Tuesday, September 27, 2016

October Horror Movie Challenge 2016

Once again I am going to participate in the October Horror Movie Challenge.
31 days, 31 movies.  20 have to be new to me.


I am going to try to relate this to gaming as much as possible. Even if it is a weak, "yeah I am going to do this".  I see a lot of this happening for my War of the Witch Queens campaign idea.

The challenge was started (near as I know) by Krell Labs.  It has moved over to Facebook now.

Go there. Sign-up and watch some scary movies. Or not so scary ones as the case might be.

This year my youngest son will join me for some of these movies. I'll post what he thinks along with my own opinions.

+Justin Isaac over at Halls of the Nephilim will be joinig me in this.  It should be a blast!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Monstrous Mondays: Giants in the Mist

or fog as the case may be...

Since I am going to combine some Cloud Giant adventures and have a floating castle, I figure I should have at least one encounter with their land-dwelling cousins.  Fog giants first appeared (well for me anyway) in the 1st Edition Fiend Folio.

These creatures can be added to any giant-themed adventure.


D&D 5th Edition


Castles & Crusades

NO. ENCOUNTERED: 1-6, 1-10*
SIZE: Large (16'-18')
HD: 14 (d12)
MOVE: 40 ft.,
AC: 24
ATTACKS: Weapons; Greatclub (5d6) or rock (3d8)
SPECIAL: Spell–Like Abilities,  Mist (Twilight) Vision, Scent
SAVES: P
INT: Average
ALIGNMENT: Neutral Good (50%) or Neutral Evil (50%)
TYPE: Giant
TREASURE: Horde
XP: 4750 + 12

*Any group of 10 Fog Giants will include a Cloud Giant noble.

From the 2nd Edition Monstrous Compendium.

Description
Cousins to the cloud giants, these large rock-hurlers are more intelligent and stealthy than portrayed in story or song. Fog giants are huge and husky, with tree-trunk sized legs, and over-developed arms muscled by constant throwing games and exercises. They have milk-white skin which aids their natural ability to blend into fog (80% chance). Their hair is silvery white and flowing, with ample hair on the arms, legs, and chest. They grow no facial hair whatsoever. They prefer to wear no armor, counting on their high natural Armor Class.  They love massive, ornate clubs made from bleached and polished wood or bone.

Habitat/Society
Fog giants are proud of their strength and fighting skills, often playing games when on hunting forays in an attempt to best one another. Their favorite such game is called “copsi” and consists of the giants pairing off to toss larger and larger boulders to their partners until one of the pairs misses its throw.

The fog giant families live in caves, canyons, or thickets, in the most inaccessible areas of marsh, swamp, forest, or coast. The men usually hunt in groups, ranging up to a dozen miles from their homes. The groups generally are formed of giants of similar alignment.

By tradition, a young giant may not mate until he has obtained at least one large ornament of silver. Usually, the young giant joins with several others in a quest to find one (or acquire enough treasure to buy one).

Fog giants do not often mix well with other creatures or races, although they can often be persuaded to perform services for a fee, or barter goods with groups of similar alignment. Fog giants will happily barter goods and services for refined silver.

Territorial disputes sometimes flare up between groups, especially in times of bad hunting. Friendly disputes can sometimes be resolved by a game of copsi or an arm-wrestling match. Fog giants fighting amongst themselves will generally throw rocks and fist-fight, rather than use swords.

Fog giants are fond of all sorts of cooked meats, particularly hoofed creatures such as horses, cows, deer, elk, and centaur. They often cook meat by building a large fire, then impaling chunks of meat on their swords and holding them over the open flame. Fog giants prefer fruits and sweets for dessert, and will also down large quantities of spirits if available to them. They do not distill their own spirits or liquors.

They also sometimes smoke fresh milkweed pods in wooden pipes, though the taste is too bitter for humans and demihumans to enjoy.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Castle of the Cloud Giant Queen

I just need to give her a name.
Procella sounds good.
Lots of things conspired against gaming this weekend including lots of homework, getting bags of clothes ready for charity, more homework...

