Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Why I Love RPGS: C. J. Carella's WitchCraft RPG

Note: This is part of the Dyvers Project on RPGs.  We are supposed to talk about RPGS we love and why we love them.  This is my second part.

RPGS I Love: C. J. Carella's WitchCraft RPG

WitchCraft is, hands down, my favorite game.  Period.  Picking up a copy of this book back in 1999 was just like picking up a copy of the Monster Manual in 1979.  Everything I ever wanted in a game was right there.

WitchCraft had such a profound effect on my gaming that I can draw a rather clean line between what came before and what came after it.  Granted a lot was going on in 1999/2000 both gamingwise and personal that may have added to the this effect, it was an effect all the same.

Back in 1999 I was really burned out on D&D.   I was working on my own Witch netbook and reading a bunch of different games when someone, I forget where, must have been the old RAVENLOFT-L that TSR/WotC used to run, told me I really need to check out WitchCraft.  At first I balked.  I had tried Vampire a couple years ago and found I didn't like it (and I was very much out of my vampire phase then), but I was coming home from work and the my FLGS was on the way, so I popped in and picked up a copy.  This must have been the early spring of 2000.

I can recall sitting in my office reading this book over and over. Everything was so new again, so different.  This was the world I had been trying, in vain, to create for D&D but never could.  The characters in this book were also all witches, something that pleased me to no end, it was more than just that.  Plus look at that fantastic cover art by George Vasilakos. That is one of my most favorite, is not my favorite, cover for a game book. I have it hanging in my game room now.

WitchCraft uses what is now called the "Classic" Unisystem system.  So there are 6 basic attributes, some secondary attributes (derived), skills and qualities and drawbacks.  Skills and attributes can be mixed and matched to suit a particular need.

WitchCraft uses a Point-Buy Metaphysics magic system, unlike Ghosts of Albion's levels of magic and spells system.  Think of each magical effect as a skill that must be learned and you have to learn easier skills  before the harder ones first.    In D&D for example it is possible to learn Fireball and never have learned Produce Flame.  In WitchCraft you could not do that.  WitchCraft though is not about throwing around "vulgar magics".  WitchCraft is a survival game where the Gifted protect humanity from all sorts of nasty things, from forgotten Pagan gods, to demons, fallen angels and the Mad Gods; Cthulhoid like horrors from beyond.  WitchCraft takes nearly everything from horror and puts all together and makes it work.

The Eden Studios version was the Second Edition, I was later to find out.  The first one was from Myrmidon Press. I manged to find a copy of that one too and it was like reading the same book, from an alternate universe.  I prefer the Eden Edition far more for a number of reasons, but I am still happy to have both editions.

The central idea behind WitchCraft is the same as most other Modern Supernatural Horror games.  The world is like ours, but there are dark secrets, magic is real, monsters are real. You know the drill.  But WitchCraft is different.  There is a Rekoning coming, everyone feels it, but no one knows what it is.  Characters then take on the roles of various magic using humans, supernatuals or even mundane humans and they fight the threats.  Another conceit of the game (and one I use a lot) is that supernatural occurances are greater now than ever before.  Something's coming.  (dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria).

It is most often compared to World of Darkness, but there are things WitchCraft does that I just like better.  Unlike (old) Mage there is no war between the (good) Mages and the (evil) Technocracy.  There is a war certainly, but nothing so cut and dry.  Unlike new Mage there are rarely clean divisions between the factions.  Yes, yes Mage players, I am being overly simple, but that is the point, on the simple levels new Mage dives everything into 5 because that is how the designers want it.  There are factions (Associations) and there are different metaphysics for each, but also overlap, and sometimes no clear and defined lines are to be found or given.  It feels very organic.

In my opinion C. J. Carella may be one of the best game designers out there.  WitchCraft is a magnum opus that few achieve.  I took that game and I ran with it.  For 2000 - 2003 it was my game of choice above and beyond anything.  The Buffy RPG, built on the Cinematic Unisystem took over till I wrote Ghosts of Albion, which also use the Cinematic Unisystem.  I mix and match the systems as I need, but WitchCraft is still my favorite.

WitchCraft in fact is what got me into professional game design.

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

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

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

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

After this I went on to work on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG.  It should be no suprise then that the Willow and Tara stats that appear there are not that much different than my own.  I can be quite vocal in play tests.  That got me the chance to write the Ghosts of Albion RPG. This also allowed me to meet, work with and remain friends with Christopher Golden and Amber Benson.

WitchCraft paved the way for so many other games for me, not just in terms of playing but in writing.  If it were not for WitchCraft then we would not have had Buffy, Angel or Army of Darkness.  Conspiracy X would have remained in the it's original system. There would be no Terra Primate or All Flesh Must Be Eaten and certainly there would be no Ghosts of Albion.  The game means that much to me.

But you don't have to take my word for it, Eden Studios will let you have it, sans some art, for free.

Download it.  If you have never played anything else other than D&D then you OWE it yourself to try this game out.

My thing is I wish it was more popular than it is.  I love the game. If I was told I could only play one game for the rest of my life then WitchCraft would be in my top 3 or 2 choices.

Winding your way down on Baker Street

Mail Call today!

Look what I got.

+Bryce Whitacre's Victorian RPG Baker Street is out to backers of the Kickstarter.
It looks great and I can't wait to try it out.

Hope to have a review up soon!

Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: June Reviews

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

Lots of books this month!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
All things must end...I started my reread of the Harry Potter series with much enthusiasm and I was rewarded every step of the way. But I was dreading this one.  Not because of the deaths or the loss, but because this was the end, no more Harry, no more Hogwarts, no more of the world that enchanted me and millions of others.
J.K. Rolwing is a genius. Pure and simple. While I thought some of her later books could have had a deft hand at editing I find in the end I would not want one line changed.  The best thing about this book, and the last one, is you really, really get a feeling of how and why Ron and Hermione got together and why Harry and Ginny are together.  The movies, as fantastic as they are, glossed over this subtle storytelling.
Every fan of fantasy needs to read these books.
Witch Count: Hundreds

Witches with the Enemy: A Novel of the Mist-Torn Witches by Barb Hendee
Book 3 of the Mist-Torn Witches series sees Céline and Amelie Fawe heading back into the land of their birth, Shetâna, to do a job for Prince Damek who once tried to have them killed.
Like the previous two books this one involves a mysterious murder, but the murders keep happening and it is soon obvious that no one is what they appear to be at all.  This one grabs you from the beginning.
Hendee is great at character development and it was nice to see Céline get some much needed growth and the spotlight for a while.  The previous book featured a lot of growth for Amelie.   I also like that the witches may have made a terrible new enemy by the end of the book.
The potential for this series really is unlimited. I would like to see some new powers or new nuances to their powers for the sisters, but I also see no end of their troubles.
I think what I like the most about this series is that both the two main female characters and the two main male characters are allowed to be strong when they can.  That is, one character or gender does not show strength at the expense of the others. They all have the potential to work as a greater team but finding their roles is the trick.  In any case there is plenty of more room for future character growth and that is exactly what I want in my series reading.
While these books are set in a fantasy realm of magic, witches, ghosts and even vampires these are solidly murder mysteries.  Can't wait for Book 4!
Witch Count: 3-5 (including hedge witches)

Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave
The classical Russian tale of Baba Yaga and the brave young girl Vasilisa.  I actually read a couple of different versions of this tale over the month, but since they only differed by a detail here or there I am counting this as one.
Witch Count: 1

The Winter Witch by Paula Brackston
This one has all the elements I like. Welsh countryside, ancient witchcraft, new you witch coming into her power.  It just didn't grab me like I thought it would.  Now by the end of the book things had gotten better.  I liked the character Morgana and I liked how her magic worked.  The author is quite good really, I just found the pace a bit slow for my liking.  I think if I had not just come down from my Harry Potter fueled high I might have enjoyed this one a lot more.
Witch Count: 3

Books read: 18
Current Level: Crone,  Read 16 – 20 Witchy Books

Monday, June 29, 2015

New Tradition: Daughters of Baba Yaga

This tradition is based on my Family Tradition found in my Basic Era Witch book and on the Daughter of Baba Yaga Prestige class.

One such Daughter was Elena the Fair.

Section 15: Daughters of Baba Yaga, Copyright 2015, Timothy. S. Brannan.
OGC Declaration: The following content is considered Open Content for term of the OGL.

New Tradition: Daughters of Baba Yaga

There is an ancient tradition among young witches to seek out the Great Crone Baba Yaga to learn arcane secrets known to no one else.  The vast majority of witches never find her mysterious hut. Those that do are often killed and eaten for their impropriety and presumption.  But a few, a very few, find the ancient hag and she sees something of worth or value in the witch.  These witches go on become quite powerful in their own right.  They are known as the Daughters of Baba Yaga.

Daughters of Baba Yaga must join this tradition as young girls.  Baba Yaga molds their learning and provides the access to her great lore of spells and arcane knowledge.  In many ways Baba Yaga is their Patron.

Role: These witches often become some of the smartest, cleverest and dangerous witches in the land.

Joining this Tradition: Only young girls may join. Typically they are very clever (Intelligence of 14 or higher) and often have some form of family tragedy, such as mother who died while she was young.

Daughters of Baba Yaga will meet when they are together in their fosterage, but rarely afterwards.  They do recognize each other on sight regardless when they were fostered.  There is something about the aura of someone that was taught magic under the cruel Baba Yaga.

Daughters for the most part are neutral, with some gravitating towards chaotic

Leaving this Tradition: There is no leaving this Tradition. Once you have been tutored by the Crone you can not give that back.

Arcane Diversity: Starting at 2nd level, the Daughters of Baba Yaga can learn any one 1st level Wizard/Magic User spell that is not on witch spell list.  This spell is treated as if it were one of her witch ritual spells. Every other level after this the witch may learn a 2nd level spell at 4th level, a 3rd at 6th level and so on till 8th level spells are learned (16th level witch).
These spells are cast as rituals and will require ritual implements but do not require other witches.

Occult Powers
Minor: 1st Level: Familiar.  The daughter will gain a familiar that appears to be normal, if somewhat "worn" animal.  Common familiar's have been a tiny mouse, a scrawny cat, a brow beaten dog, even a thin cow in one case.  Particularily evil Daughters may be granted a demonling.

Lesser: 7th Level: Kitchen Witchery. The Daughter of Baba Yaga can brew simple potions based on any spell she can cast.  The spells can be kept fresh in potion form for a number of days equal to her level.  Spells that affect the self must be drunk or rubbed onto the skin.  Spells that affect others must be splashed, rubbed or forced to drink.

