Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Return of #RPGaDAY 2019

Once again I am participating in Dave Chapman's #RPGaDAY for 2019.


He will be posting on his blog, AUTOCRATIK and elsewhere on the net, esp. Twitter.  I am planning on cross-posting in a lot of places myself, testing out some new social media tools I have.

Here is the list of topics.

  1. First
  2. Unique
  3. Engage
  4. Share
  5. Space
  6. Ancient
  7. Familiar
  8. Obscure
  9. Critical
  10. Focus
  11. Examine
  12. Friendship
  13. Mystery
  14. Guide
  15. Door
  16. Dream
  17. One
  18. Plenty
  19. Scary
  20. Noble
  21. Vast
  22. Lost
  23. Surprise
  24. Triumph
  25. Calamity
  26. Idea
  27. Suspense
  28. Love
  29. Evolve
  30. Connection
  31. Last

The idea is to get creative with the posts. So I plan to do my best.

Tune in tomorrow and all month to see what I am doing.  Participating?  Let others know here too!

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Lord of the Rings fan films

Was doing a little research today and discovered these Lord of the Rings fan films.

I have not watched them all yet, but the production values are really good and they look good as well.  Yeah, they are fan films so the acting isn't Oscar level, but what they lack in skill they make up for in enthusiasm.

The first is Born in Hope a story of Aragorn's parents and The Necromancer/Sauron's search for the Ring.



The other is The Hunt for Gollum. It deals with Aragorn's hunt for Gollum and Gandalf's search for more information on the Ring.



These are based on Tolkien's works but are more akin to the movies than the books, but there is a lot of love in both of them.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Demonic Trolls

Gearing up for the big finale of the Order of the Platinum Dragon game this week.  Five-six years, spread out, has now come down to the big confrontation between the forces of Good and the forces of Chaos.  This weekend the Order will face off against Lolth.

I have been planning this one for years.  Knowing full well the history of how Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits was written and produced and knowing while it can be epic in scope, it often falls a little flat.  Well, I have worked that out a bit and even have adapted several other adventures such as Skein of the Death Mother and the original version of Queen of Lies.

But there are still somethings in the Q1 module that needs to be changed.  One, oft mentioned bit, is that the characters get to the Abyss and they are assaulted by trolls and gnolls.  Wait. Trolls? Gnolls?  These creatures seem a little too mundane for the ultra weirdness that is the Abyss.
Now one hand gnolls have evolved since the late 70s, early 80s to become more and more demonically influenced.   So these I can keep, just maybe turn up the evil a bit.  But Trolls?  Like Tom, Bert, and William from the Hobbit?  No that can't be right.

But if I go with Demonic Trolls, now there is something else.



We know two things.  1. Trolls regenerate after they are damaged.  2. The Abyss corrupts the life found in it to adapt to the environment in twisted ways.  That last one is from the 4th Ed version of the Demonomicon.    So what happens when you put these together?  Demon Trolls.  And if they are in the Demonweb?  Demonic Spider Trolls.

Here are Demonic Trolls for the Blueholme Journeymanne Rules, my current "Basic" of choice these days.

TROLL, DEMONIC
AC: 2
HD: 12d8
Move: 45
Attacks: 2 claws, 1 bite or weapon
Damage: 1d6 (claw) x2/ 2d6 (bite) or weapon
Special: Bite save vs. Poison 2d6 (half with save)
XP: 2,300
Alignment: CE
Treasure: None
Abilities: +3 Strength, +2 Dexterity,  -4 Charisma
Climb Surfaces +25%, Hear Noise +15%, Read Languages -10%, Read Scrolls -10%, Use Wand -15%

Regenerates 1d6+6 hp at the start of it's turn.

And for D&D 5e.

Demonic Troll
Large Fiend, chaotic evil

Armor Class 17 (natural armor)
Hit Points 108 (12d10 + 48)
Speed 45 ft., climb 45 ft.

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
22 (+6)     18 (+4)     18 (+4)     8 (-1)     10 (0)     4 (-3)    

Skills Perception +6, Stealth +9
Senses darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 15
Languages Abyssal, Undercommon
Challenge 6 (2,300 XP)


TRAITS

Keen Smell: The demonic troll has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on smell.

