Showing posts with label magic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label magic. Show all posts

Thursday, September 10, 2020

This Old Dragon: Retrospective, The Wizards Three

Getting back into the "This Old Dragon" frame of mind. I thought I might try something new here and instead of looking at one issue, I would look at one feature across many issues. A few easily come to mind but I want to start with the one that gave me the idea in the first place. The feature in question is "The Wizards Three."

The concept is a bit silly. The great sage and mage Elminster has guests over to his place for dinner and light chat. The guests are typically other wizards. Most often Mordenkainen of Oerth (World of Greyhawk) and Dalamar of Krynn (Dragonlance). Later Dalamar was replaced by Mordenkainen's, young apprentice Rautheene. Hiding in a suit of armor and trying to remember it wall was out helpless scribe Ed Greenwood.

Like so many, Dragon was my first introduction to the Realms and to Elminster. Throughout my AD&D 1 and 2 years, I was focused largely on Greyhawk and then Ravenloft. I didn't even pay much attention to the Realms at all until later in the 3.x days and it was not even an option I took seriously until 4e.


Even so, I always enjoyed this series because I love the idea of the multiverse and that travel between the world can sometimes be done. Sometimes it is easy, as this series shows, and sometimes impossible; as this series also shows.

So without further ado. Let's grab a drinking jack, see if we can squeeze into Ed's old armor and spend a nice evening, or a dozen, with some old friends.

"The Game Wizards" by Jeff Grubb, Dragon #153
This one is not really part of the series, but it fits the mold well enough to be a proto-version of the tale. In this case, Elminster has come to our world and is imparting wisdom on Jeff Grubb.

"Magic In the Evening", Dragon #185 (56), September 1992
This is the first piece of the series before it was the Wizards Three. Here Elminster and Mordenkainen meet on Earth (with Ed hiding away). A lot of the conceits of the series are established here. Elminster with his typically archaic speaking. Mordenkainen always feeling like he is about an hour or two away from some cosmic victory or equally cosmic defeat. Some good-natured fun poked at each character, plenty, but never enough to make them actual caricatures. I did sometimes wonder how Gary, who had been long gone from TSR at this time, felt about Ed's portrayal of Mordenkainen.
I did enjoy how the characters did seem rather fond of each other. Maybe not friends exactly, but certainly more than co-professionals.
Also, the rules of their meetings are established. So this is the first meeting of this sort between the master mages.
One thing I get now, that I didn't then, was how Realms and Oerth lore was weaved into the conversations. Nice little treat that must have been for people reading all the novels at the time. The spells that were later presented we also worked into the discussions.

In the game mechanics bit at the end Ed let's know what discussions were connected with which novels and which adventures. I usually more up on the adventures than the novels.

This episode included the spells "Curse of the Grinning Skull", "Thundaerl's Universal Taster", "Lesser Spelldream", "Greater Spelldream", and "Moonweb". Anytime I could get more spells the better. I figure these spells have been out for a bit so no need to detail them all here.

This one also included Samader's Ring and the Alhoon creature, or the Illithid Lich.

"The Wizards Three", Dragon #188 (26), December 1992
This one is a proper Wizards Three since it now includes Dalamar the Dark. The Master of the Black Robes Tower of High Sorcery in Krynn. Elminster's power was unknown to me, and Mordenkainen was always a guess I safely put them both in the "above level 20" area. I knew Dalamar was below level 20 thanks to the hardcover Dragonlance book.


Moving on to the tale, tragedy has struck Mordenkainen, of which I had been vaguely aware of thanks to the Greyhawk books that had been coming out in the end of 1st ed and the start of 2nd ed. Most of the Circle of Eight had fallen to the hand of Vecna leaving only Mordenkainen himself. I know it was a tale, with characters that were not real, but I was always happy with the exchange between Elminster and Mordenkainen here. It seemed, well, heartfelt. This is contrasted well with the near come to magical blows that Dalamar gets into with the other mages when he is introduced. If Elminster and Mordenkainen are beginning to act like something akin to friends, the Dalamar has a long way to go before even trust is part of the relationship. But at least he agrees to stay for dinner.

The inclusion of Dalamar changes the tenor of the meetings and the nature of some of the spells.

Our spells include "Blastbones", "Double Spell", "Whip of Pain", and "Manshoon’s Xorn Talons."
Magic items include a "Ring of ESP", "Cloak of Healing", and a "Fleeting Fail." And some undead monsters.

"3 Wizards Too Many", Dragon #196 (82), August 1993
Dalamar relaxes enough to have some fun with Mordenkainen and he gives as good as he gets now. It is easy to forget that on Krynn, Dalamar is the big badass evil mage. I just never read him as really being evil I guess. Not in the Dragonlance stories and not here either. Selfish, sure, but not really evil. I am sure I just missed some of his darker exploits.

The spells include "Bloodglass", "Fistandantilus's Firequench", "Thultaun's Thrust", "Barrier Reaver" and "Dragon Breath". Magic items include "Helping Hands" and "Spell Mirror".

"The Wizards Three", Dragon #200 (20), December 1993
I recall this one quite well. The Dragon magazine had the then way cool hologram cover, and this Wizards Three features the Simbul. This entire exchange with the Three Wizards and A Witch Lady was reproduced in the Forgotten Realms book "Pages from the Mages". I liked this one, even if Dalamar did go back to acting like a petulant child. But I can overlook all that. This was not the first time I had ever heard of The Simbul, but it was the first time I had read about the character and really grew to like her. Here are the three greatest mages of three worlds and they all pay deference to HER.


I mean look. Mordenkainen is bowing to her. That's impressive.

This one has the most spells, which includes "Shadow Bolt", "Slowspell", "Acid Bolt", "Mordenkainen's Involuntary Wizardry", "Bonebind", "Bloodstars", "Lightning Storm", "Alamanther's Return", and "Tempestcone".

I didn't spend a lot of pixels on it, but this might be my favorite of the lot.

"The Wizards Three", Dragon #211 (82), November 1994
Now we are getting into ones a little less familiar to me. Some I read when they came out, but only briefly, others I did not encounter at all until I bought the Dragon Magazine CD-ROM Archive.

