Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Drachenfels

I recently read "Drachenfels", by Jack Yeovil (aka Kim Newman). I was aware of the existence of this book back when it came out in 1989, but I never read it. I was wary of fiction lines based on games, as I still am. However on reading it now with the release of the 30 year anniversary edition I did enjoy it immensely.

One thing that surprised me about was that there is something of the Discworld in this book in that the integration of the undead, and especially Vampires into the cities of the Old World smacks more of Terry Pratchett than it does of my reading of the original WFRP canon from the game books. In the book there is a monastic retreat for vampires, and the undead have their own bar that they frequent in Nuln. There is also a lighthearted tone to much of the novel that also makes me think of Pratchett, even though there is not the same level of humor. Of course WFRP is known for its humour, but in general it comes in a darker more satyrical form in the game material.

Since the protagonist of the novel is a vampire, as are many others in the book, I immediately thought of the use of undead as Player Characters in WFRP. It seems I was not the first, as many others had asked the same question on online forums. They were all met with the same response, at least for 1st ed WFRP. No.

GW thought at the time, and I tend to agree with them now I've thought about it, that vampires are not the right power level for WFRP, and did not at all fit in with the power level or themes of the game. It turns out that for 2nd ed WFRP, in the Vampire Sourcebook, Night's Dark Masters, there are rules for this, even if it pretty much tells you not to use them.

So back to Drachenfels. Back in the day, I may not have read the book, but I did buy the game supplement, Castle Drachenfels. I never ran it, as even then it was clear that it would mean a lot more to you as a player or even a GM, if you had read the book, in the way that is described the castle. As a game book it was also hard to fit into an ongoing campaign, as the Castle itself was nothing but a huge meat-grinder, more reminiscent of a dungeon, or a book of Grimtooth's traps, not quite fitting with the WFRP I played. So I put it on my shelf and did no more.

When I was recently going through my WFRP books, I brought it out again, and was surprised to see that none of the characters in the book are stated out in the game supplement, it really is all about the castle as a dungeon. This seems to me to be a huge oversight by the GW team at the time, as the characters were really well described and fit so well into the Old World, crossing many strata of the society of the Empire, and would have been useful to GMs running many different types of game. Even if they all do mostly die in the book. Where i do see that the castle is a character in the book, in some ways more than Drachenfels himself, the other characters are what actually make the book and the story.

Image result for genevieve undeadI've since bought the second book that has also been re-released in this series by The Black Library, Genevieve Undead. This contains 3 short stories with the same main protagonist. The first, a direct follow up to Drachenfels "Stage Blood" is a wonderful little story full of ideas for a city adventure based on the acting troupe and their theatre, with themes and plots threads brought in from the Phantom of the Opera. This also has a sympathetic character that is a chaos mutant, just as in Drachenfels. These two characters are great ways to think about mutants in the Old World, a lot of whom are mutated through no fault of their own. Sounds like PCs to me!

The other two stories also have the same main protagonist, the titular Genevieve, are placed in other parts of the Empire, and are good, and can be mined for game ideas, but not directly related to Drachenfels lore.

So, if you're looking for a book that's a good read, or is based in the Old World of Warhammer, or has vampires, then I heartily recommend these books. They have almost single-handedly brought back my interest in running or playing WFRP. So much so that when back in the old country, I dug a bunch of these out of storage in my parent's attic and brought them home, in the hope of finding players.

Of course, if you really like vampires, then you will already have read Kim Newman's "Anno Dracula" series. If you haven't, then go do so now. I'm currently working my way through those too. Indeed, the author states that Genevieve Dieudonné is the same character in both series of novels.

