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

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Class Struggles: Mazes & Perils Deluxe Edition

Image courtesy of Tenkar
It has been a while since I have done a Class Struggles post.  I knew I wanted to do something with Basic-era D&D and had a couple of ideas, but nothing 100% yet.   I ended up talking to +Vincent Florio about the newest version of Mazes & Perils Deluxe Edition, due out June 3rd.
Now Vince knows me. He knows that I love new magic using classes as much as I love anything and a new "Holmes" Basic magic-using class is just too sweet to pass up.  So he sent a copy of the new book in exchange for an honest review.  Today I am only going to focus on the new classes, I'll say more about the book as a whole later on.

Mazes & Perils Deluxe Edition (M&PDE hereafter) introduces two new magic-using classes, the Enchanter and the Shaman.  They join the classic Cleric and Magic-User.   There is a design choice here to keep the Magic-User over the more widely accepted wizard and I am 100% cool with that.  If you know any version of Basic D&D (Holmes in particular) you know what the MU is all about.  The XP progression tables are lesser for this MU compared to their Holmes, B/X, AD&D counterparts. But they are more in line with what a MU actually should need (see this post on my analysis of the MU/Wizard class).   So for this alone your MU is going to have a slightly different vibe to him.  

The max spell level in 5th, but that is not a big deal since the max character level in most cases is 12th.  Again, just because of who I am I might make it 13th.  (Come to think of it this might make a good game for my War of the Witch Queens campaign.)

The first new class is the Enchanter.  The enchanter follows a similar level progression and the same spell progression as does the Magic-User.   The enchanter does have a different spell list than the Magic-User as seen below:


They also learn their spells differently from a MU with a chance of a non-enchanter going insane after reading their spell books.   I like the *idea* of the enchanter and I would certainly play one. I think though I would do something to make them a bit more different than the Magic-User.   Given the mental nature of their spells I might make their prime stat Charisma or even Wisdom.  They have some really interesting spells here and I think a lot can be done with this class.   Just give it a little more to separate it from the MU.

Next up is the Shaman.  Now the Shaman is a real treat.  First it is a "primitive" type of spell caster, so their spells reflect that.


They also have Atonement and Spirit Guardian abilities.  Atonement gives them the ability to spiritually link to a weapon.   I have to admit the first thought I had was of Rafiki the baboon shaman from The Lion King.  Trust me, this is a good thing.   My only "house rule" I would add to this is that the Shaman's weapon acts as a magical weapon for purposes of hiting undead creatures. Not a +1 but more like a "+0".
The spirit guardian is a very interesting ability.  I don't think it would be game breaking if the spirit animal could attack as a 1HD monster, but it is a guardian afterall.  As a DM I would love to do a lot of cool things with this animal. Hell, it would make for a great "patronus" like spell.  Also I would have the shaman need to go on a "vision quest" to find their spirit animal.  Get all new-agey with it.
The shaman fills the same niche as does the druid in other OSR/D&D games, but is not really 100% the same thing.  This is good, a game could be run that has both druids and shamen in it and still be plenty for them both to do.

Which class to play will often be determined I think by their spell lists. If I were to play the Enchanter I might want to supplement some of his spells.  Maybe grab a few illusionist spells some more Enchantment spells from the 3.x SRD. The Shaman works great out of the box.
I would play both to be honest.   Heck, I have a "Basic" game coming up that might be interesting to try out one or both of these.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Class Struggles: The Basic Vampire

The great thing about Basic-era D&D (OD&D, B/X, BECMI) is how flexible it is.

That flexibility and something I always had regarded as a negative, race as a class, is now something I wish to exploit more.

For that I give you the updated and slightly revised Basic Vampire class.
The Blood is the Life - Basic Vampires


This is actually part of an experiment for me. Well two really.

The first is to see if the Vampire as a class would be something that others would want or play.
If so, there is a whole game I have been playing around with for a while that I think will do nicely.

The second is an experiment on publishing a "Pay What You Want" title.

I have had conversations with other publishers about PWYW and they are unwilling to do it. Claiming that they will never get the money they need to make it worthwhile.  I disagree, I think the gaming community at large and the OSR community in particular would rather pay for the materials they want.

If this is successful, and success is a relative term, then expect to see more from me like this.

The Race-as-Class works so well for the Vampire. Afterall if an elf can fight and cast spells, then a vampire can fight and do all the things that make a vampire cool.

Mind you I am not trying to do a Basic knock off of Vampire: The Masquerade here.   This is still the same basic-era vampire we have been fighting for 40 years.  He just now can start at 1st level and work his way up.

Let me know what you all think.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Class Struggles: Clerics, Wizards and Witches

This is Zohir Totek. Is she a cleric, wizard or witch?
Ok so stop me if you have heard this one before...
a Cleric, a Wizard and a Witch walk into a dungeon...

ok, you likely haven't heard that one before.  Why? Well there is still some confusion over what roles each of these character classes play.

I mean we all, old-school gamers and new-school, seem to have a good grasp on the concept of what a wizard does, or at least can do.  They cast spells. They are the "smart guys" in the group. So I am not going into detail about them just yet.

Clerics also cast spells.  But they also heal and are better at bashing in skulls and killing undead.  Some old-school blogs in the past have posted things about not needing clerics in games. I believe that Lamentations of the Flame Princess doesn't even have a Cleric class.   I have seen other posts over the years that also attest to this anti-Cleric vibe.    This is not even getting into the divide between clerics, druids, mystics and invokers.   I never quite got this. My first character was a cleric.  For me he was a hunter of the Undead and later demons.  While certainly there is the "party medic" part to the cleric's job, there is the "occult" aspect too.  When you stop fighting orcs and goblins and move to ghouls, vampires and demons then you are going to need/want a cleric in your group.  Yes. Wizards can and should cover some of this as well.

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 Wizard,  but the cleric's input should not be understated.  For me I guess I look at what is the prime attribute of the any-school Cleric.  Wisdom. Always has been, likely always will be.   Compare this to the equally constant Wizard; Intelligence, always has been, likely always will be too.
For me, if your cleric and wizard are not getting into heated arguments in the game then you are missing out on some good roleplaying experiences.

Matters become more complicated when you through in a witch or a warlock (as I am wont to do). Or even and Oracle (Pathfinder), Druid (any), Invoker (D&D4), and/or a Sorcerer (Post D&D3).  It can quickly become a mess really.

I have talked at great length on what the roles and powers of a witch are or should be:
so I am not going to recount those all here.

In my book The Witch I have an appendix of things you can do with the Magic-User to make it more Wizard like.  I know this goes against the central conceit of the "magic-user" but it is what has worked for me. Yes you can play a by-the-book magic-user and give her "witch" spells.  I have done this for every edition of D&D I have ever played to be honest.  I spend a lot of time and energy on this topic.

So here are some rough guidelines.  These are based on my games really and focused on my own particular flavor of Old-School.  So your mileage will vary.

Clerics (Wisdom, Divine): Max spell level 7, some powers (turning undead, healing magic in other editions), greater combat ability and greater hit points.  Knowledge of outer planes and evil magical monsters.  Worship and follow their gods.  Best healing spells.
See also Mystics, Druids, Healers, Invokers.

Wizards (Intelligence, Arcane): Max spell level 9, not a lot of extra powers (I give them Read Magic for free). Weak combat ability, best at knowledge on monsters.  No special attention is paid to gods.  Best at spell research and magic item creation.  Best damage dealing spells.
See also Sorcerers, Illusionists.

