Showing posts with label 4e. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 4e. Show all posts

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!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

BECMI/4e Conversion, Ghost Tower of the Witchlight Fens

Last week I talked about RPGs and Sunk Costs.  This lead to a discussion of me converting my 4e collection into something else.  As is my wont, I opted for the most difficult conversion I could do and still be D&D; converting 4e to BECMI.

Since this is a test run I want something simple and something that others can look over to see what they think.  So for this trial, I am converting the free low-level adventure Ghost Tower of the Witchlight Fens. I am also using the D&D Rules Cyclopedia for ease of conversion here.

Ghost Tower of the Witchlight Fens is the 2nd adventure for a single player coming off of the D&D 4e Starter set.  The one that looks like the BECMI Basic Set.  Given this the character you are playing should be about 2nd level.   Now when I run this for real I am going to likely use it with a party and scale up the encounters.  But for now I want to see what a quick conversion looks like.
I am taking a lot of cues from the Classic Modules Today folks and just providing the monster conversions. I am not attempting to balance anything at this point.

Special Note: IF (and that is a big IF) I do these conversions I am going to all use the "Prince of Undeath" conversions for the HPE modules that were done by Myrhdraak a few years back.  This conversion makes it more of an Adventure Path style campaign that we now see from Paizo and WotC.  Plus it makes the Orcus plot more interesting.
Details are here:

Ghost Tower of the Witchlight Fens Conversion

Skill checks: Use the appropriate ability score. Perception is normally Wisdom, but use Intelligence where applicable.
Skill Challenges: Use as skill checks, but only provide XP if properly role-played.

Poison Dart and Poison Gas traps are Save vs. Poison or die.
Psychic Staircase trap is Save vs. Paralysis or take 5 hp of damage.

Sareth is a 1st level Elf with 7hp and 1 first level spell: Shield

Kobold Quickblade is a kobold chieftain (RC p. 187) with 9 hp (10 xp)  [100 xp]
Kobold Tunnelers (4) are normal kobolds  (RC p. 187) with 1 hp (5 xp each) [25 xp each]

Decrepit Skeletons (2) are normal skeletons (RC p. 204) with 1 hp (5 xp each) [25 xp each]
Grasping Zombie is a normal zombie (RC p. 213) with 13 hp (20 xp) [100 xp]

Skeletal Blackguard is a skeleton with 2HD (RC p. 204, 214-215) with 18 hp (25 xp) [250 xp]
Tomb Rats (5) are giant rats (RC p. 201) with 1 hp each (5 xp) [25 xp]

XP values in parentheses () are for BECMI D&D.  For comparison the D&D4 XP values are in brackets [].

In 4e a player would get a total of 725 XP from combat.  In BECMI/RC this becomes 110 xp.
So progression will be slower for RC.

I could follow this up with  The Dungeon of the Ghost Tower the next adventure.

Also, I can tell already that the combats for the BECMI version is going to be a hell of a lot faster.  This might not be such an insane idea after all.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

RPGS and the Sunk Costs

Often you will hear people exclaim that they don't need to buy any more/new RPGs because they have more than they will ever play in their lifetime OR they have found the only one they ever need.
I can certainly appreciate both of these claims.  I DO have more than I'll ever play AND I have the game (or really 3 games) I could play forever and never need a new one.

Yet.  I still buy games.

I am fortunate really. I can make my hobby pay for itself. I can buy the books I want, when I want.
Thankfully my needs are also small and specific, so I also tend to write the material I want more out need of the material than out of a cost saving feature.
Sometimes though I buy something and I never use it, or, I never use as I wanted to use it.

Take for example D&D 4e.

I have a lot of 4e books.  Many I bought REALLY cheap, but some I got new. In any case it represents a sunk cost for me. Even if I unload them all at my FLGS auction, I am not likely to make anything at all back from it.

I'd love to do something with it someday, but am I playing into a Sunk Cost Fallacy?
That is I'll never make my money (time, resources) back by put more money/time/resources int it.

I would love to the run the HPE adventures that are centered around Orcus and the Raven Queen.  I have read through them many times and started them and think it would be fun.

There are three scenarios I am considering.

1. Run them under 5e.  This one is more of a thought experiment for me really.  I'd try to run it as a 4e/5e hybrid to scale 4e's 30 levels down too 5e's 20.   I like this idea since it would make for an interesting experiment and test my knowledge on both systems.  Converting 4e to 5e is easier than say converting 4e to something else.

2. Convert 4e to Something else.  I am honestly thinking of doing this under BECMI. Using the honest to goodness Red Boxes and everything.  This idea appeals to me on a lot of levels. BECMI's 1-36 levels map nicely onto 4e's 1-30.  Both end in characters being immortals.  Naturally this is the hardest to do and appeals to me the most, though I have done it before.  The level differences and system differences would allow me to start H1 Keep on the Shadowfell at BECMI level 4 or 5 and give me 1-3 for other adventures.  Maybe even the Aleena adventure in the Red Box and the Witchlight Fens adventure in the...Red Box.

The more I think about this the more I like it really.   I would need to decided on Class and Race (like AD&D) or Race as Class (as BECMI).  In truth it would not be difficult.  The 4e races all have a class they seem to prefer.  Dragonborn would all be Paladins, Tieflings all are Warlocks, Half-Orcs are all Barbarians and so on.  Plus there is a lot I still like about BECMI that I want to do.
This is something I think needs delving into further.

3. Run the adventures under 4e.  The simplest solution, naturally, has no appeal to me.

Am I sinking more resources into a fruitless endeavor?  Should I cut my losses and run?

No idea yet.  But I think I can invest a *little* more resources with out (too much) loss.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Plays Well With Others: D&D 4th Edition and D&D 5th Edition

Seriously though hear me out on this one.

Long time readers will know of my enjoyment of 4e when it first came out.  I felt there was a good game here, even if it was not 100% D&D-like-we-knew-it.   Well it was pretty much derided by any old school gamer and those that did like it, loved it with a passion.

Well yesterday +Thomas Denmark over at Original Edition Fantasy/Rules posted a video about how to incorporate elements of 4e into your 5e game.

Here is the video he shared.

It's an hour long, but the YouTuber Matthew Colville is so earnest about this that it is fun to watch.  BTW he has a lot of other D&D videos as well. The guy is obviously a gaming evangelist so his enthusiasm is contagious.  So much so that this morning before getting everyone awake I dove into my 4e monster manuals.

It seems that Colville is onto something here.

I have mentioned before that there a number of 4e innovations I would like to adopt in my games.  Among these are some of the conditions, in particular bloodied, and the minion rules.

But today I want to talk Giants.

My group is working their way through a modified and expanded version of the G series.  They finished G1, "G4" (the R.C. Pinnell Stone Giant adventure) and G2.  Next they are going to do a mish-mash Cloud/Fog/Storm Giant one before going on to G3 and the Fire Giants.  But before that they are going to do a one shot based on the old Conan story, "The Frost Giant's Daughter".  My adventure will be called "The Frost Giant Jarl's Daughter" though roughly the same plot.

I will be 100% honest here. I was never a big fan of giants for most of my D&D adventuring days.  That is until 4e helped turn them into something else.  In 4e (and possibly before, I might have missed it)  Giants became the products of Primordials and Elemental forces.  They were not just "bigger orcs" but something else.  I really liked the 4e versions of giants that included not only giants, but also titans.  So you could have a Frost Giant and a Frost Titan.  The Titans were larger and more tied to their elemental natures.

In the G4 module I did a bit of this with the main Stone Giant being replaced by a 4e style Earth Titan.

In The Frost Giant Jarl's Daughter I am going to take Colville's advice and run the giants with more of the 4e elements than I had previously.  A lot more in fact.

The adventure takes place right after G2 (I am calling it G2.5, but I guess G2.45 is a better code).  The party must cross a glacier to get to the next point in the series.   However, along the way, they will be taunted by the apparition of a beautiful girl.  Now I need to be careful here.  I have an elf woman that has been following them all the way from the A series. They think she is a thief, but in reality she is a spy from another group that wants the same things the party wants.  I don't want to run into the cliche of a beautiful woman actually being something else.

Along the way there will be three 4e crafted encounters; a group of Winter Wolves, Frost Giant Skeletons and finally her two Frost Giant brothers.  The Jarl's Daughter is a Frost Giant Ice Shaper from 4e; or maybe the Frost Titan, have not decided yet.  So she is going to have some very nasty tricks up her sleeve.

If this works well then I am planning on doing this more in the Fire Giant's adventure.

A bit of personal history.  Back in the earliest days of my gaming when I was going through these adventures myself I found a 60mm metal mini of a knight in bronze armor.  To me it looked just like the picture of the Fire Giant from the Expert set.

I wanted my DM to use it as an advanced Fire Giant Knight.  Someone that would come out to challenge the players.  Given that the art above also has a passing resemblance to Brian Blessed in his younger days (think Flash Gorden era) he would be very bombastic. Well on the day we did G3 I forgot the mini.
Somewhere over the last 35 years I lost the mini.  I remember his leg broke off and I was very disapointed that my Fire Knight never made it to battle.  Well thankfully I have the internet and I found a replacement.

That's the Fire Giant Queen and next her is the Schleich Dragon Knight Hero.  He is not perfect, but he is really, really, really close.  I can use the Fire Titan stats for him and give him all sorts of kick ass powers, like Hurl Lava and Burning Wave.

The Cloud Giant queen, who is in reality the bastard daughter of the Storm Giant King and a Cloud Giant Sorceress, will be recast as a 4e Eldritch Giant.

D&D5 has long been touted as the edition to unite all editions.  I have seen that certainly in terms of Basic and 1st through 3rd.  There are some remnants from 4rh here, but we could do with some more.  4th Edition, despite it's issues, had a lot of really cool innovations and I'd hate to see those lost.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Alas, 4e (Part 2)

Over a year and a half ago I lamented the final loss of Fourth Edition D&D.
Whether it was the loss of the plans I had for the game, the game itself or the sizable investment I made in the rules I am not sure.

Tonight it is late, and I am working and looking across the room from my office to my game room where my Fourth Edition collection sits.

I loved the art. I loved the attention that was made to the design of the game.  Was it D&D?  I can't answer that for you.  For me it was "near D&D" just like Pathfinder was/is.  In some ways Pathfinder was more D&D 4 than D&D 4 was. They were cousins, born at the same time and whose grandparents had trouble telling apart as their favorite.

Since that post, I have been dipping every so little back into 4e.  I am not planning on getting back into it anytime soon that is for certain.  But I do wonder if someday I will.

I am also wondering about going all digital with 4e.

DrivethruRPG has a sizable collection now of Fourth Edition PDFs.  A few I have already bought.
I could simply unload a few of those books, not sure how or where, and then rebuy them on PDF.

I love that 4e was very modular in layout.  I very easily could cut up all the books and reshuffle them to have all the classes in one place, all the skills and feats in another. All the monsters, mostly alphabetic in yet another.   The organization appeals to my innate sense of order and collection (or is that OCD?).

The real question is, is it worth it?  Obviously, if I played the game more then yes.  But I only dabble. Here and there now. I like the fluff.   One day maybe I'll run the HPE Orcus vs. the Raven Queen arc in the Forgotten Realms under 4e.  But not anytime soon.

Meanwhile, till I decide it is going to sit there and stare back at me.  Taunting me.

What would you do?

I am up for an Ennie this year for Best Blog!
Please click on the link and vote "1" under "The Other Side".

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Edition Changes as a Role-Playing Device

It is no secret that I am a fan of most editions of D&D (and many games in general).  Since I began back in 1979 I have played every edition of *D&D there is and have found something to enjoy in all of them.

Since I have been playing for so long, I have also had campaigns that have lasted years.  Sometimes these campaigns span multiple editions.  For example, my kids started with characters in 3rd edition, then those characters have kids that were started in 1st Edition and then we all moved to 5th edition.  With the occasional side step into Basic or OSR games for fun.   I have used different editions of the game for flashbacks, dream-sequences and general out-of-body experiences.

But looking at the larger picture of a longer narrative have you considered the actual rule changes to part and parcel of what is going on in the world?  Obviously, if you only play one edition this will not mean much to you or if your games have no continuity between editions.   But I have characters that started in Holmes Basic and they have descendants in my current 5e game.   Usually, it is one generation per edition, but how can I explain it when a cleric only has a mace a weapon and no spells till 2nd level when his grandson, who is also a cleric of the same god can wield a sword in some cases and his son can cast minor spells at will?

Some things I did work into a large narrative.
When I went from Basic to First Ed I explained the Class/Race Split by saying that elves in my original lands preferred to become fighter/magic-users due to tradition, but elves elsewhere in the world would choose other classes.

Going from First to Second had the biggest hurdle regarding demons.  First ed had them, second ed originally did not.  So since I had just done a huge war to finish off my "high school" games before college I just said that the war had blocked all demons from coming back into the world.

Second to third was a longer time span of inactivity for me, but the big issue was the birth of Sorcerers; people with spontaneous magic in their blood. Is this a remnant of the re-opening of the demon gates?  Maybe.   Hmm....I think I see and adventure idea!

Fourth has a slew of problems.  Mostly though the change in the nature of magic.  I have regarded this as an odd conjunction of the planes; something that altered the Cosmology.  Again, sounds like a cool thing to play out one day.

Fifth then is the return to the way things were before...with some things changed permanently.

I know there are some "in-story" and "in-universe" explanations for these changes in a lot of the Forgotten Realms material.  I will have to check these out someday and see if they track with my own ideas.

What have you done?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A to Z of Adventure! P is for Paragon

P is for Paragon.

I already talked about the Epic Level adventures for D&D4.  The Paragon adventures were the middle of the road ones, for characters level 11-20.  (The Heroic Tier was for adventurers of level 1 to 10).
The Paragon level represented heroes as the movers and shakers of the world. The heroes that the common folk knew by name or at least by reputation.  The threats are greater for these guys, but the rewards are also higher.
These adventures continued the fight to learn of Orcus' plans against the Raven Queen.

It also is the level that the stress of D&D4 became really apparent.  In other versions of D&D these are levels where the threats begin to change and then become cosmic. We see that here too, but really the combat system of D&D4 was just more of the same slog.

I liked these adventures in concept. I still do in fact.  Maybe someone out there has converted them all to 1st or 5th Edition.  I could see a nice conversion using the current 5th edition adventure series format.  1st to 20th level.  It also would not be too difficult; you could easily cut out a third of the material above to create something that would work better for 5th edition.  The monsters would have to be cut down in number as well.  I would also cut some encounters out all together.  Work in the errata and tighten up the Orcus plot a bit more. It could work.

I guess I just really want to get some use out of my 4e materials.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

A to Z of Adventure! F is for The Forgotten Realms

F is for The Forgotten Realms.

I will admit I was never into the Forgotten Realms.  The setting just didn't appeal to me at all in the beginning.  That dislike turned into actual hate when it began to displace my beloved Greyhawk setting.  The popularity of Drizzt Do'Urden didn't help matters.  This persisted for many, many years.

I remember reading about the Realms in Dragon Mag and I was never impressed. The increased fetishization of the Drow and Drizzt worship turned me off as well. I can't tell you how much I despised "Lloth", it's LOLTH goddamn it. Any way. I saw the Realms as an upstart to Greyhawk and not even a good one to be honest. This oddly enough was right around the same time I played my first game of OD&D set in Greyhawk. To me Realms fans were snotty little kids with delusions of adequacy.

I began to change my attitude when I wanted to fill some gaps in my own game world.  Turns out that the Realms had some of the things I wanted.  Three of those products I'll go into detail in a bit.
The big one came with the 3.0 Forgotten Realms Campaign guide. Honestly I thought it was a damn near perfect 3.0 book.

When 4th edition came along I had changed my mind about the Realms and decided to set my 4e games in that world for a change of pace.
It was a great idea...for a while anyway.  In some ways for me the Realms and 4th edition remained tied together.   I am sure that this will irritate some of the old school Realms fans, but really it is their own fault. ;)

I went back and got the rest of the campaign setting books and boxed set.

The Adventures and Settings

FRC2 Curse of the Azure Bonds was the first Realms adventure I ever paid any attention too.  It was interesting to me for a few reasons. First it prominently featured a female protagonist; something we didn't see a lot of back then in the Pre-Xena days.  It also was a "Crossover" adventure in a couple senses of the word.  First, and what interested me, was that was usable for either 1st or 2nd Edition AD&D.  I liked this idea quite a bit to be honest.  It was also an adventure module, novel and computer game.  So there were many ways to experience it.  On the down side it always read as a bit rail-roady to me.  No surprise since it started out as a novel.  Also one of the main NPCs of the novel was a Lizard Man, a race you could not even play in 1st or 2nd ed AD&D.

FR9 The Bloodstone Lands covers the eponymous lands of Bloodstone.  I will talk more about Bloodstone on "H" day. But this is a good set of background materials.

FR2 Moonshae, I have a love/hate relationship with the product. I like the celtic influences, HATE some of the weird ass spellings of things. "Ffolk", really??  Still. If I ever do the Realms, then I Will use this.

Spellbound. Ok I will admit this is one of my favorites. Not just favorite Realms product, but favorite country setting.  Two magic using countries, one of wizards and the other of "witches". Lots to love her.

Castle Spulzeer and The Forgotten Terror.  A great set of crossover adventures for the Forgotten Realms and Ravenloft.

I might do more with the Realms some day.  But until then I have enough here to keep me busy.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A to Z of Adventure! E is for Epic Level Adventures (4th Ed)

E is for Epic Level Adventures (4th Ed)

Fourth Edition gets a bad rap from a lot of gamers, especially old-school gamers.  Which is really a pity to be honest.  There is a fun game there. There is even a fun D&D game there.  But alas it is also a game I am not likely to ever play again despite my investment of time and money in on it.

What I did like the most about 4e though were the HPE modules.  These were a series of three adventures for each "tier" of play; H for Heroic (1st to 10th level), P for Paragon (11th to 20th level) and finally E for Epic or 21st to 30th level of play.  Now while most D&D games stick to 20 levels, 4th edition went to 30. Well...1st had an assumed cut off at 20 and D&D BECMI went to 36th and beyond.  But I'll get to that.

The Epic level adventures were truly epics.  The adventure plot was discovering that Orcus, the Demon Prince of the Undead (and the cover boy on Prince of Death), desires to be a god and he sets out to kill the new Goddess of Death, the Raven Queen.  The E series had you confront Orcus in a reality-spanning quest to stop a mad demon with the powers of an ancient evil artifact.  It was a plot that appealed to me.  The series featured three modules.
Now back in the 1st ed days we battled Orcus back in the Bloodstone Series (H1-4), which I'll also cover on "H" day.  So this was not really all that original.  Indeed even today in the 5e world we have the Rage of Demons adventure series which includes Orcus.   Orcus is a very easy target. He hates everythng, wants everything destroyed and is a rampaging beast.  Which is also the biggest issue I have with these modules.  Orcus is portrayed as a schemer. He isn't. He is a beast. In my own games he is classified as a Rage Demon.  So I thought someone else pulling the strings behind him would make more sense.  Someone clever, someone evil, and someone that will use Orcus getting godhood just as a mask to his own plans.  So now I think you can see how my "Come Endless Darkness" was born.

Over the last couple of years I have come up with some fairly rough algorithms for 4e conversion.  So here are my current thoughts.

Plan 1.  Use bits of this plus bits of H4 Throne of Bloodstone to fold into my Come Endless Darkness campaign.  This is the most likely really.

Though I would still LOVE to use ALL these adventures someday.  Play all nine, ten or eleven if you count the ones that came with the 4th ed basic set and Ghost Tower of the Witchlight Fens.   I doubt I will ever run it under 4e, but stranger things have happened.
But I could convert it.

Plan 2. Convert for use for another game. There is some good stuff here really and I would still love to play all of them out.  Conversion could solve my issues, but how do I convert it?

Well if I am playing 2nd, 3rd or 5th ed then levels are about to 2 to 3.  So if the adventure says it is for 6th level then I take 4th level characters through and replace the monsters appropriately.

If I am playing B/X/C or BEMCI (aka "Basic") version of D&D or AD&D 1 then I add 5 levels to the characters.  B/X/C and BEMCI assumes that the characters, well, human characters, will advance to 36th level.  And your average 1st level 4e character is still more powerful than your average 4th-5th level character.

I am more likely to try it under Basic; going from 1st to 36th level.  I am not really sure how well it would work to be honest.  But I will also admit this is my conversion of choice.  It allows me to use all the cool OSR toys I have and use a system am very familiar with.  I would adopt some of the 4e trappings like conditions, especially "bloodied" and ideas like minions.
I have already converted 1st and Basic-era luminaries as Emirikol the ChaoticAleena and Morgan Ironwolf to 4e, so going backwards is not that difficult.

There are a couple of conversion guides out there too. WotC has one as does Sly Flourish.  But none that I have found so far back-converting.

If you are new to this and want to learn how to play 4th Edition D&D and see the first part of the HPE saga you can get H1 Keep on the Shadowfell & Quick-Start Rules for 4e for free.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Koliada, The Winter Witch for D&D BECMI

Yesterday I wrote about Koliada the Winter Witch for D&D 5th Edition.  While I really enjoyed how she worked out I could not help but think how she might fare under the 36 levels of the Basic-era D&D BECMI.

I felt from the start of D&D 4 that is shared certain characteristics with BECMI.  Both go to really high levels (30 for 4e and 36 for BECMI) and both have immortality as a possible option for characters at their highest levels.
Early on, and I am not sure if I posted this or not. I remarked on how 4e characters start out fairly powerful. I said, at the time, that really a 1st level 4e character is closer in power to a 5th or 6th level classic character.  I have been wanting to put that idea to use (and I'll talk about this next month in fact), but I thought I would give it a go here first.

