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Friday, 23 July 2021

With Season Two Six Months Away, Can An Anime Prequel Sate Our Witcher Hunger?

Face your demons. The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf premieres August 23 worldwide on Netflix.

Horror DVD Of The Week: The Vampire Doll (1970)

After six months working in the United States, Kazuhiko Sagawa (Atsuo Nakamura, The Water Margin's Lin Chung) returns to Japan to be reunited with his beloved, Yûko Nonomura (Yukiko Kobayashi).

However, rolling up at her family's isolated mansion in the middle of a storm, he is told that Yûko was killed two weeks earlier in a car accident.

Despite the insistence of Yûko's mother, Shidu (Yôko Minakaze), Kazuhiko refuses to believe his love is no more, eventually following what could be her ghost out to her grave on the outskirts of the family estate.

When Kazuhiko doesn't return to Tokyo, his sister, Keiko (Kayo Matsuo), and her fiancé, Hiroshi Takagi (Akira Nakao), come looking for him.

They're not convinced by widow Nonomura's story that the heartbroken Kazuhiko simply left the day after he learned of Yûko's fate, and are a bit creeped out by the family's mute, brutish, and oddly aggressive manservant, Genzo (Kaku Takashina).

They decide to stick around and investigate matters, finding clues to suggest that they might be onto something, despite the fact that the local doctor, Yamaguchi (Jun Usami) confirms Yûko's death.

In the course of their digging, the young couple discover the horrific history of the Nonomura household, how the whole family - except for Shidu - were slaughtered by an intruder 20 years earlier, then nine months later Yûko was born.

After they have a disagreement about how to proceed, Keiko bravely heads back to the Nonomura's crumbling, Western-style mansion to confront Shidu on her own, leaving .Hiroshi to get tangled up with a sleazy local grave digger, who offers to dig up Yûko's grave for the right price.

The Vampire Doll (Legacy of Dracula) is the first of Japan's Bloodthirsty Trilogy, a trio of homegrown horror films that sought to emulate the style - and success - of the British and American Gothic horror movies of the '60s, all directed by Michio Yamamoto and co-written by Ei Ogawa.

And that influence is really obvious in The Vampire Doll (which has a doll in it, but it isn't a vampire, and also has no connection to Dracula whatsoever), particularly with the pale-skinned Yûko drifting through the woods in her diaphanous nightgown, the creaky old mansion, and the thunderstorm-heavy opening sequence.

The wonderfully over-the-top painted film poster (shown above) for The Vampire Doll seriously oversells the monstrous nature of this movie, which primarily relies on atmosphere to get under your skin.

In all honestly, the film doesn't truly come into its own until the closing minutes, when everything is explained, the Big Bad is unmasked, and matters are resolved in a most speedy fashion.

Once you're keyed into this twist on the classic vampire story, it certainly makes for an interesting take on the genre... but then the film's over.

I hope to get to the other two entries in The Bloodthirsty Trilogy - Lake of Dracula and Evil of Dracula - in the coming weeks.

But, in the meanwhile, here's some spoilerific gaming material I was inspired to create after watching The Vampire Doll

Skip over this if you don't want the twist in a five decades old movie ruined for you.

GAMING MATERIAL


New Spell


Create Vampire

Spell Rank: 4th Rank, Black Magic
Range: Touch
Duration: Special

When a loved one is on their death bed, a member of their family can call for a black magician, who - at the cost of the dying person's soul - can prevent them from passing over to the other side, with a touch of his hand to their forehead (and this spell).

Devoid of their soul, the revived person will be a kind of demi-vampire, only occasionally remembering their old life (during which time they are most likely to plead for death).

They sustain themselves by drinking the blood of others, and if they don't drink a considerable volume of blood each day (about two or three pints. NB. A typical human has around 10 pints in their body) they will go feral and attack at random.

The person who made the deal with the magician may nominate two people (usually themselves and one other person) that the vampire will never attack. The demi-vampire must also stay within a mile radius of the person who struck the deal, as their lives are spiritually connected by this demonic pact.

The only person who can free the demi-vampire from their undead existence is the sorcerer who cast the spell, either voluntarily or through their death.


Created Vampire

#ENC: 1
HD: 3+3
AC: 12
Atk: 1, small weapon (probably dagger)
D: 1d4+2 + special
MV: 12
SPECIAL:
  • SURPRISE ATTACK: As long as the vampire has initiative or isn't actively involved in physical combat with its prey (or anyone else), they can strike with a burst of lightning speed, slicing their dagger across their target's throat. They gain +4 to hit with that roll, and if their strike lands they inflict 2d4+4 damage.
  • UNDEAD: Immune to mental magic, charms, sleep, telepathy etc
CL/XP: 3/60

A created vampire - or demi-vampire - appears as they did in life, only paler and possibly with some signs of any injuries they have suffered just before they were supposed to die.

They do not have fangs, instead typically obtaining blood by a sudden, rapid, knife slash across a victim's throat, and then lapping up the spilled red stuff (once it is safe for them to do so).

Retaining a degree of their old humanity, they can occasionally speak (when they remember their pervious life). 

When hungry, the iris in their eyes turns a milky green.

The moment they are released from undead bondage, they collapse and their corpse dissolves.

Dare You Search For A New Megadungeon, Created By One Of The Tuesday Knights?

The famed archaeologist Jonas “Greytooth” Walker discovered a strange pit upon an expedition to the Dead City. A spiral staircase descended into this pit, leading to a series of rooms carved from the rock. Each room lay behind a closed door and their mysteries have not been unveiled.

The entrance is marked by a large portal made of black basalt.

There is a belief that this underground complex may hide information about the mythical city of Xumoria, which is rumored to be located on the Old Ones Island.

There are inscriptions at this site indicating the presence of an ancient wizard named Arne “Sacre” Nissen, a well-known Xumorian scholar and great explorer of Artrusia.

Adventurers have sought the secrets of The Pit, yet none have returned.

Exploratory expeditions are leaving Crimsonwater, heading for The Dead City.

Dare you go down into The Pit?
Stalwart and industrious member of the Tuesday Knights, Simon Barns has collaborated with Antônio (Tony) Garcia to publish The Pit, a pay-what-you-want PDF prequel to their forthcoming mega-dungeon Xumoria.

Tony told me that: "The Pit will give you an introduction to our gameworld of Artrusia and the powerful sorcerer, Berdolock.

"Our goal is to get you acquainted with our game material, and bring a whole bunch of new stuff to your OSR table.

"This adventure is fully compatible with OSE, BX, BECMI, and with minor adaptations, DCC.

"In The Pit, your character will explore a small dungeon, in search of the map that will lead them to fabled Xumoria.
"

Hooray for Harley Quinn!

Thursday, 22 July 2021

F1 World Champion Jenson Button Has Some Encouraging Words For Rachel...


Now that the news of Rachel's promotion has been made public - she has become a director of the company she works for (and I used to work for) - I can share the Cameo message I got for her from legendary British racing driver, Jenson Button, last month.

If you know Formula One, then you know Jenson, 2009's World Champion.

He's been Rachel's idol since he started racing and so she was delighted to get this message!

However, we just couldn't share it until her directorship became public knowledge.

And it goes without saying that I am beyond proud of her achievement.

#RPG Newest Horrific Offering From Bloat Games Slithers Out Of The Shadows...

I can only imagine that Bloat Games head honcho Eric Bloat has made a demonic pact to gain mind reading capabilities or he has paid some shady underworld hackers to access my search history because just as I'm thinking about drawing a line under my RPG purchases he announces another Kickstarter that's smack-bang in the heart of my bailiwick.

Coming soon to the crowdfunding platform is What Shadows Hide, the latest in Bloat Games' popular Survive This! line of games.

Eric describes the game as:

"...a modern horror and investigation game in the same vein as The X-Files, Supernatural and Hellboy. In the game you will go head-to-head with evil secret organizations, the occult, supernatural and cosmic horror.

This is our darkest, and bleakest horror game yet!
"
What Shadows Hide will be launched on Kickstarter as a two-book package, featuring the core rules, and the Cthulhu Sourcebook, which is dedicated to the mythos cycle spawned by H.P. Lovecraft and its many mind-shredding monsters.

Both books are written by Josh Palmer and developed by Eric Bloat for Bloat Games, and feature beautifully horrific cover art by Phil Stone. 

As I find it hard to resist the siren song of Cthulhu, have long dreamed of running a Supernatural-inspired monster-hunting game, and am a massive fan of Bloat Games, I suspect (bank balance-willing) I shall be picking these books up.

Will you answer the call?

The Sleeper Must Awaken! Epic Full Trailer For Denis Villeneuve's Dune...

Technology Meets Terror In Neill Blomkamp’s Demonic Possession Film...

From Neill Blomkamp, the director of District 9 and Elysium, a young woman unleashes terrifying demons when supernatural forces at the root of a decades old rift between mother and daughter are revealed.

#RPG Other Anthropomorphic Adventurers For Your DuckQuest Campaigns...

Left to Right: Oathsworn, Star Hat, Northumbrian Tin Solider, Alternative Armies, Reaper Bones

While, obviously, our first port of call for miniatures to use in a DuckQuest campaign should be the game's publisher, Darcy Perry's Star Hat Miniatures, but he's not the only creator of heroic 28mm anthropomorphic adventurers.

While Darcy is based in New Zealand, the UK has its own selection of miniatures that fit the bill (see what I did there?) for DuckQuest RPG adventures.

Oathsworn has an incredible range of humanoid creatures for use with their skirmish game, Burrows & Badgers, that are perfect for the other races who inhabit the default DuckQuest setting of Aqualoonia.

At first glance, some may seem a bit large compared to Darcy's ducks, but, as I'd already surmised then had confirmed when reading Quack Keep (by Darcy and Jennell Jaquays), ducks are supposedly comparable with hobbits and dwarves. 

Next up we have Northumbrian Tin Soldier (who I've lauded before for their amazing Time Robbers and Labyrinth-like dark fairy tale miniatures) which has a fine selection of suitable creatures in its Denizens of The Darkewood range (although, honestly, many of the other figures are probably great as well. It is, after all, your Aqualoonia, so you can populate it how you will).

I'm particularly taken with their crows (one of whom, a sorcerer, is included in the line-up above), who I perceive as 'agents of evil' in my take on the game.

Alternative Armies is another old favourite, as the backbone of their offerings is their anthropomorphic animal/fantasy races spin on the Napoleonic Wars aka Flintloque and Slaughterloo, where you might be able to find creatures for use at your table.

Alternative Armies also sell pre-painted figures, and that's how I snagged the magnificent Ludwig von Barkhoven (pictured above)

Finally, we have the gamer's friend, Reaper and their animal offerings. These are mainly mouslings, as far as I can tell, which is why I have included one in the line-up above.

But they do have a single "duckman" in their collection, who stands slightly larger than Darcy's ducks, but not so oversized as to be useable (see below). 

Of the UK miniatures firms, only Oathsworn were new to me and they turned round my order of "a handful of random figures for comparison's sake" really fast.

The other companies are all 'old friends' (of my bank account) that I can swear by for the quality of their miniatures as well as their service.

Reaper duckman (left) - I haven't glued his shield arm on yet - with Star Hat duck on right.

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Weird Wednesday...

#RPG Episode 11: Through The Portal


We begin this episode with the sad announcement that one of our group, Erica, has decided, for personal reasons, to take a break from gaming. She has been a key member of the squad since March 2015, joining The Tuesday Knights during our epic Chronicles of Cidri campaign. This week's session was her last with us. We will miss her and she knows she is welcome back at any time.

Previously On The Theoretical Science Foundation:

Investigating the disappearance of an eccentric scientist in a small town troubled by monstrous flying insects, our heroes discover a "portal" in the man's basement. And the next thing you know, they're being sucked into it!
Travelling through the portal!

The portal deposited our heroes in an expansive red, largely flat, desert, then promptly blinked out of existence. Leaving us stranded.

Th sun seemly slightly smaller than my character, Buck (the global explorer), would have expected and the air felt a bit different, but otherwise we appeared to be okay (just lacking supplies, water, survival equipment etc).

I spotted a trail of faint footprints, starting where we had appeared, and heading off towards the mountains, so we set off on a hike across the plain.

We presumed these shoe prints belonged to the errant Dr Crow... and were our best (only?) clue as to how to escape from wherever we were.

The landscape

After what seemed like hours - although the sun barely moved in the sky - we neared the jagged peaks, which were looking increasingly unusual to us, and spied cracks in the ground and plumes of smoke or steam arising about the place.

A brief, cautious, investigation turned up no definitive answers to the nature of these odourless plumes of cool liquid.

So we headed for what we had taken to be mountains, but now - closer up - were clearly something geologically different. There was an odd familiarity about the formation to Buck, but he couldn't place it.

Scrambling up the rock face to the lip, it suddenly it became clear that we were on the edge of a massive impact crater, at the bottom of which appeared to be more rocks and possibly some form of vegetation.

Making it to the bottom of the crater, those of us with more worldly experience, such as Buck and our photojournalist Freya (Clare's character), realised that the objects we had seen resembled stromatolites, but were more spongy, and surrounding a steaming pool of liquid.

Stromatolites

As we explored further into the basin of the crater, we spotted larger sponges that had grown like enormous trees.

However, as our attention was drawn to an indentation in a rock wall that we initially took to be a cave, we had made first contact with the locals.

Freya and Onyx (Erica's cat burglar) heard a buzzing in the air and some movement in the "trees". 

Kaiju
While two of their kind hovered in the air, a pair of flying insect creatures - resembling the ones seen by the residents of Zephyr Cove - landed on the rocks behind us, chittering away aggressively.

But then striding over the trees were an enormous pair of monstrous harvestmen kaiju, American daddy long legs capable of stepping easily over the 15 foot trees, and - like the insects behind us - armed with viscous fangs and a hunger for human flesh.

Freya fainted.

The battle, as ever, was fierce. I was blasting away with both barrels of my shotgun, as Fr Ned (Simon's priest, played by Clare in his absence, as he's just moved house) set about breaking the giant creatures spindly legs with his mighty shillelagh.

The two giant walkers were quickly seen off, but the comparatively smaller insectoids put up more of a fight.

Onyx had her pistol blow up in her hand, but escaped serious injury. Switching to her crossbow, she started peppering the sundry beasts with bolts.

"Dead-Eye" Dick Tate (Kevin's G-man) kept up a steady hail of lead, until eventually Freya came round and - after snapping a photograph of the battle - grabbed her pistol and blew away the last of the insect monsters that Onyx was wrestling with.

The young cat burglar was splattered in sickly ichor... but at least she had survived the encounter.

Fr Ned gave a couple of thrashing, spasming, mortally wounded insect creatures the last rites - with a club blow to their brain pans

Then Onyx bandaged up the flesh wounds he had taken from a couple of savage bites.

Wherever we were, we were beginning to suspect that maybe we were no longer on Earth.

To Be Continued...


 
The Theoretical Science Foundation - The Cast:
  • Buck Hannigan - played by me
  • Dick Tate - played by Kevin
  • Father Timothy 'Ned' O’Flaherty - played by Simon (absent)
  • Freya Larson - played by Clare 
  • Onyx Jones - played by Erica 
Showrunner - Pete

Missed an episode? Catch up with this hot new show right here.   

Wonder Woman Wednesday...

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Delve Into The Origin Stories of Some of Disney's Most Popular Attractions...

Both Rachel and I are suckers for "behind-the-scenes" documentaries about Disney (we recently binged our way through The Imagineering Story in a couple of evenings) so this latest offering from Disney Plus, Behind The Attraction seems right up our alley.

Arriving tomorrow (Wednesday), each episode dives into the backstory of a particular attraction, such as my favourite, the Haunted Mansion, as well as Jungle Cruise (the inspiration for the upcoming movie), Star Tours, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (and how it was rebranded for Guardians of The Galaxy), and Space Mountain.

I just hope the tone of the actual show isn't the breathless "zaniness" of the trailer, but a a calmer delivery as I'm not sure we could handle half-an-hour - or an hour - of that hyped up patter without wanting to throw something at the television!

Here's also a quick review of the show from the very useful What's On Disney Plus channel:

Shangi-Chi (2021) + Venom 2 (2021) + Eternals (2021) + The Batman (2022)

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