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

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


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Class Stuggles: The Thaumaturge

I am a sucker for new classes, especially magic-using classes. So I was very pleased to hear that +Matthew Skail was releasing a new class designed to replace the magic-user in OSR games.
The Thaumaturge is a 20-level spell casting class in 10 pages for any OSR-like game.

The main feature of the titular class is their non-Vancian spell casting system.  Now  I will admit that I am a fan of Vancian magic. It is part and parcel of playing D&D in my mind.  That being said I have experimented with a number of non-Vancian and spell-point enabled systems over the years.   But I keep coming back to Vancian magic.   The Thaumatuge is a well thought out class though and the system has merit.  There is a bit of 3.0 in this class' DNA, namely extensive use of the ability modifiers, but not so much as to drive away die hard Grognards.

The class is well written and could easily be dropped into any OSR game.  In fact I think such things should be encouraged; different lands should have different types of magics.

The main feature of this class though is not just the spell-point system, but rather a system that gives the magic-user the means to do some dice-rolling just like the melee types.  Having seen this more in 4th and 5th edition for arcane types, this is not something to be underestimated.  People love to roll the dice to see if they hit or, in this case, a spell's success.   There is even something in this that I normally call a "repeated casting modifier" (called Overcasting here).  The idea of the "Mastered Spell" is also a nice one.   Again, nothing we all have not seen elsewhere, but still nice to have in one place.

Since this is designed to replace the standard Magic-User it still uses Intelligence as the primary ability.  I think though a strong case could be made to replace that with Charisma and make it a unique class.  They can use the same spells as the Magic-user does, much like how the magic-user and elf can in Basic, or the Wizard and Sorcerer in 3rd edition.

There are also a couple of new spells and some new magic items.  All for less money than a 20oz bottle of soda and a bag of chips.

There are some formatting issues with the document.  Page numbers would also be nice and I'd put in a manual page break over Optional Rules.

Thoughts on Expansion
While reading this I could not help but think that is actually two classes.  First, there is the stated design goal, an augmentation of the magic-user class.  But there is also a completely new class here as well.  We can call them the Thaumaturgic Wizard and the Thaumaturge respectively.  Now on paper there is no real difference here, but the concept opens up new possibilities.
The Thaumaturgic Wizard implies there can be Thaumaturgic Clerics, Thaumaturgic Illusionists or even a Thaumaturgic Witch.
The Thaumaturge, however, is a different sort of caster.  To go with the dictionary definition of Thaumaturgy you would almost need to add a little bit of clerical power to them without necissarily invoking some diety.  Or at least a couple of the cleric's spells.   Again, I'd base his spellcasting ability on Charisma at this point and make him something like a counterpoint to the witch.

This class as written would also gain some benefit from some of the ritual casting as presented in +Kasimir Urbanski's Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos.  If you use spell points then places of power is a nice logical extension.

I have to say there is a lot of ideas here, certainly more than it's page count suggests.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Class Struggles: Cthonic Warlocks and The Return of Tharizdûn

Working through my "end game" for my Come Endless Darkness campaign.  Like the Gygax book of the same name my main Big Bad is Tharizdûn.  Also like the books I am sure that the universe is going to look very different when I am done.

Through the various adventures, the big plot emerging is that Orcus, Lolth, Yeegnohu and others are taking advantage of the death of all the Sun Gods, but no one has yet confirmed or not if they have any actual involvement in it. They suspect Orcus.

In truth it is all going to be Tharizidûn.  This is something I have built up over the last couple of campaigns.  The "Dragonslayers" (the generation before the "Order of the Platinum Dragon") uncovered the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdûn.  His big plan, of course, is to get free.

Currently, I have him in a cage deep in the lowest part of the Nine Hells. Asmodeus is still his jailer and in many ways is the very first Warlock of Tharizdûn.  He has been siphoning off Tharizdûn's power for centuries, it is how he took control of Hell in fact.  But Tharizdûn knows this and while Asmodeus has been doing this, Tharizdûn has been pulling him deeper and deeper into his thrall.

