Book Review – Hellsleigh

Hellsleigh by D.C. Brockwell

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

SUMMARY

They say if you listen carefully at night , you can still hear the screaming…

Seven bodies are recovered from Hellsleigh , the most infamous asylum in the country, which has been left derelict for the last 30 years.

24 Hours Earlier:

On the eve of its planned demolition, famed parapsychologist and author, Brandon Fiske and his team of paranormal investigators break into the abandoned hospital determined to find proof of its supernatural powers.

Local villager, Jason Hough whose past is connected to Hellingly returns for one last visit, along with a group of university students in search of a place to party.

Little do the two groups know, they are there on a very special anniversary for the hospital, an occasion the building remembers only too well…One thing they’ll all find out the hard way is: once you enter Hellsleigh, it wont let you leave…

REVIEW

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Hellsleigh has a haunted past. It was once an asylum for those with mental illness but twisted and cruel events occurred there. For the past thirty years the place has been left disused and is about to be demolished. Brandon Fiske, who has made a career out of writing about haunted places, has brought a team with him to investigate the hospital on the eve of its destruction. One way or the other he wants to find out if spirits are real. Meanwhile, Jason Hough and a group of his friends are looking for a place to party. And what better place for a part is there than an old, abandoned hospital where no brothers, parents or police will be? Once everyone has arrived, things start down a dark and deadly path. It remains to be seen if any of them will survive.

DC Brockwell does a fine job of managing a large list of characters and balances the time focused on each well. There are significantly bloody and frightening scenes so anyone who enjoys a good bit of body horror will enjoy this book. The death scenarios are fairly inventive as well and are guaranteed to stick in the readers mind. The end comes to a satisfying conclusion and ties up the loose ends nicely.

While a lot of the book is inventive and intriguing, the setting of an abandoned mental hospital does read like something horror fans have seen before. In addition there is a bit of time jumping that some readers may not enjoy but it is necessary for the end of the book to work as intended.

All in all Brockwell has put out a solid horror story that has enough for most horror fans to keep them awake at night. It would be great to see a fresher, more surprising setting in the next book from this author. Either way I’m sure it will involve a good scare worth reading.

If you are a fan of American Horror StoryThe Shining or movies that involve a good amount of blood and gore like the Saw series this is a book worth reading.

TV Review – Ash vs Evil Dead (Episode 3)

Ash vs Evil Dead Season 1 Episode 3

Hey everyone, hope you all had a great Halloween. It’s me Slick Dungeon and I just watched the next episode in the Ash vs Evil Dead series. There are some spoilers for the episode below so fair warning.

The third episodes starts out with a mysterious woman driving a cool car who is willing to kill some deadites to find out where Ash is. That’s about all we know about her but obviously it looks like she’ll be an essential part of the show.

As soon as that is over we see Kelly, Pablo and Ash trying to get the book of the dead interpreted to put the army of the dead back where they belong. While trying to do this Ash decides the best idea would be to summon a demon who could tell them how to fix everything. He figures since the book already made things bad it can’t make things any worse. Or in his words, “It’s like spilling paint on a painting. It’s okay because there is already paint on it.” It’s lines like that which keep me watching this show.

You can bet things don’t go smoothly here but Ash, Kelly and Pablo do end up meeting up with Amanda, the cop who seems to know whaat is going on because she had to shoot her partner in the first episode. That doesn’t go so well either.

The show continues to be full of fun and entertaining comedy but I will say the special effects in this episode are not as good as the ones from the first two episodes. The demon that is summoned just doesn’t look as real as the people around it. I’m not expecting perfection here or anything and that is just a minor flaw in the otherwise solid episode but it does distract a bit.

Still, the plot and the comedy is certainly enough to keep me watching the series. So, until next time stay safe out there and don’t spill paint on any paintings.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Movie Review – Halloween Kills

Halloween Kills

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Happy Halloween internet people! It’s me Slick Dungeon and you know what one of the most fun things to do on Halloween is? Watching the latest Halloween movie. I decided to do just that and here is my take on it.

Before I get too far into the review I should warn you there are spoilers for several of the films in the Halloween franchise so if you haven’t seen them do that first. You’ve been warned.

Halloween Kills is the latest in the ongoing saga of Michael Myers and Laurie Strode. To truly appreciate this movie you have to have seen the original Halloween film as well as Halloween Returns from 2018.

