Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The Queen is Dead! Session 1 of War of the Witch Queens

After Session 0 the other day we settled on three characters each to run through the funnel of The Witch of Wydfield; or rather the Witch of Woodfield as we kept calling it.

Witch of Woodfield

The adventure went as expected. I had everyone choose one of the "Basic Four" classes; Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user, or Thief.  As they played we worked out what specific class each one would end up being.  One magic-user will become a sorcerer, the other a blood witch.  A cleric that worships the Moon might go into druid or might go into fighter, but tell everyone he is still a cleric. It's my youngest. That is what he does.

Witch of Woodfield

I had plenty of copies of Moldvay Basic so everyone had one.  I used my Old-School Essentials book and my GM1a Game Master's Screen from New Big Dragon Games Unlimited.

Since one of my goals is to use as many different kinds of OSR products I can, I think I am off to a good start. Everyone had so much fun they want to play again tomorrow.

I am likely to go with the Ruins of Ramat, this time for Labyrinth Lord. There are also versions for Original EditonCastles & Crusades, and an expanded Castles & Crusades version.  I have not decided which one to use.  Part of the fun is converting.

The characters (and the players) learn the first hint of the overall arc of the campaign; cryptic messages from a possessed girl and the moon (no, really) "the Queen is dead!"

No new hints in the next adventure, but we will see.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Monstrous Mondays: Amphicyon, the Bear-Dog (Memory and the Mandela Effect)

I am sure by now many of my readers are familiar with the "Mandela Effect" or a large collective false memory effect OR example of how we, or some of us, switched over to a parallel universe.  It is named this because there are some people that "remember" that Nelson Mandela had died in a South African prison and did not later become the first President of post-Apartheid South Africa. 

There plenty of people that claim that the comic Sinbad was a genie in a movie called "Shazam" (and not the similar "Kazaam" from Shaq) or The Berenstein Bears was a book series and not The Berenstain Bears.

While it might be fun to explore the whole parallel universe or our world as a simulation narrative to all of this, that doesn't interest me as much as the truth; the collective false memories people have.  I did my Master's Thesis on Long-term memory activation, my first Doctoral Dissertation was on information processing cognition and memory.  I find memory to be a fascinating topic.  I don't want to claim to be an expert in this, but I am well informed and have done plenty of original, published scientific research on it.

So when I fall "victim" to the Mandela Effect myself, I pay attention.

At this point, you might be asking what does all of this have to do with Monstrous Monday? Well simply put, I have a creature in my memory that none of the rest of you have.

Let's go back a bit to 2002.  My oldest son was a baby, my youngest had not yet been born.  We would go to the library and pick up DVDs to watch.  One of my son's favorite was Ice Age. I have talked here before about how his love of prehistoric beasts, especially sea creatures, had been an influence on him getting into D&D.  Well this was before D&D and before his love of dragons.  I think I watched Ice Age a hundred times with him back then.  The disc we got also had a special "behind the scenes/making of" section that I would watch as well.  This section talked about all the characters that were in the movie; Manny, Sid, Diego, Scrat, and one other.  This other character was an Amphicyon or a bear-dog. They showed how the character was designed and even rough cuts of the character and a draft of the poster featuring this other character.  I remember telling my wife about it one day after we had returned the DVD to the library.

Fast forward a couple of years and we get the DVD, but no behind the scenes feature on it.  Hmm.  No problem I think, I'll just grab it from the library again.  Well, this stretches into a long period of time and I never grabbed it until a few years back.  I liked the creature and used it in a couple of games. I rewatched the DVD behind the scenes and...nothing.  No Amphicyon, no bear-dog, nothing at all.  I searched online. Nothing.  I asked my wife. She didn't remember it.  I have a very distinct memory of this short and this character.

But it never happened.

I know that over the years I have constructed and reconstructed the memory.  Memory is not a hard drive where things are stored unaltered.  We encode our memories with our surroundings; like how a smell or a song will trigger a memory, or in the case of my research in the 90s, how a word can affect which memories are retrieved.  For me, I know how my memories were altered.  At this time (2001 to 2005) I was suffering a fairly major bout of deep depression.  I have studied the effects of depression on memory.  I know what can happen.  Yet here I am, 2020, searching on the Internet for a character I *know* did not exist, but somehow I am still not 100% convinced I am wrong. (I am wrong, I know this logically)

BUT that doesn't mean I can't have a little fun with this.

Amphicyon

Amphicyon-ingens reconstruction
aka Bear-Dog
Large Beast (Prehistoric)
Frequency: Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1d4)
Alignment:
Neutral [True Neutral]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
  Swim: 90' (30') [9"]
Armor Class: 5 [14]
Hit Dice: 8d8+8 (44 hp); 
  Alternate (Large) 8d10+8 (52 hp)
Attacks: claw/claw, bite
Damage: 1d6+1 x2, 1d10+1
Special: Swimming, Omnivore
Size: Large
Save: Monster 8
Morale: 8
Treasure Hoard Class:
None
XP: 650 (B/X, OSE), 640 (LL)

The Amphicyon, or bear-dog, is a large prehistoric mammal that is the forerunner of all modern canines and bears. It was active some 16.9 million years ago and died out 2.6 million years ago.  

The creature appears as a large bear, 8 to 9 ft. in length and weighing 1,300 to 1,400 pounds.  Its muzzle is more wolf-like than bear-like as are it's teeth and jaw.  