Regeneration: The demoic troll regains 15 Hit Points at the start of its turn. If the demonic troll takes acid or fire damage, this trait doesn't function at the start of the demonic troll's next turn. The demonic troll dies only if it starts its turn with 0 Hit Points and doesn't Regenerate.

Spider Climb. The demonic troll can climb difficult surfaces, including upside down on ceilings, without needing to make an ability check.

ACTIONS

Multiattack. The demonic troll makes two attacks, either with it's claws or bite.

Claw. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 9 (1d6+6) slashing damage.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d6 + 6) piercing damage plus 7 (2d6) poison damage.

Trolls may also use a melee or improvised weapon.

Description

Demonic trolls are the result of trolls becoming captured or lost in the Abyss. Their natural regenerative powers combined with the Abyss' computing influences create true monsters.  Their intellect is lowered as they become deranged with blood lust, but their strength and speed become truly monstrous.

They will often adopt demonic features such as horns, wings, a forked tail, or any number of thousands of possible mutations.  Often they pick up traits of whatever abyssal plane they are on.  Trolls in the Demonweb, for example, will have spider-like features.  Trolls in the layers of Juiblex will have ooze like features and seem to melt and reform as the attack.

Regeneration
The regeneration powers of the demonic troll are horrifying.  If the troll looses a limb it can hold the limb to the wound to reattach it.  Or it can pick up any severed limb and that will re-attach as well.  Left over severed limbs will regrow into new trolls, altered by the environment.


Friday, July 26, 2019

Kickstart Your Weekend: Everglade Angels

There is a new comic coming out and it looks like a lot of fun.

EVERGLADE ANGELS - a graphic novel


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/blake-northcott/everglade-angels-a-graphic-novel

From the minds of writer Blake Northcott, Scott Lobdell, artists Leila Leiz, and Roc Upchurch, comes an "R-rated" adult horror comic set in the Florida Everglades.

From the Kickstarter.
EVERGLADE ANGELS, an R-rated, 48-page graphic novel, is the first horror graphic novel from Scott Lobdell (writer of Marvel's X-MEN, and the writer & creator of HAPPY DEATH DAY).

The book is co-created by Blake Northcott (international bestselling author of ARENA MODE and THE NORTH VALLEY GRIMOIRE) who is writing her first creator-owned graphic novel.

The art is by Roc Upchurch, the co-creator and artist of RAT QUEENS (the Eisner and Hugo nominated Image Comic series that won a GLAAD Media Award in 2015).
It looks like a fun, 90s style slasher flick tale.
Worth checking out.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Review: Blueholme Journeymanne and Prentice Rules

It's been a year of Basic-era games for me and I want to talk about one of my newest favorites today.

Earlier this week I talked about the new D&D 5 Essentials Kit, I wanted to have another look at my own roots, the D&D Holmes Basic Set.  The Holmes set is one of the few versions of the D&D games you can't get from DriveThruRPG.  You can, however, get the Blueholme game from Michael Thomas and Dreamscape Design.


Blueholme comes in two different versions, the introductory Prentice Rules, and the full Journeymanne Rules. I will cover both here.  In this case, I am reviewing both the print books from Lulu and the PDF versions from DriveThruRPG.

Blueholme Journeymanne Rules
118 pages, full-color covers, b/w interiors. $9.99.

Blueholme is a retro-clone / what-if of the first Basic Set edited by John Eric Holmes.  Sometimes called "Blue Box Basic" or "Blue Book Basic".   At 118 pages it is a complete game.  If that sounds light, then you are right!  Blueholme is a "rules" light old-school game much in the same way that Holmes was.  Don't let it's light-weight dissuade you.  This is a feature, not a bug.
On the surface, the Blueholme Journeymanne Rules (BJR) looks like any other retro-clone in the OSR.  Once you dig into it you will see the differences are from the source materials.

Foreward.  We start with a foreward (not forward) from Chris Holmes, the son of John Eric Holmes and the reason why there was a Holmes Basic set to begin with.  It gives these rules a bit of gravitas if you ask me.

Part 1: Introduction covers what you should expect to see in this book and the general tone of the book. Like everything else it is short, sweet and to the point.

