Thursday, December 13, 2018

Featured Artist: Anna Marine

I am not sure how I found my next Featured Artist, I am just glad I did!

Anna Marine is from Prague, Czech Republic and is an amazing talent.  As you can expect from me she loves to draw witches and demons.

Here is a commission I had gotten from her for my Swords & Wizardry White Box Witch.
She was so great to work with that I am now looking for any excuse to get to do it again!


It's a young Larina flying to her sabbat sky-clad.  She does some really wonderful stuff.


Her newest is "Yule".










You can buy all these prints from her Big Cartel or Etsy stores.

You can find her on the net at:
She is available for commissions as well.


Thanks so much Anna!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

BlackStar: The Influence of Clark Ashton Smith

For the past month, I have been reading all the stories of Clark Ashton Smith in roughly chronological order.  In many ways, I like his works more than I do of H.P. Lovecraft's.  I find CAS easier to approach and his protagonists more relatable. '

Recently I just finished Marooned in Andromeda first of what is commonly called "The Captain Volmar Stories". The next one was A Captivity in Serpens and a third, which I have not gotten to yet, The Ocean-World of Alioth.  What struck me was how much they were like Star Trek.  Add in the Lovecraftian like horror of Marooned in Andromeda and you practically have a blue-print for what I want in BlackStar.

Indeed, the Trek connection has not gone unnoticed.  Ronald S. Hilger and Scott Connors the editors of the Night Shade collection in which all three stories appear make not of the similarities between Captains Volmar and Kirk.  Captivity in Serpens presages the Next Generation episode "The Most Toys" with it's crew member in captivity for a personal collection.

While doing some research this morning I came across the beginning of an adventure I had started back in the late 80s / early 90s for the then Next Generation version of FASA's Star Trek RPG.

I mentioned this last month as the adventure "Ghost Ship".  As time went on it was the Enterprise B (lost according to my notes in 2329, the Enterprise C was launched in 2332), but before that, it was the USS Excelsior.  In my document here it predates even that and it was the USS Necromancer.   Astute readers might recall that the NX-3113 USS Necromancer is one of the "Ships of the Line" of the Mystic Class.   The Necromancer seems to be a bit on the nose for this.  Instead given the writings of CAS and the main representative of his work in the OSR world,  Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, it seems best to call the ship the NX-3102 USS Sorcerer

I was thinking that maybe I could use the events of the CAS Capt. Volmar stories to give my Horror Universe a bit more of a backstory. Volmar's ship was called Alcyone.   The Alcyone system is about 445 light years from Earth, so not sure if I could say Volmar is from Alcyone. So I going to say that the Alcyone was his previous command.  His name is Howard Solomon Volmar since he has been compared to Robert E. Howard's creation, Solomon Kane.

There is so much more here too.

Seedling of Mars deals with an alien craft that lands in California in 1947 (the future from CAS' then perspective) that carries a group of scientist to Mars where it's one lifeform is a planet-wide hybrid of plant and animal that is near god like.  While CAS' martian is a benign entity, it does have the look of a Lovecraftian monster.  One could imagine a great Cthulhuoid beast in its place.  The deal that makes with humanity is less for their benefit and more Faustian in return.  Indeed in CAS' tale, the being wipes out much of the Earth's population but it's ok since those are the ones that were not scientifically minded.  The rest of humanity is relocated onto Venus. Still, while this story is more Science-Fantasy it just needs a nudge to push it out of the light and into the dark of Horror.

Clark Ashton Smith in My Games
It is fair to say that CAS has had more influence on my games than Lovecraft has, save for the effect Lovecraft had on CAS himself.
In my regular D&D 5 games (and before that) CAS has had a huge effect on my game universe as detailed here:


For these, I made a special effort to reread or in other cases re-read all the Averoigne stories to get a good feel of Medieval Horror.  It was great.

These days the Atlantis and Hyperborea tales of CAS are well handled by Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.   Actually, I would love to use AS&SH as the system for a Zothique game.  I have already taken ideas from it for BlackStar and plan to have the PCs travel to Yamil Zacra: The Infernal Star.

Depending on how my BlackStar game goes I could conceivably pull another "Where No One Has Gone Before" and send the poor crew of the Protector to Earth, 250-300 Million years in the future.

I could combine this with the "Ghost Ship" idea above. Though that might be too much.
Alternately, I could alter my Starcrash on Hyperborea adventure idea to Starcrash on Zothique.  I kinda like that idea. Shades of "The Time Machine" here too.  It would also give the option of something I wanted to try in some other games.  I have wanted the PCs to run into their future-incarnations; their reincarnated souls as it were in new bodies.  The excuse I would give is that the Earth is so old now that old forms are being reused. 

If I wanted to bring in some Atlantis I could just use some of my ideas for Doggerland.

The Black Gate ran a fantastic series on Clark Ashton Smith.  I won't link all of them here, just ones that are germane to this discussion, but they are all good.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Shrine of St. Aleena for 5e

In a very nice surprise this morning I was given the word that a conversion I did a bit ago is now live on DMSGuild.


