Spiderman in the Marvel Comics has had a lot of memorable foes. From the more comical such as Shocker and Rhino. To the deathly serious in Green Goblin and Kingpin. Peter Parker and his many fellow Spider-Folks have no shortage of villains who left a mark on the minds of fans. But for me, it was always one villain that was memorized in this ol’ skull the most. Or rather, as I soon came to discover, a group. More like a plague when you think about it.
The Symbiotes. These alien menaces would bind to the most heroic of crusaders, granting them a boon of immense power. At the cost of what made them so heroic. They would prey upon the impulses that, in moderation, make us human. Anger. Hate. Jealousy. Pain. Only, they weren’t content with those impulses remaining moderate. They would take the knob and wind it all the way up to the max. These symbiotes would turn heroes into villains.
And as a kid, that both fascinated and scared the ever living hell out of me. These beings were like the zombie virus storylines on adrenaline. They don’t just turn you into a monster. They do it slowly. They whittle away at who you are, amplifying the parts you’d rather forget and minimizing the aspects you hold dear, bit by bit. They turn your love to obsession. They turn your courage to fanaticism. They turn you into…..well, NOT-you.
And when I think of the idea of horror stories in Marvel, I can’t get closer than the idea of a well done symbiote story. Barring Immortal Hulk, cos that’s friggin’ amazing.
So, let’s discuss how to do a symbiote story in Masks. Let’s discuss horror in Masks: A New Generation.
It’s Devil’s night, and a warm wind is blowing. Carousers and arsonists swarm through the streets, thinking themselves at the top of the food chain. How wrong they are. Still, caution is deserved…all it takes is one of them getting a bit too happy with one of those smartphones, and suddenly new foes are on your doorstep. It used to be that a Kindred only had to worry about others of their kind, or some of the other supernatural creatures that bumped in the night. Mortals were catspaws, beneath notice, the few hunters more of a distraction for all but the most careless of the Kinde. That was before Vienna and London. Now, no Kindred with half a brain underestimates them…which seemingly excludes a shocking number of your Elders. Still, their (un?)timely Final Death serves a purpose: finally, finally, finally there are holes at the top, room to advance, to actually make some real change. But until then…well, needs must be met: A Beast you are, lest a Beast you become. You spy an increasingly drunk punk rocker type, working through his second bottle of liquor as he stumbles down a side street. Yes, he’ll do nicely…
I have a confession to make: I’m a fan of vampires in fiction. I honestly think that they are an excellent concept in supernatural action and horror, largely due to much of their mythos having easy ties to profound themes such as seduction, addiction, lost innocence, alienation, and the loss of humanity. Toss in a large chunk of my formative years suffused with badass supernatural bloodsuckers brought to life in films such as Blade, Underworld, Interview with the Vampire, and Queen of the Damned (plus TV shows such as Buffy, Angel and Hellsing) and you get a player who, even now, gets giddy at the chance to play in a game with a vampire focus. So when I find out that the company that is both behind my favorite Powered by the Apocalypse game (Masks) and already knows how to do horror well (Bluebeard’s Bride) already has such a game on the shelf…well, I couldn’t stay away. Which is what has brought me to Undying by Magpie Games.
Gaming news and games we Can’t Let Go, Happy Horror Stories wherein things went awry on the table in the best way, and a four-way pitch fight for the best Halloween One-Shot RPG in this episode of CHR!
You had heard the whispers for a long time: someone up high was on the take, and people who stepped out of line had a habit of vanishing. The town had been a hive of villainy long enough, what was a couple more people on the take…but things got stranger. There was a buzz on the street and strange rumors: people vanishing and returning a bit off, politicians showing up dead and eaten from the inside out. But it was none of your business until she walked in…she had legs for days, just not in the way you thought…and her idea of biting your head off turned a bit too literal for your taste. Before, you might have chalked it up to a bad client, but now…now you’re in too deep and if you’re not careful, you’ll be left as just a shell, a reminder of your former self, an . . . Exuviae.
