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Krampus in Call of Cthulhu

The Krampus and Santa

It’s that time of year, when us Role Players are so soaked in roasted chesnuts and egg nog that we abortively begin plans to make Santa a villain in our Call of Cthulhu campaigns.

Of course, while a magic teleporting elf/weird Christian saint makes for an interesting challenge, the same region of the world that brought us Nicholas and the Christmas tree has an even more appropriate figure available for use in your imaginary monster fighting game of choice.

The Krampus

krampus, yule lord

The Krampus is a mythological figure from Germanic folklore who is in charge of punishing misbehaving children. He carries around branches of birch, tongue hanging out, ready to strike the loutish and greedy.
He is also sometimes depicted as having a burlap sack with which to spirit children away to the Black Forest.

Krampus is an obvious extension of the figure of Pan or the satyr. See Arthur Machen’s story The Great God Pan for more information on a Weird approach to Pan.

As a figure of nature and sexuality, the Krampus could also be depicted as being in cahoots, or an extension of, Shub Niggurath.

Some possible adventure hooks

Call of Cthulhu – In 1920’s rural Pennsylvania, a beast has been emerging and defiling women and stealing children. Locals say it is the Krampus, come to punish us for our godless ways. You suspect that it is something more. Easily ported to the present day, it can be an episode of the X-Files… or a Delta Green adventure.

Dreamlands – The men of Leng in the Dreamlands are also depicted as Satyrs. Is the Krampus a rogue man of Leng, dragging defenseless children off to the slave pits of Leng?

Cthulhu Invictus – The Roman Legions invaded Germany. Perhaps the lands had additional defenses besides barbarians?

How you actually want to portray the Krampus is up to you. Is he a Wilbur Whateley esque goat man half bred with Yog Sothoth? Is he actually the Krampus? A leftover from the age of myth and legend somehow still kicking around? Is he a mask of Nyarlathotep (known to wear the Horned God mask, I believe) or an avatar of Shub Niggurath?

Let me know how you end up using the fun little devil guy in the comments, or on Facebook or twitter!

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Live Play Episode 3 – Delta Green: Convergence (Part 3 of 3)

how do you do fellow kids

In part three of our live playthrough of Delta Green: Convergence, we conclude our adventure and our investigation into the terrifying body modifiers from space, after finding out two of our number have “the pink stuff.”

A definition:

“to flash gordon” – verb, see video below:

As I said at the end of the episode, we’re looking to do Tell Me, Have You Seen the Yellow Sign? next, and we’re preparing to start releasing our mega long Eternal Lies play-through coming up after that. If you have any recommendations for some nice Call of Cthulhu, Delta Green, or Trail of Cthulhu (or whatever) one shots, please let me know.

The players are as follows:

Andrew Baillie as the Game Master
Matt Bevilacqua (me) as Carla Steele
Chris Baillie as Clayton “Bruce” Armstrong
Gino Vasconseles as Sam Wells
Steven Riley as Issac Summers

Let me know if you enjoyed this recording, or if you just want to talk shop, let me know. We’re on Facebook, Twitter, or leave a comment!

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Sherlock Holmes Role Playing Games

Sherlock Holmes By Sydney paget

I don’t really consider myself a game designer, more like a hacky writer, but I have been having a pretty good time working with my friend Andrew developing a Sherlock Holmes inspired Roleplaying game.

We’re basing the game around the literary trope of “the Great Detective”, with Sherlock Holmes being the obvious choice for an initial offering.

Andrew’s put up a playtest document here, on his website Pizza Pranks (which I designed and built for him*). Please, if you’re interested in such things, download it, play it, read it, let me know. It is still in a very very crude, “pre-alpha” state, so please bear that in mind.

*I'd be happy to create a custom website for you as well, just e-mail me and we can talk about it.
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RPG Live Play Episode 2: Delta Green: Convergence Episode 2

Morris_Fletcher_with_Grey_alien

Episode 2 has been released, we’re almost done with Delta Green Convergence. Fair warning: we end on a bit of a cliffhanger.

As I said at the end of the episode, we’re looking to do Tell Me, Have You Seen the Yellow Sign? next, and we’re preparing to start releasing our mega long Eternal Lies play-through coming up after that. If you have any recommendations for some nice Call of Cthulhu, Delta Green, or Trail of Cthulhu (or whatever) one shots, please let me know.

The players are as follows:

Andrew Baillie as the Game Master
Matt Bevilacqua (me) as Carla Steele
Chris Baillie as Clayton “Bruce” Armstrong
Gino Vasconseles as Sam Wells
Steven Riley as Issac Summers

We’re going to try and keep each recording to “about” an hour. In this case, that happened to work out nicely to coincide with the first day of “in game” time. Let me know if you enjoyed this recording, or if you just want to talk shop, let me know. We’re on Facebook, Twitter, or leave a comment!

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Review: Trail of Cthulhu – Soldiers of Pen and Ink

Soldiers_of_Pen_and_Ink

What is Soldiers of Pen and Ink?

Soldiers of Pen and Ink is one of the newest products from Pelgrane Press and their impressive Trail of Cthulhu line of products. If you’re not familiar with Trail of Cthulhu, it is a Lovecraftian investigative RPG which uses the GUMSHOE system to simplify the investigation elements present in Call of Cthulhu. Although it is a divergent product, it is very clearly a love letter to Call of Cthulhu.

Pelgrane Press has consistently put out incredibly high quality supplements for the game, which keeps me coming back despite my play group’s general preference for Call over Trail. A frequent hallmark of Pelgrane supplements, aside from production value, is the historicity of their products. Soldiers of Pen and Ink, by Adam Gauntlett, is set during the Spanish Civil War of Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls.

The premise of the adventure is simple. A friend of the investigators, Ramon, has gone missing in beseiged Madrid, and you must investigate his disappearance. The reality is that Hastur has been spreading his usual business throughout Madrid, and you will run afoul of his Agents of Disaffection who are looking to realize Carcosa on Earth, as per usual. Notably, one of the Agents is Ernest Hemingway, who will beat you senseless if he suspects you are a Fifth Columnist.

EH 6672P

Hastur is presented as he sometime is, as a mneme rather that a tentacled beast or ragged King in Yellow. He infects your thoughts. I know that I’ve seen this idea before, but it is cleverly presented here and the Disaffection versus Hope mechanic adds an interesting spin to the proceedings.

There are a handful of main agents of Hastur, each representing a different medium through which his message is conveyed. The sections with these “bosses” reminded me a bit of Bioshock’s bosses. The twisted Lieutenants of a horrifying fantasy world, meditations on specific themes.

It is interesting to combine Fifth Column paranoia with the Hastur Mythos. The idea that it is possible to fight the King in Yellow’s influence by believing strongly in anything is also interesting philosophically – one interpretation is that the Mask is lies we tell ourselves, and under it lies the truth, the Face of Hastur.

Is it good?

The_King_in_Yellow

I haven’t had a chance to run or play Soldiers of Pen and Ink yet. My suspicion is that it is a longer one-shot, possibly best spread out over two sessions. I also think that despite the wartime setting, this is more appropriate for a group that favors “Purist” play, and passing knowledge of the setting, despite not being necessary, would be helpful. This is also probably not a “beginning” Trail of Cthulhu scenario. For that, I recommend one of Graham Walmsley, the Dance in the Blood or The Watchers in the Sky.

The production values in my PDF are excellent (y’know, for a PDF) and includes 6 pre-filled character sheets for ease of startup, as well as several fun propaganda leaflets from Carcosa.

You can purchase it from Pelgrane Press.

Let me know in the comments, Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ if you’ve had the chance to play Soldiers of Pen and Ink yet and what you thought of it.

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Dracula Dossier Kickstarter

Dracula Dossier

 

Lots of coverage from around the web about the new kickstarter from Pelgrane Press, The Dracula Dossier. The Dracula Dossier kickstarter is a freeform campaign intended for the GUMSHOE powered Vampire/Spy game Night’s Black Agent.

I backed the kickstarter at the LAMPLIGHTER level, which gets me the all important hard copy of the game + prop documents.

I’m a bit worried about the challenge that the freeform campaign presents, both as a Director and as a player.

Check out the The Dracula Dossier on Kickstarter.

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Dreamhounds of Paris on Pinterest

Kiki De Monteparnasse Dreamhouds of Paris Trail of Cthulhu

I got to playtest Pelgrane Press’s forthcoming Trail of Cthulhu RPG setting Dreamhounds of Paris. It was pretty awesome, although it is a very challenging book to both play and run.

(Pelgrane are always making their stuff available to playtest, I’m sure they have more deets on their website.)

Anyways, I thought I’d share a cool tool I used to help me get inspired to run Dreamhounds last year. If you’re not familiar with the premise, the website describes it like so:

From the 1920s to the coming of the Occupation, a new breed of artist prowled the fabled streets of Paris. Combative, disrespectful, irresponsible, the surrealists broke aesthetic conventions, moral boundaries—and sometimes, arms. They sought nothing less than to change humanity by means of a worldwide psychic revolution. Their names resound through pop culture and the annals of art history.

You play as the Surrealists! It’s a lot of fun. And because you play as artists and the game is completely intertwined with the visual arts, I decided to use Pinterest in order to organize the player characters, so that everyone could see what they looked like, and also in order to capture the flavor of their art.

max-ernst-marine-1926-oil-on-canvas

At the same time, I took the opportunity to collect Dreamlands monsters – neither myself nor my players were terribly familiar with the characteristics of the Dreamlands bestiary. I read Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath a few years back but I have terrible retention for things like creatures with improbable names.

Pinterest is actually a very interesting tool to use as a Dungeon Master/Keeper/whatever. I’ve always thought it a pretty poor substitue for something like del.icio.us as a research tool/organizer, but it is absolutely great as a piece of inspiration. I may use it to put together my next campaign; I haven’t had a chance to use it for something I’ve homebrewed, but I can definitely imagine how useful and fun it might be.

Follow Matt’s board Dreamhounds of Paris on Pinterest.

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Pulp Call of Cthulhu Part 2: The Villains

Doctor Mabuse

If you’ve been following us for awhile, you might remember me mentioning I’ve been working on a Call of Cthulhu game where the Player Characters will play as Tarzan, Doc Savage, the Shadow, and other pulp style heroes and characters. (Flash Gordon? Karamenah? The Bride of Frankenstein?)

Lately, I’ve been considering the villains. Reading the latest League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Nemo: The Roses of Berlin, I’ve been inspired by the idea of using the villains of German Expressionist cinema to go against the somewhat more straightforward American heroes.

Think of it: Rotwang, Dr Caligari, Doctor Mabuse. Now, I’m not exactly opposed to throwing in Fu Manchu, Adolph Hitler, and John Sunlight, but I really like the Weirdness of the German contingent – we are still ostensibly dealing with the Cthulhu Mythos here. These are exactly the types to be reading from forbidden tomes.

What do you think? Who are your favorite thirties era villains?

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Uncle Doug is Back

Uncle Doug is Back Cthulhu Dice

A personal favorite blog of mine, Uncle Doug’s Bunker of Vintage Horror Paperbacks, has returned after what seems like forever. Every one of his blog posts is packed to the gills with incredible images and loads of great reminiscence about the golden age of the written word (that’s right). Technically before my time, I still managed to devour plenty of these through library sales and used book stores. And they’re all gone now.

bloch4

A little gem from the most recent blog entry:

The very first time that I remember actually being conscious of the name Weird Tales and understanding that it was a, at the time, defunct magazine was while reading the introduction to the 1971 Scholastic Books collection The Shadow over Innsmouth and other Stories of Horror. I think I actually got a nose bleed trying to wrap my 10 year old brain this collection’s Lovecraftian delights such as The Festival, The Colour out of Space and The Shadow over Innsmouth! And even when I didn’t know what Weird Tales actually was, I sure as hell knew that it must have been something mighty special by the time I finished that collection of stories! It still boggles my mind to this day that Scholastic was peddling Lovecraft to 10 year olds. May the gods bless who ever was on their board of advisers. And on a side note; only after producing a physical copy of the book did my fourth grade teacher Mrs. Sennef let me get away with colour on a spelling test.

I’m definitely interested in hearing what you guys have to say on the subject. It’s hard to relate this to Call of Cthulhu, although I feel like you could probably file this one away under “inspiration.” The lurid and wild illustrations on these covers resemble the inside of a role playing game far more than Lovecraft’s actual stories.

Let me know what you think in the comments or on Facebook or twitter.

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RPG Live Play Episode 1: Delta Green: Convergence Episode 1

I Want to Believe Delta Green Convergence Podcast Cthulhu Dice

I just uploaded our first episode of our Live Play RPG Podcast. There are plenty of other (dare I say better and more professional) RPG podcasts, but if you’re like me and you listen to a gazillion hours of podcasts a week, sometimes you just need something cool to listen to. I personally like these podcasts, we have dozens of hours in the can of Trail of Cthulhu podcasts, so I think we’ll be able to put these out somewhat regularly.

During this episode, we played Call of Cthulhu/Delta Green. We played a scenario in the classic Delta Green Rulebook, the lauded Convergence.

Some of us played a different introductory scenario, Puppet Shows and Shadow Plays, also from the original Delta Green rulebook. Some of us are more interested in Call of Cthulhu than others, and we are all primarily having a good time rather than trying to produce a professional sounding podcast, so listener beware. I know that’s a lot of warnings, so let me just say if you like Fly on the Wall style RPG recordings, this is probably something you’d enjoy. Also, we discuss Delta Green and it’s mythology quite a bit as we get going, so if you’re interested in learning a little about Delta Green, give it a listen.

The players are as follows:

Andrew Baillie as the Game Master
Matt Bevilacqua as Carla Steele
Chris Baillie as Clayton “Bruce” Armstrong
Gino Vasconseles as Sam Wells
Steven Riley as Issac Summers

We’re going to try and keep each recording to “about” an hour. In this case, that happened to work out nicely to coincide with the first day of “in game” time. Let me know if you enjoyed our first recording, there will be more Convergence to come, I really want to know what would make it better/more interesting, or if you just want to talk shop, let me know. We’re on Facebook, Twitter, or leave a comment!