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Category Archives: Horror

Stop the Presses!

One of the perks of living in Southwest Ohio is that I’m not terribly far from the National Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH. It’s a wonderful facility, filled with aircraft and artifacts from every era of flight. Including of course the dawn of flight, appropriate for a museum located not far from the Wright Brothers’ home.

Not long ago we took a family trip to the museum. In the section where they have a Wright Flyer they also have an issue of the Washington Post dated Saturday, July 31st, 1909 that includes the announcement of the Wright Brother’s first flight.

This is a cool thing in itself, but what caught my gamer’s eye were two more articles that also ran on the front page; one is about a new secret weapon rumored to have been developed by the U.S. military and the second regarding a medical breakthrough that would be quite at home in the annals of mad science.

Please excuse the image quality. I had planned to find better shots online, but the Post’s archives are behind a paywall.

WashPost1

The first story is about a death ray that can hurl lighting to, “Make Enemy’s Guns Useless, Slay Men, and Cripple Ships.” The story comes from an anonymous source within a European government, and is used as an explanation for why the U.S. military seemed to have very little interest in the success of the Wright Flyer. The suggestion is that aircraft would be insignificant against an army capable of swatting them out of the sky with lightning bolts.

The second story is unrelated to flight, but no less intriguing:

WashPost2

The topic is a medical procedure being explored in Paris, by which a surgeon could sever a nerve in the brain. Doctor Bonnier believed that removal of this nerve, “relieved greatly persons suffering from melancholia and timidity.” Speculation was that the procedure had, “the possibility of turning a coward into a hero by a surgical operation,” a concept that was of interest in 1909, when everyone knew that another major European war would happen sooner or later.

I couldn’t locate more information on Dr. Bonnier, though I did find reference to the article in a professional journal of Phrenology. However it’s worth noting that the article uses the past tense regarding the doctor’s procedure.

He’d already performed the operation. More than once.

To sum up; we have the front page of a world-renowned newspaper running articles about aircraft, death rays, and medically created supermen.

Happy gaming!

 
 

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The Collect Call of Cthulhu

Aaaaand, we’re back.

Hope everyone has had a good holiday season. I know I have.

One of the big treats I had was getting my first taste of the new 7th Edition of Call of Cthulhu. I’ve been playing CoC since 3rd Edition and it has been one of the mainstays of every gaming group I’ve been in since high school, so I jumped at the chance to try out the latest incarnation. Due to the production problems at Chaosium the book still isn’t loose in physical form, but our keeper has a .PDF copy. Unfortunately this means I didn’t get to thumb through the rules, so my impressions are based on my one session as a player, but even so I think I have a good handle on where the game has gone.

The Good:

Call of Cthulhu is a tight, easy, excellent rules set and has had few significant changes over the years. New editions made some tweaks, but more often than not consisted of including additional source material and re-organizing the existing rules. With very little effort you can pick up an adventure written for 1st Edition and run it using 6th Edition rules. When I heard that 7th Edition would be making more changes than all the previous editions combined I was concerned.

However, making more changes than all the previous editions combined isn’t a very high bar to cross, and I am happy to say that I quickly fell right into the new system, even without having read the book myself. For an old hand at CoC, looking over the new character sheet is enough to clarify most of the changes and I’m pretty sure that I would be able to convert older edition material on the fly, with only a bit more effort than I could previously. This is the single most important thing I can say about 7th Edition, that it is still backwards compatible.

Changing the basic attributes to percentiles was a good move. It keeps them in line with the derived attributes and codifies the way many players were already doing attribute checks.This combined with opposed roles for tasks has replaced my beloved Resistance Table, but even I must admit that it does streamline the game. Plus the opposed role mechanic is such a staple in modern RPGs that it’s easy for gamers to pick up.

They also trimmed down the skill list on the character sheet, which was a good move. A lot of the entries on the old character sheet just took up space and were rarely used, and in traditional form the new sheet has plenty of blanks to fill in skills not already listed. I don’t know if the trimmed skills are still in the book or not, but pruning the list definitely cleaned things up nicely.

The Bad:

“Bad” is really stretching it. It’s more, “The Not Really Liked”.

