Monthly Archives: May 2018
When I was a child, the first time I became aware of an upcoming movie or television series was its trailer. So by the time I knew a thing existed, I was exposed to the sounds, actors, lighting, design, and even some of its tone and theme. Similarly I became aware of books and games with their ads, which generally included a cover and excerpt, though admittedly both of those were sometimes created for just the ad.
But my expectations were set not by a name and a hope, but by a small slice of the end product.
Now even then there were industry papers and genre magazines that would talk about upcoming stuff, but they weren’t as commonly available or as all-encompassing as the internet news of today. And as I got older, I did start to find such sources of news, but even then I often got either just a sentence of a thing in production, which didn’t always even have it’s name, or I got more news only when there were set pictures and publicity shots, which still gave me some feel for what kind of entertainment product was being crafted.
That’s not to say I was never surprised, or disappointed, or shocking delighted by the end product. Nor do I claim there were no exceptions (especially sequels) to not knowing about a thing until there was some evidence of what kind of thing it would be in the end. But on the whole even when I wanted news, I knew less, and knew anything for a shorter timeframe, than I do now.
Nor do I have to go looking for such information anymore. Even if I assiduously avoid industry news and genre-based forums and discussion groups, that information makes its way to me. If you are part of social circles that include numerous fans of some genre with entertainment offerings, chances are someone in your group will share, or link, or just tell you about it in person.
And in response to the growing level of knowledge, many creators try to control the expected narrative, engage fans and build trust, and get marketing value out of even the earliest stages of announcements about a new series, movie, game, or novel.
And that builds even more awareness, as it is intended to, but without much more context for what the end product will actually be like.
Though I have no proof of this, I personally believe that both builds a sense of community (along with all the rights and duties a community carries with it) where none truly exists, and that it allows the most passionate fans to build in their imaginations what the end product SHOULD be like long before they have any input on what it WILL be like.
And, in some cases, that leads to consumers of this material feeling like not only CAN their opinions be taken into consideration, but that they SHOULD be. Rather than see the movie or play the game and make a judgement based on what it is, they want their opinions to shape the end result, and are doubly-upset when the final product largely ignores them
Now, there are explicit cases where consumer feedback IS sought out where it can impact the end result, Test screenings, pilot episodes, beta reader copies, and playtests are all places where a company wants to know what the reaction is while there is a mechanism in palce to codify it, and time to adjust the end product. And that’s great.
But AMAs and hidden easter eggs and forum chats often AREN’T that, and people, with their greater awareness of what is coming well before that thing is gelled, are specifically tricked into thinking they are invited to be among the cooks, instead of among the diners.
I’m not claiming this is better or worse… but it feels like a trend that has not hit its apex. And at the minimum, it makes me think about what I am implying is possible, or even desired, when I talk about products I am involved with that don’t yet exist in their final form.
As always, this post is made possible by my Patrons.
Of course you can use any creatures from the Starfinder Alien Archive as threats in a Really Wild West campaign, but in most cases you’ll want to reflavor them to something more appropriate for it’s 1891 aesthetic and technology level.
It’s useful to dream up brand-new threats as well of course, to get foes hat are unique to the dangerous world of pulp theosophy and super-science that is Really Wild West. Here is a very RWW-themed undead, which may be encountered alone or in mass numbers as dictated by the plot. If you want to make different of higher-CR gulchers, just take any undead and replace one of its offensive powers with bad off, add false life, lower its EAC by 2 and raise its KAC by 1.
GULCHER (CR 1)
NE Medium undead
Init +2; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +5
EAC 9; KAC 14
Fort +3; Ref +3; Will +3; DR 3/magic; Immunities undead immunities
Speed 30 ft.
Melee pitchfork (or other tool) +8 (1d6+5 P; critical: bad off) or
Ranged revolver +6 (1d6+1 P)
Special Attacks bad off (DC 11)
Str +4; Dex +2; Con —; Int +0; Wis +1; Cha +0
Skills Athletics +10
Other Abilities unliving
Bad Off (Su)
A gulcher is imbued with the bad times that lead to its sorry state, and can sometimes inflict its bad luck and sad-sack existence on those it hurts. Any attack from a glucher that scores a critical hit causes the target to feel down and out, gaining the sickened condition for 24 hours, or until the target receives a morale bonus (to anything) or is the recipient of a Diplomacy check to improve their attitude.
A gulcher can also attempt to inflict its bad off ability on a creature as a standard action, screaming in contagious misery. Used this way the ability is sense-dependent and the target can negate it with a successful DC 11 Will save.
A DC 11 Mysticism check can identity the nature of a creature being bad off, and reveal the circumstances that negate this effect. Bad off is a curse effect.
False Life (Ex)
A gulcher that doesn’t realize its own true nature is not affected by spells or abilities that only target undead.
Organization solitary, pair, posse (3–12), or settlement (13+)
Gulchers are undead that appear to be gaunt, dirty, badly-tended humans, often dressed in patched and worn prairie clothing, though they can also have the appearance of drovers, gunfolk, miners, merchants, gunfolk, and native people can also become gulchers. Most have sallow skin, yellowed, crooked teeth, stringy hair, and sullen or bloodshot eyes. A few appear jaundiced.
Gulchers are most often normal people who went through a time of despair, tribulation, hunger, and pestilence, and died. But they didn’t notice. Things had been so bad, for so long, that dying would be a relief, and gulchers just don’t expect anything to get better.
As long as a gulcher is unaware it has become an undead, it goes about the dreary and colorless motions of living a life. It eats, if food is available, lies in bed and doesn’t realize it never sleeps, sucks down duststorms and doesn’t realize it should choke. In this state, the gulcher isn’t affected by powers that only effect undead, but it also isn’t immune to fear and emotion effects, and takes the penalties for being shaken at all times (though this is more a dreary lack of verve than true fear).
All this changes if the gulcher is made aware of its state. The easiest way to do this is to deal piercing or slashing damage to it – gulchers have thick, black blood and realize the horrible truth of their state if they see their own tarlike vitae. Evidence of their lifeless existence, lack of food, lack of sleep, and so on, can also be used to convince a gulcher it is no longer living with a DC 15 Diplomacy check. Once it knows that even the peace of the grave is denied it, a gulcher is slowly consumed with a desire to make everyone and everything as pained and hopeless as its own existence.
It’s not unknown for entire towns to become gulchers, often during thunderdusts, droughts, and locust plagues. Sometimes one or two take the gray journey, and their desire to cause misery slowly kill off everyone else in town. Othertimes a real bad situation takes out near everyone most all at once. And sometimes, a drakul, ghul, black spirit, or other bigtime black hat decided to take over a town as a base of operation, and intentionally nurses the despair that causes god-fearin’ folk to become the things other folk fear.
In very rare cases, gulchers perform a useful service, such as toiling at a mostly-played out mine that would be pointless for living creatures to port the food and water needed to operate, operating rickety barges on distant rivers with little traffic, or slowly clearing stones from areas that might, in a few decades, be worthwhile farmlands. Of course, these gulchers are also likely to be angered by the sight of anyone doing better than they, and may drown passengers, or dump scorpions into their sleeping blankets.