Monday, June 29, 2009

Witch Girls Adventures + WitchCraft RPG = Crazy Delicious!

I know I said I would not do this, I even warned against such things in my own review of WGA. But yet there it is, taunting me.

WitchCraft RPG (from Eden Studios) and Witch Girls Adventures (from Chanel M) would really work nice together. Both cover a lot of the same ground and both have similar backgrounds, worlds and ideas. Both books/games use many of the same tropes and world views. So merging them seems to be a no brainer. BUT, I fear that the essential spirit of both games are sacrificed in a merge, but I can see this:

Use the Witch Girls Adventures book to help shape how young gifted fit into the world of WitchCraft. Use WitchCraft to help decide how the adults work in WGA. And Witch Girls provides something that WitchCraft lacks; a way and a means of dealing with the children of the gifted/supernaturals.

Are the "Fear the Witchspiracy" groups nothing more than a Combine training-camp? Could I break the Insider and Sorcerer Cliques down into "Wicce" and "Rosicrucian"?

One thing I am sure of, translations between the two games is pretty easy.
Witch Girl Adventures / Drama Dice System
WitchCraft RPG / Unisystem

Attribute costs are roughly equal. WGA "Other Attibutes" add up to about the same as attribute costs for Gifted Attributes. Though the attributes don't exactly line up to each other; WGA has more mental attributes for example and only one physical to WitchCraft's three of both. I am not worried so much about actual numbers here, only what "feels right".

Mundanes are Mundanes in both games. Though Witch Girl Adventures does not have a "lesser gifted" at all though. Maybe Lesser Gifted could be the same as "Outsiders" with their Magic Die dropped to a d4 or d6 and given them an extra mundane skill at rank 2. I suppose that it should be noted that even some Mundanes in WGA have Magic at d4.

My quick look tells me that powerwise, a 14 year-old witch in WGA is more powerful than a 14-year old Wicce in Witchcraft. But they also live in different worlds. I would need some sort of way to "normalize" the world for both to really see. To that end I am going to re-tool my Generation HEX project a bit and try running it under WGA for a while. I have tried it under Unisystem, Mutants & Masterminds and even True 20. So what is one more system, really?

Lots of things to consider really, I just wish I had to time to do all of this, my writing and all the other stuff I need to do.

In the mean time, here are some links.

Eden Studio's WitchCraft RPG, Download the free rules.

Witch Girls Adventures, Download the free goodies.

Discussion of my review of WGA,

Review at Teen Blips. Not your average game review.

Malcolm Harris interview at everyone's favorite Sequential Tart,

Witch Girls Adventures Facebook page,

OLD D&D Commercial

See a very young Jami Gertz and Alan Ruck play D&D in this commercial from the early 80's.

Thanks to The Gamer Dome for this one.

I can't recall if I ever saw this or not.

The narrator's voice though is familiar.

Though, where are their character sheets?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Doctor Who RPG

My friend the The Acrobatic Flea over at Hero Press is discussing the new Doctor Who RPG from Cubicle Seven.

The Doctor Who RPG: What We Know...

As a playtester I can't discuss much about this game. But I am happy to have TAF do it for me.

I will say this. It will be awesome. EVEN IF I didn't know anything about the game, I know Dave Chapman from working on Con X 2.0 and other projects. And Cubicle 7 is a bunch of great guys, so it will have good support.

I am totally geeking over the fact that it will be a boxed set.

I am just bummed I will have to wait so long to see it.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Witch Girls Adventures: Review

Review: Witch Girls Adventures

Written and Designed by Malcolm Harris

Witch Girls Adventures is a new "Drama Diaries" game, using the "Drama Dice" system from Malcolm Harris. It is aimed at new players predominantly and girls in particular. Now despite be WAY out of the target demographic for this I was pre-inclined to like this game. I do, but I am not cutting it any slack here. In fact I might be a little TOO critical in places because my expectations are high. How high? Well I bought the book online and while waiting for it to be shipped I got impatient and ordered the PDF as well. So I can review this book from the point of view of both the physical book and the digital file and the "Nice" and "Wicked" versions.

The book begins with 10 pages of the Witch Girls Adventures comic, which one you get depends on whether or not you have the regular edition or the "Wicked" edition. This, plus the cover art, is all the differences between the two. The PDF download on DriverThru or RPGNow is the normal "Nice" edition.

It goes on to your typical introduction into what is a roleplaying game and is written for a young or teen girl audience ("just tell the geek (trust me; they are used to being called geeks) behind counter you need... ") cute. But too much of this would ruin the presentation of the game for me. Thankfully this is the only time, but it does establish one thing right away; this game is going for a different audience. The intro stuff continues with some terms both for the game and for RPGs.

