Showing posts with label basic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label basic. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Witch of Loch-Durnan

One of the things I love about GenCon are the booths selling cheap games.  There are lots books from the dismal 90s and a ton from the dawn of the d20 boom.

The Witch of Loch-Durnan was from the d20 dawn published by Mystic Eye Games who had a lot of cool books back then, some I still use.

This book though has vexed me.
First look at that Jhoneil Centeno art.  I can't recall seeing his work before or since.

Then I could never find it online at a decent price and there is no PDF to be had for money or love.

The 72-page adventure was written by Andrew Thomson. It is for four characters 5th to 7th level for the 3.0 flavor of the d20 system. There are some new monsters or more to the point a system of generating new mutations of monsters like scorpion dogs and goat men.

Then there is the eponymous witch herself.


Mellie, is the witch of Loch-Durnan.  She is also the central figure of this adventure.   Reading this makes me realize that this might in fact be the missing piece of my War of the Witch Queens adventures.  She certainly is worthy to join their ranks.

Mellie - The Witch of Loch-Durnan
for The Witch: A sourcebook for Basic Edition fantasy games

Female Half-elf
Witch 4th-level, Chaotic Neutral
White Witch* Tradition
Flock of the Moon Sisters Coven

Abilities
Strength: 14
Dexterity: 14
Constitution: 10
Intelligence: 10
Wisdom: 16
Charisma: 17

Saving Throws
Death Ray: 13
Magic Wands: 14
Paralysis or Turn to Stone: 13
Dragon Breath: 16
Spells: 15

+2 to magic based saves

Hit Points: 12
AC: 8
To hit AC 0: 19

Occult Powers
Familiar:

Spells 
Cantrips (5): Dancing Lights, Detect Magic, Ghost Sounds, Mend Minor Wounds, Message
First (2+2): Charm Person, Mend Light Wounds, Protection from Spirits, Speak with Animals
Second (2+2): Augury, Evil Eye, Knock, Mind Obscure

*The White Witch is a type of witch featured int he Hunt the Rise of Evil campaign from Mystic Eye Games.  It is pretty much what you think a white witch is. Non-evil, focused on healing, protection, and divination magic.

Pretty close to her d20 counterpart.  I like it! Can't wait to use her as a Witch Queen!




Monday, June 25, 2018

Review: Survive This! Dark Places & Demogorgons

I'll start off my week-long look at Survive This! Dark Places & Demogorgons with the core rulebook.   A little bit of background thought first.  I love the 80s in the way a true child of the 80s only can.  Everything about the decade still fascinates me, fills me nostalgia and is a creative well I keep going back to.  In truth, I had better decades.  The 90s were particularly good to me and the 2010s are also really nice, but the 80s hold my interest more, especially when it comes to gaming.

Dark Places & Demogorgons (DP&D) taps into all of this in such a deep and profound way that it pisses me off me to no end.  Pisses me off, because I wish I had come up it myself!

A few things upfront.  DP&D owes a great deal to Stranger Things (which in turns owes a lot to D&D), but as fantastic as that is, that is not enough to sustain a game.  DP&D draws on deep 80s culture as well.  And deep I do mean shallow!  Nothing here about the Cold War, or USA for Africa, or the 84 Olympics, or the home computer revolution.  This is about what was going on in YOUR small town USA and how it felt like it was the strangest place on the planet.  All that "important stuff" is just background noise to what is really important; what are we doing Friday night and who's going to drive around cruising?  That of course until your friends start to disappear.

Dark Places & Demogorgons (DP&D) is a 200 page 5"x9" book with color covers and black & white interiors.  The art is a mix of new art, some art purchased from collections and (my personal favorite) some photos of the authors and friends from some 80's high school yearbooks.  I am reviewing both the physical book and PDF.  Both of which were purchased by me so no books were contributed for review.

The book is divided into an 80 page Player's Section which includes the Classes and Basic rules, and a 120 Page Game Master Section.

The Players section introduces the concept of a Role-playing game and what you can do.  We also get a little background on the town this all takes place in, Jeffersontown KY.
We go right into building a character. Now while the book tells us that this is a version of the same game played in 1974, there are more 21st Century rules here.  The rules feel like a Swords & Wizardry variant with some Basic (Holmes in particular) thrown in.  There are multiple types of saving throws (ala OD&D, Basic, an on up) and ascending AC (S&W, 3e).   In short though if you have played any sort of OSR game in the last few years you will pick this up fast.  If you have never played before, well you will still pick this up fast.

