Showing posts with label DnD. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DnD. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

RPGs are Now Mainstream, example #254

 I want to share a few books with you today. Not reviews, but I do want to talk about them.

Most everyone reading this blog likely knows about this book.

Grimtooth's Traps Too

The Grimtooth Traps books were not official AD&D books, but nearly everyone back in my gaming groups in the 1980s had one or access to one.

These next two are less well-known.

Book of Encounters

They are the Game Master's Book of Random Encounters. The large hardcover (brown) we got my son for Christmas from Amazon. The smaller green "magazine" style one I bought last week. At a grocery store in South Carolina.

All three books share the same origins and goals. They are third-party products designed for "any RPG" but obviously for their respective current editions of *D&D. They fill a niche market of DM's tools, so a small number of people will buy these. 

The biggest differences?

For the Traps Too book, my then-DM and I had to drive to Springfield, IL, to get it. It was 35 miles away, and then we had to go to a store downtown (Black's Hardware) because our regular D&D stores (Waldenbooks and B. Dalton's) didn't carry this.

I found the magazine Gamemaster's Book of Random Encounters in the periodical rack in the checkout line at a grocery store next to copies of People, Us, and whatever holiday cookbook magazine America's Test Kitchen was selling.

This is just one more example of how ubiquitous RPGs are getting. 

Hell, even at my sister's funeral people from a side of my family I barely know were talking about how great Baldur's Gate 3 is. (Spoilers. It is great.)

Sometimes, it is easy to forget how great we have it now. Sometimes it is easy to forget how scarce or rare things used to be. 

We are really in a Golden Age of RPGs now and sometimes it is nice to sit back and soak it all in.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Is Alignment Outmoded for D&D?

If I had to make a guess on what was one of the most controversial topics in Dungeons & Dragons games since the beginning, I would not say it was the inclusion of demons, devils, or monsters that you can just randomly kill, or who contributed more; Gary or Dave, or even TSR's early litigious past. 

No. Going back, the most hotly debated topic then and now is Alignment.

Reading some old Dragon magazines, Usenet posts, or modern social media, people still love to argue about alignment. I have read a lot of self-proclaimed experts on D&D that get alignment completely wrong both in terms of use and how it should be applied. 

I have used alignment in D&D and some other games, but most games don't even have it and they are not less off for it. 

And of late, I am thinking that D&D doesn't need it either.

I am not saying that "Evil" and "Good" do not exist in the game in some moral gray space. There is alignment as an idea, a universal moral concept, and alignment as a game mechanic. As a game mechanic, that time has now passed.

Cases in point.

I played a Lawful Good paladin in the AD&D 1st ed days. That's redundant because the only paladins were lawful good. However, he traveled with a Neutral Evil Assassin, which was explicitly against the rules. We solved that issue by having a prophecy that these two had to travel and adventure together because their fates were linked and they could not kill each other. What were their fates? Well we only found out later on (and there may have been some retconning) that the Paladin's son and the Assassin's daughter would fall in love.  In this case, the rule about alignment got in the way of a good role-playing opportunity. 

As time went on, the assassin was less and less evil. I eventually concluded that he was Chaotic Neutral with some evil tendencies. And my paladin became more and more Lawful Autocratic than anything. Rules have to be followed because they are The Rules.  Alignment never served them well despite the restrictions both classes had on alignment. Yes, the hard-core rule lawyers will point out I wasn't playing them right or some other nonsense to justify their memorization of rules, but that is the same problem my Paladin had. Rules for the sake of Ruling and nothing else. 

Another issue. I am playing the Baldur's Gate 3 video game now and I love it. While there is a Detect Good/Evil spell, nothing in the game is alignment-specific. 

There is a Hobgoblin named Blurg, a member of the Society Of Brilliance, an order of sages who want to study and bring culture and civilization to the Underdark. Talk to him about it, and he is obviously intelligent and wants to study the rich ecological conditions in the Underdark and it's vast richnesses that could allow everyone to live together harmoniously.  He even has a friend, a Mindflayer named Omeluum, who wants to help the PCs. Both are from "evil" species, yet they do not perform an evil action. Indeed the actions they do perform can best be described as good or at worst self-serving. So maybe Chaotic Good? Neutral is what the Forgotten Realms Wiki has him as.


What about Karlach the tiefling? She has killed, but yet she is one of the nicest, happiest characters in the game. Shadowheart worships the evil Goddess Shar, she should be evil by D&D rules, yet she dislikes needless violence and has a soft spot in her heart for kids and animals. And SPOILER: You can also convert her to the Goddess Selûne, effectively changing her cleric's alignment with no loss of powers. Granted Shar and Selûne have a complicated relationship.

At no point in character creation did I list an alignment. 

Even in the image above, the representative characters don't fit all that well all the time. Darth Vader was redeemed in the end. The Doctor has murdered millions even entire species. Captain America though might fit Lawful Good most of the time.

D&D 4 added the Unaligned alignment and made Succubi Lawful evil. D&D 3 made Orcs Chaotic Evil. D&D has published entire books where NPCs never had an alignment listed. 

