20 December 2012

A Dr. Seuss version of Lovecraft’s ‘The Tomb’

In an earlier post I mentioned a brilliant ‘Dr. Seuss’ style rendition of H. P. Lovecraft’s classic tale, ‘The Call of Cthulhu’ (check out the revised gallery).

It seems that the artist also has a version of Lovecraft’s ‘The Tomb’ in the works.

I really hope that these become available as real books at some point.  I’d love to add copies to my library!

05 December 2012

2013 Stuff for RuneQuest 6

Over at the Design Mechanism website Lawrence Whitaker posted this interesting announcement:
As we hurtle towards Christmas, I'd like to begin by thanking everyone who's shown us support during the past 18 months or so, since Design Mechanism began and we announced our revival of RuneQuest. Your support and custom has enabled us to produce two books for early 2013 release and confidently build on our promise to make RQ - and Design Mechanism - a growing system and company. Its great to have your confidence here on this forum and in the wider community.
 So, now to the news. If you can't wait for the Big Reveal, scroll down now. Otherwise, here's where we are. 
 Monster Island
Cover art is with us, Russ Nicholson and others have provided illustrations, and Pete continues to refine the text (with a tiny bit of input from me). The book is getting ready for editing, and Colin Driver is hard at work on the maps. 
 We're going to make 'Monster Island' something special. It deserves it. Pete's worked hard to create a really evocative, fun, setting/sourcebook/creature digest and he's more than succeeded. We're looking at 256 pages filled with scenario ideas, scenario cameos, a full setting to be dropped (literally) into any ocean in any campaign world, and more monsters than you can shake a spear at. To this end, we're going to include a full-colour, pull-out map of the island with the book, probably in A3 or A2 size, and done by our good friend Colin, the genius cartographer behind the bulk of the maps in Moon Design's 'Guide to Glorantha'. 
 Monster Island really does take its cues from Chaosium's masterful 'Griffin Mountain'. Its a living, breathing place populated by bizarre and interesting fauna and flora that will provide months of great
adventuring. Its the kind of place GMs can strand their characters upon, and structure an entire campaign around their survival and escape. Its a place where you can play one of the different indigenous races and treat it as home - to be explored and endured. Its the sort of place that some dastardly sorcerer like Kratos or Jedakiah (see Book of Quests) will send characters to, in return for money or secrets (or maybe as punishment), so they can quest for the rare and precious items that will fuel their sorcerous schemes. 
 Its going to be a great book. 
 Book of Quests
This compendium of seven scenarios is completing editing and now into layout. All the art is in, and I'll be previewing the cover in the next couple of weeks. All the scenarios in BoQ are penned by relatively new authors who worked to a light brief provided by me. The idea is to offer a loosely detailed region where the adventures take place, but keep the scenarios as flexible as possible so they can be used in any fantasy world. The writers have done an excellent job of taking my rough ideas and making them into a series of terrific, exciting scenarios. There's something for everyone: a caravan guarding job that turns horrific; a city-based intrigue concerning a tragic countess; a rescue mission into a murky swamp; an investigation into shady dealings in the king's court; a race to find an ancient artefact of dreadful power; a quest into the remote mountains to thwart an evil plot; and a showdown with the nefarious sorcerer, Jedakiah, at his mountain lair. Each scenario can be played standalone, or the whole lot forms a complete campaign. Couple this book with Monster Island and you have years of adventuring. 
 It'll be about 200 pages and, once again, Colin Driver has done all the maps and floorplans - and in a splendid style too. 
 Hardcover Kickstarter
In 2013 we will launch a Kickstarter or Indiegogo project to produce the core rules and, depending on stretch goals attained, Monster Island and Book of Quests, published in hard cover. We're looking to produce the very best hardcover we can - dustjacket, bookmark, stitch casement... its not cheap to do, and we also want to offer the book at a reasonable cost. More on this in January next year. 
During 2013 Pete and I will be working on Mythics Greece and Briton respectively. I've already started my Briton research and notes. These will not be straight historical books, but will contain magic and heroics too. Of course, we'll produce the books in such as way that magic can either a) be dispensed with or b) treated as vague superstition that may or may not work, depending on your point of view.
 We will also be commissioning Michael O'Brien (Sun County, River of Cradles and Mister Maximum Game Fun) to write Mythic Constantinople. This is a pet project for Mike and knowing his approach to game writing, it will be worth waiting for. 
 And now the reveals... 
 Age of Treason: Shores of Korantia
We're delighted to announce that Design Mechanism will be publishing Jonathan Drake's superb Age of Treason setting for RuneQuest 6. Jon is writing a completely new core book, focused on a different region, Korantia, which we will be releasing late summer 2013. Those of you familiar with the first Age of Treason book, focusing on the Taskan Empire, will know what a great and original world Jon has created. The Korantia sourcebook follows in this vein but is a completely new area with new gods, magic, cultures and adventures . We heartily welcome Jon aboard the Design Mechanism galley (and he's already working out where, in the nearby ocean, Monster Island fits)... 
 Luther Arkwright
Design Mechanism has licensed the exclusive rights to produce a brand new version of Bryan Talbot’s acclaimed graphic novel series ‘The Adventures of Luther Arkwright’. For those unfamiliar with the character, Luther Arkwright is a trans-dimensional troubleshooter working for WOTAN, the agency that monitors the myriad parallel worlds of the multiverse. The first graphic novel series focuses on the attempts by the sinister Disruptors to unleash the Firefrost weapon and so cause widespread destruction and chaos across the parallels. Luther, working in a variant Earth where Cromwell’s descendants still hold power, goes to extraordinary lengths to thwart the Disruptors’ plans. An excellent overview of the Luther Arkwright saga can be found at:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luther_Arkwright And Bryan’s own site at: http://www.bryan-talbot.com/arkwright/  
‘Luther Arkwright: Roleplaying Across the Parallels’ will see Bryan’s iconic character and setting powered by the RuneQuest 6 rules. The game will focus on WOTAN’s attempts to police the multiverse and prevent the Disruptors’ (and others’) schemes. Characters will each have a unique ability that has brought them to WOTAN’s attention, including psionics, mysticism and other talents of the kind found in the Arkwright multiverse. The game takes RQ in a new direction: rules for the modern era, along with mechanics for Steampunk concepts, travel between parallels, and even maintaining the same character across multiple worlds, will be included.
The game will be written by myself and Pete, collaborating with Bryan: indeed, some work has already started. Arkwright is a perfect background for RuneQuest Science Fantasy/Steam Punk/Fin de Siècle adventuring. Some of you may recall that 23rd Parallel Games produced the first Arkwright RPG in the 1990s and that, too, used a d100 resolution mechanic. This, though, will be an entirely new game. We intend to support the setting with Parallel books, detailing a particular variant Earth complete with a set of scenarios or campaign arcs included. 
 Bryan had this to say: “2014 is the 36th anniversary of the beginning of the original serialization of The Adventures of Luther Arkwright graphic novel, and it's never been out of print since then. In the summer, Dark Horse books are releasing a large format, hardback prestige edition of the book, which will also include the sequel, Heart of Empire, an extensive illustration gallery and a ten page interview. It's so very cool that this brand new Luther Arkwright role playing game is being published in this same year. I'm very excited about the project". 
 At this stage, its too early to predict page count, but its likely to be 256 pages. It won’t be a standalone game; you will need the RuneQuest rules, but it will be a complete treatment of the Arkwright multiverse so you can expect a lot of depth, new rules, and new concepts. 
 As you can imagine, we’re very excited about this project. Pete and I are long-time Arkwright fans and, with our deep love and affection for multiverse-spanning concepts, eternal champions, and the whole Fin de Siècle vibe, this is a perfect setting for us. We’re very much looking forward to starting the work proper and getting the Luther Arkwright game finished for the end of 2013. 
 Happy Holidays!

