Friday, February 24, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Spellfire

"If it's Lady Spellfire they want then it is Lady Spellfire they shall have!" - Shandril Shessair

Shandril is just small town girl, living in a lonely world...a wait. Well, she is lonely and living in a small town. She is an orphan girl working for ex-adventurer Gorstag in his inn.  She dreams of going on an adventure of her own.  So seeing a potential group who are short a thief, she steals their weapons and lets them know that if they want them back they need to take her on.
Soon she is swept up in the glory of adventure...which mean eating bad food being cold and afraid most of the time.
But Shan is special, and she finds herself in the ruins of Myth Dranor, pursued by an evil sorceress and devils. Rescued by the infamous Knights of Myth Dranor and none other than Elminster himself.  It seems Shandril has a power she is only now learning about. She is a spellfire wielder. She can absorb magic and turn it into blasts of flame so hot that with out training she destroys first one, then two and finally three draco-liches (great undead dragons of terrible power).  Keeping mind that most people never even meet one, let alone survive it!
Now she is being chased by the Cult of the Dragon, another group of evil Mages and who knows all else and they all want her secret. or her dead.

This is the first Forgotten Realms novel I have ever read.  There is a vast library of knowledge in and around the Realms and I have been pretty much blind to it for various reasons.  I picked this book a local library book sale.  I was always a fan of the Clyde Caldwell cover art and even have it hanging in my game room.
The book is enjoyable. It is clearly gamer fiction, but it has it's moments.  The author has a lot of affection for these characters, that is obvious, and you can tell there is much more goign on in his head than what is down on paper.  My issues as a newbie here was there were too many characters to keep track of.  Shandril and Narm are likable enough and Gorstag was the most relatable to me.
It did however, make me want to read some more Realms books.  Rater looking forward to it.

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 7
Level: Maiden
Witches in this book: Certainly The Simbul, The Shadowsil and maybe, just maybe, Shandril too.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: All the above
Best RPG to Emulate it: This book screams 2nd edition AD&D even if was published at the end of 1st edition AD&D.  Either would work out well.
Use in WotWQ: Hell yes! I have started on a quest of my own to read about the Seven Sisters (which The Simbul is part of) and use them in my games.


The Witches of the Realms

Let's have look at Symgharyl Maruel also known as the Shadowsil.  She certainly "feels" like a witch. An evil witch to be sure, but recognizable.

According to the Forgotten Realms Villian's Lorebook, The Shadowsil is:

The Shadowsil (Symgharyl Maruel)
human female 18th-level mage
AC 6; MV 12; hp 36; THAC0 15; #AT 1; Dmg by spell; MR Nil; SZ M; ML 18; AL NE; XP 12,000.
S 9, D 16, C 14, I 18, W 15, Ch 15.
Spells: 5/5/5/5/5/3/3/2/1.

Special Equipment: Ring of dragons, ring of protection +2, rope of entanglement, wand of fire.
Description: Tall, slim, and cruel, The Shadowsil was likely a Cult enforcer or high-level operative of some kind. She wore purple robes and was a former apprentice and paramour of Elminster before she turned to cruelty and evil. She died in his arms, proclaiming her love for him and her regret over their lost love.

If I were to turn her into a witch I'd use my Basic Witch rules with the Advanced options and make her 18th level. She would loose a 9th level spell, but gain powers.

This is also a good time to try out a Draconic Tradition.  My son and I have talked about Dragon Witches before, what they might be and how they work.  There are also the Dragon Witches from the Tarot comic and some others.

Symgharyl Maruel, The Shadowsil
18th level Witch (Draconic Tradition)
Female, Chaotic

Strength 9
Intelligence 15
Wisdom 15
Dexterity 16
Constitution 14
Charisma 18

Saving Throws
Death Ray/Poison 7
Magic Wands 8
Paralysis, Polymorph 7
Dragon Breath 10
Rods, Staffs, Spells 9

Hit Points: 63
AC: 1
(leather armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Dex 16 -2)

THAC0: 14
(I know, THAC0 was not used in Basic D&D. You know what this means)

Occult Powers*  (have not worked these all out yet)
Familiar: pseudo dragon
Lesser: Access Draconic Bloodline (allows the witch to cast MU spells as Ritual Spells)
Minor: Draconic resistence (avoid fear effects and add Cha bonus to saves)

Spells
Cantrips (6): Alarm Ward, Chill, Daze, Ghost Sound, Inflict Minor Wounds, Spark
1st (6+2): Black Fire, Cause Fear, Charm Person, Endure Elements, Ghostly Slashing, Glamour, Light/Darkness, Minor Fighting Prowess
2nd (5+2): Discord, Enthrall, Ghost Touch, Hold Person, Invisibility, Phantasmal Spirit, Spell Missile
3rd (5+2):  Bestow Curse, Dispel Magic, Feral Spirit, Lifeblood, Toad Mind, Witch Wail, Fireball (bloodline spell)
4th (4+1): Analyze Magic, Elemental Armor (Fire), Intangible Cloak of Shadows, Phantom Lacerations, Withering Touch
5th (3): Blade Dance, Dreadful Bloodletting, Waves of Fatigue
6th (3): Death Blade, Mass Agony, True Seeing
7th (3): Death Aura, Greater Arcane Eye, Wave of Mutilation
8th (2): Destroy Life, Mystic Barrier,


Thursday, February 23, 2017

How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Enjoy the Forgotten Realms

This is an update of sorts to a post I made all the way back in 2012, which itself was an update to a post I made in 2010.

