Category Archives: Anachronistic Adventurers

#MoviePitch: The Vampire (A Universal Monster Shared Universe Concept)

How do you get a Universal Pictures Monsters shared universe off the ground? By focusing on making one awesome story that stands on its own, but does so in a way that picks up threats from the most popular such movies in recent memory, is inclusive and modernized, and hints at a larger world without taking time away from the things important to your first film. Here’s my pitch:

It is 1950. In communist Romania, Alex O’Connell (early30s white, British, he/him) manages to gain permission for an archaeological team to catalog and record items being removed from an ancient abbey in the Carpathian Mountains prior to its demolition as part of a plan to build a massive road to access the Transylvanian Plain. The Romanian official warns Alex he is only doing this as a favor to Alex’s parents, who were allies during the War and in the troubled years afterward.

Alex brings the good news to Jonsey Johnson (early 30s, black, French/American dual citizen with links to Paris and Harlem), the head of expedition security, and Doctor Mary Jessica Van Helsing (early 30s, white, Dutch, she/her), the expedition’s leader. The three talk about the archaeological value of such a mission, as well as the political and regional dangers, and all three hint their parents raised them to be… cautious. Alex has a cat. Jonsey has a German shepherd. Mary has a fancy white rat. The three animals get along surprisingly well.

Meanwhile at the abbey, looters are holding local workers at gunpoint, forcing them to use their digging tools to break through the back of the abbey’s basement wall. The looters have an old map that claims the “Eyes of the Dragon” have been locked away in a secret chamber. The looters think these are gems.

But the Eyes of the Dragon actually refers to Dracula, who leaks out of a tomb under the Abby in a mist form when the wall is cracked, and one by one turns the looters and workers into his ghoul minions. Only one manages to flee out of the abbey, into the sunlight.

Alex, Jonsey, and Mary (and their expedition) reach the base camp at one end of the Carpathian pass, but find it abandoned. Both become very suspicious, and eventually find the survivor, who explains what he saw. Alex asks if there were hieroglyphics, or Chinese or Aztec symbols. Confused, the worker says no. Jonsey asks if there were vials, chemical agents, or signs of drugmaking. More confused, the worker says no. Mary asks if there were signs of dragons and inverted crosses. The survivor says there were… maybe. He wasn’t paying much attention.

The expedition decides to send the laborer back to the big city with half the expedition’s Romanian guards, to report the attack to the government. Alex, Joney, and Mary all three slip him letters to send to their respective parents, each without the others knowing.

That night, the base camp is attacked by ghouls. The main character’s pets all send up warnings, allowing Alex, Jonsey, and Mary to gear up with their respective monster hunting equipment. (Alex’s are in the false bottom of a steamer trunk. Jonsey’s are stashed in muscial instrument cases. Mary’s are secreted away in a hidden drawer of her traveling work desk.) During the fight, they run into each other, and realize they all have anti-monster experience.

Mary: “You’ve fought vampires before?”

Alex: “Vampires? Those are real?! No, mummies. Mostly, And one dragon.”

Jonsey: “Mummies are real? I’ve fought vampires and a dragons, yeah. Never a mummy.”

Mary: “Dragons? Like, fire-breathing flying lizards? Those are real?!”

Curious as to how his ghoul’s attack was repulsed, Dracula visits the camp the next day. He asks one of their team-members if he can enter the camp, and is told yes, causing Dracula to give a big smile. He goes up to Alex, Jonsey, and Mary, and asks if they were the ones to treat his pets so harshly the night before. Alex begins to draw down on Dracula, but Jonsey stops him, asking the vampire if he was invited into the camp. He affirms he was, and Jonsey rolls her eyes. Mary then tells Alex a vampire can’t attack them while he is their guest, and if he is attacked they’ll be cursed.

Alex notes he thought vampires couldn’t move about in daylight. Dracula asks where he got that idea, and Mary confirms it’s true for some vampires, but not Carpathians. Jonseynotes it doesn;t apply to a lot of Non-western bloodsuckers.

Dracula says he is unsurprised they were able to send his servants fleeing, because Alex reminds him of his most beloved servant and general. Almost as if the spirit of Dracula’s dear friend was reincarnated in Alex.

Mary asks Alex if he could be a reincarnation of Dracula’s beloved friend. Alex shrugs, and says it runs in the family. Jonsey, meanwhile, tells Mary she quits, and walks away. Alex is flustered Jonsey would quit NOW, but Jonsey points out her name is on the papers the Romainian government signed too, so she can set up her own camp if she wants to. Mary tells him not to worry, she trusts Jonsey.

Dracula suggests Alex leave the expedition and join him. Jonsey is seen getting people to take down her tent, and draws a line in the dirt, loudly telling Alex and Mary that anything on her side of the line is now HER camp, and screw them. Dracula seems amused, and begins to talk about how hard help is to get these days, when Mary distracts him by noting Dracula still has some scars from where he was injured last century, and wonders how long it took him to heal from that near-death. He is angered and suspicious, and asks her how she knows about his last conflict. She tells him her family name, and he looses some of his cool and nearly attacks her.

In the background, Jonsey has gotten all the expedition members to set her tent BACK up. Alex asks if she is leaving, or not, and she tells him if he has a question for her, he can come over where she is and ask her. Alex has his father’s confused-and-annoyed expression, but Mary grabs his arm and hauls him across the line Jonsey drew in the dirt. All the remaining expedition workers are around Jonsey’s tent. Dracula goes to follow, but stops up short at the line, as if hitting a barrier.

Jonsey says she didn’t invite him into HER camp. Alex grins, and he and Jonsey and Mary unload at Dracula, who is taken by surprise and flees.

