RogerBW's Blog

Pyramid 81: Horrific Creations 14 September 2015

Pyramid is the monthly GURPS supplement containing short articles with a loose linking theme. This time it's about created, and creative, creatures in a horror context.

Iraqi Irruptor Blues (Jason "PK" Levine) is an adventure for The Madness Dossier: a SANDMAN team has dropped out of contact while investigating a reality temblor south of Baghdad. I also ran a Madness Dossier adventure in Iraq, and I find it very interesting how utterly different two approaches to broadly the same setting can be: this one is less bound to the Iraqi location than mine, but more detailed in terms of the specific buildings and the things that can happen. (Also we had less flashy psi and magic, playing it more like very high budget special operations with lots of emphasis on maintaining cover.) High quality, low applicability; it would be hard to make work well outside the Madness Dossier setting.

Too Similar, Too Different (Michele Armellini) is a mini-supplement for human/animal cross-breeds, considering magical and technological sources of such creatures, appropriate advantages and disadvantages, and some templates: The Predator in Disguise, The Genetic Danger, The "Improved" Gorilla, and The Tragically Tainted; some of these may remind the reader of specific books or films. High quality, medium applicability.

Eidetic Memory: Hellblade (David L. Pulver) discusses the eponymous magical sword which steals the souls of those it kills… and imprisons them in a pocket dimension. It's a powerful weapon, but with very substantial downsides; really, it ought to be the focus of a campaign, or at least of a season within a campaign. High quality, low applicability.

Anatomy of a Crossroads Bargain (Jon Black) is very light on mechanics, discussing instead the history and game uses of this particular sort of pact with the Devil (or other infernal powers). This has been considered before in Pyramid, back in #3/67 "Tools of the Trade - Villains", so this article can afford to be a bit more specific. In particular, it looks at the disadvantages that accompany such a bargain, whether a mundane coping mechanism like alcoholism, gluttony or depression, a more supernatural taint, or specific behaviours that someone hopes may avert the long-term consequences. I rather like the analysis of various ways of getting out of the bargain, and their respective point costs. Mind you, now I want to play a character with Law (Esoteric Contract). High quality (Black is a music historian, and the material on Robert Johnson is the best short summary of the man's career that I've seen), low applicability.

Bell, Book, and Candle (J. Edward Tremlett) describes three necromantic artefacts: the Corpse Caller bell, that raises its dead victim as a zombie for a short time; the Livro Assombado, a book which can contain and command the souls of the damned summoned up from hell; and a candle-holder which can call up ghosts. All of these have significant drawbacks, and there's even a box explaining why heroes might end up having to use them anyway. High quality, high applicability.

Altus Brat (Nathan Milner) is another artefact, a wafer of bread that can restore the dead to life. Ish. To say more would be to spoil the horrifying surprise; high quality, medium applicability.

Random Thought Table: The Good, the Bad, and the Scary (Steven Marsh) looks at how to apply the cost of getting what (you think) you want, in particular setting the balance between costs and benefits and making both flavourful. High quality, high applicability.

There's nothing here that makes me want to run a game based on it right now, and the theme is relatively weak, but this is still an enjoyable issue. Pyramid 81 is available from Warehouse 23.

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