Showing posts with label Elf Lair Games. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Elf Lair Games. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Spellcraft and Swordplay in Print

Many of you know I am partnering with Elf Lair Games to publish my two witch books.  "Eldritch Witchery" in fact has been designed to be used with "Spellcraft and Swordplay" in particular.

So I am pleased to announce that the S&S books are now in print.

You can not get Print on Demand copies of this really fun game.  Plus you will ant them anyway so you can use "Eldritch Witchery" with them!

You can read reviews for the core book at Grognardia and RPGNet.

Now if you are new to all of this you might ask, why should I play Spellcraft & Swordplay if I have <>.  Well it is going to depend on your style of course, but here is why I like it and why the core book is sitting on my dinning room table so I can flip through it anytime I want.

1. S&S is like Cinematic D&D.  The action in S&S is supposed to fast.  This is no surprise given that Jason and I both spent a lot of time working on Buffy's Cinematic Unisystem together.  To me S&S has a much more pulpy feel to it than some of the other clones, near clones and nostalgia games.

2. S&S is a great "What If" game.  Not many people know this anymore, but rolling a d20 for combat is "new school" when talking about OD&D.  It was actually the "Alternate Combat Method" and it assumed that gamers would be using the Chainmail 2d6 method.  S&S preserves the combat system of Chainmail.  Now imagine that OD&D continued on it's path and retained the Chainmail roots more.  The next "Basic" game might have looked a lot like this.

3. The underlying system is simple and powerful.  The system running the show for S&S, known as O.R.C.S.,  is a simple one that takes advantage of modern game design sensibilities   In fact it is so flexible that a lot of game ideas I have considered for Unisystem or True20 I am working on moving them over to S&S/O.R.C.S.

So please do you self a favor and pick up a copy or at least try out the free "Basic Game" PDF.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Witch and Eldritch Witchery

I am working hard on putting the final touches on my next two books.  The Witch and Eldritch Witchery.

They are not quite ready for full on press releases or product announcements yet,  but I am very, very excited about them.

The Witch

"The Witch" is designed to be used with "Basic Era" games.  Games that were released in the late 70s and early 80s and whose legacy is being continued with games like Labyrinth Lord and Basic Fantasy RPG.

The Witch will feature a new character class, the witch, and witchcraft Traditions so you can play any type of witch from fantasy, pulp or faerie tale.  In addition there are going to be new monsters associated with the witch as well as tons of new spells and magic items.  Many of which I have playtested over the last 12 years and some even dating back to my original notes I had written on the witch back in 1985.
Also included are appendices for extending the "Magic-User" class into a proper Wizard and Demi-human witches, something I had never considered doing in '85.

Eldritch Witchery

Eldritch Witchery is a bit different.  First it is for the Spellcraft & Swordplay game specifically.  Though it should be compatible with nearly any "old school" game or clone.

Many of the ideas that were used in "The Witch" found a home here as well, though in a different way that makes this a very different sort of class.  Actually it makes it two different sort of classes since Eldritch Witchery includes a witch and a warlock class.  As to be expected there are magic items and spells for both classes included.  This book also extends the magic of wizards, clerics and necromancers found in the S&S core rules and Monstrous Mayhem.

This book will also introduce demons to the S&S game and a new demonic hierarchy.  Make sure you know your stuff before you go into battle against the demons, a Baalseraph will have different abilities than the Calabim who are different still from the Lilim.

Which Book should You Get?
I am hoping both!  There is some overlap (I can only say "an athame is a ritual knife..." so many ways) but I am taking great pains to make sure each book has their own feel and unique material.  You could in fact get both and have three different takes on the witch, each one doing their magic a bit differently.  The traditions and lodges are not repeated between the books (save for one at present, but it makes sense to do so). Eldritch Witchery has demons, but the Witch goes into greater detail with everything.   I would say that either can be played with any version of the World's Greatest Fantasy RPG circa 1975 to 1985 and any clone based on it.

Stay tuned, I'll be posting some characters created with both books and we can see how they fare.

