Thursday, October 27, 2016

Baron Von Frankenstein. Hammer Horror for Classic and OSR Games

The Hammer film studio's series of Frankenstein films (1957-1974) offer interesting settings, characters, and plot devices which can be added to RPG's for a bit of Gothic atmosphere and charm with old castles, bubbling laboratories and an interesting and complex villain or perhaps employer in the Baron Von Frankenstein. Opposing or aiding Frankenstein in his work can lead to a horrifyingly fun story arc especially when the inevitable creature meltdown happens and all the work goes down the tubes, often in a spectacular flaming fashion.

Initially set in mid-Victorian Switzerland the films ooze Gothic atmosphere with detailed sets, costumes and plenty colorful makeup and gore in glorious, vivid Technicolor. Blood flows bright red in these films and the brains and severed limbs are up front and camera ready. As for the doctor himself, unlike the manic and deranged Universal Frankenstein, brilliantly played by Colin Clive, Peter Cushing's Baron is cold, clinical, and obsessed without becoming a caricature; the Baron is a complex character. Cushing is amazing in this role. He dominates the screen with his presence.
The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)
The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)
Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)
Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)
Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974)
The Horror of Frankenstein (1970, non-Cushing)

A few common themes in the series:
Old world fear vs science and progression. The villagers and authorities do not understand Frankenstein's goals or methods and turn on him when his activities are discovered. Frankenstein is forced to steal bodies and parts at great risk.
Eager and young assistants who share most of his ideals and want to learn from Frankenstein. They tend not to be hunchbacked criminals or outcasts as in the Universal films.
Each movie shows the Baron creating a new creature for the film. The type and quality of creation varies from film to film. Often the brain is a key plot point, that most delicate and fragile of organs. With limited resources and having to creep around looking for spare part Frankenstein is often forced to use 'less desirable' material. Instability, criminality, and sometimes just plain damaged brains are used to the advancement of the plot and eventual downfall of the doctor's work. In the Reenge of Frankenstein the Baron has created a backup body for himself and his brilliant assistant transplants his brain into this new body when his original is battered to death. The DM has a very open canvas of plot devices and twists in this setting.

As for details of each movie and the finer points of production THIS article can elaborate more on those matters which are beyond the scope of this post.

Baron Victor Von Frankenstein, infamous medical adventurer
"Why can't they leave me alone? Why can't they ever leave me alone?"
- Baron Von Frankenstein
Evil of Frankenstein (1964)
HD: 5
HP: 27
AC: 10/9
Hit: +3/ as Cleric
Save: 11/ Cleric
Born of an aristocratic and wealthy family Baron Victor Frankenstein is educated, cultered, and supremely arrogant. He is also a daring man and not adverse to taking risks or physical violence to protect his work. He is also a medical genius with an obsession of restoring or creating life. This obsession brings out the worst qualities in Frankenstein including cruelty, blind ambition, and even murder to obtain the materials for his experiments and to keep his secrets. His drive has led to amazing discoveries such as preservation of dead tissue, organ and even brain transplants, and the ultimate achievement of restoring life to the dead. His arrogance and paranoia however keep him from revealing his discoveries to the world until he has perfectly perfected restoring life to the dead. This has led to much misery and the Baron himself has been gravely wounded more than once and forced into a life of hiding as a wanted man. Still his work continues....

When running Baron Frankenstein play him as arrogant and powerfully willed. He will do as he thinks necessary for the continuation of his experiments. In the later films he seemed to mellow a bit and showed loyalty to his assistants but his WORK will usually come before other considerations, including his own bodily well being.

Frankenstein can make a  check (18 or less on a d20) to diagnose the illness of a patient, giving him information on proper treatment of the illness and a on any further checks with that patient.

A successful check gives Frankenstein a +1 hp per Healing dice below and a +2 bonus on Stabilization check below.

