Category Archives: News, Rants & Reviews

Thinking About Horror RPG’s

I posted last week about the possibility of running a Call of Cthulhu/Delta Green game. Of course, this got me thinking about Horror RPG’s in particular. I have a couple of newbies in new gaming group so I was thinking how would I differentiate the play between a horror RPG and good old D&D.

Let me start with this point. IMHO, the two best horror RPG’s are Call of Cthulhu and Chill. These games have two some similar mechanics and design philosophies. Horror is about fear. Chill has a solid Fear mechanic and, as most of you know, CofC has the Sanity mechanic which can play into a fear mechanic. So basically, there are rules to say when your character might run away or otherwise crack.

Now, this is the big one. The monsters. Sure a lot of the common horror monsters are in D&D. There’s ghosts, vampires, werewolves, and zombies even a few things that mirror or were inspired by Lovecraftian horrors. And, of course, many of those horrors have been converted to various editions of D&D. But generally in D&D, most of those monsters are designed with expectation that the player characters will beat the monsters. Heck, you’ve spells and other magical abilities plus magic swords and crap. That certainly evens up that playing field.

But in Horror RPG, the monsters are designed with the intention that they are going to wipe the floor with a party of meddling kids. The player characters probably won’t have a magical arsenal at their disposal.

The basic formula for the monster of the week type scenario is pretty simple. Bad things happen. Player characters investigate. Figure out it’s a monster. Research and discover what monster. Research how to kill said monster. If they make wrong assumption anywhere along the line then that final confrontation will go very badly for them.

I’ve also heard the argument that Horror games don’t lend themselves to heroic adventures. Really? Who’s more heroic the normal guy who’s outclassed by the monster or Mr. +5 Sword of Killing with a Resurrection scroll at the ready just in case?

Yeah, I know. YMMV. It all depends on the campaign and other factors. There’s more than one kind of fantasy campaign and there’ s more than one kind of horror campaign. Just some random thoughts.

What’s Cool Wednesday: Chaos Factory Books

I like going off the beaten path and finding those little things that fall outside of what all the cools kids are doing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a blog or small publisher, there’s folks out there that don’t get enough recognition. That leads down to a little publisher, Chaos Factory Books.

Now, I haven’t purchased every single title but there’s a group that I have purchased many of and that’s the Dark Fantasy supplements. These are short, low-cost, system-neutral PDF’s. I’ve grabbed up Dark Fantasy Settings, Dark Fantasy Places, Dark Fantasy Religion, and Dark Fantasy Magic. Each one contains a whole series of random tables for a GM to use as inspiration for creating a Dark Fantasy or even a Weird Fantasy campaign or adventure. For me personally, these are the best kind of supplements. They don’t spell everything out for a GM but inspire to bring in whatever weird thing they want. And as I said, they could used for just plain old inspiration. Each PDF is only about 12 pages. Long enough to cover the subject but not overly detailed. These PDF’s give you just what need to get the job done.

So these are worth checking out on DrivethruRPG. Oh and the author, Eric Diaz, has a blog too so you can a good sense of what he’s up to.

What’s Next Part 2

Last week I posted about about what I’m planning next. But that’s not the only thing that I have bouncing around inside my head.

Last week’s post was what I was thinking about for an old-school D&D style campaign. But since we’re playing 5E now, I don’t want to put two campaigns that have a lot of similarities (be mechanical or fluff/genre) back to back. I like to mix things up. So what does that mean for future plans? Well.

Oh that’s right. Delta Green. I did a post at the beginning of the year about some random thoughts about running Call of Cthulhu or Delta Green. And those thoughts are still in the back of my mind. I am leaning towards Delta Green over 7th Editions Call of Cthulhu. I just like the rules more and find them a little easier to hack. I do plan on adding a few of the 7th Edition rules like Pushing the Roll and the Luck mechanic.

Delta Green’s character abilities are much more aligned with the d20/D&D vibe. Since I’ve got new players, it would be one less new thing that they would have to wrap their minds around. Now, I do plan on making character generation a bit quicker and even easier. One of my philosophies about gaming is that character generation time should be inversely proportional to character life expectancy. And like every other game , I’ve got some random thoughts on various house rules and tweaks. And who knows? Maybe this will go off into some other weird direction. But that’s for a later posts.

I also know myself and my players. Just because the game is about cosmic horror doesn’t mean that there will be no crazy dark humor. There will be. I admit that and relish it.

We never take anything too serious.

What’s Next? Part 1

Yes, it’s time again for me to start thinking about what to run next. I know that my little gaming group is only a few sessions into the 5E game but I always start planning months out. And there’s a lot reasons I’m doing it on this one.

It’s all about really coming to grips about what I really like. I’ve always leaned more towards Sword & Sorcery and coloring outside of the lines just a bit but never going full Edgelord. Never go full Edgelord. I really love house ruling, kit bashing, and just tweaking rules. And lastly. 5E is just really loosing its luster for me. Sure, when it first came out. I liked it. And I still think it’s a good game system for a vanilla modern D&D setting. But I just think it won’t work that well with kind of game this going to turn into.