The addition of a penalty die to rolls. Under certain circumstances, or if your character decides to try multiple actions, an additional D10 is rolled. This additional die counts as another “tens” die and the penalty means you take the lower of the two rolls for your result. For example, I roll two “tens” dice and get a 7 and a 3, with a 2 on the “ones” dice. My result is 32, using the lower roll. My guess that this mechanic, like the elimination of the Resistance Table, is meant to streamline the game so that you don’t have to look up penalties, but the impression that I had was that it makes the results a lot more swingy. It also makes it harder to determine what chances to take, which is an important consideration in a game like CoC. If you give me a 15% penalty on a roll, then I have a concrete figure to judge if the risk is worth it. But with a penalty die I have a harder time judging. I would love to see some figures on how using a penalty die changes the probabilities for your results, but that’s well beyond my own math skills to figure out.

I get the feeling that the penalty die was meant to offer more choices for the players, but on my initial experience with it I found it confounding.

The Meh:

Instead of being a set attribute, Luck is now a spendable asset pool. You spend them like Magic Points, but to adjust die rolls instead of fueling spells, and like SAN points you can regain them from surviving adventures. This is nothing new in game design and it does give the players an extra edge for survival, but was that necessary for a game like Call of Cthulhu? The place where I do see its value is for investigative skills, for those times you really want to nail the Library Use or Spot Hidden role so you can move an investigation forward. It’s in combat that it rankles my old school CoC heart. I am happy to say that in practice I don’t think it will remove the sharp fear of mortality that CoC players have known and loved over the years, death is still omnipresent, but it does blunt it a bit. That’s why I list this as a “meh” instead of “bad”.

They’ve also added a graduated success result mechanic. CoC has always had a critical success for combat rolls, via the Impalement result for getting under 1/5th of your skill. Making this an across the board critical success for all skills was a no-brainer and codifies what many of us were already doing in play. However they’ve added a Hard Success result for rolls under half your skill. I’m still learning all the implications of this, but it seems unnecessarily fiddly. I don’t see what it adds to the game. Maybe it’ll become more clear once I’ve played more, or once I read the manual, but for now I’m ambivalent at best.

The Summary:

All in all, I had a good experience with the game. There is nothing here that makes me want to run out and get a 7th Edition manual for myself, but I am happy that I’ll be able to sit down at any game of CoC and still know how to play, requiring only a glance at the character sheet to tell me which rules we’re using. I’m happy that I can buy new source books and know that I can use them with my pre-7th Edition rules. I’m happy that if I do switch to 7th Edition I’ll still be able to unleash horrors on my players from my library of older edition books.

Cthulhu1

My 3rd Edition tome, battered like the souls of my players.

 
 

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Ravenloft Pt. 2

This past Sunday our intrepid adventurers continued their mission to destroy Strahd von Zarovich, or failing that to light as much of Castle Ravenloft on fire as possible.

As it turns out, they were successful on both counts.

We had a fifth player join us at the table, running a dwarven fighter/thief, and I ruled that he was a prisoner they rescued when they blew up the witches coven at the end of the last session. With their new friend added to the marching order, the Sunsword restored, and Strahd’s history revealed from the Tome of Strahd, the party descended from the towers back into the heart of the castle.

The players were again in fine form, with good rolls, excellent role playing, and creative solutions that on more than one occasion caused me to stop and think. They continued their pyromania plan and soon the central keep was ablaze, and they were very successful at finding hidden things, including secret doors that lead them to Strahd himself. Along the way there were several notable encounters.

The magical portrait was a fun annoyance. This was closely followed by a potentially disastrous encounter with two wraiths, but the Sunsword, the magic-user’s Magic Missile spell, and some marvelous rolls ended the fight quickly.

The most creative moment was when the Fair Gertruda fell to a venomous spider’s bite. The magic user was under the effects of a Potion of Gaseous Form and asked if she could force herself into the Fair Gertruda and perform CPR by moving in and out of her lungs. This was such a strange and unique idea that I went with the Rule of Cool. I checked to see how much longer the potion would be in effect (reforming inside her would be… messy) and came up with how many rounds she’d have to do this before I’d give The Fair Gertruda another saving throw against poison. It all worked out and the magic user saved the Fair Gertruda’s life.

