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

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Shadow of Night

“Witches see the truth plainly—even if their husbands are full of nonsense.” 
- Deborah Harkness, Shadow of Night

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

I read Shadow of Night with a little more enthusiasm than I did for A Discovery of Witches.  Witch Diana Bishop and Vampire Matthew Clairmont were time walking to the court of Elizabeth I and all of Tudor England was open to them.  We were going to see Shakespeare and John Dee and Christopher Marlow.  I could ignore the fact that formerly super-independent Diana was now no better than Bella in Twilight. I mean this part of English history was Deborah Harkness's forte, her area of expertise.

Well...I was not disappointed in the historical bits.  I would have loved more Shakespeare and Dee and much less Marlow to be honest.  Other characters are introduced but never rise above caricature to be honest; Gallowglass, is that your name or your job?   Plus the rules of Time Travel are very weird. Clairmont is in his own body from then, but where is his consciousness?  How can he remember in his own future? Why does Diana have her own body?  To quote Ron Stoppable, "time travel it's a cornucopia of disturbing concepts." 
Of course, they keep looking for Ashmole 782 pages and come no closer to finding it. In truth I can't even recall if they did or not since the ending pissed me off so much.

Here are the spoilers.
Diana and Matthew get back only to discover that the witches that have been pursuing them killed Emily “Em” Mather, Sarah Bishop's (Diana's aunt and foster mothers) partner.  Fucking great. Another dead lesbian.  Killed "off-screen" no less.

Look. This might not be an issue for you, but I made promises to people. So I emailed Harkness's publicist to ask if this is "undone" somehow in the next book, "Book of Life". I was told no.

So do not expect a review for Book of Life here. Like I said, I made promises and stick to them.

You can find Deborah Harkness on the web at http://deborahharkness.com/.

2018 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge

Books Read so far: 4
Level: Initiate
Witches in this book: Dozens, more implied.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: Good for the most part, but some evil.
Best RPG to Emulate it: I get a World of Darkness vibe here, especially the old WoD, Mage: The Sorcerer's Crusade.
Material for WotWQ: The historical setting is so much fun. Too bad the characters in it are not more exciting.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Areelu Vorlesh, Witch Queen of the Worldwound

I picked up some Pathfinder minis a while back and this succubus in the mix that I did not recognize.  She also had a proper name, Areelu Vorlesh.  Imagine my joy when I discovered she was not only a succubus (well half succubus) but also a witch!

A trio of wicked witches, Iggwilv, Areelu, and Skylla
Turns out she is also a major NPC baddie in Pathfinder, the primary architect of the Worldwound in Golarion.  I am not sure what happens to her there, but she would really be a perfect addition to my War of the Witch Queens.  Plus I already have her mini!  Now I just need a Wayne Reynolds print on my wall.

Her Pathfinder stats are crazy. She is a 10th level witch, 10th level demoniac and an 8th level archmage.  Plus she has a lot of her half-succubus powers.  She has some truly outrageous stats too.

Areelu Vorlesh
The human that would become the witch Areelu Vorlesh has been lost to time. It was known that she was a witch in Deskari’s cult.  She was researching the nature of the separation of the worlds and planes (Plot hook!).  It was her success at opening the Worldwound that caused her Patron to transform her into a half-fiend.

Areelu Vorlesh (28th level witch)
The Witch

Strength: 14 Death Ray, Poison 3
Dexterity: 18 Magic Wands 4
Constitution: 18 Paralysis, Polymorph or Turn to Stone 3
Intelligence: 18 Dragon Breath 6
Wisdom: 18 Rods, Staffs, Spells 5
Charisma: 19

Hit Points: 73
Alignment: Chaotic (Evil)
AC: -2 (Bracers of Defense, +3 Amulet of Protection)

Occult Powers (Malefic Tradition)
Familiar: "Gimcrak" (Quasit, Enhanced)
7th level: Evil's Touch
13th level: Devil's Tongue
19th level: Curse
25th level: Polymorph Other

Succubus Powers
Fly (at normal movement rate).
Drain Constitution (1 point).
Immune to fire damage and poison.
Half damage from cold and electricity.
Takes double damage from "holy" items.

Spells
Cantrips (7): Arcane Mark, Detect Curse, Ghost Sound, Mend Minor Wounds, Message, Spark, Summon Vermin

First (8+3): Bewitch I, Cause Fear, Charm Person, Command, Increase Sex Appeal, Mend Light Wounds, Protect Familiar, Quicken Healing, Shattering the Hourglass, Silver Tongue, Spirit Dart

Second (8+2): Ecstasy, Enhanced Familiar, Enthrall, Evil Eye, Hold Person, Invisibility, Phantasmal Spirit, Rite of Remote Seeing, Scare, Twisting the Heartstrings II

Third (7+2): Bestow Curse, Clairaudience/Clairvoyance, Dispel Magic, Enlarge Familiar, Feral Spirit, Fly, Ghost Ward, Tongues, Witch Wail

Fourth (7+2): Abomination, Charm Monster, Confusion, Divine Power, Intangible Cloak of Shadows, Moonlit Way, Phantom Lacerations, Spiritual Dagger, Withering Touch

Fifth (6): Baleful Polymorph, Feeblemind, Greater Command, Nightmare, Teleport, Waves of Fatigue

Sixth (6): Bewitch VI, Break the Spirit, Geas, Mass Suggestion, Repulsion, True Seeing

Seventh (5): Draw Forth the Soul, Eternal Charm Monster, Maze, Binding Ritual (Ritual), Gate (Ritual)

Eighth (5): Bewitch VIII, Damming Stare, Destroy Life, Wail of the Banshee, Imprisonment (Ritual)

So this version of Areelu Vorlesh is pretty powerful, though still not as powerful as the Pathfinder version (551 hp!) but still a very formidable foe and a worthy Witch Queen.



Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Magic School: I have Hogwarts on my Miskatonic U!

Mulling some ideas over lunch today.

My kids have both over the years expressed an interest in more Lovecraft and Cthulhu themed games but not really wanting to go full on Call of Cthulhu.

So a few things came to mind right away.

- San Scores and Sanity rules.  As a former QMHP and someone with degrees in psychology, I have been largely critical of most of the "sanity" rules I see in games.  In fact, most of them suck.  My son is using an elegant option for sanity. Your wisdom modifier plus your constitution modifier plus 10.   I will still use San points as Sanity x 5.

