Friday, April 19, 2019

April TTRPG Maker, Day 19

Day 19: Favorite Themes to Explore

When I write games it is magic and the nature of belief.

My favorite characters tend to be clerics, paladins, and witches.  All characters that are defined by their relationship to divine forces.

Maybe it has something to do with me being an atheist in real life. I don't know.  I suspect it is.

I just find them rather interesting.



Thursday, April 18, 2019

April TTRPG Maker, Day 18

Day 18: What are some underlying messages in your work?

Witches are cool. Haunted houses are awful places in my world.

I suppose the underlying message I want to convey is that as long as everyone is having fun (and no one feels hurt or left out) then it's all good fun.

There is no wrong way to play.

Also, let people enjoy the things they love.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Magic School: Idle Thoughts

Been busy this week.  I am part of a team that is building a new Masters of Social Work program.  It is great because this time I am NOT in charge of it, one of my really qualified co-workers is heading it up and I am really looking forward to working with him in his "Senior" role.  We are the same level so this is a nice switch and will give me some freedom to work creatively at a more "on the ground" level.  Last time our roles were reversed and he got to do the cool fun stuff while I had to mind all the details!
Remember, the reward for hard work is more hard work.

I was in my home office yesterday and two minutes before our video conference meeting started I noticed that my notebook was still out in my car.  So I grabbed the closest thing, my son's D&D notebook.  While sitting through the meeting I keep a set of parallel notes on D&D-ish social work program.  If is SOOO half baked right now and may never, ever see the light of day. But I was amused.

But it got me thinking on larger Magic School ideas and how they tie into my desire of "Back to Basics" this year.

Bruce Heard is over at his blog and online quietly building all sorts of great stuff for his Calidar world. Recently his big project is one I am REALLY dying for; Calidar On the Wings of Darkness. This product will include his magic school for his country of wizards.  Bruce gave us much of what we know about the Great School of Magic located in Glantri City.  If that work is any clue, add 32 more years of game development and writing and that gives me a hint of what we might see in On the Wings of Darkness.

His latest post also helps me figure out which flavor of Basic I am planning to use.  While my great love is B/X Molday/Cook/Marsh D&D, a strong  case has been made for BECMI flavor of Basic.  Plus I have my snazzy new Rules Cyclopedia thanks to POD so this is a good thing for me.
I just like the idea of crazy Magic School hijinks using the Basic rules.

Speaking of the Great School of Magic.  A new-to-me blog, the Breath of Mystara, pointed out a great resource to me, a 555 page PDF on the Great School of Magic.

Seriously that is a lot of material.

Another interesting bit that came up for me yesterday was this fun little character creator for making your own Hogwarts student.
https://www.deviantart.com/hapuriainen/art/Hogwarts-student-maker-302435099

For fun, I did one of me and my iconic witch Larina.  This would have been back when she had brown eyes and her hair was a bit darker.



For my magic school, I have not thought of "houses" really. but think about how important they are to the Harry Potter world and fandom.  EVERYONE has a house they think they belong to.   In my mind, I was more focused on the "Colleges" which is what we did in actual college/university and grad school.

I have also been following Dave Chapman's discussions on a Harry Potter RPG (hypothetical RPG that is) and taking a lot of his advice to heart.

Now I need to work more on my idea of "High Witchcraft", but more on that later.

April TTRPG Maker, Day 17

Day 17: How Does Your Identity Influence Your Work?

This is related to yesterday's post.  But let's break it down into how I see myself.

I am an aging Gen Xer
Not a Baby Boomer (thank you!) and not a Millenial.  I grew up on a diet of MTV, horror movies on basic cable and later on VHS.  I learned to program a computer to get the software I needed (no aps or stores yet).  So I have learned to make do with what I had available and then create the rest.
My books are often the games or supplements I wanted to play in the 80s but no one had written.
So I also have a preference for some older games. I am not saying they are better (and if you spend anytime here you will know I play and love a lot of new games) I just find them fun. I like them.

I am a Midwesterner
I grew up in the mid-West.  My high school was in the middle of two corn fields. We lived through the Satanic Panic of the 80s so "of course" everyone knew of someone that knew someone that saw a Satanic altar.   I got the see the power behind a social movement early on and in your face full color.
This also affects my next bit of identity.

I am an Atheist and Skeptic
I grew up as an Atheist in a town whose claim to fame is the number of churches they have.  Look I love writing about ghosts, witches, magic, and gods. I just don't believe in any of it in real life.  None. In a very significant way, my early explorations into RPGs (D&D in particular) and mythology was a way of dealing with being the only kid in school* who didn't believe in fairy tales.  * I have since learned through the wonder of social media that I was not the only one they were just as afraid as I was to say anything.

I am a Father
Becoming a husband and father is one of my greatest achievements in life.   Yes, I have had plenty of other really great achievements; my education, my degrees, my books.  But being a dad.  Nothing ever comes close to that.  I write games I want my kids to also enjoy.  I want worlds that they would want to play in.

I am sure there is more.  I used to have a professor that said culture is like a tackle box that someone shook up.  It is very difficult to pull out one thing or separate one from the other.  I think that is true here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

April TTRPG Maker, Day 16

Day 16: How does your environment inform your work?

I have talked about this one before.