Unlike its progenitors, this game has Seven Abilities.  The new one is Survival.  At first, I was not a fan of it, but now I see how it works in the game it makes more sense to me.  Much like how another seventh ability, "Luck", works in The Heroes' Journey.
I mentioned there are new saving throws too, Courage, Critical, Death, Mental, and Poison.  Courage works a lot like a Fear/San test and there is even a terror table.

Where DP&D takes off though are ways you use to describe your characters.  We start off with Backgrounds.  You can roll randomly here in true 80s style, or choose.  Rolling seems better.  These include things like "Parents are never home" or "Bratty Kid Sister" and they have in-game effects.  Not having your parents home makes for your house to become the natural HQ of your monster surviving endeavors, but having to watch your "Strawberry Shortcake" obsessed little sister is going to slow you down.

After that, you can decide on what your Class is going to be. Classes work here like everywhere else really.  They decide your skills, they let you know where you fit in the world and they provide a role-playing guide.  The classes in this book are largely based on 80s High School stereotypes.  There are five main classes with three subclasses each (similar to how 5e does it) You have The Brain (Kid Scientist, The Nerd, The Geek), The Athlete (The Jock, Extreme Athlete, The Karate Kid), The Outsider (Break Dancer, Goth, Metal Head), The Popular Kid (Preppy, The Princess, Teen Heart Throb), and The Rebel (Bully, The Hood, the Punk Rocker). That pretty much covers everyone in a small high school.
Each class gets 5 levels and new abilities and/or skills each level.  So the Karate kid gets new moves and martial arts, the Princess can affect others and so on.

Skills cover the things you can do.  You can get some via your class or be improved by your class.  Others you can pick.  Combat is a skill and if you want to be better at it then you need to take the skill otherwise you are just a kid with a +0 to hit.

Character creation then is largely rolling up Abilities, picking a Background, a Class, some skills, determining your saving throws and finding out how much cash you have in your pocket.  Then you are set!

I recommend a Session 0 for character creation and concept.  Sure it is not in the rules and certainly not old school, but it better than everyone showing up for the game playing all playing "The Bully" or "The Nerd".

Lastly, you come up with your age, Alignment and various combat-related stats (AC, attack bonus).  DP&D is not a combat focused game.  You are kids and the monsters are, well, monsters.  You might score a hit or two, but that is it.  Otherwise, run!
XP and Leveling are a little "easier" then and there are other ways to gain levels.

We end this section with some sample characters, examples of play and a quick breakdown of the 1980s vs. Today.

The Game Master Section is next and this is where the fun is!
Here the advice of not making this a combat heavy game is repeated.  This is a game of mystery, investigation, and deduction.   From the book:

This game draws inspiration from movies like The Goonies, ET and The Lost Boys and T.V. shows like Stranger Things, Eerie Indiana and Scooby Doo.
Talk about hitting me where I live!

The rules might say 1974 on the tin, but they are much easier than that.  Nearly every rule is simplified and straightforward in a way we never would have tried in the 80s.  Among the "new" rules are Difficulty Classes (circa 3e) and Advantage/Disadvantage rules (circa 5e).  It makes for a very fast-paced game and the rules will fall into the background.

We get some weapons and explosives, but not a lot.

There is a nice section on magic and the occult which include some really nice Psychic classes.  In case you want to dial your game up to 11 (see what I did there!).

The fun part of the book are the Adventure Seeds.  Some are familiar to anyone that watched movies or TV in the 80s.  But others...well I can only conclude that these must be local legends and myths from the author's own home.  Which reminds me how much all these little towns are really the same, just the details differ.


Replace the Pope Lick Monster with the Mobil Monster and they could have been talking about my old hometown of Jacksonville, IL.  We even had giant cats, giant birds and bigfoot.  But if you know what is good for you stay away from Magical Mystery Lane (if you could find it) or the glowing "things" out by Lake Jacksonville.

The book also has a bunch of monsters in Swords & Wizardry format (more or less).  You could add more, but be careful.   Just because I have the stats for a Manticore in a S&W book that would work with this there had better be a good reason to include it.

There are stats for animals and various types of NPCs.  There is even a table of random monster generation.  Delving into more game specific tables there is a table (1d100) of basic adventure hooks.

