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My Complete and Utter Colonial Gothic Bibliography

November 23, 2015 15 comments

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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.

Products

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

Articles

“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

Also Visit

The Rogue Games Colonial Gothic page
The Rogue Games Store
The Colonial Gothic Facebook Group
The Colonial Gothic Google+ Community

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)

My Complete and Utter Cthulhu Bibliography

My Complete and Utter D&D/AD&D/d20 Bibliography

My Complete and Utter GURPS Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Vampire: the Masquerade and World of Darkness Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Fighting Fantasy and Gamebook Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Dark Future Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Video Gameography

My Complete and Utter Bibliography: The Rest of the RPGs

My Complete and Utter Bibliography: Odds and Ends

 

Dark Osprey: Systemless Game Settings, Cheap but Deep

November 17, 2015 2 comments

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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.

War of the Worlds coverMike 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.

 

Atlantis coverPhil 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.

 

Nazi Occult coverKenneth 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.

 

zombies coverAs 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.

Orc Warfare coverChris 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!

 

 

 

 

Colonial Gothic: Lovecraft

September 9, 2015 5 comments

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Preorders opened yesterday for the new Colonial Gothic sourcebook, Lovecraft. It is available in PDF, ePub, and Kindle formats as well as the physical book. It’s also something I’ve been looking forward to for some time, and here’s why: it is the first time in almost 25 years that I got to work with Tony Ackland.

If you are a fan of Games Workshop’s products from the 80’s, you’ll be familiar with Tony’s work. Tony was instrumental in establishing the look and feel of the Warhammer world, and I worked very closely with him on the first edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. We also hung out a lot after work a lot, playing Go and talking about everything from World War II aircraft to the campaigns of Napoleon to fossils to classic horror books and movies. A significant quantity of Bass Ale was involved too, I recall.

It’s hard to pick a favorite out of Tony’s enormous output from those years, but I was especially impressed by his monster illustrations for the hardback 3rd edition Call of Cthulhu rulebook published under license by Games Workshop in 1986. For many British players, it was the first edition they could actually afford: the earlier boxed sets, imported from Chaosium in the States, were ruinously expensive.

When he retired, Tony taught himself to use a drawing tablet by creating pictures of – you guessed it – creatures from the Cthulhu Mythos. Every few days, it seemed, his friends would find another batch of unnamably blasphemous goodness in their email. And that’s when I had an idea.

I had been helping Richard Iorio of Rogue Games with the Colonial Gothic product line for a few years. We had talked about a Lovecraft-themed product often. While set in his own “present day” of the 1920s and 1930s, many of Lovecraft’s stories harked back to Colonial times, and in fact Richard had pitched “Cthulhu 1776” to Chaosium before deciding to launch Colonial Gothic through his own company. Tony’s illustrations were an opportunity too good to miss – and I think these new images hold up very well against the Call of Cthulhu bestiary from almost 30 years ago. I’m delighted to see this book come out, for personal reasons as well as professional.

The book covers the best-known gods and beasts of the Cthulhu Mythos, but there are many things that we couldn’t touch for copyright reasons (click here for more on the complex copyright issues surrounding his work and those of the other Mythos authors). If you should happen to want to use another Mythos creature in a Colonial Gothic adventure of your own, converting the stats from Call of Cthulhu is a fairly simple matter. Here is a rough method based on creatures that are common to both systems: the GM may need to make minor adjustments according to personal taste and preferred play style, but this will provide a reasonable starting-point.

Note: these guidelines are given for personal use only, and are not intended to challenge any copyrights held by Chaosium, Inc, or any other party.

Attributes
Might = CoC STR x 0.6
Nimble = CoC DEX x 0.46
Vigor = CoC CON x 0.44
Reason = CoC INT x 0.57
Resolution has no directly comparable stat in Call of Cthulhu. I recommend picking something suitable, bearing in mind that the human average is 7.

Skills
Start with the governing attribute score and adjust according to the needs of the adventure. For more accurate conversions, Call of Cthulhu uses a percentile skill system, so GMs with good math skills can calculate the odds of 2d12 results and come up with a conversion table if they wish.

