Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Games and Media I Enjoyed in January 2018

Inspired by Jack Shear of the Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque blog, I thought this year I would do a monthly recap of some of the roleplaying game products, books, movies, and television shows I enjoyed consuming in the month prior. Jack's monthly recap always introduces me to something new and interesting, and hopefully I'll be able to do the same for others as well. I'll try to keep these related to the theme of this blog unless something really knocks my socks off.

A Note on Spoilers: I will do my best to avoid these when possible and merely whet your interest.

Here are some of the things I enjoyed in January 2018:

Kids on Bikes by Jon Gilmour and Doug Levandowski was the runaway RPG Kickstarter success story of 2017. Inspired by the hit Netflix original series Stranger Things, I eagerly backed this at a level that will eventually score me a hardcover expanded edition copy (plus a shit ton of modules designed by some of the biggest names in the indy RPG scene). I received my first backer reward in January: a PDF copy of the core rulebook (basic, not expanded). I dove right in and have to say I'm pretty impressed with the game.

This is a narrative-style RPG clearly influenced by Fate, Apocalypse World/various Powered By games, Cortex Plus, and perhaps more. It features collaborative setting building and player narrative control and hits all the right notes with regards to diversity and respect for the wishes and boundaries of the participant players. There are six stats—Brains, Brawn, Fight, Flight, Charm, and Grit—each of which is assigned a value of one of the following die types: d4 (your weakest stat), d6, d8, d10, d12, and d20 (your strongest stat). These stats are what you roll when you attempt to do something in the game (Stat Checks), either against a difficulty number or another character's opposing roll. There are degrees of success that decide outcome and narrative control of outcome, with an emphasis on "make failure interesting". When you fail a roll, you earn an Adversity Token you can apply as a bonus to future rolls.

What I particularly enjoyed is how the game handles powered characters, the role of Eleven in Stranger Things for example. The powered character is shared between players as well as the GM. Each player gets some aspect of the powered character to roleplay and make decisions for, be that the power itself, a personality trait or flaw, or how they react to other characters. Any player can activate any of these aspects at any time they feel appropriate during the game, but the player controlling that aspect is responsible for making it happen. The GM can introduce things about the powered character as well. It's very clever and a viable solution to the potential problem of every player wanting powers in a game that includes powers.

I also want to give a shout out to the inspired artwork by Heather Vaughan.

Dark is a German Netflix original series recently dubbed into English and released in the United States.

Pros: A clever science fiction/weird science story with a mystery to unravel akin to Lost, Twin Peaks, or Wayward Pines with hints of Stranger Things.

Cons: You really have to pay attention, more so than you did for Lost. There are many generational characters in several different families over three time periods separated by 33 years—2019, 1986, and 1953*—with some characters played by different actors depending on when the story is taking place**, and then they travel through time. Also the dubbing into English is awkward in many places. It's not as bad as a 1960s Japanese Godzilla flick, but with some characters speaking in English with an accent and others more American in style, at times it reminded me of a dubbed-into-English-from-Swedish Pippi Longstocking movie.

*Don't read anything into the order I listed these. Or do.

**The Wikipedia article has family trees now. Somebody should add stills of the actors. *thumb on nose* Not it!

Out on Netflix. Mildly entertaining, but I think we've jumped the shark now.

If horror roleplaying games have a master authority, it would probably be Ken Hite. I've always enjoyed Ken's work, from the horror roleplaying bible Nightmares of Mine to GURPS Horror and more recently the GUMSHOE RPGs like Trail of Cthulhu and Night's Black Agents. I picked up The Thrill of Dracula as part of the recent Dracula Dossier (for Night's Black Agents) Bundle of Holding.

This book starts with an overview of the original Bram Stoker novel themes and characters. It then goes through almost every Dracula movie made—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Each movie is presented through a synopsis, how it differs from and/or pays tribute to the original novel, some thoughtful criticism, and a section on things you can take away and use at the game table. This last section is not only useful for Night's Black Agents campaigns but any game where the Count makes an appearance. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and discovered a few new Dracula movies I hadn't seen before and now I'm hunting down to watch.

