Friday, May 31, 2019

New Feature: The Other Side Rewind

Tomorrow, June 1st starts a new feature for the Other Side.
Note I say "for" and not "at".

The new feature is The Other Side Rewind.
If you come here to read my blog or via an RSS reader then you will not notice any differences or anything new.

If you engage with me over at Facebook or Twitter then you will see a lot more.
On my Facebook and Twitter pages, I will be reposting some of my posts from the early days of this blog.  I have gained a lot of followers on both platforms in recent years and wanted to share some of the posts from the past with them.

It should be fun to see what sort of responses a different audience might get on some of my older posts.

So join the conversation over on Facebook or Twitter.  If you don't follow me in either place yet now is a great time!

Facebook, The Other Side Group: https://www.facebook.com/OtherSideblog/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/timsbrannan
and for fun, MeWe: https://mewe.com/group/5c598927dc9a663c488557e9

Hope to see you all there!

Kickstart Your Weekend: Ultramodern5, a 5E universal sci-fi sourcebook

I have really been enjoying my time with D&D 5th Edition.   So when a new game comes out (and this one of two on my radar) using the 5e mechanics, it gets my attention.

Ultramodern5, a 5E universal sci-fi sourcebook


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/diasexmachina/ultramodern5-a-5e-universal-sci-fi-sourcebook?ref=theotherside

This book is an update to their earlier Ultramodern5 book which did rather well.

It looks like it can cover a lot of the same ground that the Modern d20 did from WotC and that is something we are really lacking at the moment.

The new art for this book looks fantastic and I am getting a solid "Savage Worlds" vibe from this in a very good way. Some of the new mechanics might also be worth exploring in a regular 5e game.

So yeah there is a lot here to explore and I am looking forward to seeing more of it.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Holy Grail Item: Vampyre Mini Game from TSR

So to recap a long and sad story, I lost a lot of my old school D&D books in one of my moves between college and grad-school.  The only thing I had from my "early days" were my core 2nd Ed AD&D books and a few modules.    Fast forward a few years and the sweet combination of a great job and an understanding wife I have been able to replace all that I had lost and then some.

But there are still a few items that have remained ever elusive.
Today I can cross one more item off that list.

Thanks to an estate sale on eBay I was able to pick up a copy of the Vampyre: Game of the Hunt for Dracula for much less than it normally goes for.



The game is, as far as I can tell, complete if already punched.  The maps are in great shape, the book less so.






The book has highlighter all over it, which sucks, but hey I can't expect a perfect copy and I am sure mine had highlighter all over it too.

As big fan of the novel Dracula, I loved this game.  I remember enjoying the wilderness portion more than the castle. 

Very nostalgic seeing the same Souvenir/Soutane font and Erol Otus art as the B/X sets. I tried many times to run a Castle Dracula like game with Basic/Expert.  Maybe now is that time!

Anyway happy to have this.  Only a couple more items on my list.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

OMG: Greek (and maybe Roman) Mythos, Part 3 Hecate

Hecate is getting her own post.

There is no way I am going to say everything about this Goddess; either for D&D or in general.  So keeping that in mind, let's go.

Hecate, or sometimes, Hekate, is the Goddess of Witches, Ghosts and the Crossroads OR she is a Titan. OR she is something different. 

Like some of the Olympian Gods, she is of the third or fourth generation.  Her Great grandparents are namely Gaia (Earth) and Ouranos (Sky), same as Zeus' own grandparents.  Their offspring was Crius, whom the D&DG gives as the Greater Titan of Gravity.  Gaia (Earth) and Pontos (Sea) gave birth to Eurybia (Winds and Constellations; things that seemingly comes from the sea). Crius and Eurybia give birth to Perses (Titan of Destruction). He joins with the Titaness Asteria the Titan of stars and nighttime oracles.  She herself was the daughter of Phoebe and Coeus, making her a half-sister to Leto the mother of Apollo and Artemis.   Though there are other claims to her parentage.  Some also claim she the daughter of Leto, which would make her Apollo and Artemis' half-sister.

Hecate then is the daughter of Peres and Asteria and of the same generation of Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, and Dionysus.  While she is their generation she is often considered to be a Titan.

Like many of the Greek and later Roman Gods, Hecate has more than one, in what D&D came to call Portfolio.  She is the Goddess of Nighttime as opposed to Nox the Personification of Night. She is the Goddess of Oracular power based on stars (as opposed to her semi-cousin Apollo who is the God of Oracles), one of the Goddess of the Moon.  Her torches light the night.  She is the goddess of the Crossroads. With her three faces, she can see the past, present, and future.  And most notably, she is the Goddess of Witchcraft, Creatures of the Night and Ghosts.
Due to her rather complicated lineage, she also has dominion over Earth, Sky, and Sea.

She has been associated with the Goddess Demeter having been mentioned int he Homeric Hymns to Demeter.  She is believed to have lit the way to Hades for Demeter to find Persephone. While Persephone is in the underworld she and Hecate are companions.  She helps Persephone on her trip to and from the underworld.  This gives us one of our first triple-goddesses, with Persephone, Demeter, and Hecate as the Maiden, Mother, and Crone.

As a Goddess, she is often seen in the company of large dogs from the Underworld, the Hellhounds and common house cats.

She is depicted in the D&DG as being Lawful Evil.  I am not buying it.  Lawful I can live with, but so much of what she does is both good and evil that Lawful Neutral is the much better choice.

Hecate is one of the few gods that retains her name in both the Greek and Roman versions.  Though there is the Roman Goddess Trivia that also takes on some of what makes Hecate.

Goddess of Witchcraft
We know that many tablets and surviving scrolls have her mentioned in many curses and spells of protection against creatures of the night.  According to Hesiod, "Hecate whom Zeus the son of Cronos honored above all. He gave her splendid gifts, to have a share of the earth and the unfruitful sea. She received honor also in starry heaven, and is honored exceedingly by the deathless gods."

