Showing posts with label books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label books. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 11 Stack

Well. Last night's derecho here in the mid-west left me without power for a while, so I did not get a chance to write today's post ahead of time.

Today is Day 11 and the word is Stack.

This is a pretty easy one.  I typically have two stacks I am working on.

My TBR, to Be Read, Pile, and my Research Stack.

I mentioned my research stack yesterday.  I am going through a lot of books and some older D&D material to research my High Witchcraft Tradition.

My current TBR includes a lot of philosophy. I am currently working through "The Modern Intellectual Tradition: From Descartes to Derrida" by Prof. Lawerence Cahoone.  I am likely to continue this path with "The Philosophy of Science" and the "Great Scientific Ideas that Changed the World" or I might take a break from this and go with this "Early Middle Ages" book.  Or I might reread Robert A. Heinlein's "Friday."

Hard call. Depends on how drained I am after Cahoone's book. While I read philosophy of science in grad school, I have not read any philosophy proper, unless you count John Dewey or Paulo Freire, since I was an undergrad.  

Normally when I start a new project, like the High Witchcraft book, I find a book that supplements it well.  I have not done that this time. I hope my writing doesn't suffer for it.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

That's So Raven! Raven Swordsmistress of Chaos for BECMI

Raven by Luis Royo
Back in 1987, I was a freshman in college. My then Favorite Local Game Store was also my Favorite Local Used Book Store.  They sold new books, used books as well as new and old gamebooks.  I got a copy of the first printing Deities & Demigods here along with scores of old copies of Dragon and White Dwarf.  

One book they always prominently displayed was the American versions of Raven Swordsmistress of Chaos.  

I never grabbed the book but as an 18-year-old guy, I always was attracted to the covers. I even had a character named Raven, who like the cover, was blonde and had a pet raven.  I was vaguely aware there were more books in the series, but never knew how many. 

Over the last couple of years, I have been on a quest to find and read all the Raven books by "Richard Kirk" who was, in reality, the pen name of authors Angus Wells and Robert Holdstock.  Both wrote Book 1 and then they alternated with Wells on Books 3 and 5 and Holdstock on Books 2 and 4.

Well, I succeeded in my quest and I found them all and read them.
While they are not...good...they are fun little romp in late 70s Swords and Sorcery (and Sex, but not as much as the Corgi covers hint at). Sometimes described as a mildly ribald Red Sonja or a less ribald Ghita Of Alizar. The books however perfect for game fodder. 

Others have reviewed the books and I went back and forth on whether I should do the same.  So instead I am just going to link out to some of the better reviews and retrospectives for your own reading.

I figured there are five books in the Raven saga and there are five rule sets in the BECMI series.  
Seems like a good fit.  Plus it let's me try out each set of rules with a character.

I also did this with my very first character, the Lawful Cleric Johan Werper. While I find him interesting I figure you all would like to see Raven more. Also I wanted to get a good feel for how the fighter works in all sets AND the advanced fighter paths from the Companion rules.  So let's get to it!

Raven Swordsmistress of Chaos

Raven from Heroforge
The story Raven begins with that of a runaway slave girl named Su'ann. She is reduced by a mysterious warlock-like character named Spellbinder who recognizes that she is "the pivot on which the world turns" partially because she is also protected by giant Raven and he senses something in her.  Spellbinder and Su'ann, now calling herself "Raven" hook up with a band of outlaws and pirates.  They go from adventure to adventure but all the time Raven is training with swords, spears and what would become her "trademark" a set of throwing stars.  It was the 70s man.  Raven though is not training out of boredom, nor even for the higher purpose fate seems to have, but is very vague about, for her.  She wants to kill her former slave owner the Swordsmaster Karl Ir Donwayne.  
While Raven is the cover girl and the eponymous main character, the events are all narrated and told by Spellbinder many years after the fact. Even the scenes where he was not present.  

The story is one that is simple, but close to many FRP gamers. Raven wants to kill Karl Ir Donwayne. How is going to do that? Well, they need to Skull of Quez to appease this ruler to get to Donwayne. But they have to find the mysterious island first and then kill the beast-men. And there are shadowy loners, men with mysterious pasts. Raven jumping in and out of bed with Spellbinder, Gondar the Pirate captain, and even Krya M'ystral, the Queen and sister of the ruler they were trying to go see.  This is all in the first book.  There is a nice gory battle with Karl Ir Donwayne too, but he comes back in future books to bother Raven some more.

