Saturday, January 9, 2016

Welcome to Transylvania, USA

Children of the night.  What music they make!
Listen closely.  Do you hear it?

There's a song seeping through the cracks in reality... a song about monsters.

We laugh at it, maybe hum along to its catchy rockabilly rhythms, see it as a gimmick.

But it's no laughing matter to the people who live in the reality described by its lyrics, a strange land that's equal parts Cold War America and Universal horror movie Old Country.  It's a realm of whimsy and menace, where zombie plagues inspire teen dance crazes, Count Dracula stalks the hot-rod circuit, and Frankenstein's monster is a member of The Beatles.  Our world hears merely a snippet of life in this dimension, through the medium of the novelty monster songs of the 1950s and early 1960s.  But we can only perceive this world on a vinyl disc, darkly.  We've no visceral conception of what it must really be like to have our life depend on winning a dance-off against The Wolf Man.

And so, we laugh, safe on this side of the curtain, convincing ourselves that it's just a silly song. If only we were right...

Transylvania, USA, is a musical horror fantasy setting implied by the lyrics of records found in The Haunted Jukebox.  In Transylvania, USA, it's always the 1950s and the moon is always blue. Doo wop, rock & roll, the Red Menace, classic cars, rebels without causes... it's all here.  And yet... there's always a haunted castle just outside of town, or a mad scientist's secret lab in the high school basement.  The horrors of the night are never far, but they can be held at bay, or even at times defeated, by people in the know, with the right tools.

And as many of Transylvania, USA's young people are learning, the right tools doesn't just mean guns and crosses and wooden stakes.  Lacking easy access to lethal weaponry, they have learned to confront the supernatural with high-school science, cool dance moves, and the power of rock & roll.

Tales from the Haunted Jukebox is a table-top RPG window into the world of Transylvania, USA. Though I prefer "OSR"-style games, and most of what I share here will default to the excellent Lamentations of the Flame Princess rules by James Edward Raggi IV, I hope to write material that's broad enough to work with just about any RPG system, given a few tweaks.

Don't be frightened. I bid you welcome.

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