Saturday, June 30, 2018

Reuniting Families Charity Bundle

I am pleased to announce that that three Other Side Publication books have been added to the Reuniting Families Charity bundle to raise money for RAICES to help to get families reunited that were separated at the border.


You read more of the details here.

Over 100 products, valued at $680.82 you can have it all for $29.99.

Included in this bundle are my Green Witch, the Warlock, and The Witch: Aiséiligh Tradition.


Please check out this bundle and buy it if you can.  The cause is a worthy one.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Kickstart Your Weekend: Lots of Updates

Lot's of cool looking Kickstarters in various stages of funding.  Let's check them out!

First up is the Blackwind Project: A new plot-driven tabletop RPG



https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1047148810/blackwind-project-a-new-plot-driven-tabletop-rpg?ref=theotherside

It looks really cool and is an ambitious project.  I am intrigued by their "plot driven" mechanics and want to see more.  It is multi-genre so you know that it has my attention.

Advanced Labyrinth Lord



https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1895361773/advanced-labyrinth-lord?ref=theotherside

Not a new game, but LL and LL-AEC re-written to give us Labyrinth Lord through the lens of AD&D.  This could be the AD&D game I actually played back in the day!

Frog God gives us something epic.


City of Brass: Epic Adventure for 5e and Swords and Wizardry


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/froggodgames/city-of-brass-epic-adventure-for-5e-and-swords-and?ref=theotherside

Ever since the 1st Ed AD&D DMG has the City of Brass called us to adventure.  This looks pretty damn epic.

And one from this week's spotlight, Bloat Games.

SURVIVE THIS!! Vigilante City Tabletop Roleplaying Game


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ericfrombloatgames/survive-this-vigilante-city-tabletop-roleplaying-g?ref=theotherside

Looks like a pretty awesome supers game.  If it is half as fun as Dark Places & Demogorgons then it is worth the price!


Thursday, June 28, 2018

Willow & Tara: Survive This! Dark Places & Demogorgons

Yesterday I took the entire Buffyverse and dropped them into 1984 Ohio and found it works rather well.  Today I want to continue that thought but also do a deep dive into the three witch classes that DP&D has to offer.  And I know of no better way to do this.


So for reasons that work for the game, I am going with Dark Places & Demogorgons: Player Options & GM Guide for the witch classes. A White Witch for Willow and a Nature Witch for Tara.  So far I have no reason to assume that Willow will need a Black Witch.  The two realities are connected, but also different.

Willow D. Rosenberg
In 1984's Sunny Valley Willow is a mathematical genius who is the only person, quite likely in the whole town, that knows how to use a computer for more than just video games.  She has been best friends with Alex Harris since kindergarten and has been friends with Daniel "Oz" Osbourne since Junior High.  Oz is obviously rather fond of Willow, but he suspects there is something holding her back.


During her summer job at the local library, Willow discovered a locked room.  Normally one to follow every rule, this room called to her.  One day she found a key (after several weeks of searching she would later admit) and opened the door.  Inside books on the occult, summoning demons and more importantly magic.  She has been reading them and trying to master them.  Though she has help from a fellow witch and honest to the goddess wiccan in Tara.

Willow Rosenberg
Class: White Witch  Level: 5
Alignment: Good
Languages: English, Hebrew, Latin, Greek
Age: 14

Attributes
STR: 9 +0
INT: 18 +3
WIS: 16 +2
DEX: 11 +0
CON: 11 +0
CHA: 17 +2
SUR: 16 +2

AC: 10     HP: 19    Attack Bonus +0

Courage: 6 +3
Critical: 5
Death: 5
Mental: 4
Poison: 3

Background
Parents are rarely at home.

Class Abilities
+1 to saves involving magic, +3 to courage saves, healing touch 8/day, heal at double rate, summon light, seen in darkness, advantage on saves, immune to fear, talk to animals and plants, create potions

Skills
Computers +5, Art +1, Math +5, Science +5, Knowledge (Magic) +5, Paranormal +4, Botany +3, Electronics +4

Possessions
Bike, Home Computer,

Money: $40

Spells
Minor (4), Major (1)
Charm, Glammerd Appearance, Magical Insight, Burning Ash hands,
Firebolt

Tara A. Maclay
Tara attends Sunny Valley Community High School on the southside of town.  She lives in a trailer with her father and brother.  Her mother Megan died from cancer just last year.  Having a rough time with that and struggling with being the "known gay" in school she was picked on quite a bit.  It was not till the arrival of Faith did things change.  Faith protected Tara because she felt something of a connection to her.  When Elizabeth Summers died north of town Faith became the new Slayer. Elizabeth came back (thanks to Alex) and soon Tara and Faith joined the Northsiders on their nightly fight against vampires, zombies and other undead menaces.  While Faith has been drawn more and more to Elizabeth and their shared mystery. Tara has been getting much closer to Willow.


Tara and her best friend Faith

Tara Maclay
Class: White Witch  Level: 4
Alignment: Good
Languages: English, French, Latin
Age: 15

Attributes
STR: 12 +0
INT: 16 +2
WIS: 18 +3
DEX: 9 +0
CON: 12 +0
CHA: 16 +2
SUR: 12 +0

AC: 10     HP: 16    Attack Bonus +0

Courage: 5
Critical: 4
Death: 3
Mental: 5
Poison: 3 +4

Background
Mother is dead, Father is super-strict

Class Abilities
Toughness: Nature/Weather +4, Empathic w/ Animals, Create Potions, Control Animals.

Skills
Botany +4, First Aid, Knowledge (magic) +4, Outdoorsmanship +2, Paranormal +4, DAnce +3, Horsemanship +4,

Possessions
Bike,

Money: $40

Spells
Minor (3)
Blind, Charm, Magical Insight

If this were an 80s show then Willow and Tara would have had (implied) sex but then Tara would have been killed and Willow sent on an "evil lesbian" rampage only end the show crying in the arms of some man.  Really, who wants to see some shitty after-school special cliché like that?

I think these classes work great, to be honest.  I would like to reorganize their powers a bit to fit my concepts of these characters. Normally I would let Willow have access to some Dark spells and Tara should be the one to heal by touch.

This also brings up an interesting dilemma. Should Willow be a multiclassed Kid Scientist 1/Witch 4?  DP&D, like a lot of OSR games, has no Multiclassing rules.  To me though I like the idea of a multiclassed Willow.  She starts off as a Kid scientist and then moves to White Witch and maybe Black Witch IF we follow the original series.  Tara can start as a Nature Witch then move to White after a bit.

These are great.  This really captures what I wanted from this game quite well.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Plays Wells With Others: Dark Places & Demogorgons and Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Reading over Dark Places & Demogorgons I could not help but make comparisons to another game of strange things going on with high school kids fighting monsters.   Of course, I am talking about the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG.


Both games deal with fighting the unknown, both games deal high school students and both games are steeped in 80s clichés and pop-culture.  Where Buffy attempted to subvert those clichés, Dark Places & Demogorgons embraces them.

I am just throwing this out here, I have a lot of issues with Joss Whedon.  I think he is an asshole.
But I am damn proud of the work I did on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG.

Reading through the core of DP&D and all the supplements it became very, very obvious what game I need to run.

Welcome to Sunny Valley, OH
"I am certain that whoever named this place Sunny Valley was having a joke on us. The winters are long, cold and dark. It rains in the spring and fall. I think they named the place in the three days of the summer we do get sun.  Not to mention the werewolves, the vampires and oh yeah the Hellmouth just outside of town.  Welcome to Sunny Valley Ohio California girl. Bet you can't wait to leave."
- Alexander "Alex" Harris to Elizabeth "Buffy" Summers.

I decided to take the entire "Buffy Package" and drop it wholesale to the Midwest and set it all in 1984.  There are some changes that need to be made.

In this new setting Elizabeth Anne "Buffy" Summers moved from sunny California to the ironically named Sunny Valley, Ohio.  As a nod to my friend and co-author on many of the Buffy books, Thom Marrion, who was going to do a series of Buffy books set in Cleveland, I wanted to do this in Ohio.  Cleveland is the "big city", but I never detail how far it is.

There is a Hellmouth, but is more indistinct.  No one is sure where it is, but they all know it's there.  There are two high schools, Sunny Valley Prep (the "good" school, where we start) and Sunny Valley Community High (the "bad" school).

Elizabeth Anne "Buffy" Summers
Class: Monster Hunter (vampires)  Level: 5
Alignment: Good
Languages: English, French
Age: 15

Attributes
STR: 18 +3
INT: 12 +0
WIS: 12 +0
DEX: 18 +3
CON: 18 +3
CHA: 16 +2
SUR: 18 +3

AC: 15     HP: 35    Attack Bonus +4 / +7 (vs. vampires)

Courage: 6 (additional +3 vs. vampires)
Critical: 5
Death: 6
Mental: 4
Poison: 5

Background
Mother is rarely at home.
Annoying little sister.

Class Abilities
+3 to hit, track, dmg to Vampires
+1 Toughness

Skills
Outdoorsmanship +4, Paranormal +5, Knowledge (Historical) +2, Brawling, Persuasion +2, Basic Athletics +3, Stealth +2

Possessions
Leather jacket, pants, stakes

Money: $30

This version of Buffy is actually named Elizabeth. She is a former California girl and now lives here with her mom and weird little sister. She is a Slayer, but she has no idea how or why.  There are no Watchers here in Sunny Valley, no Giles.  Elizabeth just knows she is strong, fast and she can sense vampires.
At the end of Series 1 she dies, but only for a little bit.  This gives us Faith Lehanne, a wild girl from Sunny Valley Community High.

Faith Lehanne
Class: Monster Hunter (vampires)  Level: 5
Alignment: Neutral
Languages: English
Age: 14

Attributes
STR: 17 +2
INT: 12 +0
WIS: 10 +0
DEX: 18 +3
CON: 18 +3
CHA: 17 +2
SUR: 18 +3

AC: 15     HP: 32    Attack Bonus +3 / +6 (vs. vampires)

Courage: 5 (additional +2 vs. Vampires)
Critical: 5
Death: 4
Mental: 3
Poison: 4

Background
Parents are dead, lives with Aunt
Dirt poor

Class Abilities
+2 to hit, track, dmg to Vampires
+1 Toughness

Skills
Outdoorsmanship +4, Paranormal +4, Knowledge (local ) +1, Brawling, Intimidation +4, Street Smarts +4, Stealth +2

Possessions
Leather jacket, pants, stakes

Money: $0

Faith shows up in Series 2 from SVCHS where she makes an impression by killing two vamps right away.  She introduces us to her friend Tara, and she and Willow start to spend a lot of time together.



Both Buffy and Faith are built using the Monster Hunter class from DP&D: Player Options & GM Guide.  In truth I could build a "Slayer" class, but I didn't really want to do that.  I wanted to try them out Rules As Written.

In general the cast would be much younger than the TV show.  Anywhere from 2 to 3 years younger. This fits perfectly with DP&D but changes the dynamic a little.   For starters, I would downplay the sexual tension to almost nothing, or at least a slow burn.  A 200+-year-old vampire prey on a 17-year-old sounds bad.  Preying on a 14-15-year-old sounds worse for some reason.  I am also going to give Faith the benefit of the doubt here.   During my Buffy game Season of the Witch, I pointed out that what the show writers had done to her essentially was so contradictory that the character was broken beyond repair.  So what if I took a potential "Bad Girl" and instead gave her a friend.  Maybe someone she saved from some bullies.  Enter Tara.  In this world Faith saved Tara from being picked on because of her poor family and the open secret that she is gay; something that was still very hard to deal with in the 80s.  Both girls help each other out till they meet the cast.

Dawn Summers
Class: Telekinetic  Level: 1
Alignment: Good
Languages: English
Age: 11

Attributes
STR: 10 +0
INT: 12 +0
WIS: 16 +2
DEX: 12 +0
CON: 14 +1
CHA: 12 +0
SUR: 16 +2

AC: 10     HP: 4    Attack Bonus +0

Courage: 3
Critical: 2
Death: 3
Mental: 4
Poison: 2

Background
Mother is rarely at home.

Class Abilities
Telekinesis, Psionic Attack, Psionic Push

Skills
Paranormal +1, Investigation +1, Knowledge (local) +1, Stealth +1, Video Games +1
Psionic Attack +1

Possessions
Bike, Backpack, Journal describing how she used her powers in secret.

Money: $10

In my games, Dawn developed psychic powers.  Maybe not Jean Grey levels, but certainly Carrie ones.  I thought it would be fun if the "Annoying Kid Sister" trope was subverted by making her Powered.  She was built with the optional Psionic classes in the Core Rule book.

I also did Cordelia Chase (basically an archetype "Princess"), Alexander "Alex" Harris (a "Geek" due to his Star Trek obsession), Oz (Metalhead turned Werewolf) and Angel (Teen Heartthrob turned Vampire).

What can DP&D Players get from Buffy?
The Buffy RPG is a great game that focuses a lot on the high school experience and how fighting monsters can be a metaphor for life in High School. Personally, I think EVERY player and GM of DP&D needs to read Chapter 7: Episodes, Seasons and Drama. It is hands down the best chapter written about running anytime of modern supernatural game or a game set around High School age kids.  The mechanics on Drama Points and their use would also be useful.
And of course all the monsters, vampires and demons the book has would be helpful to any DP&D GM.

What can Buffy Players get from DP&D?
The Buffy RPG is a mature game.  Not just in content, but shelf-life.  I know people that are still playing the game 15+ years later.   For me, DP&D has given me a breath of fresh air and has re-energized my Buffy-related experiences.  Hell, this is the first honest to goodness Buffy campaign idea since Season of the Witch and that was more than 12 years ago.
The "Back to Basics" feel of DP&D cannot be ignored or understated.  It really helped me think of this game in a different way.


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Review: Survive This! Dark Places & Demogorgons Companions

Today I spend even more quality time with Dark Places & Demogorgons.  There are a number of great supplements now out for PD&D and more on the horizon.  Right now I am going to focus on these four since they will focus on my new campaign idea I'll talk more about tomorrow.
In all cases, I am reviewing the physical copies and PDFs.



Dark Places & Demogorgons: Jeffersontown Setting Guide
140 pages, color covers, black & white interiors.
This book covers the Jeffersontown setting introduced in the core rulebook.  I have to admit, I was not going to buy this book.  I was not really that interested in the J'town setting; I had my own setting, settings really, to try out and this one did not grab me.
That would have been a mistake. This book is really freaking awesome.
Reading through this book you begin to realize that all small towns are the same.  I read through this and was mentally replacing J'Town details with my own old hometown Jacksonville (J'Ville, no really that is what we called it).  There are a ton of great ideas here for any type of campaign.
So who should buy this?
Well if grew up in the 80s then you know this already. You lived it.  But this book is a wonderful trip down memory lane.  It's someone else's memory lane, but it looks like yours; it looks a lot like mine too.
If you didn't grow up in the 80s then this book is a must-have.  Really sets the tone and tenor of the game perfectly.
This makes this book a must buy, I am glad I picked it up.

Dark Places & Demogorgons: Player Options & GM Guide
124 pages, color covers, black & white interiors.
Now this book.  I knew I needed this one the moment I read the table of contents.  This book expands the game in a number of really awesome ways. Now all classes can go to 7th level and all the core classes get a boost.  That is great, and we get 13 new classes. They are Equestrian Show Rider, Equestrian Rider, Monster Hunter, Party Animal, The Performer, Phantasmagon, ROTC Cadet, Soviet Spy, Spy in Training, Street Tough, Survivalist, Teen Ninja, and the Telepath.   We also get five new Magic classes! Black Witch, Mechano-Mage, Nature Witch, Voodoo Practitioner, and White Witch.  All with a bunch of new spells! So yes, I am quite excited about these.  Worth the price on the cover alone for me.
Additionally, we get a bunch of new skills.

The last half of the book is everything 80s.  I have seen a lot of 80s guides in games before, but this one is very comprehensive.  These sections include 80's Crushes/ Idols, Your Songs of the 80's, Your Movies of the 80's, Random 80's Movie Quote Table, and Your TV of the 80's.  And just listing these does not do this lists justice at all.  I consider myself an 80s aficionado and there are things here I had forgotten or even never knew.  I am little surprised there isn't a Dark Places & Demogorgons 80s mix list on Spotify.
Really glad I got this book and I consider it a must-have for fans of this games.

Dark Places & Demogorgons: Vampire Sourcebook
36 pages, color covers, black & white interiors.
With the Vampire Sourcebook, we move DP&D a little further away from "Stranger Things" and "X-Files" territory and more into the realms of "Fright Night", "Lost Boys", and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer".  The cover in fact is very reminicent of all the above.
We start off with an introduction to basic vampire pop-culture lore and quickly move to a list of vampire movies of the 1980s.  It's a solid list, I knew all the titles so it feels complete, but I am sure there a couple Euro flicks missing.  Not a big deal since that is not the focus of this book.
We get stats for a variety of vampires and plot hooks/backgrounds for all of them.
The book is designed for DP&D, but it really can be used with any OSR game.
For more 80s fun combine it with some New Wave Requiem from the World of Darkness game.
If you want to play a vampire then I suggest The Blood is the Life - Basic Vampires as a mostly compatible solution.
It is a thin book and I would have liked to see more varieties, in truth this probably the perfect size. Vampires are series-ending "Big Bads" not just your monster of the week.  So characters are only likely to see one or maybe two their entire game life.

Dark Places & Demogorgons: Werewolf Sourcebook
36 pages, color covers, black & white interiors.
Same size, but a step up from the Vampire book to be honest.  There feels like there is more material here and I will admit I was surprised to see the page count was really the same. 
We get a little background on werewolves as a horror trope. Different means of causing lycanthropy are also covered.  There is also a section of infecting humans and how it alters their stats, including Player Characters.  Now I would say that being a werewolf runs counter to what a GM might normally want to do with a DP&D game, I can see it coming up.  Good for drama really.
Now anyone that knows me well knows I am "the Witch guy" and before that I was "the Vampire guy".  So I was totally expecting this to be my least favorite book, but no chance of that!  This is a great book and even better than the Vampire book.
There plot hooks, NPCs, monsters AND a complete adventure.  The book is packed. Well worth the money spent.
IF you can only afford one of these books, Vampire or Werewolf, then I would put my money on the werewolf one. Plus it has some fantastic Jacob Blackmon cover art, so what could be better?


Monday, June 25, 2018

Monstrous Mondays: Scarecrow for Dark Places & Demogorgons

"Rain on the Scarecrow.  Blood on the plow.
Blood on the scarecrow. Blood on the plow" 

- John Mellencamp, Scarecrow



Is there anything more ubiquitous to the midwest than the cornfield?  How about that lone scarecrow in that field.  Standing silent vigil throughout the summer and into the fall.  Are you sure he is not watching you?

Scarecrow
Scarecrows are basic guardians similar to golems, but not nearly as powerful. Like typical scarecrows, their bodies are made of straw and cloth. The stumble about their assigned area poorly and attack most anything that wanders through it. Some Scarecrows are bound to a post. A Scarecrow can use their paralyzing gaze to imprison any trespassers (save vs. Courage, fail means victim remains rooted to the spot).
Scarecrows are assigned to protect a particular area. They never leave the area, even when chasing an intruder. They will attack anything, humanoid or animal-like in appearance that walks into its territory unless otherwise instructed by their creator.
A scarecrow is immune to mind-influencing effects, poison, disease, and similar effects. They are not subject to critical hits, subdual damage, ability damage, energy drain or death from massive damage.
Fire Vulnerability: Because of their straw bodies, Scarecrows are extremely vulnerable to attacks from fire. They take triple damage from all fire attacks.

Armor Class: 10
Hit Dice: 3 + 1
Move: 12
Attacks: 1
Attack Damage: Slam 1d4+4 or Slap 1d4+1
Special:  Paralyzing Gaze.  Courage roll required if victim meets the gaze of a Scarecrow. They can't move for one moment.
Bonuses: +1 to hit, +4 to hide in corn or soy fields.
Terror: 8
HDE: 4

Review: Survive This! Dark Places & Demogorgons

I'll start off my week-long look at Survive This! Dark Places & Demogorgons with the core rulebook.   A little bit of background thought first.  I love the 80s in the way a true child of the 80s only can.  Everything about the decade still fascinates me, fills me nostalgia and is a creative well I keep going back to.  In truth, I had better decades.  The 90s were particularly good to me and the 2010s are also really nice, but the 80s hold my interest more, especially when it comes to gaming.

Dark Places & Demogorgons (DP&D) taps into all of this in such a deep and profound way that it pisses me off me to no end.  Pisses me off, because I wish I had come up it myself!

A few things upfront.  DP&D owes a great deal to Stranger Things (which in turns owes a lot to D&D), but as fantastic as that is, that is not enough to sustain a game.  DP&D draws on deep 80s culture as well.  And deep I do mean shallow!  Nothing here about the Cold War, or USA for Africa, or the 84 Olympics, or the home computer revolution.  This is about what was going on in YOUR small town USA and how it felt like it was the strangest place on the planet.  All that "important stuff" is just background noise to what is really important; what are we doing Friday night and who's going to drive around cruising?  That of course until your friends start to disappear.

Dark Places & Demogorgons (DP&D) is a 200 page 5"x9" book with color covers and black & white interiors.  The art is a mix of new art, some art purchased from collections and (my personal favorite) some photos of the authors and friends from some 80's high school yearbooks.  I am reviewing both the physical book and PDF.  Both of which were purchased by me so no books were contributed for review.

The book is divided into an 80 page Player's Section which includes the Classes and Basic rules, and a 120 Page Game Master Section.

The Players section introduces the concept of a Role-playing game and what you can do.  We also get a little background on the town this all takes place in, Jeffersontown KY.
We go right into building a character. Now while the book tells us that this is a version of the same game played in 1974, there are more 21st Century rules here.  The rules feel like a Swords & Wizardry variant with some Basic (Holmes in particular) thrown in.  There are multiple types of saving throws (ala OD&D, Basic, an on up) and ascending AC (S&W, 3e).   In short though if you have played any sort of OSR game in the last few years you will pick this up fast.  If you have never played before, well you will still pick this up fast.

Unlike its progenitors, this game has Seven Abilities.  The new one is Survival.  At first, I was not a fan of it, but now I see how it works in the game it makes more sense to me.  Much like how another seventh ability, "Luck", works in The Heroes' Journey.
I mentioned there are new saving throws too, Courage, Critical, Death, Mental, and Poison.  Courage works a lot like a Fear/San test and there is even a terror table.

Where DP&D takes off though are ways you use to describe your characters.  We start off with Backgrounds.  You can roll randomly here in true 80s style, or choose.  Rolling seems better.  These include things like "Parents are never home" or "Bratty Kid Sister" and they have in-game effects.  Not having your parents home makes for your house to become the natural HQ of your monster surviving endeavors, but having to watch your "Strawberry Shortcake" obsessed little sister is going to slow you down.

After that, you can decide on what your Class is going to be. Classes work here like everywhere else really.  They decide your skills, they let you know where you fit in the world and they provide a role-playing guide.  The classes in this book are largely based on 80s High School stereotypes.  There are five main classes with three subclasses each (similar to how 5e does it) You have The Brain (Kid Scientist, The Nerd, The Geek), The Athlete (The Jock, Extreme Athlete, The Karate Kid), The Outsider (Break Dancer, Goth, Metal Head), The Popular Kid (Preppy, The Princess, Teen Heart Throb), and The Rebel (Bully, The Hood, the Punk Rocker). That pretty much covers everyone in a small high school.
Each class gets 5 levels and new abilities and/or skills each level.  So the Karate kid gets new moves and martial arts, the Princess can affect others and so on.

Skills cover the things you can do.  You can get some via your class or be improved by your class.  Others you can pick.  Combat is a skill and if you want to be better at it then you need to take the skill otherwise you are just a kid with a +0 to hit.

Character creation then is largely rolling up Abilities, picking a Background, a Class, some skills, determining your saving throws and finding out how much cash you have in your pocket.  Then you are set!

I recommend a Session 0 for character creation and concept.  Sure it is not in the rules and certainly not old school, but it better than everyone showing up for the game playing all playing "The Bully" or "The Nerd".

Lastly, you come up with your age, Alignment and various combat-related stats (AC, attack bonus).  DP&D is not a combat focused game.  You are kids and the monsters are, well, monsters.  You might score a hit or two, but that is it.  Otherwise, run!
XP and Leveling are a little "easier" then and there are other ways to gain levels.

We end this section with some sample characters, examples of play and a quick breakdown of the 1980s vs. Today.

The Game Master Section is next and this is where the fun is!
Here the advice of not making this a combat heavy game is repeated.  This is a game of mystery, investigation, and deduction.   From the book:

This game draws inspiration from movies like The Goonies, ET and The Lost Boys and T.V. shows like Stranger Things, Eerie Indiana and Scooby Doo.
Talk about hitting me where I live!

The rules might say 1974 on the tin, but they are much easier than that.  Nearly every rule is simplified and straightforward in a way we never would have tried in the 80s.  Among the "new" rules are Difficulty Classes (circa 3e) and Advantage/Disadvantage rules (circa 5e).  It makes for a very fast-paced game and the rules will fall into the background.

We get some weapons and explosives, but not a lot.

There is a nice section on magic and the occult which include some really nice Psychic classes.  In case you want to dial your game up to 11 (see what I did there!).

The fun part of the book are the Adventure Seeds.  Some are familiar to anyone that watched movies or TV in the 80s.  But others...well I can only conclude that these must be local legends and myths from the author's own home.  Which reminds me how much all these little towns are really the same, just the details differ.


Replace the Pope Lick Monster with the Mobil Monster and they could have been talking about my old hometown of Jacksonville, IL.  We even had giant cats, giant birds and bigfoot.  But if you know what is good for you stay away from Magical Mystery Lane (if you could find it) or the glowing "things" out by Lake Jacksonville.

The book also has a bunch of monsters in Swords & Wizardry format (more or less).  You could add more, but be careful.   Just because I have the stats for a Manticore in a S&W book that would work with this there had better be a good reason to include it.

There are stats for animals and various types of NPCs.  There is even a table of random monster generation.  Delving into more game specific tables there is a table (1d100) of basic adventure hooks.

We also get a small guide to the setting, Jeffersontown, or J'Town (I grew up in J'ville. AND we used to call it a "Sinkhole of Evil" YEARS before anyone ever said the words "hell mouth").
The guide is great, not just for use in the game but for the sheer nostalgia.  It read like someone had taken a fictionalized version of my old hometown.  I think that it is also flexible enough that an lot of people reading it will feel the same way.

We end with a nice solid appendix (the PDF is not hyper-linked here) and their own "Appendix N" of movies, television, and music.  Music was too important in the 80s for there not to be a list like this.

We end with a copy of the character sheet.

Wow.  Where to begin.

Ok first of this game is very nearly perfect and I hate it so much.  That's not true. I hate that I didn't come up with it and publish it sooner.  But in truth, I am not sure if I would have done the same quality job as Eric Bloat and Josh Palmer.  Plus the inclusion of their yearbook pictures and own background made this book for me.  I LOVED reading J'Town because I could see and feel my own J'Ville in it.  I would not have been able to do that if I had written it myself, so much kudos to them.
This is a work of art and I love it.

Everything feels right about this game, to be honest.  I even have a potential "Series" in mind for it.

Can't wait to do more with it!  I would love to get some of my old gamer friends from the 80s and have them play versions of themeselves in a "Stranger Jacksonville" or more to the point the Jacksonville we all WISHED it was.

Next time I look at the supplements.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Survive This! Dark Places & Demogorgons Week

I am going to spend some quality time this week with Bloat GamesDark Places & Demogorgons.


The game is set in the 1980s and uses the same basic rules as 1970's era D&D. The game owes more than just a little to Stranger Things, but also to just the glorious weird times that was the 1980s.
The same cauldron that gave us the Satanic Panic would later set the groundwork for shows like The X Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  This alchemical brew would also fuel so many of my games from then til now.

This game hits all my nostalgia buttons in one nice tight little package. Spending the week with it is going to be a real treat. Weird little towns, vampires, werewolves, ghosts and maybe the best soundtrack ever.



So load up your favorite 80s mixtape, put on your Member's Only jacket and pull out your Trapper Keepers full of graph paper dungeons and let's explore some Dark Places!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Wednesday Night Videos: Happy Summer Solstice!

Right now, as of this posting, the sun is rising over Stonehenge to celebrate the longest day of the year.  The Summer Solstice.

For some reason, I always want to play this song.



I would be lying if I said I never wrote an AD&D adventure based solely on this song.


Of course, "Solstice" means "Sun stand still".



Plus Aimee Mann was so cute in this video.  I had the biggest crush on her back then.


Though the Solstice means we begin the slow, inevitable fall to Winter.




Enjoy the sun while you can!


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Plays Well With Others: Making 5e Bloodied

Yesterday I talked about how my Nentir Vale/Demon Slayers 5e game is a reboot of my 4e game and I will be adding more 4e elements to it.

Today I spent some time with D&D 4e Essentials to see what I could glean from that.



I know a lot of people had problems with 4e.  I was not one of those people.  I liked 4e and really wanted to give it more time.

5e is so flexible that there is so much you can do to it and it won't break the system.  4e was a very tight game, so tight that pulling out one piece had some serious impacts.

I am hoping that this will not break 5e; I doubt it will.

Bloodied in 5e
When a creature or character is reduced to half their HP or less (rounding down) they are bloodied.  This can trigger a number of actions.  I want to mix as much 4e and 5e as I can here.

Characters
These are taken from Dungeons & Dragons Player Essentials: Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms.

Dragonborn
When you are bloodied you may invoke your Dragonborn Fury.  You gain a +1 racial bonus to attack rolls.

Half-Orc
When you are bloodied during an encounter you may invoke your Half-Orc Resilience.  The first time you are bloodied during an encounter you gain temporary hp equal to your Proficiency Bonus + your Constitution modifier.

Tieflings
Bloodhunt: You gain a +1 racial advantage on attack rolls against bloodied targets.

Monsters
All of these creatures (for the most part) come from Dungeons & Dragons Essentials: Monster Vault.

Aboleth Overseer
Psychic Slime (standard; recharges when first bloodied)

Angel
Angelic Presence: When not bloodied attacks against the angel are at Disadvantage.

Beholder
Death Ray (necrotic):  If the target is bloodied before or after the attack, it is also dazed (save ends).

Blood Fiend
The blood fiend gains combat advantage against any living bloodied enemy.

Bulette
When bloodied the creature burrows underground and uses it's Second Wind.

Demon, Babu
Bite: The target also takes ongoing 5 acid damage, or ongoing 10 acid damage if the babau is bloodied (save ends).

Demon, Hezrou
Noxious Stench: Any enemy that makes an attack while in the aura takes 10 poison damage, or 20 poison damage while the hezrou is bloodied.

Demon, Marilith
Weapon Dance (melee): Recharge when first bloodied. Can attack again.

Demon, Vrock
Spores of Madness: DC 20 Wisdom Save to enemies within 5'.  On a failed save 3d10+6 Poison damage and the target is dazed.  Successful save, half damage.

Demon, Balor
Flaming Body: Normally aura is 2 squares or 10 feet. When bloodied it expands to 3 squares/15 feet.  Any enemy that starts its turn in the aura takes 10 fire damage, or 20 fire damage while the balor is bloodied.

Devil, Kyton
Chains of Vengeance: The devil can attack with it's chains twice.

Dragon (all)
Bloodied Breath: When first bloodied the dragon can recharge and use it's breath weapon.
When Bloodied a Dragon can critical on 18-20.

Drake, Rage
When bloodied the rage drake has Advantage on attacks.

Eye of Flame
Fiery Burst (when first bloodied and again when the eye of flame is reduced to 0 hit points) Close burst 2; DC 20 Dexterity save; 2d8 + 6 fire damage.

Gnoll
Blood Frenzied: The gnoll adds their Proficiency bonus to damage to all melee attacks when bloodied.

Golem, Flesh
When bloodied the golem can make a slam attack at Advantage.

Hag
When bloodied make one additional claw attack.

Lizard Folk
Additional tail sweep attack (1d6) when first bloodied.

Lycanthrope, Werewolf
Attack advantage on bloodied targets.
Proficiency bonus added to damage when bloodied.

Ochre Jelly 
When bloodied the creature splits into two creatures, each with hit points equal to one-half its
current hit points. Effects on the original ochre jelly do not apply to the second one.
(this is in addition to the split described in the 5e MM).

Owlbear
Stunning Screech: When bloodied the owlbear will Screech (close blast, 15'). DC 15 Constitution save or be stunned.

Vampire
The vampire takes damage while bloodied they become insubstantial and gains fly speed 60'. The vampire cannot attack or use cloud of bats. This effect lasts for 1 hour or until the vampire ends it as a minor action.
The vampire has combat Advantage on bloodied targets.

I am not sure how all of these will work out.  In many cases, the monsters are now more deadly.  I might need to compensate with a bonus of 5 to 10 XP.

If it works well my son has offered to do more of these for me.


Monday, June 18, 2018

Father's Day Weekend Gaming

Had a fairly packed weekend game wise.

Friday was our local Public Library sale.  Sometimes we can find some gems, but this time all we found was this book on potions.


Saturday was Free RPG Day.  We all went and got some books.  Of course, we still ended up buying a bunch of stuff too.



Sunday, Father's Day, we went back to the Nentir Vale to finish off the Blood Reavers.  The Demon Slayers found some more clues and are headed to the Well of Demons now.



We want to add more 4e feel to this game.  Just like our Order of the Platinum Dragon 5e game is more "old school" in feel and the Second Campaign has more of a 3e feel.


I have some Encounter Cards I want to use and I'd love to work "Bloodied" into our combats.  I think that might be fun.  Using some 4e stats the monsters are much tougher and these characters are already having more issues than their other 5e counterparts.

For reasons too various to name, our gnome druid, Dimbel Timbers, has adopted this has his theme song:


Every character should have a theme song.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Kickstart Your Weekend: Harvesters

Troll Lords does great Kickstarters. This one is no exception.

Harvesters the Role Playing Game


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/676918054/harvesters-the-role-playing-game

From the Kickstarter:
WHAT IS HARVESTERS?

Harvesters is a complete all-in-one table top role playing game packaged in a stout box, with rules, dice, adventures and maps!

Begin an epic journey in the rugged tracks of unlikely heroes. Enter the world of Harvesters, where badgers, rabbits, squirrels, and otters launch into adventures of epic wonder. Here, the smallest of creatures take on the roles of the greatest heroes: Knights, Druids, Clerics, Rogues, Wizards, and Fighters. Together, they tackle the greatest of exploits, from rescuing the princess to finding lost treasure. You'll find no humans here, only animals. They live their daily lives and do work just like humans do in your world. You may find a rabbit as a local constable, or a squirrel as a baker or a mouse as a black smith.

Art by Jim Holloway!

Chose from one of five animals to play: rabbits/hares, squirrels, badgers, otters, and mice.
This would have been great when my kids were little.  But I still think it would be a lot of fun.

In any case, this looks like fun.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

OMG: Babylonian, Sumerian and Akkadian, Part 3

I want to wrap up this edition of OMG with some of the missing gods and demons from the Babylonian, Sumerian and Akkadian myths in the Deities & Demigods.

Let's mention an OBVIOUS miss here.
Where is Ereshkigal?  The world's first goth-girl and she isn't here?  That's a freaking crime in my book.  Well, let's fix that.  If you want to classify her she belongs to the Sumerian Myths, her cult has been taken over by her husband Nergal by the time of the Babylonian myths.

Burney Relief
Ereshkigal
ARMOR CLASS: -4
MOVE: 12"
HIT POINTS: 250
NO. OF ATTACKS: 2
DAMAGE/ATTACK: See below
SPECIAL ATTACKS:  See below
SPECIAL DEFENSES: Immune to poisons, disease, and death causing magic
MAGIC RESISTANCE: 75%
SIZE: M (6')
ALIGNMENT: Neutral Evil
WORSHIPER'S ALIGN: All alignments
SYMBOL: Female with four wings and clawed feet
PLANE: Kur (section of Hades)
CLERIC/DRUID: 15th level cleric
FIGHTER: Nil
MAGIC-USER/ILLUSIONIST/WITCH: 25th level witch
THIEF/ASSASSIN: 15th level assassin
MONK/BARD: Nil
PSIONIC ABILITY: Nil
S:25 ( + 7, + 14) 1: 20 W: 15 D: 20 C: 23 CH: 25

Animal: Owl
Color: Black
Day of Worship: Friday

Ereshkigal is Queen of the Underworld. Here she keeps the dead and not even the gods can sway her.  She has made exceptions, in particular to her sister Innana/Ishtar, but to none other.

Ereshkigal knows all the spells granted by the Sumerian gods, since all secrets come to her.  She also knows all the spells of witchcraft, which are of her design.  She can cast two spells per round at separate targets if she chooses.

Her rivalry with her sister Innana/Ishtar is legendary.
Ereshkigal would later be syncretized with the Greek Hecate and some of her aspects would also form the story of Lilith.  Indeed in my own research time, the Burney Relief has gone from a representation of Lilith (which was tenuous at best) to a representation of Ereshkigal.

She is mentioned in Return to the Keep on the Borderlands and I swear there were other mentions of her in other D&D books, but so far I found nothing.


Pazuzu
Also not present in the D&DG, but certainly a demon of note (and notoriety) is Pazuzu.   Good old Pazuzu was the king of the demons of the wind and the bringer of storms, famine, and drought. He was the demon of the southwestern wind.  He was not a god, though he was the son of the god Hanbi/Hanbu.
Pazuzu, of course, rose to fame and popularity thanks in large part to the Exorcist movies.  I consider the Exorcist to be one of the scariest movies ever made and having Pazuzu as the "big bad" only helps that.  A demon as old as civilization itself?  Yeah, that's some scary shit.  He makes his AD&D debut in the Monster Manual II.

