Monday, April 20, 2015

A to Z of Vampires: Vampire Queen

Something a little different today.   I want to talk about the Queen of the Vampires and her relationship with my gaming. BTW, there is a "Q" Vampire, but only one I have found. The Quaxates is a vampire from Mexico that makes women cry before they feed on them.  That is all I have been able to find.

Last year I did Witch Queen but there is a longer history of Vampire Queens in gaming.

The first Vampire Queen was also the very first published adventure for D&D back in the early, early days of 1976.  Palace of the Vampire Queen was written by Pete and Judy Kerestan.  I should also note that the very first published adventure was also co-written by woman; so yes women have always been a vital part of this hobby.
This adventure was always something of a holy grail for me.  I knew about it, but had only seen bits and pieces.  I didn't know much more than it was the first published adventure and it was really, really rare.  Sites like the Acaeum helped fill in the blanks.  Copies are still very rare, but I managed to score a couple of official reprints from Pacesetter.  As well as the sequels Crypts of the Living and Castle Blood.

I have run the original PotVQ before and it was great fun.   The adventure is so barebones by even the standards of the early 80s that it is easy to use anywhere.  The next two are more "story" driven.  I have run Castle Blood, but it didn't quite live up to the promise of the Vampire Queen.
Personally I would like to take all three and recraft them into something else.  Keep the Vampire Queen elements of course, but introduce some more background.

Hitting that nostalgia feeling hard is another adventure, The Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen. This adventure, written by Mark Taormino might be an homage to the first Palace of the Vampire Queen adventure, but it is more likely an homage to those meat-grinder, total-party kill, fun-house dungeons of the late 70s early 80s.  There is a basic plot here, enough to get you in the door and moving along, but really this adventure is about killing things and avoiding getting killed.  Example, in one of your first encounters you have to run a gauntlet and get past a bunch of fire giants. Eight of them. And their hell hound pets.  This is "room 1".  It is downhill from there.  It has demons and other vampires in the wander monster table. Liches, demons, succubi, greater devils, nearly 50 vampires in total, tons of other monsters and of course the Queen herself, Lady Neeblack.
This is not an adventure to challenge the resolve of hardy role-players. This is an adventure to survive and leave a trail of bodies behind you.  It is old-school, but old-school through the eyes of 40-somethings looking back on their times as teens.
The adventure itself has a great lead in to get you interested, but that is just the carrot on a stick, most people buying and playing this module are going to want to jump right in.  Another example (this is not a spoiler), you are captured by Lady Neeblack and told you have to run through her crypts for her amusement.  The conceit is the characters will feel coerced into doing this, so they slide down a passage to the previously mentioned Fire Giants.  In truth my players wanted to jump in like they were doing a dive at the pool.
Though to claim people will play this for nostalgia reasons is completely unfair.  Mark did a great job of this. The rooms are detailed and what detail!  There are interesting encounters and Lady Neeblack herself should really move up the ranks as one of the more memorable NPCs ever.  In fact I am hoping that she comes back for a sequel sometime soon.  Just like a good Hammer villain she should find ways to come back from the dead.  +Mark Taormino, this needs to happen.
The text of the book is big, easy to read and despite the "old school" claims still has boxed text to read (screw you Grognards! I still like boxed text even when I don't use it.)  Each room is unique and feels like it belongs.  Plus the "Hanging Coffins" themselves are the coolest idea in vampire graves since the Lost Boys.
The proof of any adventure is not in the reading, but in the playing.  So I played it. It rocked.
Now the game is designed for OSRIC, but can played with 1st or 2nd Ed AD&D.   I played it with 5th Edition D&D.  I just replaced the monsters and made a character sheet for Lady Neeblack.   I ran the same group of people that I had taken through the original Palace of the Vampire Queen and we all treated it as an unofficial sequel.  I worked out well enough.  We all had fun, but if this module reads as a deathtrap on paper it's a killer in the playing. So make of that what you like.
Personally I would love to run it again using AD&D1.
In any case this is one of those adventures that will have your players talking for a long time.

One I would like to take all these and combine them in a longer campaign, or part of a campaign.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Zatannurday: Cosplay Time Again

Spring and Summer Conventions are getting underway and that means time for cosplayers.

Here are few new ones. Enjoy!

Zatanna Cosplay Photoshoot 6 by DenoxPhotography on DeviantArt

Zatanna Zatara - 08 by elkhanartphotography on DeviantArt

Zatanna Zatara - 02 by elkhanartphotography on DeviantArt

Zatanna Zatara Cosplay by daniellevedo on DeviantArt

Zatanna Zatara by daniellevedo on DeviantArt

Harley and Zatanna by Blueloth on DeviantArt

Gotham Girls Crazy Photoshoot by MishyMisheru on DeviantArt

Zatanna Zatara by KuyenGrigory on DeviantArt

Not another ordinary magical girl by S-Lancaster on DeviantArt

Zatanna and Huntress by sith2886 on DeviantArt

The real magical girl by S-Lancaster on DeviantArt

I Put a Spell on You - Zatanna by SilverShadeCosplay on DeviantArt

Got the Magic in Me - Zatanna by SilverShadeCosplay on DeviantArt

Be astounded! ~ Zatanna Zatara Cosplay by daniellevedo on DeviantArt

A to Z of Vampires: Pĕnanggalan

The Pĕnanggalan really is an interesting vampire and really one of the reasons why this whole theme even exists.   Back in the early days of my gaming I picked up the Fiend Folio hardback for AD&D. Had to be about 1982, the book was new enough that not everyone had it yet.

I am flipping through this book full of weird monsters and I see this crazy looking flying head with it's guts hanging out. Turns out it is also a vampire!  I had no idea there were any other types of vampires.

Lots of research later, which in 1982 meant getting on my bike and riding to the public library, I discovered there were all sorts of vampires out there.  But this is the first one I discovered.

What got me most about the Pĕnanggalan in the Fiend Folio was how much like a vampire it wasn't, save for the sucking of blood.   It was just a weird creature and I liked it.

What I also like was that this was one of the first vampires I read about that made a link between vampires and witches, two of my favorite topics.
The Pathfinder game has a Pĕnanggalan witch.

The Pĕnanggalan comes from Malaysian folklore and may be distantly related to the Aswang.

Pĕnanggalan (Vampire) (S&W stats)
Hit Dice: 8 (see below)
Armor Class 2[17];
Attacks: 1 bite (1d6 + blood drain);
Move: 12 (Fly 12);
Save: 8
Alignment: Chaos
Challenge Level/XP: 11/1700;
Special: Immune to non-magic weapons, regenerate (3/round), charm gaze, drain 1d4 Constitution points per bite.

The pĕnanggalan head will take 4 HD worth of damage (half what the full creature has) before it flies back to it's body in retreat.
To drain Constitution the pĕnanggalan must attack a victim she has charmed or is sleeping, she can not  drain constitution in a combat situation.  Male drained to 0 Con become Ghouls under her control. Females drained to 0 Con become pĕnanggalan, but free of being controlled.  For this reason pĕnanggalan attack males most times.

The pĕnanggalan will look like a normal woman during the daylight hours. Any attempts at divination (ESP, Know Alignment) will reveal she is a normal woman.  Once the sun sets she will retire to a secret place where her head will rise out of her body and fly out in search of blood.  Her lair will be protected from the sun and will also contain jugs of vinegar. The pĕnanggalan must soak her organs in vinegar before she can return to her own body after a night's feeding.

The pĕnanggalan can use her charm ability during the day to charm men.  If they fail their save she will return to them at night and drain their blood.  The men will believe they had an amorous encounter with the woman.  Typically the pĕnanggalan will have charmed several men and spread out her feedings so not to spread suspicion when they start to die.

The pĕnanggalan must return to vinegar jugs before dawn.  If sunlight strikes her organs she will be paralyzed. If she remains in the sunlight for 10 round she will destroyed.
Likewise running water will destroy her and a line of salt will keep her at bay.

To destroy a pĕnanggalan you must discover her lair and destroy her vinegar jugs and burn her headless body.

The most common remedy prescribed to protect against a pĕnanggalan attack is to scatter the thorny leaves of any of the subspecies of a local plant known as Mengkuang, which has sharp thorny leaves and would either trap or injure the exposed lungs, stomach and intestines of the pĕnanggalan as it flies in search of its prey

Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday Night Videos: Vampire Music The 90s

Welcome back to Friday Night Videos as we continue the Vampire theme for Vampire Month here at the Other Side.

The early 90s were a great time for Vampires.  Think it is good now?  Back then in the RPG scene we had White Wolf's Vampire the Masquerade, Chill 2nd edition, Ravenloft and plenty of other games. We even had one of my most favorite Rifts books ever, Vampire Kingdoms.

We also had singers like Suzanne Vega with her "Blood Makes Noise".  Suzanne Vega also kinda looks like a vampire.

That the one song that always got me in the mood to do some writing or run a game was Faith No More's The Morning After from their epic album The Real Thing.

Sinéad O'Connor's second album I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got was without a doubt the most anticipated album of 1990.  Well. At least by me.  In 1988 I discovered Sinéad and The Lion and The Cobra.  My best friend at the time and I blew off class to pick it up.  I later bought her a copy of the EP of I Am Stretched on Your Grave.  It became one of my favorite songs on the album.

Was the woman singing the vampire in this? Or was the grave she was lying on?  (yeah I know it a song about a woman talking to her dead mother, but vampires worked better for me).

That best friend?  Yeah I ended up marrying her five years later.

Another artist that isn't normally associated with vampire or the 90s is Thomas Dolby. Many remember Dolby from "She Blinded Me With Science", but he had a number of later released that were critically praised but not great sellers. One was 1989's Aliens Ate My Buick with the haunting "Budapest By Blimp" a song I always thought was about a vampire returning to his ancestral home to only be sad by how much it had changed.

Dolby does have street cred when it comes to Gothic Horror. He worked on the soundtrack for the movie Gothic which recounts the tale of Lord Byron, John Polidori, Percy and Mary Shelly.  A weird little movie from the guy that gave us Lair of the White Worm, starring the Warlock, Wormtail., the guy who almost survived Keyser Söze, and the Handmaid.

In the early 90s nothing was bigger than Concrete Blonde.  I remember seeing them opening up for Sting on the last leg of his Soul Cages tour.  "Tomorrow Wendy" might not be a song about vampires, but it oozes pathos and thanatos.  Frankly it captured those early days of Vampire the Masquerade perfectly.

A to Z of Vampires: Ovegua

Note: This is my A to Z Challenge post for O.  If you are looking for my S&W Appreciation Day post, go here.

Let's head back to Africa today, in particular to visit Guinea, Africa and their local pest the Ovegua.

The Ovegua is actually very similar to a lot of creatures, Asanbosam, Owenga, Ovengwa, Otgiruru and many more found in West Africa.  They all likely share some linguistic root.
This creature is created when a sorcerer or witch is killed.  It can take the shape of a dog and has hooks for hands, or sometimes hooks for feet.  The Ovegua will hang out in forests at night and call out to a victim by name.  If the victim answers them the vampire will then target them by sucking blood through their thumb.  During the day they hide in dark caves.

Ovegua has all the standard weaknesses of all vampires. They can not cross running water, sunlight destroys them and religious items keep them at bay.
To destroy one you must locate it's cave. Nail it to the ground and burn the body to ashes.

The Ovegua can shapeshift to a wild dog and mist. It has two claws and a bite attack. It's drain attack drains 1 point of Constitution per night; regardless of number of attacks. It can only drain sleeping victims, not in combat. It is only a little stronger than the average human (Str 14) but not much faster.   Ovegua would be a weak vampire but it retains some of the knowledge it had as a sorcerer.  It can cast spells as a 3rd level witch.  Additionally it only regenerates 1 hp/round vs. the typical 3.

Since today is Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day, here he is in S&W format.

Ovegua (Vampire)
Hit Dice: 7
Armor Class: 2 [17]
Attacks: Bite (1d6 + CON drain)
Saving Throw: 9
Special: vampire powers, witch spells
Move: 12
Alignment: Chaos
Challenge Level/XP: 7 HD (9/1,100)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day: Multiclassing

For this Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day I want to put out something I have been playing around with.

For the record I am using the Swords & Wizardry Complete Rulebook from Frog God Games.

Swords & Wizardry Multiclassing

I LOVE the old school games. B/X, AD&D, BECMI, and the clones.  But the one thing I always felt 3.x Edition did better than any other edition, past or future, was multiclassing.  The rules were easy, you could multiclass into a lot of great combinations to get that character concept you really wanted.
With many of the OSR games (original and clone) the multiclassing rules were less than optimal in my mind.

So I wanted to bring 3e style multiclassing to the clone world. The biggest issue with doing this though is 3e made the classed more alike in terms of advancement.  Now people will complain that this attempt at game balance "ruined" the class's uniqueness. I say rubbish.  So the classes are bit more balanced than before, that's not a bug, it's a feature.  I was looking over SW and I realized I could do what I wanted easily.

Swords & Wizardry classes are largely like 3e ones now.  The unified Save and Ascending AC make saves and to hits much easier to deal with.  I just need to see if something like this is feasible.

So I dumped it all into Google Sheets. Which I am sharing below.

The tabs are where I worked out median XP vaules, base to hit and base saving throws.
The final analysis is on tab SW Level Advancement.

So like 3e, this has all the classes  use the same level advancement table.  Base Saving Throw is based on Character Level (not Class Level).  Classes then add what ever bonuses they need.
Now if you are adding things up in your head you can see a problem right now.  Take a level of Ranger and improve your total saves.  I thought about that.  My solution is not elegant, but it works.  I will get to that in a moment.

So how does it all work?  Simple you take a class just like you do in SW when you get enough XP to level up you can keep going in that class and get the advantages listed for that class you you can take another class.  Your hit points are determined by your Class Levels.  Saves are based on Character Levels.

So if you are a Fighter 3/Magic-User 2 you have at least 16,000xp, your Base Save is 11.
Your hit points are 3d8 + 2d4 + Constitution Modifier x 5 (class level).
With these rules this character can still use a sword and cast spells.  He can't wear armor since that is a restriction of the Magic-user class.

There are a couple of logical next steps here.

First this opens up a wide variety of choices for demi-human characters.  Keep level caps if you like, but I think there are not enough game-design reasons to do this.  If you want to "balance" things out give humans +1 on any two ability scores of their choice and +1 on saves.  Call it Human Resilience.

The other logical leap is this would allow Prestige Classes in SW.

Prestige Classes in Swords & Wizardry

Here is an example of the Loremaster.

To qualify to become a loremaster, a character must fulfill all the following criteria.

Knowledge (any two) 10 ranks in each.

Any three metamagic or item creation feats, plus Skill Focus (Knowledge [any individual Knowledge skill]).

Able to cast seven different divination spells, one of which must be 3rd level or higher.

These would have to change to something more fitting to S&W.

To qualify to become a loremaster, a character must fulfill all the following criteria.

Character Level: 6th
Intelligence Score of 16 or higher.
Wisdom Score of 14 or higher.
The ability to cast five different divination spells, one of which must be 3rd level or higher.

Level Attack  Special Spells
1 +0 Secret Add additional level of previous spellcasting class 
2 +0 Lore Add additional level of previous spellcasting class
3 +1 Secret Add additional level of previous spellcasting class
4 +1 Bonus Language      Add additional level of previous spellcasting class
5 +2 Secret Add additional level of previous spellcasting class
6 +2 Greater Lore Add additional level of previous spellcasting class
7 +3 Secret Add additional level of previous spellcasting class
8 +3 Bonus Language Add additional level of previous spellcasting class
9 +4 Secret Add additional level of previous spellcasting class
10 +5 True Lore Add additional level of previous spellcasting class

Saving throws are based on Character Level, not Class Level.
Level is obvious.  Attack just adds to the attacks as the base class (like Cleric or Magic-User).  Spells are also obvious, keep advancing in spells as you normally would.

The Special will need some work.

From the SRD:
Class Features
All of the following are Class Features of the loremaster prestige class.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency
Loremasters gain no proficiency with any weapon or armor.

Spells per Day/Spells Known
When a new loremaster level is gained, the character gains new spells per day (and spells known, if applicable) as if she had also gained a level in a spellcasting class she belonged to before she added the prestige class. She does not, however, gain any other benefit a character of that class would have gained. This essentially means that she adds the level of loremaster to the level of some other spellcasting class the character has, then determines spells per day, spells known, and caster level accordingly.

At 1st level and every two levels higher than 1st (3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th), the loremaster chooses one secret from the table below. Her loremaster level plus Intelligence modifier determines the secrets from which she can choose. She can’t choose the same secret twice.

Loremaster Secrets
Level +Int Modifier Secret Effect
1 Instant mastery 4 ranks of a skill in which the character has no ranks
2 Secret health +3 hit points
3 Secrets of inner strength +2 bonus on Will saves
4 The lore of true stamina +2 bonus on Fortitude saves
5 Secret knowledge of avoidance +2 bonus on Reflex saves
6 Weapon trick +1 bonus on attack rolls
7 Dodge trick +1 dodge bonus to AC
8 Applicable knowledge Any one feat
9 Newfound arcana 1 bonus 1st-level spell
10 More newfound arcana 1 bonus 2nd-level spell

At 2nd level, a loremaster gains the ability to know legends or information regarding various topics, just as a bard can with bardic knowledge. The loremaster adds her level and her Intelligence modifier to the lore check, which functions otherwise exactly like a bardic knowledge check.

