Where are you on the Goodreads challenge?

We’re five months into the annual Goodreads reading challenge and I’m chugging along, having hit 13 out of my goal of 21, so its safe to say we will probably surpass that number before year’s end.

What did you set your goal to, and how far along are you? Cruising along or need to pick up the pace? Here’s the 13 books I’ve read so far this year:

conanConan – Adventures In Age Undreamed Of

2d20 RPG Campaign Setting

Modiphius Entertainment

2017

Read my review here!

 

 

1Xas Irkalla

Original System RPG

James Vail

2018

Read my review here!

 

 

devilsnightDevil’s Night Dawning

Dark Fantasy Novel

Damien Black

2016

Check it out at Goodreads

 

 

accursedAccursed

Save Worlds RPG Campaign Setting

Melior Via

2014

Read my review here!

 

 

uncagedUncaged: Faces Of Sigil

Planescape RPG Accessory

TSR

1996

Read my review here!

 

 

51nM0L2MRvLThe Eighth God

Dark Fantasy Novel

Paul Lavender

2017

Read my review here!

 

 

fiascoFiasco / Fiasco ’10 Playset

GM-less cooperative RPG / Adventure Set

Jason Morningstar

2009 / 2010

Read my review here!

 

 

gurpsmarksattacksMars Attacks

GURPS RPG Campaign Setting

Steve Jackson Games

2016

Read my review here!

 

 

horrorsHorrors

Earthdawn RPG Supplement

FASA

1995

Read my review here!

 

 

wraithWraith Knight

Dark Fantasy Novel

C.T. Phipps

2016

Read my review here!

 

 

darkmageDarkmage

Dark Fantasy Novel

M.L. Spencer

2017

Check it out at Goodreads!

 

 

Exalted_Second_Edition_Core_BookExalted 2nd Edition

RPG Campaign Setting

White Wolf

2006

Check it out at Goodreads!

 

Advertisements

Xas Irkalla: Black Metal Insanity In RPG Form

Xas-Irkalla

Did you see that image above and think it was a logo for a black metal band? Yup, me too, and I think that’s exactly what what the designers were going for with this ultra bleak (and ultra awesome) new tabletop game.

In a nutshell, Xas Irkallla is the RPG equivalent of the terrifying esoteric oddity of a Deathspell Omega album colliding with the blackened violence of any given USBM band. Its dark and grim and mind bending and unpleasant, like being trapped in a Gustave Doré painting.

1Rather than your typical d20 open game license entry, Xas Irkalla features a unique ruleset, and it is woven very well into the fabric of the game.

The rules are simplified and fairly easy, but show off the theme quite well. While a good deal different than players may be used to if they stick to Pathfinder or a system like Modiphius’ 2d20 rules, the mechanics here are easy to pick up and flow well.

Loads of character advancement options are available that reflect the dark insanity of the setting, but don’t get too attached, because characters are going to die frequently and messily. You are squishy like a Call Of Cthulhu character, and in a universe that’s more actively deadly, like an even more horror-focused Warhammer.

2While there are a couple of minor nit picks in the layout and formatting where you can tell this is more of an indie affair, overall I’m pretty impressed with the quality of everything on display, from the art to the design concepts.

Xas Irkalla is an incredibly disturbing version of roleplaying, and that can’t be said enough. As a vast intersection of wildly different worlds and realities pulled together by the dreams of dead psychics, things get deliciously weird.

You might have a qliphotic, tentacled sorcerer in a wheelchair next to a spear-wielding gladiatorial slave next to a soldier from an ultra-advanced space-faring society next to a mischievous trickster god in the party.

4The setting is just relentlessly grim. As someone who writes apocalyptically bleak grimdark fantasy novels, I’m down with that, but obviously a group who wants to play the heroic paladins saving the peasants from evil will not be on board with this setting.

What you get here is a radically different experience than the typical RPG. Xas Irkalla ends up somewhere at the cross section of survival horror, esoteric U.S. black metal, the Cthulhu mythos, a nightmare wrapped in an acid trip wrapped in a sweat lodge hallucination, and even darker, more dreadful things.