The funniest moment was when the party discovered the secret door in the back of the roaring fireplace. Rooms outside of the study were burning and the carpet within the study had also caught fire, meanwhile a group of gargoyles were smashing their way through the door to get to the adventurers. The Fair Gertruda stumbled upon the mechanism to open the secret door and the party decided that a hasty retreat was in order. The human thief and the dwarven fighter/thief both nimbly leapt over the fire without being burned, right into the fake treasure room. The magic-user was next to try…And she failed, falling flat onto the fire and taking a good amount of damage, her robes catching fire. The heroic Landsknecht took this opportunity to hurl The Fair Gertruda over the area shielded by the magic-user’s body and to safety. The lawful evil cleric, in plate mail, then used the magic-user’s body as a bridge to cross the fire. This did more damage to her, grinding her into the coals. Finally the heroic Landsknecht lept across the gap… and failed his roll, landing full onto the magic-user’s back. In chainmail. This did even more damage to the magic-user and almost killed her. It also caused us to take a break due to laughing so hard.

I ruled that the gargoyles had stopped breaking through the barricades and were now laughing and mocking the players. The adventurers finally managed to drag everyone to safety beyond the flames, shut the secret door, and pour a lot of healing magic (and the Landsknecht’s spare clothing) onto the somewhat upset magic-user. Just in time for the thief to fail his Remove Traps roll and release a cloud of sleeping gas.

Ravenloft, where sometimes you’re in a Hammer Horror film and sometimes it’s a Tex Avery cartoon.

The most epic moment was their confrontation with Strahd, whom they discovered in his hidden treasure vault when the Sunsword began glowing while they were in the belfry outside. The plan was for the Landsknecht, Sunsword in hand, to lead the charge and take Strahd head on. The cleric and the human thief would back him up, while the magic user and the dwarven fighter/thief used Potions of Invisibility to get in position behind the vampire.

Plans made, potions quaffed, the door was flung open and the Landsknecht bellowed his challenge. Strahd turned to face him and used his Charm powers to take over the Landsknecht’s mind, commanding him to defend the vampire against his fellow adventurers. The cleric held his action while the thief used his magic throwing dagger to attack Strahd, failing his attacks but drawing the Landsknecht’s attention. This worked out well, as the thief’s Displacer Cloak allowed him to keep their mind-controlled ally’s attention while keeping him safe. Strahd lunged at the cleric, but rolled a one on his attack and stumbled. The cleric struck Strahd with his magic hammer Thundercrack, doing almost maximum damage, and unleashed its power to make everyone within 20′ Save or be stunned for 1d4 rounds. Several players were stunned, but more importantly so was Strahd. Only for one round, but that gave them an opportunity. The dwarf had made his saving throw and was now behind the stunned vampire. He made his attack to backstab Strahd, and rolled a natural 20.

The room filled with cheers.

He then rolled maximum damage! x3 for the backstab, x2 for the 20, plus the damage already done by the cleric and Strahd von Zarovich’s head went bouncing across the piles of gold.

Victory! An amazing win. The players were elated.

They then proceeded to stake the corpse, douse the head and body with holy water, smash the head, and light everything on fire.

One thing that struck me was how happy the players were even though the final fight didn’t take long. It proves that every boss fight doesn’t need to devolve into a long slugfest. The players knew how dangerous Strahd was, they knew what he’d done to their dead comrade and the evidence was all around them. Solid planning on their part and some really amazing rolls gave the final fight the same sense of being epic that a drawn out battle would have.

I haven’t run Ravenloft in years and it was great to revisit this classic module and it was even more fun since most of my players were unfamiliar with the adventure. It was a great way to celebrate Halloween. The only challenge left to me is deciding what to do next year.

PHB-Cover

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2015 in Fantasy, Gaming, Horror

 

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Ravenloft

In honor of Halloween I gathered a few friends together to venture into the classic Ravenloft adventure.

No box set, no overly complicated demi-plane, just the original stand-alone module I6 Ravenloft by Tracy and Laura Hickman in all it’s vampiric glory. It’s a wonderful module that I haven’t run in many years, but re-reading it brought back fond memories of the blood-soaked halls and the night terrors faced by past adventurers.