This installment finds Elminster with a burning tongue from chili and a Mordenkainen in a jovial mood. So much so he even pranks Dalamar. See I find this totally in-character for Mordenkainen, knowing what I know of Gary. Though I don't pretend to be an expert on either Mordenkainen or Gary. The three share reminiscences of "Nights of Shadows" past, or essentially Halloween. The text seems to suggest that Dalamar is a Drow, but he isn't, he is a "Dark elf" which is something very different on Krynn.
Their spell trades have moved now into subtle contests of who can impress the others more. It seems less about power and more about the story behind the spell; a bit I really liked. Who cares how powerful a spell is, how interesting is it? Though there is less sharing of the stories behind each spell.
This is the shortest one to date, but it has a lot of spells.
For those interested, Elminster contributed "Falling Wall", "Jonstal's Double Wizardry", and "Jonstal's Improved Double Wizardry"; Mordenkainen presented "Argaster's Cloak of Shadows", "Belsham's Mace", and "Othnal's Spectral Dagger"; and Dalamar set forth "Battlecurse", "Sphere of Eyes", and "Valiancy".

"The Wizards Three", Dragon #219 (90), July 1995
The subtitle of this one is "Warmer than Expected" which is appropriate. In July 1995 I got married and came home to the largest (and deadliest) heat wave Chicago had seen in decades (though we would surpass it many times later) and our AC was dead.
There is more "plot" in this story with the introduction of Shaan the Serpent-Queen. This whole set-up to trap the Serpent-Queen.
In the end we are introduced, sort of, to Mordenkainen's thee new young apprentices.
Spells featured here were "Handfangs" (turns your hand into a venomous viper), "Farscry", "Dauntra's Cloak", "Translocation Shift", "Temporal Freedom", and "Brainblaze".

"The Return of the Wizards Three", Dragon #238 (42), August 1997
The biggest gap of time between installments so far just occurred. Elminster even comments about the last installment noting reading about it on "the Net". Something about "gamers with dirty minds." I checked a little on the Usenet group rec.games.frp.dnd and there does seem to be some complaining. Was this the reason? Most likely it had more to do with the fact that this was a very dark time at TSR and Wizards of the Coast had either bought them at this time or was close. I just checked, this was one of the first Dragons to be published by the newly acquired TSR.
This installment tries to walk back some of the implied ribaldries of the last episode. We get nearly a page and a half of this before any other wizard shows up.
In something of a manifestation of this, we are introduced to Rautheene, one of the new apprentices of Mordenkainen. She was introduced to keep the number at three. Dalamar will not be joining the group this night, nor any other night, nor any other night for the next 10 years. I have to admit I was always curious about why exactly Dalamar was excluded. I know it had something to do with the relationship WotC now had with the Dragonlance properties. But for me, this was the big issue that overshadowed whether or not Mord and Elm went frolicking with young apprentices.
The addition of Rautheene also adds something akin to a Doctor Who companion; a younger, less learned character whose job is to ask "What is that Doctor?" or in Rautheene's case "What is that Lord?"
The spells shared were, "Spell Echo", "Scourage of Stars", "Firedart", "Turnblade", "Backshift" and the evocatively named "Mystra's Unraveling".

"Jest the Wizards Three", Dragon #242 (48), December 1997
This one comes a mere four months after the last. I know I said that I didn't care about the implied ribaldry between the old mages and young apprentices, but now I can't read about Elminster and Rautheene as nothing but really creepy flirting. Ah well. Thought maybe because of this Rautheene is also becoming a more developed character, though she is still something of a walking stereotype at the moment. But she is getting there.
The mages trade spells and strange flavor combinations (smoked salmon and ice-cream, which is something I think my youngest son has also done).
The spells include "Coinsharp", "False Ioun Stone", "Hither", "Wizard Gong", "Echo", "Fingerblade", "Nextremity", "Sortil's Aqueous Transfer", and "Spy".

"The Wizards Three", Dragon #246 (86), April 1998
This installment has the first full-color interior art. The artist, David Day has been with us since the start.



More discussion on how they can't reach Krynn. This installment is also fairly short, but there are some interesting spells. "Beneath the Surface" (looks beneath the surface of something), "Blade of Memory", "Brester's Beam of Light", "Onsible's Key", "Runefinger" (allows the mage to draw in mid-air), "Smahing Stike", "Standfast", "Tanatha's Melt", and "Tentacled Visage".

"The Wizards Three", Dragon #344 (56), June 2006
Previously we got three installments in eight months. Then eight years till this one! What changes happened to our trio of wizards? For me I went from being married and living in my brand new home to being married, having two kids, living in my second home, and having published a few of my own RPG materials. Soon I'll pick up the tattered remains of my old website and recreate it as this blog. This was also the time I had a subscription to Dragon.
Ed is still the author, but we get a new illustrator in Tom Fowler. Dragon is now published by Paizo, the system is now 3.0 D&D and TSR is almost 10 years gone.
Some other changes. Mordenkainen is now in his new "Anton Le Vey" look (ok that is not really a fair comparison, but he is bald with a goatee). Rautheene no longer seems to be his apprentice (though she is still called such), but a full mage in her own right, and she is sporting some new tattoos. Seems she was a college student in the 90s! Again, more lip service given to looking for Dalamar, this time it is Rautheene doing the looking. It occurs to me that an epic quest to find a completely lost world might be fun.
Interesting change in tone here. I attribute it to all the novels Ed had written since, but Rautheene is less the "giggling coed" and now more capable young mage. She is aware of the power difference between her and the two older mages, more so than Dalamar was, but for her, it is less "I am not as good as them" and more "that's going to be me if I learn from these two." I'd like to see if there is more about her out there.
The spells are now in 3e format, so they are for wizards and sorcerers. They include "Battle Tentacles", "Mailed Might", and "Wymcone". I would have liked some more discussion on the arrival of Sorcerers to these two worlds, but that has been discussed elsewhere.

"The Wizards Three", Dragon #359 (78), September 2007
This is the end of our journey. This is the last published, print copy of Dragon Magazine. I have not checked to see if any were published in the 4e online Dragon or Dragon+ for 5e. So let's see what this rather special installment has for us.
Dalamar has returned for this final meeting which I admit is a really nice surprise for the other wizards and myself. Rautheene now holds her own against Elminster.
This time Ed is outed, in a manner of speaking, as to why he hosts this gathering of wizards and the Wizards Four decide to let him live if he continues to show off their brilliance. Dinner is shared, but no spells this time.



The Wizards Three was a sometimes delightful, sometimes amusing little romp of the important worlds of classic D&D; Toril, Oerth, and Krynn and not to mention Earth.



I will admit I was disappointed in the end that Mystara was never represented, especially since the feature would share issues with such Mystara-centric features as "Voyages of the Princess Ark" and even an article about Mystara's wizards from Bruce Heard himself.

The spells were always welcome and I could never get enough new spells to be honest.

The series is also one of the few that is covered in both the Greyhawk online wiki and the Forgotten Realms one. The closest thing the online Dragonlance wiki has is an Ed Greenwood category.

Through these outside sources and from the articles I gathered that The Year of the Turret, 1360 DR marked the first meeting between Elminster and Mordenkainen on Earth (1992). On Oerth, this was shortly before the year 581 CY. I am unsure of what the date would have been on Krynn.

