Showing posts with label WotWQ. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WotWQ. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Witch Week Review: The Great American Witch

Let's start off the week with a game that is brand new.  How new? It was only two months ago that I was interviewing the author and designer, Christopher Grey, for the Kickstarter.

Last week or so I go my physical copy in the mail and codes for my DriveThruRPG downloads.  That was fast.  So such a speedy response deserves a review. 

The Great American Witch
by Christopher Grey

For this review, I am considering the hardcover, letter-sized book, and the PDF.  On DriveThruRPG you get two different layouts of the core book (1 and 2 page spreads), and several ancillary files for the covens and the crafts.  I was a Kickstart backer and got my products via that. Both the hardcover and the pdfs are available at DriveThruRPG.

The Great American Witch is 162 pages, all full color, with full color covers.  The art is by Minerva Fox and Tithi Luadthong. There are also some photos that I recognize from various stock art services, some I have even used myself.  This is not a criticism of the book; the art, all the art, is used effectively and sets the tone and mood of the book well.

The rule system is a Based on the Apocalypse World Engine variant.  Over the last couple of years I have had mixed, to mostly negative feelings about the Apocalypse World Engine.  Nothing to do with the system itself, but mainly due to how many designers have been using it.  I am happy to report that the version being used in TGAW is a stripped-down version that works better for me.

It is also published by Gallant Knight Games, who has a solid reputation.  So out of the gate and barely cracking open the book it has a lot of things going for it.

The Great American Witch is a cooperative, story-telling game of witches fighting against perceived injustices in the world.  I say "perceived" because of what injustices the witches fight against is going to largely depend on the witches (and the players) themselves. The framework of the game is built on Grey's earlier work, The Great American Novel.  TGAW is expanded from the earlier game.

Like many modern games, TGAW has a Session 0, for everyone to come together and talk about what the game should be about, what the social interaction rules are, and what the characters are.  The older I get the more of a fan of Session 0 I become. As a Game Master, I want to make sure everyone is invested in the game, I want to be sure everyone is going to have a good time. So yes. Session 0 all the way.  The first few pages detail what should be part of your Session 0.  It's actually pretty good material that can be adapted to other games. 

The game also wears its politics on its sleeve. Frankly, I rather like this. It helps that I also happen to agree with the author and game here. But besides that, there is something else here.  This game takes the idea, or even the realities and the mythologies of the witch persecutions and "Burning Times" and revisions them into the modern age.  It is not a bridge to far to see how the forces of the Patriarchy and anti-women legislation, politics, and religion of the 16th to 17th centuries can be recreated in the 21st century. After all, isn't "The Handmaids Tale" one of the most popular and awarded television programs right now? There is obviously something to this.


The main narrative of the game comes from the players themselves.  The Guide (GM) plays a lesser role here than in other games; often as one running the various injustices, NPCs, or other factions the players/characters/witches will run up against.  The system actually makes it easy for all players to have a character and rotate the guide duties as needed.

True to its roots games are broken down into"Stories" and  "Chapters" and who has the narrative control will depend on the type of chapter.  A "Story" is a game start to finish. Be that a one-shot or several different chapters over a long period of time.  A "Montage" chapter is controlled by the players. A "Menace" chapter is controlled by the Guide. A "Mundane" chapter is usually controlled by the player and the details of that chapter are for that character alone.  "Meeting" chapters involve the characters all together and are controlled by them. "Mission" chapters are the main plot focus that move the story forward. "Milestones" are what they sound like. This is where the witch would "level up."

The game uses three d6s for the rare dice resolution. Most times players use a 2d6 and try to roll a 7 or better. "Weal" and "Woe" conditions can augment this roll. The author makes it clear that you should roll only when the outcome is in doubt.  There are a lot of factors that can modify the rolls and the conflicts faced.  It is assumed that most conflicts will NOT be dealt with with a simple roll of 7 or better. The author has made it clear in the book and elsewhere that more times than average a conflict is not just going to go away like defeating a monster in D&D.  Conflicts are akin to running uphill, that can be accomplished, but they will take work and they will not be the only ones.

Once gameplay is covered we move into creating the player character witches. The book gives the player questions that should be answered or at least considered when creating a witch character. Character creation is a group effort, so the first thing you create is your group's Coven.  This also helps in determining the type of game this will be as different covens have different agendas.  There are nine different types of Covens; the Divine, Hearth, Inverted, Oracle, the Storm, Sleepers, the Town, the Veil, and Whispers. Each coven has different specialties and aspects. Also, each Coven has a worksheet to develop its own unique features, so one Coven of the Storm is not exactly the same as another Coven of the Storm from another city or even part of the city.  These are not the Traditions of Mage, the Covenants of the WitchCraftRPG, or even the Traditions of my witch books.  These are all very local and should be unique to themselves.  Once the coven is chosen then other details can be added. This includes things like how much resources does the coven have? Where does it get its money from? Legal status and so on. 


If Covens cover the group of witches, then each witch within the coven has their own Craft.  These are built of of archetypes of the Great Goddess.  They are Aje, the Hag (Calilleach), Hekate, Lilith, Mary (or Isis), Spider Grandmother, and Tara.  These are the Seven Crafts and they are the "sanctioned" and most widespread crafts, but there are others.  Each Craft, as you can imagine, gives certain bonuses and penalties to various aspects of the witch and her magic. Aje for example is not a good one if you want a high value in Mercy, but great if you want a high number in Severity and mixed on Wisdom.   All crafts are also subdivided into Maiden, Mother, and Crone aspects of the witch's life.   

Character creation is rather robust and by the end, you have a really good idea who your witch is and what they want.

The Game Master's, or Guide's, section covers how to run the game. Among other details, there is a section on threats. While there are a lot of potential threats the ones covered in the book are things like demons, vampires, other witches, the fey, the Illuminati, ghosts and other dead spirits, old gods and good old-fashioned mundane humans. 

The end of the book covers the worksheets for the various Covens and Crafts.  You use the appropriate Craft Sheets for a character.

The PDF version of the book makes printing these out very easy.  It would be good for every player to have the same Coven sheet, or a photocopy of the completed one, and then a Craft sheet for their witch.

While the game could be played with as little two players, a larger group is better, especially if means a variety of crafts can be represented.  Here the crafts can strengthen the coven, but also provide some inter-party conflict. Not in-fighting exactly, but differences on how to complete a Mission or deal with a threat.  After all, no one wants to watch a movie where the Avengers all agree on a course of action from the start and the plans go as though up and there are no complications.  That's not drama, that is a normal day at work.  These witches get together to change the world or their corner of it, but sometimes, oftentimes, the plans go sideways.  This game supports that type of play.

The Great American Witch works or fails based on the efforts of the players.  While the role of the GM/Guide may be reduced, the role and responsibilities of the players are increased.  It is also helpful to have players that are invested into their characters and have a bit of background knowledge on what they want their witch to be like.  To this end the questions at the start of the book are helpful.

That right group is the key. With it this is a fantastic game and one that would provide an endless amount of stories to tell.  I am very pleased I back this one.

Plays Well With Others, War of the Witch Queens and my Traveller Envy

I just can't leave well enough alone.  I have to take a perfectly good game and then figure out things to do with it above and beyond and outside of it's intended purposes.  SO from here on out any "shortcomings", I find are NOT of this game, but rather my obsessive desire to pound a square peg into a round hole.


Part 1: Plays Well With Others

The Great American Witch provides a fantastic framework to be not just a Session 0 to many of the games I already play, but also a means of providing more characterization to my characters of those games.