In a small town in Illinois a six year old boy killed his sister in her room. Several years later that same boy breaks out of the mental institution he is in and kills several people and attacks many more. Most of the people he targets are teenage girls who are around the age his sister was. One of those teenage girls was Laurie Strode. That night she was babysitting a little boy named Tommy Doyle and despite the true evil of Michael, Laurie survived and saved Tommy’s life.

In 2018 Michael escaped again and went straight for Laurie. But this time Laurie was prepared for him. She’d booby trapped her house, knowing this day would come. Halloween Returns covers those events but let’s just say at the end of that movie it looked like Michael might have been done for in the badass house Laurie had devised.

But you can’t keep evil down for long. That’s where Halloween Kills comes in. There were several survivors of the original incident and Michael hasn’t forgotten about them. Tommy is all grown up and has been preparing himself and the other survivors for Michael’s return.

A lot of the movie is predictable. Michael is a killing machine once again who seems utterly unstoppable. But the tension in this film is enormous. Haddonfield, the town the movie takes place in, is a near powder keg as the police have not protected the citizens and people are dying.

Much of the film is reminiscent of Halloween II in that for most of the movie Laurie is in the hospital. But unlike in that film, in this one everyone is waiting for Michael to show up. But they may be jumping at their own shadows and hunting the wrong people.

I don’t want to give too much more away other than to say if you think someone is behind you, you are right.

I won’t say this is my favorite Halloween film because I think that will always be the original but this is a really close second. The filmmakers did an excellent job of connecting the dots not just from the original movie but from the most recent one as well. I think you could even watch Halloween the original film, jump to Halloween Returns and them watch Halloween Kills and you wouldn’t miss anything from the other movies. So if you need a little Halloween movie marathon recommendation tonight, that’s mine.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Dungeon Master Tool Review – Strahd Gives Me Goosebumps

Happy Halloween Eve dungeon crawlers! It’s me Slick Dungeon and I am back to review another Dungeon Master tool useful for running horror campaigns with kids. In my last post I reviewed Ravenloft Gives Me Goosebumps which is a handy primer for running spooky campaigns with kids ages 8-12. But what if you want to run the most popular and famous gothic horror campaign Dungeons & Dragons has ever made but don’t know how to adapt that for kids?

Well, I have good news for you. There is Strahd Gives Me Goosebunmps by Thomas Kolar. He and his wife clearly think deeply about horror, kids, and horror gaming with kids. If you know of the D&D adventure Curse of Strahd you may know that it is a particularly bleak and depressing place to end up which can be tons of fun for an adult audience but might be too much for kids. There’s also a bit of rampant child murder and other questionable topics for kids in that campaign.

This handy primer takes on the most questionable chapters of Curse of Strahd and tells you how to make a few tweaks that make this adventure much more suitable to kids.

I will say that the general advice given for playing a horror scenario with kids is very similar to what is in Ravenloft Gives Me Goosebumps but it’s still solid advice. This is worth the price of the supplement which is on sale right now for only $.60 because there is some advice specific to Curse of Strahd. Also, this probably goes without saying but this supplement is only useful if you have Curse of Strahd and want to run it with kids.

So, if you like to do what I do on Halloween, which is running Curse of Strahd and want to involve some kids in the action, this is the perfect supplement for you. Get it today so you can play it tomorrow!

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Dungeon Master Tool Review – Ravenloft Gives Me Goosebumps: Genres of Horror

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. It’s Halloween weekend time and you know what that means! Time to play some spooky D&D.

If you have kids and you like to play Dungeons & Dragons and you want to do something that has a bit of horror flavor, I have the tool for you. It’s called Ravenloft Gives Me Goosebumps: Genres of Horror and at the moment you can get it for just $.60!

In the recent book Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft there was a fantastic section called Genres of Horror where the authors went through virtually every type of horror imaginable with tips and suggestions on how to run each genre as a D&D campaign. Not all of their ideas were suitable for children but this supplement fixes that nicely.

Thomas and Raachel Kolar have come up with an excellent guide with lots of brilliant advice for how to run horror genres for kids 8-12. It first gives some general advice on gaming with kids which, honestly, is good advice for any gaming table. Some of the tips include having a session zero, discussing what topics to stay away from with horror etc. There is also kid specific advice about who should be the focus of the story and what the villains should or shouldn’t be doing. I think we can all agree that horror can be fun but no one wants to genuinely scare a child so much that it is a traumatic event for them.

After the general advice the authors go through each genre of horror giving a run down of what the genre is and ways it might work for kids. For example Body Horror for adults tends to be full of guts and gore and could be disturbing for children but if we adapt that to be more of a gross out, icky goo but not necessarily blood kind of scenario, this could work for kids. Think along the lines of some of the Goosebumps stories.

