Friday, March 23, 2018

Facial Justice

Episode 20: Facial Justice.
L.P. Hartley's Facial Justice depicts a post-nuclear dystopia in which absolute equality is enforced by rule of... well, not law, but supposedly benevolent edicts designed to protect citizens--or in the book's language, "patients and delinquents"--from themselves. In this world, anything that might inspire envy is corrected by the state, even if that means surgically altering a person's physical appearance. Jack and Kate take a deep dive into this novel that is by turns cheeky, macabre, and thought-provoking.

Is it possible to be a good person in an inherently flawed society? How can language shape a culture? Is it worse to be banished to the underworld or forced to play rounds of golf? Why is 1984 standard reading but young people are deprived of the chance to discuss Facial Justice in the classroom? All these questions and more are explored in this month's episode of Bad Books for Bad People.

BBfBP theme song by True Creature

Find us at, on Twitter @badbooksbadppl, Instagram @badbooksbadpeople and on Facebook. You can discover where to get all the books featured on Bad Books for Bad People on our About Page.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Secret Society: The Concordia

The Concordia 
A secret society in Umberwell.

The members of the Concordia work to “peacefully” establish a world order that is free from war and strife through mental and emotional coercion. They are willing to disregard the personal agency of individuals in order to achieve a worldwide harmonious existence. In order to foster their vision of utopia, the Concordians pursue psionic disciplines that can be used to alter moods, sways minds, and bend wills to their mission. To the members of the Concordia, dissidence is a disease that can be cured by means of mental control and psychological warfare.

All is quiet and good inside the termite mound.

  • Peace is the only ideal worth striving for.
  • The individual must always subservient to the whole.
  • Create a utopia where law, order, and stability reign.
  • Study the psionic arts so that those unwilling to join in the world's new order might be controlled and made compliant.

I Have a Use For You
  • Persuade a hawkish general to pursue diplomatic means rather than militaristic ones.
  • Abduct a mystic so their psionic powers might be studied.

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Dark of a Tavern in the Cemetery

Campaign: The Excruciata (Umberwell, 5e D&D)

Characters: Raymondo Cortiz (human assassin rogue); Grumli Fellhammer (dwarf path of the ancestors barbarian); Zanna Cobblestop (gnome wild magic sorcerer); Nina Kessler (genasi way of the frozen fist monk); Hiroshi (human samurai fighter).

Events: Having secured a source of kraken blood, as well as the sulfur and charcoal needed to make black powder, the Excruciata now needed to find someone crazy enough to add arcane power to the mixture so it could be sold on the black market for enchanted weaponry. Spreading a little coin around in the occult underground netted the gang an interesting piece of information: just south of the Tarnished Ward in a shanty town outside the city's walls, there is a cemetery in which a cult devoted to the Adversary meets by night--and that cult might be capable of providing the kind of power the Excruciata was looking for.

Venturing into the shanty town, the group found the cemetery--a sprawling mass of shallow graves and hastily erected monuments in the center of a sprawling mass of lean-tos and shoddily constructed shacks. Oddly, in the middle of the cemetery was what appeared to be a ramshackle pub bearing no visible name. Ducking inside, all eyes turned to the gang. The drinkers within were dressed in furs and the sober clothes of scholars; the Mark of the Adversary was etched on the flesh of everyone in the tavern and worn openly in defiance against the religious prohibition against dealing in arcane ways. The interior walls of the pub were covered in mounted antlers draped with magical wards and charms.

Raymondo decided to keep things on the level before any trouble started; he explained in clear terms that he represented a criminal organization looking for occult aid. An especially black-eyed pureblood woman named Freya stepped forward and explained that the group was a sect of the Church of the Outlander, an apocalyptic cult devoted to the study of occult texts. A possible alliance was discussed, but the Outlanders wanted some assurances that they were aligning with a gang that could get things done. 

A series of trials--something like the cult's version of a job interview--were proposed. First, the diminutive Zanna had to face off against one of the cult's younger adepts in magical combat. A circle was formed around Zanna and the adept as they brandished wands and traded spell for spell. Zanna's unpredictable chaos magic carried the day; no one expected that one of her dweomers would send a ripple of necromantic magic through the assembled crowd that instantly healed the wounds Zanna's foe had inflicted on her. (Even Zanna didn't expect that.) The thought of having to face a newly rejuvenated foe was too much for the adept; he yielded the victory.

The second trial was simply a ritual signifying a formal alliance. Raymondo was placed in the awkward position of having to marry Freya as a way of symbolically linking the Excruciata gang and this sect of the Church of the Outlander. The ceremony was performed in the Adversary's name; the ritual befouled the air--everything stank of dark magic. The marriage was not official as far as the state or normative religion would recognize, but Raymondo felt like it had been sanctified by a far older and viler power. He was also surprised to find that her could now hear his new "wife" speak to him inside his head.

