Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cthulhu Gaslight: In the Service of the Crown

Dramatis personae:
Daffyd (Dai) Iffans, retired soldier of the British Indian Army (Rifle Brigade), now part-time writer for a Socialist newspaper, with an interest in the East End
Catherine (Cat) Kincaid, journalist and daughter of a well-known scientist

The place: London
The time: April 1890


Monday, July 25, 2011

More gaming music

I just downloaded the Session 9 soundtrack and it's absolutely eerie. If you need music for a scene where you want the characters/players to be on edge, to expect something awful to happen at any moment, then this music will help you create that mood.
If you haven't seen the movie, I can only recommend it. It has its weaknesses, but the location alone is worth watching it: Davers State Mental Hospital
danvers state mental hospital
You can take a look inside on this website, it's beyond creepy. It probably was the inspiration for Lovecraft's Arkham Sanitarium, which in turn inspired Arkham Asylum.

Another discovery, via Bad Astronomy, is the website Experience the Planets. You can listen to the full album right there on the website or download it here (or on iTunes, but then you're missing Pluto). Great atmospheric music. Not necessarily for action-packed scenes and fights, but scenes where the characters explore a stranded spaceship or a lost city come to my mind.

Friday, July 22, 2011

7th Sea: Code and Cardinal

The second part of our 7th Sea adventure. See this post for all the characters.

Dear Isabel,

we have left Avalon for Marcina on the Golden Hind and we have made good time. The Inquisition ship had arrived only four days before us.
I spent much of the journey deciphering a book written in code that was left by Louis Forcet, who led a first expedition in search of the Syrneth artefact 19 years ago. Don't worry, I did remember to eat and sleep (or I was kindly reminded by Don Ramon).
Forcet describes a portal in his records and he speaks of a powerful weapon behind the portal, powerful enough to destroy whole countries, if not more. "Destroyer of Worlds" is how he puts it. He even theorises that the downfall of the Syrneths has been caused by this weapon. Forcet managed to close the portal and seal it. It can only be opened with his blood.

The book mentions the name DuLac a few times, I have the nagging suspicion that this is Jean DuLac, with whom we have clashed a few times before. Louis Forcet was married to DuLac's sister in any case. They had a daughter, Claire Forcet and she worked at the Explorer's Society's branch in Charouse. We have heard of a break-in there, a sphere similar to ours was stolen. I wouldn't be surprised at all if Claire Forcet was abducted as well. Especially since there seems to be a woman (and only one) on board the Inquisition ship.

On arrival in Marcina, we did not only see the ship of the Inquisition, but the majority of the Castillian fleet and the ships are in bad shape after an encounter with the Montaigne. Things are not going well for Castille at the moment.

The Governess gave a reception for Cardinal Camillo, who leads the expedition mounted by the Inquisiton, and for the noblemen of our own crew and we had a very uncomfortable meeting with the Cardinal. For a few moments I was sure he had recognised Lucia. I was careful not to draw attention to myself and I think I managed to go unnoticed, but it does not do to underestimate the Cardinal.

We will stay for a few more days in Marcina, to prepare for the second leg of our journey and to replace the mast that had been damaged before. I hope I can find someone I can entrust this letter to before we depart.

I miss you, my love
Marcello


The encounter with the Cardinal was nerve-wracking at times. There were a lot of rolls for deception and sincerity and I'm not sure at all that we managed to convince the Cardinal, but at least we didn't get ourselves arrested. The music for this adventure was the soundtrack for Hook and Master and Commander for the sea voyage, Monkey Island for the scenes at the docks when Marcello, Don Ramon and Lucia got drunk on fruit cocktails in a bar with a good view of the Inquisition ship, and Händel's Feuerwerkmusik for the reception.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cthuluffins

Cthuloid muffins with lemon filling. You need:
100 g butter
200 g flour
100 g sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla sugar
1 large egg
milk
food colouring
lemon curd / lemon marmelade / lemon juice
icing sugar
this will be enough for about 12 muffins, depending on the size of muffin cups you use

Stir everything but the lemon curd and the food colouring together in a bowl until you have a smooth, gooey batter. Add the food colouring until the batter has the colour of choice, I think green goes best with Cthuluffins. Be generous, the baking will pale the colour a bit.
Fill 1 tablespoon into muffin cups, then add a teaspoon of lemon curd. Cover with another tablespoon of dough. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 175°C (convection/hot-air fan oven).


If you use lemon juice, drip 1-3 tablespoon of juice over the freshly baked muffins and let them sit for a while. The juice will give the whole muffin a nice lemony taste.


When the muffins have cooled off, decorate them. Add very little water and food colouring to the icing sugar until you have a glue-like paste. Don't make it too runny or you'll end up with Shoggoths instead of Cthulhus. I used a brush to apply the blob that makes the head and a wooden shashlik skewer for the tentacles. Let the first layer dry a bit before you add the eyes.
Taddaa: Cthuluffins (and one Shoggoffin)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cthulhu Gaslight: Fungal Infection

Dramatis personae:
Daffyd (Dai) Iffans, retired soldier of the British Indian Army (Rifle Brigade), now part-time writer for a Socialist newspaper, with an interest in the East End
Catherine (Cat) Kincaid, journalist and daughter of a well-known scientist

The place: London
The time: April 1890

Friday, July 15, 2011

Iron Sky


watch on Youtube

The trailer came out a while ago, but for some reason I forgot to write about it. I've been waiting for this movie for years and I love the way the Iron Sky crew started a grassroot movement and let people participate in the process of creating the movie (with ideas, support and of course money). It's a lot of fun to see it taking shape.

I'm a sucker for Nazi satire. And when it features Udo Kier, a swastika-shaped base on the dark side of the moon and airships in space, it can't be anything but epic. I really hope that I will get the chance to see it on the big screen.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Persian Jirds

I'm getting Persian Jirds! OMG, I'm so excited about this, I've been in love with them for ages, ever since I had one as a foster animal. Now I have room for them, a group of three is looking for a new home and the owner has agreed to give them to me. They are so adorable and extremely intelligent (I see some clicker training in my future...).
For some photos of the species, click here

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Music for RPGs

We usually play music during our gaming sessions and I always enjoy it, it can add considerably to the mood. Here's a list of what we found useful for specific games:

7th Sea
Pirates of the Carribean
Master and Commander
Hook
Monkey Island
Legend of Zorro
Händel
Bach

Shadowrun
Tron: Legacy
Blade Runner
Ghost in the Shell

Deadlands
just about anything Ennio Morricone ever wrote
The Unforgiven (and other Clint Eastwood western)
Battlestar Galactica (new series), in parts

Cthulhu
Erdenstern
John Carpenter's synthesizer soundtracks, like The Fog
From Hell
Shutter Island
Dark City

great RPG soundtracks, for any system
Sleepy Hollow
Lord of the Rings
Angels and Demons
DaVinci Code
Doctor Who New Series
Battlestar Galactica New Series
Henry V (Patrick Doyle)
Silent Hill (game soundtrack)
Dark Knight
Golden Compass
Inception
Dead Can Dance

Erdenstern produce music specifically for roleplaying games and I can only recommend them. Movie soundtracks are great, I usually get them at the library.
Some of my GMs choose specific tracks from different soundtracks, re-name them to make it easier to find the appropriate one and then play them accordingly. For example 7th Sea: we played the Hook soundtrack for our voyage by sailship, Monkey Island for drinking at a bar in a Caribbean port and classical music for the governor's reception and ball.

Update: Here's a new post on RPG music

Friday, July 8, 2011

Gaslight

I'm currently playing Cthulhu Gaslight and I've been doing a lot of research. Here's a list of websites and movies I found useful, maybe they'll come in handy for someone else as well.

Victorian Web
It's a massive site with information about just any topic you can think of, ranging from politics to science to social topics like gender and family life. I found that navigating the site takes a bit getting used to but it's so worth it.

Mostly Victorian
Original texts from Victorian books and journals. If you want to know what the Victorians thought about fashion, royalty, etiquette, other countries and a host of other topics, then this site is what you are looking for.

Historical Eye
London streetlife then and now

1876 Victorian England
You're invited into the home of a typical Victorian middle class family in 1876. How did they decorate the rooms, what did they eat, how did the servants live, what did the do for fun...

British Library Resources
The British Library has put together a huge compilation of resources, with many period photos and illustrations.

Dictionary of Victorian London
Here you can find texts about pretty much anything from A as Advertising to W as Words and Expressions (including D as Death and S as Sex).

London Labour and the London Poor
A series of articles written by Henry Mayhew in the 1840s, giving the reader a very detailed view of the people who lived and worked in London, for example Jack Black, Her Majesty's Ratcatcher. It's not an easy read, but once you get used to the language, it's fascinating and an invaluable source for information on the underclass (a concept actually created by this book, among others).

London - A Pilgrimage
Another book that takes a very close look at daily life in Victorian London. You can see the brilliant illustrations by Gustave Doré originally featured in the book here

1800s Fashion
Not strictly Victorian, but the best resource for fashion I know. Whether you are planning to make your own clothes or just want a close look at what people wore, this site is a great place to look for information. The instructions for sewing are very understandable even for a beginner (just read carefully and don't hurry).

Casebook: Jack the Ripper focuses on Whitechapel, but has a lot of useful info on the East End and London in general, including contemporary maps and articles.

There are a ton of Victorian Age movies out there, in varying degrees of accuracy. Here are some of my favourites, not necessarily because they are 100% correct but more for the mood and sense of style.
The Great Train Robbery with Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland
Wilde with Stephen Fry
From Hell with Johnny Depp - gorgeous sets and keep an eye out for the pennyfarthing when Abberline takes Mary Kelly to the museum.
Bram Stoker's Dracula - the street scene when Mina meets Dracula for the first time is great and the absinthe drinking scene shows how it was done (as opposed to the scene in From Hell)
The Elephant Man with John Hurt
Mrs Brown with Judi Dench
Age of Innocence with Daniel Day-Lewis for a look at 19th century New York
Doctor Who: The Unquiet Dead
Without a Clue with Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley - the most hilarious Sherlock Holmes movie ever, with really lovely sets and costumes.

Yes. I know. I've forgotten your favourite Victorian movie ever. Leave a comment and tell me about it! :)

Swarm

Yesterday, the ants swarmed, Lasius niger to be exact. I didn't get any photos unfortunately, but I saw a ton of queens with and without wings (shed after mating) and some winged males on my way to my weekly gaming session. I'm always amazed how they manage to all swarm on the exact same day over a large area. And I'm amazed how many people just don't notice. I know that I'm weird about bugs, but come on - a little sense of wonder for this fantastic world we live in?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

On Chesil Beach

Florence and Edward are newly-weds and spend their honeymoon in a hotel near Chesil Beach. Their wedding night ends in a complete disaster, though.

The book takes place in 1962 and I must admit that I would have placed it even earlier (I was born in 1979). I'm not sure if the two main characters would have been happy in their marriage but they never have a chance to find out. They are both anxious at the thought of having sex for the first time - Edward because he is afraid that he won't be able to satisfy Florence and Florence because everything she has read about the subject disgusts her (there are also hints that she was abused by her father). They don't dare talk about their feelings and fears and so their wedding night marks the end of their marriage.

I grew up in a very different time and the society described seemed at times positively alien to me. But McEwan makes it easy to identify with the characters, their backgrounds and their evolving relationship is described very vividly in flashbacks.

This is the first book by Ian McEwan I have read and I intend to read more, I enjoyed On Chesil Beach very much. 33. book for the Library Challenge