Sunday, May 31, 2015

Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: May Reviews

Here are the reviews for May for the Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge.

Lots of books this month!

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
One of my favorite of the Harry Potter books in what is arguably Harry's worst year ever.  This is the book that gives us the evil, awful Dolores Umbridge.  This book drips with so much teen agnst. It is also the book that when I first read it I realized the J.K. Rowling was no ordinary author and I moved her right into "Genius" territory.  She captures the feelings of these 15 year olds so perfect that she made it look like it was effortless on her part.  The magic went to wayside and the focus was on Good vs. Evil.   The scenes of the DADA courses vs. the Dumbledore's Army ones are pure genius.
We are also introduced to the character of Luna Lovegood.  Honestly I forget we only knew her in less than half the books, but she became such an integral part of not just the Harry Potter universe but also the tale themselves. Was this JKR's plan? Introduce a character so well loved (Luna) in the same novel as one so universally hated (Umbridge)?  I think so.
I will also add this.  This book improves with the second reading.
Witch Count: Hundreds

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Also another favorite.  I think this book has the most deviations from the movie.  I had forgotten about how much Harry had thought about Ginny in this one. They ended up together for the last month of the book as well.  I think this book is such an integral one because it is almost Shakespearean in tone.  Harry's best year ever at Hogwarts crashes down on him in the worst possible way.  He is treated more like an adult in this one too, only to have face all his issues as an adult.
Even though I know how the tale ends I still can't help but hating Snape in this.  I remember the first time I read it I was screaming at the book, shouting "I knew it! I knew Snape was a traitor."  It is the sign of a true craftswoman that JKR can still get such thoughts from me now.
Can't believe I only have one book left!
Witch Count: Hundreds

Weiser Field Guide to Witches, The: From Hexes to Hermione Granger, From Salem to the Land of Oz (Weiser Field Guides) by Judika Illes
A fun book that discusses all sorts of witches.  The mythical, the historical, the new age region to Harry Potter and Charmed.
Each section covers something a little different.  Say Witches in Literature (Harry and Hermione are here), Movies and TV (find the Charmed Ones here).  Even historical witches like Agrippa, Marie Laveau and Merlin (is he historical?).  Doesn't go in depth into any topic, but it says time and again that it can't. But it does cover a lot of topics.
Witch Count: Hundreds

Witch of Death by Chrys Fey
Great short story introducing Liberty "Libby" Sawyer, police detective and witch.  When murders with no means of explanation begin to happen it is up to Libby and her new partner Det. Reid Sanders to figure out who or what is causing them.
I will have some more from Libby and +Chrys Fey next month!
Witch Count: Two

Books read: 14
Current Level: Mother, Read 11 – 15 Witchy Books

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Zatannurday: Supergirl Pilot

It is quickly becoming "Supergirl Saturday" here at the Other Side! I can't help it I am quite excited about this new show.

I have seen the Supergirl pilot, as I am sure I was supposed to.  I am quite certain this was leaked to build up buzz.  Well I am adding to the buzz then!

Not linking the pilot, but it is out there if you care to look.  Also I am going to be as spoiler free as possible.

I guess the biggest issue to address up front is that is a pilot. There is a lot of back story to cover. Who is Kara/Supergirl? How is she related to Superman?  Why is she here? Who are the Danvers? Cat Grant? Is that Jimmy Olsen? Wait was that Hank Henshaw?

Ok. Not really a dumb questions even if you are familiar in Supergirl lore.  In fact the more familiar you are the more likely you are going to ask "Which Supergirl?"

Ok. So this is Kara Zor-El. She is Superman's cousin. She was sent to be his babysitter since he was an infant and she was a pre-teen  But her own escape from Kryptonhad issues and she ended up on Earth several years after Superman had already been here as an adult. Superman sets her up with the Danvers with wonderful cameos by Dean Cain (Superman from the "Lois and Clark" show) and Helen Slater (Supergirl from the 1984 movie). The scenes of Krypton are closer to the Richard Donner "Superman" film than the Zack Snyder "Man of Steel" one, though Kara's eventual outfit is closer to the Man of Steel one.

There are a lot of nice nods to Supergirl/Superman lore here too.  Supergirl saves an airplane her first time out. Superman welcomes Kara's spacepod when it lands and helps her out. Even more, but spoilers.

Melissa Benoist is fantastic in this role. She mixes a great blend of youthful exuberance, panic, ennui and naiveté and yet still excitement. Really she is spot on. Supergirl has always been about enjoying her powers and just being super. She does a great job of this.  I liked her in Glee and I love her in this.  The scenes where she is trying on various versions of her costume, well for the long time Supergirl fan that is a treat.  How many elements from the above picture can you spot?

Like Greg Berlanti's other series, The Flash, it is great to see a super that enjoys being super so much.

Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant will be FANTASTIC.  Let's not forget that there was a time when Calista Flockhart and her on screen persona Ally McBeal were on top of the world. Millions of people (not just female people) tuned in to watch her.  Well what if everything Ally McBeal wanted professionally went her way, but her personal life tanked?  We might get her version of Cat Grant.  If you know the comics Cat was always there to be adversarial to Clark and Lois.  This Cat Grant will be Kara's.  But this is not an adversary she can punch or zap with her heat vision.  I see some great tension and story telling coming from this.  If you didn't like the "Devil Wears Prada" bits of the trailer, never fear; that was pretty much all of them in pilot.

You know.  I want to repeat this because I really believe it.
Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant will be FANTASTIC.

One of the original ideas behind Supergirl was to give Jimmy Olsen a super girlfriend.  Well they kind of elude to that here, but Kara's awkwardness around him has less to do with love but more to do with handsome man that happened to win a Pulitzer prize because he knows her cousin.  I like how Jimmy, or rather now James, seems to be the only one not scared of Cat.  In fact I like it a lot.
This does bring up a good point.  In the Man of Steel movie "Jimmy" is a woman.  Here James is a black man.  So obviously not the same universe.

In Kara's other life with Hank Hensaw. Director of the DEO.  Yeah that is all I want to say about that really.  I expect something big with him by season's end.

Alex Danvers is new.  She doesn't come from the comics, not even from Supergirl's weird history.  Frankly I like the fact that a super hero has a sibling. Especially an older one.  In a lesser writer's hand I could see Alex getting killed off. I do not expect that here.

I am also thinking we are going to see more of the Danvers and young Kara and Alex.  Flashbacks seem to be the in thing.  But totally worth it to see Helen Slater and Dean Cain in this universe again.

The pilot was exciting and fun.  We watched it as a family and we are excited. We can't wait for it to start in the fall.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Friday Night Videos: Flashback 1982

Welcome back to Friday Night Videos!

Tonight I want to pay homage to the years that really got me going D&D wise.  1980, 1981 and 1982!

So this morning I was reading Arlee Bird's blog Tossing it Out.
Lee is the brains behind so many great blog challenges including the April A to Z challenge.

This morning he was talking about music and it's relationship to people.  For me though music has always been about the times it was in or what was going on when I heard it.  The cue for me to switch gears tonight and focus on 1982 was his use of the fantastic Alan Parson's Project, Eye in the Sky.  The meaning of the song of the same name is debated; is it about 1984, security cameras or something else.  For me this song will ALWAYS be about the module B3 Palace of the Silver Princess.  The "Eye in the Sky" in this case is the evil creature/god Arik and his ruby eye.  This song was on constant rotation the entire time I bought and first ran this adventure.

From the same album is a song my younger brother and I loved, "Psychobable". To me the song was more about horror and nightmares and that certainly had a huge effect on the style of game I ran even back then.  This was only compounded when I got my first copy of Chill.
This video is an odd one but I really like it.  The creator re-edited an old Orson Welles student film to go with the song.  For me it just fits.

Few albums are more "D&D" than Blue Öyster Cult's Fire of Unkown Origin and few songs more so than "Veteran of the Psychic Wars".  Let's look at the song's pedigree for a moment.  It was co-written by Micheal Moorcock, author of the Eternal Champion series. It is about the greatest, or at least the most popular of all the Eternal Champions Elric of Melniboné.   The song also appeared in the movie Heavy Metal.  On the releases I saw this was during the Taarna sequences.  The song is an ode to any D&D character ever. It is practically a Grognard anthem.  I would revisit the imagery myself during the years I was running my "Willow & Tara" game, Episode 5: Veteran of the Psychic Wars.

Last week I talked about how much Stevie Nicks influenced, well, pretty much everything I have ever written.  "Leather and Lace" was another song from Bella Donna that I loved.  This one I also connect to B3.  In particular the love story of the Princess and the White Drake.  In the original version of the adventure (written by Jean Welles) he was the bad guy.  In the revised version (by Tom Moldvay, the hero of 1981!) they became lovers instead.  I have to admit I like his version better than hers.

In the opposite direction of the sentiment of Leather and Lace we have Greg Kihn, whom I always associate with the start of the "video age".  "The Breakup Song" was from Kihn's album Rockihnroll.  The truth is, just like the song says, they just don't write 'em like that anymore.

This is one is kind of a cheat. I loved this song back in the day, but never associated it with gaming till much, much later.  Donnie Iris' "Ah! Leah!" from Back on the Streets.  Though it was out in 1980 I am sure I never heard it till 81.  Like Veteran of the Psychic Wars this song became part of the "soundtrack" of music I listened to when working on the Buffy RPG and then later Ghosts of Albion.  "Leah" was immortalized in my game universe as the name of the woman that married Tara's brother Donny in "Strange Sort of Homecoming" (which itself is named for a Sting song).

"Let me be the one to say when I've had enough..."

Sum songs capture an age perfectly.  Others only capture the feeling, and in retrospect are perfect.  Santana's "Hold On" is that sort of song.  It's too Latin sounding to be really part of the early 80s. But yet here we are and this song is perfect at describing the time.  The first track released from 1981's Shangó.

Got to concentrate, file away
Every last detail
Don't want to lose what's going down
I want to remember everything I'm feeling
Should time try fading or stealing something away.

What are your favorite memories from 1981 and 1982?

What Are You Good at GM's Challenge

A new GMs Challenge has been issued by the blog Barking Alien.  I figure I will join in.

What genres, settings, or games in general do you GM best? Which ones do you think you  totally rock? 

My Top Five:
1. Cinematic Unisystem
2. Dungeons & Dragons (circa 1980s is my best)
3. Horror games
4. Convention games. I have had many people tell me my Gen Con games rock.
5. Games for kids

Which games could you use to work on? That is, if your group wants to play one of these games, you yourself would probably recommend a different GM.

Tougher one. I am usually always the one in the GMs seat.

My Bottom Three:
1. World of Darkness
2. Anything historical, but not Victorian. (I do Victorian well).
3. anything Palladium

What elements of Gamemastering do you do best? What aspects do you nail more often than not?

My Top Five:
1. Engaging plots
2. memorable NPCs
3. Flexibility.  Years of teaching have taught me to stay light on my toes.
4. Fairness.
5. Fun.  Keep it fun.

Which elements are still a work in progress? Name some things that you don't do as well as you'd like.

My Bottom Three:
1. Newer D&D.  Don't quite have the rules mastery I would like.
2. Time management. Games tend to run over the time I have alotted and I never get as far as I would like.
3. Knowing when to shut up and let the players do their thing.  I get excited and want to gabber on, and on (and on).  I need to take more of the "Dave Arneson" style and let the players do the talking and work.

How about you?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

More Mail Call

I also got this.

