The Sorcerer’s Child

It’s pointless to argue about this shit so I’ll just give you Joesky’s share:

The Sorcerer’s Child.

Any time a Carcosan Sorcerer makes a ritual human sacrifice the DM rolls 1D6. On a 1, the soul of the sacrifice doesn’t quite shuffle off their mortal coil. Perhaps the sacrifice was clumsy, or they took too long to die, or made eye contact with the celebrant at the wrong moment. The exact reason is both irrelevant and up to the DM. All that matters is the haunting.

The lost soul is now intertwined with that of the Sorcerer (PCs with Divination or Astral abilities can actually see a shape trailing behind the haunted Sorcerer, holding to his shadow as a child clutches the hem of a mother’s gown). Every day for the rest of the Sorcerer’s life, the DM makes a secret D6 roll. A result of 1 means the soul has manifested enough energy to hex the Sorcerer that day (usually this means an unexplained -1 penalty to an important roll the Sorcerer makes that day, but other misfortunes are possible).

DMs may wish to keep the haunting an unexplained phenomenon or curse until a dramatically-appropriate moment of revelation, or may simply choose to treat the haunting as an adversarial NPC who teases and mocks the Sorcerer, keeps him from sleeping, etc. Griffin Dunne’s character from An American Werewolf in London might serve as inspiration for haunts such as these.


Isle of the Unknown and new blog

I'm thinking about shutting this blog down. I'm finally finished with school and I want to get back to talking about various OSR shenanigans, but I've let American Barbarica lie dormant for so long that it feels like I could benefit from a fresh start.

I've started a new blog called GIANT EVIL WIZARD. Come have a look. I've been studying Geoffrey Mckinney's Isle of the Unknown, and that will be my subject for several posts.


For Valentine's Day I Got You The Black Sleep of Kali Ma

and an Atomic Elbow:

EDIT: I am available to do shitty art for any OSR project involving Mola Ram or Professional Wrestlers With Heart Heads, preferably in the same illustration.


Fresh Ink

Until now, my dude Joel and I have been tied at one D&D tattoo apiece. Then he shows up and drops this bomb on me, fresh from the shop:
 Sweet Timothy Truman Warduke, dude. American Barbarica salutes you. It looks great next to your Fiend Folio Githyanki by Russ Nicholson:
You are kinda making me look like a coward though. I feel naked with just my Altar of Mammon by Dave Trampier:
It might be time to get that Erol Otus Shoggoth I've been threatening for like three years. Or maybe the Lich. Don't make me call dibs on Demogorgon, dude! Oh Shit!


Book Report: Realms of Crawling Chaos

The Facts:
66 pages, six of which are consumed by the cover, a frontispiece, the OGL, an ad, and the back cover.
Written by Dan Proctor and Michael Curtis
Art by Sean Aaberg and Mark Allen (spoiler alert: the art is awesome)
The pdf cost me a very reasonable $4.95

The Conjecture:
The introductory chapter "Lovecraftian Dark Fantasy" is a well considered essay on the major (or at least most game-able) themes of HPL's mythos. It's hardly exhaustive, but Proctor clearly understands the material. Anyone seeking a deeper insight into the material should check out Hite's Tales out of Lovecraft, Houellebecq's Against the World, Against Life, and Joshi's HP Lovecraft: A Life. Proctor is clearly presenting the work as it relates to fantasy adventure games, and this is a good thing. (More on this at the end).

Next we get PC writeups for some monstrous races, including Innsmouth types, Subhumans, White Apes, and White Ape hybrids. None of these did much for me. I think the idea was to provide alternatives to the standard fantasy races (which are thematic kryptonite to mythos-inspired games). There's nothing wrong with any of these guys, I just didn't find them particularly inspiring. I'd probably play a Subhuman based on the name alone though. I am complete agreement with Blair that there really should've been a Ghoul race. Duh.

Next: New Magic, which provides ten new alchemical formulae (including things like the Drug of Zakarion, Satampra Zeiros's Powder of Ziephor, and Herbert West's secret formula). I dug every one of them. I also liked the majority of the fourteen new spells provided (Hideous Graft, Initiate Familiar, Mind Transference, and Walk Among Angles being especially gnarly).