I duck behind a car for a moment, trying to catch my breath. Silencing the voices in my head is no easy feat, but I need a clear mind if I’m going to make it out of this alive. Check my pistol, three shots left. Check my shoulder, clean exit wound. We expected armed guards, we just didn’t expect them to be lead by a rampaging arch-demon. How did these mercenaries even manage to summon that thing?
Welcome to The ORPHEUS Protocol, a game of cult infiltration, mind-numbing monsters, and spy-thriller action. Have the urge to play a coven of monster-exterminating witches? How about a traveling exorcist and his werewolf companion? Maybe a militant team of cyborgs who are also ghost hunters? Buckle your seatbelts eldritch fans, things are about to get weird.
A son learning the truth about his father, a father his mother escaped from. A teacher alone on the cold school grounds, caught between a marriage offer and the street. A ‘patient’ confined to the halls of the insane, questioning her own mind. A showgirl trapped among the carnival’s tents as surely as the locked doors of a manor. A guard finding herself locked up with the prisoners instead of them being locked up with her. Bluebeard’s Bride is a game of feminine horror from Magpie Games, wherein the eponymous bride finds herself wandering her husband’s home, experiencing the horrors within, and facing a terrible choice. When the Bride looks into a shattered mirror, however, her image splits and warps into something new. Such is what happens in the latest supplement for Bluebeard’s Bride, the Book of Mirrors!
When we typically think of supernatural horror and someone mentions a Mythos, they are almost always referring to HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, and all the assorted otherworldly monsters and non-Euclidean geometry that goes along with that. Fortunately, Lovecraft wasn’t the only author trying his hand at the weird and horrifying. Robert Chambers wrote a sequence of four stories, collected in a book entitled The King in Yellow. Taking place in two settings, contemporary (1895) Paris and an imagined future America, the stories of The King in Yellow center around a strange symbol, the Yellow Sign, a mysterious figure, the King in Yellow, and a written play with strange effects, also named The King in Yellow. Chambers’ stories are considered hallmarks of occult fiction, and even Lovecraft himself borrowed from Chambers’ work. As such, it only made sense that someone would give them an RPG treatment, much like the one bestowed upon Call of Cthulhu. Robin D. Laws wrote The Yellow King for Pelgrane Press using the GUMSHOE system, but gave special attention to Chambers’ style of mind-bending horror, and extended his worldbuilding a little bit. The Yellow King has not two but four unique settings included with the game, and each one has a slightly unique version of the game, tailored to the conflicts and conceits of the setting. What’s more, the game is set up to play a sprawling arc of weird fiction across all four.
There’s always been a bit of mystique and fascination with fighter pilots from the days of the Red Baron, so it should be no surprise that there has been a fascination with those same tight dogfights IN SPAAAAAAAACE!!! Space fighters have been a big part of the Space Opera for decades, popping up in places as varied as the venerable Mobile Suit Gundam and Macross franchises (as forerunners to the famous mecha), to harder sci-fi novels such as the LAC’s in Honor Harrington, but probably the biggest exposure has come through Star Wars, with starfighter v. starfighter combat being staples of the movies, the well loved X-wing and TIE Fighter franchises, and a long stretch of novels in the Expanded Universe that brought fans fleshed out and loved characters in the form of Wedge Antilles and Corran Horn. And so the concept of these awesome space fights has been brought to us in tabletop form by our good friends over at Evil Hat with their new installment, Tachyon Squadron!
Horror gaming has a long and storied history, starting as far back as 1981 with Call of Cthulhu. When Vampire: The Masquerade came out a decade later, new fans were drawn into RPGs by the appeal of a game that combined horror, violence, and romance. Both of these properties are still going strong, alongside other games that emphasize the supernatural (like Urban Shadows) or the Mythos (like Delta Green). When you combine the popularity of these games with the multitude of genres that use horror elements (Ravenloft or Warhammer in fantasy, Eclipse Phase in science fiction), it’s easy to see that horror is a big draw at the gaming table, even if it can be difficult to do right. Here to help, for one of the unlikeliest systems possible, is Evil Hat, with the Fate Horror Toolkit.