Whether my "base" game is WitchCraftRPG or Witch: Fated Souls, The Great American Witch could provide me with far more detail.  In particular, the character creation questions from The Great American Witch and Witch: Fated Souls could be combined for a more robust description of the character. 

Taking the example from WitchCraft, my character could be a Gifted Wicce.  Even in the WitchCraft rules there is a TON of variety implicit and implied in the Wicce.  Adding on a "layer" of TGAW gives my Wicce a lot more variety and helps focus their purpose.  While reading TGAW I thought about my last big WitchCraft game "Vacation in Vancouver."  Members of the supernatural community were going missing, the Cast had to go find out why.  The game was heavy on adult themes (there was an underground sex trafficking ring that catered to the supernatural community) and required a LOT of participation and cooperation to by the player to make it work. It was intense. At one point my witch character was slapped in an S&M parlor and I swear I felt it! But this is also the same sort of game that could be played with TGAW. Granted, today I WAY tone down the adult elements, but that was the game everyone then agreed to play.  The same rules in TGAW that allow for "safe play" also allow for this.  The only difference is that those rules are spelled out ahead of time in TGAW. 

Jumping back and forth between the systems, with the same characters and players, and a lot of agreement on what constitutes advancement across the systems would be a great experience.  

I could see a situation where I could even add in some ideas from Basic Witches from Drowning Moon Studios.  

Part 2: Traveller Envy

This plays well into my Traveller Envy, though this time these are all RPGs.  Expanding on the ideas above I could take a character, let's say for argument sake my iconic witch Larina, and see how she manifests in each game.  Each game giving me something different and a part of the whole.

Larina "Nix" Nichols
CJ Carrella's WitchCraft RPG:
Gifted Wicce
Mage: The Ascension: Verbena
Mage: The Awakening: Path Acanthus, Order Mysterium
Witch: Fated Souls: Heks
NIGHT SHIFT: Witch
The Great American Witch: The Craft of Lilith OR The Craft of Isis.*

There is no "one to one" correspondence, nor would I wish there to be. In fact, some aspects of one Path/Order/Tradition/Fate/Craft will contradict another.  "The Craft of Lilith" in GAW is a good analog to WitchCraft's "Twilight Order" and the "Lich" in Witchcraft: Fated Souls.  But for my view of my character, this is how to best describe her. 

* Here I am already trying to break the system by coming up with a "Craft of Astarte" which would be the intersection of Lilith and Isis.  Don't try this one at home kids, I am what you call a professional.  

Part 3: War of the Witch Queens

Every 13 years the witch queens gather at the Tredecim to discuss what will be done over the next thirteen years for all witches. Here they elect a new Witch High Queen.

One of the building blocks of my War of the Witch Queens is to take in as much detail as I can from all the games I can.  This is going to be a magnum opus, a multiverse spanning campaign.

What then can the Great American Witch do for me here?  That is easy.  Using the coven creation rules I am planning to create the "coven" of the five main witch queen NPCs.  While the coven creation rules are player-focused, these will be hidden from the players since the witches are all NPCs.  They are based on existing characters, so I do have some external insight into what is going on with each one, but the choices will be mine alone really. 

Looking at these witches and the covens in TGAW they fit the Coven of the Hearth the best.

Coven of the Hearth, also known as the Witches' Tea Circle (tea is very important to witches).  
Five members, representing the most powerful witches in each of the worlds the Witch Queens operate in.
Oath: To work within witchcraft to provide widespread (multiverse!) protection for witches
Holy Day: Autumnal Equinox. Day of Atonement: Sumer Solstice. Which was their day of formal formation as well.
Hearth: A secured build in an Urban setting.
Sanctuary: Lots of great stuff here, and all of it fits well.
Connections & Resources: Organization charged with finding those in need.

Going to the Coven Worksheet:

Resources: Wealthy coven (they are Queens)
Makes money? A shop.  Let's say that the "Home, Heart & Hearth" stores from my own Pumpkin Spice Witch book are the means to keep this operation funded.
Distribution: Distributed based on need.
Status: Mainstream.  They ARE the mainstream.
Importance? Witches need to come together.
Mundanes? Mundanes are important. but not for the reasons listed. Mundanes are the greatest threat.
Influence: Extraordinary.
Members: Five or six local, but millions in the multiverse.
Authority: Through legacy and reputation

Wow. That worked great, to be honest.

Here's hoping for something really big to come from this.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: Blood Orgy of the Queens of Evil (1972)

One Occult/Hippie/Witchcraft movie leads to another and another and another.  This time though we might have some fruit.  

Queens of Evil (1972)

A lone biker/wanderer David (again) stops to help an older man with a flat tire.  For his effort, the older man punctures David's motorcycle tire with a nail.  David gets his bike fixed and tries to chase down the old man.  The old man panics and crashes his car into a tree and dies.  David, wanting no part of this speeds away.

He comes up to a shack and since it has been dark this whole time he decides to spend the night.  When he wakes up a young woman, Liv, who tells him he needs to leave now before her family sees him.  David is expecting parents but instead is found by her two sisters Samantha and Bibiana.  They invite him to stay for breakfast and ends up staying for much longer.  The three women live in the BEST witch house I have seen in a while and really is making me rethink what needs to go into a witches' house. The wall-size pictures of each of the three women are going to go into something to be sure.

Everything is very psychedelic.  The first hour of so is slow, but the last 20 minutes really kicks in and gets really going.  David begins to see what sort of trouble he is in. Not before he has sex with Liv at any rate; which actually might have been the final thing that does him in really. 

The women kill him and bury him in the yard. All the guests from the party are there, already in black. The rich older man from the first scene is also there. Turns out he is the Devil! Pretty cool ending really. The witches mention that to corupt him was very difficult and that the Devil will no longer be needed.  All the guests at party are "conjurers" and are designed to keep sin alive and well.

Pretty cool.

Blood Orgy of the She Devils (1972)

This one starts off with some trippy special effects and a witch ritual that at least reads right. It's the early 70s so we are also are going to get some scantily clad dancing girls and a vaguely Satanic looking sacrifice.    I been wanting to see this one since the witch (Witch Queen maybe) Mara. 

At one point Mara channels her "Indian guide" with some of the most painful dialogue I have heard outside a racist cartoon. It is quite painful really.  So our witch Mara kills a UN Ambassador and the ones that paid her try to kill her, but I guess she can't be killed. 

This movie though is so 70s it treats magic as a foregone conclusion; it exists but not everyone has mastered it yet. 

There is a lot of neat sympathetic magic here, but not really a lot of blood nor orgies though really.

The movie ends with a group of "good guys" killing all the women. 

Watched: 38
New: 26

NIGHT SHIFT and Old-School Content
A few random ideas.
  • Witches need to have really cool, or at least really unique, homes.  
  • I need to expand some psychic powers for witches.
  • I should develop some rules for reincarnation for witch characters.
  • More wizard vs. witch battles.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: Vampire Ecstasy (1973-4)

Ok. So I have been working my way through the world of European horror and focusing on the era right before The Exorcist, in particular, 1969 to 1973 with 1972 as my sweet spot.  Any search in this time period for "Occult", "Vampire", "Witch", or "Coven" is going to pull up some questionable material.  It is also going to pull up the same few titles over and over.  This one classifies as "all the above."

I have seen this one before. But the copy I saw then was so edited and cut that it didn't make any sense.  I am half-tempted to consider this a "New" showing.

