Showing posts with label as&sh. Show all posts
Showing posts with label as&sh. Show all posts

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.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Islands, Hyperborea, and Party Like it's 1979

Sort of an overview, sort of me doing more mental gymnastics. 

Note: This one got away from the original thesis, so I cut chunks out for another post later. 

Some light reading material

I have been thinking about a few things this week, namely my 1979 Campaign and my Isles of Avalon one. I flirted briefly with combining them and then realized quickly that by doing so I would lose everything that made the 1979 Campaign special. So I might have ideas that work for that, but I think I need to keep it as it is for now.  One day I'll play it. 

Isles of Avalon is less of a campaign and more of a campaign location. I have a lot of ideas for it. Too many to be honest. But two things in it are prominent. 1.) It has to include an Island nation of Necromancers. 2.) It has* to be run under AD&D 1st Edition.

How are those connected and what does it have to do with today?  Well, I was going over the materials for the IoA idea and began merging the two projects. I quickly realized that I would lose what made the 1979 Campaign idea special to me (moving from a hybrid Holmes Basic/AD&D to pure AD&D) and I also thought maybe I am not wed to the idea of IoA as a pure AD&D 1st edition setting.

I love AD&D 1st Edition. Really I do warts and all. I do want to do a lot more with it in my personal gaming even if it is never seen by you, my reader. After all I never really talked much about the AD&D 2nd Edition games I was playing in here.

But these last two weeks (and most of October) have given me some moments to pause and think. The question remains "What is it I want out of this really?"

The AD&D First Edition Experience

This one is key. I want something like AD&D 1st ed. Which will prompt many to say "then play AD&D 1st Ed, dumbass!" Which is very, very valid. But I also have all these other games that I want to try and I played AD&D 1st ed, for over a decade. I love it, but it sometimes feels like moving back in with your parents or hooking up with your ex-girlfriend.  So. What are my options?

Old-School Essentials: Advanced Fantasy

This one is great, but it isn't really AD&D is it. Plus this is the system I am using for War of the Witch Queens and it is really great for that.

Hyperborea

I have been reminded this week of how much fun Hyperborea is. It is much closer to AD&D. The game is tied very closely to the world and it is a world I enjoy, but some pieces of it don't fit with my idea of what I want to do for my various campaigns. One thing is certain, the ethos of Hyperborea will inform what I do with my Isle of Avalon.

Castles & Crusades

I do love Castles & Crusades and it does provide the AD&D 1st experience I want. Plus I LOVE all the Codex books on world religions and myths. It doesn't quite have the same feeling to it as Hyperborea though.  On the continuum of gritty to light it goes Hyperborea, then OSE-Adv, then C&C. With the endpoints as DCC on the gritty and Hero's Journey First Edition on the light. Still, though I do love this game a lot and I really want to do a lot more with it. 

Special Note: The 1979 Campaign

This one is a special case. The purpose here is to recreate a certain style of play that I would have done in the Fall or early Winter of 1979.  I will only use materials that would have been available then or is closely related.  Rules are a mix of Holmes Basic (not B/X) and AD&D, in particular the AD&D Monster Manual.

--

Why all these mental gymnastics? I am aware that my kids are getting older and moving on. My oldest is a professional pastry chef now. My youngest is in college and spends all their time writing code. They don't have time for dad and his elf-game anymore. Well...they do still play D&D, just with their own groups of friends. My time to get some games on with them is limited and I want to maximize what I can.

So. Let's see what I can cook up here. I know...get to the point already.

Vampire Queen
Isles of Avalon

While I love this name, people who have seen it online and not bothered to read the posts (if you are reading this then that is obviously not you!) were confused with the Arthurian Isle of Avalon and felt they were informing on something. Thanks, but I wrote tons about that in Ghosts of Albion. Still, though, I might tweak the name to be Isles of Avalon Hill to honor its origins. 

So before I put together a campaign (and this would be a sandbox or hex crawl) and try to figure out what rules to use, I think I need to work out some details.

1. This archipelago of islands is old. Really, really old. An empire rose here, grew to greatness, fell into decadence, finally to infighting and decay, and then to dust and forgotten legends.  

2. There is an island of Necromancer kings. This was one of the key notions. Of all the islands, this one is the one that still yearns for the "old times." I think I am coming around to the idea that there is someone called "The Necromancer." Feels ominous. 

3. There is a small island that is home to the Vampire Queen. The Vampire Queen is a reoccurring character in my games. One of her influences is the classic Palace of the Vampire Queen from Wee Warriors, then Pacesetter, now Precis Intermedia.  Wee Warriors and Precis Intermedia also have the Misty Isles, which is another model for my own Isles.  The Vampire Queen lives on a remote island here. 

