Monday, November 30, 2015

Playing In Hyperborea

I have been wanting to run a campaign using Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea for some time now.

+Eric Fabiaschi over at "Swords & Stitchery - Old Time Sewing & Table Top Rpg Blog" has been doing a great set of Retro-Reviews of what I have been dubbing my "Second Campaign"

N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God
U1 Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh
U2 Danger At Dunwater
U3 The Final Enemy
C1 The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan

Now I just need some adventures for levels 7-12/13 (I like the idea of going to 13).

Originally I had a bunch of desert themed adventures, but they really never felt right to me to be honest.  Maybe I should be looking towards some of the newer OSR adventures like The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence to fill out the other levels.

I like the idea of some stygian cult. Something that was a cross between Lovecraft, Howard and Clark Ashton Smith.  I think it might be fun if this cult was a Demogorgon cult too, just because.

He also reviewed some adventures I have already run or used under different systems.

B1 In Search of the Unknown
B3 Palace of the Silver Princess
B4 The Lost City
X1 Ilse of Dread
X2 Castle Amber
S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth

If you get a chance, stop by his blog and read the reviews.

Edited to Add: U3

Buried Alive!

Well sort of.

I have about a week's worth of email to get caught up on and a ton of blog postings to read.

Back when I can!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Zatannurday: Legends of Tomorrow

The newest trailer for DC's Legends of Tomorrow is now out.

It looks fantastic!

Rip Hunter, the Atom, Firstorm, Hawkgirl, White Canary?  Yeah sign me the hell up!
Damn even Captain Cold is great in this.

How cool would it be to see 1940s Zatara and 1960s Zatanna?

Here is a longer one.

Seriously sweet time to be a DC fan.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Friday Night Videos: Paint it Black

In "honor" of Black Friday here are some of my favorite songs/videos about black.

At least make an effort to stop at your FLGS this weekend.

"Paint it Black" by the Rolling Stones takes us all the way back to 1966.  I will contend that this is the first "Goth" song recorded.

"Black Dog" by Led Zeppelin

"Back in Black" by AC/DC

"Black Velvet" by Alannah Myles.  Alannah Myles was the hottest thing on MTV for a while. She still is.

"Black" by Pearl Jam. Pearl Jam was the biggest thing in the 90s. This is either one of their most iconic performances or one of their most self-indulgent.  Either way cool song.

"Black Sunshine" by White Zombie. I do enjoy some White Zombie.

"Black Hole Sun" by Soundgarden.

"Blue on Black" by Kenny Wayne Sheppard

And of course no discussion of black is complete without "Let's Make the Water Turn Black" by Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention

Kickstart Your Weekend: We have Movie (and Book) sign!

First off, I have to repost the MST3k Kickstarter.

Lots more information including the first host and first Mad Scientist.

Yup. That is Felicia Day as the new Mad.  I was not a fan of her's originally, but after seeing her in Supernatural I have come around.

In game-realted news.

Marc Miller of Traveller fame has a Kickstarter for his Traveller novel, Agent of the Imperium.

I would have sucked this up back in the day.  I hope it is a great success for him!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

In the US it is Thanksgiving.

Where we celebrate the day a bunch of starving refugees from another land came to a beautiful new country and systematically killed and enslave the indigenous population by stuffing ourselves to bursting and then spending money like fiends.

All snark aside wishing everyone a great day.
If you are not in the US then have a wonderful Thursday.  Those are still fun right?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Class Struggles: B/X Classes

The last few weeks I have been focussing on various classes and it dawns on me that I need something along the lines of a B/X Class Compendium for myself.  Not to publish or anything, but just my own use.   I also have to admit that I have been following (but commenting as much as I would like) +Jonathan Becker's analysis of the Holmes classes and subclasses.  If you have not read it, please do, it is great stuff.  Yeah it might be nostalgia and navel-gazing, but who cares, it is fun stuff.

Like Becker I am a fan of B/X, aka Moldvay/Cook/March era D&D.  So my class choices will be ones that are largely compatible with that.  It's also no big surprise that most of the classes I like also tend to be magic ones.

Lets see what I have.

Covered many times and many places here.  Yes, I am partial to my own witch, but I am also rather fond of the witches from other designers. While some have this class as a sub-class of the Magic-User but I have the Witch as her own thing.
Warlocks have always been problematic for me.  It was not till I started working on for Pathfinder. I looked a few of these as well.  I am still not 100% certain which is my favorite to be honest.  Maybe the one from Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.
But if I am going to have witches and warlocks then I am going to need a witch hunter.  I looked at a few, but I think I will have to go with the one from Jonathan Becker's The Complete B/X Adventurer.

I have maybe played two fighters, proper fighters, in the last 36 years.  But I really enjoy rangers and paladins.
Knights/Cavaliers.  I have not covered these guys yet, but I am rather fond of the Castle & Crusades Knights.
Beastmasters. I rather like these guys and my favorite is from The Complete B/X Adventurer.
If I am going to have a paladin then I am going to want an Anti-Paladin. My favorite is the one from the ACKS Player's Companion.

Covered yesterday, the B/X Rouge could be a replacement for the normal thief class.  With this class I can make a thief, a bard, an arcane-trickster, or any other thief like class. There some templates though I can look at.
The Bard is of particular interest to me really.  A really good bard would be great.
The Occultist is a class from Fantastic Heroes & Witchery is another rogue-like class that I could build using the rogue.

I would opt for the Wizard alternate I have in my Witch book.
For Illusionists I am going with the Basic Illusionist  from +Nathan Irving. I think it is the best choice.
For Necromancers there are so many choices, I might have to make my own.

For psychic classes, +Richard LeBlanc has me covered with his Basic Psionics Handbook. That gives me a Mystic and a Monk.

