The play advice in Hillfolk largely focuses on the GM as the source of external pressure that keeps the player characters at odds with one another, generating new and compelling drama. However, as a DramaSystem player, you may well enjoy the process of tightening the screws on, or delivering comeuppances to, other players’ characters. A crass application of this technique can tip the game into unwanted PvP territory. But a sneakier, more subtle use of your scene-narrating powers can crank up the fun for everyone.

For example, in a recent game of the Alma Mater Magica series I’m currently running, stuffy, pedantic wizard Dr. “Doc” Jacobsen (Paul Jackson) finally took it upon himself to destroy a parasite criminal French elves had installed in colleague Dr. Stephen Kim (Scott Wachter) in order to remotely monitor group activities. The parasite, a centipede named Maurice, had been a staple of the series over many sessions. No one had bothered to do much about him, in part because they probably reckoned that I as GM would somehow stop them, but mostly because Maurice had sparked too many fun scenes to get rid of. Yet now his presence had finally precipitated its long-foreshadowed catastrophe. The time for an exorcism had come. Paul described the scene in which the parasite was removed and Maurice apparently met his end.

Until Chris Hüth, playing reluctant returnee to the world of magic Earl Pudgely, decided that Maurice was still too fun to lose, even if he was no longer clinging to Stephen’s pancreas. So he narrated his next scene to describe a bent and broken but still very much alive Maurice crawling away. That’s the sort of thing a GM would do, but Chris, author of Blood on the Snow’s article on playing DramaSystem to win, saw an opportunity to confront another player with an entertaining turnaround and took it.

When stumped for a scene to call, you too might look to see if you can envision any scenes that will delightfully complicate the lives of other cast members.

As of this writing, Maurice still lives, having inveigled his way into the life of yet another PC, just barely convincing her of his value as a familiar. And because it was Chris who made it happen and not me, it doesn’t feel like the editorial hand of the GM pressing down to keep things moving in a certain direction, or granting script immunity to a treasured GMC.

So when you try this at home, think of it as the Old Centipede Trick.

Le mille-pattes est mort! Vive le mille-pattes!

Image credit: Matt Reinbold, via Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0


Hillfolk is a game of high-stakes interpersonal conflict by acclaimed designer Robin D. Laws. Using its DramaSystem rules, you and your friends can weave enthralling sagas of Iron Age tribes, Regency socialites, border town drug kingpins, a troubled crime family, posthuman cyberpunks and more. Purchase Hillfolk and its companion Blood in the Snow in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

The entire Pelgrane team will be at GenCon Indianpolis until next week – please be patient with any support requests during this busy times.

This is our biggest GenCon ever, featuring nine seminars, more than 100 events, new releases and the ENnie Awards!

As usual we are sharing a booth (#609) with ProFantasy Software. You’ll find us snug in between the big and sprawling booths of Paizo and Fantasy Flight Games. Check this map for the location.
Exhibit Hall Map

Games

There are 131 Pelgrane games in the GenCon booking system; unfortunately they are all booked out. However, some GMs mentioned they would be running games at Games on Demand – just show up and play – and we’ll be running short demos of all our systems on the Pelgrane Press booth: just ask us there for convenient time slots and availability.

Seminars

Join Pelgrane freelancers and staffers on this glittering array of seminars.

All Pelgrane Press seminars are in the Crowne Plaza, room Pennsylvania Stn B

13th Age Adventure Design Workshop

Join seasoned 13th Age designers to create a short adventure that takes full advantage of the system’s unique mechanics.
Thu Jul 30 11:00 am – noon

13th Age Organized Play: The New Season

We’re debuting a brand new season of Organized Play at Gen Con! The team will talk about what makes this series different, offer hints of what’s to come, and answer your questions.
Thu Jul 30 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

13th Age GM Roundtable

Need advice on running 13th Age? A panel of experienced GMs share their insights and answer your questions.
Fri Jul 31 11:00 am – noon

Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Live

Robin D. Laws and Kenneth Hite talk roleplaying, history, conspiracy, occultism, writing, food, movies and whatever you ask them about in this live edition of their award-winning podcast.
Fri Jul 31 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Swords, Spies & Shoggoths: The Pelgrane Press Panel

Join Simon Rogers, Cat Tobin and others from the Pelgrane team for a behind-the-scenes look at what the award-winning UK publisher’s been up to this year, and what they’ve planned for the coming year.

