Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Face in the Shadows: Alistair Philips

The following was excised from the first Wildwyck article in Fight On! #13 due to size restraints. When necessary, such material will be featured here for the edification and enjoyment of those interested in the Wildwyck County setting. Up first: Alistair Philips, a helpful NPC.

Wildwyck County is home to many interesting characters, some of whom will assist investigators seeking to uncover the ‘Wyck’s mysteries. Other parties will do their best to thwart such inquires, resorting to cold-blooded murder if necessary. Alistair Philips is one of the more friendly faces PCs embarking on a campaign set in Wildwyck County might encounter. His voluminous correspondence with friends, acquaintances, and the curious could serve as both an introduction to the mild-mannered historian and draw investigators living in other places to the lands along the Hudson River.

Alistair Philips, 47, historian and author
STR: 8                   CON: 12                DEX: 10                 
SIZ: 11                   INT: 15                  POW: 14               
CHA: 14                HP: 10                   Damage bonus: -1D2

Weapons: none carried; all at base percentages

Skills: Anthropology 35%, Archaeology 40%, Driving 42%, Evaluate 35%, Hear 65%, History 76%, Influence 56%, Language (Dutch) 65%, Language (French) 55%, Language (Latin) 70%, Natural Lore 45%, Occult 20%, Research 85%, Wildwyck Lore 21%,

Alistair Philips is the archivist for the Ashton Historical Society, as well as the author of numerous monographs regarding various aspects of Wildwyck County’s history. His position’s stipend and his monograph sales provide Philips with a modest living, allowing him to dedicate himself to incessant research into local history, the arrangement and maintenance of the society’s archival collection, and, his most favorite pastime, correspondence with a large circle of colleagues, acquaintances, pen pals, and folklorists around the world.

Philips stands 5’ 6” and is of slight build. A small pot-belly, the result of a bachelor’s diet and too little exercise, emerges like a hillock from between his customary red suspenders. He prefers linens suits and soft caps when strolling about town. His hair is red and thinning, and a pair of spectacles sits atop his nose, while another pair of reading glasses protrudes from his shirt pocket. Alistair is prone to headaches and must sometimes conduct research or interviews in a dark room with cold compresses held in place by a scarf wrapped around his head.

Anyone seeking information about Wildwyck’s history will eventually be directed to Phillips as the resident expert on the county’s past. Contact can be initiated by visiting the Ashton Historical Society in person (hours of operation: Mondays and Wednesdays through Saturdays, 10 AM to 4 PM; other hours by special appointment), telephone (Philips’ home number is listed), or by mail (either at his home or through the Historical Society). Characters with backgrounds in history, folklore, education, or other related fields who relocate to Wildwyck County will undoubtedly be instructed to make the acquaintance of Philips by others in their specialty; he is quite well known and respected by experts in these disciplines.

Investigators meeting or corresponding with the archivist and author discover he is an affable soul who enjoys discussing the history of his home county to great extent. He willingly puts off other pressing business to indulge in his penchant for pointing out landmarks, recounting legends, and dispensing what would be considered juicy gossip if the subjects of those rumors hadn’t been dead for over a century. Anyone who responds to his impromptu lectures with sincere interest will earn an invitation to dine with Philips at his home on a regular basis. Those who do so gain +1d6% to their Wildwyck Lore scores (see below) after 1d4 months of dining with Philips and examining the old diaries, artifacts, and maps he loves to share with visitors after meals (provided they wash their hands after eating).

While not a devout believer in supernatural phenomenon, Philips has acquired a small bit of occult knowledge and does not discount the odd tale or eyewitness account that he encounters in his research. He won’t volunteer the stories he knows, but if others express interest in hearing such tales, he gladly fulfills their desires. The following are but a sample of the legends and weird stories that Philips can share with investigators pursing such knowledge. Each will be expended on in later articles, and the game master is free to use them as starting points for campaigns set in the ‘Wyck or substitute his own.

