Cthunisystem

An investigator confronts a Dark Young.

Send more Drama Points.

The Cthulhu Mythos of H.P. Lovecraft, or Cthunisystem for short, brings some of the classic elements of Call of Cthulhu role-playing to Cinematic Unisystem. Compiled by Salvatore Cucinotta and Jason Vey, it’s a great resource for adding mythos monsters and a different flavor of spell to your Unisystem games.

By default, it’s written for Cinematic Unisystem games like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, but it’s super easy to use the monster quicksheets with classic Unisystem rules, or extrapolate backward to a full stat block. Shave off any Drama Points the creature may have and call it good.

Held Action Theatre 2: World’s Worst Dungeon Crawl Part 2

Held Action Theatre graphic.
In episode 2 of Held Action Theatre, we present the second and altogether stranger half of the World’s Worst Dungeon Crawl. The most fateful, enraging words ever uttered in the history of fictional narratives intended to entertain pop up right where you expect them, so keep an ear out.

Also, Toby started tweeting @dungeonbastard during the game, and naturally, he had some pointers for the rest of the group:


Subscribe to Held Action Theatre in your favorite podcatcher with the podcast feed: http://feeds.feedburner.com/HeldActionTheatre. Look for the show in iTunes. Listen directly on the web at heldaction.wordpress.com.


“O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, performed by the MIT Concert Choir and made available by http://freemusicarchive.org/ under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/us/

July 20th, 1969: The Magic Came Back

Greyhawk Grognard reminded us of the anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11 on July 16th. In turn, I am reminded that Neil Armstrong stepping on the moon on July 20th, 1969 — though my memory is fuzzy whether it was Neil’s first step, or the landing of the lunar module itself, as apparently there was a six hour difference between the two — that generated enough Glamour from the millions watching to allow a gate from Arcadia to open and let the exiled sidhe stream through, kicking off the modern era of Changeling: the Dreaming.

Prior to that, the kith living on Earth eked out an existence, surviving primarily by dint of developing the changeling way ritual, which allowed a fae spirit to graft itself onto a mortal form. No one asked the mortal form if they cared to partake in this. The inspiration of seeing humans land on the moon generated enough creative energy, in comparison to the drought of the centuries since the Sundering, to allow a gate from Arcade to open. And out poured streams of sidhe, exiled from Arcadia and thoroughly expecting to be in charge of whatever common rabble was left.

Whatever I always wondered was: what were the circumstances behind that gate opening? Was it pure coincidence? Destiny? Did the rulers of Arcadia kick those sidhe out, and the far end of the gate automatically latched on to an energy source strong enough to sustain it?

We’ll never know, because that iteration of Changeling was discontinued by virtue of not publishing anymore books long ago, and heaven knows if there will be a 20th anniversary edition of White Wolf’s wayward step child of a supplemental game line. At the very least, there ought to have been a story line where the “common” kith decide to have words with the faceless individuals who keep dumping houses of entitled sidhe on their doorstep.

Ham-Fisted Bun Vendors of the Occult

Carl Kolchak fends off a vampire with two crossed pieces of metal.

Kolchak does the best with what he has.

Carl Kolchak’s solutions were so haphazard. Manufactured, non-canonical examples include:

  • A mallet he cadged from the janitor and a splintered chair leg to fight a vampire.
  • Herbs that a book he bought at the five and dime claimed would protect from witchcraft.
  • Tinfoil folded in proportions cited in sacred architecture as defending against psychic intrusion.

In short, there must have been any number of times that Kolchak’s spit and baling wire efforts didn’t pan out. But the man in the seersucker suit lived to report another day, so there must have been some resolution to the supernatural threats that didn’t include a hibernation or migratory component.

Reminds me of the set-up for Eternal Lies, the Trail of Cthulhu campaign where the player characters are drawn into the consequences of a ritual that another group of investigators failed to prevent some years prior.


