Sunday, August 9, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 9 Light

Hmm. Light. Light has not been on my mind very much lately.

Shadow has.

Often when talking about light one also brings up dark as in the opposite of, or the absence of, light.  If you pay any attention to what is going on in the world of D&D publishing now there has been a strong push to change, or alter, the nature of certain "dark" races like Drow and Orcs.  I am not going to get into that today, nor do I even find the topic particularly interesting.  Want "good" Drow? Ok. Fine have them. Want good orcs? Sure! They existed in 2nd Ed, nothing new here. My Desert Orcs have been portrayed as "good" since I came up with them.

But if an "evil" race or species can be good, then a "good" race can also be evil.  I pretty much play elves as xenophobic assholes who really don't give two-shits about humans and frankly are just hoping they all kill themselves off.  Are they evil? No, but they are not "good" either.

But extremes are dull. They are cartoon versions of the people I want to represent.  Give me nuance. Give me flaws AND strengths.  Good and Evil. Light and Dark.  

Give me Shadows.

I got to thinking back in June when I was doing my BECMI work I picked a copy of the Shadow Elves guide for the BECMI system.   The Shadow Elves of Mystara are more interesting than Drow.  They are little more nuanced than the Drow are, and this was back in the late 80s.

While reading this I could not help but think of the Shadar-kai from newer D&D. The Shadar-kai from 3rd and 5th Edition D&D are a type of elf/fey, but they were more human-like in D&D 4 where they got the largest treatment.  

There is also the Shadow Fey from Kobold Press which are also interesting.

Between all these treatments there is something I am sure I can use. 


Saturday, August 8, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 8 Shade

I was going to do something today on Shadow Elves and the Shadar-kai, but I am going to hold off on that since my son pointed out some more 5e material on them. 

So lets go with another favorite Shade of mine.  Djinn in the Shade.

Djinn is a a very talented artist who loves to draw her D&D characters and others.  
I featured her as a Featured Artist a while back (and I really need to do more of those).   But she is just so much fun I was looking for any excuse to talk about her again.

You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, but the best place is her Pateron site where she has a lot of art. 

Now a lot of it ranges to the adult to the very adult end of the spectrum, but all of it is so much fun.

I am particularly pleased with all the art she has done for me over the last year or more, including a lot of my iconic witch Larina. 

In fact she rather loves my little witch and has included here in this AWESOME comic where all her patrons of her Pateron site submitted their D&D characters to a pirate cruise, battle, and party afterward.

The battle itself is a little too risque even for my blog! But here are some pieces of it.



To see all the rest you will have to become a patron. Want to join here D&D parties like these? Then absolutely become a patron.

You can find her at:

Friday, August 7, 2020

Friday Night Videos: Sounds of the NIGHT SHIFT

Copies of NIGHT SHIFT: VETERANS OF THE SUPERNATURAL WARS have ALL been delivered to the Kickstarter backers and people are also getting the Kickstarter special Player's Guide.

You can order your own hardcover version at the publisher's website, at https://www.elflair.com/nightshift.html.

You can also buy the PDF at DriveThruRPG.

One of the things that really motivated Jason and me while working on this is music.  Spend any time here and you know I am a big music fan.  


So I thought it might be great to share some of the music that reminded us of the stories we were telling with NIGHT SHIFT and the games we have run.

Up this Friday Night Videoes are songs from my playlist.  
Tonight, songs from The NIGHT SHIFT!




#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 7 Couple

I could go a number of places with this one, but I think I know what, or more to point, who I want to talk about.

Back when I was working The Craft of the Wise: The Pagan Witch Tradition I wanted to go back through my years of notes, not just on witches and witchcraft or even my notes on playing a B/X-style game, but on who were the Pagans I was trying to represent.  So I took a two-pronged approach.

Lars and Siân from HeroForge

First. I looked to the rules I was going to be using.  In this case, it was the Old School Essentials from Necrotic Gnome, in particular, the Advanced Fantasy: Genre Rules. That was the feel I was going with.  

I wanted to create some characters to mimic the feel of a "pagan world."  At the same time I was organizing my other RPG books and was thumbing through the game Keltia and it's companion game Yggdrasill.  Both really captured the feel I wanted in a "Pagan World" game.   So I took two character concepts from here, one from each game, and looked to translate them into OSE, Rules As Written.

What character types fit this notion of both Celtic and Norse/Scandinavian Paganism?

Simple. The Druid and the Bard.  Both classes have their roots in Pagan Europe and might even be two of the most "pagan" classes out there save for the Barbarian. 

