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...

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

New Cryptworld Skill: Psychiatry

Halloween is fast upon us, so it's time to celebrate with some new content over the next few days! Up first is a new skill for CRYPTWORLD based once again on a skill found in the original Pacesetter CHILL roleplaying game. My version of Psychiatry presented below includes the NPC sanity determination from the original skill, but I've added a little something extra for dealing with the results of fear checks. As always, this skill is not intended to be a factual representation of psychiatry but to emulate the conventions found in horror movies that touch on madness instead.

For added flavor, characters that take the Psychiatry skill may also be interested in taking the Hypnotism skill presented earlier on this blog as well.

Tell me about your early childhood...
*† Psychiatry
Exclusive: Yes
Base: (Pcn+Wpr+Per+Luck)/4
Check: General

Psychiatry is a medical specialty that encompasses the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. Characters with the Psychiatry skill are medical doctors referred to as psychiatrists although they were commonly called alienists from the late Victorian era up until the early 20th century when the term fell out of use. This skill may only be taken if the character has the skill Medicine at the Expert level.

A character with the Psychiatry skill may attempt to mitigate the result of another character’s fear check. After a character makes a fear check, a psychiatrist can immediately make a general Psychiatry check to prevent the character from running away (or hiding) and improve their fear check result by one category. For example, failure on the fear check becomes an S (scared) result, an S result becomes an L (loathing) result, an L result becomes an M (misgivings) result, and an M result becomes an H/C (heroism) result. Failure on the general Psychiatry check means the psychiatrist has had absolutely no effect on the victim’s fear reaction. Unlike the Medicine skill, a psychiatrist may not use Psychiatry for self treatment.

Straight Jacket Required
This skill may also be used to determine if a seemingly insane NPC patient is in fact telling the truth about a supernatural encounter with a thing, or merely making up stories, rambling incoherently, or hallucinating. After a character with Psychiatry spends 1-5 hours (1d10/2 rounded up) with the patient, the CM makes a general check for the PC in secret. If the check fails, the PC is convinced only of the patient’s insanity whether they truly are insane or not. Success reveals the truth as determined by the CM: the patient did indeed experience a supernatural encounter with a thing and is quite sane (or perhaps was driven insane as a result of the encounter), or the patient is completely insane and their persistent belief in or deception about having an imaginary encounter with a supernatural being is symptomatic of their mental disorder.
This Nice Padded Room Awaits You...

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Ravenwick: What's This All About?

What's this? Ravenwick is the beginning of an idea I've had kicking around in the back of my head for a few years now. It's the first in a series of system-neutral locales intended for horror roleplaying games that will include detailed location descriptions and NPCs, both friend and foe. Ravenwick is a fictional seaside town by the windswept moors set in Britain's late Victorian Era and presented in the Gothic horror tradition. It draws inspiration from the horror movies of Hammer Films, the Whitby of Bram Stoker's Dracula, the works of J. S. Le Fanu (particularly his imaginary English village of Golden Friars), Ravenloft's Mordentshire, and more. I'll be sharing elements of the setting here on my blog as the project progresses, then compiling and expanding that material into a published work complete with poster maps. Eventually, I hope to do the same for a fictional Old World "Überwald" setting taking inspiration for Stoker's Transylvania, Le Fanu's Karnstein, Shelley's Barony of Frankenstein, and their interpretations by both Universal Studios and Hammer Films.

Ravenwick is the prominent settlement located in the fictional county of Ravenshire on the eastern coast of England. Ravenshire is the ancestral family seat of Lord Ravenstone who lives with his family at Ravenstone Hall in Ravenwick.

The Village of Ravenwick and surrounding environs will feature:

  • A seaside village on Raven Bay surrounded by dangerous, foreboding cliffs 
  • Superstitious villagers, fishermen, and farmers
  • Prominent old families enduring cursed lives in their haunted ancestral homes
  • Werewolves roaming the windswept moors
  • An imposing lunatic asylum on a hill overlooking the village
  • Haunted ruins dotting the countryside
  • A centuries-old cemetery where the dead do not always rest in peace
  • Ancient pagan sites surrounded in legend and witness to forgotten prehistoric rituals
  • A mysterious African prince recently arrived in England who has taken up residence in the ruins of Norfax Abbey
  • An exciting locale to explore steeped in dark secrets and the supernatural!

