Showing posts with label adventure. Show all posts
Showing posts with label adventure. Show all posts

Friday, September 22, 2023

Kickstart Your Weekend: Demons, Angels, and Serpent Queens

 A couple of new Kickstarters for this weekend.

Castles & Crusades Codex Infernum & Codex Exaltum

Castles & Crusades Codex Infernum & Codex Exaltum

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ckg/castles-and-crusades-monsters-the-unclean-and-pure?ref=theotherside

Troll Lords continues their Codex Series with two books. Castles & Crusades Codex Infernum and Codex Exaltum, this time covering Demons and Angels, respectively.

I really liked their Tome of the Unclean, which featured demons and devils, and I thought it was a great book. I love their Codex series as well.  No surprise then that I am looking forward to seeing these out. 

And to add icing on the cake the Codex Exaltum is being written by none other than my frequent partner in crime, Jason Vey!  Jaso really is the perfect person for that with his academic and game-writing background. So my expectations of this one are pretty high. 

The covers look great and will fit in nicely with my current in-use copies of Castles & Crusades.

Also expect these in a future One Man's God-style post.


Trails & Tales: Temple of the Serpent Queen

Trails & Tales: Temple of the Serpent Queen

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/trailsandtales/trails-and-tales-temple-of-the-serpent-queen?ref=theotherside

If you are on social media, in particular Facebook, you know that for a little bit now Danger Forge has been releasing some quality OSR-compatible PDFs for free. The production values are high and the content has been a lot of fun.  

This is their first Kickstarter. 

Personally, I can think of about three or four campaigns I could use this in, one of which is my Castles & Crusades conversion of my "Second Campaign."

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Baldur's Gate: A Barbarian in Hell

 My son and I have been enjoying the new game, Baldur's Gate 3. He is much further along than I am and so is his D&D 5e group. One of his favorite characters is Karlach, the tiefling barbarian. I admit, she is great. Karlach is this 6ft+ tall tiefling warrior goddess who is also one of the funniest, most optimistic characters in the game. My son calls her a "cinnamon roll" because of how sweet and fluffy she is.

When your character is idle she will be humming to herself and dancing in place. She says things like "fuck! It is great to be alive!" and when she runs into combat she laughs. She calls everyone "soldier" and loves it when you stick up for the underdog, kids or find ways to keep the innocents alive. She has every right to be angry and bitter; instead, she is cheerful and optimistic. 

And sadly...she is also dying.

Spoilers ahead for the Baldur's Gate 3 video game.

A Barbarian in Hell

Karlach has an "infernal engine" for a heart. It works great in Hell, where she was fighting in the blood war, but on the Prime Material, it is burning her up from the inside. One of your quests is to find a way to keep her from burning up. You can, for a while (and it is worth the effort!) but in the end...well the Devil has their due. 

There are a lot of different endings for all the "origin" characters, but Karlach's was particularly bleak. Her happy ending was to be able to say she loved everyone before burning up, leaving only ash.

What did Larian Studios do about this when players started complaining about it? Simple they did what any good studio would do.  They pulled back in the voice actress, reshot Karlach's ending with all new material, and patched it to the game in a matter of DAYS.

You can see her new "happy" ending here.

Personally, I love the idea that she and Wyll go off together since their backstories are so intertwined. If I do another run-through of this game, I want to do it as Wyll with the purpose of seeing what I can do to save Karlach. Karlach would never do it for herself; that is not who she is.

BUT. Even with the "they lived happily ever-after in Hell" ending my son and his group are less than happy with it. So we were talking about it one night while playing BG3.

He wants an adventure for his party where they go to Hell to rescue both Karlach and Wyll.  He wanted to know if I had anything.  

I told him that was a silly question.

A Paladin in Hell

I mentioned the adventure A Paladin in Hell does this, and it has somewhat the same premise as the newer D&D 5 adventure (and Baldur's Gate 3 prequel) Descent into Avernus.

I told him to use the basic outline of APiH, use details from BG:DiA, and make it a mission to rescue Karlach and call it "A Barbarian in Hell." However, in my current run-through, Wyll has rejected his warlock powers to become a Paladin. So I guess it still works.  I half-jokingly have called this "No Sleep Till Avernus" with my son.

In this adventure, Karlach and Wyll are defending a piece of Elturel that has remained in Avernus (let's say it was the temple in A Paladin in Hell).  The characters in Baldur's Gate 3 are limited to 12th level. "Descent into Avernus" takes the characters from level 1 to 13. The AD&D 2nd Ed "A Paladin in Hell" is for characters 15-20 level. So then A Barbarian in Hell is for characters 13th level and above. 

Paladins in Hell

The motivation for most D&D adventures is glory and gold. The motivation for A Paladin in Hell is "the greater good."  For A Barbarian in Hell, the motivation is "Save our friends."  And that is a good motivation, really. 

Besides, if the roles were reversed, you know Karlach would have saved your ass a long time ago.

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Mail Call: Fright Night Classics Adventures

Nice new mail call. Especially when it is a book I worked on. I have to admit this never, ever gets old to me.

Fright Night Classics

My "The Nightmare" and a great one, "Medieval Mysteries" from Scott George set in a medieval monastery. 

The Nightmare

Yeah, I am pretty happy with this, to be honest.

You can get all the Fright Night Classics Adventures on DriveThruRPG.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

New Release: The Nightmare

I woke up to a very pleasant surprise today.

The Nightmare

An adventure I worked on was released in PDF on DriveThruRPG last night. 