I grew up in the midwest in the 70s and 80s.  My "adventures" were often road trips. My backgrounds included a love of horror movies, a mother who knew some of the most blood-chilling stories I have ever heard, and a fascination for mythology and the occult.

It was a heady brew that only the alchemy of the 70s and 80s could produce. 

In my books, I want to recapture the feel of finding some lost occult tome of the 70s.  Something a little subversive, a little dangerous and a little outside of the reach of the normal people out there.

Hammer Horror + Occult 70s + NWoBHM from the 80s gives you the environment I grew up in and what informs all my RPG creations.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Ghūl and Ghūla

This was inspired by some recent readings and thought it would be fun to try out.  More Basic D&D fun!

Ghoul, Demonic (Ghūl)
Armor Class:  4
Hit Dice (HD): 5d8+7 (29hp)
No. of Attacks: 2 claw, 1 bite, + Paralysis and Ghoul Fever
Damage: 1d4, 1d4, 1d6
Special Attacks & Defenses: Ghoul fever, paralysis (2d6 turns), shapeshift, undead
Move: 90’ (30’)
No. Appearing: 1d2 (1d3)
Save As: Fighter 5
Morale: 10
Treasure Type:  B, C
The demonic ghoul also called a ghūl or ghūla, is a much more dangerous version of the ghoul and ghast. This creature appears to be more monstrous than the common ghoul, though there still plenty of similarities to attest to their relationship. Demonic ghouls are believed to be corpses with a demonic spirit inhabiting their body. Similar in a way to vampires.
The demonic ghoul has the hindquarters of a donkey, sans tail, and sometimes the horns of a goat.  They have the same ability to paralyze others, including elves, and are given away by their stench.
Where ghouls and ghasts feed on corpses, the demonic ghoul is not above providing their own corpses by hunting and killing humanoids.  They are also known to eat living children.
The demonic ghoul can also shapeshift into hyenas and can assume the form of the last person they devoured.
The female demonic ghoul, the ghūla, can also pass as a living human woman. It is said they will lure prey back to her lair to seduce and then feed on them.  Children born to these women are still-born but will grow up to become ghouls on their own. 
Demonic Ghouls are undead and turn as Mummies.
Ghoul Fever is a disease caused by the bite of demonic ghouls.  The victim must make a save vs. Poison or become infected. One full day after this failed save the victim loosed 1d3 Constitution and 1d3 Dexterity points.  At this point, they must make two consecutive saves vs. Death to survive.  A fail on one save adds one more day to the disease and another loss of points. Two fails results in death.
A humanoid who dies of ghoul fever rises as a ghoul at the next midnight. A humanoid who becomes a ghoul in this way retains none of the abilities it possessed in life. It is not under the control of any other ghouls, but it hungers for the flesh of the living and behaves like a normal ghoul in all respects. A humanoid of 4 Hit Dice or more rises as a ghast.
Ghoul fever is also present in 10% of all ghouls and 25% of all ghasts.

April TTRPG Maker, Day 15

Day 15: Favorite Tropes to Subvert?

Halfway there!

Favorite Tropes to Subvert?  ALL OF THEM!

But seriously, a few come to mind.

You will never, ever see a "Women in Refrigerators" situation in one of my games.  No woman will ever be killed to forward a male character's arc. Never. 

You will never, ever see rape as a means of helping to build up a character as via a Rape-and-Revenge arc. As in when you take a character down to their lowest levels so they can be built back up into something more powerful.  I guess the trope could be called the "I Spit on Your Grave" trope.

Most of all you will never, ever see a "Bury Your Gays" or a "Dead/Evil Lesbian cliché" in anything I publish. Ever.

"But", you may ask "what if the story calls for it?"
Sorry, but no. Time to write a new fucking story then.

"But aren't you giving 'special treatment' to a certain group?"
No. And also fuck you, go write your own fucking games and don't buy mine if that is what you think.

These are my lines in the sand.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

April TTRPG Maker, Day 14

Day 14: Are Your Game Mechanics and Characters Intersectional?

My mechanics are math which is about as non-intersectional as you can be. Math is math.

Again, not to sounds like a broken record, I go back to my key philosophic design foundation; Is it fun?  Everything else flows from that.

Now to be fair.  I DID write The Witch: Aiséiligh Tradition AS I thought a radical feminist witch group would look like in a D&D/Fantasy world. 

Here I did play with concepts of power and gender as they related to the archetype of the witch.  I based it on the "Reclaiming Tradition" in modern Wicca who have decided that they need to reclaim the name "witch" and make it their own positive label.

The Aiséiligh are in a very real sense my Social Justice Witch class.  Lawful, Good, and sick your patriarchal shit.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

April TTRPG Maker, Day 13

Day 13: Participate in Streamed Games?

No. I really don't.

I am of an age where I don't get a lot of time for my games, so I like to run them when I can.  Since my regular group consists of my family there is not a lot of interest in me streaming the game.

Plus streaming games have a certain flow to them that my home games do not.  Plus there is a ton of inside humor. What's the point in streaming content that really only the people at the table will get.

I have not against streaming games and think they are kind of cool really.  The ones I have watched have been a lot of fun.  But you likely will not see me doing it anytime soon.

Would I play in one that someone else was running? Yeah, I might do that.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Kickstart Your Weekend: Old-School Essentials

Gavin Norman of Necrotic Gnome has been producing some great products for Old School gaming with his own unique style for years. His B/X Essentials is one of my favorite products.
Well now he is producing an updated version and it looks fantastic!

