Friday, September 22, 2017

Kickstart Your Weekend: Adventures at End of the World Collection

Well according to the latest Doomsday theory tomorrow is the end of the World. Again.

But hey don't let that stop you! There are some great Kickstarters to be had.

Up first is another one from mad wizard +Mark Taormino.

Dark Wizard Games: Double Mayhem Adventures


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/marktaormino/dark-wizard-games-double-mayhem-adventures
This one updates Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen and Secret Machines of the the Star Spawn. With new art and editing.  There is also the chance to get updates of other modules.


Burial Plots for the Cryptworld Game


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1895361773/burial-plots
This book has five new adventures for the Cryptworld game.  +Dan P does some really great things with Cryptworld.  I wish I had the time to play it more to be honest.

Baker Street: Strange Cases and Hood: Beyond the Forest



https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/fearlightgames/baker-street-strange-cases-and-hood-beyond-the-for/
A new casebook for Baker Street and adventures for  Hood: Swashbuckling Adventures in Sherwood. Adventures Beyond the Forest.   +Bryce Whitacre has done a great job and Baker Street is a lot of fun. I have not played Hood, but if it is half as fun as it sounds then we are in good shape.

And what is the end of the world without demons?

Hell Awaits... Wave 1


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/552604905/hell-awaits-wave-1
Some more demons based on old woodcuts.  Pretty cool if you ask me.

So go out and spend your money! We could all be dead tomorrow! ;)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #81

Today I set the Wayback Machine to my Freshman year in High School.  I was just getting over an 18-week long bout with a brutal combination of chicken-pox and pneumonia, both for the second time. No joke, I dropped to something like 80 pounds and was in the hospital on IVs. Don't even remember how I got there.  But by January I was getting better enough to go back to school.  1984 was a big year for me in terms of geeking and gaming. I had just finished reading all the Lords of the Rings books and was watching a lot of Doctor Who.   For me, everything was either Doctor Who or George Orwell jokes as we go to January of 1984 for Issue #81 of This Old Dragon!

This issue is in not too bad of shape really.  The cover is missing, which is a shame because it is one of my favorites interestingly enough.  A furry ice dragon (I am going with a dragon) and an adventurer on a wooly mammoth? What's not to love really.  I also hold this issue up as a typical issue of the time "Before" my time buying Dragons.  It is not one I ever saw in the stores (that I can recall 35+ years later) but it one that I saw other people carry around.

Kim Mohan's Editorial covers how they will no longer be printing the adventures that won the adventure design contest some time back. This is too bad, but I easily see why. I think this might also have lead to a later decision to create "Dungeon" magazine, but I have nothing to back that up.  It is just taking too many resources to get the adventures to a publishable state. The last adventure is printed and will be talked about later.  Thinking back to some of the adventures I wrote back then I cringe to think about what they would have gotten.  I hope I can find the adventure contest rules in an earlier issue.  I wonder what the submission requirements were and whether they took printed manuscripts or if they accepted floppy disks in the mail yet.

Letters cover more requests for back issues, reprints, and even the runner-up adventures. Others complaining about how the magazine has changed for the worse over the last year.  I swear some people are never happy.

Our first article is a good one. One of my old DMs had kept a copy of it to use all the time.  Much to my chagrin.  Taking the sting out of poison by Chris Landsea was another attempt to classify poison.  Personally, I never had an issue with what was in the DMG and thought it was good enough.   But I also only ever played one assassin ever my entire gaming career, so it also did not come up a lot for me.  But it also covered Holy and Unholy Waters, something I used a lot, so that was kinda cool.

Another ad for my FLGS.  They still have the same number! Well, the area codes have changed on them twice since this add. It went from 312 to 708 to now 847.  Plus another ad for the Witch Hunt game.  Seeing these again makes wish I had not sold the game back in a Games Plus auction now.



The fiction piece comes early. In the Cleft of Queens by Esther M. Leiper.  Looks like it is about some dragons.

On page 24 we get The Forum: a new feature.  The introduction of the Forum.

Ok. Up next we have The Ecology of the Basilisk by Ed Greenwood which is a fine article in it's own right, but reading has gotten me thinking.  In fact, my thoughts might be considered heresy in some parts and even I would not have considered them two years ago.  But I am beginning to think that Ed Greenwood has contributed more to Dragon than Gary Gygax did.  I am not talking about *D&D in general, just Dragon Magazine.

A big two-page ad on the new Advanced Dungeons & Dragons miniatures line, followed by an article on minis.

Pete Mohney is next with Chariots for characters: Adapting ancient vehicles for AD&D play.  I always had this plan to play a Classical Greek/Roman/Egyptian game completely based on the classic myths.  I wanted a copy of this article because how can you not have chariots in a classic game.  I still might do that one day.  I mini-series of just mythology themed games where the Gods meddle directly in the affairs of humans.

Now here is an oddity.  Presented in the middle of the magazine is an AD&D character build for Cú Chulainn by Roger Moore.  This is prior to the introduction of the UA Barbarian, which he would have been perfect for, so he is 22nd level Ranger/12th level Illusionist with some Bard ability.
It's not a bad build really, but someone like Cú Chulainn is hard to build since he was essentially a superhero of the Red Branch myths of Northern Ireland.  It's interesting though that the only reason he has an Illusionist class at 12th level was so he could the powers of his berserker rage, called a "Warp spasm" or Ríastrad in the myths.  But if you read over these stats he is very much the prototype of the barbarian class we will later see.  I also did some stats for Cú Chulainn for the Ghosts of Albion game.

Up next is The Ruins of Andril designed by Ian Melluish. This is a high-level adventure, levels 8-11, for 4-8 characters.  It is an investigation of an old "Egyptian" ruin.  I have flipped through it and looks fun.  Part of me wants to run it if for no other reason than for its historic place in Dragon history.  It's a long one, for Dragon, at 16 pages.

Michael Dobson's Living in a Material World covers almost everything you need to know about material components for your AD&D or any other FRPG.  Now I love material components. If you are playing in an Old School D&D game I am running then your spellcaster better have their proper material components or they can't cast the spell.  Thought I do make most components easy to find or buy AND I allow substitutions.  Don't have that pinch of sulfur for your fire based spell? Try a pinch of dirt see what happens! This article is a long one, 10 pages, and covers a variety of materials and their uses.   Well worth visiting again.

Off the Shelf, a few pages later, covers the latest books of the start of 1984.

Lewis Pulsipher is back with Get out of the Medieval Rut in The Role of Books.  Again this might be the issue that got me interested in the idea of running a classical game. Lew covers books detailing ancient Rome, ancient Egypt and Greece (well Athens in particular).   I have some similar books on my too be read pile.  Now to figure out which system to use.

Ken Rolston reviews some new gaming titles in Gaming without Heroes. Or Horror Role-playing titles.  Featured in this review are the infamous Shadows of Yog-Sothoth for the Call of Cthulhu game and the Ravenloft module.   Of the two Rolston has high praise for Ravenloft, but feels that SoY-S does a better job of conveying fear, terror, and dread.

Lots of ads. Convention Calendar. Dragonmirth.
What's New with Phil and Dixie has Dixie's Dragon Notebook. Wormy and SnarfQuest introduces a revolver to an AD&D world. Wackiness ensues.

Really a fun issue with so much I want to use in a game still.
If nothing else it has renewed my desire to run a sandbox like adventure int he Classic world.

Want to see what I thought of White Dwarf from the same month?  Check out White Dwarf Wednesday #49.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Class Struggles: AS&SH 2 Warlocks and Witch Lords

The new Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, 2nd Edition from +Jeff Talanian is out. It's going to take me a bit to go through it all.  But so far I am enjoying the hell out of it.

One thing that the 1st Edition had that the new 2nd Edition has expanded on is the Warlock class.
The book tells us:
Some warlocks practice the sorcery of cryomancers and may be referred to as ice lords; others practice the sorcery of pyromancers and may be referred to as fire lords. Perhaps the most feared and reviled of warlocks are those who practice the black arts of necromancy (death soldiers)...
Pretty cool really. And it got me thinking.

Yesterday I worked up the character Grimalkin as a warlock that has chosen witch magic as her type of  Sorcery. There is something interesting here. Something pretty cool.

Witch Lords

Warlocks the choose witchcraft as their sorcery see (Vol. II, p. 148: Table 68) are known as Witch Lords.   These warlocks are often found protecting the covens of more powerful witches or ruling over covens of less powerful ones.

Curse of the Witch Lord by tmza
Using the Grand Coven idea from my Warlock for Swords & Wizardry you can use Witch Lords as the leaders of Grand Covens in the Hyperborean world.  Instead of the usual compliment, a 9th level Warlock can gather, they may opt to form a Grand Coven.

The troop gathered include these 0th-level fighters of 1d8 hp each (known as cowans).
* 15 longbowmen (studded armor, longbows, short swords)
* 5 cavalrymen (chain mail, lances, light crossbows, horseman’s flails; light warhorses)
* 20 light crossbowmen (chain mail, small shields, light crossbows, long spears, short swords)
* 15 halberdiers/pikemen

They also gather the following coven
* 9 initiate witches of 0 level
* 3 witches of 1st level
* 1 witch of 2nd or 3rd level

A 9th level witch and a 9th level Witch Lord that gather together can create a cult stronghold to house all these members.

Once again, AS&SH is firing up my imagination for a game.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Witches of the Last Apprentice: AS&SH 2nd Ed.

When I was reading the Last Apprentice books a couple years back I thought that they would work well with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  The vaguely weird fantasy and human-centric worlds I felt worked well with each other.  Plus it seems to me that both works drew on the same original works.  At least that is the feeling I got.

I finished the recent book, I am Grimalkin, just about the same time my copy of  Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, 2nd Edition came in the email. It seemed to me that these two works are destined to remain together in my world.

Flipping through the new book get me into the mood to try out a few of the new classes and see what I could create.   Plus I have to admit that if you took the picture of the man on page vi with the sharpened teeth and fingers on his necklace and made it into a woman she very well could have been Grimalkin herself.

The races of AS&SH are very compelling as well and work with this world.

Alice Deane
Alice is one of the first witches we encounter in Delaney's Spook series. Though we don't know she is a witch at first (but we suspect it) nor do we know how really powerful she is and will become.  I am starting with her because she is the easiest to categorize. She is a witch.   The biggest issue with Alice is for someone so young she is already REALLY powerful. I made some compromises but am happy with this.

Alice Deane
Witch of the Dean and Malkin clans
Female Witch 5th level
Neutral

Race: Kelt
Secondary Skill: Scribe

Abilities
Strength: 10
Dexterity: 10
Constitution: 16
Intelligence: 17
Wisdom: 15
Charisma: 14

Casting Ability: 5
Fighting Ability: 2

Hit Points:  13
AC: 9
Saving Throw: 14 (+2 Transformation, +2 Sorcery)

Powers
1st level: Brew Potions, Read Magic, Read Scrolls, Scribe Scrolls, Witch Spells, Familiar
3rd level: Brew Philtre
5th level: Dance of Beguilement, Effigy

Spells
First: (4) Alter Self, Decipher Language, Light, Scare
Second: (3) Darkness, Hold Person, Perceive Heartbeat
Third: (2) Black Cloud, Wind Wall

Grimalkin
One of the first I did when working on my Pathfinder and D&D 5 stats for Grimalkin was to think about what might be the best multiclass or dual class option to make a "Witch Assassin".  Well AS&SH doesn't do multiclass or dual-class.  Instead they rules have several subclasses that serve the same purpose. I opted to use a Warlock class for her in this case.  I also opted to cheat a little and limit her Warlock spells just to the Witch spell list.  There is a precedent for this with the Warlock taking spells from the Magician, Cryomancer, Necromancer or Pyromancer lists.

Grimalkin
Witch Assassin of the Malkin clan
Female Warlock 10th level
Chaotic Evil

Race: Kimmeri-Kelt (with some Amazon somewhere in there)
Secondary Skill: Weaponsmith

Abilities
Strength: 17
Dexterity: 18
Constitution: 14
Intelligence: 17
Wisdom: 15
Charisma: 14

Casting Ability: 10
Fighting Ability: 10

Hit Points:  54
AC: 5 (Leather)
Saving Throw: 12 (+2 Transformation, +2 Sorcery)

Powers
Magic Item use, Read magic, Read scrolls, Scribe Scrolls, Sorcerery (Witch spells), Weapon Mastery, Stronghold

Spells
First: (4) Charm, Detect Magic, Scare, Sleep
Second: (4) Darkness, Find Traps, Obscure, Detect Invisible
Third: (3) Black Cloud, Delay Poison, Slow

Sword (3/2 attacks) +3 to hit, 1d8 +3 damage
Dagger (3/2 attacks) +3 to hit, 1d4 +3 damage

Thorne Malkin
Thorne is the apprentice of Grimalkin. She got the job at age 10 when she snuck up to the witch and kicked her in the shins.  Grimalkin normally would have killed the girl for her impertinence, but instead saw something in her that reminded her of herself. Thorne has been the apprentice of Grimalkin for the last five years.
For Thorne I am opting for the Legerdemainist class. This class is a subclass of the Thief with magical ability.  I figure anyone that can sneak up on the legendary Witch Assassin it would have to be a thief of some sort.

Thorne Malkin
Apprentice Witch Assassin
Female Legerdemainist 4th level
Chaotic Evil

Race: Kelt
Secondary Skill: Weaponsmith

Abilities
Strength: 15
Dexterity: 16
Constitution: 14
Intelligence: 15
Wisdom: 13
Charisma: 15

Casting Ability: 4
Fighting Ability: 3

Hit Points:  54
AC: 5 (Leather)
Saving Throw: 14 (+2 Avoidance, +2 Sorcery)

Powers
Backstab, Agile +1 AC, Discern Noise, Hide, Manipulate Traps, Move Silently, Open Locks, Pick Pockets

Spells
First: (2) Charm, Scare
Second: (1) Darkness

Sword +1 to hit, 1d8 +1 damage
Dagger +1 to hit, 1d4 +1 damage


I think I like the Warlock better for a Witch Assassin over the Ledgerdemaist.   But in the case for Thorne I think it still works great.

Can't wait to try this system some more.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Grimalkin the Witch Assassin

"I am Grimalkin, the Witch Assassin.  I am the mother of Death. She follows behind me leaving bloody footprints in the grass."

Also known as "Spook's: I Am Grimalkin" by Joseph Delaney.

I decided to go back to the Last Apprentice/The Spook series since it had been a while since I had read the last book.  This one dealt nearly exclusively with Grimalkin, the witch assassin of the Malkin clan of witches.  We last saw her leaving Tom Ward and the Spook, John Gregory, after they had trapped and beheaded the Fiend.  Grimalkin is now on the run from her sister witches with the Fiends head in a bag.  If they capture her they will bring back the Fiend.

I rather enjoyed this one.  It was a fast read since it was full of action Also the character of Grimalkin is a fascinating one.  We learn why she hates the Fiend so much despite being a malevolent witch herself.  We learn why she became a witch-assassin too and some of her early training.

We also learn a lot more about all these witches.  For example, Grimalkin has an apprentice of her own, Thorn, a girl she is training to be the next witch assassin.  Grimalkin cares quite a lot for this girl and takes pride in her accomplishments much like a mother would.   She also cares for Alice Dean and Agnes Sowerbutts, two other witches we have seen in the past.   Even when acting evil, these witches are very, very human.  Which really puts the past books and especially John Gregory's behavior in some very dark light.  In the end, I was asking who was truly the evil one here?

The book has a great build up but the final battle at the end is over too soon in my mind.

