Showing posts with label blogs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label blogs. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Why I Love RPGS: C. J. Carella's WitchCraft RPG

Note: This is part of the Dyvers Project on RPGs.  We are supposed to talk about RPGS we love and why we love them.  This is my second part.

RPGS I Love: C. J. Carella's WitchCraft RPG

WitchCraft is, hands down, my favorite game.  Period.  Picking up a copy of this book back in 1999 was just like picking up a copy of the Monster Manual in 1979.  Everything I ever wanted in a game was right there.
Everything.

WitchCraft had such a profound effect on my gaming that I can draw a rather clean line between what came before and what came after it.  Granted a lot was going on in 1999/2000 both gamingwise and personal that may have added to the this effect, it was an effect all the same.

Back in 1999 I was really burned out on D&D.   I was working on my own Witch netbook and reading a bunch of different games when someone, I forget where, must have been the old RAVENLOFT-L that TSR/WotC used to run, told me I really need to check out WitchCraft.  At first I balked.  I had tried Vampire a couple years ago and found I didn't like it (and I was very much out of my vampire phase then), but I was coming home from work and the my FLGS was on the way, so I popped in and picked up a copy.  This must have been the early spring of 2000.

I can recall sitting in my office reading this book over and over. Everything was so new again, so different.  This was the world I had been trying, in vain, to create for D&D but never could.  The characters in this book were also all witches, something that pleased me to no end, it was more than just that.  Plus look at that fantastic cover art by George Vasilakos. That is one of my most favorite, is not my favorite, cover for a game book. I have it hanging in my game room now.

WitchCraft uses what is now called the "Classic" Unisystem system.  So there are 6 basic attributes, some secondary attributes (derived), skills and qualities and drawbacks.  Skills and attributes can be mixed and matched to suit a particular need.

WitchCraft uses a Point-Buy Metaphysics magic system, unlike Ghosts of Albion's levels of magic and spells system.  Think of each magical effect as a skill that must be learned and you have to learn easier skills  before the harder ones first.    In D&D for example it is possible to learn Fireball and never have learned Produce Flame.  In WitchCraft you could not do that.  WitchCraft though is not about throwing around "vulgar magics".  WitchCraft is a survival game where the Gifted protect humanity from all sorts of nasty things, from forgotten Pagan gods, to demons, fallen angels and the Mad Gods; Cthulhoid like horrors from beyond.  WitchCraft takes nearly everything from horror and puts all together and makes it work.

The Eden Studios version was the Second Edition, I was later to find out.  The first one was from Myrmidon Press. I manged to find a copy of that one too and it was like reading the same book, from an alternate universe.  I prefer the Eden Edition far more for a number of reasons, but I am still happy to have both editions.

The central idea behind WitchCraft is the same as most other Modern Supernatural Horror games.  The world is like ours, but there are dark secrets, magic is real, monsters are real. You know the drill.  But WitchCraft is different.  There is a Rekoning coming, everyone feels it, but no one knows what it is.  Characters then take on the roles of various magic using humans, supernatuals or even mundane humans and they fight the threats.  Another conceit of the game (and one I use a lot) is that supernatural occurances are greater now than ever before.  Something's coming.  (dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria).

It is most often compared to World of Darkness, but there are things WitchCraft does that I just like better.  Unlike (old) Mage there is no war between the (good) Mages and the (evil) Technocracy.  There is a war certainly, but nothing so cut and dry.  Unlike new Mage there are rarely clean divisions between the factions.  Yes, yes Mage players, I am being overly simple, but that is the point, on the simple levels new Mage dives everything into 5 because that is how the designers want it.  There are factions (Associations) and there are different metaphysics for each, but also overlap, and sometimes no clear and defined lines are to be found or given.  It feels very organic.

In my opinion C. J. Carella may be one of the best game designers out there.  WitchCraft is a magnum opus that few achieve.  I took that game and I ran with it.  For 2000 - 2003 it was my game of choice above and beyond anything.  The Buffy RPG, built on the Cinematic Unisystem took over till I wrote Ghosts of Albion, which also use the Cinematic Unisystem.  I mix and match the systems as I need, but WitchCraft is still my favorite.

WitchCraft in fact is what got me into professional game design.

Back in the Spring/Summer of 2001 I started up a new game.  I had just purchased the WitchCraft RPG book about 16 months prior and I was looking for something new.  That something came to me in the guise of Willow and Tara.  I had been watching Buffy for a bit and I really enjoyed the character of Willow.  When she got together with fellow witch Tara I thought they were perfect.  I had become very involved in the online Willow/Tara fandom so I created a game, focusing on just them.

The game would focus on just these two, no one else from the show (which I would soon become an ex-fan of, but that is a different story).  Plus it gave me something to try out in a modern setting, something I have not done since my days with the Chill RPG.

The trickiest part of developing game stats of any fictional character that belongs to someone else is knowing how to strike a balance between the game's rules and the fictional pottrayal. A lot of "artisitc" license needs to be used in order to get a good fit. For example, how do you determine what some one's strength is when there is little to no on screen evidence? What spells would the girls have?

In the end I decided to play it a little loose, but I love where their stats ended up.  In many ways this is who Willow and Tara are to me, not the characters on TV or comics, but the ones that were my characters since that day back in May 2001 that I decided they needed their own chance to shine.

After this I went on to work on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG.  It should be no suprise then that the Willow and Tara stats that appear there are not that much different than my own.  I can be quite vocal in play tests.  That got me the chance to write the Ghosts of Albion RPG. This also allowed me to meet, work with and remain friends with Christopher Golden and Amber Benson.

WitchCraft paved the way for so many other games for me, not just in terms of playing but in writing.  If it were not for WitchCraft then we would not have had Buffy, Angel or Army of Darkness.  Conspiracy X would have remained in the it's original system. There would be no Terra Primate or All Flesh Must Be Eaten and certainly there would be no Ghosts of Albion.  The game means that much to me.

