DMs, are your monsters lacking that certain something that makes them more than just another rung in the ol’ XP ladder? Do you want your players to be wide-eyed with terror and whisper, “what the hell is that?”, when you introduce a new monster to the game? Then look no further! The newest offering from Blackdirge Publishing and Goodman Games allows you to harness the raving lunacy of H.P. Lovecraft’s tales of terror and the supernatural for your Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons game. That’s right; Critter Cache: Lovecraftian Bestiary brings the squishy, squamous goodness of Lovecraftian monsters to your game table.So dispense with the mundane kobolds, goblins, and orcs, and populate your next dungeon with elder things and shoggoths. Or, the next time your PCs set sail, have them bump into a slime-coated island covered with ancient ruins where giant, Cyclopean vaults just wait to be opened…Critter Cache: Lovecraftian Bestiary is 40 pages of new 4E material, and features over 30 of your favorite Lovecraftian critters, including everyone’s favorite, tentacular Great Old One:
- Color out of Space: Color out of Space
- Cthulhu: Cthulhu, Star Spawn of Cthulhu
- Dagon: Dagon
- Deep One: Deep One Hybrid, Deep One Hybrid Elder, Deep One Priest of Cthulhu, Deep One Raider, Deep One Leviathan
- Elder Thing: Elder Thing, Elder Thing Lifecrafter, Protoshoggoth
- Flying Polyp: Flying Polyp
- Ghoul, Lovecraftian: Ghoul Burrow King, Ghoul Coffin Cracker, Ghoul Grubber, Ghoul Gnawer
- Great Race of Yith: Yithian Lightning Guard, Yithian Mindshifter, Yithian Temporal Master
- Gug: Gug Priest of the Old Ones, Gug Sentry, Gug Slayer
- Mi-Go: Mi-Go Guard, Mi-Go Scout, Mi-Go Surgeon
- Nightgaunt: Nightgaunt, Nightgaunt Chosen of Nodens
- Shantak: Shantak
- Shoggoth: Greater Shoggoth, Shoggoth
- I would like to hear from other gamers who have had experience using the tarot (or fortune deck) as a storytelling device for their games. (How well does it work? Is this a style of game you use often? etc.)
- If someone has used the Mage deck I would like to hear how the game mechanics work, and how well they translate to a roleplaying game?
- Does using the tarot in this manner lend itself to other gaming genres other than fantasy? For example, how well would it lend itself to a horror game, like Call of Cthulhu?
[CONAN] He's in his 20s to early 30s, Caucasian, powerfully built, broad-shouldered, sun browned skin lined with scars. Piercing blue eyes and square-cut black mane, tall. He is a savage killer that has matured into the refinement his father tried to teach him when he was young. Conan is very smart, almost inhumanly strong, and very cunning. His entire life, from the moment of his birth, has been shaped by violence. Being the last of his tribe and having to watch his father die a cruel death, he is determined avenge his peoples slaughter by killing all those who led the attack on the Cimmerians, including the all-powerful Khalar Singh. He is prepared to die in order to accomplish his goal. What Conan did not expect, was to find a reason to live… LEAD
[CORIN] He's in his 30s to 40s, Caucasian, powerfully built, intelligent, graceful, master swordsman, skilled blacksmith, de facto leader of Cimmerians and Conan's father. He resolves to answer the terrible request of his dying wife and cuts Conan out of her so she can see him. He then shoulders the burden of raising Conan, which proves to be daunting given the boy's savage nature. Corin teaches his son the meaning of the sword: a hot blade must be cooled and tempered. When Khalar finally corners him and tortures him to death, he shows no regret nor pain, hiding his concern for his son's safety from the eyes of the enemy. SUPPORTING
[REMO] He's in his 30s, any ethnicity, thin, feral, misshapen, a mysterious warrior of dark magic who travels by shadow and surprises men with a quick death. He leads a band of tracking Shadow Scouts under Khalar Singh's employ. He can be immensely fast and devious, his soul as twisted as his body. SUPPORTING
[PICT] He's in his 30s, any ethnicity or dark-complexioned Caucasian ("pict" is Latin for "painted one") the fourth in the band of Pict Savages. He survives Conan's onslaught and brings Khalar Singh to where the Cimmerians camp. He is promised the heads of his enemies.
