Saturday, September 30, 2017

Zatannurday: Sabrina the Teenage Witch Returns to TV

Sorta-kinda-Zatanna related.


The CW is looking to bringing back Sabrina the Teenage Witch!

http://archiecomics.com/sabrinatv/
http://uproxx.com/tv/chilling-adventures-of-sabrina-tv-series-teenage-witch-riverdale-companion/



I never watched the Melissa Joan Hart series, but I knew all about it.

This new series is based on The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina comic.  No idea if it will be part of the Riverdale universe or not, but it should be fun.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #132

Dragon magazine for April 1988 is quite a memorable issue.  First, it's an April Fools issue, and it's one I actually kinda liked. Secondly, I LOVE that cover. I mean, Elmore, Snarf. What's not to love?  I am still a Freshman in University still and living the life.  I think I bought this issue when it came out, which is something because most of my money was going to drugs, beer, books. Yeah, books.  It's April 1988 and this is issue #132 of This Old Dragon!

Let's admire this cover for a bit.  I don't care, I love Elmore's art.  Though I have to admit I thought Aveeare was silver and not gold.

So this is an April Fools issue, but the content is limited really.  The first entry has the infamous "Chainsword" in Bazaar of the Bizarre by Stewart Wieck.

Role-playing Reviews which is ©1988 by Jim Bambra.  We cover some now-classic games; Paranoia, Ghostbusters, and Teenagers from Outer Space.

Up next is the first big article of the issue is Beyond the Gate of Dreams by John Nephew.  This deals with the "semiclass" of the Dreamer.  Now there is a lot of REALLY cool things for this class. I don't think the class actually works as written, to be honest.  I like the idea really and there are a lot interesting spell ideas.   There is the option to play this as a single class or as part of a dual class.

Resourceful Sorcery which is also ©1988 by Michael DeWolfe and it covers some helpful hints for RuneQuest game sorcerers.  It's a cool article really, makes me want to get a RuneQuest game going sometime.

With All the Trappings by Gregg Sharp deals with trap construction and using some psychology to draw victims in.  I'll be honest, I never had the trap fetish that so many gamers seem to have.  Sure they can be fun occasionally, but all the time? I got my fill in the early 80s to last me a lifetime.

Skip Williams and Sage Advice cover a variety of topics.

Page 37 gives us an ad for New Infinities' Cyborg Commando!  The fate of the world is in metal handsTM. I should not give Gygax shit for this.  We now know his world was crumbling down and the new heads of TSR were being colossal dicks to him.    Anyone play Cyborg Commando at all?


Scott David Gray is up with Let the Good Dice Roll. This is a collection of individual and cumulative frequency tables for the various methods of rolling a given ability score in AD&D.
A nice brief article that is informative, but also a relic of its age.  While the numbers are still good and even still apply to any version of *D&D,  these can be generated on the fly with the tools we all have at our disposal now.  Not just with Excel, but with Google Sheets which is free and nearly as powerful.

Out of Hand by Nina Kiriki Hoffman is the fiction piece of this issue.

Mark Feil gives us a rare non-Ed Greenwood (at least for the last few issues) Ecology Of article. The Ecology of the Aurumvorax covers the MMII monster also known as the "Golden Gorger".  Not a lot of information, but I did learn do not eat one of these things if you kill it. It gives you metal poisoning!

The big feature of this issue is +Bruce Heard's Orcwars game. Set in the Known World you get to play in the Great Orc Wars. It looks like it would be fun for a rainy afternoon. Set it in your own world.   Each player (2-4) gets to play one of the tribal coalitions of orcs.  I like it to be honest.  It is not exactly taking D&D back to it's wargame roots, but it is honoring those roots. Given the campaign I am currently running I could see using this as part of a flashback to an ancient battle.  Something to add more depth and color to the history of my game world.  Much like Traveller always did with their RPG and tie-in board games set in the Imperium.

Arcane Lore is up after all of that with some spells based on traits of animals. Like Oxen Strength and Lion's Courage.  Naturally (ugh) for druids. There are some goods here too.

Keith Polster has a bit on Gen Con and what to expect in 88 with The King of Conventions.  I certainly get the feeling here that Gen Con was growing more at this point.  This article covers the combined Gen Con/Origins Game Fair.  Robert M. Bigelow follows up on the next page with how miniatures events will be run at the combine con.  Now an aside.  I consider myself knowledgeable about the history of our hobby, but I also fully admit I am far from knowing everything.  I had no idea this happened! And I have some vivid memories of reading this issue.  How long did Origins and Gen Con stay together? When did they split up again?  Checking the internet I see this was done in 1988 and 1992. And yes Gen Con was seeing a lot of growth during this time.

Cash & Carry, Gamma Style covers the economic structure of Gamma World or least a small part of it.

Some small ads.
TSR Previews gives us a look ahead at some new releases.  This includes two of the biggest disappointments, for me at least, in adventures.  First is WG7 Castle Greyhawk.  While I do appreciate the humor in some of the levels and I respect how deadly this module actually is, it does not make up for the fact that it is also not very good. It was also not the Castle Greyhawk we have heard about for years and years.  I ran Castle Greyhawk once.  Not likely to run it again. Next is OP1 Tales of the Outer Planes.  If Castle Greyhawk was bad, this one was just lackluster.   The Outer Planes would get a huge boost in a few years with the advent of Planescape.

Jon Slobins is next with variable hero creation for the DC Heroes game. This produces heroes a little less super. Ah yes, we are moving to the 90s and the age of the gritty "street-level" hero.

Mike Lane has new ships for Star Frontiers.

And in a move that would surprise new readers of today, Jeff Grub gives us a Marvel-Phile of "joke" (or no joke depending on your read) hero; Rocket Raccoon.



The Role of Computers has expanded to 6 pages now including a huge review of Beyond Zork.

We have a couple of pages of Dragonmirth. Some ads. 5 pages of the Con Calendar.

We end with SnarfQuest on his prospecting mission.  About this time I began to loose interest in Snarf. I think a lot of people did. If had completed its big arc and now seemed to be a little lost.   OR what is more likely I could not keep up with it like I used to because I was not buying Dragons regularly anymore.

Wormy is also here.  About this time Tramp would disappear.  Little did I know at the time he moved to the same town I was living in.  I could have passed him in the grocery store and never knew.

Really a pretty solid issue.  AD&D 1 was showing its age at this point and the world outside was changing.  Soon word would come down that AD&D 2 was on the way and the 90s would start.  But until that time there was plenty to do.  The Dragon was more and more focused on TSR-only games, but still, a few others snuck in every so often. They were more inclusive than say White Dwarf was at this time.  In fact, April 1988's White Dwarf #100 would be the last White Dwarf I ever owned.

We are certainly on the verge of something in this issue. That might be my retrospective on it, but some big changes had already happened here and more are coming.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

New Ritual: Reunification of Life

It's almost October and naturally, my thoughts turn to vampires.



A while back, many years now, I had a player who played a ranger (back in 2nd ed).  This ranger was later killed and turned into a vampire by no less than Strahd von Zarovich himself.  I thought that was the end of the character (the player had left school by then).   Years later I brought the character in as an NPC vampire. I wanted a vampire that had a backstory and some history as a human first.
At some point though near the end of my 3rd Edition game, I thought about bringing back this character as a recurring NPC.  Then something interesting happened. I got in contact with the original player via the then new thing called Facebook and I changed my mind.  I want to bring her back as a human now.

