Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Building A Better Blob

Blobs, jellies, oozes, puddings, slimes... whatever you call them, these lifeforms are uniformly disgusting, relentless, and seemingly unstoppable once they begin to grow.  Blobs have many origins: outer space, mad science, the ocean's deepest depths, magical curses, or whatever else you can dream up. They display a wide range of abilities, colors, toughness, and other special qualities, and about the only thing they all  have in common is a mysterious and insatiable appetite for flesh.

Blobs are arguably the quintessential Fifties monster, or at least an iconic menace of the decade.  Vampires, werewolves, zombies, gill men, mummies, witches, and other traditional horror monsters have much older origins; blobs, however, appear to be a thoroughly modern nightmare.

Use the following tips and tables to make every blob unique.

Common Blob Features
Blobs are amorphous, and can squeeze through spaces as small as 1 cm at their normal movement rate without hindrance.

Blobs are immune to surprise and stealth-based attacks from within 60 ft. of their peripheral mass, and can sense all potential targets and prey within this range as well.

Blobs increase their size, HD, and combat capabilities by absorbing prey.  For every 1d4 HD or levels of prey absorbed, a blob shifts from a smaller size rating to the next largest one, and increases its base Hit Dice by 1 (re-roll all hit points and change only if the total increases).  There is no maximum size for a blob; such a creature could, in principle, grow to engulf an entire town or city, given sufficient food sources (though most blobs only consume flesh, omnivorous varieties that also absorb plants and fungi are conceivable).

Blobs are impervious to most kinds of damage other than their unique weaknesses. This  makes them exceptionally tough opponents, despite their mindlessness.

Standard Attack Forms
Area Attack:  Unless they possess special qualities like pseudo-pods or ambulatory buds, blobs attack prey en masse, by spreading over a given area and absorbing all flesh they engulf.  Thus, they rarely make standard attack rolls.  Instead, they extend their malleable mass over a given area, and all within the area of effect must make Dex-based saving throws (LotFP: vs. breath) to avoid being struck.

Engulf:  Blobs can use sheer bulk to smother prey, and thus absorb them. Any creature composed of flesh and blood that gets caught in a blob's area of effect must check against a standard grapple attack (base the blob's Str or other appropriate score on its size relative to its target).  If the check fails, the prey is covered by the blob's amorphous, gooey mass, and must make a Str-based saving throw (LotFP: vs. paralyze) to even attempt to free themselves.  This save is made at -2 penalty for every point of Str the blob possesses higher than its prey.

Every round the prey is engulfed, it must make a Con-based save (LotFP: vs. poison) or suffocate, facing instant death.  Succeeding on this saving throw is not necessarily a good thing, though, for an engulfed creature also suffers an agonizing 1d6 acid damage per blob HD per round from the blob's digestive secretions.

In addition to the above, more-or-less standard powers, blobs can be individualized with the following tables.

Blob Activators/Attractors
Every blob has a unique “trigger” that attracts it to prey and spurs it into action.
Body heat
Contact with flesh
Teenager music
Teenager sexual pheromones
Radiation (choose type)

Blob Repellants/Weaknesses
Each blob has a unique susceptibility to a certain kind of damage.  Unless otherwise noted, it will be immune to any other kind of attack. There is a 10% chance that attacks based on its weakness cause double damage to a blob.
Light, Concentrated (choose a wavelength)
Magic/Psi Powers (choose specific type)

Blob Salient Abilities
Some blobs can do more than simply spread, grow, and smother prey.  For a more dynamic blob monster, roll twice on the following table, ignoring duplicate results.
Adhesive secretions (as spider climb spell, but no limit on duration)
Ambulant budding (releases swarm of smaller blobs from its main mass, minimum 1 HD ea.)
Contact acid (1d6 per blob HD)
Contact poison (causes paralysis or death; Con-based save required)
Electrical shock (1d6 per blob HD; save for ½ damage)
Gaseous emission (1d4: 1 = charm, 2 = sleep, 3 = paralysis, 4 = death; Con-based save required)
Pseudopods (capable of melee attacks; 1 per 2 blob HD; 1d8 dam per 2 blob HD)
Spores (Con-based save or become infected, transform into new blob in 1d6 days)