The Shrine of St. Aleena, Small Niche Games and Pete Spahn's classic OSR adventure is now available for 5e thanks to yours truly.  Love the colorized cover!

You can read my review of the original on its product page.
The 5e version remains faithful and adds some new 5e features such as the Monastic Order of St. Aleena.  Now you can play a Monk dedicated to the service of this most revered saint.

I want to thank Pete for giving me a chance to play around in his world here for a bit.

At under 5 bucks this is a steal!

You can still the OSR version too.




Monday, December 10, 2018

Monstrous Monday: Frost Maiden

Woke up to freezing fog this morning.  That sounds totally made-up, but there is a thin sheet of ice everywhere.  Remind me again WHY I live in Chicago?

Today's little beastie is another one from the upcoming Winter Witch book.  It should feel familiar to any old-school gamer.

Frost Maiden
Hit Dice: 10
Armor Class: 3 [17]
Attack: Spell abilities or two fists (2d8x2) (giant size)
Saving Throw: 8
Special: Spell-like abilities, growth, immune to all cold.
Movement: 18 (can run without impediment over snow and ice)
Alignment: Chaotic
Number Encountered: 1
Challenge Level/XP: 12/2,000
Frost Maidens are related to both Frost Giants and Snow Elves.  It is believed that the first Frost Maiden was the offspring of a snow elf princess who was abducted by a Frost Giant Jarl.  The Princess was a powerful winter witch and she cursed her abductor and his family.  Now once every 100 or so births among frost giants will result in a frost maiden.  Due to the curse, the frost giants cannot abandon their frost maiden daughters and they usually rise to levels of importance and power.
These creatures stand some 5’ tall under normal conditions. Her skin is an unhealthy white or pale blue with white or platinum blonde hair. Their eyes are a piercing ice blue. They appear as a snow elf, but something is different about them.  They are unearthly beautiful with melodious voices and a coquettish smile. The often will appear wearing only the barest minimum to support modesty, but little else.  They are often barefoot.
Frost Maiden are all irredeemably evil. Their favorite game is to tease human males to point they are maddened with lust then they lead them to their deaths.  Usually in a blind canyon where they will bury them in an avalanche or trap them in a deep bit of ice.  They are also not above leading them into ambushes of winter wolves, worgs, or their frost giant brothers.   Some males they trick into acts of passion.  The resulting children are the same race as the father. Children of these unions have an additional +1 to saves against cold-based attacks.
The frost maiden can cast spells as a 7th level winter witch and can also once per day grow to three times her size (15’) to the size of a frost giant once per day.  She will revert to her normal size at sunrise.
Some sages say that the “snow elf princess” was actually the Snow Queen, the Faerie Lady of Ice and Snow and the “frost giant jarl” was no less a personage than Thrym, lord of the Frost Giants.  This is unconfirmed and both the Snow Queen and Thrym are loathe to discuss it. But it is known that many frost maidens serve the Snow Queen in her court.



I used this monster as a "side quest" after running G2 Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl.  The ice maiden in question was the daughter of the Jarl.  My players were quite surprised when the "snow elf" they were chasing starting using spells and became a 15' frost giant.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Featured Artist: Larry Elmore

This one might seem something like a cheat or a dodge. I mean the idea behind Featured Artist is to share with you artists I enjoy and want you to know more about.  Let's be honest EVERYONE knows who Larry Elmore is.

But in truth, there might not be my witch class and thus not this blog had it not been for Larry Elmore.  Well. That might be overstating it since I was working on my witch rather early.  But it was his art that gave me inspiration.  I do know I would never have published my first "netbook" of witches had it not been for his art.

This week is my "anniversary week" and Elmore has had an inordinate influence on my writings. It seems only fair to give him his due here.

I have to be 100% honest.
I love his witches.


This witch appeared in the famous Dragon #114 version of the witch class and she was the "face" of my witch character ever since.  My goal is to get this as a print to put up in my game room.

Equally as influential was the Dragonlance character Laurana, which is not a great mental leap to my own Larina.  Though really only in name.  Laurana went from spoiled princess to warrior to one of the main heroes of the Dragonlance saga.



Though this next one was more influential.
"Early Snow" was one of my favorites. So much so that at Gen Con 2010 I bought the mini from Dark Sword and a signed print from Larry himself.


Larry admitted he loves drawing women and witches in particular.





He is pretty famous for his clerics too.


Aleena should have been working with Avalyne! She might still be alive.

And of course, there is this one, maybe his most famous painting ever.

But on Earth-2 they got this one as the cover.


I have to say, I like this one better.  Maybe not as epic as "one man vs. dragon" but it is more "D&D" with a fighter, magic-user and what could be an elf or halfling. I am going with halfling.

There is so much art out there that I could spend days talking about it and him.

You can find Larry on the internet at:

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

This is How I Die. New feature for Winter Witches

I often joke with my wife that I know exactly how I am going to die.  It's going to be an M.I. while shoveling snow one winter.  Statistically speaking given my age, health, previous heart issues and where I live this is a pretty safe bet.  So if I do, you heard it here first.

