Thursday, 15 November 2018

“Delusions are lies that tell the truth”

I went to see Luca Guadagnino’s 2018 film Suspiria* and had my mind blown away. So rich, so intense, and it resonated with many of my own fantasies and fears.

First of all, this is not a horror flick. I repeat, this is not a horror flick. At the end of the show, when the lights came back, I noticed two young guys who looked disappointed, and I could hear them mutter that it hadn’t been what they had expected. Yeah sorry tossers, Hostel part XVII was showing in the other theatre.

Suspiria is actually more like cosmic horror à la Lovecraft. Sara’s character, for instance, is a lot like most protagonists in Lovecraft short stories: they deny the evidence of bad shit happening until it’s too late.

And, just like Lovecraft short stories were deeply ingrained in their time, Guadagnino has managed to perfectly fit Suspiria in the mood of 1970s Europe, at a time when the wounds of WWII hadn’t healed yet, and European youth was rebelling.

The above doesn’t mean that Suspiria is a Lovecraftian film though. It is not. Lovecraft did not understand (and probably feared) women and female sexuality. Suspiria’s cast is 100% female** and the plot revolves around [mild spoiler] the fact that a foremost, all-female dance institute in Berlin is actually a coven of witches; the pupils live at the school and there are innuendos about Sapphic love.

For me, Suspiria is a film that explores a part of our psyche and culture that is usually overlooked in our patriarchal society: the role and place of womanhood, of female sexuality, of the three visages of Woman: the virgin, the mother, the crone. And just like “kung-fu” movies celebrate the male body, Suspiria, with its breath-taking dance scenes, celebrates the female body.

So what’s in there for the RPG buff?

The obvious answer is, inspiration for a contemporary horror RPG***. This is so obvious that I won’t expand. Depending on the maturity of your players you may emphasise the female sexuality aspect, or the political one, neither, or both.

Gloranthan fans will find food for thought aplenty:
a) First, the whole film is a great illustration of why the Dance skill is actually super useful. And, based upon the already-classic “Olga scene”, you could even devise a whole magic system based upon dancing moves. Think of the implications for matriarchal societies… How cool is that?
b) There’s also quite a lot to be salvaged in terms of dreams, how they are suggested to one’s victim, how they influence reality, etc. Great stuff for a game set in Eastern Genertela.
c) And, last but not least, there’s also a profound reflection on illusions. “Delusions are lies that tell the truth” is a phrase the Doctor says. I can see implications on Eurmali hero quests.

If Suspiria is not a horror film, it certainly is a weird one, as in: weird as a genre. So if you like Lamentations of the Flame Princess, you will find tons of gameable ideas in this film. I reckon you could actually transpose the whole film to the same milieu as Better Than Any Man, as a sister or alternate adventure, the coven of witches being allies or nemeses of the ones in Jim Raggi’s adventure.

* Luca Guadagnino says his film is not a remake of the classic 1977 giallo, but a re-telling.
** Even the only male protagonist of the film, the Doctor, is played by a female actress with prosthetics, Tilda Swinton
*** Because horror RPGs are not the same “horror” as horror films.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Constitutio Criminalis Carolina

The following will prove interesting and useful for anyone running games in a modern European setting, e.g., the one tentatively being built via this blog, or the underlying canonical setting of Lamentations of the Flame Princess, etc.

In 1530, the German estates assembled at at the Diet of Augsburg under Holy Roman Emperor Charles V agreed upon a body of criminal law known as the Constitutio Criminalis Carolina. This body of law was ratified in 1532 at the Diet in Regensburg to be used as the common civil and criminal law throughout the Holy Roman Empire — whose laws were a haphazardly mix of local and customary laws depending on the local jurisdiction a person was to be tried in.

Under the terms of the Constitutio Criminalis Carolina, actions such as murder, manslaughter, robbery, arson, forgery, homosexual relations and witchcraft were henceforth defined as severe crimes. In particular, the Carolina specified that those found guilty of causing harm through witchcraft should be executed with fire, laying the foundation for the mass witch trials between 1580 and 1680. It was also the basis for the use of obtaining confessions by torture.

