Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Video Game question

We identify ourselves as Gamers.  To us it has been a mantle we have alternately been burdened by and worn with pride.  Mostly pride, given the group that usually reads my blog.  But we are not the only ones that call themselves Gamers.  There is that other group.   Video games and RPGs have always coexisted in the popular consciousness together.  Yeah..yeah H.G. Wells blah blah Little Wars...that is not what I am talking about.

In the popular consciousness RPGs hit the market maybe 30 seconds before video games did.  The Atari 2600 entered into home market in October of 1977, around the same time as the first printings of AD&D.  Sure OD&D was out before that and there were video games before the 2600 too.  Indeed the 2600 is part of the 2nd Generation of video games, with the 1st gen starting in 1972.

The cost of entry to the home video game hobby is higher than RPGs, the prices are remarkably stable.  For example RPGs have been something of a steady state tech, video games and their hardware are fully in line with Moore's Law; getting cheaper while getting better.  The 2600 retailed for $199.00 in 1977, the Wii retailed at $249.99 30 years later.

Video Gamers and TT Gamers have always seen to eye to eye.  I know for a fact that someone on my reader list has seen someone come into their FLGS to look for a video game only to be mocked out of the store.

The issue I have is that this divide really should not exist   Granted. I have no clue what some Video Gamers are talking about sometimes. I am still only level 2 in Skyrim, never played WoW, Everquest or anything else like that.  I have been playing Lolipop Chainsaw for about 8 months and still am not past "level 2" on it.

So before I go deeper into this I want to ask.  What video games are you all playing?

Did you pick them because they appeal to your TTRPG background? Or because they are opposite of an RPG?  Why that game?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

White Dwarf Wednesday #54

White Dwarf #54 comes to us from the far off time of June 1984. This was a time when I probably played more AD&D than any other time in my life, before or since.  Let's talk about that cover for a bit. Wow. Could it be more 80s?  Mystical wizard with a glowing eye and a huge, almost to damn big to be useful Sword-Axe!  It's the mighty Sword-Axe! The only weapon that can kill the dark lord holding the hero's love.  Stick in a metal guitar riff and that is all you need.  Of course I love this cover.  The wizard is actually kind of cool looking and that sword is EXACTLY the sort of ridiculousness that I would loved to have stated up back in the day.

Ian Livinstone brings up the Satanic Panic issue. I guess he was abroad in Australia and New Zealand and the subject of "black magic" was brought up to him.  I like his response, one of dismissive confusion.

Not content on bring logic to the real world, the next article tries to bring logic to the fantasy world as well.  Christopher Hunt gives us Laws of Nature; or how to create a logically consistent game world.  There was a lot of this around this time and I think a hallmark of the Silver Age.  While older adventures were content with the dungeon crawl and room after room of monster and treasure; the mid 80s was a time when people began to ask why are these rats here? and why do they have a sack of 2,000 coins?  This is reflected in the modules and the articles we read.  I took a lot of this to heart then and as a consequence my games are still not full of gold or even magic items.

There is a Barbarian writeup for RuneQuest next. I know I never read it then because it was too new to me. I never got into playing barbarians at all.  I never read Conan growing up and I preferred the magic using types. But the article is quite good.

Marcus Rowland is back with Name of the Game.  This entry is on Sci-Fi games, with Traveller dominating the article.  Others are mentioned, Space Opera, Star Frontiers, Star Trek (FASA) and Laser Burn.

Microview reviews two computer games Apocalypse and Battle 1917, both are for the 48k Spectrum computer, which of course means most people could run an emulator and put these on their phones.  While reading about their tape loading woes was nostalgic, I never heard of either of these games.  There is a BASIC game aid included in the article as well, a random name generator.

Table Top Heroes is reserved for the color page again (as it should be) to show off the miniatures.

Open Box reviews Traveller Adventure 11 (7/10 by Andy Slack), Book 2 of Steve Jackson's Sorcery, Kharé -  Cityport of Traps (Marcus Rowland gives 8/10 as a book 2, 6/10 as a stand alone).  Espionage  and an adventure Border Crossing by Hero Games.  For Hero's entry into Spy Games Marcus Rowland gives them a   8/10 and 9/10 respectively.  Nic Grecas reviews Theatre of the Mind Enterprises' Pursuit to Kadath, a third part of a Call of Cthulhu adventure. He gives it 8/10.

Critical Mass has a review of Battlefield Earth.  I thought the book (when I tried reading it in the late 80 say 4 years from this review) was abysmal dreck.  I am happy say that all the reasons I hated it are brought up here. Well, not all, my reasons are a long and varied, but they hit on the big ones.

The solo "adventure" The Castle of Lost Souls is back for Part 3. This time it is longer than Part 2. A few of the entries are fun, but it's still a programmed adventure.

RuneRites has some undead.  As always, some great ideas for the the AD&D gamer here too.
Thurd is back.

Temple of the Doomed Prince is up. An adventure for 5 to 8 AD&D characters of 4th to 6th level  or RuneQuest characters of 45% to 65% weapons skills.  It also mentions Empire of the Petal Throne.  The adventure is simple and the monsters are dual stated.

Letters from Hobbits grace the Letters page.
What follows is a first, a mid magazine full color ad for Battlecars.

Fiend Folio has two related ghostly creatures; Surrogates and Shapelings.  Related in the fact that have one set of stats.

After that the parallel color page for I.C.E.'s Fellowship of the Ring boardgame.
Travellers is next.

Some more ads with color (but not full color) are next.  This is a change form all the ads being at the end of the magazine.

Treasure Chest cover Goals for Role-Playing. Or basically, what drives your character.

News this time looks like a posting board of newspaper clips.

Small ads, Gobbledigook and the ads close out the issue.

Like last issue this is a solid, serviceable issue but nothing that sticks out. It seems that despite all the physical growth of the magazine the creative and critical growth is off.  I see more of the same ahead at least for the rest of 84.  We will see.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Cover Me

I was reading the good old Facebook this morning and noticed this picture of author Joanne Brothwell's new book and the cover of another book by Loren Manns.

The books are of course not related outside of both in the modern paranormal genre. But I thought it might be fun to imagine one.