We never get a satisfactory end to Raven's story.  Book 5 just ends.  Though all the books are told from Spellbinder's point of view they could be out of order.  We do know that Raven met some sort of end between Book 5 and Spellbinder's remembering which seems to take place many years later. Maybe she became that agent of Chaos after all.

For this I am going to stat up Raven for each rule set in the BECMI rules, trying to feature what I feel are the best parts.  I am also going to try to feature what I can from what she was doing in the books.

Raven, ePic Character Generator


Sheets are from The Mad Irishman

Basic


Here is the Basic version of Raven.  The hardest this is always to guess at what any one character's numbers are going to be. I figure she had good strength and constitution as well as high dexterity since she favors the throwing stars.  Her charisma is very high, not because of her looks, but because she inspires a lot of loyalty from the cutthroats she usually hangs out with.

She is a fighter. No doubt. I also gave her alignment as Chaotic.  She is a force of chaos, but she is also a killer.  For this example, I thought putting her at level 3, or "Swordmistress" (no middle "s" like the books) was appropriate even for her first book.

You can see her full Basic sheet here (click for larger): 



Expert


Fighters don't get a lot in the Expert set. So for her 2nd book I just advanced her to 9th level "Lady" and gave her some magical chain mail.

You can see her full Expert sheet here (click for larger): 



Companion


Ah now here are some changes!

In the Companion rules, we have more going on.  First I wanted to have her become an Avenger or the Chaotic traveling Fighter.  She obviously has no lands to call her own and she is still going about killing things.  But the Avenger gives her some Clerical ability.

Magic is rare and dangerous in Raven's world.  But everyone seems to have some sort of supernatural sort of talent.  So for Raven, I choose spells that fit in with role as the "pivot on which the world turns" and other things like her raven companion.  So things like "detect magic" and "cause fear" made sense. She also got the 3rd level spell "striking" since that covers a lot of what could be a natural talent.

She also gets 2 attacks per round now at 18th level.

You can see her full Companion sheet here (click for larger): 



Master


Master level Raven is really Ultimate Raven.  This is the Raven that goes toe to toe with gods and spirits and comes out unscathed. 

She gets three attacks per round now and I implemented the Weapon Mastery Rules to give her mastery over the sword and her throwing stars. 
She gets more cleric spells, this time to the 10th level of ability.  Some spells are easily explained by her connection to her bird, fate, and chaos.  Others can be explained by natural ability. "Commune" for example is with her bird and the forces of Chaos only.  "Speak with Animals" can be roughly explained by her time with the animal men. Others could be when she was dealing with weird supernatural forces.

She also gets 3 attacks per round now.

You can see her full Master sheet here (click for larger): 



Immortal


This sheet is largely incomplete.  It is also the most different of the other four (printed from my DTRPG copy) and interestingly enough the only book in series that I don't have an American (Royo cover) edition of.  I do have the British Corgi version with the Chris Achilléos cover.  

I made a lot of guesses as to what sort of Immortal she would be and just cheated and made her an Initiate. I might try this again with one of my own characters that I know better. 

You can see her full Immortal sheet here (click for larger): 


All in all I rather pleased with these. I am curious to hear from anyone that has also read these books.
As far as BECMI character I am happy with it.

Links

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The OSE Warlock, In Print

I interrupt BECMI Week to give you something decidedly B/X.

It took a bit, but now you can get The Warlock for Old-School Essentials in print, both in hard-cover and soft-cover!


I am very pleased with how they came out and they look fantastic.




The contents of both versions are the same, so no need to worry about which one to get.


They look great with the Old-School Essentials books.


The hard-cover even fits into your OSE box!


It is 100% compatible with my Swords & Wizardry Warlock book.  Combine them for even more warlock powers, pacts and spells.


Or combine it with my Craft of the Wise Witch Book for Old-School Essentials for even more spells.


It is the latest, but not yet the last, of the books in my Basic-Era Games line of Witchcraft traditions.

Back to BECMI posts later today.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Origins of the Witch: Early Research Edition

One question I constantly get is "why witches?" To which I usually reply, "why not witches?"
I have talked here about how it has been a subject that I have been fascinated with since even before my D&D days.

Well, a few things have gone on this week to make me want to look back at why I am interested and to try to capture some of the initial excitement.

First up was, of course, my coverage of the classic adventure B1 In Search of the Unknown, and what I started calling my First Witch Marissia. Not a lot of information there, but still a lot of fun while going back to look over my history.

I also talked about the first time I started putting a visual image to my iconic witch Larina from Dragon Magazine #65 from September 1982.  I am sure to talk more about her in this series in the future.

Another interesting bit is a new series of posts on the illusionist from Jonathan Becker over at B/X Blackrazor

He talks about the spell color spray (one I am including in my Pagan Witch book) and how it is kind of a wreck.   But that was not what got me thinking today. It was his inclusion of some Bill Willingham art from the module D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth.  Here it is:


That Illusionist was the art I used for another one of my early witches, Cara Niemand (German for "nobody" since her last name was supposed to be a secret). She was a witch I tried to build using just the PHB "by the book".  I didn't like how she turned out, but she was a great character all the same.

Part of what is really extended navel-gazing under the guise of *serious research* is my work on the Basic-Era witch books I have been doing lately, with the Pagan Witch due out soon.

Last night though I got a HUGE piece of my pre-D&D witch past back. 
For years I could not remember the name of this author who had written a lot of children's books about monsters, ufos and all sorts of stuff.  Well, thanks to my sister I finally remembered.  Daniel Cohen.  Yesterday I got a few of his books in the mail.


Not all the books, but these were the big ones.


That Hodag! (from "Monsters")  Seriously I have been dying to put him into a game since forever.



From the witch book. Look at all that great woodcut art!  If you ever wanted to know why I have so much of these woodcuts in my books, well it started here.   I have one more of his books on the way, but after that the re-writes start.

My plan is to go over all these old books and my old notes from the time and make sure my Pagan Witch book is something that would have been on my shelves then.   Yeah, these are "kids books" but the point is not to provide you with Ph.D.-level work (I can do that if you like) but instead capture that feel of the early 80s by reading the same books I did then and in the late 70s.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Review: Brimstone Angels: A Forgotten Realms Novel

Back in 2011 Dungeons & Dragons 4e Essentials was out and Wizards of Coast was putting it's full efforts behind it.  To help expand on their 4e and Neverwinter properties WotC turned to relatively new author Erin M. Evans to turn in a tale about tieflings and warlocks, two of 4e's more popular additions.

The result of her efforts was the first novel in the "Brimstone Angels" series, also titled Brimstone Angels.  The six-book series spanned two editions of the D&D game (4th and 5th) and help define what tieflings, warlocks, Dragonborn and even devils, succubi,  and Asmodeus himself.  But it all started with a tiefling girl named Farideh with mismatched eyes and her twin sister Havilar.

Farideh is a tiefling and since publication, she has become something of a poster girl for tiefling warlocks. But that is getting way ahead of myself.  Farideh and Havilar were abandoned outside of the walls of their village, they are adopted by a Dragonborn warrior (who has a past) Mehen.  Mehen is a good father to the two girls, although no amount of warrior training prepares him for raising teenage girls, especially tieflings and teens at that.  In the Forgotten Realms tieflings are new and twin tieflings are considered to be a bad omen.  That soon enough comes true as Havilar finds an old book and attempts to summon an imp.  Farideh has to jump in, she is more familiar with magic, and the girls soon realize they have bitten off far more than they can deal with.  They summon the cambion, Lorcan, the half-human and half-devil of the Invidiah, the leader of the Enriyes.   To send him off Farideh agrees to a pact with him and becomes his warlock.

Summoning the devil has other consequences, including burning down their home and getting them kicked out of their village of refugees (Arush Vayem).  They then go on an adventure where Evans treats us to a *new* Forgotten Realms.  I say new because unlike other Realms books where you can play spot the Extra Special Guest Star, this is a trip of normal folk, or in this case, three unknowns that happen to be a Dragonborn and his two adopted tiefling daughters.  Evans plays the family dynamics expertly.  Mehen obviously loves and worries about his girls.  Havilar is closer to his sensibilities having picked up the glaive and become and fighter like her father,  but it is Farideh that has him the most worried.

In addition to that dynamic, there is the Farideh-Lorcan relationship which gives us the best "Will they or Won't they" dynamic since Maddie and David (Moonlighting) or Ross and Rachel (Friends).  I won't spoil it, but I will say I am very satisfied with it.   Evans knows how to write characters, she would be fantastic in a game.

All this time there is a great story and impending apocalypse that could change the face of the Realms and a prophecy about the Brimstone Angels that will change the politics of Hell itself.  So no small stakes here, so no small feat for the first book.

The background story is great and a ton of fun, but truthfully it is the characters that will make you want to read the next in the series.  Lorcan is devilishly fantastic, Havilar just wants to beat things, Mehen wants to keep his family safe and Farideh is caught between them all.

