Friday, February 16, 2018

Magic School: Going Back to Glantri

Curse my gamemastering ADHD!

So despite the fact that I have not one, not two, but THREE D&D 5th Edition games going, I was working out some details of my Magic School game using the D&D Rules Cyclopedia.

So last night I pulled out my GAZ3 The Principalities of Glantri by +Bruce Heard and my Glantri: Kingdom of Magic.

I thought I might run it set in Glantri's past, 800 or so AC.  OR even 1000 AC which is close to the present day for the Gazetteer.  My current year is 1414-something AC.

But there is so much great stuff here.

This is going to focus 100% on the magic school so the political goings-on will be part of the background noise.

Though I DO want to expand on my whole Ravenloft is from Mystara/Glantri idea some more too and introduce a young professor of Alchemy from Boldavia, Strahd von Zarovich. Gives me an excuse/hook to drop in Ravenloft II.

But back to the school.

There are the Seven Secret Crafts of Magic in the Glantri School of Magic; Alchemy, Dracology, Elementalism, Illusionism, Necromancy, Cryptomancy (rune magic), and Witchcraft.

These were restructured in the 2nd Ed book, notably Witchcraft becoming Wokanism and Illusion dropped in favor of Dream Magic.  I am keeping Dream Magic from one and Witchcraft from the other.

I am thinking of adding others.  I would love to add a School of Healing; an exception to the normal rule of priests/clerics.  And MAYBE Druids.   I know they don't fit, but I like them.

Couple things I am considering.  Back in the Day I had a wizard character, Phygora, who was a
Glantri trained mage, but he "disappeared".  In reality, the mini I used belonged to my old DM.  He recently sold them all to me so now I have all these REALLY old lead minis including a recently repainted Phygora.  So guess who is now the new Headmaster!  Dosen't matter if I set this in the present or the past since in my game Phygora became something of a time-traveler.

I know that this campaign will go from level 1 to 7 (or 0 to 6), after that I want to move it over to my War of the Witch Queens.   I was talking with +Brian Isikoff this morning and he is considering doing something with Magic School grads and Bruce Heard's Calidar.  I think that is a fantastic idea!
Flying magic ships, flying circuses, I am SO there.

I just need more time to play!
But in the meantime, I can work out all these details.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

D&D Rules Cyclopedia Unboxing and Pre-review

I wasn't going to post today. Really busy at work. But this really could not wait.



I got my Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia in the mail today and wanted to check it out.



I could not decide if I wanted the hardcover or softcover.  So I got both.





As you can see the cover is more cream colored than the original white. I kinda like it to be honest.
There is a huge border of it on the front cover.  Less noticeable in the soft-cover edition.




The color is good, not as strong as the original but still extremely readable.

These books compare very favorably to the original.





You can see the colors are stronger in the original, but the paper is much thicker in the POD versions.


The pages of my original print are a little yellowed with age. The new ones are still bright white.

Compare this to one I made a while back on Lulu. I call it my "Wizards & Demons" Cover.




I also still have a really beat up version.


All in all I am really happy with these.  Looking forward to playing a game with them!

This Old Dragon

Not happening today.  To much real-world shit going on.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

New Witch Tradition: The Sisters of the Chalice and the Moon


In Wormskin 8  +Gavin Norman details the Witches of the Dolmenwood (introduced in Wormskin #7). They are the inheritors of a strange magic that goes to the very essence of the Wood’s history and creation.

Sounds like my kind of witch!

In these 12 pages, he details this new witch tradition and their patron Gods, The Gwyrigon.
A lot of what he has here can be mapped on to my witch class with little to no effort.  No surprise I think since we are looking at similar source materials for our witches.

New Witch Tradition 
The Gwyrigon Tradition of Dolmenwood.
AKA Witches of the Wood, The Sisters of the Chalice and the Moon.
These witches and this tradition are detailed in Wormskin #8.

Occult Powers
Least (1st level) Familiar: These witches gain a familiar in the form of hare or rabbit.  These rabbits are long lived, intelligent and can speak to any witch. While a rabbit may seem like an odd choice for a wood as dangerous as Dolmenwood but it actually a testament to the powers of the Gwyrigon that their chosen messengers seem so weak but can pass unmolested in these woods.

Lesser (7th level) Magic of the Wood: The witch can cast the following spells once per day without need of preparation, charm person, augury, remove curse.

Minor (13th level) One with Wood: When the witch pledges herself to a particular Wood God she gains a greater measure of their power now.  The powers of  Errta, Hasturiel, and Limwdd are detailed in Wormskin #7 (p. 62).

Medial (19th level) Commune with the Wood: The witch can enter into a trance to commune with the spirits of the wood; the gwyrigon, though others can be communed with. This divination allows the witch to learn anything (GM’s discretions) that happens in the Dolmenwood.  This even alerts the witch to malign creatures in the wood such as undead and beings from outside of reality.

Major (25th level) Remove Malign Influences. The witch can place on one subject (or herself) the combined effects of Aid (2nd Level Cleric spell), Remove Curse (3rd Level Cleric spell) and Healing Circle (5th Level Cleric spell, target only). The total benefits are +4 to attack, +4 to saves involving fear, +6 to any ability, 19+1d6 additional temporary hit points and heals the character for all but 1d8 hit points. This lasts a number of hours equal to the witch’s level.

Superior (31st level) Timeless Body: The witch appears to stop aging and her effective lifespan is doubled. She also can’t be magically aged. Any penalties she may have already incurred remain in place. The witch still dies of old age when her time, doubled as it is, is up.

Witches and the Drune 
In the rare cases when witches and Drune (Wormskin #5) work together they form a Grand Coven as per the rules in The Green Witch

New Spells

Create Corn Dolly
Level: Witch 1
Range: One crafted Corn Dolly
Duration: 1 day per level
During the harvest festivals, the witch will gather rushes and other bits of discarded plant life from corn, wheat, and barley.  What many do not know, but the witches know all too well, that the spirits of the harvest remain in these discards.
With a ritual and a repeated rhyme, the witch can fashion a rough poppet that the witch can then animate. This corn dolly can then be sent out to spy for the witch.  With concentration, the witch can hear through this dolly. The range is limited to 100 yards + 10 yards per level of the witch.
The dolly can’t move, it has to be placed by the witch.  The dolly has 2 hitpoints and takes double damage from fire.
Material Components: Rushes from the previous harvest festival. Material older than a year will not work.

Summon Woodgrue
Level: Witch 2
Range: 10’ per level
Duration: Special
The witch can summon a special demi-fey, a Woodgrue, (see Wormskin #7).  At the end of the casting, the Woodgrue appears at the location of the witch where she must gift it a cup of single malt whiskey. Once that is done the witch can compel the bat-faced fey to perform one task for her. The task must be something the woodgrue can complete but not something that will result in his or another’s death.  Such tasks would be “return to me the coin I lost in the wood this past fortnight” or “harass Goodwoman Kolya for the next week for treating me rudely in the market.”
Once complete the Woodgrue is freed to return to where he likes.  The witch can only summon one woodgrue at a time.  Continual repeated summoning of woodgrue may be looked down upon by the Gwyrigon (ie. the Game Master) and be denied.
Material Components: A cup of single malt whiskey.



Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Joy of Basic D&D & Magic School

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of ALL editions of D&D.  I have played them all, and all to a significant degree.  But my start, and in many ways, my true love is Basic D&D.  B/X flavor in particular.  With the D&D Rules Cyclopedia now out in POD I am going to take some time to go back and play some of the D&D that I played the least; BECMI.

I have had some ideas for various "Basic" games over the years.  I want to take my 4e Campaign and reboot that as a BECMI one, but instead, I morphed it into a 5e one.  I still want my War of the Witch Queens to be a B/X adventure, but it really could become a BECMI one since I really would love to take advantage of all 36 levels that BECMI offers me.   But in truth, I had no idea what I wanted to do until this morning.

A couple of posts on Facebook in various "old school" groups has new players, maybe ones more familiar with Post-TSR D&D, lamenting that Magic-Users/Wizards only get one spell at 1st level.
While this is familiar ground for old-school gamers, I do sympathize with these players.
Some of this for me goes back to the 4th Edition games. In 4e a 1st level wizard is quite competent with a number of spells they can use right off the bat.  In a way, it is what you would expect from a graduate from a magic school.  But in other ways, it also makes a less compelling "story".  4e Wizards might be closer to Harry Potter, or Harry Dresden, but they are not close to the Luke Skywalker model of the new adventurer with plenty talent but no training.
This train of thought got me thinking about Basic and BECMI in particular as a means to "grow into" 4e.  A lot of my analysis was on how much magic and "Combat power" a single wizard has from levels 1 to 6 in BECMI and compare that to 4e.  The goal was to have levels 1 through 6 to be training and then levels 7 to 36 map roughly onto 4e's levels 1 to 30.  The math is not perfect, as to be expected, but there is enough wiggle room that I liked it.

Well. I am not doing 4e now.  But the idea of levels 1 to 6 as "training levels" still appeals to me.


So my plan now is this.  I am going to create a magic school (long overdue really) and the characters are all magic users.  They enter the school at age 13 at level 1 and spend the next six years working towards graduation witch each year being the next level. They will graduate at age 19 at level 7 to start adventuring.

I have a lot of ideas of what needs to happen, but I also need to figure out how to fill up 80,000 xp worth of experiences that fit with a school environment.   Along the way, they can pick up specialties (Necromancy, Enchantment and so on).  Students will take classes in languages, finger position, and diction in addition to ones on Magical Theory and Thought.  I also see students working on magic items and potions.  This is where all those magic items and cursed items come from.

I am also going to borrow heavily from The Complete Wizard's Handbook for 2nd Ed. I am also going to borrow some ideas from theGlantri books, GAZ3 The Principalities of Glantri (Basic) and Glantri: Kingdom of Magic (2e).


I *might* even set it all in Glantri, but I am also kind of wanting to set in my new campaign setting of West Haven.  Setting it in Glantri though has a lot of appeal to me.

Obvious sources for this are the Harry Potter books and movies, but also the Magicians books and TV series, the Magic schools from Charmed and Wizards of Waverly Place, various comics like the X-Men and Teen Titans and Miskatonic University.

I am going to give this one some serious thought, there is also so much material for this out there.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #177

Ok. I will freely admit that this one was third on my stack of Dragons. But in my defense, the first one was a duplicate of one I had done back in December and the second one just was not grabbing my attention today.  So let's sit back, relax, put on some Nirvana as we go back to January 1992 with Issue #177 of This Old Dragon.

Ok. I have no memories of this issue really at all.  In 1992 I was working on getting into grad school and finishing up my first published works of research. I was heavy into Ravenloft as my game setting of choice for 2nd ed AD&D, but I had also been exploring other games. I was hearing rumors from a friend of a friend about this new Vampire game and how White Wolf was going to eat TSR.
Going on from this I have NO memory of this cover at all.  I am not sure how well a woman in a cage with leering "Dungeon Master" would go over today.  I am also unfamiliar with the artist, William
Carman.
Notably this issue still has it's cover on it.

How can you tell this is an early 90s magazine?  Big advertisement for Waldenbooks. Pour a little out for Waldenbooks and Borders.

Looking over the Table of Contents it appears the special feature is DM advice. Ok, let's jump to it!

In Letters, we get one ripped right out of today's social media, DM's Dilemma Fee or Free? A reader writes in wanting to know if he should charge for running games. The author, whose name was withheld, points out that he (assuming it's a he) has spent thousands of dollars on game material and that prep time is also that, time he is spending that the players are not.  The response to this feels less from Dragon and more from TSR, Inc.  I would love to reproduce the whole thing here, not only for the advice but for the snapshot in time this was.  Needless to say, TSR takes (took) a rather dim view on the idea of DM's charging for games.  This is also the only thing I have read that resembles official policy on the issue from the time.  I would wager that WotC is a little more even-handed on this than TSR was, but I have not read a current policy on this.

What are your thoughts on DM's charging for games?

Roger Moore talks about "Kinky" games. Meaning odd or weird games, based the interoffice slang "kinky" meaning weird.  He talks about Metamorphosis Alpha, Lace and Steel and Bunnies and Burrows.  Interesting story here.  Before I got really involved in blogging I was a Wikipedia Editor.  Still am in fact, but not as active as I once was.  One of the articles I worked on was the Bunnies and Burrows entry on Wikipedia.  In fact, I was one of a few editors who worked on it to get it to Good Article status.  Apparently, this made me and my fellow editors eligible for a grant from some large Furry research and advocacy group (yes, there are such things) and I was offered money for my work.  I was a little shocked to be honest.  I was also still in hardcore academic frame of mind then and did not want to take money for this work, so I had them donate the money to a charity of their choice.

In our DM's section we have Jim Shamlin up first with Keeping the Party Going. I was hoping for some edition-agnostic advice and I am pleased so far.  He covers the various ways a party can get togehter and stay together.  Like I said there are a lot of good ideas here and all can be used with any system, not just D&D.  I am new school enough though that I want the players to tell me why the party is together. What are their reasons they are joining forces.

Thomas M. Kane has a interesting article on technology and scientific advancements in That's Progress. The key feature of this article is a condensed timeline of scientific and technological advancements in the world up to the 17th century and it is not entirely Western-focused.

In Secrets of the Masters Revealed, Michael J. D’Alfonsi has us "apply fiction-writing techniques to game-campaign design".  While this is good advice some of it can apply to players as well and works best in a system where the players have a little more agency in the game.   Still such things as keeping a campaign journal (this is a great one and one I do all the time) and developing the personalities of the NPC (also something I do) adds a bit more fullness to the game. It also does nothing to change the idea that DMing is a lot of work!

Now we are getting to something very specific to AD&D and D&D prior to 2000.
In Defend Yourself, Blake Mobley tries to reduce some of the back and forth you see in the THAC0 based combat. The system he proposes is interestingly engough close, but still just this side of "not there yet" of the d20 combat systems of 3rd edition on.  If he could switch the idea of armor class getting stronger if the numbers go up instead of down then his system work even better. Some sacred cows do need to be ground up into burger.

