Showing posts with label Class Struggles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Class Struggles. Show all posts

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Class Struggles: The Alchemist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

Bard Games



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Class Struggles: The New* Basic Classes

2019 was the start of my Back to Basics theme here at the Other Side.  I have covered a LOT of Basic-era/BX/BECMI/RC type products.  It got me thinking. In addition to the the base four human classes and three demi-human classes how many classes have been added to Basic D&D?

Answer. 113*
This includes at least four kinds of Barbarians, Bards and Paladins.  Three types of Rangers and Gnomes and duplicates of many others such as necromancers and illusionists.
*There are likely even more.

I am not sure if all of these are needed, but I am glad they are here.  Variety is the spice of life after all and these classes are all about variety.

The trick now is, can they all be played in same world? OR maybe a better question.  Is anything missing?

Basic Classes
Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user, Theif, Dwarf, Elf, Halfling

ACKS Player's Companion
Anti-paladin, Barbarian, Dwarven Delver, Dwarven Fury, Dwarven Machinist, Elven Courtier, Elven Enchanter, Elven Ranger, Gnomish Trickster, Mystic, Nobiran Wonderworker, Paladin, Priestess, Shaman, Thrassian Gladiator, Venturer, Warlock, Witch, and Zaharan Ruinguard.

Advanced Labyrinth Lord
Assassin, Druid, Illusionist, Monk, Paladin, Ranger

OSE (Advanced)
Acrobat, Assassin, Barbarian, Bard, Drow, Druid, Duergar, Gnome, Half-elf, Illusionist, Knight, Paladin, Ranger, Svirfneblin

BX RPG
Druid, Gnome, Half-elf, Monk, Necromancer, Paladin, Ranger

Mazes & Perils Deluxe Edition
Enchanter, Shaman

Psionics Handbook
Monk, Mystic

Class Compendium
Acrobat, Alienist, Angel, Automation, Bandit, Barbarian, Bard, Berserker, Bounty Hunter, Burglar, Commander, Cultist, Damphir, Dark Elf, Death Knight, Dragon, Dragon Slayer, Eidolon, Explorer, Fairy, Familiar, Feast Master, Fortune Teller, Friar, Gladiator, Goblin, Greensinger, Half-Elf, Half-Ogre, Half-Orc, Huckster, Inquisitor, Investigator, Knight, Lost Boy, Lucky Fool, Metaphysician, Pirate, Raging Slayer, Rune-Smith, Samurai, Shootist, Sword Master, Sylvan Elf, Tavern Singer, Thopian Gnome, Treant, Undead Slayer, Wanderer, Warchanter, Watchman, Wild Wizard (That's 52 classes!)

The Complete B/X Adventurer
Acrobat, Archer, Barbarian, Bard, Beastmaster, Bounty Hunter, Centaur, Duelist, Gnome, Mountebank, Mystic, Ogre-Kin, Scout, Summoner, Tattoo Mage, Witch, Witch Hunter.

Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts
Cleric, Wizard, Elven Swordmage, Elven Warder, Enchanter, Fleshcrafter, Healer, Inquisitor, Merchant Prince, Necromancer, Pact-Bound, Theurge, the Unseen.

Odysseys & Overlords 
Bard

Theorems & Thaumaturgy Revised Edition
Elementalist, Necromancer, Vivimancer

Class Catalog for B/X Essentials
Aasimar, Dragonborn, Dwarven Priest, Dwarven Thief, Elven Rogue, Gnome, Halfling Burglar, Half-Orc, Pixie, Tiefling

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Class Struggles: The Basic/BX/BECMI Witches

I have not done one of these in a while, and this one seems like a no-brainer. 

The Basic/BX/BECMI Witches

Maybe more so than AD&D, the witch, in one form or the other, has been a part of the Basic D&D game from the early days. 

Holmes Basic
The "Holmes Witch" has been talked about in old-school blogs for years, mine included.  The so-called Holmes witch never materialized, but it kept us waiting for years and kept bloggers entertained for even longer.

GAZ3: Principalities of Glantri
This is, without a doubt, my favorite of all the Gazetteers and one of my all-time favorite Basic-era books.  I reviewed this book in depth a while back and one of the most overt witches in my Basic book collection.
The Witches of Glantri are some of the most detailed of the Basic-era witches.  It's no lie, that red-head on the cover of the Glantri book was one of the inspirations for where I took my own witch character, even if the book came out a year after I rolled up the character (July 1986 for the character and June of 87 for the Glantri book if I remember right.  OR at least that was when I got it).

One thing I don't care for so much with this class is the charisma reduction, but it seems to come up a lot.

I detailed at least one witch, Skylla, using this witch class and it worked out well.  Also, years and years ago, I redid the Glantri witch to make it something closer to my Complete Netbook of Witches for AD&D 2nd ed.

In the AD&D 2nd Ed version of this book, Glantri: Kingdom of Magic, the witch is completely replaced by the Wokani.

GAZ7: Northern Reaches
This Gazetteer covers the lands Ostland, Vestland, and the Soderfjord Jarldoms.  I REALLY wanted to use this back in the 80s with the G-Series.
This book features the Wise Woman (Witches).  This class is considered an NPC Class, but we all know what that means right?  They get a nice balance of both Magic-user and Cleric spells (up to the 6th level), along with the ability to use magical runes.  I kinda wish I had done more with runes in my own Winter Witch book.
The treat I found here was Carrah the Witch Queen of Hel.   Given the focus on Basic/Expert rules, I would likely have made her 14th level.  Or more likely 13th. But there is some good backstory on her here. While the temptation would be to make her a Winter Witch, I think given her unliving status and her ties to Hel she might be more of a Mara Witch.  Maybe a Winter Witch who had been in a Mara coven.

D&D Master Rules Boxed Set
The D&D Master Rules, also the one I know the least about, has rules for non-human spell casters.  Shamans, who can use cleric and druid spells, and the Wicca who can use Magic-user spells.  The list of spells given to Wicca certainly has a witch feel to them. They are really only missing a cure spell or two.

