Friday, December 30, 2011

Contest Ends Tomorrow the 31st!

I recently got a new forum header, which led to the question "What the hell is that thing on the table?" And there's a contest about it!

Go see the picture, and the contest details, here.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Fooling Around with Game Design

So Carcosa and Isle are out and shipping, and I'm waiting on some contributor input before moving forward with the next projects.

In this "between time" I've been doing what we all do at one time or another, fiddle around with the idea of making a completely new game. Whether it will develop into a real thing or not, too early to tell, but it's kept my interest more than similar attempts over the past few years.

If you're interested in seeing what I'm up to (and just maybe get the first look at 2014's hot release!), I'm posting my thoughts and notes in my forum here.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Well That's Going to Be a Bad Influence

Was stuck at the in-law's house yesterday for over 10 hours (and to think I used to dread the holidays when I'd be all alone... note to self: make sure the next wife is an orphan)... I take my notebook on these trips because, well, what the hell else am I going to do?

Didn't get much done because of course the TV had to be on, playing Christmas concert TV specials most of the time. Made me aggressive - but I bet being forced to watch Andrea Bocelli sing with the Muppets would do that for anyone. And remember the 90s when Nightwish was this absolutely bizarre idea? Now here's Tarja Turunen singing in a church in front of Finland's President. Nothing completely ruins a fun thing - retroactively, even - quite like respectability.

Damn yesterday was torture.

So the few notes I did take were all about some rather, ah, interesting monsters and spells. Of the "I did that that zombie attack picture from Grindhouse and I just published Carcosa so let's use those as a new normal baseline and explore where we can go from there," variety.

So that ends up with a bunch of "I can't really use any of this, can I?" stuff.

Oh, look, one of my Christmas presents was a copy of Alan Moore's Neonomicon. I really like Lovecraft and I really like everything I've read by Moore but I'd never even heard of this. How did my wife find it?

(looking around this morning, this is how Moore himself describes it, if you're unfamiliar: "Lovecraft was sexually squeamish; would only talk of ‘certain nameless rituals.’ Or he’d use some euphemism: ‘blasphemous rites.’ It was pretty obvious, given that a lot of his stories detailed the inhuman offspring of these ‘blasphemous rituals’ that sex was probably involved somewhere along the line. But that never used to feature in Lovecraft’s stories, except as a kind of suggested undercurrent. So I thought, let’s put all of the unpleasant racial stuff back in, let’s put sex back in. Let’s come up with some genuinely ‘nameless rituals’: let’s give them a name.")

(also, check out this analysis of the book... I wonder if any of these ideas could work for RPG books?)

After reading Neonomicon most of that "I can't really use any of this, can I?" stuff in my notebook seems rather middle-class now.

Which leaves a couple things that still have potential, and some idea corridors I wasn't before considering are now open.

If you're familiar with Neonomicon, you're thinking the worst of this right now. Which is good, because that sense of dread is the coolest thing ever. But I do have limits, as there are certain things I'm not willing to play out in a game with other people, either at my home table or with random people at a convention, so I wouldn't ask you to do so. But hopefully this can instead be something else entirely that takes you by surprise. That will hopefully be good. And make you think "You can do that?" while looking at it.

(oh, I also received Dread: The First Book of Pandemonium RPG. Haven't read it yet and am not familiar with it at all, although I'm told it should be right up my alley. First thought after a quick page-through is this book has no business being 8.5x11 format and whoever decided that was a good size for RPGs in general, and this one in particular, needs a damn spanking)

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Blog About the Isle of the Unknown

Booberry (the best of the monster cereals, so of course also always the hardest to find...), of the new Giant Evil Wizard blog, is writing a series of posts about Isle of the Unknown and the possibilities therein. Don't know how long Isle will be the focus, but it's the focus right now and that's cool enough.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Carcosa is "The Best of the Best This Year"

Don't take my word for it, go read the review here. Lots of pictures. (see a translated version of the review here)

Also, a new review of the Isle of the Unknown.

Monday, December 19, 2011


I've got a new forum header image.

To celebrate (because packing and shipping hundreds of orders is kind of dull and I need some excitement), there's a CONTEST! With PRIZES!

Details here.

(and the LotFP main site has a new background image as well, have you seen it?)

Friday, December 16, 2011

My Friend Matt is Not Helpful

Well, when he's not designing logos for me he's not.

I'm trying to come up with a good 400 word blurb for Isle of the Unknown's "Featured Product" message on RPGNow.

Since I suck at this kind of this sort of thing. I can make cool stuff, publish cool stuff, talk your ass off about it... but I can't sum it up without being corny.

330 hexes of adventure, with over 100 unique monsters and more magic and mystery than you can shake a stick at! The Isle of the Unknown is a setting that can be inserted in any traditional fantasy role-playing campaign.
That's bland and sucky, right?

So maybe I should get sarcastic. Landed me a wife off of OKCupid, worth a shot.

330 hexes of adventure, with over 100 unique monsters and tons of magic and mystery and more. DAMN is it cool. See that cover art? How cool it is? The coolness of that cover is totally representative of the coolness inside this bad boy. The Isle of the Unknown is a setting that can be inserted in any traditional fantasy role-playing campaign.
hmm. So I ask Matt for some advice. His suggestion?

Without Isle of the Unknown your campaign is as naked, evidently, as everyone on all of my covers.


The orders have been swarming in, and I thank you for that.

(Carcosa is less than 20 copies away from selling more than the original edition expurgated and unexpurgated combined; we're already there if including wholesale orders, but Geoffrey didn't do wholesaling so I feel dirty counting those for this purpose...)

However, actually processing all these orders is slow going! We got a bunch out the door today, we'll get tons more out the door tomorrow (well, it's after 2am so I guess I should say "this afternoon"), and the rest on Monday and we should be all caught up so that orders from that point will all be "shipped the next day." (will try to get all those who paid for 1st class shipping in the group going out tomorrow)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Carcosa and Isle of the Unknown Now on Sale in Print and PDF

Weird Science-Fantasy Horror Setting. 288 A5 size hardcover. Full description of what it is here, PDF preview of actual book contents here.

The PDF version (which comes free with a print order) is an absolute state-of-the-art example of PDF technology, with extensive links, layers, and bookmarking. Click around on the maps.

Isle of the Unknown
Island hexcrawl full of the strange and unusual, suitable for any fantasy campaign. 128 page A5 size hardcover. Full description of what it is here, PDF preview of actual book contents here.

The PDF version (which comes with a print order) isn't quite state-of-the-art with the interior cross-linking as Carcosa, is fully bookmarked and layered.

Both Isle and Carcosa have optional add-ons. 250 of these are available for each book. Each book comes with an A4 sized map printed on canvas-like material and a double-sided full color A3 poster (both sides of the individual posters are shown in the pics here). Extras for each book are 5€ each. They are added by default, so toggle it to "No" if you don't want them. But you want them.

Discount Offer 1
Pembrooktonshire Gardening Society members get 2€ off the print versions of Carcosa and Isle of the Unknown as long as there are extras left for each book. When the extras run out, the discount is reduced to 1€ per book (the same discount Gardening Society members get on all print products in the LotFP store).

Discount Offer 2
Missed out on the Grindhouse Edition? If you buy at least 50€ worth of stuff from the LotFP store (say, the new Carcosa and Isle of the Unknown books), coupon code ULFIRE will get you a 12,50€ discount off the Grindhouse box.

The LotFP Webstore

The Euro is in the crapper right now, so all of you non-Euro currency people can enjoy the best exchange rate in quite some time...!

(finally, right?)

Books Arrived

The books have arrived and have been unloaded.

