Archive

Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Making Monsters: Leap Day Edition

February 29, 2020 2 comments

Thanks to everyone for your response to my earlier post on the Jersey Devil. Before too long, it will be getting and update and expansion as I work toward the ideal format for a system-agnostic monster description. Soon I hope to make the official #secretprojects announcement and you’ll see what my plans are, and how you can help.

Here’s another monster – and today being Leap Day, I’ve gone for the Water Leaper from Welsh folklore. I’ve changed the format a little, and as always I would love to know how it could be improved. Let me know in the comments section.

 

The Water Leaper

 

Water leapers, known as llamhigyn y dwr (pronounced roughly “thlamheegin uh duwr”) in their native Wales, look something like large toads with wings (sometimes bat-like, and sometimes like those of a flying fish) instead of front legs and a long, sinuous tail instead of back legs. Their broad mouths are full of very sharp teeth. Their bodies are 2-3 feet long, with tails twice as long again.

They will attack almost anything, and regularly destroy the nets and lines of local fishermen. They also attack swimmers and livestock drinking at the water’s edge.

Water leapers have been known to try to knock fishermen out of their boats by deliberately leaping at them. They can emit a piercing shriek which can startle an unwary fisherman or animal, making their attack easier. In the water, up to 12 of the creatures can attack a human-sized victim at the same time.

Their pack attacks show a rudimentary organization. For instance, they may spread out and attack a target from all sides at once. One creature may stand a little way off and shriek just as the others are swimming or leaping to the attack.

Water leapers can live on lake fish, but their appetites are so voracious that they quickly deplete the fish stocks in any lake they inhabit. They seem to prefer the meat of sheep, cattle, and humans. They have no natural enemies apart from enraged fishermen and deadlier water monsters such as lake worms and water horses.

 


 

Water_leaper

Painting by Brian Froud. Used without permission: no challenge to copyright intended.

 

RANGE

Real World: Wales: swamps and ponds. Lone or pack (3d4).

Fantasy World: Temperate marshes and ponds. Lone or pack (3d4).

 

TYPE: Animal

 

SIZE: Small (3ft/1m long)

 

MOVEMENT

Swim: 25 feet (7.5m) per round

Glide: 30 feet (9m) per round. Must spend at least 2 consecutive rounds swimming before being able to fly.

Crawl: 5 feet (1.5m) per round.

 

ATTRIBUTES

Strength: Animal, small (e.g. cat, fox, or small to medium dog)

Dexterity/Agility: Animal, small (e.g. cat, fox, or small to medium dog)

Constitution: Animal, small (e.g. cat, fox, or small to medium dog)

Intelligence: Animal, small (e.g. cat, fox, or small to medium dog)

Willpower: Animal, small (e.g. cat, fox, or small to medium dog)

Hit Points/Health: Animal, small (e.g. cat, fox, or small to medium dog)

 

ATACKS

Bite: Animal, small (e.g. cat, fox, or small to medium dog)

Buffet: Only usable when gliding. Ignores armour. Knockdown, based on creature’s Strength, resisted by victim’s Dexterity/Agility. No damage, but the second and subsequent hits in a round cause a cumulative penalty to the victim’s Dexterity/Agility as the victim fights to keep their balance. Used to knock victims out of boats and into the water.

Shriek: Startle, based on creature’s Willpower, resisted by victim’s Willpower. Range/Area of Effect 30 yard/meter radius centered on creature’s position. Startled characters act last in the next turn and suffer a mild (e.g. 10%) penalty to all actions. Critical success on the creature’s part, or critical failure on the victim’s part, causes a Fear result in addition.

 

WEAKNESSES

No special weaknesses.

 

SPECIAL ABILITIES

Stinger (Optional): Some reports of water leapers give them a barb or stinger at the end of their tail. This gives the water leaper one additional attack per round, causing damage as a dagger. In the case of a stinger, the attack also causes mild poison damage, like the venom of a small, mildly venomous snake.

 


 

Links

Cryptid Wiki

A d20 System adaptation

A 5e adaptation

 

Shrove Tuesday

February 25, 2020 Leave a comment

Mike

Mike Brunton: White Dwarf editor, Realm of Chaos author, Total War head writer, and shrove aficionado. Dearly missed by all who knew him.

 

It’s Shrove Tuesday, and that always makes me think of my friend Mike Brunton. Readers may know him as a legend of the UK’s games industry, and I’ll add some links to interviews at the end of this post.

We lost Mike less than a year ago, but his stories live on. Everyone who knew him can recount at least one ridiculous (but strangely believable) story he told, or quote one of his many quotable quotes, or tell of some incident or anecdote in which he figured. This is one of my favourites.