Old-School Essentials


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/necroticgnome/old-school-essentials?ref=theotherside

A faithful reproduction of the B/X-era rules in a digest-sized boxed set or "Rules Cyclopedia" style book.  I am pleased the what I have been calling "Black Box Basic" for years is now coming in an actual black box!

Really there is so much awesome about this and I will spend some time next week talking about it.

I have seen what is very, very close to the final PDFs and they look fantastic.

I do want to talk about those covers. 

Not sure if this will be the final cover, but it's awesome!

I mean look at that!  A castle on the back of a giant turtle? I want to GO THERE NOW!
Kudos to Andrew Walter for these great covers that feel so 70s inspired.  They look like the cover to a Yes or Uriah Heep album.  That's an adventure right there.

So yeah. I am in.  You should be too.


April TTRPG Maker, Day 12

Day 12: How to Make Work more Inclusive?

I hope that my work is fairly inclusive as is. 

With my two primary philosophies "Is it fun?" and "Can I play what I want?" I hope that I have not left any room for anything exclusionary.

Since I also feel that once the book leaves my hands and it is in yours that you can make as inclusive as you like/want/need.

I just have to make sure there is nothing in the rules that say you can't.

I'll be interested in seeing what others have to say about this.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Featured Artist: Jonathan F

Welcome back to Featured Artist!  This time I have an artist who is making a name for himself doing custom characters sheets.  That is not all he does, but these are so much fun I had to share.

Jonathan F, aka Jonathan Fountain, aka Farstride, has been making art for a while.  I first noticed him in the Facebook D&D Fantasy Art Group.

He did a couple sheets so I contacted him to see if he would be willing to do one of my iconic witch Larina.  Here are the results.



I am happy to report that my sheet for Larina has gone on to be his most viewed sheet of all time!

And a colorized version by Rueben Mcfadden.

Dragonborn Druid





He does more than just character sheets too.



Check out his Facebook page and request a character sheet for your favorite character.

Links
Facebook "Jonathan F did an Art" https://www.facebook.com/Farstride/
Instagram, https://www.instagram.com/farstride7/
DeviantArt (not updated as often), https://www.deviantart.com/farstride

April TTRPG Maker, Day 11

Day 11: Shoutout to an Underloved Creator

I know of a lot of creators that are doing great work.  But underloved?

Justin Issac is doing some cool stuff under his labels Halls of the Nephilim and The Lone Bards.

Gavin Norman has been putting out some great stuff for his Necrotic Gnome label.

Any others I mention I think are pretty well known.  Liz Chaipraditkul at Angry Hamster Publishing I think is well known now. At least I hope she is!

I am sure there are more.

How about this.  Here is your excuse, permission, invitation to post YOUR favorites below.  Post yourself if you wish!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

BlackStar: Old School Black Holes

Today is a big day in astrophysics.  The first-ever image of a black hole has been released.
The black hole is 500 million trillion km away, or 500,000,000,000,000,000,000 km or 52,850,042 Light Years.



When that light left the black hole's event horizon the Earth looked like this:


Just some perspective, plus I love those maps.

Much like magic, black holes have "suffered" due to the expansion of science.  What do I mean by that?

For much of the 20th Century, the black hole of science fiction was monstrous, mysterious, even evil thing.  A star that ate everything that came to close including light and time.  It's not hard to see why there were some sci-fi authors who categorized them as monsters.
In fact, this one is a monster. It is 40 billion km across and has a mass 6.5 billion times that of the Sun. For reference, the Earth has a diameter of 12,756 km and the Sun has a diameter of  1.392 million km.  That dwarfs the Sun more than our sun dwarfs the Earth.

In fiction black holes lead to other universes, often evil ones. Or sending people to different parts of the universe in defiance of any laws of relativity.  Indeed they were the ultimate "MacGuffin" to break all sorts of laws of reality.

BlackStar, as a game concept, really owes a lot to these older ideas of black holes in more than just name.

In truth, the ideas for BlackStar got their very first start for me in the 1979 Disney movie The Black Hole.  I remember seeing this at the 67 Drive-In in my old home town.  The movie is full of ideas that characterize what I want BlackStar to do and be even before I add the Lovecraftian bits.  We have a crew exploring space. There is a psychic crew member. We have an evil mad scientist in his old castle spaceship surrounded by mindless servants and evil strongman; it's practically gothic horror.  Even the tag line is horror, "A Journey That Begins Where Everything Ends".



Another black hole sci-fi/horror movie that was a big, if not one of the biggest, influence on BlackStar is 1997's Event Horizon.

In Event Horizon, we have a black hole, in this case, an artificially created one (like what we see in the Romulan Warbirds) that power the ship.  The mystery, and horror, of the Event Horizon, is where was the ship the entire time it's been missing.  We learn that the black hole has taken the crew into a hellscape not dissimilar to what we saw at the end of The Black Hole.  Claire Weir's, Dr. Weir's (Sam Neill) dead wife, tells us "I have such wondrous things to show you" brings to mind Pinhead's "We have such sights to show you" from the Hellraiser movies.  Indeed they can be assumed to be the same sights.



In both cases breaking the laws of physics, in both cases trying to move faster than light, opens you up to the consequences of breaking the Laws of Creation. The black hole becomes the proverbial gate to Hell.  Abandon all Hope Ye Who Enter Here.

