You know them and love them from the Intercontinental Group of Awesome’s Masks Halcyon City campaign. Now, you can have them on your phone’s lockscreen! With permission from the great Alex Prinz, you’re free to download this…
Author: Paul Edson
Fantasy and horror, magic and technology, men and monsters meet and merge. Spellslingers and the ritual magic of blood cults exist parallel with smoking revolvers, cold stiffs, and dark deceptions. Adventurers have the chance to gain riches and power, provided they can survive the places where nothing is ever as it seems.Bloodshadows, 3rd Edition
To be honest, I’d have written this post eventually, but seeing Bloodshadows in the DtRPG Halloween Sale moved “eventually” up to “right now.” I have a long, involved relationship with the Bloodshadows setting that started with the West End Games MasterBook edition when I was managing the unfortunately named game and memorabilia shop Fantasy Forum in Northern Virginia 20 years and more ago. (Why was Fantasy Forum an unfortunate name? Let’s just say that we got many calls for the types of “toys” that weren’t cheap plastic phasers that made 8-bit beeping sounds.) Noir sensibilities combined with deep and dangerous magic? Tragic and epic history about to bubble up into an increasingly fraught present? My jam right there.
The world of Marl was the focus of the age-old war between Chaos and Order centuries and centuries ago. Things with no names, some barely recognizable as things, fought alongside humans in the most recent battlefield of a conflict that moves from realm to realm, reality to reality. Eventual the war moved on to another realm, but it left Marl deeply and irrevocably changed. Remnants of the creatures of Order of Chaos roam the wastes between cities, making travel dangerous both physically and existentially. New sentient species emerged in the aftermath, as well… Four-armed Catarms, ghoulish Elkist, stone-skinned Grani… The result of crossbreeding with Demons, magical experimentation, or the stray energies of a world-breaking war, the list is long. And, well… weird.
Civilization exists only where enough people are gathered together to defend against what lies outside the walls – the unnaturals and abominations of the Wastes. In some cities magic is all-powerful, with Elementalist guilds cracking down on internal combustion and the products of science and technology. In others, the balance tilts toward technology. Your gutsy shamus might carry a gun with rune-charged bullets to deal with demons and cultists, or might have a friend with a wand and terrible powers.
Cultists? Did I say cultists? As it happens, the vanguards of the forces of Order and Chaos are returning to Marl, bringing the war with them soon, and they’re manifesting in increasingly fanatic cults that might just as easily mask themselves as a “Business Association” as a slavering band of cutthroats. Your characters can pick a side, but often the best way is to stay neutral, trying to keep your head above the ever-rising tide of conflict. At least for now.
To be honest, none of the rulesets available for Bloodshadows tickle me as much as the setting does. Precis Intermedia makes three versions available: a reprint of the original Bloodshadows MasterBook World Book, the OpenD6 Edition, and Bloodshadows 3rd Edition, which uses their genreDiversion system. I had limited success running 3rd edition recently, but much of that was my own damn fault – I let myself get too far into my head and didn’t make adjustments for the way I like to play games now.
One day, I will take this rich, weird, and sometimes silly setting and run it in a “modern” system that encourages the GM and Player behaviors I love at the table. For now, I continue to go back for inspiration and the occasional head-shake.
Powered by the Apocalypse
The DriveThruRPG Halloween Sale is in its last days, and we’ve dug through to find some gems that might appeal to you. This post will cover some classic and less-well-known games powered by the Apocalypse World Engine.
Monster of the Week
Monster of the Week is a game that will let you play through stories reminiscent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer if you’re in a high-school mood, or travel the country fighting ghosts and beasties if you’re feeling more like the Winchester Brothers from Supernatural. If Mulder and Scully are more your bag, X-Files is doable, too! This is a well-known monster-hunting game that gives reliably fun play with flexible rules for magic and extensive GM advice.
This updated version of Avery Alder’s classic game of sexy teenage monsters caught up in love triangles, high-school angst, and dangerously fraught decisions is inspired by Buffy, Twilight, Ginger Snaps, The Vampire Diaries and The Craft. It’s also simply one of the clearest and most expressive Powered by the Apocalypse texts to date.
Urban Shadows is a game of urban politics and supernatural drama that pits factions of vampires, wizards, mortals, faeries and more against each other, vying for control of the city. It draws inspiration as much from The Wire as from classic touchstones like The Dresden Files. This sale also includes the Urban Shadows supplement Dark Streets and Los Cazados, a minigame set in the world of Urban Shadows that allows players to portray werewolves hiding among the human populace in a modern city while fighting an ancient enemy.
In Bluebeard’s Bride, players collaborate to create a unique version of the dark fairy tale. Room by room, you discover the nightmares and horrors and truths of the place, meet Bluebeard’s servants, and eventually decide if your Bride is faithful or disloyal. This is a truly creepy game of feminine horror that will remind you of the best of American Horror Story. Also in the sale are the Book of Rooms, with rooms, resources and nightmares aplenty for the Bride; and the Book of Lore, a fiction supplement that tells one possible story of the Bride, but leaves it to the reader to make the final, fateful choice.
In Bedlam Hall, you play servants of an insane upper-crust family, living in a cursed house, in the near-constant drizzle of the gothic landscape. Attempting to manage the house (which may not want to be managed), avoid the… quirks… of the family members, and all the while maintain your own sanity (and your references) is quite a challenge! The sale also includes three scenarios: A Terrible Tale of an Unsettling Tradition, A Terrible Tale of Pride and Prescience, and A Terrible Tale of a Continuation of Horrible Events.
Blackout: A Game of Civil Defence
Blackout is a game about female Civil Defence volunteers during the London Blitz. As air wardens, rescue workers, fire guards, first aid responders, and welfare services, you venture forth from the bomb shelters to confront the horrors being unleashed from above, fighting fires, saving lives, and trying to piece back together your fair city even as the enemy tries to blow it to pieces! Designed for one-shot play, Blackout is quick to set up and get going.
The Happiest Apocalypse on Earth
In The Happiest Apocalypse on Earth, players take on the role of guests or staff in a theme park that barely masks a terrible horror lurking beneath. The game is a blend of satiric commentary and gut-curdling horror in a place that’s just a bit too shiny not to cast the darkest of shadows.
Learn More about these Games!
You will find interviews with the creators of most of these games, along with some great one-on-one actual play, on the Ennie-nominated podcast +1 Forward, co-hosted by our own Rich Rogers.
I’ve been playing around with a way to play in The Middleman universe for quite a while. I started with Powered by the Apocalypse, moved on to Slade Stolar’s The Indie Hack, and finally settled on this, a two-person hack of John Harper’s amazing Lasers & Feelings.
It’s very much an Alpha version, but if you’re interested, check it out and let me know what you think!
While pondering a run of Monster of the Week I’m going to do for The Gauntlet hangouts (13 sessions! whoah!), I started playing with creating Monsters and Mysteries for, well, Monster of the Week. For some reason, a certain Doctor came to mind. Here he is. No claim that this is fully-baked, but I don’t see any point in keeping it to myself!