HC Star_Vampires-1“The human blood on which it had fed revealed the hitherto invisible outlines of the feaster.” Invisible outlines that shall be expanded upon, extended even, into all sorts of dimensions. Are they summoned demons or feral predators? Are they kindred or competitors to Colin Wilson’s Space Vampires? Herein we trace the Shambler From the Stars, with bonus Night’s Black Agents statistics and a scenario seed.

Hideous Creatures: Star Vampires is the eleventh installment of the Ken Writes About Stuff subscription, or it’s available as a stand-alone from the store. If you have subscribed to KWAS, Hideous Creatures: Shoggoth is now on your order receipt page, so all you have to do is click on the new link in your order email. (If you can’t find your receipt email, you can get another one sent to you by entering your email address here).

 

Stock #: PELH12D Author: Kenneth Hite
Artist: Jeff Porter Pages: 11pg PDF

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Mind Control_350This is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful GUMSHOE Zoom I’ve ever known in my life. Presenting detailed rules for brainwashing, memetics, telecontrol, and brain hacking, and for gear from the Microwave Auditory Effect gun to subliminal flashers to tinfoil hats, it brings the fight inside your head.

GUMSHOE Zoom: Mind Control is the tenth installment of the Ken Writes About Stuff subscription, or it’s available as a stand-alone PDF from the store.

What is a GUMSHOE Zoom?

Not everything can support a game of its own, or even a big sourcebook. For those things, we present the GUMSHOE Zoom, a sort of supplement focused on a key game mechanic and its possible applications. In general, Zooms are interesting potential hacks, or intriguing adaptations of the main rules. Some apply to one specific topic or sub-sub-genre. Others cross all manner of GUMSHOE turf; you can slot them in and adapt them to tales of Cthulhuoid investigation, mean superpowered streets, or alien colonies alike.

Zooms are experimental. That does mean that they haven’t been playtested, necessarily. (If something in here is really really broken – and it’s not, as this ain’t our first rodeo – we’ll fix it in post.) But that also means we encourage you to experiment with them. Changing the cost, or prerequisites, or point effect, or other mechanical parameters of a given Zoom changes how often it shows up and how much drama it drives. The dials are in your hands.

Zooms will change the focus of your play if you use them. Putting a mechanic on the table puts it into your game. Adding a Zoom means more actions, possibly even more scenes, using those rules. Since the Zoom mechanics are intended to encourage specific actions or flavors, to force a card in your storytelling hand, they aren’t “balanced” against “normal” actions or rules. In general, if you don’t want to see more of it, don’t Zoom in on it.

Zooms are optional rules. You can and should ignore them if you don’t want them, or change them at will. After all, if a given Zoom turns out to be crucial to an upcoming GUMSHOE game, we’ll change it to fit that specific genre or form of storytelling.

 

Stock #: PELH11D Author: Kenneth Hite
Artist: Jérôme Huguenin Pages: 12pg PDF

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Kenneth Hite2With the dying of the year, it’s time to read “The Festival” and to think of 2014. In this space, specifically, about the next year’s Ken Writes About Stuff installments. To get the good, or rather the known, stuff out of the way:

  • January 2014: GUMSHOE Zoom: Mind Control. This is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful GUMSHOE Zoom I’ve ever known in my life. Presenting detailed rules for brainwashing, memetics, telecontrol, and brain hacking, and for gear from the Microwave Auditory Effect gun to subliminal flashers to tinfoil hats, it brings the fight inside your head.
  • February 2014: Hideous Creatures: Star Vampires. “The human blood on which it had fed revealed the hitherto invisible outlines of the feaster.” Invisible outlines that shall be expanded upon, extended even, into all sorts of dimensions. Are they summoned demons or feral predators? Are they kindred or competitors to Colin Wilson’s Space Vampires? Herein we trace the Shambler From the Stars, with bonus Night’s Black Agents statistics and a scenario seed.
  • March 2014: Lilith. “Satan here held his Babylonish court, and in the blood of stainless childhood the leprous limbs of phosphorescent Lilith were laved.” Lilith as Queen of the Vampires, Lady of the Night — or as First Rebel and First Heroine? We look at the many faces of Lilith, as a Trail of Cthulhu titan (Elder Goddess or Great Old One), Night’s Black Agents vampire queen, Mutant City Blues super-Typhoid Mary, and at her role in the center of the First Esoterror Operation.
  • April 2014: Hideous Creatures: Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath. “Worlds of sardonic actuality impinging on vortices of febrile dream – Iä! Shub-Niggurath! The Goat with a Thousand Young!” Are they nameless horrors or numbered servitors, Druidic nightmares or ab-natural abominations? Where do they grow, and on what loathsome food do they thrive? Follow them to Hell and Hydra, or to Mormo and Monsanto.
  • Bonus Stuff: Hideous Creatures: The Un-Numbered Ones. For subscribers only, this free issue of Ken Writes About Stuff opens the books on Lovecraftian monsters that have never taken stat-block form before in any game!