  • A surprising number of people have vanished in Wildwyck County, more than simple happenstance can account for. These vanishings extend back to the colonial period, but few realize how long this has been happening. Philips has discovered that the disappearances occur in cycles, rising in frequency every seventeen years—a cycle that corresponds with the emergence of the local cicada brood.
  • An interesting number of “Indian stones” can be found throughout the county. These megaliths are commonly believed to have been erected by the ancestors of the Kettahwohnucks for religious purposes. There are also those who purport that the stones are not the product of the indigenous tribes, but were erected by an alien population that settled in the region at some point in the past. The Celts, Vikings, Egyptians, Phoenicians, and even Atlanteans have all been named the source of these Neolithic monuments at one point or another. Many have strange sigils and carvings on them that some believe give credibility to these more outré origins.
  • Those interested in ghost breaking might wish to contact Raymond Crowe, the owner of the decaying estate known as “Whispering Laurels.” As last surviving scion of that family, Crowe inherited the estate, a crumbling Gothic Revival mansion with a checkered history. Crowe is in deep debt due to his habit of visiting the track in Saratoga Springs and has been considering using the old estate to replenish his dwindling funds by either selling or leasing the place. Unfortunately, no one wishes to spend much time in the massive corpse of a home.
  • A student who volunteered for an experiment performed by the Department of Oneirology at Bishopsgate College has vanished. Although not an uncommon occurrence in these parts, the disappearance occurred while the student was inside a locked, windowless “dreaming lab” at the college. A police investigation is underway and ransom is suspected as the motive, but there are those who think the culprits may hail from a place unreachable by physical means.
  • Odd lights have been spotted on occasion hovering above the leaning stone known as “Satan’s Lamppost” and local residents will never venture near the granite oddity when this spectral illumination is sighted. Many discount the lights as the product of swamp gas, moonlight on low clouds, and even large congregations of fireflies, but those disbelievers suggest these explanations a comfortable distance away from the ancient stone.
  • There is a local boogieman known as “Old Jan” who supposedly haunts the hills and forests of Wildwyck. The legends say he was born hideously disfigured and his ashamed woodsman father kept the boy locked in the root cellar of the family shanty high up in the mountains. When the father died, the boy—now grown to an adult and possessing an animal-like cunning—escaped from his prison and currently dwells in the wild, catching small animals and eating them raw. He also has a taste for human flesh, an appetite acquired when he feasted on his father’s cold corpse after breaking free, and Old Jan lies in wait for campers, hunters, and lovers that stray too deep into the woods and mountains. This legend is more than two hundred years old and this is just the latest incarnation of it.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wildwyck County Map

Due to what I assume was space restrictions, the black and white map of Wildwyck County that Ravi created was not included with the first article in my Wildwyck series in issue #13 of Fight On! The back cover of the magazine does feature Ravi's aged version of the map in glorious sepia-tone, but I thought that readers might like a clean black and white version for reference and playablility as the series develops. You can download the high-quality version of the map here.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fight On! #13 Now Available

This issue features the first of my series of articles detailing a new campaign setting for 1920s horror. Look for "In the Shadow of the Catskills" on p. 111 and welcome to Wildwyck County!

Amidst the gathering darkness, Fight On! returns to give battle once more! Packed tighter than a Bag of Holding on the way out of Acererak’s tomb, this issue has everything you need to make your next saving roll vs. lame gaming! Dedicated to Ken St. Andre, Fight On! #13 features new rules, new settings, TEN new adventures, and the slew of tables, classes, races, NPCs, magic items, humor, and so much more you’ve come to look out for in every issue. With art and articles by Ken St. Andre, Liz Danforth, David A. Ullery, Makofan, Patrick Wetmore, John Larrey, Ndege Diamond, Toren Atkinson, Calithena, Alex Schroeder, Erin “Taichara” Bisson, Richard Rittenhouse, Baz Blatt, Daniel Boggs, Michael Curtis, Ravi Shankar, Mark Mena, Gabor Lux, John Laviolette, Hudson Bell, Jason Vasché, Jeff Rients, Douglas Cox, Big Jack Brass, John Linneman, Kelvin Green, Kevin Vito, Jennifer Weigel, Patrick Farley, F.C. Brandt, Jason Sholtis, Katje Romanov, and many, many more. What are you waiting for – pick issue #13 up today and keep fighting on!

You can buy the print edition here:


and the PDF edition here:


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Unearthed Treasures

There is a hobby shop in my area that is a throwback to the state of the affairs of the 1980s. Cluttered shelves are lined with model trains, RC cars, plastic models, paint, balsa wood, and even a few rocket kits. Mixed in amongst this recreational debris are a handful of shelves dedicated to RPGs and board games. However, getting to them is a chore as they are hidden behind piles of precariously balanced books, trains, and other hobby ephemera.

It is for that reason that I prefer to shop elsewhere, but on occasion I make the trip to this store and risk the landslide to probe the shelves for lost treasures. Lately, I’ve been searching for a copy of Boot Hill 3rd edition and so I decided to test my luck at the store. Unfortunately, no Boot Hill was to be found amongst the piles of Amazing Engine, Star Wars d6, Pathfinder, classic World of Darkness, GURPS, Deadlands, and other titles that take up space in the dusty aisles of the shop.

My search was not completely without merit, despite this lack of Boot Hill goodness. After much digging, I stumbled across these two finds:

I’ve had one eye cocked for SANDMAN since I first learned of its existence some months back. I’m unable to explain its allure, but the few scraps of information I’ve heard online whetted my appetite to read this strange game for myself and to try and deduce what it was intended to be by the Pacesetter crew when they drafted in the mid-1980s. For those of you unfamiliar with the game, Grognardia gives it a brief overview here. Having had a chance to skim the adventure book, I can gleefully say that I’m now even more enchanted by the high weirdness of this game and I fully expect to do something with it someday. Any game that delves into the illogical nature of dreams is OK by me, especially when it means the PCs get the opportunity to team up with Albert Einstein and take a journey in Dionysus’ rocket ship. No, seriously.