This is not uncommon for many indie and newer authors to use stock art for covers.   Sometimes you can even find them.  It is interesting though to see what a difference Photoshop makes.

It even happens in our publishing.
Here is a cover of a game you might recognize, and it's doppelganger.


Obviously mine and one called Magic & Miracles for the D6 system.  In this case though both of us are using the famous John W. Waterhouse painting.  I make no excuses for that, I love the Pre-Raphaelite style.

I'll have to go over this alternate version of the witch in detail.

I know they say you can't judge a book by it's cover, but sometimes you can use that cover for some fun!

New Releases Tuesday

Time for the 2013 edition of New Releases Tuesday for two of my favorite authors (you can click to see 2012, 2011 and 2010).

Up first is my talented friend Amber Benson with the next installment of the tale of Calliope Reaper-Jones, the girl that would be Death in The Golden Age of Death.

This book is out today!

Next is everyone's favorite red-headed witch/demon, Rachel Morgan in Ever After.

Rachel has more trouble, this time cleaning up a mess she made a few books back.  Of course if she doesn't fix it all the demons in the Ever After will be coming for her.

This one has been out for a bit.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Going to Valhalla, Alaska

Back when I was in high school I had these two friends that put together this "fake" band ala Spinal Tap.  The name of the band was "Harvey Goes to Valala" which was an obvious play on "Frankie Goes Hollywood" and my high school and college nickname "Harvey" (long story).  I say "fake" because it was supposed to be in fun, but my two friends really got into it to the point of "releasing" an album called "Pocket Full of Braincells" (also a full year before Spin Doctors came out with A Pocket Full of Kryptonite, no no there was nothing too that, something in the water in the late 80s/early 90s I am sure).

I liked the town, Valala, and always thought it was this out of the way place up north where the people were weird but had limited outside influences to keep themselves sane.

Valala, Alaska took various shapes and forms in my mind since the late 80s.  It wasn't till the late 90s/early 00s that I considered using the WitchCraft game.  I thought about it again when I was running a WitchCraft game online a few years back, "Vacation in Vancouver" which was a fun, but really dark and adult game (deaths in a prostitution ring that catered to supernatural clients).
The Valala game was going to be something along the lines of a weird Northern Exposure.  A town full of odd folk and supernaturals.  There was going to be humor, but dark.

Over the weekend I was doing laundry and found the "concert" shirt for the Harvey Goes to Valala World tour.  All the towns were places where we all had run off to go to college.  But it got me thinking about this game again.

I still think WitchCraft is a great choice for it, but again with dark humor and really strange people; both mundane and supernatural. Everything in most modern supernatural games are so serious.  This would be.  Sure things would still be dangerous. But the characters would all be locals and quirky ones at that.

With WitchCraft I could use all the supernatural types.  I have always wanted a Werebear character in one of of these games.  I also had this idea for an old and lazy vampire.  Basically the opposite of every other vampire you have ever seen. He's old, ugly, poor and lazy. He survives by trapping animals.
I'd also have to include some crazy ass, conspiracy theory- believing, "prepper" guy.  Someone living in a hole in the ground with his guns and cans of beans.

It was pointed out to me that this is a similar idea to Buffy.  But mine would be less Joss Whedon and more David Lynch.

I would need to get some basic adventure ideas together.  The trick is to take a normal supernatural adventure and do something bizarre with it.   The first one I came up with was about a Sasquatch.  In the normal adventure the Sasquatch is causing problems or killing the local livestock.  In a "Buffy" version the Sasquatch is a demon.  In the "Valala" version the Sasquatch is having sex with the females of the local moose population.  The cries of the moose are keeping people up at night.  The moose hanging around the outskirts of the city because they are enjoying are causing even more problems.  So the issue is not "wow Bigfoot is reall!" it's "Bigfoot is real. And he is a nasty perv keeping everyone up at night."

If I come up with some more ideas I'll share them.  Thought with what I have been thinking of lately you might not want me too!

I'll have to look to see what I have of this.  I seem to recall making a map of the town at one point.  It was on the water.

Though I think I am going to rename the town to be Valhalla, AK.  Kinda like calling a town "Hell" or "Purgatory".

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Vampires and Demons

Working on a bunch of projects, might have over extended myself.

To maximize my time and effort (and everyone's enjoyment) one of my projects will be posted here.

I am just unsure about which one.  So I'll throw out to you all.  What do you want to read about more? Vampires or Demons?

Let me know!

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Foundations of Geek: A Blog Challenge

Jason Vey over at the Wasted Lands has issued the following Blog Challenge,

The idea is a cool one honestly so I am going to participate.

My earliest memories are of horror movies.  Specifically Hammer Horror and the old Universal Monsters.
I could not have been much older than 4 and my first memories are of Dracula.  I used (and still do) love old Dracula movies.  From there things only got more interesting.
Some of my favorite TV shows growing up were Kolchak: The Night Stalker, the Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits.  Moving into the 80s it became Tales From the Crypt, Tales From the Darkside and Monsters.

At one point in time I could claim I had owned every movie that featured Dracula.

It should be no big surprise then that my games all had a horror bent to them.

My foray into pure fantasy lit was limited to be honest.  I read, and loved, Tolkien.  But that lead to the darker fantasy of Elric and the Eternal Champion and then into horror; specifically Lovecraft.  I never turned back.

I enjoy horror, I love all the tropes and the cliches to be honest.

The difference really between fantasy and horror for me is the power levels between the villain and heroes.  If the heroes have some expectation to survive (even if they don't) then that is fantasy.  If the heroes have no expectations to survive (even if they do) that can be horror.  I do like overlap though too.

I did and still do enjoy Sci-Fi.  More in the 70s and 80s than today I think.  I grew up on Star Trek and Star Wars and for the longest time The Next Generation was my favorite show.  My biggest sci-fi love though then as now is Doctor Who.

Doctor Who has been great for me since it includes so many genres. I can get horror, sci-fi, adventure and fantasy all in one package.

Even today, I find myself going back to the well as it were.  I get to watch the old Hammer Films on DVD or Blu-Ray now and the extras are more than worth the price.

What are your Foundations?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

"The new witch is adorkable"

If you have not been watching the BAMF Girls Club on Comediva then you are missing out.