It makes an odd left turn to give us optional rules (we haven't had any rules yet for these to be optional to) about how to run a "Harry Potter" like game with this. Eh. Nice, but this should have come last, not first.

Chapter 2 gives us "Cliques" . So perfect. In another game these would be "Factions" or "Classes" or even "Traditions" or "Associations" or "Backgrounds", but given the Middle-school/High-school this is great. Cliques basically give your starting dice and what skills you are likely to have. The system is very easy. The dice system (The Drama Dice system as it is called) quickly reminds one of Cortex or Savage Worlds. Attributes are scored d2 to d12 for most types. The spread even looks the same as Cortex and Savage Worlds. Not surprisingly, afterall it is a logical progression. You have six attributes Body (which combines Strength, Agility and stamina), Mind (intelligence), Senses, Will, Social and Magic. Right away you see there is only one body type attribute but four mental ones. This is the way it should be really, WGA is not about beating people up, it is about the social aspects of the game and about magic, our last attribute. There are some secondary attributes that are derived. Rolls are made depending on the dice vs a difficulty table very similar to d20 or Unisystems' success levels. Cliques are detailed and they are your basic magical girl stereotypes (the Goth, the insider, the outsider…) . Plenty here to work with and if you are so inclined create your own (which is what the "Harry Potter" bit tries to do).

Chapter 3 moves onto skills. Each chapter has some fiction to introduce you to the Witch Girls world. It seems to be a cross between Charmed, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Buffy and the Craft mixed in with anime magical girls. Skills. Unlike Cortex or Savage Worlds, skills are given a + score like Unisystem or d20. Roll the die associated with the attribute (each skill is connected to an attribute like d20) add the bonus the skill provides, check your success, or roll greater. There are 34 mundane skills and 10 magical skills. A little too much in my book, but I am willing to see how it works out here.

Chapter 4 Traits details traits, which are like Edges or Qualities. They are broken up into Talents (which you can get later in life) and Heritages (which are inborn and never change). Heritages have both a positive and negative aspect to them. Typical ones are there like "Beautiful" and others which have to be unique to this game like "Drama Queen".

Chapters 2, 3 and 4 are all well detailed and very straight forward.

Chapter 5 is Magic. Really this is what we came here for. There is a lot more here on what magic is and what it means to a witch. There are different types of magic (necromancy, mentalism, cybermancy…) which you can spend points on to improve your rank. This can provide a lot of variance between witches. Think of it as somewhere between Harry Potter's classes and Mage's spheres. As GM (a Director in WGA) I might limit some of these to NPCs (Guest Stars) and not to PCs (Stars). Spell casting is broken down into a lot of detail. More than maybe the seasoned gamer needs, but given the audience it might be about right. Effects are broken out into Magic Type Rank (MTR) and the overall feel is like a table you might see in Mage or Mutants & Masterminds with what MTR (read as Power level) you need to achieve a certain effect. Want to cast that spell across the world? Better have an MTR of 9.
There are rules for Signature Spells, which take less Zap (read: Mana, Essence), choose only one and from the "School" with your highest MTR (which makes sense really). I like the idea of the signature spell and might try it in my other games too.
This is all followed by 20 pages of spells and these by no means seem to be all of them. Since your cast member (Star, remember) isn't going to be buying swords, guns or anything else that characters spend money or points on then this is a good thing.

Chapter 6. Your Star gets an allowance allowing her to buy things like magical computers, flying Vespas, and more brooms than found in Home Depot. There are familiars, clothes, wings and all sorts of magical equipment here as well. You could build an adventure on just shopping for these things cause I am sure getting them is not as easy as going to the mall. Lots of neat wands and I have to say the books for young witches are pretty funny ("Samantha's Guide to Merry Mortals" yeah that made me laugh). And a bunch of mundane stuff like DVD players and skateboards. The allowance system is nice, I like it better than the Modern d20 purchase DCs and easier than keeping track of cash.

Chapter 7 is some odds and ends. A character questionnaire (nice) and a filled out character sheet (also nice). Good detail on what things mean and if you are new to games a certain boon.

Chapter 8 is for Directors, so all the rules of the game. The system, some combat rules (yes this is the FIRST game I have seen where the rules for shopping are longer than the rules for combat. ;) )
Some nice background fluff and some ideas for different types of stories, basically you can do Buffy, Good vs. Evil, Charmed, and Magic School. The experience system is "interesting" (Voodollars), but it looks like it works.