The planned release date is right around Halloween.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Once upon there was Irish ways and Irish laws.

One of my WIPs that is very close to my heart is a game of playing mythic Ireland.

Éire (also sometimes called Ériu in my notes) has been in my notes for many, many years and the system has changed based on what I have felt best suited it.  Presently, and likely to be the final version, uses the ORCS system seen in Jason Vey's Spellcraft and Swordplay game.  I chose that over say straight OD&D or some other clone because I like the feel of the game and it has some DNA in it that I really like.

Well the game has languished in the hell of my hard drive since the dawn of the d20 system.  But last night I got inspiration from an unexpected source.

I was working with my son last night on his research paper on Ireland.  We talked about the the Blight, the Troubles and even went back a bit to talk about St. Patrick and my personal favorite Finn MacCool.  After telling him the story of the Salmon of Knowledge my son (whose name is Liam by the way) looked at me and said "this would make an awesome D&D game."

So I am rereading all my notes.  Marveling at some, and wondering what the hell I was thinking with others.
No idea when I'll have it done.  But I feel I should get it done soon.  If for nothing else for my boys Liam and Connor, so they can learn a bit of their own heritage too.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Red Sonja: She Devil with a Sword

I am now a contributor to the Red Sonja: She Devil with a Sword blog.

I won't cross post much, unless of course it comes up naturally. But I did want to share the links to my first two posts over there.

A Red Sonja by Dominic Marco, who also did a fantastic Morgan Ironwolf, and a 3D rendered version of the same piece by Antony Ward.

Look for more soon!  I have at least two more posts I can make over there now, and looking into what else I can say about her.

Other blogs I contribute to:
Amazon Princess a Wonder Woman blog.
Elf Lair Games a blog for Jason Vey's Elf Lair Games and Spellcraft and Swordplay.

Friday, January 29, 2010

What Should an OSR Witch Do or Be?

So Eldritch Witchery is on the (far) horizon and it has been getting me thinking.
What should an Old-School Witch do?

One of the strengths of the older games, and maybe something we have gotten away from in newer game design, is trying to do more with less.  The older games had four classes (give or take) and these represented roles of the characters, it was then up to the player to detail and refine those roles and characters.

Lets look at the class "Magic User" for a bit.  Magic User does not automatically mean "Wizard".  It took me a while to get that  (I blame 2nd Ed).  We lost this distinction in later versions of the game and even in popular thought during the "golden age".  But really Magic User should really mean anyone that uses magic, whether you call them Wizard, Wu-Jen, Sorcerer, Illusionist, Mystic, Necromancer or even Witch is up to the player (but not Cleric or Priest...).  For most people this is fine.  Others want more definition to the role.
In Spellcraft & Swordplay we already now have a Necromancer.  One could argue there is a bit of "divine" magic that a Necromancer must channel to do his job.  He is still a "magic user" just a very specific one.  Same was seen in AD&D 1st Ed with the Illusionist, but that was a separate class.  Druid, Ranger, Paladin and Assassin are the same way for their respective roles.  It is is easy to see why it happens and even why it needs to happen.  So accepting there are general roles and then some specific roles where can we go with a concept like a witch?

The witch then, as a class, should be something special.  When I write for Buffy, WitchCraft or even Witch Girls Adventures, the witch is the defacto magic using class, but in a world where magic is largely unknown.  In D&D and it's clones the Wizard is the main class.  The role of the witch then should be to provide that air of mystery and "otherness" that the wizard and other magic-users no longer supply*.
*The caveat here being "in many games", there is nothing saying you can't have mysterious wizards in your game.

When I did the witch for 2nd Ed AD&D, she was basically a type of divine spell caster with access to various arcane spells and occult powers.  In 3rd Ed/d20 I flipped that to make her an arcane spell caster with access to divine spells and occult powers.  The same seems mostly true for all the other d20/3.x witches I have seen over the years.  IF (that's a big if) I were to do a witch for 4th Ed then I would up the occult power angle with access to "divine" and "arcane" powers.

