Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Post Halloween Party Post

So we went to a party in Virginia Beach which was just like any other drunken Saturday night with these attendees, except people had costumes.
Kitty was an undead person...

I was celebrating Dia de los Muertos...

Close up of Kitty's eye makeup.
Note the spooky veining.

Random party shots.

At some point I thought I'd do my "Hamlet"...might have been the vodka's idea.

Let it never be said that Catholics don't know how to funk it up for Halloween.

Besties featuring Space Kitty and, well, Cindy

The obligatory PHOTOBOMB!

Assembled psychos...I don't remember who came as a dog...

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween Weird Western Image o' the Day: Hanging Judge

Today we have another from Deadlands, this time from the Reloaded game manual:

The Hanging Judges are ghostly monsters that appear at night and "arrest" people for whatever crime they feel like (could be having a mustache, for example).  They are, like most undead, practically invulnerable, requiring they be shot by a duly deputized lawman's gun to be put down.
That's okay, they'll be back again the next night...

Friday, October 30, 2015

A Mixed Saddlebag

I thought I'd just finish off with a mixed bag of costumes I looked up and what I think of them in general, for the amusement of myself, and possibly you as well.

First up, just a couple of cowboys.  Most Western costumes do not come with trousers, so on the models the most common choice of trouser you are going to see is a pair of blue jeans.  Historically, during the era, most men did not wear blue jeans.  The most common fabrics were wool blends or for cavalry types and laborers you'd likely find duck, a cotton canvas material (makes good protective gear).  Boots NEVER come with the costumes and the guns are always sold separately.  More than half of the costumes do not come with hats.  Chances are the costume is a duster or vest and a bandanna, and for this you will pay around $70.  Still, these are good generic "Western" options.  You could build something Weird West or Steampunk out of them.
"Hel-looo, ladies"
I know what you are thinking.  You are thinking Danny McBride attempting a cowboy.  This outfit looks like a Dude's Rodeo Special.  It's the sort of thing a cowboy would wear if he lost all self-respect, sold out and joined a lesser quality Wild West Show competing unsuccessfully with Bill Cody.  It's very modern in a Howdy Doody sort of way.  Make an effort, sir.
This here is yore basic John Wayne ensemble.  It's the sort of outfit you see in pictures of the Duke when you don't know what movie it's from.  It's a shirt, vest, chaps and bandanna, and the bandanna is in blue, just to be rebellious.  Chose this and you are going to have to get yourself a hat from somewhere, otherwise you'll look like an idiot.  Which is suggesting that you won't look like an idiot after you get the hat.  I don't want to be misconstrued, so don't make that assumption, hoss.  Speaking of Hoss, this is a good option if you are portly.  At least then you'd have a Bonanza thing going on, but you'd need a better hat.

 I don't name these things.  Somebody working copy at the catalog stores has that duty, and man are they bad at it.  This is your basic, low effort, Clint Eastwood job.  Except he's carrying a rifle, and the poncho is shitty.  Take a look at the description I have thoughtfully boxed for you.  This "costume" is a damn poncho and shirt WITH ATTACHED VEST.  That's it.  What vest?  I'm sure it's in there somewhere.  Extra points for the model not shaving for a few days to complete the sadness.

"When ah say 'draw', slap leather, ya owlhoot!"  I looked up several outfits that were labeled gunslinger or gunfighter and this was the best representation I could find.  It's pretty much an amalgamation of the ideas we have of fictional gunfighters.  You have the fancy waistcoat and simulated frock coat of a man of some refinement, plus that dickey to give you the illusion of a cravat or something.  But then you have jeans again and the hyper-Wyatt Earp mustache, which is not included.  Oh, and neither are the guns, of course.  The gun belt is included, however.  The more I look at this the more I want to see this guy get drilled in the street at High Noon.  If we put a few bullet holes in the waistcoat with some dried blood and did a corpse makeup or a skull we'd have a decent little Weird Western outfit going here. 

It's another gunslinger, actually.  I'd prefer this one with a tin star on the chest.  Make him into a town marshal or something.
Again, I don't name these things, but if that's what passes for quality work at the Halloween online outlets, I am in the wrong business.  The name alone makes my teeth grind.  Gambler Rogue.  As opposed to those upstanding paragons of virtue that other gamblers are.  You have a vinyl waistcoat with attached sleeves AND a dickey.  Already you are saying, "But Rook, why is this waistcoat so plain when the gunslinger up there has so much style?" and I don't have an answer for you.  Best of all you get chaps.  You've seen the archetypal gambler haven't you?  Doc Holiday in Tombstone is that archetype, as is Bret Maverick.