In any case, I Was able to read through some of Storm King's Thunder, Saga of the Giants, and Curse of the Cloud Giant Queen. I noticed a lot of similarities. Not that this is a big deal really; all the adventures are drawing on the same source materials. Namely the classic G series and the mythology in D&D about Cloud Giants.

So as my wont, I decided to start merging these adventures.  The adventure in the SKT is nice and tight and I loved the masks.  The Curse of the Cloud Giant Queen has a great dungeon and some ideas as well. Saga of the Giant's Cloud Giant Castle is also a nice adventure.

Reading them all over I got the idea of a floating castle in the clouds, ruled by a Cloud Giant Queen. I have always, always wanted to do a floating castle! She is supplying materials to the Frost and Fire Giants below.  But why?  Well obviously she wants control.  But how does she fit into the GDQ series?

Well I had originally misread Storm King's Thunder as Storm King's Daughter.  What if this Cloud Giant Queen was really a half-Cloud, half-Storm giant?  She marries the current Cloud Giant king and usurps the throne from the rightful heir (a daughter or a son, I am thinking daughter).  To extend her power base she is dealing with the drow (and thus Lolth) to control the Cloud, Fog, and Storm giants.



Castle of the Cloud Giants vs. The Cloud Giant Castle?  Why not both?!



It will extend the Giants part of the campaign. But that is fine really.

+Justin Isaac mentioned that there has been a creeping of the sizes of Giants over the years.
He is not kidding.  While working on my adventure this weekend I pulled out my Fire Giant Kings.

Here they are in reverse chronological order.


King Snurre Ironbelly is the puniest one of the bunch!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Or...I can do some giants...

Well. My son's game fell through due to illness of half the players (schools are Petri dishes...).  So it looks like we might be doing our Come Endless Darkness game this weekend.  Which means going after some Frost Giants.

I wanted to finish up the G series at Gen Con, but we only got through G1(hill giants) and the unofficial G4 (stone giants).    On the plus side it has allowed me some time to consult some other references.


Storm Giants really didn't fit into my original idea, but I am going to give these a read and see what they have to offer.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Witch Wars and Second Campaigns

Again, no gaming for me this weekend.  So when I am not working on my current 5e game my mind tends to wander a bit.  Lately, I have been thinking a lot about what needs to be done next.

A brief recap though.

I started playing with my kids when my son turned 5, so about 2005 or so.
That adventure was the start of what would become the Dragonslayers campaign.  There was no over arching plot and we made a lot up as we went along.  The rule system was a modified version of D&D 3.0 with bits of Mutants & Masterminds, BESM d20 and Star Wars thrown in for good measure.   Soon my youngest son joined and there was a rotating cast of characters (sometimes joined by their friends) under the vague notion of stopping the threat of evil dragons.  Eventually the party decided that they had to stop Tiamat herself.  We went through many of the classic adventures and a lot that were completely made up on the day of gaming.

When D&D 4 came out we tried a couple of times to get a game going under that but to no real success.   Though those failures lead to what we called the Order of the Platinum Dragon games, or what I have been calling here the Come Endless Darkness game.  Like every time I have changed rule systems I usually use the children of the characters I was playing before. This time, we started using AD&D 1st Edition. We played that for a couple of levels, notably for adventures B1 and B2.  When D&D 5th Ed came out we switch wholesale over to that with flashbacks using AD&D1 and D&D Basic.

Now I want to try something a little different.

The Second Campaign is (in theory) supposed to run in parallel to the Come Endless Darkness game.  Different characters, but the same world and time.  One of the elements of this game is that one of the characters that went missing from the CED game will show up here.  That game is limited to only 12-14 levels, then for the big finale all the characters would come together in the end.  BUT...that might not work so well since I didn't get the Second Campaign started when I should have.  Or rather, the CED game had too much momentum and we kept going.  In the CED game they are going to deal with the Lolth-Orcus threat, in TSC it will be Dagon and Demongorgon.
Since it is a "Second Campaign" I want to follow the model of the "First Campaign" or Come Endless Darkness and use classic modules. These are the ones I am considering.