The Nightmare

From the Back cover:

You wake up unable to move. There’s a presence in the room. Then you see it. You’re terrifified beyond anything you’ve experienced before. The dark shape with glowing eyes approaches as you lay helpless. You try desperately to move, knowing that you must in order to stop this evil, malevolent thing from attacking. Still the entity nears. A scream forms but doesn’t come out.

The creature is pressing down upon you. Its eyes are all the more horrifying, and now you can make out a hag-like face. “She” has a menacing smile, and apparently is whispering something.

You feel that if you don’t move soon, you will die from sheer fright...

Known by many names across many cultures, the entity commonly referred to as the “old hag” has been a literal nightmare for humanity for centuries. Now it stalks the streets of Stockton, California, returning to locations still haunted by its presence decades before. Spectral forces have incaded the Central Valley. Eliminating them from the community is up to you.

The Nightmare is an exciting new adventure for the FRIGHT NIGHT CLASSICS roleplaying game module series. Inside you’ll find character cards, a sleep lab map, and a fun night of terrifying gaming.

I really had a lot of fun with this one. 

When I was contacted by Richard Ravalli of Yeti Spaghetti and Friends to do a Fright Nights Classics adventure, I jumped on it.  

The game is designed for games like Chill and Cryptworld, but you can use it with almost any modern horror game. Yes, even NIGHT SHIFT.

I have wanted to write a Chill adventure for years so I was very pleased to get to do this. 

ALSO,

Fright Night Classics is currently in the middle of defending their trademark. So you can get the adventure AND help them out for the same price of the adventure alone. Just head on over to their GoFundMe page and donate $5 then tweet out your donation, tagging Fright Night Classics @chillcryptworld (tag me as well! @timsbrannan) and tell them you want a copy of "The Nightmare!"

Yeah, this won't help the standing on DriveThru, but the money goes to a good cause. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Class Struggles: The Necromancer, Part 2

The Necromancer
I have not done a Class Struggles in a bit. Let's change that today.

The Necromancer is fertile ground for gamers.  I featured the Necromancer as one of the first Class Struggles.  There is still more to be said. Also in the last few months, I have bought at least three new necromancers. So lets see what we have.

Dragon #76 The Death Master
I spoke a lot about this one when I covered Dragon #76 in This Old Dragon and in my original Class Struggles. It really is the model I follow when creating an evil necromancer type though Len's here was a bit of an arcane necromancer with a bit of a death priest of Orcus mixed in. As I became savvier in what I knew about necromancers and the various D&D worlds I decided that Death Masters were unique to the Word of Greyhawk's Oerth. 

The Death Master became a playable class in the 3.x era with the publication of Dragon Compendium Volume 1 (there was never a vol. 2). Here the Death Master got a full 20 levels and was based directly off of Len Lakofka's class. Personally, I think a Prestige Class would have been a better choice. In fact a Prestige Class with just 13 levels like the original. I'd structure the prerequisites to need 3 levels of cleric and four levels of wizard or something like that. Sadly the Dragon Compendium Volume 1 is not just out of print, it is also not available on DriveThruRPG.  But Amazon has a copy and sometimes Noble Knight Games has them too.  

The Genius Guide to the Death Mage
Speaking of the old Death Master by Len Lakofka in Dragon Magazine. Owen K.C. Steven remembers! it! And this 20-level class for Pathfinder "feels" like that class, but it is its own thing.

This class is a stand-alone class (like most of the Pathfinder classes) complete with new powers and spells over 14 pages. In truth, it is a lot of fun. The author compares it to necromancer wizards, death priests, and undead-bloodline sorcerers, and how it is different. A better comparison is to druids. But where the druid is dedicated to life, the Death Mage is dedicated to death and the spirits of the dead.

There are five "Sub-types" of Death Mages presented. Corpse Mages, Ghoul Mages, Tomb Mages, Reaper Mages, and Shadow Mages.

There are 11 new spells. I think an opportunity was missed here to have 13 spells.

One of the newest necromancers on the block and designed specifically for Old School Essentials.  This is designated as "Play Test Material" but it really is ready to go. There have been necromancers for OSE before and there is at least one necromancer for other B/X-Basic games written by Gavin Norman already. Here the Necromancer is a subclass of the Magic-user, as would be expected, and some notes are given about using these new spells for the magic-user.  But thematically they fit with the necromancer much better. The new spells are from 1st to 6th level and there are 12 of each. I see why there are twelve of each; to fit the style and layout of what Gavin does with his OSE games. But I would have been tempted to make it a nice 13 per level myself. 
The spells are good and fit well. Some we have seen in other forms and formats over the past few years, but that does not detract from this book at all. Do you want a great OSE necromancer? Well, here it is.
The format used here could be adopted for all sorts of other magic-user type classes or subclasses like the Illusionist or Enchanter for example.

Castles & Crusades Black Libram of Naratus
I am a huge fan of Castles & Crusades and frankly, I don't think the game gets anywhere near as much love.

So I grabbed this one since it deals with darker magic and was part of the Haunted Highlands campaign (which I also enjoy). There is also the cover which is a call back to the infamous Eldritch Wizardry of OD&D. The first part covers necromancers and necromancer spells. This includes a way for normal spell casters to gain a level of Necromancer. A nice little add-on for any CK really. There is also a great spellbook in here called the "Grimoire of the Witch Queen" that makes the whole book worth it to me all by itself! That's the first half of the book. Later we get into Ritual/Sacrificial magic, magic items, and some new monsters. Given the types of games I run and the magic I like to have this is a "Must Have" book for me. The book is a tight 38 pages.

