Thursday, June 29, 2017

Fundraiser for Mona Dowie

I met Mona Dowie online, via Facebook.  We bonded over our shared love of witches, Stevie Nicks, and coffee.

We were paired up on Petty Gods and she produced the art for my characters Nox and Syla.

I loved these so much I HAD to have her do some art for my then upcoming Swords & Wizardry projects.  I sent her some basic ideas and she sent me some art of my iconic witch Larina.

She was sick then and things have only gotten worse.

+R.J. Thompson let me know of a GoFundMe going for her.  You can find that here:

Please donate what you can.
+Erik Tenkar over at the Tavern is going to match the first $250 donated by the OSR crowd.

So until further notice, I am donating ALL profits from my Green Witch for Swords & Wizardry (which features the Larina art) will be donated to her GoFundMe page.
It's not much, but it is something I hope.

Whether you buy my book or donate directly please help her out.
The OSR is full of some great, generous people.

This Old Dragon: Issue #141

I have had some really great issues lately for This Old Dragon. Issues I remember fondly or issues that had a huge impact on my games and/or game writing.

This is not one of those issues.

Oh, don't get me wrong, Issue #141 is fine, but there isn't anything in it I remember using. So it is next in my box of mildewy memories, so let's head back to the beginning of the end of the 80s, January 1989 to be exact, for This Old Dragon!

Ok, so I remember the cover even if my magazine doesn't have one. I think that might be all I remember of this one.  A few pages in, or the first page of my copy, we get an ad for Curse of the Azure Bonds. It seemed like to me that this book was advertised ALL the time.    We get the great Clyde Caldwell art, but the add is different than the book cover.

I have to admit that, for reasons I can wholly articulate, it bugged me.  Yes...yes I know that covers are mocked up all the time and this is no different. I even know now some of the issues going on behind the scenes of TSR at this time. So my feelings here are more of a memory of feeling and not the feeling itself.  Plus in either version, that sword the Lizardman has is stupid looking.

Plus I still have never read this book.  Maybe I should. Might exorcise the ghost of this feeling.

Another ad. This time TSR trying to get into the party-game market. One of the hotter games at this time was Scruples.  It was pretty popular and due to a combination of this game and drinking it was banned from our circle of friends back when we all lived in the dorms.  This is not that game and I can see why it failed.  Scruples was simple, much like how Cards Against Humanity is, and there is a lot of social interaction. This game "I Think You Think I Think" looks so over designed.  It might work well in today's board game market, but I somehow doubt it.  The name is also too cumbersome.

Forum covers some debate on Illusionists and their spells.

About a dozen pages in we get to the main feature of the magazine, near-human like creatures.  The cover features a Jeff Easley ogre or giant squaring off against a little blonde magic-user.

The Dragon's Bestiary features all sort of humanoid creatures. Most with names we have since seen elsewhere.

Randal Doering provides us with something new in Orcs Throw Spells, Too! or humanoid spellcasters.  This is for the AD&D 1st Edition game.  The article is good and has a lot of meat, but it also is a good example of the schizophrenia that was rampant in the late 80s and early 90s TSR design.  Yes this is great stuff, but the BECMI rules covered this material. Granted, we would not get the Rules Cyclopedia for another couple of years.   Spell casters among these races are considered to be more "primitive" (why? just because) so they get Shamans and Witch-Doctors or Clerics and Magic-Users respectively.  Personally, I like to think of Shamans as a different sort of magical tradition altogether.  I like to see my friend +Rich Howard get his Shaman book live, I think there is a lot of potential for such a class.  Me, I just cheat and make humanoids into a type of witch or warlock.

Arthur Collins is next with an article on giants and combat techniques in Boulder-Throwers and Humanoid Hordes.  This would have been good to read when I started running the Giants series.

Now we have something useful for today.  In Hey, Wanna Be a Kobold from Joseph Clay we get rules for humanoid PCs such as Orcs, Goblins, Kobolds and Xvarts.  This also includes Shaman and Witch Doctor class write-ups.  Re-re-reading this again I am struck with the question of why didn't we do this sort of thing more back then?  I know we were still a decade away from Meepo, but this could have worked well in many games.

Jumping over the fiction we get another timely feeling article.  Reviews of MegaTraveller and GURPS Space.  With Starfinder on the horizon, this is a good time to go back and look at what had come before.

Big four-page, full-color Warhammer 4k ad from Games Workshop.

The TSR Previews is dominated with Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms.

The Role of Books covers a bunch of new fantasy books.  At this time I had moved deep into horror and was just discovering Clark Ashton Smith. So I don't really recognize these books.
Following up on that The Game Wizards details a bunch of novels coming out of TSR.  Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms and Buck Rodgers take the center stage.

The Role of Computers features a bunch of games. That's obvious, but my take-away here is not what games they are reviewing but the systems the games are on. There are still a wide variety of computers the games are available on, but that number is going down.  Eventually, there will be only two, IBM/PC-Compatible and Mac.

Marvel-Phile is missing.

Lots of ads in the back. The only comics my copy has is Snarf Quest.

I checked my CD-Rom and I am missing the big announcement on the back cover of AD&D 2nd ed coming next month.

Ok. So not a great issue. Not a horrible one, but not a lot I can use today.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Review: Blue Rose 2nd Edition, Part 3

Wrapping up my review on the AGE version of Blue Rose.
Part 1 covered Character Creation and Part 2 covered the World of Aldea. Today I am going to discuss the Narrator's Section.

Chapter 8, The Narrator's Art is the GM’s section.  Again, I much prefer the term “Chronicler” to “Narrator”. “Chronicler” also implies that the characters are doing something worthy of Chronicling.

The chapter covers some very pragmatic issues of Adjudicating the Rules and Running the Game to the creative Creating Adventures and Planning the Series.  The space in between this is the "Art".
What is particularly useful is the very old-school like table of 100 Adventure ideas.  Need an idea? Roll a d100. Each one of these can be expanded into an adventure. This flies in the face of any notion that Blue Rose is a limited game.   There are guides for roleplaying situations like Romance and Intrigue. Again, while situated in the Blue Rose and AGE systems, they could be used for any game.  There is a section on how to run Intrigue (great for me!) and how to do it when the Characters have the potential to read minds or have access to other Psychic Arcana.

There is also a bit on the physical location where you play. Given as a means to manage all the information coming at you the Narrator, and also as a means of setting the mood.  Blue Rose is a "well lit" game as opposed to horror games which need a dark tone.   The book also has some forms here and in the back for Narrators to print out and use to track all the goings on.  So bonus point to the PDF for this one.

There is advice on knowing who your group is too. I think this is more important for a game like Blue Rose that is very Character focused.  Using these group dynamics in the real world can also inform the group dynamics in the World of Aldea.   The chapter as a whole has some pretty good GM advice. Some we have seen before and others we have seen, but applied new to this game.

Chapter 9 details the Blue Rose Series.  If chapter 8 is general GM advice, then this chapter is very Blue Rose specific.  This chapter starts out with a note about consulting the players. I think this is good advice in general, but certainly more so for the Character focused Blue Rose. That is not to say you can't have an Adversarial GM (it is one of the options discussed in fact in the last chapter) but if that is what you are doing make sure that is what people want.  If so, great!
We get into various Series Styles next.  While the game is Romantic Fantasy, there is a lot of room in that broad term.  Discussed are Dark Fantasy, High Fantasy, Horror, Low Fantasy, Swashbuckling Adventure, and High Romance.   All of which work well within the Blue Rose frame.
Taking this advice we get some Series Frameworks of potential campaigns/series.

The default, and the one that most people associate with Blue Rose, is called "For Aldis and the Queen!".  This is what you would have if a young Mercedes Lackey was your Narrator. It does pretty much what it says on the tin. "On the Road" is more of the style of the later Romantic Fantasy authors. It is also closer to the type of adventures you find in a D&D game.  Put them on a boat and suddenly it is "7th Sea".  "Coming of Age" are your Harry Potter or Narina stories. OR as the book points out, even the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon.   "Game of Thorns" (bad, bad Green Ronin!) are your darker court intrigue tales. The nobles that don't trust the queen or her new husband.   I could make something of that easy.

There are more. The Quiet Knights, the Wedding Planners. But reading through these all should give you your ideas.  A special shout out though to "Blue Rose on the Red Planet".  That's not what it is called, but the art and the description support that.  I'd play that in a heartbeat.

Chapter 10 is the actual Running the Game.  The first bit we get to is Mastering Ability Tests.  If you have any familiarity at all with d20, True20 or a host of other "Target Number" style games then you know what to expect here.   Basic tests and Opposed tests are covered again.
Considerations are given for Minor and Major NPCs, handling different sorts of combat situations, Roleplaying vs. The Rules, and Hazards.

One thing that is quite interesting is advice on how to deal with divinations and how to work them into games.  This time the authors DO mention the Shaowscapes Tarot by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law as the perfect resource for your Blue Rose games. I have a set and it is great.

I am going to spend some more time on the Tarot, Callings, Fates, and Destinies.

Chapter 11 covers Rewards.  The beauty of Blue Rose is that there are many ways to grant rewards to characters beyond just level advancement. Though that is not understated here.
We start with Honorifics. Which I am TOTTALY going to steal for D&D 5.  These are accolades and acknowledgments.  Titles like "Lady Aerin, Dragonkiller" (if you have read that book you can smile with me), or "Champion of Justice" and others.  These confer a small in-game bonus as well.  The criminal types all have to make Willpower tests at -5 around our Champion of Justice for example.  Given these examples, I can come up with a lot more.   The next section mentions who can give out these honorifics in each country and under what circumstances.

Next follows Memberships and then Companions. After this are Special Items and Equipment.  Often these are heirlooms, not necessarily magical.  In fact, Arcane items are next and even then Arcane Weapons are listed last.   Listed very last, and even very least, is wealth.  So the things that motivate the average D&D character are the least motivating for the average Blue Rose character.  In fact, Wealth only gets 3-4 paragraphs total.

Chapter 12 gives us Adversaries.  We lead off with NPCs.  Blue Rose characters are more likely to run into other people (Rhydan are "people"; just ask them).
For monsters, "Beasts", there are some familiar names here but don’t automatically assume you know what these creatures are about.  Griffons, for example, are given more emphasis and intelligence here than in their D&D counterparts.  This is completely due to how they are treated in the Romantic Fiction novels, in particular, the novels of Mercedes Lackey.
Also, unlike the novels, there are a lot more creatures here than what I recall reading.  So there are plenty of creatures that can either guide, beguile or challenge the characters.  There are about 70 or so creatures here. They are grouped by type, so all Rhydan, all Darkfiends, all Unliving, and so on.
Adding more would be easy, really TOO easy to be honest.   Most creatures need have a good reason to be in the game/world. For example, there are no Manticores here. You could make a very good reason for them to be there as something like anti-griffon or even a magical race the bred true to fight griffons.  Maybe they were created during the Shadow Wars or even before in the Empire of Thorns. They are rare now since most were killed.

Now I do have a copy of the Fantasy Age Bestiary and there are a lot of great new monsters that can be added to Blue Rose.  I just want to be careful on how I do it and where I do it.  Same would be true for any monsters I'd add from DragonAge.

There are slight differences in the stats between creatures of the same name in the various books, but not enough to make you think they are different creatures.

The last chapter is an adventure, Shadows of Tanglewood.

There are pages with Stunt References, Actions, and Quick Reference Cards. We also get a nice full-color character sheet.  Points again to the PDF.  You can get these as part of the Blue Rose Narrator's Kit.

The index is fully hyperlinked.

What can I honestly say at this point? This is a great game. Well designed with beautiful art and an absolute joy to play.  The AGE system is the first system I have picked up in a long time that I really like.

This is the best game of 2017.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Review: Blue Rose 2nd Edition, Part 2

Yesterday I spent some quality time with the Blue Rose Character Creation rules. Today I want to move to the next section of this huge book and cover The World of Aldea section.

Now when it comes to game-changing events I can make due with changes in power or in the way certain rules have been handled.  It is the events in the next few chapters that will have me scrambling for the pencils to re-do my campaign!  Well, Green Ronin never asked me what I was doing in my game and I never reached out to them to make sure they were not invalidating several sessions worth of my games ( +Chris Pramas, we will just have to talk in future! ;) ).