Vampire Ecstasy (1973-4)

I started my research on this one back in September. It is called, in various versions, languages and edits: Vampire Ecstasy, Der Fluch der Schwarzen Schwestern (the curse of the black sisters), the Devil's Playthings,  the Veil of Blood, Le château des messes noires, Schloss der schwarzen Hexen (Castle of the Black Witches), Sexorgien der schwarzen Hexen (Sex orgy of the Black Witches) and more. It was written and directed by Joseph W. Sarno, who was somewhat notorious back then. 

The movie comes in a wide variety of edits and run times. The edits range from a PG-13/R version to NC-17 (or would be NC-17 these days) to a soft X. The version on most Internet channels (like Tubi) seem to be the NC-17 version.  The BluRay is impossible to find, but I did pick it up on DVD with another Sarno movie.  It was worth it just for the audio commentary. 

It was a joint German-Swedish production with most of the actresses coming from Germany. Notable though was Marie Forså, who was Swedish. All the actors and actresses had to be able to speak English though. There also seems to be a bit of controversy about when it was filmed.  Many dates say 1974, others say 1973.  The issue might be due to the fact that new star Marie Forså was either 17 or 18 at the time of filming. Some commentary I have read even puts her as young as 16.  True the age of consent in Germany is 14 and 15 in Sweden. But still, it seems a bit, squicky.  But I digress.

The plot of this one is razor-thin.  A 17th century Countess, Danielle Vaga, was burned at the stake accused of vampirism and witchcraft. She was sort of a Countess Bathory rip-off/homage.  Her spirit lives on in her followers who still reside in her castle. The offspring of the Countess shows up at the castle, dark-haired Monica (Ulrike Butz) and blonde Helga (Marie Forså). With Monica is their cousin Iris played by Flavia Keyt and these two are obviously having sex, but it is not the only incest happening here.

Also arriving later are Dr. Julia Malenkow (Anke Syring) and her brother Peter (Nico Wolf). They are the descendants of the witch hunter that killed Countess Vaga.  Dr. Malenkow is an expert on local superstitions (so she is Julia Malenkow, Ph.D. thank you very much) and she wants fuck her brother.

Nadia Henkowa plays Wanda, the leader of the cult. She brought an air of authenticity to the role with her severe look and actually a rather great accent.  she has invited Monica and Helga to the reading of their grandmother's will.  If they can stay in the castle they get it and all the wealth.  But of course the "Black Sisters" are going to use their magic to tempt them into acts of lust.  Not just for the fun of it though, they need a living host for the soul of Countess Vaga. 

So we get an hour or so of people having sex with each other. And according to the DVD commentary that was also happening behind the scenes as well.  At one point the producer tells us they could find Forså because she was always in someone else's room.  It was the 70s. 

Eventually, the spirit of Vaga takes over the body of Monica and Helga is turned into a mindless sex toy. Vaga tries to get Julia to become the willing sacrifice on the stake, or she will make Helga do it instead.  Julia agrees, but stakes Vaga/Monica instead.  Everyone comes out of their trances now that the Vampire Countess is truly dead.

So. It would be easy to dismiss this as just another in a long, long line of European sexploitation movies with a vampire fetish.  But damn if Sarno doesn't actually have an eye for talent (the actresses, especially Forså can actually act) and he has a good eye for cinematography.  The castle they use in Bavaria is an authentic 17th-century one and they paid rent to the Baron to use it. The dungeon scenes were shot in the actual dungeon.  

The filming was also a bit tragic. Anke Syring had to leave the set for a bit because her mother and father had been killed. The producer was driving back on the last day of shooting and was in a terrible accident, but he survived.  One of the coven sisters played by Claudia Fielers would later commit suicide. 

The movie has very little blood and no gore in it.  There is a solid 70s occult vibe to it.

I think Sarno had ideas and vision, I don't know if he didn't know how to pull them off, or was happy with what he was doing.  I know, thanks to the DVD commentary, that the Producer, Chris D. Nebe was pleased. 


Watched: 36
New: 24



NIGHT SHIFT and Old-School Content
It might have been stated before, but really powerful vampires can come back from the death beyond undeath. While guys like Dracula seem to come back in their own bodies, female vampires seem to need a willing, or semi-willing, host.  Not sure why they should be, but it is also something we see in the "Daughters of Darkness" and Hammer's Karnstein Trilogy. 

What I am going to do then is this.  After I run my War of the Witch Queens campaign I will run a Night Shift game. During the War, the players are likely to meet up with Darlessa the Vampire Queen, and hopefully, defeat her.   Later I will run a Night Shift game where her direct descendant will be cursed with the spirit of Darlessa.  Hopefully, it would be the same players.   

The trick here is how to stat her. In the War of the Witch Queens she is a 13th level witch. But here she should be weaker (a nod, no matter how silly, to the movies).  I am thinking of making the NPC human a vampire spawn under control of the spirit of Darlessa; she is also Darlessa.  Confused? Well it's basically a Scooby-Doo plot. 

If I get this worked up I will certainly need my mini of Darlessa. 

Vampire Queen Darlessa


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

What is "Traveller Envy" and why do I have it?

My memory is hazy, but my second RPG was either Traveller or Chill.  I like to say it was Chill since it gives me Horror RPG cred.  But in truth, I think it was Traveller.  No shame in that, I was a huge Sci-fi fan back then, even if I rarely got to play Sci-Fi games.

Who's Number 2? Sadly I can't recall.

While this month is dedicated to nothing but horror, I have been itching to get back into some sci-fi gaming and I have been reflecting a lot on something I call "Traveller Envy."

Growing up in the middle of Illinois had some advantages.  We were is what has been referred to as the RPG or even D&D pipeline.  We were situated between Chicago/Lake Geneva and Carbondale, IL where Tim Kask's (and my) Alma Mater SIU is.  We were also close enough to the University of Illinois.  It is only within the last couple of decades that I have come to learn how good I had it then.  Meaning, we had access to RPG products that most of the country lacked.  Judges Guild was just on the opposite side of Springfield from me.  Pacesetter was far North of us, but soon Mayfair would move into the Chicago burbs.  I regularly ordered games I could not otherwise find from The Dungeon Hobby shop/Mail Order Hobby Shop in Lake Geneva or Games Plus in Mount Prospect.


I would usually go to the AD&D/D&D material first, but it would not be long before I'd hit the other games, in particular Traveller.

D&D was great and had many worlds. Traveller had the whole universe. Literally.  

What struck me the most was not just all the RPG products Traveller had, but all the board games and other related games that all seemed to live inside the same in-game Universe.   I imagined campaigns (which always looked like a cross between Star Trek and Blake's 7) where you could role-play your characters and then turn around and have massive space battles using one of the many Traveller related board games

It was full immersion into a world universe that I just couldn't get with D&D.   Oh sure. I had the Dungeon! board game and I loved (love) it.  But a Dungeon! character is not the same as a D&D character. Even back in those earliest days.

I still love Dungeon!

I thought we might get a little closer in D&D4 with the various Dungeon & Dragon board games. But even they were both too close and too different at the same time.  Also I never really could get into those board games. I picked a couple up to try, but in the end I just ended up cannibalizing them for the minis.  IF and this is a big if, I ever rerun Ravenloft as a campaign I might pull that on in.

This feeling of wanting to expand my universe more with more varieties of games is something I have dubbed "Traveller Envy."

I suppose I could have also called this "Star Fleet Battles Envy" since they do something similar, but that doesn't roll off the tongue as easy.

Now it could be that my Traveller Envy is built on something that doesn't even exist.  The dawn of it was reading over Game Catalogs and maybe seeing stronger connections that were not really there.  I have learned that some of the board games take place in the RPG's "past." Even then if the connection is less than I suspect, it is still strong.

I have wanted to do something like this for a long, long time.  I have some ideas on how to do it and what to do, but I am nowhere near close to figuring it all out.

"Travelling" with the Witches

My goal would be to use some board games (as many as I can) in my War of the Witch Queens campaign.  While my Come Endless Darkness campaign is multi-versal that is not something the characters know until much, much later.  In War of the Witch Queens, they learn this early on.

So it makes sense to give it a multi-versal, multi-media feel.


None of these board games are even remotely compatible with my old-school D&D game.  They are also largely incompatible with each other.  Only Affliction and Witch Hunt work by covering the same historical event. But I have to give it a try.

In one respect at least Cauldron Bubble and Boil has the advantage of featuring my iconic witch Larian in it as the "Arcanist" witch. 


I have talked Wizard's QuestWitch's Caldron, and Witchcraft Ritual Kit before.  Not all of them are going to work. Not all of them will even work well, but I think I owe it to that 13-year-old version of me to at least give it a try.

Maybe I could have picked an easier batch.  Again my BlackStar game could work with StarFleet Battles (any version) and even some Cthulhu related games.  But this is where my love is.  Besides, there is no challenge in climbing hills, only mountains. 

Are there games you look at and think "man, I need to try that in my game"? 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Shadow Week: The Dusk Queen for Basic-era Games

Of all the Shadow Fey products I reviewed today it might be the Dusk Queen from Shadows of the Dusk Queen for 5th Edition that has my attention the most. While I am not yet sure how I am going to use her I thought I might try my had at converting her to Basic-era D&D and in particular as one of my witches.

She is a compelling figure.


In 5e she is a CR 7 monster. She is a medium fey with Innate (Charisma), Arcane (Intelligence), and Divine (Wisdom) spell casting.

She cast Arcane and Divine spells at the 7th level ability.  This gives her a lot of low-level spells.

It might be possible then to make her into a multiclass spellcaster.  I think for this I want to use the OSE-Advanced rules and the Advanced Labyrinth Lord rules.  Both take Basic-era D&D and apply the Advanced classed to the rules. 

Neither ruleset has a "Shadow Fey" race. But I can modify the Drow to fit my needs here.  In OSE-Advanced Drow, and Elves, get a +1 to Dex and -1 to Con.  Shadow Fey in Pathfinder get +2 Dexterity +2 Charisma, -2 Constitution.  So I am thinking that in Basic-era games Shadow Fey gets +1 Dex +1 Cha, -2 Con.

Since this is a combination of Basic-era and Advanced-era I am going to go with a combination of my Daughters of Darkness: The Mara Witch for Basic Era Games and The Craft of the Wise: The Pagan Witch Tradition. Some of The Basic Witch: The Pumpkin Spice Witch Tradition would also be good.

In an Advanced game, Elves can advance to levels in witch based on their Charisma score. For 18+ that gives us 9th level.  For Shadow Fey/Shadow Elves I might increase that to 11.

Witches can Multi-class as per the multi-class rules for witches found in The Children of the Gods: The Classical Witch for Basic Era Games.  So multi-class Witch/Wizards are fine.

Offical Ruling:  Witches CANNOT multi-class with Warlocks.

I am leaving that on it's own line so it is clearer. A witch can advance as a witch and THEN switch off to a first level warlock; essentially betraying her coven.  A warlock can have a change of faith and then become a witch (but that is rare). These "dual classed" characters follow the Dual Class rules in the ruleset you are using.

The Dusk Queen


Female Shadow Elf, 7th level Magic-user / 7th level Umbal* Witch
(*Umbral witch is something I am working on. Will use a Mara witch for now)

Str: 9
Int: 18
Wis: 18
Dex: 15
Con: 12
Cha: 20

HP: 27 (7d4+7d4 / 2)
AC: 7* (+1 ring, dex) will cast a combination of  Death Armor, Immunity to Normal Weapons, Shield, and Protection from Normal Missiles prior to the start of combat

Shadow Fey/Elf Abilities: Detect Secret Doors, Immunity to ghoul paralysis, Infravision (90'), Light sensitivity, listening at doors

+1 to saves vs Charm, Hold, and Sleep spells

Languages Common, Elvish, Giant, Sylvan

Occult Powers
Familiar: Shadow Creature
Least: Shadow Step

Witch Spells
First Level: (3+3) Charm Person, Chill Touch, Color Spray, Ghostly Slashing, Mending, Quicken Healing 
Second Level: (2+3) Augury, Blindness/Deafness, Death Armor, Phantasmal Spirit, Second Sight
Third Level: (2+2) Dispel Magic, Hold Person, Immunity to Normal Weapons, Plague of Shadows
Fourth Level: (1+2) Nondetection, Intangible Cloak of Shadows, Phantom Lacerations, 

Magic-user Spells
First Level: (3) Dark, Shield, Ventriloquism
Second Level: (2) Invisibility, Phantasmal Force
Third Level: (2) Dispel Magic, Protection from Normal Missiles
Fourth Level: (1) Confusion

Actually, I like this version quite a bit. 

Shadow Week: Courts (and Realms) of the Shadow Fey

What is your favorite edition of D&D? Doesn't matter. This is the adventure you need to try.  But I am getting ahead of myself.  Let's start at the end, go back to the beginning and work our way back to now.

Shadow Fey

Kobold Press has been around now for a bit and has put out some really quality products for various version of the D&D/Pathfinder game via the various open licenses available to them.  

The Shadow Fey are a race of elves known as the scáthsidhe, or shadow fey. Great name. I wish I had come up with it.  These fey are an elitist, snooty bunch, the worse qualities of Elf to be honest and that is what makes them so great.  They are not really related at all to the Shadow Elves of Mystara nor the Shadar-Kai of the Shadowfell and not even the Drow of many worlds.   But it is easy to see they all live in the same sort of world.  If we are to use D&D 4 & 5 terminologies they live in the area where the Shadowfell intersects the Feywild.  Or the darkest areas of the Land of Faerie.

The shadow fey are present in a number of books from Kobold Press, most notably their two large monster tomes for 5e, The Tome of Beasts for 5th Edition and the Creature Codex for 5th Edition.  Even without knowing much of their background, they are a very interesting race.  They look a bit like a cross between an elf and tiefling. So members are elven, but many also have horns.  I suppose that a satyr is a better comparison.  But it is a reminder, visually, that these are not your Grognards' elves. They can be medium or small creatures. 

Kobold Press has gone all-in on the Shadow Fey. Here are a few products that they have published to support these beings and their courts.

Pathfinder

Dark Fey

This is a 22-page bestiary and guide to the creatures found in the realms of the Shadow Fey.  Based on the Courts of the Shadow Fey this really is a must-have if you plan to play any part of the Shadow Fey adventure or even just want some less-that light fey to encounter.

Advanced Races 11: Shadow Fey (Pathfinder RPG)

This 19 page PDF gives us the Shadow Fey as a playable race. There is some history of the Shado Fey here and even a few more creatures. Additionally, there are some new class archetypes, racial powers, and some new feats.  While it says Pathfinder on the cover there is enough here to use in any game. 

This book in particular makes them more than "drow with horns" or "bad tempered elves."