This line-up looks very promising!  I’m especially interested in The Book of Quests, Monster Island (which includes some Russ Nicholson art!), Mythic Briton, Mythic Greece, and the hardcover version of RQ6, although I certainly will check out the other products as well.   

2013 promises to be an exciting year for RQ6!

Plus, RQ’s younger cousin, OpenQuest 2, will be published in colour

Good times. 

01 December 2012

Crypts and Things Lives

I haven’t mentioned the role-playing game Crypts and Things here lately (C&T is a ‘swords-and-sorcery’ variant of Swords and Wizardry, to which I contributed some of my house rules).  But that doesn’t mean that nothing has been happening with the game!

D101 Games already has one adventure out for C&T, Blood of the Dragon.  Moreover, Newt Newport has lined up a “Crypts and Things Masters’ Series” of modules, with contributions from a number of UK authors.  The first module in the series, Temple of Urshruuk by Rik Kershaw-Moore, is now in production.

Things are stirring in the Crypt…

30 November 2012

A positive RuneQuest 6 Review

... has been posted over at RPG.net.

It's a succinct yet informative review, well worth reading if you're curious about the latest (and best!) version of the game.

The reviewer is Shannon Appelcline, who interviewed the authors of RQ6, Lawrence Whitaker and Pete Nash, last month.

29 November 2012

Dead But Dreaming

I recently obtained the legendary anthology of Mythos-inspired tales, Dead But Dreaming, edited by Kevin Ross and Keith Herber (two names that should be familiar to any fan of the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game).

Originally produced in 2002 by Dark Tales Publications, only 75 copies were printed before Dark Tales closed down.  Thankfully, Miskatonic River Press republished the anthology (with some corrections and a new afterword) in 2008.

I cannot praise this collection highly enough, and strongly recommend it to any fan of Lovecraft’s (and Clark Ashton Smith’s) work.  Indeed, I enjoyed Dead But Dreaming so much that I just started reading Dead But Dreaming 2.

09 November 2012

RuneQuest 6 Interview

Over at RPG.net, Shannon Appelcline interviews the authors of RuneQuest 6 (and the earlier Legend/MRQII system), Lawrence Whitaker ('Loz') and Pete Nash.  Read the whole thing here.

28 October 2012

Call of Cthulhu Radio Play

I’m a huge fan of the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society.  I’ve enjoyed their radio plays, ‘The Dunwich Horror,’ ‘At the Mountains of Madness,’ and ‘The Shadow out of Time.’  And their silent film version of ‘The Call of Cthulhu’ is, I think, the best Lovecraft film ever produced.

So it’s great that they have produced a radio play version of ‘The Call of Cthulhu.’  Watch the silent film … and then listen to the radio play (or vice versa).  Both your visual and aural senses can experience the horror of R’lyeh – just not at the same time!  That’s probably a good thing for one’s sanity…

(Check out the cool trailer here.)

24 October 2012

Second Breakfast at Denny’s

Is this a cruel trick from Sauron?

In what is certainly one of the most mind-boggling-but-sort-of-logical marketing campaigns we've ever seen, The Hobbit has teamed up with Denny's to bring you Radagast's Red Velvet Pancake Puppies, Bilbo's Berry Smoothie, Gandalf's Gobble Melt, "The Ring" Burger, and Frodo's Pot Roast. 
Yes, Denny's is serving a heart-attack-inducing rendition of Tolkien's Second Breakfast. And we're not sure what the "Lonely Mountain Treasure" is, but we're pretty sure it goes well with a hit of pipeweed.
While I’ve always dreamed of “building my own Hobbit slam” (no, not really – the one that is pictured looks thoroughly disgusting), I’ve always associated the food at Denny’s restaurants more with orcs than with hobbits.