But you don't have to take my word for it, Eden Studios will let you have it, sans some art, for free.
http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product_info.php?products_id=692&it=1&affiliate_id=10748

Download it.  If you have never played anything else other than D&D then you OWE it yourself to try this game out.

My thing is I wish it was more popular than it is.  I love the game. If I was told I could only play one game for the rest of my life then WitchCraft would be in my top 3 or 2 choices.

Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: June Reviews

Here are the reviews for May for the Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge.

Lots of books this month!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
All things must end...I started my reread of the Harry Potter series with much enthusiasm and I was rewarded every step of the way. But I was dreading this one.  Not because of the deaths or the loss, but because this was the end, no more Harry, no more Hogwarts, no more of the world that enchanted me and millions of others.
J.K. Rolwing is a genius. Pure and simple. While I thought some of her later books could have had a deft hand at editing I find in the end I would not want one line changed.  The best thing about this book, and the last one, is you really, really get a feeling of how and why Ron and Hermione got together and why Harry and Ginny are together.  The movies, as fantastic as they are, glossed over this subtle storytelling.
Every fan of fantasy needs to read these books.
Witch Count: Hundreds

Witches with the Enemy: A Novel of the Mist-Torn Witches by Barb Hendee
Book 3 of the Mist-Torn Witches series sees Céline and Amelie Fawe heading back into the land of their birth, Shetâna, to do a job for Prince Damek who once tried to have them killed.
Like the previous two books this one involves a mysterious murder, but the murders keep happening and it is soon obvious that no one is what they appear to be at all.  This one grabs you from the beginning.
Hendee is great at character development and it was nice to see Céline get some much needed growth and the spotlight for a while.  The previous book featured a lot of growth for Amelie.   I also like that the witches may have made a terrible new enemy by the end of the book.
The potential for this series really is unlimited. I would like to see some new powers or new nuances to their powers for the sisters, but I also see no end of their troubles.
I think what I like the most about this series is that both the two main female characters and the two main male characters are allowed to be strong when they can.  That is, one character or gender does not show strength at the expense of the others. They all have the potential to work as a greater team but finding their roles is the trick.  In any case there is plenty of more room for future character growth and that is exactly what I want in my series reading.
While these books are set in a fantasy realm of magic, witches, ghosts and even vampires these are solidly murder mysteries.  Can't wait for Book 4!
Witch Count: 3-5 (including hedge witches)

Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave
The classical Russian tale of Baba Yaga and the brave young girl Vasilisa.  I actually read a couple of different versions of this tale over the month, but since they only differed by a detail here or there I am counting this as one.
Witch Count: 1

The Winter Witch by Paula Brackston
This one has all the elements I like. Welsh countryside, ancient witchcraft, new you witch coming into her power.  It just didn't grab me like I thought it would.  Now by the end of the book things had gotten better.  I liked the character Morgana and I liked how her magic worked.  The author is quite good really, I just found the pace a bit slow for my liking.  I think if I had not just come down from my Harry Potter fueled high I might have enjoyed this one a lot more.
Witch Count: 3

Books read: 18
Current Level: Crone,  Read 16 – 20 Witchy Books

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Why I Love RPGS: Moldvay Basic

Note: This is part of the Dyvers Project on RPGs.  We are supposed to talk about RPGS we love and why we love them.  This is my first part.

RPGS I Love: Moldvay D&D Basic

Christmas 1981 will forever go down in my memory as the one where everything changed.  I was in Junior High and had been playing D&D for a about two years, off and on.  I had read the Monster Manual and I had a copy, badly xeroxed, of the Holmes Basic set.  Christmas though was the turning point. I got two box sets that year; the Ballantine Books boxed set of Lord of the Rings and the "magenta" Basic Set.
Inside was finally my own book, not a copy of someone else's book. I had my own dice (finally!) and a complete adventure.
I devoured that book. Cover to cover. Every page was read and read over and over.

A lot of people talk about "the Red Box". My Red Box was magenta and had Erol Otis on the cover.  For me this was the start of what became "my" D&D. Not someone else's game, but my own.

In 1981 I felt fairly proficient D&D. But with Holmes D&D I always felt like there was something I was missing. I only learned later of the "Little Brown Books" and how "Basic" actually came about.

The Moldvay Basic set had almost everything I ever needed for a game.  Plenty of classes and races.  More monsters than I expected (it had dragons!!) and what then felt like tons of spells.  I made dozens of characters, some that saw actual game play, but I didn't care, for me it was the joy of endless possibilities.
And that was just in the first couple of dozen pages.

Everything I know about exploring a dungeon, checking for traps, carrying holy water and 10' pole began here.  I learned that ghouls can cause paralysis (unless you were an elf!) and that zombies always attacked last in the round.  I learned Thouls were a magical cross-breed between a hobgoblin troll and ghoul. No I still have no idea how they are made. I got to meet Morgan Ironwolf herself.
There was a sample adventure in the book, but I never really looked over. I don't think anyone did. It was called the Haunted Keep by the way.

This magenta colored box with strange art on the cover also had other prizes. There inside was my first set of real D&D dice.  No more raiding board games for six-siders, though I learned that they were properly called "d6s".  I had a set of blue dice with a white crayon to color them in.  They are not great dice, even then I knew.  But they were mine and that is all that mattered.

I want to pause here a second and come back to that art.  Lets look at the cover again.  A woman casting a spell, a man with a spear. Fighting some sort of water dragon (that didn't even appear in the rules!). But look how awesome it is. Do you need to know anything else? No. They are fighting a dragon! That box is the reason so many gamers fell in love with the art of Erol Otis.  Inside are some equally important names; Jeff Dee, James Roslof, David LaForce and Bill Willingham.  They gave  this D&D a look that was different than AD&D.  I love that art in AD&D, but in this book that art was just so...timeless. It was D&D.