Blob Color
Blobs come in a variety of colors.  Sometimes, these are thematically tied to their powers or native environment, but feel free to determine the blob’s color randomly.
Shifting/Camouflaging (-4 to prey’s Search or Spot checks)
Multi-hued (roll 1d4 more times)

Blob “Armor”
Blobs are tough; even hurting them with their unique weakness is sometimes a tall order.  Use this table to determine a blob’s base armor rating.
Blob Base Armor Rating
As unarmored
As leather
As chain
As plate

Blob Base Movement
Not all blobs are ponderous masses of unrelenting jelly.  Some are terrifyingly quick when they need to be.  A blob never has to move at full speed, of course, and some are just cunning enough to try and trick their prey by moving slower than they are actually capable of.
Max Speed
Snail’s pace
¼ Human
½ Human
Full Human
2x Human
4x Human

Blob FX
Many blobs leave traces of themselves in areas through which they have passed.  This makes it easier to track them or detect their presence, should someone be foolhardy enough to try.
Blob trace
Distinct odor
“Eggs”: unhatched vessels contain 1 HD offspring; can be automatically hit
Gory leavings: bones, clothing, metal items, etc., from absorbed prey
Live Spawn: (1/2 blob’s HD)d6 ambulatory  buds from the mother mass
Local mutations: ecology is twisted by blob’s presence; double chances of random monsters
Slime trail

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Demolition Derby & Hot Rod Rules

The spooky soundtrack of the Monster Craze period (on which a Tales campaign is based) emphasizes cars and drag racing nearly as much as rock-n-roll and dancing. Several famous monsters -- notably Count Dracula -- are depicted in song as being obsessed with cars and racing.  Thus, any good Tales campaign should feature copious opportunities for PCs to race for pinks against monsters, or straight-up engage them in demolition-derby-style vehicle combat.

The following house rules are intended for use with LotFP, but can be easily ported to other OSR games based on early versions of "the original roleplaying game."  For systems not using LotFP's "x in 6" skills system, just substitute Dexterity ability checks for Driving skill.
Credit where it's due: I adopted much of these rules from David Baymiller's excellent work at The OSR Library.

Classy Chassis -- Basic Vehicle Body Types
For simplicity's sake, there are six different kinds of gasoline-powered ground vehicles that PCs will commonly encounter: motorcycles, roadsters, town cars, pick-up trucks, small freight trucks, and large freight trucks.  Hot-rodders usually drive modified roadsters, town cars, or pick-up trucks, while motorcycles are the focus of their own subculture.

Each vehicle type has a base AC, hit points, speed in MPH, and number of passengers, detailed in the table below.

Armor Class
Hit Points
1 Driver +
Speed (MPH)
As leather
1 passenger*
Freight Truck, Lg
As chain
2 passengers
Freight Truck, Sm
As chain
2 passengers
Pick-Up Truck
As leather
3 front, 6 bed
As leather
1 passenger
Town Car
As leather
4-7, or 2 + coffin
*Motorcycles can add an additional passenger w/use  of a sidecar
Closed-cabin vehicles grant drivers and passengers 75% cover (+7 to AC in LotFP rules) during person to person combat. Open-cabin vehicles grant 50% cover (+4 to LotFP AC).

Characters on motorcycles use the rules for mounted combat (+1 to LotFP AC, +1 to hit vs. targets on the ground). 

Vehicles & The Driving Skill
Driving is a skill like any other in LotFP; all characters have a default 1 in 6 chance to accomplish tricks or special maneuvers. (If not using LotFP, simply substitute a Dexterity check.) Specialist characters can add their skill points to the Driving skill as normal.

Normal, daily-business driving does not require a skill check. The skill only becomes relevant during special circumstances -- chases, combats, races, and/or stunt driving.

In such cases, a non-Specialist driver can add his or her Dex bonus to their base chance of success, to a maximum of 4 in 6 (from a +3 Dex bonus)... but only if he or she has a higher initiative than the driver opposing them.