This is made even more explicit in the Doctor Who episodes "The Impossible Planet" and "The Satan Pit" from 2006.  In this, the scientific portrayal of black holes is contrasted with the classic sci-fi portrayals.  In Doctor Who black holes are a means of travel. Gallifrey and every TARDIS is powered by "The Eye of Harmony" a captured black hole created by the Timelord Stellar Engineer Omega. It has as much horror as the engine in a Tesla sedan. Neat yes, but not horrible.

The Satan Pit turns this on its head.  Here the black hole "just eats" according to the Doctor. The black hole is The Pit, the jail that the devil can't escape from.  It is the Christian Hell or the Abyss.
Consequently, the episodes have been compared to "Event Horizon" and "Alien" by critics.


So that leaves me at today.  What can black holes do to inspire horror?
Much like "anti-matter" gave way to "dark matter" in the minds of the creatives, black holes have been largerly replaced by "Wormholes".   But even a wormhole is still sci-fi shorthand for "short cuts in FTL travel".  Sure they can be like "gates" but the fear is diluted.

I think where I am going to go with all of this is take a page from Event Horizon and make the drive of the new Mystic class ships be the problem.  They were designed to move faster than light, the heralded Warp-13 drives, but the real purpose is to open rifts in space-time to allow these horrors to come through.  Both sci-fi horrors and cosmic horrors.

Black Holes, like the God of the Gaps, has had its mystical notions removed for the more appropriate scientific ones.  As someone that originally studied to be an astrophysicist, this is a great thing.  But as someone who loves horror and sci-fi adventure, I feel like I have lost something.

Maybe Dark Matter and Dark Energy can be my new mysterious thing! In any case it needs to be frightening.  They say "in space, no one can hear you scream", but I also want "in space, no one wants to hear you yawn".

And this song was on my mind while working on this post.



April TTRPG Maker, Day 10

Day 10: How are my games dismantling colonialism?

Uh...They are not?

My games really don't have that kind of effect.

My design principles start with "Is it fun?" and end with "Is it fun to write?"

I mean sure there are some subversive messages explicitly about Colonialism (and in particular about the British Empire in India) in Ghosts of Albion.  But the message is not one of action it is more directed to people who already understand what a bad thing it can be.

So yeah.  I guess the scope of my writing is just not that large.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Review: Blackest of Deaths Ashcan Version & Kickstarter

Bloat Games has been putting out some quality games for a little bit now and they are certainly the new "It" company in the Old-School scene right now.  Their newest Kickstarter is now up, The Blackest of Deaths - A Dire Old School Fantasy RPG and I have been given access to the "Ashcan" copy of the rules.   Let's have a look and see what this Kickstarter is all about!

There is The Blackest of Deaths - Dire Old School Fantasy RPG - KS Sneak Peek on DriveThru now. It is free so have a look.

The Rules
We are greeted on the very first page with a "Caution" and "YOUR CHARACTERS WILL DIE."  I think that sets the tone for the game quite well.  The aesthetic reminds me of Dungeon Crawl Classics mixed with HackMaster to be honest.   Not my usual vibe, but I like what I am reading so far.
My favorite is the line "yes, this is the type of game your grandparent’s preachers warned them about in the 70s & 80s!"  Ok then!

We start out with what are the two big "rules" of the game;
1. "Rulings vs Rules", there is no rule for everything in that can happen in the game.  The GM is in charge and will make up what they need to make up to keep the game going.
2. The Core Mechanic.  Roll a d20 and d6 at the same time.  If the d6 comes up 1 you get a Hinderance. If it comes up as a 6 then you get a Benefit.  2, 3, 4, or 5 are ignored.  There are also Advantage and Disadvantage rules.

The character Attributes are the same, but instead of a range of 3-18 you just have your pluses or minuses.  Max is 3, the lowest is -2.  You start with 10 hp +/- your Con score.  The only way to get more is via magic!  There is no leveling up! This is you.
To offset this all characters have some Luck points.
Armor and Dex scores don't add to "AC" but reduce damage given.

There are four races, elf, dwarf, goblin and human.  Races can raise or lower your scores.
There are six classes, Assassin, Barbarian, Monster Slayer, Necromancer, Ranger, and Street Rat.
They work as you expect, each one with a specialized purpose.  Monster Slayer has a unique talent for killing a particular monster you choose for example.
There are a limited number of spells (no levels) and most deal with combat.
Equipment and weapons finish off the Player's Section.

The GM's section is the other half of the book.
We go over the basic rules again and discuss some difficulty checks.  This is where the game's "New School" roots show from under their "Old School" dye job!   But in truth, it all works great.

There is a good sized monster section with the monsters in a very distilled format.  Just the essentials.
All the favorites are here and it is easy to see why and how these monsters will mow through most characters.

There is also a good-sized section on treasure and magic items.

The game is fast to pick up and lethal.  It is close to an OSR "Beer and Pretzel" game to be honest.  Great for a single night or weekend or even as a side-quest with a "Magnificent Seven" style adventure.

The Kickstarter
Well, one thing you know.  The rule book is finished and ready to go, it's now all about those stretch goals.  And there is a good set of those!
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ericfrombloatgames/the-blackest-of-deaths-a-dire-old-school-fantasy-r?ref=theotherside

As of this writing, the game is funded (in the first 2 hours!) and they are at the first stretch goal of 20 more monsters.  There are plenty more where that came from too.

Really looking forward to seeing what this game does.

April TTRPG Maker, Day 9

Day 9: How Do Your Games Distribute Power Among the Players?

Well, I would have to say I try to focus on mechanical balance as much as I can within the scope of the rules.

Some games, say for example many old-school games, balance is not really a consideration.  But you also don't play those games for balance, you play them for the game-play-experience you get (not XP in this sense).

So I create witch classes that are, for the most part, pretty weak at love levels.  This in on purpose since it fits in with the design constraints of the games I am working with.  The payoff is once you get to higher levels you are pretty damn powerful.  Like scary powerful really.

In other games, I also look a lot into the balance of the character types.  For example in Ghosts of Albion Tamara and William, the "stars" of the show are also some of the weaker characters power wise.  They are not the great powerful warrior Queen like Boadicea or the magic using vampire or the poet whose words can shape reality.  This balanced with their ability to affect the plots and course of the game via their greater Drama points.

After that, it becomes the realm of the individual game masters to do their job.

Monday, April 8, 2019

April TTRPG Maker, Day 8

Day 8: Favorite Collaborators

Oh wow. With this, I am afraid I'll miss someone.

At the top of my list, I will say is Jason Vey.  We worked on Buffy together and a bunch of other projects.

We agree on all the "big stuff" and respect each other's backgrounds and areas of expertise.  But we are also not afraid to go at it when defending something we both want.

A collaborator should bring out the best in you and you for them. 

I also would not hesitate for a chance to work with Christopher Golden and Amber Benson again like we did on Ghosts of Albion.

Lots of people I would love to work with too.

Monstrous Monday: Lilith, Queen of Demons

It's April. And I have to admit I am kinda missing the A to Z challenge this year.  Maybe I'll do it next year.  But in any case, I was thinking of past challenges last week and the topics I have done and one topic just kept coming up nearly every time I did it.
Lilith.

For three consecutive challenges, I posted about Lilith on "L" day for Demons, Witches and Vampires.
2013 L is for Lilith and Lilim
2014 A to Z of Witches. L
2015 A to Z of Vampires: Lilith

The story of Lilith has always fascinated me.  The character has always fascinated me.
I suppose then it is no surprise that she lies at the intersection of all my interests.

Also this weekend I finished a nice binge watch of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Part 2. Here the amazing Michelle Gomez plays Lilith the Mother of Demons and the First Witch.

So, I figured it was time to revisit my muse.

Lilith by IsraLlona
Lilith
Queen and Mother of all Lilim (demons)
Hit Dice: 18d8 + 33 (114 hp)
Armor Class: -3 [22]
Attacks: 2 claws (1d4), 1 weapon (1d8)
Saving Throw: 3
Special: +2 magic weapons to hit, magic resistance (65%), immune to fire, magical abilities, summon minions
Move: 12/18 (flying)
Alignment: Chaotic Evil*
Challenge Level/XP: 20/3,400
Lilith appears an inhumanly comely woman standing 5’7” tall and weighing roughly 130 pounds. Her skin is cinnamon colored, and her hair is waist length and blood red. She has a pair of leathery black bat-like wings that she can hide or expose at will.

Lilith never openly attacks.   She considers combat beneath Her and will not partake in it.  Her arena is intrigue, guile, and deception.  Why fight when a cup laced with poison or a dagger in the night is much quicker.
She can use ESP and cast fireball, hold person, charm person or charm monster, suggestion and teleport at will. Three times a day she can cast lightning bolt and wall of fire.  She can see perfectly in darkness of any kind. Lilth can summon 1d4+4 lilitu with a 100% chance.

The First Witch
was the first witch and can cast any witch spell.  She cast spells as a 20th level witch but does not have any occult powers other than her magical abilities listed above.
Lilith was the first human woman. She rebelled against the gods that created her and now controls armies of demons.  The gods won't work against her or strike her down because she knows all their True Names.

Lilith has no true friends because most fear her.  She is known to ally herself with the Goddess Ereshkigal since both have similar portfolios and areas of concern.  Some even claim that Lilith spent some time as Ereshkigal's handmaiden.  Others claim she served Astártē or Ishtar.

Appearance and Emissaries
Lilith always appears as a young very attractive woman.  Most often with long flaming red hair.  It is claimed her true form is that of an ancient hag with long, but sparse wild black hair, talons, fangs and the feet of a predatory bird.  Either or neither could be her true form.

Servants
Lilith is typically honored by the Witches of the Mara Tradition.

Naamah - Known as the Daughter of Lilith Naamah is either a demon, a human or something else.  She is honored in her own right as either the Patroness of Whores or the Patroness of Those Who Hunt the Night (slayers of the undead).  Her title as The Daughter of Lilith, as opposed to just a daughter of Lilith, is significant.  She may be her first true daughter or she may be her first human daughter.

Abyzou - Another daughter of Lilith. She is a powerful Lilitu Demon. She takes pleasure in possessing others and destroying them from the inside out.

Nox - The Petty Goddess of the Dusk is also believed to be a daughter of Lilith.  Possibly the offspring of Lilith and a Sun god.

Camazotz - a Son of Lilith and the bloodthirsty god of Vampires.  Some claim that his father may have been Orcus.

*Lilith's alignment is listed as Chaotic Evil.  The Chaos part should be obvious, she has rebelled against the entire universe.  While many of her actions are evil, she still kills babies, she is also a lot more complicated than that.  Lilith has a high personal morality. She honors and keeps her friends and associates.  You can trust that she will always do what is best for herself, but she also cares for her own "children" so she will protect them.

Holy Texts
As witches, the worshippers of Lilith hold their own Books of Shadows as their holy texts, but a few are are considered to be helpful in understanding Lilith.

The Splendor - The foundation text on which many of the Gods of Light have based their own holy texts.  The Splendor mentions Lilith as one of the first demons of darkness. For this reason, many religions will see Lilith as a threat to their religion.

The Enochian Tablets - More details on the life and rebirth of Lilith. Written in an ancient angelic script that is difficult for many sages to translate. Also discusses her relationship to the divine and the demonic.  It also details the origins of Those Who Hunt the Night.

Other posts about Lilith here
Every Angel is Terrifying: The Secret and True Origins of the Slayer
Pseudo Slayers
Going Up to Hell: Cosmology
Sympathy for the Succubus
- Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
Let's Talk About Sex(y)
E is for Eodemon
The Dragon and the Phoenix: Episode 7
Season of the Witch: Episode 2

Sunday, April 7, 2019

April TTRPG Maker, Day 7

Day 7: How to Increase Accessibility

Good question, wish I knew how!

For the games I write I try to make things as flexible as I can within the guidelines of the rules so people can do anything they want.

I don't want to be the one to say "No. You can do that."  I would rather write my material so I can say "Yes, you can do that, let's figure out how."

Want to play a Winter Witch that is just like Elsa?  Yeah, you can do that.  Want to play a White Witch, but make him psychic instead?  Yeah, ok do that thing!

Whatever else beyond that is up to whoever is running the game.

At the same time, I try to market my games and books to appeal to all sorts of crowds. 

Looking forward to seeing what everyone posts for this!

Saturday, April 6, 2019

April TTRPG Maker, Day 6

Day 6: Long or Short ttrpg texts?

Not 100% sure I know what this one is asking.

So I am going to repeat what my Ph.D. advisor told me when I was writing my dissertation.

"Make it as long as you need it to be, but no longer."

Another bit of advice he gave was to quote an anecdote from Napoleon.

"Dear Josephine, I am writing you a long letter because I don't have the time to write you a short one."

Brevity is key. Keep things concise and simple for everyone to read. Avoid a page of text where a paragraph will suffice.

Good advice for academic writing and good advice for game writing as well.

Friday, April 5, 2019

April TTRPG Maker, Day 5

Day 5: Character or Worldbuilding?

Hmm...

As a gamemaster I enjoy both, as a player I enjoy characters.

I have often said I am a bit of an oddity in my OSR crowd. I have said in the past that I explore characters and not dungeons.

To me, I love character development.  Don't get me wrong, I love worldbuilding, but only insofar as it provides a stage for the characters to grow in. 

Do I care about weather patterns or the price of grain on the local markets? No. I really don't.  If it needs to rain, it is raining.  If there is no grain then there is no grain.  The only reason I need is how does it affect the characters in their situation right now.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

April TTRPG Maker, Day 4

Day 4: Favorite Type of Game Scenario?

I think, and this has a lot to do with the media and books I was raised on, is the Haunted House.

Haunted house scenarios, especially ones with long and tragic backstories are my favorites of any game.

This all goes back to this reoccurring nightmare I used to have that I called "The Very Haunted House".  The house was an old Victorian manor complete with spooky attic and sub-basements.

It was haunted by the ghost of an evil old woman that used to torture kids.

This house was based on a few things in real life.  The biggest was "Maplecrest Apartments" in my old home town.  It used to be an old tuberculosis hospital turned into low-income housing. I delivered newspapers back then and that was on my route.  Scary place.  The house took more form when I went with my dad to see the Dana Thomas house in Springfield, IL.   These nightmares plagued me forever to be honest, and they were not the "whew that was a weird dream" nightmares these were the "oh my god I am going to die in this dream" sort where you wake up afraid and still full of terror.  I added details to dream with every movie I saw or book I read including a bathtub full of black water with a rotting corpse that I am sure I got from "Silence of the Lambs".

Oddly enough they stopped about 15 years ago. I had the dream and in it, my wife was standing in the dark attic only now it was bright. She held a mop and had her hair tied up, she looked at me and said "What? I cleaned it."  Cheesy as it sounds I think she helped get over whatever fears it represented.

I have since used this house in other adventures I have written.  I first used "Cotton Crest" in my Buffy RPG adventure "Under a Cajun Moon".  Years later "Oak Crest" made it's debut in "The Haunting of Oakcrest Manor" in the Guidebook to the Duchy of Valnwall Special Edition.
I am considering also doing it again, only this time Willow Crest.  Cotton Crest was haunted by demons, Oak Crest by ghosts and other undead.  Willow Crest?  Extra-dimensional aliens.

So yeah, give me a good haunted house and I can have a blast with it.

Dungeons & Dragons Stranger Things Starter Set

There is no doubt that Stanger Things gave D&D a boost.
D&D 5th ed was already doing great and was on its way to being the best selling version of D&D ever before it became a major feature of the highly popular Netflix show Stranger Things.  When Season 1 premiered I had adults my age (who would have been the same ages as the kids in ST at the time) coming to me and asking how they could get a D&D game for their kids.