It was a total spur of the moment thing, but I am so glad I got it. I have a lot of ideas for this one.
The PDF is nice, but this looks better on my game table.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Petty Gods in Print

I got my print copy of Petty Gods in the mail today.
It's a big book.

It's going to take me a while to go through it all.

Really proud to have been a part of this.

Witchcraft Documentaries

A few documentaries up on Youtube.

The Witches
This one is narrated by Leonard Nimoy.   There are some factual errors, but nothing major.

Salem Witch Trials
This one is from the History Channel.

This one covers some similar ground in terms of the Salem Witch trails.

Witchcraft and Magic

Professor Wrightson's Early Modern England: Politics, Religion, and Society under the Tudors and Stuarts (HIST 251) from Open Yale Courses.

Just a few I have had playing in the background while working on other things.

Edited to add:  This one was found by +Joseph Bloch.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

OSRIC House Rule

Here is something I have been playing around with.

When casting spells with a Somatic component (S) and a casting time of 5 segments or more the caster can use their dexterity surprise modifier to reduce the time it takes to cast the spell.

So 15, 0 segments
16, 1 less segment
17, 2 less segments
18, 2 less segments
19, 3 less segments


Research Mode: On

Nothing today readers.

I am heavy into research and writing mode right now.
Nothing I have ready for the public just yet.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Zatannurday: Happy Birthday Zee!

Wednesday, May 20th is the official birthday of Zatanna.
(it is also Zatanna creator's Gardner Fox's birthday!)

Since we celebrated Stevie Nicks' birthday last night, lets keep the celebration of magical ladies going with Zatanna today.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Friday Night Videos: Stevie Nicks

Welcome back to Friday Night Videos, where we wish a happy birthday to the White Witch herself, Stevie Nicks!

You don't have to know a lot about me to know that I LOVE Stevie Nicks.   Tuesday May 26 is her birthday and we are going to celebrate here this weekend.

Whether with Fleetwood Mac or on her own no single artist has ever influenced my writing more.  To this day if I am going to write something new about witches I put Stevie and let the words flow.

We first hear of Stevie Nicks in the 1975 self title Fleetwood Mac album. Stevie and then boyfriend Lindsey Buckingham had joined the band bringing Rhianon with them.  Stevie had heard the story of Rhianon from a book, and only later heard of the Welsh Goddess.  She would often introduce the song as "This is a song about an old Welsh witch..."

Stevie went on to record her first solo album.  The enchanting Bella Donna.  While many of us were already in love with her from Rumours and Tusk, this solidified her hold as the Queen of Rock.
"The Edge of Seventeen" came about because Stevie could not understand Tom Petty's wife's thick southern accent.   Either way it gave us one of the enduring Stevie Nicks images, the White Winged Dove.

Fleetwood Mac was at their height when 1982's Mirage was released.  The album had a number of hits but the most Stevie of all the songs was "Gypsy".  Mirage my have been the swan song of the Fleetwood Mac that was, but Stevie never rose higher.

Shortly after the Mirage tour came to an end Stevie threw herself right into the recording of what would become, in my humble opinion, her greatest album to date.  This is the album I had playing on cassette when I wrote the first draft of the witch class. This is the album I listened to on CD when I made my 2nd Ed. Netbook. And this is the album I listened to on MP3 when I wrote The Witch.
The Wild Heart is one of the best albums ever.  My memory of this album is I got it for my 13th birthday just as soon as it was out.

Featuring keyboards by none other than the Purple One himself, Prince, "Stand Back" is not very witchy, but I love it all the same.

"Nightbird" the song that launched a 100 characters. I wanted my witch character to be as awesome as this song and to look like Stevie. It was 1983, but it is still just as true today 32 years later.
This version from "Solid Gold" is still one of my favorites.  In an age when artists were just lip-syncing their own songs  Stevie was singing hers.  She is joined here by her longtime back up singer, best friend and sister-in-law Lori Nicks singing the parts that Stevie over-dubbed on the album.

Stevie has spent years trying to escape the image of the "Witchy Woman" only to embrace it full on in season 3 of "American Horror Story".  The finale for "Coven" was an episode featuring what can only be called a Stevie Nicks video.  The song and the episode was called "The Seven Wonders".  The album was Tango in the Night from 1987. The last Fleetwood Mac album I ever bought on tape.  Yeah. We used to buy tapes.

You can watch the American Horror Story: Coven version below.

There are so many more of course. But that is good for tonight.

Throwing my hat in

I have been pretty busy this week.  Have a few projects I HAVE to get off my plate.

So what do I do about it?  Simple.  I start writing a new campaign setting for White Star.

I am not ready to reveal what it is yet, I just only got started.  But here is what I can say:
- It is called "Children of the Stars"
- It is Earth-humanity based.
- It is very, very 70s in feel and ideas.

I am not replicating any of the rules from White Star and I am going to assume that you can use everything from the core rules and leave it flexible enough to use anything else. 

It is based on a few things I have posted here over the years and I think I have something new, different and fun.  Art is going to be the issue. I have not found any I really like.

I just hope I can get it done before the blush is off of White Star!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

PWWO: Wildstar Corvette + OSR SciFi Games

During my brief foray into scifi games in the 80s I had managed to create one thing, the FTL Lucifer.
The Lucifer was a Corvette class spaceship, small, light but deadly.  The historical Corvette was also a class of small war ships just larger than a Frigate. It had a small crew of officers (aka PCs) and enlisted personnel  (hirelings).  It is a perfect vehicle (pardon the pun) for a game.
A good friend of mine drew a picture of a ship for me and it was perfect. was perfect because it was what I used and was fond of the drawing.

I lost the drawing years ago, but I kept the Lucifer.
Over the years I expanded on it and wanted to use it in a Star Trek game that never got going.  It was the first in a line of ships all named after devils in various myths.  So there was the Baalzebul, the Fek'lhr and the Kosst Amojan.

