Showing posts from June, 2017

Revisiting Hyperborea

Revisiting is a strange word, as I've never actually played Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea (AS&SH). I reviewed it several years ago and I liked what I read, though I wound up using ACKS and Dungeon Crawl Classics. It's been a while since I played an OSR game but as I evaluated options for our upcoming game, I found myself coming back to it a lot. There's a new edition of it due within a few months but this new edition is designed to be fully compatible with the first edition. I will confess that I'll miss the boxed set and coil-bound rulebooks but as a backer of the Kickstarter I'm definitely looking forward to it.

When I first reviewed AS&SH I wasn't particularly familiar with Clark Ashton Smith. However, over the past several years I've read a number of his works and his writings have had a large influence on my Call of Cthulhu gaming. The Book of Eibon had an important role in my campaign as has his creation, Tsathoggua, As my…

Looking for the Perfect OSR Game

Objectively, of course, there's no such thing. So what's perfect for me?
I'm giving it some thought as my gaming group will embarking on an old school campaign this summer. There's a few I'm considering - links go to reviews on this blog. 
High up on the list is ACKS - Adventurer Conqueror King. I've had a lot of fun playing it in the past. It's based on what is probably my favorite version of D&D, the old B/X variant, but adds the sort of crunch that I like. It operates on the premise that characters will eventually become movers and shakers in the world, with rules for running domains, thieves' guilds, etc. On the negative side for ACKS advancement takes a while and it does require a bit more prep than most OSR style game. Prep time is something of a premium for me, as after a break of a few months I'll be resuming part-time pursuit of my Master's at Brandeis this July. My own experience is the prep time does yield excellent dividends, gr…

Call of Cthulhu Actual Play: The Haunted Landscape of Ka'tori

Tuesday, June 15, 1920. Kingsport, Massachusetts

Evelyn Mercer, director of the Mercer Art Gallery had engaged the services of one of her occasional artists, Fredrik Tardiff, to solve a mystery in line with his experiences. Tardiff had been recovering from bouts with the supernatural - he'd returned from Greenland about a year ago after uncovering signs of the lost Hyperborean civilization. Spending the next six months pouring over the Book of Eibon he'd acquired was perhaps not the best idea for his mental well being but he had spent the past several months focused on mundane painting. Unfortunately, most of his former companions were unavailable - some having wisely retired from supernatural investigation, others taking advantage of Prohibition to pursue a life of mundane crime. He'd made the acquaintance of an antiquarian but he was apparently spending time abroad, currently in a yurt in Mongolia uncovering the history of an ancestor who had spent time living among the…

Fiction Review: Thirteen Reasons Why

This is a little out of scope for my blog but I'm aware a number of my readers are the same age as me - somewhere in their forties or fifties with adolescent children. This is a review of Jay Asher's novel which is the basis for the Netflix series of the same name.

Thirteen Reasons Why is the story of Hannah Baker, a high school student who committed suicide. She left behind a set of thirteen audio tapes, explaining why she killed herself and the people who contributed to that. She claims the recipients are being watched and if they don't listen and pass them on the tapes will be released publicly. The novel follows the most recent recipient Clay Jensen, who does not understand why he is considered part of the reason she killed herself, as he cared about her though was never as close to her as he wanted to be.

Hannah feels trapped and betrayed. She has the reputation of a slut, despite having only gone so far as to kiss a few boys and nothing more. She feels betrayed in fr…

Musings on Cthulhu in Colonial America

I say to you againe, doe not call up Any that you cannot put downe; by the Which I mean, Any that can in Turne call up somewhat against you, whereby your Powerfullest Devices may not be of use. Ask of the Lesser, lest the Greater shall not wish to answer, and shall commande more than you. - HP Lovecraft, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
I was talking with one of the players in my gaming group about Call of Cthulhu in Colonial America - specifically the 17th and 18th centuries. Sixtystone Press has a Colonial Lovecraft Country on their production schedule but it is likely safe to say it is a ways out so any Keeper is on his or her own.