Dungeons & Dragons 5e

Shadows of the Dusk Queen for 5th Edition

This is a short-ish adventure for 8th level characters in a fairy tale romp. Not a "Disney" fairy tale, but a Brother's Grimm one. A shadowy evil, but sad Queen, needs to reconstitute her broken magic mirror that contains her life force. Doing so will make her powerful again. The PCs have found the five magical shards.

A great little adventure full of dark fairy tale tropes. Easy to run in a session or two and makes for a nice side quest after running the Courts of the Shadow Fey. The Dusk Queen herself is an interesting character that might work well in my War of the Witch Queens Campaign.  In that of course she would need to win at the end of this adventure.

Deep Magic: Shadow Magic for 5th Edition

This 12 page PDF is part of Kobold Press' Deep Magic series. It presents a new Sorcerous Bloodline (Shadow Bloodline), a new Warlock Patron (The Light Eater), and a new Rouge Archetype (The Whisper).  There are also, as expected, new Shadow themed spells. Not explicitly tied in with their Courts of the Shadow Fey, but certainly 100% compatible and thematically appropriate.


These books are all fantastic additions, but the place where they got their start was an adventure for the 4th edition of D&D, Courts of the Shadow Fey.

Courts of the Shadow Fey

This adventure began as a 4th edition adventure for Paragon Tier characters designed to take them from 12th to 15th level.  So remember what I was saying yesterday about an entire 4th edition campaign taking place in the Plane of Shadow?  Well, this can be a significant part of that.

The adventure was then converted over to Pathfinder (with some little oddities here and there) for characters of 7th level to 10th.

Sometime later the adventure was rewritten for 5th edition D&D, with new art and layout. Still for characters level 7th to 10th.

All three were written by Wolfgang Baur.  Ben McFarland aided in the Pathfinder conversion, Dan Dillon helped with the D&D5 rewrite.  The first two versions featured fantastic art by Stephanie Law (which makes me want to convert it to Blue Rose!) and the 5e version features art from Marcel Marcado, who captures our two shadow fey sovereigns. 

Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition version, 101 pages. 
Pathfinder version, 130 pages
Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition version, 150 pages

This is part adventure and part sandbox, which is really fantastic because there is so much potential here. Much in the same way the D series introduced us to the drow via an adventure, this introduces us to the Shadow Fey.  We meet their sovereigns, the Queen of Night and Magic of the Summer Court and the Moonlit King of the Winter Court.  These are NOT the Seelie and Unseelie of Earth's Faerie Realm, although there are comparisons.  We begin the adventure with the town of Zobek against a backdrop of the King and Queen in their exchange of power.  The adventure kicks in when a Priest of the Sun God is nearly assassinated.  This has my attention already.  Zobek is occupied by Shadow Fey and to find the culprit(s) (who soon make an assassination attempt at the PCs!) the party will need to not only navigate the treachery of the Shadow Lands (Shadow Plane, Shaowfell...) they must also navigate the treachery on the Fey Courts!

One of the key features of this adventure/product is the number of NPCs.  This is not a list of names with professions, these are fully stated out NPCs and each version of the adventure takes advantage of the rules being used.


Ok. Pause. At this point, there are several good reasons to get this. There is a mystery. There is the Shadow Plane deal. There are Fey Courts. Plus there are plenty of mechanics involved to aid the GM and Players in navigating the labyrinth that can be high court intrigue.  In some ways, it makes me happy to have all three versions since I can get different points of view on how to handle different things.  Granted the 4e and Pathfinder versions are similar enough to make the differences be system-specific, but the 5e rewrite really gives me a newer point of view.  Yes, in each case I am seeing a lot of repeated text. That is what I am supposed to see. What idiot is going to buy all three versions except for me?

So we have all that, and we have not gotten into duels of honor (there is a dueling system!), various factions jockeying for control, and how the PCs fit into all that. New creatures. New demons! New magic. Survive a duel? Dude...you are not going to survive diner! 

The Pathfinder/4e versions are a little basic to look at since the was the start of Open Design/Kobold Press.  But Stephanie Law's art is so great to look at that I don't care.  The 5e version is several orders of magnitude better in terms of design. The art is still wonderful but I miss Stephanie Law's vision.


This is one of those adventures where I always find something new with each reading.  I have been pouring over this for the last three weeks and each time I am blown away by the shear potential that lays before me. I feel like I need to reread my history of the Tudors to get my courtly machinations down correctly, but this book certainly helps.  

The party's climax comes with gaining an audience with the Moonlit King himself! What happens? There are many potential outcomes and possibilities. 

If I ever run a Shadow themed campaign then this is at the top of my list. 
If I ever run a pure 4e game, then this is at the top of my list.

I plan to steal ideas from this for other adventures even if I run it as is. 

I purchased all three of the PDFs just have them. It is that much fun.  Also whenever I feel the need to run it I am likely to grab the Print version of the 5e rules. Though I might instead print out the PDFs and collate them so that the material I need/want is where I want it.  Use colored sticky tabs for various plot points.

For example, if I were to merge these with other fey related products then maybe I would consider Autumn and Spring courts here instead of Winter and Summer.  Why?  The shadow fey are creatures of well, shadow. Half-light and half-darkness. I am reviewing this on the Autumn Equinox, half-light, half dark. I did this on purpose.  If I use the Summer and Winter courts for the Seelie and the Unseelie then these could be the Spring (Queen of Magic) and Autumn (Moonlit King) courts and little it lost.  In fact, much is gained. Most of my players, thanks to years of Ghosts of Albion, have come to expect certain things out of the Fey courts as I run them. Dangerous to assume really, but still, they do.  By renaming these into Spring and Autumn I can change those expectations. And it gives me four equal and competing courts.

Regardless of which edition you choose, there is a great adventure/sandbox/resource to be had here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Eludecia, the Succubus Paladin for Basic-era games

ePic Character Generator

Back in the 3.5 days there was this contest, the D&D Creature Competition. It was a fun little romp of pitting monster vs. monster in a bracket-style competition where people voted.  There were such mainstays as the Tarrasque, Meepo the Kobold, and a gelatinous cube, and some odd ones like a half gold dragon/half pixie, a warforged ninja, and Half-Amethyst Dragon/Iridescent Naga.  But the strangest one, and the one that eventually won was Eludecia, the Succubus Paladin.

Eludecia got a featured write-up and even an adventure centered around her, Legend of the Silver Skeleton.  I always thought the character was a really interesting one.  She is seeking redemption at a level that honestly staggers the mind. She has suffered (imprisoned inside a gelatinous cube to burn the entire time) and yet she is still trying to be better. She is a character I could see working quite well in D&D 5th edition.  But what about Basic-era D&D?  

Basic D&D: B/X or BECMI?

Lately, I have been playing an unholy hybrid of D&D B/X and BECMI and OSR.  It might not work for others, but for me it has been fantastic.

So I try to aim at a 1st to 14th level range, this allows me not to have to choose between B/X and BECMI level play.  I add in BECMI details when things get higher in level.  Thankfully for me, there are plenty of examples of Eludecia at levels 8th, 14th, and 18th level.  Once you figure her 6HD of Succubus this makes her 2nd, 8th, and 12th level Paladin.  That keeps her within the bounds of my B/X sweet spot.

In this version of Eludecia has been roaming the multiverse, seeking quests not to prove her worthiness, but to test it.  She has a shape-change ability, but she keeps her succubus features in the open so that everyone knows what she is.  To her, it is far more important to be truthful in her dealings with all mortals than to pass herself off as human.  She carries a holy sword, even though its touch hurts her. 