Finally, there is an interview with the author to signal this 30 year anniversary on Youtube.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Consent in Gaming


I came across this free pdf pamphlet released by Monte Cook Games on the Call of Cthulhu players facebook group. Considering the reaction there, there's still a lot of work to be done in this area. So, here's a signal boost of the product.
"From fending off an attack by bloodthirsty pirates to delving into dank caverns, roleplaying games allow you to explore and experience things you probably don’t want to face in real life - or to approach topics from the perspective of characters who may be very different than your actual self. This shared experience is intended to be fun for all involved, but RPGs can put characters in life-or-death crises, intense emotional situations, or traumatic environments. Whether it’s body horror in a scary game, violence against children or animals in a fantasy world, flirty, romantic, or sexual relationships in any setting - or numerous other challenging scenarios - the line between fun and awkward, difficult, or downright unpleasant can be difficult to identify, and varies dramatically from player to player."
"Mature or controversial elements can and should be a part of many RPGs. But how do you know what topics to include or leave out of your games? How do you include potentially difficult elements while ensuring that nobody’s game night is ruined? Consent in Gaming gives you the strategies you need to make sure everyone at the table has a great experience, even when the game goes in a challenging direction."
As someone who runs games with people I don't know at gaming stores, and is looking to diversify the people at the table, I'm open to all ideas that can improve the experience for everyone. Again, it's free and only 13 pages long (cover included), and available to download from Monte Cook Games, or through DrivethruRPG. Go have a look!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The Gentleman From Angell Street

As mentioned previously, when I was at NecronomiCon this year, I picked up a book by local Providence writers C. M. Eddy Jr, and his wife Muriel. I had not read any of their wprks, in fact, I still have not read any of their fiction.

The H. P. Lovecraft Literary podcast did an Eddy story, "The Ghost Eater" as their live show at NecronomiCon Providence 2019, and Ken doesn't hold back with his feelings on the story, and as Eddy as a writer.

In fact, is was this performance (which I had to leave before the end, due to gaming commitments) that made me pick up this book in the dealers hall at the Con. I had seen Fenham Publishing on my last visit, and paid them no heed, but now I knew more, I went to the stall and picked up "The Gentleman From Angell Street". Fenham Publishing, is in fact run by a grandson of the Eddys, and publishes all of their works. On purchasing the book, he also included a couple of photocopies of various newspaper articles either by the Eddys, or about them.

This is a very short book, coming in at only 70 pages, and within these pages, there are collected together memoirs written by Muriel E. Eddy, and her husband C.M. Eddy Jr. Since this is a collection of memoirs that were written at various times, and for publication in other places, there is some repetition within them.
I found this version of Lovecraft, as seen by people who spent a lot of time with him personally, as very different to the impression I have of him from other sources (full disclosure, I have not read any other Lovecraft biographies). The first of the chapters, "The Gentleman From Angell Street" is to me the best in the book, and the most engaging. It is also the longest.
There are some of Lovecraft's letters that also pertain to the anecdotes within this book, and it would be super interesting to see them published together in one volume. But that would possibly be well outwith the remit of Fenham Publishing , who put together this book, and the other collected works of both Eddys. It would also be very interesting to learn if the correspondence between Lovecraft and C.M Eddy, which was their only means of communication before the death of Lovecraft's mother, still exists.

In short, this is a short book, but gives a direct insight into the personality of the man, as a friend, and is rather charming, and refreshing to read. Not for someone with just a passing interest in his work, but for those who want to know a little more on the man himself. I'm glad I picked it up.

NecronomiCon Providence 2019. Part IV Purchases

Of course, I could not attend NecronomiCon PVD 2019 without passing through the dealers hall. I did show much restraint, as there were a great many wonderful things on offer, but I did have a bit of a shopping list in mind, especially when it came to the Chaosium stall.

It may have been a few weeks ago now but better late than never!

From the Chaosium stall, I picked up the 2nd edition of Terror Australis. I will be running Masks soon(ish) so this was a must.
Berlin: The Wicked City was there in all its Hardcover glory, before general release. This book looks so pretty, I couldn't not. I don't know when I plan to run games in based in Berlin, but having flicked through it, it certainly could be used as a template for a modern city sourcebook. So, Montreal: The City of Sin anyone? The scenario especially written for the Con was also a must. I didn't manage to get a seat at the table for any of the slots where Jon Hook was running The Shadow Over Providence, but I as a souvenir, as well as a neat little one shot, this was a must. Finally, I picked up the Call of Cthulhu Keeper Decks. These should be useful for many things. I have the pdf already, but pdfs of cards have always struck me as next to useless.