In the coming weeks, I will be sharing more details about Ravenwick as well as sneak peaks at the area map as it progresses. And even though this is primarily a system-neutral project, I'll probably throw in some gameable content for CRYPTWORLD and more.

Rocky Cliff with Stormy Sea, Cornwall, 1902 by William Trost Richards

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

New Cryptworld Unsettling Power: Slam

I was recently reading through the old Pacesetter THINGS supplement and rediscovered an Evil Way discipline called Slam that I thought would make a nice addition to CRYPTWORLD. I've rewritten and reworked it as an unsettling power and added a little something extra - your CRYPTWORLD investigator might not be playing the piano for awhile!
Get out. GET OUT!!!!
Slam: This power allows a thing to forcefully slam shut any single portal (door, window, or gate) within a range of 100’ that it has previously shut normally. No amount of human effort can reopen the portal while the slam remains in effect, although the portal can be destroyed by extraordinary means (e.g. using explosives on a door or throwing a heavy object through a glass window). If a character is unfortunate enough to have their fingers caught within the slammed portal, they remain trapped until the thing relinquishes control of the portal and suffer a -20 penalty to DEX for 24 hours afterward. Use of this power costs 5 WPR per round of use.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

New Cryptworld Paranormal Talent: Séance

Séances have long been a spooky staple of ghost stories and horror films. They were a popular form of entertainment during the mid 19th through early 20th century when interest in spiritualism and the occult was high. Most participants were looking to make contact with the spirits of departed loved ones, and charlatans looking to line their pockets off of their grief were in no short supply. In fiction and on film, a medium is typically called in to conduct a séance as a last resort by the victims of a troublesome haunting. The medium goes into a trance to make contact with the offending spirit and help the participants achieve some sort of resolution or closure. The spirit is seldom happy about this. It will manifest itself at the séance in frightening and powerful ways as it speaks through the medium.

For CRYPTWORLD investigators, a séance can be a powerful tool to gather information about what supernatural threats they face. Contact may be made with spirits, both malevolent and benign, to get the answers they seek. Investigators must therefore always be on their guard against not only dangerous things welcomed into their midst but charlatans purporting to be mediums as well. For mediums who are the real deal, however, I present the following new Paranormal Talent for CRYPTWORLD:

Base: (Wpr+Pcn+Sta)/3
Willpower Cost: 50
Check: Specific
Time Required: 30 minutes
Range: NA
Duration: Time of use

A character with this PT may attempt to communicate with spirits of the dead to receive and relay messages from the beyond to the living. Characters possessing Séance are known as mediums. When conducting a séance, the medium typically enters a trancelike state and becomes a conduit for the spirit to communicate with those present. Because of this trance, the medium may or may not remember the event and information obtained from a successful use of Séance. At the conclusion of the séance, the medium should make a general Perception check to remember with failure indicating the medium has no memory of anything that transpired.

A spirit is an incorporeal entity of an individual who has passed on from mortal existence to the afterlife but is not necessarily malevolent. In addition to the spirits of the departed, Séance may be used to contact incorporeal things, particularly ghosts. These attempts are not without risk; incorporeal things summoned by a séance have full access to all their powers and may even choose to manifest and attack the medium or the other participants.

At least three participants (including the medium) are needed to conduct a séance. The participants sit around a table and must join hands either by holding hands or placing their hands flat on the table with thumbs and pinky fingers touching. Conducting a séance also requires total darkness save for a single lit candle placed in the center of the table. All participants in the séance (not just the medium possessing the paranormal talent) must maintain total concentration at all times (i.e. no movement or other actions taken; a successful attack against any character breaks their concentration). In addition to maintaining concentration, the participants must continue to hold or touch hands and not break the circle, and the candle flame must remain lit (e.g. the flame might be extinguished by a thing using the phantom wind1 unsettling power); otherwise, the duration of the paranormal talent comes to an abrupt end.

Use the following key to determine the results of a séance:

L = Limited contact: The medium makes contact with one incorporeal entity (spirit or thing) that can only communicate the answers to yes/no questions nonverbally (e.g. by flicking the candle flame or rapping in a “once for yes, twice for no” fashion).

M = Moderate contact: The medium makes contact with one incorporeal entity (spirit or thing) that can only communicate the answers to yes/no questions verbally using the medium’s voice. Alternately, the medium may make contact with two distinct entities as an “L” result.

H = High contact: The medium makes contact with one incorporeal entity (spirit or thing) that can fully communicate the answers to any questions asked of it verbally using the medium’s voice. Alternately, the medium may make contact with four distinct entities as an “L” result, or two distinct entities as an “M” result.

C = Colossal contact: The medium makes contact with one incorporeal entity (spirit or thing) that manifests itself in the room for all to see and can fully communicate the answers to any questions asked of it directly without having to use the medium’s voice. Alternately, the medium may make contact with eight distinct entities as an “L” result, four distinct entities as an “M” result, or two distinct entities as an “H” result.

K = Not applicable.

Failure of the check means no spirits are contacted by the medium during the séance. The accuracy and truthfulness of any answers provided by the entity is left entirely up to the CM.

1The phantom wind unsettling power may be found in the upcoming MONSTERS MACABRE supplement for CRYPTWORLD.

Design Notes
I won't claim that my version of Séance presented here is in any way an accurate representation of how séances are actually conducted in the real world (aside: I'm not a believer in spiritualism or the supernatural), although I did a lot of reading and research on the subject beforehand. My goal was merely to recreate the atmosphere and experience of a séance similar to what you might see in a horror movie for the CRYPTWORLD tabletop horror roleplaying game. Look more to Dark Shadows or The Legend of Hell House for my influences.

This paranormal talent (PT) is a little more involved than the PTs found in CRYPTWORLD. There are a lot of places where things can go wrong and concentration (by any of the participants) broken. Again, this is meant to emulate the way séances are portrayed in horror movies.

During a séance, there are a lot of opportunities for the Crypt Master (CM) to inject a little more atmosphere and mood into the mix, especially if the medium makes contact with an incorporeal thing. Don't be afraid to use unsettling powers like phantom wind to blow the windows and shutters open and possibly extinguish the focus candle, minor telekinesis to move small objects, or have an object of significance apport during the proceedings.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

New Cryptworld Skill: Photography

Mama don't take my Kodachrome away!
Like the Hypnotism skill posted previously, Photography is another skill found in the original Pacesetter CHILL RPG that didn't make the cut in CRYPTWORLD. Since CRYPTWORLD attempts in part to be a little more contemporary in setting than its predecessor, this exclusion makes sense in our modern world of digital photography where everyone has a camera on their smartphone, an Instagram account, and access to YouTube. Traditional film photography does have its role to play as witnessed in many classic horror movies predating the digital age (both in terms of setting and theatrical release date), so I've decided to add it back in.

Here is my conversion of the Photography skill updated and re-written for the rules and terminology found in CRYPTWORLD:

Exclusive: Yes
Base: (Pcn+Dex)/2
Check: General and Specific

Brown Lady of Raynham Hall
The Photography skill encompasses both traditional still photography and moviemaking requiring the use of film (or photographic plates for early still photography in time periods prior to the late 19th century). Characters with this skill can take photographs or make movies with professional equipment as well as process and develop their work as a general check; failure means something went wrong such as poor lighting, overexposure, uneven development, or the lens cap was accidentally left on. This exclusive skill is not required, however, to use consumer friendly point-and-shoot instamatic cameras and instant self-developing cameras, or when using more modern digital photography including digital cameras and smartphones to take pictures or films.

Characters possessing the Photography skill may also attempt to determine specific facts about  an existing photo or film such as how it was taken, its age, the type of camera, film, or paper used, or if the photo has been faked or doctored in any way. This is a specific check using the Knowledge check result key.