Spells Usable by Wiccas
First Level Magic-User Spells
Detect Magic (B39)
Light (B40)
Protection from Evil (B40)
Read Languages (B40)
Read Magic (B40)
Sleep (B40)

Second Level Magic-User Spells
Continual Light* (B41, XI1)
Detect Evil (B41)
Detect Invisible (B41)
Invisibility (B41)
Levitate (B42)
Web (B42)

Third Level Magic-User Spells
Clairvoyance (XI1)
Dispel Magic (XI1)
Fire Ball (XI1)
Fly (XI2)
Lightning Bolt (Xl2)
Water Breathing (XI2)

Fourth Level Magic-User Spells
Charm Monster (X13)
Growth of Plants* (XI3)
Ice Storm/Wall (X13)
Massmorph(X13)
Remove Curse* (X14)
Wall of Fire (XI4)

Fifth Level Magic-User Spells
Animate Dead (XI4)
Cloudkill(X14)
Dissolve* (C20)
Hold Monster* (XI5)
Pass-Wall (XI5)
Wall of Stone (X15)

Sixth Level Magic-User Spells
Death Spell (XI6)
Move Earth (C21)
Projected Image (X16)
Reincarnation (C21)
Stone to Flesh* (XI6)
Wall of Iron (C21)
* reversible spell

The shaman and wicca are used throughout the Basic line in future books, though the name would later be changed to Wokan or Wokani.

GAZ10: Orcs of Thar
This Gazetteer covers playing orcs, goblinoids, gnolls and other humanoid creatures.  It also has a guide for using the book with AD&D. Goblinoid wicca are featured here but they use the rules already outlined in the Master's book.

PC1 Tall Tales of the Wee Folk
Several non-human creatures are given options for Wicca levels. There are also plenty of new spells for Fairy spell-casters.  Many have since gone on in other products to have even stronger witch associations.  I reviewed this one in-depth yesterday.

PC2 Top Ballista
This also covers several spellcaster non-humans and new races.  In particular, we get gnomes and harpy wicca.  Gnomes advance to level 12 as wicca which is not too bad really.

PC3 The Sea People
Sea Wicca are also presented in this book but by this time we know what to expect.

D&D Rules Cyclopedia
By this point, the Wicca has been renamed to the Wokan, or the plural Wokani.  The spells usable are largely the same. That is to say, no obvious differences jumped out at me.  It also includes a fairly comprehensive list of monsters and what level they can advance to.  Interestingly enough Hags do not cast as Wokani, but rather they cast as clerics.

So. Wicca, Wise Women, and Wokani.  All three share a certain level of similarity and have, over the editions, been used in place of the other.  A good example takes all the way back to the dawn of D&D, Dave Arneson's Blackmoor.  Not the original Blackmoor, but the versions we got from 3rd and 4th edition.  For the 4th edition rules I talked a bit about the Wokani and their relationship to both witches and druids.  That version is no longer available, but the 3rd Edition version is.

Dave Arneson's Blackmoor Core Campaign Book
This is not a Basic-era book. This is a 3rd Edition book, or more to the point, a d20 book.  I bring it up only because we get the Wokani here again.  They read more like primitive arcane spellcasters with a closer tie to the natural world.  That would work fine with most of the products above, to be honest.  These casters use wisdom as their prime and spellcasting ability.  The Blackmoor connection intensifies with it sharing a few gods with the Basic Gazetteers. In particular Hel (Gaz7) and Hella (Blackmoor).  There are more, but that is the one that interests me the most.
The Wokani here seems to move further away from the Glantri Witch, but there are still plenty of commonalities.

Honorable Mentions
I could let things go without a mention of the witches Karelena, Solorena & Trilena from Rahasia. Though these seem to be more of the "witches as weird female magic-users" rather than as witches as I usually mean.

Also, the witch class from Dragon Magazine #20 should get a mention as well.

There is a lot of material here, but not say as much as you could find for the wizard or cleric.  The witch remains one of the great almost-classes of D&D.  Given the dates of all of these works including Dragon Magazine #114, it seems I was tapping into something needed back in 86.   Or, more to the point, we were all exposed to the same influences in culture and this is another fine example of parallel development.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Other Side, A Look Forward

Trying to organize some thoughts here on what I want to do next on the old Other Side blog, figure you all might want to help me!  Or at least listen to my ramblings.


I am prepping for Gen Con now and trying to get another book done in time for Lughnasadh/Lammas so my posting here is going to be a little sparse.

#RPGaDAY
Dave Chapman will be doing (I think) his annual #RPGaDAY in August.  I am not sure what the questions will be, but I do like to participate.  Plus my Twitter followers have really increased this past year, so that might be nice to share.

The Other Side Rewind
Still plugging away at this! June was my Facebook experiment month, while July had been my month to try some other tools.  I am hoping to kick it off full steam in August or September.  Again, if you are reading here then you won't really notice anything at all.

One Man's God
While this one has been great fun, it was not designed to go on forever.  I am going to do the Celts (part 2) and the Chinese and Japanese, though I admit I know very, very little about these.  I am going to do the Demi-humans and do a special on the Cthulhu and Melibone mythos. But once I am done with those then the series will end save for some special editions.  Though this will lead to my next thing...

The Usual Suspects
I am going to spend some time, maybe a lot of time, going over all the various demon books I own and some I don't yet and talk about how to use them in your games.  I really love demons and demonic lore.  The title of this series "The Usual Suspects" comes not only from the notion that all evil in the worlds can be traced back to the machinations of demons (and devils) but every OGL book on the market today has the same half-dozen or so demons and a similar number of devils in every book; aka The Usual Suspects.  I think this will be fun, to be honest.


This Old Dragon
I still have some left and I want to get back to them.

Class Struggles
I have been too long away from this one. I have started writeups on the Alchemist and the Bard.  Been playing a couple Bard variants to get a good feel for the differences.  Sometimes there are more differences between two different bards than there are between most fighters and rangers!

So. Let's get to it!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Melisandre. Priestess or Witch?

"The Night is dark and full of terrors."
- Melisandre

Melisandre of Asshai - by John Picacio
Game of Thrones is in its final season and so far it has not disappointed me.  Well...there was that "whole new world" scene with Dany, Jon, and the dragons.
This past week we got to see the Red Woman, Melisandre again during the battle at Winterfell against the Night King and his army of the dead.  It was so fantastic, to be honest.   Loved the battle, loved how the episode ended.  Everything.

But I am not here today to talk about the battle.

I want to talk about Melisandre.
In particular is she a Priestess, read Cleric, or is she as many will claim, a Witch?

I thought a firey red priestess/witch would be good for Beltane today.

Let's look at what we know.  I am going to focus nearly exclusively on the TV show on HBO.  I'll grab from the books when needed to smooth out some details or get answers to questions.

In many ways, I am going to follow the spirit of my other series, One Man's God and Class Struggles.

What is Known
Or Me nem nesa as the Dothraki say.

