Friday, December 1, 2017

Life & Death mini review

I said I'd post my general thoughts on this product and I know it's been a bit, but here they are.

TL;DR - Good Stuff!

The longer version:

Life & Death: Zarth Edition is very nicely done. The adventures and the mini-setting of the Shattered Lands can be run as is or just as individual adventures. You can place it in Zarth or some other setting (notes are included for running with Class & Level games other than C&T). The adventures could be run a la carte or as a comprehensive campaign.

I really like the level of detail in the product: evocative but not exhaustive. Newt's colorful writing style is evident here as the text gives a nice flavor and a few nuggets of hard information, but doesn't overwhelm the GM with loads of details that may or may not fit his game. GMs looking for a more thorough setting or campaign may find it sparse, but it suits my preferences well.

The overall look of the product jibes well with the Crypts & Things Remastered rule book. The artwork is flavorful and the maps are efficiently simple. At just 64 pages, the reader can prep this for his group fairly easily without getting bogged down in a ton of minutiae.

My take? 4/5 screaming skulls.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

New Arrival from Across the Pond

My print copy of Life & Death: Zarth Edition arrived yesterday. I've been perusing the pdf, but there's something very satisfying about having the physical copy to lay one's mitts upon. I may, given the chance, even post a review of it once I've fully digested it.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Upside Shroud

I'm not sure why this didn't occur to me before, but this trailer spurred my current train of thought.

For those of you who have not seen the Netflix show "Stranger Things" what is WRONG with you people?! 😉

Seriously though, despite being set in the (more or less) modern world, the show is a great inspiration for some of the weirdness and horror that can be brought to a game like C&T. I'll admit that some of the trappings are a bit more Call of Cthulhu, but that's mostly superficial.

What I want to specifically draw attention to in the show is the concept of  "the Upside Down."


This is the weird, nightmare realm/parallel dimension that people get sucked into and/or things come out of. It's a dark an twisted reflection of our own world with occasional rifts or gates that appear or exist between the two realms.

If you are ever looking for an inspiration to depict or describe the Shroud in your C&T games, I highly suggest taking a look at this show.

PS- Sooo looking forward to season two later this month!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Warhammer FRP

While this isn't strictly Crypts & Things related, WFRP holds a special place in my heart for grim and gritty, swords & sorcery gaming. I especially loved the 2nd edition by Green Ronin and Chris Pramas.

So I thought I would mention that right now there is an awesome deal on the 2e pdfs over at Bundle of Holding.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

USR: Horrors Material & Magic Malignant

Just a brief mention and mini-review for Jay Murphy's USR product Horrors Material & Magic Malignant. This is a neat little product that came out this summer. At less than $2 for the pdf, it's hard to go wrong.

The book is broken into 5 sections: Characters of Cunning, Creatures Noble and Foul, Artifacts and their Mastery, Mesmerism, and Black Arts of Sorcery.

Characters of Cunning gives the gamemaster several evocative NPCs to quickly drop into his game Need a vile necromancer or truculent nomad? They're in there! Along with resigned princesses, haughty wenches, and more. I really like how each entry packs so much flavor and plot hook material into such compact entries along with the brief stat block that you'd expect from USR.

Creatures Noble and Foul takes a similar tack on monsters. Rather than generic names, these also have colorful titles and descriptions.

Artifacts and their Mastery gives the GM several fun (and nasty) items to place in a game. These aren't +1 long swords. They are items with histories and often dangerous curses or risks in using them.

Mesmerism is a neat chapter. It covers not so much hypnotism, as multiple ways to control or warp the mind. There are hallucinogens, rituals, and magical languages to control a victim's thoughts or actions. I appreciated that this was made its own entry as opposed to being lumped under the larger "Magic" umbrella.

Black Arts of Sorcery has spells as well as rituals and items of power. There is a little overlap with the monsters and artifacts sections, as both things appear here. But in such cases the entity or object are usually tied to a spell or rite the caster performs to produce the result.

Even if you don't play USR you'll find a lot of good material for your swords and sorcery game here.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Getting the Ley of the Land

Magic in Crypts & Things is a far less tame beast than in most other classic fantasy game systems. Things like corruption and attracting the Others' attention makes using it an exercise in risk assessment. That's one of the things I really like about the system.

The term "Ley Line" was originally coined in reference to the placement of certain geographic features -both natural and man made- in relation to one another. Later, occultists coopted the phrase for the idea that "veins of power" ran through the earth. An interconnected web of arcane energies. One of the ideas was that rituals and spells performed along these lines or at their intersections would be able to better tap into that power.

Obviously, this idea has a lot of potential for fantasy stories and games. In terms of C&T, I am imagining a region or micro-setting which is rife with such lines, or perhaps more potent than "normal." Sorcerers come to this land and build their towers to be close to these energies and tap into it for their spells and research.

Such a land would be a strange place. Not just because of the "extra" magic, but because so many powerful sorcerers in one area would have interesting effects on the local power structure. The mages would probably be less interested in conquest or politics than their studies, but the local lords or townsfolk wouldn't want to annoy them needlessly.

"Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger!"  -JRRT

There would be other by-products of such a place that might make good adventure fodder. Magical experiments gone awry, loosing horrid beasts into the wilds. Wizards paying handsomely for retrieving rare, quest-worthy ingredients, etc.

This is an idea I plan to play with a bit over the next few weeks. We'll see where it leads.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Further thoughts on the possible King Conan film

...and Conan in the media generally.

While I'm sure the movie (if it happens) will draw at least somewhat on the events of the previous two Arnold films (hopefully more the first than the second), I do hope the writers look to the original REH materials for more inspiration.

One of the things that disappointed me about the Jason Momoa remake was that it was basically the 1982 film again, instead of a new plot, using Howard's stories as a basis. The Milius version drew heavily on Howard for themes and imagery, but the story was original. That's a good thing. But for the 2011 film to rehash a story that was only "inspired by" the classic tales is like a copy of a copy: It's just not as crisp.

Just of the top of my head, here are a few stories that -IMO- would make great fodder for the screen:

  • Red Nails*
  • The Jewels of Gwahlur
  • Queen of the Black Coast*
  • Hour of the Dragon
  • The Scarlet Citadel
  • The Devil in Iron
*Unfortunately, the 1982 film already used Valeria (Red Nails), and Belit's line about coming back from death to save Conan. They were awesome callbacks to the stories, but it makes it harder to use the rest of those tales.

Hollywood is going to do what they're going to do. And if the film is ever released, they have my money. But I can dream, can't I?