[YOUNG CONAN] Caucasian, tough and wiry, scary violent. At ten, he insists on joining the teenage boys entering their rites into becoming warriors. When four Picts cross his path and kill one of the boys, Conan unleashes a savagery that goes too far for a warrior. His father takes him aside and personally trains him. His father teaches him what makes a good sword but he has still much to learn what makes a good swordsman. When the Cimmerians are attacked by Khalar Singh and his mercenaries, Conan is the only survivor, the last of the Cimmerians. SUPPORTING
Ginnungagap: in Norse mythology this is the primordial void or chaos from which creation sprang from. Obviously a connection can be made here between Ginnungagap and Azathoth. In the Cthulhu Mythos Azathoth is the "Primal Chaos", and is said to have given birth to the universe.
Tsathoggua / Hyperborea: from the pen of Clark Ashton Smith comes the Hyperborean Cycle, a series of weird tales that take place in ancient pre-historic lands of Hyperborea. These stories are a great example of how sword & sorcery adventure can be blended with cosmic horror. Smith made it very clear that Greenland is the modern day location of Hyperborea, and for our purposes this is perfect, for the Vikings would eventually settle in Greenland sometime around 1000 AD.
Now not only do we have a link between the Norse and Cthulhu, we can now assume that the Viking settlers would at some point come under the insidious influence of "King Toad" himself and that the remnants of his ancient lair Mount Voormithadreth (and all of the Hyperborean ruins for that matter) lay hiding somewhere in the wilds of Greenland.
Atlach-Nacha: another Old One that inhabits the caverns of Mount Voormithadreth. Described as a monstrous spider with an almost human-like head, Atlach-Nacha is said to spin a web that somehow bridges the gap between our world and the Dreamlands. Surely if the Norse settlers would learn of the dark presence of Tsathoggua they will also learn of Atlach-Nacha as well. Having this connection allows for an interesting path into the Dreamlands to be introduced in your game...
Yhoundeh: is a mysterious Hyperborean "elk goddess", who is named as the wife of Nyarlathotep in the Parchments of Pnom. Little is known about her, other than she was a protector of nature, and her followers began an inquisition against the cult of Tsathoggua. It was during this inquisition that the sorcerer Eibon (author of the blasphemous tome Book of Eibon) was persecuted, and subsequently fled to Saturn to escape his own demise. Since we have already drawn a correlation between Loki and Nyarlathotep we can assume that in a roundabout way Yhoundeh could be associated with Sigyn (Loki's wife) by those involved with a Loki cult.
- Rick Kleffel's The Agony Column
- Publishers Weekly (3/4 of the page down)
- She Never Slept
- Amazon (5 star customer review)
From the website:
"MORTIS REX" is an Ancient Rome monster movie. In 123 AD, a disgraced Roman war hero is sent to defend a Roman garrison stationed in remote Scotland from a spate of mysterious killings. The hero reclaims his rightful warrior status by uniting with the local Druids and vanquishing a terrifying supernatural beast.
A terrifying, fantastical action movie in the vein of BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF.
Exodus Beyond the Veil: this is perhaps the most fantastic of all the proposed reimaginings, and as such may not fit into some low-magic games. The basic Idea is that the Picts used their knowledge of sacred sites and their command over the spirit realm to slip from this world into another. Lovecraft often used the idea of extradimensional beings and parallel worlds in his writings, so this hypothesis lends itself well to the Cthulhu Mythos. In Norse cosmology there are nine worlds, including the world of men, which is Midgard (middle earth). Another of the nine worlds is Niflheim, which is the land of ice and mist, is considered to be the Norse spirit realm, and could very well be the land into which the Pictish tribes fled.