Also in terms of gaming supplies, I went past the second hand stall run by The Outer Dark, I picked up a couple of older books. These guys had a whole bunch of older and some OOP books, and if I had allowed myself, i would have bought a lot of them. In the end I stopped at two. The first was the Miskatonic University sourcebook. This one is not out of print, but still one that should see a lot of use when I run more games in Arkham, especially since I am thinking on doing some more sandbox type games soon. The second I bought there was a copy of the OOP A Green and Pleasant Land. This book was in very good condition, and was being sold for a very reasonable price. I could not say no.

Finally, at the Extra Life game on Friday, I picked up Hypergraphia Volume 2, thereby completing my collection of printed versions of this 'zine. I have also set myself the goal of submitting an article for the issue for the NecronomiCon 2021 edition. There, I've said it out loud.

In terms of non-gaming purchases, I have had my eye on some of the woodcut art by Liv Rainey-Smith of Xylographilia, since the last Ars Necronomica. This year I picked up a print of Signum Advent, which was in the show at the last convention. I like this, as there are mythos and occult references in the print, but they are not overt, and it really has a feel of a print that could have been in an historical work. The other thing I purchased was an elder sign amulet. I can't remember the name of the dealer, but he was aware of the Burnistoun lovecraft sketch, which was kind of niche, even for a Lovecraftian Con. This is a simple amulet, and would make a great simple prop for any game where an elder sign makes an appearance.

Lastly, I bought a copy of The Gentleman From Angell Street by local authors, and friends of Lovecraft, Muriel E. Eddy and C.M. Eddy Jr. I have read this already, and there will be a review posted shortly.

The final item in my haul, was not a purchase, but a gift. Oscar Rios gave all the players at his Sunday table a set of Roman coins, minted for a Kickstarter (I assume the Invictus one), of which he had a few extra. A very kind gesture.







Tuesday, September 3, 2019

NecronomiCon Providence 2019. Part III Upcoming Releases

I do have some hot news from the Con in terms of upcoming games releases from Golden Goblin Games, and Chaosium. 

When  I was playing Cthulhu Invictus with Oscar Rios, he told us of an upcoming book for Invictus, based in Britannica, which will contain the adventure we played in (A Mortal Harvest), as well as at least one scenario by Stuart Boon.

I had games with both Mike Mason, and Lynne Hardy, and had noticed a certain Folk Horror theme to them both, so I asked mike after the game if there was any intention to release these scenarios, maybe along with Scritch Scratch, another scenario with deep folklore roots. His reply was that yes, something along those lines was in their thoughts, but that it wouldn't be British Folk Horror, and would of course contain scenarios based in North America too.

I also asked Mike Mason about upcoming material, some of which he was going to reveal at the Favourite Scenarios panel, but he forgot. What he said in the elevator afterwards was that there were plans to re-release Mansions of Madness and Lovecraft Country for 7th edition.  The fact he mentioned these ones specifically made me think they are near the top of the pile.

Mike also mentioned the release of the previous organised play campaign "A Time to Harvest" as a book. I ran through this campaign as Organised Play events, and am happy to see it finally coming to print, and would be very interested to see what changes have been made through feedback from all the play-testing it essentially got.

Lastly, Mike mentioned there are plans afoot to compile a book (or box set, it is as yet undecided) of short (i.e. 2hr) scenarios.


NecronomiCon Providence 2019. Part II Panels

As I mentioned in my previous post, this time round, I didn't get as to participate in as wide a range of activities at the Con as I had on my previous visit. Mostly due to me participating in more games, but also due to the timing of these games, and what I think was a bit of a change in scheduling of the gaming panels. In 2017, all the gaming panels were in the morning, leaving time for games or other things afterward. Also last time, I don't recall as many games being scheduled over the lunch period. This meant that I missed out on the MUP/Good Friends podcast on the Friday (due to Extra Life), and most of the H.P.Lovecraft Literary podcast due to my game with Mike Mason. Mike said the game was originally slated for a 2pm start, but when the schedule was released, this had changed to a 12.30 start.

I'm okay with missing these, as they were recorded, and will be released, so in the end, I am not missing out on anything.

Another thing that I did not do this time, was tour the town. I had already done the bus tour, and most of the walking tour by myself last time, and our visit to the Athanaeum on our way back from Cape Cod last summer scratched that particular itch too. The only place left on my list to visit is the Library at Brown University, which holds much of Lovecraft's papers, but that will have to wait for the next visit.

