Monday, August 31, 2015

RPG a Day, James’ Appendix

+James Mishler also added some questions.

1. Best non-RPG property to licensed RPG you’ve ever played
Easy. Ghosts of Albion.

2. Best RPG you’ve ever read but never played
Keltia from Cubicle 7.  It looks amazing.

3. RPG core rulebook you would take with you on a desert island
Only one?  The D&D Rules Cyclopedia. One book, endless possibilities.
That or the WitchCraftRPG.

4. Favorite RPG vaporware.
I hate to throw another designer under the bus, so I won't mention the one I am thinking of.
So I will go historic.  I would have to say the B/X Companion from TSR.  There was a BECMI Companion and a couple of other B/X Companions, but the TSR one is the one I wanted back in the day.

5. Best houserule that ended up with the worst results
Using a d30 for anything.  I know they are fun looking, but damn a flat 1 to 30 range is nearly useless for most games.

6. Worst kerfluffle that ever ended an otherwise good, ongoing campaign
The biggest campaign killers for me have been time to meet.

RPG a Day Follow Up, Zak's Additions.

So +Zak Smith added some more to the RPG a Day, because sure. Why not.

Here are my answers.

1. Worst game you ever played
Hmm. I hate to speak bad of con games, but there was a game at the most recent Gen Con that was terrible.  The GM tried to be funny, but he was terrible at it.  We had to rescue this dragon's drinking buddies from a wizard. Just not good.

As far as games I have bought.  The "Bram Stoker's Dracula RPG" was just awful.

2. Interesting rule embedded within otherwise baleful game
Interestingly enough the same games.  The con game used a book of random effects that would be great under other circumstances.

Bram Stoker's Dracula has a great collection of firearms for the Victorian Age.

3. Game you never played but you knew it sucked just looking at it
World of Synnibar. Though I admit a certain amount of curiosity about it.

4. Game you most wish didn't suck
FATE.  I really, really wanted to like it. But in the end it is just too empty for me.

5. Game about which you have the most mixed feelings
True 20.  I love the idea of the game, love playing it. Wish more could have been done with it.

6. Old game most in need of an upgrade
Star Frontiers.  Loved this game and it's time has come again.

7. Game you can run with the least prep
Ghosts of Albion.  Half-bake an idea and give a d10.

8. Game with awful art (and who you wish you could hire to fix that)
Second Edition Chill.  Though the art is not awful, it just doesn't give me the feeling it should.  I would hire Christopher Shy to redo it, but I am afraid it will end up looking like World of Darkness or Dark Matter.

9. Best houserule you've seen in action and now use in your own games.
My buddy Greg uses a "cool factor". Any roll of a 20 on a d20 results in getting a cool factor that can be used right away or saved up for later like a drama point.

10. Game you've most changed your thoughts/feelings about
Swords & Wizardry. I used to hate it because I was comparing it to Original D&D (which it is not). I changed my mind when I decided to just compare it to itself.

11. Game you'd use to run just about any setting if you had to
Again. Ghosts of Albion.

12. Game that haunts you and you're not sure why
Man, Myth & Magic. A game I wanted to like but there is just not enough of a game there to like. But some of the ideas would work in other games.

13. Game that would probably be most fun to play a bee in
Mutants & Masterminds.

14. Best Star Wars game?
I am going to get hell for this, but I love the WotC Revised Edition.  I loved the d20 rules and for me Star Wars and D&D go hand in hand.

15. Game that's good in theory but you're kind of on the fence about it to be honest
Savage Worlds.  I know there is a good game there, but it has yet to jell with me.

RPG a Day 2015, Day 31

Day 31: Favorite non-RPG thing to come out of RPGing

That's a pretty easy one.

The friendships I have made over the years.  Going all the way back to Jr. High to today I have had the pleasure to meet so many really cool people.  Not just "famous" people, but people I consider friends.

One of the the things I love most about Gen Con, or any large Con, is walking around and seeing so many people enjoying the same hobby as me. Maybe not always the same game, but the same sorts of things.   These people are kindred. They are my tribe.

Despite anything else that happens in gaming I still value to people I have met along the way.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

RPG a Day 2015, Day 30

Day 30: Favorite RPG Playing Celebrity

I will be honest I have never given it much of a thought.

I did think it was cool that Vin Disel plays, and not only plays but knows things about the Silmarillion that only a true fan would know.

But I will be honest and say that I have recently become a fan of Felicia Day.  She seems to have been the model for the word "adorkable".  Plus I loved her on Supernatural.  No, I have not seen Season 10 yet.

I also have not seen "The Guild" yet either. But I do at least know about it.


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Zatannurday: Spider-Gwen and Batgirl

I have mentioned earlier this summer about my love for Spider-Gwen and more times than I care to think about about my love for Batgirl.

Well here they are together.  Personally I would like to think that super-smart Barbara and super-smart Gwen Stacy would be BFFs, if in a sort of rival-ly way.   So here they are together.


