Well, I wish I had had this boxed set at the time.


The new Dungeons & Dragons Stranger Things Starter Set is making it's way to retailers now.
I picked up a copy on Amazon (to donate to my son's D&D club at High School...yeah they have now) and getting another one from my FLGS.

Truth be told I don't *need* it, but it sure is fantastic!

Done up like everyone's favorite red box D&D this is a starter set for D&D 5th Edition.  And it is PERFECT for anyone that is a fan of the show and wants to learn how to play D&D.
It does have the Wizards of the Coast logo on it, but also the "Hasbro Gaming" logo which is new.  Also since this is being sold not only in game stores and Amazon it is being released to Game Stops (the video game store) and other markets.   Hasbro is serious about backing D&D and I think it is going to be a huge win for them.

The box set includes a basic rule book similar to what we got in the first D&D 5e Starter set.  We also get an adventure "Written by Mike Wheeler", character sheets, a set of dice (mine are exactly like the ones I got in the Starter Set) and two "Demogorgon" minis; one painted the other plain.




Starter Set Rulebook
This book gives all the basics of D&D in 44 concise, full-color pages.  Everything is here to get you started. How to play, the basics of combat and adventuring, a chapter on spell casting and a subset of magic items and monsters.  Pretty much what you expect in a "Basic" set.
Instead of art we get some screen grabs from the ST show.
There are stats for the Demogorgon monster (not the demon).

Hunt for the Thessalhydra
Ok, truth time, I LOVE this. I want more adventures like this.
The sample adventure is done up to like a notebook written by Mike from the show.  Complete with wide ruled notebook paper background and Jr. High style art (only much better).  D&D artist Stan! is behind this one and I could not be happier about that.


The adventure is as old-school as summer 1983. You have a quest, a knight a monster to defeat, a table of rumors. Troglodytes! (art takes it inspiration from the Monster Manual) and random encounters.
The adventure is not ground-breaking, but it is not supposed to be.  BUT it does take place in the "Upside Down", so that is cool. They describe it a bit like the Shadowfell, but no attempt is made to make it part of the larger D&D 5 cosmology and that is perfectly great by me.  There is even a sword from the Upside Down.
And no Refrigerator Aleena in this one, there is a Proud Princess that will aid the characters but they can't even harm her if they try.  She is obviously the Eleven stand in.

Character Sheets
These are all stand-ins for the kids on the show, more or less, We get all the major races; elf, dwarf, human, half-elf, and half-orc. No halfling though. And a good subset of classes; bard, cleric, paladin, ranger, wizard. But no straight up fighter or rogue.  A halfling rogue (or maybe a zoomer!) would have been a nice touch.  No names or genders on the sheets as it should be.

Dice and Demogorgons
The dice a pretty standard, same set I got with the other starter set.  There are only six (as were in old-school sets) so no d%, there is a standard d10 (and d4, d6, d8, d12 and d20).
The Demogorgon minis are the weakest part of this set.  The minis are the right scale but the plastic is really flimsy. The "painted" one only has a little bit of orange on it. These are not the Wiz Kids minis we get at game stores, these are made by Hasbro and appear to be made cheaply so they can make tons of them.

But really, this box hits all the nostalgia boxes AND is still a solid introduction to the D&D 5 game.





Wednesday, April 3, 2019

April TTRPG Maker, Days 1-3

I have to admit I miss participating in the April A to Z blog marathon. 
Not the work, of course, it is a lot of work, but the feeling of participation and focus it brings to post something every day on a particular topic and theme.
Plus I feel that when I do it I am ignoring my primary audience in favor of another audience that time has shown don't stick around. 

There is however a new April social media that is more RPG focused, so I thought what the hell, let's give it a try. It is focused on RPG "makers" (I prefer the word "creator" myself, or "author")

It is called #AprilTTRPGMaker and it is mostly on Twitter, but open to all social media platforms.  With the demise of G+ I feel the need to branch out more.

Here are the topics for the month.  Unlike the A to Z's 26 posts, this one has 30 for every day.


Since today is April 3, I'll do the first three here.

1. Introduce Yourself
Hello, my name is Tim Brannan and I write RPGs.  I have been playing RPGs now for nearly 40 years (started in 1979) and writing my own material nearly as long.  I am most famous for the Ghosts of Albion RPG for Eden Studios and my various books for the Witch class for all sorts of variations of the D&D game.  I worked on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG, did some minor work for the Doctor Who Adventures in Time Space, Angel and Army of Darkness.  Did some other work for the All Flesh Must Be Eaten line at Eden and playtested a few score other RPGs over the last 20 years.  I also have some work coming out Gaslight and Blue Rose.

2. Describe Your Work
I consider myself very, very fortunate. I can write the kinds of books I want to play and use.  So my primary focus is typically, "what do I think is fun?" and then I make it.  I mostly like to write about magic and horror themes. If it has a witch or a vampire in it, chances are good I have tried it.  If a game doesn't have a witch in it chances are also good I tried to fit one in somehow. ;)

3. Key to Your Making Process
Like I mentioned above I usually start with "What do I think is fun?" and go from there.  I also look for what others would enjoy in my game material.  I do try to make things that people will use and enjoy.  I also work from the philosophy of once it leaves my mind and hands and it is in yours it is no longer just "my" game. It is what others make of it.  So I love hearing about what others do with my materials even if, or especially if, it is not something I would have done on my own.

