A blog about games, gamers, and various and sundry geek culture-related ephemera and paraphernalia.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Fred Carter and the Mardi Gras Monster: There's More Than One Way to Skin a Gator

The saga of Fred Carter continues with today's installment, Fred Carter and the Mardi Gras Monster:  There's More Than One Way to Skin a Gator

Who is Fred Carter? You can find the answer to that question here.

What's Fred Carter and the Mardi Gras Monster? That one's answered here.


Fred Carter and the Mardi Gras Monster
Part 3: There's More Than One Way to Skin a Gator

I thought for sure I was done for as the lizard-gator-man-thing prepared to clamp its massive, tooth-filled maw over my head.

Then, just as the thing was about to bite my head off, a machete seemed to appear out of nowhere and embed itself deep in its neck. A gout of black, brackish blood spewed upward and splashed across the bare fluorescent bulbs above. The beast reared back, a gurgling hiss issuing from its mouth. It let go of me as it started flailing at the blade. Its head rolled to one side, as half of the muscles that held it in place had just been cleanly severed.

I rolled away, and realized that the machete was attached to a man: the bruised and battered archaeologist dude.

As the creature frantically attempted to simultaneously halt the spray of blood that had begun spurting from its neck and keep its head from flopping to the side, the dude worked the massive blade loose and brought it down, again. This time, the thing's head fell right off. It stood there for a couple of seconds, flailing at the stump, then dropped to its knees and fell in front of me - spraying me again with the dark ichor that passed for its blood.

I stared at it for a moment, then heaved a heavy sigh of relief, as I realized that was the last of the monsters. As if in response, the headless body lurched up, and a massive, scaly skinned arm reached out for me. Its hand curled around my leg, and the corpse jerked forward as if to pull itself on top of me. I beat it with my fists and kicked it with my free leg, but it held tight.

The dude jumped on the thing's back and brought the heavy blade of the machete down on it again and again and again, chopping its hands from its arms. Then, its arms from its body. Finally, he up-ended the blade and drove it straight down between its shoulder blades.

The corpse twitched twice, then lay still. Its severed hand was still tightly wrapped around my calf.

"A little help here," I said to the dude as I tried to force the  disembodied hand to release my leg. He knelt down and the two of us began removing the hand, one broken finger at a time. Fortunately, there were only three of them.

"Colorado Jake," he said, helping me to my feet.

"Carter. Fred."

Jake looked around, found his brown fedora. I looked around, found Jeanine. She was sitting - dazed - against the side of the Honda, where she'd fallen when she tripped. I helped her up.

"You okay-"

"Look what you did to my car!" she snapped. She pulled herself away from me and punched me in the chest. "You wrecked it!"

"In my defense, we were being chased by swamp monsters," I said, not that I thought it would help much.

She didn't seem to care - she stood looking at her car, her back to me. She shook her head.

"I just made the second payment," she said. "Now look at my baby."

"You must be Jeanine," Jake said, extending his hand.

"This is as much your fault as it is his!" she barked, slapping his hand away. "If I hadn't come looking for your missing ass, none of this would have happened."

She turned and went to the beast she'd capped. She kicked it in anger and turned again to face us.

"And what the Hell are these things? Huh? Frickin' swamp creatures? What's up with that?"

Suddenly, her expression changed, as her brain switched gears - from stress-induced anger to sudden realization of what had just happened. Then, her eyelids fluttered and her eyes rolled back into her head. Jake and I caught her as she wilted to the pavement.

Continue reading...

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Monday, October 17, 2016

A Lesson in Humility

We wrapped up our Beyond the Supernatural adventure Saturday night: a cosmic horror was trying to force its way into our world, and our intrepid heroes stopped it in its tracks with a liberal application of psionics, magic, gunfire and dynamite.

At the climax of the game, It became visible and tangible, and any player character looking upon it had his or her sanity pushed to its limits. Madness was a real possibility.

So, I asked each player who decided to look (three out of four) and whose character failed the abysmally high Horror Factor check (all of those who looked at it, as it turns out) to make a roll under their character's Mental Endurance score.

The first made it with a critical roll (a natural 1, since they needed to roll low); the second failed and would face temporary insanity; and the third, well... herein lieth a lesson, my children:
Player: I automatically pass - my ME's 23. 
Me: Nope - you still have to roll. You could roll a fumble - a natural 20. 
Player (rolling his eyes and rolling the die): Not a problem!