Chapter 9 is the world background. Now this one is kind of neat. I details the various races (witches are a different race) and they are not alone. Some history, some magical places (Santa's Workshop, No joke and it looks cool!) The ruling council of Witches (I am yoinking this for my Unisystem games), Spelling Bees, groups and other schools. Even how the mundane world reacts to all of this.

Chapter 10 presents some creatures. But if the art is any indication most of these are not for combat purposes, but potential dates (well there is only one witch kissing a vampire…) Nearly every kind of creature is covered from fairies to Cthulhu like horrors. But no demons. Seems a bit odd, given it all. Some NPCs (Guest Stars) of note.

Chapter 11 details the Willow Mistt School. Lands, buildings, faculty, everything you would expect to find is here. Willow Mistt is not Hogwarts, but it is easy to make the comparisons. I actually found it closer to Claremont Academy from Mutants & Masterminds.

We close with a sample Episode, some plot ideas, a lexicon, and a list of Witch names (see how many you recognize!), and very important, a sample class schedule.

The Good:
Harris obviously has a love for this genre and it shows. The rules are well crafted and while there is nothing earth shaking here, they are familiar mechanics done up in a very nice way. The point of view of the work is nice. This is anti-Grim-Dark. It's not all unicorns, princesses and kittens (though it does have all that), it's a fun game. The art is not D&D 4e, but it is good and more to the point very appropriate for this game.
For new players this is a great little game. More experienced players may want more, but that is not due to the game itself, but rather expectations. Do not expect this to be "WitchCraft: The Junior High Years" (though you can do that).

The Bad:
I know Harris is basically a one man operation so I am willing to cut him some slack here. But there are a number of typos that should be fixed and some terms that might have either been mistakes or from earlier versions (the Magic attribute is called "Zap" in one spot.) I am willing to overlook those IF they are corrected in say, 2nd Edition.
There are some issues in my printed version with some of the pages being so dark thee art is hard to see (ex: one of the teachers is so dark her face is obscured) this is not the case of the PDF.
Lastly I would have done the skills a different way myself, but I am not willing to second guess the design until I have plated it a few more times.

The Ugly? (not really)
A book like this REALLY should have full color art inside, but costs may have prevented that.
The optional rules should have come in an appendix.

So. Who is Witch Girls Adventures for?
Well , that sort of depends but here is what I see.

  • New players and Game Master get a lot with this book. I see them having a great time.
  • People that enjoy the more social aspects of a game (and of gaming) rather than a bunch of combats.
  • Anyone that is a fan of Magical Girl Anime, Witches or even high school based games.
  • Anyone that has ever wished for a Harry Potter RPG.
  • Anyone that looks at the setting and resists the urge to make it "darker". WGA is not about being dark. You can be evil sure, and as a witch the entire world is after you, but the setting does not need the WoD feel at all.

Anyone playing Cortex or Savage Worlds that craves a more granular, customizable magic system.
This is a big one really. For a list price of under 20 bucks, use this book's magic system in place of the system you have now. Make "Magic" an Edge (SW) or a Trait (Cortex) and then buy spells like skills. You don't have to convert much and it will work fine. Plus it is much better than the built in magic system in the Cortex Core book (Sorry Jaime!) and an improvement over the Savage Worlds core.

Last WordsThis is a fun game. Take it as it is, not as you want it to be, and you will have fun too. If you are an old pro, use this game to introduce younger people to the hobby. I hope that Malcolm Harris is successful and ends up getting a lot of new people, boys and girls, to our hobby.

In RPG.Net style:
Style: 5/5 (this game oozes style)
Substance: 4/5 (I wanted more, but was happy still)

Witch Girls Adventures

180 pages, + Comic, character sheet and a page of ads. (190 pages total)

Print and PDF reviewed.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Everything Old is New Again, sorta

I was making the tour of the various Old School / OSR / Retro-clone blogs and forums today and I noticed a lot posts on new spells, new monsters, and various house rules. For a bit there I had to make sure I was not flashing back to 1992 for a bit during the height of the netbook days on the net.

In some cases you could just replace "anti-TSR" stances with "anti-WotC" ones and barely know the difference. Except for the fact that Wizards totally ignores the sites and still pretty much gives away their best toy ever, the OGL, for free and it powers all the clones out today.

Today of course people can openly SELL their D&D-like or D&D-inspired creations and Wizards is not even likely to bat an eye. Back then of course TSR threaten legal actions and all the best fan-created stuff had to go underground. I am still waiting for my password for Morpheus' Anti-TSR D&D site.

