Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Demons in My View (Guest Post by Rafael Chandler)

From the lightning in the sky

As it pass'd me flying by--

From the thunder, and the storm--

And the cloud that took the form

(When the rest of Heaven was blue)

Of a demon in my view
-- Edgar Allan Poe

About thirty years ago, I fell in love. Horror movies and fantasy RPGs -- these were my passions, and they remain so to this day.


Naturally, these interests fueled one another. Demonic maniacs like Freddy Krueger began to influence my gaming style.

Think of it -- as an LotFP Referee, you are all-powerful, like Krueger in his dream-world domain. You present the player characters with horrors, and they are subjected to nightmares and torments. Perhaps they die in agony; perhaps they escape. Yet, in the same way that Freddy is vulnerable, and can be bested, it is also possible that your own plans and pawns can be struck down (temporarily) by clever players. That's part of the fun, after all.

A good Referee is like the unstoppable psychopath in a slasher movie.

Of all the RPG books I own, bestiaries are my favorites. I love a good monster collection. I've no patience for creatures like unicorns or blink dogs, though; they're always re-imagined as sadistic predators in my world.

Small wonder that I wound up a Lamentations of the Flame Princess enthusiast.

Today, I still derive inspiration from horror movies. The following flicks are excellent fodder for your LotFP game.

Martyrs -- A young woman takes revenge on the people who tortured her. Or does she? Of all the movies in the New French Extremity, this is my favorite (narrowly edging out Inside for the top spot). Looking for violence, torment, and horrific revelations? The delivery of the narrative in this flick is terrific.

The Descent -- A group of women go spelunking. They find something down below. I've used many of the set pieces during dungeon crawls and cave exploration sequences. Excellent details that you can lift for your game, and terrific sound design.

[REC] -- A group of people trapped in a dangerous place? Sounds like a lot of the games I've run. This movie's level design is top-notch -- characters go up and down the stairs at the center of this apartment building, and each time they do, the situation is altered dramatically. Absolutely terrifying film.

The Mist -- Ordinary people in a small town are menaced by entities in an unnaturally dense fog. This is a story about human monsters: fools, fanatics, and angry mobs. Don't let anyone spoil this for you: the movie is good, and the monsters are all splendid. That's all you need to know.

The Host -- One of my favorite monster movies of all time. Armed with metal poles, burning oil, and a longbow, four people explore a subterranean lair in order to defeat a giant monster. As adventure scenarios go, it's perfect. Powerful action, dreadful scares, and none of that Cloverfield jive — this is a monster movie with guts.

So where does this all take me, thirty years down the road?

I'm working on a new monster compendium for LotFP. I've already contributed 50 monsters to the Referee book, but there are more -- a few derived from the myths and legends of my Peruvian ancestors, the rest dragged from the cesspool in the back of my mind.

This new bestiary is called Lusus Naturae (Latin for "Freaks of Nature"), and it's predictably vile.

The project funded on day 3, and with 72 hours left in the Kickstart, we're quite close to the stretch goal of full-color.

Do you like your monsters to be merciless and horrific?

Does your dungeon crawl (or city adventure, or random hexcrawl encounter) sometimes resemble a slasher movie?

If so, then this might interest you.

Stay metal.


-- Rafael Chandler

(discuss this post here)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Reviews of Forgive Us and Scenic Dunnsmouth


Forgive Us reviews: Here and here and here .

Scenic Dunnsmouth reviews: Here and here and here and here .

(You can keep track of LotFP reviews as I find them by joining the LotFP G+ page here. That one there is just the news, not my chitchat and metal links.

We also have a Facebook page where the same stuff is posted as the G+ account but they are funky about letting everyone see posts.

I'm not sticking them in their own link to the left space here, because honestly how many of the links to old reviews over there are no longer active? That sucks.)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Rafael Chandler's Lusus Naturae Kickstarter Now Live!

Rafael Chandler is Kickstarting his second book of monsters here! He did the Teratic Tome, doncha know, and he wants to make the follow-up fancier. And this time, he's using the LotFP rules as his baseline.

Now Rafael was part of the Ref book campaign, and in fact just turned the last of his monsters in yesterday. You might wonder how that bunch differs from this bunch.

Rafael tells me he had a lot of the monsters for his new book conceived and prepared before he started in on the Ref book job. Lusus Naturae monsters tend to engage human sin. They are new races and breeds, as well as new variants of familiar races and monsters. You know, like the Teratic Tome.

His instructions for the Ref book were to use his style within 'canon' LotFP parameters: All the monsters are unique entities, either from another dimension/outer space or directly affected/possessed/infected by such an entity.

Now Lusus Naturae is going to be "LotFP native." Why, you may ask, is this one LotFP and his last one was for OSRIC? My fault. He was all ready to make the last one "LotFP native," but I basically talked him out of it because of how things like variant halflings and owlbears weren't really "LotFP."

Yes, I'm an idiot. Marketing FAIL.

But I got better. This is Rafael's project, LotFP isn't involved in any way shape or form. Not financing, order fulfilling, content, ANYTHING. Only this time, I'm quite happy for him to put his spin on how he thinks monsters can be for LotFP, without my worrying that "third party" releases need to adhere to some personal first-party line.

So go get it.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Forgive Us and Scenic Dunnsmouth NOW ON SALE!

Print and PDF at the LotFP Store.

PDFs at RPGNow. (you can see previews over there as well)

(Kelvin Green's adventure of urban crime and infection.)