The plot can proceed from there along pretty typical adventure/horror lines — Alex, Jonsey, and Mary decide Dracula is growing stronger by the day, and they can’t wait to stop him, so they go after him in the tomb complex. The three have different and complimentary skills, and make a good team. They hunt down Dracula and seem to destroy him, but when he “dies,” a gem that looks like a snake eye falls to the ground. Mary realizes this is one of the two legendary Eyes of the Dragon, relic of the Order of Dracul, and it’s how Dracula survived her grandfather’s assault in the late 1800s. Alex smashes it, and asks how many such gems there are. Mary says two, and three agree they need to find and destroy the other one.

Searching through in notes found in the camp of the Looters who released Dracula, they find that there were two places the Looters thought the Eyes of the Dragon might be. One was here. The other was Castle Frankenstein, and there is a map to a Lost Lab of Frankenstein’s, which might hold the secret location of his original Castle.

End movie.

Castle Frankenstein then becomes the next movie. In that story, Alex, Jonsey, and Mary seek to find Castle Frankenstein, but find they are competing with a man who can become invisible, who apparently is part of an evil occult organization…. and a little mad. During the source of that movie, it’s revealed some of Doctor Frankenstein’s reagents for creating life came from a lost Black Lagoon, and Frankenstein had sent Igor on an expedition there to gather more materials just days before the villagers stormed his castle, which is why Igor wasn’t around when that happened. There’s no note saying if Igor ever came back…

As the Shared Universe expands, I can get Wolfman, the Phantom of the Opera, and even the Hunchback into this if the first few are successful. The original characters from The Mummy (1999) as occasional support characters. Like, if the Invisible Man’s formula turns out to need blood of an ifrit of the djinn, who are naturally invisible, one of the movies can include a backup appearance by Oded Fehr as Ardeth Bay. And, of course, we can bring in elements from Mary and (rightholders willing) Jonsey’s families as well.

Both heroes and villains expand their plans, form allies, and build toward the end of the first story arc, a final showdown with Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and the Woflman. But even that is only the FIRST story arc…

(Art by WavebreakmediaMicro)

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The Diary of Ardra Maias

“Of course, Doctor Frankenstein did not begin his work with human corpses. Not for ethical reasons, you understand, but simply because they were difficult to acquire, and until his work progressed to a stage where human trials were needed, there was no point.

“His earliest experiments on revivification were on marmots, easily bought from trappers near his family’s Swiss home. There were far more failures than successes, of course, and were it my preview I would condemn the man to perdition on the basis of what he did to those alone.

“Even so, in time he brought a marmot to life, indeed my current companion Vivo is that first, fully-revived marmot, though in Vivo’s case no surgery had been needed. The Doctor had killed him under exacting conditions, and revivified him moments later.

“I have often marveled at Vivo, for while he has all the robustness and vitality of all we mortiborn, unlike the majority of us he is a peaceful, caring creature. Well capable of defeating a predator ten times his mass, Vivo would prefer affection to affrontation. Bless him.

“But from there, the hubristic doctor did decide he must move to primates, if not yet humans, to perfect his procedure. No large primates being common in Italy or Switzerland, he had to order them bespoke. But hunting expeditions to Borneo were common enough, and he was rich.

“Indeed, I am unsure how many evils would never have been visited upon this world had the Frankenstein family not been one of vast resource and reputation. In the century-and-on of my existence, I have found more evils traced to rich, well-respected men than any other beast.

“So, vile Frankenstein had no difficulty having Indonesian and Malaysian orangutans captured and brought to him. It was thought perhaps he wanted a menagerie, such as at London’s Exeter Exchange. Many were sick and died after arrival, but that too suited his needs.

“I am uncertain how many of my distant cousins, living or dead, he constructed me from. Close examination of my form and logic dictates no less than seven, but without taking my internal organs apart — an act I have always objected to — an exact accounting is impossible.

“I have been told, repeatedly, by anatomists that my brain, at least, must be human, rather than native to my orangutan skull. This is argued that because I can talk, and reason, I cannot be a mere ape. Of my speech, I will grant, the doctor most likely used some human parts.

“But my reason? No, I am not convinced my reason is any less orangutan than my limbs. For, did his homo sapiens subjects not show vast, cold intellect beyond that of their flesh-donors? Is it so hard to believe that the gap from apes’ reason to mans’ is at best a short distance?

“I would propose the question cannot be truly settled until men show the ability to see themselves as something other than the divinely-appointed lords of all matter in the world, animal, mineral, gas, fluid, and plant alike, to use and despoil as they see fit.

“I remember nothing of my time before mortibirth, though instincts still exist from my firstflesh lives, and some smells and sounds strike me as familiar in the extreme. But having gone to Borneo once, I can safely say I am no native of it. I am no native of any land.

“I remember my first weeks. I thought the doctor wise and kind, something between a father and a god. He taught me to walk, talk, eat–ensured that I was fine in form and function. Then he drowned me in an arsenic solution of his own devising, and took notes as I screamed.

“I do presume he believed my consciousness fully destroyed. I think this not out of some trust in his character, but from the fact when I stopped moving, he stopped taking notes and never consulted my glass sarcophagus again. I sat, silent and unmoving, and thought. For years.

“Should I not have been found in the investigation that ensued after the publication of an account of Doctor Frankenstein’s insensate experiments, I believe I would be trapped, paralyzed, and thinking still, looking through the arsenic water and glass at some stone wall.

“But found I was and, in time, released. As I could speak, and was witness to the foul knowledge and process the doctor had created, I was not destroyed. In time, decades, truly, I earned my freedom by turning the lie of a human origin for my brain back on the government.

“So, here exists I. Corpses pretending to be one flesh. Abyssal chemical reactions pretending to be life. An ape’s mind pretending to be human.

“But I am also cunning, robust, and potent in the way of all my kind, and though I carry no love for Monsieur Dupin, he taught me well.