In that box was also the Keep on Borderlands. I don't think I need to go into detail there. We have all been to the keep. We have all taken that ride out along the road that would take us to that Caves of Chaos.  Nevermind that all these creatures, who should by all rights be attacking each other, never really did anything to me.  They were there and they were "Chaotic" and we were "Lawful". That was all we needed to know back then.

What treasures in such a small box!

The Moldvay Basic set was more than just an introductory set to D&D. It was an introduction to a hobby, a lifestyle.  The rules were simply written and organized. They were not simple rules, and re-reading it today I marvel that we all conquered this stuff at age 10-11.  It may have only covered the first 3 levels of character growth, but they were a quality 3.

I picked up the Expert Set for my birthday in 1982. Bought it myself, and for the longest time that was all I needed.   Eventually I did move on to AD&D. I also discovered those Little Brown Books and even picked up my own real copy of Holmes Basic. I love those game and I love playing them still, but they never quite had the same magic as that first time of opening up that box and seeing what treasures were inside.
I did not have to imagine how my characters felt when they had discovered some long lost treasure. I knew.

Today I still go back to Tom Moldvay's classic Basic book.  It is my yardstick on how I measure any OSR game.  Almost everything I need it right there.  Just waiting for me.

Time to roll up some characters and play.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Chrys Fey, Libby Sawyer and the Witch of Death

Recently I had the pleasure to read a pre-release copy of The Witch of Death thanks to author and fellow A to Z Blogging survivor +Chrys Fey.  This introduced me to her newest character Liberty "Libby" Sawyer, a police detective and kick-ass witch.   Which of course means she is perfect for this blog!

So please allow me to introduce Libby and Chrys.

Liberty “Libby” Sawyer
“Actually, I’m a witch.” She smiled when Reid jolted and turned to face her. “I’m Detective Liberty Sawyer." She stuck out her hand.

Cinematic Unisystem Rules (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Magic Box, Ghosts of Albion)
Experienced Hero 
Libby, off duty obviously

Drama Points: 10
Life Points: 39

Attributes
Strength: 2
Dexterity: 3
Constitution: 3
Intelligence: 3
Perception: 4
Willpower: 5

Qualities: Attractiveness 2, Contacts (criminal) 2, Contacts (occult) 1, Empathy 2, Hard to Kill 3, Magic 2, Magical Family, Nerves of Steel, Occult Library 2, Psychic Visions 1, Rank (Detective) 2

Drawbacks: Adversaries (various. supernatural and criminal) 3, Honorable 2, Love (Reid) 4, Obligation (uphold the Law)

Skills: Art 1, Computer 3, Crime 3, Doctor 2, Driving 3, Getting Medieval 2, Gun-Fu 3, Influence 2, Knowledge 3, Kung-fu 2, Language 2 (English, latin), Mr. Fix-it 1, Notice 3, Occultism 5, Science 2, Sports 1

Initiative: +2
Spellcasting: 1d10 + 12
Notice: 1d10 + 7
Magical sight: 1d10 + 9

Gender: Female
Age: 33
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 138 lbs

Combat
Gun +6 by type
Punch +5 4
Kick +5 5
Spells +12 by type
- Witch Bolt +12 damage 4
- Deflect +14

Liberty "Libby" Sawyer is a witch from a long line of family witches.
Her personal occult library is growing, but she has access to much larger collections through her magical family connections.  Unfortunately because of these ties enemies of her family are hers as well.  She is not sure, but suspects that she is distantly related to Elizabeth Sawyer.

Like most witches Libby can read auras, is sensitive to psychic impressions, and has magical sight.
She is likely to have the Anamchara quality with Det. Reid, but it is still undeveloped at this point.

New Spell: The Bleeding 
Quick Cast: Yes
Power Level: 4
Philosophy: Evil
Requirements: A command word, line of sight, and a drop of blood from the target.
Effect: This spell causes the target’s blood to evaporate if he is within 50 feet. He must resist the spellcasting roll with a Constitution (doubled) roll each Turn or suffer one-third of his total Life Points in damage (round up). The effect lasts for a number of Turns equal to the half the Success Levels (round down) of the spellcasting roll. Multiple castings of this spell on one target have no effect.
Once the blood has been removed from the body the witch casting the spell gains the victim’s Magic Levels.  For every 2 levels of magic the victim has the caster gains 1.
Note: This is not one of Libby's spells.

You can find Chrys on the web at http://writewithfey.blogspot.com/
And more about Libby at The Faux Fountain Pen and Tasha's Thinkings.



Title: Witch of Death
Author: Chrys Fey
Genre: Supernatural/Suspense
Format: eBook Only
Page Count: 45 (short story)
Release Date: May 20th, 2015
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

Blurb: 

Detective Reid Sanders doesn’t believe in the supernatural, but when he’s faced with a crime scene that defies the laws of nature, he has no other choice but to start believing. And solving a magical murder involves working with a witch.

Liberty Sawyer embodies the look of your classic evil witch, so, it’s no surprise when she uncovers the murderer is a witch that she becomes Reid’s number one suspect. If she can’t convince him otherwise, more people could lose their lives to dark magic, including her.

BOOK LINKS:


ALSO AVAILABLE:


Blurb:

Jolie Montgomery, a twenty-one-year-old woman, wakes up in an alley next to her corpse. She has no memories of her murder or the night she died. She didn’t even see the killer’s face before he or she took her life. Wanting justice, Jolie seeks answers in the only way a ghost can...by stalking the lead detective on the case. 

Avrianna Heavenborn is determined to find the person responsible for a young woman’s death. She gets closer to the killer’s identity with every clue she uncovers, and Jolie is with her every step of the way.

But if they don’t solve her murder soon, Jolie will be an earth-bound spirit forever.

Book Links:



BIO:

Chrys Fey is the author of Hurricane Crimes and 30 Seconds. She is currently working on the sequel to Hurricane Crimes that’ll serve as book two in the Disaster Crimes series.