I have always been fond of clerics. They were the first class I ever played.  I would keep them as is, with the additional rule that they can use the same weapon as their god.
I will also keep Druids and add in a Healer class I made back in the early 80s.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Review: The B/X Rogue

I love new B/X classes. If I have demonstrated nothing else here it is that.  So when +Gavin Norman of the excellent City of Iron blog and Necrotic Gnome Productions came out with a new B/X class, well I had to get it.
Gavin has already given us some great classes in his Theorems & Thaumaturgy and The Complete Vivimancer. Now he takes on the thief archetype in The B/X Rogue.

I say archetype because what this book tries (and succeeds, but more on that in a bit) to do is create a Rogue class that encompasses all of the various "sub-classes" we have seen on the thief over the years.  How he does it is both very elegant and very, very basic, if not Basic.

Like the thief the rogue has a number of talents at his/her disposal.  Instead of a percentile (or d20) roll the rogue is assumed to be fully proficient in their talent.  The differences lie in the choice of talents and some of the talents themselves.  The example given is the iconic Remove Traps.  If a rogue has this at 1st level then they can remove or disable a trap 100% of the time.  However the types of traps are now changed.  The rogue can only disable small mechanical traps. Not huge pits in the floor.

The rogue class begins with 4 talents. This increases by 1 per level.  Some talents have prerequisites and can only be taken at 5th level (Expert Talents, love the split of Basic and Expert Talents here).  Outside of that the class it remarkably like the B/X thief.  

The bulk of the book describe the 36 talents a rogue might take.  This allows for near infinite (or close enough for the amount of character sheets I'll print out) rogue types.  There are even magical talents for the Bards and Arcane Tricksters out there. Of course I immediately went to the magic section and quickly figured out an Occult Scholar, a rogue that raids tombs and libraries for bits of arcane knowledge and some spells to help them out. Won't help you when you need an orc killed, unless he has a scroll for it.

There is also a very useful table to help you with your archetypes.  Want an assassin? Great, take back-stab, hide, garotte, move quietly at 1st level.  There are 10 of these, so a d10 will also get you up and going fast.  Don't want a magic-one? Easy. Roll a d8 instead.

The PDF itself is 26 pages; a front cover, a back cover and two page OGL, all for a $1.50.  Not a bad deal at all really, especially when consider how flexible this class is now.

If you are a fan of the thief class, B/X or Gavin's other classes then this is a must buy.

Plays Well With Others
With the options of adding magic to the Rogue to come up with other classes (Bards, Dabbler's and Arcane Tricksters) you can add other powers to make even more classes.

Grab +Richard LeBlanc's Basic Psionics Handbook and use some of the wild talents for rogue talents to create a Psychic Dabbler or a Charlantan with some actual clairvoyance.

Take the Arcanve Dabbler and replace the magic-user spell at 1st level with a witch spell and then a minor or least occult power at 5th level and now you have a Hedge Witch.

I could go on and on, but for cheaper than a 20 oz Mt. Dew at the gas station you can have this book and make up your own!

I can see this replacing the thief in my B/X games easily.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Megadungeon Itch

I recently have been thinking about trying something I have never really done.  I am talking about Megadungeons.  I was reading this posting on megadungeons recently, and it got me thinking.

I have never really been a huge fan of Megadungeons.  The idea sort strikes me as being, well odd, but it is also such an iconic idea in D&D.
After a while I am I am wondering  how is it that these creatures don't kill each other? Or just freaking leave.

But on the other-hand I enjoy the Dungeon! board game a lot and that is essentially a mega-dungeon in board game form.

Now back in the day I did run the "comical" Castle Greyhawk module.  I will admit I had a lot of fun doing it, it was totally a tongue-in-cheek humor and fine for the time I ran it, it is not something I would ever pick up to run again. In the retrospect of the mega-dungeon article above and the now near mythical dungeons under Castle Greyhawk, it is really lacking.

So my curiosity is up and I am thinking of giving is a go.  Create some characters and have as a "it's rainy/cold out side, the kids want to play and I have nothing ready yet".   I like the idea of using something more akin to Basic/Expert.  So limiting it to 121t-14th level. Limit the dungeon itself to 13 levels too.   Plus something else in the article struck me as interesting.  People would come and go from the adventure when Gary was running it.  So if the boys have friends over they could drop in from one of the thousands of portals and then leave when needed.  I would imagine that dozens of groups of adventures would be there to clean out the dungeon or discover it's secrets.

Rules Systems
Looking for something with a real old-school vibe to it.
I like the idea of Dungeon Crawl Classics, to start out at 0-level, then move on. But I want something that feels more like the D&D of old.
Adventurer Conqueror King System is a great choice and some of the megadungeons use these rules.
This would also be a fun thing to do with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.

Which Dungeon?
A very good question to be honest.  There are a lot of different ones out there but really I only have three contenders.
Top of my list is Castle of the Mad Archmage.  It might be as close as I will ever get to Castle Greyhawk and it is very complete.
Next is Dwimmermount which comes in Labyrinth Lord and Adventurer Conqueror King.
Finally Barrowmaze is another good contender.

Maybe this will be my new project for Christmas break with my kids.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Mythic Russia

There are tons and tons of great mythic stories in the world.  One of the ones I have always found to be interesting, though I know very little about them, are the Russian myths and fairy tales.  In particular Baba Yaga and Koschei the Immortal.  I found these pictures online from Amok Amokov.

These pictures really capture what I think the Russian fairy tales should look like, or at least how they should be in my world.