Medial: 13th Level: Detect Bloodline. At 13th level, the witch is granted the ability to detect bloodlines of all types, and able to track the target’s history one generation per level. Essentially, this ability allows the witch to practically smell if someone is related or not, by supernaturally detecting tiny familial features within people. This can include royalty, inherited (but not contagious) lycanthropy and the creature’s true race. This ability might also provide a bonus against those trying to disguise themselves (say, a half-elf posing as a human, or someone disguising themselves as royalty).
The witch must be within 10 feet of a person to detect their bloodline. The Daughter of Baba Yaga can also detect undead with this ability.
The Witch also gains an insight into the target’s personality. For each round assessing the target’s bloodline, the Daughter of Baba Yaga can determine one of the following: One aspect of the character’s alignment (chaotic, lawful, or neutral), hit dice, age or personality.
For each round studying the character’s personality, the Daughter of Baba Yaga gains a +1 bonus to sense motive checks against the target.
The Daughter of Baba Yaga cannot examine the target’s personality whose level/hit dice are greater than her witch level.

Greater: 19th Level: Curse. The Daughter of Baba Yaga can place a powerful Curse on not just a single creature, but an entire bloodline. She can only do this once per day (for a single creature) or once per month on an entire family. The curse can be of any sort, but usually the curse will bestow a -4 to all to-hit rolls and -2 to any saving throws. Other curses may be allowed, such as the Bestow Curse spell. Witch curses are quite powerful and require the use of two (2) remove curse spells to be fully removed.
A Daughter of Baba Yaga may release a person from a curse placed by another Daughter without the use of spells. The witch will know how to remove the curse intuitively.
Note: Some good witches prefer to give a Boon instead of a curse.

Major: 25th Level: Shape Change. Once per day, the witch may change her shape to any type of natural animal indigenous to her area, as per the spell Shape Change. For 1 turn per level, the witch may move freely back and forth between her animal and human forms. Once the form is chosen though, that is the only form she can use for the day. So, a witch may choose to change between the forms of human and fox, but cannot go between fox, human and bird. Once the duration has expired, the witch reverts back to human form.

Superior: 31st Level: Longevity.  The witch stops aging.  Her appearance will continue to age but her body and mind will stay the same age she was when she reached this level.  She is also no longer affected by magical aging.  She can still be killed by normal means.

Special Restrictions:  Only women may join this tradition.  Once joining the new witch must take an Oath of Fosterage.  The Oath of Fosterage must be taken when Baba Yaga first considers to take on the potential daughter.  Baba Yaga will often demand some sort task or quest from the witch.  The task will be one that is difficult and require cleverness to complete.  For example asking her to fetch water from a well but only give her a sieve to collect the water.
Once the Oath is made the Daughter cannot attack or harm in any way any other Daughter or Baba Yaga despite their alignment.  All Daughters, despite when they were fostered will know each other on sight.

Equipment:  None required.

The ritual tool of the Daughter is a mortar and pestle, to honor their "Grandmother".  It is used much like a wand or athame is.  They are also most likely to use a besom (broom) in place of a staff.

Preferred/Barred Covens: None. Daughters are typically solitaries.

Relationship to the Goddess/Patron:  For all purposes the Patron of these witch is Baba Yaga herself.

Source/Views of Magic: Magic comes from wrestling the secrets of the world from those that keep them.  These secrets often come from primordial spirits of nature, demon lords, heralds of the heavens and nearly forgotten fae.

Wealth: Daughters are all typically rather poor. They start with half the amount of gold typical for a 1st level witch.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Zatannurday: Lord Ingvard redesigns

Lord Ingvard's comic book redesigns are making their way across the net this week.
I posted the Red Sonja and Wonder Woman ones already.

Generally speaking I like the changes and can see them working. Though I will admit I am not sure he knows much about the history of the all characters he is talking about (he does have a good grip on Ms./Captain Marvel I will give him that).


Let's look at his Zatanna.


ETA: Here is the image

He gets a few things right and a few wrong.  Now mind you. This is *his* version and by default that means it is right for him.  But I also ask how much can you change a character and still have it be the same character?

Ok so the punk style hair do, I love it. Black hair with streaks of purple (or blue) would be a great look for a younger Zee.  I can totally see her looking like this while she was working on her undergrad degree.
The coat is very reminiscent of Constantine's trench coat.  So this could even be early in her relationship with him.
I like the striped pants she is wearing; a nice call back to the striped socks you will sometimes see witched wear.
The choker necklace is cool, if a bit predictable.

I really, really love the look of this character.  It is cool, hip and I want to know more about her.
I can't help but wonder though...don't we already have a Raven and a Traci 13?

There is a reason for her look.
Zee dresses the way she does because that was how her dad dressed when he was on stage.  She dresses like an old school magician because her dad was an old school magician.  So the top hat, the fishnets are all apart of what her stage persona is.  She might be the most powerful magician on Earth, but in her mind she will never be as good as her dad was.

Now, not to sound like "that guy" but I do wish he had done some research into these characters.
The part where he mentions "changing the color of the spandex" on Zee's art shows he really doesn't know much about these characters.  Zee has one of the more recognizable looks of any superhero, male or female.  The only hero she looks like is the one that in character she wants to look like; her dad.

Oh and the bit about modern magicians not dressing like this anymore?  Two words. Misty Lee.

So I like the vision of his changes, but not for the reasons he gives.

In the end though I will agree with Zee herself. Her costume is fine as it is.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday Night Videos: The Sword

Welcome back to Friday Night Videos.

Tonight I want to focus on just one band, but one that I really identify with the entire OSR and nostalgia D&D movement.

