Monday, March 18, 2019

Monstrous Mondays: Monster Book Round Up, 1st Ed style

You can never have too many monster books in my mind.  Even I use one or two per book and my players are surprised or go "what in the hell is that!?" then it is money well spent.   Monsters have taught me so much over the years.  Monsters lead me to Greek Mythology. Monsters helped me learn how to write code to create databases and then later helped land a DBA job while I was still in school.   One day I'll update my old Access95 Monster Database, but that will have to be later.

Until then here are some of the monster books I am enjoying a lot right now.

Blood & Treasure 2nd Edition Monsters
For the Blood & Treasure 2nd edition game, but can be used with any Old-school game.  The system is a mix of Swords & Wizardry and AD&D 1st Ed/OSRIC so reading the stats is really easy.
215 pages, over 600 monsters.  Color cover, black & white interiors.
This one has all the usual suspects from the various SRDs and that is fine for me really.  There are some new descriptions and there are new monsters.
There are things in this book that make it more worthwhile than just monster stat blocks.  There are a number of conditions and definitions ported over from 3.x OGC that are very welcome additions to the "OSR Ruleset".  There are guidelines for Monsters as a Character Race which are quite nice.
Another import from 3.x are Monster Templates.  Now you can a Celestial Gnome or a Draconic Goblin among other things.  Really expands your creature database.
There are even four mini-adventures included.
Not at all bad for just under $10.  Highly recommend!

Blood & Treasure 2nd Edition Monsters II
The second book for the Blood & Treasure 2nd edition game.  This one has 197 pages, over 500 monsters. Color cover with black & white art.  No this is what we buy monster books for! New Monsters!  At 500 some odd monsters there are some here that can be recognized from the records of myth and fairy tales, (lots and lots of dragons!) but there a plenty of more that are completely new to me to edge it out over Monsters I.  There is similar material from the Monsters I book; conditions, attack descriptions and the like.  But the bulk is dedicated to new creatures for your game. This book also has a Chimerical Monster table for making your own chimeras. Tables on mutant dinosaurs and vermin.  Also a combined monster listing of both books.

If you have Blood & Treasure Monsters then you will want this one.  If you just like new monsters then get this one too.

Malevolent and Benign
Malevolent and Benign has long been a staple on my game table.   128 pages with 150 monsters, all in OSRIC format.   The monsters are all new (to me), with some converted from other OGC sources.  The art is quite good and the feel of the book is something like a Monster Manual 3 or a Fiend Folio 2 really. It sits on my shelf right next to my monsters books, or in theory, it does. It is actually out on my game table more often than not. The softcover is very nice to have and the PDF is fully bookmarked.
The book also has a small section on new magic items associated with these monsters.
For $10 it is a good deal.

Malevolent & Benign II
In many ways I actually like M&B2 more than M&B1.  This book is 110 pages with 150+ monsters.  Again we have a color cover (which is fantastic by the way) and black & white interior.  In fact all the art is a step up.
If M&B 1 was akin to a MM3 or FF2 then this one is the next in line, but with no loss of quality. The monsters are new and quite deadly or at least the ones that are not deadly are interesting.
I have not picked up the softcover yet, but the PDF is fantastic.
10 bucks for the pdf or 20 for the pdf + softcover book is a pretty good deal.  Especially for a bunch of new monsters.



Found Folio Volume One
A collection of creatures from various 3.x sources converted back over to "Advanced era" stats. What it lacks in art it makes up for in the number of monsters (typically two per page). Lots of 3.x faves here, ready for your OSR games!
130 monsters in 70 or so pages.



Honorable Mentions. Almost AD&D1 stats.

Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary
If you ever only buy ONE product from BRW and the Adventures Dark & Deep line then make sure it is this one.
Let be honest up front. We have seen most if not all the monsters somewhere else before. Most are in the SRD or from other Open sources. The new ones are great, but they are ideas we have seen.
And none of that matters. This is still a great book. At 457 pages (pdf) it is a beast. Monsters are alphabetically listed by areas you would find them in. So Wilderness and Dungeon is by far the bulk of them, but there are also Waterborne (fitting in with the rules) and "Outsiders" or monsters from the other planes. But I am getting ahead of myself.
The book begins with two monster spellcasters, the Shaman and the Witch Doctor. Shades of similar classes from the BECMI RC to be sure. But they work here great and frankly I know someone will want to use these rules to play a Shaman one day. Heck, I once tried a Wemic Shaman in early 2e days myself. Maybe I'll see if I can do that here. The classes are not detailed and they don't need to be. The do what they need to do.
The Monster descriptions are a bit like those found in OSRIC though there are some interesting additions. Each Monster has a Morale, like that found in Basic and 2nd ed, though it is not a score but an adjustment. Attacks are listed in the stat block, though they are the attack types. This is most similar to "Special Attacks" in other rules. Also wholly new are "Weaknesses" which is an interesting idea and one I think other OSR publishers should adopt. Each monster then gets a couple of paragraphs of text. Many are illustrated thanks to the highly successful Kickstarter for this (more on that later). The illustrations are great too as you can see here and here.
All the monsters have General, Combat and Appearance sections in their write-ups.
Unlike 2e (and 4e) monsters are not confined to one-page entries. Some have paragraphs, others just a few lines. This is good since I think we would have something like 1000+ pages. I think I read there are 1100 monsters in this book. Maybe 900. Anyway, it's a lot. I spot checked a few monsters I thought might not be there, but sure enough, they were. Ok so the ones that are Closed via the OGL are not here, but I was not expecting those. There are some alternates and stand-ins if you really, really need them though.
The book sections are: Wilderness and Dungeon, aka Most of the Monsters Underwater and Waterborne, larger than expected, but not surprised given the material in the core books. Prehistoric Monsters, always nice to have; Dinosaurs and Ice Age mammals. Extra-Planar Monsters, your Outsiders.
Appendix A details creating your own monsters. Appendix B has something I didn't even realize was missing till I started reading the stats; a basic psionic system for psychic strikes. Appendix C covers random creatures from the Lower Planes. This is the first "Gygaxian" touch I have noticed in this book. Reminds me of a really old Dragon magazine article from years ago. Appendix D is the magic resistance table and Appendix E covers the abilities of Gods.
All of this in a PDF for just under $15.
I have mentioned before that Joe gets his work done and gets it done fast. Well, this is not only no exception but it is the new benchmark. Joe ended his Kickstarter and then got printed books out to people 6 months early. Let that sink in for a moment. In a hobby where we tolerate (although not quietly) Kickstarters with delays of 18 months or longer, Joe and BRW are out there, turning out product and getting it to people early. You should buy a copy of this book on that principle alone.
So should you get this book?
If you like monsters then yes. If you need monsters for your old-school game then yes. If you want to support Joe and the Adventures Dark & Deep system then yes. If you want to reward good Kickstarter behavior then absolutely yes.
Lots of good reasons to get in my book. It is also the best book in his line.