Relocated to Forgotten Islands: the Picts lived and traveled the lands of northern Scotland and Orkney for centuries before the Vikings ever landed on their shores. It is not beyond the realm of possibility to presume that they were privy to secrets locales that were never discovered or charted by the northern invaders. Orkney legend speaks of lost islands that would mysteriously rise from the waves, while others that would sink into the sea never to be seen again. For game purposes, it can be assumed that the Picts fled to a series of uncharted islands and established new colonies for themselves.
Tainted Bloodline: lastly, we can take the hypothesis of the Picts being absorbed into other invading tribes, and add a darker spin. Just as in Lovecraft’s stories, in Orkney legend there was a race of beings (see the Finfolk below) who lived in the ocean and enjoyed copulating with unsuspecting humans. What if the Picts not only were absorbed into invading tribal populations, but also many were absorbed into the Finfolk population as well. Going further with this line of thinking, then the question must be asked if the Picts willingly gave themselves to this insidious take over, or were they tricked into submission through dark sorcery?
Nyarlathotep / Loki: a shape shifting trickster whose destiny is to herald in the end of the world… sound familiar? It is obvious that Loki and Nyarlathotep are interchangeable, and for our gaming purposes it is encouraged. Do not hesitate to have Loki be at the center of chaos and confusion, just as Nyarlathotep often is. Even if you never actually have him make an appearance in the game world it would be easy to still introduce his chaos mongering nature into the story. There is no actual proof that Loki had a cult during antiquity, but this is something that is easily adjusted for gaming purposes. If Loki cannot make an appearance then surly his cult can act in his stead.
Odin: the All Father, and master of the runes. Odin was also something of a trickster himself, and learned the art of shape changing from Loki. Though Odin was king of Asgard it cannot be assumed that he was a wholly benevolent being – on the contrary. Odin wielded dark magic, and resorted to necromancy. In grand occult tradition, Odin sacrificed himself on the World Tree and he rose from the dead illuminated with arcane knowledge. His lust for forbidden knowledge is well documented, and should be used accordingly. Odin followers would also lust for this forbidden knowledge, and his cult would go to great lengths to obtain it. Once they had mastery over dark arcane forces it would be hard for them to control the desire not to see it in use…
Jörmungandr: the World Serpent, son of Loki, which lies at the bottom of the ocean and sleeps till the time it will rise to help destroy the world. This being is so monstrously huge that it encircles the world, and can still swallow its own tail. It is said that when Jörmungandr releases his tail it will usher forth Ragnarök, and the world as we know it will end. A correlation between Jörmungandr and Cthulhu is easy to see, so it would be an easy thing to make them interchangeable in many ways. Being the son of Loki also provides some interesting possibilities as well, as his cult would hold this being in high regard, and possibly venerate it as a god itself.
Nodens: Nodens has made an appearance in a couple of Lovecraft’s stories, and by comparison to other entities in the Cthulhu Mythos Nodens seems almost like a benevolent figure through his actions. It should also be mentioned that Nodens is the arch rival to Nyarlathotep.
The Romans brought the worship of Nodens with them when they conquered the British Isles, and the Celts would have referred to him as Nuada or Nudd “of the Silver Hand”, due to the fact that he had a missing hand which was replaced by a magical one. In Norse mythology it was Tyr whose hand (arm) was lost, but not in combat as Nuadda, but it was bitten off by Fenris the wolf, who also happens to be a son of Loki.
Another interesting point that has been suggested about Nodens is that he was associated with the Greek god Pan, hence his appearance in Arthur Machen’s weird tale, The Great God Pan. Scholars have put forth that the Greek word “pan” means “all”, so they speculate that by associating Nodens with Pan was not to say that he as a goat legged nature deity, but they theorize that he was an “all god”. This would essentially make him Zeus, Poseidon and Pluto all wrapped up into one god. Inscriptions found at Roman sacred sites dedicated to Nodens seem to verify this theory.
