Thursday, August 31, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #98

June 1985. Later this month I'll turn 16, but due to the fact I need new glasses, I won't get my license for a few more weeks.   Rambo First Blood is in the theatres and Tears for Fears is on the radio.  On the shelves, the new covers for the AD&D hardbacks and you can buy This Old Dragon issue #98.

The cover features a dragon horde filled with modern day items.  This is also the 9th Anniversary issue.  As far as I can recall all the anniversary issues featured dragons on the cover.  This cover though does not strike any memories with me. It's a cool cover.

We get to the main feature of the issue, all about Dragons.
Up first is Tailor-made Treasure from Roger E. Moore.  This is a new system for figuring out a dragon's treasure hoard.  It has some great quotes from various works of literature. Reading it over it could work well with pretty much every version of the game.

The Magic of Dragon Teeth by Gregg Chamberlain covers the various effects of burying dragon teeth. Each color of dragon will produce a different sort of warrior ala Jason and the Argonauts.
Most gamers of a certain age remember the old movie featuring the Harryhausen skeletons.


There are some neat ideas here.  To be honest I never felt the need to codify this.  Through the dragon teeth on ground and skeleton pop up.  Cause weird shit like that happens in a magical world.
Though more recently I have been using Dragon Tooth Talismans.  These provide protection from the that dragons' type of breath weapon.

Need music from the Ancient Empires for your game?  Well, you can get it in STEREO from Ramal LaMarr!  (I am sure that is 100% his real palindrome name too).


I have to admit I loved these ads.  So corny and over the top.  You can find his music online still.



You keep doing you Ramal!

Leonard Carpenter gives us a nice brief one in Dragon Damage Revised.  A great add for AD&D 1 but something you see now in most newer editions of D&D.

Roger Moore is back again with some background on The Dragons of Krynn.  In this, we learn that Takhisis and Paladine are similar to (but not the same as) Tiamat and Bahamut.    We get some Krynn history that is familiar to all of us now, but here it was all new.   A lot of Dragonlance has migrated back into D&D proper since the 3.0 days and I think that is largely a good thing.  Back in the 80s we used to talk about how the dragons of Krynn were larger and somewhat more "dragon" than the ones you found in Greyhawk.  I know that there are plenty of old-school fans that are aghast with this, but hey. They focused more on dragons in Krynn than Oerth.

Nice big ad for the Dragonlance Chronicles book 2, Dragons of Winter Night.

Ken Hughes gives us an entry with Creative Magic Items.  I want to talk less about this specific article and more about the type of article it is.  There were always a lot of articles in Dragon that I call "You are not bound by books!" articles.  I get that many people want to play RAW, but we were always doing things not in the books. Creating new monsters, new magic items, spells, classes.  Everyone I had gamed with had the books memorized back in Junior High, there was no way to surprise them unless you were willing to go out side of the books. Most of these articles elicited a "no shit, doesn't everyone do this?" but after a while I came to the conclusion that no, not everyone.

Detailing a Fantasy World is from Jim Dutton, whom I feel I should know but don't (flipping further I see his company runs the AD&D PBM game). Now this has some great advice on how to build your fantasy world from the ground up, or at least detail enough areas to keep your players busy.  At only three pages it feels too short to deal with the advice given, but it is short and succinct and should give any budding world builder a place to start and the seasoned ones some new ideas.

I am usually cautious of reviews of TSR products in Dragon. Such is the case of this reveiw of the first two Dragonlance novels by John C. Bunnell in It's a Neat Idea, but ... NOT just a Gimmick. I think we can be adults here and talk about the fact that the Dragonlance novels have some shortcomings. That being said these are fun books and they did represent a sea change in *D&D as a game and as a product.

A surprisingly long article from Dave Rosene discusses what PCs are likely to find in local shops in Knowing What's In Store.   We live in a world today where everything is available at our finger tips. In the 80s even we had malls (lots of malls) but historical medieval lands did not. Fantasy worlds need to tread this line carefully.

The Forum is next.

An ad for Traveller races. At this time and now these books make me want to play Traveller. I want to know more about the Aslan, Vargr and K'kree.  Maybe someone has ported them over to White Star or Starfinder already.

Some coming attractions for TSR products. Highlights include the D&D Masters Rules and the AD&D Unearthed Arcana.

Ad for Chill.  Still love that game.

Our centerfold is the first Gamma World Mutant Manual.  I am very pleased that it is still in this magazine too. Some would make for great additions to an OSR D&D game or a Mutant Future game.

Merle and Jackie Rasmussen have their Part II of Authentic Agencies for Top Secret.  A great find for the pre-internet world, but also real world agencies spelled out in Top Secret format.

The Ares section is next.
The Volturnus Connection is first by Stephen Bonario.  I have to admit, if I ever run a Starfinder game I'd consider a "Return to Volturnus" like game. I had a lot of fun with Star Frontiers.

When History Goes Awry by Mark Acres deals with parallel and alternate timelines for the Timemaster game.  Degree in History not required but certainly helpful.

Big index of all the heroes published for the Marvel Super Hero game in Marvel-Phile.

Huge list of conventions for June to October 1985.

Gamer's Guide has a lot of cool ads including one for the new Super Endless Quest books. These included a simple character sheet/bookmark.

Comics include Wormy and Snarf Quest.  Snarf is long, Wormy is down to a page.

A fun issue really and one I'll go back to for more information on dragons.

Want to see what I was saying about White Dwarf magazine for June of 1985?  Check out my White Dwarf Wednesday for issue #66.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Review: Module G123 Against the Giants

Want to get some more reviews in.  I figure since we just finished this one it was a great choice.

G123 Against the Giants

Getting to play AD&D at the height of its popularity was one of the best things about growing up in the 80s.  Even living in a small town in Central Illinois there were multiple, independent D&D groups going on everywhere.  It was not uncommon to hear talk of an adventure, or a rules debate or anything else.  One of the adventures that everyone seemed to be playing was the Against the Giants series.

Talk of Ombi, King Snurre Ironbelly, and Eclavdra were not daily topics of conversation, but they were common enough that there was a shared set of experiences. It was something we all could relate too and talk about even when we knew those other groups were playing it all "wrong"!  It is no surprise then that G1-3 have been ranked as some of the greatest *D&D adventures of all time and have been updated for every version of the D&D rules since it was published back in 1978 (and combined in 1981).

The Giants series began as three individual adventures. They were run as part of the AD&D Tournament at Origins '78.  When later released they became the first ever published adventures for the then new Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) game.  Each adventure dealt with raids from a different race of giants; Hill, Frost and Fire respectively. They were aided by other giants and giant type creatures including ogres, stone giants and even a couple of white dragons in G2.  But what really grabbed the attention of many players, and certainly this player, was the big reveal that the masterminds behind these giant raids were none other than the Drow; evil, dark elves that lived underground.  This elevated the adventure from mere dungeon crawl and searching in giant's bags to a conspiracy.  The giant-Drow alliance became Evil with a capital E.