I have to give special attention to my other "new" necromancer.  This one does not differ from the previous editions of AS&SH/Hyperborea. At least not that I can tell. The necromancer here is cut from the "evil cultist" mold like their warlock and has a lot of great spells and powers. It is still one of my favorites, but the new OSE one has a lot of great spells to go with their's so a combination might be in order. 

For Pathfinder we have a few choices. 

Mysteries of the Dead Side: Sacred Necromancer
This book is presented in landscape orientation for easier screen reading. We are given a 20-level base class for Pathfinder with six "Callings" (sub-types). I have to admit this got may attention since my cabal of evil necromancers is called "The Order of Six" so I could restat them as one of each type here. No new spells, but there is a fully...fleshed out...NPC. So it is worth the download really.

New Paths 7: Expanded White Necromancer
This 17-page book gives a new perspective a, GOOD necromancer that protects the dead. I like the idea, to be honest.  It comes with a complete 20-level base class and six new spells. There are also feats and stats for various undead companions. It makes for a great companion piece and counterpoint to the 3.x Death Master from Dragon Compendium Volume 1.

Special Mention: Shadow of the Necromancer

Not a class, but an adventure from friend of the Other Side Mark Taormino. This is a short adventure for 1st to 3rd-level characters. And most importantly (to me) it comes in both Old-School/1st Edition and 5th Edition D&D versions!
The adventure comes with a map, in beautiful old-school blue for the 1st ed version and full color for the 5th edition version. The module itself is 16 pages (one page for title and credits, one page for OGL , one page blank).  The adventure is a simple "strange things are going on! The PCs must investigate!" situation. It turns into "stop the minion of the Necromancer from finishing his evil plans." It's tried and true and it works fine here.  The adventure, as with many of the Darl Wizard/Maximum Mayhem Dungeons, is a deadly affair. Not as deadly as the Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen, but it is not a walk in the graveyard either. It is a fun romp and really captures the feel of old-school playing. Both versions are great and I can keep the 1st-ed version for myself and give the 5th-ed version to my kids to run.

Shadow of the Necromancer


I certainly have enough here to do an "Against the Necromancer" sort of campaign. Or even bring back my Order of the Six.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: Fane of the Witch King

Fane of the Witch King
I have spent all month long so far on "Witch Queen" adventures, I thought maybe a Witch King might be nice. Spoiler. There is still a Witch Queen here. 

Fane of the Witch King

Print and PDF. 68 pages. Color cover, black & white interior art.

So this one goes all the way back to the 3.x days from Necromancer Games. It is an adventure for 4 to 6 characters of 10th level and higher. 

The adventurers investigate the site of an ancient and evil city where the minions of the now-dead Witch King reside and plot his return. Among them is his former lover, the Witch Queen Kytara Bane.

"Witch" in both cases just means "evil spell-caster" but I can work with it. So this is a Necromancer Games product so expect there to be plenty of monsters to kill, deep forgotten dungeons and everything that made 1st Edition adventures so much fun. The NPCs are also great in a "how can we make something so evil" sort of way. The Witch King Osenkej for example was the product of a Balor father and Red Wyrm mother. Kytara Bane, his queen, was/is a Half-nymph/Half-demon. There is the Ghul Legion a band of dark elves and gnolls working for a group of evil Stone Giants and their Black Dragon leader Ghul Lacronus. All who they have to fight to get into the Black Fane and then to get out they have to face Kytara Bane herself.  Along the way they can also run into the Covenant of the Claw, they are a half-elf/half-dragon, a half-human/half-dragon and a half-gnoll/half-dragon.  Really giving those half-dragon template rules a workout.

Not to mention all the demons and undead running around including a demonic triceratops! This adventure is a meat grinder and the characters are assumed to be level 10. I think they need to be a little stronger.

The appendices are full. A new spell. New magic items including new artifacts. Five maps.

The locations are great, and that is what the adventure gives top billing, but for me, it is really about these NPCs.

Fane of the Witch King - Print


Use in War of the Witch Queens

Again, it is the NPCs here that interest me the most. The locations are fun but I can put those anywhere, or re-do them as I need. The NPCs are just too much not to use. The adventure is fun as it, but what if I add this twist for my world/campaign. Kytara Bane learning of the death of the Witch Queen decides to make her move.

It could be fun really. Certainly near the end of the campaign.


The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween


Friday, October 21, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: The Witch's Daughter- Adventure Module GSAM01

The Witch's Daughter - Adventure Module GSAM01
I have spent all month so far working with adventures from various systems, tonight I think I will try a systemless one tonight. 

The Witch's Daughter - Adventure Module GSAM01

PDF. 68 pages. Color cover, black & white interior art. 

This is a systemless adventure centered around a village where a witch was attacked and killed leaving her daughter behind. The adventure is a quasi-sandbox. There are 60 some-odd pages of backstory and details of the village, its people, and most importantly the NPCs.

There is a lot here to be honest, maybe more than needed for an adventure? This is more of a mini-setting. 

The strength of this adventure is the lack of stats. Why? I think by having go through the effort to stat ups the NPCs like Count Ducas Fellbane and the titular witch's daughter. For example, I might make Count Ducas a vampire. I know I shouldn't it would be so cliche, but I kinda want to do it to be honest. And the thing is. I can do this if I want. 

Again, like some of the other adventures I have reviewed this month I might use this one to shore up some of the others that are not as rich in background as this one is.  Yes. This adventure is perfectly fine on its own and it can be used anywhere.  But my time is limited on how many adventures I can run; 14th level is going to be the max level. 

I think I might try starting this up for a couple of systems to see which ones feel the best.