Swords and Wizardry Monstrosities
The first of two HUGE monster books for the Swords & Wizardry game.  This one is also my favorite of the two by just a tiny bit.
This has mostly new monsters but some of the monsters we have seen before either in the SRD or other books. That though does not detract from its value as this is a 560+ page book since in addition to that there are some new monsters. The cover is very evocative of the old-school (pre 1980) covers. I love this cover. There is much in common between this book and The Tome of Horrors. Each monster is given a page of stats, description and a plot hook. While ToH used some recycled art, this all seems to be new art. Even Orcus (which we now have 3 listings for) is new. Actually, the art is pretty darn good and I don't mind the occasional repeat of a monster to see some new art. Honestly, there is so much great stuff in this book that even with the occasional repeat monster this is still a top-notch collection. If you play S&W then this is a great monster book to have. I am even going as far as to say it is a must have for any serious S&W GM.



Tome of Horrors Complete - Swords and Wizardry Edition
What can be said about this product? The original Tomes of Horrors were all great products that featured a number of "old school" monsters from previous editions of the game all under the OGL. It even had a brief "tutorial" on how to add these beasties to your own products. Now those very same monsters are back in one huge book "updated" to Swords & Wizardry stats. Nearly 700 monsters, all ready for your game. In addition to art and stat blocks for every monster there is also an adventure hook for each one. The monsters have been "scaled down" to fit the S&W rules better.
Color covers, black & white interior art.  688 pages (that's right!)

Converting these to AD&D1/OSRIC/Advanced Labyrinth Lord should not be an issue.

Eight monster books and somewhere over 3,300 monsters (lots of duplicates sure, but all unique presentations).

Friday, March 15, 2019

Kickstart Your Weekend: Queen of the Damned: Velrath's Vampires

The weekend is on the way so you know what that means! Time to Kickstart Your Weekend.  And do I have something special today!

You know my fascination obsession with the Queen of Vampires?  Well, Cass Suwinski gets me.
Here is his new Kickstarter and I hope you will find it as much fun as I do.

Queen of the Damned: Velrath's Vampires



https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tombguardians/queen-of-the-damned-velraths-vampires?ref=theotherside

Here are the Queen and some of her court.









Of course, they come unpainted, but that is expected.
I also got a chance to talk to Cass a bit.

For the benefit of the audience, could you please introduce yourself?  
My name is Cass and I'm the owner of Tomb Guardians, Inc.

How did you end up starting Tomb Guardians Miniatures?  
Tomb Guardians was started in June 2018.  After my son and I went to Origins as we do every year, my son came home and told his mom how popular our game we run every year and how many people wanted to join.  My wife the next day told me I should write the rule to our Dungeon crawl and adventure module.  I thought about it and agreed to do just that.  Unfortunately, I didn't realize how much work it takes and the depth of writing the rules.  As the rules proceeded, my wife again asked me if we had miniatures to match the characters in the game and I said no.  She then said why don't you create your own miniatures and I thought about it and thought it was a great idea.  I then reached out to some of the people I knew in the field and that lead us too Jason Wiebe, Bobby Jackson, and Patrick Keith.  Of which we hired all three to create miniatures for our company.  The first miniatures created was a set of 13 Dwarven heroes and 17 monsters.  They were released in December of 2018 to a very positive action.

Could you tell us more about the Kickstarter for Queen of the Damned - Velrath's Vampires, and your involvement with the project?  
The Vampires heroes is one of the 8 factions within our world.  Queen Velrath's was created and sculpted after my wife.  We used her wedding dress as the dress she wears. That was my thank you to my wife for her support and encouragement.  The back story too Queen Velrath was she was the wife of Telamir, the original leader of the Templars, and left the Kingdom of Rasa with him when he was expelled.  She very much desired to learn the ways of attunement with the moon’s power, but she was forbidden from learning it because she was a woman.  Angry at the snub, she started secretly exploring this herself, but instead of attuning with Wecarus, she found it much more beneficial to bask in the eerie darkened glow of Delaura.  When Telamir discovered what she was up to, she was burned as a heretic, and dumped in a nearby swamp.  But fortunately for her, Delaura was full on that evening, and with her strong attunement with it, she was reborn as the pinnacle of all undead beings, the vampire.  Since that day, she has been enlarging her undead ranks, while punishing any Templars or male citizens of Rasa by enslaving them to do her bidding.  Today her followers have strongholds in nearly every swamp in Elkarim, and they all hold a special hatred for the Templars. There are 10 Vampire heroes, Queen, Mage, Cleric, Anti-Paladin, 2 Grave Spirits and 4 male slaves.

How did you assemble sculptors and other artists for Queen of the Damned?  
I try and use the best sculptors in the world, Jason Wiebe, Bobby Jackson, and Patrick Keith along with painter Mary Profitt.  They do amazing work and keep my vision for the miniatures on key.  I couldn't ask for anything better.

Would you say Queen of the Damned - Velrath's Vampires is open to newcomers? Or is it for people with prior knowledge of Tomb Guardians' work?: 
Queen of the Damned - Velrath's Vampires is a collection of 21 28mm miniatures, of which there are 10 Vampires and 11 monster miniatures and accessory pieces.  The miniatures are cast in metal and come with a 5 year guarantee.  If someone breaks the miniature all they have to do is mail it too us and we will replace it no questions asked.   Queen of the Damned is not a game.

What has it been like working with Jason Wiebe, Bobby Jackson, Patrick Keith, and Mary Profitt?: 
All our sculptures and painters are amazing and very easy to work with.  I'm very happy to have them part of our team.

