Phil Gallagher: The Rest of the Enemy Within Campaign

February 28, 2015 Leave a comment

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People ask me about the Enemy Within Campaign a lot, and I can’t always answer their questions. Sometimes I used to know but the answer is lost in the mists of time, but more often I never really knew to begin with. Jim and Phil did most of the planning for TEW, and I wasn’t always privy to the longer-range plan. I’ve already blogged about what I do know/remember, but last October I met up with Phil for the first time in over 20 years at the Oldhammer 2014 event in Maryland. I asked him to help me fill in a few details (fill/Phil! Ha, ha! What – nothing? Please yourselves…) and he was kind enough to agree.

Phil and me (at left) at Oldhammer 2014.

Phil and me (at left) at Oldhammer 2014.

So here we go:

What was the original plan for the Enemy Within Campaign after Power Behind the Throne?

The original plan? We had a plan? I think the “plan” was to keep creating linked, campaign-style rpg adventures with some great role-playing scenes, and plenty of action…

Did you and Jim get as far as a plot for The Horned Rat? If so, what was it? How far did it get? Anything else you can tell us about it?

The Horned Rat idea was all mine. Mine, I tell you. Who knows how it might have panned out, but I had this idea that a bunch of Skaven were developing a means of bringing Morrslieb down to earth… and/or they had created a portal to enable them to teleport to the surface to mine it… Chaos-mutations a-plenty!

In particular, what was the plan for the Purple Hand? They kind of vanish after the events in Middenheim, but it seems to be implied that they have active cells elsewhere.

The Purple Hand were supposed to be just one of a number of underground cults all working to related but slightly different ends – a sort of SPECTRE for the Warhammer world; probably never the focus of a scenario, but always there in the background to complicate life for the PCs.

How close was Carl Sargent’s published Empire in Flames to the original intention? Did you have much input into the brief Carl worked from?

Jeez… Empire in Flames… I’ve no idea… that was you and Mike, Graeme – all you and Mike! ;) I think it was probably the usual convoluted Carl Sargent adventure, that you and/or Mike undertook to shoe-horn… er… adapt to fit into the existing campaign.

Hmm… I don’t think it was me, so it must have been Mike. I must remember to ask him one day.

Apart from The Horned Rat and Empire in Flames, were there any other Enemy Within adventures planned that never came to fruition?

Any other ideas? I’m sure there were – but it’s all so long ago, now… it was all probably going to come to a head with a major chaos incursion and a WFRP-meets-WFB big climactic battle…

And I’m sure that any digressions and random memories you feel like throwing in would be more than welcome, too.

Random memories: it was Hal that gave the Drakwald forest its name. He was taking the piss for the way we came up with names for places in the Empire. He suggested that all we were doing was taking English words, changing them a bit, and then adding “-heim” to make town names, and “-wald” to name forests, “So, the Dark Forest, could be Drakwald?” he joked. And so it did.

Many thanks to Phil for taking the time to reply. If you want to read more of his WFRP memories, check out the interview he did for the excellent Realm of Chaos 80s blog.

A New Review of “Thor: Viking God of Thunder”

February 26, 2015 Leave a comment

Thor

Patrick Mahon over at SF Crow’s Nest in the UK just posted a very nice review of my Osprey Myths and Legends book Thor: Viking God of Thunder. Here’s a link.

I’m very happy with the reception received by both this book and its companion volume on Theseus and the Minotaur, and I hope to have the opportunity to write more books on myth and folklore in the future. They’ve been passions of mine since I was a boy.

Here’s a link to some more reviews of Thor. Every time I see a new review, I add a link to the comments. If you’ve seen any reviews that aren’t linked there, please let me know – I’d like to make this collection as complete as possible.

The Hillfolk Bundle of Holding

February 25, 2015 Leave a comment

A couple of years ago, tabletop gaming luminary Robin D. Laws ran a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign for his DramaSystem game, and I was lucky enough to be asked to contribute a stretch goal reward. My “Series Pitch” (DramaSystem lingo for “campaign setting”) was called Pyrates (the “y” spelling makes it 20% more piratical), and I pitched it to Robin as “Firefly of the Caribbean.” Here’s a link to the blog post I wrote at the time.