As "gamer fiction" the book does a great job of explaining some of the quirks of 4e. Such as why are succubi devils now? Why did erinyes change? What happened to Hag Countess of Hell? Why is Asmodeus a greater god now?  What is the deal with Rohini? Well, not all these questions are answered right away, but they are dealt with.

What I loved about this book, other than the characters, of course, was that you didn't need a ton of Realms knowledge to enjoy it.  But in truth none of that matters, there is enough of Farideh, Lorcan, and Havilar to enjoy.    It is also a good introduction to the Forgotten Realms if you are like me and ignored the Realms for the last few decades.

It's a great start to a great series.

Legacy

Brimstone Angels was the first of six books that spanned from 2011 to 2016, and like I said, two editions of Dungeons & Dragons (4e and 5e).  The books had a huge effect on the direction of the game at least in terms of how warlocks could be played.

One needs to look no further than the Player's Handbooks for both editions to see the effects.


There in the Dragonborn names are Mehen, Farideh, and Havilar. 
There are other cases where text from the books, in particular interactions between Farideh and Lorcan, are used to flavor text next to the warlock entries. 

As I go through the other books I will try to remain spoiler-free, but apologies if an odd one slips by.

Links
https://smile.amazon.com/Brimstone-Angels-Forgotten-Neverwinter-Paperback/dp/B014S2IWTQ
https://dnd.wizards.com/products/fiction/novels/brimstone-angels
https://forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/Brimstone_Angels
http://slushlush.com/
https://www.facebook.com/brimstoneangels/

Saturday, December 28, 2019

5 x 5: End of the Year Top Fives. Novels

Another Top 5 list.  Today, Novels.

Bram Stoker Dracula



JRR Tolkien Lord of the Rings



Douglas Addams Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy



Anne Rice The Vampire Lestat 



Umberto Eco Foucault's Pendulum



Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Next Projects, the OSE Witch & Warlock

Work has been busy as hell and I had a couple of other unexpected projects dropped on my lap.
What's that mean to you?  Well a long story short, that means my next scheduled release is going to be late.

Granted. These were all self-imposed deadlines.  So the only one here who is upset about this is me.

My next two books will both be for Gavin Norman's Old School Essentials.

I am extending my Back to Basic celebration a little into 2020 where I hoped to also publish a few books for D&D5.  Ah well.  This gives me time to give these two projects the more attention they deserve.



So what can I tell you now?

The Craft of the Wise: The Pagan Witch Traditions


This book follows the same series as the Daughters of Darknessthe Cult of Diana, Children of the Gods, and the Pumpkin Spice Witch.


This book covers the Pagan Witch Tradition and it is really about 75% done.  It has a bunch of new spells, a lot of new rituals, some new monsters.  I also talk about spell creation, magic item creation and running a Pagan campaign.  I talk about how the witch is a better fit with druids, barbarians and bards than magic-users do.  I am also working on a few more covens.  If you have any of those books then you have an idea what this one will look like.

This book is overtly compatible with OSE but it also harkens back a little more to the B/X sources.  You can probably see where it is going based on my posts since Halloween.  This book will also have more of an "Advanced Genre Rules" feel to it.

I wanted to post this on the Winter Solistice (ten days from now) but I am not going to make that. So instead look for an Imbolc (February 2) release.  It will be a "Letter-sized" or 8.5" x 11".  Aiming for 64 pages.

The Warlock for Old School Essentials



This book will present a new Warlock class for Old-School Essentials.  This book will fit more with the "Core Fantasy Rules" of OSE and I'll present some options for "Advanced Fantasy".  It will be largely compatible with my other Warlocks and the spells can be used by witches or warlocks.

The idea here is that both books will be complete unto themselves but also can be used to complement each other.  This one is not as far along.  I was aiming for an Imbolc release and I think I will stick to that.

This book will be "Digest sized" or roughly 6"x9" or 5.5"x8.5".  I need to check what DriveThru supports.

There will be lots of new spells (at least 60) and new invocations.  Not sure if there will be any monsters or not.  Likely it will not have any demons since they really don't fit the feel of OSE or B/X.

Right now this book is only about 45% done.  Aiming for 32 or 48 pages.

I am disappointed I am not going to make my dates, but I think it makes for better books.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Mail Call: Old School Essentials

It's a great Thanksgiving for a lot of reasons.  But today I am thankful for getting my copies of Old-School Essentials.



The box is sturdy a heck. Very surprised by that.



The new books compare favorably to the  B/X Essentials books.


The only things the boxed set is missing is dice.  Luckily I had some that look like they would work great.


Really looking forward to playing this one!

Monday, November 4, 2019

Monstrous Monday Review: D&D Creature Catalogs

Something a little different today as I wind down from that crazy October.
One of the things I wanted to do with my "Back to Basic" year was also to get some more reviews in for some the basic era products I enjoyed the most and for the products that also contributed to my love of the game.  These would both be products by TSR and third party products of the time and of more recent years.

Since today is my day to post about monsters I wanted to hit two products that really enjoyed back in the day.

Now I have gone on and on (and on and on) about how pivotable the AD&D 1st Ed Monster Manual was to my life in RPGs.  So much so that I would later pick up any monster book that came out.   I loved AD&D and played it all throughout my High School days and beyond.   But it was Basic D&D, in particular, the B/X flavor of D&D that was my favorite.  I wanted a Monster Manual for that game.  Eventually, TSR granted my wish.

AC9 The Creature Catalog (1986)
The Creature Catalog (AC9), came out in 1986 and was produced in conjunction with TSR UK and it would be one of the last books to do so.  It shared a name with a series in Dragon Magazine (Issues #89 and #94), which led to some confusion on my part, but that was soon displaced.  A bit of a background story.  My then AD&D DM had grabbed this and let me borrow it. He knew I was a fan of D&D (Basic) and a fan of undead monsters, of which this had a lot of.  I immediately started pouring over the book and loved all the new creatures in it and new versions of some that I considered "classic" by then.   For example, the Umber Hulk (MM1) and the Hook Horror (FF) now shared an entry under "Hook Beast" and the Umber Hulk was now called a "Hulker".  Given the time I just decided it was obviously the same beast and just called that in my version of Mystara and my DM kept Umber Hulk for his version of Greyhawk.  Simple.
Grabbing the PDF a while back I was hit by all these memories of flipping through the book and that sense of wonder came back.  Monsters that I had used in games and have since forgotten about came rushing back to me.
The PDF is a scan of the original book, so the quality is not 100%, more like 80% really.  BUT that is not a reason not to get it. The text is still clear and the pictures, while not high-res are still legible.  If nothing else the "imperfections" of the scan match my imperfect memory of the book.  So point 1 for nostalgia purchase.  The book itself is 96 black & white pages with color covers.
There are about 150 monsters here (151 by my quick count). Some should be familiar to anyone that has been playing for a while, but there are also plenty of new ones that reflect the differences in design tone between D&D and AD&D.
This book is separated by (and bookmarked by in the pdf) sections.  The sections are Animals, Conjurations (magically created creatures), Humanoids, Lowlife, Monsters, and Undead.
There are a lot of fun monsters here, many have made it into later editions of D&D, in particular, the Mystara Monstrous Compendium.
The index is very nice since it also covers all the monsters in the various BEMCI books for a complete picture of the monsterography of the mid-80s D&D.
If you are playing old-school D&D or a retro-clone of the same then this is a great little treat really. The book also has guidelines on where to put monsters and how to make alterations to the monster listing for a different creature.  In fact a lot of what I have seen on some blogs and forums over the last couple years about how to "play monsters" has been better stated here. Yet more evidence that there is really nothing new out there. That and people don't read the classics anymore!

DMR2 Creature Catalog (1993)
The next Creature Catalog (DMR2) came out in 1993 for the D&D Rules Cyclopedia. Most of the same monsters that appear in the Creature Catalog AC9 are here. In fact, a lot of the exact same art is used.  The net difference is this book has 158 monsters.
This book is the more customary 128 black & white pages with two, color covers.  The monsters in this version are all listed alphabetically.  This is also a much better scan and a print option is also available.
This book was designed for the Rules Cyclopedia and not BECMI the rules are 99% the same and thus both this and AC9 can be used interchangeably.  DRM2 Creature Catalog came out at the same time as the AD&D 2nd edition Monstrous Compendiums so the layout and style reflects that.  The color trim here is red instead of blue.
This PDF does bookmark every monster entry and since all monsters are listed together it is easier to find what you want here.  Missing though is some of the advice in the earlier AC9 version.
But like the AC9 version, this is a fantastic book to use with your classic games or retro-clones of them.
In both books you won't find demons or devils since they were not part of the D&D world of Mystara, but that is not a big deal.   For me, the loss is nothing compared the amount of undead both books have.  Some of my favorite undead monsters to use to this very day made their appearances in these books.  Elder Ghouls, Death Leaches, Dark Hoods, Grey Philosophers and Velyas still rank among my favorites.

If you are only able to get one then opt for the DMR2 version for the better scan quality.

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