If Nodens can be associated with Zeus, Poseidon and Pluto all at the same time, then it can be speculated that the Norse invaders would have made the same associations, and saw within him aspects of Thor, Njord (Norse god of the oceans) and Hel (daughter of Loki, queen of the underworld). Also, Nodens was seen as the master of the hunt, and in Norse mythology Odin (Wōden to the Anglo-Saxons) was the master of the Wild Hunt.
Cthulhu: in "The Call of Cthulhu" H.P. Lovecraft provides an obvious connection between the Norse people and the cult of Cthulhu when it describes a tribe of “degenerate Eskimos” on the west coast of Greenland. This tribe practiced dark bloodthirsty rites, and even had in its possession a hideous bas-relief of Cthulhu himself. It is thought that Norse / Icelandic Vikings did not discover Greenland until the 10th century, but this can easily be altered to fit the timeline of your game. Who’s to say that an expedition from Norway was not blown way off course, and happened upon this tribe of Eskimos much earlier than history records, and in doing so was exposed to the cult practices of the Great Old One?
Ithaqua: the Wind-Walker who prowls the Arctic wastes. The northern parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland are within what is considered the Arctic Circle, so it is easy to see how these lands would come under the dominion of Ithaqua. He is described as a giant with glowing red eyes. This description could also be given to a typical Norse ice giant. In Norse mythology Ymir was the first being to be formed from the primeval chaos known as Ginnungagap (Azathoth...?), and he was the father of the ice giants. For game purposes we should consider Ithaqua and Ymir one and the same. Those travelling into the deep north should pay homage to the Wind-Walker by offering up sacrifices, or risk bringing his icy wrath down upon them.
Draug: the draug were undead creatures from Norse mythology. It is said they linger in the graves of dead warriors, and are extremely hard to kill. There are tales of draug rising again to attack, even after being decapitated. There is a type of draug that lives in the sea, and is associated with fallen sailors.
Finfolk: in Orkney folklore there is a race of shapeshifters who live in the sea, and are powerful dark sorcerers. Their home is called Finfolkheem, which lies at the bottom of the ocean. During the warm months of the year the Finfolk emerge from their watery home to abduct humans. Driven by carnal lust, the men (Finmen) and women (Finwife) take their captives, and force them to become their mates. Legend says if the Finfolk breed with each other their beauty and sorcerous powers are lost forever.
Jötnar: giants from Norse mythology. It can be assumed that the size of these giants has diminished quite a bit from those of the ancient tales. Obviously, the placement of these creatures will need to be far from human eyes, and in extremely remote locations.
Orm: the Norse referred to their dragons as orm, or sometimes wyrm. They were legless and wingless creatures of huge proportions that could take flight, and spit forth clouds of flame, acid and poison. An interesting tie in here is that Ithaqua is served by a race of beings that have been described as "dragon-like".
Trow: this is an Orkney version of a troll, and should be treated as such on all accounts. They are a devious race, only travel at night, live underground in earth mounds and some say they have a fondness for music.
Some places and items are so evil or filled with Chaos that exposure to them marks, or taints, a character in a very real and difficult-to-cleanse way. Taint is evil. It is a corruption so deep it warps the very plane of reality. A weapon used to slaughter thousands of innocents, a forest grown on land soaked in the blood of an evil deity, a book bound in the flesh of an archfiend for his own horrible purposes, and the presence of an evil deity are all sources of taint. Then, of course, there are rings…
A complete and easy to play Fantasy Roleplaying game, with monsters, magic and exotic locales. OpenQuest uses the classic D100 rules mechanic, which uses percentages to express the chance of success or failure.Open Quest is based on the Mongoose RuneQuest SRD (MRQ SRD), with ideas from previous editions of Chaosium’s RuneQuest and Stormbringer 5th, mixed in with some common sense house rulings from the author’s twenty years of experience with the D100 system.OpenQuest is OPEN!Everything in the core OpenQuest rule book, except the illustrations by Simon Bray, is open gaming content under the Open Gaming Licence.This means that you can use all or part of the book to produce your own games, rules, adventures even for commercial release as long as you include the Open Gaming Licence included in the back of the book.
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If ever there was a soldier who took up arms against the Outer Dark it was Solomon Kane. This Puritan swordsman was created by Robert E. Howard, and he has become almost as iconic as Howard’s other famous sword & sorcery hero Conan. In many ways I actually prefer the Solomon Kane stories over those written about Conan. This is mainly due to Kane’s dark and sullen demeanor, the time period in which his adventures took place and the dark gothic atmosphere of the tales.
I have been following the production of the Solomon Kane movie since its announcement in 2006, and so far there has been very little information out on the net as to when it will be released. Well the silence has broken, and a new trailer was previewed at Comic-Con ’09. Perhaps this means the movie will soon see the light of day.
Trailer Addict has a bootleg copy of the trailer:
Troll Lords Games has an upcoming product called TAINTED LANDS, which is a fantasy horror roleplaying game written by James M. Ward for Castles & Crusades. TAINTED LANDS will be released in box-set form as a stand-alone Siege Engine product, and promises horror rules and a supernatural rulebook. I am sure I’m not alone in my excitement for this product, and what it can bring to the table for horror fueled sword & sorcery gaming.
The designer and writer of TAINTED LANDS is none other than James M. Ward of TSR fame. To my delight, Jim has agreed to answer a few questions for Swords Against the Outer Dark about TAINTED LANDS, as well as his career with TSR and Troll Lord Games. So without further ado…
Many gamers who have played Dungeons & Dragons for as many years as I have remember your work from back in the early days of TSR. I found a bit of your background information on Wikipedia, but I am sure there are those like myself who would like to know more. How and when did you find yourself taking up the hobby of role-playing games?
JMW: I met Gary Gygax in 1974 when the 1,000 brown box sets of D&D were first printed up. He told me he had a game where I could play Conan the barbarian and fight the forces of Set and I was hooked. He and Brian Blume taught be how to play the game on Gary’s side porch and I’ve enjoyed the game every since.
Seeing your credentials as a writer, game designer, and storyteller, I can't help but wonder if you found yourself naturally gravitating toward the role of game master early on when you entered into the hobby?
JMW: It took me months and months to figure out how to use the dice in the game. Once I did, I found myself drawing up my own crude dungeons. However, running games as the Dungeon Master was daunting in the company of Gary Gygax, Rob Kuntz, and Ernie Gygax. I started running games for Rob and Ernie, but they always said I gave out too much treasure. That’s where I first earned by nickname of Monty Haul. When I started writing the science fiction role-playing game METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA Gary joined in the fun and I learned how to run a balanced game.
Do you remember the first adventure you ran (or played in), and can you share a few quick details that you can remember from that game?
JMW: I remember every minute of that game. We were play testing Kong Island and I was a first level wizard. I had a light spell and I went with a group of fifth level characters. We were exploring a native village at dawn. I made the stupid mistake of casting a light spell in a large, dark thatch hut. The twenty native warriors boiled out of the hut and killed me as I stupidly stood there. Lucky for me Ernie Gygax had a wish spell and wished many of the dead party back alive.
How quickly did you find yourself writing your own game materials and adventures?
JMW: There were few people acting as DMs in those days. Gary encouraged everyone to write up their own things. Gary Gygax and his entire family got in the swing of things one way or another and I’m proud to be friends with the kids to this day.
Do you still find time to enjoy gaming, and do you have a regular gaming group?
JMW: I do a lot of play testing now. I have a group that plays every Friday. I also get some old hands like Tom Wham and Brian Blume to test my latest inventions.
If so, what game are you playing, are you running the game and can you share a few details of the game itself?
JMW: As I write this, I’m playing a board game called PANZER GENERAL it’s a card and board game based on an Ubisoft computer online game. I’m getting it ready for Gen Con that happens next week. Lately I’ve been making my living writing product for Troll Lord games. I manage the CRUSADER, a monthly magazine of theirs. At Gen Con this year, my hardbound book OF GODS & MONSTERS and my box set, TAINTED LANDS will be presented to the public for the first time.