“By the aegis of his brusque acceptance of me, I am established. I have legal papers that sometimes grant me rights, and monies that do so more often.

“How did I come to know Dupin? What is my vocation now? Those shall be future articles, for which I’ll receive a nickel a word.”

–From the Diary of Ardra Maias, the Empire Coast Journal, Jan 17th, 1934.

#DiaryofArdraMaias

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ShadowFinder Gazetteer: Elseward

ShadowFinder continues to work towards release. Some of the material I am drawing on for parts of the worldbuilding in this play mode are heavily inspired by things that helped me through some dark times in my life. Elseward is one of those.

(Art by Grandfailure)

Elseward

Some of the areas in the demiplane known as the Shadowblast that are very close to the Material Plane. These regions, called Shallows, appear to be tightly bound to some mortal concepts or emotions and follow special rules compared to the rest of the Shadowblast. There exist natives of the Material Plane who are survivors of severe trauma and depression that can access a Shallows section of the Shadowblast known as Elseward – a violent, vicious realm that mixes dense noir city and surreal untamed jungle with no apparent rhyme or reason – usually without even knowing it. Projecting themselves partially into the Shallows, these Elsewarders exist in both their native Material Planes and the Elseward Shallow. They see and experience things other folk around them in the Material world do not, often mistaking Elseward events for daydreams. Some Elsewarders even develop special powers with the Shallows, creating a ethereal ShadowSelf that exists within Elseward even when the Elsewarders are not connected to it. Elsewarders then experience their ShadowSelf lives through dreams and reveries.

In a few cases, Elsewarders manage to heal and slowly disconnect from the Shallow, perhaps leaving their ShadowSelf behind, perhaps integrating it into themselves and departing from Elseward entirely. But more often, they eventually begin to draw bits of that Shallow region out into the Material Plane, beginning with minor Shadowblastoi creatures crossing over and growing in number, complexity, and power as time goes on. Such a traveller from Elseward into the Material Plane is known as a Drawesle, and its behavior is often dictated by the fears and nightmares of the Elsewarder that drew it through the Shallow.

(Art by Duy)

It’s common for Drawesles to destroy their related Elsewarder, ending their link to the Material world and sending them back to the Shadowblast. Elsewarders with extreme will or some eldritch power source sometimes instead begin to spread their vision of the Elseward into their own world, and in rare cases even forge links between the Elseward and Material world denizens to whom they have strong (not necessarily positive) emotional connections. These advanced situations can result in small groups or even tightly-linked communities existing in both their own realities and the Elseward at once, appearing to experience ongoing shared dreams and hallucinations.

Some Elsewarders continue to hop back-and-forth for decades, with more and more links to the Shadowblast connecting to them as time passes. When the Elsewarder is secure, supported, and dealing with their trauma well, incidents are mostly just deep dreams and odd noises in dark corners, and easily dismissed by them and others as a wandering mind’s intrusive thoughts. When exposed to new trauma or under high stress, these well-worn links can actually anchor parts of Elseward to the Material world, generally in abandoned, remote, or chaotic, badly monitored locations. This leads to Drawesles building a Material Plane power base, seeking to torment the Elsewarder and those close to them to further strengthen the link.

In these cases, outside intervention is often needed to save the Elsewarder and those near them from their literal personal demons. This may be done by seeking out and ending the Drawesles’ base of operations on the Material world, or it may require a trip into Elseward to cut off the intrusion from the source. Of course, destroying a trauma-induced monstrosity preying on an Elsewarder doesn’t end the Elsewarder’s underlying issues. But it can help give them space to do the work needed to heal themselves, and give reassurance that their trials are very, very real.

(Art by evilinside)

DEEP ELSEWARDER [QUIRKY]
At one time, you were tightly linked to the Elseward, or some other section of the Shallows in the Shadowblast, and you have developed special powers that only function there.
Benefit: For each character level, you can select one tier of enigma power, one bonus feat for which you meet the prerequisites, or one level of spellcasting from a specific spellcaster class list (gaining spells known, spells per day, and a caster level equal to your levels of spellcasting selected with this feat). These are separate from your normal feats and (if you have them) enigma powers and spells. Abilities gained through this feat only function in Beachheads and Shallows of the Shadowblast.

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ShadowFinder Adventure Sketch

The ShadowFinder Core Book won’t include a full-length adventure–there’s neither time nor room to get one crammed into that first book–but it WILL include some GM/Adventure support. There will be a section that talks about how to take typical Starfinder Adventure Paths and “reskin” them for the ShadowFinder Play Mode. And there will be some Adventure Sketches.

These are short outlines of what an adventure might include, with sections outlining “What It Looks Like,” “What’s Actually Going On,” “How Do PCs Get Involved,” “How Does It End,” and “Then What.” They are designed for GMs to use as inspirations and jumping-off points, with just enough details to explain what the adventure is about and how it may go, but without so many it’ll be difficult to mold into an existing campaign’s events. For example, while this adventure sketch mentions “the city,” it doesn’t tell you if it happens in New York City, Tokyo, or Absalom. That’s up to the GM.

I kinda hate to preview an Adventure Sketch–they take a lot of effort to write compared to their size and I see them as being a big part of what makes the ShadowFinder book work, despite their relatively small wordcount–but for exactly the reason I want them in the Core Book, I think they do a great job of showcasing what kinds of stories I think ShadowFinder is going to be great for playing through.

So, I picked one of my favorites — Save the City Beneath — and am showcasing it here.

Save The City Beneath

What It Looks Like: Water is mysteriously disappearing. From the drinking water system, reservoirs, even entire rivers and lakes are showing water levels way, way below what they out to be. The systems are all connected to the city’s drinking system, and if the loss isn’t stopped, the entire city is going to have a water shortage.