- The College of Dreamers is gone.  If I am using the 2nd Ed Glantri school of magic as my base, then I am going to say that the School of Dream was destroyed last year.  No one knows why and because of that attendance and new admits are way down.  What happened of course is they connected to the Dream Lands and the Far Realm (mixing my CoC and D&D 3 terms) and it killed them all.  This is the first phase of the return of the Old Ones.  Totally stealing this idea from the Wizards 101 MMORPG.  This is the big mystery of the 1st Years, what happened to the Dream College (not to be confused with the Dream Academy).  They won't learn till later in the term or even next year.

- With the Dream College gone, the School lessens admit standards.  What this means is Bards are now allowed. I am even considering a type of healer.

- All characters will have a Psionic wild power.   This is another side effect of the return of the Old Ones.  I just have not figured out if I am going to use the wild psionic powers of Basic Psionics Handbook or Realms of Crawling Chaos.  I am going to use both books in other ways.

So this game will have much more horror influences even though I am planning on avoiding using demons and devils for the most part.  Undead will be fine. It is Glantri afterall.  I will add some of elements from Ravenloft, though "Gothic Horror" and "Cosmic Horror" are not always a good mix.

Not 100% sure how this will all fit into the "War of the Witch Queens", but I have lots of time to figure that one out.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Magic School: Going Back to Glantri

Curse my gamemastering ADHD!

So despite the fact that I have not one, not two, but THREE D&D 5th Edition games going, I was working out some details of my Magic School game using the D&D Rules Cyclopedia.

So last night I pulled out my GAZ3 The Principalities of Glantri by +Bruce Heard and my Glantri: Kingdom of Magic.

I thought I might run it set in Glantri's past, 800 or so AC.  OR even 1000 AC which is close to the present day for the Gazetteer.  My current year is 1414-something AC.

But there is so much great stuff here.

This is going to focus 100% on the magic school so the political goings-on will be part of the background noise.

Though I DO want to expand on my whole Ravenloft is from Mystara/Glantri idea some more too and introduce a young professor of Alchemy from Boldavia, Strahd von Zarovich. Gives me an excuse/hook to drop in Ravenloft II.

But back to the school.

There are the Seven Secret Crafts of Magic in the Glantri School of Magic; Alchemy, Dracology, Elementalism, Illusionism, Necromancy, Cryptomancy (rune magic), and Witchcraft.

These were restructured in the 2nd Ed book, notably Witchcraft becoming Wokanism and Illusion dropped in favor of Dream Magic.  I am keeping Dream Magic from one and Witchcraft from the other.

I am thinking of adding others.  I would love to add a School of Healing; an exception to the normal rule of priests/clerics.  And MAYBE Druids.   I know they don't fit, but I like them.

Couple things I am considering.  Back in the Day I had a wizard character, Phygora, who was a
Glantri trained mage, but he "disappeared".  In reality, the mini I used belonged to my old DM.  He recently sold them all to me so now I have all these REALLY old lead minis including a recently repainted Phygora.  So guess who is now the new Headmaster!  Dosen't matter if I set this in the present or the past since in my game Phygora became something of a time-traveler.

I know that this campaign will go from level 1 to 7 (or 0 to 6), after that I want to move it over to my War of the Witch Queens.   I was talking with +Brian Isikoff this morning and he is considering doing something with Magic School grads and Bruce Heard's Calidar.  I think that is a fantastic idea!
Flying magic ships, flying circuses, I am SO there.

I just need more time to play!
But in the meantime, I can work out all these details.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: The Simbul's Gift

I am doing the Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge again this year, hosted by Melissa’s Eclectic Bookshelf.  This year I also want to focus on the Forgotten Realms, so I am going to combine my reading as much as possible.

So the obvious place (to me) to start is a book about The Simbul, the Witch Queen of Aglarond.  Is that what I got?   Well...

I had been warned previously that this was not a great book, and it isn't, but it is nowhere near as bad as I was lead to believe.  The author, Lynn Abbey, has a solid reputation in fantasy novels. Her work on the Thieves' World novels alone secures her place as one of fantasy's great authors. 

So I guess I was suspecting more in this one.

We get a lot about the Simbul.  She is somewhat vain (ok a lot) and capricious, but she also has plans.  She wants to get her sometime paramour Elminster a gift. She scrys and sees the perfect gift, a horse named Zandilar's Dancer. Trouble is it belongs to a half-elf lad.  Her machinations over the horse get her and the owner Ebroin into all sorts of trouble, even drawing the attention of the Red Wizards of Thay.

While I loved the background on the Simbul and like the information on Thay and the Red Wizards I felt this was really three stories crammed into one. Watching her interact with Ebroin, either as herself or in disguise, and watching her interact with a couple of Red Wizards made me realize that the Simbul has a lot of acquaintances, a lot of enemies, but no close friends. Even her people fear her more often than not.  While she is not presented in the most favorable of lights here I could not help but really like her.  I could see how she got where she was and how disconnected she must feel from everything and everyone except Elminster (who is not really in this book at all).  I wonder if she actually loves him or feels she does since he is the only other person that could possibly relate to her.  There is affection for her sisters, but even the seem aloof to her.

In the end of the tale the horse is all but forgotten and even the reasons for stealing him or not stealing him seem moot.

The Simbul is a like a storm. She comes, she goes, and she can leave destruction in her wake. Despite (or because of) that she is still a fascinating character and one I would love to read more about.

You can find Lynn Abbey on the web here: http://www.lynnabbey.com

2018 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge

Books Read so far: 1
Level: Initiate
Witches in this book: The Simbul, aka Alassra Shentrantra Silverhand.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches:
Best RPG to Emulate it: This book screams AD&D 2nd Edition.
Use in WotWQ: Yes.  The Simbul might end up being one of my central Witch Queens.

Forgotten Realms Date: 1368 DR

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Circe for Basic-era Games

Circe by Boris Vallejo
Getting ready for tomorrow's This Old Dragon and boy is it ever a fun one.  No spoilers, but I wanted to do something above and beyond the normal offering.