Interestingly enough her domain over witchcraft relates to her being worshipped by Circe and Medea. Medea, in fact, is called a Priestess of Hecate. Medea is almost always described as a witch.

Hecate also appears in Shakespeare's Macbeth and mentioned in Hamlet. Each time due to her association with witches.

Lampad the Nymphae Avernales
The lampads are described as Underworld Nymphs.  They were the constant companions to Hecate as a reward for Hecate taking part in the war against the Titans.  Sometimes described as the Daughters of Nyx or of Daimones, they share a similar relationship to Hecate as the forest nymphs do with Artemis.

Lampads appear in the Pathfinder game, in Bestiary 4.  Here is my interpretation.

Lampad (Nymph)
Armor Class: 9 [10]
Hit Dice: 3d8 +16 (30)
Attacks: 0 (see below)
Damage: None
Special Attacks & Defenses: Cause feeblemindedness, malaise and death
Movement: 120’ (40’)
No. Appearing: 0 (1d4)
Save: Witch 3
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: IX, XI x 10
Alignment: Neutral (Chaotic)
XP: 100
Nymphs are stunningly beautiful female fey creatures that closely resemble elven women. The lampad are nymphs of the underworld and desolate places.  They appear similar to drow (dark elves), with grey ashen skin and long white hair.  Anyone that sees a lampad must make a save vs. spells or become feebleminded as per the spell.  If more than one lampad is present the victim is instantly killed on a failed save.
Lampads have the spell-casting abilities of a 6th level witch. They have their own language and speak common and the languages of the infernal realms.

Tears of the Lampad:  These tears are extremely magical if a tear touches a mortal (not an elf though) they must make a save vs. poison at -4 or enter into a depression so deep they are unwilling to move or do anything.  A victim will starve to death before they will attempt to bring themselves out of this malaise. Only a remove curse spell will allow them to return to their normal life.

The Empusa
I have used the Empusa many times in a lot of games.  I have often categorized them as Lilim, or the Daughters of Lilith (who also shares a lot with Hecate) but in ancient myth they are the daughters, or at least the offspring, of Hecate.

Empusa (Lilim)
Armor Class: 3 [16]
Hit Dice: 8d8+4** (40 hp)
No. of Attacks: 2 claws and 1 bite or 1 weapon
Damage: 1d6 / 1d6 / 1d6 or 1d10
Special Attacks & Defenses:  Magic resistance (25%), Lilim abilities, magical abilities, +1 magic weapons to hit, Intelligence drain
Movement: 120' (40')
   Flying: 240’ (80’)
No. Appearing: 1d4
Save As: Witch 9
Morale: 8
Horde Class: X, XI
Alignment: Chaotic (evil)
XP:  2,380
These are believed to be the daughters of Lilith or Hecate and the various proto-demons. They are the most “demonic” of all of the Lilim. The Empusae (or “forcers-in”), like all Lilim, can appear as a stunningly beautiful woman or as a demon. The demonic form of the Empusa is one of the most hideous of all of the Lilim. The body remains mostly humanoid and female but covered in fine scales. Its legs become like those of a horse or ass and end in hooves that are made of brass or bronze. Its back supports a set of large leathery bat-like wings, similar to that of a succubus. It is its head that features its most horrible transformation. The creature’s long flowing tresses are replaced with a mass of snakes similar to that of a medusa. Its facial features are blocked by an area of complete darkness, only it’s glowing eyes are visible. It is said among sages that face of the Empusa is not shrouded in darkness, but it is so horrible that our minds block the vision from us. It is also said that other demons can actually see the Empusa’s face and run in fear from it. Its former delicate hands now end in razor-tipped claws. A long reptilian tail completes the picture.
An Empusa can appear as human, or it can also shapeshift into a large dire wolf (statistics as per Dire Wolf).
Unlike the combat avoidant Succubus, Empusae live for battle. They can either use their natural claw/claw/bite routine or use a flaming sword that strikes for 2d6 points of damage plus 1d6 of flame damage. Empusa gain to hit and damage bonuses due to their high strength as well.
The touch of an Empusa drains the Intelligence of the victim at 1 point per barehanded, not weaponed, attack.



Hecate / Heka Connections
The Greeks and the Egyptians had a long and complicated relationship.  Greeks scholars used to say that everything they know came from the Egyptians.  Back when I was doing the research for OMG: Egyptian Mythos I came across this saying all the time.  This lead me to the Egyptian God of magic Heka.  Like many before I noticed some similarities with Hecate and Heka.  Both are their respective gods of magic. Both are heralded as "gifts" to the human race by their respective heads of their pantheon.  Despite the similar portfolios and similarity in names there is no linguistic connection between the two.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Your Time is Gonna Come: More Character Life (and Death) Span Development

Working on a project (more on that in a couple of days) and I came across my original post on Character Life Span Development.

The idea is that I would run a game, or rather a mega-game where the different parts of a character's life would be handled by different games.   My game choices have changed since that first post, but the ideas have not.

My witch Larina at various ages
For Pre-Teen and Teen, I want to use Dark Places & Demogorgons.  I have spilled a lot of virtual ink on DP&D, so you can read all of that here.  I also happen to think it is a great game and really grabs what I want to do.  The question remains is how well will it mix with something like Little Fears for the ages before?

I still want Unisystem for adult years and maybe one of the Worlds of Darkness games for later adulthood.  But it is the afterlife that has me interested now.  Or maybe even the before life.

Elizabeth Chaipraditkul writes a good game.  Her writing and style is quite evocative and I can't help be pulled into her games.  Her latest, Afterlife: Wandering Souls is in it's last few days of Kickstarter and it looks like it will be great.