We also get a small guide to the setting, Jeffersontown, or J'Town (I grew up in J'ville. AND we used to call it a "Sinkhole of Evil" YEARS before anyone ever said the words "hell mouth").
The guide is great, not just for use in the game but for the sheer nostalgia.  It read like someone had taken a fictionalized version of my old hometown.  I think that it is also flexible enough that an lot of people reading it will feel the same way.

We end with a nice solid appendix (the PDF is not hyper-linked here) and their own "Appendix N" of movies, television, and music.  Music was too important in the 80s for there not to be a list like this.

We end with a copy of the character sheet.

Wow.  Where to begin.

Ok first of this game is very nearly perfect and I hate it so much.  That's not true. I hate that I didn't come up with it and publish it sooner.  But in truth, I am not sure if I would have done the same quality job as Eric Bloat and Josh Palmer.  Plus the inclusion of their yearbook pictures and own background made this book for me.  I LOVED reading J'Town because I could see and feel my own J'Ville in it.  I would not have been able to do that if I had written it myself, so much kudos to them.
This is a work of art and I love it.

Everything feels right about this game, to be honest.  I even have a potential "Series" in mind for it.

Can't wait to do more with it!  I would love to get some of my old gamer friends from the 80s and have them play versions of themeselves in a "Stranger Jacksonville" or more to the point the Jacksonville we all WISHED it was.

Next time I look at the supplements.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Survive This! Dark Places & Demogorgons Week

I am going to spend some quality time this week with Bloat GamesDark Places & Demogorgons.


The game is set in the 1980s and uses the same basic rules as 1970's era D&D. The game owes more than just a little to Stranger Things, but also to just the glorious weird times that was the 1980s.
The same cauldron that gave us the Satanic Panic would later set the groundwork for shows like The X Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  This alchemical brew would also fuel so many of my games from then til now.

This game hits all my nostalgia buttons in one nice tight little package. Spending the week with it is going to be a real treat. Weird little towns, vampires, werewolves, ghosts and maybe the best soundtrack ever.



So load up your favorite 80s mixtape, put on your Member's Only jacket and pull out your Trapper Keepers full of graph paper dungeons and let's explore some Dark Places!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Kickstart Your Weekend: Maximum Mayhem #5: Palace of the Dragon's Princess

Maximum Mayhem #5: Palace of the Dragon's Princess

Mark Taormino is at it again and this time he has turned his offerings up.


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/marktaormino/maximum-mayhem-5-palace-of-the-dragons-princess-bo

His fifth module, Palace of the Dragon's Princess, on the way and it has already seen all it's funding met.

I have talked a lot about Mark's adventures and books.

I expect this one to be just as good. It's an obvious nod to Palace of the Silver Princess.



But the best thing about this?  We are getting a BOX!


I am in for a box, module and dice.

I am so stoked for this.

While overtly for OSRIC/AD&D 1st Ed, I want to play an epic B/X game with all of these.  The Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen goes to level 14 and that is perfect.  Sure they are all deadly as hell, but that is part of the fun, right?

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Magic School: So you Want to Go to Magic School?

No gaming this past weekend.  Thought about some of the entry requirements for my B/X|BECMI Magic School campaign.

Entry Requirements
Age: 13 (0-level, 2 hp+con bonus, see below)
Minimum Intelligence: 16 (15 in conditional admit)
Demonstrate the ability to cast one spell (cantrip).
Interview with the School.  (Role=play/first adventure)

Ability Scores
Ability Scores are rolled per normal; 3d6 in order*. (Considering 2d6+3 for Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution).
I will allow the highest ability to be placed in Intelligence without penalty.
Each year the student will get 1 point to place in an ability of their choice. Max is 18.

According to the D&D Rules Cyclopedia, humans with an Intelligence ability of 16 or more knows at least 4 languages.  Common, Alignment and two others.  These two (or more) additional languages will be learned in the school.  Typically students learn Elven and Draconic.  Other, more exotic languages can be learned by 3rd and 4th-year students.

Cantrips
I will have a universal system for learning cantrips.  If so, then the first spell the students know might be a Cantrip.

Students can take seven courses per year and one over the summer.

First Year Classes
Physical Conditioning I:  Each morning will begin with exercise and other physical conditioning training.  Often a wizard will be required to stand in a magic circle for hours on end chanting. Weak in the body is as dangerous as weak in the will here.  Students enrolled (mandatory for First Years) will have the full amount of hp for their Hit Die per Level (typically 4 + con bonus).