4. There is the "Big Island" that still has active wizards. The Empire is gone, but there are still wizards that come here for the same reasons there was an empire here. The connection to magical energies here is the strongest. Whether it is a confluence of ley lines, built on the remains of a long-dead but highly magical creature, a magical meteorite hit here, or some combination of all the above.  The only remaining edifice of those times is a place called the Citadel of Conjurers (or at least my original notions of what that place was when I read it in Dragon #91).

Not looking for grand plots. Not looking for world-changing apocalypses. Just a place to do some hex crawling.

Either Castles & Crusades or Hyperborea would fit this fine.

I am leaning more towards Hyperborea for this, but I really, really want to play some Castles & Crusades.

Anyway, random thoughts on a cold Chicago day.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Mail Call: HYPERBOREA

Another Old-school mail call this week and this one is quite timely. I finally got my Hyperborea leatherette Players and Referee's Guides.

Hyperborea leatherette Players and Referee's Guides

If you have been here for any amount of time you know of my love for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, now just called HYPERBOREA.

This new set, 3rd Edition, does not disappoint.

HYPERBOREA

As you can see it comes with the HYPERBOREA Player's Manual, the Referee's Guide, the Atlas of Hyperborea, dice, and a matching dice bag.


HYPERBOREA

HYPERBOREA

HYPERBOREA

HYPERBOREA


HYPERBOREA

HYPERBOREA

Now I have all three editions of this game. I don't need all three, but I can't find myself parting with any of them.

AS&SH and to a degree HYPERBOREA was where I started my ideas for the War of the Witch Queens, but I have moved it on to Old-School Essentials now. I would still LOVE to do something with HYPERBOREA, something special really. 

HYPERBOREA is firmly in the AD&D rules camp of the OSR clones, though it does only go to level 12. 

Part of me wants to run the Dark Wizard Games modules from Mark Taormino. There is some overlap in themes to be sure. I just wonder if some of the Eldritch Weirdness of HYPERBOREA would be lost in the Gonzo weirdness found in the Dark Wizard adventures.

HYPERBOREA and Dark Wizard Games

I have talked before about how great these would be for B/X or OSE, but maybe this is where I need to go. 

Another option is this.

D&D Classics

Now, this would work and The Lost City and Castle Amber both have solid Clark Ashton Smith vibes. Into the Borderlands and Expedition to the Barrier Peaks also fit the tone of HYPERBOREA well. Same with Isle of Dread which is very sandboxey.  The Temple of Elemental Evil is the odd one out unless I do a little massaging. 

Level wise I think it all might work.  Into the Borderlands covers levels 1-3. Isle of Dread covers 3-7. Barrier Peaks covers 8-12. The Lost City 1-3 (though I argue more like 2-4), Castle Amber 3-6, and Temple of Elemental Evil 1-8 (or more). I can already see how I could do this, to be honest. The trouble is I have run most of these with my kids already.

Still might be fun as an intellectual experiment. 

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


Wednesday, February 23, 2022

What *IS* Blackmoor in my World?

I have been reading more of the late Jason Zavoda's posts about his "Blackmoor Land of a Thousand Witches" and I have wanted to do something with that.  This got me thinking about some ideas I had had for 4e Blackmoor.  Which then got me thinking about my world in a larger sense and how Blackmoor really is the keystone of my Mystorerth world.  

Even before I adopted James Mischler's name for it I was playing in a combined Msytara/Oerth world (and I kinda regret not calling Oestara now).   My world was Mystara/The Know World, my DM's was Oerth Greyhawk.  The central common feature was Blackmoor.

Blackmoor, Dave's version

But what even *IS* Blackmoor in my world now?

It has always been some sort of Shangri-La like place of High Magic and High Tech in the Mystara books and place of post-apocalyptic destruction in Greyhawk. 

So I am going back to the sources, the original Blackmoor.

I read on good ole Wikipedia (the unofficial Splat Book for every RPG) that the original Blackmoor campaign setting "include(ed) ideas from The Lord of the Rings and Dark Shadows and applied the Fantasy Supplement rules from the Chainmail game." That sounds like my games!

Blackmoor CY576

I also went the best Blackmoor sources on the net, Havard's Blackmoor Blog and the Blackmoor Archives.

To be blunt there is an absolute ton of material in both of those sites to keep me busy for weeks.  But there are a few key points there AND I have Harvard and fellow Mystoerth enthusiast Mathew Fenn to thank.

So I don't need to connect Mystara Blackmoor to Greyhawk Blackmoor physically because they are the same place separated by time.   Harvard tells us that MBlackmoor is set "4000 years in Mystara's past."  For me that means there are two Blackmoors indeed.  Same location, but somehow when their magic-tech devices exploded it trapped a bubble of Blackmoor in time (-3426 CY to be exact) so the PCs can still get to it if they know how.    In this respect Blackmoor become my Atlantis, or at least the Atlantis like the one depicted in the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) story The Time Monster.

I have always wanted an Atlantis.  A mythical land/realm destroyed by a cataclysm, maybe one wrought by hubris, BUT there also be enough survivors so we know what the tale is/was.  My version of Mystara's "Known World" has so many different sorts of people living in it because they are the descendants of refugees of the Blackmoor explosion. 

