Monday, November 8, 2010

H. P. Lovecraft's The Dunwitch Horror; pulp fiction giveaway

Two months ago I had the pleasure of visiting one of our local flea malls in Sweetwater Tn. I call it a flea mall because this market was as large as many modern shopping centers. The main building is an industrial size warehouse that is, at least, 100 yards long. I was happy to find, among the cheap Asian tools, Nascar banners, Avon, silk screened purses and cell phone booths, a book dealer. I purchased Lin Carter's Year's Best of Fantasy Stories Vol. 2 and Lovecraft's The Dunwich Horror which still has the price of $1.75 pasted on the back.

I had a copy of The Loved Dead, a collection of Lovecraft inspired tales, which I attempted to read last year and this was my only previous experience reading Lovecraft. I didn't read half the stories in The Loved Dead before I became bored with the content and posted the book on Paperback Swap. I'm glad to say that the stories collected in my $1.75 edition of The Dunwich Horror have fulfilled the legendary status associated with Mr. Lovecraft's writing.

This edition was published in 1969 and has seven short stories and a forward by August Dereleth. The first tale that really caught my attention was Pickman’s Model. This is the tale of a painter who produces ghoulish images. “Boston never had a greater painter than Richard Upton Pickman… Any magazine-cover hack can splash paint around wildly and call it a nightmare or a Witches’ Sabbath or a portrait of the devil, but only a great painter can make such a thing really scare or ring true.” Lovecraft could have been describing his on writing with this description. I’ve never read many vampire novels, Edgar Allen Poe or Steven King and the tales in The Loved Dead bored me because they were not scary. The seven tales in this edition The Dunwich Horror are, nearly all, creepy if not creepy to the point of horror.

The subsequent tale, The Rats in the Walls, gets high marks for creepiness too. In this story a New England gentleman extensively restores his family estate only to discover that the legends associated with his distant ancestors were true. The ancestral home was built above a pit where prehistoric rituals were practiced and they were not rituals to the God of the Harvest.

A majority of these tales, including The Rats in the Walls, The Hunter of the Dark, The Dunwich Horror and The Thing on the Doorstep, involve Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. Each of these provides additional information about the mysteries of the Great Old Ones, the alien horrors central to the Cthulhu Mythos. Lovecraft’s talent is that he does not depend on monsters of violence to provide the horror of his tales. He will provide a familiar historical background and then crack that background wide open to questions of; “How much do we really know about the Salem Witch Trials?” Certainly, the Great Old Ones are monsters with an ever increasing potential for violence but placing these mysteries into 20th. Century New England mixes the familiar with the unknown for maximum creepiness.

So, before this opinion piece becomse an essay, I really enjoyed reading Lovecraft and was happy to find that many of his works are available as Google Books. I can certainly agree that Lovecraft was a major influence on AD&D, as listed in Appendix N of the DMG, since these are tales of mystery, occult magic, monstrous outsiders and, often, investigation of unknown geography.

As I was reading the book many of the pages became detached from the spine but I managed to salvage all the pages. I’m offering this book free to anyone who cares to read it, just leave a comment and e-mail your snail mail address to ccreel at yahoo dot com, I’ll be glad to mail the book to anywhere in the U.S.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Photosynthetic Elves for Encounter Critical

The one thing I have learned about n.p.c. encounter design is; two n.p.c.s are better than one. Since the day my players steamrolled over everything in my first Encounter Critical adventure I always throw in a few spare n.p.c.s for each encounter. If the player characters encounter a mob, perfect because a mob has no determinate size. There is always the chance that the p.c.s will defeat a majority of the opposition and the extra opponents will lose moral and flee.

EC, as most should know by now, is best considered a Science Fantasy, Dystopian or Weird Science Fantasy game. The character system is based on the old standard; 3d6 ability score generation system. The EC abilities are Intellect, Strength, Dexterity, Magic Power (wisdom), Leadership (charisma), Robot Nature, Adaptation (constitution), ESP and Luck. The EC stats have a flavor of scientific realism all their own, but are easily converted to the stats of the traditional fantasy role playing games, without discounting the ESP, Luck or Robot Nature stats which certainly add fun to adventurous situations.

These two characters, Ligustrum and Indica, male and female elf mutant archers are featured in the Epilogue to Raiders of the Mercenary Coast. (Phasic #2) Their main mutation is the photosynthetic process which has adapted to their elfin biological process making them part humanoid and part plant. Their skin is green and they wear little clothing in order to maximize the photosynthetic process. Ligustrum appears to wear a loin cloth of fresh plant material while Indica wears a midriff of interwoven vines. Ligustrum’s hear looks like little more than leaves on his head. His mates’ hair is a trail of fine flowering vines.

Their mutation helps them blend in to their woodland habitat to virtual invisibility (+10% to invisibility when in woodland environs). This mutation also prevents the necessity that they digest traditional solid foods. These mutants sustain their metabolism with plenty of liquids but never alcohol. They will also consume fruit and other simple foods for pleasure rather than necessity.

The couple also has matching broken heart tattoos. Indica has the left half of the broken heart on her upper right arm and Ligustrum wears the right half of the broken heart on his upper left arm. When they stand side by side the two halves of the broken heart join, spelling the work “love.”

Ligustrum – Male Elf Mutant Archer/ Warrior – Level: 2 Hit Points: 2d8+2d6
Ada/Con: 15 Dex: 16 ESP: 8 Int: 12 Lead/Ch: 12 Magic/Wis: 9 Robot: 5 Luck: 10 Str: 13
Mutation: Photosynthetic Skin – Additional Mutations: Non-magical Potions just perk him up!
Weapons: Compound Bow @1d8+1, Elfin Blade @ 2d4
Armor: Wicker Shield; +23% to defense

Indica – Female Elf Mutant Archer/warrior – Level: 2 HP: 2d8+2d6
Ada/Con: 14 Dex: 15 ESP: 9 Int: 13 Lead/Ch: 11 Magic/Wis: 9 Robot: 5 Luck: 12 Str: 12
Mutation: Photosynthetic Skin – Additional Mutations: Homing Instinct; always knows direction.
Weapons: Compound Bow @1d8+1, Elfin Blade @ 2d4
Armor: Wicker Shield; +23% to defense

Ligustrum and Indica will have 1d6 gold coins /credits and 1d10 coppers each. Roll 2d6 and 2d10 and divide each result by two appointing their fortune evenly. There is a 10% chance that each of them will possess a power weapon; attempt this percentile roll for each n.p.c. There is also a 25% chance they will possess a chro-no-meter. This is an all purpose wrist calculator and communicator.