Photography can be a valuable tool when collecting evidence of the existence of the supernatural and preparing to confront it. While this evidence may easily be dismissed as a hoax by the scientific community or general public, those aware of the supernatural’s existence can sometimes find the answers they seek hidden within. The Photography skill can be used to discover information about the subject matter of a photo or film including mundane facts like where and when it was taken, or more esoteric insight as to the nature of the supernatural occurrence or thing depicted. This is a specific check using the Research check result key.
Old Camera - photo by George Hodan

Sunday, August 2, 2015

New Cryptworld Unsettling Power: Apport

In the CRYPTWORLD horror roleplaying game, things (i.e. monsters) can possess certain abilities called Unsettling Powers designed to invoke an atmosphere of fear without necessarily causing physical harm to the PCs. The core rulebook contains ten Unsettling Powers (Bloody Message, Chill/Warm, Extinguish, Minor Telekinesis, Silence, Swirling Mist, Touch of the Grave, Vermin, Voice Projection, and Warp Wood), and the upcoming MONSTERS MACABRE sourcebook will contain ten more including five contributed by yours truly (Haunted Portrait, Mirror Scare, Phantom Wind, Rotting Decay, and Stench of the Grave). Below is an all new Unsettling Power I came up with recently to add a little more chill to my incorporeal undead.

Apported Objects
Apport: A thing possessing this power is able to instantly transfer an object from one place to another in a 100’ range. Unlike minor telekinesis where objects are seen to move and levitate, apport causes an object to materialize out of thin air in solid form from an unknown source. Such objects are typically small (no larger than a book and weighing no more than a brick) and of some personal significance to the thing. The apported object is usually meant to serve as a sign or warning to those witnessing the transference. Apport is frequently associated with incorporeal undead such as ghosts and poltergeists. Use of this power costs 20 WPR for each apported object transferred.
Did the Ghost of Elvis just apport that guitar?!?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

New Cryptworld Skill: Hypnotism

CRYPTWORLD is a horror roleplaying game from Goblinoid Games that is in every way the spiritual successor to the original (or first edition) CHILL RPG published by Pacesetter Games back in 1984. While it still uses the same "old school" Action Table resolution system found in the original, CRYPTWORLD differs from CHILL in that it is missing the original setting material (like S.A.V.E. and The Evil Way) and has also been updated to better emulate the horror movies from the 1980s and early 1990s. And while you can certainly use CRYPTWORLD to run a campaign with a Hammer Horror vibe (horror movies dating back to the late 50s, 60s and early 70s), there are still a few skills missing that were found in the original CHILL that I think fit the classic horror movie genre very nicely, particularly Hypnotism, Photography, and Psychiatry. Since first edition CHILL and CRYPTWORLD are so close mechanically, I decided to go back to the original game and adapt those missing skills for my own games. Here's the first of those skills updated and re-written with the rules and terminology found in CRYPTWORLD specifically in mind.

Exclusive: Yes
Base: (Pcn+Wpr)/2
Check: General

Characters with the Hypnotism skill are able to hypnotize any living human character as long as they agree to be placed under hypnosis of their own free will. Once hypnotized, the subject (the hypnotized character) is under the direct control of the hypnotist (the character possessing the Hypnotism skill). Hypnotism may never be used under any circumstance by a hypnotist to force a subject to do anything that would cause the subject embarrassment, physical harm, or go against their ethical principles. Hypnotism allows the hypnotized subject to:

1. Recall any repressed, altered (e.g. due to the mass implantation or memory alter powers), stolen, or otherwise forgotten memory. The subject will immediately forget any recalled memory upon awakening from hypnosis.

2. Repress any memory by forgetting the event ever happened. The subject will no longer recall the memory after awakening from hypnosis.

3. Later act upon any suggestion implanted by the hypnotist after the subject awakes from hypnosis in response to some trigger event. For example, upon next seeing a particular person or thing as a trigger, the subject will act upon a suggestion to contact the hypnotist immediately to report the sighting.

4. Act as if in a particular emotional state or state of pain upon awakening from hypnosis. Conversely, the subject may be made to act upon awaking from hypnosis as if they are no longer in a particular emotional state or state of pain they were in before undergoing hypnosis.

5. Reveal the name and general nature of any person or thing that is using the demonic influence, domination, manipulation, mesmerize, or similar power against the subject if that information is known. At the CM’s discretion, the hypnotist may contact this person or thing through the hypnotized subject directly who will then communicate with the hypnotist using the subject’s voice. The person or thing holding this undue influence over the subject, however, is not considered to be hypnotized.