The Sword hit my awareness in 2008 or so with their album "Gods of this Earth".  Right around the same time this blog got going.

Like the retro-D&D/OSR/Nostalgia movement The Sword was a new thing that sounded like an old thing from the 70s.  In this case a band that had a similar vibe to Slayer to sound like Black Sabbath.  In any case it worked.

Fire Lances of the Ancient Hyperzephyrians was the first single from "Gods of the Earth".  It sounds old school and the video is something right out of Ralph Bakshi.  The biggest influence is obviously Bakshi's Wizards.  Confession time. I am not a fan of Wizards.  Never saw the appeal. I also don't care for rotoscoping.

If any song captures this retro-feel of The Sword the best it's How Heavy This Axe. The video even looks like something filmed the same day Black Sabbath filmed Paranoid or Iron Man.  Plus this was also the theme song to +Zak Smith and gang's "I Hit it with My Axe".  That gives it OSR street cred right there. Or it gave them cred.  Not sure which.

What can I honestly say about Maiden Mother Crone?
Well for starters it is easily my favorite song from The Sword.  Plus there are great allusions to Pagan myths and witchcraft.  In true heavy metal cliche fashion it has a "mystical orb" at the end (3:30 mark).  I am sure that was done completely tongue in cheek.  But still it's pretty awesome.

I listened to this a lot when working on The Witch.

Tres Brujas or "Three Witches" came along later.  It mixes in elements of Westerns, sci-fi, witchcraft (again) and Kung-fu (the TV show).  So yeah...sounds a bit like the AD&D DMG.

Veil of Isis is a newer song.  The video reminds me a bit of some of the videos of the later 80s, before Grunge took over. Still it's a pretty cool song.

You can find The Sword on the web at http://theswordofficial.com/

Kickstart your Weekend: Blue Rose for the AGE System

Green Ronin has Kickstarted the newest edition of their groundbreaking game, Blue Rose for their in house AGE Adventure Gaming Engine.


I have not played much with AGE to be honest.  I have the first two Dragon Age sets and they look like fun.  I like the system, but it is one of those things I have not found an audience for.

I will pick this one up.  I really want to see what they add new to it.
I might even play the AGE system or back-convert it to True20.

In any case I am quite looking forward to this.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Prestige Class: Daughter of Baba Yaga

There is an ancient tradition among witches to seek out the Great Crone Baba Yaga to learn arcane secrets known to no one else.  The vast majority of witches never find her mysterious hut. Those that do are often killed and eaten for their impropriety and presumption.  But a few, a very few, find the ancient hag and she sees something of worth or value in the witch.  These witches go on become quite powerful in their own right.  They are known as the Daughters of Baba Yaga.

Section 15: Daughter of Baba Yaga, Copyright 2015, Timothy. S. Brannan.
OGC Declaration: The following content is considered Open Content for term of the OGL.

Daughter of Baba Yaga

The Daughters of Baba Yaga (DoBY) are a varied lot but all share a desire to learn more arcane secrets and in particular secrets of witchcraft.  Witches are the most common of her daughters, but sometimes an occasional wizard or sorcerer will also seek her out.

Hit Dice: d4

 To qualify as a Daughter of Baba Yaga, a character must fulfill all of the following criteria.

Knowledge (History): 9 Ranks
Knowledge (Arcana): 7 Ranks
Feats: Iron Will
Spell casting: Ability to cast arcane spells
Special:  Female only; Oath of Fosterage*

The Oath of Fosterage must be taken when Baba Yaga first considers to take on the potential daughter.  Baba Yaga will often demand some sort task or quest from the witch.  The task will be one that is difficult and require cleverness to complete.  For example asking her to fetch water from a well but only give her a sieve to collect the water.
Once the Oath is made the Daughter cannot attack or harm in any way any other Daughter or Baba Yaga despite their alignment.  All Daughters, despite when they were fostered will know each other on sight.

Alignment: Any (usually any non-evil)

Class Skills
(2 + Int modifier per level): Bluff, Climb, Concentration, Craft (any), Knowledge (arcana),  Knowledge (history), Knowledge (nature), Profession (any), Spellcraft, Survival, and Swim.

Class Features

All of the following are class features of the Daughter of Baba Yaga prestige class.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: The Daughter of Baba Yaga gains no additional weapon or armor proficiencies

Spells per Day: The character’s caster level increases when a Daughter of Baba Yaga level is gained if she had also gained a level in a previous class that allows them to qualify for this class.

This affects her spells per day and spells known, as if they had gained a level, but she does not gain any other benefit a character of that class would have gained. If a character had more than one qualifying class before becoming a Daughter of Baba Yaga, she must decide to which class she adds the new level for purposes of determining spells per day and caster level.

Daughters continue to use whatever Arcane spell lists they used before becoming a Daughter of Baba Yaga.  Daughters also continue to use what ever spell casting ability she had been using before becoming a Daughter.

Poison Resistance (Su): Daughters are exposed to a number of noxious potions, poultices and herbals and even poisons.  This exposure builds up over time till the witch gains a +5 to any posin based saving throws.

Arcane Diversity (Sp): Starting at 2nd level, the Daughter of Baba Yaga can learn any 1st level Arcane spell that is not on her typical list.  So if she begins as a witch she can choose a 1st level spell from the Wizard/Sorcerer, Bard or Magus lists. At 4th level she can choose a 2nd level spell and so on.  The spell will use same spell casting ability she uses for all her spells.

Hex (Sp): The Daughter may choose a Hex from the Witches list of hexes.  If she previously met the requirements for higher level hexes she may choose from those lists as well.

Kitchen Witchery (Sp): The Daughter may substitute any spell of 1st to 3rd level with an Alchemical Extract of the same level.  The Daughter may replace 1 spell of every level, 1st to 3rd, in this manner.  The Daughter though is not an alchemist by training so once a spell is replaced in this way the choice is permanent.
At 9th level the Daughter can choose Alchemical Extracts of 4th to 6th level. She may replace one spell each of levels 4th to 6th.

Table Daughter of Baba Yaga Progression

Class Level Attack Bonus Fort Save Ref Save Will Save Special Spells per Day
1st +1 +2 +2 +0 Oath, Poison Resistance +1 level of existing class
2nd +1 +3 +3 +1 Arcane Diversity, 1st level +1 level of existing class
3rd +2 +3 +3 +1 Hex +1 level of existing class
4th +2 +4 +4 +2 Arcane Diversity, 2nd level +1 level of existing class
5th +3 +4 +4 +2 Kitchen Witchery, 1 +1 level of existing class
6th +3 +5 +5 +3 Arcane Diversity, 3rd level +1 level of existing class
7th +4 +5 +5 +3 Hex +1 level of existing class
8th +4 +6 +6 +3 Arcane Diversity, 4th level +1 level of existing class
9th +5 +6 +6 +4 Kitchen Witchery, 2 +1 level of existing class
10th +5 +7 +7 +4 Arcane Diversity, 5th level +1 level of existing class

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Questions for you all. Favorite 70s Sci-Fi

Work has me busy today writing faculty training guidelines.  But that doesn't mean I am not active on my projects.

I have a question for you all today.

What is your favorite 70's science fiction or science fantasy movie (or TV show)?

I am looking for obscure stuff here and the weirder the better.

Now by 70s I do mean 1970 to 1979.  BUT I will take movies as early as 1967 or late as 1983.

A few of mine are:
2001 A Space Odyssey (1968)
Star Wars (1977)
Alien (1979)
Logan's Run (1976)
Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970) (computers were the new demons!)

I also want to extend my personal thanks and a shout out to the Space: 1970 blog.
Christopher Miller really has a great blog and I have spent hours reading it over.

Let me know what you like and why.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Labyrinth Lord: Liath and Bodhmall

I recently picked up two books from Brian O'SullivanFionn: Defence of Ráth Bládhma and  Fionn: Traitor of Dún Baoiscne.  While the books are about Fionn MacCumhail (Finn MacCool) they feature younger versions of the druidess Bodhmal and the warrior Liath Luchara.
Like I did, he has both women as lovers.  I have not read the books yet, but a quick flip and I like what I see.  
His Liath and Bodhmal are not exactly like my versions of them and that is cool.

Like what I have been doing with Skylla I wanted to do some versions of Liath and Bodhmall to test out different systems.  I wanted to do "by the book" versions for both Labyrinth Lord:AEC (as a stand in for any OSR game) and D&D5.  Another good choice would be Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.

I made minor changes in each case to reflect what works best for that game.

Previous Versions:
Castles & Crusades
Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, Essentials

Since I am currently running a D&D5 game around 5th-7th level, I set them around that.  I did both versions of the characters around that level.

Liath Luachra
NG Female Half-elf*
Ranger 7th Level

Strength: 13 (+1)
Dexterity: 16 (+2)
Constitution: 18 (+3)
Intelligence: 10 (0)
Wisdom: 10 (0)
Charisma: 11 (0)

Breath: 9
Poison or Death: 8
Petrify or Paralyze: 10
Wands: 9
Spells or Spell-like: 12

AC: 7
HP: 50

Base To Hit AC 0: 14

Infravision 60'

Long bow (1d8)
Spear +1 (1d6+1)
Leather Armor +1

Water skin, belt pouches, travellers gear, boots.

*I am going with half-elf since I am going with the idea that Liath has some fae or Sidhe blood in her ancestry.  I have a lot of "in-universe" reasons for this, but for me it just works out nice.

N(G) Female Human
Druid 8th Level

Strength: 10 (0)
Dexterity: 10 (0)
Constitution: 14 (+1)
Intelligence: 14 (+1)
Wisdom: 18 (+3)
Charisma: 11 (0)

Breath: 14
Poison or Death: 9
Petrify or Paralyze: 12
Wands: 10
Spells or Spell-like: 12

AC: 7
HP: 37

Base To Hit AC 0: 17

1st Level: Divine weather, detect magic, faerie fire, shillelagh
2nd Level: barkskin, cure light wounds, produce flame, charm person
3rd Level: call lightning, pyrotechnics, protection from fire
4th Level: flash fire, summon sylvan beings

Leather Armor
Amulet of Protection +1

Water skin, belt pouches, travellers gear, boots.

Stating these two for LL was exactly like AD&D/D&D.  I have made scores of characters for LL but I am always surprised how quick and easy it always is.
Having already done 5e versions; they were just as fast as these.

In the past I had made Liath a barbarian.  Here I went a ranger.  I thought a fighter might also work, but a ranger to me seems closer.  I will have more thoughts on this when I post the 5th edition stats.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Quick one and emails from me

Nothing ready for today yet.  Work has me pretty busy.

- I was at FreeRPG day, got some great books.
- Went to my local public library and got a box full of 70s and 80s fantasy book for $5.00.  Cant' wait to get into that.