Those are Gamblers.  Frilled shirt, fashionable waistcoat and fashionably cut jacket.  These men arrive by stage, hang out on riverboats, and like to live well, enjoying their winnings.  They project a sense of having money, which is always welcome in a poker game, and may be more than what they seem.  Chaps are for work, riding horses and sichlike.  When you think gambler you should think  fancy duds, a hidden derringer, and a slick attitude, not Wyatt Earp up top and then, ahh screw it, gimmie some chaps and a rifle, I might need to ride the range.  It's like a cowboy came into town to drink and whore and raise Cain, as they do, and then bought a new shirt.  It's sad. So sad.

Finally we have this guy.  Bartender Wild West Costume for Men.  Seriously, where do I get this part-time job of naming costumes "professionally"?  This stunning costume comes with a bow tie, they are very specific about that.  There is a vest with attached shirt, because it would have been too much of a chore to attach the bowtie, and there are arm garters (because what bartender WOULDN'T have arm garters) and an APRON (I can sense your excitement) and holsters.  Now our clever model has put a couple of bottles of pisswater in his holsters to make this a "funny" costume.  Please note that the beer mug and mustache are SOLD SEPARATELY.  Look, you might get by without the mug, but consarnit, you are going to need that jaunty stache.  This whole costume confuses me, which is why I saved it for last.
I'm trying to think of why you'd ever want to dress up as the barkeep at the Whore and Cuspidor Saloon.  Has this guy ever been cool in a western?  He gets about 4 lines, and two of them are "What'll it be?" and "We don't want any trouble here."
So I wracked my cabeza and thought, maybe, just may-be you want to throw a Western Themed Halloween Party and you want whoever is serving the drinks to look authentic, which he will in this outfit (or her, I'm not being sexist here...but she must wear the mustache, that's de rigueur), but that's it.  If you are hosting why would you dress as Short-Tap Bill?  You'd go the full fancy saloon owner route, wouldn't you?
Other than that, I got nothing.  There's nothing cool about being a postman or the guy that works at the livery stable or the telegraph operator.
Now undertaker has possibilities.  I'd go that route.  Good luck finding the components though.

Keep them pumpkins rollin'.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Flesh Golem in Ravenloft

Remember when I said that Dungeons and Dragons, by which I mean the staff at TSR, is not particularly good at originality but is great at taking something you know and working it into the game?
It's HERE.
Well in 1990 TSR took a well received first edition module called Ravenloft (1983, written by the creators of Dragonlance) an adventure where the PCs fight an ersatz Dracula named Strahd von Zarovich, and spun that into an entire campaign setting based extremely loosely on the idea of Gothic Horror in AD&D.  It was not particularly successful at achieving Gothic Horror since the ability to throw fireballs and swing +5 swords of instant death do not lend themselves to the atmosphere of horror, but it was quite popular all the same.

One of the hallmarks of Ravenloft was that the team over at TSR mined as much Gothic Horror literature, including the likes of Poe, Stoker, & Shelley, and films sources as they could to create their setting.  The setting being a big old Ruritania-esque Universal/Hammer films like Ersatz Transylvania, with other locations shoehorned in and running the technological gamut from prehistoric to Victorian.  Ravenloft has its own Dracula in Strahd von Zarovich, a few mummies, a plethora of werewolves, it's own Dr. Moreau and so on.  It also has its own Frankenstein and his creation in the form of Dr. Victor Mordenheim and Adam.
Christopher Lee and Alice Cooper at your service.

Adam is a flesh golem, but quite unlike the fellows we saw last time, this is a true Frankenstein "homage" (he wrote ironically).  Adam is intelligent, vindictive and quite evil, as well as being strong and near indestructible.  Unlike the standard golem, Adam is not really a shell for housing an elemental, which a wizard in the regular game can bind into a golem as a matter of course, but a unique creation.
Vic learns that when making a monster, you should probably make something you have a hope of beating just in case shit like this happens.

This gave rise to the Ravenloft Flesh Golem.  Of course it did.

One key feature of Ravenloft lore, certainly one of my favorites, is the resident Van Helsing, Dr. Rudolph Van Richten.  Van Richten wrote several sourcebooks for TSR starting with Van Richten's Guide to Vampires, and continuing through other monsters.  Golems are covered in his Guide to the Created.  In those pages players and DMs get far more information on the monsters than one would expect they would ever need.  The golems of Ravenloft (not just flesh golems, they have doll golems, scarecrow golems, bone's a big list) are not simple statues containing an elemental.  These are all twisted forms of life that begin childlike and then eventually grow into evil and vindictive monsters no matter how nicely you treat them.  It would seem the staff at TSR had missed much of the actual point of Shelley's novel, but they sure got the trappings down.
How is that thing not conducting electricity into everybody holding it down?
The guide to the created lists all manner of ways to create golems, but the art is definitely selling the Frankenstein angle all the way.