Recently I discovered Wildstar Class Corvette/RPG Battle Maps by Wydraz.
It's not perfect, but it is really, really close.   These maps are largely system free, though there is a solid hint of both d20 and Star Trek influences.  That is fine by me.

Since I am unlikely to recover the original drawing of the FTL Lucifer, this is a good substitute.
But this only gives me the basics;

Length: 340'  (104 meters)
Beam: 230' (70 meters)
Height: 80' (25 meters)
Tonnage: 18,000 (16,300 metric tons)
Cargo Capacity: 2,000 tons (1,815 metric tons)

Main Batteries: 2 dual plasma cannons
Crew Cabins: 4 Officers Quarters, 20 double crew cabins
2 Shuttles, 10 Escape Pods.

Nice little ship.

But to use it a game I will need some stats.  Thankfully I have some games I can stat it up in.
Let's see how it Plays Well With Others.

White Star
+James Spahn
The FTL Lucifer
Corvette Class Warship

Movement 9
ATTACK Dual Laser Cannon x2 (4d6)
Range 14
MODIFICATIONS Faster-Than-Light Drive, Proton Missiles (optional)

Cost: 100,000 CR
Crew: 4 Officers, 40 enlisted max.

Starships & Spacemen
+Dan P
The FTL Lucifer
Corvette Class Warship (CC)

Crew complement: 44
Command Rank: Lt. Commander ("Corvette Captain")
Power Pile Base: 150 energy units (one-half pod)
Teleporter Capacity: 2 at a time
Beam Banks: 2
Ion Torpedoes: 1
Shuttle Ships: 2
Sick Bay Capacity: 6

Stars Without Number
+Kevin Crawford
The FTL Lucifer
Corvette Class Warship 

Cost: 6.1m
Speed: 1
Armor: 5
HP: 40
Crew Min/Max: 10/40
AC: 6
Power: 50
Free Mass: 20
Hardpoints: 5
Class: Corvette

Fittings: Advanced nav computer, Auto targeting system, Drive 6 upgrade, 10 life boats, ship bay.
Dual plasma cannons (2 hardpoints each), 4d6 each, Power 10
Torpedo launcher (1 hardpoint), 3d8, Power 10
Defenses:  Augmented Plating

Machinations of the Space Princess
+James Desborough and +Satine Phoenix
The FTL Lucifer
Corvette Class Warship

Crew: 40
Attack: +2
Scale: 6
Hit Points: 5HD (22 hp)
Armour: 1d4
Defence: 6
Speed: Moderate
Weapons: 2 dual plasma cannons, 1 torpedo launcher
Toughness Save: 7
Reflexes Save: 5
Power Save: 8

Customisations: Can't Land, 10 escape pods, medical bay, science suite, shields, shuttle bay.

I like how each game gives a slightly different view of this space ship.
So who is ready to board the Lucifer and do some exploring!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

No OSR at GenCon?

I spent my Sunday registering for games at Gen Con. It was fun, and frustrating, as normal.
I didn't get into all the games I wanted, but I got into enough and some of my alternates that I am happy.

But the whole time I am reading through the list I could not help but wonder.
Where are all the OSR games?

I saw a few, but by no means a lot.
I saw a few 4e games too and a lot of 3.x ones.

Look. I don't pretend we are anything more than a drop in a large bucket, but I did think we were a bit of a bigger drop than this.

Is it time for our own convention?  People dedicated to running these newer oldschool games?
Is anyone going to run anything at Gen Con not on the lists?

Guidebook to the Duchy of Valnwall

I know I have been going on and on (and on) about this one, but we are in the final hours now.

Guidebook to the Duchy of Valnwall

So much great stuff is going into this book and another 100 bucks would be great to get more authors.

Check it out, support or at the very least pass it on to others.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Petty Gods: Nox and Syla

In case you have not heard.  Petty Gods is now out.

(sold at cost for $22.47 USD through
Click Here

(sold at cost for $13.22 USD through
Click Here

PDF - without watermark!
(FREE through RPGNow)
Click Here

I have a couple of entries in this book, Nox the Petty Goddess of Twilight and the near dark and her chief servant Syla.
Here is a bit of history of this project from my point of view:

Of course is was my thrill to see the art from this book featuring my two characters.

The artist, Mona Dowie did a fantastic job with these.
I am particularly pleased because I think she captured both characters so well.

I love how Nox's hair sort of blows away and merges into the background.  I never pictured her as barefoot, but now that is the ONLY way I can see her.  Plus I love how she did her eyes.  Some how she managed to capture what I was thinking.   I love all the Fyre Fae around her too.

Syla is perfect.  I love the pointy shoes and the designs on her dress.  Those are the details I admire the most.

I am really, really thrilled this is the art next to my characters.  I could not have asked for better.

You can find Mona on the web on her Facebook page and her DeviantArt Page.
Her husband's site is here: Ramblings of a Great Khan

Excellent work.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Blood, Boobs, and Carnage! Blogfest: The Films of Hammer

Today I am participating in the "Blood, Boobs and Carnage" Blogfest hosted by Heather Gardner and Alex J. Cavanaugh.

A lot of gamers talk about their "Appendix N", a list of fantasy or pulp-era books (sometimes movies and TV shows) that influenced their games.

Not me.
My Appendix N is full of Hammer Films.

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.  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.

Every October I participate in the Horror Film  Marathon.  I have taken it upon myself to watch (and rewatch in many cases) all Hammer Dracula films.  They all fit today's theme of Blood, Boobs and Carnage.

I have not seen all of the Hammer films and a few I have not seen in maybe 20+ years but they have always had a profound effect on the games I write.   Ghosts of Albion in particular is overflowing with my love for Hammer, as are most of my adventures.   My vampires are not modern mopey emos.  They are blood thirsty killers in the suave exterior of Christopher Lee.