Bonus Languages
A loremaster can choose any new language at 4th and 8th level.

Greater Lore (Ex)
At 6th level, a loremaster gains the ability to understand magic items, as with the identify spell.

True Lore (Ex)
At 10th level, once per day a loremaster can use her knowledge to gain the effect of a legend lore spell or an analyze dweomer spell.

So items in red need to be redone.  In order:
+4 to any check involving Intelligence on a previously unknown topic.
+2 on Saving throws vs. Mind control, ESP and Charm.
+2 on Saving throws vs. Petrify or Polymorph
+2 on Saving throws vs. moving out of the way.
Applicable Knowledge = Something like Secondary Skills.

Each prestige class would require some tweaking.  But at least now there is a place for them in S&W.

Earlier I mentioned the Ranger and Paladin are a bit too much (despite the fact that the median XP per level is the same as the Paladins).  My solution is make them Prestige Classes.

You would have to be a fighter first before moving into the vocation of Paladin or Ranger.  There is some precedent for this in Rules Cyclopedia and even Unearthed Aracana.

It would take some cleaning up, but I think this is a solid system.  It would still have the same feel as S&W while giving you the flexibility of 3e.

What do you all think?

A to Z of Vampires: Nosferatu

So it has been asked a few times on this challenge "Are there any ugly vampires?" Germany responds with a resounding "Ja!"
I give you the Nosferatu!

The "Nosferat" originally came from Central and Eastern Europe and described a beautiful vampire that was more akin to the Moroi.  That all changed in 1922 when F. W. Murnau released his unauthorized version of Dracula on film called "Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens" or "Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror".

Vampires had entered the cinema and the world was never quite the same.

The Nosferatu, Count Orlock played Max Schreck, was nothing like the vampires of today.  He was ugly, had long rat-like teeth, was bald with pointed ears; in short he looked like the walking dead. He spread plague and death. Women did not fawn and swoon over him, they were horrified and repulsed.

So effective was this film that you can still see elements of it in modern day vampire films.  Everything from the look of Radu in "Subspecies" to how shadows move in "Bram Stoker's Dracula" and countless others.  The movie was remade in 1979 with Klaus Kinski in the title role and 2000s "Shadow of the Vampire" starring John Malkovich as Murnau and Willem Dafoe as Max Schreck.

In games the Nosferatu has taken on an unlife of it's own.  It is one of the more iconic clans of the Vampire: The Masquerade game and it was one of the first vampire sub-species in Ravenloft.

Armor Class: 2 [17]
Hit Dice: 9d8+9** (50 hp)
No. of Attacks: claw/claw/bite
Damage: 1d6+4/1d6+4/1d4+1 + CON drain
Special:  Constitution Drain, Cause Fear, Summon Plague, Summon Rats
Movement: 30’
No. Appearing: 1
Saves As: F10
Morale: 11
Treasure: None
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
XP: 7,200

The Nosferatu is a subtype of the vampire. It is turned like a vampire and has all the same strengths and weaknesses.
Though the Nosferatu has a few additional abilities.
The Nosferatu looks pale, and withered. He also has almost rat or bat like look to him. His fingers and ears are elongated.  A Nosferatu can never pass of anything other than the walking corpse he is.
Nosferatu can not turn into wolves or bats like other vampires, but instead can become a swarm of rats.  Each rat of the swarm is part of a collective mind, so killing one will not destroy the creature. In fact even if all are destroyed save one the creature will reform.
Additionally Nosferatu can summon 10d100 (10-1000) normal rats to his aid or 2d20 (2-40) plague stricken rats (save vs. disease).
Like some vampires the Nosferatu can be held in place by a line of salt.  A ring of salt around the Nosferatu will trap it.
Nosferatu are more sensitive to sunlight and will die with even the briefest exposure (1 round). They are effected by a Light spell as if it were Continual Light.  Their vision in darkness is 180' and they see as well in complete darkness as humans can in twilight.
Nosferatu gorge themselves preferring not to waste time with luring prey. Once they attach themselves to a victim they will drain them on blood (Constitution points) till they are dead.  A Nosferatu concentrating on feed (ie not in combat) can drain 3 points of Con per turn.  In combat situations they can only drain 1d4+1 HP of blood per round, but they do not find this satisfying.
Nosferatu are all very strong (Strength = 18) despite their thin, corpse like visages.

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