Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Reviews: Battleaxes & Beasties and the Witches of Hagswallow

I have been wanting to get some more reviews in and I am woefully behind schedule. So along with my deep dive into the Forgotten Realms, I am also investigating more games and products built around Swords & Wizardry.

First up is Battleaxes & Beasties by +Anthony Hunter.


Battleaxes & Beasties is a core rule book from Sleeping Griffon Productions. It is based on Swords & Wizardry, but has some interesting quirks of it's own.   The book is 175 pages, black & white interior with color covers.   There are hardcover and softcover options, I am reviewing the PDF.
We spend a couple of pages going over the basic "what is roleplaying" and "what are these funny dice".  We have all seen this a 1000 times, but it does make it work well for a new player.  Indeed the whole book is great for anyone that has never played before.
Since this is based on S&W we have the same basic six Attributes and modifiers.
It is not till we get to the classes that we some changes.  Now B&B can act as a standalone game, there are enough classes here, but it can also act as a supplement to and other S&W-based game.  I could not help but feel there was a certain level of, well, camaraderie between this game and The Hero's Journey.  Both fall closer together on the "Heroic vs Muder Hobo" scale than say Dungeon Crawl Classics.  The classes include a Beguiler (which is like a Bard, but instead of songs he masters lies), the Faithful (like the cleric), Hunter (something like a Ranger), Scout ( Ranger-y Rogues), Totemist (Druid-Shaman cross),  Warrior and the Wizard.  All the classes advance to 10th level, so this is solid White Box territory.  After the human classes, we get race-specific classes.  Now, these are a lot of fun really. There is the Dwarven Guardian, Dwarven Paladin, Elf Ranger, and the Halfling Outcast.  Seriously fun stuff. We are 20 pages in and the book has paid for itself in my eyes.
There is a section on careers, which other games might call backgrounds.
Spells come next and are sorted by class and level.  There are some new ones here too, not just a rehash of the same old spells.  Additionally, magic is divided into Arcane, Miracles and Fey magics. An interesting touch if you ask me. It doesn't have a lot of game play effects, save on how Rangers learn spells, but it does provide a nice bit of flavor.
Next, we get to the default setting for this game, the Borderlands of Zarteth.  It starts with a "Z" so you know it is going to be a dangerous or at least strange place!
The setting is very D&D; that is neither good or bad, just what it is.  I got the feel reading it that was Clark Ashton Smith plus Robert E. Howard, without the extra helping of doom and despair. It's not 4e Points of Light, nor is it Hero's Journey's "Let's go on an adventure" nor is it the Grimdark of DCC.  It is in between.
The rest of the book is the Referee's Section. I say "rest" but it is really half the book. Everything you expect is here.
The gem here is the Monster section. The monsters are divided up by type first then alphabetically.  There are some nice new monsters here too, again making the book rather worthwhile.
To go with those monsters are some great magical treasures.
There is also an included adventure, reference sheets and a nice character sheet.
Battleaxes & Beasties does not break any new ground, but covers the same ground in interesting ways. Interesting enough to make it easily worth 10 bucks for the PDF.
I am caught between 4 or 5 stars out of 5 here. I'll give it a 5 to adjust the review average.

Witches of Hagswallow Adventure is an adventure for Battleaxes & Beasties.
It is 47 pages, color covers, Black & White interior. Designed fro 3-6 characters of 2-3 level. It can be run directly after the included adventure in the corebook and gives more background on the setting of the Borderlands of Zarteth.
It is a great example on how even the simpleist monsters can be used to great effect.  The "witches" are not witches of course, they are harpies.  But for all practical purposes, the might as well be.  After all these are 2nd level characters; most have just learned which end of the sword is the dangerous one!
There are a lot of great maps, a bunch of new monsters and it expands the world a little bit more for the players.
The adventure also comes with pre-generated characters.
Everything comes in the PDF, but separate files are also included.

All in all this is a very fun system.  Familar, but with a enough new materials to make it completely worthwhile.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Gary Con 2017

In a last minute change of plans it looks like I will be going to Gary Con this year!
But I will only be there on Saturday.



If anyone wants to look me up while I am there that would be great.
I  am bringing my family and we hope to get a game or two in while we are there.