The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween


Thursday, October 20, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: Vengeance of a Burned Witch

Vengeance of a Burned Witch
Tonight we have a slightly different take on the "Witch comes back for Vengeance" adventure. But is it different enough from what we have seen all month?

Vengeance of a Burned Witch

PDF. 15 pages. Color cover and interior art. 

Or more properly, "Gregorius21778: Vengeance of a Burned Witch" with Gregorius21778 the label of Kai P├╝tz. 

This is a tight little investigation adventure. The premise is simple, the PCs will stumble onto this village of Hillsgreen Crossing where last year they burned a witch, Ginniver by name, and now her ghost is back.

It is billed as a Halloween adventure, so perfect for this time of year.

I could go over the plot, but we have seen this sort before here. Instead I want to talk about what makes this one good.  The idea is the PCs know nothing. Zip. Nada. If they want to know anything they have to go ask the mostly terrified villagers. They need to investigate, ask around, and piece the history and the present together. Plus they will need to figure out how to rid the village of this pesky witch.

Ginniver comes back not just as one, but two creatures. The first his her burned skeleton (which needs to be destroyed) and as a "Witch-Wraith" the ghost of a burned witch. 

So to destroy this witch you have to destroy her skeleton and destroy the contract she signed, gives her something of what I would call a Unique Kill in other games. 

Note we are warned up front that English is not the author's first language, but I did not find that to be an issue really. There is some canned text, but I use that only as a suggestion anyway. 

All in all there is a lot of fun packed into just 13 pages of content.

It is PWYW with a suggested price of $1.00. Following my guidelines (which I haven't all year,b but whatever) a $1.50 is better. I say to encourage more like this toss them $2.00. 

Use in War of the Witch Queens

I like this one. I don't think I would run as is for the War of the Witch Queens though. One reason, and this is the easy one, it relies on the PCs coming to this village. Yes yes I know I can put her anywhere and with any village, but my point is that for this particular campaign it is a bit too random. But that is the small reason.  The bigger reason is I have already lost track of the number of dead witches coming back for vengeance adventures I have.  What I will do is take the best ideas this one has and overlay it with one of the weaker adventures in my collection. Maybe weaker is the wrong word. I have a lot of bare-bones adventures and maybe this one is something that could help the others. 


The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween


Wednesday, October 19, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: The Dark Eye - Witch's Dance

The Dark Eye - Witch's Dance
Yesterday I reviewed The Dark Eye. Tonight I want to cover an adventure for it that I might want to make work for my War of the Witch Queens.

The Dark Eye - Witch's Dance

PDF and Print. 16 pages. Color cover and interior art.

This is actually a rather good adventure to introduce people to The Dark Eye game. 

Briefly, we have an evil warlock taking control of a small coven of witches. But one witch, Alevtia, refuses to submit. Luckily she finds the heroes. That's you all.

This is a detective story and wilderness adventure. So social skills are just as important as combat here. The characters will need to meet with the other members of the sisterhood to get all the details they need. But that also puts them in contact with the Warlock Codax, and he needs items from the heroes (hair, blood, saliva) to make his curses work.

There are plenty of interesting tables of rumors and various locations all throughout the area including a forest. There is even an ogre nearby (and stats for him) and "Predatory Mushrooms!" The adventure feel like a fairy tale. 

Of course, the goal is to stop the warlock. He doesn't have to be killed even, there is a potion to turn him into a toad for example.

It is perfect for a couple of afternoons and even better for new players.

Alevtia The Witch's Dance print

For My War of the Witch Queens

Well, you can set the village of Wireslhome anywhere. Well since I already have the characters popping all over the multiverse I'll even change the name to Westhafen.  But I would still keep it in the northern half of Aventuria, where witches are more common.

The plot here, a warlock taking over a coven, is nearly the same plot of the War of the Witch Queens writ on a local level.  One could even make parallels of what is happening here and to what is happing with the larger cosmos of witches. As above, so below.  Even our cover girl Alevtia's grandmother has just died. In parallel to the Witch Queen herself. 

For me, this adventure is to essentially tell my players what is going on but on a smaller scale.   

There are no stats for Alevtia, but I feel that NPC stats on page 148 of the Core book would be perfect.  In the adventure though, she is listed as part of the Sisterhood: Beauty of the Night or a Cat Witch (p. 146).  The art in the book is closer to 148, so that is what I'll use. I should point out that all the NPCs in the core do have a name attached to them, though in the case of the Toad Witch the description does not match the art.

She is listed in both the core and the adventure as "Inexperienced" so for my purposes that works as 1st level. 

So let's give her a go.  Described as an (Apparently) Simple Country girl (spoiler isn't simple or all that innocent), which would make her a good fit for the Pagan, Green, or even Classical traditions. I am more inclined to go Pagan. But she will get cantrips. This works well since my Pagan Witch book and my Warlock book are both for OSE. 

Alevtia
Alevtia

1st level Witch (Craft of the Wise tradition)
Human Female

Strength: 12
Intelligence: 15
Wisdom: 14
Dexterity: 12 
Constitution: 13
Charisma: 17

Saving Throws
Poison: (+1) 11
Wands: 14
Turn to Stone: 13
Breath Weapon: 16
Spells: 15

THAC0: 20
AC: 9[10]

Occult Powers
Familiar: Toad ("Kitty")

Spells
Cantrips: (5) Clean, Mend, Open, Palm, Spark
1st level: (1+2) Control Face, Glamour, Toad

Since I could not make up my mind whether she was a "Toad" witch or a "Cat" witch, I gave her a toad, as in the picture, but decided she treats her toad like it was a cat.

She could be a fun witch to come back to after she has gained some levels.