She does have a Quick Start of it out now, and it is giving me ideas.  Actually, it is making me want to use it in many of my games

How about this.  I am going to have my group (hypothetical at this point since all my groups are really busy with our current games) make some basic character concepts that will work in any age or game.  Well, any age or game that magic is real. 

Run them through a D&D adventure where everyone dies. Pick up the next game with Afterlife: Wandering Souls.  These would be the now dead characters that no longer remember who they were.

Play through a couple of games of Afterlife till they are reincarnated into the next games.

So maybe my Life-Death-Rebirth character development can be something like this:

D&D ­čá║ After Life ­čá║ Little Fears ­čá║ Dark Places & Demogorgons ­čá║ Unisystem/WitchCraft ­čá║ Mage ­čá║ Kult

Seven games, figure two "Adventrures" per game, for 14 games. 

I think the lynchpin of this will be whatever the characters (and the players) discover about themselves in Afterlife. The logical endpoint then for me at least is Kult.

I could also do a "Past Lives" or "Alternate Lives" development with very different kinds of worlds too. Maybe something like Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion.
I did something like this back in 2010 when I was running parallel Pathfinder and D&D 4 games with the same characters.   If that is the case I would want to throw in some Ghosts of Albion, Call of Cthulhu and maybe even some Exalted.

I have already done this with many characters including Willow and Tara. It would take a lot of prep and planning and players willing to work out some details ahead of time, but it could be very rewarding. 

Of course, this idea is ambitious, so I might try out little pieces of it in other games and see how it works.   I have used Basic D&D as a "flashback" for one of my D&D 5 games, so I know the idea has merit.

Busy Weekend!

Sorry for the lack of a Monstrous Monday post yesterday, it was Memorial Day in the US and I was busy doing gardening with my wife.  But that's not all I did.


My kids got in a bunch of D&D 5 over the weekend their groups.  Looks like this summer we will be hosting 3-4 WEEKLY D&D games here. Pretty nice.

Went to my FLGS over the weekend.  Picked up the new Saltmarsh book, but have not looked it over yet. Saw the new "Wardlings" series of kid minis and they now have a little witch out.


She is perfect as a younger version of my iconic witch Larina!



All the Wardlings come with a pet, but I am swapping out the cat that came with this one for the winged cat that came with the little mage character.



Went to another game store just down the road.  This one is more Warhammer centric but they were holding a "garage sale".  You can bring in items to sell and pay the store for them.
We picked up this set of Dwarven Forge dungeon walls for cheap.


While the kids enjoyed the new dungeons I was helping my wife plant over 112 pepper plants and 70 tomato plants.


I also spent my Monday building her two 8'x4' and two double deep 4'x2' raised bed boxes.






So really, quite the satisfying weekend.  Got a lot of stuff done for both my and my wife's hobbies!

Plus I built those boxes even though my wife had made off with my sawhorses for her plants! 

Kids have another D&D game tonight. Yeah, school is out for both of them. My oldest finished his first year of college and my youngest finished high school finals.  I'd like for them to get some jobs, BUT truth be told I am also happy they are home all the time.  They have the rest of their lives to work.

Back to regular posting soon!

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Great Things Come in FOURS

So about 24 hours ago this happened,


Yes, I hit 4,000,000 page views!
Thanks to everyone that keeps coming here to read my posts and ramblings.

I am also hitting my 40th year of playing D&D.  I have played several scores of other games since then and have written professionally for a dozen or so professionally, I keep coming back to D&D.

Also sometime next month I'll hit 4,000 posts.  That's a lot of text.

It's been a great time here at the Other Side.  I started the first Other Side as a website as a means to teach myself HTML while working on my first Ph.D. 
My degrees might have gotten me my job(s) but it was learning HTML that got me here.

I have lots more planned here, so stick with me for the next 4,000 posts and next 4,000,000 hits!

Friday, May 24, 2019

Caverna do Dragão / Cave of the Dragon

Like many gamers my age I have had a "complicated" relationship with the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon of the 80s.  At the time I thought it was stupid. But as I got older I came to appreciate it for what it really was.  My kids LOVED it, especially my youngest son.  I bought the boxed set that came out with the D&D 3.0 stats and it was a great blast.

So the whole Internet has been abuzz when these pictures start coming out.


A cosplay group?  A new movie!? A Netflix series??
Nope. It's a Brazilian car commercial for the new Renault Outsider!




I have to admit. Tiamat looks freaking awesome here, and they really captured the feel of the characters.  I swear that Eric and Diana looked like they walked right out of the cartoon and into this commercial. 

My orginal DM just said on Facebook that they must have had a bigger budget for this 1 minute 45 second TV spot than the first D&D movie.  I am inclined to believe that.

AND now thanks to Renault we know how the story ends.

Now maybe Paizo can team up with Nissan for a Pathfinder commercial?

Thursday, May 23, 2019

A_MAY_zing Adventures: American Gods

This month the Troll Lords have a bunch a sales going on.  Now as many of you may know I am good friends with one of the Trolls, Jason Vey.  Jason and I worked on Buffy at Eden Studios, playtested each other's games for Eden and have worked on a lot of other titles together for a bunch of different companies.

We were talking about his game Amazing Adventures a little bit ago.  I had been reading through all of Brian Young's Mythology Codecies, also by Troll Lord, and it dawned on me that these can, and should, be used together.  Because what you get when you do is American Gods.



Amazing Adventures has been reviewed here in the past, so no real need for me to go over it all again.  I am going to consider the following books though for my American Gods game.


For the Codices, I  have only reviewed the Celtic and Classic ones, but have them all.


The idea behind American Gods is that when folks came here from the "Old Country" they brought their gods with them.    People in this world, and thus this game, are normal humans.  So no spell casters and no psychics.   I am including the Book of Powers for an odd sort every so often and to cover some of the powers of the Gods in America and some of the "normal humans".

The Codices all give us background.  While the world has moved on the Gods haven't, or at least, not all of them and not every one of them the same way.

Where American Gods is a personal story of Shadow Moon, there are other stories that can be done.  Take a page from Mage: The Ascension and have the agents of the New Gods fighting the followers of the Old Gods.  These new followers could then be spellcasters or powered characters as they criss-cross the US battling each other and other forces.  Throw in a bit of Chill or Supernatural in there for good measure.   Maybe this war is also waking up all the old creatures so werewolves, vampires and others are also on the move once again.

Actually, this sounds exactly like the games from around 1999-2001 when "millennium anxiety" was creeping in everywhere. 

The more I think about the more I like this idea of this game.  While Amazing Adventures is overtly a "Pulp Action Game" there is nothing at all stopping you from using as a low-key (Loki??) supers in a modern supernatural setting.  In fact, that is exactly what the Book of Powers is all about.

Hmmm.

Stealing another idea from Jason's blog and his Wasted Lands concepts, maybe the players could also BE the gods themselves.  Now there is a fun idea.


This is worth developing much more.  I'll need to reread the book, it's been a while, plus I should really finish Anansi Boys someday.   I think I would also use Gaiman's "Lucifer" because that would be a lot of fun.

OH. And be on the lookout for the new Amazing Adventures 5th Edition, compatible with 5th Edition D&D!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

OMG: Greek (and maybe Roman) Mythos, Part 2

I have really been enjoying going back and rereading and reanalyzing the myths and stories that got me into D&D to start with.  I can't help but feel like this is the start of 1979 instead of 2019 with my reading list lately.  Only now at 49, I can really enjoy them in a different light than 9.

Let's continue with One Man's God and see what sort of demons the Greek Myths give us.


The Furies, Erinyes and the Dirae
Part of my prep for this has been to go back over my Hesiod (7th Century BCE) and Ovid(1st Century BCE and CE) (and other sources, but that is later) to see how these myths changed over the centuries.  One of my favorites was the various different interpretations of the Erinyes also know as the Furies and the Dirae (Roman).  Like I mentioned in Part 1, they are the archetype of what OMG is trying to do.  Their new life in the Monster Manual as a devil is not just in line with the myth, it also makes a certain level sense given the internal logic of the D&D multiverse.
I took it a step even further with my own Avenging Angels, The Dirae.

Typhon and Echidna
Another candidate for a demon is the god/titan Typhon.  I have used Typhon as a demon in the past.  Essentially a Balor whose primary aspects are lightning, storms, and rain rather than smoke, darkness, and fire.  I still like that idea, but it really isn't Typhon is it?  Typhon is the offspring of Gaia (Earth) and Tartarus (the underworld) so there is some connection to him being a Cthonic deity (like Nox) and he certainly looks like a demon.  Also, the Ptolemaic Greeks (and earlier) associated and conflated and syncretized Typhon with Set.
I think in this case I am going to have my cake and eat it too. There is Typhon, the titan locked away in Tartarus and there are the Typhon demons, demons of storm and wind that might be his offspring.

Echidna is the "mother of all monsters".  In a way that sounds like another "Other Side" favorite, Lilith the Mother of Demons.  Though aside from the similar titles that is where the commonalities end.  Echidna is a half-woman, half-snake creature born "to the sea" (depends on who ask) and was the mother to some of the most fearsome monsters of the Greek Myths, including Orthrus, Dioskilos, and Cerberus.
As with Typhon, she seems to remain more of a titan to me. As the mother of monsters, I can see that she is the mother/progenitor of the harpies and even the Marilith aka the Type V demons.  Given her and Typhon's affinity for snakes, it makes sense.  I also think that I would say that she lays eggs, a nod to the animal Echidna; an egg-laying mammal.

In truth, any monster of demon can be the offspring of Typhon and Echidna.


Demogorgon
Orcus and Ades, and the dreaded name
Of Demogorgon
— John Milton, Paradise Lost II. 966.
Time to address the titan in the room.
Is Demogorgon a part of the Greek Myths?

Well, he is not listed in the Deities & Demigods as part of the Greek Myths, so this is a stretch of scope for this OMG, but Demogorgon is so central to the mythos of D&D that he can't go unmentioned.

Many scholars now believe that the word Demogorgon was badly translated from the Greek ╬┤╬Ě╬╝╬╣╬┐¤ů¤ü╬│¤î╬Ż (d─ômiourgon) or demiurge. As an aside, does this mean he could be the Demiurge in the game Kult? NOW THERE is a fun idea!  Throughout the study of the name, there are two basic threads.  1. Demogorgon is some sort primordial progenitor of the Gods.  and 2. It is a grammatical error given life as a god.  Certainly, the look given to Demogorgon in the Monster Manual is a pure fabrication on the part of authors and artists of  D&D (note: this is not a bad thing).
From Milton above, we learn that Demogorgon was already in Hell waiting for the arrival of Satan.  He is picked up as a prince of darkness in Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene.

But my favorite one has to be from Shelley's Prometheus Unbound which takes influences from Paradise Lost.  Here Demogorgon is the son of Zeus/Jupiter and Theris and is known as "the supreme Tyrant" of "the shadow realm".  Here the gods, Jupiter, Hades even Typhon are all dead.  In this Demogorgon defeats Zeus/Jupiter as he did Kronos/Saturn before and Ouranos/Uranus before that.  Maybe much like the prophecy, Metis was given of Zeus' son defeating him this happened, but only it was his via Thetis instead. 

So what does all that mean to us?
Well Demogorgon, as he appears in the Monster Manual, is not really Greek. This is fine.  But grabbing all sorts of elements of his/its past we can come up with an old demon whose goal is to destroy the Gods (as one interpretation).  If we look into his origins as quasi-Greek then it is interesting that his chief rival is Orcus a demonic version of an Etruscan/Roman deity.   But more on Orcus in the next OMG.