The Antarctic Expedition Kit was a surprise. Still in shrink-wrap and at a discount price, I simply had to purchase it. Beyond the Mountains of Madness is one of those campaigns that is on my “to run” list should I ever get the right  mix of players for it and the time needed to run the 17+ sessions of games needed to see it to its end. However, I’m torn on what to do with the kit know that I own it. I’ve done some searching online and I’ve seen that it commands a variety of prices on the secondhand market. My best research had it going for around $50-$60 in 2006; more current listings have it in the $150-$250 range, but these prices are all from dealers on Amazon and Abebooks and I suspect that these are extremely highball ones. Money remains tight around these part, especially with the holidays staring down at me so the temptation to turn it over for a profit is a strong one, especially if those later prices are anywhere near what the market bears in 2012. But the idea of keeping it for myself and be the proud owner of a Starkweather-Moore Expedition Patch is also a tempting one. I suppose I’ll shelve it for now and if the opportunity to sell it for a substantial gain arises before I ever run BoMM, I’ll let it go. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Average Prices in the City of Midnight

The party has picked up a little bit of cash, but exactly how much they have is meaningless unless they know what the cost of things is. As it looks like we’ll be spending more time in the city of Midnight proper, it was time to assemble an abbreviated price list to let them (and myself) know what the local economy looks like. That list follows below.

Currency in Midnight consists of three types of coins: bronze “flies,” silver sloughkens (or slokens), and gold culps. The ratio is 1 culp = 50 sloughkens = 1000 flies. The setting uses the silver sloughken as the standard currency. Prices below are given in sloughkens (s.) and flies (b.).

.22 Clemson revolver
3 s.
1d4+1 damage
.38 Polecat revolver
6 s.
1d10 damage
.45 revolver
12 s.
1d10+2 damage
.22 Clemson rifle
10 s.
1d6 damage
.52 breechloader rifle
15 s.
20 gauge Clemson shotgun
12 s.
12 gauge double-barrel shotgun
15 s.

Axe, wood
10 b.
1d8 damage
3 b.
1d8 damage (K.O. only)
Bow, hunting
1 s.
1d8 damage
Bow, long
2 s.
2d8 damage
2 b.
1d6 damage
3.5 s.
1d4+2 damage
Hand axe
2.5 s.
1d6 damage
Hammer, carpenter’s
4 b.
1d6 damage
Sword, broad
13 s.
1d8+1 damage
Sword, great
25 s.
2d8 damage

Arrows (20)
10 b.
Damage by weapon
Cartridges, box of 50
3.5 s.
Damage by weapon
Shells, box of 25
2.5 s.
Damage by weapon


Boiled leather hauberk
7.5 s.
2 AP (C, Ab, Ar)
Brigandine coat
15 s.
3 AP (C, Ab, Ar)
Brigandine trews
6 s.
3 AP (L)
Chainmail hauberk
75 s.
5 AP (C, Ab, Ar)
Heavy leather cap
3 s.
2 AP (Head)
Heavy leather coat
4 s.
1 AP (C, Ab, Ar)
Heavy leather trews
3 s.
2 AP (L)
Iron breastplate
30 s.
4 AP (C, Ab)
Iron helmet
10 s.
4 AP (Head)


Belt, leather
9 b.

Boots, leather
2 s.

Coat, cloth
6.5 s.

Gloves, leather
1 s.

Pants, denim
2 s.

Shirt, cloth
1.5+ s.

1.5 s.

Shoes, moccasins
10 b.


Beer, quart
12 b.

Flour, wheat (30 lb. sack)
1 s.

Gator meat (1 lb.)
7 b.

Fish, river
2 b.

Whiskey, quart
3 s.


1+ s.

1+ s.

Lodging, average
2-5 b.

Lodging, poor
1+ b.

Meal, average
5 b.

10 b.—2 s.


Boat (10’)
25 s.

Boat (20’)
50 s.

15 s.

Horse, riding
15 s.

6 s.

10-50 s.

Saddle bags
2.5 s.


7 s.

Book, literature
3+ s.

Book, reference
15+ s.

Book, scholarly
7+ s.

Backpack, small
10 b.
1 cu. foot cap.
10 b.
1 quart cap.
1 b.—2 s.

14 s.

50+ s.

Tobacco (1 lb.)
12 b.

1 b.

Waterskin (1 gallon)
15 b.
1 gallon cap.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


My sole physical birthday present courtesy of Zombie Planet in Albany, NY. I hope the softcover stands up better to use than my softcover 6th edition Call of Cthulhu rule book did.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

“How many people live in Medusa, NY in 1920?”

If you’re the kind of CoC Keeper who dreads this kind of question, fear not. As I pointed out some time ago, Google Books is proving to be a treasure trove for 1920s reference materials. My latest find is Putnam’s Handy Volume Atlas of the World: with an index of cities and towns.

Collected in the book, along with the typical period maps, is a population listing for all U.S. hamlet, villages, towns, and cities by state based on the 1920 U.S. Census. It’s a big file (201 MB), but perfect for my own research and design for Wildwyck County. I thought I’d share it since I’ve been looking for something that had 1920 population figures in New York State and this is the first one that I’ve found that has towns with population figures of 100 or more residents. It also has population numbers for major cities abroad if you’re looking for that information as well. Follow the link and download a copy for yourself.

(Oh and the answer is a) 250 and b) yes, there is a Medusa, NY.)