Sep 232022
 

Twin Moon Pictures Presents is a series of articles designed to give you things to use in horror games based in the 1970’s. Although the articles will be written for The They Came From Beyond the Grave RPG, the articles should be system neutral enough for your own 1970’s era games or stories.

It is 197-something. Something terrible is threatening your town, Senior Prom or summer camp. It is too early for alien trophy hunters and media-savvy ironic serial killers but too late for faceless blobs from outer space and tentacle monsters from racist pulp writers. You need something appropriate for the current times.

So, who or what is responsible for the current terror?

Roll a D10

1) Satanists – Oh yeah. Satan worshipers are everywhere. They are in your PTA, they are your elderly upstairs neighbors and they are DEFINITELY members of the church and clergy. You think they just want to knock up one lady with Satan’s son? There is a lot of demons out there and they all have cults trying to bring them to earth. Why, some Satanists might even be role-players!

2) Psychics- The 70’s were a bad time for psychics popping up and fucking shit up. Between the CIA’s drug programs, new additives in margarine or New Age Gurus messing with forces they don’t understand, psychics are manifesting their powers and lashing out. There might be a good psychic here or there, but for the most part, these bitter loners are mad as hell and they are not going to take it anymore.

3) Atlanteans – Some people say Atlantis was just a metaphor and never really existed. Those people are victims of the Atlanteans’ propaganda. Atlantis was real and it was up to no good when it sunk beneath the oceans. The survivors who escaped Atlantis tried to create new colonies and places of power in the ancient world but were (mostly) defeated by the forces of good. Some incredibly old Atlanteans live on, dreaming of bringing about a New World Order of magic, perversion and super-science. In some places, only their artifacts remain, waiting for foolish people to come across them once more and accidentally touch the wrong standing stone or mini-pyramid.

4) Cryptids – Do you have a lake nearby? What about a stretch of woods? Even an empty factory that has been abandoned? Then it probably has a Cryptid. Life always finds a way and in the pollution of the 1970’s life would often get really fucked up. If you are lucky, the local monster haunting your woods is just a Bigfoot but odds are if something weird is hanging about, it is a mutant freak that looks like a God was doing acid when he made it.

5) Masked Killer – Look, it might seem like a cliché but a cliché is just another word for “Stuff that happens a lot”. One thing we know about the 70’s is that psychopaths love masks and they have a lot of anger to get out. They might be back from the dead or they might just be a bitter jerk but either way, they really like to murder people.

6) Dracula – Dracula never dies, baby! Neither does his brides, children and sometimes casual enemies. Dracula has had a long life and if he can convert African Princes into vampires, then I am sure there are all sorts of vampires we have never heard of.

7) Ghosts – There are two kinds of ghosts. Some ghosts are friendly but strongly disagree on what temperature the thermostat is set to. The other kind of ghost is a bastard and would like you to kindly get out of its house, hopefully in pieces. Ghosts possess small children and seem to be really good at make sharp objects levitate. They don’t just haunt houses either! Sometimes they haunt objects and figuring which object needs to be doused in holy water can be the real challenge.

8) Communists – In the 60’s communists were making monsters to attack navy bases or building UFO’s to harass the Midwestern United States. In the 70’s, their methods are more subtle and sinister. Now they are replacing labor union workers with shapeshifters or mind-controlling teenagers with subliminal messages in their rock-and-roll. If something is trying to tear down society and they are using science to do it, it is probably communists.

9) Amazons – Almost as bad as Atlanteans, Amazons can have different origins. Some are descendants of the real Amazons of history, while others merely call themselves Amazons in their book club. Either way, these women are not satisfied with the unequal role of women in society and they would rather murder than protest. Some might form kill squads that massacre entire fraternities while other will turn to black magic to kill every male that wrote a nasty letter to the editor about Billie Jean King in their local town. Underestimate them at your peril.

10) Cult Leader- Different from Satanists in that they might not actually have magical powers. They could just be sadist narcissists who compel their followers to prove their loyalty with terrible acts of violence. Now a days, cult leaders run for office or demand movie studios release their cut of a flopped movie, but in the 70’s, cult leaders order mass murders and collected women to be cult leader’s brides. Cults don’t need to make sense or even have a higher purpose. They just need a bastard in charge and sycophants to follow them.

Sep 192022
 

I haven’t played any role-playing games in a very long time. Part of it is that the games I am interested in rarely intersect the interests of my wife and friends. I like horror and most horror games that I like are about existential dread and doom. Games that were a little less doomy tended towards being shallow and I just couldn’t get into them. There is a popular genre of games that I call Supernatural Charmed which are more geared towards recreating CW style TV shows. I like those shows but I wouldn’t want to play in those worlds.

They Came From the Beyond the Grave is an rpg that goes in a different direction. It seeks to recreate 70’s Hammer Horror films with a dash of Roger Corman. The conceit is that every game is actually a movie that the characters are in. They get bonuses for acting in genre-appropriate ways like saying Quips, acting in a hammy fashion or adhering to movie logic. The plot and monsters lean towards witches, Dracula, mad scientists and the Devil Himself. There is something to be said for a game that says, “Fuck it, fight Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster and Benjamin Franklin if you wanted.”

I think I have fallen in love with the game. Other systems have tried the meta-gaming route of recreating movies but they tend to go too far into the silliness. Since a lot of the powers come from cards, it would be very easy to toss out powers you don’t think are appropiate. This kind of flexibility allows you to handle anything from Little Shop of Horrors to Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The humor level is up to the players and it would not break this game to go full serious or full Elvira’s Haunted Hills.

Last night I played a game with my wife and it played out like an episode of Hammer House of Horror. My wife got in some great one-liners that aided her character. A piece of the set broke in a way that hampered the monster. It was thematically interesting and for us, extremely recognizable. It felt like something we could be watching on Shudder.

I do feel like the game might be a bit over-designed. The rule mechanics are straight forward, but there is a lot of extra stuff that can happen. My approach was to cut about 1/3 of the character generation for now and to make a list of which rules I wanted to worry about and which rules I will add later. This stripped down approach worked really well for us and it did not feel like we were missing anything.

On a personal note, it is a fun creative exercise to imagine what kind of horror movies a studio would make in the 1970’s. I decided that my studio was based in Wisconsin and would play on local legends and locals. Some sort of monster cow seems inevitable. I have spent too much time thinking about the history of the studio owner and what weird metaphysics he wants to make movies about. The game absolutely does not require you to do this kind of world building but the opportunity is too good to pass up. I am looking forward to what stories Twin Moon Pictures will be creating in the months to come.

If 50’s science fiction is more your thing, Onyx Publishing uses the same mechanics for a game called They Came From Beneath the Sea! If you prefer your horror to be more slasher oriented, there is a supplement for the base game of Beyond the Grave called, They Came From Camp Murder Lake. I have all three books and they are great reads, as well as being compatible with each other.