Monday, March 7, 2022


I finally had a chance to watch The Many Saints of Newark. Based on what I heard, my expectations were low, but it was a pleasant surprise. I am sure I will need to watch it many more times to really settle on an opinion about it. On the first viewing, I quite enjoyed it. I found it more cohesive than I had heard. I also liked some of the unexpected turns, and enjoyed the new characters they introduced. While the early announcements, posters and trailers were a little misleading (making it seem that Tony Soprano was more central), I think it was a good choice to make him an important side character rather than center the film on him (and it will make an sequel where he does take center stage feel more believable (because we've had a solid introduction to young Tony). 

Overall I thought they did a much better job than I had anticipated. This is the kind of movie that could have easily failed on multiple levels (especially being a television show brought to the big screen). But I think they made a lot of good choices. 

I had a lot more thoughts about it (it took me nearly 40 minutes to express them all in the podcast below). Listen to find out what I thought of the movie. Hopefully in the coming days or weeks I will watch it again and give more thoughts. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2022


For the past several months I have been working on a variation of Strange Tales of Songling set in New England. It will use the same basic system (and there should be cross-compatibility between the two games) but offer a very different type of setting. It draws on a broad range of influences, local paranormal accounts and history, psychological horror, religious horror and local legends. 

It is also influenced by a ton of classic horror movies. There is always a lot of horror in my other RPGs and that is because I mainly GM'd horror campaigns and was a huge horror fanatic growing up. That was one of the reasons I started the horror express discussions on the podcast (hopefully we will start doing those again soon). This will be influenced by a range of movies, everything from the Exorcist and the Howling to Jacob's Ladder and Carnival of Lost Souls. And there is a lot of old silent horror movie influence as well. Nosferatu was one of the fist horror movies I saw as a kid, and I like movies like the Lon Chaney Phantom of the Opera. I think the one common thread of the film influences is they are for the most part, films made prior to 2000. I am not as interested in recent horror movies and that is pretty clear I think in the setting material (nothing wrong with more recent movies, there are some I like, I just have less interest in new films in general).  

There is also an X-Files and cryptic element to the setting (a lot of it is structured around local anomaly and paranormal accounts: things like the Dover Demon, the Bridgewater Triangle and the story of Doc Benton). I like to read books about weird local accounts and urban legends, so a lot of that is going to be in here. 

Like Strange Tales, Strange New England has four paths (tailored to the setting), but it takes a slightly different approach to magic. Presently the paths are: Exorcist, Spirit Medium, Charlatan and Combatant (will get more into those in future posts). It also includes a corruption mechanic similar to powers checks from the old Ravenloft line (it is influenced a lot by Ravenloft but also by the game The Esoterrorists, and the Orrorsh material for TORG). The campaign structure is similar to Strange Tales of Songling, with an adventure for each level, but it is more a blend of sandbox and monster of the week: where the players get to pick what they want to investigate that adventure. 

I have been play testing since October as I develop the setting and the mechanics. There are some key concepts I am trying to hash out and refine (and I will talk more about those As the weeks and months unfold after they crystalize more). 

In terms of tone, this is a genuine horror game, where the stakes are pretty high (I think about as high as you can make them). But it is a nice blend because I think one of the reasons people sometimes have difficulty with horror in RPGs is they feel the need to always hit that horror note. My approach is, when you can, definitely go for that, but you also need to allow for fun and other moods (both for contrast but also to allow for the horror t even work). This is a topic I will hopefully be blogging more about as well. 

There isn't any concrete timeline on this one. I have other projects working their way through the pipeline before this one comes out. But my plan is to take a slow-brew development approach to this one like I have for the past several projects.