With four players, most of whom have never played 1st edition AD&D, I decided to pre-generate a selection of high level characters to choose from. This also proved to be a fun exercise for me, and once I covered the core character types I branched out into a few mutli-class and sub-class options. (More on that in a later post.) I left the character details for the players to flesh out and that also proved to be great fun, as they were quick to let their imagination loose. Selected for the adventure was a chaotic good human magic-user, a neutral good half-elven cleric/magic-user, a chaotic neutral human thief, and a lawful evil human cleric.

Hey, desperate times call for desperate measures, and the lawful evil cleric is under contract.

The hook for the party was that the king of a nearby land was alarmed that the realm of Barovia seemed to be expanding. Packs of wolves and zombies had attacked villages and most troubling of all, the circle of mist surrounding Barovia was expanding. The king had sent a company of his royal guard to deal with the threat, but none had returned. In desperation he turned to a group of adventurers promising them wealth, name fame, and lands to form their own dominions in.

The adventure went well and I did my best to play up the hammer horror film feel of the game. Not far past the gates of the road to Barovia they found the corpses of the king’s men hanging from trees on the sides of the road. The group spent a good deal of time in the village, trying to learn all the information they could and seeking allies, while also trying to protect the burgomeister’s daughter from Strahd von Zarovich’s dark embrace. They did manage to gather some valuable intelligence, aided by creative use of the Speak with Dead spell, but at a high price.

On their second night in the village, the half-elven cleric/magic-user decided she would stay in the chapel with the priest in order to witness the parade of ghosts that happens before dawn. The rest of the party decided to stay in the burgomeister’s manor again, to continue protecting the daughter. The night before voices from outside had attempted to get them to open the way, including temptations for the evil cleric, and the pitiful pleadings of a little girl who was apparently killed by wolves when the character on watch wouldn’t let her in.

With the party split Strahd decided to attack the lone adventurer. His agents caused the bell of the chapel to ring, then come crashing down into the main hall. This was followed by a wave of rats, advancing on the frightened priest and the half-elf. She unleashed burning hands on the rodent tide, but there were too many. Grabbing the priest she smashed through the window and fled the burning church, a cloud of bats dropping to assail them as they dashed through the night. She heard the priest scream behind her, but the bats clouded her vision too much to see his fate. No door opened to her frantic banging and no trick or spell she pulled could stem the wave of vermin. Towards the end she realized they were herding her to the manor. She did bang on the door, but instead of asking to be let in she screamed, “Don’t let my sacrifice be in vain!”

Inside the manor the cleric cast Hold Person to stop the thief from opening the door, while outside a great bat flew down and changed into Strahd himself. The party was forced to listen through the door as the vampire beat the half-elf to death and carried off her body, and we had our first character death before they reached the castle.

It was glorious.

The rest of the night went well, with several more moments that were epic, horrific, and absurd. They met another adventurer, a flamboyant knight errant of the Landsknecht on his way to test his luck in Castle Ravenloft, who went on to find romance in its haunted halls. They faced the undead corpses of their dead friend and the little girl. They killed the Heart of Sorrow and restored the Sunsword to its full power. They lit many things on fire.

Many things.

The night ended when they blew up most of one of the central towers, taking out a coven of witches in the process and sending their cauldron hurtling through the night sky, presumably to land somewhere in the village far below.

As night in the real world beckoned we decided to end the session there. The party has gained some powerful advantages but Strahd still prowls the castle halls. To win their freedom the adventures will have to destroy him and cleanse the evil in Barovia.

I had a blast running Ravenloft again and the players were in a fine groove. The player making her generic human fighter a dashing Landsknecht and then romancing the swooning Gertruda was my favorite flight of fancy. This was followed closely by the lawful evil cleric of Romney, God of the 1%, who made a point of pontificating at every chance. Even the character death was delightfully harrowing and gruesome, just perfect for an October adventure.

We have plans to finish the game this weekend, so stay tuned as we see if any of the adventurers will get out alive.

 

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2015 in Fantasy, Gaming, Horror

 

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Delta Green

Delta Green is coming back!

This isn’t exactly a surprise, there’s been word that a new Delta Green was coming out for a while now, but the official press release has some answers to questions I’ve been curious about. Most importantly, what rules set it will be using. The old game used Call of Cthulhu as its engine, but word has been that the new Delta Green would be a stand-alone game.

According to the press release, the main game will still be based on Call of Cthulhu’s Basic Roleplaying Game system. They don’t specify if it will be 6th or 7th Edition, but my money is on 7th edition. However there will be another sourcebook called “The Fall of Delta Green” set in the 1960’s, written by Kenneth Hite, and using the GUMSHOE rules.

Delta Green was originally released in the 1990’s by Pagan Publishing as a massive sourecebook for Call of Cthulhu. The players take on the roles of agents who are members of a conspiracy within the US Intelligence community, one whose members put their lives and sanity on the line to hunt down and destroy elements of the Cthulhu mythos wherever they can and at any price. Delta Green agents know that they can never win against the mythos, their goal is to hold off the coming annihilation and buy humanity a little more time in the sun.

Delta Green had a strong following and was supported by a number of sourcebooks and some wonderfully bleak novels. I’m pleased to see that a new edition will soon be unleashed into the world.

 

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2015 in Gaming, Horror

 

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More Adventures that Write Themselves

Greetings Programs!

(blows dust from the belfry)

This past weekend my amazing wife and I celebrated our anniversary in our usual way; we picked a state park and slipped away for a weekend of hiking and relaxation. We’ve been doing this for a number of years now and this is the first time we’ve gone back to a park we’ve previously visited. The camp is Carter Caves State Park in eastern Kentucky and it offers several lovely trails, plenty of flora and fauna, and a number of cave tours.

There are also plenty of stories to be found, and where you find stories you find adventure seeds.

This early in the season they only have two of their cave tours open. One of these is the Cascade Cave, which is also one of the longest tours and features large chambers and impressive geological features. Cascade Cave is several miles from the park’s lodge and was originally privately owned, with people touring the system since the late 1800’s. This is an active, living cave system with formations still growing and water in abundance.

In the early 20th century the owners of Cascade Cave sought to take full advantage of the system as a tourist destination. First they excavated the entrance, which previously required people to crawl to reach the larger chamber beyond. This larger domed chamber they dubbed “the ballroom”, and making good on the name they would hold dances in it. During prohibition the ballroom took on another role, becoming a subterranean speakeasy.

During this era there was fierce competition to put on the longest and most impressive cave tour. The owners of Cascade realized that the system extended far beyond the Ballroom, so they carried out further excavations. Their efforts succeeded in opening up a much longer system of tunnels that include many beautiful features, including a section where the river flows in and continues to carve out the rock to this day. Occasionally the competition would take a dark turn, with cave owners hiring toughs to break into their rivals’ caves and commit vandalism, carving graffiti into the walls and shattering millennia-old formations, and there is some evidence of this happening in Cascade.

The owners also built a lodge on the surface, directly above the caverns. They sunk a hole down to the cave to use as a ventilation system. By opening up the connection they could draw up the cool air from the cavern, providing natural air conditioning to the lodge. They also sunk a pipe down through the same hole, which they used to pump sewage from the lodge through the cave and straight into the river.

Eww.

They made one further attempt to expand the Cascade Cave tour, having realized that there were even more tunnels reaching deeper into the earth. However this time they used dynamite and the results were not what they’d hoped. Instead of opening the tunnels they caused a massive collapse, burying the deeper caverns for all time. It was a terrible mistake.

Or was it?

“they delved too greedily and too deep, and disturbed that from which they fled, Durin’s Bane.”

-Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring

To the gamer’s mind this all makes perfect sense; opportunistic people delving into closed caverns, holding drunken revels in subterranean chambers, building a hall above the underworld realms and making use of it in such a crass fashion. All they need to do is name the lodge “Heorot” and we have the setting for a modern-day Beowulf.

Were the vandals really sent into the caverns by a bitter rival? Were they cultists out to shatter ancient seals that kept something imprisoned? Or were they incautious adventurers who came to stop the terrors from being unleashed; adventurers who tried and failed, then disappeared leaving no trace except for a disturbingly suggestive set of flow stone formations that an old guide swears weren’t there before. Was the misadventure with the dynamite really an attempt to open the deeper caverns? Or to seal in some subterranean horror, woken from the depths by people venturing too far beyond the sun-lit world.

