Monthly Archives: October 2023

October 2023 Wrapup

Dread Month draws to a close! The spookiest of nights, the dawn of the dead, the uh, thing! We shed our shackles and dance in our bones, and tomorrow, go about the business of being people, once again, sloughing out into the drawing heat and the growing, burning, hateful light of a sun that resents us and we celebrate in spite of it. You know, the normal and natural way everyone relates to this time of the year.

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Story Pile: Willy’s Wonderland

Hey, you heard about the Nicolas Cage Five Nights at Freddies knockoff movie that was made in a single month? Have you heard it’s good?

Spoiler Warning of course, I’m going to discuss things in this movie. But also, Content Warning! This is a movie with a lot of your typical schlock tropes, there’s a needless sex scene where you Don’t Get To See Anything, there’s a lot of splashy, gory, wet violence against angry animatronics.

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Player Characters Of the Szudetken

Oh yeah, I talked about the Szudetken, right? That peninsula that’s bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, and is full of these awful horror-inspired daylight-horror Christian ideas, with a dash of Bloodborne and The Locked Tomb for players to work with. But how do players interact with them? Especially with no mechanical information?

Well, that’s what this lengthy mechanical article is about. Yes, two thousand words of just ‘different perspectives on living in these cursed places.’ It’s not going to have a dramatic conclusion, it’s just character options. Note that these aren’t the backgrounds you get in the Szudetken. You can be an Artisan or a Merchant or a Military background character from all across the Szudetken: those backgrounds still show up just fine. These backgrounds just represent some of the more prominent experiences unique to these specific parts of the Szudetken.

Also, these backgrounds are presented as a way to try and give you, the player, a vision of what life is like when you have this background. Things that are familiar to you and normal to you, and what big, prominent things that are normal to other people aren’t necessarily normal to you.

Where a Background says ‘Associated Skills,’ that means you can choose for those skills to either be added to your class skill list, or you can have a constant +2 bonus to those skills. When it lists a ‘benefit,’ that’s something else.

And now, on with tools for making a Szudetken character, which may be of use to you if you’re just… grabbing these cultures and dumping them into your world!

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3E: The Scariest Thing About The Lich

Welcome once again to a spoooky post about stuff that’s in D&D! That’s right, it’s time to once again look at an older, historical edition of D&D that may just be serving as my excuse to look back to the early 00s and late 1990s and consider what tabletop gaming thought of as normal and cool, and go ‘wow that’s messed uuup’! But this time with a spooooky twist!

We’re going to talk about liches!

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You are become witness to a great becoming. As you look at the media before you, you are seeing a parallel reality constructed in front of you, as two different images of what is reasonable and typical and normal grow in front of you, and the one that is realistic and focused on what is actually true and actually existed and actually happened is the quieter, smaller, less seen one.

Content Warning: COVID-19 and related medical problems.

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T-Shirt: Valid To Eat Fingers Jujutsu Kaisen Shirt

I like the anime Jujutsu Kaisen. I like odd memes that make sense mostly if you’ve boiled your brain in Tumblr long enough that the conversation has cooked away and left nothing but meaning-chunks behind. Together, that resulted in this design:

And here it is, on a shirt!

This design has enough permutations that I thought it best to make a whole collection of them. You can have them in solid black, solid white, transparent lines, black text and white background, and of course, the gradient version I favour. They’re also on masks if you’re particularly weird about people being near your mouth!

Story Pile: Halloween (1978)

Continuing my ongoing experience of watching the classic horror movies that all the horror movies I saw was referencing, I decided to investigate what’s probably the dawn of the horror-slasher-serial killer genre of movies that fascinates me. I grew up in a world shaped by these movies, and the movies of my adolescence that wanted to be scary were often made in response to, or conversation with, these classic movies, so it’s time to pop open a movie about a relentless, unstoppable super-human killing machine that will not stop hunting you or delivering interesting, creative kills, until you’re dead.

This… is Halloween (1978, because I have to specify, because there was a 2018 movie).

Content and spoiler warning! I’m going to talk about some general suburban horror themes, and also, stuff that happens in the movie and its conclusion. You might not feel this particularly merits a warning, but in case you haven’t seen Halloween and wondered if it’s worth watching, and want to check it out without knowing what I think ahead of time, I liked it a lot, and it was very different to what I expected.

