Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Blue Rose now in Print!

SSStopped by my FLGS tonight for a nice surprise.   Blue Rose in print!



This is a great looking book! I mean seriously.
+Green Ronin Publishing makes some great looking books, always have, but this is above and beyond anything they have done before.







At nearly 400 pages this book is huge. It's bigger than the True20 books, combined.

The game is so fantastic too. I'll get into the game here in a bit.
Kudos to +Chris Pramas and all the Green Ronin staff on this.

Going to Your First Con

It's just about Summer and that means Cons are in full swing.   One question that comes up from readers is "what do I do at my first Con?" or even "how do I prepare?"

I have talked about these ideas in the past and was recently inspired to share some of these ideas in honor of the Amazing Las Vegas ComicCon coming up at the end of June. If you're trying to plan your travels for your first ComicCon there are awesome Las Vegas package deals to suit anyone's needs.

I would say I have not been to a lot of cons, but so far this year I guess I have already been to three! So as always, your mileage may vary.

What Should I Bring With Me?
Many Cons are now limiting what you can bring in with you. Some don't want you to bring in fake weapons anymore, others might allow real swords, but have zip-tie on them.  If you are cosplaying be sure to check the rules first!
At many cons, the lines for food, drinks, and everything else are long. Sometimes really long. If you can bring in a bag, pack some snacks.  I still hear horror stories about the year that Gen Con ran out of bacon! So plan accordingly.
No one loves caffeine more than me, but skip loading up on sodas and energy drinks and instead opt for water.  IF you are walking a lot (and you do at most big cons) you will need it.

What should you wear? 
Comfort is the key.  If you are going to a large con then again you will be walking a lot, so comfortable shoes are a must.  This is also your time to let your freak-flag fly. I have an entire collection of t-shirts I can only wear in public around cons! Nothing offensive, but certainly ones that only my Geek brothers and sisters would enjoy.

If you are Cosplaying, again comfort is key.  Granted you might not be walking as much since you could be posing for pictures more, but consider it.  I have a great Victorian outfit I wear. But the trouble is it is also all black wool.  Great, as long as I can stay in some AC all day.

Whatever you decide, make sure you have everything.  Like any trip make sure you have extra clothes too.   I also make sure I have room for the t-shirts I'll buy at the con too.

What are some important dos and don'ts?
Please, PLEASE, check with your con's website to see if they have any special rules long before you go.
Many/all cons have a website FAQ of things you can and can't do.  Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con, for example, has a FAQ here: https://www.amazingcomiccon.com/about


DOs
- Pace yourself! You have a lot to see and do, no sense wearing yourself out Day One.
- Eat well! Plan your meals. Cons are great times, but eating sometimes gets pushed aside.
- Wash Your Hands!  Ever hear of "Con Crud"? You will! Exposure to so many different people leads to new viruses. Add bad eating habits, less sleep and different levels of exercise you have a nice mix that leads to Con Crud.
- Bring cash.  Not every place takes credit/debit card and some autograph lines only take cash.
- Budget yourself! Don't spend all your money day one.
- Have a great time! This is great experience and you should enjoy every moment you can.
- Looks for hidden treasures! Every town that hosts a con hopes you enjoy yourself.  See what they have to offer. I have found great places to eat and some I get just as excited about as the con itself.

Make sure you have your hotel and travel plans set and ready to go.

But there are also a few DON'Ts
- Don't be a jerk. Other people are coming to the con too. Some it might be the only one they go to this year or for many years. Don't be a jerk and ruin their con.  That goes for people working the cons, people working at the hotels, restaurants.
- Don't forget you are there to have fun!

I have to add that when it comes to Cosplay.  Cosplay is NOT Consent. Come on, don't be a jerk.
I don't care if you know every line of every Deadpool issue there is, that girl wearing the Gwenpool outfit that she spent hours (maybe days or weeks) working on is just as welcome here as you are.  She (or he) doesn't need Geek Gatekeeping from you, harassed or touched.  Tell her "hey, that's an awesome Gwenpool!" Ask her if you take her picture and then move on.

Remember the rule: "Butt on the floor, pictures no more."


Cons are becoming more and more family welcoming. So remember that this is also a lot of little kids' first cons too.  Give them a reason to want to come back every year!

Ready?  Let's go!


--
Don't forget that the big OSR Sale is going on over at DriveThruRPG.  Just a little over 10 days left. Lots of great titles on sale including some from The Other Side.  Check them out.


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Methyn Sarr, Witch Queen of the Fire Coast

I spent some time over the long weekend reading through Barbarians of Lemuria: Mythic Edition. I have the previous editions and this one captures the same feel of the pulp-era adventures.  It is a fun game in it's own right but in truth, I am not at a point anymore where I want to learn a bunch of systems.
I am very, very happy with my world of OSR and B/X so I set out to convert BoL over to B/X D&D.   I also quickly discovered that a one to one conversion is not always the best idea.

Barbarians of Lemuria: Mythic Edition is a low-magic, and dare I even say, low-powered game.  Even the main antagonist would not really convert to very high level given most of the advice I have seen online.