Baba Yaga

Vasilisa the Beautiful

Vasilisa the Wise

Koschei the Immortal

Ilya Muromets

Alyonushka and Ivanushka
Elena the Fair
I certainly like this version of Elena the Fair, certainly worthy of the title Queen of Summer.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Zatannurday: The Cypher Friends

+Mark Craddock over at the excellent Cross Planes blog has been doing a lot of stats for the Cypher System lately.

His series, which has the great name "Cypher Friends", has been about all sorts of superheroes in a post-apocalyptic setting.  It is pretty cool.

Here is his Zatanna,

and Raven,

They are really awesome and you should check out the whole series.

Thanks Mark!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday Night Videos: Women Rock!

Growing up I had a friend that knew every actress' name, movie she was in all these details about their lives.  In college I had another friend who did the same thing with all these supermodels.

When asked who I found attractive or "liked" I would always say names like Stevie Nicks, Deborah Harry or Joan Jett.  For me it was always about the rock girls.

It is also no surprise that most of the female PCs and NPCs I have or have had were based on the women whose albums, tapes and CDs I would buy.

So with the new Supergirl show on now and Jessica Jones on tonight in the US here are some of my favorite ass-kicking superheroines.

This should not be a surprise to anyone I have already featured great performers like Shirley Manson of Garbage, Stevie Nicks,  So here are a just a very few of my favorites.

I have always loved Joan Jett.  She is just so goddammed cool and can rock with the best of them.  She has SOOO many great songs, but this one always gets me going.  Plus it is the "theme song" for the Grazzt/Iggwilv love affair.  That's their dirty little secret...they actually love each other.

Ever hear a song and thought "man I need to do something with that!",  Pat Benatar's "Shadows of the Night" from 1982's Get Nervous was always that song to me. It is very, very likely that the "Midnight Angel" later became Nox.  I always loved her and yes I did have a witch character that looked like her in the 80s.   I never liked the video for it to be honest.  If had been thinking about this I should have made my own video with footage of her on Charmed.  Yes. She was on Charmed for an episode.

Speaking of Nox. "Because the Night" was written by Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen thanks to the manipulations of Jimmy Iovine (who is immortalized in my games as well).   Patti Smith is such a powerful singer that most people can't do this song justice.  Bruce can.  Natalie Merchant did a good job, so did Shirley Manson.  But they can't compare to her version.   This is one of my favorite songs.

I was once asked if I thought Siouxsie Sioux was attractive. I said yes without hesitation and then I showed them the video for "Kiss Them For Me".  It's not the most iconic Banshees' song, but I really like it.

One of my favorite bard characters looks just like Aimee Mann. What can I say, she is so damn cute and more talented than a truckload of pop-princesses.

Even Darth Vader loves Blondie.  "The Tide is High" is not really related to any gaming, but damn. Deborah Harry in her prime.

What do a Gateway 486, an HP Desk Jet and Hormonally Yours all have in common?  They were the essential ingredients to the first time I sat down to collect all my notes for the Witch class.  I mention the printer because I still have that printout with a couple hundred hand written notes.
Hormonally Yours was the second album from Shakespears Sister featuring former Bananarama singer Siobhán Fahey.  "Stay" was a big hit with me in 92. I thought she was so hot back then, still do in fact.

Very, very, very few people (not just singers) have left such a mark on my psyche as Sinéad O'Connor.  Seriously. I can divide time into two very distinct and very different points. The time before I heard The Lion and The Cobra and the time after.  I have talked about Sinéad before, but the amount I have talked about her doesn't reflect what her music has meant to me.  "Troy" is not my favorite song on this album, but it is damn close.

I think this a good place to stop.  I can do a part 2 later!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Grimalkin, The Witch-Assassin

Gimalkin is the assassin of the Malkin witch-clan and is the best one they have ever had.
She is tall, thin but muscled and covered in leather straps and daggers.
In addition to being a powerful witch she is a peerless assassin and always chooses to make her own weapons.
Her weapon of choice is a razor sharp pair of scissors that she uses to snip off the thumbs of her victims.  While she is deadly and cruel, she also has a sense of honor. She will not fight against people much weaker than herself and she never, ever lies.

You can read more about her here:

Grimalkin the Witch-Assassin
Female Human Assassin 4/Rogue (Rake) 1/Witch (bone-witch) 5
LE Medium humanoid (human)
Init +3; Senses Perception +11


AC 15, touch 13, flat-footed 12 (+2 armor, +3 Dex)
hp 53 (5d8+5d6)
Fort +2, Ref +8, Will +6; +2 vs. poison
Defensive Abilities uncanny dodge


Speed 30 ft.
Melee dagger +4 (1d4+3/19-20) and
   dagger +0 (1d4+1/19-20) (x13)
Special Attacks bravado's blade, death attack (DC 18), hexes (coven, disguise, healing), sneak attack +3d6, true death (DC 19)
Witch Spells Prepared (CL 5th; concentration +11):
3rd—arcane sight, bestow curse (DC 17)
2nd—alter self, darkness, hold person (DC 16)
1st—cause fear (DC 15), charm person (DC 15), command (DC 15), infernal healing
0 (at will)—daze (DC 14), mending, message, read magic


Str 16, Dex 17, Con 11, Int 18, Wis 12, Cha 9
Base Atk +5; CMB +8; CMD 21
Feats Acrobatic, Agile Maneuvers, Alertness, Blind-Fight, Endurance, Quick Draw
Traits focused mind, killer
Skills Acrobatics +13, Bluff +3, Craft (weapons) +15, Diplomacy +3, Disguise +7, Escape Artist +12, Fly +5, Heal +5, Intimidate +8, Knowledge (arcana) +17, Knowledge (planes) +14, Knowledge (religion) +10, Perception +11, Sense Motive +9, Stealth +14, Survival +7, Swim +7, Use Magic Device +10
Languages Abyssal, Common, Daemonic, Dark Folk, Infernal
SQ hidden weapons, patron spells (bone magic), poison use
Other Gear leather armor, dagger x 13