RPG a Day 2015, Day 29

Day 29: Favorite RPG Website/Blog

Again, so many.

I think I am going to have to go with DriveThruRPG/RPGNow.

I LOVE the idea that any game I want is at my finger tips.  Old, new, sometimes free.  It is one of the best things about gaming in today's age.



Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Night Videos: Haunted House

I have always had this reoccurring nightmare of haunted house.
I love horror of course but this dream was quite the horror story.

Over the years I come to call it my "Very Haunted House".

Of course I had to turn it into adventure.  So I am running it for the first time tomorrow!

Here are some musical inspiration for the adventure.  No. I am not going to play Ghostbusters or Thriller.

I have mentioned many times about how much I enjoy the music of Eric Burdon and the Animals.  "House of the Rising Sun" is top of my list of not just Animals songs, but all songs.  I have featured it many times in many adventures.




Back in High School and College Genesis was a big deal.  Not the Peter Gabriel version, but the later pop friendly Phil Collins version.  "Home By the Sea" is about a house full of ghosts.  It maid it's way into "Ghosts of Albion: Blight" and now in my new adventure too.




Growing up in the midwest in the 80s it was not possible to turn on the radio and not hear the Eagles.  "Hotel California" is not their best song. It's not even a great song. But it is ubiquitous and it is evocative of Hell.  Thus it always stuck with me.




Too Much Joy was the ultimate College band when I was in Grad School.  They are fun, they sing about things that college guys like, namely drinking, girls, drugs and girls.  "Sort of Haunted House" is not a song about a real haunted house. It's about a breakup, but when I was having this nightmare this was the song that was always on.  BTW I am sure the nightmare was stress related due to defending my thesis, breaking up with my crazy ex girl friend, moving up with my new girlfriend.  So in a way it fits.  Plus like my haunted house this one has a "ghost in every room".  One of many great hits of the critically ignored Munity.




I don't have a lot to say about Rockwell.  His "Somebody's Watching Me" makes for a crazy paranoid one hit wonder.  Notable because Michael Jackson sang backup on the track.  But the video is properly creepy and that's a plus.




"Shadows of the Night" by Pat Benatar from her wildly popular Get Nervous album is not about ghosts.  But don't tell that to my 12 year old self listening to it while rereading the Cook/Marsh Expert book.  Shadows of the night were real shadows, as in the monster that could be turned in AD&D but not in D&D.  For years I have always wanted to use this song.  So this adventure reintroduces a similar monster, the Memento Mori.




Another song that featured prominently in Ghosts of Albion: Blight is the ethereal voice of Loreena McKennitt.  "The Old Ways" features a woman and her evening spent with a ghost, or maybe it was an old druid.  Either way a gulf of time separates them.  From the haunting The Visit.




Happy Hauntings.

Kickstart Your Weekend

This one seems like a no brainer to me.

Globetrotters' Guide to London



A Gothic Guide to Victorian era London?
YES PLEASE!

RPG a Day 2015, Day 28

Day 28: Favorite Game You No Longer Play

There are actually a few.

I would have to say Mage: The Ascension.



I didn't play a lot of it, but what I did I really enjoyed.  Have not had the chance to play it the last 10 or so years.



Thursday, August 27, 2015

PWWO: Dark Albion and War of the Witch Queens

I mentioned previously Dark Albion and Fantastic Heroes & Witchery by their very natures are compatible with a wide variety of games and game supplements.  So doing a "Plays Well With Others" sort of post seems a bit redundant.  But that doesn't mean I can't try something a little more different.

 

One thing I always wanted to do was run a dark age WitchCraft RPG game.  Set in the 1600s it would deal with rival factions of the Gifted fighting each other while Europe descends into the Burning Times.  It struck me how close that idea was some things I was also planning in my War of the Witch Queens adventures.

Reading over Dark Albion I kept thinking that while the Rose War is cool and all but later periods are much more fun.  Setting it in the later later ages, say the Elizabethan or even during the time of King James I, gives another backdrop. During Elizabeth England was very stable, but during James that is gone. 

Take some of the ideas from Dark Albion but advance them to 1580 or so during the reign of King James.  This is also the height of the witch craze in Europe.  This allows me to use William Shakespeare and John Dee.  I might make Dee an Occultist.  Seems right.  Plus I can take the occultist class and make it into a passable Occult Poet.

Another point of commonality is Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. I wanted to use it as a game system for both Dark Albion and my witch adventures.  I think it would work out well.  I need to find locales in "Dark" Europe for all of these adventures.

It would be one of the ultimate tests of the whole OSR ideal. Can products written for different games and different times all work together?

System: Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea and Fantastic Heroes & Witchery (to smooth out the rough edges)
Setting: Dark Albion
Adventures:
A3 Wicked Cauldron (C&C)
B7 - Rahasia (Basic D&D)
Fane of the Witch King (3.0/d20)
Night of the Spirits (C&C)
No Salvation for Witches (LotFP)
Saga of the Witch Queen (DCC)
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)

I might thin this list a bit since I am only dealing with levels 1-13 or so.