That’s for your players to find out.

CavernGate

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2015 in Cool Stuff, Fantasy, Gaming, Horror, Spooky Stuff

 

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The Hills Rise Wild!

Happy International Tabletop Day!

Tim over at The Savage Afterworld has sponsored a Blog Hop as a chance for us to celebrate some of our favorite boardgames. For my entry I’ve picked an old favorite, a game of mayhem and madness, The Hills Rise Wild! Released in the year 2000 by Pagan Publishing, this is a light miniatures wargame pitting up to four Lovecraftian clans against each other in a violent battle for the sake of their favorite Elder God.

“It’s an inbreed, corpse-fed, blood-red bonanza! Old Wizard Whateley kicked the bucket! And his precious copy of the Necronomicon, a book of powerful magic, is up for grabs.”

“Pit your team of drooling horrors against your friends in an all-out battle of bullets, brawn and brains.”

-The Hills Rise Wild! Back cover

Full disclosure; I was a playtester for this game.

No, that’s not even close to full disclosure. Pull up a seat while I digress.

It was a golden age for our gaming group; a time when we were still gaming regularly. Not only did we have role playing games on the weekend but a group of us also played in a weekly board game night. For over a year this was a sacrosanct ritual, a break in the week’s doldrums not to be missed. One evening a friend said he’d signed us up to be playtesters for this crazy new game Pagan Publishing was working on. Being old hands at Call of Cthulhu and well acquainted with the company it wasn’t hard to get us to agree to test it out.

And test it we did. For several months this game took over our weekly gaming night, not simply due to a sense of obligation but because we were having so much fun with it. Writing up our after action reports was part of the fun and seeing anything we’d pointed out show up in the next set of rules filled us with more joy than a ghoul in a graveyard. There are in-jokes coined at our first gaming session that still live on with our group* and for years after the game was released it hit our tables with frequency. Somewhere my friend still has the original playtest packet.

In The Hills Rise Wild each player takes control of a familial clan devoted to one of the Elder Gods; The Whateley Clan, the Marsh Clan, the DeGhoule Clan, or the Cult of Ezekiel. The game board represents an old backwoods New England village with the locked Whateley Mansion in the center. The goal of each clan is to search the village for the magical Whateley Seal, use it to unlock the mansion, find the Necronomicon inside, and escape with it back to their summoning circle. With it they will try to summon their Elder God of choice into this world, ushering in an age of madness and death.

Meanwhile the other cults are trying to do the same thing and everyone is armed to the teeth with guns. And bombs. And spells. And… other things. The blood flows quickly and in great quantities.

I love this game.

The map is made up by several thick cardboard squares, lain out by the players at the beginning of the game and adding a level of variety to each session. The artwork was excellent for the time, winning the 2000 Origins Award for Best Graphic Presentation, and it still holds up well today. The characters are represented by cardstock standies with nice representations of the characters. There are also a lot of little chits to represent items or statuses like Stunned or Slammed. Let me say again, lots of little chits.

Do not sneeze on the chit pile. You’ll be finding them for days. Yes, I am speaking from experience.

The Hills Rise Wild is not a board game in the way we look at them today. It’s a fusion of board games and light miniatures combat, taking some of the best elements of both to give the players a fun game that moves fast and rewards tactical thinking. Some of these elements might give a modern gamer pause; Movement uses a tape measure? Clan sheets meant to be printed and written on? The game uses damage tables!

Specifically both a regular damage table and the iconic Brutal Damage Table with such popular results as “Say Goodnight!”, “Have a Heapin’ Helpin’ o’ Hurt!”, and the ever popular “Daddy’s Home!”

It’s also possible for nobody to win the game. On more than one occasion we’ve ended with everyone dead, or the only ones left alive being characters who cannot cast the summoning spell.