I am curious to know what the fans of the various worlds think of this series. Did it do your favorite mage justice? What else would you have liked to have seen? Who else? Ringlerun? Kelek?

I also wonder if this was re-done today what other wizards and worlds would be included. Would Dark Sun? Birthright? Eberron?

Edited to Add: Ed has weighed in on this!



Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Magic Item: The Witch Whistle

This image has been floating around the net for about a year.  Figure I should do something fun with it.  So here it is for Old-School Essentials.



Witch Whistle (Witch Flute)
Summons an army of rats when blown.

  • Summons 10-100 (10d10) normal rats when blown (usable 2x per day)
  • Or summons 5-30 (5d6) giant rats when a short tune is played (1 per day)
  • Or summons 1-4 (1d4) wererats when a longer song is played (1 per day)

These whistles are created by Pagan Witches and Death Pact Warlocks. Crafted from the bone of a wererat and petrified paw of a rat.  They keep the songs well hidden but allow the magic to be used to summon normal rats.  If the songs are learned the player can use one of any of the powers once per day.
Under any circumstance, the player does not control the rats that are summoned.
They arrive within one round.


Thursday, January 16, 2020

Old School Essentials: New Witch Spells

The hottest new property in OSR gaming is Old-School Essentials.  Justifiably so too.   It is a great reinterpretation of the Basic/Expert rules and it is a lot of fun.  It is also on sale today as the DriveThruRPG Deal of the Day.

I am still a little bit away, further than I want to admit, from finishing up The Craft of the Wise: The Pagan Witchcraft Tradition.  But in celebration of OSE's sale here are some new witch spells.

First Level Witch Spells

Call Spirits of the Land
Duration: 1d4 hours
Range: The Caster
Call Spirits enables the witch to gather local spirits of the dead and elements, which appear to the caster as small ghostly disembodied heads, and listen to their tales about the surrounding
land and people.
▶ Characters listening can make an Intelligence Ability check to learn something about the local area.
▶ Characters who fail the check by five or less hear nothing but endless ramblings and chattering, possibly in an unknown or ancient language, that have nothing to do with the subject at hand.
▶ Those who fail by more than five hear nothing.
▶ A roll of a natural 20 provides completely false and maliciously misleading information.

Material Components: The caster must pay for the information with offerings of food, alcoholic beverages, incense, song, and pleasant conversation. The offering should total at least 1 gp.

Salving Rest 
Duration: Special
Range: The caster or a creature touched
This spell allows its subject to enjoy soothing, peaceful sleep, free of pain and sorrow, whenever she slumbers. As a result of this salving rest,
▶ The subject of the spell will heal an extra 1d3 hit points during each day of complete rest.
▶ The spell ends when the subject stops completely resting or if she takes any damage.

Material Components: A tea made from valerian root and lavender.

Second Level Witch Spells

Chameleon
Duration: 1 turn per level
Range: Touch
This spell allows any character touched to blend into her surroundings to the point of becoming nearly invisible. The character gains a +4/+20% to hide in shadows. Characters affected by a chameleon spell can always hide in shadows with a skill of at least 25% chance. This spell is used to create elven cloaks.

Material Components: The scale of a chameleon or a bit of skin from a cuttlefish. Alternately a bit of multi-colored cloth will also work.

Inscribe Tattoo I
Duration: Permanent
Range: One willing target
With this spell the caster inscribes a tattoo onto a willing subject. Only three such tattoos can ever be placed on one subject.
Tattoos have different abilities
Become animal: Allows the subject to shift into a normal animal, chosen at the time of inscribing. The animal’s HD must be equal to or less than the subject’s level. The subject can only shapeshift once per month.
Strike true: The subject gains a +1 to hit/damage. Magical creatures can be hit with this magic.
Magical protection: +1 to saves vs. magic. This can be from spells, wands, rods or magic-like effects.
Battle protection: +1 bonus to AC. Tattoo must be visible to have effect.
Magical Affinity: Used by spell casters this gives as -1 penalty to target’s saves.

Similar tattoos do not add their effects. Two Magical Protection tattoos do not prove +2 protection.  Only higher-level tattoos can.
The caster cannot tattoo herself.

Material Components: Special tattoo pens, needles, and inks are required.

Third Level Witch Spells

Hopping Doom 
Duration: 1 turn/level 
Range: 60 feet
The witch can summon 1d10 x 1,000 slimy wet bullfrogs to a spot designated (crawling out from rocks, nooks and crannies, or otherwise dropping from the ceiling or sky). They jump madly about, getting underfoot, and croak at a deafening volume that prevents conversation within the area of effect. The distraction is such that spellcasters must save (spells) before they can cast, and missile users roll to hit at -2. Movement within the area is halved.
▶There is a base 10% chance (+5% per level) that 1d10 poisonous frogs will be in the group. ▶They will attack non-frog targets within the area of effect, forcing them to save (poison) at +2 or die. The poisonous frogs are colorful but otherwise identical to the rest.
▶The caster can move the mass of frogs by telepathic command, at a maximum speed of up to 60 ft per round.
▶The area of effect is determined by the number of frogs summoned (10 ft² per 1,000 frogs).

Material Components: A small fly.

Malice
Duration: 6 turns
Range: Touch 
Malice weakens the target creature's attacks: each time the target creature inflicts hit point damage on an enemy (by any means), damage dice must be rolled twice, and the lesser result used.

Material Components: The witch must be able to touch the target while giving a word of power.

Fourth Level Witch Spells

Venus Glass
Duration: Instantaneous
Range: One glass of water
The witch sends a prayer out to the spirits of her ancestors and to the spirits of those not yet reborn into her life for a vision. A question is asked to give her a vision of a face. Typically the witch casts a venus glass for a maiden hoping to see the face of her future husband.
She then cracks an egg and suspends the egg white in a glass of water
She can then see the future, usually, the face of someone important to the witch or whomever the witch is asking about.
▶ Face: the face of someone will appear. It may be indistinct or quite clear.
▶ Portents: If the egg has blood in it means that the person they seek with bring them death.
▶ Visage of Death: If the face switches from normal to a skull face then the person they seek will die.
▶ Unclear: No face is revealed. The witch may try again the next night.

Material Components: An egg from a hen taken at or just before the dawn and a clear glass of pure water.

Fifth Level Witch Spells

Flood of Tears
Duration: Instantaneous and one round per level
Range: Cone 60’ 
The witch begins to cry and creates a flood to wash away her foes. 
▶ In the first round, the tears flow creatures caught in the flood must make a save vs. paralysis or take 1d6 hp of damage for every two levels of the witch (max 7d6). Save for half. 
▶ For the rounds that follow the area remains inundated with water and the flotsam and jetsam of debris. Movement is reduced to half in this area. 

