Here it is, March already. How did that happen?
While a lot of the most popular posts on this blog are about the old days (and especially my Games Workshop days), I also like to keep readers up to date with what I’m doing now – so go to My Books and BUY! BUY! BUY!
Anyway, here’s a brief look at what came out in 2016.
GAMES AND BOOKS
Danish game developer Kiloo is best known for their hit mobile game Subway Surfers. They hired me to help develop the setting and characters for this high fantasy swipe-and-slash game for iOS and Android. You play a fallen angel battling demons in a ruined world, and searching for redemption along the way.
Kiloo’s Dawnbringer page
My earlier post about Dawnbringer
Of Gods and Mortals: Celts
The first army supplement for Andrea Sfiligoi’s mythological skirmish game, and yet another chapter in my ongoing love affair with Celtic history and myth.
Ganesha Games’ Of Gods and Mortals page
My earlier post about Of Gods and Mortals: Celts
The Investigators of Arkham Horror
I contributed five stories to this gorgeously-presented collection based on Fantasy Flight’s acclaimed Cthulhu Mythos boardgame.
Fantasy Flight Games’ page
My earlier post about The Investigators of Arkham Horror
All the Nazi super-science conspiracy theories I could find, collected and wrapped up in a unifying narrative that also explains the urgency behind the Cold War space race.
Osprey Publishing’s Nazi Moonbase page
My earlier post about Nazi Moonbase
Fenix, Kickstarter special edition
I contributed a systemless article titled “Mummies: A New Approach” to support this bilingual Swedish-English roleplaying magazine. It includes seven mummy sub-types based on the ancient Egyptian multiple-soul concept, along with descriptions of ancient Egyptian mummy amulets with powers to affect both the living and the undead.
Fenix Kickstarter page
“La Llorona” discusses the famous Southwestern ghost, with notes for Speltidningen’s Western RPG. I’m told that an English-language edition of Western is in the works: I’ll have more to say about that in the future.
Fenix back issues page
Aviation History, September 2016
I indulge my love of vintage aviation with “Aussie Battler,” tracing the rushed, post-Pearl-Harbor development and surprising career of Australia’s home-grown (and largely improvised) CAC Boomerang fighter.
Aviation History magazine
I posted a couple of new pieces in 2016, including “Converting Between Call of Cthulhu and Colonial Gothic” (which does exactly what it says on the tin) and “A Green, Unpleasant Land,” which presents some previously-unpublished British Call of Cthulhu adventure seeds I wrote in early 1986 for Games Workshop’s supplement of a similar name.
Go to the Freebies page
My interest in Celtic history and lore started in my teens. I had been reading Penguin translations of Greek and Latin literature for a while when I discovered the Irish sagas such as The Tain and the early stories of Cu Chulainn. A wave of Irish rock was hitting the UK: Thin Lizzy and Rory Gallagher were having their first hits around then, and a band called Horslips released two epic concept albums based on Irish mythology: The Tain (1973) and The Book of Invasions (1976). In 1978, Jim Fitzpatrick published his lavishly-illustrated Book of Conquests, and I started playing Dungeons & Dragons. In 1979, I went to Durham University to study archaeology, intending to specialize in the British Iron Age: the Celtic-dominated era that was brought to an end by the Roman invasion. (I refuse to call it a conquest – they never got us out of the hills, by Touatis!)
My Celtic obsession followed me into the games industry, and now I could back it up with some actual learning. I wrote articles for two Celtic-themed issues of TSR UK’s now-legendary British AD&D magazine Imagine: my adventure “The Taking of Siandabhair” was reprinted in a “Best Of” issue and you can download it from my Freebies page. In 1986 I created the Fimir for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, basing them on a mix of creatures from Irish and Scottish legends including the evil Fomorians. Despite some very controversial aspects of the background I created for them, they still have fans today. When I left Games Workshop in 1990, one of my first freelance projects was the HR3 Celts Campaign Sourcebook for AD&D 2nd edition. I also wrote an adventure for Mongoose Publishing’s Slaine RPG, based on the 2000AD comic property: back at Games Workshop, I pushed hard for a Slaine RPG to go alongside their Judge Dredd and Rogue Trooper games, but to no avail. And a few years ago, I snuck some Welsh, Irish, and Scottish lore into the single-player campaign I wrote for Kabam’s hit mobile strategy game Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North.