RPG a Day 2015, Day 27

Day 27: Favorite idea for merging two games into one

I have had a few to be honest.  In fact they get their own label here, Plays Well With Others.

My favorite though is "Black Rose", my mixing of Blue Rose with Ravenloft.

Here are some of the posts from back then.


It was a lot of fun.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Class Struggles: The Occultist & Skylla

Fantastic Heroes & Witchery has crazy number of classes. There were  so many to choose from and this is even given the fact that there is no "cleric" class to speak of.    I wanted to address this and talk about the Wiseman/Wisewoman and maybe I still will, later down the road.  But today I want to focus on the Occultist.

The Occultist is a magic-using character that ends up having a lot of dealings with various fiendish creatures.  The class is one of the "Weird Tales" era classes presented in the book, but there is no reason it could not be used with other dungeon crawling types of classes.  It is not the strongest character on the block and it's spell selection and use is a little limited, but it has some nice features.

To begin with the Occultist will be the undeniable expert on anything fiendish.  Demons, Devils, whatever your world has, they will know about it.  They can add their level to any skill check involving demonic/fiendish lore.  This applies to any skill. The example given are survival checks when crossing a hellish-plane or a charisma check when dealing with demons.  Not too shabby really.
At third level then even get secret knowledge of the demon slayers to aid them.
As the occultist gets higher levels they can even banish a demonic creature al together. Much like a cleric turning undead.

But all of this comes at a price.  The occultist is tainted by corruption.   The abyss staring back at you.
As they earn higher levels they have to make a Wisdom save vs. corruption or move closer and closer to chaos.  A nice idea really.

Occultists learn spells from books or other occultists.  But unlike wizards they do not have a number of spells per level they know, but rather a total number of spells and the highest level they can learn.  So a 7th level Occultist knows 7 spells and the maximum spell level of 4th.  Of those seven spells all can be 1st level or some other mix. It depends what the occultist can find in their travels.
Personally I would modify that up based on Intelligence, but that is me. The Occultist uses "Black Magic" spells, but I wonder if starting occultists could get away with using Grey magic too.  At least until they fail more saves and become chaotic.

In many ways this spell casting system is the same as what you see in the Witch from The Complete B/X Adventurer.  There are in fact many similarities in tone and the manner in which they get spells.  I can see some overlap in these classes.


Which gives me an idea.

Skylla, 7th Level Occultist

Strength: 9
Dexterity: 11
Constitution: 10
Intelligence: 12
Wisdom: 14
Charisma: 13

Hit Points:  20 (d4)
Alignment: Chaotic
AC: 4 (Ring of Protection +1)

Special Abilities
1st: Dark Lore (+7 to fiend-based/related skill checks)
3rd: Secret knowledge of demonslayers
6th: banish fiend 1/day

Spells
Maximum Spell Level: 3rd
Number of Spells known: 6
1st Level: Read Magic, Cause Fear, Chill Touch, Find Familar
2nd Level: Black Lightning
3rd Level:  Bestow Curse

Not bad, I only gave her the minimum spells, but she would likely have more secreted away in a tome for later learning.

Monstrous Manual for 2e

The Monstrous Manual for 2e is now out.


DMG is out next week!

RPG a Day 2015, Day 26

Day 26: Favorite Inspiration for Your Game

I have said it before, but I am heavily influenced by music.  What ever album, CD or playlist I am listening to has the next adventure idea for me.

Also I have been undoing influenced by Hammer Horror, B-grade horror movies, 70 Euro-trash horror and 80s slasher flicks.



Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Review and PWWO: Dark Albion: The Rose War

War is always a good backdrop to a fantasy campaign.  There is so much chaos and change and opportunity that a group of adventurers could make their way from nobodies to national heroes..or villains.  That is one of the basic conceits of +Kasimir Urbanski's aka RPGPundit's latest book Dark Albion: The Rose War. Published by DOM Publishing, the same that gave us Fantastic Heroes & Witchery. Overtly the book is for FH&W, but it can be played with any Retro-Clone or original D&D game you wish.  In fact I am going to jump ahead and say that it would work with any version of D&D you choose, including 5th Edition. But for me the game seems like it would shine under Original Edition.  But more on that later.

I am reviewing the PDF only at this point. I don't have a copy of the printed book yet.  The PDF is 277 pages; 275 of content plus cover and a hyperlink page that we also saw in FH&W. It's a nice touch.

Before I get into the meat I want to about the art and layout.  The art is predominantly woodcuts and public domain images from the period or about the period.  I want to say that for the record I LOVE this sort of art.  I really do. It captures the feel of time I think far better than most RPG art.  I love the art in the D&D/OSR books, but that is art for a game world.  For a historical one I want this.
Also the graphic design and layout is much improved in terms of technique from FH&W.  This is obvious when in the FH&W appendix it switches back to the other style. It is the same as the previous book, but still better executed.