11 October 2012

Hobbit Coins

From this Salon.com article:
New Zealand, the backdrop of sweeping cinematic scenes from “The Lord of the Rings” and the upcoming trilogy “The Hobbit,” is issuing a series of Hobbit coins.
It looks pretty much like a gold coin but with a rim inscribed, in both English and Dwarvish, with the words ‘Middle-earth – New Zealand.’

28 September 2012

Rolemaster Public Playtest

The new folks in charge of ICE are conducting a public playtest for the forthcoming version of Rolemaster.

I have many fond memories of playing Rolemaster 2e -- and, even more so, MERP -- decades ago (mainly during the late 1980s and early 1990s, and most recently in 1999).  But I think that ship has sailed for me.  (Of course, I would not rule out checking out the final product, once it's available.)

23 September 2012

Hobbit History

I found this to be an interesting article on the history of The Hobbit.  I already knew about the revision that Tolkien made to the original version of the story in order to render it consistent with The Lord of the Rings.  But this final point made in the article was new to me (in the sense that I never had noticed its significance before):
So thorough was Tolkien’s assimilation of his earlier work that even the revision of The Hobbit itself was incorporated into the story. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf and Frodo talk about the fact that Bilbo’s book (published as The Hobbit) contained a false account of the story of his finding of the Ring. Gandalf explains that the Ring had already begun to take hold of Bilbo, and when he told the story in his book, he made up the part about being given the Ring by Gollum in order to bolster his personal claim to it. The “true” story, the revised version, was only discovered later, but copies of the original could still be found in circulation.
The article also includes a nice gallery of Tolkien’s art (including the piece above).

13 September 2012

Cthulhu Canada: The Sanatorium

August 1923 -- Toronto

The investigators – Prof. Nigel Blackthorne and Dr. Pierre Rioux – spend a full month on leave from their respective jobs, recovering from the wounds, both physical and psychic, acquired from their investigation into the curious case of Mr. Corbitt.

During this time, Pierre receives a letter from one of his former professors from medical school, Dr. Aldous Brewer.  In the letter, Brewer invites Pierre to visit him at his experimental sanatorium on Mid-Lake Island (which, as its name implies, lies in the middle of Lake Ontario).  Desirous to get away from the city for a few days, Pierre decides to accept the invitation, and convinces Nigel to come along with him.

Pierre and Nigel take a motorboat, controlled by an ancient Australian mariner who now works for Dr. Brewer, to Mid-Lake Island.  Once there, they discover that something has gone horribly wrong at the sanatorium.  All of the staff appears to have been slain – including Pierre’s former teacher, Dr. Brewer!  Much to their distress, the investigators discern that Brewer apparently was slain as part of some kind of dark, blasphemous ritual.

Nigel is puzzled to discover several books on ancient Egypt, including several newspaper clippings, in Brewer’s library.  Apparently these books and clippings are related to one of the inmates, ‘Darlene,’ who had been found years earlier in the backstreets of Montreal, with no memory of her identity.

The remaining inmates are attended to by Pierre as best he can.  Investigating for the rest of the night and throughout the next day, while ensuring that the inmates come to no harm, Pierre and Nigel learn that a terrible creature from another world inadvertently has been summoned by one of the inmates, an especially sensitive but schizophrenic poet.  The investigators discover that the creature sucked the ‘life force’ from the sanatorium’s maid, leaving her corpse a withered husk.

While exploring the rest of the island, Pierre and Nigel come across a rock with strange carvings, and disturbingly recent blood stains.  They also explore a lighthouse.  Much to their dismay, the lighthouse proves to be occupied by the creature that previously ravaged the sanatorium!  The creature is a roiling mass of gassy spheres, nearly transparent in the summer daylight, with a shifting, oily iridescence.

Barely escaping with their lives, the investigators return to the sanatorium.  There they discover, in the maintenance shed, one of the sanatorium’s former orderlies, Mr. Johnson, standing over the sacrificed body of one of the inmates, engraving bloody eldritch symbols onto her flesh.  Horrified, Pierre and Nigel shoot Johnson dead, and infer that he had fallen under the control of the creature from another world.

Following various leads from their investigations, and especially the notes of Dr. Brewer, Pierre decides to hypnotize Darlene, believing that she may have submerged memories from a previous life relevant to their present dire situation.  They learn that one of her personalities in an earlier life was that of the Egyptian princess ‘Annephis,’ a priestess of the cult of Bast.  During her time, Annephis turned back a horrific race of beings referred to only as ‘Those Who Wait.’  Annephis learned from her goddess how to destroy the creatures, and constructed many Elder Signs with which she and her followers drove the creatures into the Nile where they perished.  With the help of ‘Annephis,’ the investigators construct their own Elder Sign.

Nigel and Pierre then debate what to do.  They decide to load up a wheelbarrow with cans of gasoline, and return to the lighthouse.  They spread the gasoline on the stairs and floor of the lighthouse.  Igniting the gasoline, the eldritch creature is forced from the building.  Unfortunately, one of the creature’s pseudopods hits Pierre on the head, scarring his face with burning acid.  The pitiable physician collapses unconscious, his life force rapidly draining away.  Fortunately, the pseudopod withdraws in reaction to Nigel’s brandishing of the Elder Sign.  After a terrible struggle, Nigel uses the Elder Sign to force the creature over the side of the cliff.  Upon falling into the lake, the creature is destroyed, as fresh water is one of its (surprisingly mundane) weaknesses.

Nigel returns to sanatorium, bringing the unconscious Pierre with him in the wheelbarrow.  Unable to leave the island (as the motorboat had been destroyed by the mad Mr. Johnson), and lacking any way to communicate with the outside world, the investigators wait for the police to arrive.  In the meantime they bury the bodies left by the creature’s wave of destruction, and take care of the surviving inmates.