The genres they talk about are Body Horror, Cosmic Horror, Dark Fantasy, Folk Horror, Ghost Stories, Gothic Horror, Disaster Horror, Occult Investigation, Psychological Horror and Slasher Horror. All of these genres can work for kids but not all kids are going to like all of these horror genres so again, having that discussion prior to playing is hugely important. I found the take here on Cosmic Horror for kids especially insightful but all of the advice here is solid in this supplement.

The best part of this tool is that the authors clearly understand horror for kids and provide concrete examples of stories you probably know and can easily adapt to make a good horror campaign for kids. It covers everything from Scooby-Doo to Coraline and also has some gems you may not have heard of but are great reads or views.

There is a fantastic recommended reading list at the end and that alone is probably worth the cost of this supplement.

If you want to get a copy click on the image above or get yours right here – Ravenloft Gives Me Goosebumps: Genres of Horror!

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

TV Review – Ash vs Evil Dead (Episode 2)

Ash vs Evil Dead Episode 2

Howdy evil fighters, it’s me Slick Dungeon back with another review for the Ash vx Evil Dead television series. There are some spoilers below so go have a look at the episode before reading the review. Or in other words, “Focus up and let the boomstick do the talking.”

When we last left Ash he had just finished fighting off a bunch of Deadites in his trailer. His coworkers Kelly and Pablo are still new to the fact that the dead rise and are a bit overwhelmed by the bloody gore they’ve just seen. But Kelly is convinced her missing mother has turned up at home. She takes off on Pablo’s motorcycle so of course Ash and Pablo have to follow behind, hoping to protect Kelly.

The utter gore and insane humor of the series continues in the follow up episode, especially when Ash is told to play nice at family dinner. Bruce Campbell continues to ham it up in every good way in this show and it makes it well worth watching.

In addition to Ash some of the other characters have great lines in this episode, especially Kelly who gets to start to give as good as she gets. For example, “Pablo, believe it or not, the rude, middle-aged man you brought is kind of ruinin’ my mom time.”

The plot to this series is never going to be even the slightest bit believable but the fun factor here is just too good to pass up. I could attempt to write a super lengthy analysis of this episode but I think I will let the words of Ash sum it up, “Don’t you get it? If you snag a little fish, you’re not gonna eat it. No, you use it as a bait fish, to catch the whale. I’m the whale, Pablo.”

If this series continues like this I am going to be all here for it. Until next time Deadites.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Book Review – A Sea of Cinders

A Sea of Cinders by Adam R. Bishop

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

SUMMARY

In Cellagor—a land segregated between humans and Elves—fear, manipulation and war are inevitable. Nearly one hundred years have passed since the War of the Fallen, a cataclysmic battle between human and Elf which left both races teetering on the brink of extinction. Now, the Age of Tranquility is finally nearing its end, and the northern King of Havelmir is hungry for power and revenge.

The Elven peace of mind remains unchanged—that is, until the Kingdom of Rhan is threatened by unknown forces. Soon it becomes clear that the tranquil Elven existence is once again at risk of crumbling. However, even with the element of surprise, the road to victory is not as smooth as it may seem. Ulterior motives are afoot, ancient magic is resurfacing, and an unlikely friendship between two young men may just pose the biggest threat of them all.

REVIEW

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Will is a sailor who has been imprisoned in the dungeons of a king who is on the brink of starting a war. He has a chance at freedom if he and his newfound friend Baldric can outsmart a hostile army and survive long enough to bring vital news to the remaining Elf kingdoms.

King Dadro will stop at nothing to obtain an item that can give him ultimate power in the world but to do it he must ally himself with warring factions of humans and lean on the power of a pyromancer whose intentions are not always clear.

Meanwhile the elves must decide who is responsible for an attack on their brethren while making sure to take action before all is lost.

A Sea of Cinders is an epic fantasy tale that gives us several perspectives on events going on in the story. There is a large but not unwieldy cast of characters for the reader to follow. The scenes of action and battle are well structured and engaging and it feels like there is a true threat to the realm of men and elves.

At times it seems as if the author may be a bit too protective of some of the protagonists as there were sections where the danger does not quite come across to the reader.

On the whole there story is well thought out and a solid fantasy tale. It would have been nice if the end felt a little more conclusive but as this is the first in a series of books having some plot points unresolved still works.

Will and Baldric are particularly enjoyable characters and the dynamic between them stands out as a highlight of the book.