The book is nicely organized and I am first grabbed by a sense of nostalgia. This feels like an old-school Gazetteer.  In particular the Greyhawk ones of old.  We have a two page Table of Contents and a two page index.  Both are hyperlinked.

The center of the campaign is the War of Roses. This war, between rival claimants to the throne of England, the House of York (the White Rose) and the House of Lancaster (the Red Rose). This lead, among other things, to the creation of the Tudor Dynasty (White on Red Rose) when the House of Lancaster defeated the House the York and Henry Tudor married Elizabeth York to become Henry VII of England.  This is also the milestone between what was "Dark Ages" England and the English Renaissance.  Though I personally think of the date as being later when England broke with the Church or even later still when Elizabeth I came into power.  But that is my personal bias.
(Side Note: See if RPGPundit is working on "Dark Albion: The Tudors", now there is some intrigue!)

The Introduction is a brief overview of the book, the War of Roses, and what to expect in this campaign book.  Most of what is here is detailed more in the book, but a couple of things draw our attention.  First this a "gritty" campaign.  So magic is low, character classes will be low and it is human centric.   Other differences between this and other "D&D" are given, such as very, very few demi-humans and few "monsters".  Also the differences between this world and our world are given.  The one that stands out here is the Church of the Unconquered Sun, something that readers of my blog should already be familiar with, http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2015/02/sol-invictus-unconquered-sun.html. In fact this Church is like one where Rome (Arcadia) adopted Mithra instead of Jesus.  It is an interesting idea and one I would love to see more of.

Next up, and what takes up a good chunk of the book is the Gazetteer of Albion.  For his alt-history version of England, Pundit sticks with the very archaic Albion as opposed to England or even "Angle-land".  I do not object. I used the name myself in Ghosts of Albion, though for different reasons.  This is part socio-political overview, part maps and part campaign information.   Having gone over the same territory, though 360 years later, I appreciate the attention to detail here.  The bulk of this is of course on Albion and Wales (not "Cymru"?), lands up into Scots-land ("Alba"?) only go to Hadrian's Wall, which is still intact in this world.  Lands into Ireland ("Erie"! thank you!) only go to the Pale, as appropriate.  Beyond the Pale?  Well that is where the ancient Brannans live, you don't want to go there.
Honestly, this could have been the entire book and I would have loved it.  Give me old maps and names of people and I will fill it up with ideas.  I already want to create characters and give them histories.

Next up is Kingdoms of the Continent. As you can imagine, an overview of Europe. Not as in-depth as the Albion chapter, nor should it be. There are a couple things though I want to point out.
1. Frogland. Really?  ugh. Ok, ok. I get the desire to have a non-human, chaos-based kingdom. But I really have to admit this sticks out like a sore thumb. It's really just not good. Sorry. I just don't like it, it seems to go against everything we just read about human-centric, low magic, gritty-realism.  If I were to use this in a game (and I really would want to) Frogland is going away.  I'll replace it with a Clark Ashton Smith-style Averoigne.  It really kind of mars the entire work in a way.
2. Arcadia. There is something REALLY interesting here.  I would love to see RPGPundit talk about how The Unconquered Sun grew up out Mithraism to replace Christianity in his world.  Plus this is the Renaissance.  I would imagine that Arcadia at this time in this world looks a bit more like Mage the Sorcerers Crusade than it does D&D.
3. Wallachia.  Ok, including a bad ass Dracula almost (almost but not quite) makes up for Frogland.  Having him live in a castle named "Crows Loft" is very cheeky ("Crow's Nest" might be closer, but hey, not my book).

Law & Justice in Albion is a fairly important chapter. Characters will not be able to act like the "murder-hobos" of other games. Albion, at this point, has been around as country of laws for some time.  The Magna Carta has been around for 200+ years at this point so this is not a lawless land, far from it in fact.   Frankly more campaign guides should have this as much as they do maps and people of interest.

History of Albion is just as fascinating as the Gazetteer. While I personally believe that games are about the characters, having a detailed backdrop is always nice.  Plus if your game is going to more about court intrigue and combats of words and lies rather than adventuring, then this is a must read.

Characters in Albion discuss what has been mentioned briefly already.  What characters you are likely to use in this game.  It is human centric and low magic.  Now there is an interesting twist here in that the Church of the Unconquered Sun has Priests, which are like real-world priests in the Catholic church, and Clerics which are more like D&D clerics.  In fact you can have a female cleric.  This is a handy way to have your cake and eat it too.  The reading of this chapter makes me think that Lamentation of the Flame Princes might be a good rule fit for this, but as I read more I think that Original D&D is the best choice.  Though given the changes to the world in general I would also add druids and witches to my games.