Expect an exciting announcement!
Fri Jul 31 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm

13th Age Monster Workshop

Join seasoned 13th Age designers to build a brand-new monster that takes advantage of the game’s mechanics to deliver some nasty surprises at the table.
Sat Aug 1 11:00 am – noon

Dramatic Interaction MasterClass

Learn the structures and techniques that turn emotional confrontations between PCs from frustrating roadblocks into rich, surprising moments of human drama. Join Robin D. Laws, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan and Rachel Kahn as they dispense precious interpersonal wisdom. Whether you’re experienced in Pelgrane Press’ Hillfolk / DramaSystem or looking to infuse play in other systems with satisfying conflict, they’re here to grant your most fervent petitions.
Sat Aug 1 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Investigative Roleplaying MasterClass

Mystery scenario masters Kenneth Hite, Robin D. Laws, and Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan train their magnifying glasses on clue-gathering adventures. Whether you’re schooled in Pelgrane Press’ GUMSHOE line or want to steal its secrets for play in another system, this seminar will shine light in the darkness and reveal the unlikely suspects behind your tabletop woes.
Sat Aug 1 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm

13th Age: State of the Empire

We’ll talk about what’s new for 13th Age and what’s coming in the future, and answer your burning questions. The owlbear song might be performed.
Sun Aug 2 11:00 am – noon

Pharmacist

A Trail of Cthulhu GMC in Armitage Files format

Name: Frank Warren

Physical Description: late 50s, papery complexion, thinning hair

Sinister: Frank Warren became a pharmacist to make use of the alchemical secrets his father taught him from the family collection of moldering Renaissance manuscripts. He chose to operate in this desperate urban neighborhood because it supplies him with an inexhaustible list of test subjects who will never be missed should something go wrong. In his insane rambles through the New England countryside he has stumbled across various remnants of creatures that should not be. These scraps of flesh he has distilled into an assortment of elixirs. Eventually he hopes to invent a cure for death, without the vulnerabilities of the quack system discovered by that fool, Dr. Muñoz. This noble ambition surely compensates for any number of quasi-indigents slightly hastened to their graves. Should Warren sense that the investigators pose a threat to him, he attempts to dose them with one of his more lethal concoctions.

Innocuous: Warren first set up shop when this was a nice neighborhood, before the rot set in. He notices the terrible things moving in the shadows, but doesn’t say anything. Who would believe him? Frank just wants to get home to his ailing wife Helen, bolt shut all three locks on his apartment door, and stay out of trouble.

Stalwart: Warren learned his profession at Miskatonic University. He could have established a pharmacy in the rich, safe part of town, but instead took over his father’s drug store. Here, people need him. He has only just begun to notice the moving shadows down on Fourteenth Street. Every time the hairs on his neck rise up, he makes a note with a stubby pencil in his notebook. Any day now he may ring up his old friend Armitage at the university to share his observations.

Alternate Names: Bob Du Brey, Sidney Alden, Wilfred Brecher

Alternate Descriptions (1): mid 40s, wavy hair, luxuriant mustache

(2): late 60s, inexplicably resembles Mark Twain

(3): early 60s, rounded glasses, forbidding brow

Defining Quirks: (1) suffers terrible hay fever; (2) hums songs from Astaire-Rogers movies; (3) looks at his fingernails when nervous

Academic and Technical Abilities: Medicine, Pharmacy

General Abilities: Athletics 2, First Aid 8, Fleeing 2, Health 2

Alertness Modifier: 1

Stealth Modifier: –1

 


 

Trail of Cthulhu is an award-winning 1930s horror roleplaying game by Kenneth Hite, produced under license from Chaosium. Whether you’re playing in two-fisted Pulp mode or sanity-shredding Purist mode, its GUMSHOE system enables taut, thrilling investigative adventures where the challenge is in interpreting clues, not finding them. Purchase Trail of Cthulhu and its many supplements and adventures in the Pelgrane Shop.

Thirteen – each has a number. Each asked to tell something strange – order of numbers makes the story complete – at the end the Count comes in.

            — Bram Stoker, Notes for Dracula

For a change, this isn’t something we left out of the Dracula Dossier. No, instead it’s something you can put into the Dracula Dossier – 13 Icons, very much like the 13 Icons in that other excellent game. Refresh your memory of how we insert Icons and Relationship rolls into Night’s Black Agents, if you care to.

KS logo 3

Rules

No agent can have (or should want) more than 1 Relationship point with Dracula. Defending a Positive relationship with Dracula is left as an exercise for the player and Director, but keep in mind that being loved by (or as he thinks of it, “property of”) Dracula is, if anything, perhaps even more dangerous than being hated by him.