Part 2: Characters deals with character creation.  All game developers should have a look at these first two pages to see how the economy of words pays off.  In the first two pages, we cover all the steps in creation.  Rolling stats (3d6 in order), choosing a species (I prefer this over "race"), class, and everything else.  The six ability scores are covered and what they do.  SURPRISE they do much less here than in other OSR games.  Essentially these are the means to get a bonus when leveling.  Eg. Strength provides no bonuses in combat. Constitution does aid in hp it points, Intelligence still helps in learning languages. But that is about it really.  Only Dexterity helps to hit and then only + or - 1. Dexterity is central to combat, but more on that later.
For species, there is nothing specific listed outside of humans.  For anything else have a look in the Monster section and pick something! Want an elf, dwarf or orc? Go ahead! Goblin? Yes! Dragon? sure, work it out with your GM. Black Pudding? Sure...work it out with your GM.
It is very much the way the original D&D and Holmes D&D games worked.
Classes are the basic four; Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user, and Thief.  Fighters do not get more attacks as they level up, but can cause more damage.  There are rules on Combination Classes or what we also call Multiclassing.  If your base creature type has more HD then there is a table of adjustments.
Alignment is broken down to just five, Lawful Good, Chaotic Good, True Neutral, Chaotic Evil and Lawful Evil.
Coin and Equipment is next. Note that all weapons do 1d6 points of damage per hit as per the OD&D and Holmes BD&D rules.

Part 3: Spells covers all the spells that can be cast by Clerics (1 to 7 spell level) and Magic-Users (1 to 9 spell levels). These are not huge lists and some spells are different than other books representations of them.  Make sure you read before you assume a spell does what you think it does.

Part 4: Adventures covers just that, what the characters do and where they do it. This section is very reminiscent of the similar sections in both Holmes and Moldvay Basic.  The breadth of the information is wide, but the depth is low since it depends on the Game Master to make calls on what is happening in certain situations.

Part 5: Encounters would be called Combat in other books, but the name change fits.  We start with lots of tables of monster encounters at various levels and various locales. Combat, damage, and healing are also covered.  The initiative is determined by Dexterity score. If there is a tie then a 1d6 is rolled with highest going first. AC is descending with an AC of 9 meaning unarmored.
We get tables of attack matrices and saving throws too.

Part 6: Creatures deals with all the creatures you can encounter as friend or foes.  There are plenty here and brevity is the key.  For example, Demon gets a single entry and some tables to determine what it looks like. You can also choose your character specifies from these entries.  All the usual suspects are here. I in particular like the "pumpkin-headed" bugbear; a nod to the OD&D rules. There are a lot of Lovecraftian monsters here as well. They are the ones credited for creating the vast "Underground" where the adventurers find their fortunes. There are also plenty of "Appendix N" style creatures like intelligent apes and monsters out of Pellucidar and of course dragons and dinosaurs and undead.

Part 7: Treasure has both individual and hoard types with plenty of magic, and cursed items.

Part 8: Campaigns is a guide for Game Masters.
We end with a character sheet and a solid index.
The PDF is bookmarked, but the Table of Contents and Index are not hyperlinked (minor thing really).

The book is well laid out and easy to read. The art is all new and works fantastic with the book. Solid old-school feel to it., if slightly better than what we actually had back then.  It reminded me more of Moldvay era art than Holmes, but that is fine really.



Blueholme Prentice Rules
63 pages, mono-color covers, b/w interiors. Pay What You Want.

The Blueholme Prentice Rules came out first as a preview of the Journeymanne rules.
These rules cover the basic rules as the Journeymanne rules, save only to level 3.  In this respect it is actually closer to the Holmes set than the maine (manne?) rules.

In character creation, the choices of Human, Elf, Dwarf, and Halfling are given. The same basic four classes of Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user, and Thief are here.

From here the Prentice rules parallel the Journeymanne rules, there is just less of them.  This is a truly Basic set of rules with everything to get you started for the price of dice.

The Prentice Rules has the same cover art, albeit in a monochrome format (not unlike Holmes) and features Public Domain art inside from Henry J. Ford. Now personally I LOVE the art. These old images from old fairy tales really sets the mood for me and gives this game a different feel.

Bluehlome Prentice Rules are a perfect solution for someone wanting to get into an Old School game and does not know where to start or what to do, and maybe not spend a lot of money upfront.  For a PWYW PDF and print copies under $6, it has replaced Basic Fantasy as my OSR game of choice to hand out to people I want to introduce to old-school play.