After a successful crowd funding campaign, Xas Irkalla is now available digitally, but this is the sort of game you want to hold in your hands, and I’m eagerly looking forward to a physical edition landing soon.

3

The Occupation Of Iraq Via Fantasy… Except Worse

New review up from author C.T. Phipps!

A killer new review just rolled in for Light Dawning from fellow author C.T. Phipps, who penned series like Wraith Knight, Lucifer’s Star, Agent G, and I Was A Teenager Weredeer.

According to Phipps, the grimdark backdrop of Light Dawning is like “the occupation of Iraq via fantasy, except even worse!” Read the full review at Goodreads here!

ct

 

New Year Of Fantasy And Sci-Fi

28 books from 18 authors all at 99 cents!

NewYearSale-1200x675-TW-01-1024x577

2018 is here and its time to fill up your TBR pile! I had the distinct pleasure of teaming up with 18 killer authors for the New Year Of Fantasy & Sci-Fi promo running right now.

Until Sunday the 14th, we’re offering 28 of our collective books in the horror, sci-fi, and fantasy genres at only 99 cents each.

For less than a cup of coffee pick up my Light Dawning or anything by these stellar authors in the lineup like Rob Hayes, M.L. Spencer, Damien Black, Frank Dorrian, Richard Nell, and many more! Check out the full lineup here.

books

Underground Book Reviews Covers Light Dawning

Indie grimdark fantasy holds its own against the big name publishers!

under

We’re kicking off the new year with a killer new Light Dawning review from Underground Book Reviews! Here’s a little of what Steve Wetherell had to say about the grimdark fantasy novel:

Though filled with magic and monsters, Light Dawning is not about escapism. There are no heroes, only people making hard choices to stay alive. There are no noble sacrifices, only senseless deaths and desperate murders. In short, if you’re looking for jolly dwarves and sarcastic elves, maybe look elsewhere. However, if strong writing and palpable mood is your thing, by all means settle in.

Read the full review right here and be sure to leave a comment letting Steve know if you agree!

review

New Autumns Eyes Album Coming This Halloween

Get stoked for a killer fall-themed metal experience!

autumns-eyes-3I always love it when my favorite things collide, and that’s what happens whenever Autumns Eyes releases a new album, combining horror, a fall atmosphere, and metal together as one!

At the crossroad between a hallowed holiday and the cusp of a dead cold winter is where you’ll find Autumns Eyes mastermind Daniel Mitchell. After many seasons of seclusion and intermittently hitting the studio, the recording process has finally wrapped up for the new album titled Ending Life Slowly.

Mitchell is no stranger to the darker side of creativity, and crafts music free of constraints or label interference. Ending Life Slowly strikes a balance between somber reflections on mortality and full-force screaming metal, with cover art to reflect the album’s dreary nature crafted by Indonesian artist Sorrow Grips (Gojira).

Due out on October 31st, Ending Life Slowly serves as the first full-length album from Autumns Eyes since the 2012 release of Please Deceive Me. Halloween and the death of Fall is a perfect time to be reminded that sometimes life ends far too slowly.

Mitchell had this to say about the impending album release:

“Living in New England has always made it easy to draw from the month of October for creative inspiration, with life breathing its flaming colors into all the surrounding trees. Unfortunately, these themes can only be revisited every so often before it becomes repetitive. That’s why I reached into the month of November for inspiration. A time when Fall is still thriving, but where color has faded and the trees are bare as skeletons.

“While a walk through the woods here in October can be a relaxing activity, doing the same in November carries an overwhelming sense of dread. You’re surrounded by death, and the trees no longer sway and breathe with the air. They’re cold, stiff, bare, and knock together like bones breaking in the sky.

autumns-eyes-1“This atmosphere is what fueled the writing process for Ending Life Slowly, with death and decay surrounding every element of each track. It’s a cliche topic to write about in heavy metal music, but my approach here was focused more on the immense weight death can hold over one’s shoulders. To sit an truly contemplate what it means for all things to come to an end was a sobering experience to say the least.