Even in Eldritch Witchery I have tried t tap into that same vibe of Hammer Horror.  Even though most of their moveis were made in the late 50s and 60's, there is something very 70's about them to me.  Maybe that is when I watched most of them (then and the early 80's).

Sex and horror were the bread and butter of Hammer films.   In fact one of the books that sits proudly with my game book collection is Hammer Glamour; a glossy coffee table book of all the women that appeared in the Hammer films.

Here are some of reviews of Hammer Films I have posted here.  IF I had had the time I would posted a body count.

Dracula (1958)
Dracula Prince of Darkness (1966)
Dracula has Risen From His Grave (1968)
Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)
The Vampire Lovers (1970)
Countess Dracula (1970/1971)
Lust for a Vampire (1971)
Twins of Evil (1971) and on Blu-Ray
Dracula AD 1972 (1972)
Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)
Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires (1974)
To the Devil a Daughter (1976)

That was the end of the "Classic" Hammer.
It "rose from the grave" more recently to give us some newer movies.  Less "Blood, Boobs, and Carnage" than before, but still solid horror.

Let Me In (2010)
The Woman in Black (2012) (Daniel Radcliffe blew me away in this!)

Even ones I have seen but not got around to reviewing, like the various Frankenstein movies or the Quatermass ones.

Check out the feature, Hammer for Dummies to learn more.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Zatannurday: Hello New DCTVU!

Last week we lost Constantine.

This week we got previews and extended previews of the newest DC Television Universe shows, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow.

Supergirl I showed you, but it is worth another look.

But the big excitement now is Legends of Tomorrow.

I have to admit. The 10-12 year old me is excited as all hell.  Firestorm, Atom, Hawkgirl, Canary?  All my favorite heroes.  It is just a Batgirl and Zatanna short of being perfect.

Plus we still have Arrow, The Flash and Gotham.

Great time to be a DC fan!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Friday Night Videos: Garbage Edition

Welcome back to Friday Night Videos and tonight we celebrate the best of what happens when Wisconsin and Scotland get together. Garbage!

Garbage is like the penultimate 90s band really.  And perfect for the games I was planning and playing at the time.

I have mentioned before that by the mid 90s I was really burned out on D&D and wanted something new.  That new ended up being various World of Darkness games like Vampire and Mage, but most of all WitchCraft.   I made more than one witch that looked like Shirley Manson.

"I'm Only Happy When Rains" is exactly the sort of song that I had in mind when I was playing then.  Alternative, hard, and a great lead singer. From their debut self titled album.

"Stupid Girl" showed that this band was no one hit wonder.

"#1 Crush" appeared on the Romeo + Juliet Soundrack, but that is not where I know it best.  It would go on to later be the theme music to the British witchcraft serial "HƎX". I still consider it a "witch" song.

Garbage 2.0 was another breakthrough album for the band. Getting them quite a bit of critical acclaim and giving them their high chart topping songs in the UK.

"Push It" adds more electronica than their previous outings.  The video has a nice homage to Village of the Damned.

"I Think I'm Paranoid" is pretty much the theme song for any Mage game I have ever played.

What is better than hearing your favorite band?  Hearing your favorite band cover a great song.
"Because the Night" has been covered and recovered by Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith (they wrote it), 10,000 Manics and Garbage with Screaming Females.  The song is a passionate ode not just to a love but to the night itself.  As a nyctophiliac myself, I can relate.

Next week I celebrate the White Witch herself.

Review: X-plorers

This really has been a lot of fun going through all of these OSR flavored Sci-Fi games (or are they Sci-fi flavored OSR games?) anyway. I am going back a bit to 2009 and X-plorers which comes to us from +David Bezio and  Brave Halfling Publishing.

X-plorers is somewhere in the middle of Starships & Spacemen and White Star. Both thematically and in terms of rules.  There is a more of an old school vibe of this one.  So to continue my analogies to the point of breaking, X-plorers is more Buck Rogers, the old serials and 50s sci-fi movies.

The book itself is 41 pages. This includes cover, title page, ogl page and a trademark license.  The trademark license is nice.  You can make content that is "X-Plorers Compatible" as long as you abide by the license.  Yes other games do this too.

Characters have class, hit points, and levels just like most OSR books.  The characters in X-Plorers though only have 4 attributes; Agility, Intelligence, Physique and Presence. They are still ranked 3-18. There are also four classes; Scientist, Soldier, Scouts and Technicians.  Personally I think some sort of Royalty or Ambassador class might have been a nice inclusion as well.
There are some multi-classing rules too which are nice to see.

Equipment is covered next.  The basic unit of commerce is the credit (cr).  It functions largely the same way the gold piece does.  Gear and weapons are covered, but also vehicles and robots.  Near the end we cover skills as well.

Chapter 3 covers running the game.  This includes saves, combat and skill checks.  All similar territory to other games.

Chapter 4 details Space. This covers ships, buying and outfitting with crew as well as combat.  Each phase of combat is discussed, so the gunner, engineer, pilot and so on.  This reminds me of some the of old school Naval ship battles.  Ship repair is also covered.

This is followed by a referee's section.  This covers creating a game and running one.  There is a small section on Aliens and Planets.
NPCs, Allies and Monsters are featured in the next section. I would have liked more, but again, these are easy to take from any fantasy game.

Chapter X is an adventure/background piece on Roswell.  There are even stats for the Greys, whic is really cool to be honest.
Chapter Y covers psionics and pyschic characters.  This is also pretty cool.

We end with some sheets for characters and ships.

X-plorers is a light game and designed to emulate the games of the 70s.  So in that respect it does the job well.  Some people will want more, but there is still a lot here.  Rule-wise it reminds me more of White Box Swords & Wizardry, in fact you could use S&W as the rules and the rest as add-on.