Witch (Charisma, Occult): Max spell level 8, extra powers. Spells are overall weaker than a wizard. Weak combat ability.   Knowledge of supernatural and fey creatures.  Learn spells from patrons via familiars.  Might call them gods, but they are not necessarily so.  Best change of condition/state spells (curses, polymorphs) that may or may not cause direct (HP) damage.
See also Warlocks.

I can see a relationship that goes like this:




Of course, this is overly simple. But I can see other magic using classes here.
I wonder what is in the center?  Any ideas or guesses?

Compare to this RPG Archetypes graphic I saw on facebook, G+ and recently over at Observations of the Fox.

Click for much larger



I love graphics like this.  I could do the next 10-12 Class Struggles on that triangle alone.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Class Struggles & PWWO: The Intergalactic Rogue

The Scoundrel. The Rogue. The Thief.  If you are going to have a galaxy full of Knights, law-enforcement or otherwise protectors of the public trust and law and order then it behoves someone to give all those people work to do.

This is where the rogue comes in.

It doesn't matter how advanced we get as a society there will always be the fringe element that does not want to play by the rules, either as a lovable, if "scruffy" scoundrel or the actually evil thief.

By chance I picked up a number of print copies of some OSR books. I grabbed hardcovers of White Star from +James Spahn, Between Star & Void by +Matthew Skail and a softcover of the B/X Rogue from +Gavin Norman.

One of the first things I noticed was how well the Star Knights might work as a Green Lantern like police force.  And that the galaxy needed more rogues.

Thankfully Gavin Norman's B/X Rogue is so flexible that we can swap out the bits that make it B/X (sorry) and add in the same bits from Swords & Wizardry.  In truth it is not even that complicated.
In the B/X Rogue all the "Thief Abilities" have been replaced by "Rogue Talents".  You start with 4 and  work up to more.   Talents have a high margin of success, only failing under rare circumstances.  So that makes the Rogue into something more versatile.

Magic Talents are an issue and should be taken out.  But I mentioned before that +Richard LeBlanc's Basic Psionics Handbook can be used to add some of wild talents for rogue talents to create a rogue with some power.  Maybe they are a failed mystic, Knight or Sister but still have some powers.

I would also assume that anything like pick locks would extend to their futuristic White Star analogues.   Same with pick pockets.  Instead of actually taking money out of their pocket the rogue has a device that captures transaction codes and allows them to steal credits.

While our model of a classic rogue is often The Grey Mouser, Shadowspawn and even Bilbo our White Star rogue is Han Solo (to a degree), Neo (at the start of the Matrix), mostly James "Slippery Jim" Bolivar DiGriz from "The Stainless Steel Rat" series, Peter "Starlord" Quill (movie version at least), and 90% of the patrons of the Mos Eisley Cantina...I assume.

Now we have a Scoundrel class already which fits some of this thanks to Tenkar.  But the rogue is something a little different.  This now practically begs someone to build a Bounty Hunter class ala "Cowboy Bebop".

Plays Well With Others
A total cheat on my part here.  Both White Star and the B/X Rogue are so flexible that feats of Game Master legerdemain  are not needed here.
There are some features of the B/X Rogue though that make it more suited for White Star than saw the thief from S&W.  This allows for differences in Starlord and the Stainless Steel Rat.

Actually this gives me an interesting idea, but that is for another post.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Class Struggles: What Should a 5e Witch Be?

This post is an odd one for the Class Struggles series.  Instead of looking at different expressions of the same class or class-idea, I want to figure out what a 5e Witch class could be via the same sort of research and analysis.

Why do this?  Well the news came out yesterday that the 5e SRD is now released under the OGL.  While I had not really seriously contemplated the idea of a 5e witch.  I had been playing around with an idea I was calling The Coven for 5e.  Where I took established classes and tried to make them more "witch like" by working within the rules. I am still going to do that since it informs my own play and how the rules work for the various magic using classes.

I want to start by looking back to these posts, What Should an OSR Witch Do or Be? and Tom Moldvay on Witches.  Why? Well, this post represents my thought process when I was working on The Witch.  I like to walk through the same exercises for each version.  Start with the assumptions and then add in the game specific assumptions and see where that takes me.

Let me start by looking at the Moldvay Criteria again for 4e, Pathfinder and my Basic witch.  Why keep 4e? Well if WotC does their own witch it will be informed by the work they did in 4e.

Ability 4e Witch Pathfinder Witch Basic Witch
1. Ability to use Herbs skills skills ability check
2. The Power of Fascination powers spells spells
3. Clerical and Magic-User magic Yes Yes Yes
4. Sympathetic Magic limited to powers limited to spells new spell mechanic
5. Worshipers of forbidden religions yes yes yes
6. Powers based on natural cycles "Moon" builds no spells
7. Covens Yes only with hags Yes
8. Ritual Magic In PHB I only limited Yes

All 8 of these points must be met in order to create a new witch class.  Thankfully, this can be done in 5e.

So the ability to use herbs can be a Medicine or Nature check, depending on how it is used.
Fasicnation can be a power or spell or some combination (which also puts a vote in favor of Charisma as the prime stat).
Clerical & Magic-user magic. Not an issue.  I have a well-established list of spells.
Same with Sympathetic magic.
Covens, Powers based on the natural cycles, and worshippers of forbidden religions will need to be dealt with.
Ritual magic is well covered by D&D5.

Ok. So the framework is there and I have some ideas how to put the witch class on this framework. Time to start thinking about how 5e plays.

Covens as Builds/Archetypes
Each class has a "build" involved with it.  The Druids have Circles, the Sorcerers have their Origins, Warlocks have their Pacts and Wizards have Arcane Traditions.   Witches could have Covens.  In other books and games I have used "traditions" to cover this same basic idea.  But Wizards have that word now.   The Druid Circles struck me as being very coven like in truth.  Though the Warlock pacts could also be redone slightly to reflect some of the same ideas I have about covens and traditions.

Ability Scores
What ability score should I use?  I have, over the years, used Wisdom, Charisma and Intelligence.
The Witch uses Charisma.  Eldritch Witchery uses Wisdom and Inteliigence.  Pathfinder uses Intelligence and Charisma.  I used wisdom for both my 2nd and 3rd edition witches.  I can come up with reasons or justifications for any of them to be honest.  I prefer Charisma with Wisdom in a close second.  Trouble is D&D 5 already has two magic-users that use these abilities each.

I think I want to take a look at the 5 basic magic using classes in terms of how well they address the Moldvay Criteria.

Ability Cleric Druid Sor Warlock Wizard
0. Ability Score Wis Wis Cha Cha Int
1. Ability to use Herbs Med Med/Nat No Nat Med
2. The Power of Fascination spell spell spell spell spell
3. Clerical and Magic-User magic Clr Clr MU MU+Pact MU
4. Sympathetic Magic spell spell spell spell spell
5. Worshipers of forbidden religions no yes/no NA yes NA
6. Powers based on natural cycles no yes no no no
7. Covens no yes no yes no
8. Ritual Magic yes yes no yes (pact) yes

Looking at the list is seems that the best "witch" is either a druid or warlock.  This actually tracks with my playing of these two classes as wtiches.

In fact.  The Warlock is very much like what I would want for a witch, but only less "blasty".

Maybe a "Witch" is a warlock that has a "Goddess/God" Patron and instead of evocations there are spells.   I will have to experiment more to be honest. And certainly more time with the 5e Warlock.

I like the idea of of some powers (Occult Powers in previous editions) and spells.

I think IF I were to do a witch I would have to be very, very selective of her spells and make sure they balance out compared to the other classes. It is possible, even liekly that the Witch and the Warlock have similar lists, but who knows right now.