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Now, thanks to the Hillfolk Bundle of Holding, you can sample Hillfolk, Pyrates, and many more settings – and explore the innovative and inspiring design of DramaSystem – for a bargain price. Check out all the goodies here.

For my money, Robin is one of the very best designers working in tabletop RPGTs today. His ideas are always fresh and thought-provoking, and make for great games as well as pushing the art and craft of game design beyond the normal envelope. You won’t be disappointed.

A New Review of “Theseus and the Minotaur”

February 20, 2015 Leave a comment

My Osprey Adventures book Theseus and the Minotaur is getting some attention.

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Here’s a link to a new review on Random House’s suvudu.com site: http://bit.ly/1w58WYr

And here’s a link to an interview about Theseus, Thor, Warhammer, and other matters, also on suvudu: http://bit.ly/1Jw8AQ8

See also http://bit.ly/1CTRe9B for my earlier post on both this book and the Werewolves book.

And here’s a link to some new Theseus options for Andrea Sfiligoi’s excellent mythological miniatures game, Of Gods and Mortals: http://bit.ly/1ASBtlO

“Werewolves: A Hunter’s Guide” – The First Review

February 3, 2015 2 comments

With a little over a month until release, the first review has appeared of my Dark Osprey book Werewolves: A Hunter’s Guide. It’s short but sweet, and I’m looking forward to more.

It was a lot of fun to research and write this book. Here’s what I wrote about it a few months ago when it was first announced:

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Werewolves: A Hunter’s Guide is for the Dark Osprey line which focuses on horror and conspiracy, and follows on from earlier volumes about Zombies and Vampires. I collected werewolf legends and trial reports from across Europe and researched shapechanger myths worldwide to paint a picture of lycanthropy that expands upon what you will find in most movies, games, and novels. It touches on the standard fare – silver, the moon, Viking berserkers, SS werewolves, and so on – but I also uncovered a few surprises. Like, for instance, the fact that there are at least four distinct types of werewolf, each with its own unique characteristics. And the Greek tradition that a dead werewolf rises from the grave as a vampire. And the ancient werewolf cult that centers on Mount Lykaion in Greece.

Werewolves: A Hunter’s Guide
is scheduled for release in March 2015, and there are some interesting titles scheduled for both of Osprey’s non-historical ranges.

Like the other Dark Osprey books, this book mixes historical research with speculation to create a “what-if” reality which is firmly grounded in the real world. Anyone who is interested in the history and development of the werewolf myth will get something from it, and gamers will find a wealth of system-independent information and suggestions ready to use in their campaigns. Ripping the you-know-what out of effete sparkly vampires, for instance…

As I find new reviews, I’ll post links in the comments section below.

30,000 Views

January 31, 2015 1 comment

Birthday-Cake-100-year-old

Sometime last night, my blog reached 30,000 views. I know that’s not a lot of traffic by most standards – certainly it’s not as much as I would like – but it’s still a milestone. To commemorate it, here’s the story of this blog so far.

I started it in March 2011 with a post about my first videogame work in 1991, but it’s my posts about tabletop roleplaying games – and especially my memories of Games Workshop in the 80s – that have consistently proved the most popular.

My most popular post so far is the announcement that I was working on FFG’s new Enemy Within campaign for WFRP 3rd edition, which included a lot of memories and random thoughts about the original Enemy Within. That post still gets regular views today, and it accounts for almost 15% of the blog’s total visits. Next comes my rumination On the Economics of Tabletop RPGs, which is slowly but steadily catching up. After those two comes a large block of GW memories, and after them come the posts about my current work with Colonial Gothic, Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North, Of Gods and Mortals, and various other games, as well as my work for Osprey Publishing (Note: only the top four books are mine: I don’t know how the Osprey web site’s search function found the others, but I don’t pretend to know that much about modeling).

Many visitors, understandably, come from the U.S., Britain, and other English-speaking countries, but almost half come from elsewhere in the world. Germany, France, and Poland seem to have a lot of WFRP fans, and the Scandinavian countries are not far behind. Most visitors find me via search engines: though it’s frustrating that so many search terms are encrypted, most of the ones I can see related to tabletop RPGs in general and WFRP in particular. Facebook, Google+ and Twitter have also led a lot of people to my blog, as have links in other people’s Warhammer and RPG blogs.

