A Collection of Sigils

Well, today is moving day for me (off to Raleigh, NC), so I will just take a moment to share a quick post. I have spoken a bit about using props at the game table in the past and above is a picture of a few that I have used over the years. These are sigils that I sculpted and painted myself using Sculpey and various paints. For those who do not recognize the symbols, from right to left: Elder Sign (designed by August Derleth), Elder Sign (H.P. Lovecraft's design), the Yellow Sign (designed by Kevin Ross) and the Sigil of the Silver Serpent (inspired by the album cover for "Elder Signs" by Endvra). I am sure you can see the impact one of these would have on a player if it were on display just in front of the game master. If you are interested in making one of your own take a look at the excellent tutorial over at Propping Up the Mythos.


The Results Are In

Earlier this month I posted a poll here on Swords Against the Outer Dark asking, "of the games listed below, which would YOU choose to power your Sword & Sanity campaign?" I listed twelve games I liked, that I felt would be logical choices, and these were also games I felt I might want to support if the demand was there. It looks like 95 people voted in 20 days, and the results are very interesting. By number of votes, here were the games and the results of the poll:
  • Labyrinth Lord - 33% (32 votes)
  • Call of Cthulhu (BRP) - 13% (13 votes)
  • Basic Fantasy Role-Playing - 11% (11 votes)
  • Savage Worlds - 11% (11 votes)
  • Barbarians of Lemuria - 9% (9 votes)
  • OpenQuest - 6% (6 votes)
  • Castles & Crusades - 5% (5 votes)
  • Call of Cthulhu (d20) - 4% (4 votes)
  • NEMESIS - 2% (2 votes)
  • PDQ - 2% (2 votes)
  • Grim Tales - 0% (0 votes)
  • Mazes & Minotaurs - 0% (0 votes)
Looking over the results here are a few thoughts that come to mind:

Labyrinth Lord - winner by a huge margin! I wonder if the release of the Advanced Edition Companion has anything to do with the love I see LL getting right now? My guess is, HELL YES! I am as excited about this as everyone else seems to be. Rules-lite system, free to download and play, OGL, captures a "true" 1st Edition D&D feel -- what is there not to love? The oracle has spoken, and I must step up my support for Labyrinth Lord even more.

Call of Cthulhu (BRP) - this coming in second place is no big surprise to me at all. I have been asked more times than I can count why I haven't been running/using CoC to back my Sword & Sanity concept. The easiest answer I can give is that I love fantasy roleplaying games, and to truly capture the sword & sorcery flavor I am after I need to use a game that is built for fantasy. At the heart of every fantasy story (or game) is a horror tale. This is just my opinion, but I feel fantasy -at its best- already is infused with elements of horror. Also, and here again this is just my opinion, Call of Cthulhu comes pre-packaged with a lot of preconceived notions. Even before the game begins players knowingly joining in on a CoC game are ready to battle the forces of the Mythos. Using a fantasy roleplaying game leaves a lot more breathing room for storytelling, and allows for "the unknown" to weave its weird magic at the game table.

Basic Fantasy Role-Playing - OK, I must confess that I have never actually played BFRP. I have used a lot of this game for reference material, but I have never used the system itself to power a game. I have never used OSRIC either, but again I have used it for reference. I added BFRP to the list because I was interested to see just how many people were playing it. I am impressed with the fact that it came in third place. Luckily, BFRP is so close to Labyrinth Lord and other retro-clones that anything I release for one will be cross compatible with the other.

Savage Worlds - bottom line, I have playtested SW one time. The use of the cards kind of put me off the game a bit, but I realize that this can be easily house-ruled away. It seems like a decent enough system, and I would be interested in playing more of it, but I just haven't had the opportunity to do so. I added it to the list out of sheer curiosity. Honestly, with the recent release of Realms of Cthulhu I would have guess this would have beat out Basic Fantasy Role-Playing.

Barbarians of Lemuria - yet another game I have little experience with, but added to the list out of curiosity. I have the PDF and pretty much know the rules, but just haven't had a chance to playtest it as of yet. I think it is a very clever system that looks like a great vehicle to run a Sword & Sanity game with, and hopefully I will have an opportunity to play it in the near future.

OpenQuest - this is my favorite RuneQuest/BRP/d100 spin-off game of all time. The problem is that there are too many great games on my shelf and not enough time to play them all. Newt Newport has designed a very slick system, and OQ is a game that deserves a lot more of my time.

Castles & Crusades - I have to say that I am stunned that C&C did not get more votes than it did. Mainly because most of the system specific material I have presented here has been geared toward C&C. I love the system, and have stated so many times in the past, but for whatever reason I have lost a bit of interest. In general, (and this is just something I have observed over time) it seems that C&C is loosing steam with other gamers as well. I could be wrong, but I just don't see the chatter about the game like I used to. I hate to say it, but I fear that Troll Lord Games may have missed the golden opportunity they had two or three years ago to become the go-to-game for the retro D&D community...

Call of Cthulhu (d20) - see the comments I made above for Call of Cthulhu (BRP) and they pretty much apply here...

NEMESIS - this is a badass little game. When it was released a few years back I was very excited about this game, and played it quite a bit. I have a lot of notes on using it for Sword & Sanity, and hopefully one day I will have enough time to clean them up, and post them here.

PDQ - see the comments made for Barbarians of Lemuria, and insert them here...

Grim Tales - the comments I made for Basic Fantasy Role-Playing can be applied to Grim Tales as well. I have used this game extensively as a reference for other games. Unfortunately, I am the only gamer I know who owns a copy of GT, so there just has not been any opportunity to actually play this excellent game.

Mazes & Minotaurs - with the release of Minotaur Quarterly Issue 6: Heroes, Horrors & Hyperborea I felt that M&M had received the perfect toolkit to run a Sword & Sanity game. I still feel this way, and I am a little disappointed that M&M did not receive any votes at all. What a shame...

More Dave Carson Here On Display

My good friend and Lovecraftian Illustrator Extraordinar, Dave Carson, was kind enough to send me a couple of new illustrations this morning for use here on Swords Against the Outer Dark. I have put them on display at the top of each of the sidebars. The pissed off little demon on the right has a bit of history, in Dave's own words, "It was first published way back in the 80s to accompany a column by Karl Edward Wagner in Fantasy Newsletter." I love the piece, but this actually makes it even more special to me knowing that it was used to illustrate something written by a sword & sorcery / weird tales master like Wagner.

For those not familiar with Dave's work (which if you are into Lovecraft I do not see how you couldn't be) I urge you to visit his website and learn more about this artist. His pen & ink style is readily recognizable and unique, and has won him the "Best Artist" British Fantasy Award five times during his career. In the gaming industry his work has been used extensively by Chaosium to illustrate their Call of Cthulhu line and Mythos fiction. This is probably where I was first introduced to Dave's work more than 25 years ago. As always, I am grateful that Mr. Carson has allowed me to use a few of his pieces to spruce-up my blog.


Dave Carson Illustrates the Outer Dark

I am beyond proud to announce that Swords Against the Outer Dark has a new and much improved header, illustrated by the world's finest Lovecraftian artist Dave Carson! This is one of his original pieces approved by Mr. Carson for the use on this blog. In the past I have prided myself on the use of public domain artwork when designing graphics, but that is not to say that I haven't been tempted to 'help myself' to artwork by a few of my favorite artists. Two artist come to mind that I have been tempted to 'borrow' from more than any others: Frank Frazetta and Dave Carson. I am proud to say I no longer have to be tempted. Thank you Dave Carson!