I'd also like to learn more about what sort of "Gothic Horror" and "Dark Shadows" elements were part of the original Blackmoor.  I am not sure that Dark Shadows fits in well with "magic-tech superpower" but it would with the post-apoc Greyhawk-era Blackmoor.  

Blackmoor in the World of Greyhawk

Map by Daniel Hasenbos, Courtesy of DHBoggs

Blackmoor today is more like what the Greyhawk Gazeteers say it is.  But I also want to add bits of Hyperborea to my version of Blackmoor for that full post-apocalyptic feel and justify high powered magic tech still existing.  Hyperborea's Atlanteans might be what I need to complete this picture.

In any case I do have a lot of reading to do and figuring out what it all means for my world.

Matthew "Matteus" Fenn's map

Map of Mathew Fenn

So. What DO I know? Well in no particular order.

  • Blackmoor is north.  For the Flanaess it is about as far north as you can go before reaching the Black Ice.  
  • The Black Ice is black because Blackmoor blew up. 
  • Prior to the explosion Blackmoor was a cosmopolitan utopia. All the races lived and visited here in seeming harmony (there was still tensions here so not all wine and roses) and art, science, and magic were celebrated.  I want it's past to be "far too good to be true" but in fact true.  That is the tragedy of Blackmoor. 
  • The differences between the Mystara map of Blackmoor and the Greyhawk version is due to this explosion.
  • I am reversing the names of the sea near Blackmoor.  In the past is was known as the "Icy Sea" now it is called the "Black Sea" and it actually black and full of weird mutated sea creatures.
  • If there was ever an "Innsmouth" for my world it is here.
  • There WILL be ways to travel back in time (or outside of time) to Old Blackmoor.  This will be my chance to pull out some time travel ideas and break my "no time travel in D&D" rule.  In fact it should be the focus of an adventure at some point. 
  • Blackmoor of today is considered to be a haunted and desolate land.  The tales of Blackmoor's rise and then destruction are akin to our tales of Atlantis.
  • "Not since Blackmoor" is a saying meaning a very, very long time ago. 
  • The land is filled with random magic effects and other strangeness.  The barrier between realms is the weakest here.  So this is also where eldritch horrors are most likely to appear. 
  • I might try to use the "Temple of the Frog" in some manner, obviously I am going to use this as a cult center of Tsathoggua.  I would change many elements of the adventure, but certainly go with the maps and some of the science fantasy elements.
  • I still have to reckon my "Monks come from Blackmoor" notion.  Like I said then these might be psychic ascetics cut from the 70's occult revival cloth.  That would fit with the idea that monks were introduced in the Blackmoor supplement and the Mystics from the D&D Basic/BECMI/RC line. I need a good psychic mystic class to cover them. I have written a bit on Mystics[1][2][3] in the past, so I am sure there is something more I can do with that. 

Obviously I have a lot to consider here. And a lot more to read about before I could come up with any sort of good idea.  My ultimate goal here was to myself to a point where I could talk about Jason Zavoda's "Blackmoor Land of a Thousand Witches" but I am not even close to that yet.  But I can at least see the road map from here.

Links

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

The Witch-Queen of Yithorium

I was cleaning up some links on my Witch Links page and I noticed a few I had from the Halls of the Mountian King, the blog of the recently passed Jason Zavoda. He posted a bit about Hyperborea, nee AS&SH, including the Witch Queen of Yithorium.  I also found a lot of material for his own Blackmoor Land of a Thousand Witches.

Jason was very well respected in the Greyhawk community and I thought it might be a nice tribute to expand on his ideas some, but more importantly, share his ideas all with you.  Up first, the Witch-Queen of Yithorium.

The Witch-Queen of Yithorium

There is not a lot of text on who the Witch-Queen of Yithorium is except for what she wants now.

The official Hyperborea forum has a little on her background.  She is a nod/homage to Howard's witch Salome in "A Witch Shall Be Born." She rules from a 100’ tower of alien origin that immediately reminded me of Clark Ashton Smith. She is immortal, ever young, and has ruled Yithorium for nearly 700 years.  She obviously knows what to do.  

Jason provides the most information about the Queen herself in his post.  He uses a picture of Judith from the Bible as his inspiration.  Much like Salome (the namesake of Howard's witch) Judith is known for her association with a decapitated man. John the Baptist for Salome, Holophernes for Judith.   We gather from his post (and others) she was a beautiful woman, small but voluptuous, with long raven tresses.  Naturally, I think of Sarah Douglas.  

We know she is a witch and uses a type of magic unknown to her lands. We learn it is blood magic and that no one in the City-State of Yithorium knows where she learned it.  I am going to say, given the work that Jason has done, that she learned it all in Blackmoor

There are no official stats for the Witch Queen of Yithorium in the Hyperborea books.  She doesn't even have a proper name really. 

