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?!?