For her Basic build, I am going to start with the Succubus as presented in Eldritch Wizardry. Then I am going to add the Paladin class on top of that.  For the Paladin, there are a lot of choices including the BECMI Paladin in the Companion Rules or the OSE Paladin.  I think in the end I'll use the OSE Paladin and add in the BECMI material as needed.


The Eldritch Wizardry Succubus has the following features.

Succubi prefer to act alone and Eludecia is no different. In her case though it is because she knows her journey is a solo one. Only she can earn her redemption. Plus she knows she is a target by the forces of Evil and sometimes Good alike. She does not wish to put others in harm. She still has all her succubus powers; causing darkness, drain life, become ethereal, charm person, ESP, clairaudience, shape change, and gate.  She considers these powers to be tainted and will never use them, even to save her own life.  Her Gate ability will not work even if she tried, no demon will answer her summons. She does know this. She can't control her 70% magic resistance.

Her base AC is 9, movement is 40 (120), and 60 (180) flight. Her base HD is 6.  

I think for this build I want her a little higher level than her 3.5 days, so here she is now a 14th level Paladin. With her base 6HD this makes her a 20HD/level NPC.

Her base 3.5 stats are a little bit outside the realms of Basic D&D (unless I use some Companion or Immortal Rules).  
Str 18, Dex 14, Con 14, Int 16, Wis 14, Cha 30

I'll re-scale these to Basic levels.

I also opted to make her blonde as a nod to Sheila Mullen the supposed "model" for the succubus in the AD&D Monster Manual. 

Eludecia, the Succubus Paladin

14th level Paladin, Lawful (Lawful Good)

Strength: 18 (+3)
Intelligence: 16 (+2 languages)
Wisdom: 14 (+1 on magic-based saves)
Dexterity: 14 (+1)
Constitution: 14 (+1)
Charisma: 20 (likely it is a lot more) (+4)

Saving throws: D 2, W 3, P 4, B 3, S 6.  MR 70%

AC: 0 [19]
HP: 93 (6d8+6, 9d8+9,+10)
THAC0: 10 [+9]

Powers, Succubus: +2 weapons needed to hit, 70% magic resistance (these are powers she can't control)

Powers, Paladin: Divine Spells, Lay on Hands, Undead Turning

Equipment: Plate Armor +2, holy sword +3, holy symbol, normal shield

Spells

1st level: Cure Light Wounds, Detect Evil, Protection from Evil

2nd level: Bless, Hold Person

3rd level: Striking



How I Would Use Her

There is so much that could be done with this character. I guess that is why 15 years after she appeared I still find reasons to pull her out for things.

I am getting near the end of my HUGE Order of the Platinum Dragon campaign (more on that later) and presently the characters are stuck in the Abyss.  I think it is entirely possible that they might find her silver bones stuck in the Gelatinous Cube. The PCs could free her and gain an ally.  AND since I now have Basic-era stats for her, I can see her making an appearance in my new campaign, War of the Witch Queens.

Anyone ever use her in your own games?

Monday, August 31, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 31 Experience

And here we are at the end of another #RPGaDAY for August.   What new Expeiences has this given me?

From the start, this month has been about my reflection of a Summer with the BECMI rules and Basic-era rules in general.  I spent a lot of time here thinking about what these rules do that is different than what I have been used too over the last few years (read: Modern D&D) and what I was used too back in the 80s (read: Advanced D&D).

My lens for this #RPGaDAY was these experiences. Because of that reading what others had posted gave me a very different viewpoint.  It was not 2-3 blog posts and 5-7 tweets that were all identical and everyone talking about the same thing.  This was nice.  While I was not as responsive as I would have liked to have been to others on this, reading them all was fun.

Since I also spent a lot of time talking about my BECMI/BX campaign, War of the Witch Queens, maybe I'll use that map as a simple dungeon crawl.  Maybe using ideas from my various posts here and when those don't work, well, I am sure I'll think of something. 

Hopefully, next year when this starts I'll be at Gen con again with my kids. That would be really great.

Friday, August 28, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 28 Close

This is about the time of year that I close out Summer projects and inventory my Fall ones to see where I am at.  

But this summer was a strange one really.  The whole Covid-19 thing changed a LOT of plans, one in particular was available free time to get other projects done. The day job was just too involved.

So I am still closing out my Summer though and looking ahead to Fall and beyond plans.  Here is what is going on for me and The Other Side.

Right now I am archiving old projects, both personal and work, I like to have a nice cleaned out work space on my computers.  This also gives me the opportunity to see what I have been working on and what still needs to be done. 

I still have a little bit more I want to do for BECMI month Summer, including a deep dive into the Shadow Elves like I mentioned on Day 9.  That though is in a couple more weeks. 

The really GREAT thing about this #RPGaDAY2020 posting is it has me thinking about all my stacks of research material and upcoming projects.

War of the Witch Queens Campaign

The War of the Witch Queens has been on my mind a lot since I want to run it under the B/X or BECMI rules.  I just have not figured out all the points yet.  I pointed out on Day 20 that Kelek is likely to be my bad guy.  And I think that still works.  In fact if the campaign only goes to level 14 (B/X, OSE) then that will be my guy.  BUT What if Kelek sets thing into motion he didn't predict and it quickly got out of hand?  The Witches, held in check by the Witch Queens are now doing some real damage?  What then? Well. In that case we continue on to level 36!  Who knows, I might even start it with the classic "You meet in an Inn".

Super Dungeon Explorer Adventure Team Go, Go, GO!

This is a bit of a goof, but it has gotten a lot of attention.  I secured an artist this week for the first release of this.  It will be for 5e and likely 180° away from anything Old-School.

Basic Bestiary and High Witchcraft

The first draft of Basic Bestiary is done, working on the beta draft now. I also put together my spreadsheet to track art development. Sadly I have not actually secured any new artists for this one.  So that might be a delay. 

The High Witchcraft book is no where near ready.  I was going over my notes and I am not even sure I have anything that can be considered a draft at this point. Just about a dozen or so files of notes that need to be collated, edited and then made into something. Additionally I have files of materials that did not make the cut for some of the other books; usually due to space or because the idea was not as complete as I would have liked.  If this is really going to be my "last witch book" then it behooves me to either find a home for those orphans here or on my blog.  One such orphan was the Goblin Forest of Haven.

I really want the High Witchcraft book to be really special. I want it to feature some of the ideas I have been playing with for years and to be my Coda for this series. 

I have a couple of other projects on the burners, but nothing I can share just yet.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 20 Investigate

I have made some off-handed comments here, and on Facebook and other social media platforms, but nothin solid or concrete yet.  So now is that time. I am pulling together several loose ideas and a couple more developed ones into a single narrative.  

All summer long I have been fairly focused on some "Basic-era" games.  In particular OSE, BXRPG, and BECMI.  I knew I was going to get a game together using one or more of these rules.  I also have a big campaign I want to do, War of the Witch Queens, which I have been going back and forth on; should it be Basic-Era (BECMI in particular) or Castles & Crusades.

The premise is simple really, deceptively so.
While our intrepid adventurers are doing their normal adventuring thing they notice that there are an awful lot of powerful, but low level, witches causing troubles.  Making power grabs and largely being a problem.  The adventurers discover, but some means not fully developed yet, that the problem is the witch hierarchy is in shambles.  Someone has murdered the High Queen of Witches.