The giants themselves were new-ish monsters then.  Giants had appeared in the Original D&D rules, but all six races were "detailed" in a paragraph.  In the (then new) Monster Manual for AD&D 1st Edition giants were given significantly more space and more details.  It would be difficult to say which really came first, but we do know that Gygax worked on and published the Monster Manual before the Giants series came out.  Notes from one certainly could have influenced the other.
What of the adventures themselves?  I had the chance to play this as a player way back in the early 80s.  So my memories of it are quite fond. So fond in fact that I also ran this adventure with my sons as the players and using the newest edition of the D&D rules.  My experiences playing under 1st Edition AD&D compare very favorably to my experiences running it under 5th Edition D&D nearly 40 years later.


The 32-page combined adventure splits into three easy parts that represent the three original modules.

G1 Steading of the Hill Giant Chief
Here the characters and the players are introduced to the World of Greyhawk, or at least this small section of it.  They learn that giants of various types have been raiding the local villages and the character have been pressed into doing something about it.  Now the original modules put a threat into the characters to investigate, I find that by appealing to their higher moral codes and motives (and the ability to keep all the treasure) works so much better.

Soon the Steading of Hill Giant Chief Nostra is discovered and even a party of 9th+ level adventurers will soon discover that bigger often does mean better.  Giants, even Hill Giants, are not dumb monsters. They are not bigger orcs or ogres with more hit points.  This is their home and they will defend it.  I am quite impressed anytime I think about how this was run as a tournament.   It took me many sessions to get through all three and when I reran for my kids at Gen Con I had wanted to do each one a different night.  Didn't happen that way.  This adventure requires the players to plan, to hit hard and then run away.  Many times they would send in the assassin to take out a giant and then follow it up with a barrage of magic from a distance.  Combat can honestly be a slog here.  But the action is often very fast paced.  There is a lot going on.



This adventure shares a lot in common with its sibling B1 Keep on the Borderlands. While designed for two different versions of the D&D game, there are similarities that should not be ignored. In fact, I would like to think that they are there on purpose.  Each represents a "beginner" view of dungeon crawling, but the Giants adventures, if you pardon the pun, get more advanced.
This adventure gives only our first clues to the larger conspiracy, namely that the Hill Giants are taking direction from Giants, quite literally further up.  Completing this adventure only leads the characters to the Frost Giants.

G2 Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl
Going further up the mountains we get the first hints of how the AD&D game is different than the D&D one.  We now have rules for cold and the wind and most importantly getting lost in the snow.  Like the Hill Giants before, some sections are left to the Dungeon Master to detail.  This is partly due to the desire for a sandbox style play and largely due to the tournament origins of these adventures.

Again in this adventure planning is required. The characters cannot just rush in blindly and hope to overwhelm these creatures.  In fact, assuming they are mere "monsters" is a good way to get killed fast.  The  Dungeon Master is encouraged to play these giants as the personages they are. Sure, Guard #4 in area 19 might not have a name, but he does have a purpose.  Even the white dragon has a purpose.  I could not help but think that the white dragon cloak worn by Snurre had not been one of the Frost Giant Jarl's dragons.  In fact I hope it was. Their haltered of each other is overridden by the fear they feel at the hands of the drow. How powerful are these dark elves?

In this adventure, it should become obvious that much more is going on than raids and attacks of opportunity. There is a force uniting these giant clans and directing to grim purpose.

G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King
Here the conspiracy is laid bare and the character will discover what and who is directing the Giants. But first they must survive a live and active volcano.  The walls, for example, are hot to the touch. How hot? Try 2d6 hp damage per touch hot.  The giants here are smart and coordinated by a strong King. They will lay traps and ambushes for the party. They will try to stop them at every turn.  This adventure is not only significantly deadlier than the other two, it is also about 50% longer.  Not only do the players have coordinated giant attacks to deal with, burning walls and King Snurre himself but also hiding out on level 3 are the drow.   For many players back in the day this was their first introduction to the dark elves.  I liken it to the big reveal that Romulans were related to the Vulcans in the original series of Star Trek's The Balance of Terror.  It is something in our post-Drizzt world that we have lost.
Here the Drow are discovered to be pulling the strings, but we don't yet know why.  We do that they are lead by a High Priestess, an unearthly beautiful drow by the name of Eclavdra. She is no monster, but an NPC worthy of her own motives, desires and schemes.
In the last time I ran this adventure my kids figured out right away that they needed to take out the King in order to not die right away. So they hunted Snurre down.  With him out of the way the other fire giants lost their direction and were much easier to defeat.   The red dragon and the drow though were still a problem.  They managed to kill all but two; Eclavdra and her enchanter.   The characters were last seen chasing the drow down to the Depths of the Earth to complete the next series of adventures.

While the books are small, the adventures take a while to run.  The combats can be long and the characters really should take the time to explore every inch of the three giant strongholds.  There is more treasure here than any group of characters need but also there are plenty of prisoners to free and some have information on what is going on.

There had been D&D adventures before this, but this was the first epic.

Legacy
There are good reasons why we are still talking about these adventures today nearly 40 years later.

Some of it, of course, is just good old-fashioned nostalgia.  People loved these adventures then and now they want to share that love with new players today.  That is exactly what I did and there is no shame in admitting it.  But the reason why people loved them is also the reason why they stand the test of time. The adventures are just plain good.  These adventures combined a lot of things that people loved; great locations and sandbox-like play. Iconic and classic monsters mixed with new ones. Not mention an engaging story with memorable NPCs.  When gamers wax nostalgic over adventures like Tomb of Horrors, they think of things like the traps or character deaths.  In the Giants series they also mention things, like the Hill Giant Chief's dining hall, but also they remember names, like I mentioned above; Ombi, Snurre, Eclavdra.  When I played this back in the 80s Ombi nearly killed my whole party.  I survived all these giants just to be killed by a Dwarf with some potions and magic item. Well that and a DM that knew how to make a character memorable.  Imagine my shock and surprise when my kids plan and take out Ombi in two rounds!

This adventure also shaped much of what would become D&D's own mythology.  Giants of any sort working together soon became shorthand for bad news.  The drow, scantly described here, would go on to become one of the most infamous humanoids in all of the D&D worlds. Their underground city, only hinted at here, would be the template for nearly every Drow-realted product written in the late 80s and beyond to the present day.  G123 is not just the seed, it is also the fertile earth of much of what would become recognizable as "D&D".

TSR and then later Wizards of the Coast would go back to the Giants again and again. In 1987 TSR combined the G series with its sequels the D and Q modules for GDQ Queen of Spiders, one of the first Supermodules.  In 1999 they were reprinted and expanded again for the 2nd Edition of the AD&D game in Against the Giants: The Liberation of Geoff.  In 2009 Wizards of the Coast released Revenge of the Giants for the 4th Edition D&D game.   For the 5th Edition game Wizards of the Coast went back not once, but twice, to giant country with Storm King's Thunder (2016) and Tales from the Yawning Portal (2017). Storm King is more a spiritual successor to the original Giants series, but G123's DNA is all over it.  Tales from the Yawning Portal is a direct reprint of the original Giants adventures but updated to the new D&D 5th Edition rules with new full-color maps and art.  It has lost none of the punch of the original.




Not only have there been official Giant-related products from TSR and Wizards over the years, other publishers got into Giant business.  Notably there is a "missing" set of giants from these adventures; the Cloud Giants. I went to track down a cloud giant based adventure to slot in and easily found 4-5 all based on Cloud Giants. Actually, most of them dealt with a Cloud Giant castle.