Special Abilities

Agile Maneuvers Use DEX instead of STR for CMB
Arcane Familiar Nearby You gain the Alertness feat while your familiar is within arm's reach.
Blind-Fight Re-roll misses because of concealment, other benefits.
Bravado's Blade (Ex) On sneak attack, forgo damage dice for free Intimidate with +5 bonus/dice reduced.
Coven (Ex) Count as a hag to form covens, and aid another can increase coven witch's CL.
Death Attack (DC 18) (Ex) You can kill or paralyze for 1d6+4 rds with a prepared sneak attack.
Deliver Touch Spells Through Familiar (Su) Your familiar can deliver touch spells for you.
Disguise (5 hours/day) (Su) Can change own appearance, as disguise self but with longer duration.
Empathic Link with Familiar (Su) You have an empathic link with your Arcane Familiar.
Endurance +4 to a variety of fort saves, skill and ability checks. Sleep in L/M armor with no fatigue.
Focused Mind +2 to Concentration checks
Healing (2d8+5) (Su) Use cure moderate wounds once per day/person.
Hidden Weapons +4 (Ex) You gain +4 to Sleight of Hand checks made to hide weapons on your person.
Killer Add weapon's critical modifier to its critical bonus damage.
Poison Use You do not risk poisoning yourself accidentally while poisoning a weapon.
Quick Draw Draw weapon as a free action (or move if hidden weapon). Throw at full rate of attacks.
Share Spells with Familiar Can cast spells with a target of "You" on the familiar with a range of touch.
Sneak Attack +3d6 +3d6 damage if you flank your target or your target is flat-footed.
Speak With Familiar (Ex) You can communicate verbally with your familiar.
True Death (DC 19) (Su) Casting Raise Dead on a victim of your death attack requires a successful DC 19 caster level check.
Uncanny Dodge (Ex) Retain Dex bonus to AC when flat-footed.

Familiar (Bone Witch)
Grimalkin uses bones as her familiar. In particular the thumb bones of other powerful people, witches or creatures.  Right now she has in her possession the head the of Fiend, she can use that as a familiar as well.

Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: The Last Apprentice/The Spook series

I have been terrible at posting in the Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge since June. time like the present I guess.

Instead of doing everything I have read since July I'll focus on the "Spook Series" also known as the Wardstone Chronicles or The Last Apprentice books by Joseph Delaney.   I reviewed the first book, The Last Apprentice, back in January.

Yes these are children's books or Young Adult. But my youngest son was reading them so I thought I would read along with him.  Sometime around book four I passed him up.
I remember seeing the first book, The Last Apprentice, when it first came out.  I flipped through it and got the idea then that Spooks were something like rangers, only focused on get rid of ghosts.
The inevitable comparison though is to Harry Potter.  Like Harry, Tom Ward starts out as a young boy and grows into his destiny.  Tom's backstory is not as tragic, but he has plenty of secrets about himself to learn.  I will be honest. These books are not as good as Harry Potter, but that is hardly a slight. Hardly anything is as good as Harry Potter.  But these books do have some charm and they are a really quick read. So here are my reviews, game information will follow.

The Spook's Curse (Published in the USA as The Last Apprentice: Curse of the Bane) - 2005
The second book in the series deals with the death of the Spook's brother and their journey to Priestown. Here Tom are the Spook reunited with Alice, but she is in the hands of the Quisitor.  To make matters worse, the monster imprisoned in the catacombs under Priestown is waking up and exerting more control over the priests to turn them evil.  The Spook, Tom and Alice have to work together to defeat the Bane.
What I liked the most about this one was the development of Alice as a character.  You get the idea that she will be or already is a very powerful witch in her own right.
Number of Witches: Only 1 confirmed

The Spook's Secret (Published in the USA as The Last Apprentice: Night of the Soul Stealer) - 2006
Winter has come to the County and the Spook, Tom and Alice travel to the Spook's winter home.  We learn a lot more about the Spook's background and he is not as "pure" as he claims to be.  We learn he has kept his "wife" and her sister locked up in his cellar because they are Lamia Witches.  We also meet Morgan, a failed apprentice Spook turned Necromancer and now an enemy of John Gregory the Spook.
This book sets up the formula that will appear in other books, Tom and Alice fighting multiple enemies at the same time.  In this case Lamia Witches and Morgan/Golgoth.  The tone in this book is also a bit darker than the first two.  Tom's dad dies and Morgan keeps the soul imprisoned.  Fairly dark. I liked that in his youth the Spook was not so principled.
Number of Witches: 3, plus 1 Necromancer

The Spook's Battle (Published in the USA as The Last Apprentice: Attack of the Fiend) - 2007
Ah, now we are getting into the meat of the series (so far).  Tom's mother "Mam" (I'll admit, I hate that name. She really should have had a proper name) has gone home to Greece to fight the Dark there.  But in the meantime Tom's brother Jack, with Jack's wife and daughter are all captured by Pendle Witches and his mother's trunks are taken.  Alice goes ahead to Pendle, where she still has witch relatives of her own, to find out what is going on.  When she does not return Tom and Spook go into the heart of town populate by three powerful clans of witches.
In addition to learning more about Tom's mother (she was likely a domestic Lamia witch) we learn more about Alice. She is the daughter of two witch clans for example and still has plenty of relatives left.  We also meet one of the coolest characters in the series, Grimalkin the Witch-Assassin.  But the Big Bad of the series is finally revealed; the Fiend or The actual honest to goodness Devil himself.  And he wants Tom.
Number of Witches: 100s

