Thursday, February 20, 2020

Class Struggles: The Alchemist

The Love Potion by Evelyn De Morgan
Thought a Class Struggles might in order today.  I have been thinking a lot about the Alchemist lately and thinking that of all the potential classes, this the one Old-School AD&D/D&D talks around the most, but never actually executes. My history with the alchemist goes back to when I was creating a bunch of new classes.  There was the witch (obviously), followed by the necromancer, the "sun priest" and finally the healer.  The alchemist was one that I mentioned in conjunction with all these other classes, but never had much more than an outline of it.

So let's have a look at how the Alchemist has presented to us over the years and what the class has become today.

The Dragon Magazine Alchemist(s)
I want to start here since these are the first alchemists. The ones that even predate the information in the DMG.
To claim there is one alchemist from Dragon Magazine is a bit of a stretch.  While a claim can be made for the Dragon Mag witch class, the alchemist has seen less cohesion.
The first alchemist we see, and one that predates AD&D, is the  "New D&D Character Class: The Alchemist" by Jon Pickens in Issue #2, page 28. This is a solidlyOD&D class.  Here we get 20 levels of the alchemist class which functions as a slightly weaker version of the magic-user.  It can create potions up to 6th level, like spells.  This alchemist though has some special powers to go with it. It can detect and then later neutralize poisons and paralysis. It can identify potions and can prepare various poisons.  The class is playable, but feels limited to a support role in some cases.  The Prime Requisite is Wisdom, though I think Intelligence is a better choice.

A few more years in and we get a combo of classes for Roger and Georgia Moore in Dragon #45, "NPCs For Hire: One who predicts... ...And One Who Seeks the Perfect Mix." This gives us two NPC classes, the Astrologer and the Alchemist. While the Astrologer looks like a lot fun, I want to focus on the alchemist now.  This is a pure NPC; no class levels or XP, no hp, just what they do and how they do it.  There is a bit on hiring an alchemist as well.  The assumption here must be that these are all older professionals likely past their adventuring years.  Fo me I can see both versions working at the same time in the same class.  Pickens' class for adventuring years and the Moores' for after that.

Separate, these classes feel a bit lacking by my standards but are likely fine by others.  Together though they combine rather nicely into a complete whole for me.

In "Recipe For the Alchemist" (Dragon Mag Issue #49), Len Lakofka presents, in very typical Len fashion, a very complete alchemist class.  Like many of his classes, this one is an NPC only and should be considered something of a more useful henchman.  In addition to the powers of detecting and making potions and poisons there are skills on glass blowing and pottery making.  Two useful skills for an alchemist to be sure.
There are XP per levels given, but they add up to be a little bit more than the magic-user if you consider the first couple levels are "apprentice" levels with little more than pottery making and glass blowing skills.   While the class is very complete it is a bit prohibitive as a PC class. I am certain that is by design.

There is a bit of a stretch before we get to another one, but it is worth the wait. "Better Living Through Alchemy" from Tom Armstrong in Dragon #130 has become in my mind the defacto article on alchemy in D&D.  Armstrong gives us not only an alchemist class but also a primer on Alchemy and how it could work in the game.  This is also the only alchemist I have played and playing the class though was hard. It had higher XP per level than the wizard and there was little they could do without their lab. The article is dense. That is in the sense that there is a lot here to read and unpack.
The article reads like a cleaned-up version of all the alchemists we have seen so far and this one also has the benefit of a few more years of play on it. 

The Alchemist in the DMG and D&D Expert
In between all of those we get some notes on the alchemist from the Dungeon Master himself in the DMG.  Though if anything this only makes me want to have an Alchemist NPC class, or better yet PC class, even more.


While the alchemist is not needed for higher-level magic-users, someone is going to need them.  Plus someone out there is creating all those potions.   If Jonathan Becker's recent deep-dive into the Illusionist class is any indication we could have used a magic-user sub-class of an alchemist more than the illusionist!

The D&D Expert set also has guidelines for an alchemist and maybe the most iconic alchemist art there is in D&D.


For 1000 gp a month you can have an alchemist on hire. Likely less for that sketchy guy above.

So how do we get there?  Well, let's see what the 3rd party publishers have to say.

Bard Games



I have gone on the record many, many times about my love of the books from Bard Games.  Their Compleat Spellcaster is still a favorite and particularly germane to today's discussion is their Compleat Alchemist.


While the Compleat Spellcaster is my favorite for obvious reasons, the Compleat Alchemist seems to be the most popular.  There are two prints from Bard Games, the Arcanum (which combines all three) and then another one from Wizards of the Coast long before their D&D years.

This was one of the most complete (it says so in the title) alchemist classes for some time to come. At 48 pages the book was huge for a single class.  By necessity, the class was written for "any FRPG" so a lot of the language is coded since they did not want to run afoul of TSR. But there is enough information here for you to read between the lines to figure out what to do. 

Some time is given to the art and science of alchemy. This includes the use of special symbols and language to communicate with other alchemists. Prices and rarities of ingredients and equipment.  And even a component sheet to keep track of the alchemist stores.
Potions and Elixers are granted by level as one would expect, only, in this case, it details what the alchemist can do at their class level. Not by let's say potion level (like a spell).

