Showing posts with label 0e. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 0e. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Plays Well With Others: BASSH, Basic Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

I love my Basic-era games, Holmes, B/X, and BECMI and their clones.
BUT I also love Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  The games are similar of course, drawing from the same sources, but there are also a few differences. 

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (AS&SH) is more closely aligned with "Advanced Era" D&D, but its feel for me has always been more OD&D, though over the last few years I have been treating it as another flavor of Basic.  

I have mentioned in the past that I see AS&SH as a good combination of B/X and AD&D rules.  Essentially it is what we were playing back in the early 80s.  Where I grew up it was not uncommon to come to a game where people would have an AD&D Monster Manual, a Holmes Basic book, and a Cook/Marsh Expert Book.  The rules we played by were also an equally eclectic mix.
AS&SH is like that. It favors the AD&D side more, but there are enough B/X influences that I smile to myself when I see them.

In fact, it works so well with Basic that I have featured AS&SH with other Basic-era books in previous "Plays Well With Others."
I find the game that useful and that inspiring.

Class Struggles: Which Each Game Offers
Originally this was going to be a Class Struggles post, but with the inclusion of the monsters below, I felt it had grown beyond just that.  

If Basic-era D&D lacks anything in my opinion it is class options. Yes. I know the classes are supposed to be archetypes to play anything.  A "Fighter" works for a Paladin, a Ranger, a Barbarian, a Knight, and so on.  But I like a little game mechanics with my flavor.  I also like to have choices.

AS&SH achieves this in a beautiful way that can be adopted by any Basic-era game, but in particular, ones that cleave closest to the original sources and of course Holmes, B/X and BECMI.

So we are going to go beyond the Basic Four (Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User, and Theif) here.  I'll talk about demi-humans in a bit.

In AS&SH we have our Basic Four; Fighter, Magician, Cleric, and Thief.  Each also gets a number of subclasses.  Fighters get  Barbarian, Berserker, Cataphract, Huntsman, Paladin, Ranger, and Warlock.  The Magician has the Cyromancer (a new favorite of mine), Illusionist, Necromancer, Pyromancer, and Witch (an old favorite of mine).  The Cleric has the Druid, Monk, Priest, Runegraver, and Shaman (see BECMI).  Finally, the Thief has the Assassin, Bard, Legerdemainist,  Purloiner, and the Scout.  Each subclass is very much like it's parent classes with some changes. Every class goes to the 12th level.

Looking over at the Basic side of things we have a few more choices.  Holmes, B/X, and BECMI all cover the Basic Four in more or less the same ways.  BECMI gives us the additions of Paladin, Avenger, Knight, Druid, Mystic, and the NPC/Monster classes of Shaman and Wicca/Wokani/Witch.

Advanced Labyrinth Lord gives us the Assassin, Druid, Illusionist, Monk, Paladin, Ranger in addition to the Basic Four.

Old-School Essentials' Advanced options give us the Acrobat, Assassin, Barbarian, Bard, Druid, Illusionist, Knight, Paladin, and Ranger.  It also gives us the new race-as-classes Drow, Duergar, Gnome, Half-elf, and Svirfneblin.

The B/X RPG from Pacesetter has the Druid, Monk, Necromancer, Paladin, and Ranger along with the Gnome and Half-elf.  (Yes, a review for this is coming)

AS&SH classes go to the 12th level.  Basic classes, at least B/X flavored ones, go to the 14th level.  I like the idea of splitting the difference and going to the 13th level. 

Additionally, AS&SH has different cultures of humans to provide more flavor to the human classes.

All the Basic-era books have demi-humans that AS&SH lacks. Lacks is a strong word, the game doesn't need demi-humans by design, but they are still fun to have.  Combining these gives us the best of all worlds! Kelt Elves? Dwarf Picts? Lemurian Gnomes?!  This could be a lot of fun.

Plus the mix of cultures in AS&SH is second only to mix found in BECMI Mystara in terms of "let's just throw it all in there!"

I might let people choose one of the Basic Four and stealing a page from D&D5 allow them at 2nd or 3rd level to take "sub-class."  I'll have to see what the various classes all get at first level vs 2nd and 3rd level.

Monsters! Monsters!
It's can't be denied that AS&SH has some great monsters.  Not only does it give us demons and devils (Basic-era is lacking on both) but also Lovecraftian horrors.  Sure, "At The Mountains of Madness" took place at the South Pole, who is to say there is not a similar outpost in the North? 

BECMI does talk about "The Old Ones" a lot and in the Core Rules is never very clear on who or what they are.  But it is not a stretch to think that those Old Ones and the Lovecraftian Old Ones have a connection.  

Oddly enough these things feel right at home in a Basic game.  If one goes back to the Masters and Immortals sets with the original idea that the Known World is our world millions of years ago this tracks nicely with some Lovecraftian mythology of our world.

I have talked about Demons in Basic/Mystara already, but AS&SH offers us "The Usual Suspects" and then some.  While Labyrinth Lord has always been good about opening the "Advanced" monsters to the Basic world, the monsters of AS&SH are of a different sort.

Maybe more so than the classes these require a bit more conversion.  Here is a monster we are all familiar with (and one I am doing something with later), drawing from the same sources to give us three or four different stat-blocks. 

Well. Not that different I guess. They are left to right, top to bottom, Advanced Labyrinth Lord, AS&SH, OSE, and B/X RPG.

AS&SH looks like a "best of" stats, combining features from both Basic and Advanced. Bite damage does a bit more on the average and the XP value is higher.  But nothing I am going to call game-breaking.

So the AS&SH monsters can be dropped pretty much "as is" into a Basic-era game. 

Anyone that plays these games should have no trouble with this really.

Putting it all Together and then Putting it in the North
It's settled then, AS&SH is part of my "Basic World" and where to put it is easy.
In the Known World of Mystara, there is already a Hyboria. It is one of the features of both D&D (Mystara) and AD&D (Hyperboria, Oerth) just as Blackmoor is (Mystara, Oerth). but Blackmoor is a topic for another day.

While none of the maps can be reconciled with each other to make one perfect Hyperboria, the concepts certainly can. This is something I have been considering since I first got the 1st Edition Boxed set.
I know that my family of witches, the Winters, come from the Hyperborean area.  Likely closer to more civilized areas, but not too civilized.  This became the basis for my Winter Witch book. 

BASSH is Born
So take what I love from AS&SH, mix in what I love from Basic and I have Basic Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, or BASSH.  Yeah. This will be fun.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Iron Falcon Handbook of Monsters

I have talked a lot about Basic Fantasy in the past.  It is one of my favorites of the Retro-Clone movement and it in many ways reflects how I played back in the early 80s with a mix of Basic D&D and Advanced D&D.   Something I think that a lot of people did and something that creator Chris Gonnerman was keenly aware of.

A while back I discovered he had done ANOTHER game called Iron Falcon.
Iron Falcon, like Basic Fantasy, is a Basic-era Retro Clone, though more on the side of OD&D than AD&D.  Gonnerman is more explicit about this being a game not of the rules "as they were written" but more "as we played them."

That appeals to me.

You can get Iron Falcon in lots of places.  In particular the dedicated website, Lulu, Amazon and of course DriveThruRPG.   I hope to play around with it some more to see what it is all about, but so far it feels like a nice mix of OD&D feel and Basic D&D play.

But today I want to talk about the Iron Falcon Handbook of Monsters.  Or rather, let's let Chris Gonnerman talk about it and his plans for it.

The Cafepress shop can be found here,

There is a lot of cool merchandise here and like Chris mentions, the difference here between this and a Kickstarter is you get something right away.   I think it is a great idea. I am going to have to grab a t-shirt or two.

So check it out and come back every month to see what is new and different.

I'll try to get some Iron Falcon reviews up soon.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Class Struggles: The Alchemist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bard Games

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Classic Adventures Revisited: Palace of the Vampire Queen

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

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

So to start off this series, what better adventure than the one that started it all?

Palace of the Vampire Queen

In the beginning, there was a belief that all DMs would naturally create all their own adventures and there was no market for pre-written ones.  The only printed adventure out at this time was "Temple of the Frog" in Blackmoor.  Seeing a need, the Palace of the Vampire Queen was written by Pete and Judy Kerestan. Yes, the very first adventure was co-written by a woman.
The first edition was self-published, followed by a second and third edition by Wee Warriors (1976 and 1977) and distributed exclusively by TSR.

The "Dungeon Master's Kit" (module was not being used yet) presented a simple adventure with a singular goal; defeat the Vampire Queen.  The plot, such as it is, is very thin even by the standards of what would later be the norm.  The maps are fantastic, but the descriptions are little more than that; what's in the room in terms of monster and treasure.  We get a background, the missing princess of the Dwarf King Arman of Baylor. Vampire Queen herself remains nameless.

The adventure itself is fairly straight forward.  Go to the Palace, defeat the monsters and the Vampire Queen and save the Dwarven Princess.

Despite, or maybe because of, this limited background this adventure can be used anywhere with nearly every version of the game.   I became aware of this adventure many years ago and it immediately went on to my "must find" list. Around 10 years ago I was able to get a copy and I ran it for a group using Moldvay Basic/ Cook Expert (BX) D&D.  It was a lot of fun.  There was no indication on how many characters were needed or what levels.

The adventure reminds me a bit of the Dungeon! board game.  You walk the halls, kick in the door, kill the monster, take the treasure, repeat.  Of course, this adventure is the first of such adventures so it gets a huge pass on this.  There is a lot though here to keep any DM and party busy.

Since 1976 the adventure has had a few reprints.  The first ones were by Wee Warriors.  These prints regularly go for over $1,000.00 on eBay.   There were two such covers, the "black" cover with a castle in the background and the "queen" cover, featuring the vampire queen herself.

The covers were folders with a pocket for notes or other sheets.  I nice idea and one I have used myself. Many of the early prints were 8.5" x 11", some later prints were digest-sized, 5.5" x 8.5" same as the OD&D books.

The next major set of reprints was made by North Texas RPG Con and Pacesetter Games and Simulations who printed a fairly accurate representation of the original back cover in digest format and then later a letter-sized one with images from all the covers.

While they are not the originals, but the content is all there and these were much cheaper.

Now today, Precis Intermedia has a new cleaned up reprint of the adventure.

Daughters of Darkness: Sequels to the Vampire Queen
As can be imagined such a classic adventure has had a number of sequels and homages.

North Texas RPG Con
This is the reprint of the original.  It is a fairly faithful reproduction of the 1977 version of the black cover version.  The first digest-sized version was a fairly faithful reproduction save for the NTRPG Con watermark on every page.  The digest size makes it perfect for use with OD&D, S&W, OSE or other OSR games.

To my knowledge there are no more of this print available save for on eBay and other game auctions.

Pacesetter Games

The first round of reprints and sequels after Wee Warriors came from Pacesetter Games & Simulations.

V2 Palace of the Vampire Queen

This printing was more properly letter-sized, the same as the original and features many of the cover variations on the cover of this edition.
This edition also includes introductions from the author Peter Kerestan and Pacesetter's Bill Barsh. Here we learned that the very first edition was printed by Peter himself with a printing press!
Here we also get a fair reproduction of the original.  After the introductions and the adventure background, we get to the levels proper.  On the two pages are the original maps and descriptions and on the following pages are "updated" AD&D 1st ed stats. These new pages usually cover 3-4 more pages till the next map. This repeats for all five levels.  On the new pages, a little more explanation is given and there is new art.  This makes for a fuller product and detracts none of the original charms.

Print at Pacesetter.

V5 Palace of the Vampire Queen: Castle Blood
The first sequel to PotVQ is Castle Blood.  Now here we get more modern adventure designs and maps. There is more background here too to hook the players in,
The adventure is brief, but it is supposed to be, at just 16 pages. It can be run in an afternoon.  I actually felt this worked better as a prequel to the PotVQ.  You learn more about her history here. The eponymous castle is all detailed and above ground.  You can meet the Vampire Queen here, but killing her is not the goal of this adventure, but rather finding out what is going on.
PDF at DriveThruRPG and Print at Pacesetter.

V6 Palace of the Vampire Queen: Crypts of the Living
Crypts of the Living was written as an explicit sequel to the Palace of the Vampire Queen and makes more overt references to the first adventure.  The booklet, 16 pages worth, says it is designed for 5th Edition, but all the stats are for OSRIC/1st Edition.  No worries. Converting is easy.
There are references to both the Palace of the Vampire Queen and Castle Blood.  The other adventures are not 100% required to play this one, but it does help.
The adventure is a fairly straight forward exploration affair.  There are new monsters and new magic items so that is a nice bonus. Can be played in an afternoon or combined with the others for a longer campaign.
PDF at DriveThruRPG and Print at Pacesetter.

V7 Palace of the Vampire Queen: Cries of the Tormented
This one is not presently available and I don't seem to have a copy oddly enough.
Print at Pacesetter.

Precis Intermedia
Palace of the Vampire Queen
This version of the adventure also preserves much of what made the original a classic.  The PDF of this book has a "special feature" to show a reprint of the original NSFW art.  The print copy is all paper, with the cover made out of heavier weight paper (like résumé paper).
At 24 pages it might be the most faithful reproduction yet.  While the cover is new art, the interior looks like the classic.  No additions have been made to the text. The maps are cleaned up, darker ink and clearer to read.

Other Vampire Queens
Dark Wizard Games gave us the fantastic Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen. But I have talked about that adventure many places here. Most of my posts on this are captured below.

0one's Blueprints: Megadungeons - Palace of the Vampire Queen
This product is a pretty bare-bones affair, and that is exactly why you want to get it.  You get 7 pages of "Blue" maps and 7 pages of black and white maps covering over 210 rooms.  The rooms are labeled but that is all the description you get.  There are sheets for you to detail the rooms with monsters, occupants, and treasure.  This is perfect if you want to create a mega-palace for our mysterious Vampire Queen and stock it full of her undead minions.  At just under $2.00 it is a steal.

Other Games / Plays Well With Others

The strength of this adventure is how easy you can adapt it to nearly anything.  The adventure itself, regardless of which one you have, is so bare-bones it begs to be adapted and added too.  I have run this both for Basic, B/X D&D and for D&D 5th edition with no problems.  The level of characters can be adapted to easily with the challenges and the monsters you add.

Palace of the Vampire Queen and D&D5
Converting for D&D is easy. What might be more fun is to run something like Curse of Strahd, but replace the count with a Queen.

Palace of the Vampire Queen and Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea
This is the easiest of all really.  AS&SH is close enough to AD&D with hints of Basic to make it possible to run this without any conversions at all.
How to run it?  Well all I can say is have you ever read the Conan stories "Red Nails" or "Hour of the Dragon".  The queen would make for a good stand-in for Akivasha.

Palace of the Vampire Queen and Blue Rose
Ah. Now this one has a bit more going on for it.  This is no simple dungeon crawl, to play this one the Vampire Queen is in a battle of wills or "chess game" with the Sovereign, Queen Jaellin. This style of adventure would play heavily on the investigation skills of the envoys/characters.   Our Vampire Queen might even be known as a vampire even, just as a new ruler of a previously unknown island (Baylor).  Of course, you have your suspicions and you are fairly sure there is a strong taint of shadow about the land.

Palace of the Vampire Queen and Buffy,  Ghosts of Albion or Leagues of Gothic Horror
Here is something fun.  A twist on the Dracula story.  The cast comes to an old palace in the mountains from their home.  Expecting an old Lord they are instead greeted by a woman, the Lady of the castle.  Here the horror begins.
Both game systems have plenty of creatures and elements to cover everything in the adventure.  What you as the game master will need to do is smooth out some "D&D" elements and add some gothic elements, but that is so easy that I can't decide which one would be more fun Unisystem or Ubiquity.
All three would be fun to try sometime.

One could get easily lost in the potential of this adventure.  I do hope that future reviews of classic adventures prove to be just as fruitful.

The Acaeum,

Links to Adventures
Links to my 'Vampire Queen' posts

Monday, March 11, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Beasties II from Night Owl Workshop

Now I have gone on the record, many, many times, talking about how much I love monster books. My first glimpse into D&D was way back in 1978-79 when I first saw and read the Monster Manual.  Very few books have come close to that feeling of unlimited potential.  So when a new monster book comes out, I have to take a look and usually grab it.

Beasties II from Night Owl Workshop has something of a pedigree in my mind.  The art and text are from none other than Thomas Denmark.  He is responsible for some of my favorite art during the d20 boom, in particular, Citizen Games' "Way of the Witch".   Plus I LOVED Beasties I so grabbing this was a no brainer for me.

Beasties II is a digest-sized book. 90 pages with black & white art. According to the sales text on DriveThru the book contains:
27 Monsters
8 NPC's
40 Drawings
1 Map
Article on Goblinology

The book follows the same format as Beasties I. Like the first Beasties it certainly punches above its weight class in terms of monsters and content.  All the text and art is by Denmark himself. 

The book is designed for "Original Fantasy Rules" but plenty of conversion notes are given for OSRIC and Basic Fantasy.  There are also some conversion notes for Nite Owl Workshop's other games Colonial Troopers, GuardiansWarriors of the Red PlanetRaiders of the Lost Artifacts and Freebooters.

The definition of "monster" is certainly very old-school too, with some traps, "minor monsters", and NPCs included for good measure. 

But the REAL reason to get this book is goblins.  There are several goblin hybrids; Blorc, Bugbearzerker, Gnomblin, Hoblin, Hoblin (Cruel), Koblin, Zoblin and a whole article on Goblinology or the Ecology of the Goblin.  Frankly, the book is worth it for all of this alone. 
Seriously. If you like goblins then grab this now.

There are also some undead and some really fun fiends.  The Drumph gets a full publication so that is now.  A new aquatic humanoid race is introduced, the Shahatha.  I rather like them to be honest and will be porting them over to my 5e game.

The NPCs are also a lot of fun.  One, Isaina Lyd’ar, reminds me of the work he did for Way of the Witch.  So much so I might convert to a White Box Witch.   She looks like she would be fun to play. Maybe she is a Sinderan Witch tradition.

So a lot of great content for $4.  Plus the entire work is released as "Open" under the OGL so that is a nice touch.

Bookmarks in the PDF would have been nice as well as a PDF clickable table of contents, but that is a minor thing really.

If you love monsters get this book.
If you love goblins you REALLY need to get this book.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

TBBYANR: The Wasted Lands

Whoa. A Best Blog You Are Not Reading post? 
Yes!  This is a feature I wanted to bring back for 2019 to give a shout out to some lesser know, lesser read blogs or at least ones people may not talk about much.

Today I want to feature a blog that has been around forever, out there doing his own thing.

Jason Vey runs the Wasted Lands blog

Now I have known Jason for years.  We worked at Eden together, worked on the Buffy RPG at the same time.  He playtested my Ghosts of Albion for Eden I playtested his All Flesh Must Be Eaten books for Eden.  I playtested his Spellcraft & Swordplay retro-game and many other games.
So we have been working together for nearly 20 years really.

Among other things Jason also is the author/designer of the Amazing Adventures game from Troll Lords and did a lot of work on various Castles & Crusades projects.  So he has a solid game design reputation and CV.

The Wasted Lands is his deep dive, scholarly work into older editions of D&D, in particular, OD&D and AD&D first edition

He covers a lot of OD&D topics.  In fact I bought my white box OD&D 5th printing off of him because he had an extra.
He covers AD&D First Edition, he is now up to Part 45 of his read through of the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide.
And more recently he did a long series of posts on Psionics in the OD&D and AD&D games.

And today, much closer to our shared roots, he posted stats for the cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for OD&D.

Jason is also something a legitimate Robert E. Howard and Conan scholar.

So do yourself a favor and check out his blog. Start with what I have linked above and don't ignore his Star Wars posts.

Monday, January 22, 2018

This Could Be Hobbit Forming, Part 2

Note: Part 1 is here and more discussion is here.

Well I have one kid down sick and another I had to rush to the ER because he cut off the tip of his finger.  (Both kids will be fine).  But that, of course, means no weekend gaming report.

What I did though was give a little more thought on what my Middle Earth game might be like.

I know there are some perfectly good Lord of the Rings/Middle Earth games out there.  I played MERP in the past and I was one of the playtesters for the Cubicle 7 The One Ring game.  I will talk about those at a later date.  There are also some other games that others have let me know work well for Middle Earth.  I might touch on those too, no idea yet.  One, Rolemaster, intrigues me because it is not the sort of game I normally would do with RM.

No. Today I want to talk about something I have wanted to do forever.  D&D in Middle-Earth.  So per my normal weekend-game prep I set some books up on the old-treadmill and went for a run.

I think by now we all know that the effect of Tolkien on D&D has been purposefully diminished over the years.  The reasons are varied (and various) but largely seem due to avoid more legal issues.

The evidence is there that Tolkien did have an influence on D&D.  Here is my copy of Chainmail with the Fantasy Supplement.

Moving in on this.

So here we have "Hobbits", "Balrogs" "Ents" and even "Nazgul" among the standard "Elves" and "Dwarves".   These were scrubbed from later editions.

Regardless of all of that, it brings up my first candidate.  Original D&D.

OD&D has a LOT going for it.  The rules are really stripped down, the class selection is few and the overall power level is what I feel represents the average to high-level adventurers in Middle Earth. Despite wizards, dragons, and rings, Middle Earth is a low magic setting.  Even great swords like those forged by the elven smiths in Gondolin are at best what, +3?  Nothing like a vorpal sword, or even a sword of sharpness.  OD&D does this really well.

The biggest issue I have with OD&D is that I already had a grand experiment with it.  Back in 1988 I spent a summer playing in an OD&D campaign with rather mundane characters; 3d6 in order, no substitutions unless an ability was lower than 7.  Now don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the hell out of that game.  But I am not sure if I want to do that again or not.

Naturally, I thought, maybe Basic D&D is the way to go.

I am planning on limiting my Middle Earth game to just 10th level.  If I throw in the Expert set I might go to 12.   Here again, there are a ton of compelling reasons, for me, to use this.
I love Basic era D&D.  I can do so much with it.  I also even think that race-as-class would work; except for a halfling burglar.

While I really wanted to stick with something pure D&D at about the 1-mile mark I came to a realization.  The game I want does exist.   It is OD&D like.  Limited to 10 levels. And has the feel I Want in a game.   It is +James Spahn's The Hero's Journey Fantasy Roleplaying.

Hero's Journey is James Spahn's love letter to the Hobbit and the kinds of adventures inspired by it.  This is not a grimdark game so it would fit my needs perfectly.  Plus James has worked on Cubicle 7's Adventures in Middle Earth RPG so he has the background to pull it off.

Now. I have no idea if I would include my own Hedge Witch in this.  She doesn't really fit, but I pulled my book anyway to see.  Hero's Journey not only has the feel I want, but it also has the classes I am looking for.  While I am not likely to use OD&D/Basic/HJ's Wizard or Magic-user at all, I do see a spot for the cleric.  Only instead of serving gods they the scholars of Arda.  Plus we will need some healing magic.

I think I am going to come up with a basic character concept, maybe even a couple, and see how well I can create them in these games and selcted Middle-Earth dedicated games.
Obviously I will have to use a young hobbit adventurer, a dwarf fighter of some sort maybe an elf and a human too.

This won't be a long-term or even a serious campaign, but one I can run when I have the desire to do something light.

Just need to find a time to set it all in.  I am thinking at the start of the Third Age or maybe near the end of the Second Age.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

DIY Swords & Wizardry Light Folder + Something new

(Ugh. That election.  But I am not going to sully this blog with talk of our new national nightmare.)

+Erik Tenkar's Sword & Wizardry Light is out. More or less.  It's a great idea and has endless utility.

I played around with the file some to get something I could print out and use.  So I decided to do this.

A touch unwieldy sure, but still very useful to have.  Works as a GM screen or a folder.

Now if I only had something to put inside...

Oh.  Yeah. That looks good.

Have some editing and some checking to do, but stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

In Search of... the Holmes Witch

Very recently this image popped up again. This time on Tumblr.

Which started a conversation on the existence, or lack thereof, of the Holmes Witch.
The witch, as speculated then, would have been a sub-class of the Magic-User.
But where did this come from?

Well research into the original Holmes manuscript over at Zenopus Archives, gives some backing to long-held idea that the witch was something added later on in editing.

Gygax himself weighs in on this here, again thanks to Zenopus Archives.
"That mention slipped by me, and all I can assume was that either Eric was planning to force such a class upon me, or else someone editing the work thought it a good joke to play. I never had a PC class of that sort in mind for the game." (Enworld forum post archived at greyhawkonline)

In truth there never really was a "Holmes Witch".  There are "Holmesian-like Witches" to be sure (I classify my own witch class as more "Moldvay"), but nothing he ever wrote himself.

Other discussions
- Recent Google+ discussion that prompted this post
- An older OD&D Boards Discussion
Um, I was promised Witches?
- Holmes Rules: The Witch

- Tom Moldvay on Witches

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