Chapter 5, What Has Gone Before, is still roughly the same as what we saw in the True20 version. If anything things are clearer now.  The art, of course, is better and some things, like the rise of the Darkfiends, are clearer.
As before we get a history of the World of Aldea, from the Mythic Age (when the Gods were created) to the Old Kingdom (the “Golden Age” of the world), the Empire of Thrones (or the rise of the evil Sorcerer Kings) to the present age in The Rebirth of Aldis.  The history of the world is given from the creation of the world by the four greater gods and then into the creation of the lesser gods, demons, and mortal races.

I think it is the goal of every RPG writer, either professional or just sitting at home, to create a mythology for their world.   These myths feel more like The Silmarillion than it does say the Bible or Greek Myth.  Though there is a fair appreciation for Greek Myths and Pagan beliefs in this.  In makes for an interesting world to say the least.  It has been asked more than once in my groups what gods do they believe in in the other parts of Aldea. Are they same with different names (likely) or they different ones altogether (a tantalizing idea)?  We see bits of how this could work in Chapter 7 where the different lands worship different aspects of these same gods.

The biggest changes do not come till much later in the chapter.  At some point between the True20 timeline and the AGE timeline. Queen Jaellin decided that she was "officially done with Jarek's shit" and invaded Kern via the hidden ShadowGate under the palace. The present day of the True20 version was 310 (Aldin calendar) to the new current day of the AGE version of 320.   A lot has happened in ten years.
I read this and was like "whoa" what happened here?  Personally, I'd love to have some scenarios where the PCs/Cast are part of that battle and raid.I think that would be a blast.
Also this was the last time anyone has seen the Golden Hart.  The mystery here, of course, is whether or not it used up all it's magic in this last battle.  We come to the "present day" in the game with political factions in an uproar, relations within and without in question and a Queen that has made some choices that many of her own court and people do not agree with.
Basically, it is like Valdemar at the end of the Winds of Fury.
Expanded from the True20 book this new chapter also talks more about the Great Rebellion that started Aldis in the first place.  I mean wouldn't that also be a great time to play?  The years leading up to Queen Seltha's reign.  Heck, the art of the Undead armies is enough to make me want to give it a try.

Chapter 6, Kingdom of the Blue Rose then picks up with Aldis proper and discusses what is going on.  We get background on the various races living in Aldis; human, sea-folk, vata, night people, and Rhydan.  Why do all these people get along? Well... they try to. The Rhydan wanted a land that all were equal and free and queen Seltha ran with that.
We get a section on the Royal Court of Aldis.  I REALLY wish I was good at running Court Intrigue. This would be the game for that.  A carefully balanced dual of wit, manners and subtle backstabbing.  This game makes me want to be better at it.  There is just too much potential here and frankly it is not my strong suit.

Anyone who ever thought that a Kingdom that was accepting of all peoples lacks intrigue has never really read or played this game.  Aldis is not just the idyllic land that some have depicted it.  It is “enlightened” but there are still internal strife, crime, the odd sorcerer or even a leftover gates from the time before the Sovereigns, and the ever-present threats from inside and outside. A number of threats to Aldis and Aldea are detailed. Various unscrupulous merchants, a very effective criminal organization known as “The Silence”, fallen nobles, bandits, defective shadow gates,  and the remains of various shadow cults.   In a handful of pages we get plenty of ideas for characters to do.  Plus we now have a Queen that may or may not be trusted by all her people. And the Golden Hart? Gone. Hasn't been seen since the raid on Kern.  Something new is happening here.
There is a section on gender, sexuality, and marriage. Much less that you have been lead to believe mind you. Frankly, it could do with a bit more in my mind. This is Romantic Fantasy after all.
Religion gets expanded a bit as well.  I like the new art for the Gods of Light, but I had to number them on my print out to keep track of them. I still rather like the Exarchs of Shadow. It helps solves the age old philosophical question of "From whence comes evil?" It gives a good explanation of how good gods such as these would have created evil beings. Plus in this version, they are more detailed with each exarch equated to a deadly sin.   I might not be able to do court intrigue, but I can do horror like nobody's business.
The real expansion though comes in the form of the City of Aldis. Note if you are used to the map in the True20 World of Aldea book (page 18), this one (page 161) is rotated 90 degrees clockwise. It also looks like the city has grown some more in the last 10 years.
Other areas of Aldis are detailed as well. These include the Pavin Weald (Magical Forest) and refugees from Kern that have not quite integrated into Adlean society known as The Trebutane.  If you want your spot to create Aldea-as-Valdemar and need a place for Holderkin Talia to be from, this is it.

Chapter 7, Lands Beyond deals with the lands and countries surrounding Aldis.  This includes the Theocracy of Jarzon, the Khanate of Rezea (the Kaled'a'in/Tayledras from the Valedmar books, or the Kingdom of Damar from The Blue Sword), the Roamers (also Kaled'a'in Shin'a'in), the Shadow Barrens (just a bad place), The Forest Kingdom of Wyss (a new place, not in the True20 version), the Pirate Isles (more information here, can Freeport Blue Rose be far behind?), Kern (the really, really bad place. Mordor to Aldis' Gondor) and the Matriarchy of Lar'tya (basically Themyscira.)

Each section of the nation/land deals with the history of the lands, their rulers, religion, and people. Larger cities are discussed but never in the detail we got with Aldis.  Some important NPCs have sidebars and their history, but no stats, are given.  The lands also all have rough equivalents to the organizations found in Aldis.  For example, the counterpart to the Rose Knights in Jarzon are the Knights of Purity and in Kern are the Knights of the Skull.

Of the lands, Jarzon and Kern are the most interesting.  Jarzon is an interesting place where it could have been just like Aldis save for the intolerance of the Theocracy.  I suppose then it is no surprise then that it lies south of Aldis.  I could see a Jarzonni based game dealing with various heretics.  Heck a fun game would be to play part of the Jarzonni Inquisition to discover a new threat to the whole world!
Kern is Ravenloft. Or maybe it is Thay. or Iuz. Or "The North" for the "Blue Sword" fans.  I KNOW I can't be the only one to have thought in reading this new version of the game that when Jaelin killed the Lich King that the "Shadowed Seven" would be an even bigger threat.