Can you share how you came to work with TSR?
JMW: I was playing games with Gary and the TSR crew and in 1975, I went to begin a teaching career at West Grant High School. As I moved I told Gary any time he could afford my teaching salary (at that time $9,500), I would happily come and work for him. During Christmas and Thanksgiving, I would come down to Lake Geneva and game with Gary. While I was teaching, I wrote GODS, DEMIGODS & HEROES, and DEITIES & DEMIGODS. I also helped proof read the first AD&D Players Handbook and the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Finally, in 1980, they could afford my $13,800 salary and I moved back to my home town of Elkhorn and started working for TSR.
One of my favorite products for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was DEITIES & DEMIGODS. As most can guess, the main reason for this is because it included the Cthulhu Mythos, but I also particularly loved the entries for the Nehwon, Melnibonéan, Norse and Arthurian Mythos as well. Other than the AD&D Players Handbook, DEITIES was the rulebook I spent the most time reading. I am curious what your involvement was with this book?
JMW: I wrote almost all the entries for DEITIES & DEMIGODS. I would pass over written pantheons to Gary and he would tell me if this or that god was too tough. It was an early work and I did lots of things far differently in the OF GODS & MONSTERS hardbound.
Wikipedia has you credited for the creation of the nonhuman deities in DEITIES & DEMIGODS. Can you share which of the mythos presented can be credited to you, or was the writing of DEITIES more of a collaborative effort? Did you write the entries for the Cthulhu Mythos?
JMW: I wrote all the entries you mentioned: Nehwon, Melnibonéan, Norse, and Arthurian. Rob Kuntz wrote the Finnish mythos and I did the rest. There were lots of debates about the work on the editorial end and things changed along the way, but I’m proud to have authored the work.
You also helped write Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes (Supplement IV) for the original edition of D&D, and if memory serves, there was an entry for Hyborian gods and heroes in that book. I am curious why those entries from the Robert E. Howard Mythos were not carried over into Deities & Demigods for AD&D?
JMW: I submitted an outline for the hardbound and there just wasn’t room in the larger work for the Conan material. We had planned on doing a second volume, but there just never seemed time to get that one done.
Troll Lord Games
With Troll Lord Games you have written a whole slew of new Illusionist spells for the fourth printing of the Castles & Crusades Players Handbook, published TOWERS OF ADVENTURE and now the upcoming releases TAINTED LANDS and OF GODS & MONSTERS. Can you take a moment to explain your involvement with the Trolls, and how you came to work for them?
JMW: Gary Gygax was kind enough to suggest I take over the Managing Editor duties for CRUSADER magazine. It wasn’t coming out that often and everyone at Troll Lords wanted the magazine to become a strong marketing arm of the company. The magazine started coming out more often and Steve Chenault and I would talk about product that might sell well for the company that I could design. I’m pleased to say that I have always delivered my designs ahead of schedule and with a professionalism that Steve has found refreshing.
Is there a future product you are working on that you would be willing to talk about, and possibly give us a glimpse into?
JMW: I have to say no to this one. I have several projects suggested to Troll Lords, but they wouldn’t want the news to leak out so that someone else could copy the idea.
TAINTED LANDS / Castles & Crusades
I see that both horror rules and a supernatural rulebook are listed as part of content for the TAINTED LANDS box set. Can you elaborate on what rules we can expect to see included that will help run a horror themed fantasy game? Are there any new classes, spells or monsters included in these rules, and if so can you give us a few preview details?
JMW: There are four new character classes; there is a good slug of spells the Castle Keeper knows to use with Nonplayer characters, but the player characters will have to learn by bargaining for them; there are lots of new magic items; and there is only one way to escape the TAINTED LANDS.
What about rules for handling terror and mental stability?
JMW: I have played a lot of horror games and I’ve never liked the mental stability rules in any of them. I give lessons in the referee’s guide on how to run horror and I hope they are enough to bring out the fun horror theme.
