Thursday, December 14, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #55

Let's go WAY back today to issue that is falling apart as I read it.  Hall and Oates have the number 1 spot on the radio. Time Bandits, the first of the great "Trilogy of Imagination" from former Python Terry Gilliam.  Tell me you didn't try to use those "time holes" at least once in your games. It's November 1981. I am in 8th grade and playing Basic/Expert D&D all the time with bits of AD&D. This is issue #55 of This Old Dragon!

Oh my, but is this an issue of treasures!  Let's start with the cover.  Erol Otus in his weird best.  Looks like the same cave system our intrepid adventures are battling a dragon in on the cover the Basic Set.
Otus is one of those artist people either love or hate. I always loved his style and subjects, but sometimes it was like viewing D&D while on mushrooms.   I mean seriously, what the hell is that thing? Why does it have such perfect teeth? Who is that little gnome dude and what the hell is his staff for?  I have no answers but I think D&D is better off in general because of EO.  I am not sure what that thing is but as DM I'd love to stick him into a dungeon.  As someone that appreciates art though I don't want to define it. Stay weird giant toothy slug monster. Stay weird.

The next page is one of the true odd and rare finds in the D&D merchandising landscape.  The official Dungeons & Dragons portfolios.  I had one of these way back when, but it got destroyed. Now they go for outrageous sums on eBay.  I used to keep characters in it and I had it till about the late 80s.


A feature missing from newer incarnations of Dragon is here; Cover to Cover. Which...hmm...covers what is going on in this issue.  No need to detail it here since that is what I am doing anyway.

The Letters section cover various topics from previous issues including some discussion on the Monk class.   I never fely that *D&D got a good grip on the what the monk was supposed to be in D&D until about 3rd Edition.

Up next is the first big controversy in AD&D that I can remember.  The Fiend Folio and whether or not it is any good.
Up first is Ed Greenwood with Flat Taste Didn't Go Away.  Ouch. That is a bit harsh Ed and the article doesn't get much lighter. I am sure there were plenty of old-school AD&D fans who were at the time saying "Who the hell is this Ed Greenwood guy and why do I care about his opinion?"  Sy though, Ed is no fan of this book and calls many of the monsters incomplete, inadequate and many are redundant.  AND to be 100% fair he is making some very good points here. The editing is all over the place, many of the monsters are useless or way overpowered in some respects.
Alan Zumwalt follows this with Observations of a Semi-Satisfied Customer.  An endorsement, but not the ringing endorsement one might want.
Not to be forgotten Don Turnbull,  Managing Director of TSR UK, Ltd. and Editor of the FIEND FOLIO Tome ends with his Apologies - and Arguments; his defense of the Fiend Folio.
All three articles make good points and overreach in others. In the end, I still love the Fiend Folio, not despite its weirdness, but because of it.  I have decided though that when I run a pure Forgotten Realms game that I will not include any of the monsters that Ed found objectionable.  I was going to say not include any from this book, but that includes Drow and we know that isn't going to happen!

What were your thoughts on the Fiend Folio?

We follow this with a big ad for White Dwarf. You know those guys that gave us the Fiend Folio in the first place? (more or less).

Ah. Now here is something fun.
Lawrence Schick has a nice big article on Dinosaurs, New Theories for Old Monsters.  Plenty of stats of various prehistoric beasts are given. I am not sure if these would later appear in the Monser Manual II or not but they feel familiar.

The man himself is back with a new From the Sorcerer's Scroll. Gary lets us know he is still working on the Temple of Elemental Evil (it doesn't quite come out the way he wants) and more on Greyhawk.  A lot of this in one form or another would later reappear in the Greyhawk Boxed set.

Ever want to include Robin Hood and his merry men in your game?


Well thanks to Katharine Kerr you can! Robin, Wil Scarlet, Little John, Friar Tuck and of course the Sheriff of Nottingham himself (looking exactly like Roger Delgado as The Master from Doctor Who).


The fiction section is next and holy shit! It's Gardner Fox! Fox might not be the biggest name in D&D but in comics? I put him in the pantheon of the Great Old Gods like Kirby and Lee.   I have not read The Coming of the Sword, but I think I should.  It is an installment in the saga of Niall the Far-Traveler.  This is exactly the sort of thing I love finding in these old dragons. Gardner Fox..."slumming" at Dragon! The story looks cool and it's actually pretty long.

Our centerpiece is another rarity.  A D&D Basic-Set adventure.  Seriously. Is this like the most 1981 issue ever?? The Creature of Rhyl by Kevin Knuth is a Basic D&D adventure for 2 to 12(!) characters under 3rd level. It is a nice combination of exploration, plot-driven mystery,  and dungeon crawl with a freaking dragon at the end! It makes for a great introduction adventure really and one that can be easily adapted to any version of the game.

The Electric Eye has answers to last month's computer terminology quiz.  At this point in time, I am learning to program in BASIC on the very high tech TRS-80 Model III in my school.

The many ways of getting away: Methods and magic to keep your character out of the crypt by Pat Reinken covers the many ways your character can avoid death.  Or as I like to call it, Advanced Running Away.

Jon Mattson is next with some Traveller advice on skills in Filling in Skills, Experience, service-switching make TRAVELLER more ability-oriented.  I have mentioned in my reveiws of White Dwarf I was already taking a pass on Traveler at this point.  I was gravitating more towards Chill and other horror games and I could not find anyone to play Traveller with.

The Monuments of Minaria is the next installment of the Minarian Legends series for the Divine Right game.  Though I get the feeling that one is not only expected to convert to other games (coughD&Dcough) but encouraged too.

Dragon's Bestiary is next. What a nightmarish mix! The Devil Spider, with text and art by Erol Otus.  The Surchur by Jeff Brandt and the Dyll by Ed Greenwood.  We also get a new, non-evil but very chaotic, version of the Poltergeist by Craig Stenseth.

Practicing Game Design IV: State of the Art is the fourth of a five-part miniseries
in Jack Parados' Simulation Corner that gives a detailed but non-technical answer to the question of how to make a game.  This month covers the experiences the author has had with successful game designers.