The investigators’ time on Mid-Lake Island proved to be anything but the idyllic escape that they had hoped it would be!

Fortunately, the subsequent two years proved to be far more prosaic for Nigel and Pierre…

09 September 2012

Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea now available

As OSR Con II was winding down last month, the artist Ian Baggley introduced himself to me and said a few nice things about this blog, which I quite appreciated.

I think very highly of Ian’s art, and have posted some examples of it a few of times before.  This picture of an Elder Thing strikes me as especially superb, worthy of its eldritch subject matter:

(I would be delighted if some pictures like the one above by Ian were to make it into the forthcoming 7th edition of Call of Cthulhu.  He has a real talent for portraying the weirdness of H. P. Lovecraft’s and Clark Ashton Smith’s weird creations.)

Anyhow, my brief encounter with Ian reminded me that Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea is now available.  I must confess that I lost track of what was happening with Jeffrey Talanian’s intriguing game about a year ago.  But it finally has appeared, and, following a quick skim of the PDF, it looks superb.

Since I already have (and contributed to) Crypts and Things, which covers the same genre but is much lighter on the rules, I doubt that I’ll ever actually run the ASSH system (but hey, I’ve been known to change my mind!).   Nonetheless, there are many things I can envision borrowing for future games.

What most impresses me, based on my quick skim, things I’ve read before (including the ASSH adventure ‘The Charnel Crypt of the Sightless Serpent’), is the setting.  While the setting is not Smith’s ‘Hyperborea’, it clearly is inspired by Smith’s work (in fact, it reminds me more of Zothique than Hyperboria), as well as that of other legendary pulp authors, such as Lovecraft and Robert Howard.  It’s a great setting, and would fit in quite nicely in, say, the cosmology of Michael Moorcock’s ‘Million Spheres’, or perhaps a hitherto unknown part of Lovecraft’s ‘Dreamlands’.

One gripe that I have, though, is the map, which is certain to eat up way too much ink if printed.  I wish that an ‘ink friendly’ version had been included.

If you are interested in checking out Talanian’s version of Hyperborea, it is available qua PDF for a very reasonable price (10 USD) at RPG Now.  The box set also is available for 50 USD.

20 August 2012

Happy 122 H. P. L.

A rather cool portrait of old H. P. L. by the artist Matt Buck:

Lots of other great Lovecraftian pictures here!

(Hat tip: M. Knapp)

15 August 2012

Cthulhu Canada: Mr. Corbitt

June 1923 Toronto

Still shaken by the terrible events of May (as recounted in ‘The Edge of Darkness’), Prof. Nigel Blackthorne visits his friend Dr. Pierre Rioux’s home on Palmerstone Avenue (Toronto) for some food and drinks.  After dinner, as dusk turns into night, they spy Pierre’s neighbour, Mr. Corbitt, returning home with two large sacks.  Out of one sack falls an object that Pierre believes to be a limp human arm!

Alarmed, but without sufficient grounds to involve the police, the two friends spend several days trying to learn more about the enigmatic Mr. Corbitt.  They learn that Corbitt’s father died while on a trip to India with him fourteen years ago.  Moreover, his wife had died in childbirth, along with his son, a dozen years ago.  They also learn that Corbitt is an importer of exotic goods from the far reaches of the globe, and in particular South and East Asia.

Eventually, Pierre meets with Corbitt at his house, pretending to be interested in employing Corbitt’s services in order to import certain exotic artifacts from the Orient.  While Pierre distracts Corbitt, Nigel investigates the greenhouse at the back of the property, wherein he discovers plants with vile toxins, and, quite shockingly, an entirely alien plant!  Nigel also absconds with a vial containing a strange compound, which later is identified as ‘soma,’ a substance used by Indian cultists.

Fortunately for the investigators, Corbitt leaves Toronto for several days on business.  Becoming increasingly frightened, the two friends purchase gas masks and handguns.  Pierre and Nigel then break into Corbitt’s greenhouse.  Protected against the spores from the alien plant by their gas masks, they collect various samples.

The investigators then enter the house itself.  Therein they discover Corbitt’s journal, which describes his terrible investigations into forbidden knowledge and black sorcery. It seems that the businessman had become a follower of an Indian demon named ‘Ramasekva,’ which forced Corbitt to allow it to impregnate his wife.  One of the demon’s ‘sons’ lives to this day!

They subsequently kill one of Corbitt’s horrible ‘experiments,’ as well as the terrifying ‘son’ of Ramasekva, referred to by Corbitt in his journal as the ‘Man-Bagari.’  To the creature’s spherical, pustular body had been appended the pale, quivering limbs of numerous slain children.  Disgusted, and with their sanity somewhat shaken, the two friends flee the house.

[The Man-Bagari]

Mr. Cobitt returns two days later.  Upon discovering his slain ‘child,’ he sets his house on fire and kills himself with a shotgun.  All evidence of his foul activities blessedly is destroyed by the subsequent conflagration.

Finally, Pierre and Nigel study the text of eldritch lore that they had acquired during their exploration of Corbitt’s house – the blasphemous grimoire True Magick by Theophilus Wenn – from which they learn certain terrible things…

14 August 2012

OSR Con II Report

I made it to OSR Con II last Saturday.  

In the morning I played in Lawrence Whitaker’s RuneQuest 6 game.  It was great to have Lawrence as a GM again, an experience I haven’t had the opportunity to enjoy since the conclusion of our Young Kingdoms campaign almost a year ago.  (Also at the session was Ken St. Andre, creator of Tunnels & Trolls and co-author of the original Stormbringer RPG.)

[Lawrence holds up his beautiful new baby.] 

After the game and a quick lunch, there was a panel discussion with such RPG luminaries as Ed Greenwood, Ken St. Andre, Lawrence Whitaker, and James Maliszewski (who has posted his own report of OSR Con II).  The discussion was enjoyable and interesting, but went on a bit long, eating into the time that had been allocated for the afternoon’s sessions.   