Since my iconic witch Larina is often used to test my new witch classes once they are written, I wanted these two other characters to be my tests for the materials I was still writing.  I like to keep my variables to a minimum when playtesting, so starting with established classes is always my first choice.  If Larina is my witch, then these are the parents of the witch.  Who they were now was easy.

Introducing Lars & Siân

Since I was playtesting a Pagan game I used our world circa 350-500AD.  Lars is a Bard from Denmark. He was a member of a raiding party heading towards the British Isles.  I choose to ignore the Romans there for this since it worked out better for me.  The ship that Lars was on was beset by terrible storms (same sort that would bedevil King James over a 1000 years later) and his ship, and all the raiders were lost.  
He washed ashore in Wales (they had gone through the English Channel.  I never said they were good or even smart raiders) and was encountered by the locals where they nursed him back to health.  They recognized that he was a bard (or a skald in his own language) and thought it would be ill-advised to harm him.  He was given over to the protection of Siân, a druidess.  If this sounds familiar then I essentially ripped off the story of Amergin Glúingel and his journey to Ireland. Though Lars was not a Milesian.
There was some initial mistrust, but soon they fell in love and consummated their relationship on Beltane night.  Some 38 weeks later, Larina was born.

It amused me to use these characters, ones really brand new to me, to be the parents of a character I know so well. 

Lars
Lars, son of Nichols 
Lawful Male Human Bard, 12th level

Str: 13
Int: 17
Wis: 16
Dex: 14
Con: 13
Cha: 18

HP: 42
AC: 5 (leather armor, ring of protection)

Spells
First: Detect Danger, Predict Weather, Speak with Animals
Second: Cure Light Wounds, Obscuring Mists, Produce Flame
Third: Hold Animal, Protection from Poison, Water Breathing
Fourth: Cure Serious Wounds, Summon Animals

Lars, despite his name, is not based on Lars Ulrich. If anything he based on a combination of Donovan and Van Morrison. 


Siân
Siân nic Stefon 
Neutral Female Human Druid, 12th level

Str: 10
Int: 16
Wis: 18
Dex: 12
Con: 12
Cha: 17

HP: 38
AC: 5 (leather armor, ring of protection)

Spells
First: Animal Friendship, Entangle, Faerie Fire, Predict Weather, Speak to Animals
Second: Barkskin, Create Water, Cure Light Wounds, Obscuring Mists, Slow Poison
Third: Call Lightning, Hold Animal, Protection from Poison, Tree Shape, Water Breathing
Fourth: Cure Serious Wounds, Dispel Magic, Protection from Fire & Lightning, Temperature Control
Fifth: Commune with Nature, Control Weather, Transmute Rock to Mud, Wall of Thorns


I once said "I don't explore dungeons, I explore characters" and I had a great time exploring these two.

It's like reading the Superman stories that take place on Krypton before the planet explodes. Here I explored the Pagan world before Christianity took over (appealing) AND two characters that shaped one of my most important characters. 

I loved using HeroForge to make these as well.  Lars has Larina's face and hair color. Siân has the same body and staff as my first version print of Larina so many years ago.  This pleases me to no end.  Siân's face is that of a half-elf with human ears since I consider her to have a bit of sidhe blood in her, but that is true of all the Welsh I think. 

I might have to get these. They are two of my new favorite characters. Plus I am so pleased with how the different versions of Larina turned out I am going to have to get her mom and dad!

For those that are curious, yes, I am working on a Digest sized version of Craft of the Wise. Out very soon I hope!

Thursday, August 6, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 6 Forest

“A witch ought never to be frightened in the darkest forest, Granny Weatherwax had once told her, because she should be sure in her soul that the most terrifying thing in the forest was her.”

― Terry Pratchett, Wintersmith

From the primeval forests of our genetic race-memories to Sherwood to Mirkwood, to forest-covered moons in a galaxy far, far away.  The Forest has long been the boundary between what is civilized and safe to what is uncivilized, untamed, wild, and most definitely, not safe. 



The "Goblin" Forrest of Haven
The forested area outside of West Haven in the Haven Valley is an old-growth forest of ancient date.  The expanse westward left this forested area surprising untouched.  Located north-west of West Haven the forest has always had a reputation of being haunted by all sorts of unsavory creatures. 
In the mid to late 1600s when the Haven Valley was first settled, the local parish in what would become East Haven decried the forest, claiming it was the abode of Satan himself and set to burn it down.  A tree, that was by all claims to be healthy and sturdy, fell and killed three of the parishioners include the town's Calvinist priest.  Several other "bizarre" accidents and people began to claim that the forest was inhabited by goblins and other foul creatures.  It was here it earned the name "The Goblin Wood" or "The Goblin Forest."

Even when the Industrial Revolution hit in the 1800s and trees for miles around were fed to the Gods of the Furnace and Industry, the Goblin Wood remained untouched.  

Now in the 21st Century, the Goblin Wood remains but there is still an air of mystery and danger about it.  While the general population doesn't believe in goblins, ghosts or even witches anymore there are still plenty of strange occurrences.  

The local USGS office claims the area is rich in naturally occurring magnetic ore.  They claim that the particular features of both the forest and the Haven Valley, in general, disrupt cell phone coverage and GPS signals.  One surveyor even claimed he could see the laser he was using for measuring "bend," though no amount of ore outside one as massive as a black hole could do that.  People walking into the wood with cell phones or GPS devices will find themselves going in circles rather than a straight line.

While scientists, meteorologists, and geologists have all come up with interesting theories about why the Haven Forest is the way it is, the people of West and East Haven know the truth.  And staying out of the forest at night is the one thing both communities can agree on.



If you don't think I have witches guarding all my forests and wild areas in my games you have not been paying attention.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 5 Tribute

This is not the Greatest RPG in the World.  This is just a Tribute.


I have gone on record many, many times on how I feel that CJ Carella's WitchCraft is one of the, if not the, greatest RPGs I have ever played.  Yes. Even better than D&D.

I have also gone on record stating that my Ghosts of Albion game is really nothing more than an extended love letter to WitchCraft in Victorian prose.

Really, I would love to see an update to WitchCraft from Eden, but I am not holding my breath for it.

Another tribute is NIGHT SHIFT.

Night Shift is a tribute to the types of games Jason and I have been fond of playing over the years we have known each other.  So there are tributes here to Old-school D&D, to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to Chill, to Call of Cthulhu and of course to WitchCraft. 


As much as I love Ghosts of Albion and Night Shift they can't take the place that WitchCraft has in my heart.  There are some things that both games can do better than WitchCraft, I did have the advantage of playing many games to add to my experiences, but still, WitchCraft remains.

Maybe one day some designer will write their tribute to Ghosts of Albion or to Night Shift!

And since we are talking tributes.



Which is, of course, a tribute to this, 



Tuesday, August 4, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 4 Vision

"I was raised by witches boy, I see with more than eyes and you know that."
- Frigga to Thor in 2013, Avengers Endgame

Call me biased, but I have always liked the idea that witches see things that other character types don't.  Not just in terms of "infravision" or "dark vision" but in just "other vision."

A couple of house rules that I always use are witches can see ghosts, spirits, and other sorts of magical creatures that are typically invisible to others.  They can see magical auras which they can tell something about the person they are looking at.  Most importantly they can recognize other witches on sight.


Mechanically it really doesn't add much to D&D.  I argue the kinds of ghosts and things the witch can see are harmless to everyone.  But if you can see them, then they can see you.  So they are not always harmless to the witch herself.

In Ghosts of Albion, this type of vision is known as "Lesser Sensing" and it is something all magical creatures, including magicians and witches, have.   

Witches and Warlocks in NIGHT SHIFT do this as part of their class.

I have extended it to my fantasy games where it is just called "The Sight."

In D&D3-5 or Pathfinder1-2, it could easily be a Feat.  For my Basic-era witches an Occult Power.

The Sight
Using the Sight requires a moment of concentration but then the witch can See.  She can see magical auras that will give her some basic information on what she is looking at.
She can See:
- magical effects such as active spells, charms, curses or compulsions on a person
- magical lines of force (ley lines)
- whether or not a person is a spell-caster* (she can always detect another witch)
- undead

With more concentration (1 round) she can See:
- Invisible creatures
- alignment 
- polymorphed, shape-changed or lycanthropes

The subject of the witch's Sight knows they are being Seen. They get an uncomfortable feeling and know it is coming from the witch, even if they do not know what it means.

That's the rough version, it would need to be tweaked for the respective games.  For example it would work with D&D 5's perception skill. 

Monday, August 3, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Astral Spiders

If you are feeling tired, lethargic, or otherwise drained then you could have been attacked by an Astral Spider.  


As their name suggests these demonic creatures are native to the astral plane, but they are attracted to people with psychic or empathic abilities.  The spider, which is normally invisible, attaches itself to a victim and drains Wisdom at the rate of 1 point per day. The Astral Spider stays attached and draining until it's victim reaches 0 Wisdom. 
Magic that can detect a curse or detect evil creatures can let you know that an Astral Spider is attached to someone or attacking. 

The Astral Spider is immune to physical attacks, including magical and blessed weapons.  They can only be affected by magic.  A specially worded Remove Curse spell will remove an Astral Spider.  A banishment or exorcism will also remove the spider and force it back into the Astral.

Astral Spiders only move in the Astral plane. The only time they are manifest in the real world when attached to a victim and then they do not move. 

Astral Spider
Vermin (Demonic)
Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic (Chaotic Evil)
Movement:  Special
Armor Class: 9 [10]
Hit Dice: 3d6+3* (10)
Attacks: 1 special 
Damage: 1 point Widom per day
Special: Immune to physical attacks, affected only by magic
Size: Small
Save: Fighter 3
Morale: 12
Treasure Hoard Class: None
XP: 125

Astral Spider
No. Appearing: 1
AC: 9
Move: Special (Astral only)
Hit Dice: 3
Special: Wisdom drain. 1 point/day
XP VALUE: 120

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 3 Thread

Over the weekend two game-related thoughts kept going through my head.  Frist Gen Con and how we were all missing it and the adventures I was going to run for my family and the theme of Thread.

Since D&D 5 had come out I have been running my family through the "Gygaxian Classics." while we technically started with B1 In Search of the Unknown with AD&D 1st ed, we quickly moved to D&D 5.  From here we did B2 Keep on the Borderlands and moved through the Great Greyhawk Campaign.  We have been calling the group The Order of the Platinum Dragon


Our order of games has been:

T1 Village of Hommlet (forgotten by the characters, played as a flashback after I6)
B1 In Search of the Unknown (Gen Con Game)
B2 Keep on the Borderlands
L1 The Secret of Bone Hill  (Gen Con Game)
X2 Castle Amber
I6 Ravenloft (Gen Con Game)
C2 Ghost Tower of Inverness
A1-5 Slave Lords
C1 The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan
G123, G4 Against the Giants  (Gen Con Game)
D12, 3 Descent into the Depths of the Earth, Vault of the Drow
Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits (Gen Con Game)

I wanted my family to have the "Classic D&D Experience) with this.  Communities are often defined by the stories they share. These are the stories we all share.  How did you defeat Strahd? Did you shout 'Bree Yark'? What did you do in the Hill Giant's dining room?   Did you survive the Demonweb?

One of the things I have been doing differently than the original narrative is thread everything together with a massive conspiracy.  Someone, or something, killed all the Gods of the Sun.  
The characters (and the players) have come to the conclusion that this something is the Elder Elemental Eye.  But they don't know who or what that is.
They have learned that Eclavdra betrayed her Goddess, Lolth, and has incited a civil war within the city of Erelhei-Cinlu.  The followers of Lolth vs the followers of the Elder Elemental Eye.

What they don't know yet is who has been manipulating these threads.  Behind the scenes, the Demon Lord Graz'zt has been scheming.  In my world Graz'zt has always coveted the Drow. He wants their devotion and is jealous of the iron hold Lolth has on them.  So he has been stirring her up into more and more desperate attacks on the Prime Material.  He is using Eclavdra and her devotion to the EEE to get to Lolth.  Eclavdra thinks Graz'zt can free the EEE from his prison in the Temple of Elemental Evil.  To this end Elcavdra has been using what is left of the EEE former followers, or rather their descendants, the Giants.  Titans and Primordials followed the EEE back in the Dawn War.  Graz'zt thinks he can control the EEE once he has the worship of the Drow.

What Elcavdra doesn't know is Graz'zt has no intention of releasing the EEE from the Temple of Elemental Evil, save as far as he wants that power too.  Graz'zt is not a demon at all, but rather a devil sent by Asmodeus to infiltrate the demon hierarchy and discover the source of pure evil for Asmodeus.  Graz'zt has gone too deep into the cold though and now he thinks like a demon lord. Asmodeus suspects this of course.  Both of these powerful evil creatures will betray each other on the first chance.

Graz'zt has long suspected that the Temple of Elemental Evil is the key.  Centuries ago he sent the Demon Lady Zuggtmoy into the Temple. He discovered she was essentially absorbed by the power of the EEE. Now her cults worship it. 

