Thursday, November 30, 2017

This Old Dragon Issue #111

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big ad for GURPS.


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

Lots of ads...

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

PWWO: Mighty Protectors

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

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

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

Mighty Protectors and Villains & Vigilantes 2.1


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

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

Mighty Protectors & d20 Silver Age Sentinels / BESM d20


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

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

Mighty Protectors and Mutants & Masterminds 2.0


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

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

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Mighty Protectors: We Can Be Heroes

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


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

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

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

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

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

Paladin
Standard 150 CP Build

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


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

Teen Witch
Low 100 CP Build

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


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


Witch Queen
High 200 CP

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


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

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

Monday, November 27, 2017

Review: Mighty Protectors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Mighty Protectors for Sweeps Week

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


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


I am having a lot of fun with this!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Weekend Gaming: The Second Campaign

Got some great gaming in on the weekend.

Moved forward more with the Second Campaign.


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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

Friday, November 17, 2017

Skylla: Quest of the Ancients

I am posting this as part of the RPG Blog Carnival for November: The Past Revisited hosted by Campaign Mastery. This is a sequel to all my Skylla posts and my Quest of the Ancients posts.

Quest of the Ancients is one of those games I keep coming back to.
Not for the game itself mind you, but for the witch class.  Author Vince Garcia's love and devotion to the witch is equal only to my own and it shows in his game.

I reviewed the game a while back.  I figure it is close enough to *D&D that I should give my Skylla a try.

Skylla
Level 7, human Witch

Armour rating: 1
Tactical move: 10'
Stamina points: 18 (Die: d4)
Body points: 10
Stots: St 9; Ag 11; Cn 10; IQ 15; Ch 12; Ap 12: Lk 7
Attack 1
Dmg: 1D4+1 (dagger) or by spell
Ethics: E
Size: 5'4", 130#

Witch Abilities
A: Create Focus (Demon skull helm)
B: Additional Combat Skill Slot (4 total)

Skills (150 points)
Animal Handling: 25%
Herbalism: 40%
Nature Lore: 40%
Read & Write (Elvish): 45%

Spells
Rank 1: Beguile, Helping Hands, Light Ball, Magic Dart, Read Magic Script, Unlock
Rank 2: Discern Magic, Fire Darts, Fire Tounge, Net, Night Sight, Witch Wand
Rank 3: Charm, Electric Arc, Sheet Lightning, Witch Knock
Rank 4: Lirazel's Globe of Invulnerability, Staff of Absorption

Very interesting.  Her combat is not quite as good and it's harder to learn new languages.  But she gets a lot more spells.




Thursday, November 16, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #49

Bit of a cheat today.  I went out to my FLGS and picked this one up just so I could review it today!  I wanted to have a look at the Alchemist class.  I was having a conversation online with a former co-worker and former White Wolf designer about the Alchemist.  I thought it might be fun to go back to the source.  So set back, enjoy because They Don't Write 'Em like this anymore. It's May 1981 and this is Issue #49 of This Old Dragon!

Let's talk about the cover first.  Wow. Nothing gets my early 80s gaming nostalgia going more than Tim Hilderbrandt.  A freaking HUGE dragon attacking a castle? Wow. That's some next level D&D action there.  The adventurers have retired and suddenly the big brother of all those dragons they killed comes a knockin.

Lovely old-school ad for ICE's Arms Law. 

So we learn right away that Dragon has a new publisher, Jake Jaquent and a new EiC, a young man by the name of Kim Mohan.  I bet we will hear more about him in the future.

You can really tell this is much older issue.  The first couple of articles deal largely with Tournament Play and Judging.

In the interest of fairness... by Dr. Allen Barwick fresh off the heels of Origins discusses the ins and out of judging a tournament game.

Philip Meyers has some more advice on The Slave Pits revisited.  It would have been interesting to have read this back when I ran the Slaver's series.  Granted, I was not doing it as a tournament play, but still, it would have been interesting.
Frank Mentzer has a rebuttal to this in Mentzer’s reply: It isn’t that easy.
I have run one (maybe two??) tournament games before.  It was fun, but not something I want to seek out to do all the time.