Could you describe your history with Kickstarter?:  
Tomb Guardians had one other Kickstarter last year and that was our first.  We learned a lot from that Kickstarter, unfortunately, we canceled the Kickstarter prior to its completion on December 5th, 2018.  However, even though we canceled the Kickstarter we did get an investor which allowed us to take pre-orders starting on December 7th, 2018.  This was with the understanding that the miniatures would ship in late February/early March.  We started shipping these orders 2 weeks ago and will finish those orders by the middle of March.  Offering Pre-Orders was a huge success and surpassed my expectations.

Do you plan to attend Origins this year? If so, will this be your first time at Origins after starting Tomb Guardians, and do you plan to promote your company as an exhibitor there?  
Yes, we will be at Origins, demoing our game that we are releasing in the fall.  This game is a RPG/dungeon crawl with an adventure module.  A group of players selects a party of heroes and has to accomplish certain objectives within each level of the dungeon.  We will be demoing this game all week.  More details later on the game itself, but all the miniatures we are creating will be used in our game!

AND I just got this announcement this morning.
Tomb Guardians is excited to announce that we are doubling your stretch goal awards. That means you will get 2 sets of all our stretch goals hit in our campaign! Anyone that pledges the “All In” pledge or upgrades will get not just 1 set but we will double that stretch goal set and you get 2 sets! That means if we hit all our goals you would get 22 free miniatures!!! The total set goes from 41 miniatures to a possible 63 miniatures. That works out to be $5.87 per miniature! This is an outstanding offer, you would get our Black Dragon that retails for $89.95 for $5.87!!! This offer applies to everyone, including those that have already pledged or if you upgrade your pledge. Don’t miss out on this incredible offer. We would like to thank everyone again for there support and trust in us.
Pretty cool if you ask me.
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tombguardians/queen-of-the-damned-velraths-vampires?ref=theotherside

Thursday, March 14, 2019

OMG: Egyptian Myths, Part 1

Ancient Egypt spanned more than 3,000 years of history.  So much history in fact that there is as less time between us and Queen Cleopatra VII (reign 51 BCE to 30 BCE) than Cleopatra and the construction of the Pyramid of Khufu (2560 BCE) and Egypt was already 500+ years old by the time that was built.  There are "Intermediate Periods" in Egyptian history where very little is known about what was going on that lasted longer than the run of most countries today including the United States.

It is really no wonder that Egypt has fascinated us for millennia. 

The entries in the Egyptian Mythos section of the Deities and Demigods is no different.  The authors of the DDG acknowledge this time and mention that the religion had changed in that time.  So we are only given a few of the "big gods" and the ones that are the most common names.  This I think is perfectly fine.  A book on ancient Egyptian gods would fill many volumes this size.  Ancient Egyptian religion is very complex, but relatable to all of us I think because of a lot of ideas we have in religion now came from then.  The Trinty? First seen in Egypt.  The death and resurrection of a god? Egypt.  An afterlife? Egypt again.  A monotheistic religion? Yes, even Egypt did this (for a while and I'll get to that).

The purpose of these "One Man's God" posts is to square the mythology as presented in the DDG with the other bits of the D&D (primarily AD&D) cosmology. In particular with demons and devils and other fiends.  Not really to discuss whether or not the DDG is a good guide for religion or history (it's not, nor is it trying to be).

So. Did Egypt have demons?  Well...let's have a look.

One thing we get right from the start is that Egypt has a lot of gods and many of those gods are very powerful.  The cap given on all gods in the DDG is 400hp for the greatest god in the pantheon. Egypt has two gods at 400 (Ra and Osiris) and many more at 300 or above.  I would argue, given her predominance in the myths that Isis should also be at 400, or at least at 395 to Ptah's 390.  Some important gods, like Amun or Aten, don't even appear.

If there are a lot of really powerful gods, there are uncounted minor gods.  While some might fit the bill as a "demon", demigod or quasi-god might be a better name for them.  Of course the chief of these lesser gods, at least for mortal concerns, was the Pharoh, a god on Earth.
The Egyptians had "night lands" or an "underearth" but no Hell to speak of.  Places that "feel" like the Abyss (in abstract terms) but lacking the evil. Good or evil people would die and then continue their lot in the next life.  They could build these little statues that would do the work for them if they had enough money.  The worst thing that could happen to you is that you would be forgotten. Prayers no longer said for you and in later times if you could be mummified, having your body destroyed.  It could be our practice of burial comes from this. That and the pragmatic concerns of not wanting to see dear old depart granddad being dragged off to be eaten by jackals.

Apep, the King of Serpents
One of the few god-level monsters in the DDG is Apep, the King of Serpents.  If you recall from a Monstrous Monday a few weeks back I featured snakes and snake people.  Fear of snakes is old. Really old. The Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Mulism) all have a snake as the first enemy in Eden.  Other religions follow suit.
In the DDG Apep is described as a "creature of the Abyss" and "the physical embodiment of chaotic evil".  The stats for Apep put him inline with the Demon Lords/Princes like Demongorgon and Orcus.
In the mythology of D&D it is very, very likely that Apep was one of the original demons, like Dagon and Pazuzu. Called Obyriths in current versions of D&D, I called them Protodemons or Eodemons.  Apep certainly fits the bill.   If Demogorgon has the "backing" of Dagon (see 4e and beyond) then I would argue that he also has the backing of Apep.  These two ancient Obyriths/Eodemons could be the reason why Demogorgon has the title Prince of Demons.

Apep
FREQUENCY:  Unique
NO.  APPEARING:  1
ARMOR CLASS: -4
MOVE:  18"
HIT DICE:  18 (250 hp)
%  IN  LAIR:  100%
TREASURE  TYPE:  H (x3)
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  2
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  3-30 (bite)/4-24 (constriction)
SPECIAL  ATTACKS:  Poison, Breath Weapon (6-60)
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  +3  or  better weapon to hit
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  40%
INTELLIGENCE:  High
ALIGNMENT:  Chaotic  Evil
SIZE:  L  (300' long)
PSIONIC ABILITY:  Nil

This creature is older than the demons and all but the most powerful stay away from his layer deep in the Abyss.  He is attended by uncounted numbers of snakes and can summon 5-50 snakes of any sort to his aid as he is their King.
This monster has a poisonous bite (3-30 points of damage and save at -4 or die), can breathe flame every other round for 6-60 points of damage (10" long and 4" wide cone) and can constrict for 4-24 points of damage.  He has slain and eaten many mortals, demons and gods. 
Some scholars speculate that he is also the same creature known as Yig to some and Jormungandr to others.