The Witch Queen of Yithorium

The Witch Queen of Yithorium

Female Witch 12th level
Chaotic Evil

Race: Human
Secondary Skill: Torturer

Abilities
Strength: 12
Dexterity: 12
Constitution: 13
Intelligence: 18
Wisdom: 16
Charisma: 18

Casting Ability: 12
Fighting Ability: 5
Saving Throw: 11

Hit Points: 36
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
AC: 9

Powers
Brew Decoction (x5), Familiar, Read Magic, Scroll Use, Scroll Writing, Sorcery, New weapons skills (3), Dance of Beguilement (5th level), Effigy (5th level), Enlist Henchment (6th level), Animate Broom (7th level), Lordship (9th level).   

Spells 
First: Alter Self, Charm Person, Detect Magic,  Shocking Grasp, Unseen Servant
Second: Darkness, Ghoul Touch, Infernal Tounges, Ray of Enfeeblement, Witch Fire
Third: Dispel Magic, Exploding Skull, Phantasm, Summon Dæmon I
Fourth: Black Tentacles, Mirror Mirror, Sorcerer Eye, Summon Dæmon II
Fifth: Anti-Magic Field, Summon Dæmon III, Summon Elemental
Sixth: Gelatinize Bones, Transfer Youthfulness


Hyperborea Witch


The Witch Queen of Yithorium

Female Witch, Blood Tradition 13th level
Chaotic

Abilities
Strength: 12
Dexterity: 12
Constitution: 13
Intelligence: 18
Wisdom: 16
Charisma: 18

Hit Points: 36
AC: 9

Occult Powers
Familiar: Raven
7th level: Evil’s Touch 
13th level: Detect Bloodline

Spells 
Cantrips: Black Flame, Chill, Daze, Ghost Sound, Inflict Minor Wounds, Object Reading
First: Bewitch I, Darkness, Feel my Pain, Ghostly Slashing, Glamour, Silver Tongue
Second: Alter Self, Disfiguring Touch, Ghoulish Hands, Scare, Share My Pain, Suggestion
Third: Clairaudience/Clairvoyance, Dispel Magic, Lifeblood, Summon Spirit, Witch Wail
Fourth: Divination, Phantom Lacerations, Polymorph, Spiritual Dagger
Fifth: Bewitch V, Dreadful Bloodletting
Sixth: Spiritual Dagger, Summon Nightmare Steed
Seventh: Wave of Mutilation 

For this witch, I am using a combination of the Family, Maelific, and Mara Traditions. 

While I am perfectly happy to keep her nameless, or only as "The Witch Queen," I am thinking of giving her the proper name of Miriam, to keep with the Biblical theme I have established here. Of course, no one besides her would know that. 
 
The Witch Queen

Hyperborea has always been a large part of my plan for the War of Witch Queens, at least in terms of how witches are presented.  At one point it was going to be my system of choice for the campaign, but I have since settled on OSE.  Still, Hyperborea has a lot to offer me. 

I typically mix in a fair amount of Barbarians of Lemuria into my Hyperborea games. So it might be fun to have Miriam, the Witch Queen of Yithorium be the rival of Methyn Sarr, the Witch Queen of the Fire Coast.  Each thinking the other is the lesser witch while worried that the other might have access to some magic they do not.  They seem to be cast from the same mould, that of Salome of "A With Shall Be Born," but one taking to fire magic and the other blood magic.  I don't think they were/are sisters in the biological sense but maybe they are former coven sisters. Once allies or even friends and now bitter, hated rivals.  If Sarah Douglas is my model for the Witch Queen of Yithorium, then my choice for Methyn Sarr would have to be Emma Samms. Not too far of a stretch since she was the uncredited performance/body model for Princess Teegra in Ralph Bakshi's "Fire and Ice." 

Links

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Winter Solstice and a Return to Hyperborea

Today is the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and last night I got my PDF copies of the new Hyperborea RPG, formerly Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  

Hyperborea has long been part of my "older, colder" version of D&D. And winter is a great time for it. This new version has a lot going for it and I can't wait to dig into it.  There is so much to like here.

It also is a good time to revisit the witch family, The Winters, and my favorite member Tanith.

I detailed Tanith for the 2nd Edition of the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea RPG. 

