Friday, April 30, 2010

Willow & Tara: WitchCraft RPG

I thought it would be nice on the Eve of Beltane to discuss my two favorite witches in my favorite witch rpg.

Back in the Spring/Summer of 2001 I started up a new game.  I had just purchased the WitchCraft RPG core about 16 months prior and I was looking for something new.  That something came to me in the guise of Willow and Tara.  I had been watching Buffy for a bit and I really enjoyed the character of Willow.  When she got together with fellow witch Tara I thought they were perfect.  I had become very involved in the online Willow/Tara fandom so I created a game, focusing on just them.

The game would focus on just these two, no one else from the show (which I would soon become an ex-fan of, but that is a different story).  Plus it gave me something to try out in a modern setting, something I have not done since my days with Chill.

The trickiest part of developing game stats of any fictional character that belongs to someone else is knowing how to strike a balance between the game's rules and the fictional pottrayal. A lot of "artisitc" license needs to be used in order to get a good fit. For example, how do you determine what some one's strength is when there is little to no on screen evidence? What spells would the girls have?

In the end I decided to play it a little loose, but I love where these stats ended up.  In many ways this is who Willow and Tara are to me, not the characters on TV or comics, but the ones that were my characters since that day back in May 2001 that I decided they needed their own chance to shine.

After this I went on to work on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG.  It should be no suprise then that the Willow and Tara stats that appear there are not that much different than my own.  I can be quite vocal in play tests.

Of course the show took a turn into suck, but game remained.  It was converted over to the Buffy system, and then eventually the Ghosts of Albion system.  Willow and Tara are as much a part of Ghosts of Albion as William and Tamara.
This work also allowed me to meet, work with and remain friends with Christopher Golden and Amber Benson.

No too bad for a little game focusing on two girls that happen to be witches and in love with each other.

Since that time I have also tried to convert the girls to a number of systems, each in hope to see how they manifest and how well does that system do to match my style of modern supernatural horror role-playing.  I will detail all that in future posts. Each one advances the girls through the various campaigns / seasons they have gone through.  "The Dragon and the Phoenix", where Tara is returned to life and a central figure in the season long arc in an alternate Season 7.  "Season of the Witch", where Willow, Tara and Tara's father must solve a 25 year old mystery that effects everyone's future and "Generation HEX" where the next generation is raised after the Earth-changing events of SotW.

Until then here are the WitchCraft versions.  These represent the girls while they are still on the show.

Willow Rosenberg
Wicce Seeker of Knowledge/Student

Age: 20 (circa 2000/2001), Ht: 5'3", Hair: Red, Eyes: Green

Attributes: Str 1 Dex 2 Con 2 Int 5 Per 2 Wil 3
Life Points 28
Endurance 23
Speed 8
Essence 20

Channeling Level: 8

Qualities & Drawbacks: Gifted (+5), Essence Channeling (+4), Addiction, Magic (-2), Attractiveness (+1), Covetous (-1, Ambitious), Emotional Dependency (-1), Fear of Rejection (-1), Hard to Kill (+1), Honorable (-1), Minority, Lesbian (-1), Minority, Witch (-1)(though it should be noted that Willow does not view herself as a minority in either case.), Resources (-2, Hurting).

Skills: Computers (4), Computer Hacking (4), Computer Programming (3), Electronics (1), Engineering, Robotics (2), Humanities, Psychology (1), Magic Theory (1), Instruction (1), Medicine, General (1), Occult Knowledge (2), Research (3), Rituals, Wicce (2), Trance (1).

Powers: Flame (3), Farsee (2), Search Person (2)* (4 if that person is Tara), Physical Shield (2), Create Ward (3), Soulfire Blast (3), Float (2), Sending (2), Mindtalk, Strength and Art (3), Mindhands, Strength and Art (2), Mindfire strength (3), art (1), Visual Illusion (2).

Possessions: Laptop, books on magic, spell components, Doll's Eye Crystal focus (adds 1 to Channeling).

Tara Maclay
Wicce Student Gifted
Age: 20 (circa 2000/2001), Ht: 5'5", Hair: Blonde, Eyes: Blue

Attributes: Str 2 Dex 2 Con 2 Int 3 Per 3 Wil 4
Life Points 28
Endurance 23
Speed 8
Essence 40

Channeling Level: 4

Qualities & Drawbacks: Gifted (+5), Essence Channeling (+2), Increased Essence Pool (+5), Artistic Talent (3), Cowardly (-1)*, Emotional Dependency (-2), Fear of Rejection (-2), Hard to Kill (+1), Honorable (-2), Minority, Lesbian (-1), Minority, Witch (-1)(though it should be noted that Tara does not view herself as a minority in either case.), Resources (-2, Hurting).

Skills:Cooking (2), Craft, Candle Making (2), Craft, Simple Crafts (2), Humanities, Art History (2), Humanities, Psychology (1), Magic Bolt (3), Magic Theory (3), Myth and Legend, Folk Magic (1), Occult Knowledge (2), Research (3), Rituals, Wicce (2), Singing (2), Survival, Urban (2), Trance (2), Dancing (2)

Powers: Influence Emtional State (1), Blessing of Protection (2), One with the Land (2), Flame (2), Search Person (2)* (4 if that person is Willow), Percieve True Nature (2), Visual Illusion (4), Create Ward (3), Float (2), Sending (1).

Possessions: Books on magic, spell compontents, crystal ball.

*I do want to point out that I don't consider Tara a coward here, it is just she knows she has strengths and picking up an axe and swinging it at a demon is not one of them. (that comes later).

I started each character out with the number of points aloted to starting Gifted characters. Then to figure out how they advanced through Episode 100, The Gift, I gave them 1 point per episode. I thought that it would be a good average to use. I also gave Tara the benefit of the doubt of having more points. She did come in to play until episode 66, Hush, but we know that she has been a witch longer than Willow and may have had some formal training from her mother or grandmother. Plus Tara has been living on her own for much of her adult life.

I used this same logic in playtests and in determining other characters for other Unisystem games.

Everything has a start and mine was right here.

This was the genesis of nearly 10 years of gaming, playtesting and frankly a lot of text generated by myself. In a very real sense my freelancing career began with these two.  My game writing began with other witches, but these two helped me to get published.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Liches in Classic Unisystem

“I want to tell you a story.”

That was how she began our conversation so many years ago. I was annoyed, I wasn’t looking for a story, I was looking for answers. For years I had been searching obscure occult tomes for a shred of proof that there was something else out there; something no longer human and unbelievably ancient.

“Do you know of Immortals?” she asked, knowing full well I did. I would not have spent 10 years and travelled to length and breadth of the Earth if I had not heard of something. I would not now be sitting here in this small cottage in France if I had not actually seen some proof.

She was old, that was certain, but how old I could not begin to fathom. I had learned of her just few months ago. I attempted many times to contact her, but she had no phone, let alone email, and her address was not even known by the local post. So I travelled here and searched this pastoral countryside till I found her. She would not receive me and sent me away many times. Finally, after weeks, she allowed me a visit. My French was halting, but I was surprised (though I don’t know why) to discover she spoke English. She invited me to her home. Again I was surprised, no, I was dumfounded. In her possession were occult tomes and texts that many scholars search a life-time for only to discover one such artefact and consider themselves successful. Here tomes of unbelievable worth and antiquity were lying about as if they were a copy of the morning news or some tacky romance novel. There was a nervousness in the air, like I walked into a surreal alien world. Everything looked normal; normal that is, if this were a hundred years ago. Several clues were apparent to me then, but in my haste to learn what she knew I ignored them, or simply did not recognize them for what they were.

“Essence” she continued “is not just the key to life, but life itself. Do you agree?” I nodded affirmative. My throat was dry from my journey here and she had not offered me a drink. Unheading, or just uncaring for my discomfort she carried on. “Then is it any surprise that there are those whose lives are unnaturally long due to essence?” Again I indicated I agreed. I began to re-evaluate how old she really was.

“Essence then extends life.” She said and as a means of illustrating she drew out a long thread. She was treating me as if I were a child, but yet something held my tongue back. “It can lengthen life, but at cost. Most agree, the Wicce in particular, that the cost is too high. Others begin to feel that inventible pull towards Geburah, a wariness of the soul that no mortal sleep can cure, they slip away quietly, hardly a whisper.” She paused.

“There are others. Very, very few. Who never hear the call, never feel the wariness of the soul and they continue.” She turned and handed me an old tome, our fingertips briefly brushed and I felt a cold so profound, so aching, that I feared I would never be warm again.

“You may have this. But I doubt you will like what you read.”

I practically ran back to the hotel room. I was drained, exhausted beyond anything I could remember. I wanted to read that book, but when I got back I fell to bed.