In my games Tharizdûn also has another title, "The Whispering God".  This comes from his warlocks who say their god whispers in their ears and tells them secrets. And convinces them to do terrible things.  He is also known as the Elder Elemental Eye and worshiped by elemental-demon cults. He is also worshiped by the Drow that do not follow Lolth.

Recently Strange Brew: Warlocks was released.  It includes a version of the Whispering God that I used in my games. I am particularly proud of it to be honest.
WARLOCK PATRON: THE WHISPERING GOD
Deep in forgotten tombs, hidden in forsaken forests, and haunting long-abandoned churches of long-dead gods, you can hear it. It is soft, but it is there. Once you hear it, then it is always with you—day and night, sleeping and waking. It is the voice of the Whispering God. No one is for sure who or what the Whispering God is.
There are no churches or priests dedicated to him. No stories of creation. No heroes. No tales of battles. Just the constant whispering. Those warlocks who follow this entity are blessed and cursed: blessed with great power and cursed with the voice of their patron in their ears forever. No one knows what the Whispering God wants or even why he/it needs warlocks and not clerics.
The speculation is that he is a god trapped in prison so dark and so perfect only his voice can escape, but just barely. He needs these warlocks to spread the word so he can escape. Others claim that the god is nothing more than the madness that will consume all “his” warlocks.
For Pathfinder this is a "Cthonic" Patron.  For D&D 5 this would be an "Old One".
For my players, it means trouble.

Here is a Cthonic Tradition for the Basic Era Witch.

New Tradition: Cthonic

Witches of the Cthonic Tradition honor and some say are slaves of, very, very ancient powers. Some are inhuman powers from beyond our reality and understanding. Some are ancient Primordial Beigns from before the times of gods or mortals. A few are Dead Gods whose worship continues and whose power remains.

More so than any other witches, these are most often called Warlocks.

Role: These witches and warlocks represent a tie to the ancient past or to other unworldly powers.  They represent classical villains or the scholar that has delved too deep into things that mortals were never meant to know.

Joining this Tradition: To join one must either discover the Cthonic Patron of be discovered by one.  For example, the Cult of the Whispering God hears their Patron's whispers when they uncover hidden knowledge about the God or venture deep into areas that were formerly His centers of worship.

These witches tend to be Solitaries or be involved in small cults.
They are for the most part are chaotic, with some gravitating towards neutral. Rare is the lawful Cthonic witch, but it is not unheard of.

Leaving this Tradition: Often there is no way to leave this tradition; not even in death.

Occult Powers
Minor - 1st Level: Grimoire. The warlock does not gain a familiar like other witches, but rather a semi-aware tome known as a Grimoire.  These tomes replace the Book of Shadows for these witches. These Grimoires are often sought after by occultist, magic-users.

Lesser - 7th Level: Immune to Fear. Exposed to so many horrors or alien minds warps the mind of the warlock to a point where normal fear has no effect on them.  Magical fear is also given a -4 bonus on saves.

Medial - 13th Level:  Alien Mind. The Cthonic witch has become so accustomed to dealing with alien and ancient minds that she becomes immune to charm and hold spells. Her mind can't be probed or read via telepathy, ESP or similar powers.

Greater - 19th Level: Curse. The warlock can place a powerful Curse on a single creature. She can only do this once per day (for a single creature). The curse can be of any sort, but usually the curse will bestow a -4 to all to-hit rolls and -2 to any saving throws. Other curses may be allowed, such as the Bestow Curse spell. Witch curses are quite powerful and require the use of two (2) remove curse spells to be fully removed.

Major - 25th Level: Shape Change. Once per day, the witch may change her shape to any type of aberrant monster, like the spell Shape Change. For 1 turn per level, the witch may move freely back and forth between her aberration and human forms. Once the form is chosen, that is the only form she can use for the day. So, a witch may choose to change between the forms of human and a roper but cannot go between roper, human and bird. Once the duration has expired, the witch reverts back to human form.  The witch does not have the special abilities of the aberant form save for those that she can manage with the form.  So the roper's tentacles would be replicated, but not the basts of a Sphere of Many Eyes.