What’s Actually Going On: The city sits atop “The City Beneath,” a subterranean mix of old, unmapped sewers, storm drains, bootlegger tunnels, heating shafts, closed-off basements, cisterns, bomb shelters, previous cities, and secret underground complexes, natural caves, mined-out salt mines, where a civilization exists with only sporadic contact with the normal city above them. The City Beneath has actual physical portals to the Shadowblast, but also to demiplanes with less malignant residents and much ancient lore and preserved mystic libraries.

The City Beneath is not an inherently evil place. It’s a city, with good people, bad people, homeless people, gangs, unions, charities, arks, and everything else you’d expect to find in a big city—just all underground. But a powerful and judgmental person or group in the upper class of the “normal” surface city (we’ll call them F.L.O.O.D. – Friends of Law, Order, and Organized Democracy) has decided the City Beneath is an unacceptable danger. This group wants to find the City beneath, scour it of everything of value and power, and destroy it.

So, FLOOD are flooding the lower sections of their own city—uncaring that they are drowning the homeless, flooding out the dispossessed, and terrifying the vulnerable members of the lower class in the process—to follow the water drainage into passageways to the City Beneath.

Of course, in the process they are also waking up and releasing things the City Beneath locked away as too dangerous centuries ago.

How Do PCs Get Involved: If the mystery of a regionwide water shortage centered on a major city isn’t enough to get the PCs poking around, when some monsters start popping up in basements, abandoned bank vaults, old tunnel systems, and trendy secret clubs, the PCs can be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or, someone working for FLOOD might even try to hire the PCs to protect their water-trackers, hoping monster-hunters will blindly accept that the City Beneath must be “dealt with.”

How Does It End: The PCs figure out what FLOOD is up to, and either expose them to the public (which won’t result in anyone important going to jail, but will bring enough pressure for FLOOD to give up… for now), or hunt down and take out the FLOOD manager in charge of the deadly operation. FLOOD won’t be destroyed either way, but will decide such high-profile, headline-grabbing operations are a bad idea.

Then What: Assuming the FLOOD threat to the City Beneath is ended, the PCs now have access to an entire hidden society. In future adventures they can explore, train, use Coin of the Realm to buy magic items, set up bases, make allies, and go adventuring to deal with the City Beneath’s unsavory elements and gangs.

For inspiration on the City Beneath, look up the real-world locations of the Aldwych tube ghost statipn in London, England; Avinguda de la Llum in Barcelona, Spain; the Burlington Bunker in Corsham, England; the Cincinnati Subway in Ohio; Derinkuyu, Turkey; Dixia Cheng in China; the Estación de Chamberí abandoned subway station in Madrid, Spain; K’n-yan; Metro 417 in Los Angeles, California; Naours, France; New York City’s City Hall station; The Paris Catacombs, France; Poland’s Wieliczka Salt Mine; Portland Underground, in Portland, Oregon; Three Kings Catacombs in Tizimín, Mexico; and the Seattle Underground, in Seattle, Washington.

(Seriously, I can’t wait to show you all this Jacob Blackmon ShadowFinder art!)

Want to ask questions about ShadowFinder? Would you enjoy access to a huge backlog of game stuff and articles? Simply want to support me creating more of these things? Check out my Patreon!

How to Use the ShadowFinder Book

I’ve made a big deal out of the upcoming Starfinder Infinite project called ShadowFinder being a Play Mode for Starfinder, rather than a separate campaign or ruleset. So, if it’s designed to create a different play experience, but is 100% Starfinder compatible, what do I expect people to actually do with this book?

Well, no shock, I write about that a bit in the book itself.

Okay, What Do We DO With This?

ShadowFinder is designed to be use a few different ways, depending on your interests.

First, it’s everything you need to start running adventures in a new Play Mode, with a focus on the aesthetics and tropes of modern urban fantasy, rather that the more scifi-fantasy of Starfinder. We present enough information to get you started, including a quick description of the planar scar known as the Shadowblast, and the two worlds it links – Lost Golarion, and Rasputin’s Legacy Earth. If you are the type of group who just wants some rules and a setting, or maybe also some adventure seeds, and then you craft adventures and storylines yourselves, you can get started right away.

Second, it’s a big set of additional options for any Starfinder game. The new classes, class options, feats, and spells are all designed for use in ShadowFinder, but since the rules are 100% compatible with Starfinder, if you want to add enigmas, warlocks, and even sword saints and technicians to a non-ShadowFinder game, they’ll fit right in. There are some options rules in ShadowFinder that aren’t designed for other uses, such as Heroic Defense, but I’ve carefully kept those separate from other player-facing material. That means if you want to play a ShadowFinder game with Heroic Defense, it applies to any PC (even those uses classes from other sources), and if you want to play a warlock in a game without Heroic Defense, the class remains balanced.

Third, and most excitingly for me, it’s a toolkit of ideas you can take and use to create your own Play Mode, unique campaign, or even related Starfinder Infinite products! This book is very much the product of exactly what I wanted to make, but I see that as a beginning, not an end. Now that these rules and ideas are out in the world, I hope you will take the opportunity to shape, mold, and build off of them to create whole-new things I could never dream of.

(Yep. It’s a Nuar in a Suit)

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ShadowFinder Inspirations List

This week seems to be all about previews of some of the material from the ShadowFinder book I announced in my ShadowFinder Is Coming post.

So, what on Earth has gone into my head to lead me to want to write this book? Well… there’s a lot of it.

Appendix A: Inspirations List

This excerpt of Appendix A is not part of the OGL content of this site, and it not covered by any of the licenses this product is published under. It’s a separate, editorial list presented under fair use.

While ShadowFinder is not an effort to duplicate any specific piece of genre fiction, it absolutely does draw inspirations from a wide range of movies, shows, anime, books, and comics. While I simply do not have room (or time) to compile a comprehensive list, I did want to touch on some of the biggest contributors to the zeitgeek I’m trying to tap into. Very few of these represent exactly what I expect a ShadowFinder game session to look like, but most of them have elements that could easily inspire ShadowFinder plots, adventures, and characters.