We know that Melisandre calls herself a priestess of the god R'hllor, known as the Red God, The Lord of Light or the One True God.  In Westeros this sets her apart from most people as they tend to worship the Seven, or the New Gods. The ones that don't worship the "Old Gods".
Melisandre claims that all the other gods are false gods.  Most people have no issues with the Old or New Gods, so this also sets her apart.

She has seen to have powers of divination, cursing, breeding shadow spawn, summoning fire and the greatest, bringing people back from the dead.  She able to cast glamours and her red-gold choker seems to keep her young or at least appear young.
We know she is very, very old. She was a slave named "Melony" who was sold to the Red Temple in Asshai.

Looking at her through the lens of classes in D&D, and in particular B/X version, has many limitations.  It is still a fruitful exercise though.  For starters, it shows the flexibility of the B/X flavor of classes. It also helps me see how well my own witch classes can emulate various media representations of witches.  My philosophy in game and class design has always been "if a player wants to do to something my rules should tell them how they CAN do it, not how they CAN'T." (I hear grognards, OSR purists and other screaming in rage now. That's fine, let them scream.)

So let's pull out my D&D Expert book and give Melisandre a go.

Melisandre is a Priestess
This is the easiest of course. She refers to herself as a priestess as do others.  Her religion is widely accepted in Essos and treated as such.  The biggest clue, of course, is her ability to raise the dead, a power she claims is not hers, but that of the Lord of Light.  Her spells and powers seem closest to a cleric.
If we take "Raise Dead" as the peak of her powers then that puts her level at a minimum of 7th level for B/X D&D. I would not say she is much past 9th level, but I am willing to accept 9th.

Melisandre, Priestess of R'hllor


7th level female Cleric

Strength: 9
Intelligence: 16
Wisdom: 17
Dexterity: 10
Constitution: 12
Charisma: 17

AC: 9
HP: 33

Magic items: Necklace of Protection Against Aging

Spells
First: Cure Light Wounds, Light, Remove Fear
Second: Hold Person, Resist Fire, Silence 15' radius
Third: Continual Light, Remove Curse, Striking
Fourth: Cure Serious Wounds, Protection/Evil 10' radius
Fifth: Commune, Raise Dead

Close...but missing some of her abilities she is really known for, starting fires and giving birth to shadow monsters.  Plus by the rules Melisandre the Cleric can Turn Undead.  That skill would have been helpful in the Battle of Winterfell.

Taking a peek at my 5th Edition D&D books it looks like a Cleric and not a Warlock or Druid would be the best choice.

Let's see how she works as a witch.

Melisandre is a Witch
Of course, for that, I would also need to decide on a tradition for her.  Something like Lord of Light Tradition.  Witches, in general, do not get the spell Raise Dead.  So I am thinking that should be an occult power.  Something they gain at 7th level.
Also, there is her lesser explored power of alchemy/herbalism.  Something all witches get.

Melisandre, Witch of R'hllor


9th level female Witch, Lord of Light Tradition

Strength: 9
Intelligence: 16
Wisdom: 17
Dexterity: 10
Constitution: 12
Charisma: 17

AC: 9
HP: 26

Magic items: Necklace of Protection Against Aging

Occult Powers
Familiar: Spirit of fire
Herb Use
Raise Dead

Spells
First: Bewitch I, Burning Hands, Glamour
Second: Augury, Dark Whispers, Hypnotize
Third: Bestow Curse, Brave the Flames
Fourth: Divination, Intangible Cloak of Shadows
Fifth: Summon Shadow

So I had to raise her level to 9th to get the Summon Shadow spell.  In general, I like her spell choices as a witch better.  BUT that could be my biases since I have written so many (900+ so far!) and I have many to fit an exact situation.

She doesn't really have a familiar, so I am saying her "familiar" is her ability to look into flames.
I also did not give her any "bonus" spells since I wanted a pure B/X experience here.

I should point out that Green Ronin produces a very fine game based, not on the TV show, but the books in A Song of Ice and Fire.


It's Beltane! A time for witches to celebrate.  Start your own celebrations with my new witch book: Daughters of Darkness, The Mara Witch Tradition

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Class Struggles: Psionics, D.S. al Coda

I have not done a Class Struggles in a while, but something came up to make want to look back at a few I did in the past.


Jason Vey, author and game designer of many systems (currently working with the Troll Lords on Castles & Crusades and Amazing Adventures), recently did a deep dive into the psionic systems of both OD&D and AD&D.  If you have not read his blog, please do. He is more knowledgable about OD&D and AD&D than many of the self-professed experts out there.  He will be the first to claim he doesn't know everything about the games and he has still more to learn, but I will take the opinion of a quiet sage that claims to know only little than a loud-mouthed fool that claims to know a lot.

Anyway, his posts are here:


If you have any interest in psionics or OD&D/AD&D in general then it is a great read. 

I covered similar, but with a different focus, in my Class Struggles posts on Psionics and Psychic Classes, Part 1 and Part 2.  I also covered the Pathfinder Occult heroes book and the Judges' Guild Psychic Witch in detail. 

That's a lot of actual and virtual ink spilled on the subject of psionics.

Today though one of my biggest questions is this.
Do psychic powers belong in Fantasy Role-Playing Games?

Now there are a lot of GREAT game books on psionics and psychic powers.  That is not what this question is about.  This question boils down to a few things in my mind. Should psychic powers exist alongside magic? If they do, can psychic powers interact with magic? Can a character be psychic and magical? 

Jason addresses some of these questions in his first post. He addresses it as his Point 1 ("They [Psionics] are science-fiction feeling and simply don't have a place in a fantasy game.") and later states that it is not the focus of his post.  That's 100% fine. It's not the purpose of his, but it is the purpose of this post. 

Psionics in Fantasy Role-Playing Games

Maybe it was because I grew up in the 70s and played a lot of *D&D in the 80s this question seems bigger to me than maybe it really is.   

Back in my AD&D days, we played in two separate psionic focused games. The first was our regular big AD&D game in which psionic people were inequivalent of witches or mutants. We read a lot of X-Men back then.  So there was a class of psychic characters that would use their psychic abilities to mimic wizards just to survive.  It was a great meta-plot and I have not done anything similar to it for a while.  We also did a limited run "Deryni" game using OD&D but the AD&D psionic rules. I thought they had been the OD&D Eldritch Wizardry rules, but re-reading Jason's posts made me realize that what we were doing was closer to AD&D.