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4e: The Vampire Sucks

Across all my writing about 4e D&D I’ve spent a lot of time espousing cool things that you can do as a player without really needing any input from a DM. The game design is robust and reliable enough that you can make things like a werewolf or a ghost-haunted pile of crystals and the game system handles it so the DM doesn’t have to make something specific for you so it worked.

I have mentioned the Vampire from time to time, but always with a drawn-in breath of ‘if you want?’ or something like that. A warning, a gentle one, but a warning nonetheless. The vampire, you see, for all that it is part of this game system I like and does something I like, doesn’t do it very well, and for that, it needs to be presented to players with a warning that hey: This could go wrong, right? You need to be prepared to be okay with that.

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CoX: Z3-R0

Time to time, I write up an explication of characters I’ve played in RPGs or made for my own purpose.  This is an exercise in character building and creative writing.

Across the islands of the Etoile and the remnants of Praetoria, the mercenary known as ZERO has taken on mission after mission, supposedly for the highest bidder. Nobody knows who hires her, but everyone respects what she can do – and the outbreaks of monsters that she’s an expert in dealing with.

Zero’s definitely got that symbiote swag – rippling extensions of her flesh that let her shapeshift, create armour, heal rapidly, and attack from unforseen angles. She looks familiar? Maybe.

Praetoria’s darkest deeds are back with an old threat in a new time!

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Game Pile: Phantom Ink

Let me show you one of my new favourite hidden information party games built around the theme of messing with a ghost. Which is weird in that it’s a genre that’s populated with enough cards that this game went through a period of being known as Ghost Writers before finding that they needed to shift the name to something else.

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The Worst People Unalive

For years now I’ve been holding back on penning this description of one of the worst places in Cobrin’Seil, and only because it’s the worst in a different way to you’d expect. Oh it’s a tightly controlled city with a gaggle of liches trading favours at the top making the whole place a necromantically controlled undead polity, but the real problem the city has is its housing rates and fad technology bubbles.

Welcome to Uxaion.

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Story Pile: Jujutsu Kaisen (Spoiler Free)

Ya heard of this Jujutsu Kaisen thing?

It’s pretty good, I like it a lot.

Don’t worry, there are no spoilers after this point. Not even for the first episode. Jujutsu Kaisen is a really approachable series, if you accept up front you’re going to watch a violent horror anime full of likable characters who you’re going to see suffer as the show climbs to the latest peak of the latest heap that is The Next Big Shonen Battle Anime.

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3E: Evil Gods And Ridiculous Rules

Bhaal. Cyric. Gruumsh. Shar. Myrkul. Malar. Talos. Lolth. Bane. Tiamat. The names of dreadful forces, towering gods of evil and spite, entities that draw power from the very nature of what it is they embody. These are the evil deities of the Forgotten Realms, whose machinations and operators sprawl across the world before you, and whose presence makes the world a diabolical and dangerous place. They are powerful, they are malicious, they are intelligent, they are gods and above all, uniting them all, they are evil.

These entities, by the rules for gods in worldbuilding laid out in 3e, don’t make any fucking sense.

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How To Be: Harrowhark Nonagesimus (In 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritative but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

I’ve had this one in the drawer since like April, I didn’t realise just how much I was going to enjoy digging into it two books later.

Oh and hey, sorta-but-not-really spoiler warning? I don’t mean to spoil the books to examine the character, but there is some inextricable hairs that come off with this particular bandaid. Particularly, if you know nothing about the books, there’s a vision of ‘proper’ fandom that says I shouldn’t do anything that gives you any impression of anything in the story, that I should somehow make a hermetically sealable piece of media because someone hypothetically should know nothing about the book when they first engage with it. This is silly. Telling you that, for example, in Harrow The Ninth we get to see that Harrow is a really good necromancer, that shouldn’t be considered as a violence against engagement with the books.

I liked the books, by the way, I think you should check ’em out.

