Monday, April 30, 2018

New Lovecraftian Horror - N'rsae Worm Zomvies For Your Old School Campaigns

The next night devils danced on the roofs of Arkham, and unnatural madness howled in the wind. Through the fevered town had crept a curse which some said was greater than the plague, and which some whispered was the embodied daemon-soul of the plague itself. Eight houses were entered by a nameless thing which strewed red death in its wake—in all, seventeen maimed and shapeless remnants of bodies were left behind by the voiceless, sadistic monster that crept abroad. A few persons had half seen it in the dark, and said it was white and like a malformed ape or anthropomorphic fiend. It had not left behind quite all that it had attacked, for sometimes it had been hungry. The number it had killed was fourteen; three of the bodies had been in stricken homes and had not been alive.
Herbert West: Reanimator by H.P. Lovecraft

Newly exported into New York City just in time for the coming year the 'N'rsae worms' were found to be living within the embryonic cells of an almost prehistoric reptile from the unexplored jungles of
Guyana. The 'N'rsae worms' have been used for centuries by the native necromancers & witch doctors as short cut to animate the newly dead into a pliable & convenient disposable native workforce.
Exported by cultists of certain necromatic gods & necrotic demons these worms have begun to appear within the temporary black magick markets that litter some of the neighborhoods around the old Martian Invasion sites.

For some reason these markets always occur where the power batteries that the Martian used. These worms respond to certain frequencies of Etheric waves in the Zeta spectrum. This indicates an unearthly origin for these species and there is speculation of these creatures being parasites of certain mid tier Outer Dark creatures. Cultists, witch doctors, & even necromancers will expose a fresh corpse to a worm in a quick short cut to animate the horror. This happens within 1d6 rounds after the introduction of a worm to the corpse.
The 'N'rsae worms' once they reach maturity are kept in a brine of rotted animal flesh & Lovcraftian essential salts. Each twelve inch long worm will eat its way into the flesh of a newly dead corpse, the fresher the better within 1d6 rounds. It will eat its way into the brain pan of the corpse where it will attach itself to the brain stem of the creature with artificially grown neurons.It  pulse the corpse back to a semblance of life by using weird radiations generated as life giving micro pulses.
Each zomvie created by the 'N'rsae worms' are far stronger then a normal man as the weird radiations that animate the corpse also flood the muscle system & Adrenalin glands producing a strong, tireless, yet  enthusiastic worker. These creatures are highly pliable to suggestions & orders but can become easily confused requiring prompting & near constant management.
N'rsae worm zomvies are also flesh cravers & eaters requiring raw human or animal flesh in short succession to keep the animated engines running in top form. The N'rsae worm zomvies has all of the usual undead immunities & is completely immune to all mind effecting spells.
N'rsae worm zomvies are almost always drawn to so called 'sink holes' of evil where the astral energies of violence & depravity are richest.

N'rsae worm zomvies can become highly aggressive as the worm divides & rapidly multiplies within the corpse's stomach until more worms are ready to burst forth. Many times these creatures are 'harvested' by necromancers of the lowest orders who have been trained in this job. Often if the zomvies are confronted & combated during their 'mature phase' there is a 70% chance of the stomach of the monsters erupting in a spray of 1d20 worms covering their victim in a shower of glowing eldritch gore & foul smelling liquids. Victims must vs poison or begin wrenching & vomiting from the awful spectacle.
Some of the immature worms are harvested from the muscle & other broader tissues of the human body through careful incisions & rude cuts in certain muscle groups. These immature worms are used to trade with certain types of hags & witches for unnameable favors & rites.

