Showing posts with label Forgotten Realms. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Forgotten Realms. Show all posts

Thursday, May 25, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #123

Welcome back to This Old Dragon!  Today's issue, #123, is in such terrible shape with missing pages and mildew I am going to need to resort to the PDF more than once.  Let's go back to July 1987. I am working two jobs to make money for college and saving some time for my first "World Ending" campaign. A campaign that will see plot points and characters many, many years later in "The Dragon and the Phoenix" and "The Dragon Slayer's" games.  Let's get to it!

I grabbed this cover from the web, my copy does not have a cover anymore.  It is cool, but it doesn't rank in my favorite covers by any means. 
The first page I have is an ad for Gen Con 20 which is next month (August 20-23, 1987).  At this time Gen Con (they are using a space there) is in Milwaukee.

The special feature of this issue is "The Arcane Arts", so a lot on magic.  I do remember this section quite well.  I am sure I incorporated some of this into my 2nd Edition game, but I'll remember once I get back into it. 

On to the Letters. More calls for reprints of covers. A letter asking for more coverage of the D&D game, as opposed to the AD&D game.  The Rule Cyclopedia is still a couple of years away.  Another letter voices the first concerns about the Forgotten Realms taking over from Oerth and Krynn.  Sorry kid, but you haven't seen the worse of it yet! Thankfully things even out a few years later.

Ad for the Science Fiction Book Club. I had joined it by this point and I see many books I owned or would later own. A few I still own in fact!  Funny looking at them now through the haze of time and nostalgia I can't recall if they were all good books and I forgot OR were they great books and I can't remember OR were they bad books and my wistfulness for 1987 colors my memories. 


Ed Greenwood is up for the first article of the issue. Music of the Forgotten Realms. I am not sure how far off we are from the publication of the "Grey Box" campaign rules, but it can't be that far off.  I have been following the tone of these articles with interest since I have started to re-review this Dragons.  The tone of this one is the Realms are a thing now. Earlier articles the Realms seemed to be a long lost, dare I say it, forgotten place and time and the articles are Ed/Elminster's rememberings.  I know the actual verbs used in the articles do not support this claim but it is a feel. This one reads like something going on right now in this country you could visit right now. IF that is you choose to.

Ah, the main attraction. The Arcane Arts.

David Yates is up first with The Mystic College. Or in the modern parlance, Hogwarts for AD&D.  Drawing a lot on Dragonlance and not enough on Glantri this article covers how an AD&D Magic-user can create a school of wizardry.  There are some good ideas here too. Magic-users can start a school at 9th level.  Some rules are given on experience bonuses and some improved chances on learning new spells. The article itself is a long one, 10 pages of text, a covers a lot of ground. I read this article just when I was heading to college. Now I have spent nearly all my adult life in academics, reading this now has more excited that before. Though now I am interested in different details.  I have often felt that the "adventuring" wizard was one that not just sought out new or lost forms of magic, but needed to adventure to pay the high costs of wizard school!

Fire for Effect! is from Richard W. Emerich and details magical fires.  The Fred Saberhagen "Swords" books were very popular at this time, so I think I detect a note from those. At least in terms of what magical fire might be.  The various melting points of metals are also given. The article is kinda worth it just for these alone. 

Arcane Lore is a new column to feature new spells sent in by the readers.  First up is a bunch of spells from Avissar Fire-Eye, or known in this world as Harold Dolan.  I always like articles like these and spell names like this.  "Magic Missle" is fine as far as spell names go, but really it should be named after the mage that created or made it famous/infamous.  So "Bargle's Missle of Magic" is a better name.  We get some of that here.  Truthfully it is something I have gotten away from but really should go back to it.  There are some decent spells here too.  All are fire based.

Another new column is Lords & Legends which covers some NPCs for use in the any of the TSR worlds. Up first is Matt Iden with Yoshitsune, 13th level kensai/6th level monk, Benkei an 8th level shohei, and Hsu Hsun, an 23rd-level wu jen, 9th-level shukenja.  The "star" though is Miyamoto Musashi who is depicted as a 15th-level kensai.  I have no problem admitting that this is where I first heard of Musashi and A Book of Five Rings.  I picked up a copy from the SF/F Book Club and I still have it. 

