It came from the 90’s

Recently, my DF game intersected with a theme from a  GURPS Horror game I ran for a few years. We had played a lot of 1920’s, using CoC sourcebooks but GURPS rules, and we also played a contemporary game.  The characters included an albino taxi driver and roadie who became a were python, an FBI agent, an illegal Irish building contractor, a dilettante millionaire, a used car salesman, and an agent of the Shop,  (the Office of Scientific Investigation, from Firestarter).  They dealt with things like a giant silverfish in the NYC subway tunnels, punk werewolves on angel dust, vampires (the millionaire eventually became one, and carried on along with a ghoul from the 1920’s game when we played a Horror/Cyberpunk game later on), but the major plot, drawn from an assortment of Settings books, like GURPS Cabal, came from ‘Investigative Journalist’ Maury Terry’s book about a conspiracy of drug dealers posing as serial killers and the intersect between the hallucinogen and snuff industries in the 1970’s, called The Ultimate Evil.

Our mixed bag of heroes started hunting someone they called The Visine Thief, and eventually called Lidless, who they thought was a serial killer.  He was killing a lot of people, and robbing Duane Reade’s of cases of artificial tears. A low level villian with a fridged girlfriend (Yes, a horrible trope. Thirty years ago, I was a horribly unaware person) who he had had to watch killed with his eyelids sliced off, he was hunting members of his former organization.  Terry had gathered the threads of his grand conspiracy from random clippings and interviews with Son of Sam, who he was convinced was a murderer, even a multiple murderer, but also a member of a psuedo satanic cult of drug dealers who coerced the members into murders which they filmed, and held power over by threats to kill their families. The proposed modus operandi of this group was to kill drug dealers who were holding out, and then off a bunch of people that looked like them so that the well funded narcotics squad wasn’t assigned the case, but that the understaffed and minimally experienced serial killer division was handed the work.  Multiple killers using the same gun further confounded things.

This conspiracy theory was tangled up with the suggestion that the Tate killings were related to the LSD trade, and that later traffic in ecstasy was handled by the same batch of goons, who lured members into their covens with drugs, then revealed the “truth” of a triumvirate of Yahweh, Lucifer, and Satan, which was itself a front for the drug and snuff film business.  Just wacky enough to support a kitchen sink of supernatural enemies entangled in a web of vice and death. It made for a good game.

How does any of this drift into Dungeon Fantasy? I have been making the primary enemies in the city/upper works of the megadungeon cultists of the elder gods masquerading as a demonic pleasure cult, and also a fertility cult tangled up with succubi.  Their attempts at parleying had them quoting talking points about autonomy and free will from the Satanic Church.

The posse of demon hunters accompanied by Kalima the four armed Celestial demon slayer and Benny Morales, a Dungeon Saint of Hermes, started combing through the brazen alley, an area where religious articles are made for devotion, but often by non-believers. There they encountered Aloysius the Undamned, an infernal friar of the One Holy Triunist Church, who has been Forgiven. While the Slayer wanted him dead, and caused a smoking wound with the tip of her Demon Slaying Spear, the others put him to the question and realized that he was actually good.  They also got a whiff of the above cult, when he described some heretics who indulged heavily in sacramental intoxicants.

Why do I have so many demon cults creeping about? It might be that I need non-undead opponents who can be freely dispatched, since so many of the commonly monstrous races are player character options, and are mostly just living their lives and not planning human massacres.

In this I have been ahead of WoTC’s disclaimer about the content of some of the seventies-eighties era games, with gender based ability score caps, and inclusion of proposals for clearing land and intimidating humanoids that were taken straight out of King Leopold’s playbook, and quoting Chivington’s “nits make lice” justification for genocide. The founding fathers of our games, while appreciate their combined creation of our hobby, were nowhere near as nice a bunch of guys as they thought themselves to be, and if you have fun playing through B2, it is something you need to keep in mind, just as you need to be aware of the content of Lovecraft’s personal letters and the name of his cat if you going to read his fiction.  Racism is an insidious thing, and is interlaced throughout the tropes of our cultural history. This doesn’t mean you need to burn books, but it does mean that you need to be a conscious consumer, or you will risk integrating some of that quiet content into your worldview. Know that it is there, and you have more choices.