[The panel (left to right): James M., Lawrence W., Ed G., and Ken St.A.]

During the afternoon (and into the early evening) I ran a Call of Cthulhu game.  There were five players (including Lawrence, and fellow Call of Cthulhu enthusiast Marcus, a.k.a. ‘Nigel Blackthorne’), which is about my limit for a CoC game.  I ran the scenario ‘Ghost Light’ from Chaosium’s fine Terrors from Beyond book.  While I had hoped to prep an original scenario, limited time prevented me from doing so.  In any case, I picked ‘Ghost Light’ because it was nicely suited to a convention (‘one-shot’) game, and it worked out quite well, I think (well, except for the character who was turned into a puddle of fetid black goo!).

[Marcus explains how his character responds to the eldritch horror.]

Kudos to the organizer of OSR Con II, Chris Cunnington, for doing such a great job!  There are some pictures of the con at Chris’s blog here. Kiltedyaksman also has a report at his Discourse and Dragons blog.

I very much hope to attend again next year!

(The above pictures shamelessly stolen from here.)

08 August 2012


Found at the Somerset House in London:

Yours truly in front of Poseidon: 

A cool grotto in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont (within the 19th arrondissement of Paris):

04 August 2012

RuneQuest 6 Now Available

RuneQuest 6 has been available for over a month now, actually, but I’ve only recently started posting again, so apologies for being late.

Until 2012 August 22, you can obtain the book and pdf together for 50 USD!  Just go here.  (After August 22, the price increases to 62 USD.)

Here is a video preview of the book.

The free Game Master’s Pack and Character Sheet are available for download here.

Plus some reviews and first impressions:

A batch of DriveThruRPG opinions

RPGnet review

Sorcerer Under Mountain

03 August 2012

The Whisperer in the Darkness film

The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society's production of The Whisperer in the Darkness is Salon's 'pick of the week'.

I purchased and watched The Whisperer in the Darkness a few months ago.  Overall, I quite liked it.  But it definitely was not in the same league, in my judgement, as the HPLHS's production of The Call of Cthulhu.  The final, 'action-filled' act of the 'Whisperer' film is entirely new, whereas 'Cthulhu' cleaves loyally to the original tale.

I can understand why the film-makers wanted more 'action' than was provided by Lovecraft's original story.  But if this is so, it seems that there are a number of other more appropriate Lovecraft tales, The Shadow Over Innsmouth to name just one.

Nonetheless, the film puts to shame 98% of Hollywood 'horror' films.  I would recommend it to any fan of the Cthulhu Mythos, albeit with a warning to expect some significant differences from the original story.

01 August 2012

More on The Hobbit Trilogy

Since we now know that Jackson is making The Hobbit into a trilogy of films, the obvious question to be asked is: what material from the appendices from The Lord of the Rings will be added to the original children's tale?  And (more worryingly) what, if any, non-Tolkien material will be added?

There is a pretty good summary of likely additions here.  For the most part, they sound just dandy to me -- especially the stuff on the White Council and the Battle of Dol Guldur.  And I am ecstatic to learn that Christopher Lee is back as Saruman!  (Thank you, Eru!) However,  I'm not keen -- at all --- on the 'New Characters'.

Overall, though, I'm excited...

OpenQuest 2nd Edition

Newt Newport of d101 Games is working on OpenQuest 2, and has set up an indiegogo site in order to fund the project.  More information on OQ2 can be found there.  The proposed changes strike me as all quite good, and I am looking forward to owning, at last, a hardcover version of the game.

I just donated at the 'Hero' level, and am delighted to report that my contribution pushed the project over the $1000 threshold!  So it looks like OQ2 will be happening.  Everything else is gravy.

Hobbit News and Tolkien Interview

Peter Jackson is extending his forthcoming two Hobbit films into a trilogy.  There seems to be some ambivalence about this move. 

Personally, I’m excited.  Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings films certainly weren’t perfect: many, but not all, of the deviations from Tolkien’s story grated on my nerves.  (I have no problem – at all – with the removal of Tom Bombadil.  And including the ‘Scouring of the Shire’ would have stretched things out too much for most viewers.  But the other changes were unfortunate.)  

The films were far, far better than I had expected (and feared) them to be.  Once I separated them firmly in my mind from the novels, I enjoyed them quite a bit, especially the ‘Director’s Cut’ versions.  The casting, for the most part, was inspired.  And they simply were beautiful to behold.

23 June 2012

Off to the Old World

I’m off to Hibernia—my first time back in four years—to be followed by brief sojourns in Lutetia and Londinium. 

Consequentially, I regret that there will be no blog posts here for at least two weeks.  


20 June 2012

Game of Thrones Attack Ads

I found these Game of Thrones attack ads rather entertaining.

(Warning: some spoilers!  If you haven't read the first two novels, or watched the series, and you plan to do so in the future, you may not want to watch these.)

18 June 2012

OSRCon II Thoughts

It looks like I will be able to attend most of OSRCon II this August after all (I previously thought that I would have to miss it this year).

Now to decide whether to run a game!  If so, it would be during the final Saturday afternoon session.

I'm tempted to run the MERP adventure 'Star Spray' (from an old issue of White Dwarf).  It's a pretty epic adventure, and probably could be completed in 3-4 hours, but I doubt that there would be much interest in a MERP game, even at an 'old school' convention.

I could run a Crypts and Things game.  It would be fun, I think, to expose others to the game.  And the rules certainly would be easy for most OSR gamers to grasp.

Another option, of course, is Call of Cthulhu.  It's been a year since I last ran a CoC game, and I'm itching to do so again soon.  Any suggestions for a fun CoC single-session adventure?

Prometheus Explained?