Think of Thay without SzassTam or Apokolips without Darkseid. There is a lot of adventure ideas here. Play these evil regents off on each other. Or imagine their machinations if they ever decided to team up.   I'd love a game where characters need to face off against these foes.  That might be too "D&D" or even too "Buffy" but it would still be a lot of fun.

So advancing the timeline and story by 10 years is cool but it completely WRECKED my older Blue Rose game I was calling Black Rose. Eh. No worries. I can come up with some new ideas and maybe even resurrect some of the Black Rose ideas.   Plus it will give me a good chance to pull out one of my old NPCs, Zenaida a Rezean Witch.

If you had the old True20 World of Aldea book then a lot in this section will feel familiar.  There is a lot more material in the current AGE book and of course moved up 10 years.

Next up is the Narrator's Section.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Witches are (Still) the New Vampires!

A quick pop into RPGNow this afternoon and I noticed this.

Not too bad really!

You have my Green Witch for Swords & Wizardry.
My Strange Brew: Magic Items for Pathfinder.
And Zenith Games' Paragon Hags.

Great time to pick up a new witch book!

Review: Blue Rose 2nd Edition, Part 1

NOTE: You can read Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

I have been spending a month (has a month gone by already?) with Blue Rose, trying it out. I figured that before I review it I had better run it through it's paces the best I can.  This review might be kinda long, but then again the book is a rather large one.

So without further ado.

Blue Rose

Blue is the newest AGE (more on that) game title from Green Ronin.  It is an update to their older True20 version of Blue Rose.  This game expands the World of Aldea and the timeline a bit as well as give us some more option for play.
I am reviewing both the hardcover edition and pdf of this game. Both of which were purchased by me and not sent to me for the purposes of review. I will post my thoughts both on the reading and playing of this game.

The Blue Rose book is a 384 page, full color, hardback book.  The hardcover is sturdy as hell and might just be one of the most gorgeous books I have seen in a very, very long time.  The color jumps out at you.  Blue Rose is not a grim-dark world and this book is not either.  The PDF is huge and fully bookmarked and hyperlinked. I love PDFs, and for ease, I am using mine for review now, but there is no comparing it to the physical book.
The hardcover retails for $59.95 and the pdf for $24.95.  You can get the PDF for $5.00 at participating game stores when you buy the hardcover.

Blue Rose 2nd edition uses the same AGE or Adventure Game Engine, game engine found in DragonAge and Fantasy Age.  All three games share "System wide" compatibility, but maybe not "thematic" compatibility.   Though if you desire more monsters in your Blue Rose or Dragon Age games then the Fantasy Age Bestiary is the absolute perfect choice.

I will detail more about the AGE system in a bit.

The book is divided into three large sections:
The Player's Section covers the first four chapters of basic rules, character creation, and magic.
The World of Aldea covers the history of the world, the Kingdom of Aldis, and the surrounding lands. This takes up the next four chapters.
The Narrator's Section covers the last five chapters. This covers how to run a game, what makes "Romantic Fantasy" different, as well as rewards and adversaries.  There is also a sample adventure in back to tide you over till you pick up a copy of The Six of Swords.

Now off the bat, an easy criticism would be, why not separate these out into three less expensive books.  Charge $24.95 each and make more money in the long run?  Sure that would work and that is what Green Ronin did with their True20 versions.   Personally, I like having everything in one tome. Though I do see a need for a slimmer, maybe soft cover, version of just the player's section for players to buy. But Green Ronin has been doing this a long time if their economics support this then I am not going to be an armchair accountant.

The first five pages start with an introduction to RPGs.  Most times I skip this, but this time I stuck with it since one of the expressed purposes of this game is to bring in new players.  The "What is Roleplaying" section covers what is expected. This is followed by a section on "What is Romantic Fantasy?"  For this bit, and for this review, I went back and read (or re-read) every book I could in the Romantic Fantasy cannon. This includes all the Valdemar books by Mercedes Lackey (minus the last series) and nearly every book on John Snead's own "Must Read" list. I'll talk about those relationships in detail as they come up, but suffice to say (for now) that Blue Rose does do a good job of Romantic Fantasy.
The next paragraphs deal with how you go about creating a character in a game world.  Not mechanics (yet) but an extension of your senses into this world.  This section I noticed also features in other Green Ronin AGE books. It asks the questions "What do you do?" and "Who are you?" The focus of this game then is character dynamics.  It is not "The party of adventurers set out to destroy the dragon." it is "Brynn, Heylg, Bethan and their friends sought out the threat to their beloved kingdom and stopped it before more lives were lost."  There is nothing wrong with either situation, it is just one is better suited to Blue Rose. Becuase of this there is more focus on group dynamic. Maybe Bethan, normally a strong independent warrior who fights for just causes, is also deathly afraid of fire from an incident in her childhood.  Now fighting this dragon is not just a straightforward matter of defeating a beast; it is now a metaphor for overcoming fear even when you are normally strong and brave. It could be that Brynn's best contribution to this battle is not her magic to attack the dragon or her healing, but her ability to empathize with Bethan and bring out the warrior she is from the scared girl she was.  If this dynamic is not that interesting to you, that's fine, the Blue Rose/AGE game will still let you kill the dragon, but something essential is missed.

The next section deals with the AGE system itself.

The system is actually quite a simple one.  3d6 + Ability +/- mods vs. Test Difficulty.
What makes this system special though are the Stunts.  Whenever you score "doubles" on a roll (on two of the dice, more later) you generate stunt points.  Stunt points can be used for any number of special features.  These are not limited to combat.  You can score Stunt Points in any situation where you roll dice.  So yes you can even generate Stunt Points (SP) while engaging in social interactions.  I have long let Bards in my D&D/d20 games score "critical hits" with puns, but in Blue Rose you can now do the same (mechanically speaking) with all sorts of social interactions like flirting!
Finally, we end with a bit on the campaign world, but I will detail that, as does the book, later on.

Part 1: The Player's Section
This section introduces us to both the Blue Rose game and the AGE system.

