Monday, June 24, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Halflings are Half What?

I mentioned on Friday I am re-reading the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.  I am also likely to re-read the Silmarillion and even pick up some of Prof. Tolkien's other books.

In my reread I was struck by a line in the Hobbit that is later repeated in the Appendencies in Return of the King.
It is rumored that one of the Took ancestors had taken a fairy wife in the past and that blood left the clan not entirely hobbit-like.
Of course, Tolkien means "Elf" in place of "Fairy" here.  This is the source of the Fallohide (Tallfellows in AD&D) sub-race/sub-type of Hobbit/Halfling.  But what an interesting idea here!

Halfling-half pixies or half-leprechauns or ... anything!

How Little are the "Little People"?
Tolkien refers to Hobbits as "little people" in the Hobbit. This is to contrast it with big, lumbering "big people" aka humans.  But there is also a long history in British and Irish folklore of "little people" also called faeries or fairy.
The basic thought I had here is that the smaller the faerie the less like a hobbit/halfling they are inclined to be.  Since I am still somewhat of an old school focus here (though I play a lot of D&D 5) here are some "faerie" creatures (not counting elves) from some AD&D 1st Ed books.
(Monster Manual if not indicated, FF = Fiend Folio, MM2 = Monster Manual 2)

Creature Size
Atomie (MM2) 1’
Brownie 1½’ 
Boggart (MM2) 2’
Booka (FF) 1½’ 
Buckwan (MM2) 2’
Gnome 3’
Goblin 4’
Grig (MM2) 1’-1½‘
Halfling 3’+ 
Leprechaun 2’
Pech (MM2) 4’
Pixie 2½’ 
Quickling (MM2) 2’
Sprite 2’

The Brownie Family
In the AD&D Monster Manual, there is a line that states "Brownies are distant relatives of halflings, (perhaps half-halfling, half-pixie) but they are smaller and far less common."  I am willing to go with this.

Since Stoors/Stouts are believed to be Hobbits/Halflings with dwarf blood in them, then the Buckwan would be a Brownie/Dwarf hybrid.  It is also likely (to me anyway) that the Buckland and the Brandybucks of Buckland get their name from the Buckwans or the Bwca as their are know in Gaelic.  The Booka then is more a Brownie/Pixie or Brownie/Sprite cross.

Boggarts are listed as the immature form of a Wil-o-wisp, but newer versions of the game have reclassified the Wisp as an undead.  More akin to Ban Si than anything Hobbit or Brownie like.   Boggarts then are Brownies having a bad day, or maybe evil brownies.  Two of the more prominent literary uses of boggart in recent times are the fear causing Boggarts of Harry Potter and the invisible monsters of the Last Apprentice series.

Boggarts (Brownie)
No. Enc.: 3d6 (5d8)
Alignment: Chaotic (evil)
Movement: 90’ (30’)
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: ½ d8 (3 hp)**
Attacks: 1 (weapon)
Damage: 1d3 or weapon
Save: H2
Morale: 7
Treasure: None
XP: 15
Boggarts are relatives of the brownie.  They are often confused for one another, as they appear to be exactly the same. However, boggarts are chaotic and tend to undo all the things that brownies do. They are known to knock over milk pails, pinch sleeping babies and basically be a nuisance. Their antics are rarely harmful, but there are a few who are actually evil-natured and do intend harm.
They can only be removed from a house by a Remove Curse or similar greater magics.
They have a dagger they can attack with, but prefer to use their spell-like abilities.
A boggart can cast Audible Glammer, Cause Fear, Darkness, Faerie Fire, and  Ghostly Sounds at will.  They may also cast Phantasmal Image once per day.

The Leprechaun Family
I once read in Dragon magazine that one could play a leprechaun character in D&D Basic and just use the Halfling advancement.  I never did this, but I always wanted to do it.
Years later I would make my own Leprechaun race as class and race for Basic Era games and for James Spahn's The Hero's Journey.  Though my leprechauns tend to be more like Irish Hobbits than the magical creatures of "Darby O'Gill and the Little People".