Heather Gemmen is up next with Gamers Around the World: Putting the World Gamers Guide to use. Yes this is how we connected back then.  Well. One of the ways. In five years the usenet group rec.games.frp.dnd will form. 

The Ecology of the Giant Leech is next.  Sadly pages 51 and 52 are stuck to pages 53 and 54 so bad the reading them is difficult.  

Page 54 does have a an article about keeping time from Lisa Cabala called Time Flies. Helpful when you forget how long an AD&D turn, round and segment are.   Lots of nice time keeping charts.

Roger E.  Moore throws these careful charts out the window with his Just Making Time. In this he talks about making calendars for your own worlds.  Forgotten Realms took this to heart, and it is mentioned here. 

Moving past the part where the short story was, we come up to a Star Frontiers article. The Whole-Earth Ecology by Danny Kretzer discusses how to create the flora and fauna of a world.

The Marvel-Phile had other heralds of Galactus, but they are gone from this magazine. 

The Role of Books covers the then new books. Of note is a review for Mercedes Lackey's Arrow of the Queen. A book that will inspire a generation of gamers and some of those will go one to make Blue Rose.

Operation:Zondraker for Top Secret continues the "Moon for various RPGs" feature of Dragon/Ares.

Another ad. I know I spend a lot of time on these but they are much more of a time-capsule of what was happening in hobby even more so than reviews.  Case in point this one.


Obviously not the boxed set we all remember. It isn't even the ad I remember. The ad I recall was a semi-shadowed man (a game designer presumably) that looked nothing at all like Ed Greenwood, relaxing with his hands behind his head.  In truth, I can't even find that ad now.  Mandela Effect anyone?  I remember the ads being very pretentious.  This one does not seem that way. I do remember this picture and my thoughts were of Glorfindel riding to Rivendell with the Ringwraiths on his heels. I might have even asked people in my gaming group that the time if this was related to Tolkien.  Interesting really.

The Forgotten Realms feature prominently in the Previews section as well.  There are other reminders that for reasons best left undiscussed TSR was producing items for the Lazer Tag license.

We end with the comics.

The arcane stuff in this issue was great and worthy of a third look from me again.  The Realms material has got me thinking more and more about a Realms campaign.  We are after all hitting the 30 year publication anniversary. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

More Weekend Gaming in the Second Campaign

It was my youngest son's birthday last week so we spent the weekend having kids over and gaming.
I decided to run another session of my so-called "Second Campaign".
We had a variety of kids playing including some that have played before and some who never had played.  I stuck with Under Illefarn since there other adventures in the book that would work.

Also, I had 7 kids between the ages of 13-14 so I needed something to keep them all busy.
So I ran the "Rescue Mission" mini-adventure.  The conceit of having all the characters be part of the city guard is great and it worked out well for this group of mixed new and old characters. Plus we had three paladins, so that worked out well.


It took us three hours to play that adventure.

Overly caffeinated and sugar-dosed kids (birthday cake, ice cream) makes for some difficult times in focusing.  Plus I was tired, having worked on my son's computer all week and weekend to get it running (I failed, but that is a different tale for a different day).

I will give the kids credit, they caught up with the Baron that had kidnapped the Duke's sister and instead of fighting him made a VERY convincing plea to the Baron that why kidnapping is not a good way to profess your undying love to someone.  They managed to do such a good job that the Baron agreed to go back with them to the Duke and plead his case for the hand of Bronwyn (the Sister) to the Duke himself.  By the end of the adventure, they Baron and Duke were already discussing wedding plans in front of an aghast Bronwyn.  I know, not very forward thinking of me, but it was a time when people were married off for political alliances all the time.

Of course on the way they managed to fight some ghouls and rescue a band of pixies.  One of the pixies is now part of the city guard.   We had about an hour left so my oldest joined us and I had them take out a nest of ghouls.  The nest of ghouls was added by me, it was something that I have used in the past to great effect.

I have decided that I am going to spend more time on the personalities populating the Realms than my usual games.  I am still fairly sure that many of the "Big Names" won't be making an appearance, but it would be a shame if I didn't at least name-drop them.