5e players. What do you think a 5e witch should do?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Class Struggles: Race as Class

My love for D&D Basic era play is well known and well documented, but my love is tempered and not complete.  I have a confession.  I really am not a fan of B/X or BECMI style Race as Class.

In the D&D Basic rules Dwarves and Halflings are basically fighters with level limits.  Elves are multiclassed fighter/magic-users, also with level limits.   While this certainly works, it also seems rather, well... limiting.  I mean really, the archetypical halfling/hobbit is a thief.  This was one of the reasons I think so many people went over to AD&D.  I know it was true, partially, for me.
Over the years of game-play I have worked around this, but I never quite got used to it.

Now one thing I do like is the idea that different races should different class expressions.  So not a "theif" per se but a "burgler" would be cool.  Something special.

The ACKS Player's Companion does a great job of this really. This includes such new classes as the dwarven delver, dwarven fury, dwarven machinist, elven courtier, elven enchanter, elven ranger, and the gnomish trickster.  While these could, at the surface level, be viewed as mere renaming of the basic four classes, there is a little more to play with here in terms of special abilites.
As mentioned in the past, this is also the book you need when you want to create new classes.

+James Spahn's Barrel Rider Games has a number of demi-human classes in the Class Compendium.  These include various dwarven classes; Raging Slayer, Rune-Smith and the Warchanter. Some elves, Dark Elf, Greensinger, Half-Elf and the Sylvan Elf.  And as to be expected, Halfling classes, Burglar, Feast Master, Huckster, Lucky Fool, and the Tavern Singer.

I think there are a lot of options for race-specific classes or archetypes.

Back in the 2nd Ed days we had "kits" for various classes and some of these were racial archetypes. The Complete Book of Elves is a good example.  There is a lot of fluff and some backgrounds, but the real meat comes in when we get into the sub-races.  I was never a fan of the Drow-fetish that plagued much of post 1st ed D&D, but a sylvan elf or something stranger like a snow elf, would have been cool to play.  Heck I even created my own elf race, the Gypsy Elf, to fill this need.  We don't get to any of the class kits till Chapter 10. There are some nice choices but we also get the nearly 'broken'* Bladesinger.    *I say broken, but really I just don't like it all that much, and it was abused a lot in groups I was in.

The books for the Dwarves and the Halflings & Gnomes book are similar.  What gets me though is really how much we are lacking in race-specific classes.  Sure the entire idea behind "Fighting-Man" and "Magic-User" is so they can be generic enough to cover all possibilities. But I think after we got past 0e and certainly into AD&D we would be at a point where there should have been more race-specific expressions of class archetypes.
Something like what I did for the Dwarven witch, the Xothia.  Still a recognizable archetype (witch) but presented through the lens of a specific race (dwarf).    Honestly I would like to see a reason, given in a similar format, for the gnome illusionist.  Why are there gnome illusionists? What are they called?

The Companion Expansion from Barrataria Games does cover gnomes and wild-wood (sylvan) elves, half-orcs, half-ogres and half-elves as race-classes.  Wood elves share the same spell lists as do druids and gnomes share a list with Illusionists and bards.  All for the B/X system.  Maybe something +Gavin Norman and +Nathan Irving could look into for their updates for their respective spellcaster books.

I think in the end I would like to see more racial, or read that as cultural, applications of classes.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Class Struggles: The 5e Witch Project

Been playing a lot of D&D 5 of late and it has been a real blast.
It really has a lot going for it and feels like a D&D Greatest Hits.   But what it is lacking is a real witch class.

Well...I am not getting ready to write one to be honest.  I have plenty on my plate, but that doesn't mean I can't try to make something witch-like.

So something I have done with pretty much every other version of D&D I have played, most recently with 4e.  That was fun, but ultimately...well we know how that all turned out.

With 5e it has been a bit of different story.  For this experiment, I took five character concepts I have been playing around with for different things and thought this might be fun.

So in each case I built a by-the-book character of each of the main magic-using classes (and one extra, but I will get to that), cleric, druid, sorcerer, warlock, and wizard.  I used a variety of the backgrounds, feats, skill choices, and spells to create witch-like characters.

So far I have finished the warlock, the cleric, and druid.  I am working on the wizard and the sorcerer next.  I also built a paladin using the Oath of the Ancients, to build a witch-knight like character.

I am particularily fond of the Acolyte and Sage backgrounds for the characters.  I typically give Acolyte to the Arcane characters and Sage to the Divine, but not always.  It helps give them some background that I think would make them fell more "witchy".

Magic Initiate and Ritual Caster are also good feats to choose.  Typically something different than they already are.  My Warlock for example has Ritual Caster (Wizard) and Magic Initiate (Cleric).

Lastly are the spells.  There are a lot of great witch-like spells in the new PHB, much more so than say 4e had.  But there is still room for improvement.   There are plenty of spells in my Basic Witch book that could be converted and even improved under 5e. "Bewitch" is one of the first examples that comes to mind.

Pretty much everything else I can cover in role-playing.  The Cleric and Druid were tested out last week while my son ran Hoard of the Dragon Queen (or "Hoard of the Demon Dragon" as he was running it).  The Warlock has been coming in off and on while I have been running.

The real test for me will be the wizard and sorcerer.  For 4e the Wizard made the best "witch" for the concept I wanted to play and the Sorcerer did the same for 3e.   Interestingly enough the Cleric was the best 2e witch and the Druid the best 1e one.  Again...at least for concepts I was doing at the time.

Again, I am not ready to write a 5e witch class, nor am I even convinced I need to, but the experiments will continue.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Déjà vu blogfest: Class Struggles & PWWO: The Blood Witch

Here is my post the Déjà vu blogfest for 2015.

http://www.dlhammons.com/2015/12/the-deja-vu-blogfest-2015.html


I am picking something, not from early this year, but this summer.  I am choosing Class Struggles & PWWO: The Blood Witch.  I liked this post because it was one of the first of the Class Struggles post I made which has become one of my favorite features of late and I have always loved Plays Well With Others.

Hope you all enjoy this repeat!
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Class Struggles & PWWO: The Blood Witch

Yesterday I reviewed the newest book from +Johua De Santo New Class Options.  One of the classes in the book, the Blood Witch, struck me as familiar.  I remembered I had seen an earlier version of it in Dungeon Crawl #3.  Today I want to go into a bit more detail about this class.

Class Struggles

The class is an old archetype of a blood mage or a blood witch going all the way back to ... well forever really.  Right up into the Enlightenment people believed that there were magical properties to blood.   This is why "witches" signed contracts with the devil in their own blood.

There have been other blood witches in the past. Notablly the Blood Witch Prestige class from Relics & Rituals and from Mongoose's Ultimate Prestige Classes vol. 1. Both books have the same class.  Blood Witches used whatever spells they gained from their previous spell casting class.

The Blood Witch in New Class Options is a bit similar. It uses magic-user spells.  This is perfectly fine really, but some new spells would add some more flavor.

I was looking forward to this class the most and I still think it works well, but I have some issues with it.  Let's start at the top.

The Blood Witch uses Constitution as her main stat.  Very, very appropriate.
She needs a Con of 13 or higher. Again appropriate.  Constitution scores above 16 also grant an additional +1 to hit points.  Nice. She is going to need that.