This half hour long vampire tale is from a very short-lived 1975 British television horror anthology series entitled Classics Dark and Dangerous. I learned about this forgotten little gem from a post on a folk horror site. Actress Glynis Johns (famous for her role in Mary Poppins) does an admirable job in the title role having previously appeared in the 1973 horror anthology movie The Vault of Horror. I enjoyed watching this, if only for the original take on the vampire's identity as a beloved member of the community. I only wish it was a little longer to give the quaint English country village where the story is set a chance to grow more as a character in its own right. It might make an interesting campaign setting.

Mrs. Amworth is based on a short story by E.F. Benson. Apparently there is a 2007 remake.

That's all for this month. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, November 18, 2017


Below are some of my house rules I've used to good effect in my CRYPTWORLD games. I'm sharing these so other Crypt Masters (CMs) can give them a try and decide if they appeal to their tastes. Feel free to pick and choose (or totally ignore).

In CRYPTWORLD, the number of skills a Player Character (PC) starts with is randomly determined by rolling 1d10 and consulting the table of p. 11 of Chapter 2: Characters. While this works perfectly fine, it always felt a little too random for my tastes, especially considering that the starting number of paranormal talents has a little more verisimilitude to back it up by linking the values of Basic Attributes (specifically PCN and WPR) to the number of paranormal talents a PC can access. Below are three alternate ways of determining a PC's starting number of skills I have used, with my personal preference being the last.

1. All PCs start with 5 starting skills (the average number of starting skills rounded up). Recommended for games set in the modern era and beyond.
2. All PCs start with 4 starting skills (the average number of starting skills rounded down). Recommended for games set in earlier eras.
3. Starting skills are determined by a PC's PCN (Perception) score. Note that with this method Basic Ability scores, profession, and one profession-related skill must be determined BEFORE selecting other skills in the character creation steps. PCs determine number of starting skills from the following table:

PCNStarting Skills


Steve knows!
Who doesn't love a good bar fight? Smashing a beer bottle on the bar and wielding it like a knife, or throwing a bottle of Jack Daniels at someone's head? And during the zombie apocalypse, sometimes you need to protect yourself by grabbing whatever is handy to use as a makeshift weapon, be it baseball bat, 9-iron, or garden pitchfork. You could even break the blade handle off of an office paper cutter and use it like a machete. Here's a quick rule of thumb I like to use:

Any character may use an appropriate object not normally classified as a weapon as an impromptu melee or missile weapon using their Unskilled Melee score or DEX score (for missiles) at a -20 penalty modifier. If they have a relevant Combat Skill (e.g. Dagger/Knife when using a broken bottle, Short-handled Weapons when using a baseball bat, Sword when using a office paper cutter blade handle as a machete), the penalty to their Unskilled Melee score or DEX score is reduced to -10.

So there you have it, feel free to give these for a spin the next time you break out CRYPTWORLD. If you do, please let me know what you thought in the comments, or feel free to share some of your own CRYPTWORLD house rules. Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 25, 2017

CRYPTWORLD Burial Plots Now On Kickstarter

Just a quick post to boost the signal for Goblinoid Games' latest Kickstarter for Burial Plots, a compilation of five adventures for the CRYPTWORLD horror roleplaying game. Written by Tim Snider, these adventures are also compatible with the original 1984 Pacesetter edition of the horror roleplaying game CHILL*. If you are a fan of CRYPTWORLD or just looking for some great horror adventures to adapt for your own horror campaign, please check it out!

And don't forget to visit Tim Snider's blog The Savage Afterworld for a closer look at the origins behind these original adventures!

*CHILL is a trademark of Martin Caron and is used here without permission. No infringement on this trademark is intended or implied. Goblinoid Games and CRYPTWORLD are not affiliated with Martin Caron or CHILL.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

New Cryptworld Skills: Combat in the Victorian Era

And we're back!

This blog has been on hiatus for far too long. It's time to get back to work now that summer is about to transition into fall, and Halloween is just around the corner. To get things started, I've returned to my mission to bring you new rules for injecting a little Hammer Horror into your CRYPTWORLD games. Hammer Films produced such rich and colorful productions with beautiful period costumes and atmospheric sets I can't help being inspired to recreate that same feeling when I run my games.

Today I have not one but three new CRYPTWORLD skills, this time focusing on combat. While I tend to lean toward the Victorian age in my own games, these new skills could certainly be used in other historical eras including modern times (albeit a bit eccentric). You might have some trouble getting a swordstick past the TSA though...

Exclusive: No
Base: (Str+Agl+Dex+Per)/4
Check: Specific

The swordstick (or cane-sword) is by all appearances a typical men’s walking stick or cane that conceals a rapier-like weapon within. By the late 18th century, carrying a sword in public became increasing less socially acceptable and practically unheard of by the Victorian age. The swordstick allowed gentlemen trained in the art of swordsmanship to carry the weapon on their person without appearing uncouth. The sword parasol is a variant of the swordstick preferred by women of the Victorian era wishing to conceal their socially unacceptable (for the period) knowledge of swordsmanship.

Having the Swordstick skill is not required to use the weapon, but it takes 1 round to withdraw the sword from concealment within the cane. Those possessing the Swordstick skill do not suffer this penalty.

Stick Fighting
I said "Good Day", Sir!
Exclusive: No
Base: (Str+Agl+Pcn)/3
Check: Specific

Stick fighting is a martial art where any type of wooden stick is used as a weapon. Examples include staffs, canes, walking sticks, even umbrellas and parasols. It does not include fighting with heavier wooden weapons like clubs or maces (see the Short-handled Weapons skill instead).

Characters with the Stick Fighting skill at the Expert or Master level may choose to use the unarmed combat results key instead of the armed combat results key to reflect their training and ability to “hold back” their blows. This determination must be made during the declaration step of the Sequence of Play. All others including characters without the Stick Fighting skill may only use the armed combat results key. Anyone fighting with a stick may still make a called shot.

Dry Clean Only!
Exclusive: Yes
Base: (Str+Dex+Agl+Per)/4
Check: Specific

The art of fighting with a cloak was developed by various sword fighting schools during the Renaissance but saw a resurgence in popularity during the Victorian era when one did not walk around armed and armored in polite society. Cloaks may be used to deflect sword blows, cause confusion, obstruct an attacker’s vision, and entangle opponents. Characters trained in this skill are able to entangle their opponents with their cloak, cape or coat.

A cloak has no effect except on a “C” result. A “C” result indicates that the defender has become entangled in the cloak. As long as the defender is tangled in the cloak, they must make a general Agility check each round to remain standing. If they fail the check, they immediately fall down and are considered “on the ground” until they stand up—which also requires a general Agility check. The entangled defender may use no melee skill in attacking, and they defend in melee on column 1 while entangled. See the notes on the Bola in the core rulebook for the defender’s chance to free themselves (or be freed); the same rules apply.

At the Expert or Master level, characters with this skill may also use their cloak, cape or coat as if it were a small shield shifting their defense column one column to the right. All restrictions for shield use apply normally: protects against only two attacks per round and offers no protection from firearms or paranormal attacks.
Steampunk Tony Stark or Pulp Sherlock Holmes?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

New Cryptworld Unsettling Power: Automatic Writing

One of my favorite things about CRYPTWORLD are the unsettling powers, little supernatural abilities for things designed not necessarily to harm the PCs but add flavor, mood, and atmosphere to encounters and trigger fear checks. They are also a lot of fun to design, and I have a few in the recently released MONSTERS MACABRE supplement for CRYPTWORLD and here on my blog that came about from my horror movie viewing. I have to admit to watching horror movies lately through a CRYPTWORLD lens and actively looking for moments that would make great unsettling powers.

Here is a new unsettling power for your CRYPTWORLD games expanded on from the Ghost entry in Chapter 7: Things.

Spirit Writing
Automatic Writing: This power allows an undead thing (typically a ghost) to communicate with the living by temporarily taking control of a character’s hand to deliver a written message or warning. This usually requires the presence of paper and a writing implement such as a pen, but a planchette and spirit board (commonly called a ouija board) may be used instead. This costs 10 WPR per minute. In extreme cases, a knife or other sharp object might be used to carve a message on a surface like a wooden table or a wall at a cost of 10 WPR per round. All written communications resulting from this power will appear to be in the handwriting of the thing using the power. The hand of the character chosen (left or right) will be the same dominant hand the undead thing had in life.
I've got to say "hello" to an old friend...