Jeff Swycaffer reviews the Universe RPG in Universe is an Artistic Triumph. I have always been curious about this game.  He deems it superior to Traveller in almost every respect.

Kim Mohan reviews some gaming accessories.
Various minis, back when they were still made of lead.

Next, we have a real oddity.  A Larry Elmore penned and drawn comic "Da Letter" that can only be described as Proto-Snarf.  I am a bit surprised this never comes up in discussions of Snarf Quest.




Phil and Dixie are still in Black & White at this point.
Wormy is in color.

So. Wow.  What an issue.  Not just for crazy nostalgia fun, but for being so packed full of great stuff.  AND stuff I can still use today really.  The Basic set adventure, Robin Hood, all sorts of great stuff here.  I am glad I took extra time on this one (I started reading it two weeks ago!)

Now compare this issue to what was happing in White Dwarf #27 from the same time in my White Dwarf Wednesday #27.  Similar themes but White Dwarf was moving more towards Traveller at this point.  Mimics the gaming scene I was in during the last days of 1981.  I was digging D&D Basic but a good sized chunk was headed to Traveller.

What are your memories of this time?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Uncle Matt's D&D Studio

+Matt Finch, of Swords & Wizardry fame, has a YouTube channel where he discusses Old School games. Uncle Matt's D&D Studio.

He has some great videos and interviews with various folks in the OSR game sphere.  He has interviews with Dave Donohoo, Alyssa Faden, Jim Raggi and now me!


In this first of two videos, we chat about my blend of 5th edition and 1st edition and my start in the publishing world.

It was a blast. I had a great time chatting with Matt.

Check out his channel. In addition to interviews, he has tips and tricks like How to Use the OGL and a lot of OSR topics.   Make sure you hit that Subscribe button too.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Weekend Gaming: The Worlds of David "Zeb" Cook

Spent some time on the Second Campaign this weekend.
Various factors have come together and I have moved the entire campaign over to Mystara.  It just made some things fit better.

I knew I wanted to get the player to I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City, though a couple of obstacles were in the way. First, they were really not high enough level yet.  Second I have had on the mainland of a fairly generic D&D/Eurocentric area.  No jungles in sight.

That's when I had an idea.  I pulled out my tired, true and very worn copy of X1 The Isle of Dread!
This gave them an excuse to get to a tropical area AND gave them some much-needed adventuring along the way to level up.


 Of course, it was at the moment I took the above picture that I realized that both adventures had been authored by David "Zeb" Cook! The same David Cook as in the Expert Game author and the author of the next adventures in the Second Campaign.

I knew at some level the authors were the same, but I never thought about it save for mentally commenting on the similarities and how well they work with each other.  I am simpling placing the Forbidden City in the central plateau of the Isle of Dread.

It is not an original idea, nor even an uncommon one:


I wish I had given this more thought to be honest!
Right now the characters are mapping the interior of the island in a good old-fashioned hex crawl.  Two characters so far have been hit with "jungle sickness". In fact, the poor wizard was hit with sea sickness and jungle sickness for so long that she has had four (in game) days of disadvantage rolls.

After this the characters are going to go south to a dessert for both the Desert of Desolation series and the Lost Tomb of Martek series.  The Lost Tomb of Martek of course by David Cook.

I just have not figured out how I want to do them.  I will likely go in this order:


and


But have not really figured out the narrative I want for them.
In any case it is going to be fun!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Willow & Tara: Mighty Protectors

Willow and Tara are a couple of serious powerhouses in my games.  If you look at the most recent "canonical" versions of them from Armageddon they can do some serious supernatural smacking down.
For their Mighty Protector's versions I toned it down a bit, but still set them at over 200 CP.  These are very similar to their Villains & Vigilantes 2.1 counterparts which I have put at around 12-13th level.



Now I can easily dump more CPs into powers and "spells".  I truthfully want to tweak them both a bit to see how well my magic rules work.  That is the real test of any character I would normally want to play.

Willow Rosenberg
Willow has a lot of spells and I can swap them out as needed. Willow and Tara share a psychic bond to allow them to communicate with each other regardless of distance. Willow also has increased wealth due to selling off her software firm.



Tara Maclay
Tara retains her ability to heal that she gained as an ascended witch.  She shares Willow's psychic bond.  I likely could have dropped the CP cost for both since it would work fine if only one had it.


Both have TK, a holdover from the Buffy RPG rules and both magical senses, aka "Lesser Sensing" from Ghosts of Albion.  The real tweaks for these two characters would be their magic and spells.  Given that I have them in semi-retirement I would not expect some of their powers, and certainly not their Basic Characteristics, to get better. Though one could argue that Willow's IN could be higher.
Also I could raise their Energy by a lot really.  Somewhere in the MP book it mentions the amount of CP/XP I can expect and I have seen online a rough V&V Level to MP CP conversion.  So if I come back to these two I can dump those extra points somewhere.

But all in all I am pretty happy with these builds.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Mighty Protectors + World's Greatest Screen

Picked up my screen inserts for Mighty Protectors Referee's Screen a bit ago and they were a nice cheat sheet when working on characters.

Stopped by my FLGS today to do a little Christmas shopping and picked up another of Hammerdog's The World's Greatest Screen (I think I have five or six of them now) to use.  And it looks great!








Can't wait to use this!

This Old Dragon: Issue #105

I remember the start of 1986 as being a very cold one.  Of course this is the month that the Challenger exploded on take off forever changing how we felt about our space program.
I was in the middle of my Junior year in High School. My regular DM was going to graduate and move on so we started a campaign that mimicked WW I mixed with Crisis on Infinite Earths (which was the biggest thing happening in comics at the time).  It was so big that depending on where you were in the game world it was called The Shadow Wars, the Dragon Wars or even the Demon Wars.  It had a huge impact on my game world and how I later played in college.   In fact, this issue gave me some ideas for the group of characters I was playing at the time that were central to the fight.  So without further ado, it's January 1986 and this is issue #105 of This Old Dragon!

This cover was also one of my favorites.  A flying wizard attacking giant bats? How cool is that! Seriously that is pretty hardcore.