There is a free version with no art, X-plorers (no art)a Quick Start, a printable Players Guide, and Character Sheets.

Kickstart Your Weekend: The Dwarves of Demrel

The Dwarves of Demrel is an independent fantasy film and exactly the sort of thing that Kickstarter should be about.

From the site:  "In this steampunk fantasy adventure, a collapse imprisons three dwarven miners who must now work collectively to combat starvation, despair, and a mysterious creature."

Honestly I think it looks rather cool.

They have met their goal, but that could still use more funding for those stretch goals.

Check out their page on FB as well for more information.

Should be a lot of fun.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Review: Metamorphosis Alpha, 1st Edition

MORBIUS: Back. To. The. Beginning!  - Doctor Who: The Brain of Morbius.

There is a game going all the way back to the dawn of time, or at least the dawn of the roleplaying age, that has fascinated me.  I knew of it's children games, Gamma World and Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, but it has not be till recently that I have seen the father of sci-fi games.

Metamorphosis Alpha is considered to be the first popular Scifi game available.  While many of us heard of and purchased Traveller first (and that could be another entire week for me) MA really is the first. Published a year before the Traveller books.  Written by James "Drawmij" Ward, MA has deep ties with D&D.  The game was playtested by Ward and Gygax and others at TSR.  This lead to the aforementioned Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and Gamma World.  The forward of the game was written by Gygax and Brian Blume.

The basic game outline is that characters, human, mutant and other all live on a fantastic colony ship, The Warden, that has broken down.  The ship is basically a giant flying dungeon. In space.
The character creation rules, monsters and everything are like Original D&D through a distorted lens.  To use an analogy from computer programing if D&D/AD&D is Pascal then Metamorphosis Alpha is Modula. Naturally this makes Gamma World Modula 2, AD&D2 Turbo Pascal, D&D3 Borland Pascal, D&D4 Oberon, D&D5 Delphi and so on...

It would be a fantastic game to play when you are in a great old-school mood and I do know people that have made great long campaigns with it.  Think about it, the idea would later pop up in the series Red Dwarf.

The book itself is 40 pages which includes front and back cover, an updated errata sheet, pages of tables, character sheet and maps of the Warden.

The game itself is complete and a prime example of old-school minimalism.  Modern readers might be tempted to ask "is this it", but to these eyes it is succinct and complete at the same time.

MA of course is perfectly playable on it's own. Has been for 40 years.
But it also works great as a setting or a as a "Mega dungeon" in space.

Mix MA with any of the games I have been reveiwing over the last few days and you have a mysterious, ancient colony ship. 80 km long, 40 km wide and 14 km tall and filled with humans, mutants and who knows what else.   Think of the ship in "WALL-E" now fill it with mutants.

Honestly I am using it in my own old-school D&D game and it is part of my world's history.  The uses and re-uses of this game are endless.

The mutant rules in the book are easily ported over to any game.  So use them as mutants or aliens or even demons in your fantasy game.

At just under 6 bucks it is also a steal.
There are character sheets too for humans and mutants at a buck each.  Normally I think sheets should be free, but I am only paying $5.99 for the pdf.  If the sheets were free and the game was $7.99 I would not balk or fret at the price.

If you have any interest in old-school gaming, sci-fi gaming or even the roots of our hobby, then this is a fantastic game to add to your collection.
If you are playing any of the new "old-school" sci-fi games then I consider this a must buy.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Not a bird. Not a plane.

I am inordinately fond of Supergirl.

This looks so awesome.

And I am going on record that Calista Flockhart is going rock as Cat.

Marvel may have the theaters, but DC owns TV.

Review: Strange Stars

Every so often you come across a product that is so different than the rest it is hard to know what to do with it.  +trey causey's Strange Stars is not exactly that.  Strange Stars is a product so different it is hard to know what I can't do with it.

The book is a joy to look at.  Yes it is only 32 pages with cover, but each page is so rich with art and color it must have cost a lot to make.  Since art is important to how this book can be used it is a better investment than say page after page of text.
Let's start with that cover.  There are homages to late 70s, early 80s sci-fi shows and movies.  I can feel the influences of Star Wars and even Jason of Star Command here. Not to mention the obvious, but loving, nod to the classic Star Frontiers.   Really, I should be able to buy that as an art print for my game room.  I put that cover up there with some of the best RPG covers ever.  Plus the overt homage to Star Frontiers is a huge plus.

Strange Stars is not a game itself, but a setting book for other sci-fi games. Not just the OSR-flavored ones of my last few reviews, but any sci-fi game.  As a mental exercise I kept asking "can I use this in Traveller? Star Frontiers? Alternity?" most times I was saying yes.

The book starts out with a historical overview of the setting.  The "Ancient times" in this case is humanity leaving "Old Earth".  So already this is a setting far flung into the future.

Various forms of life are introduced, or Sophonts.  This can be your garden variety human or other life form that is mostly biological, self-aware robots, or AIs.  Or, most likely some combination of the above.

Really a couple of the great features of this book are not chapter by chapter but concept by concept.
Free of system Causey's mind rushes down dark un-explored pathways, strange lands and truly alien worlds.  BUT, and this is very important, this not so far removed from our experiences to be really out there.  There are roots here. Roots with names like "Star Crash" and "Buck Rodgers" (the TV series on NBC, not the serials) and "Logan's Run".  Jenny Agutter's "Jessica 6" practically jumps off of page 12.
Speaking of which, the characters here BEG to be stated up for your favorite system.  Siana Elizond, the previously mentioned Jessica 6 clone, is more interesting in a picture and paragraph than some characters with pages and pages of back story.  Plus I can't help but think that Elphaba Mandrake was made as a personal challenge to me!

So yes. The page count is small, but it is chock full of great ideas, eye catching art and more than enough to get you going on a campaign set out among the stars.

In truth everything you need to know about what this game-supplement is about can be summed up in this one picture.