N.B. I would be remiss in not acknowledging “ham-fisted bun vendor” as first being uttered by Jon Pertwee in the Doctor Who serial “Terror of the Autons.” So possibly Robert Holmes’ creation, Terrence Dicks’, or Pertwee’s own.

 

The Extraterrestrials Sourcebook for Conspiracy X 2.0

Extraterrestrials Sourcebook cover art for Conspiracy X 2.0.The Extraterrestrials Sourcebook collects previously published information about the alien races at large in the Conspiracy X role-playing game, and then brings their activities up to date with the new oughties timeframe. That said, the book is very rooted in the past. Each of the three chapters goes deep into the history of its species. “Way back, before you were born”-deep,[1] to the origins of each species. Which is great for the long view. Midway through the Saurians chapter, I started asking myself, “Is this all we’re going to know about what they’re doing now on Earth?” Atlanteans, Greys and Saurians do all have a section on what they’re up to at the moment, but it’s so tantalizingly brief and vague compared to the full, detailed histories of the three species.

A lot of that must come from the original remit of The Extraterrestrials Sourcebook: condense material written for supplements of the first edition of Conspiracy X into one volume for the current line and move the timeline up by fifteen years. In light of that, each chapter does a remarkable job covering history and culture of three distinct species.

The name of the podcast escapes me, but I remember hearing the designer of Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies, Chad Underkoffler — I think? It’s been a long time since I heard the episode in question — describe his realization that long histories of how Sir Buffington defeated Lord Nemesis, and so on, can and ought to be elided into “Epic stuff happened leading us to this tipping point. Now you guys need to do something.” I’ve taken that to heart, and any time I run across supplemental material that is basically a long timeline of events that sound very cool, but are of limited utility to informing the present situation — unless you decide all those points on the timeline are covert plot seeds to bring forward to your game’s time frame — I do look askance, and wonder if this space could have been given to something a little more relevant to the contemporary status quo, and how it’s about to fall apart.

That said, I did appreciate the look into the culture and mentality of the extraterrestrials, different and varied as they may be. The Greys are the closest to monolithic, since they’re so deeply interconnected by telepathy. But even they have differences and internal division — especially, interestingly, between those on Earth and those on Greyworld. Greys on Earth are quarantined from the rest of the species because of concern about psychic contamination. The Saurians, it turns out, are divided into many factions, unlike their representation in the corebook, which is really just one faction that is most visible to AEGIS. And the Atlanteans wind up a race of radical individualists, as everyone strikes out on their own.

The Extraterrestrials Sourcebook is an interesting peek into the alien races interested in Earth. I’m dubious, though, how much use the information is here to 80% of the Conspiracy X games out there, as it seems unlikely most of them are going to go that deep into interaction with any one species, let alone all three. I’d rather have much more information about what they’re doing on Earth right now, and examples of how AEGIS cells and Black Book agents interact with them.[2]


[1] “Do you know how you got that dent, in your top lip? Way back, before you were born, I told you a secret, then I put my finger there and I said ‘Shhhhh!’”

[2] Acknowledging that any throwaway mention of what an AEGIS cell did or reported is really a coded plot seed for the GM’s own campaign, either to kick it off or provide a template of what the players might get embroiled in.

When I Rolled Seventeen

Quote

When I rolled seventeen, it was a very good hit
It was a very good hit for a fighter with a plus one sword
It would’ve been a crit if my weapon were keen
When I rolled seventeen

Apologies to Jake of the Mummy’s Mask group for misremembering his particular mangling.

Mummy’s Mask: The Half-Dead City

The Half-Dead City cover art.Since Carrion Crown wrapped up last December, my role-playing opportunities have been a little sparse on the ground. Other obligations kept my schedule from lining up with other opportunities, which have been surprisingly plentiful, as Burlington has enjoyed a boom in public tabletop game opportunities in the last nine months, but it hasn’t ever really worked out.