When Fey was six years old, she realized her dream of being a writer by watching her mother pursue publication. At the age of twelve, she started writing her first novel, which flourished into a series she later rewrote at seventeen. Fey lives in Florida where she is waiting for the next hurricane to come her way.

You can connect with her on Facebook and her blog, Write with Fey. She loves to get to know her readers! 

Author Links: 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

More Content Theft. They "Stole" My Content

I don't even know what to say or think about this one.

So I was doing some more research today and I discovered this site using some art from my witch book and a similar name.  So I checked it out.
Sure enough it was one of my posts.

But the translation was so poor and so haphazard that I could barely tell what it was supposed to be about.
Anyway here is my original:
http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2012/11/witch-traditions.html
and here is their copy:
http://witchnest.blogspot.com/2014/10/witch-traditions.html

And that is not all.
Mine:
http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2010/01/what-should-osr-witch-do-or-be.html
Their copy:
http://witchnest.blogspot.com/2013/08/what-should-osr-witch-do-or-be.html

This one is great. The screwed up the picture and since they are adding these things at random and back filling dates their copy actually predates the TV I was posting about.
Mine:
http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2012/04/zatannurday-y-is-for-young-justice.html
Their (really bad) copy:
http://witchnest.blogspot.com/2010/03/zatannurday-y-is-for-young-justice.html

I mean seriously?  It's like it was translating into Klingon then into German over to Chinese and then back to English.  And this is all supposed to be a "witch" site.  But the articles are a schizophrenic bunch.



I mean really.  I am trying to figure out the logic of this site (and the related ones linked out) and damn if I can.

Oh. And I am not alone.  +Joseph Bloch and +James Maliszewski also get a couple of articles in.

http://greyhawkgrognard.blogspot.com/2012/03/banknotes-in-greyhawk.html
http://witchnest.blogspot.com/2014/04/banknotes-in-greyhawk.html

and

http://grognardia.blogspot.com/2011/01/dwimmermount-sessions-60-61.html
http://witchnest.blogspot.com/2009/01/dwimmermount-sessions-60-61.html

I love how they were playing in Dwimmermount two years before James himself was!

There might be more.
At first I was thinking of emailing them to get them to take it down, but I dismissed it just as fast.
No one would listen and frankly I don't care.
Maybe they copied you too!

Well...so much for that idea.

Not everything will work.  Not everything will work well.
Sometimes though things do work, and do work well, but not in the way you thought they might.

Today's example was the giant post I had started and wanted to wrap up in the next day or so.
I was calling it "In Search Of...Castle Greyhawk".  A play on the old In Search Of TV show and by desire to uncover mysteries from my gaming past.



Sidebar: I found a bunch of stuff I had written decades ago on some old floppies.  There were a lot of treasures there but also a lot a things I was researching.  Back then I didn't have the resources I do now so research was a longer, more difficult process.

Back to In Search Of...

SO I wanted to post a lot on the historical Castle Greyhawk. What was it and how could I play it today.

Turns out all that work was done years ago.
I knew that +Joseph Bloch was the go to guy for this kind of information.  His blog Greyhawk Grognard is full of these sorts of tidbits and his game Adventures Dark and Deep is a love letter to the Gygaxian games that never were.
He has already done all the heavy lifting on this topic, in part of his working on Castle of the Mad Archmage.   In fact part of my own research was to look into how he wrote CotMA.

But he posted most of his own findings years ago.
http://greyhawkgrognard.blogspot.com/search/label/Castle%20Greyhawk
In particular this post is the most useful, http://greyhawkgrognard.blogspot.com/2008/12/getting-off-pot.html


Now I am a bigger fan of "Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk" than Joseph is. But I have the benefit of something he did not have back then; his completed Castle of the Mad Archmage.

So now my research is done. Admittedly by someone else.  I just need to see if I want to run a Castle Greyhawk adventure at all.

I'll start working on my next "In Search Of..." post.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: May Reviews

Here are the reviews for May for the Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge.

Lots of books this month!

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
One of my favorite of the Harry Potter books in what is arguably Harry's worst year ever.  This is the book that gives us the evil, awful Dolores Umbridge.  This book drips with so much teen agnst. It is also the book that when I first read it I realized the J.K. Rowling was no ordinary author and I moved her right into "Genius" territory.  She captures the feelings of these 15 year olds so perfect that she made it look like it was effortless on her part.  The magic went to wayside and the focus was on Good vs. Evil.   The scenes of the DADA courses vs. the Dumbledore's Army ones are pure genius.
We are also introduced to the character of Luna Lovegood.  Honestly I forget we only knew her in less than half the books, but she became such an integral part of not just the Harry Potter universe but also the tale themselves. Was this JKR's plan? Introduce a character so well loved (Luna) in the same novel as one so universally hated (Umbridge)?  I think so.
I will also add this.  This book improves with the second reading.
Witch Count: Hundreds

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Also another favorite.  I think this book has the most deviations from the movie.  I had forgotten about how much Harry had thought about Ginny in this one. They ended up together for the last month of the book as well.  I think this book is such an integral one because it is almost Shakespearean in tone.  Harry's best year ever at Hogwarts crashes down on him in the worst possible way.  He is treated more like an adult in this one too, only to have face all his issues as an adult.
Even though I know how the tale ends I still can't help but hating Snape in this.  I remember the first time I read it I was screaming at the book, shouting "I knew it! I knew Snape was a traitor."  It is the sign of a true craftswoman that JKR can still get such thoughts from me now.
Can't believe I only have one book left!
Witch Count: Hundreds

Weiser Field Guide to Witches, The: From Hexes to Hermione Granger, From Salem to the Land of Oz (Weiser Field Guides) by Judika Illes
A fun book that discusses all sorts of witches.  The mythical, the historical, the new age region to Harry Potter and Charmed.
Each section covers something a little different.  Say Witches in Literature (Harry and Hermione are here), Movies and TV (find the Charmed Ones here).  Even historical witches like Agrippa, Marie Laveau and Merlin (is he historical?).  Doesn't go in depth into any topic, but it says time and again that it can't. But it does cover a lot of topics.
Witch Count: Hundreds




Witch of Death by Chrys Fey
Great short story introducing Liberty "Libby" Sawyer, police detective and witch.  When murders with no means of explanation begin to happen it is up to Libby and her new partner Det. Reid Sanders to figure out who or what is causing them.
I will have some more from Libby and +Chrys Fey next month!
Witch Count: Two



Books read: 14
Current Level: Mother, Read 11 – 15 Witchy Books

Friday, May 29, 2015

What Are You Good at GM's Challenge

A new GMs Challenge has been issued by the blog Barking Alien.  I figure I will join in.

