Wednesday, April 26, 2017

S&W Warlock: Meet Nik Nak, Goblin Warlock

Nik Nak is one of the first warlocks I worked up for my new Warlock for Swords & Wizardry.
He is a sneaky little goblin, but smarter than most.

Nik Nak by Jacob Blackmon
Nik Nak
3rd Level Goblin Warlock (Bogelbo)
hp 11

S: 9
I:  13
W: 10
D: 12
Cn: 10
Ch: 14

Saves: +2 to saves against charm, hold, paralysis and sleep spells.
BtH: +0
AC: 7* (lesser if Armor of Shadows is invoked)
Alignment: Chaotic

Arcane Blast, Agonizing Blast, Armor of Shadows

1st: Häxen Talons, Obedient Beast
2nd: Poisonous Stare

Nik Nak is a respected, and feared, member of his goblin clan.  He is an impressive and smarter than average goblin. So smart in fact he found his way to the center of the Goblin City and presented himself to the King of Goblins beseeching him for power.  The great King admired the young Nik Nak's verve and granted him a token; a feather from his own cape.  The feather became Nik Nak's warlock familiar and now Nik Nak serves as a warlock with the Faerie Pact to the Goblin King.
In battle, Nik Nak carries a bone rod and wears leather armor. He rides on a giant frog (named "Mrs. Black") he has made obedient. He wears the skull of a giant rat as a helmet. Though this is more to protect the feather he has braided into his long dreadlocks than his own skull.
Nik Nak is a goblin, but he is not a particularly evil one.  He has learned that the threat of violence and terror of his power is usually more effective than actual violence.
Also, Nik Nak is perfectly happy to deal with adventurers in amicable terms as long as there is something in it for him or his Lord the Goblin King.

Usually found in the Goblin Wood outside the Haven Valley, Nik Nak can also be found wandering the Goblin Market where he trades wares, and insults, with other Bogelbos or in the town of West Haven where he deals with darker beings.

Despite racial enmity, Nik Nak has friendly if strained, relations with the Winterhaven gnome clan. This is mostly due to the legendary friendliness of the Winterhaven gnomes.

The Warlock for Swords & Wizardry will be out April 30, Walpurgis Night.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #56

WHAAAT?  A This Old Dragon on a Tuesday? What sort of shenanigans are these? It's true, it's Tuesday and this is Dragon #56 from December 1981!  According to my notes, I have two copies of this one.  Well, I only found one and it is missing the cover and the next pages. Also, there are lot "holes" in the magazine, things cut out for nefarious purposes (I assume), so I am hoping that my other copy is in better shape (but I doubt it).  I popped in the Dragon CD-ROM to see what I was missing.  First thing I notice is this great Phil & Dixie cover. Damn. That would have been cool to have really.   Well lets get  into what I DO have (remember what the rules are, if it is not in the magazine I have, I don't talk about it).  It's December 1981, I am in Jr. High and this is This Old Dragon!

First glance, this is a different feeling magazine than what I would later get used too.  Last week I talked about issue 84 as sort of the Dargon I was most used to.  This one is similar, but there are differences too.  Granted there is 2 years worth of development between these, but some of it might just be MY perceptions.   I didn't own this Dragon back in 1981 and that was before I started buying them. They say the past is a foreign country and this is foreign land indeed.

Out on a Limb confirms we are in a foreign land. One letter wants TWO magazines at only $1.50 each, or if TSR must be greedy, then $2.00 for one of them.  Quick peek at the CD-ROM tells me this magazine costs $3.00 back then.  We never knew how good we had it.

Ok, now the meat of this issue.  Singing a New Tune is all about a new Bard class.  Jeff Goelz gives us a new, single classed bard based on the Welsh bard.  There are a lot of good reasons to do this and this class looks good.  The level progression feels like a mix of fighter and wizard. The bard gets Druid and Illusionist spells (not Magic User) though some spells are off the lists.  I sorta remember this one but I know I never played it. I really want to now. Bards are fun.

Sage Advice follows with some advice on the PHB Bard.  The interesting point for me here is that all these issues brought up are solved by the previous article. Granted the readers submitting these questions don't/didn't have this article.

Bill Howell is way ahead of the curve here with Songs instead of Spells for the bard. This article also works out well with the first one.  Now the bard is much more of a performance caster than what the PHB bard is or even the Goelz bard is.  This presages the bards of 2nd edition and beyond.  Frankly, I want to use all three to play a 1st Ed Bard again just to see how well this works.  I know there are other versions out there. Maybe I'll run into them.

William Hamblin is next with Map Hazard, not Haphazard. This long article (6 pages) is all about creating fantasy maps. It's cool and all, but I am not looking for that level of detail in my games most times.

One of the ads has something cut out of it that mars the next article.

A quick look through the CD-ROM and it looks like all the pictures of skulls were cut out of this issue.  Over protective parent? Or did someone need to decorate their Trapper Keeper?  I say it's 50/50.

The next article over is Gary's From the Sorcerer's Scroll.  The hole goes through some of the magic circles (which will be reprinted in module S4) and the introduction to the North Central Flanaess.  Also a longer article and certainly interesting enough to Greyhawk historians.   I am sure that all of these have been collected online somewhere.

There is the 5th annual AD&D Tournament Invitationaltional entry form.  You can enter for Best Original Monster, Best Original Spell, Best Original Treasure or Magic Item and Best Original Trick or Trap.
Any idea of what entry won or who won them?

BTW, the pages of this magazine seem a lot thicker than later magazines.  No surprise really, but I did notice it.

Mad Merc by Merle M. Rasmussen and James Thompson is the centerfold adventure. This time for Top Secret. It's a big adventure really. 20 pages. I am little surprised it is intact here.

Figuratively Speaking has a nice article on metal miniatures. Or I assume. The pictures were all cut out!

Ah. Here is something fun.  Some new monsters. I love new monsters.  We have the Shroom from Lew Pulsipher which I think was in White Dwarf too. (quick check, nope it did not). None of these jump out at me, but maybe I'll use them some day.

Off the Shelf features a sci-fi novel about the rise of Donald Trump.

Finally Wormy and What's New? are in full color!
I think Wormy had always been in color, but this is new for What's New.

Nice little trip to a foreign land. I am going to have to visit more often.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Monstrous Monday: Leviathan

Have not done one of these in a long time.

I thought it would be nice to present a monster from my new Warlock for Swords & Wizardry book.

In the book I introduce some new demonic races including the Eodemons or the Proto-demons.  These are creatures that lived in the lower planes long before the devils were cast down or the demons were there.  Warlocks can beseech the Eodemons for power, but there is always a danger.

Here is the Eodemon Leviathan.
Leviathan has featured in a number of my games and is the destroyer of worlds. "He" eats magic and is attracted to worlds full of magic. "He" has destroyed a number of worlds already in my multi-verse and he hungers for more.
Warlock can choose the Leviathan as a Patron, but doing so makes the Leviathan aware of the warlock's own world.  Some warlocks believe that tapping into the Leviathan's power weakens him and keeps him in a sedated state.

Hit Dice: 25 + 19 (131 hp)
Armor Class: -6 [25]
Attacks: 1 bite (4d6)
Saving Throw: 3
Special: Capsize, digestive acid, swallow whole, dominate and summon water-borne creatures, spells, +2 or better weapon to hit, immunity to fire, electricity, and poison, magic resistance (100%), telepathy 100 ft.
Move: 24 (swim) / 9 (ground)
Alignment: Chaos
Challenge Level/XP: 34/8,600
This monster is supposed that this is the oldest of all the Eodemons.  Leviathan is so ancient that even other demons seem in awe of “his” age and power.  It assumed that it is a he though there is no evidence to suggest either way. Leviathan exists only for one purpose; to feed.  Leviathan can be found in the Astral realms devouring entire worlds.
"He" spends his time in the deepest parts of the oceans of the worlds that Leviathan visits. Here he consumes all living forms and is drawn to the world with strong magic.  After devouring 800,000 levels/hd of magical life Leviathan will then be strong enough to destroy the entire world.  From there he moves to a new world where he rests before starting the cycle anew.
Leviathan is completely immune to all magical attacks. Consequently, he is incapable of using magical attacks or spells.

Leviathan can appear as a large sea monster, whale or other great gargantuan creature.

Powerful Warlocks that share Leviathan's desire for the destruction of magic and the world can become his Exarchs.  The Hand of Leviathan and the Voice of Leviathan are his heralds.  The Hand appears first to destroy and sacrifice powerful spell casters. The Voice proclaims the return of their lord and opens the gate to allow Leviathan to swallow a world whole.
Killing these heralds does not stop the coming of Leviathan, but it does slow him down.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Swords & WITCHERY! Introducing The Warlock

Once again +R.J. Thompson is hosting Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day.

I have known about Swords & Wizardry for a long time. I just never really played it much.
Part of the problem was I felt it did not live up to the claim of feeling like a 0e D&D.  I had a good retro-clone for that in Spellcraft & Swordplay.  But last year I sat down and played a few Swords & Wizardry games and I really loved it.
Part of this was due to +James Spahn's White Star, a game I really enjoy.

Playing this and the publication of Swords & Wizardry 3rd Printing I decided to do a series of Witch books.

My idea was simple really.  Produce smaller books featuring a witch class variant for Swords & Wizardry or a compatible game. Each book needed to do a few things for me.

  • Each book needed to be a complete class. Everything you need except core rules.
  • Each book needed to offer something new, so customers never felt like they were buying the same material over and over.  Yes, there has to be some overlap, but I typically want 75% to 80% new material.
  • Each book needed to be 100% compatible with the other books. So if you did buy them all you had something that would work together. 

So far I think I have met with success.

My S&W Witch books to date have been:

The Witch for Swords & Wizardry Light
Levels 1-5 for SWL.

The Witch: Aiséiligh Tradition for Swords & Wizardry
A new tradition compatible with The Witch and future products.

The Witch: Hedgewitch for the Hero's Journey RPG
The Hedgewitch tradition for the Hero's Journey RPG and 100% compatible with S&W and other witch books.

Of course Sisters of the Aquarian Order.
Witches for the White Star game.

Today I would like to announce the publication of my newest "Witch" book for Swords & Wizardry.

Next week, on Walpurgis Night, I am releasing The Warlock for Swords & Wizardry.

Cover art Copyright 2015 Dean Spencer

The Warlock includes:

  • The Warlock class
  • New race: The Teiflings
  • Rules for goblin, hobgoblin and bugbear warlocks
  • 160+ spells
  • 50 Warlock invocations
  • New monsters including the Baalseraph, Calabim, Lilim and Shedim demon groups.
  • Animal Lords and Faerie Lords
  • New Items

I still need to add the art but looking at 64-68 pages.

Hope you all enjoy it!  Look for more in the coming week.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Kickstart Your Weekend: Journey To Ragnarok

Every so often I get a Kickstarter sent to me and I am like "Whoa! That looks awesome!" and then I wonder, why haven't I seen this elsewhere?

Such is the case for Journey To Ragnarok: A Norse Mythology Adventure for 5e.

It looks awesome and the timing is right with American Gods and Thor: Ragnarok coming to screens near you.  It funded fast. But this is the first I have heard of it.

The book is for 5e and looks like it will be a good fit.  With information for playing in the Nine Worlds of Norse Myth.

The book will contain:

  • The Nine Worlds setting based on Norse Mythology 
  • Adventure Module for players from 1st to 15th level 
  • New archetypes for all the classes
  • The Rune Master: A new playable class!
  • The Norse Pantheon: an in-depth description of deities and semi-deities
  • The Runic Divination System
  • Mythological and Magic Items
  • Creatures and Encounters from The Nine Worlds
  • Adventure Maps
  • Stunning Artworks by Art of Guardino.

And the art looks amazing.

I have a soft spot in my heart for the Norse Myths and this looks fantastic really.

They are shipping from Italy, so keep that in mind when pledging (shipping costs will be higher).

Plus every pledge level gets a mead recipe! I HOPE they send the recipe after you pledge so you can make the mead and let it do it's thing while waiting for the books.