I don't agree with this defence of Prometheus (note: link is to a youtube video).

At least I don't think I do.  But it did make me reconsider, and (slightly) soften, my earlier judgement of the film.

Update: this seems spot on.

10 June 2012

Prometheus at the Mountains of Madness

So I saw 'Prometheus' Friday night…

It's visually stunning. And, for the first time ever, I found the 3D not only non-annoying, but actually a positive feature of the film.  It's worth seeing for the 'eye candy' alone.

Story-wise, the first half was enjoyable enough, but during the second half it becomes increasingly clear that the background premises of the film don't cohere very well, or even make sense on their own.

Moreover, events seem to start happening simply for their 'shock' value. And the quasi-theological musings of Guy Pierce and others are rather silly.  ‘Prometheus’ tries to ask ‘big questions’ but fails to do so in an intelligent and compelling way.

The acting in 'Prometheus' generally is quite good, especially Michael Fassbender.  (Certainly his portrayal of an android is in the same league as those of Ian Holm and Lance Hendriksen – no small achievement!)

Essentially, the film is a rip-off of Lovecraft's classic tale, At the Mountains of Madness. But it lacks the coherence and, ironically, the vivid 'alienness' of Lovecraft's novel.

I wish someone someday simply would make a first-rate film version of the original Lovecraft story – instead of derivatives like 'Prometheus' or the (far superior) 1980 version of 'The Thing'.

08 June 2012

Frog God Games resurrects Necromancer

Frog God Games -- the folks in charge of publishing and distributing my favourite retro-clone, Swords & Wizardry Complete -- have acquired Necromancer Games.
FROG GOD GAMES announced today that they are acquiring Necromancer Games, the award-winning publishing house known for Necropolis, Rappan Athuk, City of Brass, Tomb of Abysthor, Crucible of Freya, Tome of Horrors, and many other famous titles. The purchase of Necromancer Games considerably increases Frog God Games’ influence in the tabletop gaming industry. Frog God Games will re-animate several of Necromancer Games’ products in the future to provide its customers with revised and expanded products for a variety of tabletop editions.
More info here.

Necromancer Games kept the torch of old school gaming alive during the hey-day of 3e D&D.  They published a lot of cool stuff, including resurrecting the Judges Guild's classic 'Wilderlands' setting.  It's good news that their material will be available again.

Another Crypts and Things Review

The blog 'Apropos of Nothing' has posted a very positive review of d101's Crypts and Things role-playing game.

I was especially grateful for the reviewer's kind words concerning some of the elements of C&T drawn from my house rules.

(This reminds me that I need to write up a summary of the C&T game that I ran a few months ago for my friends Marcus and Loz...)

05 June 2012

RuneQuest 6 Core Rulebook Info

Here is a summary, taken from Lawrence Whitaker’s post at the Design Mechanism site, of what to expect in the core rulebook for RuneQuest 6:
RuneQuest will be 456 pages, soft cover, black and white interior, colour cover. 
Price is $62.00 (£40, €50). There will be a discount for pre-orders, which we hope to begin very soon. 
You will be able to order RQ directly from us via the Products page of the Design Mechanism website. 
Shipping within the US and Canada will be $10. International orders $15. 
We will be distributing to the retail trade via our fulfilment and distribution partner, Alliance. This means RQ will find its way into game stores across the world. 
RQ will be available as a bookmarked PDF close to the release date of the hard copy. If you buy the hard copy directly from us, you'll get the PDF free of charge. If you decide to order the PDF singly, it will cost $25. It will be available through DrivethruRPG and the other One Book Shelf sites. 
I cannot give a precise date for publication, but it should be no later than mid-July and, hopefully, a little earlier. We will open pre-orders the minute the production files are in the hands of the printer. It usually takes about three weeks for production, so factor-in a fourth for transit to our warehouse.
We will be releasing a free PDF, available here and on Drivethru, for Games Masters. This will contain all the major charts and tables, a two page character sheet, a combat tracking sheet and an introductory scenario called 'Meeros Falling'. This scenario uses the setting found throughout the examples found in the rules and is a mixture of investigation, intrigue and combat. It directly continues 'Anathaym's Saga' as found throughout RQ6. 
So, more information to come, but I'm pleased to say that RQ6 is nearly with us.
I’m thrilled that RQ6 is coming so soon!  This is the game – not ‘D&D Next’ or the ‘Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG’ – about which I’m most excited.  And it’s great that the core rulebook will be ‘complete’ – all the rules, magic systems, monsters, GM info, etc., in a single grand tome.  Nobody should be able to complain that the rulebook is missing anything essential (in contrast to the MRQII core rulebook, which included a very meagre beastiary).

The length and price of the rulebook, however, very likely will discourage many people from checking out RuneQuest for the first time.  RQ6 certainly will not be an ‘impulse buy’!  Thus I wonder if it might be prudent for Design Mechanism to take a page out of Chaosium’s book and offer a free or inexpensive ‘quick start’ version of the rules.  Such a product (perhaps PDF only) would include only the bare essentials (e.g., one culture, the bare elements of a single magic system, a few creatures, a small set of combat manoeuvres, etc.).  A starter adventure also would be helpful.  Such a product would be sufficient for interested folks to give RQ6 a spin, without having to commit significant denarii.

Of course, the price and length is no disincentive to me.  I’ve pared back my RPG budget considerably over the past couple of years, but RuneQuest 6 is a ‘must-buy’ for me.  (I’m also looking forward to Magic World and OpenQuest 2 far more than ‘D&D Next’.)

04 June 2012

Achtung! Cthulhu

Well this looks rather cool…

More information here.  And there is a Yog-Sothoth thread.

It’s official: there are way too many things that I want to run for Call of Cthulhu – alone – in my lifetime.  And when I think of all the other RPGs for which I wish I could run adventures or campaigns, I’m forced to make a SAN roll.

