Showing posts with label 70s. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 70s. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Witchcraft Ritual Kit (1974)

I was out getting some driving practice with my sons over the weekend.  They didn't want too so I made them a deal, if they drove we could go to our favorite local game store Games Plus.  So we did and I found something of a little treasure.


This is Avalon Hill's Witchcraft Ritual Kit from 1974!

So imagine this, the year is 1974.  Avalon Hill knows about D&D having passed on previous Gygax penned works.  The biggest movie of the year is The Exorcist and rival Milton Bradley is churning out Ouija boards all day.  What is Avalon Hill to do?  Simple they create a "game" based on Wicca and Witchcraft.

Supposedly authored by "Dr. Brooke Hayward Jennings", who I can find nothing on anywhere, and neither has anyone else, this was one of two of their occult-themed games.  The other was called "Black Magic" and featured a similarily "porny" cover.

Now, all that aside I have been wanting this game forever.  It has been out of print since the mid-70s and finding a good copy is nearly impossible.

I found this sitting in the stacks of out of print wargames. It was labeled as "unpunched" and interior in good condition even if the box had some shelf wear.  I knew, more or less what I was getting here, so despite the high price (I am not going to tell you what I paid for it) I had to get it.

Well.  I am not disappointed.

Let's have a look inside.






That game board is gorgeous! Not so sure about all the pieces, and those game tokens have to go!
I'll likely replace the male and female figures with minis, maybe 72mm ones, and the other items with small 3D printed versions.  Don't know yet, have to read how they are used.


The gamebook is a mix-mash of all sorts of wicca, occult and pagan ideas that lack coherence. It is, however, a fun read.







This is easily the most 70s thing I own.

I could not find any reviews online and none from any pagans or gamers to give me their insight and point of view.

Also, I am not sure what I will do with it yet. Like I said some of the pieces have to go to make it playable in my mind, but that game board.

In line with my "Traveller Envy" I talked about with Wizard's Quest and Witch's Caldron boardgames I really WANT to use this as part of the larger "War of the Witch Queens" campaign. I am just not sure how yet.  I do have other board games to add to it.

Oh, it also been properly pointed out that the TRUE way to express my Board Game Traveller Envy is via Starfleet Battles and my "BlackStar" campaign.  But that is a topic for another day.

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.

Links
Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palace_of_the_Vampire_Queen
The Acaeum, https://www.acaeum.com/ddindexes/modpages/dmk.html

Links to Adventures
Links to my 'Vampire Queen' posts

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Wizard's Quest

Last weekend I was at my parent's home for Thanksgiving and my dad's 90th birthday (he is doing great and looking great!). My brother had a gift for me!

Avalon Hil's Wizard's Quest board game.



The box is a little beat up, but inside everything is pristine and like new.  In fact, it is all unpunched.






I have never played it myself but I am really looking forward to trying it out.



PArt of me though doesn't want to punch it because it is in such wonderful shape.


But games are meant to be played.

I due a admit to a little of what I call "Traveller Envy".  Traveller had such a cool RPG and board games that all belonged to the same universe.  I thought it was such a fun immersive idea.
I always wanted to run a D&D campaign that also featured board games in the mix.  Something other than just Dungeon! for the players to do.  I caught a glimpse of what might work back in the 4e days, but that one didn't manifest in the way I wanted.  Thought I think I could work Zanzer's Dungeon into it somehow.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Monstrous Monday Review: Monster Manual

For today's Monstrous Monday I want to do another review. For this one, it still follows my 'Back to Basic' theme I have been doing all year even though it is not a Basic-era D&D book.  It is though one of my Basic era books.  The book is the Monster Manual and it was just about 40 years ago that I first held this book in my hand.

This is the book. This is the book that got me into D&D and RPGs.

But how does one review such a genre-defining classic?

My son had made himself a triple cheeseburger covered in bacon, onions, and mushrooms.  I asked him how he was going to fit that into his mouth. He said, "with determination".

How does one review such a genre-defining classic?  With determination.

My History
The Monster Manual was the book for me.  The one that got me hooked.  The one, sitting in "silent reading" back in 1979 at Washington Elementary School in Jacksonville, IL that I became the über-geek you all know today. How über? I used the freaking umlauts, that's my street cred right there.

Back in '79 I was reading a lot of Greek Myths, I loved reading about all the gods, goddesses and monsters.  So I saw my friend's Monster Manual and saw all those cool monsters and I knew I had to have a copy. Though getting one in my tiny near-bible-belt town was not easy.  Not hard mind you, by the early 1980s the local book store stocked them, but I was not there yet.  So I borrowed his and read.  And read.  And read.  I think I had the damn thing memorized long before I ever got my own game going.

Since that time I judge a gamebook on the "Monster Manual" scale.  How close of a feeling do I get from a book or game compared to the scale limit of holding the Monster Manual for the first time?  Some games have come close and others have hit the mark as well.  C.J. Carella's WitchCraft gave me the same feeling.

Also, I like to go to the monster section of any book or get their monster books.  Sure I guess sometimes there are diminishing returns, Monster Manual V for 3.5 anyone?  But even then sometimes you get a Fiend Folio (which I liked thankyouverymuch).

This book captured my imagination like no other gamebook.  Even the 1st DMG, which is a work of art, had to wait till I was older to appreciate it.  The Monster Manual grabbed me and took me for a ride.

The Book (and PDF)
The PDF of the Monster Manual has been available since July of 2015.  The book itself has seen three different covers.


Regardless of what cover you have the insides are all the same.  The book is 112 pages, black and white art from some of the biggest names that ever graced the pages of an RPG book.
This book was the first of so many things we now take for granted in this industry.   The first hardcover, the first dedicated monster tome, the first AD&D book.
The book contains 350 plus monsters of various difficulties for all character levels.  Some of the most iconic monsters in D&D began right here.  Mostly culled from the pages of OD&D, even some of the art is similar, and the pages of The Dragon, this was and is the definitive book on monsters.

Eldritch Wizardry gave us the demons, but the Monster Manual gave us those and all the new devils.  The Monster Manual introduced us to the devils and the Nine Hells.  Additionally, we got the new metallic dragons, more powerful and more diverse undead and many more monsters.  We also got many sub-races of the "big 3". Elves get wood, aquatic, half and drow.  Dwarves get hill and mountain varieties. Halflings get the Tallfellows and Stouts.   So not just more monsters, but more details on the monsters we already knew.

While designed for AD&D I used it with the Holmes Basic book.  The two products had a similar style and to me seemed to work great together.  It was 1979 and honestly, we did all sorts of things with our games back then.  The games worked very well together.



Flipping through one of my physical copies, or paging through the PDF, now I get the same sense of wonder I did 40 years ago.

Thankfully, you can get the PDF of the Monster Manual for just a little more than the hardcover cost 40 years ago.





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