So there you have it. I’m very happy that my work for WFRP still interests people despite most of it being 25 or more years ago. That’s obviously what draws in the eyeballs, and I plan to add more GW memories and other Oldhammer-related material even as I continue to keep viewers up to date with what I’m currently working on, and other things that interest me. Although it’s clear that most visitors come for the Oldhammer, I hope that many people will find other things that interest and surprise them, and be moved to check out some of my more recent work.

Oh, and – tell your friends. Thanks.

La Llorona: A Legend of New Spain

January 23, 2015 2 comments

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Known in English as the Weeping Woman, La Llorona (pronounced “yo-RO-nah”) is a legend of Mexico and the Spanish Southwest. The Weeping Woman is a type of ghost or demon that can be encountered anywhere in New Spain. According to the TV series Sleepy Hollow, a sub-type is also found occasionally in the Thirteen Colonies.

This article explores the legend of La Llorona, looks into a few variations, and suggests a range of ways to use this legend in Colonial Gothic adventures.

The Legend

Almost every Spanish-speaking population north of Mexico City has its own version of this tale. The details vary, but the ending is always the same.

Her name was Maria, she lived a long time ago, and she fell in love with a handsome ranchero. Because of him, she drowned her own children in a river.

Some say she killed them – and then herself – out of grief and rage when her ranchero abandoned her. Others say these children were from an earlier marriage, and she killed them so she could be free to marry again. According to a third version of the tale, her children drowned by accident when she left them alone to go to a dance with her new beau. All versions agree that her spirit cannot rest and she is cursed to spend eternity wandering and weeping, searching for her lost children along the banks of rivers and canals.

Ever since, people have seen a beautiful woman dressed in white walking beside rivers and canals at night, her hair disheveled and her eyes red from crying. Many have heard her weeping, and a brave few have gotten close enough to hear her sob “Ay, mis hijos!” – “Oh, my children!”

Some versions of the tale are darker still. It is said that bad luck will soon befall anyone who sees the Weeping Woman, or that she will steal, and even drown, any children she finds in the course of her wanderings.

Origins

It is not known whether the legend of La Llorona is based on an actual event. However, it is enticingly similar to both an Aztec legend and a story from the life of Hernan Cortez. It also evokes an even darker being from Mexican folklore.

La Malinche

La Malinche (also known as Malinali, Malintzin, and Doña Marina) was one of twenty women given to Cortez by the people of Tabasco in 1519. She served the Conquistador as a translator and advisor, eventually becoming his mistress and bearing his first son, whom he named Martín . She spoke Mayan as well as the Aztec language, Nahual, and helped Cortez form local alliances and head off potential rebellions. Cortez is reported to have said that after God, Doña Marina was the main reason for his success in Mexico. Contemporary Aztec records almost never depict Cortez without her by his side, and they sometimes show her alone, apparently acting on her own initiative and authority.

Unlike Disney’s Pocahontas, though, Doña Marina did not keep her European paramour. Cortez abandoned her to marry a good Spanish lady. While it is not recorded that she killed her children, and some sources claim she died in 1529, other sources hint that she did not suffer her abandonment meekly. In some later fiction she lives on as a vengeful resistance leader, and even as a vampire.

Cihuacoatl

Cihuacoatl was an Aztec goddess, the most prominent of several patron deities of childbirth and motherhood. It has been said that the Aztecs honored a woman who died in childbirth as highly as a warrior who died in battle.

According to Mexican folklore, the goddess was seen shortly after Cortez appeared, weeping for the loss of her children – an omen of the fall of the Aztec empire at his hands.

Cihuacoatl had a son named Mixcoatl, who became a god of the hunt and the stars. She abandoned him at a crossroads, but regretted her decision and returned weeping, only to find a sacrificial knife where her son had been.

The spirits of women who died in childbirth serve Cihuacoatl. Known as civitateo (“divine women”) they haunt crossroads at night, steal children, and cause seizures and other illnesses.

Although these Aztec legends do not correspond exactly with the commonly-told story of La Llorona, it is easy to see how they may have influenced its development.

Game Statistics

La Llorona can be many things, ranging from a tragic ghost to a vengeful goddess. Providing full Colonial Gothic statistics and rules for every conceivable variant would take an article far longer than this one. Instead, the following paragraphs suggest a range of possible approaches to creating a version of La Llorona that fits with the tone and magic level of the individual campaign.