The premise is that Buffy, Hermione, Katniss, Michonne, Lisbeth and Bella are all sharing a house in a reality show ala the Real World.

Episode 7 features a familiar witch!

Episode 8 though might have the best line in series.

Lisbeth: "I'll give him a special tattoo, 'I am a sparkling douche-bag.'"

I think the actresses are great.  I have to do a double take any time I see "Hermione" in that Allstate comercial. ;) My boys love the show too.

I'd love to build a game around this idea.  Players take any character from any media and throw them all together in a house and make them try to get along.

Something like Cortex+ would be the serious choice, but I am thinking something more along the lines of QAGS or Macho Women With Guns.

What game system do you all think would work the best?

Anyway.  Watch it. It is funny as hell.

Review: Teratic Tome

The Teratic Tome

The Teratic Tome is an "old school" monster book for OSRIC or any old School "Advanced" version of the game.  What do you get?  Well a lot.  Let's start with some of the things that others have not all mentioned first. This book is 100% OGC.  So if you want to use one of these horrors in one of your products go right ahead. Just abide by the OGL.  There are a lot of reasons why you might want to use these monsters too.  They are some of the most original horrors I have seen outside of indie horror games.

The layout and feel is evocative of those "monster manuals" of old. It does quite a nice job of it too.  The art though is much better than what you would have seen circa 1980.  The art varies in style, but all of it is quite good.   Now is a good time to point out that the art and the monsters they depict are not for the faint of heart.  There is a lot of "body horror" here.  The grotesque mixed with the commonplace or even the erotic.  The feeling is more Clive Barker than H.P. Lovecraft and I think that was a great direction to go.

Truthfully I would have picked this up for the demons and dragons alone, but there are 120 pages worth monsters here. Even the halflings are evil little buggers in this tome.

If you like horror and new creatures, and your players can handle it, then this is a great monster book.
If you like horror and monster books in general, then this is great to have as well.

Plus who can argue with a $6.66 price tag?

Who should not get this?  I don't know really.  I mean I am not going to use any of these creatures in my games with my kids.  So that does lessen the utility for me, but I can still use some ideas. And that is just as good.

A lot of people like to call this the "LotFP Monster Manual" but that is not being fair to this book to be honest.  It really is more than that.

You can learn more about the book at the author's website:

Or you can pick up a hardbound copy at Lulu:
If you buy the PDF first then you get a discount on the hardcover.  Not a bad deal really.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bite Me! and Doppelganger

Friend of mine, Christina Stiles, has a new Kickstarter up.

Bite Me! The Gaming Guide to Lycanthropes

It looks like it could be quite fun and so close to funding.

Misfit Studios is a good operation. They have produced a number of fine products in the past and I expect this to be no different.

The other cool one nearing an end is the Tabletop Doppelganger.  This one has farther to go, but it would be awesome to see it made.

Go forth and pledge!

White Dwarf Wednesday #53

White Dwarf #52 comes to us from May 1984.  Our cover this time is an army of orcs ready for battle; a tie-in to the Warhammer scenario coming up and a D&D article about orcs.

Ian Livingstone discusses the growing pains of the hobby.  Sure it is nice that so many people are now interested in it, and it is too bad that so many people are now interested in it!  So the exclusivity is gone.
This is the time of "Red Box D&D" (see last page).  Was this something you noticed in your games?  Many reading came to the hobby before this time, what were your thoughts then?  I grew in a small town where I knew everyone my age that gamed.  Or mostly everyone.  There was a feel of "get off my lawn" to some of the newer gamers.  Which of course is funny because there was the generation of War Gamers that looked at us the same way.  This is reflected in Livingstone's editorial.  We are now seeing the first glances of a generational effect in the Edition Wars.  Livingstone though gives some sage advice then and it is still good now, it is up to us (the older player) to help the newer player along and teach them "the old ways".

Marcus Rowland is back with Part 2 of his introduction to RPGs.  Continuing where he left off on D&D he moves to other Fantasy games for beginners starting with RuneQuest. Rowland is obviously a fan, and RQ gets the lion's share of the article (but still less than D&D).  He follows up with other games such as Tunnels & Trolls, Chivalry & Sorcery, Warhammer and Men, Myth and Magic.  Though these only get a paragraph or two each.

In our new full color section we get Minas Tirith, the Battle of Pelennor Fields for Warhammer. It's a long one, described as a Mega-Scenario. If you are a Tolkien fan then this is cool. Honestly few battles are as iconic to the Tolkien/Rings saga as this one, save for the Battle of Five Armies.

Our color pages continue into Open Box.  Up first Richard Meadows reviews Game Workshop's Caverns of the Dead.  The first in a new line of dungeon aids.  It gets a 7/10 noting that it compares less favorable to D&D modules.   We also get the 6th and 7th Fighting Fantasy books from Ian Livingstone, Deathtrap Dungeon and Island of the Lizard King. Both get an 8/10 from Marcus Rowland. Andy Slack gives us more Traveller material in the form of Book 6: Scouts. It gets an 7/10 overall, but the component ratings are all 8s and 10s with only one 7.  Not sure why it was rounded down like that.

Thurd the Barbarian is in more trouble. It looks like his biggest problem was that he was drawn by Rob Liefeld. Ok, in this context it is supposed to be funny.

We get a short (one page) Gothic tale from Chris Eliot and Richard Edwards.

Lew Pulsipher brings back Lew's Views. This time it is about demons, devils and pacts.  Something that would work well with the new lot of demon summoning and binding spells that seemed to be popular at this time (Module S4, Unearthed Arcana).  Still useful today in any game to be honest.  Don't like demons? Or you game has robots instead?  No big, the rules are really more "programmed" of any sort of guardian creature. So it could be a robot, a sphinx, a ghost, a curse or a golem.  Whatever you need.

Next up is The Naked Orc.  A new look at Orcs in D&D.  I think I have read this one before cause my own write-up of orcs is similar.  It's a good read and have some very interesting ideas.

Crash Course is our Car Wars column written by the American Steve Jackson.
Part 2 of the Castle of Lost Souls is next.  Not as long as last months.

More fawning over the changes in letters.
Starbase has some Traveller NPCs.
RuneRites has some spells based on celtic Druid myth.  These are pretty interesting to be honest.  Of course I look to them for conversion for D&D.