Attacks
Colonial Gothic non-weapon attacks are attribute-based, so it is easy to assign attack damage. If the GM doesn’t mind a little work, it is possible to derive a damage score by cross-referencing CoC damage with damage from weapons that are common to both Colonial Gothic and Call of Cthulhu (or another Basic Role Playing game, such as Runequest).

Traits
Most creatures of the Cthulhu Mythos have Fear and Horrific Visage to reflect their effect on an observer’s Sanity. The severity of each of these Traits should be proportional to the creature’s SAN loss rating in Call of Cthulhu. Use the creatures from Colonial Gothic: Lovecraft as a guide. Other Traits are at the GM’s option: the book lists several new Traits for Cthulhu Mythos creatures.

My Complete and Utter GURPS Bibliography

September 1, 2015 12 comments

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When I left Games Workshop in 1990, Steve Jackson Games was one of the first companies I approached for freelance work. I was attracted to GURPS because of the large number of settings it supported, especially in my favorite area of historical fantasy. Since I had studied Viking archaeology at college, the first proposal I sent their way was for GURPS Vikings. It got a very positive response, and led to more work in the same vein. A few rules additions from my sourcebooks also ended up in the core rules. Here’s the list:

Products
GURPS Low-Tech (2011) – contributing author Buy it here
GURPS Crusades (2010) – co-author Buy it here
GURPS Faerie (2003) – author Buy it here
GURPS Vikings, Second Edition (2002) – author Buy it here
GURPS Middle Ages 1, Second edition (2002) – author Buy it here
GURPS Best of Pyramid Magazine 2 (2002) – contributing author Buy it here
GURPS Best of Pyramid Magazine 1 (2001) – contributing author
GURPS Discworld Also (2001) – editor Buy it here
GURPS Compendium II (2000) – contributing author Buy it here
GURPS Compendium I (1999) – contributing author Buy it here
GURPS Middle Ages 1 (1992) – author
GURPS Vikings (1991) – author

Articles
“The Viking Dead” and “Indian Ghouls,” Pyramid #3/92, June 2016. Buy it here
“Tempered Punks,” Pyramid #3/87, January 2016 Buy it here
“The Knights Templar,” Pyramid #3/86, December 2015 Buy it here
“La Llorona,” personal blog, December 2015 Download free here
“The Nock Volley Gun,” Pyramid #3/57, July 2013 Buy it here
“The Puckle Gun,” Pyramid #3/52, February 2013 Buy it here
“The Air Loom,” Pyramid #3/32, July 2011 Buy it here
“Templars: The Fighting Priests,” Pyramid #3/19, May 2010 Buy it here
“Mummy Amulets,” Pyramid #3/17, March 2010 Buy it here
“The Vikings in the Atlantic,” Pyramid #3/16, February 2010 Buy it here
“Designer’s Notes: GURPS Faerie” View free online
“Solomon Kane,” Shadis #40, Sept 1996
“Nastassia’s Wedding,” Pyramid #19, May/June 1996 Buy it here
“Terra Incognita: The Ghost Ship,” Pyramid #12, Mar/Apr 1995 Buy it here
“Lady Mijiko’s Holiday,” Pyramid #14, Jul/Aug 1995
“Trespasser’s Isle,” Pyramid #16, Nov/Dec 1995 – View free online
“Black Dogs, Church Grims and Hell Hounds,” Roleplayer #30, 1992 View free online
“Norse Trolls,” Roleplayer #24, 1991 View free online

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)

My Complete and Utter Cthulhu Bibliography

My Complete and Utter D&D/AD&D/d20 Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Vampire: the Masquerade and World of Darkness Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Fighting Fantasy and Gamebook Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Colonial Gothic Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Dark Future Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Video Gameography

My Complete and Utter Bibliography: The Rest of the RPGs

My Complete and Utter Bibliography: Odds and Ends

My Complete and Utter Cthulhu Bibliography

July 1, 2015 18 comments

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I had been playing AD&D for about four years when the first edition of Call of Cthulhu was published in 1981. Although I wasn’t terribly familiar with Lovecraft’s work at the time, I liked the fact that it was a horror game set in the real world of the 20th century. Initially I thought it could be used to play Hammer-horror style games, but as I read more Lovecraft I quickly came to realize how perfectly Call of Cthulhu was designed for Lovecraft’s more cerebral style of horror – and most importantly, I think, how first edition Call of Cthulhu forced players to think beyond combat as a first response.