I went into Barbarians of Lemuria with two goals.  First, I want to get some more information on Lemuria for my own games and add this feel to my current "Second Campaign" game.   Secondly, I want to convert the main antagonist, Methyn Sarr, into something I can use for my "War of the Witch Queens" game.   I'll detail the first as it happens, but I can talk about the second now.

Barbarian's of Lemuria, along with Crypts & Things, share an ethos and a feel with another favorite game of mine, Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  In my mind all three can be combined to make a Pulp-fanstastic, old-school D&D like-game worthy of any mighty thewed barbarian or crafty sorcerer. Mix in a little DCC or Lamentations of the Flame Princess and you have a heady brew.   There is a lot to love here, I just wish I had the time to do all of these games the justice they deserve.

Of course, the antagonist, Methyn Sarr, caught my eye.  She is described as "the Witch Queen of the Fire Coast" and the devoted agent of Zaggath, Lord of Fire.  She is fierce, cruel, beautiful and deadly. Everything I love about an evil witch.  A direct conversion didn't feel right.  No one is afraid of a 3rd level witch*.  (*the suggestion that 1 HD = 5 LB has been thrown out on the internet.  So her 12 LB would be 2.4 HD).

Instead, I looked at her Arcane Power (16) and her careers.   She can cast Third Magnitude spells which I figure are about 6th-8th level for witches.  Since I was looking at AS&SH that puts her 11th level (or 12th).  I wanted something a little more impressive, so I also looked at my own Witch stats for 13th level.

Methyn Sarr, Witch Queen of the Fire Coast


Methyn Sarr, Witch Queen of the Fire Coast
Female Witch 11th level (Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, +Jeff Talanian)
Chaotic Evil

Race: Human
Secondary Skill: Torturer

Abilities
Strength: 10
Dexterity: 12
Constitution: 10
Intelligence: 18
Wisdom: 16
Charisma: 17

Casting Ability: 11
Fighting Ability: 5

Hit Points:  24
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
AC: 5 (battle harness)

Powers
1st level: Brew Potions, Familiar
3rd level: Brew Philtre
5th level: Dance of Beguilement, Effigy
7th level: Animate Broom
9th level: Witch's Apprentice

Spells (due to her connection to Zaggath she may also cast Pyromancer spells)
First: (5) Burning Hands, Charm Person, Influence Normal Fires, Shocking Grasp, Sleep
Second: (5) Cause Blindness, Flame Blade, Flaming Sphere, Infernal Tongues, Ray of Enfeeblement
Third: (4) Black Cloud, Explosive Runes, Fireball, Witch Fire
Fourth: (3) Fire Shield, Mirror Mirror, Transfer Wounds
Fifth: (2) Magic Jar, Produce Bonfire
Sixth: (1) Disintegrate

Magic Items
Battle Harness (provides AC 5)
Blood Dagger of Zaggath (adds +1d6 damage due to dripping fire blood)


Methyn Sarr, Witch Queen of the Fire Coast
Female Witch, Malefic Tradition 13th level (The Witch)
Chaotic

Abilities
Strength: 10
Dexterity: 12
Constitution: 10
Intelligence: 17
Wisdom: 16
Charisma: 18

Hit Points: 29
AC: 5 (battle harness)

Occult Powers
Familiar: Raven
7th level:  Evil's Touch
13th level: Devil's Tongue

Spells 
Cantrips: Black Flame, Daze, Detect Curse, Object Reading, Open, Palm
First: Cause Fear, Fey Sight, Ghostly Slashing, Increase Sex Appeal, Sleep
Second: Agony, Blast Shield, Death Armor, Evil Eye
Third: Feral Spirit, Clairaudience/Clairvoyance, Tongues
Fourth: Dance Macabre, Intangible Cloak of Shadows, Phantom Lacerations
Fifth: Death Curse, Dreadful Bloodletting
Sixth: Death Blade, Mass Agony
Seventh:  Wave of Mutilation

Magic Items
Battle Harness (provides AC 5)
Blood Dagger of Zaggath (adds +1d6 damage due to dripping fire blood)

So not exact conversions by any stretch, but certainly workable ones.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #123

Welcome back to This Old Dragon!  Today's issue, #123, is in such terrible shape with missing pages and mildew I am going to need to resort to the PDF more than once.  Let's go back to July 1987. I am working two jobs to make money for college and saving some time for my first "World Ending" campaign. A campaign that will see plot points and characters many, many years later in "The Dragon and the Phoenix" and "The Dragon Slayer's" games.  Let's get to it!

I grabbed this cover from the web, my copy does not have a cover anymore.  It is cool, but it doesn't rank in my favorite covers by any means. 
The first page I have is an ad for Gen Con 20 which is next month (August 20-23, 1987).  At this time Gen Con (they are using a space there) is in Milwaukee.

The special feature of this issue is "The Arcane Arts", so a lot on magic.  I do remember this section quite well.  I am sure I incorporated some of this into my 2nd Edition game, but I'll remember once I get back into it. 