Two things need to happen before you can buy them:

1- I'm taking my helpers out to lunch now.

2- I have to do all the technical things to get the sales live. There are a good amount of things I couldn't prepare before the books came...

So it'll be some hours until sales go live, but unless I get hit by a truck, everything is in place for it to happen.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Books Not Here

5:50pm and no delivery truck or phone call. Tried calling the printer earlier in the day, couldn't get anyone.

Me and the four people who waited all day here with me are thrilled.

Hopefully tomorrow.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Carcosa/Isle Update

From the printer:

"books have left us and the driver is supposed to call you tomorrow before the delivery."

Tomorrow it is then. No, I have no idea when sales go live. There are books to receive and haul up four floors, pizza to buy for the helpers, and various administrative/cleanup duties to perform first.

But live they will go.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


That's how many PDFs were sold during this past week's Anniversary sale at RPGNow. Quite an increase from last year's 821.

It's done now.


Coming this week, hopefully Tuesday: Carcosa and Isle of the Unknown in print and PDF.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Did I Mention I Was On Google+?

Personal page. (chit chat, general gaming stuff, etc)

LotFP company page. (news, review postings, etc)

(Still waiting a firm confirmation from the printer about the arrival of the new books. I was given a "soft" Tuesday estimate.)

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Bit of Mischief

Just checking my stats...

The #3 search phrase used to find my blog in the past month: "naked elf"
The #10 search phrase: "hot elves"

Those that remember that post are feeling sorry for those web searchers right about now.

You'd think I'd get more hate mail than I do, right?


Last year I ran the big PDF sale and I sold 821 PDFs during the week.

I hit that number less than 45 hours this year.. Still five more days to go.

I take this as meaning interest in and awareness of LotFP is increasing (even the PDFs that sold tons during last years' sale are moving very well again this year) and all this publicity work I do has some sort of effect.

So forgive me if I take a second to pat myself on the back for successfully stacking up a nice buffer against the coming printing bills and then let me try to figure out how to turn discount PDF customers into Carcosa and Isle of the Unknown buyers in a little while. :)

Carcosa Cover - Problem and Solution

Just got the Carcosa cover samples that were sent Thursday.

Two notes: The green moon and stars will be a part of the cover, they just aren't part of these samples. And if these covers are accurate, this book will be a slight touch thicker than the Grindhouse box.

Anyway... I was told at the beginning of last week that delivery of Carcosa and Isle of the Unknown would happen today, the 5th. But on Thursday I was alerted to a problem...

It seems the metallic foil wasn't bonding to the cover material. In this first pic, you can see what we were going for, and how the problems would make the book unworthy of being sold:

The printer even tested pressing a different foil underneath first, hoping the metallic foil would stick to that. The results were better, but not near good enough:

Their suggested fix was the following material:

The printer says this has bonded as it is supposed to, and I've just thumbed it fairly vigorously and it's on there tight. You're going to have to abuse the book a bit to get that to start peeling, I think.

Note that aside from the added green foil (which will likewise now be non-metallic), this is the cover. No title, no marketing blah blah. There will be a thin b&w wrap with all that jazz so it's identifiable on a store shelf (and in distributor warehouses!).

(note that the cover silhouette, in addition to echoing the original edition's, is the same image as the book's frontispiece, seen here.)

This situation might be a happy accident. My intention for the book was to look fancy-dignified, not fancy-gaudy (or at all like a typical RPG book for that matter). Using the metallic foil was shinier and perhaps "more sci-fi," but maybe it was a bit too much flash.

Everything might be delivered at the end of this week, or perhaps the very beginning of next. phew.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Anniversary Week PDF Sale at RPGNow!

Tuesday is Finland's Independence Day. Wednesday is my birthday. Thursday is my wedding anniversary.

Calls for a celebration, and maybe this year it should be the same celebration as last year.

All LotFP PDFs are on sale over at RPGNow for $1.35 each effective immediately, lasting through the 10th.

Spread the word please. :D

Friday, December 2, 2011

It's (Almost) My Birthday!

Today was tax refund day in Finland, so I took my wife out to dinner. Then we hit a bookstore, and she got me my birthday present:

Over 100 stories by over 100 different authors including Lovecraft and Dunsany and Merrit and Blackwood and CAS and Bradbury and Leiber and Kafka and Bloch and Jackson and Campbell and Martin and Barker and Ellison and Brite and King and Kiernan and MiƩville and Gaimon and Ligotti and TONS MORE. Over 1000 pages. Looks to me like a one stop shop for the Weird.

(book's website here)

They also had this hardcover Lovecraft edition, a beautiful looking book, gilded pages and all... but I already have a set of Arkham House hardcovers so I can't really justify the purchase.

Isle of the Unknown and Carcosa PDF Previews

Carcosa preview.

Isle of the Unknown preview.

There is a problem with the Carcosa cover at the printer, apparently the metallic foil isn't bonding well to the cover material. They are sending me a sample of their recommended fix (a different foil I believe), but it didn't arrive today. Independence Day is on Tuesday so even if it shows up Monday, arrrgggghhhhh delays.

(Isle and Carcosa are to be delivered at the same time so a delay on one is a delay for both)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Carcosa: What Is It?

Men of 13 Races fight for life and power, ignorant of their common past.

When other tools fail, Foul Sorcery is wielded without compunction.

Enigmatic and inhuman Space Aliens have crash-landed on the world.

Psionic Warriors turn the tables on the uncaring Great Old Ones with Strange Technology from the stars and beyond time’s provenance, risking Blasphemous Madness and worse to tame the Hostile Planet and push back the darkness... for a time.

CARCOSA is a weird science-fantasy horror setting compatible with traditional fantasy role-playing games. It includes:

  • a new character class: the Sorcerer who summons and controls Cthulhoid entities
  • a new form of magic, including 96 sorcerous rituals
  • an easy-to-use psionics system
  • dice conventions
  • dozens of new monsters
  • tables for the random generation of spawn of Shub-Niggurath
  • 5 colors of the desert lotus
  • countless high-tech weapons and items of the Space Aliens
  • Random Robot Generator
  • technological artifacts of the Great Race and of the Primordial Ones
  • mutations
  • 800 encounters on an outdoor hex map with an area of 34,880 square miles
  • the Fungoid Gardens of the Bone Sorcerer introductory adventure
  • and more, all extensively cross-referenced and indexed!
Carcosa was originally released as a homemade 96 page booklet in October 2008, intended as Supplement V to the "original fantasy role-playing game published in 1974." This new printing is thoroughly reorganized and expanded and illustrated, no longer claims a direct tie to that game, and is presented in a 288 page deluxe hardcover format.

Here are some reviews for the original Carcosa release:
Dragonsfoot reviews by Korgoth, Melan, Spinachat
Grognardia Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Jeff's Gameblog
Some King's Kent

When Carcosa was released in 2008, it quickly became the controversial topic in old school gaming. As a fan I think the controversy was rather ridiculous (not liking it, fine, not buying it because of such content, fine, being outraged by a wholly fictional work to the point where you insult the writer and rage against those who weren't themselves outraged is silly), but even today people verbal take shots at the author in passing (and the book's been out of print for over a year!) so I think a thorough discussion of the portions of the book causing the controversy is in order.

The controversy is due to I believe just four rituals (out of 96 rituals, all of which take up 33 pages in a 288 page book - 18 out of 96 pages in the original edition) in the book, all dealing with dry descriptions of torture.