Unlike wolves and modern canines, the amphicyon is more of a solitary creature. Groups greater than one and up to four are family units consisting of a mother and her cubs. Also like bears, the amphicyon is a carnivore but can survive on an omnivorous diet.  Amphicyons are good if slow, swimmers and will make a diet of fish when they can.

Generally, the amphicyon will avoid contact with humanoids, but it can attack with a claw, claw, bite routine. 

Lycanthrope, Were-Amphicyonidae
Medium Humanoid (Shapeshifter, Prehistoric)
Frequency: Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1d4)
Alignment:
Neutral [True Neutral]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
Armor Class: 4 [15]
Hit Dice: 9d8*+18 (59 hp)
Attacks: claw/claw, bite, or by weapon
Damage: 1d4+2 x2, 1d8+2
Special: Shapechange, harmed by silver
Size: Medium
Save: Monster 9
Morale: 10
Treasure Hoard Class:
C (XX)
XP: 1,600 (B/X, OSE), 1,700 (LL)

Amphicyonidae Lycanthropes are similar to werebears and werewolves, likely the forerunner to both types of creatures. Like all lycanthropes, the were-amphicyonidae can shift between an animal form (an amphicyon), a human, and a hybrid creature. These lycanthropes though are found exclusively among prehistoric humans like cavemen and Neanderthals, and almost exclusively in colder climates.

Were-Amphicyonidae are affected by the phases of the full moon as are werebears and werewolves.  Like werebears they retain some human intelligence, though a primitive intelligence focused on survival.

The first were-amphicyonidae, and indeed, among the first lycanthropes ever, were shamans that had mastered the abilities of shape-shifting long before there were druids, clerics, or even witches. They passed their gift on to others and now all that remains of the great shamans of old are these creatures.

In combat, the were-amphicyonidae fight with a claw, claw bite routine. They cannot "hug" as a werebear can.   They can only be harmed by silver or magical weapons.  Their bite can transmit the lycanthropy curse but only Neanderthals will become were-amphicyonidae. Normal humans will become werebears (lawful and neutral) or werewolves (chaotic) depending on their alignment. 

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Boxing Day: The World of Mayhem Campaign

A couple of weeks ago I posted about getting my 7th adventure from Mark Taormino's Dark Wizard GamesDread Swamp of the Banshee.  It is a great bit of fun and I can't wait to run it.  

I also know exactly what I want to do with them.


The World of Mayhem Campaign and I am going to run it using B/X rules, likely OSE Advanced Rules

OSE Advanced gives me the B/X rules I adore along with some of the rules from the Advanced era I want AND some additional options that were not available to me in either.   


Organizing the adventures from the lowest level to the highest you get a great spread from levels 1 to 14, perfect B/X and OSE levels.


I have talked about this in the past with the first five adventures, but the newer three only support this plan even more.

Arranged like this:

It makes solid coverage of levels 1 to 14.  If anything an adventure for levels 2 to 5  might be good.

With the addition of their Monsters of Mayhem #1, it makes for a full campaign.

I know the feel of these adventures is very much in the spirit of 1st Edition AD&D as well as the OSRIC rule set.  But for me, my "gonzo" gaming years were with B/X.  The rules of B/X were much looser than Advanced and these adventures really need a lighter hand on the rules.

I am thinking of also adding some material from Pacesetter's B/X RPG rules, in particular some of the classes.  Plus the B/X RPG rules play well with OSE, so that is reason enough to use them.  Plus I enjoy combining Palace of the Vampire Queen: Castle Blood from Pacesetter with Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen for a full saga of the Vampire Queen.


I have now run Vampire Queen for Basic, 1st Edition, and 5th Edition versions of D&D.  I think Basic was my favorite experience. 

Friday, December 25, 2020

Christmas Miracle! I Started "War of the Witch Queens"

It's Christmas, spent some quality time with the family yesterday and today.  We built a new kitchen cart for my oldest to keep all his cooking gear in, made a turkey, got a new laptop (using it now) oh and we started the War of the Witch Queens today!


Started with The Witch of Wydfield.  Didn't get very far though, we just started with session 0.  

We are going to use the Classic D&D B/X rules.  I didn't pick a particular flavor yet but likely go with Old School Essentials.  Right now since this is a DCC adventure for 0 level characters I had everyone roll up three characters.  All very simple. I used the classic Basic rules and had everyone choose Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User, or Thief at 0 level.  Once everyone hits 1st level, at 500 xp, I am going to allow them to specialize into OSE Advanced Classes or even something from BX RPG or anything really.  My goal is to say "yes" first and then direct them to something that works.

I had everyone roll 2d6+3 for stats. Yes that makes them all rather low on their abilities, but they are also just starting.  I am going to either allow them all a 1d6 per ability when they get to level 1 or give them 5d6 number of points to distribute amongst all their abilities.  This will in turn make their abilities a touch higher than average.  I am ok with that. I am still playing around with ideas.  I might even adopt some D&D 5 rules and let them add +1 to a stat every four levels or so.

Since they are super low level and below-average at this point I am saying they are all refugees from another village destroyed abut terrible weather.   This is of course the first "attack" of the witches with the Witch Queen now dead.  No queen so the more evil elements of the witchcraft world are running free.

This is going to be one of those only every so often games.  I am not 100% convinced everyone likes the old rules or are they just humoring me. 

I hope to pick up the next session soon.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Monstrous Mondays: Nøkk

Work continues on Basic Bestiary, playing around with a few ideas.  Here is one I have been working off and on with over the last year.  Most off, since I notice it has been a year since I looked at it last.

