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Category Archives: Horror Genre

The Last Parsec is an amazing setting with some really great adventures. It has an old-school feel that reminds me of the classic TSR game Star Frontiers.

Actually, The Last Parsec was directly influenced by Star Frontiers and Shane Hensley talks about that influence here.

Last year I ran Leviathan and it was a fun campaign. Recently, our group began running Eris Beta-V and I have to say that it is an amazing, high-action set of adventures.

We’re using the pregenerated characters from Pinnacle’s web site. I went through most of the products available for The Last Parsec and wanted to provide a possible order to do all of the adventures in.

The Last Parsec Adventure Order

  1. Omariss Death Worm
  2. Unexpected Colony
  3. Beginning of Eris Beta-V
  4. One of the first missions of the EB-V campaign can be Ghosts in the Machine
  5. Continue EB-V
  6. Untimely Discovery
  7. Leviathan
  8. During Leviathan run Catch of the Day
  9. The Enigma Equation
  10. Scientorium
  11. Pranac Pursuit


One of the things I like best about The Last Parsec is how seamlessly it runs with Savage Worlds and the Science Fiction Companion. I’ve noticed that Rifts is very similar in adhering closely to the Science Fiction Companion and I’m thinking about merging the two somehow. It would make for a great sic-fi setting that feels a lot like Guardians of the Galaxy.

My last horror collection I wrote is entitled The Other Side of Despair. It was inspired by my studies in Psychology as well as the classic weird stories of Robert W. Chambers that was The King in Yellow.

I was posting a link to the book in a thread and happened to see a review. It was refreshing to see someone get the book as I intended it!

Here is the review by Arnstein H. Pettersen with many thanks from me, sir! I’m glad yo enjoyed it:

Using the science and art of psychology to descend from the ledge chiseled by Lovecraft, further into that dyscognitive abyss.
(Also containing the short story collection that amass to the tale of ‘The Scourge of Wetumpka’, which firmly resides within the Cthulhu mythos.)

The horror genre often bring psychology into the mix as it plies its trade; dread does after all reside within the limits of our minds. Yet only rarely does one find an exemplar of the genre as The Other Side of Despair, where the matters of the psyche is at least nine-tenths of the tale. Its eclectic assortment of short stories persists in pitching the perceptions of the fantastical against the fabrications of the mind, leaving the reader lost for answers in a dilemma akin to that of figuring out which one initiated the (seemingly) etrnal cycle of causality between the chicken and the egg. And to present this dilemma as vividly as possible we have to gain a most intimate insight into the cogitations of the perceiver – or if you prefer the imagery: to observe the prancings of the Devil through the eyes that behold him. It is clearly no coincident that the stories consist mostly of monologues, excerpts of diaries, and personalized letters; ways of narration that are tightly bound to the core of the narrator’s world and interpretation thereof. Yet, despite their differences, they belong to a common literary universe, amassing the information of the individual story into something larger, perhaps even into something resembling answers.

The first monologue is titled ‘Shockley House’, and it is these 18 pages who serve as our introduction to the overall theme of the book. It details an attempt to research hauntings as a psychological phenomena – “Ultimately, it falls into the psychological realm because a statement of belief about witnessing something supernatural, […] is a statement about the psychological state of the person’s belief in what their senses have conveyed to them.” – where the researchers utilize a house rumored to be spectrally inhabited in order to coax their patients into believing the haunting to be real. It is a tale that goes to great lengths in attempting to give a scientific rationale for the phenomena, postulating that it is indeed made from mental fabrications; and much of it is, unexpectedly, quite persuasive. Yet, after wholeheartedly attempting to win the reader over to its logic – going so far as to make nearly testable hypotheses – the tale changes. The aforementioned dilemma begins to form as the rationale begins to shows its cracks, through which the fantastical seems to seep out into reality. The resulting horror results as much from the questioning of the world fabric as from the happenings themselves, making it a truly Lovecraftian experience despite lacking a common mythology.

The following short stories do an even greater job of muddling the dilemma, bringing such vagaries as shadows and dreams into the deliberation. Especially difficult is the tale called ‘Children of the Wasteland’, which bases its premise on Zhuangzi’s butterfly conundrum: “Once upon a time, I, Zhuangzi, dreamt I was a butterfly […] unaware that I was Zhuangzi. Soon I awakened […] Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.” (In fact, the tale is so convoluted that a tip is in order to facilitate the reading. It is not a spoiler and the reader will still have to do much puzzling to make sense out of that one. The hint is: Put to mind Brother Humphrey’s prayer.) Also, the tales are in a sense interwoven through a common world although the clues we are given to this lie discretely placed. The most obvious one is that several of the tales take place in Rathbone Asylum, but closer inspection will reveal others too. This is without a doubt one of the most intriguing works of horror which I have ever come across.