Additionally, there are some full-color character sheets and an introductory adventure.

Blueholme is a great addition to the vast and growing library of OSR games.  It might be one of my favorites, to be honest.

You can find Dreamscape Design on the web at:

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

D&D Essentials Kit: Unboxing and Review

Today I want to spend some time with the new D&D Essentials Kit.  I had held off buying this when it first came out.  It was only available at Target stores and it is designed to get people up and going in the D&D 5 game that does not have prior experience with D&D.  That is not me. Plus buying one means that someone new might not get a copy.  But I kept hearing really good things about it and the sales I have heard are really good.  So I opted to pick up a copy now.

Since I prefer to buy my game materials from my favorite local game store, I will pick up another one when they are released to games stores in September.  I am likely going to donate that copy to my kid's local high school gaming club.  It will be well recieved I am sure.

So for $25 what does the Essentials Kit have and what can you do with it?  According to the back of the box we have:
  • 64 Page Rulebook
  • Dragon of Icespire Peak Adventure
  • Double-sided poster map
  • DM's screen
  • 6 blank character sheets
  • 11 polyhedral dice
  • 81 cards describing magic-items, NPC and conditions
  • Access codes for D&D Beyond


Opening up the box we see:


The adventure has a familiar feel of all the D&D 5 books.


Cards.



The map of the Sword Coast.


The DM's screen.  It is similar to the DM's screen sold separately, but this is made of thinner material.


Character sheets. These are thicker paper than photocopier paper.


The rulebook covers nearly everything characters will need for levels 1 to 6.



And dice. 1d4, 4d6s, 1d8, 1d10, 1d%, 1d12 and 2d20s.

The Essentials Kit covers a bunch of material and it is a fantastic introduction to the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition game.  The rules are clear, cover all the necessary topics and items.

The Essentials Kit is designed to work with the Starter Kit, but in truth I felt the Essentials can stand on it's own.


Certainly together they make for a complete game.  The Starter Set has more monsters and another adventure. 

I think that there was a missed opportunity here to call these the Basic and Expert sets.



The easy comparison here is to the various Basic Sets we have gotten over the years for D&D.



One of the complaints of the Starter Set was the lack of character creation rules. There were some other complaints that I felt were overblown. But let's look at this new box and ask the basic question "can I run a D&D game with just this box?"

The answer is yes, of course you can.  But are the elements here? Certainly.
I went through my Holmes and Moldvay Basic sets (Metzer is similar enough to Moldvay for this) and picked out rules sections to see what they have and how the Essentials compares.

This is what I came up with:

Item/Rule/Topic D&D 5e Essentials Holmes Basic Moldvay Basic
Character Creation Yes Yes Yes
Ability Generation 4d6, drop lowest or array 3d6 3d6
Character Races Dwarf, Elf, Halfling, Human Dwarf, Elf, Halfling, Human Dwarf, Elf, Halfling, Human
Character Classes Bard, Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, Wizard Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user, Thief Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user, Thief
and Race-as-class
Levels 1 to 6 1 to 3 1 to 3
Spells Yes (Bard, Cleric & Wizard) Yes (Cleric & Magic-user) Yes (Cleric & Magic-user)
Equipment Yes Yes Yes
Combat Yes Yes Yes
Monsters Yes, in included adventure Yes Yes
Magic Items Yes Yes Yes
DM's Section Yes, in included adventure Yes Yes
Running Adventures Yes Yes Yes
Sample Adventure No (but includes a full adventure) Yes Yes
Full Adventure Dragon of Icespire Peak B1 Search of the Unknown B2 Keep on the Borderlands
Character Sheets Yes No No* (but a page you can copy)
Dice Yes (11) No (Chits) Yes (6)

All three sets align well in terms of what you have.  You can start a character, choose one of four races and one of five classes and take them from 1st to 6th level with this box. And with this box there are already blank character sheets.

Like the boxes of old, save for my Holmes set made during the Great Dice Drought, all have dice.  All have included adventures and all have character creation rules.
Will Dragon of Icespire Peak go down in history like Keep on the Borderlands?  No. But it is still a very fine adventure.