Tabletop Heroes has some more minis, but they don't take advantage of the color pages this time.  More is the pity to be honest.

Fiend Factory has some creatures and mini-scenario. The creatures are good for the scenario and maybe some eerie woodland area.
Treasure Chest has an odd collection of random treasures.

The News section under goes another makeover.  This time looking like a Bulletin board; a real one with tacks, not a virtual one.  Of interest is the upcoming "Dragonlance" which is listed as an RPG in the same breath that Marvel is listed as an RPG.  Was there a plan back then to have Dragonlance be a self contained game?

Color pages are next again and they are saved for the ads.  We have a few pages of those and then end with a full color ad for the new Red Box D&D Basic game.

For lack of a better word this issue feels like a "reboot" of the magazine.  No surprise that now it is available in a wider market they want to make sure it is accessible to all sorts of people.  There are still some interesting things going on, but not the same sort of things that were being printed prior to 83.  Still though, quite a fun read just nothing (other than the orcs) that jumped out at me.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Original D&D Premium Edition

Well it was going to happen sooner or later, but Wizards of the Coast will be releasing a Premium Edition of the Original D&D.  But it's not just a reprint.

Volume 1: Men & Magic
Volume 2: Monsters & Treasure
Volume 3: Underworld & Wilderness Adventures
Supplement I: Greyhawk
Supplement II: Blackmoor
Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry
Supplement IV: Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes

Comes in a wood-grain or faux-wood-grain box with dice.
New cover art, but all the original art inside.

Price?  $150.00.  Honestly, that is not a bad deal.  This is a collector's piece and I am sure some will balk at that price I think it sounds about right to be honest.
I have been wanting to play some Original D&D again.  Haven't since 1987 so this might be my excuse.

Supernatural & Smallville

One of the BEST games I have ever played at Gen Con was a Supernatural/Buffy/Charmed mash up.  Characters were characters from the various shows and the system was the Buffy Unisystem game.  There was another version of it that was run the night before using the Supernatural version of Cortex.

It was a lot of fun.

So it is kinda sad to note that Margaret Weis Productions is closing shop on two of their popular game lines, Supernatural & Smallville.

It's not a surprise really, licenses like this come and go all the time.  But you only have to the end of this month to get books from either system.

I spent a lot of time with Cortex over the last few years.  You can follow those insights (and baseless opinions) here,

Supernatural is closer to the original cortex rules and more similar to Unisystem.  So close in fact it is pretty easy to use ideas from one game in the other. Willow and Tara (and Vampire Tara) converted rather nicely I thought.

Smallville is the first of the "Cortex Plus" games.  The conversions here are more concept based than actually crunching numbers.

In both cases these are fun games and if you haven't picked them up this is your last chance.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Family Game Night

Not playing a game tonight, fighting off a migraine at the moment.

But I was curious  about how many of you out there on this cold Sunday (in Chicago at least) are spending your time.  Or more to point, how many of you all have a family game night?
If you do what do you play?

Around here the old Dungeon! board game is a fave.  But we also play a lot of Scrabble and Monopoly.
I have gotten my wife into a few games of D&D before, but it's really not her thing.
I never gotten her to play Ghosts of Albion despite all the time I spent on it. ;)

Speaking of family games.  Just decided that we are not going to Gen Con this year.  Might go to Gary Con, but don't really know yet.  I am hoping some con opens up locally that I can take my boys to.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Zatannurday: Happy Valentine's Day

Some pics of Zatanna and her loves this Valentines Day.

Here is one from the Young Justice comic. Too bad the series is getting canceled.

With Blue Devil.

With Bats.

John and Zee.  The longest relationship she has had.  Though not always the healthiest (for either).

But not all is drama in Zee's love life.  She is also willing to help others.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 15, 2013

It's Not An Olympic Medal, But I'll Take it!

I was on DriveThruRPG today to get a copy of my Witch book sent out to my brother when I noticed something really cool.

The Witch is a Copper Best Seller!

Not sure what the sales threshold is for that, but I'll take it!

Ghosts of Albion is doing well too.

It's not gold or platinum, but I am not complaining.
I am still pleased that there are people out there that like my stuff and are willing to buy it!

April Blogging A to Z

Good Morning!
We are half-way through February now and I wanted to talk to all bloggers in our little corner of the internet about April.

The April A to Z challenge is coming up and I would like to encourage you all to join.
But join with a purpose.  Last year I did a review of RPG games A to Z in an attempt to attract more people to our hobby.  This year I am working on a new idea for a monster book.  So all my posts will eventually be put together and published.  Either for free or for sale depending on the amount of art I have to buy for it.

Presently there are over 700 participants and it is expected there could be as many as four times that amount by April 1.  This is a great way to get exposure to you, your blog and our hobby.

The sign-up page is here:

I am joining a team of ambassadors to help others with the challenge and basically be a cheerleader.
I also want to be your, or more accurately, OUR cheerleader and ambassador too.  I think we have a fantastic hobby here and one that should be shared.  Between the free games and the material offered by all of us on our blogs there are thousands of nights and weekends that people could fill for the price of dice.  Since I am not a high school kid anymore playing in friend's basement,  I focus more on "family game nights", but what ever your group looks like we can pass that on to others.

So please. Consider joining up and share with this this very eclectic group of people our love for this little hobby of ours.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Vampire Blog Hop

Little bit of history here.  Long before I was known as "The witch guy" I was "the Vampire guy".
So it is with a sense of homecoming that I participate in the Precious Monsters Vampire Bloghop.

I still tend to write a lot about vampires here.

My earliest memory of watching a movie had to be Bella Lugosi and Christopher Lee as Dracula.  I can clearly recall being no more than 3 or 4 and thinking anything with red eyes was a "dracula".  This extended as I got older (5) when the Count became my favorite character on Sesame Street.  I am pretty sure I have seen every film adaptation of Dracula there is and I have read the original book a dozen times.

So yeah. I like Vampires.  What made me "stop" liking them?  Vampire: The Masquerade.
Well, that is not fair.  It wasn't the game itself, it was the over exposure of the game and I'll admit, some of the players.  But I have gotten over that.  In fact I really enjoy the 20th Anniversary edition and the translation guide  The truth is that Vampire really changed a lot things in gaming. In recent years I have come back to Vampire (and to vampires in general) and find I am enjoying it so much more.
So let's have a look at some the Vampire games I have enjoyed the most over the years.  This is not all of them, but it is a nice sample of new and old.

Vampire: The Masquerade - Revised Edition
This is it, the original. Well, not the original, original, but the revised version. This game is the go to game for playing an angsty, tortured monster.  Nearly everything known about vampires in myth or fiction is in here somewhere.  Re-reading it today if you had no knowledge of this game you might be tempted to say that this game is full of cliches. But in truth this is the origin of a lot of things that we take for granted.
Truthfully this is a great book to get even if you never plan to play the game.  There are plenty of ideas for Role-playing as well as integrating it with LARPing. There is also a lot of ideas for vampires here.
If you like Anne Rice's vampires, then this is the game for you.
Play if you like: Anne Rice

Victorian Age Vampire
The Victorian Age is best time for vampires in my mind. This the age of Dracula, of Varney the Vampire and tons of great Gothic Literature.  Also it is a time of science vs. religion, the city vs. the rural, the traditional vs. the modern.  This is a perfect mix for a Vampire game. The Vampire game mechanics are well served by this mix; the human vs. monster. In many respects this game is actually superior to it's parent game V:tM.
All the same vampire clans from The Masquerade are here, but changed.  Not as much as the Dark Ages version, but the alterations fit the times well. The vampires here seem to be so much more than their modern counterparts.
Play if you like: Dracula or Varney the Vampire

Vampire: The Requiem
A while back White Wolf rebooted everything.  They redid all their game lines, edited the rules and gave us a new World of Darkness.  On the plus side Vampire the Requiem has much more cleaned up rules.  They were similar to the old rules, but just better in most respects.  The meta-rules or how the vampires are played though felt worse. Not worse really, but off to me.
Basically you can play the same kind of game you did in V:tM, though if you had a favorite clan in the old game it might not be here, or be changed in subtle ways. Still though this is a great game with less overhead than old World of Darkness. If you are choosing between this game and Vampire: The Masquerade then this might be the easier choice, even if it is less "classic" choice.
Play if you like: Modern supernatural

Vampire Translation Guide
So say you like both Vampire games, or you prefer one but like elements from the other.  Well White Wolf came up with this great guide that lets you translate between the two games. At least in a mechanical way you can translate clans from one to the other. I like this product on concept alone. While this book is not the Rosetta Stone between the games, it is a good translation guide. If you are fan of one of the game then this book gives you the chance to double your stuff. For fans of both games this is a good way to open up your world of darkness a bit more. It is lacking on some crunch, but I think I can be OK with that.
I also like this product for what it means. White Wolf is basically saying something new now, the world is yours do with it as you please. No more meta-plot no more rigid distinctions that always come in 5's.
I like the converted characters, but would have also liked to have seen the same character in both systems.

Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition
The 20th Anniversary Edition combines the best of the best of the old Vampire the Masquerade game and strives for completion.  All the clans, all the powers and most of the iconic characters. It is more expensive that any of the other White Wolf Vampire games, but it is also the largest and everything you need for years of playing is right here.  Or more the point, everything from years of playing is right here.  It is easy to pick this up and feel like it is 1990 again.
I think this book is really aimed more at people that played V:TM back in the day and now have a desire to go back to those nights where monsters roamed the city.  There is a lot here for new players though too.  If you have never played a Vampire game then this has everything you need.

Chill Vampires
I have gone on about this book before.  Chill Vampires is the standard to which all vampire related supplements to a horror game must be measured. Any game can produce a bunch of stats, some bad fiction and link them together, Chill: Vampires is a Master's Thesis on combating the undead. Not just notes for the would be vampire slayer (and game masters) but also detailed accounts of the most brazen of the undead. Complete with stats, history, motivations and the notes of previous investigators and SAVE agents.
This book is fantastic for any game but essential for a good Chill game. I would recommend it on the basis of the Dracula and Bathory write-ups alone, but there are more and even stranger and deadlier vampires in these pages.
Play if you like: Supernatural or The Night Stalker

James Mishler is an old name if you been doing this for a while.
He has a personal blog and his game company blog.  He also has a really awesome vampire book that I won a few weeks back.

Vampires of the Olden Lands
The Olden Lands is James' in house campaign the Chronicles of Mhoriedh.  All the books in this series are dual stated with Labyrinth Lord and Castles & Crusades stats.  This appeals to me on a number of levels.  I like that he went through the effort to do this and the nice effect is that between these two sets of stats you can play this under any old school version of D&D you like.   There is also plenty in this book that work with any other game as well.
We start out with some common protections against vampires.  We follow with 8 very different sorts of vampires including living, dead and spirit.  All dual stated.  There is a new race to play, The Dhamphir.  I have seen a lot of "Dhampirs" over the years, but this one is one of the best so far just in terms of simplicity.
All in all a really nice take and these vampires are not like the Dracula-Lestat-Edward clones that can populate so many other games.

Fang & Fury: A Guidebook to Vampires
This is an older book for 3.0 (not 3.5) D&D but there is still a lot of great things here.  This is certainly written from the D&D-fantasy world vampire; so feeding off of dragons and the like, what happens to certain  classes.  There are feats, prestige classes, monsters and gods. There are plenty of spells, magic items, weapons and artifacts.  There is really a lot of good stuff here and if you have vampires in your game then you need this.  If you have any vampire big-bads in your game then this is also a great buy.  Some of the material needs to be updated to 3.5 or Pathfinder, but nothing that is a show stopper that I could see.

Out for Blood

If there was anything you ever wanted to know about vampires or those that hunt them then this is your book. In the 200+ pages there are 18 new prestige classes, new uses for skills, feats, and of course tons of vampires. There are a handful of new spells and campaign ideas for using or hunting vampires in your game.
What I liked best about this book though was the Fist of Light Prestige Class. It was exactly what I was looking for in one of my games and I was happy to see someone else had done all the work for me.
The layout is very clean and clear and easy enough to read onscreen. The art varies, but most it is rather good.