The world feels very lived in and like it has a long history that comes through in the reading. The politics between humans and elves seem complex and intriguing as well.

If you like big, sweeping epic fantasy tales with the beauty of Elven culture and the brutality of humanity featured heavily A Sea of Cinders is worth reading.

Book Review – The Ravenstones: Gains and Losses

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

SUMMARY

The alliances in Aeronbed and Vigmar have shifted, the battle lines redrawn. Old enemies become friends of convenience, former confederates hunted down. Can bears and lions become true allies? Can old prejudices be overcome? Is true reconciliation possible?

Eirwen and Fridis have been reunited, but their lives are filled with conflict and challenge. Eirwen must lead the Heimborn bears against their panther overlords. Fridis embarks on her quest to unearth the truth about the Ravenstones, starting with her former bodyguard Raicho, the peregrine falcon, and then to uncover the mysteries of Manaris.

Ammarich begins to doubt Adarix, who has abandoned the wolf pack’s ambitions and committed his life to supporting the polar bear. The lioness Olwen seeks to rejoin her kin in their northern sanctuary. Her panther friend and confidant, Eisa, chooses to stay with Eirwen and Heimborn’s bears, but he must prove himself to the suspicious clan chiefs — or die. And Vigmar’s security chief, Vulpé, the fox, is on the hunt once more, but now it’s the magic gemstones he’s after.

In Volume 4 our heroes face new trials. The stakes are higher, the challenges bolder, the treachery more outrageous and the threats to survival even graver.

REVIEW

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Eirwen and Fridis have come a long way since the events of the first book in this series. Fridis continues to discover secrets about the magic gems she and Eirwen discovered. Eirwen continues to grow and understand his role as a leader. All the while the world is at war and plots, complications and battles are changing the political landscape at every turn.

As always in these books there are alliances, betrayals, surprises and plenty of action to keep the reader interested. At times it can be difficult to keep track of all the characters as there are so many in the story. There is a handy dramatis animalium to help the reader keep everyone in mind at the beginning of the book.

The work here by C.S. Watts is extremely ambitious and impressive on a large scale. The different factions vying for rule or supremacy or in some cases simply to survive are reminiscent of the politics in the Game of Thrones series. The Ravenstones books are certainly more suitable for children but that does not make this story any less complex.

It’s been a great ride so far to see how the characters grow and change, constantly needing to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. And while Eirwen and Fridis are the stars of the series there are plenty of other characters Watts is able to make the reader care about. In particular Olwen and Eisa who were featured in the last book are enjoyable and interesting to read about.

There are still more books in this series to come and they are all great reads. If you want a story with a focus on not just fighting but politics behind fighting and plenty of character growth and development, do yourself a favor and pick up the Ravenstones books.

If you are an epic fantasy fan and have read The Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time or if you love Watership Down these books are for you.

TV Review – Ash vs Evil Dead (Episode 1)

Bruce Campbell in Ash vs Evil Dead

Hey internet it’s me Slick Dungeon. I wasn’t sure if I was going to review this series because I didn’t know much about it but I got through all of the Evil Dead films so thought I would give this one a chance. There are spoilers below for the first episode so fair warning. Groovy? Groovy.

The show begins with Bruce Campbell tightening a man-girdle while the song Space Truckin’ plays in the background and… I. Am. On. Board. For. This! I can’t think of a better way to start an Evil Dead series. This gets right into the comedy by showing Ash picking up a woman at a bar and telling an obvious lie about his severed hand. He has a moment while he is uhh… having an intimate moment in the restroom… where he sees the face of a Deadite. He hasn’t seen this in the last thirty years and can’t figure out why it happened.

He goes back to his trailer and realizes he read the passage from the Necronomicon while he was high and, you know, unleashed Hell on earth yet again.

We see a pair of police officers investigate a house where there is a demon and one of the officers ends up shooting her partner. She’s not sure if she is crazy or really saw what she thought she saw. This part of the show gives us the best chance for horror since it’s pretty unlikely Ash will die and we are not yet attached to these characters. There’s a decent amount of gore and scares here but it still seems to have a sense of fun.

We switch back to Ash who is still working in a big box store but now has lackeys who basically cover up his poor work ethic for him.

To keep from giving too much away, I will just say Ash has gotten himself and some of his coworkers into trouble and he’s going to need to get them all out of it.