The issue has articles about the Holmes and Moldvay versions of the Basic Set.
Boris Vallejo is on the cover and the subject of an article.
And Giants of the Earth deal with some Magic-users.  Including one of my all-time favorites.

Circe

I spent my childhood reading the myths of ancient Greece.  One of my favorite characters was Circe.
So when I got my first copy of Deities & Demigods I went first to the Greek Mythos.
I was not overly thrilled with how they depicted Circe, a Chaotic Evil "Black Sorceress", but I also was not surprised.
In college, I reread the Odyssey and I found Circe was much more of a complex character than most people gave credit to.  Yes, she is not good and certainly selfish.  But I like to think there is more to her than that.
The Katerine Kerr penned article in Dragon #52 is a vast improvement over the DDG version.  Given all the subjects of the magazine, I wanted to present Circe as a Basic-era Witch.

Circe has always been the poster-girl for what I call the Classical Tradition of Witchcraft.  These are the witches of myth and legend, but not the ones of faerie tales.

Circe
Witch Queen of Aeaea
Witch (Classical Tradition) 19th level

Strength: 11 Death Ray, Poison 7
Dexterity: 13 Magic Wands 8
Constitution: 10 Paralysis, Polymorph or Turn to Stone 7
Intelligence: 12 Dragon Breath 10
Wisdom: 14 Rods, Staffs, Spells 9
Charisma: 18

Hit Points: 39
Alignment: Chaotic (Neutral)
AC: 7 (Cord of Protection, AC 7)

Occult Powers
Familiar: Sow (Autolycus)
7th level: Temporary Magic
13th level: Permanent Magic
19th level: Witch's Blessing

Spells
Cantrips (6): Alarm Ward, Black Flame, Daze, Mend, Object Reading, Quick Sleeping
First (6+2): Bewitch I, Charm Person, Comprehend Languages, Detect Invisible, Glamour, Silver Tongue, Sleep,  Consecration Ritual (Ritual)
Second (5+2): Alter Self, Enthrall, ESP, Hold Person, Mind Obscure, Nausea, Suggestion
Third (5+2): Bestow Curse, Dispel Magic, Fly, Hesitate, Lethe' Curse, Mind Rash, Toad Mind
Fourth (4+1): Animal Growth, Charm Monster, Confusion, Polymorph, Slow
Fifth (4): Bewitch V, Feeblemind, Greater Command, Hold Monster
Sixth (3): Control Weather, Geas, Legend Lore (Ritual)
Seventh (3):  Eternal Charm Monster, Massmorph, Veneration
Eighth (2):  Polymorph Any Object, Imprisonment (Ritual)

Compared to the stats in the article I am very pleased with this.  The Witch Circe's occult powers more than makeup for the Magic-User Circe's psionic powers.  Granted not a one-for-one, usually with a spell swapped here an there. 

Rereading my own writing here I think that the "Witch's Blessing" occult power was very much modeled after Circe and a gift she gave Odysseus in one of the myths I read.

See you all tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Iggwilv, Witch-Queen of Perrenland: Pathfinder Stats

It might feel like I am phoning this one in...and I am!  But seriously, work is crazy busy right now and to be honest these stats are top notch.

Over on the Sages of Oerth-Greyhawk page on Facebook, Randy Davis is doing a hell of a job of stating up some of the "big names" in Greyhawk.  I noticed his Zuggtmoy write-up a couple of days ago and thought it was great.  I did some digging and found his takes on GwynharwyfJuiblexFraz-Urb’luuYeenoghuGraz’ztOrcus, and Demogorgon.  I then found his take on Iggwilv and saw he used a lot of the same pictures I did.  So I immediately liked it (and "Liked" it).

Here is his take on Iggwilv. You can see it on Facebook and it is reposted with his permission below.
If you like his work, pop on over the Facebook page(s) to let him know.  He put a lot of work into these.

Iggwilv, the Witch-Queen of Perrenland
CR 31 / XP 13,107,200
Medium human CE female archwizard 10 / wizard (arcane crafter) 20
Init +8; Senses arcane sight, darkvision 60’, see invisibility; Perception +31

DEFENSE 
AC 33, touch 24, flat-footed 27 (armor +4, deflection +5, dex +6, insight +1, luck +2, natural +5)
hp 346 (30d6+210+31)
Fort +23, Ref +22, Will +25; evasion
DR 15/cold iron and good, Immune all devices and spells that gather information (detect, scry, etc.), electricity, movement-impeding effects, poison, Resist acid 10, cold 10, fire 10, SR 36

OFFENSE 
Speed 60 ft., fly 80 ft.
Melee staff of power +22/+17/+12 (1d6+8)
Ranged touch +21
Special Attacks: Archwizardry 5/day, Bypass Spell Resistance, Spell Echo 5/day

Wizard Spells Prepared (CL 30, Concentration +44)
9th gate, imprisonment (DC 33), quickened maze, extended shapechange, extended time stop, wish
8th extended greater planer binding (DC 32), extended dimensional lock, quickened forcecage (DC 32), maximized horrid wilting (DC 34), extended mind blank, trap the soul (DC 34)
7th banishment (DC 31), quickened flesh to stone (DC 31), quickened greater dispel magic (2), extended project image, soul transfer
6th maximized chain lightning (DC 30), maximized disintegrate (DC 30), extended mislead, extended planer binding (2), extended repulsion (DC 30), maximized and quickened scorching ray, extended true seeing, maximized undeath to death, quickened wall of force (2)
5th maximized acidic spray (DC 31), maximized cone of cold (DC 29), dismissal (DC 29), maximized and quickened magic missile, extended overland flight, sending, extended telekinesis (DC 29)
4th extended charm monster (DC 28), extended dimensional anchor (DC 28), quickened final sacrifice, extended greater false life, extended greater invisibility, quickened magic circle against chaos, extended sacrifice
3rd extended create soul gem (DC 29), extended displacement, extended fly, extended greater magic weapon, extended protection from energy, quickened resist energy (2)
2nd blindness/deafness (DC 28), extended glitterdust (DC 28, 2), extended hideous laughter (DC 26), extended invisibility, extended mirror image (2), quickened true strike, extended web
1st maximized chill touch, extended grease (DC 27), extended mage armor, maximized magic missile (2), extended protection from evil, extended protection from good, extended shield
0 light, mage hand, open/close, prestidigitation