I said this bit before, but every 13 years the witches gather to choose a new High Queen of Witches. While all the Witch Queens, leaders of their respective traditions, have a say in truth it is the current High Queen that chooses the new High Queen.  This year the witches have gathered and the High Queen has been killed.  Every Witch Queen suspects the others and the entire power structure is in shambles. 

That is the goal.  The characters have to investigate the murder and find out who did it.

Simple, right?  Well...the trouble is that for the most part I don't know who did it. At least not yet.

Here are the details.

Who was murdered? The High Queen of Witches.
How was she killed? It looks like a mundane dagger. But that can't be it right??
Why was she killed? Unknow, it is suspected that one of the out-of-favor Queens did it.
Are we sure? No. Witches are not allowed to harm each other.  This taboo gets more powerful as the witch increases in level.  The powerful the witch, the less able she is to harm another witch.  I call this the Pact of Baba Yaga. She demanded that no witch harms another or SHE will come in and do the harming. 
Ok, why was she really killed? To destabilize the power base of the witches.  The Witch Queens keep the lower level witches in line.  They can't harm them directly...but you can be surprised what they can do.

So, this puts me on an investigation of my own.  Essentially I have to go through the mystery myself and see where it leads me. But this isn't just a murder mystery.  This is a power grab.  Someone wanted the High Witch Queen dead to destabilize the witch power structure on purpose. Who would want to do that?  The other Witch Queens?  No. Can't be one of them. They can't actually harm each other due to the Pact of Baba Yaga.  Plus, why would they want too? Without that High Queen the witches will start warring, start causing trouble and basically doing all the things that got them all sent to the gallows and the stake the first time around.  Plus any new High Queen is going to spend most of her 13 years ruling just cleaning up the mess of the last 13 months.  No.  This is someone outside the hierarchy looking to weaken the witches.

But who?

Enter Kelek the Cruel.

Kelek has the notable distinction of being the first AD&D Toy Line product I ever bought. I thought he would be great as an antagonist, but in the end, I never used him.  In my investigations of Skylla, I also ran into more details about Kelek.  I learned that like Skylla, Kelek was changed to evil by the Heartstone. He also was a friend to Ringlerun, the good wizard. Skylla had been Ringlerun's apprentice, but now she works with Kelek.  Kelek seems more than happy to use her to his own ends.

Then I discovered two details that really sold it for me.  

First. Kelek was in the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, Episode "Valley of the Unicorns", where he unwillingly served Venger.  That is not the important bit.  The important bit is who wrote the episode.

Yes. Paul Dini. The same Paul Dini that invented Harley Quinn, wrote SO MUCH material about Zatanna and gave us the definitive Evil-Lyn episode of the Masters of the Universe, "The Witch and the Warrior."


I don't know about you, but for me, that is a pedigree.

Second, and this happened while doing my investigations of both Kelek and Skylla and BECMI related merchandise, I found that Kelek was featured a lot in the AD&D coloring books and in the D&D story books for kids.

In one, The Treasure of Time, Kelek is creeping on Charmay (the good magic-user, and subject of a crazy idea of mine) where he discovers a map to the "Treasure of Time".  Long story (ok it is not that long) short, he finds the treasure and becomes young again, but loses all his knowledge of magic. 

He is humiliated by Charmay who laughs at him while he cries.

The thought occurred to me. Here is a guy that obviously already has issues. Bullied by Venger, humiliated by Charmay, and wants nothing more than to be the Master of all Evil Magic according to his bio in the Shady Dragon Inn and has no problem destroying Skylla once he gets what he wants.

I have been watching a lot of the new Harley Quinn animated series lately where they have Doctor Psycho as a full-on misogynistic asshole.  Further strengthens that Paul Dini connection (I know. He has nothing to do with that show, but there would have never been that show had it not been for Dini) and make Kelek the same.  It's not a stretch really.  Plus it also allows me to play with current politics in my game.  Taking an old misogynistic white dude (and likely aging incel. he had to lure those unicorns in some way) and make him the bad guy in a situation were witches/women hold more power than he does and he wants. 

I have not decided though if Skylla is working with him on this.  Either he has promised her the High Witch Queen crown OR if he is manipulating her as well.


After his defeat at the hands of Charmay, a bitter Kelek had no choice but to go back to magic school and relearn everything.  Only this time instead of a bright young man who had a friend (Ringlerun) with him, he is a bitter old-man in a young man's body.  That also makes him extremely focused. He doesn't go for the types of fun that a young magic-school student might get into. Instead he is bitter, focuses 100% of time on his studies and plots of revenge.  In the process, he sees "enemies" everywhere.  Everyone is trying to stop him or mock him and he is SOOOO much smarter than these fools around him.  It is easy to think of someone like this in real life. He hates his fellow students because they are so stupid in his mind. He hates his teachers because in his mind he has already done far more than they have. Every day that they have to teach him something he already knew long ago, but can't quite remember, is a stinging reminder of his defeat.

Why is Kelek going after the witches? Well he hates women and his old friend and enemy Ringlerun died of natural causes, robbing Kelek of the chance to kill him. 

Sometimes I like to make villains that you can relate too. It's my Lex Luthor philosophy.  Lex never thinks he is the villain, he is the Hero, and that flying abomination is the villain. 

Kelek is just an asshole whose thoughts are so twisted in on themselves that he doesn't care if he is the villain or the hero, he is just going make everyone that laughed at him pay.  No one will stop him because he is so much smarter than everyone around him.

And those types of villains are really fun to defeat.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The Witch Queens Gather

"Every witch owns a clock. It is a special clock in that it never seems to be working until one night of the full moon every thirteen years. Then the clock chimes thirteen bells. Each full moon the clock chimes one less, counting down from thirteen. Until the night of the last full moon.  During this time of the 13 Moons, the Witch Queens gather to choose a new Witch High Queen."

- From the Journal of Larina Nix 

Still working on my War of the Witch Queens campaign. 

I have the adventures picked out. I have some "Background noise." I think I even have my Big Bad figured out.

Now I just need my main NPCs.  Thankfully HeroForge has me covered!

All my Witch Queens and a few extras.

Now I just need about $1,300* to get them all printed!
*Well...not really that much. I already have a few.

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 18 Meet

"You meet in an Inn..."

Or not.  Meeting in an inn or tavern has to be one of the biggest clichés in Fantasy Gaming.  I mean, yes it works, but it is certainly a bit of a lazy meeting anymore. But does that make it bad?

Lately, I have noticed, especially with on-line game streamers, that they take the cliché and are very tongue-in-cheek with it.  I also think it is something that has largely been replaced by what is now called "Session Zero."

I like Session Zero.  You get to meet all the characters as they are being rolled up and some backstory is given. Plus there are other house-keeping items that are covered such as what the game is about, any house rules, and what the limits are.

"Meet in an Inn" and "Session Zero" are not mutually exclusive, but they are both typical of the styles of games they usually start.  "Meet in an Inn" is more common with old-school games and "Session Zero" with newer games.  There is also one other factor they represent; expectations of character deaths.

"Meeting in an Inn" is often situated in a game where character death is a likely occurrence. Even though the archetype of this trope, the meeting of Strider in the Prancing Pony, resulted in all the participants surviving to the campaign's end.

"Session Zero" is usually associated with the understanding, either tacit or implicit, that the characters have a good chance of survival.  There is often the aforementioned back story. 

For my "Order of the Platinum Dragon" campaign, I did do the "you meet in an inn" scenario.  Again the purpose of that campaign was to give my kids a "classic D&D" experience and I was not going to rob them of that.