N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God, levels 1-3 (novice)
U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, levels 1-3
U2 Danger at Dunwater, levels 1-4
U3 The Final Enemy, levels 3-5
I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City, levels 4-7
I3 Pharaoh, levels 5-7
I4 Oasis of the White Palm, levels 6-8
I5 Lost Tomb of Martek, levels 7-9
X4 Master of the Desert Nomads, levels 6-9
X5 Temple of Death, levels 6-10
I9 Day of Al'Akbar, level 8-10
Gary Gygax's Necropolis, levels 10+

The only one that I am 100% sold on is Necropolis.

Since these are all AD&D modules (save Necropolis) I might stick to AD&D, but it is far more likely that this will be a combination of Basic/Expert D&D,  Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, Adventurer Conquerer King, Basic Fantasy RPG, Labyrinth Lord and any other OSR book I have laying around.  It is a mix-mash that I often refer to as "Black Box Basic".

The trouble it that it make much more sense for this game to use Castles & Crusades.  Converting between C&C and D&D5 is a no brainer really.  Super easy.   I want to play C&C. I also want to play Black Box.

The only ones I don't have PDFs for.
The campaign after this will be my War of the Witch Queens.
That one will be run under Castles & Crusades and also use a variety of adventures.

The Stealer of Children (LL), level 1
B7 Rahasia (Basic D&D), levels 1-3
The Ruins of Ramat (S&W), levels 1-3
Return of the Warlock (S&W), levels 2-4
The Manor Issue 6 (OSR), low level (roughly 3rd)
Witch of the Tarriswoods (OSR), 3rd level
Saga of the Witch Queen (DCC), 4th level
A3 Wicked Cauldron (C&C), levels 3-5
Night of the Spirits (C&C), levels 4-6
No Salvation for Witches (LotFP), not mentioned, likely levels 5-7
Witches Court Marshes (AD&D_ish), around 7
Fane of the Witch King (3.0/d20), levels 10+
Dark Druids, AD&D1/OSRIC, levels 8-12
The Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga (AD&D_2e), levels 7-20
The Witch Queen's Revenge (Pathfinder), levels 15+
The Witchwar Legacy (Pathfinder), levels 17+
Winter of the Witch (D&D4), Epic levels

One campaign has a variety of rules, but adventures that are for the same system.  The other uses one set of rules, but each adventure is for a different system.

One day I'll do something easy.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Class Struggles: Castles & Crusades Classes

It has been a while since I have done a Class Struggles post.  Normally with these I like to take a deep dive into a single expression of a class and talk about it in it's various forms in the various editions and offshoots of D&D.

Today though I want to instead look at the unique, or mostly unique, classes offerings from Castles & Crusades and other SIEGE Engine games.  My point of view though will remain the same; how to use these classes in your Fantasy RPG/D&D.

First up is the Knight.  The knight comes to us from the Castles & Crusades Player's Handbook. So in this respect, it is a "core" class.  It is best to compare the Knight to the Cavalier. In fact if one were to look at the list of classes in the C&C PHB and compare that to AD&D1 PHB/UA or OSRIC the Knight stands out as being something of a unique class.  Like the UA cavalier the knight is a mounted, armored fighter type. They both follow codes of conduct and belong to various orders.  In most ways the knight appears exactly like the romance knights of King Arthur's Round Table with their code of chivalry and courtly romance.  Thankfully though the knight is a little bit more than that.
In Castles & Crusades there is the concept of Prime Abilities. Each class has one and they do about what you would imagine if you never read the rules.  For the Knight the prime ability is Charisma.  Not physical prowess, but charisma. This is the same for Paladins who are now taking more of the role of Holy Warrior.  The 5th Edition D&D Paladin is still closer to the C&C Paladin, but the C&C Knight is in many ways closest to the D&D4 Warlord. Both have leadership abilities and both appear to be more militarily trained fighters.

At this point, I must apologize for my selections of classes.  They are going to be based on the ones I know and the books I have.   I also mightnot focus on every class in the books I do have.