On to the Letters. More calls for reprints of covers. A letter asking for more coverage of the D&D game, as opposed to the AD&D game.  The Rule Cyclopedia is still a couple of years away.  Another letter voices the first concerns about the Forgotten Realms taking over from Oerth and Krynn.  Sorry kid, but you haven't seen the worse of it yet! Thankfully things even out a few years later.

Ad for the Science Fiction Book Club. I had joined it by this point and I see many books I owned or would later own. A few I still own in fact!  Funny looking at them now through the haze of time and nostalgia I can't recall if they were all good books and I forgot OR were they great books and I can't remember OR were they bad books and my wistfulness for 1987 colors my memories. 


Ed Greenwood is up for the first article of the issue. Music of the Forgotten Realms. I am not sure how far off we are from the publication of the "Grey Box" campaign rules, but it can't be that far off.  I have been following the tone of these articles with interest since I have started to re-review this Dragons.  The tone of this one is the Realms are a thing now. Earlier articles the Realms seemed to be a long lost, dare I say it, forgotten place and time and the articles are Ed/Elminster's rememberings.  I know the actual verbs used in the articles do not support this claim but it is a feel. This one reads like something going on right now in this country you could visit right now. IF that is you choose to.

Ah, the main attraction. The Arcane Arts.

David Yates is up first with The Mystic College. Or in the modern parlance, Hogwarts for AD&D.  Drawing a lot on Dragonlance and not enough on Glantri this article covers how an AD&D Magic-user can create a school of wizardry.  There are some good ideas here too. Magic-users can start a school at 9th level.  Some rules are given on experience bonuses and some improved chances on learning new spells. The article itself is a long one, 10 pages of text, a covers a lot of ground. I read this article just when I was heading to college. Now I have spent nearly all my adult life in academics, reading this now has more excited that before. Though now I am interested in different details.  I have often felt that the "adventuring" wizard was one that not just sought out new or lost forms of magic, but needed to adventure to pay the high costs of wizard school!

Fire for Effect! is from Richard W. Emerich and details magical fires.  The Fred Saberhagen "Swords" books were very popular at this time, so I think I detect a note from those. At least in terms of what magical fire might be.  The various melting points of metals are also given. The article is kinda worth it just for these alone. 

Arcane Lore is a new column to feature new spells sent in by the readers.  First up is a bunch of spells from Avissar Fire-Eye, or known in this world as Harold Dolan.  I always like articles like these and spell names like this.  "Magic Missle" is fine as far as spell names go, but really it should be named after the mage that created or made it famous/infamous.  So "Bargle's Missle of Magic" is a better name.  We get some of that here.  Truthfully it is something I have gotten away from but really should go back to it.  There are some decent spells here too.  All are fire based.

Another new column is Lords & Legends which covers some NPCs for use in the any of the TSR worlds. Up first is Matt Iden with Yoshitsune, 13th level kensai/6th level monk, Benkei an 8th level shohei, and Hsu Hsun, an 23rd-level wu jen, 9th-level shukenja.  The "star" though is Miyamoto Musashi who is depicted as a 15th-level kensai.  I have no problem admitting that this is where I first heard of Musashi and A Book of Five Rings.  I picked up a copy from the SF/F Book Club and I still have it. 

Heather Gemmen is up next with Gamers Around the World: Putting the World Gamers Guide to use. Yes this is how we connected back then.  Well. One of the ways. In five years the usenet group rec.games.frp.dnd will form. 

The Ecology of the Giant Leech is next.  Sadly pages 51 and 52 are stuck to pages 53 and 54 so bad the reading them is difficult.  

Page 54 does have a an article about keeping time from Lisa Cabala called Time Flies. Helpful when you forget how long an AD&D turn, round and segment are.   Lots of nice time keeping charts.

Roger E.  Moore throws these careful charts out the window with his Just Making Time. In this he talks about making calendars for your own worlds.  Forgotten Realms took this to heart, and it is mentioned here. 

Moving past the part where the short story was, we come up to a Star Frontiers article. The Whole-Earth Ecology by Danny Kretzer discusses how to create the flora and fauna of a world.

The Marvel-Phile had other heralds of Galactus, but they are gone from this magazine. 

The Role of Books covers the then new books. Of note is a review for Mercedes Lackey's Arrow of the Queen. A book that will inspire a generation of gamers and some of those will go one to make Blue Rose.

Operation:Zondraker for Top Secret continues the "Moon for various RPGs" feature of Dragon/Ares.

Another ad. I know I spend a lot of time on these but they are much more of a time-capsule of what was happening in hobby even more so than reviews.  Case in point this one.


Obviously not the boxed set we all remember. It isn't even the ad I remember. The ad I recall was a semi-shadowed man (a game designer presumably) that looked nothing at all like Ed Greenwood, relaxing with his hands behind his head.  In truth, I can't even find that ad now.  Mandela Effect anyone?  I remember the ads being very pretentious.  This one does not seem that way. I do remember this picture and my thoughts were of Glorfindel riding to Rivendell with the Ringwraiths on his heels. I might have even asked people in my gaming group that the time if this was related to Tolkien.  Interesting really.

The Forgotten Realms feature prominently in the Previews section as well.  There are other reminders that for reasons best left undiscussed TSR was producing items for the Lazer Tag license.

We end with the comics.

The arcane stuff in this issue was great and worthy of a third look from me again.  The Realms material has got me thinking more and more about a Realms campaign.  We are after all hitting the 30 year publication anniversary.

Want to know what I was saying about White Dwarf magazine during the same month? Check out my White Dwarf Wednesday for issue #91.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Judges Guild Psychic Witch

A few weeks ago I was made aware of the Judges Guild Journal. A newsprint 'zine made by JG back in the 70s "dedicated to Swords and Sorcery fantasy gaming".  In particular, I was made aware of issue 7 (p) and their witch class.

Issue 7 was published in December 1977.   For some perspective, the first Dragon Magazine witch was published in March 1977, though they claim to have received the manuscript for it 15 months prior.  OD&D Supplement III, Eldritch Wizardry was published in 1976.

I mention Eldritch Wizardry because the Judges Guild witch, like my own, was very much inspired by it.

The article is on one broadsheet or about two typed pages.  Titled "Witchcraft in Dungeons and Dragons" and Phil Benz as it's byline.

I have to give this article a lot of credit.  It really went outside the box with this class.  Seventeen levels are presented with roughly the same XP values as the Magic-User and has a d4 for hit point determination.  The 17th level is something called "Emelkartha".  I can only guess this has to do with the Demon Goddess from Gardner Fox's short stories about Niall of the Far Travels.  Which curiously enough appear for the first time in Dragon #5.  Should we call Shenanigans?

What makes this witch different is that she gains psionic powers instead of spells.
Her progression is very much like that found in later 2nd edition supplements on Psioincs and similar to the Basic Psionics book released by +Richard LeBlanc.
Indeed the author claims right away that a better name for the class is "Psionic Woman".   He also makes a good point about the Magic-User being unsatisfactory for a witch class.


The class then goes off into non-psionic and more spell-like areas, with the creation of potions and drugs.   I am also pleased to see the inclusion of talismans, something I also added to my witch class.  There are a lot of witchcraft trapping with this class, but I am not sure how well they mix with the D&D Psionics.

It certainly looks like a fun playable class.
There is a bit here about how males can only become witches under a special contract from Satan!

This article is much smaller than the one found in The Dragon issue #5, but is some ways is a lot more interesting.  I think that the Judges Guild article has the benefit of reading the Dragon magazine one first.  While I have no proof that the Dragon magazine article influenced this one I do find it difficult to believe that someone writing for a 'zine at this time had not read Dragon. Plus the inclusion of Emelkartha, which had only shown up in this one spot prior to this, is kind of a give-away.

Class Struggles: The Problem of the Psychic-Witch
While this might be the first Psychic Witch class published it is not the first one I have seen.  The first one I remember reading was the one from the Mayfair Role-Aids book Witches.  That witch was a "Deyrini" witch and while I was familiar with the stories I thought it was an odd inclusion.  First, the powers were less psychic and still more spell-like.  Also, I never got a witch or a psychic feel from that particular class.
I later made my own "Natural Witch" that was also a Psychic Witch, but again, something about it never quite jelled with me. This is one of the reasons you don't see a psychic witch in my books now. I could never get it to work right for me.

The closest thing I have been able to get to a psychic witch I really like are my Sisters of the Aquarian Order.

I think the issue is that like D&D, I grew up in the 70s and 80s.  The 70s saw the Occult Revival and the 80s saw the Satanic Panic.  This has forever locked witches, occultism, and psychic abilities together in my mind. If you read anything published in the 70s about witches they often talk about enhancing their psychic powers.  I could see a witch, instead of mixing potions or collecting herbs, empowering crystals or infusing talismans' with her own psychic power.

Maybe her familiar is not a spirit but a psychic construct of her own "Shadow Self" from Jung.  Her Patron then is a manifestation of her Mana or Higher Self as part of the Collective Unconsciousness (again, Jung).  So the Jungian archetypes of Self-Anima-Mana could map on to Maiden-Mother-Crone representations.
Jung is, and always has been, a huge influence on how I detail the witch archetype for myself. I spent a lot of time in the 80s reading Jung and it is one of the reasons I worked on a Ph.D. in psychology.

Maybe there is something here after all. Maybe it just takes 40 years to get it right!

I'll have to think about this much more.



I am also presenting this as another addition to the RPG Blog Carnival on Occult Mysteries and Magic.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

New Releases Tuesday: Covencraft

It's Tuesday and that means new releases!

Out today the next book in the Strange Brew series for Pathfinder, Covencraft!


Strange Brew: Covencraft for the Pathfinder RPG

Witches can be--and often are--portrayed and represented as solitary individuals, practicing their craft alone in a cabin (gingerbread or otherwise) in the wilderness or in the scary house on the hill that children avoid. But what if they gathered in groups, forming a coven? What then, would be different about them, and how would those groups look and act? What tools would they craft and use in their rituals?

Strange Brew: Covencraft answers those questions for you, taking you inside covens and detailing how they work and how to integrate them into your character’s story and your campaign. Sample covens are provided, along with discussions of the benefits of a coven, types of covens and roles for characters within them, example ritual tools, ceremonies, and more.

Magic items to follow!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: The History of Witchcraft

For this Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge I "read" (listened to) two shorter books that covered roughly the same topic.  The first was "The History of Witchcraft", written by Lois Martin and narrated by Brogan West.  The second was "Witch Mania: The History of Witchcraft", written by Charles Mackay and narrated by Greg Wagland. Witch Mania is actually part of the Charles Mackay's 1841 book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, which I covered another version of back in January as "Witch: A Tale of Terror".
So for these reasons I am going to classify this as one reading, not two.

The differences in the books are largely one of the historical perspectives.  The older 1841 "Witch Mania" book takes an interestingly pro-science approach that is congruent to the time's own growing industrialism and embrace of science.  "The History of Witchcraft" includes the findings of, subsequent dismissal of those findings of, Margret Murray's Witch Cult thesis.  History also covers the then new "The Triumph of the Moon" by Ronald Hutton.  But nothing is given in detail.

Mackay's 1841 book reads and feels like something written today to be honest.  There are only tidbits of information that would let on that it is not.  Though the perspective is still one of "those poor superstitious peasants".  Martin's 2007 book is a bit newer in it's topics, but the perspective has not shifted very much.

Both books come down on the side of this all being delusion by the participants with some mention of how to properly view historical events through the lens of the times they were in.
Both books cover many of the same horror stories that are familiar to anyone that spends time reading these tales.  A couple of interesting bits for me was the idea of how localized many of these accounts are.  These were common fears that involved local people on a global stage.  The newer "History" (2007) spent some time talking about how this was part and parcel the change over from superstition to rationalism.  Also, it seems there is a new push to see the witch trials as largely a secular issue rather than a purely ecclesiastical one. More on this when I cover the next history book on my list.



Both of these books came from Audible.
http://www.audible.com/

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 13
Level: Mother
Witches in this book: Again, millions or none.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: All were innocent in my mind. At least innocent enough to not warrant a capital offense.
Best RPG to Emulate it: Again, not the best question, but I would love to play a "Burning Times" RPG using WitchCraft.
Use in WotWQ: I will bring some of these ideas to the campaign, certainly the witch hunters and the paranoia.


RPG Carnival Post
Using witches, magic and occult practices in your games.
Both of these books got me thinking about how witches and the occult could be viewed in a game that is already full of magic.

The main feature of both of these books is fear. Fear of the unknown and fear of the very real and very known Devil.  Witches, no matter the stripe, are something to be hated and feared.
This also begs another question. Are Witches really Witches without the persecution?

In most fantasy role-playing games there are wizards, clerics and a host of spellcasters. Even "grimdark" games like Dungeon Crawl Classics and Lamentations of the Flame Princess have their spellcasters and they are, despite their "otherness" still part of a social unit of adventurers.  The witch, when she is included, often becomes another type of spellcaster. In the cases of AD&D 2, D&D 3 and D&D 4 she was merely a type of wizard.  Third party books have made strides to cleave the witch class to the historical witch, or at lease the fairy tale witch.  The RPG Quest of the Ancients, despite it's "Heartbreaker" status has done some rather interesting things with witches.

One thing I have done in my own games is to set up a dichotomy of magic. There is the "state" sanctioned magic used by wizards and the "church" sanctioned magic used by clerics.  Casters will fall, mostly, into one of these two realms. It is assumed that the powers in charge of these realms will police their own.  "Witches" are those that fall outside of these realms and their magic is somehow "outlaw" or "other".

Both history books mentioned above make a point of detailing both the religious and secular nature of the witch trials. This can be emulated in many RPGs with the method I also mention, with a secular or state wizard working with the church or spiritual clerics working to stop the "Evil" witches.  I say evil in quotes since an evil cleric, in this case, would still see they have more in common with a good cleric (both worship gods) than a witch.

I have done this to great effect with witches and psychic characters in my games over the years. In fact, witches had become so numerous in my games that I had to redo how psionic characters were dealt with my games just to set up this "other".

For all of it's outward appearances, D&D and games like it are not medieval Europe. The polytheism of most worlds is really at odds with the notion of Feudalism.  This lack of a monotheist faith, and interrelated government, really makes for a lack of a designated "evil enemy" for this church/state to fight against.   If there is no enemy there is no enemy secrets, cults or conspiracies.   In my mind the best enemies of society are the ones that seek to destroy it.
Maybe there is a cabal of evil (unsanctioned) wizards or a cult of warlocks.

For me, witches are the most interesting when they are slightly outside of the norm.  In modern parlance, they can be the terrorists OR (maybe AND) the Social Justice Warriors.

But I have always been fans of the outsiders, the strange and the different.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Kickstart Your Weekend: Monsters of Maximum Mayhem Dungeons

Evil genius +Mark Taormino is back with his fifth Kickstarter.  You might remember mark from The Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen and Maximum Mayhem Dungeon #2: Secret Machines of the Star Spawn.  Well, now he is back and bringing us all a new Monster book for Old-School style games.