Hellwalkers- Archaierai for DF

Recently, while exploring the Autumn gate from tge gates of the four seasons found in the temple of Janus, a group of holy warriors and a celestial cleric, along with a reluctant Bouda warrior, fought an import from the Fiend folio, an Archaierai, or as I renamed them,  Hellwalkers

Here are the stats I gave them:

SM +4, only legs attackable without missiles
St 30 dx 12 iq 11 ht 13
Hp 30 per 12 will 12 fp 16
Bs 6 mv 9 dodge 12 (-4)
DR on legs: 6 DR on body :2

Leg HP 15
Tongue HP 12

Hard to kill 2
Fragile, unnatural

I jury tolerance,  no neck
Injury resistant to non silver/magical weapons
Unkillable (tongue must be cut out to kill it)

Body vulnerable to crushing, +1D
Immune to met hazzards, resistant to fire/electricity
Bloodlust, bully, sadism, bad temper
Imperturbable, unfazeable, lifebane

Demon:truly evil, affected by banish and pentagram
Vulnerable to holy+1d
Claw 15 damage 3d impaling
Bite 15 damage: 3d cutting plus swallow on 6 or less
Sonic shriek 1fp, 15, does cone 10yds×4yds 3d sonic damage
When 3 legs are cut down, it belches out toxic smoke:
This is actually a toxifier demon!!!
Cutting its tongue usually has to be done in this cloud!
They are known to have 16+1 gemstones in their gizzards;
Their feathers can be used to enchant fans that cause air jet damage to diffuse beings like toxifiers

 

 

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Groty i Giganci and a farewell to the Ymid

I recently discovered another gaming product that used a great deal of my artwork, the Polish language Groty i Giganci written by Simon Piecha, and based on Swords & Wizardry Whitebox.

There is also a supplement available from the same source, also loaded with my artwork, called Osteria. I wish I could read them , the books are beautifully done.

Meanwhile, after several years of play by post gaming in my DFRPG game Northport over on rpol.net, the juniors group have finally said farewell to the Ymid. The Ymid was a creation of GarrisonJames, over at the blog Hereticwerks. After very loosely assisting in the destruction of a demonic shop, (the Ymid, being an elder thing, is both curious and indifferent to their cause, but did help convert one of the PC’s into a Cultist of the Elder Gods, armed with gate spells that helped them shut down the shop).

They had just helped the Ymid rebuild his floating skiff, which had been crushed by a dhole exiting the gate from the Vale of Pnath… The skiff was powered by a lead acid battery that stimulated four pig hearts to circulate a gallon of flying porions through a series of bladders and arteries built into the frame of the skiff, and the outer ring had millions of cockroach wings under it to provide both a creepy hum, and some ability for steering.

They had paid for the flying potions by selling a Yr-go to an alchemist (the monocular fungal creation had grown from an eye snatched from one of the Vejovian cultists the group’s priest had following them around, leaving Pierre the One Eyed victim to strange visions and dreams), along with a chunk of bile covered gold the Yhad given them from a dead gods gallbladder it used as a purse.

I even had them rescue the Ymid from a giant spiderweb, just like in Clatterdelve, and at the same time, one of the PC’s got a giant spider familiar.

Starica Babicka and more Warlockery

hag ss

My crew of feybloods who are busy fighting a group of armband wearing racial supremacists (because I am far from apolitical) recently had made a side trip into a swamp to meet a hag. They did so because of a critical failure on Faerie Lore, but got a little information about the workings of the Winter Court.

Surprise, the Summer Court is deeply into the lives of mortals (Most Feybloods exist for a reason) but the Winter Court is only disinterested in them. Mortals scarcely matter to most of those fey. However, a faction that is offended by the “Dilution of pure fey bloodlines” is involved in glamouring small minded humans to act antagonistically against those different from themselves.  If it were true in our world, a circle of iron could put an end to racism, but here we are, in a world where we cannot blame otherworldly creatures for our own expressions of hatred.

Here is the local ruler of the swamps east of Northport, Starica (Strega) Babicka, assorted Folk tales of Baba Yaga, and a bit of Dolmenwood, as filtered through GURPS: Fairie, Lloyd Alexander and Charle De Lint.

 

Starica Babicka

Hag fairie, strong 

ST:16 [60] DX: 13 [60] IQ: 14 [80] HT:13 [30]

HP: 16 [0] Per: 14/16 [0] Will [14] FP:13*25

Bs: 7.5 MV: 7 Dodge:11 Oar Parry:12

DR: 2 SM +1 (0)

Oar (16) 2d+4 cutting or crushing.

Claw (15) 1d+2 crushing

Bite (15) 1d-1 cutting;can unhinge jaw and swallow SM-2 or smaller on a critical success.

 

Advantages:

Winter court rank 2 [10] Differential smell [15]

Acute sense of smell+2 [4],  Enhanced magic resistance +4 [20]

Magery 4 [45] Energy reserve +12 [36] Terror(switcheable) [33]

Injury Tolerance (except to meteoric iron, magical weapons and fire) [30]

Hard to kill +2 [4] Hard to Subdue +2 [4] DR 2 [6]

 

Disadvantages:

Code of honor, fae [-10] cannot harm innocents [-10] Jealous [-10]

Stubborn [-5] Odious Personal Habit: eats sentients (only bad children) [-15]

Vulnerable to meteoric iron (1d) [-10]

 Quirks:

easily offended, suspicious, Likes riddles,Avoids full sunlight,

fond of frogs as food (they test their bravery by seeing how long they can stay in reach of her), 

SKILLS:

Staff 16 [12]

Polearm 16 [12]

Brawling 15 [4]

Wrestling 15 [8]

Area knowledge, swamp 15 [4]

Current events, faerie court 14 [1]

Savoir faire, faerie court 14* [1]

Hidden Lore, Faeries 17 [12]

Naturalist 18 [20]

Survival, wetlands -15 [2]

Natural Philosophy 18 [20]

Thaumatology 18 [8]

Alchemy 16 [16]

Herb lore 16 [12]]

Occultism 16 [8]

Dungeon butcher 16 [8]

Fishing 14 [1]

Boating 15 [8]

Cooking 16 [8]

 

Spells:

All at 16:  Alarm, nightingale, mystic mist, the entire plant college; much of the Animal college (communication spells),seek, shape, create +3 more in all four elements, most food and illusion spells, 

All at 20:  Curse, perfect illusion, illusion disguise, dispell magic, missile shield, magelock, create object, mystic mark, recover energy, Sense life, sense foes, resist fire.

 

She travels in a leather corracle that she can sling over her shoulder(it changes size from a yard to three yards wide, is waterproof,  fireproof, has DR 10 and self repairs),

and uses a carved oar (dragonbone staff/poleaxe) With which she has 16 skill and gives her 10 fp as a power item.

 

Now the cluster of 125 point characters would have been no match for her if she had been angry, but they placated her with honeycomb found with a Survival roll and a meat pie purchased in the market, even with the handful of hazelnuts that granted beast speech…

warlockery

Meanwhile, Ruby Fire Games has put out  a bunch of supplements for Warlock! that are all full of my artwork, and have some wicked good ideas on handling corruption from spellcasting (all magic in Warlock comes from pacts with demons) and has rules for elves, dwarves, and halflings and cool things like a Hand of Glory.

You can get a look at the main book for warlock here.

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Warlock!

Screenshot_20200517-185757_Drive

Fire Ruby Designs just released this beauty on Drivethrurpg.  You can get it as a pdf for about $6, and as a hardback for $25.

