Thursday, August 31, 2017

Terror-Inquisitor, Baby Tom Waits, and Urbane Exponent of Ceasing To Exist

This is me, along with occasional co-authors and co-conspirators James Edward Raggi IV and Patrick Stuart being interviewed for the Just One More Fix podcast.

It was a good interview and we got to say a lot of stuff, loudly.

I'm hoarse because I'd been screaming all through the Ennies and then again after I had to scream over everyone at the party after.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Nature of Crime

Successful crime is about being undetected. Being undetected is about taking advantage of things you know that other people don’t.

Therefore anything the criminal knows about that other people don’t is a good canvas for crime--anything known and grasped by the general public is a bad canvas for crime. Therefore any subject you, the Host, know better than the average citizen is a place ripe with opportunity for criminal exploitation. Dick Francis knows more about horse racing than you—so he wrote like forty books about crime and horse-racing.

I know a professional autograph hound. Here’s what he does: he looks on the internet for restaurants where celebrities hang out, he tells parking attendants and waiters there he’ll pay them for a tip if they see a celebrity—they call, he rolls up, he tries to get an autograph. If he does: he sells it online for more than he paid the waiter.

There are 100 crime stories in there, easy. In one, maybe a stalker claims to be an autograph hound? In another, maybe a murderer pretends to be a celebrity to catch an autograph hound? In another, maybe the apparently-suspicious waiter isn’t really the murderer, he just didn’t want to admit he snuck off to call the hound? In another maybe it’s just the best way to figure out where a dead celebrity was before they died was to ask the hound where the autograph came from?

Whatever your little world is, there’s a crime story in there. You know where the security tape goes at 7-11 at night? You know how a book goes from a warehouse to a book store? You know where the teachers go to smoke? You have secret knowledge—you can start to build a crime.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Notes on the Occult

There are three things about the occult:

First, it’s about symbolism—but in an unusual way. The symbol does not just indicate the thing, it affects the thing. A regular symbol is like: the eagle represents America. If hurting the eagle hurt America, then you’d be moving toward the occult.

Second, while the system of symbols is (this is the literally meaning of the name) hidden—it is often hidden in plain sight. This is perhaps most purely expressed in the sentence from Twin Peaks “The owls are not what they seem”. The occult indicates a series of hidden connections between seemingly mundane things—it doesn’t just involve esoteric words and phrases, it uses ordinary words and phrases as if they had a significance we don’t give them.

It is, in this way, simply a parallel alternative to scientific explanations. Science claims that a pencil lead and a diamond have a secret connection (they are both carbon), the occult merely claims a different correspondence: this triangular window over here has a hidden connection to that man’s eye over there. Once the system of connections is understood, the whole world looks different: the investigator is living in a world full of levers to push and knobs to twist. 

Third, the system of symbols is old. It has been hidden (occulted) for a long time. In order to charge, say, an inverted triangle with occult flavor you don’t have to immediately give it a sinister meaning—just give it a meaning that goes back to ancient Babylon.


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Demon City Reference Images

These are some of the photos I took to reference while painting pictures for Demon City

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Those Concealed From The Light

Demons of the Third Order (Those Concealed From The Light)

The Sathariel, Those Who Go Unseen, The Shadow Demons come in threes and in the night. Their work is to obscure and make that which is true not known. The eat only records and memories. They appears as dark shapes, disturbingly articulated.

They are summoned to conceal crimes and will advise ignorance in all things. They go oozing through the dark, stealing records, erasing files, their claws dripping with the blood of witnesses.

Their true names have three syllables or three letters, like Abnegate, Ar’ath’an and Gat. They can only be summoned by three working in concert for three nights, sacrificing three victims during the third New Moon of the year while another planet is in trine to Pluto (120 degrees from it).

Calm: 7
Agility: 6
Toughness: 7
Perception: 6
Appeal: 0
Cash: 0
Knowledge: 6

Calm Check: 7

Special Abilities:

Demonic: Demons don’t need to breathe or digest, don’t age, and are immune to poison, etc. and cannot be mentally controlled with psionic abilities. Animals will avoid demons in any form. Technological contrivances like firearms and explosives can hurt but never kill shadow demons, except those noted below.

Sixth Sense: All demons are supersensitive to danger, hostile emotions and signs of past trauma or the supernatural.

Shadowed Skin: Unless they are attacking at the moment, these demons require a Perception Check vs an intensity of 8 to see at night. 6 during the day.

Amnesiac Touch: Demons of Shadow cause selective amnesia with a touch. A target who fails a Calm check vs a 9 will forget a given word forever and if they took damage from the demon’s claws--they also forget the entire concept the word represents. In a pitched battle, they will use this ability to disorient a victim, making them forget their weapon, position or the demon itself.

Regeneration: The flesh of Those Who Go Unseen forgets all harm. Any harm done to them will be completely healed in one round unless they are brought below 0 health. 


The holy symbols of any faith causes a demon to make a Calm check or flee until they are out of sight. The intensity of the calm check is equal to the degree of fervor of whoever is wielding it (1-9). In the case of an incidentally encountered symbol (a glimpsed church steeple, for instance) the intensity is 2.

Touching a holy symbol, including holy water, does damage to a demon as an ordinary physical attack.

Speaking the true name of demon causes it great pain, and the creature must make a Calm Check against the speaker’s Calm each round to avoid obeying the attacker.

Creatures whose primary sense is hearing or smell rather than sight can detect the Sathariel normally.

Lithium-based flares and lights (though not ones merely using lithium batteries) expose Demons of the Third Order—their skin glows for 10 minute after exposure. Their flame also does damage that will not heal.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Haunted Doll

Haunted dolls are children’s dolls, puppet or other effigies into which an (inevitably omnicidal) inhabiting spirit has been bound. The possession renders the doll itself animate and indestructible. They might be found in the backs of neglected toy shops, mixed in with the effects of dead relatives or abandoned, rotting, under porches. 

The haunted doll murders children, adults, pets indiscriminately but will only begin to move when alone or in the presence of a lone victim it intends to kill, though if the victim resists other witnesses may walk in on it moving in the middle of the struggle. At that point its primary motive will be to kill all witnesses immediately so that it can remain undetected and continue to crawl its murderous path.

Exorcism is never an option with a haunted doll—the spirit they house was trapped in the doll specifically because it was too troublesome to deal with otherwise. Likewise, the spirit is too monomaniacal to satisfy by any earthly action.

Some are haunted by suicidal souls and weep when alone.
Demon City Stats:

Calm: n/a—unshakeable
Agility: 3
Toughness: 6 (indestructible)
Perception: 6
Appeal: 0
Cash: 0
Knowledge: 3

Calm Check: 7
D&D Stats:

AC: 15
Dex: 14
Strength: 19
+5 to hit damage by weapon
 Special Abilities:

Invulnerable: The doll cannot be physically harmed in any way. Damage can be innocently inflicted while the doll appears to be inert (for example: a child giving the doll a haircut or a dog ripping an arm off) but it will repair itself completely as soon as it is unobserved.

Aura effects: Even when not moving, haunted dolls have strange effects on the outside world. Roll d10, pick one, or invent your own:

1 Pictures will not hang straight in the same room as the doll
2 It begins to rain whenever the doll is taken outside
3 Animals attack the doll instinctively
4 Each observer is sure the doll has a different expression
5 Water becomes saltwater in its presence
6 Some sharp detail of the wood or plastic regularly pricks anyone who touches the doll
7 Doll falls over whenever propped in a sitting or standing position
8 Observers lose all appetite
9 Babies cry in doll’s presence
10 Flies attracted to doll as if it were fruit

Unnatural Balance: When animate, haunted dolls can manipulate objects in ways that would be difficult for a living being of their size and weight—so while a straw-stuffed doll might weigh less than a pound, it could lift a bread knife without overbalancing.

Subtle Movement: If totally unobserved, a haunted doll can escape nearly (see below) any attempt to entrap it.


Although it cannot be destroyed, a haunted doll can be immobilized if it is placed in a box with a silver lock engraved with the doll’s name—however, this only works so long as the key to the lock is never destroyed. The doll can also simply be trapped in any construction too strong for it to escape and constantly observed.