Related to all of this is a nice bit on Gen Con keeps on growing. No word on attendance predictions, but there will be over 170 events at Gen Con 14.

Anthony Salva is up first (! it's page 18 already) with the Samurai NPC class to fill that 80s need for everything Japanese.  Yes, I did own a copy of a Book of Five Rings too.   We are still few off from the official Oriental Adventures. But this is not a bad class really.  I never played Samurai at all, but I do see the appeal.

Merle M. Rasmussen has an article for Top Secret. This one covers various types of ammunition.
I really admire Merle's continued dedication to this game. That dedication is on display here in the long article. 

Karl Horak is next with a world-building article for D&D and AD&D; Getting a World into Shape.  Into shape is a bit literal, using various flat solids to represent a globe for mapping purposes.  This is something of a lost art in my mind.  I LOVE mapping software, especially ones that can give me a globe and a flat map.  But these skills are still very useful.

A series that I really miss is up next. Giants in the Earth covers some characters from Poul Anderson.  We get Holger Carlsen (14th level Paladin), Hugi (5th level fighter) and T. J. Morgan’s Ellide (6th level fighter).  Not familiar with these, but it is still fun. 

G. Arthur Rahman has an article on Historical Names.

Jon Mattson has an article that appeals to my obsessive desires to convert everything to everything else. Monster Mixing: Converting AD&D Monsters to Chivilary & Sorcery is exactly the sort of article I loved.  It gave me insight to a new game from the lense of a game I already knew.

The center section deals with the art and insight of Tim Hilderbrandt.  It is interesting and a real departure from the normal Dragon fare.

has a new creature. New even to me.  The Norga is a cat-like beast that causes darkness.  It is kinda cool really. Wonder if it ever got updated.
Ah, now we are at the feature I bought this for,.  Len Lakofka is back with his Tiny Hut feature giving us yet another NPC class that we all played anyway.  A Recipe for the Alchemist gives us a sub-class of the Magic-User. It's a long article giving us the level information for the Alchemist as well as the types of things an alchemist can create.  As with many of the classes from Lakofka it is elegant and very playable.  There are many great ideas here and I'd love to explore this class in depth a bit more.

Gary Snyder and Roger E. Moore have two independent guides on Wishes.  I took a novel approach to wishes in my games, I stopped having them.  No ring of Three Wishes and the Wish spell is severely Nerfed.

Travel & threads for DragonQuest by Paul Montgomery Crabaugh covers travel in the DragonQuest game.  DQ was always one of those games I knew about, read about and never got to play.   It looked like fun and I remember flipping through it a lot at my local bookstores.  Maybe I should pick up a copy, I bet they are pretty cheap on eBay (checking...eep! not as cheap as I hoped!).

The Eaters of Wisdom by Glenn Rahman looks like fluff for a game, but I can't tell what game.  Could be for any, certainly could work for any. 

The Eletric Eye covers a couple of new programs.  A BASIC program for keeping time for wandering monsters and a TI-58 Calculator program also for keeping time.  I think I still have a TI-58 here somewhere.  Maybe I could try it out.

Interesting Dungeon Hobby Shop ad.


Ed Greenwood is up with an opinion on Players Don't Need to Know all the Rules.  Pretty sure I disagree with this.

Dragon Mirth,  What's New (still in B&W), Wormy, and some Finieous Fingers.

Honestly a fun issue and worth the price.

I will admit it has a real White Dwarf feel to it for me.  Not sure why.
IF you are curious you can see what I was saying about White Dwarf at the time in White Dwarf Wednesday #24.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Save Versus All Wands: Witches in Early D&D

+Oakes Spalding has a great post over on his blog about Witches.
Save Versus All Wands: Witches in Early D&D


It is worth checking out and is the kind of analysis I do on my own but should really post more often because it is interesting. 