Some of the Icons have possible factions: e.g., individual Dukes of Edom, or agencies of the Romanian government. When you take a Relationship with such an Icon, pick a faction if you wish. If that faction has an enemy within the Icon (the SRI and the SIE, for example) a Relationship Roll of 5 means your faction’s enemy shows up in the story: to do you dirt (but not actually whack you), try to get you to switch sides, get intel on its opponent, etc. Your relationship with your faction’s enemy is always Conflicted. However, balancing this potential irritation, your faction values your support more because it’s challenged more often: you can refresh 1 Relationship point in an Icon with a faction once per session.

Most large bureaucracies have plentiful factions, so feel free to introduce them where I haven’t: MI5, like the CIA, doubtless has its own bureaucratic siege warfare. Or even sub-factionalize the factions I do provide: the Vatican has rival cardinals, wayward bishops, and weird medieval bureaucracies that somehow no one can quite control.

Factions also make great nodes for a Conspyramid. Just saying.

All of the Icons are Ambiguous or Villainous, with the exception of Dracula (who is only Villainous) and the Slayer (who is Heroic or Ambiguous). In some campaigns (especially Stakes mode games) ECHELON, Five, The Circus, The Cross, The Company, or Der Reichsadler might also be Heroic.

A given Director might switch these around to suit her specific version of the Dracula Dossier, or switch her version of the Dracula Dossier around to emphasize the Icons her players pick as Relationships. Feel free, in other words, to swap in Icons like Queen Tera, Lilith, the Red Horse (the Turks), or any other key players in your game.

Edom

This is the original vampire project, nestled within MI6. You were marked for recruitment, or left under a cloud, or learned too much, or helped too little.

Factions: Individual Dukes, Dr. Drawes

The Bride

Like Quincey Morris in Munich, a Bride has gotten a special taste for you.

Factions: Individual Brides; perhaps Lilith, Alraune, or Elizabeth Báthory

The Octopus

You have a relationship with one of Europe’s mafias, perhaps even the Mafia or the Mafiya. You may be a fixer respected by all, or an ex-investigator hated by all; a former brother, or an escaped target.

Factions: Russian Mafiya bratva, Cosa Nostra, ’Ndrangheta, Camorra, a Triad, Chechen Obshina, Romanian mafia clan

ECHELON

You are inside the head of the folks who have eyes and ears everywhere. Were you a programmer or a monitor for the surveillance state, or do they have a special reason to follow your activities?

Factions: NSA, NRO, NGA, GCHQ, DIFC, ASD (Australia), CSE (Canada), GCSB (New Zealand)

Five

MI5, the Security Service of the United Kingdom, responsible for domestic intelligence, counter-terrorism, and counter-espionage. And in theory, responsible for uncovering rogue century-old operations within MI6.

The Circus

MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service of the United Kingdom, responsible for foreign intelligence operations. Your relationship with the Service is not with Edom; you may not even know they exist – or the Circus may have burned you for insisting that Edom did exist.

Factions: Secretariat (military), Requirements and Production (analysis), Security and Public Affairs (internal affairs, mole hunting), Operations (clandestine service), Information Operations (psychological warfare, press manipulation), the Intrusives (DH, p. 293)

The Cross

You have a relationship with someone with a relationship with God. You may be able to get “Indulgences” and illicit sacramental Hosts, or you may be marked for martyrdom for the good of the flock.

Factions: The Vatican, the Russian Orthodox Church, the Romanian Orthodox Church

The Company

The Central Intelligence Agency, known as “the Cousins” to the Circus and Five, has plenty of hands out, and plenty of handouts, for anybody and everybody. You took a hand, once, or bit it.

Factions: Directorate of Analysis (“armchairs”), Directorate of Operations (“cowboys”), the CIA vampire program (“Find Forever”)

The Bear

British intelligence originally intended to aim its vampiric weapon at the Russians, its opponent in the Great Game – and the Russians haven’t forgotten it. The enemy of your enemy is your friend … or possibly your even worse enemy.

Factions: FSB, SVR, GRU, TE (“Special Expedition”) anti-vampire program surviving from 1801 (DH, p. 76)

The Lynx

The national animal of Romania is a small, solitary predator that somehow survives disasters that doom larger species. Sounds about right. You have a “guy in Bucharest” or a “contact in the Palace” or a bunch of signed Securitate pay stubs.