This is issue comes just before the "themed" issues later in the 80s. It has the same look and feel but there is still some evolution happing here.

Letters, as has been a while and will continue to do so, covers clarifications of the new Unearthed Arcana rules.  In particular getting the rules to work with other classes that have appeared in Dragon.  This is exactly the sort of thing that must have gotten the think tank at TSR to work towards a newer version of the AD&D game. After 12 years things just were not holding together on the fringes as well.

Big ad for the new Dragonlance Legends series.  I thought the Legends were a much better set of books than the first trilogy, The Chronicles.  The scope was larger, but also more personable.

Speaking of Unearthed Arcana, Len Lakofka is up with his Leomund's Tiny Hut feature in Tone Down the Demi-Humans.  Or putting some caps on the power of the new demi-human races.  Of the four, Wild Elves, Gray Dwarves, Deep Gnomes, and Drow, I agree with him on the Drow.  So much in fact that I banned them as a PC race until only very recently.  There was one very notable exception, also see that below.  No one ever played a Deep Gnome or a Gray Dwarf in my games for me to have a strong opinion about them.

Paul Vernon is up with Travel Works Both Ways. This is a guide for people (and things) the PCs are likely to meet on the road. Great for any type of hex-crawl or sandbox game.  It also fits into the larger philosophy I use in my games that the PCs are not the only ones in the world.  They might be the center of attention, but there are others.

Seeing is Believing by Geoffrey Meissner is one of those articles that had immediate and profound effects on my game.  Essentially it covers the three types of invisibility you can do in the AD&D game: Light-based, illusion-based, or psychic.   Since we were at the time heavy into psionics we used, and abused, the shit of this.  If you used the Invisibility spell well then no one could see you, but your thoughts would still give you away to a psychic. If you used the psionic power of invisibility then people didn't "want" to see you, but a mindless creature (undead, construct) could.  We got very, very particular about it.   I have eased back on it in more recent years, but it's still something I consider.

We get a little bit more on Centaurs in The rest of the Papers. No author given, but a followup to the Centaur Papers.

Ed Greenwood is up with The well-equipped victim: A “treasure type” system for 0-level encounters.  Exactly what is sounds like, what 0-level humans/humanoids would have on them.  In retrospect, this feels like a "Realms" article. It certainly has the vibe we will later see in the realms where people are more important than monsters (even if some of those people are monsters).   Five pages of "stuff" people can carry.   Now what I get from this is a good "normal setting" on what we can expect people to have.  PCs causally throw around gold pieces, but not everyone can or should do that.

Ah. Now here is something very near and dear to my heart.  Especially back then.
Fraser Sherman gives us A world of difference: The parallel concept expands gaming horizons, an article on how to use parallel worlds in your AD&D game.  I had already mentioned that DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths was already having a huge impact on my games at the time, but I had also just read Job: A Comedy of Justice and The Number of the Beast by Robert A. Heinlein.  I would later pick up Frederik Pohl's The Coming of the Quantum Cats having read the first part in my Pre-calc class when I borrowed a friend's copy of Omni.
Parallel Earth/Universes played a huge, huge part of my gaming then and now.  This article did not tell me anything I didn't already know, but it was a springboard AND an excuse to go crazy with the idea.  I would later gleefully steal the "D-Hopper" from the Myth Adventures series to make travel between the dimensions easier than travel between the continents of the same world.

Our centerpiece is an AD&D adventure, Betrayed!, for characters 3rd to 5th level by Jim Bengtson.
I will admit I never ran this or even read it in great detail. It looks like it could be fun and got me thinking I really need to run a murder mystery style adventure again.

Merle M. Rasmussen has Spy's Advice or some advice for Top Secret.

One of the first TSR Profiles I remember is up. This time featuring EIC Kim Mohan and Managing Editor Pat Price.

The fiction section is On the Rocks at Slab's which I am sure is related to Well Bottled at Slab's.

The Ares Section is next.

We get some alliances in Rites of Passage for Gamma World.

The Marvel-Phile deals a lot of snake-themed villains.  This article had a huge impact on my AD&D game.  Not because of the content, but the idea.  I created as my central characters for the this world ending war mentioned above a street gang known as the "Spider Society".  These were my characters built from Unearthed Arcana.  There was the Thief-Acrobat Eric "Spyder" Masters, a fighter (with all the specialization) Kiev Scorpius and drow (this was the exception) assassin "Arachnia".  I liked the idea of running a group of first level characters in some adventures of this war along with my high-level characters in other adventures in the war.  It was a lot of fun.

Up next are some optional rules for Villains & Vigilantes.  Not sure they will port over to the new Mighty Protectors, but there are some good ideas here. Such as lethal attacks (must be the late 80s!) and threatening civilians (yeah, definantly the late 80s).

Big Guns covers tanks and other military equipment for Marvel Super Heroes.

Expanding the Frontier gives us ideas on how to (basically) do Star Trek with Star Frontiers.  It's actually a good read and one I wish I had made more use of.

Con Calendar, Small Ads, Wormy, Dragonmirth and Snarf.
Dragonmirth has one of the few cartoons I still remember to this day.


Not a watershed issue for me, but certainly a very memorable one and a very useful one.

Want to know what I Was saying about White Dwarf from the same time? Check out White Dwarf Wednesday #73.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

No Way For You To Fight This: Carmilla and Laura for Mighty Protectors

I continue two series today! Of course I was going to bring together to my two newest obsessions; Carmilla and Mighty Protectors.

Outfits based on this picture.
All ADHD and OCD aside, Carmilla offers me a great opportunity.  Carm herself is a 330+ year-old badass vampire who was, to quote her sister, "death incarnate". Laura is...well she is a tiny wisp of a girl who happens to have the worst crush ever and knows Krav Maga.   This gives me the chance to see how well someone on the high end of the power scale (of what I consider "new" characters) works with someone on the very low end.  In my builds I targetted Carmilla at about 250 CP and Laura at 100 CP.  Good spread really.  Let's see how it turns out.