I wrote about general gaming in Colonial America last year whilst in Colonial Williamsburg - Another Bucket List Setting - Colonial America. Not a lot has changed on the material available gaming in Colonial America. As I see it, the main products currently usable include:

Colonial Gothic - A game dedicated specifically to gaming in British North America.…

Adam West Was My First Batman

Like many, I was saddened yesterday when I read of the passing of Adam West. When I was a young child, I have to confess I never saw the 1960s Batman series as campy. I treated those zany adventures with absolute seriousness. Of course I laughed, but much as one might laugh in a modern superhero movie with its funny moments.

A large part of that had to be how much Adam West put into his role of Batman. The show itself was awesomely campy but Batman always was serious. A noble crimefighter who would make certain he contributed to the healthy development of his young ward. Who would always do the right thing.

It was popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s to rail against the old Batman show. How Batman wasn't really like that, but rather he was a grim avenger of the night. I couldn't really get into that - I love The Dark Knight Returns and similar takes on Batman but I had too fond memories of the classic 1960s show to ever speak against it. When Adam West spoke at the UConn…

Defending in Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition

Having resumed playing Call of Cthulhu I thought I'd reflect a little bit on the rules changes in the 7th edition - specifically, related to defending. Previous editions of the game were always a little bit vague as to when you could defend. This post is a little bit wonky and probably of most interest to people considering the game.

I'll begin with a little bit of review of how dice rolling works in the 7th edition. In most situations you simply roll percentile dice, trying to roll equal to or below your skill or ability score. There are three types of success:

Normal - you roll equal to or lower than your scoreHard - you roll equal to or under half your scoreExtreme - you roll equal to or under a fifth of your score The game also introduces penalty or bonus dice. When you roll you might have one or more bonus or penalty dice. If you have a bonus die you roll three dice - two dice for your ten's digit and one die for your one's digit. You keep the lower of the two ten…

Film Review: Wonder Woman

After a number of tries, I think the DC Universe films have finally managed to release a film firing on all cylinders. I think Man of Steel had a lot of good points but I think it was a missed opportunity, not showing just how good Superman is. Batman v. Superman was in my mind an improvement but I think it would have benefited from some tightening - the distrust of Superman seemed forced, the incident that caused the Congressional Inquiry was a bit confusing, and it really packed an awful lot into it. On the plus side, Ben Afleck made for a fantastic aged Batman and Gal Gadot's debut as Wonder Woman was a highlight. Suicide Squad seemed primarily to suffer from not knowing what kind of movie it wanted to be, though my younger daughter Jasmine loved it - Harley Quinn is her favorite comic book character. Jasmine and I saw Wonder Woman today and while Harley remains her favorite character, she definitely liked Wonder Woman better than Suicide Squad or any of the DC movies (she'…

More Suspense, Less Punching - Revisiting Call of Cthulhu Scenario Creation

I'm finishing prepping the adventure to resume our old Call of Cthulhu game. One of my exercises was to take a bit of a machete to it, removing mandatory combat encounters and dialing up the suspense. In many games, a handy technique to get the action moving is to throw a bunch of ninjas in. In most games for the Cthulhu Mythos, that's a dangerous undertaking - a bunch of ninjas have a good chance in killing the characters. Unless of course you are going for a Pulp Cthulhu sort of game. In which case throw in the ninjas. Or Nazis. No one ever need feel guilty about punching a Nazi.

What has helped me get back into the frame of mind has been some Lovecraftian reading as well as going through some inspirational material. I love the cover to the GDW/Chaosium 3rd edition Call of Cthulhu rules - the investigators exploring a mysterious keep, looking more like regular people than hardened adventurers. Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward had been on my "need to read…

Cthulhu Dark Kickstarter and Impressions

Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu is probably my favorite RPG. It has a system very well matched for its genre and it realizes its genre fantastically well.

It's definitely an old-school game - in many ways it is a living fossil - you could take an adventure for its 1st edition from the 1980s and very easily use it with the most recent 7th edition, converting things on the fly. If you come from a D&D background, the rules are pretty easy to pick up (I'd argue that Call of Cthulhu is easier to pick up than D&D).

But there are other ways to play a game of Lovecraftian horror, and reasons you'd want to go in that direction, depending on what you are looking for in a game. Call of Cthulhu is very traditional, giving players minimal narrative control. Pelgrane Press' Trail of Cthulhu injects a laser focus on investigation, insuring that no game comes to a halt because of a failed skill roll. One can see that Trail had an influence on the 7th edition of Call of Cthulhu