We don't have any games scheduled at all, nor do we have tickets. But that is fine really we can wing it.  I will not have copies of any books to sell though.  Waiting on the printer still for the Hedgewitch.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, March 20, 2017

New Releases: Hedge Witches and Prestige Witches

Today is the Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, also known as Ostara.
To celebrate this time I have not just one, but two new releases today.

First up:

The Witch: Hedgewitch for the Hero's Journey RPG


Presenting the Hedgewitch for The Hero's Journey Fantasy Roleplaying game. Can be used with HJ or Swords & Wizardry Whitebox or Complete.

Included in these 66 pages are:

  • New Race: The Gnome
  • New Professions
  • The Witch class and Hedge Witch tradition
  • 80 spells new to The Hero's Journey
  • 15 new monsters

Fully compatible with The Witch, Eldritch WitcheryThe Witch for Swords & Wizardry Light and The Witch: Aiséiligh Tradition for Swords & Wizardry.  In fact, all are designed to work together as a complete whole.  Getting these various witches to work together in your is another matter entirely.

A softcover print version is in the process of heading to the printer.  I am just waiting on OneBookShelf on this, they are taking longer than expected.

Also released is the next book in the Strange Brew series for Pathfinder.

Strange Brew: Mystical Paths & Prestige Classes


From the book:

Witches and warlocks come in all shapes, sizes, genders, philosophies, alignments, and focuses. Many of these concepts are expressed through archetypes, but some concepts require a bit ... more ... to fully be expressed.

Here are 23 Prestige Classes for your witch or warlock, allowing them to focus on specific aspects of being a witch or warlock, or a specific type of witch or warlock with more control than an archetype gives you. With them, your witch isn’t "just" a witch, she’s a Tempestarii Storm Raiser, or he isn’t "merely" a witch, but an Occult Scholar.

Help find the true destiny of your witch or warlock!

Also included are some of my favorites, the Imbolc Mage and the Queen of Witches.

Regardless of what game you prefer, I have a class for you.  Time to make some magic!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

It's a Liminal Time, A Time of Hedgewitches

Tomorrow is the Vernal Equinox also known as Ostara.
Tomorrow we will have equal amounts of light and dark.
Half-way between the start of winter and the start of summer.

It is a time for in-betweens, for liminals, for things not one thing or another.
A time for Hedgewitches.

Tomorrow you can join them.




Friday, March 17, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Fionn, Defence of Ráth Bládhma

"'I am An Cailleach Dhubh,' Bodhmhall replied cynically 'No secret is unknown to me.'"
- Bodhmhall, Bandroai of Ráth Bládhma

Fionn: Defence of Ráth Bládhma: The Fionn mac Cumhaill Series: Book One by Brian O'Sullivan

In this Part 1 of the story of Fionn mac Cumhaill, also known as Finn MacCool, the titular character barely makes an appearance.  He is there, yes, and all the events of the story are centered around him and his mother, but he is not the hero of this tale.
The heroes are the Bandroai (or Ban Drui or Druid) Bodhmhall and her protector and lover Liath Luachra.  When pregnant Muirne Muncháem shows up at Ráth Bládhma, Bodhmhall is duty bound to give her shelter even though she knows that this woman is being pursued by an army who want her and her unborn son dead.  There is also something else in the wood, something darker and evil.
Soon the siege of Ráth Bládhma is on and others are seeking protection and it is all one outcast druid and her warrior woman anamchara can do to protect Muirne and her son.

Since this is a part one there are a lot of characters to get introduced and the whole issue of the oncoming siege and the dark power in the woods.

Ultimately this book is a tale of survival. I hesitate to call it a book about war, there is war yes, but it is more about the survival of the clan and what others will do to survive.

What attracted me to this story was course it was about Fionn mac Cumhaill as well as well as Liath and Bodhmal.  I have read many of the tales about Fionn and most of the modern novelizations.  Fionn was also a central character in my own Buffy the Vampire Slayer games.  So imagine my surprise and pleasure when I discovered this tale was really more about Liath and Bodhmal!

Very little has been said about Fionn's fosterers in the tales and little more has been mentioned in the novels.   For this book to be all bout Liath and Bodhmal was more than I could have asked more.
While reading I found myself connecting to things O'Sulivan had written; we obviously have drawn from the same sources.  So I found his work to be familiar and yet completely new.  When I had read a quarter of the book I had to stop myself from saying "Liath wouldn't do that" or "That's not what Bodhmal would say." At about half way I was so completely enjoying the book that I forgot all that.  Before I finished I had already bought every book Brian O'Sullivan had written.  There are more parts to this story as well as one with Liath and her time with the warrior band Na Cineáltaí or "The Kindly Ones".

The book is largely self contained. That is you can read it and not be left on a cliff hanger if you know the tales of Fionn. I am planning to queue up the next books in the series right away to be honest.  The tale is timeless and one that can be retold many ways.

Liath & Bodhmal
I feel I should address this subject, especially if you have ever read my blog.  Many know my long time love affair with Liath and Bodhmal.  They have appeared in many of my games and have worked their way into the histories of not only the witches I write about, but my characters too.  I have spent a long time with these two. I have very definite opinions on who these characters are and what they should be doing in any given situation.  While my interpretations are different than O'Sullivan's we both agreed on some very important key points. Liath is a peerless warrior. Bodhmal was a druid with a past and not a great past at that. We also agreed on a very key point, that Liath and Bodhmal were lovers.  It's not something I had seen in other tales before. Morgan Llywelyn hinted at it, or maybe I read into it, but Brian O'Sullivan also saw that and his tale is worthy of these two.  Sure I have to get over the first meeting in my mind of Liath and Bodhmal (Liath sparing with her two brothers with a staff and keeping them both on the defense) but this is a really great book.
I can't wait to read more.


2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 9
Level: Maiden
Witches in this book: Bodhmhall is called a "Bandraoi" but she is a witch in my book.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: Very good.
Best RPG to Emulate it: A better question is what RPG have I NOT used to emulate it!  Again, this Liath and Bodhmhall are not my Liath and Bodhmal exactly, but they are closer than any other set I have seen.  To date I have used Castles & CrusadesLabyrinth Lord, D&D 4th Edition,  and of course Unisystem.
Use in WotWQ: What do you think?  But seriously though, in the mythology of my games Bodhmal was not the first witch, but she was one of the first. The Daughters of the Flame coven come from here and in some ways so does the Aiséiligh Tradition.

You can find more of Brian O'Sullivan's books at http://irishimbasbooks.com/.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #72

Another one I have multiple copies of. Sadly none of them have the cover or the File 13 game.

Dragon Magazine Issue #72 takes us back to April 1983. Let's see...I would have been in 8th grade then.  So for me that was the start of my AD&D 1st ed years and the waning of my B/X years.

Now I have a confession. I HATE the annual April Fools issues of magazines. Maybe hate is too strong of a word. But I admit that even the small (very small) amount of humor I find in some of the issues is off-set by the loss of what could have been good material.  Last week though reminded me that even when they had a full magazine to devote that not all the material was good.

This issue is an exception. There is one other coming up (if I even have it), but the humor here is mild and the other material makes up for it.

Let's start with this wonderful Clyde Caldwell cover.  We have two excellent cavaliers fighting a cool looking dragon.  Ties in nicely with the Cavalier class.  I am also surprised that there is no bare thigh in sight!

Kim Mohan's editorial really typifies why I hate the April Fool's issues. You are actually better off not reading it. You can save time and get to the exact same issue by reading the Letters.
The Letters section is full of bemoaning of how the magazine is getting too big (80-88 pages) or too expensive ($3.00).  Here I am in 2017, nearly 35 years later thinking that we don't have enough Dragon these days.

There is an ad for the Science Fiction Book Club. I had joined a couple of different time over the course of my years.  I wonder if they are still around? (https://sfbc.com/Yes they are!) I am pleased to see I had read a good number of the books advertised, but there are few more I'd love to get my hands on again.

The big article of this issue is the Cavalier.  I always had a soft spot in my heart for the Cavalier. I liked the idea of a knight in shining armor, but who wasn't a Paladin.  There is a lot to like here and a great example of the long-form article that I really enjoyed from Dragon.  This is of course from Gary himself.  I also love that art from Keith Parkinson.  Too bad that playing a female elf cavalier riding a unicorn is WAY beyond the scope of the rules they are with!



Following this is, believe it or not, one of my favorite Ecology articles.  The Ecology of the Piercer. Seriously. Though the article has less content that I recalled (or I could be missing more pages) we decided that Piercers are a delicacy in my world, much like escargots are  in this world.  People collect young piercers for food and are worth a lot of money.  The older the piercer the less fresh they taste, so only the young are prized.  Piercers fed a steady diet of deer, elk or other game they would not normally get are even more prized.  Piercer farming has not worked out well, but adventurers are set on the task of collecting the little ones, all while avoiding the big ones!



The article on Gems is interesting, but I would rather have gone to a science book.

The Katherine Kerr article on The Real Barbarians is not one I read a lot of back then, but find very interesting now.  Easily one that should be paired with the Barbarian class that either will show up soon or just did.  Worth reading again to be sure.

Something that is an artifact of it's time is The PBM scene.  Playing by mail is a concept that I think most gamers would never think about these days. Oh I am sure if you look around you might find one or two still going.  Likely a Diplomacy, Tunnels & Trolls or a Traveler one.  It is a long ass article too.  I am not sure if I know anyone that ever did a Play By Mail game.  I considered it, back in the day, but never got around to it. Plus I could not bring myself to pay a buck every turn.

I get to the "behind the scenes" of File 13. Which made me realize I don't have a copy of the actual game.

Ugh... we get to the April Fools section.  I'll make this one fast. Valley Elf song? pass. I have the Frank Zappa album that Valley Girl came on and I got more D&D ideas from that then I do this song.
The Jock. Pass. More Sex in D&D humor.

I am jumping ahead to the book reviews.  Ok. Lots of really cool things here. In particular, I am drawn to Philip K Dick's "We Can Build You".   I remember the book since I was then and now something an armchair Lincoln scholar (what? I can layers.) but what strikes me the most these days is how much the fiction of Philip K. Dick shaped the world we live in now.  I think that is something worthy of a post on it's own someday.

The comics feature Phil n' Dixie doing their normal shtick.  Wormy is interesting though.  The wizard creating the portal is some of the best "portal" art I had seen up to that point.



The ads were good, lots of cool memories. Nothing really in the way of computer games yet.
Nice nostalifgic issue.  Not a lot I can use today except maybe the barbarian article, but still fun.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Class Struggles: The Mystic, Part 2

It's been a while since I have done one of these, but today seems to be a good day for it.
The very first Class Struggles I did way back in August of 2015 was about the Mystic class.
This week Wizards of the Coast just released a new mystic class to their Unearthed Arcana feature.
You can get it for free for your D&D 5th edition games.



The new mystic is partially like a monk, but more in tune with the Psionic classes of 4th edition.  In truth, there is a lot here that people should be able to see previous edition origins. But that is getting ahead of myself.

The mystics are Psionic characters. Not the first if you consider Monks still to be Psionic, but the first fully Psionic class complete with Psionic Strength Points/Psi Points.
Mystics are given certain "quirks" or taboos. These are odd personality traits that they must obey as part of their solitary training.  I am reminded (and not for the last time) of the Wu Jen from 1st edition  Oriental Adventures or the Mystics from the D&D Rules Cyclopedia.

Powers are split up into Talents (which use no points) and Disciplines (which use points). Talents are open to all mystics, but Disciplines are usually focused by Orders.  In many ways these have a familiar feel to them. On first glance, they are most similar to the Psionics used by +Richard LeBlanc in the Psionics Handbook Mystic.

Orders are "flavor" but like many of the "subclasses" (1st ed terms) or "kits" (2nd ed terms). I have to say I REALLY like these.  Again, this is where D&D 5 plays like "D&D's greatest hits".
We get Orders of the Avatar (emotions), Awakened (mental), Immortal (body), Nomads (like the Akashic Brotherhood), Soul Knife (combat, 4e return), and Wu Jen (Elementalist).  So lots and lots of potential here.

The one thing they need is a more esoteric sort of mystics like the ones found in +Alexander Macris'  Adventure Conquer King Player's Companion Mystic or even the Mystic from +Joseph Bloch's A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore or Adventures Dark and Deep.  Or even the mystics in the Dragonlance 3.5 setting, though those were more of godless clerics.

One could easily do an Esoteric Order that also gets some cleric spells like the Wu Jen get "arcane dabbling".

There is a lot in this class I find fascinating to be honest.  Can't wait to try it out.  Not just in terms of the class, but how Mystic Orders fit into my game world.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...