Carmilla
Out of the gate, I need to take a page from the Buffy RPG design and figure out a Vampire Package for Carmilla.  I did not really do that here, but it became obvious right away it is something I need to do.  Carm quickly got away from me too.  She ended up at 270+ CPs.


Laura Hollis
Laura, our tiny gay journalist, is completely on the other side of the build.  Spend some points on abilities and boom, done.  That works. But also need to represent her Krav Maga.  So 20 points there. She ended up on the other side of 100 from Carm's 250.


Both look great. The power imbalance is not really an issue in my mind. They are here for different things.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Mighty Protectors: Converting* Villains & Vigilantes

Mighty Protectors is billed as Villains & Vigilantes 3.0. For the most part, I am completely fine with that.  The game feels the same and mostly plays the same.  There are differences though.  The differences feel about the same as those say between AD&D 1st Ed and D&D 3.0.
The numbers don't always line up in terms of CPs or BCs, but close enough that you can do what I call "concept-driven conversion".


Concept Driven conversion (for me) is a matter of reading over the character (monster, spell, adventure) and re-casting it in the new rules.  This is different than what I call Numerical Conversion where I can lump the numbers into an Excel sheet and get the proper conversion.

I tried both ways on characters I had been using for Villains & Vigilantes 2.x; Justice and Tarot.
I do want to point out that neither of these characters can be considered "mine".
Justice is derived directly from Superman and Wonder Woman, both owned by DC comics.
Tarot is owned by Jim Balent and Holly Golightly and she is very near and dear to them.

Justice (aka "Justice is Blind Issue 8: Mighty Protectors")
In the case of Justice I went with concept driven conversion since I knew I wanted to recraft her from the ground up as a 200 CP character.
To recap, Justice is also known as Astra Kal'El or Astra Kent.  She is the daughter of Superman and Wonder Woman in the future.  I have toyed with the idea of having her go back in time to stop the death of Lois Lane but that would also erase her conception..so problems there, but none that I can't solve really.  I like the idea of a young Kryptonian/Amazon.  True, I get a lot of my Justice fill lately from the Supergirl TV series, but this is still a fun character.


This Mighty Protectors version of her is not as powerful as the Villains & Vigilantes version I made a few years back, but I am much happier with it. She is powerful but still just starting out.

Tarot, Witch of the Black Rose
For Tarot, I wanted to do a more numerical conversion.  She was one of the last characters I stated up for V&V 2.1 and thought she would make a good first character for Mighty Protectors.
Trouble is I didn't like the conversion I came up with.  So I smoothed out some of the edges with some concept-driven ideas and good old-fashioned number juggling.  Comparatively the MP and V&V 2.1 versions are much closer aligned. Well...in truth the paper sheet I have is much closer. The Excel sheet shows more of the "smoothing".


From a 13th level character to a 200 point build.  Again I am pretty satisfied with this one but the 2.1 version is just as good to me.  Besides.  Tarot is way too fun NOT to have in a game.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Victorious Villains & Vigilantes: Maxima

Last year I did a deep exploration of the Victorious RPG.  It is a really, really fun supers game set in the Victorian era.  I could have done a Plays Well With Others with this.  There is a lot in both games that the other can use. 


Mighty Protectors and Villains & Vigilantes both have an absolute ton of Powers that Victorious players can adapt. 
Victorious has skills and a ton of information on supers in the Victorian era.

Both have great advice on playing supers and are generally "Supers as the good guys" games. Not dark anti-heroes or modern-age supers.

One of the features of the Victorious game is that many of the supers in Victorian age are from the 21st Century, having traveled back in time.   Sounds just like our superhero Maxima from Villains & Vigilantes and Mighty Protectors. 

Maxima is one of the more popular of Jeff Dee's and Jack Herman's characters.  Afterall she is a seven-foot tall blonde amazon powerhouse.  She will be appearing in a future Mighty Protectors product where more of her history and future will be detailed. 

In Victorious let's say that Maxima went back in time, but instead of New Mexico in 1986 she ends up in London in 1886.  Maxima belongs to Jeff Dee, Jack Herman, and Monkey House Games.  I am just playing with her for a bit.

Maxima
Proper Name: Maxima

Strength: 36 (+12)
Dexterity: 38 (+14)
Constitution: 31 (+11)
Intelligence: 22 (+5)
Wisdom: 20 (+4)
Charisma: 20 (+4)
INIT: +12 (Intuition, Lightning Speed)
Actions: 1 per round
AC: 29
Defensive:
Hit Points: 380 (d12 HD)
Level: 20
Alignment: Good
Victory Points: 5
Skills: Melee
Languages: English
Supernatural Powers: see Packages and Powers

Packages:
Future Science Creation (theme)
- Attribute Increase: Strength
- Attribute Increase: Constitution
- Invulnerability (Temporal & Knockdown)
- Lightning Speed
- Might
- Robust

Powers: Robust 2, Might 4,  Attribute Increase (Strength)

Shortcomings: Enemy 2 (various villains), Obligation, Odd Appearance (7' 6" blond powerhouse woman) 2, Watched (British Home Office).

Maxima is very much out-of-time here.  She remembers enough of her mission and her life before to know she is in the past. She has also found other, similar heroes to help her.
She would be a great character to play in Victorious.  HEY! A time travel epic where the heroes of Mighty Protectors meet up the heroes of Victorious! 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

This Old Dragon Issue #111

It's the summer of 1986.  My regular DM has graduated from High School and is getting ready to go to the Air Force. We are gearing up for an epic world-changing round of adventures we call the Dragon Wars. Essentially this is our World War I. I can't recall if this cover played into that at all, but I would like to think it did.  It' July 1986 and this is issue #111 of This Old Dragon.

This is also one of my top 10 favorite colors.  The white and black dragons in a "ying yang" theme has been done before, but not quite like this. It is another winner from Denis Beauvais.  While meant to invoke the struggle of good vs. evil D&D players will look at it and proclaim "they are both evil!"  Sheesh...not appreciation for art.

Speaking of art. The Letters section covers the disparity between male and female figures on the cover of Dragon.  The all too common complaint is that females tend to be nearly naked and men wear sensible armor.   We are still having this conversation.

Our first article is by John M. Maxstadt, Good stuff, for a spell. Magic focusing: a new dimension for possessions. This deals with a common problem, what sort of magic item does a mid-level magic-user need?  The solution is a Spell Focusing item.  Now off the bt I have an issue with the term.  What is being described in this article is not spell focusing but rather spell storage.  The MU casts a spell into an item to be used later.  Essentially these are variations on the Ring of Spell storing only in wands and other items.  I don't want it to sound like I am dismissing this article. On the contrary, I rather like it and the author brings up a number of points I still see in my games.  For me a Spell Focus should make casting a spell easier or harder to avoid.  I have also allowed some spell focuses to change the die in which they use.  A wand of fireball focus would change the die from a d6 to a d8 for example.

Ah. Now here is one I remember. Welcome to Malachi: Visit a city where magic reigns supreme by Becky Helfenstein is about a city of magic. We are still a year out from the Forgotten Realms and their Waterdeep and Suzail cities.  This is also the time my DM and I had started to put together our own "Urban Survival Guide" for playing in cities.  This article is "class" focused. So what do clerics do, where do thieves go, what about fighters? and so on.  Not a bad way to set it up, but also leaves some gaps.  Ok it's only an article in Dragon, size alone will mean there are gaps.  I think a series of articles on Malachi would have been great.   Maybe I should do a series myself on The Urban Survival Guide.  I don't all the original docs (that was 30 years ago) but it might be fun to pull various resources together to discuss this.  Dragon and White Dwarf, the tables in the old DMG, the newest books on DriveThru.  Could be fun. A lot of fun really.

Roger E. Moore is up telling us everything we need to know about how to submit articles to the newest TSR Publication Dungeon Adventures.  Back in the day I had worked on a couple of adventures with the intent to submit them to Dungeon.  Never did, I could not get them to work out the way I wanted.  But it was great practice really.

No campaign ever fails: What to do if your game gets out of control by Joel E. Roosa deals with a common problem that I still see today.  It deals with a game/campaign where the characters get quickly overloaded with magic items.  I made this mistake in my first 5e campaign. Fresh off of a magic-saturated 4e game, 5e doesn't like a ton of magic items.  My son is seeing this now with his 5e game he is running.  In AD&D I always put a cap on the magic.  In my game there was something like 4 or 5 +6 weapons TOTAL in the entier universe.  The most powerful you could hope for was +5 or +3/+6 where the +3 was normal attacks and +6 was against a very specific creature type.  In D&D 5 this cap is +3.  I wish I had reread this article before I started my Come Endless Darkness game.

Big ad for GURPS.


Kent Colbath gives us a microscopic bestiary with Microscopic monsters: When they get bigger, they get a lot tougher.  So paramecium, dinoflagellates and the like made huge.  An interesting idea, but one I'd only use in special occasions; never as a random monster.  Actually, they would make for interesting encounters in the Astral Plane.

Lots of ads...

The centerpiece of this issue is an adventure, Death of an Arch-Mage, by Michael D. Selinker.  It is a tournament-style murder mystery adventure for AD&D.  No levels are given (that I was able to find) but that makes sense.  This is a thinking adventure, not a combat one. The NPCs range from 0-level humans to 18th level. The adventure itself is really kind of awesome.  I love a good murder mystery and I have often wanted to do a Sherlock Holmes/Agatha Christie-style adventure.  I bet this one would work fantastically with other versions of D&D.  This one is worth trying.  The adventure is long, becasue there are a lot of details the DM needs.
Anyone ever do a murder mystery?

Kevin Marzahl has some details on grenades for the Top Secret game in Pull the pin and throw.

We get too our Ares Section now and on tape we have a few of the most powerful Super-powered Heroines in different universes.    Ok, confession time.  I was looking over three different Dragons for this week.  I opted for this one since it had Maxima and Super-girl in it.

Roger E. Moore is up with arguably the most powerful person in the Marvel Super Heroes Game; Phoenix.  If you grew up in the 80s and read comics you knew Phoenix.  I played a little MSH and enve I know there are not many Class 1000 anythings out there.  Phoenix is a Class 1000 Psychic.  The article, which is long for a Marvel-Phile, especially one dedicated to just one character, gives Phoenix her due.  I will admit I used aspects of the Phoenix cycle in my own Buffy the Vampire Slayer games just like I use (and still use) aspects of Crisis on Infinite Earths in my D&D games.

Jack Herman is up with his (or is it Jeff Dee's, I never really knew) character Maxima. Back from the future in VILLAINS & VIGILANTES gaming.  Maxima is one of the most powerful characters in the V&V line.  She is a scientist from the far future sent back to Earth of 1986 to stop the Apocalypse that destroys mankind, sadly the trip damaged her and she has forgotten much of what she knew of her time and why she is here.  In the new Mighty Protectors game we still see Maxima, so glad to know she is still doing her thing.  I think it would be great to see a new Mighty Protectors version of Maxima.

Greg Gordon, not to be outdone, has a write up for Super Girl for the DC Heroes game.  He make the argument that she is (was, this is just post Crisis) the most powerful heroine of the DC Universe.  He makes a compelling argument really.  Supergirl has had boost in popularity with the great CW show and performances by Mellissa Benoist.  I am going to say, and have said, that future generations of fan will look on Mellissa Benoist as Kara the same way we look on Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman.



Jeff Grub is next with the Marvel Phile on Longshot.  How did this guy get mixed in with all these super powerful superwomen? Luck I guess.

Not to be forgotten, George Mac Donald discusses super-super powers in Champions in Quantum.
We are introduced to the heroine of the same name.  I guess I should put up her pic too!

Small ads.
Snarf. Con Calendar and Wormy round out this issue.

So some great supers articles.  I am DYING to put all four of these superwomen into the murder mystery above.  I know! They are here to investigate the murder of Longshot!

Fun issue, with one of my favorite covers and some great articles.
You know who else had a good issue at this time? White Dwarf.  Pop on over and see what I was saying about July 1986 on White Dwarf Wednesday #79.  Great issue, ridiculous cover.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

PWWO: Mighty Protectors

Time again for another edition of "Plays Well With Others"!

Mighty Protectors is a new game, but it has a long history and some solid Old-School DNA.  Because of this, there is a lot of ways to tinker with the game.

It is no secret that there is D&D DNA in Villains & Vigilantes.  That DNA carries over to V&Vs offspring, Mighty Protectors.  While there are still plenty differences in these games, there are enough similarities to build on.

Mighty Protectors and Villains & Vigilantes 2.1


Total cheat really. These games are less "Mix and Match" as they are "ideas to be shared". They are basically two slightly different expressions of the same world.  Now V&V 2.1 has better, or at least, more explicit rules for magic and psionics. Plus converting between MP and V&V 2.1 is easy; there is a section in the MP book on converting V&V 2.1 over.  Using this V&V 2.1 becomes a Rosetta Stone of sorts for d20 based games.

This conversion key is really helpful for me for the next two games.

Mighty Protectors & d20 Silver Age Sentinels / BESM d20


Alas, Guardians of Order.  You were a not a well-run company, in the end, but you did have some fun games.  Two of GoO's games are of particular interest to me.  Big Eyes Small Mouth d20 (BESM d20) and Silver Age Sentinels d20 (SAS d20).  Both had great breakdowns of the d20 system (circa 2002) into Level-Based Point buy systems.  Using our V&V translation you can now have a translation of BESM/SAS d20 to V&V and MP.  In particular, the book Advanced d20 Magic for BESM d20 is a great resource for point-buy spells.   I have not worked out the mathematical translations or crunched the numbers just yet, but there are there.  My initial guess is that 1 CP (MP) = 2 Points for SAS/BESM. 
This would give me a great point-buy spell system with some well-defined familiar spells.

Another great thing about SAS (Tri-Stat or d20 versions) is the excellent history of comics and the superhero in modern culture. The Silver Age sensibility of the "how to play" sections fit Mighty Protectors to a tee.

Mighty Protectors and Mutants & Masterminds 2.0


One can't talk super-hero games and not mention Muntants and Masterminds.  While now in the third edition, it is the second edition that concerns us here and now.  M&M2 shares a lot in common with MP. I could detail it here, but this link, Converting Mutants & Masterminds 2.0 to Mighty Protectors, does a far better job.   I have gone over the list of Powers and Abilities for both games to see what one has that the other doesn't, But I can say that between these two nearly every power likely is covered.

Plus Green Ronin has an absolute ton of material for M&M.  Personally, I like to put the supers of each game into their own cities and if you go to that city that's where you will find them.

For my next round of characters, I am going to take some notes from these other games to get the characters I am really looking for.  It should be a blast.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Mighty Protectors: We Can Be Heroes

There are two central features of Villains & Vigilantes and Mighty Protectors that I have always enjoyed.  First, the conceit that you play yourself with superpowers in the game. And secondly, that characters of all sorts of power level can play next to each other in the same adventure.


Back in the day though that is not exactly what we did.

In the early 80s I went over to my buddy Jon Cook's house to play some Basic-era D&D.  We stopped by one of other friends, Dave, who was younger but had been playing longer than I had.  He had, at the advanced age of 10-11, already moved on from D&D and was playing V&V.  It had only been out for a while but he loved it.  I really wanted to play some D&D though, so we compromised.  I used my D&D character.  Dave did all the behind the scenes rolls and math, or he just made stuff up I don't really know or cared at the time.  But back then this was something you could do with D&D and V&V pretty easy.  I took a healing power and the ability to turn undead; one of the reasons I was playing a cleric in the first place. And we had a great time.  I know while I was doing it I was struggling with the rules, but I had fun.

So when I got my nice new copy of Mighty Protectors one of the first things I did was try to convert some "D&D" style characters.   I wanted to do this for nostalgia reasons but also to try out some different levels of play that correspond to Standard (150 CP), High (200 CP), and Low (100 CP).

For my choices, I went with my iconic witch Larina ("Witch Queen"), an amalgam of many of the clerics, paladins and cavaliers I have played ("Paladin"), and a new character that has seen play in Pathfinder, D&D 5, M&M, Superbabes and Marvel Super Heroes ("Teen Witch").

For these, and most of the characters I'll be posting, I did all the character generation by hand and checked that against the Excel Character sheet pack.  Click on images for full res PDFs.

Paladin
Standard 150 CP Build

Paladin is based on a number of paladins, clerics, and cavaliers I have played over the years. He is also based on the first character I played in D&D and then took over to V&V.  I used the standard array of BCs and picked powers as they worked with an eye to keep my number right around 150 CPs.


I like it. I gave him the ability to turn undead with the repulsion blast.  My thought is that he goes out to hunt undead and demons with the magical sword Demonbane.  Given the tenor of most of my supers games he will have a lot of work to do!

Teen Witch
Low 100 CP Build

Teen Witch, aka Taryn Nichols is the daughter of my iconic witch Larina.  In D&D she is half-elf but I say she is more half faerie since her birth was during a time my witch was in the D&D 3.5 Feywild.  She was a Pathfinder witch and a D&D 4 Warlock.  I played a game of Marvel Super Heroes with her powers were manifested while she was in school. Here first power was flight.


The goal here was to keep her under 100 CPs and I did...with some weaknesses.  But that is fine really, they are also part of her backstory.  Basically, Larina was pregnant and trapped in the world of the Faerie.  In order to leave she had to give up her daughter.  Long story short, she found a way to keep Taryn and leave, but Taryn is indebted to her Elven father.  I did not put that on yet since this is starting Taryn. That drama comes up later! ;)


Witch Queen
High 200 CP

Witch Queen is, of course, my iconic witch Larina. I have played this character in nearly every game I have ever played. So I know her well.  Which was the point of all of this really, to take characters I know well and convert them easily.  Larina is also always my experimental character.  Here I am experimenting with the Arsenal Ability (think Batman's utility belt or Green Arrow's arrows) to build a spell book.  I REALLY like it worked out.   I also used the Inventing Ability to simulate Ritual Spells. Ones that take longer but have a bigger effect.  I will explore this concept some more in other builds.