Chapter 1 discusses the AGE system and goes right into Combat and Stunts. I thought this was an odd choice in a game focused on characters.  At first that is. After reading through it a few times now I see it makes good sense.  I am not sure if the AGE system will ever "fall into the background" the same way d20 or Unisystem do for me, but it could get really, really close.  The system itself is very easy to grasp.  In AGE you really only need three six-sided dice.  Two of which should be the same color.  The off one is called the Drama Die.  We will get to all those in a bit.  The rolls of 3d6 + Ability +/- mods vs. Test Difficulty are simple enough.  Test Difficulties start at 7 (Routine) and increase by 2 for each level. So 9 is Easy.  The feel is the same as d20's Target Numbers or even Unisystem's Success Levels. The spread is closer to that of the d20 world so converting between the True20 Blue Rose and the AGE Blue Rose should theoretically be an easy one (in reality there is more to it, but not much more).  Like most systems an "opposed" test will be one set of rolls vs another set of rolls.

Aside: Since the rolls here are 3d6 as opposed to 1d20 (d20/D&D) or even 1d10 (Unisystem) you are going to get far more average rolls and fewer extremes.  This result is as subtle as it is ubiquitous.  This means that most rolls (67.6%) are going to fall in that 8-13 range. 18's will only happen 1 time in 216, as opposed to a 20 happening 1 time in 20.  This means that most actions will feel "normal".  It's later when we add the Stunt Points and Conviction that the real acts of Derring-do happen.  This puts the "criticals" more in the hands of the players and less to chance.  They happen less often, but more where the player wants or needs them.
This is something I have done in my own Unisystem games for years. Instead of a 1d10 I use a 2d6-1 system known as "The Chicago Way" among Unisystem players.  The effects are quite nice. The 3d6 gives AGE Blue Rose a solid edge over True20 Blue Rose.

In addition to these tests there are modifiers, which typically include a Specialization in a skill or other training.  There are are also Conviction points.  These are gained throughout your adventuring career and can be used to influence certain actions.  Conviction is used a bit like a Drama Point or a Hero Point.

On every turn the character can take a Major and a Minor action.  Each round is only 15 seconds long (4 per minute) so each action is short. There is a list of what major actions are (Attack, Defend, Heal) and minor (move, aim, activate).  In truth, the lists are pretty simple and easy to grasp. There are also variable actions that will change depending on the situation.

Next up are Stunts, the life, and soul of the AGE system really.
If you get doubles on any roll of the dice you may perform a Stunt on that roll.  So if the roll was a combat situation then you can perform a Combat Stunt.  The roll you get on your Drama Die (the off color one) is a number of Stunt Points you get.  You have to use them right away.  So if you get a 4 you have 4 SP and can buy any of the stunts listed for 4 or under.  These are things like "Knock Prone" or "Lethal Blow". As characters go up in level they gain access to more stunts and can buy others for less SP.  There are also non-combat Exploration and Role-playing Stunts as well. There are even Arcane Stunts that can be used in either.

Chapter 2 covers Character Creation.  This covers all the steps from concept to filling out your sheet.  Blue Rose is a very character-focused game, so character creation should be something done all together for the first session.  I even suggest talking about what sort of group you want to have. There is no reason why it can't be "You all meet in an Inn", but it should go deeper than that really.  How do these characters interact with each other, what are their goals, their drives?  In some ways the best Blue Rose group of heroes is something like what we get in the Dragonlance tales.  A group full of characters internal desires and drives but a community, if not a family, of others helping them.

Blue Rose has 9 Abilities. They have familiar sounding names and are even rolled up the same way.  In fact in Blue Rose, your abilities are rolled on a 3d6 IN ORDER.  Yes, it is more Old School than many Old School games out today. The spread of ability modifiers is also similar.   Every ability has more than one focus. These Focuses allow the character to be better at one particular area.  Systematically Abilities and Foci serve like abilities and skills.
Next, choose your race. We get humans from various lands (with different bonuses), Nigth People (half-orcs/orcs),  Rhydan (intelligent animals),  Sea-folk, and Vata (elves). You also get a background, which is largely what country you come from,
Up next is Class. Like other AGE games and True20 there are only 3. Adept, Expert, and Warrior.
As you level up you can gain different abilities from your class. These are typically increases in abilities (which ones depend on class).  Classes are presented from 1st to 20th level.
You then need to figure out (or randomly roll) your Calling, Destiny, and Fate.
Finally it would not be Blue Rose if there was not a bit on Relationships. Everyone in the cast is tied to another by one degree or another. These relations have role-playing and in-game mechanical features.

If you are looking for XP per level you will not find it in Blue Rose. This game uses the same philosophy as it's older True20 sibling; you increase in level after a few adventures.  It leaves it in the hands of the Narrator as to when to level up. If you really want an XP chart for Experience to next level then there is one in Fantasy Age.

Chapter 3 details Focuses, Talents and Specializations.  Every Ability has multiple focuses. The Fighting Ability has a focus on Axes and another Polearms for example.  You can gain a new focus for everytime you go up a level.  Talents are something else. These are only granted under special circumstances.  They might be restricted by class and many have prereqs.  These include abilities like Animal Training, Dual Weapon Fighting, or Psychic.
Specializations can almost be though of as "Sub Classes", these include Assassin, Bard and the like.

Chapter 4 covers Arcana, the magical arts.  While anyone in the world of Blue Rose can have arcane ability, only Adepts can master them.   Arcana are divided into six Disciplines; Animism, Healing, Meditative, Psychic, Shaping (for making Avatar like Benders!) and Visionary.
There is also Sorcery, the dark side of magic which leads to corruption.
Each ability is given with the Talent (Discipline) it falls under, sometimes it is more than one, time is takes (Major or Minor), Target Number and Test needed. What sort resistance covers this ability and fatigue TN?  Some abilities have sub-abilities too.  Many of Shaping abilities are like this.

Psychic Weapons

The last part of the chapter covers Sorcery.  This is great for all sorts of adventure ideas.  Hell, 90% of my ideas deal with some form of sorcery and it's threat to Aldea.

That's a lot so far.
Next time let's look into the world.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

It is an AGE of Heroes

Too nice here in the Mid-West to be inside. But I did pick up a couple of books this weekend.

I already had the PDFs, so getting these was a nice little addition to my collection.

Plus it is 100% compatible with Blue Rose.

I just need a cool campaign idea now.  My previous Blue Rose games wrapped up to a point where I don't feel the need to bring them back.  So something new. Something really, really new is in order here.

I might have some thoughts on resurrecting bits of Black Rose later in the week and there is something else I have been thinking about.

More later. Gotta get back outside.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Kickstart Your Weekend: Calidar: Dreams of Aerie

We all know the undeniable affect that has been left on D&D by Monty Python.  I am not aware of a single gaming group that has not thrown out at least one "Holy Grail" quote.

Well +Bruce Heard has finally given us, or will give us, our first Flying Circus!

Calidar: Dreams of Aerie

I mean seriously, how cool is this idea?

A circus, that flies. An entire mini-campaign setting, monsters, murder mystery, weird stuff!
Sounds absolutely fantastic to be honest.

From the Kickstarter page:
Adventure: This tabletop role-playing game adventure also is a self-contained mini-setting. Because the action takes place on a flying circus, Dreams of Aerie is easy to adapt to any game world. Drawing on Barnum & Bailey and Cirque du Freak, this book's main plot elements involve a murder mystery, the rivalries of circus guilds, urban adventuring, and monster-hunting. Countless hooks allow side trips and alternate storylines, as each of the 90+ circus folk hide shadowy pasts and secret motivations. The heroes must contend with secret societies vying for hegemony among circus folk. If left to its own devices, a monstrous presence hidden aboard heralds catastrophic world events.

Plus it is system agnostic.  So use D&D. Use Castles & Crusades. Use Swords & Wizardry. Heck, I am going to try it out under Blue Rose.

For me, there are some great Ravenloft books out there that are also circus themed. Sounds like a GREAT mix to me.

This looks awesome and you should support it.
Bruce has a rock solid reputation in the RPG biz and with his Kickstarters.  PLUS all these Calidar books have been top notch in terms of production.
They are also all great books to game with.

So. What are you waiting for. Time to join the circus!!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #119

While today's choice is sort of a cheat, it is a very timely one.  I grabbed it because it features one of my favorite covers of all Dragons.  The recent Doctor Who episode "The Eaters of Light" featured a story about the fate of the Ninth Legion of the Imperial Roman army in Scotland.  My first thought was "well, we know it was Kostchtchie!" from Daniel Horne's fantastic cover.

But once I grabbed it I also noticed how it was a really nice companion to my own Green Witch that was published yesterday.  So nice in fact I put the magazine down until today!  I didn't want anything in it unduly influencing me.  Though in re-re-reading it now I can see there were some things there in 1987 that did stick with me over the years, including some more Doctor Who references.
So set your TARDIS back to March 1987, put on U2's With Or Without You, and get ready for This Old Dragon Issue #119.

Letters cover a guy just discovering the Chainmail rules. Interesting to read, to be honest. We forget that in this day and age nearly every shred of information is literally at our fingertips.  I just got another copy of Chainmail for my birthday from my old Jr. High DM.  It is different than the one I had by a couple of pages. I am going to need to investigate that.

The big feature of this issue is the section on Druids.  I can't help but see the "Spinal Tap" Stonehenge every time I see the standing stones and lintel that works as the header for these articles.

That aside this was one of my favorite series. I had by this time already written my first copy of the witch class. It was though lacking in some historical oomph. This series gave me a lot of inspiration on what can be done with the class AND what not to do.  Not in terms of things being bad in these articles (far from it) but in terms of making my witches different from the druids.  In fact I put these articles as "Must Reads" for anyone wanting to play a druid.

Carl Sargent is up first with Underestimating Druids (is a bad practice). It's a look into the strengths of the class and giving them their due. Several tips and bits of advice are given for using the Druid in and out of the dungeon setting, but most telling (and also the most interesting to me) was a break-down of the XP per level and the amount of spell-power all the AD&D1 spell-casting classes had.  The Druid comes out looking the best. Plus let's be honest, Flame Strike is a MUCH cooler spell than Fireball.

Up next is an article covering the Druid in his role as a healer. We are warned that  John Warren's "Is There a Doctor In the Forest?" is unofficial material.  It is also closer to what we think we know about druids in real life; that they were the healers of their society. There is a ton of great ideas here for herbal and natural healing in AD&D. Unofficial or not there is a lot great rules here.  The crunch is the same level as AD&D, so more than I want for an OSR or even a 5e game, but worth looking into the next time I play AD&D1 proper.

On cue another ad for the Time-Life Enchanted World books!

Next up is an article I had re-read a lot back in the Summer of 1987. From by William Volkart and Robin Jenkins we get On Becoming The Great Druid.  It dealt with that little remembered now artifact of the Druid class that at higher levels you needed to defeat the druid whose level you wanted to take.   I have to admit that at the time I was not fond of the idea, though now I see as a great plot and role-playing device.  I was trying to come up with a way to add this all to my then current game.  I never really did to be honest since I figured I needed to come up with my world-wide Druid religion.  Of course, nothing in the history of the Druids supports the idea that would or even could do this (I was also reading some Margaret Murry, so I am excusing myself) but I got fixated on the idea I needed to figure out their complete religious structure first.  I made some head-way and a lot of that was actually added to my Witch class with the "Court of Witches".  I just replaced Great Druid with Witch Queen.  The Grand Coven of the Earth Mother in The Green Witch also comes from those notes way back then.

Rick Reid is up and has Cantrips for Druids - Naturally. Makes me REALLY glad I kept this to the side while working on the Green Witch and that I didn't put cantrips in that book. They will appear in the "The White Witch" later this summer.

Ah. Now here is an old friend. Ed Greenwood (who's early Dragon writing I am really enjoying again) has the Beastmaster NPC class.  It is such an overkill class.  Hell, I would not be surprised to discover that Drizzt didn't start out as a beastmaster. Though to be 100% fair it is described as an NPC only class...yup. Just like the witch was. ;)
I talked about a lot of Beastmaster classes in an early version of Class Struggles. At that time I had forgotten all about this one though in re-reading it now I see that my DM's homebrew Beastmaster was based on this one.

While not a part of the official Druid feature, Calle Lindstrand has the write up for The Uldra a new character race.  The article is the type of "anything worth doing is worth doing to excess" type that I really love. We get a new race, a monster entry, and some gods. The Uldra themselves seem to be a cross between a gnome and a dwarf.  I really hope that wherever Calle Lindstrand is that Uldras as written here are still part of their game. There is too much, well, love here to ignore.  Uldras would later go on to be upgraded to a full offical D&D race.

