Friday, February 23, 2018

Creatures of Will and Temper

Episode 19: Molly Tanzer's Creatures of Will & Temper.

In Creatures of Will and Temper, Molly Tanzer takes elements of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray and crafts a story of romance, swordplay, and demonology. It's an ambitious premise that goes beyond simply gender-swapping its source material. Listen and find out what Jack, a Wilde scholar, and Kate, a reader with a deep fear of contemporary takes on fin de siecle themes, think about this supernatural adventure.

Just how bent do genders get in this story? How much of the artistic process involves drinking, crying, and puking? Will these fencers ever get an opportunity to have some sexytimes? How do demons fit into the worldview of the Aesthetic movement? Find out all this and more in this month's episode of Bad Books for Bad People.

Listen here!

NOTE: Your hosts apologize for mis-naming the lead character. Her name is Dorina Gray, not Doriana Gray. The mispronunciation is due to a typo by Kate in the show notes, but we trust this doesn't impact your enjoyment of this episode!

BBfBP theme song by True Creature

Buy Jack's new book, Krevborna: A Gothic Blood Opera, on DriveThruRPG.

Find us at, on Twitter @badbooksbadppl, Instagram @badbooksbadpeople and on Facebook. You can discover where to get all the books featured on Bad Books for Bad People on our About Page.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Oyster Pirates, Tanith Lee's Weird Fiction, Deterring Witches

The Notorious Oyster Pirates of Chesapeake Bay (Kerry Wolfe, Atlas Obscura)

Weird Beauty: The Weird Fiction of Tanith Lee (Craig Laurance Gidney, The Weird Fiction Review)

The DIY Carvings Designed to Deter 17th Century-Witches (Kristen Amor, Atlas Obscura)

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Don't let a malevolent specter rob you of your copy of Krevborna! Best buy two copies of Krevborna: A Gothic Blood Opera at DriveThruRPG or RPGNow today, just to be on the safe side! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Krevborna-Ravenloft Express

It's pretty cool to see people already getting excited and doing stuff with Krevborna: A Gothic Blood Opera. Over at The Gnomish Embassy, B. W. Mathers has a post about ways to import some of Ravenloft's setting material to Krevborna. All of his suggestions feel right-on to me, and there is precedent for importing Ravenloft stuff to Krevborna. For example, in this game I used the "Death House" adventure from Curse of Strahd to kick off a new campaign and eventually had Strahd come to Krevborna as a potentially usurping vampire lord out to annex this strange new land.

Meanwhile, over on 4chan:

Let's take the above quoted question seriously for a second.

Second part first: I think that all self-published projects have to involve a bit of ego. If you didn't think your game thing was worthwhile you wouldn't lavish time, money, and effort on it, nor would you place it before the public. If putting something you made out into the world is too audacious for you, I don't know what to tell you. I'm obviously too biased to judge whether the project is over-hyped, but so far the response has been very positive, it's turned a profit in under a week, and is the best-selling game book I've made. My ego is satisfied with that.

First part second: I've never been shy about admitting that Ravenloft is my favorite Dungeons & Dragons setting and I specifically mention Ravenloft as an inspiration in the Krevborna book because it shaped my ideas about the possibilities of mixing the Gothic with fantasy at a very formative period of my life. Nevertheless, as much of an inspiration Ravenloft has been, parts of Krevborna are a reaction against the setting rather than a retread of what's come before. 

I think there's a basic difference in outlook and purpose that's worth discussing. The original Realm of Terror boxed set from 1990 presented Ravenloft as a crazy-quilt setting designed for "weekend in hell" adventures; the assumption was that Ravenloft would be a place that characters from another campaign settings would be drawn into, encounter and defeat something horrible, and then be returned to their home world. Because it was designed for side treks rather than expanded campaigns, the setting itself feels cobbled-together, thin, and disjointed. Later revisions of the setting attempted to shift the default style of play to characters born and bred in Ravenloft engaging in more expansive, connected adventures, but even those additions were still burdened with some of the choices made in the setting's original execution.

Krevborna, on the other hand, is meant to be a stand-alone setting; the expectation is that the adventuring party is made up of characters from Krevborna who are fighting against the evils in the land because the country is their home--they have vested interests, personal ties, and emotional connections that make the land worth fighting for. 

Also, Ravenloft presents a very broad swath of horror and Gothic tropes, whereas Krevborna is more limited and focused. Ravenloft has domains analogous to just about any European nation you could care to name, but beyond that it also has its own versions of haunted Louisiana bayous, mummy-infested ancient Egypt, spooky-scary India, etc. Krevborna, on the other hand, centers around Eastern European influences instead of presenting a wide variety of cultural pastiche. If you're after the full salad bar, Krevborna will probably disappoint in that regard. So, yes, there is some Ravenloft influence at work in Krevborna, but the point was never to make a Ravenloft clone. 

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Friday, February 16, 2018

Krevborna: A Gothic Blood Opera Now For Sale at DriveThruRPG

Krevborna: A Gothic Blood Opera is now available for purchase in full-color print and pdf on DriveThruRPG!

Of course, the book was a group effort. The book would not be as fine as it without the art of Becky Munich and Michael Gibbons, nor would it be as polished without the editing assistance of Heather Cromarty or the additional design work of Katie Albitz.

I also owe a debt of gratitude to all the people who played in my Krevborna games, inspired me with their games, or just plain gave me suggestions along the way that made the book stronger. All of these people are listed on the book's dedication page for a reason:

What the book is about:
The blood moon rises above the haunted lands of Krevborna! Once a country of picturesque villages, deep forests, and sublime mountain ranges, Krevborna is now a land of Gothic ruins preyed upon by fiends, ravening beasts, and the unquiet dead. Shadows triumphantly lengthen across Krevborna; the great powers of darkness work to usher in the dread dominion of an everlasting empire of night.

What you get in the book:
Krevborna: A Gothic Blood Opera is a system-neutral campaign setting for Gothic Fantasy adventures inspired by Bloodborne, Castlevania, and Penny Dreadful. The book includes:

  • Art by Becky Munich and Michael Gibbons. Setting map by Michael Gibbons.
  • Details on nine locations in the setting: the corrupt city of Chancel, the Lovecraftian town of Creedhall, the witch-town of Hemlock, vampire haunted Lamashtu, the seaside horrors of Piskaro, the underworld of the Grail Tombs, the foreboding Nachtmahr Mountains, the eerie Silent Forest, and the forbidden town of Veil.
  • Information on the people of Krevborna and their folklore.
  • Thirty-four otherworldly entities to use as patrons for the faithful and the pact-bound.
  • Eight factions and twelve NPCs to involve your players in intrigue.
  • Advice and tools for running a fantasy RPG influenced by Gothic literature.
  • Tools for use in game, such as copious adventure seeds, a bestiary of foes, random tables, and a comprehensive adventure generator that gives you the basis of a scenario with little prep.
  • A full index and a separate index of the book's random tables.
  • The book was designed for ease of use and speed of play. All "lore" entries are easy to scan, and make use of bullet points to draw your attention to the important bits so you can get on with your game.
Art from the book:

Setting map by Michael Gibbons

 Black & white interior illustrations by Michael Gibbons

Color chapter art by Becky Munich

Page layout example:

So far, the response has already exceeded my expectations. B. W. Mathers did a review of the book here and Trey Causey did a review of it here, and somehow the book found its way to RPGNow and DriveThru's bestseller list alongside some august company:

And featured in their newsletter:

Available here in print, pdf, or print + pdf combo (print + pdf is the same price as a print copy, so this is the best bargain if you want to hold a book in your hands).

Monday, February 12, 2018

We Kidnapped Your Son, Sell Us Dragon Blood

Campaign: The Excruciata

Characters: Raymondo Cortiz (Human assassin rogue, former entertainer);  Grumli Fellhammer (Mountain dwarf path of the ancestors barbarian, former tribesman); Zanna Cobblestop (Forest gnome wild magic sorcerer, former urchin); Nina Kessler (Air genasi way of the frozen fist monk, former spy); Hiroshi (human samurai fighter, former knight).

Events: Having made a tidy profit selling gunpowder that had been magically enriched with sea dragon ichor, the Excruciata were keen to capitalize on their economic momentum and corner the illicit trade in enchanted black powder. Unfortunately, since no new source of already prepared arcane gunpowder was in view, they decided that it might be best to procure their own method of creating it. A little research in the criminal underworld turned up a new ally: a man named Hiroshi, a disgraced bodyguard to an aristocratic family living in a country far, far away.

Hiroshi had previously taken a few jobs providing muscle for Antoine Saulk, a wealthy man who owned a prosperous sea dragon ichor refining plant in Umberwell Docks. The Excruciata made a legitimate appointment with Saulk in hopes that he would be willing to sell them ichor they could use to enrich gunpowder, but during the meeting it quickly became apparent that he viewed the gang members with obvious distaste. As a man of rising fortunes, he had no wish to do business with a pack of obvious ne'er-do-wells.

Artby flaviobolla
Plan B was to escalate the situation. Since Saulk was unwilling to deal with them due to their obvious criminal enterprises, they decided to show him exactly how villainous they could be. Hiroshi knew that Saulk's mansion was situated at the edge of Umberwell Docks and Sartorial Square; Nina was able to adopt the guise of one of Saulk's lovers to get access to his social calendar through his secretary. Picking a night that they knew Saulk would be at the opera, they put there plan into action: break into Saulk's mansion, and kidnap his son.

The Excruciata entered the house by breaking into a storm cellar that led into a storage area of the basement. They made as much use of stealth as they could, but when that failed they brought violence into the house of Saulk. They tried to keep casualties to a minimum, particularly among Saulk's innocent servants, but a few guards within the house had to be sniped and killed from a distance. The gang managed to find the boy's room and steal away with him from the mansion. A letter was sent to Saulk the next morning, informing him of his son's abduction, and the Excruciata's willingness to return him for a favorable rate on sea dragon ichor.

It only took enclosing one of his son's fingers with the letter to provide proof that they were serious.

A source of sea dragon ichor now secured, now all the Excruciata had to do was find someone mad enough to use it to enrich a store of gunpowder...

Friday, February 9, 2018

Bad Books Short Story Swap

Bad Books For Bad PeopleMini Episode 7: Short Story Swap

In an effort to atone for the damage done during the Book Battle episode, Jack and Kate trade short story selections designed to delight one another. Do their efforts succeed?

Kate assigns Jack "The Adventure of 'The Brain,'" a 1910 comedy tale by Bertram Atkey that finds a bumbling pickpocket tied up with a cult of phrenology-obsessed suffragettes. Read the story in Otto Penzler's anthology The Big Book of Rogues and Villains. Jack introduces Kate to the work of Vernon Lee with the story "Dionea," a decadent gothic tale of an orphan, a doctor, a sculptor, and the old gods. Read the story in Vernon Lee's short story collection Hauntings, first published in 1890.

Find us at, on Twitter @badbooksbadppl, Instagram @badbooksbadpeople and on Facebook. You can discover where to get all the books featured on Bad Books for Bad People on our About Page.

BBfBP theme song by True Creature