In D&D4 Koliada is a 26th level character.  Let's work under the assumption that the translation for D&D4 to BECMI is to add four levels.  So Koliada would be a 30th level Basic/BECMI D&D character.  But what kind?
In 4e she is called a "Solo Skirmisher".  When I translated her to D&D5 I opted for a Warlock with the Magic Initiate feat to give her some Sorcerer spells too.  BECMI is not as flexible in terms of class customization.  Magic-User is a choice.  But, and this should be no surprise, I am opting for Witch as her character class.

My 5e conversion made it pretty obvious that she is a Fey Pact. In my Witch book this would translate as a Faerie Tradition.  Though I think there is now ample evidence to me that there must be something like a Winter Witch Tradition too.   Not ready to debut that just yet though.
Also, in complete dumb luck, a 30th level witch in my Basic Witch book has the level title of "Winter Court Witch".  Witch it is then!

Now I Would have LOVED to convert this for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. After all what can be more Hyperborean than an evil winter witch?  But the level caps would not give me the conversion I wanted.  Sure I could do a 13th level Koliada, but that would not give me a decent basis of comparison.  So instead I am going with the D&D Rules Cyclopedia.
I also went to the 4e book, Player's Option: Heroes of the Feywild for ideas on their witches and on the Feywild.

Koliada, The Winter Witch
30th level Witch (Faerie Tradition)
Female, Chaotic

Strength 16
Intelligence 17
Wisdom 15
Dexterity 20
Constitution 19
Charisma 20

Saving Throws
Death Ray/Poison 3
Magic Wands 4
Paralysis, Polymorph 3
Dragon Breath 6
Rods, Staffs, Spells 5

Hit Points: 80
AC: -3
(leather armor +4, Ring of Protection +3, Dex 20 -4)

THAC0: 8
(I know, THAC0 was not used in Basic D&D. You know what this means)

Occult Powers
Familiar: Iceling*
(like a frozen sprite. From Dungeon 162)
Lesser: Speak to Animals (not plants as well)
Minor: Fae Shape
Medial: Curse
Major: Shape Change

Cantrips (6): Alarm Ward, Chill, Daze, Ghost Sound, Inflict Minor Wounds, Spark
1st (9+3): Bewitch I, Black Fire, Cause Fear, Charm Person, Chill Touch, Endure Elements, Fey Sight, Ghostly Slashing, Glamour, Light/Darkness, Minor Fighting Prowess, Silver Tongue
2nd (8+3): Bewitch II, Defoliate, Discord, Enthrall, Freezing Gaze, Ghost Touch, Hold Person, Invisibility, Phantasmal Spirit, Spell Missile, Whispering Wind
3rd (8+2): Arctic Grasp, Bestow Curse, Bewitch III, Dispel Magic, Feral Spirit, Improved Faerie Fire, Lifeblood, Spirit of Hyperborea (Spirit of Avalon), Toad Mind, Witch Wail
4th (7+2): Analyze Magic, Bewitch IV, Charm Monster, Elemental Armor (Ice), Fluid Mastery, Intangible Cloak of Shadows, Phantom Lacerations, Spiritual Dagger, Withering Touch
5th (7): Bewitch V, Blade Dance, Death Curse, Dreadful Bloodletting, Hold Monster, Nightmare, Waves of Fatigue
6th (7): Bewitch VI, Death Blade, Evaporate Fluids, Eye Bite, Mass Agony, Mislead, True Seeing
7th (6): Bewitch VII, Death Aura, Greater Arcane Eye, Greater Blindness, Insanity, Wave of Mutilation
8th (6): Bewitch VIII, Destroy Life, Greater Mislead, Mystic Barrier, Wail of the Banshee, Imprisonment (Ritual)

Note: Koliada's spells will manifest with some wintery, cold, or icy aspect.  So Black Fire is cold, Defoliate will cause a freezing wind to blow and kill plants, Elemental Armor will be ice and so on.

She has a lot more spells here than either the 5e or 4e version.  But both 4e and 5e have a number of "at will" powers or other powers/spells that can be regained.  BECMI characters have to wait till the next day for their spells to return.  So she also has some spells that have similar effects to other spells.

I also think I need a Winter Witch tradition and some more cold based spells.

Books used in the conversion process.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Koliada, The Winter Witch for D&D 5

Back in June of 2009 D&D 4th edition was still on the shelves and Dungeon #162 was available for download.  Inside was an Epic level adventure by Stephen Radney-MacFarland called "Winter of the Witch". It featured the machinations of the so-called Winter Witch, the minor Archfey Koliada and her plans to freeze the world.    From the adventure:

"In this epic adventure, the Winter Witch—a legendary archfey—has launched a campaign to send eternal winter cascading over large portions of the world. After a summons to Winterhaven, the characters find a land locked in ice, and an old ally in need of aid. A trek to find a artifact known as the Sun’s Sliver ensues, the only force potent enough to defeat the Winter Witch and banish her from the mortal world once more. An adventure for 22nd-level PCs."

While not totally an original plot, it was still fun, well executed and had a lot things going for it.  But mostly it had Koliada who grabbed my attention from the start.  It also started me thinking about witches of winter.  In particular, why are there so many. Louhi, Elsa and the Snow Queen), Jadis, all the Jadwiga winter witches from Pathfinder and so on.  Notably almost all of these are also royalty, if not outright queens.

This also got me thinking about the War of the Witch Queens campaign I want to do next.  So good job +Stephen Radney-MacFarland! Your character from 7 years ago has inspired me quite a lot.

Recently I have been thinking about D&D 4e conversions.  Both to 5e and to BECMI specifically.  5e, because it is the D&D of the day now and D&D 5 makes a lot of allusions to past versions.  For example the Prince of Frost, Koliada's father/brother/lover/patron appears both in the Dungeon #162 adventure and as a potential Warlock patron in D&D5.

For D&D 4 to 5 conversions (and I'll talk about BECMI ones later)  I opt not to use a 1 to 1 correspondence.  Instead, I convert on a 2/3's basis;  Take the D&D4 character and times it's level by 2/3rds.   WotC still has her stats up, she is a 26th level solo skirmisher.  A lot about her though says Warlock, in particular a fey-pact Warlock Hexblade from the 4e era.

Conversion in this case is going to be more concept driven than finding correspondences with powers.  In fact for a 26th level warlock she is missing a number of spells and powers.  To be fair, the adventure never says that is what she is; just my translation.

So in 5e terms what is she?  Well. I think I made a solid case for her to be a warlock. Her powers come from her patron, the Prince of Frost (Fey Patron). She has a magical sword she can summon (Pact of the Blade) and she has a number of ice based powers.  Now she could use some more oomph, she is the main antagonist afterall, so I buffed her up with some feats.  Let's have a look.
26th level in D&D4 translates, roughly to 17.3333 level, or 17th level in D&D5. She also has some really high ability scores too. I am scaling those back a bit as well.

Koliada, The Winter Witch
Warlock 17, Eladrin Female, CE
Background: Noble

Strength 16 (+3)
Dexterity 20 (+5)
Constitution 19 (+4)
Intelligence 17 (+3)
Wisdom 15 (+2)*
Charisma 20 (+5)*

Proficiency Bonus: +6
Proficient skills: Arcana, History, Intimidation, Persuasion
Saves: Wisdom, Charisma

AC: 24 (studded leather +4, Ring of Protection +3)
HP: 165 (HD d8)
Speed: 30'

Sword of Blackice, "Rimefang" +11, 2d8

Fey Patron Warlock, Pact of the Blade
Patron: Prince of Frost

Feats: Elemental Adept (cold), Magic Initiate (Sorcerer), Keen Mind, Spell Sniper

Powers: Fey Presence, Misty Step, Beguiling Defenses, Dark Delirium

Invocations: Agonizing Blast, Eldritch Sight, One with the Shadows, Thirsting Blade, Sign of Ill Omen, Lifedrinker, Witch Sight

Spells Known
Cantrips: Eldritch Blast, Chill Touch, Blade Ward, Mage Hand, Ray of Frost (MI), True Strike (MI), Ice Bolt (SS)
1st level: Faerie Fire, Sleep, Fog Cloud (MI)
2nd level: Calm Emotion, Phantasmal Force
3rd level: Blink, Fear
4th level: Dominate Beast, Greater Invisibility
5th level (current casting): Dominate Person, Hold Monster, Scrying, Seeming
6th level: Conjure Fey
7th level: Finger of Death
8th level: Power Word Stun
9th level: Power Word Kill

Languages: Common, Sylvan, Draconic, Primodial, Abyssal

All in all, a nice build.

I am ignoring her Unique Kill quality about only being killed via a bolt of sunlight from the artifact Sun's Sliver. 

Have to try her out now against my players!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Class Struggles: Psionics, Part 2

Last week I went over the various Psionic systems that have appeared in print or digital for the D&D game.  This week I want to look at the classes.

One thing that you first discover that psionics were always something that was added on to the game later.  Often there are powers, but no classes to speak of really.  This is certainly true for AD&D1st ed and OD&D.  Interestingly enough (compared to my discussion last week) that in Eldritch Wizardry it is stated rather plainly that Monks (and Druids) can not be psychic.

1991 was a good year for psionics.  We saw the release of the official Complete Psionics Handbook from TSR for 2nd ed and the unofficial Psionics from Mayfair Games Role Aids line.
Both books changed psionics from it's added on system and made something that seemed to fit into the game a little better.  They sacrificed a little of what made the psionics system so alien and different for playability.
The Complete Psionics Handbook introduces the Psionist class.  This class has access to all the powers in the book.  Psionic powers are divided into six groups with major powers, called sciences, and minor powers, called devotions.  Just like AD&D1, but now they are sorted and there are more powers.   The attack and defense powers, for example, are now part of Telepathy.  The system works well and while the psionists has less overall powers than say a wizard has spells the psionist is not limited to how many times they can use their powers, save by PSPs.

Mayfair's Psionics takes a slightly different approach.  In this there is a Psionist class with five different traditions or schools of psionics, Sonimancers, Telepaths, Telekineticists, Pyromancers, and Empaths. So...every Stephen King psychic ever. The psionist usually stays in that tradition.  Powers are categorized by school and then divided by power level, similar to spell level. There are six levels of powers.  Largely it plays the same as the TSR book, but this one feels more like a spell system.  Getting these two books to work together would be a feat to be honest.  There are so many differences between the levels of the powers, the assumptions of the psionist class and even the PSP vs MP power point costs.  Best to choose one system and adapt the other as needed.

I want to give brief mention to the Deryni in Mayfair's Witch book.  While presented as a witch class the are obviously better suited for Psionic use.  Converting them to Mayfair's psionic system would be easier than converting TSR Psionic to Mayfair's.

3e and the OGL comes around and we get a ton of new psionics options including three new classes (and a spell like system).  This in turn gives birth to Pathfinder and the OSR.  One of the first 3rd party books to support psionics was The Quintessential Psychic Warrior from Mongoose. But like most of Mongoose's products from this time it's not very good.
Pretty much everything for 3.x era psionics can be found in the d20 SRD.  Pathfinder, as a system, had not used psionics or psychic powers till this year with the release of the Occult Adventures book.  I am still going throuhg my copy from Gen Con.  Other companies though built off of the SRD and came up with their own books.
Ultimate Psionics is by far the largest at 450+ pages.  This takes the three basic psionic classes from the SRD and expands it to 10 (7 new).  Not to mention pages and pages of powers. I am hard pressed to think of a more complete book.

But sometimes you don't want a 500 page tome.  Sometimes you just want a couple of pages.  Well if the OSR is about nothing else it is about "less is more".  These books are designed for your old school games and are much smaller.

If you are playing Castles & Crusades then the Mentalist class from Amazing Adventures! would port over with hardly an issue at all.  In fact I have done it before and it works so good that Troll Lords should really consider doing it offically.

White Box Options: Psychic Talents [Swords & Wizardry]
At 10 pages this book really exemplifies what people love about S&W.  Quick and easy rules that slot in nicely with the game they are playing.  This is more of a psychic wild talent add on. Feels similar to the wild talent powers in AD&D1 or even OD&D.  Random table of powers and descriptions of all the powers. Not a bad deal for just under 2 bucks.

Old-School Psionics
Designed to be a new psionics system for OSRIC this book introduces the Mentalist class.  Powers are divided out among disciplines going to 7th level.  Powers are treated mostly like spells, but that works well for adding into OSRIC.  Also some psionic monsters are detailed including my favorite (and worth the price of the book) the Doppleganger as a proper psionic monster.  22 pages including cover and OGL.  Very nicely done.

OSRIC Psionic Combat
This book has a lot of charm. A quick look at the author, artist and contributors leads me to believe this was something a whole family put together and then played.  I can relate and honestly the book gets an extra star just for that.  The books covers a very simple psionic combat system and a psionist class.  Nothing more really.  But that is all it set out to do, so great.  I might not play as written, but the detail here is great and would convert nicely to any of the other systems I have used.

Crypts & Creatures Psionics Handbook
At 12 pages for 50 cents this looks like a deal.  But what we have here is a stripped down version of the psionic classes from the d20 SRD for the OSR crowd.  I would have liked to see some more to be honest.  There are classes and powers listed, but not really detailed.  Now for someone this will be just perfect, but most people I think will want some more.

This book is designed for the White Star game.Though it can be ported over to Swords & Wizardry with no issues. The psionist is introduced and powers are detailed.  The psionist chooses a focus power area and sticks with that in the game. A nice, simple system with some useful powers.  11 pages with cover and OGL.

There is a psionic system in Realms of Crawling Chaos as well, but I well detail that one on a later date.

And of course the Basic Psionics Handbook.

So if you love psionics and psionic classes there are plenty of choices out there.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Class Struggles: The Warlock

There have been a number of warlock classes, but unlike the wizard, fighter, cleric or even thief, everyone has had their own take on what a warlock should be.
I have talked about the warlock as a class, distinct from the witch, in the past.
I do like keeping my warlocks separate from my witches in terms of class.  In my mind they are just too different. Similar yes, but still very different.  I would allow any warlock to use the same spell list as a witch unless there was a good reason not to do it.

I think the first ever warlock class I ever saw was the "Warlocks: A New Magic-User Sub Class" by Anthony Barnstone in The Dungeoneer #16.  It had some great spells, "Pentacle of Fire", "Aura of the Occult", "Curse of the Bloody Revenge" to name a few.  This was certainly meant to be an evil character class to play, not just as an NPC.  Interestingly enough this the same issue that featured the mystic class.  I have to admit it was one of the things that made me like the Dungeoneer magazine.  It didn't treat it's audience like little kids.

To my knowledge, there has never been a warlock class in the pages of Dragon magazine.  I know there was not one in the pages of White Dwarf.

The Arcanum and Bard Games had a witch/warlock class, making them the same thing.  I am not a fan of that really.

In my mind the witch and the warlock began as the same class, but the warlocks broke off from the witches  sometime in the ancient past.  Either warlocks wanted to become more like wizards and mages OR they were responsible for the first wizards.

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea has a great Warlock class. It is a sub-class of the fighter but calls upon dark powers to give them some magical power and spells.  Mor to the point I like how the warlock and the witch are very different sorts of classes.

The AS&SH warlock is something more akin to a swordmage.  We see something similar in D&D4 Essentials Hexblade.  In general I liked the D&D4 Warlock.  They were a class that wanted quick access to power and none of the work that Wizards had to do.  That was a fine role-playing excuse, but not something that played out in the rules.  Warlocks gained powers just like the Wizards did and had no more or no less requirements.

There is a Warlock I created in Eldritch Witchery. It is a type of Wizard really. I liken it to "Wizard Grad School" to be honest.  They use the same spells as the witch and gain a few extra powers.

The Warlocks in Fantastic Heroes & Witchery are another sort.  It is a chaos aligned wizard and has a lot of the same features really.  It uses the same xp per level tables, same HD and same spell progressions.  The FHW Warlock does gain some power, similar in many ways to my own witch, but at a cost.  On the surface this doesn't make it much different than a wizard, with a different selection of spells.  What makes this class, and really this book, different are the selection of spells (the book has 666) and the additional rules for acquiring magic and casting spells.  Adding this material makes the Warlock a much more interesting character.

The Pact-Bound in Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts is another warlock-like class.  Again the idea here is a class that takes a quick path to power for a price, usually to an other-worldly power.

There is a similar one in the pages of the ACKS Player's Companion.  Again the nice thing with this book is that the witch and warlock are separated.

In the 3e era we have a couple of "warlocks".  There is a warlock in the Complete Arcane and the witch in Pathfinder, which always felt more like a warlock to me.  Just staying focused on 3e we have a warlock class from WotC and a witch class for Pathfinder.  For 4e there were also very different witch and warlock classes.  5e only has a warlock.

In the case of the official D&D warlock, he is less of a spell caster and more a raw magical power wielder.  His pacts give him this power.

The question becomes one of whether the warlock should have spells or just weid raw magical power and thus have "blasts".  I am torn myself.  I like the warlock to have access to spells to be honest, the idea is these guys have sold their souls for power, but the "blasty" warlock really isn't all that powerful compared to a "spelly" warlock or wizard.

A good example of what I call a "blasty warlock" is Jeremy Reaban's The OSR Warlock.  Like his Witch Hunter book this book has a number of nice features in addition to the class. The class does not cast spells, it does have lot of special powers. This is by design and owning to the stated OGC and pulp sources.  The warlock here does get some spell like abilities in place of powers.  It actually works rather nicely   What I think makes this book special is the level advancement tables for "First Edition", "Original Edition", "Basic/Expert" and "Cyclopedic Edition".   Plus the author has a section of notes on the class.

I have to admit one of my favorite "warlock" books and one that  captures the Pulp Era warlock well is Green Ronin's "Warriors & Warlocks" book.  Yes it is for their superhero game Mutants and Masterminds (2.0 version) but it was my goto guide for a proper pulp warlock will AS&SH came out, and it is still a lot of fun.

I am certain I have missed some here.  Let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Class Struggles: The Necromancer

Very, very few classes or class concepts have been gone over more than the Necromancer.  For a class that was never part of the original game, and never actually a proper class in it's own right, a lot of ink and pixels have been spent on this class.  So much that I am sure to miss things and might even need a part 2.  Where do we start?

Well to begin with what exactly is a necromancer and what is it that appears in so many games?
Taken from the Greek a necromancer is someone that communes with the dead. So spells like Speak to Dead are a good example.  Historical necromancers, like for example John Dee, spoke to the dead to get advice. or foretell the future.   In modern parlance and certainly in games (maybe one caused the other) necromancy has come to mean a wizard that controls or manipulates the forces of death and unlife.

The easiest Necromancer is simple.  Play a Wizard/Magic-User and then only choose necromancy spells.  Wear a lot of black and hang out with undead.  This is also a very satisfying necromancer since all the trappings have to be role-played.  Alternately one could play a cleric of a god of death, take only reversed necromancy spells and command instead of turn undead.
I think though as time wore on people wanted something that wa little bit of both.

The first, or at least one of the first was from White Dwarf Magazine #22 from December 1980/January 1981.  Lew Pulsipher gives us an article about evil priests, the "Black Priests".  While these are more cultist, there is a lot of necromancy being thrown around.  This is followed by a true necromancer class also by Pulsipher in issue #35 from November 1982.  Either of these classes is fine and represent the design philosophy of the times.  Namely take and rearrange already familiar elements.  The Black Priest and this Necromancer have the same shortcomings though; a reliance of human sacrifice.

The Necromancer is turned up to 11 with the publication of Dragon #76 in August 1983 and Len Lakofka's death master class.  Designed to be an "NPC Class only" I remember seeing it first in the pages of Best of Dragon Magazine Vol. 3.  I admit, I rolled up a death master right away.  He became a major antagonist in my games for many years to come.

In AD&D1 the example of the Illusionist gave birth to the speciality wizards of 2nd Ed.  One of those speciality wizards was the Necromancer.  This continues in practice to the most current version.  Though unlike the Illusionist, the Transmuter or even the Evoker, the Necromancer got it's own book.  The Complete Book of Necromancers was one of those books that everyone seemed to want.  I remember picking it up back when it was first published. I paid $15 for it.  Later the cover price jumped to $18 and soon it became very rare. No idea why.  The aftermarket price jumped considerably and I ended up selling mine on eBay back in 2000 for $81. Not a bad deal really.   I recently picked up a copy at Half-Price Books for $9.  The PDF just about the same price.  Though the book is crammed full of necromancer goodies. Spells, magic items, undead familiars.

Moving out into the world of Fantasy Heartbreakers there is the near-compatible Quest of the Ancients.  This necromancer reads like the Death Master, but has some interesting spells and some powers.  The Arcanum/Bard Games also has a necromancer class.

3.x had, at the last time I looked, at least 3 different kinds of official Necromancer classes.  The two best are from Libris Mortis: The Book of Undead and Heroes of Horror.  Heroes of Horror featured the rather popular Dread Necromancer class.  There is also the Death Master class from Dragon updated to 3.0e.  The Crypt Lord from the aptly named Necromancer Games. Not to mention dozens of others from other third party publishers.  Most take the same elements and reorganize them, but every so often something new is produced.

4e had necromancers as well. It was a type of wizard (much like the witch was) and was introduced in the Player's Option: Heroes of Shadow book.  It had some rather neat features to it as well.

For the OSR things are really no different, dozens of different types and sorts of necromancers. I am only going to talk about a few.

One of the simplest also belongs to one of the simplest OSR games.  Basic Fantasy has a necromancer class on their downloads page for free.  It has a lot of spells and weighs in at an appropriate 13 pages.

I would have to say one of my favorites, at least in terms of style, is the one from Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  The necromancer here is cut from the "evil cultist" mold like their warlock and has a lot of great spells and powers.

Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts also has a great necromancer and the big feature of this class (and this book) is the number of spells.  While this book as more spells, the AS&SH class is slightly better in terms of what I want. Right along with that is the necromancer from the great Theorems & Thaumaturgy. A basic class, but some really nice spells.

Another really cool one in terms of how the necromancer is presented is the one from Adventures Dark & Deep.  Darker Paths 1: The Necromancer is certainly in the vein of the "this is an evil class" but +Joseph Bloch makes no bones about the fact that players will be playing these as evil characters.  It's sort of the point of his "Darker Paths" series. In that respect this is a good one to pick up just to get some ideas on how to play an evil character.  Plus it has some unique spells.

Back at home I have most of these printed out and put into a folder.  I also have a number of character sheets of all the different types of necromancers.  Basically I have six characters with two sheets each; a 3.x sheet and an OSR compatible one (the five above and an old fashioned MU with necromancy spells).  This gives me 12 different sorts of necromancers for 6 characters.  I call them the Order of Six based on a group I introduced in my Buffy games.  I am planning on using them as my bad guys in my games, but right now I am only playing 5e! So I can't really judge how well they all work.  Similar to what I did with the Witch's Nest.  Sounds like a plan to me.

By the way. My son has a 5e game he is in charge of.  He has a 15th level necromancer in that game and it is wicked.

I feel like there is alot more to say but I have only scratched the surface.

What is your favorite necromancer class?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Class Struggles: The Invoker (4e)

Taking an odd turn today and looking at a 4th Edition class.

One of the nice things about 4e was the number of class choices. There were dozens, if not not scores, of classes.  4e popularized the notion that each class has a role; Leader, Controller, Defender and Striker to roughly correspond to the classic four classes of Cleric, Wizard, Fighter and Thief respectively.  There are also areas of power, Divine, Arcane, Martial, Primal and Psychic.  For the game it worked well and there was a lot of interesting class choices that were based on role and power choice.

The Invoker has no precedent and no update (so far).  It first appeared in Player's Handbook 2 for the 4th edition and it is described as a Divine controller than channels raw divine power.  In a way this makes them the divine counterpart to the Wizard; an arcane controller.
It could be described as the "Fist of the Gods".

What makes the Invoker an interesting choice is not just it's role, but the fluff text that goes along with it.  So an Invoker would worship or honor a god as part of the whole pantheon.  The examples given state an Invoker of Bahamut would also likely honor Tiamat.  Invokers are all shown worshipping older gods; not Old Gods or even Old Ones...but the first gods that are still worshipped today.

In fact most invokers would be the tireless enemy of any "Old Ones".  In the 4e fluff they are described as the human/mortal agents of the Godswar vs the Primordials.  Replace that with Titans, or Old Ones or even demons and you get the idea.

What strikes me most about this class is how well it could be added to any old-school or 5e game.
In 1st/2nd Ed it would be a sub-class of the cleric.  The invoker can turn/rebuke undead like a cleric and it also has access to divine spells.  Of course you could make an invoker easy enough with good role-playing and a conscious choice to take damage dealing spells and limit yourself on the healing magic.  Since invokers are much more of a "kill them all and let the gods sort them out" type of holy warrior I would also say that Raise Dead, Resurrection and Reincarnate are out of the question.

For their spell lists. Well the powers/spells in the 4e PHB2 are very colorful; Blades of Astral Fire, Glyph of Imprisonment, Cascade of Five Suns.  Most do damage based on Wisdom modifiers (which in 4e includes level).  If I were to create an old-school Invoker I would give them some invocation spells from the wizard's list.  Not more than 1 or 2 per level though.  I would make sure they had plenty of damage causing spells they can do from a distance.   Plus the spells all need to have very grandiose names, such as "Righteous Fury of 10000 Blazing Suns" or "Wrathful Vengeance of the Plough God" (Plough god?  Yeah, think about how important agriculture, growing and food was/is to people).  These are not hippy clerics of the "God is Love" type, these are the Old Testament, destroying people in a genocidal flood types.

The closest thing Pathfinder has to this concept is the Inquisitor. While their missions are the same, the invoker is believed to have a piece of divine power instilled in them while the inquisitor is all too mortal.  Still though there are some good ideas for some more spells on the inquisitor spell lists.

I think the reason I like the invoker so much is that it really is how I always liked to play to some clerics.  I have played several clerics over the years. First first character was a cleric of the "investigate and destroy evil" type.  I have played a number of paladins as well.  In fact my 3.x edition one was known as "The Fist of Pelor".
This class appeals to me as another sort of cleric. One that is more action and dealing damage than one that is contemplative and healing damage.

Plus I forgot how much fun some of the 4e stuff really is.  There is a lot going on in this game and it is a shame it will be tossed aside as a failed experiment.

BTW +Jonathan Becker has been running a series of posts on his thoughts of 4e. If you have played the game it is interesting to see it through the eyes of someone experiencing it for the first time.  If you have never played it then it is worth your time.  He has not gotten around to the invoker yet, but I am curious to see what he has to say.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Review: Fantastic Heroes & Witchery

This week I want to spend some time with Fantastic Heroes & Witchery.

Full Disclosure: I have worked with the author, Dominique Crouzet, in the past on a couple of projects. I think Dom is a great guy and I love the work we had done together.  I am going to review FH&W on it's own merits.

For this review I am looking at the PDF copy found at DriveThruRPG and the print copy hardcover from Lulu.

Fantastic Heroes & Witchery Reto-RPG (FH&W hereafter) is a newer "retro-clone" of the classic D&D rules.

The book itself is a massive 430 pages.  This includes the table of contents (4 pages), index (4 pages), spell index (4 pages) and OGL statement (2 pages).  The PDF also has a "quick click" index to get to sections in the book faster.

A while back I referred to this as the "Rosetta Stone" of OSR games.  It still works like that, but this really more of an meta-analysis of OSR RPG elements put into a cohesive whole.  The game feels like Basic era, BEMCI, D&D, but it also has the options of both 1st and some of 2nd Ed AD&D.  Other games like Swords & Wizardry have also contributed to the DNA of this game.  A quick look at the OGL statement in back makes it clear that this game is very much a product of many, many games.  This is not a slight, there is an absolute ton of new and original material here.  It takes the best and develops more to make it all work well.  In fact this book is a good point of translation between the various clones and 3rd Edition.  Not that translation is difficult, this helps smooth out the "local idioms" to some closer to normal.

A note about the art. Dom is not just the author of this game he is also one of the primary artists and graphic designer.  The art is reminiscent of both B/X D&D and AD&D, on purpose.  In fact there are a few tongue in cheek references to old AD&D books.  To further this feeling there is also art by Jim Holloway.

Chapter 1 deals with character creation.  Here we are given the details about Ability Scores (OSR standards here) and then we get into races.  The usual suspects are here, but some of the newer folk as well like tieflings, and some new ones.  The new races include tainted humans, primates, reptilians, revenants (undead), winged folk, and witchlings.   I love the idea behind the primates, intelligent apes and wonder why we have not seen more of those in other fantasy games.   A personal aside, the Witchlings are very much something I would expect out of Dom.  I am very intrigued by the race and plan on exploring in more.
The next section of the chapter is Character Backgrounds.  These are more role-playing options with suggestions of mechanical advantages (Foresters are better at climbing trees for example, but no pluses are given).  This is a nice section that does better than it's inspired materials but doesn't quite go as far as the newest edition of the D&D game.  That is likely a perfect sweet spot for the types of games that are going to be played here.  We end with a discussion on alignment.

Chapter 2 discusses character classes.  We have the expected list and then some more.  Again since this is a merging of Basic and Advanced ideas there are some "racial" classes here.  I like the idea myself and will discuss those in a bit.  There is also a section on "Weird Tales" pulp-era classes.
Classes are divided up into groups much like 2nd Ed or Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.   We have Warriors which include Fighters, Beserkers, Knights and Ranger.  Rogues which include Thieves, Acrobats, Assassins, and Bards. Divines which consist of Friars, Mystics and Templars and the racial classes. Dwarves include Clans-dwarf and Gothi. Elves are split into High and Sylvan they include Eldritch-archer and Fae-mage (High) and Forestal and Warden (Sylvan).  Gnomes get Illusionist and Trickster. Halflings get Folk-champion and Scout.  Finally there are the Weird Tales classes; Necronimus, Occultist, Psychic, Rifleman, Savant, Sky-lord, and Wild-brute.

Like editions 3.x and beyond, all classes use the same Experience Level chart.  So 2,000 xp is 2nd level for everyone.  This has a number of nice benefits including easier multi-classing.
Like newer editions each character class has a base to hit modifier.  So for fighters this goes up +1 per level.  Each class has HD, Base to Hit, Saves and abilities per level.  Saves are standard Sword & Wizardry style, but there is an Appendix for conversions later in the book.

An note about levels.  Like B/X, AS&SH or Adventurer, Conqueror, King, FH&W assumes that 13 is the max level.  There are XP values given for 14 and above, but the abilities stop there.

I will discuss the Wizard classes later when I talk about the spells, but for now I want to say that racial classes are really some of the nicest new classes of the book.  It is easy to create a bunch of human centric classes, but these different cultures would naturally produce some professions or heroes of their own.

The Weird Tales classes are an interesting bunch.  Some would fit right in with the Ranger or Knight, others, less so.  The Necronimus is basically a spiritualist or speaker of the dead. The occultist learns spells as the find them from old tomes, the psychic is what is says on the tin.  Others like the Rifleman or the Savant (aka Weird Scientist) could work with some good role-playing and a lot of help from the GM.  The a great class, but it is very Sci-Fi or at least Sci-Fant.   The wild-brute would work anywhere to be honest.

Hit-dice and hp are discussed in the next section as well as saving throws.  The model of saving throws in the Swords & Wizardry one but also it could be said the D&D 5 one or the Castles & Crusades one.   Conversions and notes are given for how to translate a Fortitude save or a Breath Weapon save over to this system.  Honestly this is a gem and worth printing out these pages for any game you play.   Next are skill checks and how to handle them.

Some of the games that are compatible with Fantastic Heroes & Witchery

Chapter 3 covers Equipment.   This is what you expect but there is a lot to choose from here.  In fact t might be one of more comprehensive collections.  Worth the price of the PDF to be honest to have all of this in one place.  The section on Sci-Fantasy equipment is an added bonus.

Chapter 4 details Combat.  There is your garden variety melee and missile combat, but also vehicle based combat and psionic combat (for the psychic class). Stuffed in the last paragraph is the very interesting Duels of Rhetoric.  Basically, combat of words.  There is a lot of potential here and something I want to use in my next D&D5 game.  Yes it works with any version of D&D or OSR game.

Chapter 5 is Moving and Exploring.  A lot of what becomes a goo dungeon crawl is more than combat.  This also details carrying capacity.  What you expect is here, but there is also a nice section on "Chase rules" to go with your vehicle based combat.  Suddenly I want to do a Stephen J. Cannell-style chase with chariots or even dragons!

These two chapters have a logical conclusion found in Chapter 6, Hazards and Injuries.  This includes a Wound and Vitality system for use in any D&D-like game. Other topics include massive damage (like AD&D 2), subdual (a feature of my Basic D&D games) and healing.  There is a section of Threats and Hazards.  This details a lot of conditions PCs can find themselves in; Blind, Fearful, Drunk, Poisoned and so on.  Congrats, we just worked in the best parts of D&D4!  Beyond that the Conditions/Afflictions also extend to the Supernatural.  So Energy drain, Lycanthropy and so on.

Chapter 7 covers Monsters and NPCs.  There are no monsters in FH&W.  Not that there can't be, but the book does not list them.  It does talk about how to use monsters and how NPCs can also work as monsters.  By default FH&W assumes an OSRIC style stat block for monsters.

Chapter 8 is an interesting one. It covers Priests and Religions.  Different types of world views are discussed. Also the priest classes are mentioned with different "templates" one can use to make the priest feel different.  Some concepts of gods are later detailed.  One could add names to these from any myth rather easily.  Names are not provided though.  Each God archetype also has a suggestions for their clergy.  After this we get into a discussion of Law vs. Chaos.  This includes another class, The Agent of Law/Chaos.  If you are thinking Elric or other Eternal Champions (but also I will add, He-Man from the Masters of the Universe media is a great example of an Agent of Law). In fact so engrossing is this concept I might create three agents using this as my outline for Law, Chaos and Neutrality.  If you pick this up, really consider this chapter and what it could mean for your game.
There is even a treatise on the immortal soul and some details on the outer planes.

Chapter 9 covers magic and spellcasting.  There is a lot here. One of the better sections is acquiring arcane spells.  There are equally as good sections on getting spell-like powers.  Also covered is an optional rule on Incantations, which are spells that anyone can use.  As expected the schools of magic are covered, with the different specialists such as Illusionists, Necromancers and so on.  Also presented is a War-Mage class.
The next section deals with the craft of magic.  This includes a lot of information on magic circles, scrolls, and even creating magical talismans!  My favorite is part on ley lines and power nexuses.
We get into the bulk of the chapter with spell lists by class.  Spells are divided into Psychic, Gray, Black and White magic, Nature and Delusion spells.

Chapter 10 is the Alphabetical listing of all the spells.  164 pages worth of spells, 666 spells in all.  Thats 2/5s of the entire book.  I know some are new, but I would have to read each in detail to know which ones.  There are a lot here in any case.  Personally I LOVE that the Mordenkainen's spells have been changed to Morgane's.  While many of the spell casting classes stop at level 6, these spells do go to 7th, 8th and 9th levels.

Chapter 11 covers the Appendices.  These are:
Appendix 1: More About Ability Scores. - Ability scores above 18 to 25.
Appendix 2: Physical Appearance.  - height and weight by race.
Appendix 3: Personality.
Appendix 4: Allegiances.
Appendix 5: Cultural Background.
Appendix 6: Social Background.
Appendix 7: Rolling Hit-Points.
Appendix 8: Sanity / Insanity.  - I am not a fan of sanity in a FRPG.  but this is a simple solution option.
Appendix 9: Skills in More Detail.
Appendix 10: Talents (Custom Abilities).
Appendix 11: Fighting Schools and Maneuvers.
Appendix 12: Adding More Character Classes.
Appendix 13: Epic Levels (14th to 20th / 25th level). takes the characters into epic levels, in this case 14th to 25th.
Appendix 14: More About Saving Throws.  - more Saving translations.
Appendix 15: Domain Spells.  - divine spells by theme
Appendix 16: Critical Hits (Complete Table of Secondary Effects).

A bit more about Appendix 12.   This is a GREAT section about adding other classes including 3e prestige classes. This includes note on how to add my own Witch to this game.  There are also more classes here including: The Adventurer,  the Animist, the Scary Monk (the monk from AD&D), the Sea-Dog, the Sea-Witch and the Thick Brute.

We end with the OGL notice and a character sheet.

What can I say at this point really?

This is an awesome resource. It is a great game in it's own right, but it shines when added to other games.  Use this to play an OSRIC game while importing some 3.x style classes and as Swords & Wizardry monster book.  Or whatever you like. There is so much here that there is no end of what you can do with it.
A serious high mark for all OSR products in terms of utility.
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