Are these an extension of the Castles & Crusades rules, and as such can be used in any C&C game?
JMW: Absolutely, the TAINTED LANDS fits into the Siege Engine and C&C rules in every detail. There is even a set of quick start C&C rules in the box set.
I have read some internet chatter that states that TAINTED LANDS is a particularly deadly setting as compared to a standard C&C game. Is this a true statement? If so, can you elaborate as to why?
JMW: Life is extremely dangerous in the TAINTED LANDS. There are lots of things to support the player characters, but they have to be found.
What are the future plans for TAINTED LANDS? Can we expect to see additional materials released to supplement the core box set?
JMW: The Troll Lord people want to see how the game does before they commit to lots more product. I did get them to agree to a TAINTED MONSTERS & TAINTED TREASURE monster and treasure book. If the game is popular, there will be adventures and other products, I’m sure.
With the TOWERS OF ADVENTURE box set you provided more of a toolbox for game masters to pull from to help create the adventures they wanted to create for whatever campaign they happened to be running at the time. TAINTED LANDS sounds less generic and more campaign based. Can you share some details about the setting, and a bit of the back-story?
JMW: Portals begin appearing in the lands and kingdoms of humans, orcs, dwarves, and elves. If characters aren’t cautious, they are sucked into these portals, never to be seen again. There are fantastically valuable gems on these portals, but stealing them, makes the portals immune to all forms of attack. Once in the TAINTED LANDS characters focus on escaping. They soon discover that there are seven lichs’ that need to be destroyed before they can leave the lands. A dense fog surrounds the TAINTED LANDS and entering this fog is highly dangerous. Bad news for the world includes the fact that the fog grows out and eventually envelops the portals that have appeared in every land. What’s a poor character to do?
Obviously, TAINTED LANDS is a horror themed fantasy campaign. I am curious if there was something that inspired you to write this particular game, and why you chose a horror theme for the setting?
JMW: I debated long and hard about the genre to present TAINTED LANDS in, and there were lots of choices. I finally decided the fantasy Middle Ages was the best because that was the time all of the normal C&C players knew best. If the game is successful at all, I certainly want to do a Wild West, Modern Day, and Science Fiction version of the game.
Sales was the primary motivator for the writing of that book. I’ve talked to Steve Chenault many times about doing Siege Engine sets that appeal to different factions of the role-playing audience. Horror has great appeal to all ages of gamers and it was a natural first start.
In my current game, I tend to look to the triumvirate of weird tales writers for inspiration -- H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith. Are there any particular writers you found inspirational when writing and designing TAINTED LANDS?
JMW: I actually went to the Hollywood movies for inspiration. Hollywood has been doing horror since the very beginning of silent pictures. I made lots of notes on delivering horror to an audience. It was important to me to never have players say, “Yeah right,” when they encountered horrific role-playing scenes. The TAINTED LANDS is designed to teach the Castle Keeper how to present horror as the movies present horror. I’m really looking forward to the response to the game because the C&C fans have no problem telling an author if they have done a good job or not.
Everyone knows that zombies make everything better. Can we expect to see a lot of zombie killing action in TAINTED LANDS?
JMW: Undead are very important to the story line in TAINTED LANDS. Naturally, I had to put my own brand on those zombies. Characters will find the TAINTED LANDS version to be highly intelligent and very fast. There is even a class of Ultra Undead, much like BOSS monsters in arcade games that should present interesting times to the player characters.
Is there any advice you can give game masters who are running horror themed games when it comes to building an atmosphere of terror and dread in their game?
JMW: To my way of thinking, it’s vital to try hard to not kill the player characters. You want them nervous, afraid of every shadow, and thinking about just giving up. However, in that effort there will be times when a Castle Keeper’s players feeling they are being cheated and the game is unfair. I try to counter this last feeling, by giving them superior magic items and spells. I want them saying, “Wow, I have this great new sword and shield. Nothing can stand before me and live.” Then I present encounters where the creature is totally resistant to the new weapon.
Thanks for your time Jim.