So far, the show has kept the same mix of fear and fun you find overall in the Evil Dead film series and I feel like this is a much more natural follow up than the remake of the original film was. I’m excited to see how the rest of the series plays out.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Top 5 Horror One Shots for Dungeons & Dragons

Guild Adept PDFs - Available exclusively @ Dungeon Masters Guild

Hey all, Slick Dungeon here. I hate long intros to top 5 lists so we’ll get right into it. These are my five favorite horror one shots for Dungeons & Dragons.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

5. The House of Lament from Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft

Spirit Board from House of Lament

The House of Lament is a highly customizable haunted house adventure made for a party of 4-6 1st level characters who will advance to 3rd level by the end. The idea is pretty simple here, there is a house that is not at rest. The party will be lead there by whatever adventure hook you want to come up with (if you decide to do a longer campaign in Ravenloft you’ll definitely want to incorporate the mists somehow). Once the part is there they will meet some friendly NPC’s who are trying to figure out why the house is haunted and want to shut it down. I won’t go into too much detail for fear of spoilers but the players get to conduct a few seances with the help of a spirit board that leads them to clues about why the house is haunted. For the DM there are several scenarios this can take so you may want to pick which spirits are haunting the house ahead of time. The goal is for the players to go through the house and help or in some cases defeat the spirits and put the house back at rest. Whether or not you turn this into a longer campaign is up to you. Right now you can only find this adventure in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft. I have a full review of that book here and I highly recommend picking it up. Also handy are these handouts you can find on the Dungeon Master’s Guild Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft: The House of Lament DM Resources Pack and Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft: House of Lament Props & Handouts. Because it’s so customizable it can be a bit difficult to run for a newer Dungeon Master so be sure to read through before playing.

4. The Haunt

The Haunt

The Haunt is another haunted manor style campaign. It can definitely be run in about 3-4 hours or less, depending on how many obstacles you put in your players way. It’s made for a party of 4th-5th level characters. There are several good scares in here and some unique monsters to fight. The first one you can adapt to play with kids if your kids are okay with somewhat scary happenings but be forewarned that the sequels get pretty dark pretty fast. If you are into that sort of thing there is a great special hardcover edition you can get for $54.95 but I would still recommend starting with the first one and seeing how you like it. The original The Haunt is on the DM’s Guild for just $6.95. There’s a very well thought out back story and reason for the strange events in the adventure and when I played this with my gaming group they were all in on the frights.

3. Death House

Death House One Shot Adventure

Death House is a one shot adventure that was printed in Curse of Strahd but also was released online for free. You can download it right from the image above at the cost of nothing. While there are some issues with it, this does work great as an introduction to Curse of Strahd but I think it’s more fun to run as a stand alone adventure as a horror one shot on a dark Halloween night. This is yet another haunted house adventure. It’s for first level characters who could go up to level three by the end. It’s got a great moody introduction with a couple of very memorable kids involved. The back story is pretty twisted but you could definitely make a few adjustments and run this with kids. My party really liked the exploration aspects of this one because there is a lot to find in the house. When I ran it this only took 2-3 hours but your results will vary.

2. Tomb of Horrors

Tomb of Horrors

Full of deadly traps and vicious monsters, Tomb of Horrors has long been considered one of the most difficult adventures for players, even skilled and experienced ones. Gary Gygax wrote the original module because he felt players were feeling too sure of themselves surviving an adventure and pulled this out to warp their perceptions. The most current version (the one you can use for 5e) can be found as a standalone adventure on D&D Beyond or you can purchase the book of collected adventures Tales From the Yawning Portal and find it there. Personally, I like getting the book because there are several other fun adventures adapted from older editions included but you do you. This is a pretty complex dungeon with lots of tricks to figure out so it can be a challenge to players. But if you love survival horror, this is an excellent adventure to play. There are a variety of monsters here and there are tons of traps so starting around 14th level is probably a good idea for your party but if you want to make it really nasty you could start at lower levels.

1. Curse of Strahd

That’s right, you can play this entire campaign as a one-shot adventure. It takes a fair amount of tweaks and adjustments ahead of time but it’s doable. It’s definitely a longer game sessions but Curse of Strahd is a blast to play in a single evening. It’s also easier to keep the mood going for just one night rather than multiple nights. There is great article on D&D Beyond that tells you exactly how to do this. You do have to have the campaign book obviously and you’ll need the Tarokka deck, whether you print that yourself or just buy a deck. A one hour timer is also very helpful. This adventure still remains the best example of gothic horror you can find in Dungeons & Dragons and that makes it extremely well suited to an evening of horrific fun on a dark Halloween night.

Do you have any favorite horror one shots you’ve run? Let me know it the comments and Happy Halloween month!

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon