Sunday, September 14, 2014

Art! Valère Bernard

Just found this guy.  I can't find much about him, other than he died in the 30s.  Some seriously awesome stuff, though - I've just spent the last hour surfing from one image to the next.

(as pointed out below, the picture above is actually by Sidney Sime, who went on to have a unique collaborative relationship with Lord Dunsany. )  I'm leaving it here to avoid confusion by future readers.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Modern Weird Horror Dungeoncrawl: The Movie

So As Above, So Below was not what I expected, at all.  The trailer bills it as a straight up horror movie, but what I got was more of a dark fantasy dungeon crawl, set in modern times.   If anything, it reminded me of a Lamentations of the Flame Princess negadungeon.

The acting was shit, but that's not really what you're going for.  It proceeds at a nice clip, whizzing you along as the hapless fools are forced to go deeper, then deeper, then deeper still.  There's a magical artifact, there's characters with specialties (I'm the translator!  I'm the climber!  I'm the navigator! etc) and.... there's a bunch of set pieces that I'm totally stealing for my next game, so I won't go into it here.

The ending... well.  It's an ending.  Not what I would have done with it, but what do I know from movies, eh?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Lasse Hoile

I first became aware of Lasse Hoile by virtue of his work with Porcupine Tree, a British progressive rock band.  He had done extensive work with the band, providing covers and accompanying artwork, similar to the relationship between Gerald Scarfe and Pink Floyd.  I just posted a video this morning over on the googles by Steven Wilson, the lead singer of Porcupine Tree, that was created and directed by Lasse Hoile that is pretty much the closest thing we'll ever get to a live action Gamma World movie.  Seriously, follow the link above real quick, and tell me I'm wrong.  Mutated animals?  Check.  Mutated plants?  Check.  Weird Pure Strain Humans with gasmasks?  Check.  Sounds like Gamma World to me?2

As long as I was at it, though, I figured I'd collect some of his work here, for your enjoyment.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Planes, Games and Automobiles

Warning: "Back From Gencon" post ahead.

So I just got back from Gencon, had a blast, yadda yadda.

I actually didn't do a whole lot of gaming - a game of Kobold's Ate My Baby and a game of Orks were the only scheduled games I made.  I had Hobomancer scheduled for Saturday at noon, but convinced myself over time that it was actually Sunday at noon, and spaced it completely until around 4 o'clock Saturday afternoon.

Unofficially, I had the pleasure of joining "Dougcon", Doug Kovacs' after hours gaming extravaganza.  Held every evening, an average of 20-30 people showed up to play a massive Dungeon Crawl Classics game.  They were split into groups, and 2-4 GMs were operating in concert, as events in one group would have repercussions on all of the others.  It was named, appropriately enough, Escape From Catastrophe Island.

Doug himself ran several games, Adam Muszkiewicz, several more, Marc Bruner was up in the mix, and yours truly ran a group for the last two nights.

It was chaotic, it was raucous, it was beautiful.  There were ghosts, giant lemur-apes, a Spinner of Doom, slaves, slavers, fish-wizards, weeping angels, cannibals, amazons, lamprey eels, lava flows, corruption waves, giant grasshoppers, plagues, I could go on for days.

Beyond that, I really just did a lot of wandering.  I was really impressed by how much Indianapolis embraces this con - many of the local businesses redecorate, restaurants revamp their menus, and you can sit down at a random table and strike up a conversation with someone about the merits of ascending armor class.  Walk into a bar, and you're more likely to see a geek classic playing on the television than a sportsball game.

The overall impression was that you had slipped into some strange alternate universe where tabletop gaming was the sport of the realm.

And the Dealer Hall.  Ye gods, the Dealer Hall.  Calling it massive is an understatement.  I spent most of a day just going from one booth to the next, saying hello to various creators and vendors, and staring at the spectacle.  Some of the booth designs were just outrageous, and the pageantry on design was absolutely stunning.

As someone else said, that's a whole lot of beard
I was particularly impressed by a group of guys who run a game studio by the name of Travesty Games.  They run games that I want to play.  You've missed out on Deathfear already, but Shindig Machine is still available.  Killball and Psiduel are next on my list, but if they're half as much fun as the first two, it's gonna be awesome.

The highlight of the trip, though, was getting to hang out with my online gaming group, the Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad.  I've been playing with these guys for over 2 years now, and it was absolutely amazing getting to hang out with them.  Various members of the crew and I just down the bars in Indy four nights there, and we had an absolute blast.  The guy on the far right even flew in from Uruguay.  Freakin Uruguay.

Sunday morning, we got together for breakfast and said our goodbyes, and that's when the real fun began.

Apparently, Dallas had some weather while I was gone.  According to my wife, it was rain, and there was thunder, but no big deal.  To hear American Airlines tell it, on the other hand, the Hand of God Himself came down and smote their fleet with wind and rain.  My flight Sunday was cancelled, and rescheduled for 7am the next morning.  Fortunately, Doug Kovacs had mentioned he was staying behind.  I gave him a hand taking down his art, and went to dinner with the Goodman Games crew.  That's when I found out that the flight that I had been rescheduled to had been cancelled, and I was now booked on a flight at 7am Tuesday morning.

So there I was at 2am trying to figure out how the hell I was going to get home, when I came up with the great idea to rent a car and drive back to Dallas on 3 hours of sleep.  It went about as well as you'd imagine.  Fortunately, I had some great new music to listen to, courtesy of late night conversations with Jürgen Mayer and Julian Bernick.  Through storm and wind and ridiculously over-policed stretches of highway in Illinois, I finally made it home around 11pm last night.

Remember that guy from Uruguay?  He was having dinner with his family hours before I made it home.

Despite the drama at the end, it was badass.  I sold it enough to the wife that she's even planning on coming along next year.

Can't wait - thanks everyone whose name I didn't remember!

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Crawl: A Nihilistic RPG

The Setting

Time is Entropy, Gravity is Death ~ The Cursed Creed

There is a grinding certainty to life since the Black Sun Ascended.  Day over day, those that stand out are measured and reduced by the unrelenting pressure of existence, until a smooth surface is all that remains.  Soon even memory fades, and life, such as it is, continues, ultimately undisturbed.

Those unfortunates condemned to this harsh existence measure out their days in terms of length and depth - the lengths they are willing to go to survive, and how far they can burrow.  There used to be Life, but no longer.  Now there is only the Sun and It's Thoughts, and the Cursed who dig deep in a futile attempt to escape Their Wrath.  The charred remains of What Was are all around, scattered like spoiled meat across an unending plain, while the Black Sun looks down with sanguine menace.

The Black Sun has always been there, but It once had a balancing force.  What happened to the Light Sun, no-one knows, but it's gone, and nothing exists to protect Life from the disinterested loathing of it's dark twin.

Direct exposure to the light of the Black Sun causes agony and death, stretched into infinity by the weight of its Thoughts.  The only living beings that survived It's Ascendance were those below ground.  Those who currently live are the direct descendants of those unfortunate few.  Light is an inexorable force, though, and the Black Sun's light has been chasing the survivors ever since.

The Cursed, as they call themselves, are the blasted remnants of life in a universe of decay.  Cannabalistic parasites, sucking a meager existence from the corpse of a long-dead reality.  Once they had nations, races, goals.  Now they are one, scattered though they may be.  United at last in the unending struggle for survival in a reality that abhors them.

Once they had names, but names, like much else, have no use in this world.  There are many words that have gone extinct, like Love, Happiness, and Rest.

Now, all there is only The Crawl.

Each day is the same as the last - all one can do is dig, while the deathly rays of the Black Sun beat upon their backs, worming their way through the cracks and tunnels, chasing the damned souls farther and farther from the surface.  If they stop, they are assaulted by manifestations of the Sun's Thoughts.