Although my college gaming group continued to focus mainly on AD&D, I started to run an occasional Call of Cthulhu campaign. As I’ve already said in various places (including the previous post), Call of Cthulhu went on to become a major influence on my writing for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.

Although Games Workshop published various titles for Call of Cthulhu during my time there (the best, in my opinion, was the hardback rulebook with bestiary art by Tony Ackland), I only got to work on one GW CoC product, and that was before I joined the staff. At work my time was fully taken up, at first by WFRP and later by other games, so everything I wrote for Call of Cthulhu, I wrote on my own time. I did send an adventure to Chaosium around 1986-87, and I got a very nice letter back from Sandy Petersen saying he wanted to use it in the Second Cthulhu Companion, but it was cut at the last minute and it languished in a to-be-developed pile until 2015, when I finally got the opportunity to develop it into a tie-in novella for the Arkham Horror boardgame called The Dirge of Reason. 

Dirge of Reason

 

Although my bibliography for Call of Cthulhu is shorter than for many other games, I still regard it as one of my favorites. Although opportunities to write for it didn’t come my way very often, it’s still a great game and, as I’ve said before, a milestone in the history of tabletop RPG design. I think of it as the first game of the second generation, when RPG design crawled out of the dungeon, stood upright, and began to do more than just hit things with swords.

Fiction
The Dirge of Reason, Fantasy Flight Games, 2017 – author Buy it here
The Investigators of Arkham Horror, Fantasy Flight Games, 2016 – contributor Buy it here
Cthulhu Britannica, Cubicle 7 Games, 2014 – promotional postcards (Kickstarter)

Products
Achtung! Cthulhu: Under the Gun, Modiphius Entertainment, 2019 – author Buy it here
Cthulhu Confidential, Pelgrane Press, 2016 – editor Buy it here
Colonial Gothic: Lovecraft, Rogue Games, 2015 – co-author Buy it here
Green & Pleasant Land, Games Workshop 1987 – contributing author

Articles
“Converting Between Call of Cthulhu and Colonial Gothic,” blog, March 2016 Download free here
“A Green, Unpleasant Land,” blog, January 2016 Download free here
“Out of the Ordinary,” Shadis #41, Oct 1996
“Mind Over Matter,” Shadis #38, Jul 1996 Download free here
“Spirit of the Mountain,” White Dwarf #99, Apr 1988
“Trilogy of Terror,” White Dwarf #97, Feb 1988
“The Worm Stones,” Fantasy Chronicles #5, November 1986 – co-author
“Ghost Jackal Kill,” White Dwarf #79, Aug 1986
“Crawling Chaos,” White Dwarf #68, Sep 1985 – contributor
“Haunters of the Dark,” White Dwarf #67, Aug 1985

Video Games
Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, Bethesda Softworks 2005 – pickup writer (in-game documents)

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)

My Complete and Utter D&D/AD&D/d20 Bibliography

My Complete and Utter GURPS Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Vampire: the Masquerade and World of Darkness Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Fighting Fantasy and Gamebook Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Colonial Gothic Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Dark Future Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Video Gameography

My Complete and Utter Bibliography: The Rest of the RPGs

My Complete and Utter Bibliography: Odds and Ends

Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Werewolves

March 31, 2015 2 comments

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My Osprey book Werewolves: A Hunter’s Guide was released last week. To celebrate, I’ll be posting and tweeting a fact a day for ten days: just a few of the things I discovered while researching and writing it. I’ll also be updating this post each day with a new fact. You’ll find more information in the book itself, and you may never look at this stock horror monster in quite the same way once you’ve read it. I know I don’t.

Like its companion volumes on Zombies and Vampires, Werewolves: A Hunter’s Guide collects a lot of deeply-researched information gathered from all times and places and presents it in an accessible and well-organized form for gamers and general readers alike.

For more on this book:
The first review (scroll down to the Comments section for more links as I find them).
A post about Werewolves and my most recent Osprey Myths and Legends book, Theseus and the Minotaur.