There are a lot more including all the Ravenloft stuff.

And an honorable mention, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Roleplaying Game.  Someone has to kill all those vamps. Or date them. Whatever.

EDITED TO ADD: Forgot my own Vampire Basic Class

Want to know about Vampires?  Check out all the other members of this blog hop!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

White Dwarf Wednesday #52

White Dwarf #52 is a big issue. Not just in terms of size; it's now 56 pages, or price; it's now 85p, but there are color pages now inside.  Not all are full color, but we are getting there.

Let's start with the cover.  Pretty cool stuff, alien spaceship lands in front of a couple of barbarians. That's everything you need to know about gaming in April of 1984.
We start out with more ads with the editorial starting on page 11.
Ian Livingstone talks about the new changes, welcoming old and new readers. He discusses one of the new features, The Name of the Game, and some of the regular content.

The aforementioned Name of the The Game is a Beginner's Guide to Role-Playing Games by Marcus Rowland.  There are the basic basics. These are dice, this is what you do.  Then he covers "The Big One" D&D.  Reading him cover how AC works though makes me wonder why we didn't see the 3e way of doing things sooner.  This article also features one on the new, nifty full color pages. Looking forward to future installments of this one.

Speaking of 3e an predecessor of the Clerical Domain spells appears next.  Out of the Blue covers specific spell lists for various types of gods.  It is Clerical Domains is all but name really.

Open Box gets the full color treatment too.  Good place of it really.  Reviewed this issue are Talisman (a game I always wanted to try out) and Battlecars, both by Games Workshop.  Alan E. Paull only gives Talisman a 6/10  noting that it would be better if it were shorter. Ian Waddelow gives Battle Cars an 8/10.
Dragon Riders of Pern from Mayfair  gets a dismal 4/10 (Enjoyment 2/10!) from Nic Grecas siting rotten art work, unclear rules and complex and unwieldy game mechanics.  Ian Waddelow is back with the Lost Worlds books from Nova Games.  He gives them 6/10.  I liked the idea of a character book with all the rules you needed to play.  I later adopted the idea after getting 1 (and only 1) Lost Worlds book and realizing I couldn't play it but really liking the concept.

Machines and Magic is the subject of this issue's Critical Mass.  One book covered is Vonda McIntyre's Superluminal.  I read this book about this time and I enjoyed it, but it left me feeling like there should have been more.  The article also mentions something I was certainly feeling in 1984.  The Xanth joke had gone on long enough.

Thurd is up next with the beginning of a cycle of adventures.

Fiend Factory has some low level monsters for D&D.  The Spider Dragon looks neat, the rest I am not thrilled about.  FF seems to have lost some of it's spark if you ask me.

Microview gets expanded.  Now it also reviews software ala Open Box and still has some BASIC code for you to enter.  Software is rated on terms of Graphics, Instructions, Long-Term Interest, Playabilty, and Value for money.

Andy Slack discusses living forever in Traveller.  So make your own 40K Emperor now.  The long article also includes some methods of staying alive beyond your years and some associated scenarios.

Castle of Lost Souls is the first part of a Choose Your Adventure.  You have a basic character sheet and plenty of scripted options. You just need a single d6.   There are 104 entries, not sure how many combinations.

Liz Fletcher gives us The Serpent's Venom for 1st to 3rd level AD&D characters. Three pages and some better than average art work.

Letters covers some the style changes of WD, with most happy with the changes.  In a nice touch that would have amused me then as much as it does now, the letter image has a Dalek stamp.

RuneRites covers Magic Rings. Most are adaptable back to D&D.

Travellers is next.  I wasn't into it then, can't get into it now I am afraid. I hate to say it, but when it comes to comics Dragon was the superior magazine here.

Treasure Chest has a bunch of random magic items. The amusing one is "Troll Dust" which is basically an instant troll, just add water.

The News section is now  "The Midgardian". Of interest is coverage of Mayfair releasing the Role-Aids line.

Tabletop Heroes covers fighter figures. Some nice full color images to go with it.  Certainly a shade of things to come.

We follow with a number of ads and classifieds.

This was a big issue.  8 more pages and full color ones at that.  I felt there were some more ads (maybe four pages) and four pages of new content, but I have not counted to be sure.  I never owned this issue back in the day.  It was one of the ones I picked up much later. Again also at this time my purchase of White Dwarf was waning in favor of Dragon.  I also hate to admit it, but I am kinda on a "death watch" now.  How much longer with Livingstone stay on as editor? When do the comics disappear? What happens to Fiend Factory? When is the last of the D&D, RuneQuest and Traveller content? These will be answered soon I feel.

More Mykal Lakim

So there is more going on in the saga of Mykal Lakim.  I am probably giving this guy more attention than he deserves to be honest.  I am also aware that by doing so I going to inevitably send someone to his site that sees his stuff and buys it.  If so then I just ask that you come back here to let me know what you honestly think of it.  If you hate, tell me why, if you love it, also tell me why.

Wil Hutton over at Aggregate Cognizance has also been following this drama and has a number of posts on it.

There is also this thread over at White Wolf talking about it.

The new claim (new to me) is that Lakim is now saying that White Wolf ripped him off.
No. Really.

Wil Hutton has also been doing some digging into his posts over at Wikipedia.
In particular all the pages he created for his own games and their near immediate deletion.  That's not the issue really, RPGs get deleted all the time from Wikipedia.  It's the drama he brings after the fact. (love the "P.S. White Wolf blows),_Inc.

And this rant on users' pages:, i love how all his "fans" will be boycotting Wikipedia.

Why bring all this up?
Well obviously this guy has some stones on him if he thinks he an stand up to White Wolf or that Wikipedia cares about his temper-tantrum.

I think the only reason that WW has not sued the guy is because he is too small for them to have noticed yet.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

New Book: Darwin's Guide to Creatures, Mythical and Mundane

My current big project is "Darwin's Guide to Creatures, Mythical and Mundane" a creature book for the Gaslight RPG (OGL and Savage Worlds)

I got on this since it covers many of my interests well.  I love old bestiaries, the Victorian age and my interest in Darwin himself.

I thought that since today was Darwin Day, Id spend some time talking about this book.