“I always look at music as sonic therapy, but this was the one time where music couldn’t offer any kind of solace. It just reminded me that life can either go by too fast, or it can end too slowly.”

Check out the album’s artwork and track listing:

  • 1. Death of October
  • 2. Break the Skin
  • 3. Your Last Day
  • 4. Moments Into Memories
  • 5. The Honest Liars
  • 6. Couldn’t Hold On
  • 7. Far Away From Fading
  • 8. Internal Arson
  • 9. Open Your Eyes, Not Your Wrists
  • 10. Under the Skin of the Sun

 

autumns-eyes-artwork

A Whirlwind Tour of Horror Roleplaying

From investigative mythos madness to hilarious cartoon parodies, there’s a whole lot of tabletop RPGs out there for the horror fan!

October is prime time to put that dungeon-delving 5th edition campaign on hold and temporarily put away that shiny new copy of Starfinder to dust off all the horror RPG manuals!

While there are plenty of the usual suspects everyone knows about — like Call Of Cthluhu or Vampire: The Masquerade — horror gaming has a lot more to offer than just those staple entries.

Those settings and adventures that are well known tend to get rehashed, again and again, to the point where they lose any purpose. I mean, how many times has Expedition To Castle Ravenloft been printed in new editions and formats at this point? How many editions of Call Of Cthulhu have re-tread that introductory Haunted House adventure?

Instead of giving you the same thing yet again, I’m going to take you on a tour of some more offbeat horror offerings ranging from toddlers facing the monster under the bed to geriatric cosmic horror and beyond!

Trail Of Cthulhu

trailAlthough very much in the same vein as Call Of Cthulhu, the Trail system goes in a different direction, simplifying the rules and focusing solidly on the investigative aspects.

The biggest change is that investigative skills never fail. The players always find the clue, the question is just how much info they really get from finding the clue.

The tone and descriptions change quite a bit here as well, with many varied (and in my opinion, much better) explanations as to what any given mythos entity might really be.

In 2014 I put together my own four episode, police task force campaign inspired by the first season of True Detective using this ruleset’s offbeat interpretation of Yig (complete with opening video / music sequence like a TV show). It was easily the best game our group ever played.

There aren’t a ton of print scenarios you’ll find in stores for Trail, but what its lacking in quantity is made up in quality with the nearly 400 page mega adventure Eternal Lies. If you don’t mind PDFs, there are a ton of digital scenarios for this system available through the publisher and at sites like DriveThruRPG or Paizo.

GURPS Horror

gurps_horrorThere have been a handful of different iterations of this particular tome throughout the years in different editions of GURPS, but I’m a fan of the 1990 release.

It’s kind of amazing to look back at this one and see what they list under recommended reading and viewing for books and horror movies, as its quite different from what you’ll see in similar sections of newer RPG manuals.

Despite the artwork being sort of silly throughout, there are some solid tips in here for running a horror campaign, and it features a really comprehensive overview of all things horror related.

From multiple iterations of the werewolf myth, to mad science, to non-horror hoax fakeouts, to 1920’s home brew hooch gone terribly wrong, and even onto cosmic Lovecraftian horror, really no stone is left unturned here. If you want a great idea spring board for a scary campaign, you can’t go wrong with GURPS Horror.

Little Fears / WOD Innocents

littlefearFor all the horror games available out there, not many are willing to tread into territory focused on bad things happening directly to children, or of having players take on the role of vulnerable kids.

Although there have since been a few attempts at this same idea by various publishers, Little Fears is probably the original and most influential role playing game to have players take on the role of kids in a world where nightmare creatures are real.

Its a very, very different experience than your typical sword and sorcery game, or even a modern horror storytelling campaign.