The story with Adam and Mordenheim is not totally Frankenstein, however.  In this version Mordenheim seeks to return his wife to life, he cannot successfully recreate life after his initial success, and Adam is linked to him so that neither can die if the other one is still alive.  Basically.
The initial art and descriptions of Mordenheim's monster are very much Shelley's descriptions of Frankenstein's own creation, each part perfect but the whole a monstrous being.  Later art would give in a bit to the film Frankensteins as we see below.  Personally I think that was a bad choice, as Adam's very novel-like look made him a solid homage to the Gothic Horror source material, and not just a prop.
Where is the tip of your nose?  Seriously, you look like Michael Jackson, and I think your head has gone a bit flat.
Despite the fact that golems can be made of anything, the Flesh Golem, and thus the Frankenstein angle, is definitely the star attraction in the Ravenloft milieu.
Frankie has just kicked that fighter's ass.  I don't know what the girls thinks she is going to do, but the old fellow has the right idea.  Tear ass.
Obviously, or perhaps not obviously, flesh golems are not players characters.  So the Guide to the Created included a small section on making PCs into FGs.  Of course it did.
Didn't I say that D&D does not lend itself well to Gothic Horror?  If you stat it, they will kill it.  Everybody knows that.
Which is probably why a spin off of Ravenloft was produced in 1994, entitled Masque of the Red Death, and was set in an alternate version of Victorian Earth called Gothic Earth, because gamers often need it right on the nose to get it.

And yes they have the actual Frankenstein's Monster:

And yes, he is a Flesh Golem.  But that's the enduring legacy of Mary Shelley's one great literary creation.  We call it by the creator's name.  We love the big guy.  This was her magnum opus; she dined out on this all the time.  One hit wonder, but what a hit!

And that's all I have to say on that.

Raise the pumpkin to the roof, the storm is at its most furious!  Live!  Keep it lit.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Halloween Weird Western Image o' the Day: Righteous Fury

Another from my Deadlands series of lazy posts:

A preacher dealing with some undead.
Many games have some kind of cleric type and Deadlands has that covered too.  The Blessed hand out much less healing and much more high holy asskicking, however.
As evidenced here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Der (Flesh) Golem

Just in time for the Halloween season...

I was thinking about golems the other day.  Dungeons and Dragons, not known for originality, but great at taking a piece of property and running with it, introduced golems into the game early on.  Unlike the legendary Jewish animated statue, the D&D golem is an artificial construct created by a magic user and animated by an elemental bound within it.  That's not quite the Jewish golem, but it worked for D&D.  Golems are generally useful.  They are strong, tough, immune to most forms of attack,including many spells and while not exactly intelligent, they can be very useful for guarding things.  Golems come in many varieties, being made out of stone, wood, metal, clay, even glass, but today we are interested in the FLESH GOLEM.
The flesh golem first appeared, as far as I know, in the AD&D 1st edition Monster Manual and is basically Frankenstein's Monster.

See the image?  Yeah, that's Frankie.

The flesh golem was, originally, quite different from other golems.  It was healed by electricity and had a cumulative chance of going berserk in combat.  Again, that's pretty much Frankenstein's monster.  The flesh golem write up, in case you are interested, is below.

A flesh golem can be created by means of a magical tome or by a high level magic-user employing a wish spell, a polymorph any object, a geas, a protection from normal missiles and a strength spell. The latter case demands a level of magic-use of at least the 14th. The cost in materials is 1 ,OOO gold pieces per hit point of the golem. It requires 1 month to fashion the creature.  The creator of the flesh golem controls the monster, being able to have it follow simple commands (go ahead, stop, kill, etc.). The master of the
golem can have it suspend its functioning until a set event tokes place (such as someone entering its room).
However, for each turn of melee a flesh golem engages in there is a 1% per melee round cumulative chance it will go berserk, attacking at random anything in sight. The monster‘s master has a 10% per melee round chance of regaining control of the golem.
The flesh golem is very powerful and able to smash through doors and wooden structures of normal construction. For example, a flesh golem would break through an oaken door with iron reinforcing bands and hinges, in 5-8 melee rounds. It does 1 point of structural damage to wooden constructions only every 3 melee rounds. Normal weapons do not harm flesh golems, but magical weapons have normal effect. Spells of most sorts have no effect on such monsters, but fire
or cold based spells (such as wall of fire, fire boll, ice storm, etc.) slow the golem by 50% for 2-12 melee rounds. Electrical attacks restore damage to the golem in direct relation to the number of dice of damage normally done, i.e. a 6 die lightning bolt restores 6 hit points of damage which the golem might have sustained.

The link between Mary Shelley's creation and the Golem of legend is really an afterthought as no evidence exists that I can find to suggest that Mary Shelley had any knowledge of the legend or considered it in creating her story.  She does tell her readers, in the 1831 introduction to her work (reprinted after minor style changes by her) that discussions between her husband and Lord Byron on the philosophical nature of life, experiments attributed to Erasmus Darwin and Galvani and how those linked to it, and in the work Victor speaks of Paracelsus and alchemists and occultists all contributed to her creation.  Thus we can infer with some reasonable accuracy that Shelley's creation is not a golem by her understanding.  Regardless the Flesh Golem of D&D is clearly more than a little inspired by Frankenstein's Monster, particularly as seen in films.
"Wizard BAD!"
Golems are mere tools in AD&D, not player characters, which is a shame because what monster fan wouldn't have to have a go at being one of the classic big boys of monsters?  Universal Monsters Online, the defunct MOBA allowed players to play as Frankenstein's Monster.  He was a tank, by the way.
Looks a bit less a lumbering dolt than one would expect, doesn't he?  

Over the years and editions the Flesh Golem changed its look and some of its characteristics.  The 3rd edition is particularly nasty looking in keeping with the DungeonPunk stylings of that era.  Since they are made of scavenged body parts any single Flesh Golem might be quite an interesting mix of monster parts as well, as shown below.
3rd edition Flesh Golem, note the wires and such.
He's reading a book.  Are we supposed to believe he's intelligent?
Yet for all the obvious Frankenstein references, the Flesh Golem is not like our monster friend up there.  It is an elemental spirit bound into a flesh shell, not a creature animated by the fire of heaven itself.  It does not have free will and so does elicit our respect or sympathy.  It's just another monster for players to kill or use as they see fit.  It should be respected for it's natural toughness, but outside of that, nobody cares much.  That seems a crap way to pay tribute to a great inspiration like Frankenstein, and so it would be but for a little 2nd edition campaign setting called Ravenloft...

To be continued.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Night of the Living Dead Cowboys

I sort of promised you guys some weird west horror stuff at the start of the season so I need to deliver.
Now that's an undead cowboy right there.
 Thanks to an unfortunate continuing interest in zombies there are a few undead cowboy outfits on teh market.  I believe you would do better just getting some regular cowboy gear and some horror bit and making your own, but not everyone has that kind of time.  I understand.  I'm not judging.  Well, I'm not judging you, dear reader, but I'll judge the hell out of some costumes.
The whole Weird Western thing really lends itself to zombies and other spookiness well and there is something somehow appropriate about gunslingers and death in the same image.
It's really just a trench coat and a skull mask when you get right down to it.

Now you might be able, without the benefit of CGI, to pull off a decent Death Marshal...

But you just ain't gonna pull off Ghost Rider.  That's okay, you can still do some pretty nifty costumes if you have the time and the skill.  Your choices are not limitless if you want this to work.  A ghost cowboy is pretty high concept, but you could manage it.  Your basic two are the skull and the zombie.
They are not great, but they have potential.  The more complete of the two is the zombie on the right.  Buy that and all you'll need is an appropriate shirt, boots and gun.  The more whimsical skull on the left requires you provide the exact same items.  Between the two of them the zombie is more fantastic with the skull embellishments on the hat, belt and collar of the duster.  If you are going for a really Weird Western look, that'll do it.  The other guy is less fantastic, but the poncho, hat style and the noose all "tell a story" as the judges of Face Off would say.
I may or may not have said this before, but you don't want to spend all night explaining your costume to people.  A costume should be either an immediately recognizable archetype, the oft-mentioned visual shorthand I keep harping on, or it needs to immediately tell a story.  When you look at the zombie guy, unless you are up close, he's just a fancy gunslinger.  When you look at old Poncho over there you get a story.  The skull, the cut noose, the poncho evoking images of Clint Eastwood in spaghetti westerns, it all combines to tell us a story.  Somebody gave this cowpoke a hemp necktie and he liked it so much he kept it.  And he's got a mad on.

Weird Westerns combine westerns with things like steampunk, science fiction, aliens, and of course, horror.  You can definitely have some fun with the concept and with a little time and effort either of those could be the basis of a unique expression of your own, which I highly recommend.

Yeehaw, keep them pumpkins rolling.