Then we get to the next bit, quoting from the text.
Shattered Soul: Every day the Blood Witch has a 60% chance of losing herself in the song of magic. If this occurs the Witch  will be able to cast 1 level above her level, however, she cannot know what is real or delusion.
Ok. A neat bit a of flavor.  But 60% every day? That seems a bit high and then she can cast as a level higher?  Well sometimes that helps.  But who makes this roll the GM or the player?  Personally I would have it at 25% myself.  Or tie it to the phases of the moon or time of day.   THEN also a 25% where she can cast as a level lower.  I GET what is trying to be done here, but I would need to play it over a few sessions to see.

Here is the part I am not crazy about.  The Blood Witch needs to roll against her Constitution in order to cast spells.  So the high her Con score, the less of chance she has of success.  Again, from the text.
The first is that the Blood Witch must roll her constitution score + the spell level or higher in order to cast her spells. If the Blood Witch fails her spell roll the spell is swept away in the song of the magic and will not return to her for a day. The second is that for every spell cast the Blood Witch must sacrifice 1 + spell level of her health in order for the spell to be effective. If the Blood Witch refuses to make the sacrifice the spell and 1d4 other spells will be swept away in the song of magic for a two day period.
Ok. So mechanically I get what Johua is trying to do here. I also spoke with him. It is to limit the amount of spells a witch can use. Since a witch can use theoretically ANY spell once she gets to the right level.   In some ways her spell casting is more similar to the witch in +Jonathan Becker's The Complete B/X Adventurer than it is to anything else.
So a witch with a 16 Constitution could only cast spells up to 4th level, unless of course a 20 allways means a success.

I think what might work better here is limit the number of spells known.  The blood witch might be able to cast this she completely out of blood (not advised) but maybe she only knows X per level.  Like the 3rd Edition Sorcerer.  This would impose a limiting factor.
Then give her a bonus to her roll equal to her level.

So our Blood Witch with 16 Con and 5th level would need a 15 or better to cast a 4th level spell (16 + 4 -5 =15).   That seems to work well.

The experience levels for Blood Witch seem a bit high, granted this class has the potential for a lot of power.  I'd still like to play one sometime just to be sure.

Somethings you see in the the myths and stories of blood magic is sacrifice (which is covered here as personal sacrifice) and proxies.  So could this blood witch use an animal sacrifice for some spells?  I think where appropriate yes.  Proxies could be things like the animal but also proxies for blood itself, like purified water (possibly for healing spells if you use one of the witch spell lists) or even wine (blood of the vine).  Personally I would allow such proxies for some of the more benign or even mundane spells.

The Blood Witch is any interesting type of character and something that could add a air of different to a game. A Blood Witch doesn't have to be an evil character, but it not likely she is going to be trusted by a party and certainly looked down on by other casters especially proper wizards.

Plays Well With Others

The best thing about the Blood Witch is that fits a great niche in any gaming group or campaign. It also works with a number of great OSR books.  Obviously the blood witch will work mechanically with 99% of all the OSR and old-school books out there, the real question is will it work thematically.  For example, the blood witch would work fantastic with Lamentations of the Flame Princess, but thematically it might be a bit redundant since all magic-users are assumed to have some sort of dark(-ish) pact.

I already mentioned The Complete B/X Adventurer. The witch class as presented in that book works as a great base for the Blood Witch.  Combine the two classes into one works rather nicely.  The B/X Witch has spells up to 10th level which is nice, but the New Class Options Witch only goes to 7.

I mentioned that the Blood Witch is really missing some really cool spells. The Vivimancer from +Gavin Norman's Theorems & Thaumaturgy and Complete Vivimancer offer some really nice choices.   I created  a few for both my witch and the vivimancer here.  In particular I would suggest Blood Augury, Feel My Pain, Share My Pain, Stay Death's Hand, and of course Hell Hath No Fury because every witch needs that spell.

A while back I made some suggestions about witch spells for the vivimancer and vivimancer spells for the with.  The nice thing is the blood witch is perfect cross section of both classes and can use all these spells.

The blood witch also works great with +Jeff Talanian's Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  The style and type of magic used by the blood witch would be very much in tune with AS&SH.  Sacrificing blood for magical effects...yeah very much in tune.  There are also plenty of great witch spells in that book as well.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention my own book, The Witch: A sourcebook for Basic Edition fantasy games.  I am going to have to play a Blood Witch sometime, but I also think I want to try her out as Blood Witch "Tradition" using my own rules and see how well they work together.  Maybe twins...same level but one is a DeSanto Blood Witch while the other is a Brannan one.  Interesting idea really.

If you are in the mind to some conversions, there is a great set of blood magic rules and spells in +Owen Stephensmagnum opus Deep Magic for Pathfinder.  The blood magic system in that book could work nicely for a blood witch as well as a blood mage.

Again this passes the most basic test for a class for me.  Can I think of a character for it and would I play it.

Kimbra & Kelleigh

Kimbra and Kelleigh are twin sisters with magic deep in their blood.  They often have said to each other that it is because they have shared blood that their ties to each other and magic was so strong.
Though in their darker moments they felt their connection to magic and to blood came from the moment they were born. Kelleigh was first.  Right after her birth their mother died. Kimbra was born when the midwife noticed that there was still something in the lifeless body.  To this day Kelleigh has had a great connection to blood and Kimbra to death.  Kelleigh acts as the older sister.  The sisters only trust each other.

Luis-Salas
These are two characters I have had for a while now.  They began as modern characters for a WitchCraft RPG game and then morphed in a life-span development project I never quite finished.
Yes, the names are based on Kim and Kelley Deal. But also an homage to Kim Harrison and Kelley Armstrong, two of my favorite authors in the modern supernatural genre.

Kelleigh 
5th level Blood Witch, Female
Neutral

Strength: 11
Dexterity: 12
Constitution: 16
Intelligence: 15
Wisdom: 12
Charisma: 16

Hit Points:  24
AC: 9
Saves: 12,  +2 vs. Magic
To Hit: +1  / THAC0: 19

Spells:
Kimbra can cast the follow spell levels.  Will choose spells based on the official list.
First: all
Second: 4
Third: 6
Fourth: 3
Fifth: 6
Sixth*: 1


Kimbra
5th level Witch, Blood Witch Tradition, Female
Neutral

Strength: 11
Dexterity: 12
Constitution: 16
Intelligence: 15
Wisdom: 12
Charisma: 16

Hit Points:  16
AC: 7

Occult Powers
Familiar: Blood Spirit of her dead mother (treat as a ghost, neutrally aligned)

Spells 
Cantrips: (5) Analyze Fertility, Detect Poison, Inflict Minor Wounds, Object Reading, Warm
First: (2+2) Bad Luck, Bewitch I, Cause Fear, Tattoo
Second: (2+2) Agony, ESP, Fever, Hold Person
Third: (1+1)  Bestow Curse, Lifeblood

I like these two. I like that they are twins and really mostly the same but have classes that are different takes on the same thing.

I would not make these two part of the Witches' Nest.  I feel their back story is too tragic and their personalities are not one to take advantage of others.   Though they will have a place in my new WIP "West Haven", mentioned briefly here.

When I try this class out more I will let you all know.

--

ADDENDUM.  I have tried it out more and really enjoy it. I am pleased with how this witch works and I still really love Kimbra and Kelleigh. I really want to do more with these characters.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Class Struggles: The Illusionist

It's a logical extension from my talks about wizards over the last two weeks to go right into illusionists. I have always been curious about the illusionist class and it's genesis. For starters it is one of the few classes that really only exists in AD&D first edition. Editions after that make the illusionist a "speciality wizard"; a type of magic-user/wizard/mage. It also didn't exist in OD&D or Basic D&D (with exceptions, that I will get too).