Factions: SIE, SRI, Romanian Armed Forces, Romanian Police, Control Body of the Prime Minister, individual cabinet ministries or oligarchs

Der Reichsadler

Officially called the “Bundesadler” now (except in Greece, and probably Spain and Portugal, and maybe Italy …) the black eagle has been the symbol of Germany for longer than Dracula has been alive. You have fallen under the eagle’s wings … or escaped its talons.

Factions: BND, BfV, Deutsche Bank, Projekt Draugr or other surviving Nazi vampire program (Villainous only)

The Slayer

This Icon hunts vampires, most likely more intensely and dangerously (or incorrectly) than you’d like. It’s an ideal placeholder Icon for a Legacy such as a dhampir Mina Harker, an undiscovered Van Helsing scion, or a badass Morris descendant like Carmilla Rojas. The Slayer may think of you as a protégé, as a weapon … or as bait.

Factions: Individual Legacies, Sayeret Aluka (DH, p. 75), Schola Allatio (DH, p. 77), Caldwell Foundation (DH, p. 160), Echipa Mortii (DH, p. 149; also Villainous)

Dracula

The King of Vampires knows who you are! Don’t you feel special?

Factions: None

An Ashen Stars scenario premise

Before the Mohilar War, many of the Bleed’s planets were settled by proponents of the Synthculture movement. They created worlds to replicate past periods of human and alien history, often filtered through a pop culture lens. The self-described film noir world of Lost Angeles (spelling intentional) functioned surprisingly well until the war came. But in the ensuing privations a new generation of people born and raised on Lost Angeles grew tired of the cultural limitations placed on them by their parents and grandparents. The old regime drifted into authoritarianism and fell to a coup. Now a new civil war rages, between upstart democrats and old-guard former rebels turned oligarchs. Neither faction cares much about the planet’s original hard-boiled style. Which is why one of its aging enthusiasts, now safely off-world, has engaged the PCs to recover one of its key heritage artifacts. A replica of the Maltese Falcon prop from the 1941 film of that name formed the centerpiece of the office belonging to the planet’s first ruler, Mayor Teddy Huston. It appeared in countless newsreel projections in which he delivered epigrammatic truths to his grateful people. Miles Bond, a noir enthusiast of the tavak species, issues the contract. He wants the lasers to wade through the active war zone that is the Lost Angeles capitol and recover that falcon. But it has to be the particular, slightly over-sized one Huston commissioned. Bond doesn’t intend to keep the precious artifact in his own collection. It should be in a museum, he declares, perhaps the Institute of Synthculture Development on Rosehaugh II.

Though neither warring faction seeks to enforce Chandler-era style any more, the statuette remains a vestigial symbol of prestige and authority. The rebels say they have it, and the government claim they do. Leader of the democracy movement, Lai Damron, says it will be destroyed when they take office, marking a symbolic end to calcified tradition. Or is that propaganda spread by current president Narcia Ugan, who wants to turn the Combine against Damron by painting him as eager to destroy a galactic heritage relic? Can the lasers find the thing that dreams are made of? When they do, how to they prove that they have the authentic replica?


Ashen Stars is a gritty space opera game where freelance troubleshooters solve mysteries, fix thorny problems, and explore strange corners of space — all on a contract basis. The game includes streamlined rules for space combat, 14 different types of ship, a rogues’ gallery of NPC threats and hostile species, and a short adventure to get you started. Purchase Ashen Stars in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

In the latest episode of their intensely flavored podcast, Ken and Robin talk love of detail, monsters as food, offstage deaths and UFO disinformation. And don’t forget, the show has been nominated for a 2015 ENnie award, so if you’re inclined to vote for us and haven’t done so yet, the voting booth awaits.

Robin Laws’ multi-award-winning Hillfolk is a great game in its own right, but its DramaSystem engine includes a toolkit for describing and dissecting characters that can be used in other games. One of these tools is the concept of dramatic poles.

To quote Robin: Driving any compelling dramatic character in
any story form is an internal contradiction. The character is torn between two opposed dramatic poles. Each pole suggests a choice of identities for the character, each at war with the other. Events in the story pull the character from one pole to the next. Were your character’s story to conclude, her final scenes would once and for all establish one of the identities as the dominant one… In many cases, you can conceive your dramatic poles as your desire, on one hand, and, on the other, the character trait that makes you least likely to attain it.”