Looking to games like Spellcraft & Swordplay, Basic Fantasy RPG or Labyrinth Lord I think I want to keep the arcane power base, to make her mostly similar to the current "Magic Users" in those games, but continue to shuffle to spell list to offer some differences. Add things like some minor healing spells (at later levels than the Cleric gets them), and certainly increase her ability to make potions and other minor magics.  Someone has to be stocking all those dungeons with potions and Amulets of Protection.  To aid that air of mystery she should have some powers that wizards/magic-users don't have.  Something that when she uses them the other characters need to be thinking "how did she do that?"

One thing I don't want though is class bloat.  That seems too much against the Old-School thought.  I have an edition of D&D with 100s of classes.  Actually I have more than one edition.  But an OSR game should be tight. Add what is needed and no more than that.

So what is a witch in an old-school game?
She is an arcane spell caster. So she learns her magic from other agents, be they familiars sent by powers unknown, the powers themselves or handed down mother to daughter.  She also gains certain divine magics due her ties with the natural world. This puts her at odds with more traditional wizards, who see her as little more than a hedge wizard, and clerics, who see her as a heretic to their beliefs.  Witches also gain a set of occult powers, magical effects she can use like spells, but come without study or practice.  Witches learn in Traditions (how their magic is taught to them) and form Covens, groups of other, like minded witches.

The prime ability for magic-users is Intelligence.  For clerics it is Wisdom.  Witches have been called "the craft of the wise" and I have been using Wisdom as their prime ability for years.  But I think a strong case can be made for Charisma here. This is the section on charisma from Spellcraft & Swordplay:
Charisma is a combination of a character’s personal magnetism, presence, and appearance. The higher the charisma, the more impressive the character is. Whether this manifests as an ominous intimidation or an ethereal beauty is up to the player in question.
If the witch is dealing with other-worldly agents to learn her magic, then only the most successful ones are the ones with the personality to hold their own.  I think charisma then is the way to go here.  Plus if we have three magic using classes now (magic-user, cleric and now witch) then it makes sense that each one uses a different mental stat for their magic workings.  I would say though witches still need a high wisdom in order to be successful.  Of course this leads to the all witches are therefore good looking cliché seen all too often in games and stories.  Not that I have anything at all against a sexy witch (far from it), but Baba Yaga is also a witch and mentioned in the OD&D books.  Obviously then Baba Yaga has a very high charisma, but in the terrifying and intimidation sense, not in the hot witch sense.

Why do witches go on adventures?
In the pulps and related fictions that had an influence on the fathers of role-playing games, witches occurred fairly frequently.  But they were often the means of the quest, not on it.  The heroes went to the the witch, or she was the one sending them on the quest or the reason they were questing.  In games terms that puts them in the NPC category fairly squarely.    A witch though might want to go on adventures for the same reasons that wizards and other magic users do; to learn more magic.  Or maybe she is on a quest of her patron power.  Or she is on a pilgrimage to a sacred site.  In truth any reason why a wizard or cleric would adventure is a good reason for a witch.  And let's not forget the most tried and true reasons, to become a hero or at the very least kill things and take their stuff.

Do witches belong in D&D?  Well that would depend on your own games I think.  But given all the attempts over the years, from the earliest Dragon magazines to Paizo's latest playtest, I think there is certainly a desire to include her by many.

Here is hoping that Eldritch Witchery lives up to all of that!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Elmore Art for Old School

I am working on Eldritch Witchery for Elf Lair Games and I have the bulk of it written now.  There are some editing issues and I need to tweak a few of the spells and monsters to fit the old school theme a bit better than when I originally wrote them.

But I do have a question to pose to the OSR.  Elmore art, use it or not?

I love the art in the Spellcraft and Swordplay and would love to have something very much like that in EW.  I also am a fan of Larry Elmore and since for as long as I can remember (or at least since 1986) I have wanted to do a witch book with Elmore art.  It's a thing.

I know that the original version of S&S that had Elmore art was criticized and the new art is a lot better, but Elmore and witches have such a close relationship in my mind that I would not be doing myself justice if I didn't include at least one piece.

I know many in the OSR equate the advent of certain artists to be indicative of "the end of the Golden Era" (mini rant here: Yeah like the art in the LBBs was so excellent it could never have been improved on!) Which I have to say is not very fair to the artists in question.

But at the same time I do respect the feelings the OSR has.  After all if it were not for that passion 90% of the old-school/retro-clone games would have never been made and I would not have had the chance to even do this book.

So Old Schoolers, what do you say?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Why I still enjoy the OSR

I was going through a bunch of my OSR books the other day.  Played around with converting (again!) my Family D&D night over to some unholy version of D&D Rules Cyclopedia and Basic Fantasy Role-Playing, but dropped that idea for some good reasons (if my kids are going to play D&D in other places then I should start them out with the rules that are most popular in their school). I do really like the idea of picking up a "Basic" game sometime.  I figure using the D&DRC and starting everyone out at 5th or 6th level is close to the experience they would have with D&D 4th Ed.

Don't get me wrong. I am really enjoying D&D 4, and yes it is entirely possible to have an "old school experience" with this game.  It is less (to me) about the rules and more about what you do with them.  Yeah I know there are plenty of people out there that will tell how "wrong" that is or I am, but who cares? I am having fun.

I was also reading over my Original Edition D&D books this past weekend.  They are fun to have and one day I will play that version again.   The White Box edition of Swords & Wizardry is getting a lot of noise out in OSR land now and that is cool.  Spellcraft & Swordplay though is still my favorite OSR book and that is not just because I am friends with Jason, but because it really works for me.  I like the "garage band" feel of it.

I hope the OSR does not loose any steam anytime soon.  It has been very cool watching this grow and prosper over the last year or so.  The messages boards and blog posts are still going strong so that is a good sign.  The books also keep going out and that is the best sign of all.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Eldritch Witchery, Back to Basics

I am returning to work on Eldritch Witchery, my guide to witches and warlocks for the Spellcraft & Swordplay RPG. The idea is simple really; make a witch class for the game. But I want to do this class justice and not just do a retread of the material I have written for other games.

So I am going back to school.

I have been rereading old Dragon and White Dwarf magazines from the 70s to the early 80s to get a proper feel for the game as it was then. What were people talking about and doing in their games. I have also been going over my basic assumptions. Why is a witch needed if we already have Clerics and Wizards? What niche does a witch fill in a Sword and Sorcerery game? For this I am indebted to Jason Vey who has been giving me a crash course in all things Pulp related. Conan (whom I never really read and now understand I know next to nothing about), the works of Robert Howard and how they relate to Lovecraft. Plus I have been thinking a lot about my own influences for D&D. Clark Ashton Smith is a big one for me. I have been rereading all my old D&D books and notes. My first witch character was made in October of 1986, I wrote my first set of rules (20 pages) around her.

What has this done for me?

Well I have a pretty good idea what I want to do and how I want to do it and it is different than say my d20 version of the witch, or even the magic I wrote about in Ghosts of Albion. What does a witch do in the world of Spellcraft & Swordplay. Well the witch is more connected to the primal nature of magic. I hesitate to say “beyond good and evil” but maybe before good and evil. She is like nature. I also want to incorporate a lot of what is old folklore and fairy tales about witches. So these are defiantly more Baba Yaga than Sabrina.

What do Witches Do?

In any game you need to figure out where a character’s niche will be. What is it that the character will do, what can she do and what will she bring to the adventuring party. Where does she fit in this world organically. I also want keep in mind the classical or stereotypical powers of the witch; casting spells, making potions, the evil eye, curses, charms, turning people into animals, flying on brooms, consulting with familiar spirits. The witch then for me needs to provide that air of mystery in a world already full of magic and magical-using characters. She needs to have something special about her, I want the other characters in the group to say, “We need her, she is a witch!”

Hopefully players will say the same thing.

Next time, more on the occult powers of the witch class.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Spellcraft & Swordplay goodness

Yesterday was a good day for me and Spellcraft & Swordplay.

I got my Deluxe Edition in the mail from Lulu yesterday and I am really digging it. If you are interested in S&S at all, then this is the way to go; all of the rules and some of Monstrous Mayhem thrown in for good measure. The hardcover is very nice and compliments all my other Old-School Renaissance books well.

Of course if you are still not convinced then there is the Spellcraft & Swordplay Basic Set, which you can download for free or get a physical copy cheap. In all cases all you need is two 6-sided dice.

Of course the real issue now is getting a chance to play. My sons are still in the middle of a campaign in 3.x; my other regular group is still playing 4e (though we might be going for our 3rd reboot) and Family D&D night is 4e. So it most likely I might be able to get my regular group to try S&S, they also want to try LL and BFRPG too. Given the power curves, I might make some S&S characters and then some 4e versions of the same one. Spend some time in S&S and then <insert magical macguffin here> have them play 4e for a while. Maybe spend between 5-8 levels in S&S and then start them out as 3rd level in 4e? Weird mix I know. But there is appeal of this to me. Even if they are not very compatible with each other, part of me just wants to try it.

So many games; so little time really.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

FREE Spellcraft & Swordplay Deluxe E-book

Spellcraft & Swordplay Deluxe E-book

For the next few days (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday) Elf Lair Games will be offering their (our really) flagship game, Spellcraft & Swordplay completely free.

Everything you need to get started, minus dice, is right here.

Inspired by the earliest days of the Fantasy Role-playign Game, Spellcraft & Swordplay is a great mix of old-school roleplaying and cinematic action. Designed by Jason Vey whose previous credits have been with Paladium, Eden Studios (AFMBE, Buffy) and others.

Or just read his post about it here:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Spellcraft & Swordplay Pocket Editions

Semi-Review: Spellcraft & Swordplay Pocket Editions.

I recently purchased the “Pocket Editions” of the Spellcraft & Swordplay books from Elf Lair Games and Lulu and I wanted to share my geek joy with you all.

Spellcraft & Swordplay Core:
Monstrous Mayhem:

Disclaimer: Yes I do work for ELG and I am writing for S&S, but I am doing all of that because I was a fan. I will recuse myself about talking about the game system or mechanics (they are awesome by the way), but instead I do want to focus on the thing I had not seen until now; the actual printed books.

Briefly: Spellcraft & Swordplay is a new game inspired by the early history of the fantasy role-playing genre. Not really a retro-clone of Original D&D, it is more a divergent evolution that pays homage to that game and the feel of playing in the mid-to-late 1970s. Its advantage is that it is a complete FRPG in 140 pages (or so).

Ok enough of that. Let us talk about why I am writing this. The books themselves. I picked up the Pocket Editions from Lulu. The format for both books is 5.5” by 8.5”, or a standard (American standard I should say) sheet of printer paper. This puts them at the same size as the Original D&D books. They are perfect bound and if they are like other Lulu books I have purchased they should hold up rather well. I wouldn’t break the spines on these since that would ruin the overall appearance of the books. Speaking of which, the appearance is great.
The books, while obviously paying homage to OD&D also give nods to AD&D. Monstrous Mayhem sports a black cover with a gold-orange spine that is a reminder of the 2nd group of covers for the AD&D 1st Ed books. The art is very appropriate, though not as much as some games tend to use and it gives both books an overall style that just really “feels” old school. This is not a fancy new MP3 or DVD audio, this is that “Uriah Heep” or “Rush” album that has been sitting in your closet that you have not listened to in decades. Jason and Lulu have just provided you a new needle. The feel of this game is not “A thousand points of light” or whatever, but a grittier world, but a “warmer” one if you will. For those that might ask, this version contains no Elmore art.
The paper is nice bright white and the text even in these pocket editions is very easy to read.

While I have been doing some S&S playing and have the PDFs, these books will still be a welcome addition to my game library.