Think about it, what was one of the first stories you remember hearing as a child? Jack in the Beanstalk might have been one of the very first.  The giant living in his castle in the clouds with a goose that lays golden eggs and a harp that sings on its own.  Think of the stories from our shared consciousness.  Giants living the mountains, David fighting Goliath, Fionn mac Cumhaill and the Giant's Causeway, the Frost Giants of Norse myth, the Titans of Greek myth, to Attack on Titan, and so many, many more.   These are the tales we tell. Tales from antiquity to last week's Game of Thrones.  It should then be no wonder why these adventures speak to us and call to us to join the battle.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Witch of Rhostshyl (Silverglass #3)

"You forget that I am a witch, Rehal." 
 - Nyctasia

Headed back to the world of witch Nyctasia r'n Edonaris brenn Rhostshyl and mercenary Corson brenn Torisk.  No longer on the run, our brave heroines are headed their separate ways for now.   Corson heads back to her lover Stefian and his tavern/inn in Chiastelm while Nyctasia remains with her cousins a bit longer.   Corson, of course, can't stand sitting around, she is too much of an adventurer, so she takes odd-jobs here and there.  One of which gets Steifann's other occasional lover, Destiver, captured and arrested as a smuggler.   While Steifann stews and Destiver waits for her likely execution, Corson decides to get out of town of a bit.
Back on the Endonaris Estates, Nyctasia is also getting restless. She translates books all day and comes down to interact with her cousins in the evening.   Eventually, she is dealing with a runaway slave and is drawn back into the civil war in Rhostshyl that she was trying to stop in Book 1.
Eventually, our heroes are reunited.  Nyctasisa takes on her rightful place as ruler of the City of Rhostshyl with Corson first as her body guard and then elevated to Lady Coirsonde.

More so than the previous books this one felt like two people writing a book separated by distance.   The story didn't pick up until the end, and only when our two leading ladies were back together again.  The bickering was gone and they have settled into a pretty solid friendship despite their differing stations.
I felt though there were some missed opportunities in this book.  There is a part where Nyc is off with a pack of traveling actors and acrobats that might have been fun.  Though we did get a lot of Corson's exploits.  We do get to meet Nyc's younger sister and mother in this, so more of the Edonaris clan.

This adventure really felt like a "Name Level" adventure in the old D&D sense.  Corson is made a Lady with all the rights and responsibilities.  Nyc stops running around and takes up her family's rulership of the city.

I am quite excited about starting the next, and sadly, the last book. No one will confuse these book with great literature, but they are a really fun and fast read.

The book is out of print and there are no digital or audio versions I have found.  They pop up every so often at Half-Price books.

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 19
Level: Crone
Witches in this book: Nyctasia is very much a witch, but keeps her powers away from prying eyes.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: Nyc is much better in this book.
Best RPG to Emulate it: For this book, there is a strong "Adventurer" vibe here not to mention all the things associated with hitting "name level" of old D&D.  So something D&D Basic/Expert, Adventurer Conqueror King,  or Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea would be great.
Use in WotWQ: Likely, but since I am using them as characters in the Blue Rose game I am currently playing their involvement might only be as a cameo.

Nyctasia and Corson for Basic/Expert D&D

Basic and Expert era D&D has so much going for it really. It is simple, it is easy to pick-up AND you can really pack a lot of fun in 14 levels.  I see why ACKS and AS&SH end around the same levels; ACKS, in particular, takes the B/X idea and really expands it to encompass a lot of  play-types.

Here they are for B/X era D&D at "name level".

Nyctasia r'n Edonaris brenn Rhostshyl
10th level Witch (Vahnite Tradition*)  (Family Trad)

Strength: 9
Dexterity: 9
Constitution: 10
Intelligence: 16
Wisdom: 15
Charisma: 18

Hit Points: 28
Alignment: Neutral
AC: 8 (leather armor, dex -1)

Occult Powers
Familiar: Greymantle (large hound)
7th level: Family Enemy

Spells
Cantrips: Chill, Daze, Detect Curse, Ghost Sound, Object Reading, Open, Spark
First: Bewitch I, Cause Fear, Glamour, Mend Light Wounds, Sleep
Second: Agony, Calm Emotions, Rite of Remote Seeing
Third: Circle of Respite, Ghost Ward, Speak with Dead
Fourth: Divine Power, Intangible Cloak of Shadows
Fifth: Death Curse, Sending

Corson brenn Torisk, aka The Lady Corisonde Desthene li'Rhostshyl brenn Torisk
9th level Fighter

Strength: 17
Dexterity: 16
Constitution: 15
Intelligence: 13
Wisdom: 14
Charisma: 16

Hit Points: 65
Alignment: Neutral
AC: 7 (leather)

Equipment:  Sword, armor, coins. Enchanted comb (will cast Bewitch 1/day).


Thursday, August 24, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #82

Ok. So I know I just did issue #83. And in truth this could have been the next one in, some of them are in order, most are not and I pick randomly.  But I did choose this one on purpose for the Spell Research article.  More on that in a bit though.  In truth this was the one right next to #83.
So let's get to it. Put your VHS of Cronenberg's "Videodrome" on and curl up with This Old Dragon Issue #82.

Ever wonder what a "Dancing Sword"  looks like? Well this issue's cover might give you a good idea.  Or it is a magic spell being used by the wizard in back.

So let me think. February of 1984. I would have been a freshman in high school.  I had already moved over to AD&D proper by this point but was still using the "Known World". I knew of Greyhawk, of course, but didn't have anything for it yet.  In truth I was not doing much at this point since I had just come off of a 16-week sickness due to pneumonia. I had in this time read all of the Tolkien books that were out of the time and watched an obscene amount of Doctor Who and Space: 1999.

Moving on...Letters covers mistakes or typos from issues.

Big ad for the Dr. No supplement for the James Bond game.

The Forum covers some details about Ed Greenwood's Nine Hells Revisited articles (cant' wait to do those!) namely what to do about Lawful Evil gods.  Still a good question really.

Nigel Findley is up for our first proper article, The Ecology of the Peryton. My memory is fuzzy, but I do remember that this is one of the first Ecology articles I ever read and it was also one I really liked. It really made this creature into something more than a collection of stats and a weird picture in the Monster Manual.  Note that this Ecology article is not by Ed Greenwood.  Still, it is a fine read.  I challenge anyone to reread this and NOT want to use a Peryton in your game.

Wounds and weeds, Plants that can help keep characters alive is an AD&D game herbal from Kevin J. Anderson.  As expected it has a warning not to try these at home, these are AD&D game stats only.   What follows are six pages of various herbs, with some pictures, that have some uses in the game. These are various healing herbs that work when magical healing is no where around.  I think this is a good addition to any Druid or Witch class since healing magic is not their prime focus.  While long, even at six pages it feels short. Maybe because I have seen other articles and books like this that were much longer.



Enhancing the Enchanter by Craig Barrett is for the DRAGONQUEST game.  DQ was always "one of those games".  I saw it all the time at the bookstores and in Dragon, but I knew very little about it.  I picked up many times and flipped through it.  It looked complicated (to me, at the time) but more to the point I didn't know of anyone playing it.  Did you play this game? The article is largely rule changes. At five pages it is also a longer article.

We get another ad for "Riddle of the Ring" card game.  I share this because I KNOW no one ever thought the Balrog looked like this.