My own feeling about this is that these ritual descriptions are, if not absolutely essential, then at least overwhelmingly effective at communicating the absolute horrific and alien nature of Carcosa more than all the laser guns and mutant dinosaurs. It makes sorcery forbidden and dangerous in a way we're always told it should be in genre fiction and gaming flavor text, but never seems to be during actual play. It takes the perhaps too-familiar Lovecraftian bestiary and marries it to a magic system that many find beyond the pale. It is, in most situations, unspeakable.

They are not integral parts of play (refs and players must actively choose to make them part of their games), the text does not glorify or condone the acts either in the game or in real life, and nothing suggests that anyone should do these things or be OK with others doing them in real life.

As the publisher of the new version of Carcosa, I realize this will cost me some sales. But that's OK. Carcosa is not for everyone. Nothing is for everyone. Better to stand by the author's vision and intent than censor it or water it down scrounging for every last possible sale.

While I don't believe these disclaimers and warnings will prevent the controversy from flaring up again (argument and outrage pretty much dominated every single discussion about it a few years ago - which is why I spend so much time on it here), I can at least do what I can to get the word out to make sure that people who really would be truly bothered by this sort of thing don't spend their money on it.

Carcosa is the real deal, fearlessly imaginative, with everything dialed up to 11. The wondrous and fantastic, as well as the icky stuff.

Unsure if it would be distressing to you? Here are the author's own words about the whys and wherefores of Carcosa sorcery, including the text of the ritual that caused the most outrage:

Why Carcosan Sorcery Is the Way It Is

Carcosa will not be to everyone’s taste. I certainly have no quarrel with anyone who does not buy it. This post is to explain why I included the level of detail regarding the human sacrifice necessary for most sorcerous rituals on Carcosa.

Carcosan Sorcery is literally INHUMAN.

Humans did not create sorcery. The Snake-Men did. The (now thankfully extinct) Snake-Men originated tens of millions of years before man. These ophidian beings were not only literally cold-blooded, but they were also without emotion or pity. Imagine the eyes of a snake endowed with calculating intelligence, but no conscience whatsoever. These intelligent and amoral beings deeply studied the arcane aspects of existence, and in so doing discovered that a certain measure of control could be exerted over the very powerful Cthulhoid beings infesting both the world of Carcosa and the universe. This control could best be achieved with bloodshed. Snake-Men sorcerers, over countless millennia, honed and perfected their sorcerous arts. This included breeding the sub-human man-apes into the thirteen races of men, so as to be the most efficacious of sacrifices.

The Snake-Men subjected these hapless humans to the most horrific and degrading of fates in pursuit of sorcerous power. So please note: Carcosan sorcery (with its human sacrifice, rape, and torture) was created by an inhuman race that regarded us as we regard laboratory rats. The Snake-Men had as much sympathy for a human baby being sacrificed as we do for our veal dinner.

There is a grim justice in the ultimate fate of the Snake-Men: “At the height of their powers, the Snake-Men destroyed themselves by releasing ultratelluric forces impossible to control” (p. 111 of the expanded Carcosa book). In short, the Snake-Men paid for their sins. They were destroyed by their own sorcery.

Most Carcosan Sorcerers are EVIL.

In swords & sorcery literature, most sorcerers are evil. That is also true on Carcosa. Most sorcerers are reprehensible, disgusting, shocking, cruel, perverse, etc. Only a very few are otherwise, and they generally limit themselves only to the rituals of banishing (which do not require human sacrifice).

“Sorcerers Never Prosper,” or “Sorcery Doesn’t Pay”

The dangers inherent in sorcery are such that precious few sorcerers live to a ripe old age. Most eventually get destroyed by the Cthulhoid entities they conjure and/or attempt to control. Like the Snake-Men, sorcerers pay for their sins. And what the Cthulhoid entities do to sorcerers is a lot more painful than what sorcerers do to their sacrifices.

“So how can I use this kind of sorcery with explicit violence in a game?”

The explicit details can serve these two functions:

They make sorcerers GREAT villains for the player characters to slay. As a player I find it so much more satisfying to slay “the sorcerer who raped and killed adolescents” than to slay “the sorcerer who did some very bad things (details undisclosed)”.
They make PC sorcerers think twice before performing a sorcerous ritual. Several times in my Carcosa campaign, a PC sorcerer would be researching how to (for example) bind a certain Cthulhoid entity, and upon finding out the inhuman things required, DECIDED TO CEASE HIS RESEARCH. (“That price is too high.”) Many players will balk at sacrificing human NPCs when faces are put upon those NPCs, and when horrific details are given for what has to be done to those NPCs. Many players will refuse for their characters to kidnap an 11-year-old White virgin, rape her, and slay her. However, if the requirements of the ritual were vaguely worded (“requires one human sacrifice to be tormented and slain”), fewer players would balk. If the descriptions of the sorcery in Carcosa were less explicit, player character sorcerers would be more likely to engage in human sacrifice. The explicit language actually reduces (though it does not eliminate) the frequency of PCs sacrificing humans.

“Just How Explicit Is the Book, Really?”

M. A. R. Barker’s The Book of Ebon Bindings (published in 1978) was my model. Prof. Barker’s book is full of unflinching, clinical detail of human sacrifice, torture, and rape. Neither his book nor mine has the attitude of “Kewl! Blood and sex! Yeah!” Let us compare two passages from each work:

From the section on how to summon Gereshma'a, He of the Mound of Skulls (pp. 28-29 of The Book of Ebon Bindings): "In each of these three spaces let sacrifices be bound: in the northern pentagon a male human, in the western a female, and in the eastern an infant of not more than seven years...Then shall the evocator praise the Demon Lord and make the sacrifices. The infant shall be held head downward, and its belly shall be slit with the Ku'nur [the jag-edged sacrificial knife of the temple of Sarku]. When the blood is drained, the body shall be flung outside the diagramme."

From the ritual of The Primal Name of the Worm (p. 65 of the expanded Carcosa): “This one-hour ritual requires the sorcerer to stand in cold, waist-deep water and to there drown a Jale male baby. He must rend the corpse with his own hands and spill the blood upon a stone taken from the phosphorescent cave in hex 0607.”

From the section on how to summon Ka'ing (p. 66 of The Book of Ebon Bindings): "[T]wo of the evocators shall go to a female sacrifice, and while one engages in sexual congress with her, the other will slay her with a garrote made from her own hair. Then the other female sacrifice shall be treated in the same wise, and thereafter two female evocators shall perform the same act with the two male sacrifices, save that the garrotes shall be of the hair of the evocatresses instead."

From the ritual of Summon the Amphibious Ones (p. 70 of the expanded Carcosa): “This eleven-hour ritual can be completed only on a fog-shrouded night. The sorcerer must obtain the root of potency found only in ruined apothecaries of the Snake-Men. The sacrifice is a virgin White girl eleven years old with long hair. The sorcerer, after partaking of the root, must engage in sexual congress with the sacrifice eleven times, afterwards strangling her with her own hair. As her life leaves her body, 10-100 of the Amphibious Ones will coalesce out of the mists.”

As one can see, the level of detail and its clinical character is very similar in The Book of Ebon Bindings and in Carcosa. If Carcosa “crosses a line,” then it merely crosses a line that was already crossed 30 years earlier by The Book of Ebon Bindings. I regard M. A. R. Barker as one of the Five Great Men of FRPGs (along with Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson, Bob Bledsaw, and David Hargrave). Prof. Barker’s credentials are impeccable. I am confident that I am on safe and appropriate ground when I use his publications as a guide.

In the end, it’s all merely a game, fantasy, and words on paper. None of it is real.
So if reading descriptions of imaginary aliens doing horrible things to other made-up aliens on a planet 153 light years away from Earth for the purpose of influencing fictional slime/tentacle monsters is truly distressing to you, do not buy Carcosa.