I use alignment, but I am seeing less and less need for it in my games. Spells like "Know Alignment" and "Protection from Good/Evil" now will rely more on hostile intent.  

Now, Ill likely keep the Outer Planes as they are and will have to figure that out someday, but for now I am content ditching the whole system.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Baldur's Gate 3: Keller the Silent Monk

 I mentioned two weeks ago (already??) that I have been playing Baldur's Gate 3 with my kids via LAN and it has been FANTASTIC. We don't get much time to play D&D together anymore but this has been the next best thing. In fact it has been the best thing in it's own right.

But I am not here to talk about the gameplay.  I am here to talk about an orphan. In particular this one.

Keller the Monk

This is Keller, the Wood-elf Monk. I know nothing about her.

One night my son and I were playing in his multiplayer room, but he didn't close it (he was the host) so this random character joined us.  It was a wood elf paladin.  Well, we didn't need a paladin; I was already playing Johan. So he locked the room, and we restarted.

The player, whoever it was, was gone. But Keller remained. She tagged along as another character my son could control. We tried everything to get rid of her. Nothing worked. We shut down for the night.

The next day, Liam had told me he tried even more things, and nothing worked. So finally, he just paid the gold to have her retrain as a monk. One holy warrior to next? Ok, I am cool with that.

We still can't get rid of her. More to the point, since the program does not control her, we can't tell her to stay in the camp either. She can't even talk unless my son takes control of her (like the in the screenshot above), so we decided to roll with it.

MINOR SPOILERS for Baldur's Gate 3 follow. Well, so minor that if you play the game up till character creation, this is old news.

The Party with Keller
My son and I collect stupid hats in the game. It also looks like my eyes are closed.

Keller is a wood-elf monk. I figure she is one of the Siswa from the adventure B7 Rahasia.

She, like the playable characters and companions in the game, was taken by the Mind Flayer Nautilus ship. But unlike the characters, she was not in Baldur's Gate then. She and her kin were in their homes where Queen Rahasia ruled. The ship attacked, and the elves fought back and lost. Keller was one of the survivors taken on to the ship. She was there when it came to Baldur's Gate. (Yes. I am saying Rahasia lived. I am not going to do the Hickmans wrong like that.)

As one of the survivors, she feels guilt that she lived when so many of her brothers and sisters died. So, she has taken a vow of silence. Since she is also essentially uncontrolled (and therefore can't be romanced), she has also taken a vow of solitude. She will not break these vows until the threat of these mind flayers is gone from Faerûn. She will not become attached to anyone else who might die. 

In truth, she is kind of a badass. There have been a few situations in the last couple of sessions where her combat prowess essentially saved our asses. 

Keller, no stupid hat yet

So. If you are Keller's original player. I am sorry you stumbled into our room just to be kicked. I am sorry you lost your character, too. But we will take care of her and make sure she sees the vengeance she so rightly deserves. 

Maybe she can also get a stupid hat.

Friday, August 11, 2023

Baldur's Gate III

 I picked up Baldur's Gate 3 yesterday and spent most of the night/early morning playing it with my oldest. We did a LAN connect between our two computers and it was an absolute blast.

The game plays just like D&D 5th Edition. So combat is easy and intuitive and honestly a lot of fun. Characters are just like 5e as well.

I did a version of my witch Larina for solo play.  Here she is as a Warlock.

Larina in Baldur's Gate III

And for the game I started with my son, I am playing a version of my paladin Johan.  He is playing his typical character, a blue dragonborn wizard. But tonight was not about exploring new things. It was about Dad and Son time with characters we both know well.

Dragonborn and human

I guess there are something like 1,700 alternate endings to this game and several hundred hours of cinematics. Plus, according to my son who has been playing it since it was in Early Access, it is very mod-able.

This is good, because once you design your character that is what you have. Want something new/different? Make a new character. So it is like D&D! ;)

Baldur's Gate III Johan

The game is gorgeous and the game play is easy. Actually playing the game is typical of computer RPGS. In my first go I missed saving a cleric that could have helped me (found her later) and a wizard.

Baldur's Gate III Game Play
Woo hoo! I have 18 hp and an ally!

Since the main plot involves Mind Flayers (that's not a spoiler, that is the first 3 mins of the game), you can even ally yourself with the enemy of my enemy, a githyanki.

Rescuing Lae'zel

And the nicest cleric of Shar you will ever meet.


I am not sure how much I am going to get to play it. But looking forward to it!

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Wasted Lands: Larina Nix

 If I am going to try to convert my D&D games over to Wasted Lands, then it only makes sense to try to convert my witch Larina. 

Larina Nix

I have already converted her modern incarnation to NIGHT SHIFT, which is the one I am happiest with. But Wasted Lands has a lot to offer, and I want to see what she can do here.

In this case I want to convert her AS&D 1st Edition version to Wasted Lands, though it will not be a 1 to 1 conversion. Instead, I will convert her concept. Also, this will not be a conversion of her NIGHT SHIFT stats. They will be similar, to be sure, but I want to rebuild her from the ground up.

I always imagine that the various versions of Larina were all in some way different aspects of the same character or even past lives. One thing I have never, to date, figured out was who was the very first (game world chronology) Larina.  It makes sense then to base this build on the first Larina (real-world chronology) from AD&D 1st Edition.

This would be that very first one. Maybe not the first witch in the world (that is a bit presumptuous even for me), but certainly the first one in her line. 

Larina Nix
Larina Nix

Class: Sorceress (Persona Aspected)
Level: 16 
XP: 2,741,986
Species: Human (Avian heritage)
Alignment: Neutral-Light
Background: Sage

Strength: 9 (+0) 
Agility: 11 (+0)  
Toughness: 12 (+1) 
Intelligence: 17 (+2) N
Wits: 16 (+2) N
Persona: 18 (+3) A

Fate Points: 10
Defense Value: 7
Vitality: 33 (d4)
Degeneracy: 14
Corruption: 3

Check Bonus (A/N/D): +7/+5/+3
Melee Bonus: +3 (base)
Ranged Bonus: +3 (base)
Saves: +6 vs magical effect

Arcane Abilities
Arcana, Spellcasting (140% base + bonus)

Sage Abilities

Languages (17), Lore (37%), Mesmerize Others (20%), Suggestion, Renegade Skills, Spells, Read Languages

Renegade Skills

Hide in Shadows: 20%
Open Locks: 15%
Bypass Traps: 10%
Sleight of Hand: 20%

1st Level: Black Flames, Arcane Darts, Mystical Senses, Night Vision, Chill Ray, Read Languages (Sage)
2nd Level: Beguile Person, See Invisible, Locator Spell: Objects, Magic Lock, Levitate
3rd Level: Clairvoyance, Globe of Darkness, Concussive Blast, Dark Lightning
4th Level: All-seeing Invisible Eye, Befuddlement, Protection against the Deeper Dark, Hop and Skip
5th Level: Convert Stone to Mud, Passageway, Shadow Armor, Dominate Other
6th Level: Dispel Evil, Invisible Servant, Enchant Item
7th Level: Ball of Sunshine, Wave of Mutilation, Widdershins Dance
8th Level: Animosity/Affinity, Wail of the Banshee

Arcane Powers
Level 1: Telekinesis 
Level 4: Beguile 
Level 7: Empathy
Level 10: Precognition
Level 13: Psychic Power: ESP
Level 16: Shadow Walking

Divine Touchstones
Level 1: Sense Magic
Level 2: 
Level 3: Bonus to Spellcasting (+10%)
Level 4: 
Level 5: 
Level 6: Level 1 of Sage
Level 7: 
Level 8: 
Level 9: Spirit Guide (Nightbird) 
Level 10: 
Level 11: Glamour
Level 12: 
Level 13: Magical Recovery
Level 14: Level 2 of Sage
Level 15: 
Level 16: 2 Level Ones: Arcane Power: Astral Projection. Psychic Power: Bio-feedback

Heroic (Divine) Archetype: Witchcraft, Occultism

Staff, dagger, ring of protection

Why this Build is Important to Me

AD&D Larina was a very special character for me. I rolled her up as a "Magic-user" with the goal of playing her as a witch. We used our new method of rolling up psionic abilities and she ended up with psychic powers. I thought this was great. Later the infamous Dragon #114 came out, and I converted her to a proper witch. She kept her level of Magic-user (Dual classing), and we said it was because, as a witch, she was pretending to be a wizard so as not to get caught being a witch.

As the game progressed, she became less the magical powerhouse I envisioned back then and more the group's sage, occult expert, and polyglot. So when it came time to level her up I took the spells that gave her more social and mental power/aspects. If the choice was to take a power/spell/magic item that gave a blasty power OR say, learn a new language, then I always took the language.  

For me, the Wasted Lands rules had to capture what happened by happenstance in 1986. Her odd combination of magic-user, psychic, sage, and witch.

I was able to replicate the feel of that AD&D 1st Edition Character rather perfectly, I think. She even has a bit of corruption to cover her, occasionally dipping her toes (sometimes a whole foot) into dark magic. In AD&D, I covered this by having her eyes change color and would replicate in other ways in other games.

Larina, Then and Now

Please check out and back the Wasted Lands Kickstarter in its final week!

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Wasted Lands: Melissa Belladonna

Melissa Belladonna
Our weekend Fifth Edition D&D games are slowly sliding over into the Wasted Lands: The Dreaming Age RPG. We have been able to pivot so well because a lot of what we have been doing in D&D 5 comes from the same roots that you find in the Wasted Lands.  But there is one thing the Wasted Lands doesn't do out of the box that many of the D&D 5e players love, and that is to play non-human characters. 

That is until now.

If you are a backer, you already got the preview of nonhuman species so you can play the likes of an Elf, Dwarf or other stranger things. This is one of the key D&D experiences, and it is a welcome addition for those who want them. The rules addition from Jason includes the expected ones; elves, dwarves, gnomes and the like. But D&D 5 is full of all sorts of species to play. Can you do that in WL?


Keep in mind one very, very important thing about the "humans" in the Wasted Lands. They are not really humans at all. They are proto-humans, proto in the sense that they very well might look like us but they were created by the Old Ones as sort of a "rough draft" of humans. So they could have ancestry from just about anything to be honest. Birds, reptiles, snakes, and yes, primates. The changes are largely cosmetic and immaterial to a group of mortals fighting evil elder things from beyond the stars. So adding an elf, dwarf or even dragonborn is really trivial.

Today I want to try a tiefling. Not just any tiefling, though. 

It dawned on me a couple weeks back that I do not have a tiefling character to call my own. I still didn't but needed an NPC to fill a certain role.  Enter Melissa Belladonna

Melissa is a tiefling Artificer that runs an alchemist shop. You can follow her exploits on Twitter and Twitch (links below). But I was thinking here is a good character to try out. She has a 5e class. She is a tiefling. And she serves a role I needed of an alchemist. Plus, she is fun, and NPCs should be fun.

Melissa Belladonna

The party got to meet up with her, and she was great. I had more planned, but they had other things to do (and tacos were done).  But she will certainly be back.  Here is how I did her for the Wasted Lands.

Part of her background is should used to pretend to be human and used a glamour. That still works here, to be honest. There are demons in the Wasted Lands, so it is possible that there is an offspring of a demon and human that is also good. 

Melissa Belladonna

Melissa by idlemo_bun
Class: Sage
Level: 17
Species: Tiefling (Mammon heritage)
Alignment: Neutral Good (Twilight Good)
Background: Sage, Alchemist

Strength: 14 (+1) 
Agility: 12 (+0)  
Toughness: 14 (+1) 
Intelligence: 18 (+3) A
Wits: 15 (+1) N
Persona: 17 (+2) N

Fate Points: 10
Defense Value: None 10
Vitality: 60 (d6)
Degeneracy: None
Corruption: None

Check Bonus (A/N/D): +7/+5/+3
Melee Bonus: +5 (base)
Ranged Bonus: +5 (base)
Saves: +1 Fire-based effects, +1 to Magical-effects (Tiefling), +7 to saves vs. Magical Effects (Sage)

Sage Abilities

Languages (18), Lore (188%)*, Mesmerize Others (170%)*, Suggestion, Renegade Skills, Spells, Read Languages

Renegade Skills

Hide in Shadows: 95%
Open Locks: 90%
Bypass Traps: 100%
Sleight of Hand: 100%

1st Level: Mystical Senses (Tiefling), Beast Speech, Glamour, Read Languages, Restore/Drain Vitality, Summon Familiar (Perry, a Raven)
2nd Level: Create Water, Eternal Flame, Invisibility, Subtle Influence, Zone of Honesty
3rd Level: Anti-toxin, Dispel Magic, Remove Curse, Slow, Zone of Protection from Evil
4th Level: Befuddlement, Conjure Fire, Kiss of the Succubus

Divine Touchstones
Level 1: 
Level 2: Arcane Ability: Enhanced Senses
Level 3: 
Level 4: Luck benefit (1d6)
Level 5: 
Level 6: "Spirit Guide" Her cauldron homunculus. 
Level 7: 
Level 8: Magical Recovery
Level 9: 
Level 10: 3rd level spell: Conjure Fireworks
Level 11: 
Level 12: Glamour at will
Level 13: 
Level 14: Slow aging
Level 15: 
Level 16: Signature Item: Cauldron
Level 17:

Heroic (Divine) Archetype: Sage, Occultism, Dragons

Here lore skill covers her alchemy and artificer skills. She is also widely regarded as an expert on dragons, having conducted extensive field work on studying them for years.

Thank you to Melissa Belladonna for letting me borrow such a great character to play with! Everyone loved her.

Melissa's Links

Some Mini Witches on my Desk

Melissa and Larina

Please check out and back the Wasted Lands Kickstarter.

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Wasted Lands as a Dungeons & Dragons Replacement

All month long, I have been talking (rather obsessively so) about the Wasted Lands RPG. I make no apologies for this. It is a great game, and it shares DNA with my own NIGHT SHIFT, which is just a bonus.

I talked about how I can emulate superheroes, our modern Gods and Myths, as Wasted Lands Archetypes all last week. This week is going to be all about how I plan to use Wasted Lands (with a little help from NIGHT SHIFT) as my go-to Dungeons & Dragons replacement.

Wasted Lands Larina

I have been talking bout this topic all year too, with examples from Castles & Crusades and Pathfinder 2e.  I hope to have some good examples this week to show how well this works.

Obviously, Wasted Lands shares some DNA with D&D. NIGHT SHIFT was an OGL game and Wasted Lands grew out of that. It also shares DNA with Spellcraft & Swordplay. This is why you will find the O.G.R.E.S. and O.R.C.S. from each game (respectively) in The Wasted Lands.

If you are a backer, you already got the preview of nonhuman species so you can play the likes of an Elf, Dwarf or every stranger things. This is one of the key D&D experiences there is and it is a welcome addition for those that want them. I have already shared my two Shadow Elf, or Dökkálfar, characters Runu & Urnu

Can Wasted Lands replace D&D at my table? Easily. In fact, it is has been doing that for a little while now.