The weak point of this boxed set as a complete game are the lack of a huge variety of Monsters.  Holmes featured 58 monsters.  Moldvay had over 70, more with variants and sub-types. Essentials has 33.  Still, a good amount and all three sets cover the same ones.  I don't see this as an issue since monsters can be downloaded from the SRD or the online Basic Game.  The Starter Kit also has Monsters as well.

So. The new Essentials Kit is a great starting place for people wanting to learn D&D 5 and have never played D&D before.  It is also good for anyone new to D&D 5 but has played other games in the past; though I would direct those folks to the Player's Handbook.

At 25 bucks the entry price is low enough for a casual gamer. 

The woman at the register at Target asked me if the game was for me or my kids.  I admitted it was for me, but my kids play.  She was telling me how popular the set has been and it was flying off the shelves.  I told her I knew, since this was the fourth Target I had been at in the Chicago'burbs looking for it.  She said her son had asked for it and she got it for him.  Now he and all his friends play at her house.  Cheaper than a video game and she knew where they were and what they were doing to whole time.

I think. No. I KNOW that Wizards of the Coast did the right thing putting this in Target stores.  If this gets the word out more about our hobby, then fantastic.

My next plan is to do some sample characters.  I have a new Bard, Cleric or Druid, and a Fighter I want to try out using just this box and do the same characters with the new Pathfinder.  Could be fun to see which character creation process "feels" the best.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Happy Anniversary!

No regular post today, it's my 24th Wedding Anniversary!
24 years ago I stood on a beach in Ocho Rios, Jamaica and I said "I Do" to my best friend.
It's been a wonderful ride so far.  Two houses, two kids, 8 different jobs, and 21 season of gardens (missing one due to a move and no gardens when we lived in an apartment).  I wouldn't change a thing.

To keep this RPG related I got a commission from one of my Featured Artist, Ben Honeycutt, to do a portrait of my wife's and mine D&D 5 characters.  Or, more closely, us cosplaying as our characters. ;)



These are our characters Johan IV (Paladin) and Lana (Fighter)



These were based on our minis and our engagement photo from 1995.




Sunday, July 21, 2019

Christmas in July Sale!

I have a lot of books on sale in DriveThruRPG's Christmas in July sale.
Yes, it is 100+ degrees heat indices outside, but DTRPGs thoughts are to Christmas.


You can even get my newest book, The Daughters of Darkness, on sale.


If you have grabbed one of my books here is a great time to finish up your collection.

Coming soon, "Children of the Gods. The Classical Witch Tradition".

Thursday, July 18, 2019

ENnies 2019 Voting is Live

Voting for the 2019 ENnies Awards is now live.  Here are some of my picks.

2020 Judge
Gotta go with GameGeeks' own Kurt Wiegel.

Best Adventure
No contest for me. I choose Necormatic Gnome's Winter's Daughter.

Best Art, Cover
Toss up between two favorites. KULT: Divinity Lost, 4th Edition of KULT - Core Rules and Winter's Daughter.

Best Art, Interior
Again another toss-up between KULT: Divinity Lost, 4th Edition of KULT - Core Rules and
Symbaroum Monster Codex.

Best Electronic Book
Gotta go with Sly Flourish's Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master.

Family Game/Product
Kids on Bikes

Best Layout and Design
Symbaroum Monster Codex

Best Monster/Adversary
Hmm. Hard one, because I enjoyed them all. I am choosing Creature Codex for 5th EditionSandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos for 5e AND Symbaroum Monster Codex.

Best Podcast
Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff

Best RPG Related Product
Bluebeard's Bride: Book of Lore

Best Rules
Call of Cthulhu Starter Set

Best Writing
KULT: Divinity Lost, 4th Edition of KULT - Core Rules

You can see all the nominations here.
http://www.ennie-awards.com/blog/2019-ennie-nominations/


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

OMG: Demihuman Deities, Part 2

Headed back to the Nonhuman and Demihuman Deities today.  Of all the mythos in this book this is one that gets the most updating.  Later in Unearthed Arcana and then under 2nd Ed with an entire book.  But that is in the future, today I want to deal with what is in front of me.


Last week I talked about Yeenoghu and how Gnolls (by all accounts a violent, but intelligent monster race) worship this demon as their god.  Ok cool. I like it, it works well for me.   But there are other demon lords and Princes that don't have humanoid worshipers.  Lolth does in the Dark Elves and her Clerics are at the top of their Drow Caste system.

To be blunt, what about Orcus and Demogorgon?
Now they are not in this book, so I am not going to devote a lot of time here to them. Plus I have said so much about them here before. But I do want to get to one God in this book and his relationship to the demons.

Vaprak the Destroyer
At the start of the OMG series I mentioned that Druaga the Ruler of the Devil World was the "poster boy" of this series.  But he is not the only one.  The other, though to a lesser degree, is Vaprak the Destroyer.



Vaprak is the lord of Trolls and Ogres.  Not bad. I don't even mind linking them together.

Though I often have Trolls and Ogres as Fae-adjacent creatures.  Many will often worship powerful fae Lords and some even honor the Erlking or one of the Goblin Lords.   Looking over Vaprak we see he is a demigod. Chaotic evil. Lives in the Abyss.  Sounds fairy demonic to me.

I have used Vaprak in my games many times.  I have the old LJN Advanced Dungeons & Dragons toy line Troll figure.  He makes for a perfect Vaprak.  BUT in my games, Vaprak was the old name trolls and ogres used (in some places)  to describe a creature that was attacked in the Dawn War by He Who Was.  He Who Was attacked three great demon lords; Vaprak, Orcus and one other whose name has been erased.  He Who Was unmade the last demon and nearly clove Vaprak in two with a mighty split to his head.  Orcus destroyed He Who Was and ripped out his skull and spine to make the Wand of Orcus.  Vaprak, nearly mortally wounded crawled back into the Abyss to heal.  Both halves of his head and neck healed and regenerated to give us the demon Demongorgon.

Demogorgon was Vaprak.

He still takes the worship of Vaprak and some even know the difference, but most human scholars do not.  This makes Demogorgon a little bit *more* in my game.

Laogzed
The Troglodytes worship the disgusting Laogzed.  Again, if Gnolls get a demon why do Trogs get a god?  Simple he is a god really.  Again let's look at the guy.  Chaotic Evil. Lives in the Abyss.  Demigod level.  Yeah this guy is a Demon Prince too.  There is actually a little bit more out there in later books about Laogzed than Vaprak, but nothing I could find that would contradict him being a Demon Prince.
Maybe it is the Erol Otus art, but I can't help think that Laogzed is somehow related to the Great Old Ones from the Cthulhu mythos.  I do get a solid Tsathoggua feel from this guy.  Nothing specific to be honest. Just a feel.

Sekolah
Sahuagin worship Sekolah as their god.  Here he is listed as a Lawful Evil lesser god who swims the seas of the Nine Hells.  In truth I rather like this.  I like keeping him as a god or what-ever was living in the Hells before the devils got there.  Some things were just two dangerous for even the Fallen to kick out.

I can't help but think that James Ward was thinking of the old "Jaws (1975)" movie trailer.



It is as if God created the Devil. And gave him...Jaws.

I will admit.  At 5-6 I was scared shitless by this movie.  Sekolah has a lot to live up to to be half as scary as "Bruce".

Blibdoolpoolp
A lot has been said since this book about the goddess of the Kuo-Toa.  There is even something that just came out this past week.  Also there are some books that claim that Blibdoolpoolp is not actually real.  That the insane Kuo-Toa worship anything and they come to life, something like a Tulpa.
I have talked in the past about Blibdoolpoolp just being a construct, or even an avatar of Mother Hydra to take the Kuo-Toa back to their Lovecraft roots.


I used her pretty much by the book when I ran Shrine of the Kuo-Toa last year.  Maybe I will revist her.  But I implied pretty heavily that she was of the same ilk as Lolth, both a Goddess and Demon Princess/Queen.  Maybe I'll go in a completely different direction with her.
She is also one of the keepers of the Elder Elemental Eyes in my game.  The "Eye of Sea and Sorrow".   Lolth is the keeper of the "Eye of Air and Darkness".  There is also the "Eye of Earth and Death" and the "Eye of Fear and Flame". 

I think that wraps up the Demi-human and non-human gods.  Not sure where I want to go next.  But I am thinking it is time tohit those Lovecraftian Cthulhu Mythos.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Castles & Crusades Monstrous Compendium

Busy day.  I have been running kids around all day to get them registered for classes, for volunteer work and oh and I have three courses I need to write before Gen Con!