Tanith Winters

Tanith Winters

Female Hyperborean Witch 12th level
Alignment: Neutral (but it is likely she will move towards Evil at some point)

ST 10 [+0 +0 2:6 2%]
DX 14 [+1 +0 3:6 8%]
CN 13 [+1 +0 80% 3:6 8%]
IN 16 [+1 75%]
WS 12 [+0]
CH 16 [+1 8 +1]

Age: 30
AC: 4
HD: 9+3
hp: 38
FA: 5
CA: 12
#Attacks: 1/1
Damage: 1d4 (dagger), 1d4 (sling)
SV: 11 (+2 Transformation, +2 Sorcery)
ML: 12

Abilities
Alchemy, Brew Decoction, Familiar, Read Magic, Scroll Use, Scroll Writing, Sorcery, Dance of Beguilement, Effigy, Henchmen, Broom Enchantment, LAdyship

Spells
First level (5+1): Charm Person, Light, Scare, Shocking Grasp, Sleep, Write Spell
Second level (5+1): Darkness, Extrasensory Perception, Identity, Ray of Enfeeblement, Ungovernable Hideous Laughter
Third level (4+1): Continous Darkness, Slow, Phantasm, Wind Wall, Starlight
Fourth level (4): Freeze Surface, Moonlight, Mirror Mirror, Transfer Wounds
Fifth level (3): Cause Lycanthropy, Control Winds, Transform to Winter Wolf
Sixth level (2): Control Lycanthrope, Freezing Sphere

Languages: Common, Hellenic (Hyperborean), Old Norse, Speak with the Dead, Speak with Nature Spirits
Size: M (Height: 5'2", 114lbs)
Move: 40
Saving Throw Modifiers: Transformation +2, Sorcery +2
Secondary Skill: Weaver (almost all Winters women begin as weavers)
God: Lunaqqua

Snowy Owl Familiar ("Beira"): AL N; SZ S; MV 10 (Fly 80); DX 15; AC 7; HD 1/4 (hp 5); #AT 3/1 (claw, claw, bite); D 1/1/1; SV 17; ML 5; XP 11

Normal Gear
Winter robes, winter cloak, clothing, daggers (2), backpack, woolen blanket, chalk, ink and quill, polished steel mirror, incendiary oil, parchment (4), soft leather pouch (2), small sack (2), tinderbox, torches (2), wineskin (mead), writing stick, iron rations (one week), spellbook (contains all prepared spells), 1 gp, 5 sp

--

Tanith has been an interesting character so far.  In the few games, I have run her she has become surprisingly power-hungry.  She seeks to control the Winters family which is going to bring her is direct conflict with Grandmother Winter.

With this new Hyperboria RPG out I am also going to explore her relationship with her god Lunaqqua.

Lunaqqua


Friday, July 2, 2021

Kickstart Your Weekend: D&D Monsters and More

I have some great ones for you all today! Hang on, there is a lot here!

Asian Monsters: 90+ magnificent monsters for DnD 5E!

Asian Monsters

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/legendarygames/asian-monsters-90-magnificent-monsters-for-dnd-5e?ref=theotherside 

This one looks like a lot of fun. And I was just lamenting that people had not taken advantage of an obvious market and to do it the right way.  Legendary Games looks like they are taking the right approach here.  Good job.  This one ends today!

Now heading to the old-school side of things.

Chromatic Dungeons

Chromatic Dungeons

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1693797308/chromatic-dungeons?theotherside

I have been following the development of this one for some time now.  Glad to see it hit Kickstarter. Quote from the Kickstarter page:

The driving goal behind Chromatic Dungeons is to act as a clone of the early TSR era games, incorporating elements from each of those editions to allow you to play in a style that emulates the experience of playing tabletop RPGs in the 80s, while also being welcoming to all gamers of every demographic to better represent just how diverse our industry has become since the 80s.

Sounds great to me! They just got started and it really looks like a lot of fun.

and one I must have.

Book of Lost Lore & Book of Lost Beasts

Book of Lost Lore & Book of Lost Beasts

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/brwgames/book-of-lost-lore-and-book-of-lost-beasts?ref=theotherside

Greyhawk Gognard runs a tight Kickstarter.  The only times he doesn't hit his target date is when he is early.  These books scratch that old-school itch better than what most companies are coming out with.

And you really can't beat the prices.

AND Finally, and this one is brand new.

HYPERBOREA 3E

Hyperborea 3e

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jeffreytalanian/hyperborea-3e?ref=theotherside

Honestly, what can I say about this one?  I LOVED my 1st and 2nd editions of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea and this one looks crazy!  

I was all set NOT to get this one, my other editions are still perfect in my mind, but it just looks so good.  Jeffrey Talanian also runs a great Kickstarter, so this will be great.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea
Another favorite game that came out of the Old-school push was Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  A game that took us back to the pulp-fantasy roots of the RPG hobby. 

The Game: Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

I am very, very fond of this game. There is just so much potential here that I become overwhelmed with ideas.  Do I want to do the dawn-time of humanity when the Old Ones have left the Earth?  Do I want to do an older, colder Earth of the far future under a dying sun?  Or just smoosh it into my current games? I want to do it all, to be honest!!

I have mentioned in the past that I see AS&SH as a good combination of B/X and AD&D rules.  Essentially it is what we were playing back in the early 80s.  Where I grew up it was not uncommon to come to a game where people would have an AD&D Monster Manual, a Holmes Basic book, and a Cook/Marsh Expert Book.  The rules we played by were also an equally eclectic mix.