The Codex Celtarum is one of my favorite C&C books. I love the idea of playing in a Celtic universe and there is just so much fun stuff in this.  This book comes with a new class, The Woodwose, and a variation of a class, The Wolf Charmer. Both of these classes have a distinct Celtic flair to them.  The woodwose is a wildman of the woods and somewhere between a ranger and a barbarian in terms of role. Looking at their prime abilities, the Barbarian is Constitution, the Ranger is Strength and the Woodwose is Dexterity.  The wolf charmer is described as a pied piper of sorts for wolves.  They can be rogues or rangers and they gain some wolf charming abilities in favor of some the abilities they would have gotten for their own class.  A ranger-wolf charmer, in fact, resembles the concept of the Beastmaster I discussed in a Class Struggles a few months back.  In 3rd edition, we might have done this a Prestige Class.

It's sister product or cousin product, is the Codex Nordica.  Personally, I think both books should be used together for a greater effect to both. Yes their "worlds" are very different, but their interaction in our world is very linked.   This book offers us the Seiðkona, or sorceress.  Other books might call her a witch.  Indeed I used a lot of the same myths about the  Seiðkona, Vísendakona and Volur in my own witch books right down to using a distaff in place of a staff.  The Seiðkona uses Intelligence as her primeary ability and casts the same spells and magic as the Wizard does.  If she had used Charisma, I would naturally compare her to the Sorcerer of D&D3.   Though given her role, Intelligence (or maybe even Wisdom) is the proper choice here.  This is a class that is very much part of the mythology of the world she is in. She loses some of the things that make her special if she you dropped her into Greyhawk or the Realms.  There is also the Völva, which the clerical counterpart to the Seiðkona.  This class also serves the role of a priestess and uses a distaff.  As expected her primary ability is Wisdom.  Her gift is divination and prophecy.  So by means of a rough comparison, she is more similar to the Oracle class in Pathfinder.

Moving on to more C&C specific "worlds" we can first turn to the Tainted Lands. Now to be fair, I was pretty hard on this product when it came out.  I still find faults with it, but I am softening my approach some more.  I just ignore the "Psychic" and "Supernatural" attributes. The nice thing about this setting is it is easily back-adaptable to ad some darkness to your games.  The Tainted Lands also gives us four new classes.  The Witch Hunter (which I have converted to Wisdom), The Metals Master (which I honestly don't use), The Portal Keeper (I use Intelligence instead) and the Vampire (Strength).  Of these, I use the Witch Hunter the most.

The Haunted Highlands are next and have some classes that fit into the same horror or darkness tinged mode.  This includes the Players Guide, the Castle Keeper's Guide and the Black Libram of Naratus.  Now these books hit me right in my home.  Dark, scary, Celtic themed play?  Sign me up!  I will work on getting a full review out for the Haunted Highlands soon.  Case on point, the classes are a revised Assassin, a revised Monk, the Conjurer (Charisma based), the Necromancer (an Inteligence sub-class of the Wizard and which is also detailed at length in the Black Libram of Naratus), and the Witch (Wisdom based)! I could go on and on about the witch here, but it is a very approapriate adaptation of the concept for this setting.  Again. There is so much here to go through that I will have to devote a blog post or two about it.  But I would easily play one of these witches or necromancers.

To wrap-up my collection of Castles & Crusades specific books (and I know there are more out there) I want to look into the Castles & Crusades Players Guide to Aihrde.   What I really like about this book are some "race" specific classes. There is the Heisen Fodt (Dwarves), the Oraalau (High Elves), Ieragon (Eldritch Goblin), Hugrin dun (Gnome), and Felon Noch (Halfling). Essentially these are the racial classes closest to the Basic/Exper D&D expressions of the Race as Class classes.  Here though they have a strong cultural context and they really work.   I would add these to not only my Castles & Crusades game, but any OSR game or even D&D5.

Stretching now just a bit I want to talk about a few of the classes found in Amazing Adventures.  While AA is a Pulp or even modern RPG, there are some classes that would work well with just the tiniest of modifications.  Some of this is detailed in the books, but I want to share my opinions on the matter.  The Arcanist is basically a Wizard or Cleric.  The Gadgeteer though would make for an excellent Magical Artificer.  Use the rules here and in the Book of Powers to create your own artificer.  The Mentalist would add a psionic or psychic character to your game.  The  Socialite can be dropped in almost as-is for a Royal Courtier.   Now if we add in the Amazing Adventures Companion we get a whole new slate of character class options.   The Acrobat, the Archer, the Duelist, the Feral, the Pirate and the Soldier can all be used with only modifications to anything that involves firearms.  Depending on your game you could even add in the Gunslinger.
If you check out the Troll Lord's online shop you can also find the Demon Hunter class for AA, but easily compatible with C&C.