There she is. My girl.  Now there are hundreds of ways I could do magic powers and spells, but this is an experiment.  So I can move numbers around later.

I like how all of these worked out to be honest.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Review: Mighty Protectors

"We believe in heroes because, ultimately, we believe in ourselves." - Jack "King" Kirby

I am spending some quality time with +Jeff Dee and Jack Herman's Supers RPG Mighty Protectors, aka Villains & Vigilantes 3.0.

Mighty Protectors (MP) is the update to the venerable supers RPG Villains & Vigilantes (V&V). In fact it is billed as the version 3.0 of the game.

V&V was the first supers game I ever encountered.   Jeff Dee got his start on D&D doing some of the classic module art and book art for the 1st edition game.   So the game has some obvious D&D roots.
V&V was unique at the time (and still somewhat in MP) in that in the game you play yourself.  You work out with the other players what your strength, endurance, intelligence and the rest are and then you roll randomly on a table of super powers.  It's a very interesting and fun concept that we completely ignored.  Back in the day we liked playing a "multi-verse" so our V&V characters were our D&D characters in a supers universe.  The stats were the mostly the same and both games had levels.  Plus it gave us excuses to have strengths of 50 or more (human max is 18).  I remember it being a very good time.

As typical of many old school games there are lots of random rolls, charts and a fair amount of math involved. I went back recently to make a character and was thrilled to see that Monkey House Games had an Excel character sheet pack.  The math isn't hard really, but Excel is still faster.

Even though we got a V&V 2.1 a couple of years back, V&V was itself in a state of limbo with a long, ugly legal battle between creators Dee and Herman vs. former publisher Fantasy Games Unlimited.  Last year everything got sorted out and Mighty Protectors was Kickstarted.

If you have played V&V in the past then there is a lot here that is familiar, but also a lot that is new, updated or revised.  Levels are gone, replaced with Power Levels that work like Power Levels in Mutants & Masterminds.  This is actually a big leap forward in my mind and gives you more flexibility. While you should start out with a "Standard" game (150 total CPs) you could do a "Low" powered game (100 total CPs) or even a "Normal" or "No Powers" game of 50 CPs. Or take it the other direction with "High" at 200 CPs.  There are mechanics in game, such as ability and power caps that make it so each character in each Power Level is roughly the same power.  Sure you can mix "Low" with "High" or even higher.  Also gone are the six attributes cribbed right from D&D.  Now you have four Basic Characteristics (BC) that you can randomly determine, point buy or assign.  These are Strength, Endurance, Agility, Intelligence, and Cool.  If you are translating these from V&V then the numbers have slight differences.  But more on that later.

Instead of talking about MP isn't in relation to V&V, I'd rather talk about what it is in relation to itself.

The book is 164 pages, softcover, with black & white art and color covers all from Jeff Dee himself.  I am reviewing both the softcover book and the PDF.  It is a nice mix of some classic V&V art, newer V&V art and even newer still MP art.  If you are a fan of V&V then it feels like V&V from the very start.


The book is set up to look like "legal code" rather than chapters.  So there is section "1.1 What is a Superhero" and section "2.1.16.1 Character Concept".  That makes it sound like it is very dry, but it isn't.  It reads more like a continuous document.

Section 1.0 starts us off with an introduction to the Mighty Protectors game and a brief overview of what is a Superhero.  I thin this bit is important because it sets the stage for what this game is about.  This is comicbook superhero emulation.  Not necessarily movies or TV Supers, but comic books in particular.  This goes back to the origin of V&V when Jeff Dee and Jack Herman were sitting around trying to decide who would win in a fight.  This late 70s/early 80s comic vibe is played out till today in this game.  My takeaway?  This is a game that predates the "Bronze Age" or even "Modern Age" of comics.  It was built with Pre-Bronze, late Silver Age tools.  Can it do Modern Age? Yes, easy. Can it do TV? Of course! I think back to the time when V&V was new and imagine what would it have been like to have these comicbook-based TV shows we have now.  But the game will work the best when the heroes are good, the villains are evil and superhero teams get along and fight for a common cause.  There can be (and are) shades of gray here. Heck even the original Bowhunter (from V&V and MP) a good guy had a villainess as a love interest.
We round out Section 1 with materials you (aka Dice) and support online.

Section 2.0 Character is huge. In fact, it covers the next 100 pages.
Here we cover Character Generation (2.1) which also covers randomly determining stats, point buys and the V&V classic, Playing as Yourself.
I am not going to lie to you. There are charts and there is math to do here. The math is not complicated, but it is part and parcel of the game.  For me this is part of the old-school charm of this game and I would not want it any other way.  If this is an issue for you there is the Excel Character Sheet pack. It does all the heavy lifting, but you do need Excel. Note: I got it and uploaded it to my Google Drive and it works just as fine with Google Sheets.

Section 2 is really the heart and soul of this game.
However you go about your character creation you are given (or implied to have on Random generation) a number of Character Points (CP).  I also have called these "Creation Points" since they are mostly used in Character Creation.  You can get them, later on, to improve abilities, powers and gain new ones.  But for now, we have a budget of points (described later 2.1.16.2 Ability CPs) to spend or use randomly.


Now here you can go the Point buy route and buy BCs (2.1.7) and Powers (2.1.15). OR you can go completely random.  If random then you roll six abilities, two for offense and two for defense and Miscellaneous Abilities and keeping four. Also taking two random weaknesses.
There are a number of derived stats (Hits, Power, Base Damage) and ones that deal with origin (Gender, Age, Weight) and background (where are you from, your legal status, superhero license).  In general, this is easier than V&V.

The Abilities are covered under Section 2.2 Abilities.  In truth, this could have been its own chapter/section.   Abilities cover what your hero can do.  The abilities are described in terms of effects.  So there is a Power Blast ability, this can be any sort of blast that say in not covered elsewhere.  There is an Ice Blast, a Laser blast, a Fire blast, a Sonic blast...and so on.  The granularity of the system allows you to fine tune these abilities to a large degree.  While the default is 10 CPs per power you can break it down into increments of 5 CP or even 2.5 CP.  Each Ability is scaled with the others so a sonic blast at 10 CP should be the same a Power Blast at 10 CP.   Working with your Game Master and other players you can really fine tune a hero any number of ways. This also means that any given concept of a character can also be created multiple ways.  You can spend (and I have spent) hours creating all sorts of characters.

One thing the rules mentions is that if you are new to V&V/MP you might want to read over Sections 3.0 to 5.0 to get a feel for the rules and task resolution.  It's pretty good advice really.

Section 3.0 covers Saving & Task Rolls.  This is everything that is not combat related.
Every BC, except Strength, has a save roll.  These are noted as some number X-, meaning you need to roll X or less on a d20.  While I am not a fan of roll under mechanics (just my own prejudice) it works here.
Background (3.0.2.1) is a broad category of skills. So no one really cares how well Superman can drive a car or even if he knows what is going on in the Stock Market, save how it relates to his background as a Reporter or even growing up on a farm.  Clark will know the major crime families in Metropolis and maybe what is a good growing climate for a particular grain.  So we do not have the granularity of skills that we would in say Mutants & Masterminds or even Silver Age Sentinels.
Other interesting rules are include Opposition tasks and Inventing (3.1.3), or using your Inventing Points (IPs) to customize powers on the fly.  Something that is not really a new ability but the different use of an existing ability.  It's pretty clever and again fits with the comic book origins.  Think about how many times Superman used his heat vision for something other than setting things on fire. Rearranging the ink on a page comes to mind.

Section 4.0 is Combat.  This section is obviously quite important. I HIGHLY suggest using minis here. The rules imply this and recommend it, I am saying it is a must.  Here HeroClix or HeroForge is your new best friend.  Of course Legos, D&D minis or even pawns are fine too.  This is particularly helpful when dealing Knockback rolls in case you or a target are blown back by an attack.



The combat, once you get the hang of it, moves rather quickly.  Yes, there are a lot of options such as multiple attacks and two-handed attacks, sneaking and other things that can modify the rolls.  It's my experience though that most players will emulate a superhero and have a couple of signature moves.  These will then become second nature for both the player and the GM to roll.  Again we are rolling low on d20 where a "1" is a potential critical hit and a "20" is a potential critical fumble.  Another roll is required after that.  Even items that require a lot of charts say improvised weapons, become faster with use and a GM's screen.

Section 5.0 Physics handles all the ways you can break things or things can break you.  It's actually more than that, but that is a start.  It ends with an example of play.

Section 6.0 Being a Superhero covers the roleplaying aspects of playing a costumed superhero. This is a little more "in-Universe" than the other sections.  If you are using MP to play in another world you can modify this to fit your own needs, though the rules were written with these realities in mind.

Section 7.0 The Mighty Protectors Multiverse. Is very much In-Universe.   Jeff Dee has commented elsewhere online that early versions of V&V were fairly universe agnostic.  This setting described here has developed over the last nearly 40 years of gameplay.  Indeed, reading this book and see names like Maxima and Bowhunter made me happy.  I knew these characters back in the day and seeing them again is like seeing old friends again. What follows are 15 pages of groups, people, places and things in the MP Universe.

Section 8.0 Gamemaster Section covers Gamemastering advice and rules which includes creating your own adventures to creating your own world. If you don't want to convert your favorite comic book story (Hollywood has been doing it for years!) there are tables for random adventure creation.  This section also covers Experience and Wealth Rewards.  Finally, we get to section 8.6 Converting V&V 2.1 Characters. Good guidelines, but I have preferred to just rebuild them from the ground up

The game is a lot of fun, but it is not without it's own issues.
For starters there is no index in the book.  Minor thing in the days of PDFs with full-text searching, but it's not there on my softcover while sitting on my couch trying to figure out the stats of Arrow's Oliver Queen.
The game also took me a bit to figure out properly before it clicked.  Once it clicked everything else was easy.
The game is wonderfully old-school, but that can also be a bug (not a feature) for anyone coming from Mutants & Masterminds or other games with full-color interiors.

All in all it is a really great game that has all the old school charm of V&V.

If you are a fan of the original Villains & Vigilantes then I would check this out.  If you want a supremely flexible and easily modifiable game then I would also check this out. OR if you are like me and a fan of supers games it is worth a look.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Mighty Protectors for Sweeps Week

I have been on vacation all week. So not a lot of posting. None tomorrow or Friday either.
Though I have not been idle. Been spending a lot of time with +Jeff Dee and Jack Herman's Magnum Opus "Mighty Protectors".


Hope to have some fun things for "sweeps week" next week.


I am having a lot of fun with this!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Weekend Gaming: The Second Campaign

Got some great gaming in on the weekend.

Moved forward more with the Second Campaign.


But it turns out the characters are only 3rd level, and at the start of 3rd really.  So not really ready for the Forbidden City and its jungles.  So instead I thought up some minor encounters to get them from where they are now, closer to the jungle.  Have not decided 100% if that jungle is in Hempoland or Chult, but at the moment that is fine.

I thought about taking them to the Ilse of Dread again and maybe even setting I1 there.


But through the course of play, something else happened and we ended up at the Shrine of St. Aleena.   


I building up the idea that a cult is growing in this world and the PCs will be the ones to stop it.
+Pete Spahn's adventure converts nicely to 5e and the "Spawn of the Infamous One" work great as tiefling warlocks.  Maybe their patron is Bargel. ;)

Fun was had by all, but when the goblins and bugbears fled the shrine and regrouped outside there was a huge battle.

I also used Devilswine from the Expert Set.  In my world were-boars are the only type of lycanthrope that orcs can become.  It was a lot of fun to use them again.  Though there are no Wereboar or Devil Swine stats, so I faked it with a werewolf.
That's when I noticed this.


 The art in the 5e MM is very, very similar to the one in the BECMI Rules Cyclopedia!  Nice bit of nostalgia there.

The characters are only 200 or so XP away from 4th level.  I think they might have to encounter something along the way.

Now.  Here is the problem I am having.
I want there to be a big bad.  The kids love having those.  I just have not figured out if it should be Asmodeus or Demogorgon.  I have never used either in a game before and really want too.

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