Nøkk
Medium/Large Fey (Water)
Frequency: Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Neutral (True Neutral)
Movement: 180' (60') [18"]
   Swim: 240' (80') [24"]
Armor Class: 4 [15]
Hit Dice: 6d8+12* (39 hp)
Attacks: 1 fist or 1 hoof or 1 weapon
Damage: 1d6+1 or 1d8+1 or by weapon
Special: Song (Charm), Spell-like abilities
Size: Medium or Large
Save: Monster 6
Morale: 10
Treasure Hoard Class: None
XP: 650 (B/X, OSE) 680 (LL)

The Nøkk, also Neck, Näcken, and Nokken, is a type of fey creature that lives in temperate to arctic waters.  They can appear as a man playing a lyre, flute, or violin, or as a large horse made partially of water.  They are related to the nixie and other water-based faerie creatures.  Some scholars debate if they are in truth water spirits of water elementals.  They are not unduly affected by cold-iron as other fey are.  

The nøkk is content to spend his days sitting on rocks near the shore and playing his instrument and singing.  They avoid combat when they can preferring to use their song of charm to ward off possible attacks.  If a character approaches the nøkk with respect he may teach them a song.  For bards, this equates to a once in a lifetime gift of 500 XP.  For spellcasters such as magic-users, druids, or witches they learn to cast a Charm Person spell once without the need to memorize the spell.  

Nøkk also have the following spell-like abilities they can use once per day (x1 day), Animal Friendship, Charm Animal, Cure Light Wounds, Predict Weather, and cast Water Breathing on up to six others.  A nøkk can breathe air or water as it chooses.

Friday, December 18, 2020

#FollowFriday: TBBYANR and More!

I figured it was time to formally merge to features.  Today is my usual (semi-usual) #FollowFriday post, but I have also wanted to do a TBBYANR post.

blogs blogging about blogs

In case you forgot (it has been a while) TBBYANR stands for "The Best Blog You Are Not Reading" and is was a great feature in the early days of the blogging scene. Since then communications have become more fractionalized with people on Facebook, Discord and other mediums.  It is hard to know how well others know about other blogs.  Plus so many blogs also have their own Facebook and/or Twitter outlets.

So in my merging of these two features or more accurately #FollowFriday assuming the role that TBBYANR once held I figure I'll post some blogs I have been enjoying and how you can interact with them on social media.

They Might Be Gazebos!

Chuck Thorin's "They Might Be Gazebos!" is a good classic OSR blog. He does some reviews and retrospectives and is usually focused on Swords & Wizardry and Dungeon Crawl Classics.  He does the occasional character write-up as well.

One of my favorite features of his is his OSR Retrospective where he looks at the games of the Old-School Renaissance. 

Chuck is also the author of "Gary vs. The Monsters" the cinematic, campy horror monster-fighting old-school RPG.

Again, I am not sure how many of you know about this site, but they are worth checking out.

Links

Mythopoeic Rambling

Theodric Ælfwinesson has been running MR for a bit now. While the focus is Old School there is still new content (like Pathfinder) but viewed from an Old-School lens. 

Some of my favorite topics are on monsters and world-building.

Definitely check it out, there is an absolute ton of material there. 

Links



Former TSR staffer and expert on all things Mystara, Bruce Heard is still giving us great content often for just the price of a mouse click.  His blog focuses on his campaign world, Calidar, but there is still a ton of great content for BECMI here as well.

Links

Swords & Stitchery is very likely a blog you all do know about.  Eric has been posting his thoughts on old-school games and his own campaigns for a long time now.  At a couple of posts per day he is constantly supplying new material. I have to pause often to just catch up to his output.  His OSR Commentary might be the best feature, and his coverage of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea keeps me coming back time and time again.  

Recently he has been discussing NIGHT SHIFT and I am very excited to see what he does with it.

Links

  That's good for now! 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

The Sea Witch Tradition

I have been playing around with a Sea Witch Tradition.   The Sea Witch is a powerful archetype and one that has featured in myths and legends since humankind looked out into the sea.  

Newes from Scotland. Witches brewing a storm in Scottland
Witches brewing a storm in Scottland

Among the media, mythological and literary examples are Circe from myth,  Calypso from The Odyssey, Sycorax in Shakespeare's The Tempest, the Sea Hag from Popeye, Ursula from The Little Mermaid (and from the original Hans Christian Andersen),  Tia Dalma in Pirates of the Caribbean, comics, and a story I recall reading as a kid that I have not been able to remember properly.

The Sea witch has power over wind, weather, waves, and various creatures of the sea and coast.  This would include the obvious fish and marine mammals, but also birds associated with the sea. 

Sea Witch Tradition

Witches of the Sea Witch Tradition are members of a very ancient tradition related to the Classical tradition but also the Pagan traditions and Chthonic traditions.  Witches of this tradition honor the sea in both it's capacity the cradle of life and in its capacity to destroy.

Role: Witches of this tradition often serve gods, goddesses, and other ancient powerful beings as their patrons.  Many will often refer to the Sea as a Goddess in and of herself and other Gods of the seas are merely Her extensions and proxies.

Joining this Tradition: Sea witches join this tradition typically very early in life. They will claim they have sea-water in their veins and the sea in their soul.  They feel drawn to the sea and will typically live near the sea if they are land-dwelling, or in it.  They will often grow up in families where many of the members are sailors or fisherfolk.  Some even are related by blood to creatures like selkies, mermaids, or even swanmays or nymphs. 

Unlike most Hags that are part of the Faerie tradition, Sea Hags are part of this Sea Witch tradition.