N'rsae worm zomvies are highly dangerous as they mature because these creatures begin to produce high concentrations of Zeta radiation in certain glands in the worms gut. This is long after the worms have threaded their way through their corpse's spinal system. After 1d10 months within the corpse the worm three times per day is able to admit a zeta ray glow to all within 20 feet doing 1d8 points of magical damage to the victim. The victim must save vs disease or there is 80% chance of the victim developing a terrible wasting disease. They will die within 1d6 days after exposure to these zeta rays.
N'rsae worm zomvies will also bite for 1d3 points of damage & their saliva contains the zeta ray contaminated virus that can cause a save vs disease wasting disease that will kill its victim within 1d6 days. Most of the time N'rsae worm zomvies pummel their foes for 1d8 points of damage from their bony fists.
N'rsae Worm Zomvies Number appearing:1d4
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Size: M
Movement: 30
Dexterity: 4 

Hit Dice: 3 
Attack Rate: 1/1 pummel, bite, or zeta glow Damage: 1d8, 1d3, or special 
Saving Throw:15 
Morale : 12 
Experience: 100 
Treasure type: K,L,M
N'rsae worm zomvies are often found with small hordes of silver bars which are used to 'bleed' off the zeta radiation. The silver turns a slightly discolored blue greenish colour but this can easily be cleaned off. N'rsae worms can easily be summoned using a special variant of the standard four level black magick spell Call Worms. There will be 1d10 worms coming through mirco planar portals from the decayed skin of the rotting flesh of undead Outer Gods & Lovecraftian demons.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Vampires, Ghouls, Undead Plagues, & More Horrors For Your Old School Campaigns

"filling up a bag with stakes] How many more of these will I have to make before they're all destroyed? They want my blood. It's their lives or mine. I still get squeamish."


Someone behind the scenes today forced my hand when it came to Richard Matheson's 1954 novel "I'm Legend"
"Richard Burton Matheson (February 20, 1926 – June 23, 2013) was an American author and screenwriter, primarily in the fantasy, horror, and science fiction genres. He is best known as the author of I Am Legend, a 1954 science fiction horror vampire novel that has been adapted for the screen four times, as well as the movie Somewhere In Time for which Matheson wrote the screenplay, based on his novel Bid Time Return. Matheson also wrote 16 television episodes of The Twilight Zone, including "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" and "Steel"."Why talk about Matheson when you spoke the other day about the 1979 Stephen King's television adaption of Salem's Lot by Tobe Hooper? Because Matheson's work book end's King's Salem Lot television adaptation & his novel. Here the vampirism isn't something to be glorified in but is a supernatural disease of the first magnitude.
"The Last Man on Earth (Italian title: L'Ultimo uomo della Terra) is a 1964 Italian horror/science fiction film based upon Richard Matheson's best-selling novel I Am Legend.", Matheson didn't like the resulting film but for many its one of his best performances & I happen to love Vincent Price in just about anything.

Frankly,Richard Matheson's 1954 novel "I'm Legend"is really depressing but it makes an impact on its reader that lingers for decades. And The Last Man on Earth grabs the same vibe of isolation & loneliness in the face of a pandemic of epic proportions & it keeps going.
But I need to go back to the source material & my thinking became haunted by a series of games that I ran back in 2011-14 based around the silent classic
Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (translated as Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror; or simply Nosferatu)."Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (translated as Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror; or simply Nosferatu) is a 1922 German Expressionist horror film, directed by F. W. Murnau, starring Max Schreck as the vampire Count Orlok."
The OSR mini campaign  was a hybrid of Last Man on Earth, Nosferatu, & Varney the Vampire.
Count Orlock, & many of the other vampiric royals take full advantage of the Earth entering close to a conjunction with  the Abyss & the negative material plane to summon Orcus. Orcus lord of the undead consumes the modern world of 1964 with a undead plague. This leaves the Earth a  hallow world of the undead. It worked quite well for Mutant Future at the time & kept people coming back to the table.

The cover page from a reprint of the British penny dreadful series Varney the Vampire (1845).

The Bannerworths have already been mentioned in my Pan America New York setting & briefly I've had this idea of this same planar conjunction with the Earth entering a phase of the Abyss & the negative material plane. Perhaps there's a silent side Earth where a vampiric or ghoul plague has already taken place. Perhaps the summoning of Orcus is simply another Elven weapon ala Lion & Dragon retroclone setting.
The first time this was done it resulted in the deaths of an estimated 75 to 200 million people in Eurasia and peaking in Europe from 1347 to 1351.