Superior - 31st Level: Apotheosis.  The witch becomes something else. This new form and powers are dependent on the Patron she serves.  For witches of the Whispering God her voice barley rises above a whisper, but her voice can be used as a Command spell once per day, a Charm spell 3 times per day, and a suggestion seven times per day.


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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Class Struggles/Plays Well With Others: The Vile Witch

Mazes & Perils is the newest game on the OSR scene.   I covered the game in a "Class Struggles" back in May.  Then I focused on the new(er) magic using classes in the game.  There was a promise then that there would be more classes.
Given the Holmesian origins of this game the newest class is, appropriately, a witch.

The Vile Witch is the newest class for Mazes & Perils from +Vincent Florio, +Brian Fitzpatrick and +Sal Valente 
Before I talk about the class I want to give a shout out to cover artist +Jacob Blackmon. He is the one responsible for my new header above.

The Vile Witch is a 14 page book (cover, 2 pages of OGL, 1 page of ads, 1 title page for 9 pages of content) dedicated to the new vile witch spell caster. This is a character that revels in what others throw away.  It immediately reminded me of the Junk Lady in the movie Labyrinth AND Maja the witch from Adventure Time; she is the witch that buys Marceline's teddy bear Hambo for its memories.  The idea is that there is power in memories and power in items that have been associated with others.  It's a powerful archetype really and one with a LOT of potential.
But because the witch is so often mired in the refuse of others her appearance and form suffers.

The class has a lot of interesting features and powers in addition to some new spells and familiars.  Vile Witches are limited to 9th level. I think I see why, but I would try them to 10th or 12th like the other spell casting classes. Though she does have more powers (familiars and "vile blood") as well as a quicker spell advancement.
The book has both "vile familiars" and "common familiars". Common familiars can be used by any spell casting class, the vile ones are for the vile witch.  The rules are simple, as befitting the M&P game, and easy to use.  If you want familiar rules then this is a good choice to be honest even if you never use the class itself.
The book also contains 19 new vile witch spells.  While these spells could be used with any other magic using class, they are very specific to the vile witch and really give her a lot of flavor and color.

For just under $2 there is a lot of material here. It is a very different sort of witch and I like that. I am certain that this class will make for some great NPCs and hopefully some really great PCs as well.

Class Struggles
What I kept thinking while reading it was that a Vile Witch dedicated to the Goddess, Tlazolteotl would be a good idea. She could even be "good" or Lawfully aligned. Something like a "Sin Eater".
Her job is to make good things happen by "eating" the bad things.
Only a thought, but it would be how I'd play the class.
Unlike other classes I have talked about under the Class Struggles banner I can't really think of a similar class.  Maybe

Plays Well with Others
Mazes & Perils is firmly rooted in the "Basic" era style gaming and Holmes in particular.  That being true it works really, really well with my own Basic Era Witch class and many others.

If I were to convert this to my own book I might call them a "Sin Eater Tradition" for Lawful witches or "Vile Witch Tradition" for Neutral and Chaotic ones.

For Occult Powers I might try this;

Lesser: Vile Familiar
Minor: Toxic Blood
Medial: Greater Glamour
Greater: Curse
Major: Shape Change
Superior: Vile Apotheosis

Have to work out all the details of these, but the idea is that exposure to all this...stuff...changes the vile witch is both physical and supernatural ways.

Here are some spells from my book that you can use with the Vile Witch.

Sickly
Level: Witch 1
Range: Touch
Duration: 1 minute per level
This spell causes the target creature to suffer from poor health.
Witches must succeed at a touch attack to strike the target. Subjects who fail their saving throw suffer a –1d6 penalty to Constitution, with an additional –1 per two caster levels (maximum additional penalty of –5). The subject’s Constitution score cannot be reduced below 1.
Material Components: A dried up dandelion.