Set, The Evil God
Set is a problem.  I mean yes he is a problem because he is evil, but also a problem with how he is wedged into the cosmology here.  For the ancient Egyptians, the gods lived in their temples.  Set who is listed as Lawful Evil is placed naturally in the Nine Hells.  But...that doesn't really work.  Not for Set and not for the Hells.  Druaga we can fit in, but Set is much larger. In later Dragon magazines, Ed Greenwood in his now very famous articles on the devils and the Nine Hells places Set in Acheron or rather he is trying to build his own plane between Acheron and the Nine Hells.  While a neat idea I also don't think it works 100% for me.  Set is a bad guy, he kills his brother Osiris and tosses his body parts all over Egypt.  But he also rides on Ra's solar barge to fight Apep and even some Pharaohs were named to honor him.  So he is a complicated, but still largely evil, god.

Ammit
Not presented in the DDG is Ammit, the crocodile/hippopotamus/lion beast that devours souls/maat of the dead that fail to get into the afterlife.
Ammit certainly meets the criterion for a demon.  She is a monster that eats the souls of the dead. Horrifying visage. Certainly evil and used to scare people into moral behavior.
While she is missing from the DDG (though Erol Otus puts her in the full page art just before the myths) she does appear at Ammut in the AD&D 2nd Edition Al-Qadim Monstrous Manual.

Ammit
FREQUENCY:  Unique
NO.  APPEARING:  1
ARMOR CLASS: 3
MOVE:  12"
HIT DICE:  12 (102 hp)
%  IN  LAIR:  100%
TREASURE  TYPE:  Nil
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  3
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  1-10 (claw)/1-10 (claw)/2-20 (bite)
SPECIAL  ATTACKS: 
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  +1  or  better weapon to hit, Immune to all attacks from Undead
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  70%
INTELLIGENCE:  Low
ALIGNMENT:  Chaotic  Evil
SIZE:  L  (15' long, 7' foreleg to head tall)
PSIONIC ABILITY:  Nil
Ammit is the demon that waits in the afterlife.  If Anubis judges a person's heart is heavier than the feather of Ma'at then Ammit eats the heart and the person then must roam the outer darkness to "die a second time".  In some cases Ammit eats the heart and tosses the body into the lake of fire she resides near. 
Ammit is a huge animal like demon. She has the head of a crocodile, the mane and hindquarters of a lion, and the forequarters and belly of a hippopotamus. She is grossly fat since she has no end of wicked hearts to feed on.  For her size she is fast on both land and water.
Ammit will also attack the living if they interfere with her feeding.

Next time lets talk about Aten, how I am going to use Apep and what the hell is up with Hermes Trismegistus, the Thrice Great Hermes.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Isaina Lyd’ar for The Witch for Swords & Wizardry White Box

I don't think it is hubris to say I know my witches.

My first knowledge of Thomas Denmark was when I picked up a copy of the absolutely fantastic d20 book "Way of the Witch" by Citizen Games.  His work is featured throughout the book and on the cover. For me, it really helped define the feel of that book and the classes involved.


Since then I have worked with nearly all the authors of that book and Christina Stiles and Megan Robertson joined me on the Strange Brew d20/Pathfinder project which we all felt was the spiritual successor to Way of the Witch.   Sadly Citizen Games was a casualty of the d20 bust.
The text lives on in Strange Brew and the art lives on with Thomas Denmark.

So it was not a big surprise, but a pleasant one all the same, when I saw the art for Isaina Lyd’ar in Beasties II.    In fact, I have seen it before.


I was very, very pleased that Thomas could use his art again in his own products.  It is too good to let lie forgotten in an out of print book.

It is only fitting then that his "magic-user" should really be a witch in the proper sense.  She is 100% Open OGC in Beasties and my The Witch for Swords & Wizardry White Box is as well, so it is a perfect match in my mind.

Isaina Lyd’ar
Human Female
4th level Witch, White Witch Tradition
(or perhaps Sinderan Tradition)

Strength: 11
Dexterity: 13 (+1)
Constitution: 12
Intelligence: 14
Wisdom: 14
Charisma: 18 (+3)

HP: 12
Alignment: Neutral Good
AC: 7 [12] (Leather Armor)
Saves Base: 12
THAC0: 18 [THAC20: 19]

Equipment: girdle of stealth, this confers near invisibility for 3d6 turns. It takes half a day to recharge.

Occult Powers
Familiar: Visions* (instead of a familiar Isaina gets dreams that instruct her on what spells she needs.)
Herbal Healing

Spells 
Cantrips (6): Arcane Mark, Dancing Lights, Knot, Lift, Mend, Object Reading,
First (2): Locate Animal or Plant, Protection from Evil
Second (2): Extra-Sensory Perception, Sleep

Description From Beasties 2:
Isaina has always been an outsider. She would rather talk to animals than humans. When she does make friends she is incredibly loyal and close. She always thinks about how her actions can lead to the greater good, and she believes it is each individuals responsibility to bring more happiness into the world and reduce suffering.

She often has visions and haunting dreams of a coming disaster. She is driven to prevent these from really happening.

She is a bit too enamored with ale, wine, and intoxicants and is occasionally willing to try out new experiences.
Section 15:
The White Witch for Swords & Wizardry White Box. Copyright © 2018, Timothy S. Brannan, Other Side Publishing
Beasties 2, Copyright 2019, Night Owl Workshop

Now that is a cool character.  Can't wait to use her in a game.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

New Releases Tuesday: Vigilante City

It's Tuesday and that usually means new releases.  Today we have a great one.

Eric Bloat of Bloat Games has been a favorite here for a while.  I have gone on and on about how much I love Dark Places & Demogorgons.  Today he has released what is destined to be my new favorite game, SURVIVE THIS!! Vigilante City.

Vigilante City current features two new books.