This alchemist really was the gold standard by which all other alchemists were to be judged for years.  Enough so that it appeared in several different books by a few different publishers over the years.  So much so that it still appears in the Arcanum 30th Anniversary Edition from ZiLa Games.

The OGC / OSR Alchemists
Not to be left out modern authors have looked back to the Alchemist and created their own versions using the OGL.

Pathfinder
The evolution of the D&D game to Pathfinder has also given us an evolved alchemist class.  This is presented as a fully playable PC class. It is also so popular that while it was originally a "Base Class" in Pathfinder 1st Editon, it became a Core Class in Pathfinder 2nd Edition and the favored class of Pathfinder goblins.
I rather enjoy this version of the class since it more playable than previous versions of the class.  Good rationale is given as to why an alchemist would want to leave the lab and get out into the field of adventuring.   The class though does tend to be a little too "blasty" for my tastes and it seems that the 2nd Edition version has gone even more in that direction, but it is still a very fun class to play.

There is so much alchemist stuff  (over 300 according to DriveThruRPG) that there is even a product to collect all the OGC extracts into one place, Echelon Reference Series: Alchemist Extracts Compiled.

Pathfinder is not the only place though to find a "new" alchemist.  There are plenty of OSR/Old-school choices out there.  Here are a few I have grabbed over the years. In no particular order.

The Alchemist
Tubby Tabby Press
This is certainly one of the more complete alchemist classes I have seen. At 81 pages it is full of information on all of the class details, equipment, ingredients and everything the alchemist can create by level.  Designed for AD&D it can be ported over to any game. It is based on the Bard Games version.  There is only a small amount of art in this one and no OGL statements.  Despite that this is a very full book and plenty to keep players and GMs busy.

Basic Alchemist
Den Meister Games
This is a smaller product, but it is totally in line with the Basic-era games.  What makes this particular product useful is its flexibility.  Produced for Labyrinth Lord it is a solid B/X feeling class. The cover art even invokes the Erol Otus alchemist art from the D&D Expert book.  The alchemist can build potions, elixirs, and compounds and use them as magic-user spells.  Some examples are given and it has a great old-school feel. In particular, I love the alchemical failure table! 
At six pages it is not big, but it makes each page count. I do wish there more examples of spells though.

Supplement #1: The Alchemist
Vigilance Press
This is another smaller product. Five pages (1 cover, 1.5 OGL, 3.5 content) at $0.99.  It reminds me a bit of the Dragon magazine alchemists; Smaller XP per level needed, but only a few "powers" per level and some levels none at all. Slightly better hp and attacks set this off from other "magic-user" based alchemists.   I do wish this one had more to it than this, but it is a playable class.  If I were to use this one I might try it as a multi-classed Magic-User/Alchemist.  Get the advantages of the magic-user spells and the better hp/attacks of the alchemist.  Designed for OSRIC.

Old School Magic
Vigilance Press
This is an update to The Alchemist also by Vigilance Press. For another buck, you get more classes, another 23 pages and a better-looking layout. A good deal if you ask me.  The alchemist is very much like the one from the previous product.  Like the alchemist supplement, I might do a multi-class with this alchemist. Either as an alchemist-artificer or an alchemist-sage. 
The other classes include the artificer, conjurer, elementalist, hermit, holy man, naturalist, sage and seer.  Plus there are some new spells that I rather like.

The OSR Chymist
Jeremy Reaban
A slightly different version of the alchemist. Jeremy Reaban does some great classes and this one is no exception.  This chymist is closer in nature to the Pathfinder Alchemist but somehow this one feels more like an old-school class and manages to work well.   He includes some new formulae for alchemists/chymists and some sample NPCs.  Also there are tables for whatever old-school games you are playing. Sure conversion is easy, but this makes it all easier. 
It is PWYW, but my advice is to send him a buck or more. It is 16 pages so that is not bad for a dollar.

There are more, including many alchemists that are parts of larger books like Fantastic WizardryThe Crimson Pandect, and the previously mentioned Arcanum.


Wednesday, February 19, 2020

How to Destroy a Legacy in a Week

I was not going to talk about this today.  I wanted to do a One Man's God today.

But in truth, I can't be silent about this. Last week I talked about Bob Bledsaw II and his racist, anti-Semitic, anti-woman, posts on Facebook.  Some fans of Judges Guild were content to ignore them or try to separate the "art from the artist".

Well, I am here to say that is all bullshit.


If you buy one of my books you are buying a piece of me. You are buying the stories I read, the music I listen too, the movies and TV shows I watch.  When doing research I make choices to read Book A or Book B, Article C or Article D, Documentary E or F.  This goes on and on.  What I choose is based on my interests, my time, and yes, my political leanings.  You don't have a choice in this save for one; to buy or not buy my books.  When writing I have one principle that applies; is this fun to play. If so then I do it.  If I do it right you buy and enjoy it too.

But don't pretend my politics don't enter into it.

Well. Now all the hemming and hawing and handwringing aside, Bob Bledsaw II posted the following unhinged screed on the Judges Guild official Facebook page.  There is no separation now of art and artist.  And to be 100% accurate, BBII did not, as far as I know, create anything for Judges Guild.