The Cluracan (or Cluricaune) is a cousin of the Leprechaun that is inordinately fond of wine, spirits, beer, and ale. They look like leprechauns or small old men that are constantly intoxicated.
They are solitary creatures, although they tend to happily latch themselves onto unsuspecting folk. Once attached to a dwelling, they stay in the wine cellar (or equivalent), where they poach the supply. One benefit is that servants and the like who attempt to take a drink without the owner’s permission will likely be scared off by the little fellow, but it is doubtful that the cost is worth it. Families have been known to move their entire household in the hopes that the Cluracan plaguing them will not follow, but these mischievous little fellows will often stow away in the packed goods and follow the family.
Clurancan usually get along fine with Leprechauns and Fir Darrigs, their closest relatives. Like them, Clurancan are tricksters and their favorite victims are humans.

The Fir Darrig (also Fir Dhearga or Fear Dearg) are diminutive, Halfling/Leprechaun crossbreeds.
They are a bit taller than their leprechaun cousins (2 to  2½ ft on average) and much uglier. They typically wear ared cap and coat, and thus their name, Red Cap or the Red Man. The Fir Darrig are inordinately fond of cruel practical jokes, and they tend to be rude. They often travel alone, although there are occasional incidents where an unlucky victim has run across multiple Fir Darrigs having a little fun. Many Fir Darrigs have taken up the habit of traveling and seeking to warm themselves by others’ fires, and the Fir Darrig so refused is likely to play harmful pranks on anyone that refuses them. The correct response to such a request (and one which will leave the Fir Darrig kindly disposed towards the individual and unlikely to harm him) would be “Na dean fochmoid fainn” (“Do not mock us”). The Fir Darrigs are rumored to be shape-shifters, and they often use this ability to strike fear into those that they wish to annoy.
Fir Darrigs are on reasonably good terms with other fairy races. Their love of home, hearth, and good tobacco puts them at ease with Leprechauns, Cluracan and halflings, although halflings tend to think of them as rude and inconsiderate guests. Fir Darrigs are disliked by dwarves, but not hated. Fir Darrigs think dwarves take themselves too seriously. Fir Darrigs enjoy most of the same things that leprechauns do, gold, a good drink and smoking long pipes.

Goblins
Goblins will breed with anything.   For my money the best work on goblins for Old School games is still Beasties II from Night Owl Workshop.  Here Thomas Denmark covers all sorts of goblin-crossbreeds in this book.  Of interest to us here is the Hoblin, the sterile goblin/halfling crossbreed.

This reminded me of the old White Dwarf monster, the unfortunately named, Blacklings, which are underdark halflings.    A better name for them would really be the Trow.  This is where we get the name Drow, but these creatures are described as small and ugly.

Trow (Halfling)
No. Enc.: 3d6 (5d8)
Alignment: Chaotic (evil)
Movement: 90’ (30’)
Armor Class: 7
Hit Dice: 1 - 1
Attacks: 1 (weapon)
Damage: 1d6 or weapon
Save: H1
Morale: 7
Treasure:
XP: 10
These evil depraved halflings are found in the same locales as the drow elves.  They are rare and prefer to avoid combat unless their numbers are in their favor and they can quickly overwhelm their foes.  They have 120’ infravision, and if abruptly exposed to light are blinded for 2 rounds, half with a save vs. paralyzation. In addition, when in bright light including sunlight they suffer -2 to hit and -2 to DEX. Trow have keen hearing and are surprised only on 1 on 1d8; they always move silently with 95% efficiency.   It is believed they can turn invisible at will but in truth they are so adept at hiding they have an effective 99% hide in shadows in their homelands.
Trow, like Halflings, can attack with short sword and slings.  They organize in small roaming gangs.  Trow typically do not have a single home and roam about the underground.  During moonless nights they will come to the surface to raid small villages.
While other subterranean races worship demons or other foul entities the trow deny the existence of all gods. They believe there are powerful entities, but they are unworthy of veneration or worship.


--

It's a little late but this is my entry for the June RPG Blog Carnival hosted by Pitfalls and Pixies.
https://brynvalk.wordpress.com/2019/05/31/the-2019-rpg-blog-carnival-the-third-fey-march/


Friday, June 21, 2019

Busy Week

Sorry for the lack of posting everyone.  Been a really busy week at work.

Here are some brief updates.

Back to Middle-Earth
I turned 50 last week!
So I decided to re-read the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings for something like the 7th or 8th time.
Finished up the Hobbit and I am at the part in Fellowship where the Hobbits have left Tom Bombadil's home.  I am likely to also re-read The Silmarillion, a book I loved much more than expected.

I am also considering picking up Tales from the Perilous Realm and The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, two books I ignored as being "too childish" for me...back when I was, in fact, a child.

Then To the Wizarding World!
Speaking of childish things, I have no shame in admitting that I enjoy playing Pokémon GO with my wife and kids.  We walk all over my son's campus (because apparently, I am not on campus enough now) and catch Pokémon.  We get out, we get exercise and we all do it together as a family.
So now we are all playing Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.  HP is a little more near and dear to my heart than Pokémon is. Though I have very, very fond memories of playing the Pokémon card game with my son when he was little and watching the cartoon with him.
Wizards Unite uses the same game engine as PG but with some differences.  More immersive.  I see more walks in my future with my family and both games.

BTW if you want to add me, here are my codes.
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite: 1990 1847 9214
Pokémon GO: 5190 6074 7972


Then Back to the Final Frontier
My BlackStar game is going rather well.
A couple of new developments.
First, I am going to be adding Kzinti as a race.  I am going to say at this point they are in an uneasy cold war with the Federation.  They are largely going to fill the role of the Klingons from the FASA Trek game.  Including the Klingon philosophy of "what is not growing is dying".   Again, this is merely background and I might set them up as the main antagonist for the "series" before springing the horror on them.
Second, I have gotten some GREAT ideas from a very unlikely source, the HBO series Chernobyl. 
I think this is going to be great.

I just need to survive the term start here in a week and I'll be great.

BTW I am now working on a new Graduate level Social Justice course.  This will be a lot of fun and I am really looking forward to it.

See you all next week!

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Review: Odysseys & Overlords

Odysseys & Overlords is a new Old-School setting and rules system from Travis Legge and Aegis Studios.  Travis has an impressive bibliography with over 400 publications on DriveThruRPG.  So when I saw these were out I jumped on them as soon as I saw they were published.  I also admit I was drawn in with the Dean Spencer art.

Odysseys & Overlords uses Basic Fantasy as it's ruleset and I think that is a good idea. Of all the clones out there BF is one of the more flexible and easily approachable to new gamers.  If you are using a Basic-era ruleset of your own then it will work with that.  For example, while reading up for this review I compared and contrasted these rules to rules in Labyrinth Lord and Blueholme.  I found no issues.

Odysseys & Overlords Player's Guide
PDF. 56 pages, color cover, b&w interior.
The Player's guide has what you should expect a Player's Guide to have.  Here you get a bit of background on the campaign world of the O&O game.  It's fine, as far as these things go, but I have no emotional investment in it.  It does help situate some of the game-design choices and that is nice.  Still, I see a campaign guide or gazetteer sometime in the future.  Since this is a Basic-era OSR game based on Basic Fantasy races and classes are separate. With this, we get some new races, called genus in this book (a more apt name really).   We get Abyss-kissed, which are like other games' Tieflings though more in-line with this game's mythos. Spellscorched, which cover the same niche as elves only here children of the gods.  Wild folk, humanoids with animal traits and blood. And garden variety humans.  No elves, dwarves or halflings here and that is great by me! (Note: they also do not appear in the Monsters section of the Game Master's book)
Classes include the favorites of Clerics, Fighters, Magic-users and Thieves and also adds another take on the Bard class.  Might need to give that one a try sometime.  Bards do not have spells but do have songs they can learn for different in-game effects.
Additionally, there is a section on equipment. I'll be honest, I don't pay much attention to equipment lists anymore. I have so many games with so much equipment that if I need to find something I am sure I have it OR I can just make it up on the spot.
Spells follow next.   Spells for both clerics and magic-users only go to 6th level.  Personally, I still like my magic-users to have more spellcasting power than clerics and would have liked to see magic-user spells go to at least 7th level.  All the expected suspects are here. 
We get some adventuring rules and finally some combat rules.
The layout and art is really good and has a solid old-school feel. The book just looks nice and fills you with all sorts of old-school nostalgia.  I do wish the book though offered some more new unique classes to go along with the new unique races.   A little more on the world background as it applies to the characters would also have been nice.
There is a character sheet at the end of the book. You can also get the character sheet here for free.

Odysseys & Overlords Game Master's Guide
PDF. 63 pages, color cover, b&w interior.
This book covers a bit of material not found in the Player's guide. 
Again we get some great Dean Spenser cover art and again we get the same overview of the campaign world.
We get into a section on various encounter areas, including my favorite, Urban Encounters.   Tips on dealing with players, hopeless characters, and weapon and armor restrictions.
There is also a good section on XP advancement and narrative advancement, which has come to be called "milestone" advancement in D&D 4 and 5.  It provides some nice balance. I am using both types in different games and it has the effect of taking the focus away from combat and more onto role-playing for Narrative/Milestone advancement. 
Magical research into new spells and new magic items are also discussed.
There is a monster section following the discussion on dungeons and wilderness exploring.  The problem I have with the monsters here is that you are directed to use Basic Fantasy there are not any new monsters.  Nearly all, save for two, can be found in what I would call the "common canon" of the OSR.  There was a real chance here to set this book apart from others with some new and unique monsters, or at least some rare ones.  It is too bad this chance was not taken.
Magic items follow next. A good variety here, but again I would have liked something unique to this world to stand out.
We end with the Kingdoms.  Ah! now here is the new and unique material I was hoping for.  There is a good amount here to work with without being overly detailed.   The descriptions are good, but a map, even a rough one, would have been great.  Tip: Can't afford a good cartographer?  Scribble one out and call it "an adventures map found in a dragon horde". 
Interestingly enough, there are maps in the books from Dyson Logos, but that causes an awkward mix of the OGL and Creative Commons Licences that I have been told to avoid doing.  Hope this works for them!
I think there is something here to the world put forth, I just would have liked to have seen more of it.

I have not picked up many of the adventures yet, but here is one.

Temple of the Harpies
PDF. 14 pages, color cover, b&w interior, two maps
This adventure is a pretty straightforward affair that can be run in a long afternoon. Designed for four to six characters of 2nd to 3rd level, the character must retrieve a missing child, defeat harpies, kobolds, and an ancient curse and not awaken an army of undead. Suitable for any OSR game or really any d20 based fantasy game with tweaks.  This one also includes some new monsters, which I always like.


I think there is a lot of potential with this line and would like to see more.



Friday, June 14, 2019

Kickstart Your Weekend: Amazing Adventures 5e

I have been waiting for this one for a while now. 

Amazing Adventures 5E RPG


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/676918054/amazing-adventures-5e-rpg?ref=theotherside

I have been a fan of Amazing Adventures since my good friend Jason Vey told he was writing it one day.  Jason and I met while working for Eden Studios back in the late 90s and the early 2000s.  Since then we have playtested and given advice on each other's games. 

The original Amazing Adventures was two-fisted, high action pulpy goodness using the SIEGE Engine rules that powers the Castles & Crusades RPG.  Over the years and supplements, it has morphed into a more multi-genre system complete with powers and all sorts of magic and psionics.

Amazing Adventures 5e makes this all explicit now and does it using the same d20 system that D&D 5e uses.  Which seems only fair given how much of C&C you can find in D&D5.
Yes, you can still do pulp, but you can also do modern gaming, Victorian and futuristic Sci-Fi.

I have read and played the playtest and it is every bit as awesome as that cover promises it is.

OR use it as an add-on to your D&D 5 rules with some extra classes and work right alongside of the classics.

Seriously this one is a no-brainer.

It has blown past the stretch goals, which is great since you now get "Don't Fear the Ripper" and "The Feast of Black Annis" adventures which are great.   I am just tickled, having played with Jason's home group in the past, to see "Don't Fear the Ripper" get new life as an AA5 adventure.

Lots of great stuff here and you should check it out.



Thursday, June 13, 2019

BlackStar: Launch Date 31165.86

It's my birthday! But I am at work today. Thankfully I was so prepared for all my meetings I got done early.  Thought I might share an update.

I have been working, slowly, on my BlackStar game.  This is still not something I am looking to publish mind you, just something to have fun with.  This is likely to be the most Trek-centric post of this series.
For this game I want to establish that the Universe, despite all it's wonders and dangers, is still a sane, ordered place. Yes, there are things we don't know but we are not incapable of knowing them.  So for me a clear starting point for the horror to come is a normal reality.  This is a process similar to what Stephen King uses and I can do worse than emulate him.
Part of my "reality grounding" was trying to determine when the game takes place.  The where is easy, the Star Trek Universe.  If I ever decide to publish in the future it is easy to remove that aspect and focus more on the things that are different, aka the horror, so anyone can add it to their own game.

