Sunday, October 2, 2016

Blog Zeitgiest Roundup: Pulp Middle-Earth

Perhaps it was the release of the Players Guide for Cubicle 7's official 5E Dungeons & Dragons Middle-Earth adaption* at the end of August, but it seems to me that in the last month or so there's been a lot of good discussion in the vein of playing Tolkien's masterpiece with a decided Howardian bent.

While some had explored similar ideas earlier this year, it was really Trey at From the Sorcerer's Skull that really kicked things off, with his post "Middle Earth with More Pulp":

"Know, O prince, that between the years when the oceans drank NĂșmenor and the gleaming cities, and the years of the Fourth Age, there was an Age undreamed of, when realms of Elf, Man, and Dwarf lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars. . . Hither came Aragorn of the DĂșnedain, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a ranger, a wander, a chieftain, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the thrones of Arda under his feet." 
The Red Book of Westmarch
Pitch-perfect bit of writing, that. And I'm not the only one who thought so, as Joshua Dyal at Dark*Heritage was inspired enough to not only dig up some of the most perfect artwork for a project like this, but to brainstorm some of Middle-Earth's pulpiest bits of history.

Frank Frazetta's Gollum
As the month went on, both Josh and Trey revisited the idea specifically to address what to do about the non-humans - Elves, Dwarves, and Orcs (Hobbits being lumped in with the Big People) - and come up with some pretty neat ideas.

Finally, at Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque CJK points out something very familiar in what's supposed to be a Lovecraftian symbol:

Oh, Ftghan.

Which brings up, at least to my mind, a whole other point - Howardian Tolkien is one thing, but Lovecraftian Tolkien? Quite another. From a slightly different perspective Gollum seems very ghoulish, for example, and just what is up with that thing Watching the Doors of Durin, anyway?


*Disclaimer: This, as well as most if not all other links to DriveThruRPG on this blog, go through an affiliate link that pays me if you click it and then buy something.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

High Weirdness Campaign Generator

Having been in a bit of a pulpy mood lately, I was pretty pleased to come across this generator over at HeroPress:


True, it does have a few elements that lend themselves more to The X-Files than Indiana Jones, but there's a lot of overlap in those elements, especially if you up the gonzo quotient in your pulp. And while you can use the name-initial method to run the generator - "Fairies Ran the New World Order" sounds kind of like the start of an urban fantasy campaign - it's also perfectly situated for dice.

What's that? You don't have a d26 handy? Actually, neither do I. Happily, d20s and d6s are both standard, and if we use both that just gives us more elements to work with. For example, if I roll 18 + 3 on the top half that gives me Nazis, Dragons, and Gnomes (. . . maybe this is also a fantasy generator), and 14 + 4 on the bottom "Ruled the Hollow Earth", "Built Atlantis", and "Created the Nazca Lines". These all have possibilities by themselves, but you can't tell me that Hollow Earth Nazis fighting ancient Atlantean dragons for control of places of gnome-made power doesn't sound amazingly off-the-wall.

Thanks to Tim Knight of HeroPress and the original maker of this generator!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Dungeongating!

A setting premise for the pulp-tinged fantasy or fantasy-tinged pulp RPG of your choice.

While knocking about in the East in the 1920s, an English explorer Sir George Lancasterwood-Smith came into possession of a curious stone ring of impressive size immense age. Naturally he had it shipped back to his estates in Berktonshire, where it stood for several years until one foggy, moonlit night when something came out of the ring and ate Sir George's favorite hound.

 In response, rather than do something sensible (like sticking the ring under an American mountain range for sixty years), Sir George moved the ring indoors and engaged all manner of scientists, cranks, boffins, alchemists, and mystics to figure out its secrets. Eventually, they determined that by illuminating sections of the ring in sequence, the inside would shimmer and thin and, if passed through, would deposit explorers - somewhere else.

Somewhere else, in this case, being an immense underground labyrinth, decorated in a vaguely familiar but unidentifiable style that seems to heavily feature skulls. This was, however, less important than the unique and valuable artifacts that kept turning up, inspiring Sir George to lead several expeditions further and further into the maze.