Sour Stomach
Level: Witch 1
Range: One Target (within 25’ + 5’ per 2 levels)
Duration: 2 hours per level
This spell causes the target to have a nervous stomach, thus experiencing severe digestion, discomfort and cramping upon the engagement of any event that’s moderately stressful or exciting.
So terrible is this form of indigestion that the target must succeed a Poison saving throw, find a means to relieve their situation within 4 to 7 rounds (1d4+3) or have an “accident” that results in potential embarrassment and potential discomfort. The triggering event of such inconvenience could be most anything, from running into an encounter to finding treasure of mysterious properties to even meeting some stranger along the road. Each worthy event during the full duration of the compulsive enchantment can cause another potential outbreak of discomfort, thus requiring another save.
Material Components: A bit of soured milk.

Vertigo
Level: Witch 1
Range: 1 subject
Duration: 1 round per level
This minor hex causes the target creature to have a feeling of vertigo. The subject will feel that they are falling and their footing is unsure. Dizzied creatures suffer a -4 to their dexterity score and any to hit rolls.
Material Components: The witch makes a spinning motion with her finger.

Defoliate
Level: Witch 2
Range: 25’ + 5’ per 2 levels
Duration: Instantaneous
With this spell, the witch instantly slays all minor vegetation (weeds, flowers, small bushes, etc.) in a 20-ft.-radius. If a creature with the plant type is targeted, it takes 1d8 points of damage per caster level (max. 5d8). Creatures that are not plants are unaffected by this spell.
Material components: The witch picks a flower and pulls off the petals while chanting the words to this spell.

Nausea
Level: Witch 2
Range: 25’ + 5’ per 2 levels
Duration: 1 round per level
Subjects of this spell become sick and queasy, feeling as though they are about to vomit. This condition renders subjects unable to attack, cast spells, concentrate on spells or do anything else requiring attention. They may only make a single move or move equivalent action each round.
Material Components: A drop of animal fat that has gone rancid.

Contagion
Level: Witch 3
Range: Touch
Duration: Instantaneous
The subject contracts a disease selected from the table below, which strikes immediately (no incubation period). The subject can save vs. Spells normally, but after that only a remove disease or remove curse (or greater magics) can cure them.
Each disease affects a different ability. Infected creatures cannot attack and move at ¼ their normal movement rate.
Roll d8 Disease Damage
1 Blinding Sickness 1d4 STR
2 Cackle Fever 1d6 WIS
3 Filth fever 1d3 DEX and CON
4 Mindfire 1d4 INT
5 Red Ache 1d6 STR
6 Shakes 1d8 DEX
7 Slimy Doom 1d4 CON
8 Hags curse 1d3 WIS and CON

Blinding Sickness: For every 2 points of STR lost, a new save vs. Paralysis must be made or the target will go permanently blind. Not contagious.
Cackle Fever: Symptoms include high fever, disorientation and frequent bouts of hideous laughter. It’s commonly also known as “the shrieks.” Not contagious.
Filth Fever: An infection commonly gained while around dire rats, were-rats and otyughs. Not contagious.
Mindfire: Victims feel like their mind is on fire. It is as common as a curse in spell books. Not contagious.
Red Ache: Skin turns red, bloated, and warm to the touch. Not contagious.
Shakes: Causes involuntary twitches, tremors and fits. It is contagious to others by touch. Save vs. Paralysis prevents spread.
Slimy Doom: Victim turns into infectious goo from the inside out. It must be cured in a number of days equal to new CON score or victim will permanently loose CON points. It’s highly contagious by touch. Save vs. Paralysis at -2 prevents spread.
Hags Curse: Takes ability damage as listed and the victim becomes infertile or impotent (female or male respectively). Must be cured in a number of days equal to new CON score or become permanent.
Material Components: The witch needs crushed verbena in the blood of a viper and vinegar.