I went a long time without going “Oh wow! That’s cool.” But a few publishers really sparked my imagination. Planet X Games with the Phylactery Zines and Magic & Shit; the wild and crazy adventures by Dark Wizard Games; the Black Label adventures by Art of the Genre; and finally the recent Kickstarter for Hypreborea. To put it simple, these folks are talking my language. A little pulpy, grind house, B-Move Inspired weird fantasy material with a dark sense of humor without going full on Edgelord. So I have to fully admit that this sort of thing is right in my wheelhouse.

My first step is come up with what game I want to use the foundation/chassis to build this campaign around then start adding bits and pieces to make the characters fit the setting/genre.

I know I’ve ranted a lot about Barbaric! And it has a lot going for it. It’s an easy system for new players to pick up. Character generation is very quick and easy. And it’s cheap. (I won’t need to be asking players to shell out a bunch of money). There a couple of things going against it. Most of my players are only familiar with d20 based games (especially 5e) and I have so much material that based on old school d20 games on hand. I suppose I could convert the adventures and stuff. But it add another layer to any GM prep time and, well, I’m lazy. And I’m not sure how well it would work for a long term campaign.

I’m also looking at White Box. So it fulfills the cheap for the players and d20 based. The rules are very simple and I’ve done plenty of hacks on them. The only minor thing is converting monster damage and spells from later editions like BX or even AD&D. It wouldn’t be that hard. So that’s a definite possibility.

Swords & Wizardry has been my go to old school game for a long time. Some of the group even played in Blight Campaign. Easy to house rule and convert on the fly. The monster stat blocks are really easy to use and there are ton of monsters available. So yeah there’s that one.

Old School Essentials/Labyrinth Lord OK, these two are basically the same game. I did run a Labyrinth Lord game for the group and they liked it. I do have to say that OSE is the old-school darling of the day and is laid out and organized much better. Lamentations of the Flame Princess also basically has many of the same rules and some interesting spells.

Hyperborea has taken a lot my attention of late and the setting itself is very close to whole vibe I’m going for. While there are some extras from AD&D era, I don’t think it’s anything really overwhelming.

These games for me start with the best frame works to start working from. Sure I do love me some Dungeon Crawl Classics and Castles & Crusades does have a special place in my heart. But so much of what I’m planning is a total Franken-Game. Grabbing the best bits from various games or just being inspired by them. So yeah there will bits and ideas from all of the above but right now I’m trying to think which one I’m going to hack apart and put back together with the extra ideas and inspiration. What’s strange is that I’ve already got 40 pages of notes that I’ve copied and pasted from old house rules, random ideas, and various inspirational material. So needless to say, the final setup will have a bit of a different vibe going for it.

So I guess this really long post is a gigantic teaser about what’s coming up here on the blog and maybe on my Patreon.

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I admit that I didn’t back the Kickstarter on this one. I wish I had. I’ve heard good things about it so I grabbed up a copy. I’m going to do this little in parts, the Rules and then setting.

First up, let’s talk about the rules. It’s got a nice little set of lite 2d6 rules based on a roll under your attribute mechanic. There are “skills” but they really aren’t skills. They are more like classes. From what I can gather from the brief rules, characters ability scores get better but when it comes to skills, it’s either you have it or don’t. Not really a scale. Damage is determined by margin of success modified by the weapon or hazard. All of this outlined in only a few pages in the book.

Since it’s a 2d6 based system, my first thought was to think about Barbaric! While Barbaric! is a rules light game, it is crunchier than the Warpland rules. But there’s some mechanics that be lifted from the Warpland rules and added to a Barbaric! game. Similar to my post on Barbaric! for Lemuria, the classes as skills concept could be modified and act as a replacement for the standard Barbaric! skills. Warpland also has a simpler but just about as deadly crit system based on the damage type. Easy to port over. There aren’t a lot of spells but once again with a little tweaking (adding a TN) then those to are easily converted. But because of the difference in mechanics, especially the way damage works and how much characters can take, it’d be more challenging to try to convert any monsters.

Yes, I know what some of you are thinking. Why not just play Warpland the way it is? Well, you can and you can have a good time doing it. But this leads me into the second part of this rant. The setting.

This is where Warpland really shines for me. The setting is a dark weird fantasy/post apocalyptic grim place. You’ve standard fantasy type stuff like magic and you’ve got forbidden technology that could get you burned at the stake.

What I really like about it is that it’s inspirational. There’s a simple map plus a few pages for each location. Most of those pages are used for random tables. It doesn’t lead you around and tell you what’s what but instead inspires both the players and the GM to make that specific game interesting. This takes up the bulk of the book and is pretty much system neutral. So like I was ranting about previously you could easily use it for Barbaric! or even whatever d20 based retroclone that you like such as OSE, Swords & Wizardry, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Hyperborea, or even with a polish Dungeon Crawl Classics. Personally, I’m looking at Hypreborea but more on that later.

Did I mention inspirational? Yeah, I did. I rarely comment on a game’s artwork but Warpland is really inspirational with a variety of really cool art.

That’s just a sample of the great stuff in there.

You can grab up Warpland over at DrivethruRPG. It worth the price.