But I am not going to let that stop me from sharing my latest mail call from Troll Lord Games and Castles & Crusades.

If I have said it once, I have said it a 1000 times. I love monster books.  The more monsters the better in my mind!  I have also said, though only slightly less, I love Castles & Crusades.  I wish I played more of it to be honest.

So imagine my pleasure when I got THIS in the mail last night.


What? A three-ring binder full of monsters?  Yes!


It is the combined Monster book from Troll Lords for Castles & Crusades.





The new binder and book are the same, each with about 380 pages worth of monsters and treasure.  And just tons and tons of monsters.

Personally I thought it was appropriate for Troll Lords to have this out 30 years to the month (maybe even the week) that the AD&D 2nd Ed Monstrous Compendium came out.



I will also fully take credit for this idea! ;)

I was organizing my C&C monster printouts into a single binder and bugged the Trolls online about getting a product like this. I posted pictures, hit them up and next thing I knew there was a Kickstarter for it!




I hope to have some reviews up soon.  They sent me a lot of stuff!


Monday, July 15, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Scorpion Men

I first ran into Scorpion Men, not in the pages of an AD&D Monster Manual (which still would not appear till 2nd Edition Monstrous Compendiums, though I do seem to recall them in a module for 1st ed, can't remember right now), but in the pages of the infamous "Simon" Necronomicon from the 80s.  You remember this one.  It was sold in books stores right next to the D&D books near the occult books.   Hell. We treated it AS a D&D book!

We used them a bit back then, often as reskinned Driders, using the Necronomicon name, "Akrabu".

Later they popped up again in 2nd Ed under the name Tlincalli and Manscorpion.   Though I never really used them then since I was deep into Ravenloft and these creatures didn't fit what I was doing at the time.

Much, much later I revisited these guys and used them in my Buffy/Willow&Tara/Unisystem game The Dragon and the Phoenix.   Here I went past the rather thin details in the Simon Necronomicon and included more detail from Babylonian/Sumerian/Akkadian myths.  Here they were called Aqrabuamelu or Girtablilu, names later picked up by later D&D authors and homebrewers.

Whatever the name these creatures all shared a number of traits.  They were huge scorpions with the centaur-like upper bodies of men, covered in red chitin like that of giant scorpions.  Some had human hands, others had the pincers of scorpions.  The first ones were created by Tiamat to avenge the death of her consort Apsu.  They are one of the creatures that were responsible for her name "Mother of Monsters".   Later it is said they guard the gates of Darkness so the Sun God may enter at the end of the day. Their site is terrible to behold and they cause death with a glance.

Additionally, there were the "Tzitzimime" of the Aztecs which were believed to be the spirits of fallen gods (demons?) that took the form of scorpion men.  Hedetet of the Egyptians was a scorpion headed goddess who would later be absorbed by Isis.

Here are the Scorpion Men for the Blueholme Journeymanne Rules, my current "Basic" of choice these days.

SCORPION MEN
AC: 3
HD: 10d8
Move: 45
Attacks: 2 claws, 1 sting, or 1 weapon
Damage: 1d6 (claw) x2/ 1d4 (sting) or 1d8 (weapon)
Special: Sting save vs. Poison 4d8 (half with save)
XP: 1,700  (2,200 xp for Scorpion Women)
Alignment: CE
Treasure: None
Abilities: +2 Strength, -3 Charisma
Climb Surfaces +15%, Hear Noise +5%, Read Languages +5%, Read Scrolls +5%, Use Wand +5%



And for D&D 5e.

Scorpion Man
Large monstrosity, chaotic evil

Armor Class 16 (natural armor)
Hit Points 90 (10d10 + 40)
Speed 45 ft., climb 45 ft.

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
18 (+4)     16 (+3)     18 (+4)     13 (+1)     14 (+2)     8 (-1)    

Skills Perception +5, Stealth +9
Senses darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 15
Languages Draconic, Undercommon
Challenge 6 (2,300 XP)


Spider Climb. The scorpion man can climb difficult surfaces, including upside down on ceilings, without needing to make an ability check.

Web Walker. The scorpion man ignores movement restrictions caused by webbing.

ACTIONS

Multiattack. The scorpion man makes three attacks, either with its longsword or its longbow. It can replace one of those attacks with a sting attack.