Since then my 4e game died and I moved on to 5e and sticking with more of a Greyhawk-based world.  During all this time I have also been picking up Forgotten Realms books from various places; half-price books, the local library sale for novels, and of course +Games Plus auctions.  I have built up a small, but I think nice collection.


I have always been a Greyhawk fan. Some of my very first games were looking for ancient Suel mysteries or exploring the dirty streets of the Free City of Greyhawk.   While I ran my adventures in the Known World of Mystara, I played in Oerth and Greyhawk.

For years I even combined the two into one world, and that worked out pretty well.

I remember reading about the Realms in Dragon Mag and I was never impressed.  The increased fetishization of the Drow and Drizzt worship turned me off as well. I can't tell you how much I despised "Lloth", it's LOLTH goddamn it. Any way. I was never a fan of the Realms.  I considered it to be a pretender to Greyhawk and not a very worthy one at that.  To me, Realms fans were snotty little kids with delusions of adequacy.

My opinions have softened since then. I picked up the 3.0 Realms Guide when it came out and I liked it.  I felt it was a good book and all it really was missing was monsters.   I enjoyed the 4th edition books and thought for a while that the Realms would be my 4e world.

I bought the recent Sword Coast Adventure's Guide for 5e. I rather like it.


I have also been reading some of the Forgotten Realms novels.  They are not great literature by any stretch, but they are fun bits of gamer fiction and they give me some insight to the world.



So what's my plan then?  I don't think I am going to run any games yet in the Forgotten Realms.  I don't know the world well enough to do that.  So there are no plans to move my "Second Campaign" or "War of the Witch Queens" over to the Realms.  I am planning to move some ideas and characters certainly from the Realms to my War of the Witch Queens games.

There is a thought lurking in the back of my head about taking the Sword Coast and trying to find some place for it in my current Mystoerth world.  THAT has appeal to me.  I know that the World of the Forgotten Realms is different, with it's own history, but I would not be taking all of it. I would not need too. Just the bits that fit.

Anyone else merge the Realms with other worlds? How did that work out?

Also, there is something I have wanted to explore more; the Mystra and Mystara connection.  "Mystara" is the name of the game world I have been using since Basic.  "Mystra" is the name of the Goddess of Magic in the Forgotten Realms world.  Is there a connection? Should there be one? I don't know.  Maybe this is something the characters could discover and me along with them!

Chances are good I am going to go through these books I have and post about them here.  I'll go in publication order.  If I run into something from "This Old Dragon" I'll add those as well. I know already there is an adventure called "Into the Forgotten Realms" that I will check out.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

This Old Dragon

I have a bad habit of buying whole collections from people when I find them on Craigslist, Facebook or even at local flea markets.   Typically I find one or two items I really want, a dozen or so I can sell in the local game auction twice a year and then there are the leftovers.

Sometimes the leftovers are items that are so damaged they won't sell or are not even gaming related.  Recently though my "leftovers" have been old Dragon magazines.





I picked up a box of Dragons recently that are mildewy, dusty, and the vast majority are missing their covers.  Others are just water damaged. I stick them all into a box under my desk. Well, now they all have to go.

While I could just dump into the recycling (they are in really piss poor shape) I thought maybe I should go through them all first.

So that is what I am I going to do.

Introducing "This Old Dragon"!

This feature should be  (have not decided on the day yet) and I will grab a mildewy issue and read through it.  This will be a review feature like my White Dwarf Wednesdays, but there will be some notable differences.

1. I am not going to go in order.  I am grabbing a magazine out as I see fit and then I'll review it.   If there is an issue you want me to cover, we will both have to be surprised.  I am not even sure what issues I have.  I think the lowest is #54 and the highest is #160, but I can't be sure.  I am going to grab an issue in the morning, pop it open on my treadmill and go for a run.

2. I am not going to cover everything in the magazine.  This is part out of choice and part out of necessity.  Some of the magazines are missing pages, others have pages too damaged to read.  Plus I only want to devote my attention to articles I like or would like to revisit.  In this case it means I am likely to ignore the comics, but maybe focus more on the fiction I never read.

3. I have no idea what I have. Like I said I have a vague idea. I know I have duplicates and in one case triplicates of some issues.  There are many I don't have.

I am also not going to try to step on any toes of people reviewing Dragons now. If I see someone reviewing or have reviewed the same issue, I'll post a link.  Likewise, if you have something you want to say about an issue posted then post away!

I'll do this for a while and see how it goes over.  What do you think?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Russian Dragonlance Musical

People have a lot of opinions on Russia these days.
Gamers have always had a lot of opinions about Dragonlance.

But wherever you fall on the spectrum of opinions on either of those topics you are going to have to admit that this is kind of cool.

Here is the official Russian musical stage adaptation of the Dragonlance world.


The musical is called "The Last Trial" and it is based on the second (and better) Dragonlance Trilogy Legends.  You can easily pick out which characters are which even if you don't speak Russian (which I don't).


I guess it has been in development since the 90s.

There is a website dedicated to it here, http://lasttestmusical.weebly.com/ and of course a Facebook page.

To my knowledge, there is no Russian musical of the Forgotten Realms or Greyhawk.  So Dragonlance has that in its favor.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

More Hero Forge Minis, Part 2

About a month ago I posted pictures of my new +Hero Forge Minis.   Since then I got in contact with +Epic Die Studio and they were looking forward to painting some Hero Forge minis. Plus they were nearby, so it looked like it was going to be good match.

I was wrong.

It was a GREAT match!

Here are the unpainted minis:


And here they are again after Epic Die Studio did his magic.







Love the design on the shield.  Great for a warrior of Bahamut





Skylla!



Taryn and Mojo




If you live in the Chicago area they are totally worth checking out.
I am beyond pleased with these.  Can't wait to do some more.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Zatannurday: Zatanna in Justice League Dark

Zatannurday? Twice in a row?
What sort of magic is this?

Last week (but not in time for last Zatannurday) I watched the new Justice League Dark movie.

Here's a somewhat spoilery clip of just how much of a bad-ass Zatanna really is.



You almost feel bad for Felix Faust....almost.

No. I have not played this backwards yet to see what she is saying.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Kickstart Your Weekend: The Book of Passion

It's the week of Valentine's Day.  My wife and I have a LONG overdue date night and Misfit Studios has released their latest Kickstarter for OGL 3.75 (D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder I take it).

The Book of Passion, by authors Will Wells and Margherita Tramontano, adds role-playing rules for love and sex to your OGL 3.75 campaign. Long-time game designer/editor/developer, Christina Stiles, will publish the book via Misfit Studios.


To find out more about this project I went to the authors to ask some questions.

Interview with Will Wells and Margherita Tramontano

(Full Disclosure: I work with Misfit Studio on the Strange Brew line of Witch and Warlock books.  Margherita has contributed to my book. This book and Strange Brew share editors Christina Stiles and Robert Hudson in common as well as artists Jacob Blackmon and Peter Bradley.)

Tim: So with tell me who you are and what your other publications of note have been.

Will: Well, I'm an English teacher from Cleveland who has been gaming since 1999 (see next question) and has been creating fan-made rule systems and modifications to the same for basically just as long.  I love to translate what I see in film, books, and video games into tabletop rules (likely from my start with the Fusion system, which did that for Bubblegum Crisis - again, see below).

Most of the time, this sort of thing has just been for my own personal use.  In fact, that's how the Passion Mystery started.  Sometimes I post my system modifications on the Paizo forums for others to use as well (again, as seen with the Passion Mystery).

As for official paid publications, my only current publications are outside the gaming realm - although that is about to change in a big way - Margherita and I have been doing a lot of work for Christina Stiles the past few months.

Also - fun fact - I've been trying to write a bio for the front-matter of some of the aforementioned work, and haven't been able to hit the right tone.  I think I just did here, so if you don't mind, I'm going to steal basically everything I just said for my official bio.

Margherita: Well, I am an Italian Literature teacher and a mum of two boys. I always wanted to be a writer since I was a little child. I published two volumes of poetry and some chapters of my fantasy novel… then I began sending articles to Wayfinder. The Paizo forums put me in contact with so many great persons that also were authors and publishers, so I tried to send something to them too. And here I am, working with people I look up to.
In recent years, I published articles in several issues of Wayfinder, on the Kobold Press blog with a series of options for their shaman class, and in the new version of Green Ronin Publishing’s Advanced Bestiary (Teratocephalos template). I also co–authored four Letters from the Flaming Crab for Flaming Crab Games and created the Esotericist oracle archetype for The Knotty–Works; for Everyman Games, I am the author of Childhood Feats and Mysteries of Passion; and I contributed to The Colossal Creatures Bestiary for Zenith Games with the kaiju Dypthera. For Christina, Will and I co-authored and developed the Talented Adventurers of SpirosBlaak line. This year more projects in which I am involved should see the light!

Tim: I suppose I should ask how you all got into gaming. So. How did you get into gaming?

Will: Back in 1999, I picked up a copy of the Bubblegum Crisis RPG because I was a huge fan of Bubblegum Crisis.  Having bought the book, it only seemed right to try it out.
From there, I jumped into 2nd Ed D&D just before the release of 3rd Ed - and 3rd Ed just made so much more sense to me than THAC0.

Margherita: It was a little tragic. I was involved in a game run by a friend, and since I always was curious about RPG, I accepted (it was a 2E campaign). It did finish well for my character, but much less well for me. I thought it would be an heroic Arthurian fantasy manga campaign, while the master and the other players were all into gothic dark Arthurian fantasy manga gaming. Like so many newbies, I couldn’t keep myself and my character separated, and the game’s flavor caused me a long period of deep depression and anger.
Fortunately, this stimulated me to learn more about the game, to understand whether I was wrong or my master was. I read manuals, tried to translate rules, created my own characters, campaign, game world and novels, and- well, ultimately I fell in love. I began to write my own rules at first just for myself. I found many beautiful netbooks of rules written by gamers (one was the Netbook of Witches and Warlocks, another the Complete Guide to Unlawful Carnal Knowledge!).
I never loved 3E or 3.5E much, however. But one day I found Pathfinder. The rest is history.


Tim: Great.  Now tell me about the Book of Passion.  Who’s idea was this and what are you hoping gamers can get from it?

Margherita: It was in part a coincidence. Will had started a thread on the Paizo forums with his first draft of the Mystery of Passion. I was searching for a way to convert one of my 2E characters to Pathfinder (the same that became my iconic romance oracle in the Book of Passion), and his idea was the nearest thing to her I could found then. So I answered to the thread with some ideas to make the mystery better. Before we knew, we were working together, exchanging ideas for the mystery, then for oracle archetypes tied to the mystery, then for other classes… I don’t remember which one of us had first the idea of making a book, but we liked it more and more. I had already proposed some pieces to Owen K. C. Stephens and Christina, so I thought to try sending some examples to them. And now, after some years of work, the book is nearly ready to become a reality.

Will: For me, it started with the release of Paizo's Advanced Player's Guide.  I loved the Oracle class during the playtest, and was eagerly awaiting the final book to see what interesting options would be released for clerics of Calistria.  I preordered the book and, when it finally arrived, I practically tore it open to get to the Oracle section and - nothing.  No mystery was listed for Calistria.  I was really disappointed - and after a brief snit, I decided that the best way to fix this was to make my own.

Except, of course, that Oracle mysteries are intentionally broad, so I couldn't make one specifically for her - I had to pick an aspect that she represented.  Plus, since I was also a huge fan of the works of Jacqueline Carey (particularly Kushiel's Legacy), I kept Naamah in mind as well.  Sacred prostitution is a shared theme between both goddesses, so that's where I started.

Tim: I am looking forward to that, I have used Naamah myself in other games.  What is one of your favorite features about this book?

Margherita: Among the parts I wrote, I like the Merciful Oracle archetype -the one that my iconic uses- but also the Chasmalim angel, which is the good counterpart of a succubus, and of course my pregnancy and hybridization rules, and the stats of my character. Among the parts Will wrote, maybe the richest of hints, flavor and fantasy are his descriptions of sex-oriented societies. But the Mystery of Passion is the book’s nucleus, the one from which everything else has grown, and we wrote that together!

Tim: What sort of games/stories do you expect that people will use this for?

Will: Any story that features romance, love, or sex.  Many (if not most) published Pathfinder adventures (by any publisher) feature these things, but they were usually on the "plot" side of things with no mechanical elements.  For example, in one adventure I can recall off the top of my head, it is a minor background note that two of the major NPCs are in a lesbian relationship with one another.  Aside from some motivations, however, this has no impact on the character builds.

With the Book of Passion, that could change.  Now, if there are two characters (PC or NPC), they could choose to take "Marriage Feats" - a special kind of teamwork feat that only works between individuals in a romantic relationship (they don't actually have to be married, but if you are choosing feats together, that's pretty significant commitment).

It can be as simple as that - or as complicated as the GM and players like.  During the playtesting for this book, I ran a game that resembled a fantasy romance novel.  There was a lot of political machinations, covert intelligence gathering, and - yes - a lot of seductions and romances.  Characters fell in love, entered into complex relationships (including a particularly complex polyamorous relationship between a married couple, their lover, her other lover, and his fiancee), suffered heartbreak, and in one case got murdered by a botched assassination aimed as the person sitting next to them.  The game was high melodrama and a lot of fun, with the archetypes, feats, and spells from the Book of Passion being a great way to flavor a character.  In fact, two of the three iconic character we present in the Book of Passion are from that game.

On the far end of the spectrum, we also playtested in a grim low-fantasy setting more reminiscent of Game of Thrones with a bit of Berserk (the manga) thrown in than anything like the usual Pathfinder setting.  And there, too, the Book of Passion was highly useful.  While there was far less magic in this game, several of the archetypes proved useful, as did a number of the more sinister monsters from the Book of Passion's Bestiary.

That's the thing - sex and romance are part of most of the stories we tell.  Whether they are the main focus, like in the romance novel game, or they are part of the tragic background, like in the low fantasy game, they're almost always there, somewhere.  Being able to make romance more core to a character, either through an archetype, feat, or spell, allows that oh-so important part of our characters' lives to be represented in their builds.

Margherita: I hope it will not be used to traumatize players or GMs! (Laughs) The book can be used not only to decide if a character gets pregnant or not, it also offers great tips for roleplaying many different situations and relationships in which sex must not necessarily be involved. If someone is just in search of “new positions”, then this is not the book they want.


Tim: It has to be asked, but is this just “Sex in D&D”? (nod to any old-school gamer that remembers that one).

Will: Yes - and no.  We do an update to some of the more common rules for sex presented in several different 3rd and 3.5 books, but that is literally the first half of the first chapter.  Sex has been part of D&D for a while now, and Pathfinder in particular has embraced that to a much greater degree than previous versions of the game.  However, while sex is a present and important aspect of the game, there is little a player can do to use sex meaningfully as part of their character.

That's where a lot of our work in this book comes in.  By far the largest chapter is a series of archetypes and class features for every class from Core, APG, Ultimate Magic, Ultimate Combat, and Advanced Class - all of which have to do with sex or romance in some way.  These features aren't just about flavor - they're about making sex and romance useful.  If you are a cleric or oracle who is granted spells by a god or goddess of fertility or sexuality, you should gain powers from that deity that relate to those aspects of the deity.  If you want to play a high class prostitute who uses sex to draw out information from his patrons, you can do that.  Or, if you want to play a knight with a pledge of courtly love to a noblewoman, you can do that too.  Archetypes for all of these concepts - and many, many more - are supported in such a way that even games that stick to a "fade to black" style PG rating can still use them.  A lot of game tables don't like to get into specifics but still use sexual themes, and we wanted to make sure they were covered as well.

Margherita: Nooooo. Love has many facets, and sex is just one of them. Will appreciates quality erotism, while I have a more romantic and platonic approach. We integrated both these points of view into our work. There is the temple prostitute inside, but there also is the virginal healer, the platonic lover, the courtly love-voted cavalier and bard. Passion is a nearly limitless subject.

Tim: So a related question.  What about the supposed “adult” content in this book. What do say to potential critics?

Will: First of all, I would ask where they were during 3.5 when at least five books on this topic (working sexuality into D&D) were released.  The concept of this book is nothing new - it's the execution, and the fact that it hasn't been done for Pathfinder yet, that make our book special.

Secondly, if you're talking about nudity, then I would remind any potential critics that the 3.5 "Book of Erotic Fantasy" used actual photographs of real models for its nudes, often photo-shopped in a very "uncanny valley" way to attempt to create magical effects.  We're using drawings - beautiful, well crafted drawings.  Again, anyone in a snit about this is nearly a decade late to the barbecue.

Does the book talk about sex?  Yes, quite a bit.  In fact, I make a point in chapter 1 to define sex as "oral sex, anal sex, vaginal sex, tribadism (aka scissoring), manual sex (aka hand-job or fingering), brachiovaginal insertion (fisting), or any other direct stimulation of one or both partners' genitals."  We don't just talk about sex - we talk inclusively about sex, making sure to cover various types of sexual relationships.

We also talk about the concept of "sex-positive" both as it applies to the book at large and to societies in various game settings.  Unlike some previous books on the topic, we don't make any assumptions about what a given race's sexual mores are and instead provide guidelines how sex-positive social mores might interact with various alignments.

Of course, we also talk about love and romance.  As I mentioned before, our archetypes are as likely to be focused on the emotion of love as they are to be on the physical act of sex.

Margherita: We always used a respectful language and a respectful approach to the many ways in which people see love. Some of the monsters and characters included in the book enjoy rape or non-consensual domination: these are evil. Many more enforce reciprocal trust, fealty and sincerity in a relationship, and defend even love that some would find “wrong”. These are the good ones and the model roles we hope to show to our readers.


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

Margherita: Tiffany Aching. Because she will be the greatest witch in the Discworld and has surpassed even her teacher. She has all her teacher’s virtues and none of her teacher’s quirks. Though if I were a witch, I’m afraid I would be more a Magrat than a Tiffany.
Oh, and the witch I created for Christina, Marena Lenoire, is cool too. (Laughs)


Will: Favorite Witch?  Wow, how specific.  Okay - for me, that would be Anthy Himemiya from Revolutionary Girl Utena.  While she isn't a "traditional" witch, that is how she's described in the show, and she does have the power of illusions.  As to why - Anthy's story is that of a victim breaking free of her own guilt and finally walking away from her abuser.  She makes mistakes along the way and betrays her best friend, but it is that very betrayal - and her friend forgiving her for it - that finally makes her see that she can't keep being that person anymore and needs to change.  And change she does.  Her character arc is both tragic and uplifting, horrible and beautiful, and I love her to death.

--

Personally I think it looks like a lot of fun.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Plays Well With Others: D&D 4th Edition and D&D 5th Edition

Wait...what?
Seriously though hear me out on this one.

Long time readers will know of my enjoyment of 4e when it first came out.  I felt there was a good game here, even if it was not 100% D&D-like-we-knew-it.   Well it was pretty much derided by any old school gamer and those that did like it, loved it with a passion.

Well yesterday +Thomas Denmark over at Original Edition Fantasy/Rules posted a video about how to incorporate elements of 4e into your 5e game.
https://originaleditionfantasy.blogspot.com/2017/02/dr-strange-edition-or-how-i-learned-to.html

Here is the video he shared.


It's an hour long, but the YouTuber Matthew Colville is so earnest about this that it is fun to watch.  BTW he has a lot of other D&D videos as well. The guy is obviously a gaming evangelist so his enthusiasm is contagious.  So much so that this morning before getting everyone awake I dove into my 4e monster manuals.


It seems that Colville is onto something here.

I have mentioned before that there a number of 4e innovations I would like to adopt in my games.  Among these are some of the conditions, in particular bloodied, and the minion rules.

But today I want to talk Giants.

My group is working their way through a modified and expanded version of the G series.  They finished G1, "G4" (the R.C. Pinnell Stone Giant adventure) and G2.  Next they are going to do a mish-mash Cloud/Fog/Storm Giant one before going on to G3 and the Fire Giants.  But before that they are going to do a one shot based on the old Conan story, "The Frost Giant's Daughter".  My adventure will be called "The Frost Giant Jarl's Daughter" though roughly the same plot.

I will be 100% honest here. I was never a big fan of giants for most of my D&D adventuring days.  That is until 4e helped turn them into something else.  In 4e (and possibly before, I might have missed it)  Giants became the products of Primordials and Elemental forces.  They were not just "bigger orcs" but something else.  I really liked the 4e versions of giants that included not only giants, but also titans.  So you could have a Frost Giant and a Frost Titan.  The Titans were larger and more tied to their elemental natures.

In the G4 module I did a bit of this with the main Stone Giant being replaced by a 4e style Earth Titan.

In The Frost Giant Jarl's Daughter I am going to take Colville's advice and run the giants with more of the 4e elements than I had previously.  A lot more in fact.


The adventure takes place right after G2 (I am calling it G2.5, but I guess G2.45 is a better code).  The party must cross a glacier to get to the next point in the series.   However, along the way, they will be taunted by the apparition of a beautiful girl.  Now I need to be careful here.  I have an elf woman that has been following them all the way from the A series. They think she is a thief, but in reality she is a spy from another group that wants the same things the party wants.  I don't want to run into the cliche of a beautiful woman actually being something else.


Along the way there will be three 4e crafted encounters; a group of Winter Wolves, Frost Giant Skeletons and finally her two Frost Giant brothers.  The Jarl's Daughter is a Frost Giant Ice Shaper from 4e; or maybe the Frost Titan, have not decided yet.  So she is going to have some very nasty tricks up her sleeve.

If this works well then I am planning on doing this more in the Fire Giant's adventure.


A bit of personal history.  Back in the earliest days of my gaming when I was going through these adventures myself I found a 60mm metal mini of a knight in bronze armor.  To me it looked just like the picture of the Fire Giant from the Expert set.


I wanted my DM to use it as an advanced Fire Giant Knight.  Someone that would come out to challenge the players.  Given that the art above also has a passing resemblance to Brian Blessed in his younger days (think Flash Gorden era) he would be very bombastic. Well on the day we did G3 I forgot the mini.
Somewhere over the last 35 years I lost the mini.  I remember his leg broke off and I was very disapointed that my Fire Knight never made it to battle.  Well thankfully I have the internet and I found a replacement.


That's the Fire Giant Queen and next her is the Schleich Dragon Knight Hero.  He is not perfect, but he is really, really, really close.  I can use the Fire Titan stats for him and give him all sorts of kick ass powers, like Hurl Lava and Burning Wave.

The Cloud Giant queen, who is in reality the bastard daughter of the Storm Giant King and a Cloud Giant Sorceress, will be recast as a 4e Eldritch Giant.


D&D5 has long been touted as the edition to unite all editions.  I have seen that certainly in terms of Basic and 1st through 3rd.  There are some remnants from 4rh here, but we could do with some more.  4th Edition, despite it's issues, had a lot of really cool innovations and I'd hate to see those lost.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Huntress

"I don't need a killer. I need a Hunter."
- The Faerie Queen to Kaede

A fairy-tale retold.  Warring Fae Queens. A world plunged into an endless, lightless winter.  Two powerful (even if they don't know it yet) female leads. Romance. Betrayal. World changing events? It's like author Malinda Lo was reading my Christmas list!
But seriously.  Huntress is a prequel to Lo's fantastic Ash, a retelling of the Cinderella story.  In this case we learn of the history of the King's Huntress and how she came to be.  Though Kaede is not the Huntress of Ash, not is she a Huntress yet, but it is no spoiler that she will be.  If she survives this tale first.

The story focuses on two 17 year girls, Kaede and Taisin.  Both are in the academy of sages. Kaede is from a well to do family, her father is the Chancellor to the King. She is not a great student and really has no magical talent to speak of.  She is good at throwing knives and picks up the bow through out this tale.  Her father wants to marry her off to a Lord in the south to strengthen ties, but Kaede, who prefers other girls, wants nothing to do with that.  In truth, she wouldn't want it if her father offered to marry her off to a noble Lady either.  Taisin, on the other hand, is from a poorer family, but she already has the Sight and is capable of other magics. It is Taisin's vision and an invitation from the Faerie Queen that bring them together and place them on the road north to Taninli, City of the Sidhe.
The world is currently into its third year of a seemingly endless winter; or rather the summers are poor, there is no light and things are getting worse.
Kaede, Taisin along with the Prince and some his guards must brave to road to the Faerie Queen's land to find out what is going on and how to stop it.
We also must learn what Taisin's visions of Kaede mean and if there is anything she can do to change them.

Like I said, this book is overflowing with the things I love.  Long time readers here will immediately see the parallels between this story and my own "Come Endless Darkness" campaign here.  There are lots of really, really good ideas for my games from this book.
Are their witches? Of course there are!  One could consider Taisin a witch.  That label certainly fits her better than "Wizard" or "Oracle".  There are also named Green Witches in the form of Mona later in the book.  Also, Ash tells us of a Green Witch that cast spells to protect the Huntress.  If this is a prequel to Ash, then how do we know that the Green Witch so mentioned wasn't Taisin herself?

If I extend the concept a bit further the idea of a Huntress is similar enough to my Witch Guardians in practice, if not form.  Malinda Lo is drawing on some deep mythological concepts here and breathing new life into them. It's one of the reasons I could not put this book down.
In fact, I could not but help think back to the otherwise dreadful "Snow White and the Huntsman" and wonder how a "Snow White and the Huntress" would fare in Ms. Lo's more than capable hands.

Using this Story in a Game
Without giving too much away the line of Huntresses starts here.  The Huntress would be charged with protecting the lands between the human and sidhe worlds.

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 6
Level: Maiden
Witches in this book: Taisin, Mona and the Faerie Queens.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: Everyone does good as they see it, even if it doesn't look that way to others.
Best RPG to Emulate it: Any form of D&D will do. Must have a good witch class and a Feywild.
Use in WotWQ: So many ideas. First and foremost there is the obvious ideas for "Come Endless Darkness", the effects on the people and the land.  For War of the Witch Queens there is the answer of why my Witch Queens would want to involve mortals in their affairs.  Easy, they can't act directly against each other.

Personally, I would be shocked if Kaede didn't make a guest appearance in my games someday.  In Pathfinder she would easily be dual classed witch/ranger.  She started out as a witch (or maybe a cleric, oracle or something) and then became a Ranger.
In Blue Rose she would start out as an Adept and then move on to Warrior/Expert.
In fact, I think she might have to appear with an army of Sidhe warriors just in time to save the characters from undead before they get into Death's Ride.  If I do 5e, then she would have the Sage background, one or two levels of wizard (with limited spell choice) and maybe 13 levels of Ranger.  OR this would give me a good excuse to try out an Oath of the Ancients Paladin or the new Hexblade Warlock for 5e.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Powers of Darkness and the Dracula Myth

I do not consider myself a Dracula scholar. I have a number of rare Dracula related texts, read many more and pretty much seen every movie or stage play featuring the eponymous vampire count. My last (as in last ever) acting performance was as, appropriately enough, Dr. Seward in the Hamilton Deane play.  I try to reread the book every three or fours years or so.
I also once had a great conversation with a former Black Panther turned Educational reformist oh how horror in general, and Dracula in particular, was great insight on what people's fears are at the time.  We discussed how things he was doing and feeling as a young revolutionary in the 60s was being written about in the fiction of the time.  Great stuff.  Wish I had taken better notes.

So is it safe to say I am a fan who knows what scholarship is out there and I have read some of it.

So imagine my joy when I discover that there was/is another translation of Dracula out there.  One that was created nearly around the same time as the original, but with enough distance to be something new and old at the same time.

Over at Literary Hub they discussed the Icelandic translation of Dracula known as Makt Myrkranna, or the Powers of Darkness.

The book originally includes a forward by Bram Stoker, but it takes a number of interesting turns from Stoker's text.  The author, Valdimar Ásmundsson, includes mentions of the Ripper muders and a tantalizing preface that eludes that all the events in this book are true.
To the best of my belief, there is no doubt whatsoever that the events related here really took place, however unbelievable and incomprehensible they may appear in light of common experience.

[. . .]

I emphasize again that the mysterious tragedy described here is completely true as far as the events as such are concerned, although in certain points, of course, I have reached a different conclusion than the people involved. But the events as such are irrefutable, and so many people are aware of them that they will not be denied.
This is a long-held conceit in many post-Stoker works on Dracula.  We can't say it started here, it started with Stoker's novel itself, but there is something very seductive about this.

Scholars have long been under the belief that the Ásmundsson translation was merely a translation and an abridgment of Stoker's novel.  

Hans de Roos, the author of both the LitHub article and new re-translation, gives us some interesting insights to this lost translation, which ends up being more than expected.  There are the expected name changes; Johnathon is now Thomas, Mina is Wilma and Lucy is Lucia, but there is more to it that just that.

Mina/Wilma now accompanies Harker to Transylvania. Renfield is gone. And Dracula himself plays a much larger role.  That is one of the biggest things people who have not read Dracula don't know; how little Dracula is actually in the book.  It also seems that there are more sections that seem to be drawn from Stoker's own notes and incomplete manuscripts.  

Flipping through this book that is at the same time familiar and new*.
*Side Note:  I call situations like this a "Modula 2" moment. Back in college, I was a pretty proficient Pascal programmer. I later picked up other languages like C, C++ and Modula 2.  Modula 2 is so like and yet unlike Pascal it is like learning the same thing over again from an entirely new perspective.  If I ever mention Modula 2 here, this is what I mean. 

While I can't wait to jump feet first into this tale, it has gotten me more excited for my modern supernatural/supers game with Dracula as my big bad.

I am not anywhere close to getting this adventure together; either what the characters will do or what Dracula wants to do. I don't even have a system picked yet.

Maybe after this book, I'll have all that figured out.

Dracula-based Products I have Reviewed in the Past


And some I need to review



Saturday, February 11, 2017

Zatannurday: Alexandra Daddario as Zatanna

Oh how I missed you Zatannurday!
My good friend +Justin Isaac over at Halls of the Nephilim is always looking out for me.

Yesterday he clued me in on this latest bit of Zatanna Photoshop by BossLogic Inc.
It features the fantastic Alexandra Daddario as Zatanna.


I have often said she would make a fantastic Zee.  She has the look, is really the right age, and she has the acting chops too.

I am also not the only one.

Here is another one from SavageComics over at DeviantArt.


One day I'll get a Zatanna movie.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

New Spell: Forget Me Knot

The witches of the Aiséiligh tradition have a few spells they are well known for. Typically these spells deal with protection or often an offensive spell designed to harm the witch's enemies or those who attack the witch first.  This spell, ironically enough, is usually forgotten about.

The spell is believed to be the root of the practice of tying a string around your finger to remember something important.  For the witch, this practice is part of a spell.

Forget Me Knot
Level: Witch 1
Range: 1 person
Duration: special, see below
The witch casts this spell and can remember anything said to her or anything she reads roughly equal to a page of information; 600-800 words. She commits the spell by tying a bit of string into a knot. She can then keep the knot safe for any amount of time. If she wants to recall the information perfectly she merely unties the knot. This spell can be used to deliver information to another of the witch's choice, but it cannot be used to remember spells or scrolls. If the knot is destroyed the information is lost.
Material Components: A bit of normal string, thread or yarn the witch can tie into a knot. The thread disappears when it is untied and the memories released.

The Witch: Aiséiligh Tradition for Swords & Wizardry is on sale now with all profits going to the ACLU.  This spell is one of the 70+ spells in the book.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

New Releases Tuesday: I9 Day of Al'Akbar

One of my favorite old-school adventures has finally made it to PDF at OneBookShelf.

I9 Day of Al'Akbar.


Gotta love that 80's hair.

Of course, back then we always called it "Day of Admiral Ackbar".

Now my PDF collection is complete for my "Second Campaign".

N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God, levels 1-3 (novice)
U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, levels 1-3
U2 Danger at Dunwater, levels 1-4
U3 The Final Enemy, levels 3-5
I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City, levels 4-7
I3 Pharaoh, levels 5-7
I4 Oasis of the White Palm, levels 6-8
I5 Lost Tomb of Martek, levels 7-9
X4 Master of the Desert Nomads, levels 6-9
X5 Temple of Death, levels 6-10
I9 Day of Al'Akbar, level 8-10
Gary Gygax's Necropolis, levels 10+

Each day I think Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea is the best choice for this one.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce

“Never break a promise to an animal. They're like babies—they won't understand.” 
- Daine.

"Wild Magic" is the first book of a quartet of books in the Immortals Series by Tamora Pierce.  The story deals with Veralidaine (aka Daine), a thirteen-year-old girl who just survived a raid on her village that left her family dead and her alone.  We first meet her looking for a job.  We quickly learn that she has a way with animals and is a good shot with a bow.   Her human skills leave a little to be desired and she is carrying a dark secret.
In the world around her, we learn that monsters, the immortals, are coming back after being locked away in the lands of the gods.  She and her new friend/boss Onua encounter "Stormwings", which are like an advanced form of a harpy and giant spiders.
Along the way, we learn that while Daine's mother was a hedge-witch she has no magical "gift" herself, but there is something more that normal with the way she can interact with animals.

Daine grows in her power under tutelage from a university trained mage while she is working as assistant horse-mistress to the Queen's Riders.  Here we learn her magic is the rarest, Wild Magic, and there might not be any limits to what she can do.  We do learn of her dark secret (and it pays off) and we see her grow from a shy child to a strong and capable young woman.

I read this book a long time ago, but I don't think I finished it. Given the time I was in grad school and likely busy reading Vygotsky and Dewey too.  Also, I remember the ending different.  I picked up the Full Cast audio book of this and it was very pleased. It was like a mini performance.  Some reviewers mentioned that keeping track of the character voices was tough, but I found it easy to be honest.  I was not going to pick up the next three books, remembering that this one pretty self-contained, but now I am going to.  I also enjoyed having Pierce as one of the narrators. It is nice to hear the definitive pronunciation of some of the names, even if they were sometimes very different than how I had read them!

Using this Story in a Game
There are very, very few monsters in this story. The ones that are here make a huge impression.  This is something that fantasy game masters should take a cue from, that when you are 1st level EVERY monster needs to be a memorable experience.  The Stormwings, which are essential harpies with metal wings, are a serious threat to 13-year-old Daine.
Also, there is the underlying theme of magic can do wonderful things, but it by itself can't fix your problems.
It's the old adage that when your only tool is a hammer everything starts looking like a nail.

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 5
Level: Initiate
Witches in this book: Daine, but only because her magic is so very different than everyone else's.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: There are clear lines between good and evil here.
Best RPG to Emulate it: Another easy one. This is very clearly Blue Rose.  Daine is an Adept that has taken all the animal related arcana.
Use in WotWQ: There are a lot of great ideas for games as mentioned above.  The idea of a new, or rather really old and forgotten, type of magic is just too good to pass up.  I also like the idea of new and scary monsters coming into or back into the world as a prelude to something terrible happening.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Witch: Aiséiligh Tradition for Swords & Wizardry

Happy Imbolc everyone!

I have been motivated to do something more in the face of what looks like insurmountable odds.  So yesterday while running I came up with an idea to produce something that you all can use and still give me the chance to do some good.

30 hours later I give you

The Witch: Aiséiligh Tradition for Swords & Wizardry Complete



This is my first big foray into the world of Swords & Wizardry.
From the RPGNow page.

Rise up witches!

The world is in peril.  The forces of evil in the guise of law and weal threaten all lands.

The people of good conscious scream out for champions.

The Witches of the Aiséiligh Tradition hear those cries and are charged by the Goddess to be Her hands and Her mortal representatives on this plane.

And the Goddess is angry.

The Witch: Aiséiligh Tradition presents a new witch tradition for use in Swords & Wizardry Complete. Inside you will find:

  • The Aiséiligh witch Tradition
  • The Daughters of the Flame Coven
  • 70+, new to Swords & Wizardry spells including never before published spells.

Compatible with Swords & Wizardry, The Witch and other retro-clones and other old-school games.

 All profits from this book will be donated to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Spread the word!
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