The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween


Tuesday, October 18, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: The Priest, the Witch, and the Lost Temple: An Adventure

The Priest, the Witch, and the Lost Temple: An Adventure
Tonight we have a DMsGuild adventure for 5e. It has a lot great things going for it for my ongoing campaign so let's see what it can do for me.

The Priest, the Witch, and the Lost Temple: An Adventure

PDF. 40 pages. Full-color cover and interior art. 

This adventure is for characters levels 2 to 3. This fits the archetype of the "strange newcomers who MUST be witches" deal. Our two "witches", Ashali and Lathna, one a Red Wizard of Thay and the other her apprentice and lover, are not really witches, but everyone around them is treating them as such.  Quick aside, I wrote a one-shot years ago when I first wanted to run something in the Realms about an underground of would-be good Red Wizards trying to escape Thay. They had help from a group in Aglarond. This ties in so perfectly to that adventure I might dust it off as an opening.

The focus of the adventure is to investigate the witches and find out they are mostly harmless but discover a bigger evil along the way. It works for me.  It is a nice little adventure I can fit in nearly anywhere If I want. Though I do have some specific ideas. And let's be honest, who DOESN'T like stopping a bunch of undead? 

There are some new magic items and new NPCs (featured for the adventure). The art is from DMsGuild so it is good, but the layout is something the author did and it looks good. So really a good-looking adventure.

The town of Whitehaven is just detailed enough to make it usable and enough detail left out to make it flexible. I really appreciate that bit. And much like the Villiage of Hommlet for Greyhawk, this would make for a good base of operations for low-level characters.  I get why the adventure is for the 2nd to 3rd level, but I wonder if a bit of work could make it more suited to 1st to 3rd level for a true starting feel.  You are far enough away from the Sword Coast to make it feel like a different world but still close enough to know where you are. If that makes sense. 

Kudos to the author for taking a chance on a "good" or at least redeemed Red Wizard. 

Is this a perfect adventure? No, but it is perfect for what I need it for.

For My War of the Witch Queens

There is so much here that fits right in, even if the witches themselves are not really witches. The "Whitehaven" of this adventure is a perfect stand-in for my own "West Haven."  Indeed, much as I used "Haven" from Krynn as the alternate universe of West Haven in my world, the character will find themselves later in "Whitehaven" in the Realms and "Winterhaven" in the Nentir Vale.

Ashali and Lathna also fit in perfectly as a Red Wizard and her maid turned lover and apprentice that they are almost exactly like the characters I made (no plagiarism here, I never published mine!) so close in fact that I will drop the location I had them in (in Rashmeen) and instead have them here. 

For a stronger link I might have them mention they knew the Witch Queen (but don't yet know she is dead).

So yeah, this one will work great for me.

The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween


Monday, October 17, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: Tomb of the Witch Queen

Tomb of the Witch Queen (5e)

I obviously had to buy this one as well. Though if you have been following me all week you know we have gone to many tombs of many witch queens.

This one has the unenviable task of following up on all of those. 

As always I will be following my rules for these reviews.

Tomb of the Witch Queen (5e)

PDF. 13 pages. Color cover and interior art. 

Truthfully it is not fair to compare this one to ones done by professional teams with Kickstarter money. This is just one guy, Jon Paget, doing things on his own.  The adventure is for 5e and claims to be for characters 1st to 12th level. Ok.

We start this one like so many of the other witch queen tomb adventures. The PCs hear of about the tomb and the riches within. Officials have gone to seek it out but never returned. So it decided that expendable experts are needed. That's the PCs. 

The adventure can be scaled to three different levels Low (levels 1-4), Mid (levels 4-8), and High (9-12). The adventure is divided into four separate "layers." Each follows the last and increases in difficulty. Until you reach the tomb of Sassaya herself.

I can see this being a good Convention style game when people could bring their own characters. 

But I am not sure if even this idea overcomes some of the shortcomings of this adventure. The adventure is as linear as it can get. While I am ok ignoring this in some older adventures, this is a 5e one published in 2021. The rewards at the end are uninspired. Sure there is a table to scale the rewards, but this sort of thing comes right out of the DMG of many editions. I don't need an adventure for that. Give me some new magic or something interesting. NOW there are some here. There is a d12 table of interesting additional rewards. THAT should have been the model for the main rewards. Again I have said it many times, if I am going to plunder a witch's tomb I better find some cool spell books.

I mentioned the adventure was linear. Well it is so much so that there are no proper maps. The Labyrinth, Level (or Layer previous) 3 has a kind of a flow-charty color-coded thing that the author obviously is proud of AND it is a neat idea in theory. I am not sure how it acts in practice though. Maybe I am getting hung up on the word "Labyrinth". This piece does look like it scales well. 

The list price is just under $5. Even by my revised guidelines of 25 cents a page for content (this has 10 pages of content for 13 overall pages) that only gets us to $2.50. There is not much in the way of art; no imagery of what the characters might see for example. Only one newish monster with a stat block. Mostly skill checks really. If it had been at or under $2.50 I could have merited giving it another star.


The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween



Sunday, October 16, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: Sepulcher of the Sorceress-Queen

Sepulcher of the Sorceress-Queen
Robert E. Howard casts a long shadow over Fantasy Role Playing in general and D&D in particular.  This is best seen in two different near clones, Adventurer Conqueror King and Hyperborea. So when ACKS did an adventure that was an homage to Taramis, well I had to check it out.

Sepulcher of the Sorceress-Queen

Print and PDF. 56 pages. Color cover and interior layout art with black & white art.

For Character levels 7th to 9th.

Ok. So another tomb with a sleeping undead witch. It is a powerful trope. This one features the Sorceress-Queen Semiramis of Zahar who has been dead, but sleeping, for 1000 years. She had been betrayed by a former lover (and having killed her first 100 lovers she should have seen this one coming) and is now waiting for her chance to rise and rule again.

The adventure is part of a loosely connected series but it is mentioned that it can be used as a stand-alone adventure and placed anywhere. 

The adventure involves going into her tomb, stopping her from rising, and maybe make off with some treasure. The tomb is full of undead horrors and other dangers. To make things more interesting there is a group of lizardmen in the tomb trying to do the same thing as the characters. 

It then becomes a race against time, times 2. Get to the queen before she gains her full power and get to the treasures before the lizard men do. 

The adventure gives us a bunch on new magic items, a new spell, and five new (ish) monsters. The adventure itself is cut from familiar cloth but the map is quite good and great for groups that like to explore old tombs.

Use with my War of the Witch Queens

For this campaign, this adventure covers more than just familiar territory. This will be the third or fourth "tomb of a long dead witch coming back to life" they have seen if I stay on current plans. So...what am I to do?

Well. I do love the map here and the tomb itself is an interesting place. Maybe...I can merge this with my other Howard/Hyperborea-influenced adventure The Lost Caverns of Acheron.  I mentioned all the pluses that using this adventure gives me when I reviewed the V series from BRW Games. There is one thing I failed to mention though. I have already taken my players through module S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. Once they get to that spherical room they will remember they have been here already.

I could use this as a base and bring notes from The Lost Caverns of Acheron. I certainly do not need to run both adventures no matter how fun they are. But I also really love the idea of using Xaltana.

Do I go with Xaltana or Semiramis? 

I thought maybe the unnamed Witch-Queen of Yithorium from Hyperborea might be a good substitute. Both come from the same sources. Semiramis has a name, the Witch-Queen does not (even though I named her Miriam). Semiramis is a Zaharian Sorcerer which reads a lot like a warlock or a witch and has a strong Howard/CAS vibe. Same with our Witch-Queen of Yithorium. 

Yithorium is surrounded by the Zakath desert. Zahar is now described as a desolate wasteland like a desert. Ok, that's a stretch but you see where I am going here. 

Why mix or merge them at all? Simple I want to get as much of all the great material out there I can for this adventure campaign and knowing full well I can never run everything. Also by picking and choosing different OSR systems, publishers, and products, I am naturally going to get similar results; we all draw from the same wells. 

So in my campaign, the Sorceress-Queen Semiramis of Zahar and the Witch-Queen of Yithorium become the same person. 

Semiramis

Maybe I'll keep Miriam around as the descendant of Semiramis. She is every bit as evil as her forebearer. Maybe Miriam leads them to the tomb in order to gain her ancestor's power but ends up getting possessed in the process.  I do like this idea.

Use with my Second Campaign

My original idea for this was to run it mostly as is for my Second Campaign. I'll have to see how that one develops when the characters get to the right levels.


The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween


Saturday, October 15, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: The Baleful Coven (5E)

The Baleful Coven (5E)
Let's do a 5e adventure tonight. Unlike the others I have reviewed so far I do not have a spot for this one figured out. So maybe something will come to me while I type.

The Baleful Coven (5E)

Print and PDF. 24 pages. Color cover and interior art.

For five to seven characters of 6th to 7th level. 

It is described as bringing standard fantasy characters into contact with threats of the "Far East." Which is cool, to be honest. Not sure if it will fit into my game just yet, but I like the promise of it so far. It does have one of my favorite archetypes, the white-haired witch, and there is a coven made up of a hag and two warlocks. 

I am going to pause here to note that this was originally a Pathfinder adventure. I bought the PDF of it a while back but I now notice it is gone from both DriveThru's and Paizo's websites. I mention this because I feel some of the fingerprints of Pathfinder, and in particular how they handled witches and hags, can be seen in the 5e version here. For example, while a warlock here, Masami Onishi is very much a "White Haired Witch" from Pathfinder. This is not a complaint mind you. Save in only I wish the Pathfinder version was still available. Granted it was released 10 years ago.

The bulk of the adventure takes place on the demi-plane of The Dream of Vengeful Reckoning. Ok, I do rather like that too.  The adventure then becomes a search for how to leave this demi-plane. Naturally defeating this coven of "witches" is one of the ways to do it. 

The adventure is actually rather well put together and I can see it being run over a long afternoon-evening or a could of smaller sessions. This is exactly what it was designed for. There are memorable NPCs which is the real hook for me. 

So yeah a fun adventure with some great ideas. 

Use with my War of the Witch Queens

There is a solid idea here, but not the one I think Legendary Games wants me to hook into. I mentioned the NPCs were memorable, and they are interesting, but you know what would be better? If I took three witches from three different adventures the characters had "defeated" and used them. I have seen enough movies this month where witches come back to some form of life to get vengeance on those who killed them.  Set them up into a demi-plane, or for my purposes, a Liminal Plane, where the dead witches can get their vengeance on the still-living PCs.

This is for 6th to 7th level so it would need to be part of an earlier adventure. My top choices right now are Trilena (Rahasia), Llorona (The Witch of the Tarriswoods), Kyleth (Saga of the Witch Queen), and Morfa (The Witch Queen of Cair Urnahc). I just need to pick three. Though Morfa and Trilena have both come back from the dead once already. I do admit that Kyleth on the top of the list to replace Masami Onishi.  While I know a couple are supposed to be hags I feel that is a hold-over from the Pathfinder adventure where only witches with hags can make covens. Also no need for me to add more winter witches, my cup is over flowing with them!

A new Trilogy of Terror with sequel?

But what good is killing a villain if you can't bring them back from the dead to terrorize your players? I mean characters. Yeah. Characters.


The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween



Friday, October 14, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: Adventure Module V3 - Toil and Trouble (and the V Series)

Adventure Module V3 - Toil and Trouble
One of the things I wanted most for my War of the Witch Queens campaign was to involve as many editions of D&D and Clones as I could. I wanted it to be a nice sampling of the entire OSR movement.  The second thing I wanted was to have the characters visit all sorts of different worlds.  So tonight we are headed back to Oerth/Greyhawk or some facsimile of it for the next round of adventures.

Tonight I am going to cover the "V Series" of modules by Joseph Bloch and BRW Games. While I will review all three it is likely that only the last one, Adventure Module V3 - Toil and Trouble, will be used in my campaign.  The reasons will be rather obvious.

This is, essentially from my point of view, an alternate reality Oerth. This is good since the game they are designed for is Adventures Dark and Deep RPG which is an alternate reality AD&D 2nd Edition. Though can easily be used with AD&D 1, 2, Basic D&D, or any clone.

They are low-level enough that they can be easily used with just about any form of D&D including 5e.

Each module is done in what I would call the middle phase of modules or ones from the early 80s. Not quite the rough around the edges of the earliest ones from the 1970s nor the more polished Dragonlance/Ravenlofts of the near mid 80s. No, these are solid 1982-1983 in feel and form.

Adventure Module V1 - The Hamlet of Volage
Adventure Module V1 - The Hamlet of Volage

PDF. 13 pages (+ covers). Color cover, black & white interior art.
Designed for 4 to 6 characters of 1st to 3rd level.

This is where we get our "V" in the V series; the Hamlet of Volage (not to be confused with the Village of Hommlet a few miles over). This adventure introduces the players (and characters) to Volage which in the middle of a battleground between two warring covens of witches. The Cloven Hoof Coven (Diabolic) and the Dark Star Coven (Demonic).  

Though the adventure does not start that big. It begins rather with a rivalry between local families and accusations of witchcraft. 

Much like the adventures this is an homage too, we get a nice selection of memorable NPCs. Tables of rumors (some true, some false) and a village.

In this first adventure, you have to deal with the witches (here a subclass of Cleric) of the Cloven Hoof coven. Their patron is Dispater. Nice, great choice. Though there is a note that if you have BRW Games product Darker Paths 2 - The Witch you can use that for these NPCs. 

There are some new spells and two new magic items.

It feels like it can be played in an afternoon or longer setting, maybe 6 hours. Faster if the PCs figure out what is going on. 

Adventure Module V2 - Red in Tooth and Claw
Adventure Module V2 - Red in Tooth and Claw

PDF. 12 pages. Color cover, black & white interior art.
Designed for 4 to 6 characters of 2nd to 3rd level.

This one takes place six months after the first adventure in the series. Following the pattern laid down at the time of the earliest adventures this one now includes some hex-crawling with some random encounters. These are encountered before the party returns to Volage. Indeed this module is very explicitly a hex crawl to investigate the area around the Hamlet of Volage.  So there is no true purpose or "victory condition" nor should there be. The purpose is the exploration of the surrounding area. Though there is the threat of the Dark Star Coven. Details have to be uncovered before the next adventure can take place.  There is a nice little teaser about the "Queen of Witches."

I will admit I not 100% sure why it has to be 6 months later except to allow a season to pass. 

The most fun here are the werewolves in the woods. 

Adventure Module V3 - Toil and Trouble
Adventure Module V3 - Toil and Trouble

PDF and softcover book. 20 pages. Color cover, black & white interior art.
Designed for 4 to 6 characters of 3rd to 5th level.

For this one I have both the PDF and softcover versions. Also, we are given our first real and proper introduction to the "Witch Queen" none other than Natasha.  It has everything a good adventure should have. Plots and intrigue, a ruined tower, cultists, caves, giant bugs, new monsters and new spells.

In this one, you have to stop the Dark Star coven dedicated to Natasha. 

Again the witches of Natasha are presented as clerics or you can use the BRW Witch class.

I also admit I find the modules colored in Red, Blue, and Green to be very esthetically pleasing. 

Use with my War of the Witch Queens

Given the events here I think I would combine this all into one "Super-module." They can be easily combined and it would work well.  For me I would need to decide if I needed another Iggwilv stand-in or not. I love that the first adventure uses Dispater. In my own games there is something of an open war between Dispater and Orcus. I could convert these Natashian witches into Mara or Demonic witches following Orcus. I would need to up the undead, but that is never a bad idea. Of course, I bought these BECAUSE they featured Natasha/Iggwilv. I could insert a Witch Queen as a proxy for Orcus, much like Natasha is an intermediary for the demons worshiped by the Dark Star Coven.

Ok...so this adventure is located in the Vesve Forest, sorry the Sesve Forest. That is near the Yatil MountainsYahdel Mountains where part of the third adventure takes place.  Hmm.

Ok here is what I am doing. Everything is largely the same, but I am swapping out Natasha for Xaltana, the Vampire Witch Queen. She combines elements of Iggwilv and Drelzna. Though I currently have her as a Hyperborean Witch Queen. Well, that is not a problem since I still have The Witch-Queen of Yithorium and Methyn Sarr and they are too busy fighting each other to worry about others.

Xaltana is a dead/undead Witch Queen. When the High Witch Queen is murdered she stirs enough to be able to gather followers again. She is this Oerth's Natasha (see note about an alternate reality) instead of Graz'zt/Grash’t as her paramour it will be Orcus.