Sting. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 2 (1d4) piercing damage plus 18 (4d8) poison damage.

Longsword. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d8 + 3) slashing damage, or 8 (1d8 + 3) slashing damage if used with two hands.

Longbow. Ranged Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, range 150/600 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d8 + 3) piercing damage plus 4 (1d8) poison damage.

Description

Scorpion Men (and Women) are horrid creations from the dawn of time.  Believed to have first been created by the Goddess Tiamat, they have since moved on into the service of other gods.  Set is known to employ many of these creatures and ones that are less evil serve Hedetet.
Standing over 7 feet tall and 9 feet long these creatures are large and strong.
They can attack with their claws or weapon as some (50%) have scorpion claws for hand and others (50%) have humanoid hands that can hold weapons.  All possess a stinging tail like that of a scorpion that can sting one attack per round.  The attack does 1d4 points of damage plus poison. The poison of the attack can do 4d8 points of damage or half with a save vs. poison/Constitution.   Those immune to poison attacks take no poison damage.
Scorpion Men are often used as elite guards. They typically armed with a long spear, a khopesh sword or a longbow.

Scorpion Women: These creatures appear as their male counter-parts save for a scorpion's head on top of a female torso. Their lower parts are still that of a scorpion.
Due to their connection to both Tiamat and Hedetet, they make excellent magic-users and witches.
They may cast spells as a 7th level witch or magic-user.   Scorpion women are much rarer than males, being outnumbered 1 to 10.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Willow & Tara: 5e Modern variant

My Facebook friend Ron McNiel has been playing around with a 5e inspired modern game variant and he decided to do his own reboot of Buffy.  It looks pretty fun, to be honest, and you can see all his details here.  Looks like he is using this as a test run for his next campaign so looking forward to hearing what he does.


In the meantime here are his versions of Willow & Tara for his game, complete with new casting.

Tara Maclay, played by Violett Beane

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Ron: I present you Tara Maclay (Violett Beane) - is a shy, quiet, and nervous person. She often finds her self stuttering when she speaks, especially when Willow is around. Not much is known about Tara, because she is afraid to open up to others because of her verbally abusive father and brother. She harbors a secret, a secret her father drilled into her, something about a family curse that was bestowed on the women of her family that would manifest on their 20th birthday. She began to believe her father about the curse, because her mom became ill. She has a small rebellious streak that she indulges from time to time, such as lying to her father and staying out all night. Being relatively new to Sunnydale High, having recently moved to Sunnydale (for the best care for her mother), she doesn't have much friends, until Willow introduces herself, which would spark something deep down inside of her.


Willow Rosenberg, played by Emily Rudd

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Ron: I present Willow Danielle Rosenberg (Emily Rudd) – is a consistently sweet, trusting, gentle, intelligent, and caring person. She is a somewhat naive, painfully shy nerd who has a hopeless crush on her best friend Xander. She is very friendly and understanding, though she is not afraid to be tough. While still having a easily nervous nature. She is incredibly loyal and supportive to her friends, especially Buffy and Xander as she almost never openly criticizes their decisions with hostility even when she disagreed, a factor in her understanding nature. She normally does not display fits of extreme anger toward those who done her wrong, even if they were her close friends, retaining a calm and receptive demeanor, never forgetting. She is often speaks in strange speeches and phrases, something she shares with her best friend Buffy, which could often confuse those around her who aren’t used to it. She is greatly emotional and prone to senseless babble when nervous (which is another similarity to Buffy). She is also very determined to get things done when she feels they are important. It is sometimes hard for people to change her mind, a sign of this being her "Resolve Face." She does not hold grudges against people. In fact, she is usually one of the first to forgive people for their mistakes, even if large ones, being incredibly forgiving. Another notable trait of hers is her remarkable ability to put aside grudges and personal feelings to get an important task done which she has done on numerous occasions. She doesn’t often let personal feelings cloud her judgment either, making her very responsible and level-headed. One of her amazing gifts is with computers and cracking codes. She also seems to be the only one out of the Scooby Gang that actually enjoys going to school and doing homework as well as tutoring, much to the confusion of Buffy and Xander.


This looks great!  He has done the other characters, but these are my favorites.

You can see my own "reboot" of the series here:

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