Herbs and their Properties: Necessary for material component understanding and a prerequisite for Alchemy and Magical Theory and Thought II.

Magical Theory and Thought I: Double course. Topics cover why and how magic works.

Ecclesiastic Studies I: The nature of gods and the planes.  Required for First years, optional after that.

Elvish I: Learning to speak, read and understand the major dialects of Elvish.

Mathematics:  Necessary for advanced Magic Theory and Alchemy.

End of the first year they are 1st level and know 1 1st level spell.

Summer Apprenticeships
Here students can get practical application knowledge.  Internships are on a first come, first served basis though faculty can also make placements.

Second Year Classes
PCII: Students continue their physical conditioning classes.

Intermediate Herbology: Plants helpful and harmful.

Ecclesiastics II: Advanced topics including the nature of Immortality, transmigration of the soul and the nature of undead. Required for Ecclesiastic and Necromancy students.

Magical Theory and Thought II: The nature of arcane magic, the use of material components. Discussion and case studies of the works of famous, but esoteric wizards.

Creatures I: The three textbooks affectionately called Monster Manual, Fiend Folio and Creature Catalog.

Draconic I: Learning to speak, write and understand the major dialects of Draconic.
Elvish II: Elvish and it's relationship to magic are covered.

Survey and Seminar: (half term) Covers the Colleges of the school and their disciplines.
Elective: (half term) First Elective choice.

End of the second year they are 2nd level and know 2 1st level spells.

Third Year Classes
Third Year is the year they take their specialization. These will depend on which "Colleges" I create.

Ecclesiastics III & Magical Theory and Thought III: This combine double class covers the natures of gods, deities, and spell granting powers including demon lords, Dukes of Hell and the Fey Lords.

PCIII: Advanced finger conditioning.  Known by fourth years as "the days of pain".

Draconic II: Learning to recognize and speak the "vulgar" dialects of Draconic.
Elvish III: Conversational High Elvish and Sylvan Elvish are covered in depth.

Creatures II: Exploration of the major works including the Ecologies.

End of the third year they are 3rd level and know 2 1st level spells and 1 2nd level spell.

Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Year Classes

These will be in the student's major area of study.

Courses that continue but are not required at this point are Ecclesiastics, Magical Theory & Thought, Draconic, and Elvish.

End of the fourth year they are 4th level and know 2 1st level spells and 2 2nd level spells.
End of the fifth year they are 5th level and know 2 1st level spells, 2 2nd level spells, and 1 3rd level spell.
End of the sixth year they are 6th level and know 2 1st level spells, 2 2nd level spells, and 2 3rd level spells.

Fields of Study (so far)
Alchemy
Bardic Magic
Dragonolgy/Dragonmancy
Necromancy
High Witchcraft

I might add more.  I think I am going to need a good "Basic Era" Alchemist class and a better Bard.  So far I am not 100% on any of the Bards I have seen so far.

Part of the plan is to use any and all the magic books I have in my collection, I have a lot of fun stuff and this would be a good chance to use them. 
With all the games I worked on over the years I figure I have written somewhere near 800 new spells. Might be fun to use all of that in one game.


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Skylla: The Arcanum

The Arcanum was always one of "those books".  You know what I mean. The ones where you tried to convince your non-D&D playing friends that D&D was not evil and then they point to the black book with the red pentagram on it.  Ah well.

The Arcanum is the follow up to one of my favorite series of books, The Compleat Spellcaster, Compleat Alchemist and Compleat Adventurer.  I have discussed my love of the Compleat Spellcaster many times in the past.

Of course the class I enjoyed the most was the Witch.

All the spellcasting classes were interesting since they could choose from different lists of spells.  So there was Elementalism, Black Magic, Mysticism, and Sorcery for example.    Witches could choose Elemental and Enchantment is they are good or Elemental and Black Magic if evil.
I liked that it made for some really unique spellcasters.

Great to try on Skylla.
Since the Arcanum was a supplement, what better core rules than some D&D Rules Cyclopedia.