What genres, settings, or games in general do you GM best? Which ones do you think you  totally rock? 

My Top Five:
1. Cinematic Unisystem
2. Dungeons & Dragons (circa 1980s is my best)
3. Horror games
4. Convention games. I have had many people tell me my Gen Con games rock.
5. Games for kids

Which games could you use to work on? That is, if your group wants to play one of these games, you yourself would probably recommend a different GM.

Tougher one. I am usually always the one in the GMs seat.

My Bottom Three:
1. World of Darkness
2. Anything historical, but not Victorian. (I do Victorian well).
3. anything Palladium

What elements of Gamemastering do you do best? What aspects do you nail more often than not?

My Top Five:
1. Engaging plots
2. memorable NPCs
3. Flexibility.  Years of teaching have taught me to stay light on my toes.
4. Fairness.
5. Fun.  Keep it fun.

Which elements are still a work in progress? Name some things that you don't do as well as you'd like.

My Bottom Three:
1. Newer D&D.  Don't quite have the rules mastery I would like.
2. Time management. Games tend to run over the time I have alotted and I never get as far as I would like.
3. Knowing when to shut up and let the players do their thing.  I get excited and want to gabber on, and on (and on).  I need to take more of the "Dave Arneson" style and let the players do the talking and work.


How about you?




Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Petty Gods: Nox and Syla

In case you have not heard.  Petty Gods is now out.
http://savevsdragon.blogspot.com/2015/05/now-available-petty-gods-revised.html



CASEWRAP HARDBACK
(sold at cost for $22.47 USD through Lulu.com)
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PREMIUM SOFTCOVER
(sold at cost for $13.22 USD through Lulu.com)
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PDF - without watermark!
(FREE through RPGNow)
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I have a couple of entries in this book, Nox the Petty Goddess of Twilight and the near dark and her chief servant Syla.
Here is a bit of history of this project from my point of view:
http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2013/04/petty-gods.html
http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2014/04/a-to-z-of-witches-n.html
http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2015/01/witch-spells-for-nox.html

Of course is was my thrill to see the art from this book featuring my two characters.

The artist, Mona Dowie did a fantastic job with these.
I am particularly pleased because I think she captured both characters so well.

Nox
I love how Nox's hair sort of blows away and merges into the background.  I never pictured her as barefoot, but now that is the ONLY way I can see her.  Plus I love how she did her eyes.  Some how she managed to capture what I was thinking.   I love all the Fyre Fae around her too.

Syla
Syla is perfect.  I love the pointy shoes and the designs on her dress.  Those are the details I admire the most.

I am really, really thrilled this is the art next to my characters.  I could not have asked for better.

You can find Mona on the web on her Facebook page and her DeviantArt Page.
Her husband's site is here: Ramblings of a Great Khan

Excellent work.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Monster Monday! Yog, The Monster from Space!

It was my pleasure to meet Natasha Duncan-Drake and her sister Sophie Duncan in last years A to Z Challenge.  They both posted a lot of great stuff and plenty that can be used in any game.

Well Natasha has started a new feature.  Monster Mondays.
http://tashasthinkings.blogspot.com/2015/05/monster-monday-2-talos-bronze-giant.html

You might recall I did something similar here for a while and there are other blogs that also do this.
MindweaverRPG has done a few, so has Dispatches from Kickassistan, and I know there are others.



I like Tasha. She is cool, so I am happy to get behind this monster monday.  Plus I love monsters.

Since I am talking about Sci-Fi games all week how about a sci-fi monster.
And no space monster is loved more here than Gezora from Yog, The Monster from Space!

Gezora
Is a giant (100ft/30meter tall) squid controlled by the "Space Amoeba" Yog.
Gezora usually attacks a planet, but can be transported through space.
Gezora, Yog and other kaiju are the "stars" of "The Space Amoeba" aka "Yog the Creature from Space".

Gezora can walk on land, swim in the ocean and travel through space.  While it has 10 tentacles it can only attack with 2 of them.  Any natural 20 attack roll means that Gezora has grabbed onto a victim and will swallow it whole.


(White Star)
Armor Class: -2 [22]
Hit Dice: 25
Total Hit Bonus: +20
Attacks: 2 attacks with tentacles, 4d8x2. Swallows whole on a natural 20.
Saving Throw: 5
Special: Survival in water and in space
Movement: 18 (on land, sea and space)
HDE/XP: 20/7,500


(Starships & Spacemen)
Encountered: 1
Movement: 180' (60')
Intelligence: None/Super Genius (Gezora has no intelligence, Yog does)
Psionic Potential: Telepathic
Hits: 25d8
Armor: -4
Combat Skill: 20
Save: L20
Attacks: 2
Damage: 4d8 x2
Morale: 12
XP: 5,480


(Stars Without Number)
Armor Class: -2
Hit Dice: 25
Attack Bonus: +20
Damage: 4d8 x2
No. Appearing: 1
Saving Throw: 5+
Movement: 40' (land, swim, space)
Morale: 12

Monday, May 4, 2015

A to Z Challenge 2015 Reflections Post

I survived another A to Z blogging challenge.