23 May 2012


This is my 300th post!

I'm somewhat amazed that this blog is still chugging along.  Its focus has changed slightly over the past three years.  Lately I've been posting somewhat more on various d100 games (RuneQuest 6, OpenQuest, Call of Cthulhu, BRP, Renaissance, etc.) than on classic D&D and Swords & Wizardry (the games that inspired me to start this blog in the first place).  But I remain as committed to DIY, 'old school' style gaming as always.  And I certainly haven't forgotten about D&D or S&W; after all, I'm a contributor to d101 Games' excellent S&W-based Crypts and Things role-playing game!

Looking forward to another 300 posts...

Oh yeah: another cool RuneQuest 6 preview is available here (this one focuses on magic).

13 May 2012

Wandering Monster

 A savage wild turkey decided to visit my apartment building in Milwaukee on Friday:

I defended my demesne, driving the terrible beast away:  

The formidable creature then proceeded to terrorize the neighbourhood:

06 May 2012

RuneQuest 6 Preview

Design Mechanism has a preview of their forthcoming RuneQuest 6 available for download here (or go here to open directly the pdf).

It looks like RQ6 will be available before the end of this summer!

27 April 2012

Dungeons & Dragons and Philosophy

As someone who is both a long-time RPG addict and a philosophy professor, I feel duty-bound to pick up (eventually) the forthcoming anthology Dungeons & Dragons and Philosophy.

(Actually, it looks pretty good.)

21 April 2012

Relationship Advice from H. P. Lovecraft

Apparently, H. P. Lovecraft also wrote an advice column.  A sample letter and reply:
Dear Howie, 
My girlfriend has metamorphosed into a kind of polyhedron with many pairs of feelers, membraneous wings, and fanged orifices on stalks. Should I talk to her about this, or keep hoping it’s just a phase? Snapshot enclosed. 
Amateur Photographer
Dear Amateur Photographer: – 
I do not know long it was before I dared to inspect your snapshot. Once I did, I immediately fell wholly to the floor. How much time passed after that, do not ask me to guess, but a momentary fragment of memory shows me racing dementedly past a long stone colonnade towards a curious hummock. After that, mercifully, all is blackness. My aunts discovered me beside a nearby megalith, with my faculties paralyzed, a mark on my forehead bespeaking all too vividly the ravages of some snail-like marsupial. It was months before I regained the ability to talk any language but proto-Algonquian. Now my senses have somewhat cleared, I recommend you break things off with your fiancée as tactfully as possible, not letting her suspect you have noticed any change or blemish. Hers is such an image as — but I cannot go on. I have barricaded myself indoors, and hope never to look at another photograph, or touch any variety of leafy vegetable. Even Dalgaard’s worst prophesies fell short of the unspeakable reality! A rank odor now pervades everything, the hills resonate with sustained prehuman howling, and I keep losing my place in the Unrecommended Codex of Naarg, 
Yrs Strkly. Trrfd., – HPL.
More here!

(hat tip: Chris Robichaud)

Final Version of Novus RPG available

It is available here, and here is a thread discussing it at the RPG Site. 

I’ve mentioned Novus in this blog a couple of times in the past, and I definitely think that it is worth checking out, especially for folks fond of the ‘class + skills’ systems of Ye Olde ICE (though I hasten to add that Novus is a much ‘lighter’ system than Rolemaster, HARP, or even MERP). 

The ‘bare bones’  PDF version is only 2 USD — less than a decent cup of espresso!

19 April 2012

Age of Treason Reviews and Blog

Age of Treason: The Iron Simulacrum -- Mongoose's new setting for its Legend FRPG (formerly RuneQuest II) -- looks quite promising, judging by this review from the RPG Pundit (who generally writes informative and helpful reviews, I think, despite being otherwise quite unhinged) and this review at the 'Roll for Initiative' Blog.

It turns out that the author, Jonathan Drake, has a blog for the setting. Here is the description of the book from that blog:
Used with the Legend/RuneQuest II rules, the Age of Treason book provides everything you need to create Adventurers equipped to do their bit for Empire or to slip into the shadows and pursue whatever personal goals their treasonous hearts desire. Choose from dozens of new professions, learn new skills, make pacts with gods and demons and deploy the arts of sorcery in new ways. An extended campaign for beginning level adventurers is included to get you started.

Setting – Hugely detailed and believable world constructed over many years of development and play

Adventurer Creation – Over 50 Adventurer professions for civilised characters

Social Status – a new Characteristic to help define your Adventurer

New Skills – 6 new skills including Brawl and Fast Talk, plus Education – a new Advanced Skill for literate Adventurers

New Cults – 9 new cults including Emperor Worship, as well as guidelines for creating many more, and even for founding a cult of your own.

New Magic – more than 30 new spells as well as new magical skills such as Craft (Enchantment) and Craft (Alchemy)

Advanced Enchanting – create bespoke magic items

Spirit Magic – rules for spirits that can manifest in the material world

Bribery and Corruption – rules to give your Influence skills a boost by greasing palms

Creatures – demonic sorcerer’s assistants, wraiths, golem servants and vampires

Adventures – an episodic campaign in which even the most humble citizen has the chance to prove his mettle in the Emperor’s service.
The map of the 'Taskan Empire' is available here, and looks rather nice.

I had been debating whether to get this book for several months now, but the Age of Treason setting simply sounds too cool not to investigate further. There aren't many 'classical' fantasy settings around, unfortunately, and I am excited to read more about this one!

12 April 2012


OSRCon will be taking place again in Toronto this summer, August 10th and 11th.

The schedule looks very promising so far (and no doubt additional games will be added). The special guest this year is Ken St. Andre, along with last year’s guests Ed Greenwood and James Maliszewski.