Skylla, 7th Level Witch
Chaotic Evil

Skylla by Neothera
Strength: 9
Dexterity: 11
Constitution: 10
Intelligence: 14
Wisdom: 13
Charisma: 12

Breath Weapon: 14
Poison & Deathray 11
Paralysis & Turn to Stone: 11
Magic Wands: 12
Rod, Staff, Spells: 12

Hit Points:  25
AC: 4 (Ring of Protection AC 4)

Skills
1st level: Weapon (Dagger), Herb Lore, Herbal Remedies
3rd level: Herbal Elixers
5th level: Venoms and Poisons, Philtres
7th level: Potions

Spells
1st level: Arcane Bolt, Curse, Detect Magic,
2nd level: Control, Pain
3rd level: Malediction, Summon Lesser Semon
4th level: Ring of Fire

So a very different selection of spells.  A bit different than the ones from the Compleat Spellcaster.
I would want to play with some different witch types in this to get a feel for all the black magic spells.
This Skylla, while she has some skills, is overall less powerful than others.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Magic School: I have Hogwarts on my Miskatonic U!

Mulling some ideas over lunch today.

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

So a few things came to mind right away.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 16, 2018

Magic School: Going Back to Glantri

Curse my gamemastering ADHD!

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

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

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

But there is so much great stuff here.

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

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

But back to the school.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, February 15, 2018

D&D Rules Cyclopedia Unboxing and Pre-review

I wasn't going to post today. Really busy at work. But this really could not wait.



I got my Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia in the mail today and wanted to check it out.



I could not decide if I wanted the hardcover or softcover.  So I got both.





As you can see the cover is more cream colored than the original white. I kinda like it to be honest.
There is a huge border of it on the front cover.  Less noticeable in the soft-cover edition.




The color is good, not as strong as the original but still extremely readable.

These books compare very favorably to the original.





You can see the colors are stronger in the original, but the paper is much thicker in the POD versions.


The pages of my original print are a little yellowed with age. The new ones are still bright white.

Compare this to one I made a while back on Lulu. I call it my "Wizards & Demons" Cover.




I also still have a really beat up version.


All in all I am really happy with these.  Looking forward to playing a game with them!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

New Witch Tradition: The Sisters of the Chalice and the Moon


In Wormskin 8  +Gavin Norman details the Witches of the Dolmenwood (introduced in Wormskin #7). They are the inheritors of a strange magic that goes to the very essence of the Wood’s history and creation.

Sounds like my kind of witch!

In these 12 pages, he details this new witch tradition and their patron Gods, The Gwyrigon.
A lot of what he has here can be mapped on to my witch class with little to no effort.  No surprise I think since we are looking at similar source materials for our witches.

New Witch Tradition 
The Gwyrigon Tradition of Dolmenwood.
AKA Witches of the Wood, The Sisters of the Chalice and the Moon.
These witches and this tradition are detailed in Wormskin #8.

Occult Powers
Least (1st level) Familiar: These witches gain a familiar in the form of hare or rabbit.  These rabbits are long lived, intelligent and can speak to any witch. While a rabbit may seem like an odd choice for a wood as dangerous as Dolmenwood but it actually a testament to the powers of the Gwyrigon that their chosen messengers seem so weak but can pass unmolested in these woods.

Lesser (7th level) Magic of the Wood: The witch can cast the following spells once per day without need of preparation, charm person, augury, remove curse.

Minor (13th level) One with Wood: When the witch pledges herself to a particular Wood God she gains a greater measure of their power now.  The powers of  Errta, Hasturiel, and Limwdd are detailed in Wormskin #7 (p. 62).

Medial (19th level) Commune with the Wood: The witch can enter into a trance to commune with the spirits of the wood; the gwyrigon, though others can be communed with. This divination allows the witch to learn anything (GM’s discretions) that happens in the Dolmenwood.  This even alerts the witch to malign creatures in the wood such as undead and beings from outside of reality.

Major (25th level) Remove Malign Influences. The witch can place on one subject (or herself) the combined effects of Aid (2nd Level Cleric spell), Remove Curse (3rd Level Cleric spell) and Healing Circle (5th Level Cleric spell, target only). The total benefits are +4 to attack, +4 to saves involving fear, +6 to any ability, 19+1d6 additional temporary hit points and heals the character for all but 1d8 hit points. This lasts a number of hours equal to the witch’s level.

Superior (31st level) Timeless Body: The witch appears to stop aging and her effective lifespan is doubled. She also can’t be magically aged. Any penalties she may have already incurred remain in place. The witch still dies of old age when her time, doubled as it is, is up.

Witches and the Drune 
In the rare cases when witches and Drune (Wormskin #5) work together they form a Grand Coven as per the rules in The Green Witch

New Spells

Create Corn Dolly
Level: Witch 1
Range: One crafted Corn Dolly
Duration: 1 day per level
During the harvest festivals, the witch will gather rushes and other bits of discarded plant life from corn, wheat, and barley.  What many do not know, but the witches know all too well, that the spirits of the harvest remain in these discards.
With a ritual and a repeated rhyme, the witch can fashion a rough poppet that the witch can then animate. This corn dolly can then be sent out to spy for the witch.  With concentration, the witch can hear through this dolly. The range is limited to 100 yards + 10 yards per level of the witch.
The dolly can’t move, it has to be placed by the witch.  The dolly has 2 hitpoints and takes double damage from fire.
Material Components: Rushes from the previous harvest festival. Material older than a year will not work.

Summon Woodgrue
Level: Witch 2
Range: 10’ per level
Duration: Special
The witch can summon a special demi-fey, a Woodgrue, (see Wormskin #7).  At the end of the casting, the Woodgrue appears at the location of the witch where she must gift it a cup of single malt whiskey. Once that is done the witch can compel the bat-faced fey to perform one task for her. The task must be something the woodgrue can complete but not something that will result in his or another’s death.  Such tasks would be “return to me the coin I lost in the wood this past fortnight” or “harass Goodwoman Kolya for the next week for treating me rudely in the market.”
Once complete the Woodgrue is freed to return to where he likes.  The witch can only summon one woodgrue at a time.  Continual repeated summoning of woodgrue may be looked down upon by the Gwyrigon (ie. the Game Master) and be denied.
Material Components: A cup of single malt whiskey.



Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Joy of Basic D&D & Magic School

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of ALL editions of D&D.  I have played them all, and all to a significant degree.  But my start, and in many ways, my true love is Basic D&D.  B/X flavor in particular.  With the D&D Rules Cyclopedia now out in POD I am going to take some time to go back and play some of the D&D that I played the least; BECMI.

I have had some ideas for various "Basic" games over the years.  I want to take my 4e Campaign and reboot that as a BECMI one, but instead, I morphed it into a 5e one.  I still want my War of the Witch Queens to be a B/X adventure, but it really could become a BECMI one since I really would love to take advantage of all 36 levels that BECMI offers me.   But in truth, I had no idea what I wanted to do until this morning.

A couple of posts on Facebook in various "old school" groups has new players, maybe ones more familiar with Post-TSR D&D, lamenting that Magic-Users/Wizards only get one spell at 1st level.
While this is familiar ground for old-school gamers, I do sympathize with these players.
Some of this for me goes back to the 4th Edition games. In 4e a 1st level wizard is quite competent with a number of spells they can use right off the bat.  In a way, it is what you would expect from a graduate from a magic school.  But in other ways, it also makes a less compelling "story".  4e Wizards might be closer to Harry Potter, or Harry Dresden, but they are not close to the Luke Skywalker model of the new adventurer with plenty talent but no training.
This train of thought got me thinking about Basic and BECMI in particular as a means to "grow into" 4e.  A lot of my analysis was on how much magic and "Combat power" a single wizard has from levels 1 to 6 in BECMI and compare that to 4e.  The goal was to have levels 1 through 6 to be training and then levels 7 to 36 map roughly onto 4e's levels 1 to 30.  The math is not perfect, as to be expected, but there is enough wiggle room that I liked it.

Well. I am not doing 4e now.  But the idea of levels 1 to 6 as "training levels" still appeals to me.


So my plan now is this.  I am going to create a magic school (long overdue really) and the characters are all magic users.  They enter the school at age 13 at level 1 and spend the next six years working towards graduation witch each year being the next level. They will graduate at age 19 at level 7 to start adventuring.

I have a lot of ideas of what needs to happen, but I also need to figure out how to fill up 80,000 xp worth of experiences that fit with a school environment.   Along the way, they can pick up specialties (Necromancy, Enchantment and so on).  Students will take classes in languages, finger position, and diction in addition to ones on Magical Theory and Thought.  I also see students working on magic items and potions.  This is where all those magic items and cursed items come from.

I am also going to borrow heavily from The Complete Wizard's Handbook for 2nd Ed. I am also going to borrow some ideas from theGlantri books, GAZ3 The Principalities of Glantri (Basic) and Glantri: Kingdom of Magic (2e).


I *might* even set it all in Glantri, but I am also kind of wanting to set in my new campaign setting of West Haven.  Setting it in Glantri though has a lot of appeal to me.

Obvious sources for this are the Harry Potter books and movies, but also the Magicians books and TV series, the Magic schools from Charmed and Wizards of Waverly Place, various comics like the X-Men and Teen Titans and Miskatonic University.