Can Wasted Lands replace D&D in my heart? That is a different thing, but I aim to find out.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Wasted Lands Playtest: War at the Gates of Dawn. Chaoskampf in your Games

One of the later additions to Dungeons & Dragons lore was that of the Dawn War. Introduced in 4e and detailed a bit more in The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea book, this war dealt with the war between the Gods and the Primordials at the Dawn of Time. Among other things, it leads to the creation of the Abyss, the devils, and more. It destroyed entire planes and creatures and built the shape of the D&D multiverse.

It is also nowhere near an original idea.

That is not a slight. In fact, it is a feature.

In studies of mythology, this is known as the Chaoskampf or the battle against Chaos. We see this in Greek Mythology as the Gods vs. the Titans. In Norse Mythology, as the Gods vs. the Giants. And in Sumerian Myths such as Marduk vs. Tiamat.  We even see it in Christian myths as God and the Angels vs. Satan and his followers. It features again in Ragnarok and Revelations. 

It is, quite literally, one of the oldest stories in the world.  The roots go back to Proto-Indo-European Gods and myths, but it is likely much, much older than that even. Jung would say it is something buried deep in our collective unconsciousness about imposing order over chaos.

It is also part and parcel of the Wasted Lands experience.

In the Wasted Lands, you play human (or near human) figures fighting back against the forces of chaos. The forces of chaos are the Old Ones, but these creatures and their minions are largely indistinguishable from the Titans, Giants, or even the Primordials of any number of myths and legends.

How does this all tie together? Easy really. 

Let's say you are a D&D fan (doesn't matter the edition) and you would like to play out this Dawn War (something I have done myself to great enjoyment). Why? Well it could be for fun, or for me it was to let the characters gain insight to what is happening in the world of the gods and this all came to them in a dream.  You can use the Wasted Lands RPG to accomplish this.

War at the Gates of Dawn

The War at the Gates of Dawn is my "serial numbers filed off" of the Dawn War. Though there is really no need for that since like I said, there are many of these in all mythologies and since it took place in (or at the beginning of) the Multiverse.

So how do you dothis? Easy.

Step 1: Choose Your Setting

This is the easiest; you are going to go back in time in your own D&D/Pathfinder/d20 game setting. I take the point of view that all the worlds that share similar gods began in one universe and then fractured at this point. 

Step 2: Choose Your Primordials/Titans

When I ran this before my Primordials were Vaprak, who late become Demogorgon, Tharizdûn, and the god that would become Orcus and Dispater. Additionally, I could use my concepts of Die Hüne from my Roma/Norse Pantheon.  But any Titans will do, really. I find Kaiju fit this role rather nicely.

Step 3: Choose your Gods, aka Characters

This will depend on your setting, but if you go with the notion that all Dawn Wars are THE Dawn War and all worlds come from a similar source, then you can go nuts. A place where Pelor, Odin, Isis, the Raven QueenBahamut, Selûne, and Sarenrae all fight side by side. In fact, I would say it is highly appropriate for all the gods of different myths (aka games) to come to this battle. 

I let my players choose the god their character worshipped, was closest to, or had a Pact with. 

Would-be Gods

Step 4: Go Nuts

Now the characters, either as 1st level or higher, need to battle the machinations of the Old One/Titans/Primordials. This makes the Dawn War/War at the Gates of Dawn a much longer conflict.

The Wasted Lands rules are VERY customizable. You can cleve very close to the D&D of your choice in terms of gameplay. The differences in the rules and the tone and tenor of them will give your "War at the Gates of Dawn" a different feel than your typical game, reinforcing how this is a different time.

My son is play-testing Wasted Lands with his D&D 5e group now, and they all claim that the rule differences make them feel like they are playing something "old and brand new" at the same time. The rules aid in the immersion of the game and help them get into their characters better. 

Now, could you get the same effect with, say Basic D&D or some other version of D&D/AD&D? Sure, but what you would be missing are the customizable rules of Wasted Lands and, of course, the Divine Touchstones that really set the characters apart. 

Doing it this way lets you start with the early days of the war and build up to what is really the biggest battle in all of D&D/Greek Myths/Norse myths or the myths of your own world. 

I ran this a while back it worked amazingly well. My oldest is doing it now in his own world where the players take on their favorite gods and have to battle the forces of chaos in the manifestation of The King in Yellow. If the shouts and cries I hear coming from our game room is any indication then it has been an epic success so far.

I think that encapsulates the Wasted Lands well. Simple in execution but epic in scope.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Not a Mail Call Tuesday (But Just as Good!)

I was recently at my FLGS, and I decided to pick up some old friends.

AD&D 1st Ed

Like many gamers my age, I started with a wide variety of D&D books. A Basic book here, an OD&D book here, and an AD&D book here. In my case, I started with a lot of D&D Basic (B/X) books. I picked up my AD&D books later on.  So my first AD&D books were Deities & Demigods and the Fiend Folio. I only later grabbed the PHB, DMG, and MM and when I did, they were "newer" Easley/Orange spine covers.  I wanted mine to be different from my then DMs. 

Also, like many gamers my age, I lost them in one of the many, many moves during my university days. This was sad, but I had my 2nd Ed books so I could still at least play.

When I got to a point where I could settle down and get them back, I bought back the original covers. But I always missed the "Trinity" of the orange spine ones.  Well, I decided it was well past time to fix that.

The Holy Trinity x3

I now have the original covers, picked up around 2000 or so. The WotC reprints. And now the Orange Spine ones.

All are in really good condition. I have others, like my softcover Monster Manual and Players Handbook from England and my first-printing PHB and DMG. But those are all safely tucked away from light

Big 3 and Little 3

And I had the mini versions of these covers, so that was one of the reasons I was not rushing to get new copies of these. But I figured I really should get them.

They were not cheap, much more expensive than when I re-bought the original covers in the early 2000s, but honestly, they are really worth it to me.

I have to say, it does put me in the mood for some AD&D 1st Ed! I think I even have some goldenrod character sheets around here as well.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Converting D&D 5 to Castles & Crusades: Character Conversion

Like my last conversion, this is not going to be a full conversion but rather a character with a high concept. While the OGL kerfuffle has more or less died down into a steady state of noise, the issues brought up then are still good now.  There are more games out there than just D&D5.

Today I am converting a major NPC of my Second Campaign to Castles & Crusades

Player's Handbooks

I have often said that Castles & Crusades is the spiritual descendent of AD&D, so let's see how that works out.

So in truth this one is likely to be very easy in terms of game system. The Second Campaign is made up of a lot of AD&D 1st ed and BECMI D&D adventures. Ones I enjoyed but were not part of the Gygaxian-cannon. Other adventures for it to help fill in some gaps are all solid OSR ones.  So converting the actual adventures was something I had to do anyway to make them work for D&D 5e. Now I am converting them to Castles & Crusades and that conversion is so much easier. 

The Second Campaign began, much like the Order of the Platinum Dragon/Come Endless Darkness, as an AD&D 1st Ed/OSRIC game and, for a brief moment, as a BECMI game. Over the years, it morphed into other things until it settled as a 5th Edition game. 

The next adventures for this campaign have been fairly well decided:

The Desert of Desolation series:
With the Desert Nomads/Temple of Death series:
And then the two stand-alone adventures:

My NPC going along with the group then is a traveling scholar. I wanted her to be something of a magical dabbler, an occultist, and lore expert. Given the desert theme here I was thinking of someone like Rachel Weisz's character Evelyn Carnahan from the 1999 movie The Mummy. I

The Character: Celeste Holmes

Celeste is a character concept that has seen a few iterations over the years. This current Celeste is as much Charlie Bradbury from Supernatural as she is Evelyn Carnahan.  There is also a bit of Poppy Kline in her from the Magicians series. Both characters, Charlie and Poppy, were played by Felicia Day, so it makes sense that she looks like her.  Given the Basic-era roots of the character giving her the last name of Holmes seemed to be the right thing to do. Very recently I also remembered that Celeste, as she is presented in D&D 5 for me, is also a nod to "Lady Nyctasia Selesqe Rhaicime brenn Rhostshyl ar'n Edonaris" of the Silverglass series, a witch and noble who pretends to be a student and bard. I always pronounced her "middle" name, Selesqe, as "Celeste."

Also, Celeste is not the firepower of this group. She is the translator and the one who sets up the shield spells and figures out what monsters will attack or talk.  

In D&D 5e Celeste is a Wizard/Bard multiclass. This gave her a lot of skills and some magic, but not as much as her level might suggest. She is not a combat character, so feats largely went to improving how many languages she knew. 

She has 5 levels in Wizard (Order of Scribes from Unearthed Arcana then Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything) and 1 in Bard (College of Lore). Again to get a few more cantrips and 1st level spells, but mostly for the skills. I see her Bardic inspiration as being able to urge the team on with her pep talks. 

What would she be like in Castles & Crusades?

Celeste Holmes

Castles & Crusades has a lot of "multiclass" options, and they would all work for her. But there is one I think is suited to her concept the best.  Celeste is a "Class and a Half."

I mean, it fits her concept well, and it is a uniquely Castles & Crusades option. She is a 5th-level Wizard/1st-level Bard, so in C&C Class-and-a-half, that will make her a 5th-level Wizard, giving her 2nd level in Bard (main class divided by 2 and rounded down).

She would need more experience points than a Wizard alone. So Wizard plus 1/2 of Bard per level.  

She gets all the same powers, spells, and abilities of a Wizard here, plus some bard. The C&C Bard is not a spellcasting one, but they get some powers. The half-class bard does not get the Fascinate or the Exhort Greatness powers.  Exhort Greatness is a 9th-level power, so it would not be an issue until she is 18th level anyway, and by then, I am sure she will have plenty of spells. The Fascinate one is a loss, but one I can deal with, to be honest. I really wanted the Legend Lore, Dechpire Scripts, and Exhalt powers. This also gives her slightly better HD and hp; d10 for the bard and d4 for the wizard gives us a d6 and +2 after "name" level. 

Wizard pretty much stays the same. Spells and some other cool stuff at higher levels.