I read that horrible tome, the ancient German difficult, but I struggled on. After a couple hundred or so pages sleep conquered me.

I awoke two days later to the hotel manager banging on my door, swearing at me in French. The book was gone. I went back to that small home but found nothing and no sign of life. As quickly as I could I began copy what I could remember from memory. Some images were blurry, on the edge of consciousness, others had burned themselves so deeply into my psyche that I doubt I will ever be the same.

Along with the nightmares I had been given the answers I sought.

I had spoken to a lich.

15-point Supernatural Quality

Prerequisites: The Gift, Intelligence or Will of 6 or greater, construction of a phylactery and potion. Must be a living human (no bast, vampyres, ghost, etc.)

There are those that are born immortal or gain unnaturally long lives due to Essence. There are those that covet this, or fear death so much that they seek out fell arcane means to extend their lives. These rare creatures are known as Liches.

Lich comes from the old middle English word Lyche, which means corpse. Indeed the lich is often very corpse like. A mere husk of a human form, the lich is most often a skeleton with dried leather like flesh drawn tightly over the bones. Its eyes are gone, replaced by pin points of malevolent red light. Some hair remains, in thin wispy strands and its hands have curved into talons with long yellowed fingernails. Liches can also appear as human, they are still powerful magicians and can alter their appearance.

The path to lichdom is fraught with peril. To begin the prospective lich must have a strong will or intellect to pursue this path. A strong constitution is favorable, but not required. Only Human Gifted may become liches. Other undead cannot transform into a lich; though it should be noted that there has been a rumor of vampyric liches. There is also some debate on whether other supernatural creatures, such as Bast or Ferals, or immortals can become liches.

The first step is to locate a book or tome with the knowledge. This book includes the rituals and incantations needed, the ingredients of the potion and directions for making the phylactery or soul object to house the lich’s soul. One such tome is known to exist, Das Buch des Leiche. Written in the early 14th century in a crude form of old High German, it is difficult to read and understand. A more common translation, The Book of Liches, is full of errors and will more likely kill the user outright. There are other tomes certainly, but they are only rumored to contain the necessary ritual, potions or materials. Once the proper tome is discovered most occult scholars agree it contains three important pieces of knowledge; construction and empowerment of the lich’s phylactery, the brewing of the poisonous draught, and the ritual of transformation.

The Phylactery
The Soul Cage or Phylactery is a small box or otherwise hollow object about the size of a fist. All reported cases have been made of lead. Lead is used for it’s dark, energy absorbing color and most likely for its malleability.
The would be lich needs to construct this himself or have one made for this purpose.
The Phylactery requires a Consecration Invocation to create the vessel and restrict it only to that caster. The magician must then atune the phylactery by the use of the Soul Projection Invocation and project his soul into the phylactery. This ritual is a perversion of Atlantean Arcana for empowering and energy crystal.
The would be lich must pour all of his Essence (except for 1-5 points) into the Phylactery. He must then regain all of this lost Essence normally before proceeding.

The Potion
On the lunar month before transformation the would be lich needs to brew the poison that will actually kill him. The poison consists of arsenic, belladonna, the venom of a poisonous snake or spider, the blood of a vampyre and the blood of a human whose life has been extended due to essence, or a true immortal or manifested demonic creature. Rendered down in this vile alchemical concoction are the silks of 13 Death’s Head moths (sp. Acherontia styx styx; Acherontia atropos styx). The potion then must ferment for 27 days in an air-tight container and never be exposed to light. Even the light of a single candle will be enough to render it useless. It is still quite toxic, just not suitable for use in the ritual.

The Ritual
The ritual of transformation is what binds the would be lich’s body to this world and his soul to the Phylactery hereafter.
The ritual though is largely unknown. One must discover it in one of the few books known to contain the proper ritual, and not one one of the many books that contain the false ritual. There are many faulty copies and some outright forgeries.
An Occultism check with 10 Success Levels is enough to determine if the ritual is legitimate, but not enough to determine why it might be wrong.
The ritual itself requires at least level 5 in one of the Necromancies listed in the WitchCraft core, but Death Mastery is the most common.
The ritual takes 24 hours to cast and the would be Lich looses 5 points of Essences permanently. If they are interrupted at any point they must start over anew. This includes brew a new potion and loosing another 5 points of Essence.
At the end of the casting the prospective lich drinks the potion and dies. If everything was performed correctly then they will rise as a Lich in three days. If not then they are dead.

Once the new Lich awakens they have the following:

Immortal, Nerves of steel, Photographic Memmory, Acute Senses (hearing and vision), Chill of the Grave (GoA)* (3), Ghostly Fear (GoA)*, Enhanced Vision Darkvision, Hard to Kill (3)
Intelligence +1, Will +2, Occultism/Occult Knowledge skill +2

Disabled senses (taste and smell), Delusions of Granduer, Obsessions (accumulate more knowledge), Unattractive, Inhuman form, Essence Dependence

*These qualities are found in the Ghosts of Albion Roleplaying Game. They are Cinematic but can be used in a Classic Unisystem game with no issues. They cost the listed Quality Points in either Quality or Metaphysics. Either costs 1 Essence point to use.

Like a Vampyre a Lich cannot replace their own Essence. They must spend an Essence point each day to retain their ability to mimic life and any Metaphysics they perform also deplete their Essense. Unlike Vampyres a Lich can absorb ambient Essence, but no more than 5 points per day. This is often why a Lich can be found in Essence rich areas. As long as they are pursuing more mundane research a Lich can persist unchanged and never requiring Essence for years.

Liches then can be played as sort of intelligent Zombies, taking any Quality or Drawback that a Zombie can including those regarding feeding. Liches normally do not feed on flesh but rare conditions (or badly translated rituals) do happen. Liches may also take appropriate Qualities, Drawbacks and Powers that are open to Vampyres or Ghosts.

Like Ghosts, Liches can “see” emotional states. Due to their gifted background they can also see magic and lines of magical force.

Reducing a Lich to 0 Life Points does not kill it, but it does force it’s life force back into their Phylactery. Reducing the Lich to zero Essence Points forces it back to it’s Phylactery as well, but then it must slowly rebuild their Essence at the rate of 1 per day till they reach their maximum. A lich can then re-enter their body and re-animate it. If their body has been destroyed then they enter any corpse within 100 yards of their Phylactery.

If a Lich is somehow reduced all the way to -10 Life Points then their body must make a Survival Test. Failure results in the body being destroyed.

To destroy a Lich one must reduce it to zero Life or Essence points, find and destroy their Phylactery and destroy the body. For this reason Liches often keep a false Phylactery while their real one is safely hidden and surrounded by corpses and animated dead to guard it.

A Lich may regenerate 1 Life Point per Con score per day. This costs the Lich 1 extra Essence Point.

For Classic Unisystem.  WitchCraft RPG, All Flesh Must Be Eaten, or Armageddon. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

D&D 4 Kids. Monster Slayers: The Heroes of Hesiod

Monster Slayers: The Heroes of Hesiod is a new type of D&D (4th edition nominally, but it is so stripped down it could be from any edition of D&D) adventure designed for younger kids.  They say ages 6 and up.

The adventure is free, and all you need to play is some people (kids), dice and some pencils.  There are character cards, monster cards, tokens and a map that can be printed out.  Any printer is fine, color or b/w.  You can use a d20 and d6. If you are so new to D&D that you don't have a d20 then you can still do this with 3d6 (that would be 3 six-sided dice).

The plot is simple.  Fight some monsters.
There is no real threat since characters can be healed by an NPC (have YOU ever killed the character of a 6 year old?  Well until you do you can't complain about this being too easy.)

The game time is 30 minutes and it is for one DM and 5 players.
Players need to work together to get through this, but there are no guidelines telling you how they need to do this.

What do I think?  Well I can attack this from three fronts, as a parent, as a curriculum design specialist and as a D&D player.  Here we go.

Tim the Parent
I love what they are trying to do here.  D&D looks fun to little guys (and girls!), but the rules (and lets be fair here, especially 4e) can be daunting.  Character sheets, even when everything is explained require a lot of reading and higher level comprehension.  Something the 12+ crowd can do, but maybe not the ones still playing Pokemon.   This adventure solves that problem easy.
IF I had one suggestion on this it would be to make it so you can subdue the monsters.  Think of the new movie "How to Train your Dragon" basically this is the same thing.  But the little red dragon here is so cute that I know my boys will want it as a pet.  Yeah a pet Bullette or Beholder is a bit of a stretch.  This is not coming out of any attempt of being PC; I like to kill monsters as much as the next guy and anyone that thinks kids don't have never been around kids.  It would be more of a challenge in some ways.  Plus years of Pokemon have taught me 2 things.  1. Kids like to collect the monsters they "kill".  2. You can say "knocked out" or "benched" all you like, my kids still tell me how they "killed" my Haunter or Ghastly (I like psychic Pokemon).