The Outlanders had one last trial to pose to the Excruciata; to cement their business agreement the Excruciata would need to assassinate a physician named Doctor Nymenholt, and make off with his collection of occult tomes.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Crime and Punishment in Umberwell

  • The Carrion Worms. Specialized in smuggling contraband and river piracy. They are filthy and tattered. Their favored weapons are gaff hooks and thrown vials of acid.
  • The Urn Street Soldiers. Dealers in bootlegged tonics. They affect Orientalist style, and their trademark weapon is alchemist's fire.
  • The Cuckoos. Operate black markets for the sale of stolen goods and kidnap innocents for ransom. They dress in top hats and carry meat cleavers.
  • The 47 Rodents. Run protection rackets and deal drugs. Most members are halflings, gnomes, kobolds, or goblinoids. They were masks shaped like rat skulls, and fight with axes.
  • The Shriekers. Deal in experimental arms. Their plague masks feature mouths wide open in mid-scream, and they favor ornate pistols. They have a few gargants “liberated” from the Umberwell Watch.
  • The Slaughtermen. Known for general thuggery and assassination. They wear nautical-themed masks, and carry short swords and hand crossbows. Their ranks have been infiltrated by the Voidsighted cult.
  • The Council Street Carvers. Known for burglary and housebreaking. They ply their trade in the wealthier districts and wards, targeting estates and mansions.
  • The gray-coated members of the Umberwell Watch push back against the city's gangs, but the majority of its forces are deployed against dissidents, labor strikes, and rioters.
  • The Watch uses a number of technological devices designed by Malishnikov Industries. Gargants, mechanized suits of armor equipped with auto-crossbows and spotlights, are used to suppress crime and dissent. Watchmen facing rioters or large gangs are given lightning shields that crackle with shocking concussive force to subdue protesters and the unruly masses.
  • The River Watch police the river and its tributaries, cracking down on smuggling and illicit trade.
  • The blue-uniformed Marshals Mortuaria are tasked with containing or destroying the undead. They patrol quarantined plague areas and are mustered to hunt any undead that threaten the city.
  • The most dangerous criminals in Umberwell are incarcerated in Bleakbone Gaol. No one has ever escaped from the walls and cells of Bleakbone.
  • It is not unusual for the citizens of Umberwell to carry arms to defend themselves; the city is a dangerous place and the Watch is unreliable at the best of times.
  • The Empire maintains a standing army and powerful naval fleet. Soldiers and sailors may either be enlisted or conscripted by government press gangs.
  • The Empire's army has recently been bolstered by the introduction of automaton soldiers created by Kiero Jebali, a genius inventor and owner of Jebali Munitions in Cirqus. Rumors circulate that some automatons achieve self-awareness and develop fully realized personalities due to a flaw in their programming that creates a viral consciousness.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Krevborna: The Cookbook

It's been exactly a month since Krevborna: A Gothic Blood Opera was published. I can honestly say that I did not anticipate how successful it would be; it sold more copies at a faster rate than any other role-playing book I've written, it became a "Copper Best Seller" and then a "Silver Best Seller" in short order on DriveThru, it's been well-rated, and people have said awfully kind things about it. I am very pleased by the reception, especially that people keep noting the information design that went into making the book easy to use--I spent a lot of time thinking about the format of the book and how to convey a campaign setting with only the useful, interesting bits facing forward.

Of course, I'm not adverse to even more success. More success means more art budget for the next thing I write; I don't have a Patreon or do Kickstarters, so this is just good ol' fashion hobby publishing at work. Tell your friends about the book if you think they'd like it! Post a review on or reddit or some g+ community I never go to! (But also let me know you posted a review so I can read it.) 

As a way of saying "Thank you" to everyone who bought the book, I'm offering a free pdf of a chapter that didn't make it into the final book: The Krevborna Cookbook. In this pdf are five honest-to-god-you-can-make-these-yourself recipes for you to enjoy with your gaming group. Playing rpgs is a social occasion, so celebrate that with good friends and good food. Each of the recipes in the pdf is themed around one of the major locations in Krevborna--even though this pdf is purely for fun, I think it does give a little more ahem flavor ahem to the setting's most notorious locales.

Of course, if you haven't taken a look at Krevborna: A Gothic Blood Opera you can pick it up here in print and pdf.

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Bloody Chamber

Mini-episode: Angela Carter's "The Bloody Chamber"
For this mini episode, Jack and Kate take a look at the "title track" from Angela Carter's famed short story collection, The Bloody Chamber. This feminist reimagining of the Bluebeard story blends sensuous language, heady atmosphere, and clever inversions of typical fairy tale tropes.

What perils await young women as they venture into the wider world? How do fairy tales translate into the modern world? Is there a reason why some stories end exactly where they do? Find out all this and more in this month's mini episode of Bad Books for Bad People.

BBfBP theme song by True Creature

Find us at, on Twitter @badbooksbadppl, Instagram @badbooksbadpeople and on Facebook. You can discover where to get all the books featured on Bad Books for Bad People on our About Page.

Friday, March 9, 2018

The Art of Ian McQue

I found Ian McQue's art randomly via Twitter and I love it, particularly this "urban ramshackle" style I'm showcasing below. He works in a wide varieties of styles but these are my favorites:

Check out his site here