Specialists with points in Driving can add their Dex bonus, as well, even if they do not have a better initiative than their opponent.

The listed Speed for each vehicle is its functional maximum speed.  A driver can handle the vehicle safely (without the need for additional Driving skill checks) at half this speed, rounded up.  If moving greater than this speed, the driver of the vehicle suffers a penalty on all Driving skill checks based on how much greater than half-speed the vehicle is traveling.  The penalty is -2 if moving between 50% and 75%  of maximum functional speed.  If moving between 76% and 100%  of max functional speed, the penalty rises to -4 (to a minimum of 1 in 6).

It is possible for a driver to push his or her vehicle 20 MPH beyond its maximum functional speed, but doing so comes at the price of mechanical stress (and possible damage) to the vehicle and further difficulty in handling.  The driver's chance of success on all Driving skill checks drops to 1 in 6 if it has not already done so, and for every 5 rounds of movement at greater than maximum speed, the driver must roll an additional 1d6.  A result of 1 or 2 on this roll means the engine has been damaged, and the driver must now make a Driving skill check at 1 in 6 or suffer a crash and its consequent collision damage to both vehicle and occupants.

A failed Driving check has a serious consequences: the vehicle will either skid or spin (50% chance), and if moving at 30 MPH or more, also has a chance of rolling at the end of its skid or spin.

Skid:  The vehicle moves a distance equal to 1/2 its current MPH in feet. At the end of this skid, the driver makes a Driving skill check at -2 penalty (to a minimum of 1 in 6) or the vehicle comes to a complete stop... unless it was traveling more than 30 MPH.  In this case, a failed Driving check causes the vehicle to roll. Any collision resulting from a skid inflicts collision damage as normal (see below).

Spin: The vehicle spins wildly for the rest of the round, and ends up facing a random direction (roll 1d8) relative to its original trajectory.  The driver makes a Driving skill check at -4 (to a minimum of 1 in 6).  If successful, he or she can continue moving the vehicle in whichever direction it is now facing.  If the check fails, the vehicle skids to a stop, as above, but now facing its new direction.  As above, if the vehicle was traveling more than 30 MPH when it entered the spin, a failed Driving skill check at the end of the spin sends the vehicle into a roll.  Any collision resulting from a spin inflicts collision damage as normal (see below).

Roll:  The vehicle rolls in a straight line for a number of feet equal to its current MPH x 1d6.  Damage to the vehicle and its occupants is calculated as per normal collision damage (see below), but the roll inflicts an extra 2d6 (total damage to occupants is calculated after all damage is rolled).

Demolition Derby! -- Vehicle Combat
Combat or races between vehicles begin with a normal initiative check, but the roll is made by whichever character is driving the vehicle.  If group initiative is not being used, passengers in the vehicle act on their own initiative, as normal.

During a combat or race round, a vehicle moves 10 ft. per its current speed in MPH (thus, a car going 50 MPH moves 500 ft. during a round).  Challenges that appear during this movement -- barricades, holes, other traffic, pedestrians, animals or monsters in the road -- require further Driving skill checks to avoid.  Failure on these checks incurs the consequences described above, and the damage described below.

The driver of a vehicle engaged in combat with another vehicle adds his or her Dex bonus to their own vehicle's AC.  Vehicle AC is improved by a further +1 per 20 MPH of movement, but only if the vehicle in question is traveling across its attacker's path, not towards it or away from it.

Tires: Automobile tires have a base AC as leather, regardless of the AC of the rest of the vehicle, and can be popped with piercing or slashing attacks.  Attacks against tires are at -4 to hit when the vehicle is in motion.

Each time a tire on a moving vehicle is popped, the driver must make a Driving skill check at -1 penalty per tire (to a minimum of 1 in 6) or crash the vehicle.  Make this check every round until the vehicle stops.

Automobile Damage: A vehicle taken to 1/2 its hit points is so damaged that its driver is at -2 on all Driving skill checks.