Last week and the week before I killed a lot of photons explaining that "magic-user" was a generic term for any sort of magic using character class. So wizards, necromancers, mages, witches and naturally one would assume illusionists would fall under this umbrella term. It is interesting then that the illusionist is viewed as so different to merit its own class.

My research has turned up the first mention of the Illusionist as coming from the pages of The Strategic Review - Volume 1, Number 4 from Winter 1975. That's pretty early on really. The article, ILLUSIONISTS!: GENERALLY APPEARING AS A NEW CLASS FOR DUNGEONS & DRAGONS was written by Peter Aronson. Though Gygax and Blume were still the editors, so it had their tacit approval, if not explicit. The opening to the article states:
Illusionists are a sub-class of magic-users who, as the name implies, employ illusion and similar powers. Their prime requisite is dual, in that they must have both a good intelligence and a dexterity of not less than 15 as a high degree of manual conjuration is involved when they cast their spells. Although severely limited in the number of magical items they can employ, Illusionists make up for this restriction by the power of their magic.
So in theory then it is harder to become an illusionist, but their magic is stronger.  I am not so convinced this is completely true. Afterall there is no fireball, lightning bolt or wish in their spell list. Sure there is more to magic than that, but a well placed fireball is still good to have.  Looking over the XP tables the Illusionist needs MORE xp than even the magic-user.

Peter Aronson comes back in no less an illustrious issue as The Dragon #1 from June 1976. Here more levels of the illusionist are listed and spells up to 7th level are detailed.  Here some of the more interesting and uniquely illusionist spells are introduced.  Here we also see that illusionists get a +4 to any saves vs. illusion or light based spells.  This is expanded on in The Dragon #12 by Rafael Ovalle. Here the illusionist is also given the chance to recognize any spell cast by another illusionist.  The spell lists have been tweaked a bit as well.

This was the same time frame that EGG was working on his Magnum Opus, AD&D.   Illusionists now appear in the Players Handbook as a subclass of the magic-user. They have their own XP values and spell lists separate from magic-users.  It is also noted that while only humans, elves and half-elves can become magic-users, gnomes can become illusionists.  The saving throw bonus has been dropped, but the XP values are now less than the magic-user.  The illusionist is still limited to 7th level spells, but many of the illusion spells it shares with the magic-user are usually a level lower.  Still, I have a vague memory of the magic-user being a better illusionist than the illusionist itself.  I can't find any tell-tale evidence of this.

The Illusionist and The Witch
At this point I want to point out something.  For the last two weeks I talked about the flexible nature of the magic-user and how, when played as intended, almost precludes the need for a separate witch class.   Then bam! here comes the illusionist to completely shake that idea up. Though it really only confirmed it my mind.   The illusionist was born in the pages of Dragon magazine, as was one of the many incarnations of the witch.  Plus there is this entry which we have all read before.


Yes, I know that the witch was added after the fact by persons unknown, but I was still promised witches.  But imagine for a moment if we had gotten a witch and illusionist class.  It is entirely likely you would not be reading this blog!
In fact, one of my first AD&D characters was a female illusionist named Cara that I styled as a witch-like character.  I pretty much based her on this art from D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth by Bill Willingham.



Post AD&D 1st Ed
After this the Illusionist disappears as it's own thing really. In 2nd Ed it becomes a prime example of a speciality mage. The advantages of course are now the illusionist gets access to a wider variety of spells than before, but still less than the generalist wizard. In many ways this is a full realization of the "magic-user" concept. The same is true for 3rd edition. Personally I rather liked this idea since it fits in with the narrative of my idea of a magic school with different "Schools" of instruction.  Though on the other side of the coin is that this also took away some of the things that made the illusionist a unique class.  Some of that "uniqueness" has been taken over by the Sorcerer.  Yes, they are not the same thing, but both are compared, favorablly or ill, to the wizard.

The Basic Illusionist
No talk of the illusionist class can happen without talking about the Basic Illusionist.

The Basic Illusionist is the brain-child of +Nathan Irving and was first seen during the S&W Appreciation Day Blog Hop. You can get it from RPGNow, http://www.rpgnow.com/product/140543/The-Basic-Illusionist?affiliate_id=10748 or from his blog,  http://secretsoftheshadowend.blogspot.com/. In both cases it is 100% free.

Before I delve into the book itself. Lets take a moment to look at this cover.
Seriously. That is a cool ass cover. I am not sure what made Nathan Irving choose this piece ("Beauty and the Beast" by Edmund Dulac) but I love it.  The title works in seemlessly, like they were meant for each other.  The woman in foreground is no longer the "beauty" but she is now an Illusionist.

The book is overtly for Swords & Wizardry, but there isn't anything here keeping you from using any Original of Basic inspired system.  I know it works out well in Labyrinth Lord and Basic D&D and it really should work well in ACKS, Spellcraft & Swordplay or any other system.  Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea might be a trick, but they have an Illusionist class already (more on that later).

Getting into the book now we have 34 pages (with cover) on the Illusionist class. The book starts off with a helpful FAQ.  Personally I think Nathan should also put that FAQ on his blog as a page so every knows why they should get this.  The Illusionist class itself is in S&W format, but the only thing keeping you from using this in any other Basic or Advanced Era game is a table of Saving Throws.  Copy over what ever the Wizard or Magic-user is using in your game of choice and give them bonus to saves when it comes to illusions. I like the original -4 (or +4) but as much as -1/+1 would be fine too.

The Illusionist gets a power or feature every odd level, but nothing that is game breaking when compared to the wizard.  The Illusionist trades flexibility for focus in their magical arsenal. There is even an Illusionist variant class called the Mountebank.  Which is more of a con-artist.  Not sure how it compares to other classes of the same name.

One of the best features of the book is a guideline on illusionist magic and how to play with illusions.  Great even if you never play the class.

What follows next is over 150 Illusionist spells.  Many we have seen before and come from the SRD.  That is not a bad thing. Having all these spells in one place and edited to work with the class is a major undertaking.  I for one am glad to see them here.  Spells are alphabetical instead of sorted by level.
A list of conditions ported over from the SRD is also included. I like that personally.  We all love how the older games and the clones play, but in our zeal we tend to forget that 3.x and later games did in fact have some good innovations and ideas; this is one of them.
We end with a couple of monsters and a two page OGL statement.
Really, this is a fantastic piece of work and really should be the "go to" document if you ever want to play an illusionist.

Other Clones
The design of the Illusionist class is such that adding it to any game should really be a breeze.  Adventurers enter a new land and discover a new brand of wizard.  Compared to other custom wizards out there the illusionist is more powerful than his counterpart in 1st Ed. AD&D.

ACKS Player's Companion
The Gnomish Trickster has a number of good spells that work well for the Illusionist.  All the arcane spells tagged as (ill) for illusion would work nicely as well.  I will go out on a limb here and say the gnomish trickster is basically the "Basic" interpretation of the Gnome Illusionist.

Adventures Dark and Deep
+Joseph Bloch's own magnum opus and dedication to a game that never was is also a good place to look for any ideas on class evolution.  I have to admit I am curious what he uncovered about the illusionist in his own research.  Why was the class included and so on. His game has both an illusionist and a mountebank classes.  Not to mention plenty of illuison spells.  This book also retains the link between gnomes and illusionists, in this case the Deep Gnome.  This illusionist feels very much like the 1st Ed or even the OSRIC Illusionist.

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea
+Jeff Talanian's fantastic Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea also has an Illusionist class. Like all the classes in the book it is limited to 12th level.  I had a quick glance over the spell lists and there wasn't anything that jumped out at me; the spells are drawn from similar sources.  There is is information though that owners of either could use. Obviously the Basic Illusionist covers many more spells but more importantly it has the guidelines for covering how illusions in the game work.