This got me started on an idea for a MacGuffin to bring a vampire back to full life.  We have seen things like this before in media. I know it happened on "Angel" and I am pretty sure it happened on "True Blood" and in other shows.  The one thing though they have all had in common is that to make it happen requires something really, really special.  Yes at this point someone will say "but what about 'Near Dark'?" well, I liked Near Dark, but that was the biggest problem I had with the movie.  It turned vampirism into a blood disease, and not even a very powerful one.  Plus don't you think if a blood transfusion could have fixed it then others would have done it already?

Also at this point, someone might bring up the spells "Raise Dead" or "True Resurrection".  We always ruled that these spells would kill any undead creature.  Clerics are known for two things in most editions of D&D; healing and turning undead.  Both are power investitures by divine agents.  So the ultimate expression of that power, the ability to bring the dead back to life, would follow the same logic and cause harm to the undead.   Plus in my games, we house ruled that it could not bring the dead back from undeath.  Vampirism is also a curse.

Now depending on your point of view the victim of vampirism has either lost their soul (the "Buffy" vampires) or their soul is trapped in their vampire bodies (the "Dracula" or "White Wolf" vampires).  Either way, the soul of the person is in peril.   (Consequently, this is also why I don't let Elves become vampires in my game; they have spirits, but not souls. Dark elves have connections to demons that allow them to become vampires.)

For this spell, I knew I wanted it to be difficult. So only the highest level spellcasters could cast it. I wanted it to be the magical equivalent of brain surgery.  So like surgery, it is not performed alone.

I also knew I wanted "three" to be a part of it.  Three is a magic number. Mind, Body, and Soul. Three types of magic; Arcane, Divine, and Occult/Witchcraft. And in many of my games three principal types of spellcasters.

Also known as "The Glorious Ritual of Reunification of Life, Soul, and Body by means Divine, Arcane, and Occult", but more commonly known as "Reunification of Life".

Reunification of Life
Level: Witch Ritual 8 (Magic-User 9, Cleric 7)
Ritual Requirements: At least 3 spellcasters; A witch, wizard, and cleric.
Range: One Vampire
Duration: Permanent
This ritual is a rare one, not just in terms of its availability, but also in its nature. The ritual is known to be part of the Malificus Necrologium (aka "The Book of Dead Witches ('dead witch names')").  Included in the ritual are the invocations needed to be made a witch, the evocations needed by a wizard and the prayers required of the cleric.  The ritual only details the means to restore a willing vampire to life, not an unwilling one.
As part of the ritual, the vampire must not partake in blood for three days prior to the ritual. This begins during the last nights of the new moon. In many cases, this will make the vampire difficult to control.  On the first night of the waxing crescent, the vampire must take a ritual bath in purified (but not sanctified) water.  Preferably this is from a natural spring. If the water is warmed from the earth, this is better.
On that night at Midnight, the ritual begins.
The vampire, wearing only a simple white linen robe lays on a simple wooden altar within a Thaumaturgic Triangle.  The points of the triangle face east, south and west in a deosil or sunwise orientation.  The cleric must stand at the East and begin their prayer.  The wizard must stand at the south and begin their casting. The witch stands at the west and begins her spell.
During the course of the night (6 hours of constant casting) the casters will respectively summon up Air to represent the Soul, Fire to represent the Life, and Earth to represent the renewal of Body.

During the night agents of evil will attempt to stop the ritual as the loss of a vampire is a great blow to the forces of the night.  For this reason, the ritual also suggests an outer circle of non-casters (referred to as "Cowans") to keep the evil at bay so the casting can continue uninterrupted.

If all goes well the spell end right before dawn as the light of a new day shines on the former vampire for the first time.

Many witches have noted that the optimal time for this spell is during the Summer solstice.

Alterations to ritual have been recorded.
At least one attempt was made on a mummy, but the spell failed. It was speculated that this was due to lack of internal organs, or due to the different relationship, the mummy has with the negative material plane or even the age of the mummy.
A spectre was successfully returned to life, but only after a Remove Curse had been cast on it.
The spell has not been tried on a lich since no lich has volunteered to be returned to life of their own free will.

In other cases, a druid was used instead of a cleric and a necromancer instead of a wizard.  Both times met with success, though some sages doubt these are accurate claims.
Most of these claims are difficult to ascertain due to most copies of this ritual are currently missing.

This ritual should not be something that the PCs have easy access to. Nor should it be something they hear a rumor about and then pop over to a forgotten library to get.  There should be an epic quest to retrive the book (or books! maybe it was split into three by the forces of evil). This needs to be epic quest, "season finale" stuff.

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Witch's Tea Ritual

"You can find a witch just by figuring out who is drinking the most tea in the village."  
- Halfling saying

I read a lot of books on witches. An inordinate amount really.  The one thing that has seemed to have entered into the cultural zeitgeist of most modern witch authors is that witches, in general, are addicted to tea.   Good, bad, or somewhere in between these seems to be the brew of choice for many witches.

Any witch with the ability to Brew Potions (either as a class ability or feat) can also Brew Tea.

Often the materials needed for brewing tea are much less expensive than what a witch might need for a full alchemical workshop.  Even witches with no interests in alchemy as a science can and will brew tea.

Equipment
The tea brewing witch needs the following to brew any sort of tea; magical or mundane.
Full Tea set.  This includes
- Teapot, porcelain or silver, never copper.
- Pot, kettle, or small cauldron to boil water, this should be copper
- silver tea infuser
- cups, saucers, plates, spoons for 4-6
- urn for sugar
- small pitcher for cream or milk
- serving plate for cakes or cookies
- silver tea service tray
- Tea leaves of the appropriate type
This will typically run 100-150 gp for a quality set.

Many witches also prefer a small portable tripod to suspend their copper cauldron over a flame.
Depending on the tea the boiling water is either taken to the pot or the pot taken to the boiling water.

Types of Tea
The ingredients can vary from traditions, covens and even individual witches but all teas begin with tea and intent.  The teas vary also between black, green, white, herbal  or more exotic choices. Aromatics such a rose hips may also be added.  The make the tea the witch brews the tea as she would mundane tea, but adds her intent and her magic to change the tea to the direction she wishes. Once complete the tea must be drunk to get the intended results.

Awareness
Almost always a black or ginger tea. This tea will provide a +1 to any Wisdom-based roll (saves, skills or checks) for 1 hour after drinking.  Higher level witches can brew stronger brews adding 10 mins per their own level for others that drink it.  The witch herself builds up a tolerance to the brew effects and only gains 1 hour regardless of level.  This tea may only be drank once per two days.

Calming
Made with an herbal tea, this tea will remove the effects of a fear spell or similar condition. It will also contract the effects of a haste spell or potion and that of an Energizing or Envigorating tea.

Contemplative
Made with a green tea this brew will remove the effects of a charm spell or other similar magic.
Note: the Witch must be 5th level to brew this tea.

Energizing
Almost always a black tea. This tea will provide a +1 to any Strength-based roll (saves, skills or checks) for 1 hour after drinking.  Higher level witches can brew stronger brews adding 10 mins per their own level for others that drink it.  The witch herself builds up a tolerance to the brew effects and only gains 1 hour regardless of level.  This tea may only be drank once per two days.

Envigorating
Almost always a black tea. This tea will provide a +1 to any Constitution-based roll (saves, skills or checks) for 1 hour after drinking.  Higher level witches can brew stronger brews adding 10 mins per their own level for others that drink it.  The witch herself builds up a tolerance to the brew effects and only gains 1 hour regardless of level.  This tea may only be drank once per two days.

Fortune Telling
This is one of the more common tea rituals performed.  Once the rea is drunk the witch looks into the cup to see what message the tea leaves can give her.  This will function as a Divination spell where one question is asked, "What does the future hold?"
Note: A witch needs to be 5th level of higher to complete this ritual.

Friendship
This tea makes the participants more inclined towards each other.  Not a charm, but a sense of companionship and friendship.  Everyone is treated as if they had a +1 to Charisma rolls with respect to each other.

Healing
This tea usually begins as a simple black or green tea.  The recipient is healed of 1d4 hp of damage.

Kitchen Witchery
Sometimes called "utility tea" this helps the witch in preparation of other potions or crafting magics.  The witch may add +1 or +5% to her rolls for success.

Quiet 
This tea relaxes the witch so she is not disturbed by outside noises. She has great concentration and can get a full 8 hours of sleep in 6 hours (or 6 hours in 4.5) but will always be surprised if attacked in this period (8 or 6 hours).

Third Eye Tea
This opens the witch's third eye and allows her to be better at scrying.  Giving her a +1 or +5% to any roll she needs.

Witch's Tea
No special powers. It just tastes really, really good.

Teas can be combined with incense and other potions for added effects.  Mixing teas though will result in an inert, and even worse, a foul-tasting liquid.

Cake and Tea Ritual
Level: Witch Ritual 1
Ritual Requirement: At least 2 witches, full tea set, cakes and tea
Range: All Participants
Duration: 24 Hours
This ritual is often performed at the end of the proper worship ceremonies of a coven, but it can also be performed as a means of two unfamiliar witches to break the ground towards friendship.  Once complete the witches in the ritual will gain a +1 to all rolls for the next hour and will act as if they had a +1 to Charisma-based roll for the next 24.  The witches also may not harm each other in any fashion or loose all benefits from this ritual.
Material Components: Cakes or cookies and the tea to be served.


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Nibiru: The Crossing Star

 If you are reading this then you know we survived.

Today is the day that some conspiracy theorists believe that the planet Nibriu will destroy the earth.
Interestingly enough the Babylonian "star" of Autumn was called Nibriu.  Of course, the tin-foil hat crowd will claim that this is because the Babylonian's and the Aztecs were in contact with the same aliens (the Zetas according to one group).



Of course, this is all great stuff for a game.
Nibriu could be a sub-brown Dwarf, a body with 2.5 times the mass of Jupiter.

With a name like Nibru it could be some Clark Ashton Smith-like god, a fatal star whose invisible light shines down bringing woe and destruction.  Worshiped by insane warlocks and blind abominations whose milk-white eyes can see the foul light.

Witches and warlocks can forge a pact with Nibiru for more magics.

Nibiru's Crossing
Level: Witch/Warlock 2
Range: 1 person
Duration: Instantaneous
By means of this spell, the warlock can instantly transport himself instantly 10 feet + 5 feet per level to any unoccupied space of five feet square. So a 4 level warlock can transport 30 feet away.   The warlock does not need to see the area he is transporting too, but he must know if it is occupied or not.

Winds of Nibiru
Level: Witch/Warlock 3
Range: 40 feet from warlock
Duration: 1 round + 1 round per 3 levels
With ancient incantations, the warlock summons the foul winds of Nibiru. The winds blow from the warlock in a cone shape and terminate 40 feet away.  Creatures in the area of effect are blown outside of it. Those outside cannot enter the cone area in front of the warlock.  Missle weapons and spells are also ineffectual in area.  Such is the concentration required that the warlock cannot move during the duration of the spell.

Dreadful Gravity of Nibiru
Level: Witch/Warlock 4
Range: 100 feet from warlock
Duration: 1 round
With this spell the warlock summons the dreadful gravity of the planet Nibiru and can pull one Small, Medium or Large creature to it to stop five feet from the Warlock.  The creature is pulled and immobilized for 1 round.  After this it may attack normally.

Eclipse of Nibiru
Level: Witch/Warlock 5
Range: 50 feet radius sphere from warlock
Duration: 5 rounds
This spell summons a piece of dread and invisible Nibiru to block all magical attacks directed at the warlock. Any spell directed at the warlock is deflected or is stopped at a distance of 50 feet from the warlock.  Magical weapons are also likewise deflected.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Kickstart Your Weekend: Adventures at End of the World Collection

Well according to the latest Doomsday theory tomorrow is the end of the World. Again.

But hey don't let that stop you! There are some great Kickstarters to be had.

Up first is another one from mad wizard +Mark Taormino.

Dark Wizard Games: Double Mayhem Adventures


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/marktaormino/dark-wizard-games-double-mayhem-adventures
This one updates Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen and Secret Machines of the the Star Spawn. With new art and editing.  There is also the chance to get updates of other modules.


Burial Plots for the Cryptworld Game


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1895361773/burial-plots
This book has five new adventures for the Cryptworld game.  +Dan P does some really great things with Cryptworld.  I wish I had the time to play it more to be honest.

Baker Street: Strange Cases and Hood: Beyond the Forest



https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/fearlightgames/baker-street-strange-cases-and-hood-beyond-the-for/
A new casebook for Baker Street and adventures for  Hood: Swashbuckling Adventures in Sherwood. Adventures Beyond the Forest.   +Bryce Whitacre has done a great job and Baker Street is a lot of fun. I have not played Hood, but if it is half as fun as it sounds then we are in good shape.

And what is the end of the world without demons?

Hell Awaits... Wave 1


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/552604905/hell-awaits-wave-1
Some more demons based on old woodcuts.  Pretty cool if you ask me.

So go out and spend your money! We could all be dead tomorrow! ;)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #81

Today I set the Wayback Machine to my Freshman year in High School.  I was just getting over an 18-week long bout with a brutal combination of chicken-pox and pneumonia, both for the second time. No joke, I dropped to something like 80 pounds and was in the hospital on IVs. Don't even remember how I got there.  But by January I was getting better enough to go back to school.  1984 was a big year for me in terms of geeking and gaming. I had just finished reading all the Lords of the Rings books and was watching a lot of Doctor Who.   For me, everything was either Doctor Who or George Orwell jokes as we go to January of 1984 for Issue #81 of This Old Dragon!

This issue is in not too bad of shape really.  The cover is missing, which is a shame because it is one of my favorites interestingly enough.  A furry ice dragon (I am going with a dragon) and an adventurer on a wooly mammoth? What's not to love really.  I also hold this issue up as a typical issue of the time "Before" my time buying Dragons.  It is not one I ever saw in the stores (that I can recall 35+ years later) but it one that I saw other people carry around.

Kim Mohan's Editorial covers how they will no longer be printing the adventures that won the adventure design contest some time back. This is too bad, but I easily see why. I think this might also have lead to a later decision to create "Dungeon" magazine, but I have nothing to back that up.  It is just taking too many resources to get the adventures to a publishable state. The last adventure is printed and will be talked about later.  Thinking back to some of the adventures I wrote back then I cringe to think about what they would have gotten.  I hope I can find the adventure contest rules in an earlier issue.  I wonder what the submission requirements were and whether they took printed manuscripts or if they accepted floppy disks in the mail yet.

Letters cover more requests for back issues, reprints, and even the runner-up adventures. Others complaining about how the magazine has changed for the worse over the last year.  I swear some people are never happy.

Our first article is a good one. One of my old DMs had kept a copy of it to use all the time.  Much to my chagrin.  Taking the sting out of poison by Chris Landsea was another attempt to classify poison.  Personally, I never had an issue with what was in the DMG and thought it was good enough.   But I also only ever played one assassin ever my entire gaming career, so it also did not come up a lot for me.  But it also covered Holy and Unholy Waters, something I used a lot, so that was kinda cool.

Another ad for my FLGS.  They still have the same number! Well, the area codes have changed on them twice since this add. It went from 312 to 708 to now 847.  Plus another ad for the Witch Hunt game.  Seeing these again makes wish I had not sold the game back in a Games Plus auction now.



The fiction piece comes early. In the Cleft of Queens by Esther M. Leiper.  Looks like it is about some dragons.

On page 24 we get The Forum: a new feature.  The introduction of the Forum.

Ok. Up next we have The Ecology of the Basilisk by Ed Greenwood which is a fine article in it's own right, but reading has gotten me thinking.  In fact, my thoughts might be considered heresy in some parts and even I would not have considered them two years ago.  But I am beginning to think that Ed Greenwood has contributed more to Dragon than Gary Gygax did.  I am not talking about *D&D in general, just Dragon Magazine.

A big two-page ad on the new Advanced Dungeons & Dragons miniatures line, followed by an article on minis.

Pete Mohney is next with Chariots for characters: Adapting ancient vehicles for AD&D play.  I always had this plan to play a Classical Greek/Roman/Egyptian game completely based on the classic myths.  I wanted a copy of this article because how can you not have chariots in a classic game.  I still might do that one day.  I mini-series of just mythology themed games where the Gods meddle directly in the affairs of humans.

Now here is an oddity.  Presented in the middle of the magazine is an AD&D character build for Cú Chulainn by Roger Moore.  This is prior to the introduction of the UA Barbarian, which he would have been perfect for, so he is 22nd level Ranger/12th level Illusionist with some Bard ability.
It's not a bad build really, but someone like Cú Chulainn is hard to build since he was essentially a superhero of the Red Branch myths of Northern Ireland.  It's interesting though that the only reason he has an Illusionist class at 12th level was so he could the powers of his berserker rage, called a "Warp spasm" or Ríastrad in the myths.  But if you read over these stats he is very much the prototype of the barbarian class we will later see.  I also did some stats for Cú Chulainn for the Ghosts of Albion game.

Up next is The Ruins of Andril designed by Ian Melluish. This is a high-level adventure, levels 8-11, for 4-8 characters.  It is an investigation of an old "Egyptian" ruin.  I have flipped through it and looks fun.  Part of me wants to run it if for no other reason than for its historic place in Dragon history.  It's a long one, for Dragon, at 16 pages.

Michael Dobson's Living in a Material World covers almost everything you need to know about material components for your AD&D or any other FRPG.  Now I love material components. If you are playing in an Old School D&D game I am running then your spellcaster better have their proper material components or they can't cast the spell.  Thought I do make most components easy to find or buy AND I allow substitutions.  Don't have that pinch of sulfur for your fire based spell? Try a pinch of dirt see what happens! This article is a long one, 10 pages, and covers a variety of materials and their uses.   Well worth visiting again.

Off the Shelf, a few pages later, covers the latest books of the start of 1984.

Lewis Pulsipher is back with Get out of the Medieval Rut in The Role of Books.  Again this might be the issue that got me interested in the idea of running a classical game. Lew covers books detailing ancient Rome, ancient Egypt and Greece (well Athens in particular).   I have some similar books on my too be read pile.  Now to figure out which system to use.

Ken Rolston reviews some new gaming titles in Gaming without Heroes. Or Horror Role-playing titles.  Featured in this review are the infamous Shadows of Yog-Sothoth for the Call of Cthulhu game and the Ravenloft module.   Of the two Rolston has high praise for Ravenloft, but feels that SoY-S does a better job of conveying fear, terror, and dread.

Lots of ads. Convention Calendar. Dragonmirth.
What's New with Phil and Dixie has Dixie's Dragon Notebook. Wormy and SnarfQuest introduces a revolver to an AD&D world. Wackiness ensues.

Really a fun issue with so much I want to use in a game still.
If nothing else it has renewed my desire to run a sandbox like adventure int he Classic world.

Want to see what I thought of White Dwarf from the same month?  Check out White Dwarf Wednesday #49.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Class Struggles: AS&SH 2 Warlocks and Witch Lords

The new Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, 2nd Edition from +Jeff Talanian is out. It's going to take me a bit to go through it all.  But so far I am enjoying the hell out of it.

One thing that the 1st Edition had that the new 2nd Edition has expanded on is the Warlock class.
The book tells us:
Some warlocks practice the sorcery of cryomancers and may be referred to as ice lords; others practice the sorcery of pyromancers and may be referred to as fire lords. Perhaps the most feared and reviled of warlocks are those who practice the black arts of necromancy (death soldiers)...
Pretty cool really. And it got me thinking.

Yesterday I worked up the character Grimalkin as a warlock that has chosen witch magic as her type of  Sorcery. There is something interesting here. Something pretty cool.

Witch Lords

Warlocks the choose witchcraft as their sorcery see (Vol. II, p. 148: Table 68) are known as Witch Lords.   These warlocks are often found protecting the covens of more powerful witches or ruling over covens of less powerful ones.

Curse of the Witch Lord by tmza
Using the Grand Coven idea from my Warlock for Swords & Wizardry you can use Witch Lords as the leaders of Grand Covens in the Hyperborean world.  Instead of the usual compliment, a 9th level Warlock can gather, they may opt to form a Grand Coven.

The troop gathered include these 0th-level fighters of 1d8 hp each (known as cowans).
* 15 longbowmen (studded armor, longbows, short swords)
* 5 cavalrymen (chain mail, lances, light crossbows, horseman’s flails; light warhorses)
* 20 light crossbowmen (chain mail, small shields, light crossbows, long spears, short swords)
* 15 halberdiers/pikemen

They also gather the following coven
* 9 initiate witches of 0 level
* 3 witches of 1st level
* 1 witch of 2nd or 3rd level

A 9th level witch and a 9th level Witch Lord that gather together can create a cult stronghold to house all these members.

Once again, AS&SH is firing up my imagination for a game.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Witches of the Last Apprentice: AS&SH 2nd Ed.

When I was reading the Last Apprentice books a couple years back I thought that they would work well with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  The vaguely weird fantasy and human-centric worlds I felt worked well with each other.  Plus it seems to me that both works drew on the same original works.  At least that is the feeling I got.

I finished the recent book, I am Grimalkin, just about the same time my copy of  Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, 2nd Edition came in the email. It seemed to me that these two works are destined to remain together in my world.

Flipping through the new book get me into the mood to try out a few of the new classes and see what I could create.   Plus I have to admit that if you took the picture of the man on page vi with the sharpened teeth and fingers on his necklace and made it into a woman she very well could have been Grimalkin herself.

The races of AS&SH are very compelling as well and work with this world.

Alice Deane
Alice is one of the first witches we encounter in Delaney's Spook series. Though we don't know she is a witch at first (but we suspect it) nor do we know how really powerful she is and will become.  I am starting with her because she is the easiest to categorize. She is a witch.   The biggest issue with Alice is for someone so young she is already REALLY powerful. I made some compromises but am happy with this.

Alice Deane
Witch of the Dean and Malkin clans
Female Witch 5th level
Neutral

Race: Kelt
Secondary Skill: Scribe

Abilities
Strength: 10
Dexterity: 10
Constitution: 16
Intelligence: 17
Wisdom: 15
Charisma: 14

Casting Ability: 5
Fighting Ability: 2

Hit Points:  13
AC: 9
Saving Throw: 14 (+2 Transformation, +2 Sorcery)

Powers
1st level: Brew Potions, Read Magic, Read Scrolls, Scribe Scrolls, Witch Spells, Familiar
3rd level: Brew Philtre
5th level: Dance of Beguilement, Effigy

Spells
First: (4) Alter Self, Decipher Language, Light, Scare
Second: (3) Darkness, Hold Person, Perceive Heartbeat
Third: (2) Black Cloud, Wind Wall

Grimalkin
One of the first I did when working on my Pathfinder and D&D 5 stats for Grimalkin was to think about what might be the best multiclass or dual class option to make a "Witch Assassin".  Well AS&SH doesn't do multiclass or dual-class.  Instead they rules have several subclasses that serve the same purpose. I opted to use a Warlock class for her in this case.  I also opted to cheat a little and limit her Warlock spells just to the Witch spell list.  There is a precedent for this with the Warlock taking spells from the Magician, Cryomancer, Necromancer or Pyromancer lists.

Grimalkin
Witch Assassin of the Malkin clan
Female Warlock 10th level
Chaotic Evil

Race: Kimmeri-Kelt (with some Amazon somewhere in there)
Secondary Skill: Weaponsmith

Abilities
Strength: 17
Dexterity: 18
Constitution: 14
Intelligence: 17
Wisdom: 15
Charisma: 14

Casting Ability: 10
Fighting Ability: 10

Hit Points:  54
AC: 5 (Leather)
Saving Throw: 12 (+2 Transformation, +2 Sorcery)

Powers
Magic Item use, Read magic, Read scrolls, Scribe Scrolls, Sorcerery (Witch spells), Weapon Mastery, Stronghold

Spells
First: (4) Charm, Detect Magic, Scare, Sleep
Second: (4) Darkness, Find Traps, Obscure, Detect Invisible
Third: (3) Black Cloud, Delay Poison, Slow

Sword (3/2 attacks) +3 to hit, 1d8 +3 damage
Dagger (3/2 attacks) +3 to hit, 1d4 +3 damage

Thorne Malkin
Thorne is the apprentice of Grimalkin. She got the job at age 10 when she snuck up to the witch and kicked her in the shins.  Grimalkin normally would have killed the girl for her impertinence, but instead saw something in her that reminded her of herself. Thorne has been the apprentice of Grimalkin for the last five years.
For Thorne I am opting for the Legerdemainist class. This class is a subclass of the Thief with magical ability.  I figure anyone that can sneak up on the legendary Witch Assassin it would have to be a thief of some sort.

Thorne Malkin
Apprentice Witch Assassin
Female Legerdemainist 4th level
Chaotic Evil

Race: Kelt
Secondary Skill: Weaponsmith

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

Casting Ability: 4
Fighting Ability: 3

Hit Points:  54
AC: 5 (Leather)
Saving Throw: 14 (+2 Avoidance, +2 Sorcery)

Powers
Backstab, Agile +1 AC, Discern Noise, Hide, Manipulate Traps, Move Silently, Open Locks, Pick Pockets

Spells
First: (2) Charm, Scare
Second: (1) Darkness

Sword +1 to hit, 1d8 +1 damage
Dagger +1 to hit, 1d4 +1 damage


I think I like the Warlock better for a Witch Assassin over the Ledgerdemaist.   But in the case for Thorne I think it still works great.

Can't wait to try this system some more.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Grimalkin the Witch Assassin

"I am Grimalkin, the Witch Assassin.  I am the mother of Death. She follows behind me leaving bloody footprints in the grass."

Also known as "Spook's: I Am Grimalkin" by Joseph Delaney.

I decided to go back to the Last Apprentice/The Spook series since it had been a while since I had read the last book.  This one dealt nearly exclusively with Grimalkin, the witch assassin of the Malkin clan of witches.  We last saw her leaving Tom Ward and the Spook, John Gregory, after they had trapped and beheaded the Fiend.  Grimalkin is now on the run from her sister witches with the Fiends head in a bag.  If they capture her they will bring back the Fiend.

I rather enjoyed this one.  It was a fast read since it was full of action Also the character of Grimalkin is a fascinating one.  We learn why she hates the Fiend so much despite being a malevolent witch herself.  We learn why she became a witch-assassin too and some of her early training.

We also learn a lot more about all these witches.  For example, Grimalkin has an apprentice of her own, Thorn, a girl she is training to be the next witch assassin.  Grimalkin cares quite a lot for this girl and takes pride in her accomplishments much like a mother would.   She also cares for Alice Dean and Agnes Sowerbutts, two other witches we have seen in the past.   Even when acting evil, these witches are very, very human.  Which really puts the past books and especially John Gregory's behavior in some very dark light.  In the end, I was asking who was truly the evil one here?

The book has a great build up but the final battle at the end is over too soon in my mind.

You can find all of Joseph Delaney's Spook's series and books here: http://www.spooksbooks.com/

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 21
Level: Crone!
Witches in this book: 4 featured, hundreds implied.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: They are supposed to be evil witches, but a lot in this made me rethink that.
Best RPG to Emulate it: Nearly any D&D game would work great.
Use in WotWQ: Grimalkin is such a great character. I would LOVE to use her or someone like her in my War of the Witch Queens game.

A while back after I finished Rage of the Fallen I worked up Grimalkin for Pathfinder. I thought it was great, it captured the character well I thought.  For this book I wanted to give her a try for the Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition game.
The D&D5 game does not have witches (yet) but they do have Warlocks, and for this character that works out well to be honest.   She has a "Fiend Pact" which I felt was appropriate given her background in the books.  I went with the variant human so I could give her a dual wielding feat.
I suppose I could have made her Warlock/Ranger as some sort of hunter too, but I liked the idea of giving her the Rogue (Assassin) class.   Maybe I'll try that out with another system.

Grimalkin, the Witch/Assassin for D&D 5th Edition.



Friday, September 15, 2017

Mona Dowie, In Memoriam

You may have already heard or read this by now, but artist and friend of the Other Side Mona Dowie lost her fight with cancer this week.



Her husband +William Dowie informed everyone via Facebook that Mona had passed at 9:08pm on September 13.

Sadly the bills for cancer and now the funeral don't go away.
So if you have a few coppers you can spare please head over to her fundraiser and spare what you can.
https://www.gofundme.com/Mona-Shaffer-Dowie

I feel honored and privileged to have known her. We talked games and our mutual love for witches and Stevie Nicks.  We chatted at length on how she completely got my character Nox.  I shared with her notes from my old Buffy game describing her and she drew exactly what I had without even knowing it.

My thoughts are with her family and especially her husband William at this time.
I can't even imagine what he might be going through now.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #156

It's April 1990.  I am a Junior in University at this point and working on my very first psychology study (I compared incidents of violent imagery vs. sexual imagery in heavy metal and rap videos.  Conclusion: they both love sex. Gave me a solid appreciation of rap and hip hop).  Twin Peaks is on the TV for the first time ever. On my play list though is the newest Sinéad O'Connor album "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got". I even skipped Calculus to go get a copy of it and an extra one for my then best friend (and now my wife). What I didn't have and didn't want though was This Old Dragon Issue #156!

Ok. I didn't own this issue at the time. I knew about it of course. I believe, in fact, I am sure I first saw it at +Scott Thorne's Castle Perilous.  I didn't know how good I had it then, to be honest.

Does it feel like I am avoiding the issue? Yeah. I am.  It's an April Fools issue and not at all one of my favorite ones. Let's get into because there are some seriously nice gems later on.
The cover. Daniel Horne does some great work. This is not one of my favorites, but it is one is funny.  Besides, haven't we all made this joke or some form of it before?

Letters.  Ok, these are all fake letters in an attempt to be funny.  Yeah. Not so much really.

Ad for Dungeon magazine.  Man, I loved Dungeon.  Maybe when I am done with this I could something with Dungeon.

First up in the April Fools section is Not Necessarily the Monstrous Compendium. A collection of "funny" monsters.  Ok, some are fun and I would use them in a crazy adventure like an Expedition to the Barrier Peaks or something with a lot of mutants.

A cool ad for I.C.E.'s Cyber Space game.  Was anything more 90s than that?  Cyber Punk vampires maybe.

Razznarock! is an adventure.
Yet Even More [Gods Forbid] Outrages From the Mages is a Pages From the Mages spoof.

It's not that I don't like humor in my games, it's I just don't find these all that funny.

The Game Wizards covers the newest in computer games.  Mechwarrior from Activision, Champions of Krynn from SSI/TSR and Sword of the Samurai from Microprose.   This is less of a review and more of a "coming attractions".

Another ad, this one from TSR itself, from their book department.
They sponsored a Writing Workshop!  Looks kind of interesting.



I wonder if anything came of this?

Speaking of the book department. J. Eric Severson is up with Novel Ideas, featuring three new Forgotten Realms novels: Iron Helm, Horselords and the Wyvern's Spur.  Again this is half preview, half advertisement. In the 90s novels were TSR's big cash cow.  I personally never read any of the Forgotten Realms books (well, till this year) but I bought and read every single Ravenloft novel printed.  Hey some of those Ravenloft novelists went on much bigger and better things, P. N. Elrod, Christie Golden, Elaine Bergstrom, Tanya Huff and newcomer on the scene, Laurell K. Hamilton.  More on that when I cover those issues.

Other Side favorite Vince Garcia is up with Can You Swim? Juggle? At the Same Time? a new skill system for D&D.  Now this is for the D&D game. The BECMI version, not the new AD&D 2nd Ed game that had a skill system.  Like everything with D&D it is simple and easy to learn.
It is no where near as complicated as his magnum opus Quest of the Ancients might later imply.

Dale A. Donovan is up with the Marvel-Phile with a bunch of villains I have never, ever heard of.  They seem to be based on Alice In Wonderland.

Wrestling with Style is Greek wrestling adapted to AD&D by Janne Järvinen.  It seems to mostly be based on the Illiad, which of course is fine.  At this point I had read the Illiad about two years ago, but damned if I remember any of it.

Let see, a ballot for the Origins Awards for 1989.

Sage Advice is split by a program for the Gen Con Game Fair for 1990.



The whole thing is still really small.

TSR Previews has the "must buy" items for March and April 1990.

Characterization Made Easy: A little personality goes a long way for all characters comes to us from Scott Bennie and is a guide for giving your character some more personality. At three pages it is not exhaustive, but the tips are nice especially in what is essentially a Pre-Vampire the Masquerade world.

Interesting note.  All the adds on these pages for companies in Great Britain.  Made me wonder at first if I had a British edition of this magazine, but my CD-ROM version matches it.

Through the Looking Glass has some great horror minis to show off shading techniques.

Convention Calendar has a lot of cons to hit for the Summer of 1990.

Ken Rolston is next in Role-Playing Reviews.  There is something to notice here first.



The review is copyrighted by the author.   This comes up every so often when people ask whay can't Wizards do another Dragon CD-ROM (well, Blu-Ray ROM now) collection?  OR (and this is my least favorite) since TSR is gone all those old Dragons are in the public domain (no. they are not.)
In this case this little copyright hits on both of those.  WotC, just like TSR before them, does not have the rights to this article.  Sure they printed the first Dragon CD-ROM and they got into a LOT of trouble for it.
Also. If you are reading this right now the Dragon copyright will not "expire" till long after you are dead.  Sorry. I don't make the rules.

So back to the reviews.  These focus on City and Urban adventures.  Now I LOVED playing in cities at this time so this review was heaven-sent.  I grabbed Greyhawk Adventures: The City of Greyhawk and I totally ignored the Forgotten Realms: City System.  I should have gone the other way around.  Though both products have their positive and negative aspects.

The Role of Computers gives us a proper review of Champions of Krynn, saying it is the best AD&D computer game yet!

There are few pages missing from my issue so I turned to the CD-ROM to find that some barbarian had cut out +Bruce Heard's first installment of Voyage of the Princess Ark!  I think I am going to take one of my "This Old Dragon" days and do a retrospective on this.  I have been dying to see it all together in one place as a whole for some time now.  Alas for toady though I can't talk about it since it breaks my rules.  If it is not in the magazine I can't talk about it.

Missing is the first page of the Ecology of Behir. This would have been fun when my players ran into one recently.

Dragonmirth has a bunch of comics complete unfamiliar to me.  Well, I guess I know of Yamara and The Twilight Empire, but I really don't know anything about them.

So the April Fools stuff aside, this turned out to be a fun issue.
While it was published back in the Halcyon days of 2nd ed, it did not contain a lot of 2nd Ed material.  The Greater Behir was notable.

Even at 27 years old this Dragon, for some reason, still feels newer to me.  Maybe because I never owned it back when it was new or maybe because it was out in a time when I was not playing so much I don't attach a lot of nostalgia to it.

What are your memories of this issue?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Conjure Wife

"Women are witches. Fighting for their men.  Tansy was a witch. She was guarding you. But you made her stop."

Here I am with the last book required by the Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge for 2017.  I have more on tap, but for book number 20 I wanted something special.
For this I wanted a book that has been on my list for as long as I can remember.  I was going to use this for #1, but #20 is just as good.

Fritz Leiber's "Conjure Wife" from 1943 has been held up as sort of a prototype of the modern American Witch tale.  Seemingly normal wives in a small East Coast town married to normal, rational men of science and academia turn out to be powerful witches engaged in a silent secret war of magic.

The book is a bit a dated in terms of what the roles of men and women are/were, but at the same time, it is also still very, very engaging.  At first, I didn't think I'd like it due to the casual misogyny in the tale, but the story soon gripped me and once I reminded myself that this was the 1940s AND some roles were over emphasized on purpose. We were not just supposed to believe that these women were quiet, dutiful wives because it was the 40s. It was also the mask they wore to hide the fact that they were everything BUT that. They were intelligent (more so than their husbands), clever and some down right evil and all were powerful.   By the end of the book, you are left feeling that the men in this tale are really no more than children, a bit dim ones at that.

Leiber is a masterful storyteller and Conjure Wife is no exception.  There are some great plot twists and turns and his characters are well developed.  Norman and Tansy are likable characters and very easy to relate to.
It is no wonder that he is featured so prominently in both AD&D's Appendix N and the "Suggested Readings" in Moldvay's Basic D&D.

The book was made into a movie three times.  "Weird Woman" (1944), "Burn Witch Burn (1962)/Night of the Eagle", and " Witches' Brew" (1979).  Of the lot "Burn Witch Burn" was the best if I remember right. I have them all on tape somewhere.

This book is available in multiple formats and covers.  It is a true classic.

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 20
Level: Crone!
Witches in this book: 4, none or millions.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: Tansy is a good witch.  The other three, not so much.
Best RPG to Emulate it: Something modern would work nicely.  Certainly Chill or Call of Cthulhu might work well.
Use in WotWQ: The modern setting is less suited for the faux-medieval setting I am looking for in War of the Witch Queens, but Tansy certainly fits the bill as a witch queen.  The idea of every woman having some sort of power in secret would make for a lot of fun in a game.  That old chestnut of a normal cat being more powerful than a first level magic-user becomes scary when you think who might be controlling those cats.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Monstrous Monday: Imp of the Perverse

"We have a task before us which must be speedily performed. We know that it will be ruinous to make delay. The most important crisis of our life calls, trumpet-tongued, for immediate energy and action. ... It must, it shall be undertaken to-day, and yet we put it off until to-morrow, and why? There is no answer, except that we feel perverse, using the word with no comprehension of the principle. ... The clock strikes, and is the knell of our welfare. At the same time, it is the chanticleer-note to the ghost that has so long overawed us. It flies—disappears—we are free. The old energy returns. We will labor now. Alas, it is too late!"
- Edgar Allen Poe, The Imp of the Perverse

The Imp of the Perverse is a small invisible imp that can be summoned much as any other demon to cause someone harm.    The imp is small, no larger than a rodent really, and invisible to all but those with the ability to See*.
(*Eldritch sight, detect magic, detect curse, detect invisible, or other such magical sights.)

Imp of the Perverse
Basic-era stats
No. Enc.: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaos (Chaotic Evil)
Movement:  120'(40')
    Fly: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 9 [10]
Hit Dice: 1+1
Attacks: 1 (bite)
Damage: 1d4
Special: Invisible, Suggestion of Harm, only hit my magic weapons
Save: W1
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: None
XP: 50

The Imp of the Perverse is a small demonic creature that can be summoned and attached to another victim. Once done so the Imp will sit on the victim's shoulder while holding onto their ear. The imp will then whisper in the victim's ear convincing it to harm themself.

The victim must first make a saving throw (vs. Spells, see below). If this save is made the imp does not latch on and is free to roam about to find another victim (those victims will then need to save) until it tries and fails three (3) victims or the magic-user that summoned it returns it.

If the victim fails to save the imp is latched on and becomes completely invisible.  No amount of detection on the part of the victim will reveal it attached. Others might.  The imp can only be removed with a Remove Curse, Exorcism or a properly worded Holy Word or Banishment spell.

Until then the victim makes a saving throw every day to see it they do something to harm themself. A failed save means that something occurs that seems natural that will cause them harm.

On the first failed save they will take 1d6 total damage. On each failed save after that they will take an additional 1d6 hp of damage; so 2d6, 3d6 and so on until the victim is dead or the imp removed.
Once an imp has been removed or it's victim is dead will it become visible once again and can be attacked.

Summon and Bind Imp of the Perverse
Level: Cleric 3**, Wizard 3, Witch /Warlock 3  (**evil/chaotic clerics only)
Duration: 24 hours
Range: Special
By means of this spell, the caster can summon an Imp of the Perverse from the Demon Realms to latch onto a victim.  The victim must be known to the casters and some item of the victim must be present when the summoning and binding are complete. The familiarity of the victim is helpful to the caster to prevent the victim from saving against the attack.

Familiarity Save Bonus/Penalty
Unknown +3 bonus to saves
Known by name +2 bonus
Know each other (can identify each other) +1 bonus
Know well -1 penalty
Know intimately -2 penalty
Same blood or kin -3 penalty

Material Components: The caster needs a personal item from the victim: clothes, a bit of hair, fingernail, drop of blood, and the like.  A bit of copper wire and loadstone.  The items are tied to the loadstone with the copper wire.


Friday, September 8, 2017

Kickstart Your Weekend: Aliens in Dungeons, Wizards and Warriors in the Mean Streets.

Starfinder is the new hotness, but D&D 5 is still going strong.  So it seems natural to have a product that can support both.  So here is one of the first:

Alien Bestiary for Starfinder and 5E RPG


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/legendarygames/alien-bestiary-for-starfinder-and-5e-rpg

I am sure converting to White Star will be easy.

If Starfinder takes the Pathfinder rules to the far future, Modern Adventures takes it the dark streets.


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/highergrounds/modern-adventures-tabletop-rpg

I love modern adventure games and like so many I am not yet ready to retire my 3.x-era rules.

I really like what they have here.  Yes, there are LOTS of OGC/3.x based modern games out there but this one has a neat vibe about it.  There is something in it that feels a little like Kult or Chill.  I can also see you playing a cool Supernatural-like game.  I might even pull out my notes for the long abandoned Anita Blake game I was working on to see it would work there.

Combine these two books and you could have the best kick-ass game of X-files outside of Conspiracy X.

Both look really fun!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #74

It's June 1983.  I had just turned 14 so I took about two dozen friends to the movie to see "Octopussy" in the theatres on my birthday (remember when I said I was a huge Bond fan?) and it was great.  In the stores the new covers for the AD&D core books are out and yes I had to buy them.  Bond is in the theatres, new covers on the shelves, Naked Eyes on the radio and There's Always Something There to Remind Me in This Old Dragon Issue #74!

First up this issue is in REALLY good shape given the issues near it (CORRECTION, I have two of these. One is in good shape, the other with the Combat Computer is in terrible shape).  Yes, the combat computer (more on that later) is still there and still intact.  But let's talk about this cover first.   Nothing is more iconic D&D than a group of adventurers fighting a dragon. This cover is one of the more memorable ones.  I did not buy this issue when it was new, but people I gamed with had it and it was well used and well passed around.

The editorial also covers birthdays.  This is the seventh anniversary of Dragon.  Last week I covered the 9th anniversary and like that issue, this one has some dragons in it.  They mark the date in a very subdued fashion. That will change.

Gary is up first with an entry of From the Sorcerer's Scroll in Warhorses and Barding.  Exactly what it says. One might be tempted to pass up this article and flip on past the big James Bond ad, and ignore the second half.  That would be a mistake.  Gary lets us know that a line of official D&D 25mm miniatures are on the way.   We also learn of a script for the Dungeons and Dragons movie that "... is a remarkable piece of work, one which could well lead to a film as successful as STAR WARS or E.T. It will do a world of good for our hobby . . ."  Thankfully Jeremy Irons is really busy during this time and Thora Birch is only 1 year old.   Also on tap is something Gary and Marvel Productions are calling "THE DUNGEONS & DRAGONS CHILDRENS SHOW".  So reading in 1983 which one of these sounds like the better bet?  Yeah, I was wrong too.

In another long standing feature, Lenard Lakofka with Brad Nystul are both up in Leomund's Tiny Hut. This issue features the Bureaucrat class with the Politician sub-class.  I am not kidding.   It does read like a misplaced April Fools article, but there is too much seriousness in it.  Ok, now I am 100% certain that someone out there reading this now used these classes back in the AD&D1 days.  But come on, really??  Next time someone tells me how much better everything in the old Dragons used to be I will agree, but I will also show them this article.   Not every old is good and not every new is bad.

Ah, now this is the stuff I remember and wanted.  Ronald Hall is up with the Land Dragons.  I loved this article. It was original and it felt like a great addition to the game.  I can remember laying in bed reading this article. It was a great stuff.  With these and the new dragons in the Fiend Folio and the MMII I wanted to over run my world with all sorts of different dragons.

Not to be outdone, The Electrum Dragon by Ed Greenwood is next.  This one I didn't like as much.  Oh sure I liked having more dragons, but this seemed forced since electrum was (in theory for me at the time) electroplated silver with gold.  Later I opted to keep Electrum Dragons in the Realms and Steel Dragons in Greyhawk.

Ah, now here is a memory! Ed comes back with Elminster in tow for Seven Swords: Blades of the Realms.  Now this is a proper article for magical swords.  They have names and they have histories.  And Elminster is looking into them, tracking them down.  This is also great stuff.  Back then I was totally into just what were enough details to convince my DM to put them into our games.  Today I am much more interested in their tales.  Well done Ed. It took me long enough to get your point, but I finally got it.

The Ecology of the Bulette by Chris Elliott and Richard Edwards also does exactly what it is supposed to do.  It makes the "land shark" interesting.

Arlen P. Walker is up with an article I ignored then but am giddy over now.  I was also a fan of the Man from U.N.C.L.E., it was a great mix of James Bond (and even had Ian Flemming's fingerprints on it) and Sherlock Holmes.  Tracing THRUSH's nest. The place: London The time: 1894 is a GREAT article that I will steal for a Victorian game.  I love the idea of THRUSH being tied to Moriarty and Moran of the Holmes stories. This article expands on that.  The companion article, In trouble? Say UNCLE The date: New York City The time: now, is also fun.

Arlen P. Walker is up with a 3rd article with Spying on the spies, which details the research that went into the previous two articles and their sources.

Lewis Pulsipher is next with The Vicarious Participator which is some role-playing advice on how to mange the two predominant styles of role-playing at the time, the full immersion actor sort and the man-behind-the-curtain sort.  One IS their character, the other only tells what the character does in a 3rd person sort of way.

Here we go with the centerfold.  The (infamous) Combat Computer!
Over the years I have heard tales of love and tales of hate for this thing.  One thing you never hear though is that it was designed by Tracy and Laura Hickman.
I personally liked it, but by the time we started using it we had already started homebrewing stuff.  The first version of my Healer class was in play (and soon out of play, it didn't work) and my witch class was on the way.
Plus we had bigger plans back then...



(there is also a big Gen Con XVI program here. Yes you could fit it all inside Dragon)

D&D Beyond,
1985 Color Computer version
(transferred to 3.5 from 5.25 disks)
Which brings us to
Q: What do you get when you cross a Dungeon Master with a computer?
A: Programmed character creation without human hesitation!

This article and program by Joseph C. Spann was not a revolution for my group.  It was a factor, but by 1983 everyone I knew who played D&D was also in the Jr. High Computer club and computer classes together.  We all wrote bits of software to emulate various parts of D&D.  We had pages and pages of BASIC code for the good old TRS-80.  I had other friends that were just as active on their Apple II's and Commodores. My DM and I finally created a really perfect bit of software for the TRS-80 Color Computer.  It could store 10 characters (more on disk once we upgraded to that) and we put in every monster in the books.    This article captures that time really well.  The software itself though takes away the visceral joy of rolling characters, but we did not care.  In the 80s D&D and Computers were going to come together and soon.  Maybe even before the D&D movie.

So when I hear arguments or complaints of "we never used characters builders back in my day" I say BULLSHIT.  Not only did we use them, we wrote them.  We spent hours learning how to code to do exactly that.  Like the article says:
"It cannot be simply coincidental that there are so many roleplaying game enthusiasts among our nation's rapidly growing number of computer hackers. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say so many computer hackers among the ranks of RPG players, as evidenced by the presence of computer-oriented columns and information in gaming magazines like this one."
So maybe YOU didn't try out a character builder of your own but everyone I have ever gamed with from 1979 on has.

The trouble with code is it takes up a lot space. And let me tell you, typing all that in and getting an error. I am so glad I don't have to do that anymore.

Not many articles from this time get quoted or talked about much these days, A Player Character
and his Money by Lew Pulsipher is a notable exception.  I always found his discussion on moving to the silver standard very interesting.  I have often wanted to adopt it, but felt the hassle to correct the books and math constantly to make it not worth it.

Let's see, some listings of Sci-Fi conventions.

Tony Watson is up with The SF "universe" An in-depth examination of the STAR FRONTIERS game.  Something of an ad, something of an overview/preview and editorial.  It's long too. I really, really enjoyed Star Frontiers back in the day.  Two percentile dice, crazy races, giant-ass battery packs on your back to power your lasers. Though give me a gyrojet gun any day.

Off the Shelf has some books. No kidding right. Well, it has one book in particular. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I have a long and complicated relationship with this book. More than I care to unpack now.  Sometimes nostalgia is about looking back and remembering something fondly. Sometimes it isn't.  I really loved this book back then and read it a few times.  I have some issues with it and the author now.

Ads..lots of them.

What's New does spies. Wormy does...what ever it is Wormy was doing.

Near the end an ad for the previously mentioned AD&D minis.

Landmark issue to be sure.  Full of nostalgia for the actual articles and less for the ads.

What are your memories? Did you use the Combat Computer? Write your D&D software?

Want to know what I was saying about White Dwarf from the same time?  Come back to the City of Irilian and check out White Dwarf Wednesday for Issue #42.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Eclavdra, D&D Beyond test and stats

I have a big three-ring binder FULL of stuff for my upcoming D12-3/Q1 adventures.  I have been wanting to do this for years and I am very excited.

To that end, I have been prepping on various fronts.  Here are the fruits of some of that labor.

As you might remember I signed up for D&D Beyond.  I am in for the whole deal, the books the builder all of it.  So I have been trying out different sorts of characters to get a feel for what works.

So far I find it superior to the builders I used for 3e and 4e from WotC but not quite as flexible as Hero Lab.  But for D&D 5 with all the content at my finger tips is great.  The HUGE plus for me is the ability to do it all on my Chromebook, switch to my Windows PC or laptop, switch to my phone or tablet or even use my Ubuntu Linux Frankencomputer.   For me, that is the best selling point.  I use too many different technologies that are cross compatible now, I expect that in the tech I use for fun as well.  While working on characters for this post I moved seamlessly between my Chromebook and Android phone.  I have not tried it on an iPad yet.

So far I have only used the character builder and the ability to look up material.   There is a lot here and I have to admit I get a kick anytime a bit of art from 3e and 4e pops up.

Eclavdra
I figure what better to test out this tool and to prep for my "Against the Drow" adventures is to stat up a new version of the classic Drow High Priestess Eclavdra.
Note: This is not going to be a "Power Score" like retrospective like +Sean McG does.  He does a far better job at that than I can do.



We get very little about her in the pages of G3. She is a Drow High Priestess of Lolth. She has some fighter ability and she is also serving the Elder Elemental Eye/Elder Elemental God/Tharizdûn.  +Joseph Bloch would know more and has likely talked about it a lot on his blog.
I have seen 3rd and 4th edition stats for her and I know I have 2nd ed stats for her somewhere.
I was hoping that the recent Tales from the Yawning Portal would have something more "5e-ish" for her, but other than some neat art (above) and a mention, nothing.  Not even the basic stats we got in the original G3.

Last year I talked about Eclavdra when I was getting ready to run the Giants series. I noted then that she was listed as:

Eclavdra (10th level cleric/fighter; H.P.: 60, Wisdom 17, Dexterity 18, Constitution 10, Charisma 18; Armor Class -8 = +3 shield, +5 chainmail, and +4 dexterity bonus).

So I started with that and compared it to the 4e stats I had at hand.



 I know I wanted to change her around a bit, keep her levels of Cleric but instead of Fighter, I gave her 4 levels of a Blade Pact Warlock of Tharizdûn.  I used some feats to also round out her fighting ability and I am very pleased with what I came up with.


A couple of things.  AD&D had lower ability scores but more powerful magic items.  This Eclavdra has greater Charisma and Wisdom, but she is unlikely to have a magic +5 anything.  So her 5e Armor Class of 16 seems weak compared to her AD&D AC of -8.  I might make her elven chain a little more powerful.

I am limited to the items in the software; that is until I make some more myself to use.  Good candidates here are +3 Elven Chain and her Tentacle Rod (not in the software or her sheets just yet).
But all in all I am pleased.  Like I mentioned above the ability to go back and forth on the platforms I use all the time appeals to me.  The phone version is also not too bad. I created a complete character on my phone with no difficulty.



If you want to check her out for yourself here is the PDF output the builder gives you.

Eclavdra, D&D Beyond Sheet.

It might not be perfect, but it is pretty good.

Most of the nitpicks I have with it are rule interpretations that I thought I had known.  So before I call them "bugs" I want to recheck my rulebook.

Is it worth the price tag?  Yeah, for me it is, but we are playing a lot of D&D 5 in this house these days.
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