Maximum Mayhem Dungeons: Monsters of Mayhem #1


I have come to expect some pretty great things from Mark in the past and I have not been disappointed.

This looks every bit as fun and at higher pledge levels you can get your own monsters made.

Mark always has a good spread of rewards and levels, so if yo are looking to finish up your collection of his adventures then this is a good Kickstarter to back.


This looks like a lot of fun.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/marktaormino/maximum-mayhem-dungeons-monsters-of-mayhem-1

Thursday, May 18, 2017

This Old...Journal? Judges Guild Journal

Due to being sick earlier this week I did not get around to reviewing a Dragon Magazine for "This Old Dragon".
But I did score some copies of the old Judge's Guild Journal from 1977 to 1978 (Prime 'Space Trucker' years).



I grabbed issues #3(N), #6(O) to #10(S).

Truthfully I was not planning on a big review of each issue; there is not a lot of reviewable content.  But I will talk about them in a future post.

Of course, I grabbed this set for a couple of reasons.  I am always curious about the early days of our hobby and these issues (just) pre-date my involvement.  So that is a plus in my book.

Then there is also this.



I had NO idea this even existed until last week. So I hunted these down.
I will go into detail about this class and how it works in the D&D of the time.  Plus it has such a great 70s vibe to it.   I really can't but help to want to jump in a try it out.

The art is pretty cool too.



I might keep the issue with the witch, but when I am done I will entertain offers if someone must have these for your collection.  I am not looking to recoup my losses here but if someone wants to soften the blow then I will not say no.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

On Ramp: Introduction to Space Truckers

There seems to be some interest in this.  I don't have a publication date set yet, but I feel like September oughta be good.

Right now I have no art for this.  So that is going to be my biggest issue.

Here is the Introduction and a bit from Exit (Chapter) 01

Space Truckers

On Ramp - Introduction

“What a Long, Strange Trip it’s Been…”

The late 1970s was a very odd time.  In 1979 we were of the first families I knew of to get access to a new concept, a cable movie channel.  With my new obsession, Dungeons & Dragons, in mind I sought out to watch ANYTHING to do with sword and sorcery or fantasy.  I didn’t get that.  Instead I got a strange mix of movies from 1977 on.  Horror yes, but I also watched an odd mix of SciFi in the wake of Star Wars and Close Encounters and trucker movies.  The trucker/CB craze was huge in Middle America in the years 1977-79.  I saw movies like Smokey and the Bandit, Convoy and White Line. A lot. Maybe too much.

It makes for a strange alchemy to be sure.

I have spent a lot of time in cars driving from one place or another.  I have eaten at a few truck stops, downed coffee at a few more.  I did think they would be better if they had more aliens.  In others though I have thought I would not have even noticed.

Space Truckers is the offspring of two very popular trends of the late 1970s, Science Fiction, notably space battles, and a fascination with truckers and CB slang.

Exit 01 - Outbound and Down

“Hey hey Good Buddies! Whats’ yer Space-20? Come back!”

In the future humankind has gone out to the stars.  Hyperspace travel has made the planets closer. Humanity and the alien life forms they encounter are constantly looking for new planets to colonize.  Those planets need materials, food, and personnel. It is up to the brave men and women of the Space Shipping Lines to get the colonies what they need. It is a time of the SPACE TRUCKERS!

Far off colonies are serviced by long range starships and freighters.  Short range shipping needs are dealt with by local interplanetary shipping.  The needs of colonies, especially newer colonies inaccessible by larger freighters, are completely dependent on the service of the Space Trucking lines.
Space Truckers uses a mini-campaign concept that can be added to any White Star game; a sector of space with an expanse, The Hazard Lands, frequented by space truckers and pirates as well as patrolled by Colonial Hyperspace Police (CHP).

So far the classes I have are:
Space Truckers
Hyper Space Patrol (CHiPs)
Pirates
Grease Monkey (hyper intelligent chimps that are great mechanics)
And the Ursine and Porcine race options (or "Bears" and "Pigs" in trucker slang).

New Ships will include
Long Haul Trucks
Short Haul Trucks
CHiP interceptor crafts

Plus rules for “Hyper jamming” (getting more speed out of truck) and convoys

I am going to include the Hazzard lands, Dixie's Truck Stop ("the best Diablo Sandwich in the Tri-Sector area!"),  Lot Lizards and Snarks, Pirates.

Meet NPCS like Dixie, owner of Dixies. Her kid sister Jamie, along with cook Mel and waitresses Alice and FL0.  Get your truck serviced by Reginald Farnsworth Symthe IV aka “Reggie” and his robot assistant Gears.  Share a doughnut and coffee with CHP Officer Bob Friendly, just make sure you are not hauling any contraband.  Avoid the areas controlled by the corrupt Governor Boss of the Hazard Colonies and his equally corrupt Sheriff  Roscoe J. "Stonewall" Jackson.


It should be fun.  Silly, but fun.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Sick Days, New Year's Resolutions and Upcoming Books

Not feeling so hot today.  Some viral thing has been running through my home and at work, so I guess it was only a matter of time before it got me too.

This got me thinking about my New Year's Resolution.

Each year I try to resolve to do something new, or better, in the upcoming year.  I am happy to say I am usually pretty successful at keeping these.  This year was no different.

For 2017 I resolved to clear out a lot of the half-finished "Works in Progress" I have on my list.  Having five half-finished documents are not as good as having one finished one.  So you can see the fruits of my efforts this year with a new witch book out every six weeks so far. I also finished up a project for the DMsGuild and the Classic Modules Today group.


Now I don't want to burn out my audience so I am debating on whether or not my Summer Solstice book should be a "witch" book.  Oh if you think I don't have another witch book up my sleeves you haven't been paying attention here for long. ;)

Which gets me to today.
Since I am feeling kind of crappy I was digging around in my projects drive and found some docs I had written about the Healer Class. Actually, I have two; a Clerical healer and a Psychic healer.

The other projects I have are:

The Faerie Witch / Green Witch.  This is planned for the Summer Solstice.  It covers the Faerie Witch traditions as well as the Fey Pact Warlock.  I also will talk about "Grand Covens" and have more faerie creatures.  For Swords & Wizardry complete with conversion notes for Basic Era.

The White Witch. This is a simple book for playing good-aligned witches in Swords & Wizardry Whitebox.  Due out in August.

The Complete Necromancer. This is a much larger project. In addition to the Mara Tradition Witches and Death Pact Warlocks, I am going to comb through many OGC sources to provide a "complete" Necromancer class, an Undead Slayer class and a Death Priest. Some of the material in this book goes back to the beginning of my witch class.  This book will feature hundreds of spells and dozens, if not scores, of undead monsters.  It is a huge book.  I want to get it out for Halloween (natch) but not sure if I will get it all done.  Swords & Wizardry Complete / Basic Era.

The Healer.  Again this is a class that shares a genesis with the witch and necromancer. The Clerical Healer will have plenty of new spells and things to do. Plus rules on how to play a passivist character in a world of murder-hobos. The Psychic Healer will be similar but rely on psionic powers and manipulating chakras. Basic Era, no set date yet.

Space Truckers.  Ah. This one has been running around in my mind for years.  No witches. No magic. Think back to 1977, this is "Star Wars" meets "Smokey and the Bandit" meets "CHiPs".
An Ode to roadtrips and the strange alchemy that was the late 70s.  New classes, new races, new rules for short and long haul spacetrucks. For White Star.  No date yet, but this year is the 40th Anniversary of both "Star Wars" and "Smokey and the Bandit", so I should do it this year.

Below is a quick poll.  I am interested in hearing your thoughts.






Let me know what you think. I am on a ton of allergy drugs right now; who knows what you can convince me to do!

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Warlock, In Print!

After two failed attempts the Warlock is finally ready for print purchases!


You can now get a copy to go with other books in my Witch line.


Like Hedgewitches,


Or any Witch for that matter.


BTW, does anyone want The Witch: Aiséiligh Tradition for Swords & Wizardry in print?


Combine them all for a Complete Witch!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Classic Modules Today: Death's Ride

I have been a fan of the "Classic Modules Today" group for a bit now.
The premise is to use the leeway of the DMSGuild to produce 5e conversions of classic TSR modules.
Well you know I am all about that!  So I have been buying as many as I can for the various campaigns I have been running. They are great. All the basic information I need in one place.

Could I have done these on my own? Sure.  But for the price of my triple grande latte, I can grab 2-3 of these pdfs and be good to go.

Since I also believe in giving back I made my own for an adventure I have coming up.

Here is the Classic Modules today conversion of one of my favorites, CM2 Death's Ride.


You can get the conversion here on the DMSGuild and the original module too.
You will need the original, these are conversion notes, not the full product.



You can find these and all the Classic Modules Today conversions (and the original adventures) at the DMSguild.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #89

Going all the way back to September 1984 for this one.  Highlights include that wonderful Denis Beauvais "Chess" cover, a follow-up to his Issue 86 cover.  Like that issue, I have some pretty fond memories of this one.  Put on some "Let's Go Crazy" by Prince and jump on into "This Old Dragon!"

We start with a very interesting letter.  The reader asks if print version of some Dragon covers could be sold.  Editor Kim Mohan responds saying they can't because they do not own the reproduction rights to many of the covers.  Now in later magazines, we know this changes a little due to the "Art of the Dragon" book that comes out, but others are still owned by their respective artists.   Something they later seem to miss when publishing the CD-ROM.

Stephen Inniss is back (or this could be his first) with Survival is a group effort. He talks about the survival chances of some of the frequently used humanoid races.  I was surprised to see that he gave kobolds a really long life span.  At five pages it is an interesting read. The aging tables are worthy of cutting out and sticking into your Monster Manual.

Six very special shields is next and comes from the pen of Ed Greenwood via the word of mouth of Elminster.  I remember having some high hopes for this article; that it would as interesting as the swords ones they (hypothetically) compare it too, but somehow it doesn't live up.  I do recall putting Reptar's Wall into one of my games though.