1. There are five distinct types of werewolf
As I read various ancient myths and medieval trial reports, I discovered something completely unexpected: not all werewolves are the same. I finally counted five distinct types, all of which I’ve covered in detail with histories, detailed descriptions, and case studies.
The five types are:
1. Viral Werewolves;
2. Cursed Werewolves;
3. Shamanic Werewolves;
4. Sorcerous Werewolves;
5. Obsessive Werewolves.

2. The Roman Empire helped spread lycanthropy across Europe
Until the first century, viral lycanthropy was confined to a small area of eastern Europe which became the Roman provinces of Moesia and Dacia. As Roman officials, merchants, and tax gatherers opened up the region, some of them contracted the virus and spread it throughout the Roman world.

3. St. Patrick may have rid Ireland of snakes, but he created the first documented Irish werewolves
The snakes of Patrick’s legend are a metaphor for Druidism, according to some writers. Another legend tells of certain pagans who drowned out his preaching by howling like wolves – whereupon he cursed them in the name of God, and they became the first recorded werewolves in Ireland.

4. Suleiman the Magnificent purged Constantinople of werewolves in 1542
The city was so overrun with werewolves that the Ottoman Emperor called out his Janissaries to deal with the situation. Over 150 werewolves were killed in one hunt alone.

5. Russia used werewolves to destabilize Sweden in 1790
The Swedish province of Calmar was overrun by a plague of wolves in 1790. Russia and Sweden were at war, and it was rumored that at least some of the creatures were werewolves that the Russians had created using Swedish prisoners. Sweden eventually sued for peace.

6. Buffalo Bill encountered a werewolf in 1906
According to the dime novel The Wolf Demon: Or Buffalo Bill and the Barge Mystery, the great scout and showman battled a wolf-like creature in Wyoming’s Wolf River Canyon. Cody claimed it was a werewolf, though some scholars believe it was actually a skinwalker from the local Arapahoe people.

7. The “Hounds of God” were an order of werewolf witch-hunters
At his trial in 1691, one Thiess of Kaltenbrun claimed to be a Hound of God, dedicated to protecting his community from supernatural threats. The Hounds were said to conduct raids into Hell itself on three nights of the year.

8. Britain and Germany both developed werewolf special forces in WWII
Germany’s Werwulf guerillas are fairly well-known, but Britain’s Talbot Group was founded in 1941 near Llanwelly, Wales and served throughout the rest of the war.

9. Vampires may be undead werewolves
According to a Greek tradition, a dead werewolf can rise from the grave as a vampire. However, the Greek word vrykolaka can mean both werewolf and vampire, which confuses matters somewhat.

10. Benjamin Franklin organized a werewolf militia
During the American Revolution, Patriot werewolves used their wolf forms to bring back valuable intelligence on British movements and troop strengths.

A New Review of “Theseus and the Minotaur”

February 20, 2015 1 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

La Llorona: A Legend of New Spain

January 23, 2015 2 comments

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Download PDF version (Colonial Gothic)
Download PDF version (GURPS)

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
PDF version of this article (Colonial Gothic)
PDF version of this article (GURPS)

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.

The Obligatory Black Friday Post

November 28, 2014 1 comment

Theseus and the Minotaur

November 18, 2014 4 comments

index

Just a quick reminder that my Osprey Myths and Legends book Theseus and the Minotaur officially hits the stores and e-tailers today.

Yes, I know you know the myth. Bull head, maze, fight, kill. But there’s more:

  • The story may have been an allegory for a Greek invasion of Crete before the Trojan War – archaeologists have found evidence of an attack on the palace of Knossos at the right time.
  • After he became the Official Hero of Athens, Theseus got retconned into all kinds of myths starring other heroes.
  • Theseus grabbed Helen from Sparta before any Trojan had even set eyes on her.
  • The Minotaur wasn’t the only bull-monster he defeated.
  • Jose Pena’s art is just amazing – worth the price of the book by itself.

There’s more on this book – and another title I wrote for Osprey – in a previous post: https://graemedavis.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/theseus-and-the-werewolves/

And since I like Of Gods and Mortals from Ganesha Games and Osprey Wargames so much, I put together a bunch of Theseus-themed add-ons for the Greek pantheon. You can download a PDF here: http://bit.ly/1uqv0bb