Help out making Demon City happen here

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Terrorize Them With Quality

1. A Year Ago...

...after the last Gen Con I said D&D with Porn Stars will be throwing a party next Gen Con. It'll be big and it'll be loud and it'll be a year in the making and the paint will peel from the walls.

And then I said: If the DIY RPG scene wants to, in less than 5 years it can run this town.

2. The First Thing I Did...

...when I got to my room was stand and go "One" and then slide over two feet and go "Two" and then slide around the bed and go "Three" and I kept dong that all over the room, trying to count how many people could fit in it.

Probably maybe enough kinda--if they were all thin and careful and managed to make it 4 whole blocks from the convention center and the staff didn't notice them crowding through the lobby.

I mean really to be clear I was worried sick. Also I'd just realized there was a very big hole in the seat of my jeans and likely had been for several hours.

Stokely had been reading up on Indiana state sex crime laws. They are not generous: blowjobs, for example, are a crime, as is having an erection while outdoors.

And Green Ronin was up for more awards than us.

It's always good to make peace with the worst-case scenario. In this case: the party will suck, there'll be nothing to celebrate anyway, and we'll all be arrested for nudity and boners by the Indiana sex police.

3. And then I beheld two figures...

...striding boldly in the sickening heat. Jez Gordon and James Edward Raggi IV, arrived from distant lands. We found a place, I ordered something with rum and pineapple and, basically, for five days straight....everything was completely perfect in the world.

The Bastille really does await, and the guards really are drunk:
Left: False Patrick, Right: me, Center: some plush fuck.
This was Patrick's first time in America, his take here.

"Hello sir! Do you like roles? Do you like playing? Do you like games?
Do you like fantasy? Do you like horror? Do you like fantasy horror? Weird or normal fantasy?
Excellent, perfect! Step this way! Dead players you say? We can help. Here at LotFP we make the best modules
supplements in the business, buy 4 get a 5th free. Maze of the Blue Medusa? No sir it is sold out,
however may I offer you this fine, all-weather, hypo-allergenic cloth Maze of the Blue Medusa Map?"
L to R: Me, RPG connoisseur of brilliant taste, Raggi, Jacob Hurst whose Swordfish Islands sold
out, too, and Mike Hubris in profile.
Charlotte Stokely at the hotel incompletely censored by half a Sir Larkins sticker.
Previous (and even less SFW) attempt at OSR sticker-modeling here.

Me, Stokely, charming fan with excellent taste, Mike Mearls.
 They had a Marilyn Monroe vent at this bar which kept blowing Stokely's skirt up.
Mike and I talked about nuclear terror and making games for like 4 hours.
His jaw moved, too.

Raggi with Nicole Pate in Flame Princess cosplay

Indiana Museum of Art
Left: False Patrick, Right: me, Center: a sample of Vantablack, the blackest substance in the world--of course James wants to bind something in it
The True Spirit Of Gen Con

Vornheim in the Gen Con museum, next to Aaron Allston's Strike Force
Ela Darling, with part of her convention haul

Narrativist RPG Uberczar Ron Edwards (left) and OSR layout mastermind Jez Gordon (right) posing as Frost Giants for my upcoming Amazons book
Brendan Necropraxis' book sold out and also he's buff

Jacob Swordfish Islands Hurst, James Edward Fucking Metal Raggi, Patrick Embarassed Constantly Because British Stuart,
Stacy Contessa Dellorfano, Jez Feral Gordon, Contessa Volunteer Whose Name I Need To Find Out Emily, Ken Satyr Press Baumann, Matthew Incredibly Gracious Cramsie 

You might feel tempted to find symbolism in the fact that Patrick was uncomfortable
standing on a piece of glass held up by thousands of tiny anonymous doll people but you'd be
forgetting he's always uncomfortable.