The Spook's Mistake (Published in the USA as The Last Apprentice: Wrath of the Bloodeye) - 2008
Tom has entered next phase of his apprenticeship where he will go train with a different Spook for 6 months.  This time with former apprentice Bill Arkwright.  Here Tom learns more about Water Witches and learns more about the plans the Fiend has in store for him.  He is afraid that Alice is getting closer and closer to the Dark.  He also makes an unlikely ally in the form of Grimalkin.  Here also Tom learns that Alice was not the daughter of two benign witches but the daughter of Bony Lizzy and the Fiend himself.  The Spook wants to put her in a pit but Tom and Bill intervene.  *Note to be fair we learn that Alice is Bony Lizzy's daughter in the "Seventh Son" Movie, I just thought at the time they were being lazy.
Number of Witches: half a dozen or so

The Spook's Sacrifice (Published in the USA as The Last Apprentice: Clash of the Demons) - 2009
Tom, Alice, his mother, Bill Arkwright and a reluctant Spook join forces with the Pendle Witches to travel to Greece to battle one of the Fiend's greatest allies, the Ordeen. We learn a lot more in this book.  Tom's mother is not just a lamia witch, she is Lamia herself and all Lamia witches are her offspring.  She has been fighting the Dark now for centuries.  We meet some Greek Spooks who have different ways of fighting the Dark and Grimalkin continues to be a bad ass.  Tom has to make a very choice between two equally bad options and ends up under the power of the Fiend.  Alice then uses more Dark magic to keep him out.
Number of Witches: 100s

The Spook's Nightmare (Published in the USA as The Last Apprentice: Rise of the Huntress) - 2010
Tom, Alice and the Spook return home to find the County ravaged by war and the Spook's home destroyed.  Tom and Alice have to step up and do more of the work as the Spook is in a funk.  They end up on the Ilse of Mona where they encounter fear and resistance from the people.  They also discover a shaman, a cache of black magic energy, a half-demon, a demonic monster and Alice's mother Bony Lizzy.  One of the things I liked about this one was how witches become more powerful when they turn 40.  As someone in my 40s I think that is a great idea! We are also introduced to a Bird Witch which can summon birds to do her bidding.
Number of Witches: 4 or 5

The Spook's Destiny (Published in the USA as The Last Apprentice: Rage of the Fallen) - 2011
"Never go to Ireland" is the warning given to Tom by the Morrigan.  But Tom has no choice and he follows Alice and the Spook to Ireland where they have to deal with a group of "Goat Mages" attempting to summon the old god Pan.  Here Tom spends a lot of time tied up, unconscious or away from the Spook.  Alice is actually captured by the Fiend at one point and taken to Hell.  Tom must battle The Morrigan and the twin sister of a witch he and Bill Arkwright once dealt with.
He meets the god Pan (who is not as bad as everyone makes him out to be) and he even has a chance to visit Cú Chulainn in a sidhe mound.
This one started out slow for me, but I was excited they were in Ireland.  The meeting of Cú Chulainn was great and gaining the Sword of Destiny was cool too.  But the best part was more interaction with Grimalkin.  I won't spoil the end for you, but it is cool.
<spoiler>Tom defeats the Fiend and gets Alice back from hell.</spoiler>

It has been a fun series to say the least.

Need to pick up the last few books...for my son of course.

Books read: 25
Current Level: Crone,  Read 16 – 20 Witchy Books

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Class Struggles: Mara Witch Tradition

Witch by ivangod
Today's Class Struggles is going to be a total cheat.  After two weeks of psychic classes, I have read a bunch of psychic and occult material which, of course, gets me thinking about witches.  Since I spent a lot of time yesterday with Wee Jas and to a much smaller degree Hecate, I wanted to talk about the witches of Wee Jas as influenced by the witches of Hecate I have used in the past.

The Mara Witch Tradition

The Mara is a witch tradition that is very, very old.  They share more than just a little relationship with Night Hags, which some scholars believe may have been some of the first Mara Witches.
The Mara understand, maybe more so than most, the life is a constant struggle not against death, but towards it.  This struggle of competing forces is what the Mara seek out. Life and Death in a constant struggle to the inevitable end.

Role: These witches most often serve gods or goddesses of Death, Transition, Change or even Destruction.  There tend to be two basic archetypes of Mara detailed below, the chaotic Mara and the lawful Mara.

Joining this Tradition: To join this tradition the witch must realize that life if nothing but a transitory period between oblivions.  Even if there is life after death in the form of reincarnation the witch is not aware of it on this plane now.So the witch chooses not to be apart of this charade anymore and embrace the death in all of us.

Leaving this Tradition: Typically the witch has such conviction that the only way out is her death.

Occult Powers: The occult powers of the Mara are derived by the struggle of life and death.  There is magic in both life and in death.  There is magic and power in the transition.  While evil Mara are often accused (and rightly so) of killing newborn babies, good Mara also are there to wish children pleasant dreams and act as guardians.

Least, 1st Level: Familiar. The Mara witch gains a familiar.  The familiar is often a floating skull, a ghost or some other omen of death made real (a banshee, a barghest, a black dog). The witch can communicate with this familiar regardless of the form it takes.

Lesser, 7th Level: Dream Invasion. Once per day, the Mara Witch can invade the dreams, the so-called deaths of every day, of others.  She can use this invasion to gather information, learn about various targets or even drain the victim's on life force for herself.  She can drain a total of 1 point of Constitution per night for three nights (3 points total).  This draining she can add to her own pool of hitpoints. Each point of Constitution grants her 3 hp over and above what she normally has.  After the third day, she forfeits her ill-gained health and her victim will recover at the rate of 1 con point per week.