It is also one of the reasons while I like to include a new race in a book overtly about a class. The Green Witch, for example, has another take on Gnomes for Swords & Wizardry.

Ed is back with Ecology of the Korred.  Given that it follows right behind the article on the Uldra I often conflated the two into one race. Not really fair to either to be honest.  My then DM really enjoyed this article and it was the inspiration to the only "Dance off in D&D" I have ever done.  I later stole his idea and had another Dance Off in Ghosts of Albion: Blight. Only this time it was against the Sidhe.  This article also gives us a new god.

Dragon's Bestiary features some sylvan monsters for your game. Again, not exactly part of the Druid feature, but close enough that it fits really well.

We get some fairly interesting creatures too. The Wild Halflings are great and I think I detect a bit of what would later develop in Dark Sun.  The Luposphinx is a winged wolf/lion hybrid that doesn't seem out of place at all. The Leshy is based on some older fairy tales. There is another take on the Wendigo (none have every truly been "right" as far as I am concerned). The Wood Giant, which has since been promoted to the ranks of "official D&D monster". There is a Wood Golem here too. A bit about that. This wood golem never really stuck a cord with me. It was neat and all, but wood? Through flaming oil at it.  It was not till I read the Doctor Who story Lungbarrow and their "Drudges" that gave me the idea for something new.  I remember reading a story about an old witch that used to always say "If I'd had my druthers, I have my wooden druthers too."  The Wooden Druther became my new Wood Golem.  Wood Golems have also been promoted, but they will always take a back seat to my Druthers.

Not bad. Half the magazine and all of it quality or really, really fun materials.

In fact, if I had stopped here, 50 some odd pages in (minus ads) I would have considered it money well spent.  I suppose it is also no surprise then that I like to include a lot of these same things in my own books; a class, races, alternate classes, monsters, and spells.  1987 was a turning point year for me really.

Charles Olsen is back with an article about NPCs; Henchmen and Hirelings. Five pages of material that looks liek it should work with any version of the game.

Jeff Grub has Dinner With Elminster.  The article is a bit silly to be honest but I tend to forget that 1987 was the year of the Forgotten Realms. While everyone else was falling in love with that my years-long game was about to hit its final Act.   How long does it take to roleplay a massive war? Two years, give or take.

Let's see what's left here... Some fiction...

Some Sage Advice...

The Gamma World article has some cryptic alliances in Politics Amid the Rubble. Just another reminder to me that I REALLY need to a Gamma World game going again some day.

The Marvel-Phile (actually in this issue!) has Psylocke in her pink outfit.  Just as an FYI Oliva Munn, the future movie Psylocke is only 6-years old at the publication of this issue.

TSR Previews covers the new and hot items of April and May 1987.  Make sure you get your copy of the Lazer TagTM rules. I did!

In May we get the first of GAZ series for Mystara and the Known World, GAZ1 The Grand Duchy of Karameikos.

Lots of Cons advertised and some small ads. Finally, we get Snarf Quest and Wormy.
Little did I know that Trampier and I would be heading to the same town to live more or less around the same time.

Really a great issue.

I see the seeds of ideas here that later germinated in games I played then and later in college and now in the stuff, I put up here.

What are your memories of this issue?

Want to know what I was saying about White Dwarf magazine during the same month? Check out my White Dwarf Wednesday for issue #87.

The Green Witch is now out!

Pick up a copy today for Swords & Wizardry.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Green Witch Now Available

Only running a few hours late on this one!

Now for your Swords & Wizardry pleasure, the next book in my series of witch traditions.

The Green Witch for Swords & Wizardry

A witch never fears the wood. 
Because she knows, deep in her heart, that the most dangerous thing in the wood
Is her.


Only the Green Witch knows the true secrets of the wood and the worlds that lie beyond, under and through it.  But is she protecting us from the wood or the wood from us?

Inside you will find answers to these secrets:
  • The Green Witch tradition 
  • The Green Knight and Huntsman classes
  • New race for S&W Complete: Forest Gnomes 
  • 200+ witch spells
    • 91 Druid Spells
    • 61 Magic-User spells
    • 43 Cleric spells - Places of Power for Witches and other Spellcasters 
  • Monsters  
  • Magic Items
  • The Grand Coven of the Earth Mother for Witches and Druids
All for your Swords & Wizardry games!
With a Forward by +Elizabeth Chaipraditkul

On Sale Now!

100% compatible with:

and "Clone" compatible with:

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

First Day of Summer

Ok.  I am working like crazy to get something out to you all in the next few hours.  Had projects that came up at my day job that had to take priority (hey. it pays the bills, this doesn't).

Today is the first day of Summer 2017.  I love the Summer Solstice. Everything feels perfect really.

Anyway, Solstices and Equinoxes make me think of Elementals.
I am not the only one either.  +Joseph Bloch over at Greyhawk Grognard is talking the Temple of Elemental Evil again and that is good.

I am just about ready to wrap-up the Giants series with the kids and move on into D12 and 3.  I have given a lot of thought on what I can do with Q1 and a possible Q2.

I have also been thinking ahead to a scenario where I use the Temple of Elemental Evil as the end of my "Gygaxian Classics".  Though I am not 100% sure how I want to it.

Unlike all the other adventures I am taking my kids through I never played or ran Temple of Elemental Evil.   In fact, till today I never even owned a physical copy.  I bought the PDF a while back.  I have a couple of copies of T1 and I have been thinking about this a lot.

Anyone who has ran this adventure, any advice?

I know that this is going to be the capstone to my huge 5e games.  Currently running two, soon to be three concurrent and independent games in 5e.  They are all going to meet at the temple and unless they are really, really good, they will see the rise of Tharizdûn.

Not sure what I am going to do yet, but I know it will be fun.

Monday, June 19, 2017

FreeRPG Day Haul

 Really busy weekend.

Free RPG day, Father's Day, grilling, playing D&D.  It was packed.

Here are the books I got at my FLGS.

I am most excited about Runequest. I have not played it in YEARS and have been itching to do so more with it.