The trouble is shoveling snow gives me great ideas.  Pretty much the entire Winter Witch book came to me while digging out of one Chicago winter.

Foresee Death
The witches of the Winter Witch Tradition have a secret they almost never share with others, not even their sister witches.  Everyone knows of course and the secret is still kept.

Each Winter Witch knows exactly how she will die.

She may not know the details, and certainly not where or when but she knows as sure as she knows her own date of birth how she will meet her end.  Many know it will be via fire or violence. Rare is the witch that sees herself lying in a bed as a great crone surrounded by loved ones. No. The witch knows her end and she knows it will not be pleasant.
Some occult scholars believe that this is because the Winter Witch, like the Mara Witch, deals with aspects of the divine closer to death.  Winter is the month of death, but also of rebirth, the witch then learns how she will die so she may prepare for her own eventual reincarnation and rebirth.

Using Foresee Death in Your Games
For PC Winter Witches the player must jot down how she sees her witch character dying.  Emphasis on the dramatic or even maudlin is preferred.  The details can and should be light and simple.  "I will die in a fire" or  "I will die surrounded by my fallen enemies".  Something that makes a mental picture. A single scene of death; not a movie. 
The Player and the Game Master then should agree on this with the assumption that the character very likely will have a long life ahead of them.  Each then takes on certain responsibilities to the character.
The GM agrees NOT to create scenes purposefully to kill the witch character. The GM can have fires and enemies and everything that are in the Forsending of Death, but to let the dice fall where they may.
The Player agrees to play her character as normal knowing full well that the GM knows the situations of death and could use them.
Both agree to the following depending on the system used.

  • Old School D&D/OSR: The character is given a +3 bonus to any saving throw that might result in death that is NOT of the situation described.  If the situation is as described then the character gets a saving throw penalty of -7.
  • 3rd/Pathfinder or 4th Editions:  The save mods are the same +3 or -7, but apply to Fortitude saves/defense and Death saves.
  • 5th Edition:  The witch or warlock character has Advantage on all Death saves that do not fit the situation described or Disadvantage on all Death saves in situations that do.

If your game does not have Winter Witches then this can extend to other witches or to warlocks as the case merits itself.

The idea here is not to give the character a way to cheat death. Quite the opposite really. It is designed to let the character (and the player) know that death is always there, waiting, like a wolf in the winter.  If given the chance it will pounce on you. Knowing this doesn't change it.

There will be more in my upcoming book, The Winter Witch Tradition.



Coming December 20th.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

10 Years (sorta) of The Other Side!

It's December and I am celebrating 10 years here at the Other Side.

Willow & Tara join the Justice League Dark by Jacob Blackmon
Sort of...

My first post called intelligently enough First Post, was made on April 27, 2007. But I didn't do much with my blog at all in 2007.   My next real post of substance was not till December 23, 2008.  In that post, I talked about some projects I was working on at the time.
Project #1 never came to pass, the IP owners pulled out.  BUT I am happy to say that the adventure I wrote for it then is now in the hands of a new editor and I hope to say something more about that soon.   Project #2 of became Eldritch Witchery.   Since that time I have gotten 25 or so books out and appeared in a few others.

In any case, I figure December should be the 10 year anniversary of this blog.  It has been a crazy ten years too.  Yesterday was my 10 year anniversary on Facebook too, so I hit Social Media big in 2008.

This blog started out as an extension of my then website, also called The Other Side.  But the site got hacked so many times I dropped it.  I was growing tired of Message Boards where I could talk about Game A, but not Game B or I could talk about Games A and B but not Topic X.  I wanted more freedom to talk about the games I loved and the topics I cared about.  That site and this blog gave me that freedom.

What has the Other Side seen in 10 years?  Well as of right now, I have had 3,744,607 visitors which averages out to about 1,024 hits/visits a day.  I have made 3,848 posts and only 663 have overtly been about witches.

I have spilled a lot of digital ink (electrons? photons? photons) on witches, vampires, witches, Willow & Tara, Zatanna, the OSR, superheroes, my favorite games, witches, games I have written, sometimes about my hardcore left-leaning liberal politics, witches and games I played with my kids.

With this blog, I have participated in blogathons, blog carnivals, and blogfests.   Reading challenges, post-a-day challenges and theme posts.  I have seen a lot of great blogs come and go and a lot of my contemporaries still posting right along beside me.  I have made some good friends and some people I love to work with.

To memorialize this anniversary Jacob Blackmon (my first Featured Artist) created what might be the ultimate "Other Side" image:  Willow and Tara being welcomed into the Justice League Dark by Constantine and Zatanna.   Pretty much captures everything this blog has done in 10 years!

What next?  More Featured Artists, more Black Star, the return of This Old Dragon and One Man's God (OMG).  I hope to bring even more.  So let's get on that next 10 years, shall we?

Thanks, everyone!  You are what makes posting here worthwhile and I hope to keep being a place you can come too for your RPG and pop culture entertainment.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...