There are similar choices in Victorious, but I am not done reading that one yet.

All in all, nearly 30 classes you can add to your Castles & Crusades games.

I think the Troll Lords need to come out with a "Class Codex" now!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Review: Amazing Adventures Book of Powers

The Amazing Adventures Book of Powers for the Amazing Adventures RPG is really, really interesting book.  Interesting in that it opens up the Amazing Adventures game, and thus Castles & Crusades and Victorious RPGs into new and interesting realms of play.   It does in a sense to Castles and Crusades what the BESM d20 rules did (or could have done) to d20 rules.

Let's start with the basics and then move into specifics.

The Book of Powers (BoP) is a slim book, 48 pages. The covers are full color, the interior is black & white.  The list price is $14.99 but as of this writing, the PDF is on sale for $10.99.
We get right away to my first gripe about the book.  The cover.  I love Peter Bradley's work and this cover is gorgeous.  However, it is not really "pulp" to me at all.  Sure if this were a modern supers game (which in fact you can use this book to turn AA into) this would be a great cover, but acrobatic girl with green hair, in skin tight lycra/spandex outfit with plunging cleavage isn't my idea of the 1930s.  Sorry.  I mention only because I fear that people might not grab it.
Moving on.
The premise of this book is pretty cool.  Take AA's Gadgeteer class and turn gadgets into powers.  These powers can be used along side gadgets and other powers to make some truly heroic characters.  I did a few quick and dirty character creations this morning and I am pleased so far with what I was able to do.

Expanding on this idea Vey also presents a "Sorcerer" class, a magical power wielder that could fit in right next to the Arcanist class in AA OR even the Wizard in C&C.   For my next character I want to create an AA style sorcerer for a Castles & Crusades game to see how well it works.

Expanding on these powers even further we are given rules on how to make Vampire, Demon and Angel characters.  Now this is a REALLY cool option.  I don't often pull this card, but today I will.
Jason knows his shit here.  We worked together on WitchCraft, All Flesh Must Be Eaten and of course the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG.  Jason is above and beyond qualified to give us these rules. And these rules are really fun.  So much so that one idea I had for a supers game I want to now convert over to an AA game with powers, sorcerers, vampires, angels and demons.  It's actually quite silly how well it work for me.

The book also has a host of new character options including a modified skill check system.  I *believe* is the same as the one in Victorious.  Though I am not 100% sure.  It's a nice simple system.  Though reading it I realize I almost never do skill checks in C&C/AA; just ability checks.
There is also a new advantage system or perks for each class.  Totally optional, but allows for greater customization.  Not enough here? They are similar enough to feats to allow importing from other d20 games.  Add these to Castles & Crusades and you basically have D&D5.

Speaking of which there is also a section on "Amazing Crusades!" with guidelines on how to get Amazing Adventures Peanut Butter into your Castles & Crusades Chocolate.  I would also add that you can add the sweet, sweet creamy caramel of Victorious to this.

I was going to like this book anyway since it does a lot of the things I tend to do in my games anyway.  It also has a lot of things I love adding to my games.  So how do I give an unbiased opinion?

Well, I will say this.  If you love Amazing Adventures, then you should check this out.
If you want some more flexibility with powers and even races in Castles & Crusades, you check this out.
If you want more Steam Punk gadgety goodness of Victorious then definitely buy this.

I highly recommend this.

Disclaimer 1:  I received of a copy of this book in the mail as thanks for being a playtester.  No review was ever mentioned, promised or implied.
Disclaimer 2: I was a playtester for this book.
Disclaimer 3: I am good friends with the author, Jason Vey, and we have worked on many RPG projects together over the last 16-17 years. 
Disclaimer 4: All links are affiliate links.  Your clicks support my book habit.


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