The next twenty pages are monsters. All the usual suspects are here (though the lack of Gugs is nearly as unforgivable as the lack of Ghoul PCs). A number of these guys are less impossible to kill than I'd imagine.

Three pages of Eldritch Artifacts follow, none of which are surprising or mind-blowing.

The next three pages are devoted to Psionics. I was thoroughly underwhelmed by them, meaning that this chapter fits right in with every other bit of D&D Psionics I've ever read. Why no one (myself included) can write a creepy, flavorful set of rules that lets my PCs head explode Scanners style is beyond me. None of the material is usable by PCs, which is a bummer. On the other hand, Proctor admits that this stuff doesn't appear much in the source material, so my complaints in this regard might be misplaced.

Appendix 1 is the first of two contributions by Michael "Dungeon Alphabet" Curtis, and it's here that Realms of Crawling Chaos came alive for me. Reading Eldritch Tomes includes a really simple system for researching forbidden books, and does a good job of modeling the dangers inherent in such activities. Maybe you learn a new spell, maybe your bones turn into jelly. I loved this system.

Appendix 2: Random Artifacts (also by Curtis) alone is worth the five bucks I paid for this thing. 100 weird powers + 100 objects to house them + 100 strange properties associated with their use = Infinite Awesome. The first two artifacts I created were an extremely magnetic cube which allows a severed head to speak, and a candle which makes the bearer a friend to all cats, and which also happens to have a discernible heartbeat! (full write ups forthcoming).

Two more Appendices include a conversion chart for Mutant Future and the literary source that each monster, object, and spell are taken from.

In the end, this book is a fun, game-able take on take on HPL's mythos. While I fall into the camp that believes things like Great Old Ones probably shouldn't be represented with game stats, I also accept that any D&D game in which Cthulhu appears is probably going to end with someone trying to stab him in the face. If you're looking to play a deep game of cosmic nihilism and existential dread, D&D is not that game. That game is known as Call and/or Trail of Cthulhu, and it's also very good. If, on the other hand, what you really want out of a game is to slaughter Deep Ones with an Atlantean Sword, or try and mind-control your great, great grandson into letting you bang his girlfriend, this book is for you.

Overall, I give Realms of Crawling Chaos mostly high marks. The new magic and the two chapters by Curtis are what really make this book sing (or, if you prefer, whisper sibilantly). Nothing contained in this book is anything that an HPL diehard couldn't produce themselves, but the two HPL diehards who did produce it did a really good job. My overall hatred of Lulu will prevent my getting a print copy any time soon, but as a five dollar PDF it's a no brainer.

Still pissed off about the Ghouls & Gugs though.
DUDE: "Ghouls & Gugs: the Roleplaying Game". THAT WOULD BE FUCKING SICK!


Stoned Apes

Old Teach is the common name given to an invasive species of cactaceae found on several planets in the Vodyanoi system. The plant is known to thrive in wildly varying environmental conditions, but Xynobis and the mineral core of Gung have the highest known concentrations. Xorn scientists on Gung have attempted to eradicate the plant with little success.
Xynobyssian ape sorcerers believe the plant to be a sentient, psionic hive intelligence that amplifies magical abilities when consumed. Individual cactus colonies are said to remain in contact regardless of the distance separating them. 
Any character who consumes the plant must save vs. Poison. Failure induces fever, vomiting, and paralyzing stomach cramps for d6 hours. A non-psionic character who succeeds will experience hallucinations and an expanded sense of consciousness for d6 hours. However, any psionic character will have all psionic effects (duration, range, strength, etc) doubled for the next 2d6 hours.  If a point system is used to track psionic effects, the number of points available is also doubled for the duration of the effect.
*Old Teach was a Lawful god in a 3.5 game I ran for a while. His priests carried his offspring in clay pots and cared for them obsessively. He was inspired by Terrence Mckenna's The Invisible Landscape. Gorgonmilk's recent entries brought him back to mind.