Articles By Author - Chris Lockey

Lost Arts: Two Super-Science Magic Items

“The knowledge and the arts of the ancients are beyond the ken of modern man.” —Pan Dan Chee, Llana of Gathol by Edgar Rice Burroughs Well met, intrepid readers, and welcome to another pulp-laden pontification of the tabletop arts! Here are treasures to astonish—designed to dazzle the demystified and beguile even the most battle-hardened of heroes. We’ll study the lost arts of ancient civilizations and shining kingdoms beyond...

Pulp Archetypes: Dread Laureate

“Now I know the fiendish fable That the golden glitter bore; Now I shun the spangled sable That I watch’d and lov’d before; But the horror, set and stable, Haunts my soul for evermore.” —from “Astrophobos” by H.P. Lovecraft When fearless leader Wolfgang Baur commissioned me for an article on “character tropes and exemplars” I immediately set about writing myself in circles around Joseph Campbell’s The...

Narrow Escapes & Twists of Fate: The Art of the Cliffhanger

” ‘Yonder in the unknown vastness’—his long finger stabbed at the black silent jungle which brooded beyond the firelight—’yonder lies mystery and adventure and nameless terror.’ ” -Robert E. Howard, “The Hills of the Dead” The road may go ever on, but each game session has an assured – and often untimely – conclusion. And it seems the older I’ve gotten, the harder it’s...

Plaza of Dark Delights: Potent Poisons and Forbidden Fruits

“I suppose that its influence is physically a bad one. I find it, however, so transcendentally stimulating and clarifying to the mind that its secondary action is a matter of small moment.” —Sherlock Holmes, The Sign of Four From the early exploits of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s great detective to the two-fisted tales of Robert E. Howard’s Hyborian Age, pulp fiction is no stranger to the seductive nature of illicit...

Pulp Plunder: Three Treasures of the Hyborian Age

Well met, intrepid readers—and welcome back to the darkest corners of the Crossroads! In my recent articles for Kobold Press, I’ve been celebrating the legacy of pulp literature in gaming by developing some home-brewed campaign material inspired by Robert E. Howard’s Hyborian Age. Hopefully, you braved the trip to dead Xuchotl with me in Lost Cities: Ideas for Ancient Ruins in Pulp Adventures. And—if you’re lucky—you survived...

Eldritch Horrors: Two Supernatural Terrors

“Olmec spoke further, of dark and mysterious matters, of black magic and wizardry conjured out of the black night of the catacombs, of weird creatures invoked out of darkness for horrible allies.” —Robert E. Howard, “Red Nails” Well met—and welcome back to the dark corners of the Crossroads! Over the past several months I’ve been exploring the influences of classic pulp literature on gaming. More specifically,...

Lost Cities: Ideas for Ancient Ruins in Pulp Adventures

“But who built it? Who dwelt here? Where did they go? Why did they abandon it?” —Valeria of the Red Brotherhood, “Red Nails” Nothing stirs an adventurer’s spirit like the lure of discovery in unknown lands. And when it comes to D&D (and its successors), we’re more apt to find players exploring the game’s eponymous dungeons rather than escaping them. If you’ve read my other work for Kobold...

Steely Gaze and Lethal Blows: Pulp Combat

“The Cimmerian laid his hand on his sword hilt, and the gesture was as fraught with menace as the lifting of a tiger’s lip to bare his fangs.” ­ — Robert E. Howard, “The God In The Bowl” When it comes to the art of swordplay in literature, none have captured it with the electrifying style and thrilling wit of Robert E. Howard, ­ creator of Conan the Cimmerian, Kull of Atlantis, Solomon Kane, and many other quintessential heroes of...

Pulp Sorcery: The Secret Art of Better Spell Descriptions

“Sorcery thrives on success, not on failure.” —Robert E. Howard, “The People of the Black Circle” When it comes to mechanical systems in RPGs—Pathfinder in particular—there are perhaps none more esoteric than the malleable rules that govern magic. Casters and their iconic spells have evolved over the various editions of D&D into what we know of them today, including the litany of arcane and divine spells found in...

Snakes and Scorpions: Four Menacing Pulp Monsters

“… and now from an opening on one side came a silent writhing horror that reared up and glared on the intruder with awful luminous eyes; a serpent twenty feet long, with shimmering, iridescent scales.” —Robert E. Howard, “Black Colossus” The days of high adventure are full of high-risk, high-reward situations. And nothing says “risky” quite like the business end of a serpent’s fang or a scorpion’s...

The Lovecraft Factor: Bridging the Gap Between Miskatonic and Midgard

“Memories and possibilities are ever more hideous than realities.” —H.P. Lovecraft, “Herbert West–Reanimator” Howard Phillips Lovecraft is considered by many to be the godfather of modern horror—and appropriately so, for his macabre influence can be seen far and wide while navigating the 21st century pop culture landscape. For me, Lovecraft was something of a gatekeeper to the widening world of weird literature at...

Building a Better Nemesis

“Wits and swords are as straws against the wisdom of the Darkness…” —Robert E. Howard, “The Phoenix on the Sword” When it comes to roleplaying games (as with any engaging drama), conflict is king. An adventurer is nothing without the mountain impeding his path. And since the earliest days of D&D, the eponymous dungeons have been populated by creatures more foul than fair. From the lowliest dretch to the most...

Home-Brewed Hyborian Adventure

“Know, O prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars…” —Robert E. Howard, “The Phoenix on the Sword” Well met, intrepid reader! If you’ve seen my other work for Kobold Press, there’s no hiding the fact...

The Mischievous Art of Monster Infighting

“Who dies first?” —Conan, “The Phoenix on the Sword” Monsters have been teaming up since the dawn of D&D. We’ve seen unlikely allies emerge from the game’s rogues gallery as far back as the famed Keep on the Borderlands. But what happens when villains actually get in the way of each other’s ill-gotten gains? Well, brave readers, I hope to answer this question by taking a look at a few timeless...

Eight Frightfully Eerie Pulp Fiction Adventure Hooks

“…what nameless shapes may even now lurk in the dark places of the world?” —Robert E. Howard, “The Black Stone” Well met, and welcome to my own curious little corner of the Crossroads. Here you’ll find harrowing tales of high adventure and histories of unspeakable eldritch horrors. I’ve always been excited by strange fiction, and throughout my days as a gamemaster, I’ve found the majority of the fuel...

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