I was so unprepared this year.  I know what vampire I was going to talk about each day, but often not much more than that.
By the numbers Vampires are much more popular than Witches or Demons.

Despite there being fewer participants in the challenge this year I did not get a chance to visit everyone.  That is too bad really, visiting new and interesting blogs is one of the highlights.
Though with the fewer blogs there were more that seemed in it to really enjoy it.

I actually had a lot more fun this year than last.  So that is something.
I did miss not participating in a mini-hop like I did last year.

This challenge would not be possible without our hosts:
Arlee Bird @ Tossing it Out
Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh
Jeremy @ Hollywood Nuts
Nicole Ayers @ The Madlab Post
Author Stephen Tremp
Heather M. Gardner
AJ Lauer
Pam @ An Unconventional Librarian
Matthew MacNish @ The QQQE
Zalka Csenge Virág @ The Multicolored Diary
S. L. Hennessy @ Pensuasion
C. Lee McKenzie @ The Write Game
Joy Campbell @ The Character Depot
Susan Gourley @ Susan Says
John Holton @The Sound of One Hand Typing



I'd also like to thank the Ambassador's Team that I worked with this year:
Arlee Bird, Rob Z Tobor, J Lenni Dorner, Jenny Pearson, and Jeffrey Bushman.
You are all a great bunch!

Anyway in case you are curious here are the vampires and their country or myth or origin.

Letter
Vampire Country / Myths
A
Aswang Philippines
B
Berbalang Philippines
C
Camazotz Central America
D
Dearg-Due Ireland
E
Estrie Jewish Folklore
F
Farkaskoldus Hungary
G
Gierach Eastern Prussia / Poland
H
Hsi-Hsue-Kue China
I
Impundulu South Africa (Zulu & Xhosa)
J
Jigarkhwar India
K
Kyuuketsuki Japan
L
Lilith Ancient Mesopotamia
M
Moroi Rumania
N
Nosferatu Germany
O
Ovegua Guinea, Africa
P
Pĕnanggalan Malaysian
Q
Vampire Queen Modern
R
Rolang Tibet
S
Soucouyant Trinidad
T
Tenatz Eastern Europe
U
Upierczi Poland
V
Vrykolakas Greece
W
Wurdalak Russia
X
Xiāng-shī (殭屍) China
Y
Yara-ma-yha-who Australia
Z
Zburător Rumania

Other Vampire Posts

Vampire
Country / Myths
Baobhan Sìth Ireland
Dracula Novel
Elizabeth Bathory History / myth
Lilith, as a demon Ancient Mesopotamia
Lilith, as a witch Ancient Mesopotamia
Strigoi Eastern Europe


I have NO idea what to do for next year! Any requets?

Friday, May 1, 2015

Other Vampires

I have been talking about vampires all the month of April, but I was not alone.
Here are some other posts dealing with the creatures of the night.

The OSR Library
D6 Horror: 1970's Marvel Comics Monster Hunters
http://theosrlibrary.blogspot.com/2015/04/d6-horror-1970s-marvel-comics-monster.html

D6 Horror: 1970's Marvel Comics Monsters
http://theosrlibrary.blogspot.com/2015/04/d6-horror-1970s-marvel-comics-monsters.html

Cross Planes
Dhampir Heritages: Dhampir Race for D&D 5th Edition
http://crossplanes.blogspot.com/2015/04/dhampir-heritages-dhampir-race-for-d.html

J.H. Moncrrieff Tales of Terror and Suspense
Q is for Quiang Shi
http://www.jhmoncrieff.com/q-is-for-quiang-shi/

Daily DCU
Vampire Batman
http://dailydcu.com/post/117135345530/francavillarts-vampire-batman-justice-league

A Life Full of Adventure
V is for Vampire
http://alifefullofadventure.blogspot.com/2015/04/v-is-for-vampire.html

Mind Rambling
Vampires
https://geeklife101.wordpress.com/2015/04/25/vampires/

The Madlab Post
Viktor the Vampire: What Bill Nighy said about Filming Underworld
http://www.madlabpost.com/blog/2015/4/27/viktor-the-vampire-what-bill-nighy-said-about-filming-underw.html

Mina Burrows
A-Z: U is for The Union Jack & V is for Varney the Vampire
http://minaburrows.blogspot.com/2015/04/a-z-u-is-for-union-jack-v-is-for-varney.html

On The Edge of Enlightenment
L is for Lilith
https://novasaber.wordpress.com/2015/04/14/l-is-for-lilith/

Talking to Myself
Month of Blogging Challenge: V is for Vampire Tarot
http://xanthalanari.livejournal.com/227236.html

LDB Taylor
Feeling Sad About Vampires
http://www.neebeep.com/2015/04/feeling-sad-about-vampires-atozchallenge-writing-life.html

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: April Reviews The Mist-Torn Witches

Here are the reviews for April for the Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge.

This month I only got a couple of books in.  Been very busy with work and the A to Z Bloghop.  But I got two quality books!

The Mist-Torn Witches Series by Barb Hendee
I took on the first two book of Barb Hendee's Mist-Torn Witches. I had heard a lot of good about this series and the author so they had been on my TBR pile forever.  I am glad I finally grabbed them and got into them.

The books deal with sisters Céline and Amelie Fawe.  Céline can see visions of the future and is a knowledgeable apothecary.   Amelie is the younger sister and sees images of the past and is just as hand with a sword or dagger.

The Mist-Torn Witches (Book 1)
We are introduced to the Fawe sisters in their small home and shop.  They have been orphaned but have been making well on their own.  Tragedy strikes and sends them on the run.  At the same time their emerging powers places them in deeper harm.  They now are working for a prince that they don't know if they can trust and his lieutenant at arms (who has a shady past) to solve a supernatural murder.
I will admit this book grabbed me from the very, very start. I immediately liked Céline but Amelie might end up becoming my favorite before too long.  There is some world building in this, but only enough to keep the plot moving.  The characters are instantly compelling and Hendee gives you plenty of reasons to like them.  The sisters are just coming into their powers, but even so there is an investigation here. Strip away the magic and the fantasy elements you have a compelling murder mystery here. I would LOVE to say I figured it out early, but I didn't.  Oh the clues were there, but the mystery is very well crafted and you, like our main characters, will just have to figure it out as you go.
I also liked that while the girls are powerful, they can make mistakes and they have very human failings.  There is a hint of romance here, but no awkward hook ups and no bending the rules of logic to get characters together.  I will not spoil the end but if this were a movie it would pass both Bechdel test AND the Mako Mori test.
This is a great start to a series.
I am reviewing both the Kindle ebook and the Audible audio-book.
Witch Count: 2 (maybe 4)

Witches in Red (Book 2)
This book takes place soon after the events in book 1.  Céline and Amelie are settling into their new lives when they are summoned to the castle by their Prince.  A series of murders has been going on at his father's silver mine. Murders committed by men that become giant wolf-like beasts.
This is another supernatural-based murder mystery, but in addition to learning the who we need to learn the how.  In this book in particular we see Hendee's deft skill and weaving a mystery plot, but also doing so with wry sense of humor.  While this could have ended up as a fairly unimaginative pastiche of werewolf lore and "Little Red Riding Hood", it didn't.  Not so much that it didn't do it is how well it didn't do it.  Again we see some great character development here. Unlike the last book where the sisters were in survival mode, here they have a feeling of belonging that makes them want to help the Prince. It is a maturity.  We learn more about the Prince's Lieutenant, Jaromir and he turns out to be just as interesting as I hoped.
As before the girls use their extraordinary sight to find the who is behind the killing, but that only gets them so far. Detective work and intelligence has to get them to their goal.
There is more world building here as well. We learn more about the world-travelling Móndyalítko, the gypsy-like "children of the world" and Céline and Amelie's bloodline.
I am reviewing both the Kindle ebook and the Audible audio-book.
Witch Count: 4

I should point out that Book 3 Witches With The Enemy will be out next week.  Preorder if you can because this is a fun series.



Hopefully I will have a review of Book 3 up next month.

Books read: 10
Current Level: Maiden: Read 6 – 10 Witchy Books

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day: Multiclassing




For this Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day I want to put out something I have been playing around with.

For the record I am using the Swords & Wizardry Complete Rulebook from Frog God Games.

Swords & Wizardry Multiclassing

I LOVE the old school games. B/X, AD&D, BECMI, and the clones.  But the one thing I always felt 3.x Edition did better than any other edition, past or future, was multiclassing.  The rules were easy, you could multiclass into a lot of great combinations to get that character concept you really wanted.
With many of the OSR games (original and clone) the multiclassing rules were less than optimal in my mind.

So I wanted to bring 3e style multiclassing to the clone world. The biggest issue with doing this though is 3e made the classed more alike in terms of advancement.  Now people will complain that this attempt at game balance "ruined" the class's uniqueness. I say rubbish.  So the classes are bit more balanced than before, that's not a bug, it's a feature.  I was looking over SW and I realized I could do what I wanted easily.

Swords & Wizardry classes are largely like 3e ones now.  The unified Save and Ascending AC make saves and to hits much easier to deal with.  I just need to see if something like this is feasible.

So I dumped it all into Google Sheets. Which I am sharing below.



The tabs are where I worked out median XP vaules, base to hit and base saving throws.
The final analysis is on tab SW Level Advancement.

So like 3e, this has all the classes  use the same level advancement table.  Base Saving Throw is based on Character Level (not Class Level).  Classes then add what ever bonuses they need.
Now if you are adding things up in your head you can see a problem right now.  Take a level of Ranger and improve your total saves.  I thought about that.  My solution is not elegant, but it works.  I will get to that in a moment.

So how does it all work?  Simple you take a class just like you do in SW when you get enough XP to level up you can keep going in that class and get the advantages listed for that class you you can take another class.  Your hit points are determined by your Class Levels.  Saves are based on Character Levels.

So if you are a Fighter 3/Magic-User 2 you have at least 16,000xp, your Base Save is 11.
Your hit points are 3d8 + 2d4 + Constitution Modifier x 5 (class level).
With these rules this character can still use a sword and cast spells.  He can't wear armor since that is a restriction of the Magic-user class.

There are a couple of logical next steps here.

First this opens up a wide variety of choices for demi-human characters.  Keep level caps if you like, but I think there are not enough game-design reasons to do this.  If you want to "balance" things out give humans +1 on any two ability scores of their choice and +1 on saves.  Call it Human Resilience.

The other logical leap is this would allow Prestige Classes in SW.

Prestige Classes in Swords & Wizardry

Here is an example of the Loremaster.

http://www.d20srd.org/srd/prestigeClasses/loremaster.htm

Requirements
To qualify to become a loremaster, a character must fulfill all the following criteria.

Skills
Knowledge (any two) 10 ranks in each.

Feats
Any three metamagic or item creation feats, plus Skill Focus (Knowledge [any individual Knowledge skill]).

Spells
Able to cast seven different divination spells, one of which must be 3rd level or higher.

These would have to change to something more fitting to S&W.

Requirements
To qualify to become a loremaster, a character must fulfill all the following criteria.

Character Level: 6th
Intelligence Score of 16 or higher.
Wisdom Score of 14 or higher.
The ability to cast five different divination spells, one of which must be 3rd level or higher.

Loremaster
Level Attack  Special Spells
1 +0 Secret Add additional level of previous spellcasting class 
2 +0 Lore Add additional level of previous spellcasting class
3 +1 Secret Add additional level of previous spellcasting class
4 +1 Bonus Language      Add additional level of previous spellcasting class
5 +2 Secret Add additional level of previous spellcasting class
6 +2 Greater Lore Add additional level of previous spellcasting class
7 +3 Secret Add additional level of previous spellcasting class
8 +3 Bonus Language Add additional level of previous spellcasting class
9 +4 Secret Add additional level of previous spellcasting class
10 +5 True Lore Add additional level of previous spellcasting class

Saving throws are based on Character Level, not Class Level.
Level is obvious.  Attack just adds to the attacks as the base class (like Cleric or Magic-User).  Spells are also obvious, keep advancing in spells as you normally would.

The Special will need some work.

From the SRD:
Class Features
All of the following are Class Features of the loremaster prestige class.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency
Loremasters gain no proficiency with any weapon or armor.

Spells per Day/Spells Known
When a new loremaster level is gained, the character gains new spells per day (and spells known, if applicable) as if she had also gained a level in a spellcasting class she belonged to before she added the prestige class. She does not, however, gain any other benefit a character of that class would have gained. This essentially means that she adds the level of loremaster to the level of some other spellcasting class the character has, then determines spells per day, spells known, and caster level accordingly.

Secret
At 1st level and every two levels higher than 1st (3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th), the loremaster chooses one secret from the table below. Her loremaster level plus Intelligence modifier determines the secrets from which she can choose. She can’t choose the same secret twice.

Loremaster Secrets
Level +Int Modifier Secret Effect
1 Instant mastery 4 ranks of a skill in which the character has no ranks
2 Secret health +3 hit points
3 Secrets of inner strength +2 bonus on Will saves
4 The lore of true stamina +2 bonus on Fortitude saves
5 Secret knowledge of avoidance +2 bonus on Reflex saves
6 Weapon trick +1 bonus on attack rolls
7 Dodge trick +1 dodge bonus to AC
8 Applicable knowledge Any one feat
9 Newfound arcana 1 bonus 1st-level spell
10 More newfound arcana 1 bonus 2nd-level spell

Lore
At 2nd level, a loremaster gains the ability to know legends or information regarding various topics, just as a bard can with bardic knowledge. The loremaster adds her level and her Intelligence modifier to the lore check, which functions otherwise exactly like a bardic knowledge check.

Bonus Languages
A loremaster can choose any new language at 4th and 8th level.

Greater Lore (Ex)
At 6th level, a loremaster gains the ability to understand magic items, as with the identify spell.

True Lore (Ex)
At 10th level, once per day a loremaster can use her knowledge to gain the effect of a legend lore spell or an analyze dweomer spell.

So items in red need to be redone.  In order:
+4 to any check involving Intelligence on a previously unknown topic.
+2 on Saving throws vs. Mind control, ESP and Charm.
+2 on Saving throws vs. Petrify or Polymorph
+2 on Saving throws vs. moving out of the way.
Applicable Knowledge = Something like Secondary Skills.

Each prestige class would require some tweaking.  But at least now there is a place for them in S&W.

Earlier I mentioned the Ranger and Paladin are a bit too much (despite the fact that the median XP per level is the same as the Paladins).  My solution is make them Prestige Classes.

You would have to be a fighter first before moving into the vocation of Paladin or Ranger.  There is some precedent for this in Rules Cyclopedia and even Unearthed Aracana.

It would take some cleaning up, but I think this is a solid system.  It would still have the same feel as S&W while giving you the flexibility of 3e.

What do you all think?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Witchy Read A-Thon

New month. New books to read.

This month I am going to take part in the Witchy Read A-Thon hosted by The Domestic Witch.



http://thedomesticwitchblog.blogspot.com/2015/02/the-witchy-read-thon-info-and-sign-up.html

I know I have the next Harry Potter book on tap, but this is also a way for me to get at some of my "To Be Read" pile that is stacking up on my tablet.

Updates throughout the week!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Blogger's New Adult Policy, Part 2

I was looking up some stuff for our Castles & Crusades game today and I discovered this:

An update on Blogger porn content policy

In a nutshell Google/Blogger is going back to the policy it had all this time.

So we can all go back to worrying about what color that damn dress is.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

I've Been Blitzed!

So yesterday I was on the receiving end of one of DL Hammons' Blog Blitzes!


I ended up with about 80 people coming by to read my blog and leave a message.  Hopefully some will choose to stay. I know I have blitzed others in the past and found something new to read.

I do want to thank everyone that came by. My goal is to revisit each blog over the next week or so.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Blogger's New Adult Policy

Google is sending out emails to some bloggers on the Blogger platform about their new Adult policy that becomes effective in one month.

https://support.google.com/blogger/answer/6170671?p=policy_update&rd=1

Basically if you have an "adult" blog you were emailed and have 30 days to remove said content (though they are  vague on what that content is) or have your blog turn to "Private".

This basically means if people are not invited to read your blog they can't see it.

I am not sure what this means for the majority of the bloggers here.
Will my blog get tagged because of Eldritch Witchery later on?  No idea. Likely not.

Though I suppose this is a good time to start thinking of what your blogger exit plan is. I am sure it will not be around forever.



Thursday, February 19, 2015

The A to Z Blogging Challenge Theme Reveal

I am participating in this year A to Z Blogging challenge again.

While the challenge for me is not to post every day, I already do that, but to post with the proper subject letter AND to stick to my theme.

The theme reveal this year will be on March 23.   Come back and see what I choose...although I have not been very secretive about it.


You can see what others are doing as well. If you are interested in doing the challenge (and I would suggest you try it at least once) and thinking of a theme the head on over to the sign up list.
http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/2015/02/the-great-and-powerful-to-z-theme.html

Even if you don't sign up for the Theme Reveal, you can see what others are doing in time to sign up for the A to Z yourself.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Monster Guides over at The Power Score

The Power Score, a great blog that could use some more attention has been doing some great D&D monster guides.

In these Sean has been taking various monsters and looking at their growth and changes across as many editions of D&D he can as well as supplementary products.

So far he has covered:

Plenty of art and comparisons between the editions.
The thing I like is he treating the editions as evolving understanding of the monsters.

So pop over and check these out. A leave a comment or two. That's the neighborly thing to do really.


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