch. Vanessa stressed that they still had time to escape the island on her ship, the Dawnrazor. However, when Raoul checked the dungeon chamber that was being used to store Emily's remains and found nothing but the slain bodies of the soldiers he had trusted to protect her, there was no chance that they would leave without recovering Emily's body.

A plan was hatched: the group would gather what forces of Dorian's forces that they could to fight off the Carathis and Church soldiers while Vanessa Laurant bombarded the Church's barracks with the Dawnrazor's cannons. Meanwhile, the group would storm the Executioner's Psalm and recover Emily's body, lay their hands on the three missing magical swords, and attempt to stop whatever miracle was being used to destroy Omera.