Minor, 13th Level: Nightmare Shape. Once per day, the Mara witch can polymorph herself into any type of undead creature and back. The creature in question must be of comparable size. The witch gains the powers of the creature and retains her ability to cast spells, but she also suffers from that creature’s associated weaknesses. She retains her own hit points and level.  If she is "turned" by a cleric then she is forced back into her "human" form and can not switch back till the next new moon.

Once the mara witch reaches this level, she gains the undead's intolerance of silver. Any silvered weapon will do an additional 1d6 points of damage to the witch if touched, similar in the way Holy Water damages undead. Unless a weapon is specifically listed as being silvered iron, then assume it is not.  The witch is vulnerable to silver in any form she takes.

Greater, 19th Level: Witch’s Curse. The witch can place a powerful Curse on one creature once per day. The curse can be of any sort, but will usually bestow a -4 to all to hit rolls and -2 to any saving throw rolls. Witch curses are quite powerful and require the use of two (2) remove curse spells to be fully removed.

Major, 25th Level: Dead Zone Mind. The mara witch has become so accustomed to turning into a nearly undead creature and moving closer and closer to death herself that her mind is no longer that of a living breathing person.  She becomes immune to charm and hold spells. Her mind can't not be probed or read via telepathy, ESP or similar powers.

Superior, 31th Level: Kiss of Death. The witch gains a Kiss of Death. When the witch wishes, she
can give a target a Kiss of Death. If the person has 9 or fewer hit die he dies, if he is over 9 hit die he must save vs. death or die. This may not be used in battle, only in a non-combat situations.

Special Benefits and Restrictions: Mara witches can use spells normally reserved for necromancers.  They are though barred from using any spell that could return a person back to life such as Raise Dead, Resurrection or Reincarnate.

Equipment:  Nothing special.

Preferred/Barred Covens: Typically evil covens.  There are usually a Night Hag or two present in their covens as well.

Relationship to the Patron: For chaotic Mara the Patron is usually the Bringer of Death. This is usually a bloodthirsty god or goddess that revels in death and destruction.  Lawful Mara have a Patron that is the Protector or Steward of the Dead.
The greatest Patron of the Mara is an ancient Hag named  Marzanna (in Polish), Morė (in Lithuanian), Morana (in Czech and Slovene), or Morena (in Slovak and Russian). She is an ancient creature associated with Winter and Death, but also the rebirth of the seasons.  Other Mara patrons include Hecate, Lilith, and Wee Jas.  The Aztec Goddess of vice, Tlazolteol, also has many Mara followers.

Source/Views of Magic: Magic comes from the struggle of Life against Death. People live and they die and this creates powerful magic in the world.  While the chaotic Mara might focus on just the death magic, the lawful Mara also know there is magic in life and in the celebration of life.  Especially the celebration of life in the face of certain death.

Archetypes: There are two basic archetypes of Mara.  The "evil" Chaotic Mara. These witches revel in death and destruction.  The more death they are around, whether they cause it or not, grants them power.  The Lawful Mara could be considered "good", but in truth they also see the need for death.  Everything must die to allow new things to live and grow which in turn must die. Neutral Mara, generally speaking, do not exist as there is no middle ground between life and death.

The Mara for Other Witches

For Adventurer Conquer King's Player Companion from +Alexander Macris and +Tavis Allison the witch is limited to 14th level.  The 6 occult powers can be spread out over these levels.  I would remove the Witch's Curse and then evenly spread out the remaining five.

Similar plan for +Jeff Talanian's Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea's witch.  Though in this case I would also remove the option for "Lawful" Mara.  Mara in this world setting are nothing but evil.

For +Joseph Bloch's Adventures Dark & Deep, The Witch the BEST thing is adding spells from his Necromancer class.  Spread out the powers, replacing the ones listed for the Witch.

+Jonathan Becker's Complete B/X Adventurer also has a witch class. His witch lacks outright powers, but has plenty of spells.   So if you want to convert ANY of my witches to one of his make the Occult Powers into Witch Spells only that kind of witch can use.  Here is a quick anf dirty guide.

Basic Witch Occult Power B/X Witch Spell Level
Least, 1st Level 1st level Witch Spell, 1st level witch
Lesser, 7th Level 3rd level Witch Spell, 6th level witch
Minor, 13th Level 5th level Witch Spell, 12th level witch
Greater, 19th Level 7th level Witch Spell, 21st level witch
Major, 25th Level 8th level Witch Spell, 25th level witch
Superior, 31th Level 9th level Witch Spell, 30th level witch

For his 10th level spells you would have to come up with something appropriately cool.
Heck I might grab his 10th level spells for my own witch games!

Becker also spends some time with a Holmes-style witch, but I am not sure these sorts of powers would work for that.

So now regardless of what OSR Witch you use noe you can unleash the Mara on your players!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Wee Jas

Wee Jas, The Suel Goddess of Magic, Death, Law and...a bunch of stuff really.
Could she be more 80s chic?

Been thinking a lot about Wee Jas lately.
Ever since I first "discovered" her in the pages of Dragon magazine #88 I was enthralled with her.

She first appeared (I learned almost right after) in the World of Greyhawk boxed set.  All we knew about her then was she was a greater Suel goddess of magic and death.

Lenard Lakofka's article though gave us the most detail really.  That is where the picture on the right is from.
What do we learn about her?  Well at this point she is still a greater goddess of magic and death.  She knows every magic-user spell and all other spells to 5th level (why only 5th??).  She can cast up to 9 spell levels worth of spells each round; so 1 9th level spell or 9 1st level or any combination.  She has 90% magic resistance and a globe of invulnerability that floats around her.

She is attractive (Charisma 20) and always appears so.
If she is anything she is very lawful.  To the point where good and evil are mostly meaningless to her just as long as you are not chaotic.  In fact she pretty much hates anything chaotic except for the chaotic neutral god Norebo; who is her brother (or half-brother) and occasional lover.  Gods. Go figure.
In the letters section in a couple Dragons later it is mentioned that Norebo's entry mentions Wee Jas, but Wee Jas' doesn't.  The editors reply that it is because Wee Jas is loathe to admit it and Norebo could also be bragging.

By this point, this was all I knew about her. She was not yet known as "The Witch Goddess" but that is what I used her for.  Besides, take a look at her name.
Wee (We) and Jas (Ja), we ja or "we ya".  Or to spell it differently Ouija.  Her name certainly comes from Oui Ja, the French and German words for "Yes" and the basis of the name of the Ouija board. Plus magic and death.  Seems a dead give away.

After this Wee Jas' story gets weirder.  She is demoted, promoted, gains and loses domains.  Gets more evil, less evil. Picks up the title of Witch Queen somewhere along the way as well.  Canonfire, the great Greyhawk website, has spilled a lot of bits and bytes on this.

The Wee Jas Resurrected article is insteresting because it attempts to bring in a lot of these inconsistences and bring together to a complete and understandable whole.  For me the the bits on the rivalry of Wee Jas and Iggwilv were very interesting as well as making her one of the Suel gods/goddesses of Sex. Totally make sense really.  She even gains a "reformed" succubus, Zem'Jil, as a servant.

In truth the model for Wee Jas from our own world is Hecate, the Goddess of Magic, Witches, Ghosts, Necromancy and the Crossroads.   It is said that Wee Jas gaurds the doorways to the dead and the same is true for Hecate.  In fact I have used them rather interchangeblly for years.

I think for my own version of Wee Jas, I would start with the Dragon 88 version, add a little bit of what we saw in D&D 3.x, and then change her "Death" portfolio to "Spirits".  She can summon undead, and her priests may do so as well, but no raise dead spells.  I rather liked the Raven Queen from D&D4, so pass of Wee Jas' control of Death (save for spirits) to the Raven Queen.  Since the Raven Queen is described as a young or new Godess, it could even be that she is the daughter of Wee Jas.  Have to investigate this line further.

I would also change her Globe of Invulnerability into a ruby skull that floats and protectors her.  Maybe a former lover.  Keep Zem'Jil because that is just cool to have a succubus ally.  Give Zem'Jil some levels in witch too, since Wee Jas would be her patron.

Certainly would have to have her in my War of the Witch Queens adventure.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Kid's Games

I totally missed Friday Night Videos the other night.  Sorry. Insane day at work. I didn't even know about Paris till I got home Friday night.

OneBookshelf is running their annual "Teach your Kids to Game Week" with lots of sales on introductory material for kids.

While I totally applaud such efforts, I think back to how I learned and how I taught my own kids and we all started with D&D.

In fact my oldest son has been playing for close to 11 years now.  He is still playing his first character in our Dragonslayers game.  We began the game in early 2005 with "The Cave of the Stinky Goblin" and now have a host of epic-level bad asses.

This weekend we even took some time to play the children of the Dragonslayers, the Order of the Platinum Dragon in the next part of the Slaver's series.  The big "reveal" is coming soon and I can't wait to spring it on my players.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Zatannurday: Featuring the Enchantress

The December 2015 issue of Empire is coming out and the covers feature characters from the upcoming Suicide Squad movie, including Carla Delevingne as the Enchantress.

Enchantress, aka June Moone, is also one of the magical using types in Justice League Dark.   From the brief interviews it sounds like we are going to see a bit of June before she becomes (or is taken over by) the Enchantress.

Let's not forget that Marvel also has an Enchantress. She likes wearing green too.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Kickstart Your Weekend: Bring Back MST3K

Not a gaming Kickstarter...unless you happen to be me.

I have said it before. My Appendix N is full of cheesy sci-fi, horror and fantasy movies.  The only people that loved these movies more than me were the Best Brain behind Mystery Science Theatre 3000.    In the 90s, this was my show. The one I tapped and never missed.  Still have 18 or so 6-hour tapes full of episodes.  To bad I have no idea where a work VCR is.

But no fear because MST3k is coming back through the magic of Kickstarter and fans like us.


In truth they don't need my help to publicize this, but they are getting it anyway.
Heck they made $1 Million in their first 24 hours.

Really looking forward to this one!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Blustery Day

So no post today.  I have been writing my posts at night or very early in the morning to post later in day lately.  Last night I could not work on anything because I was too busy working on the Chili for my work's annual Chili Cookoff.

I do a different recipe every year.  This year I went with one my son and I called "The Mississippi Queen".

Well it paid off.  I got 1st Place!

My winning ingredients?  Bacon grease (not so secret) and Ghost Peppers fresh from the garden.

Regular blogging tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Class Struggles: Psionics, Part 2

Last week I went over the various Psionic systems that have appeared in print or digital for the D&D game.  This week I want to look at the classes.

One thing that you first discover that psionics were always something that was added on to the game later.  Often there are powers, but no classes to speak of really.  This is certainly true for AD&D1st ed and OD&D.  Interestingly enough (compared to my discussion last week) that in Eldritch Wizardry it is stated rather plainly that Monks (and Druids) can not be psychic.

1991 was a good year for psionics.  We saw the release of the official Complete Psionics Handbook from TSR for 2nd ed and the unofficial Psionics from Mayfair Games Role Aids line.
Both books changed psionics from it's added on system and made something that seemed to fit into the game a little better.  They sacrificed a little of what made the psionics system so alien and different for playability.
The Complete Psionics Handbook introduces the Psionist class.  This class has access to all the powers in the book.  Psionic powers are divided into six groups with major powers, called sciences, and minor powers, called devotions.  Just like AD&D1, but now they are sorted and there are more powers.   The attack and defense powers, for example, are now part of Telepathy.  The system works well and while the psionists has less overall powers than say a wizard has spells the psionist is not limited to how many times they can use their powers, save by PSPs.

Mayfair's Psionics takes a slightly different approach.  In this there is a Psionist class with five different traditions or schools of psionics, Sonimancers, Telepaths, Telekineticists, Pyromancers, and Empaths. So...every Stephen King psychic ever. The psionist usually stays in that tradition.  Powers are categorized by school and then divided by power level, similar to spell level. There are six levels of powers.  Largely it plays the same as the TSR book, but this one feels more like a spell system.  Getting these two books to work together would be a feat to be honest.  There are so many differences between the levels of the powers, the assumptions of the psionist class and even the PSP vs MP power point costs.  Best to choose one system and adapt the other as needed.

I want to give brief mention to the Deryni in Mayfair's Witch book.  While presented as a witch class the are obviously better suited for Psionic use.  Converting them to Mayfair's psionic system would be easier than converting TSR Psionic to Mayfair's.

3e and the OGL comes around and we get a ton of new psionics options including three new classes (and a spell like system).  This in turn gives birth to Pathfinder and the OSR.  One of the first 3rd party books to support psionics was The Quintessential Psychic Warrior from Mongoose. But like most of Mongoose's products from this time it's not very good.
Pretty much everything for 3.x era psionics can be found in the d20 SRD.  Pathfinder, as a system, had not used psionics or psychic powers till this year with the release of the Occult Adventures book.  I am still going throuhg my copy from Gen Con.  Other companies though built off of the SRD and came up with their own books.
Ultimate Psionics is by far the largest at 450+ pages.  This takes the three basic psionic classes from the SRD and expands it to 10 (7 new).  Not to mention pages and pages of powers. I am hard pressed to think of a more complete book.

But sometimes you don't want a 500 page tome.  Sometimes you just want a couple of pages.  Well if the OSR is about nothing else it is about "less is more".  These books are designed for your old school games and are much smaller.

If you are playing Castles & Crusades then the Mentalist class from Amazing Adventures! would port over with hardly an issue at all.  In fact I have done it before and it works so good that Troll Lords should really consider doing it offically.

White Box Options: Psychic Talents [Swords & Wizardry]
At 10 pages this book really exemplifies what people love about S&W.  Quick and easy rules that slot in nicely with the game they are playing.  This is more of a psychic wild talent add on. Feels similar to the wild talent powers in AD&D1 or even OD&D.  Random table of powers and descriptions of all the powers. Not a bad deal for just under 2 bucks.

Old-School Psionics
Designed to be a new psionics system for OSRIC this book introduces the Mentalist class.  Powers are divided out among disciplines going to 7th level.  Powers are treated mostly like spells, but that works well for adding into OSRIC.  Also some psionic monsters are detailed including my favorite (and worth the price of the book) the Doppleganger as a proper psionic monster.  22 pages including cover and OGL.  Very nicely done.

OSRIC Psionic Combat
This book has a lot of charm. A quick look at the author, artist and contributors leads me to believe this was something a whole family put together and then played.  I can relate and honestly the book gets an extra star just for that.  The books covers a very simple psionic combat system and a psionist class.  Nothing more really.  But that is all it set out to do, so great.  I might not play as written, but the detail here is great and would convert nicely to any of the other systems I have used.

Crypts & Creatures Psionics Handbook
At 12 pages for 50 cents this looks like a deal.  But what we have here is a stripped down version of the psionic classes from the d20 SRD for the OSR crowd.  I would have liked to see some more to be honest.  There are classes and powers listed, but not really detailed.  Now for someone this will be just perfect, but most people I think will want some more.

This book is designed for the White Star game.Though it can be ported over to Swords & Wizardry with no issues. The psionist is introduced and powers are detailed.  The psionist chooses a focus power area and sticks with that in the game. A nice, simple system with some useful powers.  11 pages with cover and OGL.

There is a psionic system in Realms of Crawling Chaos as well, but I well detail that one on a later date.

And of course the Basic Psionics Handbook.

So if you love psionics and psionic classes there are plenty of choices out there.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Oh! What a Lovely War

Picked up a new book from Troll Lords over the weekend to add to my Castles & Crusades collections. The Book of Familiars is a great book and one I have reviewed in the past.

Makes me wish I had a regular C&C game going.  I added it to a bunch of my other "witch" themed books.

Collecting all my books, games and adventures for the War of the Witch Queens and I am working out a time and a place to set it.  With the release of Dark Albion it occurs to me again that Medieval England would be the best place to start.    I was digging through some of the material I had written for the WitchCraft RPG many years ago under the project title "WitchCraft: The Burning Times" and found just a treasure trove of notes and ideas. But mostly it was essential in putting down a good time for all this.

I am going to opt for the early 17th Century.  While I certainly would have loved to have had Queen Elizabeth in the mix, King James is a better choice.

King James, 1567 - 1625
Gunpowder Plot, 1605
Death of John Dee, 1608  (though I could also stick in Ella Dee)
Pendle witches, 1612
and for reference, Salem, MA Witch Trails, 1693

Though with the inclusion of Baba Yaga and Lamia (Keats and Waterhouse can't be wrong) I will have to expand it to the rest of the world.

It is looking more and more like I am going to have to go with Castles & Crusades for War of the Witch Queens and not Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea like I originally wanted.