In 13th Age, the player characters have relationships with one or more Icons – rulers and other powerful NPCs who shape the world from behind the scenes. As a relationship can be Positive, Negative or Conflicted, a well-designed Icon is always divided on some level. Even the most heroic Icon needs a little hint of darkness; even the vilest villain needs some redeeming quality. In the Dragon Empire setting, for example, the Lich King may be an undead tyrant who wants to conquer the lands of the living and restore his lost empire, but he still thinks of himself as the rightful ruler and has some sense of obligation towards his prospective ‘subjects’. The Priestess may be the mystic champion of all the Gods of Light, a shining vessel for their blazing kindness, but her overwhelming niceness might be hiding a secret agenda.

A well-designed Icon, therefore, is torn between two dramatic poles – usually, one that might draw the player characters to serve or support that Icon, and another that makes the Icon seem suspicious, dangerous or destructive. Evil Icons flip that around, so they’ve got one pole that makes them villainous and ghastly, and another that doesn’t redeem them, but makes them more nuanced and interesting than straight villains.

For the default Icons, I usually go with the pairs of poles below. Your own interpretations may differ, of course – and if you’re creating your own Icons, then you may find these helpful as inspiration.

Archmage: Benevolence versus Hubris – is the Archmage building a utopia, or a house of cards?

13th Age icon symbolsCrusader: Necessity versus Humanity – what does it profit a man to raze Hell to the ground, but still lose his soul?

Diabolist: Power versus Self-Interest – does the Diabolist have the courage of her convictions, or it all just a game?

Dwarf King: Tradition versus Friendship – can the dwarves move past the grudges and debts of their ancestors?

Elf Queen: High versus Wood versus Dark (yep, three poles) – which aspect of Elvendom holds sway?

Emperor: Law versus Truth – can the Emperor save the Empire from the intrigues and double-dealing of his courtiers and governors

Great Gold Wyrm: Heroism versus Sanity – mainly for the Wyrm’s followers, when does divine inspiration become indistinguishable from madness

High Druid: Nature versus Humanity (the concept that of Icon – and its followers – being pulled between elemental forces and humanity shows up a lot in my games).

Lich King: Death versus Obligation – what do the dead owe the living, and vice versa?

Orc Lord: Destruction versus Destiny – is the Orc Lord a disaster, or an opportunity?

Priestess: Divinity versus Humanity – can a mortal embody the gods and remind human?

Prince of Shadows: Anarchy versus Civilisation – what’s beneath the Prince’s mask?

The Three: Hunger versus Intrigue versus Malice (three poles again) – which head of the Three is dominant?

In the latest edition of their ENnie-winning (and once again nominated) podcast, Ken and Robin talk room description, competing hollow earth theories, recommendations, and chaos magick.

This month, in See Page XX, pre-order Cthulhu Apocalypse for Trail of Cthulhu, find out about our ENnie nominations, get advice about using interpersonal abilities and pyramids to drive story in your games, and playtest some one-shot story games.

  • Our new releases include Cthulhu Apocalypse; the KWAS edition Hideous Creatures: The Great Race of Yith, Mutant City Spies for KWAS subscribers, and Summoning Spells for 13th Age Monthly.
  • In our articles Robin D. Laws tries his hand at a 1-sheet GUMSHOE entry, Kenneth Hite has a quick and dirty look at Varna, Simon interviews Pelgrane writer and GM Ruth Tillman, and Rob posts the answers to last month’s trivia challenge.
  • June playtesting opportunities include two story games; play adventurers about to set off on what might be their final battle in Before the Storm, or a family with a difficult choice in Acceptable Losses.

Check out the new Page XX now!

“I think that Varna is not familiar to any of us …”

— Van Helsing

In my defense, not a lot of stuff happens in Varna. I mean, in the novel. Lots of stuff happens in Varna, including a disastrous Crusade in 1444 that killed the King of Poland and nearly killed Vlad Tepes’ brother Mircea.

But in the novel, Dracula ships his coffins to London via Herr Leutner of Varna, and then fakes out the hunters by booking a ship for Varna but going on to Galatz in Romania. Lord Godalming and co. arrive in Varna via the Orient Express, and stay at the Odessus Hotel, named after the original Greek settlement on the site. Although the hunters have identified another of Dracula’s agents in the city, a broker named Ristics, they leave him and Varna behind.

Which is what I did when I mapped out the Director’s Handbook for the Dracula Dossier. Although we put in Herr Leutner, we skipped Varna itself. I blame Dracula, master of the bait-and-switch-Black-Sea-ports. Here, in another of our continuing (and continuing) series “Things We Left Out of The Director’s Handbook for The Dracula Dossier,” is a Quick and Dirty look at Varna, the Summer Capital of Bulgaria.

Varna_by_night

Varna

Varna is Bulgaria’s third-largest city. Its Black Sea beaches and hot springs have made it a resort town since the 7th century BCE, and tourism keeps it one of the most prosperous cities in Eastern Europe. It sits below 350m terraces, at the mouth of Lake Varna, still a center of industry, shipbuilding, and chemical works. The 2 km long Asparuhov Bridge (a 46 m high suicide magnet) connects the rest of Varna with the Asparuhovo borough on the south side of the Lake.

Population

365,000 (about the size of Tampa), swells to 600,000 during summer vacation season (much like Tampa).

Conflict

Varna’s relative prosperity tends to mute its social conflicts; even the 2013 anti-austerity riots across Bulgaria remained peaceful protests in Varna. One major concern is Varna’s increasing population of undocumented foreigners, initially mostly Turks but recently Ukrainian refugees from the war. There are possibly as many as 300,000 such in the city (which would put the city’s size in summer at 900,000). About 1% of Varna’s population are Roma, almost entirely living in three impoverished ghettos (Maksuda, Rozova Dolina, and Chengene Kula).

A vigilante group of former Bulgarian marines, the Varna Seals, expelled foreign mafias in 2007-2009; some suggest this is merely to clear the lucrative tourist-and-waterfront ground for the Mutri, the Bulgarian mafia. Varna is a major transshipment point for traffickers in slaves and drugs, fueling a red-light district and party zone in resorts all along the Black Sea coast.

Backdrops

Monument of the Bulgarian-Soviet Friendship: Towering 110 m above the northwestern part of the city, this 11,000-tonne brutalist concrete monstrosity resembles an immense extended wing, 11-meter high bas-reliefs of Red Army soldiers facing gigantic Bulgarian maidens across a wide 305-step staircase up the side of Turna Tepe. Abandoned since the fall of Communism, it remains a haunt of graffiti artists and urban explorers drawn by the rumors of a nuclear bunker deep within the hill.

Sea Garden: The oldest and largest landscaped park in Varna, begun in 1862 and expanded ever since. It currently hosts not just gardens, but fountains, greenhouses, a grove of trees planted by cosmonauts, the Varna Zoo, Varna Aquarium (including a dolphinarium), the Varna Naval Museum, a water park and amusement park, and casinos, promenades, nightclubs, and boardwalk attractions.

Varna Archaeological Museum: Just southeast of the city center in a Neo-Renaissance building, the Varna Archaeological Museum (est. 1888) holds exhibits from all periods of Bulgarian history: ancient Thracian weapons, Byzantine jewelry, and 19th century icons. Its pride and joy is the collection of pectorals, diadems, beads, and rings of the “Gold of Varna” excavated in 1972-1973 from the Varna Necropolis 4 km west of the city, and dated to ca. 4500 BCE.

Three Hooks

  • In March 2015, Dr. Valeri Yotov of the Varna Archaeological Museum excavated a “giant skeleton” buried under the Roman fortress wall of Odessus, dating to the late 4th or early 5th century CE. This ongoing excavation began near the St. Nikolay Church when workers rehabilitating the sewer system uncovered an ancient Greek pot (5th century BCE). The dig along the Odessus wall expanded into the Varna Hole, a pit dug in 1984 for the excavation of a department store but abandoned in 1989, and now used for parking.
  • In 1992, a group of karate enthusiasts from the elite “Tihina” Division of the Bulgarian marines founded the TIM Group, beginning as a “security company” doing debt recovery for Bulgarian banks, and rapidly expanding into (according to the US State Department) smuggling, auto theft, prostitution, gambling, and narcotics. Since then, TIM has expanded into a maze of secretive holding companies controlling grain, airlines, fishing, oil refineries, and (according to many) Varna’s mayor and politics.
  • At the western end of Lake Varna, the industrial city of Devnya is home to a tradition of vampire slayers recorded in 1888 by the Czech historian and diplomat Constantin Jirecek. These vampirdzhiya, or dzhadzhiya (who were dhampirs and often valkodlatsi or werewolves as well), carried icons through graveyards, sheepfolds, and other suspicious locations, waiting for the image to tremble. Then, they would either dig up the vampire (if material) and stake it with hawthorn and burn it, or (if in spirit form) seal it into a bottle which could be burned at leisure.
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