For any Ken Writes About Stuff installments you may have missed, go back to the main KWAS page.

You may note that the last two regular Hideous Creatures — and indeed the whole series — followed the results of our Esteemed Reader Poll on the topic fairly closely. The monsters in the Bonus Stuff will likewise track our Esteemed Reader Poll on that subject. (Although rather than do a whole HC workup on one of these essentially unattested monsters, I’m more likely to include a few creatures in more like normal Trail of Cthulhu creature writeup style.) It’s as though we care about what you want!

And so we do! Should the Gods of the Copybook Headings smile upon us and KWAS return for another year, what would you like to see us cover? By now, I think I’ve mapped out most of the possible things I can do in the format, although I’m always open to new suggestions.

Hideous Creatures: This category will definitely continue, as I’m hardly out of the Lovecraftian woods yet. Headliner monsters left to do include the Colour Out of Space, the Great Race of Yith, the Hunting Horror, and the Serpent Folk — but I could easily be persuaded to change things up with a few flavorful B-listers like the Dimensional Shambler, the Lloigor, the Rat-Thing, and the good old bad old Tcho-Tcho. Or maybe you have some favorite I haven’t mentioned here. We’ve already got a request in for the Elder Things, for example, to accompany the shoggoths.

GUMSHOE Zoom: Are there specific rules thickets you’d like to see me dive into? With physical and mental combat out of the way, what strikes you as rich in story possibility, and thus worth zooming in on? I promise, no vehicle building systems.

Campaign Frames: I’m still possibly happiest (or perhaps slap-happiest) with Moon Dust Men of all the issues of KWAS so far, so I’d love to do another campaign frame. I’m still trying to crack the “sitting” mechanism for a Carnacki campaign frame, so we’ll probably get that in 2014/15. I’ve also had a couple of requests for an Elizabethan setting, which might just be adapting Night’s Black Agents to the age of Walsingham and Marlowe, or it might be a full-on “School of Night” occult adventure frame. But what else cries out for GUMSHOE besides wide-lapel UFOs and steampunk ghost-breaking?

Looking Glass: Our city-in-a-PDF framework format got off to a rousing start with Mumbai, don’t you think? In the next year, I’m most likely to try and tackle a 1930s city to show how it can be done, but I’m happy to change planes on your whim.

Nighted Tomes: With monsters under the microscope, how logical is an “expanded look” at one of the major Mythos tomes? Expect to see a Necronomicon piece next year — but should it replace a Hideous Creatures entry or not? How much Cthulhu is too much Cthulhu? Shriek your answer to the stars, below.

Special Subjects: This is the “everything else” sort of category, but it boils down to one subject, so far mythical or folkloric or eliptonic, that can be spun for multiple GUMSHOE games. Lilith will go here, as does Die Glocke — what other mysteries should we plumb with our Investigative pools a-quiver? We already have one request for the Axe Man of New Orleans, so famous crimes might make another topic to plunder.

In short, fill up the comments below with what Stuff you’d like to see Ken Write About. And then I shall fill up your in-boxes with that very Stuff, or Stuff very much like it.

Mumbai_cover_400Over on RPG Geek, Paul Baldowski has read through the latest edition of Ken Writes About Stuff, Looking Glass: Mumbai. He describes how “Rather like getting someone else to read Rough Guide or Lonely Planet on Mumbai, and then digesting the executive summary. Looking Glass: Mumbai boiled a fascinating city down to a thick lightly seasoned sauce and allows you to apply the resulting condiment however you see fit.”

He goes on to point out that “Sometimes, it’s good to have someone else do the legwork for you in finding somewhere interesting and potentially exciting to run your next adventure.”

We completely agree, Paul, which is why we got Ken to Write About Stuff in the first place. ;)

He concludes that Looking Glass: Mumbai is “A brief and very focussed taster of a complex and vast city with potential to be used in innumerable games, not just Gumshoe-powered ones.”

You can read Paul’s complete review over on RPG Geek here.

AZATHOTHSimon says I need to have grabbier headlines on these posts, so I went a little Buzzfeed up there. Hope you like it.

The Call of Cthulhu 6th Edition corebook contains 38 monsters. I’m not including the Great Old Ones, Outer Gods, or such, just monsters. When you add in the similar creatures, races, servitor beings, what-have-you from the magnificent Malleus Monstrorum, you get 136 total monsters. They’re not all from Lovecraft — the talented teratologists of Chaosium have trawled everyone from William Hope Hodgson and H.G. Wells to Clark Ashton Smith and Brian Lumley to get that many.

And yet, some honest-to-Yog Lovecraft monsters are still out there. Lurking. Un-adapted to a Cthulhu-themed horror game. I’ve adapted two of them myself, so far. First, I put the reptile-things from “The Nameless City” into the Trail of Cthulhu corebook. William Hamblin adapted them for the Chaosium adventure “City Without a Name” but didn’t wind up compiled somehow; I re-adapted them from the story and from actual Bedouin folklore, from which I took the name “masqut” as being catchier than “reptile-things from ‘The Nameless City’”. Then, I adapted (for the first time ever, so far as I know) the titular hound-lich from “The Hound” for Bookhounds of London, as it is all of those things.

But I’m not done. I’ve got 20 more fiends, all of them at least as well-attested as the ludocanonical Dimensional Shambler or Sand-Dweller, that I’ve combed out of Lovecraft’s stories, collaborations, and poetry. (I should give a shout-out to the obsessive illustrator Michael Bukowski, whose Yog-Blogsoth series is one of my prettiest and finest combs.) And, as it happens, I’m writing a bimonthly series of expanded Lovecraftian bestiary entries called Hideous Creatures, nestled within the Ken Writes About Stuff schedule. Which leads, ineluctably, to our Buzzfeedish title.

As a special bonus for subscribers to Ken Writes About Stuff, I’ll be preparing an exclusive subscriber-only PDF. (Probably in December. For the Festival season.) This PDF will expand, adapt, and otherwise ring changes — for the first time in Lovecraft gaming history — on one of these untouched monsters. From those 20, I’ve sorted out seven promising candidates for this special PDF — and you get to vote on which one KWAS subscribers can enjoy. So let’s meet our finalists!

Bat-Thing

“But in respect of generall Infamy, no Report more terrible hath come to Notice, than of what Goodwife Doten, Relict of John Doten of Duxbury in the Old Colonie, brought out of the Woods near Candlemas of 1683. She affirmed, and her good neighbors likewise, that it had been borne that which was neither Beast nor Man, but like to a monstrous Bat with humane Face. The which was burnt by Order of the High-Sheriff on the 5th of June in the Year 1684.”

– “Of Evill Sorceries Done In New-England Of Daemons In No Humane Shape”

Black-Winged One

“All denied a part in the ritual murders, and averred that the killing had been done by Black Winged Ones which had come to them from their immemorial meeting-place in the haunted wood. But of those mysterious allies no coherent account could ever be gained.”

– “The Call of Cthulhu”

“199-Black winged thing flies into one’s house at night. Cannot be found or identified—but subtle developments ensue.”

– Commonplace Book

“When he began those night-howls we declared
He’d better be locked up away from harm,
So three men from the Aylesbury town farm
Went for him — but came back alone and scared.
They’d found him talking to two crouching things
That at their step flew off on great black wings.”

– “The Familiars”

Medusa

“Surpassing all in horror was the streaming black hair – which covered the rotting body, but which was itself not even slightly decayed. All I had heard of it was amply verified. It was nothing human, this ropy, sinuous, half-oily, half-crinkly flood of serpent darkness. Vile, independent life proclaimed itself at every unnatural twist and convolution, and the suggestion of numberless reptilian heads at the out-turned ends was far too marked to be illusory or accidental.”

– “Medusa’s Coil”

Oblong Swimmer

“‘Do you remember,’ he shouted, ‘what I told you about that ruined city in Indo-China where the Tcho-Tchos lived? You had to admit I’d been there when you saw the photographs, even if you did think I made that oblong swimmer in darkness out of wax. If you’d seen it writhing in the underground pools as I did. . . .’”

– “The Horror in the Museum”

Ultraviolet Devourer

“Things are hunting me now — the things that devour and dissolve — but I know how to elude them. … My pets are not pretty, for they come out of places where aesthetic standards are – very different. Disintegration is quite painless, I assure you — but I want you to see them. I almost saw them, but I knew how to stop.”

– “From Beyond”

Vampirish Vapor

“Out of the fungus-ridden earth steamed up a vaporous corpse-light, yellow and diseased, which bubbled and lapped to a gigantic height in vague outlines half human and half monstrous, through which I could see the chimney and fireplace beyond. It was all eyes — wolfish and mocking — and the rugose insect-like head dissolved at the top to a thin stream of mist which curled putridly about and finally vanished up the chimney. I say that I saw this thing, but it is only in conscious retrospection that I ever definitely traced its damnable approach to form. At the time, it was to me only a seething, dimly phosphorescent cloud of fungous loathsomeness, enveloping and dissolving to an abhorrent plasticity the one object on which all my attention was focussed.”

– “The Shunned House”

Worm-Cultist

“Amid these hushed throngs I followed my voiceless guides; jostled by elbows that seemed preternaturally soft, and pressed by chests and stomachs that seemed abnormally pulpy…”

– “The Festival”

Which Three Never-Adapted Lovecraft Monsters Should Ken Adapt?

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