The bonus tale, ‘The Scourge of Wetumpka’ – which is quite some bonus since it covers nearly a hundred of the two-hundred and twenty-four pages of the book – has no connection to the tales of The Other Side of Despair. It is constructed from several short stories, each of which present its own part of the narrative; it builds upon H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, not to mention the works of several other authors who have continued his legacy, but most importantly it builds upon ‘The Colours from Outer Space’ to such a degree that the reader should be adviced to read that short story before embarking upon it. Indeed, this tale could be considered a continuation of the excellent tradition of fanfics (a tradition ancient compared to the term ‘fanfic’ and its modern stigmas, even predating our Current Era/Anno Domine), or, if one prefers to describe it as thus, it is a honorific towards one of the inspirations and thus co-creators of any current work of penmanship. Yet, it goes beyond this and brings to light obscure bits of history and actual conundrums, with notes carefully added with the information on what is accurate and what is embellishment, so as to avoid corruption of the facts. I was particularily fascinated by how little embellishment was needed for the author to connect the fictitious cult of ghouls to real historical events. In my opinion, this is a very welcome addition to the Cthulhu mythos. Also, since it consists solely of letters, clippings, recording transciptions, and similar, it would be an excellent piece of source material for game masters planning role-playing forays into the mythos universe.

Before ending the review, I’d like to note that David Maurice Garrett is not just a writer but also a musician (not to be confused with the violinist David Garrett) with currently six releases behind him, all of whom relate to the horror genre and Lovecraft’s works in particular. There is even a soundtrack for ‘The Scourge of Wetumpka’ among them. Whoever intends to delve into this book would clearly do well to check out these releases as well (the soundtrack in particular, of course).”


The story entitled “The Children of the Wasteland” that Arnstein mentions was featured on the Podcast Random Transmissions.


The Savage Zombie Apocalypse game I ran while camping was a hit. In the last post I mentioned that I would share some of the products I created for this game.

To begin with, I created 4 pregenerated characters and my roster of zombies to throw at the group:

Zombie Apocalypse Characters

Zombie Stats

The setting I chose was The Walking Dead (TWD). While Rick, Daryl, Michonne and the other characters from TWD T.V. series are in the Southeastern USA fighting zombies, my game was set in the same universe, but in Colorado.

I added an additional Derived Statistic to the characters’ sheets that I got from Rodney Orpheus here:

The Savage Dead

This stat is called Humanity and I like that a person can lose their humanity as they encounter or do horrible things in the game with actual mechanics tied to it. I think this adds tension to scenes where a friend gets infected and the other characters have to struggle with whether or not they will put the person out of their misery with a potential for it to affect them. Sanity can be handled many different ways, but I chose to just stick with the Horror Companion’s method of dealing with it.

Because TWD zombies have certain characteristics associated with them, I customized my basic zombies to match them exactly. However, I did savage some extra zombies because fighting the same old types of zombies becomes predictable. Each zombie lists in their Special Abilities the rules I used for how to handle infections and the chance that a wound could result in being turned into a zombie.

In TWD, everyone is a carrier of the virus and if they are killed, they will become a zombie. Being bit only accelerates the process of turning.

The other zombies I created beside a basic zombie are:

  • Hardy Zombie – similar to the basic zombie but a little faster and tougher.
  • Mutated Zombie (Frenzied) – these are more like the zombies in World War Z.
  • Mutated Zombie (Slimer) – a zombie that has additional effects because of the mutated disease.
  • Mutated Zombie (Chubbo) – a Slimer Zombie that has become “ripe”.
  • Mutated Zombie (Wailer) – basically an annoying zombie that attracts other zombies.
  • Mutated Zombie (Big Boss) – a Frenzied Zombie that happens to be a huge badass.
  • Mutated and Altered Zombie (Frank von Stein’s Monster) – the toughest mother trucker on the block.


The Mutated Zombies are taken from the board game Zpocalypse 2 (see previous post) except for Frank von Stein’s Monster. He came out of the WWII A!C/Dust game I’ve been running.

Before I lay out the plot it’s important to point out that I didn’t give the players any details on the world they were playing in. They had to discover for themselves that all zombies need to be taken out with head shots for them to permanently die. They had to discover the nature of the infection. It really wasn’t until they encountered Dr. Frank von Stein that they realized they were in TWD universe.

For this setting I used Gritty Damage. This also actually helps the players because there is a chance they’ll get a head shot without doing a called shot to the head.

The story opened with my In Medias Res Rules for Savage Worlds example of the pawn shop lock picking task. The only information I gave the players was that they were the only four survivors of a tiny town in the Rocky Mountains and they had exhausted their resources in the small town. They had decided to venture into the city of Castle Rock for more supplies.

After they completed the task, I used the Interlude Results Table (found on page 49 of Savage Tales 6 Zombie Run). This is a good player facing method that encourages the players to craft the backstory of how they came together.

After the pawn shop heist the characters were free to do some more exploring. A good tool to facilitate this is the scavenging tables found on page 40 of the Apocalypse Campaign Guide as it is customizable to the size and type of store the group is exploring.

During this part of the game I only threw Basic Zombies at them. After scavenging a couple of stores, I threw a couple of Hardy Zombies into the mix and they began to realize that not all zombies are cookie cutter zombies.

Then I threw a hoard at them. Many of the zombies were held back by fences that had been erected in the city. The great thing about this is that the fences have a Toughness rating and the zombies pressed up against the fences have a chance of knocking down a section of fence and funneling through.

As the action progressed, the characters found themselves in a section of the city surround by fences and a massive hoard of zombies pressing in. By this time I had introduced several Mutant Zombies.

And that’s when Dr. Frank von Stein arrived in an armored car blasting a swathe through the zombies. The vehicle pulled up just outside the fence and he emerged from a hatch in the top. The Doc led the players to believe that the cavalry had arrived. As they talked, he divulged that he had come from the South and the players finally gathered that they were in TWD universe from this conversation. The entire plague was all the machinations of this one, horribly mad scientist. Since starting the plague in the South, he had journeyed through the midwest to Colorado and was now creating new mutated and altered zombies more ruthless than before.

The Doc then backed the armored car up to the fence, opened a gate, and lowered the back hatch. Into the area where the players were trapped was released Frank von Stein’s Monster – the Doc’s newest creation. And the final battle was on!

So, I ran the skirmish with the Eldrazi Ruiner and I quickly realized that using walkers in combat requires a little bit of rules clarification. Thanks to the Savages on Facebook and Google+ for steering me in the right direction. Specifically, Rich Spainhour and Jon Mullenax for citing sources.

To begin with, you’ll need to fully read the section on Vehicles on pages 113-117 in the Savage Worlds Deluxe Explorer’s Edition (SWDE) and the section on Walkers on page 58-59 of the Science Fiction Companion (SFC). Walkers are considered Vehicles and use Piloting instead of Driving. The pregenerated characters in Secrets of the Dust (SotD) use Driving, so I simply changed their skill to Piloting.

Parry for a Walker is not exactly explained in the SWDE or the SFC but the consensus with citations from Savage Rifts is that it is half of the driver’s Piloting or Fighting skill +2, whichever trait is lower. I’m not sure why it has to be the person’s Fighting skill, though. For A!C/Dust, I will be using Piloting to calculate the Walker’s Parry because it’s much simpler. Besides, I feel like a Walker Pilot in this setting would be consumed with piloting the Walker in an effort to avoid the melee attack. I could see in a futuristic setting where the Walker is piloted more like a giant exoskeleton (e.g., like in the movies Aliens and Avatar). Then their Fighting prowess translates more directly to the action of the battle and the Walker’s movements.

The next issue I encountered was how to handle deceleration. The SWDE explains that a vehicle can decelerate at twice its acceleration speed with normal braking and three times its acceleration if doing a hard stop. This doesn’t really make much sense. I think it should be that a vehicle brakes twice as fast as it accelerates, which would actually be half the distance of its acceleration speed, not double. For example, a Walker that accelerates 7 on its first turn could brake to a stop in a move of 3.5 (we’ll round to 4) on its next turn. Why would it take 14 squares to brake if it was moving at 7, yet a hard stop would take 21 spaces. The wording is confusing. This is important because Walkers might use a tactic of running, stopping, and firing from a stand-still in order to prevent the Unstable Platform penalty that firing while moving incurs. So, for the Light Assault Walker (LAW), which has an acceleration of 7, it can brake at 4 (half acceleration rounded up) and hard stop at 3 (a third of acceleration rounded up). The LAW has a Top Speed of 15; what happens if you want to apply the brakes normally to slow down? Then it seems like our numbers don’t quite work. But the principle of halving the speed does work. We’re moving along at 15 and want to brake on our next move, halving 15 and rounding up gives us 8. I have to move at least 8 spaces on my turn. I can’s choose to only move 3 or 4 yet because I have too much momentum. Then, on the subsequent turn, I can stop in 4 spaces as that is my half acceleration number. Otherwise, if you keep halving each turn, you’ll encounter one form of Zeno’s Paradox and never stop.