Also an issue came up that I don't know how to solve. Mostly because I am not sure what the problem is.

So how many of you are getting email notifications from me about posts?

Does anyone know how this is set?  I'd prefer NOT to clutter your inbox every single time I post.

Please let me know.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Friday Night Videos: Celebrate Summer with Rush!

We are coming up on the first day of Summer.

Ah Summer. When you are a kid there is nothing better.

I remember spending my summers playing outside, running around and of course playing D&D on the weekends all night long.
It was an innocent time really before we all discovered girls, drinking (drugs) and other ways to pass the time.  I don't regret and would not change a single moment of those times.

Let's start this right with Rush's "Time Stand Still" I think it sums up what I want to say rather well.
Plus "Solstice" means "Sun stand still" so yeah. Perfect song.
And Aimee Mann was damn cute here.

Let's keep going with Rush for a bit.  They are afterall the most "D&D" band I know.

"Subdivisions" spoke to everyone in my gaming group in a why that is difficult to quantify really.  I didn't grow up in the suburbs (though I live there now) but the feelings are the same.  Replace the video games in this video with RPGs and the message is the same.

Ok. So Canada in the Winter does not invoke images of Summer, but the video aside no song reminds me of playing D&D quite as much as Rush's "Tom Sawyer".  This was my DM's favorite song.  I think I have heard it 1000 times.  One more time would be good too.

Ok I lied.  "Fly By Night" reminds me of D&D maybe just a little bit more than Tom Sawyer.  I remember one of the first big "D&D Parties" we had in Jr. High.  My friend and DM Jon put a copy of Rush's Fly By Night into my hands and told me I had to listen to it.  He did that a lot.  It did change my life.

"Freewill" came to me at a very interesting time in my life.  The song was something of an anthem for me, but not one I could shout out loud.  1980, I was 10 and just learning to play D&D. I was also becoming what I would later know to be called an atheist.  D&D was my way to explore religious spaces; which is why I tend to play clerics, paladins and witches.

Fast forward to a little over 10 years later Rush releases a new album, Roll the Bones. I remember that some of the hard core Rush fans in college didn't care for it, but I loved it. I know some people hated the rapping in the song, but fuck them.
Isn't that what we do? Roll the Bones.

Enjoy your summer!

The Witch Queen of Summer

Note: I am also submitting this as my entry to the RPG Blog Carnival.  Since the topic of June is Summer, this is a perfect post for me.

I have been reading a lot of adventures of late.  Having a lot of fun even if I don't get a chance to play these (but it is looking more and more like I will!).  So here is what I have so far.

A3 Wicked Cauldron (C&C)
B7 - Rahasia (Basic D&D)
Drmg083 (AD&D_1e)
Fane of the Witch King (3.0/d20)
Irrisen - Land of Eternal Winter (Pathfinder)
Night of the Spirits (C&C)
No Salvation for Witches (LotFP)
Reign of Winter Players Guide (Pathfinder)
Saga of the Witch Queen (DCC)
The Baleful Coven (Pathfinder)
The Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga (AD&D_2e)
The Ruins of Ramat (S&W)
The Stealer of Children (LL)
The Witch Queen's Revenge (Pathfinder)
The Witchwar Legacy (Pathfinder)
The_Manor_Issue_6 (OSR)
Witch of the Tarriswoods (OSR)
Witches Court Marshes (AD&D_ish)

So a lot really to work with.

One of the things I noticed right away that there are LOT of Witch Queens associated with winter.   I have talked about Witch Queens many times before.  I even have a Pathfinder/d20/3.x Prestige Class and converted one over from another game.
But the one thing I don't have and what no one seems to have is a Witch Queen of Summer.

Well with Summer coming up this weekend I thought why not cover the Witch Queen of Summer.
Given the adventures above I wanted someone with a bit history, a bit of gravitas and if I can manage it, someone that is a "daughter" of Baba Yaga.

Thankfully everything I need is in Dragon Magazine #83.
This issue featured one of the early versions of Baba Yaga's Dancing Hut as an adventure.   Among other things it also featured two daughters.  Natasha, the evil one, who was also "Tasha" of "Tasha's Hideous Uncontrollable Laughter" fame and "Elena the Fair" a Lawful Good wizard.
If Natasha can become Iggwilv, the Witch Queen of Perrenland then Elena the Fair can become Elena the Witch Queen of Summer.

Of course there are tales of Elena the Fair from Russian folk tales.  I see no reason why those tales can't be true and she still became the Witch Queen of Summer.

Elena the Fair
Witch Queen of Summer
Witch (Daughter of Baba Yaga Tradition) 24th level

Strength: 11 Death Ray, Poison 5
Dexterity: 16 Magic Wands 6
Constitution: 10 Paralysis, Polymorph or Turn to Stone 5
Intelligence: 17 Dragon Breath 8
Wisdom: 17 Rods, Staffs, Spells 7
Charisma: 18

Hit Points: 50
Alignment: Lawful (good)
AC: 1 (Ring of Protection, Garter of Defence)

Occult Powers (Daughter of Baba Yaga Tradition)
Familiar: Mouse
7th level: Kitchen Witchery
13th level: Detect Bloodline
19th level: Boon (instead of Curse)

Cantrips (7): Alarm Ward, Daze, Detect Curse, Object Reading, Open, Spark, Warm
First (7+2): Bewitch I, Burning Hands, Command, Drowsy, Faerie Fire, Far Sight, Minor Fighting Prowess, Sleep, Handfasting (Ritual)
Second (7+2): Alter Self, Biting Blade, Blast Shield, Ecstasy, Enthrall, Fever, Hold Person, Phantasmal Spirit, Rose Garden
Third (6+2): Astral Sense, Bestow Curse, Cleanse Air, Continual Fire, Feral Spirit, Fly, Mind Rash, Imbue Witch Ball (Ritual)
Fourth (6+1): Air Walk, Betwitch IV, Elemental Armor, Grandmother's Shawl, Moonlit Way, Neutralize Poison, Spiritual Dagger
Fifth (5): Anti-Magic Candle, Bull of Heaven, Dream, Primal Scream, Song of Discord
Sixth (5): Control Weather, Find the Path, Heroes' Feast, Moonbow, True Seeing
Seventh (4):  Ball of Sunshine, Breath of the Goddess, Etherealness, Serpent Garden
Eighth (4): Astral Projection, Creeping Doom, Greater Mislead, Mystic Barrier

As the Queen of Summer one of Elena's duties is to guard the gates of the Summerlands.  This is the afterlife of the Witches and where their spirits go for rest prior to being reincarnated to their next life.

She is also the Protector of Midsummer and sees to it that all witches are protected on the night of Mid-Summers' Eve.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Review: Manse on Murder Hill

The Manse on Murder Hill is a Labyrinth Lord Adventure for character 1st to 3rd level written by +Joe Johnston. The PDF is 50 pages which includes 2 title pages, 2 blanks and an OGL page.
Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this pdf in exchange for a fair review.

Ok now that I have that out of the way I also want to add that this is also the exact kind of adventure I would have sought out. Especially these last few weeks. It is "Basic Era" so already I like that and it is a haunted (or so they say!) house. So pretty much I am sold and I have not even gotten past the cover yet.

The art includes work by +Stuart Robertson+David Guyll (whom I have been enjoying a lot of his Dungeon World material of late) and +Tim Hartin. I want to take a moment to talk about the art. IT is great and really helps set the mood. This module feels different than other "old-school" modules and it is a nice change of pace really. The art and overall feel of the module make this feel more like something you would play with Chill than Labyrinth Lord.  Maybe Joe and his team could redo it for something like CryptworldRotworld or Majus. Course the monsters would need to be changed to something else, but it still works.

The adventure itself is for 6-10 characters.  I am not sure what the survival ratio is supposed to be, but that seems like a lot.  I would rather reduce the party size a bit and have higher levels go. There is a lot going on here, so the larger numbers do work.   I think one of the issues some Labyrinth Lords might face is a party "splitting up and searching for clues".

The feeling of this adventure is old school, but old-school+.  Like I mentioned above there are modern sensibilities here.   Yes, there is a great rumor table (which has a nice XP award system attached), but there is also a backstory to what is going on.  The village of Little Flanders feels like something you would have found in a book from a red box, but there are other touches as well.
Characters should feel free to search the village, but keeping in mind that a village is not a dungeon.

The titular Manse itself is not very big.  It doesn't have to be really.   The place has the requisite eerie feel to it and the table of random "illusions" (I would have called them "hauntings" or "phantasmagorias" but that is me) help.  There are also some wandering monsters.

Truthfully I kept picturing #12 Grimmauld Place from the Harry Potter books when I was picturing the Manse.  There is plenty of great descriptive detail, but anything more you can add while playing is great.  Don't forget the smells and the little noises too.

The module progresses until the goal is discovered, the lost children.

The module is quite flexible.  I could not help but think that I could change the monsters to Bogarts and Goblins and have a Faerie-lands sort of adventure.  Change them to degenerate humans and suddenly we have a cult to break up.  Change them to various types of undead and...well you get the idea.

It should be a perfect rainy-afternoon sort of adventure. Which also happens to be one of my favorite kinds of adventures.

Maybe it can go without saying, but I will say it anyway.  This is a very flexible adventure and you can put it into just about any campaign world you want.

Now lets talk about the price.  At $2.00 this is criminal steal. Seriously I have very recently paid twice as much for far less adventure than what I got here.  This a great adventure.

Baba Yaga and the Reign of Winter

I know we are mere days before the start of Summer, but I find my thoughts turning to Winter...
The Reign of Winter to be precise.

Backing up.

I have been doing searches for a couple of adventures or adventure ideas for a couple of different purposes. They have been, for the most part, independent searches. But lately they have grown together and lead me to the same outcome.

Search 1 was/is for a very high level adventure for the Dragonslayers. I wanted something published by TSR. I wanted it to be "old school" but didn't have to be from the 70s or early 80s.  Something like "Throne of Bloodstone" but very specifically NOT that.  I wanted it to be an older module for my own reasons.

Search 2 was/is primarily for more adventures in my so-called "War of the Witch Queens" adventure path/campaign.  The idea was to play through all these witch queen themed adventures to some goal.
These two search lead me to the same end point.  The Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga.
It's old. It is part of the "S" series of modules in theory (it is supposed to be S5). It has history.
Plus it deals with the biggest, baddest Witch Queen of them all; Baba Yaga.

Satisfied, I bought the PDF printed it out and put it in a binder with the old Dragon magazine version of the The Dancing Hut and a 4th edition version I bought a while back.  It works perfect as an adventure for the Dragonslayers.

I like the idea that Baba Yaga is in it. I'd also like to work in Iggwilv and maybe Louhi too.