The Colonial Gothic rulebook provides 2nd Edition rules for ghosts, and the Bestiary covers banshees. Either one would make a good basis for La Llorona, though the banshee’s Moan trait should be cut. For a more corporeal version, the GM might use the vampire from the rulebook (without any traits except for Night Vision and Undead) or the revenant from the Bestiary. Having selected the basic stats, the GM can then add traits as desired, to create his or her own vision of La Llorona.

The Weeping Ghost

When creating La Llorona as a ghost, the main decision to be made is how (or indeed, whether) the living can interact with her. At her most harmless she may be a spectral vision as insubstantial as smoke, to be laid to rest when the Heroes learn her sad tale, find her remains and those of her children, and give them a Catholic burial.

A more dangerous version may use mind-affecting magic of some kind to hypnotize children and send them walking glassy-eyed into the river – or to possess single mothers, especially those driven to the brink of despair by their circumstances, and force them to re-enact her crime. The lives of those she kills may be an offering to the angry spirits of her dead children, or she may simply be locked into an obsessive pattern of behavior, condemned to repeat it endlessly until she is stopped.

The Revenant

A solid, physically manifested version of La Llorona presents a different kind of threat. She has the inhuman strength of a lunatic and high grappling skills, which she uses to drown interfering mortals or simply break their necks. In a simple adventure, destroying her physical form stops her for good; for a longer and more challenging campaign thread, she simply comes back the following night, or month, until her tormented spirit is laid to rest by a Catholic priest or by Aztec-derived magic.

The Goddess

In a higher-powered campaign, La Llorona can be a vengeful manifestation of the goddess Cihuacoatl, imbued with all the terrible power that implies and determined to take the life of one Spanish or Anglo child for every Aztec who died at the hands of the Conquistadores. Alternatively she could be another Aztec deity, taking her own sacrifices since Catholicism replaced the bloody Aztec rites by which she was formerly appeased. In a Robert E. Howard-style horror story, she could be one of the last priestesses of such a terrible deity.

The GM has free rein in designing such a powerful entity. The legends of the civitateo give these creatures a shifting array of attributes including clawed hands and feet and the ability to wither limbs and cause fits and wasting diseases. One interpretation of these creatures may be found in my own Atlas of the Walking Dead, published by Eden Studios for their zombie survival RPG All Flesh Must Be Eaten.

The Mortal

In a low-magic or no-magic campaign, La Llorona may be entirely mortal – an 18th-century serial killer driven to madness by a life of abuse, or by the horror of having killed her own children to save them from an abusive father, or starvation, or some other threat. She may even believe that she has become La Llorona of the stories.

Adventures

An encounter with La Llorona can enhance even a non-fantastic Colonial Gothic campaign. Rarity gives supernatural incidents – or incidents that merely seem to be supernatural – a greater impact in a non-magical setting.

Of course, the GM can always decide, in the best Scooby-Doo tradition, that the apparent haunting has a perfectly mundane cause: the “ghost” turns out to be a madwoman escaped from a local asylum, a kidnap victim leading into a mundane plot, or an attempt to play on a local legend to keep prying eyes away from a hidden gold strike or a planned robbery.

In a more fantastic campaign, La Llorona might be one of several types of restless dead, given an added authenticity by her ready-made backstory and her long history in the real world.

Bibliography
De Aragon, Ray John. The Legend of La Llorona. Santa Fe: Sunstone Press, 2006.
Beatty, Judith S. La Llorona: Encounters with the Weeping Woman. Santa Fe: Sunstone Press, 2004.
Davis, Graeme. Atlas of the Walking Dead. Loudonville: Eden Studios 2003.
Perez, Domino Renee. There Was a Woman: La Llorona from Folklore to Popular Culture. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2008.

Online Resources
“La Llorona,” Handbook of Texas http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/lxl01
“La Llorona – Weeping Woman of the Southwest” (3 pages), Legends of America http://www.legendsofamerica.com/gh-lallorona.html

TV and Video
The Crying Woman (Spanish La Llorona), dir. Ramón Peón , 1933.
Supernatural, Season 1 Episode 1, The CW (Warner Bros.), 2006.
Grimm, Season 2 Episode 9, Universal, 2012.
Sleepy Hollow, Season 2 Episode 5, Fox, 2014.

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