One thing I am thinking of doing is have Demogorgon make an appearance or be a "thing" in this game.  Orcus has what, 30,000 adventures out there, Lolth has at least as many. But no one ever does anything with the Prince of Demons.

It will be this campaign that I introduce the multi-verse to the players and characters.

One character, in fact, is coming over from our Come Endless Darkness game.  Cynder is the daughter of one of the wizards of my 3rd Edition game. She made a brief appearance in the Come Endless Darkness game during one of the flashback adventures. The other characters had forgotten about her but when the flashback was done they remembered and began to wonder what happened to her.

She is going to wake up in the Realms and it will soon be discovered that she can wield Spellfire.  Why not. It is an homage to first ever Realms novel I ever read and I love that cover art from Clyde Caldwell.  How she got there is not as important as to why she got there.  Spellfire could have changed the tide of the war brewing in Come Endless Darkness.



This is going to be a great time.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Silverfall, Stories of the Seven Sisters

Syluné: Hail Witch-Queen of Aglarond!
The Simbul: Hail yourself Witch of Shadowdale. 
...
Syluné: Others of (our) sisters have vigor, and low contacts across Faerûn, and a love for danger. I have something rarer: patience.
The Simbul: While I have a hunger to kill Red Wizards.

I picked up this book based on recommendations by others.  I asked if there were any books that dealt with the Seven Sisters and The Simbul in particular.  This book was mentioned, but with a caveat that many people didn't like it.
I went into the book with an open mind.  I think I had it better than many becuase I have not really read a lot of Forgotten Realms books yet so I really had nothing to compare it too.  I really enjoyed the idea of the basic structure; seven short stories featuring each sister in an over-arching plot.   It is certainly a good idea, but how was it executed? Well...I'll get to that in a bit.

First up though, who are the Seven Sisters?  Well to people like me who are new to the Realms even I have heard of these women.  They are sisters (in the biological and mystical senses of the word) and daughters of the Goddess of Magic Mystra.  They had a human father and mother as well, but they are Mystra's.  "Chosen" in the book (though there are other Chosen).  They all share some basic traits, they are immortal, immune to some magics, unearthly beautiful (natch) and all have long silver hair.
They are (in order of their stories in the book):

Dove Falconhand, a renowned Knight of Myth Drannor.
Qilué Veladorn, a drow (her parent were human) and high priestess of he good drow goddess Eilistraee.
Laeral Silverhand, the Lady Mage of Waterdeep.
Alustriel, Lady of Silverymoon.
Syluné, Witch of Shadowdale and a ghost.
The Simbul, the Witch-Queen of Aglarond and maybe the most powerful.
Storm Silverhand, Harper, sorceress and Bard of Shadowdale.

One thing is obvious from the start. Greenwood loves these characters. They are very well defined in his mind and each has a unique voice. He makes you want to love them as well.  Sadly that makes some of the issues with the book more pronounced.
The overall story is an interesting one. There is a conspiracy of drow masquerading as humans, slavers, the involvement of various sell-swords, Red Wizards and Priestesses of Shar.  How are all of these various factions related? Why are they working together? What is their aim?
Each story follows a formula. The Sisters discovers the activity of some group with nefarious ends. The Sister goes in magics a-blazin' (more or less) and takes out all the mooks, some other big-badder guy comes in and beats the sister to a bloody pulp (sometimes magically, sometimes physically), she has to tag in the next sister.  Again there is nothing wrong with a formula, and if it is done well it can be a satisfying build up to a conclusion.
Sadly that is not what we get really.  The conclusion never lives up to the build up.  The troubles the sisters have never really justify the eventual revealed plot.

I had some other issues as well.  Each sister has some reason to take off her clothes and move around naked.  Even the ghost.  Granted for some, like Qilué, this is needed.  She is a High Priestess of Eilistraee so it is part of her religion.  Also there is an awful lot of the sisters kissing others "passionately" even people they just met or people they by no logical means should be kissing.  I guess this is all "fan service" really.
There is a bigger issue though.  The Sisters go in to each conflict over-confident and underestimating their enemy.  I get they are super-powerful and there needs be conflict worthy of their skills.  But sometimes they make really dumb choices to get to that point.  Not ones that powerful, intelligent, immortal magic wielding women should make.   Compare their actions to those of another powerful witch Rachel Morgan.  Rachel makes mistakes, but Rachel is in her mid-20s for most of her series and still learning.  The mistakes she make makes in her first books would not be repeated in later books.
They need to act a little more intelligent and a little less "Chaotic Bimbo".