SURVIVE THIS!! Vigilante City - Core Rules and SURVIVE THIS!! Vigilante City - Villain's Guide


The rules are a version of the same Survive This!! we see in Dark Places & Demogorgons and Survive This Zombies! so compatibility is a nice feature. Especially if you want to use The Cryptid Manual.

The one thing I did not expect was the inclusion of a Compatibility License and Logo.  That honestly SCREAMED at me when I started downloading.

I am going to read these rules over and get up a review and some characters sometime soon.
But you can all now expect a Mystic's Handbook to be coming from me soon! (name might change)

Can't wait to get into this game.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Beasties II from Night Owl Workshop

Now I have gone on the record, many, many times, talking about how much I love monster books. My first glimpse into D&D was way back in 1978-79 when I first saw and read the Monster Manual.  Very few books have come close to that feeling of unlimited potential.  So when a new monster book comes out, I have to take a look and usually grab it.

Beasties II from Night Owl Workshop has something of a pedigree in my mind.  The art and text are from none other than Thomas Denmark.  He is responsible for some of my favorite art during the d20 boom, in particular, Citizen Games' "Way of the Witch".   Plus I LOVED Beasties I so grabbing this was a no brainer for me.

Beasties II is a digest-sized book. 90 pages with black & white art. According to the sales text on DriveThru the book contains:
27 Monsters
8 NPC's
40 Drawings
1 Map
Article on Goblinology

The book follows the same format as Beasties I. Like the first Beasties it certainly punches above its weight class in terms of monsters and content.  All the text and art is by Denmark himself. 

The book is designed for "Original Fantasy Rules" but plenty of conversion notes are given for OSRIC and Basic Fantasy.  There are also some conversion notes for Nite Owl Workshop's other games Colonial Troopers, GuardiansWarriors of the Red PlanetRaiders of the Lost Artifacts and Freebooters.

The definition of "monster" is certainly very old-school too, with some traps, "minor monsters", and NPCs included for good measure. 

But the REAL reason to get this book is goblins.  There are several goblin hybrids; Blorc, Bugbearzerker, Gnomblin, Hoblin, Hoblin (Cruel), Koblin, Zoblin and a whole article on Goblinology or the Ecology of the Goblin.  Frankly, the book is worth it for all of this alone. 
Seriously. If you like goblins then grab this now.

There are also some undead and some really fun fiends.  The Drumph gets a full publication so that is now.  A new aquatic humanoid race is introduced, the Shahatha.  I rather like them to be honest and will be porting them over to my 5e game.

The NPCs are also a lot of fun.  One, Isaina Lyd’ar, reminds me of the work he did for Way of the Witch.  So much so I might convert to a White Box Witch.   She looks like she would be fun to play. Maybe she is a Sinderan Witch tradition.



So a lot of great content for $4.  Plus the entire work is released as "Open" under the OGL so that is a nice touch.

Bookmarks in the PDF would have been nice as well as a PDF clickable table of contents, but that is a minor thing really.

If you love monsters get this book.
If you love goblins you REALLY need to get this book.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Kickstart Your Weekend Mega Post!

A bunch of new and really awesome looking RPG Kickstarters are out.  So here is a bunch of them. There has to be at least one her you will like.



DCC RPG Module: Reckoning of the Gods-Into the Shadow Realm

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/studio9games/dcc-rpg-module-reckoning-of-the-gods-into-the-shad?ref=theotherside

While I don't play Dungeon Crawl Classics the RPG, I do LOVE their adventures.  This is a 32-page adventure for 3rd level characters for DCC or any old-school game.  You know the production values will be high and the adventure will be deadly.

Rise of the Drow: Collector's Edition for D&D 5E and PFRPG



https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/adventureaweek/rise-of-the-drow-collectors-edition-for-dandd-5e-a?ref=theotherside

This is a big book!  In 2014 the original Rise of the Drow came out for Pathfinder.  While I didn't run it as written I used huge chunks of it when I ran Vault of the Drow last year and it was fantastic.  This book would have been welcome then since it is now going to be for 5e and Pathfinder.

Adventures Great and Glorious


 https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/brwgames/adventures-great-and-glorious?ref=theotherside

Joseph Bloch is back with another great sounding book for old-school games.  This one is for high-level campaigns, running kingdoms and intrigue. It sounds a little like "Companion Set for AD&D + Birthright", but I am sure it is more than that.
Joe runs a tight Kickstarter. He does what he says and gets things done.  To date he also the only Kickstarter creator to get me books BEFORE his stated deadlines.  This book should also be a great as his others.

Basic and Expert RPG Sets Remastered!


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/640360422/basic-and-expert-rpg-sets-remastered?ref=theotherside

Bill Barsh of Pacesetter Games has been out there producing some high-quality material and books for a long time.  This one is so far up my alley that it is practically in my living room.  I have gone on forever about my love of Basic-era D&D and B/X in particular.   Well, this looks like so much fun!

Witch+Craft, a 5e Supplemental


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/astrolago/witch-craft-a-5e-supplemental?ref=theotherside

Now this one looks like a lot of fun.  Tradecraft, magic and crafting for your D&D5 characters.  Exactly the sort of commonplace magic one would expect to see in a world filled with magic.  This one is on the opposite end of the spectrum than DCC and that is what makes it look fun.
Love the art.

Lost Classes and Cannibal Corpses - Two Original RPG Zines




https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gamersandgrognards/lost-classes-and-cannibal-corpses-two-original-rpg?ref=theotherside

Back on to the old-school side of things, long time blogger Ryan Thompson has his first Kickstarter out.   Appendix N Entertainment gives not one but two zines; Lost Classes and Canibal Corpse. "Lost Classes: The Arnesonian Classes" features two classes played in Dave Arneson's games, the Merchant and the Sage.  It is worth it because of that really.
"Solar Sanctuary of the Cannibal Corpse" is an adventure module for 1st-3rd level characters.

And finally. Let's not forget the 8,000 lb (800 lb is not enough) gorilla out there.

Critical Role: The Legend of Vox Machina Animated Special


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/criticalrole/critical-role-the-legend-of-vox-machina-animated-s?ref=theotherside

Honestly, what do I need to say about this one? Hit 4 million in it's first few hours of opening.  At just under 6.5 million now and there are still 41 days of funding to go.  I am pretty sure this is the largest RPG-related Kickstarter ever. It is even more money that the recent https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mst3k/bringbackmst3k/descriptionMST3k Kickstarter.
So yeah, Critical Role is a big deal. 

So get out your wallet or purse and get ready to slap some cash down.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Maximum Mayhem Mail!

Got home last night to a mail call from Mark Taormino.  This is always a good time.



The box came with his new adventure module #5 Palace of the Dragon's Princess and some dice in a bag.  The dice are actually quite nice.


The box is nice an sturdy.


It holds all five of the Maximum Mayhem adventures and the monster book, Monsters of Mayhem #1.  It will also hold a bunch of his characters sheets once I print them out on goldenrod paper and all the extra perks that came with the adventures (posters, 3D art).


There is also enough room in the box for a rule set.  While the monsters and adventures are overtly "Advanced" in design (OSRIC, Advanced Labyrinth Lord), the maximum level for the adventures is 14 and that screams B/X to me.   I'll have to find the right OSR rules that fits the feeling of these.

You can still get a box while supplies last directly from Dark Wizard.
The adventure modules, monster book, and character sheets can be found at DriveThruRPG/RPGNow.


I should spend some time and go through all of these in detail. Maybe look over different games to run them under.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Darlessa the Vampire Queen

I have had a long and sorted history with the "Vampire Queen" in my games.

One of the first adventures I worked on for OSR publication was called "The Tomb of the Vampire Princess" or "Vampire Queen" or "Palace" depending on my mood at the time.

I essentially saw it as a sequel of sorts to the original Wee Warriors / Pacesetter Games "Palace of the Vampire Queen".  But a few things happened. First Mark Taormino published his own "Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen" which was AWESOME.  Then Bill Barsh of Pacesetter Games produced some sequels of his own with Castle Blood and Crypts of the Living.
So the need for my own sequel dwindled.

A couple years back Small Niche Games produced Guidebook to the Duchy of Valnwall. I had the pleasure of working on that product.  I submitted a character to be "Saint" in the game, Father Johan Werper, my very first D&D character ever.  When I got my copy I was so thrilled. Something I had wanted to happen for ages was going to happen, Johan was going to be a real saint in a "D&D" book! I opened it up and I was not disappointed at all!  Moreover the book's main author and designer Pete Spahn had added this section:
He died in a tragic tale that is recounted in the Hunt for the Dark Mistress, where he tracked down and slew Darlessa the Vampire Queen who had abducted his granddaughter.
Unfortunately, Johan was himself cursed by the taint of the vampire's blood. Rather than remain an undead abomination, he bid goodbye to his granddaughter and used the last of his strength to douse his body with oil and set himself alight.
Pete never contacted me about this and I could not have been happier!  Without knowing it he included things that happened in my game; Johan dying and leaving his granddaughter, Celene, behind (Celene was my first 2nd Ed character, and afraid of the dark.  Now I know why).  The use of holy oil in my games (does 1d8 damage to undead; more when lit) and of course giving a name to an enemy that had been lurking in the back of my mind ever since I first read about Elizabeth Bathory.

It was like throwing a deck of cards into the air and having them land in a perfect house of cards.

So modules V5 and V6 combined will cover a lot of similar territory to what I was going to do in my adventure. So I'll just drop that and keep the elements that are new.  The opening of the crypts.

I have a stack of various notes, maps, ideas and going through them all I think I have something pretty cool here.  I'll have to get it all together in time for my annual Halloween horror game.

Right now the working title is Descent into the Crypts of the Vampire Queen. It will be my homage to the great adventures of the Golden Era but also a nod to the two Vampire Queen adventures that brought me so much joy.

Here she is for Advanced Labyrinth Lord.

Darlessa, The Queen of Vampires
Female Vampire Witch, Demonic Tradition
No. Enc.: 1 (Unique)
Alignment: Chaotic (evil)
Movement: 120’ (40’)
   Fly: 180’ (60’)
Armor Class: -5 (bracers of defense, amulet of protection, ring of protection)
Hit Dice: 13
Attacks: 1 (touch, see below) or spell
Damage: 1d10, drain 2 points of Constitution, witch Spells
Save: W13
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: XXII
XP: 11,400

Str: 18 Int: 15 Wis: 14 Dex: 18 Con: (18) Cha: 22

In addition to the powers of a vampire, Darlessa has the following witch spells and Occult Powers.  She casts as a 13th level witch.

Spells by Level
Cantrip (3+5): Alarm Ward, Black Flame, Daze, Knot, Mend, Mote of Light, Object Reading, Spark
1st (4+3): Burning Hands, Cause Fear, Everlasting Candle, Hecate's Spiritual Dog, Minor Curse, Read Languages
2nd (4+3): Agony, Bewitch II, Burning Gaze, Enthrall, Ghost Touch, Produce Flame, Rite of Remote Seeing
3rd (3+2): Astral Sense, Clairaudience/Clairvoyance, Danse Macabre, Toad Mind, Tongues
4th (3+2): Arcane Eye, Bewitch IV, Elemental Armor, Moonlit Way, Phantom Lacerations
5th (2): Death Curse, Greater Command
6th (2): Death Blade
7th (1): Wave of Mutilation

Occult Powers
Familiar (Undead Raven)
Evil’s Touch
Devil’s Tongue

Magic Items
Intangible Cloak of Shadows, Amulet of Protection* (also prevents cleric turning), bracers of defense, ring of protection, ring spell storing.

Links to Adventures



Links to my 'Vampire Queen' posts



Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Review: Shadowtide: A Blue Rose Novel

Shadowtide: A Blue Rose Novel

The trouble with most "gamer fiction" is you can practically hear the dice being rolled in the background.  Sometimes, and it doesn't matter how compelling the story, you can't bu help see or hear game terms being thrown about.
Thankfully that is NOT the issue here with Shadowtide: A Blue Rose Novel by Joseph D. Carriker, Jr.

Carriker gives us a story we can get into and characters we can care about, that is the job of all good storytellers; whether that medium is a novel, a play or a role-playing game.  In this case, we get a good novel that preserves what we like or want from the RPG but still satisfies as a novel.

The story opens with the disappearance (likely murder) of two envoys from the Sovereign's Finest.  The Sovereign is Queen Jaelin of Aldis and her envoys are tasked with helping out where they can and mostly fighting the forces of evil. The two envoys are tracking down a reported case of Shadow Sorcerery in the Veran Marsh east of Aldis.  Shadow is more than just black magic, it is a taint of the unworldly, of the unnatural.  Contrasts are turned up in Aldis, the evil are very evil and the good...well the good try to be very good, but as this book reminds us even the Envoys of the Queen, the very symbols of good, have to make hard choices.

The story begins with a trio of envoys.  I would say "unlikely" but in truth the envoys are a varied lot. We have Soot who is a Rhy-Crow, or an intelligent crow with the abilities of an Adept. Morjin Brightstar, a lovable rogue and rake who works best alone, but is constantly falling love with whomever he meets.  A note. Morjin is a character who in a lesser hand would have been VERY annoying.  But Carriker invests a lot of attention and dare I say love into Morjin that you feel for the guy.  He is a former Roamer, a nomadic culture similar to the Romany of our world, but he has been exiled from his clan.  So it becomes easy to see how his happy-go-lucky, devil-may-care nature hides a profound sadness of what would be a good heart.  Finally the last of our trio is Ydah (pronounced EE0dah). She is a Night person, or what might pass for a half-orc in other books. She is the fighter to Morjin's lover.  She is also recovering from recent grief and hides her sadness behind a gruff exterior and a desire to beat the living crap out of people. Which she excels at. 

The trio finds themselves in a hidden smuggler's town called Serpent's Haven.  Where basically everyone is a criminal or descended from a criminal of some sort.  Their mission here is to discover what happened to other envoys and figure out what the nature of the Shadow they were looking for.

I don't want to spoil the plot, but suffice to say it involves cults, crazed cultists, a Dark Fiend and the ever-present danger of Shadow to all that are around it, friend and foe alike.

Naturally, comparisons will be made to the Valdemar books by Mercedes Lackey, of which Blue Rose is inspired by, but those comparisons are mainly superficial here.  Sure one can tell a "Valdemar" story with Blue Rose.  One could also tell this story with Blue Rose.  The differences to me lie at the heart of what Shadowtide and Blue Rose are really about.  The characters of both the novel and game try to do Good with a capital G.  But often the only choices they have are goods with a little g.  They can't fix every problem.  The difference I think then between a Blue Rose character and say a D&D character is that it is the good they can't do is what bothers the Blue Rose characters, and this makes them want to do and be better next time.

That is certainly true for our trio of heroes here.  Morjin feels bad about how treats certain people when he knows he has worked towards the greater good.  Ydah feels bad about having to kill (and kill she does) cultists, but she needs to stop an even greater evil. Soot, well Soot has some problems all his own and shows us how dangerous the cult they are dealing with is.

In the end, the characters care about their actions. They care about how others see them as envoys and they care about how others are treated.  They know there is injustice in the world, even Ydah mentions the stares she still gets in "enlightened Aldis", but they are working to make things a little bit better.  Because they care they are not the "murder hobos" of other games or stories and we care more for them as well.

The book ends, but room for a sequel is left open. I certainly hope so. The characters are entertaining and the mystery they are delving into is a fascinating one.  Kudos to Carriker for giving us characters whose motivations I believe and whose stories are compelling enough to make me want more.

You can get this book in a lot of places.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Snakes. Why did it have to be Snakes?

A little something different today for MM.  I want to talk about snake people.


Snake people, serpent folk, Ophidians, Yuan-ti whatever you want to call them they have been a staple of fiction and D&D since ... well likely forever.

They were common enough in the pages in the Conan that even as a casual reader of the pulps I had heard about them.  They have had a prominent focus in AD&D with the Yuan-ti; so much so that there are one of the very, very few monsters that are IP and Closed to the OGL.
So yeah, they come with some history.

I think it is also that snakes seem so loathsome to humans.  There is just something "evil" about them in our collective subconscious.   That makes them a great old-school threat.

Review: Serpentine - Oldskull Serpent Folk

Serpentine - Oldskull Serpent Folk from Oldskull, aka Kent David Kelly is a nice RPG for adding and using Serpent Folk, known as Serpentine here, in any old-school like game. The book is 41 pages with cover and OGL statement. Everything is 100% open minus the usual trade dress and some names.  The book is full color, but mostly public domain black and white art.
The purpose of this book is to bring together various mythos and stories together to present a cohesive whole narrative of a primordial race of serpent people.  In this respect, it works rather well.
History and Pre-History of the Serpent Folk. Drawing on the works of Dunsany, Lovecraft, Howard, and Smith Kelley weaves a history (or Hisssstory!) that combines the Hyborian Mythos and the Cthulhu Mythos, with other myths of the world added for good measure.  While overtly for the Oldskull world it can be added and modified as any game master needs.  One of the reasons it works so well here is that Kelley draws on some primordial myths and legends.  The same that influenced the authors of the stories being used.   Quotes from those authors are found throughout this book.
Up next we get a Serpent Folk Truename Generator.  A useful tool to help you name all those NPCs (or even PCs) you plan on using.  This is followed by Description or what your serpent folk looks like.  A section on Ability Minimums, Maximums and Modifiers is next. After that are sections on Behavior, XP modifiers, and views on Alignment.
There is a list of serpent folk deities from other myths.  It is a good list, but I have a few issues with some of the gods on it; for example Brigid. But the vast majority I see why they are there.  Mostly Serpent Folk are going to worship Yig and/or Tsathogga, though Set is a close runner up.
We get into a section now on Class Options for Serpent Folk. Most are going to fall into the various fighter classes and thief-related classes.  Also presented here is the new Soul Slaver class, which combines Cleric, Shaman, and Necromancer all in one serpent-related class.  It's a good class and it adds a lot of flavor to the Serpent Folk.  I might tweak it to be less Necromancer and more Shaman myself, but that is only personal bias, not a shortcoming of the class.  Basically, the class draws on the souls of the deceased to perform magical feats. There are spell lists, mostly from the classical B/X and Advanced sources.    They advance as Magic-Users, but have their own spell progression and, in a nice old-school touch, level titles.
There is also a section on Racial Powers serpent folk get and what kinds of snakes they are likely to summon.  This also included specail attacks and special limitations.
There is a nice section on how Serpent folk get along with Dragons (spoiler, they don't) that really sealed the deal for me.  I have been using various serpent-like races (Yuan-ti, Naga) as the ancient ancestral enemies of the Dragonfolk (Dragonborn) for years.
We end with a recomended reading list.
So for just $3 and a little over 40 pages this book packs a lot in.  There are so many cool ideas it is hard to figure out where I want to start with it.  I think that since Kelley tapped into some primal myths here that all gamers have an idea of these creatures, he just put it down in writing for us.