Much to my chagrin, I missed last year’s con. I was really hoping to make it this year, but, alas, it looks like that will not be happening. The dates conflict with my friend’s bachelor party. (The friend in question, incidentally, played ‘Adralat Na-Keth’ in last year’s Mong-RuneQuest II Young Kingdoms campaign.)

If you live near Toronto, or don’t mind travelling there for a weekend of old school gaming, I recommend checking out OSRCon.

05 April 2012

Possible Future Elric pictures from Jeff Dee

Some of you might remember Jeff Dee’s illustrations for the ‘Melniboneán Mythos’ included in the original printing of the Deities and Demigods book for AD&D. This chapter and the one devoted to the ‘Cthulhu Mythos’ were removed from subsequent printings of the book. (Contrary to what many people have assumed over the years, the decision to remove the Moorcock and Lovecraft based material was made by TSR not in response to complaints from Chaosium. Apparently TSR did not want to give ‘publicity’ to Chaosium’s Stormbringer and Call of Cthulhu games.)

Tragically, the original artwork by Dee for the Deities and Demigods book was lost. However, he is planning on recreating 22 pictures from the Melniboneán Mythos chapter in the near future. Anyone interested in this project, and possibly obtaining some prints or postcards from Dee’s ‘kickstarter’ project, can find more information here.

(Ah, by Arioch, I still dig that picture of the Myyrrhn warrior with the ‘mohawk’ haircut!)

01 April 2012

RuneQuest 6 art preview

Go here to check out some of the pictures that will be included in the forthcoming RuneQuest 6 core rulebook.

I especially like the Broo, er, 'Chaos Hybrid', and the Hoplite.

31 March 2012

BRP Central Hacked

Basic Roleplaying Central -- the best place on the internet to discuss BRP and download material for BRP games -- has been hacked, and likely will not be operational again for at least two weeks.

Greetings everyone! Yes the site has been hacked and infected with trojans, malware and whatnot. I'm currently travelling in Tanzania (nearly croaked on Kilimanjaro yesterday), and just discovered the infection today when I checked my email, where I found an email about a security patch update from vBulletin (the forum software) and several messages from BRP Central members about the situation. There's preciously little I can do about it now until I get home, except taking the site offline to avoid any further visitors to get infected, which I have asked my hosting provider to do immediately. I'll try to rectify the situation as good as I can when I get home. The site will be back up again, the question is only how much of the database needs to be discarded for it to be safely be opened again. Hopefully it will be back up again in about two weeks time. I'll send out an email to all members when it's up and running again. Sorry for the inconvenience! Trifletraxor.
What an unfortunate mess. Stupid hackers. Hopefully the site will be back and functioning in two weeks!

29 March 2012

Horror in the Deep

Zoom in.

Scroll down.

Way down.



Okay, make a SAN roll. If you fail, lose 1d100 sanity points; if you succeed, only 1d10 sanity points.


27 March 2012

Prophylactic of Eldritch Power

It certainly worked throughout my teenage years!

(Unfortunately, I do not know where this comic is from, or who created it. If any reader knows, I'd be grateful for the information. Thanks!)

22 March 2012

Magic World is Coming

A few years ago, having become somewhat disenchanted with the ‘d20’ system and 3.5 D&D after having run two long-ish campaigns using those rules, I started to reconsider Chaosium’s classic Basic Role-playing system (‘BRP’).

I had owned Elric! Since it was published in 1993, and thought that it was a great game. Alas, I never had the opportunity to run a campaign using it, or, for that matter, earlier versions of Stormbringer (I did run, however, some Hawkmoon games in the late 1980s).

Chaosium lost the licence to publish games within the ‘multiverse’ of Michael Moorcock (the worlds of Elric, Corum, Hawkmoon, and so forth) in 2007. Given the strength of the Elric! system, independent of its setting, I wondered why Chaosium didn’t simply scrub off all the Moorcock references, and publish the system as a ‘generic’ fantasy role-playing game.

Well it looks like that finally is happening! Coming soon from Chaosium: Magic World.

MAGIC WORLD is a self-contained fantasy roleplaying game using the classic "Basic Roleplaying" system. The game allows you to play characters in a world of fantasy, adventure, and excitement. The rules of MAGIC WORLD are simple to grasp, while having enough options and complexity to suit any gaming style. Characters grow in experience organically, without relying on artificial constructs such as classes, levels, etc. Any sort of fantasy character you can imagine, you can play. MAGIC WORLD contains:

· Full rules for creating characters in a world of magic and fantasy.

· A robust magic system with nearly one hundred spells. Any character may become a spell caster with the right combination of raw talent, and training!

· Detailed, yet streamlined skills and combat rules.

· Complete rules for nautical adventures.

· A bestiary of more than sixty creatures to use as foes for the characters, or as the characters themselves! Play as any species imaginable: Human, Elf, Orc, Centaur, Troll, Talking Beast, and more!

· Gamemaster advice, and resources.

· A gallery of enchanted items which might be found in your characters' adventures.

· A complete sample campaign setting, "the Southlands", to jump start your adventures.

· And more!

While the title hearkens back to the fantasy booklet within Chaosium’s 1982 box set Worlds of Wonder, the new Magic World, including its magic system, is based primarily on Elric!, albeit with some tweaks and updates from the recent ‘Goldbook’ version of BRP.

More information on Magic World can be found in this interview with the editor of the game, Ben Monroe (ak.a. ‘zomben’). And here is a thread discussing the game.

With OpenQuest, Legend (MRQII), and, soon, RuneQuest 6 available as well, there exists a wonderful surfeit of BRP-based fantasy role-playing games. I always liked the relative simplicity of Elric!, including its magic and allegiance systems, so I look forward to adding Magic World to ‘the stable’.

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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who lives primarily in Toronto but teaches in Milwaukee (sometimes in person, sometimes online).