Tim the Curriculum Specialist
In my day job (and night time Ph.D. stuff) I am a Curriculum specialist.  Yeah I don't talk about it much here because they get for 13+ hours every day.  But I love what I am seeing here.  The potential for learning is fantastic.  For starters there is the working together aspect.  The players will need to work out how they are going to kill these little beasties.  And how they are going to protect their party.
There are the simple things like math, rolling the dice, comparing numbers and addition and subtraction.  Let's not over do it by talking probabilities here yet, but we can do fractions.
What is missing here though is a page on how the teacher-as-DM can do all of these things and meet some stated outcomes or goals.  It don't fault the authors in not including this.  That was not part of their design goal.  Maybe I can come up with something.

Let's see. Quickly this can be used to teach role-playing (something that is used in all levels up to MBAs), basic probability (what is the chance you will hit the monster?), computation skills (basic, you rolled a 3 and 2 and a 4, how much is that? does it hit?) team work (who has the most hitpoints?  Who can last in a fight better, who can hit the monster from far away?  How can you work together to bring down a bigger foe?), narrative storetelling (why is your wizard fighting the monsters?  You tell me what you think he/she is thinking),  and even simple cause and effect.  Wrap it all up in a nice Deweyian setting and get the kids to learn by doing.   I do it now with my kids and it has worked out really nice.
If something like this can get the kids to read the new Monster Slayer books from Wizards, then its a win-win.  Wizards gets another sale and kids read.  My son already loves his A Practical Guide to Monsters and A Practical Guide to Dragons so much we bought the Dragon Codex books.  If the adventures are aimed at the 6+ crowd then I hope the books are not too much above that.

Tim the 30+ Year D&D Player
Oh yeah. Killing monsters is great.  Putting them in a room and telling me to have at them, that is even better.
Sure these rules are not going to challenge me, or even hold my attention for too long.  They were never supposed too.  They do however do one thing really, really well.  They play just like D&D.  The only thing missing are some orcs and some treasure.
If you have a little guy or girl and they want to learn how to play, then this is a great starting place.
Call the characters "-1 level", after this they have worked their way up to 0 or maybe even 1st level of the D&D of your choice.

I like what Wizards is doing here and they should be applauded.  The fact they let it out for free is even cooler.  I would like to see more of these.

There are some discussions about this on Facebook, ENWorld and

Monday, April 26, 2010

How do you "cure" a vampire?

Tossing this out to the universe.

How do you cure a Vampire?

I my games (mostly D&D, but also Unisystem ones) there is no cure per se other than the final one, death.

But a situation has come up in game and I would like to find a cure for a vampire.  I'll give you some background specifics, but I want to find something that is more or less universal.

I have a vampire, and she has killed and taken blood.  Lets also assume she has lived past her normal life span.  So for a human she would be well over 100 years old by now, even if she still looks like she is in her 20s.

I would like it to be some sort of ritual.  Something to renew her mind, body and soul.  And preferably involving water somewhere (because of it's "purity") and sunlight.

Assume system-neutral. So high fantasy D&D, anime BESM or modern supernatural Unisystem; it should work regardless of magic levels in the game.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Pathfinder + Hero Lab

I have been playing in two separate Pathfinder games recently and I really like the system.  But the one thing that I didn't have that 4e gave me was a kick-ass character builder program.

I love character builder programs,   I think I have tried them all over the years.  I had the Core Rules CD-Rom, I had the character builder from Wizards for 3.0 and back in the day my DM and I built one for our Tandy Color Computers.  And I love DDi.  I know some people complain about it and others even claim that Wizard's or Hasbro are looking for more ways to make money.  To that I say how dare they give me an awesome product that does exactly what I want it to do for a fair and reasonable price! ;)  Seriously what is up with people.  Don't like the DDI, then don't pay for it.  I happen to love it.  I can play around with it and try out different characters, multi-classes and hybrids.  Yes I can do that with paper and pencil and books, but I don't alway have my books with me, say at work on my lunch break or relaxing in front the TV on the couch, or at the airport waiting for a plane.  The DDi is fantastic.

It's just too bad that I can't use it with Pathfinder.
I can't use it with Unisystem either, but that is not the point.

So I went out and I tried Hero Lab, from Lone Wolf development.  I remember getting a free CD from them one Gen Con and I couldn't find it anywhere, so I just downloaded it and tried it out.

Here is what I liked:
- I like that there are multiple games for this product.  Currently I use DDi, Uniforge, Simpson's M&M sheet, and Metacreator installed on my computer.  I like flexible systems.
- The interface is nice.  Not fantastic, but nice.
- Using it is rather easy after a few times.

Here is what I didn't like:
- Not 100% sold on the pricing structure here.  I think the d20 SRD derived content should be cheaper.
- I would like more systems, Unisystem is the top of my list.
- The interface, while nice, is old looking.

Comparing this to DDi though is not really fair.  They are designed to do similar, but different things.  Comparing it to Metacreator though is a better choice.

The pricing structure is about the same.  Metacreator though only charged 15.00 per module download, Hero Lab charges 20.00.  The core product is also priced similar with Hero Lab at about 30.00 (with a module) and Metacreator at the same with one module.
Both have the d20 SRD, Savage Worlds, and Call of Cthulhu.   Metacreator has Unisystem as well some others.  Hero Lab has WoD and Cortex.
Despite my nit-picking on the interface, Hero Lab is slightly better than Metacreator.  Both though look like "older" technology.  Metacreator in fact looks like something for Windows 95.
Both produce very function character sheets for printing or PDF.  Metacreator gets a not here since it produces sheets that look like the ones from the game itself.
Hero Lab is easier to navigate and the tabs are very nice.

In the end it depends I guess on what game you want to play.  If you play World of Darkness, Cortex, Ars Magica, Unisystem or Fudge then your choices are made for you.

Same with D&D4.  Yes, Hero Lab can do D&D4, but you need a DDi account to get the updates and if you are  going to do then just the D&D Character Builder.

Both have sizable fan-related content and forums.

So I broke down I bought Hero Lab because I wanted Pathfinder support.
I have to admit that some of the concerns I first had about Hero Lab changed after I bought it.  Now that could be because I had been playing around with more and knew the program better.

Side by side Hero Builder does actually compare nicely to the DDi Character Builder.
Here is a screen shot of my new Pathfinder Paladin and his D&D 4 alter-ego.  (big screenshot).

Having access to the new Pathfinder classes is nice too.
What would totally sell me on this of course is Unisystem support.  I would love to be able to put my Ghosts of Albion characters into something like this.
Chance are good I'll be getting the Cortex and maybe the SavageWorlds one in the future.  If/When I do I'll review them here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

As a GM I don't like to kill characters, but...

But I have.

Details in a bit, but first more on character death and the great battle, the Shadow War.

Many notable and non-notable personages made the ultimate sacrifice in the war against the demons.  Skie Iskatarian, who claimed to be the great-great-granddaughter of Kas the Destroyer, died on the field of battle.  She was given a heroes funeral by the Queen she would have rather seen dead, not visa versa.  She was found next to a man that by all accounts she hated more than anyone, Kiev Scorpious.  They were found back to back, fighting off the hordes that stormed the walls of the city.

Kurt, the affable monk that everyone seemed to like, had also been found.  The great warrior Jar Tearn. Not felled by any weapon, his great age was his doom and he died on the field when his heart failed him.  His wife Victoria, rushed to his side, but never quite made it.  Kara Foke, King of the neighboring country offered his son to aid Glantri, and lost that son.  Leaving his second oldest betrothed to the Queen.  She was 9 he was 8.

Some speak of the great dark warrior Absom Sark how he was never seen again after the war.  Others speak of Arachnia, the drow female warrior that roamed the lands prior to the war, but never after.  They have statues as well, even if their bodies were not found.  (they ran off together after the war. sometimes love is more important than honor).

But the greatest loss some say was the King's son, Johan III.  Lost, and he had disgraced his family and the faith by bedding not just a common girl, but a supernatural one (she was a psychic...and something else), he had returned from the Nightmare Lands (Ravenloft) in his country's darkest hour.  But the girl that was his undoing in life was his undoing in death....

The cool thing about being a tech-head was this great little program that my then DM and I had written for the Tandy Color Computer.  It was a combat simulator.  We could load ten characters and ten monsters in it at once and they would go after each other till all of one side was dead.  I used that and in some cases, I also rolled up the combats on my own.  Something to pass the time to be sure.