Around the time that the World Of Darkness was being rebooted from its ’90s angsty goth roots and updated in the ’04 – ’09 era with games like Promethean or Vampire: The Requiem, there was another take on this same idea with World Of Darkness: Innocents. If you dig the White Wolf style, you should check that one out, as it doesn’t tend to go for such astronomical used prices as the original Little Fears.

Slasher

slasherThis innovative World Of Darkness entry is really quite different in that it has YOU playing the slasher villains!

A scorned nurse angel of death, a calculating intelligent killer like Hannibal Lector, an unstoppable killing force bent on revenge, any slasher you can imagine can be built with these rules and put together into a coterie of malignant evil.

The cover and title are a little misleading though, because the description and front artwork give the impression this is a standalone World Of Darkness title like Vampire or Changeling. Its actually a (much larger than normal) source book for Hunter, and requires that base book to use.

Shadow of the Demon Lord

shadIf you’ve done Warhammer to death or want something a little newer that is superbly dark and horror-focused without leaving fantasy behind, Shadow Of The Demon Lord should be on your must-have list.

This one is very much inspired by the fantasy post-apocalypse world of Grim Dawn, and it offers a killer combo of Warhammer, D&D, and Call Of Cthulhu.

Corruption and insanity are built directly into the rules, rather than being tacked on extras in a supplement, as its assumed your characters will have to do something awful or immoral at some point in order to survive.

I remember some years back picking up the Dragon Age tabletop RPG box set that billed itself as “dark fantasy roleplaying,” but being disappointed that it really didn’t fit the bill as advertised. Shadow Of The Demon Lord meanwhile brings the darkness, and in spades! I covered this one in a lot more detail earlier this summer right here.

Dark Heresy / Black Crusade

blackcrusadeThere’s a whole lot of horror in the Warhammer universe, with that franchise often given as the baseline example of what is meant by the term “grimdark.”

Although they no longer have the license, for several years Fantasy Flight put out a stellar line of Warhammer 40,000 games and accessories, and they didn’t skimp on the horror, either mundane or supernatural.

While in Dark Heresy you can play as agents of the Inquisition rooting out heretics and battling the forces of Chaos, the unexpected Black Crusade line of games had you playing as the bad guys.

There’s a ton of storytelling potential there for disgusting Chaos cultists who worship the lord of plague Nurgle, or time-warped Chaos Space Marines who want vengeance on the Emperor, to just regular old downtrodden citizens of the Imperium who are tired of being stepped on and are willing to make a deal with the devil to improve their lives.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer

buffyMy wife and her extended family are all big fans of the show (they hate the movie, obviously) but honestly I’m not too big on it, as I didn’t grow up with it and never got attached. Just to round all the bases of fandoms hating me, I should probably point out here that I don’t like Dr. Who either. Come at me, bro.

So what’s this game doing here? Simply put, the rules are fucking inspired. This has got to be, hands down, the absolute best RPG system for any modern day game I’ve ever come across.

It’s essentially the World Of Darkness d10 system, except that there are no dice pools. Absolutely every action is handled with one single d10 roll, and the target number is always the same, so you always know immediately whether you failed or succeeded, and to what degree you succeeded.

If you have a group of newbies, or a group that isn’t interested in a rules-heavy game, you should be using this system. When we play Call Of Cthulhu, we ditch that game’s clunky d100 system and use this rule set instead. Seriously, this is some elegant game design, even if you don’t care about the series its attached to. Who would have guessed you needed to head to Sunnydale to find the best RPG system?

Ten Candles

There’s no question Ten Candles is one of the most interesting examples of style-meets-substance on the RPG front in years. The title is literal — you play by the light of ten tea light candles, and when then last one burns out, the game is over.

Even more deadly than a typical Call Of Cthulhu campaign, it is assumed there will be no survivors at all by the game’s end. The developers describe it as “a game about being pushed to the brink of madness and despair, searching for hope in a hopeless world, and trying to do something meaningful with your final few hours left.”

tencandles

Pathfinder APs

path1I’ve been following Pathfinder for a lot of years now, even before the end of Paizo’s run with the Dragon and Dungeon magazines.