But that got me thinking. How much of that formerly "banned" material could make it back as retro-clone material?

Now certainly most of what made up the bulk of AD&D material on the net back then was the "new" Second Edition material. But 1st ed and Basic were still out there to be found. I mean could I pull out the AD&D Guide to Vampires (called the "Vamprinomicon" in places) and clean it up and present as "new retro"? Could I still raid the files of MPGN or the Great Netbook Archive to find items who has time has come again?

Most of those old sites are gone. Deleted when the doc com bust killed their ISPs, when people graduated college and just from neglect, not corporate interference. Modern technology, the OGL and Wizard's own website policy changed everything. People have higher expectations now even from a free game (though I still have my doubts over the legality of some).

Plus, and let's be honest here, the great majority of that stuff was dreck. I mean not just in terms of non-existent layout or editing, but in terms of just writing and game design. While sometimes the original rules they were supposed to be supporting were not much better, today's gamer again demands more. OSRIC is a prime example of why this is. There is nothing really in OSRIC that is not theoretically in AD&D 1st Ed, but the organization is much cleaner and clearer.

But who is to say? One person's dreck is another's gold.

What were your favorite Netbooks back in the day? What would you like to see come back under the umbrella of a retro-clone (either netbook or game)?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Desert Elves & Orcs

I was working on a desert based adventure for my son's game the other day and I got to thinking about some things I really liked from AD&D 2nd Ed. Desert Elves and Al-Qadim. In my Mstaroerth world I have an area that is roughly equal to the Sahara desert. I am thinking of putting some the Al-Qadim stuff there. I would include Desert Elves, that also appeared in 3rd Ed. For me the desert elves would be tall, thin, dark skinned and be the merchants and royalty of the land. I would use them to typify what is thought of as the best stereotypes of Muslims and Arabs (the hospitality, the reverence for tradition and religion), not that there would not be "Bad" ones per se, but I am saving my bad guy role for another race. Humans. Humans of this land fell prey to the Necromancer Kings and thus most humans are seen as defilers, infidels and outright evil. Most of the time this stereotype will play out.

But what about Orcs? Well if the desert elves are the sultans and emirs of the land, then the orcs are their body guards. That's right. I want elves and orcs working together. What happened was many millennia ago when the Necromancer Kings rose to power it was the elves and the orcs that fought them. Once united they then discovered that they had skills that were mutually beneficial to each other. Orcs are still militaristic with small war cadres connected to powerful elf families. For an orc it is an honor to serve since the more powerful the elf family the stronger their own cadre is respected. The stronger the orc cadre, the more respected the family is and the more likely they will get goods to trade. An elf sultan will travel without his wife for example, but never without his orc escorts. I am also thinking that these groups of elves and orcs have also never heard of the elf-orcs wars that plague their cousins. Again stealing a bit from Al-Qadim here, but that is cool. Unlike Al-Qadim I was thinking of making these elves monotheistic and the orcs still worshiping altered versions of their own gods. For example Grumush was a great military leader, not a blood thirsty killer.

There were no Halflings, gnomes or dwarves here. But I will use Yuan-Ti, or rather my world's counter-part, the Ophidians. I have not decided on classes yet, but I am sure they will be slight alterations on the existing ones. For example a Sha'ir will be a normal magic user in OD&D or Spellcraft & Swordplay, and maybe a special kind of warlock in 4e. I have not figured out all the lands yet other than basics, but I am getting the urge to pull down my Al-Qadim information. I'd add some Dark Sun into it as well, IF I felt it fit and it really doesn't. Dark Sun always felt more "John Carter of Mars" to me than "Arabian Nights". What I like most about this idea is it is not Tolkienesque-fantasty-Europe.

I mentioned my Ærypt is a pastiche of Arypt, Erypt and Egypt with Gygax's Necropolis and Ravenloft's Har'Akir thrown in. So this is the lands west of that.

Looking forward to seeing where this takes me.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ghosts of Albion at GenCon Indy

Ghosts of Albion: Blight and Obsession

My games have been accepted for GenCon Indy and I will soon give you all dates and times for the Ghosts of Albion games I will be running. I am running "Blight" and "Obsession". I ran Blight at GenCon last year to a couple of small crowds and it went great. So if you played it last year, then this the same adventure. Obsession is one I ran at a mini-Unisystem con I did in Chicago a couple of years ago. I ran that for one group.
Blight is good if you love Irish myth. Obsession is a bit more adult in themes.

More details when I have them myself.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Hybrid Class Playtest and Character Concept II

Yesterday I posted my brief idea on a using the new hybrid rules in order to get a particular character concept. The idea I think was sound, but as it turns out I didn't need to go through that much effort.

The character in question is "Heather" a character from 1st Edition that was a multiclassed Bard/Wizard with some Ranger thrown in for good measure. Her magic I imagined was always due to her voice, she sang her spells in other words. Not such a new idea now, but back in the 1st Ed days that was new stuff! So today I took break and worked her up as a 4th level, 4th Edition Bard. I used "Arcane Power" and gave her the Virtue of Prescience. This fits since I always viewed her as mildly psionic as well. Fourth Edition Bards have spells, even their basic attacks are called spells. The Arcane Power book provides a lot of new ranged attacks, so that sort of covers the Ranger-like abilities I wanted get. The Bard skills allow me to give her some of the skills like her 1st counter-part had. The Ritual Caster feat from the Bard is really nice and helps fill in some holes in concept and the Half-elf dilettante power allowed to take Eldritch Blast from the Warlock as an Encounter Power. Comparing her two sheets, the 4th Ed one from today and the 1st Ed one from 1986 I can draw parallels between the two. To me they do look like the same character, just different ways of expressing her.


I think I am going to save my hybrid Bard/Warlock for my gnome, Jassic Winterhaven. This might be better since I wanted to do up a gnome bard and a gnome warlock and my regular DM won't allow hybrids yet and he hates gnomes. Heather on the other hand is ready to go!

So in the end a Bard, with the Euphonic Bow Paragon Path, was all I needed. It will be interesting to see how she plays compared to her orginal version.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Hybrid Class Playtest and Character Concept

One of the things I have been doing in 4e is re-stating up older, 1st Ed, characters of mine to see how well they translate into the new system.
Among the first was one of my first ever characters, a human paladin. There are differences between the 1st Ed version and the 4th Ed version, but all in all I can see far more similarities than differences. Plus since my concept of him was more cleric than paladin it is possible that the 4e version is a much better fit. My witch on the other hand was a different story. I still don't quite have her right. I have generated half-a-dozen characters of her for 4E in the last year or so and none are really close.

Normally I would create a witch class like I did for 2nd Edition and 3rd Edition, but I really didn't want to do that this time. I have mostly settled on a Fey Pact Warlock with some add-ons from Arcane Power. She is not perfect yet, but really, really close. Again, to me it has been more about character concept than anything else. The Warlock seems to work the best, so far. Now before you think "well 4e just can't do it" I will point out that at this point in 3.0 Ed the same character had been a Sorcerer and that was not a good fit at all. At least with 4E I have sorta found an out-of-the-box solution.

But I still have one other character that I have wanted to re-build. Heather.

Heather owns the distinction of being the last 1st Ed character I ever made. Well, the last while I was playing 1st Ed and the last before 2nd Ed came out. She is a half-elf Bard/Wizard/Ranger house ruled to all hell. He character concept is that of a wandering bard that uses magic and song to defeat evil. The 2nd Ed Bard, while easier to use, lost all of what made the Bard cool. The 3rd Ed Bard came close again and with 3rd Ed's multitasking it was really easy to make her IF I figured that she had all the powers I wanted her to start with at 11th level or something. Now 4th Ed originally disappointed me here with the multiclassing rules. Great for most of my multiclassing needs, completely horrible with regards to how I wanted to do Heather. That is till I got the new Hybrid Class Playtest rules from my DM.

The Hybrid rules allow me to do something I used to do all the time in my D&D games, have a character start out as one thing but then later become something else. The Hybrid rules do allow that. So I know Heather is going to be a Bard/Something, but what? Well in 1st ed she was mixed with a Ranger and Wizard. In D&D4 I can get the things I liked about the 1st Ed Ranger in feats and skills (tracking, preferred enemy) so I think my Hybrid here will be Bard and something Arcane. Going to concept Heather originally learned her magic from her mother and the rest on her own. So Wizard, Warlock or Sorcerer. Sorcerer and Warlock complement the Bard's spells much nicer than the Wizard does, though Sorcerer still takes a hit. I am not enamored with the Sorcerer. It has some neat tricks, but nothing in the way of concept I like. The Cosmic and Dragon ones are cool, but if I build those it will be as something/someone else.

Hybrid classes in a sense split the classes in two and then allow you to combine them. Simple enough. Most often you get something that is not quite equal to a dedicated role character, but for a concept I am totally willing to take a performance hit. A Hybrid Bard/Warlock is a combination Arcane Leader/Striker. Since Heather in concept always had a high Charisma (and will here too) this makes her good for being the party face. Both classes have the same key and secondary abilities: CHA, CON and INT. She takes a hit on armor for her warlock half and weapons. Both classes use wands as an implement and both have similar saves. HP at 1st are the same, per level is the same and there are similar skills. The full Bard has more healing surges than that of the Warlock, so they are rounded down. I now need to take a feat to get a class-specific Hybrid talents options. So, in the end, I have a Warlock basically, with Skill Versatility and a per Encounter Majestic Word. On balance not a bad trade. Now for the Hybrid Talent feat, I make take it to gain the Warlock's Fey Pact Boon, it fits the concept well enough, but that seems so little for a feat. Plus I like to think of her as a Bard with some warlock training. So Words of Friendship or Majestic Word are worth the price of the feat. So put all her points into CHA followed by INT, and then either DEX or STR, if I am staying true to the concept then DEX for her bow. Make her Half-Elf and take an At-Will Wizard power as her Dilettante power, most likely Magic Missile, though there is not much to set it apart, fluff wise, from Eldritch Blast. Thunderwave might be better.

Now hybrid characters are verboten in my regular 4E game, so I am going to have to run her in one of my Family Game night games. I'll have to see how she fares. The great thing is that a lot of what I took Ranger for in earlier rules I can get with Warlock now. But only time and gaming will tell me if this is a better way than to do a Bard Multiclassed Warlock. But concept-wise it fits.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Mystoerth: Hyborea / Hyperborea

One of the common links on my Mystoerth world is Hyborea / Hyperborea. Both seem to be about the same thing, that is a pastiche of "the cold lands to the north". Given the roots of D&D in pulp fantasy it seems odd not to have one. With my world the question then is not so much of why to have it, but where to put it?

Mystara's Hyborea is on the continent of Brun far to the north in what would be the Arctic Circle, a rough analogy to Earth would Alaska. Oerth's Hyperborea is also firmly in the Arctic circle, some 30 degree south of the north pole, west of the Dramidj Ocean, north of the Sea of Hyerpborea. Not really an overlap, but close enough for me. On the Mystoerth Map, what would have been Oerth's Hyperborea is now the Empire of Alphatia and the Island of Dawn. So my solution is to go with the Mystara placement of it. Works and helps me fill in that area some.

Now what to do with it? Ah, that is the reason for the post.

Over at Jason Vey's The Wasted Land Blog he has been working on his Hyperborea. Now I respect Jason's opinion when it comes to Old School, anything remotely Conan or Howard related, so if he has something to say about it I listen. Plus he has really cool ideas. I'll import the White Orcs from Mystara to use in place of his orcs. I like the idea of Hyborean Halflings/ Hobbits. This might even help me solve the "problem" of hobbits vs. Halflings and why both hemispheres of my world are populated with the same sorts of creatures. The hobbits of my western world (Mystara) are the Tolkienesque hobbits that like to sit around, be fat and not really adventure. Hyborean hobbits are hardier and more prone to pick up a weapon. The Halflings of the eastern world (Oerth) are more adventure prone and are more like the Halflings of 3e/4e.

Adding Hyborea gives me license to add all sorts of other weirdness. And that is always good.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Supernatural RPG

Well I have the new Supernatural PDF and I have some thoughts.

- It looks nice! If the printed version is half as nice as the PDF then this will be a damn attractive book. It looks like a "hunters notebook", loved the scribbled notes and pictures "taped" in. In fact it is an order of magnitude greater than their previous best works. Yes BSG and Serenity are nice looking books. This one blows them away.

- Nice introduction. I know exactly what this book is supposed to be about and what I am going to do with it. It lays out the antagonists and the "theatre" very, very nicely.

- As deep and as profound as my love is for the Cine Unisystem modern horror games, Supernatural reminds us that there is more the US than the west coast. But to be fair, this is more to do with the respective source materials rather than the games themselves.

- "Supernatural" fills the hole in my RPG life that was once filled with "Chill". Normal (mostly) people going up against the … well supernatural. This isn't Buffy or Angel where it is difficult to tell who the bad guys are, or even Charmed where both sides had the same firepower. This is closer to Call of Cthulhu. I'll say it now. Supernatural is a better "Hunter" RPG than either "Hunter: The Reckoning" or "Hunter: The Vigil".