I am going to try and not let this interfere with my normal posting. I still have things I want to talk about this month other than just what is above.

Participate if you like or just post your responses below.  Yes, please link to your creations! My dad always says no one will toot your horn for you.  So use my venue to talk about YOUR creations as well.


Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The Refrigerator for Prowlers & Paragons Ultimate Edition

Still playing around with Prowlers & Paragons Ultimate Edition, so this time I decided to bring back a villain to challenge Justice.

A while back I introduced you all to Dr. Andreas Gelé, aka The Refrigerator. He is a socially stunted misanthrope with mommy issues and the intellect to act out in the worst ways possible.
This guy came, literally, out of a nightmare.  Around 1982 or so (I was 12) I was hit with a double shot of women being frozen alive, the movies were "In Like Flint" and "Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die". It really bugged the hell out of me and gave me nightmares for a long time.  Still kind of bugs me.  Of course, later I learned there is a whole creepy fetish thing related to this.  I think my issue is far more elemental.  I hate being cold and think being frozen is quite possibly the worst thing ever.

What solidified this character for me was a cover from the pulp magazine "Horror Stories" from 1937.


The cover is by John Newton Howett and typical pulp tradition it was reused for the first issue of Startling Mystery. That picture deserves a villain.  I have not found the issue yet so I can't say if there is a story that goes with that cover. But I have enough of my own nightmare fuel.

His name, The Refrigerator, has a nice pulpy sound to it, but that is not its origin.  He was named for the comics trope, Women in Refrigerators.   I figure I will have superheroes in my games fight this trope in a quite literal way.

History of The Refrigerator
Dr. Andreas Gelé was born to wealth and privilege but never to love.  His father was a rich industrialist who made his money on the work of others and his mother was a noted and beautiful stage actress.  From his father, he gained his intellect and from his mother, he learned lessons in cruelty.

As his mother aged she became more distant and crueler.  In his mind's eye, he still saw her as beautiful. This was reinforced by all the pictures of her on the wall of their estates where she was young, beautiful and happy. Frozen in time.  Gelé began to work on a process to forever keep the beautiful women young.  He was drawn to beautiful women, and his prestige later as a doctor and his wealth made that easy.  But he never could talk to or relate to them having grown up socially stunted.  So Gelé embarked on a plan so he could have his desires met.


His first experiments in cryonics were failures. Animals would not return to life when frozen and even when he perfected the process they still had damage.  Finally through a combination of fluids and gases at supercooled temperatures.  He tested it first on his hated father. He died soon after he was free of the ice, but Gelé expected that since the old man's heart was now weak.  He froze his mother next. He was overjoyed that the ice preserved her remaining beauty.


All his research though has left his fortunes depleted so he robs banks to keep himself funded for more research and to keep his "beauties" on ice.

The Refrigerator Today
The Refrigerator is very much a pulp style villain.  I always pictured his mother as a silent film star and his father cut from the same cloth as the business men of the early 20th century.  So how is he still around today?  Or more to the point how is he still around in the world of 2040 where Justice is from?  Well, that is easy really.  Sometime after his last defeat, he escapes the authorities once again and freezes himself to be awakened at a future date.  The plot point here is that the future date is much later than Dr. Gelé planned on and now it is the 21st Century.  Still, undeterred he goes about rebuilding his "collection".

Dr. Andreas Gelé, "The Refrigerator"

Archetype: Gadgeteer / Scientist
Major Villian

Edge 10
Health 3
Class Major
Group None

ABILITIES
Agility 1d
Intellect 7d
Might 1d
Perception 3d
Toughness 3d
Willpower 3d

TALENTS
Academics 6d
Charm 1d
Command 3d
Covert 3d
Investigation 3d
Medicine 7d
Professional 4d
Science 7d
Streetwise 2d
Survival 4d
Technology 5d
Vehicles 2d

POWERS
Omni Power (Gadget, Cold Protection Suit)
- Armor 10 Points, 5 toughness
- Healing (self only) 10 points
- Hibernation
- Immunity (cold, ice)
- Super Senses (thermal vision)

Omni Power (Gadget, Freeze Ray gun) (Item)
- Blast (freeze ray)
- Elemental Control (ice)
- Hibernation ray (Affect Others)
- Charges (Con) 3 times per scene
- Signature (ice residue)

Expertise (Cryonics)

PERKS
Headquarters (lab)
Resources
Great Wealth (has built it back up over the years)

FLAWS
Quirk (arrogant)
Compulsion (seek out beautiful women)
Insane (misanthrope)

GEAR
Cold Protection outfit
Freeze ray gun

DESCRIPTION
Age: 99 (appears to be in his late 30s)
Sex: Male
Hair: Gray
Eyes: Ice Blue

MOTIVATION
Power (over others, over the ravages of time)

CONNECTIONS
Iron Maiden (sometimes aids him in shared goals)

Horrible bit of work isn't he.  But I wanted a villain that people really hate.   He is after Justice because all he can see her as is a beautiful prize to add to his collection.  He would say it is because of her strength and unique heritage, but he is much more shallow than that.  All he sees is a 6'2" supermodel.   In his own sense of superiority, he can't even see Justice as equal, even though she is his superior in every aspect.
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