For starters it is a monster manual.  Creatures mythical and mundane to pit against your Gaslight characters.
It is circa 1888 and we are at the height of the Late Victorian Empire.

The book is written as a naturalist guide, similar in some respects to Darwin's work on the Galapagos Islands in his study of finches.  I tried to put myself into Darwin's shoes and write about orcs and trolls as if he had seen them himself.  Not an easy task.  I also tried whenever possible to avoid any supernatural agencies.  That was particularly difficult.   I rather like what I did about elementals, but less so about undead and will have to edit them a bit.

To prep for this book I reread Darwin's greatest work, "On the Origin of Species".  If you have never read this, then please do.  It is a masterwork and so ahead of it's time.  This man, through careful and painstaking observation put together this theory of common descent and change of species over time.  I know from reading his autobiography that this was not an idea he took lightly.  He knew that this would not sit well with the clergy and especially his religious wife.  But he also knew it had to be done.

Reading his autobiography got me to one of the key conceits of the book.  The book is "published" in 1885 or thereabouts.  Darwin was of course dead by that time.  It is edited from years worth of notes by his son William Erasmus and his daughter Etty.

I wanted to stay true to the spirit of Darwin, if not the letter, but I also wanted to stay true to the game system and world.  Gaslight is a world where Dracula preys on maidens in their bedchambers while Sherlock Holmes peruses Jack the Ripper and Mr. Hyde in the streets of White Chapel.

This is also giving me a chance to stat up some monsters that I have not had the chance to try out yet.  In particular some dinosaurs.

Looking forward to getting this one out there too!

Cross posting this to The Freedom of Nonbelief.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Unearthed Arcana

Was going to play some 1st Ed AD&D yesterday.  Didn't quite get around to it, but I did get to my FLGS and pick up a copy of the new limited reprint of Unearthed Arcana.

As with the first reprints, these are very similar.  Though these new ones are supposed to include all the errata.  I have not looked closely enough to be able to tell.

The only main difference outside of the covers and errata is the copyright page.

It fits in well with my other reprints.
Unlike the PHB, DMG and MM there isn't a page for the Gygax memorial.  I don't think and have not heard if any money from this is being donated.

In any case this is a nice book to have.  Unlike others of the old school mindset I don't hate UA. In fact I rather liked it. I loved all the new spells and class options.  The cover is not quite as iconic as the others, but it looks fine here.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Useful Links

Good morning all.  Lazy Sunday here at the Other Side today.

Might get some 1st Ed AD&D today.  Might not.  No idea yet.

But here are some links for you to enjoy.

First is AnyDice.
I have seen this on a few blog posts.  But you can use it to figure out any dice distribution.
Here are the AnyDice calcs for my own "Chicago Way" of running Unisystem games.
As a stats geek (actually former stats professor) I like this site and can appreciate the work that went to it.
I you can, take the time to send them a dollar or two.

Another is Pulp-O-Mizer.
This comes to me courtesy of Rebecca's Dystopia.
Create your own Pulp magazine cover.  I saw this and immediately thought of Call of Cthulhu and Amazing Adventures.
In my mind adventures for pulp games should look like pulp magazines.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Natural History of Dragons

Just saw this over at one of my favorite blogs All Things Urban Fantasy.

A Natural History of Dragons. With some kick ass art by Todd Lockwood and written by Marie Brennan.

I need to get this for my son!

I have been following the books of Marie Brennan for a bit.  I have some, but have not read them yet.
I am looking forward to this.

And they are also giving away 3 copies.

Zatannurday: World's Finest

This image is floating around the various game blogs this week.
It comes from Kyle Latino and it is pretty cool.

All my favorite DC characters playing a game of D&D.  And to further make this more about me (!!) I also worked at Pizza Hut in college.  The Mt. Dews are a nice touch.

Kyle has a lot of cool stuff on his Deviant Art page and his own webcomic.

So what characters do you think everyone is playing?
I'd like to think Zee would try out something like a Barbarian like Dresden did when he played "D&D" in the books.  Batgirl plays the cleric, Black Canary plays the Wizard (to irritate Zee) and Hawkgirl plays the thief, but she is not enjoying it as much as she might like.

He also a cute retro Zatanna.

Zatanna by ~kylelatino on deviantART

Stop by his DeviantArt page and comic and have a look!

Friday, February 8, 2013


Why didn't you people tell me about this?

Staring Angelina Jolie, produced by Disney (they own everything we just need to get used to it) and written by Paul Dini???

I swear it's like I don't know any of you anymore. Or you all me.

EDITED: Adding another image.

"Fate"ful Friday

One system that I have been wanting to do more with is Fate.

I didn't pledge on the recent Fate Kickstarter mostly because it slipped my mind and I am not actively playing Fate right now.  My loss really.

This week I discovered two very EXCELLENT reasons for me to start looking into Fate more.

First are the Thematic Fate Dice.

Honestly these things are awesome looking and that Pentagram and Rose die would be perfect for a WitchCraft game even if I never used it for Fate. If you like Fate or Fudge, then there is certainly something there for you.

The other is part of the Fate Core Kickstarter that I am kicking myself for not paying better attention to is a campaign setting, "White Picket Witches".  If you know anything at all about me then honestly it is like this game was custom made for me.  Modern horror with a slight Cinematic bent featuring an unique location with families of witches?  How can I possibly say no?

Here are some sites that I have been able to find that talk a bit about it.
Fate of the Drowning Woods blog is running playtests/demos, and it sounds very interesting.
This lead me to

From here I was able to find the author, Filamena Young and the company she works for, Machine Age Productions.  I was able to talk with Filamena for a bit and she sent me a prelim draft of WPW.
Yeah. It is something I would play in a heartbeat.

I am not 100% clear on all the Fate rules yet.  But this setting of five families on "Moon Island" grabs my attention.  I have waxed on (and on and on) about WitchCraft and Witch Girls Adventures, this is of the same ilk, though it covers completely new ground.  The name is appropriate.  In WitchCraft the world is your stage, in Witch Girls you are at a school.  Here the campaign is your backyard, your office, your school, or neighbor's house.

There is a solid "TV" feel to this and frankly this could easily be a "teen drama" on the CW or a more adult one on ABC, or a lot more adult one on HBO/Showtime.  If this gives you ideas for things you could do, then this could be your new game.

I love the ideas in this game. Even if I never play it in Fate (which I do think would be a crime if I didn't) I would love to try it in WitchCraft, Witch Girls or even Ghosts of Albion.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Review: ACKS Player's Companion

So the long awaited Adventurer Conqueror King System Player's Companion is now out in PDF.  I don't know know if it is out in stores yet at all or if people that supported it on Kickstarter have their physical  copies, but it is up on DriveThruRPG.

I have talked about ACKS in the past:

Those are the main ones, but I have been talking about it for a bit.

Now full disclosure time.  I did provide some support for the witch class.  I was able to look at an early copy of the witch and provide some feedback since it had been based on some work I had done for d20.  I shared a copy of my spells research notes and some material that would be part of my own Witch Book.
Neither group was looking for cross-compatibility except int he broadest terms.  We did though develop from similar source materials and there is a bit of cohesion between the two classes.  To be clear though, I didn't actually write anything for this.  The authors had their ideas in a pretty solid form when they talked to me.

That being said let me proceed.  ACKS Player's Companion reads like an "Unearthed Arcana" or even a Player's Handbook 2 for the ACKS set.  In many ways it is very similar to the Complete B/X Adventurer.
There are a number of authors that were brought to together to author the various sections.  Sometime you can tell, other times no.  This is not a big deal to me except for maybe there are some redundancies in various classes.

Chapter 2 covers all the new classes.  We get: Anti-Paladin, Barbarian, Dwarven Delver, Dwarven Fury, Dwarven Machinist, Elven Courtier, Elven Enchanter, Elven Ranger, Gnomish Trickster, Mystic, Nobiran Wonderworker, Paladin, Priestess, Shaman, Thrassian Gladiator, Venturer, Warlock, Witch, and Zaharan Ruinguard.  Not a bad list at all.  That takes up about 44 pages of the book's 160.
The classes vary a bit.  I liked most of them to be honest. The new feature of ACK:PC are the templates (Chapter 3), so all the new classes also have these templates.  They define starting proficiencies and equipment.

At first I expected to hate the new racial classes but they provide a nice bit of background that goes beyond just crunch and fluff.  In particular the Elven Enchanter and Elven Ranger add something interesting to the game.  Sure, you could do this in AD&D in 1978, but here it has a bit of different feel.  In fact I reminded of the old Dragon article back in the mid  80s about the Elven Cavalier.  Sure it was something you could do on your own, but the article and this book give you something a bit more.  The Gnomish Trickster could be reskinned if you are like me and miss the Halflings.  The Mystic is a suitable Monk replacement in the vein of the old D&D Rules Cyclopedia.   There are few ACKS unique race-classes too.  We also get a Priestess, Warlock and Witch.  Those I'll deal with later.

Chapter 3 introduces Templates.  These are part roleplaying tips and part mechanical. If you remember the old 2nd Ed Kits these remind me of those, or the Backgrounds in newer games.  Several are presented for all classes, new and old.  Each character gets Proficiencies and Starting Equipment.  It's a really fun idea.

Chapter 4 is an interesting one.  It is a custom class creation tool.  I have not seen how it compares with similar systems I have seen on the net or in Dragon.  I know that the classes in this book were "Verified" with it, so it at least has ACKS internal consistency.

Chapter 5 is Spells.  There is a section on magic experimentation and mishaps.  Really fun stuff to be honest. Also a section on creating new spells. This is from the same school of thought on the Class Creation.  in theory you should be able to check on any spell in the book and get the same numbers.
This followed by the Spell lists.  Spells are listed by type and level  then the descriptions are alphabetical by name. There is about 38 pages of spells here.

Chapter 6 covers Supplemental Rules.  Things like Aging and various equipment.
There is a hyperlinked index and two more for spells and powers.

Utility for other Old School Games
Well the classes can be ported over outright for the most part.  The Proficiencies and Templates are a nice addition to any game even if you ignore the mechanics and use them only as role-playing guides.
I am not sure if the Class Creation guidelines will work outside of ACKS or not.  My feeling is that they will with some tweaking.  Same with the Spells sections.  Chapter 6 should be fine for any game.

Witches, Warlocks & Priestesses
There are three (four if we throw in the shaman) classes that fit the witch archetype.  The Priestess is a female cleric dedicated to what we normally call Mystery Religions.  They honor a Goddess for example.  Now in other games this would just be another type of cleric, or a cleric with role-playing notes. To me it actually seems weaker than the regular cleric.   The Warlock is stereotypical "Evil" warlock and that works well here really. But the real utility for me is when you compare the Warlock to the Witch.
The Warlock is an arcane caster and the Witch is a divine one.  So depending on what sort of archetype you want to build you can choose a witch or a warlock.   This is a dichotomy that I have also used in the past and it works out well.  You can even rule in your games that witches and warlocks were once one class that split or two classes with similar methods or not even related at all.
Witches are most similar to my own.  Witches in ACKS:PC also have Traditions as I have talked about briefly before.  The Traditions here are Antiquarian (a classic witch), Chthonic (dedicated to dark gods), Sylvan (woodland and faerie) and Voudon (voodoo or even Shaman-like).  You can adapt these traditions to work with my book or my trads to work with ACKS.  I should post a conversion guide between the traditions sometime.
Spells of course a completely cross compatible.

The Book Itself
The layout is top notch and this is a good looking book.  It will be attractive as all heck in dead tree format, but the PDF is no lesser product.  The index is hyperlinked to pages and it is fully bookmarked.
The art is great and I especially enjoyed the "character" art of Chapter 2.  The art changes by Chapter 5 to some commercially available art, which is not a bad thing, but the style is different for the later half of the book.

Who Should Buy this Book?
For the first audience, players and game masters of ACKS, this is a no-brainer, you should get this.  There is enough here to make this purchase worthwhile even if you only use parts of it.
If you are a fan of B/X clones and top your games off at level 14 then this is also a good buy.  Also the class creation and spell creation engines are worth the price if you like to experiment with your games.
If you play other retro-clones or other versions of the Grand Old Game, then there are still some things here you will find useful.
At 10 bucks for the PDF this is a pretty good deal.