To be fair, everyone told me this was a problem with this book.  I did enjoy it.
I was just hoping for more.


2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 8
Level: Maiden
Witches in this book: Certainly The Simbul and Syluné. Maybe even Qilué.  Myra the Dark is described as a cleric, but is very much a witch of Shar.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: Mostly good, Myra is obviously evil.
Best RPG to Emulate it: Again, any edition of D&D would work, but this one is 3rd Edition. It does allow for better multiclassing. Most of the material though is based on the 2nd Edition versions I think.
Use in WotWQ: Hell yes! Like with Spellfire, this book is filled with ideas. I will certainly use these characters in my games. Now that I am playing in the Realms maybe the "Witch Queen" that is killed to start the War of the Witch Queens is The Simbul? I would hate to do that, but it would be a seismic shift in the game.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Second Campaign has Begun: Enter the Forgotten Realms

Another huge weekend of gaming this past weekend.  My son ran a game Saturday night with his group and on Sunday we started our new Forgotten Realms game.

We were having some old friends over on Sunday, people my wife went to high school with.  These are the people that traded high-tech jobs here in the suburbs to go out to the country and start a sustainable farm.  Not my life, I love my city-born conveniences too much, but they have turned it into something really cool.  Anyway, two of their three kids were coming over plus a friend and playing video games all day was not going to keep their attention.  All the kids expressed an interest in playing so I had about 12 hours to figure out what to do.

Of course the answer was right in front of me.  I pulled out my adventures for the Second Campaign and looked over some of the material I have been reading about the Forgotten Realms.  I had been thinking for a bit now that the best way to learn about the Realms is to jump in feet first. Sure I can read books, but what I really need to play in it using the books people used then.   After that everything clicked into place.  I was going to start the Second Campaign in the Forgotten Realms!  I know a lot of the adventures in my Second Campaign are very Greyhawk focused, but that is not a big deal really.  Not like I have not swapped out worlds before.  

A quick run to DriveThruRPG for a copy of N5 Under Illefarn and then print it out and I had my ready to go adventure.  I liked the module because A.) it had a bunch of mini-adventures for 1st level characters. B.) It gave them a base of operations in Daggerford. and C.) it was the first published Forgotten Realms labeled adventure so many people got their start right here.


Originally the Second Campaign was going to stick with AD&D1 rules, but since I had three new players I wanted to run something that might know and can easily pick up if they want to play themselves.   So after some debate with my oldest we settled on 5th Edition D&D.


I am going to run it though like an AD&D game. So no tieflings or dragonborn. More gnomes though, never have enough of those.

We ran through the "lizard man" portion of the adventure and it went over great. I have created a new gamers.

The charters will be a revolving cast by necessity; I need to make it flexible for people to be able to come in and out of the game whenever. Or if my kids have friends over and they want me to run something.  Starting in Daggerford gives me a nice locale and is still small enough scale that I don't need to worry about the world at large just yet.


I am going to follow the same basic plot/outline of the Second Campaign and add Realms lore in as it comes up.  Not sure yet how many of the famous characters of the Realms will show up, but that is a decision for a later day.

There are some things I need figure out.
1. What year, by Dale Reckoning, is it?  I started with Under Illefarn which is the beginning of the Realms in 1st Ed AD&D.  I am also using the Sword Coast book above for 5th Ed.  If I remember right there are a few hundred years between the two.  Now this may or may not matter.  But I at least want to get my NPC stories straight.

2. I need some good Spellfire 5th edition stats.  Cynder, who was lost in the Come Endless Darkness game, will show up here.  She is, more so than anyone, a perfect candidate for Spellfire.

3. Is this a different world in the same universe (evidence of that), a different universe OR even jsut the same world in the same universe, just another part of it.  The fact that it is 5th edition leads me to want to make it the same universe at least.