STATISTICS 
Str 15, Dex 23, Con 24, Int 38, Wis 13, Cha 29
Base Attack +15; CMB +17; CMD 61

Feats: Augment Summoning, Craft Construct, Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Craft Wondrous Item, Demon Mastery, Extend Spell, Ironclad Logic, Greater Spell Focus (Conjuration, Necromancy), Greater Spell Penetration, Maximize Spell, Quicken Spell, Scribe Scroll, Skill Focus (Knowledge – Arcana), Skill Focus (Spellcraft), Soul-Powered Magic, Spell Focus (Conjuration, Necromancy), Spell Penetration, Superior Summoning

Skills: Acrobatics +56, Diplomacy +47, Escape Artist +36, Intimidate +39, Knowledge (arcana) +55, Knowledge (dungeoneering) +44, Knowledge (engineering) +44, Knowledge (geography) +44, Knowledge (history) +44, Knowledge (local) +44, Knowledge (nature) +44, Knowledge (nobility) +44, Knowledge (religion) +44, Knowledge (the planes) +44, Perception +31, Sense Motive +31, Spellcraft +55, Use Magic Device +44

Languages: Abyssal, Common, Celestial, Draconic, and Infernal
SQ Arcane Servant, Metamagic Enhancement, Selective Targets, Shaped Area
Each day Iggwilv casts extended greater false life, extended mage armor, extended greater magic weapon, extended mind blank and extended overland flight.

Contingency: If Iggwilv is ever petrified, a stone to flesh spell affects her.
Demon Mastery (feat): When summoning demons Iggwilv gains a +2 on Charisma checks made to resolve the effects of planer binding and similar spells. Additionally, whenever she uses a spell to call or summon a demon her effective caster level is +1 for resolving its effects.

Permanent Spells: Iggwilv has used permanency to make the following spells permanent upon her: arcane sight, darkvision, read magic, see invisibility, and tongues.
Inherent Bonuses: Through a combination of books from Xagyg’s library, her own levels and wish spells, Iggwilv has a +5 inherent bonus to all six of her abilities.

Lilitu’s Kiss: Iggwilv has secured the cooperation of a lilitu demon named Tsatchti, and bears her name as a tattoo-like mark on her right shoulder. This gift grants Iggwilv a +2 profane bonus to her Charisma and saving throws. Iggwilv’s weapons are also treated as being chaotic for the purpose of bypassing damage reduction. The mark can be removed by a dispel chaos spell.

Combat Gear: scroll of limited wish (2), scrolls of monster summoning VII (4), VIII (3), IX (2), amulet of natural armor +5, belt of battle, Boots of Swiftness, bracers of mighty constitution +6, Cloak of the Witch Queen, dusty rose ioun stone, gloves of storing, headband of protection +5, ring of free action, Ring of Epic Wizardry VI, staff of power (16), Robe of the Abyss, rod of greater quicken metamagic, 25,000gp in diamond dust for wish, true seeing ointment (4), 10,000 gp in rare incense and offerings for gate, 3000 gp in ruby dust for forcecage, star sapphire worth 22,000gp for trap the soul

Belt of Battle: This belt grants a +2 competence bonus on initiative checks. This is a continuous effect and requires no activation. In addition, a belt of battle has 3 charges, which are renewed each day at dawn. Each time you activate the belt, one of the black pearls set into its buckle turns white. The pearls return to normal when the belt’s charges renew. Spending 1 or more charges grants you an extra action, which must be taken immediately (before you take any other action). 1 charge: 1 move action. 2 charges: 1 standard action. 3 charges: 1 full-round action. Caster Level 13

Boots of Swiftness (minor artifact): These soft-soled leather shoes grant their wearer a +6 enhancement bonus to Dexterity. The wearer’s speed doubles (this does not stack with any magical or supernatural enhancement to speed), she gains the evasion ability (as the rogue class feature), and the wearer’s jumping distance is not limited by her height. The wearer gains a +20 competence bonus to her CMD, and on her Acrobatics and Climb checks. Three times per day, the wearer can utter a command word to activate haste as a swift action. Caster Level 25

Cloak of the Witch Queen (major artifact): Wearing this cloak grants the wearer a +8 enhancement to Intelligence, a +6 enhancement to Charisma, SR 36 and +5 resistance on all saving throws. The wearer can plane shift at will (as per amulet of the planes). Caster Level 30

Robe of the Abyss (minor artifact): The wearer of this robe enjoys DR 15/cold iron and good, immunity to electricity and poison, and resistance to acid 10, cold 10, and fire 10. Caster Level 25
(converted from Savage Tide epic 3.5 to Pathfinder)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Under Her Spell

"When a witch has a feeling it must be listened to, and promptly." - Isabella Fox, Mediocre Witch.

Under Her Spell by Bridget Essex came to me from a variety of different means.  One, which I'll mention in detail below, was because she was the author of another book I had read.  The second, though I didn't know it at the time, was because it was an update to a book I had read a while back.

First though to the book proper.  Under Her Spell (and let's be honest here. How was I NOT going to grab this book?) deals with Isabella Fox (a very mediocre witch) and her talking familiar Alice.  Isabella has just been run out of her last town and she needs a new job.  As a witch for hire, especially one that is only so-so, she doesn’t have a lot of options.   She spots an ad for a town that needs a witch to cast one spell a year. How could she possibly screw this one up? So she ends up with the town of Benevolence.  Benevolence is quiet on the verge of boring. The town is full of "Shifters", people that can take animal form and have their own type of magic.  She only has one spell to cast every year (and she is not even convinced it’s needed) and it would be the perfect gig.  Except for the Outcast.  The outcast is Emily Deer. Her ancestor betrayed the town to the Wolf of Winter and now her whole family is outcast.  Since Isabella doesn't even believe the Wolf is real (and whom she is supposed to cast the spell to ward off) she seeks out this strange, and beautiful outcast.

And that is where it hit me that I had read this book already...sort of.  I had read "One Solstice Night" by Elora Bishop some years back.  Well, Elora Bishop is Bridget Essex.  One Solstice Night is just a section in Under Her Spell.  The remaining sections cover Imbolc (a ghost story) and the Equinox (dealing with an ancient god).