I have very fond (and amused) memories of asking a game store owner if he had gotten the next issue of Rise Of The Runelords and being met with a blank stare and a “are you sure that’s a real game?” Now no game store in their right mind would even think of not carrying all things Paizo.

Along the way the game (and its fanbase) has changed quite a bit, and I’ll be honest here — it’s no longer my go-to system.

There was a time though, when Paizo was delivering surprise after surprise and constantly kept the fans always wanting to know what was coming next. Carrion Crown had to be one of the most unexpected adventure paths to arrive, covering a different horror trope in each volume, from a House On Haunted Hill scenario in the first adventure,  to Frankenstein’s Monster (in full D&D golem glory) in the second, werewolves in the third, and so on.

path2Even more unexpected was the Cthulhu mythos scenario from fourth adventure Wake Of The Watcher, providing stats and backgrounds for various cosmic horror monsters. I read that issue over and over to get Paizo’s unique take on the darkness between the stars and all those things man was not meant to know.

That adventure would go on to inspire its own full Lovecraftian adventure path called Strange Aeons years later, which kicks off with the classic scenario of the investigators not knowing who they are or why they are in an asylum.

Although the Strange Aeons path is really more combat-focused than this sort of game should be, if you want a King In Yellow campaign for D&D rather than Call Of Cthulhu, do yourself a favor and pick up these adventures.

Horror Rules

horrorrulesI grabbed this one on a whim while perusing cheap used RPG books on Amazon and I’m glad I did.

It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and this is a fun little system for some one-shot horror games with a good dosage of comedy, utilizing some interesting and unique ideas. The art isn’t great, but it more than makes up for that with heart and some wink-wink, nudge-nudge action at the reader.

I think what most sticks with me is that the publisher is called Crucifiction Games. I still can’t figure out if that’s supposed to be a dig at Christianity (as in the crucifixion was fiction), or if this game is by a Christian company that didn’t realize the combination of words looks really bad for them. Either way, I sort of love it.

Tooniversal Tour Guide

tooniversalHold up now, what the heck is TOON doing here? Horror isn’t always candles in the dark or people going mad when they realize their existence is utterly pointless.

Sometimes, its hilarious comedy instead (you really wanna tell me Tucker And Dale Versus Evil or Dead And Breakfast aren’t horror movies?).

If you haven’t played the overlooked TOON, its literally Saturday morning cartoons — Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Marvin the Martian, the whole bit — translated into a tabletop RPG, and it’s awesome.

The Tooniversal Tour Guide was a supplement meant to expand the game’s range out into unexpected places, letting you play different kinds of cartoon stories involving ’50s monsters, Mad Max style car battles, or supernatural themed toons like the Real Ghostbusters.

If you look carefully on the cover, in the left corner you may see a purple tentacled thing hailing from the Crawl of Catchoolu segment, which has your cartoon investigators facing off against the Elderly Ones. Yeah, you read that correctly. It’s a good time, and something to try out if you need a humorous roleplaying night that isn’t Paranoia

Many More!

kuroI’ve got a pretty extensive collection of RPGs (the word “vast” might not be uncalled for), from seriously old school unknown gems from the ’80s to the latest 2017 releases, but there are a few horror entries I haven’t had the pleasure of picking up yet.

Of those I haven’t played, there are probably three I’ve most had my eye on and want to pick up next.

chillFirst up is the hard-to-find Japanese horror game Kuro from Cubicle 7. This indie developer has put together some amazing tabletop RPGs like The One Ring (easily the best Lord Of The Rings roleplaying game ever) and World War Cthulhu, so I’m confident that one will be worth the buy eventually.

Going back further to the golden era of tabletop gaming, I sadly missed out both on Chill, and on the constantly praised Unknown Armies.

Anybody had any experience with those systems? Let me know what you thought and if it’s worthwhile to lay down the cash to pick ’em up used these days!

unknown