So, lots of people died so that the new generations, Quenn Celene and her future Husband Kara Werper could take center stage.  And they will, or rather would have, had it not been for that troublesome girl.


Morgan began in my game with only her nick-name, Raven, though she did have other names.  Raven Ebonflame, Raven the Hunter of the Dead, Raven the Daughter of Death (her father was nicknamed "Death Blade").
She was psychic, which was a strict taboo in my game world.  Sure magic is fine, because the mage schools and guilds control that. Random psychic power?  Bad juju.

So what does this girl do?  She gets herself hired in the mercenaries guild and eventually hooks up with John the 3rd, future king of the land, and gets pregnant.  When I was coming up with ideas to start my war, I decided that she ran off to have the kid rather than cause her lover any more grief.  Trouble was Johan loved her too.  Had he married her things might have been fine, but he ran off after her only to get pulled into Ravenloft.  She thought he didn't care and gave birth to their daughter.

There is one other thing about Morgan.  Something I decided on her first outing as a character back 1985 or so.  Morgan was a killer of Vampires.  She killed one at 1st level.  And then proceeded to go after more.
Morgan, Raven Ebonflame, was the very first Slayer.

And then I killed her.

She was in the war and played a minor part.  I remember being out on my bike one day thinking about what she might have done.  Then it came to me.  Morgan fought Yoln Shadowreaper, the general of the Armies of Hell.  She fought him and killed him.  By herself, single-handed, the girl that everyone in the game hated, changed the course of the War.  She gave them victory.  But it cost her her life.

Her lover, Johan went crazy and was soon killed in battle, not before taking out several dozen demons.  The priest said he could not raise her, her soul was gone.  A pact was made by the three most powerful remaining characters, the guild master (her father), the advisor (her teacher) and the King (father of her lover).  Her father went to Hell to find her soul.  In the 3rd Edition years, I worked that into the great Reckoning of Hell.

Her death was the most powerful scene I played up to that point.  But years later I so regretted killing her. I thought it was a waste (and I had more personal reasons too).

Then I began The Dragon and the Phoenix.

This was a Willow and Tara centric season for the Buffy game.  In the fifth episode, Heaven Bleeds, Willow, Tara, and Buffy travel back in time to this battle.  There they meet Willow and Tara's past lives, and all three witness Morgan's battle with Yoln.  I did retcon her into a Slayer, but it was not much of a change.

Now I redid the scene of her death as before, this time using the Cinematic Unisystem rules.  And this time Buffy was there to help.  I had players that played Tara, Willow, and Buffy, but I still played Morgan out. She still defeated Yoln, this time with her sister Slayer's help.  But she still died.  Somethings can't be changed I guess no matter how much you try.

As Morgan dies, she touches Tara and asks her to remember her.  Morgan's soul does not go to Hell as everyone thought, but instead, it is in Tara.  When the season ends she lets go of Morgan's soul to her final rest.  I have a scene in later games, Season of the Witch, to be exact, where Morgan's father meets up with Tara and is given peace.

As a DM I don't like to kill characters.  People invest way too much of themselves into their personas.
Kurt, Skie. Kiev, Jar, Victoria, Sebastian, Fjalar, Johan II and Johan III.  They all had memorable deaths and that had meaning.

But Morgan, Raven Ebonflame, the Daughter of Death, Hunter of the Dead, had the most important death of all.  Her's changed two worlds. Set things into motion that I am still using in my games. And changed how I think about characters and how I write this stuff I do.
And hers was the hardest to do and deal with and the one I have always and will always regret the most.

To pull out my comics metaphors, she is though more of my Barry Allen than Tora Olfsdotter or even Tara herself.  She died and saved the world and to bring her back now would give the character less meaning.  She died well and now deserves her well earned rest.  Tora and Tara died too (and came back) but their deaths were meaningless and meant to shock people and ultimately empty.  Mark Waid, who wrote the issues in which Tora died has since admitted it was a huge mistake as a typical and clichéd Women in Refrigerators moment.  Too bad Whedon has not had the same insight and maturity as Waid.  But I took care of that on my own.

So GMs/DMs/Directors/Story Tellers?
Do you kill characters?  Do you try to save them even if the dice fall on the side of the Reaper?

Yes...yes I can already here the Call of Cthulhu Keepers out there.  I know your point and I know there are worse things than death.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

iPad for gaming. Not yet for me.

I have blogged about my love for tech in the past. I raved about my HP laptop till it died on me recently. So today I get to try something new. An iPad.

It it about the size of the old TRS-80 palm top. Which is kind of cool really. The screen is really nice and typing is not too bad. typing got faster towards the end. Logging in to blogger was easy.

But...well the rich-text/HTML editor is flaky, same as my phone. Logging into DrivethruRPG was a pain and I could not download any books. Oh and I had to completely mess with my router to even do this little.

Without network it is little more than a big iPod with no music.

I was really excited about this thing too, but right now I can't recommend it at all. At least not right now. There are not a lot of reasons to bring this to game table.

I guess I'll need to wait for the Google tablet.

It was…a good death.

I started a new campaign this last weekend. It has all the potential of one of those long-running campaigns that will feature heroics that the players will be talking about years to come. But of late it is endings that I have been thinking of the most. The end of my long-running “Willow and Tara” Unisystem game a few years back, the end of my epic AD&D 1st edition game that spanned my high school years.

The end of that game ended in the deaths in many characters, but they were all good and heroic deaths. Well except for one, but I’ll talk about her later.

The deaths were honorable, heroic and did what they were supposed to do. Clear the slate for me fo when I went to college (and unknown to me at the time, pick up 2nd Edition AD&D).

That final battle was part of a war that had been building for a long time and finally exploded across the globe. It destroyed my DM’s own countries (he had some areas outside of the former Suel Empire) and tore mine to near shreds, I was HQed in Glantri on the other side of the world. Everywhere knew war. We called it the Shadow War. On my side of the world, the armies of Hell were marching in in an attempt to take the magical artifacts we were protecting. The war was long and it claimed the life of the King, his oldest son and their chief advisor. The head of the mercenaries’ guild vowed to stay uninvolved till his wife was killed and he disappeared. His son pledged his loyalty to the new 9-year-old Queen. It was a dark time.

The game took a little over two years in real time from say about May/June 1986 to mid-1989. Once I learned there was 2nd Edition coming (hard to believe we lived in a time where we didn’t know everything about a game line) I extended it. I took the individual battle scenes and played them all out. The return of the King’s son from Ravenloft (he wasn’t dead), the advisor, the guild master with an army of his own. Also, all my “lesser” characters that I may have rolled up and used once or twice in games got a chance to take center stage.

Here is one.  More to come.

Fjalar Snowcrest, was a dwarf thief. Kicked out of his homeland and disgraced and dishonored. He was in the city when the armies of hell overran the settled areas inside the walls. He was running, looking for a fight or to get away when he heard screaming. A few bearded devils (hamatula) had broken into a school, killed the teacher and were making their way to kids. Fjalar, never a brave dwarf, still hated bullies. When the war was over, Fjalar was dead. But all the children were alive. They told a tale of this dwarf with an axe of fire and muscles of stone who protected them from the monsters. Even when he was wounded and losing blood he continued to chop at the devils. Fjalar’s broken body was discovered, on top of 20 (though the children would later say 50 if not 100) Hamatula. At the end of the War of Shadows statues were raised to all the lost heroes. Fjalar’s was set in a public square where the dwarf stood majestically with several children behind him and his axe in front of him. The Queen herself invited his father and mother to come to see, they finally came 10 years later. She told them the story and said she knew of his dishonor, which is why his hands had been placed covering his family crest on the axe. The family said nothing till dozens of young adults and their collected scores of children came to the square. They had been the children saved that day and with them were their own children. Many children who bore names similar to Fjalar and Snowcrest.  The Snowcrest parents were moved. They said that they could not undo the dishonor their son had done and his name was still cursed, but that they were proud of their brave and honorable son.

Test Post: Willow and Tara vs. Purgatori

Just a test post.

Willow and Tara vs Purgatori 0 by ~WebWarlock on deviantART

Trying out linking my Deviant Art account to Blogger.

Willow and Tara battle the vampire hell goddess Purgatori.

Part 2:  Tara has a solution!

Willow and Tara vs. Purgatori by ~WebWarlock on deviantART

Monday, April 19, 2010


I am...

I am a d4

Take the quiz at

Thanks to Trollsmyth for the link (and then on to his friend Jeff).

Pathfinder, Game 2: The Big Kids

We started what will hopefully be a long running Pathfinder game with the "big kids".  This is my normal play-test group of the last few years, plus some guys that my DM Greg knows.  So far it has been a lot of fun.  Some of our players are missing the over the top acrobatics and "cinematic fantasy combat" of 4e and we are still making references to 4e in the game, I think it will go over well.

Our DM Greg is posting the play reports over on his blog, Rhonin's Ramblings, so some of my discussion about the game might end up over there as well.

We call it the "Big Kids" game since it is not the Pathfinder game I am currently playing with our kids; Greg's three boys and my two. In both games I am playing very different characters.  A witch in the "little kids" game and a paladin in the "big kids" one.  It is working out well I think.  I have made "mirror" versions of them in 4e and it will be interesting to see how they evolve together, but separate.  Or rather I made the 4e versions first and am now playing the Pathfinder versions.  One day I'll come up with a crossover adventure that involves all four characters in one world.

I still have my D&D 3.x (3.0, 3.5, BESM d20 and other d20 stuff mixed in) that I play with my two sons and we are supposed to get a 4.0/1st Ed cross-over game going sometime too.

That's a lot of D&D.

The cool thing is it gives me a chance to really get a feel for all the versions of D&D.  When my 3.x games ends I have to decide where to take it next.  The choices are continue with the hybrid 3.x game (throwing a bit of Pathfinder in), move up to 4e or even try something "new" like Labyrinth Lord or the D&D RC.

Our Big Kids game is once a month (or so) and the Little Kids game is about the same.  Advancement will be slow, but I am looking forward to it all.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Of Orcus and Generalists

Lots of comments this week.

Orcus vs. Demogorgon
If this were the demonic throwdown then Orcus overwhelms Demogorgon.  Far more comments and hits.  I have to say though a large part of that is because of the Tod Lockwood art.   But even when I have something similar in the past Orcus usually wins too.  I like Demogorgon and think there is tons of untapped horror there and even something that makes him more demon than Orcus.  But Orcus looks like he could be on the cover of an 80's metal album.  Yeah I can see than, some band out of England in the 80's or a Death Metal band out of Norway or Finland today.  Name them Orküs or something like that.  Some one get Raggi on the phone, he would know.

Generalist vs. Specialists
Generalist seems to be the rule of the day here too.  But that is also not a surprise given the population that reads this blog.  I throw out stats for Unisystem, WitchGirls, d20, D&D of all shapes and size. You all must like that stuff.  The Specialists have their own blogs.  There are also seem to be dabblers.  People that are Specialists in one or two systems and fluent in a dozen more.
I still wish though that I had a better name for Generalist.

More later including a "new" game for me...Rifts.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Gen Con Schedule tool.

Thanks to Joethelawyer I have this cool Gen Con webpage/app.

Let's you see what is happening and allows me to check on my Ghosts of Albion games.
What I thought was really cool was the ability to send it right to my Google Calendar, which I have connected to my Pre and my work account.  So with a click I now have it all stored and ready to go.

Now to find some games to play.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

System Specialist or System Generalist?

So it should come as no surprise that I know a lot of gamers. A lot of a lot.

And while tags like "simulationist" or "immersion" or even "rollplayer vs. roleplayer" get thrown about like they are important, there is one classification that actually interests me.
System Specialist vs. System Generalists.

The System Specialist plays one system only and that is it.  So they only play AD&D 1st ed or d20 or GURPS. This is not to say they have tried other systems.  I am going to bet many have, but they have found one system that they have decided that is all they need.
I like the System Specialist because they usually become experts of their chosen system.  They in a sense achieve in their system that elusive "fade into the background" element that so many designers strive for, whether it was a design principle of that system or not.  Great system specialists seem like elder sages of their system, knowing rules or situations at such a higher level to even surprise the designers.

The System Generalist (wish I had a better name) plays a large number of systems and may have tried even more.  They are comfortable using True20, FUDGE or Rifts in any given situation and they can often give you informed opinions of why X system is perfect for Y situation.  A lot of game designers I know fall under this category.
I like the System Generalist because they are usually able to adapt to newer systems easier and transfer over concepts from one system to the other to improve their own game play.  Game play details are often rendered in short-hand, "oh it is like BLANK from Call of Cthulhu" or "BLANK from Kult".

There are negatives too, but I am not so much interested in those to be honest.

It should not surprise anyone, but I tend to view myself as a System Generalist.  I like having multiple systems laying around, I like reading new ones, playing old ones and even mixing them is strange and odd ways.
I come very, very close to being a System Specialist when it comes to Cinematic Unisystem.   But I still forget some esoteric bit during play, and sometimes even important ones.  For example, for the life of me I can never remember the formula for life points.  I know it is a function of Strength and Constituion.  I know there is addition in there, and some multiplication and 3 and 10 work into it.  I know you 3 extra points per level of Hard to Kill, but that is it.  Pathetic huh?  I have made what, a few hundred characters for CineUnisystem?
The nice thing though outside of that I can run a Cine Unisystem game without books.  If it Ghosts of Albion chances are I don't even need to look up the spells.  I used to be like that for AD&D first ed, but those memories have faded over the years, or more to the point supplanted by similar rules in other versions of the game.

Where do you see yourself?  Generalist or Specialist?  What do you think are the pros of being...well you?

Demogorgon for Unisystem

Demogorgon, Demon Prince of Fiends

And by them stood Orcus and Hades, and the dreaded name of Demogorgon.
- Milton, Paradise Lost.

It is contended by some that this demon prince is supreme. His hatred for Orcus is immense and unending, followed closely by his hatred for Grazzt.
- Gygax, Monster Manual

Demogorgon, The Great Fiend, Prince of Demons.

Note: Like Orcus, some of this information is based on previous works, some of it is based on historical records, and some more is completely made up.

Demogorgon is the Prince of Fiends. He (and it should be noted here and now that he is only used as a convenience, it is possible that Demogorgon is a she or an it or a both or neither, sages simply do not know) is the greatest of their number and is their ruler.

Much mystery surrounds the being known as Demogorgon. His name comes from the late Latin meaning Terrible Demon, but there are claims that he is a Greek chthonian god, or even something far more primal.

What is known is this. Demogorgon is ancient. He was old even in the pre-history of humankind. He has taken upon himself the mantle of The Prince of Demons, though there are very few that can actually challenge him in this role. In addition he is known as The Great Fiend, Lord of the Abyss, and The Great Beast. When the angels fell and took up lordship in Hell, Demogorgon was already there. He (and Orcus) greeted Lucifer and his angels. It is likely that he was kicked out since he now resides in Chesed. It is possible that his wars with Orcus and Belial began here.

Unlike other demonic creatures, Demogorgon is not a fallen angel or god. He has always been a fiend. As he has aged and evolved he has become more demon like. Or, if as speculated, he is the original demon and the fallen angels became more like him. Some occult scholars have even speculated that he might belong to that quasi-mythical group known as Proto-demons, which puts him closer in nature to likes of Pazuzu than Lucifer.

Motivations and Goals

Like most fiend lords, Demogorgon is obsessed with spreading his power. However the Great Fiend has had his share of battles. For example his war with Orcus is legendary and the populations of entire worlds have been spent in this never ending war. There was a time when it seemed Demogorgon had the upper hand, but he has been dealt a number of crushing reversals of late. He and Orcus are once again at a standstill, with Orcus possibly having the upper hand. He is also know for his battles with the Abat-Dolor demons whose leader is Grazzt, and those battles have picked up once again after some time of reduced activity. Grazzt covets Demogorgons title as Prince of Demons, something he sees himself as. Orcus and Demogorgon simply hate each other.
Less well know are his battles with the Fallen Angel/Arch Devil Belial, also known as Beliar. Though that war has been at a standstill for a number of centuries.

But more than anything Demogorgon is about change. He evolves and changes to fit the needs of the times. Some claim this is due to his dual brained nature of his two independent heads, others say it because he has been around for so long he has seen evolution in action and understands it at a level that even the Creator does not comprehend. What ever the case one factor is for certain, in their epoch stretching war Orcus has never gained a major victory despite a never end supply of undead minions. Minor ones yes, but never a major one.  Demogorgon has reigned supreme or at the very least had minor setbacks.

Even among the fiend lords Demogorgon has a peculiar hobby, he has spent millennia breeding different species of man, animal and fiend to produce new races. There seems to be no purpose in this other than the pursuit itself. Nearly every imaginable combinations and abominations can be found roaming free in his realm. Demogorogon has kept Mendelan like records that go back thousands of centuries on his successes, failures, reattempts, all with a methodical meticulousness that makes the handful of scholars that have seen them believe the theory that this is just one, extremely old creature.

Though it is whispered, there is another theory. That Demogorgon is in fact a title and not the Great Fiend's name. That over the wastes of time there have been many Demogorgons, one taking over when the previous one dies, all taking similar form, and maybe even the true essence (and Essence) of the Prince of Demons. This theory could help explain the seeming contradictions in his character. While dismissed by older sages and occultists there is a growing number of younger occult scholars that have embraced this idea and have taken to calling the creature The Demogorogon. There are at least two creatures, both extremely powerful fiends that occult scholars point to as examples. The greater fiends Aameul and Hethradiah (known as his right hand) were known to be powerful lieutenants of Demogorgon that were either killed (and unravelled), absorbed into the Demon Prince, or became The Demogorgon.

Regardless of which interpretation is true, there is no way to know for sure and all contact with Demogorgon is only likely to be with one entity in particular. Unless of course one is present when this theorized transfer of power occurs, and that is only likely if the cast are the main sacrifices or on the menu, or both.

In nearly all cases and examples throughout time, Demogorgon prefers to work through his cults (even if he pits these cults at cross purposes) rather than become directly involved. You wont see full manifestations of The Prince of Demons in the streets of New York either Pre- or Post- Rekoning (WitchCraft).


The renowned sage Gygax described the Great Demon thusly, Demogorgon appears as an 18-foot tall reptilian-humanoid. He has two heads that bear the visages of baboons. His blue-green skin is plated with snake-like scales, his body and legs are those of a giant lizard, his twin necks resemble snakes, and his thick tail is forked. In place of arms, he has two huge tentacles.

Demogorgon can change his form at will, depending on his mood. While he will typically appear as described above, he can alter that facade. Changes can be subtle, mandrill or hyena heads for example, or to a more sinuous body like that of a snake rather than a reptile. Demogorgon can also appear human as he wills. His most common guise is that of a tall man of indeterminate age and race (eye witnesses always differ on accounts) with two notable features, his eyes are always yellow tinged with red and he stands before them naked, clothed only in shadow and bald. Scholars speculate that this could be the Dark Man of many Wicce ceremonies (a notion that the Wicce universally deny). Other point out that until knowledge of Demogorgon's war with the demon Grazzt was known that there were no manifestations of Demogorgon beyond the classical fiendish one.

Those encountering the Great Demon report an overwhelming feeling of fear and dread. They describe feeling that they are in the presence of an ancient and alien evil. Those that have communicated with him describe a tumult of voices, of different ages, nationalities, genders, and description, but all cruel and evil. One occult scholar wrote that two voices, male and female, were foremost, but thousands of others could be heard in the background.

The Lair of Demogorgon

Like most fiendish realms, the Lair of Demogorgon is located in the Sephiroth of Chessed. The lair of the Great Fiend resembles an infinite lush topical rainforest full of every manner of life, both mundane and fiendish. Visitors from Malkuth (Earth) are reminded of the primal forests of South America or the jungles of India and Africa. Yet even the terrene dangers of those places are paled with the horrors of the jungles of Demogorgon. Other areas resemble great fetid bogs that stretch for miles and whose depths have never been explored, and great flat deserts of salt where the creatures survive beneath a white-hot sun by drinking the fluids of anything (or anyone) they capture.
Know by some as Abysm, Ungurth Reddik, and to others as The Gapping Maw, it is the home not only to Demogorgon and several thousand lesser fiends, but also to the two primary branches of Demogorgons cult (the third is situated wholly on Earth), many species of primates and reptiles of varying degrees of intelligence, dinosaurs and ancient reptiles, but also to several thousand humans stuck in a tribal state of development. It appears that the humans sole purpose for being here is to provide sport for the cultists of Demon King.

The Cult of Demogorgon

Demogorgon supports three very active (respective to their areas of control) cults. While separate and most time even ignorant of each other, the cults operate in similar fashions and all three, whether known or not, have the same goals; destruction, violence and the promotion of the will of Demogorgon.

The Blood Apes
The largest cult of Demogorgon, is a cult of intelligent Gifted apes. They are often referred to as The Blood Apes due to their habit of bathing in the blood of fallen enemies and comrades. These cultists actively worship Demogorgon as their god and attribute to him all spoils. The doctrines of the cult emphasize destruction and violence. In Apeworlds that feature these cultists they are most often intelligent baboons, mandrills, gibbons and sometimes gorillias. All are carnivores and keep human or (where appropriate) chimpanzee slaves. It is even whispered among the human populations that some humans are kept in an attempt by Demogorons Heirophants to breed true a race that features the most terrible qualities of both ape and man. Others claim they have already succeeded.

The Ophiacodontids
Constantly at war with the Blood Apes are the Ophiacodontids. Each cult believes there are the only true followers of the Great Fiend. The Ophiacodontids might have the edge in shear age, but the Blood Apes outnumber them 20 to 1. The Ophiacodontids are a race of intelligent synapsids that have, over the millennia of a carefully controlled eugenics program have assumed more upright and human-like form.
The Ophiacodontids were the first worshippers of Demogoron, living during the primeval dawn of the Earth during the Permian Period some 250-290 Million years ago. Their astrologers saw the end of the Permian Period that ended in the extinction of close to 90% of all life, a time we now call The Great Dying. The previously cold and scientific race turned to a doomsday religion with Demogorgon as their God. Demogorgon took the Ophiacodontids to his realm and there they continued their epoch long degradation as a species.
Wars between the two cults are a frequent occurrence with the Blood Apes pitting brutal and effective savagery against the Ophiacodontidae calculated cruelty. The only time they do not fight each other is when both tribes hunt humans for food or slave labor.
The symbol of the Ophiacodontids is the Amphisbaena, a great serpent with heads on both ends.

The Humanist Ecological Liberation League
The third and most radical of Demogorgons cultists is a group of Gifted humans living on Earth known as the Human Ecological Liberation League, or HELL. True to their name, they are a radical group of ecological terrorists and even the radical ELF (Earth Liberation Front) has disavowed them. HELL has claimed responsibility in billions of dollars in property damage to developers working in areas they have deemed protected, including the destruction of an off-shore oil rig that was drilling through a coral reef, a lumber company burned to the ground in South America and the destruction of computers used in a Midwestern America coal strip mining firm. They are also believed have been involved in various murders and disappearances of various persons from corporate executives down to a group of factory workers processing wood.
The members are for the most part the sons and daughters of Baby Boomers who instilled the ideas of activism into them, but not the restraint. Many hail from various Associations, with the Wicce being predominant. The various Wicce groups are quick to denounce them and reiterate that methods of HELL are not that of the Wicce. Even the Rosicrucians side with the Wicce on this issue and consider HELL to be the single greatest threat to exposure. Given that HELLs tactics are as subtle as a sledgehammer, both groups also agree that there is no way they could be part of the Combine.
The fact is the members of HELL, despite what they might believe themselves, are not Wicce or Rosicrucians at all, but in fact a cult dedicated to Demogorgon. Demogorgon is known to upper echelon of the cult, but the rank and file do not. The leaders commune with the Great Fiend, who appears to them as the Wicce Dark Man.
The upper ranks believe that Demogorgon represents nature, raw and untouched by man, and that centuries of human dogma has demonized him. They honestly believe they are doing the work of a wronged divine being. HELL is only vaguely aware of the other cults, and those that do believe that they were pre-historic antecedents (which is true) that died out epochs ago (which isnt true).

Demogorgon in Your Games

As with any super-powerful fiend care must be taken about how Game Masters introduce him to their game. The Casts primary contact with the Great Fiend should be through rumor only. The appearance of two headed snakes and frogs are common signs. Dealing with his cult, especially HELL could provide enough for an entire series of episodes. The cast can get to the top of a local HELL cell, only to discover that there is much more and all of it is controlled by a fiend that very few legends even mention.

Roleplaying Demogorgon versus The Demogorgon
Demogorgon has the potential of being the most ancient, powerful and dangerous entity the characters or the players have ever encountered. If He has been around since the Permian times that would equate to 240 to 290 Million Years, that is at least 2.4 to 2.9 Million levels of Age. Even if he was down for more than half that time (say he was only active when there were active worshipers) that is still about 40 million extra skill points! Obviously he cant have that much. But there are still problems with dealing with such an ancient, alien creature. One option is to cut him down to size.
Explore the possibility that Demogorgon is in fact a title given to most powerful fiend in existence. When that fiend is killed, or dies for whatever reason, a new Demogorgon is appointed. This would be the biggest secret in all the infernal realms, and quite an adventure for the Cast that discovers it. Maybe the current Demogorgon is ancient and a new fiend has challenged him to rule over all the fiends. A fight ensues and the younger fiend emerges victorious! Only to be subjected to a painful transformation where he becomes the new Demogorgon. Maybe Orcus did defeat Demogorgon once, only to be transformed to the new one.
Another possibility for adventure is a current demon adversary manages to learn the secret and becomes, through duplicity, the new Demogorgon. Now the cast is really in trouble.

