#RPGaDay2015 26: Favorite Inspiration for Your Game

RPG-a-day-2015Cover of Suppressed Transmission: a collage of conspirators and high weirdness elements centered around the trifecta of Kennedy, Shakespeare and a grey alien.It can’t be anything but Suppressed Transmission. We’ve talked about this Pyramid column of Ken Hite’s before. I agitated for the release of the still-uncollected bulk of the corpus. Regrettably, nothing came of that, which is a crying shame because what was published was so damn good as an idea mine of utter weirdness to build into your game of choice.

There have been spiritual successors, like Matthew Rossi’s Things That Never Were, a collection of essays that feel like they could be a Third Broadcast, right down to using the neologism “bisociate.” Hite went on to write a similar-sounding series for a Swedish magazine, and then kicked off Ken Writes About Stuff for Pelgrane Press, which was rather more mythos- and GUMSHOE-focused when I was subscribed, but it still felt like kin to Suppressed Transmission.

Pound for pound, though, Suppressed Transmission is where it’s at for finding all kinds of crazy ideas and oddities of real world history to seed into your games, whether they’re modern gonzo conspiralunacy or a traditional fantasy campaign in need of some new, previously unknown monsters and antagonists. Someone out there has to have taken up Hite on his suggestion of Justinian I as a demon, right?

#RPGaDay2015 11: Favorite RPG Writer

RPG-a-day-2015Kenneth Hite is the clear winner here. He writes gold, and would be the first to admit he’s just sourcing really good inspirational material before hitting “puree.” Suppressed Transmission, The Day After Ragnarok, The Madness Dossier, Night’s Black Agents, Bookhounds of London . . . the list goes on. Hite’s got the knack for that edge of “is this lunacy, or is this inspired?” that gets the brain burning.

Stoker’s Dracula Unredacted

As per usual, when I let myself listen to Ken Hite explain his upcoming project, regardless of whether I’ve already decided I’m going to let it pass, I find myself being sold completely and totally — this may be part of why I let my Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff subscription lapse.

This time, he’s raising funds for The Dracula Dossier, presenting the unredacted, annotated first draft of Dracula, which is the after-action report of British intelligence’s miserable repeated attempts to recruit the vampire called Dracula. Ken dropped in on his friends David and Dave at Blurry Photos to talk about the project, Dracula, Bram Stoker and vampires. Blurry Photos has become my favorite paranormal podcast these days, thanks to Stecco and Flora’s inimitable style and collective sense of humor. So when Ken drops in to talk about Cthulhu and role-playing games, it’s like a crazy crossover between your favorite, yet separate things. Their level of familiarity with role-playing is also adorable; Stecco talks about modules, encumbrance and showing up to Castle Dracula with a 40 person raid party for the loot drop.

I’ll be thinking heavily about whether I want to back The Dracula Dossier before the fundraising campaign ends on December 4th. You can check it out on Kickstarter.

#RPGaDAY 21: Favorite Licensed RPG

#RPGaDAY prompts.

The #RPGaDAY prompt was concocted by Dave Chapman of Autocratik. Grab the list and join in!

The Day After Ragnarok cover. A muscled man wielding an automatic firearm and knife poses aggressively in front of a rearing serpent.We’ve gone over the prime candidates for favorite RPG license in previous #RPGaDAY posts: Ghostbusters and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Allow me, then, to split hairs and introduce The Day After Ragnarok, HERO edition. Yes, it’s an original setting by Kenneth Hite licensed to use the HERO system in this particular printing. Systemistas can also find it in savage and fated flavors.

When the Nazis summoned the world-spanning Midgard Serpent and it began devouring Atlantic convoys whole, President Truman ordered the Trinity device flown into the serpent’s maw. The colossal thing died, crashing across Europe. The far-reaching consequences of Serpentfall wrought havoc with the global climate, atmosphere and more.

Basically, it’s post-apocalyptic fantasy in 1948, and the apocalypse is only a few years behind. America and Europe have been trashed. There are holdouts of western society trying to keep on as before, but the infrastructure just isn’t there anymore. Sorcery is on the rise, as well as ultra-weird science as the adventurous mine the Midgard Serpent for unearthly materials with bizarre properties.

Regardless of your rules preferences, Day After Ragnarok is a very cool setting for mixing up the modern day with sword and sorcery fantasy. I talked more about the game with my friend Joe on Carnagecast.


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.”

Free the Suppressed Transmissions

Suppressed Transmission was a column written by Kenneth Hite for Pyramid, Steve Jackson Games’ role-playing magazine. For more than 300 columns, Hite frolicked through the fields of history — real and alternate — the occult, paranormal and high weirdness. It was time traveling reptoids one week, the six faces of Jack the Ripper the next. It was a little bit historical fact, a little bit delirium and conspiranoia. Plot seeds, characters, campaign frames, you name it, Hite made them out of the oddities of human civilization for your inspiration and role-playing pleasure. It went on like that for years. And it was most enjoyable. Then Pyramid‘s format changed, the column ended and — this is the important bit — the archives became unavailable as subscriptions ended.

You can still get a taste of Suppressed Transmission through the two collections sold through e23, including the previews available for both. The collections comprise about three dozen columns each from early in the run. The material is heavily annotated and cross-referenced, so those two books have a lot of value added in compared to the columns as they were originally published.