Leaving this Tradition: Witches rarely if ever leave this tradition. Even when they are physically distant from the sea they still "feel the call of the sea."

Occult Powers

Minor, 1st Level: Familiar. The Seas witch gains a familiar related to the sea. 

Lesser, 7th Level: Breathing. The sea witch gains the ability to breathe underwater if they normally breathe air, or the ability to breathe on land if they normally breathe water. This is a persistent power.

Medial, 13th Level: Shape Change. The Sean witch may shape change as per the Druid ability Wild Shape or Polymorph Self. This may be done once per day at the 13th level. The witch may only change shape to a natural sea animal that is within one size category of her normal size. So a Medium-sized witch may only change to a Small, Medium, or Large animal.

The number of times the witch may do this per day increases with every other level.  So 2 times per day at 15th, 3 times per day at 17th, and 4 times per day at 19th.  The witch may opt to sacrifice one of these times to go outside of her normal range of sizes.  So a 17th level Amazon witch could shift to Huge or Tiny once and her normal sizes the other two (total of 4 shapeshifts per day).

Greater, 19th Level: Raise Storm. Considered by many to be the ultimate form of the Sea Witch's power, the Sea Witch can affect the weather as per the magic-user and druids spells Control Weather and Control Winds.

Major, 25th Level: Longevity.  The witch stops aging.  Her appearance will continue to age but her body and mind will stay the same age she was when she reached this level.  She is also no longer affected by magical aging.  She can still be killed by normal means.

Superior, 31st Level: Apotheosis.  The witch becomes something else. This new form and powers are dependent on the Patron she serves.  For sea witches, her form becomes that of a sea creature.  She becomes something akin to a Triton, a Cecelia, or even odder combinations. 

Special Benefits and Restrictions: The sea witch will honor a god or goddess of the sea. The vow never to willing move further and a mile away from any body of water. Most prefer to be much closer.  Seas witches with a familiar can communicate with marine life and even other creatures that leave near the sea.

Equipment:  The tool of this tradition is the cauldron.  Like the sea, the cauldron holds all possibilities. 

Preferred/Barred Covens: Sea Witches are typically solitaries, but they will often meet up every few years with others. Sea witches also tend to be very territorial, so only one will typically be found in any one natural locale, such as a bay, cove, or other inlets. 

Relationship to the Goddess/Patron: The sea witch views the Goddess as the Sea itself.  "Human" manifestations of Her are but limited projections into the human understanding of what the Sea and the Goddess actually is.

This relationship with the sea also makes the Sea Witch a unique figure among sailors.  Many sailors are very superstitious and among those superstitions and fears are ones regarding having women on ships.  Many feel it is bad luck, others feel that a woman on a ship will cause the crew to mutiny. The witch is exempt from these notions. She is both a welcome and feared member of a crew.  

Male sea witches are a welcome addition to most crews even if they are just as feared and respected.

Source/Views of Magic: Like most witches, the Sea Witch views her magic as a manifestation of the Goddess who is the Sea.  The source of her magic is the endless ocean, the unfathomable depths, the irresistible urge of the sea.  

Archetypes: Most Faerie Witches see little use in the Good vs. Evil axis. The sea is both and neither, so why should they choose?  Most tend towards neutral if a little chaotic.

Other: Sea Witches tend not to hoard much wealth, but they do appreciate treasure. Especially treasure found in the sea or on it, such as a pirate's chest of gold, or something rare and beautiful from a faraway land. Pearls are valued over other gems and gold more so than silver or platinum. 

The Sea Witch
The Sea Witch

Other Traditions

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Skylla: D&D 3.5 Edition

I am going over my options for the big New Year, New Character Challenge coming up next month.  Seeing where I have some gaps and what other characters I need to do.  

Surprisingly the one I don't have a lot of is D&D 3rd Edition. So I thought I might dust off my 3.5 books and see if I can still do this.  Plus it is conspicuous by it's absence in my write-ups of Skylla.

A recap.  Skylla is an NPC "magic-user" introduced to us in the LJN Advanced Dungeons & Dragons toy line and given more background in module XL1 Quest for the Heartstone and AC1 The Shady Dragon Inn.   I have adapted her as a witch for various D&D-like game settings and systems.  

She has become something of a reoccurring villainess in my games. I admit to borrowing heavily from Master's of the Universe Evil-Lyn for her characterization.  I figure I can do worse than that.

For this version of Skylla for D&D 3.5 I am going to use the sample custom witch class from the Dungeon Master's Guide.

The DMG witch class is a bit anemic really, it is just a reskinned Sorcerer.  But the goal for it was not to develop a full-blown witch class as I have done, but rather show how the classes can be altered for your own needs.   Given how 3.x did the Sorcerer class this one should be fairly close to the BECMI roots of the character.

Skylla
Skylla by ePic Character Generator
Skylla
Female Human Witch, Level 7 (DMG Witch)
Chaotic Evil

Abilities
Strength: 9 (-1)
Dexterity: 11 (0) 
Constitution: 10 (0)
Intelligence: 11 (0)
Wisdom: 12 (+1)
Charisma: 15 (+2)

Saving Throws
Fortitude: +2
Reflex: +2
Will: +6

AC: 7
HP: 22
BAB: +3
Initiative: +0
Speed: 30

Skills
Bluff +2, Climb -1, Concentration +10, Diplomacy +2, Disguise +3, Gather Information +4, Heal +1, Intimidate +2, Jump -1, Listen +1, Search +!, Sense Motive +1, Speak Language +1 (Draconic), Spellcraft +10, Spot +1, Survival +1, Swim -1

Feats
Brew Potion, Chaotic Mind, Craft Wondrous Item, Simple Weapon Proficiency, Toughness

Special Abilities - Familiar
Familiar - Raven (level 1, 11 HP, 18 AC Attack +5)
+3 to Appraise Checks while Familiar is within 1 mile
Deliver Touch spells through familiar
Empathic Link (Su)
Speak with Animals (Ex)
Speak with Familiar (Ex)

Spells
Spell DC 12 + Spell level
Cantrips: Arcane Mark, Daze, Detect Magic, Light, Mage Hand, Mending, Read Magic
1st level: Charm Person, Floating Disk, Hold Portal, Identify, Magic Missle
2nd level: Alter Self, Detect Thoughts, Invisibility
3rd level: Hold Person, Magic Circle Against Good


Not a bad build really.  She compares well to her base stats and to the Pathfinder 1st Edition version.  I will have to try a Pathfinder 2nd Edition version sometime. 

I also pleased with how her ePic Character came out. 

RPG Blog Carnival

This is my entry in this month's RPG Blog Carnival, When the Bad Guys Win, hosted by Phoenix Games.  Skylla is certainly one of my favorite "Bad Girls" and I do like her to win.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Ghost Spiders

I have been working on a set of game boards to depict Lolth's lair in the Abyss.  They are not done yet and hope to show them off soon.   I have been taking my family through the Classic Greyhawk Campaign starting with T1 (AND B1) and working all the way to Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits. 

While running I have added other material to the campaign to flesh it out more. This includes such classics as Bone Hill, Ravenloft, and Castle Amber but other details like a Stone Giant fortress Cloud Giant castle in the sky (for G4 and G5 respectively) as well as more details for the Drow City of Erelhei-Cinlu and a revamp of Lolth's lair.

While it is too late in the game for me to use it, Joesph Bloch, the Greyhawk Grognard, has released his own D4 to expand the Drown of Erelhei-Cinlu.  You can find it on his blog. 

It looks fantastic really, and let's be honest, Bloch knows his Greyhawk.  So I am certain that it would have been a nice addition to my campaign.  Plus it ties the GDQ series a little closer to the Temple of Elemental Evil, which is the ultimate goal of my campaign as well.  I understand he is doing a Q2 or something akin to that.  I have also wanted a good Q2. Though I am adapting the Monte cook adventure "Queen of Lies" for it.


But until then, I have a few more "spiderweb" monsters I need to weed out the uninspired choices in Q1. 

Here is one of them.

Ghost Spider

Huge Undead (Incorporeal)
Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1d4 (1d6)
Alignment: Chaotic (Chaotic Evil)
Movement: 180' (60') [18"]
   Webs: 240' (80') [24"]
Armor Class: 1 [18]
Hit Dice: 5d8+10** (33 hp)
  Alternate HP: 5d12+10** (43 hp) (Huge)
Attacks: Bite
Damage: 2d8
Special: Ethereal, fear aura, harmed only by magic, incorporeal, undead, webs
Size: Huge
Save: Monster 5
Morale: 12
Treasure Hoard Class: None
XP: 3,500 (B/X, OSE) 3,600 (LL)

Ghost Spiders appear as semi-transparent, glowing ghosts of huge spiders.  They are not spiders, nor are they exactly undead, but rather they are the demonic projections of fears powered by necromantic forces.

A ghost spider is found anywhere where the influence of demons is strong and where mortal creatures can interact.  The fears of spiders are magnified till a ghost spider is created.  As such it radiates a fear aura that mimics the spell Cause Fear.  Anyone under 5 HD/Levels must make a saving throw vs Spells or fall under the influence of the spell-like effect.  Creatures higher than 5HD/Levels gain a +2 to their save. Creatures 9HD/levels or higher are immune to these fear effects.  Those affected will be frozen in fear and unable to move, run, or attack. The ghost spider will then attack with webs (as per a giant spider) to immobilize other potential victims.  Then will then use their bite to kill others.  Ghost Spiders are not living and therefore do not require to feed on victims. They instead feed on the fear they cause and the pain from deaths. 

Ghost spiders are treated as undead and can be turned as a 5HD creature or as a Spectre.  Like all undead they are immune to charm, hold and sleep spells. They can only be struck by magical weapons. Once destroyed the ghost spider will not reform, but other ghost spiders may be created in their place at a future date.  The only way to destroy them forever is to remove the demonic forces that create them.

Friday, December 11, 2020

The Golden Age of Wireless: Streaming Service Offerings

No. I am not talking about one of the most fantastic albums ever released (though I should probably spill some virtual ink on that someday).   I am talking about the number of options afforded to us in streaming entertainment.  

In this time of Covid-19 we are supposed to stay at home and avoid interaction with others. That is fine, but it means we are spending a lot more time at home.  So I have been enjoying a lot of what streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon, HBO, and CBS All Access are really trying to get our attention with more programming.  Since I am also saving a small fortune by not having to drive into work anymore I am enjoying all of them.

Spock plays 3d Chess with Beth
Not a real show, but I wish.

Since I have been spending my week categorizing over 350 different demons for my demon book I don't have much RPG content to share right now.  So what's good on streaming?