Demogorgon has been pulling in races from as far back as the Permian times from the continent of Pangaea. One could only imagine the knowledge he has collected from Lemuria, Atlantis, Hyborea or other long lost lands of occult wisdom. Imagine the surprise of your Immortal Templar when a creature looking like a cross between a toad and a monkey appears and starts talking about the flying mind ships of his ancestors. It is quite certain that Demogorgon has in his possession knowledge of the Greater Keys of Solomon. And his interactions with the Wicce and Rosecrucians have already been noted.
It is also during this time that HELL is most active.
Demogorgon, when he rarely ventures to Earth, can remain for 16 days.

Demogorgon is of a mind to take advantage of the situation and unleash new hells on the Earth. Most associations would disdain contact with him, even those aligned with the Infernal Realms. While mostly low-profile during the pre-Reckoning, Demogorgon sees the post-Reckoning world as the means to gain control. While not stopping the Cult of Leviathan, he is not working with them either.
In the Post-Reckoning Demogorgon can remain in the mortal world for 80 days at a time.

AFMBE (D&Z)/Terra Primate/Army of Darkness
Demogorgons lair itself, despite its supernatural placement, can be used as a fantastic Ape / Dead World. Follow the Lost Continent example from Terra Primeate (after all what continent is more lost than Pangaea?) Humans, intelligent apes, even some intelligent bipedal reptiles can be created here in their daily struggle for life, not against the forces of darkness, but from within the heart of darkness itself. Travelling to the lair is the kind of stuff that makes legends out of characters in Dungeons & Zombies (remember Queen of the Demonweb Pits?) and Army of Darkness.

Ghosts of Albion (and other CineUnisystem games)
Scientific thought is embracing the world. Industry is growing and the world is shrinking. The gap between those that have and those that have not has never been more profound. Sounds ripe for fiendish influence. To date Demogorgon has shown no interest in Ablion (or Alba or Éire for that matter either), but the defeat of Balberith has sent a ripple through the supernatural world and now everyone's attention is on the tiny isle of Albion. After all two-siblings, barely adults even by human standards, defeated one of Lucifer's most powerful lieutenants, they cant be lucky all the time.

Unisystem Stats


Other names: The Great Fiend, The Demon Prince, Lord of the Brine Flats, Lord of the Gapping Maw, The Demon King.
Type: Greater Fiend (Demon)
*Though a Fiend, Demogorgons nature is closer to demonic.

Strength: 18
Dexterity: 15
Constitution: 14
Intelligence: 12
Perception: 18
Willpower: 16

Secondary Attributes
Endurance: 340
Speed: 58
Armor: 28

Essence: 228
Vital Essence: 456
Channelling level: 9

Life Points (when Manifested): 430

Acute Senses (all)
Age +40* (best estimate)
Charisma +4
Essence Channelling +9
Hard to Kill +20
Increased Essence Pool +13 (+65 Essence Points)
Increased Life Points +12 (+120 LP)
Natural Toughness
Nerves of Steel +4
Greater Fiend
Supernatural Senses (including see Invisible)

Adversary (lots, powers of good and evil) 10
Attractiveness 2
Covetous, Greedy 3
Cruel 3
Delusions of Grandeur -3
Obsession, genetic experimentation 4
Paranoia 4
Taint Vulnerability

Languages (all) +10
Theophany skill
Brawling +18
Bureaucracy +12
Cheating +9
Craft, Weapons +12
Craft, ritual items +10
Dodge +10
Hand weapons, sword +16
Hand weapons, others +10
Magic Theory +16
Magic bolts +15
Myths & Legends, Greek +16
Myths & Legends, Pre-historic +16
Notice +16
Occult Knowledge +18
Questioning +14
Rituals (Wicce, Rosicrucian) +15

All other skills at +5

Bad Luck 9
Destroyer 8 Destruction
Dark Vision
Essence Drain Demogorgon can drain 10 points of Essence per touch.
Essence Shieldings
Gaze Attacks
- Beguiling (left head), victim must make contested Willpower check to avoid catatonic stupor for number of turns equal to the difference in Willpowers.
- Hypnosis (right head), victim must make contested Willpower check to avoid following Demogorons wishes for number of turns equal to the difference in Willpowers.
- Insanity (both heads together), victim must make a contested Willpower check or go insane.
Regeneration Regenerates his current CON in LP per minute. Drained Essence can be added to Life Points or Essence (Vital or Pool).

Rotting Touch - Any living creature touched by Demogorgons tentacles must make a Constitution (doubled) check, or its flesh and bones begin to rot. The victim takes 1d4(2) points of Constitution damage immediately and 1 point of Constitution damage every hour thereafter until it dies. Any healing invocation will halt the damage, but lost points return only with natural healing and cannot be restored with magic.

Keys of Solomon
As the Prince of Demons Demogoron also has access to the Keys of King Solomon.
He will typically use the following:
Key of the Seraphim* (can only use it on demons)
Key of the Spirit (can only use it on fiends)
Key of War

Melee, bite, 2 attacks, bonus: +33, damage d4(2)x16, poison
Bite Poison strength rating 6, damage 2d6(6)+6.
Melee, tentacles, 2 attacks, bonus: +33, damage: d6(3)x18, Essence Drain, Rotting.
Melee, tail, 1 attack, bonus: +31, damage d6(3)x19, Essence Drain.

Demogorgon can summon 4-24 fiends to aid him. These fiends regard him has their lord and will obey him without question.
He can also summon up to a dozen lesser demons and fiends to aid him. These demons and fiends are less loyal, and will flee if the fight is going against them.

Blood Apes

Strength: 5-6
Dexterity: 3-4
Constitution: 5-7
Intelligence: 3-4
Perception: 3
Willpower: 3

Essence: 22-27
Life Points: 56-68

Qualities: Gift, Hard to Kill 2

Skills: Brawling 5, Handweapon (sword) 3

Metaphysics: Invocations

Blood Apes appear as any intelligent ape type found in Terra Primate, save that these creatures also wield magics. Most are Lesser Gifted, with a few tribal leaders as Gifted. Mundanes, if sufficiently brutal in other forms of life are allowed to live.


Strength: 4
Dexterity: 3-5
Constitution: 3-4
Intelligence: 4-7
Perception: 4
Willpower: 6

Essence: 24-30
Life Points: 41-45

Qualities: Gift, Hard to Kill

Skills: Brawling 3, Handweapon (sword) 4

Metaphysics: Seer powers

Opiacodontids are a race of bipedal synapsids that have evolved under Demogorgons guidance. They consider the Great Demon to be their god. They do not differ much in terms of physical size and strength from humans. They tend to be a bit smarter on the average and have stronger wills.
Opiacodontids also posses Seer/Psychic powers with the vast majority Lesser Gifted and an elite minority Gifted. Mundane creatures are killed at birth.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Orcus for Unisystem

Here is my stab at converting a really powerful demon to Unisystem. Orcus is an old fave of a lot of D&D players and I have every D&D product he ever appeared in. Let me know what you think on my take.

Note: Some of this information is based on previous works, some of it is based on historical records and some more is completely made up.

Orcus, Demon Prince of Undead

Orcus is beyond a doubt one of the most powerful demon lords in existence. Not only is his physical might great, his ability to create and control vast legions of undead monsters has given him the justified title of Demon Prince of the Undead. But Orcus has not always been this way. There was a time when the demon prince was a god and was worshipped openly.

History of Orcus

Before the 5th century BCE the Cult of Orcus spread throughout the Etruscan lands (what is now Italy), Orcus was then the God of the Dead. Never a benign god, he was worshipped out of fear and for his believed mastery over death. Once the Romans came to power in 509 BCE the cult was outlawed and moved underground, both literally and figuratively. The Romans, heavily influenced by the Greeks, equated Orcus to Hades/Pluto, Dispater or Thanatos. Ancient burial chambers became the new altars for the God of the Dead where bulls, sacred to the god, were sacrificed.

By 3rd century CE the rise of the Mithras Cult in Rome further pushed Orcus out of the mainstream. Mithras was seen as a God of Light and many paintings showed Mithras fighting the Bull of Darkness. Orcus went from being a necessary evil, to malicious evil incarnate.

While the Mithras Cult did not last, its relative and heir Christianity continued to demonize the cult, even to point that Orcus was no longer a god, but a demon that plagued on mankind. Orcus symbolic death as a god and revival in a lesser status as a demon also changed his powers. He was no longer responsible for the stewarding of souls in the afterlife, that task belonged to God and Satan for good and evil souls respectively. Instead, his powers became twisted after his Fall and he was to rule over the Undead, those that have moved beyond the grace of God or the grasp (supposedly) of Satan. Orcus does not revel in his new position, he despises the undead as much as he does the living.

