In the Community Content Spotlight, each month I write up a short review of a community content title available on DriveThruRPG. See this page if you’re interested in creating something for our Community Program!


Stick around after the review for news about our Community Content Contest.

THE PHANTOM OF THE BASTILLE

The following review contains spoilers for Phantom of the Bastille.

Rick Dakan’s Phantom of the Bastille is a lavishly researched, imaginative scenario for Fear Itself that takes players to Paris in 1789, the beginning of the French Revolution. Planned as the first in a series of French Revolution scenarios, we get a glimpse into the chaos of, and the different groups jostling for dominance in, late-1780s France.

Like many historical scenarios, Phantom of the Bastille latches onto a major historical event and then deep dives into an unusual idiosyncrasy. And that is part of the joy of historically situated gaming: major events (like the fall of the Bastille) always have strange surprises, particularities, coincidences, and falsehoods told about them. What Dakan has done is take a pseudo-legendary figure, the Comte De Lorges (who was supposedly a prisoner in the Bastille), and asked “Why do people report the existence of the Comte, when no such person ever existed?” Rick’s answer creates all kinds of new Fear Itself fodder: a new creature of Unremitting Horror; the unnatural, putrescent death of King Louis XV; the tragic painting of a family destroyed by the scenario’s inciting action. It was this last which I was personally most drawn to. I wanted to see how my players would respond to a fallen family of the French aristocracy — how would the characters be swayed, and what schemes would they devise in order to protect this pitiable family?

Interestingly, the scenario’s villain is also a sympathetic GMC (although I did find myself, after seeing the results of the villain’s actions, thinking that were I playing the scenario, I would probably have advocated for the character’s demise — it is the French Revolution, after all).

The pre-generated investigators are all Freemasons (or members of their sister organizations), which provides an easy “in” to the scenario and provides fodder both for more characters (should one of the PCs die — unthinkable!) and for information-holding allies. It was easy to see, even in the structure of this first scenario, how a whole campaign could be strung out from this framework ( “Headhounds of Paris,” anyone? Because of the guillotine… get it?… nevermind). Rick also employs a clever “counterespionage spend” mechanic by grouping three of the Investigative abilities, which spends of can “distract or counter the spies” of one of the scenario’s factions, and are increasingly costly. They got me thinking about other ways that abilities could be grouped and spent toward particular ends in new scenarios.

(As a sidenote, maybe my favorite thing about the scenario, as an eighteenth-century literary theorist, is tha

t there’s an opportunity for some very memorable roleplaying with the Marquis de Sade — yes, that Marquis de Sade, for whom the practice of “sadism” is named, although it’s probably notwhat you expect.)

The scenario is lavishly illustrated with period-sourced paintings and engravings, and was laid out by our very own Will Hindmarch. Rick has some great additional resources on his website whether you’re planning on running Phantom of the Bastille, Fear Itself, or another game set at the dawn of the French Revolution. Also consider giving him a follow on Twitter.

Title: Phantom of the Bastille
Author: Rick Dakan
System: Fear Itself, 2nd Edition
Price: $4.95 PDF

Community Content Contest

Last week I announced the GUMSHOE Community Content Contest, where one winning product will receive professional layout and a custom cover provided by Pelgrane Press. I’m happy to announce that the final deadline will be Monday, September 7th, 2020. (I’ve also updated the original posting to reflect this.)

For more information about the contest, please see the original posting, or get a hold of me either on our Discord or by leaving a comment.

Good luck with your entries!


The Pelgrane Press Community Program brings you into the fold with other GUMSHOE game designers, affording creators (whatever that means to you!) the opportunity to post and sell their own products on DriveThruRPG. We currently accept material for Ashen Stars, The Esoterrorists 2nd Edition, Fear Itself 2nd Edition, and TimeWatch. Have a kooky idea you’d like to write up and get out there? A flushed out scenario you think others would enjoy? The Community Program is the place to showcase these ideas. If you’re interested in creating something for the Community Program, read more about it here.


Fear Itself is a game of contemporary horror that plunges ordinary people into a disturbing world of madness and violence. Use it to run one-shot sessions in which few (if any) of the protagonists survive, or an ongoing campaign in which the player characters gradually discover more about the terrifying supernatural reality which hides in the shadows of the ordinary world. Will they learn how to combat the Creatures of Unremitting Horror from the Outer Black? Or spiral tragically into insanity and death? Purchase Fear Itself in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

The following article of Unremitting Horror originally appeared on DyingEarth.com in December 2004.

Jormungandr – lost genius or just crap?
Jason Ardill tells all..
Anus Dei cover artBlair Witch Project of shock rock video is Anus Dei by the mercifully obscure Scandinavian black metal band JORMUNGANDR. The song is the usual shrill torrent of incomprehensible gibberish with a lot of umlauts in it, punctuated by guitar torture. But it’s not the song that’s memorable; it’s the visuals.

The video has clearly been ineptly shot and edited. No attempt has been made to synchronize what’s happening on the soundtrack with the action on the screen. Most of it is a languorous art-house rolling shot of subway tunnels, trash piled up against walls and sleeping tramps. This is interspersed with images from occult books, mostly woodcuts of Satan and his witches, as if someone had held a video camera directly above an open book. At various points, heavily made-up male faces leer into the camera from a few inches away.

After several watchings, the obvious conclusion is that the video is half JORMUNGANDR pratting about in their bedroom, and half someone else’s film project footage, which JORMUNGANDR just happened to come across and edit into their video.

Although – perhaps that’s what we’re meant to think? Maybe this film looks so cheap because someone spent a lot of money to make it look that way? One thing is certain. By the time the monster appears, you know damn well you’re looking at a sky-high special effects budget.

It’s enough to give Aphex Twin nightmares. There’s no face, just a peeled back skull and something like a huge set of dentures in the middle. Industrial limbs extrude from its shoulders, tipped with whirring claws – remember, this was made before Trent Reznor grossed us all out with Happiness in Slavery – which must have taken months to build.

When you first see it, the thing has its back to us and is tearing up dummies filled with offal, made to look like homeless people. This part looks a little fake, because of the over-the-top blood sprays and flying body parts, and it’s hard not to laugh. Then it stops, like a dog sniffing the air, and turns round. It starts to stride towards the camera.

At that point, it’s not funny any more. It moves with a horrible lurching gait, like Sadako from Ringu, as if it were broken on the inside. I’ve heard it said that they shot it running backwards, then played the tape forwards, to give it that disturbing stop-start lurch. Of course, from that point on it’s all shaky-cam running, then there’s the Blair Witch ending with the camera lying on the floor. Game over, man, game over.

As rock video monsters go, it’s an unsung classic. If the camera would only hold still, we would get a better idea of how it was done. It’s clearly not CGI, because that kind of technology wasn’t available in 1992, when the video first surfaced. Fangoria did a special feature on the Anus Dei monster and came to the conclusion that one of the JORMUNGANDR members must be a genius with latex.

The film has been the source of rabid debate among those who have seen it, because it just does not make sense. Nobody has ever heard of JORMUNGANDR. Other than that one infamous track, they do not appear to have recorded any music. So, why spend tens of thousands on a video to promote a band that does not seem to exist any more?

There’s more to tell. Contrary to popular belief, the video was never screened on MTV, nor was it sent to any other stations. The first person to broadcast it was Billy Two-Four (sic) an nineteen-year-old media student, who put it out on his public access show, Billy’s Horrorday . He claims an anonymous donor sent it to him, which has, of course, led to speculation that he made the video himself, at college. Whatever the truth behind the Anus Dei monster, we know this much.

No one ever hired Billie Two-Four to make any more videos.

And, the track sucks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Fear Itself is a game of contemporary horror that plunges ordinary people into a disturbing world of madness and violence. Use it to run one-shot sessions in which few (if any) of the protagonists survive, or an ongoing campaign in which the player characters gradually discover more about the terrifying supernatural reality which hides in the shadows of the ordinary world. Will they learn how to combat the Creatures of Unremitting Horror from the Outer Black? Or spiral tragically into insanity and death? Purchase Fear Itself in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

The following article for Fear Itself originally appeared on DyingEarth.com in November 2004.

 

AP Morton-Blunkett (1899-1921)

“A man, mortal, looks to the world to come…”

A little-known poet who may have become a great talent.. He was born in Forrest Court, Berwick, Scotland in 1899, the son of the Lochbridge Toll watchman. He was educated in the Public School, and frequented the library, where I fondly imagine he read the romantics and composed his first clumsy stanzas.

His best early work was a series of short love poems to Naomi, possibly Naomi Hay, daughter of the local policeman, although there is no record of an engagement or marriage.

In September 1921 he received a commission from a local landowner, possibly Sir Walter Hamilton-Dalrymple? to write a laudatory ode in praise of the Burgh Golf Club, to be engraved on the clubhouse plaque. He was offered the princely sum of one guinea, which must have been a cause of great excitement to him.

He took himself to the Isle of Islay, perhaps to seek inspiration, where he was found hanged in his room, having penned the poem below – a strange verse, greatly out of character. We know of no motive for his suicide. Perhaps Naomi rejected him, or perhaps there was a more sinister reason. The local waters are said to be infested with strange grey creatures, named after a dialect term for Satan – the Clooties.

The Sea Speaks Not and Yet…

I cannot sleep.  I hide my face
From surf and swell and blow
Since I have seen the queer grey men
That nightly come and go.

The village squats in sodden dusk
With sea-mist draped, and drear.
And aye the waves, and aye the waves
Come rushing far and near.

When every door is locked and barred
And every curtain drawn
‘Tis then they come, unseen, but heard.
Forsook.  Forgot.  Forlorn.

The old know better than to look.
The young are fast abed.
But I, with lonely cynic’s pride
And science in my head,

I looked.  I shall not look again.
For yet I see them pass,
The hollow faces of the drowned
In mist beyond the glass.

 


Fear Itself is a game of contemporary horror that plunges ordinary people into a disturbing world of madness and violence. Use it to run one-shot sessions in which few (if any) of the protagonists survive, or an ongoing campaign in which the player characters gradually discover more about the terrifying supernatural reality which hides in the shadows of the ordinary world. Will they learn how to combat the Creatures of Unremitting Horror from the Outer Black? Or spiral tragically into insanity and death? Purchase Fear Itself in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

by Dave Allsop

The Phantom Birds bear a strong resemblance to Earth’s Marabou Storks – spindly, ugly, carrion creatures with bald, scab-encrusted heads.

Phantom Birds tend to be much larger though, possessing all too human eyes, and the ability to talk. When found in Briny Heaven they are crowned with rusty metal halos.

The appearance or arrival of Phantom Birds is regarded as prophetic; it can mean that the Mystery Man is nearby, or that characters are approaching a region that has a strong Outer Black influence (like the Outskirts).

The purpose of the Phantom Birds as yet remains unclear. In Trenker’s diary he refers them as the ‘angels of Briny Heaven’, but he also refers to other nonhuman entities as angels too. It is possible that these avian monsters are mutated Ocean Game players. Perhaps they failed the Mystery Man in some way, or are have simply morphed into these forms after too much exposure to the Outer Black.

Phantom Birds

Phantom Birds are most commonly associated with ‘Monkey’ players as they are attracted to horror, extreme violence, and bloodshed; when their scalps bleed profusely it is an indication of their arousal.

Phantom Birds often gather on the verges of murder scenes to copulate.

Phantom Birds are rarely, if ever witnessed by ordinary people, even when they gather in large flocks.

Verbally, Phantom Birds are mostly unresponsive. They tend to dislike humans but will exchange information, trade spells and secrets for carrion, or the gory details of a crime scene they’re attending. Deals with Phantom Birds usually come to grief.

High-ranking Sallow occasionally members have a guest Phantom Bird living somewhere on their property.