Every person at the table - including the player in question, who - too late - recognized his hubris - knew from the moment the die fell casually from his fingertips what the result was going to be:

To add insult to injury, in a game where a natural 20 is usually an awesome thing, this was the only natural 20 he rolled during the entire game session.

The moral of today's lesson: the Dice Gods giveth, and the Dice Gods taketh away. And perhaps most importantly: the Dice Gods do not suffer hubris lightly.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Fred Carter and the Mardi Gras Monster: Start the Engine!

The saga of Fred Carter continues with today's installment, Fred Carter and the Mardi Gras Monster: Start the Engine!

Who is Fred Carter? You can find the answer to that question here.

What's Fred Carter and the Mardi Gras Monster? That one's answered here.


Fred Carter and the Mardi Gras Monster
Part 2: Start the Engine!

I just sat for a moment as my brain tried to process the scene before me.

Jeanine, however, had gone into full-on journalist mode. Meaning she'd lost all situational awareness as her camera flash went off like a strobe light as she snapped photo after photo... and walked straight into the path of the now-blinded dude and his linebacker-looking pursuers.

I saw this and my first thought was to get her out of the way. Unfortunately, as I tried to open the car door, I discovered that she'd parked within inches of the hydrant, effectively locking me in. All I could do was yell for her to:

"Look the fuck out, Jeanine!"

She must have heard me, because she left the zone and lowered the camera. She glanced over her shoulder at me, then at the oncoming wall of flesh. She dove out of the way just as one of the thugs caught up to the dude - stumbling and half-blinded, thanks to Jeanine's camera flash - and hooked his leg. It sent his large frame spinning though the air like a G.I. Joe.

Jeanine barely ducked under the flying man, diving to the pavement in front of the car. A taxi jerked to a stop - thankfully having been slowed by the traffic - just short of her head. The dude hit the hood of the Civic with a "crunch," and bounced off. He landed on the pavement right next to Jeanine.

I watched, helpless, as the costumed thugs stopped. Two of them were rubbing their eyes - a bizarre sight to see - as the third stepped to the curb and glared down at Jeanine and the stunned dude. Then, he looked around, as if searching for something. I was just beginning to wonder what he was looking for when he moved to the passenger side of the car, knelt down, and hooked his hands under it.

That's when I understood that what he was looking for was something big to crush the dude and Jeanine with. And I just happened to be sitting in that something.

Continue reading...

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

How About Kult? Anybody Still Playing this Game?

While we're on the topic of niche 1990s role playing games, I'd be remiss if I didn't give a shout out to this one: Metropolis Ltd.'s Kult.

Kult is one of those games with which I have a deep love-hate relationship. In this case, that means that I love the game and I hate the fact that I haven't been able to spend more time enjoying the Hell out of it.

I discovered Kult at a time in my life (1991-92) when I was really embracing the horror sub-genre that I like to call modern dark fantasy (which would probably get lumped under "urban fantasy" these days). I'd recently been introduced to DC Vertigo's Sandman and Hellblazer comics, and was working my way through such Clive Barker works as The Books of Blood, Hellbound Heart, and Imajica. (The latter book I wanted very badly to like, but I started it four times in two or three years, and I could never get more than ten percent of the way through it. It just never hooked me.)

Around that time, I was also toying with a World of Darkness mash-up featuring characters from Werewolf, Vampire, Mage, and the Vampire splat book, "Hunters Hunted." That particular creation only saw play once, but it was a memorable game session with a few memorable characters. Also, by 1991-92, my group was solidly entrenched in our Bureau 13 modern horror campaign. We played at least once every weekend (more often, it was two or three times) so we had plenty of time to try out new material, and we were way into the horror genre.

When the group's other primary game master introduced me to Kult, I was at once entranced by the setting and repulsed by the game system. It was a clunky system (granted, far less clunky than our beloved B13) at a time when system design was undergoing a renaissance and moving away from clunky, toolkit-like systems toward sleek, focused ones. It was that, more than anything, that drove me away from Kult, initially.

Furthermore, given Kult's built-in setting (which is where it really shines) it wasn't likely to become a contender to replace our existing horror campaign. It was just too dark. (Which, interestingly enough, is why the brief campaign I ran a decade later crashed and burned: too nihilistic, according to the players.)

So, in honor of a game that I would really love to have played more but never did, here's a character sheet for Metropolis' first edition of Kult:

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Monday, October 10, 2016

Does Anyone Still Play Bureau 13: Stalking the Night Fantastic?

Today, I have another Halloween gift for you: my most recent Bureau 13: Stalking the Night Fantastic character sheet.