Cool ad for The Wizard's Nook.  I had no idea what they sold really, never sent my two bucks in for a catalog.

Len Lakofka returns for more Gods of the Suel pantheon. This time featuring Pyremius, Beltar, and Llerg. I was SO into the Suel back then. I collected all of these articles, I wrote a bunch of histories detailing the migration of the Suel survivors all over the world.  Their histories and magic. It is interesting to see which of these gods survived to today. These gods made it to the 3.x Living Greyhawk Gaz and Complete Divine.

The article Many Types of Magic by Charles Olson covers a particular 1e problem of well....somethings just not making much sense.  So anyone familiar with the history of D&D knows how it grew somewhat organically and that means things sometime feel off. The magical classification system (Alteration, Illusion, Conjuration...) doesn't always follow the rules.  This is something addressed here, and to a much larger degree in 2nd and 3rd Edition.  I can't tell if this article informed those changes; they were really must needed changes to start with.  Now before the angry posts and emails start, I am not saying 1e is broken or anything like that.  It does have its own set of peculiarities.  Anyone who played it knows this.

Another great ad for the Time-Life book series The Enchanted World!


Show of hands. Who had these?  Of COURSE I had the Witches and Wizards one. I also have the one on Ghosts.  I see them at Half-Price Books a lot.  I'd get more of them (just for the geek street-cred) but they are too tall for my bookshelves!

In the annals of "useless NPC Classes" I think the Sentinel from Halt! Who goes there? would make the top of my list.  Maybe only the accountant from the dawn of the Dragon is worse. It's not a bad class, it just doesn't really do anything a fighter with some thief skills couldn't do better. I am actually pretty sure a multi-classed fighter/thief would be better.

Ah. Here we go.  I am not sure if it was this issue or an earlier one, but it was this ad that got me interested in White Dwarf.  Issue 44 was my first White Dwarf.



Learn magic by the month by Craig Barrett covers learning new magic in the Dragonquest game.  I have to admit I always liked the look of Dragonquest and wanted to learn how to play it.  No one around me did at the time.  I think I missed out on some cool experiences, to be honest with you. Rereading this article only convinces me of that.  Trouble is I doubt I have the patience anymore to learn a relic from the 80s.

Creature Catalog.
Oh now, this was fun.  My appetite for new monsters was strong 1984 and I always wanted something new to throw at players that had the Monster Manual and Fiend Folio memorized.  This was a great addition.  In particular, I enjoyed the Fachan (it was so weird), the Ghuuna (which I still use),  the Glasspane Horror (one of my favorites), and the Utukku (I made a revised one years ago based on the same myths).  I lost my original copy along with all my 2nd Ed material (I had put it in my Montrous Compendium binder), so it is great to have this one again.

Roger Moore follows up with an article on calculating monster XP values.  The Monster Manual II will also make this easier in the future.

The Ares Sci-Fi section is next.
Some articles on the Mega-Corporations of Star Frontiers.

Continuing the articles on the Moon we have Luna, The Empire and the Stars for the Other Suns game.

Of Grizzly Bears and Chimpanzees covers mutant animal characters in Gamma World.  I used this article to beef up the Gorilla Bear that appeared in the Fiend Folio.

Missing some pages. Checking the CD-ROM it appears that the Marvel Phile was cut out as was the crossword puzzle.

We end with Wormy and Snarf and the answers to the crossword.

A fun issue to be sure! Loved the cover and monsters.

Want to know what I was saying about White Dwarf magazine during the same month? Check out my White Dwarf Wednesday for issue #57.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Rise! Tharizdûn!

Spent some quality time with the Order of the Platinum Dragon this weekend.

These guys:


They just cleared out the first level of the Hall of the Fire Giant King and are now headed down to the second level.  They have encountered the first bit of solid proof of the Drow interference.

We (You and I that is, not the players or the characters) that they will eventually encounter Lolth.


She should put up a pretty good fight.  What happens to her depends on the actions of the characters.

After that there is a real good chance that they (or they along with the Second Campaign Characters) will also have to fight Orcus.


He looks a lot tougher.

But the problem is that they are not the "big bads" of my 5e games.  All my campaigns will link up at the end to fight the mastermind pulling all the strings.

Tharizdûn!


Yup. I know that is a WoW figure (Demon Form Illidan Stormrage), but he works perfectly as Tharizdûn as I envision him.  Part drow, part demon, part dragon, part devil.

Tharizdûn, through Asmodeus and Graz'zt, have manipulated the characters (in all three campaigns), Lolth, Orcus and scores of other demons to locate the Chaos stones. Once collected the PCs will think they are using them to save the world, but really it is the key to Tharizdûn's prison.  Blocking out the sun is a herald of his return.

I'll get more details on how this is all going to work in future posts.
Right now I need to make some minor alterations to that figure.  I need to find some chains to wrap around his wrists and ankles to show that he had been imprisoned.


My players have not seen this figure yet. I plan on keeping it hidden till he is released.

Now to come up with some appropriate stats for him.
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