AS&SH is like that. It favors the AD&D side more, but there are enough B/X influences that I smile to myself when I see them.

For me, it is another example of striking the perfect balance between B/X D&D and AD&D1.  This one leans more towards the AD&D side of the spectrum, but the power level, the grit, the overall vibe is far more B/X.  THEN you add in material from Lovecraft, Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith? Well, that is the perfect icing on the cake really.

Of course, it is nearly perfect out of the box, but it can also lend itself to so much more than what is given us to use between the covers.  I have run Zothique games and Pellucidar style ones as well where all of Hyperborea was either one continent in the far future or underground, inside hollow earth (respectively).

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

The Character: Xaltana

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea has its own witch class and it really is quite excellent.

Ok, admittedly this one is a bit of a cheat since she is not only not my character, she is a pastiche of other characters.  Xaltana appears in the adventure HS4 The Lost Caverns of Acheron which I talk about here.  She is an evil witch/vampire lord found in the central part of the adventure.  She combines various characters including Drelzna and Iggwilv as well as any number of evil witch and evil vampire type characters found in Conan.  In the adventure, her stats are for 3.x edition. AS&SH is a much better fit for her really.

While I have a number of other Witch-y Vampire Queens, this one is a bit different in that she is designed to be a one and done sort of bud guy.

Xaltana, the Witch-Queen of Acheron
Xaltana, the Witch-Queen of Acheron
Female Witch, 12th level, Chaotic Evil

Race: Human(Common, but could be Hyperborean) Vampire 
Secondary Skill: Scribe

Abilities
Strength: 16
Dexterity: 20
Constitution: 10
Intelligence: 14
Wisdom: 14
Charisma: 20

Casting Ability: 12
Fighting Ability: 5

Hit Points:  36
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
AC: 5 

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

Vampire Powers

Spells
First: (5) Burning Hands, Charm Person, Locate the Dead, Shocking Grasp, Sleep
Second: (5) Cause Blindness, Ghoul Touch, Hold Person, Infernal Tongues, Ray of Enfeeblement
Third: (4) Black Cloud, Explosive Runes, Phantasm, Witch Fire
Fourth: (4) Black Tentacles, Charm Monster, Mirror Mirror, Sorcerer Eye
Fifth: (3) Control Winds, Magic Jar, Sleep Everlasting
Sixth: (2) Disintegrate, See

Magic Items
Bracers AC1


Xaltana, the Witch-Queen of Acheron
Xaltana, the Witch-Queen of Acheron
Female Witch, Malefic Tradition 13th level, Chaotic

Abilities
Strength: 16
Dexterity: 20
Constitution: 10
Intelligence: 14
Wisdom: 14
Charisma: 20

Hit Points: 29
AC: 1 (Bracers)

Occult Powers
Familiar: Bat
7th level:  
13th level: 

Spells 
Cantrips: Alarm Ward, Black Flame, Daze, Detect Curse, Object Reading, Open
First: Cause Fear, Everlasting Candle, Ghostly Slashing, Increase Sex Appeal, Minor Curse
Second: Bewitch II, Burning Gaze, Enthrall, 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
Bracers AC 1

Both versions are good. I might rethink my plan to make her a one-shot villain!

Character Creation Challenge

Tardis Captain is the originator of this idea and he is keeping a list of places participating.  When posting to Social Media don't forget the #CharacterCreationChallenge hashtag. 

RPG Blog Carnival

This month's RPG Blog Carnival is being hosted by Plastic Polyhedra. They are doing Characters, Stories, and Worlds, so that fits right in with everything we are posting this month.

Check out all the posts going on this month at both of these sources.


Monday, July 20, 2020

Monstrous Mondays: The Wendigo for NIGHT SHIFT, BX RPG and AS&SH

Modern Wendigo by skeletoninadress
The Wendigo has always been a favorite monster of mine.  

The Algonquin (and Illiniwek) people had great mythology and SO underutilized in games or novels.  One creature that I always was fascinated with was the Wendigo. The Wendigo has been seen a lot in horror fiction, especially with the rise in popularity of werewolves and zombies.  But they are still very interesting.  The most famous one of course is The Wendigo by Algernon Blackwood, followed by August Derleth's Ithaqua.

This is a creature that possesses humans under conditions of extreme cold and hunger and gets them to become cannibals.  Also, people that engaged in cannibalism were also at greater risk of possession.

The Wendigo is a spirit most times, unable to physically manifest in the world or interact with it.  That is until someone in a cold part of the world begins to despair and go hungry.  There are plenty of places in the world that are cold and these have hungry people, the Wendigo though chooses someone though that has or will resort to cannibalism to stay alive. Once this is done the Wendigo has access to the victim's heart. 