The common theme though is love. Love of friends, family and of course romantic love. Though to use a quote, "there was plenty of magic."  Isabella and Emily are a great romantic couple. Emily is so down to earth and Isabella is such an air head (but in the best ways possible) that you can't help but root for them.  The only couple that is better is Virago and Holly (they are below).

There are a lot of cool locales that I hope we get to see in Essex's other books (again, see below).  The Hag Bar in the World’s Largest Swamp was a really cool idea. It was very easy to see all these witches, holding brooms and their drinks walking around, drinking, chatting.  I wish I had thought of it.     Benevolence is an interesting town.  I enjoyed the casual magic people were using and Essex did a great job of detailing the inhabitants.  The Rose Temple is a fantastic setting for any D&D game (ghosts and all) and I can't wait to read more about Arktos City from her other books.

Now I came to Bridget Essex via another book.  I had been searching for a book where a Knight falls in love with a Witch.  Spend any time here and you know I love witches but I am also fond of Paladins.  I was looking for a book then where a knight in shining armor finds a witch and falls in love with her.  What I ended up finding in my search was A Knight to Remember by Essex.  It had everything I was looking for, a dragon, a knight, a witch and even librarian (my current witch character is also a sage).  It just didn't have them in the order I was looking for!  The knight (Virago) and the librarian (Holly) fall in love, and the witch is the librarian's brother!  Still. This was also a really, really great read. It introduced me to Essex (or re-introduced me) and to her creation of Arktos City.  I will say that Virago is one of my favorite charcters ever.  She is so pure and focused on her task, duty and mission that she could have come off as a complete jerk, but instead, she was noble and just.  She really was the epitome of a paladin in my mind.
From this book and her website, I found so many other books including Under Her Spell.

A Knight to Remember is another fun read, but not much in the way of witches in it.  Though I have to admit I was cheering at the end during the Ren-Faire Jousting scene.

I am going to be reading more of Essex's books. She has a gift for writing and for making characters you really want to cheer on.  Plus I have a guess on what is going to happen next for Emily and Isabella and I need her to write the next book so I can find out if I am correct!

Bridget Essex can be found on the web at: https://bridgetessex.wordpress.com/

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 16 (16.5 if you count AKtR)
Level: Crone
Witches in this book: Isabella in Part One and Three, her classmates and various other witches in Part Two.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: Isabella is a mediocre witch.  No, she is all good.
Best RPG to Emulate it: Lots of great choices to be honest. Arktos City feels like it is right out of Blue Rose.  The openness of witches, shifters and same-sex love is also right out of Blue Rose.
Virago, the knight in A Knight to Remember, is a Rose Knight in all but name to be honest.
Use in WotWQ: Hell yes! In fact I would love to have Isabella and Emily make an appearance as guest stars.  Plus her witches drink inordinate amounts of tea just like mine do. How can I say no to that?

In truth, there is so much great stuff here for a game.  Here and there in her books Essex has built a mythology and a history worth exploring. From her knights, to Arktos City, to the Temple of the Rose Goddess and her magical academy. Not to mention all the shifters and witches!

Gamers also already know the knight Virago.

Here she is on the cover of a Knight to Remember.


And again on Q Workshop's Classic RPG Dice Set!


I know, both Essex and Q-Workshop legal purchased the same bit of stock art and it might be a little tacky of me to share this.   But I will admit I bought those dice just because they had "Virago" on them.  I already have some dice for War of the Witch Queens, but I might sneak these in.

Looking forward to reading more.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Methyn Sarr, Witch Queen of the Fire Coast

I spent some time over the long weekend reading through Barbarians of Lemuria: Mythic Edition. I have the previous editions and this one captures the same feel of the pulp-era adventures.  It is a fun game in it's own right but in truth, I am not at a point anymore where I want to learn a bunch of systems.
I am very, very happy with my world of OSR and B/X so I set out to convert BoL over to B/X D&D.   I also quickly discovered that a one to one conversion is not always the best idea.

Barbarians of Lemuria: Mythic Edition is a low-magic, and dare I even say, low-powered game.  Even the main antagonist would not really convert to very high level given most of the advice I have seen online.

I went into Barbarians of Lemuria with two goals.  First, I want to get some more information on Lemuria for my own games and add this feel to my current "Second Campaign" game.   Secondly, I want to convert the main antagonist, Methyn Sarr, into something I can use for my "War of the Witch Queens" game.   I'll detail the first as it happens, but I can talk about the second now.

Barbarian's of Lemuria, along with Crypts & Things, share an ethos and a feel with another favorite game of mine, Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  In my mind all three can be combined to make a Pulp-fanstastic, old-school D&D like-game worthy of any mighty thewed barbarian or crafty sorcerer. Mix in a little DCC or Lamentations of the Flame Princess and you have a heady brew.   There is a lot to love here, I just wish I had the time to do all of these games the justice they deserve.

Of course, the antagonist, Methyn Sarr, caught my eye.  She is described as "the Witch Queen of the Fire Coast" and the devoted agent of Zaggath, Lord of Fire.  She is fierce, cruel, beautiful and deadly. Everything I love about an evil witch.  A direct conversion didn't feel right.  No one is afraid of a 3rd level witch*.  (*the suggestion that 1 HD = 5 LB has been thrown out on the internet.  So her 12 LB would be 2.4 HD).

Instead, I looked at her Arcane Power (16) and her careers.   She can cast Third Magnitude spells which I figure are about 6th-8th level for witches.  Since I was looking at AS&SH that puts her 11th level (or 12th).  I wanted something a little more impressive, so I also looked at my own Witch stats for 13th level.