You can find all of Joseph Delaney's Spook's series and books here: http://www.spooksbooks.com/

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 21
Level: Crone!
Witches in this book: 4 featured, hundreds implied.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: They are supposed to be evil witches, but a lot in this made me rethink that.
Best RPG to Emulate it: Nearly any D&D game would work great.
Use in WotWQ: Grimalkin is such a great character. I would LOVE to use her or someone like her in my War of the Witch Queens game.

A while back after I finished Rage of the Fallen I worked up Grimalkin for Pathfinder. I thought it was great, it captured the character well I thought.  For this book I wanted to give her a try for the Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition game.
The D&D5 game does not have witches (yet) but they do have Warlocks, and for this character that works out well to be honest.   She has a "Fiend Pact" which I felt was appropriate given her background in the books.  I went with the variant human so I could give her a dual wielding feat.
I suppose I could have made her Warlock/Ranger as some sort of hunter too, but I liked the idea of giving her the Rogue (Assassin) class.   Maybe I'll try that out with another system.

Grimalkin, the Witch/Assassin for D&D 5th Edition.



Friday, September 15, 2017

Mona Dowie, In Memoriam

You may have already heard or read this by now, but artist and friend of the Other Side Mona Dowie lost her fight with cancer this week.



Her husband +William Dowie informed everyone via Facebook that Mona had passed at 9:08pm on September 13.

Sadly the bills for cancer and now the funeral don't go away.
So if you have a few coppers you can spare please head over to her fundraiser and spare what you can.
https://www.gofundme.com/Mona-Shaffer-Dowie

I feel honored and privileged to have known her. We talked games and our mutual love for witches and Stevie Nicks.  We chatted at length on how she completely got my character Nox.  I shared with her notes from my old Buffy game describing her and she drew exactly what I had without even knowing it.

My thoughts are with her family and especially her husband William at this time.
I can't even imagine what he might be going through now.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #156

It's April 1990.  I am a Junior in University at this point and working on my very first psychology study (I compared incidents of violent imagery vs. sexual imagery in heavy metal and rap videos.  Conclusion: they both love sex. Gave me a solid appreciation of rap and hip hop).  Twin Peaks is on the TV for the first time ever. On my play list though is the newest Sinéad O'Connor album "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got". I even skipped Calculus to go get a copy of it and an extra one for my then best friend (and now my wife). What I didn't have and didn't want though was This Old Dragon Issue #156!

Ok. I didn't own this issue at the time. I knew about it of course. I believe, in fact, I am sure I first saw it at +Scott Thorne's Castle Perilous.  I didn't know how good I had it then, to be honest.

Does it feel like I am avoiding the issue? Yeah. I am.  It's an April Fools issue and not at all one of my favorite ones. Let's get into because there are some seriously nice gems later on.
The cover. Daniel Horne does some great work. This is not one of my favorites, but it is one is funny.  Besides, haven't we all made this joke or some form of it before?

Letters.  Ok, these are all fake letters in an attempt to be funny.  Yeah. Not so much really.

Ad for Dungeon magazine.  Man, I loved Dungeon.  Maybe when I am done with this I could something with Dungeon.

First up in the April Fools section is Not Necessarily the Monstrous Compendium. A collection of "funny" monsters.  Ok, some are fun and I would use them in a crazy adventure like an Expedition to the Barrier Peaks or something with a lot of mutants.

A cool ad for I.C.E.'s Cyber Space game.  Was anything more 90s than that?  Cyber Punk vampires maybe.

Razznarock! is an adventure.
Yet Even More [Gods Forbid] Outrages From the Mages is a Pages From the Mages spoof.

It's not that I don't like humor in my games, it's I just don't find these all that funny.

The Game Wizards covers the newest in computer games.  Mechwarrior from Activision, Champions of Krynn from SSI/TSR and Sword of the Samurai from Microprose.   This is less of a review and more of a "coming attractions".

Another ad, this one from TSR itself, from their book department.
They sponsored a Writing Workshop!  Looks kind of interesting.



I wonder if anything came of this?

Speaking of the book department. J. Eric Severson is up with Novel Ideas, featuring three new Forgotten Realms novels: Iron Helm, Horselords and the Wyvern's Spur.  Again this is half preview, half advertisement. In the 90s novels were TSR's big cash cow.  I personally never read any of the Forgotten Realms books (well, till this year) but I bought and read every single Ravenloft novel printed.  Hey some of those Ravenloft novelists went on much bigger and better things, P. N. Elrod, Christie Golden, Elaine Bergstrom, Tanya Huff and newcomer on the scene, Laurell K. Hamilton.  More on that when I cover those issues.

Other Side favorite Vince Garcia is up with Can You Swim? Juggle? At the Same Time? a new skill system for D&D.  Now this is for the D&D game. The BECMI version, not the new AD&D 2nd Ed game that had a skill system.  Like everything with D&D it is simple and easy to learn.
It is no where near as complicated as his magnum opus Quest of the Ancients might later imply.

Dale A. Donovan is up with the Marvel-Phile with a bunch of villains I have never, ever heard of.  They seem to be based on Alice In Wonderland.

Wrestling with Style is Greek wrestling adapted to AD&D by Janne Järvinen.  It seems to mostly be based on the Illiad, which of course is fine.  At this point I had read the Illiad about two years ago, but damned if I remember any of it.

Let see, a ballot for the Origins Awards for 1989.

Sage Advice is split by a program for the Gen Con Game Fair for 1990.



The whole thing is still really small.

TSR Previews has the "must buy" items for March and April 1990.

Characterization Made Easy: A little personality goes a long way for all characters comes to us from Scott Bennie and is a guide for giving your character some more personality. At three pages it is not exhaustive, but the tips are nice especially in what is essentially a Pre-Vampire the Masquerade world.

Interesting note.  All the adds on these pages for companies in Great Britain.  Made me wonder at first if I had a British edition of this magazine, but my CD-ROM version matches it.

Through the Looking Glass has some great horror minis to show off shading techniques.

Convention Calendar has a lot of cons to hit for the Summer of 1990.

Ken Rolston is next in Role-Playing Reviews.  There is something to notice here first.



The review is copyrighted by the author.   This comes up every so often when people ask whay can't Wizards do another Dragon CD-ROM (well, Blu-Ray ROM now) collection?  OR (and this is my least favorite) since TSR is gone all those old Dragons are in the public domain (no. they are not.)
In this case this little copyright hits on both of those.  WotC, just like TSR before them, does not have the rights to this article.  Sure they printed the first Dragon CD-ROM and they got into a LOT of trouble for it.
Also. If you are reading this right now the Dragon copyright will not "expire" till long after you are dead.  Sorry. I don't make the rules.

So back to the reviews.  These focus on City and Urban adventures.  Now I LOVED playing in cities at this time so this review was heaven-sent.  I grabbed Greyhawk Adventures: The City of Greyhawk and I totally ignored the Forgotten Realms: City System.  I should have gone the other way around.  Though both products have their positive and negative aspects.

The Role of Computers gives us a proper review of Champions of Krynn, saying it is the best AD&D computer game yet!

There are few pages missing from my issue so I turned to the CD-ROM to find that some barbarian had cut out +Bruce Heard's first installment of Voyage of the Princess Ark!  I think I am going to take one of my "This Old Dragon" days and do a retrospective on this.  I have been dying to see it all together in one place as a whole for some time now.  Alas for toady though I can't talk about it since it breaks my rules.  If it is not in the magazine I can't talk about it.

Missing is the first page of the Ecology of Behir. This would have been fun when my players ran into one recently.

Dragonmirth has a bunch of comics complete unfamiliar to me.  Well, I guess I know of Yamara and The Twilight Empire, but I really don't know anything about them.

So the April Fools stuff aside, this turned out to be a fun issue.
While it was published back in the Halcyon days of 2nd ed, it did not contain a lot of 2nd Ed material.  The Greater Behir was notable.

Even at 27 years old this Dragon, for some reason, still feels newer to me.  Maybe because I never owned it back when it was new or maybe because it was out in a time when I was not playing so much I don't attach a lot of nostalgia to it.

What are your memories of this issue?

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