With their heart frozen the victim becomes the physical Wendigo.  They appear lean and gaunt, but taller; as if stretched out.  Their hands become claws with vile blue talons.  Their entire appearance becomes more feral.  They appear to be something akin to a ghoul or even a starving were-wolf mid-transformation.  They are constantly hungry, eating all the flesh they can, though they never eat their fill.  Eventually, the wendigo strains the host body too much and they die completely in a number of weeks.  Though there are rumors of giant wendigo, whose heads reach the clouds that are thousands of years old.

I included the Wendigo and the more powerful Wendigo Matron in my The Winter Witch for Swords & Wizardry.  Here it is for other games. 

Wendigo
No. Appearing: 1-2
AC: 3
Move: 45ft.
Hit Dice: 8
Special: 3 attacks (2 claws, bite) + Breath weapon, Enhanced Senses, Immunity to Cold, Immunity to Normal Weapons, Requires Blessed weapon to hit.
XP VALUE: 1,280

This creature shares a number of characteristics with were-creatures and undead. Ancient people believed that only a tribal shaman could bless a weapon that would kill both the host body and the wendigo spirit. 

The wendigo is completely immune to all cold-based attacks.  It attacks with its claws and bite and can emit a blast of freezing cold air up 3 times per day for 1d6+5 hp of damage (save for half).

Ordinary World: Wendigos are known to exist in the Ordinary World, but few even among the supernatural community have encountered them.  They are generally feared to be unpredictable and very, very dangerous.

Valhalla, AK:  Everyone in Valhalla "knows" that there are "wendigos" north of the town.  The locals though will point out that the creature everyone thinks is a wendigo is actually the wechuge ("way-chu-gay"). Someone can become a wechuge by breaking a tribal taboo or becoming too prideful. 
Some of the indigenous locals still remember tales from their grandparents and great-grandparents of the horrible winters of long ago where you could hear the howls of the wechuge/wendigo. 

Wendigo

Armor Class: 2     
No. Appearing: 0 / 1d3
Hit Dice: 8
Save As: F8
Movement: 150/50 
Attacks: 3 claw/claw/bite 
Damage: 1d6/1d6/1d8
Special Attacks: Breath weapon (cold) 1d8+5
Special Defense: Immune to cold-based attacks, immune to normal weapons, requires a blessed weapon to hit
Intelligence: 4 (devious cunning)
Morale: 11
Treasure Type: None
Alignment: Chaos
THACO: 12
Experience: 1,750

This creature shares a number of characteristics with were-creatures and undead. Ancient people believed that only a tribal shaman/cleric could bless a weapon that would kill both the host body and the wendigo spirit. A cleric can turn one as a Special Undead. Once a person is infected with a wendigo they can not be cured.

The wendigo is completely immune to all cold-based attacks.  It attacks with its claws and bite and can emit a blast of freezing cold air up 3 times per day for 1d6+5 hp of damage (save for half).


Wendigo

No. Encountered: 0 (1d4)
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Size: L
Movement: 50 
Dexterity: 12
Armour Class: 2
Hit Dice: 8
Attack Rate: 3/1 (claw / claw / bite) + breath weapon (cold) x3
Damage: 1d6 / 1d6 / 1d8 + 1d8+5
Special: Immune to cold-based attacks, immune to normal weapons, requires a blessed weapon to hit
Saving Throw: 12
Morale: 11
Experience Points: 1,000
Treasure Class: None

The wendigo are believed to have been first created by Ythaqqa.
They can be turned as undead type 13.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Plays Well With Others: BASSH, Basic Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

I love my Basic-era games, Holmes, B/X, and BECMI and their clones.
BUT I also love Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  The games are similar of course, drawing from the same sources, but there are also a few differences. 

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (AS&SH) is more closely aligned with "Advanced Era" D&D, but its feel for me has always been more OD&D, though over the last few years I have been treating it as another flavor of Basic.  


I have mentioned in the past that I see AS&SH as a good combination of B/X and AD&D rules.  Essentially it is what we were playing back in the early 80s.  Where I grew up it was not uncommon to come to a game where people would have an AD&D Monster Manual, a Holmes Basic book, and a Cook/Marsh Expert Book.  The rules we played by were also an equally eclectic mix.
AS&SH is like that. It favors the AD&D side more, but there are enough B/X influences that I smile to myself when I see them.

In fact, it works so well with Basic that I have featured AS&SH with other Basic-era books in previous "Plays Well With Others."
I find the game that useful and that inspiring.

Class Struggles: Which Each Game Offers
Originally this was going to be a Class Struggles post, but with the inclusion of the monsters below, I felt it had grown beyond just that.  

If Basic-era D&D lacks anything in my opinion it is class options. Yes. I know the classes are supposed to be archetypes to play anything.  A "Fighter" works for a Paladin, a Ranger, a Barbarian, a Knight, and so on.  But I like a little game mechanics with my flavor.  I also like to have choices.

AS&SH achieves this in a beautiful way that can be adopted by any Basic-era game, but in particular, ones that cleave closest to the original sources and of course Holmes, B/X and BECMI.