(A final note: By request, a month after its original release, Carcosa was also made available in an expurgated edition, removing the most-complained about elements from the book. After the outcry and the requests for such a thing, after all was said and done after two years of the original edition being on sale in both versions, less than 15% of the book's total sales, including print and PDF, were for the expurgated version. LotFP will not be publishing an expurgated version.)

Get ready everyone... it's going to be another interesting ride.

Any other questions you have about Carcosa?

Keeping Cthulhu Scary

Kenneth Hite's presentation at CelestiCon is available for download here. I'm only four minutes in and so far it's great.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

This Carcosa PDF is Something Else

Holy crap.

Just saw the latest version of the Carcosa PDF.

The book itself is extensively cross-referenced, has a proper index, etc.

The PDF takes all of that and links it within the document.

More than that, Eero (design/layout guy for the project) linked every hex on the maps (and the room numbers of the Fungoid Gardens map) so clicking on it goes straight to the entry in the body of the book.

Not that I look at all that many gaming PDFs, but this one is Pretty Damn Spiffy.

The PDF is included in the price of the printed book, and for those not wanting the physical book, the PDF will be available as a stand-alone product on December 11.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Isle & Carcosa Extras

Isle of the Unknown and Carcosa will each have as extras the cloth map (discussed yesterday) and a double-sided full color A3 mini-poster. 250 copies of each will be available. (contributors get copies as well - 260 of each will be printed total).

The extras will cost 5€ each, and they are optional. But once they're gone, they are gone...

Note that in each pic, two copies of the poster have been laid down to show you what's on both sides.

Isle of the Unknown's poster has the keyed map on one side and an expanded print of Cynthia Sheppard's cover. The original plan involved a dust jacket and it wasn't until the last minute that we decided not to have one, but Cynthia had already completed the larger piece. We haven't told her yet...

Carcosa's poster has Jeff Rients' Periodic Table of Carcosa on one side (redesigned because the original wasn't in high enough resolution for this printing) and on the other a map of Carcosa keyed with relevant locations involved with the sorcerous rituals. Amos Orion Sterns had made a rough of this on his own after the first edition of Carcosa was released, and Geoffrey and I went nuts after seeing it. We really couldn't fit it in the book, but we knew we had to do something with it, so we had Amos tighten up the design and here it is as a limited edition extra.

Oh, my store software won't let me apply the Gardening Society discount to the extras, so Gardening Society members will get 2€ off Carcosa and Isle of the Unknown, even if not ordering the extras. After the extras sell out, the discount will go back to the usual 1€ off.

That means if intend to buy both, you could sign up for the Gardening Society today for 10€ and be saving 4€ next week - and membership gives you 1€ off every print product in the store, always, so you could theoretically turn around and save more money than the cost of membership right away. And you get a kickass membership card!

(figured if I was going to promote something I might as well be completely shameless, right? :D)

Details on Gardening Society membership here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Look at the Isle and Carcosa Maps!

Just got the proofs in for the cloth map extras I'll be offering when the books go on sale next week. These maps will be printed in the appropriate book's endpapers, but I thought it would be good to offer stand-alone maps as well.

I originally planned on doing them in the soft-cloth Ultima style. But those aren't good for a lot of detail, because the ink bleeds too much on that material, and I wanted the hex numbers to show up on these maps. They're perfect for player maps, I think. (hexcrawl exploration purists are going to lynch me for that one, aren't they?) This next shot was supposed to show off the material - it's a soft canvas-like fabric, but the texture of the back of the map didn't show up too well... but you can see a bit more detail on the maps themselves so why not.

Isle of the Unknown - What Is It?

The book should be arriving soon, [Update: The printer tells me Isle and Carcosa will be delivered Monday December 5!].

So. Isle of the Unknown. What is it?

I was going to do some corny-ass hype, but I thought instead I should quote a few things from the emails Geoffrey and I exchanged after I received the draft of the book and we discussed what form the book should take.

Isle of the Unknown is a hard-core and pure old-school product. I write the sort of thing I wish other people would write and publish. I love, love, love the format of Judges Guild's Wilderlands products. This sort of thing moves my imagination, and it has (to my druthers) very little wasted space. It's 99% pure gold.

That's what I am aiming at with Isle of the Unknown. I want all the wonder of the old Wilderlands, with none of the "OK, I've seen that before." Orcs and shit were new back then, but not now. So I've done a Wilderlands[-style] product that is all fantastic and no nostalgia.

Of course I wanted more nuts and bolts detail about the island:

You've got several entries that are "in motion" such as: "2408 A 7th-level cleric in a red surcoat with a white cross is mounting his horse " with a situation then described. I think maybe the "in motion/situation" entries should be part of encounter tables with more permanent features (lairs, statues, settlements, etc) being part of definite hex descriptions.

I think the utility of a product like this is its ability to be used "out of the box" - and I think the "civilized" stuff, and encounter tables, is important to do that. Not saying to nail down names and things like that, but...

Keep on the Borderlands spent "equal time" on the Keep and the Caves of Chaos, for example, all without using names or defining interrelations between people and factions beyond the broadest of strokes, and I think this could benefit from the same approach.
This is what Geoffrey thought of these ideas:

The sort of additions you suggest have always seemed to me wasted space. Even the Keep was little used by us (in contrast to the heavily-used Caves of Chaos).

I remember that James Maliszewski regretted that you didn't give any D&D stats to the people of Pembrooktonshire, and he regretted that you didn't include more mundane stuff in Weird New World. What were you supposed to do? Give stat after stat that said "S 10, I 11, W 10, D 11, C 10, Ch 11"? The Pembrooktonshiretonians are all 0-level guys with 1-6 hp. They need stats about as much as do their chickens, goats, and pigs. It'd be wasted space. And Weird New World doesn't need stats for seals, penguins, and mundane Eskimos.

Similarly, virtually all the people on the Isle of the Unknown are 0-level nobodies with 1-6 hp and stats in the 9-12 range. It matters not whether they are priests, scholars, knights, peasants, bandits, or what-have-you. And do we really need or want a table giving a list of the types of nobodies that might be encountered wandering around the isle? Even their equipment is all common sense: priests don't have weapons or armor, knights have both, peasants are "armed" with pitchforks, etc. I would regard such information in a product as worthless or even kind of condescending.

Hamlets, thorps, dorfs, etc. are also a dime-a-dozen: "The hamlet of _______ consists of 102 people living in 12 thatched, single-room cottages. They are all subsistence farmers. They own nothing besides humble clothes, tableware, and pitchforks." And for the details of the larger villages, I think that's a job for Zak's Vornheim product.

I can't over-emphasize that each hex in Isle of the Unknown covers over 86 square miles of territory. That is HUGE. Thus any encounter table that was even remotely "accurate" as far as giving a realistic chance of encountering the fantastic spot within the hex would look something like:

01-10 It rains.
11-20 You seen some rabbits.
21-30 You meet a peasant digging for mushrooms.
31-40 You step in cowshit.
41-50 etc.
91-99 A dog barks at you.
00 You encounter the fantastic thing described in this product.

(Players would have a truly boring time of it!)

If, for example, I were to erect a man-sized statue in a forest of 86 square miles, it would take forever and a day for someone to find the damn thing. You could probably walk 100' away from it and still not notice it. And that's assuming you knew it was there and were looking for it. If you were ignorant of its existence, you could probably walk through that forest 100 times and never stumble across the statue.