This game has the most comprehensive  collection of my stock art so far -54 separate images of mine, making for a very comprehensive look to the product, and a great portfolio piece for me.

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Gaming in a time of plague

I work in a major New York hospital, and things are pretty horrible for a lot of people. My family was very lucky with our brush with this thing, generally very light cases, although my wife and eldest had worse versions of it than I did. I used my time in quarantine to finish writing up a game, and my return to work has humbled me in the face of the monumental task that nurses have caring for these critically ill patients. I am grateful for my health, for even breathing.

The game I wrote is an Odysseys and Overlords version of an adventureI have mentioned previously, set in my home campaign, in the city of Northport.

I have been working on this setting for about 18 years in different versions of GURPS, and because I am not Douglas Cole, and do not have a license for GURPS material, I am releasing it in a system with an OGL. One of the primary conceits, as mentioned previously came from one of my favorite Dragon Magazines, number 138. This had to do with a campaign set in a post plague world, which for me gave a twist on the borderlands idea; it is not the colonial border of human lands and an inhabited land to be conquered, but the edge of the remnant of a semi-collapsed civilization, adjacent to places depopulated by fatal sickness, and chock full of under maintained ruins, still full of treasure, where the remaining inhabitants are beset by banditry and an unchecked level of monstrous incursions.

When I wrote a lot of Northport, I designed a dungeon under a city that was full of mass graves of plague victims that had become undead due to improper burial, I had not conceived of the reality of the same thing (minus the undead) happening now, to patients I knew and had worked with. The concept hits me a lot harder, and fills me with sadness.

The idea of a rat borne plague has featured in the other gaming products I have written; in both Beneath the Fallen Tower, and in Northport, it spread because available adventurers were doing mercenary work in local wars, and no one was left to chase the rats out of an innkeeper’s cellar.

Meanwhile, as the need to engage social distancing to save our lives prohibits actual tabletop play, my preferred method of gaming, play by post, works as well as it ever has, although there is a hell of a lot less downtime at work to post.

It fells awkward having the pretend issues of my game suddenly become relevant in real life; gaming is supposed to be an escape.

Be safe out there people.

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Apes, Journeys, and Orcs.

I was recently watching a few inspirational movies about underground expeditions, the 1960 Journey to the Center of the Earth, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, and I tried to watch At the Earth’s Core, but it was just miserable. Seriously, Peter Cushing shot Star Wars immediately after this, and talk about a world of difference between practical effects and creature designs. I know they were trying to give a different look than Journey’s iguanas with vanes glued to them,  but Toho at its worst did better monster suits.

The reason I went for AtEC was because these dudes made me think of pig nosed orcs7111352_orig

They had maces, ranseurs and whips, and the movie proceeded the Monster Manual by a tiny bit.

Of course, 1970’s Beneath the Planet of the Apes had dungeons, with tunnels, spiked barred cells, and a pretty good depiction of studded leather armor

But the grandaddy of them all was 1960’s JttCotE, with giant lizards, resource management, Atlantean ruins, and of course a giant mushroom forest.

Now, AtEC had one too but it was just a mess.

Tiger King

Like most of you, I spent some of quarantine watching stories on netflix that were so sensational that they bordered on fiction… here are some somewhat fictional versions of those larger than life characters.

As a disclaimer, a relative of mine once owned a roadside attraction in Florida, featuring retired circus animals

Joe Exotic

ST 9 DX 11 IQ 12 HT 12

Adv:

10 Ally group (workers)

5 Ally Partner

5 versatile

10 Animal Empathy

20 a wealth of Tigers

10 Charisma+2

Dis:

-4 Unattractive

-10 Struggling

-5 Overconfident

-5 obsession: Carole Baskin

-10 Miserly

-5 Selfish

-10 Enemy: Carole Baskin

Q

flamboyant, tattoos and piercings, likes to blow shit up,

jealous of attention, substance abuse

Skills

Animal handling 14

Vetrinary 12

First Aid 12

Psychology tigers 12

Physiology tigers 10

Performance 13

Singing 13

Leadership 11

Politics 10

Propaganda 10

Sex Appeal 12

Fast talk 14

Carousing 12

Guns: pistol 13

Semi auto 12

Demolition 13

Driving 10

Drive ATV 11

Carole Baskin

ST 10 DX 11 IQ 13 HT 11

Adv:

8 beautiful

50 Millionaire

5 Ally:Peta

10 Ally group

5 Higher Purpose: Save the Tigers

20 wealth of tigers

10 reputation+2 as friend to Animals

Dis

-5 obsession: Joe Exotic

-5 enemy: Joe Exotic

-20 Secret (murderer)

-5 overconfidence

-10 sense of duty to animals in captivity

Q

-petty, cheap, wears flower garland,loves to ride her bike on the grounds, wears animal prints

Sklls:

Animal handling 12

Psychology tigers 12

Public speaking 14

Acting 13

Politics 12

Performance 11

Leadership 12

Propaganda 15

Sex appeal 14

Forensics 12

bicycle 12

Doc Antle

ST 11 DX 11 IQ 13 HT 11

Adv:

4 Attractive

15 Charisma+3

Will+1

30 very wealthy

20 wealth of tigers and other exotics

5 flexible

10 rep+2 as excellent animal handler

10 ally group

10 animal empathy

Dis:

-15 Lecherous

-20 megalomania

-5 professional code of honor

-5 disciplines of faith

-5 sense of duty to his animals

-pony tail, considers himself a spiritual leader, controlling, extravagant,has all his women get breast implants

Skills:

Performance 13

Sex appeal 16

Public speaking 15

Leadership 15

Intimidation 16

Psychology 12

animal handling 18

Veterinary 14

Physiology great cats 12

Breath control 14

Meditation 15

Sexual arts 12

Philosophy 12

Riding, Elephant 12

Mario

ST 11 DX 12 IQ 12 HT 12

Adv:

10 abundance of animals

10 animal Empathy

10 charisma+2

10 comfortable

Dis:

-5 social stigma: criminal

-5 callous

-5 Overconfident

-5 loves tigers

-10 bad temper

-10 bully

-5 pirate’s code of honor

-5 Reputation as brutal drug trafficker

Q -truthful

Skills:

Smuggling 13

Streetwise 14

Pharmacy 13

Intimidation 16

Guns 12

Knife 12

Brawling 12

Wrestling 11

Forensics 10

Fast talk 12

Sex appeal 13

carousing 14

Animal Handling 15

Vetrinary 12

Process and Pixma Problems

These two goatfolk (or Broo) were drawn for Ryan Thompson for The Hidden Hand of the Horla, which can be got as part of Appendix N’s current kickstarter 

I had some fun with the tattoos, which invoke both Baphomet and Shub-Niggurath, the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young.

My usual process involves a pencil drawing with two stages of inking with Pilot G-2 Gel pens, using 0.38 and 1.0 sizes, and then scanning at 600 dpi, passing through Photoshop to crop, lighten and contrast until the majority of the pen marks are gone, and then because I never properly learned how to use it, I blow it up in MSPaint and adjust pixel by pixel until I like it.

The problem comes with scanning.  I had a good deal on a Canon Pixma 2525, and discovered to my dismay that it likes to search for significant images and crop them out of the main image.  It’s algorithms also detest diagonal composition, and try to correct it, as if a small photo had been placed on the scanning bed  askew.

This really screws with things, as it can destroy a composition with the arbitrary vertical/horizontal realignment, along with the arbitrary cropping. To correct it from my end, since tech support could not find its ass with both hands and a flashlight, I have to draw heavy frames around the subject.  It took about five times to get the goats straightened out, and this is what they looked like by the time I accepted the final scans:

This is some bullshit.

 

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