As a doctor Frankenstein may heal 1d6 points of hit point damage per set of wounds following an injury. Only one healing can be used per set of wounds. He can use another healing if the patient has been wounded again after treatment as this is a new set of wounds He can heal five different wounds/wound sets per day, be it five people once apiece or the same person five times in the same 24 hours, provided that person was wounded on three separate occasions. This healing can be used for not only combat damage, but also disease, poison, and any other type of damage which affects hit points.

Once it is treated natural healing takes over, A patient under Frankenstein's direct care heals twice the number of hp per day with natural healing.

As a doctor Frankenstein can try to control bleeding, rub their limbs, apply brandy, breathe into their mouth, etc and stabilize any character that has reached 0 or fewer hits points, and would otherwise be dead. Frankenstein must reach the victim within five rounds following the victims incapacitaiton, beginning on the round after he drops to 0 or below. Once he has reached the patient, he must then make a check (18 or less on a d20)  with a  -1 penalty for every hit point below 0. If he fails the patient continues to lose one hp per round until he is dead at -10.

If he succeeds in this, the character is stabilized and does not die. If the victim is wounded again, another attempt can be made but with an additional -4 penalty in addition to normal bonuses and penalties, representing the shock of additional wounds to the body.

Doctor's Bag (+1 to Diagnose and Surgery checks)
Pistol (1d8), Scalpel (1d3), Amputation Knife (1d6)

Creating Life from the Dead
Frankenstein has almost perfected a method for restoring life to corpses. He requires a laboratory, chemicals, complex machinery of his own design and corpses to work on. He prefers fresh undamaged bodies but can replace body parts or even assemble a corpse from parts if necessary. The condition of the brain is often a major plot point and pivotal to the creature's behavior.

The appearance of the creatures varied greatly based on the condition of available corpses, possible time limitations, and Frankenstein's growing skill and adjusted methods. They can be average, hideous, or painfully beautiful. The more normal looking ones will have traces of scars and stitching at vital areas which will fade with time. The more hideous ones will be a collection of horrid flesh, stitches, braces, etc.

The creatures' Intelligence's varied greatly. They could be geniuses or murderous idiots. A few may start out as highly intelligent and slowly revert towards madness and chaos. If they do remember their former lives before resurrection Frankenstein tended to only have criminal or deranged and damaged brains to work with. Their brains, already traumatized by death and rebirth, will usually exhibit unusual mental quirks, often degenerating into psychotic and murderous behavior.

To simulate the different creatures produced in the film pick a HD for the creature and then choose a few of the quirks below. Or choose none. The Baron's work varies greatly and they are but a plot device after all.

The Creatures
HD 4
Hp 20
AC 12
Hit +4, 1d4 unarmed
Save 14

HD 6
Hp  30
AC 13
Hit +6, 1d6 unarmed
Save 13

HD 8
Hp  40
AC 14
Hit +8, 1d8 unarmed
Save 12

Fear of Fire
The creature has an instinctive fear of fire. If confronted with any fire torch-sized or larger it must make a Saving Throw (Paralyzation) or be unable to melee attack the person wielding the fire.

The creature is a horrifying sight of dead flesh, stitches and staples, etc. Those who clearly see the creature must make a Saving Throw (Paralyzation)  or suffer a -2 to all actions against it.  If they fail the Saving Throw by more than five they will likey flee in terror.

Inhuman Beauty
The creature is beautiful. Other than a few faint scars it is almost inhumanly so. The creature can, once per day, try to use its beauty to sway another to do its bidding. It can do this once per day at HD 4, twice per day at HD 6, and three time per day at HD 8. It acts as a Charm Person spell and a Saving Throw is allowed against it.

The creature has damaged or otherwise deficient vocal organs. It cannot utter more than a few groans or perhaps a dull roar when angered.

If the creature hits with an unarmed attack and exceeds the target AC by five or more points it automatically begins strangling the target for automatic damage each round. The victim must make a Strength check with a - penalty equal to half of the creature's HD to break free. While strangling the creature is vulnerable to attacks from its victim's allies who gain a +2 bonus to hit it.

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