Until recently, when Dan, he of Horace Gunderson and Auberon Crane, decided that the best complement to an every other week campaign of Wrath of the Righteous for Pathfinder would be the Mummy’s Mask adventure path on alternating weeks.

I dithered over a character for a long time. Long enough that almost everyone else settled on some kind of spell-casting class, which made it pretty clear we needed more than the dwarven warrior-matron Victovich. So, having seen the class in action with Geoff’s character Andris in Carrion Crown, I picked up the Expanded Spell-less Ranger PDF from Kobold Press. Clumsy name, but I liked that it brought rogue talent-like capabilities to the ranger, whose later level new additions tend to be “have some low level druid spells!” It’s so early in the game, that Mentu the spell-less ranger is exactly like any other ranger in Wati. I’ll keep you posted.

So far, the PlunderCats, doing business as . . . some other, less compelling name that I didn’t come up with, became a fully authorized team of tomb raid — antiquities reclaimants. They successfully explored a general’s tomb and circulated valuable goods into the local economy. Their second assigned job proved more problematic, with a swarm of scarabs and some kind of sand elemental proving the most troublesome.

Link

Some great thoughts on the Suppressed Transmission columns by Kenneth Hite, and why you should check out the collections: “Ken Hite’s Suppressed Transmission reviewed, with a couple of long excerpts to illustrate and a dip into Charles Fort at the end.”

Held Action Theatre Launches

Held Action Theatre graphic.Today, Held Action becomes a true media complex with the launch of Held Action Theatre, a podcast about role-playing games produced by yours truly. Because not everything game-related that I might want to record really fits Carnagecast‘s raison d’etre, this seemed like a good avenue for actual play recordings, and whatever else I might want to cover outside Carnagecast. Subscribe in your favorite podcatcher to http://feeds.feedburner.com/HeldActionTheatre as we kick off with the Dungeon Bastard’s World’s Worst Dungeon Crawl!

Launching a new podcast is also an opportunity for me to experiment in a couple ways that I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing with someone else’s property, as Carnagecast is. I wanted to try an alternate method of publishing a podcast. Since Held Action is hosted on WordPress.com, much of what could be accomplished a free plugin installed on an independent WordPress instance is a premium service here, like uploading audio and video. Third parties like LibSyn offer the same service. An alternative to that is hosting the audio files on archive.org, a repository of — mostly? — open media.

FeedBurner provides podcast enclosure data that iTunes wants to see. My next task, now the first episode of Held Action Theatre has published and there’s something in the feed for iTunes to see, is to submit the FeedBurner URL to iTunes and see what happens. I’m a little concerned, as there’s a lot of speculation about FeedBurner going away, as it’s a Google service without ongoing support, but that speculation dates back years and FeedBurner appears to continue to function properly. In that respect, Held Action Theatre is a real-time experiment: will FeedBurner keep working? Can I get it listed in iTunes properly? What will a podcast episode look like in the main blog feed?

The second way this is an experiment is I am again taking up the “Fuck it, let’s do it” philosophy, as in An Invocation to Beginnings. I want to do more and create more. I can make whatever pathways I need to do that. So why not start with this? I’m also taking a page from Role Playing Public Radio‘s voluminous actual play library as well: roll the recorder, give a brief intro and otherwise let the players and GM shine — although that guideline didn’t stop me from doing intros and outros; it just kept me from over-producing them.

For the technically-minded, most of the play sessions will be recorded on a Zoom H4n, as 16 bit, 48 kHz WAV files. Currently, they will be edited in good old Audacity, though I am considering exploring Adobe Audition, because the number of times Audacity crashed while processing the audio for World’s Worst Dungeon Crawl was excessive by even my low, Final Cut Pro-loving standards. I’ve stuck with Audacity to date because I want my project files accessible regardless of what OS I’m working in, or whether it’s got pro software installed. I ought to look into whether XML exports are an option here, as in video editing suites.