Mind Rash
Level: Witch 3
Range: 25’ + 5’ per 2 levels
Duration: 1 round per level
This spell causes the target to experience horrible itching sensations all over their body. Though not actually inflicted with any real physical ailment, the delusion of itching is so great that the target is unable to perform any action not related to attempting to relieve the persistent suffering. Likewise, the irritation actually causes the target to wound their bodies in the process of trying to relieve the itch. Any sort of thing to scratch and scrape away at the sensations, including stones, weapons, and bits of metal are used. Each round during the duration of the mind rash the target wounds their body for 1 point of damage.
Material Components: A bit of dried poison oak.

Vomit
Level: Witch 4
Range: 25’ + 5’ per 2 levels
Target: 1 Creature
Duration: See below
This spell seizes subjects with sudden spasms of violent regurgitation. Those who fail their saving throw regurgitate helplessly for 1d4 rounds. While vomiting, subjects cannot move more than 5 feet per round and cannot fight or cast spells. For all purposes they are considered staggered. When the spasms end, subjects are overcome with a magical weakness which reduces their Strength by 1d4+1 points. This weakness persists for 1 round per level of the witch.
Material Components: The witch sticks a finger down her own throat.

Gnawing Pain
Level: Witch 5
Range: 25’ + 5’ per levels
Duration: 3 rounds + 1 round per level
Upon casting this spell, any creatures within the spell area must make a saving throw or suffer a gnawing pain that slowly spreads throughout their body.
During the first round the victims will feel a dull pain that causes a cold sweat. Casting any spells during this round requires a concentration skill roll. On the second round this pain becomes a sharp agony and the target is effectively shaken. By the third round the searing pain has reached its maximum intensity and the victim is nauseated. Each round thereafter the victims must make a saving throw or become wracked with convulsions. They are now completely incapacitated and helpless to defend themselves.
The effects of this spell linger in the mind of the victims even after the duration has expired. The targets will feel unnerved for 1d6+1 hours, resulting in a -1 penalty to any Wisdom-based rolls (including magic saves). They will suffer disturbing nightmares during the following 1d4 weeks, making sleeping difficult and reducing the rate of natural healing by one half.
Material Components: A branch of nettles with which the witch swats her bared arms or legs.

Magic Item
Sack of Rats
A cursed item in the general sense, many vile witches have found some use for this. This normal sack appears to all magical detection (except for detect curse) to be a Bag of Holding. Once  a food item though is stored in this bag, its true magic is discovered. Out from the bag will pour thousands of rats that will run in every direction away from the holder of the bag. The bag contains 1,001 rats. A save vs. Paralysis must be made or anyone in 10’ feet of the bag will be unable to move due to all the rats. The rats will bite and all within 10’ of the bag will take 1d6 hit points of damage.

All items are Copyright 2012, 2016 Timothy S. Brannan.  All spells and items are released as Open under the OGL.
The Witch: A New Class for Basic-ear Games, Copyright ©2012, Timothy S. Brannan. Elf Lair Games. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Class Struggles: The Faerie Witch

Still celebrating Mid-summer and all things faerie this week.  What better than to talk about the faerie witch for this weeks' Class Struggles.

The faerie witch is one of the easiest witches to use in a game because they most often fit the stereotype of the lone witch living in the woods.  It is a pervasive and well-established archetype of the witch.

The earliest witch classes did not split the class into traditions or covens, that is something that came later on, so it is hard to judge the merits of those classes as a faerie witch.  Certainly the Compleat Spellcaster Witch and the Dragon magazine witches had spells that would have made it possible to make a faerie witch, they were not overtly so.

I suppose I should really define what I mean by a faerie witch before I move on.  These are witches that are typically solitary, typically live in the woods alone, converse with various natural and supernatural animals.  They have practices that are similar to the druid, but certainly a reverence for nature. Often above and beyond their reverence for mortal lives.  They don't all have to be faerie-blooded or even elven, but sometimes they are.   The faerie witch also covers various hags and other witch-like creatures found living in natural environments.  To give you an idea of what I consider to be faeries witches here is a list of the characters I have built using the faerie witch tradition for various games:
The faerie witch was one of the first "Traditions" I ever wrote for the witch class along with the "Craft of the Wise", "Malefic" and "Tempenstarii" witches.  If you want a rough idea of what I was doing have a look at my Castles & Crusades version of the witch that included the faerie tradition.

So where did this come from?
There is a real-life witchcraft tradition known as "Fairy Wicca", but it would be a lie to say that is where this all came from for me.  Sure I read up on it a lot later on, but it wasn't what I was looking for.   This also me to the "Feri Tradition" as well. Looking back over my own notes over the last few days I can't tell where it came from originally except that I have a note on the back of a print out from my school's mainframe and the date on it is 1989.  The note just lists the Craft of the Wise, Faerie, Malefic and Tempenstarii traditions. Later, in a different color ink, I added Amazon, Veneficia and Voodoo.  But I know where those came from and that puts it closer to 1992.  On a side note it was interesting to delve into these paper archives. I could see the progression of technology as I flipped the pages. Mainframe printouts on white and green paper, my Tandy printer, moving on to a color Panasonic dot-matrix printer and then to the first HP Ink-jet that was the version complete version of my witch class.

Mayfair Witches
Around the same time, Mayfair rolled out it's Witches book by Nigel D. Findley for the Role-Aids line. This book was great and because of that I avoided it for years! It was published in 1990 and I saw it was doing something similar to me so I put it down.  I was deep into writing then and did not want to have my own class influenced.  I really didn't need to worry.  The "traditions" (which is a common word used to describe different kinds of witches) in this book were set up very differently than what I did.  In fact the relationship they had was more like Class and Sub-classes of the D&D 2nd edition type.  Mine had different powers, this one had different spells.  The spells really make it though and something I would like to try doing sometime.
The Mayfiar Faerie Witches (not to be confused with these witches) were more of a guardian of the forrests and friend to animals type.  Strong and fierce.  They were more Angelina Jolie "Maleficent" than the original Disney one.

The Witch & Eldritch Witchery
My faerie witch appeared in my 2nd edition and 3rd edition netbooks.  Their newest incarnations can be found in my "old school" books The Witch and Eldritch Witchery.  It is notable here because it is one of the very few traditions to appear in both books.  These witches have what I consider to be typical powers; summon familiars, talk to animals, lay devastating curses...you know the normal.  But also something that I have added to other versions in the past, assume a fey shape.  For evil faerie witches this would be a hag shape.  I have even toyed with the idea that hags might not be a separate race at all, but rather transformed witches.

ACKS
The witches in Adventurer Conqueror King System's Player's Companion also are divided by tradition and features a "Fairy Tradition" known as a "Sylvan Witch". This tradition (and all the ACKS Witch traditions) have a collection of bonus spells and powers.  I rather like these to be honest. It makes for an interesting middle point between my witches and the Mayfair witches.

D&D 4
Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition actually had two pretty good "faerie" witches; the fey-pact Warlock introduced in the Player's Handbook and the witch sub-class in Heroes of the Feywild.  The fey-pact warlock certainly represents the dealing with the powers of the fae in a darker, more sinister way.  The witch of Heroes of the Feywild is really more of "Sub-class" of the wizard (something similar to 2nd ed with the witch kit) with a lot of powers and spells that give the witch flavor.

On one level I didn't like this since the witch isn't really a type of wizard.  But in reading it I can get past it since the witch is only a type of wizard "mechanically", she uses the same rules as a wizard and thus all the same powers, feats, magic items, Paragon Paths and Epic Destinies the wizard can use.  In this respect it makes her more like what I have done in the past where wizards and witches are both a type of "magic-user".   It gives the witch a lot of power to choose from.

The witch has two builds or covens she can choose from, a Full Moon Coven and a Dark Moon Coven, or if you prefer a good witch and a bad witch.  The covens have some powers associated with them, but the witch is still free to choose powers as she sees fit.
Only Paragon Path is given, the Legendary Witch, and it focuses on the two covens.  It lacks any strong thematic element, but this is a complaint I have had of the Paragon Paths of the post-Essentials line.
The Epic Destiny, the Witch Queen, though is quite good.  I had done something similar as a Prestige Class for 3.5.  This one is different but there are some interesting powers and effects.

What sets this witch apart from another Wizard or a Warlock are her spells and powers.  The witch relies on her familiar to learn magic.  Something I have seen more and more of late in FRPG versions of the witch. Her magic has a distinct feel to it different than that of the warlock, even if there seems to be some overlap.  Witches do get a minor healing power from the Full Moon Coven, and her magics in general are more subtle. She does not for example have a fireball like spell, but she can change monsters into other animals and they take damage for it.  Heavy on the charms and transformations.  Lots of powers with the Psychic key-word.  Some are similar in theme to the Warlock; Horde of Puckish Sprites is not too different, save in level than Pixie War Band.

There is something of an iconic character here in the witch Rowena (pictured above).  I'd like to find out more about her and maybe stat her up.

D&D 5
D&D 5 does not have a Faerie Witch or even a witch per se.  It does have a Warlock that takes the best properties of the 3.5 and 4e warlocks and makes something that I can use.  The warlock does have a Fae patron which has a lot of flavor to it.  A Fae-Warlock taking the Pact of the Tome makes for a pretty good witch-like character for me to be honest.  In fact, that is the character I am playing now in my D&D5 game and it is very witch-like in play.

I am sure there are others out there.  The archetype is just too pervasive not to be.

Hope you are enjoying this Mid-Summer and Full Moon.  Very witchy that.


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Class Struggles: The Cleric

Coming back to my Class Struggles series I wanted to look into the class that really got me thinking about this series to start with.  The Cleric.

There has been a lot of talk of clerics and their value in a D&D game.  This ranges from the old school of whether or not the Cleric is an appropriate trope for a fantasy game to the new school of whether a cleric is needed in a game that also has healing from long rests.

I am firmly in the camp of Clerics are as much a part of D&D as Fighters, Wizards and Thieves.

My first character ever was Father Johan Werper, Cleric of the God of the Sun, Hunter of the Undead. He was a bit of a generic cleric to be honest, and I choose the sun god because I thought that as a quasi-medieval priest  the sun would be a major feature of all the is holy, bright and good.  Plus I had been reading a bunch of Greek Myths and I thought Apollo would make for a good god.  But the real reason I choose the cleric; Turning Undead.  That was an AWESOME power in my pre-teen mind.   So that has colored my views of the cleric ever since.
(Father Werper, now St. Werper, lives on as an official Saint in COA04: Guidebook to the Duchy of Valnwall.)

In real life I am an atheist, but I like the play the religious character.  So clerics, witches, druids, all fascinate me.  But clerics are where it all started.

Clerics as Occult Researchers


In nearly every other game I have ever played there have been occult researchers.  There is usually someone that is the party's muscle, the magic-guy, the sneaky guy and the smart guy.  Sometime the magic guy and smart guy are the same, sometimes though they are not.  The Cleric takes on the roll of the Smart Guy or the Occult Researcher.  The books, the ill-fitting glasses, and the wisdom to know what to do is the role of the cleric.

It is fairly well known that the idea behind clerical undead turning  came from Peter Cushing's Van Helsing characters in the various Hammer Dracula films.  Why not extend the metaphor to include the rest of Van Helsing's portfolio.  As a class that puts a high value on Wisdom then the cleric should be a font of knowledge. Sure, this can also be done by the Magic-User / Wiazard,  but the cleric's input should not be understated.  Van Helsing is described as a meta-physian or what we might call a poly-math, or man of letters.  Wizards, even with schools, don't have the same "Academic" credibility as a cleric can have.  Sure the shaman could be considered a cleric in some games, and his schooling could entirely be natural or at least un-scholastic in nature.