You might need to click on this or download it to read the whole thing.  Otherwise, Tenkar over at his eponymous Tavern has been doing a good job of keeping track of this whole clusterfuck.


There is so much wrong with this posting that it would take me several hours to point all the self-contradictory statements, the outright false-hoods and tin-foil hat wearing conspiratorial bullshit and frankly, he is not worth my time.

But there are only two facts that matter to me.
1. This was posted as part of an official release on the Judge's Guild page.
2. It is so full of hate, bigotry and vile thoughts as to be repulsive to any reasonable individual.

Does BBII have to right say what he wants? Yes. So fuck off with the "free speech" bullshit argument.  There is no such thing as consequence-free speech.  He can say what he wants. So can I.

BBII has destroyed any sort of good legacy Judge's Guild had left.

So fuck him. Fuck his ideas. Fuck his company's products.
And if you support him or his ideals then fuck you too.

I am not going to buy any of Judges Guild stuff. If you decide you don't want to buy my stuff.
Good. I don't really want your money here.

I am happy to note there are many in the community, and in the OSR community too, to stand up against this type of behavior.

Here are some videos that address the topic.





There are undoubtedly more and plenty of Twitter and Facebook conversations too.

TL;DR Bob Bledsaw II is a piece of shit and if you support him don't fucking buy my books.
Likely you are too stupid to understand them anyway.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Witchcraft Ritual Kit (1974)

I was out getting some driving practice with my sons over the weekend.  They didn't want too so I made them a deal, if they drove we could go to our favorite local game store Games Plus.  So we did and I found something of a little treasure.


This is Avalon Hill's Witchcraft Ritual Kit from 1974!

So imagine this, the year is 1974.  Avalon Hill knows about D&D having passed on previous Gygax penned works.  The biggest movie of the year is The Exorcist and rival Milton Bradley is churning out Ouija boards all day.  What is Avalon Hill to do?  Simple they create a "game" based on Wicca and Witchcraft.

Supposedly authored by "Dr. Brooke Hayward Jennings", who I can find nothing on anywhere, and neither has anyone else, this was one of two of their occult-themed games.  The other was called "Black Magic" and featured a similarily "porny" cover.

Now, all that aside I have been wanting this game forever.  It has been out of print since the mid-70s and finding a good copy is nearly impossible.

I found this sitting in the stacks of out of print wargames. It was labeled as "unpunched" and interior in good condition even if the box had some shelf wear.  I knew, more or less what I was getting here, so despite the high price (I am not going to tell you what I paid for it) I had to get it.

Well.  I am not disappointed.

Let's have a look inside.






That game board is gorgeous! Not so sure about all the pieces, and those game tokens have to go!
I'll likely replace the male and female figures with minis, maybe 72mm ones, and the other items with small 3D printed versions.  Don't know yet, have to read how they are used.


The gamebook is a mix-mash of all sorts of wicca, occult and pagan ideas that lack coherence. It is, however, a fun read.







This is easily the most 70s thing I own.

I could not find any reviews online and none from any pagans or gamers to give me their insight and point of view.

Also, I am not sure what I will do with it yet. Like I said some of the pieces have to go to make it playable in my mind, but that game board.

In line with my "Traveller Envy" I talked about with Wizard's Quest and Witch's Caldron boardgames I really WANT to use this as part of the larger "War of the Witch Queens" campaign. I am just not sure how yet.  I do have other board games to add to it.

Oh, it also been properly pointed out that the TRUE way to express my Board Game Traveller Envy is via Starfleet Battles and my "BlackStar" campaign.  But that is a topic for another day.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Zatannurday: DC All Star Games

Now here is something truly unexpected!

DC Universe wants to get in on the "Critical Role" action and do a live-action unscripted 5-part special with actors playing the 1980s DC Adventures RPG.



Here is the information for DC.
DC UNIVERSE Announces Original Unscripted Gaming Mini-Series
'DC UNIVERSE All Star Games'

Clare Grant, Vanessa Marshall, Sam Witwer and WWE’s Xavier Woods Join Freddie Prinze Jr. For Five-Part Role-Playing Game Adventure Set in The Classic 1980s Game DC HEROES

DC UNIVERSE has announced its first original unscripted gaming mini-series, DC UNIVERSE All Star Games. This new anthology series brings famous DC fans together to play a variety of games in the increasingly popular gaming show genre. Season One features a nostalgic role-playing adventure, The Breakfast League, from Executive Producers Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Sam Witwer. The first episode of the five-part series will premiere exclusively on the DC UNIVERSE digital subscription service on Friday, February 28.

DC HEROES, the famous post-crisis role-playing game, sets the stage for the first season in which Vanessa Marshall, Clare Grant and WWE superstar Xavier Woods also join as players. Set in the same 80s era as when the game was first published, the five participants role-play as a group of high schoolers stuck in Saturday detention. As they improv their way through a variety of situations familiar to fans of beloved movies from that time period, they soon discover their destinies as the world’s greatest super-heroes.

“DC Heroes was the first RPG I ever played as a kid. It was also my introduction to the DC Universe, its Heroes and, most importantly, its rich pool of villains.” said Prinze. “ I had a blast making this series and I hope all of you love it as much as I do.”

Directed by Jon Lee Brody and produced by Telepictures, “DC UNIVERSE All Star Games” is the first unscripted addition to DC UNIVERSE’s expanding original programming slate which includes “DCYou Unscripted” and “DC Daily.” New episodes will go live exclusively on DC UNIVERSE every Friday after the series premiere on February 28.

For more information on DC UNIVERSE and “DCU All Star Games” please visit dcuniverse.com and follow DC UNIVERSE on Facebook and Twitter.




This could be a lot of fun.

Join Freddie Prinze Jr (Buffy's Husband), Clare Grant (Oz's wife), Sam Witwer (multiple DC shows), and more. I am looking forward to this!


Friday, February 14, 2020

Origins of the Witch: Early Research Edition

One question I constantly get is "why witches?" To which I usually reply, "why not witches?"
I have talked here about how it has been a subject that I have been fascinated with since even before my D&D days.

Well, a few things have gone on this week to make me want to look back at why I am interested and to try to capture some of the initial excitement.

First up was, of course, my coverage of the classic adventure B1 In Search of the Unknown, and what I started calling my First Witch Marissia. Not a lot of information there, but still a lot of fun while going back to look over my history.

I also talked about the first time I started putting a visual image to my iconic witch Larina from Dragon Magazine #65 from September 1982.  I am sure to talk more about her in this series in the future.

Another interesting bit is a new series of posts on the illusionist from Jonathan Becker over at B/X Blackrazor

He talks about the spell color spray (one I am including in my Pagan Witch book) and how it is kind of a wreck.   But that was not what got me thinking today. It was his inclusion of some Bill Willingham art from the module D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth.  Here it is:


That Illusionist was the art I used for another one of my early witches, Cara Niemand (German for "nobody" since her last name was supposed to be a secret). She was a witch I tried to build using just the PHB "by the book".  I didn't like how she turned out, but she was a great character all the same.

Part of what is really extended navel-gazing under the guise of *serious research* is my work on the Basic-Era witch books I have been doing lately, with the Pagan Witch due out soon.

Last night though I got a HUGE piece of my pre-D&D witch past back. 
For years I could not remember the name of this author who had written a lot of children's books about monsters, ufos and all sorts of stuff.  Well, thanks to my sister I finally remembered.  Daniel Cohen.  Yesterday I got a few of his books in the mail.


Not all the books, but these were the big ones.


That Hodag! (from "Monsters")  Seriously I have been dying to put him into a game since forever.



From the witch book. Look at all that great woodcut art!  If you ever wanted to know why I have so much of these woodcuts in my books, well it started here.   I have one more of his books on the way, but after that the re-writes start.

My plan is to go over all these old books and my old notes from the time and make sure my Pagan Witch book is something that would have been on my shelves then.   Yeah, these are "kids books" but the point is not to provide you with Ph.D.-level work (I can do that if you like) but instead capture that feel of the early 80s by reading the same books I did then and in the late 70s.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Mail Call: Return to the Unknown

Mail call last night!  These were waiting for me when I got home.


In particular, I am happy to get a copy of B1 Legacy of the Unknown, the spiritual sequel to B1 In Search of the Unknown.


The module is pretty big at 68 pages and works great as a sequel to the original B1.

It is also a GREAT fit for Pacesetter's own B/X RPG rules.



Can't wait to run it.

Links



Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Kytarra Bane, the Witch Queen and Mixing Books

I am often asked if one witch book can be used with another or with a game I didn't overtly design it for.  Say for example using The Warlock with Basic-era D&D, or The Amazon Witch Tradition with AD&D or S&W.   Well, the short answer is YES!


My goals for every book are simple. Make it a fun class. Make it compatible with every other book. Make it so the someone can pick one up and play it.   Any book I have can be and will be, someone's first book in the series.  So I want maximum playability.

So what can you do to mix them?  Well like I said I spend a lot of time trying to make it easy and avoid any potential issues.  In all things your GM has the say (and you or they can also always ask me) but here is an example.

Today I want to rebuild a character from Necromancer's Fane of the Witch King.
The character is Kytarra Bane, the "Witch Queen" of the adventure.  In the D&D3/d20 is a half-fiend/half-nymph 4th level druid.  Here nymph and druid levels "stack" in d20 so she ends up something like an 11th level druid.  But I don't want a druid. I want a witch.  So how could I build her using my books?

Well, given that she is half-fiend I am going to opt to make her part of the Mara Tradition.   To handle her handful of druid spells I will also grab some material from the S&W Green Witch book.  Finally, to deal with her half-nymph side I am going to use the multiclassing and use any race rules from the Classical Tradition book.  That book also has a large variety of nymphs to choose from.   Her bonus spells due to high Charisma (from The Mara book) and her Occult powers will help cover her nymph and fiend abilities.

Since I have all the books I can choose from a wider variety of spells for her.  There is some overlap in spells, that can't be helped. All witched get a Curse spell of some sort, but it makes for a nicer variety all the same.  I will also grab some cantrips from my original The Witch for Basic-Era Games book.

Kytarra Bane, The Witch Queen
From Fane of the Witch King
11th Level Witch, Mara Tradition
Half-nymph/Half-demon

Strength: 19
Intelligence: 20
Wisdom: 20
Dexterity: 17
Constitution: 17
Charisma: 20

Saves (unadjusted)
Death Ray or Poison:  9
Magic wand or devices: 10
Paralysis, Polymorph or Turn to Stone: 9
Dragon Breath: 12
Rods, Staffs, and Spells: 11

Hit Points: 52
Alignment: Chaotic (Evil)
AC: -1 (-2 dex, -1 natural, -3 bracers, Death Armor +1)

Occult Powers
Familiar:  Fiendish Dire Tiger
Herb use
Lesser:  Blinding Beauty (as per Blindness spell, once per day)

Spells
Cantrips (6): Black Flame, Chill, Flare, Mend Minor Wounds (x2), Object Reading
First (4+3): Bewitch I, Endure Elements, Fey Step, Häxen Talons, Mend Light Wounds, Obedient Beast, Obscuring Cloud
Second (3+3): Burning Gaze, Burning Hands, Defiling Touch, Fury of the Sun, Produce Flame, Stunning Allure
Third (3+2): Bewitch III, Brave the Flames, Contagion, Continual Fire, Witch Fire
Fourth (2+2): Dispel Magic, Dryad's Door, Elemental Armor, Rain of Spite
Fifth (2): Death Curse, Flame Strike
Sixth (1): Fire Seeds

Magic Items: Bracers (+3), Death Armor

I am pretty pleased with this build. I grabbed unique spells from all my sources listed about and it made for a nice witch. The mixing worked well and I ended up with a character very close to that of the original d20 product.  Since she is not part of an organized coven, or any coven really, I opted NOT to give her any witch Rituals.  That is not a hard and fast rule in the books, but one I use in my own games.

The are more ways to combine the books.  I should have a few more NPC witches coming up.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Choose a Side, Or One Will Be Chosen For You

Because I am not including other screencaps
Years ago, so long I don't remember exactly when or how I was told that "you must choose a side or one will be chosen for you."

I think it was my dad and it was while I was in Boy Scouts (yes. I was a Boy Scout until my Atheism made it difficult) and he meant it a means of choosing good over evil, right over wrong.  The point is that sometimes making the choice is hard and sometimes good or evil is not clear cut or easily defined.

Sometimes though choosing the right side is easy.

Growing up in Central Illinois it was easy to be a fan of Judges Guild. They were "local guys" by the standards of TSR being all the way up in WI and other companies even further.  I remember playing in the City-State of the Invincible Overlord a lot back then and lamenting that we didn't have all the products we wanted for it.   I picked up Witch's Court Marshes and other books and added them happily to my collections.  Even in my D&D/TSR "purity" days, Judges' Guild products got a pass.

I liked Judges Guild.

Yet with the recent posts by current JG owner (and son of the founder) Bob Bledsaw II has changed all of that.   I was not friends with Bob Bledsaw, so I had not seen that this was a pattern of behavior that was one of those "open secrets".

I can no longer support Judges Guild. 

Frog God Games and Bat in the Attic are also cutting ties with BBII/JG and I applaud them for it.  You can see more posts from BBII's Facebook on Rob's site so I do not feel the need to repost them here.

My financial contribution to JG's bottom line is practically non-existent; anything I did buy was on the second-hand market for rare items.  But I was planning on doing a series of posts on  The Dungeoneer and Pegasus magazines and I wanted to review a couple of adventures.  I cannot in good conscience do that now.

Gaming is inclusive. We welcome all and actively seek to bring in others that may not have a place to call their own. That's our DNA, that is who we should be always.  Gaming was there for the disenfranchised teens of the 70s and 80s that were not part of the in-crowds. We are not part of a movement to bring in so many others that want a place to be themselves.

But there is no room for bigots, racists, anti-semites or anyone at all like that.
Hate has no place in my games.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Green Martians for AS&SH

No gaming for me this past weekend.  One game for Connor and two for Liam though, so I was left to my own devices.  Those devices were going over my Mōdiphiüs Star Trek and John Carter of Mars RPGs.  Both use the same 2d20 system, or close enough to make conversions and blending easy.   And Mōdiphiüs is also doing the new Dune RPG.   This has my desire to run an epic Space Opera up into hyperdrive.

BUT.  Let's be honest. There is no good way, thematically, to combine John Carter and Star Trek.  Their Mars' are too different.    The problem is, I love Mars.  Both in terms of fiction and back when I was studying to be an astrophysicist.   Scientific/realistic Mars would be great for a Trek game, especially with all the things going on on Mars in the new Picard series.  But what about my need for fantasy Mars?


I have talked about Clark Ashton Smith's Mars in relationship to BlackStar and my love of the various pulp games for Mars.  So I am not lacking in desire, or material, I just need a home game for it.  So this idea hit me over the weekend.

Why not Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Barsoom?

AS&SH is obviously more Clark Ashton Smith and less Edgar Rice Burroughs, but both are there.  While I enjoy the works of CAS much more, ERB's Barsoom captures my attention much more.  Besides, in a game I can mix and match as I please, especially in a game like AS&SH.

I am not planning, yet, to send any characters to Barsoom, but it makes perfect sense to bring some Martians to Hyperborea.

These Martians are designed for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (Compleat Second Edition) and heavily based on Warriors of the Red Planet (which you should get if you love everything Mars, like me.)

Martian Princess by Will Nichols
Martian, Green
No. Encountered: 1 (1d3)
Alignment: Neutral
Size: L
Movement: 40
Dexterity: 16
Armour Class: 5
Hit Dice: 4+4 to 6+6
Attack Rate: 4/1 (sword x4 or radium pistol x4)
Damage: 1d8 (×4) or 1d8 (x4)
Saving Throw: 14 to 12
Morale: 12
Experience Points: 400 to  850
Treasure Class:  Nil (see below)

Green Martians are tall, 8' tall, humanoids with green skin and four arms.  The males are bald and have huge tusks. The females are just as tall but appear more human.  Some even have ancestry related to the ancient Red Martians.  Many of the Martians found in Hyperborea are these Green with Red Martian blood to adapt better to the Hyperborean world.
It has been assumed that came here centuries ago and have been able to return to Barsoom.  Those sages in the know claim they are here as advanced scouts prior to a Martian invasion.

Green Martians are a warrior race and adapt to the weapons found in Hyperborea with ease.  Green Chieftans, the Jedaks, also wield radium pistols that fire a bolt of burning radium.  The range is the same as a crossbow.

Martians eschew armor of any kind and rely on their dexterity and natural toughness.  They also do not keep any treasure they find.  The exception are any weapons. They have a 20% chance of having a magical sword, short sword or dagger.  They do not use bows, but will have a 10% of having a magical crossbow.

I like this. Can't wait to give it a go.

Friday, February 7, 2020

BlackStar: The Ghost Station of Inverness Five

I am a Trekkie, and I have always preferred "Trekkie" over "Trekker" as well.  No negative connotations for me, I embrace them.

To that end, I am a fan of both "Axanar" and "Discovery" even if they are competing and incompatible with versions of the war with the Klingon Empire. 


In Discovery the war takes place around 2256-2257.
In the Axanar and FASA Trek RPG continuity, this is known as the Four Years War and takes place between 2247 and 2250.
(Note the Enterprise NCC 1701 launches in 2245, so that tracks with Discovery but off a bit for Axanar.)

Once you start digging more and more with Disco, Axanar, and FASA it becomes obvious that the continuities will never line up even by my normal desire to handwave some details in favor of others.

I enjoyed Star Trek Discovery, I also happen to like Star Trek Axanar maybe just a little bit better. Mainly for all the same reasons spelled out here: Star Trek Discovery vs Axanar Choose Your Klingon War.



I do want a universe where Adm. Ramirez gets to say, "For myself I have but one fear: destroying the dream of the Federation. Compared to such a loss I DO NOT FEAR THE KLINGON EMPIRE!

Hey, I said I was a Trekkie.

BUT I also want a universe with Anson Mount's Captain Pike and Sonequa Martin-Green as Commander Michael Burnham.

How do I have my cake and eat it too?

So I am going to steal a page from myself.
Back when I was playtesting the Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space RPG I converted a bunch of Angel and Ghosts of Albion characters to DWAITAS characters (easy enough to do) and ran them all through The Ghost Tower of  Inverness. Only I called it the Ghost Tower of Inverness, Illinois.

Why does Inverness, IL need a Lighthouse??
In that adventure, the Soul Gen is replaced by the Time Beacon.  A lighthouse for time travelers.
I can replace the lighthouse and tower with the 23rd Century equivalent; a Starbase.

The Ghost Station of Inverness Five

Inverness Five.  During the Federation-Klingon War, this colony was the site of one of the bloodiest battles and the greatest defeat of the Federation.  Hundreds of thousands of souls were lost and many more were made homeless overnight.   Inverness was a colony of four inhabited worlds rich in dilithium.  To the Klingon Empire, the Inverness system is a sacred, if not holy place.

I'll take a page from Discovery and TNG and make Inverness like the Klingon monastery on Boreth.  Not just holy, but also the home of Time Crystals.   At the time of the war no one knew this.   The humans just knew that there were large deposits of dilithium.  The Klingons knew it was holy to Kahless.  The battle managed to disrupt the crystals, one of which was located in the science lab on the Inverness Station, and now the place is like the Bermuda Triangle in space.

In 2352 the Protector is sent the Inverness system, getting strange readings.  The system is unstable and both the Federation and the Klingon Empire have agreed to stay out of the system.  The Federation considers it too dangerous and the Klingons want everyone to stay out.  Both sides treat it like something akin to a battlefield graveyard.

When the Protector shows up they should send an Away Team over to the station, the source of the readings, but "chronometric interference" makes it impossible to get a good lock.  So they are sent to what is basically the bottom of the station.  The team has to work its way to the science lab.
Here I basically will run a version of the Ghost Tower of Inverness.
In space, the Protector is fired upon by a Klingon D6 from Axanar's time.  Communications are ignored and channels to Federation Space are blocked.  They are then both attacked by a Klingon cruiser from Discovery's time.

Both teams end up having to battle with Klingons from Axanar, Discovery and even smooth ridged Klingons from the time between Enterprise and The Original Series.


So weird time dilations effects.  Battling anywhere from two to four different sorts of Klingons.  Starfleet chatter from nearly 100 years ago about the Klingon war and the Federation is getting it's ass kicked.

I need to figure out how to up the horror elements too.  After all, that is what makes this BlackStar and not just Star Trek.  I do know how it will end though.  Once the Away Team gets the Time Crystal aligned/sealed/destroyed/reversed to the polarity of the neutron flow, the battle will stop and the Protector will be hailed by the current era Klingons asking if they need assistance.  A reminder that at this time (2352) the Klingons and the Federation are allies.

This is my homage to not just Axanar and Discovery, but also Yesterday's Enterprise, the Bermuda Triangle and the chance to do the one thing that all old school Trekkies love, and that is to battle Klingons.

In the end, the players will not know if they had really gone back in time OR if they were battling ghosts of some sort.  Also, they might never find out which version of history, Axanar or Discovery, was the correct one since they all remember it both ways.

This one will be fun too.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Marissia, Daughter of Zelligar, The "First Witch"

In my post yesterday I talked about my favorite adventure, B1 In Search Of The Unknown.


One of the things that brought back memories for me was Cavern #43.  It is blank in the adventure, but I added something special, a witch named "Marissia" (sic, I was 11 ok).  She might not be the very first witch I ever made, but I am having a hard time figuring out who exactly was.  Until some other proof comes up, it will be Marissia.


Her name comes from me miss hearing the Jerry Reed version of "Pretty Mary Sunlight".  I thought he was saying "Pretty Marissa mine".  Hey, I was little and I certainly heard from The New Scooby-Doo Movies.  In fact a lot of my early ideas about witches came from Scooby-Doo. In fact it is also very, very likely I based her and her name also on Millissa Wilcox, The Ghost Witch of Salem, from the Scooby-Doo episode "To Switch a Witch." An interesting episode since since it featured a gravestone for the witch with a Leviathan Cross on it.   I mean seriously, a goddamn Leviathan Cross in 1978? That was a ballsy move on the eve of the Satanic Panic.



Marissia
7th level Witch, Mara Tradition
Chaotic

Strength: 11
Intelligence: 17
Wisdom: 17
Dexterity: 12
Constitution: 15
Charisma: 18

AC: 7
HP: 36

Magic items: Dagger +1, Ring of Protection +2

Occult Powers
Familiar: Dog (looks like a Hell Hound)
Dream Invasion

Spells
First: Allure, Bewitch I, Cause Fear, Chill of Death, Ghostly Slashing
Second: Bewitch II, Death Armor, Scare, Summon Olitiau
Third: Bestow Curse, Danse Macabre, Lover’s Vengeance, Summon and Bind Imp of the Perverse (Ritual)
Fourth: Intangible Cloak of Shadows, Witch's Cradle

I made her into a Mara witch since I wanted her to be a Basic-era witch and the Mara was one of the first traditions I ever wrote.  Marissia was also an early archetype of the evil, or at least chaotic, seductress type witch. Something the Mara does perfectly.  Marissia was not actually all that evil, just a little evil or really mostly chaotic.

Also, I thought let's make her Zelligar's daughter. Seemed liked a good thing. Given the Caves of Chaos she should be a witch of Ereshkigal, but I likely at the time thought more about Hecate.  Maybe a syncretized Ereshkigal with Hecate.  She is a nice perky blonde goth witch.  She was my late 70s Taylor Momsen.

I found these images of Elmore's Green Witch and Early Snow witch pained by the same artist.  The images are really perfect. First off these minis are the same ones I have used for my Larina.


This one is blonde (which Marissia was), wearing green (ditto), and a purple dress. It is a nice call-back to the Scooby-doo witch above.  I wish I had a spare $330.00 to buy them both.

This has been a fun romp down memory lane. It's like reconnecting with an old girl-friend and hearing she is ok and doing great.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Classic Adventures Revisited: B1 In Search of the Unknown

I want to look back at some of my favorite classic adventures both from TSR and others.  I'll give a review, though most everyone knows what is in these adventures by now, I'll also talk about how I have used them in the past and I'll also talk about what other games I have used them with or would like too.  So there is a little bit of Plays Well With Others in this too.

Why do classic adventures? Easy, I love these adventures.  I have written hundreds of my own adventures, some I have even published, but these are the adventures that everyone knows and we all have a history with.

B1 In Search of the Unknown
In Search of the Unknown was not the first adventure ever created, it was not even the first TSR adventure ever created.  It was though one of the very first adventures I ever encountered and one of the first I ever ran.

This is my "go-to" adventure anytime I want to start up a new group or game.  It's a ritual for me, roll up characters and run them through the halls of the lost Castle of Quasqueton. I still have my copy that I bought all those years ago and it was also one of the first PDFs I purchased from WotC. I also have the DriveThruRPG Print on Demand copy and it is very nice.



It is one of those adventures I can run with zero prep time and each time I learn something new or remember something I forgot. This module is simple, easy to use and can be adapted to any campaign world and even any game. It is a perfect module for the Basic game.