This game has probably gotten more play in our game group in the last 25+ years than any other. It's not that it's a particularly brilliant game but it seemed to sit well with all the players and GMs.

I don't imagine there are more than a handful of people who play this once award winning game. It's long-since been surpassed in terms of system design and graphic design, with rules layout and clearness and illustrations that can invoke TSR's original Dungeons and Dragons and Holmes Basic. And a lot of people could never get past the tongue-in-cheek vibe the cover, interior illos, and fluff, or the toolkit-style presentation of the rules. If they had dug a little deeper, though, they'd have found a nifty little game that allows for a lot of character creation flexibility and that can be played completely "straight" - as in: not in a humorous vein - to great effect. My group found that it offered a nice balance between the nihilism and hopelessness of Call of Cthulhu and the "super heroes fight monsters" feel of Beyond the Supernatural.

It also gave us The X-Files and Delta Green over a decade before these were even conceived.

B13 players will notice that some of the stats are missing - that's a result of a house rule that removed combat abilities from character attributes and turned them into skills, where our group generally agreed they belong.

Enough chatter - here's the sheet:

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Don't Look under the Bed!

Since I'm going to be running a first edition Little Fears game sometime this month, I needed a character sheet. Unfortunately, there are very few options when it comes to that edition. The sheets I've found for it are generally poor quality, and they seem to be all made from the one in the book, which - thanks to the crumpled-paper look the designer was going for - aren't very conducive to readability.

So, I slapped together my own sheet. I figured I'd post it here, in case anybody else out there is looking for 1E Little Fears character sheets and would like a couple of options.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Fred Carter and the Mardi Gras Monster: In Search of Indiana Jones

I mentioned last week that I'd be expanding on the first adventure of my favorite player character, Fred Carter. Well, here's that expansion - albeit much larger than I thought it would be. I expected it to be a single article, but once I started writing it, I discovered that there's a lot more here than I'd initially thought.

So, here's part one of the tale - the remaining parts will be coming along, probably once a week. Enjoy!

Part 1: In Search of Indiana Jones

Is that thing recording? Oh. So... I'll just start, then?

Okay. Let's see...

I'm still not quite sure how I ended up in a pirogue in the bayou in the middle of the night... fighting lizard-men. Or gator-men, maybe. I'm still not sure which. Either way, I'm as surprised by it as the next guy.

I mean, it all started out innocently enough: my girlfriend at the time, Jeanine, had gotten an assignment from the rag she worked for - a tabloid called The Midnight Sun - to track down this missing dude - an archaeologist or something. He'd been on the trail of a snake cult or some-such weirdness when she'd first spoken to him, but he'd suddenly called her and left a cryptic message about having to go into hiding. She'd finally located his hideout and talked her boss into sending her there. To New Orleans. During Mardi Gras. All expenses paid.

So, yeah - when she asked if I'd go with, it was a no-brainer.

Bright and early on Monday morning, we packed up her sparkling new Civic CRX and hit the road. (The Civic was a cute car, but not my style. I prefer something that can handle rougher terrain and take more of a beating. Maybe if Jeanine had been a little more concerned about durability and a little less about cuteness, her car would have survived the trip.) It was a bit of a haul from Arkham to Louisiana, but I was so jazzed about getting a free Mardi Gras vacation that it seemed to fly by.

Now, I was stationed in the south - at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, to be precise - for almost a year before I got shipped over to West Berlin.

(Yes, I said West Berlin. The tale I'm telling you now took place in '89. The Wall was still up, and up to just six months earlier, I'd been in Berlin, helping Uncle Sam keep an eye on the Russkies. And don't take me calling them "Russkies" to mean that I have something against 'em. Heck, one of my best friends is an ex-GRU agent. She saved my bacon more than once. I remember this one time outside Cairo - Oh, yeah. Mardi Gras.)

Let's see... where was I? Oh, yeah: Even though I'd been close enough to take a weekend there, I never made it to New Orleans.

And let me tell you something, kid: New Orleans during Mardi Gras is a sight to behold.

The city was absolutely crazy. You could feel the electricity in the air. I'm sure it would have been hard enough on any normal evening to find the flea-bite motel Jeanine's company had booked for her, but in the madness of Mardi Gras, it took us almost an hour. When we'd finally checked in and gotten to the room, I was ready to hit the bed and chill for a couple hours.