The latest fruit of my Celtic obsession is a sourcebook for Andrea Sfiligoi’s excellent tabletop skirmish game Of Gods and Mortals. If you like mythology and miniatures, you should definitely check this game out. The rulebook, published by Osprey Publishing and widely available, is slim and affordable; the rules themselves are simple enough to pick up quickly and powerful enough to make for some interesting challenges. I liked it so much that I contacted Andrea out of the blue and asked if we could collaborate.
Celts was released today as an e-book via Andrea’s Ganesha Games web site (where you can also find several freebies for OGAM), and over the next few weeks it will become available in dead-tree form and via all the usual e-tailers. I am very pleased with it. I’m always happy to have another Celtic-themed project under my belt, and Andrea’s art for the project is fantastic. He (yes, it’s a male name in Italian) is ludicrously talented: a first-rate game designer (working in his second language, no less) and a talented artist to boot. Anything he does is worth your attention.
To tempt you further, here is the back cover blurb:
The first warp-spasm seized Cu Chulainn, and turned him into something monstrous, horrible and shapeless…
This supplement for Of Gods and Mortals delves deeper into the myths of the Celts. Within its pages you will find:
- More options for existing units, along with brief descriptions of their roles in Celtic history and mythology;
- Statistics and rules for six new Gods, 18 new Legends, and 10 new Mortal troop types, based on myths and folklore from across the Celtic world;
- Ten new traits, including a range of warrior-feats from the Irish sagas;
- Detailed rules for Celtic war-chariots;
- Optional warband lists to help you build a mythologically consistent warband;
- Allied forces for more force customization options;
- New scenarios, based on the greatest battles from the Celtic myths and sagas;
- A detailed bibliography for more information about the Celts and their gods.
Let the red rage descend, and feed the Morrigan’s crows with the bodies of your foes!
This story broke several months ago, but today the BBC News web site carried the most thorough and cogent account of the chupacabra mystery – and its solution – that I have seen so far. Here is the link:
While I have loved mythology, folklore, and monsters from an early age, there are few things I find more satisfying than when science and common sense provide an explanation for something that was previously regarded as supernatural. To my mind, a scientific explanation does not make the world a duller, less magical place, and a myth is no less interesting or beautiful for being debunked: it still provides an insight into humanity’s lifelong struggle to explain and understand the world around us.
And of course, the chupacabra will probably remain a potent image in fantasy and supernatural fiction and games. Rightly so: it has earned its place every bit as much as any ghost or ghoul.
Here are some links to game adaptations of the “fantastic” chupacabra:
Rogue Games’ Colonial Gothic Bestiary includes game stats for the chupacabra as well as other legendary American creatures.
If you know of any more great chupacabra resources for gamers and fantasy fans, feel free to add them in the comments below.
Every so often, I get an email out of the blue from someone who is interested in some corner or another of my long and varied career as a writer for tabletop roleplaying games. They never fail to surprise me – people are still reading things I wrote twenty years ago or more? Inconceivable! – but last weekend I got one that surprised me more than most.
Tamara Rüther is studying for a Master’s degree in Celtic Civilization at Philipps-Universität at Marburg in Germany. As part of a study of how the Celts have been presented in popular culture, she wanted to ask me some questions about my work on the AD&D Celts Campaign Sourcebook from 1992.
Tamara graciously agreed to let me post her questions and my answers here on my blog. I hope you find them interesting. As for me, I’m still staggered that anything I wrote could possibly end up as the object of academic study.
– My first question then would be, whether TSR asked you to write the Sourcebook or whether you approached them about it?
– Was it your first official attempt at writing mythology/history into a fantasy-based roleplay or were there others (and if so how was this one similar or different)?
– Also, I read on your blog that you had started working on a Celtic RPG setting early on in your ‘Gaming career’. Did any of that material make it into the Celts Sourcebook or did you take a completely new approach on it when you started working on the AD&D Sourcebook?
– Possibly a slightly random question – but how much time did you put into research and how easy was it? (I’m asking because some of the books you mentioned are still used in Academia today and they’re not always easy to get.) Did you still have access to University libraries or did you have to find everything elsewhere – and how did it go?
– Also can you think of any books that you used at the time that didn’t make it into the ‘further reading’ section, but that helped with your work? (And if there’s reasons other than space issues, why didn’t they make it into the further reading?)