I debated a lot with my self and with my kids about a good time.  Eventually, I went back to my original idea to set it in the era just before the Next Generation.  I can control the history and the future better from this point AND still have room to do what I want.



What do I know?

The Enterprise-C, commanded by Capt. Rachel Garret was lost in 2344, 20 years before the launch of the Enterprise-D in 2364 (SD 41153.7).  Since my ship is based on the Ambassador Class ship, same as the Ent-C it makes sense to set it closer to then.

We don't see many Ambassador class ships in the TNG time-frame, why?  I am going to say there was a design flaw that was later discovered after Starfleet Corp of Engineers went over why the Ent-C was destroyed.  There is a flaw in the nacelle arrangement that was missed in the R&D phase and only seen in practice.  This lead to newer warp nacelle configuration that gave us the Galaxy and Nebula class ships.  Despite living in the 24th century, human Starfleet personnel can still be somewhat superstitious and the Ambassador class gained the status of a "cursed ship".

This is also why there are 21 decommissioned Ambassador class ships outside of Neptune Station.   Here, Commodore Peter Quincy Taggert, with a signed order from Admiral Nyota Uhura (who had been fond of the Ambassador class and hated to see them go to waste), began work on the Mystic Project.  The NX-3100 (mislabeled on the hull as NX-3000 due to a clerical error) was developed at the Klatuu Nebula Yards in conjunction with the Theremin Science Council and launched to Earth on SD 30007.21. 

The Mystic, however, was lost with all hands en route.  Not destroyed, no one knows where it is.  Capt. Lazarus, XO Tawny Madison, and Chief Engineer Chen who were hand-picked by Taggert have been listed as "Missing in Action".  Yes, this might work for my "Ghost Ship" adventure.


The other ships were built with various levels of failure. The "Ambassador Curse" is in full swing on the Mystic line.

Presently the only ships in "mission ready" status are the NX-3113 USS Necromancer, NX-3119 USS Imbolic Mage and NX-3120 USS Protector.


The Protector was the first one ready for a full test of the new Warp-13 drive.  It is set to launch on June 13, 2352, SD 31165.86. (Exactly 333 years from today, on a Friday the 13th).


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Post 4000

Sorry for the self-indulgence here, but this is my 4,000th post to this blog.  That's a lot and more than I thought I would do when I started this thing.

NGC 6193, roughly 4,000 ly from Earth
I was going through some of my oldest archived posts on the internet, looking for something from my original The Other Side, website.

Sadly there was this deal in the mid-90s where people would "Frame" your website inside their own to beef up their content so I wrote a "frame buster" bit of JavaScript to break out of the frames.  Sadly today this has had the effect of archives of my site to not display properly.

Not that it really matters.  A lot of that stuff was very AD&D 2nd Ed and then later D&D 3e focused, along with some bits on the WitchCraft and Worlds of Darkness games.

I am a firm believer in Sturgeon's law, that "ninety percent of everything is crap" and that extends to my own writing.
I was an early adopter of technology.  I bought my first computer at 14; a TRS-80 Color Computer 2.  I immediately starting doing two things, working on a D&D program and putting all my notes and various design docs in.   Things got better when I moved from tape to an honest to goodness disk drive on my Color Computer 3.


(not my pictures)

This "90% of everything is crap" applies to me. In fact, I am the only one I can realistically apply it too.  Not that you are all getting the Cream of the Crop 10% of my writing.  More like you are getting the top 25%.  So then you can imagine (and be close to correct) that the remaining 75% (12,000 posts worth) will never see the light of day, but I have them stored across various mediums including 3.5 floppies (even I don't have 5.25 floppies anymore), zip disks, flash drives and even a couple of removable hard drives and cloud storage.

And it has been great!

I write what I like and I have been lucky that there are others out there that enjoy it too.  I hope to do this for another 4,000 posts if you all let me!  Either way, I'll be over here writing and enjoying some games.

Here is to the next 4,000 posts, next 4,000,000 views and next decade.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Featured Artist: Dean Spencer

What?  Another Featured Artist so soon? Yes!  I have been planning to share my love of Dean Spenser's art for a while.  He has a sale going on on DriveThruRPG now, so this seems like the best time.

If you have seen my Warlock or Winter Witch books then you have seen Dean Spenser's art.






My next one to use is this.


Can't wait for that one!

And he has more.



You can find Dean and his art at:



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...