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Story Pile: The Lighthouse

As with Knives Out, Breaking Bad, and Old Boy, there is some media where I am concerned that by having an opinion, my mere me-ness is very much part of how that opinion is (and should be) perceived. Simply put, there’s a canon of media that I think millenial white guys are a little too excited to talk about, like they’re markers on a talent tree. I feel like there’s an envelope of time, now stamped down into wikis and articles, where people spilled all their thoughts and their feelings and then everyone else who was feeling a bit of the same stepped into the same space and sought some way, any way, to capture that they were feeling the same way, that they were also tangled up inside about this thing and what it meant and they weren’t thinking about it, they were feeling about it, but feelings are hard, and pointing out the reference to Sascha Scheiber’s Hypnose is a fact that can be collected and cleaned and pinned and then…

The feeling has a place to go.

Not going to spoil anything about this movie beyond its broad genre and invocations. You should watch it on your own if you think you can handle two hours of grown men losing their minds in isolation. I’m not going to tell you about what’s in it, as much as I’m going to try and tell you about how I feel about it, and what I feel about what it’s not.

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Lovecraft’s Organism

HP Lovecraft was a racist, and I think this is important to bring up because his racism is really fundamental to how he conceived of horror; a large number of his fears are things that we actually live with every day and get by with just fine. Turns out that a lot of people are at least partially aware that they have a forebear who is a bastard or a total freak. While it’s easy to point to other writers of the time and talk about their problems —

Like Arthur Machen? Probably had problem with women

— they aren’t nearly as directly related to the type of horror that author made. But Lovecraft’s horror, across almost all his stories are about encounters with an other, with inscrutable motivations that do not align with his. They are not about monsters that are cruel on purpose but about things that behave in a way so utterly indifferent to you that they regard nothing about you as having meaning but your potential digestion.

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USP-09: September’s Custom Cards

Do you remember?

Do you remember those ancient stirrings, things in the vast, the great shadows cast along us?

Do you remember what it was like to look at the rolling ocean, and recognise your own smallness? The way that the strongest person you knew was probably still nothing compared to the ferocious power of storms and nature and the horrors of our own fears?

The logo for the Usurper's Palace, showing the title text overlaid on a six-pointed spiral vortext.

Warning: Wizards employees, this post contains unsolicited designs of custom magic cards.

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Christian Martyrdom and Suicide Denial

Oh boy howdy are we going to need to content warning this one.

Content Warning: SUICIDE. I am going to talk about suicide a lot! I’m going to talk about it and martyrdom but really, importantly, I’m going to talk about suicide and also, suicide denialism, which, you may think that’s not a thing but it really is. I also mention some transphobia and climate anxiety.

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Story Pile: Bloodthirsty Hearts

I feel like pre-emptively, there’s a lift I have to ask of you. Bloodthirsty Hearts is a horror podcast. Wait, no, it’s a horror fiction podcast. Wait wait wait no, no, it’s a horror comedy fiction podcast. Oh, wait, no I missed a bit, it’s a horror comedy fiction podcast about zoomers engaging with popular media that feels definitely like it’s millenial stuff.

Did I scare you off?

There is a chance that you never listened to radio plays growing up. You aren’t the kind of person who finds it adorable, charming and narratively acceptable to hear characters giving semi-naturalistic dialogue that’s meant to handle transitions and setting and reacting to oh no! there’s a monster in the room! We’re going to scream in a way that won’t blow out the mic or clip the audio, while still trying to convey meaningful emotion!

I think, inherently, there’s a strong chance, that just this whole form of media, is a hard no for you. And that’s okay. You should not imagine that anything I say about Bloodthirsty Hearts is going to change your mind about it. It is 100% exactly what it is, and it’s not about to elevate the form. If you don’t like fiction podcasts, this is not going to change your mind, and it’s a very classic example of it.

Also I guess, spoiler warning, but nothing too explicitly important, just generalities until right at the end where I mention the way that a plot point is woven around other things. If you’re immediately curious to check it out, and want to talk about it, you can check it all out, for free. I liked it! I think that if you like the style it’s projecting, yeah, it follows up on it, and that’s good!

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Dread Month 2023

Behold as once more, October rolls around, the internet that is American gets all spooky, and the rest of us can either determine whether or not we want to go along with it or decide we want to be insulted for a month for not liking fun. Yay! Halloween!

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