The best of what the late 70s / early 80s had to offer.

You can find Trey at

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Review: Machinations of the Space Princess

Continuing my reviews of OSR Sci-Fi games.  Next up is Postmortem Studios' Machinations of the Space Princess.   Continuing also with the comparisons. If White Star is Star Wars, Spacemen & Starships is Star Trek then Machinations of the Space Princess (MotSP) is Heavy Metal, the Movie.

Written by +James Desborough and art by +Satine Phoenix this game has a really cool, sexy vibe.
Firmly planted in the PG-13 area, this game does more with a nudge and wink than some games try to do with out right R material.
The game is described as a game of "Kick Ass Heroes".  It is. It is also a game of rogues, smugglers, free wheeling pilots, more-than human psionics and accountants.  Seriously, you can hire them.  But more on that later.

This game is built on Lamentations of the Flame Princess, but it takes more than a few liberties with it.  Bottom line here; you can add this to any of the OSR Sci-Fi games I have been reviewing.
The book itself is 244 pages which includes cover, OGL, title pages and acknowledgments.  There are a few pages of "What is Roleplaying" and examples of play.  Anyone reading this review though can likely skip these sections.

There is a section on the default setting, the Urlanth Matriarchy, and it's fall.  Also each page has a note with some tidbit of information.  Don't ignore these, there is a lot colorful commentary here.
The section on Kick-Ass heroes is a good one and even though it feels like something we have read before it is worth reading again (or for the first time).   MotSP is fully character focused.  The empire, the aliens, the tech, that's all just backdrop to playing a Kick Ass character and having a good time.  This is refreshing for an old school game and honestly for me it nudges MotSP ahead in my book.
The mechanics of building a hero are also here. This is old hat for most of us.
Note: Ability score bonuses are more in-line with D&D 3.x than old-school D&D.  But you could use whatever you like really.
MotMP has Seven attributes.  Comeliness is back.
There are actually a few compelling reasons to include Comeliness and MotMP is a good game to use it.
Races are covered with the default humans and various archetypes of other races (Amoeboid, Aquatic...). Races are also divided up by Species (an actual species), Cultural (many species or one species that make up a culture) say like a planet of criminals or Exotic (something about them is very different), for example everyone is dead or a cyborg.  There are a lot of of these races given and they can be combined in different ways.
Classes cover many of the basics; Experts, Killers, Psions, and Scholars.  Each class has their own sub-specialties, HD, Attack Bonus and Skill Points.   Psions get Psi Points and Power Points.  In what seems reversed to me Psi-Points are your reserve of power to use your psionic powers and Power Points allow you to buy your Psychic Powers.  I am planning to spend some time with the Psion since it is the closest thing I have seen to a witch-like character.

Skills define what a character can do.  The skill system is a d6 roll under the skill points you have for a particular skill.  There are some common skills that everyone can use, the Psi skills (Psions), Combat skills, Scholastic skills, and General skills (ones that anyone can learn but don't start out with).

After skills we discuss gear, which includes arms and armor. Some basic ship stats are also given.  Ships can also have a number of qualities.  My favorite so far is "Killer Paint Job" which makes your ship "look totally rad".  Seriously it like this is the only game that remembers that fun is important!  Ok, not really, but fun is in the forethought here.

Of course you are are going to get all that loot from doing what ever your kick-ass characters do, but can you afford that "killer paint job"?  Better hire that previously mentioned accountant.  Retainers are discussed next.  How many hit die they have (space is a dangerous place) and how much they need to be paid.  So do you want 10 accountants or 1 elite assassin?

There is a chapter on cybernetics and enhancements.  It isn't as fully transhuman as say Stars Without Number, but it gets the job done.

Bodly Going is the chapter on space and planet exploration.  It can also be called 1,001 Ways to Die in Space.  I give James a lot of credit here. I know the guy outside of the gaming world and he is what I call a science-cheerleader.  He does not hit us over the head with hard core science in this, but he is paying enough lip service to the real thing to make this chapter fun to read.  I know he could have dialed this up more, but since his goal is fun this is perfect.

Rocket's Red Glare gives us more details of spaceships.  This includes a lot on combat.  What I do like here is that ships are treated like characters.  It is something a lot of games do so there is a real pragmatic approach to it all.

The rest of this section covers things characters can do and psionics.

A little after the half-way point we get into the Game Master's section.
If the players make kick-ass characters then the game master is instructed to be a bad-ass Game Master.  Additionally advice is how to keep the game fun.
So everything from planetary romance, swords and planets stories, sexy (or sleazy) fun, traps, killing things and taking their stuff and more are discussed.

The book ends with an index and character and ship sheets.

There is so much here to be honest that I doubt I'd ever run out of things to do with this game. It may be more tongue-in-cheek than other sci-fi games.  There are plenty of "Serious" sci-fi games that play great and are fun, but I doubt I will find one with a bigger sense of fun than this one.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Monster Monday! Yog, The Monster from Space!

It was my pleasure to meet Natasha Duncan-Drake and her sister Sophie Duncan in last years A to Z Challenge.  They both posted a lot of great stuff and plenty that can be used in any game.

Well Natasha has started a new feature.  Monster Mondays.

You might recall I did something similar here for a while and there are other blogs that also do this.
MindweaverRPG has done a few, so has Dispatches from Kickassistan, and I know there are others.

I like Tasha. She is cool, so I am happy to get behind this monster monday.  Plus I love monsters.

Since I am talking about Sci-Fi games all week how about a sci-fi monster.
And no space monster is loved more here than Gezora from Yog, The Monster from Space!

Is a giant (100ft/30meter tall) squid controlled by the "Space Amoeba" Yog.
Gezora usually attacks a planet, but can be transported through space.
Gezora, Yog and other kaiju are the "stars" of "The Space Amoeba" aka "Yog the Creature from Space".

Gezora can walk on land, swim in the ocean and travel through space.  While it has 10 tentacles it can only attack with 2 of them.  Any natural 20 attack roll means that Gezora has grabbed onto a victim and will swallow it whole.

(White Star)
Armor Class: -2 [22]
Hit Dice: 25
Total Hit Bonus: +20
Attacks: 2 attacks with tentacles, 4d8x2. Swallows whole on a natural 20.
Saving Throw: 5
Special: Survival in water and in space
Movement: 18 (on land, sea and space)
HDE/XP: 20/7,500

(Starships & Spacemen)
Encountered: 1
Movement: 180' (60')
Intelligence: None/Super Genius (Gezora has no intelligence, Yog does)
Psionic Potential: Telepathic
Hits: 25d8
Armor: -4
Combat Skill: 20
Save: L20
Attacks: 2
Damage: 4d8 x2
Morale: 12
XP: 5,480

(Stars Without Number)
Armor Class: -2
Hit Dice: 25
Attack Bonus: +20
Damage: 4d8 x2
No. Appearing: 1
Saving Throw: 5+
Movement: 40' (land, swim, space)
Morale: 12

Review: Stars Without Number

Continuing my deep dive into the OSR-based SciFi games we naturally next come to Stars Without Number.  This gem was released in 2011 and was written by +Kevin Crawford and Sine Nomine Publishing.  SWN is a big book, 254 pages filed with maps, sheets, a great index, but no OGL statement that I kind find.
To me this book feels more like the work of hard sci-fi; like that Asimov, Bradbury and Heinlein.   Certainly it is epic in scope.  There is more of a setting here than other OSR-flavored games, so if you like that, great, if not, well it seems easy enough to ignore.

Chapter 1 covers Character creation.  We have seen this all before, but perfect for people new to RPGs or scifi fans new to the Classic 6 Attributes and level/class systems.
The classes are the three "archetypes" that you can find in True20 and other games, The Expert, The Psychic and The Warrior.    Each has their own advancement table and Hit Die.  SWN assumes a 20 level career in case you were curious.   Each class also gets their own saving throw tables.
There are background packages which can be added to classes to give your character more depth and determines some of their skills.  There are also training packages to further define your character.
Character creation is a breeze and no one seems to die while doing it.

Chapter 2 covers Psionics.  There are quite a lot of psionic powers detailed here.  So first thing, if psionics are something you must have in your sci-fi game then please check this game out first.  Powers as expected have point cost values.  Psionic points always give the powers a different feel for me than magic, so this is another plus really.  These powers are not merely reskinned spells, they have been redone to fit within the mythos of the game better.

Chapter 3 details all the equipment you will need including the Tech Level of the equipment.  D&D would be tech level 1 (or so) while we are at TL 3.  The game is set at TL 5 with some artifacts at TL 6.  Time Lords are hanging out at 7 or 8 I would say.  D20 Future and Traveller also use a similar mechanic, so if you want to see how they can also work, checking out those games is advisable.
The standard batch of weapons and armor from sticks and stone all the way up to energy weapons are discussed.  AC is descending by the way.  What is really nice about this game is in addition to lasers, energy swords and computers it also includes Cyberware.

Chapter 4 is the Game Systems chapter.  It includes the expected combat, but also a new twist on the skill checks with Target Numbers.  Useful if you are using the skills as described here, but it's real utility comes in how flexible it can be.  I would have to try it out more, but it's close enough to other skill + die roll + mods vs TN that I can see it's use in a variety of situations.

Chapter 5 covers the history of space of the default campaign setting.  Even if you don't use it there are some great ideas here.

Chapter 6 is the Game Master Guide of the game.  Deals with running the game and how and where to use skill checks.

Chapter 7 is World Generation which is just FULL of material for any game.  While this game has a lot going for it, this is the real gem in my mind. This flows right into Chapter 8, Factions.  Factions are important groups.  Say a group of allied pirates or smugglers, a government or a band of plucky rebels.   Several key factors when creating a faction are given and there is a huge list of sample factions.
Chapter 9 discusses what sort of adventures you might be able to have.  With Chapters 6 through 8 and all the details they give, running out of ideas is the least of your worries really.

Chapter 10 covers the creation of alien species. First the hows and whys of aliens are discussed; what to use, where and why to use them.  Some of this is situated in the campaign setting, but there is some good advice here even if you plan on using your own background/campaign or not even have aliens.  Plenty of traits are detailed and how they might combine.  There are three alien races detailed.
Naturally this flows into Chapter 11, Xenobestiary. AKA the Monster Manual.  Again we are given a lot of detail on how make alien beasts and then a listing of several samples.
Chapter 12 gives us Robots and Mechs.  We have various traits detailed and then plenty of samples.
Chapter 13 deals with societies.  This might have felt better coming after Chapter 8 really.
Chapter 14 has designer notes. I nice little treat to be honest.
Chapter 15 deals with the Hydra Sector, or the "Known World" of this game.  Instead of countries we have planets.
Chapter 16 ends the book with scores of random tables. Create just about anything with a few rolls of the dice.
There is a nice Index (sadly lacking in many books) and plenty of maps and blank sheets for characters, starships, and adventures.

Stars Without Number is big.  It is a vast game with endless possibilities.  If there is a sci-fi property out there chances are good that this game will be able to do it.

My only complaint is a non-existent OGL declaration.  Can you do a game like this without one?  Maybe, but I would not want to.  Plus it makes the game's utility a little less for me.

The game is beautiful and there is so much going on with it that it would take me a number of games with it just to get the right feeling for it.   The overall feel I get with this game is that it is the perfect child of Basic D&D and Traveller.  So much of what made both of those games so great is here.

Is Stars Without Number perfect? No, not really. But it is really, really damn close and even from a short distance I could not tell it apart from a perfect game.