That, of course, is when the monsters showed up.

The bulk of them seemed to be long-dead bodies mindlessly shambling around despite various states of decomposition, but
there were plenty of other creatures seemingly torn from ghost stories and fairy tales, and others that defied sane descriptions. Despite this, Sir George is still recruiting interested parties to investigate the mysterious underworld, perhaps discovering whether the labyrinth has any exit, or whether three are any other living people inside. Some of those studying the ring - or the Gate, as it's now called - also wonder if, by changing the pattern of the light shone on the ring, the Gate could be made to open somewhere else entirely . . .

Thursday, April 28, 2016

90s-Era Sci-Fi Horror Monster Stats From Ken Hite

The other day I was browsing Facebook and the most interesting thing popped up via the Timeline of the Alien and Predator Universe page, and cited as being from the July 1998 issue of InQuest Gamer magazine, specifically the article titled "Terminators: Five Movie Monsters to Torment Your PCs" by none other than Kenneth Hite. What three of these terminators may have been was not specified (though the cover of the magazine suggests, well, Terminators), but the two that were are, of course, a Xenomorph and a Yautja:


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Interlude: Fantastic Heroes & Witchery - "Weird Tales" Style

Before we go on to the magical next section of the Great Multi-Year Retro-Clone Read-Through, I'd like to take a minute to revisit one of the things I glossed over when talking about Fantastic Heroes & Witchery, namely the "Weird Tales" character creation mode.

This intersects nicely with the recent completion of  Hugo Award-nominated blogger Jeffro Johnson's survey of First Edition Dungeons & Dragons' famous Appendix N, which I highly recommend as containing lots of meaty analysis of both the individual Appendix N works and the overall relevance of the list to fantasy gaming, both then and now. Right now, in fact, it's easy to see how FH&W's Weird Tales options (nonhuman races include Primates, Reptilians, and Winged Folk, while classes include Psychics, Riflemen, (Technological) Savants, Sky Lords and Wild-brutes - and that's not even taking the supplemental material into account) line up with the more gonzo, less categorized style Jeffro describes. One important innovation is the implementation of "Earthlings" as a sort of human sub-race - many of the Appendix N entries rely on this "modern-day human gets transported to the Weirder setting" setup.

But for this exercise, I'm going to be aiming for something a little, well, Weirder, and so using the 4d6-drop-lowest attribute-rolling method. My results are:

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Fate Core 2: Electric Boogaloo

Following up on their amazingly successful Fate Core Kickstarter from a couple years back, on Monday the folks at Evil Hat debuted Fate More Part One: From Bits to Books. But don't let the title scare you - while the focus is indeed on printing paper editions of material already available digitally, like last time there's a $10 all-digital buy-in - and it's already worth it, as in less than two days not only has the original goal funded, but the first stretch goal as well:

Yep, a Majestic-12 sourcebook for the Atomic Robo RPG, based on the now-webcomic of the same name. Now, while MJ-12 are, in the comic, presented as the enemies of our favorite wise-cracking robot, this book sounds like it will present them from their own perspective, which should be pretty interesting, and useful. For example, I bet you could easily match it with the fluff from the Monster Hunter International game to do Fate of the Monster Control Bureau.

This revelation also goes to show that there'll be new material available through this Kickstarter in addition to the new printings, and indications are that, like the previous outing, the final results of this are going to be incredible. And of course, if you're new to the system the Fate Core book, as well as a bunch of others (including Spirit of the Century now, I see), are all PWYW on DriveThru.

BREAKING: As I typed this up, the next stretch goal for the Kickstarter was announced - a hardback version of Young Centurions, the nearly-released YA prequel to Spirit of the Century.


What did I tell you? Incredible.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Retro-clone Read-through: Character Creation Part IIb

Hey, it's been a bit since we had one of these - continued from Part IIa. Overall, I think the tweaks that each rule-set gives to the characters it generates - some have more choices for equipment, some have more combat options - reflects my impression of the overall game thus far. Only time will tell if this continues to be the case, however . . .