– Did TSR have any specific requests concerning the Celts Sourcebook (i.e. its accuracy, for example whether things should be closer to the truth or easier to understand) or were you able to do whatever you wanted? And did they do much editing after you were done?
– How closely did you work with the illustrator of the Sourcebook, or did you have any influence on the graphics at all?
– I’ve seen you’ve written other games afterwards, which more or less touch on Celtic materials (Gurps Faerie, or the more recent Camelot-related games) – do you think the AD&D research has played into that a lot, or did you treat each of these topics seperately? Also, was the approach to the topic the same each time or, if not, what were the differences?
– Compared to other Sourcebooks how popular was/is the Celts campaign? (is there anywhere I can get sales figures?)
– The book itself is out of print by now, isn’t it, but I think the PDF version is still available, so do you know whether it’s still bought today and how frequently?
– Did you get feedback on how people found it? What they liked and didn’t like etc.?
– Is there a specific age group that would be more likely to use the Celts Sourcebook more than others?
I was about six or seven, I guess, when I first became aware of mythology – Greek mythology, to be specific – and the wealth of monsters it contained. In rapid succession, I discovered a children’s version of Homer’s Odyssey in my school library, and I saw a Saturday-morning screening of Jason and the Argonauts (dir. Don Chaffey, 1963) on my parents’ black-and-white TV. Ray Harryhausen’s monsters entranced me, especially the skeletal Children of the Hydra’s Teeth.
A decade or so later, I discovered Dungeons & Dragons. In my first game I ran two characters, both thieves and both killed by a minotaur in an epic battle. I bought a copy of the Games Workshop “blue book” printing, with John Blanche artwork on the cover and illustrations by Fangorn and others inside. While I appreciated the Tolkienesque elves, dwarves, and so on, it was the creatures from myth that caught and held my imagination. Now it was possible to see whether a mummy could beat a gorgon (a medusa according to the book, “gorgon” being a bull-like creature; that bothered me at the time, and still does).
To me, the monsters have always been the stars of myth, folklore, and fantasy. In search of new beasts for my D&D games I plundered my collection of mythology books and ransacked the local library for anything on myth and folklore. Along the way, I became especially interested in the undead and in Celtic faerie lore, although I still devour all kinds of monster tales from all over the globe.
Over the years, some of my favorite work has been on monsters. As well as collections for tabletop roleplaying games, I have consulted on monster concepts for historical-fantasy video games and written books and articles on some of the classic creatures from myth, legend, and folklore.
Among other things, I have created:
- Seven mummy types based on the ancient Egyptian concept of multiple souls;
- Five classes of werewolf drawn from folklore, movies, and medieval trials;
- A dozen classes of faerie encompassing creatures from all over the world;
- Over 60 types of walking dead from A (aptrgangr: Scandinavia) to Z (zmeu: Eastern Europe).
For a recent videogame project (sadly canceled and subject to a non-disclosure agreement) I defined over 400 monsters from Greek mythology, including physical descriptions, broad definition of abilities and attack forms, and notes on affiliations to particular gods, titans, and other powers.
I plan to keep researching monsters in the future, but here is a list of everything myth and monster related so far.
Blades of Excalibur (Arcade, Web), Kabam 2014 – Localization Editor
Heroes of Camelot (Card Battle, iOS/Android), Kabam 2013 – Story Designer/Writer Google Play iTunes Store
Dragons of Atlantis: Heirs of the Dragon (Strategy, iOS/Android), Kabam 2013 – Writer Google Play iTunes Store
Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North (Strategy, iOS), Kabam 2012 – Story Designer/Writer Google Play iTunes Store
Spartan: Total Warrior (Action, Console), SEGA 2005 – Writer
Medieval: Total War – Viking Invasion (Strategy, PC), Activision 2003 – Writer/Researcher
Werewolves: A Hunter’s Guide, Osprey Publishing (Dark Osprey), 2015.
Theseus and the Minotaur, Osprey Publishing (Myths and Legends), 2014.
Thor: Viking God of Thunder, Osprey Publishing (Myths and Legends), 2013.