Honestly, the concept is so much fun I do want to try other class and half combinations. But that is for another time. I have to look for a way for her to be able to speak all the languages I want her to be able to speak. In D&D 5e she can speak Abyssal, Celestial, Common, Draconic, Elvish, Infernal, and Primordial, thanks to Linguist Feat.  Her Intelligence is 19 so that is +3 languages in addition to "common." Thankfully the C&C rules are pretty open here. There are options from Amazing Adventures I could borrow from. For example, sacrifice a level for the ability to speak a lot of languages. I am not sure how to do it yet, but I know there is a way. Actually, there are a few ways I can think of. She could be Powered 1 (for the languages) and then the Wizard 5/Bard 2 which would give her the 6 total levels she has in D&D5. Hmm.  I think I will try that combination at a future date. Today I want to concentrate on the Class and a Half today.

Moving over to C&C from D&D5 is simple. So simple I went back to my C&C PHB just to ensure I did it all right. Yup. Everything looked good.

Celeste Holmes
Celeste Holmes
Human Wizard (Bard) 5/2 LG

STR: 12 (+0)
DEX: 13 (+1)
CON: 16 (+2)
INT: 19 (+3) *P (wizard)
WIS: 15 (+1) *P (choice)
CHA: 16 (+2) *P (bard)

AC: 11 (no armor)
HP: 23 (HD d6)
BtH: +1

Weapons: Dagger, Staff

Class Abilities
Wizard (5th): Spells and spellcasting, bonus spells
Bard (2nd): Decipher Script (Int), Exalt (Int), Legend Lore (Cha)

Cantrips (5): Arcane Mark, Detect Magic, Light, Mage Hand, Message
1st level (4+1): Burning Hands, Charm Person, Comprehend Languages, Identify, Magic Missile 
2nd level (2+1): Locate Object, Ray of Enfeeblement, Shatter
3rd level (1+1): Clairaudience/Clairvoyance, Tongues

Height: 5'5"
Weight: 129 lbs
Age: 22
Gender: Female
Hair: Red
Eyes: Brown


Saves are largely the same in D&D5, and C&C. Primes help cover that. The spells are also very much the same drawing from the same sources. Weapons, armor, and the like are all virtually identical. Alignment and classes have the same names and work largely the same.

So yes, I am quite pleased with this build, and I am eager to try other class-and-a-half combinations. With just the Players Handbook alone, I can see about 150 possible combinations. Less when you remove ones that don't actually work out, but still, that is a lot to try.

To extend my Felicia Day/Charlie Bradbury reference a step further, the D&D 5 version of Celeste is Charlie in the "normal" world and the C&C version of her is Charlie from the Apocalypse World

Celeste and Celeste

Edited to add: I was reminded that there is an official D&D 5 to C&C conversion document.  Get is here for free.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Converting D&D 5 to Pathfinder 2: Character Conversion

This isn't going to be about a full conversion. Mostly because I feel the best conversions are done in situ by the GM. 

Today I want to talk about converting one of my D&D 5e campaigns, "Into the Nentir Vale."

D&D 5e to Pathfinder 2e

A bit of background.  Into the Nentir Vale began as, obviously enough, a D&D 4e game.  I ran the intro adventures for it with a group, and the reactions were mixed. I tried again with some Pathfinder, a one-shot, but it never quite jelled the way I wanted it to.  Fast forward a few years, and D&D 5 was released. I did a series of posts on sunk cost analysis/bias and conversions leading up to it:

Once these were all done, the adventures went on under 5e.  Well...we know how this will turn out.

Somehow it seems fitting that I am converting it again to Pathfinder, this time 2e.

The adventures themselves are the HPE adventures from D&D 4e. Essentially I am removing about 1/3 of the content to make it play a bit faster.  I am scaling the monsters and encounters to fit a 20th level maximum (vs. a 30th-level one), but in many ways, the conversion between 4e and Pathfinder 2e is easier than converting between D&D 4e and D&D 5e.

The Character: Rowan McGowan

Rowan is my test character here. She is a reoccurring NPC and one I used as my internal tests of various combat situations.

Rowan McGowan, Witch Knight

Like the campaign itself, Rowan has seen some history and conversions. She began life as a witch for D&D 3.5. Her concept is a "Witch Knight" or "Witch Guardian."  This is a witch that takes up the sword to protect others, typically of their faith and/or other witches. Rowan is a protector of the "Old Faith." Some of her exploits found a home in my Pagan Witch book, for example. 

In D&D 5, Rowan was a multi-classed Warlock (Hexblade)/Paladin. Her background was an acolyte to cover her growing up in a religious order of witches. She picked up the blade when she saw others of her kind being killed.  Her devotion is like a Paladin, just to a different cause. Multi-classing her was pretty easy to do since Charisma is the prime ability of both Warlocks and Paladins.

When converting her to Pathfinder there were a number of key differences.

First, while warlock was a compromise in D&D 5 (I wanted a core book class) I can do a proper witch in Pathfinder.  But witch's main ability is Intelligence in Pathfinder (though I will argue with some authority that it should be Charisma). Also Pathfinder 2e does multiclassing VERY differently than what D&D 3.x/Pathfinder and D&D 5e do it. Interestingly enough, it is more similar to how D&D 4 did it.

In 5e Rowan's first level was Warlock (Witch) and then she took a level in Paladin. I have been leapfroging the classes. She is level 4 now with 2 levels in both Warlock and Paladin.