CBS All Access

Or the all Star Trek all the Time Channel. Star Trek Discovery Season 3 has been fantastic this year.  The crew jumped 900+ years into the future (3188 to be exact) to save a sentient AI from falling into the wrong hands.  It doesn't quite have the emotional connection that Season 2 (the search for..well...Spock) did BUT for a Trek fan like me it has been great on the fan service and easter eggs.  This is essentially Season 1 of the new 32nd Century Star Trek.   This gives the creative team so much more freedom to do the special effects they obviously wanted to do anyway but also gives them some good storytelling freedom away from the established Trek canon.  This is amusing because this season has had the most callbacks to previous versions of Trek outside of Season 2's TOS homages. 

image of Star Trek Lower Decks and Discovery

Additionally, we are getting new episodes of Picard, Lower Decks (maybe and second season is coming I have not heard), and new shows like Strange New Worlds (Pike's Enterprise) and Section 31, Starfleet's Gray Ops group.  For a Trek fan this is fantastic!  

Amazon Prime

My October Horror Movie Challenge would not have been possible without Prime.  We have been watching a lot of Vikings lately.  Don't confuse it for actual history (even though it was on the History Channel) it has been fun and has given me some ideas. 

The Second Age Middle Earth series is underway.  Casting has been announced, but I don't think filming has started yet. 

Hulu

Have not taken as much advantage of this one as I should.  But the really fun Helstrom was here (and not Disney+ for some reason) and it shows that when Marvel does Horror, it can do a great job of it.

In many ways, Helstrom and Satana (Ana in the series) was Marvel's answer to DC's Constantine even though Hellstrom (2 "L"s) premiered a decade before.  Hellstrom, Satana, Doctor Strange, Blade and Dracula were all part of the Marvel Horror universe that I loved as a kid.  The changes from the comic to series were needed and very welcome to me really.  It is still full of Marvel AngstTM, but it is also a lot of fun. 

HBO Max (or + or Go or whatever it is called now)

HBO has been around forever. It and Showtime were two of the very, very first "movie channels" out there.  But today HBO is better known for its series.  True Blood (which for some reason is getting a reboot) and Game of Thrones are two notable ones.  This past year I have been watching Lovecraft Country (which is fantastic!) and His Dark Materials, which is getting better in Season 2.  We also got the DC shows, Harley Quinn, Titans, Doom Patrol, and soon we will be able to see Wonder Woman 84 and the Synder Cut of Justice League.

I don't care. I am such a DC fanboy that I am excited about this.

Netflix

The Champion of the Streaming Channels, but it has had some serious competition from Disney+.  Let's see what they have been offering me.  Netflix will be forever fixed in Geek Heaven for Stranger Things.  We will be getting the 4th season of that soon; filming is underway.  Enola Holmes, based on the YA books was also a hit, even if it didn't exactly conform to the established Holmes canon. We also got The Witcher based on the video game and now R. Talsorian Games RPG of the same name.

Speaking of Season 4, we are getting the LAST installment of the Chilling Adventure of Sabrina near the end of the month. It looks like they are taking it where the comic also went, into dealing with Cthulhu and other Lovecraftian horrors.  It looks like it should be great.

I was a little disappointed in ChAoS when they killed off Dorcas played by the lovely Abigail Cowen. while it may have been part of the plot, she was quickly scooped up it seems by another Netflix production, Fate.  I saw the trailer for it today and thought it looked cool, THEN I saw what it was at the end.

Fate: A Winx Saga. Whaaat? Winx Club as a comic and then a kids Nickelodeon animated series.  I thought it was a poor rip-off of Disney's W.I.T.C.H. so did Disney in fact.  Turns out Winx Club was published and in production a full year before the W.I.T.C.H. comics came out.  This is by the same people and is supposed to be darker and more adult.  I happy to see Abby Cowen is something where she is the star, I thought she had great potential on ChAoS and this should be fun too.

Oh. If you have not seen The Queen's Gambit it is fantastic.


Disney+

What can you say about Disney+? I mean even before they acquired Lucasfilm and Marvel they had one of the deepest wells of titles and characters.  Honestly just between the Disney, Pixar, and ABC material they own they could have been fine as a streaming service.  But let's be honest, as great as Pixar is no one dropped the cash for Disney+ for that alone.  Disney+ has been moving along famously in the last year or so thanks to The Baby Yoda Show The Mandalorian.  It has been a fantastic show and Season 2 has been delivering an action-packed episode all season long AND with great storytelling AND with characters I never thought in 40 years I'd see on TV.  While I am a Star Trek fan deep in my DNA, I do love Star Wars.  The adventures of Not Boba Fett and Space Pikachu has been some of the best Star Wars I have seen.  Disney+ could honestly do a victory lap now, but that was until yesterday when they made their 2021 announcements.

I have no idea how many new shows and movies are coming out for Marvel and Star Wars now. Lots. More than I ever thought one studio would try to do.  Instead of trying to recap them all (lots of other sites are doing that) let me just focus on the ones that interest me. 

WandaVison

I have a love/hate relationship with Scarlet Witch in Marvel.  First, she was never really a witch so I often felt "lied" too, except the times she was a witch. And a mutant. She was a villain, she was a hero, she was depowered, she was overpowered. As a character, she was all over the place. And sometimes she was just that, all over the place. She suffered from bouts of insanity, deep depression, and loss.  

I will give the movies credit on a couple of things.  Divorced from her "mutant" background it gave her character more definition. Also for the first time, I bought into her's and Vision's love for each other.

The new series WandaVision looks like it takes the background of the comic's characters and really makes a good series out of it.