The post, like most of what Oakes does, is OD&D focused. So don't expect a lot about Dragon #43 or Dragon #114.

Still it's a good analysis and post and I enjoyed it.

This comes from his research while working on SEVEN VOYAGES of ZYLARTHEN.
The game is a "cleaned up" version of OD&D or a clone.
You could use his witch along with my own Swords & Wizardry witches in particular my "White Box" witches and ones directly influenced by OD&D such as Eldritch Witchery.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Tharizdûn Link Round-up

Doing some more Tharizdûn related research.
I figure I can put this links in a document somewhere OR I could post them here for others to take advantage of and maybe even give some feedback.

From the D&D page at WotC
The Return of Elemental Evil
Monster Mythology
Zuggtmoy Demon Queen of Fungi

Greyhawk Grognard
Here are some other posts I consider "must read" on my goal to build this gigantic conspiracy of evil.
Grognardia 
Now gone longer than he was with us there are some good posts still to be found in James' output.


Power Score
No one does the deep dive like Sean does.
The History of Elemental Evil

YouTube: Dungeons and Dragons Lore: Gods of the Realms: Tharizdun (Video)

Interesting idea. Is Ravenloft the plane that imprisons Tharizdûn? Or was it caused by his dreams?

My own Tharizdûn label.

The Village of Hommlet and the Temple of Elemental Evil
Links I am currently reading for "inspiration".
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Forgotten_Temple_of_Tharizdun
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tharizdun
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clark_Ashton_Smith_deities#Thasaidon
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghaunadaur#Ghaunadaur
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elder_Evils
http://forgottenrealms.wikia.com/wiki/Tharizdun

EN World: 5e, Elder Elemental Eye,  Ghaunadaur, Tharizdun, and the Forgotten Realms.
EN World: 4e Stats
EN World: 3.5e stats
EN World: Theoparts of Tharizdun

Dragon Magazine #294, 3.0 stats for Tharizdun
Avatar of Tharizdun, 5e

http://www.canonfire.com/cf/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=968

Giant in the Playground: Tharzidun

More soon.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #70

Let's go all the way back to the winter of 1983.  I was in 8th grade and getting excited about the new Return of the Jedi movie coming up.  Toto had knocked out Men At Work for a week with "Africa". In the theatres we cult classics like "The House on Sorority Hill", "The Entity" and "Videodrome". Though I would not see any of them myself till they came to videotape. At this point my gaming life was dedicated to the B/X rules but I was also moving over to AD&D.  It was a great time for gaming. It's February 1983 and this is issue #70 of This Old Dragon!

To begin I want to spend some time on this cover.  I really like this cover. I am not sure why really. It's not really D&D-ish or action filled or has magic in it.  But I have always liked it. It is by Dean Morrissey and has a Viking vibe to it.

Out on a Limb has readers asking for more coverage of other games. The "problem" we now face is there are so many games out now!

There is a little note here looking for native language Japanese speakers to translate D&D and AD&D games.

Ed Greenwood gives us another entry into the "OMG how much stuff was Ed writing back then?" file. This time another NPC class, The Smith. No word on whether or not you should name one Morrissey.  It is a good example of something that either a.) doesn't need to be a class or b.) justification of a "tradesman" or "expert" class like we later got in AD&D 2nd Ed (Masque of the Red Death) and D&D 3rd Ed respectively.  That all being said there is a lot of material here to help you decide what the local smith can do.

Bruce Evry is up with The Hull Truth About Speed. Or how size effects speed in ships. Interesting, but I never did much with ocean voyages till much, much later in my gaming career.

From the Sorcerer's Scroll is up and Gary Gygax has his rules for Social Class.  These would later appear in Unearthed Arcana more or less exactly as they appear here.
This is followed up by Frank Mentzer with how to use social classes in your games in A ‘Caste’ of Realistic Characters.  These are rules we used a lot in my games.  Social Class, in particular, Lords vs. Everyone Else was a big deal.