I am going to give this one some serious thought, there is also so much material for this out there.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

This Old Dragon: Issue #177

Ok. I will freely admit that this one was third on my stack of Dragons. But in my defense, the first one was a duplicate of one I had done back in December and the second one just was not grabbing my attention today.  So let's sit back, relax, put on some Nirvana as we go back to January 1992 with Issue #177 of This Old Dragon.

Ok. I have no memories of this issue really at all.  In 1992 I was working on getting into grad school and finishing up my first published works of research. I was heavy into Ravenloft as my game setting of choice for 2nd ed AD&D, but I had also been exploring other games. I was hearing rumors from a friend of a friend about this new Vampire game and how White Wolf was going to eat TSR.
Going on from this I have NO memory of this cover at all.  I am not sure how well a woman in a cage with leering "Dungeon Master" would go over today.  I am also unfamiliar with the artist, William
Carman.
Notably this issue still has it's cover on it.

How can you tell this is an early 90s magazine?  Big advertisement for Waldenbooks. Pour a little out for Waldenbooks and Borders.

Looking over the Table of Contents it appears the special feature is DM advice. Ok, let's jump to it!

In Letters, we get one ripped right out of today's social media, DM's Dilemma Fee or Free? A reader writes in wanting to know if he should charge for running games. The author, whose name was withheld, points out that he (assuming it's a he) has spent thousands of dollars on game material and that prep time is also that, time he is spending that the players are not.  The response to this feels less from Dragon and more from TSR, Inc.  I would love to reproduce the whole thing here, not only for the advice but for the snapshot in time this was.  Needless to say, TSR takes (took) a rather dim view on the idea of DM's charging for games.  This is also the only thing I have read that resembles official policy on the issue from the time.  I would wager that WotC is a little more even-handed on this than TSR was, but I have not read a current policy on this.

What are your thoughts on DM's charging for games?

Roger Moore talks about "Kinky" games. Meaning odd or weird games, based the interoffice slang "kinky" meaning weird.  He talks about Metamorphosis Alpha, Lace and Steel and Bunnies and Burrows.  Interesting story here.  Before I got really involved in blogging I was a Wikipedia Editor.  Still am in fact, but not as active as I once was.  One of the articles I worked on was the Bunnies and Burrows entry on Wikipedia.  In fact, I was one of a few editors who worked on it to get it to Good Article status.  Apparently, this made me and my fellow editors eligible for a grant from some large Furry research and advocacy group (yes, there are such things) and I was offered money for my work.  I was a little shocked to be honest.  I was also still in hardcore academic frame of mind then and did not want to take money for this work, so I had them donate the money to a charity of their choice.

In our DM's section we have Jim Shamlin up first with Keeping the Party Going. I was hoping for some edition-agnostic advice and I am pleased so far.  He covers the various ways a party can get togehter and stay together.  Like I said there are a lot of good ideas here and all can be used with any system, not just D&D.  I am new school enough though that I want the players to tell me why the party is together. What are their reasons they are joining forces.

Thomas M. Kane has a interesting article on technology and scientific advancements in That's Progress. The key feature of this article is a condensed timeline of scientific and technological advancements in the world up to the 17th century and it is not entirely Western-focused.

In Secrets of the Masters Revealed, Michael J. D’Alfonsi has us "apply fiction-writing techniques to game-campaign design".  While this is good advice some of it can apply to players as well and works best in a system where the players have a little more agency in the game.   Still such things as keeping a campaign journal (this is a great one and one I do all the time) and developing the personalities of the NPC (also something I do) adds a bit more fullness to the game. It also does nothing to change the idea that DMing is a lot of work!

Now we are getting to something very specific to AD&D and D&D prior to 2000.
In Defend Yourself, Blake Mobley tries to reduce some of the back and forth you see in the THAC0 based combat. The system he proposes is interestingly engough close, but still just this side of "not there yet" of the d20 combat systems of 3rd edition on.  If he could switch the idea of armor class getting stronger if the numbers go up instead of down then his system work even better. Some sacred cows do need to be ground up into burger.

Up next is the Game Wizards.  In this issue the D&D Rules Cyclopedia.
Steven E. Schend has the task to let us all know what the newest D&D book is like.  There is a nice history on the development of the D&D game line with particular emphasis on the recent 1991 "Black Box" getting started game and a little more background on the BECMI sets of 1983 on.  He refers to this book as "complete" and "exhaustive", but he also says it is not a radical change, so it is not a "2nd Edition".