I bring this up because a little over a year ago, I and some other ardent fans of Suppressed Transmission — Chris Helton, Jürgen Hubert and Stéphane Gallay, among others — kicked around the prospect of a grassroots effort to convince Steve Jackson Games it would be worth their time and energy to collect and release the unpublished columns in some format or other.

Jürgen in particular began a “Where I Read” thread on RPG.net in which he read through and commented on theSuppressed Transmissioncorpus. He’s up to number 123 as of this writing. And that’s out of just over 300 columns. Skim that thread. Look at the panoply of madness those columns cover. If those ideas tickle your mind, just remember there are so many more to be uncovered in a full collection.

As is the nature of topics of conversation on the internet, the fate of Suppressed Transmission has come round again. The state of affairs hasn’t changed much. The publisher has to see that releasing the rest of the columns in some form is going to be a money-making proposition. For that to happen, there has to be a rise in sales of the existing collections — both in PDF, only the second still in print.

Rally round the flag and support the movement to show there’s a market for a complete Suppressed Transmission collection. Hop in forum threads, talk it up with your friends and most importantly, buy the books! At the very least, they make for entertaining reading and at the very best, they offer oodles of ideas to cram into your role-playing games.

Adventures in Darkness

When it comes to Kenneth Hite’s work, I don’t know why I continue to fool myself with the platitude, “Oh, that doesn’t sound quite for me. I’ll let that one go by.” Almost invariably, the work, whatever it is, crosses my consciousness still more times. And every time I encounter it, the idea appeals more and more.

And so it was when I listened to Hite’s interview on The Game’s the Thing. The episode was mostly about Night’s Black Agents — itself a game I thought I wouldn’t want, but have since reversed position — but host Ron Blessing brought up Adventures in Darkness, a super hero universe created in an alternate history where Lovecraft survived his cancer and developed a writing studio to populate the pages of a comic book line.

I’d read about Adventures in Darkness before and thought it was a little too off my usual topics to be interested. But when I hear people talk about it and share their enthusiasm, I get enthused too. Now my appetite is whetted and I’m thinking about snapping up the Mutants & Masterminds edition. But I know what would or will happen: I’d page through it and enjoy the prose, never putting the game material to work.

In the same episode, I had a similar reaction to the mention of Bubblegumshoe, a GUMSHOE iteration for teen mysteries. Totally not my thing, until Hite included John Bellairs‘ young adult occult mysteries as one of the sources. I think that’s the first time I’ve encountered someone in gaming wanting to draw on Bellairs’ oeuvre, which is a rather exciting prospect.[1]

[1] Until such time as a kindly reader reveals someone else has done it better, faster, earlier.

Monday Mashup: The Madness Conspiracy

With the confirmation from Sean Punch that the contract for a new version of The Madness Dossier in some form has been signed and the resurgence of Conspiracy X material in recent months, the thought occurs to me that the two worlds would interlock rather snugly.

AEGIS is a ready-made secret agency to drop in the place of Project Sandman. Its agents are already trained to cover up unknowable horrors. The Red King and its implications are right in their wheelhouse. In that way, the impending threat of History B slots right into the world of AEGIS.

For a more integrated presentation, the irruptors match up fairly well with the Atlanteans. They’re still wielders of incomprehensible, godlike technology from another time, only that other time is now sideways rather than forward.[1] Their objective is to reclaim their world, rather than ensure its existence. And like Captain Chronos and other inscrutable time travelers, that objective may be served by acts that work in harmony with AEGIS agents’ own as often as they hinder.

[1] And I write that lacking the full skinny on the Atlanteans, not having yet pored over The Extraterrestrials Sourcebook.

Keeping Cthulhu Scary

Coming off of Should’ve Said, another engrossing recording with Kenneth Hite hails from Celesticon 2011: Keeping Cthulhu Scary. I believe this is a topic on which Hite sets forth regularly as a seminar-panel-thing as the name’s familiar, but this is the first time I’ve found a recording in which to partake.

I know people who resolutely insist up and down that Cthulhu and the fears it represents do not scare them. I don’t think those people are likely to be swayed because they have decided not to be, but when it comes to those who want to be scared, who willingly suspend their disbelief for the purposes of engaging with horror, I think there’s a lot in Hite’s discussion for writers and GMs to take advantage of.

Bookhounds of London Ephemera Game

There’s a pretty awesome thread happening over at Yog-Sothoth.com as owners of the limited edition of Bookhounds of London[1] “correlate the contents” of the bits and bobs that shipped with their books.

I didn’t realize the mysterious death of Augustus Darcy would turn out to be a collaborative alternate reality game. I think that might have motivated me to pick up the limited edition, if I realized it would involve owners comparing unique bits of evidence. Coinage, books, receipts and more; those satchels are full!

There is an as yet unsolved cipher, lots of mutilated street maps with keys of Dee’s Aethyr scrawled on them, metal badges resembling the original elder sign Lovecraft devised and one very interesting bit that could be the kabbalistic Tree of Life as a network of Underground stations.

Needless to say, I am following the forum thread with great interest.

[1] Why yes, I do mean to write about Bookhounds of London. At some point.