- Cortex. Unisystem and Savage Worlds got freaky one night and nine months later Cortex was born. Now keep in mind this is a good thing for me. I REALLY wanted to like Savage Worlds and just couldn't. I LOVE Unisystem, but (and this might sound a bit heretical) a Unisystem based Supernatural game would not have given us much in the way of new. But here the systems tweaks fight the tone of the game. These are normal humans. The Cortex system work great for that. Plus converting to Savage Worlds or Unisystem is really, really simple. There are more skills here than in Cine Unisystem, less than Classic Unisystem.

- Character sheets look really cool. Again, like something you would see in say John Winchester's journal.

- Good equipment lists. A fair number of monsters. I am not worried about there not being enough. I have 1000s of books on monsters and Cortex is simple enough to move things around.

- "Music to Hunt By" is the best addition to any RPG! ;) There should be room on the character sheet to list important thing like what the hunter's personal play list is.

The only thing it is really missing to make it a perfect modern supernatural horror hunting game is a magic system. BUT, given this is "Supernatural" and more about normal humans, it's fine that it is not there and more of a reflection of my play style than the show.

I am not sure how it compares to other Cortex books in terms of mechanics. It's looks most similar to Demon Hunters and the Cortext Core, but there are changes to reflect the world a bit better (no super science, no flashy magic, lot more gear). Though while Demon Hunters is very tongue and cheek and the Core is very dry, this book is neither.

Who Should Buy This Game?

- Anyone that is a fan of the show

- Anyone that is a fan of Cortext

- Anyone that likes supernatural/modern horror games, but is not interested in playing a vampire, fae, ghost, demon (half or otherwise) or a "chosen one" human. This is a game of normal people doing what they can to stop evil.

Now to get that full on Supernatural / Demon Hunters crossover going.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Mountain Dew Throwback, the Official Drink of the Retro-Clone Movement

Or something like that.

Mountain Dew, the caffeinated beverage of choice for gamers all over the world has "introduced" a new flavor for the summer. "Mountain Dew Throwback" looks like the can did back in the 60s and 70s. It is also made with cane sugar and not High Fructose Corn syrup. The taste seems odd at first, certainly sweeter, but also more citrus. It took a couple of cans, but I am really liking it. Of course it is very serendipitous that the Old School RPG (D&D really) movement is going on at about the same time. So I herby proclaim Mountain Dew Throwback to be the Official Drink of the Retro-Clone / Old School movement. Please conduct yourselves accordingly and only serve Mountain Dew Throwback when playing any Retro-Clone game. ;)

Of course for the rest of the D&D players in the world Dew still has you covered.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Mystoerth, my Old School Campaign World

So I have been threatening this since 1st Edition gave way to 2nd, but I think I finally might be able to pull this off. I was inspired by the new Forgotten Realms smashing Abier into Toril to make a new world that I wanted to bring back a smash up I loved. Plus given all my love for the old-school movement, I think it is time for me to pull out my favorite old-school worlds.


This combines Mystara (the Known World of BECMI/RC D&D) and AD&D's Oerth. This map is based on the work of James Mishler and Chatdemon.

Given this combination I am most likely to run this under my house-rules Basic Fantasy game that melds D&D and AD&D1 together. Though I would write anything generically enough to handle any version of the game.

As you can see it is a good merging of the Mystara Map and the World of Greyhawk Map.

Both worlds have Blackmoor so I can use its destruction as a common element. I get to keep all the well defined areas of both worlds, leaving a bunch of areas to be developed. Both also have a Hyborea which is nice.

In the case of Mystara's "Arypt" and Oerth's "Erypt" I simply combine them to "Ærypt" and use Gary Gygax's "Necrocopolis" from SSS and some of the ideas from his Mythus game.

For the long dead Blackmoor use Blackmoor from all the new Dave Arneson supplements.

There will be a "Graveyard of the Dragons" from the D&D cartoon (one of the few cool episodes) and it serves as my lost Melniboné-like kingdom of a long dead race and the current home of the Dragonborn.

I have also decided that the world is not hollow (Mystara) and it does not sit in the center of it's solar system (Oerth); intellectual conceits on my part. It does have three moons, two of which can be seen and third that is invisible (Celene, Luna and Lilith). I have a spot for Kara-Tur but the descriptions would have to be changed to fit the realities of the maps. Though I have also considered recently to use some Forgotten Realms goddesses, so the moons might end up being named Sehanine, Selûne, and Shar. In fact, I like that a lot. Sehanine actually has a foothold in Greyhawk anyway and Selûne and Shar are very Greyhawk like.