Improvised team vs team dungeon--Patrick kept rolling up 1 hit point
characters and died 3 times in one game. They say he writes well.
Halfway through the game one night before the awarda I got a text from Trollsmyth saying he'd
fallen ass-backwards into the Presidential Suite at the Marriott, did I still need a place
to have the party?...
A bunch of people that are in these other pictures (and Zzarchov, hiding) but most important and dead-
center is Chris H, who gets special mention because I ran into jussssst when I was trying to haul the liquor
over to Trollsmyth's suite on Ennie-morning and volunteered to help. Note his
home-made Flail snail patch.
But would the party have any raison d'etre? We approached the vast hall with trepidation....

The Ennie hall was wayyyy more packed than last year and the room was a George Perez cover of slavering foes

Stacy kicked it off...
Broodmother SkyFortress winning a judge award was a foregone conclusion
Go to 1:17:59 to see the crowd yelling "We love you Jeff!" 
Reading Jeff's Speech--the best Patrick and Zak picture.
Mike wins for Hubris, flips off the entire audience (50:43

tells me he's gonna publish Demon City
Patrick winces his way through the Ennies, visibly cringing every time
someone says something American and banal, on his way to
winning two Ennies for Veins of the Earth.
Best Writing (40:33)--where he's the only person nominated who
wrote a book solo--and (along with Scrap Princess
Best Monster/Adversary (1:37:27)
Patrick and Raggi at peak embarrassment as people (and me) yell The King In The North!
as Raggi goes up to collect Kiel Chenier's Best Adventure Gold Ennie for Blood In The Chocolate,
overcoming massive, organized online harassment, openly supported by
the Atlas Games reps sitting right in front of the stage
Jez, Mike, me, Raggi......Patrick

John Wick (the 7th Sea one not the gun one), me hugging Mark Diaz Truman
Mike Evans, Raggi
Mike Curry (7th Sea systems guy)
(Not pictured because they won nothing) the Green Ronin team

OSR party storming the Marriott--Ela Darling in the lead.
Patrick saw how big the party was and left immediately.
Trying to tell the crowd to quiet down because we have 4 floors complaining about us.
There's video of me yelling at the crowd and being interrupted by a guy in
a Captain America shirt who told us to party harder:
You can see Wick in the front at one point--his team came, half the Monte Cook crew came, the ABCs of Roleplaying crew came (who said they'd been inspired to do it by this project on the blog), Greg Stafford said he was going to bed, which means: we threw the biggest party.
The home group ably adapting to local nerd culture

So of course we got kicked out of the suite and relocated to the bar downstairs. Left: Jon Peterson, curator of the Gen Con Museum and author of PlayingAt The World Ken Hite of Trail of Cthulhu and Vampire 5e

Here is Ken Hite doing the Cabbage Patch, Michael Pfaff drops a glass, Jez massages his wrist, I tell a story and Ken Baumann stands completely still

Raggi had fled by this point so he didn't
see Ken had the greatest shirt in the history of metal

So many people BYOB'd we had a fridgeworth of liquor left over. I gave Rein-Hagen a beer along with copies of Red & Pleasant and Death Frost Doom and gave the rest to anyone who looked thirsty, especially if they were running Dungeon Crawl Classics. (p.s. Whoever brought that really nice bottle of Silver Cross--Stokely has it.)

Meanwhile, online in fake-life the jackals were out in force harassing the OSR post Ennies:
They harassed Kiel because Blood in the Chocolate was bodpositive, they harassed Mike
for flipping off the Ennie audience, they harassed me for swearing at the ceremony, they
harassed Raggi for being ok with sex and they harassed Jeff for pointing out they were lying...'s been very difficult.

Interview the next morning--
Raggi (ranty):
I WANT them to be ASHAMED of themselves when they LOOK at these weird independent adventures from a company with ONE employee and have to explain why they can't DO BETTER!???!!
Patrick (urbane):
So you want to terrorize them with quality?

I introduced Raggi to the Monte and the Monte Cook team at the airport, and James of course took the opportunity to start up some hip-hop-beef marketing.

I looked at his wife and was like "I understand your pain" and, in her lovely Finnish accent,
she was just like "He loves the controversy" and went back to knitting socks

Popularity contests aren't important unless you're not supposed to win them. We did it.