But it got me thinking.  Wasn't there a Pathfinder adventure with Baba Yaga too?
I knew of the Reign of Winter and I thought that maybe the last adventure, The Witch Queen’s Revenge might be a good one to use too.  In the process I also discovered a stand alone (but maybe related) adventure The Witchwar Legacy.

I picked up those three books, but not the first 5 of the Reign of Winter.

Does anyone know if they are any good?  Has anyone played them?

I like the idea behind the adventures, but they are not really something I am looking for.

Plus I would like to fit in all these other adventures too.  I also like the idea that each adventure is from a different game.

Recent purchases

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil

Well this is an unexpected surprise.

I was digging out a bunch of computer junk to get rid of over the weekend and I found my copy of the old Atari "Temple of Elemental Evil" video game.

Back in the day I had installed it on to one of my PCs and played it a little bit and then went on to other things.  That computer died on me and I never reinstalled it.

Now that I have Son of Frankencomputer up and running I think I am going to reinstall this.

Should be fun!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Review: Better Mousetrap 3e

Taking a break right now from D&D related things.  My next "Order of the Platinum Dragon" game is not till Gen Con and I don't have anything yet for the "Dragonslayers".  So I wanted to go back to another idea I was playing around with; my limited run Supers game. I pretty much know what I want to do, vampires and what system I would like to use; M&M3/DC Adventures.  My choice would be to use Dracula, but I want someone or something that is far more of a threat.  Maybe not Darkseid or Mordru level threats, but close.   But in any case something stronger is needed.

Thankfully I have a copy of Better Mousetrap 3e.

Described as "the most extensive, largest third-party rules supplement for ... Mutants & Masterminds" this book lives up to the hype. At 293 pages (covers, ogl, and toc still leave this at 289 pages of solid content) calling it "supplement" undersells it.  Personally I prefer to think of it as "The Villain's Handbook".  Everything you need to create a super-villain (not just a villain), their lair, plenty of skills and gadgets and of course powers.   There is so much here really.

Chapter 1 covers skills.  Plenty of new uses for old skills.  Reading it over it seemed obvious that a lot of skill uses for ancient or immortal characters/villains/heroes.  So perfect for your Vandal Savage types or old vampires like Dracula.  There are some new skills as well.  Brainwashing is a nice one. But there are lot of good ones.  All in all about 25 pages worth of skills.

Chapter 2 gives us new Advantages. Ace is a nice one but there plenty here, including some Minion Advantages.  This is actually really nice.  I tend to gloss over minions.  Maybe all those years of watching the "Adam West" Batman series.  There are also Organization Advantages.

Chapter 3 has all the new Powers. And there are a lot here. There are new Power Effects and new  Power Builds.  There are also plenty of new Flaws. Needed for bad guys really.

Chapter 4 covers new rules.  This chapter is more utilitarian.  There are some car chase/combat rules and some mounted combat rules.  There are some limited Mecha rules too.

Chapter 5 gets into what I consider the meat of the book and the reason I like it; Making a Better Bad Guy.  This is what you need to make your villains into super-villains.  Some of this chapter covers the motivation of villains and (the best parts) their evil plans.  Some motivations are given ("The World Shall Be Mine!" and "The Voices Told Me to Do It" among others) which discusses why villains do what they do.   Motivations are also discussed based on when the villain got their start. For example A Silver Age Villain does things differently than a Golden-Age or Modern-Age Villain.
It is often said that a hero is only as good as their enemies.  Well this takes the opposite take, a villain is only as good as their enemies are evil. There is a good section on anti-heroes and even Arch-Enemies.  Every hero needs a good arch-enemy.
Several new villain archetypes are presented.  Many should be familiar since they pull on some strong archetypes or at least stereotypes, but that is perfect really.  Any of these can be filled out to a full blown villain.   Once you do that there are plenty of rank and file minions; brutes, troopers, pilots, infiltrators and cyber versions of all of them.

Chapter 6 includes Gadgets and Gear. This includes melee weapons and archaic weapons.  Again for our old immortal villains.  There are also plenty of guns and vehicles for the minions.

Chapter 7 is the Many Faces of Evil. This covers not just villains, but their organizations.
Chapter 8 covers Headquarters.  This covers where those organizations and villains will hide
out.   There is quite a lot of material here too.

Chapter 9, Evil to the Utmost, talks about how to use evil and villains.  There are even some villains detailed here.

All in all a really good product.  If you need to detail your villain and evil organization then this is the book you need.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Halfway, Fortunes of Ravenloft and the Foreshadowing

Got in a lot of gaming this weekend!

Saturday the Order of the Platinum Dragon found themselves still stuck in the mists.  They stumbled on to Halfway.  Here they met the Dealer and had the Fortunes of Ravenloft read.  We are not going to play Ravenloft till Gen Con, but I have 5 nights to run it.

I used Tarot cards for the Fortunes (because why not).  I have done that in the past, but I also found this AD&D1st Ed to D&D5 conversion of Ravenloft that also used Tarot cards.
With the PDF out I can print both of these out and run it from those.

Sunday we went "back in time" to the Dragonslayers.  They finished up their exploration of the Barrier Peaks.  Here they encountered, for the very first time, the Illithids.  Something that was not lost on my kids.

The "Order of the Platinum Dragon" characters are all the children or grand children of the "Dragonslayers".   So I am setting up the Mind Flayer threat a generation early.

I know what I have in store for the Order, I just need to figure out what is next for the Dragonslayers.