This is just the film and television parts of the appendix from the book, which also has comics and literature… though wow have I wanted more tv and movies in the past 20 years than read books. 😛

In some cases, I have listed the original source of a franchise, even though something later in the franchise might be the first thing that that inspired me. In other cases, I list some later product, because it stands out in my mind from the rest of its franchise. There’s a reason both Dawn of the Dead movies are listed but not all the related zombie films, and Friday the 13th Part II and Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday are the only two Friday the 13th movies listed.

Inclusion here is absolutely not a claim of quality entertainment, in value, theme, presentation, or diversity. A lot of these are bad, and the very fact they are bad sometimes is what caused them to spark ideas in my head. In particular, many of these things now make me cringe when I read or watch them, as they have tropes, attempts at jokes, and stereotypes that should never have been acceptable. Please, check reviews and content warnings before trusting them to be entertaining. There are some great ideas in these, but too often they are mixed with bigotry and bias. I know we can all do a better job when importing the cool parts into our own stories.

Also, a lot of them are horror-themed, despite the fact I don’t consider ShadowFinders to be designed as a horror genre. But modern supernatural stories often are horror, and part of the point is that slasher and monster-in-the-sewer films go differently when PCs get involved.

[H2]Film and Television

Alias. Created by J.J. Abrams.

Alligator. Directed by Lewis Teague.

Angel. Starring David Boreanaz.

Angel Heart. Directed by Alan Parker.

Assault on Precinct 13. Directed by John Carpenter.

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Directed by John DeBello.

Attack the Block. Directed by Joe Cornish.

Battle Royale. Directed by Kinji Fukasaku.

Belphegor, or the Phantom of the Louvre. Directed by Claude Barma.

Big Trouble in Little China. Directed by John Carpenter.

Black Dynamite. Directed by Scott Sanders.

The Blair Witch Project. Directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez.

The Blob. Directed by Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr.

The Blues Brothers. Directed by John Landis.

The Boondock Saints. Directed by Troy Duffy.

Brimstone. Created by Ethan Reiff, Cyrus Voris.

Bubba Ho-Tep. Directed by Don Coscarelli.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar.

The Cabin in the Woods. Directed by Drew Goddard.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Directed Ken Hughes.

C.H.U.D. Directed by Douglas Cheek.

Cool World. Directed by Ralph Bakshi.

The Craft. Directed by Andrew Fleming.

Creature from the Black Lagoon. Directed by Jack Arnold.

The Crow. Directed by Alex Proyas.

Dark Angel. Created by James Cameron and Charles H. Eglee.

Dark City. Directed by Alex Proyas.

Darkman. Directed by Sam Raimi.

Dawn of the Dead. Directed by George A. Romero.

Dawn of the Dead. Directed by Zack Snyder

Death Valley. Developed by Eric Weinberg, Curtis Gwinn, and Spider One.

Deep Rising. Directed by Stephen Sommers.

Demon Knight. Directed by Ernest R. Dickerson.

The Descent. Directed by Neil Marshall.

Escape from New York. Directed by John Carpenter.

Equinox. Directed by Robert Day.

Evil Dead II. Directed by Sam Raimi.

Five Deadly Venoms. Directed by Chang Cheh.

The Fog. Directed by John Carpenter.

Friday the 13th, the Series. Created by Frank Mancuso Jr. and Larry B. Williams.

Friday the 13th, Part II. Directed by Steve Miner.

Fright Night. Directed by Tom Holland.

Fringe. Created by J. J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci.

From Dusk till Dawn. Directed by Robert Rodriguez.

Game of Death. Directed by Bruce Lee.

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. Directed by Jim Jarmusch.

Ghostbusters. Directed by Ivan Reitman.

The Golden Child. Directed by Michael Ritchie.

Halloween. Directed by John Carpenter.

Happy! Created by Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson.

Hellraiser. Directed by Clive Barker.

Highlander. Directed by Russell Mulcahy.

Highway to Hell. Directed by Ate de Jong.

The Host (Gwoemul). Directed by Bong Joon-ho.

House II: The Second Story. Directed by Ethan Wiley.

House on Haunted Hill. Directed by William Malone.

Howard the Duck. Directed by Willard Huyck.

Hudson Hawk. Directed by Michael Lehmann.

In the Mouth of Madness. Directed by John Carpenter.

Infinity Train. Created by Owen Dennis.

John Dies at the End. Directed by Don Coscarelli.

John Wick. Directed by Chad Stahelski and David Leitch.

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday. Directed by Adam Marcus.

Jurassic Park. Directed by Steven Spielberg.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Directed by Stephen Chiodo.

The Kingdom (Original title: Riget). Created by Lars von Trier.

Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park. Directed by Gordon Hessler.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Creator Jeff Rice.

Kung Fu Hustle. Directed by Stephen Chow.

L.A. Story. Directed by Mick Jackson.

Labyrinth. Directed by Jim Henson.

The Lair Of The White Worm. Directed by Ken Russell.

Lake Placid. Directed by Steve Miner.

The Last Dragon. Directed by Michael Schultz.

The Lost Boys. Directed by Joel Schumacher.

The Lost Room. Created by Christopher Leone and Laura Harkcom.

El Mariachi. Directed by Robert Rodriguez.

Midnight, Texas. Developed by Monica Owusu-Breen.

MirrorMask. Directed by Dave McKean.

Monster Squad. Directed by Fred Dekker.

Mortal Kombat. Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson.

National Treasure. Directed by Jon Turteltaub.

Near Dark. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow.

Neverwhere. Created by Neil Gaiman and Lenny Henry.

Nightbreed. Directed by Clive Barker.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. Directed by Chuck Russell.

Night of the Lepus. Directed by William F. Claxton.

The Passage. Created by Liz Heldens.

Pi. Directed by Darren Aronofsky.

The Prophecy. Directed by Gregory Widen.

Predator. Directed by John McTiernan.

Prince of Darkness. Directed by John Carpenter.

Pumpkinhead. Directed by Stan Winston.

Puppet Master. Directed by David Schmoeller.

Quatermass and the Pit. Directed by Roy Ward Baker.

The Quiet Earth. Directed by Geoff Murphy.

Raiders of the Lost Ark. Directed by Steven Spielberg.

Rawhead Rex. Directed by George Pavlou.

Re-Animator. Directed by Stuart Gordon.

REC. Directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza.

Repo Man. Directed by Alex Cox.

The Return of the Living Dead. Directed by Dan O’Bannon.

Salem’s Lot. Directed by Tobe Hooper.

Sleepy Hollow. Created by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Phillip Iscove, and Len Wiseman.

Special Unit 2. Created by Evan Katz.

The Strain. Created by Guillermo del Toro, and Chuck Hogan.

Stranger Things. Created by the Duffer Brothers.

Streets of Fire. Directed by Walter Hill.

The Stuff. Directed by Larry Cohen.

Supernatural. Creator Eric Kripke.

The Swarm. Directed by Irwin Allen.

Them! Directed by Gordon Douglas.

They Live. Directed by John Carpenter.

The Thing. Directed by John Carpenter.

Thirteen Ghosts. Directed by Steve Beck.

Trancers. Directed by Charles Band.

Tremors. Directed by Ron Underwood.

Vampire Hunter D. Directed by Toyoo Ashida.

Vampires. Directed by John Carpenter.

Warlock. Directed by Steve Miner.

The Warriors. Directed by Walter Hill.

The X-Files. Creator Chris Carter.

Want to ask questions about ShadowFinder? Would you enjoy access to a huge backlog of game stuff and articles? Simply want to support me creating more of these things? Check out my Patreon!

ShadowWalkers

Continuing a theme, here’s another preview of some of the material from the ShadowFinder book! Nothing on this page is OGL. This is a post of Community Use content of Paizo materials, and is a follow-up to my ShadowFinder Is Coming post from earlier in the week.

ShadowWalkers: Not everything can move back-and-forth between the Material plane and the Shadowblast. No magic, technology, power, or effect can allow travel between the two for anything but random and sporadic inanimate objects, and the rare breed of creature who are ShadowWalkers.

All PCs are assumed to be ShadowWalkers, whether they know it or not. Any NPC or monstrous threat the GM wishes to be a ShadowWalker is one. Being a ShadowWalker doesn’t let you move to or from the Shadowblast with your own power. It just means you can use the spells, devices, and gates that would normally allow planar travel can take you both ways, if you happen to have access to it.

No one knows what percentage of creatures are ShadowWalkers. It could be 1-in-10, 1-in-1,000, or even 1-in-1,000,000. That’s for each GM to decide, and for ShadowFinders without their games to find out over time. It could even be that ShadowWalkers native to the Material plane are rare, and those native to the Shadowblast are common… or vice versa.

What is known is that the cleverest, most dangerous creatures of the Shadowblast generally aren’t ShadowWalkers, much to their annoyance. They are trapped in the Shadowblast, unable to move to any other plane of existence. Many such creatures were once freer entities, sailing Astral winds at a whim, and will do nearly anything to regain that freedom. Since the Shadowblast appears to be anchored by the Earth of Rasputin’s Legacy on one end, and Lost Golarion on the other, the little gods trapped in the Shadowblast often feel destroying one world, or both, is their best bet for escaping their gloomy prison. To do that, they craft complex plans that often involve sending ShadowWalker minions from the Shadowblast to one or the other world, perhaps to set up cults to perform rituals to find yet more ShadowWalkers among the denizens of the Material plane, to turn those into more minions, to start more cults…

(ShadowWalkers… Come out and play-aaaaay.)

Want to ask questions about ShadowFinder? Would you enjoy access to a huge backlog of game stuff and articles? Simply want to support me creating more of these things? Check out my Patreon!

ShadowFinder: Rasputin’s Legacy Earth, The United States

Continuing a theme, here’s another preview of some of the material from the ShadowFinder book! Nothing on this page is OGL. This is a post of Community Use content of Paizo materials, and is a follow-up to my ShadowFinder Is Coming post from earlier in the week.

ShadowFinder assumes you are applying it’s Play Mode to one of two worlds — Rasputin’s Legacy Earth, or Lost Golarion. Both are at a similar point technologically, magically, and in planar terms, and both are based on worlds Starfinder players are likely to be familiar with (our own Earth, or Pathfinder’s Golarion). But both also have significant differences. In the case of Rasputin’s Legacy Earth, an incursion into WWI Russian by heroes from Golarion has caused both a leak of magic back into the world, and the formation of the planar scar known as the Shadowblast.

While obviously I can’t go into deep detail on the state of entire worlds, both Rasputin’s Legacy Earth and Lost Golarion are different enough from what people are used to that SOME amount of explanation is in order. Chapter Ten of the ShadowFinder core book is the “ShadowFinder Gazetteer,” talking a bit about the who, what, and where of the worlds you can adventure in.

Here is the draft of the entry on the United States of America, unedited, still with its formatting tags.

[H2]The United States of America

The U.S. is one of the worst-off major nations in the battle against the Shadowblast, and the reasons are varied and, in many cases, self-inflicted. The fact that early research into the Shadowblast was largely undertaken by the Soviet Union (and treated as a state secret), kept the U.S. in the dark through the 1930s. But encounters soldiers and observers had during WWII made it impossible for the U.S.A. to miss that there was a real, growing, supernatural threat.

Well, it made it impossible for everyone to ignore it. It turns out, willful ignorance and politics can often go hand-in-hand.

At first, the threat of the Shadowblast was simply considered too minor to be a priority in the rush to rebuild post-war Europe, establish political dominion over the Western Hemisphere, and flex the U.S.’s newfound worldwide clout. After all, the Soviets explored the Shadowblast first because those threats were local to them. Why should a country protected by two oceans worth of moat worry about local things happening in Europe and Asia?

In the next decades the problems caused by the Shadowblast spread into the U.S., though always quietly, in shadows and small towns, untracked wilderness, abandoned buildings, backwoods and dark alleys. However, political and religious pressures began to hold back any serious preparation by U.S. groups. The whispers of such threats were called communist plots, un-Christian efforts to promote magic, and drug-induced counter-culture hallucinations. Not only did federal and state forces refuse to take such threats seriously, they actively suppressed knowledge of them, ruined the reputations of those who tried to raise the alarm, and set up counterintelligence campaigns to ensure any rumors of supernatural events were seen as junk journalism.

This left U.S. institutions vulnerable to infiltration by more organized Shadowblast factions. Some factions even managed to place moles and even high-level administrators within federal and state law enforcement and bureaucracies. In the 1970s and 1980s, Shadowblast activity within North America skyrocketed, and the very systems designed to find and neutralize threats against the country and its citizens were more often used to cover-up the growing incursions.

Even so, the number of unsolved missing persons, eyewitness accounts, and unexplained phenomenon were so extensive that private groups and individuals stepped up to fill in the gap left by a lack of any official program. Many of these groups suffered terrible losses, and things they learned in dealing with the Shadowblast were often lost without being passed on to other groups. The system was haphazard at best, but it slowly expanded into a decentralized network of vigilante groups, community patrols, and secret societies, sometimes augmented by meddling kids on bicycles or teenage bands traveling by van.

As a kind of counterculture, the fight against the Shadowblast integrated at the edges of other fringe communities. People who were already mistreated by the government, or suspicious of indoctrination by orthodoxy, were more likely to both encounter these threats and decide if something was to be done, they had to do it. The chances of a hero rising to oppose the Shadowblast being from LGBTQ groups, carnies, oppressed minorities, punk, grunge, or metal music, disillusioned veterans, and fans of various forms of speculative fiction was simply much higher than from more mainstream groups. In many cases, they had little choice – if these communities did not protect themselves, no one else would.

This situation has evolved over the decades, but remains the norm in the current era. Specific parts of the United States can have different governmental reactions to Shadowblast threats. Alaska in general has a history and culture similar to Canada when regarding the Shadowblast, and there are areas along the southern border that are much closer to the situation in Mexico than the rest of the U.S. (especially further from major population centers). But, in general, even now governmental research of and resistance to Shadowblast incursions is generally haphazard, ad-hoc, and isolated. While the FBI has Taskforce X, the National Parks Service has the Cryptology Division, and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation’s “Directive 8” oversees the surprisingly well-informed K’n Yan Intelligence Section, for the most part officials aware of and working against the Shadowblast have to do so with little support from their organizations. Indeed, sometimes such efforts are actively hindered by officials that believe such efforts are a waste of time… or who are secretly on the Shadowblast’s side.

That level of hindrance is also why the ShadowFinder Society has no official presence in the U.S.A, forcing its members to work more clandestinely. They often organize regionally under the auspices of some smaller, local group, and use the term Torchbearer to refer to those who fight against the encroaching shadows. There is an unofficial “Torchbearer’s Circuit” of truck stops, diners, bus stations, taxi companies, union laborers, coal miners, loggers, local churches, firefighters, and environmental activists who are aware of the Shadowblast and, at least to some extent, the ShadowFinder Society itself.

But in the end, in the U.S., those who wish to oppose things that go bump in the night are likely to be on their own much of the time.

(Jacob Blackmon‘s aesthetic is perfect for ShadowFinder!)

Want to ask questions about ShadowFinder? Would you enjoy access to a huge backlog of game stuff and articles? Simply want to support me creating more of these things? Check out my Patreon!

ShadowFinder’s Lost Golarion: The Chelaxian Commonrule

Yep, it’s another preview of some of the material from the ShadowFinder book! Nothing on this page is OGL. This is a post of Community Use content of Paizo materials, and is a follow-up to my ShadowFinder Is Coming post from earlier in the week.

ShadowFinder assumes you are applying it’s Play Mode to one of two worlds — Rasputin’s Legacy Earth, or Lost Golarion. Both are at a similar point technologically, magically, and in planar terms, and both are based on worlds Starfinder players are likely to be familiar with (our own Earth, or Pathfinder’s Golarion). But both also have significant differences, in the case of Lost Golarion, centuries of development during a time when the world has lost access to most of the gods and planes, with only segments of reality apparently sectioned off by some kind of cosmic “Gap” accessible even by things such as wish.

While obviously I can’t go into deep detail on the state of entire worlds, both Rasputin’s Legacy Earth and Lost Golarion are different enough from what people are used to that SOME amount of explanation is in order. Chapter Ten of the ShadowFinder core book is the “ShadowFinder Gazetteer,” talking a bit about the who, what, and where of the worlds you can adventure in.

Here is the draft of the entry on the Commonrule of Cheliax, unedited, still with its formatting tags.

[H2]The Commonrule of Cheliax

Among the most powerful nations on Lost Golarion is the Commonrule of Cheliax. Ruled by the Imperial Bureaucracy, of which the most powerful remains the monarchal Majestrix, the Commonrule is a potent economic, scientific, and diabolic powerhouse that can be considered a Global Superpower, on par with the Gokan Republic, Magaambani, New Taumata, and the Padisha Empire of Kelesh.

The Commonrule includes what were once the nations of Andoran, Cheliax, Fangwood, Hold of Belkzen, Isger, Molthune, Nidal, Nirmathas, Thuvia, and Ustalav, each of which retains some local identity as a Commonrule Province. In theory each province is equal in the eyes of the Commonrule Law, but that complex, devil-generated code somehow places the Province of Cheliax above all other regions. Most other Commonrule Provinces accept this as just the way things are, though the Province of Nirmathas continues to produce numerous home-grown, and often violent, independence movements. The region once known as the Worldwound is also controlled by the Commonrule as the Devil Militarized Zone, where mortals are only allowed on official Chelaxian business.

The Commonrule of Cheliax still officially accepts Asmodeus as its patron deity, and devil-worship and fiendish warlock pacts are common parts of everyday life. The fact Torag is the only actual god that responds to petitioners is simply glossed over, and the availability of devils and even archdevils to address prayers, rituals, and business needs makes it easy to forget no one has heard from Asmodeus himself for centuries.

While the majority of the Commonrule’s population is at least partially human or orcish, devils and devilblooded mortals are more numerous here than anywhere else on Golarion. The Commonrule Law is designed to handle such interactions, and explicitly covers both devilish and mortal duties, privileges, and restrictions. Every member of the Commonrule Council, the highest committee within the Imperial Bureaucracy, has a Devil’s Advocate as an advisor, some of which have advised political and noble families for generations.

The Commonrule government is well aware of the dangers of the Shadowblast, but sees it more as a potential source of power than an existential threat. While the Hellknight Order of the Pyre has increasingly focused on rooting out and eliminating Shadowblast cultists in recent decades, the official stance of the Commonrule is that the Shadowblast is little more than a the pesh-induced ranting of Nidalese Nationalist terrorist cells. The idea that an entire demiplane exists and is beyond the control of either the Chelaxian Commonrule of their devilish allies is considered too likely to disrupt the order of the nation, and is not officially acknowledged. Most action against the Shadowblast is either taken on as the pet project of a mid-level official, or by the ShadowFinder Society. Although the Commonrule downplays the ShadowFinder’s claims that the Shadowblast represents a significant, ill-understood threat, the Society is allowed to operate openly (even if any danger they neutralize is “officially” classified as Nidalese in news reports).

(Of course, not ALL warlocks come from the Commonrule…, as shown in this mage by Jacob Blackmon)

Want to ask questions about ShadowFinder? See a huge backlog of game stuff in articles? Just like my stuff and want to support its creation? Check out my Patreon!

ShadowFinder is Coming!

So, first some legal stuff.

Nothing on this page is OGL. This is a post of Community Use content of Paizo materials.

And I am doing it because with the announcement of Pathfinder Infinite and Starfinder Infinite, I am, in fact, going to be doing ShadowFinders, like I have ben carefully not focusing on for a few years now.

So, what the heck is ShadowFinder? Well I’ll talk about it more once the first ShadowFinder product is up on Starfinder Infinite, but until then, let’s look at part of the introduction from that book.

What is ShadowFinder?

ShadowFinder is a Play Mode for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game. What do we mean by “Play Mode?” We mean this is not a new game, or even a new campaign. It’s just a way to play Starfinder and get a different feel, and be focused on different kinds of stories. You don’t need to learn a new system, and while we tweaked a few things to better support the playstyle we expect game groups to use for ShadowFinder, none of that is mandatory.

Specifically, ShadowFinder is a game about being on a world with a technology level very like the Earth currently has, and yet a world with a great deal of magic as well. In fact, one of the two places we assume you’ll play ShadowFinder is Earth… but an Earth that has been very different since heroes from Golarion arrived during WWI to kill Rasputin. The other world is Golarion, but not only is it much further along in its technological development, it’s been cut off from all the rest of the universe by some sort of cosmic Gap, and Torag is the only god that directly talks to people anymore.

In both these worlds there is what is known on the surface… and then greater threats that lurk in the Shadows. Specifically, there is the Shadowblast  (“Shadобласть,” in the first Soviet notes to talk about it), a hazy and semi-substantial place that seems to be a overlapping blend of the Shadow Plane, First World, and some infernal planes. Journying from Golarion to Earth apparently left a scar in the Astral plane, and the Shadowblast is a demiplane that has formed within that scar.

On Earth, the Shadowblast has been the source of magicand magic creatures to seep into the world, bringing back energies and secrets kept locked away since the Old Egyptian Gods left the world. On Golarion, the Shadowblast is a way for the planar flotsam and jetsam to wash ashore in this Gap-severed pocket of the Material Plane, causing things from Earth to arrive… but also horrors and travelers from other realms who are pretty annoyed that, once on Golarion, they seem stuck here forever.

And in both worlds, the Shadowblast is clearly a thing being explored by alien empire far from known space, as shirren, ysoki, vesk, and other species find themselves dumped out of the planar darkness, generally suffering great confusion and memory loss. And, it seems, less savory things from the Void have been visiting, and perhaps even leaving, with grays and reptoids the least horrific of these threats.

Whether playing in a relatively normal-looking Deep Shadows game on Earth, where the general public is still in the dark about the growing eldritch threats, or a Shadows Everywhere game on either world, where magic and mythic species are well-known, but the true danger from the Shadowblast remains a problem only a small fraction of people are willing to do anything about, the PCs take on the role of ShadowFinders, trying to mitigate the damage from things leaking out of (and sometimes plotting from within) the Shadowblast, while seeking answers to the true nature of the incursions that are growing in frequency and intensity.

Welcome to ShadowFinder.

(I literally cannot show you this amazing ShadowFinder image by Jacob Blackmon yet. But, soon!)

Want to ask questions about ShadowFinder? See a huge backlog of game stuff in articles? Just like my stuff and want to support its creation? Check out my Patreon!