More information on my books
Of Gods and Mortals: Celts, Ganesha Games, 2016 – co-author. Buy it here
Colonial Gothic Bestiary, Rogue Games, 2013 – co-author. Buy it here
Pathfinder Bestiary 2, Paizo Publishing, 2010 – contributing author. Buy it here
Mythic Vistas: Eternal Rome, Green Ronin Publishing 2005 – author. Buy it here
Creatures of Freeport, Green Ronin Publishing 2004 – co-author. Buy it here
GURPS Faerie, Steve Jackson Games, 2003. Buy it here
Atlas of the Walking Dead, Eden Studios 2003. Buy it here
Slaine: Teeth of the Moon Sow, Mongoose Publishing 2002 – author Buy it here
Mummy, Second Edition, White Wolf Publishing, 1997 – co-author. Buy it here
GURPS Vikings, Second Edition, Steve Jackson Games, 1991 and 2002. Buy it here
GURPS Middle Ages 1, Second edition, Steve Jackson Games, 1992 and 2002. Buy it here
AD&D Celts Campaign Sourcebook, TSR, Inc., 1992. Buy it here
“The Viking Dead,” Pyramid #3/92, June 2016. Buy it here
“Indian Ghouls,” Pyramid #3/92, June 2016. Buy it here
“Mummies: A New Approach,” Fenix (Kickstarter special edition), January 2016. Buy it here
“The Tathlum,” (AD&D Celts Campaign Sourcebook outtake), personal blog, December 2015. Download free here
“La Llorona,” personal blog, 2015. GURPS version — Colonial Gothic version
“Mummy Amulets.” Pyramid #3/17, March 2010. Buy it here
“Bloodlines,” Adventures Unlimited #6, Summer 1996.
“Black Dogs, Church Grims and Hell Hounds,” Roleplayer #30, Jan 1993. View here
“Norse Trolls,” Roleplayer #24, June 1991. View here
“Fimir,” White Dwarf #102, Jul 1988. More on the Fimir
“Magic & Mayhem: Viking!” Imagine #30, Sep 1985.
“Monsters from the Folklore of the Philippines,” Imagine #25, Apr 1985. Download free here
“Haunters of the Dark,” White Dwarf #67, Aug 1985.
“Magic & Mayhem: Celts,” Imagine #17, Aug 1984. Download free here
“Sobek, God of Marshes and Crocodiles,” Imagine #16, Jul 1984. Download free here
“Sethotep,” Imagine #16, Jul 1984. Download free here
“The Taking of Siandabhair,” Imagine #5, Aug 1983. Download free here
Other Bibliography Posts
My Complete and Utter Warhammer Bibliography (Warhammer, WFRP, HeroQuest, AHQ)
My Complete and Utter Warhammer 40,000 Bibliography (WH40K, Adeptus Titanicus/Epic Scale)
Are you a fan of black-powder fantasy? Do you enjoy the backstories of movies and TV shows like Sleepy Hollow and National Treasure? Do you prefer Joseph Curwen and Keziah Mason to Randolph Carter and Charles Dexter Ward? If so, you might like Colonial Gothic.
I haven’t worked on tabletop roleplaying games much over the last few years. While the industry has always been rich in ideas, it is increasingly cash-poor. This earlier post goes into some of the reasons why. But when I came across Colonial Gothic back in 2009, I was intrigued. Thanks to mysteries like the disappearance of the Roanoke Colony, events like the Salem witch trials, and classic American horror fiction from writers like Washington Irving and H. P. Lovecraft, the Colonial era is a rich environment for historical fantasy, and historical fantasy has always been one of my favorite genres. Add in the extensive body of conspiracy theory surrounding the Templars in America, the Freemasons and the American Revolution, Franklin’s alleged occultism – not to mention local legends and Native American lore – and you have a setting that can support just about any kind of fantasy and horror adventure.
The game can be played as Cthulhu 1776 – which was one of its earliest incarnations. It can involve nerve-wracking investigations of the great and powerful. Players can fight an occult war for America’s freedom, confront witch-cults and monsters, and even seek the hiding-place of the Holy Grail in lost Templar colonies.
While Colonial Gothic has received some great reviews and built up a small but passionate following, it has yet to break out from the pack of indie RPGs and achieve the success I think it deserves. But check it out, and judge for yourselves.
Lovecraft (2015) – co-author More Information
Bestiary (2013) – co-author More Information
Locations (2012) – developer
The French & Indian War (2012) – developer
Flames of Freedom: The Philadelphia Affair (2011) – developer
New France (2011) – developer
Organizations Book 1: The Templars (2010) – author More Information
Templates (2010) – author
Flames of Freedom: Boston Besieged (2010) – co-author, developer
Gazetteer (2010) – author
“Converting Between Call of Cthulhu and Colonial Gothic,” (2016) – author Download article
“La Llorona: A Legend of New Spain,” (2015) – author Download article
“The Puckle Gun,” (2014) – author Download article
Other Bibliography Posts
My Complete and Utter Warhammer Bibliography (Warhammer, WFRP, HeroQuest, AHQ)
My Complete and Utter Warhammer 40,000 Bibliography (WH40K, Adeptus Titanicus/Epic Scale)
I’ve been writing for Osprey Publishing’s Dark Osprey line for a little while now: I have two titles published and a third on the way. It is an interesting line, full of books that blend history, fiction, and conspiracy theory to produce well-researched works gamers will love: exactly what you would expect, in fact, when a renowned military history publisher like Osprey expands into science fiction and fantasy.
I’ve blogged about my own Osprey titles before, and you can find all the relevant posts by clicking on this link. But in this post, I’d like to look at the range as a whole.
I’m in some very impressive company as a Dark Osprey author. Series editor Joe McCullough is a longtime tabletop RPG fan, and he has recruited quite a few names you’ll recognize.
Mike Brunton was the voice of the multiple award-winning Total War AAA PC strategy game series until recently. Before that, he worked on countless video games, edited White Dwarf magazine during Games Workshop’s late-80s golden age, co-wrote the legendary Realm of Chaos sourcebooks for Warhammer, and authored the rarest D&D module ever published. For Dark Osprey, he turns his considerable command of military history to the Anglo-Martian War of 1895 in his book The War of the Worlds. If you like classic science fiction, military history, steampunk, roleplaying, or miniatures wargaming, I can guarantee you will enjoy this book.
Phil Masters was a regular contributor to White Dwarf in the 80s, and has written a number of sourcebooks for GURPS, Castle Falkenstein, and other tabletop RPGs. He was the only author Terry Pratchett trusted to adapt the Discworld into a game setting. The Wars of Atlantis is not his first work on the Lost Continent – his GURPS Atlantis sourcebook is still available – and The Wars of Atlantis holds a wealth of well-researched information on a subject that is sure to appeal to gamers of all stripes, as well as to anyone with an interest in the Atlantis myth.
Kenneth Hite is another prolific GURPS author, and together with gaming luminary Robin D. Laws he co-hosts the podcast Ken & Robin Talk About Stuff. His book on The Nazi Occult packs an incredible amount of information between the covers, and offers a fantastic resource to any gamemaster or tabletop gamer with an interest in Weird War II scenarios. Coming in May 2016 is his exhaustive history The Cthulhu Wars: The United States’ Battles against the Mythos. I can hardly wait.
As well as editing the series, Joseph McCullough kicked it off with Zombies: A Hunter’s Guide. Zombies are taking over popular culture right now, but Joe digs deeper into zombie lore and covers multiple types, from the brain-eating lurchers we know and love to the voodoo zombies of the Caribbean, the necromantic zombies of fantasy lore, and the atomic zombies of the Cold War era – and much more beside. He also traces the history of zombie outbreaks across the world and offers us an unprecedented level of access to the 34th Specialist Regiment (a.k.a. the Nightmen), the U.S. Army’s elite supernatural warfare unit. Somehow, he has also found time to create the wildly popular Frostgrave fantasy miniatures game for Osprey. Some old Games Workshop fans are hailing it as the new Mordheim.
Chris Pramas, founder of Green Ronin and creator of the Freeport fantasy-pirate setting, has written Orc Warfare, a systemless overview of Orc weapons, tactics, and military organization that will be of interest to fantasy fans everywhere. With Dwarf Warfare due out in January, he looks set to turn this into the definitive series on fantasy warfare.
To take a look at the whole Dark Osprey range, click this link. No matter what your gaming or reading interests, I expect you will find something to intrigue and entertain. And while you’re there, check out the Osprey Games and Myths and Legends books as well. One thing is for sure: when Osprey Publishing decided to expand into fantasy and games, they did nothing by halves. Just look at what they’ve announced for 2016!