The Companion Expansion
This is another "Companion" style book for Basic-era D&D and clones and is something of a forgotten treasure.  It also has an Illusionist Class that is roughly equal with the Basic Illusionist, but the real feature of this book is the expanded spell list.  If you are looking to extend your illusionist a bit more with more spells then this is a good way to do it.

Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion
Given it's aim to emulate AD&D via the Basic D&D-like rules it is no surprise then this illusionist cleaves very close to the source material. This is the illusionist of old.

Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts
+Dyson Logos' Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts is an excellent book for playing all sorts of wizard types.  That is, oddly enough, except Illusionists.  This however is not issue; The Illusionist fits in quite nicely here.  The Enchanter from MT&DP would have some spells that might be good for the Illusionist as well.

Theorems & Thaumaturgy
Another great free product. Theorems & Thaumaturgy comes to us from +Gavin Norman and introduced his Vivmancer class.  Vivimancers and Illusionists are about as different as one can get really.  But Theorems & Thaumaturgy does have some things that the Illusionist can use.  For starters there some more Illusionist spells in T&T that any Illusionist could use.  Both this book and the Basic Illusionist make the assumption that Illusionists should have access to 8th and 9th level spells.  If you are going to play an Illusionist then it is worth your time and effort to get a copy of Theorem & Thaumaturgy.

The Witch
Witches and Illusionists share the ability to cast various figments and charms/mind affecting spells.  I would say that in any game that has both classes that Illusionists should be limited to charm spells up to 5th level and witches any type of figments up to 5th level.  Illusionists then get all (or most) of the Illusion spells and witches get all the curses.

There is only two things I really want.
To combine all of this into one place and to have a bound book version.  I think it would be excellent.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Class Struggles: The Wizard, Part 2 The Wizard Class

Last week we discussed the Magic-User and his cousin the Wizard.  One thing seems certain, the Magic-User is a bit overpriced in terms of XP.  Also, and I am not the only one as we will see, the wizard lacks some powers he really should have.

One of the things I liked (back then) when 2nd Edition came out was that the Magic-User was now properly called a Wizard.  Again, the nuance of magic-user was lost on me but obviously it was also lost on the design team.
The wizard, as he for evermore will be known, is really not that different from the magic-user mechanically speaking.  Some spells are rearranged but that is about it.  The true difference comes when you choose a speciality school or apply a kit, like the many found in The Complete Wizard's Handbook.  Here the wizard gets a few more spells at starting level from their speciality school and the kit can provide them with some powers.   Though the cantrips as 0-level spells that the Unearthed Arcan gave us are now gone.

Yesterday I reviewed The Principalities of Glantri book and it's school of magic. What stood out for me was things that your wizards can now do if they go to a premier school like Hogwarts The Great School of Magic.  The Seven Crafts provide a bit of extra kick for magic-user characters.  Personally I think they could use something at 1st level as well.

Since I covered the basic (and really Basic) Magic-User last week, I want to jump into some of the clones and near clones now.

Spellcraft & Swordplay is a near clone that models Original D&D and it's Chainmail roots much closer than Swords & Wizardry does.  It does take some liberties though.   One is the Wizard and the wizard class elite paths, Warlocks and Necromancers.  In S&S wizards can Read Magic at 1st level.  We are also given more detail on how to create magic items.  An Elite Path like the Necromancer or Warlock also get other powers.

Fantastic Heroes & Witchery also has a wizard class, as well as a wise man and a warlock.  Additionally, it also has 666 spells split up into gray, white and black magic.  The wizard here does not differ much from the standard magic-user, but the number of spells included is not insignificant.

Adventurer Conqueror King System gives us a similar looking Wizard, the advantage here are the skills/proficiencies that all classes get.  Going back to last week this is similar to the skill checks I give wizards when identifying magic.

Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts also has a wizard class. Many in fact.  The wizard is still a Magic-User clone, but there are plenty of other wizard types in this book that the case for experimentation is made here.

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. Ah now this is what I was looking for.  Each of the books so far has done a little here and little there, but the Magician in AS&SH is waht I have really been looking for.  Right away he gets a familiar, the ability to read magic and scribe a scroll. At 7th level he learns som alchemy.  The subclasses, Illusionist, Necromancer, Pyromancer and Witch all get similar powers.

Moving out from clone-land and into old-school land proper there is The Arcanum.  I keep coming back to this book because it keeps on delivering.  There are a lot of magic-user like classes, Alchemist, Astrologer, Charlatan (more of a thief), Enchanter, Mage, Magician, Necromancer, Savant, Sorcerer, Thaumaturge, and Witch.   There is, of course, a Wizard as well.  What they all have in common and share with some other books is the ability to read magic at first level.
These classes all also get new powers at every odd level.  Some are just redefining things the wizard could always do; write scrolls, make potions and magic items.  This just defines them a little better.  Interestingly this book also allows the wizard to choose a weapon.  The book also has plenty of spells to choose from.

It should be noted that these problems are solved by 3rd Edition and beyond.  Both the shared XP values across all classes and more features for the Wizards has made all the above points moot really.

My recommendations for the wizard are:
  • Cantrips
  • Read Magic/Identify magic as a skill at 1st level.  Can be a simple Int check.  A bonus equal to level with a penalty equal to spell level.
  • Find Familiar as a ritual, but not a spell.
  • Signature Spells. A spell that can be cast twice or three times per day with one memorization.
  • Some powers at 5th, 10th, 15th and 20th level.  Signature Spell can be one of these.
I would group powers along something like Arcane Traditions like I do for the Witch and like D&D5 does, save I would call them something else.  Schools maybe.  I already use "Philosophies" in Ghosts of Albion so I would not want to use that here.  Schools are good since I can go beyond "enchantment" or "necromancy" and into things like "Miskatonic Grad" or "Apprenticed under Mordenkainen", that sort of thing.

I would run this wizard through the various class creation kits I mentioned last week, but especially the one out of the ACKS Player's Companion to check the numbers.  Might be worth looking into deeper.

Why Are my Magic-Users not like Mages?
Spend any time in any other game but D&D, especially one that uses a lot of magic, and somethings just don't make sense.  Except as that special branch of logic known as D&D logic.  Being first D&D gets away with a lot. Invariably someone will ask though why can't D&D magic be more like the magic in World of Darkness, namely Mage.

The difference, of course, is one of scope. While the D&D wizard might become a "master of reality" the Awakened of Mage are of a different sort. The assumptions of the worlds are too different.   Maybe a WoD style Mage could be something the D&D Wizard could aspire to be, I still would not take a Mage with me into a dungeon or try to identify a scroll or potentially magic sword.
So I don't try to make my Wizards into Mages.  I keep the Vancian magic intact.  If I want to play a Mage, I will pick up Mage.   But really, playing both games will give you a better understanding of things your wizard/mage can do in either game.

Hopefully your wizards are more like this:




Than this:



Though that Keep at 3:30 looks familiar.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Class Struggles: The Wizard, Part 1 Customizing Options


Posting about the Dresden Files yesterday and talking about psychics, witches and other classes has got me thinking about Wizards and Magic Users today. In truth you can't read, write and think about witches as much as do and not have wizards come up every so often.

In many fantasy genres wizards and witches are very nearly the same thing (and let's not get into what is a warlock today). While I can see the subtle differences as huge gaps I do appreciate that this might really just be my own biases.

When I first began to play D&D (Holmes and then Moldvay/Cook/Marsh B/X) I saw the "Magic-User" class. I always wondered about that. Why was it called "Magic User" and not "Magician" or "Wizard"? I will be honest and say it was not till years later that I fully appreciated what Gary was doing with the "Magic User". It really was meant to be ANY type of magic user. While I can really see the utility of this sort of class it still doesn't give me the customization that I really wanted in a magic-user/wizard class. For starters the biggest and best means of customization for any magic using class is the spell list. Build a magic user, take a bunch of necromantic spells and bingo you have a necromancer, take illusions and you have an illusionist. This is certainly implicit in the rules, if not explicit in some older Dragon magazine articles.

During the work on my witch class I began creating a lot of custom classes. These include some I have mentioned before: The Necromancer/Mara, the Sun Priest, and the Healer. These all kind of rotate around an axis related to the cleric. While working on them I really could not help but notice what powers and spells I was giving them vs. what the magic-user already had. Also I could not help but recognize the disparity in XP per level. It takes a lot to be a magic-user. The argument has always been that it pays off in then end, if you survive.
This disparity was also noticed by others.

Dragon Magazine #109 from May 1986 gave us Paul Montgomery Crabaugh's "Customized Classes" article for the D&D (not AD&D) game. The idea was that the D&D game supported this sort of flexibility. I used this for the first set of XP values per level for my witch, but altered them to something I liked better for the publication of The Witch. Others have picked up on this article as well.

The Dragon article goes into a lot of great detail and my hat is off to Paul Crabaugh for going through all this effort. He made it really easy to add everything to a spreadsheet and auto calculate XP values.
His analysis of the magic-user is quite telling.

Magic User XP per level, per Dragon Magazine #109

Current Level XP Points needed Next Level
1
1,840
2
2
3,680
3
3
7,360
4
4
14,720
5
5
29,440
6
6
58,880
7
7
115,000
8
8
230,000
9
9
345,000
10
10
485,000
11
11
606,250
12
12
727,500
13
13
848,750
14
14+
+121,250
per level

Magic-users, when analyzed come up really short.

Erin Smale over at Breeyark.org took the original Dragon values and worked out a spreadsheet of his own in Building the Perfect Class. His numbers track a lot better than Crabaugh's do, but the magic-user still comes up very short. He provides both a PDF and an Excel file to help in building. My biggest peeve though he no where acknowledges the work done by Crabaugh in this even though there are distinct parallels. He does address this though in his update, Building a More Perfect Class.

A while back Perdustin over at Thoul's Paradise posted a reflection on the Crabaugh article and got me thinking about the custom classes I had made then. Later he posted a little on his analysis of the classes with his tweaks. Here are his posts:
Customized Classes (part I) and
Customized Classes (part II)

He challenged me to look at my witch class as well.

In this case as the previous ones, the Magic-User comes up a little short.

Thoul's Paradise analysis

For me the solution is obvious since it also addresses the issue I have with magic-users in classic D&D games. It's not that their XP is too high, it's that there is so little for them to do in the beginning.

Think about every wizard stereotype; an old man, with white hair, beard, pointy hat and robes. Just page through any pre-1985 D&D book and see if you can find something different. Ok. Now what can these old guys do? Cast magic missile once per day. Honestly that doesn't make much sense to me. If these guys have been training at wizard school since they were young they should have learned more magic by now. Hell, Hermione knew more magic on the train to Hogwarts before school ever started than what your average 1st level magic-user knows.

I know classic D&D is about "resource management" and that struggle upwards. I am not suggesting that we play O/B/AD&D magic-users like D&D4 wizards (but I am going to talk about them next week). I do think the wizard needs a little more punch.

Using the same rules in my Witch book I give Wizards (a sub-class or type of Magic User) the ability to cast cantrips (up to 6 at 1st level, 3 + Int mod), the ability to cast Read Magic once per day, that ability to identify magic items (only that they are magic, not what they do). They may also cast a Find Familiar spell. Remember, in 3rd Edition D&D wizards got a familiar for free at 1st level and no reduction in spells.

Find Familiar (Spell)
Level: Wizard (Magic-user) 1
Range: 1-mile radius per caster level
Duration: See below
Magic-users of higher level often summon familiars to assist them with various tasks. Indeed, a familiar can also be of considerable benefit to a lower level magic-user (even increasing others’ estimation of his or her power), but the risks inherent in losing a familiar can be daunting to a weaker spell caster. To summon a familiar, the magic-user must intone the words of the spell over a well-stocked fire source, sprinkling the flames with expensive incense and powders (100 gp in total value). The caster must maintain his or her casting for as long as necessary (2d12 hours) until a familiar arrives (or the casting time expires without success).
The spell may be attempted only once per year, and the caster has no control over the type of animal that will respond. When it arrives, the familiar is a faithful servant and ally to the caster.
Normal familiars have 1d3+1 hit points, AC 7, and are as intelligent as a lower-than-average human. When the familiar is within 120 feet of the magic-user, the magic-user gains additional hit points equal to the familiar’s. However, if the familiar is ever killed, the magic-user permanently loses twice the familiar’s hit points.

For me the Read Magic and the identifying of magic items (based on an Int + Level check) sets the magic-user apart from not only other classes, but the witch as well. I decided that this was part of their training and experiences in school. I should also detail some of my ideas for a magic school but that would have to be for another time.

Next week a deep look at wizards and magic users with these customizations and XP values in mind.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Class Struggles: B/X Classes

The last few weeks I have been focussing on various classes and it dawns on me that I need something along the lines of a B/X Class Compendium for myself.  Not to publish or anything, but just my own use.   I also have to admit that I have been following (but commenting as much as I would like) +Jonathan Becker's analysis of the Holmes classes and subclasses.  If you have not read it, please do, it is great stuff.  Yeah it might be nostalgia and navel-gazing, but who cares, it is fun stuff.

Like Becker I am a fan of B/X, aka Moldvay/Cook/March era D&D.  So my class choices will be ones that are largely compatible with that.  It's also no big surprise that most of the classes I like also tend to be magic ones.

Lets see what I have.

Witch
Covered many times and many places here.  Yes, I am partial to my own witch, but I am also rather fond of the witches from other designers. While some have this class as a sub-class of the Magic-User but I have the Witch as her own thing.
Warlocks have always been problematic for me.  It was not till I started working on for Pathfinder. I looked a few of these as well.  I am still not 100% certain which is my favorite to be honest.  Maybe the one from Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.
But if I am going to have witches and warlocks then I am going to need a witch hunter.  I looked at a few, but I think I will have to go with the one from Jonathan Becker's The Complete B/X Adventurer.

Fighters
I have maybe played two fighters, proper fighters, in the last 36 years.  But I really enjoy rangers and paladins.
Knights/Cavaliers.  I have not covered these guys yet, but I am rather fond of the Castle & Crusades Knights.
Beastmasters. I rather like these guys and my favorite is from The Complete B/X Adventurer.
If I am going to have a paladin then I am going to want an Anti-Paladin. My favorite is the one from the ACKS Player's Companion.

Rogue
Covered yesterday, the B/X Rouge could be a replacement for the normal thief class.  With this class I can make a thief, a bard, an arcane-trickster, or any other thief like class. There some templates though I can look at.
The Bard is of particular interest to me really.  A really good bard would be great.
The Occultist is a class from Fantastic Heroes & Witchery is another rogue-like class that I could build using the rogue.

Magic-Users
I would opt for the Wizard alternate I have in my Witch book.
For Illusionists I am going with the Basic Illusionist  from +Nathan Irving. I think it is the best choice.
For Necromancers there are so many choices, I might have to make my own.

Psionics
For psychic classes, +Richard LeBlanc has me covered with his Basic Psionics Handbook. That gives me a Mystic and a Monk.

Clerics
I have always been fond of clerics. They were the first class I ever played.  I would keep them as is, with the additional rule that they can use the same weapon as their god.
I will also keep Druids and add in a Healer class I made back in the early 80s.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Class Struggles: Mara Witch Tradition

Witch by ivangod
Today's Class Struggles is going to be a total cheat.  After two weeks of psychic classes, I have read a bunch of psychic and occult material which, of course, gets me thinking about witches.  Since I spent a lot of time yesterday with Wee Jas and to a much smaller degree Hecate, I wanted to talk about the witches of Wee Jas as influenced by the witches of Hecate I have used in the past.

The Mara Witch Tradition

The Mara is a witch tradition that is very, very old.  They share more than just a little relationship with Night Hags, which some scholars believe may have been some of the first Mara Witches.
The Mara understand, maybe more so than most, the life is a constant struggle not against death, but towards it.  This struggle of competing forces is what the Mara seek out. Life and Death in a constant struggle to the inevitable end.

Role: These witches most often serve gods or goddesses of Death, Transition, Change or even Destruction.  There tend to be two basic archetypes of Mara detailed below, the chaotic Mara and the lawful Mara.

Joining this Tradition: To join this tradition the witch must realize that life if nothing but a transitory period between oblivions.  Even if there is life after death in the form of reincarnation the witch is not aware of it on this plane now.So the witch chooses not to be apart of this charade anymore and embrace the death in all of us.

Leaving this Tradition: Typically the witch has such conviction that the only way out is her death.

Occult Powers: The occult powers of the Mara are derived by the struggle of life and death.  There is magic in both life and in death.  There is magic and power in the transition.  While evil Mara are often accused (and rightly so) of killing newborn babies, good Mara also are there to wish children pleasant dreams and act as guardians.

Least, 1st Level: Familiar. The Mara witch gains a familiar.  The familiar is often a floating skull, a ghost or some other omen of death made real (a banshee, a barghest, a black dog). The witch can communicate with this familiar regardless of the form it takes.

Lesser, 7th Level: Dream Invasion. Once per day, the Mara Witch can invade the dreams, the so-called deaths of every day, of others.  She can use this invasion to gather information, learn about various targets or even drain the victim's on life force for herself.  She can drain a total of 1 point of Constitution per night for three nights (3 points total).  This draining she can add to her own pool of hitpoints. Each point of Constitution grants her 3 hp over and above what she normally has.  After the third day, she forfeits her ill-gained health and her victim will recover at the rate of 1 con point per week.

Minor, 13th Level: Nightmare Shape. Once per day, the Mara witch can polymorph herself into any type of undead creature and back. The creature in question must be of comparable size. The witch gains the powers of the creature and retains her ability to cast spells, but she also suffers from that creature’s associated weaknesses. She retains her own hit points and level.  If she is "turned" by a cleric then she is forced back into her "human" form and can not switch back till the next new moon.

Once the mara witch reaches this level, she gains the undead's intolerance of silver. Any silvered weapon will do an additional 1d6 points of damage to the witch if touched, similar in the way Holy Water damages undead. Unless a weapon is specifically listed as being silvered iron, then assume it is not.  The witch is vulnerable to silver in any form she takes.

Greater, 19th Level: Witch’s Curse. The witch can place a powerful Curse on one creature once per day. The curse can be of any sort, but will usually bestow a -4 to all to hit rolls and -2 to any saving throw rolls. Witch curses are quite powerful and require the use of two (2) remove curse spells to be fully removed.

Major, 25th Level: Dead Zone Mind. The mara witch has become so accustomed to turning into a nearly undead creature and moving closer and closer to death herself that her mind is no longer that of a living breathing person.  She becomes immune to charm and hold spells. Her mind can't not be probed or read via telepathy, ESP or similar powers.

Superior, 31th Level: Kiss of Death. The witch gains a Kiss of Death. When the witch wishes, she
can give a target a Kiss of Death. If the person has 9 or fewer hit die he dies, if he is over 9 hit die he must save vs. death or die. This may not be used in battle, only in a non-combat situations.

Special Benefits and Restrictions: Mara witches can use spells normally reserved for necromancers.  They are though barred from using any spell that could return a person back to life such as Raise Dead, Resurrection or Reincarnate.

Equipment:  Nothing special.

Preferred/Barred Covens: Typically evil covens.  There are usually a Night Hag or two present in their covens as well.

Relationship to the Patron: For chaotic Mara the Patron is usually the Bringer of Death. This is usually a bloodthirsty god or goddess that revels in death and destruction.  Lawful Mara have a Patron that is the Protector or Steward of the Dead.
The greatest Patron of the Mara is an ancient Hag named  Marzanna (in Polish), Morė (in Lithuanian), Morana (in Czech and Slovene), or Morena (in Slovak and Russian). She is an ancient creature associated with Winter and Death, but also the rebirth of the seasons.  Other Mara patrons include Hecate, Lilith, and Wee Jas.  The Aztec Goddess of vice, Tlazolteol, also has many Mara followers.

Source/Views of Magic: Magic comes from the struggle of Life against Death. People live and they die and this creates powerful magic in the world.  While the chaotic Mara might focus on just the death magic, the lawful Mara also know there is magic in life and in the celebration of life.  Especially the celebration of life in the face of certain death.

Archetypes: There are two basic archetypes of Mara.  The "evil" Chaotic Mara. These witches revel in death and destruction.  The more death they are around, whether they cause it or not, grants them power.  The Lawful Mara could be considered "good", but in truth they also see the need for death.  Everything must die to allow new things to live and grow which in turn must die. Neutral Mara, generally speaking, do not exist as there is no middle ground between life and death.

Thanatos and Eros, The Shadow by Stephanie van Rijn

The Mara for Other Witches

For Adventurer Conquer King's Player Companion from +Alexander Macris and +Tavis Allison the witch is limited to 14th level.  The 6 occult powers can be spread out over these levels.  I would remove the Witch's Curse and then evenly spread out the remaining five.

Similar plan for +Jeff Talanian's Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea's witch.  Though in this case I would also remove the option for "Lawful" Mara.  Mara in this world setting are nothing but evil.

For +Joseph Bloch's Adventures Dark & Deep, The Witch the BEST thing is adding spells from his Necromancer class.  Spread out the powers, replacing the ones listed for the Witch.

+Jonathan Becker's Complete B/X Adventurer also has a witch class. His witch lacks outright powers, but has plenty of spells.   So if you want to convert ANY of my witches to one of his make the Occult Powers into Witch Spells only that kind of witch can use.  Here is a quick anf dirty guide.

Basic Witch Occult Power B/X Witch Spell Level
Least, 1st Level 1st level Witch Spell, 1st level witch
Lesser, 7th Level 3rd level Witch Spell, 6th level witch
Minor, 13th Level 5th level Witch Spell, 12th level witch
Greater, 19th Level 7th level Witch Spell, 21st level witch
Major, 25th Level 8th level Witch Spell, 25th level witch
Superior, 31th Level 9th level Witch Spell, 30th level witch

For his 10th level spells you would have to come up with something appropriately cool.
Heck I might grab his 10th level spells for my own witch games!

Becker also spends some time with a Holmes-style witch, but I am not sure these sorts of powers would work for that.

So now regardless of what OSR Witch you use noe you can unleash the Mara on your players!
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