Category Archives: Weird and Wonderful

Death on the Reik – Similarities with The Shadow over Innsmouth

WARNING MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR A 1936 NOVELLA AND 1987 RPG ADVENTURE!

I’m a big fan of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WFRP for short) having played it extensively as a teenager in the 80s – I GMed the Enemy Within campaign and several other adventures too. WFRP is going through a bit of a revival at the moment with a new fourth edition due out in 2018 from Cubicle7, and I have even started GMing 1st edition WFRP again with some old friends.

For those who don’t know it WFRP has a gritty, realistic feel to it – it’s set in an Old World much like late medieval Europe and was grimdark before grimdark was a thing (I hate the grimdark tag to be honest – to me it just seems an excuse for violence and misogyny, but really should be about realism and the darker side of human nature, but that’s for another day).

Apparently one of the requests from Games Workshop management for their new RPG game when it first published was to make it more like Call of Cthulhu – the RPG set in Lovecraft’s world of dark horror and ancient evils that lay hidden. WFRP’s Enemy Within campaign certainly took on that atmosphere, with chaos cultists hidden within normal human society, ready to conjure daemons into being – much like the dark forces lurking in Lovecraft’s fiction.

I’ve only started reading Lovecraft recently having got hold of a collection of his work. It’s hard going, but also mesmerising in a way, and also very influential on other horror writers who followed.

Death on the Reik is the second main adventure in the Enemy Within campaign – in it the party follow a trial leading them to Castle Wittgenstein overlooking the river Reik. I have listed all the published adventures for WFRP 1st edition on my site – in the future I’m aiming to flesh out a few more details on each – publication history synopsis etc.

The Shadow over Innsmouth involves a traveller interested in the history of New England who makes the journey to the coastal town of Innsmouth, a place that has fallen into decline and has a bad reputation.

So what about Death on the Reik and The Shadow over Innsmouth? You’d expect with that name the influence might be more for the first main adventure in the campaign – Shadows over Bogenhafen? But actually I think there is some conscious or perhaps subconscious borrowing by the authors of Death on the Reik (Graeme Davis, Jim Bambra and Phil Gallagher) from The Shadow over Innsmouth. Here’s what I think the similarities are:

  • The town of Wittgendorf and Innsmouth have fallen into decline – no one visits anymore – in fact people avoid each town
  • The inhabitants drink rotgut
  • The inhabitants are mutated in some way – chaos mutations in Wittgendorf, the Innsmouth look in Innsmouth – i.e. turning into frog creatures
  • The rulers of each place (the Marsh family and the Wittgenstein family) are recluses, undergo mutations themselves and have brought the decline of their towns upon themselves
  • In the past one of the rulers ancestors brought something back – this has resulted in the mutations – warpstone and something unexplained in Innsmouth (as far as I can tell)
  • Both towns are by the water (bit tenuous!)
  • It’s possible to travel to both places – but visitors are made to feel unwelcome. I.e. these aren’t places that are forbidden, but they are shunned by most outsiders.

There are also plenty of differences of course – but I do think the atmosphere and theme are quite alike – have a read of The Shadow over Innsmouth and see what you think – it was my favourite of the Lovecraft stories I read recently. And if you don’t know WFRP and Death on the Reik – get to it immediately – check out the PDFs on DrivethruRPG, get some friends together and start playing – you won’t be disappointed.

Medieval Remains found under Abbey Toilets

Remains of at least 50 people, all believed to date from 11th and early 12th century, discovered during demolition work to make space for new tower.

They probably pre-date the construction of Westminster Abbey and were probably moved by the workmen in the 13th century building the new building.

Many of the bones, including skulls and leg bones stacked up into dense piles like firewood, were found under Victorian drainage pipes.

Very macabre!

Source: Westminster Abbey lavatory block gives way to medieval burial find | Science | Th5760e Guardian

Mystery of the Medieval Sword Inscription

This 13th-century sword with a gold inscription was likely made in Germany, but was found at the bottom of the River Witham in 1825. Credit: The British Museum
This 13th-century sword with a gold inscription was likely made in Germany, but was found at the bottom of the River Witham in 1825.
Credit: The British Museum

To be honest I thought that the inscription of swords was just something that happened in fantasy books and role-playing games – but it seems not! Most inscriptions were invocations to God to help out the person bearing the sword.