Methyn Sarr, Witch Queen of the Fire Coast


Methyn Sarr, Witch Queen of the Fire Coast
Female Witch 11th level (Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, +Jeff Talanian)
Chaotic Evil

Race: Human
Secondary Skill: Torturer

Abilities
Strength: 10
Dexterity: 12
Constitution: 10
Intelligence: 18
Wisdom: 16
Charisma: 17

Casting Ability: 11
Fighting Ability: 5

Hit Points:  24
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
AC: 5 (battle harness)

Powers
1st level: Brew Potions, Familiar
3rd level: Brew Philtre
5th level: Dance of Beguilement, Effigy
7th level: Animate Broom
9th level: Witch's Apprentice

Spells (due to her connection to Zaggath she may also cast Pyromancer spells)
First: (5) Burning Hands, Charm Person, Influence Normal Fires, Shocking Grasp, Sleep
Second: (5) Cause Blindness, Flame Blade, Flaming Sphere, Infernal Tongues, Ray of Enfeeblement
Third: (4) Black Cloud, Explosive Runes, Fireball, Witch Fire
Fourth: (3) Fire Shield, Mirror Mirror, Transfer Wounds
Fifth: (2) Magic Jar, Produce Bonfire
Sixth: (1) Disintegrate

Magic Items
Battle Harness (provides AC 5)
Blood Dagger of Zaggath (adds +1d6 damage due to dripping fire blood)


Methyn Sarr, Witch Queen of the Fire Coast
Female Witch, Malefic Tradition 13th level (The Witch)
Chaotic

Abilities
Strength: 10
Dexterity: 12
Constitution: 10
Intelligence: 17
Wisdom: 16
Charisma: 18

Hit Points: 29
AC: 5 (battle harness)

Occult Powers
Familiar: Raven
7th level:  Evil's Touch
13th level: Devil's Tongue

Spells 
Cantrips: Black Flame, Daze, Detect Curse, Object Reading, Open, Palm
First: Cause Fear, Fey Sight, Ghostly Slashing, Increase Sex Appeal, Sleep
Second: Agony, Blast Shield, Death Armor, Evil Eye
Third: Feral Spirit, Clairaudience/Clairvoyance, Tongues
Fourth: Dance Macabre, Intangible Cloak of Shadows, Phantom Lacerations
Fifth: Death Curse, Dreadful Bloodletting
Sixth: Death Blade, Mass Agony
Seventh:  Wave of Mutilation

Magic Items
Battle Harness (provides AC 5)
Blood Dagger of Zaggath (adds +1d6 damage due to dripping fire blood)

So not exact conversions by any stretch, but certainly workable ones.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Pathfinder Tales: Winter Witch

"Ellasif was the only witness to her infant sister's first breath. What followed was not a newborn's wail, but merry peals of laughter." 

Pathfinder Tales: Winter Witch by Elaine Cunningham and Dave Gross.

Gamer Fiction is a bit of an odd thing for me.  I admit I enjoy it and sometimes I find something good. But there is a tinge of guilt that I am "wasting my time" and not reading something better.  I guess this makes it the very definition of "guilty pleasures".

Winter Witch is no different.  Elaine Cunningham has been writing for years and has some notable titles under belt.   It will not be confused with great literature, but it is also not supposed to be. It is a fun little romp through a frozen world with a wizard turned forger and cshieldmaiden looking for her sister.  Ellasif, the aforementioned shieldmaiden is the hero of our tale and the most interesting. She obviously loves her sister Liv, but is also not a little afraid of her.
Her beginning story was very interesting.  I could not help but feel it was nice mix of Slavic, Saxon and Celtic myths all rolled into one. The story then shifts to the tale of a wizard (we later learn) and map maker forger Declan.  Declan was not as interesting to me to be honest though the mystery around him was.  These two unlikely heroes, grim Ellasif and urbane Declan,  set off to find Liv and take her from the clutches of the Witches of Irrisen, maybe even from the clutches of Baba Yaga herself!

The book was a fun, really quick read. Though I will admit there are parts of the ending I was not satisfied with. Unlike some game-related fiction, where you can practically hear the dice rolling in the background, this read much more like a novel.  I read this one soon after a few Forgotten Realm novels so the competing descriptions of some the same spells (for example Fireball) were very interesting.  I guess the question I ask myself is would I read another book by Elaine Cunningham? Yes, absolutely!  Would I read another book with these characters? Maybe, depends on what the book was about.

I was hoping that Feiya would make a cameo, but no such luck really. Maybe the iconics don't appear in books.

This was another Audiobook find and the reader, Daniel Thomas May, did a great job.

Elaine Cunningham can be found on the web here:
https://www.facebook.com/elaine.cunningham
and
http://www.elainecunningham.com/

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 12
Level: Mother
Witches in this book: Many. All of Irrisen, Baba Yaga, Liv and Mareshka.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: All the above. THough mostly they are Bad.
Best RPG to Emulate it: Well. It is a Pathfinder book. Pathfinder is the obvious choice here.
Use in WotWQ: Absolutely!  I can't say for sure what or who will appear, but Irrisen will absolutely feature into the War of the Witch Queens.  Expect to see Baba Yaga there too.


Don't forget. Today is Beltane!
Pick up a copy of the Warlock for Swords & Wizardry.


Friday, March 17, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Fionn, Defence of Ráth Bládhma

"'I am An Cailleach Dhubh,' Bodhmhall replied cynically 'No secret is unknown to me.'"
- Bodhmhall, Bandroai of Ráth Bládhma

Fionn: Defence of Ráth Bládhma: The Fionn mac Cumhaill Series: Book One by Brian O'Sullivan

In this Part 1 of the story of Fionn mac Cumhaill, also known as Finn MacCool, the titular character barely makes an appearance.  He is there, yes, and all the events of the story are centered around him and his mother, but he is not the hero of this tale.
The heroes are the Bandroai (or Ban Drui or Druid) Bodhmhall and her protector and lover Liath Luachra.  When pregnant Muirne Muncháem shows up at Ráth Bládhma, Bodhmhall is duty bound to give her shelter even though she knows that this woman is being pursued by an army who want her and her unborn son dead.  There is also something else in the wood, something darker and evil.
Soon the siege of Ráth Bládhma is on and others are seeking protection and it is all one outcast druid and her warrior woman anamchara can do to protect Muirne and her son.

Since this is a part one there are a lot of characters to get introduced and the whole issue of the oncoming siege and the dark power in the woods.

Ultimately this book is a tale of survival. I hesitate to call it a book about war, there is war yes, but it is more about the survival of the clan and what others will do to survive.

What attracted me to this story was course it was about Fionn mac Cumhaill as well as well as Liath and Bodhmal.  I have read many of the tales about Fionn and most of the modern novelizations.  Fionn was also a central character in my own Buffy the Vampire Slayer games.  So imagine my surprise and pleasure when I discovered this tale was really more about Liath and Bodhmal!