But Jeanine wouldn't have it. She wanted to hit the bricks and start looking for the dude. You have to understand something about that girl: she was a five-foot-one spitfire, and she was a complete pit bull, especially when she was on assignment. You didn't want to come between her and a scoop. I imagine that's why she got all the good, expense-paid gigs - because the paper knew she'd stop at nothing to get the story and they'd more than make back the money they laid out.

I didn't argue. I knew that the sooner she found this guy and got the rest of her interview, the sooner we could clock out and join the festivities.

So I grabbed my Auto Mag from my bag and- Huh? What about the gun?

Oh, yeah. I guess some people might question why I was toting around the hand cannon.

Continue Reading...
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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

What the Omens Portend for the Coming Month's Game Sessions

Here's what's on the docket for October:

Little Fears (1st edition, from Key20)

Beyond the Supernatural (1st edition, from Palladium)

Chill (1st edition, from Pacesetter)

Dark Cults (card/story-telling game)
One other game - don't know what, but hopefully I'm playing - not running!

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Monday, October 3, 2016

What I Did This Weekend

On Saturday, I introduced some new friends to an old one: Beyond the Supernatural:

It took a while to get through character creation (partly because of the system, partly due to the fact that we can't keep from going off on wild tangents when we get together) but once the game began, the pace never slowed. (That's one of the things I love about BTS: there's plenty of room for role playing and  action.)

This session saw four monster hunters go in search of a fellow hunter who'd gone missing: Fred Carter.

While on Carter's trail, they've traveled over most of the continental U.S., gotten into a melee with a couple of alligator-men, and were nearly blown up. When we left them, they had just come under attack by even more gator-men. The team's currently split up, battered, singed, and possibly outnumbered by upright-walking gators who can use weapons and are extremely hard to kill.

What will happen next session? Will they all make it out of the coming fight alive? Stay tuned...

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Saturday, October 1, 2016

Halloween Season Is upon Us! To Celebrate, here's a Ghost of Octobers Past

[From an older post:]

So, fall is upon us and the crisp October morning air portends the coming of Halloween. My thoughts turn to ghoulies, ghosties, and long-leggedy beasties; to black, moonless skies above decrepit Victorian mansions, abandoned and forgotten cemetaries, and silent, fog-shrouded woods. (Well, my thoughts often turn to these things, but now even more so than they do the rest of the year!)

It's ironic, considering how much such things freaked the Hell out of me when I was a child, that I should now have such fond feelings for them. As I mentioned in the flashback post I'm resurrecting today, I was terrified by spooky things when I was younger. But at the same time, I was inexplicably drawn to them - I couldn't turn down a good horror movie if my sanity depended on it. Which it very nearly often did.

Take for instance the movie I watched with my fiancee this past weekend: Amicus' The Skull, starring one of my all-time favorite genre actors (and fellow war gamer) Peter Cushing. A finely written (it was adapted from a story by Robert Bloch) and filmed Gothic treasure, it's a movie I haven't seen since I was maybe 10 years old. I recently purchased the DVD, having been meaning to do so for several years, and was instantly reminded how it affected my younger self. For a long time after first viewing The Skull - maybe years! - I was terrified to turn around or look over my shoulder when I was alone in my family's old farmhouse. I just knew there was a disembodied floating skull directly behind me, and that to turn and face it would bring my instant doom and eternal torment!

I distinctly recall one night sometime after this, when I was still afflicted with the dread of the Skull Over My Shoulder - a late autumn wind storm was buffeting the old farm house, and woke me from a nightmare-ridden slumber. The wind wailed and moaned, and my bedroom windows rattled incessantly as the wind whistled through the cracks around them. I bore it as long as I could, but finally could take no more and fled to the living room. I had spent many nights there, sleeping with a light on. My bedroom was no sanctuary, as I had been tormented by creatures there on many nights, and had even been dragged into the abysmal black depths of my closet, through the evil hole in the wall therein. All in nightmares of course, but we all know how fine the line is between dream and "reality."

Unfortunately, on this night, the lighted living room would offer no reprieve: I had just settled in when the lamp above my head went dark! I rose warily and tried the light switch again and again, as the wind wailed and beat at the picture window behind me. My muscles stiffened in fear, and with each "click" my every movement and thought became equally labored as the dread spread throughout my entire body. As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I moved as quickly as I could - which seemed unnaturally slow, as if moving through molasses - to the stairs, hoping to reach the safety of my parents' bedroom on the floor above before that protective barrier of glass gave way and admitted entrance to the Thing Outside That Wanted To Eat My Soul. I trudged up the stairs, forcing my frozen legs to move, step by agonizing step.

Continue reading: It Was a Dark and Stormy Night...

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