Except for the "OMG, Carcosa has children getting raped!" thing, perhaps the most common complaint I heard was that it was too world-specific. I want Isle of the Unknown to be able to be dropped into any campaign with little or no fuss.

... and then a few nights later I got this email from Geoffrey:

As I was falling asleep last night (in that half-awake half-asleep state) the following idea occurred to me. Then at 4:30 this morning I woke-up and couldn't fall back to sleep because of this idea. As I type this sentence it's 5:09 in the morning.

More than anything else, art in an RPG product needs to be useful. I think back to my early RPG days, and what "sold" me on a product more than anything else? Monster Manual-style art. The day I bought my Holmes Basic set, I also purchased the Monster Manual. It was a no-brainer purchase rather than the PHB or the DMG. Why? Because of the multitude of monster illustrations.

Some months thereafter I went to the store, money in hand, to buy the PHB. Ha! The Deities & Demigods book was sitting there, brand new on the shelf. One look at it (with its MM-style art) and there was no debate: I bought the DDG instead. I could sit for hours looking at the pictures in the MM and the DDG (and, in the next year, the Fiend Folio). The PHB and the DMG? Not so much. Sure, drawings of adventurers are cool, but how can they compare to the compendia of drawings of monsters in the MM, DDG, and FF?

Consider two monsters from the MM that nobody ever uses: the masher and the slithering tracker. (Hell, I literally never even noticed the very existence of the masher for about 20 years!) Why does nobody ever use them? What do they have in common?

No picture.

What if the interior art of Isle of the Unknown is devoted solely to Monster Manual-style (by that I mean relatively small drawings of just the monster itself) drawings of the 108 or so monsters in the book? That's a lot of drawings, but they'd be relatively small. The drawings would make the monsters come alive, unlike the poor masher and slithering tracker.

Plus, the drawings overall would be cooler than the drawings in MM, DDG, or FF. After all, how cool can a drawing of an orc or a brownie be? In contrast, all the monsters in Isle of the Unknown are weird and relatively hard to picture.
How am I going to argue with that?

... so suddenly we had a big art book project and at the same time a balls-to-the-wall hardcore old school Judges Guild-style adventure/setting.

And it's almost here.

Previews from the actual book and looks at the limited edition extras in the days to come.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hail to England!

Cue the Manowar!

Dragonmeet was a smashing success, with very nearly double last years' sales.

Vornheim has officially cracked the 1000 print sales barrier!

Oh, see this post from Zak? If we're talking a good-sized project (64+ page) I split the profits with the writer. He really has made as much as he's said (and has another big fat pile of cash coming from this quarter-in-progress sales).

(.02€/word or 35% profit I think is the figure, your choice, for 32 page or less items... the income is a lot less on smaller projects but my aggravation on the publishing side is just as much as the larger projects, so...)

Two things you get from this info: One, when you buy Vornheim or Carcosa or Isle of the Unknown, the authors are getting paid just as much as I am. That is true for damn few publishers out there.

Two, I'm going to invest more money into your book to make it as nice and cool it can be, and work to promote it, and work to distribute it, more than you are going to and more than most will. Yes, I am a small publisher and I have my limits (nothing has appeared since April because all my resources were tied up with Carcosa and Isle for a long damn time), I can only take on so many projects, and I'm picky, but if you have an idea that might fit with LotFP, maybe you should run it by me and see what we can do.

OK, third thing you should know, there's no guarantees with this system, if sales fall flat on their ass, you don't get anything, but then you didn't risk anything except time an effort. The financial fallout is all mine.

Is that an insane publishing model? Perhaps. But I talked to way too many bands in my time doing my metal zine that were getting absolutely fucked, making money hand over fist for their label yet not able to feed themselves off the exact same record sales. I don't play that way.

It's worked out well so far. I'll stop it only when I have to. And that's entirely up to you guys that buy the stuff.

(no, artists and such don't get a percentage because their work is going to be based on and support the writing. But they still get big piles of cash when appropriate... you don't want to know the Carcosa and Isle art budgets.)

Anyway, I'm off to eat and then to bed... 6am flight tomorrow... BACK TO FINLAND!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Off to London... Saturday: Dragonmeet!

Stop by the table in the vendor room.

Buy stuff.

Or just chat.

I'll have some Isle of the Unknown color proofs with me for those that want a bit of a preview...


When I get back next week it's just writing while waiting for Carcosa and Isle of the Unknown to return from the printer (expected the week of the 5th).

I should be able to show you samples of the cloth map extras that will be available, and I'll start posting more info and then previews for the two books.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Why Playtest an Adventure?

I have my ideas, but I want to hear yours.

Why is it important to playtest an adventure written for publication?

Are the reasons to playtest (or not) an adventure different depending on the game for which the adventure is written?

Friday, November 18, 2011

One Important Ingredient for Weird Fantasy: Total Disregard

Disregard for the rules, disregard for the PCs, disregard for the "campaign plan." Some stuff just is, and how the players work around it (or choose not to) becomes perhaps the defining element of play.

In Dragon #16, J. Eric Holmes said the following about his earlier The Lovecraftian Mythos in Dungeons & Dragons article from Dragon #12 (and mad, mad props to my homeboy over at Zenopus Archives for bringing this stuff to our royal attention) :

In an early version of “the Gods” I said “if Cthulhu breaks out of R’lyeh, everyone in the world must make a saving throw or go insane.” I later reduced this as being a bit too gross.

Too gross? Totally. He was going to let people make a saving throw? That's some Monty Haul bullshit right there.

(I kid, I kid... sort of. But not really. At least in his article the universe ends if Azathoth is killed. No saving throw. Seriously.)

But there seems to be a hedging of bets when it comes to this sort of thing, then and now. "Let's take the edge off, because really, that's not fair. And we need to stat everything even though the text clearly implies some things aren't really meant to be fought, let alone defeated."

Enough of that!

One of the effects in Death Sparkle Doom that I'm putting together at the moment:

"Reverse Character's XP"

So if your character had 1,009 XP, he now has 9,001. Or if he was a high level badass with exactly 100,000 XP, congrats, he now only has 1 XP!

(just my luck that the PC that triggered this effect had 101 XP at the time... that was totally no fun!)

PCs can also have their permanent HP maximum increased, or decreased, d100%. Not such a huge deal either way for a first level character... totally game-changing for a high level character.

The Dancing Queen in Yellow has three possible endings: A great extradimensional elder thing under the control of a depraved cultist, a great extradimensional elder thing under the control of a PC, or a great extradimensional elder thing under the control of no one and going on a rampage. Because it's coming. The summoning happened the day before you found out about it. It's just the controlling ritual that has to be done at a specific time yet to come...

And I can see the red pen being taken to the Monolith adventure when Refs see what its guardian is like. Oh yeah, just by looking at the Monolith PCs gain a level. Refs, do not yet despair for your campaign, for the players will not much like why that happens.

Or maybe as I finish these projects and play them more and start to revise them, I'll chicken out. But if I announce some Constantcon/FLAILSNAILS style Skype playtests with the instruction "roll d20 to determine your character's level at the start of the adventure," you'll know I haven't.

(you don't need sanity mechanics if your goal is to drive the real-life players crazy, you know?)

(I'm on the jazz, man)

(if I didn't have this stuff to do and a few other things I should be doing, I'd do the second Against the Giants review about I3-5... perhaps the best of the early D&D "adventure paths" but for how three small details are handled which largely unravel the whole thing.)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What's the Biggest Map You Find Convenient at the Table?

As far as a physical object, how big is too big to be useful in play?

Over the years there have been sets published with full poster-sized maps. Undermountain had them, I think Dragon Mountain did? World's Largest Dungeon did as well I think, but if they were also supposed to be battlemats (were they? School me!) that might be more forgivable.

But I know I always had trouble using such large maps at the table. They are just... too... big!

I've got a couple projects (Insect Shrine and the Asylum adventure) that when I get around to finishing them just do not have maps that will fit on a standard page (either the usual size or a spread in my A5-sized books).

So what's just right for you? How big is too big for you to use in play?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

People Team Up to Tell Me What to Release!

I was talking to Matt Johnsen about plans as I often do, and he suggested that I release something on a scroll.

Cool idea!

Except... referencing areas other than what you're reading that very moment would be kind of crap. Functionality, damn it...

So I tell my wife the scroll idea. She gets excited because she's thinking I should do an adventure based on a railroad (seriously), Murder on the Orient Express kind of thing (I'm partial to doing something paying homage to Horror Express, a movie I remember terrifying me as a child). "As the train travels to the next place, you just move down the scroll."

"But," I say smugly, "there needs to be elements of player choice in altering the outcome of events. If we came up with ways that players could really influence this train adventure, then it could work."

She answers: "They could decide whether to die sooner or die later!"

I was so proud. She's learning!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Death Sparkle Doom: Why? and First (Recent) Playtest

"Gee, I'm already trolling the busybodies by making a Grindhouse Edition with zombies putting hands up hoohas and putting out Carcosa which portrays evil sorcery as evil. Pushing much more in that direction is fun but we're going to get to a point of diminishing warblegarble returns if we keep pushing that way. How to achieve the same effect in another way?"

That 'effect' being important because as a 9 year old owning the AD&D books, the sense of everyonethinksD&DisevilSatanicI'mgoingtocommitsuicideforplayingit, and I can't let my mother see the insides of the books she's bought me because they have drawings of boobies, and I can't read the Monster Manual at night because some of these pictures are really scary! were as much a part of the base RPG experience for me as "There's this game where you can do ANYTHING and not argue about whether you missed or not!" and I have to pay it forward. ;)

... and after a couple years of publishing, and over a year of seeing TONS of what my peers are doing through my OSR-based retailing on the web and at cons, I have this idea that releases should be events, they should be presented as unique and special things, lest they get lost in the sea of releases, lest the ideas within get ignored once purchased because the whole thing appears so mundane and same-old.

I could point lots of fingers there (and have a bit), but instead of being an armchair internet critic, I get to show 'em how it's done, right?

(and then everyone else sits back and gets to complain that I make a big deal out of everything and oh my god how much cheaper would that have been if he hadn't done that!)

Anyway, my latest outrage technique was to go cute. Present an adventure in the manner of a children's book, nice thick pages, very very bright and colorful throughout. The cover will be influenced by the colors and atmosphere of My Little Pony and the Care Bears.

That will be the new face of fear!

But I need something to put into such a product, right? Flashy is awesome, but it's one thing to make something that gets attention, it's great to do something that makes people feel they need to have it because ohmygodhowawesomedoesthatlook!!!, but it needs to be unique and original and awesome to be worthy of a presentation that's unique and original and awesome. Or else it's all shit.

... I had just the thing in the archives! The adventure was originally run about five years ago or so. It was a little puzzle-based dungeon based on the chromatic dragon color scheme, where solving several different color-based puzzles opened up a passage to go up this mountain; the alternative was to fight their way up to the top. I forget why they were going up there. Was it the observatory where dwarfs had enslaved some hill giants?

I pulled this adventure out a few years ago in an attempt to get it into publishable form. Remember, before deciding I was going to be a publisher, I was just going to have other people publish my work. I was going to submit the adventure to Brave Halfling to publish, but in my "genius" I sent the module straight up its own ass as the five chromatic dragon color scheme was muddled by including ultraviolet and infrared light, microwaves, gamma rays, etc. It turned into a big glop of shit, so I abandoned it and wrote No Dignity in Death instead... and then ended up stipulating so many things concerning the presentation that it didn't make any sense for someone else to release it...

So this "color-based adventure," if it could be brought under control, seemed to fit the "colorful children's book presentation." But it needed something a little more... Tying it in to the whole Duvan'Ku thing and making it a Death x Doom release would give it that little kick. It's been well over two years since Death Frost Doom and over a year since Duvan'Ku got any publication mention (in Hammers of the God), and Death Ferox Doom is in developmental hell, so to speak (how to get rid of the overly Traditional D&D* elements without gutting all the key parts where they are currently included, how to make the social sections of the adventure come truly alive -- the "Here are the tribes!" sections I've written seem static and boring!, and how to present it all so that it's too cool for school are all issues I am struggling with), so I'm not draining the Death x Doom well dry.

So a few weeks of organizing, note taking, general dressing up, and integration of the Duvan'Ku "mythology" (including an explanation of why this place exists and how it would function by those that made it), I had a dungeon ready to play.

It's an "everything you touch messes you up and you have to touch a lot of stuff to beat the thing" type of affair.

The first play-through of the new dungeon concept wasn't a total success.

I mean, the three PCs that went through the thing were suitably messed up. I think the basic setup is good. They conquered the dungeon, but one of them is now 18" tall, another is 20' tall, and before he accidentally popped himself out of existence the third PC was made of mist and enveloped in a field of darkness.

The Problems As I Saw Them (my players can chime in if they like):

  • The PCs destroyed the source of clues in the adventure. I actually had to fudge them not being completely destroyed as they should have been or the whole thing would have gone to shit right away. There needs to be a clue about the clues.
  • I'm getting really awful about the reward/XP thing in adventures**. "This structure protects a treasure!" OK, fine, there's a specific treasure to find at the end. But it's not a pile of gold or silver or anything. And playing shouldn't be a total binary "succeed/fail" proposition. The adventure needs more tangible rewards here and there.
  • Needs more urgency. A lot of the puzzles are tense enough, especially once the players get the pattern of what's going on. "If we touch that one there one of our items is going to go bad... and we have to touch it." But when the players are just guessing or working from wrong assumptions (say, because of destroying the clues...) it becomes a repetitious treadmill of "suffer an effect, then go check to see if it did what we want it to do." Presenting some other dangers so this isn't all being done quite at the PCs' leisure is in order, and the means to provide that is already in the adventure.
  • I used a master effects table for the various elements. So no matter if the players touched a colored energy field, got clawed by a guardian of a certain color, or decided to have fun with colored lotus powder, each color rolled on the same effects table. I think I need to separate that out so while, say, a violet energy field, a violet guardian, and violet lotus (PURPLE LOTUS III!!!!!) will be thematically linked as their effects go, the specific effects should be unique to whatever element is triggering it.

That concludes this edition of "what I wrote while waiting to download the revised Carcosa production PDF with changes made in light of the printing proofs."

* this one's hard to explain. It's just important for me, no matter the underlying system and procedures of play, to have my stuff feel different from traditional D&D. The classic TSR stuff has been done. It's continuing to be done and redone by numerous authors in our scene right now. More power to them, but I want something a bit different and distinct, "this is 2011!", not something that slides comfortably beside what was done in 1980 or a "what if?" experiment or whatever. That's one frustrating thing about the fly-by Weird Fantasy critics, yes, it's a retro-clone kind of thing, but if you embrace its assumptions, playing it leads to a different atmosphere and creative space, and dare I say a whole different game than say OSRIC or Labyrinth Lord if you run a campaign. It's not "a slightly different way to play the same old D&D." At least I don't think so. Or maybe my degree of differentiation is so slight that there effectively is no real difference. Whatever. I follow my muse, you follow yours.

** if LotFP gets a third edition someday, the level system is on the chopping block.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Mayan Calendar Is Wrong... The Universe Ends December 2011... CARCOSA IS AT THE PRINTER!

It's done. At the printer. Coming early December 2011.

Hardcover (thread-sewn binding) with a foil-stamped cover, 288 A5 pages, beautifully designed, generously illustrated... you will bow down in AWE of this thing.

And it's not just going to be a pretty physical item. It's been expanded, reorganized, extensively cross-referenced and indexed. Seriously, Eero Tuovinen has been a damn SUPERHERO preparing this book and making sure it's a thing of both beauty and utility.

I am so excited about this, not only in being able to re-release Carcosa and get it out to a wider audience, but in sparing no expense in making sure it was released in a format that did its contents justice.

Carcosa is a big fucking deal to me. It was the first thing that showed me that this whole old school thing was not only about reclaiming the respect and fan base and not being treated like backward morons for the games we like to play, but that we were going to surge forward and be more than a shadow of days gone by.

The Carcosa controversy was raging when I had the first date with the woman who became my wife. Poor girl had to deal with me taking Carcosa out at the restaurant and ranting to her about how awful and small-minded a lot of people were and that this thing was awesome and those people were wrong!

I feel so excited that this thing is out the door. So full of energy, like this is a weapon that will conquer the world and beyond.

I can't wait to show this thing to you all.

Goddamn I have the best job in the world.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Isle of the Unknown is AT THE PRINTER

Hardcover (thread-sewn for those of you looking out for that), 128 pages, over 120 illustrations, full color throughout.

Should go on sale the first couple days in December.

I hope to make the 'at the printer' announcement for Carcosa tomorrow.

An Odd Quote Pointing Out Why RPGs are a Niche Hobby!

Over at, user Shawn said:

"Of course D&D's game play should be fun enough on it's own. It's a game. If the rules are dependent on story and things the players bring to the game as opposed to what the game itself brings to the table to be fun and enjoyable enough to play, then the game has failed miserably."

To me, that's the entire point of RPGs as opposed to card/board/video games. If the players (including the Referee) bring nothing to the table, there is no game, and there's really nothing for the rules to even do.

The always-active nature of the hobby is the tough sell, I think, and why other entertainment forms are more popular.

"It's like reading, but harder!"

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Zombie Apocalypse Game

I'll admit that the first reaction I had when Goblinoid Games announced Rotworld was "SON OF A BITCH I WAS GOING TO DO A ZOMBIE GAME!!!!!!!"

I quickly calmed down when that little voice in my head said, "haha, yeah, when?"

But looking through the table of contents, I was disappointed to see that it was almost all system. 43 of its 64 pages are system. The Dead Rise and Zombie Creation (another 10 pages) I guess are necessary...

But to me, the heart of a zombie apocalypse game isn't system, it's not even really the zombies. It's finding out what and who's left and how difficult they are to get to and deal with.

Chapter 6: People You Meet (p44-46) and Chapter 9: Corpse Master Tools (p57-61), that's the game in a zombie RPG. "We go there. What's there? Anything useful? How infested is it? Anyone alive? What's their condition and disposition?"

And it's 8 pages out of 64 in the game.

I know it's not fair because I haven't actually read the game, but I can't help but feeling they have it all backwards. Put in a short and sweet system (suitable for "you want to play a zombie game? *BAM* you're ready!" ... and zombie combat pretty much comes down to "Are you surprised? Are you surrounded? If no and no, Are you armed?"), and then tons and tons of support for on-the-fly gaming. Basically a billion and one random charts that cover everything from "what's left in the convenience store?" to "how difficult is it to run I-95 between Jacksonville and St. Augustine?"

Basically the zombie experience is a heaping pile of random encounter charts, reaction rolls, and random treasure charts.

This sounds like I'm challenging myself to do something I don't have any time to do.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Vornheim: The Complete City Kit Promo Video

Zak put this video together awhile back, but I only recently figured out Youtube accounts, and figured if I added my video I should put this up there as well.

LotFP Night Visions Video

This was the ad that was up on the big screen at the Night Visions festival last week. Very NSFW if you need to be told.

Carcosa Will Give Me a Heart Attack

Days away from the print date for Carcosa.

... the artist has been out of touch for almost a week, with four pieces of art still to turn in. He was one of the people who lost power during that big New England snowstorm last weekend. This week has been stressful, to say the least.

But he's now he's borrowed a generator and is uploading the needed files. Nothing like getting everything done at the last minute. :D

One of the pieces is the cover. Here is Carcosa's frontispiece, with the cover being a silhouette of this to call back to the cover of the first edition:

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween? Oh yeah, it is! MOVIE LIST!

You want a Top 10 list of movies to watch to get the Weird Fantasy Role-Playing vibe?


You get the first 10 movies I can think of that fit!

The Blob
Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter

Quatermass and the Pit
The Thing (1982 Carpenter version)
Witchfinder General

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cripes! This Baker Thing Has Legs!

First, thanks to all that bought something during the sale. Big success. :)

On October 11 Vincent Baker made a post on the Forge with the title "Lamentations of the Flame Princess is made of lies!"

I made my comments here on October 14.

But it spreads!

On October 22 Baker's comments were addressed by someone on the RPGSite with the thread "Swine Attack LotFP." It's up to 111 posts with the usual Forge/RPGSite animosity.

Earlier this morning a thread started on "Forge Thread: LOTFP is made of lies." This one's going to weird places (see this reply as an example).


I will once again state that I don't see how Baker thought there would be moral grounding within the game (I intentionally removed any such thing - A Stranger Storm doesn't work at all if morality is mechanically enforced or even tracked - the fun is in watching the players squirm as they try to decide what to do!). I don't think Baker really was attacking the game at all and he had fun playing even if he made some incorrect assumptions out of the gate.

I also think that different people playing my game differently is an awesome thing, and even if they don't have a consistent vision of what LotFP is supposed to be, it's still coming out differently than people playing Labyrinth Lord or Swords & Wizardry or old D&D - mechanically similar in many respects but not the same games as LotFP.

If my resources weren't tied up with Carcosa and Isle of the Unknown (both should go to press in 8 days!), I would have gotten an adventure or three out by now out which would better define my perception of the weird with some more ready-to-go examples and how it's not very hard-codable into rules. But I didn't because Carcosa and Isle of the Unknown aren't going to get done without deciding to get them done, you know? And at that point there's nothing to do but put everything else on hold and sacrifice the resources necessary to do them right.

Night Visions Night 4

Got home from Night Visions a little while before I writing this, and will be going to sleep after it posts. When I wake up, the sale is OVER!

Anyway... once again, highlight spoilers in parenthesis to see them.

Viva Riva!

"Branded by the international media as the Scarface of Congo, Viva Riva! is a slick, violent and sexy action thriller set in the streets and back alleys of the wildly exotic city of Kinshasa."

I really don't like gangster movies. Don't like Goodfellas, the Sopranos was never interesting to me... setting it in Africa doesn't make it any more interesting to me. So one criminal steals stuff from another criminal and leads the high life while being hunted by other criminals, the authorities are corrupt, it's all so very violent and tragic. Yawn.

Really, the only thing me and the wife got out of this movie was "Glad we're lucky enough to not live in that shithole."

Two Eyes Staring

Fucking excellent.

A ghost story: A women in Belgium dies, leaving her rather large and spooky house to her estranged daughter, who has created a life and family for herself in the Netherlands. The family decides to move in to this house. The 9-year old daughter starts seeing a girl in the cellar that has to do with the family's past... and everything starts going to hell.

No blood and guts. Very little violence at all. Creepy. Escalating in tension until it hits you with the twist.