Now my game is set in 1904 but with a possible side time loop that jumps ahead to 1918 when
the most famous and lethal outbreak was the 1918 flu pandemic (Spanish flu pandemic) (type A influenza, H1N1 subtype), which lasted from 1918 to 1919. The cause of this? The reappearance of the mace of Orcus on Earth rumored to have surfaced someplace in a war torn WWI  Europe among cultists. The violence of WWI creates the perfect conditions for the undead to thrive. In mythology there has almost always been a mythological connection between elves,ghouls,werewolves, & vampires.
In ancient Arabian folklore, the ghūl dwells in burial grounds and other uninhabited places. The ghul is a fiendish type of jinn believed to be sired by Iblis.[6]
Some state that a ghoul is also a desert-dwelling, shapeshifting demon that can assume the guise of an animal, especially a hyena. It lures unwary people into the desert wastes or abandoned places to slay and devour them. The creature also preys on young children, drinks blood, steals coins, and eats the dead,[7] then taking the form of the person most recently eaten."

"In the silent film Nosferatu, Count Orlok is a vampire from Transylvania, and is known as "The Bird of Death", who feasts upon the blood of living humans. He is believed to have been created by Belial, the lieutenant demon of Satan."

Its no accident that Elves in Dungeons & Dragon are immune to a ghoul's paralyzing touch. The immunity is a built in defense mechanism to an ancient war that humanity has long forgotten.
The Alp is an off shoot of the Elves of German mythology - "Not to be confused with the similarly named Alp-luachra, the Alp is sometimes likened to a vampire, but its behavior is more akin to that of the incubus. It is distinct from both of these creatures in that it wears a magic hat called a Tarnkappe, from which it draws its powers. The word Alp is the German form of the word that comes into English as elf, both descended from Common Germanic. It is also known by the following names: trud, mar, mart, mahr, schrat, and walrider. Many variations of the creature exist in surrounding European areas, such as the Druden and Schratteli, or Old Hag in English-speaking countries."

This isn't an accident Elves in German mythology are dangerous creatures of Chaos & violence that are not to be trifled with. This accounts for their background in Dark Albion & Lion & Dragon.
"In the period before about 1000, the Old High German word alp is attested only in a small number of glosses. It is defined by the Althochdeutsches Wörterbuch as a "nature-god or nature-demon, equated with the Fauns of Classical mythology ... regarded as eerie, ferocious beings ... As the mare he messes around with women".[1] Accordingly, the German word Alpdruck (literally 'elf-oppression') means 'nightmare'. There is also evidence associating elves with illness, specifically epilepsy.[2]
In a similar vein, elves are in Middle German most often associated with deceiving or bewildering people "in a phrase that occurs so often it would appear to be proverbial: 'die elben/der alp trieget mich' (the elves/elf is/are deceiving me)".[3] The same pattern holds in Early Modern German.[4][5] This deception sometimes shows the seductive side apparent in English and Scandinavian material:[6] most famously, the early thirteenth-century Heinrich von Morungen's fifth Minnesang begins "Von den elben virt entsehen vil manic man / Sô bin ich von grôzer lieber entsên" ("full many a man is bewitched by elves / thus I too am bewitched by great love").[7] Elbe was also used in this period to translate words for nymphs.[8]
In later medieval prayers, Elves appear as a threatening, even demonic, force. Evidence includes Latin prayers found inscribed in lead amulets from southern Scandinavia and Schleswig.[9] The most famous is the fourteenth-century Münchener Nachtsegen, a prayer to be said at night, which includes the lines:[10]
alb vnde ł elbelin
Ir sult nich beng’ bliben hin
albes svestir vn vatir
Ir sult uz varen obir dē gatir
albes mutir trute vn mar
Ir sult uz zu dē virste varē
Noc mich dy mare druche
Noc mich dy trute zciche
Noc mich dy mare rite
Noc mich dy mare bescrite
Alb mit diner crummen nasen
Ich vorbithe dir aneblasen
elf, or also little elf,
you shall remain no longer (reading lenger)
elf’s sister and father,
you shall go out over the gate;
elf’s mother, trute and mare,
you shall go out to the roof-ridge!
Let the mare not oppress me,
let the trute not ?pinch me (reading zücke),
let the mare not ride me,
let the mare not mount me!
Elf with your crooked nose,
I forbid you to blow on [people]
Correspondingly, in the early modern period, elves are described in north Germany doing the evil bidding of witches; Martin Luther believed his mother to have been afflicted in this way."

Nachtmahr“ (“Night-mare”), by Johann Heinrich Füssli (1802), depicts an Alp sitting on the sleeper's chest, with a mara staring through the background.

I've talked at length about the connections between the Arthurian fairies & the Elves of Dungeons & Dragons who were the  slaves & servants of these powerful Medieval Elves. The bastard grand sons of King Arthur include among their own ranks Melehan, Melou and the Black Knight, Arthur's grandson as well as the Faerie Knight.
"The Faerie Knight was, in the Matter of Britain, a bastard son of Tom a'Lincoln and Caelia, the Faerie Queen. His proper name is never given. He appears in Richard Johnson's romance Tom a' Lincoln.
Tom himself was a bastard of King Arthur with Angelica, daughter of the Earl of London. Therefore, the Faerie Knight was, like Melehan, Melou and the Black Knight, Arthur's grandson.
Being half-faerie, the Faerie Knight inherited some of his mother's magical talents. He met his half-brother, the Black Knight (another bastard of Tom's), and they traveled together on many adventures."
The very ideal of knightly virtue strongly connected with the Earth's destruction might be its only salvation.

I spoken at length of the familial connections of Morgan Le Fey's sons & daughters as well as Arthur's half sister Morgawse both of whom have their own witch cults & covens scattered throughout Europe across history.

Morgan le Fay by Frederick Sandys (1864)

All of these families of royalty have strong witch blood connections & chaos laden connections to the lost half realities of Fairyland. These creatures we call Elves in Lion & Dragon have been hedging their bets across various worlds. We see this time & again in various stages of conflict in history where the Elves are drawn into battles & wars like moths to the flames of history. Dark Albion's Cults of Chaos picks this fact up and runs with it by placing it within a Medieval context.

These plagues of undeath & worse happen regardless of the prayers of men, only adventurers and heroes can make the pivotal sacrifices & movements to turn the tide of history in the favor of future generations.

The Indifference of Cosmicism,Undeath, & The Infection of Evil Within OSR Urban Dungeon Ecology

The 1970's through middle period 80's were the the secondary or third tier period of solid haunted house & ghost  pictures. These films had a profound impact on my dungeon mastering urban locations & our dungeon master back then ate these things up with a spoon. There is a tremendous connection between pulp Appendix N literature & classic horror film resources.What does this all have to do with other classic Arthurian literature & material. We'll get right into that.

None more so then the 1973 film 'The Legend of Hell House'," The Legend of Hell House is a 1973 British horror film directed by John Hough and based on the novel Hell House by Richard Matheson, who also wrote the screenplay." Author Richard Matheson was responsible for making the haunted house genre viable staple again for horror movies along with Shirley Jackson. Both authors are pillars & foundation authors of the horror genre. The haunted house is one of the more unsung adventure locations for urban dungeon adventuring and the the Belasco House is a perfect blue print for such an adventure location.
"Physicist Lionel Barrett and his wife lead a team of mediums into the Belasco House, which is supposedly haunted by the victims of its late owner, a six-foot-five serial killer."

Renegade Heroes, Tyrannical Conquerors, & Wasteland Kings  my  turn of the of the century alternative Earth setting & system,an old school OSR hybrid of Adventurer, Conqueror, King's Barbarians of Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu mixed in with Troll Lord Games Amazing Adventures firearms rules, modern equipment & more.  The violence & depravity so long associated with pulp adventuring creates literal dungeon sink holes of evil via Adventurer, Conqueror, Kings appendix rules.
The literal depravity among men creates the perfect supernatural ecological conditions for dungeons to literally take root as the wasteland of Arthurian lore carries the adventure location closer to the occult chaos of Hell itself. This is created as the wasteland grows like a cancer within urban locations & cities literally rot from within with monsters & horrors from within & the Outer Darkness. Ghosts are the sieve indicating this rot on a grander scale.

This goes back into the Arthurian legends  of the Black Knight;"A
supernatural Black Knight is summoned by Sir Calogrenant (Cynon ap Clydno in Welsh mythology) in the tale of Yvain, the Knight of the Lion. The Black Knight bests Calogrenant, but the Black Knight is later killed by Ywain (Owain mab Urien) when he attempts to complete the quest that Calogrenant failed.[2] A black knight is the son of Tom a'Lincoln and Anglitora (the daughter of Prester John) in Richard Johnson's Arthurian romance, Tom a Lincoln. Through Tom, he is a grandson of King Arthur's, though his proper name is never given. He killed his mother after hearing from his father's ghost that she had murdered him. He later joined the Faerie Knight, his half-brother, in adventures"
Ghosts shaped the destiny of the hero leading him further down the path of the knight & adventurer. This is the same sort of a journey that we see several characters in both Greyhawk & Blackmoor take. But these settings often turned such ideas on their heads because of Arneson & Gygax's take on matters of the heroic.

In Shakespeare there are ghosts literally created by  the hand of this protagonists & the British Libarary has an excellent article on the subject;
"The earliest Shakespeare play in which ghosts appear is Richard III. Asleep in his tent before the Battle of Bosworth, Richard is visited by the spirits of his victims, one after another. Each one in turn recalls his or her fate at Richard’s hand, predicts their killer’s defeat in the forthcoming battle, and ends by telling him to ‘Despair and die’ (5.3.126). Each one of them also speaks to the sleeping Earl of Richmond, leader of the army opposing Richard, and tells him to ‘Live and flourish’ (5.3.131). Richard sleeps through all this, and any theatre audience can take it that the ghosts are in his troubled dreams. He wakes to say, ‘I did but dream. / O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me!’ (5.3.178–79)"
All of this ties completely into the setting of Dark Albion & Lion & Dragon's settings themes of 'Death' & 'Chaos' with the Rose War's historical events.

When we look further afield then we come to realize that these cycles of Death & Chaos in the dungeon are the exact wheel house of Clark Ashton Smith. This theme can be perfectly framed with CAS 's The Empire of the Necromancers (1932) Weird Tales, September 1932 LW1.

The problem is that evil attracts greater evil & within the confines of a haunted dungeon or adventure location orcs & demons might be indicators of greater problems still! Clerics, paladins, & fighters of evil might be getting a greater workout as the forces of Hell try to force their way back into the world of the living. The whole of Hyperborea might be riddled with cities & dungeons in which the inhabitants don't even realize that their dead.  There might literally be empires of the undead where the living are plagued by undead conquerors of city states that should be dust.

Renegade Heroes, Tyrannical Conquerors, & Wasteland Kings there are neighborhoods where dead cultists are tearing open holes in reality & minor monsters are good indicators that the powers of the Outer Darkness are knocking down the door of the Earth.
This comes straight out of Adventurer, Conqueror, King's Lairs & Encounters which has several very well done undead barrows & cultist style monster locations within it.

The theme of undeath taken as symptom of total corruption & chaos is found within both Arthur Machen & HP Lovecraft.
"There are sacraments of evil as well as of good about us, and we live and move to my belief in an unknown world, a place where there are caves and shadows and dwellers in twilight. It is possible that man may sometimes return on the track of evolution, and it is my belief that an awful lore is not yet dead."
—Arthur Machen
This is especially true of HP Lovecraft's Horror At Red Hook which is a direct descendant to Edgar Allen Poe's tradition of stories & novels. Such a rend in reality within an urban environment can be easily seen within this story.
The haunted house isn't simply a lair for evil but its abode that attracts more until it festers into a complete dungeon giving all within range of its infestation cause to destroy it.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Vampires, Cosmicism, & 'The Monsters Within' More OSR Urban Dungeon Ecology For Your Old School Campaigns

Evil with a capital 'e' is seen as hokey & corny, but a recent four A.M. marathon viewing of the 1979 Tobie Hooper's Salem Lot has made my thoughts turn back to Arthurian literature. What does the concept of 'the Wasteland' of mythology have to do with a 1979 adaptation of Stephen King's classic vampire book?!