In D&D 3, 4 and 5 knowledge of the undead fall within the Knowledge (Religion) or just Religion category.   These characters tend to have more training in this area than other characters.  While wizards are typically the font of magical knowledge, clerics should be the source of knowledge beyond the ken of mortal man and into the realm of the gods and other forms of the supernatural.

Clerics as the Party Leader
The cleric also can serve the role as the leader. While the cleric can run the gamut of influential high priest to crazy street prophet to diabolic cult leader, players typically take on the role of the cleric of the local church, usually good.  Certainly that is what D&D wants you to do and that is fine.  This type of cleric also works as the default leader, whether he/she is or not. So if this is the hand you are dealt, then play it because clerics make great leaders. Under most circumstances they access to power, money, a hierarchy and can expect a modicum of respect from the locals.  All this adds up to an instant authority figure.  Even if they are not.
While this role was stress fairly heavy in D&D4, all other versions of the game also give it tacit, implicit and even explicit lip service.  In D&D5 the divine domains of Knowledge and War make for pretty good leader types. Their better saves in Wisdom and Charisma make them less likely to charmed or otherwise controlled magically, so this can be role-played as a stronger than average mental fortitude.  Which fits the cleric well.

Cleric as the Party Medic
The obvious role.  Clerics have healing magic in earlier editions of the game, have spontaneous healing spells in the 3.x era and can activate healing surges in 4th. The clerics of 5th edition seem to take them back more to their roots in terms of healing.  The role of the cleric cannot be overstated.  Parties without a cleric die.
During my run between 1st and 2nd Ed I created a Healer class.  It shared a number of features that my Witch class did including the ability to heal by touch as she went up in level.  Completely unneeded in 3.x of course, but in 2nd Ed it was quite a game changer.  I also made an NPC healer a pacifist.  She would never raise a weapon to any creature unless of course it was undead and then she went all Peter Cushing on them.  But running that class and character (she was the only character I ever made for that class) showed me how important the healing aspect was.  There was not just the regaining hit points, there was the player morale.  Also, since the character was an NPC it was easy not to have her fight, but the Players really did everything they could to protect her.

BTW. Her name was Celene Weper and she was the grand-daughter of Father Werper above.  Yes clerics in my world get married and have kids, since it is a life-affirming thing.
Plus keep in mind that Clerics as Healers have a long tradition even in our own world.  If ever a character decided to become a pure healing cleric and take an oath of non-violence then I would give them XP for every hitpoint cured and a share of combat XP.  I would also give them 2x the starting funds (even though they would give what they don't spend back to the church) to represent the investment their churches/hospitals have made in them.  After all, can't send a healer out into the world with shoddy armor. Reflects bad on their organization.

Clerics as Combatants?
It almost seems counter to the above, but clerics are the second best major class when it comes to fighting.  Only fighters (and their related classes) are better.  The get good saves vs. magic due to their high wisdom, or Will saves for the same reason and their saves are pretty decent to start with.   Plus they have one thing fighters don't have, the  ability to use magic.  "So what" you say, "so can Wizards and even your favorite witch."  Yes, but can they do it in field plate armor?  Clerics can.  Sure they do not get the combat spells the wizard gets, but they have a few good ones too.  Creeping Doom is a nasty little spell for Druids.  Finger of Death and reversed Heal spells can also ruin someone's day.

In games without Paladins, Clerics are the "righteous fist of (their) god".  Wizards don't smite.
Clerics can also be one of the few character types that can actually kill monsters with-out the moral hangups.  Even fighters, who get paid, and thieves, that might be working as assassins, don't get the same kind of "get out of jail free card" as do clerics operating within the doctrines of their faith and church.  Think back to the Crusades and the Inquisition, the faithful got away with murder, torture and even more horrible crimes in the name of their God and the law had little to say about it or were in collusion with them.

Clerics might then be one of the more well rounded characters in the group.
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