Gods will be gods, but characters still have the chance to become Immortals. In some cases an Immortal might be more important to a region than say a God, who might aloof and distant. Immortals still involved themselves in world affairs. So I am totally stealing this from both the BECMI/RC Immortal rules and the Epic level tier from D&D 4.


The last year in Mystara was 1200 AC (Alphatian Calendar) according to the books. The last year in Greyhawk iwas 591 CY (Common Year) according to the books. I used the destruction of Blackmoor as a common element, and I came up with the date of -3000 AC and -3746 CY as the date (no idea how I did that). My present day according to my Excel spreadsheet (which was still in Excel 97 format) is 1661 AC and 915 CY, or about 460 years after the Gazetteers and 324 years after the Greyhawk books. Again, kind of a nod to the new FR book, but I still plan on playing this world with Old School rules.

So what would my world be like? Well here are a bunch ideas I have considered for other games and game worlds in the past. Most of these are random ideas. I'll start with races first and then get into cultures and history later.


Orcs are still brutish, prone to violence and often in the employ of evil overlords, but orcs themselves are more mercenary. I would borrow a lot from Warcraft and Shadowrun, and a LOT from John Wick's Orkwolrd. I would make them more a more proud, tribal race. Orcs are still the ancient enemies of the elves, but because orcs tried to settle in elven lands and the elves attacked them. Orcs are still arrogant and prideful and take the smallest slight or insult as challenge to death. Male Orcs are expected to be warriors, female Orcs are expected to raise children and become the shamans of the tribe. An orc will still mostly like attack first and ask questions later. Most orcs have difficulty learning Common, and are thus often seen as stupid. While an orc is generally no less or no more intelligent than a human, it is their prowess in battle that determines their social rank and not their intellect. To an orc there is nothing greater than glory in battle. To die in battle ensures them a place at Gruumish's side in the orc afterlife. Half-orcs are not the result of orc rapes of human women, orcs are far too proud for that; only orc females are worthy enough to bare orc children. Half-orcs are the result of orcs and humans living with close confine to each other for mutual survival and sometimes the will of an overlord looking for the strength of orcs and the intelligence of humans.


Goblins are small and crafty. While obviously related to orcs they are smaller, a little more cowardly, and fond of human cities. Goblins in the wilderness areas are typically bugbears or hobgoblins. Real goblins want to be where the crime is. Attracted to money, goblins will run all sorts of scams in order to obtain more. They rarely have the talent to run businesses and the concept of a banker or even an account (someone that deals with someone else's money) is an unheard of concept to a goblin. Money is to be kept in an old sock under the bed or better yet, held on the person. Goblins can learn to speak a large number of languages, mostly to deal with other races. Goblins can interbreed with just about anything humanoid, but the offspring is always a goblin. Hobgoblins and Bugbears are larger and more evil, believed to be an ancient goblin/demon or goblin/devil crossbreed.


Yes, I'd like to try out some Dragonborn in my old-school games. They live on a small island ("Fireland" on the old World of Greyhawk maps) that is full of active volcanoes. Think of Iceland, only with dragons. The "Dragon Isle" would be a cross between Iceland, Melniboné and the Graveyeard of the Dragons. Dragonborn are an ancient race that have been inactive for centuries. They would take the place of the "dying race" in my games. Something that elves, dwarves and gnomes have done previously. This is place where it is believed that dragons first entered the world.


Elves are much like they are now. I'll borrow a lot for various editions and have a bunch of different elven races. Right now I plan on using High (Eladrin), Wood, Valley, Grey, Moon, Sun, Desert and Gypsy Elves.


Drow are evil elves in my world, but I want to take them back to the days of G123, D1-2, D3 and Q1 when they were secret evil masterminds. I will incorporate some ideas I have had about "night elves". I am also considering making drow albinos. Drow had been Night Elves/Star Elves before their fall.


Dwarves will have a more prominent role in the world. Much of what is considered "elvish" stereotypical will fall to dwarves. They are the most populace after humans. Dwarven females do have beards and a dwarf woman without a beard is considered to be too young to marry or to be cursed.


What I wanted to do with them has been done in 4E, so I am likely to use them as their appear there.


Going back to the roots and Halflings will be Hobbits.

Mind Flayers

One of my few purely evil races. Mind Flayers came "from beyond the Stars". Their goal is the conquest of all. They have a mad plan to blot out the sun and leave the world in cold darkness.


Another evil race Saurians (lizard men, troglodytes, and the like) battled the Dragonborn back when the world was young. They also seek to rule the world and place all the mammals under their yoke.


Not green and rubbery, but rather like thin ogres. They are for the most part unchanged but are closer to the trolls of Norse myth.