A word about twists... good movie twists don't seem like gimmicks, they don't seem like the moviemakers ran out of ideas and figured fooling the audience will save the movie.

When a good twist hits you, you feel stupid for not seeing it sooner because of course things should be that way.

This movie has a great twist.

Twist is a fun word. Good thing I'm home alone right now or someone'd be looking at me weird because I'm saying "twist twist twist twist" out loud here.


Here's how to make yourself feel old. "Wow, the mom in that movie is MILFy!" Get home, check IMDB (which contains unlabeled spoilers in the cast list)... oh... she's younger than I am. Fuck.

When this movie ended, I headed home, had dinner, watched the beginning of Goldmember on TV (another movie!!), took a nap, and headed back down to the theater to start watching movies again at 1am.

The Ward

What the hell? This is a John Carpenter movie? Seriously?

It's about some young (teenage?) women in a psych ward in a mental hospital. There's a ghost killing them one by one, but nobody seems to believe them.

The twist? (The same as Identity. Without any of the things that made Identity good.)

This is a bad twist that made me feel stupid for waking up after midnight and walking across town to see it. Not that anything leading up to the twist was the least bit interesting.

This movie is shit, top to bottom, front to back.

The Gates of Hell (aka City of the Living Dead)

Lucio Fulci makes shit movies. He's this legend, I know, and in the late 90s when Anchor Bay was releasing his movies uncut I snapped them up fast and squirmed and was properly grossed out. Because Fulci presents a nice grossout.

... but... ahhh... back in the day, things like the Friday the 13th movies were censored to get them to an R rating. Even the bloody hack and slash of American cinema was watered down. This foreign stuff? Exotic and did what you couldn't do, even in theaters!

... but it's 2011 and watching a movie with shitty acting and shitty "plots" and stupid dialogue and shit doesn't make any goddamn sense isn't going to cut it just to watch someone puking up guts on screen. Fuck, even House has featured a popping eyeball, you know?

... yet Fulci's movies were banned or edited all to crap for decades in some cases because they were just too graphic and horrifying. How quaint the 70s and 80s, eh?

Anyway, the story here is a priest hangs himself in a Dunwich cemetery, triggering the opening of the Gates of Hell! A psychic and veteran reporter rush to the scene to stop it!

Fine, whatever. But it's so goddamn stupid (teleporting zombies!) that it kills the "money shots."

Perfect example: At the beginning of the movie the psychic is thought dead. Is buried. The reporter, investigating the story, happens by as the woman wakes up and starts screaming. To help her, this dumbass gets a fucking pickaxe and starts wailing away at the casket.

The idea of laying there in a coffin as the head of a pickaxe continually comes within a hair's breadth of piercing your face should be scary. And intense. But it was handled so clumsily (the guy's trying to help her by doing that? Moron!) the audience here was laughing at it.

I bet it would be pretty gross if you were sitting in a room and for no reason the window is smashed and suddenly the room is filled with maggots blowing in. Watching it was a comedic experience because the window blew in for no reason and then we get "dramatic" shots of four actors wiggling around (the director really did stick a big pile of maggots in front of an industrial-sized fan, by the way). Oh no! Maggots! Why, if this keeps up, these poor people will need to change their clothes or something! If this scene was real footage of a real event, it would be America's Funniest Home Videos fodder.

... or maybe it was a 3am showing immediately following a shit movie and I had no patience it.

The Woman

A woman is for some reason living in the woods. She is completely feral, a wild animal for all intents and purposes. A man out on a hunting trip discovers her, and decides to capture her, lock her in a cellar, and make it a family project to civilize her.

This movie is fucked up! FUCKED UP!

The guy playing the head of the household (a middle class family that lives on a sizable piece of land outside of a small town) looks similar to and acts just like a toned-down Will Ferrell (and watch Stranger than Fiction before telling me Ferrell is shit or anything). He is absolutely perfect as the calm, disarmingly charming man who is all to believable.

He's also the most despicable movie villain I can recall seeing.

This juxtaposition creates some laughs early on, but before long, nobody's laughing anymore.

The actress playing the feral woman is also superb. I never for a second questioned the idea that she was really and truly a creature of the wilderness. Amazing stuff here.

The movie did break its own reality a bit as once the captive woman escapes (yes, that's a spoiler, but talk about being the most obvious spoiler in history) her feats of feral vengeance are a bit beyond what would be plausible. But the twist the movie has in reserve more than makes up for it.

This movie is not on the first tier of video nasties... that would be reserved for movies like I Spit on Your Grave (30 minute rape scene), A Serbian Film (tons and tons of sexually related violence, much involving children), and Cannibal Holocaust (real animal deaths and some real bastard protagonists)... those movies are all filmed in a way to put you, the viewer, in the middle of the absolutely disgusting events of those films. The Woman doesn't employ that, it's the more standard cinematic detachment. And as I said it forgets itself momentarily. So it's not a first-rung "Nobody should ever watch this ever because it's too fucked up" kind of movie.

But it's right there at the top of the second tier. This is some disturbing, disturbing shit, and the disturbing bits have little to do over the top gore (not a lot of that here).

Best of the fest, and a must-see movie.

(oh shit... checking IMDB, this movie is the sequel to a 2009 movie called Offspring, which I'd never even heard of... apparently this isn't just some random feral girl, as the actress is reprising her role from that movie... hmmm)



This isn't a great movie or anything, and it's presented as a horror/comedy, but...

Well, here's the IMDB summary: "Four young offenders and their (social) workers spend a weekend in the remote Yorkshire village of Mortlake, which prides on keeping itself to itself. A minor incident with locals rapidly escalates into a blood-soaked, deliriously warped nightmare."

... that's basically it. The humor comes from the fact that the locals treat this situation as completely normal. This ultraviolence is rather matter-of-fact to them, and they present shows and play games around it. (in fact, a lot of the "humor" in the movies this year comes from this exact thing... "Here's some really horrible disgusting shit for you, and here is some comedy relief in the form of characters who think dismembering a corpse is no more unusual than making the bed.")

There really aren't any twists and turns (aside from the fact that the bad guys win, after some resistance, a strong and final victory with the victims' escape hardly ever even seen to be likely), so it's a straight up splatterfest. And splatter splatter splatter it does.

In fact, the gore effects here are some of the best I've ever seen. You could still tell it's CGI, but only just - it really does look like they're swinging axes full force at each other's heads and making full contact and SPLAT. It's on one hand really fucking awful to watch (like when the horse steps on the guy's face) but on the other hand if this dinky low budget thing can do this, there is hope for more ambitious movies to not have to use trickery to obscure things that don't look good (whereas I thought movies like Diary of the Dead and Scorsese's Departed were ruined by too-obvious CGI wounds and blood spatter).

It's weird, that for all the stomach-churning violence (and there is a lot of stuff I just haven't seen done before that makes a lot more sense than most common horror movie violence), it never enters the realm of the truly disturbing as a whole. I saw that as a guy that just watched 6 horror movies in a night mind you, but when I watched Hostel, I thought "brutal!" When I watched Inbred, it was like watching Star Wars... it's a spectacle that happens to be about violence and lots of blood, but it didn't make me feel dirty for watching it.


... and that was Night Visions. 18 movies in 4 days. (there were 10 more movies screened that I didn't get to see)

Best of the Fest: The Woman, Hobo with a Shotgun, Red State

Turkeys of the Fest: The Ward, Gates of Hell, Another Earth

whew. It's a semi-annual thing so I get to do it all again in April!

It's 10am now (feels like 11am since clocks turned back overnight here in Finland), I'm off to bed!