Demogorgon has been featured here before and likely will again


That's a lot for today and I feel like I have barely scratched the surface, and there are still Roman Myths to cover!

The more I think about it.   The world of Kult is one where Demogorgon has succeded in killing most of the gods.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Review: Castles & Crusades Codex Classicum

The Castles & Crusades Codecies series are great books to add some flavor and history to your game.  While overtly for the Castles & Crusades game they can be used by nearly any game.  I reviewed the Codex Celtarum a while back and I loved it. So I picked up all the others.
Since I am currently on a big Greek Mythology kick, let's have a look at Castles & Crusades Codex Classicum.

Castles & Crusades Codex Classicum
For this book, I am reviewing the PDF only since that is what I have at hand at the moment.
The PDF is 146 pages with color covers and black & white interiors.  The art is up to the high standards you should expect from Troll Lords with plenty of evocative art from Peter Bradley.   Like the other books in this series, this one was written by Brian Young, who has the educational background to tackle these books.
Brian introduces us to the material with an apology that this book could have been twice as large and not cover everything.  Indeed, the book's scope is ambitious with what we normally consider Classical Mythology; the stories of the Greeks and the Romans with some Etruscans thrown in for good measure.  Ambitious indeed.

Note: There are a couple of errors in the hyperlinked table of contents in the PDF, but nothing that keeps anyone from enjoying the book.

Chapter 1 covers the actual history of the Greeks, Etruscans, and Romans...or as much as can be done in 20 or so pages.  There are actual history and mythical histories.  The myth in this section and book takes heavily, as can be expected, from Hesiod's Theogony.  It's like being back in Freshman Classics all over again!  The section, for its brevity, is well thought out and hits on the big pictures and themes.  I suppose if you want more you can always read Theogony yourself.  In fact, do that, anyone that is a gamer should have a basic understanding of the Classical Myths.

Chapter 2 details the all-important geography of the area.  Why "all-important"? Because the Greeks and the later Romans were products of their environments; their history, religions and myths were influenced by their geography to an extreme extent.  From the Greek city-states of early antiquity, to rise of the power Athens and Macedonia and in the literal center of it all, the Mediterranean Sea.
Again, this chapter is a quick overview, but a better one than I have seen in other game books.
This chapter also covers mythical locations (but not the mythical worlds just yet).  Remember to the Greeks these places were places just as real as everything else.  One could, if they so desired, walk to the underworld. That is if they knew the way.
This chapter also introduces the Explorer/Adventurer class.  Something that feels right at home in the world of the Greeks or the worlds of Gygax.  Some should convert this to another system and see how it plays out.

Chapter 3 features the monsters and beasts of the Classical World.  There are a lot of old favorites here and well as new representations of other favorites.  Of course, this is one of my favorite chapters.  Greek myth got me into D&D via the Monster Manual and there are a lot of monsters here that get right in the 1979 nostalgia.  My only disappointment here is that is no art of any of the monsters. I know we all know what most of these creatures look like, but I still feel a little cheated in not getting enough Peter Bradley art.

Chapter 4 is my favorite.  Monsters got me into D&D and RPGs, but it was magic that kept me coming back. Chapter 4 features Greek and Roman sorcery and magic including necromancy and prophecy.   Even the most casual reader of the classic myths should know how important Oracles are to the tale.  From Jason to Perseus to the tragedy of Oedipus, Oracles move the story forward. Here we get our next class, the Oracle (with notes on how these mouthpieces of the gods work in the other Codies).  Unlike the Pathfinder Oracle, this one is not a spellcaster but a reader of omens. It also requires a fairly experienced player to play to make proper use of it.
Also featured here is the Nekuomantis, or the classical Greek necromancer.  In many ways, this is the true necromancer before RPGs got ahold of the archetype.  These characters speak to the dead to learn secrets and the future.

Chapter 5 deals with the Gods and Titans and other immortal creatures.  It is fairly comprehensive compared to all other game books and very helpful in populating the ranks of the Immortals.

Chapter 6 focuses more on the humans and mortals of the world.  The heroes and their issues.  The basics of the Greek and Roman armies are also covered.  This chapter also introduces the Gladiator class.

All in all a great overview but also leaving me with the desire for some more.  Still I rather enjoyed it and can see a lot of uses for it.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Orthrus, Dioskilos and the Death Dogs

Rain interrupted our gardening for Saturday.  So I decided to come back inside and relax to the original 1981 Clash of the Titans.  This was such a touchstone movie for a young mythology fan getting heavily into D&D.  Plus it fits in nicely with my whole Back to Basics theme this year and my current One Man's God theme.

Orthrus
According to Apollodorus, Orthrus was a two-headed dog that guarded Geryon's cattle.  He, like Cerberus, was the offspring of Echidna and Typhon.   He was the first of the semi-divine "death dogs" and was killed by Heracles.  This creature appeared as a mastiff with two heads.

Dioskilos
Was a two-headed dog that appeared more like a wolf.  While smaller, he is also believed to be the offspring of  Echidna and Typhon.  This creature, according to mythographer Harryhausen, guarded the temple of Medusa.

Death Dogs
Death Dogs are any of numerous offspring of Orthus, Dioskilos, Cerberus and various other creatures, typically Hell Hounds. Others, usually more powerful ones are the offspring of Typhon and Echidna.
Due to their semi-divine and underworld natures, they are affected by any spell that also damages demons, devils or other evil outsiders.

Death Dog
No. Enc.: 1d6 (1d8)
Alignment: Chaotic (Chaotic Evil, Neutral Evil)
Movement: 150’ (50’)
Armor Class: 4 [15]
Hit Dice: 2d8+4 (13 hp)
Attacks: 2 and special
Damage: 1d8 / 1d8 (bite) and Rotting Death (see below).
Save: Fighter 2
Morale: 11
Hoard Class: Nil
XP:  100
Death dogs are two-headed, mastiff-like hounds; nocturnal killing machines that hunt their prey without hesitation across the desert sands and wastelands. Death dog packs have been known to share territory with little friction, although they do engage in dominance battles in leaner times when hunting is difficult. Victims of the death dog’s bite must pass a saving throw or come down with the rotting death, losing 1d6 points of constitution each day until they succeed at a poison saving throw at a -5 penalty.
Victims who lose all their points of constitution die. Constitution points can be restored with powerful healing magic or complete bed rest, with one point of constitution returning with each week of rest.


Section 15: Death Dog from the Tome of Horrors Complete, Copyright 2011, Necromancer Games, Inc., published and distributed by Frog God Games;
Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Underworld Oracle.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Batwoman: New Trailer and Vigilante City

Super busy at work today, but something cool came up on my feed. The new First Look trailer is out for the CW's Batwoman.


I have been a solid fan of the character since the 52 mini-series and her own series.  I still consider Batwoman: Elegy one of the best comics ever written.

Given the grittier street feel of the CW Arrowverse, Vigilante City is a great choice to stat her up.
Since the series has not appeared yet, let's try her out at Level 1.

Batwoman
True ID: Katherine "Kate" Kane

Class: Dark Avenger
Level: 1
Alignment: Law

STR: 17
INT: 16
WIS: 15
DEX:18
CON: 17
CHA: 16
SUR: 19

Courage: 16
Critical: 14
Death: 10
Magic: 10
Mental: 14
Poison: 12

HP: 9
AC: 5 (Batsuit)
Initiative Bonus: +3
Attack Bonuses.  Melee: +2  Ranged: +3

Move: 12
Vigilante Points: 1
Kits: Batsuit and gear, utility belt

Skills
Combat, Fighting (Martial Arts), Interrogation (+2 bonus), Intimidation (+1 bonus), Steet Smarts, Computer Skills 1, Parkour 1

Height: 5'7"
Weight: 135 lbs
Age: 26
Hair: Black / Red
Eyes: Light Green
Sex: F

Will alter some details this Fall!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Review & PWWO: Maximum Mayhem Adventures

Mark Taormino of Maximum Mayhem Dungeons is in the final week of his latest creation, Maximum Mayhem Dungeons #6: Moving Maze of the Mad Master.

I thought today might be a great time to discuss his previous adventures.


#1 Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen
This adventure, written by Mark Taormino might be an homage to the first Palace of the Vampire Queen adventure, but it is more likely an homage to those meat-grinder, total-party kill, fun-house dungeons of the late 70s early 80s. There is a basic plot here, enough to get you in the door and moving along, but really this adventure is about killing things and avoiding getting killed. Example, in one of the first encounters you have to run a gauntlet and get past a bunch of fire giants and their hell hound pets. This is "room 1". It is downhill from there. It has demons and other vampires in the wander monster table. Liches, demons, succubi, greater devils, nearly 50 vampires in total, tons of other monsters and of course the Queen herself, Lady Neeblack.

This is not an adventure to challenge the resolve of hardy role-players. This is an adventure to survive and leave a trail of bodies behind you. It is old-school, but old-school through the eyes of 40-somethings looking back on their times as teens.
The adventure itself has a great lead-in to get you interested, but that is just the carrot on a stick, most people buying and playing this module are going to want to jump right in. Another example (this is not a spoiler), you are captured by Lady Neeblack and told you have to run through her crypts for her amusement. The conceit is the characters will feel coerced into doing this, so they slide down a passage to the previously mentioned Fire Giants. In truth, my players wanted to jump in like they were doing a dive at the pool.

Though to claim people will play this for nostalgia reasons is completely unfair. Mark did a great job of this. The rooms are detailed and what detail! There are interesting encounters and Lady Neeblack herself should really move up the ranks as one of the more memorable NPCs ever. In fact I am hoping that she comes back for a sequel sometime soon. Just like a good Hammer villain she should find ways to come back from the dead. Mark Taormino, this needs to happen.
The text of the book is big, easy to read and despite the "old school" claims still has boxed text to read (screw you Grognards! I still like boxed text even when I don't use it.) Each room is unique and feels like it belongs. Plus the "Hanging Coffins" themselves are the coolest idea in vampire graves since the Lost Boys.
The proof of any adventure is not in the reading but in the playing. So I played it. It rocked.

Now the game is designed for OSRIC but can played with 1st or 2nd Ed AD&D. I played it with 5th Edition D&D. I just replaced the monsters and made a character sheet for Lady Neeblack. I ran the same group of people that I had taken through the original Palace of the Vampire Queen and we all treated it as an unofficial sequel. I worked out well enough. We all had fun, but if this module reads as a deathtrap on paper it's a killer in the playing. So make of that what you like.
Personally I would love to run it again using AD&D1

#2 Secret Machines of the Star Spawn
Let's play a game of what if. What if the Expedition to the Barrier Peaks had been written in the 80s instead of the 70s? What if there were influences of Star Wars, Buck Rogers, 50s sci-fi movies and just a little dash of 70s Blaxploitation?
You might get something like The Secret Machines of the Star Spawn, but it would not be as good as the module Mark Taormino wrote. The module follows a similar flow of the other Maximum Mayhem Dungeons; something weird is happening, there are rumors, a long history of strangeness and a thin excuse to go adventuring. What they PCs will uncover is...well I don't want to spoil it. It's no shock that this adventure will feature a downed starship and some lasers. But it doesn't end there. In truth there is a lot to really, really like about this adventure. In a different setting, the monsters would be scary ass deadly and really, really awesome. Also there is so many references to pop culture, espeically sci-fi and 80s pop culture, that it would be pointless to address them all. The rock band KILL was one of my favorites. Designed for OSRIC, I played bits and pieces of this using D&D5. Though it would work just as well with AD&D1, Castles & Crusades or any other OGL based clone game. The one issue I have with it (and very minor) is that players that didn't grow up in the 70s and 80s would not get all the jokes. I ran Hanging Coffins for my kids and they loved it, but some of the jokes fell flat on them here. No surprise they have no context for them. I thought they were hilarious to be honest. Loved the Pinball Wizard! If I were to run this again I would either merge it with a little bit of Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and run a huge Star Spawn mega-adventure. Or I'd run it as is with some disposable characters and guys that grew up in the 80s too.

#3 Villains of the Undercity
What if the Keep on the Borderlands was destroyed and then humans came in and built a new keep on top of the ruins. Let's also say the caves of Chaos have been cleared, but not all the monsters were killed. Where did they go? What did they do? Now invite the Slave Lords from the A series over. You would get Villains of the Undercity! This adventure is an ode and homage to the great dungeon crawls of the day. While this adventure fits the gonzo style of the other Maximum Mayhem Dungeons this one can also be played straight. Well...sorta. There is a crazy Halfling Illusionist Assassin, but that is for the players to figure out.
With this adventure, anyone that has ever been inside a classic dungeon will find something to love. There are lots of deadly traps, monsters and puzzles to figure out. Of course plenty of treasure too. This adventure is also the one that I can see fitting into a larger campaign, even with adventures from other publishers. I was mentally placing it in Greyhawk or even Dolmvay. Just really a lot of fun.
Like the B and A series it takes so much nostalgia from, this is an introductory module.  But just because it says character levels 1-3 it is still expecting some experienced players or very experienced players with somewhat fuzzy memories!  Like the MM modules, this one is action and combat. Yes, there are some puzzles to solve and everything is deadly.

#4 Vault of the Dwarven King
Another what if scenario for you.  What if the dwarves of Moria were completely crazy for Indiana Jones?  Well, you might get something like Vault of the Dwarven King.  There is the aforementioned vault, part of a vast underground dwarven city.  There is a giant monster that's on fire.  There are also mine-cars, goblin moonshiners, blue trolls and dwarf tossing.
There is a thin coating of silliness over a really fun and REALLY deadly adventure here. All to reclaim the lost dwarven artifact, the Fireheart.  But does it belong to the dwarves or the goblins?  Will you even live long enough to find out?
Like the adventures that came before it, it is an unapologetic romp down memory lane.  This adventure though, maybe more so than any of the others might be more accessible to anyone that didn't grow up in the 80s.  The biggest nostalgia pull is, of course, the Lord of the Rings movies, in particular, Fellowship of the Ring, but that is only one (though very loud) note.  There is enough going on here to keep every player on their toes and their characters running.   This one is also the most classically "fantasy" than the others which also draw on sci-fi, horror and crazy humor.

#5 Palace of the Dragon's Princess
Palace of the Dragon's Princess might be my second favorite adventure in this whole series right after Hanging Coffins.  The premise is very similar to the classic Palace of the Silver Princess.   In this case, the Princess is trapped by a green dragon and you must go rescue her.  Sound easy?  You obviously have not paid any attention to the other four adventures in this series.
This one has a lot of background information, more so than the others.  We know a lot more about Princess Francessca than we do about Lady Neeblack the Vampire Queen (Could Lady Neeblack be Princess Francessa's dead mother??!!?).  There is a knight, a dragon and Torgo. Yup, a nice riff on MST3k with Torgo and the Master.  But is the princess REALLY in danger?  That will be up to the Gamemaster to decide.  There is a lot going on here and because of the backstory a lot more that a crafty DM can add.  I am a touch disappointed there were no three-headed creatures like the Ubues, but that is fine. They were silly enough then.
Like the Vault of the Dwarven King this one is more classically fantasy and it is also one best ones in the series to "run straight".  Meaning you could strip out some of the silliness and have a pretty deadly, serious adventure if you wanted.
In any case, this is one is a lot of fun and a worthy addition to the line of Maximum Mayhem Dungeons.

So check out Maximum Mayhem Dungeons #6: Moving Maze of the Mad Master.  It looks like "Willy Wonka in Hell" so you know it will be fun.

Plays Well With Others
The Maximum Mayhem Adventures are designed with 1st Edition/OSRIC in mind.  But If you organize them in level like this.


I can't help but notice a solid campaign of levels 1 to 14.
Just like B/X D&D.


With some tweaks, mostly to the monsters and alignment, you could have a solid set of adventures for the B/X line of D&D.  Sure they are a bit tough and have some out-there elements, but nothing that B/X couldn't deal with with the right DM.

I have not tried this yet.  I have played these adventures using D&D 5th edition, but I can't see why it would not work.


Plus the boxes look nice together.
Isn't this how we all played back then anyway?  Mixing our AD&D and BD&D all the time.  I think I first went through the A-Series using the Expert set anyway.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Must Be the Season of the Witch: Movies and TV

Now, this is working WITH me!

A new movie and new TV series created just for my entertainment. Though I am sure you all can watch too.

First up, Angelina Jolie is back as Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.





And over on Disney's FreeForm, who is currently KILLING IT with Marvel's Cloak & Dagger, we are getting a Witches-as-Warriors in a modern-day supernatural show, Motherland: Fort Salem.


I mean seriously, has someone been peeking at my birthday wish list?
Can't wait for these!

Monday, May 13, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Avenging Angels, The Dirae for Basic-era Games

A little thing I have been working on.  More of this later.  Greek and Roman mythology purists, I take a lot of liberties with the myths.  A lot.
--
Avenging Angels, The Dirae

"Every angel is terrifying." 
- Rainer Maria Rilke

“They say that by the time you hear their war screams you are already dead.” 
- Brix, Imp assigned to Malbolge


When the Erinyes abandoned their duties and sided with the Devils in the War at the Gates of Dawn they left a vacuum of power that the gods, in their weakened state could not fill.

Originally known as the Eumenides, or the Kindly Ones, their divine task was to rightfully punish wrongdoers and the breakers of oaths.  They pursued this task with a fervor that only divine justice can inspire.  It was this devotion that made them an easy target for Asmodeus’ designs.

They fell, along with other angels and servitors of good, until they landed in Hell.  Here they took on new forms and became the Erinyes or the Furious Ones.

Their power, their divine cause, and their roles were left untouched for time untold.

Until one night.

A small coven of proto-Druidic nature worshipers danced around a full moon.  The parishioners, all women from the local village, danced and lept with pure joy. Unknown to them a group of raiders from a few villages over had heard of the moonlight dance and figured the women would be easy targets. They were. They were defenseless and without weapons or armor.  These raiders believed they had stockpiles of gold and silver, but nothing like that existed.  In outrage, the raiders slaughtered them all.

The murders caught the attention of the coven’s Goddess, Rhamnusia. Aggrieved and enraged she appealed to the other gods. “Please!” she cried out, “please let them know the vengeance they deserve.”   But this was the time after the War at the Gates of Dawn and the gods were weak and weary. Not only did they fear to give up any remaining power they had, but secretly they could not do so; such was their weakened state.  Only the God that had prompted the raiders on did not fear.

Rhamnusia screamed in rage. Cursing the impotent Gods She flew off till she found Death.

Death granted Her the power She asked for, but at a cost.  No more of Her followers would ever be able to come back from the Realms of Death as part of a cycle of Life-Death-and-Rebirth.  The Goddess Rhamnusia, hearing only the souls of her followers crying for vengeance, agreed.

With this power, She raised her followers. She equipped them with arms and armor and sent them on a mission of vengeance. Their forms were same; the Goddess wanted to these raiders to know that it was the once peaceful coven now come for their deaths.  With sword and wing; armor and scream, the new angels flew to their targets.  Like the Eumenides of old, their unerring flight sought out the guilty and they destroyed them.

They then continued to attack and destroy anyone that had harmed another innocent. Saving their greatest fury for those that killed women or children.

Enraged at loss of so many of His followers the God of the raiders demanded justice of His own.  No sooner than He had uttered the words than the screams of the Angels were heard.  They attacked this God, the forced Him back to his own plane and here they slaughtered Him.

More than that, they Unmade Him.

He would never come back, no matter the form, no matter what other gods or His worshipers did.

The Angels had tapped into the righteous fury left behind by the Erinyes. The power that was of thousands of Angels of Vengeance and Retribution now flowed through the bodies of less than a score beings. Gone was the peaceful coven. In their place stood the avatars of Vengeance and Death, and even the gods themselves were not immune from their justice.

Their Goddess too was changed. Rhamnusia took on an aspect similar to Her angels.
Gone were the accouterments of a pastoral Goddess.  Sheaves of grain were replaced by a scourge. The sickle of the harvest became a sword of silver fire. Her rustic tunic became armor of the same silver.  Rhammusia was gone.

In Her place stood Invidia, the Goddess of Vengeance. Her brothers were Fear and Terror and mortalkind called her Nemesis, "She whom none can escape."

Her Angles became known as the Dirae, the “Terrible Ones” or the “Vengengful Ones.

Dirae (Angel)
No. Enc.: 1d4 (2d8)
Alignment: Lawful (Lawful Good, Lawful Neutral)
Movement: 60’ (20’)
   Fly: 240’ (80’)
Armor Class: 2
Hit Dice: 8d8 + 16 (52 hp)
Attacks: 2 or 1 or special
Damage: 1d8 / 1d8 (sword) or 1d10 (scourge, see below) or scream (see below).
Save: Fighter 8
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: Nil
XP:  3,840
The dirae appear as angels with dark wings touched with silver.  They are often armed and armored. All dirae are female, but it can often be difficult to tell when their helms are donned. They do appear attractive, but there is a quality of sadness, anger or purpose about their appearance that makes most mortals uncomfortable.  The guilty fear them and the devoted see them as manifestations of justice.

The dirae are tasked with punishing the guilty. Petty crimes are beneath their attention as mortal laws are designed to deal with those.  The dirae focus their vengeance on the worst crimes committed; those against the innocent.  Not all crimes can be punished by the dirae; there are too few of them, but when they set out to punish a mortal nothing can stop them.

Dirae attack with a sword two times per round or a scourge.  The scourge does damage and acts as a Rope of Entanglement.  Both weapons are considered magical and holy when dealing with other creatures.  They slay evil creatures without hesitation or remorse.  If they are sent to slay a human then they will do so as quickly as possible. If someone is in their way or prevents them from their task they will slay that creature as well.   Three times per day the dirae can Scream.  This attack causes fear (as per the spell). Creatures 5 HD and lower are affected with no save.  Creatures 6 HD and higher are allowed a save vs. spells. Affected creatures cannot attack.

Dirae have the following spell-like abilities, usable at will: detect invisibility, fear (was the wand of fear), invisibility, know alignment, locate object, polymorph self, produce flame, holy word, and gate (50% probability of success) a dirae or (75% probability of success) another angel of a lesser sort.

A group of dirae is known as a “flight”.

Dirae and Erinyes
As agents of good and evil respectively, the Dirae and Erinyes often are at cross purposes, but in their roles of vengeance, they will sometimes see their purposes aligned.  Due to ancient pacts that go beyond gods and devils the Dirae and the Erinyes are forbidden to act against each other directly.  They can’t harm or interfere with each others’ hunts.
If a mortal is claimed by both groups, then by the same ancient pacts they are given over to the Erinyes, the Dirae cannot interfere.
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