The game has been out of print for a long time, but copies still pop up on a regular basis so it shouldn’t be too hard to track one down. You can usually find them for close to the original price of around $40. That’s cheap by today’s standards though at the time it was one of the more expensive games available. An expansion was planned for the game called the Reanimated Clan, which would have added Herbert West and zombies to the game, but it never made it to publication. That’s a shame because we playtested it too and we really enjoyed it.

I would love to see a new edition of The Hills Rise Wild and I think the time is perfect for it. Board gaming is going through its greatest golden age right now and urban fantasy, zombies, and H.P. Lovecraft are all hugely popular. The price points and modern production values could allow for including some impressive miniatures and there are some places where modern design ideas could be incorporated into the game. Add to that the ability to leverage the Pagan Publishing name with Kickstarter and a new generation of Hills fans would be spawned.

But until that day comes I suggest you track down a copy, get a few friends, and start coating the field in blood. You won’t regret it.

HillsRiseWild

*Beware the curse of Slippy Finn!

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Special thanks to Tim from The Savage Afterworld for putting on this Board Game Blog Hop! Make sure to check out the other entries at the links below.

And by all means, have a great day of gaming!

The Savage AfterWorld — http://savageafterworld.blogspot.com/ — Escape: Zombie City by Queen Games

Channel Zero — http://www.channel-zero.net — Thunderstone by Alderac Entertainment

Fractalbat — https://fractalbat.wordpress.com/ — The Hills Rise Wild by Pagan Publishing

The Gibbering Gamer — http://www.gibberinggamer.com – Dragon Dice by SFR (formerly TSR)

Random Encounters (From Ohio) — http://randomencountersohio.blogspot.com – Nano Bot Battle Arena by Derpy Games

Troll in the Corner — http://trollitc.com/author/neilrobinson/ — Star Realms by White Wizard Games

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2015 in Game Design and Mechanics, Gaming, Horror

 

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Reskinning Saltmarsh

Riffing on my review of The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh I got into a discussion on how this adventure would be easy to reskin for other genres. Without further ado, here are some of my ideas.

1. Call of Cthulhu – This one is simple, as the setup for Saltmarsh is practically a 20’s pulp adventure already. The smugglers are gangsters running alcohol who have hired a down-and-out stage magician to rig up the hauntings that keep people away. The alchemist’s hidden lab remains practically unchanged, with the addition of a mythos tome. Otherwise the mansion remains mostly the same.

But since this is Call of Cthulhu we need to add some hooks. Something is wrong with the hooch being brought in by the smugglers. Some people who drink in the speakeasies supplied by the gang seem to go mad and even experience physical mutations. The gangsters captured a few of the worst cases, fitted them with cement overshoes, and sent them to sleep with the fishes. Unfortunately those individuals came back to shore. The gangsters now have them locked in the zombie room.

The rum is being stored in a cave underneath the alchemist’s lab. Magics from his experiments have seeped down into the cavern and infected the alcohol, which has begun mutating certain sensitive individuals into Deep Ones.

The sea elf prisoner on the ship is replaced with a deep one hybrid who has a psychic connection with sea life. The ringleader of the smugglers forces the hybrid to use his powers to allow them to avoid coast guard patrols.

2. Sci-Fi – This one is for Stars Without Number or Traveler fans. The mansion is a derelict research station in deep orbit that was once the property of a private research firm. Rumors say that the crew was killed when something they were working on got loose; a biological weapon, a killer robot, or out of control nano-technology. A former employee for the company claims to have discovered a shutdown code in the now defunct company’s files and is looking for a crew to salvage the stations data core. There are megacorporations who will pay good money for any files remaining in the station’s data core.

Unknown to the players, the threat was neutralized long ago and the station is now being used as a base for space pirates. The alchemist’s lab can be the station’s dormant AI, or a locked down cryo-statsis unit storing inert genetically engineered monsters. This could lead to an unstable alliance between the party and the pirates should the insane AI or the inert creatures be unleashed.

If you are playing Star Frontiers the sea elf prisoner should become a Sathar, alive but in stasis. A live Sathar would be worth more than the entire station and all its contents, if the players can get it to the right person.