The adventure is a great case of both teaching tool for learning DMs (we were all new to this once) and DIY Dungeon.  Some areas are detailed, but many are not, leaving room for the neophyte DM to record what monsters and treasure were in each room.  There are also a plethora of cliche spawning Dungeon tropes, that were just getting started here.  Magic mouths, one-way secret doors, a mysterious creator of the dungeon, or in this case, two, and strange magical artifacts.

This adventure was the perfect learning tool for me at the time since my own version of D&D was a mix of Holmes Basic and the AD&D Monster Manual.   This "Basic" introductory module was released before the Basic game, but it moves elegantly between Basic and Advanced that begs you to mix and match your rules systems.  Author Mike Carr even gives some guidelines on how to use this adventure with AD&D.


Note how the using this adventure with AD&D is absent from the later printings.


The module is pretty typical for the time. 32 pages of b/w art and text. Detached cover with blue maps printed on the inside of the cover. The first 6 pages are dedicated to running the adventure and how to run this one in particular.

I have used this adventure to start every new campaign I have ever run in D&D, regardless of the edition.  The dungeon crawl here is so primal that it calls out to you. A true In Search of the Unknown indeed.   The one thing I never did, however, was to investigate more about who Rogahn and Zelligar were and why they left their lair of Castle Quasquenton.

One thing that B1 did give me, in a roundabout way, was my very first witch NPC Marissia.  She is in the lower parts of Quasquenton and she is attempting to summon the spirit of her master Zelligar and her father Rogahn.




The adventure has stood the test of time and it is a great combination of flexible dungeon design.  Nearly anything can be put into this adventure to raise or lower the difficulty as needed.

DriveThruRPG and DMSGuild offer this as both a PDF and Print On Demand.






B1 Legacy of the Unknown
This adventure is billed as a "sequel" from Pacesetter Games & Simulations.  It furthers the mystery of Rogahn and Zelligar and what they were doing.  There is a druid in this adventure named "Melissia" which I thought was very fun and worked as some sort of relative (daughter may be) of my own "Marissia", a witch NPC I always included in my own runnings of B1 In Search of the Unknown.

You can get this adventure from DriveThruRPG (PDF only) or from Pacesetter's own store (Print and PDF). While overtly designed for AD&D1/OSRIC, it would be a great fit for Pacesetter's own BX RPG.  In fact, it might fit better.

Other Games / Plays Well With Others

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition
The simplicity of B1 has made it an enduring adventure for over 40 years.  I have used it with every version of D&D I have ever played. But if you want everything at your fingertips for easy conversions I do recommend the Classic Modules Today conversion of B1 In Search of the Unknown.
Goodman Games also offers their Original Adventures Reincarnated, with B1 and it's various printings going into their Into the Borderlands Hardcover. It features the original printings of the original module as a complete 5th edition update.
There is also a set of maps that can be printed out or used with virtual tabletops.

B1 and Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea
Like many old-school adventures, one merely needs to turn up the horror aspect to give it a good run in Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  Though there is not much that needs to be done to change it.  There is a feeling that Rogahn and Zelligar were messing with the forces of chaos a little more than they should have been.  Make that Chaos now with a capital "C" and we are getting the adventure closer to what we might see in AS&SH.  The one thing that always struck me about Quasquenton is that it is all underground.  It's not a castle, not really, but a warren.  Eric Fabiaschi suggests that the complex had been built by one of the older Lovecraftian races and the adventurers Rogahn and Zelligar only found it later.  It seems to fit for me.
Also given that B1 is an odd admixture of proto-Basic D&D, OD&D, and AD&D, the feel is perfect for AS&SH.


B1 and Blue Rose
In this mix, the chaos elements run the other direction so to speak.  Here Rogahn and Zelligar stumble upon an element of Shadow while constructing their castle/lair.   Maybe it has something to do with what I call the "Chaos Stone", Room 45/XLV "Cavern of the Mystical Stone".  This is obviously some artifact of Shadow and it either drone Rogahn and Zelligar mad, killed them or caused them to kill each other, or destroyed them outright.  Maybe all the above.
When converting ANY D&D adventure to Blue Rose I take some points from Fantasy Age where I can. In particular the monsters.  Typically in Blue Rose, you would not see this concentration of monsters in one place, the Chaos Stone/Mystical Stone is drawing them near.   As Envoys of the Sovereign, it would the character's jobs to find out what is going on and how to stop it.   I would give more background to Rogahn and Zelligar and stat up Marrissia a little more.
While this is a good "first-level" adventure in D&D, the implication of Shadow here makes this a much more dangerous enterprise.

Step with care here Envoys. More than your life is at stake.


B1 and Army of Darkness
One of my favorite mixes, but not my top favorite (more on that one next time).  Army of Darkness allows for all sorts of crazy adventures.  For the same reasons that B1 works for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, it works for this.  So imagine this, you have a party of Primative Screwheads, they are out in the woods. It starts to rain.  They find an entrance to a cave and boom, suddenly it is horror movie shenanigans. Monsters chasing you, weird-ass artifacts and cultists who are somehow still alive from the Middle Ages.  Have at least one archeologist to talk about how insane this all is and then go monster hunting and maybe, just maybe stop the forces of Chaos from ruling the world.  Use Dungeons & Zombies as your guide to covert D&D to Cinematic Unisystem.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...