 

Shrove Tuesday is the opening of the shrove season. These small creatures overwinter on Scotland’s grouse moors, feeding on the heather to keep it from overgrowing. On this day they are cleared out so the grouse can nest without danger to their eggs. The race is on to bring the first brace of shrove to the Savoy in London!

 

Thanks, Mike, for all the laughter and silliness you brought to those around you.

 

Links

An interview from 2014 on the Realm of Chaos 80s blog.

Mike’s last interview, for the Grognard Files podcast.

 

Monday Maps #5: An Interesting Patreon

February 17, 2020 2 comments

Instead of just one map, or one type of building, this week I’ve found a Patreon campaign that seems worth a look.

Jerome Huguenin creates plans and isometrics under the title Architecture for Adventure. His Patreon campaign has two very affordable backer levels – $2/month and $3/month – and he gives a lot of his plans away for free. Plans like this one: Map 30, Doctor’s House.

 

https://www.patreon.com/architectureforadventure

One of the delights you’ll find for free at the Architecture for Adventure Patreon page – whether you’re a backer or not.

 

From what I’ve seen, Jerome’s work is easily as good as anything you’ll find in a professional publication – and at $2.00 or $3.00 a month, cheaper than most maps you’ll find. You won’t be sorry you checked it out.

 

And now for something a little (but not completely) different:

Patreon. It will probably play a part in my unfolding plans for two #secretprojects. I’m doing some research, but I would really love to hear from all of you.

Do you back Patreon campaigns? Would you back mine?

What would you be willing to pay per month, assuming one article per month? Or would you prefer to pay per item?

What other Patreons do you currently back? What kinds of rewards would you like to see at higher levels?

Do you have a Patreon of your own? Is there any advice you would be willing to share with me? Any tips, or warnings?

Please let me have your thoughts in the comments section below. And if you’d like to be kept in the loop, take a moment to follow this blog. I’ll be using it as the main channel for news and updates.

Thanks!

 

 

Monday Maps #4: Town and City Gates

February 10, 2020 2 comments

In medieval Europe, and in most fantasy worlds, towns and cities are surrounded by wall to protect them from attack. The gates are the weakest part of a town wall, so they tend to be the most heavily fortified.

In a small town or walled village, the gate fortifications may be very modest. In a great and wealthy city, each gate can be a small castle in its own right.

Plan and Elevation of Monk Bar, York

From The Pictorial History of England (W & R Chambers, 1858)

This 19th-century image of Monk Bar in medieval York shows the basic components of a fortified city gate. It has a barbican with a double gate and a portcullis between: when the outer gate is breached, attackers enter a killing zone and must endure fire from all sides as they assault the portcullis. Having broken down the portcullis they must pass under an archway to reach the inner gate, and the ceiling of the archway is pierced with “murder holes” through which defenders above can fire missiles or drop boiling water or oil.

 

 

A guardhouse stands beside the gate, and outside it stairs lead up to the wall top and the room above the murder holes. The winch for raising and lowering the portcullis would often be at this level as well.

Finally, there is a sally port beside the gate, through which defenders could break out and get behind an attacking force.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smaller towns will have more modest arrangements, like this:

 

VK-com

Borrowed from VK.com

 

 

This model would suit a medium-sized town in Warhammer’s Old World or a similar setting:

 

 

Turbosquid

Borrowed from Turbosquid.com

 

 

…and here’s a floorplan from Jason Engle, whose web site is worth a look. Find it here.

JAEstudio

 

See you next Monday for more maps!

 

 

Women in Horror Month

February 8, 2020 Leave a comment

February is Women in Horror Month. This event has grown over the years into an international movement supporting and celebrating women authors, artists, film-makers, and everyone else who contributes to the horror genre. If you don’t already know about it, you should. Here are a few links to get you started.

The Women in Horror Month web site: https://www.womeninhorrormonth.com/

The WiHM Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WomenInHorrorMonth/

…and Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/womeninhorrormonth/

…and Twitter feed: @WiHmonth

…and hashtag: #WiHM

But, of course, women in horror are not something to be celebrated in February and forgotten for the rest of the year. These sites and groups are busy year-round. There is always news, and there are always creators in need of support. Today, I heard about Debbie Lynn Smith Daughetee, the owner of Kymera Press. She has just announced a Kickstarter campaign for Mary Shelley Presents, the Trade Paperback.

Using Mary and Frankenstein’s monster as hosts, this project will use the graphic novel format to retell stories by the great female horror writers of the Victorian era. It looks good – very good. Here’s a link to the Kickstarter page.

Borrowed from the Mary Shelley Presents Kickstarter page.