Motivations and Goals

Orcus appears to be a slowly calculating and meticulous demon. He is in fact, merely lazy. He is a genius and his power is great, but he lacks the desire for long term planning. His typical response to any situation is to use as much brute force as possible. When his own demonic advisors advised him on a ill-fated battle with his arch-enemy Demogorgon, he killed every one of them and half of his own army. Orcus is rage personified. That is not to say he does not have plans. Orcus ultimate goal is to be reinstated to Godhood. While he loathes his worshippers, he grants them powers and undead to further his own causes. He also supports many seemingly random and violent acts that result in multiple deaths. Modern sages believe that the chemical accident in Bhopal India in 1984 was a result of Orcus plans.1

Any undead-creating necromancy is believed to be currently, or at one time, attributed to Orcus teachings.


He can appear as anything he chooses, other known forms he has adopted include a grossly fat middle aged human male (which some say is his original true form), that of an angel-winged specter of death, a statuesque pale woman, or even a tall thin African male. In any form the Demon Prince reeks of death and destruction.

His most often used form is that of a grossly fat demon lord. As described in the Monster Manual by the great sage Gygax, "He stands some 15' tall but walks somewhat stooped over. His oversized stomach (fat from eating the souls of the unfortunates he turns into undead) nearly drags the ground. He is covered in short goatish grey fur that is matted and mange in spots. His head is also goat-like, although his horns are similar to those of a ram. His great legs are also goat-like, but his arms are human. Vast bat-like wings sprout from his back, and his long snaky tail is tipped with a razor sharp poisonous tip."

The Cult of Orcus

Orcus' greatest manifestation in this world is through his cult. These small groups are loosely organized and even more loosely aligned. What they share is common worship for the Demon Prince. The motives of the individual worshippers vary. Some are necromancers wanting to learn more about the nature of life, death, and undeath. Others are undead themselves and regard Orcus as their Prince and God, one that has not abandoned them as God or Satan has. But most are anarchists who see Orcus as a means of causing more evil and chaos in the world. Cultists revel in raising undead, typically zombies, but sometimes more powerful undead such as vampires as well.

The Wand Of Orcus

Orcus holds the Wand of Death (Orcus' Wand) which is a rod of obsidian topped by a skull. This instrument causes death (or annihilation) to any creature, save those of like status (other demonic lords, arch-fiends, avatars, powers, greater ethereals etc.) merely by touching their flesh. This power can be used at the will of the wielder. Often Orcus sends his wand to the Earthly realms to allow it to fall into the hands of some mortal to wreak havoc. When Orcus needs it back he summons it and it comes, usually current wielder in tow, immediately to his side.

Orcus in Your games

How Orcus' presence is felt in your world is of course up to you, but here are some suggestions for adding him to the various Unisystem games. In any case, Orcus is extremely powerful and should be able to wipe out most groups of characters. Orcus works the best when he is the invisible force behind the curtains, the master that manipulates all the puppet strings. He is intelligent and thousands of years old, he should be played that way. Balancing this out are Orcus' mental problems, vices, and attitude that he is invincible.

Orcus in WitchCraft (pre-Reckoning)

Orcus keeps a low profile, relying instead on his secret network of worshippers to further the cause of evil in his name. Members of the Twilight Order, whether willing knowing or not, are modern day relations to the Orcus Mystery Cults of pre-Christian times. The Twilight Order was descended from early Etruscan death cults, though most of the priestly aspects of the Order have been stripped away. Some members of the Twilight Order thought, in particular evilly inclined Necromancers, still venerate Orcus with the original rituals. The other Twilight Order chapters ignore these aberrations in general except in times when their actions reflect poorly on the Twilight Order as a whole. There are in truth, only a very few chapters of the House of Thanatos that will identify themselves directly with Orcus. While most Thanatoi will disguise this with words like Atlantian Scholars or Lemurian Necromancers there is a connection with Orcus that many either don't know about, or ignore. Typically the members of the House of Thanatos oppose Orcus, as they seem him as a rogue and evil element in a situation that is already too delicate (the balance between the living world and the Death Realms).

Orcus in Armageddon (post-Reckoning)

Like nearly every other demonic and angelic being the return of Leviathan shocked even mighty Orcus. Not one to let an opportunity pass him by Orcus is making use of the chaos to spread his influence even further. Of course the Mad Gods seeping influence into the Death Realms is also a cause for concern for the Prince of the Undead. Orcus has discovered that while he can (like most other demons) spend longer times in the Earthly realms, his power over undead that have been exposed to Taint, the Arisen Hordes and the Sheol is very little. Orcus may not care for his undead creations, but the insult of taking them away from him is too much. So in addition to increasing his own power base, Orcus fights the Cult of Leviathan.

Orcus in AFMBE and Army of Darkness

Orcus is not an active or direct mover in the world. Like the generals of old, he prefers to sit back and let the rank and file do his fighting. To Orcus the rank (emphasis on the rank) and file are zombies. Raising undead is something Orcus does. Not just to spread his word, but to inflict as much mass suffering, confusion and evil he can. A zombie/deadite uprising could be due to a group of priests or would-be-priests that have stumbled on a tome to raise the dead. Orcus often rewards these priest by making them the first thing the zombies kill.
Orcus and his cult make a great (if somewhat stereotypical) bane for players in a Dungeons and Zombies game.

Orcus in Ghosts of Albion

Orcus has no special interest in Albion. His cult never got to Albion's shores and his greatest enmity is with those in the Mediterranean that destroyed his cult. That being said, Albion is a place of great mystical power and to tap that power source would be a significant boost to his own power. The recent events of the summoning of Balberith and discovery of Charlemagne's crown by the Necromancer might shift his attention. As one of the most overly populated cities in the world at this time, London is ripe for a supernatural take over.

Unisystem Stats


Other names: Thanatos, Thanter, Dis Pater, Pluto, Dis, Hades.
Type: Greater Seraphim (Demon)* (formerly a pagan god/primal of death)
Association: Infernal Legions

Strength: 21
Dexterity: 13
Constitution: 17
Intelligence: 10
Perception: 11
Willpower: 9

Secondary Attributes
Endurance: 245
Speed: 60
Armor: 24

Essence: 162
Channelling level: 7
Life Points: 469

Acute Senses (all)
Age (as a demon) +20
Charisma +2
Essence Channelling +20 (7)
Hard to Kill +13
Increased Essence Pool +5
Increased Life Points +9
Natural Toughness
Nerves of Steel +3
Seraphim Greater (Demon)
Supernatural Senses

Adversary (lots, powers of good and evil) 10
Attractiveness 3
Covetous, Greedy 2
Covetous, Lecherous 3
Cruel 3
Delusions (will be a god again) 3
Lazy 3
Paranoia 2
Taint Vulnerability (part of (fallen) Seraphim quality)

Languages (all) +10
Theophany skill
Brawling +13
Bureaucracy +12
Cheating +9
Craft, Weapons +10
Craft, ritual items +12
Dodge +8
Gambling +10
Hand weapons, mace +15
Hand weapons, sword +12
Hand weapons, others +10
Magic Theory +16
Magic bolts +12
Myths & Legends, Etruscan +16
Myths & Legends, Roman +16
Notice +14
Occult Knowledge +16
Questioning +14
Rituals (Roman, Etruscan, Twilight Order) +12

All other skills at +5

Metaphysics / Theophanies (Malefaica)*
Destroyer 8 Destruction
Dark Aura
Dark Vision
Domain of the Dead
All Necromantic Metaphysics at level 10
Bad Luck 9
Create Ward 9

*Because Orcus was once the God of the Dead he still holds some of those powers beyond what a typical demonic prince would have.

Wand of Orcus, 1 attack, bonus: +34, damage: d10(6)x27, Destruction power
Melee, claws, 2 attacks, bonus: +26, damage: d4(2)x27
Melee, horns, 2 attacks, bonus: +26, damage d4(2)x27
Melee, tail, 1 attack, bonus: +24, damage d4(2)x27, poison tip (Poison strength rating 6, damage 2d6(6)).

Orcus can also summon any number of animated dead to aid him. He is limited only by the number of bodies available, but summoning takes time and effort. Typically he can summon up to 50 zombies and 50 skeletons at one time. He can also summon greater willed undead like vampires (vampyres) or wights (Ghosts of Albion). The creature is allowed a contested Will test against Orcus to avoid the summoning. Orcus can also summon up to a dozen lesser demons and fiends to aid him.

1I mention this because this accident had a very profound effect on me back then.

Note:  I have no idea who is the artist of the top picture of Orcus. But it has been making the blogs. I have said it before and I'll say it again, Orcus' plane in the Abyss it needs to make "Tomb of Horrors" look like "Candyland".