Very little has been said about Fionn's fosterers in the tales and little more has been mentioned in the novels.   For this book to be all bout Liath and Bodhmal was more than I could have asked more.
While reading I found myself connecting to things O'Sulivan had written; we obviously have drawn from the same sources.  So I found his work to be familiar and yet completely new.  When I had read a quarter of the book I had to stop myself from saying "Liath wouldn't do that" or "That's not what Bodhmal would say." At about half way I was so completely enjoying the book that I forgot all that.  Before I finished I had already bought every book Brian O'Sullivan had written.  There are more parts to this story as well as one with Liath and her time with the warrior band Na Cineáltaí or "The Kindly Ones".

The book is largely self contained. That is you can read it and not be left on a cliff hanger if you know the tales of Fionn. I am planning to queue up the next books in the series right away to be honest.  The tale is timeless and one that can be retold many ways.

Liath & Bodhmal
I feel I should address this subject, especially if you have ever read my blog.  Many know my long time love affair with Liath and Bodhmal.  They have appeared in many of my games and have worked their way into the histories of not only the witches I write about, but my characters too.  I have spent a long time with these two. I have very definite opinions on who these characters are and what they should be doing in any given situation.  While my interpretations are different than O'Sullivan's we both agreed on some very important key points. Liath is a peerless warrior. Bodhmal was a druid with a past and not a great past at that. We also agreed on a very key point, that Liath and Bodhmal were lovers.  It's not something I had seen in other tales before. Morgan Llywelyn hinted at it, or maybe I read into it, but Brian O'Sullivan also saw that and his tale is worthy of these two.  Sure I have to get over the first meeting in my mind of Liath and Bodhmal (Liath sparing with her two brothers with a staff and keeping them both on the defense) but this is a really great book.
I can't wait to read more.


2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 9
Level: Maiden
Witches in this book: Bodhmhall is called a "Bandraoi" but she is a witch in my book.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: Very good.
Best RPG to Emulate it: A better question is what RPG have I NOT used to emulate it!  Again, this Liath and Bodhmhall are not my Liath and Bodhmal exactly, but they are closer than any other set I have seen.  To date I have used Castles & CrusadesLabyrinth Lord, D&D 4th Edition,  and of course Unisystem.
Use in WotWQ: What do you think?  But seriously though, in the mythology of my games Bodhmal was not the first witch, but she was one of the first. The Daughters of the Flame coven come from here and in some ways so does the Aiséiligh Tradition.

You can find more of Brian O'Sullivan's books at http://irishimbasbooks.com/.


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.

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.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce

“Never break a promise to an animal. They're like babies—they won't understand.” 
- Daine.

"Wild Magic" is the first book of a quartet of books in the Immortals Series by Tamora Pierce.  The story deals with Veralidaine (aka Daine), a thirteen-year-old girl who just survived a raid on her village that left her family dead and her alone.  We first meet her looking for a job.  We quickly learn that she has a way with animals and is a good shot with a bow.   Her human skills leave a little to be desired and she is carrying a dark secret.
In the world around her, we learn that monsters, the immortals, are coming back after being locked away in the lands of the gods.  She and her new friend/boss Onua encounter "Stormwings", which are like an advanced form of a harpy and giant spiders.
Along the way, we learn that while Daine's mother was a hedge-witch she has no magical "gift" herself, but there is something more that normal with the way she can interact with animals.

Daine grows in her power under tutelage from a university trained mage while she is working as assistant horse-mistress to the Queen's Riders.  Here we learn her magic is the rarest, Wild Magic, and there might not be any limits to what she can do.  We do learn of her dark secret (and it pays off) and we see her grow from a shy child to a strong and capable young woman.

I read this book a long time ago, but I don't think I finished it. Given the time I was in grad school and likely busy reading Vygotsky and Dewey too.  Also, I remember the ending different.  I picked up the Full Cast audio book of this and it was very pleased. It was like a mini performance.  Some reviewers mentioned that keeping track of the character voices was tough, but I found it easy to be honest.  I was not going to pick up the next three books, remembering that this one pretty self-contained, but now I am going to.  I also enjoyed having Pierce as one of the narrators. It is nice to hear the definitive pronunciation of some of the names, even if they were sometimes very different than how I had read them!

Using this Story in a Game
There are very, very few monsters in this story. The ones that are here make a huge impression.  This is something that fantasy game masters should take a cue from, that when you are 1st level EVERY monster needs to be a memorable experience.  The Stormwings, which are essential harpies with metal wings, are a serious threat to 13-year-old Daine.
Also, there is the underlying theme of magic can do wonderful things, but it by itself can't fix your problems.
It's the old adage that when your only tool is a hammer everything starts looking like a nail.

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 5
Level: Initiate
Witches in this book: Daine, but only because her magic is so very different than everyone else's.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: There are clear lines between good and evil here.
Best RPG to Emulate it: Another easy one. This is very clearly Blue Rose.  Daine is an Adept that has taken all the animal related arcana.
Use in WotWQ: There are a lot of great ideas for games as mentioned above.  The idea of a new, or rather really old and forgotten, type of magic is just too good to pass up.  I also like the idea of new and scary monsters coming into or back into the world as a prelude to something terrible happening.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

New Adventure, Character and Resources

Kinda buried at work this week.
So I'll share some resources and new adventure I am reading.

First up is the adventure.
The Witch of Monte Rosa is from Bill Barsh over at Pacesetter Games.
For 12 bucks you get an old-school like adventure and PDF.  This adventure is for low-level characters using OSRIC or your favorite OSR rule-set.
It is a sanbox adventure designed to be dropped into any campaign and is adaptable to higher levels.  The main focus though is the titular witch and the damage she is causing to nearby life.
There are some new monsters and some new magic items that look like a lot of fun.
The main antagonist is Helena, a "Cauldron Witch".
It would not take much at all to retune this to work with my Witch class.  "Cauldron Witch" becomes a tradition with some alchemy based powers.  Instead of Magic-User spells, give her witch spells.

Here is my take on her.