I REALLY wish I had read this article back in the day when I was dismissing D&D (BECMI flavor) because I was playing the more "adult" AD&D.  Yeah, yeah I was stupid. But I hope I have made up for that now.

Marcus L. Rowland is next with some more DM advice in "If I Ruled the World...", or how to deal with "Mad scientists, megalomaniacs, and their motives in gaming".  A great read really on how to think like a megalomaniac.  He gives some examples including some sample NPC (or sorts, broad strokes).  For me, the value is getting into the head of your mad villian in order to think about how and why they do what they do.  Whether you are Ming the Merciless, Lex Luthor or Dr. Evil you have to have your reasons and they need to make sense to you.

John C. Bunnell has some books include a few I remember.  A couple in particular by Daniel Cohen (Encylopedia of Ghosts, Encylopedia of Monsters) were always great fun.

Nice big ad for the combined Gen Con 25 and Origins Game Fair in Milwaukee.

Lawrence Schick is up with a quiz based on his new book Heroic Worlds, a History and Guide to Roleplaying Games.   I wonder if he still has it the quiz?

Part 24 of Voyage of the Princess Ark is up from Bruce Heard. Done up in a very "Gazeteer style" type article with some maps, data and letters included with the story.  Still makes me want to collect all of these for a longer retrospective.

Skip Williams and Sage Advice is next. Lots of Dark Sun questions.

Role of Computers covers the State of the Art for 1992.  Let's see...at this point in time I was either using a Tandy 1000 Ex that I got from sister in a trade. I bought her a Brother Word Processor, OR I was using this knocked together 286 I bought on one of the first grants I ever got for research.  Likely that one since I in 92 I took an extra year of my undergrad to get a minor in Computer Science and I was learning to write code in Pascal and C.  There is a review for Wing Commander. My roomate, who was getting a CS degree had one of the new-fangled 386 computers and he played that game all the time.  I didn't even remember that till I saw a screen shot in this magazine.

(note the mildew coming off of this magazine is about to kill me.  I need a break!)

Ok. Back.

So we have a lot of ads and the Convention Calendar for early 92. Sadly I missed the Egyptian Campaign at SIU Carbondale even though I certainly walked by it at least a few times.  Remember I was trying to get into grad school at this point.

The Forum is way in the back of the magazine this time, well compared to where it normally has been.

The Marvel Phile is up this time by Scott Davis and Steven E. Schend with a collection of superwomen.

Chris Perry has an oddly placed D&D-themed article (odd since it is near the end after the Marvel stuff) Defenders of the Hearth. This deals with Halflings and their priests.  While the game content is specifically AD&D 2nd Edition there is a lot here, most really, that can be used for every other edition after that.  In fact, I might just copy it for my kids to use.

Ad for a GDW game coming out in the Summer of the 92 that they are calling a "break through"  I am guessing it was for "Blood and Thunder" but I could be wrong.



Rare bit of topless mermaid in the fiction section, even if it is still firmly PG.

More high-tech equipment for GURPS Space.

Dragonmirth is next, but not at the end of the magazine!  Don't really recognize any of these anyway.

Small ads.

A few pages of minis in Through the Looking Glass. The rest are for larger, full page ads.
Two close to my heart. The Rules Cyclopedia, which is my interest these days and Ravenloft Guide to Vampires, one of my favorite Ravenloft books.


So not an issue I have read until today, so I have no memory to compare it too.
It is an interesting issue though all the same.  It looks like the Dragons I read as a kid, but there is a different feel.  Of course the difference is only in me really.  Still though plenty of good advice and a testiment that somethings never change.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

D&D Rules Cyclopedia in Print again

The D&D Rules Cyclopedia often called the best one-volume D&D book there is, is now "back" in print.  Or at least Print on Demand.


This game covers the BECM of BECMI which is really what most people want anyway.
Really this book has everything.

For the longest time, I dismissed this book and felt stupid for that the second I read it.  At the time though I was in grad school and money was tight.  I have since picked up a couple of copies.

I would LOVE to run a game with this RAW (Rule As Written).  I have even talked about it here many times.

Now we can get copies of this fantastic version of the game in one volume in either soft or hard covers.  I'd get both if I had a current game of this going.

In any case, this is a great deal. Just have a look on eBay to see what these are going for used.
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