The History

The door between This and Everything Else slammed shut when all that was good fled in the face of the overwhelming force of the Black Sun, hoping to trap It within a prison of existence .

Now, all that remains are those who weren't quick enough to get out.  The Sun squats in the center of a black and broken land, it's baleful gaze so strong that it has pulled reality itself around it.  Now it shines down upon everything, crouching in the center of a hollow universe.  Day by day, the All is constricted, pulling tighter and tighter around the Sun, and one day All will be pulled within it, finally ending it's eternal evil.


The Punchline:

The Black Sun is using the characters, and all those still Crawling.  They dig to escape It's Black Light, but their escape provides tunnels for It, pathways that It can use to dig into the foundation of It's reality.  The characters' struggle for survival will ultimately result in the release of the Black Sun from It's prison, as their efforts will weaken the mortar of existence enough to allow the Terrible Thoughts to shatter it completely, and doom everything Beyond.

Black Thoughts should torment the players with this knowledge in any encounter, making sure they understand the futility of their actions, their struggles, and their very lives.

The Game:
  • Identity is Meaningless in the Face of Oblivion - Characters have no names, no races.  They are only Cursed.
  • Only the Strong Survive - Roll 5d6 for your attributes.
  • Knowledge has no Value in a Fallen World - there are no mages.
  • Possessions are Meaningless in an Impermanent World - there are no thieves.
  • If There Is a Higher Power, It Does Not Care - there are no clerics.
  • Life is Endless Conflict - All characters start as 1st level fighters.   
  • Entropy is Absolute - Each hour of real time gameplay, each player rolls 1d4 and deducts that number from a randomly chosen attribute.   If any attribute reaches zero, they die.  Yes, even Charisma.
  • Existence is Random and Without Meaningful Purpose - If they roll a 1, they gain a level.  They still lose the attribute point, though.
  • Any Respite From Reality is Temporary - Blackrock is a rare metal that can hold back the rays of the Black Sun for longer than normal earth (approximately 6 hours).  Normal, solid earth only provides 1 hour of resistance.  Six hour rest restores CON/STA score's worth of HP and 1 randomly determined stat point (never exceeding the original total), 1 hour 1/6 of that amount, but with no stat regeneration.
  • Even Evil is Banal - There are two types of Thoughts - Black Thoughts and Terrible Thoughts.  Black Thoughts worm and slither, sliding through the cracks.  They can be driven off, and sometimes even destroyed.  Thin and flimsy things, they flutter and shiver, preferring to take their enemies unaware, while they sleep or are otherwise distracted.  Terrible Thoughts break and smash.  Huge and Solid, they cannot go where the Cursed have not already been to loosen the earth for their passage.  They cannot be destroyed, only escaped.
  • Everyone Digs Their Own Grave - Anyone without a strength modifier can dig about 15 cubic feet per hour.  For every point of Strength modifier, add 5 cubic feet.

Sample Events

  • The party breaks through into a city, hidden so deep that they are unaware of the catastrophes that have happened above.  The party has to convince the town elders to evacuate before the Thoughts catch up with them
  • The party's tunnel connects with a tunnel being dug by a family.  The father is almost dead, and the child and mother ask to join the party.  A quick examination determines that they will not be able to keep up.
  • The party encounters an abandoned avatar of a long-forgotten god.  It is flickering in and out of existence, it's power almost depleted.  It offers to use the remainder of its power to heal the party, but discovers that he cannot, and flickers out of existence, apologizing as he goes.
  • Cave In!  Anyone who fails a Dexterity check is pinned under a large chunk of rock.  They can amputate their leg, reducing CON/STA by 1/4, otherwise they must be left behind

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Art of Zdzisław Beksiński

Prepare for mind fuckery, because this dude makes Giger look well-adjusted.

There's a whole lot more where this came from, the dude is nothing if not prolific...