Xaltana

This all gives me:

  • A chance to use Xaltana and a reworked Lost Caverns of Acheron later on.
  • A chance to play out my rivalry between Dispater and Orcus, something I will detail later.
  • Frees up Iggwilv/Natasha to do other things. 
  • Helps differentiate Xaltana from Darlessa another Vampire Witch Queen. 
  • Gives me an excuse to add more demonic powers to Xaltana.

Given this is going to be an "Alternate Universe" I might even make Adventures Dark and Deep characters for my group that are the alternates of their OSE characters. Not too difficult really. The purpose would be to make the players also feel a bit out of sorts. The rules are close enough to use for this and yet different enough. 



The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween



Thursday, October 13, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: Dungeon Crawl Classics Witch Queen Adventures

Dungeon Crawl Classics: Saga of the Witch Queen
Up first is an update and an important one at that. It was while I was reviewing this adventure in 2015 that I thought that the War of the Witch Queens came to me. I figure I should revisit it now.

Dungeon Crawl Classics: Saga of the Witch Queen

PDF from DriveThruRPG. 84 pages. Monochrome cover and black & white interior art.

This is a meaty module.  84 pages, covers, maps, and OGL still leave a lot of pages for content.

First off, if you are not familiar with Dungeon Crawl Classics modules they are meant to emulate a certain feel of early 80s play.  They went on to create the game Dungeon Crawl Classics, but the adventures are still largely OSR compatible. Actually, I didn't see a single thing in this adventure that screamed ts should be used for one system or the other, though on the cover they claim "1e." That is good enough.

This adventure is actually 3 adventures in one.  Legacy of the Savage Kings, The Lost Passage of the Drow, and War of the Witch Queen (which I will discuss later).  Each one is a different part of the Witch Queen's plan.

Reading through this adventure is one part excitement for the new and one part excitement for the nostalgia.  For the new, I wanted to learn more about Kyleth (the eponymous Witch Queen and not to be confused with Keyleth) and the tome Ars Maleficus.  The nostalgia comes from many little easter eggs throughout the pages that call back to adventures of the TSR days.  I am convinced the Mad Hermit here is the same as the one in the Keep on the Borderland for example.  There are also hints of influences from Vault of the Drow, Ravenloft, and even the rest of the GDQ series.  In fact, the second adventure, "The Lost Passage of the Drow" could be slotted into the D series and no one would be the wiser.   Replace Baba Yazoth with the proper Baba Yaga and have one of the many adventures she features in as a side trek.

There are a number of named characters that would work well as witches, Maeve, Baba Yazoth, and of course Kyleth herself.   While using the title of "Witch Queen" Kyleth is only an 8th-level Magic-user.  Make her a 9th or 10th-level witch and then you have something really scary.

Does it work with The Witch? Yes, absolutely.  There is a number of great items and story points in this adventure for any witch character.  In fact, I would say that any good witch would want to see Kyleth taken out on general principle.  Plus there are a number of encounters and NPCs that would benefit from the rules in the Witch.  Night Hags get more spell-casting powers for example and the medusa can also have some levels of the witch class.

Of course, there is the issue of Kyleth being one of The Thirteen. The Thirteen most evil wizards, witches, and necromancers in the world.  She was the newest member, who are the other 12, and what are their plans?  Is anyone up for an adventure against the Legion of Doom?  I might have to come back to this idea. I can see witches, vivamancers, blood mages, evil wizards, and necromancers as part of this evil cabal. Each provides something different.


About the physical book. The book is 80 pages and printed on very heavy paper.  It is softcover, but the binding looks good. With the heavy paper and glossy cover, I expect this to hold up to wear and tear.  The cover is bound on, so no taking it off to use as a GM screen with maps.  I am glad I have this as a PDF too to print out the maps and the handouts.  I am really, really happy with this module.

UPDATE: Of course, I took this idea and ran with it making Kyleth one of the many Witch Queens that is gathering at the Tredecim. Kyleth was my first choice as the murderess of the Witch Queen, but I quickly dropped that idea. If Kyleth had kill the High Queen then her ambitions would be greater. No Kyleth is an opportunist. She sees the tide turning and decides now is her time to strike. 

Dungeon Crawl Classics #17.5: War of the Witch Queen
Dungeon Crawl Classics #17.5: War of the Witch Queen

PDF. 28 pages. Color cover, black & white interior art. 

This is the precursor to the larger Saga of the Witch Queen. I grabbed it to have a complete collection and to see if there were any differences between this and the newer version. I would still love to get my hands on a printed copy.

This adventure is designed for D&D 3.5/d20 OGC.  This means converting it to Pathfinder is really a non-issue. More to the point we can convert Kyleth from an 8th-level Sorcer to an 8th-level witch.

The main differences here between this adventure and the counterpart Saga adventure, War of the Witch Queen is that this is for D&D 3.5e and Saga is for AD&D 1e. They are the same adventures with very minor tweaks.  

Both send the PCs on a quest to stop and kill Kyleth the self-styled Witch Queen. It is a straightforward dungeon crawl. This is not a weakness, but rather its strength. 

The obvious question is do you need this one if you have Saga of the Witch Queen? I say yes since the systems are different (but can be converted). 

Lady Kyleth the Witch Queen


Use in War of the Witch Queens

Well...yeah. In fact, many of the reasons I wanted to do a War of the Witch Queens can be found here. The other obviously was my love for all these witches.

Kyleth is fun because she can be so unapologetically evil. Even if I was not doing this campaign she would be a great reoccurring antagonist.

Lady Kyleth Witch Queen



The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween