Showing posts with label Blue Rose. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blue Rose. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Classic Adventures Revisited: X1 The Isle of Dread (BECMI Edition)

When I kicked off BECMI Month I mentioned that I was going to try to do BECMI versions of some regular features.  Here is one I was really looking forward too.

With the possible exception of B2 Keep on the Borderlands, no other adventure help so many new DMs as much as the Expert Set's The Isle of Dread.  In fact it had so much appeal that the module was available to purchase separately AND it was included with both the B/X Expert Set and BECMI Expert Set.  No surprise really since the module contained so much information.

For this review and overview I am considering my original print version of X1 along with some copies I managed to pick up from somewhere, the PDF version on DriveThruRPG and the Goodman Games Original Adventures Reincarnated hardcover version which features both the B/X and BECMI versions as well as a new 5th Edition D&D version.

The Isle of Dread is notable since it is the only B/X adventure to get reprinted in the newer TSR BECMI-era trade dress.

While my focus this week is on the D&D Expert set from 1983, I am also going to talk about my experiences with this from the D&D Expert Set of 1981.  The copies of the module do differ in layout, but they are largely the same in terms of content.  In fact I have not discovered many differences at all.

Yeah. I am a fan.

X1 The Isle of Dread
For this review I am considering the print version that came with my D&D Expert set, one purchase separate of the set and the PDF from DriveThruRPG.
The Ilse of Dread by David "Zeb" Cook and Tom Moldvay.  32 pages, color covers with blue maps. B&W interior art and maps.

The adventure that was to complete the new 1981 Basic and Expert Sets was written by the two main authors of those sets, David "Zeb" Cook and Tom Moldvay.  The Basic set would include the adventure module B2 Keep on the Borderlands written by Gygax himself. But the Expert set did not have an adventure until Cook and Moldvay wrote it.  Both drew on their love of pulp fiction and it shows.  Additionally, parts of the world created by Moldvay with his then writing partner of Lawrence Schick became the starting ground for the Known World, this world would later expand more until we got Mystara, but that is a topic for another post/review.
The adventure was so well received that when the expert set was rereleased in 1983 under Frank Mentzer editing, TSR included the Isle of Dread again with a new cover.

While the adventure centers around the eponymous island, there is a lot to this book that is above and beyond the adventure itself.

Part 1: Introduction
Here we get the basics of the world we are in and what this adventure was designed for.  Don't expect complicated plots here, this is a sandbox for new DM's wanting to try out adventuring in the Wilderness.   Here we also get our first look at our world.
"Map C-1" is such an unassuming name.  Though I will argue I have never read any map in such detail as I did with this one.  I don't even pour over maps of my beloved Chicago as much. 
Each country is given a brief, I mean really brief, description. Hardly more than a paragraph. But in those scant words were the seeds of a lifetime of adventure.
The biggest criticism, of course, you have such a hodge-podge of cultures and climes in a 1,200 x 1,000 miles square.  So if I put Chicago in Glanrti then the Kingdom of Ostland would be Halifax, and the Isle of Dread is about where the Bahamas are.  That's not a lot of land really.  But hey, I've made it work for me.
Seriously we are 2.5 pages in and I can already point to about 30 years of gaming.  What is in the rest of this book?

Part 2: The Isle of Dread
Here we get our plot hook for adventuring on the Isle of Dread.  A letter from pirate captain Rory Barbarosa. It is designed to get the characters to the island.  When really all I have ever needed was "hey there are dinosaurs on that island. wanna check it out?"  And it has always worked.  Plus it's a great excuse to use all those old plastic dinosaurs.
There is the trip to the island, which in my cases always became an adventure all on its own.
Once you get to the island only the lower South East peninsula has been detailed with the Village of Tanaroa, which comes straight out of the 1930s King Kong movie.  This was also the origin of one of my favorite NPCs ever, Bone Man, a village priest, and later warlock.  I even got some original art done of him for my Warlock book from none other than Jeff Dee himself.
Outside of the giant, Kong-style walls, there is the rest of the island. Here we run into not just some of the best D&D Expert set monsters, but some of the best monsters in the history of D&D.  The Rakasta, cat people with war-claws (and the 1982 Cat People was just around the corner!), the Phanatons, flying squirel-monkeys (had more than one player want to play them as a race!), the Aranea, and most of all the Kopru!

There is a meme floating around social media around the time of this review about being an adult suck because no one ever asks you what your favorite dinosaur is.  Well, my kids love this because they know mine, and it is a total cheat since it is not really a dinosaur, but something older, the Dimetrodon.  So the Dimetrodon Peril was the encounter *I* remember the best, not the "Deranged Ankylosaurus."  An animal high on "loco weed?"  No thanks, I grew up in the Mid-west that is not adventure material, that is something everyone saw once or twice.

The 8 or so pages in the center are all dedicated to some of the best maps in D&D up to Ravenloft.

Part 3: The Central Plateau
Seriously. There is so much going on here that it always takes me a couple session to get through it all and I have NEVER had a party investigate the entire central part of the island.  The Village of Mantru always gets a good investigation though.

Part 4: Taboo Island
The base of the Kopru.  These were my first crazy fish-men and I wanted to use them in place of the Kuo-toa in the D-Series, but I later relented.  I still kind of wish I had done it though.

Part 5: New Monsters
One of the best features of the BECMI-era modules, and this is no exception, are all the new monsters.  The above-mentioned ones, plus more dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures.  Sadly, no giant ape.  I did create some Sea-dragons for this and used them.

This adventure has not only stood the test of time, it has stood the test of editions.  Much like B2 Keep on the Borderlands I think I have run this for every single edition of *D&D since 1981. Most recently for D&D 5th edition and it still works great.   Plus every time I have run it there is something new to find and there is something new that the players do.
It is really no surprise that it was used for both iterations of the Expert Set.

Maybe second only to B2 and B1 in terms of numbers of players, but The Isle of Dread lasts as one of the best Basic-era adventures out there. In today's frame of mind, the adventure is equal parts Pirates of the Caribean, King Kong, and Jurassic Park. It is a heady cauldron of tropes, ideas, and just plain crazy fun.

Other Editions of D&D
The Isle of Dread is so popular that it got routinely updated to whatever was the popular version of D&D at the time.

D&D 3.x
Paizo, back when they were publishing Dragon and Dungeon magazines published Dungeon #114 which brought the Isle to 3rd Edition D&D and the World of Greyhawk.
The adventure Torrents of Dread by Greg Vaughan is a must-have for any fan of the original Isle of Dread.
They would later feature it again in issues #139, #142 and #145.



D&D 4
Mystara or Oerth? Where is the Isle of Dread?  D&D 4th Edition Manual of the Planes lets you have it both ways!  The Isle is part of the Feywilde and it can come in and out of other realities.  It's a pretty cool idea really.


D&D 5
There are a couple of ways to play the Isle of Dread using the new D&D 5th edition rules.
There is the Classic Modules Today: X1 The Isle of Dread 5e.  This is just conversion notes and monster stats. You still need the full adventure in order to play it.

The other is the fantastic Goodman Games Original Adventures Reincarnated #2 The Isle of Dread.


The book is a massive 328 pages and retails for just under $50.  So it is a big one.  Color covers and predominantly black & white interiors.  If you have any of the other Good Games Original Adventures you will know what you are getting here.  The first 10 pages deal with the history and background of the adventure. An article and an interview from David "Zeb" Cook. An article from Lawerence Schick on his and Tom Moldvay's creation of the Known World. As well as some other retrospectives.
The next 34 pages reprint the original 1981 version from the B/X Expert boxed set.
The next 38 pages reprint the 1983 version from the BECMI Expert boxed set.
It's great to see them both side by side though if I am being 100% fair the reduction in font size for the faithful reproductions is hard on these 50+-year-old eyes.

Now the material we spent all this money on.   The 5e update.
The 5th edition conversion is a complete rewrite of the adventure and covers 246 pages.  That seems like a lot, but a lot of material has been added including 90+ monsters, new magic items, 5 new spells, 15 NPCs, player handouts, and maps.

There is also an appendix for further adventures on the island. I have mentioned above how much potential this adventure has, this only supports my claim.

Regardless of which version you have (or how many) this is one of those adventures that succeeds both as a learning tool for new DMs and as a fantastic sandbox adventure that you can go back too time and time again.

Plays Well with Others
The Isle of Dread is also one of those adventures that just lends itself so well to all sorts of games.  I mention the "King Kong" feel to it, but there is also a strong "Lost World" of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and "Pellucidar" from Edgar Rice Burroughs.  There is even a tiny bit of "Godzilla" and Monster Island here, the adventure remains very pulpy. This means that the setting can be used with a ton of different games and nothing at all about the island needs to change.

Dinosaurs? Of course! Weird fish people? The more the merrier! Pirates? Always! Strange Cults? Everyday!

I have already talked about how well you can use this adventure with two "D&D derived" games, the Pulpy exploits of Amazing Adventures.


and the equally pulpy, though the more dark fantasy of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.


Running this in either would only require the barest minimum of conversion.  In fact, using the Goodman Games version gives you a leg up for using it with Amazing Adventures since the SIEGE game (that powers AA and Castles & Crusades) is very similar to both AD&D and D&D5.

Of course, you can save your self some effort and use the brand new Amazing Adventures for 5e.


No. It is not out just yet.

But what else can you do?  Lots really.

Thanks to X1's solid pulp roots anything from around that time is also fair game.  No pun intended.


Hollow Earth Expedition and Leagues of Adventure are two Ubiquity powered RPGS.  Hollow Earth should really capture the minds and hearts of any Mystara fan since it is also a hollow world.  Leagues of Adventure is a pulpy Victorian age game.  Both though draw on the same sources that Cook and Moldvay did for the Isle of Dread.
The adventure would need to be tweaked a little to use with either of these games, but because their source materials are largely the same appropriate substitutes can be found in either game.

Editorial: Seriously Mystara fans, check out Hollow Earth Expedition. There is a ton of great ideas for Hollow World here.

But what about my own beloved Victorian Era?  I am so glad you asked!



Games like Gaslight and Ravenloft Masque of the Red Death already cleave close to the D&D rules used in the Isle of Dread.  These games just put more "dread" into them.  Both also take place in the late Victorian era so the pulpy spirit of adventure is already getting started.

Ghosts of Albion, my favorite child, takes place in the early Victorian era, and travel in the world is not as easy as it is in the 1880-1890s, but that still is not a problem. Ghosts' higher magic system is also a benefit here.

If you want to go even darker then there is the classic.


Call of Cthulhu's DNA is found deep in the introns of the Isle of Dread.  How do you convert this?  One simple change.  The Kopru used to be human.  Rory Barbarosa is not lost, he has been changed and even all these years later he is still alive as something else.
Hell. That's a good enough idea to use in any game!
While I personally think that everyone who plays any version of D&D should also play Call of Cthulhu, Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos for 5e is a great substitute.  Grab the 5e version of the Isle of Dread and no conversions are needed.

Monster Hunting
While monster hunting can be achieved with, well, every single game out there, my "Monster Naturalist" game is a little different.  You don't kill the monsters, you need to bring them back alive.
It is also not a stretch to say that my Monster Naturalist game idea got its start here with this island and its menageries.  But it found it's true form in Blue Rose.


The idea is a simple one.  The Isle of Dread is about to erupt in a huge volcano.  Not terribly original I know, in fact that is the point I am stealing from any number of pulpy-feeling movies.

The inhabitants have all been relocated to nearby islands all that is left are the dinosaurs and other strange creatures.  And that's where you, Sovereign’s Finest, come in.  Efforts to save some of these creatures are underway and it is your job to get them off the island before the volcano destroys it.  Easy enough idea and you have plenty of time. That is, as long as nothing goes wrong.

Blue Rose: The AGE RPG of Romantic Fantasy is a different game in which hunting and killing monsters is never the point.  Sure, evil monsters can be dispatched with no pause, but these are dinosaurs and the Queen feels that efforts should be made to rescue as many as can.  Of course, she does not want the lives of her Finest to be in jeopardy so great care is taken.  What the Queen and her advisors don't know about is the Kopru, are they trying to benefit from this disaster?  And the pirates, are they taking the animals (and maybe even the people) to be sold?  These will be the problems the envoys will need to solve.  Oh, and the volcano is starting to shake. A lot.

One day I need to run a campaign centered around the island and its neighbors.  I certainly have enough to keep me busy.

Links

Monday, April 27, 2020

Monstrous Mondays: Horror of the Hodag for NightShift and more!

Been wanting to do this beastie for a while!



The Hodag

In the wilds of Wisconsin there lives, or rather lived, the fiercest to ever run on stubby little legs.  The Hodag.  This monster has a wide face full of razor-sharp fangs. Its head is topped with a pair of horns and spikes running down it's back.  It's four legs are short (and it has no knees) and also end in razor-tipped claws.  It is fierce, vicious, and mean-spirited.

The hodag is seven feet long and about two-and-half feet tall. It is almost supernaturally strong, but are not fast runners.  They have to sleep leaning against a tree since it has no knees and their own spikes would impale them if they were to lie down. Because of this, they can't be surprised. This also might explain why they are so cranky.

Hodags are believed to have died out due to a lack of their primary food source, pure white bulldogs.

Hodag (NightShift)
No. Appearing: 1
AC: 4
Move: 30ft.
Hit Dice: 6
Special: 4 attacks (2 claws, bite, 1 tail spike), can't be surprised
XP VALUE: 150


Hodag (Old-School Essentials)
Armor Class 4 [16]
Hit Dice 6 (27 hp)
Attacks [2 × claw (1d6), 1 × bite (2d6)] or 1 × tail spike (1d6) or 2 x horn gore (1d4+1)
THAC0 14 [+5]
Movement Rate 90' (30')
Saves D10 W11 P12 B13 S14 (6)
Morale 11
Alignment Chaotic
XP for Defeating 500
Number Appearing 1 (1)
Treasure Type None

  • Horns. The hodag can rush an opponent to attack.  The horns are sharp and cause piercing damage.
  • Nasty Mood. Hodags are always in a foul mood. They can't be charmed nor subdued. They always attack.
  • Tooth and nail. The preferred attack of a hodag. Razor-sharp claws and fangs.


Hodag (shadow creature) (Blue Rose)

Abilities (Focuses)
3 Accuracy (Claws)
1 Communication
3 Constitution
2 Dexterity (Stealth)
1 Fighting (Fangs)
-1 Intelligence
2 Perception (Smell)
3 Strength
2 Willpower

Speed 16
Health 40
Defense 14
Armor Rating 0

Weapon Attack Roll Damage
Claws +3 1d6+1
Fangs +2 1d6+2
Horns +1 1d6

Special Qualities
Favored Stunts: Defensive Stance, Lightning Attack

Threat: Moderate


Night Shift: Veterans of the Supernatural Wars

Pre-sales of the Night Shift: Veterans of the Supernatural Wars rpg are OPEN! Grab a hardcover/PDF bundle and get your PDF right away! https://elflair.com/nightshift.html 



Monday, April 20, 2020

Monstrous Mondays: Magiphagous Rust Monster

Rust Monsters are a great threat to low-level characters.  Nothing scares a group of fighters as much as a rust monster.  Orcs, kobolds, goblins, even trolls can be dealt with when you know what is going on.  But a rust monster never fails to put fear into most players.  Just not for the reasons the other monsters do.

Plus I have to admit I have always loved these weird little dudes. Especially after I learned of their true origins!

So here is a version of the rust Monster my oldest is using in his games.  Helps keep the fear of these guys alive, even when characters have gone up a level. Maybe even more so that they have gone up in levels.


Rust Monster, Magiphagous

Appearing as a paler and larger version of the rust monster, these creatures are otherwise exactly the same as rust monsters, save for one detail.   These creatures only eat magical metals.

Rust Monster, Magiphagous  (Old-School Essentials)
Magical, armadillo-like creatures with long tails and two long, antennae-like feelers. Feed on the remains of magical metals.
AC 2 [17], HD 7 (31hp), Att 1 × feeler (rusting), THAC0 13 [+6], MV 120’ (40’), SV D11 W12 P13 B14 S15 (5), ML 9, AL Neutral, XP 175, NA 1d4 (1d4), TT None

  • Rusting: Magical metal that touches a rust monster (e.g. weapons that hit it, or armour struck by a feeler) crumbles instantly to rust.  Each time a magic item is affected, it loses one “plus”.  Each item gets a base saving throw of 13, plus any "pluses" the magical item has.
  • Mundane damage immunity: Can only be harmed by magical attacks.
  • Smell metal: Attracted by the scent of magical metals such as weapons, armors and artifacts.


Rust Monster, Magiphagous (Fantasy Age and Blue Rose)

Abilities (Focuses)
1 Accuracy (antennae)
–3 Communication
2 Constitution
1 Dexterity
2 Fighting (Claws)
–3 Intelligence
1 Perception (Smelling)
2 Strength
1 Willpower

Speed 14
Health 20
Defense 12
Armor Rating 4

Weapon Attack Roll Damage
Antennae +4 1d6+2

Special Qualities
Favored Stunts: Knock Prone

Eat Magic: The Magiphagous Rust Monster eats magic from metal magical items leaving behind useless rust.

Threat: Minor


and for 5e D&D



Rust Monster, Magiphagous

Large monstrosity (magical), unaligned

Armor Class

 
15 (natural armor)

Hit Points

 
52 (7d10 + 14)

Speed

 
40 ft.

STR

14 (+2)
 

DEX

12 (+1)
 

CON

14 (+2)
 

INT

2 (-4)
 

WIS

13 (+1)
 

CHA

6 (-2)

Senses

 
darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 11

Languages

 

Challenge

 
1 (200 XP)

Magic Scent.

 The rust monster can pinpoint, by scent, the location of magical metal within 30 feet of it.

Rust Metal.

 Any magical weapon made of metal that hits the rust monster corrodes. After dealing damage, the weapon takes a permanent and cumulative -1 penalty to damage rolls. If its penalty drops to -5, the weapon is destroyed. Magical ammunition made of metal that hits the rust monster is destroyed after dealing damage.

Actions

Bite.

 Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d8 + 1) piercing damage.

Antennae.

 The rust monster corrodes a magical ferrous metal object it can see within 5 feet of it. If the object isn't being worn or carried, the touch destroys a 1-foot cube of it. If the object is being worn or carried by a creature, the creature can make a DC 11 Dexterity saving throw to avoid the rust monster's touch. Bonuses to save per plus of the item's enchantment.
If the object touched is either metal armor or a metal shield being worn or carried, it takes a permanent and cumulative -1 penalty to the AC it offers. Armor reduced to an AC of 10 or a shield that drops to a +0 bonus is destroyed. If the object touched is a held metal weapon, it rusts as described in the Rust Metal trait.

Friday, April 17, 2020

PWWO: Calidar, Part 2

A while back I a did a "Plays Well With Others" for Calidar. It's pretty to do, there are a lot of great ideas and it has a system that lends itself well to easy conversion.  After doing a series of reviews I thought another go at another PWWO.

The Reviews
For this PWWO I think I am going to focus mostly on Calidar On Wings of Darkness and related products.  In particular the various magic schools featured in Caldwen.

Given the various conversion guides and the rules presented in the books, mathematical style conversions are less of an issue, the big factor is more how do I replicate the same feel of Calidar in a different game while still preserving what I liked about the original game.

Calidar and "New" D&D


These are the easiest of course.  The level limits for both D&D 5 and Pathfinder are a set 20. So follow along with the rules for 20 levels.  D&D 5 and Pathfinder characters tend to be more powerful than their same-level counterparts in older editions.  Cantrips really boost what a Wizard can do every round even at the lowest levels.  Plus the addition of cantrips can become an interesting element to the wizard school. 1st level wizards/magic-users have a lot more they can do.

Retro-Clones


These conversions are handled by various current products and upcoming products from Calidar.  Plus these mimic the games played by most of the people involved with the Calidar lines.

Calidar and Glantri


Let's address the obvious mix here.  Bruce Heard is fairly well known for his work on the Mystara lines and Glantri in particular.  You can use details from one mage school for the other, they are roughly compatible in style, and it makes either product a little more robust.  You do lose a little of the unique feel of Calidar this way if you set it all in Glantri.  Though what I have been doing is considering setting the caldera on the north pole.  The whole area is hidden away from the rest of the world.  Still playing with this idea.


I am using the "Mystoerth" map for this. I made a globe, and see there is some room up on top. Enough for Calidar?  I have not done the math yet, but it looks right.   I still to play around with it.

That is if my next idea doesn't take over.

Mage: The Sorcerer's Crusade


This idea has grabbed my imagination.  Calidar has a great early Renaissance feel to it.  So somewhere between Dark Ages Mage and Mage the Sorcerer's Crusade is a perfect time.  In this case I would use Calidar as is, but the game system would be White Wolf's Mage.
What I have not decided yet is if the various schools represent Spheres (which means Mages would need to attend to multiple schools) or Traditions (which would make the rivalries more intense).
So everyone in "How to Train Your Wizard" would be part of the Euthatoi.   I think just to have some fun I would keep the Verbena out of it unless I work in the Glantri Wokani.

There is a lot I would love to do with that idea.  D&D backdrop, Calidar setting, Mage/White Wolf rules.  The possibilities are staggering, to be honest.

Conversion though is a bigger issue.  The Calidar system is pretty flexible, but it is level-based to a large degree. Mage uses the White Wolf Storyteller system which is a dice pool system. So the conversion books won't be much help here save to figure out some guidelines.  Still maybe if I can dig up a copy of Monte Cook's d20 World of Darkness it might give me some ideas.

WitchCraft


Nothing specific yet.  But if I can convert Mage I can convert this a lot easier.

Most likely I would combine a lot of these ideas to make the schools in Calidar a little less D&D and little more Scholomance if possible.

Blue Rose AGE


Ah.  Now here is something that would be a lot of fun.
I would need to make some changes to what kinds of magics could be taught at the schools, but AGE is level-based and so should convert well.  Green Ronin already did some of the heavy lifting for me with their converting for Fantasy AGE.

The bottom line is that Calidar gives me a great magic school that I really want to drop anywhere.

Plus it gives a Fantasy-era Breakbills and an excuse to do this:



And any excuse to put more Brakebills into my games is a good one.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Monstrous Monday: The Jackalope

There are few creatures that say "Americana" than the Jackalope.  Created from the same tall tales that gave up Paul Bunyan, Captain Stormalong, Piasa Bird and the Hodag. Stories I enjoyed as a kid.

The Jackalope, of course, has had the "advantage" of taxidermy where several stuffed Jackalopes can be purchased across the US.  I have lost track of the number of truck stops, gas stations or diners I have stopped in from California to New York that had at least one stuffed Jackalope for sale.  Though I admit I have never had the desire to own one.

Though having a Jackalope in my games?  Yeah, that is doable.

Jackalope
These creatures seem to be a magical crossbreed of a large rabbit and either a deer or antelope.  The jackalope is a large creature, larger than a rabbit, about the size of a large dog.  Its head comes up to about 2-3 feet, with its antlers adding another 12-18 inches.  Some are smaller but rarely larger.
The jackalope is an intelligent creature, capable of speech and is even known to sing.  It is fond of singing in the evening just as the stars are coming out.
When relaxed the jackalope is a cordial creature and good company. It will even share stories of other magical animals it has met in its life.
When hunted, the jackalope is a fierce opponent.  He will run towards hunters to attack with its antlers. The jackalope is also very fast and can outrun most opponents.


Jackalope (Old-School Essentials)
A large jack-rabbit like creature with antlers and intelligent eyes.
Armor Class 2
Hit Dice 3 (13)
Attacks 1 antlers (1d6+2)
THAC0 17 (+2)
Movement Rate 120' (40')
Saves D12 W13 P14 B15 S16 (3)
Morale 10
Alignment Neutral
XP for Defeating 50
Number Appearing 1
Treasure Type none (Jackalopes have no need for treasure)
  • Antlers. The jackalope can rush an opponent to attack.  The antlers are sharp and cause piercing damage.
  • Fast. Jackalopes are very fast when escaping they can double their speed once per day.
  • Speaking. Jackalopes can speak and sing.

Jackalope (Rhy-creature) (Blue Rose)

Abilities (Focuses)
1 Accuracy (Antlers)
3 Communication (Performance)
2 Constitution
2 Dexterity (Stealth)
1 Fighting (Antlers)
2 Intelligence
2 Perception (Hearing)
1 Strength (Jumping)
2 Willpower

Speed 16
Health 30
Defense 12
Armor Rating 0

Weapon Attack Roll Damage
Antlers +3 1d6+1

Special Qualities
Favored Stunts: Defensive Stance, Lightning Attack
Arcana: Calm, Illusion, Psychic Contact

Threat: Moderate

Jackalopes could be considered Rhy-Rabbits if there were such a thing, but they are a unique sort of creature. All Jackalopes are Rhydan. In this respect, they are more like unicorns or griffins, though some would contend as more humble and even "rustic".
Jackalope rhydan love nothing more than to hop through the land, sing and tell stories.  All jackalopes are natural storytellers.  Not for epics involving dragons and great queens or kings, but simple tales like the luck of widow's sons, or small clever creatures that most heroes would ignore.


Of course, the best Jackalopes sound like Bud Luckey from Boundin'.


Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Bundle of Holding: Blue Rose

I am sure a lot of you, if not all, are familiar with the Bundle of Holding.
You pay a reduced price to get some great RPG books. Pay a little more and get a lot more. Often some of the money goes to charity.  Well, this month is one of my favorite games.

Bundle of Holding: Blue Rose


For just under $8 you can get $48 worth of material.  Not a bad deal at all.
If you were at all interested in this game this is the place to get it from and now is the time.

You can read my reviews of the game here:
It really is a great game.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Classic Adventures Revisited: B1 In Search of the Unknown

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.

B1 In Search of the Unknown
In Search of the Unknown was not the first adventure ever created, it was not even the first TSR adventure ever created.  It was though one of the very first adventures I ever encountered and one of the first I ever ran.

This is my "go-to" adventure anytime I want to start up a new group or game.  It's a ritual for me, roll up characters and run them through the halls of the lost Castle of Quasqueton. I still have my copy that I bought all those years ago and it was also one of the first PDFs I purchased from WotC. I also have the DriveThruRPG Print on Demand copy and it is very nice.



It is one of those adventures I can run with zero prep time and each time I learn something new or remember something I forgot. This module is simple, easy to use and can be adapted to any campaign world and even any game. It is a perfect module for the Basic game.

The adventure is a great case of both teaching tool for learning DMs (we were all new to this once) and DIY Dungeon.  Some areas are detailed, but many are not, leaving room for the neophyte DM to record what monsters and treasure were in each room.  There are also a plethora of cliche spawning Dungeon tropes, that were just getting started here.  Magic mouths, one-way secret doors, a mysterious creator of the dungeon, or in this case, two, and strange magical artifacts.

This adventure was the perfect learning tool for me at the time since my own version of D&D was a mix of Holmes Basic and the AD&D Monster Manual.   This "Basic" introductory module was released before the Basic game, but it moves elegantly between Basic and Advanced that begs you to mix and match your rules systems.  Author Mike Carr even gives some guidelines on how to use this adventure with AD&D.


Note how the using this adventure with AD&D is absent from the later printings.


The module is pretty typical for the time. 32 pages of b/w art and text. Detached cover with blue maps printed on the inside of the cover. The first 6 pages are dedicated to running the adventure and how to run this one in particular.

I have used this adventure to start every new campaign I have ever run in D&D, regardless of the edition.  The dungeon crawl here is so primal that it calls out to you. A true In Search of the Unknown indeed.   The one thing I never did, however, was to investigate more about who Rogahn and Zelligar were and why they left their lair of Castle Quasquenton.

One thing that B1 did give me, in a roundabout way, was my very first witch NPC Marissia.  She is in the lower parts of Quasquenton and she is attempting to summon the spirit of her master Zelligar and her father Rogahn.




The adventure has stood the test of time and it is a great combination of flexible dungeon design.  Nearly anything can be put into this adventure to raise or lower the difficulty as needed.

DriveThruRPG and DMSGuild offer this as both a PDF and Print On Demand.






B1 Legacy of the Unknown
This adventure is billed as a "sequel" from Pacesetter Games & Simulations.  It furthers the mystery of Rogahn and Zelligar and what they were doing.  There is a druid in this adventure named "Melissia" which I thought was very fun and worked as some sort of relative (daughter may be) of my own "Marissia", a witch NPC I always included in my own runnings of B1 In Search of the Unknown.

You can get this adventure from DriveThruRPG (PDF only) or from Pacesetter's own store (Print and PDF). While overtly designed for AD&D1/OSRIC, it would be a great fit for Pacesetter's own BX RPG.  In fact, it might fit better.

Other Games / Plays Well With Others

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition
The simplicity of B1 has made it an enduring adventure for over 40 years.  I have used it with every version of D&D I have ever played. But if you want everything at your fingertips for easy conversions I do recommend the Classic Modules Today conversion of B1 In Search of the Unknown.
Goodman Games also offers their Original Adventures Reincarnated, with B1 and it's various printings going into their Into the Borderlands Hardcover. It features the original printings of the original module as a complete 5th edition update.
There is also a set of maps that can be printed out or used with virtual tabletops.

B1 and Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea
Like many old-school adventures, one merely needs to turn up the horror aspect to give it a good run in Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  Though there is not much that needs to be done to change it.  There is a feeling that Rogahn and Zelligar were messing with the forces of chaos a little more than they should have been.  Make that Chaos now with a capital "C" and we are getting the adventure closer to what we might see in AS&SH.  The one thing that always struck me about Quasquenton is that it is all underground.  It's not a castle, not really, but a warren.  Eric Fabiaschi suggests that the complex had been built by one of the older Lovecraftian races and the adventurers Rogahn and Zelligar only found it later.  It seems to fit for me.
Also given that B1 is an odd admixture of proto-Basic D&D, OD&D, and AD&D, the feel is perfect for AS&SH.


B1 and Blue Rose
In this mix, the chaos elements run the other direction so to speak.  Here Rogahn and Zelligar stumble upon an element of Shadow while constructing their castle/lair.   Maybe it has something to do with what I call the "Chaos Stone", Room 45/XLV "Cavern of the Mystical Stone".  This is obviously some artifact of Shadow and it either drone Rogahn and Zelligar mad, killed them or caused them to kill each other, or destroyed them outright.  Maybe all the above.
When converting ANY D&D adventure to Blue Rose I take some points from Fantasy Age where I can. In particular the monsters.  Typically in Blue Rose, you would not see this concentration of monsters in one place, the Chaos Stone/Mystical Stone is drawing them near.   As Envoys of the Sovereign, it would the character's jobs to find out what is going on and how to stop it.   I would give more background to Rogahn and Zelligar and stat up Marrissia a little more.
While this is a good "first-level" adventure in D&D, the implication of Shadow here makes this a much more dangerous enterprise.

Step with care here Envoys. More than your life is at stake.


B1 and Army of Darkness
One of my favorite mixes, but not my top favorite (more on that one next time).  Army of Darkness allows for all sorts of crazy adventures.  For the same reasons that B1 works for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, it works for this.  So imagine this, you have a party of Primative Screwheads, they are out in the woods. It starts to rain.  They find an entrance to a cave and boom, suddenly it is horror movie shenanigans. Monsters chasing you, weird-ass artifacts and cultists who are somehow still alive from the Middle Ages.  Have at least one archeologist to talk about how insane this all is and then go monster hunting and maybe, just maybe stop the forces of Chaos from ruling the world.  Use Dungeons & Zombies as your guide to covert D&D to Cinematic Unisystem.



Sunday, August 11, 2019

#RPGaDAY2019: Examine

Today's topic is Examine.

ὁ δὲ ἀνεξέταστος βίος οὐ βιωτὸς ἀνθρώπῳ"
"The unexamined life is not worth living"  - attributed to Socrates



Gen Con is a great time.  I get to run different kinds of games and I get to play different kinds of games.  But I also get a chance to reflect on my own style of Game Mastering.

I played in a Call of Cthulhu game that my son ran and I was really impressed on how he had come since the last time he had run a game for me.  Really, really impressed.  Now he is young and has more to master than a 50-year-old like me.  But I could not help but think how much he had improved his own game over how much I had, or had not, improved my own.

I also got the chance to play in Jess Ross' Blue Rose game.
Jess is an amazing GM and she also has an actual play podcast for Blue Rose at: http://bitchesandliches.com/

Jess also runs her games a little different than I do and it was also quite a lot of fun.

Both of these events got me thinking more and more about my own style and what I need to do to push it up a notch.

I have not quite figured it all yet, but I am certainly examining what I liked about these other play styles.  I think I want to go back to my notes of when I was running Ghosts of Albion all the time.  Those were some great games and I'd like to recapture some of that for my D&D games.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Back from Gen Con!

I just got back from Gen Con 2019!

Took the whole family and we had a great time.  In fact, it was one of the best Gen Cons in recent memory.  We played a lot of D&D 5 and Call of Cthulhu 7th ed.  I got in a game of Blue Rose and a public playtest of Cthulhu Tech 2.0.





More details later. Tired and needing some Chicago style pizza.  Indy is great, but their pizza sucks.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Review: Shadowtide: A Blue Rose Novel

Shadowtide: A Blue Rose Novel

The trouble with most "gamer fiction" is you can practically hear the dice being rolled in the background.  Sometimes, and it doesn't matter how compelling the story, you can't bu help see or hear game terms being thrown about.
Thankfully that is NOT the issue here with Shadowtide: A Blue Rose Novel by Joseph D. Carriker, Jr.

Carriker gives us a story we can get into and characters we can care about, that is the job of all good storytellers; whether that medium is a novel, a play or a role-playing game.  In this case, we get a good novel that preserves what we like or want from the RPG but still satisfies as a novel.

The story opens with the disappearance (likely murder) of two envoys from the Sovereign's Finest.  The Sovereign is Queen Jaelin of Aldis and her envoys are tasked with helping out where they can and mostly fighting the forces of evil. The two envoys are tracking down a reported case of Shadow Sorcerery in the Veran Marsh east of Aldis.  Shadow is more than just black magic, it is a taint of the unworldly, of the unnatural.  Contrasts are turned up in Aldis, the evil are very evil and the good...well the good try to be very good, but as this book reminds us even the Envoys of the Queen, the very symbols of good, have to make hard choices.

The story begins with a trio of envoys.  I would say "unlikely" but in truth the envoys are a varied lot. We have Soot who is a Rhy-Crow, or an intelligent crow with the abilities of an Adept. Morjin Brightstar, a lovable rogue and rake who works best alone, but is constantly falling love with whomever he meets.  A note. Morjin is a character who in a lesser hand would have been VERY annoying.  But Carriker invests a lot of attention and dare I say love into Morjin that you feel for the guy.  He is a former Roamer, a nomadic culture similar to the Romany of our world, but he has been exiled from his clan.  So it becomes easy to see how his happy-go-lucky, devil-may-care nature hides a profound sadness of what would be a good heart.  Finally the last of our trio is Ydah (pronounced EE0dah). She is a Night person, or what might pass for a half-orc in other books. She is the fighter to Morjin's lover.  She is also recovering from recent grief and hides her sadness behind a gruff exterior and a desire to beat the living crap out of people. Which she excels at. 

The trio finds themselves in a hidden smuggler's town called Serpent's Haven.  Where basically everyone is a criminal or descended from a criminal of some sort.  Their mission here is to discover what happened to other envoys and figure out what the nature of the Shadow they were looking for.

I don't want to spoil the plot, but suffice to say it involves cults, crazed cultists, a Dark Fiend and the ever-present danger of Shadow to all that are around it, friend and foe alike.

Naturally, comparisons will be made to the Valdemar books by Mercedes Lackey, of which Blue Rose is inspired by, but those comparisons are mainly superficial here.  Sure one can tell a "Valdemar" story with Blue Rose.  One could also tell this story with Blue Rose.  The differences to me lie at the heart of what Shadowtide and Blue Rose are really about.  The characters of both the novel and game try to do Good with a capital G.  But often the only choices they have are goods with a little g.  They can't fix every problem.  The difference I think then between a Blue Rose character and say a D&D character is that it is the good they can't do is what bothers the Blue Rose characters, and this makes them want to do and be better next time.

That is certainly true for our trio of heroes here.  Morjin feels bad about how treats certain people when he knows he has worked towards the greater good.  Ydah feels bad about having to kill (and kill she does) cultists, but she needs to stop an even greater evil. Soot, well Soot has some problems all his own and shows us how dangerous the cult they are dealing with is.

In the end, the characters care about their actions. They care about how others see them as envoys and they care about how others are treated.  They know there is injustice in the world, even Ydah mentions the stares she still gets in "enlightened Aldis", but they are working to make things a little bit better.  Because they care they are not the "murder hobos" of other games or stories and we care more for them as well.

The book ends, but room for a sequel is left open. I certainly hope so. The characters are entertaining and the mystery they are delving into is a fascinating one.  Kudos to Carriker for giving us characters whose motivations I believe and whose stories are compelling enough to make me want more.

You can get this book in a lot of places.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Campaign Updates:2018

Work has me crazy busy, but this is a good thing.  The downside is I have not had the time to blog as much as I want or even get in the campaign prep in at night.  So I thought I would kill two birds today and see where I am in my games.



Active Games

The Dragon Slayers
A 3.x game that was briefly 5e and now fully converted to 1st Edition AD&D.  The characters were trapped in Baba Yaga's Hut for nearly a year. They freed the Old Crone and her daughter Elena the Fair.  Up next the final battle. I am using the Tom Moldvay adventure Twilight Calling for this.

Next are my three interlinked 5th edition games collectively known as Come Endless Darkness. Tharizdûn is returning to the multiverse and the PCs of the three campaigns need to stop him.

The Order of the Platinum Dragon
The Order has defeated all the giants and are now wandering the Underdark looking for the Drow. The big bads here are Lolth and Graz'zt.  Graz'zt is setting up Lolth much like he is described doing in Expedition to the Demonweb Pits (for 3.5e).  I try to focus on classic monsters in this one.

Second Campaign
The Treasure Hunters of the Second Campaign have just entered the Forbidden City. Here the big bad is Demogorgon.  Here the focus is on other creatures that might not see normal games.

Into the Netir Vale
Known by my kids as the Orcus campaign. This is my revived and converted 4e campaign brought over whole cloth. I might lessed the involvement with the Raven Queen and play up Shar since this is part of the Forgotten Realms in my house.

All three games will meet up at the Temple of Elemental Evil to battle it out with the risen Tharizdûn.  So roughly 18 characters of 18th to 20th level.  It's gonna be wild.

Inactive/On-hold Games
These games are all inactive for a number of reasons.

Star Trek: Voyages of the USS Protector
This game is will be using White Star with my own "Black Star" rules modifications.  I have the first adventures ready to go, "The Stars Are Right" and "These Are the Voyages".  I have two more nearly ready "Ghost Ship" and "Abraxas Down".  I want to do two more.  I have been scribbling notes on rule changes and feel like the rest I can do while the game is moving along. 
What is really slowing me down is the wiring of the LED lights I want to put into my USS Protector Model!

Spirit of '76
On indefinite hold.

Hero's Journey to Middle Earth
This one is requiring some significant reading on my part.  As my first REALY foray into Middle Earth as a game world I want to do it right.

Magic School 
This one is on hold till I am done with Come Endless Darkness. Since this one will use D&D Rules Cyclopedia and I really want it to feel like a separate game.   Plus things that happen in CED will change the world of the Magic School and I don't know what those are yet!

War of the Witch Queens
This is the higher level version of the Magic School kids.  What happens here will also be determined by what the PCs do in CED.  I have all the adventures for this, just not the end game.



The Incredibly Awesome (and Not At All Made-Up) Adventures of Booster Gold and Blue Beetle!
Huh...ok this one was a little bit of a joke, but I keep getting asked about it.  I do have one adventure worked out that introduces the PCs to the world. Called "Damn It Barry Allen!" it sets up Booster and Blue as the true heroes of the DC world, it's just that no one can remember them.

I still have to get my new Blue Rose campaign going.  I ran the first adventure, Kingdom of Rain, and it went great.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Web of Wind (Silverglass #2)

We are back to the world of Nyctasia r'n Edonaris brenn Rhostshyl and Corson brenn Torisk.  Our leading ladies are still on the run from...pretty much everyone when they discover a thief with treasure riddle.  Not a map, but a riddle leading to the treasure of the ancient Cymvelan Circle.  This order of monks and mystics were destroyed when the locals believed they were practicing black magic.   Nyctasia wants to learn what secrets they had, Corson wants gold.
The book unfolds at a much slower pace than did the "running for their lives" tale of Silverglass.
In fact the pace slows WAY down. The heroes spend the vast majority of their time at the Edonaris estate and vineyard. These are distant cousins of Nyctasia, so they are not as haughty as their urban relatives and most importantly they are not trying to have Nyc or Corson killed.
Here the pieces of the riddle are unwound and their secrets found.
The treasure is not a secret cache of gold and treasure, but rather a collection of ancient books.  Nyc though notices one of the dusty, web covered books is recently missing and maybe the extinct Cymvelan Circle is not so extinct after all.

The book is a fun read and the mystery, even if slow, was a compelling one.

The "author", J.F. Rivkin, is actually two different people. One wrote the first two books and the other wrote the last two.  I am not sure who J.F. Rivkin is and I have still not found out any information about a real identity either.

The book is out of print and there are no digital or audio versions I have found.  They pop up every so often at Half-Price books.

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 18
Level: Crone
Witches in this book: Nyctasia is very much a witch
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: Nyc does a better job at being good in this book.
Best RPG to Emulate it: For this book I have been trying the characters out in the AGE version of Blue Rose.  Despite the Sword and Sorcerery tropes, there is a strong vibe of  Romantic Fantasy here as both Corson and Nyc look for a place to belong.
Use in WotWQ: Likely, but since I am using them as characters in the Blue Rose game I am currently playing their involvement might only be as a cameo.

I have the sheets for the characters but need to get to work.  So here is a cheat.

I made Corson a warrior. Easy call.  Given her propensity to be an adventurer and never settling down I thought "Swashbuckler" was a good choice.  She also has Arcane Potential, and in particular The Sight.  This covers her feeling of unease around magic.  She doesn't see it as much as feel it.



Nyctasia is an adept, but what kind?  I gave her Bard to cover a wide a variety of her skills but she doesn't have the Performance pre-req.  I am using her Cultural Lore in place of that.  I could have gone with a sage as well, but this fits concept wise a little better.


I might give them a try in D&D 5 or Basic D&D next.
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