Saturday, November 28, 2020

Black Friday / Cyber Monday Sales

It's Shopping Saturday (is that a thing?) today and DriveThruRPG is having their big Black Friday / Cyber Monday Sales.   There is not really enough time to order and get a Print on Demand book for a gift, you can certainly gift a PDF to someone or gift yourself something.

I am participating so there are a lot of great deals on books from The Other Side.


In particular, the books of my Basic Era Series are on sale.

Friday, November 27, 2020

#FollowFriday: New Year, New Character Challenge

Hope everyone in the U.S. had a good Thanksgiving.  We stayed here at home and had Zoom time with my family.  Ate a lot, watched some TV. It was/is nice.

Now our thoughts turn to Christmas and the holiday season and mine turn to the new year.

I have a couple projects I am looking forward to doing this new year but one I thought I'd share now in case anyone wants to join me.

There is a new Social Media challenge, New Year, New Character Challenge.  Some people are planning to do this in December, but I am planning it for January.   


The idea is to make a new character every day for Januarary.  I make a lot of characters here already so this could be fun, but not exactly a challenge is it?

For my part in this Challenge, I think I need to give it my own spin.  

Build A Witch

This challenge appeared on Twitter a while back and I kept meaning to do something with it. 

https://twitter.com/OhJeeToriG/status/1228915026989215744

https://oicn.icu/2020/build-a-witch-challenge/

Since I am planning to make characters appropriate to this blog, I am going to make characters that could be part of my War of the Witch Queens or even ones to help me define the parameters of my High Witchcraft book.  In any case, they will all be new characters, as per the original challenge, but not all will be witches.

I am planning on focusing on old school games, but in truth, it will be games I have here at home.  I'd like to focus on games I don't usually do here, but for 31 days I will have some choices. 

So for now I am going to gather up my games and figure out what I want to do next, in any case it will be a lot of fun. 

Random Name Generator

I am also going to use this fun site to help come up with names. 


My wife found it and it is a lot of fun.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Supernatural, Del Segno al Fine

Last Thursday was the Supernatural Series Finale.  15 years, the longest-running genre show on American television.  A little show that started with two brothers, some 80s mixtapes, and a black 1967 Chevy Impala. Driving the back roads of the US hunting monsters and saving people.

It was every Chill or Call of Cthulhu game I ever played.  It is exactly what I would do in NIGHT SHIFT.



It was also the one show that everyone in my family watched.  We didn't start in 2005, the pilot freaked my wife out.  But we came to it later and binged watched all the past seasons one Christmas break. We all sat together and watched the adventures of Sam, Dean, and eventually Cass, Crowley, and later Jack.  It was wonderful really.

Updating Sam
Last week I posted stats for Sam Winchester. I chatted a bit with my co-author Jason Vey and he suggested that I instead make a Sam a "Supernatural" race.  This would work well with his background as a "Special Child."  In fact, it works much better, given his ill-defined and ever-changing powers.  I would drop the level in Psychic and give it back in Veteran or more likely Sage.  

This works a lot better and ties in a little better to some other thoughts I had while watching the finale.

That Finale
Ok, Finale Spoilers follow. You have been warned.

In the mean-time here is sister group Neoni covering Wayward Son that appeared in the finale.


The last episode pretty much played out as I expected it would.  The Winchesters settling into their new routine. To me, it looks like something that would have gone on every day for months without change. Until they get notice of some kidnappings.  They consult their dad's journal (nice call back to the beginning of the series) they find some vampires, make short work of them, but in the process, Dean was mortally wounded.  Doesn't matter that they fought demons, monsters, the devil, and even God himself, they are still men and Dean gets impaled on a bit of rebar.

Dean dies and Sam has to move on.  He does. Gets married (maybe it's to Eileen, I certainly hope so), has a son (Dean Jr.), he grows old and dies.   He reunites with Dean in Heaven. 

#TheySilencedThem
Let's also talk about the finale and the things unsaid. 

The Destiel fans are upset that not only did they not get the closure they wanted, but it also seems some scenes were later edited after filming.   I get their complaints. I really, really do.  I was in the same place about 20 years ago with Tara.  Everything they are complaining about is 100% legitimate. 

I do wonder if Covid-19 had not kept Misha Collins out of the filming if things would have been different.  Evidence sadly suggests otherwise. 

Again, I am left where I was in 2002, I am just going to have to continue the story I want in my NIGHT SHIFT games.

Did Rowena get slighted in the end? No. I don't think so. Yes, there was confirmation that she was bi and then she ended up in Hell.  But she wasn't killed for that and let's be honest, Rowena isn't *in* Hell, Rowena is *ruling* Hell.   Being in Heaven would have been a punishment to her.  She even says if she knew it was going to be this good she would have done it years ago.   
No, Rowena in Hell as its Queen gives her character new horizons. 

Charlie is easily one of my favorite characters, behind Donna and Jodie, while it is never mentioned (and it could have been) we assume that Jack brought back her and Stevie along with everyone else.  While I'd love to see more stories with her I think her best story would be to retire.

My favorite series that never was.  Like Charlie, Jack brought the Wayward Sisters back. This we know because Sam gets a call from someone who got his number from Donna.   We can assume then that this means Kaia and Claire are also alive.  Whether they stay together or not is something to be played out.  I know I am not with the same girl I was with at 18 or 19. 

Knowing that they are all back though is great for my games, but sadly does nothing for the fandom wanting more.

I will say one of the first things I wanted to do was rewatch the series again from the start.  With 327 episodes that would take a little bit; 6.3 years if I watch 1 a week.   If I do I should do something with it. 

Monday, November 23, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Wolf-Witch (A Wolfenoot Special)

Happy Wolfenoot Everyone!

What, you don't know about Wolfenoot, the holiday to celebrate all that is cool about the wolf and dogs?  Well get yourself over to Wolfenoot.com to find out more then come back here.

Back? Good.  Today's monster is based on an idea I have been kicking around ever since I read Pam Keesey's "Women Who Run with the Werewolves" which is a play on Clarissa Pinkola Estés' bestseller "Women Who Run with the Wolves."  

I had come up with a couple of ideas here and there including a "mother of werewolves" and a werewolf/hag cross.  But nothing I really liked.  Until that is I read about "The She-Wolves of Jülich" and their connection to various witch trials that were going on around Germany in the 1500s.  Often witches were burned on the suspicion that they would turn into werewolves.  This was not the charge in and of itself, the crimes they were accused of were often the inversion of what good women were supposed to be at the time.  They were accused of running wild, killing men and boys, eating babies, and killing livestock.  Given the living conditions for most women at the time I would have not have been surprised by an occasional expression of homicidal rage. 

Georg Kress's woodcut of the She-Wolves of Jülich, Germany, 1591, colored later.

Georg Kress's woodcut of the She-Wolves of Jülich, Germany, 1591, colored later.

There is something though compelling, even pagan, about the idea of shedding not just clothes but social mores and standards and running wild. Something that both Estés and Keesy know too well about.

Brundage 1933 03 Weird Tales
Margaret Brundage, Weird Tales 1933
Wolf-Witch

Medium Humanoid (Lycanthrope)
Frequency: Rare
Number Appearing: 2d6+1 (0)
Alignment:
Chaotic [Chaotic Neutral]
Movement: 240' (80') [24"]
  Human: 180' (60') [18"]
Armor Class: 6 [13]
Hit Dice: 3d8+3* (17 hp)
Attacks: by special weapon, claw/claw, or by magic or special
Damage: 1d4 x2, 1d4+1
Special: Silver or Magic required to hit, Witch spells
Size: Medium
Save: Witch 3
Morale: 8 (10)
Treasure Hoard Class:
XX
XP: 75 (OSE), 100 (LL)

By the light of the full moon, the Wolf-Witches gather.  For the three nights of the full moon each month the women of the wolf witch covens gather and partake in a ritual that transforms them into wolves, much like a werewolf. They roam the countryside causing havoc and mayhem wherever they can.  

The group requires at least one witch of 2nd level to cast the Summon the Spirit of the Wolf Ritual (qv).  The majority of the other witches participating will be lower level (2nd or 1st), if the gathering is large (10 or more) then there will be a 3rd level witch with two 2nd level apprentices.  The ritual begins after the sun has set and while the moon is rising. The witches dance around a bonfire and when the ritual is complete they transform into wolves. When the sun rises the next morning they will have transformed back into their normal human forms.

Unlike werewolves, wolf-witches are not necessarily evil. They also retain most of their mental faculties so they are able to cast at least one witch spell of 1st level per night.  Also unlike werewolves, true wolves will join with the wolf-witches on their midnight, moonlit runs.  Wolf-witches also cannot transmit lycanthropy via a bite.

Wolf-witches seek little more than the feeling of freedom being in wolf form gives them, though a little chaos is necessary. They will kill to protect themselves and their coven-pack.  

Presented below is the ritual used.  I am also experimenting with High and Low rituals for my next book. 

New Ritual: Summon the Spirit of the Wolf

Summon the Spirit of the Wolf 
Level:
Witch Ritual (Low): 1
Ritual Requirement: Two or more witches, one of at least 2nd level. Full moon.
Duration: From Midnight to Sunrise during the Full Moon
Range: All Participants

This ritual is only performed during the three nights of the full moon. The witches gather to cast the ritual but only one witch needs to know the actual spell, the others dance around a bonfire while the highest level witch cast the spell.  At midnight all participants will then transform into Wolf-Witches where they will run and hunt until the morning. 

At dawn, by the light of the rising sun, the witch will transform back into her normal form.   If she is killed then she will remain in wolf form until the sunlight hits her body, thereupon she will transform. 

During the "Wolf Moon" or the first full moon of the year (after Yule) there is a chance that anyone watching this secret ritual that they too will be pulled into the magic and become wolves.  There is a 5% chance per number of witches present that others will be affected.  Those unwilling affected must make a save vs. Spells or be transformed permanently.  A Remove Curse will return them to human form, but only if cast before the next full moon (the "Snow Moon").  

Friday, November 20, 2020

#FollowFriday: Tasha / Iggwilv on the Web

It is another Follow Friday here and since we are wrapping up Tasha's Week of Everything I thought it might be nice to detail some of the sites on the web and social media that feature Iggwilv, Tasha, and items from her history.

The Web

Tasha from HeroForge
Tasha from HeroForge
Lots of great stuff here really. 

Greyhawk Online has a wiki full of details.

Likewise, the Forgotten Realms wiki has some entries for her. 

She has even made appearances in Golarion from the Pathfinder wiki.  In particular as a former Queen of Irrisen.  According to the Golarion timeline, she ruled 4113 AR to 4213 AR (current year 4720 AR).
If you want some fiction about Tasha/Iggwilv then there is Tommy John Kelly's Greyhawk Stories Page
Greyhawk Online has a number of posts featuring S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth.

Blogs

Iggwilv from HeroForge
Iggwilv from HeroForge
Lots of people have had some words about Iggwilv in the blogging circles too. Here are some of them

James over at Grognardia gives her an uncharacteristically brief mention in his post about The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth.

Sean McG has written up an extensive post on the publication history of Iggwilv, which he keeps updated at the Power Score.

Mike Bridges at Greyhawkery also has a few posts.

And of course, Greyhawk Grognard has some posts. Though he is not as enamored with the adventure as I am. 

Blogger Trent over at The Mystical Trash Heap has some thoughts on S4 as well.

Paleologos at the OSR Grimoire has a post on Drelnza the Vampiress Lord and talks a lot about the original Lost Caverns of Tsojconth

Social Media

Baba Yaga from HeroForge
Baba Yaga from HeroForge
There is a ton of social media out there. What places are best for Iggwilv and Tasha?

Facebook


MeWe


YouTube

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Supernatural: Carry On, Sam and Dean Winchester for NIGHT SHIFT

Wow.  

Here we are.  I know last week seemed like the "season finale" but tonight is the big "Series Finale".

Let's do this!

the road so far

I have talked a bit about Supernatural here.  Certainly not as much as my fandom might indicate.  Supernatural is the one show that everyone in my family all watches together. My wife and kids all sit down to watch it. Doesn't matter what else we watch or what we do, this is the one show we always watch.

Supernatual then was also the test bd for NIGHT SHIFT.  

I have been pretty open about what my personal design goals for NIGHT SHIFT have been.  I wanted to be able to play ANY modern supernatural urban-fantasy I know.  I want a game where I can create any sort of witch I want and have access to magic, demons, and the like.  NIGHT SHIFT does all of this.

So when I was playtesting this with my kids there were two characters that were absolutely perfect. Sam and Dean Winchester.

Dean Winchester
Dean Winchester
15th level Veteran, Human

Strength: 16 (+2) s
Dexterity: 18 (+3) P
Constitution: 18 (+3) s
Intelligence: 14 (+1) 
Wisdom: 14 (+1)
Charisma: 18 (+3)

HP: 120 (15d8+45)
AC: 6 (varies)
Fate Points: 1d12

Check Bonus (P/S/T): +7/+4/+3
Melee bonus: +8 (+12)  Ranged bonus: +9 (+16)
Saves: +5 to all saves

Special Abilities: Combat expertise, Melee combat bonus, Increased damage, improved defense, ranged combat bonus, Supernatural Attacks, Tracking

Skills: Hand to hand combat, Steady hands (Dex), Resistance (Con), Insight (Wis), Charm/Intimidate (Cha)

Languages: English

Equipment: Leather jacket, handguns, cell phones, hunter's equipment, "Baby" 1967 Chevrolet Impala.

Dean is the archetypical hunter and Veteran.  He has been described as "the perfect killer" by many including God (aka Chuck).

Sam Winchester
Sam Winchester
9th level Veteran, 1st level Psychic, 5th level Sage, Human

Strength: 15 (+1) 
Dexterity: 15 (+1) 
Constitution: 16 (+2) 
Intelligence: 18 (+3) P
Wisdom: 16 (+2) s
Charisma: 18 (+3) s

HP: 95 (9d8+18 + 1d6+2 + 5d6+10)
AC: 7 (varies)
Fate Points: 1d12

Check Bonus (P/S/T): +7/+4/+3
Melee bonus: +5 (+8)  Ranged bonus: +5 (+8)
Saves: +5 to all saves

Special Abilities: Combat expertise, Melee combat bonus, Increased damage, improved defense, ranged combat bonus, Supernatural Attacks, Tracking, Psychic: TK (Cha based), Sage: Survivor skills at level 2, Read Languages, Spells

Skills: Research (Int), Steady hands (Dex), Computers (Int), Insight (Wis), Charm (Cha)

Languages: English, Latin, Greek, Enochian, Sumerian

Equipment: Thick jacket, handgun, cell phones, hunter's equipment, laptop

Sam has had an interesting arc.  He starts out as a veteran at a very young age. Because he also has/had some demon blood in him he was telekinetic for a while, but that only manifests when he drinks demon blood. He is also a Sage and has played that role well in the 15 seasons of the show.   

It was also stated a few times that he was Rowena's "student" so a couple levels of Witch might have been appropriate, but I think Sage covers it well. I could also see Sammy with a couple of levels of Survivor, but again, the Sage abilities cover that. 

Both brothers have high Charisma. They need to be able to talk their way in and out of situations a lot. Plus they have been on the air for 15 years.

Likewise, Dean could have also had a level or two of Sage, due to his Men of Letters status, but really Veteran covers it all.

Regardless where tonight's LAST episode takes us (and it was looking a little dicey two weeks ago!) I know that if I want to continue the story I have these write-ups and NIGHT SHIFT.

Other Supernatural Characters for NIGHT SHIFT

Gonna miss these guys.  Ok Kansas, play us out.


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Classic Adventures Revisited: S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth

One of my all-time favorite adventures is S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth.

A solid two-level dungeon crawl, filled with new monsters, dangers, and the promise of great treasures. Additionally, there are rumors of an ancient witch/archmage and her battles with demons and even the threat that some of those demons are still around. There is plenty of wilderness area as well. A wide expanse with a gnome community nearby and a raging blue dragon.

With its "Booklet 2" filled with new spells, magic circles, and demons it made me think that a witch class with ritual magic could be something that would work for D&D. 


There is so much great stuff in and around this adventure it is hard to know where to begin.  So let's start with the adventure itself.