Speaking of rings.  Up next is an article about a baker's dozen of magical rings. Rings that do weird things:  Thirteen pieces of jewelry not from the DMG.  All these rings are by various authors (two by Ed Greenwood).   The Ring of Bladeturning eventually had to be banned in my games.

New Avenues for Agents is a preview of the Top Secret Companion. I never was really into spy games. Again, I'll admit a certain curiosity to play the James Bond game and I tried the Spycraft d20 game back when it was new.  But overall they never really grabbed me like fantasy or horror games do.

Our centerfold is a full game, The Baton Races of Yaz.   It looks like a kid's game.  Certainly that is true, but I have watched people bid on that old boxed set of the "Dragon Magazine Games" and people really seem to love it. I should point out that my copy does not have this. I only know about it because of my Dragon CD-ROM.

Curing the Monty Haul Malady by Roger E. Moore deals with a common problem of most D&D games. The article is an edited version of some letters that have come in.  Some of the examples given I just can't really take seriously;  "He decided his character would kill Orcus, and after that his character became the new prince of the undead, with an unlimited amount of any undead to control, even an unlimited number of liches. The character also has some star destroyers he uses to fly around in space or to destroy planets."  Yeah.  This was the 80s. Sad to say...but yes I knew a guy that claimed his character had a Star Destroyer.  Not a Star Wars character, a D&D character.
This though has been an issue in some games since the very beginning.  Star Destroyers? No, the Monty Haul problems and the ridiculously over-powered game (not the same thing mind you, but they usually go hand in hand.)
While we were encouraged to not go to crazy high levels, there was nothing in the rules to stop you.  Tim Kask's warnings in "Gods, Demi-gods and Heroes" read more like a challenge I think to many.  future editions of *D&D tried to make these limits more ingrained in the rules; usually stopping at 20th level (or ~30th for BECMI and D&D4).  But gamers will be gamers I guess.

A review of battle mats, dice towers and the "Dragonbone" computerized dice roller.  I always kinda wanted one of those, but every DM I ever had said they would not allow it.  Also rolling dice is still the best.   I still have and use a battle mat though.

Spells between the Covers is the big reason I grabbed this issue. +Bruce Heard does a great job of filling some of the gaps in our knowledge on how to do spell research.  While I think many players know now many of the points made here, this article did not have the benefit of years of the community playing Call of Cthulhu.  In that game a good occult library is worth more than gold and more dangerous than plutonium.

Speaking of dangerous.  This magazine's mildew is getting so bad I am switching over to a print out from my CD-ROM.


The costs associated with building a library really should hold up edition to edition.  There is a lot of great stuff here about purchasing books.  BUT the REAL treasure is the list of books and the sages that wrote them.  Here is a brief sampling that NO real wizard, mage, sage or occult scholar should be without.

  • Idioms & Rare Cryptographs by Elminster 
  • Legendry of Phantoms and Ghosts by Evard
  • Lore of Subtle Communication by Tasha
  • The Forgotten Arts of Oratory Magnetism by Leomund
  • Theory of the Invisible Forces by Tenser
  • Gazette of the Norse Climates by Otiluke
  • Epic Saga of the Great Conjurers by Mordenkainen
  • Repertoire of Illustrious Conjurations by Drawmij
  • Treatise of Universal Astronomy by Melf

And many more. Really worth the price of the magazine alone if you ask me.  Tips on appraising the books, special books and cursed books are also discussed.   
Looking over the list it is dominated, naturally, by Greyhawk wizards, though Elminster is there too.  Even then Elminster had a better publishing deal! 

This is also tucked away in a small corned of the article.


The fiction section is Windowolf by Earl S. Wajenberg.

We get some ads. Namely these two.


Yes. I will admit to own both that game and that dragon claw amulet.  Once again...it was the 80s.

We end with the comics.  Once again one of those rare issues with Wormy, Snarf Quest and What's New all in one issue.

This was another big issue and maybe one of the reasons we look back at this time with such nostalgia, or at least with the rose-colored bifocals of the 40+ something gamer.

Want to know what I was saying about White Dwarf at the same time?  Check out White Dwarf Wednesday #50.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Spell Research

It's August and the theme of this month's RPG Blog Carnival hosted by Kobold Press is all about Magic!

Today I want to talk about something I am very much involved in right now. Spell Research.

One of the more nebulous rulings in *D&D covers research new spells.  Across all versions of the game there are spells named after various wizards and magic-users.  Some have real world significance such as Otiluke, Rary, Mordenkainen, and Melf.   Others represent historical or mythical figures.  But all have the implication that this spell was created by or named for these spell-casters.  So someone had to write them.

There are thousands of D&D spells. I think my 2nd Ed database (in Microsoft Access 97) has 3000+ spells.  I know the 3rd edition has to be more; there are about 2000 attributed to Pathfinder alone.  A project I am working on now tells me that my own OSR witch books have 700+ unique spells.

Someone had to write all of these.
Someone that is other the authors of these games and books.  Someone in the game itself. (But both are true).

So what are the hows and whys of Spell Research?

Why Should a PC Spell Caster Research a Spell?
This one is the easier of our two questions.  Why? Lots of reasons. The PC might want some new effect or magic not listed in PHB.  Say they want to cast "Frost Ball" instead of "Fire Ball" because they are more fond of cold based attacks and not fire ones.  Maybe the new spell comes about as part of other magical research. Maybe it was a total accident while casting a spell and not having the material components on hand or even a poorly memorized spell.
There are a number of in-game reasons.  In Ghosts of Albion, spells are cast based on Success Levels.  If a character casts a spell and gets really high successes on it then sometimes something new can happen.  I would give the same sort of ruling to D&D sorcerers and bards, they do something strange and a crazy new spell effect happens.  But that is an accident, what about doing that on purpose.

The most compelling reason, of course, is need.

Take a look at my witch (not important that it is a witch just yet) spell "Moonstone".  This spell stores moonlight.
Moonstone
Level: Witch 1
Range: Touch
Duration: 1 day per witch level
The witch can store moonlight in a small stone. The stones must be enchanted and then exposed to moonlight. Each stone will last 1 day per caster level unless discharged. Once invoked, the moonstone will shed soft light, equal to torchlight, and give off no heat. The moonstone does not affect low-light vision and does not cause damage to creatures that would normally be affected by light.
Note: Despite the wich's level, no Moonstone can last past the full cycleof the moon. So if moonlight is stored during a full moon then it will only last till the first night of the next full moon. If the witch's level is less than the number of days to the next full phase then the spell ends then.
Material Components: A bit of moonstone and the light of the moon.
(Special thanks to +Paolo Greco for pointing out some errors on this spell.)
Why do I need this spell?  I mean it's only first level, but a torch is cheaper.  Also, it is actually LESS effective than the first level spell Light.  You can't cast it into someone's eyes to blind them.
The reason here is need.  Moonstone is a fine spell all on it's own. But it's true value comes when paired with other spells.
Spells like Moon’s Heart (finding the time and direction, 1st level), Witch Writing (writing that can only be read by moonlight, 3rd level) Moonlit Way (finding the safe path, 4th level), and Moonbow (create a weapon out of moonlight, 6th level) all need moonlight to work.  Not something that can happen easily underground OR during the daylight hours.  Unless, of course, you have a fully charged Moonstone.

Another need is maybe less defined.  Back in the 3e days, I created a Prestige Class that had as a part of their requirements the applicant had to submit a new spell for the use of the other members of the Class.

Plus there is always the challenge and joy of discovery. Spells like Wave of Mutilation and Brigit's Flame Sheet were created just for the sheer joy of it.

I think this holds true for any sort of Arcane spellcaster.  What about clerics? druids? Heck, even witches!

Clerics & Druids
In the 3.5 SRD is says that Divine Casters can research a spell much like Arcane Spellcasters can.   But that section only says "A wizard also can research a spell independently, duplicating an existing spell or creating an entirely new one."
That's not really a lot to go on.
More to the point why would they do it?  I mean aren't clerics supposed to be given their spells by their gods?  Does it make sense that a cleric would tell his god "hey, look I know you are busy, but instead of light can you give me a spell that casts moonlight instead?"

It does if you think of clerical spells like a liturgy or even a sermon.  Think of modern day priests, preachers and other people of the cloth.  They have their holy books. They have some sermons and prayers they have always done (common book of prayer for example), some hymns that have been used since the middle ages and so on.  But they also write a sermon, sometimes a new one, each week.  The purpose is to take divine inspiration, common language, and new ideas to make something new.
Now. Truth be told Clerics (and Druids) should get a set amount of "spell levels" of power to work with an then they can perform their miracles as needed.  That might be a little too much like Mage for most D&D players' taste (but it would be fun to try it!).  From this perspective, even a tradition bound "old" class like the druid could invent new spells.   In theory, an all knowing god should know which spells to give when.  For this reason, I do allow clerics and druids to swap out spells on the fly.  Much like how D&D 3 introduced the idea of spontaneous healing magic.

But what about witches?

Witches
This is an 8th level Ritual Spell for witches.
Depending on my mood and the book in question witches can either be Divine or Arcane spellcasters. Typically I think of them as Witches.  The magic they use is Witchcraft. It has both Divine and Arcane aspects.  They learn their magic from their Patron, via a familiar, but record the spell formula in a spell book.   The underlined terms can have various meanings.  Take the girls from Charmed (why, you will see later).  Their Patrons are the past witches in their family line.  Each one learning more and more than and from the witches that came before. Their familiar in this case is their Book of Shadows.  Their spellbook is also their book of shadows.   In my Pathfinder Warlock book I have rules for a Book of Shadows that is spellbook AND familiar.

At one point in the show Charmed, the witches learn that they can also create new spells rather than just relie on the ones in their Book of Shadows.  It actually becomes a feature of the show where Phoebe (Alyssa Milano) is the sister with the best ability to come up with new spells. It is this ability they have that allows them to tap into greater and greater sources of their power.  One such spell summons the power of all their family witches to destroy what is essentially the Devil (Source of All Evil. But not without cost.)

Given this would I allow "10th level" spells?  That's a good question.  Most spells of significantly high level do a lot. A spell that powerful would need to be limited in other ways.

So that's the why, what about the how?

That depends on the edition.

1st Edition starts with some advice on page 115 of the DMG.  The hardest part of this is determining the level of the spell in question.  This is done only by comparing the spell to be created to others in the Player's Handbook.  +Bruce Heard expands on this in Dragon magazine #82 (more on that tomorrow!), but it does cover somethings not in the DMG that are important. Namely to properly stock your occult/arcane library.

An occult library.
For the moment let's assume that your character has the tools and books needed.  The time needed for research and materials is 200 gp per level per week.

2nd Edition covers much of the same ground, but with less information to be honest.  Even the amount spent is now only given as a range of gp.

3rd Edition and 5th Edition have similar advice on pages 95 and 283 (respectively). So similar in fact that it felt like I was reading the same text. Though they both give good advice on setting levels based on the amount of damage caused.  The numbers differ, but the logic is the same.

I could not find any Spell Creation or Spell Research rules in BECMI or 4th Edition.

So really. The level of the spell is largely a matter of guesswork and tradition.  I spend a lot of time, maybe too much time, trying to figure these things out.

Yeah. A lot.

Creating a Spell

I wonder if we can use what we know already to create a new spell.  This is one I am actually working on right now.  As I type these words the spell is not written, but it will be by the end of this post.

The spell is one I have thought about for a while. It allows a caster to make a perfect copy of another spell into a specially prepared spellbook.  I have decided that the spell needs the following.
A specially prepared but blank spell book. This will be 200 gp per the level of the spell copied. Following the rules above.  The quill used to scribe the spell has to come from the rare Giant Mimid Bird (or Dire Mockingbird if you prefer) and the ink is a rarer distillation of the ink of an octopus (not a squid).

The spell makes a duplicate so it is beyond Mirror Image or even Minor Creation since the creation is magical (in a sense).  It is less than Wish.  It is permanent, but more so than Permanent Image.
It can reduce the time needed to copy a spell down to hours from weeks, that is pretty powerful.
8th Level feels right, but I could go as low as 6th and maybe, just maybe up to 9th.

It's a new spell, so let's give it a name. My iconic witch is named Larina. I always imagined this was her spell.  Since it deals with the copying of spellbooks some form of Liber should be used. After all, aren't all spell books written in Latin?   Liberum works and that is a call back to my d20 Witch book.  Since the words are being set free then Libre is also good.  Alliterations are always fun.
So let's go with Larina's Liberum Libre.

Larina is a witch, but this would be good for wizards too.
Let's try it in Basic-Era/S&W/OSR format.

Larina's Liberum Libre
Level: Witch 8, Wizard 8
Range: 1 Spellbook
Duration: Permanent; see below
This spell was named for the first witch to successfully use it to make a copy of another spellbook.  The spell requires a book of the same size, shape and page numbers of the spell book to be copied. The base cost for this book is 200gp per spell level copied.  Also needed are a special quill of a Giant Mimid Bird and distilled ink of an octopus. Both may be purchased, base cost of 100 gp, or prepared by the caster ahead of time.  The ink is used up in the spell casting, the quill can be used for 1d6+6 uses.
The blank book, quill, ink and the spell book to be copied are placed on a specially prepared cloth (not rare, just clean and white). The spell is cast and the cloth covers both books.  The spell will take 1 hour per spell level to copy.  Once complete the spell will create a perfect copy of the book in question.  If the spell is interrupted during this time; the cloth removed or either book opened, then the spell is canceled and the new book, ink, and quill are destroyed.
Note: Normal non-magical books may be copied as well, but only require normal ink and a regular book with the same number of pages.

Ok. So I like the spell, might tweak it a bit before publication. Still not happy with the guesswork involved with the levels.
I would love to develop a system like I did for Ghosts of Albion but that would take a time and the return might not really be worth it.

How do you go about researching spells? Both in game and in real life?



Monday, August 21, 2017

D&D Beyond

I signed up for D&D Beyond this morning.



I pretty much knew I was going to sign up anyway, but gaming over the weekend convinced me.

Currently, I am running two D&D 5 games, the Come Endless Darkness game and The Second Campaign.  Eventually, I am going to get my aborted 4e game converted over to 5e and I'll get that going too, tentatively called Into the Nentir Vale.

My son is also running games. A D&D 5 game with his friends,  the same adventures (with different characters) with my youngest son and his friends (average age 14) AND the occasional one we take turns running for his cousins (aged 13 to 22).



So six D&D 5 games with about 40 characters total.
To say we have lost some sheets here and there is an understatement.  To say we need to be able to access our materials in a bunch of different places is also pretty clear.

So I pulled the trigger this morning and got a DM's Subscription and picked up the three core books.

I know there has been a lot of complaining online about the price.
For me, the price compared to what I get was worth it. I was a fan of the 4e character builder and I used it quite a lot.   When Beyond was in Beta I also used it a lot.  So far I am pleased with my purchase so far.

Are there cheaper tools? Of course.
Are there better tools? Maybe.
Are there tools that do everything that Beyond does? None that I know of.

So I'll be sharing my thoughts on this tool over the next few days.  Need to load about 3 dozen characters into it now.

Anyone else using this?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Zatannurday: Going Back to School with Zatanna

Tip O' the hat to JasperAK for this!

Zatanna Is Going To Magic School in Her New Comic Series
http://io9.gizmodo.com/zatanna-is-going-to-magic-school-in-her-new-comic-serie-1797945307

http://www.dccomics.com/blog/2017/08/17/exclusive-zatanna-faust-and-more-enroll-in-mystik-u?sf106880888=1

From DC: Zatanna Zatara is one of the most powerful magicians to walk the Earth, capable of altering the fabric of reality with one backwards word.

But what was she like in college?

If you’ve ever been a college student, you know it’s a highly unique time in a person’s life. You’re a newly minted adult, free to make your own choices, but those choices are complicated by the fact that you haven’t yet settled into the person you’ll ultimately become. It’s an unpredictable and wild time in most people’s lives. So imagine what it’s like when magic is thrown into the mix.

This is the background of MYSTIK U, an upcoming prestige-format limited series written by Alisa Kwitney (Destiny) and drawn by Mike Norton (Revival, Runaways) that will reimagine the lives of four of DC’s magic users in spectacular new ways. To give us the background on this unique new title, we spoke with both Alisa and Mike about what readers can expect when classes start this fall.

I LOVE, LOVE the art I have seen far.




Hell.  I am in for punk-Goth Teenage Enchantress alone!





Writer Alisa Kwitney and drawn by Mike Norton can be found online at @akwitney and @themikenorton respectively.

To say I am looking forward to this is an understatement.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Kickstart Your Weekend: My Last Sunrise

This one started out with a limited amount of time and we are already near the end!

My Last Sunrise - Gothic Horror 28mm Miniatures


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1512506318/my-last-sunrise-gothic-horror-28mm-miniatures

If it didn't have me at "Gothic Miniatures" or at a Dracula mini it had me at their witch mini.

Yeah, I am predictable.  But that also means that when these things hit the internet I will share them with you.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #83

Have a look at that cover.  1984 was a good year for Chess themed things.  In October we would get the #1 hit, "One Night In Bangkok" from the Album Chess and sung by Murry Head.  In March we got this famous cover of Dragon #83 by  Denis Beauvais.  It is part of the oft mentioned Chess series that stretch to the modern day.  On the radio "Jump" by Van Halen dominates the airwaves. In the theatres we get "Against All Odds", "Police Academy" and "Romancing the Stone" as the big box office hits.  On the shelves "Dragonlance" is starting to appear and we get Issue #83 of This Old Dragon!

Letters cover the usual questions about psionics and where someone can get an article reprint.  Hang tight, you will be able to buy everything on CD-ROM in about 15 years.   There is also a letter on the longest continuous game of D&D at 100 hours.  I think the longest game I ever played was a combo Ravenloft I6/I10 game at 48 hours.

Ads for James Bond and Cities of Hârn.

Michael Lowrey is up first with The many facets of gems. Since a lot of my D&D game play is 70s and 80s fueled I always wanted to use gems as a means of storing magical energy in my games.  I never quite got it the way I wanted it to be honest (still working on it) but this article was a huge help back in the day.  It is also a pretty long article.

Ed Greenwood is back with the Ecology of the Stirge. Is it a bug? Is it a bird?  Going back and rereading these now I admire how well Ed could take even the most banal monster and turn it into something interesting.  While I used to find his "in universe" writing a little twee now I am genuinely amused by it.  I can imagine some Academy in the Forgotten Realms where monster experts debate the finer points of monster biology and killing methods, all safe in their academic halls and ivory towers.

Sign of the times.  The fiction section is not only by Margaret Weis, it is the first Dragonlance story in the pages of Dragon magazine.  Test of the Twins features the twins Caramon and Raistlin.  A lot of ink and pixels have been spilled over the effect on D&D by Dragonlance.  Whatever your point of view on this the Dragonlance era starts here and now with this issue.   The story is a pivotable one in the Dragonlance saga. So much so that I have read it, or versions of it, in other books before I saw it here.

The centerfold is the massive adventure from Roger Moore, the Dancing Hut. This was such a great adventure then that I had to rerun for my kids.  Though I combined it with bits of the 2nd Edition version that came out much later.  This one is a keeper.
Baba Yaga is such a historic figure in D&D it is no surprise there are so many adventures built around her.

Roger Moore follows this up with a simplified unarmed fighting system in How to Finish Fights Faster.  Frankly, I never used it.

There is an ad for my FLGS here, +Games Plus.  This might have been the first time I discovered them to be honest.  I used to order the hard to find stuff from Games Plus because they were the only Illinois game store that knew of that did mail orders. They were about 210 miles away from me at the time, but now they are only 8 miles. So I am very, very pleased to still be going there.

There is a Top Secret article here, but mine was cut out.

There is another ad and a long review of the James Bond 007 game.
I am a HUGE Bond fan.  My first Bond movie was Live and Let Die. It gave me a life long obsession with Bond, Voodoo and Jane Seymour.
Despite this, I have never played a James Bond game.  My loss to be sure.  I'll need to fix that someday.
My first Bond may have been the late great Roger Moore (no relation of course to the above-mentioned RM), the BEST Bond is Daniel Craig.

Ads...an order form for the Mail Order Hobby Shop to get back issues of Dragons.

In the comics section we get a rare celestial conjunction; Wormy, What's New with Phili and Dixie AND Snarf Quest all in one issue.  There is even an entry of Talanalan here.

A great issue really, if for nothing else than for the Baba Yaga adventure.

March 1984 was also a good issue of White Dwarf. Check that out on my White Dwarf Wednesday Issue #51.

Using Baba Yaga in your games
This adventure features Baba Yaga and gives her stats ala Deities and Demigods.  She is a tough one to beat too.   She has 3 attacks, 135 hp, a -1 Charisma which gives her horror like effects.  She fights like a 16HD and has the spell casting ability of a 25th level Magic-User, a 15th level Illusionist and a 14th level Druid.  Crazy.  Oh, and she has some abilities of an assassin too.

There is no doubt that she is one of, if not THE, most powerful witch in the D&D multiverse.  When she is not working with her daughter Iggwilv on Oerth she is off on Golarion dealing with the Winter Witches of Irrisen.  I would not be surprised to discover she has also been to Aglarond and Rashemen. And if she hasn't been there then her Hut has.

No one is better suited for a Basic Witch write-up to be honest.
I will use Roger Moore's stats as a guideline and use the witch rule from my The Witch: A sourcebook for Basic Edition fantasy games.