But a certain sword that is currently part of a 1215 Magna Carta exhibit at the British Library has got all the experts stumped, as no-one knows what the following means:

+NDXOXCHWDRGHDXORVI+

I must say that I certainly don’t – the signs of the cross that top and tail the inscription are standard for medieval spells as well, so maybe its a magical inscription – and perhaps that’s why it is so hard to decipher?

You can read the full story at livescience.

 

Medieval Superheroes

Came across this story on the net this morning. Medieval Superheroes – all your favourites, like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Lex Luthor reimagined in Medieval Garb.

I think Wonder Woman’s my favourite – not paticularly Medieval – she looks like she’d be at home in a Conan film – but good nevertheless!

Medieval Wonder Woman

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Writers – Heroes

I was thinking about writing heroes the other day. Those writers who inspired a love of reading in me when I was a kid and also, I suppose, have inspired me to write later in life as well. Here are the writers that I would classify as my heroes.

J.R.R. Tolkien
Michael Moorcock
Robert A. Heinlein
Douglas Reeman
Alastair MacLean
W. E. Johns (creator of Biggles)
Terry Pratchett

I also read a few works by the following when I was a kid and loved them more and more as I got older:

Jack Vance
Gene Wolfe

I would also have give an honourable mention to comics as well. Particularly 2000 AD and Warlord.

Heroes now? There are a lot of writers I admire nowadays, but I’m not sure I would describe them as heroes in the same way. Perhaps hero-worship is something that is more in keeping with childhood?

A Books That Don’t Exist Yet On Your Wish List for Christmas

christmas 2007
christmas 2007 (Photo credit: paparutzi)

I thought it would be cool to compare Christmas wish lists for books, but not wish-lists for actual books that exist. What are the top 5 books you wish were going to be out for Christmas but aren’t because they don’t exist and haven’t been written yet?

  1. Follow-up to Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
  2. A new story featuring Severian the Torturer, courtesy of Gene Wolfe
  3. A new Robert Harris thriller – I’ve read all of them and even sampled one of his non-fiction works!
  4. Lord of the Rings sequel (Sauron fights back) by J. R. R. Tolkien
  5. A decent sequel to Star Wars turned into a decent film as well – i.e. episodes 7 to 9!

What are your most wished for books?

 

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Do you want to study the supernatural in the Middle Ages?

Well you’re unlikely to be able to attend this course (if you are then you’re very lucky!), but if you want to read up on what the supernatural meant in the Middle Ages then I would recommend looking over the course notes for Eileen Joy’s The Medieval Supernatural.

I have created a page on this blog that captures the reading list as I just wanted to make sure I had all the suggestions recorded somewhere. In particular I would recommend the work of Robert Bartlett as a good introduction to the subject.

In a world which is indeed our world, the one we know . . . . there occurs an event which cannot be explained by the laws of this same familiar world.  The person who experiences the event must opt for one of two possible solutions: either he is the victim of an illusion of the senses, of a product of the imagination — and the laws of the world then remain what they are; or else the event has indeed taken place, it is an integral part of reality — but then this reality is controlled by laws unknown to us.
~ from Tzvetan Todorov, The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre
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Back to School Fantasy Fiction – Top 5 Fantasy Novels featuring School or College

Cover of "The Shadow of the Torturer"

A bit of fun for those of you going back to school or college soon – or are parents of those who are!

Here’s my top 5 Fantasy Fiction novels featuring school or college!

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

US Liberal Arts College for wizards – a bit like a grown-up Harry Potter.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

Did we mention Harry Potter – English boarding school for wizards!

The Magicians’ Guild by Trudi Canavan

A guild for magicians, but in essence a college where they learn their stuff.

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett

The girls try to break into the wizards’ University!

The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe

Not a school or College for wizards at last. The narrator of Wolfe’s book starts off in a Guild for Torturer’s where he is learning his trade.

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Zombie Scanner: Are You an iPhone Zombie

Now there’s an App for that!

Publisher Three Rivers Press and author Max Brooks have just released “an iPhone app to survive the coming zombie apocalypse.

Here’s a video about the App:

And some blurb from the website:

As we all know, the world we live in has become a scary place, and the global increase in zombie attacks is of major cause for alarm. Developed by bestselling author and noted zombieologist, Max Brooks, the Zombie Survival Guide Scanner iPhone App is the ideal zombie detector tool. Use your camera-enabled iPhone to scan friends and neighbors and determine their level of infection. Use the app’s sharing functionality to spread the

Don’t be foolish with your most precious asset — life. Hordes of zombies may be stalking you right now without you even knowing it. The Zombie Survival Guide Scanner iPhone App is your first line of defense in an undead world.

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