So we are going to go beyond the Basic Four (Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User, and Theif) here.  I'll talk about demi-humans in a bit.

In AS&SH we have our Basic Four; Fighter, Magician, Cleric, and Thief.  Each also gets a number of subclasses.  Fighters get  Barbarian, Berserker, Cataphract, Huntsman, Paladin, Ranger, and Warlock.  The Magician has the Cyromancer (a new favorite of mine), Illusionist, Necromancer, Pyromancer, and Witch (an old favorite of mine).  The Cleric has the Druid, Monk, Priest, Runegraver, and Shaman (see BECMI).  Finally, the Thief has the Assassin, Bard, Legerdemainist,  Purloiner, and the Scout.  Each subclass is very much like it's parent classes with some changes. Every class goes to the 12th level.


Looking over at the Basic side of things we have a few more choices.  Holmes, B/X, and BECMI all cover the Basic Four in more or less the same ways.  BECMI gives us the additions of Paladin, Avenger, Knight, Druid, Mystic, and the NPC/Monster classes of Shaman and Wicca/Wokani/Witch.

Advanced Labyrinth Lord gives us the Assassin, Druid, Illusionist, Monk, Paladin, Ranger in addition to the Basic Four.

Old-School Essentials' Advanced options give us the Acrobat, Assassin, Barbarian, Bard, Druid, Illusionist, Knight, Paladin, and Ranger.  It also gives us the new race-as-classes Drow, Duergar, Gnome, Half-elf, and Svirfneblin.

The B/X RPG from Pacesetter has the Druid, Monk, Necromancer, Paladin, and Ranger along with the Gnome and Half-elf.  (Yes, a review for this is coming)


AS&SH classes go to the 12th level.  Basic classes, at least B/X flavored ones, go to the 14th level.  I like the idea of splitting the difference and going to the 13th level. 

Additionally, AS&SH has different cultures of humans to provide more flavor to the human classes.

All the Basic-era books have demi-humans that AS&SH lacks. Lacks is a strong word, the game doesn't need demi-humans by design, but they are still fun to have.  Combining these gives us the best of all worlds! Kelt Elves? Dwarf Picts? Lemurian Gnomes?!  This could be a lot of fun.

Plus the mix of cultures in AS&SH is second only to mix found in BECMI Mystara in terms of "let's just throw it all in there!"

I might let people choose one of the Basic Four and stealing a page from D&D5 allow them at 2nd or 3rd level to take "sub-class."  I'll have to see what the various classes all get at first level vs 2nd and 3rd level.

Monsters! Monsters!
It's can't be denied that AS&SH has some great monsters.  Not only does it give us demons and devils (Basic-era is lacking on both) but also Lovecraftian horrors.  Sure, "At The Mountains of Madness" took place at the South Pole, who is to say there is not a similar outpost in the North? 

BECMI does talk about "The Old Ones" a lot and in the Core Rules is never very clear on who or what they are.  But it is not a stretch to think that those Old Ones and the Lovecraftian Old Ones have a connection.  


Oddly enough these things feel right at home in a Basic game.  If one goes back to the Masters and Immortals sets with the original idea that the Known World is our world millions of years ago this tracks nicely with some Lovecraftian mythology of our world.

I have talked about Demons in Basic/Mystara already, but AS&SH offers us "The Usual Suspects" and then some.  While Labyrinth Lord has always been good about opening the "Advanced" monsters to the Basic world, the monsters of AS&SH are of a different sort.

Maybe more so than the classes these require a bit more conversion.  Here is a monster we are all familiar with (and one I am doing something with later), drawing from the same sources to give us three or four different stat-blocks. 




Well. Not that different I guess. They are left to right, top to bottom, Advanced Labyrinth Lord, AS&SH, OSE, and B/X RPG.

AS&SH looks like a "best of" stats, combining features from both Basic and Advanced. Bite damage does a bit more on the average and the XP value is higher.  But nothing I am going to call game-breaking.

So the AS&SH monsters can be dropped pretty much "as is" into a Basic-era game. 

Anyone that plays these games should have no trouble with this really.

Putting it all Together and then Putting it in the North
It's settled then, AS&SH is part of my "Basic World" and where to put it is easy.
In the Known World of Mystara, there is already a Hyboria. It is one of the features of both D&D (Mystara) and AD&D (Hyperboria, Oerth) just as Blackmoor is (Mystara, Oerth). but Blackmoor is a topic for another day.

While none of the maps can be reconciled with each other to make one perfect Hyperboria, the concepts certainly can. This is something I have been considering since I first got the 1st Edition Boxed set.
I know that my family of witches, the Winters, come from the Hyperborean area.  Likely closer to more civilized areas, but not too civilized.  This became the basis for my Winter Witch book. 

BASSH is Born
So take what I love from AS&SH, mix in what I love from Basic and I have Basic Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, or BASSH.  Yeah. This will be fun.