The only thing I am a little sad about missing out on was the Ars Necronomica exhibition, as I enjoyed that last time.

But let us not dwell on what I could not do, and more on what I did manage to squeeze in. First the panels that I made it to, either wholly, or in part.

Sermons From the Hill of Dreams: Arthur Machen (Non gaming). My first panel was a non-gaming panel. There were some discussions and introduction to who Machen was, and his relationship to Lovecraft in terms of writing. My favourite quote from the panel was that: "The Dunwich Horror was Uncle Lovecraft covering Arthur Machen's greatest hits!"

The topics also covered were Machen's personal relationships with other authors, and occultists, including the mystic A.E. Waite, and Aleister Crowley. There was also much information on Machen's stories on Grail-lore, which is a vein that I feel should be mined more for scenario ideas, and I will be looking into.

Creating Historical Settings for Call of Cthulhu. with Oscar Rios, Lynne Hardy, Christopher Smith Adair & Mike Mason (M). This was a great seminar in terms of ideas for what to do to research Historical places and eras, and mining them for your games. This was chock full of resources and strategies, and was so good it may even be a post to itself later.

The Cosmic Horror of the Warhammer Universe. with Mike Mason, Molly Tanzer, Mike Goodrich, Meils Hobbs (M), Nicholas Kaufmann.
I missed the bulk of the panel, but arrived in time to listen to the questions. My game had finished in time for me to be there for most of it, but I didn't look at my schedule, and forgot that this panel was on. Still, there were some good conversations on the relationships between the Chaos Gods of the Warhammer universe, and the Lovecraftian Mythos.

One thing that did come out of it that I had not thought of was that there is the suggestion in the Warhammer universe that the Chaos Gods are the only gods that exist in the Universe, and all the others are just the misinterpretation of magic. There was also the hypothesis that all the individual chaos gods are just different manifestations of the one entity that is chaos, which, if you think about the nature of chaos, makes complete sense. Shame I missed the rest of the panel really.

I also hadn't realised Molly Tanzer was on the panel, so afterwards, I went to get one of her books I had brought with me for her to sign, but I was too long in getting back to the room, and everyone had gone. Ah well.

The King in Yellow: Origins, Influences & Lineage. (Non gaming). With Ken Hite, Shane Ivey (M), James Lowder, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and Nicole someone whose surname I did not catch.
A great 'Guerilla Panel' that was not on the con programme, but Ken and Shane really wanted to run, while Ken is still the foremost scholar on Chambers (said whilst looking at his watch). The panel game me some insight into other Hastur mythos to track down, and of some of the other less obvious themes in the books.

How to Game the Weird. With Sandy Peterson, Ken Hite, Shane Ivey, and Nicola Maeve Geist, Dan Harms (M), Badger McInnes.
I have mixed feeling about this panel. For one, the title said weird, but the panel said Horror. Not a big change, granted, but there are lots of tools out there on how to run horror, but really very little on keeping it weird. Secondly, the great Sandy Peterson was there in the flesh, which I hadn't realised would be the case, but also, he kind of repeated a lot of what he has said in videos on his Youtube channel. There were some tit-bits of information that were useful, but I was left with not a great impression of Sandy. He gave the impression he didn't really want to be there. I may be mistaken. Like I said, mixed feelings.

Favourite CoC Scenarios. With Mike Mason (M), Jon Hook, Paul Fricker, Mattew Sanderson, and Sean Branney.
This was again a great panel full of suggestions for scenarios to play, as suggested by some of the CoC authors, including their reasons for their suggestions, whether that be the way the scenario is written, or the subject of the scenario. I won't go into too much details, cos spoilers!

I had also planned to go to Victory at Home and Beyond. Investigators for Social Equality. But that just didn't happen.

NecronomiCon PVD Wrap-up Panel. Not as controversial as previous years. A nice, and surprisingly emotional wrap-up to a great event.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

NecronomiCon Providence 2019. Part I, Games



Last weekend, I participated in my second trip to the bi-annual event that is NecronomiCon Providence. To be quite honest, I had reservations. I had such a great time last time, that I worried the Con would not stand up to my expectations. Thankfully, I was wrong.