Up next is the Game Wizards.  In this issue the D&D Rules Cyclopedia.
Steven E. Schend has the task to let us all know what the newest D&D book is like.  There is a nice history on the development of the D&D game line with particular emphasis on the recent 1991 "Black Box" getting started game and a little more background on the BECMI sets of 1983 on.  He refers to this book as "complete" and "exhaustive", but he also says it is not a radical change, so it is not a "2nd Edition".



I REALLY wish I had read this article back in the day when I was dismissing D&D (BECMI flavor) because I was playing the more "adult" AD&D.  Yeah, yeah I was stupid. But I hope I have made up for that now.

Marcus L. Rowland is next with some more DM advice in "If I Ruled the World...", or how to deal with "Mad scientists, megalomaniacs, and their motives in gaming".  A great read really on how to think like a megalomaniac.  He gives some examples including some sample NPC (or sorts, broad strokes).  For me, the value is getting into the head of your mad villian in order to think about how and why they do what they do.  Whether you are Ming the Merciless, Lex Luthor or Dr. Evil you have to have your reasons and they need to make sense to you.

John C. Bunnell has some books include a few I remember.  A couple in particular by Daniel Cohen (Encylopedia of Ghosts, Encylopedia of Monsters) were always great fun.

Nice big ad for the combined Gen Con 25 and Origins Game Fair in Milwaukee.

Lawrence Schick is up with a quiz based on his new book Heroic Worlds, a History and Guide to Roleplaying Games.   I wonder if he still has it the quiz?

Part 24 of Voyage of the Princess Ark is up from Bruce Heard. Done up in a very "Gazeteer style" type article with some maps, data and letters included with the story.  Still makes me want to collect all of these for a longer retrospective.

Skip Williams and Sage Advice is next. Lots of Dark Sun questions.

Role of Computers covers the State of the Art for 1992.  Let's see...at this point in time I was either using a Tandy 1000 Ex that I got from sister in a trade. I bought her a Brother Word Processor, OR I was using this knocked together 286 I bought on one of the first grants I ever got for research.  Likely that one since I in 92 I took an extra year of my undergrad to get a minor in Computer Science and I was learning to write code in Pascal and C.  There is a review for Wing Commander. My roomate, who was getting a CS degree had one of the new-fangled 386 computers and he played that game all the time.  I didn't even remember that till I saw a screen shot in this magazine.

(note the mildew coming off of this magazine is about to kill me.  I need a break!)

Ok. Back.

So we have a lot of ads and the Convention Calendar for early 92. Sadly I missed the Egyptian Campaign at SIU Carbondale even though I certainly walked by it at least a few times.  Remember I was trying to get into grad school at this point.

The Forum is way in the back of the magazine this time, well compared to where it normally has been.

The Marvel Phile is up this time by Scott Davis and Steven E. Schend with a collection of superwomen.

Chris Perry has an oddly placed D&D-themed article (odd since it is near the end after the Marvel stuff) Defenders of the Hearth. This deals with Halflings and their priests.  While the game content is specifically AD&D 2nd Edition there is a lot here, most really, that can be used for every other edition after that.  In fact, I might just copy it for my kids to use.

Ad for a GDW game coming out in the Summer of the 92 that they are calling a "break through"  I am guessing it was for "Blood and Thunder" but I could be wrong.



Rare bit of topless mermaid in the fiction section, even if it is still firmly PG.

More high-tech equipment for GURPS Space.

Dragonmirth is next, but not at the end of the magazine!  Don't really recognize any of these anyway.

Small ads.

A few pages of minis in Through the Looking Glass. The rest are for larger, full page ads.
Two close to my heart. The Rules Cyclopedia, which is my interest these days and Ravenloft Guide to Vampires, one of my favorite Ravenloft books.


So not an issue I have read until today, so I have no memory to compare it too.
It is an interesting issue though all the same.  It looks like the Dragons I read as a kid, but there is a different feel.  Of course the difference is only in me really.  Still though plenty of good advice and a testiment that somethings never change.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

D&D Rules Cyclopedia in Print again

The D&D Rules Cyclopedia often called the best one-volume D&D book there is, is now "back" in print.  Or at least Print on Demand.


This game covers the BECM of BECMI which is really what most people want anyway.
Really this book has everything.

For the longest time, I dismissed this book and felt stupid for that the second I read it.  At the time though I was in grad school and money was tight.  I have since picked up a couple of copies.

I would LOVE to run a game with this RAW (Rule As Written).  I have even talked about it here many times.

Now we can get copies of this fantastic version of the game in one volume in either soft or hard covers.  I'd get both if I had a current game of this going.

In any case, this is a great deal. Just have a look on eBay to see what these are going for used.
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