For the campaign presented in SotD we’ll only be using Light and Medium Walkers. Even though the Walkers aren’t Heavy class Walkers, they are all still Large as regards rules that use the term “Large”. This means that where the SFC talks about Large Walkers can never take more than 2 wounds from a single attack, this applies to the Walkers in SotD.

When a walker is struck, the attack has the potential to knock the Walker over. When a Walker suffers a hit that meets or exceeds its Toughness, the first thing a Pilot does is make a Piloting roll. If they fail this roll then they have to roll on the Out of Control table (SWDE pg 117). Even if the Pilot succeeds, this still qualifies as a Shaken result. The Pilot is momentarily stunned from the attack and has to make their Spirit roll. Technically, though, the Shaken is applied to the Walker.

If the attack entails wounds, then the Pilot must make a Piloting roll for each wound or else the Walker falls over. In addition, each wound entails a roll on the Critical Hits table (SWDE pg 117). Each wound also inflicts a -1 penalty to the Piloting rolls so long as the Walker is still upright and functional (much like the penalties for wounds affect Pace and Trait rolls).

Also in the SFC is an entry on Ejection Systems. For our WWII Walkers, we’ll be ignoring this futuristic feature. The Light Walkers are open cockpit and are ridden more like a motorcycle than being in an enclosed cockpit. For our purposes we’ll be having the Pilot take falling damage when one of the Walkers goes down. But, there are two types of falling damage: high speed (1d6 per 5” of speed, SWDE pg 115) and low speed falling damage (1d6+1 per 10”, SWDE pg 101). To make this easy to use we’ll be using the Walkers Top Speed. If the Walker is moving more than half of its Top Speed up to its Top Speed, use high speed; if it’s moving at or below half of its Top Speed, the damage is low speed. This should take into account the height of the Walker too. For all of the Light and Medium Dust Walkers it’s much simpler to just use 2d6+2 for all of their low speed falls. When a Walker does fall, use a d12 and read it like a clock face to determine which direction it topples. A Walker also suffers Xd6 damage to itself (where the X is its size) when it falls over.

Some common modifiers that come into play with Walkers includes:

  • Walkers in motion are Unstable Platforms and incur a -2 Attack penalty (Firing a machine gun from a moving Walker incurs a -4 penalty. The Edges of Steady Hands and Rock and Roll would offset these penalties).
  • Moving targets incur a -1 penalty per 10” of speed.
  • The LAW has a Top Speed of 15 which incurs a -2 handling penalty (none of the other Walkers in SotD can go fast enough to incur this penalty.
  • Driving through rough terrain at over half of Top Speed requires a Piloting roll at -2 per round.
  • A Walker can move up to half its Top Speed in reverse. Driving rolls while in reverse suffers a -2 penalty.
  • Every difference of 2 in Size between Attacker and Target affects the Attack rolls by 2.

Some maneuvers of note that come in handy:

  • Hard Stop: No penalty but Piloting roll must be made in order to stop at a third of the current speed.
  • Bootlegger Reverse (-4): Stopping while pivoting the Walker around 90-180 degrees.
  • Avoiding an obstacle (-2 or -4 for difficult turns or pivots).
  • Stomping: Any creature or vehicle half a Walker’s size or smaller can be stomped upon. This is an opposed roll using the Attacker’s Piloting skill versus either Agility, Piloting, or Driving. If the Walker Pilot wins, the damage is Str+2d6. (Size and strength are given in the SFC as Light is Size 6 with a Strength of d12+4 and Medium is Size 8 with a Strength of d12+6).
  • Death from Above: The Allied Medium Walker (Mickey) is the only Walker in SotD that can perform this maneuver since it can jump. This, again, is an Opposed roll. A success equals damage to the target but a failure means the Walker suffers damage (see SFC pg 59).

Using this quick sheet in conjunction with the tables on page 117 of the SWDE should be sufficient to run the Walkers in SotD.

Here are the character sheets for the Pulp Hero super team presented in individual files:

Indiana Jones

The Phantom

Lara Croft

Doc Savage


In Medias Res Rules for Savage Worlds


For a while I’ve called this a Dramatic Task even though it doesn’t adhere to the SWDE guidelines for a Dramatic Task. I finally decided to give it a name and share it with the Savages community.

I use this as an opening of the gaming session because it begins the game in the middle of the action.

No Bennies for Beginnies.

Unlike a Dramatic Task, the players will be trying to earn Bennies rather than trying to earn a set number of successes on their Trait rolls. Because of this, players will not begin with their typical three Bennies. That’s right, everyone begins with no free Bennies! Characters who have the Luck Edge still start with one Benny, though.

The idea is to perform either Opposed rolls or successfully make Trait rolls that will earn a communal pool of Bennies for the group. After the set number of rounds have been completed, the Bennies may be divided up equitably or drawn from by players as they need to use them during the rest of the gaming session. Note: the GM should still award individuals Bennies for roll playing and such.

Steps to Perform In Medias Res Rules

  1. Determine the number of rounds. Typically, five is a good number.
  2. Decide if the rolls will be Opposed rolls or Trait rolls.
    • If Opposed rolls, decide on which Attributes or Skills everyone will be making. Typically, it will be the same for both friend and foe. Essentially, the TN for the heroes will be derived from the foe’s roll.
    • If Trait rolls, determine which Attributes or Skills each player will be using. Typically, the foe will not be making the same Trait roll for this. The TN will be 4 or a similar set number.
  3. Determine any modifiers that may help or hinder either side. Typically, the range is from -2 to +2.
  4. Deal Action cards to determine order of rolls.
    • For Opposed rolls, the foe will not be dealt Action cards as their rolls will be made immediately after each player’s roll. The cards merely determine order of rolls.
    • For Trait rolls, Action cards are dealt to the foes. This represents their opportunity to attack, harass, or attempt to thwart the heroes’ efforts.
  5. A Success = 1 Benny added to heroes’ communal pot. Failure = 1 Benny added to GM’s pot. Each Raise = +1 Benny.


It should be noted that the characters are guaranteed to succeed; the group is just determining how well they performed during this opening action scene.

Example 1. The Speeder Bike Chase (Opposed Roll)

The action opens with several Troopers chasing the heroes on their Speeder Bikes. Because everyone is piloting their bikes, Opposed rolls of Piloting skills make the most sense here. The GM determines that the forest terrain adds difficulty to the chase, but since both sides face the same terrain, it’s a zero-sum game and ignores the penalty for both sides.

Action cards are dealt to each player to determine the order of the rolls. Each time a player rolls, he or she must decide whether to spend a Benny, should they happen to have one for some reason. They are not likely to have one, though, which makes things go faster. After Player A makes their roll, the GM rolls for the Troopers to determine the TN for Player A. Note: if the Trooper’s roll beats Player A with a Raise, the GM gets 2 Bennies. Ties simply mean that neither side earns a Benny.

Player B goes next and the GM rolls again for the Troopers to set the TN for Player B.

Keep going until five rounds have elapsed.

Example 2. The Pawn Shop Scavenge (Trait Roll)

In this zombie apocalypse setting, the heroes have set up camp on the roof of a building across the street from a pawn shop that is still locked up tight. The GM determines that since one player with Lockpicking skills will be trying to open the pawn shop while the other characters distract a horde of zombies who are milling about the area, that Trait rolls will be best.

The non-Lockpicking characters decide that they will stay on top of the roof and throw rocks, bottles, and other objects down the street to try and keep the zombies distracted.

The GM also decides that the person picking the lock will be dealing with a difficult lock and a high stress situation, so they will be making their rolls at -2. Everyone else will not suffer any penalty.

Action cards are dealt to all players as well as one card for the zombies as a group. On the zombies’ turn, the GM may decide that one zombie doesn’t fall for the ruse and manages to get an attack in. Players on the roof may decide that one of their number shifts from Throwing rocks to Shooting the errant zombie. Common sense should dictate the details, but the result still boils down to whether Bennies are earned and for which pool.

Note, too, that you could add to the task that the Lockpicker must make a set number of successes on top of all the other action to determine whether the pawn shop was accessed or not.

This is a fun way to start a session of Savage Worlds with drama and action rather than just passing out Bennies to everyone as usual.

Inspired by Richard Woolcock’s awesome game Saga of the Goblin Horde, I wrote a One Shot for the setting.

SotGH One Shot The Big Brawl v2


My new album of Cthulhu-esque music is out. On this one, I didn’t utilize so much classical instruments. Instead, I used the guitar in many of the pieces. Everything is still very much brooding and ominous, though!

Igne Natura Renovatur Integra

weird news

You won’t see this on Hoarders

“I saw her three days ago, and I said, ‘Is your mother still with us?’ and she said, ‘Yes,'” Kish said to KPIX. “Delusional? She was still with her. She was. She was still with her.

I am super excited about one of my stories from The Other Side of Despair being featured on the latest podcast episode of Random Transmissions. This podcast is super cool and you should go and check out all the episodes!

Random Transmissions