Helena
9th level Witch, Cauldron Tradition
Chaotic Evil

Strength: 15
Dexterity: 10
Constitution: 13
Intelligence: 18
Wisdom: 10
Charisma: 17

Saves
Death Ray or Poison:  11
Magic wand or devices: 12
Paralysis, Polymorph or Turn to Stone: 11
Dragon Breath: 14
Rods, Staffs, and Spells: 13

Hit Points: 50
AC: 7 (Leather Armor)
To hit AC 0: 16
Weapon: Staff (1d6+2)

Occult Powers
Familiar:  Cauldron*  (her connection to her cauldron is explained in the adventure)
Lesser: Immune to the Affects of Undead

Spells
Cantrips (6): Black Flame, Ghost Sound, Inflict Minor Wounds, Quick Sleeping, Spark, Summon Vermin
First (3+2): Bewitch, Black Fire, Burning Hands, Cause Fear, Charm Person
Second (3+2): Agony, Biting Blade, Blast Shield, Hold Person, Spell Missile
Third (2+2): Bestow Curse, Danse Macabre, Ghost Ward, Scry
Fourth (2+1):  Arcane Eye, Elemental Armor, Spiritual Dagger
Fifth (1): Death Curse

Certainly a worthy opponent!

What sold me on this adventure was that she was described as a "Witch Queen, long forgotten."
Kinda makes it perfect for my War of the Witch Queens adventures. So perfect in fact I am going to use this as the introduction to the series.


Going to be a blast really!

Here are free resources on witches and witchcraft.



Though if you are like me these are all very familiar sites.

Monday, January 9, 2017

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge

It's 2017 and time for some new challenges. Or maybe an old challenge with new choices.
I am planning on participating in the 2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge over at Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf.



I participated in 2015 and 2016. I did well in 2015 getting 25 witch books read.  Last year I didn't get any since I spent most of my reading time with the history of England.

This year I already had a couple of books lined up so I figured it was a good thing to do. I had a lot of fun in 2015 with this.

This year I think I want to post reviews as soon as I am done reading them rather than waiting till the end of the month.  I also want to post more RPG-related material based on the books I am reading.  Plus anything I can add to my War of the Witch Queens adventures.  I think I will also expand a little what I consider a witch too.

In any case I think this is going to be a lot of fun.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Witch Wars and Second Campaigns

Again, no gaming for me this weekend. So when I am not working on my current 5e game my mind tends to wander a bit. Lately, I have been thinking a lot about what needs to be done next.

A brief recap though.

I started playing with my kids when my son turned 5, so about 2005 or so.
That adventure was the start of what would become the Dragonslayers campaign. There was no over arching plot and we made a lot up as we went along. The rule system was a modified version of D&D 3.0 with bits of Mutants & Masterminds, BESM d20 and Star Wars thrown in for good measure. Soon my youngest son joined and there was a rotating cast of characters (sometimes joined by their friends) under the vague notion of stopping the threat of evil dragons. Eventually the party decided that they had to stop Tiamat herself. We went through many of the classic adventures and a lot that were completely made up on the day of gaming.

When D&D 4 came out we tried a couple of times to get a game going under that but to no real success. Though those failures lead to what we called the Order of the Platinum Dragon games, or what I have been calling here the Come Endless Darkness game. Like every time I have changed rule systems I usually use the children of the characters I was playing before. This time, we started using AD&D 1st Edition. We played that for a couple of levels, notably for adventures B1 and B2. When D&D 5th Ed came out we switch wholesale over to that with flashbacks using AD&D1 and D&D Basic.

Now I want to try something a little different.

The Second Campaign is (in theory) supposed to run in parallel to the Come Endless Darkness game. Different characters, but the same world and time. One of the elements of this game is that one of the characters that went missing from the CED game will show up here. That game is limited to only 12-14 levels, then for the big finale all the characters would come together in the end. BUT...that might not work so well since I didn't get the Second Campaign started when I should have. Or rather, the CED game had too much momentum and we kept going. In the CED game they are going to deal with the Lolth-Orcus threat, in TSC it will be Dagon and Demongorgon.
Since it is a "Second Campaign" I want to follow the model of the "First Campaign" or Come Endless Darkness and use classic modules. These are the ones I am considering.

N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God, levels 1-3 (novice)
U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, levels 1-3
U2 Danger at Dunwater, levels 1-4
U3 The Final Enemy, levels 3-5
I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City, levels 4-7
I3 Pharaoh, levels 5-7
I4 Oasis of the White Palm, levels 6-8
I5 Lost Tomb of Martek, levels 7-9
X4 Master of the Desert Nomads, levels 6-9
X5 Temple of Death, levels 6-10
I9 Day of Al'Akbar, level 8-10
Gary Gygax's Necropolis, levels 10+

The only one that I am 100% sold on is Necropolis.

Since these are all AD&D modules (save Necropolis) I might stick to AD&D, but it is far more likely that this will be a combination of Basic/Expert D&D, Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, Adventurer Conqueror King, Basic Fantasy RPG, Labyrinth Lord and any other OSR book I have laying around. It is a mix-mash that I often refer to as "Black Box Basic".

The trouble it that it make much more sense for this game to use Castles & Crusades. Converting between C&C and D&D5 is a no brainer really. Super easy. I want to play C&C. I also want to play Black Box.

The only ones I don't have PDFs for.
The campaign after this will be my War of the Witch Queens.
That one will be run under Castles & Crusades and also use a variety of adventures.

The Stealer of Children (LL), level 1
B7 Rahasia (Basic D&D), levels 1-3
The Ruins of Ramat (S&W), levels 1-3
Return of the Warlock (S&W), levels 2-4
The Manor Issue 6 (OSR), low level (roughly 3rd)
Witch of the Tarriswoods (OSR), 3rd level
Saga of the Witch Queen (DCC), 4th level
A3 Wicked Cauldron (C&C), levels 3-5
Night of the Spirits (C&C), levels 4-6
No Salvation for Witches (LotFP), not mentioned, likely levels 5-7
Witches Court Marshes (AD&D_ish), around 7
Fane of the Witch King (3.0/d20), levels 10+
Dark Druids, AD&D1/OSRIC, levels 8-12
The Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga (AD&D_2e), levels 7-20
The Witch Queen's Revenge (Pathfinder), levels 15+
The Witchwar Legacy (Pathfinder), levels 17+
Winter of the Witch (D&D4), Epic levels

One campaign has a variety of rules, but adventures that are for the same system. The other uses one set of rules, but each adventure is for a different system.

One day I'll do something easy.
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