Frank is back with another go at Falling Damage. Back when this issue was new there were multiple independent D&D/AD&D groups in my Jr. High.  Consequently, there were also multiple independent methods of calculating "more realistic" falling damage.  So these articles were always a source of lively debate.  "Lively Debate" I think I meant 13-year olds arguing on who was right and who was stupid.

Come to think of it. Social Class and Falling Damage.  Sounds like a perfect metaphor for the 80s.

Giants Can be Awful or Awe-ful by Roger Moore is one of the enduring articles of this issue. It is one I come back too every so often when wanting to add a special guest NPC to a game. The "Giants" of the article refers to the "Giants In The Earth" column with NPC stats for some of literature's famous characters. What is also great about this article is the Appendix to all the Giants articles of the past with a list of characters and very brief class stats. Circe, for example, appeared in issue 52 and is an 18th level magic-user.

Gary is up again with the Deities and Demigods of the World of Greyhawk.   This time we get three that I have always thought of as his favorites; Boccob (the Uncaring),  Zagyg (the mad arch-mage), and Olidammara (the Laughing Rogue).

Dwarves in Space by Roger Moore was an article that always appealed to me.  Essentially it is get D&D style dwarves into Traveller.  It works and Moore gives us plenty of great reasons why it would work.

Not to be outdone, Ed Greenwood is back (again!) and going in the other direction. A Second Volley is another look at firearms in AD&D.  Like Moore, he makes some good arguments.  Enough that I might give it a try in my next game.  Won't that freak out my kids!

The centerpiece is Mechica is an AD&D adventure for 5-8 characters, each of 4th-7th level by Gali Sanchez.  It is set in a Pre-Columbian Meso America like setting.  Among other things, it introduces a werejaguar monster.  It is a short adventure but looks like a lot of fun.  The setting appeals to me as well.

Ken Rolston has some advice for game masters in How to Make the Most out of FRP Tournaments.  We don't see much in the way of Tournament play anymore, having given way to organized play as the means of "official rules" play.  But there is still some good advice here.  It is quite a long article that can be summed up by "Anticipate what your player wants and what their characters can do."  It goes into far more detail than this.  I think I am going to put this on my TBR pile to re-read before heading to Gen Con again.  It would be great to run some more games this year and this might help.

Tim Grice has some mechanics of playing chess within an AD&D game in The Game Within a Game.  As per the 80s the rules are nearly as complicated as chess itself! Just kidding.  I used a similar idea when I had characters in Ghosts of Albion play the old Celtic Fidchell game as part of a challenge by a faerie lord.

Ken Rolston is back again with some reviews of Citybook I and Daredevils. He liked both products.

Nice big ad for some RPGA modules.

Phil and Dixie have advice on a lucrative career in game design.

Wormy battles a giant black leopard with wings.

No small ads or Dragonmirth.   Maybe my copy is missing them.
Nope, checked the CD-ROM and they are not there.

Ok.  So a great "pre-history"* issue of Dragon.
*by pre-history I mean before my personal history with Dragon.

What was White Dwarf doing at the same time?  Oddly enough I posted my White Dwarf Wednesday #38 almost exactly five years ago today (give or take a couple of days).

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Production Will Be Down

Posting will be down in November here at the Other Side.
Normally November is a lighter month, but it will be even lighter than normal.

I have about four major projects due to four different publishers now.  Nothing I can talk about yet, but it is good to be wanted.  When I can talk about them be assured I will!

I will say this
One is about witches (of course)
One is for White Star
One is for D&D 5
and one more I can't talk about at all.

So know that the wheels are still going here and the lights are on. But I just can't come to the door right now.

Hope to talk about these all soon!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Stranger Things: Zoomer Archetype for D&D 5

"See. Zoomer."
- Maxine "Mad Max" Mayfield

Stranger Things 2 is out and many of you may have binge watched it all by now. We just finished this past weekend and thought it was just as good as season 1.  The newest character introduced is Maxine "Mad Max" Mayfield a new girl from California.  When the boys digress into D&D talk, she makes the statement that she could be a "Zoomer", which gets the predictable results from a bunch of middle schoolers in 1984.

Well, I thought that a Zoomer could totally be a thing.

So here is a Zoomer Rogue Archetype for D&D 5.

ZOOMER

Windrunner by Stanley "Artgerm" Lau
In this world, you have learned there are two types; the quick and the dead.  You prefer not to be among the dead. So speed is not just what you do, it is what you are. Get in fast, attack fast and get out fast. Live another day.

QUICK ATTACK
Starting at 3rd level, you can use the bonus action granted by your Cunning Action to make an extra attack. Strength bonuses do not apply since you are compromising power for speed.

FAST ON YOUR FEET
When you choose this archetype at 3rd level, you gain the ability to move faster than normal; Your base speed increases by 50%. So characters that move at 30 ft can now move at 45 ft.  Terrain that slows down other characters will still affect you, but based on your new movement rate.

UPPER HAND
At 9th level, you may add +5 to your initiative rolls.

BLUR
Starting at 13th level, you move at twice your base speed.  Sneak attacks must still be made at normal movement speed; which is half speed for you.

FASTER THAN THE WIND
When you reach 17th level, you can attack three times per round.  These extra attacks ignore any bonuses due to strength.


Obviously, I have not playtested this, but I think it could work out nicely.
What do you think Max?



Sunday, November 5, 2017

Gog and Magog!

A while back I presented stats for two Balor that I use in my games, Gog and Magog.

I always wanted to get minis for them, I always thought it would be fun to have them both and have them encountered by a party at the same time.

Well since it had been a cold, rainy weekend here in Chicago my wife decided to do some painting.

Here is the original Balor that I got with some mini set years ago.


Here is the repainted Balor, Errtu from the Legend of Drizzt board game.




I love the new lightning whip and fire sword!  The brass talons on his wings are a great touch.
LOVE the black touches on the wings.



I think it looks fantastic!  So glad my wife loves doing this.

Can't wait to use them in a game!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Kickstart Your Weekend: Demons!

I am a huge Castles & Crusades fan.  Any chance I get to play is a good one.  So when they have a Kickstarter I pay attention.

Castles & Crusades Tome of the Unclean


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/676918054/tome-of-the-unclean

I am a sucker for Monser books.  If they have demons or undead in them so much the better. If they are dedicated to demons or undead then I am sold.  I have the PDF versions of this, but to get it as a physical book with add-ons would be great! 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #130

Not moving too far ahead from last week but that is cool.  We are coming up on an issue that I remember back when it was new but never owned till recently.  So without further ado lets go back to February of 1988 for issue #130 of This Old Dragon!

This cover, while it never gets mentioned in the same breath as some of the other great covers is still a favorite of mine.  Linda Medley gives us a very evocative cover (no pun intended) and she also did the cover for April 1987 #120.  I love the witch's hair flying all up in the air. It's a witch/magic-user/wizard, summoning a demon. What's not to love. Especially given the times.  In 1988 the Santanic Panic had winded down and was now just an embarrassing memory to many.  BUT there were still those out that there screaming D&D=Satanism, so much so that demons and devils were not even part of AD&D 2nd ed till much later.

I would love to have this one as an art print for my game room too.

The magazine has also gone through a couple of cosmetic changes.  The dark background banner "Magazine" now appears under "Dragon".  There are other changes inside that I associate with the "2nd Edition" era, although that was not really due to start yet.  I guess this could also be called the "Post Old Guard" era or even "The Roger Morre" era as he is the publisher.

Letters covers a wide gambit of people wanting more minis, people wanting to get their alt-rules D&D game published, and people talking about the visual change to the magazine.
Roger Moore's editorial talks about how modern times are weirder, and more dangerous than most sci-fi games.

Another ad for the Sci-fi book club.  I think I read most of these books.



The Forum has the usual rules clarifications and questions from readers.  One suggests removing the Illusionist class. Wait a year or so and you get your wish.