What none of the evil lords and ladies know though is that the EEE is really Tharizdûn. He is manipulating Graz'zt and Asmodeus to free him.  He tried with Graz'zt before and Graz'zt sent in Zuggtmoy.  Tharizdûn quickly overwhelmed, overpowered, and destroyed Zuggtmoy's form and spirit.  This gave Tharizdûn enough power though to put his final plans into action.  He needs the Temple of Elemental Evil open. Only Lolth has the keys to unlock the Temple.

And in my next adventure with the family, Graz'zt is going to get them.

That was supposed to happen this last weekend, but Gen Con shut down due to Covid-19 we did not get to do this.

One thing that never sat well with me, and many others, is that after this epic adventure of Giants and Drow and going to the Abyss the end antagonist is Lolth and her Spider-ship?  It seems a little anti-climatic. 

Instead of that my last layer of the Lolth Demonweb will be Skein of the Death Mother.  



The spider-ship will still be used in my ill-defined Q2 adventure, likely piloted by Eclavdra to invade the surface world, but starting with the houses still loyal to Lolth in Erelhei-Cinlu.

I am going to pull all these threads, and more, together with the grand finale, The Temple of Elemental Evil

Then I am looking forward to running my War of the Witch Queens.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 2 Change

Change, they tell us, is good. 

It is good in life and in games.  I feel in order to be good at running or playing any RPG you need to change your style of playing every so often and the best way to do this is to change your games.

It is no secret I really enjoy D&D.  But it is also not the only game I play, not by any stretch.

Mark Twain once said "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."  The same can be said of "travelling" to other worlds.   

Want to make your D&D games scarier? Play Call of Cthulhu.  Want to give it more of a historical feel? Play Pendragon. Want to give your games a more magical feel? Play Ars Magica or it's half-sister Mage.  Occult conspiracies? Play WitchCraft and Conspiracy X. 

I honestly get confused when people tell me they only play D&D. Or even, just one version of D&D. 
That's like only ever reading one book your entire life (and yes I know those people too).


My interests in RPGs are horror, magic, Celtic-myths and legends, and Victorian-era gaming.  I bring these into my games when and where I can.  Ok, so Victorian era not so much in D&D, but there are ideas I like to bring over. 

My games are better because I have had these other experiences.  My game writing is better because I have had these other experiences.

So maybe when you need to improve your own games, try changing it out for a little bit. 

Saturday, August 1, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 1 Beginning

It is August.  Where did the Summer go? Plus I should be at Gen Con now getting my kids to breakfast for a day of gaming. 

It is an August tradition for David F. Chapman of AUTOCRATIK to host the month-long #RPGaDAY. 
Like last year, this year we are given one-word prompts for our reflections.


Here are this year's prompts.
  1. Beginning
  2. Change
  3. Thread   
  4. Vision
  5. Tribute
  6. Forest
  7. Couple
  8. Shade
  9. Light
  10. Want
  11. Stack
  12. Message
  13. Rest
  14. Banner
  15. Frame
  16. Dramatic
  17. Comfort   
  18. Meet
  19. Tower
  20. Investigate    
  21. Push    
  22. Rare
  23. Edge
  24. Humour
  25. Lever
  26. Strange
  27. Favor
  28. Close
  29. Ride
  30. Portal
  31. Experience
Some jumped right out at me with ideas.  Others might take a me a bit more to come up with a good idea.

So let's go with today's word Beginning.

I have told the story here of my beginning in D&D and RPG many times. So no need to go over that.

Instead, I want to talk about the beginning of my blogging.



Back in 2007 I had no real intention of starting a blog, let alone one based around old-school games.  My website, The Other Side, was dead and I was working on my 2nd Ph.D. and working full time.

I started the blog after reading online about some old-school games and thought it might be fun to try. 
There were not a lot of blogs in the old-school scene yet. I started in 2007 but did not get going till 2008.  Grognardia didn't get started till about a year after I did, but built up more steam.  Most of the blogs from then, like Grognardia, are gone. Tenkar's started soon after Grognardia and is still around and has become the hub of the Old-School and OSR movements. 

I did not really plan to get into the OSR even as it was rising up around me.  I just wanted a place I could talk about D&D one day, WitchCraft the next, maybe talk about some horror movies or comics and then go on a little about Mage or other World of Darkness books.

Well...that was over 4331 posts and 13 years ago.

Since then I have spilled a lot of words here. I would like to think this writing has made my games better or at least my own books better. Will I be doing this for the next 13 years? No idea. But it has been a great ride so far!

Make sure you check out all the #RPGaDAY posts at https://twitter.com/autocratik.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...