3. Cyberpunk – The mansion is turned into a data vault that once belonged to a criminal syndicate. The mob was broken up decades ago but their intranet is still running, protected by an AI armed with high powered black ICE. Rumors on the dark web say that more than one decker has had their mind fried trying to run the node. However the party’s fixer has information of interest to the party. The old gang had blackmail material about one of the team’s powerful enemies. If that information still exists it would be in their old data vault and if the team could recover it, they’d have a powerful weapon against their enemies.

The vault was protected by a dangerous AI, but what they don’t know is that the AI was taken offline a few years ago by enterprising hackers. The vault now serves as a virtual information bazaar where world class deckers come to store and sell their illegally obtained files. Anyone who gets deep enough into the VR environment to discover this will find a very upset collection of capable deckers who will be quick to protect their secret.

Should the AI be brought back online it will determine that anyone it finds inside the data vault is an intruder and will unleash its countermeasures to eliminate them.

4. Pulp Adventure – Another relatively straight forward conversion, this time set during WWII. The mansion is a front for a Nazi spy ring. Or move it to the 60’s and use the KGB.

The hook for the players would be a series of sabotage incidents at factories in the region. Throw in the disappearance of an allied agent and the kidnapping of a senator’s son or daughter (to replace the sea elf) and you’ll have ample reason for agents to investigate the mansion.

It’s likely this will end up being a straight forward raid by the agents on the spy’s lair. For an added twist, as the battle plays out, have something get loose from the alchemist’s lab. Perfect for swerving the adventure from conventional secret agents into Delta Green territory.

5. Role Reversal – The characters are the ones charged with keeping the Sinister Secret, be it a speakeasy or an OSS base in occupied Europe. Let the players come up with ways to perpetuate the scary rumors that keep curious people away. Make them try to spot enemy agents or federal officers and find ways to throw them off the track.

Or the group of meddling kids and their dog.

They may also have to deal with anything they find still hidden in the basement chambers. Or which comes crawling up out of the sea, answering the call of something inside the mansion.

—–

Do you have any classic modules you’ve reskinned for other games? Any more ideas for Saltmarsh? I’d love to hear about them.

SinisterSaltmarsh

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2015 in Cyberpunk, Fantasy, Gaming, Horror, Science Fiction

 

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19th Level Reviews Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition

The blog 19th Level has done a nice review of Call of Cthulhu, 7th Edition.

I’ve been playing Call of Cthulhu since 3rd Edition was the new, shiny hotness. The game has been a staple of our group for decades and we are deeply invested in the system. One of the things I and my group have appreciated is that all six editions have been compatible. Rules changes have been minor and the differences between some editions has been little more than organization and clarifications. I could pick up a book written for 1st Edition and use it in a 6th Edition game with ease.

When we heard that 7th Edition would be making significant rules changes my group and I were concerned. Thoughts of the D&D edition wars came to mind and the specter of that game’s 4th edition were hard to shake.

However 19th Level’s review has helped ease my sanity-deprived mind. While the changes described are significant, it sounds like the core of the game remains intact and that while conversion will take effort, it will still be possible. Unlike new editions of D&D, where compatibility after 2nd edition is virtually non-existent, it appears that Call of Cthulhu will still allow you to mix-and-match your old horrors with new offerings.

Make sure to give his review a look!

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2014 in Gaming, Horror, Reviews

 

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I’m Losing My Mind(s)!

File this one in the “News of the Weird” department.

From The Raw Story, “The University of Texas at Austin has lost about 100 brains stored in jars of formaldehyde.”

The brains had been transferred to the university almost 30 years ago from a state hospital and were stored in the basement. One of the missing brains may have been that of Charles Whitman, the man responsible for the bell tower shootings on the campus back in 1966. Theories of what happened to the brains include students breaking in and stealing them to use as decorations for their dorm rooms.

However I think we gamers know something far more sinister must be at work here. In the United States a State Hospital is usually an asylum for incarcerating mental patients accused of crimes and found not guilty by reason of insanity. This includes violent crimes, such as those of Charles Whitman. Now 100 brains from such an institution have gone missing.

Sometimes the adventures write themselves.

IllithidSlurp2

Or maybe they just have a hungry Mind Flayer living in the university’s steam tunnels.

These can be especially dangerous if they have tenure.

 

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2014 in Horror, Weirdness

 

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