Vehicles reduced to 0 hit points cease functioning altogether, and must be repaired or rebuilt before they can be used again.

Vehicles that collide with other objects take and inflict 1d6 hp of damage per 10 MPH they are traveling at the time of impact.  Creatures inside the vehicle suffer 1/2 of this total damage.  Objects struck by the vehicle suffer the same damage as the vehicle itself.

Creatures struck by the vehicle take the listed damage, but the vehicle in question only takes 1d6 damage.

If two vehicles hit each other head on, they each suffer the cumulative damage of both impacts.  For example, a car traveling 30 MPH inflicts 3d6 damage, and a car traveling 50 MPH inflicts 5d6 damage.  If these two cars collide head-on with each other, they both suffer 8d6 damage.

Vehicle Occupants During Combat: Attacking the occupants of another vehicle during vehicle combat is a normal ranged attack roll.  The occupants' AC is their normal AC + cover bonus + the driver's Dex bonus.

Attacks between the occupants of different moving vehicles are  made at no penalty if traveling across even surfaces.  Rough terrain or other complications may impose penalties as the GM decides, however.

Occupants take normal damage from ranged or melee attacks made against them by the occupants of other vehicles.  As noted above, they take 1/2 damage from all collisions (except sideswiping) and other catastrophes suffered by the vehicle in which they are traveling.  This damage can be reduced by a further 25% by the use of a seat belt.

Ramming:  If two vehicles are attempting to ram each other, the drivers of both make normal ranged attack rolls at +4 bonus.  If both drivers succeed but do not tie, the driver who rolled lowest takes the normal damage to their vehicle, and must also make a Driving skill check or enter either a skid or a spin, followed by a roll, if appropriate.  If both drivers fail their attack rolls, nothing happens and their vehicles continue moving in their current directions.

If the drivers both succeed on their attack rolls and the rolls are tied, then both vehicles suffer the appropriate damage, and both drivers must make skill checks or lose control of their vehicles.

Ramming another vehicle from behind has the following effect: subtract the target vehicle's MPH from the attacking vehicle's MPH, and the result is the number of d6 damage both vehicles suffer.

T-boning another vehicle inflicts the MPH damage of the ramming vehicle on both vehicles.

Sideswiping or grazing another vehicles inflicts 1d6 damage to each vehicle, but none to occupants.  Forcing another vehicle off the road or into an obstacle is considered a ramming attack, as above.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Bo Diddley, Monster Hunter

Ellas McDaniel, known to the youth culture of Transylvania USA as Bo Diddley, is more than just a musical prodigy and hit songster.  Though he maintains a successful recording career that allows him to tour the country more or less continuously, he has secretly added monster-hunting to his list of endeavors.

Bo Diddley's obsession with destroying creatures of darkness is fed by a deep sense of guilt and regret.  A couple of years ago, his young wife was kidnapped by a purple people eater, and never heard from again.  Worse, the creature taunted him about it for weeks, convincing him that he could have saved her if only he'd not rushed off for his latest out-of-town gig.  Bo tries to hold on to the hope that he'll see his wife again one day, but deep down knows the  truth: she was eaten by the monster, as so many others secretly have been over the years since purple people eaters were first sighted on Earth.

Since that day, Bo has committed himself to confronting the darkness whenever he can.  He uses his music touring as a cover for clandestine investigations into the supernatural, and has cultivated a network of contacts across the country who suspect the truth as he does, and thus aid him in his quest.  It is in this capacity that the PCs will probably encounter him.

Bo Diddley makes an excellent patron for low-level characters.  Perhaps, after their first brush with the supernatural, he recruits them to be the opening act or support crew on his next tour.  Or their paths cross inadvertently when they are pursuing the same prey. Whatever the case, his skills should be impressive enough to them that they would think themselves fools for turning down his offer of alliance.

NOTE ON RACE:  Segregation and casual racism exist in Transylvania USA just as they did in the real world.  DJs (GMs) and  players interested in exploring themes of discrimination and prejudice in their campaign should therefore take note of the fact that despite his fame and influence, there are just some doors that will always be closed to Bo Diddley, thus making his quest more difficult.  Though he has some white contacts in the hunter community, there are none that he trusts with his life.  Perhaps PCs could fill this gap, and thus find themselves facing many purely human monsters in their larger quest.

Bo Diddley
6th level Neutral specialist

Cha 18, Con 12 , Dex 15, Int 11, Str 9, Wis 12

Saves: Paralyze 11, Poison 12, Breath 14, Device 13, Magic 12

AC 13, HP 23

Dance Skill:  The Twist, 3 in 6
Musical Skill: Guitar, 4 in 6

Other Skills:
Search, 3 in 6
Sneak Attack, 2 in 6
Singing, 5 in 6
Songwriting, 5 in 6
Stealth, 2 in 6
Tinker, 3 in 6

Pistol, revolver -- (1d10 damage, Short Range 200 ft, Medium range 400 ft, Long range 800 ft)
Switchblade -- (1d4)

Special: Bo Diddley plays a customized Gretsch G6138 guitar that is, unbeknownst to him, tinged with a bit of magic power (perhaps a remnant of his wife's love).  As long as he wields it, Bo is +2 on all saves vs. Magic, and gets a +1 bonus in musical challenges against alien monsters.  However, he will slowly become addicted to the instrument over time, and must make a save vs. device at -4 penalty to part with it for more than 12 hours. If the guitar is out of his sight for longer than this period, he will display symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia, and suffer -2 on all his rolls until reunited with it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Musical Menace -- Purple People Eaters

Source: Kiley Beecher
Widely believed to be extraterrestrial in origin, these carnivorous creatures are deceptively innocent upon first glance.  The monsters' simple love of playing music ingratiates them to humans quite easily. And a purple people eater, after all, is famous for only eating purple people, which would seem to put most denizens of Earth in the safe zone.  But do not let their whimsical facade fool you: purple people eaters are among the most dangerous monsters you are ever to encounter... especially if they are hungry.

The beings try to keep their hunting of Earth people a secret, but there is at least one documented incident of a purple people eater kidnapping (and presumably eating) a human: the wife of R&B and rock & roll star Bo Diddley, who has since dedicated his life to hunting the creatures and other monsters [1].

Powers (System Neutral):
  • Purple people eaters have several attack forms linked to the horn on their head.  First, they can play a tune that will cause targets to dance uncontrollably until reaching total exhaustion.  Second, they can play another tune that mesmerizes audiences, rendering them more susceptible to surprise attacks or suggestion.
  • The great big eye of a purple people eater has a ray attack that immobilizes prey... and alters the biochemistry of their prey's flesh, making it easier to digest (and, not incidentally,  turning it purple in color).
  • Purple people eaters are known to fly under their own power, and given some eyewitness accounts of their speed (again, see the testimony of Bo Diddley), may actually possess minor teleportation powers.
  • The have natural weaponry in the form of sharp teeth and claws, and are capable of swallowing prey whole. 
  • Being intelligent extraterrestrials, purple people eaters can be equipped with energy weapons or other alien technology that aids them.
  • Finally, they have also been known to consort with some of Earth's less scrupulous witches and warlocks [2], and so may be in possession of potions, scrolls, staffs, or wands that augment their abilities or effect those of their enemies.
LotFP/OSR Stats:
Armor: as chain (LotFP -- AC 16)  
HD: 10  HP: 63
Speed: As human, or 3x human flying
Intelligence: 18
Musical Challenge: 5 in 6 skill on Horn

-- 2 attacks per round, or 1 use of power per round
-- Bite: +10 to hit, 1d8 damage
-- Claws (2): +10 to hit, 1d4 damage
-- Charm Person or Mass Charm Person: each is a separate tune played through the horn in its head, cast as 12th level Magic-User
-- Eye Raypower word stun as 12th level Magic-User; the ray also alters the target's biochemistry unless a successful save vs. magic is rolled.  Failure  means the victim has been transformed into a creature adapted to the purple people eater's home ecology, and is now bio-available for digestion.  Success means the victim is still stunned, but cannot be digested by the monster. 
-- Grapple: +11 to hit with 14 Str
-- Irresistible Dance: music from the monster's long horn causes one victim within 20 ft. of the creature to dance uncontrollably for 1d4+1 rounds (save vs. magic negates).  The victim cannot do anything else during this time, and suffers -4 to AC as well as loss of ability to make further saving throws.
-- Swallow Whole: on a successful Grapple, victim must save vs. paralyze or be swallowed.  A subsequent save vs. paralyze is required to escape instant death.

-- Dimension door 3x/day

[1] Bo Diddley's Testimony about  his encounter with a purple people eater.
[2]The Big Bopper witnesses a purple people eater consorting with witches.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Classes in Transylvania, USA

A Tales campaign features most of the options available in the default LotFP rules, though not necessarily in the same ways.  There are no demihumans wandering the land, and traditional Clerics and Magic-Users don't suit the concept very well (though the DJ [GM] is free to allow any option she likes).  Here are some guidelines for molding the standard options into a Transylvania USA campaign.
  • Fighters are tough guys/gals, brawlers, recent military veterans, and so on.  Their game stats remain the same.
  • Specialists, as well, remain unchanged in a Tales campaign, though they have a wider range of skills to draw from.
  • Clerics & Magic-Users don't really fit into Transylvania, USA, but there are other ways to obtain their magic (see below).
  • All PCs in the Tales are human, so the Elf class does not exist.  The Dwarf and the Halfling can both be re-skinned as human classes (see below).
Also called delinquents or hoodlums, greasers are working-class youths characterized by their distinctive hair-styles, clothing, and love of hot rods.  Educated in the school of hard knocks, greasers channel their pent-up frustrations through membership in street gangs and scorn for suburban life.  They live rough, tough lives on the street, often come from broken homes, and are the best combat characters other than fighters.

Greaser characters use the Dwarf advancement table, replacing the Architecture skill with the Automotive skill.  Also like Dwarfs, they get a +1 bonus their Constitution modifier, and continue applying this modifier to their hit points gained after 9th level; and can use the Press or Defensive Fighting options in combat.

Miraculously, some people remain untainted by the darkness that has infected the world.  While not necessarily naive, they are able to witness or confront horrors without having their own souls twisted by the experience.  They are often a great source of comfort to others; even those who mock them publicly will turn to them for help in private when the need is great enough.

Innocents advance as Clerics, but do not cast spells.  Instead, they begin with a 2 in 6 score in the Piety skill, which improves at the same rate as the Elf's Search skill.

The Piety skill allows characters to use the turn vampire spell* at will, to cast the bless spells necessary for making holy water, or to cast cleric spells from scrolls, as per the normal LotFP rules for clerical scroll use.
*In a Tales campaign, only vampires can be turned in the normal fashion.  All other undead beings have  unique weaknesses that must be discovered and exploited.


Children often perceive threats that adults cannot or will not acknowledge.  Some even dedicate themselves to fighting these threats, inspired by great heroes of TV and comic books.  The most precocious of them ingratiate themselves to teenagers or young adults who will at least give lip service to vouching for them with the grown-ups. This gives the kid more social freedom to pursue agendas unsupervised by Big Daddy.

Kid characters use the Halfling advancement table, but replace the Bushcraft skill with the Stealth skill.  They also add 1 to their Dexterity modifier, and get a +1 bonus  to AC when not surprised. Kids cannot use large weapons, and must use medium sized weapons two-handed.

Witch (Warlock)
Experts in the arcane and esoteric, feared and misunderstood more than anyone (except maybe commies), witches are tolerated at the fringes of society for only two reasons: their propensity for selling love potions, and their skill at controlling or combating the supernatural.  Though they rarely operate openly, witches tend to stay out of the limelight for their own protection.

Witch characters advance as Magic-Users, except that they do not memorize and cast daily spells.  Instead, they begin the game with a 2 in 6 score in the Alchemy and Witchcraft skills.  One of these skills (player's choice) advances at the same rate as the Elf's Search skill, while the other one remains at a base 2 in 6 chance perpetually.

The Alchemy skill allows characters to brew potions using spells they read off of scrolls or out of spellbooks.  Witchcraft allows characters to activate Magic-User scrolls, staffs, or wands.

Making The Band

Playing to a packed haunted house
Campaigns in Tales from the Haunted Jukebox put the focus on the "band" in "band of adventurers."  If every party member chooses a different musical skill, the group can actually serve as a literal rock & roll band (after all, those are known to wander countrysides in search of fame, glory, and riches, just like mighty-hewed barbarians and crafty rogues).  Alternatively,  if they all choose to focus on Singing, they could be a traveling doo-wop group.

In either case, as they tour the music circuit and try to work their way to fame and fortune, the party will regularly encounter forces of darkness and the macabre.  Thus, the campaign becomes one of fighting monsters with the power of music, instead of (or alongside) a trusty switchblade.

Drag-racing will be a major way of settling conflicts and defeating challenges in a Tales campaign, as well, so having someone on hand who's good at driving and fixing cars is also a good idea.

Of course, characters don't have to be in a band.  Instead, they could be a wandering biker or greaser gang, a group of traditional Universal horror movie monster hunter types, or anything else appropriate to "the Fifties."  However, to keep that musical horror fantasy feel, PCs should still have musical and dancing skills to call upon.

As noted in my previous post, all characters in the Tales can choose one musical skill and one dancing skill, in addition to their normal class abilities.  An ideal formation is a party of four or five characters, each with a different musical focus (Guitar, Bass, Drums, Singing being the classic line-up, though Piano or Horns can fit in, as well).

New LotFP skills that will be relevant in the Tales are listed below. 

Alchemy (the ability to brew potions)
Automotives (repairing and enhancing cars)
Dancing (choose one)
Mad Science
Musical Instrument (choose one)
Piety (using purity of heart to access Cleric scrolls and rituals)
Witchcraft (use of Magic-User wands, scrolls and rituals)

Members of the LotFP Specialist class can allocate skill points to these skills as normal, if they choose.  Other character types will have access to one or two of these skills on a limited basis, depending on their class.

The inclusion of Alchemy,  Piety, and Witchcraft as skills should tell you that I personally wouldn't include traditional Clerics and Magic-Users in a Tales campaign. That leaves Fighters and Specialists, and versions of the Dwarf and Halfling both re-skinned as human classes.  Maybe one or two other new classes. More about that in a later post.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Dance-Offs & Musical Challenges

Monsters,  it turns out, like to dance and sing.  This often curdles the blood of mortals who witness it, but it is a fact nonetheless.  And some more adventurous mortals have learned it's possible to beat the monsters at their own game.

When a monster is encountered, it can possibly be turned or defeated by challenging it to a dance-off or musical battle.  But the catch is, the reverse is also true!  Monsters in such contests against PCs  can potentially turn or destroy them, as well.

Both parties use the turn table described in the turn undead spell, with the loser suffering the listed effect.  Generous DJs (that is, GMs) can allow PCs a saving throw vs. paralyze to resist a monster's turning effect on them if they fail, but players are never entitled to this.

The roll for both parties can be modified by their skill aptitude in a given musical instrument or dance routine, as noted below.

Every PC and many important monsters in a Tales from the Haunted Jukebox campaign should have both a musical/singing skill and a dance specialty in one of the more popular dances of the 50s and early 60s.  One of these skills begins at a 2 in 6 chance of success and advances at the same rate as the elf's Search skill.  The other skill begins at a 3 in 6 chance of success and advances at the same rate as the dwarf's Architecture skill.  Treat a monster's HD as its level for purposes of determining how skilled it is at its listed musical and dance abilities.

Success on a dance or musical skill roll grants the character or monster a +2 bonus on their next turn attempt.

Note that in a Tales campaign, this is the only way any character can turn a non-vampire undead being.  In Transylvania, USA, only vampires are susceptible to non-dance or non-musical turn attempts.

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.