None of these questions need to be figure out today.  But I am going to want a direction to run here soon. That is where my reading will take me.

Here I am. In the Realms.  Just 30 years later than everyone else.
I gotta say, I really enjoying it so far.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Spellfire

"If it's Lady Spellfire they want then it is Lady Spellfire they shall have!" - Shandril Shessair

Shandril is just small town girl, living in a lonely world...a wait. Well, she is lonely and living in a small town. She is an orphan girl working for ex-adventurer Gorstag in his inn.  She dreams of going on an adventure of her own.  So seeing a potential group who are short a thief, she steals their weapons and lets them know that if they want them back they need to take her on.
Soon she is swept up in the glory of adventure...which mean eating bad food being cold and afraid most of the time.
But Shan is special, and she finds herself in the ruins of Myth Dranor, pursued by an evil sorceress and devils. Rescued by the infamous Knights of Myth Dranor and none other than Elminster himself.  It seems Shandril has a power she is only now learning about. She is a spellfire wielder. She can absorb magic and turn it into blasts of flame so hot that with out training she destroys first one, then two and finally three draco-liches (great undead dragons of terrible power).  Keeping mind that most people never even meet one, let alone survive it!
Now she is being chased by the Cult of the Dragon, another group of evil Mages and who knows all else and they all want her secret. or her dead.

This is the first Forgotten Realms novel I have ever read.  There is a vast library of knowledge in and around the Realms and I have been pretty much blind to it for various reasons.  I picked this book a local library book sale.  I was always a fan of the Clyde Caldwell cover art and even have it hanging in my game room.
The book is enjoyable. It is clearly gamer fiction, but it has it's moments.  The author has a lot of affection for these characters, that is obvious, and you can tell there is much more goign on in his head than what is down on paper.  My issues as a newbie here was there were too many characters to keep track of.  Shandril and Narm are likable enough and Gorstag was the most relatable to me.
It did however, make me want to read some more Realms books.  Rather looking forward to it.

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 7
Level: Maiden
Witches in this book: Certainly The Simbul, The Shadowsil and maybe, just maybe, Shandril too.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: All the above
Best RPG to Emulate it: This book screams 2nd edition AD&D even if was published at the end of 1st edition AD&D.  Either would work out well.
Use in WotWQ: Hell yes! I have started on a quest of my own to read about the Seven Sisters (which The Simbul is part of) and use them in my games.


The Witches of the Realms

Let's have look at Symgharyl Maruel also known as the Shadowsil.  She certainly "feels" like a witch. An evil witch to be sure, but recognizable.

According to the Forgotten Realms Villian's Lorebook, The Shadowsil is:

The Shadowsil (Symgharyl Maruel)
human female 18th-level mage
AC 6; MV 12; hp 36; THAC0 15; #AT 1; Dmg by spell; MR Nil; SZ M; ML 18; AL NE; XP 12,000.
S 9, D 16, C 14, I 18, W 15, Ch 15.
Spells: 5/5/5/5/5/3/3/2/1.

Special Equipment: Ring of dragons, ring of protection +2, rope of entanglement, wand of fire.
Description: Tall, slim, and cruel, The Shadowsil was likely a Cult enforcer or high-level operative of some kind. She wore purple robes and was a former apprentice and paramour of Elminster before she turned to cruelty and evil. She died in his arms, proclaiming her love for him and her regret over their lost love.

If I were to turn her into a witch I'd use my Basic Witch rules with the Advanced options and make her 18th level. She would loose a 9th level spell, but gain powers.

This is also a good time to try out a Draconic Tradition.  My son and I have talked about Dragon Witches before, what they might be and how they work.  There are also the Dragon Witches from the Tarot comic and some others.

Symgharyl Maruel, The Shadowsil
18th level Witch (Draconic Tradition)
Female, Chaotic

Strength 9
Intelligence 15
Wisdom 15
Dexterity 16
Constitution 14
Charisma 18

Saving Throws
Death Ray/Poison 7
Magic Wands 8
Paralysis, Polymorph 7
Dragon Breath 10
Rods, Staffs, Spells 9

Hit Points: 63
AC: 1
(leather armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Dex 16 -2)

THAC0: 14
(I know, THAC0 was not used in Basic D&D. You know what this means)

Occult Powers*  (have not worked these all out yet)
Familiar: pseudo dragon
Lesser: Access Draconic Bloodline (allows the witch to cast MU spells as Ritual Spells)
Minor: Draconic resistence (avoid fear effects and add Cha bonus to saves)

Spells
Cantrips (6): Alarm Ward, Chill, Daze, Ghost Sound, Inflict Minor Wounds, Spark
1st (6+2): Black Fire, Cause Fear, Charm Person, Endure Elements, Ghostly Slashing, Glamour, Light/Darkness, Minor Fighting Prowess
2nd (5+2): Discord, Enthrall, Ghost Touch, Hold Person, Invisibility, Phantasmal Spirit, Spell Missile
3rd (5+2):  Bestow Curse, Dispel Magic, Feral Spirit, Lifeblood, Toad Mind, Witch Wail, Fireball (bloodline spell)
4th (4+1): Analyze Magic, Elemental Armor (Fire), Intangible Cloak of Shadows, Phantom Lacerations, Withering Touch
5th (3): Blade Dance, Dreadful Bloodletting, Waves of Fatigue
6th (3): Death Blade, Mass Agony, True Seeing
7th (3): Death Aura, Greater Arcane Eye, Wave of Mutilation
8th (2): Destroy Life, Mystic Barrier,


Thursday, February 23, 2017

How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Enjoy the Forgotten Realms

This is an update of sorts to a post I made all the way back in 2012, which itself was an update to a post I made in 2010.

Since then my 4e game died and I moved on to 5e and sticking with more of a Greyhawk-based world.  During all this time I have also been picking up Forgotten Realms books from various places; half-price books, the local library sale for novels, and of course +Games Plus auctions.  I have built up a small, but I think nice collection.


I have always been a Greyhawk fan. Some of my very first games were looking for ancient Suel mysteries or exploring the dirty streets of the Free City of Greyhawk.   While I ran my adventures in the Known World of Mystara, I played in Oerth and Greyhawk.

For years I even combined the two into one world, and that worked out pretty well.

I remember reading about the Realms in Dragon Mag and I was never impressed.  The increased fetishization of the Drow and Drizzt worship turned me off as well. I can't tell you how much I despised "Lloth", it's LOLTH goddamn it. Any way. I was never a fan of the Realms.  I considered it to be a pretender to Greyhawk and not a very worthy one at that.  To me, Realms fans were snotty little kids with delusions of adequacy.

My opinions have softened since then. I picked up the 3.0 Realms Guide when it came out and I liked it.  I felt it was a good book and all it really was missing was monsters.   I enjoyed the 4th edition books and thought for a while that the Realms would be my 4e world.

I bought the recent Sword Coast Adventure's Guide for 5e. I rather like it.


I have also been reading some of the Forgotten Realms novels.  They are not great literature by any stretch, but they are fun bits of gamer fiction and they give me some insight to the world.



So what's my plan then?  I don't think I am going to run any games yet in the Forgotten Realms.  I don't know the world well enough to do that.  So there are no plans to move my "Second Campaign" or "War of the Witch Queens" over to the Realms.  I am planning to move some ideas and characters certainly from the Realms to my War of the Witch Queens games.

There is a thought lurking in the back of my head about taking the Sword Coast and trying to find some place for it in my current Mystoerth world.  THAT has appeal to me.  I know that the World of the Forgotten Realms is different, with it's own history, but I would not be taking all of it. I would not need too. Just the bits that fit.

Anyone else merge the Realms with other worlds? How did that work out?

Also, there is something I have wanted to explore more; the Mystra and Mystara connection.  "Mystara" is the name of the game world I have been using since Basic.  "Mystra" is the name of the Goddess of Magic in the Forgotten Realms world.  Is there a connection? Should there be one? I don't know.  Maybe this is something the characters could discover and me along with them!

Chances are good I am going to go through these books I have and post about them here.  I'll go in publication order.  If I run into something from "This Old Dragon" I'll add those as well. I know already there is an adventure called "Into the Forgotten Realms" that I will check out.

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