Well everything when it comes to Renegade Heroes, Tyrannical Conquerors, & Wasteland Kings! What the Hell is that title? Its
my  turn of the of the century alternative Earth setting & system,an old school OSR hybrid of Adventurer, Conqueror, King's Barbarians of Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu mixed in with Troll Lord Games Amazing Adventures firearms rules, modern equipment & more.

Salem's Lot concern's itself with the theme of evil attracting more evil leading to the death of Salem's Lot. The Marsten house is pit of boiling corruption that attracts the vampire lord
Kurt Barlow (Reggie Nalder) & his servant Richard Straker (James Mason). Its the small town complacency of the town's residents that opens the door for the vampire's corruption that literally invited into Salem's Lot.
But the town of Salem's Lot's fate is sealed in the opening credits. The wind blows dust & dirt around some of the abandoned store fronts & buildings as the main character drives into town. The impotence of the town's residents  in the face of the murders that occurred at the Marsten house act the catalyst for wasteland to gain a foot hold in Salem's Lot. This same theme runs through the Arthurian literature's Grail cycle.
"In the Arthurian Grail material, the Wasteland's condition is usually tied to the impotence of its leader. Often the infirmity is preceded by some form of the Dolorous Stroke, in which the king is injured tragically for his sins but kept alive by the Grail. In Chrétien de Troyes' Perceval, the Story of the Grail, the Fisher King has been wounded in a misfortune that is not revealed in the incomplete text, and his land suffers with him. He can be healed only if the hero Perceval asks the appropriate question about whom the Grail serves, but warned against talking too much, Perceval remains silent. In the First Continuation of Chrétien's work, the anonymous author recounts how Gawain partially heals the land, but is not destined to complete the restoration. Over the course of time romances place less emphasis on the Wasteland and more on the king's wound. In the Lancelot-Grail Cycle the link between the devastated land and the wounded king is not absolute, and in the Post-Vulgate Cycle much more emphasis is placed on King Pellehan's injury by Sir Balin than on the devastation this causes to his kingdom.
Scholars of the earlier 20th century devoted much study to the Wasteland motif. In one of the more popular works on the subject, From Ritual to Romance, author Jessie Weston suggested that the origin of the motif lies with an otherwise unattested pagan fertility cult. The book is mostly disregarded today, though T. S. Eliot credited it as the source of the title and the largest single influence on his famous poem The Waste Land."
In classic original Dungeons & Dragon's campaign setting such as Blackmoor &  Greyhawk the dungeon attracts even greater evil to it. The wounded king allows the evil in & the corruption takes hold this is especially true of Gary Gygax's classic Greyhawk setting.
In OSR terms Adventurer, Conqueror, King's main rule book has the sink of evil optional rules & it certainly fits the pulpy background of
Renegade Heroes, Tyrannical Conquerors, & Wasteland Kings Pan America setting. The corruption of the dungeon literally attracts more evil men, cultists monsters & demons to it! Blocks of houses & buildings might have literally ruins & horror filled dungeons crawling under them.

The Lion & Dragon retroclone rpg has some great rules & suggestions for incorporating in the ideals & guidelines for a slower corrupting form of Chaos. Given some of the Arthurian origins of my heroes in Pan America I'm going to be taking full advantage of those. These same apocalyptic cycles of ending are exactly the sort of thing that Clark Ashton Smith wrote about in his Hyperborea cycle.
The monsters are carrying out a cosmic directive as the world moves on. And there's  a Cosmicism  indifference & ironic humor  in the in the monsters visage in Clark Ashton Smith's tales.

This is the same strain of wild weirdness that we get in Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition's latest adventures
The Anthropophagi of Xambaala & The Anthropophagi of Xambaala. Why? Because the PC's in AS&SH are literally adventuring within a wasteland where time has passed the world by. The wasteland has engulfed the world & torn it from its moorings on Earth. AS&SH takes its 'P's & 'Q's from the Lovecraft circle. Its no accident that Underborea is so dangerous but by design of gods whose time has passed on.

AS&SH art by Peter Mullen

I've avoided Stephen King's Dark Tower series on purpose because it's just too damn expansive for my blog today. The idea that he adventure location is brought with  the 'sins' of evil of locals &  monsters are drawn to dungeon and vice versa isn't new but it does present some very dangerous opportunities for PC's. More to come