In these games, this worked for us because we kept magic and psionic powers completely separate. Detect Magic would not detect psionic powers. For example, the spell Detect Invisible would not detect someone that was invisible due to psychic powers.  We decided that magical invisibility would "bend the light around you", thus the idea that "shadow" ala the Hobbit, could be seen.  Psychic invisibility edited the person from the minds of those looking.  So mindless creatures could still see a psychically invisible character. 
We had a lot of discussions on what worked when and how.  As I got older I wanted things to be simpler.  

The trouble lies not in the complexity or simplicity of the systems really. The trouble lies in my own bias.


D&D 3.x made some great strides in fitting Psionics into their Fantasy Magic game by largely making psionics just another type of magic.  This is a good thing that helps deal with the host of natively psychic monsters (grells, mind flayers, brain moles, intellect devourers, aboleths) and keeps the D&D 3 mantra of one single system going.  Trouble is with this idea is that psychic powers now do feel just like another form of magic.

D&D 4 also did this, a bit more powerfully and it kept the unique feel of psychic powers <> magic.  Which is quite a feat given that one of the legitimate complaints of D&D 4 is that all the classes feel the same. 

Thinking back to the 70s and the Occult Revival magic and psychic powers were all wrapped up in the same ball of weird-ass, new age, stuff.  While I certainly think that psionics, as they are written in OD&D and AD&D, were influenced more by science fiction stories there is certainly a feeling of the 70s mentality on what these powers are.

For simplicity sake maybe it is as simple as this.
Magic is a power external to those using it. Be it from a god, pact, bloodline or the ability to learn to how to manipulate those same forces. 
Psionics are power from within.  They can mimic magic but are not the same.

So what is the difference then between a Pyromancer (magical fire) and a Pyrokneticst (psychic fire)?  Maybe none from the outside, but one has spent more time in school learning how to use their powers and the other likely spent their time in a mental hospital for using theirs.

Another way I guess to look at it is through the lens of books and television shows. Magic-Users are more like the Magicians, Harry Dresden, and Harry Potter. They study a lot, they know the rules of magic because others have written them down before them. In the case of Harry Potter the magic is outside of them and they manipulate it and in Magicians it takes a lot of learning and practice.  
Psychics are like Tomorrow People or The Gifted.  There are certain things they can do but they have had no training, and sometimes it is painfully obvious they haven't.  

I guess in the end here I still don't really have an answer.  
Maybe that is fine. Maybe I don't need an answer to "do psychics belong in a FRPG?" becasue that is not the right question to ask.
Maybe the right question to ask is to borrow from a current meme "Does it bring you joy?" or the question I ask everytime I design a new game or piece of a game, "Will it be fun?"

Do psychic powers belong in Fantasy Role-Playing Games?
Will it be fun?

If yes to the second question, then yes to the first.

Everything else are just details.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Class Struggles: AS&SH 2 Warlocks and Witch Lords

The new Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, 2nd Edition from +Jeff Talanian is out. It's going to take me a bit to go through it all.  But so far I am enjoying the hell out of it.

One thing that the 1st Edition had that the new 2nd Edition has expanded on is the Warlock class.
The book tells us:
Some warlocks practice the sorcery of cryomancers and may be referred to as ice lords; others practice the sorcery of pyromancers and may be referred to as fire lords. Perhaps the most feared and reviled of warlocks are those who practice the black arts of necromancy (death soldiers)...
Pretty cool really. And it got me thinking.

Yesterday I worked up the character Grimalkin as a warlock that has chosen witch magic as her type of  Sorcery. There is something interesting here. Something pretty cool.

Witch Lords

Warlocks the choose witchcraft as their sorcery see (Vol. II, p. 148: Table 68) are known as Witch Lords.   These warlocks are often found protecting the covens of more powerful witches or ruling over covens of less powerful ones.

Curse of the Witch Lord by tmza
Using the Grand Coven idea from my Warlock for Swords & Wizardry you can use Witch Lords as the leaders of Grand Covens in the Hyperborean world.  Instead of the usual compliment, a 9th level Warlock can gather, they may opt to form a Grand Coven.

The troop gathered include these 0th-level fighters of 1d8 hp each (known as cowans).
* 15 longbowmen (studded armor, longbows, short swords)
* 5 cavalrymen (chain mail, lances, light crossbows, horseman’s flails; light warhorses)
* 20 light crossbowmen (chain mail, small shields, light crossbows, long spears, short swords)
* 15 halberdiers/pikemen

They also gather the following coven
* 9 initiate witches of 0 level
* 3 witches of 1st level
* 1 witch of 2nd or 3rd level

A 9th level witch and a 9th level Witch Lord that gather together can create a cult stronghold to house all these members.

Once again, AS&SH is firing up my imagination for a game.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Judges Guild Psychic Witch

A few weeks ago I was made aware of the Judges Guild Journal. A newsprint 'zine made by JG back in the 70s "dedicated to Swords and Sorcery fantasy gaming".  In particular, I was made aware of issue 7 (p) and their witch class.

Issue 7 was published in December 1977.   For some perspective, the first Dragon Magazine witch was published in March 1977, though they claim to have received the manuscript for it 15 months prior.  OD&D Supplement III, Eldritch Wizardry was published in 1976.

I mention Eldritch Wizardry because the Judges Guild witch, like my own, was very much inspired by it.

The article is on one broadsheet or about two typed pages.  Titled "Witchcraft in Dungeons and Dragons" and Phil Benz as it's byline.

I have to give this article a lot of credit.  It really went outside the box with this class.  Seventeen levels are presented with roughly the same XP values as the Magic-User and has a d4 for hit point determination.  The 17th level is something called "Emelkartha".  I can only guess this has to do with the Demon Goddess from Gardner Fox's short stories about Niall of the Far Travels.  Which curiously enough appear for the first time in Dragon #5.  Should we call Shenanigans?

What makes this witch different is that she gains psionic powers instead of spells.
Her progression is very much like that found in later 2nd edition supplements on Psioincs and similar to the Basic Psionics book released by +Richard LeBlanc.
Indeed the author claims right away that a better name for the class is "Psionic Woman".   He also makes a good point about the Magic-User being unsatisfactory for a witch class.


The class then goes off into non-psionic and more spell-like areas, with the creation of potions and drugs.   I am also pleased to see the inclusion of talismans, something I also added to my witch class.  There are a lot of witchcraft trapping with this class, but I am not sure how well they mix with the D&D Psionics.

It certainly looks like a fun playable class.
There is a bit here about how males can only become witches under a special contract from Satan!