We get to the main feature of this issue, The Arcane Arts. A nice big section on magic. Not sure why I didn't buy this one then?

John N. Keane is up first with Get the Most From Your Magic. An article on what spells to take of various levels.  It's a bit meta-gaming and a bit informed career advice.  It is fairly specific to the oddities of 1st Edition, but I think some of it still applies to 2nd ed and of course most OSR books.
It is particularly useful for the list of spells, level, duration, and sleep and study times.  So you know how often to use it.  It is the sort of analysis that I really enjoy.

The article is interrupted for the small ads.  Weird. I assume it is to right the page count so we can have the ships in the middle with the instructions surrounding them.

Magic from East to West by Len Carpenter covers spells found in the Oriental Adventures book that can be ported over to the Players Handbook.  Again, fairly 1st specific.A couple of spells are added to round off the selections. There are some good ideas here of spells, but it's been so long since I read OA I am not sure if this is a good sampling or not.

Speaking of doomed Illusionists*, Brian Tillotson is next with Hold on to Your Illusions!
*Ok, I know illusionists did really go away, but the illusionist as a class as presented in AD&D1 did for the more flexible and more powerful AD&D2 illusionist. So this article still has a lot of value even in today's 5th Edition world.  Some of the spells have changed, the principles are still there.
Worth a read if you ever play an illusionist.

Nice huge, full-color ad for GDW's MegaTraveller. I do not dwell on past regrets when it comes to the games I have played or not, but I do wish I had played more Traveller when I was younger. I am still not 100% sure what are the differences between all the versions of Traveller.

John N. Keane is back with magical disguises in The Faces of Magic.  There are also spells listed that mimic thief abilities, as well as cleric and druid spells.

We come up to one of my favorite articles and one I remember the best from this issue.  Better Living Through Alchemy by Tom Armstrong gives us not only an alchemist class (some D&D has needed in my mind) but also a primer on Alchemy and how could work in the game.  There have been attempts both before (Bard Games "Compleat Alchemist") and after (Pathfinder), this is the one I liked the most.  Playing the class though was hard. It had higher XP per level than the wizard and there was little they could do without their lab. The article is dense. That is in the sense that there is a lot here to read and unpack. I think one day I am going to need to do a Class Struggles on the Alchemist someday.

Come up to the fiction section next. "Shark-killer" by Carol Severance.

Continuing the Magic theme, The Game Wizards by Jon Picken covers magic and the wizard class of AD&D 2nd Edition.

I think there was something in the middle here, maybe some ships?  But nothing is here.  Checking the CD Rom and my other copy.  Nope nothing. I could have sworn there was something here.

The Dragon's Bestiary has a collection of Gamma World monsters. I would have thought a collection of wizard/magic related monsters would have fit the theme better.

For Top Secret we get a collection of special watches in Keeping A Good Watch by Ryan Grandstaff.  A lot of these seem quaint now, but this was cool stuff in 1988.

Remember when Richard Branson opened up some game stores?  Me either, but Virgin Games Centre was totally a thing in 88.


Jody Lynn Nye has an article on Dungeon Etiquette or how not to be a jerk player.

Maybe this is why I thought this issue had ships.  Margaret Foy has an article on The Oriental Sea. Here though the ships are just described and given game stats.

Malcolm Bowers ends the regular section with If Looks Could Kill. An article all about gaze weapons and attacks and how to avoid them.

Speaking of Bard Games, there is a nice ad for Talislanta miniatures.

The Marvel-Phile has a bunch of heroes I have never heard of.

Role of Computers covers software.

Dragonmirth has a batch of particularily unfunny comics this month.  gah.
SnarfQuest and Wormy close out the issue.

Really a solid issue with a lot of material that can still be used today. My copy of this magazine is in pretty good shape too.  I think I will find uses for it at my table.

Want to know what I was saying about White Dwarf around the same time?  Check out my White Dwarf Wednesday #98.

Don't forget my newest book The Witch for Swords & Wizardry Continual Light is now out. At under a buck-fifty it can be yours!


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