This is a fantastic looking book. I am going to be getting this myself.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #84

Let's go all the way back to April of 1984 to issue 84 (the only time that the year and the issue were the same) for an April issue I don't hate.  So put on a copy of Van Halen's "1984" cause it's April 1984 and this is "This Old Dragon"!

Dragon 84 is an interesting one for me.  It was almost my first Dragon.  I was going to go buy it at my local bookstore, but the agreement was I had to buy D&D books with my own money.  So instead of this I got something else. Can't remember what.  I wanted to go back and get it, but by then Dragon #85 was out so I got that one instead.  Yes, folks the very first Dragon I owned was issue 85. But more on that later.

Kim Mohan's editorial discusses the lack of "foolish" content in this issue.  He also discusses how this is the LAST issue with Phil & Dixie!  But it is also the first issue featuring the Ares Sci-Fi section, that is cool.

The first full article up is A cast of strange familiars by Stephen Inniss. Back then I tended to stick to more traditional familiars; owls, cats, bats and the like.  This was a great article since it expanded on the lists of potential animals and benefits for the Magic-User.   My own witch class was still a bit off from happening at this point.

An interesting ad appears on page 13. Riddle of the Ring claims to use names from an "uncopyrighted" work of J.R.R. Tolkien.  I wonder how that worked out for them in the long run?  Contrast that with a panel later in "What's New!"

Ed Greenwood and Elminster are back in Ecology of the Trapper.  Interesting article, but I always wanted them to do more interesting monsters.   We get that later in the issue.

Never the same thing twice: Filling out facts and figures on the rakshasa family by Scott Bennie is the sort of thing I was hoping for!  Rakshasas are really interesting and this article expands on that considerably.  I do remember making a Xerox copy of this article because I wanted to do something more with these guys.  I never did really, but I did end up adding them to the ranks of the devils for my own games.

Interesting ad for the Little Wars convention. I guess in 84 it used to be really close to where I live now. The Willow Brook Inn is no longer there, but Little Wars is still going strong.
There used to be so many cons. In April to June there are 25 listed here.

Ah.  Now a bit of history.
And then there were three is a "preview" by +Frank Mentzer of the new D&D Companion rules.  The article starts off with a bit of history on how the "Companion" rules were hinted at in 1980 (yeah we know!) and it was not till 1982 the go ahead was given to create it.  Reading the article you certainly get the feeling that Gary (oddly misspelled as "Garry" at one point) anoints Frank and hands him the UR-Tablets of D&D and tells him to spread the Gospel to his people. Or something like that.
Frank details the design and gameplay assumptions behind the Companion rules.   This includes more epic quests and even outer planar play.  The Masters and Immortal Sets are also teased here as well as the War Machine large-scale battle system.  What the four classes can do after 15th level is discussed with options such as the Druid, Paladin, and Magist.

The centerfold is Part 1 of a two-part RPGA adventure "The Twofold Talisman".  I ran this back in the mid 80s and had a good time with it, but the Star Wars puns in it felt old to me even then.   I thinkI'd like to run this again someday.

In the Reviews section by Ken Rolston, they cover some FRPG classics. A new edition of Chivalry and Sorcery, a game I always wanted to try, is first up.  The big one is a review of the Basic and Expert sets of D&D, the B and the E in BECMI.  I was not a fan of these editions, having firmly come off of the B/X versions before moving (at this time) to AD&D.  Of course, now I appreciate what was done here, but I should have read this review back then. I might have been a little less quick to judge these set unfairly.

Next is the Ares Science Fiction section, a new feature for Dragon and one I always enjoyed reading.  This section only gives us a taste really of what is to come.

First up is one of the articles I most associate with Ares; their series on detailing the Moon for all the major Sci-Fi systems out there.  It had everything I love. Science, RPGs, sci-fi and an obsessive compulsive need to do something to the Nth degree.  This first one covers the Moon for the Spae Opera RPG.  I always wanted to collect all of these and put them in a binder or something.

Ed Greenwood has another article this time it is The Zethra An NPC race for the STAR FRONTIERS game.  I get the feeling, reading this, that Elminster is out there somewhere in the Star Frontiers universe and Ed was just waiting for an excuse to use him in it.

No Marvel-Phile yet.  But there is a full page ad for the upcoming Marvel Superheroes Game!

Lots of really cool old ads.

So for the comics we have Snarf Quest #9, What's New? with Phil and Dixie, Talanlan, and Wormy all in the same issue.
We touched on this, but this is the last What's New until some special one-shots later on.  Phil & Dixie decide to finally find out WHY they can't do "Sex and D&D" and they get fired in the process. Still though, one of the funnier issue of this with plenty of cameos of Dragon and TSR employees.
This panel makes the Fellowship Games ad above look all the more odd.

We end with natually an ad for I.C.E.s Middle-Earth Roleplaying and a product that to many signified the end of old-school D&D.

I supposed I belong more the Silver Age than the Golden Age even though I had been playing for more than 4 years at this point.

1984 was a turning year for D&D.  We can see it here in the ads and the articles. We can see the turning in Dragon and in TSR in general with the publication of the BECMI sets, Dragonlance and Marvel Super Heroes.
At the time though it felt exciting, like we were entering a new age of gaming. It STILL feels like that's what it was. Sure we can read about how Gary was getting pushed out by this time and how in 85 the finacial toll was beginning to really harm TSR.   But as fans we never knew that. We never saw that side of things.  Dragon was our insight to the hobby and the sights were good.

What do you recall from this time?  How did you see all these changes?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Into the Nentir Vale (was BECMI/4e Conversion)

Yesterday's post on my BECMI/4e conversions really took off and it seems there is a ton of interest in it.  So I am going to explore the idea further.
Now I have been conversions since, well since forever really. Converting fluff, converting plots. That is easy. Can do it on the fly.  Converting the monsters is also no great task, but it does require some care.  Since I am already doing the work of 4e to BECMI I might as well through 5e into this too.
Why not.

Crazy Delicious
When I convert say between 5e and TSR D&D (1st, 2nd, Basic) I just swap out the monsters. It works nice.  When I add 3e into the mix then I want to look over the monster for any feats or powers it might have and make sure those get preserved somehow.  4e is a bit trickier.

4e, more so than either 3e or 5e, has a strict XP budget. You are expected to level up at certain points in the game.  This might not be true of EVERY 4e game, but it is of HPE adventures.
The other factor working against me is the 30 levels of advancement in 4e vs. the 20 in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.  BECMI helps me out here with a nice range of 36 levels.
I want characters to progress through these adventures AND still stay within their target levels.

So I am building a spreadsheet (I am a numbers guy afterall) to help me calculate the XPs given per adventure.  This will help me find the appropriate monster replacement for each game, help me balance the XP so the levels come out right and give me the exercise of going through each adventure and understanding each encounter.

Open in new tab/window.

I am opening up my spreadsheet so everyone can have a look and comment.  I am not opening it up to contributors yet since I also want the exercise of going through every monster in every adventure.
I added the data from yesterday's conversion and added a 5e column as well.  The 5e data has the advantage of using a VLOOKUP to allow me just to put in a CR and it spits out the XP.  I could do this with the 4e and BECMI ones as well, just have not done it yet.  I could also easily add Swords & Wizardry to the mix if people are interested.

If you scroll to the right (Col "O" to "R") you will see I have summed up the XP per adventure and then figured out how much per character based on the default (4e) party of 5 or a party of 6.  My feeling is that to make the levels work out with 5e I am going to have to assume that 6 characters are going through.  This should also make the combats faster.  I have not figured out what the optimal number of characters is for BECMI yet.

I will also have to convert the treasure.  There are some wildly different assumptions on what treasure needs to be in different versions of the game.  You get lots in 4e, not a lot in 5e, and in BECMI (or at least Basic) Treasure also gives you XP.

THEN I need to figure out what this all means for my Come Endless Darkness game.  If I run this set of adventures the party goes up against Orcus. In CED I also wanted them to fight Orcus.  Have to figure it out later I guess.

Other posts related to this:

Let me know what you think!
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