S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth

The adventure, S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, was published back in 1982 by TSR. It was written by none other than Gary Gygax himself. It is listed as "S4" and was the last of the labeled "S series" or Special modules.  This includes some of the most popular adventures ever written; S1 Tomb of HorrorsS2 White Plume Mountain, and S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

The adventure itself is comprised of two 32 page booklets. The first book is the adventure itself, which I will get into detail in a bit.  The second booklet covers all sorts of new magic, monsters, and more. 

Book 1: The Adventure

The adventure is of the classic sort; the rumor of treasure and a vague threat coming from an area of the map known as Iggwilv's Horn.  The adventure is designed for characters level 6 to 10.   I have found over the last 40 years that it can be adapted to a variety of levels, though higher levels are better. Though the original tournament adventure featured slightly lower levels. Likely due to the addition of the wilderness adventure. 

The wilderness adventure is actually well put together and not the older crazy random monster encounters.  The encounters make sense for the area. Among the encounters are the Hermit, and I could not help make this the same hermit from Keep on the Borderlands (also a Gygax creation) and the Blue Dragon.  The Blue Dragon, in particular, became so much a hit the first time I ran this that in future runnings of this I changed the dragon to Korbundar from CM2 Death's Ride to have a reoccurring villain.   A lot of adventure is packed into 12 pages.

The second part of the adventure covers the Lost Caverns themselves, which includes the Lesser and  Greater caverns. This features a large variety of new monsters, some living here, some just wandering around. Even encounters such as "The Garden of One Thousand Earthly Delights" have a good (enough) reason to be there. 

The final encounter is in the center of the Greater Caverns and it is not for Iggwilv's Treasure, but rather against Iggwilv's Treasure; the vampire Drelnza.  She is a bit more powerful than your average vampire and she has magic to help her out.  Eventually, she will succumb to heroes and the treasure will be found including the infamous Demonomicon of Iggwilv, Daoud's Wonderous Lanthorn, and the Prison of Zagig.

Book 2: Monsters and Magic

This second booklet, as I have mentioned, grabbed my attention as much as the first, if not more.  Listed inside were new monsters, only some appeared in the adventure, including new demons and demon lords. There were the mysterious Xag-ya and Xeg-yi, the Derro and the awkwardly named (for the early 80s) Valley Elf. All these creatures would later be reprinted in the Monster Manual II for 1st Edition. This is fitting since the original tournament adventure introduced monsters that would become part of the first Monster Manual.  There are some magic items including some wonderful artifacts mentioned above.  Of these The Demonomicon of Iggwilv capture not just my imagination, but that of hundreds of others. The Demonomicon became a feature in Dragon Magazine and even a 4e book of the same name. Iggwilv went from a "long-dead archmage" to "The Mother of Witches" and the premiere demonologist in D&D.   This little booklet also contains plenty of new spells.  

This was classic AD&D at the end of its 1st Golden Age.

The adventure is extremely playable and I have adapted it over the years for AD&D 2nd ed, D&D 3rd, and 5th Editions as well.

If you want to play it for 5th Edition D&D then the team over at Classic Modules Today has made a 5e conversion

There are also maps you can print out with DM's notes.

And other realistic maps also for printing

The Sequels

The first true sequel to this adventure was WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun (though no WG1-3 were made*). This was published the same year and dealt with a Temple of Tharizdun. It was designed to be played right after S4 and used the same wilderness map.  The adventure fits in well enough. I justified in my games by saying that Iggwilv, like Tsojcanth before her, chose this area due to its arcane and eldritch properties.  The adventure also has a wealth of information on the World of Greyhawk and Tharizdun.  All of these will be explored later in Gary Gygax's novel series about Gord the Rogue

S4 and WG4 would also get a review in White Dwarf #44 and both get 9/10 from Jim Bambra. He calls them the last of the Golden Age adventures.

*The rumor is that WG1 was Village of Hommlet, WG2 Temple of Elemental Evil and WG3 was The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, or Tsojconth in the original.