PWWO: Serpentine in Other Old-School Games

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea has been my obsession over the last few weeks. Given the background of both AS&SH and Serpentine, it should really be no surprise then that I see the two of them working quite well together.  With the addition of Serpentine you can really "punch up" the stats for Sanke People in AS&SH. Already an interesting monster, now with this addition Snake People go from "just another monster" in the Bestiary section to potential Big Bad material.  Growing cult activity? Serpent People. More dinosaur sightings? Serpent People.  Increased slave trade? Yup. Serpent People.   Plus AS&SH and Oldskull Serpentine draw from exactly the same sources. They just rearrange things in a different order.  Both books feature Yig and owners of one book should find it to be of positive use when used with the other book.

Serpentine features the often used Clark Ashton Smith god, Tsathoggua.  Here he is considered to be a god of the Serpent People. AS&SH has the god Xathoqqua, which is the same god.  There are some differences in how they are portrayed in each book, but gods are supposed to be mutable.  Of course, the best source for Tsathogga (yet another spelling) is from the Frog Gods themselves in their Tome of Horror Complete.  Here he is presented as a demon, but that is perfect for me really. The same book (and the Tome of Horrors 4) have the Inphidians, which are their versions of the Yuan-ti, save Open for the OGL. Speaking of the Frog Gods, in their Monstrosities book feature Ophidians, a name I have also used in the past, as snake men.

The OSR games Blueholme and Adventurer Conqueror King System both have rules within their systems to allow Serpentine player characters. All you need really is the Serpentine book.


Union of the Snake: The Second Campaign

The heroes of the Second Campaign, my D&D 5e nod to old-school gaming, have already had their first encounter with the Yuan-ti.  They have encountered other snake-like creatures and reptiles worshiping snake gods, but everything is about to go into overdrive when they hit their desert-related adventures.

While the campaign is 5e based there is a lot of old-school influences in it.  I plan to take a bunch of the material above, put it in a blender then bury it in a desert for 3,000 years and see what comes up.
For me a lot of it is leading up to the ultimate confrontation with Demogorgon.
Borrowing from Advanced Labyrinth Lord I am using Demogorgon as the cult leader behind the snakes and snake men.  This fits in with my use of the blood apes as one of the three factions the worship Demogorgon; with human cultists and Ophidians/Snake Men/Serpent Folk being the other two.  The campaign will take a solid desert/Egyptian turn here soon.  I just need to figure out the Set-Apep-Yig-Demogorgon connection.

Of course, there will be creepy ass snake-men and cultists. All part of the alchemy of my past. Yes. My influeces for this are an forgotten Dirk Benedict horror movie and Duran Duran.  My game, my weird ass childhood.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Kickstart Your Weekend: Old School Style Zines!

Got some great Old-school style Zines. So let's go!

The Isle of The Amazons - RPG Zine for #ZineQuest

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ericfrombloatgames/the-isle-of-the-amazons-rpg-zine-for-zinequest?ref=theotherside

From friend of the Other Side Eric Bloat:
The Isle of The Amazons (TIOTA) is an optional setting designed specifically for Untold Adventures by Ennie Award winning author and designer, James M. Spahn. However, as such TIOTA, is compatible with Swords & Wizardry and really any White Box based game as well as easily convertible to be used with all OSR RPG games.

TIOTA showcases the island paradise of Elencia, the home of the Amazons. It also features Amazon City, the Amazons ways, their history, other inhabitants of Elencia, dangerous locations and monsters and much more.

TIOTA details the 7 new playable classes: The Aristocrat, Disciple of the High Priestess, Guard, Muse, Psion, Sorceress & Sungia.
It looks great!

Draugr & Draculas


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/joshburnett/draugr-and-draculas?ref=theotherside

Another Old Scool Zine!
Draugr & Draculas is a one-off zine for old-stye/OSR roleplaying adventure games. Dr&Dr focuses on vampires, undead, and spooky horror magic for use in your own fantasy RPG campaigns. The zine will be entirely written and illustrated by me, Josh Burnett. In accordance with the Zine Quest guidelines, Draugr & Draculas will be a 5.5” x 8.5” zine, staple-bound and printed in black-and-white. I estimate it should clock in at around 24-32 pages.

What's in the zine?
  • Count Dracula himself, as well as his origins and current motivations
  • Details on Dracula's lesser servants
  • Dracula's deadly rival, Elizabeth Bathory
  • Draugr—northern undead of varying degrees of power
  • The Draugr class
  • Rules for magic users striking a deal with the Devil
  • New magical items of perilous power
  • Pagan's Well, a small dungeon full of traps and treasure
  • And whatever else I can fit in this thing.   

Honestly, you had me at Vampires.

And of course a huge friend of the Other Side Justin Ryan Issac's offering.

Cade's Big Book o' Booze


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1988380379/cades-big-book-o-booze?ref=theotherside
Cade's Big Book o' Booze is a humorous zine designed to be used with the 5th edition of the world's most popular fantasy rpg. While the tone is jovial, the book itself will contain content useful for any fantasy game.
  • The "Intoxicated" condition and what it entails
  • New alcohols for your fantasy game to add some flavor (pun-intended) to your campaigns
  • New equipment and weapons, including the formidable dwarven battle mug
  • Cade's Bar Guide: a list of materials/ingredients found in the game world and how to use them to make the ultimate cocktails 
  • New magic: spells and magic items 
  • New monsters to face, including the b'ooze and the dreaded bad beer elemental
  • NPC stats for Cade Ashworthy, the titular planehopping halfling 
  • And more... 

At these prices, you can grab them all!

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