Seriously, this could be Wanda going mad and her powers acting out creating new realities or something else. Or both. Given the character, it is likely both. Elizabeth Olsen is also a great actress and she can pull this off.  Frankly, the riffs on "Bewitched" are enough to get me to watch it. 

Watching this new trailer really puts a different spin on the first trailer released.  

There certainly something else going on here. I am looking forward to it.

Marvel: What If...?

One of my favorite Marvel Titles was "What If...?" The comic would break off into different sorts of stories all under the "What If" question.  What if Spider-man joined the Fantastic Four? Was the first one. "What if Gwen Stacy had lived? was an interesting one as well.  The best may have been the introduction of May "Mayday" Parker as "Spider-Girl" and the Gwen Stacy arc eventually planted the seeds to give us "Spider Gwen".  If Barry Allen/The Flash is the center point of DC's multiverse, then certainly Spider-man is the center of Marvel's.  It seems a little odd to me then that Spider-man doesn't feature at all in the trailer of Disney+'s "Marvel: What If...?" series.

I am sure it is more shenanigans with Sony.  Though the rumor is now that Alfred Molina will return as Doctor Octopus in the third Spider-man movie. Additionally, we could get past Peter Parkers as well now that Disney owns what was 20th Century Fox and Into the Spider-verse was a huge success. 

Here we are.  Our geek cups run over and there is more to fill even more cups.

Never would I have suspected that we would have so much genre entertainment at our fingertips.  Which is good since we really should not be going anywhere.

Ok Prof. Dolby, play us out.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Featured Artist: Margaret Brundage

Margaret Brundage
Margaret Brundage is another artist you may not know by name but certainly by her art.  I will go out on a limb and say she was one of the most recognizable artists of the Pulp Era.

Margaret Brundage, born Margaret Hedda Johnson was born December 9, 1900, in Chicago, a place she would call home till her death in 1976.  

She was looking for work when she found  Farnsworth Wright editor of "Oriental Tales" and then "Weird Tales" Brundage would paint covers for both magazines and sign them "M. Brundage" so no one knew it was a woman doing all this art of scantily clad or nude women in peril. 

Her artwork became part of the image of Weird Tales in the 1930s with some authors, Seabury Quinn notably, not only requesting her work but working in scenes of her art into the story.  Others like Clark Ashton Smith and H.P. Lovecraft were less pleased with her work.  But there is no doubt that her covers sold magazines.

Often her covers also had to be toned down for publication.  Her other works were even more risque.

She would go on to do 66 covers for Wierd Tales. Some have gone on to become classics.

Margaret Brundage Weird Tales cover

Margaret Brundage Weird Tales cover

Margaret Brundage Weird Tales cover

Margaret Brundage Weird Tales cover

Margaret Brundage Weird Tales cover

Margaret Brundage Weird Tales cover

Margaret Brundage Weird Tales cover

Margaret Brundage Weird Tales cover

Margaret Brundage Weird Tales cover

Margaret Brundage Weird Tales cover

Margaret Brundage Weird Tales cover

Margaret Brundage Weird Tales cover

Margaret Brundage Weird Tales cover

Margaret Brundage Weird Tales cover

Links


Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Mail Call: Dread Swamp of the Banshee

Mark Taormino has done it again (8 times the charm!) and I got my new adventure in the mail today.


Maximum Mayhem Dungeons #7 Dread Swamp of the Banshee came in the mail today.  I have had the PDF for a little bit now and I am really looking forward to running this one!

If you enjoyed the previous adventures in this series, like I have, then you know what to expect here. 



If you love the old-school style modules but want something that is just "a little more" then I highly recommend these.

One day my plan is to run these all with some flavor of B/X since the adventures top out at 14th level.  Though the adventures are very much in the 1st Ed D&D vein and not really "Basic", it's what I want to do with them. 

Maybe when the Advanced books for Old-School Essentials come in I'll revisit this idea.


Monday, December 7, 2020

Monstrous Mondays: Dybbuk

Another monster I have been playing around with for a while. This one goes all the way back to my AD&D years, though under a different name.  I have always liked the idea that Lichdom is never an assured thing for evil wizards and a lot can go wrong.  Here is one of those times.

Dybbuk, by Ephraim Moshe Lilien (1874–1925).

Dybbuk
Medium Undead (Incorporeal)
Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic (Chaotic Evil)
Movement: 180' (60') [18"]
Armor Class: 4 [15]
Hit Dice: 12d8+36*** (90 hp)
Attacks: 1 touch or by spells
Damage: 1d6+3 cold damage, or by spell (see below)
Special: Ethereal, incorporeal, harmed only by magic, possession, animate dead, undead
Size: Medium
Save: Magic-user 12
Morale: 10
Treasure Hoard Class: Special (dybbuk box)
XP: 3,500 (B/X, OSE) 3,600 (LL)

The process of becoming a lich is filled with peril and risk. Thankfully, for the forces of good, few learn the secret and fewer still meet with success.   While most of the failed attempts to become a lich end with the permanent death of many evil mages, sometimes the process fails, the body is destroyed but the evil spirit lives on.  These failed attempts at lichdom as known as a Dybbuk.

The dybbuk is the disembodied spirit of an evil magic-user who attempted to become a lich but whose body was destroyed before the final process was complete.  The spirit remains tied to the mortal realms, unable to complete its transformation to a lich or move on to whatever plane it was due to move on too in the afterlife.  The creature is evil and has a hatred for all living things.

A dybbuk is an incorporeal creature inhabiting the ethereal plane.  It is invisible and can only be hit by magical weapons that can attack ethereal creatures.  The creature will appear like a spectre and can be mistaken for one.  When it chooses to attack a creature it will reenter the material world and become visible to all.  

The most feared attack of the dybbuk is its ability to possess others.  They will seek out magic-users and their pride demands that they seek out only the ones of the highest levels to possess.  The victim must make a saving throw vs. spells (Lawful victims have a +1 to saves, Chaotic victims have a -1 to saves) or become possessed by the dybbuk.  If possessed the victim gets another save every 24 hours.  However, there is a progressive -1 each day to the save. Additionally, the victim will lose 1 point of constitution each day.  When they reach 0 they are dead and cannot be resurrected as the dybbuk has destroyed their body and soul. If a victim makes the save the dybbuk cannot make another attempt for 24 hours.

Once in the body of a magic-user, the dybbuk will use any spells their host body knows. Typically they will attack anyone and everyone nearby, such is their hate for all living things. Those that can see ethereal creatures will see the dybbuk “riding” on the back of the possessed victim.  A dybbuk also has the ability to animate 3d6 HD worth of skeletons and/or zombies. The bodies must be readily available, but a dybbuk will make sure plenty are on hand near it’s lair.  These undead creatures follow the orders of the dybbuk til they are destroyed.

The dybbuk can be turned by a cleric as if it were a lich. Once in a victim though only an Exocism, Holy Word, Cleanse or similar spells will be effective in driving the evil spirit out. When the dybbuk is forced out it will spend the next 24 hours in its Dybbuk Box, or where its soul now resides.  To fully destroy a dybbuk this housing for their soul must be destroyed.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Character Advice from Ginny Di (and Aisling!)

I have gone on record with my love for the newest generation of D&D Players.  They are passionate about the game they play and they LOVE their characters.  I know that can sometimes feel a bit odd to the old-school crowd, but I don't care.  They have passion and energy and it is them that will carry role-playing into the future for the next generations, not us.

Among all these "New School" players one of my favorites is Ginny Di.  I'll provide some links below.


I featured her last week as the start of my Tasha's Week of Everything. She did a cosplay of Tasha, sponsored by Wizards of the Coast. It was a fun video and I enjoyed seeing all the work she put into the costume. 

This week she is back with another great video.  Here is her Twitter post for it.

And the video itself.

I know what you are thinking and to quote the Ninth Doctor, "I bet you are fussing and moaning right now, typical."

But really, how is this any different than what we all used to do anyway?  Roll 3d6 in order and deal with it.  Ginny is not so much against "Old School" as she thinks.  Maybe against the "Middle School" of character optimization (positive spin) or Min-Maxing (negative spin).

It is also great advice.  Characters should never be perfect.  Flaws, quirks, and shortcomings make for far more interesting characters.  Stan Lee knew this well. Peter Parker was a neurotic teen struggling to make ends meet. Doctor Strange was an arrogant prick before and even after his accident.  Tony Stark was an arrogant prick alcoholic.  I have/had a cleric who is afraid of the dark, a warlock who is colorblind,  a dwarven thief that was kicked out of his clan, loves opera, and hates ale (one did not cause the others).  

One of the things the New School D&D players do and do well is to think about their characters and try to build a good group dynamic.  This is mocked in Old School circles as "back story" but that is a rather naïve or limiting way of looking at it.   It is simply a different way of having fun with the same game.

Here is another video where she talks about 50 Character Builder Questions to ask of your character.  Now in a game like D&D where characters can grow and change a lot based on what happens around them then I say it is ok to answer "I don't know yet" or even change answers later.

She does these before each session (not all of them of course) and I think that is a good way of doing things.  I have been looking at her list and thought I might use some of them for my 31-day character challenge in January. 

Aisling

An aisling is a poetic dream or vision and an Irish name for girls.  It is also the name of Ginny's elf warlock/druid character.  And she is also such a great character!   Here are some videos about her character.



Count me among those that have grown to love Aisling as well. She is such a great character and sounds like she is a lot of fun despite no because of her various flaws. 

Since I feel that Ginny's advice is actually in line with Old School character creation ethos I wanted to try to recreate Aisling for old school/OSR D&D.  Since she is a warlock/druid "witchdaughter" it makes sense to me that she is a type of witch.  Her Fey patron, Ùir, the Woman of the Soil, would make her a good Faerie Witch, but given her multiclassing into a druid and other factors, I see her as a Green Witch.   All apologies to Ginny for borrowing Aisling here.

Aisling by Ginny Di
Aisling by Ginny Di
Aisling
Female Elf
5th Level Witch (Green Witch Tradition) 

Strength 8
Intelligence 14
Wisdom 15
Dexterity 13
Constitution 15
Charisma 15

Saving Throws
Death Ray/Poison 13
Magic Wands 14
Paralysis, Polymorph 13
Dragon Breath 16
Rods, Staffs, Spells 15

Hit Points: 19
AC: 7 (leather)
To hit AC 0: 18

Occult Powers
Familiar: Psuedo dragon "Nightshade"
Herbal Healing

Spells
1: Fey Sight, Fury of the Ancestor
2: Blazing Gaze, Evil Eye
3: Bestow Curse

Patron: Ùir, the Woman of the Soil
Coven: Solitary

I think this works well. 

There is a lot of "fan art" of Aisling out there.  Here is one from joenni, an artist I want to feature one day.

Aisling by joenni
Aisling by joenni

I can't do fan art, but I can do character write-ups.  I hope I did her justice.

check out Ginny's sites and especially her video content. It is all great fun.

Links