This article is much smaller than the one found in The Dragon issue #5, but is some ways is a lot more interesting.  I think that the Judges Guild article has the benefit of reading the Dragon magazine one first.  While I have no proof that the Dragon magazine article influenced this one I do find it difficult to believe that someone writing for a 'zine at this time had not read Dragon. Plus the inclusion of Emelkartha, which had only shown up in this one spot prior to this, is kind of a give-away.

Class Struggles: The Problem of the Psychic-Witch
While this might be the first Psychic Witch class published it is not the first one I have seen.  The first one I remember reading was the one from the Mayfair Role-Aids book Witches.  That witch was a "Deyrini" witch and while I was familiar with the stories I thought it was an odd inclusion.  First, the powers were less psychic and still more spell-like.  Also, I never got a witch or a psychic feel from that particular class.
I later made my own "Natural Witch" that was also a Psychic Witch, but again, something about it never quite jelled with me. This is one of the reasons you don't see a psychic witch in my books now. I could never get it to work right for me.

The closest thing I have been able to get to a psychic witch I really like are my Sisters of the Aquarian Order.

I think the issue is that like D&D, I grew up in the 70s and 80s.  The 70s saw the Occult Revival and the 80s saw the Satanic Panic.  This has forever locked witches, occultism, and psychic abilities together in my mind. If you read anything published in the 70s about witches they often talk about enhancing their psychic powers.  I could see a witch, instead of mixing potions or collecting herbs, empowering crystals or infusing talismans' with her own psychic power.

Maybe her familiar is not a spirit but a psychic construct of her own "Shadow Self" from Jung.  Her Patron then is a manifestation of her Mana or Higher Self as part of the Collective Unconsciousness (again, Jung).  So the Jungian archetypes of Self-Anima-Mana could map on to Maiden-Mother-Crone representations.
Jung is, and always has been, a huge influence on how I detail the witch archetype for myself. I spent a lot of time in the 80s reading Jung and it is one of the reasons I worked on a Ph.D. in psychology.

Maybe there is something here after all. Maybe it just takes 40 years to get it right!

I'll have to think about this much more.



I am also presenting this as another addition to the RPG Blog Carnival on Occult Mysteries and Magic.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Class Struggles: The Mystic, Part 2

It's been a while since I have done one of these, but today seems to be a good day for it.
The very first Class Struggles I did way back in August of 2015 was about the Mystic class.
This week Wizards of the Coast just released a new mystic class to their Unearthed Arcana feature.
You can get it for free for your D&D 5th edition games.



The new mystic is partially like a monk, but more in tune with the Psionic classes of 4th edition.  In truth, there is a lot here that people should be able to see previous edition origins. But that is getting ahead of myself.

The mystics are Psionic characters. Not the first if you consider Monks still to be Psionic, but the first fully Psionic class complete with Psionic Strength Points/Psi Points.
Mystics are given certain "quirks" or taboos. These are odd personality traits that they must obey as part of their solitary training.  I am reminded (and not for the last time) of the Wu Jen from 1st edition  Oriental Adventures or the Mystics from the D&D Rules Cyclopedia.

Powers are split up into Talents (which use no points) and Disciplines (which use points). Talents are open to all mystics, but Disciplines are usually focused by Orders.  In many ways these have a familiar feel to them. On first glance, they are most similar to the Psionics used by +Richard LeBlanc in the Psionics Handbook Mystic.

Orders are "flavor" but like many of the "subclasses" (1st ed terms) or "kits" (2nd ed terms). I have to say I REALLY like these.  Again, this is where D&D 5 plays like "D&D's greatest hits".
We get Orders of the Avatar (emotions), Awakened (mental), Immortal (body), Nomads (like the Akashic Brotherhood), Soul Knife (combat, 4e return), and Wu Jen (Elementalist).  So lots and lots of potential here.

The one thing they need is a more esoteric sort of mystics like the ones found in +Alexander Macris'  Adventure Conquer King Player's Companion Mystic or even the Mystic from +Joseph Bloch's A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore or Adventures Dark and Deep.  Or even the mystics in the Dragonlance 3.5 setting, though those were more of godless clerics.

One could easily do an Esoteric Order that also gets some cleric spells like the Wu Jen get "arcane dabbling".

There is a lot in this class I find fascinating to be honest.  Can't wait to try it out.  Not just in terms of the class, but how Mystic Orders fit into my game world.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 A Look Back

It is already 2017 in some parts of the world, but here 2016 is staying around like that last guest that just won't leave.  So let's look back on 2016 on The Other Side.

D&D 5
Without a doubt D&D 5th Edition was the biggest game this year and D&D5 posts here got the most traffic. D&D got a big push in the media this year and D&D 5 benefited from all of that.  Closer to home I played a lot of 5th edition this past year. I ran games for my kids and various cousins and my oldest son ran three different campaigns. Ok, they were all roughly the same adventures, but with three different groups.
Not everything was all 5e all the time. I managed to work in some Basic (B/X) D&D as well and even a little AD&D 1st Ed. Back in October, I reignited a Blue Rose game too and even worked in a little Castles and Crusades.
I have caught some rumors of some very interesting 5e related news I can't share yet.  But 5e is going to have just as much of a good 2017 as it did 2016.

Geek Culture
This is a wonderful time to be alive if you are geek. Really. In 2016 we got more superhero movies than I can recall (ok Civil War was a bit of a let down compared to comic), Star Trek AND Star Wars in the theatres in the same year. Doctor Strange came out, a movie I wanted since the 70s, new Ghostbusters, new Jason Bourne, a new movie in the Harry Potter universe!  And that is just the movies.
On TV we have super heroes, scratch that, DC Super Heroes every night of the week! Luke Cage on Netflix. STRANGER THINGS! So much great content that I can't even keep up.  We have an embarrassment of riches here.
Speaking of DC. The rebooted, reboot of DC's Rebirth in comics is doing fantastic. Not just in sales, but also in terms of story. While the DC movies are hit and miss (I am a fan, but I am also realistic here) and the TV shows are nailing it night after night (still a fan) the comics, especially the "New52" had been iffy. Not anymore.



Bloggin'
My output decreased this year and it is likely to decrease more next year. More on that later, but mostly it is due to me needing more time for work, family and other projects.  I had a lot of fun with my deep dives into Victorian RPGs and Blue Rose. The stats show you liked them as well. I said goodbye to some regular features like Zatannurday and Friday Night Videos.  I have mostly retired Class Struggles and "The Best Blog You Are Not Reading", but I retain the right to post something with them in 2017.
I was nominated again for "Best Blog Ennie" for 2016. I didn't win, but I had a lot of fun going to awards show.



Personal
Things are good here at home. Family is healthy and good. My wife and I launched into a new exercise plan where I run every day and exercise in the evening.  I am healthier now in my later 40s than I was in my 30s. My weight is way down and my blood pressure (something I have had issues with since I was a teen) is also down. In fact, save for a minor respiratory bug last week 2016 has been one of my healthiest years on record.
Work is going fine. In 2017 I have a new graduate program whose curriculum I am redoing, so that will keep me busy for the next couple of years. I got a promotion (of sorts) and a raise (of sorts) and a new boss.

The Other Side Publishing
2016 saw the launch of my personal imprint The Other Side Publishing.  I am not trying to take the RPG world by storm here, I just want to put out a few books of things I want to play.  My biggest success so far has been Sisters of the Aquarian Order (currently a Copper best seller!) for White Star.
I am making enough here to keep going and I can keep myself in other people's books too.  That is a success in my mind. Actually, people buying my stuff and getting enjoyment out of it is much more of a success than the actual money, but the money does buy more art.



And Then There Was That Other Thing...
Yeah 2016 had it's fair share of suck too. More than it's fair share to be honest. The election was shit-show and the outcome was pretty much to worst of all possible outcomes.  I have mentioned before I am less of a "Social Justice Warrior" as I am a "Social Justice Veteran" or, more to the point "Social Justice Terrorist".  I was in the trenches before Facebook, before Twitter and back when letters and phone calls to Congressmen, Senators, and Judges were a common thing for me. I got back on the phone this year to my Representatives and other elected officials. 2017 might be the year that pulls me back into social activism.  In fact, I have already started to put my money where my mouth is, so I am also going to put in my time.



We had a lot of our icons die this past year. Not much I can say about that really. I am going to miss Bowie the most I think. I just liked the idea of being in a world that also had him in it.

So here is to 2016. The good, the bad and the ugly. And there was a lot of bad and ugly!
Here is to a much better 2017! Though it is really 2020 I am looking forward to the most! ;)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Class Struggles: What IS a Class Anyway?

For this week's Class Struggles I wanted to look into the idea of what a class is.

One of the things I remember the most about the gaming scene back in the mid 80s was the rallying against class/level based systems.  I can remember a fairly notorious article/editorial complaining about how classes don't represent real life.  The author as I recall lambasted the class system by asking people to describe what his "class" was.  He blaked at the idea of being called a "Bard".  Though to me it was obvious, he was only a 0-level human.  His "class" was human.

Dragon magazine would go on to produce 100s of classes. The OSR has followed in this same glorious tradition.  Even here I have dissected classes to point out that some with the same name are different (various Warlocks) and others with different names are largely the same.  If that is the case then it begs the question, "What is a Class?"

Broadly defined a class is a set of skills, powers and behaviors that a character will engage in or with.  I say "behaviors" since we expect a cleric to be different than a wizard or a fighter even though the cleric can have similar skills and powers.  But for the most part, we are talking skills.

In AD&D we later got a Proficiency system that was great and new for D&D but still behind games like Call of Cthulhu, Chill and GURPS. The evolution of this system appeared in AD&D2 and then later more robust skill system in D&D3.  In 3e, more so than any other edition before or since, the amount of skills and what skills you can or should take were central.  In fact one could say that "class" was only shorthand for the skill "Recipe".
This is the case with many point buy systems.  If in let's say Ghosts of Albion I want to play a "Wizard" I take levels in "Magic" and "Occult Library".   If I want to be a "witch" or a "runic caster" then I add the appropriate "Magical Tradition".

With the advent of 3e some games took this to the extreme.  True20 reduced the classes to three basic classes, Warrior, Expert and Adept, and gave them the ability to take different skills and powers each level.  Mutants & Masterminds took this one step further to have no-classes, only point-buy powers and skills per level.   At another extreme BESM d20 (Big Eyes, Small Mouth) reduced all the SRD classes down to their point-buy totals.  By the way, if you can get your hands on BESM d20 and are interested in how classes are made it is a good buy.   Course 3e also gave us some of the most flexible multiclassing rules ever in D&D; one of the places that 4e really took many steps backwards on.

Are classes a collection of skills or a collection of means to get the skills?  With skills, I am including things like "Turning Undead" or "Spells" or "Move Silently".

Going back to my Ghosts of Albion example.  I love Victorian Era games. I have played most of them and read the ones I have not played.  Give me a character from the Victorian era and I can replicate him or her in Ghosts fairly easily.  Isambard Kingdom Brunel, lots of Engineering and science, not a lot of social interaction. What is he in d20 Masque of the Red Death? Intellectual likely.  What about the 2nd Edition AD&D version?  Well, the only thing that really works is Tradesman.  A little unsatisfactory really.  Do we create an "Engineer" class?  Bring over the Gadgeteer from Amazing Adventures?  I think we begin to see the origins of the multitude of classes now.

Purists, and the central philosophy of games like S&W White Box and Lamentations of the Flame Princess, keep the classes limited.  I have discussed that here at length really; no need for a Witch, Warlock, Necromancer or whatever since those are all Magic-Users with different hats.

In general, the choice of classes needs to reflect the world the game is trying to emulate. Do I need to give Brunel a class? No, not if he is not going to be a PC.  If he is then I need to find a place for him in the game. That is to say what is it he will do.

So does a game need 3 or 4 classes or 100?
Yes.

I think I am going to give this a try in my Second Campaign and open everything up. If there is a class in a book somewhere then it can be used in the game.  Knowing my group though I'll end up with a Slayer, a Bounty Hunter, a Thief and an Assassin.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Class Struggles: Castles & Crusades Classes

It has been a while since I have done a Class Struggles post.  Normally with these I like to take a deep dive into a single expression of a class and talk about it in it's various forms in the various editions and offshoots of D&D.

Today though I want to instead look at the unique, or mostly unique, classes offerings from Castles & Crusades and other SIEGE Engine games.  My point of view though will remain the same; how to use these classes in your Fantasy RPG/D&D.

First up is the Knight.  The knight comes to us from the Castles & Crusades Player's Handbook. So in this respect, it is a "core" class.  It is best to compare the Knight to the Cavalier. In fact if one were to look at the list of classes in the C&C PHB and compare that to AD&D1 PHB/UA or OSRIC the Knight stands out as being something of a unique class.  Like the UA cavalier the knight is a mounted, armored fighter type. They both follow codes of conduct and belong to various orders.  In most ways the knight appears exactly like the romance knights of King Arthur's Round Table with their code of chivalry and courtly romance.  Thankfully though the knight is a little bit more than that.
In Castles & Crusades there is the concept of Prime Abilities. Each class has one and they do about what you would imagine if you never read the rules.  For the Knight the prime ability is Charisma.  Not physical prowess, but charisma. This is the same for Paladins who are now taking more of the role of Holy Warrior.  The 5th Edition D&D Paladin is still closer to the C&C Paladin, but the C&C Knight is in many ways closest to the D&D4 Warlord. Both have leadership abilities and both appear to be more militarily trained fighters.

At this point, I must apologize for my selections of classes.  They are going to be based on the ones I know and the books I have.   I also mightnot focus on every class in the books I do have.

The Codex Celtarum is one of my favorite C&C books. I love the idea of playing in a Celtic universe and there is just so much fun stuff in this.  This book comes with a new class, The Woodwose, and a variation of a class, The Wolf Charmer. Both of these classes have a distinct Celtic flair to them.  The woodwose is a wildman of the woods and somewhere between a ranger and a barbarian in terms of role. Looking at their prime abilities, the Barbarian is Constitution, the Ranger is Strength and the Woodwose is Dexterity.  The wolf charmer is described as a pied piper of sorts for wolves.  They can be rogues or rangers and they gain some wolf charming abilities in favor of some the abilities they would have gotten for their own class.  A ranger-wolf charmer, in fact, resembles the concept of the Beastmaster I discussed in a Class Struggles a few months back.  In 3rd edition, we might have done this a Prestige Class.

It's sister product or cousin product, is the Codex Nordica.  Personally, I think both books should be used together for a greater effect to both. Yes their "worlds" are very different, but their interaction in our world is very linked.   This book offers us the Seiðkona, or sorceress.  Other books might call her a witch.  Indeed I used a lot of the same myths about the  Seiðkona, Vísendakona and Volur in my own witch books right down to using a distaff in place of a staff.  The Seiðkona uses Intelligence as her primeary ability and casts the same spells and magic as the Wizard does.  If she had used Charisma, I would naturally compare her to the Sorcerer of D&D3.   Though given her role, Intelligence (or maybe even Wisdom) is the proper choice here.  This is a class that is very much part of the mythology of the world she is in. She loses some of the things that make her special if she you dropped her into Greyhawk or the Realms.  There is also the Völva, which the clerical counterpart to the Seiðkona.  This class also serves the role of a priestess and uses a distaff.  As expected her primary ability is Wisdom.  Her gift is divination and prophecy.  So by means of a rough comparison, she is more similar to the Oracle class in Pathfinder.

Moving on to more C&C specific "worlds" we can first turn to the Tainted Lands. Now to be fair, I was pretty hard on this product when it came out.  I still find faults with it, but I am softening my approach some more.  I just ignore the "Psychic" and "Supernatural" attributes. The nice thing about this setting is it is easily back-adaptable to ad some darkness to your games.  The Tainted Lands also gives us four new classes.  The Witch Hunter (which I have converted to Wisdom), The Metals Master (which I honestly don't use), The Portal Keeper (I use Intelligence instead) and the Vampire (Strength).  Of these, I use the Witch Hunter the most.

The Haunted Highlands are next and have some classes that fit into the same horror or darkness tinged mode.  This includes the Players Guide, the Castle Keeper's Guide and the Black Libram of Naratus.  Now these books hit me right in my home.  Dark, scary, Celtic themed play?  Sign me up!  I will work on getting a full review out for the Haunted Highlands soon.  Case on point, the classes are a revised Assassin, a revised Monk, the Conjurer (Charisma based), the Necromancer (an Inteligence sub-class of the Wizard and which is also detailed at length in the Black Libram of Naratus), and the Witch (Wisdom based)! I could go on and on about the witch here, but it is a very approapriate adaptation of the concept for this setting.  Again. There is so much here to go through that I will have to devote a blog post or two about it.  But I would easily play one of these witches or necromancers.

To wrap-up my collection of Castles & Crusades specific books (and I know there are more out there) I want to look into the Castles & Crusades Players Guide to Aihrde.   What I really like about this book are some "race" specific classes. There is the Heisen Fodt (Dwarves), the Oraalau (High Elves), Ieragon (Eldritch Goblin), Hugrin dun (Gnome), and Felon Noch (Halfling). Essentially these are the racial classes closest to the Basic/Exper D&D expressions of the Race as Class classes.  Here though they have a strong cultural context and they really work.   I would add these to not only my Castles & Crusades game, but any OSR game or even D&D5.

Stretching now just a bit I want to talk about a few of the classes found in Amazing Adventures.  While AA is a Pulp or even modern RPG, there are some classes that would work well with just the tiniest of modifications.  Some of this is detailed in the books, but I want to share my opinions on the matter.  The Arcanist is basically a Wizard or Cleric.  The Gadgeteer though would make for an excellent Magical Artificer.  Use the rules here and in the Book of Powers to create your own artificer.  The Mentalist would add a psionic or psychic character to your game.  The  Socialite can be dropped in almost as-is for a Royal Courtier.   Now if we add in the Amazing Adventures Companion we get a whole new slate of character class options.   The Acrobat, the Archer, the Duelist, the Feral, the Pirate and the Soldier can all be used with only modifications to anything that involves firearms.  Depending on your game you could even add in the Gunslinger.
If you check out the Troll Lord's online shop you can also find the Demon Hunter class for AA, but easily compatible with C&C.

There are similar choices in Victorious, but I am not done reading that one yet.

All in all, nearly 30 classes you can add to your Castles & Crusades games.

I think the Troll Lords need to come out with a "Class Codex" now!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Class Struggles: The DM's Guild Witches

Initiation Ritual by Trishkell
I'm very deep into my D&D5 game right now and I have already scribbled out a notebook full of ideas of how to convert my Witch class to 5e.  So much so that I feel like I am in a good place now to look at other people's interpretation of my favorite class for 5e.

While there is a lot of fun D&D5 information out there, I focused my attention on the DM's Guild online store.   This is not an exhaustive list and it is not in any particular order.   Well...they are in the order they opened up in Acrobat.

General notes.  There is a lot of things you can get away with in the DM's Guild that would never fly under the OGL or in the OSR.  I am going to have to judge these on their own merits and not the merits of professional designers or even the enthusiastic amateurs of the OSR/DIYD&D crowds.

Witch Class, D&D 5e (inspired by Dragon #114 witch)
Christopher J. Ferguson, 9 pages, $1.00
I love the art for this one, but the background image makes it harder to read and difficult to print.   He starts with a bit of history of the witch in D&D, but I am not sure if the author knows how far back this class actually goes.  That's fine the focus here is on the Dragon #114 witch.
This witch uses both Intelligence and Charisma for spellcasting and is a divine spellcaster.  There is a distinction between White and Black magic witches.  I like the "A Blessing and a Curse" idea here. It's a nice touch.  The witches also get a lot of powers in addition to their spells.  Some, like the candle magic powers, really do invoke the memories of the old Dragon Magazine witch.   There are even 5 new spells.  I had hoped that since this was inspired by the Dragon witch that there would be High Secret Order spells too, but the author did not include those.
There are some good ideas here.

Witch Class (5e)
William Russell, 13 pages, PWYW (paid $1.00)
I rather like this one.  The layout is really nice, very professional. The witches here as presented as natural spell-casters; learning through natural ability and experiences. Wisdom is the spellcasting ability for this witch and are natural Ritual Spellcasters.   This witch also has a number of witch traditions; fey, hedge and shadow.  All provide the witch with background and provide some powers. This witch also can assume animal shape and has a spirit kin; something like a spirit animal.  There is a list of spells, but no real new ones.
There are a lot of great ideas in this one to be honest.

Witch Class
Todd D, 6 pages, PWYW (paid $1.00)
This witch is more like a warlock, but that is what it is advertised as.  These witches appear to be manipulators of Fate.  These witches also use Wisdom as their spell casting ability.  Instead of pacts or traditions this witch has "Heritages"; the Traditionalist, the Blighted, and the Clarivoyant.  Each one gives the witch some different sorts of powers.  Ends with a spell list.
At six pages it seems a bit thin, but does exactly what it said it was going to do.

The Shaman - A New Take
From A Point of Inspiration, 8 pages, PWYW (paid $1.00)
Not exactly a witch, but close. This class has spellcasting foci, like a fetish or idol, which gives it a nice feel.  Wisdom is the spellcasting ability.  This class also has some spirit based powers that are interesting.  The relationship here is similar to the cleric and druid is similar to the Sorcerer-Wizard-Warlock one.  I think I would have liked to have seen this class use something more like the Warlock style spellcasting to be honest, but what is here works fine.  It is a good class, but I am left wanting more.

Spells of the Unapproachable East
From Polaron Posadas, 12 pages, PWYW (paid $1.00)
This collects various spells that have appeared in some Forgotten Realms books in previous editions focusing on the lands of Thay, Aglarond, Rashemen, Thesk and the Great Dale.  If these names do not mean anything to you, don't worry, I only am vaguely aware of them myself.  The point here is that there are a lot of "new" spells for you.   The spells comprise the last 8 pages.  Some are familiar enough to me just because I have been playing for 36+ years, but some are new to me.  Twelve pages for a buck (or less) is not a bad deal really.

Glamour Mage Class
From Phoenix Bryant, 12 pages, PWYW (paid $1.00)
This one is nice since it comes in both screen and print ready versions.  While not exactly a witch, it covers a lot of the same ground.  Spellcasting is like a warlocks and a emphasis is given on glamour and flashy spells.   There is actually quite an interesting and unique class here and one I'd like to try playing.  Maybe an NPC would work well.

New Warlock Invocations
From Mad Le Fou, 8 pages, PWYW (paid $1.00)
Four pages of new Warlock invocations and two pages of a new Fighter archtype, the Hexblade. The Hexblade obviously gets some ability from the Pact of the Blade Warlock, but some martial ability as well.  The artist is not listed, but I found his work here: http://rodimus25.deviantart.com/art/Fantasy-Warlock-174156589

Pacts & Patrons (and eldritch invocations!)
From Pilleri Federico, 12 pages, $1.50
Two new pacts and five new patrons for warlocks.  The art and layout is nice.  The Aegis Pact is similar to Pact of the Blade.  The Pact of Concoctions makes the warlock into a brewer of potions.  The patrons are for me the more interesting part of the book.  These include The Archmage, The Ascendent (almost a god), Fate, Mother Nature and the Phoenix.  Each comes with some flaws and an expanded spell list.  The last couple of pages are devoted to new invocations.

Druid Circle - Circle of the Eremite
From Nathan England, 3 pages, PWYW (paid $0.50)
Potion brewing druids. Comes with printer friendly and screen versions.  This class has a Hedge Wtich feel about it to be honest. A bunch of new potions are listed at the end.
Not a bad idea, but feels a little off to me somehow. I have not put my finger on it to be honest.

3 Archetypes #04 - Druid
From Diego Bastet, 4 pages, $1.00
What is says on the tin. Three new Druid circles including a Circle of Witchcraft.  Interesting ideas, but not entirely sure it works for me. The Circle of Rebirth and Circle of Seasons are more interesting and come a little closer to what is expected from a druid.

Archetypes for D&D
From Donald Stelling, 7 pages, PWYW (paid $1.00)
Five new archetypes including a witch (sorcerer) and the witch hunter (any).  The witch gets some new spells (from other classes) and four new powers. If I were to use this with other witch classes I might call it a Witch-kin or a Witch-blooded.

The Dungeon Master's Handbook II
From Andrew Cawood,  94 pages, $4.99
The largest book downloaded from the DM's Guild so far.  Lots of lists of monsters and encounters, most of which I have no need for. Sadly that accounts for about 40 some pages.  There are about 30 pages of monster stats with minimal descriptions and no art.  If you are running Curse of Strahd I see that there is some use in this.

Wizard Tradition: The Witch
From Devlinus Productions, 7 pages, PWYW (paid $1.00)
This presents three witchcraft Wizard traditions: White, Black, and Gray and two Patron: the Fiend and the Earth Mother.  This one is more in-line with other TSR/WotC versions of the Witch, esp the 2nd and 4th editions where the witch was akin to the Wizard.   The author even states that the 2nd ed Witch kit was one of his favorites and I can see that here. The Patrons and the traditions offer mostly role-playing favor to the witch, but that is fine.  The witch gains ritual casting abilities and boons.  The odd thing about this one are the minimum ability scores required.  I don't recall any D&D class having minimum ability scores required in 5e.  There are some good ideas and certainly a witch I would like to try playing.

I think I will do something I did for Necromancers in 3.x and later witch-like classes in 4e. I'll print these all out, but them in a binder and make a character using each class.  It would be a lot of fun. Well...fun for me anyway.

I can even throw in this one from the DnD-5e-Homebrew Tumblr.
http://dnd-5e-homebrew.tumblr.com/post/138019533480/witch-class-by-zarieth


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