Showing posts with label Advanced. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Advanced. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition came on the scene to much anticipation back in the Spring of 1989.  I was in college at the time but I still managed to get the books very close on release day.  The game was largely an update and cleanup of the AD&D 1st Ed rules.  Gygax had been gone from TSR for a while at this point and the rules lacked his "voice" but they were a significant improvement in many ways.  

But today no one talks about the 2nd ed rules as much as they talk about the settings.

The Game: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition

There is no doubt that the 2nd edition made many improvements to the AD&D ruleset. While Basic-era D&D moved on with the BECMI series, AD&D came here.  With the streamlined, but not simplified, rules in place TSR focused on what they believed to be their cash-cow, settings.  And to be fair the settings are what we all recall today.  There were also tons of splat books and eventually an update that was called AD&D 2.5 by some, but never by the company.  

This was also the edition that caved under the pressure of the religious right and bowdlerized demons and devils right out of the system.  It would not be till later with Planescape that we got them back in the forms of Tanarri and Batatezu. 

Since the Splats and Settings are so important to the identity of 2nd Edition it behooves me to mention a couple and my relationship with them. Not to mention the witch options they gave me.

The Complete Wizard's Handbook

Among 2nd Eds features were the "Kits" or archetypes you could apply to various classes to customize them.  Sadly like many splat books you see power creep in these. The Complete Bard's Handbook was one of the worst offenders along with the Elves book. But today is not the day to discuss those. Today I want to talk about the Witch Kit.

The Witch-kit appeared in the Complete Wizard's Handbook and was a mere 3 or so pages, but it was the first official witch class in AD&D.  She got powers every odd level and had a lot of role-playing potential.  This might seem more powerful than your average wizard, but at the time everyone was assumed to have a kit of some sort.

Ravenloft

My world of choice in the 2nd Ed era was Ravenloft.  The gothic horror tropes were too much of a lure to avoid. Interestingly enough it would not be until Spring of 2000 when Ravenloft would get their first witch class/kit and by this time they were owned by Wizards of the Coast.

This class/kit gave us the Witches of Hala, which is a kit that any non-magic using class could use, so only Fighter and Theif. But the witches did gain some spell abilities.  To differentiate between the two witches Van Richten's Monster Hunter's Compendium, Vol 3 calls the Complete Wizard Witch Kit the "Sorcerous Witch." To further distinguish them I took to calling the Witches of Hala "Hedge Witches."

Forgotten Realms

During the 2nd Edition years, Forgotten Realms was the undisputed King of the Campaign Worlds.  I largely ignored it.  I have made up for lost time since then and been spending more time in the Realms, but that is another post.  I did however know all about the Witches of Rashemen and Spellbound was one of the first Realms products I ever bought. This setting also uses the wizard kit and the Witches of Rasemaar kit.


Due to the amount of material I have here I am also going to do two characters.

The Character: Sinéad

Following my Celtic-influenced witches, I give you Sinéad.  Of course, she is named for Sinéad O'Connor whose album "The Lion and the Cobra" pretty much changed everything for me in 1988/1989.  

Sinéad is built using the Witch Kit from the Complete Wizard's Handbook. Now the witch kit says they can't be multi-classed, but the concept I want to try is. So I am going to do it anyway, but not choose a kit for the Bard class.  Some of the restrictions on this kit feel the same as the removal of the demons and devils; giving the players in-game reasons not to use it.

Sinéad is not a character I played back then, but this build is pretty close to what I would have created back in 1989 while living in Room 109 of the Wright I Hall Dorms.

Goodwife Sinéad
(Goodwife is how you address a witch whose marital status is unknown)
Half-elf 7th level Wizard (Witch Kit)/7th level Bard
Chaotic Good

STR: 12
DEX: 16
CON: 15
INT: 17
WIS: 14
CHA: 16

AC: 1 (Bracers of Defence)
HP: 50
THAC0 (Base): 17

Saving Throws
Paralyzation, Poison, Death: 12
Rod, Staff, Wand: 9
Petrification, Polymorph: 11
Breath Weapon: 13
Spells: 10

Weapons
Dagger

Proficiencies/Skills/Languages
Herbalism, Spellcasting, Artistic Abilities (Singing)
Climb Walls (30%), Detect Noise (40%), Pick Pockets (25%), Read Languages (90%)

Special Abilities
Half-elf: Resist Sleep (30%)
Bard: Spells, knowledge
Witch: Read Magic, Detect Magic, Secure Familiar (3rd), Brew Calmative (5th), Brew Poison (7th)

Spells
Bard: (1st) Light, Faerie Fire, Protection from Evil (2nd) Charm Person, Hold Person (3rd) Dispel Magic
Wizard (Witch): (1st) Audible Glammer, Magic Missile, Shocking Grasp, Identity (2nd) Continual Light, Spectral Hand, Ray of Enfeeblement (3rd) Lightning bolt, Fly (4th) Dimension Door

The Character: Nida

Nida is a character I have been playing around with for my War of the Witch Queens.  She is supposed to represent the "other" witches of 2nd Ed, the ones I didn't use but the ones everyone else did. That is the Witches of Hala and the Witches of Rashemen.  She is not a starting character because I need her to have some history.

Nida was a Rashmi girl born to poor parents.  She was playing when she was taken into the Mists and found herself in the lands of Ravenloft.  She became a thief to survive the world on her own until she tried to pick the pockets of a Witch of Hala. For the next ten years she trained with this witch and learned the secrets of Hala and her magic. One night she was hunting a particularly nasty Annis Hag when she found herself back in her homeland of Rashemen.  Unable to return, she tried to pick up her life before she left only to discover her family had long since died.  She began training as a Wychlaran, or a Witch of Rashemen.  Like the witches of her homeland she adopted a mask and changed her name to "Nida" which means "voice."

Note: Since Nida is a dual classed character, a Thief/Mage, there is no reason to assume she can't be a Thief (Witch of Hala) / Mage (Witch of Rashemen) even though the Witch of Hala can't be taken by a spellcaster (she is a thief at the time) and the Witch of Rashemen has to be a spellcaster (she is a mage at the time).


Lady Nida
Human 4th level Thief (Witch of Hala Kit) / 9th level Wizard (Witch of Rashemen kit)
Chaotic Neutral*
(Witches in Ravenloft can't be chaotic, but this is the character concept I have.)

STR: 11
DEX: 16
CON: 16
INT: 17
WIS: 13
CHA: 18

AC: 1 (Bracers of Defence)
HP: 48
THAC0 (Base): 18

Saving Throws
Paralyzation, Poison, Death: 13
Rod, Staff, Wand: 9
Petrification, Polymorph: 11
Breath Weapon: 13
Spells: 10

Weapons
Dagger

Proficiencies/Skills/Languages
Herbalism, Spellcasting, Artistic Abilities, Ancient History
Pick Pockets (35%) Open Locks (35%), Climb Walls (30%), Detect Noise (40%), Pick Pockets (25%), Read Languages (90%)

Special Abilities
Half-elf: Resist Sleep (30%)
Bard: Spells, knowledge
Witch: Read Magic, Detect Magic, Secure Familiar (3rd), Brew Calmative (5th), Brew Poison (7th)

Spells
Witch of Hala: (1st) Combine, Reveal the Weave, Luck (2nd) Arcane Insights, Master Coven Magic (3rd) Water Walk
Wizard (Witch of Rahemen): (1st) Circle, Alarm, Magic Missile, Shocking Grasp (2nd) Dazzle, Protection from Poison, Blindness, Tasha's Uncontrollable Hideous Laughter (3rd) Firelance, Lightning bolt, Suggestion (4th) Negate Magic Weapon, Magic Mirror (5th) Teleport

I like these builds. I certainly want to use Nida somewhere.  Maybe see what she is like with another system. Both are 14th level and have a similar range of abilities.

Character Creation Challenge

Tardis Captain is the originator of this idea and he is keeping a list of places participating.  When posting to Social Media don't forget the #CharacterCreationChallenge hashtag. 

RPG Blog Carnival

This month's RPG Blog Carnival is being hosted by Plastic Polyhedra. They are doing Characters, Stories, and Worlds, so that fits right in with everything we are posting this month.

Check out all the posts going on this month at both of these sources.


Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 1st Edition

AD&D Players Manual
Up until 2000 if you said "D&D" most people thought of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition.   Indeed it was AD&D that dominated the later part of the 1970s, 1980s, and with 2nd Edition the 90s. Though that is for tomorrow's post.

Today I take on the game that I played the most and the one that dominates the imagination of so many still today.

The Game: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

A lot of ink, both real and virtual, has been spilled on the whats, whys, and hows of the differences between Basic D&D and Advanced D&D, so I see no need to spill more here.  Suffice to say that they are different games, though we freely mixed them back in the day. 

The evolution of D&D from Original to 5th edition sees it's first divergence here. 

In the AD&D 1st Ed years there was no official witch class.  There were however many unofficial and semi-official witch classes.  I talked about the Dragon Magazine #43 witch yesterday but I used it for Basic D&D.  The class was famously, or maybe infamously, updated in 1986 for AD&D in the pages of Dragon #114.  It was, and maybe still is, one of the most popular versions of the witch ever made for D&D.

AD&D Players Manual, 4 versions

The Character: Rhiannon

Ah. If I had a dime for every Rhiannon I have run into over the years. 

Not that I can blame anyone. The Golden Age of AD&D was the early 80s and the Queen of the music charts was Stevie Nicks. "Rhiannon" by Fleetwood Mac was released in 1975 on the album Fleetwood Mac. The second Fleetwood Mac album to feature this title, and their tenth overall, but the first with new couple Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.  But in the 1980s it wasn't this album or even the insanely good and popular Rumours or Tusk that grabbed me and my imagination. No it was Stevie's solo efforts Belladonna and (especially) The Wild Heart that began my deep, deep love affair with witches.

Rhiannon would be an old witch in my games today. Likely a relative or even a spiritual Goddess-mother to Larina.  But today she is the young Maiden who "rings like a bell through the night" and looks for a lover.  I can't help think of her as anything but the famous art Elmore drew in the Dragon #114 piece.  If she looks a little like Stevie, well, maybe Stevie looks like her.

Rhiannon
1st level Witch, Sisters of the Moon coven, High Secret Order
Chaotic Good

STR: 11
INT: 16
WIS: 13
DEX: 13
CON: 11
CHA: 15

AC: 9
HP: 3

Saving Throws
Witches use the best of Cleric & Magic-user Saves.

Poison or Death: 10
Petrification or Polymorph: 13
Rod, Staff, or Wands: 11
Breath Weapon: 15
Spell: 12

Saves +2 against other witch magic

Spells
1st (1+3):  Darkness, Mending, Seduction, Sleep

Equipment
Dagger, backpack, iron rations, water, 50' rope, staff.

AD&D Players Manuals and Dragon #114
Everything you need for a witch character in 1986

I think an updated, and more mature, Rhiannon will need to grace my War of the Witch Queens games sometime.

Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night
And wouldn't you love to love her?
Takes to the sky like a bird in flight
And who will be her lover?

Character Creation Challenge

Tardis Captain is the originator of this idea and he is keeping a list of places participating.  When posting to Social Media don't forget the #CharacterCreationChallenge hashtag. 

RPG Blog Carnival

This month's RPG Blog Carnival is being hosted by Plastic Polyhedra. They are doing Characters, Stories, and Worlds, so that fits right in with everything we are posting this month.

Check out all the posts going on this month at both of these sources.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Mail Call: Dread Swamp of the Banshee

Mark Taormino has done it again (8 times the charm!) and I got my new adventure in the mail today.


Maximum Mayhem Dungeons #7 Dread Swamp of the Banshee came in the mail today.  I have had the PDF for a little bit now and I am really looking forward to running this one!

If you enjoyed the previous adventures in this series, like I have, then you know what to expect here. 



If you love the old-school style modules but want something that is just "a little more" then I highly recommend these.

One day my plan is to run these all with some flavor of B/X since the adventures top out at 14th level.  Though the adventures are very much in the 1st Ed D&D vein and not really "Basic", it's what I want to do with them. 

Maybe when the Advanced books for Old-School Essentials come in I'll revisit this idea.


Sunday, July 26, 2020

Troll Week Starts Tomorrow

I have been working from home since March 15th or so. It has been great really, work has provided me with all the tech I need. I wanted to make my life a little easier so I also set up my kid's old gaming computer in my office.  They still use for playing D&D online via Discord and Roll20, but I use it to test various things.  The computer still has CD-ROM and DVD-ROM drives.

While digging through some old back-ups I found a download folder I had thought had been lost.

On it was a copy of Ron Edwards' "Trollbabe" RPG. 
I was reading through it and forgot how much fun it was.  It also got me thinking about trolls, troll magic, and all sorts of related topics.

I remember back in the earliest days of my Dragon magazine reading and getting mail-order catalogs from Games Plus and the Dungeon Hobby Shop one of the products that always jumped out at me was Runequest's TrollPak.  

It was the exact sort of deep dive into a singular topic that appealed to me then and now.  Of course at the time I thought it might be related to Tunnels & Trolls.  When I discovered it wasn't I figured I could convert it and have a Troll-focused game.

You can't read a bunch of myths, legends, and fairy tales about witches and not run across the occasional troll.  They are all over the place.   Especially any of the stories of Northern Europe.

What I never liked though was how the trolls of myth and in particular the trolls from the Hobbit looked and acted nothing like the trolls of D&D.  Sure ogres are fine, but thin rubbery dudes that regenerate? Not so much.  As time went on I of course saw where the D&D trolls came from and why they were chosen; a stronger differentiation between ogres and trolls needed to be made.  But I still never really liked them.

In my games I made a new troll, the Earth Troll, that was more like the trolls I saw in the books I was reading.  These trolls were often the lackeys of hags, in particular, the Wood Hag.  These were much closer and I would later go one to make more trolls.  The idea here that trolls are highly adaptable to their environment.  They are Lamarckian Evolution played out in D&D.  Put a troll near water and in a couple of generations, they are adapted to it.  

But one thing I never did and will do this week, is adapt Troll Pak and Tunnels & Trolls to the Trolls of D&D.


Looking forward to seeing what I can come up with!

Friday, July 24, 2020

Silver Anniversary Time

Wednesday was my 25th Wedding Anniversary!  We had plans to be in Jamaica this year, but given how Americans are been told to stay in their own damn plague country, we settled for carry-out at our favorite seafood restaurant (Bob Chinn's FYI) and a nice walk (been walking 5k+ every night since COVID hit).

My wife and I are at an age where we don't really want a lot of things. For me, it was better to spend time with her, our favorite restaurant, and plate of sea scallops.  Besides we are also at an age where if there is something we need or want we just go get it. I didn't bust my ass in grad school for nothing.

BUT.  That doesn't mean I am not going to treat ourselves.
While my wife is going to get a new garden shed for her hobby.  I went to my FLGS and grabbed something I have been wanting for 20 years. Consequently, it is also a 25 year anniversary item.


My FLGS has had the D&D 25th Anniversary edition boxed set in their "glass" case for some time.

It is a premium item and likely cost WAY more than it should have (and more than I should have spent) but it is something I have wanted, it was my anniversary and I had promised I was only going to buy local once everything had opened back up.

I got it and I am very pleased.

I knew of the contents of course, but it was so nice to have them in front of me.


While they are all reprints I didn't actually own the separate G series modules and my copy of S2 White Plume Mountain walked years ago.  All I have is a printed PDF.  So those are "new" to me.

The copy of Ravenloft is nice and a little different from my 1983 original.



The "new" material for me was the history book and Len Lakofka's L3 Deep Dwarven Delve.





With L3 in hand, I now have the complete Lendore Isle's Trilogy. (Yes, I DO know there are more on Dragonsfoot.)



The set is very nice and there is a lot of room inside for more.  But not everything belongs inside to be honest.   But I figure my Silver Anniversary Return to the Keep on the Borderlands would be fine.


I just need a good copy of Return to White Plume Mountain as well. (ETA I see there is a POD version up at DriveThruRPG!)

BTW Return to the Keep is seriously under-rated. I use it now whenever I want to run a Keep adventure. I just typicall show everyone the B2 module so they think they are getting the full "orginal D&D experience."

This set is a nice companion piece to my Arts & Arcana for D&D history.



So happy 25th anniversary to me, my wife and D&D (just 20 years late on that last one).




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.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

BECMI: Expert Level Accessories and the AD&D Toy Line

Last week I talked about the tie-ins with the 1983 D&D Basic Set.  Today I want to delve into a very specifics sort of tie-in relationship and one that gave us very mixed results.
I am talking of course about the Advanced Dungeons & Dragon toy line and it's, let's just say awkward, tie-in with the BECMI version of D&D.


Today gamers of a certain age look back rather fondly at the AD&D toy line.  Back then though, at least in my circles of 1983, we kinda looked down on them.  Sure we thought they were fine for a younger sibling, but we were Real RoleplayersTM and we didn't need that!  In fact, it was much the same way the same group of people now look down on D&D5 players.  Well, it was dumb then and dumb now.  But I digress.

If you follow me on social media I do a feature called "The Other Side Rewind" where I usually post a link to an older blog post early in the morning. Today's was a look back at my review of the Shady Dragon Inn, AC1.

The Shady Dragon Inn features the Inn and tons of writeups that can be used as ready-made PCs or as NPCs.  It is, as I described it, the "Rogues Gallery" of D&D.  It also has stats for a number of the LJN Toys AD&D line Heroes and Villians.  Of course in BECMI D&D stats format. Everyone from Strongheart to Kelek to Warduke even my beloved Skylla is here.  You can read my full review of it here.

But that is not the only place they appear.


Another product designed to work with the AD&D toy line and feature what are arguably the first set of D&D iconic characters is the Expert level adventure, XL-1 Quest for the Heartstone.
XL in this case is not "extra-large" but rather "Exert Licensed."

It features a kingdom, Ghyr, not found on any of the maps in the Expert set, and dozens of characters from the toy line.  It also introduces monsters from the toy line to the BECMI rules for the first time.  We get Hook Horrors, Dragonne, and the raging Roper!



Let's not delude ourselves here.  XL-1 Quest of the Heartstone is not a good adventure.

There is one reason to get this and that is because of the tie-in with the D&D toy line.  Even the author of the adventure Michael L. Gray has said this.

Correction, there is another reason.  The maps for this adventure are rather nice featuring the same isomorphic maps we see in Ravenloft.

The Heartstone itself is something of an iconic on it's own.  We know from the Shady Dragon Inn supplement that Strongheart and Warduke used to be friends. But when exposed to the Heartstone Strongheart became a paragon of good and Warduke one of evil.   Both are featured fighting side by side on the cover of the module.  It also features in Skylla's backstory. She was a student of Ringlerun until she was exposed to the Heartstone and sought out the dark sides of magic. 
Given what the Heartstone does would it be heretical to suggest that Strongheart and Warduke are actually the same person! Just split into "Good" and "Evil" halve by the Heartstone?  Their stats don't match though.
What about Skylla and Charmay? The same picture is often used for them both.  Both were students of Ringlerun.  Here is an awful thought.  Skylla touched the Heartstone was split into good and evil.  Evil Skylla went on her way but good Skylla was taken by Ringlerun and had her memories changed and she became "Charmay."
This is why they often look alike and why I have never seen them together in any one product.  Hmm. Something to consider for another time.

One of the biggest issues I see with this is the seeming hamfisted way the toy line was added.
The toy line was marketed as "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" the stats and tie-ins are all for D&D BECMI lines and the Expert in particular.  I hate to speculate but was this part of the same split of D&D/AD&D going back to the Arneson/Gygax split?  My understanding was that if it was "D&D" then Dave Arneson got a bit of cash, but not so for AD&D.  Again. I hate to speculate.

The book art is still Charmay!

But. It does create an interesting problem.  There are many more classes in AD&D and some of the characters belong to those classes. Strongheart is a Paladin, Peralay (formerly Melf) is multiclassed (ok this one is easy to fix), Hawkler is a Ranger, Zarak is an assassin.

For the Shady Dragon and Quest of the Heartstone they had to be converted to the nearest D&D class.

Looking at modern iterations of the game, specifically D&D 3.0 and Pathfinder, but also other media tie-ins with the characters of the Forgotten Realms, it seems like there was a need, or at least a want,  for some iconic characters.  Hell, I have spilled a lot of digital ink on Skylla alone.   I wonder why more wasn't done.  I guess the easy answer is that TSR just didn't think about it at the time, but I find that is an unsatisfactory answer.  Reading any anecdotes from the time Gary was eager to get the D&D band into every home. Maybe not always the D&D game, but certainly the brand.

Hard to blame him really.  D&D was popular then and only now are the ideas he had being fully realized.  It's easy to see why.  The people in charge of D&D (and pretty much every other successful game company) now were the players back then.  They wanted to know more about the exploits of Strongheart, the evils of Kelek and whatever dastardly deed Warduke was up too.

The characters would appear again and this time in a better adventure.
Module X10 Red Arrow, Black Shield also features these iconic characters and it is also the closest thing we got to a meta-plot in 80s D&D.  It is a follow-up to the Desert Nomad series of X4/X5 and it also uses the War Machine massive battle rules from the Companion Set (more on that next week) AND it also uses the AD&D BattleSystem.  There is so much going on that this adventure really deserves it's own post.  I had hoped that the Print on Demand version would be here by now, but everything is slow.

Do the LJN/AD&D toys exist in the canon D&D world of Mystara?  I suppose you can say yes. The likes of Warduke, Skylla, Ringelrun, Strongheart, Kelek, and Charmay easily join the ranks of the iconic D&D characters.

Links

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Reviews: Conversion Guides to Caldwen

I am still spending a Virtual Vacation in Calidar's beautiful Caldwen.  But you know what every tourist needs?  A tour guide.  Thankfully our thoughtful travel agent Bruce Heard has supplied us with not one, but two new "tour guides" for anyone traveling to Caldwen.

CAL2a Conversion Guide to Caldwen for Vintage Roleplaying and CAL2b Conversion Guide to Caldwen for the OSRIC System.

Both books follow the same format. The only differences are the systems they are being converted too.  The books cover both CAL2 Calidar On Wings of Darkness and CA2 How to Train Your Wizard.  Knowledge of PG2 A Players' Guide to Caldwen and Game Mechanics for the World of Calidar is helpful.  (links are to reviews, not the products themselves.)

The books are 30 pages with full-color covers and color with black & white interior art. Prices at $3.95, but currently $2.95.  You do not need both, but I find it nice for my own system analyses.
Unlike the main Caldwen/Calidar books the art here is sparse, but that is by design since the focus of this book is the stats.  Here Heard make explicit the conversions he discussed in the main books using the Calidar game stats.  Depending on the system book you grab, you get easily familiar stat blocks and guides on how to use the books.  Now obviously the "vintage roleplaying" can be used with any 70s and 80s circa version of the World's Greatest Role-Playing Game. Or as I have called here, any Basic-Era edition.  It is labeled for "Labyrinth Lord" but any game similar enough to Labyrinth Lord can be used (ie. only a Law-Chaos alignment axis, race-as-class), or adapted.  The OSIRC-labeled version can also be used with any Advanced-era version of the game.

One of the main features of these books is the Mage Knight class. I am quite fond of this class so I wanted to try it out.  Now I have choices, a "Basic" or an "Advanced" version.  Now the class has been converted faithfully, so don't expect them to look exactly the same between the Basic and Advanced versions.  There is no description of the powers the Mage Knight has, you still need the Caldwen book for that, but this is expected.

After the Mage Knight, we get into the How to Train Your Wizard material. 

Throughout the book, page references to the sourcebooks are given. 
So the great thing about these books is if you play a particular system then you only need one conversion book.  True, it does mean you need two books, but for me the flexibility more than outweighs this minor issue.  I am a system guy, so I like being able to have multiple versions of the same material to blend between my games.  So yeah for 3 bucks it is totally worth it for me, hell it is worth it for 6 bucks to have both versions. 

There is an obvious logical extension here. CAL2C for Pathfinder and CAL2D for D&D5.

Up next, I try out a Mage Knight.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

AD&D First Edition Collector's Books Print on Demand

Speaking of print on demand, I got something else in the mail this week.


The Holy Trinity of AD&D from DriveThruRPG Print on Demand.

These are of course the newer collector's edition covers and honestly, they look great.  As you can see from the pictures these are glossy covers and not the matte finish of the ones you could get in the stores.


Also, there is no ribbon bookmark, no embossed covers, and no gilded pages.




But these POD versions are also slightly bigger than the reprints and the paper is a bit thicker.


The price was great with the sale and I ended up paying about as much for these as I did for my originals back in the 80s.



I was getting these to give as a gift to a friend and I wanted to see how they would turn out.
In truth, I am very, very pleased with these and find I want to keep them! (but I won't).

You really have to hand it to WotC and DriveThru, it has never ever been easier to get books and materials for ANY version of D&D you like.

I would not mind seeing a softcover version of the Player's Handbook to be honest.  Something like the Fiend Folio softcover they have. A little bit cheaper to buy multiple copies of to have an AD&D 1st Ed Start-Up set.  A DMG, a Monster Manual and five PHBs for one price. 

For some reason, I forgot to get a copy of Unearthed Arcana, so I ordered it now.

You can get yours here: