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

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Under Her Spell

"When a witch has a feeling it must be listened to, and promptly." - Isabella Fox, Mediocre Witch.

Under Her Spell by Bridget Essex came to me from a variety of different means.  One, which I'll mention in detail below, was because she was the author of another book I had read.  The second, though I didn't know it at the time, was because it was an update to a book I had read a while back.

First though to the book proper.  Under Her Spell (and let's be honest here. How was I NOT going to grab this book?) deals with Isabella Fox (a very mediocre witch) and her talking familiar Alice.  Isabella has just been run out of her last town and she needs a new job.  As a witch for hire, especially one that is only so-so, she doesn’t have a lot of options.   She spots an ad for a town that needs a witch to cast one spell a year. How could she possibly screw this one up? So she ends up with the town of Benevolence.  Benevolence is quiet on the verge of boring. The town is full of "Shifters", people that can take animal form and have their own type of magic.  She only has one spell to cast every year (and she is not even convinced it’s needed) and it would be the perfect gig.  Except for the Outcast.  The outcast is Emily Deer. Her ancestor betrayed the town to the Wolf of Winter and now her whole family is outcast.  Since Isabella doesn't even believe the Wolf is real (and whom she is supposed to cast the spell to ward off) she seeks out this strange, and beautiful outcast.

And that is where it hit me that I had read this book already...sort of.  I had read "One Solstice Night" by Elora Bishop some years back.  Well, Elora Bishop is Bridget Essex.  One Solstice Night is just a section in Under Her Spell.  The remaining sections cover Imbolc (a ghost story) and the Equinox (dealing with an ancient god).

The common theme though is love. Love of friends, family and of course romantic love. Though to use a quote, "there was plenty of magic."  Isabella and Emily are a great romantic couple. Emily is so down to earth and Isabella is such an air head (but in the best ways possible) that you can't help but root for them.  The only couple that is better is Virago and Holly (they are below).

There are a lot of cool locales that I hope we get to see in Essex's other books (again, see below).  The Hag Bar in the World’s Largest Swamp was a really cool idea. It was very easy to see all these witches, holding brooms and their drinks walking around, drinking, chatting.  I wish I had thought of it.     Benevolence is an interesting town.  I enjoyed the casual magic people were using and Essex did a great job of detailing the inhabitants.  The Rose Temple is a fantastic setting for any D&D game (ghosts and all) and I can't wait to read more about Arktos City from her other books.

Now I came to Bridget Essex via another book.  I had been searching for a book where a Knight falls in love with a Witch.  Spend any time here and you know I love witches but I am also fond of Paladins.  I was looking for a book then where a knight in shining armor finds a witch and falls in love with her.  What I ended up finding in my search was A Knight to Remember by Essex.  It had everything I was looking for, a dragon, a knight, a witch and even librarian (my current witch character is also a sage).  It just didn't have them in the order I was looking for!  The knight (Virago) and the librarian (Holly) fall in love, and the witch is the librarian's brother!  Still. This was also a really, really great read. It introduced me to Essex (or re-introduced me) and to her creation of Arktos City.  I will say that Virago is one of my favorite charcters ever.  She is so pure and focused on her task, duty and mission that she could have come off as a complete jerk, but instead, she was noble and just.  She really was the epitome of a paladin in my mind.
From this book and her website, I found so many other books including Under Her Spell.

A Knight to Remember is another fun read, but not much in the way of witches in it.  Though I have to admit I was cheering at the end during the Ren-Faire Jousting scene.

I am going to be reading more of Essex's books. She has a gift for writing and for making characters you really want to cheer on.  Plus I have a guess on what is going to happen next for Emily and Isabella and I need her to write the next book so I can find out if I am correct!

Bridget Essex can be found on the web at: https://bridgetessex.wordpress.com/

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 16 (16.5 if you count AKtR)
Level: Crone
Witches in this book: Isabella in Part One and Three, her classmates and various other witches in Part Two.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: Isabella is a mediocre witch.  No, she is all good.
Best RPG to Emulate it: Lots of great choices to be honest. Arktos City feels like it is right out of Blue Rose.  The openness of witches, shifters and same-sex love is also right out of Blue Rose.
Virago, the knight in A Knight to Remember, is a Rose Knight in all but name to be honest.
Use in WotWQ: Hell yes! In fact I would love to have Isabella and Emily make an appearance as guest stars.  Plus her witches drink inordinate amounts of tea just like mine do. How can I say no to that?

In truth, there is so much great stuff here for a game.  Here and there in her books Essex has built a mythology and a history worth exploring. From her knights, to Arktos City, to the Temple of the Rose Goddess and her magical academy. Not to mention all the shifters and witches!

Gamers also already know the knight Virago.

Here she is on the cover of a Knight to Remember.


And again on Q Workshop's Classic RPG Dice Set!


I know, both Essex and Q-Workshop legal purchased the same bit of stock art and it might be a little tacky of me to share this.   But I will admit I bought those dice just because they had "Virago" on them.  I already have some dice for War of the Witch Queens, but I might sneak these in.

Looking forward to reading more.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Another Library Sale Haul

Working on a few things this week but I want wanted to share a recent local library sale haul I found.

12 Endless Quest/Choose Your Own Adventure books for a Quarter each.





I remember reading "Dungeon of Dread" and "Circus of Fear" back when they were new.

I also found a copy of "Quag Keep" for 25 cents.
Not too bad for just over 3 bucks.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Gretel: A Fairytale Retold

"It takes more that a little fire to kill a witch," Maeve whispered to Gretel.

I love retellings of classic fairy tales. I do.  I ESPECIALLY love ones where the witch is not the monster, but the hero of the tale.

I get such a tale from Niamh Murphy in her retelling of "Gretel: A Fairytale Retold".  In this, we have an older version of Hansel and Gretel. Here they are in the woods, hungry and chased by wolves.
That is till the Witch shows up to scare way the wolves and take Hans and Gretel back to her home.
The tropes are all here. She fattens them up, she lives alone. But that is where the similarities end.
The "witch", Maeve, lives alone because she dared to love someone her village did not approve of.
While Hans does not trust her, Gretel is taken with her charm, her intellect, and her independent nature.  Maeve knows the secrets of the forest and in her own words she was not exiled but set free.
Maeve is easy to like.
I thought the relationship between Maeve and Gretel felt natural. Afterall, Gretel knew she was missing something, she just didn't know it was this.
I was disappointed, but not surprised, in Hans' reaction. I had hoped for more, but it does set up the final act.

The story is a quick read, but a lot of fun and you can grab it for free from her website.  I lament that the story was too short, to be honest, but it is a fairy tale retold, so it can't be too long.
Of course there is a happily ever after, it's a fairytale still.  OR as we used to say to my kids when reading fairytales to them "they all went home and had tea."

She has other stories too, I just grabbed one that is longer.

Niamh Murphy can be found on the web at her website, http://www.authorniamh.com/ and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AuthorNiamh/


2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 15
Level: Mother
Witches in this book: Maeve. She might not be a "real" spell-casting witch, but I choose to think she is.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: Good!
Best RPG to Emulate it: Blue Rose is a good choice.  Maeve lives inside the  Pavin Weald.  She very much fits with my idea of a Green Witch.  I would use my new Witchcraft Specialization for her.  I'd make about a 4th level witch.
Use in WotWQ: I plan on using all sort of fairy tales in my War of the Witch Queens.  A Fairytale re-told is also good material if that re-telling is good.  This is a good retelling.

Something like this would also make for a good Blue Rose adventure.
Much like the Frog Princess is a retelling, this would make a great adventure.  Hans and Gretl can be part of an adventuring party sent to investigate the so-called Witch of the Woods and determine her true intent.   But it turns out she is not evil, but the nearby village is making it look like she is.  She does control the wolves, but not magically, they just treat her as their Alpha.
Gretel, or some other female character, ends up falling in love with Maeve.

And they all go home and have tea.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Silverglass

"It takes a witch to enter Yth and return, so be thankful you have a witch with you!" Nyctasia said defiantly.

Silverglass by J.F. Rivkin

Silvergalss was always "one of those books".  One of those books I had meant to read, or always saw and was curious about, or picked up a couple of time but never bought.  A chance encounter at my local library book sale though changed that.  For a mere 50 cents (well a $1.00, book 3 was there too) I was able to grab this book.  I knew it was fantasy and I knew it had busty blonde warrior-woamn on the cover (complete with 80s hair), but that was about it.

I had some down time so thought I'd read this and knock a few out of my TBR pile.  Turns out there is a more (and less) here than I thought.

Silverglass is less about our cover girl here (no shock) and more about the dark haired woman behind her.  Though it is about both women and their adventures.   The blonde, Corson brenn Torisk, is a hard drink, hard fighting mercenary for hire who is in Rhostshyl only long enough to spend some money before headed home to see her lover; a respectable bar owner in the next town.  It is for this reason that she is hired by Lady Nyctasia r'n Edonaris.  Who, up till very recently, was a respected member of one of the richest families in the country. She is also on the run from the family of the man she was supposed to marry (and now wants her dead) and her own family (who also wants her dead).  Nyctassia is also a powerful witch.  Corson has no patience for the idly rich or magic, AND she was just hired by both families to kill Nyctassia.   Nyc offers to pay her more as a bodyguard.
Both women are thrown together to get out of town before they are killed. Their destinations? Both are running to men they love who have more "respectable" lifestyles.  Corson's Steifann owns a bar and wants Corson to settle down.  Nyctiasia is returning to Erystalben who wants her to live with him to study magic. At least that is the plan.  Things change on the road.  Given that this is book one of four you can bet there is not a lot of settling down.

A few things jump out at you in this book.  Corson is a swordswoman, a good one at that. We learn she was in the army before this and was convinced by a former officer to take up the life of a mercenary.  Yet at no time in the book does anyone ever call attention to the fact that it is a woman doing this.  It is just a matter of fact.  Not a big deal today to be sure, but in 1986 when this came out? Crazy I am sure.  I am glad I read this now, but I wonder what it could have been like in 86 to have read this.