Another sequel of sorts was The Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga. Published much later in 1995 for 2nd Ed AD&D and written by Lisa Smedman, this adventure was labeled "S5" but it never appears in any of the classic reprints of the S Series adventures.  While the connection is little more than any of the other "S" series, there is the connection of Iggwilv, then Tasha as the adopted daughter of Baba Yaga.  Lisa Smedman would also work on Ravenloft and ShadowRun. Some Ravenloft monsters make their way into this adventure.


Yet again another sequel, this time for 3.5 D&D, was published in 2007.  Iggwilv's Legacy was published in Dungeon Magazine in October 2007 and appeared for free on Wizard's of the Coast website well into the 4e era. Sadly no longer available, it added another level to the caverns to explore, The Hollow of the Horn, the areas left behind by Tsojancth himself with the implication that even Iggwilv was afraid of these areas. The adventure and the additions were converted and updated to 3rd Edition.  I ran this version for my family at their first Gen Con in 2009.  Here we meet the half-demon  archmage Tsojcanth and his vile witch mother Vilhara.


The Reprints

As part of the much-loved S-series, the Lost Caverns of Tsojanth has been reprinted twice.  Both times bundled with the other three S-series adventures.

The first reprint was called Realms of Horror and it was all the S-series adventures combined into a loosely tied together "Super Module" that was all the rage in the late 80s.  All the maps were reprinted in a small booklet and personally, I found them harder to read.

The second reprint was the more faithful reprint from Wizards of the Coast, Dungeons of Dread, in 2013. 


The Original Tournament Adventure

The original tournament adventure, the Lost Caverns of Tsojconth (note the spelling) appeared at the Wintercon V game convention in 1976.  This would have been akin to a playtest version of AD&D.  Also Iggwilv is described as being dead, and male.

While the adventure does not feature the wilderness areas, the caverns seem to have a more mystical bent to them, with the center "nexus" described as the connection point between worlds to help explain all the new and weird monsters in it.  It would make sense, to be honest, and help explain why Tsojcanth and later Iggwilv possessed it. 

Paleologos at the OSR Grimoire talks a lot about the original Lost Caverns of Tsojconth.

The era of 1976-1978 was an interesting time and lead to some interesting styles of play.  We had the Holmes Basic Set and the B1 In Search of the Unknown (1978) adventure out and we had the AD&D Monster Manual.  This Holmes + Monster Manual actually became the game of choice for many.  I would later play this same hybrid of D&D/AD&D in 1979.
Likely as a way to replicate that Demos Sachlas/Paleologos over at the Vaults of Pandius recreated the original tournament adventure, along with some descriptions from the full 1982 S4 adventure and reformated it to fit the style of B1 to give us a "Holmes version of the Lost Caverns of Tsojconth."  This adventure is a tight 16 pages with two more pages for maps.  It feels like a late 70s offering.  Reading through it I do get the feeling that B1 and S4 could be bookends of a classic 70s adventure series.  All it is missing a nice monochrome cover.  I might need to mock one up someday.

Greyhawk Online has a side-by-side comparison of the 1976 Tsojconth and the 1982 Tsojcanth.

If you want to buy your own Noble Knight Games has one on sale for only $7,195.50. If you are worried that is overpriced it does come with the original zip-lock bag. 

Playing in Hyperborea

Normally at this point in my Revisted posts I would talk about using this adventure with other games.  But instead, I think I just want to focus purely on Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.

A while back I posted about HS4 The Lost Caverns of Acheron, a Hyborian Age reskinning of S4 from the Hyborian Age site dedicated to the d20 Conan RPG.  They have a lot of adventures including some reskinned ones on their Adventures in the Hyborian Age page.  But it is S4 that interests me today.

Combining this idea with the Holmes flavored Tsojconth above you could have a perfect game for AS&SH.  The idea came to me while reading Eric Fabiaschi's Swords & Stitchery blog.   He even pointed to me that he had done exactly this. 

The pulp sensibilities of Gygax's adventures comes through in S4 with vampires in lost temples, ancient eldritch forces, and strange creatures from beyond.  Pairing this with AS&SH and the Lost Caverns of Acheron turns it up to 11 as it were. 


With its history of magic, archmages, witch queens, vampires, and demons it is no wonder that this is one of my favorite adventures. Like B1, it is one I like to come back to again and again. 

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