 Last time, I posted a post for each day, but this time, I'm breaking it down in terms of events I attended, starting with games. To be quite frank, I think for me, this time was much more centred around the games I wanted to play. I think I went to a lot less panels, and this was partly to do with how the games I really wanted to play were timed. I also think the games panels were a little more spread out in time and place this year, but more of that later.

Image result for lovecraftesqueI arrived later than I intended on Thursday evening, due to a GPS blip taking me through Boston at rush hour, but I did manage to join my table for Lovecraftesque before it was too late. The games was hosted by Matt Hawkes. I say hosted, as he was not the GM. For those that are in the know, Lovecraftesque is a "GM'less storytelling game of brooding cosmic horror". I had never played this game, but I really wanted to try it, so this was the only non-Call of Cthulhu game I scheduled for the weekend. It's a really interesting game, where we all play one character, and take turns in different roles, as GM player and Watchers (not the real titles). What this leads to is a real collaborative game, which in the game we played, led to a more real depiction of weird fiction/horror than any other game I have played. The fact that players are trying to weave together disparate elements that have been dropped throughout the game means some threads are left dangling and unexplained. Whats more, since we are all trying to bring them together, there is less of an expectation by players for everything to be explained. I don't think I'd play this one with my home group, but I enjoyed it a lot, and would play it again.

Day two, Friday, was the big games day, starting in the morning with "After Dark" with Lynne Hardy. This is a modern day game, based on a real life experience Lynne had at a local museum. I won't say any more, as this is an unpublished scenario but, like Scritch Scratch, it has British folk horror elements woven with the mythos. Unlike last time I played with Lynne, my character survived!

This was followed by the Extra Life Charity Event. This was one part I was worried would not live up to my expectations, especially since this year there were 2 Extra Life events, one on Friday and one on Saturday. I need not have worried. By the end of the game (and again, I was fortunate to make it to the end table) my cheeks hurt from smiling and laughing. A great event, which, miraculously, I survived to the end without a character death (although I was a ghoul at the end, which meant, I won, by eating all the other players).

The final game of Friday evening was the gaming event that is "Gatsby and the Great Race". This really is an event as much as it is a game. If you have not played in it, I really must advise you to play if you ever have the chance. Of course, this means finding it at a Con, as you need 15-20 players minimum. In terms of game, I think we had it figured out at the end, but since you are dependent on other people (in other rooms) doing the same, we all died in the end.

We did have a lot of fun doing so, and I got to play with a lot of great players. In the end, I played at tables with Edwin Nagy and Jen Martin at the helm.

Saturday was more sedate in terms of games, with the only game I was registered in being "The Black Orchard" with Mike Mason. Until I was writing this post, I had misread that title as the Black Orchid, which I'm kind of glad about, as it is less spoilery! Being at a table for a real game written and run by Mike (not just at Extra Life) was all I wanted it to be, and I was very glad that I was able to do so. The game was based in the Isle of Man, a little used location even for the British Isles, which have no lack of representation in the game.


The 7th Edition Guide to Cthulhu Invictus - Digital FormatFinally, Sunday had lots of games I wanted to play. I would have loved to have had another game of Cogs, Cakes and Cthulhu with Lynne, but you can't be two places at once. In the end I went for "A Mortal Harvest" a Cthulhu Invictus game with Oscar Rios at the helm. I was surprised to find this was another adventure with baked in British Folklore (my third of the con), as it turns out that Oscar is not only a Roman history buff, but also a Celtic folklore nerd. Who knew! Apparently, the next Cthulhu Invictus book that is in the pipeline is situated in the British Isles, and this adventure will be part of that book, along with other.

I really enjoyed the game, and was very pleased with the pregen that I got, and would take another look at the Invictus game in the Horror on the Orient Express game if I had access to the pile of Pregens Oscar was using for the game. Especially since there was an equal number of male and female investigators to chose from, as the one thing that put me off was my percieved inability to make a female Investigator for that one-shot.

So a great weekend of gaming. I think to the detriment of the rest of the Con in some ways, but since this is the most games I will play till the next Con in two years time, I feel no loss.

Adventurer tally:
Death: 3
Survival: 2
Unsure: 1 (Being a ghoul, is that living?)