(Zzarchov Kowolski's adventure of rural weirdness featuring an adventure customization method so it never plays the same way twice.)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Cover Art: An Article/Call to Arms (and legs and livers and spleens)

There are three kinds of cover art.

For purposes of this post, I'll call them Doom Metal, Death Metal, and Heavy Metal.

(There is also "movie poster" style cover art but that doesn't fit any comparisons and that's not much used in RPGs anyway. And it sucks when it appears. No names right now since it's outside the point)

Doom Metal cover art sets an atmosphere and wants you to feel like something epic (and oftentimes unsettling) is about to happen. Often uses old paintings instead of new art.

Heavy Metal cover art shows something awesome and wants you to feel cool.

Death Metal cover art shows horrible things and wants you to feel uncomfortable, or even threatened.

Examples of Doom Metal cover art:

Examples of Heavy Metal cover art:

Examples of Death Metal cover art:


Of course this Doom/Heavy/Death classification breaks down under too much scrutiny. The work of Dan Seagrave, for instance, sometimes straddles all three categories, being OH COOL and DOOMY ATMOSPHERICS and DRREEAADD DEATH METAL. That Suffocation cover up there is a Seagrave, and I was waffling about whether it was a HEAVY or DEATH metal cover (the music itself is definitely death metal). I went with HEAVY because that machine is definitely intended to be inspiring and cool, not confrontational.

I actually came up with these categories to describe RPG covers, and the metal cover examples are there just to establish exactly what I mean for you weirdos that aren't into the metal scene.

Now that all that is out of the way, on to RPGs...

There are some examples of doom metal cover art.

... but there are lots and lots of examples of Heavy Metal RPG cover art.

But where are the examples of death metal cover art in RPGs? Beyond Rafael Chandler's stuff and some Hackmaster comedy? Even the zombie games seem to avoid intense imagery... with one exception.

Why is that? Commercial concerns, of course. The metal scene has the public image of being reprobates and dunderheads, so aspirations of respectability is almost a non-starter. So there's more freedom to literally throw shit at the wall and call it an album cover, or to have an artist with skill carefully craft an image of horror. When whirlwind riffs and machine gun drumming are par for the course, there's no reason to hold back on the cover art. Even the sickest things can be successful. Hell, inventing a new way to be harsh makes one a legend in the scene.

And they'll get featured in retail stores, mail order catalogs (webshops nowadays, of course), magazines and webzines, and all the rest that features heavy metal at all.

And it's not just metal. Pop music has often taken a rebellious attitude. Everyone from Elvis Presley and the Beatles in their day to Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus today have been used as examples of bad things in the world that sensible people shouldn't get involved in. Yet nobody cares. Nobody that likes Miley Cyrus gives a shit if people are upset about whatever the hell it is she does, and nobody that doesn't like Elvis Presley was going to be a big fan if he only didn't shake his hips in such a scandalous manner.

RPG creators still have a coward's attitude. The assumption seems to be that RPG players are children struggling to find themselves. They can't handle anything that gives them a slap in the face. Collectively we seem to feel ashamed that what we do isn't seen as normal, and anything other than a tasteful and empowering presentation is seen as confessing that great sin of being a bit weird or even, gasp, being associated with people who are. (Not quirky. Not unique. FUCKING ODD.) God forbid people admit that they don't fit in very well with John Q. Public and enjoy the freedom that comes with that. No. Step outside the lines and you'll be scolded and interrogated like a child that's scribbled some drawing or another on the margin of a test paper. Imagination outside set boundaries is a threat to the tribe. Being worried about what strangers on the bus think of your choice of reading material is something quite important.

For fuck's sake. If we're really that weak and insecure and downright fucking useless, we should be throwing ourselves in front of the bus, not riding on it.

Shame has absolutely no place in creativity, and doubt's work should be done as soon as a decision is made.

So drop the warm and inviting horseshit. Challenge people. "You must be THIS tall" - creatively and attitudinally speaking - "to get on this ride."

If you're going to be self-absorbed enough to think anyone else wants to see your shit, have enough fucking conviction to stand behind it and shout from the rooftops about how it's YOUR creation. YOU did it, it's fucking awesome, anyone who is not you - BEWARE! It's not FOR you. But you CAN experience it... IF YOU DARE.

It's that exclusive experience, one that promises being not for everyone, that is enticing and exciting. Promoting inclusivity is for the insecure begging to be liked, or for the arrogant who believe that permission was ever theirs to give or deny.

You want your thing to be the conversation piece. The one that demands attention from those who will like it, the one that will be looked askance at by people who won't like it. You want it to be the MAIN EVENT. Not interchangeable entertainment that you can slot in between a hundred other games that anyone can tolerate for a few hours for their friends' sake, and not the gaming equivalent of IKEA furniture.

You want to light a fire under your audience's ass. Or better yet, just SET THEM ON FIRE.

Ain't gonna do that being safe and tasteful.

*** *** ***

I have to tell you, LotFP has mainly gone for Doom Metal album covers, with some Heavy Metal here and there. Even Death Love Doom and Fuck For Satan went with more atmospheric covers and left the over-the-top imagery for the interior. And there are a number of books still in various stages of production that will continue the trend of Doom and Heavy Metal album covers. (And the covers of projects without my byline are going to be whatever the byline wants them to be.)

But the Death Metal phase will be coming, and we're going to push that to retail. They'll reject it, but that just means we have to push harder. Anyone who gets in the way will be eliminated.

(you can discuss this article here)