Currency & Equipment is actually quite an important chapter.  Money didn't just seperate the wealthy from everyone else, it also separates the classes, as in the upper and lower class.  In many D&D games characters tend to throw around gold like it was water.  You see that even in some of the pulp influences of D&D.  Historically though and even until past the Victorian age you would not find people throwing around a gold coin.  Copper pence/pennies were the coinage of the common man.  Maybe a silver shilling. Ok, technically the silver shilling wasn't minted until the 1500s and it was worth 12 pence (not the 10p listed). BUT this is just a change to make things easier for the game and that is fine with me.  I would still introduce a gold guinea at 21s/0p though it's introduction is still not for another 200 years or so.  I just like the idea.

The next two chapters, Noble Houses of Albion and People of Interest, deal with the people that populate this world.  I would say that if you are playing a court intrigue game then these are your important chapters.  Knowing who is controlling what and what their moves might be is a great aid for the right-minded GM.  I would say that if you are or were a fan of Pendragon or even Birthright then study these two chapters.  Heck given how Pendragon works this could be part of the same set of PCs, only their dynasties 35-40+ generations later.
Ok, so I am not taking any stars away from the overall product for this, but I will state my disappointment in the whole "Frogmen" one more time here. Craaak VII? Lraaap XI?  Come on Pundit, you can do better than this.

Sorcery and Secrets is the chapter I have been waiting for.  I will point out one discrepancy between what is said here and what is assumed.  Magic-user spells are listed to 9th level, ok that will take a pretty high level magic-user, beyond the "7th level will be really high" mentioned. Plus 9th level spells are pretty big magics.  Personally I would limit all spell casters to 6th level spells.  There are some rules in FH&W to help get around this restriction.
There are some really good demon summoning rules. I would combine these with the magic circle rules given in FH&W as well as the Ley Line rules.  In fact in might be interesting to take this chapter and Chapter 9 from FH&W and look at them as a unified whole.

Adventuring in Albion. Ok this is more like it!  Give me reasons for my characters to do things!  For me I am content with "there is a war of succession to English throne going on. You all are peasants. Figure out how make the most of it."  Thankfully there is more here than just that. Several sample adventure locations are given, including one at court.  Travel across Albion is discussed though characters are more likely to run into tolls rather than trolls, but both are still possible.
While monsters are rare in this setting a guideline for what might be possible would be good.

Three Appendices follow.
Appendix 1 detail the Knights of the Star and Secrets of the Clerical Order. Knight of the Star are an order of Knights loyal to the crown and king of Albion. These Knights could be seen as the Paladins of Albion and are given similar in-game status.
Appendix 2 is a set of house rules for rules-lite OSR clones like Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Swords & Wizardry, and Basic Fantasy RPG.
Appendix 3 is a set of rules when playing Fantastic Heroes & Witchery.  Like I mentioned before this appendix drops the Dark Albion style for the FH&W one.  Various new classes for FH&W are added including the Cleric of the Unconquered Sun, the Magister, Hedge-Witch and Cymric Bard among others.  Also classes from FH&W are discussed including which ones NOT to use in Dark Albion.  Some details about how Dark Albion's cosmology fits into the FH&W assumed cosmology.

The book ends with the OGL statement.

There is a lot crammed into 275 or so pages. While the guide is complete and there is plenty to do with it, it also opens up a lot of possibility for the world as a whole.  Dom and RPGPundit could make a career out filling up the other countries.  The time period is an interesting choice too.  Having played a ton of historical games I tend to draw a fuzzy line right around the time of the Tudors. Prior to this time I can emulate with D&D-like games, after that I use other games.  Dark Albion adheres to my own internal logic in this respect.  Though I do admit I can see myself pushing that line a bit when it comes to Elizabethan times.  I have done that time period both as a D&D-like game and as a setting for Ghosts of Albion.

I would say pick this up if you have any enjoyment for English history or if you are looking to play something different than the same old dungeon crawls.

Plays Well With Others
By virtue of it's compatibility with Fantastic Heroes & Witchery, Dark Albion has an easier time than most supplements.  Added to fact that it is presented largely rule free is a bonus.

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea has been one of my favorite systems/campaign worlds since it came out. It shares a number of elements in common with Dark Albion.  First, both worlds assume a low magic, human centric world.  There are a LOT of character classes in AS&SH and not all are appropriate for Dark Albion, but there are plenty that are even above and beyond the multitude of class options that FH&W offers.    The worlds of both games are by and large the same, just separated by vast quantities (and maybe qualities) of time.  While Dark Albion focuses on Albion and parts south, AS&SH tends to focus more to the north.  Who is to say that there are not some areas of Norway that are not still like the Hyperborea of AS&SH?
Plus the power levels of both games is the same.  All characters in AS&SH and FH&W top off at that 12-14 level limit.  This naturally keeps the magic down.
AS&SH also has a number of monsters in it that would be appropriate for the Dark Albion world.  Now, AS&SH does have "Cthulhoid" monsters which would take the implied chaos of Dark Albion to a totally different level. But I can see that working.

As mentioned before another game that would mesh well with this is Lamentation of the Flame Princes.  There is a congruity to both worlds that makes the translation not only possible, but anticipated as seen in Appendix 2.

I have to admit I picked this game up not on the reputation of it's author or even publisher, but because I really wanted to see if there is anything in this book I could use with my own Ghosts of Albion.  While the two games share a number of parallels due to subject matter and connections to the real world, the underlying assumptions of both games are very different. Back when I was working on Ghosts of Albion one of my characters was a ghost of a fighter in the War of the Roses.  I guess I could now play him as a living breathing human if I wanted too.  I just have to make sure he dies while defending the King from that dastard the Duke of York!   Dark Albion actually has more in common with Cubicle 7's Victoriana. At least in terms of setting and underlying assumptions. Heck maybe when Albion splits from the Church of the Unconquered Sun (Dark Albion) it becomes the Aluminat Church (Victoriana).   In any case Dark Albion provides an interesting historical backdrop to either of those games.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention The Witch.  Dark Albion makes many references to witches and dark magic but the only game mentioned that has a proper witch is FH&W and even then that game mentions conversions for my witch.  Just follow the guidelines already in FH&W.

One thing is certain, I am going to have to play some more with this world.

RPG a Day 2015, Day 25

Day 25: Favorite Revolutionary Game Mechanic

I think we are reaching now.

I have been doing this so long that things that were revolutionary now seem old-school.
Though I will admit I really felt that Point-Buy character creation really changed how I look at games.  That goes back to GURPS or even before.



Monday, August 24, 2015

Review: Fantastic Heroes & Witchery

This week I want to spend some time with Fantastic Heroes & Witchery.

Full Disclosure: I have worked with the author, Dominique Crouzet, in the past on a couple of projects. I think Dom is a great guy and I love the work we had done together.  I am going to review FH&W on it's own merits.

For this review I am looking at the PDF copy found at DriveThruRPG and the print copy hardcover from Lulu.

Fantastic Heroes & Witchery Reto-RPG (FH&W hereafter) is a newer "retro-clone" of the classic D&D rules.

The book itself is a massive 430 pages.  This includes the table of contents (4 pages), index (4 pages), spell index (4 pages) and OGL statement (2 pages).  The PDF also has a "quick click" index to get to sections in the book faster.

A while back I referred to this as the "Rosetta Stone" of OSR games.  It still works like that, but this really more of an meta-analysis of OSR RPG elements put into a cohesive whole.  The game feels like Basic era, BEMCI, D&D, but it also has the options of both 1st and some of 2nd Ed AD&D.  Other games like Swords & Wizardry have also contributed to the DNA of this game.  A quick look at the OGL statement in back makes it clear that this game is very much a product of many, many games.  This is not a slight, there is an absolute ton of new and original material here.  It takes the best and develops more to make it all work well.  In fact this book is a good point of translation between the various clones and 3rd Edition.  Not that translation is difficult, this helps smooth out the "local idioms" to some closer to normal.

A note about the art. Dom is not just the author of this game he is also one of the primary artists and graphic designer.  The art is reminiscent of both B/X D&D and AD&D, on purpose.  In fact there are a few tongue in cheek references to old AD&D books.  To further this feeling there is also art by Jim Holloway.

Chapter 1 deals with character creation.  Here we are given the details about Ability Scores (OSR standards here) and then we get into races.  The usual suspects are here, but some of the newer folk as well like tieflings, and some new ones.  The new races include tainted humans, primates, reptilians, revenants (undead), winged folk, and witchlings.   I love the idea behind the primates, intelligent apes and wonder why we have not seen more of those in other fantasy games.   A personal aside, the Witchlings are very much something I would expect out of Dom.  I am very intrigued by the race and plan on exploring in more.
The next section of the chapter is Character Backgrounds.  These are more role-playing options with suggestions of mechanical advantages (Foresters are better at climbing trees for example, but no pluses are given).  This is a nice section that does better than it's inspired materials but doesn't quite go as far as the newest edition of the D&D game.  That is likely a perfect sweet spot for the types of games that are going to be played here.  We end with a discussion on alignment.

Chapter 2 discusses character classes.  We have the expected list and then some more.  Again since this is a merging of Basic and Advanced ideas there are some "racial" classes here.  I like the idea myself and will discuss those in a bit.  There is also a section on "Weird Tales" pulp-era classes.
Classes are divided up into groups much like 2nd Ed or Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.   We have Warriors which include Fighters, Beserkers, Knights and Ranger.  Rogues which include Thieves, Acrobats, Assassins, and Bards. Divines which consist of Friars, Mystics and Templars and the racial classes. Dwarves include Clans-dwarf and Gothi. Elves are split into High and Sylvan they include Eldritch-archer and Fae-mage (High) and Forestal and Warden (Sylvan).  Gnomes get Illusionist and Trickster. Halflings get Folk-champion and Scout.  Finally there are the Weird Tales classes; Necronimus, Occultist, Psychic, Rifleman, Savant, Sky-lord, and Wild-brute.

Like editions 3.x and beyond, all classes use the same Experience Level chart.  So 2,000 xp is 2nd level for everyone.  This has a number of nice benefits including easier multi-classing.
Like newer editions each character class has a base to hit modifier.  So for fighters this goes up +1 per level.  Each class has HD, Base to Hit, Saves and abilities per level.  Saves are standard Sword & Wizardry style, but there is an Appendix for conversions later in the book.

An note about levels.  Like B/X, AS&SH or Adventurer, Conqueror, King, FH&W assumes that 13 is the max level.  There are XP values given for 14 and above, but the abilities stop there.

I will discuss the Wizard classes later when I talk about the spells, but for now I want to say that racial classes are really some of the nicest new classes of the book.  It is easy to create a bunch of human centric classes, but these different cultures would naturally produce some professions or heroes of their own.

The Weird Tales classes are an interesting bunch.  Some would fit right in with the Ranger or Knight, others, less so.  The Necronimus is basically a spiritualist or speaker of the dead. The occultist learns spells as the find them from old tomes, the psychic is what is says on the tin.  Others like the Rifleman or the Savant (aka Weird Scientist) could work with some good role-playing and a lot of help from the GM.  The Sky-Lord...is a great class, but it is very Sci-Fi or at least Sci-Fant.   The wild-brute would work anywhere to be honest.

Hit-dice and hp are discussed in the next section as well as saving throws.  The model of saving throws in the Swords & Wizardry one but also it could be said the D&D 5 one or the Castles & Crusades one.   Conversions and notes are given for how to translate a Fortitude save or a Breath Weapon save over to this system.  Honestly this is a gem and worth printing out these pages for any game you play.   Next are skill checks and how to handle them.

Some of the games that are compatible with Fantastic Heroes & Witchery

Chapter 3 covers Equipment.   This is what you expect but there is a lot to choose from here.  In fact t might be one of more comprehensive collections.  Worth the price of the PDF to be honest to have all of this in one place.  The section on Sci-Fantasy equipment is an added bonus.

Chapter 4 details Combat.  There is your garden variety melee and missile combat, but also vehicle based combat and psionic combat (for the psychic class). Stuffed in the last paragraph is the very interesting Duels of Rhetoric.  Basically, combat of words.  There is a lot of potential here and something I want to use in my next D&D5 game.  Yes it works with any version of D&D or OSR game.

Chapter 5 is Moving and Exploring.  A lot of what becomes a goo dungeon crawl is more than combat.  This also details carrying capacity.  What you expect is here, but there is also a nice section on "Chase rules" to go with your vehicle based combat.  Suddenly I want to do a Stephen J. Cannell-style chase with chariots or even dragons!

These two chapters have a logical conclusion found in Chapter 6, Hazards and Injuries.  This includes a Wound and Vitality system for use in any D&D-like game. Other topics include massive damage (like AD&D 2), subdual (a feature of my Basic D&D games) and healing.  There is a section of Threats and Hazards.  This details a lot of conditions PCs can find themselves in; Blind, Fearful, Drunk, Poisoned and so on.  Congrats, we just worked in the best parts of D&D4!  Beyond that the Conditions/Afflictions also extend to the Supernatural.  So Energy drain, Lycanthropy and so on.

Chapter 7 covers Monsters and NPCs.  There are no monsters in FH&W.  Not that there can't be, but the book does not list them.  It does talk about how to use monsters and how NPCs can also work as monsters.  By default FH&W assumes an OSRIC style stat block for monsters.

Chapter 8 is an interesting one. It covers Priests and Religions.  Different types of world views are discussed. Also the priest classes are mentioned with different "templates" one can use to make the priest feel different.  Some concepts of gods are later detailed.  One could add names to these from any myth rather easily.  Names are not provided though.  Each God archetype also has a suggestions for their clergy.  After this we get into a discussion of Law vs. Chaos.  This includes another class, The Agent of Law/Chaos.  If you are thinking Elric or other Eternal Champions (but also I will add, He-Man from the Masters of the Universe media is a great example of an Agent of Law). In fact so engrossing is this concept I might create three agents using this as my outline for Law, Chaos and Neutrality.  If you pick this up, really consider this chapter and what it could mean for your game.
There is even a treatise on the immortal soul and some details on the outer planes.

Chapter 9 covers magic and spellcasting.  There is a lot here. One of the better sections is acquiring arcane spells.  There are equally as good sections on getting spell-like powers.  Also covered is an optional rule on Incantations, which are spells that anyone can use.  As expected the schools of magic are covered, with the different specialists such as Illusionists, Necromancers and so on.  Also presented is a War-Mage class.
The next section deals with the craft of magic.  This includes a lot of information on magic circles, scrolls, and even creating magical talismans!  My favorite is part on ley lines and power nexuses.
We get into the bulk of the chapter with spell lists by class.  Spells are divided into Psychic, Gray, Black and White magic, Nature and Delusion spells.

Chapter 10 is the Alphabetical listing of all the spells.  164 pages worth of spells, 666 spells in all.  Thats 2/5s of the entire book.  I know some are new, but I would have to read each in detail to know which ones.  There are a lot here in any case.  Personally I LOVE that the Mordenkainen's spells have been changed to Morgane's.  While many of the spell casting classes stop at level 6, these spells do go to 7th, 8th and 9th levels.

Chapter 11 covers the Appendices.  These are:
Appendix 1: More About Ability Scores. - Ability scores above 18 to 25.
Appendix 2: Physical Appearance.  - height and weight by race.
Appendix 3: Personality.
Appendix 4: Allegiances.
Appendix 5: Cultural Background.
Appendix 6: Social Background.
Appendix 7: Rolling Hit-Points.
Appendix 8: Sanity / Insanity.  - I am not a fan of sanity in a FRPG.  but this is a simple solution option.
Appendix 9: Skills in More Detail.
Appendix 10: Talents (Custom Abilities).
Appendix 11: Fighting Schools and Maneuvers.
Appendix 12: Adding More Character Classes.
Appendix 13: Epic Levels (14th to 20th / 25th level). takes the characters into epic levels, in this case 14th to 25th.
Appendix 14: More About Saving Throws.  - more Saving translations.
Appendix 15: Domain Spells.  - divine spells by theme
Appendix 16: Critical Hits (Complete Table of Secondary Effects).

A bit more about Appendix 12.   This is a GREAT section about adding other classes including 3e prestige classes. This includes note on how to add my own Witch to this game.  There are also more classes here including: The Adventurer,  the Animist, the Scary Monk (the monk from AD&D), the Sea-Dog, the Sea-Witch and the Thick Brute.

We end with the OGL notice and a character sheet.

What can I say at this point really?

This is an awesome resource. It is a great game in it's own right, but it shines when added to other games.  Use this to play an OSRIC game while importing some 3.x style classes and as Swords & Wizardry monster book.  Or whatever you like. There is so much here that there is no end of what you can do with it.
A serious high mark for all OSR products in terms of utility.

RPG a Day 2015, Day 24

Day 24: Favorite House Rule

Hmm.  Hard call.

It's not so much a house rule, but a roll of 20 in D&D is always double damage. No rolling for crits. No rolling the damage die twice.  What you roll x 2.

Not really a big deal but I like to play the rules as written most times.



Sunday, August 23, 2015

Fantastic Heroes & Witchery Week!

This week I want to spend some quality time with Fantastic Heroes & Witchery and Dark Albion: The Rose War.

I have talked about Fantastic Heroes & Witchery a little in the past, but I have not put up a proper review.  With Dark Albion now out I figure it is a good time to look at both in detail.


I am rather looking forward to it.

RPG a Day 2015, Day 23

Day 23: Perfect Game for Me

Kind of a no brainer really. The perfect game for me is the one I wrote.

Ghosts of Albion!



Again it is everything I have ever wanted in a horror game, everything I want in a fantasy game and one I can run with zero prep time.

It's a period I love, with rules I love and characters I adore.  What else could be more perfect?



Saturday, August 22, 2015

Zatannurday: Tribute to Yvonne Craig

On Wednesday August 19 we learned that Yvonne Craig, TVs first Batgirl, had passed away at the age of 78.

You can read a word from her family here and her official obituary here.

Of course she had a varied and distinguished career. She was well loved y her family and friends.  But it is her role as Batgirl that interests me today.

I have mentioned before how Yvonne Craig's Batgirl was one of my first crushes as a child.
What was not to love really?  She was smart, she kicked ass, and she was able to do everything Batman could do.   I thought she was cool as hell and she left a pretty deep impression in my young mind.  I would be later when I made one of my first witch characters that I would realize that I was unconsciously rebuilding Batgirl in many of my PCs.   That first witch had red hair, wore a lot of purple and had began life as a librarian for my wizard character.  So yes she even started out with a secret identity.

Batgirl was great and Yvonne Craig was part of that reason. In the 60s she showed us that not only could a super heroine could do what a super hero could, but an actress could do do what an actor could do.

One thing I always knew about Yvonne Craig was she grew up in near-by (near by to me at the time) Taylorville, IL.  It is always nice when a local kid does good.

There is a lot I could say about Yvonne Craig, but honestly the best tribute came from comic writer Gail Simone.  http://www.playboy.com/articles/remembering-the-revelatory-yvonne-craig-by-batgirl-writer-gail-simone









Let's not forget she was also Marta, the Orion Slave Girl, who was working with Garth of Izar in "Whom the Gods Destroy"


RPG a Day 2015, Day 22

Day 22: Perfect Gaming Environment

I have spent years working on my game room.

I like nice comfortable chairs, plenty of light, access to my books when I need them.






And I like to have access to Frankencomputer.



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