Kymera Press is one of the few woman-owned comic book publishers in the industry. They embrace the fact that women are the fastest growing demographic in comic book readership, and in their own words, they “publish comics that are written and drawn by women, to be loved and cherished by folks of all sexes.” Here’s a link to their web site.

As in science, art, and just about everything else, women have been involved in horror from the very beginning, and their contributions to the genre are just starting to be recognized. Everyone knows about Mary Shelley, of course, but she was not alone. This BBC article claims that women wrote as much of 70% of the horror tales published during the form’s first golden age in the 19th century.

Here are some names to conjure with: Louisa May Alcott, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Edith Nesbit, Helena Blavatsky, and Edith Wharton. In addition to the titles for which they are famous, all of these ladies wrote horror tales. And there are many more ladies whose work is being brought back to life – if you’ll pardon the expression – by Kymera Press and others.

A couple of years ago, I published an anthology called More Deadly Than the Male, in which I showcased the work of these ladies and others. That’s one reason why this Kickstarter campaign is especially interesting to me. If you’d like to know more about the book, here’s a post I wrote about it, and here is an interview I did for Colorado Public Radio talking about the book and the ladies whose work features in it.

More Deadly than the Male

A small but shameless plug for my own book.

I’m working on a couple more anthologies, and part of me hopes to compile another anthology of stories by even more of the ladies who helped define horror in its early days. Another part of me hopes that it will no longer be necessary to showcase women – as writers of horror or in any other context – with the unspoken subtext “…and they’re girls!” Rather, I hope for a world in which they and their work are recognized on their own merits, on equal terms with the male writers whose names are still much better known.

To me, Women in Horror Month is part of the process of bringing that about – and of helping ensure that today’s women in horror will never face such undeserved obscurity.

Detlef Sierck Presents: The Alchemist, by Ben Jonson

January 29, 2020 1 comment

subtle

 

I first got into roleplaying games through amateur theatre. I was a member of a couple of different local groups in the 70s and 80s, and while I was working at Games Workshop I joined Nottingham’s Lace Market Theatre and got a part in this play. I don’t think it inspired “A Rough Night at the Three Feathers” directly, but it is certainly similar in that it features a single location – in this case, a London town house – in which multiple plots collide over a short period of time.

The house’s owner, Mr. Lovewit, has gone to the country to escape an outbreak of plague, leaving his servant Jeremy to look after the place in his absence. Jeremy has plans of his own, though, and joins forces with two confederates to cook up a number of schemes. One is a con man named Subtle, and the other is a prostitute named Doll Common. Jeremy himself adopts the persona of Captain Face, with the social acceptability that brings, and lures prospective marks to the house.

Dapper is a lawyer’s clerk who wants better luck at the gaming tables. Subtle convinces him to seek the favor of the Queen of the Fairies (played by Doll) and the two subject him to various “fairy” tricks and humiliations while relieving him of all his valuables.

Abel Drugger is a tobacconist who wants his newly-opened shop to succeed. Under the guise of advising him on the luckiest stock and furnishings, the trio robs him of a lot of valuable tobacco.

Drugger introduces them to two acquaintances recently arrived from the country. Kastril is a quarrelsome young gentleman who wants to learn how to argue in the sophisticated manner of the town. His sister, Dame Pliant, is wealthy and recently widowed. The three smell profit in both of them.

Sir Epicure Mammon is rich, and would like to be richer – and younger, and more sexually vital. He is quickly convinced that Subtle is close to perfecting the Philosopher’s Stone that can turn all things into gold and is a key ingredient in the Elixir of Youth. Mammon hands over a fortune in household goods to pay for Subtle’s experiments. He also falls in love (or more likely, in lust) with Doll after catching an unintended glimpse of her. He is accompanied by Sir Pertinax Surly, a skeptical friend who tries without success to expose the con, dressing up as a Spanish nobleman at one point and allowing himself to be led towards a marriage with Dame Pliant.

Tribulation Wholesome and his sidekick Ananias are Anabaptists, members of a strict Protestant church with puritanical leanings. Despite this, though, they are intent on perpetrating a con of their own: using Subtle’s gold-making prowess to counterfeit Dutch money in order to advance their sect’s position there – increasing their own wealth and influence in the process.

Needless to say, the various plots collide horribly over the course of the play. The three con artists quarrel endlessly, refusing to trust each other because they are all liars and cheats. Subtle’s lab explodes at a critical moment. People from one plot arrive unexpectedly to interrupt the progress of another. In other words, farce ensues.

At the height of the chaos, the householder Lovewit returns unexpectedly. Despite his servant’s best efforts, the various plots are exposed one by one as things come undone. Subtle and Doll flee empty-handed rather than face the wrath of the law. Face – now Jeremy again – placates his master by offering him marriage to the wealthy Dame Pliant. The remaining plots are quickly wrapped up and the play ends with Lovewit triumphant and Jeremy chastened.


 

Ben Jonson

Ben Jonson by Abraham van Blyenberch, circa 1617

Ben Jonson was a contemporary of Shakespeare, and this play was first performed in 1610. His language is similar to Shakespeare’s, but includes more contemporary London slang. Don’t be put off by that, though. Any edition worth its salt will come with explanations and footnotes. If you can find a stage production, you will find that the frantic pace pulls everything together beautifully. I would recommend a film or TV adaptation, but there don’t seem to be any, which is a pity.

Alchemist cover

 

So there you have it. A town setting, multiple plots, colorful characters, greed, lust, chicanery – it’s all very WFRP, even though it’s not fantasy.

Watch out for more #DetlefSierckPresents posts, and I’ll share more of the things I was watching and reading when I worked on WFRP. Perhaps they will inspire you, too.

 

Other Detlef Sierck Productions

Mostellaria (The Haunted House) by Titus Maccius Plautus

About Detlef Sierck

 

Detlef Sierck, the greatest dramatist of his day, was created by Kin Newman (under the pesudonym Jack Yeovil) for the Warhammer novel DrachenfelsHe made guest appearances in Jack Yeovil’s Genevieve Undead and William King’s Skavenslayer, and has appeared in two products for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: the Warhammer Companion for  WFRP 1st edition and Rough Nights and Hard Days for WFRP 4th edition.

 

Although Sierck is a part of Warhammer’s Old World, the plays and other sources in this series can serve as inspiration for almost any roleplaying game, in almost any kind of setting.

The Twelve Books of Christmas: Part Twelve

December 24, 2018 12 comments

My twelfth book of Christmas is not actually published until February, but it can be pre-ordered now – and arrive in time for Valentine’s Day, so there’s another holiday covered. You’re welcome.

Following on from the success of Colonial Horrors, I have assembled another anthology of pioneering horror stories, this time from female authors. More Deadly than the Male includes a story by Mary Shelley, of course, but there are some surprises as well. When she was not writing about the March family in Little Women and its sequels, Louisa May Alcott took time out to write one of the first mummy tales. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote several ghost stories, one of which is also in the collection. British readers of a certain age will remember Edith Nesbit’s classic The Railway Children with affection, but may not be aware of her extensive horror output. There are also obscure names like Vernon Lee (Violet Paget, adopting a male nom-de-plume in order to be take seriously) and forgotten ones like Alice Rea.

The publication date is well chosen, since February 2019 will be the tenth annual Women in Horror Month, while March is Women’s History Month. All of the ladies in this collection led surprising and inspiring lives: some were remarkable only for the fact that they made their mark in the male-dominated world of literature, while others achieved far more.

Most surprising of all, perhaps, is the claim made in a BBC online article that at the height of the 19th-century fashion for horror stories, more than 70% of published tales were written by women. They often brought a psychological dread to their horror, as well as some social commentary: Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wall-Paper” is a vivid portrait of psychological disintegration on the one hand, and on the other a savage indictment of the so-called “rest cure” – effectively a form of solitary imprisonment which kept women from embarrassing their families, under the guise of paternalistic concern for the delicate nature of the “weaker sex.”

Here are extracts from some early reviews:

“Davis (Colonial Horrors) has done thoughtful literary excavation, and the stories he has selected are a trove of fantastic gems.”
– Publisher’s Weekly

“An incredible collection of lesser-known ghost stories from female writers of the 18th and 19th centuries.”
– Goodreads

…and here is a link to the book’s page on the Pegasus Books web site.

This concludes my twelve books of Christmas. Thank you for reading, and I hope you have found something interesting – and perhaps some  inspiration for a last-minute gift – among them. Links to various online retailers can be found on the My Books page, but if you find them at a brick-and-mortar store, your purchase will help them as well as helping me.

Merry Christmas to all, or the compliments of whichever season you celebrate at this time of year. May 2019 be a year in which unity triumphs over division, compassion over hate, and understanding over fear. And may it be a year in which more people discover, or rediscover, the joy of reading.

Click here for Part One: Colonial Horrors.

Click here for Part Two: Nazi Moonbase.

Click here for Part Three: Werewolves – A Hunter’s Guide.

Click here for Part Four: Theseus and the Minotaur.

Click here for Part Five: The New Hero, vol. 1.

Click here for Part Six: Knights Templar – A Secret History.

Click here for Part Seven: The Lion and the Aardvark.

Click here for Part Eight: Thor – Viking God of Thunder.

Click here for Part Nine: Tales of the Frozen City.

Click here for Part Ten: Blood and Honor.

Click here for Part Eleven: The Dirge of Reason.