In Pathfinder Her class is Witch. I had her take Weapon Proficiency at level 1 so she could use simple weapons.  At level 2 she is still a witch but I had her take the Champion Dedication feat. This "multi-classes" her into Champion, the Pathfinder version of a Paladin. This is similar to the Multi-class feats of 4e.

Here she continues to 4th level.

The progression is more straightforward in Pathfinder with fewer options in the beginning.  The progression in 5e is less straightforward with lots of options. 5e Rowan has more spells for example, but her maximum casting choices will be limited at higher levels. Pathfinder Rowan will have access to much more powerful witch spells, even if she has fewer right now.

Rowan McGowanWitch 4

Chaotic Good
Versatile Heritage

Perception +7;
Languages Common, Draconic, Elven
Skills Acrobatics +1, Arcana +9, Athletics +4, Diplomacy +10, Intimidation +10, Lore: Scribing +7, Occultism +7, Religion +7, Society +7, Survival +7
Str +4, Dex +1, Con +0, Int +1, Wis +1, Cha +4
Items Half Plate

AC 22; Fort +6, Ref +7, Will +9
HP 32

Speed 20 feet
Melee Greatsword +10 (Versatile P), Damage 1d12+4 S
Devoted Guardian Requirements Your last action was to Raise a Shield. You adopt a wide stance, ready to defend both yourself and your chosen ward. Select one adjacent creature. As long as your shield is raised and the creature remains adjacent to you, the creature gains a +1 circumstance bonus to their AC, or a +2 circumstance bonus if the shield you raised was a tower shield.
Occult Prepared Spells DC 17, attack +7; 2nd ; 1st CommandMage ArmorCantrips Chill TouchDazeMage HandRead AuraProtect Companion
Arcane Innate Spells DC 20, attack +10; Cantrips Detect Magic
Arcane Innate Spells DC 20, attack +10; Cantrips Shield
Focus Spells (1 points) Pact Broker Range 30 feet; Targets 1 creature Saving Throw Will; Duration sustained up to 1 minute You offer to broker a pact of peace. If the target accepts and doesn't take hostile actions against you and your allies, you take a –1 status penalty to Deception checks to Lie to them. If they refuse and take a hostile action against you or an ally, they must attempt a Will save. If they accepted the offer and then take a hostile action against you or an ally, they must attempt a Will save and treat the result as one category worse. Regardless of the outcome, the target is then temporarily immune for 1 minute. Success The target is unaffected. Failure The target takes a –1 status penalty to attack and damage rolls against you and your allies. Critical Failure The target takes a –2 status penalty to attack and damage rolls against you and your allies.
Phase Familiar Range 60 feet; Targets your familiar You draw upon your patron's power to momentarily shift your familiar from its solid, physical form into an ephemeral version of itself shaped of mist. Your familiar gains resistance 5 to all damage and is immune to precision damage. These apply only against the triggering damage. Heightened (+1) Increase the resistance by 2.
Additional Feats Arcane SenseArcane TattoosChampion DedicationRoot MagicStudent of the Canon
Additional Specials Arcane Tattoo (Shield)Champion Archetype Cause (Liberator Cause)FamiliarHexesPatron (Pacts)Tenets of GoodWitch Spellcasting


Rowan's Character Sheets

Thankfully I still had her PDF from D&D Beyond. 

There are subtle differences to be sure. Pathfinder Rowan has better AC and HP compared to her D&D 5 counterpart on paper. I am not sure if those will make much of a difference though in play. 

I knew 5e (and 3.5s) Rowan had a tattoo on her shoulder blade but I was not certain of what yet. In Pathfinder I figure it is the symbol of her Goddess Desna.

While putting these sheets in her folder I noticed I had also started AD&D 2nd Ed, Castles & Crusades, and DragonAGE versions of her started as well!

The conversion was pretty fast, to be honest. These systems still share DNA. In many ways, the Pathfinder version is much closer to my original concept of her so I am pretty happy about that. I will need to see how I can convert the other characters now.

Converting monsters will just be a one-for-one swap out. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2023


The OGL 1.1/2.0 drama has thrown me for a loop. Not gonna lie.

2023 Year of the Monster

My whole "Year of the Monster" was built on a foundation of doing monsters of various types all year. I still can, but I need to pivot.

Case in point. I have been silent for the last few days so I can get at least one of my planned monster books out. I am scraping nearly everything and dumping all the art I would use for other projects into it. Hopefully, I'll have something soon.  

I also admit that my enthusiasm for some other plans that were going to extend into 2024 is critically low. 

Even if WotC/Hasbro does some serious backpedaling, my trust is low, and my expectations are non-existent.  This is disappointing because I have enjoyed all editions of D&D. I have also enjoyed writing for all editions of D&D. But I am, right now, not willing to support Wotc/Hasbro and the new version of D&D and my support of 5e is going to be minimal here.

I am though looking forward to some Pathfinder 2nd Ed discussions and deep dives. Also, I am going to try to feature more smaller publishers here. See what they have to offer. Even ones still doing 5e. It's not their fault that Hasbro is doing what they are doing.

So bear with me in this pivot phase.