My hat is off to +James Raggi.  I admit I have been critical of his products and style over the years.  The truth is his style is not my style. That is not good or bad, just different tastes.
But  ALL that aside, giving out a free HARDCOVER book? Holy shit dude.
Plus his Vaginas Are Magic is actually really, really good.

It galls me, and makes me happy, that he keep proving me wrong by being good.

I might not ever play Lamentations of the Flame Princess, but damn. His production values are through the roof.  He even pulled in +Stacy Dellorfano and +Elizabeth Chaipraditkul to help him on this book.  I trust their opinions and judgment. I am going to have to dig into his book a bit more. Ok. A lot more.

So +James Raggi, it took me a while, but I think I finally "get it".  

Friday, June 16, 2017

Kickstart Your Weekend: Interview with Kris Lippert

Today I want to share an interview I had with Witches Trine creator Kris Lippert.

His Kickstart, Witches Trine, is now up and looks like a lot of fun, but it has a bit to go yet.

Tim:  Hello, my name is Tim Brannan and this is my blog The  Other Side.
If there is one thing I love talking about its witches.  If there is a second thing it’s comics.  So when a new witch comic book comes around, well you have my attention.  So today it is my pleasure to talk with Kris Lippert creator of the new comic Witches  Trine.
So Kris, please introduce yourself and tell us about your creation.

Kris: Hello everyone, and thank you for this opportunity, Tim.
Born and raised in Hungary, I started my career in banking and risk management, eventually founding and building two successful companies of my own in the field, before moving on to my lifelong passion: films.
I currently live in Perth, Western Australia, and work as a writer/producer, focusing my efforts on thriller/horror projects, with an eye towards fantasy and supernatural elements.
My feature credits include horror comedy Gingerclown, featuring Tim Curry, and supernatural thriller Foreshadow made entirely in WA (Western Australia).

Witches Trine is my first graphic novel, and it's the centuries-spanning story of three immortal witches: Olivia, the Scholar; Eva, the Healer; and Victoria, the Warrior.

I usually write feature films, but when I started working on Witches Trine, it felt like the story called for a different medium. I considered writing it as a TV series first, but then I realised that it would work great as a comic. And ultimately it’s always been about telling my story, no matter the medium. I've found that actually there are a lot of similarities between moviemaking and creating a comic book: both rely on visual storytelling and both are extremely collaborative. I've managed to put together a professional and experienced creative team that includes penciler Hugh Vogt, inker Jeff Austin, colorist Teo Gonzalez and letterer Bram Meehan.

This project is a labor of love that I have nurtured for the past two years and it feels great to have the chance to share it with others.

Tim: Witches Trine features some great characters. Tell me a bit more about your witches.

Kris: My witches are three young women at first glance, but what makes them unique is that they are witches with mystical powers, who don’t grow old and die.

VICTORIA is the oldest, born in ancient Babylon. She is well-travelled and has martial arts skills second to none. She is a physical being using her seductive skills, sexual prowess and fighting ability to overcome problems. Her beauty is legendary and she has a body to die for. When we first meet in her in present day L.A., she seems like a wild girl hanging with her biker boyfriend Sean, but she soon has to step up and get her act together.

OLIVIA is the youngest of the three women at 150. Born and raised in a small rural community in Northern England, she fled to the US with Victoria when a mob lynched Eva. She currently works at UCLA researching medieval occult history and while she has a keen intellect, when it comes to people her skills are somewhat lacking. She has immense knowledge of spells and mythology, and approaches problems intellectually. She is ‘Spock’ to Victoria’s ‘Kirk’.

EVA, a master of potion making and a healer from Byzantine Greece, missed the last 100 years on account of being dead. She does play a part in their past lives, though, where we see that she provides emotional support for Olivia and a moral compass to Victoria.

Tim: I think Olivia is my favorite so far, but I have a feeling that Victoria might give her a run for her money later on.  What inspirations did you draw on from for your characters and story?

Kris: Monika, my wife, was actually the inspiration behind Witches Trine in a way. She is deeply immersed in the world of holistic healing and nutrition, and astrology. She is also always on the lookout for new methods and ideas, some of which she would adopt after much research. And in turn, she tries to educate me in the ways of the “witch doctors”. One of her accounts about discovering an interesting herbalist shop gave me the idea to write about modern day witches.

But since my daughter’s favorite comic book is The Walking Dead, my perception about the preferences of female audiences and heroes is slightly skewed. I wanted to have kick-ass witches who are sexy, smart, courageous, and full of attitude, and a story that balances fast-paced, visceral action with character development.

And as I usually played magic user characters in D&D growing up, magic was always going to be a significant part of the world.

Tim: Same here, I played a lot ow magic-users, wizards and witches over the years. What can readers hope to see in Witches Trine?

Kris: My goal has always been to keep the story grounded and more of a thriller rather than a superhero story. Witches Trine combines supernatural vibe with modern kick-ass action. Witchcraft, martial arts, and sexual seduction are all parts of the equation.
The narrative spans two time frames as we watch the witches deal with life in 19th century England, and a whole different set of perils in modern day L.A.

The witches have minimal magical abilities in the beginning and will have to achieve ‘unity’ and become Trine to attain their full powers. You want magic to be present in a story about witches, of course, but if your protagonist can use it with a flick of the wrist, it lessens its impact. I wanted magic to be present in Witches Trine without being overwhelming, and it is a fine balancing act.
The women’s struggles are mostly realistic, they rely more on wits, cunning and physical prowess than magic to solve problems.

Tim: Having read the first two comics I love the shift between the two times. What are your future plans for this story?

Kris: I wanted to rethink the modern-day witch genre by making it less soapy, more thriller-like, darker, and more grounded in reality. I want readers to feel that what they see could be happening in their own backyards.
The first four chapters set up the three main characters and their world, and the next four will have them deal with an immediate threat, and test their abilities and ‘unity’.

Tim: I can't wait to read it. And finally, where can we find you on the internet?

Kris: Our Kickstarter campaign is currently live:
You can also check out the Witches Trine website at
like us on Facebook at
or follow us on Twitter

Tim: Last question, something I always ask.  Who is your favorite witch, wizard or magic-user and why?

Kris: It has to be Gandalf for me.
As English is not my first language, I will always have fond memories of the first English language book I ever read, Lord of the Rings.

Tim: Excellent choice!

The Witches Trine Kickstarter is happening right now.