He seems to have a long history even in myth.  He is likely an Assyrian import, maybe even from the Levant.  So that is quite a demonic pedigree to be the demon of so many different cultures. In my games, Pazuzu is an Eodemon, a demonic race that appeared before all the others.

One thing not considered in Monster Manual II version of him is his battles to stop another demon Lamashtu.  Pazuzu effectively guards human from her evils.

Lamashtu
Now in truth, I see why she was not included.  I mean if no Pazuzu then no need to have her too.  According to some texts, she was a demoness or a goddess.  She is also associated with witchcraft and the murder or newborns and infants. She has many features that would later be syncretized by or with Lilith and other female night demons.  She is currently a god in the Pathfinder setting.

I posted a demon Lamashtu a while back.  Here are some stats.

FREQUENCY:  Uncommon
NO.  APPEARING:  1  or  1-3
ARMOR  CLASS:  -1
MOVE:  9"/12"
HIT  DICE:  10
%  IN  LAIR:  25%
TREASURE  TYPE:  F
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  3
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  1-6/1-6/2-8
SPECIAL  ATTACKS:  bonus  of  +2  to  hit;  also  see  below  (Con drain)
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  +  1  or  better  weapons  to  hit
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  65%
INTELLIGENCE:  Very
ALIGNMENT:  Chaotic  evil
SIZE:  L  (9'+  tall)
PSlONlC  ABILITY:  150
  Attack/Defense  Modes:  A,  C,  D/F,  G,  H

Lamashtu are powerful demons, close only to the Lilitu themselves.  Believed to be the offspring of Lilth and the various Eodemons. These demons are old even by demonic terms.  Their natural form is a horrid hybrid of a linoness’ head, donkey ears, and teeth, a hairy human female body, with the hindquarters of a pig.  They are commonly holding a large snake.  In their “human” form they prefer to disguise themselves as old women or nursemaids.  This gives them access to their preferred prey, newborn babies.  Once she has gained access to a new-born babe she will carry it off till she can find a safe place to eat it.  Lamashtu are not tempters, they hunger and only flesh will satisfy them.  They can be held at bay if a witch prepares a special talisman.    Her song drains Constitution to all who hear it, 2 points per night.  Anyone so drained must make a Constitution based save or fall asleep.
Lamashtu may cast spells as a 7th level witch.



Dagon
Dagon is an improt to this mythology.
Here is another problem.  Dagon is a god. Dagon is a demon. Dagon is some sort of Lovecraftian Old One. Or he is all of those things.

I think my favorite take on him was in the 3.5 edition Hordes of the Abyss and the 4th edition Monster Manual 2. Where he is just this really ancient thing. For me that makes him an Eodemon.
Somehow I'd like to capture all aspects of this creature in one whole.

I think it is time to leave the Fertile Crescent. Should I move forward alphabetically or chronologically? 

You can read Part 1 here.
You can read Part 2 here.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Weekend Gaming: Back into the Nentir Vale!

Gaming life at the Brannan house has been dominated by my oldest son running three separate and independent D&D 5 games.   My youngest is playing in one of them.  So a lot of games are happening in my house, just most of them don't involve me!



Well we got a chance to work in one of our three campaigns this weekend, my 4e/5e Forgotten Realms blend Into the Nentir Vale

This weekend the party went into the Thunderspire Mountains to learn more and potentially stop the Bloodreavers, a gang of slavers.  Here they have learned of more conspiracies and more infiltration by demons into the Realms.  Harper agent Jassic Winterhaven/Jassic Goodwalker has already been assigned to keep an eye on them.





I am also taking a page out of the Forgotten Realms novel series "The Brimstone Angels" and having the growing population of Dragonborn worshipping the Babylonian/Sumerian/Akkadian gods or what is known in the Realms as the Untheric Pantheon in Powers & Pantheons.

The heroes managed to get into the Temple of Eyes and have killed the leaders of the Bloodreavers.  I am going to skip ahead to the Well of Demons since I really need to trim these adventures down anyway.  But it should be a lot of fun!


Friday, June 8, 2018

Kickstart Your Weekend: Runewild

This one just came to me today and it looks so cool I have to share.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/matthewjhanson/the-runewild-a-fey-themed-5e-sandbox-campaign?ref=theotherside



A dark, fey themed 5e adventure sandbox featuring 12 different witch covens?
It sounds like someone has been reading my Christmas list!

160+ pages and we get:

  • A history of the Runewild and its surrounding settlements. 
  • 100 detailed encounter areas for player characters to explore. 
  • New optional rules for exploring and resting 
  • Advice for running a sandbox campaign 
  • A new feat: Fey-Touched 
  •  13 unique magic items (like witch embers and the staff of clarity and confusion) 
  • 32 new monsters (including clockwork dwarves, fey lions, giant forest sloths, and the terrifyingly beautiful Golden Bodach). 
  •  Detailed descriptions of the histories, motivations, and weaknesses of the witches of the Runewild, including the Whitebone Sisters; Missus Switch, the swine hag; Korthsuva, the Witch of Hours; and the hag-queen Griselda, Mother of Ogres. 

Seriously.  Let's get this one backed and funded so we can have all this great stuff.

Plus it looks like the book is already done, just minus some art and layout.

Looks great.

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