Material Components: The witch must cry.

Sixth Level Witch Spells

Eye Bite
Duration: 1 round per 3 levels
Range: 25’ + 5’ per 2 levels
The witch glares at a target. 
Each round, the witch may target a single living creature, striking it with waves of arcane power.  Depending on the target’s HD, this attack has as many as three effects.


HD
Effect
10 or more
Sickened
5-9
Panicked, sickened
4 or less
Comatose, panicked, sickened

▶ Sickened: Sudden pain and fever sweeps over the target’s body. A sickened creature takes a -2 penalty on attack rolls, weapon damage rolls, saving throws and ability checks.  A creature affected by this spell remains sickened for 10 minutes per caster level.  The effects cannot be negated by a remove disease or heal spell, but a remove curse is effective.
▶ Panicked: The target becomes panicked for 1d4 rounds as if under the influence of a fear spell.  After the initial effect is over, the target can become panicked again if he sees the witch and fails a saving throw.
▶ Comatose: The target falls into a catatonic coma for 10 minutes per caster level.  During this time, it cannot be awakened by any means short of dispelling the effect.  This is not a sleep effect, and thus elves are not immune to it.

The witch can affect victims for 1 round per three caster levels.  Spell effects can last longer than this depending on the effect. 

Material Components: The witch needs to be able to see the victim.  She needs to touch her eye and point to the victim.


The Craft of the Wise: The Pagan Witch Traditions


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

April TTRPG Maker, Day 24

Day 24:  Favorite RPG thing to Create?

Hmm.

That's a toss-up.  I love making monsters.  Monsters are what got me interested in RPGs to start with.

I also love to make classes.  My witch is my foremost example, but I have many more.

But in the end, I would have to say spells.

According to my spreadsheet, I have written over 800 unique spells for various games.

Spells and magic are my favorites.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Kickstart Your Weekend: Calidar "On Wings of Darkness"

I have been a fan of Bruce Heard's work for sometime now.  Ever since I picked up a copy of the Glantri Gazzeteer for BECMI D&D I have been following what he does. 
His new project has been his world of Calidar and it has been a lot of fun. 
Now we come full circle to Calidar's magical kingdom.

Calidar "On Wings of Darkness"


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ambreville/calidar-on-wings-of-darkness

The book includes:

  •  History of Caldwen:  This chapter covers the origins of the magiocracy, from its ancient time on Munaan, a moon of Calidar, to present-day Caldwen. Includes a summary and a huge timeline of events.
  •  Lay of the Land: Geography, climate, local culture, main cults and races, economy, regional peculiarities, and local dynamics combine to depict each province separately.
  •  Intrigues of the Magi: Internal politics, government by academia, and the military overlaid upon rivalries among the wizardly aristocracy and the sorcerous hoi-polloi give the magiocracy a unique character. 
  •  Behind the curtains: Discover the odd brotherhoods and secret sects working from the shadows, scheming to make an already-challenging setting even more perilous.
  •  A Cast of Many: A host of political figures, academic personalities, and curious individuals populate these pages. They are presented here, with game stats, motivations, secrets, and connections galore.
  •  Master & Servant: A nation where demons serve the spellcasting class, local laws, and tools of lordship are presented alongside a who's who of Caldwen's most notorious demons.
  •  Beasties in the Dark: Some of the more curious creatures dwelling in Caldwen populate this section, complete with stats and illustrations, beckoning game referees to summon them during their adventures.
  •  At the Heart of Magic:  Discover Caldwen's schools of magic and how their benefits, tuition, philosophies, diplomas, and campus rivalries influence the fabric of the entire magiocracy.
  •  Secrets of the Cabals: Private guilds provide alternate career paths in the fields of Alchemy, Demonology, Dracology, Elementalism, Necromancy, and Skymastery, with deadly trials and fabulous powers.
  •  Blood of the World Soul: An order of mage-knights concerns itself with a mystical source of raw magical power forbidden to all but Caldwen's aristocracy. Though potent, it is deadly if abused.
  •  Sky City of Arcanial: The capital city is a wondrous place flying above a sprawling shanty town on the ground. Packed with encounter ideas, each district requires flying gondolas and teleporters to reach.

So really a must buy for anyone that was a fan of Glantri.

The Calidar books so far have been great and top notch in quality, so I expect nothing less here.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Kickstart Your Weekend: Domina Magica - A Magical Girl RPG

Back from Gen Con so lets look into a game you might be playing next year!

And it looks like fun.

Domina Magica - A Magical Girl RPG


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1445739002/domina-magica-a-magical-girl-rpg#

The game has all the tropes expected with a Magical Girl game, so that is great, but it also just looks so damn cool.

The character sheet is also damn near fantastic.  A major trope in Magical Girl anime is the transformation sequence.   Well, this captured in the real world by this cool character sheet that you flip over for your Normal or Magical form (you will need to provide your own them music).

Sheet not final


The Cootie Catcher, the Dark Energy Circle...it is obvious that designer Emily Reinhart is in real life a Magical Girl herself.  I hope she does not get into trouble with whatever powers gave her her powers.  Co-designer James McClure also proves that unlike Tuxedo Mask he is an important part of the team.   Both come to the table with enough street cred to make this a hit.  Indeed since I first heard of this and now it has been funded.

The art looks great and there are some fantastic stretch goals too.

So do yourself a favor and check it out.
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1445739002/domina-magica-a-magical-girl-rpg#





Thursday, August 2, 2018

#RPGaDAY2018 Day 2: What is the first thing you look for in an RPG?

Here we are, #RPGaDAY2018 Day 2!



What is the first thing you look for in an RPG?

While my introduction to RPGs was a book of monsters, my first love is Magic.

I always look at the magic system first.  I love new and different magic systems and I love to try them out. Whether the system is fantasy, modern or horror, it's what I look for.


Monday, April 30, 2018

So Many Spells

I didn't get a chance to do any gaming this weekend.  Not likely get in any in the next few weekends since I am going to spending my time helping my wife in her garden.

So while I was outside rototilling (before and after) I was working out some spells and some spell books.  I snuck inside to check some of my databases, files, folders and materials on my cloud drive and I figure a conservative estimate is I have about 12,000 different spells spread out over all the editions of D&D.  A good 800 or so are ones I wrote myself (I know I wrote close to 400 for Buffy and Ghosts of Albion and another 380 for the various witch books).


In CineUnisystem rules (Buffy, Ghosts of Albion, Angel) there is a quality called "Occult Library" which relates how many tomes of magic you can start with and thus how many spells.  This works because there is no real formal training for would be spell casters for the most part and often spells are found in old libraries and collections.  Much like Call of Cthulhu.

Occult Library is a variable quality.  Without giving away too much here is a breakdown.

Name Points # of Spells Notes
Poor 1 4-13 A spotty collection of Time-Life books
Fine 2 7-16 Access to the internet
Outstanding 3 11-20 Some really rare books
Amazing 5 21-30 Some unique tomes that no one else has

How would this translate into terms a D&D player could use?  Well, there is no economy to "buy" features in older versions of *D&D, but there is in newer versions.  D&D 3rd, 4th, and 5th all have feats.  Now keep in mind one of the reasons that wizards (and witch and warlocks and other spellcasters) go on adventures is to find new (or more likely "old") spells.  I do not want to lose that.  So given the feat economy in 4th and 5th edition, I would use this only for "starting" spells.  The character spends a feat to gain access to a number of spells.  I would also say that this feat is a Character Creation feat only.  So you can only take it at 1st level.

New Feat
Arcane Library
You have access to a large library of arcane tomes where you can study at your leisure.
Prerequisites:  Level 1 only;  Ability to cast Arcane spells.
Benefit:  You have access to a library of arcane and occult tomes.  This library will give 3-18 (3d6) spells of up to 9th level (2d4 +1) (GM's can work with the player to determine what spells are found).
These spells must still be learned, but they are here for when you can learn them.

For older editions of the game, I would suggest adding an extra 100xp to spellcaster's Experience to the 2nd level to cover this boon.  I would allow this for Witches, Magic-Users  (Elf as a class), Illusionists and Bards, but not Clerics or Druids.

I am sneaking this one in under the wire, but this is my contribution to the RPG Blog Carnival, hosted this month by Hereticwerks.  The topic this month was Journals, Grimoires and Spell-Books. 


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Joy of Basic D&D & Magic School

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Mighty MAGIC Protectors

 Magic in superhero comics is often a problematic issue. Magic in superhero RPGs is no less of one.
Often, most games solve this by saying magic replicates any power or that the power you have comes from magic instead of a mutation or accident or not having parents.

Mighty Protectors by +Jeff Dee and +Jack Herman uses the approach that magic can be used to replicate a power and you can use the Arsenal ability to bundle a bunch of powers together as a spell.

I mentioned this before using the examples of my own characters Witch Queen and Teen Witch as well as my versions of Willow and Tara.

+bk adams is a YouTuber that has been doing a number of videos about Mighty Protectors.  They are great to watch if you are new to the system and need some "real world" examples.

Here is his two-part series on the Arsenal ability and how to use it as a spell book.





He has even put up his Spell Book spreadsheet for you to use.

I wanted to post something similar here, but frankly, he does such a good job there is no need for me to go over it more.   I do have a Spellbook I am working on that will also let me build spells from abilities.  I will combine some ideas from his as well.

This puts me in the mood to run some more Supers games in 2018!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #130

Not moving too far ahead from last week but that is cool.  We are coming up on an issue that I remember back when it was new but never owned till recently.  So without further ado lets go back to February of 1988 for issue #130 of This Old Dragon!

This cover, while it never gets mentioned in the same breath as some of the other great covers is still a favorite of mine.  Linda Medley gives us a very evocative cover (no pun intended) and she also did the cover for April 1987 #120.  I love the witch's hair flying all up in the air. It's a witch/magic-user/wizard, summoning a demon. What's not to love. Especially given the times.  In 1988 the Santanic Panic had winded down and was now just an embarrassing memory to many.  BUT there were still those out that there screaming D&D=Satanism, so much so that demons and devils were not even part of AD&D 2nd ed till much later.

I would love to have this one as an art print for my game room too.

The magazine has also gone through a couple of cosmetic changes.  The dark background banner "Magazine" now appears under "Dragon".  There are other changes inside that I associate with the "2nd Edition" era, although that was not really due to start yet.  I guess this could also be called the "Post Old Guard" era or even "The Roger Morre" era as he is the publisher.

Letters covers a wide gambit of people wanting more minis, people wanting to get their alt-rules D&D game published, and people talking about the visual change to the magazine.
Roger Moore's editorial talks about how modern times are weirder, and more dangerous than most sci-fi games.

Another ad for the Sci-fi book club.  I think I read most of these books.



The Forum has the usual rules clarifications and questions from readers.  One suggests removing the Illusionist class. Wait a year or so and you get your wish.

We get to the main feature of this issue, The Arcane Arts. A nice big section on magic. Not sure why I didn't buy this one then?

John N. Keane is up first with Get the Most From Your Magic. An article on what spells to take of various levels.  It's a bit meta-gaming and a bit informed career advice.  It is fairly specific to the oddities of 1st Edition, but I think some of it still applies to 2nd ed and of course most OSR books.
It is particularly useful for the list of spells, level, duration, and sleep and study times.  So you know how often to use it.  It is the sort of analysis that I really enjoy.

The article is interrupted for the small ads.  Weird. I assume it is to right the page count so we can have the ships in the middle with the instructions surrounding them.

Magic from East to West by Len Carpenter covers spells found in the Oriental Adventures book that can be ported over to the Players Handbook.  Again, fairly 1st specific.A couple of spells are added to round off the selections. There are some good ideas here of spells, but it's been so long since I read OA I am not sure if this is a good sampling or not.

Speaking of doomed Illusionists*, Brian Tillotson is next with Hold on to Your Illusions!
*Ok, I know illusionists did really go away, but the illusionist as a class as presented in AD&D1 did for the more flexible and more powerful AD&D2 illusionist. So this article still has a lot of value even in today's 5th Edition world.  Some of the spells have changed, the principles are still there.
Worth a read if you ever play an illusionist.

Nice huge, full-color ad for GDW's MegaTraveller. I do not dwell on past regrets when it comes to the games I have played or not, but I do wish I had played more Traveller when I was younger. I am still not 100% sure what are the differences between all the versions of Traveller.

John N. Keane is back with magical disguises in The Faces of Magic.  There are also spells listed that mimic thief abilities, as well as cleric and druid spells.

We come up to one of my favorite articles and one I remember the best from this issue.  Better Living Through Alchemy by Tom Armstrong gives us not only an alchemist class (some D&D has needed in my mind) but also a primer on Alchemy and how could work in the game.  There have been attempts both before (Bard Games "Compleat Alchemist") and after (Pathfinder), this is the one I liked the most.  Playing the class though was hard. It had higher XP per level than the wizard and there was little they could do without their lab. The article is dense. That is in the sense that there is a lot here to read and unpack. I think one day I am going to need to do a Class Struggles on the Alchemist someday.

Come up to the fiction section next. "Shark-killer" by Carol Severance.

Continuing the Magic theme, The Game Wizards by Jon Picken covers magic and the wizard class of AD&D 2nd Edition.

I think there was something in the middle here, maybe some ships?  But nothing is here.  Checking the CD Rom and my other copy.  Nope nothing. I could have sworn there was something here.

The Dragon's Bestiary has a collection of Gamma World monsters. I would have thought a collection of wizard/magic related monsters would have fit the theme better.

For Top Secret we get a collection of special watches in Keeping A Good Watch by Ryan Grandstaff.  A lot of these seem quaint now, but this was cool stuff in 1988.

Remember when Richard Branson opened up some game stores?  Me either, but Virgin Games Centre was totally a thing in 88.


Jody Lynn Nye has an article on Dungeon Etiquette or how not to be a jerk player.

Maybe this is why I thought this issue had ships.  Margaret Foy has an article on The Oriental Sea. Here though the ships are just described and given game stats.

Malcolm Bowers ends the regular section with If Looks Could Kill. An article all about gaze weapons and attacks and how to avoid them.

Speaking of Bard Games, there is a nice ad for Talislanta miniatures.

The Marvel-Phile has a bunch of heroes I have never heard of.

Role of Computers covers software.

Dragonmirth has a batch of particularily unfunny comics this month.  gah.
SnarfQuest and Wormy close out the issue.

Really a solid issue with a lot of material that can still be used today. My copy of this magazine is in pretty good shape too.  I think I will find uses for it at my table.

Want to know what I was saying about White Dwarf around the same time?  Check out my White Dwarf Wednesday #98.

Don't forget my newest book The Witch for Swords & Wizardry Continual Light is now out. At under a buck-fifty it can be yours!


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Spell Research

It's August and the theme of this month's RPG Blog Carnival hosted by Kobold Press is all about Magic!

Today I want to talk about something I am very much involved in right now. Spell Research.

One of the more nebulous rulings in *D&D covers research new spells.  Across all versions of the game there are spells named after various wizards and magic-users.  Some have real world significance such as Otiluke, Rary, Mordenkainen, and Melf.   Others represent historical or mythical figures.  But all have the implication that this spell was created by or named for these spell-casters.  So someone had to write them.

There are thousands of D&D spells. I think my 2nd Ed database (in Microsoft Access 97) has 3000+ spells.  I know the 3rd edition has to be more; there are about 2000 attributed to Pathfinder alone.  A project I am working on now tells me that my own OSR witch books have 700+ unique spells.

Someone had to write all of these.
Someone that is other the authors of these games and books.  Someone in the game itself. (But both are true).

So what are the hows and whys of Spell Research?

Why Should a PC Spell Caster Research a Spell?
This one is the easier of our two questions.  Why? Lots of reasons. The PC might want some new effect or magic not listed in PHB.  Say they want to cast "Frost Ball" instead of "Fire Ball" because they are more fond of cold based attacks and not fire ones.  Maybe the new spell comes about as part of other magical research. Maybe it was a total accident while casting a spell and not having the material components on hand or even a poorly memorized spell.
There are a number of in-game reasons.  In Ghosts of Albion, spells are cast based on Success Levels.  If a character casts a spell and gets really high successes on it then sometimes something new can happen.  I would give the same sort of ruling to D&D sorcerers and bards, they do something strange and a crazy new spell effect happens.  But that is an accident, what about doing that on purpose.

The most compelling reason, of course, is need.

Take a look at my witch (not important that it is a witch just yet) spell "Moonstone".  This spell stores moonlight.
Moonstone
Level: Witch 1
Range: Touch
Duration: 1 day per witch level
The witch can store moonlight in a small stone. The stones must be enchanted and then exposed to moonlight. Each stone will last 1 day per caster level unless discharged. Once invoked, the moonstone will shed soft light, equal to torchlight, and give off no heat. The moonstone does not affect low-light vision and does not cause damage to creatures that would normally be affected by light.
Note: Despite the wich's level, no Moonstone can last past the full cycleof the moon. So if moonlight is stored during a full moon then it will only last till the first night of the next full moon. If the witch's level is less than the number of days to the next full phase then the spell ends then.
Material Components: A bit of moonstone and the light of the moon.
(Special thanks to +Paolo Greco for pointing out some errors on this spell.)
Why do I need this spell?  I mean it's only first level, but a torch is cheaper.  Also, it is actually LESS effective than the first level spell Light.  You can't cast it into someone's eyes to blind them.
The reason here is need.  Moonstone is a fine spell all on it's own. But it's true value comes when paired with other spells.
Spells like Moon’s Heart (finding the time and direction, 1st level), Witch Writing (writing that can only be read by moonlight, 3rd level) Moonlit Way (finding the safe path, 4th level), and Moonbow (create a weapon out of moonlight, 6th level) all need moonlight to work.  Not something that can happen easily underground OR during the daylight hours.  Unless, of course, you have a fully charged Moonstone.

Another need is maybe less defined.  Back in the 3e days, I created a Prestige Class that had as a part of their requirements the applicant had to submit a new spell for the use of the other members of the Class.

Plus there is always the challenge and joy of discovery. Spells like Wave of Mutilation and Brigit's Flame Sheet were created just for the sheer joy of it.

I think this holds true for any sort of Arcane spellcaster.  What about clerics? druids? Heck, even witches!

Clerics & Druids
In the 3.5 SRD is says that Divine Casters can research a spell much like Arcane Spellcasters can.   But that section only says "A wizard also can research a spell independently, duplicating an existing spell or creating an entirely new one."
That's not really a lot to go on.
More to the point why would they do it?  I mean aren't clerics supposed to be given their spells by their gods?  Does it make sense that a cleric would tell his god "hey, look I know you are busy, but instead of light can you give me a spell that casts moonlight instead?"

It does if you think of clerical spells like a liturgy or even a sermon.  Think of modern day priests, preachers and other people of the cloth.  They have their holy books. They have some sermons and prayers they have always done (common book of prayer for example), some hymns that have been used since the middle ages and so on.  But they also write a sermon, sometimes a new one, each week.  The purpose is to take divine inspiration, common language, and new ideas to make something new.
Now. Truth be told Clerics (and Druids) should get a set amount of "spell levels" of power to work with an then they can perform their miracles as needed.  That might be a little too much like Mage for most D&D players' taste (but it would be fun to try it!).  From this perspective, even a tradition bound "old" class like the druid could invent new spells.   In theory, an all knowing god should know which spells to give when.  For this reason, I do allow clerics and druids to swap out spells on the fly.  Much like how D&D 3 introduced the idea of spontaneous healing magic.

But what about witches?

Witches
This is an 8th level Ritual Spell for witches.
Depending on my mood and the book in question witches can either be Divine or Arcane spellcasters. Typically I think of them as Witches.  The magic they use is Witchcraft. It has both Divine and Arcane aspects.  They learn their magic from their Patron, via a familiar, but record the spell formula in a spell book.   The underlined terms can have various meanings.  Take the girls from Charmed (why, you will see later).  Their Patrons are the past witches in their family line.  Each one learning more and more than and from the witches that came before. Their familiar in this case is their Book of Shadows.  Their spellbook is also their book of shadows.   In my Pathfinder Warlock book I have rules for a Book of Shadows that is spellbook AND familiar.

At one point in the show Charmed, the witches learn that they can also create new spells rather than just relie on the ones in their Book of Shadows.  It actually becomes a feature of the show where Phoebe (Alyssa Milano) is the sister with the best ability to come up with new spells. It is this ability they have that allows them to tap into greater and greater sources of their power.  One such spell summons the power of all their family witches to destroy what is essentially the Devil (Source of All Evil. But not without cost.)

Given this would I allow "10th level" spells?  That's a good question.  Most spells of significantly high level do a lot. A spell that powerful would need to be limited in other ways.

So that's the why, what about the how?

That depends on the edition.

1st Edition starts with some advice on page 115 of the DMG.  The hardest part of this is determining the level of the spell in question.  This is done only by comparing the spell to be created to others in the Player's Handbook.  +Bruce Heard expands on this in Dragon magazine #82 (more on that tomorrow!), but it does cover somethings not in the DMG that are important. Namely to properly stock your occult/arcane library.

An occult library.
For the moment let's assume that your character has the tools and books needed.  The time needed for research and materials is 200 gp per level per week.

2nd Edition covers much of the same ground, but with less information to be honest.  Even the amount spent is now only given as a range of gp.

3rd Edition and 5th Edition have similar advice on pages 95 and 283 (respectively). So similar in fact that it felt like I was reading the same text. Though they both give good advice on setting levels based on the amount of damage caused.  The numbers differ, but the logic is the same.

I could not find any Spell Creation or Spell Research rules in BECMI or 4th Edition.

So really. The level of the spell is largely a matter of guesswork and tradition.  I spend a lot of time, maybe too much time, trying to figure these things out.

Yeah. A lot.

Creating a Spell

I wonder if we can use what we know already to create a new spell.  This is one I am actually working on right now.  As I type these words the spell is not written, but it will be by the end of this post.

The spell is one I have thought about for a while. It allows a caster to make a perfect copy of another spell into a specially prepared spellbook.  I have decided that the spell needs the following.
A specially prepared but blank spell book. This will be 200 gp per the level of the spell copied. Following the rules above.  The quill used to scribe the spell has to come from the rare Giant Mimid Bird (or Dire Mockingbird if you prefer) and the ink is a rarer distillation of the ink of an octopus (not a squid).

The spell makes a duplicate so it is beyond Mirror Image or even Minor Creation since the creation is magical (in a sense).  It is less than Wish.  It is permanent, but more so than Permanent Image.
It can reduce the time needed to copy a spell down to hours from weeks, that is pretty powerful.
8th Level feels right, but I could go as low as 6th and maybe, just maybe up to 9th.

It's a new spell, so let's give it a name. My iconic witch is named Larina. I always imagined this was her spell.  Since it deals with the copying of spellbooks some form of Liber should be used. After all, aren't all spell books written in Latin?   Liberum works and that is a call back to my d20 Witch book.  Since the words are being set free then Libre is also good.  Alliterations are always fun.
So let's go with Larina's Liberum Libre.

Larina is a witch, but this would be good for wizards too.
Let's try it in Basic-Era/S&W/OSR format.

Larina's Liberum Libre
Level: Witch 8, Wizard 8
Range: 1 Spellbook
Duration: Permanent; see below
This spell was named for the first witch to successfully use it to make a copy of another spellbook.  The spell requires a book of the same size, shape and page numbers of the spell book to be copied. The base cost for this book is 200gp per spell level copied.  Also needed are a special quill of a Giant Mimid Bird and distilled ink of an octopus. Both may be purchased, base cost of 100 gp, or prepared by the caster ahead of time.  The ink is used up in the spell casting, the quill can be used for 1d6+6 uses.
The blank book, quill, ink and the spell book to be copied are placed on a specially prepared cloth (not rare, just clean and white). The spell is cast and the cloth covers both books.  The spell will take 1 hour per spell level to copy.  Once complete the spell will create a perfect copy of the book in question.  If the spell is interrupted during this time; the cloth removed or either book opened, then the spell is canceled and the new book, ink, and quill are destroyed.
Note: Normal non-magical books may be copied as well, but only require normal ink and a regular book with the same number of pages.

Ok. So I like the spell, might tweak it a bit before publication. Still not happy with the guesswork involved with the levels.
I would love to develop a system like I did for Ghosts of Albion but that would take a time and the return might not really be worth it.

How do you go about researching spells? Both in game and in real life?



Sunday, January 15, 2017

Lazy Sunday: Continuing Education Edition, Magic in the Middle Ages

It's Sunday. I am sitting here drinking my coffee and watching my son make sushi for lunch.
(Of course, I had some for breakfast!)

I saw another blog posting about a Coursera class on Magic in the Middle Ages.

For those that don't know, Coursera is an online MOOC, a Massive Oline Open Classroom. Professors from different universities around the world put up an online classroom to learn various topics.  They can be fairly fun and educational. I am a fan. (My second Ph.D. field of study was on how people build communities on learners online).  So I signed up.

The course is sponsored by the University of Barcelona ("Universitat de Barcelona") and taught by a team of professors and instructors.

It is a five-week course with video, discussions, reading and quizzes.  Now as a college professor myself I HATE quizzes for college age students, but for a MOOC you kinda need them.

The course looks like it is a lot of fun AND it is still open if you want to sign up as well.
https://www.coursera.org/learn/magic-middle-ages
Week 3, Magic to Witchcraft looks like the most fun for me.

The course is $49.00 (less if you have a code) or FREE if you opt for the non-certificate option.
I took the non-certificate choice. I really don't need any continuing education credits anymore.

I think it is going to be great.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Kickstart Your Weekend: Strange Magic 2

Interjection Games and Bradley Crouch are Kickstarting an update to their wildly successful Strange Magic called, appropriately enough, Strange Magic 2.



This book looks great and it will be for Pathfinder and D&D5, so that is cool and a nice value add in my mind.
They even have a preview up on RPGNow that you can grab as Pay What You Want.
Strange Magic 2 - Preview.  The Druid and Cartomancer look really cool.

Check it out!

---
I am up for an ENnie this year for Best Blog!
Please click on the link and vote "1" under "The Other Side".

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Review: AC4 The Book of Marvelous Magic

"The D&D and AD&D games are actually different games." p.74, The Book of Marvelous Magic.
This was not the first time I had read this, and by 1985 I had moved away from the D&D game to AD&D, it was still interesting to read this.  Back then we freely mixed the two systems without so much as a care.
So it was with some confusion then that when I picked up AC4 The Book of Marvelous Magic that is proudly stated it was for the D&D AND AD&D games.  This was only emphasized more with the very first magic item listed, the Alternate World Gate.  AD&D was treated on the same level as Gamma World, Star Frontiers, and Boot Hill.

Confusion of compatibility issues aside, The Book of Marvelous Magic became one of my favorite and most frustrating D&D accessories.   Favorite because at this time I was serious into working on my witch class for AD&D/D&D and I was looking for guidelines on how magic items should be created.  I didn't find that here, but I did find a lot of inspiration.  Also, there were a lot of magic items in this book that later would become rather important in my own games for the next 2-3 years.
Frustrating because I never could get my gaming groups to embrace this book like I did.  I think it something to do with the punny names of the some of the items.  I now know that this was just something that was going on at the TSR offices back then (see I6 Ravenloft), but it made it difficult to take the book seriously at times.

The authors are listed as Frank Mentzer with Gary Gygax, but I think we all knew at the time that Mentzer did the lions-share of work on this.  The book covers the same span of characters (and same span of publication) of the Mentzer penned Basic, Expert and Companion Rules.  Living in my small town in Illinois I think this might have been the first reference I saw to the Companion ruleset.  Reading this book I am thinking that the Companion rules had just been written and the Master Rules had not. There are no references to the Master Rules and in places, the rules seem to put 36 at the top of the character achievement and in others, it was 26.

So what does this book have?  Well, there are over 500 new (at the time) magic items spanning 76 pages of text. The cover art is from none other than Clyde "I'll have the thigh" Caldwell and really grabbed my attention.  Not like that (though I was 15 at the time) but because she looked like a bad ass witch.


She even has a broom in the corner over there.  How could I NOT buy this book??

The magic items are divided by type, so for example under Armband there are five listed magical Armbands.  When a magic item needs to be listed, such a Bag of Holding, it is listed with a "see D&D Basic Set".  

The book did raise the question in our groups of who was creating all these magic items? That was never fully answered here or really anywhere for a couple more decades.  We opted that most of these were in fact fairly unique items.  So there were not a lot of "Buttons of Blasting" out there, but maybe one or two at best.

There are a few magic items here that I still have not seen in other (future) versions of D&D, so it is worth it just for those. It is also a great insight to the mid 80s D&D, a time when TSR was on top of the world, right before the big shakeup.  Also at the time I enjoyed tthis book, but largely ignored Mentzer's magnum-opus BEMCI D&D.  Reviewing both now as an adult I see I did all these books a large disservice.

What is in these books that gamers of today can use?  Well in truth, LOTS.
Really.  The book might as well say "Compatible with 5th Edition D&D" on the cover.  Hell. Change the trade dress and you could almost republish it as is with little editing.   Yeah remove references to Basic, Expert and Companion. Change some of the spell casting descriptions, but otherwise this is still a gem today as it was 30 years ago.

Time to re-introduce the Collar of Stiffness to my games!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Class Struggles: Mazes & Perils Deluxe Edition

Image courtesy of Tenkar
It has been a while since I have done a Class Struggles post.  I knew I wanted to do something with Basic-era D&D and had a couple of ideas, but nothing 100% yet.   I ended up talking to +Vincent Florio about the newest version of Mazes & Perils Deluxe Edition, due out June 3rd.
Now Vince knows me. He knows that I love new magic using classes as much as I love anything and a new "Holmes" Basic magic-using class is just too sweet to pass up.  So he sent a copy of the new book in exchange for an honest review.  Today I am only going to focus on the new classes, I'll say more about the book as a whole later on.

Mazes & Perils Deluxe Edition (M&PDE hereafter) introduces two new magic-using classes, the Enchanter and the Shaman.  They join the classic Cleric and Magic-User.   There is a design choice here to keep the Magic-User over the more widely accepted wizard and I am 100% cool with that.  If you know any version of Basic D&D (Holmes in particular) you know what the MU is all about.  The XP progression tables are lesser for this MU compared to their Holmes, B/X, AD&D counterparts. But they are more in line with what a MU actually should need (see this post on my analysis of the MU/Wizard class).   So for this alone your MU is going to have a slightly different vibe to him.  

The max spell level in 5th, but that is not a big deal since the max character level in most cases is 12th.  Again, just because of who I am I might make it 13th.  (Come to think of it this might make a good game for my War of the Witch Queens campaign.)

The first new class is the Enchanter.  The enchanter follows a similar level progression and the same spell progression as does the Magic-User.   The enchanter does have a different spell list than the Magic-User as seen below:


They also learn their spells differently from a MU with a chance of a non-enchanter going insane after reading their spell books.   I like the *idea* of the enchanter and I would certainly play one. I think though I would do something to make them a bit more different than the Magic-User.   Given the mental nature of their spells I might make their prime stat Charisma or even Wisdom.  They have some really interesting spells here and I think a lot can be done with this class.   Just give it a little more to separate it from the MU.

Next up is the Shaman.  Now the Shaman is a real treat.  First it is a "primitive" type of spell caster, so their spells reflect that.


They also have Atonement and Spirit Guardian abilities.  Atonement gives them the ability to spiritually link to a weapon.   I have to admit the first thought I had was of Rafiki the baboon shaman from The Lion King.  Trust me, this is a good thing.   My only "house rule" I would add to this is that the Shaman's weapon acts as a magical weapon for purposes of hiting undead creatures. Not a +1 but more like a "+0".
The spirit guardian is a very interesting ability.  I don't think it would be game breaking if the spirit animal could attack as a 1HD monster, but it is a guardian afterall.  As a DM I would love to do a lot of cool things with this animal. Hell, it would make for a great "patronus" like spell.  Also I would have the shaman need to go on a "vision quest" to find their spirit animal.  Get all new-agey with it.
The shaman fills the same niche as does the druid in other OSR/D&D games, but is not really 100% the same thing.  This is good, a game could be run that has both druids and shamen in it and still be plenty for them both to do.

Which class to play will often be determined I think by their spell lists. If I were to play the Enchanter I might want to supplement some of his spells.  Maybe grab a few illusionist spells some more Enchantment spells from the 3.x SRD. The Shaman works great out of the box.
I would play both to be honest.   Heck, I have a "Basic" game coming up that might be interesting to try out one or both of these.
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