For my "War of the Witch Queens" I have not figured out yet how the characters will meet.  I know how they are going to get on the trail of the mystery, the murder of the Witch High Queen, but before that, I am still at a blank.  But that is ok. There will be a Session Zero, so maybe we can all figure it out then.   Although. I really have wanted an excuse to use The Shady Dragon Inn.

It would give me an excuse to use these two,


Thursday, July 2, 2020

Kersy, The Witch Queen of Alphatia, Mystara (BECMI)

I knew my month of BECMI reviews and deep dives was going to be educational, but while I had hoped, I did not expect to find a new Witch Queen.  But there she was, in Module M1 Into the Maelstrom

In the module, we are introduced to a nascent Immortal, Kersy.  She is using her human guise as a 30th level Magic-user and she is the ruler of the Island of Turkeys.  If you are thinking she sounds a lot like Circe and her Island of Pigs then you are correct.  But.  Doing some deeper research into Kersy gives me a stanger tale.   Over at the Vaults of Pandius, they have expanded on her background a bit more. 

She is described as the distillation of Koryis' own unwanted thoughts, urges, and feelings.  
Koryis is the Immortal Patron of Peace.  While he was on his epic quest he sought to purge himself of evil in impure thoughts. He was successful and that "impurity" manifested itself as Kersy.

At least that is what his mythology says. 

We learn from M1 that she is a "beautiful maiden" and a "30th level magic-user." But other details are scant. From the Vaults of Pandius we learn that she is beautiful with long raven black hair and amber-colored eyes.  She is the Patroness of Witchcraft and Charms.  Certainly, she is more than just some cast of skin of evil.

She is also described as having "milky-white skin" (boring!) but I have been looking for an excuse to use Vanessa Williams as a witch since 1997.  Today is that day.

Kersy and Koryis

We first meet both of these immortals in M1 Into the Maelstrom.  It is obvious they have a connection from the start.  

Kersy (Vanessa Williams) and her "brother" Koryis (Armand Assante)

Back when I was an undergrad in psychology I read a lot of Freud and Jung. It wasn't required, I was (still am) a Cognitive Psychologist. But I felt it was important to my overall education to know my subject's history.    While I like Freud, I find his theories to be outdated and outmoded.  Jung on the other hand felt more like philosophy than psychology at times.  I have credited his "Man and His Symbols" as one of my most important "Appendix N" books.  

What is the importance of that here?  Kersy is Koryis' "dark anima" in Jungian psychology.  The description of Koryis' quest to rid himself of these dark, impure impulses sounds exactly like a quest to confront his Anima; who is Kersy.

Now if this is what happened then according to Jung Koyris is now forever incomplete.  Reading over the history on VoP it would seem that Kersy knows this. If we extend this to other Jungian archetypes then Kersy fits one perfectly. The Witch.  She is powerful, connected to the Earth, and a source of wisdom.  Koyris in his quest to rid himself of Kersy only weakened himself and gave his power away.

Kersy as a Witch

You knew I was going to come to this.  Kersy is not just described as a witch, she is listed on VoP as having the portfolio of Witchcraft and Charm. she is also described as being unique among immortals. She prefers to use her own magic for example.  She also seems to have become an immortal at the same time Koryis did due to their link.  So she hides from other Immortals, not having a Patron of her own, and lives in a cave on an Island filled with turkeys.
That's all rather disappointing.
Even a 30th level magic-user can do better than living in a cave somewhere.  So taking a page from my own games I say Kersy went on her own quest of Immortality and she got it, as a Witch Queen.

In this version soon after her "birth" Kersy, granted great power, but no learning on how such power should be wielded and let's just say poor impulse control, soon overpowers her jailers and sets her sights on the known world.  She travels much as her history suggests and in particular in Old Alphatia.  She studies magic everywhere and learns her magic does not come from the study of dusty tomes, she gets her magic from somewhere else. 
In the intervening centuries she learns much about who and what she is.  The divide between her and Koryis grew.  She still desires him and wants to make him hers. Maybe this is some desire to reunite their torn assunder soul or a darker desire to possess him in a way that was his desire but now forsaken and left with her desires.

Kersy, Witch Queen of Alphatia
31st level Witch, Eclectic Tradition
Female, Chaotic (Chaotic Neutral)

Strength 12
Intelligence 25
Wisdom 18
Dexterity 17
Constitution 19
Charisma 25

Saving Throws (Base)
Death Ray/Poison 2
Magic Wands 2
Paralysis, Polymorph 2 
Dragon Breath 4
Rods, Staffs, Spells 3

+5 to all saves via Ring of Protection
+3 for Wisdom

Hit Points: 87
AC: -8
(leather armor +5, Bracers of Protection +3, Cord of Protection +2, Ring of Protection +3, Dex 17 -2)

Base THAC0: 8
(I know, THAC0 was not used in Basic D&D. You know what this means)

Occult Powers
Lesser: Familiar (Familiar Spirit)
Minor: Speak to Animals
Medial: Drawing Down the Moon
Greater: Witch's Blessing
Major: Polymorph Other
Superior: Longevity

Spells
Cantrips (8): Arcane Mark, Clean, Daze, Guiding Star, Mote of Light, Object Reading, Open, Summon Vermin
1st (9+3): Allure, Analgesia, Bar the Way, Bewitch I, Burning Hands, Call Spirits of the Land, Charm Person, Comprehend Languages, Eldritch Fire, Glamour, Mend Minor Wounds, Pace Without Trace
2nd (8+3): Alter Self, Beckon, Bewitch II, Blight of Loneliness, Burning Gaze, Continual Flame, Detect Charm, ESP, Evil Eye, Haunting Mists, Mind Obscure
3rd (8+3): Astral Sense, Bestow Curse, Bewitch III, Calm Animals, Clairsentience, Control Winds, Danger Sense, Expand Senses, Lethe's Curse, Toad Mind, Twisting the Heartstrings III
4th (8+4): Analyze Magic, Ball Lightning, Bewitch IV, Cauldron of Rage, Confusion, Divination, Forest of Deception, Instant Karma, Masque, Polymorph Others, Remove Curse, Threshold 
5th (7+4): Adoration, Bewitch V, Break Enchantment, Commune with Nature, Decimate, Enslave, Maelstrom, Nightmare, Sending, Song of Night, Ward of Magic
6th (7+3): Analyze Dweomer, Animate Shadows, Bewitch VI, Bones of Earth, Cackle of the Winter Crone, Cloak of Dreams, Greater Scry, Heroes' Feast, Mislead, Smitten
7th (6+1): Adoring Crowd, Astral Spell, Bewitch VII, Breath of the Goddess, Irresistible Dance, Mass Polymorph, Veneration
8th (6): Adoration (Overwhelming), Bewitch VIII, Demand, Eye of the Storm, Mists of Ecstasy, Storm of Vengeance

Magic Items
Alrune Statues, Bracers of Protection, Brooch of Shielding, Calming Tea, Cauldron of Plenty, Cloak of Night, Cord of Protection, Earings of Timeless Beauty,  Friendship Tea, Ring of Protection, Wand of Spell Storing

Kersy is something of a unique witch, so I made her an Eclectic Tradition Witch.  She is also a solitary witch so you will notice and no "ritual" spells.   
I also opted to raise her to 31st level from 30th to give her a bump in her power.
As an Eclectic, I was able to grab spells and occult powers from a variety of sources.  While a case could be made that she is a Classical witch or even with bits of the Mara thrown in, I felt Eclectic was the best choice. 



Books and Resources Used
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