Baba Yaga, Witch Queen
36th level Queen of Witches, Daughter of Baba Yaga Tradition (She is the Tradition founder.)
Female, Chaotic (Nuetral Evil)

Strength 20 (+3 / +8)
Intelligence 25
Wisdom 23
Dexterity 18 (+3)
Constitution 21 (+6_
Charisma -1* (Baba Yaga uses her negative CHA the way other witches use positive. So +5)

Saving Throws
Death Ray/Poison 3
Magic Wands 3
Paralysis, Polymorph 3
Dragon Breath 3
Rods, Staffs, Spells 3
+5 to all saves via Ring of Protection
+ for Wisdom

Hit Points:
AC: -10
(Grandmother's Shawl +5, Bracers of Defense +3, Ring of Protection +5, Dex 18 -3)

THAC0: 4
(I know, THAC0 was not used in Basic D&D. You know what this means)

Occult Powers
Lesser: Familiar (crow)
Minor: Kitchen Witchery
Medial: Detect Bloodline
Greater: Curse
Major: Shape Change
Superior: Longevity

Spell Immunities
Baba Yaga is immune to the following spells:
Cause fear, charm person, command, friends, hypnotism, forget, hold person, ray of enfeeblement, scare, beguiling, bewitch, domination, fear, charm monster, confusion, emotion, fumble, suggestion, telempathic projection, chaos, feeblemind, hold monster, magic jar, mass domination, quest, geas, mass suggestion, rulership, antipathy/sympathy, finger of death, mass charm, Otto's irresistable dance and any spell created by one of her "Daughters" (for example Tasha's Hideous Uncontrollable Laughter).

Other Powers
Arcane Diversity: Baba Yaga may learn other arcane spells (Wizard, Necromancer, Illusionist). She can replace 1 Ritual spell per spell level with an arcane spell she has learned.  These spells must be learned like other magic-users and recorded in her Book of Shadows.

Spells
Cantrips (8): Alarm Ward, Arcane Mark, Chill, Daze, Ghost Sound, Inflict Minor Wounds, Object Reading, Summon Vermin
1st (9+4): Bad Luck, Black Fire, Cause Fear, Charm Person, Chill Touch, Darkness, Endure Elements, Fey Sight, Ghostly Slashing, Glamour, Minor Fighting Prowess, Protection from Spirits, Silver Tongue
2nd (9+3): Agony, Biting Blade, Discord, Enthrall, ESP, Evil Eye, Ghost Touch, Hold Person, Invisibility, Mind Obscure, Phantasmal Spirit, Spell Missile
3rd (9+3): Astral Sense, Bestow Curse, Circle of Respite, Dispel Magic, Feral Spirit, Ghost Ward, Lethe's Curse, Lifeblood, Magic Circle Against Undead, Toad Mind, Witch Wail, Witch Writing
4th (9+3): Abomination, Analyze Magic, Arcane Eye, Charm Monster, Divination, Ethereal Projection, Intangible Cloak of Shadows, Phantom Lacerations, Speak with Dead, Spiritual Dagger, Tears of the Banshee, Withering Touch
5th (9+2): Baleful Polymorph, Blade Dance, Death Curse, Dreadful Bloodletting, Endless Sleep, Greater Command, Hold Monster, Magic Jar, Nightmare, Teleport, Waves of Fatigue
6th (9+1): Anchoring Rite, Anti-magic Shell, Break the Spirit, Death Blade, Eye Bite, Ethereal Banishment, Mass Agony, Mislead, True Seeing, Dismissal (Ritual)
7th (9): Call the Restless Soul, Death Aura, Draw Forth the Soul, Greater Arcane Eye, Greater Blindness, Foresight, Insanity, Wave of Mutilation, Gate (Ritual)
8th (9): Antipathy/Sympathy, Astral Projection, Destroy Life, Greater Mislead, Mystic Barrier, Pit, Trap the Soul, Ensnarement (Ritual), Imprisonment (Ritual)

Magic Items
Grandmother's Shawl (Greatest), Broom of Animated Attack, Baba Yaga's Hut, Baba Yaga's mortar and pestle.

To make her closer to the version presented here in Dragon #83 I could give her the Mind Bar from +Richard LeBlanc's Basic Psionics Handbook.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Death to the Reptile God!

The "Treasure Hunters" group of the Second Campaign defeated the vile reptile god (in reality a Naga). They also freed many of the villagers charmed by the naga.


We very nearly had three character deaths when the Naga charmed the gnome rogue ("Erky Timbers") and proceeded to attack the ranger and warlock.  The wizard (near the ring) was badly burned by the flaming sphere spell.

Everyone though managed to survive thanks to every healing potion they had on them.

Up next?
"Rumors of a magnificent city and foul, horrid rituals! Riches and wonders - or death!"
The Treasure Hunters follow some more leads to the fabled Forbidden City!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Web of Wind (Silverglass #2)

We are back to the world of Nyctasia r'n Edonaris brenn Rhostshyl and Corson brenn Torisk.  Our leading ladies are still on the run from...pretty much everyone when they discover a thief with treasure riddle.  Not a map, but a riddle leading to the treasure of the ancient Cymvelan Circle.  This order of monks and mystics were destroyed when the locals believed they were practicing black magic.   Nyctasia wants to learn what secrets they had, Corson wants gold.
The book unfolds at a much slower pace than did the "running for their lives" tale of Silverglass.
In fact the pace slows WAY down. The heroes spend the vast majority of their time at the Edonaris estate and vineyard. These are distant cousins of Nyctasia, so they are not as haughty as their urban relatives and most importantly they are not trying to have Nyc or Corson killed.
Here the pieces of the riddle are unwound and their secrets found.
The treasure is not a secret cache of gold and treasure, but rather a collection of ancient books.  Nyc though notices one of the dusty, web covered books is recently missing and maybe the extinct Cymvelan Circle is not so extinct after all.

The book is a fun read and the mystery, even if slow, was a compelling one.

The "author", J.F. Rivkin, is actually two different people. One wrote the first two books and the other wrote the last two.  I am not sure who J.F. Rivkin is and I have still not found out any information about a real identity either.

The book is out of print and there are no digital or audio versions I have found.  They pop up every so often at Half-Price books.

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 18
Level: Crone
Witches in this book: Nyctasia is very much a witch
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: Nyc does a better job at being good in this book.
Best RPG to Emulate it: For this book I have been trying the characters out in the AGE version of Blue Rose.  Despite the Sword and Sorcerery tropes, there is a strong vibe of  Romantic Fantasy here as both Corson and Nyc look for a place to belong.
Use in WotWQ: Likely, but since I am using them as characters in the Blue Rose game I am currently playing their involvement might only be as a cameo.

I have the sheets for the characters but need to get to work.  So here is a cheat.

I made Corson a warrior. Easy call.  Given her propensity to be an adventurer and never settling down I thought "Swashbuckler" was a good choice.  She also has Arcane Potential, and in particular The Sight.  This covers her feeling of unease around magic.  She doesn't see it as much as feel it.



Nyctasia is an adept, but what kind?  I gave her Bard to cover a wide a variety of her skills but she doesn't have the Performance pre-req.  I am using her Cultural Lore in place of that.  I could have gone with a sage as well, but this fits concept wise a little better.


I might give them a try in D&D 5 or Basic D&D next.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monstrous Monday: The Olitiau

The Olitiau are giant bats. Large enough and strong enough to serve as a steed for those that know how to summon them. Most often witches, fey, and goblinoids.
Orcs will sometimes use the larger and more monstrous varieties as steeds in battle. These are often called "Orc War bats".

