Monday, June 23, 2014

Gaming Ideas - TV - Night Gallery - Pilot - The Cemetary

Gaming Ideas - TV

Night Gallery - Pilot - The Cemetery - (Based on M.R. James the Mezzotint)

Ossie Davis as the Faithful Man-Servant

George Macready as Feeble Uncle Money-Bags

Roddy McDowall as the Evil Greedy Bastard

The Mezzotint was a truly frightening story. Not a jump out of a closet or slash your guts-open kind of scary, but instead the kind that slithers into the back of your head and stays there only to wake you up at 2am and turn your lights on kind of scary. Rod Serling's adaption doesn't have any of that kind of bite, I'm not sure if it ever scared anyone over the age of 8, and all it did for me is make me want to give McDowall a backhand slap for terrible over-acting (though after seeing Ossie Davis' performance at the very end makes it obvious that this is what they truly wanted).

There are a great many more ideas for mood and atmosphere generated by the original story, but in terms of gaming the basic concept of the cursed or enchanted painting is still sound.

Gaming Ideas

For a fantasy or Cthulhu style game a cursed painting, mosaic or mural can be more than just an encountered item; it could be an adventure or even a campaign in itself.

1) A window to the past, present and future

The painting depicts a single past event or can be manipulated to show the past events of an individual's choosing such as the construction of a dungeon or castle, the methods used to develop a potion or magic item, the secrets that would allow safe entrance to a trapped or hidden location. It could reveal past actions such as murders or conspiracies or treasons. It might be used to show the identity of a criminal or prove parentage or whether someone had truly died (and how).

If it depicted current events it could be used to spy on enemies or keep an eye on friends or locations or items.

As a window into the future it could show possible actions and their consequences and perhaps ways to avoid them.

2) The painting (mural, mosaic, etc...) could show threats, or expanding on ideas from other sources such as Thieves' World it could show the true face of individuals and reveal traitors, liars, plotters, would-be assassins...

3) Again taking ideas from other sources, this time Zelazny's Amber series, such illustrations could be doorways to other places, different dimensions, the past or future, or allow transportation within certain distances.

4) Depicted creatures could come alive and step from mural or mosaic and serve, help or attack the players.

The theme of enchanted or cursed paintings has been touched on in many places. This small story within the pilot of episode of Night Gallery does the theme small justice and no justice at all to M.R. James' Mezzotint.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Muskethulhu - Die Akademie der Blinden


6) Die Akademie der Blinden

Terrible things happened during the great war; the creation of the Stahlköpfe was one of them. After the death of the East German King Maximilian and the destruction of the green stone talisman, the aptly named Der Grüne Stern, which had protected the powerful among the Holy Roman Empire for millennia, a study was made of the fragments; inside was found a map of silver wire. Prince Rudolph, soon to crowned king of the East Germans, oldest son of Maximilian, enlisted the aid of the feared magister-alchemist Anselmus Boëtius de Boodt.

Driven from the Celtoi lands and cast out from his own Belgai clan de Boodt wandered for years in the far north among the Nords, then to the Witch-lands of the east among the Suomalainen and the Zavoloshka. Where he went next is unknown but one day he appeared in Praha and soon his fame and skills became legendary. Rudolph was a dabbler in the occult and in his own palatial mansion within the city was home to alchemists and magicians, priests of many gods, cultists, madmen, mathematicians, artists and philosophers; de Boodt became his mentor and most trusted advisor.

Researching the green stone of the shattered amulet de Boodt discovered the map and deciphered its meaning. A path through the silvered land of moonlight led to Ultima Thule, the fabled land of the far north which de Boodt had searched for during his wanderings. First the ship was crafted that could sail the moonlight and then the expedition. Rudolph set aside his throne in favor of his brother Mathias and journeyed north with de Boodt and a company of explorers, men of learning, men of power, and warriors.

The ship sailed on the night of the new moon and returned on the last beams as it waxed, but years had passed for Rudolph, de Boodt and their company. Men had died, Rudolph had become 'transformed', strange and inhuman followers returned with them, the first of the Stahlköpfe, and soon after, on the outskirts of Praha, Die Akademie der Blinden was formed.

Within the hold of Rudolph's Mond Schiff were crates filled with a metal that appeared as silver but was stronger than steel. From this metal close-fitting helms were made that could never be removed. They were crafted like a long skull-cap that poured back over the neck and down over the forehead over the bridge of the nose and covering both eyes of the wearer. In the place of eyes were carved fragments of green stone. These were the Stahlkopfe. They could see what was not meant to be seen. They saw beyond the dark, beyond life, beyond a veil that hides what should not be and in seeing they became blind to all that makes a man not a monster.

Die Akademie der Blinden produces these monsters to serve the Emperor, the East German king, but first and foremost to serve Rudolph and de Boodt. It is said that when a Stahlkopfe dies the helm melts away like moonlight and the body transforms. It is only then that another recruit is summoned to Der Akademie der Blinden and another Stahlkopfe is created to serve.

Rudolph's Transformation