So what can the player characters expect if they are arrested in post-1532 Central Europe?

First of all, torture! Torture to obtain more proof is only allowed if there is at least a “half-proof” against the defendant to start with, like for instance two eyewitnesses, or one eyewitness and a partial confession.

The kind of questions the interrogators may ask is also restricted by the Carolina. Basically, no leading questions are allowed. For instance, the interrogator may ask what weapon has been used in a case of murder, but not if it was a knife.

Even the confession has to be corroborated. So if you have confessed under torture that you hid the stolen money in place X, the investigators have to recover the money from place X, or else the confession is not valid.

Also the proceedings have now to be public (contrary to earlier law), and innocent victims of justice can sue the officials.

Some excerpts of the Carolina are available in English here.

this blog entry compiled from the wikipedia and this web-site

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

The Tale of Tales

Giambattista Basile (1566-1632) was an Italian writer. He is particularly remembered for his collection of Neapolitan-language fairy tales titled the Tale of Tales. In 2015, the Italian director  Matteo Garrone made an English-language film, titled Tale of Tales, loosely adapted from three of the tales: The Enchanted Doe, The Flea, and The Flayed Old Lady.

The film is quite LotFP-ey, especially the most grotesque scenes, and in particular the whole part with the giant flea, the betrothal of Violet to the ogre, and the ensuing mayhem. I heartily recommend it.

Anyway, I started scouring the internet for information about the Tale of Tales, and I stumbled upon a collection of illustrations by the decadent Austrian artist Franz von Bayros (1866-1924). They are quite LotFP-ey too :-)

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Renaissance Magic

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola
Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494) was a Romance nobleman and philosopher who studied the various occult traditions from around the Mediterranean, both within and without the True Faith, and who ordered and classified them as an organised philosophical art.

Pico della Mirandola divided Magic into two different forms: Natural Magic, and Demonic Magic.

Natural Magic is based upon the study of the forces of nature, the four elements, esotericism, etc., and is deemed compatible with the True Faith. Demonic Magic is based upon the invocation of occult forces and is not to be dabbled in.

Pico's ideas have given birth to Renaissance Magic, and to the practice for powerful noblemen to keep court magicians. Many of these court magicians write magical grimoires; the most famous one is Giambattista della Porta (1535–1615) with his book Magia Naturalis (1558).
In Northern Europe, Pico's system has been made popular by the Almain polymath Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa (1486–1535). Obviously, in a age of crazed witch hunts, the line between Natural and Demonic Magic is not clear-cut but often dictated by religious interests, and so the profession of magician is a most dangerous one...

NB— This post has been inspired by this article.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Better Than Any Man Prequel

I am going to run a kind of alternative prequel to Better Than Any Man, set before the death of Gabriele Bauer. The latter entrusts the player characters (all of them are female teenagers) with travelling to the War Room in Cachtice, in Voivodja, in order to figure out the exact position of Gustavus Adolphus' army [I know this is not what is written in the description of the war room, but I'm modifying that— in my version of Voivodja, the war room shows the movements of all armies in all known worlds]. Gabriele Bauer intends to use the information to organise the safe escape of Karlstadt's population before the Swedes are upon the hapless town.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Map of Europe at the Time of the Blood Countess

This is a map of Europe at the Time of the Blood Countess. It is based on the real Europe at the turn of the 17th century, with some simplifications.

Minor States
1: Most Serene Republic of Venedig
2: Patrimony of Saint Peter
3: Principality of Schwarzenberg
4: Sultanate of Maghribia

The Fair Kingdom
A: part of the Fair Kingdom under the suzerainty of the Empire of the One Faith
B: part of the Fair Kingdom occupied by the Empire of the Crescent Moon
C: Principality of Transylvania, semi-independent vassal of the Empire of the Crescent Moon

Other vassals of the Empire of the Crescent Moon
D: Bogdania
E: Herdsland