Olitiau (Monstrous Riding Bat) 
Basic-era stats
No. Enc.: 1d12 (4d6)
Alignment: Neutral (Chaos)
Movement: 180' (60')
            Fly: 360' (120')
Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 5
Attacks: 1 (bite) or Sonic shriek
Damage: 1d8 or see below
Save: F4
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: None
XP: 135

Olitiau are giant bats. Found in deep, dark caves these creatures can be used as steeds for those that know the secrets of summoning them or for subterranean races that speak their language.
Like Giant Bats (qv) these creatures can also be vampiric, though the percentage is much higher, 45%.  The bite of an Olitiau will not cause a living creature to rise as a vampire though.
The Olitiau have a bite attack and sonic shriek.  They can use one or the other once per round.  The sonic shriek is a cone 5' at it's base (mouth) and extends 120' long and 40' wide.  Creatures caught in this area take 1d6 points of damage and must save vs. Paralyzation or be stunned (unable to attack) for 1 round.  The Olitiau can extend this range to 360' long and 120' wide, but only creatures of less than 1 HD are affected then.
Olitiau do not fare well in sunlight and are at a -2 on all attacks.  They are unaffected by darkness of any sort including magical darkness.


Summon Olitiau
Level: Druid 2, Wizard 2, Witch /Warlock 2
Duration: 24 hours
Range: 60 miles
By means of this spell, the caster can summon one* Olitiau to serve it for 24 hours.  The olitiau must be treated well and given its body weight in fresh meat to eat.  The olitiau will operate as the steed for the caster and even attack whomever the caster directs it to attack.   Most often the olitiau are summoned as steeds and can carry 300lbs of weight.
The olitiau can only be summoned at night or underground where it is dark.
At higher levels the caster can summon more Olitiau.
At 7th level the caster may summon two, at 9th 3 may be summoned and so on for every other level to a maximum of 8 olitiau at level 19.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #103

1985 was an interesting year for D&D.  It saw the publication of Unearthed Arcana and Oriental Adventures.  "Deities and Demigods" had been renamed to "Legends and Lore".  60 Minutes did their hatchet job on D&D.  We were deep in what many have called the "Hickman Revolution" and indeed the third Dragonlance novel, last of the first trilogy was published.   1985 gave us a little peek at what 2nd Edition AD&D would have been like and it would see the departure of Gary from TSR.  A lot of this can be seen in November 1985 and in issue #103 of This Old Dragon!

While there is a loose theme here, the real theme of this issue is a glimpse into the future.
But first, let's start with the cover.  My copy is missing the cover so I had to pop in the old CD-ROM to see it.  It's a cool blue dragon that reminds me of earlier covers. I don't remember it at all really.

The Letters section covers the old "Photocopying service" Dragon used to offer.  Anyone take advantage of that?
Also starting next year (1986) Dragon will be $3.50 an issue.

Gary is up in one of the biggest "What If" scenarios we have all talked about.  That is "What if Gary Gygax had designed AD&D 2nd Edition?"  We will never really know, but there are some tantalizing bits in this month's From the Sorceror's Scroll. The Future of the Game talks about how now that UA and Oriental Adventures are now out the game should evolve to a 2nd Edition.  He planned out the publication order to include the new Monster Manual, Player's Handbook, DM's Guide and a new Legends and Lore (a name he very much opposed).  It should be noted that here Gary also says that a 3rd and 4th editions (or more) are not only inevitable but also desirable as the AD&D game is "vital. It grows and it changes". He said there is no likelihood that the AD&D rules will ever be set in stone.    BTW, if you want to get an idea of what AD&D 2nd Edition as-written-by Gary Gygax *could* have looked like check out +Joseph Bloch's Adventures Dark & Deep. He spent a lot of time researching and this article was the genesis of that.

Kim Mohan is up with updates for Unearthed Arcana.
We had a rule in our games, that if it was in the books it was law, even if the rule was obviously "off".  We did it this way to avoid rule-lawyering arguments over intent.  Plus the book was an impartial party. It didn't change based on the situation at hand. So I can't recall if we used any of this errata or not.

There are many reasons why people don't play gnomes.  I think this is one of the biggest ones.  All About Krynn's Gnomes from Roger Moore details the "Tinker" gnomes of Krynn.  Of course, this is also why my brother, who is now an engineer, only played gnomes.   I have to admit I REALLY disliked the Tinker Gnome idea and I hated the execution of the idea. An entire race prone to failure and explosions? You know what we call that right? Extinct.  Honestly, it was not till 3e that I could even look at gnomes again and really not till 4e that they became something I'd consider having a character for.

Like Dogs? Stephen Inniss seems to with a collection of 12 domestic breeds in A Dozen Domestic Dogs.  My favorite bits are on the armor for fighting dogs.

The Role of Books covers a few books I am not at all familiar with. Though there is one, "Dragonlance, Dragons of Spring Dawning" that everyone knows. One, "The Song of Mavin Manyshaped" by Sheri S. Tepper sounds interesting.

An ad for Palladium's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness is next.  Long before there was a cartoon there was this game. Talk about striking when the iron is hot!

Stephen Inniss is back.  He had submitted an article on centaurs at the same time another author, Kelly Adams has submitted an article on centaurs.  The resulting article, The Centaur Papers, is a combination of these two works.   They fit together nicely (deft editing) and produce a long article, but what must be considered to be the Master's Thesis on Centaurs in D&D.  At 11 pages it is no small article.   Every so often I run into someone that is really, really into some concept in the game.  I remember back in the 90s stumbling upon a website dedicated to the Bariaur race, others for different things. This article reminds me of that.  Just detail on detail.  If you are into centaurs at all then this is your "must read" article.

Our centerfold is a collection of errata and corrections for Unearthed Arcana.

TSR Previews lets us know that Oriental Adventures and Saga of Old City are on the way.  This is followed by TSR Profiles of Gary Gygax himself.



The Wages of Stress is the fiction bit for this issue. It takes place in the fantastic future world of 2007 when everyone is connected by computer.   Ok, not to be too glib about it there is a bit about how everyone's health can be monitored remotely.

The Ares section is next.

A Traveller article on the planet Tarus is up first.  Of Nobbles and Men by Paul Vernon.  He had some great White Dwarf articles around this time as well.

The Saurians is the article I used the most from this issue.  A race (with subraces) for Star Frontiers I mixed them in with the Sea Devils and the Silurians from Doctor Who to make a race of "Saurials" that I used in many sci-fi games and then later used again in D&D.   Plus it was easy to add in bits of UFOlogy to this with their Reptoids.

Roger E. Moore has a review of the Gen Con 18 designer's forum on Supers RPG in A Super-Powered Seminar.   A brief history of supers games is discussed here and what the future mught hold.

The Marvel-Phile covers three heroes I know nothing about; Armadillo, Count Nefaria and Hyperion.

Ads...Convention Calendar...Wormy and Snarf Quest.
Dragonmirth gets in a dig at 60 Minutes.



Issue #103 was not a bad issue, just not a memorable one for me. Some memorable articles and a tantalizing article on AD&D 2nd Ed.  

Curious about what White Dwarf was doing at the same time? Check out my White Dwarf Wednesday for issue #71.
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