I am also very much fascinated by Lady Nyctasia.  She has secrets on top of secrets, and like I said, despite the cover she is the focus of the book.  This becomes obvious on the later covers.

Don't read this series looking for deep insights or an epic tale. The first book is about two women trying to get back to their respective loves and not get killed in the process.  It is a fun little romp through a low-magic world with lots of threats, spooky forests, dive bars, gritty pirates,  and a ton of people trying to kill our heroes for the slimmest of reasons.  I enjoyed both characters and looking forward to reading more.

The "author", J.F. Rivkin, is actually two different people. One wrote the first two books and the other wrote the last two.  I am not sure who J.F. Rivkin is and I have not found out any information about a real identity either.

The book is out of print and there are no digital or audio versions I have found.  They pop up every so often at Half-Price books.

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 11
Level: Mother
Witches in this book: One really.  Nytasia, though I suppose that Erystalben could also be considered one.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: Nyctasia tries to be good, so that has to count for something.
Best RPG to Emulate it: Honestly, a LOT of RPGs work here. I did a quick and dirty write up for Corson and Nyc for D&D 5, Swords & Wizardry, and Blue Rose.  Just because.  I am thinking I will try them out in the new AGE-powered Blue Rose in a bit.
Use in WotWQ: Nyc will certainly make a guest appearance at some point.


Friday, March 17, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Fionn, Defence of Ráth Bládhma

"'I am An Cailleach Dhubh,' Bodhmhall replied cynically 'No secret is unknown to me.'"
- Bodhmhall, Bandroai of Ráth Bládhma

Fionn: Defence of Ráth Bládhma: The Fionn mac Cumhaill Series: Book One by Brian O'Sullivan

In this Part 1 of the story of Fionn mac Cumhaill, also known as Finn MacCool, the titular character barely makes an appearance.  He is there, yes, and all the events of the story are centered around him and his mother, but he is not the hero of this tale.
The heroes are the Bandroai (or Ban Drui or Druid) Bodhmhall and her protector and lover Liath Luachra.  When pregnant Muirne Muncháem shows up at Ráth Bládhma, Bodhmhall is duty bound to give her shelter even though she knows that this woman is being pursued by an army who want her and her unborn son dead.  There is also something else in the wood, something darker and evil.
Soon the siege of Ráth Bládhma is on and others are seeking protection and it is all one outcast druid and her warrior woman anamchara can do to protect Muirne and her son.

Since this is a part one there are a lot of characters to get introduced and the whole issue of the oncoming siege and the dark power in the woods.

Ultimately this book is a tale of survival. I hesitate to call it a book about war, there is war yes, but it is more about the survival of the clan and what others will do to survive.

What attracted me to this story was course it was about Fionn mac Cumhaill as well as well as Liath and Bodhmal.  I have read many of the tales about Fionn and most of the modern novelizations.  Fionn was also a central character in my own Buffy the Vampire Slayer games.  So imagine my surprise and pleasure when I discovered this tale was really more about Liath and Bodhmal!

Very little has been said about Fionn's fosterers in the tales and little more has been mentioned in the novels.   For this book to be all bout Liath and Bodhmal was more than I could have asked more.
While reading I found myself connecting to things O'Sulivan had written; we obviously have drawn from the same sources.  So I found his work to be familiar and yet completely new.  When I had read a quarter of the book I had to stop myself from saying "Liath wouldn't do that" or "That's not what Bodhmal would say." At about half way I was so completely enjoying the book that I forgot all that.  Before I finished I had already bought every book Brian O'Sullivan had written.  There are more parts to this story as well as one with Liath and her time with the warrior band Na Cineáltaí or "The Kindly Ones".

The book is largely self contained. That is you can read it and not be left on a cliff hanger if you know the tales of Fionn. I am planning to queue up the next books in the series right away to be honest.  The tale is timeless and one that can be retold many ways.

Liath & Bodhmal
I feel I should address this subject, especially if you have ever read my blog.  Many know my long time love affair with Liath and Bodhmal.  They have appeared in many of my games and have worked their way into the histories of not only the witches I write about, but my characters too.  I have spent a long time with these two. I have very definite opinions on who these characters are and what they should be doing in any given situation.  While my interpretations are different than O'Sullivan's we both agreed on some very important key points. Liath is a peerless warrior. Bodhmal was a druid with a past and not a great past at that. We also agreed on a very key point, that Liath and Bodhmal were lovers.  It's not something I had seen in other tales before. Morgan Llywelyn hinted at it, or maybe I read into it, but Brian O'Sullivan also saw that and his tale is worthy of these two.  Sure I have to get over the first meeting in my mind of Liath and Bodhmal (Liath sparing with her two brothers with a staff and keeping them both on the defense) but this is a really great book.
I can't wait to read more.


2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 9
Level: Maiden
Witches in this book: Bodhmhall is called a "Bandraoi" but she is a witch in my book.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: Very good.
Best RPG to Emulate it: A better question is what RPG have I NOT used to emulate it!  Again, this Liath and Bodhmhall are not my Liath and Bodhmal exactly, but they are closer than any other set I have seen.  To date I have used Castles & CrusadesLabyrinth Lord, D&D 4th Edition,  and of course Unisystem.
Use in WotWQ: What do you think?  But seriously though, in the mythology of my games Bodhmal was not the first witch, but she was one of the first. The Daughters of the Flame coven come from here and in some ways so does the Aiséiligh Tradition.

You can find more of Brian O'Sullivan's books at http://irishimbasbooks.com/.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Huntress

"I don't need a killer. I need a Hunter."
- The Faerie Queen to Kaede

A fairy-tale retold.  Warring Fae Queens. A world plunged into an endless, lightless winter.  Two powerful (even if they don't know it yet) female leads. Romance. Betrayal. World changing events? It's like author Malinda Lo was reading my Christmas list!
But seriously.  Huntress is a prequel to Lo's fantastic Ash, a retelling of the Cinderella story.  In this case we learn of the history of the King's Huntress and how she came to be.  Though Kaede is not the Huntress of Ash, not is she a Huntress yet, but it is no spoiler that she will be.  If she survives this tale first.

The story focuses on two 17 year girls, Kaede and Taisin.  Both are in the academy of sages. Kaede is from a well to do family, her father is the Chancellor to the King. She is not a great student and really has no magical talent to speak of.  She is good at throwing knives and picks up the bow through out this tale.  Her father wants to marry her off to a Lord in the south to strengthen ties, but Kaede, who prefers other girls, wants nothing to do with that.  In truth, she wouldn't want it if her father offered to marry her off to a noble Lady either.  Taisin, on the other hand, is from a poorer family, but she already has the Sight and is capable of other magics. It is Taisin's vision and an invitation from the Faerie Queen that bring them together and place them on the road north to Taninli, City of the Sidhe.
The world is currently into its third year of a seemingly endless winter; or rather the summers are poor, there is no light and things are getting worse.
Kaede, Taisin along with the Prince and some his guards must brave to road to the Faerie Queen's land to find out what is going on and how to stop it.
We also must learn what Taisin's visions of Kaede mean and if there is anything she can do to change them.

Like I said, this book is overflowing with the things I love.  Long time readers here will immediately see the parallels between this story and my own "Come Endless Darkness" campaign here.  There are lots of really, really good ideas for my games from this book.
Are their witches? Of course there are!  One could consider Taisin a witch.  That label certainly fits her better than "Wizard" or "Oracle".  There are also named Green Witches in the form of Mona later in the book.  Also, Ash tells us of a Green Witch that cast spells to protect the Huntress.  If this is a prequel to Ash, then how do we know that the Green Witch so mentioned wasn't Taisin herself?

If I extend the concept a bit further the idea of a Huntress is similar enough to my Witch Guardians in practice, if not form.  Malinda Lo is drawing on some deep mythological concepts here and breathing new life into them. It's one of the reasons I could not put this book down.
In fact, I could not but help think back to the otherwise dreadful "Snow White and the Huntsman" and wonder how a "Snow White and the Huntress" would fare in Ms. Lo's more than capable hands.

Using this Story in a Game
Without giving too much away the line of Huntresses starts here.  The Huntress would be charged with protecting the lands between the human and sidhe worlds.

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 6
Level: Maiden
Witches in this book: Taisin, Mona and the Faerie Queens.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: Everyone does good as they see it, even if it doesn't look that way to others.
Best RPG to Emulate it: Any form of D&D will do. Must have a good witch class and a Feywild.
Use in WotWQ: So many ideas. First and foremost there is the obvious ideas for "Come Endless Darkness", the effects on the people and the land.  For War of the Witch Queens there is the answer of why my Witch Queens would want to involve mortals in their affairs.  Easy, they can't act directly against each other.

Personally, I would be shocked if Kaede didn't make a guest appearance in my games someday.  In Pathfinder she would easily be dual classed witch/ranger.  She started out as a witch (or maybe a cleric, oracle or something) and then became a Ranger.
In Blue Rose she would start out as an Adept and then move on to Warrior/Expert.
In fact, I think she might have to appear with an army of Sidhe warriors just in time to save the characters from undead before they get into Death's Ride.  If I do 5e, then she would have the Sage background, one or two levels of wizard (with limited spell choice) and maybe 13 levels of Ranger.  OR this would give me a good excuse to try out an Oath of the Ancients Paladin or the new Hexblade Warlock for 5e.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Powers of Darkness and the Dracula Myth

I do not consider myself a Dracula scholar. I have a number of rare Dracula related texts, read many more and pretty much seen every movie or stage play featuring the eponymous vampire count. My last (as in last ever) acting performance was as, appropriately enough, Dr. Seward in the Hamilton Deane play.  I try to reread the book every three or fours years or so.
I also once had a great conversation with a former Black Panther turned Educational reformist oh how horror in general, and Dracula in particular, was great insight on what people's fears are at the time.  We discussed how things he was doing and feeling as a young revolutionary in the 60s was being written about in the fiction of the time.  Great stuff.  Wish I had taken better notes.

So is it safe to say I am a fan who knows what scholarship is out there and I have read some of it.

So imagine my joy when I discover that there was/is another translation of Dracula out there.  One that was created nearly around the same time as the original, but with enough distance to be something new and old at the same time.

Over at Literary Hub they discussed the Icelandic translation of Dracula known as Makt Myrkranna, or the Powers of Darkness.

The book originally includes a forward by Bram Stoker, but it takes a number of interesting turns from Stoker's text.  The author, Valdimar Ásmundsson, includes mentions of the Ripper muders and a tantalizing preface that eludes that all the events in this book are true.
To the best of my belief, there is no doubt whatsoever that the events related here really took place, however unbelievable and incomprehensible they may appear in light of common experience.

[. . .]

I emphasize again that the mysterious tragedy described here is completely true as far as the events as such are concerned, although in certain points, of course, I have reached a different conclusion than the people involved. But the events as such are irrefutable, and so many people are aware of them that they will not be denied.
This is a long-held conceit in many post-Stoker works on Dracula.  We can't say it started here, it started with Stoker's novel itself, but there is something very seductive about this.

Scholars have long been under the belief that the Ásmundsson translation was merely a translation and an abridgment of Stoker's novel.  

Hans de Roos, the author of both the LitHub article and new re-translation, gives us some interesting insights to this lost translation, which ends up being more than expected.  There are the expected name changes; Johnathon is now Thomas, Mina is Wilma and Lucy is Lucia, but there is more to it that just that.

Mina/Wilma now accompanies Harker to Transylvania. Renfield is gone. And Dracula himself plays a much larger role.  That is one of the biggest things people who have not read Dracula don't know; how little Dracula is actually in the book.  It also seems that there are more sections that seem to be drawn from Stoker's own notes and incomplete manuscripts.  

Flipping through this book that is at the same time familiar and new*.
*Side Note:  I call situations like this a "Modula 2" moment. Back in college, I was a pretty proficient Pascal programmer. I later picked up other languages like C, C++ and Modula 2.  Modula 2 is so like and yet unlike Pascal it is like learning the same thing over again from an entirely new perspective.  If I ever mention Modula 2 here, this is what I mean. 

While I can't wait to jump feet first into this tale, it has gotten me more excited for my modern supernatural/supers game with Dracula as my big bad.

I am not anywhere close to getting this adventure together; either what the characters will do or what Dracula wants to do. I don't even have a system picked yet.

Maybe after this book, I'll have all that figured out.

Dracula-based Products I have Reviewed in the Past


And some I need to review



Monday, January 30, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Promises, Promises & RPG Blog Carnival

"You know, going on adventures sound great. Until you actually do it." Drusilla, dispossessed princess of an oppressed people.

Promises, Promises is one of those books that people have been telling me I need to read for years. It features witches, oracles, a Red Sonja-like warrior woman, and, as the cover proclaims, plenty of dykes.

But more importantly, it is a fun story with some great and memorial characters.  This is L-J Baker's first foray into comedy and it's a ton of fun.
In the pages of this book she lampoons and satirizes: Star Wars, Dune, Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Princess Bride, Shrek, the Valdemar Books, Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, Eragon, Narnia, every fairy tale, Buffy, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (many times), Harry Potter, Monte Python and the Holy Grail, Conan, and of course lots, and lots of D&D.

Not all her jokes hit the mark, but there are so many you don't really care.  This is not, as others have claimed. a Xanth-like novel, but the comparison is a fair one.

I honestly believe that L-J Baker had to have been (or still is) a gamer.  The references are too well done and actually too lovingly well done to be anything else other than admiration.    Yes she is poking fun at some long-held tropes but in such a way as only someone who has loved these tropes can.

If you love stories of adventures or games of them, then I would suggest getting this for those reasons alone. It points out some of the most ridiculous situations adventurers often find themselves in, but again does it in such a way as never to ridicule, but have light fun.  The lack of proper hair care products, insect repellant, steady wages and sleeping accommodations are only the tip of the iceberg. You quickly learn that every adventuring company needs a "Ruth".

A couple of nitpicks. Sometimes the book tries to be too clever. Especially when talking about anachronistic details like flushable toilets and advanced cartography. BUT even these are meant to poke fun at modern biases you see in many fantasy books, especially ones based on game worlds.
Also, I picked up the audio-book for this and the narrator really has an odd way of pronouncing some of the words. Not sure what was going on here, but I cringed every time she would say "talons". Other words she just didn't know how to pronounce. I picked up the Kindle version too just to make sure I was not mishearing something.

All in all, though the book was extremely fun and enjoyable. There is a good story here and even a message about not having to go out to seek something that you already have.
It's no spoiler that there is a Happily-Ever-After (it's on the cover) but like all adventures, most of the fun is getting there anyway.

Thank you my internet minions for suggesting this book to me! Now go forth and find me more!
(Or...if I take the lesson from this tale, I should just go over to my tower of "To Be Read" and tackle that.)

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 4
Level: Initiate
Witches in this book: Miss Sandra Sybil Blunt, first rate wooer of women, but only a third rate witch.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: Sandy is good. She doesn't always know that.
Best RPG to Emulate it: So easy. This book SCREAMS "Play me in Pathfinder!"
Use in WotWQ: Given all the cameos of so many fantasy characters in this book Sandy, Ruth, Dru, Mavis and Bob will have to make a guest appearance in my adventures someday.  Dru will have to say something appropriately anachronistic.


The Problem With Oracles
Consequently, this book also ties in nicely with this month's RPG Blog Carnival, Prophecies & Omens.  It really illustrates how and why Oracles, Omens, and Prophecies are such a pain in the ass (and often very fun to use).
In "Promises, Promises" we get two oracles of a sort.  The first is "The Infallible Oracle of Ring" that has stated that Drusilla, dispossessed princess of an oppressed people, will go on many adventures with the Great Obtuse Mage, and survive to get her kingdom back.  This is great since it gives Dru plenty of motivation to go on this otherwise ridiculous adventure, sadly everyone else thinks she is insane.

The second oracle is the previously mentioned Obtuse Mage, also known as Sandy Blunt herself.
She is the one that gets everyone in trouble.  She tries to hit on a princess in disguise (another princess) and commits the capital offense of Prophesizing to one of Royal Blood.  She has a year and day to make all her alcohol and lust-fueled boasts come true.

"Promises, Promises" plays on the setup of prophecies in fantasy fiction quite well.  Several others are mentioned such as various farm-boy turned chosen ones (read Star Wars, Dune, Eragon and Harry Potter).  Dru will often throw herself right into danger because of the Infallible Oracle of Ring.

While fun for a book, even a book based more or less on RPGs, it is a bit harder to pull this off for RPGs in play.  So if I was the DM and I had a party that included a witch, a princess, a warrior woman, a clueless paladin, an ogre druid and a highly resourceful shop girl (first I guess I'd question what the hell was I playing) I would not let my princess jump feet first into the deepest part of the ocean because the Oracle said she would get her crown back.

Prophecies have to be vague, Omens have to be hard to read.  The Prophecy in Harry Potter, for example, was vague enough to mean Harry or Neville.  Or in the case of Anakin his "bringing balance back to the force" meant killing every Jedi until there were only two Jedi and two Sith left.

In my own games, I had set up a situation where a child was going to be born who would essentially become the "Messiah of Witches".  This was during my "Willow & Tara" game in Season 2, "Season of the Witch".  Season 3, "Generation Hex", would fast forward a bit (the child was born in 2005) to deal with the children born then in high school now.  One of those characters was going to be this new power in the world.  I didn't know who yet, I wanted to keep that much vague even from me, but I knew it was going to be one of them.
What I could not foresee (though it should have been obvious) was my Season 2 taking forever, so much that the game's future became the real-world's past and Season 3 never getting started.

Who was going to be the new Witch Messiah? No one knows now.

So here is my advice for Prophecies and Omens in your games:

1. Keep them Vague
Just like the prophecies of Nostradamus are ret-conned to mean or justify anything today, keep your's vague so they might mean anything at all.

2. Have the Players Give them Meaning
Let your player decide what the prophecies mean for their characters.  Along with being vauge, this gives you an "out". Plus they might come up with something much more interesting than you did and they will find ways to make it come true.

3. Use them Sparingly
Omens, Prophecies and the like have more punch when they are a rare thing. No considers the weather app on your smart-phone to be magical, but it has a far better success rate than what Nostradamus has said.   Part of that reason is well, science, but also I can get a weather report anytime I want one. Back in the early days of the internet (the 80s) I was dumbfounded when I logged in and could get a real-time weather map. Why? Because it was rare and new.

Prophecies can be a lot of fun. Or like for the poor Obtuse Mage and 3rd rate witch Sany Blunt, they can be a real pain in the ass!



Monday, January 23, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Witch: A Tale of Terror

Sam Harris is an author and neuroscientist most often known for his views on atheism and skepticism. Last year I read his book "The End of Faith" and rather enjoyed it. I was very pleased to see this year he had done a reading of selected sections of Charles Mackay's 1841 book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. I should add that book next to my reading list.

Harris has a breezy style to his reading, this book is an audio-book only release. I found that there was som much the resonated with today that I had to keep reminding myself that this book was actually published at the dawn of the Victorian-era and not our own.

Listening to this tale is a horror story, no doubts about it. I was trying to mentally keep track of all the people murdered as witches in the name of God or fear that I lost count close to a million. These are not "alternate facts" counts, but court records poured over by Mackay. As they say though, the murder of one is a tragedy the murder of millions is a statistic. So to make sure you don't loose sight of this horror Mackay, through Harris, reminds us that children some as young as 5, 9 and 10 were also burned at the stake because, someone, somewhere thought they might be a witch.

Thankfully, I had spent my summer reading the history of England, so the main players in the "Witch Craze" were well known to me.

I will not lie, the whole delusion has always sickened me and paid no small to my anti-theistic attitudes.

Harris does a great job of narration and in not letting his own point of view override the narrative. If you have ever read or heard his books in the past then his point of view is obvious. He mentions things in the Introduction and that is really it. Personally, I would have liked an Afterward too, but the Introduction covers it all.

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge

2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 3
Level: Initiate
Witches in this book: Millions or None
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: Too many innocents to count
Best RPG to Emulate it: Not really a good choice here. But I'd love to try some of this under WitchCraft.
Use in WotWQ: I got so many ideas on who the "Big Bad" really is going to be in this.
https://www.samharris.org/books/witch

Monday, January 16, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Witch Child (2002)

“In the town live witches nine: three in worsted, three in rags, and three in velvet fine...” 

Witch Child by Celia Rees details the story of Mary Newbury and her journey from a witch trial in England that nearly cost her life, to her newNew England near Salem in 1659.  Told in diary format as a series of entries we get Mary's first-hand account of her grandmother's trial and her journey to the dangerous new land of America.

Reading this story I am once again struck how easily superstition can take ahold of an ignorant populace and drive them to madness.  We see this in England, on the ship to the new world and in New England as well.

Mary's magic is a subtle sort. Despite some fantastic embellishments the scenes with magic could be explained via science and imagination or they could honestly be magic.
The book itself is a quick read and the conclusion, while what I expected, was still enjoyable.  The story could have been set in the same time and place as The Witch, Eyes of Fire and the Daylight Gate.

I will admit the cover struck me. It reminds me of the cover of the WitchCraft RPG.

There is a sequel to this, but I have not picked it up yet.
2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge

2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 2
Level: Initiate
Witches in this book: 3
Are Good Witches or Bad Witches: 3 at least.
Best RPG to Emulate it: Again, Colonial Gothic 3.0
Use in WotWQ: Maybe. I love the idea of the scared villagers as a potential "monster" here.
http://www.celiarees.com/books/witchchild.html

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: The Daylight Gate (2012)

"You are stubborn," said Roger Nowell. 
"I am not tame," said Alice Nutter.

By no means she is.

Jeanette Winterson's "The Daylight Gate" is a retelling of one of England's most infamous witch episodes; the Lancaster Witches.
I have covered this ground before both William Harrison Ainsworth's "The Lancashire Witches" and in a more fantastic version with "The Last Apprentice: books by Joseph Delaney.  The case is also related to "The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster" and even more remote "A Discovery of Witches" by Deborah Harkness.

Winterson takes the story of the witches of Pendle Hill in Lancaster and retells it from the point of view of Alice Nutter, the odd one out in the witch trials.  Unlike all the others accused she was well off, rich even, and more than a match for the powerful men in this tale.

Really that is what this about; the differences between men and women, the powerful and powerless, the so-called just and the victims.   It is easy to hate the men of religion in this and see the "witches" as helpless victims of circumstance.  Indeed it would have been all too easy for Winterson to write that tale.  Thankfully she is much more skilled than that.

While she does not deviate from history's ending (much) there is some room for her to play around with this tale.   The cameos of John Dee and Shakespeare were also quite fun. All in all I thought it was a great, fast read.

What attracted me to this book was the time.  King James was terrified of witches. He was a learned man, seemingly rational. Very well read and well educated.  And utterly terrified of witches.

The title refers to the "liminal hour" between daylight and night.  Here I have talked about liminals and "in-betweens" forever. Witches are in-between Wizards and Clerics. My own Petty God, Nox and her companion Syla are also reflective of this.  Nox is the Goddess of this time. I called it the "Near Dark" but the "Daylight Gate" is also appropriate. Syla herself is a liminal. She is between mortal and divine, as well as human and elf.

The summoning that Alice Nutter uses at the liminal gate (and taught to her by John Dee) would also make a great spell to summon Nox.

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge

2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 1
Level: Initiate
Witches in this book: 0, 2, or more than a dozen depending on how you look at it.
Are Good Witches or Bad Witches: A little of both.
Best RPG to Emulate it: Colonial Gothic 3.0
Use in WotWQ: Alice Nutter is totally a Witch Queen! Maybe not in power, but certainly her attitude.

Monday, January 9, 2017

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge

It's 2017 and time for some new challenges. Or maybe an old challenge with new choices.
I am planning on participating in the 2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge over at Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf.



I participated in 2015 and 2016. I did well in 2015 getting 25 witch books read.  Last year I didn't get any since I spent most of my reading time with the history of England.

This year I already had a couple of books lined up so I figured it was a good thing to do. I had a lot of fun in 2015 with this.

This year I think I want to post reviews as soon as I am done reading them rather than waiting till the end of the month.  I also want to post more RPG-related material based on the books I am reading.  Plus anything I can add to my War of the Witch Queens adventures.  I think I will also expand a little what I consider a witch too.

In any case I think this is going to be a lot of fun.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Wizards of the Coast Print On Demand: The Results, Part 3

Today is Tuesday so that means new releases.  Wizards of the Coast has some new classic D&D books up for POD today.  Be sure to check them out.

Today I want to compare the POD 3e Draconomicon to the one I bought my son when it first came out.
A bit of background.  The Draconomicon is a watershed book for the Brannan family.  I got it for my son because he loved dragons. Still does really.  Well he carried this book with him everywhere for years.  Needless to say it is in pretty bad shape.  I have wanted to get him a new one for years and I have seen many at Half-Price books and of course at my FLGS, but none have jumped out at me saying "buy me".  We I opted to spend some of the money from the sales of my own books on the POD version.  I splurged and got the "Premium Heavyweight" paper.

In the pictures the original print in on the left side of your screen, the POD on the right.


Side by side it is hard to know which is which.  The art on the POD version seems a little bigger.  You will notice there is a spot on the bottom where the cover doesn't quite make it to the bottom.  I have seen this before on other books.  Sometimes it prints like this other times it doesn't.


The Heavyweight POD is noticeably thicker than the original print.



The POD does not have the dragon art printed on the inside cover.  The images are repeated in the original printing but only one of each in the POD.  The POD actually looks more interesting.



Inside the books are remarkably identical.


My son was 6 when I got this for him.   He carried it to school for two years straight.


This is the LightningSource/OneBookShelf page added to all the books.   So no chance someone will mistake these for originals if they know to look for this.


Equally, the original features an ISBN barcode.  The the POD has a different one that is not an ISBN.


The spines are also very different. This of course is by necessity to accommodate the varying thickness of the paper choices.

In all I am happy with it.  It doesn't look like my original, but that is fine with me.  It makes it more of a "new" book in some respects.  Yes, just like the original I am giving this to my son for Christmas. Don't tell him.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Strange Brew: Book of Shadows

My next book out for Pathfinder is now out!

Strange Brew: Book of Shadows


From the blurb:

Legends say that witches keep their spells inscribed into a Book of Shadows that holds their accumulated wisdom and power.

Here, in Strange Brew: Book of Shadows, you’ll find magic drawn from real-world legends, mythology, and folktales, as well as pure flights of fancy. Within Strange Brew: Books of Shadows, you will find over 100 spells and a half-dozen rituals, enough to delight your characters, bedevil your foes, and make your witch (or other spellcaster, whether arcane or divine) a formidable opponent.

Witches are magical creatures.

All for your Pathfinder Role-Playing Game!

50 pages, full color.
Again. Special thanks to +Rich Howard  and +Robert Hudson  for helping me get this together. And of course my editor/publisher +Christina Stiles The cover art is by +Jacob Blackmon,  whom I have featured here many times.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Pathfinder Strange Brew: Book of Shadows

My next book out for Pathfinder now has a cover!


Part of the Strange Brew line from Misfit Studios this book contains a few hundred spells for the Witch class (and others) for the Pathfinder game.

Special thanks to +Rich Howard and +Robert Hudson for helping me get this together. And of course my editor/publisher +Christina Stiles.  The cover art is by +Jacob Blackmon whom I have featured here many times.

The character on the cover is my iconic half-elf witch Taryn. Here she is seen casting the spell "Moonbow".

Not exactly sure when it is hitting the shelves but I'll keep you all posted.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

RPGaDAY2016: Day 28

What film or novel would you be most surprised that a friend had not seen or read?

I have to admit I am always very surprised when someone in RPG circles tells me they have never read J.R.R. Tolkien.

To me it is so integral to what I consider my own RPG experience.

Now I am not surprised when I hear people have not read H.P. Lovecraft.  I find that more people talk about his works than have actually read them.

For movies.  I am in shock when I hear that someone has never seen Star Wars.  That is also so central to my own RPG upbringing.

http://www.brigadecon.org/rpgaday2016/


Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Treasure Trove! With Pics!

So no "real" post today.  I spent my writing time going through my latest treasure trove.

I joined a bunch of area online "Garge Sale" groups on Facebook and one panned out yesterday.  So cash in hand I drove to nearby Schaumburg, IL and picked up a couple of milk crates full of old-school goodness.   It was not till this morning that I discovered what I really had.


Lots of minis including a wizard's lab.


A D&D Electronic board game in working condition and from what I can tell all the parts.


Modules, Top Secret and even a few Marvel Super Heroes books and some Star Frontiers.


Two Greyhawk folios with maps.  They are in rough condition though, between the two I might be able to salvage one.


More character sheets!  Always need these.


No idea what these are.  But I can't wait to find out!


A lot of the books have water damage like this.  This was not a collector's collection, but a users and a player's one.  There are also a few duplicates.  This was because the husband and wife that sold them merged their collections.





The B/X boxes are empty but the books have been cut up and put into that brown binder.  See I KNEW someone had to have done this.  The BECMI Master's box has both the Master's set and the Immortals set inside. The hardbacks are in decent enough condition. The Monstrous Compendium is in fantastic shape.





I have NO idea what this is.  It is made by TSR and it is from 1974.  The product list on back doesn't even list D&D.



Their old Gen Con folder with the games they were going to choose for 1983.

Some JG stuff.


Cut out minis.  From 1984 I think.


And this was a surprise, a 6th printing of Swords & Spells in near perfect condition.


An absolute ton of modules and books.  Some duplicates within the group and some with my own collection, but still enough "new" stuff to make it worthwhile to me.

It's going to take me some time to sort through all of this stuff that is for sure. But I will have a blast doing it.
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